The first little town I came to on the road beyond religion was more notable for what it was missing, rather than for what it possessed. There was absolutely no trace of sin. I don’t mean to say that no one did things that were not BEST practices for humanity. It is just that no one had a concept of sin or evil. For that matter, righteousness was also a foreign concept. It was a land of the completely amoral. Please do not get that confused with immoral.
They were amoral in the same way that a storm or a beast of the field is amoral. No one ever thinks of a lion as having done something wrong by chasing down, and dining on an antelope. No on thinks of a storm as sinful anymore than they think of a sunny day a righteous. They are completely without moral content whatsoever. Come to think of it, the entire universe is without moral awareness. One day a star shines brightly; the next, it is a supernova. Galaxies form and reform as they collide with one another. Nothing stands in judgement of their moral behavior.
When you think about it, the only creatures in the entire universe that we consider to have the capability, or need for a moral compass are humans. Where does that idea come from. As stated in posts past, it comes from a belief that we humans are not really a part of nature, but above it, and of a different substance. We think in terms of two classes of intelligent beings sharing the planet: animals and humans. Animals are made in the image of the natural world; humans are made in the image of god. We, alone, have the capacity to know right from wrong. We, alone, have the capacity to do good and evil.
What provides this unique ability is the spirit, essence, breath, endowment of god: a being that hails from outside of nature. God is the embodiment of goodness, or so goes the orthodox teaching. Therefore, good and evil are not native to this world. We humans have an otherworldly essence that is capable of moral choice. It is that which keeps us from being just an animal of a higher order.
Unfortunately, since I do not believe that we humans were implanted here by a being beyond our space/time reality, I am forced to conclude that we are animals of a higher order, taxonomically speaking. As such, we are no more capable of evil anymore than the hungry lion. Due to our enormous brain to body ratio, we are capable of exponentially more complex societies. It is that complexity which demands more of our social interaction with others than, say, a pride of lions. If our mental capacity was as limited as theirs, so too would be our capacity for complex interactions.
Some might at first balk at my emphasis on mental function, and the hint that it might be connect to morality. But on closer inspection, I think you will see where I am coming from. Everyone who has ever watched the Spiderman movie knows, with great power comes great responsibility. A baby is fully human in every since of the word. Yet, no one actually believes that babies are evil. That is an extremely warped religious doctrine that I find highly offensive. A baby is without sin because a baby is incapable of doing anything wrong. She is incapable of such wrongdoing because of her limited mental capacity.
What age must a person attain before possessing the ability to sin? It is sometimes referred to as the age of accountability. So, what age is that? 2? 7? 15? It’s hard to say. Most would say it depends on the person. What they really mean is that it depends on how quickly they mentally and emotionally develop. At what age does a person grow beyond the age of accountability? 70? 80? Who knows? not all elderly people become senile of childlike. Yet, those who do, are not labeled as sinners because they sometimes say or do inappropriate and embarrassing things. It all depends on the mental and emotional maturity and stability of an individual. Even for the most orthodox of Christians, in practical application, capacity equals morality, not ontology.
I feel a part two coming on, which is another way of saying I’ve had a long day and I’m tired. Also, there is no way to cram all of my thoughts on the subject into one post that is easily digested in one sitting. We will pick this up again real soon