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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The principle, not the person who signed Bruno's death warrant

John Donohue's picture

Speaking for myself: I am not currently writing about Bruno's murder as an example of bad people "calling themselves Christians" going off the track of otherwise beneficent and peaceful Christianity. Quite to the contrary.

I am writing about the principles lodged right at the root of Christianity that caused Christian officials to murder in full accord with the religion.

Matthew are you going to address this?

Kasper's picture

Why then do you suspend and abnegate this faculty [reason] when it comes to questions of hugely significant import? Does god exist? How do we know? What constitutes knowledge of God compared to general knowledge of other things? Are the standards different? How do we know? etc.

To suspend reason and employ faith instead as your tool for establishing such a hugely important question simply makes no sense what-so-ever. To establish a truth one must be faced with the opportunity of falsehood and be able to determine or distinguish one from the other. The only tool that can do this task is reason. Yet reason is abandoned.

You decide on god not by reason but by faith. There is no opportunity to debate, to find out or to figure that such a belief simply rests on fantasy. God versus no-God... Faith can't work that out.

Faith offers no distinguishability. No standards and no evidence, since, remember, faith is the belief and confidence in what one does not see and cannot prove - if you recall the defintion in Hebrews.

Lindsay I do not support the

Matthew Flannagan's picture

Lindsay
I do not support the burning of Bruno or Severtus ( though the claim that Calvin burnt Severtus is a matter of significant historical dispute not something one can just assume to be true because its ideologically convenient to do so ) Nor do I support Aristotle’s the idea that its natural to enslave other races or Jefferson’s practice of doing so. Both are harmful ideas that I would argue that Aristotle’s beliefs on this manner have probably been significantly more harmful historically than Calvin’s. I do however note that just as people can admire, hold to and defend the basic philosophy of Aristotle or Jefferson without necessarily endorsing every specific thing they taught or did, so one can do the same with Calvin or Aquinas etc.

So if the Randains in here want to call me names such as “faggot burner” and suggest I am a psycho who wants to burn people at the stake. I suggest everyone else in here is fully justified in claiming that they are pro slavery racists who think its ok to enslave other races. Any attempts on their part to the effect that they do not agree with everything Aristotle said, or that his overall philosophy does not require this, or that his views need to be looked at in historical context etc, can all be safely ignored because they ignore these very points when they address Christianity.

So could the racist slave owners in here please explain to me why they think it’s natural to enslave non Greeks, and that slaves are legitimate tools of their owners. Could they tell me why they are willing to own slaves and not liberate them, like Paul requested Philemon to do 1700 years prior to Jefferson, and which church fathers like Chrysotom commanded his congregations to do 1300 years or so before Jefferson. Jefferson knew of these stupid insane mystics request but like a good freedom lover gave Aristotle’s ideas more weight in his practice.

Do you want me to elaborate the horrific hangings, beatings, killings, etc that have been inflicted on African slaves in America by people who agreed with Aristotle. Goose Gander people.

Jame's said: Both science and

Mark Hubbard's picture

Jame's said:

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.

The issues of rationalism aside, was Descartes killed by the Catholics? Smiling

From: http://www.guardian.co.uk/worl...

Quote:

"For more than three and a half centuries, the death of René Descartes one winter's day in Stockholm has been attributed to the ravages of pneumonia on a body unused to the Scandinavian chill. But in a book released after years spent combing the archives of Paris and the Swedish capital, one Cartesian expert has a more sinister theory about how the French philosopher came to his end.

According to Theodor Ebert, an academic at the University of Erlangen, Descartes died not through natural causes but from an arsenic-laced communion wafer given to him by a Catholic priest.

Ebert believes that Jacques Viogué, a missionary working in Stockholm, administered the poison because he feared Descartes's radical theological ideas would derail an expected conversion to Catholicism by the monarch of protestant Sweden. ... "

Is there any solid evidence

John Donohue's picture

Is there any solid evidence of any religions burning or stoning homosexuals because they were homosexuals, does anyone know? I don't want to diminish the shunning and moral condemnations by any means, but in this case I am just wondering about actual executions.

It's at times like this I

John Donohue's picture

It's at times like this I think Leonard Peikoff is correct in saying we should vote for democrats because theists are more of a threat than socialists.

Well, these two creatures are as calm as sociopaths as they discuss their killings. What about the Muslims? They are closer to the sword. They are using the sword. I'd like to think all the theists will wipe each other out. We can't hope for it, however. The general continued impoverishment in the world due to the suppression of capitalism yields the only environments where such fairy tales have traction as real.

The Christians are losing purchase in the West, that's for sure, unless you count Africa and South America as being in The West. Creatures such as these, however, are not barred from breeding and they will indoctrinate their children with it, which is nauseating. That is the only thing keeping their gambit going. No human being per se would ever dream themselves into such a nightmare.

I mean think about it. Picture a healthy rational society, where all parents bring up their children as individual sovereigns, help them validate the judgment of their own minds and set them free as integrated free souls. Imagine a child suddenly coming up with a world view such as pitched in the previous post. It would be horrifying.

Incidentally ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I note the fagot-lighters made no comment on the revelations about the late Pope's self-flagellation. Clearly he was into BDSM. Consensual fetishes are one thing; building a coercive religion upon them is quite another. John Paul's self-whippings (couldn't he have got a Swiss Guard to administer them? Or, more characteristically for a Catholic, a choir-boy?) are said to be likely to assist the case for his canonisation. 'Cos religion is based on self-mortification. Sick, sick, sick.

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

The Protestant Flannagans might like to address the burning of Servetus by Calvin, since clearly the Catholics' burning of Bruno doesn't trouble their souls?

It's no answer to say that certain religionists pleaded for freedom of religion when their own was under threat. Milton argued for freedom of religion... except for Catholics. Locke argued for freedom of religion ... except for atheists. The defence of freedom requires a no-exceptions defence of absolutely everyone's right to believe anything he damn well pleases about absolutely anything at all, so long as he doesn't try to impose his views on others. Fagot-lighters never got that, and they still don't.

Linz

Rosie's picture

Try googling "why did God create man?" and look it up for yourself.

It certainly wasn't because He was lonely. And Matt is quite correct in his response to you. I thought exactly the same thing.

JD - as opposed to JC

Rosie's picture

"it is the principle at the heart of Christianity that burned them"
"the same essential premise that caused religion to murder Bruno is still in action today"
"the foundational evil at the root of Christianity"

Your words do not make any sense to me.

It is not that they are not simple. It is because they do not make sense.

What do you think the principle/essential premise/root of Christianity is?

My understanding is that the central belief of Christianity is that by faith in the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus, individuals are saved from death - both spiritual and physical - by redemption from their sins (i.e. faults, misdeeds, disobedience, rebellion against God). Through God's grace, by faith and repentance, men and women are reconciled to God through forgiveness and by sanctification or theosis to return to their place with God in Heaven.

Now, if you think I am wrong please tell me. For I fail to see how this can cause burning? And because your rhetoric did not state what you believed the principle etc to be, I was only left to my own understanding to fill in the gaps so to speak - to try to make sense out of nonsense. It still remained nonsense however.

The central tenet of Christianity will never change and will not be renounced. Be assured of that. The immutability of God's word is something we can rely on.

I am not into distinguishing Christians from Christianity

For one who enjoys sarcasm and irony it surprises me that you are not "into" distinguishing between the Christian and Christianity because if you were so, you would comprehend that although some people call themselves Christians they do not practice Christianity.

Finally, both you and Linz seem to find it most upsetting that Matt can stay calm whilst discussing events that seem to have you both foaming at the mouth and spitting tacks. I imagine that it is all part of the great "drama" of the moment, however, and that you are in fact able to sleep at night. I certainly hope so. This calmness is part of the development of Godly character. In God's view, the development of character comes from the practice of love, patience, mercy, faith, kindness, gentleness, and self-control (my emphasis). See Romans 12.

The upshot? The peace that passeth all understanding.

Trying again

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I said:

A god who gets lonely, creates company for himself, throws cosmic tantrums when that company doesn't genuflect sufficiently towards him even though he knew it wouldn't, keeps making it up as he goes along even though he knew in advance what would happen, and finally damns almost everyone to eternal torture exactly as he knew he would when he began the exercise ... such a being is a fiend beyond description in his incompetence and evil, not to mention implausibility, and it beggars belief that anyone in this day and age would still propound and defend such excrement.

To which Matthew responded:

The problem is Lindsay no Christian theologian believes in a "god who gets lonely" contrary to what some Randian's think you don't refute a position by ignoring what proponents of the position say, make up a silly caricature of it and then ridicule ( as opposed to arguing against) the straw man you have created.

The problem is, Matthew, I don't give a toss about the opinion of any Christian theologian. By definition it's not worth considering. We are told repeatedly in the Bible are we not that God wants man's company as well as his adoration? Now, God seemingly got along perfectly well for an eternity without man's company; why did he need it all of a sudden? How is my scenario a "silly caricature"? Is it not reasonable to infer God was feeling the need to get out more? What's silly is your whole scenario whereby your super-goblin suddenly decides to make man knowing that he'll end up damning most men to hell, after first of all drowning them during one of his hissy-fits and then crucifying one of them (born of himself and a virgin ... tell me how an intelligent person believes that?!) to offer the rest of us a way out. A way out of what? The "sin" he knew we would commit before he made us!! Not just silly beyond words (especially given what we now know about the incomprehensible vastness of the universe), but beyond obscene in its inhumanity.

Yes, a religion can burn

John Donohue's picture

Yes, a religion can burn someone. The Catholic Church is a religion. Its officials condemned people to death and burned them. Moreover it is the principle at the heart of Christianity that burned them, not "a christian."

In arguing in essentials, the same essential premise that caused religion to murder Bruno is still in action today. You have not changed your tune.

So, I am not into distinguishing Christians from Christianity. Until you renounce the foundational evil at the root of Christianity, you are all painted with the same brush.

And the gall, the spit-flying hubris, to dish out more trivial historical factoids and scold me that I don't know as many as the other disgusting dude about how and when and such, after what I just said. Insulting and sick.

Go for it, Mr D!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Interesting, the cold, clerical indifference to the fate of Bruno on the part of the fagot-lighters. Reminds me of the equally nonchalant attitude to stoning and beheading by the representative of that other stupid, stinking, savage superstition here a while back.

Sick fucks, the lot of them. Advocates of liberty? Jesus Christ, to coin a phrase!

JD

Rosie's picture

And I am not wrong about why Bruno was burned alive by your religion.

1. A religion cannot burn anyone.

Further need to distinguish the "Christians" from Christianity required.

2. Matt is the expert on this. He has provided more evidence than you (none) that the position may be otherwise.

3. My own very brief reading on the subject indicates that the Roman Inquisition was set up to keep Protestantism out of Rome. It does not confirm that his being burned upon the stake was for the sole reason that you posit. However, neither the purpose of the Roman Inquisition nor Bruno being burned is a Christian ethic.
It is not unheard of that people have used religion to protect their wealth and power. This, however, does not make Christianity wrong. Only the people who use it for the wrong reasons.

Repeat: Further need to distinguish the "Christians" from Christianity required.

I have another hideous

John Donohue's picture

I have another hideous atrocity to pin on the Dark Ages Church. This one, however, remains specifically active today, in the world.

However, in honor of Giordano Bruno, I will not move off his memory.

I will write a post in his memory every day in a fresh thread for the next four days, until and including February 17th, the 410th anniversary of the day his life was taken from him by religion.

Not of this God

Kerry King's picture

You call him the messiah
I see a deviant pariah

Holy water, empty threat, the holy cross has no effect
I piss on any object of virtue
Crucifix and rosaries, a world of insecurities
Keep waiting for your soul to be rescued

You'll see no bright tomorrow
A promise of more sorrow
You call him the messiah
I see a reckless faction based on mental slavery

You are the tainted, I am the pure
You are the sickness, I am the cure
A toxic threat, on all your nonsense I feed
I'll be the one to bring Christ to his knees

Crucified then ridiculed again
A target for all time until the end
I'll expose the total inconsistencies
And wallow in my heresy 'cause I'm the fuckin' weapon

Attacker of their ideology
Intoxicate with rationality
These apocalyptic predators must die

I'd take the eternity trip to hell

gregster's picture

ahead of any quick staking.

Flannagan, that is a cold.

John Donohue's picture

Flannagan, that is a cold. Sick. You make a cleric's dispassionate defense of your reasons for sadistic murder. Who the hell cares what was "on the list?" The Catholic Church tortured and murdered a man for not toeing the line on your absurd dogma. You have no defense. To merely raise you hand and utter even the slightest defense puts you right on the spot, throwing sticks on the fire. Hideous.

Then you say there is no remaining evidence of the list, but you serve up some stupid "occult" deflection that is only your whim, regardless of the attached "more likely" scare validation; not only is there no basis for your claim, it would not reduce the guilt for your religion even if the list were stacked with the occult. You are murderers.

