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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Honestly, I fail to see the

Callum McPetrie's picture

Honestly, I fail to see the point about debating over all the little details of Jesus' and the Bible's teachings. You can argue till the cows come home over certain phrases of the Bible; you can justify almost any act, good or bad, on the Bible.

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 presented a morality exactly like Objectivist morality but instead based it in God, they'd still be incompatible. The morality presented in the Bible is only an after-thought.

Although James presented some good points, we're simply not going to get anywhere by just pointing out bad deeds by Christians. As I said before, almost anything can be justified by the Bible.

Piece by piece

Richard Goode's picture

Peter Cresswell, purveyor of the cold, dead brand that is Libertarianz, has further alienated would-be voters and party activists by reproducing James Valliant's piece as a guest post on his blog.

I reproduce some of the comments on PC's blog below.

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So now I understand why all those other pagan tribal societies became civilised before Western Civilisation.

I am no Christian, but I grew up in a communist household and have heard all these claims before.

The GrecoJudeoChristian tradition has one great thing going for it. Genesis begins with an act of innovative will.
The others are teleological/fatalist.
And please get the Galileo story right - it was his academic peers who (the Aristotelians) who demanded the Church persecute Galileo. The Church was reluctant because the Church was beginning to realise that science and maths was a source of power and wealth.
Had the CHurch been enthusiastic it would have been all over in a day.

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Most of that post is incorrect. Obviously it comes from someone who confuses how Jesus taught people life (with peace, hope and love) with political organisations which hijacked religion as one of their means of repression.

You hardly injure the image of Christianity by retelling the well known tales of horrible people who were not following the teachings of Jesus. Such people have always existed and will continue to exist.

The fact that you cannot separate CHRISTIANITY from CHRISTIANS tells that you cannot make any kind of sensible argument.

I don't consider Chinese people horrible just because their government is not a democracy. It isn't logical. The people are separate from the state and also from the ideology the state uses to control it's people.

You lack of appreciation for this makes your article juvenile.

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Libertarians, while they remain under the thumb of doctrinal Objectivists who seek to make the movement a Jim Jones style mind control cult, are false flyers of the flag of freedom.

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Interesting post.

Once I got past the inflammatory languague and sweeping generalisations and ignored the outright errors, you made some good points (such as the Christian world being on the decline in the 19C).

It is a pity though, that you are refuting a Christianity that you only seem to know on a surface level, or through a Protestant lens.

I certainly hope that you are doing a lot more research than what you've exhibited in this post for your upcoming book. Hopefully you've at least read the Pope's book on Jesus.

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A classic Gish gallop, where the author spews out a myriad of false claims and half truths. No attempt is made to understand or provide a RATIONAL argument, it's just a laundry list of grudges to paint a strange caricature of Church history which bears little resemblance to actual Christian life and experience. It reveals more about the author's personal prejudices than anything useful. I suppose the audience is pleased to have their bigotry reinforced by this tirade.

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A new book "God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science" argues pretty convincingly that Christianity supplied some of the missing ingredients that meant the scientific revolution never happened in the ancient world (becuase, let's face it, it didn't and it had plenty of time). And lots of stuff about how Christians supposedly held back science gets debunked too.

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Objectivists tend to attack Christians, but what has that got to do with Freedom fighting? None at all.

Why not attacking Tongans for eating dog meat & lamb flaps, I am sure that is illogical because it makes us Islanders obese. Well someone labelled Tongans as barbaric in one of the local blog, simply because a dog owner to bbq his dog. This dog owner never violated anyone's rights. But as long as I don’t violate anyone’s rights then what I do privately is irrelevant if I am a practicing libertarian?

The attack on Christians is none other than an exaggerated feeling of self-important (intellectual-wise) that objectivists feel that they have superior reasoning capabilities, therefore they have a right to attack Christians as a form of re-education.

It should be justified to attack Christians when they start interfering with your rights, but not for their belief, since to do so, it is un-libertarian.

Concentrate on growing the party memberships and stop this nonsense of attacking people's belief because it has got nothing to do with libertarianism.

Here is a fact. It is much much easier to convince a christian (or any other religious person) to believe in freedom fighting than to convince him/her to abandon his/her religious belief and this is an undeniable fact.

