Feb 2, 2009

"Fairly Distributing Pain" - Human Flourishing According to Christianity

The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live. -Ayn Rand

Surreal - and absurd - describes this OneNewsNow story by Pete Chagnon on Christians contemplating the subject of human flourishing:
'Human flourishing' -- biblical? or humanistic?
InterVarsity's "Following Christ 2008" conference was held in Chicago on December 27-31. The conference, with the theme of "Human Flourishing," featured a bevy of speakers and was open for students, professors, faculty, and professionals.
"And the idea is that God has designed us in a certain way, and Jesus Christ was human flourishing epitomized -- the perfect example of human flourishing," [Gordon Govier] notes. "And all that he did was in service to God and reflected God as the creator, and we're able to do that in our professional lives that we have and the careers that we choose."

Jesus "epitomized" human flourishing?

According to these Christians, human flourishing means not independently pursuing one’s goals and values and not making oneself better at it and for it, but denying that and pursuing the interests of God instead. One chooses to be as much of a means to God’s ends as is possible. To call that “flourishing” is monstrous. It is a vicious deformation of human life and its potential. Adding insult to this injury is the notion that this God who is omnipotent and benevolent, yet is dependent on humans fully devoting their lives to serving Him. How “glorious” and “moral” would the Christians consider a man who demanded others devote their lives to serving him (i.e., a cult)? When God does or demands this, it is good; but that same thing done or demanded by a man is not good. Back to Socrates’ question: is something good because God commands it or does God command it because it is good?

Granting for argument's sake that is true that Jesus flourished, there is then the not so small matter of him being God with Godly knowledge and powers, knowledge and powers that humans attempting to flourish, lack. So, Christians, how does God in human form epitomize human flourishing?

Putting that awkward question aside because attempting to answer it will only offer unproveable assertions and rationalizations of the supernatural persuasion, there arises a question whose answer can be safely limited to its own subject matter, that being the (supposed) life of Jesus. He could barely support himself by spreading his teachings, which attracted only a handful of followers and ultimately got him executed like a criminal at age 33. By what estimation is that a life "epitomizing" human flourishing?

I would hate to see what Govier regards as human failing.

Actually, there is a historical example of a man imitating Christ,
St. Francis. He renounced wealth, property, work so he could imitate Jesus. He “married” his “lady poverty” and lived with his followers as a wandering ascetic, dressed in rags and singing to birds. Did that constitute human flourishing? After all, he was living as Christ-like as a man can.

"All that Jesus did was in service to God." Why would an omnipotent God need mere mortal men to serve Him? Wait...but isn't Jesus...God himself? If Jesus is to be our model, this needs clarifying - do we serve God or ourselves? Do we accept altruism or egoism? We, unlike Jesus, are not part-God, and therefore unable to override nature's laws to selflessly serve ourselves... And, yet, even with that advantage he failed…Okay, this nonsense is not worth thinking about further.

We are next informed from this highly learned conference on human flourishing that the spread of pain is insufficient:
According to The Associated Press, key speakers at the conference questioned whether pain from the economic downturn is being fairly distributed...

To righteously advocate sadism, leave to religion.

Why is this sadistic Christian’s evil and irrational idea that somebody in government should be overseeing that “pain is fairly distributed” even being considered at a conference?

Who exactly "distributes" pain and by what means? If one person is feeling the consequences of his unsound financial practices the “pain” he feels is the effect. No-one “distributes” that pain to him - other than himself. Why should others who are not involved with his unsound financial practices share in the “pain”? Simply because they have the capacity to, financially, is the implication. That would be “fairness,” which is altruist-speak for “equality.” The bad thing about the downturn, according to the sadistic Christians, is that there is not enough people feeling the right amount of pain according to their ability to bear pain. Nevermind that they may well not deserve this pain The altruist morality implicit in what the sadistic Christians asked is only about giving and receiving undeservedly.

In this, the Christians subject us to more of their tortuously irrational thinking: pain is not good, but somehow it is good for it to be evenly “distributed,” implying that it is something to work for - instead of eliminating the cause of the pain.

...while two other speakers suggested that a restructuring of the world financial system is needed. Although Govier says his organization has no stance on the issue, he encouraged students and faculty to look to scripture for answers.

"There's a lot of things in God's Word about justice and being fair and taking care of the poor," he points out. "Those are all issues that world leaders today should be thinking about."

Did Govier never hear of the welfare state, international aid, and the federal laws and programs designed to privilege the poor in buying homes that caused this economic downturn and pain in the first place? We do not need to look to ancient, irrelevant scripture for answers, “answers” that that if we heeded would make things worse - we need to look to reality for answers (a mental endeavor quite alien to the religious mind) starting with accepting the reality of the folly and harm of government aid to the poor at the expense of others - and the need to end it. That is the needed “restructuring of the world financial system.”

"A document on InterVarsity's website discusses the concept of human flourishing in detail. However, the document concludes that studying the concept may leave one with more questions than answers."

Meaning, studying the concept from the standpoint of believing Christianity leaves one with more questions than answers. What a surprise.

T.A. McMahon, executive director of
The Berean Call, "As far as I'm concerned, human flourishing is not a goal that the Bible teaches. It is primarily a humanistic objective," he contends. "For the Christian, fruitfulness is a byproduct of completely submitting one's life to Christ, denying self, taking up one's cross and following him, doing things his way according to his Word -- and that's not a program academia has been interested in."

Wrong. Academia does not deserve that much credit - it is interested in that program, albeit by substituting society for Christ.

Besides, why would a good God inspire a book that teaches his creatures how to live successfully and flourish in the world He made for them? A trivial concern like that is obviously beneath such greatness and glory that is Him.

Human flourishing pertains to improving human life and that is not a concern of Christians, their Bible, or their God. Flourishing is what ethics is ultimately about and the Christian religion has no realistic guidance to offer in the matter, indeed, Christianity would end human flourishing as it has in the past (see the thousand years of the Dark and Middle Ages). Christians always loudly claim that we need God for morality, yet the above mix of depravity and imagination is what they call "morality": that we should model our lives on the most glorified of history's countless failed messiahs as how to flourish.

Sorry Christians, but I take life and ideas more seriously than that.

Lastly, and off on a tangent, we should not overlook this amusing tidbit from the story: McMahon also admitted he is troubled by some of the speakers featured at the conference. "Dr. Francis Collins -- who headed up the [Human] Genome Project -- he professes to be a Christian, but he also believes in evolution," he explains...


  1. Excellent post. I was struck by how much the Left is nothing more than secularized Christianity. We really have two Christianities in the West; religious-right Christianity and egalitarian-left secularized (Kantianized) Christianity. What a plague that thought-system has been...

  2. The Christians and the "secular" left both hold to their dogmas by faith, regardless of what happens in reality. The left has dogmatic faiths: government can run the economy, hostile dictators can be disarmed through diplomacy, collectivism is workable. They don't let reality get in the way when it comes to those and other beliefs.