Susan C. Anthony

My Prior Philosophy Failed

I would not have been motivated to investigate the Bible had my previous philosophy not failed. We all see reality through colored glasses, through the filter of our worldview and philosophy.  As long as things go well for us, there's little motivation to change. "If it ain't broke, why fix it?" We ignore bothersome inconsistencies until there are so many that they force reevaluation. That happened to me when I began to suspect that people are not naturally good as I had been taught.

The philosophy I espoused in college, humanism, failed to account for the reality I experienced as I grew older and lost my naive idealism. Humanism was empty and insufficient when tested. It failed to hold up over time and under stress.

The fundamental humanistic beliefs are:

  1. All forms of the supernatural are myth. Nature is everything.
  2. Man is a product of evolution and there is no conscious survival after death.
  3. Humans can solve their own problems through reason and the scientific method.
  4. Humans are masters of their own destiny.
  5. The purpose of life is happiness, freedom, and the progress of mankind.
  6. The individual good life consists of a harmonious combination of personal satisfaction with work contributing to the welfare of the community. Service to one's fellow man is the moral ideal.
  7. Aesthetic experience and the widest possible appreciation of art are of value.
  8. Humans can, with their reason, establish an enduring citadel of peace and beauty on this earth, with peace, democracy, and a high standard of living for all.
  9. Basic assumptions and convictions should continually be questioned and reevaluated.

The problem was that this philosophy failed to account for the existence of evil. So did other philosophies I investigated. For years I tried to believe that evil per se did not exist. People make mistakes, yes, but those can be minimized with education. Crime can be attributed to causes outside the individual, such as an unjust society, low self-esteem or poor parenting, I thought.

Life experience cast shadows of doubt on these sunny assumptions.

I was reluctant to acknowledge that people, including myself, were doing wrong not solely because they were ignorant or mentally unbalanced or victims, but because they chose to do wrong. It was much easier to see flaws in others than in myself. I always try to "be good" and do my best. As I grew older, however, my own shortcomings became more and more apparent to me, as did the shortcomings of others. The litany of crime and death in the news never ends, despite the fact that living conditions for average humans have never been better than in the United States in the late 20th century.

I gradually and reluctantly conceded that sin and evil are real, a core aspect of the human condition.

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