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Christians believe that their life comes from God and that God wants them to be essentially good people.

Evil acts perpetrated in the name of Christianity are notto be blamed on Christianity the same way that not all Muslims wish to be associated with Osama Bin Laden.

You are falling into the age-old trap of believing that someone is something just because they say they are. Murderous kings and Empires call themselves Christian but you will not see their actions condoned by any Christian Churches because they are not behaving like Christians.

I feel sorry for those who feel the need to attack and vilify other people just because they think and act differntly. It is even worse when those doing the vilifying are Libertarians - supposed to be the strongest believers in individual freedom of thought and conscience.

Only good point of Purchas

gregster's picture

"I wonder why you give Christianity a second thought on an Objectivist forum if you genuinely do not believe in God. You may as well have done a post rejecting Baal or horoscopes or everything sans Objectivism!"

(I wonder why a mystic ventures here?)

I do not believe in the supernatural, that which is above and beyond nature. Your God is a contradictory mess as defined and lacks an identity. I know you may reply that normal terms and logical examination do not apply to your God. That is all you have - a barbaric, anti-life faith. Zero substance. A form of mental illness.

You dodged a point made months ago that pharaoh Akhanaten, moved his people from pantheism to monotheism. A simple manipulation by a relative primitive created your one God, the same God of Islam.

I give Christianity a second thought only occasionally to unravel what may have been meant by certain miracle myths. A friend of mine has been looking into it after he worked for years in the middle East. Plausible explanations have been proposed by various author archeologists of the impossible/miraculous. I'm no expert.

The fact remains, though, that "existence exists" and nothing beyond, of course, can exist. To exist is to have an identity. This Godfella, or, all the previous godfellas, the tooth fairy, and santa claus, cannot possess an identity.

Lindsay

Rosie's picture

I see that you can read between the lines. Well done. (Must be the Holy Spirit flowing through you!)

I should add, though, that at present there are approximately 2 billion people in the world who have not rebelled. Smiling

Wayne

Rosie's picture

You can't be in touch with the real Jesus, even if he existed.

1. Yes, I can.
2. Are you not aware that the question of the existence of Jesus has been examined amply? He is referred to in many historical writings. He is no "fiction created by Paul and his followers", Wayne.

After summarizing the references to Jesus Christ and his followers by the historians of the first two centuries, The Encyclopedia Britannica (2002 edition) concludes: These independent accounts prove that in ancient times even the opponents of Christianity never doubted the historicity of Jesus, which was disputed for the first time and on inadequate grounds at the end of the 18th, during the 19th, and at the beginning of the 20th centuries.

We are the 21st century. Do keep up, Wayne. Smiling

the standards set by the objective facts of reality

What are these standards? How do "facts of reality" set standards? It is like saying, "I measure my actions by my actions." This makes no sense to me.

You will never succeed because reality isn't your standard.
I have already succeeded.

What is success to you, Wayne?

Note:

I made my post because it would be wrong as a Christian to let such ignorance slip past me when it has been brought to my attention.
I am not interested in your personal remarks unless they are either truthful or witty.

Read James 3 Taming the Tongue for God's intention for the tongue. Eye

So ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Is that a yes, then?

Isaiah 29:15-16

Rosie's picture

Did God know man was going to rebel?

Woe to those who go to great depths
to hide their plans from the LORD,
who do their work in darkness and think,
"Who sees us? Who will know?"

You turn things upside down,
as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!
Shall what is formed say to him who formed it,
"He did not make me"?
Can the pot say of the potter,
"He knows nothing"?

Realty vs.Fantasy

Wayne Simmons's picture

Rosie writes: "Compare Ayn Rand and her life to Jesus and His?"

Even if I accepted your rank, ignorant, characture of the Objectivist ethics, Rosie, I would say your comparison is impossible. You only know a fiction created by Paul and his followers. You can't be in touch with the real Jesus, even if he existed. That's not the case for Ayn Rand.

I prefer to judge my own actions, the life of Ayn Rand, and Objectivism, by the standards set by the objective facts of reality. The fact that you try to live you life based on the example set by a fiction tells us a lot about you. You will never succeed because reality isn't your standard.

