October 14, 2008

Why are those terrible anti-religionists so contemptuous?

Damon Linker, at TNR, offers some unsolicited advice to the highly successful anti-religionists Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Bill Maher. He signals a little cluelessness right away:
[T]o his credit, Maher hilariously exposes astonishing levels of ignorance and parochialism among the earnestly pious Americans he encounters in his travels around the country. (Maher's brief visits to other parts of the world are less amusing because the believers he interviews in Europe and the Middle East aren't as boorish.)
Aw, come on. I haven't seen the movie, but really... American believers are more boorish? I'll bet the folks in the Middle East weren't prodded with the same sort of questions and edited with the same vicious hostility. I've seen enough Maher on TV to know he finds comedy in being very cruel to Americans. It's a comic stance that he's built his career on. Attacking foreigners can be hilarious, but it's not in style and it's not Maher's thing.
Yet Maher has loftier ambitions than laughs. He wants to save the world from the idiocy he unearths in the American heartland, and he believes the best way to fulfill this aim is to mercilessly attack religion and all those who adhere to it. And that's why the film, like so much written by critics of religion in recent years, must ultimately be judged a failure.
It's only a failure if the purpose is what you say: to save people from religion. Maybe it's to sell books and movie tickets, to make those in-the-know laugh and feel superior, and to propagate the idea that the hip, smart people are atheists.
Like [Harris, Dawkins, and Hitchens], Maher harbors so much contempt for religion that he would rather score easy points than explore the messy reality of humanity's complicated--often sordid, but sometimes noble--religious impulses and experiences. That's why Maher takes on simpletons and extremists instead of seeking out theologians and other thoughtful believers to explain and defend their beliefs. That's also why moderate believers simply don't exist in Maher's America, which aside from the 16 percent of the country* that explicitly rejects institutional religion, seems to be populated only by fundamentalists awaiting (and perhaps even itching to hasten) the apocalypse. How else to explain the absurdly paranoid peroration with which he concludes the film? Over ominous music and images of mushroom clouds, Maher informs us that religious belief is a "neurological disorder" that must be eradicated for the sake of human survival. "Grow up or die," he warns, as if those were our only options.
Only contempt explains it? In any case, why can't a comedian or a polemicist deal in contempt?

It's not the only approach, but it's an approach. (And I don't think "contempt" is at all the right word for Dawkins, whose "God Delusion" I've read. It fits Hitchens -- and I've read "God Is Not Great." I haven't read the Harris book, but I don't think it's contemptuous.)
Instead of hurling insults and indiscriminate denunciations at religion-in-general, Maher and his fellow atheists could do far more good by encouraging the growth and flourishing of open-minded belief--the kind of belief that lives in productive tension with modern science and cultural pluralism.
Comedians as do-gooders? What good will that do?

65 comments:

Oligonicella said...

About the only thing I hate worse than a pompous religious person proclaiming all non-believers are stupid is a pompous atheist proclaiming all believers are stupid.

Synova said...

If God required an intelligence test, throwing all the earnest but stupid people out of the church, then the impression of religion would be different.

But, ya know, getting rid of religion isn't going to get rid of stupid people.

No matter how much Maher thinks it will.

Salamandyr said...

Maher has always struck me as having a very superficial mind. He has a certain cleverness of the facile sort, but he latches onto the simplistic, straw-man interpretations, when a moment's reflection would smooth out many of the inconsistencies that he rails against.

Synova said...

I mean... he could have found highly intelligent and thoughtful people to interview about their faith.

But that wouldn't be... funny.

Donn said...

Ann:
It's only a failure if the purpose is what you say: to save people from religion.

Linker is right about this....what drives most "evangelical" atheists is the need to "save" people from religion. It also wouldn't be wrong to call Dawkins, Hichens, Harris, and Maher, "fundamentalist" atheists.

I have purposely used "religious" terms to describe these atheists because they are the polar opposite of the very people that they relentlessly mock.

Further, "contempt" is exactly the right word to describe Dawkin's (and other popular atheists) view of religion.

Kirby Olson said...

They're contemptuous because they're provincial.

They don't attack foreigners because they're afraid that their provincialism will show.

These people aren't really multicultural at all.

They're monocultural bigots who don't even try to understand religious people. Therefore, they don't have any real insights into religious people.

Which makes me a little contemptuous of their contemptuousness.

sonicfrog said...

Hitchens prefers to debate theologians. When "God is Not Great" came out I listened to a few, at least one on Hugh Hewittt and one on "The Skeptics Guide to the Universe". Hitch was stern but respectful.

peter hoh said...

What Synova said.

Maher does not appear to be interested in dealing with intellectually rigorous believers.

I've seen Sullivan try to call Maher out on this, but Maher ducks the issue.

jimbino said...

If nothing else, the movie Religulous serves as a clarion call to the 16% non-superstitious among the American people that the time is nigh to rise up against religious oppression. As the movie pointed out, both Jews and gays, who form a much smaller proportion of American folk, have successfully gained a measure of civil rights that is still being denied the atheists, agnostics, scientists, humanists and other pagans.

It makes a thoughtful American sick to realize that there are only some 5 mathematicians and scientists among the over-500 bible-thumping, born-again and papist representatives in Congress and none among the Supremes. But as a congressman said in the movie, "Intelligence is not a prerequisite" to serving in Congress.

The Jew gets his chaplain and kosher food in the army, the hospital and in prison; what privileges does the atheist get?

Stupidity of the religious is a minor part of the problem; the real problem is that we free thinkers have to put up with their nonsense all the time in the form of sabbaths, holy days, weddings, funerals, moments of silence, pledges and oaths, not to mention their censorship of our drinking, toking and sex lives.

Lem said...

Comedians as do-gooders? What good will that do?

Maher could not do better than Brooks.

http://tinyurl.com/3klwx9

Triangle Man said...

Others have said it, but Maher is going after the low hanging fruit. Hitchens is a rhetorical force to be reckoned with. Even though they appear to be on the same side of the issue, I imagine a conversation between Maher and Hitchens would be entertaining and enlightening.

Bissage said...

Bill Maher grew up as a low-status male constantly belittled by his intellectual inferiors.

God never answered his prayers to intervene on the side of Good but now Mr. Maher is rich and famous.

In such ways does our Dark Lord Satan bestow His finest rewards.

Original George said...

When you read passages like Matthew 22:1-14 or Luke 16: 19-31, remember these were stories told aloud to an audience. They are the darkest of humor.

Woody Allen recently told this story...

"I was with [the philosopher Mort Sahl] the other day, in California, and he’s 81 and he’s teaching at Claremont College. And he said they have a course out there that they offered him to teach, on the Holocaust, and he didn’t take it. He said, “I wanted to see first how history judges the event.”

Paul Snively said...

I, a practicing skeptical Lutheran, saw "Religulous" with my Jewish agnotheist wife—the same one who found the Skeptics Society debate "Can Physics Prove the Existence of God?" between Dr. Frank Tipler and Dr. Lawrence Krauss at Caltech. We went to that, too.

I'm familiar with Maher's work, so I had a pretty good idea what kind of film "Religulous" was going to be before going in. I got confirmation at about five minutes, when, having passed two Lutheran churches and several other mainline Protestant churches, he arrives at... a trucker's chapel, set up in the back of a big-rig. The big debate ensues.

