We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- Declaration of Independence
I call it "the American Kool-Aid," an unreal utopia that is swallowed pretty much by all Americans as part of their grade-school indoctrination, and which shapes some of their perceptions, except when it's inconvenient. One of the modern inconvenient parts is the word "men", for which they implicitly substitute the word "people", thereby making it even more unreal. The next inconvenient part is the word "created", for which they implicitly substitute the word "evolved", and likewise.
The final inconvenient part is the word "equal", which is affirmed in name only, because everybody knows the Orwellian line that "some animals [people] are more equal than others." The have-nots want equality, and the haves don't. It's human nature to want to keep any perqs your station in life may have afforded you at the expense of others, while coveting the advantages you lack but can see others who have them. This important fact will illuminate anything we might discover concerning the topic at hand.
Before we do that, I should point out why I call this the American
Kool-Aid. Obviously, it's in the American founding document, so all our
school children are properly indoctrinated with its seminal principles,
which does not happen in other countries. More importantly, all other countries
came out of (or perhaps are still within) a long history of class-based
society, the king (or czar, which is Russian for caesar) on top, with various
inherited nobles below that, and the peons or serfs or commoners at the
bottom. The caste system in India is even more stratified. People in those
systems are stuck at their level, and they know it. There's no way out,
so they do not develop these silly notions of equality. That was the way
every people group worked throughout all history -- except the USA. We
need to look at why that is.
1. Who am I?and most important,
2. Where did I come from?
3. Where am I going?
4. Why should I do that?We need to see how various systems answer those questions, because that profoundly impacts how well the social systems work in those religious environments. The Christian answers them:
1. An eternal soul,Other theistic traditions (like Islam) give similar answers. The Hindu answers are a little different, but not much:
2. Descended from Adam in the Garden,
3. To Heaven or Hell (your choice), and
4. Because God said to (that's how you go to Heaven instead of Hell).
1. An eternal soul,The atheist answers are:
2. Reincarnated since eternity,
3. To Nirvana eventually, and
4. Because that gets you to Nirvana sooner."
1. An accident of nature,That's why atheist cultures cannot survive. Some non-religious answers, for example, to a slave:
2. The primordial slime,
3. Nowhere, and finally,
4. No reason at all.
1. Subhuman filth,Apparently the only way to force a free-thinking atheist to conform to social mores is to reduce him to a slave. We'll come back to that later.
2. Africa where your family didn't care about you,
3. Nowhere, and
4. Because I will beat you if you don't.
It wasn't a perfect egalitarianism. Jesus and the rest of the Bible never promoted gender equivalence as is now the established religion of the USA, and certainly not the radical inverted hierarchy pushed by the radical feminazis controlling the educational establishment and entertainment media, where only women are presumked smart and men are idiots. Moreover, Jesus appointed only Twelve Apostles, and favored extra perqs on an inner circle of three. The Apostles went on to establish offices of elders and deacons within the church. Most of these distinctions were preserved in Puritan theology, but everybody answered to God alone for their eternal destiny, and that equality drove much of the social values.
Another benefit of the Puritan theology resulted in sizable wealth, which made them the haves compared to (among others) the native tribes, with a new power structure to enforce this new hierarchy. Farther south (but still in North America) other colonies started up with colonists from the traditional (hierarchical) religious heritage, and with less of the so-called "Protestant work ethic" that made their neighbors to the north so rich and powerful. They also retained the class mentality from back home, so the subjugation of lower class people to do menial work was not contrary to their religion. The northern colonies dominated the American revolution, and their values led in the founding documents -- even while the larger social structures were hierarchical (northern merchants over southern landowners over slaves). It was only the shared name "Christian" they all claimed as their religion (plus a couple thousand miles of water) that bound them all together during those formative years. This happened here in the USA and nowhere else, ever.
The French saw the obvious success of the Americans, so they fomented their own revolution. However, lacking the religious egalitarianism among their leaders, they only succeeded in replacing a hereditary king with a military emperor, with no fundamental change to the hierarchy. Later the Russians tried the same thing with the same result. In both cases the revolutionaries rejected the God of the king they overthrew, but lacking a compelling god of their own, it was every man for himself, with the strongest dog clawing his way to the top.
Even today in those two countries, the perception of hierarchy pervades the perception of the people. A few manage to scratch their way out of their born class, but most regard the effort as futile. The dominant oligarchs have learned that the best way to maintain that status quo is to destroy any ambition by economic socialism, where any effort to better one's station in life is punished by a reduction in social welfare benefits. Only in the USA do we have a pervasive perception of egalitarianism, but the socialists are hard at work to eradicate any impact that might have on ambition. Within this century, all true egalitarianism will have been erased in the USA, and replaced with a repressive socialist hierarchy, with no chance of changing one's social class; that is already the case with the lowest classes in the USA. The American experiment was a blip in history, never to happen again.
