Monday, October 17, 2011

Collective guilt Pt. 1

One of the common attempts of atheists to discredit Christianity is to paint God as a genocidal dictator.  Using texts from the Old Testament they point to God's commandments to exterminate the Canaanites.  This they argue proves that the God of the Bible is a genocidal maniac.

There are plenty of issues that arise from this argument that the atheist has to answer for.  The notion of God taking life vs. humans taking life is but one.  Taking the Scriptural text without other texts that suggest a more complicated picture is another.  Indeed there is so much to go into that it only proves that when you have a little knowledge you can make great mistakes.

But the purpose of this post is not to counter the point. Rather I would like to focus on the notion of collective guilt.  That is, there is a concept that a society can be judged as a corporate body. 

This notion makes me uncomfortable to some degree.  I suspect it is my American heritage that gets in the way.  The radical individualism that plagues the mind of the American has a tendency to isolate a human being as only an individual.   

But human beings are connected to each other.  We form societies.  Born into families, we humans interact with other humans as a regular part of day to day life.  It is as natural as breathing.  In short, the notion of human connectivity is as important as the notion of the individual.  It is only in community that the human being finds what being human is.

Now because of this notion of community with others as a natural extension of ourselves we find that our actions can affect others.  A kind or harsh word has a "positive" or "negative" effect on others.  Likewise, the actions of others can help or hurt the individual.   We are connected.  And in this connection our actions affect others and thus the community. 

But are actions such as those listed above divided cleanly into actions of the individual and actions in the community?  Is it only when I help or hurt another that the action in question is one in the community or "public" realm?  Likewise, are actions that do not involve another person individual or "private" actions?  While such actions can be classified with those categories it is not true that such actions are completely separate. 

But how can this be?  And what does this have to do with collective guilt?  These are good questions but I am out of time for right now.  Please bear with me as I will endeavor to answer them in the next post.

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