Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What is the basic human problem?

Christians usually identify the basic human problem as sin. But what is that, and why wouldn't God just keep people from sinning and avoid the problem in the first place. But if it isn't sin, what could it be? One group of people would say ignorance. We don't know enough, and if we did, we wouldn't have so much trouble. Maybe by pursuing scientific knowledge we can solve the basic human problem. For people like atheist Richard Dawkins the basic human problem has to do with the tendency for form God-beliefs that hamper human progress. For others it might be unjust social structures, such as captialism. For still others, like the Buddha, the basic human problem is suffering. To stop suffering, you stop the cravings that cause the suffering. Perhaps for others it is government.


Anonymous said...

Richard Beck has a really good series on this, where he gives a Malthusian account of original sin, drawing on the work of Marilyn Adams, William Stringfellow and Reinhold Niebuhr, among others:

Original Sin: A New View

(Note: the above links only to the first part of the series; the rest can be found in the right sidebar under Original Sin: A New View)

Ken Jacobs said...

Good question, here's my thoughts.

Egocentrism, ethnocentrism and even "speciesism" just about covers everything. I think we take natural selfishness seriously enough in that we have a set of well-defined morals, but beyond our own respective cultures/nations, we are lacking a well-defined set of universally accepted principles. I'm guilty as anyone of these centralized POV -- I would even criticize my own humanism on that basis, in some ways as much as Christianity and other religions at their best, which -- as far as humanity is concerned -- try to be inclusive.

It reminds me of the ambivalence I feel in criticizing Christianity and theism in general. On the one hand I see religion as culture, the essential spiritual part of many cultures in the world, so who am I to tear that down. And those who would point to the divisiveness of religion, well, it is a bit hypocritical if we're too aggressive about advocating our own eccentric views. But on the other hand, I feel that culture itself is the major part of the problems in the world, not so much because they exist, but because most exist chauvinistically.

So we have to find a balance. We have knowledge of the balance for the self (we obviously ought to feed ourselves but we must have morals to share etc.). But we don't seem to have that balance beyond the cultural level. As a result, nations behave like violent adolescents according to just about every human moral system, and from a wider natural world perspective, we behave like mindless, destructive replicators.

Eric Koski said...

Why would you think that there is a *single* basic human problem?

IlĂ­on said...

Why would you think there's not?

To ask about "the basic human problem" is to ask "Is there, and if so what is it, a commonality which unifies the many disparate problems which appear to be inherent in the human condition?"

John Halderman said...

Consider 'Separation' as the one basic human issue or problem.
We, humans, function through our current perspective which is intertwined with our perceptions of life and self. Our perspective can also be called; our State of Mind or Being, our I AM, or our "self", depending on who we are talking to.
At the core of our perspective is a foundational perception of life and self, the basis of our awareness, including all of our habitual patterns of interpretation, reaction, and thought.
As we are finding more clear evidence that we humans are all made of the same "stuff', the same as everything that exists, we know that we and everything is connected, of the same source, whatever we choose to call it.
Basically, we/everything is One "something" connected before any and all human descriptions and definitions, I say it is our Oneness.
So, true Human Nature is Oneness, connectedness, a functional unity. We can see evidence of this quite easily in all aspects of life, except with much of human behavior. Why?
We humans, with our ability to think, accept and believe anything are able to move our functional perspective and foundational perceptions to anything ... essentially we can reprogram our habitual patterns which other life forms have a limited ability or none at all.
We can operate through any perspective we may develop, whether we are fully aware of it or not.
So, our innate foundational perception of life and self is Oneness, that we are connected to everyone, to everything. Through this perception, we are loving, compassionate, and act in unity with all. For example, if you look at your body as the Whole of life, love and treat it well, you would not fear, hate, nor mistreat any part of it. In Oneness, we each know we are intrinsically of full value, and being connected to everything we do not fear any of it.
However, humans have taken on and perpetrated another foundational perception, that of Separation, the concept that we are not connected, rather that we are each alone, having to do, be, and fend entirely for ourselves. This disconnection has us fearing all that is not us, and thinking we must create our own value to feel good about.
My theory is, that we came to this separation as we came to believe that the physical results and interpretations of our experiences make up the true definition of life and self. This has led to our accepting that everything and everyone is not connected, as we 'see' with physical objects ... not perceiving that it is all made of the same "stuff'. And that our experiences are just that, not definitions of absolute truth, nor of ability or possibility.
So, I have been able to trace back all that is termed as human "problems" to this foundational perception of Separation ... revealing that all the so-called "problems" are actually symptoms.
When we study those individuals who seem to be living more in peace, having less or no fear, getting along with others, having more compassion for people and planet, we discover that they see themselves as connected, as One.
And when we look at individuals who think and act in a predominantly exclusive self-serving manner, we find that they beleive they are not connected, that they must do for themselves to have value and to feel good.
We wonder why it has been so difficult to fix or resolve human issues over the centuries with such sparse results ... we have been trying to fix the symptoms, not the cause!
In order to realize any actual beneficial change or shift in human behavior, we must first change our mindset, our foundational perceptions and functional perspectives. Remember what Einstein said about trying to get different results with the same thinking that caused the problem ... round and round we go blaming the symptoms! :)