The lofty and pseudo-intellectual cool attitude in your response makes you a despicable monster. Really the nerve of you to bandy about in a ho-hum manner as if casual details of what year certain thoughts became capital offense, etc mattered. May you burn in hell.

I won't dignify your sham "scholarship" about my speculation with a response. You are excommunicated.

Rosie

Olivia's picture

Christianity is not opposed to individual liberty. It is opposed to sin or the breaching of ethics/morality. Or, put more positively, it requires people to follow God's word.

What is sin?

According to the Shorter Catechism: Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.

There is no room for individual liberty in there. 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.

What a hideous mental and emotional contortion you have to keep doing in order to reconcile individual liberty with keeping some non-existent entity's law.

Utter, utter horse shit.

John Donohue

Rosie's picture

I'll try to be far simpler for you in the future.

I will settle for just sticking to the point and avoiding immature, irrelevant personal invective.

Or maybe "To the despicable Rosie" was loaded with sarcasm also so that you really meant to say that I was desirous, honorable, likeable, loveable, respectable, virtuous and worthy ? Smiling

Incidentally, you have a made a spelling mistake and seem to have a stutter at the end of one of your words! No need to try to be simpler. Your being simple is quite plain enough. Eye

Rosie

John Donohue's picture

Sorry you are so slow.You don't need to point out the irony. I intended the irony. ::::: Sigh :::::

And obviously it is not viscious deadly and sadistictic to wish you would burn in hell because, as I said (maybe I should have made it in bold type) there is no such thing. My sentences were loaded with sarcasm if also with bite. I'll try to be far simpler for you in the future.

And I am not wrong about why Bruno was burned alive by your religion.

Kasper

Rosie's picture

Christianity would oppose a person choosing to do something contrary to Christian ethics.

Politically (or from an earthly justice view) Christians may oppose the choice but they would be unable to stop it if it were legal. So on earth and from a practical point of view Christians do not prevent individual liberties from occurring (in the sense of people making a choice and acting on it). Indeed, on earth they would not be punished for it by Christians or anyone else either if it were legal.

From a heavenly justice view, yes, upon death, heavenly justice will be delivered by God (not Christians) for our choices (in particular whether or not we accepted Jesus since the only way to the Father is through Him).

It is impossible for God to be unjust.

According to your definition, however, almost all parents would be opposed to "individual liberties" since parents are often either stopping or punishing children if the child makes (or is about to make) a bad choice. Glenn Jameson has said in an earlier post that he would disown his daughter if she murdered, for example. According to your definition, therefore, at least one Objectivist and almost all parents are opposed to individual liberties.

And, incidentally, a Christian would not disown his or her child if the child murdered (or made a bad choice). He may hate the sin, but he would love the sinner.

'It’s far more likely it was

PhilipD's picture

'It’s far more likely it was Bruno’s occultic views that were the issue.'

Oh I see: imprisoned, tortured and killed for 'theological errors.'

That's OK then.

Rosie

Kasper's picture

So that's the flaw in your argument. Now I understand.

Individual liberty does not merely mean the liberty to choose. [Edited] That is simply allowing someone to exercise their volition.

Individual liberty is the liberty to make a choice and act on it without being stopped or punished. My statements that christianity opposes individual liberty should now make a lot more sense to you. Christianity oppose the liberty of teh individual to make a choice and act on it when the actor chooses something contrary to Christianities teachings. It promises the delivery of justice after death which literally translates to: You have broken God's rules now you will face his wrath.

Kasper

Richard Goode's picture

When it comes to ethics, your options are faith, delusion or nihilism. I'll elaborate on a more appropriate thread.

John Donohue

Rosie's picture

Apart from the fact that you may be wrong about why Bruno was burned at the stake, I trust that you have spotted the irony in wishing me to burn in Hell (worse than the stake since it is eternal) for being a Christian and maybe because I am happy? But what you wish for is (in your own words about what I preach) "vicious, deadly and sadistic". A further example of the adage that people always say way more about themselves by what they say of others. Er...and did you call me despicable also?

What a funny fellow.

P.S. You probably are unaware of the other irony you made in calling me an idiot savant: There is a school of thought that considers idiot savants (who can neither read nor write) gain their specialised knowledge through the Spirit.

The Theological Foundations of the Enlightenment Philosophers

Matthew Flannagan's picture

Well we can call people names or we can examine actual historical sources and check whether I am peddling revisionist history.

Above I stated that the defenses of religious tolerance, proposed by enlightenment thinkers such as John Locke, Pierre Bayle and James Madison are often simply repetitions of the arguments of early Christian theologians such as Lactantius and Tertullian, which had been known to Christian theologians for over a thousand years. These facts also show that is mistaken to suggest defenses of freedom of conscience were only developed after hundreds of years of Christian persecution.

For those who like Lindsay Perigo, think this is revisionist history I ask them to compare the following enlightenment arguments for freedom of religion with some earlier patristic ones. [The following is an extract from my latest blog post, The Theological Foundations of the Enlightenment Philosophers, at MandM]

Originally, Valliant argued,

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…. 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?

In response, I argued that, in fact, the defences of religious tolerance, proposed by enlightenment thinkers such as John Locke, Pierre Bayle and James Madison were often repetitions of the arguments offered by early Christian theologians such as Lactantius and Tertullian. Further, these pro-freedom of conscience arguments had been known to and given by Christian theologians for over a thousand years.

These facts suggest it is mistaken to say that the idea of freedom of conscience was “first considered” after hundreds of years of Christian persecution and was developed from Pagan, as opposed to earlier Christian, sources.

Turning to the enlightenment philosophers, let’s begin with James Madison,

That religion or the duty we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, being under the direction of reason and conviction only, not violence or compulsion, all men are equally entitled to the full and free exercise of it accord[in]g to the dictates of conscience; and therefore that no man or class of men ought, on account of religion to be invested with peculiar emoluments or privileges, nor subjected to any penalties or disabilities.[1]

Madison argues that true worship is based on conviction and therefore has to be voluntary; it is incompatible with coercion. His argument is not new, several Enlightenment defenders of freedom of religion made the same point. Below are two prominent examples. The first is John Locke,

The care of souls cannot belong to the civil magistrate, because his power consists only in outward force: but true and saving religion consists in the inward persuasion of the mind, without which nothing can be acceptable to God. And such is the nature of the understanding, that it cannot be compelled to the belief of anything by outward force. Confiscation of estate, imprisonment, torments, nothing of that nature can have any such efficacy as to make men change the inward judgment that they have framed of things.[2]

The second is Pierre Bayle,

It is evident then that the only legitimate way of inspiring religion is by producing in the soul certain judgments and certain movements of the will in relation to God. Now since threats, prisons, fines, exile, beatings, torture, and generally whatever is comprehended under the literal signification of compelling, are incapable of forming in the soul those judgments of the will in respect to God which constitute the essence of religion, it is evident that this is a mistaken way of establishing a religion and, consequently, that Jesus Christ has not commanded it.[3]

Now compare these arguments with the following three examples from prominent, pre-Enlightenment, Christian Theologians.

First, Aquinas, a 13th century theologian, discussed whether one should tolerate non-believers. In his discussion he summarised the following argument for an affirmative answer, which he attributed Augustine of Hippo, another theologian, who lived in the 5th century,

Augustine says (Tract. xxvi in Joan.) that "it is possible for a man to do other things against his will, but he cannot believe unless he is willing." Therefore it seems that unbelievers ought not to be compelled to the faith.[4]

Second, Lactantius, a 4th century theologian,

I should wish to know, when they compel men to sacrifice against their will, what reasoning they have with themselves, or to whom they make that offering. If it is made to the gods, that is not worship, nor an acceptable sacrifice, which is made by those who are displeasing to them, which is extorted by injury, which is enforced by pain….These things may indeed be said with justice. But who will hear, when men of furious and unbridled spirit think that their authority is diminished if there is any freedom in the affairs of men? But it is religion alone in which freedom has placed its dwelling. For it is a matter which is voluntary above all others, nor can necessity be imposed upon any, so as to worship that which he does not wish to worship. Some one may perhaps pretend, he cannot wish it. In short, some, through fear of torments, or overcome by tortures, have assented to detestable sacrifices: they never do that voluntarily which they did from necessity;[5]

And finally Tertullian a 2nd century theologian

It is a fundamental human right, a privilege of nature, that every man should worship according to his own convictions: one man's religion neither harms nor helps another man. It is assuredly no part of religion to compel religion— to which free-will and not force should lead us— the sacrificial victims even being required of a willing mind. You will render no real service to your gods by compelling us to sacrifice. For they can have no desire of offerings from the unwilling.[6]

Comparing these texts, it is, I think, fairly evident that Madison, Locke and Bayle repeated the same line of argument one finds in Aquinas (Augustine), Lactantius and Tertullian. Their arguments had been formulated and known and accepted for over a thousand years before the Enlightenment.

So Randians remain free to make claims that no Christian thinkers supported freedom of religion until after the Enlightenment and that the Enlightenment thinkers did not get their ideas from Christian thinkers if they wish but supported examples, like the above, show that this is mistaken. This is not revisionist history (at least on my part) I would call it checking sources and comparing them.

[1] James Madison Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments.
[2] John Locke A Letter Concerning Toleration.
[3] Pierre Bayle Pierre Bayle’s Philosophical Commentary trans AG Tannenbaum (New York: Peter Lang, 1686) 31.
[4] Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologicae II II q. 8, obj 3.
[5] Lactantius Epitome of the Divine Institutes 53, 54.
[6] Tertullian To Scapula Ch 2.

Kasper

Rosie's picture

Christianity has been and still is opposed to individual liberty on many fronts. Abortion, legalisation of prostitution, civil unions, euthanasia etc.

Christianity is not opposed to individual liberty. It is opposed to sin or the breaching of ethics/morality. Or, put more positively, it requires people to follow God's word.

You see "individual liberty" is the right to choose. Your right to choose is not forbidden by the Christian church. The Christian church simply requires that the individual chooses what is morally right.
Hence, because abortion, prostitution etc is not morally right the Christian church naturally opposes it. And this is where you make your great leap of illogic in jumping to the conclusion that the Christian church opposes individual liberty. No it doesn't.

RG

Kasper's picture

You just said don't come to me for answers before.

So you are saying that Faith is a mandatory requirement to assert an ethics and further that faith, delusion or nihilism are the only appropriate spheres to pick from....

Faith, delusion or nihilism

Richard Goode's picture

There is no reason to believe in a god

That's right, Kasper. That's why you need faith.

There is no reason to believe in morality, either. For example, there is no case for Objectivist ethics. Again, you need faith.

When it comes to ethics, your options are faith, delusion or nihilism. Take your pick.

Greg

Richard Goode's picture

"an existence outside of existence" is the position of religionists Dr No Goode. That is where Callum got the crazy idea from.

No, it's not.

Google the phrase "an existence outside of existence" and you'll find that the only place on the entire Web the phrase is used is... by Callum, on this thread.

Richard

Richard Goode's picture

It's so glaringly obvious what Callum means that it boggles me that this question is even asked.

If it's so glaringly obvious to you what Callum means by "an existence outside of existence", then please be so good as to explain what Callum means.

To me, "an existence outside of existence" is self-contradictory gibberish.

Credit where credit is due. A

PhilipD's picture

Credit where credit is due.

A couple of British vicars have recently been pushing the entirely reasonable line that wives should ‘remain silent’ and ‘... submit to their husbands in everything’.

The Bible-thumpers don't have it all wrong.

Linz's strawman

Matthew Flannagan's picture

Madeleine, Matt, Goode, Rosie, anyone ... why not have a crack at the part that begins, "A god who gets lonely ..."? There, I've underlined it for you.

The problem is Lindsay no Christian theologian believes in a "god who gets lonely" contrary to what some Randian's think you don't refute a position by ignoring what proponents of the position say, make up a silly caricature of it and then ridicule ( as opposed to arguing against) the straw man you have created.

James post was flawed because he made comments about what Christians allegedly did not do or say, without actually examining what Christian theologians actually did do or say. Repeating his mistake does not address this.

John Donohue wrote"You know

Matthew Flannagan's picture

John Donohue wrote"You know why Bruno had to be burned by Christians?

He taught an infinite universe, a limitless continuum. No need for a Creator. Time had no beginning."

Actually, there is little evidence that this is the case.

After examining Bruno’s considerable amount of writings Cardinal Bellarmine of the Inquisition drew up a list of 8 propositions that Bruno held which were considered heretical. The records were looted during the Napoleonic wars and a great deal was lost This list has not survived, so we do not know exactly what ideas of Bruno were condemned.

