Wednesday 11 January 2023

The Spiritual Immorality of Materialist Morality

Here are some frequently repeated sayings which are believed to encapsulate the essence of good moral behaviour as far as the modern mind is concerned but which are all wrong. Sometimes only slightly wrong but it's the gap between partial and full truth that is critical. These sayings may shine superficially but if you mistake them for sound moral instruction you will stay becalmed in materialistic thought - whether or not you believe in a God or spiritual background to the universe

Number 1. It doesn't matter what you do as long as you don't harm anyone else.

This is the classic. It's the foundation stone of humanist ideological dogma which might sound good at first glance but is highly deceptive. It is certainly wrong as interpreted but it is also wrong as it stands. For it matters very much what you do if you harm yourself and there are many things you might do that may not harm others but do damage you, especially on a spiritual level. And the fact is you do not belong to yourself. You belong to God first and foremost because he created you and therefore if you harm yourself you also do harm to him.

But even if we ignore that, wrong actions and even wrong thoughts that do damage on the spiritual plane are sins, a sin being something that does harm to the spiritual self. Sexual sins, to take the most obvious example, may not directly harm anyone else if the people involved are consenting but engaging in such sins harms the culture and therefore it does harm others who may be influenced to wrong behaviour. There is physical and psychological hurt but there is also spiritual hurt and just because this is not recognised by an atheistic society does not mean it does not exist. I would go so far as to say that even unbelief harms others because it contributes to a culture of unbelief and therefore harms people influenced by the culture as we all are to some degree. Denying God does harm yourself and it also harms others, and, as God is the fundamental truth, one might say that denying God is the gravest sin even though to the secular mind it doesn't appear to harm anyone.

Besides, proper morality is not about simple harm avoidance but has to do with living in harmony with the universe on all its levels from physical to spiritual. 

Number 2. Love thy Neighbour.

The truth is love your neighbour. The distortion comes from misinterpreting what this love means. In the Bible the commandment to love your neighbour follows the one to love God and is contingent on it. This means that the love you show your neighbour must involve an awareness of God. It must be a love that supports the neighbour in his relationship with God, not exclusively but that must be an underlying factor. It does not mean universal altruism (see Francis Berger's insightful post) which is a materialistic corruption of proper love, and nor does it mean you must treat your neighbour with kindness and respect regardless of how he behaves. 

Loving your neighbour if it is not founded on the love for God may actually be immoral in that it potentially separates the soul from God which is the greatest evil. Besides, there is no proper love outside of God, certainly not in the spiritual sense and spiritual love is the root of all lesser loves. Without it these lesser loves are like one dimensional representations of a three dimensional solid.

Number 3. You don't need God to be good.

Without an awareness of God you don't even know what good is. You reduce good to material good which may well support spiritual evil. Even Jesus denied personal goodness. How much less can any one of us claim goodness? All goodness comes from God because he is the source and the very definition of it. Not only do you need God to be good, there is no goodness without God.

The point to take away from this is that any form of morality which ignores the primacy of the spiritual and the love due from a created being to its Creator is severely deficient and may actually be profoundly immoral. The word due may confuse because it implies obligation but in this context it merely means that which feeds and makes grow the soul.


Nathanael said...

Great post William. on the last point I must ask did jesus really deny his own personal goodness?

I think that 'why do you call me good?' was a question to see if they knew *why* they were calling him good --- ( because only God is good, and he is God )

as opposed to a denial of his goodness i think it's a question to see if they knew the reason for why he was good.

William Wildblood said...

Wasn't he saying all goodness came from God, ie.e the Father, and did not reside in him personally? That's how I understand it.

Don said...

Fantastic post. It maps very well onto something I‘ve been struggling with lately which is how to talk about moral issues with agnostic/atheist friends? I don‘t know how to bridge the gap of these misinterpretations with materialists.

William Wildblood said...

Thanks Don. The problem you mention comes down to first principles. If people deny the reality of God it's like they are building their moral house on no foundations which means that when real trouble comes it will most likely start to collapse.

Nathanael said...

"Wasn't he saying all goodness came from God, ie.e the Father, and did not reside in him personally? That's how I understand it."

I think it was Jesus 'testing' if the person knew *why* Jesus was good 'why do you call me good?' ...Jesus is wondering if they know that Jesus is God. That he and the father are one.

On the other hand yes, it also reveals that none are good except God.

“Who do the crowds say I am?” (Luke 9:18)

then Jesus moves closer beyond the speculations of the consensus to the more personal/individual

“Who do you say I am?”

“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’” (Matthew 16:16)

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

William Wildblood said...

I don't think your interpretation suits the context at all. Jesus is referring everything to God. He's not pointing to himself as God in that passage. Also, I have to say that I find the passage where Jesus says he is giving the keys of heaven to Peter not to ring true. I suspect it may have been a "creative" addition. That's an absurd amount of authority for any one human being and does not make spiritual sense.

Nathanael said...

How do you know he isn't ?

The way I see it is that Jesus is God, and he is trying to find out if the disciple knows the reason why he calls him good teacher. Similarly in the book of job where people can't understand why job is facing all the trials and tribulations as they saw him as a 'good' person underserving of it, but that was in their eyes and not Gods eyes.

William Wildblood said...

I'm not sure "know' is the right word to use here. That is what the passage says to me and I think it's also the generally accepted meaning. Jesus never called himself God. He said he was the Son of God and referred everything back to the Father.

Nathanael said...

I will reflect on this more. Thanks.

Nathanael said...

William a link here I was sent which expands on what I was saying. I think this is true.

Christopher Yeniver said...

Concerning individuality, the Africans and Muslims and many Asians seem content with an objective God, a kind of God that doesn't need to be questioned. A question that never arises perhaps, if only there is an individual left.

What is God, William? It must be best to affirm it a reality than any denial of truth.

William Wildblood said...

If you're asking me what is God, that's above my pay grade! However, God told us himself when he said "I am that I am". This seems to sum it up. It contains pure existence and a self-subsisting Person. That seems about as close as we humans can comprehend.