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He Healed the Sick, But What Did He Do For the Poor?

Posted on Jun 18, 2011 by Tom Gilson

Jesus healed the sick everywhere he went. He had the power to feed the poor, as we know from the feedings of the 5,000 and the 4,000. Other than those two meals, though, there is no sign that he did anything to directly take care of their needs. “The poor you will always have with you,” he said.

Why did he do one but not the other? Would it have been that much harder for him to solve a few thousand poor people’s problem than it was to heal a few thousand? A miracle is a miracle, after all.

Well, no. Some miracles take more time than others. It’s one thing to straighten a limb; it’s another thing to straighten out a heart. I’m no expert on this, but it seems to me that “healing” the poor takes much deeper and broader work than healing the sick. And it’s work that Jesus did not neglect; in fact, it was very close to the heart of what he accomplished on earth.

Poverty is both an individual and a systemic problem. Barring tragedies like flood, blight, drought, or the like, there’s plenty of food and shelter to go around for everyone. Poverty is therefore mostly a matter of distribution. This, I believe, is uncontroversial. Of course where that statement leads is extremely contentious, for there have been a lot of different and contradictory solutions proposed to the distribution problem. State-managed redistribution was a favorite of the Communists, and to varying lesser degrees, also of Socialists, Progressives, liberals, and so on. More conservative types favor keeping that initiative out of government’s hands, and leaving it to the caring intervention of individuals, churches, and other local initiatives that can give life coaching and help beyond just dollars.

The great danger of state-managed redistribution is that it concentrates great economic power in the hands of a few. It can be argued quite credibly that it amounts to stealing from the rich to give to the poor. And it doesn’t do much to break the character- and skill-based aspects of the poverty cycle.

The great danger of individually and locally managed redistribution is that it won’t happen at all—conservatism can be cover for selfishness—or that it will happen haphazardly.

Both approaches have their negatives, and not just the ones I’ve named here, though they are the major ones in my mind.

Into this mix we add the mission and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ first sermon recorded by Luke, possibly his first first sermon in all his public ministry, is found in Luke 4:16-20:

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

He was quoting from Isaiah 61 here, and his listeners would have known how this passage fit into Isaiah’s overall message of compassion for the oppressed and needy. See also Isaiah 58, for example.

There is so much to be said about this rich passage! All I want to do with it here, however, is draw from it an answer to the question I posed above: what did Jesus really do for the poor?

And the answer is that he changed hearts. He still is. He had “good news” to the poor, and he announced liberty for the oppressed. All this, he said, was fulfilled in him.

History bears this out. Compassion, it has been said, was a Christian invention (Alvin Schmidt in How Christianity Changed the World); and while Isaiah and other prophets might dispute that, the Greco-Romans hardly could have. Thomas Woods sets up his question, “Who Invented Charity?” by showing how bad things once were:

According to W. E. H. Lecky, who was frequently a harsh critic of the Church, there can be “no question that neither in practice nor in theory, neither in the institutions that were founded nor in the place that was assigned to it in the scale of duties, did charity in antiquity occupy a position at all comparable to that which it has obtained by Christianity. Nearly all relief was a State measure, dictated much more by policy than by benevolence, and the habit of selling young children, the innumerable expositions [abandoning or "exposing" infants to their death], the readiness of the poor to enroll themselves as gladiators, and the frequent famines, show how large was the measure of unrelieved distress.”

Widows, for example, were on their own in much of Greco-Roman culture, and usually with no income; unless they could re-marry, at which point if they had any inheritance they were often required to turn it over to their new husbands. One emperor even fined widows who did not remarry inside of two years. By way of contrast, care for widows was high on the church’s agenda from the very beginning (Acts 6). The church in just one city, Antioch, cared for as many as 1,500 widows at a time.

Ancient Greco-Roman culture was calloused toward the needy in ways we can hardly imagine. You can find examples of it in Plato and Aristotle, and in the actions of historically honored men like Asclepius (possibly mythical, but the attitudes written about him were not) and Galen (certainly historical). We have forgotten whence our care for the poor and oppressed has come. We are a culture shaped by Jesus Christ. Not fully shaped by him, obviously, but to an extent greater than many of us recognize.

Responsible research today shows that religious believers lead in compassion. We give much more of our own money and our own time to the poor than any other group. In my local county, the Food Bank for the poor is run by a church. The Rescue Mission for homeless men is run by Christians from multiple churches. There is a similar Christ-centered service available for women. Not only do they feed these centers needly men and women, they also give them long-term life coaching to equip them to take care of their own needs. The free medical clinic is run by Christians. I could multiply stories like these over and over again, in city upon city.

Jesus knew that solving the problem of poverty would take much more than a year’s supply of food—or even a lifetime’s worth—for a few blessed families. It would take overturning cultures, by overturning hearts. And this is where he did his best and greatest work.

I do not mean to oversimplify the issue. I do not my any means intend to denigrate what an unbeliever like Bill Gates is doing, giving away a huge percentage of his billions; and there are others like him (though with a lot less money to give) This is not a one-dimensional issue. It’s not solved yet by any means: we still have the poor with us.

But we can at least see that Jesus really did bring them good news. It would take some years for his work of changing hearts to percolate through culture, but the more it has done so, the more the poor and oppressed have been set at liberty.

166 Responses to “ He Healed the Sick, But What Did He Do For the Poor? ”

  1. toddes says:

    What Did He Do For the Poor? He became one of them.

    We seem to forget that this world is not our final destination. We have a home waiting for us that makes, IMO, the Taj Mahal seem like a shanty. A place where gold is metaphorically as common as the dust of the streets and paths of first century Jerusalem.

    The good news that Christ proclaimed is that rich or poor, Jew or Gentile, man or woman, all are part of His Kingdom and will be welcomed whole-heartedly.

  2. Tom Gilson says:

    Very good point, toddes.

  3. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    “Responsible research today shows that religious believers lead in compassion. We give much more of our own money and our own time to the poor than any other group.”

    Even more than (as a group) Liberals?

    Liberals are always talking about how they’re more compassionate and giving and loving than conservatives.

  4. Truth Unites... and Divides says:
  5. Tom,

    I can’t resist some policy comments.

    The great danger of state-managed redistribution is that it concentrates great economic power in the hands of a few.

    Great wealth is economic power. Most people don’t have the time or resources to lobby or advise congress or give to political campaigns. Most people don’t even have time to look at policy at all. Wealthy people do. Wealth translates into political power.

    The wealthy also wield economic power directly by controlling corporations. For example, Wal-Mart has done far more to alter the shape and quality of life in small towns than has the Federal government. If you’re a low-income consumer or job-seeker in a small town, Wal-Mart has significant control over your life. In an ideal free market, everyone would have multiple employers and stores to choose from. In reality, the less wealth and mobility you have, the less economic choice you have.

    Finally, in practice, it is “conservative” policies of reducing taxes on the wealthy that have led to a shift in wealth from middle class and working people to the wealthy. Wealth in the United States is now concentrated far more heavily in to the top 0.1% than it was in earlier decades. The facts show that conservative tax policies concentrate economic power among the few very wealthiest Americans. In the 50’s-70’s, the top marginal tax rate was 70%, and the income distribution was far more equitable.

    Conservatives argue that our ability to buy microwaves and video games means that the raw economic fact that middle class incomes have stagnated under conservative policies is misleading. However, I think most people would gladly trade in their video games and flat screen TV’s if they could return to a time when both spouses didn’t have to work.

    So this danger of concentrated economic power belongs in the conservative column.

  6. BillT says:

    DL,

    Excellent summation of a number of DNC talking points. Kudos to you.

  7. Tom Gilson says:

    Who made these conservative/liberal columns?
    Great power concentrated in the hands of a few is dangerous.

  8. Charlie says:

    However, I think most people would gladly trade in their video games and flat screen TV’s if they could return to a time when both spouses didn’t have to work.

    Sounds like something that would be doable. Give up the flatscreens, iPods, two luxury vehicles, too much mortgage, daycare, etc., and have one spouse at home. Many do it.

  9. BillT says:

    However, I think most people would gladly trade in their video games and flat screen TV’s if they could return to a time when both spouses didn’t have to work.

    A false dichotomy reflective of the democratic/socialist politics of less.

  10. TJ says:

    A very interesting perspective and some great points.

  11. Tom Gilson says:

    Thank you, TJ. Kind of you to say so.

  12. Victoria says:

    This seems to parallel the issue of slavery, does it not?

    I wonder if there is an underlying principle here – Christianity’s goal was not to fix the (flawed) societal structures, but to fix the root cause of the problem, namely our deeply flawed human hearts/souls/minds (Jeremiah 17:9 and Jeremiah 31:33)

  13. People are naturally tribal. They treat their in-group well, and dehumanize the out-group. They see their in-group as rich and diverse, and the out-group as monolithic and conforming to stereotypes. Tribal boundaries weaken when people live in cities, when we interact with more people, when there’s greater global communication, etc.

    Statistically, our quality of life also has an impact on how we treat others. If our lives are in jeopardy due to poverty, disease, famine or war (or terrorism!), we’ll be less likely to have concern for the quality of other people’s lives (even more so for those in the out-group).

    Over the last few centuries, quality of life, population and global communications have all improved dramatically. So we would expect that by these factors alone, people will increasingly have concern for others, and people are more likely to view others as part of their in-group.

    If Christianity were a cause of “changed hearts”, we should have expected these dramatic improvements in gender and racial equality in the Dark Ages when Christianity took hold and the world sank deeper into poverty and illiteracy. Instead, Europe remained quite racist, and we only see society becoming more friendly to minorities and the poor in accord with psychological/naturalistic factors like population, wealth, medicine, education and global communication.

    There are lots of obvious and dramatic ways that God could have improved our lives. None of those happened. I understand that, consequently, Christians need theodicy in order to make sense of reality, but the theodicy really isn’t working because it isn’t outperforming natural sociological factors.

    If naturalism is true, then Christianity is a natural phenomenon. We should see Christianity primarily evolve to mirror social factors, rather than primarily cause those social factors. For example, the environment in which the Torah was written was likely more primitive, tribal, isolationist and xenophobic than the environment in which the NT was written. And this would go a long way towards explaining why Yahweh commands the brutal destruction of enemies, and why the message of Christianity is more compatible with urban life.

    It’s all very complicated, but see no net evidence that Christianity is the cause of perceived goods in Western society over the past 2,000 years.

  14. BillT says:

    To top off a whole post of banal musings, this gem. “It’s all very complicated, but see no net evidence that Christianity is the cause of perceived goods in Western society over the past 2,000 years.”

    The laughable nonesense from DL never ends.

  15. Tom Gilson says:

    Wow.

    You need to read some early Christian era and Medieval history, my friend.

    You need to ask what fueled the global education movement.

    You need to wonder who in history pioneered the value of caring for the sick in outgroups.

    You need to discover who pioneered the global compassion movement.

    You need to have some clue where gender equality arose in history. (Quick hint: it started before 1970. Long before 1970.)

    You need to understand where the value of overcoming racism came from.

    You need to understand the social change that Christianity has produced for the world (rather than vice-versa as you wrongly think).

    You need to understand how historically inaccurate your “None of those happened” is.

    I’m not so sure I need to explain everything in depth that I have mentioned here. My original post already provided considerably more supporting evidence than you have done with this slew of assertions you have slung at us. I doubt you would give any more thought to new material than you have the material already in front of you. Not only was your response utterly ignorant of the relevant history, you even ignored what was right in front of your nose!

  16. Victoria says:

    Yeah, like Facist Nazi Germany and Communist Russia (especially under Stalin) are such good examples of why we should be done with the civilizing influence of genuine Christianity.

  17. Holopupenko says:

    Per Victoria, atheism’s lasting contribution to humanity: genocide… and an inability to think well.

    “Henceforward walk not as the Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind, having their understanding darkened” (Eph. 4:17-18)

  18. Victoria says:

    This just goes to show how absolutely right Jeremiah 17:9 really is, and how much we are in need of having our hearts healed.

    However, God didn’t make the process instantaneous – it takes a lifetime of faith, trust and obedience for God to effect those changes, and even then, we won’t be made perfect and complete until we reach our final, eternal home. Hey, if God wants to use this process, who are we to say otherwise?

    To skeptics such as DL, this seems foolish, but
    1 Corinthians 1:18-2:16 and also Isaiah 55:8-9
    answer that charge.

    God wants people who are willing co-laborers with Him. Even so, those of us who are willing to allow God to work in us and through us still make mistakes. There have been, and still are, plenty of people who adopt the forms of Christianity, but not the content or the real life-changing power, but as they say, “abuse does not invalidate proper use”.

    In the meantime, those of us who love the LORD and serve Him will contine to do so, out of sincere, albeit imperfect, hearts.

  19. In Group bias is well documented:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ingroup_bias

    Economists have models that explain when slavery is likely to occur:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery#Economics_2

    Jonathan Haidt’s research (backup up by a lot of other psychological theory including cognitive dissonance theory) shows that people rationalize their moral impulses, rather than generating moral actions from cold computations. People cherry-pick post hoc justifications for their moral beliefs and their actions.