To be fair, Maher does spend a little time with a Vatican astronomer who does an excellent job articulating the relationship between faith and science. Maher gives him the most respectful and fair hearing in the film. Later, we also meet a Senior Priest at the Vatican, but this priest spouts a lot of what I can only characterize as nonsense about current Catholic teaching, e.g. that there's no concept of "Hell" anymore. One is left to wonder about the Vatican's promotion policies. In any case, we hear from no mainline Protestant theologians or pastors. We don't even hear from any mainline Protestant laymen. No Wolfhart Pannenberg's "Systematic Theology," no Alvin Plantinga's "Analytic Theist." Heck, not even a Frank Tipler's "The Physics of Immortality" or "The Physics of Christianity," if you want to talk about religion and science, or Lawrence Krauss' "Quintessence" if you want a good look at the "con" view of that.

In any case, I know Maher is a comic/social critic in the Michael Moore mold (edit until you get the narrative you want, truth/facts/accuracy be damned) and that's OK with me—I never made the mistake of referring to the results as "documentary" just because their production teams do. So none of this bothered me particularly, and in fact I enjoyed the film as dark comedy. But Maher did lose me at the end, with his nuclear bomb imagery and insistence that religious faith is a neurological disorder—as if only religious belief could possibly usher in the end of the world, and neatly ignoring that all of the religious faiths in the world are rank amateurs in the human death sweepstakes compared to that great 19th- and 20th-century religion, global communism, which managed to do in about 120 million of its own people.

If the end of the world scares you, you have a lot more to fear from "scientific" centralized command-and-control political and economic systems than you do from all of the religious people in the world. Maybe Maher will talk about that someday.

Smilin' Jack said...

"Maher and his fellow atheists could do far more good by encouraging the growth and flourishing of open-minded belief--the kind of belief that lives in productive tension with modern science and cultural pluralism."

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spew thee out of my mouth.--Revelation 3

I'm with Jesus on this--be a fundamentalist or an atheist. "Open-minded" unitarian-universalist believe-what-you-want squishes are disgusting.

Paddy O. said...

I really liked what Dan Kimball, a young pastor in Santa Cruz, wrote on Maher's movie.

Kimball represents young Evangelicals quite well, really, and is the sort of person that anti-religionists wish didn't actually exist.

Oligonicella said...

jimbino --

Um, what 'privileges' would an atheist want? The right to right to plain food and not be bothered by a chaplain?

Oligonicella said...

smilin' jack --

I don't recall that Revelations was in any of Jesus' teachings. Seems to me he was a very open kind of guy.

The Emperor said...

Maher is not an atheist. He is an agnostic. He has made clear that he doesn't think much of the certainty held by atheists.

Donn said...

Maher is not an atheist. He is an agnostic.

Yes, this is what Maher states, but I don't buy it for one minute. For one reason, agnostics don't make films like Religulous, nor are they so hostile to religion.

jprapp said...

Maher’s no Voltaire.

Nor even an Upton Sinclair (pretty good critique of religion in “Oil,” adapted for “There Will Be Blood,; but, better in “The Profits of Religion”).

Sam Harris rocks. A very worthy read. Close on par with St. David Hume. And growing.

It’s possible me-thinks that Maher has studied heavier tomes. And deliberately stayed away from the fray of a serious conversation on religion on intuitive or reasoned judgments that he can’t really cut it.

For anyone secure in his/her faith, Maher’s at best a janitor cleaning up peripheral messes of adolescent extremes to be avoided (after experimenting for fun). Otherwise, he’s not even the kind of excellent critic who makes for a best-friend-adversary.

Beyond over-generalized philo-types (Dennet, Harris, Dawkins), there are way too many empirical studies of religion underway -- excellent criticisms for anyone who really wants to think through faith, amidst a sea of difficult and challenging skeptical partners, really, good friends in pursuit of truth.

If I wanna laugh at religion (especially my own), then a little introspection will usually do. If not, there's always Monte Python.

Bissage said...

Maher is not an atheist. He is an agnostic.

MEDITATION (#17): How can a comedian with an enlarged prostate doubt the beneficence of All Mighty God?

Chris Wren said...

The thing is, if you read Dawkins book "The God Delusion", you really won't find anything new in there that hasn't been covered in any decent first year philosophy course for the last 80 years. Dawkins published his book and lesser imitators like Hitchens and super-hater P.Z. Meyers sniffed out money on the lecture circuit. That's really what the so-called "New Atheist" movement boils down to.

The Deacon said...

Maher is not an atheist. He, as I, believes in DOUBT. i don't know any more than you do about what happens after we die. Atheists are just as bad as fundamentalists.
By the way, as somebody who actually SAW THE MOVIE, he rips on the foreigners, too. The Muslim cleric who's cellphone rings in the middle of the interview with Kasmir by Led Zeppelin as his ringtone, is a notable one.
Really, the two Vatican priests he interviews are the best. They both point out that the bible is made up of nice stories, some of which can help guide morality, but that science is now the place to look for answers to serious questions.
Try watching the movie, it's better than any review I've read says. Everybody seems to inject their own biases onto Maher instead of trying to figure out what he's actually saying.
I'm also really sick of hearing how pompous he is. He asks questions a person who doesn't have the answers, and he never gets a good answer out of anybody. He talked the head of the human genome project, for crying out loud. All his subjects are not rubes, but none of them has a decent answer to any of his questions. Yes, he throws in some snark, he is a comedian after all, but most of the criticism I hear is from people who have obviously not seen the movie!

Donn said...

The Deacon:
Really, the two Vatican priests he interviews are the best. They both point out that the bible is made up of nice stories, some of which can help guide morality, but that science is now the place to look for answers to serious questions.

Could it be you think these two are the best is because they have more in common with your own beliefs, than say, actual "Chrsitian" ones?

Synova said...

And I think we've now met fundamentalist Agnostics.

The mind boggles.

Theo Boehm said...

Chris Wren:  You won't find anything there that hasn't occurred to anyone brighter than the inside of a moose for the past 3,000 years.  Yet some of us still insist there is a God, because of that unfortunate little detail: Our own direct experiences.  I know, I know: Intimations of the Transcendent are all illusions, etc., etc. Well, if we can't agree on my right to what's inside my head, let's look at the operational virtues of religion vs. no religion:

Paul Snively mentions global Communism as an atheistic killer, but we should not forget those other systems, starting with the French Revolution and running through 20th century Fascism, whose impulses were atheistic or, in the case of Nazism, deeply pagan.

When we start bandying about numbers killed by Communism and these other movements, we run up against the fact that the percentages killed were, in fact, smaller than the 30+% dead in 17th century Germany as a result of that worst war of religion, the Thirty Years' War.  Are large absolute numbers worse than a higher percentage killed as a measure of human folly?  Do the 16th and 17th century wars of religion negate Christ's message and meaning?

Those are hard questions. But make no mistake: The memory of those wars, and the depredations visited upon Europe as a result, have seared themselves into our consciousness, whether we are aware of them or not. They are the wellspring of modern atheism. The entire subsequent development of 18th century skepticism and the Enlightenment, so fittingly summed up by the guillotines hard by the Temple of Reason (the former Notre Dame de Paris), is unimaginable except through the lens of those memories.

We are farther away now, and so we only have a vague and elided sense of wars and persecutions carried out in a world of Medieval heretic burnings, knights in armor running down peasants, Salem witch trials, roundhead soldiers killing the Irish, etc., etc., all because of religion.  Religion being behind those evils, religion must therefore be eliminated, so the natural goodness of people will be allowed to shine through.  So run the background processes in the brain of many if not most modern atheists.

