Gimme That Old Time Religion!

James S. Valliant's picture
Submitted by James S. Valliant on Wed, 2010-02-03 05:02

On another discussion thread, Lindsay Perigo cited an important quotation from Ayn Rand:

"'As a child, I saw a glimpse of the pre-World War I world, the last afterglow of the most radiant cultural atmosphere in human history. If one has glimpsed that kind of art--and wider: the possibility of that kind of culture--one is unable to be satisfied with anything less. I must emphasize that I am not speaking of concretes, nor of politics, nor of journalistic trivia, but of that period's 'sense of life.' Its art projected an overwhelming sense of intellectual freedom, of depth, i.e., concern with fundamental problems, of demanding standards, of inexhaustible originality, of unlimited possibilities and, above all, of profound respect for man. The existential atmosphere (which was then being destroyed by Europe's philosophical trends and political systems) still held a benevolence that would be incredible to the men of today, i.e., a smiling, confident good will of man to man, and of man to life. It is impossible for the young people of today to grasp the reality of man's higher potential and what scale of achievement it had reached in a rational (or semi-rational) culture. But I have seen it. I know that it was real, that it existed, that it is possible. It is that knowledge that I want to hold up to the sight of men--over the brief span of less than a century--before the barbarian curtain descends altogether (if it does) and the last memory of man's greatness vanishes in another Dark Ages."

One poster replied as follows:

"The interesting thing about this to me is that this period of time which she clearly sees as the epoch of civilised man, was the last period where Christianity was universally accepted by all except those few who (mis)understood evolution. (More to follow on this...soon!)

"It was also the last period before socialism came in to being. Although charity and altruism flourished.

"It was also the time when money could be inherited without being taxed so heavily that it all but disappeared. This meant that many people could pursue their interests without regard to the gas bill (in the words of that rake, Lineberry), patronise artists so that they too did not need to worry about the gas bill and look after the truly poor and the ill.

"This latter Dickensian aspect I note she ignores in her romanticism but, as far as people were concerned, there was a defined set of values that (almost) all European (Christian) people shared. This is what made this period so great. The history of the West is the history of Christianity. As Christianity declines, the greatness of the Western world follows."

For the moment, let's ignore the fact that the first rise of Christianity in Europe actually corresponded to the decline of Classical Civilization, and the fall of the Roman Empire, and consider her assertion about the 19th Century.

If Christians, in the name of their faith, did horrible things in the more remote past, had they simply misunderstood the Bible that they were poring over in such detail and with such devotion? Did they finally get clear on the meaning of their true doctrine only after the better part of two millennia?

In fact, the 19th Century was far, far less Christian than any of the previous 14 centuries had been in Europe, and the poster seems to have fallen for the recent attempts by contemporary Christians to deny their doctrine and their history.

The burning of thousands and thousands at the stake for no reason other than their heretical faith, the torturing of thousands and thousands more in order to get them to confess to any deviation from the Bible, the burning of books in the city square for being too "worldly," imprisoning scientists if they wrote something threatening to the Church's authority -- and all of it specifically, overtly and exclusively done in name of Christian "love" -- is all a matter of historical record. Can one seriously claim that the faith bears no responsibility whatever?

A religion that explicitly teaches enmity to worldly knowledge and worldly philosophy, with a Christ who suggested the existence of "mysteries" to be revealed only to the select inner few, is a religion at root hostile to reason and science.

The Bible itself has witches, e.g., Saul met the powerful witch of Endor, and ghosts, and angels and demons, and demonic possession, and revelatory visions of the "levels" of heaven, and most of that other stuff the poster later went on to deride as "pagan."

It's not just a crazy coincidence, of course, that Western science only got going again following the rediscovery of pre-Christian Greek ideas, starting with Aristotle's logic and climaxing in the restoration of the observational science of the ancient Ionians. Copernicus, for example, got his ideas about the earth and the sun from an ancient, pagan source, one that he suppressed upon publication.

Isn't it funny how those pagan Greeks seemed to have discovered science, but not those Divinely Chosen Jews, who, indeed, were fighting tooth and nail to keep the influence of Greek culture just as far away as possible. And, to this day, that is what Hanukkah actually celebrates.

But perhaps the most absurd example of this is the American conservative who is convinced that the U.S. Constitution and form of government are based directly on the ideas of the Judeo-Christian tradition. We are asked to believe that it took a mere 1,776 years of reading that darned Bible before any of those great and learned Christian scholars figured out its true political implications!

But scour the text of the Bible and you will not find any recommendation of political freedom or republicanism whatever. No, we are told to just "obey" the governmental "authorities" placed over us, because God has appointed them, by St. Paul himself, who likely wrote during the reign of the monster Nero(!) "Slaves obey your masters," St. Paul commands us in repeated passages (which were cited by slave-owners for centuries). Jesus commanded men to pay their taxes to Imperial Rome, and a Roman centurion, it seems, had more faith than any of Jesus's contemporary Jews, as Jesus himself declared. And tyrants like Louis XIV used the Bible to show that God intended a hereditary monarchy, like the line of King David. Why else would Jesus have had to be David's royal heir if this was not the divinely intended system?

Pre-Christian models of democracy from ancient Athens, and pre-Christian models of republicanism from ancient Rome -- i.e., a purely pagan tradition -- were the true models for America's Founding Fathers, who designed a state complete with two executive consuls, one with "veto" power, a Senate, a popular assembly, etc., etc. Just look at Washington, D.C.: it looks like ancient Athens or Rome, not a Gothic Cathedral, of course.

What about property rights and creating wealth? Christ taught folks not to worry about what they wore, what they ate, etc., and to avoid "storing up treasures" here on earth. Rather, he said, attend to the "Kingdom of Heaven" instead. Christ taught his disciples to hold all of their property communally, that it was (at least) tricky for a rich person to get into heaven, that the "rich young man" should give up all of his property if wanted to be saved, and that poverty was even a "blessing." St. Paul held the love of money to be the root of no less than all evil. And I could go on. In short, it is socialists, not capitalists, who have the much better argument for doctrinal support in the words of the Bible.

What about basic freedoms: speech, religion, etc.? These are not to be found in the Bible, either. And, if they had been there, in any way, then why was this never noticed by the Councils, saints and theologians who piously taught what they thought was good Biblical policy, century after century after century?

No, it was the horrible institution of Christian persecution, century after century, which inspired sensitive minds to first consider the idea of freedom of conscience, and, again, only with a good deal of philosophical help from those ancient, pagan sources, from Aristotle to Cicero -- and from natural law to the experience of the Spartacus slave rebellion.

Indeed, America's Founding Fathers refused to "render unto Caesar" (even a modest tea tax) and that was the very basis for their refusal to obey the "authorities placed over them by God," in direct disobedience to St. Paul. Many of those Framers thought slavery was evil, too, and it was this belief that provided the basis (e.g., see the Gettysburg Address) for later abolishing it. These men were not "peace makers" but war makers. They battled, not praised, the Imperial "centurions" of their own time. And they were not "meek" about it, either.

The principal author of America's Declaration of Independence, Jefferson, cut the miracles out of his own translation of the New Testament, and the author of the most popular and persuasive political text of the age, Paine, was an even more severe critic of the Bible, and an atheist. Ben Franklin was an Enlightenment scientist. American Founders taught that the pursuit of personal happiness and material wealth were virtuous.

Sexual repression is one the great legacies of Christianity, of course, but contemporary Christians have rewritten the text and their history here, too. Jesus praises those who "become eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake," and St. Paul advised celibacy for any Christian who could handle it (like himself). For the birth of Jesus to be "sinless" his mother must have been a virgin. Monastic and priestly vows of celibacy are well grounded in Biblical text. (Just as vows of poverty are.) And, of course, simply "lusting in your heart" (along with other thought crimes) is itself a sin! Now, where is all the contemporary blather about sex being "holy" in the actual text? Answer: it ain't there.

Only the most incredible game of mental Twister has converted in people's minds the New Testament into saying anything positive about sex whatever.

Racism has its Biblical authority, as well. Jews were to keep themselves racially pure as any reader of Ezra becomes oppressively aware. The very idea that God had a Chosen People, if even only a temporary basis, is racist, and, thus, so is the Mosaic Law itself. And when those Chosen had killed their own Messiah, as the New Testament asks us to believe, Christians then took to abusing them on the same racial basis.

The 19th Century which Rand praised actually begat many of the greatest threats to established religious opinion, certainly many of the greatest since the advent of Christianity itself: Darwin and evolution, women's rights, Biblical "form criticism," the discovery of a prehistoric world that long predated the generational calculations of the Old Testament, etc., etc., not to mention material comfort of the sort despised by Christ.

The Christian faith is founded on the older Jewish faith, and it was a savage one. A religion that sought racial purity once upon a time, one that fought any injection of that scientific, Hellenistic culture just as hard as it could, one that hoped for a monarch from their ancient line of hereditary kings, and one that slaughtered animals in order to appease their God (when its temple stood), like most of the other ancient faiths. And, before that, again, like other faiths, it almost certainly practiced human sacrifice. (Why should God have had to tell Abraham not to kill little boys,if the killing of little boys was not happening?) The Old Testament God also favored genocide on occasion, telling King Saul to slaughter the Amalekites, all the men, women, children, slaves, and even animals(!) When Saul failed to slaughter every living Amalekite and Amalekite beast, this was a sin of such magnitude that God took the throne away from Saul, and gave it to David, Saul's rival, and to David's descendants, like Jesus himself.

Thus, Jesus's ancestors owe their royal status to the fact that David's predecessor was not as assiduous in his genocide as God would've wanted!

Christians will often suggest that it was God who, through Moses, invented laws against murder, theft and perjury (see DeMille's intro to The Ten Commandments), when most other ancients also had forbidden these things, of course. They make it sound as if Jesus actually invented the Golden Rule, when others had stated it well before his alleged birth. They make it seem as if Jesus even invented love and compassion, when, of course, the models for this also long pre-dated Christianity.

Well, Jesus did give us a concept of forgiveness which would permit eternal rewards for murderers and despots who simply accepted him in their "hearts," and one that condemned to eternal punishment good people who had simply failed to accept a certain belief. Yes, we have a gun to our heads, it seems, just as Jesus declared repeatedly, for we must believe or be condemned to "the lake of eternal fire," and, as St,. Paul told us, "good works" will never earn you place in heaven. It simply cannot be earned by sinners such as we.

And, why? Adam and Eve sinned. Thus, all of their descendants, all of us, apparently deserve to die -- no, we deserve eternal torture -- because of the sin of distant ancestors. Sound fair? Okay, we get blamed for the sins of our distant ancestors, but, just as bad, our only hope is in the sacrifice of someone else, too.

Adam sins, you get punished. Jesus dies, you (might) get saved. Ask yourself what YOU did to merit forgiveness, or what YOU did deserve eternal torture, and you're barking up the wrong tree -- YOU don't matter. God is angered. God is appeased. (And like the common ancient practice of human and animal sacrifice, apparently it requires blood-sacrifice to appease this angry God, the mere belief in which conditions our salvation.)

No, your only role is to deny your own judgment and to accept without evidence, proof or logic, the epistemological blackmail offered. Believe or be condemned to eternal torments. Nice set up for a religious faith, right? (And don't tell me that Catholics are any different from others here, for Purgatory itself is open only to believers in good standing, as well.)

Your own eyes, your own mind, your own reasons do not matter, and the only basis for belief that we are given is the threat of damnation, pure and simple. You will search the Bible in vain for any Thomistic arguments for the existence of God, for there are none. And with or without them, one is expected to believe or be damned for all time.
Doesn't all of that sound fair and compassionate?

Christianity codifies a virulent hatred of life on earth every bit as savage as any other faith in history. Fortunately, this faith significantly and substantially weakened in the Enlightenment long enough for political freedom to be born and for science and industry to gain a foothold. Both science and freedom came about among European Christians despite the best efforts of pious Christians to prevent their development, and only on a foundation of pagan, pre-Christian ideas, and with conservative Christians fighting each and every step of the way.


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Nice video

Doug Bandler's picture

Good video although I could have done without the unnecessary attack on "Tea Baggers". Its such a shame that so many atheists are damn Lefties.

One comment on the part of this video which shows Old Testament punishments (which were all death), Christians will argue that the New Testament trumps the Old and reforms Mosaic Judaism's cruelty. You see, New Testament Christianity is a religion of peace or so they tell us. This is wrong but it does take greater familiarity with Christianity (specifically its supporting theology) to make the case.

Contradictions in the bibe

Kasper's picture

Did I hear someone say that there were no contradictions in the bible?

Jesus Tomb

Neil Parille's picture

Here is a debate between NT scholar Craig Evans and Tomb-advocate Simcha J.

http://www.blip.tv/file/1809877

Simcha J. should read a bit about the Galileo affair.

-Neil Parille

Of course

Brant Gaede's picture

Of course Ayn Rand was a tax protestor. Start by reading Atlas Shrugged.

--Brant
Objectivism sub-101

Well, now...

Ross Elliot's picture

..."Even if Rand didn't think it was a duty to pay taxes, she was no tax protester."

That's a contradiction in terms.

The Ancient Greeks and Religion

Neil Parille's picture

The paradox is that, although Greek religion seems to lack so many of the things which characterize modern religions and which require degrees of personal commitment and faith from their followers, Greeks were involved with religion to a degree which is very hard nowadays to understand. . . . The Greek household had its shrine to Hestia or to Zeus Ktesios . . . . At a meal a libation or drink-offering to the gods was an automatic custom . . . . The great landmarks of human life – birth, coming of age, marriage and death – were all marked by rituals with religious significance. . . . it is against this background of a way of life interpenetrated by an enormous variety of religious ritual, practice and belief . . . that the questioning of religion was seen as a dangerous threat.

-J.V. Muir, “Religion and the New Education” in P.E. Easterling and J.V. Muir, Greek Religion and Society, pp. 194-95.

Paying Taxes

Neil Parille's picture

Most of the things Jim accuses Christianity of apply equally well to the Greek and Roman world. To work in the silver mines as a slave in Athens was equivalent to a death sentence. The ideal woman in Athens stayed in the home and was not heard from. Aristotle and Cicero advocated slavery.

If anything, Christianity marked an improvement in the treatment of women and slaves (and also the Roman world, which was probably more religious than the Greek world).

As far as taxes go, who among the ancients world opposed paying taxes? Even if Rand didn't think it was a duty to pay taxes, she was no tax protester.

Incidentally, here is an interesting discussion of Jesus and taxes --

http://mises.org/media/4732

-Neil Parille

Brilliant, Sam

Ross Elliot's picture

But as any true believer knows, when you get beyond boring old space-time into heavenly space-time, all bets are off.

The world wasn't actually created in seven days; that's just a metaphor. Likewise, 30 seconds with Sonny Jesus will be an eternity. Time enough for lots of scones.

Innocent

i want to know what happened

John Donohue's picture

i want to know what happened to the investiagation of the tomb of Jesus' family including (wife?) mary magdelene found under that condo complex in Jeruselem and then delclared off limits. I thought James Cameron was going to make a movie out of that.

Oh my God (... stirring :) )

Mark Hubbard's picture

A nail from the time of Christ's crucifixion which was hidden by the same knights who featured in The Da Vinci Code has been found in a dig.

The four-inch Roman relic, stored in an ornate box, was uncovered by archaeologists working at a fort thought to have been a former Knights Templar stronghold.

It was buried with three skeletons and three swords, including one with the religious order's cross on its blade, on the tiny island of Ilheu de Pontinha, off Madeira.

The iron nail is of the type used in thousands of crucifixions - but it is special. Archaeologist Bryn Walters said: "It dates from the 1st to 2nd centuries. You'd expect the surface to be pitted and rough after so long. But this was smooth.

"It looks like it had been handled by a lot of people over a long period of time and the acid from their hands have given it a peculiar finish."

Yesterday Christopher Macklin of the Knights Templar of Britannia described last summer's find as "momentous".

He said evidence the nail had been handled a lot "indicates it was of great interest to many people". He believes the original Knights Templar thought it was a genuine artefact from Christ's crucifixion.

They occupied Jerusalem during the Crusades a thousand years after Christ, and claimed to be guardians of the Holy Grail, the cross and other relics. The Da Vinci Code portrays them as a modern secret society.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/t...

Rosie's right!

Oh, wait on, it's the Mirror. And it's just one nail amongst .... how many?

And 'same knights who featured in The Da Vinci Code'? That's the movie of two years ago. These guys are 2,007 years old? Now that's the miracle.

Olivia

James S. Valliant's picture

Exactly right. Revelation lists "unbelievers" right along side a whole list of other terrible sinners destined for that lake of "fire and brimstone" without distinction. And Jesus declared unbelievers to be "already condemned." This might explain why the vast majority of Christian scholars, for the vast majority of the religion's history, held just the opposite position to Dr. Flannagan's.

Notice that there can also be no response of any kind to the simple observation that the Bible, both Paul and seemingly Jesus himself, held celibacy to be the preferred state even over marriage. That's maybe why we've seen no response here.