Some people have speculated that Bruno’s cosmological views were on the list, but this is unlikely for two reasons. First, the Church did not consider Copernican cosmology heretical until 1616 sometime after Bruno’s trial. Second, the reference to a infinite universe was simply an echo of Nicholas of Cusa’s writings which the Church did not deem heretical.

It’s far more likely it was Bruno’s occultic views that were the issue.

As to the idea that the church would condemn belief in an infinite universe, because that would mean there is no need for God. This is unlikely because medieval theology had already developed models and arguments to show that even if one granted the universe was infinite, that did not mean there was no need for God. An obvious example occurs in Thomas Aquinas’s five ways which were considered orthodox at the time of the Counter Reformation.

So all your response shows is again how many objectivists base their conclusions on a caricatured view of intellectual history.

Madeleine

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I thought I was doing Matt a favour. These days a PhD is a guarantee of imbecility, over which 'tis better to draw a veil of charitable silence. Witness your other intrinsicist PhD phriend on this thread.

In fact, I don't doubt Matt's erudition. I weep that he's putting it to such evil use.

You can't with impunity put the label "superstition" on something reality-based and prohibitive of the initiation of force, as you attempt to do with Objectivism. Such a thing by any human standard is benevolent and enlightened. Belief in your ghosts, goblins and gods, on the other hand, may definitely be labelled a stupid superstition (one of your people acknowledged this proudly: I believe it because it's absurd). The glorification of suffering and the institutionalising of torture in the name of these non-existent beings (they who believe absurdities commit atrocities) together justify the additional adjectives "stinking" and "savage." I share Mr. Donohue's revulsion at the stinking savagery that is Christianity, and suggest you acquaint yourself with the demise of the unfortunate and unimaginably brave Giordano Bruno at the hands of your loathsome witch doctors.

From Mr. Donohue:

The Christians saved their special tortures for Bruno. They made him rot on death row for years. They burned him slowly. And they bound his mouth so he could not scream or declare the Truth to the sky as he was murdered by Christians.
How would you like to be burned alive with your mouth taped shut just because you spoke the truth about objective reality to a superstitious monster with enslavement political power?

And if I may quote myself, in the hope that repetition will inspire a serious answer from the Christians:

It never ceases to amaze me the lengths potentially rational beings will go to to justify their failure to fulfill their potential, and instead to betray that potential and willfully wallow in the ooze of some stupid, stinking, savage superstition. In this category on this thread are Dr. Goode, Ms. Purchas and Mr. Flannagan. Twist themselves as they might to pretend that Christianity is not a repository of self-mortification (the late Pope's newly-revealed self-flagellation, anyone?) and hatred of this life and this earth, they cannot deny the actual, empirical, existential history of their spiritual deformity, so resort to claiming that other deformities were worse. As James has argued so eloquently—it's all mysticism, and to demonstrate that Christianity was/is an especially pernicious form of it is not to downplay the toxicity of its other manifestations. The point of all this is not a competition to see which brand of mysticism is the worst; it's to damn all of them. The Christians evade the unspeakable cosmic cruelty of a god who would damn untold numbers of his creations to eternal torture, having created them knowing this to be the outcome, mandated by his own cosmic bigotry—thus showing themselves to be as beyond-sick as the mythical monster they worship.

Mr. Flannagan's Religiously Correct revisionist version of history to the contrary notwithstanding, the fact is that every single scientific advance that ever occurred did so in the teeth of fanatical opposition from the church, be it Catholic or Protestant. In our own time, whence comes the opposition to stem-cell research? To voluntary euthanasia and the premise that one owns one's own life and one's own death? Name any attempt you like to ameliorate human suffering, including even anesthaesia, and there at the forefront of opposition thereto you will find the Christian church—that disgusting blight on the human landscape. As I've said to James privately, I'm delighted that the Christians are putting up a fight here—in the spirit of the open exchange of ideas that none of these fagot-lighters actually believes in—but aghast that adult human beings can still believe such utter crap. A god who gets lonely, creates company for himself, throws cosmic tantrums when that company doesn't genuflect sufficiently towards him even though he knew it wouldn't, keeps making it up as he goes along even though he knew in advance what would happen, and finally damns almost everyone to eternal torture exactly as he knew he would when he began the exercise ... such a being is a fiend beyond description in his incompetence and evil, not to mention implausibility, and it beggars belief that anyone in this day and age would still propound and defend such excrement.

Madeleine, Matt, Goode, Rosie, anyone ... why not have a crack at the part that begins, "A god who gets lonely ..."? There, I've underlined it for you.

What do you mean by "an

Richard Wiig's picture

What do you mean by "an existence outside of existence"?

It's so glaringly obvious what Callum means that it boggles me that this question is even asked. I cannot help but shake my head in disbelief.

Madeline and Matthew

Kasper's picture

Since you both agree that study is instrumental to the apprehension of truth noticable by Matt's attainment of his PhD and since the links Matt has made on his posts to sites that deal with weighing propositions and arguments up with one another, it appears that you both agree that employing reason is vitally necessary to identifying knowledge (i.e the truth about a given matter).

Moreover, this is evidenced by Matt's enthusiastic engagement over deliberations of historical record, exegesis and over who said what, when and how and what that means here or there and making sure seemingly contradictory claims are straightened out for the purposes of comprehendability, it appears you both agree, then, that one must employ this faculty called reason in order establish anything at all and further it must be used to demonstrate a case.

Why then do you both suspend and abnegate this faculty when it comes to questions of hugely significant import? Does god exist? How do we know? What constitutes knowledge of God compared to general knowledge of other things? Are the standards different? How do we know? etc.

To suspend reason and employ faith instead as your tool for establishing such a hugely important question simply makes no sense what-so-ever. To establish a truth one must be faced with the opportunity of falsehood and be able to determine or distinguish one from the other. The only tool that can do this task is reason. Yet reason is abandoned.

You decide on god not by reason but by faith. There is no opportunity to debate, to find out or to figure that such a belief simply rests on fantasy. God versus no-God... Faith can't work that out.

Faith offers no distinguishability. No standards and no evidence, since, remember, faith is the belief and confidence in what one does not see and cannot prove - if you recall the defintion in Hebrews.

That wasn't necessary

gregster's picture

I said "If.."

I disagree with points 1 & 2. Though yes, the universe is finite, not in time though. [Correction: time technically being a measurement, at any point is finite, because of the impossibility of its, (infinity's) measurement. Infinity is more of a mathematical device.] Big Bang theory is only a theory. I think, I mean I say it's incorrect.

So does that mean up to there you agree with my last post? Edit; obviously not.

I've only given a little against the deity but when has anyone given a little for its existence. Just a little evidence. I mean he's so all powerful surely there's some out there?

So....Madeline

Kasper's picture

You support the idea that Christianity is responsible for very little blood-shed?

You support the idea that Christianity should not be charged with the charge's made out to them by Objectivists?

Rosie

Kasper's picture

" Why does everyone have such an agenda on this forum that they simply do not read the facts but seem to read what their prejudices tell them? Extraordinary"

You are barely arguing or saying anything at all and as for what Goode says - well, he doesn't. You are debating superficialities at best.

There is no reason to believe in a god and you certainly have not provided anything close to an adequate argument.
Christianity has been and still is opposed to individual liberty on many fronts. Abortion, legalisation of prostitution, civil unions, euthanasia etc.

As Callum has pointed out, you are just bickering. I have no intention doing the homework you have set out for me to do. I have 20 years experience in the Christian religion. I am more than familiar with the fallacious reasoning, the rationalizations, the idiocy of opinion on various subject matters etc.

You have barely said anything at all that would discredit Valliants post yet alone debasing his argument at the core. Try going for the jugular. Make this interesting.

As to all of what you have said so far here's the question I am still faced with.

So what? I don't mean that on bad faith. There is a massive SO WHAT factor not being answered in your posts nor Matthew's.

"Did you read the trilemma

Callum McPetrie's picture

"Did you read the trilemma argument at all?"

I have heard of the trilemma argument.

"Well that was a fun read, Callum, if in a black humour kind of way.

I wonder how these guys would get on under the trilemma test? Mad, bad or Lord?"

How do you think Mohammed would've gotten on? If he didn't do too badly, would you therefore have to say that he is indeed a Prophet? What about General Patton?

If you allow me to answer my own question: no. If someone makes a claim about himself which he wants us to believe, we always look for outside evidence to decide whether he's telling the truth or no. We never simply believe him without question, and I don't see why we should make an exception for Jesus. Especially with such a big claim as being the Son of God.

Anyway, Richard has taken us back to the crux of my argument. Until you can provide some objective evidence for Jesus being the Son of God - aka, something other than what he (or his followers) said, I'm not going to debate reasoning based on the something as un-objective as the trilemma test.
_________________

"No, it's not.

Yes it is. How else could he be omniscient and omnipotent?

"What do you mean by "an existence outside of existence"?"

Precisely that. An existence unto which no laws of existence (ie the laws of identity and causality) apply, and as thus a contradiction in terms as you claimed.

Wishful Thinking? Supported Argument More Like

Madeleine's picture

Linz James may well have "eloquently argued" his piece but Dr Flannagan (not "Mr" as you keep calling him) not only holds a PhD and a string of articles published in peer reviews in the relevant field but he too also eloquently argued his case but with one rather glaring difference, he used footnotes and in these footnotes were peer reviewed sources supporting his argument.

So, mr Perigo, what never ceases to amaze me is the length that potentially rational beings will go to to justify their failure to fulfill their potential, and instead to betray that potential and willfully wallow in the ooze of some stupid, stinking, savage Randian superstition.

Support your Randianly correct revisionist version of history with evidence or do not expect anyone to buy your claims; if you are expecting us to swallow this rubbish on the basis of rhetoric alone then you take us for Obama supporters (or perhaps there is something you need to confess?).

P.S. You know why Bruno had

John Donohue's picture

P.S.

You know why Bruno had to be burned by Christians?

He taught an infinite universe, a limitless continuum. No need for a Creator. Time had no beginning.

Existence is.

to the despicable "rosie"

John Donohue's picture

Ok, that's enough.

In the name of Giordano Bruno take your man-hating, man-burning superstition and may it burn in hell.

You seem happy go lucky and nothing can touch you like an idiot savant run amok with happy clouds in your brain. But what you preach is vicious, deadly and sadistic.

The Christians saved their special tortures for Bruno. They made him rot on death row for years. They burned him slowly. And they bound his mouth so he could not scream or declare the Truth to the sky as he was murdered by Christians.

How would you like to be burned alive with your mouth taped shut just because you spoke the truth about objective reality to a superstitious monster with enslavement political power?

Frankly, I hope YOU burn in hell.

Even though there is no such thing. Now shut up.

Especially for Linz

Rosie's picture

Some scholarship from agentintellect blog:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Incidentally, are you not aware that the Vatican has proudly contributed to stem cell research using amniotic fluid? It was not stem cell research, as science, that was opposed to by the church, Linz, it was the "harvesting" of human beings. They do not believe that the ends justify the means. But now that it can be done using amniotic fluid no problem.

Why does everyone have such an agenda on this forum that they simply do not read the facts but seem to read what their prejudices tell them? Extraordinary.

Greg - Not whim worshipping

Rosie's picture

From Agentintellect - This argument has been said in an earlier thread but it clearly didn't get through to you, Greg. Maybe if it said differently....

But who made God?

Many cosmological arguments (not all) argue that everything that begins to exist must have a cause -- this is basically the principle of causality. But this chain of causality cannot be extended infinitely into the past for two reasons: 1) an infinite amount cannot exist in reality; therefore there must be a first cause that by definition is not the effect of a previous cause itself. 2) We have empirical evidence that the universe itself began to exist (Big Bang cosmology) and is therefore finite; therefore there must be something that exists independently of the universe that brought it into existence. In both cases we end up with something that sounds an awful lot like God.

The objection of some atheists is to ask, "Well then who created God? If everything requires a cause, then God would require a cause too right?"

The response to this should be obvious. Cosmological arguments do not claim that everything that exists requires a cause because there's simply nothing about sheer existence that would require a cause. What philosophers have claimed is that everything that begins to exist requires a cause. It's the "beginning" part that brings causality into play, not the "existing" part. So when we say that "Being does not arise from non-being," the focus is not on the "being" but on the "arising"; it's the latter that necessitates a cause, not the former.

The objection may then be put the other way around: "If God doesn't require a cause, why does the universe? Why couldn't the universe be this first cause?" Again, the response should be obvious: because it began to exist. That's the argument. Of course, you could claim that the argument fails or present an argument of your own that the universe didn't really begin to exist. But to simply say, "Well if God doesn't require a cause, why does the universe?" just ignores the argument that has been presented. It certainly doesn't answer it.

Thus, this objection is a complete straw man. It's a misstatement of the claims being made, a misstatement made in order to raise a bogus objection to certain cosmological arguments. The fact that otherwise brilliant people (such as Bertrand Russell) think this is a good objection only demonstrates that they didn't even hear the argument in the first place.