But we have also seen that fanaticism attaches itself to ideas, religious or not, that have the character of providing ultimate answers.  And despite M. Rousseau's optimistic averrral, natural goodness seems not to be the default human condition.  We would do well to remember the French Revolutionary Terror, the millions slaughtered by Napoleon and by his 20th century successors, Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Pol Pot, et al.

For some of us, these memories have replaced heretics at the stake and Cromwell's New Model Army as demonstrations of the falsity of the systems behind them, and have reminded us, despite quibbles over how to do the sums, that we humans have a habit and talent for mass homicide.

These modern memories have also reminded some of us to compare the teachings of Christ with, say, those of Marx, to discover whose may be found more wanting.  Mr. Maher, not being as bright as the inside of that moose, may find this a hard question.  Others will not be so puzzled.

bjm said...

I imagine a conversation between Maher and Hitchens would be entertaining and enlightening.

and brief.

Pogo said...

It was ever thus:

Testament
Jean Meslier (1664-1729)

"To Meslier religion was an absurd superstition that cannot survive the slightest brush with reason. Of all the religions, the most absurd is the religion of the Christians, whom he calls Christ-worshipers. But it would be wrong to seek the reason for this attitude in an overly rationalistic turn of mind of the author. Refuting Christianity, Meslier is at the same time ready to believe the wildest superstitions and to repeat the most absurd rumors. For instance, it seems nonsensical to him that God could have had but a single Son, while much lesser creatures are much better endowed. Many animals bear ten or twelve offspring at once.

It is clear that Meslier's point of departure is a hatred for God and that his arguments are merely an attempt to justify this sentiment.

The person of Christ is especially hateful to him, and here he literally runs out of terms of abuse. "And what of our God--and Christ--worshipers? To whom do they ascribe divinity? To the paltry man who had neither talent, nor intelligence, nor knowledge, nor skill, and was utterly scorned in the world. Whom do they ascribe it to? Shall I say? Indeed I shall: they ascribe it to the lunatic, demented, wretched bigot and ill-starred gallows-bird." (49: II: p. 25) The champion of the rights of the poor perceives irrefutable proof of Christ's teaching in the fact that "he was always poor, and was merely the son of a carpenter."

Religion is the source of most social evils and, in particular, of inequality, which is maintained solely by its authority. Meslier recognizes the need for "some dependence and subordination" in every society. But at present, power is based on violence, murder and crime. In his Testament there is nothing said about concrete measures for improving the position of the poor nor about the rich doing something to help. The book merely fans the hatred of the former for the latter.

"But know, dear friends, that for you the most evil and true devils, those you ought to fear, are those people of whom I speak--you have no worse and no more evil enemies than the noble and the rich." (49: II: p. 166)

The essence and true cause of inequality is private property, which also is justified by religion.

Meslier's entire social program comes down to a few lines:

"What a great happiness it would be for people if they used all life's blessings together." (49: II: p. 209)

In a just society, Meslier feels, production and consumption must be organized according to principles of communality.

"People ought to possess all wealth and riches of the earth together."

Igor Shafarevich
The Socialist Phenomenon p. 107

Synova said...

When religion is entwined with civil government how does one separate a war over religion from a war over secular influence?

Theo Boehm said...

Synova: You don't. Which is precisely the point of greatest weakness and criticism of Christianity, ever since it went from being a religion apart from secular concerns to being the religion of the state under Constantine.

Ultimately, religion was used as an excuse for large-scale European warfare. But the fact that it was an excuse first and foremost was not lost on many people at the time and for some time after. Read Dryden's long introduction to his poem, Religio Laici, where he spells this out clearly. Sorry, too hurried to find a link.

The healthy separation of religion from the government is one of the reasons—perhaps the main reason—religion flourishes in the US, and has nearly vanished from Europe, where governments have long since seen the utility of promoting irreligion as the best warm-up act for bread and circuses.

Synova said...

To whom do they ascribe divinity? To the paltry man who had neither talent, nor intelligence, nor knowledge, nor skill, and was utterly scorned in the world.

And preached against being a respecter of persons, and elevated the beggar to sit at the bridal feast when all of the "right" people couldn't be bothered to show up.

Synova said...

Besides, if you're God, what is the difference between a high school drop out and an Ivy League grad?

What is the difference between a complete twat of an idiot spouting his idea of the Gospel on the street corner and the most learned intellectual contemplating the meaning of the original Greek?

Does the understanding of one actually differ that much from the understanding of the other?

Being upset that Jesus wasn't a brilliant child educated in the most lofty of scholarly tradition is about feeling that *your* (whoever you are) lofty education is important.

If Jesus can't even bother to be incarnated as someone of intelligence and talent, isn't that a slap in the face to someone who values their own intelligence and talent over that of a mere tradesman?

Shanna said...

I have no interest in seeing this movie in general, but I hear one of my (democrat) senators is in it. I am kind of curious if he looks very dumb. He is basically a nepotism senator (his daddy was senator, and he won on the strenght of his name) and I don't know much about him, but Arkansas gets enough of a bad name that we don't need any help. I hope he didn't say anything terribly stupid.

Chris Wren said...

Theo Boehm: I'm actually an agnostic on a very slippery slope to being a believer. My point was that there's really no special new information that makes it particularly compelling for people like Dawkins and Harris to suddenly proclaim that the case is now settled. People decide whether to believe, disbelieve, or wonder in their hearts first. Then they find reasons, if they feel that reasons are required.

Donn said...

People decide whether to believe, disbelieve, or wonder in their hearts first. Then they find reasons, if they feel that reasons are required.

Exactly right.

blake said...

I, too, am wondering what jimbino feels atheists are being denied. "Freedom from", I suppose.

Religulous is easily deconstructed from the previews. It's a whole movie of clap humor for anti-religionists, if it can be measured by those scenes.

These are 8th grader type assessments. Not that they might not be funny, but really, they shouldn't be considered "insightful" if you're out of Junior High.

You know, the same thing could be done to Bill Maher. That is, we could look at the worst actions of his own life, and make a very unflattering "documentary" about him that suggested the world would be better off without him.

Indeed, it could be done with pretty much anyone or any subject.

save_the_rustbelt said...

Maher has never, in his entire career, done anything a musing let alone genuinely funny.

He exists because cable ttv has a lot of time to fill.

TMink said...

"He wants to save the world from the idiocy he unearths in the American heartland"

Save the world from us? The people who make things, grow things, and pay taxes? We are the absolute backbone of the American economy!

You can call us stupid, or call us lucky, (we know that we are blessed) but we are in no way what the world needs saving from. We save the world!

Christians are the most charitable people in the nation. Conservative Christians even more so. Thems the facts.

Trey

TMink said...

Source for above, and this is from Canada! The data is the same for the U S and A.

http://www.givingandvolunteering.ca/pdf/n-vc1sen.pdf

Trey

Revenant said...

People decide whether to believe, disbelieve, or wonder in their hearts first. Then they find reasons, if they feel that reasons are required.

Exactly right.

It is "exactly right" in the sense that the statement "people will steal if they are sure they can get away with it and that nobody they care about will get hurt" is exactly right. It describes most, but not all, people.

Revenant said...

I see the usual suspects have dusted off the hoary old canard that atheism is to blame for Communist atrocities and the French Revolution.

the wolf said...

Maher is not an atheist. He is an agnostic.

An agnostic is an atheist leaving himself an out.

Strangely enough, the irreligious are more likely to believe a host of other crazy stuff, like communing with the dead, astrology or the magical power of crystals. Far more than those of faith do.