    The psychological theories to which I refer are supported by many studies (about 900 in the case of cognitive dissonance theory), and are not controversial.

    Before 1910, public opinion was hostile to the women’s suffrage movement. Christianity had 1900 years to give women equal rights, but women only got the right to vote after public opinion shifted in their favor. Do you really want to tell me that the majority didn’t use biblical or religious sources to justify their hostility?

    I’m certain you can find examples wherein some Christian societies granted women more rights than some pre-Christian societies. But compare, say, 14th century womens’s rights and modern women’s rights would be a joke. Married women ceded their rights to their husbands, and only recovered what little rights they had if their husbands died. Many widows thus preferred not to remarry. Women were denied the right to own property in some European societies.

    As for the poor, serfdom was rife in Christian Europe. Christian Europe also took economic class division to new heights. Perhaps Christianity deserves credit for the lip service?

    In your extremely rude response, you claim to have provided me plenty of evidence for your position. You quote two Christian apologists who cherry-pick anecdotes in favor of their thesis. You simply haven’t made a case for your position.

    Woods himself states:

    It would be foolish to deny that some noble sentiments were voiced by the great ancient philosophers when it came to philanthropy, or that men of wealth made impressive and substantial voluntary contributions to their communities.
    … Yet for all the benefactions thus offered, the spirit of giving in the ancient world was in a certain sense deficient when set against that of the Church. Most ancient giving was self-interested rather than purely gratuitous.

    Charity today isn’t self-interested? That’s quite a claim.

    The idea that we ought to help the poor predates Christianity. If charity is something sociological, then if Christianity had not been there to take the credit, some other doctrine/faith would.

    Ancient Greco-Roman culture was calloused toward the needy in ways we can hardly imagine.

    And the Dark Ages were a picnic?

  20. Tom,

    Are you in favor of the death penalty?

    Because I know this guy in Rome who’s very much against it. There are also sources in the Bible that say it is wrong. But that doesn’t stop most fundamentalists from being pro-death penalty and generally loving their enemies with the prickly side of a cluster bomb. And you can bet they can find quotes and Christian influences to support their position. That is, until they start to empathize more with their targets, start to feel that the death penalty is wrong, and then rationalize their position using different Bible verses.

    When you ask the average person who opposes gay rights why gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry, you’ll get utterly absurd answers. They’ll say things like “gay marriage will reduce the US population.” As if gay people would get married and breed if only they were denied marriage rights! It works exactly as Haidt says it does. They get the gut first, then rationalize the moral belief after the fact. I know that you think about these issues quite a bit, and that you try to integrate your moral beliefs into a coherent picture. But you’re not average.

    Perhaps you reject the accepted psychological picture of moral rationalization, and perhaps you reject the claim most people rationalize their moral beliefs (whatever they are!) according to their faith. But if you do accept what psychological research is showing us, then I’d like to know how you have accounted for this effect in your assessment of Christianity’s effect on morality.

  21. Victoria says:

    Yep…we are in a work in progress (as Bill Gothard was famous for saying ‘Please be patient, God is not finished with me yet’)

    Those examples you refer to, DL, only show our failure to fully integrate genuine Christian truths and principles into our lives, to allow the Holy Spirit to work His changes in us; they show how self-servingly wicked we are; none of those examples are normative for genuine, Biblical Christianity. We are not denying these things, and we agree that they were wrong – the fault is not Christianity per se, but the wickedness of the human heart.

  22. Victoria says:

    DL said

    The idea that we ought to help the poor predates Christianity. If charity is something sociological, then if Christianity had not been there to take the credit, some other doctrine/faith would

    References, please? You are saying, but not citing (as usual)

  23. Victoria,

    This is cool:

    Yeah, like Facist Nazi Germany and Communist Russia (especially under Stalin) are such good examples of why we should be done with the civilizing influence of genuine Christianity.

    First of all, the Nazi’s were a Christian movement. The Nazi’s didn’t interpret Christianity the way you do, but they were Christians nonetheless.

    But then you follow up with:

    but as they say, “abuse does not invalidate proper use”.

    Does that go for all doctrines, or only your preferred ones?

  24. olegt says:

    Holopupenko wrote:

    Per Victoria, atheism’s lasting contribution to humanity: genocide… and an inability to think well.

    Wut? Atheists invented genocide? When? And which atheists destroyed Canaan?

  25. Tom Gilson says:

    1. Does Jonathan Haidt’s research show that all moral impulses in all cases are rationalized after the fact?
    2. Does his research show that all morality is explained post hoc?
    3. Does he apply his research to the Middle Ages? Do you have any historical basis on which to ground your doing so?
    4. Is your reliance on Haidt any excuse for your ignorance of the relevant history?
    5. Do you know anything at all about the long-term history of women’s rights?
    6. Can you give me any reason on earth to think that the comparison of 14th century women’s rights to 21st century women’s rights is relevant to this question?
    7. Can you tell me what naturalistic philosophy was guiding culture toward women’s rights during the intervening centuries?
    8. Did you know that the Women’s Christian Temperance Union was instrumental in women’s suffrage?
    9. How many leaders of the suffrage movement were Christians?
    10. Do you have any clue of the social progression from brutal Greco-Roman slavery practices to medieval serfdom?
    11. Did you expect that the Christian Gospel would result in an immediate jump in cultural practices from A to Z?
    12. I didn’t say I provided plenty of evidence for my position. I just noted how much more I had provided for mine than yours. I’ll thank you not to misrepresent me so in the future.
    13. What knowledge of history do you bring to this discussion to support your contention that I was “cherry-picking”?
    14. Do you have any conception whatsoever of charity that’s not self-interested?
    15. Do you have any source to support your statement that helping the poor predates Christianity (apart from Judaism, which I acknowledged in the post)?
    16. How ignorant do you want to display yourself to be with your dismissal of my comparison of anciant Greece and Rome to the Middle Ages?
    17. Did you know that the term “Dark Ages” is deprecated by most historians now, in view of its inaccuracy (especially after the 5th century)?
    18. Do you think there was anything in your prior comment that deserved a respectful response?
    19. Do you think there is anything in your 4:48 pm response that does?

    doctor(“logic”), I have no respect for smug ignorance parading as if it were knowledge.

  26. Tom Gilson says:

    Oh, I forgot:

    20. In-group bias is well documented, you say. So what?
    21. When people break out of in-group bias to help others, as I mentioned previously, doesn’t that mean something?
    (See http://pages.citebite.com/x7u8x7o0emag for one example among hundreds of thousands.)
    22. Economists know when slavery may be practiced. So what? When a culture breaks that model, doesn’t that mean something?

  27. BillT says:

    “First of all, the Nazi’s were a Christian movement. The Nazi’s didn’t interpret Christianity the way you do, but they were Christians nonetheless.”

    This is outright lie. Saying they “…didn’t interpret Christianity the way you do…” is the same as saying they weren’t Christian. They explicitly rejected Chritianity and it’s teachings. The Nazi’s were an extreme left wing socialist/totalitarian movement. DL seems to know less about this subject than even the many others he has show his ignorance on.

    (Note from Tom: if this appears out of sequence, and redundant to Bill’s later comments, it’s because somehow it got sent to the moderation queue, and I just released it.)

  28. Tom Gilson says:

    The Nazis were a Christian movement? Ha ha ha! Ha ha! Ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha has! Oh, my. Oh, my. Oh, my. I am totally overcome. Hee hee hee hoo! Hoo, boy! This is rich! This is unbelievable! This is astonishing!

    It is astonishingly ignorant. Have you nothing left to offer but that? Do you still insist on making a fool of yourself this way? I have no respect for this, d”l”. I am done having respect for this. It’s just ignorant and unworthy of any other assessment.

  29. Tom Gilson says:

    Re: your 5:02 red herrings, d”l”, I am going to treat them the way red herrings deserve:
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    That was it.

  30. Tom Gilson says:

    As to the “accepted psychological picture of moral rationalization,” why would you think I reject it in the case of situations where it has been identified, and why would you think that’s relevant to this discussion? Do you think (I already asked this but I’ll repeat it) that there is absolutely no way to distinguish such rationalization from the genuine thing? And if you think it is at least possible to make that distinction, then your argument on that grounds falls apart. If you insist on putting it forward, I’ll put forward the parallel argument: “it’s very possible for people to draw inaccurate conclusions about physical science, therefore physical science is all inaccurate.”

  31. Victoria says:

    DL said

    First of all, the Nazi’s were a Christian movement. The Nazi’s didn’t interpret Christianity the way you do, but they were Christians nonetheless.

    references please?

    Many people/groups would like to co-opt the Christian label and the support of the Bible for positions that are completely un-Christian; claiming Christian status does not make it so. I’m surprised that anyone would use such a desperate straw-man argument.

  32. Victoria says:

    @Tom LOL

    The Nazis were Christian? Ha ha ha! Ha ha! Ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha has! Oh, my. Oh, my. Oh, my. I am totally overcome. Hee hee hee hoo! Hoo, boy! This is rich! This is unbelievable! This is astonishing!

    You have such a gift for understatement :)

  33. Tom Gilson says:

    Victoria,

    You are showing considerably more patience with doctor(“logic”) than I am, and I commend you for it.

    I have had six or seven years of experience with him. I have recently documented how riddled his comments are with logical blunders. Now he is showing up here with rank ignorance to go with it.

    I respect you, doctor(“logic”) for your knowledge of physics. I regard you highly as a fellow human being. You are not your opinions, and you are not your arguments. Having said that, this again is how I view your opinions and arguments of late:

    I hold your repeated smug ignorance and illogic masquerading as evidence and reasoning in contempt.

  34. BillT says:

    “Wut? Atheists invented genocide? When? And which atheists destroyed Canaan?”

    A false dichotomy. Killing your enemies in a war (even all of them) has been part of war since man first picked up a rock. Genocide as practiced by the Nazi’s or Stalin or Pol Pot consisted of killing your own populations or others based on race or religion.

  35. BillT says:

    “The Nazi’s didn’t interpret Christianity the way you do…”

    Another real howler. No, they didn’t. That’s why it wasn’t Christianity. They specifically rejected Christianity and it’s teachings. The Nazi’s were extremist left wing socialist/totalitartians.

  36. Tom Gilson says:

    RE: my own 5:31 comment:

    I’m not proud of it. There has got to be a better way than that. I’m a mess myself in many ways. Only God’s grace protects me or anyone from sliding into utter nonsense and utter destruction.

    Ignorance and illogic are ignorance and illogic. They need not be treated as better than that. But persons do need to be treated better. It is a challenge I don’t always handle well.

  37. Tom Gilson says:

    Sometimes, doctor(“logic”), I have wanted to shake you by your metaphorical collar and say, “Please, please, please, why won’t you see yourself?”

    You take such continual pride in your logic and knowledge, and on it you stake your atheism. But your position as a logician has, I think, been adequately shown to be false and self-deceiving; and today, your confident historical assertions have in fact been, as more than one of us has indicated, laughably ignorant (or distorted).

    On this illogic, ignorance, and distortion you stake your atheism. Don’t you hold yourself in higher regard than that? Don’t you care more about yourself than that? Don’t you see yourself? What’s preventing you from it?

    If it wasn’t clear enough from my prior comment, I apologize for my statement of contempt.

  38. Tom Gilson says:

    You asked how I account for the effect of self-interest and bias on Christian morality down through the ages.

    I think this is what you were trying to say:

    1. Haidt shows there is self-interest in charity.
    2. In-group bias is well-documented.
    3. Therefore…. ?
    You didn’t draw a conclusion. The closest thing I can find is: Therefore, Christianity has not improved the world, or, the world improved and Christianity followed it.

    Do you see that you offered us two psychological facts, unconnected to a clear argument? Do you see that if one tried to connect them to your overall argument, it would produce a non sequitur at best? For the actual history of Christianity and ethics is relevant. My argument in response goes like this:

    1′. Same as yours
    2′. Same as yours
    3’a. Christianity has demonstrated throughout history that it has the capacity to overcome in-group bias and self-interest.
    3’b. Christianity has historically led culture in social progress in areas mentioned here.
    4. Therefore Christianity has demonstrated the capacity to overcome the psychological tendencies in (1′) and (2′).
    5. Therefore Christianity has demonstrated advanced moral capacity.

    Against a possible objection:
    6. Christians have not always demonstrated that advanced moral capacity, and have sometimes demonstrated the opposite.
    7. Those persons have demonstrated their inability to overcome the tendencies in (1′) and (2′).
    8. Nevertheless the capacity to overcome those tendencies has been demonstrated in history.
    9. That capacity has been uniquely demonstrated in Christianity.
    10. Christianity displays unique capacities in spite of (6).

  39. BillT says:

    That’s an absolute classic, Tom. First you have to make DL’s argument for him because, it seems, he can’t think clearly enough to do it for himself. Only then can you engage “him” in a reasonable discussion.

  40. Tom Gilson says:

    The psychological case doctor(“logic”) presented is at best (for him) irrelevant to what I’ve been trying to say. At worst (for him) it supports the uniqueness of Christianity’s contribution. It depends on what the historical actually has to say about it.