Rosie

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Did God know man was going to rebel?

The Objectivist Scholar abandons scholarship and objectivity

Rosie's picture

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.

2. Your understanding of the Bible, with respect, appears a little unscholarly. These things are not quite so straight forward as you 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 - which incidentally is in complete contrast to the accusation as recorded in the Bible (that he told them NOT to pay taxes to Caesar) - he simply said, very cleverly to avoid the Pharisees' trap, "give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's".

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.

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).

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!

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.

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!!

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/4388381 (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?!

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?

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?!

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

This will do to start with. I might continue refuting other of James's comments another day. But this "great exposition" is wrong and certainly not scholarly. It is full of omissions and "context-dropping" I believe it is described in Randian language - and isn't that expressly forbidden?! Include the context and/or the omissions and James's argument just becomes well worn misinterpretations and platitudes rehashed.
But see how the atheist masses love it?! And despite the omissions and context dropping they will hear it again and again nodding in approval and agreement! (See all the later enthusiastic posts from Objectivists as though reading it all for the first time!)

Where you say "Adam sins so we get punished" - this is especially funny to me. And " we get the blame for their sin". Where on earth do you get that from? You (or any of us) are not punished for Adam's sin, James - you may find you are punished for your own if you don't have faith. And in this regard why should you get to heaven through good works and no faith? Surely heaven wouldn't be a desired destination by an atheist in any case? If God and/or the law of God is meaningless to you and you don't seek it on earth then why would you seek to wish to embrace Him/it in heaven? And think it unfair that you can't?! You clearly entertain the thought that it is possible. So perhaps not an atheist at all. I wonder why you give Christianity a second thought on an Objectivist forum if you genuinely do not believe in God. You may as well have done a post rejecting Baal or horoscopes or everything sans Objectivism!

Can the adolescent's heroine, Ayn Rand, really have the answer to ethics?! The woman who was a great spirit but could not maintain relationships? Whose own ethics did not embrace love, compassion, forgiveness as absolutes? Who did not tolerate anyone who disagreed with her but encouraged freedom of choice as a value? Compare Ayn Rand and her life to Jesus and His? One so very inconsistent, contradictory, sinful, selfish, concerned with self, earthly and human; the other so very consistent, perfect, selfless, concerned for others, spiritual and God-like. And His disciples did not turn against Him except on two occasions when they exercised Randian choices: Peter in his self interest when he was scared that he would be hurt if he supported Jesus and Judas when he chose money rather than loyalty. Both regretted their choices.

One thing puzzles me. How can the expression and the spirit of romanticism coexist with any consistency with the philosophy of Ayn Rand?

The Case For Objectivist Ethics will illustrate (and you are only at the first step of the stairway - going down to its demise), that Ayn Rand did not have the answer to ethics.

Excellent James. Did they

Sam Pierson's picture

Excellent James.


Did they finally get clear on the meaning of their true doctrine only after the better part of two millennia?

Indeed.

I wonder ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... what ever happened to our old Christian friend, Bill Tingley, whom I used to call "Father Bill." Anyone remember him? He was an occasional visitor from the Phirehammer Phunny Pharm (does that still exist?). A very decent phellow.

Wow.

atlascott's picture

I had always assumed the Deists were essentially Christians who disavowed the supernatural aspects of religion.

Did some looking into it, and it turns out I an wrong!

Ah, well. Neither first nor last!

Jefferson's views on religious freedom

Frediano's picture

The Founding Fathers were Christians. But they put religion in its place. And made reason their cornerstone.

That's why what they built was great.

Exactly.

To Doctor Thomas Cooper, 2 November 1822 (Ford 12: 270-1):

In our annual report to the legislature, after stating the constitutional reasons against a public establishment of any religious instruction, we suggest the expediency of encouraging the different religious sects to establish, each for itself, a professorship of their own tenets, on the confines of the university, so near as that their students may attend the lectures there, and have the free use of our library, and every other accommodation we can give them; preserving, however, their independence of us and of each other. This fills the chasm objected to ours, as a defect in an institution professing to give instruction in all useful sciences. I think the invitation will be accepted, by some sects from candid intentions, and by others from jealousy and rivalship. And by bringing the sects together, and mixing them with the mass of other students, we shall soften their asperities, liberalize and neutralize their prejudices, and make the general religion a religion of peace, reason, and morality.