The reason "Who then created God?" is not a good objection is because the cosmological argument already addresses that issue. The whole point of these arguments is that there must be a cause that is not an effect of a previous cause itself. To ask why this first cause is this way is to ignore the argument that has just been made that this first cause is this way. Of course, showing that something is the case is not the same thing as showing why it is the case. (I would argue that one can answer the "why" question, but that's another issue.) But the atheist is claiming -- at least with this objection -- that unless the argument proves why something is the case, it doesn't prove that it's the case. This is obviously false.

So, for example, I could say that the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter equals pi (in Euclidean space). I could then prove this mathematically. The atheist objection would be "Why should this ratio equal pi?" The answer would be, "It does. Here's the proof again." The atheist would then object "Your mathematical proof doesn't explain why this ratio equals pi." And again, the answer would be, "It does equal pi. Here's the proof again." "But why should it be this way?" "It is this way. Here's the proof again." Etc. It reminds me of a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Calvin balks at his math homework. You put two numbers together and they magically become some third number. No one can say how or why it happens, you just have to accept it on faith. "As a math atheist, I should be excused from this."

So when an atheist asks why God should be excused from having to have a cause, the answer is simply to repeat the argument, which (allegedly) demonstrates that there must be a first cause that does not have a cause itself. Perhaps the argument fails to demonstrate this, but the objection that God would then require a cause doesn't even address it.

A book for you all (my emphasis)

Rosie's picture

God's Philosophers is published in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia by Icon Books.

It can be ordered from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.

Readers in the rest of the world can also order from The Book Depository who will deliver anywhere in the world FREE.

God’s Philosophers tells the unknown story of medieval science. It shows how Copernicus’s sun-centred universe, Kepler’s optics and Galileo’s mechanics all owed their inspiration and much of their detail to medieval antecedents. You will meet fascinating characters and hear their stories, including the tragic love affair of Abelard and Heloise, the burning of the astrologer Cecco D’Ascoli, the family disasters of Jerome Cardan and the trial of Galileo. God's Philosophers debunks many myths about the Middle Ages. Medieval people did not think the earth was flat, nor did Columbus 'prove' that it is a sphere. Everyone already knew. The Inquisition burnt nobody for their scientific ideas, nor was Copernicus afraid of persecution. No Pope tried to ban human dissection or the number zero. Medieval thinkers were not uncritical slaves to Aristotle. The Middle Ages were an era of invention and rapid technological change. For example, spectacles, the mechanical clock and the windmill were all invented in thirteenth century Europe. Ideas from the Far East, like printing, gunpowder and the compass were taken further by Europeans than the Chinese had imagined possible. Historians now utterly reject the idea that science and religion have been locked in a great conflict throughout history. God’s Philosophers shows how the Church supported but also set boundaries for science in the Middle Ages. Many of the most significant contributors to medieval science became bishops or cardinals. Many people today still believe that heavy objects fall faster than light ones and that vacuums suck. In God's Philosophers, you will not only learn the truth about physics, but also how medieval scholars overturned the false wisdom of ancient Greece to lay the foundations of modern science.

God's Philosophers is written by a historian with degrees in physics and history from Oxford and London universities. The author also has a PhD in the history of science from the University of Cambridge. It is based on the author’s own research as well as highly regarded academic work by the world’s leading historians of medieval science such as David Lindberg, Edward Grant, William A Wallace, Alan Debus, John North, Lynn Thorndike, Anneliese Maior and Lynn White. This is the first history of medieval science intended for the lay reader and makes available the exciting developments in modern scholarship.

The Power of Wishful Thinking

Lindsay Perigo's picture

It never ceases to amaze me the lengths potentially rational beings will go to to justify their failure to fulfill their potential, and instead to betray that potential and willfully wallow in the ooze of some stupid, stinking, savage superstition. In this category on this thread are Dr. Goode, Ms. Purchas and Mr. Flannagan. Twist themselves as they might to pretend that Christianity is not a repository of self-mortification (the late Pope's newly-revealed self-flagellation, anyone?) and hatred of this life and this earth, they cannot deny the actual, empirical, existential history of their spiritual deformity, so resort to claiming that other deformities were worse. As James has argued so eloquently—it's all mysticism, and to demonstrate that Christianity was/is an especially pernicious form of it is not to downplay the toxicity of its other manifestations. The point of all this is not a competition to see which brand of mysticism is the worst; it's to damn all of them. The Christians evade the unspeakable cosmic cruelty of a god who would damn untold numbers of his creations to eternal torture, having created them knowing this to be the outcome, mandated by his own cosmic bigotry—thus showing themselves to be as beyond-sick as the mythical monster they worship.

Mr. Flannagan's Religiously Correct revisionist version of history to the contrary notwithstanding, the fact is that every single scientific advance that ever occurred did so in the teeth of fanatical opposition from the church, be it Catholic or Protestant. In our own time, whence comes the opposition to stem-cell research? To voluntary euthanasia and the premise that one owns one's own life and one's own death? Name any attempt you like to ameliorate human suffering, including even anesthaesia, and there at the forefront of opposition thereto you will find the Christian church—that disgusting blight on the human landscape. As I've said to James privately, I'm delighted that the Christians are putting up a fight here—in the spirit of the open exchange of ideas that none of these fagot-lighters actually believes in—but aghast that adult human beings can still believe such utter crap. A god who gets lonely, creates company for himself, throws cosmic tantrums when that company doesn't genuflect sufficiently towards him even though he knew it wouldn't, keeps making it up as he goes along even though he knew in advance what would happen, and finally damns almost everyone to eternal torture exactly as he knew he would when he began the exercise ... such a being is a fiend beyond description in his incompetence and evil, not to mention implausibility, and it beggars belief that anyone in this day and age would still propound and defend such excrement.

You're here, I'm here

gregster's picture

and the universe is here.

No thing comes from nothing. Matter cannot be created. The universe is eternal, therefore.

There is no need to posit a creator being. To do so is to invoke primitive superstition.

Just because the universe appears, to the mystic, unexplainable, it does not follow that he should invent an even more inexplicable "creator."

The descriptions we hear of your Godfella are contradictory. There is no clear, rational description, let alone, knowledge or evidence for such.

If we take it that you posit that the universe needs a cause, then so does your creator. If not, then you are whim worshipping.

Why not?

gregster's picture

If and when Matt's possible minor grievances are found worthy. I have nothing to hide. Honest identification is paramount.

Well go on then Greg

Rosie's picture

I mention the meaning of "identity," in my context, for the purpose of explaining the impossibility of the creator.

Well, go on then, Greg, and explain the impossibility of a creator.

Oh Greg, by the way...

Rosie's picture

Probably the best contribution of late. I'll pass this on to a friend who's reading

Gasp! Clever friend.

Are you going to pass on Mr Flannagan's response also?

I may have, yes

gregster's picture

and that is one of the descriptions out there.

I mention the meaning of "identity," in my context, for the purpose of explaining the impossibility of the creator.

A description, no matter how preposterous, is not sufficient.

No Goode

gregster's picture

What would be meant by an unknowable God?

Greg

Rosie's picture

In your own words, you have described God as the "supreme being, creator and ruler of the universe".

Ms Purchas

gregster's picture

For clarification. Identity in my context means a primary identification.

"Before one can ask what an existent is, it must be something, and one must know this. If not, then there is nothing to investigate - or to exist." Peikoff, OPAR, pg7.

Messiahs

Rosie's picture

Well that was a fun read, Callum, if in a black humour kind of way.

I wonder how these guys would get on under the trilemma test? Mad, bad or Lord?

Greg

Richard Goode's picture

God being much like the green goblin under your pillow?

No, Greg. 'God' is defined here.

Callum

Richard Goode's picture

Indeed 'tis, Gregster.

No, it's not.

What do you mean by "an existence outside of existence"?

Callum

Rosie's picture

Did you read the trilemma argument at all? And the other links in my post to Kasper?

There is an academic work that says that although it is acknowledged that Jesus was not mad or bad there is another argument not considered in the trilemma that he could have been mistaken. But given the fulfilled prophecies from the OT about the coming of Christ (prior to Jesus' birth) and the unlikelihood of any person being able to orchestrate those prophecies occurring (on this see one of the "here" links in my post to Kasper) it is unlikely that Jesus was mistaken and not who he claimed to be.

Dr No Goode

gregster's picture

Can't let you get away with this one either.

"Christianity derives an objective morality from God, not from "an existence outside of existence"."

That I know was you being perversely playful with your religiosity. "An objective morality from God." God being much like the green goblin under your pillow? He exists? Well if so prove it.

Start a new thread.

"The Evidence for God."

You'll be famous if you pull it off.

You're right Rosie.

Callum McPetrie's picture

You're right Rosie. Therefore, you'll draw the conclusion that I did not use Monty Python as a source. In fact, I'll let you see for yourself:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L...

Callum

Rosie's picture

weren't there quite a number of people claiming to be the Messiah at the time of Jesus?

Monty Python is not usually considered a reliable source.

Indeed 'tis, Gregster.

Callum McPetrie's picture

Indeed 'tis, Gregster.

"Isn't an existence outside of existence a contradiction in terms?"

Precisely, Richard. I'll let you digest that one.

an existence outside of existence?

gregster's picture

"an existence outside of existence" is the position of religionists Dr No Goode. That is where Callum got the crazy idea from.

Callum!

Richard Goode's picture

it is impossible for Christianity or any religion to derive an objective morality from an existence outside of existence.

Christianity derives an objective morality from God, not from "an existence outside of existence".

What do you mean by an existence outside of existence? Isn't an existence outside of existence a contradiction in terms?

Rosie

Callum McPetrie's picture

"How else can you discuss Christianity?"

To quote myself:

"So, if Objectivists want to diffuse Christianity and religion in general, we'll need to stop bickering over petty historical details and actually get to the big picture, about how submission to an unknowable deity and individual rights are incompatible in the long run. Even if the Bible [or any religious book] presented a morality exactly like Objectivist morality but instead based it in God, they'd still be incompatible."

Christianity is used here as an example. What I'm discussing is not the details of purely Christian ethics, but how it is impossible for Christianity or any religion to derive an objective morality from an existence outside of existence. Rosie!

"I would say that it has been amply examined and accepted that Jesus existed and that Jesus was not mad or bad. If he were not mad or bad then what he claimed must be true."

Isn't this a rather faulty piece of reasoning? General Patton believed he was a Roman general fighting Hannibal in a past life, but was neither bad nor mad. In fact, weren't there quite a number of people claiming to be the Messiah at the time of Jesus?

"This would be my objective evidence that Jesus is the Son of God..."

I'm not sure this counts as objective evidence, Rosie. At the end of the day, you are simply taking a man on his word.

James' Historical Claims Critiqued.

Matthew Flannagan's picture

Since this piece appeared on Not PC earlier in the week I have researched and written a critique of it which I have published Part I of on my own blog here: Freedom, Science and Christianity: A Response to James Valliant Part I. I have written this critique for several reasons:
1. James' piece is loaded with historical and theological errors.
2. Too many people on SOLO and Not PC seem to be equally historically and theologically ignorant.
3. Many Christians themselves also suffer from this ignorance and actually concede the erroneous claims.

Given the sheer volume of the errors James has made I have already had to extend my response into two parts and have had to settle for only addressing the points most central to his thesis.

The first part of my response is below, for the rest pop on over to MandM and keep an eye out for Part II.

Recently Peter Cresswell published a guest post by James Valliant, which originally appeared on SOLO. Valliant’s basic thesis is that,

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.

Like other Randian’s he erroneously thinks of Aristotle’s philosophy as a paradigm of the pagan ideas in question. Valliant’s post contains numerous errors. His uncritical acceptance of literal reading of Genocide passages, his claim that the Bible teaches sex is bad, his assertion that it teaches people will be tortured forever for not believing in Christ and numerous other things means there are far to many errors for me to address in a short post and this one is long enough as it is! Here I will focus on those errors most relevant to his main thesis. [I have inserted hyperlinks on the less relevant errors where I have previously written on the issue - also see the related posts at the end of the piece on my blog.]

1. Valliant appears to accept the now discredited conflict thesis. He states that the Church “imprisoned scientists” for challenging its authority and that that “Western science only got going again following the rediscovery of pre-Christian Greek ideas, starting with Aristotle's.” Valliant cites Copernicus as an example, claiming that he “got his ideas about the earth and the sun from an ancient, pagan source, one that he suppressed upon publication.” This is all questionable at best, as James Hannam’s recent study shows, “During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church actively supported a great deal of science.” Hannam goes on to document that, contrary to popular belief, the Church, “never supported the idea that the earth was flat, never banned human dissection, never banned zero and certainly never burnt anyone at the stake for scientific ideas.” The one exception to this, he notes, is the case of Galileo in the 17th century, who was placed under house arrest for teaching Copernican cosmology as true (as opposed to a hypothesis).[1] The Catholic Church’s opposition to Copernicus, of course, is the sole case Valliant alludes to but a single case does not substantiate a trend.

