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The Case Against Christianity 6: Christian Ethics

07/13/2011

Here’s a connection worth making. One of Jesus’ most famous teachings is to “turn the other cheek,” to give a person one’s cloak if they ask for your coat, and to forgive them even seven times if they say “I repent” each time they wrong you. This seems to only make good ethical sense if we assume that the world is going to end shortly anyways. Only then is there good reason to avoid conflict, causing harm to others in self defense, etc. If we assume the world is going to keep going on for an indeterminate amount of time, then it becomes unethical and counterproductive to a healthy society to adopt Jesus’ ethical teachings.

Martin starts by looking at the actual ethical teachings of Jesus. Many say that even if Jesus was not the son of God, he was an important ethical teacher. Still, if we look at what Jesus actually said, that is not all that clear. The sermon on the mount is nice, but the turn the other cheek stuff, maybe not so great, unless the world is coming to an end very soon. Also, why should we encourage poverty? Most people have a pretty fuzzy view of what Jesus actually said.

The next part critiques Christian ethics, as viewed by a few different philosophers. Not really that interesting to me. I thought he was going to critique theories of Christian morality, like divine command theory, or natural law ethics. Instead there are critiques of certain formulations that I never hear about. Martin criticizes specific formulations of ethics, not the meta-ethical underpinnings, which is what I think is more interesting.

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