Augustine Strengths and Weaknesses

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  • Created on: 29-03-14 17:33
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  • Strengths and Weaknesses of Augustine
    • Richard Dawkins
      • Original sin is contrary to evolution, absurd and dangerous
        • How can corruption of all humans rest on two individuals?
        • Evolution shows humans developed from animal forms without consciousness enabling them to actively rebel, so literal belief in Adam and Eve makes no sense
        • Symbolic account of the Fall doesn't rid Christianity of its unhealthy obsession with sin associated with sex
        • Idea that God should wish to restore human nature by killing Jesus on the cross is sado-masochistic
      • disagrees with emphasis given to independence of human reason
      • People against Dawkins
        • He dismisses original sin too quickly
        • Ian Barbour
          • Evolution means idea of an original event makes no sense but 'suffering, conflict and death long preceded the advent of humanity'
        • Many Christians long rejected idea of the creation, Fall and redemption as historical events but consider they are continuing processes in people's lives.
          • Genesis is an imaginative story about humans' use of their potential and relationship with the world - Augustine's insights into friendship and love can be used but not the Fall as a historical event
    • Sigmund Freud
      • Rejects Augustine's connection between original sin of Adam and Eve and transmission to future generations through sex
        • Has reduced sex to be only necessary for reproduction, Freud argued sex is an important and natural aspect of human development
        • While many human disorders can be traced back to sexual problems, sin is not an original moment passed on through sex but a result of environment (family, education, religion)
        • Augustine fails to acknowledge pleasure in sex is part of natural relationship men and women enjoy in marriage
      • For Freud, origins of monotheistic religion are due to repressed sexual guilt caused by an act of gross indecency in human tribal past which is atoned for by making offerings to God the prejection of the tribal father figure who was abused and killed
        • Therefore, religion is bad because it perpetuates guilt and keeps alive sense of sexual repression
        • Few people would agree with this idea that Judaism and Christianity were founded due to some traumatic sexual offence
        • Could agree that misuse of sex and relationships are frequently a reason for individual and social disorder
    • Immanuel Kant
      • 'Salvation' is through human reason alone, not through God's grace
        • Emotions, appetites and desires do drive humans to act for own selfish ends
        • Moral life seeks to rise above animal level of existence and create authentic, happy, free lives
          • As there is no original sin, there are no essential defects in human nature making this impossible and sin is the lack of reason and inability to live according to innate good will
            • Good will makes humans uniquely human - being good is being able to distinguish between what may appear moral duties and turn out to be selfish desires, and genuine duties which treat all people with equal dignity
      • Humans rightly educated can overcome base instincts described by Hobbes and can establish peace, which does not occur naturally
      • Kant makes humans sole judges of right and wrong, God's role in moral decision making is redundant
    • Sartre
      • Battle not between sinful body and will but the body as a fixed existence and the will with power to overcome it
        • No essential human nature as a nature characterised by original sin would mean we could not have our own personalities so free will would mean nothing
        • Sin is failure to live the authentic life by becoming a stereotyped person (mother, student) because it's easy to do so - calls this bad faith
          • No God to overcome our deficiencies, no original sin or unconscious self tainted by concupiscnce, we have no excuse not to act and engage fully with life
    • Niebuhr
      • Failure to understand original sin leads to colossal mistakes made by society and those in power
        • Optimistic views of Kant have failed (war, poverty, cruelty) and have corrupted human sense of responsibility
          • By rationalising and rejecting traditional notion of sin, humans fail to realise no action can ever be entirely good.
            • Human ego must understand fully its own nature by coming into a proper relationship with God and is then able to realise its limitations and possinilities
    • Gunton
      • Modern debates fail to acknowledge Augustine's insight into religious dimension of being human
        • Fall and redemption are narratives in which God reveals His purpose for each of us
      • Augustine's interpretation of the Fall is flawed
        • Misinterprets what Paul means by 'body of sin', not a separation between corrupted body and soul but whole human personality has fallen short of perfection - spirit is not separate but aspect of personality open to God and desiring redemption
      • Eschatological moment when God completes creation is not final historical moment as Augustine thought but is when we achieve a state of wholeness - body and soul in perfect union, through God's grace, with God.
      • Genesis doesn't suggest women are more defective than men but as Eve is from Adam's side, they are equal.
        • Image suggests same relationship of a statue to the person it represents, humans represent God as his agents in the world having freedom to act - do good or evil but is not a precondition of being human to be evil


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