(sound of chirping...)

Rather than abandon the Bible as the savagery that it is, modern Christians must either pick and choose the parts they like and therefore choose to obey, or torture the text almost as badly as God promised to torture us disbelievers.

Matt

Olivia's picture

Note two things here, first the text does not say that those who reject belief in God will be tortured it states explicitly that those who go into the furnace are those who do evil, i.e who engage in immoral actions. [Dr. Flannagan]

Engage in immoral actions? In the bible, those who do evil ARE those who do not submit to god - that's what makes them immoral.

Adultery, fornication, blasphemy, homosexuality, placing other gods before him etc etc are all examples of immoral acts.... or do modern theologians now teach that we've entered a new dispensation where the god of the bible is suddenly neutral about these things?

What is truly dubious here Matt, is your attempt to explain away what Jesus "really meant'. You don't even know in all honesty that Jesus said the words that the bible claims he did. You have to take it on faith.

Olivia,

Rick Pasotto's picture

Don't worry about the French since the grammar's wrong.

I think Rosie...

Olivia's picture

that Greg will get the irony of my witticism, even if you don't, that's what the winky winky is for dear.
I was going to draw attention to the photo of the little toy dog with extreme neoteny resembling "fetal wolf' traits too, which your yapitty yap reminds me so much of - now seems like a good time.

You might have to enlighten me on the french though, for that I do not understand.

James

Rosie's picture

Thank you for your post.

I hope the troubles with your health are now at an end.

I did not find time to reply to your other post today I am sorry. And may not get a chance now for some time.

Jusque-là!

Oblivia - l'élève méchant et ennuyeuse

Rosie's picture

the retention, by adults in a species, of traits previously seen only in juveniles.

Oblivia is clearly ignorant of the meaning of neotony. It refers to a physical character trait.

So here is Oblivia being ignorant (no surprises there) and self-contradictory (yet again) since, under her own "witty" misunderstanding of the word, it is she who sadly has not shed la caractère de l'élève méchant. "Too funny" has too soon become too dull.

Classic...

Olivia's picture

From Rosie's Wiki quote: In the field of developmental biology, the related term "neoteny" (or juvenilization) means the retention, by adults in a species, of traits previously seen only in juveniles.

I rest our case Greg. Eye

Belief in a heavenly father, whose authority you have to submit to for life, is about as 'disordered' as you can get (really, it is just abject superstition).

Arrested development

Rosie's picture

Neither honesty, missing Mummy in church nor arrested development are at issue here, Gregster. (Note the last sentence of the second paragraph.)
And it would seem that Olivia is quite through with people obsessing over disorders. Eye

Do keep up - on all counts. Innocent

Doubting Jameses bear the burden

gregster's picture

When it comes to belief, I "surrender" only to reason and "submit" only to reality.

It may seem obvious to many of us, but still, the religionists think faith and arbitrary "God says.. " will suffice for adult discussion.

As Olivia rightly said, all of them share an arrested development. They need to be honest with themselves, and not worry that Mummy will miss them in church. Give up the social-metaphysics in other words.

Rosie

James S. Valliant's picture

First, thank you for your kind words and concern. Let me assure you that the feelings are not so "raw" as all that, but the loss of someone close is always with us, as you may know yourself from experience. And, I hope that I made clear that I hold nothing against either the primitives blaming sin for my loss -- they did not effect me at all -- or the well-meaning clergyman. See, I realized even then that he was well-meaning and that's why I managed to be polite to the elderly Greek gentleman wearing the collar. In addition, my brother and I were both atheists from our teens, long before his diagnosis. As for my own health, I share (in general terms) your belief in the connection between mind and body, but I would rather not get into the long tale of my surgeries and so forth on this forum. Smiling

Now, I am curious about something. Sure, there might be variations on the punishments that will handed out at the Last Judgment, such as Dante envisions, but the key is that they are all eternal torments. Unless you're now going wobbly on this point and starting down that Jehovah's Witness path discussed earlier, any such eternal punishment is not justice. Ever or for anyone. The punishments for immorality are real enough right here on earth, as I see it, but the idea of endless punishment is inherently unjust.

And you also seem to have slipped into a discussion of our thoughts, when what Jesus and I are talking about is emotions, which, unlike our thinking, is an automatic business not in our direct control. Lust and anger are not the same thing as seriously considering adultery or murder. Thought is indeed a preface to action and what criminal lawyers call the mens rea or "intent" with which an act is committed. But these are two different things. Even so, a thought, by itself, is not a crime, it is the act with the intent that is punishable. And this difference is morally significant, as well.

And, as we have said a dozen times by now, your God does give us a "choice" -- just as any robber or blackmailer does. The "blackmail" consists of His set-up that ends in eternal punishments for making the wrong choice. If a criminal puts a gun to your head and demands your money, he has given you the same kind of choice, as well: "Your money or your life." In your God's case it's: "Your intellectual belief or eternal punishment."

Now, as for Doubting Thomas, he was given proof according to the story, sure, but the Bible is quite explicit about the blessedness of he who believes without such proof. And, proof or no, the consequences of disbelief are the same. Revelation placed "unbelievers" in that lake of fire, as did the Gospels, and no exceptions for a reasonable disbelief are made. (Thomas's doubt had the effect of demonstrating that the resurrection was a physical one, and, this, let me suggest, is an important theological part of that story.)

And, if God actually does want my intellect to be satisfied, then He will have to provide me some adequate proof. And, He has a whole lotta answering to do in order to so "satisfy" my intellect. It will require some demonstration of how infinite beings can actually exist, how ex nihilo creations make sense, how miracles do not involve contradictions of fact, among many, many other things -- such as a resolution of the Problem of Evil, as I identified it in an earlier post. Then, with the many contradictions to the idea actually resolved, we will still need positive evidence of existence. And all of these proofs will have to be unambiguous.

And that's just on the question of God. To get me to believe in the Bible will require a set of evidence and logical proof at least as massive.

When it comes to belief, I "surrender" only to reason and "submit" only to reality.

Frequent Thinking Error by Believers

Xray's picture

Rosie wrote:
"God (or anyone else) does not say people MUST choose Christianity. To the contrary, God wants each person to make his or her individual choice in this regard. (Of course He would love us all to be Christians but the choice is the individual's.) And anyone choosing Christianity could not by definition have values that are different from Christian values." (Rosie)

"God wants"? Stating something as a fact without a shred of evidence to support it is a thinking error.

An error which is easily discovered:
Stating "X wants something" is to be understood by the speaker as a statement of a fact.
A statement of fact which in turn implies that the being who is claimed to want something EXISTS.
The impossibility of proving the existence of such being (god) reveals the root premise as false: presenting a mere belief as fact.
Since the claim of "God wanting something" is based on a false premise, it collapses as result, thereby becoming null and void.
In short, deriving an "is" from an "I believe" is fallacy.

James

Rosie's picture

I want to first point out, regarding your and other's misreading/misunderstanding of my post about the archaeological discoveries revealing previously doubted historical truths, that I said this was how I first became interested in the Bible. I did not mean to imply from this that my entire belief in the veracity of the Bible was as a result of these discoveries! OK?! Just that this was what triggered my interest in reading more about the Bible from an historical perspective. Previously I had just considered the Bible as a whole lot of rules - having attended an Anglican boarding school where chapel and RSE were daily events - and which, as rebellious, St Trinians-like schoolgirls, should therefore be ignored.

aren't you confusing moral perfection with a potentially innocent error of knowledge?

I am not sure I understand what you mean here? Is it that you are asking me whether God examines our moral perfection as opposed to any error about our not believing in God (for the reasons you present for example) for the purposes of getting in to heaven?

Or, does God require perfection of all sorts from us, even geometric perfection?

There is no reason to believe that God requires perfection in every sense - my understanding is that He asks us to keep His commandments and that we invite Him and Jesus in to our hearts and thereby receive the Holy Spirit as a guide to our thoughts, words and behaviour. When this latter occurs, we are set on a path of what I would call righteousness; stumbling at times when temptation is put before us. Particularly in our immaturity as Christians. In the Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis, he asserts that this is when Satan attacks us most with our particular weaknesses which are against God's law. Olivia would describe this stumbling and avoiding the temptation as acting against our natures - to this I say, yes and no. Yes, in that we do seek and want the immediate pleasure of the thing that would make us stumble and no, in that to avoid that thing will preserve us from the regret at the consequences of what would follow. It is a bit like a child who might delight in eating three cakes of chocolate in one sitting but the adult knows that he will be sick later if he does and so doesn't.

Which brings me to another issue: eternal punishment is not justice for anybody, even for a murderer.

So are you saying that your view of justice is that you should get x years in Hell depending on your "case"? I.e., very similar to our own earthly legal system with God up there on the bench and you would have who? the Devil's advocate acting for you in your defence? Angels for the prosecution? And that would make it just for you? A precedent system would be formed? - Johnny Smith only got four years in Hell, your Godship, and he lied 24,043 times whereas James only lied 24,000 times. Ah, yes, said God, but Johnny did not argue on a public forum against my existence - 1000 years! Bang! and so on. No. I think with all the teaching available, and the clear warnings, self dominion (and thereby separation from God) is what was chosen by the human concerned and so that is what he gets in the next life. The sentence is not negotiable. A strict liability offence, James! I do struggle with the idea that someone will receive eternal separation from God through failing to be a Christian when his experience of Christianity has been that of Mark's for example (and so he has turned his back on the whole thing) or his "rationality" or "understanding" of Christianity is like yours' so that you have done the same thing. That is a question for God however. The Bible does not go into the "legal details" of Hell - probably because God knows that humans are bargaining creatures and will spend their lives trying to work out the best outcome for themselves instead of getting on with what is the best life for us on earth! And God cannot be unjust by his very nature.

Jesus says that it is not merely one's actions that comprise "sin" but one's emotions -- any automatic, unchosen wave of "lust" or "anger" has already condemned each of us, it seems, even if somehow we are able to restrain ourselves and avoid the actual killing and the adultery that such an emotion might suggest. Now, what kind of chance does that give anyone? Blamed and condemned for what is beyond our control, an emotion, we are all imperfect sinners in this rigged Game of Sin your God is playing.

You see, James, I don't think it is beyond our control. 1. The thought is preface to the deed. 2. Controlling one's thoughts means that we are in the best possible place to control our actions and words and feelings too. 3. With the Holy Spirit within, it just happens to you. (You won't understand this if it has not happened to you but this is one of the most extraordinary occurrences I have experienced.)

And it's just as twisted sick as declaring us to have been BORN "in sin" -- with little babies deserving of eternal punishment. I don't want to put words into your mouth, but I have heard these very words from Christians, that we are all born deserving of hell.

My understanding of original sin is that this is simply the phrase given to the act of Adam and Eve. It was the original sin - the disobedience in eating from the tree of good and evil. My understanding is that we have acquired the choice of good and evil as a result of this "original sin" - not that we are born evil.

"Judge not, lest ye be judged." So, now we have the total and complete destruction of real ethics: everyone is to be blamed for what he or she could not control -- AND no one is to morally judge anyone else -- AND everyone deserves Hell if he or she fails to accept a certain belief. MY judgement of truth and falsehood, of right and wrong, my free will choices, and the actual MERIT of my actions, all of this, it seems, is meaningless to your God's "ethics."

Have I got it straight?

Let me break it down...
1. You said: everyone is to be blamed for what he or she could not control

I say: It can be controlled.

2. You said: AND no one is to morally judge anyone else

I say: Yes. That is correct unless you are morally perfect. This is not to say that you can not morally judge the act - you would be required to do so as a rational person - just not the person. You must distinguish between the two. Love the sinner, hate the sin. It does not prevent legal earthly punishment for the sin either.

The commentary I have read about that particular passage about Jesus and the stoning of the adulterous woman is that there had in fact been many people in the crowd who had committed adultery. I am saying this from memory from about 15 years' ago but I recall that the person in charge of that stoning was a Pharisee who had been in an adulterous relationship with that very same woman.

3. You said: AND everyone deserves Hell if he or she fails to accept a certain belief.

I say: Each person chooses it for himself is how I would describe it (subject to those comments I made above regarding people who choose separation from God on earth in humanly understandable error - I will need to go away and think and meditate on that some more... I certainly recall my teachers being questioned on how unfair eternal separation was with regard to people in the jungle etc., who had not even heard about God and I recall the teacher said that those people will have recognised God in nature, say, and that God will have his own measure for those people which I recall meant He would know their hearts.)

4. You said: MY judgement of truth and falsehood, of right and wrong, my free will choices, and the actual MERIT of my actions, all of this, it seems, is meaningless to your God's "ethics."

Not at all. Your judgement, choices and the merit of your actions is critical to God's "ethics". They are all a part of what is "measured" at Judgement Day. They are all testament of your heart, so to speak.

Then, of course, believe without evidence, He demands.

Do you recall the evidence Thomas had? The resurrection? The miracles? And Jesus said, "and still you don't believe? How are future generations going to believe on me when you have seen me and what I have done and still you do not believe?" Something like that. You are a Thomas, James, and it is very hard for you to believe without visual evidence. And yes, your intellect is your gift. (And you write beautifully too. You probably have lots of gifts.) I was a Thomas too. I remember the teacher saying that there were three aspects to accepting God and Christianity: intellect, faith and surrender. I can hardly remember what changed me now but it was only after a long time of study at one level, (intellect) becoming interested at another level (intellect) and then, when I finally opened my heart sufficiently to let God in (faith), I felt the Holy Spirit sweep through me and things have never been the same (surrender - but this comes and goes with me. The times when I have been in complete "surrender" have resulted in the most extraordinary events occurring.). How is that for a confession?! Or I think they call it a witnessing in evangelical circles!

I need my eyes and my mind to know, indeed to survive, and presumably this faculty was His "gift" to me. "But, ignore all that, son," He insists, "and take me on faith... or else."

No, He doesn't say that, James. He wants your intellect to be satisfied. Maybe the satisfaction of your intellect will come if you have the right teacher. I have been fortunate with my teachers. They were brimming with the Holy Spirit and they were very smart but not in a ponderous pompous conceited way - they were born teachers - inspired - and delighted in teaching. They loved the hard questions. I even took one of them home to my father when he was dying as he had some hard questions he wanted answers to. He was a sceptic and a cynic not unlike yourself. They talked for hours. My father was more than satisfied with his answers - although he added, "with the greatest reluctance." Lol.

The three things I mentioned, intellect, faith and surrender do not necessarily happen in that order. Maybe for you, James, accepting on faith may help you with the intellect side. Why I say this is that I am told that the Holy Spirit helps us understand the scripture more easily.

Your God is such a demented fiend that the thought of being in His "presence" fills me with such moral revulsion that, if these are His terms, eternal Hellfire sounds delightful by comparison.

Oh, James.

(Your next post I will answer tomorrow.)

James - Many sorrows :(

Rosie's picture

First of all, I was very sorry to read about the loss of your brother, James. And sorry that the (again self righteous and arrogant) Christians felt they needed to express their "take" on the whole thing to you. (Never ceases to amaze me how some people can be so grossly insensible to the feelings of others - even in the most obvious of sensitive moments like a death. Sad ) And I am sorry that the well meant wishes of the clergyman were inappropriate for you and annoying. And I am also sorry that your grief is still so raw, James. I hope that you got to spend a whole lot of time with your brother and say all that you wanted and needed to say to him before his death. If you didn't get that opportunity, I am told that to write a letter and put down all the things that you would have liked to have said is a very healing thing to do.

Please forgive my intrusiveness but do you think your own illness so closely following your brother's death was connected to the grief you felt? What was your illness? Was it to do with your heart or blood? (I am quite convinced that there can be a mind/body connection when it comes to ill health - not always of course - but from my own experience this has often been the case.)

I don't feel it is appropriate to continue our debate in this same post so shall take a pause and put up a new post in a while with my comments in reply to the "stunning" points of your earlier post to me. Eye

Mark

Rosie's picture

I was devastated to read about your family being excommunicated, Mark. Particularly for something so worthy as your father working to support his family rather than attending copious and no doubt unnecessary church meetings. And as for your sister's handicappedness being the work of the Devil, apart from the 12th century ring about it, it was like James' story with regard to his brother's death being a punishment because of his homosexuality - self righteous people and a further witness of gross insensibility.

It was definitely a good thing that your family left that environment where people were being unsupportive and reduced (as opposed to supported and encouraged to do well in their work whatever that work was) as you said. What upsets me is that your poor grandparents remained; suffering not only the damage of their own family relationships but the twittering tongues that no doubt followed within that environment. And that word, excommunication. What arrogance and stupidity. I can not really see any spirit of Christ in their behaviour at all. It is a shame that the whole family didn't leave together given the silly reason for "excommunication".

