Saturday, October 28, 2006

MENSA Lecture

I gave a lecture yesterday for the Chicago chapter of MENSA entitled, "The Origins of Moral Evil in World Religions: A Comparative Study." I wasn't sure what to expect, but I ended up having about 40-50 people attend the session. (The competing lecture was entitled "Aura Cleansing and Planetary Healing" and covered "intuitive electronic energy transfer channels," among other things.) The basic purpose of my lecture was to take a quick look at how each of the five major world religions explained the existence of moral evil (as opposed to natural evil) and asked the question, "Is there something latent within the human soul that slants the individual toward breeching his or her own moral code?" I defined "moral code" as referring to one's understanding of truth, such as a religion or a philosophy of life and worked from the presupposition that everyone occasionally breeches their own code, regardless of what it is. I lectured for 45 minutes and then opened it up to questions for the last 15.

The reason I agreed to do the lecture was that it provided an opportunity to show that Christianity is unique among the other world religions in its explanation of moral evil. Neither Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam or Judaism maintains anything like the Christian notion of original sin. And without discounting the great diversity of thought that exists within the world religions, I think it is safe to assert that Christianity is the only major world religion that insists that the soul enters the world with a intrinsic propensity toward evil. From where I sit, Christianity's perspective on this is the only one that makes sense of world in which we live. Once this premise is accepted, it is a more natural step to embracing the Christian notion of salvation (which is the answer to the presence of moral evil in the soul).

Everyone was seemed genuinely appreciative for, and engaged in, the discussion. From the guy in the elf costume who was playing a flute prior to the beginning of the session, to the sharply dressed man in a suit and tie, everyone appeared happy to be there and interested in the topic. There were more questions than we had time for and I ended up sticking around for an hour afterward to talk with a number of people.

A few more random observations:

Most everyone seemed to agree that everyone breaks their own moral code. I suppose I wasn't surprised by this concession, but I had wondered if I was going to get any push back. I didn't. This only goes to show that most of us carry some awareness of sin, even if we don't name it as such.

While these were really, really smart people, and while most of them did not seem to have an orientation toward any faith paradigm, I did not find my world view seriously threatened on an intellectual level. The spirit of the lecture was not adversarial, but even in the conversations I had afterwards with friendly agnostics and atheists, I did not encounter any philosophical arguments against Christianity that I found particularly convincing. All of that to say that the Christian conception of moral evil seems as compelling to me as ever.

And finally, I really enjoyed the people and the experience. I hope to get invited back next year and that I am able to spend more time interacting with some of them. And, like Paul, I hope that they might become such as I am.


Pontificator said...

Hi, Gerlad. I thought you might find of interest this new article by Phillip Cary on Augustine and synergism.

Gerald said...

Thanks Al,

I had already seen it, but your comment here prompted a post!