Daily one hears and reads American conservatives insisting that America, our civilization, our might, our freedom, our prosperity, are owing to “our Judeo-Christian values”. (For one of today’s examples, see here.)
There are no such things as “Judeo-Christian values”.
Unless you count a few of the “10 commandments” – that it’s wrong to kill, to steal, to bear false witness (which realization in any case long pre-dates Mosaic law) – the two religions diverge sharply on the question of values. In fact what each holds as its highest value is in direct contradiction to the other. The highest value in Jewish teaching was Justice. For Christianity as invented by St. Paul, it was Love.
Christianity preaches that a person can be separated from his deeds: “Hate the sin but love the sinner”. There is no place for justice where a wrong-doer is not to be held responsible for what he does. The Christian gospels stress that evil should not be resisted. (“Resist not evil” the putative Christ is reported as preaching in his “Sermon on the Mount”.) The Christian message also stressed unconditional forgiveness. It all adds up to a morality that excludes justice: an unjust morality.
What Judaism and Christianity could be said to have in common – which the parrots of “Judeo-Christian values” would not care to admit – is a devaluing of reason. Neither respects reason above faith.
The values we ideally live by were not the product of Judaism or Christianity, but of the Enlightenment. It was only when, in the 18th century, Reason usurped the power of the Churches, that individual freedom became a supreme value. Only then, for the first time since the glory days of classical Greece, people were encouraged to think for themselves, to obey no orthodoxy. Freedom of conscience and freedom of speech began for us then – in an intellectual revolution against religious dogma.
The greatness of the West, and especially of the United States of America, is the result of the revolution which is rightly called the Enlightenment. Freedom to doubt, to leave room for all ideas to be expressed and heard, and so to learn and discover and experiment, has brought us prosperity and power. The world-dominating success of our civilization began with the triumph of reason over religion.
A return to theocracy would be a return to darkness.
Afterword. Reason triumphs yet again.
From the Washington Post:
[An] experimental drug pressed into emergency use in the West African Ebola epidemic cured a group of 18 monkeys of the deadly disease, including some who didn’t receive the treatment until five days after they were injected with the virus, researchers reported Friday.
The finding raises new hope for use of the cocktail of monoclonal antibodies, called ZMapp, against Ebola, which has no known cure or vaccine. It has been fatal to more than half the people who have contracted the virus in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
During the current outbreak, more than 1,500 people have died and 3,069 people have become infected in five countries, the latest of them Senegal, according to the World Health Organization. The current epidemic is worse than all previous Ebola outbreaks combined. A small number of cases, believed to be a separate outbreak, have surfaced in the Democratic Republic of Congo. …
The fact that ZMapp has worked on monkeys “strongly supports” the possibility that it will work on people, “but it’s not proven” – as yet.
It soon will be.