The word "democracy" is Greek, and the idea was first implemented in pre-Christian Greece, but only the landed elite could vote there. It certainly wasn't the totally flat egalitarianism we like to imagine for ourselves, because the voters in that democracy all had slaves. Furthermore, it didn't last very long. When the Persians arrived to conquer Europe the Greeks needed a strong military defense, and the military cannot work as a democracy -- nevermind what Xenophon said about it in Anabasis (or maybe that's why their mission failed, see "The Greeks Were Smart"). Anyway, the Greek military grew to become the empire of Alexander the Great. And that was the end of democracy for more than two thousand years.
The true human condition is social hierarchy, the haves dominating the have-nots and keeping them in their place. What is slavery, if not the haves dominating the have-nots and keeping them in their place? The methods for effecting that domination may change. When we called the bottom layer "slaves", the domination was effected by chains and whips and torture; now we use economic compulsion and government handouts, but the people are still enslaved to their social status and physical location. The people who grew up in that hierarchy know nothing else, so they cannot even imagine how to escape it. 150 years ago they replaced one form of bondage (chains) with another (share-cropping), and more recently with a third (food stamps). They are still stuck in the system with no way out.
For the record, my religious heritage is in line with Puritan theology.
I'm a religious egalitarian, which extends to social egalitarianism. That
is why I am unalterably opposed to the socialist bondage being imposed
on people who have always been stuck at the bottom. Mine is a Christian
position, but specifically a Puritan Protestant theology, not (for example)
Catholic or its fellow-travellers. It was my spiritual forebears who fought
hardest to abolish slavery in the South, and before that in England. The
greatest professional achievements in my own life were empowerment tools
for enabling the underdogs to rise out of their social class and better
themselves in the Puritan tradition, by hard work instead of disabling
and demeaning handouts.
Atheists have no reason other than their own personal convenience to do anything at all. I once saw one atheist put it rather bluntly: "Morality is whatever he wants it to be." W.Somerset Maugham makes it more eloquent: "Do what thou wilt, with due regard for the policeman around the corner." That requires more policemen than atheists, or else they all would consider it safe to omit regard for the policeman. Closet atheists in the USA today already take advantage of the fact that they outnumber the police, with looming disastrous consequences on the economy. Russia is having a hard time recovering from seven decades of institutional atheism for the same reason. Too many people there bought into the ethic, so they are free to game the system. But that's not my point today.
We have already noted the main difference between the atheist morality and that imposed on a slave is in the motivation to behave in socially acceptable ways. Now let's consider the question from the opposite direction, Is there a natural or intrinsic atheist position with regard to class systems?
An important part of the atheist religion is Darwinism, that all organisms
descended from a single primordial blob of protoplasm, and that some species
are "higher" and more evolved than others. Darwin's seminal Origin of
the Species makes this plain in its subtitle: "the Preservation of
Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life". Some races (his word)
are favored for preservation, and by obvious implication, some are not.
There is an inherent hierarchy in the very model. The atheists imagine
themselves to be the "Brights"
who are more evolved (haves) than the theists (have-nots). It is an inherent
classist model, or (consistent with earlier Darwinists before WWII
and dating back to Darwin himself) racist. Where the atheists control the
power structure of a nation, such as the (former) Soviet Union or China
today (and increasingly the atheists in the USA), those atheists actively
persecute the theists. They are not unique in that, every religion in power
persecutes the minorities. Christian theology alone tells them not to,
but nobody pays attention. The only reason the atheist minority in the
USA is not persecuted as vigorously as they themselves persecute the Christians
is that we have no single dominant religion, so everybody recognizes that
they might be next if they were to allow it.
The physical cruelty imposed by slaveholders in the American deep South generally (but not always) exceeded thir counterparts in Biblical times, so the slaves' willingness to remain in their condition was substantially less. Similarly, the American slavers (for the most part, but with significant exceptions) intentionally kept their slaves illiterate, thereby to limit their opportunities for escape, while in Biblical times the slaves were often more highly educated than the freemen. Most social functions now performed by trained professionals in the USA today were performed by slaves in Roman times, so the incentive to escape was far reduced. Therefore, although we use the same word to describe American slavery and Biblical slavery, there were more differences than similarities. Biblical slaves were much more like modern employees trapped by their economic circumstances than they were like American slaves of 160 years ago.
When you read Paul's commands to slaves and their owners [1Cor.7:21-23, Eph.6:5-9], they read the same as if he were giving instructions to employers and their labor force, for indeed that's what he was doing. Having God alone tell you what to do is better than having some other person do so, but it's not that bad -- especially if the employer treats his employees fairly (although I have not noticed that "Christian" employers do as well as the pagans in my experience).
The pre-war situation in the American deep South was even worse than "Christian" employers today, possibly for the same reason, and Lincoln was right to end it. While the socialist government today is once again moving back in the direction toward the evils the Civil War ended, the net effect still approximates the conditions in Biblical times, to the extent that the Jews obeyed their own Law. Perhaps they did that no more than the Christians do today, but you can't blame God for it.
[Do I need a section on what the Bible teaches?]
2015 June 10