Revenant said...

Strangely enough, the irreligious are more likely to believe a host of other crazy stuff, like communing with the dead, astrology or the magical power of crystals. Far more than those of faith do.

Could you provide some evidence to support that claim that atheists are more likely to believe in astrology, communing, and magic than religious people are?

Also, what's the basis for the "other" in "other crazy stuff"? There are plenty of religions that believe in the three things you listed, at least if you substitute "relics and talismans" for "crystals".

Donn said...

Rev:
It describes most, but not all, people.

Agreed.

I see the usual suspects have dusted off the hoary old canard that atheism is to blame for Communist atrocities and the French Revolution.

If it's not fair for Christians to blame atheists for the above, than it certainly also holds true for the opposite.

Revenant said...

If it's not fair for Christians to blame atheists for the above, than it certainly also holds true for the opposite.

The issue is why the atrocities were carried out. Christians killed people for disagreeing with Christianity or because (their version of) Christianity called for them to be killed. Communists murdered people for disagreeing with Communism or because their version of Communism called for them to be killed. Blaming atheism for the Stalinist purges is like blaming the Spanish Inquisition on consumption of bread and wine -- it singles out one aspect of a larger belief system.

TMink said...

The Church's hands are still stained. The blood is old, but it is there.

Trey

Donn said...

Well, Rev, the issue is not quite that simple.

First, it has to do with worldviews, and atheism is a big part of the communist worldview, so while it is only a part, it's the major part, imo.

Second, the question on the Christian side is, were these real Christians? While some undoubtedly were, my guess is that most were not. For just like someone said on another Althouse thread today (paraphrasing)....if a Republican rejects much of what Reps believe, and then votes for Obama, is it fair to still call such a person a Republican?

Finally, my own take is that it really isn't that much about religion or irreligion, but about power, and we all know the saying about that.

rcocean said...

Maher 'the dog face boy' is an agnostic is the same way he's a "Liberatrian". And he's simply too ugly and unfunny to care about.

Donn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donn said...

Ahhhhh.....actually I was thinking about your comment here Rev:

What the heck kind of political party has a tent big enough to accommodate voting against it? The sole purpose of a political party is to elect candidates. If you're voting against the Fnordian candidate, you aren't a Fnordian.

Likewise, I would say a person not following what Jesus and the disciples taught, is not a Christian.

And to further make the point, how exactly is what Communist regimes did against an atheistic worldview?

Revenant said...

First, it has to do with worldviews, and atheism is a big part of the communist worldview, so while it is only a part, it's the major part, imo.

Atheism is not a big part of the communist worldview. There is nothing in communism that requires a person to be an atheist, or even that they be nonreligious. The Wikipedia article on Christian communism has a useful (if short) discussion of this. In short, one can accept Marx's theories on economics and government without accepting his theories on religion. If Communism required acceptance of atheism it would never have caught on anywhere.

Anyway, even if you view atheism as being *a* major part of Communism, it quite certainly isn't THE major part. Its beliefs regarding labor, capital, and political organization are vastly more important, both in theory and in practice.

Second, the question on the Christian side is, were these real Christians?

You could just as credibly ask if the Communists in question were "real Communists" or "real atheists", or whether they were just falsely claiming to be.

For just like someone said on another Althouse thread today

That would be me, actually.

if a Republican rejects much of what Reps believe, and then votes for Obama, is it fair to still call such a person a Republican?

The problem there is that, for example, most Christians really DID think is was not only acceptable, but morally right, to massacre Jews. They weren't opposing their faith, they were acting in accordance with it. Now of course you could claim that they were acting in opposition to the will of God, and if God shows up we can ask him whether or not that claim is accurate. Until then we have to rely on the scripture and the commentary on it, about which there has been enormous disagreement for thousands of years. Even if we can somehow achieve relative certainty on that, of course, it doesn't rule out there having been further divine revelations. There is Biblical precedent for the slaughter of enemies, after all.

In my view, the only sensible definition of "Christian", when discussing how Christians behave and what Christianity has done, is "a person whose views are in accordance with those of most other Christians". If you define "Christian" as "a person whose actions and beliefs are in accordance with my personal understanding of Christ's teachings" then mysteriously it turns out no Christian has even done anything wrong. :)

Finally, my own take is that it really isn't that much about religion or irreligion, but about power, and we all know the saying about that.

I would say that the problem is the desire to forcibly remake the world the way one would prefer it to be. Both Christian and Communist massacres trace back to an underlying belief that the world would be a better place if only those troublesome people who think differently weren't living in it.

Revenant said...

And to further make the point, how exactly is what Communist regimes did against an atheistic worldview?

I'm not sure what "against an atheistic worldview" is supposed to mean. The atheistic worldview is that there are no gods. The only thing "against" that view would be for gods to show up. I ain't holding my breath. :)

Donn said...

Rev,

I have been around this block enough to know that atheists deny, just as you do above, that they have a worldview, other than there are no gods. This is nonsense, and further, I would say atheists are more united in their worldview (i.e. way of looking at the world) than are Christians. I know this because not only I have been both an atheist, and a Christian, but I have interacted with both for many years.

As far as the wiki link you gave, this is very pertinent to the point I was making:

The Christian communist view of Karl Marx is mixed. On the one hand, he gave the communist movement a solid foundation in economics and sociology, and took it from relative obscurity to a position of significance on the international political stage. On the other hand, he was the first to divorce communism from Christian principles, and, following his lead, there was a strong association during the 20th century between communism, and atheism or agnosticism.

The French Revolution was the first revolution to divorce itself from Christian principles. Do you think it's just coincidence that these two things (the FR and Communist regimes) murdered millions of people, but that it had nothing to do with atheism?

The problem there is that, for example, most Christians really DID think is was not only acceptable, but morally right, to massacre Jews.

Really, what Christians might these have been?

They weren't opposing their faith, they were acting in accordance with it.

This is false.

Even if we can somehow achieve relative certainty on that, of course, it doesn't rule out there having been further divine revelations.

No, this is not the Christian position.

There is Biblical precedent for the slaughter of enemies, after all.

This is false. Yes, in the OT God commanded the Jews to slay their enemies, but you need to look at the context, and also read the NT.

In my view, the only sensible definition of "Christian", when discussing how Christians behave and what Christianity has done, is "a person whose views are in accordance with those of most other Christians".

No, the standard is not other Christians, but the Bible.

Revenant said...

I have been around this block enough to know that atheists deny, just as you do above, that they have a worldview, other than there are no gods. This is nonsense

Don't assume your unsupported opinion has any value to me. List the other aspects of this "atheistic worldview" and I'll provide examples of atheists who believe the exact opposite.

and further, I would say atheists are more united in their worldview (i.e. way of looking at the world) than are Christians.

Suffice it to say that anyone who thinks Ayn Rand, Karl Marx, Gautama Buddha, Jean-Paul Sartre and Richard Friedman are more united in their worldview than Christians simply doesn't know very much about non-theistic philosophies and religions.

I know this because not only I have been both an atheist, and a Christian, but I have interacted with both for many years.

The amusing thing is that you think this is somehow an unusual biography that gives you special insights. It is fairly obvious that the problem here is that *you* held a certain philosophy as an atheist -- and probably knew like-minded people -- and since converting have come to both regret those years and assume that they are generally representative of atheism.

The French Revolution was the first revolution to divorce itself from Christian principles.

I think you meant to say that it was the first revolution in a majority-Christian nation to divorce itself from Christian principles. You're also incorrect on that point, since the American revolution did the same thing first.

