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Discussion 1 to Reflections on Ethics 35
Why Keep the Commandments?

by Maarten van den Driest

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and of course I had to get involved...

In Reflection 35, the question is posed 'Why should we even try to keep the commandments if we are doomed to fail?'

A good question. The simple answer, for there is one, is: out of thankfulness.

At times, non-Christians professing their amazement at all these weird things Christians believe will ask these questions. The problem is that, even though they are good questions, they don't prove anything. Certainly not that we are all better of being humanists.

Fact is that, within a suitable orthodox belief system, these questions can be easily answered. Anyone who has ever tried to engage a fundamentalist in conversation finds that mere reason and facts are quickly and routinely refuted and, shockingly, sometimes correctly.

The one orthodoxy I know a bit is Dutch protestant orthodoxy (the one from The Netherlands, not Pennsylvania.) You have to understand the mindset.

In this belief system:

Then, why do we even try? Out of thankfulness. We cannot love God because our hearts hate him, we cannot do anything for our own salvation because the depraved human soul is not even able to 'add a nail-scratching to his own good'. (It seems the American versions allow a bit of leeway for good behaviour...)

Add to this the notion that nothing that happens in this world is of any importance at all and there you have it, the answer to your reasonable questions. Within their belief systems, fundamentalists can easily answer reasonable objections. Only their god is important, nothing else. Imagine yourself held over a raging fire by the hand of an angry god who can do anything that he pleases and himself is the only chance of rescue... you don't have time for reason.

My point is: I find a lot of extremely reasonable and well-meant essays on the net that never hit their target. No liberal Christian in his right mind would disagree with your essay but they don't need it. No fundamentalist, of any faith, will be swayed by your essay for the simple reason that they live in another universe.

This basically means that efforts to break down fundamentalism are futile. This frustrates me no end but I keep trying. As in everything else, there is not just black and white but shades of grey. I hope to reach those people who are not yet irrevocably indoctrinated and maybe still have some reason left. However, you will never reach these people by showing them their beliefs are preposterous (even though they are). You will maybe reach them by being a good example, by showing them a humanist or an agnostic can be a caring, loving person.