Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Systemic Sin

(Sterling State Park, in winter.)

Are religious people exceptionally evil, more so than atheists? I doubt it. The propensity to do evil is intrinsic to the human condition. Call this "systemic sin." No one gets a statue erected in their honor.

Even if I were an atheist I would agree with the following.

Henri Nouwen writes:

"We cannot dismiss the horrendous cruelties about which we read in the papers as "things we would never do." The wounds and needs that lie behind the wars we condemn are the wounds and needs that we share with the whole human race. We too are deeply marked by the dark forces that make one war emerge after another. We too are part of the evil against which we protest. Here we catch a glimpse of the true sinfulness of our humanity. It is a sin so deeply anchored in us that it pervades all of our lives."
- Nouwen, The Road to Peace, p. 13

Thomas Merton writes: "Who can swear that his intentions are pure, even down to the subconscious depths of his will, where ancient selfish motives move comfortably like forgotten sea monsters in waters where they are never seen!" (Merton, No Man Is an Island, 115)

The atheist psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud believed that all humans are innately evil and aggression lies within each human as part of their nature. 

And then there is Thomas Hobbes who, in Leviathan, wrote that only a strong government could secure us from destroying ourselves. "Every man is enemy to every man," Hobbes wrote. And "the life of man is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." Not a very high view of humanity!

The Christian idea is that all persons have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. From this, we need to be rescued.

Here self-reflection, guided by God, helps me. One of my constant prayers is from Psalm 139:23-24.

Search me, God, and know my heart;

    test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

    and lead me in the way everlasting.


Deliver us from evil...