Yesterday I felt really run down, probably a sinus issue, which is common for me at this time of year. I slept throughout most of the day. Felt much better waking up this morning.
I took the kids for the usual running in the garden. I played with the toy trains (also with the kids, honestly) and had a number of issues to sort at work all of which kept me busy.
Unfortunately I had a small OCD lapse today involving religion. One of my major obsessions in the past was/is the “unpardonable sin”. I will cover this in more depth in future posts, but in short the unpardonable sin refers to the blasphemy of the holy spirit. It is unclear what exactly this is, but most would argue it is the rejection of Jesus as God at its core. But no one knows. Even writing about it brings back the trauma and dread.
I researched up to 8 hours per day at its worst on top of studies and work
Anyway, one of my (many) compulsions in the past was to research theology, philosophy of religion and biblical textual criticism obsessively, and I mean obsessively (I researched up to 8 hours per day at its worst on top of studies and work). All with the aim of finding the “right” belief, and ultimately to decide on whether this unpardonable sin business needs to be taken seriously. But another way to do this was to listen to formal debates.
Last night I watched the first atheist vs theist debate I have watched in a while (David Wood vs Matt Dillahunty). Decent debate, Dillahunty (atheist) by far had the better arguments. I enjoyed it, and that was that. But then I made the mistake of making comments on YouTube today.
The debate topic was morality. Wood (a fundamentalist evangelical) was arguing that atheism has no moral grounding and on atheism anything is permitted (the usual strawman). Dillahunty (a pretty stubborn atheist but I like him) proposed secular humanism and argued that a non specific God concept without a framework (e.g. general theism) is useless at explaining morality.
What caught me out was rumination with regards to what philosophers call “objective morality”, a term some theists (mainly evangelicals) claim as their own. In other words, with God, some things are bad whether you like it or not and atheism means anything goes (it doesn’t).
Where I got stuck was with the following thought experiment (in my own head, not from this debate): If there is objective morality and killing people is objectively wrong (a common example) what about situations when killing might be necessary. For example, if a serial killer burst into your home and was about to kill your family, surely killing him first would be justifiable (if that was the only option). But on Wood’s belief system (he didn’t mention in this particular debate but I’m familiar with his views) he believes that if you are born again you will go to heaven. So if killing is objectively wrong then how would someone like Wood be justified in killing the intruder even *if* he was going to kill his family? Especially when heaven awaits anyway. I just cannot see the logic.
Then I’m told on the YouTube chat that there is a difference between objective morality and absolute morality. Apparently objective morality is wrong regardless of opinion but there are cases when violating the rule would be acceptable (such as the above example). Absolute morality is something that is wrong in all circumstances. However, when many evangelicals talk about objective morality it seems to me they are talking mainly in absolutes. But even if they aren’t, it is still unclear to me what is agreed to be objective and what is agreed to be absolute. If we can say that killing someone is wrong objectively but there are circumstances when it would be permitted then how in any sense can this really be objective in any practical manner. The very decision making process when assessing how to act is subjective in itself. So we can say that killing is objectively wrong, fine, but if we don’t know for sure when it is justified and when it isn’t, how does that help. This is why drone strikes or the death penalty continue to be a heated debates for example.
The point is: my brain had switched from enjoyment to OCD.
My relationship with Christianity will always be complicated because of the trauma of the unpardonable sin obsession
Don’t get me wrong, I love philosophy and theology but my relationship with Christianity will always be complicated because of the trauma of the unpardonable sin obsession. If I had to label myself I would say I’m a liberal/progressive Christian (I’m anti fundamentalism for sure) but much of the time my belief system is based on reason, love and kindness, I just use Christianity as a partial framework to navigate these questions in life.
Most of the time I am content these days with my relationship with religion. But I have to be careful. The line between enjoyment and OCD is dangerously thin with these topics for me. I crossed the line when I decided I *needed* an answer to the question of objective morality. Why? Because my OCD tells me that if I don’t have the perfect truth I won’t know whether I could have committed the unpardonable sin and what this might mean for me. This is mainly in relation to fundamentalist evangelicalism, it is their arguments I feel the need to obsessively refute. They are the ones with eternal hell fire afterall (and some traditional Catholics). If they are right on this maybe they are right on other things says the OCD.
So how did I get myself out of this mess quickly? I removed the YouTube comments and hid my channel (I don’t need to engage in YouTube debates, plus I don’t have time). I accepted the fact that I don’t know the right answer. And I did a HIIT workout with my son this evening which left me gasping for air on the floor whilst my 7 year old didnt even break a sweat.
Now, thankfully, I feel pretty good.