Valliant’s allusion to the views of Copernicus is similarly questionable. Copernicus’ heliocentric cosmology constituted a rejection of the standard Aristotelian cosmology accepted by the ancient Greeks. Stillman Drake notes that Galileo’s strongest opponents were supporters of Aristotle and it was more his calling into question Aristotle and the pressure by Aristotelians to silence him, that lead to his condemnation from the church than merely interpreting a psalm figuratively.[2] Nor is it correct to suggest that Copernicus got his “ideas about the earth” from suppressed Greek scientists. In fact, the thesis that the earth moves had already been suggested by 14th century theologians Jean Buridan and Nicole d'Oresme and had been openly discussed in medieval universities for centuries prior to Copernicus. Edward Grant notes the positions of Buridan and d'Oresme were based in part on Theological condemnations of Aristotelian Philosophy that had occurred in the 13 century.[3] The Copernican position then was already being debated openly in theological circles before Copernicus and was a repudiation of Greek cosmology motivated, in part, by theological concerns about God’s sovereignty.

2. Valliant makes the historical claim that “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 … is all a matter of historical record.” He asks,

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?. 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.” [Emphasis added]

Valliant appears to think that religious persecution as existed in the Inquisition was due to Christian theology and that the notion of freedom of conscience was the result of pagan ideas. The facts, however, are not so simple. Valliant’s argument contains several false assumptions.

First, Valliant is mistaken that Christians for the better part of two millennia both engaged in and supported the activities he refers too. In fact, for the first four hundred years of Christian history, the Church fathers supported and defended a right to freedom of conscience; it was only in the 5th century, due to the influence of Augustine, that suppression of heresy was supported. Even in this instance there was not unanimity. Many theologians such as Ambrose and Pope Siricius protested heresy executions in the late Roman Empire. Forced baptisms did occur under Charlemagne in the 8th century but were criticised by leading theologians of the time such as Alcurin. From Charlemagne till the 12th century, some 400 years, there were no inquisitions.[4] The Inquisition arose in Western Europe in the 12th century in response to a particular political crisis.

Interestingly both Canon Law and Medieval Theology developed a notion of freedom of conscience in the Middle Ages, drawing from earlier patristic sources and exegesis of Paul’s comments on freedom of conscience in Romans 14.[5] In fact, the defences of religious tolerance, proposed by enlightenment thinkers such as John Locke, Pierre Bayle and James Madison are often simply repetitions of the arguments of early Christian theologians such as Lactantius and Tertullian, which had been known to Christian theologians for over a thousand years. These facts also show that is mistaken to suggest defences of freedom of conscience were only developed after hundreds of years of Christian persecution.

Second, Valliant’s attempt to equate religious tolerance with pagan antiquity is equally dubious. The pre-Christian Athenian democracy Valliant champions executed Socrates for heresy, around 400 years before Christ. Plato and Aristotle also experienced periods of exile from Athens - Aristotle fled precisely to avoid sharing Socrates fate. Greek Philosophers, including Plato, defended censorship of religious books and execution of those who denied the existence of the gods. For 300 years prior to the Christianisation of Europe the roman state persecuted and executed Christian believers. Eusebius records that thousands of men, women and children - sometimes whole towns - were martyred by Rome for their beliefs.[6] David Lindberg sums the evidence up,

Intolerance is and was (and is) a widely cultivated trait, shared about equally by pagans and Christians. Moreover, each party was capable of employing coercive measures when it gained the political power to do so; Christians, in fact appear to have done so less often than Pagans.[7]

Valliant’s contention that “freedom” was based on “pre-Christian” Aristotelian ideas “with conservative Christians fighting each and every step of the way” also ignores the obvious fact that the Inquisition came into Europe around the same time as the rise of Aristotelianism and was in fact defended and carried out by the Dominican order - the very same order that promoted and defended Aristotle in European universities. The facts, therefore, do not fit the generalised picture Valliant paints.

Third, Valliant’s comments appear to assume that the torture and execution of heretics was justified solely by an appeal to the Bible. However, nowhere does the Bible [click for more...]

Your Christ was a silly ghost

gregster's picture

"Then Christ died for our sins."

Richard

Rosie's picture

Sorry to be a pedant but.....

There is no indication in what I have read or written that the pastor promoted the death penalty - only that he raised the concerns of parents whose children were being paid to go with, and get other children to go with, homosexuals (sometimes HIV+) by way of a petition which he then presented to the government. Three months later the Bill, invoking the death penalty in certain circumstances and imprisonment in other circumstances, was drafted. There is no mention that the pastor asked for the death penalty. In fact the other guy who was at the seminar (whose email I quoted) stated that he (who also attended the seminar) had not suggested those penalties.

It is a leap of illogic to assume the pastor promoted the death penalty when all we are told is that he presented a petition to the government as a result of concerned parents. We do not know what the petition said.

I wanted to know if it's in accordance with Christian teachings or not and telling me that religious leaders put an end to it doesn't answer that question.

"No Christian would allow the death penalty" answers your question and is included in the same post. Was that not abundantly clear? Eye

It is an interesting question though, Richard, and if I am correct you may be wondering about my answer in comparison to the OT stoning of adulterers, etc. The answer I believe is found in the law that the wages for sin are death. Then Christ died for our sins. Is it any wonder that a small token of thanks by way of obligation to God/Christ might be expected of us?! A quite beautiful explanation of what Christ dying for our sins actually means is described by CS Lewis in the last "here" of the post for Kasper below if you are interested.

Jesus is 2/3 ghost

gregster's picture

"I did understand Greg's post. And I replied that Jesus is God made manifest. I.e., Jesus is God. God is the Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

In that case your Jesus has no identity either and is beyond possibility.

I only asked, Rosie. I heard

Richard Wiig's picture

I only asked, Rosie. I heard that it was promoted by Christian groups, and it seems that's true, seeing as it's the pastor who promoted it. I wanted to know if it's in accordance with Christian teachings or not and telling me that religious leaders put an end to it doesn't answer that question. Linz once said that Christianity supports the stoning of gays, and I disagreed. He claimed I was an appeaser. But no, I just think religions should be criticised for what they are rather than be misrepresented, which I dont' think helps. Regardless of whether it does or not, it is still destructive and can certainly lead to the murdering of gays - in line wth "those who belief absurdities commit atrocities".

Get it right, Richard.

Rosie's picture

Get it right, Richard. The religious leaders prevented the Bill from including the death penalty.

"Uganda to Drop Death Penalty, Life in Jail for Gays
By Fred Ojambo

Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Uganda will drop the death penalty and life imprisonment for gays in a refined version of an anti- gay bill expected to be ready for presentation to Parliament in two weeks, James Nsaba Buturo, the minister of ethics and integrity, said.

The draft bill, which is under consideration by a parliamentary committee, will drop the two punishments to attract the support of religious leaders who are opposed to these penalties, Buturo said today in a phone interview from the capital, Kampala."

Get it right please. No Christian would advocate the death penalty. It would seem that the religious leaders gave no support for imprisonment either.

Maybe the parents of the children who these gay men are recruiting (particularly if they are HIV+) are so angry that they demanded it of their church leader who organised the seminar which got the ball (or Bill) rolling in the first instance. (see below) That would seem more likely.

Background to the Death Penalty Bill
"Both opponents and supporters agree that the impetus for the a more hardline law came in March during a seminar in Kampala to "expose the truth behind homosexuality and the homosexual agenda".

The seminar was organised by Stephen Langa, a Ugandan electrician turned pastor who runs the Family Life Network in Kampala and has been spreading the message that gays are targeting schoolchildren for "conversion". "They give money to children to recruit schoolmates – once you have two children, the whole school is gone," he said in an interview. Asked if there had been any court case to prove this was happening, he replied: "No, that's why this law is needed."

After the conference Langa arranged for a petition signed by thousands of concerned parents to be delivered to parliament in April. Within a few months the bill had been drawn up.

In an email to the Guardian on 30 November, Scott Lively said, "I have stated publicly that I do not support the bill as written. It is far too harsh and punitive. My purpose in addressing members of the Uganda parliament in March was to urge them to emphasise therapy, not punishment in their anti-homosexuality law." "

"As one parent told me: 'We would rather live in grass huts with our morality than in skyscrapers among homosexuals'.""

homosexuality and pre marital

Richard Wiig's picture

homosexuality and pre marital sex. Which brings us back to the first point - you don't want to judge Christianity by all of the Christians.

And speaking of homosexuality and the increase of Christianity in Africa, Christians are pushing for the death penalty in Uganda. Is that in line with Christian law or against Christian law?

Kasper

Rosie's picture

On the subject of your belief that Jesus may have been "consistently and methodically deluded" (a.k.a. a lunatic) I refer you to the relevant extract from Mere Christianity by CS Lewis here and his trilemma argument as set out in Wikipedia here.

On the subject of the probability of Jesus being the Messiah I refer you to some reading here. This site is quite good if you want to keep reading the development of the study by clicking on the blue bold writing at the bottom of the page. It is written by a once-sceptic and has a neat, logical, snappy style.

On the subject of the relationship between the Old and New Testaments I refer you to some reading here and here.

To understand why Jesus had to die for us, again, CS Lewis sets it out quite well here. It also adds a bit more understanding to the God/Jesus relationship.

Rosie

Kasper's picture

The response to your comment to Callum is simply that Jesus was mad. Despite the hidden premise in that ultimatum, often seen in Alpha programmes, 'mad' does not require inconsistency or sickness, one can be consistently and methodically deluded.
Jesus did bring many changes to the belief system of Judeo-Christianity in the NT. Ideas such as "freedom in Christ", "no condemnation", "principles of love", "judge not yet yee be judged” and so on. He was fundamental to face-lifting, if you like the image of God from one of an angry headmaster with a stern rod ready to pounce at the slightest grievance to one of love, mercy and joy. The NT reads, behaves and possesses a totally different tone to that of the old as far as its preaching’s are concerned. The NT is not cut off from the old however; I do understand there are many links back and forth - don't you worry I have very comprehensive bible at home.
Freedom and God are both historically and doctrinally opposite ideas as far as Christianity is concerned. Freedom in Christ of course is meaningless politically and in the course of human affairs. So if it pertains to spiritual freedom - well that is outside of the scope of our discussion here.

Reminds me of a joke from 'Nuns on the run'

Robert's picture

Two bogus nuns are at in class attempting to explain the Holy Trinity to skeptical Catholic School Girls. (It's the old, escape your nemesis by hiding in the nunnery caper. Only unlike the original idea in Les Miserable, this version of the caper has a bit of cross-dressing thrown in for 'comic' relief...)

"God is like the Shamrock" begins one of the bogus nuns.

"That's right!" Exclaims the other bogus nun breathlessly.

He sees their nemesis approaching through the classroom window and wants to cut the discussion short so as to make a quick and quiet getaway.

"He's small, green and split four ways..."

And, finally, James

Rosie's picture

I would have to say that I am on a very different "wavelength" from you.

You are right, you were replying to my assertion that the nineteenth century was the zenith in acceptance of European Christianity (in this regard see my post to Kasper) but it quickly altered to a treatise about the founding fathers of America.

And I don't think you understood what I asked you at all or, if you did, then you answered very oddly if I may say so!

For example, I asked what you want to do that Christianity prevents and you replied initially with what you don't want to do! Then you said you want to focus on life here on earth and be proud of your achievements. Well Christianity doesn't prevent that! In fact, the only thing that you said that you want that Christianity would deny is pre marital sex and homosexual practices. You said that Christianity inhibits people in this way. (And no doubt the murderers want to murder, the paedophiles want to look at pictures of naked children etc and the thieves want to be able to steal. They don't want to be inhibited from their desires either.) So yes you are right. But it does more than inhibit these behaviours. It forbids them.
I also asked you where you got your claim that the Bible requires vows of poverty/celibacy to be a monk or priest and you replied indignantly (as though it were MY allegation!) that the Bible says not just monks or priests but ANYONE can give up sex if they choose. Well I know what the Bible says but that is quite different from what you claimed - that a monk or priest is REQUIRED to take up vows of poverty (which you don't address at all) and celibacy (which the Bible does not require of anyone - neither monk nor priest - unless they so desire; and if they so desire why should it bother you?!) Paul does say that if you can be celibate you probably should (but this is not REQUIRED of anyone) and I can only guess at the reason for this. I would say that unless one's morality is very firmly entrenched then our sexuality can be a very destructive force insofar as people start lusting after other people causing hurt to their wives/husbands and the inevitable breakdown in relationships. Which, of course, is very damaging for the people concerned, their families and even their friends. But this is just my explanation or understanding of that statement - it may not be correct. No such assertion of our natures is made by Paul.