The usual thing, however, is that everyone is hurt, everyone regrets the break in time and wishes that they had behaved differently - fancying other outcomes in their imaginations. I wonder if you would be able to get the members of your family talking again? Bitterness is a horrible worm to have festering inside anyone. If it were me, that is the goal I would set myself for my parents and grandparents. I attended a quite strange course a couple of years ago (not a religious course)- not actually knowing what it was about in detail - where, amongst other things, people with really, really damaged relationships (not unlike your own family story) were encouraged to call the person/people and express regret for the break up (in some cases they hadn't spoken for thirty odd years). The difference when those people returned to the room was amazing to behold. Shining, happy faces. In one case, the woman was able to walk after being crippled! It certainly reinforced what I knew already: that our greatest pains are damaged relationships.

It takes a lot of courage to ring someone with whom you have had a bust up - the fear of being rejected again - though not one person who called the other, beginning first with an expression of his regret/sorrow for the break, was met with a hostile reaction. I wonder if reconciliation is possible in your family despite all the horrible things that have happened? Imagine if you could be responsible for their reconciliation, your family's regained kinship and their peace?

People really believe this

Sam Pierson's picture

James, you're doing a great job. Very impressive. Good to see Dr Flannagan prepared to drop by.

A little concretisation exercise...

Christians, around 100 people die every minute worldwide. Let's say 2% are Christian; meaning they've held a longstanding relationship with Jesus for sometime and generally believe they're going to meet this fellow who has been so much a part of their life. How much time will each of these new arrivals get with this important figure to whom they've devoted their life? In the world we know - that's before our own eyes - were Jesus to meet with these folk personally and to be on the job full time 24hrs 365 days a year, each person would get around 30 seconds each in return for a lifetime's devotion. Enough time to shake hands, exchange names, hear him say 'Welcome, nice to see you. Well done. Fancy a scone?' before you'd be moved along.

I could send this up more but I just want to submit it to your reason. This is what you believe. Really. You know it's absurd by all measures in the life that's here, now, under your nose. It makes a mockery of the meaning of relationship.

And if you find yourself devoting time to working out the 'Spiritual Logisitics for the Greeting of the Newly Arrived Dead (Baptist Sector Only)', ummmm, you've really got yourself in that relationship deep.

Powered the late 19th C? I don't think so.

My Sincere Apologies

James S. Valliant's picture

I did not know this about him, and I do try to call people what they prefer to be called themselves. So, if you would also tell Dr. Flannagan to stop using the term "Randian" and refer to us as "Objectivists," I would also appreciate it. Has he authored a book I should be aware of? And, on the subject of names, I just noticed that I misidentified the "Biblical Student Movement." So, sorry and thanks for the chance to correct myself.

It is Dr Flannagan James

Madeleine's picture

Someone who holds a PhD in the field goes by the title "Dr" (in case you didn't realise Mr Valliant).

Archaeology

James S. Valliant's picture

Rosie, you mentioned Biblical archaeology as some sort of proof for the Bible and I had forgotten to address this in the earlier post.

I am confident that much of the OT's history is based on real history, e.g., I am willing to accept the existence of the Hebrew kingdoms of the Iron Age beginning with figures like Saul and David, and the reality of the places mentioned, and even of many of the battles described. Etc.

However, bear in mind that the discovery of the Bronze Age city of Troy, while many doubted its reality for a long time, did not "prove" that the goddess Athena was there on the field of battle, or that Diomedes actually injured the goddess Aphrodite during the fighting, or that Achilles's armor was forged on Mt. Olympus by a god with golden servants of his own making, does it?

The Iliad preserves real historical knowledge from the Bronze Age -- from a period older than the Jewish kingdoms that may correspond roughly to the time of Moses. It took its written form before the OT took its complete and final written form and before a book like Daniel was even written yet. Both the Bible and Homer are based on older, orally preserved traditions although the Bible may have had a written tradition dating back well into the kingdom period.

But none of this shows that the more extraordinary claims of those works is true, does it? We need extraordinary proof for extraordinary claims, don't we?

[And, btw, there remain still major problems in tying to line the Biblical history up with the evidence from archaeology, especially the more we go back in time. Some of the conquests of Joshua are still a lacuna, for example.]

Mr. Flannagan

James S. Valliant's picture

In one important sense, Mr Flannagan, as I hope you will have gathered from my original post, I prefer your brand of Christian to all others. To some extent, the Bible is pliable enough to be read as the reader wants to read it -- with Marxists finding a Marxist Jesus and many contemporary Americans finding a kindly embodiment of love and compassion. Very much like John Locke, you torture the text some to make it fit your own benevolence, and, so, your own personal "Rorschach test" comes out so much more pleasant in such matters as the Afterlife.

I just wish that the majority of Christians through the Ages had had your take on these matters. But, unfortunately, I think that your approach reveals much more about your own benevolence than it does the actual text of the Bible.

To be sure, there has been a range of opinions on these texts about the Afterlife, and in recent decades, your kind of approach has emerged in a number of forms. The take I am presenting here is by far the most commonly held one in the history of Christianity, as you must recognize yourself. Yours is shared by the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Bible Study Movement, and even a growing number of Catholics. (It is also similar, but not identical, to that of the Universalists.) But, as you must know, the J.W.s and the B.S.M. are only about a century old and the Catholics have only seen serious movement on this issue in recent decades.

Okay, you have a certain interpretation of the Biblical text which permits you to see unbelievers getting a merciful end. I do not know if you are a Universalist, like St. Origen (185-254), his student Eusebius and Gregory of Nyssa of the 4th century, who seem to have held that all of us -- all -- will be "universally" redeemed, at least ultimately. The future non-existence of non-believers seems to be your position, but correct me if I am wrong. However, the majority of Christians, throughout most of the religion's history, have held neither of these views.

So, if it is all "pretty obvious" to you, it wasn't so obvious to a whole bunch of very sincere readers of the Biblical text.

Way back in 235, St. Hippolytus explicitly pictured Hell as a place of eternal torments for the unbeliever, as, so famously, did St. Augustine in Book XXI of The City of God, and he took on Origen and Gregory pretty aggressively in defending the concept of eternal torments in Hell. This line of thought is almost the exclusive one all the way up to Dante in the early 1300s, who also vividly pictured Hell as a place of literal torments. So, too, did the Holy Inquisition. So, too, did Martin Luther, father of Protestantism in the 1500s. Of Luther, a Lutheran website (http://www.patheos.com/Library...) writes, "Martin Luther believed in a traditional idea of an immortal soul that spent eternity either in a literal place of blessedness called heaven or a literal place of torment called hell." So did Calvin and the fiery preachers of early America, like Jonathan Edwards, who in his famous sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," speaks of "eternal" judgment and "the torments of Hell," and says of the unbeliever:

"They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell. They do not only justly deserve to be cast down thither, but the sentence of the law of God, that eternal and immutable rule of righteousness that God has fixed between him and mankind, is gone out against them, and stands against them; so that they are bound over already to hell. 'He that believeth not is condemned already' (John 3:18). So that every unconverted man properly belongs to hell; that is his place; from thence he is. 'Ye are from beneath' (John 8:23). And thither he is bound; it is the place that justice, and God's word, and the sentence of his unchangeable law assign to him."

All these guys, and for very long, long a portion of Christianity's history, the vast majority, saw Hell as a place of eternal torments. A real place. A never ending place. And the end for non-believers.

As I have indicated, Jehovah's Witnesses, Universalists and many contemporary Catholics, with a number of variations between them, do not believe in the torments of Hell. This is well known. But what may be less than "honest" is your own failure to recognize the common understanding that existed before J.W.'s came along.

For example, you seem not to recognize that disbelief all by itself can be counted as sin when you assert that only sinners and the wicked will face punishment. When the text refers to punishment, it could well be including the simple act of intellectual pride, or blasphemy or the refusal to accept belief, all things, for example, that I am guilty of right here on this thread. This interpretation may (and it's still only a "may") spare babies, but it does not exclude other non-believers at all.

Indeed, in the famous passage following John 3:16, Jesus appears to be equating disbelief with sin, and he may not have recognized such a thing as a good, non-wicked non-believer. After saying that those who do not believe "are condemned already," he asks, "They sin don't they?" Well, of course, that depends on how we define "sin."

If "lusting in your heart" is already a sin, then, as most Christians contend, we are all sinners, and quite inevitably so. If only believers get a chance at Heaven, then it sure seems that all the rest of face punishments in Hell.

And, as usual, other equivocal or even contradictory passages of Biblical text have been latched onto by these different Christian factions. But let's take this one: "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire." Or, as the King James Version would have it at Mark 9:43, "Jesus said 'And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched.'"

Saying that it is better better to go through your life on earth maimed than face the Afterlife with a sin on your hands suggests a pretty terrible end for us sinners.

Also, when Jesus literally calls that a fire never to be quenched, I suppose one may say that Jesus was speaking in over-the-top hyperbole -- that is, intentional exaggeration and overstatement --- if you are right. The image of being "consumed in fire" might be just a literary one. It has been used even in love poetry (as in Meleager's line from antiquity, "Glance at me and I burn, Touch me and I am caught." Nice, eh?) But that's what you have to say: Christ was exaggerating badly, intentionally overstating his case in order to get a bigger punch. What a showman!

I grant you that there is some textual leeway here. Take Revelation 20:14-15 (again, King James Version): "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." Consider this in light of Revelation 21:8: "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death."

So, yes, one could call the reference to a "second death" a suggestion of non-existence. However, the next line seems to place unbelievers and all liars into a lake of fire along with all the other "sinners" being punished. And to get your idea off the ground, you must assume that there's nothing significantly different about this second death from the first, just as you assume that there's nothing special about a "unquenchable" fire.

And, yes, there are also Old Testament passages which may suggest a complete lack of awareness in the afterlife, a state compared to sleep. But could this state be a temporary one? Some have argued just this.

And, yes, these vivid images from Revelation are literary ones, and, indeed, the "fiery furnace" is a well-worn image taken from the very life story of Daniel, not just the poetry ascribed to him. But so what? This does not mean that its every use is poetic, even if comes from the poetry of the Hebrew scriptures. For example, the life of Jesus itself seems to uncannily echo the lives of a number of Old Testament figures.

Jesus delivered his new law on a famous "mount" just as Moses received the Law on Mt. Sinai. Like Moses, a king ordered the massacre of babies at the time of his birth. Like Moses, according to non-Biblical Jewish authorities, even had his birth heralded by a star. Also eerily echoing the Old Testament, like Joseph who interpreted dreams in Egypt, Jesus's "Joseph" had a prophetic dream which led him to flee into Egypt. Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness, just as the Hebrews had spent 40 years in the wilderness before reaching the Promised Land, and just as it rained 40 days and 40 nights to make Noah's Flood. Twelve Tribes of Israel, says Jesus, so twelve disciples there will be. Jesus is the Messiah, the son of David, so he was born in Bethlehem. Jesus must enter Jerusalem fully foreshadowed by David's entry, and even by some of David's Psalms. Jesus metaphorically referred to his own three day resurrection and Jonas was in a great fish's insides for three days. Jesus's whole bio seems to play out the "suffering servant" story of Isaiah 53.

Indeed, if one didn't know better, one might think that Jesus's life was constructed like a Frankenstein's Monster from nothing but the Old Testament -- and not from stories about a real man named "Jesus," who even, like the Old Testament savior of the Hebrews "Joshua,' has a name that actually means "salvation" or "savior."

Whatever the case, there no reason to think what is a metaphor in one context of discussion might not actually be the reality predicted in another. Indeed the earlier stuff, poetry though it was, might have been a foreshadowing prediction of its own.

These are just some of the reasons why most Christians in history from Augustine to Luther to Edwards, have differed so sharply with you here.

In the same fashion, you seem to view the Old Testament's references to genocide and "slaughter" as benignly as you do when a buddy says "the Dodgers really 'slaughtered' the Mets in that game." In warfare (something Jehovah's Witnesses are probably not too familiar with), this kind of banter has a very different meaning.

And it sure seems from the Saul story about Amalekites at 1 Samuel 15:1-23 that God wanted a very real and total genocide. "Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'" (1 Sam. 15:2-3) And Saul, we are told, informs the Kenites around the city of the Amalekites so that they could leave and be spared the coming onslaught, but Saul also took it upon himself to take their king, Agog, as a living captive and to spare the "fat sheep, the oxen and the lambs," while killing all "the rest." It seems that this did not suffice. Samuel, sent by God, informs Saul that he was ordered to "Fight against them until they are exterminated." Even just approaching Saul, the prophet chides, "What, then, is the meaning of the bleating of sheep coming to my ears and the lowing of oxen that I hear?" Converting this incident into something less than a description of literal genocide is to torture the text out of all recognition, sir.

And do you also think that Noah's flood did not involve total extinction, was that, too, mere exaggeration? Then, why all the animals, two by two, if not to repopulate. I could go on...

So, the simplest interpretation is the most common in the history of Christianity, previous genocide and eternal torments in Hell.

You say that my "distorting of texts is evident from you[r] cit[ation of] Ephesians and claim that Paul taught 'We are all "equal" slaves to Christ, … so, real slaves should obey their real "masters" here on earth. That's the only kind of "equality" that we are talking about in the NT, as is clear from the text.' [A]ctually what Paul states in other epistles is 'For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord's freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ's slave.' In other words were all equally slaves to Christ and all equally free people."

That is the precisely the kind of textual torturing to which I refer. Being "free in Christ" or a "Lord's freedman" is not generally taken to mean being politically free now. He plainly meant freedom in another sense entirely, since presumably, their condition of physical servitude continued, while the language states that he already "is" the Lord's freedman. Well, no, he's still a very real slave. Paul's means that he is "free" in "the Lord," and there is no indication that this means freedom right here and now. Just the reverse. Usually when Paul speaks of "freedom" he is talking about the Christians' new "freedom from the Law." So, again, the meaning is not what you claim, or at least not so certain as you make it out to be.

Citing Stark, you write, "'Since, except for small settlements of Jews, and the Vikings in the north, everyone was at least nominally a Christian, that effectively abolished slavery in medieval Europe' so again your argument simply ignore[s] the citations I made, ignores the studies I cited and simply asserts that a given claim is true." This is bizarre. The mere circumstances of history cannot convert what is plainly a contextually limited opposition to slavery into something much grander than it actually was. This is conceded by Stark himself when he uses the word "effectively." (As opposed to what?) You also evade the nature of serfdom.

Finally, when Paul states that governments are the agents of God, he is not "qualifying" the nature of the obedience being commended. He does not say that ONLY WHEN governments are good should you obey them, he states that governments are in fact, right now in the Roman Empire, the agents of God. To reverse the situation and claim that the description of them as God's agents suggests obedience only when they act as you think that God approves of them is to precisely invert meaning of the original. The "obedience" is not being conditioned, it being explained. He is not saying, which he easily could have said, obey laws that are just (and how rare is that?), he is saying governments are the agents of God.

Your argument that some figures from the Bible disobeyed authorities does not provide a green light for disobedience, either. And on this score, you may as well have argued from the experience of Moses who disobeyed Pharaoh left and right. Moses, like Esther, the Babylonian Captives and the Apostles are also acting as agents of God. They were the ones acting in specialized contexts while Paul is stating a rule for the rest.

Moses got his commission straight from God Himself in order to establish a whole new legal code. And Esther was successful in persuading the Persian King of Kings when the entire Jewish race was a stake. And these OT examples may have as limited a relevancy to the new Christian approach as Kosher diet, for Christians, according to Paul, are now "free from" the Mosaic Law. So, your NT example is more important, in any case. Here, the Apostles were opposing the Sanhedrin -- not the higher Roman state authorities, but those wicked Jewish elders who had killed Jesus Himself. The Apostles' disobedience of them is simply to escape from the clutches of the council that killed Jesus! In fact, Acts 5 has the Pharisee Gamaliel specifically denouncing Judas the Galilean, an earlier tax rebel against Rome, in the very same breath that he defends the Christians, and he suggests to the Jewish elders that if these Christians are like those rebels against Rome, they will "destroy themselves" in the same way, i.e., at the hands of the Roman state. If not, he implies, it is the Sanhedrin who might be the disobedient ones.

This is a typical description of Jewish law http://wapedia.mobi/en/Judaism... :

"Slaves in debt bondage, and Israelite slaves owned by foreign residents, were automatically offered freedom every 7 years, and automatically freed at the next national Jubilee (occurring either every 49 or every 50 years, depending on interpretation), if they hadn't already purchased their freedom; male Israelite slaves were automatically manumitted after they have worked for six years, as were female Israelite slaves. Non-Israelite slaves were to be enslaved forever, and treated as inheritable property, but if slaves of any nationality ran away they were to be allowed to roam freely, and returning them to their masters was forbidden."

And about Locke, let me be blunt: he would not have been famous, except maybe in J.W. circles, if all he had been was an interpreter of the Bible. His Biblical exegesis is very dubious.

One commentator http://plato.stanford.edu/entr... describes Locke's approach saying, "With respect to content, divine reason and human reason [for Locke] must be sufficiently analogous that human beings can reason about what God likely wills. Locke takes it for granted that since God created us with reason in order to follow God's will, human reason and divine reason are sufficiently similar that natural law will not seem arbitrary to us." Well that's quite an assumption, don't you think? It really disqualifies Locke as an objective Biblical interpreter. He believes that the conclusions of his reason simply must be consistent with the Bible's meaning. This kind of backwards re-justifying of the Bible can only divorce us from its original context.