    I’m going to risk bringing up some indeterminacy of knowledge, but it’s an open secret: you can find all kinds of perspectives in history books. My daughter read one for school a year ago that pretty much mirrored doctor(“logic”)’s perspective. The problem with it was that I’ve seen specific documentation showing that that book was in error on several points.

    Compare Aristotle and Plato’s views of women with that of 1 Corinthians 7:4 or Galatians 3:28. It’s a huge difference. Study the contrast between widows’ treatment in Rome with that of Acts 6 or 1 Timothy 5:3. Consider the importance in women in Jesus’ ministry and in the book of Acts, in contrast to their treatment in much of Greece and Rome as having the legal status of children. Contrast Greco-Roman selective female infanticide (the whole article there is instructive!) and male-dominated abortion practices (it was not a women’s choice issue then) with Christians’ immediate denunciation of all infanticide and abortion. Consider that early records of early Christianity show a high ratio of females to males in positions of prominence. Compare the place of women in China (foot-binding), India (sati), and Islam (need I say more?). Consider that it was a Christian missionary, William Carey, who campaigned to end sati in India.

    And then consider whether Christianity has had no net effect for good on the world, per doctor(“logic”).

  41. olegt says:

    BillT wrote:

    A false dichotomy. Killing your enemies in a war (even all of them) has been part of war since man first picked up a rock. Genocide as practiced by the Nazi’s or Stalin or Pol Pot consisted of killing your own populations or others based on race or religion.

    I don’t think only the soldiers were killed in Canaan. As far as I understand, Joshua destroyed the entire nation.

  42. BillT says:

    olget,

    What part of “(even all of them)” did you not understand?

  43. olegt says:

    So, you agree that the Israelis destroyed an entire nation but you don’t think that was a case of genocide? Did I get it right?

  44. Tom,

    Sometimes, doctor(“logic”), I have wanted to shake you by your metaphorical collar and say, “Please, please, please, why won’t you see yourself?”

    I spend a lot of time in these debates because it seems like we’re so close to resolving our differences, even if that means settling on axiomatic differences that are irreconcilable.

    I feel like a cat clawing at a toy that’s dangling just out of reach.

    But your position as a logician has, I think, been adequately shown to be false and self-deceiving

    Frankly, I think this statement is false, arrogant and condescending. You claim that I’ve been shown to be a lousy logician. The thread you dedicated to this issue was locked before all my responses went through, and I had to send it to you personally.

    In my email to you I admitted to being careless from time to time, and trying to engage you on the broader issues, not just within the limited boundaries you like to set. But I also said that, unlike you, I don’t take you to task on every little error or inaccuracy you introduce. I prefer to focus on getting to the heart of the issue than calling people out on silly games. But I agreed in that email to turn over a new leaf.

    To that end, I have taken the time to answer your questions in as much detail as I can for now.

  45. Continued…

    1. Does Jonathan Haidt’s research show that all moral impulses in all cases are rationalized after the fact?
    2. Does his research show that all morality is explained post hoc?
    3. Does he apply his research to the Middle Ages? Do you have any historical basis on which to ground your doing so?

    Haidt’s research does not show that all moral impulses are rationalized after the fact, nor that all morality is explained post hoc. But this is not what I wanted or needed to show.

    If I were you, I would say that it was illogical for you to leap to the conclusion that I said this. If I were (old) me, I would anticipate that this was part of a bigger argument, and not kick up a fuss.

    Haidt’s research shows that most people have moral impulses or beliefs, and when asked to defend those beliefs, they rationalize, and they cherry-pick anecdotes or arguments to support their beliefs. In other words, most moral opinions are in some sense non-cognitive. That doesn’t mean that some people (or potentially all people) can’t reason about morality, but that discussion will get us right back to where I’ve been trying to push you for many months.

    3. Does he apply his research to the Middle Ages? Do you have any historical basis on which to ground your doing so?

    Not that I am aware of. Are you suggesting that psychology experiments do not tell us about people who lived in the past?

    4. Is your reliance on Haidt any excuse for your ignorance of the relevant history?

    Objection! You haven’t proven that I’m ignorant of history.

    5. Do you know anything at all about the long-term history of women’s rights?

    I know a little.

    6. Can you give me any reason on earth to think that the comparison of 14th century women’s rights to 21st century women’s rights is relevant to this question?

    It is quite obviously relevant. In your post, you suggest that Christianity contributed to the better treatment of women. Please remember the dear Reverend Bayes. For this claim to be substantiated, it is not sufficient that we observe that the treatment of women improved over 20 centuries (and in the 20th in particular). You need to show that the situation of women (or the poor) improved more than it would have if Christianity had not been present. There are lots of sociological factors at work throughout history, and Christianity is just one of them. You say:

    Widows, for example, were on their own in much of Greco-Roman culture, and usually with no income; unless they could re-marry, at which point if they had any inheritance they were often required to turn it over to their new husbands.

    The implication is that some widows did have an inheritance, but that when they married, they had to turn it over to their new husbands. Well, this same situation held in Christian Europe until long after the 14th century. In other words, the situation of widows that you cite had not much improved after more than ten centuries of Christian control.

    Indeed, I don’t know how you could possibly think this issue was not highly relevant to your claims.

  46. Continued…

    7. Can you tell me what naturalistic philosophy was guiding culture toward women’s rights during the intervening centuries?

    This is a straw man fallacy. I did not say that naturalistic philosophy was guiding culture towards women’s rights. I said instead that naturalistic causes could account for the shift in culture. Naturalistic philosophy doesn’t guide my heart, but my heart still manages to pump blood nonetheless.

    8. Did you know that the Women’s Christian Temperance Union was instrumental in women’s suffrage?

    Yes! And don’t forget that high profile abolitionists conducted their work under the banner of the Christian religion!

    9. How many leaders of the suffrage movement were Christians?

    Most, I would imagine. What percentage of women of the time would not have regarded themselves as Christian? Very small, I dare say. What percentage of 19th century slaveholders not have regarded themselves as Christian? Again, I dare say a tiny percentage.

    10. Do you have any clue of the social progression from brutal Greco-Roman slavery practices to medieval serfdom?

    Oh, I’m not an expert, but serfdom is considerably milder than, say, ancient Greek slavery.

    11. Did you expect that the Christian Gospel would result in an immediate jump in cultural practices from A to Z?

    No, but how long ought it take? To make your case you have to show that it took less time than it might otherwise have taken. You have failed to do this because you haven’t considered the sociological baseline.

    12. I didn’t say I provided plenty of evidence for my position. I just noted how much more I had provided for mine than yours. I’ll thank you not to misrepresent me so in the future.

    That’s a fair criticism.

    13. What knowledge of history do you bring to this discussion to support your contention that I was “cherry-picking”?

    I’m not really prepared to go into detail on this one except as in 21, below.

    14. Do you have any conception whatsoever of charity that’s not self-interested?

    Not really, no. If you act in charity, you do so because the alternative is worse for you, even in some abstract sense. Otherwise, you wouldn’t do it. It must appeal to you on some level, mustn’t it? Even at the aesthetic level?

    15. Do you have any source to support your statement that helping the poor predates Christianity (apart from Judaism, which I acknowledged in the post)?

    Straw man. I didn’t say that helping the poor predates Christianity. I said:

    The idea that we ought to help the poor predates Christianity.

    Google it. But while we’re at it, 21 is somewhat relevant.

    16. How ignorant do you want to display yourself to be with your dismissal of my comparison of anciant Greece and Rome to the Middle Ages?

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

    So, in point of fact, harsh slavery did exist in Europe in the Middle Ages. It was not as widespread as under the Romans, but it was still there, and it wasn’t denounced by the Pope until, what, 15th-16th century?

    17. Did you know that the term “Dark Ages” is deprecated by most historians now, in view of its inaccuracy (especially after the 5th century)?

    You know I agree with Richard Carrier on this one.

    18. Do you think there was anything in your prior comment that deserved a respectful response?

    Yes, actually.

    19. Do you think there is anything in your 4:48 pm response that does?

    Yes.

  47. Continued…

    20. In-group bias is well documented, you say. So what?

    It’s relevant to the sociological baseline.

    21. When people break out of in-group bias to help others, as I mentioned previously, doesn’t that mean something?
    (See http://pages.citebite.com/x7u8x7o0emag for one example among hundreds of thousands.)

    Not if they’ve changed their in-group for sociological reasons. For example, if I start trading with the Chinese, and socializing with my contacts, I will probably begin to admit Chinese people into my in-group. In that case, I haven’t admitted them to the in-group on the basis of a divine command, but on the basis of social interaction. This difference is key to your thesis. You have to show that Western paternalistic culture admitted people into its in-group because of divine command rather than because of sociological factors. History doesn’t support that view because Westerners have not historically been friendly to alien cultures en masse.

    As for the link, take a look at the references in the article. Then take a look at this link:
    http://www.roman-emperors.org/julian.htm

    Julian told Arsacius that the helping of the community by the priests was the way of the forefathers, with such practices dating back to the time of Homer.[[84]]

    It’s possible that Christianity did have an impact, but it’s not easy to tell. And, if it did have an impact, it could be for sociological reasons. Perhaps early Christians did provide aid to the poor primarily but as a means to acquire new converts.

    22. Economists know when slavery may be practiced. So what? When a culture breaks that model, doesn’t that mean something?

    They broke the model? When? Colonialism resulted in large scale slave trade on the part of Christian nations because the land was abundant and the labor scarce.

    I think this is what you were trying to say:

    1. Haidt shows there is self-interest in charity.
    2. In-group bias is well-documented.
    3. Therefore…. ? you didn’t draw a conclusion. The closest thing I can find is: Therefore, Christianity has not improved the world.

    No, I didn’t say (1). (2) is true.

    As I said above, the claim is that there are naturalistic, sociological causes of human culture that would lead to equal rights for women, less racism, and the abolition of slavery even if Christianity did not exist. You’re claiming that Christianity came along, and then society got better, and assuming this implies Christianity was the cause. But a Bayesian approach says “Not so fast! Have you accounted for the possibility that Christianity was just along for the ride?”

  48. Continued…

    Here’s a scenario that I hope will explain what I’m talking about.

    Suppose that 90% of the population is in favor of moral position P. 10% are dissenters. All of the population are Christian. Each part of the population rationalizes their own moral position in biblical terms. Since 90% of the population control 90% of the churches, 90% of the churches teach P. Individuals who attend churches with differing moral opinions have three options.
    (1) They can change their moral opinion.
    (2) They can go across the street to the competing congregation that teaches an interpretation that fits with their moral opinions.
    (3) They can dissent in silence.
    (4) They can become non-religious.

    (This same situation is the case today. Perhaps more so because there are more sects to choose from, and people are more mobile.)

    Until recent times, option (4) was seriously problematic because of the social stigma.

    As it happens, church teaching on women’s rights and slavery is ambiguous. It’s pretty unlikely that church teaching has any effect. But to the extent it’s ambiguous, church teaching will probably reflect the majority opinion.

    Now, if there are sociological reasons why women are newly seen as equal to men, e.g., because women are called into the workforce in time of war, then this alters moral opinion in an essentially non-cognitive way. Women are seen as in-group and equals relative to the workplace and household. After this, the church teachings and interpretations will change, either because church leaders now reflect cultural opinions or because more people defect to churches that reflect their own views.

    Note that whatever the sociological outcome, a Christian society can claim credit since Christian biblical justifications can be given on all sides.

    In a uniformly Christian culture, the reformer will almost always be a Christian. Christians will later take credit for the reformer’s work, despite the fact that the church previously overlooked or even endorsed the prior practice.

    If you don’t account for this, then your thesis is not well supported.

    Now, perhaps the thesis works to some limited extent. Perhaps Christianity transitioned treatment of the poor and women from an early classical level of abuse to a slightly lesser level of abuse as seen in the Middle Ages. I think the case is far from clear, however. Christianity was much stronger in the 18th and 19th centuries, and it didn’t stop slavery where slavery was economically viable.

    Perhaps slavery in Europe simply became economically impractical after Christianity took hold, and Christian doctrine was given as rationalization for the policy change. Many slaves were trophies of foreign wars. Perhaps the weakening of the Roman Empire would have negatively impacted the viability of slave culture.

  49. Right on target, olegt!

  50. Charlie says:

    You know I agree with Richard Carrier on this one.

    2 out of 2 internet atheists agree.

    They nays have it:
    http://www.amazon.com/Those-Terrible-Middle-Ages-Debunking/dp/0898707811

    Though not scholarly, this list may inspire thinkers to think:
    http://listverse.com/2009/01/07/top-10-myths-about-the-middle-ages/

  51. Charlie says:

    And as though this Nazism thing needed further refuting:

    “Man has discovered in nature the wonderful notion of that all-mighty being whose law he worships. Fundamentally in everyone there is the feeling for this all-mighty, which we call god (that is to say, the dominion of natural laws throughout the whole universe).” — Adolf Hitler
Source: Adolf Hitler, Hitler’s Secret Conversations, 1941-1945 (New York: Farrar, Straus and Young, 1953), p. 5.

