The second pair of virtues and vices I wish to talk about are the ones associated with monotheism, goodness versus pride. When rewriting TCS I found this part to be the most difficult for me to edit, mostly because I was skirting very close to some rather controversial points of view, especially for a kid’s book. But one cannot discuss the ideas of good and bad, let alone prideful morality, without touching on some ideas that people don’t really want to look at too closely. So let’s move forward.
People don’t like and don’t want hard religions. When I say “hard” I don’t mean challenging. Challenging is fine because it lends a sense of moral superiority to one’s efforts, which many people like. What I mean by hard is religions that push people out of their comfort zones. When it comes to spirituality, we like our absolutes. We like formulas and rituals. We want to know that, if we do A, B, C, and D and avoid W, X, Y, and Z, we will win the kewpie doll. We also want an endgame, so to speak, a final goal where, if we put in the required effort, we will be rewarded and not have to put the effort in anymore.
Why do we want our religions to be this way? Simple: because life ISN’T this way. Life is ambiguous, not absolute. Life always challenges us, it never lets us rest for any significant amount of time. Formulas do not work for life, because inevitably something comes along and knocks the formula out of whack. Because of this, every religion considers the world to be an impure, flawed, or corrupted place and describes its final reward as a place of peace, simplicity, and effortlessness. Nowhere is this more true than in Western Monotheism (WM). The rules and rituals are absolute, laid out by the Divine Itself. The world is a horrible place that, at the End of Days, will be destroyed and made new. The non-believers should be converted or ignored at best, at worst… well, you know, I’m sure.
Yet WM abounds with ambiguity, though it turns a blind eye to such inconsistencies. Every moral precept of the 10 Commandments is broken in the Bible itself at one point or another. Entire sections of moral code are ignored or explained away as “old Covenant” teachings. Internal contradictions abound. Yet believers everywhere ignore this, set their feet and square their shoulders, and say they have found the One True Path. This is Pride. Pride is when Goodness becomes a show, a form of posturing, when thought and experience are set aside in favor of surety and the support of a community who agrees with you. Pride is what allows the leader of a religion founded by a wandering socialist carpenter to sit on a golden throne in a palace.
But what if Life is right?
Now, bear with me as we jump down this rabbit hole. I am not saying right and wrong do not exist, they do and demonstrably so. What I am saying it that right and wrong are human constructions that only exist based upon human preference, proclivity, instinct, and certain overarching aspects of existence. Good is not created by God, but by us. And that is perfectly and gloriously okay! Killing is wrong, not because God carved that rule into a rock, but because we value our own existences and understand that others are just like us. We would not wish to be killed, and others must feel the same, therefore killing another person is wrong under the majority of circumstances. Adultery is wrong, not because the Bible says so, but because betrayal of trust hurts us emotionally and damages the fabric of our society. Rape is wrong because it takes an act of love, trust and expression of Unity and turns it into an act of violation, selfishness, and domination. Dishonesty is wrong because it damages the value of trust, which is necessary for social interaction to have any meaning.
Deep stuff to try to fit into a kid’s book, huh?
As I said, this is a touchy subject, and I’m pretty aware that it may cause me some conflict down the road, but I honestly feel that the idea of divine-dictated moral absolutes is one of the most damaging concepts in the history of humanity. How many wars, how much conflict, how many atrocities have been committed because someone was able to justify away their actions based on a moral absolute? Do you need a list? My goal in writing and publishing TCS is to plant a few tiny seeds of peace and joy and love in the hearts of young people and new families. This is, for me, the most important of those seeds.