Happily, Locke was more than just a Biblical interpreter. If that was all that he was about, he would have gone down a second rate hack Biblical revisionist for the very exegesis you cite. See, assigning "rights" of all individuals simply to a grant from God would make his ideas not much different than those of the kings who claimed their own "rights" came from Divine Grant. It is the more naturalistic aspects of Locke's thought which, in fact, have had a far greater impact on the history of political thought. It was these that did the convincing, let me suggest, of men, like many of the Founders, who did not share his views on religion.

Locke began, like Hobbes, by considering man in "the state of nature," as a being of reason and choice, who "mixes his labor with the soil" to produce the goods he requires to live. It was the fact that man was this kind of being that made rights an imperative to Locke. Cattle don't need rights, because they are different in their very natures. It's akin to saying, "Men have lungs and survive by breathing, so men must be free to breath."

Yes, Locke has a parallel case from the Bible and Christianity is inescapable in his work, but his case for natural law could not be shared by so many if it wasn't much more than that.

Locke's understanding of human reason was a key aspect to the rest of his thought. He took his cues here from Aristotle, arguing that knowledge begins and arises from sense awareness, that consciousness is an "empty cabinet" prior to such experience. He developed a theory of ideas and how they are connected to the evidence of the senses. In politics, like Aristotle, his "natural law" was based squarely on what he understood to be human nature and what he believed it implied about the correct politics. He also naturalistically considered the essence of government as force in conjunction with all of this.

Rights are not some magical endowment, a fairy dust coating God happened to paint onto humanity, but a necessity for their prosperity and survival because of what they are and the way they live. This was the important premise of Locke's case -- God's hand can be seen in the actual natures of things, even the natural requirement of human liberty.

All of this stuff about the nature of reason, knowledge and choice, and his arguments about man in "the state of nature," spring from a fountain as old as Thomas Aquinas, of course, but the Catholic scholars from the 13th Century onwards did not get these ideas from the Bible. They got their logic and their concern with nature from Aristotle.

And, of course, when I say that the Declaration's argument was something new, I mean to include Locke himself in this compliment, since I assume that most students of this subject know that the Declaration largely applies Locke's reasoning. So, citing Locke as precedent is redundant. While not all of the Founders shared Locke's religious views, they did largely share his views on human nature and the proper role of government which follows from that nature.

Now, I'm sure that you'll proceed to re-interpret what I have just written here, just as you have my previous posts and just as you re-interpret the Bible. I've grown accustomed to your Straw Man arguments, so have at it.

Reply to James critque of my comments on freedom and science

Matthew Flannagan's picture

James
Regarding your response to my first post

You assert that I attacked a straw man and as evidence cite various things you never claimed. The problem is I did not say you claimed these things, I said they provided grounds for questioning other things you did claim. Some examples will help demonstrate this

You state “never claimed that the "torture or execution of heretics" was commanded by or "justified solely" by the Biblical texts” but my argument does not depend on you actually saying this, ( though I believe you do) you stated “If Christians, in the name of their faith, did horrible things in the more remote past, had they simply misunderstood the Bible that they were poring over in such detail and with such devotion?” this argument makes sense only if the atrocities were “justified solely by biblical texts” if they were justified by something else or by biblical texts plus something else, then observing that one was mistaken in accepting the justification does not entail they misunderstood biblical texts, they could have mistakenly accepted something else like, say the doctrines of roman law or customary law.

Similarly with your point about Tertullian You explicitly stated that freedom of religion was first considered only after hundreds of years of Christian persecution, and those who did drew upon Aristotlean (not Christian) sources. My point is not that you are unaware of Tertullian, but that Tertullian and a whole lot of other examples show that your claim about freedom of religion here is false, it was considered before these persecutions and enlightenment thinkers appear to have drawn on earlier Christian arguments. My point about science is similar its not that you denied the all specific claims I cited from Hannams study. Its that you appeared to accept the conflict thesis and that Hannams study , along with a whole lot of others calls the conflict thesis into question.

Turning to your comments about the “temporal relationship between the Inquisition and Aristotle” this misses my point. I was not suggesting Aristotleanism caused the Inquisition. Rather I was suggesting that when one examines the actual historical relationship between Aristotelians, and the Inquisition, the picture of Christianity causing them and Aristoleianism leading to their abolition is implausible. Particularly in light of the fact that when a Christian supports the Inquistion this is taken by Randians as evidence that Christianity is bad, but when an Aristotlean supports it we are told we need to take other factors into account. This is a clear case of special pleading.

The rest of your response is a series of assertions on exegetical matters. You claim I “torture the text” but simply asserting this is not an argument. You then assert the Genocide passages are literal, but an assertion is not an argument either. You go on to make an argument from 1 Sam 15 that “Saul did not take the command to total slaughter literally and this is precisely what caused him to be punished” But in the link I have you I offered a refutation of this very line of argument, simply repeating an argument I refuted is hardly compelling.

As I note in that link, the text states that Saul did destroy all the “amalekites with the edge of the sword” and hence fulfilled the command you refer to. Saul was punished for violating the ban which had been placed on taking spoils of war which was elaborated in a command which God had made alongside the command to kill the amalekites. Moreover the context makes it clear that the author cannot have meant that command to kill all the amalekites to be literal because he goes on to describe a little latter how they are still alive in great numbers. I also pointed out in my link that in ancient near eastern texts of the this genre and time, phrases like “ we killed them all” was common used as a hyperbole and one discovers a little latter in the same text that the people in question survived. This type of hyperbole is used in Assyrian, Hittite Egyptian, texts from the same period. Simply ignoring what studies have shown us about how ancient near eastern history writers used language and described battles, and asserting the contrary is not an argument.

Your response that this involves a “monstrous metaphor” is not compelling either, I did not say it was a metaphor I said it was hyperbole, and hyperbole like this is used by people today all the time. We say the all blacks annihilated France, or libertarians say we need to take an ax to the IRD or atheists say “I hope you burn in hell” and so on, no one considers them evasive or immoral because they speak hyperbolically and not literally.

Similarly you assert that the Old Testament passages I cite regarding “unquenchable fire" are dubious. Claiming “The Old Testament passages actually do not demonstrate his case, as he claimed, just the reverse” I note you don’t cite the passages in question, that was wise because your claim is false.

The passage is below from Isaiah 66

“ As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me," declares the LORD, "so will your name and descendants endure. From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me," says the LORD. "And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind."

Here is the Old Testament passage Jesus cites when he describes hell as a place where “their fire will not be quenched” and “their worm will not die”. Its the one I refered to in the link. As anyone who reads it can see it does not mean eternal torture. It is explicitly referring to dead bodies being destroyed, the reference could not be clearer. You can claim these “ Old Testament passages actually do not demonstrate” the phrase is about torture and not destruction all you like and I was being evasive but an examination of the text as opposed to your assertions about it shows otherwise. The evasion here is by people who assert things about a text trusting that so called skeptics will not actually check the sources in question.

Finally you close with the suggest that your views on the bible and sex are true and I avoided engaging it because I knew this. As I pointed out in my post I did not address it because it was tangential to the main point and doing so, showing all the passages and context you omitted, pointing out what critical commentaries show us about Paul’s argument in 1st Corinthians , pointing out passages which show a positive view on sex etc would have taken more space than I can justify. But I think I have highlighted enough dubious claims, misrepresentations and out right false assertions from you about what such and such said to demonstrate that your comments about Christian theology, the bible, and intellectual history can often be taken with a grain of salt

In the end we are left with the standard Randian slogans about faith being irrational and linked with force , hating life etc, the problem is slogans are not arguments, to show these claims are true or at least something I am required to rationally accept requires serious arguments, not special pleading ,quoting out of context distorting Christian intellectual history or making false assertions about what Locke said, or the old testament said etc. The fact that when I point this out I am told to "burn in hell" or accused of being a faggot burner by leading Randains shows I think quite nicely where the real blind faith dogmatism and stigmatism of dissenters lies.

James

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I held back responding to your latest reply to Rosie because I was stunned. "Stunning" is the most sickeningly overused word in the awful "cool" vernacular. Yet it's the word your post deserves, authentically. So I will just say, "stunning." Beautiful and unanswerable. And that I hope you'll agree with me that you've achieved something way better than Leonard's "homosexuality is a result of bad premises" superstition, which he reiterated recently in his podcast. Yes, he gets a free pass from me, as does Ayn, re their silliness on the subject, because they're both geniuses who've done more than enough. But let those of us who believe in taking our cue from reality, not dogma, no exceptions, do just that.

41 "The Son of man shall send

Matthew Flannagan's picture

41 "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth."

That does not merely paint a picture of separation from god; it portrays a sadistically painful punishment - intended to be inflicted on those, like me, who refuse to accept life on a non-existent deity's terms.

Olivia cites the passage out of context, it actually states

"The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one,39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.40 "As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Note two things here, first the text does not say that those who reject belief in God will be tortured it states explicitly that those who go into the furnance are those who do evil, i.e who engage in immoral actions.

Second, Olivia suggests the reference to fiery furnace and gnashing of teeth refers to eternal torture but this is dubious.

First the picture of the fiery furnace in the text is based on an analogy with weeds being thrown in a furnace. That metaphor or analogy precludes torture, when weeds are burnt they are destroyed and annihilated they certainly are not tortured.
Olivia suggests that the reference to gnashing of teeth implies torture but this is false. Jesus in this passage uses standard apocalyptic imagery, imagery drawn from a particular genre that existed at the time, this involved using various images or phrases drawn from the Old Testament, the phrase here about gnashing of teeth is a citation of Psalm 112:10 which states

"The wicked man will see and be vexed, he will gnash his teeth and waste away; the longings of the wicked will come to nothing."

Here the context of the citation is clear, the wicked will see ( in context he sees the righteous are secure, gnashes his teeth in rage at this and wastes away. i.e is anhilated comes to nothing. It does not signify the agony of pain and torture.

The text then cites a metaphor of weeds being burnt in a fire says the same thing will happen to those who do evil and cites an Old Testament passage about the wicked being destroyed. Its pretty obvious then that it does not mean what Olivia and James suggest.

James on Christianity Slavery and Obedience: More dubious claims

Matthew Flannagan's picture

James, you seem to not notice the insults others have thrown at me, but to your comments.

Slavery

1. You note that Paul and Church councils opposed slave revolutions or certain forms of illegal resistance to slavery. That’s correct, but as I noted this is not the same thing as unqualified support for slavery. I oppose many laws our current government has passed of late, it does not follow I must advocate armed revolution or even civil disobedience. ignoring my argument and repeating the same irrelevant point I had argued against is not really a response

3. Turning to your exegesis and comments about Locke not relying on it several things are evident. First the passages I cite do address slavery. The first passage actually states (1 Cor 7:23) “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” You cited 1 Cor 6:20, but citing a passage I did not refer to and telling your readers that you are citing 1 Cor 7:23 is not a terribly compelling response and could be interpreted as dishonest.

The Leviticus passage similarly states “Because the Israelites are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt, they must not be sold as slaves”. These passages state that it’s wrong for Jews or Christians to be enslaved respectively because they are Gods servants. This precisely the line of argument Locke uses in the second treatise his central premise is

no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or
possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker; all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another's pleasure

Locke argues one cannot enslave people because people are Gods servants. In his chapter on slavery he harks back to this main line of argument. Asserting Locke did not do certain things and hoping your audience has not read Locke is not a compelling response either.

Second, your claim that “non-Israelite slaves were never to be freed under the Torah's regulations” is false and Locke himself points this out in the text we are discussing. Even if one disagrees with Locke translates the Hebrew word ebed as slave (and I am not convinced one should). The torah commands that any slave who has been abused is be freed. (Ex 21:26-27), it commands the liberation of runaway slaves (Deut 23:15-16) and also mandates that slaves be liberated after six years of service. (Exodus 21:1-6). This latter law is not restricted to Hebrew slaves as some English translations suggest studies of ancient near eastern language suggest the word in its original context the word ibri designated a social class, not an ethnic group. This was the class of people who did not own land, who survived by hiring themselves out to land owners.

I pointed all this out in ( and more) in the link I attached to my response and Locke pointed it out in his treatise. Again ignoring the citations I provided and simply asserting something is the case with the hope that Randians will simply take your word for it is hardly a compelling argument.

Your similar distorting of texts is evident from you cite Ephesians and claim that Paul taught “ We are all "equal" slaves to Christ, … so, real slaves should obey their real "masters" here on earth. That's the only kind of "equality" that we are talking about n the NT, as is clear from the text.” actually what Paul states in other epistles is “For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord's freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ's slave.” In other words were all equally slaves to Christ and all equally free people. But of course you cite the first part and not the second again hoping the Randian readers here will not notice. Lindsay may be impressed by this I am not.

3. You respond to my citation of Stark with the assertion that “This is so unhistorical as to be a joke.” And claiming I cited “no Christian opposition to the institution of slavery prior to the Renaissance, even by a minority of scholars or Popes” the problem is I did cite several sources from before the Renaissance and you admit these sources opposed the enslavement of Christians. Starks study however argues “Since, except for small settlements of Jews, and the Vikings in the north, everyone was at least nominally a Christian, that effectively abolished slavery in medieval Europe” so again your argument simply ignore the citations I made ignores the studies I cited and simply asserts that a given claim is true.

Similarly your suggestion that no one prior to the Renaissance condemned the institution of slavery would be news to medieval theologians who knew full well that Augustine of Hippo condemned the enslavement of human beings permitting it only as punishment for a crime in his "The City of God", one of the most significant Theological texts of medieval history. Duns Scotus took a similar view. So again your comments simply ignore what Christians actually said and wrote.

4. I note your argument is arbitrary, to try and establish that post enlightenment abolition of slavery is not based on Christian teachings you note that Christians did not advocate slave revolutions, that despite condemning slavery the Popes owned slaves, and Christians never developed a bill of rights etc. But of course the same can be said for people like Jefferson or Aristotle. Jefferson (and Aristotle) owned slaves, neither advocated revolution (Jefferson did not advocate overthrowing the US government etc) and you also note the ancient world did not develop a bill of rights. So if these arguments are sufficient to show Christianity did not influence abolition they show that Jefferson and Aristotle and the pagan world did not either.

When it comes to Aristotle however who actually explicitly defended slavery, he apparently is the cause of freedom because he appealed to the natural law to support slavery and latter thinkers (like Locke) appealed to natural law to oppose slavery. But this argument is equally arbitrary: some people have appealed to the will of God to support slavery, by your reasoning this must show that religion lead to the abolition of slavery because latter thinkers like Locke appealed to the will of God to oppose slavery.

In similar arbitrary vein you think the fact that some people cited scripture to support slavery is apparently evidence that scripture is to blame yet the fact that others such as Aquinas cited Aristotle to support slavery apparently does not show Aristotle is to blame. The point is obvious; argument forms become valid if they are used against Christians are suddenly invalid if used against enlightenment or pagan thought. Logic unfortunately does not work that way, as Kasper is found of saying you cant use reason when it suits you and then renounce it when it does not.

Obedience to the state

1. You cite Romans 13 1-2, where Paul states one should obey governments because they are agents of God. However I specifically addressed that argument in the text and the links I provided. I noted the context qualifies the command. In Paul goes on to state

For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing.

Here Paul spells out the reasons why he advocates obedience, one should obey because the government acts as an agent of God when it is commanding good and punishing evil. Nothing in this passage justifies the claim that if the state is commanding evil or punishing the innocent that Christians should go along with it in obedience. Because in this latter situation it fails to posses the properties Paul states mean it is acting as servant of God. Simply repeating the same out of context quote after it has been pointed out it’s acontextual is not a terribly strong argument. Especially when most historic interpreters of the passage have noticed the qualifications.

2. Scripture is actually quite clear that in situations where the state is commanding evil one should not obey it or be complicit in its evil this is seen by (a) Hebrew midwives who disobey an order to kill children (b) Shadrech Meschieck and Abendigo who disobeyed a command to worship the emperor (c) Esther who disobeyed an order from King Xerxus in order to advocate against the murder of innocent people (d) the book of Acts (chapter 5) where the Apostles themselves disobey a command given by the authorities and elucidate a principle that “ we should obey God rather than men.

3. Regarding the declaration you state the fact that it invokes “ God as authority does not distinguish it from, say, the Divine Right of Kings, which had also invoked God” correct, and similarly the fact that it appeals to natural law does not distinguish it from Aristotle’s reference to slavery or numerous natural law defenses of absolutism. So this argument cuts both ways. But once again you arbitrarily give it cogency in one context and not in another.

You then state

“No, its use of human nature itself to justify individual rights (to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) against any rule -- democratic or otherwise -- was, however, totally unprecedented in political history. Believe it or not, this argument, and Locke's before it, owes much more to Aristotle's case for natural slavery than it does to anything in the Bible.”