    In the New Age envisioned by National Socialism, biblical Christianity was politically subversive, even a “rebellion … against nature”(page 91 . It’s perceived absurdity had been impressed on Hitler during his Austrian schooldays, when, as he mockingly recalled, students attended a catechism class at ten A.M. to hear the biblical story of Creation, only then to listen, at eleven A.M., to Darwin’s version of it in a natural science class – the latter winning hands down. (page 92)
During the war years Hitler recommended a slow “natural death” for Christianity by exposing its dogmas to the light of science.(page 93)
    Harvard historian, Steven Ozment’s A Mighty Fortress: A New History Of The German People.

    ….

    Amongst the religions practiced today, there is none that goes back further than 2500 years. But there have been human beings, in the baboon category, for at least three hundred thousand years.
    Table Talk
    All that is left is to prove that in nature there is no frontier between the organic and the inorganic. When understanding of the universe has become widespread, when the majority of men know that the stars are not sources of light but worlds, perhaps inhabited worlds like ours, then the Christian doctrine will be convicted of absurdity.
    (Table Talk, 14th October, 1941)
    From Bormann’s Circular on God and Christianity:
    When we National Socialists speak of a belief in God, we do not understand by God, like naive Christians and their spiritual opportunists, a human-type being, who sits around somewhere in space…The force of natural law, with which all these innumerable planets move in the universe, we call Almighty or God. The claim that this world force is concerned about the fate of every single being, of every smallest earth bacillus, or can be influenced by so-called prayers or other astonishing things, is based on a proper dose of naivety or alternatively on a commercial shamelessness.
    That’s in accordance with the laws of nature. By means of the struggle, the elites are continually renewed. The law of natural selection justifies this incessant struggle, by allowing the survival of the fittest. Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of human failure.
    (Table Talk, 10th October, 1941)

    “[Hitler] stressed and singled out the idea of biological evolution as the most forceful weapon against traditional religion and he repeatedly condemned Christianity for its opposition to the teaching of evolution . For Hitler, evolution was the hallmark of modern science and culture, and he defended its veracity as tenaciously as Haeckel.”—*Daniel Gasman, Scientific Origins of Modern Socialism: Social Darwinism in Ernst Haeckel and the German Monist League (1971), p. 188.

    ….

    Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion – Nuremberg and therein:
    http://www.lawandreligion.com/…..urches.pdf
“(2) The Nazi conspirators, by promoting beliefs and practices
incompatible with Christian teaching, sought to subvert the influence of the Churches over the people and in particular over the youth of Germany. They avowed their aim to eliminate the Christian Churches in Germany and sought to substitute therefore Nazi institutions and Nazi beliefs and pursued a programme of persecution of priests, clergy and members of monastic orders whom they deemed opposed to their purposes and confiscated Church property.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazism_and_Religion
“Other members of the Hitler government, including Rosenberg, during the war formulated a thirty-point program for the “National Reich Church” which included:
* The National Reich Church claims exclusive right and control over all Churches.
* The National Church is determined to exterminate foreign Christian faiths imported into Germany in the ill-omened year 800.
* The National Church demands immediate cessation of the publishing and dissemination of the Bible.
* The National Church will clear away from its alters all Crucifixes, Bibles and pictures of Saints.
* On the altars there must be nothing but Mein Kampf and to the left of the altar a sword.”

  52. Crude says:

    As it happens, church teaching on women’s rights and slavery is ambiguous.

    This is silly. I assume by Church teaching you mean biblical teaching (particularly New Testament), and New Testament teaching radically undercuts and narrows the scope of what can be considered acceptable treatment of people generally (therefore women and slaves) and women particularly. And someone having an opposing view does not suffice to make the teaching ambiguous.

    And, I’ll just throw this out.

    Objection! You haven’t proven that I’m ignorant of history.

    You did provide some evidence of that.

    You know I agree with Richard Carrier on this one.

    ;)

  53. Tom Gilson says:

    olegt, you wrote,

    So, you agree that the Israelis destroyed an entire nation but you don’t think that was a case of genocide? Did I get it right?

    I refer you to the discussion we had on this some time ago:

    The Old Testament God doesn’t seem to make sense. “New Atheists” like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris accuse him of genocide, and most Christians have no idea how to answer. Added to that are charges that God endorsed slavery, enacted grossly inequitable treatment of women, legislated unreasonably harsh punishments for minor offenses, and delivered an embarrassingly quirky set of strange laws and commands.

    Paul Copan faces all these challenges squarely in his 2010 book, Is God a Moral Monster? One short answer to the question asked in that title is no; God is not a moral monster. But there’s another short answer, which is that really there is no short answer—and Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens have acted irresponsibly to treat it as if there were.

    I suggest we not treat it irresponsibly here.

    There are two scholarly papers available online that I suggest you study for historical context and a well-rounded understanding.

  54. Tom Gilson says:

    Frankly, I think this statement is false, arrogant and condescending. You claim that I’ve been shown to be a lousy logician.

    I do claim that, yes, and I have presented multiple lines of evidence for it. You say you were denied the opportunity to respond to the claim. Let me remind you of the many times in the course of discussion I have identified red herring, non sequiturs, missed points, overlooked evidence, and on and on. You had opportunity to respond to each of them in the course of discussion, but only rarely did you even acknowledge them.

    I have unlocked that other post now if you care to continue that discussion.

  55. Tom Gilson says:

    In my email to you I admitted to being careless from time to time, and trying to engage you on the broader issues, not just within the limited boundaries you like to set. But I also said that, unlike you, I don’t take you to task on every little error or inaccuracy you introduce.

    What I have shown is that this is not a case of “every little error” but of consistent, almost constant error and inaccuracy in the skills of rational discourse.

    See here, here, and here for a few summary examples.

  56. Tom Gilson says:

    Going on,

    If I were you, I would say that it was illogical for you to leap to the conclusion that I said this.

    Well, sure. I was trying to figure out what in the world you were trying to say (see here where I keep on trying). At that point, this was the only purpose I could think of that you might have had for bringing up Haidt.

    Not that I am aware of. Are you suggesting that psychology experiments do not tell us about people who lived in the past?

    No. See here.

    Objection! You haven’t proven that I’m ignorant of history.

    No, but I think I’ve shown credible evidence that you do not know the relevant history.

    For this claim to be substantiated, it is not sufficient that we observe that the treatment of women improved over 20 centuries (and in the 20th in particular). You need to show that the situation of women (or the poor) improved more than it would have if Christianity had not been present. There are lots of sociological factors at work throughout history, and Christianity is just one of them.

    I suggest you read the article I linked to earlier: Reconstructing the rise of Christianity: the role of women.

    The implication is that some widows did have an inheritance, but that when they married, they had to turn it over to their new husbands. Well, this same situation held in Christian Europe until long after the 14th century. In other words, the situation of widows that you cite had not much improved after more than ten centuries of Christian control.

    Selective reading on your part. Please read the whole of what I wrote.

    This is a straw man fallacy. I did not say that naturalistic philosophy was guiding culture towards women’s rights. I said instead that naturalistic causes could account for the shift in culture. Naturalistic philosophy doesn’t guide my heart, but my heart still manages to pump blood nonetheless.

    Agreed. I was wrong there. The error I made was this: I made the assumption that ideas shape attitudes. There are ideas based in Christianity, in Rousseauian naturalism, in materialistic naturalism, in Greek and Roman philosophy. The ideas based in Christianity have been, up until very recently in the West, more identifiably favorable toward women than those based in other systems. That’s why I asked you to identify something in naturalistic philosophy that might be an exception to that. I acknowledge that I was asking a question that was tangential at best to what you were saying there.

    No, but how long ought it take? To make your case you have to show that it took less time than it might otherwise have taken. You have failed to do this because you haven’t considered the sociological baseline.

    Physicists can run experiments twice under slightly modified conditions, historians cannot. Historians look to things like economic factors (as you have said), geo-political factors, military, weather, terrain, natural resource, and other conditions. They also look to the environment of ideas.

    I’m rather puzzled that you would say I haven’t looked to the sociological baseline. Perhaps I stated it too briefly. I said that Christianity’s idea structures were markedly different than those of surrounding culture.

    As for self-interested charity, that’s a very deep and difficult subject. I’m going to punt on it for now. It needs a blog post of its own.

    Wikipedia on slavery? Please. I’ve given you better than that. And yet… you say that article says “harsh slavery did exist in Europe in the Middle Ages.” I know Wikipedia can change overnight. Maybe that explains why I can’t find it in there this morning.

    The idea that we ought to help the poor predates Christianity? Yes, but in quite a different conception and for different purposes. See the article I’ve already referenced, Who Invented Charity? (So much better to reference an article than to say “Google it.” So much better if one who says “Google it” reads the articles that are offered as evidence before he attempts to rebut.)

    Not if they’ve changed their in-group for sociological reasons. For example, if I start trading with the Chinese, and socializing with my contacts, I will probably begin to admit Chinese people into my in-group. In that case, I haven’t admitted them to the in-group on the basis of a divine command, but on the basis of social interaction. This difference is key to your thesis.

    That kind of social mixing is accounted for in the history of Christianity. First, the early Christians in a socially/nationally stable setting introduced a new conception of charity. See the quote I gave you above from Julian the Apostate. (I do hope you’re following links from here.) Second, Christians throughout history, but especially in the last several hundred years, have left home and culture to give to other cultures without the motivational factors produced by social mixing.

    They broke the model? When? Colonialism resulted in large scale slave trade on the part of Christian nations because the land was abundant and the labor scarce.

    Not then, certainly. But a couple years later, when Wilberforce campaigned on Christian principles for an end to the slave trade, and Britain gave up 20 million pounds sterling along with a lucrative economic engine for the sake of following biblical principles. They did it also in the early years of the Christian era. See further my recent BreakPoint column where I deal with objections and inconsistencies concerning Christians and slavery.

    I’m surprised that you think your quote concerning Julian supports your point. You quoted this much:

    Julian told Arsacius that the helping of the community by the priests was the way of the forefathers, with such practices dating back to the time of Homer.[[84]]

    There’re more, though:

    In another letter we see the details of Julian’s religious reforms. In 362 Julian sent this missive to Arsacius, high priest of Galatia. He complained that while the traditional rituals had been restored, the Christians continued to gain converts. This angered Julian because he considered Christians atheists. Julian went on to demand that the priests in Galatia put their beliefs into positive social action, such as copying Christian charity, care for the dead, and a holy lifestyle. He then proceeded to lay down a series of prohibitions. No priest was to go to a tavern, frequent the theatre, or engage in a base profession. Julian then commanded that Arsacius set up hostels for charity in every city in Galatia. Furthermore, 1/5 of 30,000 modii of wheat and 60,000 pints of wine allocated to Galatia were to be used for charity distribution. Julian told Arsacius that the helping of the community by the priests was the way of the forefathers, with such practices dating back to the time of Homer.[[84]]

    “copying Christian charity”

    You are right about my misreading what you said Haidt wrote. I accept that I got that wrong.

    But a Bayesian approach says “Not so fast! Have you accounted for the possibility that Christianity was just along for the ride?”

    Well, sure. I have done so. I believe based on the historical evidence that sociological factors alone are insufficient to account for the changes Christianity introduced into Western culture. I’ve cited evidence in support of that position.

    Your scenario in #49 applies possibly to contemporary culture. I could show you examples. But it doesn’t apply to the early Christian era.

    As it happens, church teaching on women’s rights and slavery is ambiguous.

    Church teaching on everything is ambiguous, if you include every possible “church” in your scope. The historical fact remains that where Christianity has been a major influence on culture, attitudes toward women and regarding slavery have improved (see my BreakPoint article again concerning slavery and the exceptions to that rule). And only where there is a strong identifiable Christian influence has that happened. By the way: women’s dignity in Western culture predates WW II.

    At any rate, my thesis may not be well supported in a uniformly Christian culture, you say. I agree. In the book I’m writing I speak of the difficulty Christian morality has in standing out from culture when that culture has already been thoroughly shaped by Christianity. But my thesis is not about a uniformly Christian culture. It is about culture today, which is not uniformly Christian (though it is greatly influenced by Christianity). I noted research that shows in this non-uniformly Christian culture, Christians lead the way in giving time and money to the poor and needy. And of course I have also noted what happened in ancient times when Christianity was in the distinct minority.

    Perhaps slavery in Europe simply became economically impractical after Christianity took hold, and Christian doctrine was given as rationalization for the policy change. Many slaves were trophies of foreign wars. Perhaps the weakening of the Roman Empire would have negatively impacted the viability of slave culture.

    Perhaps you don’t know. Perhaps the sociological factors you propose here, while they could have been factors, can be shown historically not to have been the dominant factors in the actual situation. Perhaps you are grasping at straws. Perhaps, as I say, you don’t know.

  57. olegt says:

    Tom, if I could summarize Copan’s defense of the Canaan affair, it boils down to this.

