Monday 28 November 2022

Christianity is (or should be) a religion of inequality

Equality is supposed to be 'a Good Thing', but isn't; as William Wildblood demonstrates in a forthcoming book - which I have had the privilege to read in manuscript.

As well as equality being a Bad Thing to aim-at; indeed, equality is not even a real thing. 

The word and concept of equality is, of course, very vague in terms of its actual (i.e. rhetorical) usage, which resembles an hypothetical black box, more than a useful category; but 'equality' can usually validly be reduced to an assertion of sameness... 

Either an assertion that some-particular-things are, or ought to be, The Same. 

But are things ever the same? 

Well, in some sciences, especially the physical science, science there has been an assumption of sameness among things like particular chemicals or atomic particles. Yet even here, the progress of science has usually been towards finding differences among things that were originally assumed to be the same: for instance all atoms were originally assumed to be identical - even between different elements and substances. And in biology, an assumption of sameness is much less frequent, and soon breaks-down, the closer we look. 

Perhaps the only genuine sameness is in mathematics (and formal logic), where the sameness is axiomatic and wholly abstract: a matter of definition. 

But mathematics is not the real world. 

What about in religion? Well, so far as I know, there has never been any actual, viable religion where all people are judged to be the same. 

In the past, human differences were often simplified (for practical purposes) into categories, or classes of Men - but even there, there was always provision for making distinctions. 

e.g. Priests may have been in a different category than non-priests; but priests were internally differentiated in many way - even down to the individual level.  

But what of a divine level? Again, it seems there has never been equality of divine regard of Men - but sometimes this has been simplified into categorical levels of classes of divine esteem; which often reflected social organization.  

So where does the idea of equality come into religion? Well, sometimes there is an equality of 'destination' in terms of post-mortal, afterlife fate. In some religions it seems that all Men will (sooner or later) end-up in the same situation. 

For instance, the Ancient Greeks and Hebrews seem to have regarded the afterlife of all Men as a an underworld of demented ghosts: Hades/ Sheol. 

Or the Eastern Religions Hinduism and Buddhism have sometimes envisaged all Men as sharing the same fate of eventually (after varying numbers of incarnations) being re-absorbed back into the divine, from which they came - at least, that goal was the same for all Men. 

Christianity has always divided the destinations between at least two (not-equal) possibilities: Heaven and Hell; and this has sometimes been elaborated by additional possibilities such as Limbo and Purgatory; and by differentiation of fates and roles within both Heaven and Hell (e.g. the circles of Hell, or the layered Mormon 'Heavens') - sometimes differentiation by categories of people, sometimes at the individual level. 

The main assertion of, and emphasis upon, 'equality' in Christianity is almost-wholly modern (coming after the emergence of political leftism, with is promiscuous talk of actual or aspirational 'equality'), and is related to God's supposed attitude of Love to all Men being absolutely 'equal'. 

But God's 'equal' love can only be entertained as a possibility either if Love is regarded in an extremely abstract way (because in real life, including in the Bible itself, love is always differentiated and selective) -- and/or if equality is redefined into a very vague notion that because God Loves all His children, this 'must' (or should) mean that God (somehow, for some reason) loves all his children in exactly the same way and to exactly the same degree...

This supposed 'equality' has been spun into highly abstract assertions of God's absolute and unconditional - therefore equal - Love; rather as if God's love was an evenly-distributed gas, or a radiation of completely equal intensity that bathed all Men without distinction. 

To my mind, this (frequent) attempt to express God's Love as equal and unconditional is probably an alien import to Christianity; either derived from politics; or apparently derived by back-projection from the (not Christian - but nonetheless held by some self-identified Christians) idea of post-mortal Men all returning to be assimilated-into the divine...

Maybe the argument hinges on the idea that if all Men end-up equally, then this happens because God regards all Men as the same. 

At any rate, these two ideas of the supposedly unconditional and universally-equal Love of God, and a Nirvana-like life after death destination of all Men - seem to go-together. 

For a Fourth Gospel derived and focused Christianity; I would regard it as obviously wrong to regard equality in Christianity as a Good Thing. 

Christians ought instead to be trying to understand God's plans for men in the most differentiated and individualistic way possible; much as the ideal attitude of earthly human parents to their children is one that recognizes each child as individual, unique; and needing (ideally) to be regarded as such in terms of their destined and best path through mortal life and beyond. 

Ideal earthly parents would not love all their children 'equally'. Neither would they love their children in a rank-order. Instead they would 1.) love all their children, and 2.) love and value each child in a particular and unique way to correspond with his or her individuality.  

In other words, it is high time Christians set-aside 'equality-talk'; and began to recognize that the traditional categories and classes of past-Christianity were an imperfect representation of what is actually - from God's point of view - an individual-level scheme of Man's salvation and theosis.  


ben said...

If one assumes creatio ex nihilo, it can be assumed that God has created abstractions that underlie beings. Then we get the notion that beings come pre-categorized into humans, demons, angels, animals, whatever else.

And so everything can be wrapped up nicely in an intellectually satisfying way but at the cost of experiencing reality properly.

Makes deeper sense to imagine a dynamic situation of beings (some terrible, some great, some in between) some of which are entering this world through incarnation. Entering from different situations, exiting into different situations.

This puts me in mind of:

lea said...

Equality referring to human beings is speaking of a tabula rasa as a starting point from which 'things can happen/ progress/ manifest/ whatever'. Theoretically that state is attainable later in life, after long meditation on a hilltop or a strong dose of psychoactive goodies, but as experience teaches us; never sustainable. So what the word usually ends up referring to is socio-economic status.

Of course it becomes entangled and inherently problematic immediately at that point. There are so many 'spheres of influence' interacting with each other that the word loses it's meaning almost completely off the back of that consideration. Equal according to 'which measures'?
How do we value these measures, how do they interact with the societal system at large?

Not everyone is suited for every task around, distribution mechanisms or dare i even say economies, are usually logical. You may even argue that bigger rewards for more complicated tasks completed are logical too. But somewhere along the road we let the 'benefit of scales' blindside our completely unprepared systems. Adam Smith wrote his book based on the reality back then with no preconception of the monstrosity we would end up with. There is currently no discussion of the the downsides of endless upscaling, despite the 100 billion Amazod markup during the sting operation, as just one item in a long list of 'some pigs are more equal than others'.

Inequality is actually the biggest problem we have, but it has been artificial for thousands of years. The great misconception however is that it is always about money or material goods.
When Rome started to believe in money as the key to everything, it fell.