This is problematic for numerous reasons. First the declaration does not appeal to human nature to ground individual rights; it grounds them in God. Second Locke did not appeal to human nature either, Locke grounded individual rights in the fact that people are created by God and Gods servants (see above) and in the Essay and Essays on the Laws of Nature makes it clear he grounds natural law in divine commands not human nature. Third, grounding rights in human nature and the pursuit of happiness had been going on in the Middle Ages by Christian theologians hundreds of years prior to the time of the declaration of independence, various versions of Thomism for example had been doing this for centuries.
Fourth a right to property is not mentioned in the declaration of independence though the a concern with property is found in Locke and here he appeals explicitly to a passage in the book of Genesis to justify his defense of property rights.(Blackstone makes a similar citation as the basis of common law property rights) Finally when one looks at all the references to God in the declaration is clear a Christian concept of God is envisaged. As William Vallicella notes

In the initial paragraph, we find the phrase “…Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God….” This phrase rules out pantheism: God is distinct from Nature. In the second paragraph, there is the phrase, “…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights….” Putting these two references together, we may infer that the God being referred to is not merely a deistic initiator of the temporally first segment of the physical universe, but a being involved in the creation of the human race. For if God endowed human beings with rights, this endowment had to occur at the time of the creation of human beings, which of course occurred later than the beginning of the physical universe. In traditional jargon, God is a creator continuans rather than a mere creator originans. He is not a mere cosmic starter-upper, but a being who is continuously involved in maintaining the universe in existence.

The other two references are in the final paragraph. There we find the phrase, “…Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions….” near the beginning of the paragraph, and near the end, “…a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence….” Now if God is the Supreme Judge, then he is more than a mere metaphysical cause responsible for the universe’s beginning to exist; he is also the supreme moral arbiter. And since he endows human beings with rights, as opposed to being merely a judge of rights antecedently possessed, then it seems we may infer that God is the source of moral distinctions (as opposed to a mere judge of them).
The reference to divine providence is further evidence that the conception of God in the Declaration is non-deistic. For if God provides and protects, then God has an ongoing involvement with the world and its inhabitants such as would be ruled out by a deistic view. It should also be obvious that talk of providence (from the Latin, pro-videre) implies divine foreknowledge which implies intelligence and perhaps omniscience on the part of the deity. The God of the Declaration is not a blind metaphysical cause posited to explain why the universe began to exist, but a being with such attributes as moral goodness and intelligence…

So almost ever comment you make here is untrue. A simple reading of Locke the declaration and some medieval theology would substantiate all this

I could go on and point out revelation actually states that the beast it refers to existed contemporaneously with the writers (I actually pointed this out in the link I sent) and so your comments about false prophecy are irrelevant. Similarly the fact that the text does not mention a difference in the time of Nero’s reign is irrelevant the point is it was written during the Neroian persecution whereas Romans does not. I also pointed out to you in the links I sent that in fact revelation does not predict hell fire it uses imagery from the book of Daniel which does not refer to hellfire at all. Moreover, the whole point of the book is to encourage believers to stand firm in persecution and not worship the emperor that is why the text warns that the beast and those who worship it worship the beast will be destroyed. But alas it appears your method is to continually ignore what I have said, make dubious exegetical claims and hope others will not notice.

Thanks, Mr. D.

James S. Valliant's picture

So sorry to hear of your own loss.

And it was a recent post of yours that reminded me of this, so thanks again.

Very heartfelt James.

John Donohue's picture

Very heartfelt James. Sympathies and support for your loss. I understand perfectly why the unwanted "comfort" attempt would offend you more than the "wages of sin" argument.

My brother died last year and fortunately we had the situation in hand and kept the entire end untouched by sentiments he did not want near him.

Professor Seddon, that's

John Donohue's picture

Professor Seddon, that's right, we'll put him on it, he can spin anything!

Mr. D ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Maybe the New Testament is just a cover up, not only for him being gay but maybe he was actually an Objectivist. We have to do something about that Sermon on the Mount, however. That will be hard to spin.

Don't worry, our Professor Seddon will manage it. He's done it for Plato and Kant already. Eye

Rosie

James S. Valliant's picture

Of course, it's only "blackmail" if you believe that the punishments are real. I was merely assuming the truth of it for the purpose of exposing it as blackmail. What you seem to be conveniently forgetting is the fact that God is the author of this entire set-up.

Presumably, He could have said "Let there be..." and things would've been otherwise.

Which brings up the unanswerable Problem of Evil.

If God is really omnipotent and can do anything with His Word, then He cannot slink away from bearing the full responsibility for everything in that universe He made. This includes every earthquake, every disease, every painful death, every child-molestation, every war ever waged and every atrocity ever committed in that war and every starving baby on earth, all the way down to each and every mosquito bite and stubbed toe.

You might respond that, apart from things like the weather and earthquakes and diseases, aren't many bad people responsible for much of this? Isn't Satan?

Only in one very limited sense, for God made the universe knowing everything that would happen thereafter, right? And He could've made it otherwise, right?

WHATEVER plan or purpose or goal or lesson to teach us that He may have had in mind could have been just as easily achieved by Him without any of the pain and suffering. IF He is truly all powerful and able to do anything, then He could have arranged for us to have the wisdom of the lesson and all of the benefit of the pain's result, only without the actual pain.

God could have made His lesson known to Job, for example, or to Satan, without the suffering and slaughter sent to test poor Job.

God does not NEED to inflict pain on anybody, as He could've created the resulting condition He wanted without having to allow any of the intervening misery.

He made Satan knowing the resulting rebellion he would start. He made humanity knowing the consequent evil to be done by each of us. Yet, He was capable of doing otherwise, of achieving ANY end He ever sought without the necessity of the suffering, injustice or pain. Even if He had no prior knowledge (and this in itself contradicts the notion of His being All Powerful), He still could have corrected the mess at any time.

You might say that He gave us choice and the resulting effects of our choices cannot be ascribed to Him. Not so. If truly omnipotent, He could've arranged for both the existence of human choice and a world without the particular pains that result from any bad choice. He could've changed the consequences at anytime or could've imbued us innately with the lesson or other benefit that He had had in mind from allowing this choice. Indeed, He could've arranged things such that whatever RESULT He wanted was reached by some other means while still preserving choice intact.

Whatever goal, end or plan He had in mind by allowing the pain, God could've made real with a single Command, only without the pain. If He simply HAD TO do it this way, then He is not really omnipotent. In that case, He would have limitations to His power. In that case, He would have to comply with some "cause and effect" rules that stand over and above Him in some way. In that case, a universe of causal rule must pre-exist even Him and/or some limitations on His power must be constraining Him.

So, either He is NOT all powerful (capable of doing anything) -- or He is a just sadist who wants each stubbed toe, each mosquito bite, every disease, every war and every crime to happen for its own sake and for no other reason, purpose or plan -- because any such reason, purpose or plan could've been had without the pain by a truly omnipotent Being.

Which is it, then? Does God have limits to His power, or is He just a pain-loving, child-molesting, war-mongering, disease-inflicting monster?

The stunning contradiction of a Christian "thanking God" when something good happens without a parallel and precisely equal blaming God when something bad happens, confront us each and every day in a dozen forms. "It was a miracle," "God had a plan that we cannot see," "When He closes one door, he opens another," "God creates an opportunity by sending disaster," "God must've wanted me to do X, when Y proved a failure," etc, etc., and every other evasion of this point with which our intelligence has been insulted is just the same.

We are told that we must live with this Great Mystery and with the excuse that He works "in mysterious ways," etc., but the logic is iron clad here: either He can't or He won't -- either He is limited or He is evil.

So, which is it?

Mark Twain put this age-old problem most eloquently. Mankind lives with some horrible disease for century after century before some scientist, after learning and laboring long and hard, comes up with a cure or a vaccine. Who do Christians first thank for the cure? Why, God, of course! But did they ever think to assign Him the blame for all of those centuries of agony? Of course not.

Christians today put great stock in personal emotional experience, so, let me share an experience of my own in order to illustrate the dimensions of this philosophical issue.

When my brother (who was gay) died from HIV complications, after suffering for years with blindness and a painful deterioration of almost every tissue in his body, I was told -- and more than once and to my face -- that this was God's punishment for his sin and disbelief, by Bible thumpin' Christians. Later, when I became seriously ill myself, these same people said that it was a natural upshot of my atheism.

As horrible as these savages were, there is something still worse in my estimation.

When my brother finally died, an uninvited clergyman at the hospital tried to tell me not to grieve so badly, that we would meet again, that my loss was no final loss at all -- and that this was part of some greater plan.

To my own surprise, I was offended much, much more by the fellow who wanted to alleviate my grief than by the Christians who were assigning my brother the blame. I knew with certainty that if I loved my brother, then I owed him nothing less than the full grief I was feeling. He was gone and I would never have him back, never see him again. And I knew that NO ONE was to blame -- not my brother, not some sadistic God, not some ineffable plan for the universe. A great value was ripped away from me, and it deserved each and every tear that fell from my eyes (just as they are falling now as I write). "Don't take from me -- from my brother -- a single second of this grief," I felt, "they are manifestation of every value I ever shared with him. They are the measure of my loss. They are the only JUSTICE that can be found in this tragedy."

I am sorry if I have been somewhat self-indulgent in this post, but I must tell you, from my own experience, that in that moment of unspeakable pain and suffering, I held in far greater contempt the "comfort" being offered me than the atavistic condemnations of the primitives.

See, I knew exactly how good a man my brother had been, and so the moral censure could not penetrate. And, even in my worst moments of pain, I knew that I would laugh again and feel joy once more. I knew that my brother would've wanted that more than anything else. I knew that my future joy and my instant grief were -- each and both -- the necessary tributes earned by my brother's great virtues and unbounded love of life.

And, in that moment, I knew, as I had never realized before, that the very concept of God -- indeed any notion that my loss was part of some intentional plan -- was a much greater evil than anything I was suffering in my loss.

No, Rosie, there is no God, but the choice you say that we have is real -- to accept this metaphysics of a world intended down to the gnat's eyelash or to accept only what reason tells us is the truth. And, yes, this is an ongoing Rorschach test, not of the values of some mythical being, but of my values -- and of yours.

Rosie: by way of a relevant detour ...

Mark Hubbard's picture

It would've been nice to start this post with a picture of both sets of my grandparents, however, according to God's word bespoken by a series of whiskey alcoholics, I have never seen them since I was a small child.

My family were (thankfully 'were') Exclusive Brethren and when my parents and us children were 'excommunicated' my grandparents were no longer allowed to have anything to do with us on pain of Hell, quite literally.

My family were excommunicated because during harvest my father couldn't make the necessary three church meetings a day. He was always playing catch up from some time beforehand when an earlier whiskey alcoholic had decreed church members could 'not work with their hands', and he'd had to sell his farm and live sitting on his hands in town for four years. Fortunately a later whiskey alcoholic and changed the decree and stated he could farm again, but after four years of inflation he could never get back onto another economic unit, hence having to play catch up all the time).

My direct family were also excommunicated because it was further decreed that my handicapped sister was the work of the Devil.

Not a nice bunch of people these cultists. I was lucky that my family got the boot, or I would not be posting here, I would not have been to school or university. My parents were lucky they came out with all of their children, I have a multitude of cousins, later, who as father or mothers in their thirties and forties were cast from the Church, while the spouse and the children were kept imprisoned within. There were of course, from that, a number of suicides and the usual that rational human beings understand would have been the natural order of events.

Now Rosie, you may think your brand of Christ worship is enlightened, however, I'm afraid to say these evil cultists are reading from the same Book you are: The Bible.

Sobering I would have thought. Don't Gimme That Old Time Religion!

Even if it was Ayn Rand

Kasper's picture

Yes, Rosie. Even if it was Ayn Rand! Gasp..
Lindsay's points of departure from Ayn have been broadcasted on this site a time and a dozen...
So in contrast to you he doesn't just believe a book because it was written. You do.. That makes your belief childish.
Just note please that I am well aware of some of the biblical historical accuracies, however, that does not mean that its supernatural information has any credence to it.

Rosie

Olivia's picture

...historical references in the Bible which had been pooh poohed as impossible but which one discipline or another proved to be the case.

There are historical truths in the bible. The Jews kept records of their history intertwined with their mythology and references to surrounding pagan cultures. Doesn't mean that it's the infallible Word of God, nor inspired by him.

CS Lewis's account of how he became a Christian and his investigations in to the veracity of the Bible and why he became convinced of its truth (and his other works) are a good read.

I was raised on a diet of these writings, along with St. Augustine, Luther, Calvin and Bunyan.

I may have been like you in disbelief once - but never with your nastiness or arrogance - and I just keep reminding myself that your attitude is born of ignorance.

This is where you're wrong. My attitude is not born of ignorance. It is born of understanding Christian theology and doctrine. I know first-hand the contradictions inherent in its teachings. The classic one being the idea that men are created with free-will and volition, yet are predestined to salvation - or not - entirely depending upon god's grace.

Another heinous contradiction is the idea that man is born into sin and depravity, via the actions of two representatives - Adam and Eve, yet is BLACKMAILED (free-will not withstanding) into submitting to gods laws or else be punished for all eternity.

As Christopher Hitchens puts it so well in "God is not Great - How Religion Poisons Everything": "Man is created sick then commanded to be well."

Yes, I feel very nasty toward people who peddle such pernicious, unreasonable crap. As I've said before, it sets people against their own nature then convinces them that it is their nature which is evil. A terrible thing to do to the human spirit/psyche and worthy of complete contempt.

Jesus was gay

John Donohue's picture

Hey Linz, I got an idea. Let's co-opt Jesus. I just found out he was gay, so that's a start.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/ent...

Maybe he likes show tunes and that is close to opera and that gets him to Mario Lanza. Progress!

Maybe the New Testament is just a cover up, not only for him being gay but maybe he was actually an Objectivist. We have to do something about that Sermon on the Mount, however. That will be hard to spin.

Linz

Rosie's picture

And on principle I would never believe anything just because it was in a book, no matter who the author/authors was/were.

Even if the author were (reverential pause) Ayn Rand? Eye

Rosie Dearest

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Linz! Honestly, man, you're an intelligent grown-up. How can you not believe it??!!

Same way as I can not believe the Koran.

And on principle I would never believe anything just because it was in a book, no matter who the author/authors was/were.

Imagine! Linz the Christian with the new (and even more kind and loving) heart.

But my heart couldn't be any more kind and loving.

I could certainly love that gorgeous scrawny naked guy you bang on about. He'd need to give up the BDSM though.

Seriously darling, you'll have your work cut out answering James's latest (and his earliest and everything in between). I look forward to the attempt (I think).

Linz

Rosie's picture

(Couldn't resist answering your post.)

Rosie! Honestly, girl, you're an intelligent grown-up. How can you believe that load of cock??!!

Linz! Honestly, man, you're an intelligent grown-up. How can you not believe it??!!

Do some proper study. You may be surprised by what you discover! And by how you feel when you discover it.

Imagine! Linz the Christian with the new (and even more kind and loving) heart.
Yes! I like that idea! Big smile

James

Rosie's picture

I have enjoyed reading your post and I will answer it in due course. (If you will have the patience of Job in the true sense.) In the meantime I have Things to Do (said Pooh).

Olivia - your sneering is of no consequence to me. I may have been like you in disbelief once - but never with your nastiness or arrogance - and I just keep reminding myself that your attitude is born of ignorance. It certainly does not add anything to what you say with your absurd name calling! (And you think I may have arrested development?! A mature adult does not behave in such a childish manner! You really are too funny with your self-contradictions.)

I risk hellfire

gregster's picture

Olivia and Lindsay both are perfect in comparison to god.

Rosie

Lindsay Perigo's picture

The short answer is because the Bible tells us so.

Rosie! Honestly, girl, you're an intelligent grown-up. How can you believe that load of cock??!!

Olivia

Rosie's picture

That's a great big assertion. Like to furnish it with some evidence?

The short answer is because the Bible tells us so.
The long answer, as to why we should believe what the Bible says, is very lengthy. If you are interested there is a good layman's easy-and-interesting-to-read book by Lee Strobel. He was an atheist investigative journalist whose wife became a Christian. Amazed by the positive changes to his wife and her life, he set out to seek, from an academic view, just what this Christianity thing was all about. He interviewed many experts in many different but relevant fields -since he explored it from every possible angle - and played devil's advocate with them all. He was so blown away by what he discovered that he became a Christian himself.

The books' titles are found here. .

There are plenty of other good books on the subject. CS Lewis's account of how he became a Christian and his investigations in to the veracity of the Bible and why he became convinced of its truth (and his other works) are a good read. Similarly with TS Elliot, Tolkien, and a long number of scientists. I think I wrote a bit about these people on a different thread. There are more erudite books on the subject however.

I remember the thing that got me interested in the Bible when I was studying classics. It was when archaeologists revealed a temple right next to another temple of a competing religion. The Bible had said this was the case and many had used this as proof that the Bible was false. There were numerous examples like this - historical references in the Bible which had been pooh poohed as impossible but which one discipline or another proved to be the case.