    The Canaanites were evil. The Israelis justly wiped them out following God’s orders. They cannot be judged like any other nation because they are God’s chosen people. Furthermore, not all Canaanites were killed, just the soldiers. The biblical accounts are clearly hyperbolic. The women and children probably had time to run away and those who stayed behind had no business being there. At any rate, the Canaan affair was a limited, unique salvation-historical situation that should not be applied elsewhere.

    Did I miss anything?

  58. Holopupenko says:

    I’m game… If we talk about RUSSIAN nationalism directly animated by atheism. Give me a minute to look up the numbers… Talk about a combination of deadly ideologies.

  59. olegt says:

    Holopupenko wrote:

    If we talk about RUSSIAN nationalism directly animated by atheism.

    I fail to see the words Russian and nationalism anywhere in this thread. But I’ll get the popcorn anyway. Holo on a tear is fun to watch.

  60. Tom Gilson says:

    The relevant words are “animated by atheism.” Any nationalism, ideology, group bias, racial characteristic, … animated by atheism would do as well. Mao killed a lot more people than Stalin.

  61. olegt says:

    And Stalin, if I remember correctly, was Georgian. So let’s not forget to get the Georgians into the picture.

  62. Holopupenko says:

    I know your history very well: it’s so well documented that Stalin took advantage of RUSSIAN nationalism (tell me you’ve forgotten Stalin’s post-WWII victory toast)–it itself a centuries-old deadly expression of the Russian soul–animating it to a hyper blood-thirsty level by atheism.

    So, per the Delphic oracle’s admonition, atheist: know thySELF.

  63. olegt says:

    Holopupenko,

    I know that all things Russian excite you a lot. Perhaps it would be better for your health if you stayed away from them.

    Just a friendly advice.

  64. Tom Gilson says:

    Agreed. This is not a forum on ethnicities or nationalities.

  65. BillT says:

    olget,

    I explained the difference between destroying your enemy (“even all of them”) and genocide in my post #34. That you choose to ignore what I said there and mischaracterize what I posted subsequently is simply a very unsurprising admission that you don’t have anything of substance to offer of the subject.

  66. Holopupenko says:

    Nice deflection from what Russian nationalism really is. Being that as it may, I repeat what you–likely intentionally–missed: ATHEIST know thySELF (which presupposes you know what atheism is–not just theoretically but existentially).

  67. olegt says:

    Thank you for your concern, Holopupenko. One day, I will follow your advice and embark on a spiritual journey to explore my atheist self.

    Enjoy your vacation.

  68. Victoria says:

    @Charlie (post #53)
    Interesting link, thanks.

    It’s a strange worldview, atheism is. When life is good and the sun is shining, they don’t give God a second thought (ungrateful wretches :) ); when trials and tribulations come, they blame God and curse Him to His face (really a foolish thing to do with God Almighty, God Most High and the Judge of all the earth). The skeptics that I’ve encountered here are hell-bent (and I mean that literally) on suppressing everything that smacks of religion, faith, spirituality, especially Christianity – why? see John 3:16-21 and of course Romans 1:18-3:1. They hope that if they can just convince themselves (and maybe others) that it isn’t true, then they’ll have an excuse (just in case that Christianity is true after all). Well, the Greek word Paul uses in Romans 1:20 (they are without excuse) is ‘αναπολογετοσ : anapologetos, the negative of the same word Peter used 1 Peter 3:15, a reason (Gk απολογια : apologia – legal term – a defense) – they will have no case for the defense when they have to face God.

    People do tend to give up on God far too easily, to take the easy way out, to resist the grace of God. How sad.

  69. olegt says:

    Victoria wrote:

    The skeptics that I’ve encountered here are hell-bent (and I mean that literally) on suppressing everything that smacks of religion, faith, spirituality, especially Christianity – why?

    Nice to mee you, Victoria. Perhaps I am an exception. I am an atheist of the peaceful variety. Not intent on suppressing religion, faith, and spirituality.

  70. Holopupenko says:

    Ridiculing (“your invisible friend”) religion, faith, and spirituality is, of course, not “suppressing” it…

    … And pigs really do fly, really.

    “I’m an atheist of the peaceful variety”? Leaving aside support for the violence of abortion and homosexuality (correct me if I’m wrong), this coming from the pen of an apologist for an atheist body count topping 100 million… really?

  71. olegt says:

    Holopupenko,

    I do not take false accusations lightly. You’ll have to show me where I condone the mass killings of the Communists. Put up or shut up.

  72. Victoria says:

    @olegt:

    But you would rather that you can somehow justify your hope that Christianity is really not true?

  73. Tom Gilson says:

    “Put up or shut up.”

    I recommend “shut up” on that line of conversation. It doesn’t belong here. olegt is not under examination. olegt’s worldview is, and that’s where the focus should remain. No need to shut up on that.

  74. Tom Gilson says:

    As for abortion, that might be another matter altogether. I don’t recall olegt personally condoning it, but if he has, then he has.

  75. olegt says:

    Victoria,

    You are trying to put yourself in my shoes and it probably won’t work. Perhaps for you Christianity is true by default and so someone like myself may only hope that it isn’t.

    But that isn’t how it looks from my perspective. The world has seen many different religions and they do not agree with one another on almost anything. There is no reason why I should start by assuming that any of them is true by default. Even Christianity itself has changed greatly since its inception. I am reading A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam a truly fascinating account written by Karen Armstrong.

  76. Tom Gilson says:

    Also, the first part of Holopupenko’s comment remains valid:

    Ridiculing (“your invisible friend”) religion, faith, and spirituality is, of course, not “suppressing” it…

    … And pigs really do fly, really.

  77. Tom Gilson says:

    Perhaps for you Christianity is true by default and so someone like myself may only hope that it isn’t.

    No. Christianity is presented to you here as a viable option, one that we believe is true not by default but because we have reasons to think it true. You are faced with that. And Victoria’s suggestion that you “hope it isn’t true” is quite appropriate to this discussion.

  78. Tom Gilson says:

    This is really ironic:

    You are trying to put yourself in my shoes and it probably won’t work. Perhaps for you Christianity is true by default and so someone like myself may only hope that it isn’t.

    I’m thinking your attempt to put yourself in Victoria’s shoes failed miserably.

  79. BillT says:

    “Even Christianity itself has changed greatly since its inception.”

    An absolute falsehood. We know through Paul’s letters that the core principals of Christian thought and theology were established at its inception. They have remained essentially unchanged since then. If olget believes the contrary, he has the burden of proof.

  80. Tom Gilson says:

    We have advanced in our understanding of those principles since then. There was no well-thought-out conception of the Trinity or of Christ’s nature at the time, and the social changes that led to improved lives for women and the ending of slavery were only beginning in the first century. So there is truth to “Christianity has greatly changed,” if by “Christianity” one means the socio/cultural expression of Christianity, or its theological formulations.

    But if by “Christianity” one means the core truths of the faith, then they are in the Bible. Even the Trinity is there, though not worked out in any full philosophical formulation.

    So which did you mean, olegt?

  81. BillT says:

    If olget meant the former Tom, it wouldn’t have been worth him mentioning. However, now that you’ve given him an easy way out…

  82. Tom Gilson says:

    I don’t mind clearing a path for him. Sometimes I think he needs that kind of help.

  83. Charlie says:

    Kudos, Olegt, for adding some research to your culture warring. I hope you go beyond the Jesus Seminarians, though.

    http://www.johnbyronkuhner.com/?p=110

    http://journal.equip.org/articles/a-history-of-god-the-4000-year-quest-of-judaism-christianity-and-islam

  84. Tom Gilson says:

    Did you miss anything in #60, olegt? Sure. If Copan could have said it all in just those few sentences I’m sure he would have.

    If you have something specific to discuss in his article, by all means bring it up for us to talk about it.

  85. BillT says:

    No. That can’t be true. Karen Armstrong is a fellow of the Jesus Seminar! What next? Will olget tout Bart Erhman as a serious Biblical scholar. He has an endowed chair you kmow.

  86. Charlie says:

    re: #60
    One thing that Olegt missed is that the Canaanites were not wiped out. God even told the Israelites not to follow their ways, and not to intermarry with them after coming into the land. A strange injunction if they were utterly destroyed.

  87. Charlie says:

    Yep, that makes her an authority, for instance, on what Jesus did (red letters) and did not (black letters) actually say.

  88. Victoria says:

    I notice that olegt didn’t make any mention of the biblical references I made in my earlier post when he replied in his #72. I put those there to provide the answer to my ‘why?’ question.

    You guys should not try to walk in my shoes :) It takes a lot of balance, style, grace and practice to walk properly in 4″ heels….oh, you meant that figuratively – same goes

  89. Tom Gilson says:

    Balance, style, and grace are not our strong suits.

  90. Victoria says:

    @Charlie (#89 referring to #60)
    He also told the Israelites that He would drive the Canaanites out ahead of them (Deuteronomy 7:20, Exodus 23:28, Joshua 24:12 ). And we must not forget that Rahab sheltered the two spies in Jericho, professed her faith in the God of Israel and was accepted into the community, married Salmon (of Judah ) and was included in the royal lineage of grace as one of King David’s ancestors and of our Lord Jesus. Also, don’t forget Ruth and Boaz (son of Salmon and Rahab) – a Moabite woman who is also an ancestor of David and our Lord. God’s grace was, and is, freely available to anyone who wants it and will humbly, obediently accept it. what more do you want?

  91. Tom Gilson says:

    Search this page to find out what one person thinks of the Jesus Seminar. This is representative of many who find the Jesus Seminar to be more adept at PR than scholarship. I’m not just talking about conservatives/evangelicals. Kenneth Woodward is neither of those.

  92. Holopupenko says:

    1. Atheism DIRECTLY animates certain already disordered ideologies (including Russian nationalism) or forms the very ideological building blocks of others (e.g., communism) or is an unscientific, pseudo-philosophical presupposition of still others (e.g., scientism, naturalism).

    2. These “movements”–which are by their nature atheistic as manifested in their actions–have resulted in no less than 120 million deaths… most brutal and horrific and genocidal.

    3. olegt is a strong apologist for atheism, and as a ridiculer of faith attempts, albeit indirectly, to suppress faith (see Tom’s reminder of this per comment #79). He is also a supporter of the violence of abortion and homosexuality. (I repeat from before, correct me if I’m wrong.)

    4. olegt asserts “show me where I condone the mass killings”.

    ==> cognitive dissonance, or continued ignorance, self-delusion, or dishonesty… or perhaps all four in some linear combination?

    Behold and know thyself…

  93. Tom Gilson says:

    If you’re saying that olegt indirectly supports mass killings by accepting an ideology that supports it, I would say that is laying too much responsibility at his feet.

    But you’re actually saying he is an apologist for this ideology. So that’s different.

    Now, does atheism actually support mass killings? I suggest that it is sin in us that does that. Atheism’s role is to suppress the natural and revelational sources of restraint against this sin.

    Brutal, self-interested, power-mongering, mass murders of millions require:

    1. Opportunity. Mao, Stalin, and other despots have had the opportunity.
    2. Sin in the heart. We all have that.
    3. Lack of restraint. This is related to opportunity, but it has more to do with spiritual restraint than physical/political/military. It has to do with an ideology that kills the conscience.

    Atheism is a necessary and almost sufficient condition for (3); but the conscience doesn’t completely die until atheism erupts into acts of violence that sear it ever more thoroughly. I have no worries that olegt’s conscience is seared that way, even though he accepts a worldview that certainly opens the door for that to happen to him.

    So the distance between olegt’s atheism and mass killings still seems considerable to me. I don’t hold him responsible for Mao or Stalin. I do hold him responsible for his support for an ideology that offers us no reasoned or spiritual protection against murders such as they have committed. And God will hold olegt responsible for his own refusal to accept true life for himself.

  94. Tom Gilson says:

    If on the other hand one wants to repudiate the mass killings, it seems necessary to repudiate the atheistic ideology behind them.

    There is a fine line between “I do not condone” and “I repudiate.” I think olegt is trying to walk that line. I think trying to walk that line stinks. Why not repudiate? Why not call Stalin and Mao down, not only for what they did, but for that which gave them freedom and permission to do it (in their own minds, that is)—their atheism?

  95. olegt says:

    Tom wrote:

    So there is truth to “Christianity has greatly changed,” if by “Christianity” one means the socio/cultural expression of Christianity, or its theological formulations.

    No disagreement here.

    But if by “Christianity” one means the core truths of the faith, then they are in the Bible. Even the Trinity is there, though not worked out in any full philosophical formulation.

    I am not so sure about Trinity in the Bible. It contains a few oblique references that were later developed into the concept of Trinity. So interpretation is important and interpretations have changed with time.

  96. olegt says:

    Tom,

    I am not trying to walk a fine line. It was Holopupenko who insinuated that I condone the killings. Take it up with him.

  97. olegt says:

    Tom wrote:

    If on the other hand one wants to repudiate the mass killings, it seems necessary to repudiate the atheistic ideology behind them.

    Change the atheistic to totalitarian and I will agree with that. Otherwise, no, thanks.

