Religious Ideology and Human Nature
by: Gordon Wayne
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Ideally, we like to believe that religion promotes and defends our noblest ideals such as truth, justice, and compassion. We also like to believe that religion will set the premiere example because failure to establish an outstanding example for parishioners is blatant hypocrisy. Therefore, every conscientious religion should scrupulously apply those noble ideals to their theological doctrines, including their theological assessment of human nature. However, before theologians plunge into a theological analysis of human nature, we should construct a working definition of a truthful, just, compassionate assessment.
A truthful theological assessment of human nature should develop from impartial, objective, empirical research of the subject, not from third-party critiques. It should examine the entire subject, scrutinizing everything from the most pedestrian features to the most exceptional, from the most nefarious events to the most meritorious. It should recognize that people make horrendous mistakes but they also make important discoveries, people commit heinous crimes yet they also engage in acts of spontaneous heroism. A truthful theological assessment of human nature should scrutinize the entire spectrum of the human experience, the good, the bad, the ordinary, the extraordinary, the virtuous and the iniquitous.
Any divinity that sincerely values truth would want its spiritual organization to subscribe to a complete and accurate portrait of human nature. Dictators prefer half truths, partial truths, and colorful truths because they can manipulate these to create the illusion of truth, an illusion that serves their political ambitions. If theologians and clerics subscribe to a divinity that values truth, then they will their religious organization to have the most truthful assessment of human nature possible.
Concerning the second ideal, a just portrait of human nature should honor two important judicial precepts, the presumption of innocence and guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Therefore, every theological investigation into human nature should assume that human nature is spirituality innocent rather than assuming it is spiritually iniquitous. Secondly, theologians and priests should honor that presumption until they have sufficient credible evidence that would convince reasonable, responsible adults otherwise. Therefore, we will apply this to our examination of human nature, formally declaring that human nature is innocent, physically, psychologically, intellectually, and spiritually innocent.
Any divinity that truly treasures justice would want its religious institutions to develop and promote a just theological assessment of human nature. Tyrants prefer the presumption of guilt so they can justify persecuting and punishing thousands upon thousands of their own citizens simply because they suspect something. If theologians and preachers subscribe to a just divinity, and they do not want secular institutions setting a better example, they will want a just assessment of human nature.
Finally, a compassionate analysis of human nature will naturally gravitate toward charitable conclusions rather than judgmental conclusions. Thus, if theologians can choose between a charitable conclusion and a judgmental conclusion, compassionate theologians will always advocate the charitable option. For example, the human ego is a selfish entity but that selfishness has practical benefits because it protects our psyche from antagonistic characters who aspire to sabotage our self-esteem. A healthy ego will protect our self-esteem from malicious psychological attacks, instinctively discrediting and distrusting anybody who consistently denigrates our character or personality. Assuming we can interpret the human ego as a selfish entity or a psychological safeguard, then the compassionate theologian and priest will always choose the charitable choice.
A truly compassionate divinity would naturally want its theologians, priests, and followers to adopt a truly compassionate assessment of humankind. Megalomaniacs prefer judgmental assessments because pessimistic commentaries enable them to feel superior to others, reinforcing their megalomaniac delusions of their own greatness. If theologians and priests truly value compassion and wish to set an exemplary example for their parishioners, they develop and advocate a truly charitable evaluation of human nature.