Many non-Christians struggle at some point with the idea of being annihilated - it is not such an attractive option.
I have never struggled with the idea of death - Christian or no. I do not relate personally to people's fears of death. The fact that Christianity tells us that it is not the end does not surprise me though. It becomes another dimension to life and seems perfectly reasonable and exciting. It is not a relief to any fear I had but another exciting adventure of life. One that I would prefer to have in Heaven than Hell however.

What kind of choice is that you dumb, dumb bitch? Choose Christianity or else you'll be punished for all eternity with pain and destruction is blackmail, not choice.

It is one of many choices you are required to make. I say it is the most important choice. People intuitively recognise its importance which is why there is so much discussion of it. When Jesus said that he did not come to bring peace - this was not to contradict his description as the Prince of Peace, but to explain that His very coming would set person against person, brother against brother and so on. Because His coming would make the work of Satan (whose intention is to set people against God) all the more potent.

I don't see God's justice as blackmail.
The legal definition of black·mail is
1.
a. Extortion of money or something else of value from a person by the threat of exposing a criminal act or discreditable information.
b. Something of value extorted in this manner.
2. Tribute formerly paid to freebooters along the Scottish border for protection from pillage.

I suspect that you mean emotional or moral blackmail? I.e., If you describe an action as emotional or moral blackmail, you disapprove of it because someone is using a person's emotions or moral values to persuade them to do something against their will?

God does not use the threat of Hell to persuade people to become Christians! That is back to front. It is the appropriate and just end result to those who do not seek Him on earth. And becoming a Christian requires a little more than simply using Christianity as an insurance policy. If that is all that it meant to someone who said he was a Christian, I would doubt that he had died and been born again in Christ. God knows our hearts. And God's justice will be appropriate.

If you don't choose Christianity because you don't believe in it, you don't believe the "punishment" either. So how can that be blackmail? With blackmail you would have to believe that that is the punishment you will receive. But you don't believe it.

No one is coercing you to become a Christian and separation from God is your choice both on earth and upon death. It is simply a fact that this is what happens if you deny God. He will deny you. Should you mind being separated from God? What I seek as a Christian on earth is what I will get in Heaven and what you seek on earth - self dominion without God - is what you will have in Hell.

At least you admit you are nothing more than a follower. It is much better to think for yourself, though you are correct that Christianity is hard to practice. It sets a woman against her own nature and she has to commit massive abdications of rationality in order to believe it.
I am not sure I totally understand what you are saying here. And because I do not understand it, it has no ring of truth about it for me. I am a follower of Christ. That does not mean that I cannot think for myself, Olivia. It means that having seriously and critically examined and read about the subject, during a time in my life where I was fortunate enough to have earned sufficient to live off my investment income so that I had all the time in the world to pursue the subject and speak to others who were well versed etc., I chose for myself to become a Christian. I could add that there was no coercion at all to become a Christian by my teachers and I had initially prefaced my request to learn more stating that I did not want to become a Christian or go to church but that I was merely interested to learn more due to the study of ancient history that I mentioned earlier.

It is hard to practice only because I am not morally perfect. Becoming a Christian (and Godlike) is like the silversmith's refinement of silver and is used as an analogy in the Bible - God being the silversmith, people the silver. If you are not aware of how silver is made, the ore in which the silver resides has to be refined in a fire (symbolic for the presence of God) over and over until it is ready. And when does the silversmith know it is ready? When he can see his reflection in it.

You want me to name one imperfection you have written on this thread?! Too easy and too many to choose from.
That it is incorrect that Hell is separation from God is one that comes to mind immediately without having to look at your posts again.

James...

Olivia's picture

You have the patience of Job. Eye

Rosie

James S. Valliant's picture

Even if you think that Olivia is wrong, Rosie, aren't you confusing moral perfection with a potentially innocent error of knowledge? Or, does God require perfection of all sorts from us, even geometric perfection?

Which brings me to another issue: eternal punishment is not justice for anybody, even for a murderer.

If God is presenting me with the choice of either accepting what is totally unreasonable to the mind He allegedly gave me or be eternally punished, then he is a sick, sadistic bastard, and, in fact, the only one who seems to merit such eternal punishments.

Further, if He is doing this simply out a need to be "consistent" (although with what exactly you think he's being "consistent" is not entirely clear -- the Bible or with His own sadistic demands?), then He is an obsessive-compulsive, sick, sadistic bastard beyond the aid of therapy.

Anyhoo, back on "perfection": Jesus says that it is not merely one's actions that comprise "sin" but one's emotions -- any automatic, unchosen wave of "lust" or "anger" has already condemned each of us, it seems, even if somehow we are able to restrain ourselves and avoid the actual killing and the adultery that such an emotion might suggest. Now, what kind of chance does that give anyone? Blamed and condemned for what is beyond our control, an emotion, we are all imperfect sinners in this rigged Game of Sin your God is playing.

Moral perfection means doing everything in one's power to do the right thing. To demand more is to do worse than loading the dice, for it sends us all packing to Hell whether we deserve ANY punishment or not. Do you morally castigate a man because he is a homo sapiens born in the year he was born? And why not? 'Cause it makes no sense to blame him for something he had no choice about, right?

To say that one has already sinned merely by "lusting in his heart" is nothing but a formula for repression and unearned guilt -- Christianity's time-worn speciality, in my experience.

And it's just as twisted sick as declaring us to have been BORN "in sin" -- with little babies deserving of eternal punishment. I don't want to put words into your mouth, but I have heard these very words from Christians, that we are all born deserving of hell.

When Jesus stopped the stoning of that woman by asking if someone in the crowd was "without sin," he was making a triple-absurd demand. First, he assumed that everyone there was a sinner, and I think that we can see why with his doctrine of thought-crimes, but he also requires us not to judge others at all under this circumstance. Then, can someone who merely jay-walked not criticize a killer? Or, was this just a rough crowd, with everyone having committed the same sin as the woman, or what?

No, I guess JC was serious about this not judging business as He is quoted in Gospels as making this a moral principle, "Judge not, lest ye be judged."

So, now we have the total and complete destruction of real ethics: everyone is to be blamed for what he or she could not control -- AND no one is to morally judge anyone else -- AND everyone deserves Hell if he or she fails to accept a certain belief.

MY judgement of truth and falsehood, of right and wrong, my free will choices, and the actual MERIT of my actions, all of this, it seems, is meaningless to your God's "ethics."

Have I got it straight?

This is maybe the sickest and most destructive aspect of your Faith's monstrous evil, it's annihilation of ethics.

Then, of course, believe without evidence, He demands. I need my eyes and my mind to know, indeed to survive, and presumably this faculty was His "gift" to me. "But, ignore all that, son," He insists, "and take me on faith... or else."

This is definitely in the running for the sickest and most destructive aspect of your dogma, as well, the way it gouges out our eye-balls and subjects humanity to Mental Blackmail and Epistemological Extortion, and how, in consequence, it destroys the mind itself.

Your God is such a demented fiend that the thought of being in His "presence" fills me with such moral revulsion that, if these are His terms, eternal Hellfire sounds delightful by comparison.

If I could invent a God to my liking, it would not look like the God of the Bible. But, alas, feelings are not evidence of anything but our own ingrained values.

The idea that there is no

Olivia's picture

The idea that there is no everlasting hell attracts men. They love the idea that God annihilates those without Christ from conscious existence because then they would not have to face their liability before Him. Men are not like horses that black out when they die. People go on forever.

That's a great big assertion. Like to furnish it with some evidence?

Many non-Christians struggle at some point with the idea of being annihilated - it is not such an attractive option. They very much wish life could go on forever and so invent all sorts of funny little notions that it does in some way, like reincarnation. But no amount of wishing will make it so.

Where is the room for my liberty in that answer?! [Olivia]

The room for you to choose or not choose Christianity of course. [Rosie]

What kind of choice is that you dumb, dumb bitch? Choose Christianity or else you'll be punished for all eternity with pain and destruction is blackmail, not choice. Christ you're evading hard on this one. That is why you're being accused of rank dishonesty, which is putting it mildly.

It would be for emotional reasons that I would NOT to believe in Christianity. It is a hard path to follow. The hardest.

At least you admit you are nothing more than a follower. It is much better to think for yourself, though you are correct that Christianity is hard to practice. It sets a woman against her own nature and she has to commit massive abdications of rationality in order to believe it.

For someone who is perfect you have many imperfections in this thread.

Name one.

Olivia

Rosie's picture

Where is the room for my liberty in that answer?!

The room for you to choose or not choose Christianity of course.

Separated from Him forever? No, no, that is not correct. According to the scriptures I would be punished forever, for rejecting him.

Yes, yes, I am correct. See comment to Linz below.

The root of belief in Christianity has absolutely nothing to do with reason or liberty. It is emotional. Those who believe it to be true do so from fear - fear of god, fear of human nature and fear of death.

I do not believe in Christianity for emotional reasons. It would be for emotional reasons that I would NOT to believe in Christianity. It is a hard path to follow. The hardest. It was following the study of the ancient world that I accidentally ended up studying the Bible and it led from there. Purely intellectual in the beginning. That is not to say that what you said is not correct for whoever told you his/her reason. I am presuming that you got your idea from someone since I would not imagine that you would be applying your own hypothesis as a true premise to reach your conclusions. But it certainly does not apply to me or anyone I know.

Fear of God is not meant in the sense you think (scared) it is more a reverence for the Creator. I am not frightened of human nature nor am I frightened of death.

Liberty actually takes courage, and you Rosie, don't have it.
LOL. I have plenty of courage.

Your need for a mystical father is a similar condition to a child's need for a parent, only in an adult, it is a form of arrested emotional development. You are more than old enough to let go of such a dependency. Grow up.
LOL. In that case I would have other symptoms of arrested emotional development which I don't.

For someone who is perfect you have many imperfections in this thread. Innocent

Linz

Rosie's picture

rank dishonesty?

I strongly object to that accusation.

I refer you to 2 Thes 1:9 (International Standard Version (©2008))

"Such people will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction by being separated from the Lord's presence and from his glorious power," (my emphasis)

Principle: Non-Christians incur eternal destruction because of God’s justice.

Application: God is always consistent with Himself. He always uses proper legal procedure in passing out judgment.

The idea that there is no everlasting hell attracts men. They love the idea that God annihilates those without Christ from conscious existence because then they would not have to face their liability before Him. Men are not like horses that black out when they die. People go on forever.

The essence behind the idea of hell in the Bible is justice. God is not capricious or cruel. He must be consistent with Himself. He must be true to Himself. If He bends the policy (steps outside His character), He would no longer be consistent with Himself. If He were no longer consistent with Himself, He would no longer be absolute. If He were no longer absolute, He could not be the supreme God of the universe. He would be a fractured being that we could not trust.

Hell is a place we choose. If we choose to reject God’s plan of salvation in Christ, then we make ourselves sovereign. We think we know what is the best way for the universe to operate. The outcome of this is eternal destruction. (my emphasis)

Non-Christians love to say, “I want to go to hell because that is where all my friends are.” They miss the essence of hell in this. Hell is a place of deep alienation, alienation from God and from other people. It is a place of loneliness. (my emphasis)

Lady Slapper

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Well done in highlighting Rosie's rank dishonesty in trying to suggest "separation" is the same as "Depart from me ye cursed into the lake of fire" blah blah blah that she and the other sick fagot-lighters truly believe in.

But darling, you're not perfect. Only *I* am. Eye

Rosie

Olivia's picture

He would allow you to have your way in death as in life and be separated from Him forever since there is only one way to the Father and that is through the Son, according to the scriptures.

Allow me?

Only one way?

Where is the room for my liberty in that answer?!

Separated from Him forever?

No, no, that is not correct. According to the scriptures I would be punished forever, for rejecting him. He is a jealous god.

Liberty is not liberty at all if one is punished through all eternity for exercising it during one's short life.
And you point the finger at everyone for tautologies... what about the gross contradictions you are hell bent on holding?

Jesus' parable in Matthew 13:

41 "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth."

That does not merely paint a picture of separation from god; it portrays a sadistically painful punishment - intended to be inflicted on those, like me, who refuse to accept life on a non-existent deity's terms.

The root of belief in Christianity has absolutely nothing to do with reason or liberty. It is emotional. Those who believe it to be true do so from fear - fear of god, fear of human nature and fear of death.

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov. 1:7).

Liberty actually takes courage, and you Rosie, don't have it. Your need for a mystical father is a similar condition to a child's need for a parent, only in an adult, it is a form of arrested emotional development. You are more than old enough to let go of such a dependency. Grow up.

No I don't believe in "sin" - especially of the Original kind, and yes, I do think I'm perfect.

Correction

James S. Valliant's picture

I need to correct a thoughtless error on my part. Neither I nor most critical scholars regard Ephesians as a genuine Pauline letter, i.e., authentic to Paul himself, as I previously indicated. Now, I don't know if Rosie or Madeleine or Mr. Flannagan will accept this, or if it even matters to them, but Ephesians' status in critical scholarship does not imply any change in the case I've made, either way. As I said to Rosie, once we start down this path the issues pile up pretty thick. Most importantly, for purposes of determining what the canon as a whole actually says and how this has been understood through the ages, the question of authenticity does not matter.

Rose-tainted

gregster's picture

Watch "Planet of the Apes."

You christians are the gorillas banning the written word of the enlightenment.

Olivia

Rosie's picture

He would allow you to have your way in death as in life and be separated from Him forever since there is only one way to the Father and that is through the Son, according to the scriptures.

Incidentally, when you say "because I'm not a sinner" is that because you do not believe in "sin" or because you are perfect?

Be very afraid: I suspect

Mark Hubbard's picture

Be very afraid: I suspect this is what religion has become today - a second-handing for Christ:

http://blog.mises.org/archives...

That was actually on an IP thread (I'm still bruising my knuckles with the anarchists at mises.org over it - dog and bone stuff again).

Anyway, I gave my response two posts below the link. (I see from the post following I am now a 'big time asshole' so I'm probably getting the balance about right).

Great piece James.

Put it this way...

Olivia's picture

Rosie the sophist...

Second, on another level, she redefines and narrows individual liberty for the expediency of her own (illogical) argument to people's entitlement to choose and pursue their own values then concludes Christianity doesn't allow for individual liberty. Duh! On that narrow definition, of course, Christianity doesn't allow people to choose their own values.

If one was to say to god; "Go fuck yourself! I'll choose my own mind to determine what is moral and live my life accordingly, not accept your so-called written word as gospel nor your crucified son's blood as atonement for my sins because I'm not a sinner."

What would he do to me at the end of my life, according to his "scriptures" ?

The Flannagans ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... should pause to consider that James has forgotten more about The Religion of Fagot-Lighting than they will ever know.

See this, restickied:

http://www.solopassion.com/nod...

Madeleine

James S. Valliant's picture

First of all, why is it that Christians around here must use personal insults every time and without fail? Trust me when I tell you that you have brought no new information of any kind to my attention. (Sheesh!)

Slavery:

You claim that Paul's command for slaves to be obedient to their masters is somehow "qualified" by the "context." If so, then where, when or how does Paul think it okay for a slave to rebel or disobey his earthly masters? Not when the master is cruel, or a non-Christian, or he would have said so -- and in this very "context" -- of course. (For , surely, most Christian slaves were owned by pagan masters when he wrote in the First Century.) And, it seems, your missing context was the very "context" that Christian slave-owners, including Catholic slave owners, seem to have missed for so long.

Paul, of course, had he actually been an advocate of either rights or individual, political freedom, would've given a big, fat green light to slave disobedience and slave rebellion -- and other acts seeking wider political freedom like the American Revolution. Heroic acts of this kind appear to be forthrightly condemned. The fact that slavery was commonplace in his time, does not excuse him here, as he seemed perfectly willing to be martyred on plenty of other grounds.

Ephesians (a genuine Pauline epistle) 6:5-6, reads: "Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; 6 not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart." This is repeated in different forms in a number of other epistles, as well.

Thus, since we are all (yes, equally) slaves to Christ, anyway, servility is required of real slaves in the context of a more earthly slavery, too. That's what he wrote.

And I am well aware of Locke's context. You claim that "Locke actually appropriated an ancient rabbinical argument against slavery which was alluded to by the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 7:23) and is implicit in the Torah (Lev. 25: 42)."

This is simply not supported by the Biblical texts you claim as "opposing slavery":

1 Corinthians 7:23 reads: "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."

Leviticus 25:42 reads: "For they are my servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: they shall not be sold as bondmen."

Neither of these passages is critical of slavery as such, but of Hebrew enslavement, God's very special people, except in the eyes of revisionists who torture the text. Indeed, the Torah actually requires slavery in some cases --- yes, it mandates it. For this reason, among others, non-Israelite slaves were never to be freed under the Torah's regulations, according to the standard interpretation of this stuff.