  98. olegt says:

    Holopupenko wrote:

    4. olegt asserts “show me where I condone the mass killings”.

    ==> cognitive dissonance, or continued ignorance, self-delusion, or dishonesty… or perhaps all four in some linear combination?

    Behold and know thyself…

    No comment.

  99. Victoria says:

    Why is it that skeptics who don’t have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit always seem to think that they know better than those of us who do when it comes to understanding and interpreting Scripture?

    This looks like a pretty good set of links to the doctrine of the Trinity…

    http://www.apologeticsindex.org/t10.html

    It took some time for the first Christians and the early church to work out the implications of Jesus’ death and resurrection, as well as that of the apostles’ teachings.

  100. Victoria says:

    take the time to read through the references in the above link, especially the first one by Robert Bowman, and you’ll see why the Trinity is the inference to the best explanation….

    This is not to say that we fully understand the Trinity itself, only that this is the conclusion forced upon us by a careful study of what the bible teaches. Like Jesus being both fully God and fully human, the Trinity is one of those integrating truths whose light illuminates the entire Bible. Christianity is simply not understandable without it.

  101. Tom Gilson says:

    I know that you don’t condone the killings, olegt. I also know that you haven’t effectively repudiated that which permitted them. That’s the fine line I’m talking about.

  102. Tom Gilson says:

    Your recent “no thanks” is confirmation.

    Totalitarianism is not an ideology, if you ask me. It’s a political methodology instead. It rises up out of an ideology wherever it appears. So it doesn’t fit where you would want to place it.

  103. olegt says:

    I condemn the political system, Tom. I also condemn the people who made it possible. I see no reason to condemn atheism.

  104. BillT says:

    “I am not so sure about Trinity in the Bible.”

    Christ identifies himself as the Son, references the Holy Spirit and, of course, speaks of the Father. And all many times. That would make the Trinity part of the Bible. And that’s quite a bit more than “a few oblique references.” As Tom mentioned it took us some time to understand that but it’s from the Bible we do. And let’s not forget this from Gen. 1:26 “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, our likeness… (emphasis mine) However, nice to see olget take the easy way out that Tom so graciously provided.

  105. Victoria says:

    olegt said:

    I condemn the political system, Tom. I also condemn the people who made it possible. I see no reason to condemn atheism.

    and yet you (and other skeptics) would condemn Christian belief…?

  106. olegt says:

    And if you wish to split hairs, Tom, atheism is not an ideology, either.

  107. Tom Gilson says:

    Atheism is not an ideology? Wow.

    But hey, I don’t even care if you think that about it, this time. Remember the context. I said that atheism removed constraints or restraints on sinful totalitarian impulses. How much of an ideology does it need to be to do that? All it needs to do is deny that such constraints/restraints exist, or that they are relevant. And it does.

  108. olegt says:

    Victoria,

    What do you mean exactly by saying that I, specifically, condemn Christian belief? And what is the basis for that? Not believing and condemning are very different things.

  109. Tom Gilson says:

    olegt tried to take the easy way out. I don’t see where he succeeded in it.

  110. Holopupenko says:

    1) I was careful to characterize olegt as an apologist of atheism, while atheism itself invariably leads to death.

    2) I asked the question: which of those four possibilities (or combination) were correct… and I’m still waiting for a response. I’m perfectly willing to accept a response of ignorance if honestly proffered (hence the Delphic Oracle).

    3) Abortion is nothing short of mass murder; homosexuality is a kind of “anti-fecundal” or “preemptive” strike at humanity, and hence their consequences are the same as atheism’s more direct mass murders.

    4) olegt may call it insinuation if he likes, but I suggest it’s a fear of really facing what atheism is about and why he is such a strong apologist for it… and by extension its consequences. olegt is trying in vain to delink atheism from its crimes against humanity.

  111. Tom Gilson says:

    “Not believing and condemning are very different things.”

    Does that remind anybody of the fine line between “not condoning and repudiating”?

  112. olegt says:

    BillT,

    I have a feeling that we have previously met. You keep mangling my name.

  113. Tom Gilson says:

    Abortion is murder. Definitely. Mass abortion is definitely mass murder. Homosexuality (esp. the current insurgency in favor of same-sex “marriage”) is an attack on the procreation. Atheism supports both of these, to be sure.

    I don’t dispute the conceptual link between atheism as a way of thinking and results like these, as well as Stalinism and Maoism.

    I think olegt genuinely repudiates Communism’s murders. I don’t think he does a good job of maintaining worldview consistency in the process. Such is the way of humans—especially those who try to live as if God were not real in the world.

  114. olegt says:

    Holopupenko wrote:

    1) I a was careful to characterize olegt as an apologist of atheism, while atheism itself invariably leads to death.

    Nice try, Holo, but you weren’t that careful. Here are your exact words:

    an apologist for an atheist body count topping 100 million

    You said clearly and unequivocally that I excuse the mass killings. I expect an apology any minute now.

  115. Victoria says:

    @olegt (#112)
    Ah, my apologies…looking back at the thread, it was really doctor(logic) who did that, at least in this discussion

  116. BillT says:

    My deepest apologies olegt!!

    I assure you it was only my mild dislexia and strong thick headedness. It was not meant to be personal or pejorative. So sorry.

  117. olegt says:

    That’s all right, Bill and Victoria.

  118. Holopupenko says:

    Unless you condemn those mass murders as CAUSED by atheism–in the sense of being directly animated by atheism–then your omission makes your game of apologetics all the more repugnant. Flee, if you will, by deflection on to me.

    Hint: your narrow scientistic view of causality blinds you to the broader (in fact more fundamental) understanding of “explanation” as a knowledge of causes writ large, i.e., Q: Why did this happen? A: Be-CAUSE… Moreover, your atheism permits you to choose evil and to flee good because these concepts are reduced to mere operational constructs that serve your personal purposes. Neither do we have that “luxury”… nor do we want it.

    You want an apology? Start by apologizing to yourself.

  119. olegt says:

    I love Holo!

    First, he insinuates that I excuse the mass murders perpetrated by the communists.

    Next, he tries to white-wash his bogus accusation.

    Finally, he tells me that I should apologize to myself.

    Attaboy!

  120. BillT says:

    “I condemn the political system, Tom. I also condemn the people who made it possible.”

    olegt, (phew!) With all due respect, on what basis do you condem the system and the people?

  121. olegt says:

    Is that a trick question, BillT? :)

  122. BillT says:

    Look, nothing up my sleve!!

  123. Victoria says:

    Atheism is not an ideology or worldview?

    Definition of worldview (from Wikipedia, no less : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_view )

    A comprehensive world view (or worldview) is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and ethics.[1] The term is a calque of the German word Weltanschauung[2] [ˈvɛlt.ʔanˌʃaʊ.ʊŋ] ( listen), composed of Welt (‘world’)[3] and Anschauung (‘view’ or ‘outlook’).[4] It is a concept fundamental to German philosophy and epistemology and refers to a wide world perception. Additionally, it refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual interprets the world and interacts with it.

    Definition of ideology (also from Wikipedia:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideology )

    An ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one’s goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things (compare worldview), as in common sense (see Ideology in everyday society below) and several philosophical tendencies (see Political ideologies), or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to all members of this society (a “received consciousness” or product of socialization). The main purpose behind an ideology is to offer either change in society, or adherence to a set of ideals where conformity already exists, through a normative thought process. Ideologies are systems of abstract thought applied to public matters and thus make this concept central to politics. Implicitly every political tendency entails an ideology whether or not it is propounded as an explicit system of thought. It is how society sees things.

    I know there was quite a discussion of this in another thread, but it bears repeating here, if only for completeness.

  124. olegt says:

    Victoria,

    You have provided a classic example of a straw man. Let’s review:

    olegt: And if you wish to split hairs, Tom, atheism is not an ideology, either.

    Tom Gilson: Atheism is not an ideology? Wow.

    Victoria: Atheism is not an ideology or worldview?

    You added the term worldview to the discussion. But I have no problem with atheism defined as a worldview. A worldview is not an ideology.

  125. Holopupenko says:

    olegt’s clear fear of and refusal to condemn atheism as the causal animator of almost unimaginable death and suffering speaks volumes not only of what atheism does to it’s apologizers, but of him as a person.

  126. olegt says:

    Holo,

    Go pound sand.

  127. Tom Gilson says:

    I wonder if this is relevant. Among 18 to 24-year olds, in a top-quality research project led by Christian Smith and reported in the book Souls in Transition: The Religious & Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults, the following was found:

    The religiously “detached” were 4 to 5 times more likely (22%) than the “devoted” (4%) to say they believe it is okay to break moral rules if it works to one’s advantage and one can get away with it.

    The detached were about 4 times more likely (63%) than the devoted (16%) to say they believes that morals are relative, that there are no definite rights and wrongs for everybody. (No surprise there.)

    Also of potential interest, off topic yet offered at no extra charge:

    Personally cares very much about equality between different racial groups: Devoted, 65%; Detached 43%
    Personally cares very much about the needs of the elderly: Devoted: 68%; Detached 44%
    Personally cares very much about the needs of poor people in the United States: Devoted, 71%; Detached 41%.

    All of these results are statistically significant to a confidence level not reported in this chapter of the book. I haven’t yet read the earlier chapters to find out what significance level is being employed. All findings have been statistically corrected (through multiple regression analysis) for age, sex, race, region of residence, parental marital status, individual income, and parental assistance with expenses.

  128. Victoria says:

    @olegt
    I agree that ideology and worldview are not synonymous, but they are connected:

    see http://aristotleadventure.blogspot.com/2007/10/worldview-philosophy-ideology.html

    My answer is that a worldview is a comprehensive set of ideas that, taken together, explain at least: (1) the basic nature of the world in which one lives; (2) one’s own basic nature; and (3) the manner in which one should act in the world. “Worldview” is the genus for two species: religion and philosophy. The essential characteristic distinguishing religion and philosophy is the method by which a theologian or philosopher comes to his conclusions: mysticism for religion versus reason for philosophy.

    Whether they are religions or philosophies, worldviews are universal in the sense that they are meant by their developers to apply to all individuals, at all times, and in all places. For example, in Christianity, the virtue of charity wasn’t meant by Christians to apply only to the people of the Eastern Mediterranean in the first century AD. Likewise, in Objectivism, the virtue of honesty–facing facts of reality–will apply as much 1000 years from now as it does today.

    By contrast, an ideology is an application of a universal worldview (particularly its ethics and politics) to the current milieu, that is, a certain broadly defined time and place. An ideology is not merely the worldview’s ethics and politics lopped off from their base in epistemology and ontology. An ideology explains (1) the nature of a society’s current situation in history, especially the political aspects, and (2) what should, in the most general terms, be done next to create the ideal society. For example, Marxism is an ideology applying a Kantian philosophy to the time of Marx and his successors in the countries dominated by “capitalists.” For another example of an ideology, see the title essay in Ayn Rand’s For the New Intellectual.

    Conclusion: Worldview, philosophy, and ideology have distinct, logically related meanings. They are not synonyms.

    It seems that ideologies are based on worldviews…if so, and if an ideology is the application of a worldview – what one believes will definitely influence how one behaves and acts.

    I don’t think I introduced a straw man here – I expanded the scope of the discussion to include relevant information.

  129. olegt says:

    Of course it’s a straw man, Victoria. I never disagreed with the notion that atheism is a worldview. Why even bring that up?

  130. Victoria says:

    and this brings us back full circle to the original post :)

    How do we as Christians apply Christianity to our society, specifically, to address society’s fundamentally flawed structures?

  131. Victoria says:

    olegt:
    I’m sorry, but what part of ‘worldview determines ideology’ did you not understand?

    Psalm 10 and Psalm 37, for example, contrast the thinking of the wicked and the righteous, and how it influences what they do. Psam 119 is a tribute to the Law of the LORD, and how it affected David’s thoughts and actions, and the entire book of Proverbs is dedicated to wisdom – the application of one’s beliefs and knowledge to life situations. The NT book of James talks about translating our faith into tangible actions.

    It even goes beyond just what a person believes (intellectually) – it is also a matter of heart attitude that determines our actions – that is why Christianity stresses the importance of a person cooperating with the Spirit of God to reconstruct a new ‘heart’ within. Look at Romans 12, for example.

    The OP is really asking about the connection between beliefs and actions, between worldview and ideology. I brought it up because it is relevant, even fundamental, to the discussion. You are just trying to side-step the issue.

  132. olegt says:

    Victoria wrote:

    I’m sorry, but what part of ‘worldview determines ideology’ did you not understand?

    That’s both snarky and muddled. A worldview influences ideology, but it does not fully determine it. Come on, Victoria. I am an atheist, but I am not a Marxist.

  133. Charlie says:

    Hi Olegt,
    I am suspicious that your atheism is your ideology. I know you can make a list of recognized ideologies and show that atheism is not on that list, but can you define ‘ideology’ as you see it?
    The fact that you haunt Christian websites and argue against any Christian idea put forward, or ideas put forward by Christians, and that your ideas on myriad subjects seem motivated by this, makes me see your atheism as more than a worldview.
    I’m more or less on a fishing expedition here, but maybe you can respond to that thought?