Sexual repression is not something God wants. Repression of sin is. I don't think anyone has come up with an explanation for homosexuality so we don't really understand it and I am in no position to speak of it. I have homosexual friends but the idea of two men in bed together is pretty repulsive to me. I don't know why that is either. It seems wrong innately to me but in theory or intellectually I don't mind two men loving one another. I am a romantic and I like relationships to be happy, faithful, stable and lasting. Pre marital sex and lots of it is the norm these days but I am not convinced that it is good for people. I hear a lot of pain in relationships that are transient and sexual. Trust is often destroyed for future relationships and people are pretty messed up by it all as time goes on. Children suffer without the stability of Mummy and Daddy and a family. I have been practising family law and there are no exceptions to this to date despite what people pretend to themselves to justify their decisions. In this country children are provided with their own lawyer and it is heartbreaking what these little children say about their feelings when their parents split.

There is no celebration of profit and money, science and technology in the Bible chiefly because that is not what the Bible is about. You won't find a celebration of profit and money in a car manual or science and technology in a knitting pattern either. The Bible is about our relationship with God and our relationships with each other. It is not a get rich quick manual or a science and technology magazine. People in NZ get pretty excited about sport but there isn't anything about that either. Smiling

I did not say that I had assumed you had committed any sin. You said that you thought it unfair that you were punished for Adam's sin. I simply pointed out that you would not be punished for Adam's sin but you MAY be punished for your own sins. You no doubt have sinned. You don't love or believe in God, you don't worship God and you publicly denounce His word and His existence. You don't keep the Sabbath holy and you don't love your neighbour as yourself. I don't know any of your personal details but these things I know to be the case by what you have said about yourself. But these are your choices and you are free to make 'em. The consequence is that you will be denounced in the same way at Judgement Day. But you don't believe in that or the Bible so I don't suppose that you care about your lack of relationship with God or His commandments. You just care about the consequences to yourself if you made the wrong decision.

And I don't agree with you that the ancient text has to be tortured to make it sound modern - the language of the King James version is just as understandable as the NIV to me - or tortured to make it sound humane? You may not think it sounds humane but if the wages for sin is death and you and all of us are still alive then that sounds pretty merciful to me. Mercy may not be the same thing as being humane but to me it is a hell of a lot more than humane if our lives are spared over and over whilst we break the commandments and sin contrary to the instruction manual of our Creator which we know about but choose to ignore to relish in The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand! Eye

Callum

Rosie's picture

When discussing Christianity by itself, you'd be right.

How else can you discuss Christianity? Callum!

I would say that it has been amply examined and accepted that Jesus existed and that Jesus was not mad or bad. If he were not mad or bad then what he claimed must be true.

This would be my objective evidence that Jesus is the Son of God and, indeed, as such, all his other claims too. Smiling

Richard

Rosie's picture

I did understand Greg's post. And I replied that Jesus is God made manifest. I.e., Jesus is God. God is the Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Sorry that this was not abundantly clear in my post.

I presume too much knowledge of the Bible in others I suppose. My error. Smiling

Kasper

Rosie's picture

I think the point of my distinguishing Christians and Christianity arose in relation to the so called Christians using Christianity to commit terrible acts of violence - the persecutions James mentions.

I don't know who claimed that Christianity alone influenced the founding fathers. The post by me that James quoted was about 19th century Europe. Incidentally, I had looked up the statistics of population of Christians in each century and as a percentage of the whole population and the 19th century is when Christianity was at its height (although there is a big resurgence now in Russia and Africa which may change this statistic in due course - as a matter of numbers alone, there are more Christians today). He began disputing this but then the subject changed to the question of the founding fathers and who influenced them. I have no idea about this as I have never looked in to it. I do recall you mentioned something about someone saying this to you some time ago and thought it would be an interesting subject to examine but did not do so. James mentioned Cicero and St Thomas of Aquinas as influencing the founding fathers. I simply pointed out that they were in fact believers in God and very strictly kept His laws. (This may be why you think that I am advocating that Christianity is the major influence of the founding fathers? Actually, I have no idea and would not presume to posit any argument where I had not at least studied it!) James seems to think that the NT is different from the OT when he questioned whether Cicero would accept the NT but Jesus did not vary anything in the OT. His purpose was to show us how to live according to God's law and was God made manifest on earth. He showed us the spirit of Christianity whilst the OT is mainly about the written laws. These didn't change of course with the NT.

Regarding slavery, though, I do think that this is relevant to the right to freedom having given it some thought. In the old days, before the court system was established, people could repay their debts in servitude. Nowadays they go to prison if they don't have any property to sell to repay their debts. In non-Jewish society, that debt was for life. In Jewish society it was limited to up to 6 years and, in the case of property being taken to repay a debt (usually land), it was returned in full in the 50th year. That shows a certain respect for property. To both the debtor and the creditor. Nowadays people go to prison. I think I would rather be a well treated slave than go to prison and be separated from my family.

When you raise the point about God destroying whole cities (but saving, say, Lot and his family in the case of Sodom and Gemorrah as they were the only righteous family), you have to appreciate from the very outset God said that the wages for sin are death. You sin, you die. That was the rule. If you were spared death it was only due to God's mercy that this happened. ( The people of S and G were warned, however, and chose to continue to disobey. ) What happens to us though is that we get used to mercy and when we get the justice which is "the rule" so to speak, no one likes it. Just like people who get extensions for essays each time they ask for it at varsity but when one day the lecturer says, "No extension. That is a fail." people don't like it. Of course, with Jesus, He died for our sins and so mercy is more prevalent. I.e., his death paid for our sins.

Christianity isn't really any different from the old days. People just don't want to obey God's laws when it doesn't suit them (i.e., when tempted) and then try to look for ways around it. Human nature I guess. Even ministers of the church say things in direct contradiction to Christ. E.g., re second marriages whilst both parties are still alive, homosexuality and pre marital sex. Which brings us back to the first point - you don't want to judge Christianity by all of the Christians.

Nice post, James.

Richard Wiig's picture

Nice post, James.

Rosie

Callum McPetrie's picture

"Lacks an identity? Unknowable deity?

Not at all. It is accepted that Jesus existed. It is accepted that he was not mad or bad or a liar. He says he is the Son of God. His life, his teachings and his miracles, and particularly the resurrection, spurred the apostles on to give up their existing lives to tell the world about God. He turned Paul from Christian killer to Christian. "

That's all very well. I'm sure Jesus existed, and that he preached morality. Unfortunately, you haven't provided any objective evidence to suggest that Jesus is indeed the son of God. So we're back at square one.

"This is not true. No bad act can be justified. And certainly not by the Bible."

There are examples of genocide in the Bible, supported by God.

"What?! You think the second book of the Bible (Exodus) and Moses being called up the mountain where God revealed the 10 Commandments was an after thought?! Callum!"

Yes, it is an afterthought when discussing the metaphysical nature of God, because it is still impossible to obtain an objective morality from an existence outside of existence regardless of what that morality is. Rosie!

When discussing Christianity by itself, you'd be right.

Rosie

Richard Wiig's picture

Greg said that your God lacks identity, not that Jesus lacked an identity. That was abundantly clear in his post.

you can justify almost any

Richard Wiig's picture

you can justify almost any act, good or bad, on the Bible.

Can you Callum? Which acts would you exclude?

Rosie

Kasper's picture

I saw no equating of Christianity and Christians in Jame's post at all.

No one is accusing Jesus of being a slave master. The point was that the principles of individual liberty and property rights in the political sense are no where to be found in the bible. Other political regimes on the other hand are appeased and accepted in the bible.

The ridiculous claims that James has very clearly pointed out are the ones by Christians who attribute the political ideas of the founding fathers to Christianity. The fact that Christianity has made no move towards freedom, property rights, the abolition of slavery, giving rights to women or to remove the church from its strong governing position for 1776 years clearly shows that Christianity has no business claiming the significance of the founding fathers to itself.

I cannot see how you find this remotely debatable.

As for your comments that no violent acts can be justified on the bible, you would have to omit most of Christianities history and even its own stories in order to state that. An epistemological exercise commonly known as sophistry. James has also clearly shown this and you've simply shrugged it off.

Rosie, you put a lot of effort into some of your posts which is great. However, there's a lot of 'huha' that you could dispense of. Argue this from a principled point and from a rational point. Christianity today is very different from the old times and I would suggest that this evolution has been initiated by the demanding breadth of mindset of secular society having necessitated Christianities adaptation.

Rosie

James S. Valliant's picture

Rosie, you seem to have lost sight of the historical assertion to which I was replying: your claim that the 19th Century was the apex of Christianity's cultural influence. My goal was to indicate how muted the Bible's real influence had become by this period, and, secondarily, to show Objectivists who might not be familiar with the contents of the Bible just how hostile to their values the Biblical text is. Your ad hominem arguments and many "Straw Man" mischaracterization of what I wrote also made me wonder whether I should respond to you at all. However, I will, point by point. (Your material all in italics.)

1. You make the common mistake that Christianity and "Christians" are synonymous. Like many people, you seem to be under the illusion that because a person calls himself a Christian he immediately becomes divine and behaves in a Christ-like way 100% of the time. That may be the aim but does not happen overnight.

How did you get the idea from my post that I equated the two? When someone tells me that he or she is a "Christian," or an "Objectivist," or anything else, I still don't know if that is true or not, even if the person is being sincere. Obviously. As you suggest, the proof is a person's conduct and the motives behind it.

Now, let me also suggest to you that we cannot dismiss the consistent conduct of large numbers of Christians over centuries, or the interpretations given the Bible by great Christian thinkers and writers over the centuries, either. Of course, they may be wrong or lack an understanding of its original meaning, too.

There is also certainly some interpretive latitude in the Biblical text. But it is not infinitely malleable, for this would imply that it could mean anything to anybody, and I am sure that you do not want to imply that.

But, no, I don't think the two are "synonymous" and I never said otherwise.

2. Your understanding of the Bible, with respect, appears a little unscholarly. These things are not quite so straight forward as you have seem to think. I will try to explain some of the context, subtleties and distinctions which may help to correct your understanding.

A. " Jesus commanded men to pay their taxes to Imperial Rome"

I presume by this you refer to Jesus saying, "Render to God what is God's and to Caesar what is Caesar's." Clearly you are not aware that this was Jesus avoiding the trap the Pharisees had set for him* as opposed to what you see as "a command to pay taxes to Imperial Rome".

* At about that time a tax had been levied on all Jews over the age of 20 to pay for a temple in Jerusalem. Jesus was being questioned on the validity of this tax (Mt 17:24-26) as well as the lawfulness of the tax to Rome. Despite his famous reply (Mt 22.21, Mk 12:17 Lk 20:25) he was still accused before Pilate of "forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar" (Lk 23:2). In fact he gave no such "command" as you state - he simply said, very cleverly to avoid the Pharisees' trap, "give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's".

Of course, I am perfectly aware that Jesus was avoiding one of those inevitable Pharisee "traps." But one does not suggest that folks sin in order avoid such a trap. Are we to dismiss the substance of his words?

In another of these "traps," Jesus is said to have relaxed the traditional Jewish approach to the Sabbath in one of these aphoristic replies to the Pharisees when they caught his disciples working on the Sabbath. Most, but certainly not all Christians have taken this as both a response to the trap and a meaningful assertion which can guide Christian conduct.

In the case of taxes, most of Jesus's contemporary Jews held Roman coins (with images of the God Julius Caesar, or the like) to be a source of pollution. This is why money had to be exchanged in the Temple at Jerusalem to buy "pure" sacrifices for the priests to slaughter in the devotee's name. (The obligation to ritually slaughter an animal for God at the Temple was taken seriously by most Jews of the time.) Jesus himself took out these exchange tables when he visited there, shortly before his execution, according to the Gospels. Jesus recruited tax-collectors as followers, and these were hated by the Jews and themselves regarded as impure. Jesus was saying, at once, that Roman coins were not impure and to pay one's taxes.

In harmony with his overall message of submission, Jesus told his fellow Jews to turn the other cheek to a Roman hit and to walk an extra mile at a Roman's demand. Even if he hadn't been so explicit, one might have inferred that, surely, he must've said to pay the tax, as well. And, given Jesus's consistent assault on contemporary Jewish purity laws (Kosher diet comes to mind), and Jesus's explicit attitude in favor of Roman cooperation (according to Matthew, for example, he declared a Roman officer to have faith exceeding any of his contemporary Jews), the standard and most widely accepted interpretation is safest here: he advised tax paying.

As for the accusation at his trial that he commanded just the opposite, the answer is obvious. We have just heard him, and in all three Synoptic Gospels, say to PAY your taxes. The Gospel is saying that Jesus was being railroaded, that the accusation was bogus and that Jesus was innocent of the trumped up charge. Reading it as a whole accounts for why this is the standard interpretation of the first line, as well. You have actually provided additional evidence, and the same evidence that keeps my take the general understanding.