Likewise, many of the anti-slavery citations you have offered do no more than condemn Christian enslavement.
And the fact that some Christians over the centuries freed slaves carries no more weight in this context than does the still earlier experience of the pagans who freed them, either. The Roman class of "Freedman" shows just how widespread manumission was in pagan times, as well, and that such a practice does not imply any fundamental criticism of the legal institution.

Yes, Jefferson owned slaves, right, but, in vain, he worked aggressively to end the institution as such. (And the northern states beat Britain to the punch in abolishing it by law, btw.)

Popes themselves were slave-owners until well into the 17th Century, but we read of no insistence by any of these slave-owning Popes that it be abolished by law. See the difference?

In 340, the Synod of Gangra opposed Manichean efforts to start a Christian slave rebellion. While, of course, various forms and practices of slavery were criticized by SOME earlier Christians, it was not condemned as an institution, even arguably, until at least the 15th Century by any of them. In 1452, the Pope gave the go-ahead to the Portugese king to enslave captives. In 1488 and 1639, Popes were still distributing slaves among the princes of the Church. Even when Popes finally discovered the "Great Sin" of slavery, during the Renaissance, this did not encompass true political freedom such as that envisioned in the Bill of Rights. Nor did this stop later Popes from utterly disregarding the doctrine. Nor did the much later threats of excommunication ever get enforced.

And when, at last, this "sin" was finally discovered by more modern Popes, it was not the Bible that could be honestly cited for its support.

You write: "Rodney Stark notes that Christian opposition to slavery in the lead to its effective abolition within in Europe during the Middle Ages."

This is so unhistorical as to be a joke. You yourself have cited no Christian opposition to the institution of slavery prior to the Renaissance, even by a minority of scholars or Popes. That some saints freed slaves does no better than the Roman practice of manumission on this score. That some opposed the enslavement of Christians does not do it, either. The idea that a Roman aristocrat would be enslaved was just as offensive to pagan Romans, too. No, we need a clear moral denunciation, which did not yet exist at the time that serfdom was institutionalized. This is why even Popes owned slaves up to the 1600s: there was no clear Christian opposition to the slavery yet in existence.

Before serfdom, there was slavery -- even Christian slavery -- and, even after serfdom, there was all kinds of Christian slavery. Serfdom simply reflected the harsh economic realities of the period, a period in which Europeans could not yet acquire many slaves by conquest or international trade. And, of course, serfdom is a kind of slavery, broadly speaking, distinguished only by the fact that the worker was attached to the land and not himself separately negotiable as the lands to which he was tied was. Serfs were often sexually and physically abused in much the same fashion as earlier slaves were.

This is from Wikipedia's article on "The Catholic Church and slavery":

"Avery Cardinal Dulles makes the following observations about the Catholic Church and the institution of slavery:
1. For many centuries the Church was part of a slave-holding society.
2. The popes themselves held slaves, including at times hundreds of Muslim captives to man their galleys.
3. Throughout Christian antiquity and the Middle Ages, theologians generally followed St. Augustine in holding that although slavery was not written into the natural moral law it was not absolutely forbidden by that law.
4. St. Thomas Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin were all Augustinian on this point. Although the subjection of one person to another (servitus) was not part of the primary intention of the natural law, St. Thomas taught, it was appropriate and socially useful in a world impaired by original sin.
5. No Father or Doctor of the Church was an unqualified abolitionist.
6. No pope or council ever made a sweeping condemnation of slavery as such.
7. But they constantly sought to alleviate the evils of slavery and repeatedly denounced the mass enslavement of conquered populations and the infamous slave trade, thereby undermining slavery at its sources."

Interestingly, you seem totally ignorant of the fact that Aristotle's argument for slavery was -- in fact -- one of the earliest examples of "natural law" reasoning. He argued that some men are smarter and more able than others, that it was better for the slave to be led by one who was wiser. All it took was a better understanding of this "human nature" to start down a different path altogether.

As your citations of Locke show, it was this kind of reasoning that actually did do the trick -- and this kind of reasoning is not to be found in the Bible at all.

Obedience to the State:

Paul advocated nothing but obedience to state authorities, and the idea that his execution changes that text's meaning is gross illogic and confusion.

First, of course, it is only oral tradition that supports the idea of Paul's execution by Nero for which there is no good historical evidence. In Paul's own letters, his "imprisonment" at Rome did not seem to have prevented him from preaching there, even to the Praetorian Guard and those "in Caesar's household," so what this meant is still quite debatable.

Second, of course, even if he was so executed, this is no "qualification" of his earlier assertion except insofar as the worship of God Himself is concerned. (Even then, it contradicts its plain meaning and actually gives us independent reason to doubt the tradition regarding his martyrdom.)

The alleged grounds for his execution as being some failure to worship the Roman state gods is just an assumption, but, for current purposes, I will accept it. However, Paul was even more explicit about paying taxes, for example, than Jesus had been in the Gospels. He was living in the time of Roman despots and this was his moment to tell us about those "just revolutions" if there was ever to be one. Paul's text must be taken as opposing political rebellion. So it was taken to mean, for example, by Dante who placed Brutus and Cassius (the Republican assassins of the pagan Julius Caesar), right next to Judas Iscariot himself, in the gnawing mouth of Satan in the frozen depths of the Inferno.

Romans (another genuine epistle) 13:1-2 reads:

"1. Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves."

Again, had Paul shared the dimmest similarity to Jefferson, or to Locke, he would have advocated political rebellion and disobedience to tyranny. He did just the reverse.

Where or how do Paul's teachings suggest that disobedience to Nero, or to Claudius, is permissible? It states the very opposite.

As for Nero's early reign, which you call "relatively enlightened," it commenced with the murder of his step-brother Brittanicus as well as that of his other kinsman, Marcus Junius Silanus, and was not much different from that of his adopted father, the Emperor Claudius (in whose reign Seneca was hired as a tutor for Nero). Caius Caligula (and Tiberius and Augustus, for that matter) had already demonstrated what emperors were all about some time earlier. The particular emperor is not much of an issue, but it is noteworthy that Paul was writing about obedience in this period of such political cruelty.

And, once again, my point was entirely missed. Anything like the Bill of Rights, with all of its protections and underlying ideas cannot be found in any Papal Bulls or Church Fathers.

Now, the use of "elections" by certain Christian organizations (like the College of Cardinals) does not help your case, since republicanism and democracy were pagan inventions. And this historical context makes Christian political practices like absolute monarchy, theocracy, etc., all the less excusable.

On that score, the fact that the Declaration of Independence invokes God as authority does not distinguish it from, say, the Divine Right of Kings, which had also invoked God, indeed, in far more explicitly Christian a way than a mere reference to a "creator." Indeed, it could and did invoke the Bible in a way that the Declaration could not and did not.

Nor does the fact that the Declaration invokes the "consent of the governed" make the document special, either. Your nebulous Christian examples are long predated by the pagan Roman republic itself.

No, its use of human nature itself to justify individual rights (to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) against any rule -- democratic or otherwise -- was, however, totally unprecedented in political history. Believe it or not, this argument, and Locke's before it, owes much more to Aristotle's case for natural slavery than it does to anything in the Bible.

You write: "When Nero later degenerated into a monster the scripture, rather scathingly, describes Nero as a satanic beast whom Christians are required to resist – not obey!" This is an odd reference to Revelation, which does not contain any argument for disobedience and only mentions Nero himself in code, "666" and makes no distinction between the periods of his rule, as you do.

And, if the "Beast" passage here refers to the future, not to the past, then we must ignore Nero altogether. Or, if it was referring to Nero in "prophecy," then, let me suggest, it wasn't "prophetic" at all. Hmm.

In any case, even Revelation does not advocate rebellion or disobedience, and nor does it complain about tyranny. It predicts hellfire and damnation for the unrighteous.

The egoism implicit in the Declaration's assertion of the Right to "pursue happiness" is a form of pure paganism. As is the Founder's parallel concern with property, i.e., earthly treasures.

Equality before the Law:

That each of us is "equal" before God's judgment does not yet imply or suggest any equality of political rights of any kind, of course, and the idea that a political equality shared by women, serfs, non-kings, etc., as you so blithely claim, "would not have been contested by many medieval or patristic theologians" is, by far, the most absurd assertion that you make. We are all "equal" slaves to Christ, according to Paul, and, so, real slaves should obey their real "masters" here on earth. That's the only kind of "equality" that we are talking about n the NT, as is clear from the text.

No, the Declaration and the Constitution were uniquely and distinctively Enlightenment artifacts and any failure to recognize this implies an ignorance of history so VAST that it cannot be adequately addressed in a single post.

James since you don't seem to

Madeleine's picture

James since you don't seem to want to read what Matt wrote in response to you in full on our blog (your call but our blog is more read than SOLO and people are discussing it there...) here is Part II, in full (you only have 3/4 of Part I here) which went up on MandM this morning:

Freedom, Science and Christianity: A Response to James Valliant Part II

Recently Peter Cresswell published a guest post by James Valliant, which originally appeared on SOLO. In Freedom, Science and Christianity: A Response to James Valliant Part I, I addressed Valliant's claims that science and freedom of religion were unanimously opposed by Christians and the success of science and freedom of religion in Europe was solely due to the influence of pagan ideas which the church sought to suppress. Then in The Theological Foundations of the Enlightenment Philosophers, I further documented how Enlightenment defences of freedom of religion were grounded in earlier theological writings. Here I will continue my critique of Valliant's article.

3. Valliant contends that it is absurd to suggest that “the US declaration of independence is based on Judeo-Christian ideas.” His reasons, however, are once again based on ignorance of Christian intellectual history.

First he ridicules the idea of Christian influence, “We are asked to believe that it took a mere 1,776 years of reading that darned Bible before any of those great and learned Christian scholars figured out its true political implications!” Valliant seems blissfully unaware that many ideas expressed in the declaration were expressed by Christian writers sometimes hundreds of years prior to 1776.

The claim that there is a creator and that this is self-evident, are ideas that go back centuries in Christian theology. Moreover, the contention that people are created equal is found in the book of Job and would not have been contested by many medieval or patristic theologians. Mark Murphy has noted that the idea of ‘consent of the governed’ was also accepted in political thought of the Middle Ages.[1] In fact, a form of ‘consent of the governed’ was actually a key feature of feudalism; under this system the monarch was elected or chosen by the land owners and could be deposed by the land owners.[2] Nicholas Wolterstorff has documented that the notion of natural rights had its origins in medieval canon law and theological reflections of the middle ages.[3] Many of the ideas expressed in the declaration were defended centuries earlier by Calvinist tracts such as Lex Rex and Vindicae Contra Tyrannos. In fact, medieval theologians criticised absolute monarchy, debated the question of just revolutions and so on resulting in the birth of the Magna Carta.

The declaration simply repeats the argument for liberty, put forward by John Locke in his Two Treatise of Civil Government. Locke’s argument occurred in the context of an exegetical debate with Robert Filmer about whether or not the bible supported absolute monarchy. Locke’s main argument was that because human beings are created by God, they have an inalienable right to life and liberty and so could not licitly sell themselves or give another person arbitrary or total power over them. In making this argument, Locke actually appropriated an ancient rabbinical argument against slavery which was alluded to by the Apostle Paul (1 Cor 7:23) and is implicit in the Torah (Lev 25: 42). Paul’s appropriation of this argument was the basis for the Christian abolition of slavery in the early Middle Ages. Valliant’s ignorance about what Christians did not support or write about prior to 1776 does not mean that these texts do not exist.

Valliant continues with the claim that Paul told Christians “to just ‘obey’ the governmentalauthorities’ placed over us, because God has appointed them, by St. Paul himself, who likely wrote during the reign of the monster Nero.” This again is a caricature, as I have pointed out elsewhere, the context (which Valliant ignores) qualifies Paul’s command. Moreover, the passage Valliant cites was written during the early part of Nero’s reign when Nero was strongly influenced by Seneca the Younger and Barrus and his rule was widely considered to be competent and relatively enlightened. When Nero later degenerated into a monster the scripture, rather scathingly, describes Nero as a satanic beast whom Christians are required to resist – not obey!

Valliant also seems blithely unaware of the fact that Paul wrote as a prisoner of Rome and was himself executed by Nero for refusing to pay homage to Nero (as were many other Christians). His picture then of Paul as a proponent of advocating unqualified obedience to Nero is simply inaccurate.

4. Valliant similarly quotes Paul’s admonition to slaves to obey their masters in contrast to the US Framers who “thought slavery was evil, too, and it was this belief that provided the basis (e.g., see the Gettysburg Address) for later abolishing it” as evidence that abolitionist ideas originate from ancient Greek/Aristotelian thought and not Christian theology. Apart from the fact that Jefferson was himself a slave owner, Valliant’s understanding is extremely selective.

First, opposition to slavery in various forms has a long history in Christian thought and practice. It predates the American Founding by hundreds, maybe, thousands of years. Early Christians advocated emancipating slaves, a practice exhorted by several leading theologians and early church councils. W.E.H. Lecky contends that early Christian saints such as Melania, Ovidius, Chromatius, and Hermes, between them liberated almost 20,000 slaves.[4] Later, in 315, Constantine made it a capital offence to steal a child and bring it up as a slave. Justinian, in the 6th century, abolished earlier roman laws prohibiting the freeing of slaves. Similarly St Bathilde, a runaway slave who became the wife of King Clovis II in the 9th century, campaigned against the slave trade as did other notables, St Patrick in the 5th century, St Anskar in the 9th century and St Wulfstan, St Anselm in the 11th century. Rodney Stark notes that Christian opposition to slavery in the lead to its effective abolition within in Europe during the Middle Ages. Stark goes on to document that Pope Eugene IV (1431-1447), Pope Pius II (1458-1464), Pope Sixtus IV (1471-1484), Pope Paul III (1534-1549), Pope Urban VIII (1623-1644) issued papal bulls against slavery. In addition, the Roman Inquisition condemned slavery on 20 March 1686.

All of the above occurred hundreds of years prior to the US Founding Fathers.[5] In fact, evangelical Christians, such as William Wilberforce, had brought about the abolition of slavery peacefully in the British several decades before the US fought a civil war over it. Moreover, Stark’s analysis shows that the earliest abolitionist tracts within the US were whttp://www.mandm.org.nz/wp-admin/post-new.phpritten by Puritans - actually by one of the judges at the Salem witch trials. The abolitionist movements in the US were overwhelmingly religious in orientation.[6] The suggestion then that opposition to slavery was without Christian precedent and was a novel idea proposed by the revival of pre-Christian ideas in the Enlightenment is implausible. The issue of slavery is a particularly bad example to substantiate Valliant’s thesis given that in the pre-Christian pagan world slavery was widely practiced and accepted. In fact Aristotle, Valliant’s pre-Christian Greek hero, famously defended slavery (in three chapters no less) contending the enslavement of other races was natural.[7]

Valliant’s reading of scripture is also questionable. While it is true that Paul exhorted slaves to obey their masters, this by itself does not entail support for slavery anymore than my paying my taxes constitutes my agreement with taxation laws. Moreover, Valliant ignores the numerous other things both the scriptures and Paul stated about slavery, which contradict and condemn the practice of slavery that existed in America. In fact, the enlightenment philosopher who most influenced the US, John Locke, appealed to these very texts both explicitly and implicitly, to condemn slavery. Once again, Valliant ignores crucial facts of Christian intellectual history to come to his stereotypical conclusions.

[1] Mark Murphy "Natural Law, Consent, and Political Obligation" Social Philosophy & Policy 18 (2001) 70-92.
[2]
Regine Pernoud, Those Terrible Middle Ages : Debunking the Myths (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000) 128-129.
[3] Nicolas Wolterstorff Justice Rights and Wrongs (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008).
[4] W.E.H. Lecky History of European Morals: From Augustus to Charlemagne (New York: D. Appleton, 1921) 2:69.
[5]
Rodney Stark For the Glory of God: How Monotheism led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts and the end of Slavery (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003).
[6] Ibid.
[7] Aristotle The Politics Bk I iii, iv, v.

RELATED POSTS:
Freedom, Science and Christianity: A Response to James Valliant Part I
The Theological Foundations of the Enlightenment Philosophers
The Theology of the Declaration of Independence
The “Dark Ages” and Other Propaganda
Guest Post: James Hannam on Dan Brown’s History of Science
Slavery, John Locke and the Bible
666 The Number of the Beast
R 13: Romans, Revelations and the Role of the State

Matthew Flannagan

James S. Valliant's picture

Now I only read the links to others you provided, and I have not read your own replies to me elsewhere. So, it is only your reply post to me here at SOLO to which I am responding.

And what a Straw Man argument it is!

No, I never claimed that the "torture or execution of heretics" was commanded by or "justified solely" by the Biblical texts I cited, as you suggest.

And, of course, no, I never claimed that the ancients had anything like the Bill of Rights, either.

I am also well aware of Christian persecutions by the Roman Empire (not its Republic, of course) and of Athens' persecution of Socrates and others. (I am also aware of the many ancients who held this to have been wrong, too.)