The context being, the establishement of a public university, eventually his University of Virginia. He argued not for a public university with a campus free of all religion, but a campus open to all religion -- as opposed to any singular dominant religion. And by bringing the sects together, and mixing them with the mass of other students, we shall soften their asperities, liberalize and neutralize their prejudices, and make the general religion a religion of peace, reason, and morality.

We see today instead, on universities both public and private, domination by a single religion: Social Scientology, a religion that masked itself as a 'soft science', as in, not a science at all. "S"ociety is God, and the State is its proper church. And, that singular religion has come to dominate our state by way of our universities. For from 'softening their asperities' -- the dominance of a single 'civil' religion has created a virulent theocracy--the precise opposite of the Founders intent.

There is no hint of 'reason' in the following definition of "S"ociety by Emil Durkheim. It is nothing but eyes-rolled-into-the-back-of-the-head all seeing Magic Spirit in the Sky mysticism as far as the eye can see, and yet, he and his dominate university campus preaching in the modern era and for several generations:

Society is not at all the illogical or a-logical, incoherent and fantastic being which has too often been considered. Quite on the contrary, the collective consciousness is the highest form of psychic life, since it is the consciousness of consciousness. Being placed outside of and above individual and local contingencies, it sees things only in their permanent and essential aspects, which it crystallizes into communicable ideas. At the same time that it sees from above, it sees farther; at every moment of time it embraces all known reality; that is why it alone can furnish the minds with the moulds which are applicable to the totality of things and which make it possible to think of them

Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (New York, The Free Press, 1954), p. 444.

And that admission, by a 'still seminal' founding father of that civil religion, is the basis for America's current theocracy and flirtation with Totalitarianism.

A once free nation has been infested and over-run with a singlular True Believer religion.

I agree they were not

John Donohue's picture

I agree they were not Christians. First, a Deist is not a Christian. If the 'modern christians' knew to what extent a deist is not a christian they would have a bad day. Second, you can't count a purported affiliation. Washington is championed as a Christian, but "his own" minister bemoaned that he never came to church or took communion. He also did not invoke God on his death bed. Apparently Martha attended church occasionally.

I have to laugh. I went for an operation once and the "intake person" did not do a very thorough job. She left "religion" blank. Upon recovery I looked at my chart. Some obsessive person had filled it in with "Catholic", doubtless on the basis of my name. I called an admin over and had a little discussion about the matter! I made her write "atheist" in the box. She had a quite difficult time doing that.

Thank You Very Much

James S. Valliant's picture

But painting all of the Founders as "Christians" is highly problematic.

Christians

atlascott's picture

The Founding Fathers were Christians. But they put religion in its place. And made reason their cornerstone.

That's why what they built was great.

Excellent article.

What keeps you Christian

John Donohue's picture

For many decades I examined and reexamined the phrase "Jesus died for your sins."

This is a Christian koan. Sometimes it is spun: "Because Jesus died for your sins, you are free to be happy; no one could have suffered more, and there was no sin you might do that was not forgiven by his suffering. You don't have to worry because on the Cross he said to His Father 'it is accomplished.' His sacrifice means you have already been forgiven, if you accept Him."

But then one day I saw this formulation: "Jesus died because of your sins." That is a preemptive strike against you. If you 'sin' Jesus will suffer more. In his suffering he felt pain for every sin you commit today.

Notice that in both cases Christ is eternal. Time flows in all directions. This allows Christ to be present at this moment, watching you sin. You offend and hurt Jesus in real time. Jesus, who was about Love, loves you, but hates your sin.

So you have the carrot and the stick. Both are designed to keep you sutured in.

Interesting to say the least

gregster's picture

Probably the best contribution of late. I'll pass this on to a friend who's reading up on similar matters. Eg. monotheism pronounced by Egypt's Akhanaten, Ramses II was Moses, interpretations of some code-like scripture based on archeological findings, the scripture having been written that way to protect the Jewish itinerant writers, supposedly. Messiah, Christos and similar from the hebrew.

Well done James!

Kasper's picture

I read this with great pleasure last night. Spot on!

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