Friday, September 16, 2011

Christians Without the God Hypothesis

Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.

Mt 22, 36-40

As certainly well known by a few, the master in the biblical New Testament answered the question for the most important moral norm rather ambiguously by giving a numbering and an identification.The commandment of God gets the first place; second, the commandment of love; on the other hand, the latter is the same as the further, hence ex aequo first place?
In the writings of Marc (10, 17) and Luke (10,25 – 28) this is read differently, already the question being different. With John, this passage of the quintessence of Christianity cannot even be found anymore. Still, it can give you an interesting idea of a Christian belief without the God hypothesis.

A vast number of interpretations may arise here. Let's mention only two – ignoring for the moment any clarification of 'love thy neighbor'.

a) The numbering hints to a priorization of the love for God: to love God is more important than to love thy neighbor (well known from experience with Christians). In addition, it's in principle enough for Christianity to assume both mentioned norms. The rest of the essential norms may be – with the help of a considerably large number of additional premises – logically deducible from those two: „On these two commandments (logically) depends the whole law and the prophets“.

b) Suppose you take the identification of both commandments seriously – in the sense of a logical equivalence – without priorization – what happens then? Note that a logical equivalence of two propositions A↔B implies the equivalence of the corresponding norms O(A) ↔ O(B)*. That is, if someone thinks that (A) loving thy neighbor as thyself means the same as (or is equivalent to) (B) loving God with thy whole heart, then he would rationally accept also the consequence that the corresponding commandments come to the same thing. This in turn would have far reaching consequences. Because, whatever a person would think of the existence of gods, by or through the love of his neighbors, he would love God (and vice versa).** Other passages in the New Testament hint at the same, e.g. Mt 25:40 where loving your neighbor somehow is secretly transferred to the Son of Man and constitutes a sufficient qualification for the acceptance in Christian heaven.

Rosa Charles Darwin, from

Would the world have developed in a more favorable manner if Christians had not resorted so stubbornly to the existence of a creator God; if the quintessence of Christianity would have been read diffenrently? (At least we would have possibly been spared the Intelligent Design theory.)

* 'O' usually designates the operator 'it ought to be that …'; let 'A' be an abbreviation for some sentence describing an action: then the expression 'O(A)' is understood as saying 'it ought to that A'.
** From interpretation b) it would still be possible to derive logically all the other norms (e.g. of the Decalogue) – of course, only with the help of quite a number of additional premises and definitions.


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