Only by removing this accusation from its context, and disregarding the plain meaning of so much of the rest as later "fill" by Christians seeking Roman approval at some point much later that Jesus, can this be maintained. And, indeed, there is a good argument that most of the stuff we read in the Gospels was later invention, some of it to curry Roman favor, and some scholars believe that as a formal accusation at his trial this phrase is more credible than the other material we are provided with in the Gospels, and one can easily see their point. This would imply, you see, that words were put into Jesus's mouth by later redactors of the Gospels who had their own motives, perhaps to exonerate Jesus of this charge.

They made him say "Render unto Caesar" when the :"real" Jesus probably advocated some kind of rebellion against tax collecting and that's why he got executed by Roman crucifixion.

But to believe the accusation over the rest of context you would be conceding that we have pick and choose which bits of we regard as authentic and which bits we will say are later inventions. You would have to be prepared to sometimes think Jesus said the very opposite of what the Gospels tell us, as in this very example. Are you ready to do that?

One of the eye-opening moments for any Bible-believing Christian is surely if and when they open up the Jesus Seminar's edition of The FIve Gospels: the Search for the True Words of Jesus (1993) and discover that over two hundred learned scholars have voted to achieve a color-coded edition of all the quotations of Jesus in the Bible plus the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas, ranging from red (Jesus probably said this) to pink (Jesus probably said something LIKE this) to grey (Jesus probably did not say this) to black (Jesus probably never said something like this). The real shocker comes when they find out how rare it is to find something in red!

"Render unto Caesar" gets a red.

But this is dangerous ground, Rosie, so, are you sure that you willing to start down that path? Once we start debating which bits are authentic and which bits we can trust over the others, we will have many -- many -- new things to consider.

This is why I've stuck to the majority view of these things, and a standard overall view of the text, for purposes of the current post.

B. "Why else would Jesus have had to be David's royal heir if this was not the divinely intended system?"

In the beginning there was God as King. Adam and Eve were subjects in service to God. At Babel, man's attempt at emancipating himself from God reached its climax and man was scattered across the globe to create different nations and have their own rulers. From this point on there exist two clearly definable kingships: divine and human. Through Abraham the messianic rule was established on earth and the ultimate purpose of God's relationship with Abraham and his descendants was that God would continue as king over Israel and his people would show their acceptance of his rule by their faithful obedience to him. (Gn 17:7). No monarchy. A theocracy.

After Moses came Joshua who was no relation to Moses. During the time of Judges there was no king but military leaders that God raised up to deliver his people from their foreign oppressors. God remained King (regardless of the fact that the people of Israel lived as though he were not). Dt 17:14-20 tells us that provision was made for the rise of kingship in the law. But the institution of monarchic kingship was not practiced until the time of Samuel who, although not called a king was in practice prophet, priest and king. But the people wanted a king - for secular rather than religious reasons. In 1 Sm 8:5 the people asked God to appoint them a king "to govern us like the other nations". Verse 20 states the people wanted the King to go out and fight battles like the other nations. Samuel did not accept the idea of kingship - it was foreign to the theocratic ideal. Saul was at first appointed as King but was rejected by God (1Sm15:23) due to his ungodliness and David (no relation to Saul) was appointed because he was a "man of God". Nathan the prophet assured David's dynasty would last but God did not promise that it would be immune from prosecution or banishment. He was happy that the King of Kings - the messiah king - would be born from the line of David. This messiah was to be the permanent king whose reign would extend to the ends of the earth - Jesus.

But this is a very different thing from what you are alleging. The Bible does not state that God prefers a monarchy over all systems of Government! Clearly God prefers a theocracy.

Well, of course, this was not what I "was alleging."

And, historically, first there were human kings and their commands were laws. Then there was invented their God, who, king-like, commended the universe into existence. But I digress. Smiling

Yes, of course, there are almost as many Christians who have called for theocracy as there are those who have called for monarchy through the Ages. Yes, the standard choice we are given for good, Biblical rule (that is, before American conservatives adopted the Constitution as a new New Testament) were theocratic or monarchical. I was merely reporting the basis on which so very many Christians across the centuries have used the Bible to argue for the Divine Right of Kings and such. Some reckon God must've put some stock in hereditary lines of kings, utilizing one to produce his own Messiah and son, that's all.

And, so, I'm just glad you see that a republic like America was never -- never ever --- something endorsed or suggested in the Bible.

C. The NT attitude toward slavery indicates that the status of a slave was more like that of a servant and the institution was declining (by Roman times one out of every two people was a slave). There was no strong opposition to slavery from Jesus or the apostles but an admonition that slaves and servants should serve their masters faithfully (as you say) and the corollary (which you omit) that masters should treat their slaves humanely and fairly (Eph 6:9; Col4:1; 1Tim6:2; Phlm16). At the time, voluntary slavery was common as a means of escape from abject poverty and starvation (Lv 25:47, 48). Debt was the main reason why families became slaves and, if in this impecunious state, free men were far worse off than slaves. It was a crime to sell a kidnapped person into slavery and to hold a family as slaves for longer than 3 years (Law of Hammurabi) and up to 6 years (Hebrew law) (Ex21:2).

I am aware of the old argument about the meanings of "servant" vs. "slave" here, as well. Of course it is the context that tells us which meaning is intended when the word can mean two closely-related things. But, as any intepreter will tell you, a short injunction which fails to make the distinction for us between the two, intends us to include both (for, presumably, they knew that the word meant both.). If St. Paul did not want slaves to obey their masters, this was his moment to make the distinction.

But, I think as you also sense, it does not matter. I am simply glad you concede that Jesus wanted obedient, non-rebellious slaves, just as I am happy to concede that he wanted masters to treat their property with care.

And you also seem to appreciate that servitude is the very model of all behavior given in the NT. Slaves obey master, kids obey parents, wives obey husbands, husbands obey authorities, authorities obey God. Obey, obey, obey. And Jesus washes feet, the first shall be last, blessed are the poor and meek, etc. Submit, submit, submit.

Check.

D. The only objection to wealth and property is making it your God/idol. That is the only reason for the indication that it is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven but not impossible. Look at King Solomon - regarded even by today's standards as the most wealthy of any king but his heart was God's. He could not be turned to the idolotary of money and these riches were most often used in the service and worship of God.

Re Jesus advising his disciples to have communal property: makes perfect sense if you are doing work that doesn't pull in loads of money to share your property. I often think how silly that each house has its own lawnmower when the lawns etc are only mowed for one hour or so once a week max. This doesn't make God against owning property individually however! Just that he advocates being rational when resources are limited!

I never claimed the rich man couldn't get into heaven, did I?

And those resources would not have been so "limited" had some influential teacher, in contrast to Jesus and Paul, stood up for individual freedom and property rights.

Again, I'm satisfied that you're not trying to say that the New Testament has anything positive to say about money, liking money, seeking money, profit, commerce, free markets or material goods. It does, of course, contain repeated cautions about them.

You say that there isn't enough evidence to claim that the NT is against private property as such. But, apart from the fact that I never made this claim, on purpose, there is also no real evidence that it favors private property, either. What we do have is a Jesus telling us not to be concerned with what we eat or what we wear, material treasures in general, and an NT warning us over and over and over about mammon and greed.

Check.

E. Basic freedoms. Nothing in the Bible about this?!

Well, yes there is. In the ancient world slavery was universal and for life. Under Hebrew law, slaves were freed after 6 years (Ex21:2) or immediately if their masters mistreated them in particular ways (Ex 21:26,27) . Most people became slaves because of their unpaid debt to another so that they repaid their debt with service.

All property was returned to the original owners after 49 years (Lv28:8-24).

There is quite a bit of talk about slavery and the free man in the Bible. Paul says "for he who was called as a slave is a freed man of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ." (1Cor 7:22) This means from one angle that Christ has liberated us all and, from another viewpoint, we who believe in him are his slaves as we belong to him.

In Isaiah 61:1 one of the tasks of the messiah was "to proclaim liberty to the captives" - making the spirits of men free.
Jesus said the only slavery that matters is that of he who sins since he who sins is a slave to sin. And the only way to be set free from sin is is through Him.

So until you become a Christian, James, it would seem you are a slave yourself!

And God gives us choice over religion! That was the whole point from the outset! The choice to be obedient to Him. He gives us His commands and asks us to receive him but, just as Adam and Eve rebelled, so has man ever since. Of course God wants us to choose Him and His moral laws. As our creator He knows and tells us that that is the way to live and the way to gain eternal life. And if we choose not to obey Him, so be it.

With regard to freedom of speech, Christianity provides a fine example of this: Jesus was possibly one of the freest speakers the world has ever known! What he said cost him his life under the direction of Pilate.

Jesus himself did not advocate freedom of speech for other people at all, of course, and indeed defines the Christian crime of blasphemy. The crime so defined would be used by Christians for centuries to murder folks who said the wrong thing. Jesus's example -- speaking out boldly on theological matters, was reserved for Messiahs. Putting yourself on a par with Jesus in speakin' freedom like that, Rosie, would have been thought blasphemous in itself, not to mention the sin of pride. Now, those Christians through the Ages might have been wrong in their interpretation of how to handle this "blasphemy" thing Jesus talked about, but, absent man explicit statement of everyone's right to say what they want without penalty, you can see why they missed it.

Is your only other example of civil liberties in the Bible the manumission rules for certain slaves? (And, for your convenience, we can ignore the arguments about the limited intended scope of even these rules.) The same Mosaic Law you quote called for execution -- that's right, death -- for such crimes as blasphemy, adultery and homosexuality. For all of Moses's detailed laws on what animals to sacrifice and when, we have no mention of everyone's right to say what they want, but very, very strict penalties for saying some things. Like the name of God.

Rosie, I am a "slave to sin," and I love it. I have embraced my human nature, all of it. And, yes, I see that you think that you are "free" from the punishments of hell.

But by political freedom, I mean, of course, here on earth, the absence of government oppression.

Indeed, God gives us a choice and the choice is to be obedient to Him or suffer. And it does not matter what He requires of us, we must comply. Say God tells you to slaughter your son, a little boy, for him. According to the story of Abraham, "obedience" requires us to do even that. And poor Saul, failing in his genocide of the Amalekites!

Total "follow-orders-to gas-chambers" obedience is demanded. Exactly.

And the penalty is eternal torment in hell-fire if we do not.

Check.

3. Your "insights" about scientists not being Jewish seems completely irrelevant to me but au contraire there are plenty of Jewish scientists - notably the greatest mind, Einstein!!

I never said that there were no Jewish scientists. That is absurd. I merely observed the historical fact that Western science was first discovered by the ancient Greeks. See, they were the first, that's all. Get it now? Jews and Christians had to do a lot of learning from the pagan, pre-Christian Greeks before they could produce any Newtons or Einsteins.

4. You say: "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."

Ahem. Putting aside the first argument that Christianity and Christians can be distinct for a minute, I am not denying the persecutions done in the name of Christianity BUT as the statistics in another post I made point out, the atheist persecutions manifestly outnumber any "Christian" persecutions. As such it is absurd to say that it was as a result of the
"Christian" persecutions that first led to the consideration of the idea of freedom of conscience!!

I am pleased that you mention Cicero. He happens to be one of my heroes. You will, I am sure, be aware that he was inclined to believe in God himself. See http://www.jstor.org/pss/4388381V (last paragraph in the right hand lower corner) There is also a rather neat little passage in the Essays on Friendship and Old Age about this and his belief in the soul and the afterlife. I will quote this if you are interested. Cicero, of course, like Jesus was murdered for his free speech by these great influencers of freedom of conscience who were not believers in God and did not share the spirit of God that Cicero so plainly had in his thoughts, writing and behaviour.

Natural law - as espoused by that Christian, St Thomas of Aquinas? I studied him at Law School (as you probably did too). The moral law that "instinctively" lies in man. He calls this the divine law I recall. The immutable law of God as distinct from human law. I am not quite sure where your argument stands here in calling on natural law in influencing the founding fathers but denouncing Christianity at the same time. Hello?!

Forgive me, but this last is mass of confusion. First, I never said that the Bible requires persecution or that Christians today would ever do such a thing. Most, I know, would be horrified at the very idea. Of course. I am also aware that the doctrine can produce an equally anti-life approach pacifism.

But, by the same token, there are no such thing as "atheist persecutions" to date. Christian and Jewish persecutions were done in the very name of God and to enforce the blasphemy forbidden by Moses and Jesus. Communists, for example, slaughtered millions to be sure, but in the name of their own mystical entities, the "Collective," the "State" (which was nothing less than "God" to Trotsky) and the "Future." They were executing a Marxist ideology that had made no more mention of individual freedom than had Jesus. Power was the dictator's motive and the ideology of Collectivism was their followers' stated motive, not science, reason or freedom.