Do you think it's just coincidence that these two things (the FR and Communist regimes) murdered millions of people, but that it had nothing to do with atheism?

The death toll for the French Revolution is generally placed in the tens or hundreds of thousands, not in the millions. In contrast, the French Catholic-Protestant wars killed two to four million people; the Christian Napoleon, 16 million. Do you think that is a coincidence?

Of course you do. As we see below, you're taking the "no true Scotsman" approach to wrongdoing by Christians. I'm sure neither Napoleon nor the millions of Christians who butchered each other in 16th century France really "count".

Really, what Christians might these have been?

Martin Luther is my personal favorite example.

Yes, in the OT God commanded the Jews to slay their enemies, but you need to look at the context

The context is that they were acting under explicit command from God. And your evidence that the other people who said *they* were following God's wishes when they committed atrocities is... what, exactly?

and also read the NT.

Thanks for the suggestion that I do something I've done many times already. The obvious possibility you're missing is that Christians might receive further personal revelations from God. Virtually all Christians believe in such a possibility. The reason Jesus said to turn the other cheek (for example) is that that's what God wanted people to do. If God said to you that you needed to take up arms and fight the Muslims in Iraq, that would be the moral, Christian thing to do.

No, the standard is not other Christians, but the Bible.

Which, naturally, you have the correct interpretation of and (for example) Pope Innocent III did not.

Donn said...

Suffice it to say that anyone who thinks Ayn Rand, Karl Marx, Gautama Buddha, Jean-Paul Sartre and Richard Friedman are more united in their worldview than Christians simply doesn't know very much about non-theistic philosophies and religions.

I was talking about Christians in the US and atheists in the US. For example, I’m willing to bet that a bigger percentage of atheists self-identify as liberals and also vote Democratic, than Christians that self-identify as conservatives and vote Republican.


The amusing thing is that you think this is somehow an unusual biography that gives you special insights. It is fairly obvious that the problem here is that *you* held a certain philosophy as an atheist -- and probably knew like-minded people -- and since converting have come to both regret those years and assume that they are generally representative of atheism.

No, I don’t regret those years, but yes, my atheistic views were generally the same as most atheists would hold today. And no, this is not based solely on my biography, as I have already mentioned, but on years of interacting with atheists on the web and in person.


I think you meant to say that it was the first revolution in a majority-Christian nation to divorce itself from Christian principles. You're also incorrect on that point, since the American revolution did the same thing first.

Yes, I was talking about a Western (Civilization) revolution, and no, the American Revolution did not divorce itself from Christian principles, which is why there was no reign of terror here, like there was in France. It was atheism that made the difference.


The death toll for the French Revolution is generally placed in the tens or hundreds of thousands, not in the millions. In contrast, the French Catholic-Protestant wars killed two to four million people; the Christian Napoleon, 16 million. Do you think that is a coincidence?

Good grief, I have never seen anyone try to claim that Napoleon was a Christian, which to me just shows how far you want to reach to try and defend your pov.

Of course you do. As we see below, you're taking the "no true Scotsman" approach to wrongdoing by Christians. I'm sure neither Napoleon nor the millions of Christians who butchered each other in 16th century France really "count".

It’s funny how when you talk about politics it’s easy for you to see how someone who calls himself a Republican can deny that by his actions, but discount the same thing when it comes to religion. What I’m saying is that if you want to blame all these deaths on Christians, than they are miniscule to the amount of deaths done by atheists. Of course, you want to use the “no true Scotsman” approach to atheists. Sorry, that won’t fly

Martin Luther is my personal favorite example.

You said “most” Christians felt it was okay to massacre Jews, and your response is Martin Luther? Good grief. How many Jews did Luther massacre? Yes, he wrote a violent anti-Semitic tract, but that was it.

The context is that they were acting under explicit command from God. And your evidence that the other people who said *they* were following God's wishes when they committed atrocities is... what, exactly?

Not sure what your point is here.

Thanks for the suggestion that I do something I've done many times already. The obvious possibility you're missing is that Christians might receive further personal revelations from God. Virtually all Christians believe in such a possibility. The reason Jesus said to turn the other cheek (for example) is that that's what God wanted people to do. If God said to you that you needed to take up arms and fight the Muslims in Iraq, that would be the moral, Christian thing to do.

Can Christians receive revelations from God? Yes, I believe they can, but those revelations would have to be consistent with Scripture, if not, they have to be rejected.

Which, naturally, you have the correct interpretation of and (for example) Pope Innocent III did not.

Of course, some Christians would have correct interpretations, and some would not, just like some who call themselves Republicans who vote for Democrats would not be Republicans, to use your earlier example. Why should this apply to politics, but not religion?

Donn said...

The context is that they were acting under explicit command from God. And your evidence that the other people who said *they* were following God's wishes when they committed atrocities is... what, exactly?

Okay, I see what you meant. Well, simple answer is that to Jews God's revelation stopped at the close of the OT cannon, and Christians believe God's word ended with the NT cannon.

Anything beyond that, speaking for Christians, would have to be consistent with revealed scripture, not in contradiction.

Revenant said...

I was talking about Christians in the US and atheists in the US.

Fine then. Suffice it to say that anyone who thinks Ayn Rand, Noam Chomsky, Richard Feynman and L. Ron Hubbard are more united in their worldview than American Christians are simply doesn't know very much about non-theistic philosophies and religions.

I would also point out that since you took the (in my opinion weaselly) approach of saying that only people who follow the Bible qualify as Christians, there can be no difference among Christians under your definition. Either the Bible places supreme Earthly authority with the Pope or it does not, for example; if it does, then Protestants are not Christians, and if it does not then Catholics are not Christians. Etc, etc. So -- under your definition -- the apparent differences among American "Christians" are due solely to the fact that most of them aren't Christians at all.

For example, I’m willing to bet that a bigger percentage of atheists self-identify as liberals and also vote Democratic, than Christians that self-identify as conservatives and vote Republican.

When one of the two parties routinely attacks and vilifies atheists and the other does not, it is hardly surprising that a disproportionate number of atheists will wind up in the latter party. This says more about the behavior of the Republican Party than it does about the intellectual diversity of atheism.

And no, this is not based solely on my biography, as I have already mentioned, but on years of interacting with atheists on the web and in person.

That is probably part of your problem. Most American atheists would just like to make it through the day without being harassed by religious people. The ones who seek out arguments on the internet are usually evangelical types who want Christians to admit how wrongheaded religion is. All evangelists, whether atheistic or religious, sound pretty much alike.

Yes, I was talking about a Western (Civilization) revolution, and no, the American Revolution did not divorce itself from Christian principles

That is a widely held but deeply ignorant belief. The American Revolution was founded on Deistic and Enlightenment principles, not Christian ones. Christ didn't have a position on representative government, and his position on unfair taxation was "pay the taxes, government isn't important".

Good grief, I have never seen anyone try to claim that Napoleon was a Christian

"Across a chasm of eighteen hundred years, Jesus Christ makes a demand which is beyond all others difficult to satisfy; He asks for that which a philosopher may often seek in vain at the hands of his friends, or a father of his children, or a bride of her spouse, or a man of his brother. He asks for the human heart; He will have it entirely to Himself. He demands it unconditionally; and forthwith His demand is granted. Wonderful! In defiance of time and space, the soul of man, with all its powers and faculties, becomes an annexation to the empire of Christ. All who sincerely believe in Him, experience that remarkable, supernatural love toward Him. This phenomenon is unaccountable; it is altogether beyond the scope of man's creative powers. Time, the great destroyer, is powerless to extinguish this sacred flame; time can neither exhaust its strength nor put a limit to its range. This is it, which strikes me most; I have often thought of it. This it is which proves to me quite convincingly the Divinity of Jesus Christ."

