Jerusalem And Western Values Essay, Research Paper
A few million years ago, a hairy apish creature sat down by the cooling embers of a fire, and gazed up at the night sky. And there, among the rotting carcasses of animals and hooting of his family, the first philosopher was born. Since the beginning of man, the human race has always looked to the stars for answers to questions that are intrinsic to our being. We have always wondered what it was that gave us meaning, hope, or purpose, and yet even today, we are no nearer to the answer then before. Why are we better from the other animals that walk this planet? What the reason for being here? For many people, religion answers those questions, but just as often, it asks us even more. We are an insecure race, and the chance that we are nothing more than animals with a superiority complex is an idea that strikes a nerve. Karl Marx had once said that religion was a retreat from such a notion, but religion is more then a just a big mental security blanket. In western society, religion has played a fundamental role in the development of our values, specifically, religious values from Jerusalem. Later evolving into Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the belief in a singular, all encompassing God permeates the very fabric of our society, and refracts so many facets of our modern day society it is impossible to see them all. Once such facet is the belief that each one of us, from pauper to prince, has worth. It is the basis for blindfold on the Lady of Justice, the foundation of the way we treat each other, it was borne from the belief that we are made in the image of God.
A defining characteristic of today s society that Jerusalem taught us is the way we treat others. In Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31, the bible teaches, All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. While the Golden Rule and it s variants can be found in the holy scriptures of nearly every religion1, its influence in the United States is nearly incalculable, especially in the Judicial System. This is especially important, since under our law, everyone is theoretically equal no matter what the social standing and class of the accused or the accuser is. While the law system we have may not work perfectly, it is essential for modern civilization and it s many good traits stem from the idea of doing unto others as of what you would have others do unto you.
Another sibling born from the image of God in Western society is the idea that each of us has worth, simply because we are human, since Jehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis, 2:7) Like portraits of God, we each have value over the animals that till our fields and the plants that fill our stomachs. With the tools that God made, and then gave to us, Jehovah God said, it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make [help] for him. And out of the ground Jehovah God formed every beast of the field, and every bird of the heavens; and brought them unto the man (Genesis 2:18-20) By divine right , man is suddenly the gardener of God s Eden, specially appointed to the task. The result of this is always cheerful however, for example, when we value ourselves, we undervalue the other living creatures on this Eden. Europe, for example, the birthplace of Western culture, is no longer a forest of nature, rather one of roads. The remaining species that are not dead yet on Earth disappear faster now then they did sixty-five million years ago – during a meteor impact. Another example of this human-worth concept can be seen in the spelling of the word humane. Killing a dog or a chimp needlessly is inhumane, but far from murder. Yet, while killing a pet dog is inhumane, killing an insect does not wring any tears. Why is the insect valued less then the dog, however? As the insect is as far from the dog as the dog is to us, we create an entire hierarchy of worth. Not by birth, but by creation, with us on top. Suddenly, in our culture, each person is more then just animal they are now sons of God, made in his own image to garden the world God had created. Seeing this, we are not only the receivers of the earth that God gives us, but reflections of his image, and thus with a little divinity in all of us, we each possess a priceless value within ourselves.
Religion is one of, if not the most important, influence in western culture. Its influence is seen everyday in our work ethic born from the Puritans, to its directly powerful influence in global politics. It is undeniable that religion, to believers otherwise, is a large part of all our lives. Moreover, as imported and American as apple pie, it is as much as a part of the American heritage as any other. We as a community owe a great deal to the ideas first conceived in Jerusalem, and for better or worst, the west would not be the West without it.