Any moral message that can be taken from Christianity is immediately undermined by the fact Christianity holds the loophole to entire avoid moral judgement: faith. A good person receives no rewards if they are not faithful, and a bad person receives no punishment if they are faithful. I’ve argued before that this is the catastrophic failure of Christian ethics: it claims to have moral messages, thus blocks real progress, but undermines itself to the point of permitting anything.
One commenter, oldschoolcontemporary (OSC), in an attempt to make sense of this for me, argued that upon conversion to Christianity or in a renewed finding of Christian faith, the new believer undergoes a sort of transformation. This transformation is one of the mind, where the believer develops an understanding of God’s law. It is important to note that OSC believes God’s law to be something that lines up very much with the moral sensibilities we all have. Although epiphanies of this sort are something that are familiar to me, I take umbrage with the assertion that one needs a believe in God, or Jesus specifically, to have such an epiphany.
A clear distinction was made early in OSC’s comment (read the comment here): the new believer will not develop an aversion to shellfish or fall in line with other ‘ceremonial’ laws, but instead this epiphany will relate only to God’s moral law; the idea of not wanting unnecessary harm to come to others. (We’ll gloss over the wiggle room permitted by “unnecessary”.) I have found it difficult to find anywhere in the Bible where this distinction between God’s moral law and ceremonial law is explicated. From what I can gather, where God’s law overlaps with what is known as “Natural Law”, that’s what we call moral law, and everything else that seem arbitrary or silly, that’s all ceremonial. Natural Law Theory, for those who don’t know, is a pre-Christian discovery meant to describe the preferred moral state of people; perhaps approximately summed up as ‘the moral intuition’ (which we seem to be able to identify in our selves as separate from selfish impulses).
I don’t think it’s reliable for OSC to mandate the relationship with God a new or renewed believer would develop. There are plenty of Christians who I have no reason to doubt are as sincere in their beliefs, who do wish to repeal the rights and shorten the lives of certain groups of people. There is no clear reason or evidence for a person becoming a new believer that would make them additionally apologetic for their actions. (There are seemingly sincere believers in other religions, too, who are guilty of the same thing, but they are not the point; if OSC is right, those people can’t have the epiphany because they have the wrong God.) What I think OSC is doing here is transposing either their experiences, or their romanticised idea of what experiences people should have, onto other people. So far as I can tell, people who sincerely believe in the Christian God have completely different experiences and moral epiphanies to the one OSC wants them to have.
I’ve experienced mild forms of this transformative moral epiphany OSC alludes to through meditation, and I’ve heard it many more times through the accounts of people using LSD. Both LSD and contemplative meditation appear to make the mind default to the description the ancient Greeks began a discussion of and that ultimately led to various developments in human rights: the Natural Law.
I believe there is some kind of a Natural Law. LSD users give surprisingly consistent account of their feelings of oneness and their moral insights, and those accounts do resonate with my experiences practising meditation and the professed experiences of Buddhists I met in Thailand. It is possible that this ‘Natural Law’ is nothing more than a consistency in neural networks (but I think it is more than that).
This ‘pseudo-Buddhist’ slant on Christianity is not unique to OSC, an interpretation where one has merely to reach this enlightened epiphany before death in order to go to Heaven. The moral trail one leaves behind is redundant. But that epiphany doesn’t have to be belief in Jesus, and belief in Jesus does not necessarily result in the epiphany OSC alludes to. This is part of the reason I don’t believe God owns the mansion we should be having moral discussion in.