-- Napoleon Bonaparte

Your ignorance is, again, not my problem. It is an objective fact that Napoleon was a Christian, and if you've never heard anyone "try to claim it" that's simply because you don't spend enough time talking to people who read history books.

You said "most" Christians felt it was okay to massacre Jews, and your response is Martin Luther?

He's an excellent example. He laid the framework for the Holocaust; the Nazi approach to Jewry was lifted directly from his "On the Jews and their Lies", right up to the part about killing them if you aren't able to expel them. Had it not been for Luther (and, of course, nineteen hundred years of church-sanctioned Jew hatred before and after that) we wouldn't have had a Nazi Party at all.

Yes, he wrote a violent anti-Semitic tract, but that was it.

And Karl Marx just wrote a couple of books about politics. I find it interesting that the founder of both Lutheranism and the Protestant Reformation was openly in favor of butchering Jews; perhaps you don't.

Can Christians receive revelations from God? Yes, I believe they can, but those revelations would have to be consistent with Scripture, if not, they have to be rejected.

To cite just one obvious example, the scripture says that the Jews and all their descendants are culpable for the execution of Jesus, so an apparent command from God that you drive them out of Christian society would be consistent with that, as well as with Jesus' expulsion of the moneylenders and other less-than-tolerant activities. Almost anything is consistent with Scripture, if not necessarily with how a given Christian chooses to interpret scripture. The Bible is much like a tarot deck or a Roarschach inkblot test in that regard.

Of course, some Christians would have correct interpretations, and some would not, just like some who call themselves Republicans who vote for Democrats would not be Republicans, to use your earlier example. Why should this apply to politics, but not religion?

Because I can prove the Republican Party doesn't want me to vote for Barack Obama. You can not prove that your beliefs are in accordance with God's will and Pope Innocent III's were not.

Donn said...

When one of the two parties routinely attacks and vilifies atheists and the other does not, it is hardly surprising that a disproportionate number of atheists will wind up in the latter party. This says more about the behavior of the Republican Party than it does about the intellectual diversity of atheism.

Really, is this in the RNC platform somewhere, because if it is, I must have missed it.

That is probably part of your problem. Most American atheists would just like to make it through the day without being harassed by religious people. The ones who seek out arguments on the internet are usually evangelical types who want Christians to admit how wrongheaded religion is. All evangelists, whether atheistic or religious, sound pretty much alike.

Well, since you sound just like the ones I have engaged with on the internet, and use a lot of the same fallacious arguments, this shouldn’t be a problem.

That is a widely held but deeply ignorant belief. The American Revolution was founded on Deistic and Enlightenment principles, not Christian ones. Christ didn't have a position on representative government, and his position on unfair taxation was "pay the taxes, government isn't important".

Ignorant belief? Not even close. America, was founded on Christian and Enlightenment principles, and I can use “quote mining” to prove my point, just as you attempt to do with NP right below.



(snip lengthy quote) This it is which proves to me quite convincingly the Divinity of Jesus Christ."

-- Napoleon Bonaparte

Your ignorance is, again, not my problem. It is an objective fact that Napoleon was a Christian, and if you've never heard anyone "try to claim it" that's simply because you don't spend enough time talking to people who read history books.


Revenant, if you want to try and ridicule me, you better get your ducks in a row, because so far you are failing miserably.
Before I get into Napoleon’s religious beliefs, let me say something about the use of quotes like this. First, I’m sure you have seen hundreds of quotes by America’s Founders, that state all kinds of things that I know you would deny, which point to the fact that this is a Christian Nation. This is called “quote mining,” and something which I don’t do because of the logical fallacies involved. The truth is that you can take all kinds of quotes and make someone seem like something they clearly are not, or that they might have changed their beliefs over the course of their lifetime. Now, as far as Mr. Bonaparte.

From The American Almanac:

(begin quote)A "New" Pagan Religion
Let's go a step further, and look into Napoleon's conception of religion. He says: ``There is no state without a ritual, a religion, and priests.'' What does he mean by that? A sort of Roman cult to repress anarchy, a bureaucracy of the souls.

According to him:

1. Religion should serve his regime, the heavens be put at the service of earthly principalities and powers; the state supersedes religion, which is accepted only insofar as it serves the state.
2.The Emperor is personally head of the Gallican Church, successor to Louis XIV.
3.He allows freedom of conscience, but only if all religions pledge obedience to him.

This is nothing but an extreme case of a pagan church, under a Roman Catholic or other disguise.(end quote)

As someone who has “read the NT many times,” I would think that you would recognize these beliefs as not in line with NT teaching? Maybe you just skimmed through the material? Oh I'm sorry, maybe you haven't really read much history on Napoleon?

He's (Luther) an excellent example. He laid the framework for the Holocaust; the Nazi approach to Jewry was lifted directly from his "On the Jews and their Lies", right up to the part about killing them if you aren't able to expel them. Had it not been for Luther (and, of course, nineteen hundred years of church-sanctioned Jew hatred before and after that) we wouldn't have had a Nazi Party at all.

Good grief. This is standard low-level atheist arguments. I really thought you would be smarter than that. Next you’ll be claiming that Hitler was a Christian. From an article I wrote back in the day of internet debates on this topic:

(begin quote) Without claiming that Christians were guilt free, what were the main influences on Fascism? We have traced the line from the Enlightenment, through Romanticism, to Romantic Materialism. The German Church had been stripped of its foundation from these trends which resulted in radical Biblical Scholarship. As well, Fascism can be traced through the secular colleges and the German intellectuals. Jewish Scholar Max Weinreich in the book Hitler’s Professors The Part Of Scholarship in Germany’s Crimes against the Jewish People notes the complicity of German intellectuals with the Nazi regime and how the scholarship of the time provided the intellectual justification and the conceptual framework for the Holocaust. Weinreich points out that the academics who supported Hitler, directly or indirectly, were sophisticated thinkers and distinguished experts in their fields. Their problem was not sham scholarship, but the ‘value-free’ assumptions with which they pursued their research. Their "weakness is due not to inferior training but to the mendacity inherent in any scholarship that overlooks or openly repudiates all moral and spiritual values.(end quote)

Rev, you are on extremely shaky ground here, and I would be happy to enlighten you further, if you like. You see, I have read lots of history books on just this subject.


To cite just one obvious example, the scripture says that the Jews and all their descendants are culpable for the execution of Jesus, so an apparent command from God that you drive them out of Christian society would be consistent with that, as well as with Jesus' expulsion of the moneylenders and other less-than-tolerant activities.

Again, from someone who has stated they have read the NT many times, you are surprisingly ignorant of what it actually states. Yes, the NT does state that along with Rome, the Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus. But guess what? This is the reason Jesus came to Earth. And nowhere does the NT state that Jews should be driven out of Christian society. For goodness sakes, the Founders of the Christian Church, were all Jews.

Almost anything is consistent with Scripture, if not necessarily with how a given Christian chooses to interpret scripture. The Bible is much like a tarot deck or a Roarschach inkblot test in that regard.

Again, this is contrary to what the Scriptures say, would you like me to provide verses?

Because I can prove the Republican Party doesn't want me to vote for Barack Obama. You can not prove that your beliefs are in accordance with God's will and Pope Innocent III's were not.