And, I am also well aware of the fact that before Christians seized political power they did not persecute heretics. I am aware of the nature of the criticism certain Christians offered for such persecutions, as well.

I am also aware that Tertullian wanted the normal Roman practice of religious toleration extended to Christians, too -- and of the historical realities that made them an exception.

And, alas, Aristotle was not the "paradigm" of the relevant "pagan ideas," either. He advocated slavery.

And I am aware that the Church supported certain scientific inquiries at various stages in its history.

And I never claimed that the Church ever insisted on a flat earth, either.

And I am aware that some of Aristotle's thought became part of the Church's enforced cosmology.

I am also well aware the many Christians who regarded science as compatible with their faith, and, hence, were scientists themselves.

Thus, none of these things is part of my position or my post.

No, apart from ignoring the thrust of my actual argument, it seems that we have two factual disputes and one logical one.

Logically, your focus on the temporal relationship between the Inquisition and the rise of Aristotle, of course, ignores any influence the new scholarship and humanism might have had on creating a "heretic problem" for Christians, and it ignores the killings of heretics by Christians from earlier eras when there was also serious competition.

And, factually, I do find your "non-literal" interpretation of the Genocide passages to be highly dubious. Saul did not take the command to total slaughter literally and this is precisely what caused him to be punished. (God, it seems, took such passages literally.) If it was metaphor, in any case, it was a monstrous one. Your source here is evasive, at best.

So, too, is your linked source's treatment of the lake of "unquenchable fire" dubious. The Old Testament passages actually do not demonstrate his case, as he claimed, just the reverse. If the future of the non-believer was something less horrific, or mere non-existence, or something else left undefined, then why on earth was this never spelled out? Why let so many Christians believe this for so long from the ONLY language that was used? And, again, even merely as metaphor, it is sadistic.

You also claim to dispute my position on Christianity and sex, but, wisely, you did not attempt to address this directly.

You can torture the text all you like, but: the Old Testament called for literal genocide. The New Testament promised terrible punishments for non-Christians. The New Testament held sex to be a problem best avoided altogether and incompatible with the mothering of the Messiah.

Most contemporary Christians, to be sure, have jettisoned the literal interpretation of the BIble on these questions, and for good reason.

More importantly, on the deeper question of the relationship between reason and freedom, and between faith and force, you are silent. It seems that merely positing a supernatural dimension inevitably results in the call for removing one's focus from the things of this earth, like sex and "material" success, and, indeed, life on earth itself.

Gregster

Rosie's picture

Oh do get it right - it's that head in the happy clouds euphoria. Eye

Rose-tainted

gregster's picture

"So Christianity does allow individual liberty."

The minute you walk out that church door. A little lighter in the wallet. With that tingly sensation, and the head-in-the-clouds euphoria.

And as for you, Olivia!

Rosie's picture

Individual liberty entitles people to choose their own values and pursue them. Christianity, either traditional or the current fashionably-watered-down variety, does not allow for that kind of liberty. It's god's way or the highway....Utter, utter horse shit

Another example of a faulty exposition of illogic.

First, on one level, a tautology: individual liberty allows (one of many) individual liberties - the choice of values. Duh!

Second, on another level, she redefines and narrows individual liberty for the expediency of her own (illogical) argument to people's entitlement to choose and pursue their own values then concludes Christianity doesn't allow for individual liberty. Duh! On that narrow definition, of course, Christianity doesn't allow people to choose their own values. It is like saying communism doesn't allow capitalism. But the point is that that individual liberty (as to the choice of values or the choice of religion) precedes the choosing of Christianity.

God (or anyone else) does not say people MUST choose Christianity. To the contrary, God wants each person to make his or her individual choice in this regard. (Of course He would love us all to be Christians but the choice is the individual's.) And anyone choosing Christianity could not by definition have values that are different from Christian values.

BUT, after exercising one's individual liberty as to the choice of values and having chosen Christianity, individual liberties prevail again: the choice to do good works, the choice of occupation, where to live, whether to teach the Objectivists logic, even the choice to cease to become a Christian so that you can choose other values.

So Christianity does allow individual liberty.

Linz

Rosie's picture

In the case of the good guys like Aristotle and Jefferson, their lapses contradicted their essential goodness. In the case of Christianity persecution, torture and bigotry went with the territory

Now here we have an example of a hideous argument. Aristotle and Jefferson may be compared to Jesus and Mother Theresa (for example) but what sort of ignorance would compare two people to a religion? You may get an accurate and worthy comparison in an argument when you compare two atheists to two Christians (but wouldn't the conclusion be so different?!). It would read:

In the case of the good guys like Aristotle and Jefferson, their lapses contradicted their essential goodness. In the case of Jesus Christ and Mother Theresa persecution, torture and bigotry went with the territory

Who, without the most imprisoned of minds would even think to compare what we see above and consider it a "good" or "valid" argument?

Verily I say unto thee...
He, who in his conceitedness thinks himself the brightest star and his words equally brilliant (when to others the words may seem dull witted and the analogies or comparisons crude and inaccurate); who in his ignorant conceitedness, makes the most awful personal remarks about others who do not share his dreadful arguments or reflect him at twice or thrice his true size, verily I say unto thee, he is truly self-deluded.

Kasper

Rosie's picture

No, Rand has made her case and she's made it very well. You say that her case doesn't hold yet you have failed to demonstrate how.... It is you that holds on faith the idea of objective ethics to be bull-shit and you have yet to prove where she fails.

He has made his case where Objectivism fails via Huemer here.

Now refute that case or, alternatively, posit Rand's argument giving premises and conclusions that are true.

All this weasel wording to avoid it by non-analogous "analogies" to the empty tautology, existence exists (which incidentally is even used as an example of an empty tautology in Wikipedia) and the completely unjustified attacks on his character (which, if you were smart enough to see what he is saying, would show you where you are going wrong) is quite extraordinary. The fact that Richard pulls you up in a humorous, light hearted way is to spare your feelings/pride/dignity but you are so convinced of your position that you don't even notice either the sense of his words, the sparing of your feelings or the good hearted poignancy of his rebuke. If he were not so nice he could devour your argument in the same nasty way that other members of this forum argue and then you really would have cause to complain.

Linz

Richard Goode's picture

What's the matter Kasper, don't want to play?

And when Kasper asks me the same question, is that "smarmy"? Or just when I ask it?

Why not instead, just for once, show a Socratic respect for a virgin, inquiring mind?

I haven't had a bad word to say about Kasper this time around, except that I called him a hypocrite. You all are. You tout reason as your "only absolute" but cleave to a belief system which is fundamentally irrational - as I have spent most of my time on SOLO trying to show.

Goode

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I have nothing against sincerity and good faith.

Then why not display them once in a while instead of constantly playing the smart-ass?

As a matter of interest, what's the most recent thing I said on this thread that you consider "smarmy"?

"What's the matter Kasper, don't want to play? Sticking out tongue "

Why not instead, just for once, show a Socratic respect for a virgin, inquiring mind? You can't. Because you're a jaded, addled, ignoble, wannabe-Christian, Slayer-touting nihilist.

The hell you imagine I believe in doesn't exist.

Of course it doesn't. But you're prepared to accept God on faith, so why not hell? Rosie accepts both, after all. And according to your goblin, they go together.

Linz

Richard Goode's picture

I have nothing against sincerity and good faith. I sincerely wish to engage in a good-faith debate on Objectivist ethics, for example.

As a matter of interest, what's the most recent thing I said on this thread that you consider "smarmy"?

The hell you imagine I believe in doesn't exist.

Goode

Lindsay Perigo's picture

As a matter of interest, what do you have against sincerity and good faith? What is the appeal of supercilious smart-assery? Why do you not, for your own satisfaction, never mind Kasper's, wish to engage in good-faith debate on the matters he raises? Are you not just occasionally slightly bothered by the insidious nihilism of your game-playing? Is Rosie not so bothered? (No, of course I don't expect you give an on-the-level answer to my questions either. On-the-level is way above you. But I thought I'd ask for the record.)

You've been shamed on this thread by a decent, bright, inquiring young man whose only error was to imagine you proceeded in good faith. Whereas you're a smarmy cunt. If the hell that you and Rosie believe in really existed, it'd be the likes of you who came closest to deserving it.

Nope

Kasper's picture

I don't.

Kasper

Richard Goode's picture

What's the matter Kasper, don't want to play? Sticking out tongue

Goode

Kasper's picture

When you do the seemingly impossible and actually come to us with an argument of your own or even an agreeable starting point from which we can actually enter into a discussion for the purposes of discovering the truth about a given matter then I'll engage you. In the mean time why don't you take your duck-diving, word gaming and evasive behaviour else-where. You are very clearly not interested in having an honest discussion.

I second Donahue, if I hadn't already said before him, that you are tiring and ineed holding the class back. Perhaps you should go elsewhere for the special kids - I'd highly recommend O'lying for your level of discussion. There's plenty evidence enough on this board to show your character and how you operate. It is no longer in my self-interest to want to continue until you can show signs of an honest discourse.

Matthew

Lindsay Perigo's picture

In the case of the good guys like Aristotle and Jefferson, their lapses contradicted their essential goodness. In the case of Christianity, persecution, torture and bigotry went with the territory (and still would if the fagot-lighters had political dominance). They who believe absurdities (such as your lonely goblin story) commit atrocities. They who are capable of believing in the justice of eternal torture are not going to have any qualms about inflicting temporary torture.

Ok so 1.A person can be an

Matthew Flannagan's picture

Ok so
1.A person can be an objectivist and yet not agree with every comment Rand made.

And a person can be a Protestant and not agree with every point Calvin made, similarly a person can be a Catholic and not agree with every point Aquinas made.

2.You say “fuck em” . Ok then well when Valliant cites examples of the Inquistion I'll say “fuck em” if that is an adequate answer for objectivists it must be for non objectivists.

3.Aristotle gets a pass, because even though he defended enslaving other races ( a belief which has caused untold more misery than the Inquistion ever did) or his eugenics because you have to take into account his “historical context”

But then I'll simply point out that if you place the Inquistion, or Calvin or Aquinas in their historical context one can come to similar conclusions.

The only argument I see is
You, Matthew, cannot repair to that criterion in defending your fellow-fagot-lighters since you and they are supposed to be privy to the inerrant Word of God, are you not, which transcends historical context, does it not?

Actually while I grant that what God says is true, and truth transcends historical context, human beings interpretation and understanding of truth is fallible.

The same is presumably the case with objectivism if its true then its true regardless of ones culture or historical context, nevertheless people like Rand, and Aristotle and others had a fallible understanding and were at times limited by there context.

What your answers show is simply that objectivist attacks on Christianity are arbitrary. When its writers like Rand or Aristotle, or Jefferson, one should accept certain qualifications, take into account such things as historical context etc. When its Christian writers however one does not.

I put to you that if an early Christian writer had said what Aristotle said about slavery, or a 17th century theologian (like Calvin) had said what Jefferson said about sodomy, or a 20th century Christian writer had made homophobic comments like Rand, Objectivists would cite these statements as proof that Christianity was a pernicous belief system.

The need for making qualifications suddenly no longer applies.

That's called contradicting your self.

I am sure some obscure Russian novelist once said something about needing to check your premises if you find your position is contradictory.

tired of the goode

John Donohue's picture

goode this is all tiresome. we have been through it a million times. the tautology thing has been stomped on a million times. tiresome.

you are holding back the entire class

I don't know about

PhilipD's picture

I don't know about 'fagot-lighters' but isn't it enough to know that thousands of NZ Christians fought tooth and nail in 1986 to keep legislation that criminalized consensual homosexual sex? Legislation with penalties of imprisonment. Rabid most of 'em, as I remember it.

And cheating liars too. False identities, signing their 'anti-change' petition 2,3 and 4 times...

Kasper

Richard Goode's picture

Do you know what a tautology is?

Matthew

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Jefferson was not an Objectivist, and his every utterance and stance does not have to be defended by Objectivists. You could have done far better. Ayn Rand was an Objectivist (the first, I've read somewhere), and held similarly bigoted views on homosexuality to Christians' (what are your views, Matthew?). I have expressed my contempt for her views on this matter many times. Among the reasons for my contempt is the utter disconnect between those views and the reality she claimed to proceed from. But Ayn, unlike Christians, at least said it was none of the law's business. And Jefferson, unlike Christians and the Bible, at least stopped short of advocating the execution of gays. (What is your view of Leviticus, Matthew?)

You could also have mentioned Aquinas, an Objectivist pin-up, who advocated the execution of heretics. To which I say, fuck him. And actually, he's not one of my pin-ups. His efficacy was inadvertent, and incompatible with his being an apologist for the evil that is Catholicism: reintroducing Aristotle (pride, reason and the supreme importance of empirical evidence) to the West. Much of what Aquinas wrote was crap (of which you'd probably approve, Matthew) and I think Rand vastly over-rated him.

For the achievements I just mentioned, Aristotle gets a free pass from me for his indefensible views, and I'd invite you to remember your own admonition about "historical context."

You, Matthew, cannot repair to that criterion in defending your fellow-fagot-lighters since you and they are supposed to be privy to the inerrant Word of God, are you not, which transcends historical context, does it not?

Of course, I note that you still won't address the idiocy of your lonely goblin scenario. I suspect you're more interested in demonstrating how erudite you are than how right you are, which I confess is different, at least.

And he never will Kasper

gregster's picture

You say that her case doesn't hold yet you have failed to demonstrate how.. The Dr is No Goode.

RG

Kasper's picture

No, Rand has made her case and she's made it very well. You say that her case doesn't hold yet you have failed to demonstrate how.... It is you that holds on faith the idea of objective ethics to be bull-shit and you have yet to prove where she fails.

Existence exists is an empty tautology? Now I've heard it all. I never knew the degree of stupidity until I'd heard that.

Here's a terrible idea. Why don't you actually try stating your position in a comprehendible way so that we can have a discussion. Since existence exists is an empty tautology go and stand in front of a bus rushing at you at 100km/h and state that the premise it won't hurt if it hit you, is nothing but an empty tautology too..... Go on.... See if it is as meaningless as you would like it to be...... I bet you're far to cowardly to even try...

Thou hypocrite

Richard Goode's picture

Why then do you suspend and abnegate this faculty [reason] when it comes to questions of hugely significant import?

A good question, Kasper. One that you, and your fellow Objectivists, should be asking yourselves.

Do you have any reason to believe what Rand says about metaphysics, epistemology or ethics? No, you don't. There is no case for Objectivist ethics. According to you, the entire philosophy of Objectivism rests on an empty tautology ("all that exists, exists").

To suspend reason and employ faith instead as your tool for establishing such a hugely important question simply makes no sense what-so-ever.

Since there is no reason to believe what Rand says about metaphysics, epistemology and ethics, it's you who's suspending reason and employing faith. Either that, or you're plain deluded.

Matthew has some good advice: first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

Jefferson and Castration

Matthew Flannagan's picture

"Maybe the fagot-lighters would like to address the self-castration of Origen?"

Maybe you'd like to explain Thomas Jefferson's position on castration for sodomy Linz?

From "A Bill for Proportioning Crimes and Punishments"

Whosoever shall be guilty of Rape, Polygamy, or Sodomy with man or woman shall be punished, if a man, by castration, if a woman, by cutting thro' the cartilage of her nose a hole of one half inch diameter at the least.

Goose/gander.

Origen at least consented.

Wanna comment on Aristotle's views on compulsory infanticide?

Don't forget

gregster's picture

we're not free. We're all slaves in the mixed-economy mobocracies too. That's why some of us wish to spread the Objectivist philosophy. By far the best solution.

In case I'm incorrect - any non-slaves out there? edit: I suppose there are the dictators.

al-Qaeda didn't bring down the Twin Towers...

nevin's picture

... it was individual jihadist scum trained by al-Qaeda, funded by al-Qaeda, armed by al-Qaeda, directed by al-Qaeda, loyal to al-Qaeda, and with the blessings of al-Qaeda; not al-Qaeda. I'm glad we finally got that cleared up - for a minute there, I thought the religionists on this thread were just spinning their wheels.

Similarly, Katyn Wood, the Ukrainian terror-famine, and the building of Magadan were the work of Communists, not Communism.

The Kirov murder, the Moscow show trials, and the assassination of Trotsky: those were all done by Stalinists. Stalinism had nothing to do with it.

The Rape of Nanking was done by Japanese who just happened to be there on vacation, not by Japan.

Oh, and that bit of nastiness in Auschwitz? Obviously committed by individual Austrian and German volunteers, who by sheer coincidence all happened to be on the payroll of the Third Reich. Only a know-nothing anti-German bigot would suggest that Germany was culpable.

-Bill

John Yes I can just as easily

Matthew Flannagan's picture

John

Yes I can just as easily assert that Aristotle was caused to support slavery or that Jefferson was caused to hold slaves by principles lodged right at the root of their philosophies.

I could also tell you to burn in hell and call you a Psycho.

And just as you can claim (without any historical evidence) that this or that was done by Inquisitors. I can substantiate with evidence things done by those who agreed with Aristotle the enslavement other races.

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