Ever go on a trip with a teenager who is firmly convinced they will not like it? Guess what—it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. They have a perfectly horrible time.
“Hey, we’re going to ______.”
“Aw, I don’t wanna go! It’s boring. I hate it. Can’t I stay home?”
“Nope. You are going, ‘cause the entire family is going.”
“I won’t have anything to do. Nobody is my age. You guys don’t do anything fun.”
No matter what happens, they are firmly entrenched in not having a good time. If the sun is shining—it is too hot. If the food is plentiful—it is the wrong kind. And if, by some bizarre alignment of the correct stars, they somehow manage to eek out a moment of good time; they will assure you it is in spite of everything you did, and will go immediately back to being miserable.
If you look at an event as being negative, it is easy to find something negative to say about it.
Many Christians hold to the idea of original sin—that since the fall, inherent in humanity is the tendency to be immoral. That it is as part of humanity as hearts, livers and hair. Understand, this is not the claim for the capacity to be immoral, (we all believe that) but rather the overall proclivity to be immoral. This is an important distinction.
As an analogy, imagine having the ability to go right or left, as compared to the proclivity to go right as compared to left. The person with the ability, when reaching a fork in the road, may take a left. At the next fork, however, they may take a right—putting them back in the same direction. Or they may take a series of lefts, realize this was not leading in the way in which they intended, and start taking rights as a correction.
But a person with the proclivity to go right will take a right at the first fork, a right at the second fork, a right at the next fork and the next and the next.
Many Christians view humankind as consisting of the latter situation. Given the choice between a moral and immoral decision, they will make an immoral decision again and again and again. (Since this doesn’t happen in practice, they create the theological doctrine of God’s grace pervasively existing in the universe preventing inevitable self-destruction.)
Just like our teenager, they expect the negative, plan on the negative, and with little surprise—find the negative. I read the blogs, the books, the articles. I listen to the radio programs. Homosexual marriage? One more sign of the impending apocalypse. Movies with violence, sex and drugs? Bad humans, bad! Dancing, sex, crime…all one has to do is watch the evening news and it would confirm your worst fears that humanity is self-imploding.
I’m not saying our world is great. I am not claiming there is no room for improvement. But there is some moral within the world. There are good, beneficial things happening. All is not lost. It is frustrating to constantly read and hear how horrible the world must be, when the person refuses to look for anything positive.
Know what else happens with our teenager? After pointing out some fun things to do, (“I don’t wanna!”) or giving suggestions (“No!”) and being rebuffed, we reach a point of complacency—we don’t care whether they have a good time or not. In the same way, I reach a point of not bothering to point out any moral action, any act of charity to these Christians—it will likewise be rebuffed as, “They must be doing it for selfish reasons” or “It is only because they secretly believe in God.”
What we say is ignored; our reasons disregarded. Do they understand how much insight they give into their own thoughts and motivations?
“If given a chance, and no one knew—you would have an affair.”
“No I wouldn’t. I love my wife, and the guilt would not be worth the small amount of pleasure.”
“Liar. You only say that ‘cause you have to. You have original sin—you want to commit immoral acts.”
“No, I really don’t. I have the ability to make a choice…”
“Yes, and your choice will be immoral. You have a fallen conscience.”
“Actually, I make the choice based upon observation, past experience, upbringing, environment and other factors.”
“And all those factors are corrupt and sinful. You want to sin, sin, sin!”
I am not perfect. I recognize I violate my own moral code—I am certainly violating what some theist thinks their god’s moral code is. But I also recognize I have the choice. And as much as the blame for violating my moral code rests with me, the credit in not doing so does as well. Yet I am constantly saddled with the blame, and never provided any credit.
There is no “common ground.” No point in which we can agree as to what humans are like. If you are viewing us as evil monsters—you cannot find “common ground” in which we are sometimes angels as well.