This is utter nonsense to anyone with a basic understanding of the Bible. As a former Theology Major, I would be happy to go into this in greater detail if you like?

dick said...

Fore more good supporters of the Atheists check out this news story from today's Miami Herald:

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/weird-news/story/727321.html

E.D. Kain said...

Here's my response, which is a little too long for the comment thread...

Short answer: Contempt is fine, but it better be thought-provoking, funny, or both. If it's just contempt or it's bad humor, you just come across looking like an idiot.

Bill Maher is an idiot.

Donn said...

Interesting comments E.D.

Revenant said...

Really, is this in the RNC platform somewhere, because if it is, I must have missed it.

Of course you missed it. You're a Christian, and one who obviously doesn't spend a lot of time paying attention to other faiths. :)

Let me give you one of the more famous examples. During the 1992 Presidential race, George Bush was asked about atheist Americans and replied that they couldn't be considered patriots or citizens, as this was "one nation under God". Not a single Republican official condemned him for saying it. No, bigotry is not officially part of the Party platform, but it is an inevitable result of most Republicans being religious bigots. This is something any conservative or libertarian atheist has to be willing to hold his nose and put up with if he wants to support politicians that back his other beliefs.

Well, since you sound just like the ones I have engaged with on the internet

If I sound "just like the ones you've argued with on the internet" then your belief that there is little variation among atheist worldviews is easily explained by simple lack of perception on your part. For example, you earlier cite a belief that atheists are largely left-wing, and I am not -- yet you perceive me as being the same as them. Two radically different worldviews, condensed into the appearance of one by nothing other than your own narrowmindedness.

and use a lot of the same fallacious arguments

I'm amused to hear you whine about "fallacious arguments". Your entire case consists of a combination of the guilt by association fallacy ("some evil people were atheists, so atheism is bad") and the True Scotsman fallacy ("any evil Christian wasn't really a Christian"). That's all you've got -- two fallacies, and a lot of denial of written history.

Ignorant belief? Not even close. America, was founded on Christian and Enlightenment principles,

You believe that because Christians presume that any reference to a Creator must be talking about the Christian God. There is a good reason why neither Christianity nor its God shows up in the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence; they were drafted by Deists, and Deists who had a generally dim view of the Church (thus the "Nature's God" reference, a phrase not used by Christians of the time). This is understandable, given that at that time Christianity had played a major role in crushing freedoms and empowering monarchy. Obviously Christianity eventually came to play an important part in expanding American freedoms, e.g. in the abolitionist movement, but it did not play a significant role in the founding of the country.

Revenant, if you want to try and ridicule me

I don't see that I have to bother. You're doing a sufficient job without my help.

As someone who has "read the NT many times," I would think that you would recognize these beliefs as not in line with NT teaching?

I recognize two things. First, that you are presenting your own interpretation of his statement as if it was his own, and secondly that the notion of a church headed by a mortal human, with no church having authority unless it recognizes the supremacy of that church, is no more inconsistent with the NT than the Roman Catholicism it replaced was. What is relevant is that Napoleon recognized the existence of God and the divinity of Jesus, and differed from the established Church of the time largely in the matter of which Pope got to run things.

I really thought you would be smarter than that. Next you’ll be claiming that Hitler was a Christian. From an article I wrote back in the day of internet debates on this topic: [snip].

I'm smart enough to recognize that fascism and the Holocaust are two separate things, although you apparently aren't. Heck, the Italian fascist party even contained a disproportionate number of Jews until Hitler made Mussolini purge them. So we can dispense with your attempt to change the subject from "what caused the genocidal slaughter of Jews" to "what caused fascism"; I'm not blaming Christians for the latter.

For 1900 years, Christianity preached open hatred of the Jewish people. Anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of Jews were slaughtered by Christians during this time. There wasn't a single Christian nation which didn't have its share of mass killings. This culminated in the mass slaughter of Jews in an overwhelmingly Christian nation with a long history of violent Christian anti-Semitism, whose anti-Jewish laws had been openly endorsed by most of the nation's leading Christians (small surprise, since they were in many cases based on earlier Church anti-Jewish laws). And you suggest that you might be willing to concede that Christians "weren't guilt free". An honest person, which you are not, would admit that had Christians not spent the prior 1900 years enthusiastically hating the Jews and periodically butchering them en masse, the largely Christian Germans would have never had any desire to butcher them en masse. The only thing unique about the Holocaust was its scale; Christians had been periodically trying to exterminate the Jewish people for nearly two thousand years. As you'd know, if you actually had read the history books you claim to have read.

Again, from someone who has stated they have read the NT many times, you are surprisingly ignorant of what it actually states.

I recognize that you're just another of the usual boring self-righteous Christians who thinks he is in possession of the true meaning of the Bible. Intelligent people, e.g. myself, recognize that you can derive multiple meanings from the Bible.

This is the reason Jesus came to Earth. And nowhere does the NT state that Jews should be driven out of Christian society.

That argument would make sense if everything no explicitly required by the New Testament was forbidden, but any Christian theologian would be happy to explain to you that that is not the case. What is relevant is that neither the OT nor the NT forbids holy war, and the NT describes Jews as being guilty from birth of a horrible crime. Ergo while a holy war against Jews is not required by either the OT or the NT, it is inconsistent with neither.

For goodness sakes, the Founders of the Christian Church, were all Jews.

I'd have those it would be obvious that the church founders were not among the Jews calling for Christ to be crucified. Both the Gospels and the subsequent millennium or two of Christian theology drew a distinction between those Jews who rejected Jesus -- i.e., the forefathers of the people who were still Jews -- and the Jews who accepted Jesus, i.e. the Christians.

I would also point out that it is fairly ridiculous to argue "group X can't be anti-Y because numerous Y founded X". Many of the founders of the communist movement were Christians; many were rich, for that matter.

Again, this is contrary to what the Scriptures say, would you like me to provide verses?

That won't be necessary. I'm aware that the Scriptures claim to be consistent and representative of clear instructions from God. The Scriptures are obviously incorrect on that point. :)

This is utter nonsense to anyone with a basic understanding of the Bible. As a former Theology Major, I would be happy to go into this in greater detail if you like

I don't really see the point. Anyone silly enough to claim that they can prove what God's will is isn't going to be able to have an intelligent conversation with me. Most Christian theologians have recognized for centuries that God is ineffable. Some, like yourself, think you have proof of what God wants. The odds that your argument will be something other than a repeat of their embarrassments to the discipline aren't high enough to merit me spending the time on them. :)

Donn said...

Of course you missed it. You're a Christian, and one who obviously doesn't spend a lot of time paying attention to other faiths. :)

Not really true in my case, but I’ll grant you that it’s true for many Christians. 8^)

No, bigotry is not officially part of the Party platform, but it is an inevitable result of most Republicans being religious bigots.

This is certainly not the case, anymore than you’re a bigot for holding dear the things that are important to you.

This is something any conservative or libertarian atheist has to be willing to hold his nose and put up with if he wants to support politicians that back his other beliefs.

I, too, have strong libertarian leanings, and would be willing to hold my nose and put up with an atheist if he/she backed my other beliefs.

If I sound "just like the ones you've argued with on the internet" then your belief that there is little variation among atheist worldviews is easily explained by simple lack of perception on your part.