No, you must find an Objectivist power-crazed dictator who slaughters to meet the claims of your rhetoric, but I'll be satisfied with an explanation of how you think the ideas of atheists like Thomas Paine or Mark Twain could possibly lead to genocide.

Stalin had much better technology and a much bigger population than Christians had when they were in power. But, surely, we must give those Christian persecutors an "A" for effort considering what they had to work with.

And so it is with all mystics, Christian or Commie. When reason is set aside, whether for faith or polylogism, persuasion has been set aside, as well. Persuasion is the tool of reason, and when it comes down to feelings and revelations, settling disputes often takes a more a violent form. Reason is a faculty of the individual who requires freedom (the kind I am talking about) in order to make his reason his operative and functional guide. Reason and freedom are brothers, just as are faith and force.

As for Cicero, my only point was that to cite him as an inspiration for the American Founders is to cite a pre-Christian source. So, what his opinion of the New Testament would've been will have to remain speculation. Now, those pagan Romans, at least, actually had a nebulous concept of "free speech" for their Senators, that's right. And Jesus had his concept of "blasphemy."

As you must know, Thomas Aquinas referred to the pagan Greek philosopher Aristotle as "the Philosopher," and it was from his philosophy, not the New Testament, that he acquired his concept of Natural Law. Aristotle mentions the "natures" of things and defined the logic St. Thomas employed, while these things are no where to be found in the Bible. That's why previous, more Platonic Christians never got to these ideas. And, specifically, Grotius and Locke drank heavily from the well of Aristotle, too, resulting, for example, in Locke's tabula rasa belief in the senses and his focus on Man's Nature. And none of these concerns is mentioned in the Bible, either.

Hello?

5. Sex. Well, you are wrong here too. I am not sure why you think nothing positive is said about human sexuality in the Bible. First the OT says we are made in God's image. That includes our sexuality - it is part of who we are. The OT sees nothing shameful in our bodies or the physical expression of lovemaking (Gen2:25; Prv5:18,19; Eccl9:9). The Song of Songs is a beautiful love poem. The physical passion it describes is fairly blatant. Paul strikes the same note in his letters to Corinth and to Timothy at Ephesus. As you will know, sexual vice was rampant in both these cities. Partly as a reaction to this, a negative, ascetic attitude was threatening to take control in the life of Christians. Marriage was being decried, married couples were not having intercourse and some were saying it is good for a man not to marry. Paul has no hesitation in branding such attitudes as heretical. Recalling his readers to Genesis he encourages them to receive God's gifts thankfully (Tm4:3-5), husbands and wives are obliged to express their love for one another in sexual intercourse (1Cor 7:3,4) and physical lovemaking in marriage is as much part of what it means "to honour God with your body" as refusing to go to bed with a prostitute. Sexuality has two main purposes in human life as God planned it. Most obviously for procreation and the basis for family life. The second main purpose in creating male and female as sexual beings is for relationship. Genesis 2 describes how God made woman to fill man's relationship vacuum. However the Bible also indicates that this human sexuality embraces far more than physical intercourse - it is an aid in all sorts of other - not readily considered sexual - relationships.

The Bible does go on to recognise the dark side of human nature and expressly forbids homosexuality, adultery and pre marital sex. It claims that the body is not meant for sexual immorality and he who sins sexually sins against his own body (1 Cor 6:13,18). In other words, sexual intercourse is a unique body language that the Creator designed to express and seal that special, exclusive, life long relationship between a man and a woman.

Now you tell me - where in the Bible does it say that vows of poverty/celibacy should be taken if you want to become a monk/priest?

St Paul said that ANYONE, not just priests and nuns, who could take being celibate, like himself, should be celibate at 1 Corinthians 7:1 and 7:7-8 and 32-40. They don't have a category like "nun" in text, as you know, but priests and nuns believe themselves to be carrying out this command in taking such vows.

They didn't just make it up from nothing.

And Paul appears to echoing Jesus's metaphorical assertion at Matthew 19:10-12.

Moreover, I specifically exempted the Old Testament from my discussion of sex, on purpose. I would simply remind you, in any event, that the Mosaic Law calls for executing sexual criminals like those who enagae in homosexual conduct. I would also ask, if sex is included in our being made from God's image, then does God have or desire sex? Does he have operative genitalia?

And, neither Jesus nor Paul "strikes" any note of the same sort as "Song of Songs"(!) which celebrates physical lust itself. Paul thinks it better if one can avoid marriage and sex altogether, but that, at least, marriage will keep it in its place for those who just must have sex.

Also, I personally find the notion that Jesus was somehow less corrupt, polluted, more perfect, whatever, because his mother was a virgin to be offensive. This implies that there is something less good or perfect with reproduction by sex.

As you must know, this kind of hostility to sex has caused untold guilt and suffering.

6. "Christianity codifies a virulent hatred of life on earth."

This statement is wrong and very odd. Sigh. Which Christian code shows a virulent hatred of life on earth?!

Odd? Hatred for life on earth is shown in the following:

1. Sexual repression is a legacy of Christianity (which saw itself as being better than the Mosaic tradition on this score).

2. Political ideologies such as the Divine Right of Kings -- or, if you insist, Theocracy -- with no suggestion of individual freedom are all that can be gleaned from the text.

3. And, of course, there is no celebration of profit and money, the improvement of material conditions here on earth, and there is no praise of science and technology, as there should be in a life-loving ethics, and the Bible only attacks one's concern with these things.

4. It attacks "worldly philosophy" and mentions of hidden mysteries revealed to the select few and accepts the validity of mystical revelations and visions, such as those Paul describes having himself. It is pro-mystic experience and it is anti-reason -- and reason is our means for knowing this earth.

5. It removes the devotee's focus from here on earth, where it should be, where they can store up "treasures" material and psychological. Jesus's philosophy advises us to waste precious, irreplaceable seconds of our lives on a supernatural focus.

I could go on, but these were the things I had already suggested in my original post that you have not adequately addressed.

What is it you wish to do, James, which Christianity would prevent?

I want not to go to hell for eternal torture (which isn't even fair justice for a murderer) simply because I follow my own best judgment and don't BELIEVE something. I want to focus on life here on earth and the things of this earth, and to be proud of my achievements here. I don't want dumb inhibitions to prevent people for glorying in their sexual natures -- even when they're not married or are homosexual. I could go on...

My post was not in "Randian language," as you claim. I am much harsher on the religion than Rand was and this was not her style. But how on earth did you get the idea that this was "forbidden"?

You also toss in the claim that we are not punished for Adam's sins but our own. Now, honestly, I think that's "funny." If this is true, then I have nothing to fear, of course. I know that I have done nothing deserving of any afterlife punishment. What sin do you simply assume that I have committed?

More than this, how is it that I, James Valliant, merit hell and eternal torments in lake of fire? Take your time.

And I certainly do not entertain even the possibility of God's existence. Infinite things and ex nihilo creations are like square circles to me. I just observe the resulting contradictions and the hostility to life on earth that inevitably results from positing a supernatural dimension.

Why "think about" Christianity? Well, why consider Communism or any other belief system that threatens humanity? (Baal, by the way, has retained only an historical interest for me. Folks do still take the Bible seriously.)

Rand "maintained" a fifty year marriage and a satisfaction in life to which we should all aspire, and your adolescent" crap is ad hominem unworthy of serious discussion.

Inspiring ethical behavior through self-interest, you may find, is a better motivator than some ancient text that has to be tortured in order to make it sound modern or even humane.

[heavily edited.]

Callum

Rosie's picture

The morality presented in the Bible is only an after-thought.

What?! You think the second book of the Bible (Exodus) and Moses being called up the mountain where God revealed the 10 Commandments was an after thought?! Callum!

Callum

Rosie's picture

you can justify almost any act, good or bad, on the Bible.

As I said before, almost anything can be justified by the Bible.

This is not true. No bad act can be justified. And certainly not by the Bible.

Callum and Gregster

Rosie's picture

Lacks an identity? Unknowable deity?

Not at all. It is accepted that Jesus existed. It is accepted that he was not mad or bad or a liar. He says he is the Son of God. His life, his teachings and his miracles, and particularly the resurrection, spurred the apostles on to give up their existing lives to tell the world about God. He turned Paul from Christian killer to Christian.

The following is an excerpt from a sermon about Grace. I have copied the excerpt here as it rather nicely explains (amidst the talk about grace) how God has helped the Objectivists by giving them "an identity". Eye Jesus was God made manifest. There is your "identity". There is your "unknowable deity". (The bits in bold are my emphasis for those who want the nuts and bolts only.)

"Let us go to the gospel of John, and we will learn (I think) a great deal from John.

John 1:14-18 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, "This was He of whom I said, 'He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.'" And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

Grace is used there, I believe, four times, and we need to consider this. What John is saying is that the entire life of Jesus, who was God incarnate, was a manifest of God's grace. He was full of grace and truth. It is the gift of the revealing of the nature of God by means of a life lived.

Another way of putting it is God's love for mankind was expressed by giving man a living example of how to apply His way of life. No one can fail to see how God, in the flesh, graciously condescended to serve people of even the lowest ranks—the Samaritan woman who had had six husbands; lepers that He healed; children that He picked up in His arms; the washing of the disciples feet; the feeding of the hungry; healing of the sick; casting out demons; restoring eyesight and hearing.

Are you getting the point here? As Jesus Christ acted, this is the way God always acts—preaching the gospel, living sinlessly, giving His life (even though sinless), and giving it without complaint of unfair treatment, as a means of redeeming those who are under the power of sin and death. He endlessly gave to us, who, if we received justice, deserve death.

In verse 17, Moses, Christ, grace, and law are all mentioned. Most people interrupt that as a means of expressing contrast. There is a contrast here, but it is not what most people seem to think it is, because John is not putting down Moses. He is not putting down or doing away with law. He is not putting down either one of them in favor of the others—Christ and grace. He is saying that the law was given through Moses and it is absolutely necessary for right living, because it is the standard of righteousness—right doing, rectitude.

In order to have social order, there has to be laws. Everybody can see that in games. If you do not have rules of the game, you have absolute chaos with everybody doing his own thing. Well that is what happens in society. You have got to have rules or everybody does his own thing. The law of God establishes what the rule, what the standards for life are supposed to be. Not just for those He calls, but everybody worldwide is supposed to be following these things.

So the alternative to not having law is chaos that is caused by everybody doing his own thing. Therefore the law is necessary because it manifest the standards man is to strive to live up to. Grace though manifests God's attitude toward those who find that they cannot keep the law.

How is God's grace manifested? It is manifested by His calling, His leading to repentance, the forgiveness of sin, justification, healings, guidance, gifts, education, correction, discipline, patience, and ultimately inheriting the Kingdom and eternal life by means of a resurrection.

The contrast here is not so much between Moses and Christ or law and grace, but between the words ‘given’ and ‘came’. That is, God gave the law through a man, Moses, but He was still remote, detached, and separated, as all of the ritual of the sacrifices, the furniture, the tabernacle, and the temple show. God gave the way of life, but He was separated from man.

But God came. Do you see the difference? Do you see the contrast? He gave a law, but He was still detached. He came in the form of a man, and He was present with man, living with man in bodily form. The giving of the law, though it was necessary, was merely a step leading to the far more important revelation of God incarnate. The law was given, but grace came in person.

Now let us go back a few verses and this will become clearer.

John 1:9-12 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Now verse 18 becomes clearer.

John 1:18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

The prospect of any man, any time, ever seeing God in his glory, is virtually non-existent. But for those who were privileged to live back then, they had a flesh and blood witness—God incarnate. And for those of us who live now, we have His Word that is based upon eyewitnesses of His glory, of His grace. This is why Jesus said what He did, in John 14, when He was asked to show us the Father. In John 14:6, Jesus said:

John 14:6-9 "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him." And Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?"

Grace incarnate arrived before men. The great gift, you see, that gives us delight from which we receive salvation. From which, as we just saw, we receive the calling. No one can go to the Father except through Him.

So God uses this introduction to the book of John to make clear a very important fact and concept. The fact and concept are one and the same, and that is that God is not a being detached and separated from His creation. He is not merely exalted and worshipped, but God is involved. He takes part in the process. He loves, He yearns, He suffers, He gives, He corrects, and He saves. He enters right into the storms and conflicts of life on earth, and in the life of Jesus, He was subject to all of its conditions and He rose above it. He conquered sin and Satan. He says in Hebrews that, "He was tempted in all things like as we are, yet without sin."

And so in Christ then, in a life lived, God ceases to be an abstraction and becomes a reality. The incarnation then, was the fullest manifestation of grace and truth, because it was the greatest expression of God's concern and compassion for people, and the clearest way of conveying for our understanding. No one can ever forget the power of an example.

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