  134. Holopupenko says:

    Bravo, olegt! A wonderfully revealing expression of a fearfully evasive mind being destroyed by atheism. You ARE an apologist for massive death because you refuse to reject the causal animator of that massive death–atheism.

  135. Holopupenko says:

    “Communism begins where atheism begins…” (Karl Marx)

    “The first requisite for the happiness of the people is the abolition of religion” (Karl Marx)

    “I wish to avenge myself against the One who rules above.” (Karl Marx)

    “The hellish vapors rise and fill the brain, till I go mad and my heart is utterly changed. See this sword? The prince of darkness sold it to me.” (Karl Marx)

    “With disdain I will throw my gauntlet full in the fact of the world and see the collapse of this pygmy giant. Then will I wander god-like and victorious through the ruins of the world. And giving my words an active force, I will feel equal to the Creator.” (Karl Marx)

    “Karl Marx is a monster possessed by ten thousand devils.” (Frederick Engels)

    Karl Marx “had the devil’s view of the world and the devil’s malignity. Sometimes he seemed to know that he was accomplishing the works of evil.” (Robert Payne, a friend of Karl Marx)

    “Atheism is the natural and inseparable part of Communism.” (attributed to Vladimir I. Lenin)

    “Our program necessarily includes the propaganda of atheism.” (V.I. Lenin)

    “There are no morals in politics; there is only expedience. A scoundrel may be of use to us just because he is a scoundrel.” (V.I. Lenin)

    “We do not fight against believers and not even clergymen. WE FIGHT AGAINST GOD to snatch believers from Him.” (Vechernaia Moskva, a Soviet newspaper)

    “Let us drive out the Capitalists from the earth, and God from Heaven!” (early Soviet slogan)

    “With an iron fist we will drive mankind to happiness!” (Soviet slogan)

    “Hatred is an element of the struggle, a relentless hatred of the enemy transforming him into an effective, violent and selective, cold blooded killing machine. A people without hatred cannot vanquish a brutal enemy.” (Che Guevare)

    The official journal of the Soviet Academy of Pedagogical Sciences published a government directive Atheistic Education in the School as a resource on how to separate God from human society. The opening paragraph is revealing: “The Soviet school, as an instrument for the Communist education of the rising generation, can, as a matter of principle, take up no other attitude towards religion than one of irreconcilable opposition; for Communist education has as its philosophical basis Marxism, and Marxism is irreconcilably hostile to religion. ‘Marxism is materialism,’ says V. I. Lenin; ‘as such, it is as relentlessly hostile to religion as the materialism of the Encyclopedaists of the eighteenth century or the materialism of Feuerbach.’” Another excerpt reads: “‘Religion’,” Marx said, “is nourished not on heaven but on earth, and with the annihilation of that perverted reality, of which capitalism is the theory, religion will perish of its own accord.’”

    “The World has never before known a godlessness as organized, militarized and tenaciously malevolent as that preached by Marxism. Within the philosophical system of Marx and Lenin and at the heart of their psychology, HATRED OF GOD is the principle driving force, more fundamental than all their political and economic pretensions. Militant atheism is not merely incidental or marginal to Communist policy; it is not a side effect, but the central pivot. To achieve its diabolical ends, Communism needs to control a population devoid of religious and national feeling, and this entails a destruction of faith and nationhood. Communists proclaim both of these objectives openly, and just as openly put them into practice.” (Alexander Solzhenitsyn)

    From an undergraduate Soviet textbook from 1975 entitled The Foundations of Scientific Atheism that was required reading for an obligatory course if a student hoped to get into graduate school. The first two paragraphs read as follows… and it goes downhill from there:
         The primary task of the course “Foundations of Scientific Atheism” is to assist young people to develop a scientifically atheistic worldview, and to understand the deceit of religion and its criminal injunctions. In support of this goal the course “Foundations of Scientific Atheism” will familiarize the participant one the one hand with the religious worldview and expose its deceit and its antiscientific nature, while on the other hand it will show the nature and content of atheism, is consistencies and how it arose, its truly humanitarian directivity, and the bases for its historical stages of development.

    (2) The following excerpt is from the “Freedom of Religion” section of Wikipedia’s article “Human Rights in the Soviet Union”:
         The Soviet Union was an officially atheistic state. The stated goal was control, suppression, and, ultimately, the elimination of religious beliefs. Atheism was propagated through schools, communist organizations, and the media. The The Society of the Godless was created. All religious movements were either prosecuted or controlled by the state and KGB. Somewhere between 80 to 90% of the general population were Russian Orthodox. Tens of thousands of churches were closed. Laymen, priests and Bishops were executed. Religious activities could and were prosecuted under article 58. Untold millions lost their lives for their religious convictions. The persecution of religions faith under the Soviet Union was the largest in history.

    Lenin: “Every religious idea, every idea of god, even flirting with the idea of God, is unutterable vileness,… vileness of the most dangerous kind, ‘contagion’ of the most abominable kind. Millions of filthy deeds, acts of violence, and physical contagions are far less dangerous than the subtle, spiritual idea of a God decked out in the smartest ‘ideological’ costumes.’” 

    Lenin on 11 August 1918: “1. Hang (hang without fail so the people see) no fewer than one hundred known kulaks, rich men, bloodsuckers. 2. Publish their names. 3. Take from them all the grain. 4. Designate hostages—as per yesterday’s telegram. Do it in such a way that for hundreds of versts [one verst is about one kilometer] around, people will see, tremble, know, shout: they are strangling and will strangle to death the bloodsucker kulaks… P.S. Find… truly hard people.”

    Lenin: “The greater the number or representatives of the reactionary clergy and reactionary bourgeoisie we succeed in executing the better,” he wrote to his assistants, and he wanted to be kept informed on how many clergy had been killed each day. In a 1918 directive demanding more executions, Lenin insisted that they be carried out in a way that would strike terror among the populace (quoted above): “Do it in such a way that for hundreds of versts around the people will see, tremble, know, shout.”

    A 1922 letter to the Politburo sets forth Lenin’s view of the campaign against the church: “For us this moment is not only exceptionally favorable but generally the only moment when we can, with ninety-nine out of a hundred chances of total success, smash the enemy and secure for ourselves and indispensable position for many decades to come. It is precisely now and only now, when in the starving regions people are eating human flesh, and hundreds if not thousands of corpses are littering the roads, that we can (and therefore must) carry out the confiscation of church valuable with the most savage and merciless energy, not stopping [short of] crushing any resistance… We must, come what may, carry out the confiscation of church valuable in the most decisive and rapid manner, so as to secure for ourselves a fund of several hundred million gold rubles… One wise writer on matters of statecraft [Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter eight] rightly said that if it is necessary to resort to certain brutalities for the sake of realizing a certain political goal, they must be carried out in the most energetic fashion and in the briefest time because the masses will not tolerate prolonged application of brutality… Therefore, I come to the categorical conclusion that precisely at this moment we must give battle to the… clergy in the most decisive and merciless manner and crush its resistance with such brutality that it will not forget it for decades to come.”

    Lenin: “Freedom is a bourgeois prejudice. We repudiate all morality which proceeds from supernatural ideas or ideas which are outside the class conception. In our opinion, morality is entirely subordinate to the interests of the class war. Everything is moral which is necessary for the annihilation of the old exploiting order and for uniting the proletariat. Our morality consists solely in close discipline and conscious warfare against the exploiters.”

    Power that is secularized and cut free of civilizing traditions is not limited by moral and religious scruples. V. I. Lenin made this clear when he defined the meaning of his dictatorship as “unlimited power, resting directly on force, not limited by anything.”

    Stalin, 1924: “To put it briefly: the dictatorship of the proletariat is the domination by the proletariat over the bourgeoisie, untrammeled by the law and based on violence and enjoying the sympathy and support of the toiling and exploited masses.”

    “Without mercy, without sparing, we will kill our enemies in scores of hundreds, let them be thousands, let them drown themselves in their own blood… let there be floods of blood of the bourgeois.” (Red Army Newspaper proclamation, September 1918 from George Leggett “The Cheka: Lenin’s Political Police.”)

    “Proletariat coercion, in all its forms, from executions to forced labor, is, paradoxical as it may sound, the method of molding humanity out of the human material of the capitalist period.” (Nikolai Bukharin)

    The Extraordinary Commission is neither an investigating commission nor a tribunal. It is an organ of struggle, acting on the home front of a civil war. It does not judge the enemy: it strikes him… We are not carrying out war against individuals. We are exterminating the bourgeoisie as a class. We are not looking for evidence or witnesses to reveal deeds or words against the Soviet power. The first question we ask is—to what class does he belong, what are his origins, upbringing, education or profession? These questions define the fate of the accused. This is the essence of the Red Terror. (M.Y. Latsis, senior official in the “All-Russian Extraordinary Commission” better know as the “CHEKA”, or Soviet political police as quoted in Harrison Salisbury’s Black Night, White Snow: Russia’s Revolutions, 1905-1917.)

    Hard towards himself, he must be hard towards others also. All the tender and effeminate emotions of kinship, friendship, love, gratitude, and even honor must be stifled in him by a cold and single-minded passion for the revolutionary cause. There exists for him only one delight, one consolation, one reward and one gratification—the success of the revolution. Night and day he must have but one thought, one aim—merciless destruction. In cold-blooded and tireless pursuit of this aim, he must be prepared both to die himself and to destroy with his own hands everything that stands in the way of its achievement. (Sergei Nechayev, Catechism of a Revolutionary)

  136. olegt says:

    Holo,

    Don’t stop at just renouncing me here. I am obviously a communist sympathizer and a Russian spy who is a danger to the state. It is your patriotic duty to report me to the authorities!

  137. SteveK says:

    Is it irrational, or maybe just contradictory, to hold consistently to ideologies that don’t fit within your worldview?

  138. A few words.

    First, BillT, the Nazis were not leftists. You’ve been watching too much Glen Beck. The Nazis were FAR RIGHT fascists. They were nationalists and corporatists. They hated the political left. What little sympathy the Nazis garnered in the West was due to their staunchly anti-communist ideals.

    They championed the prejudice of Martin Luther. Luther hated the Jews, and anti-semitism was widespread in German culture. What Hitler did was scapegoat the Jews and the intellectual class before average Germans. The Nazis used all the trappings of Christian religious ritual to whip the people into a frenzy. They had banners, songs, slogans, symbols and propaganda. They were harsh moralists, condemning the homosexuals and the intellectual elite. And Germany followed more or less willingly into Hitler’s regime. In contrast, the Soviet dictatorship was won by military force, and its horrors perpetrated in the name of Stalin’s paranoia.

    To say that atheism is responsible for Stalin’s works is utterly inane. Being an atheist doesn’t make you a killer any more than being a theist makes you a suicide bomber – or a Nazi. I don’t think that theists are implicitly supporting Nazism or suicide bombing by believing in God. I don’t think modern Christianity teaches antisemitism just because Luther hated Jews. I may think theism is irrational, but sometimes irrationality leads to irrational niceness. Not all kinds of irrational thinking are equally dangerous.

    I don’t think that Victoria or BillT or Tom or even Holopupenko want to create a new Reich or want to start a new crusade. I do think they’re wrong and irrational in some respects, but I don’t think it’s productive to start accusing them of supporting doctrines they loathe. Neither do I think it’s productive for Christians to say the same of atheists.

    Holopupenko, enough with the crocodile tears.

  139. Tom Gilson says:

    I already said that atheism did not cause a Stalin. Sin did. But read the whole comment there please, because atheism shares responsibility in the manner I wrote of.

    For the sake of your own reputation I suggest you stop with this idiocy of implying Nazism has anything to do with theism. That’s just stupid.

  140. BillT says:

    DL,

    I don’t watch Glenn Beck and you need to study your history a bit more. The Nazi’s were the National Socialist party. How do you get “far right” out of National Socialism. On the political spectrum it goes like this from far right to far left:

    Anarchist, Libertarian, Conservative

    Liberal, Socialist, Totalitarian (Communist, National Socialist)

    And again, the Nazi’s were not Christian in any way or did they employ Christian ideology. The “trappings” comment is absurd. All political parties use “trappings” of some sort. The Nazi trappings were no more Christian than they were anything else. Further, your ad hominem remark about mt being irrational is an utterly unsupported attack. Specifically, what have I written that is irrational.

  141. Charlie says:

    Ok, so we are done with the “Hitler was a Christian” bunk. I haven’t quite gleaned why it is now important to assert that the Nazis were far right, but that, too, is bunk. At least if you use the terms left and right in anyway analogous to what the refer to in the West in today’s climate.

    What little sympathy the Nazis garnered in the West was due to their staunchly anti-communist ideals.

    The Nazis and the Communists were two different movements with the same outlook, methods and goals. The Nazis were loved by the American Communist Party, which took its marching orders directly from Moscow and was funded by the Soviets. American communists embraced Hitler when he and Stalin were divying up Poland. They never turned on Hitler until he betrayed Uncle Joe.