Gee, nice try, but no cigar. My perception is due to the fact of hearing the same thing repeated over and over again, just as you have done with most of your points. If you want me to change my perception, perhaps, instead of blaming me, you should try presenting some new and different arguments. 8^)

For example, you earlier cite a belief that atheists are largely left-wing, and I am not -- yet you perceive me as being the same as them. Two radically different worldviews, condensed into the appearance of one by nothing other than your own narrowmindedness.

Of course, I already knew your position as a conservative, because I have read this blog for a couple years. However, atheist/conservatives are a rare breed indeed, and if you care to be honest instead of trying to make silly points, would agree that most atheists are indeed Democrats. Are you seriously disagreeing with that, because if you are, it is explained “by a simple lack of perception on your part.” 8^)

As for being “narrow-minded,” I think that applies much more to you than it does to me, from what I see of your posts. By the way, I do agree with a lot of what you do say. If you visit my site, you will see that it doesn’t in anyway, reflect a narrow-mindedness.

I'm amused to hear you whine about "fallacious arguments".

A good case of projection, because I wasn’t whining, though I do enjoy a good glass of Cabernet.

Your entire case consists of a combination of the guilt by association fallacy ("some evil people were atheists, so atheism is bad") and the True Scotsman fallacy ("any evil Christian wasn't really a Christian"). That's all you've got -- two fallacies, and a lot of denial of written history.

Sorry, it doesn’t work to turn around something you did, and try to blame it on me. Just like all atheists I have talked to, you want to blame all these evils on Christians, yet deny atheists do evil as well. Personally, I think the “he was a Christian who did evil things, therefore Christians/Christianity is evil, is just as wrongheaded as “he was an atheist who did evil things, therefore atheists/atheism is evil.” But please, it was you that used this technique, not me.

As far as the “True Scotsman Fallacy,” this was something invented by an atheist, and although the fallacy is true on the surface, is wrong in its application as it is used in Christian/atheist debates. I made this point in your Bonaparte was a Christian fallacy. If a person holds views contrary to Orthodox Christian belief, than that person is not a Christian, anymore than a person holding liberal beliefs is not a Republican.

Furthermore, it’s only atheists that believe so many despicable people throughout history were Christians, this is not something held by most mainstream historians.

You believe that because Christians presume that any reference to a Creator must be talking about the Christian God. There is a good reason why neither Christianity nor its God shows up in the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence; they were drafted by Deists, and Deists who had a generally dim view of the Church (thus the "Nature's God" reference, a phrase not used by Christians of the time). This is understandable, given that at that time Christianity had played a major role in crushing freedoms and empowering monarchy. Obviously Christianity eventually came to play an important part in expanding American freedoms, e.g. in the abolitionist movement, but it did not play a significant role in the founding of the country.

There is so much wrong in your above statement that it would take many posts to cover just this single paragraph. Let me say that you have it exactly backwards. Most of the Founders were Orthodox Christians, with a few key members being Deist. You, along with most atheists, want to ignore real history. Yes, there was a decided effort to keep the Federal Government free of religion, but if you want to see how most of the Founders felt about government and Christianity, you need to look at the States and their founding documents. It’s here you see Christianities true impact on the United States.

From historian Mark Noll:
(begin quote) Early American practice and the United States Constitution constructed a broad concept of religious liberty, but for the first century of United States history, that liberty was enjoyed primarily by Protestants. Sunday religious services were held in Washington, D.C.'s federal buildings, with only Protestant worship leaders until the 1820s and then mostly Protestant leaders thereafter. State and federal governments provided subsidies for missionary work among Indians, sometimes provided Bibles and even land for rural churches, passed a great deal of legislation to protect Sunday as a day of rest, observed major Christian holidays, sponsored chaplains in the military and official prayers for many government meetings, and in other ways offered much state support for religion, without establishing one denomination as the church of the land.

Behind this way of interpreting 'the separation of church and state' was a religious-political consensus inherited from the founding era. The national government would not sponsor any particular denomination and it would also try to ensure the broadest possible space for the exercise of religion. In turn, the churches as such were expected to give up overt political action. But both the founding fathers and major Protestant spokesman appealed for the churches to strengthen the moral character required for a republican government. (end quote)

What is relevant is that Napoleon recognized the existence of God and the divinity of Jesus, and differed from the established Church of the time largely in the matter of which Pope got to run things.

No, what you did, as I already pointed out, is used “quote mining.” I can do the same and “prove” the US is a Christian nation, yet I know you don’t believe that, so you are using a double standard here. Napoleon’s beliefs were Pagan in nature, and not consistent with much of Christianity at all. The same can be said about Hitler.

So we can dispense with your attempt to change the subject from "what caused the genocidal slaughter of Jews" to "what caused fascism"; I'm not blaming Christians for the latter.

That’s not what I was doing, so can I assume that you have a reading comprehension problem as well?

For 1900 years, Christianity preached open hatred of the Jewish people. Anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of Jews were slaughtered by Christians during this time.

This is a flat out lie, can you provide sources for your statement? (Since we have already determined you have a reading comprehension problem.)

There wasn't a single Christian nation which didn't have its share of mass killings.

Sources, please.

An honest person, which you are not,

Another lie.

the largely Christian Germans would have never had any desire to butcher them en masse. The only thing unique about the Holocaust was its scale; Christians had been periodically trying to exterminate the Jewish people for nearly two thousand years. As you'd know, if you actually had read the history books you claim to have read.

Revenant, I have read EVERY major book on this issue, would you like me to present the list? NOT ONE, got that Rev, NOT ONE, agrees with your above assertion. Again, this is simply low-level atheistic propaganda. It truly shows, you are NOT an honest person. Put up your sources, or shut up.

I recognize that you're just another of the usual boring self-righteous Christians who thinks he is in possession of the true meaning of the Bible. Intelligent people, e.g. myself, recognize that you can derive multiple meanings from the Bible.

Yawn. On the major issues of doctrine, ALL Christians denominations agree, it’s only ignorant atheists that make statements like that.

Ergo while a holy war against Jews is not required by either the OT or the NT, it is inconsistent with neither.

Gee Rev, what NT verses do you have in mind?

I'd have those it would be obvious that the church founders were not among the Jews calling for Christ to be crucified.

Gee, I wonder what Paul would have to say about that?

Both the Gospels and the subsequent millennium or two of Christian theology drew a distinction between those Jews who rejected Jesus -- i.e., the forefathers of the people who were still Jews -- and the Jews who accepted Jesus, i.e. the Christians.

Well, now there is a profound insight! By the way, that distinction still exist today.

I'm aware that the Scriptures claim to be consistent and representative of clear instructions from God. The Scriptures are obviously incorrect on that point. :)

Spoken like a true atheist! 8^)

LarsPorsena said...

GOOD WORD FOR THE 30 YEARS WAR
"When we start bandying about numbers killed by Communism and these other movements, we run up against the fact that the percentages killed were, in fact, smaller than the 30+% dead in 17th century Germany as a result of that worst war of religion, the Thirty Years' War. Are large absolute numbers worse than a higher percentage killed as a measure of human folly? Do the 16th and 17th century wars of religion negate Christ's message and meaning?"

The 30 years War keeps getting dragged into many of these discussions as an example of how
sectarianism produces slaughter.
Please be advised for future reference that this war started as
Protestant vs Catholic skirmish but the real antagonists were Catholic France vs the Catholic Austria-Hungary. Germany may have ravaged but it was to stop any further expansion of Austrian power into the western Germany.
Cardinal Richelieu and Louis couldn't have cared less about Lutherans, Anabaptists, and the like. I know this seems trivial but
the 30 Years War gets a bum rap by being included in all religious wars arguments.