My life hadn’t just been informed by a belief that suffering was how God turned me into a better person, it had also been informed by a belief in hierarchy as the natural, God-ordained way the universe functioned and humans were supposed to behave.
I accepted the concept of God-ordained hierarchy, but one modified by the command to love. Nowhere in the Bible did God say to act with love, unless it was your wife, or your children. In fact, there were passages that explicitly said to love your wife, and not make your children so angry they’d be inspired to rebel against you. A lot of Christian men sure seemed to think the command to love didn’t apply to their interactions with their wife or their children.
There were also passages that enforced the notion of a broader hierarchy as the natural order of things – God established rulers and it was going against God to go against a ruler, unless He’d specifically commanded you to do so.
Respect my authority.
I’d started homeschooling. Our local elementary school was poorly rated and I still had a lot of confidence in myself. While I no longer believed public schools had the power to transform a child into a godless heathen, I still had a lot of fear around the issue.
My children were going to get a different kind of education, though. They would be taught history, and science. Not religious history and religious science, because even though I was still firmly a Christian, I’d seen how much bunk and bias could be found in religious textbooks.
I searched on google and decided to try The Story of the World, a series of volumes that broadly covered five thousand years of recorded human history, modified to be more child-friendly. I don’t know how much my children actually remember. It was a transformative experience for me, though.
You see, I’d always been taught that humans were depraved, growing increasingly evil with the passing years, and that eventually we’d become so evil that Jesus would have to return and end the world, much as God had once ended the world with a flood. We started sinless and innocent in the Garden of Eden and everything had gone downhill from there.
Imagine my surprise to read through approximately 5,000 years of human history and realize the broad trend over those five millennia was that we had improved. There was no point in history I would want to return to, because no matter what bad things were happening in my era, my era was far gentler and kinder than the era in which Sargon impaled the heads of city leaders on spikes outside their city.
People had better quality of life and more rights now than they had in the past, at least on average and on a macro scale.
We look at the Hammurabi’s Code and see cruelty, but it was social justice reform in its day. The same goes for Justinian’s Code. I started to see a pattern emerge across those 5,000 years and all over the world – a pattern in which some people would seize power through violence, use violence to retain power, and give themselves a nice life while the people at the bottom suffered and even starved. And the people at the top kept using similar justifications for why they had power and deserved to keep it. The gods have decreed it. The divine right of kings.
Might makes right.
We worked to restrain power, though. Over the centuries and the millennia and in places all around the world, people said enough is enough and worked to put restraints on power, to increase the number of people that wielded power and had a say over what the laws would be. The changes were incremental and it was usually men that benefited, but there was still a definite trend to restrain power at the top and modify the hierarchy so that life improved for everyone, even if just a little.
This was another huge crack in my faith and beliefs. I’d been told increasing human depravity was the proof of original sin and the need for salvation and the need for Jesus to return. Yet, here I was, with a preponderance of evidence that humanity was actually… improving.