    Also, a good portion of Hitler’s appeal came from the fact that the American left was up to, and leading the way in, the same tricks as he was: forced sterilization, segregation, euthanasia, eugenics, nationalizing industry, etc. He was following the lead of the West most of the time. Socialist and liberal, Margaret Sanger was a huge Hitler fan.

    But somehow we can believe that the Bohemian artist, drop-out, health food freak, environmentalist Adolf Hitler was of the right.

    The effort of our liberal elite dogmatists to cast Hitler as the polar opposite of their communism has been remarkably successful.

    Our cultural Marxists have so long portrayed the right as fascists, and fascism as the right, that it is no wonder so many think it’s true. Fascists like Hitler involved government in every level of life, they ran health care, they doled out social welfare, they took over manufacturing (or just got into bed with the manufacturers), they thought the elite were naturally to rule the masses and could decide what was best for them, they denigrated religion and put it under their thumb, they placed high taxes on the rich, they wanted to control reproduction.


    He called his party members comrades, after the communists, of course, and wanted to raise the class-conscious proletariat against the monarchists to finally end all class struggle and remove social castes. He promised that the farmer, the worker and the businessman would all be equal. He even promised them the “people’s car”.

    The other beloved fascist of the day, Mussolini, was a communist socialist born and bred, an admirer of Lenin (favour returned) and a student of Marxism. Hitler was a socialist – Nazi = National Socialism.
American liberals had no problem with these guys until things went wrong.
Just like eugenics fell out of favour (officially) after the war, so did fascism. So you had to blame it on somebody, and why not the right?


    Hitler was a revolutionary and totalitarian. He was against the bourgeoisie, the capitalist, notions of class, traditionalism, Christianity, market based lending, etc. Mein Kampf is full of references to socialism. He appealed to populist socialistic economic theories, nationalization of trusts, confiscation of war profits, profit-sharing with labour, nationalizing industry, expansion of government health services, etc.
He created the “people’s community”.
    The reason that he had to defeat the communists in Germany was because he appealed to the same crowds and had the same ideals.


    Nazi ideologist, Gregor Strasser:

    “We are socialists. We are enemies, deadly enemies, of today’s capitalist economic system with its exploitation of the economically weak, its unfair wage system, its immoral way of judging the worth of a hman being in terms of their wealth and their money, instead of their responsibility and their performance, and we are determined to destroy this system whatever happens”.


    Even the swastika flag was designed explicitly to attract communists to their party.


    Just because your leftist teachers and media have fed you a line is no reason to swallow it uncritically.

  142. Charlie says:

    Hi Tom,
    Do i have one in moderation, or have I lost it?

  143. Tom Gilson says:

    Released now. Not sure what put it there. A lot of them have been going to moderation automatically for reasons I can’t scope out.

  144. Tom Gilson says:

    Here’s another way to regard this business of Nazism being Christian:

    It’s a lie.

    Not an innocent mistake, not even a careless falsehood, but a lie.

    It has been refuted so often here that the one who repeats it bears moral responsibility for continuing to do so.

    By so naming it I do not intend to retract my earlier statement: it’s so obviously wrong that it’s not just a lie, it’s an idiotic one.

    But what do we think of someone who is clearly not unintelligent, who has earned a genuinely impressive advanced degree in physics, yet who perpetrates such an idiotic lie? What motivates him to sully his own reputation in this way? I don’t get it. Or maybe I do.

    I pray for the one who would do that to himself. For it is not only his reputation that is being harmed. Something far more vital than that is at stake.

  145. Charlie says:

    Thanks for the release, Tom. Do not release the duplicate attempt, please. :)

  146. olegt says:

    I am not particularly interested in pinning Fascism either on the Left or on the Right. Such activities are more about sound bytes than scholarship. I find it amusing, though that Charlie would think that linking to an essay “published on the internet only” and authored by a guy whose degrees are in psychology and behavioral studies should be somehow convincing.

  147. Holopupenko says:

    Tom:

    I didn’t expect this from you:

    I already said that atheism did not cause a Stalin. Sin did.

    What in heaven’s name do you think atheism is, a mere political/ideological commitment bandied about by amateurs like DI and olegt? The opening of the First Commandment reads, “I AM the Lord your God…” Atheism slowly destroys it’s adherents’ souls like all sin does–it dehumanizes, compromising not only the rational capacity of it’s adherence (witness the irrationality, ignorance, and fallacies of DI, olegt, etc.), but then leads them to dehumanize others (nazism, communism, naturalism, scientism, abortion, homosexuality, etc.) invariably and eventually by horrific and/or genocidal means.

    Do you think the “wages of sin” applies only to God’s judgement? NO! Death is a direct outcome of the SIN of ATHEISM–whether blatant genocide or euphemistically disguised as “pro-choice” or “life-style” choice or dignity-destroying naturalism (remember Pinker’s stupid article “Dignity Is A Stupid Idea”?) or transhumanism or whatever pseudo-intellectual fad serves the ultimate goal of atheism–Death.

    Atheism is moloch worship in “sophisticated” modern drag. The fruit of Atheism is death.

  148. G. Rodrigues says:

    I had made a mental note to make some rambling comments on first reading this interesting post, but lo and behold, a few days passed and the discussion has already derailed.

    A quick note: the idea that Nazi ideology has anything to do with Christianity is pure and simply, a lie to prop up an agenda. It is an utterly ludicrous tosh, deserving more or less the same scorn and contempt historians devote to holocaust deniers.

    Here is a similar “proof” that Hitler was a communist:

    1. The “socialist” word is in the Hitler’s party name. Damning evidence if ever there was one.

    2. Both in the written papers as well as in practice, the Nazi praxis had a thoroughly socialist bent.

    3. The Nazis made a pact with communist Russia. Just read the discourses of mutual praise after Ribbentrop and Molotov signed the pact.

    Hmm… come to think of it, this idea is so stupid and ridiculous that it would surely make a best-seller. So, you heard it here first, boys, Hitler was a card-carrying communist! Now I just need to get someone to write that book. I will probably call it “The Molotov-Ribbentrop code” and fold the theory in a captivating story with lots of street-chasing, gunfighting, the obligatory revelation scenes and the usual love subplot. Then all I have to do is to contact Hollywood (Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts are my favorites for the leading roles) and the money will start rolling in. Woohoo, I’m gonna be filthy rich!

  149. BillT says:

    “I am not particularly interested in pinning Fascism either on the Left or on the Right.”

    But, of course, no one is trying to “pin” Fascism on anyone. We are simply stating the quite obvious facts about Fascism and it’s political orientation. Facts that are self-evident to anyone spending more than 10 minutes of truely independent thinking on the matter. And certainly no one would want to mention that the left has been trying to pin Fascism on the right for the last 60+ years or so. I’m quite sure no one is “particularly interested” in in that.

  150. BillT, your description of Nazi ideology could hardly be more wrong.

    First, Sanger never supported Hitler or the Nazis:
    http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sanger/secure/newsletter/articles/sanger-hitler_equation.html

    Second, the Nazi’s were against communism:

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

    “[Nazism] was a unique variety of fascism that incorporated biological racism and antisemitism.[10] Nazism presented itself as politically syncretic, incorporating policies, tactics and philosophies from right- and left-wing ideologies; in practice, Nazism was a far right form of politics.[11]

    They considered Jews a parasitic race that attached itself to various ideologies and movements to secure its self-preservation, such as: the Enlightenment, liberalism, democracy, parliamentary politics, capitalism, industrialisation, Marxism and trade unionism.[14]“

    And against atheism:

    “The Nazis claimed that communism was dangerous to the well-being of nations because of its intention to dissolve private property, its support of class conflict, its aggression against the middle class, its hostility to small businessmen, and its atheism.[92] Nazism rejected class conflict-based socialism and economic egalitarianism, favouring instead a stratified economy with classes based on merit and talent, retaining private property, and the creation of national solidarity that transcends class distinction.[18]“

    And you think the Nazis were leftists because they had the word “Socialist” in their name? Really?!!

  151. Tom Gilson says:

    Holopupenko,

    Atheism is not sin. What I mean is, atheism is not reflexively synonymous with sin. There are plenty of belief systems with deities in them that are as bad as materialistic atheism.

    You say, “Atheism slowly destroys it’s adherents’ souls like all sin does.” No, sin destroys souls. Rebellion from God destroys souls. And there is much external collateral damage along with that destruction—millions of lives, in the case of a Mao or a Stalin.

    Atheism’s role in this is profound, but I see it as aiding and abetting, not as carrying out the actual destruction. It is like the lookout, or maybe the decoy, at the bank robbery who makes sure the security guard won’t prevent the thieves from grabbing the loot. Atheism is not the impulse to destroy, nor is the impulse to destroy atheism. Atheism is that which says to that impulse, “Fine, go ahead, no one’s watching.” So I can take all the other bank customers’ money and there’s no one there to say no.

    That’s part of the answer, as I see it. Atheism goes further to say, “There is no bank, there is only the cash.” That is, I can get what I want, and there is no offense against God.

    The fruit of atheism is death, I agree, because it is the system of thought by which sinful rebellion against God and the dehumanizing of others is nurtured and spread, There is (in my mind) a difference between an effect and a fruit; and there are other causes that can produce the same fruit. Islam in certain forms does a reasonably good job of it too.

    So did atheism cause a Stalin? I don’t know how this fits into Aristotle’s categories, but I would say that it is a permissive cause and contributing cause, not the primary efficient cause. I should retract my statement that atheism did not cause a Stalin, and modify it to “atheism was not the primary but rather a permissive and contributing cause for a Stalin.” It loses a lot of punch that way.

    Sin is still the real problem. As bad as atheism is, we won’t cure the sin problem by talking people out of atheism—not unless in the process they have a living encounter with Jesus Christ.

  152. Tom Gilson says:

    There’s something strangely incoherent about putting Marxism, trade unionism, democracy, and capitalism in the same list that way.

    There’s something even more strangely incoherent about “against atheism” being equated with Christian.

    There’s something even more incoherent yet in a “doctor(logic)” thinking that anyone thinks the Nazis were leftist just on account of “Socialist” in their name, and in this same “doctor(logic)” ignoring the other explanations that have been put forth.

    And somewhere on that continuum of strange incoherence we could also place this “doctor(logic)’s” reliance on Wikipedia as an authoritative source.

  153. Tom,

    First of all, I didn’t say in my comment that Nazis were Christian. Maybe you should read my comment again.

    Then read this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Nazi_Germany

    Whatever the plans of the Nazi leadership, the Nazi party appealed to culturally Christian citizenry. If you were to ask those who voted for the Nazis what their religious affiliation was, I don’t think you’d hear “atheist” or “freethinker” very often.

    “The German census of May 1939 indicates that 54 percent of Germans considered themselves Protestant and 40 percent considered themselves Catholic, with only 3.5 percent claiming to be neo-pagan “believers in God,” and 1.5 percent unbelievers. This census came more than six years into the Hitler era”[1]

    In other words, Christianity didn’t prevent Hitler from creating a popular fascist movement in Germany. Some Christians opposed Hitler, and thousands went to the concentration camp for it (especially after their orders were implicated in an attempt to assassinate Hitler). But many more Christians collaborated. Moreover, the anti-semitism didn’t come from nowhere. It came from Martin Luther.

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

    The prevailing scholarly view[5] since the Second World War is that the treatise exercised a major and persistent influence on Germany’s attitude toward its Jewish citizens in the centuries between the Reformation and the Holocaust. Four hundred years after it was written, the Nazis displayed On the Jews and Their Lies during Nuremberg rallies, and the city of Nuremberg presented a first edition to Julius Streicher, editor of the Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer, the newspaper describing it as the most radically antisemitic tract ever published.[6]

    Totalitarianism can be imposed by force, or it can be swept into power by a popular movement of anti-intellectualism, scapegoating, and a disregard for liberality and civil rights. In Germany, it was primarily the latter, aided in large part by the prevailing Christian culture.

    While Hitler considered himself a nominal Catholic, he and his inner circle were inevitably on a collision course with Christianity. Nazi ideology was fundamentally anti-semitic, and yet the mythology of Christianity is built on Judaism. Not a lot of hope there. But it was the prevailing culture of anti-semitism, and the economic effects of the treaty of Versailles that allowed Hitler’s rise to power, because it enabled Hitler to blame the average German’s woes on the Jews and their associated liberal institutions.

    Someone could say that proper Christianity is liberal, peace-loving, kind, tolerant, etc., and that “no true Christian” would support the Nazis. However, there is no single Christianity in history, and not a unified Christianity today. “True Christianity” is what a particular Christian sect interprets it to be. To the Jehovah’s Witnesses, your own Christianity isn’t true. In late 1930’s Germany, Nazi sympathy was considered compatible with Christianity by a great many Christians in Germany. Just as slavery and sexism were once considered compatible with Christianity.

    The champions of atheism in present society are also champions of freedom of intellectual inquiry, liberalism, science, and civil rights. And it is the fundamentalist Christians who are most likely to be nationalist, oppose the ACLU, and demonize educated people as “intellectuals”, “elites” and as members of some conspiracy against Christians, babies, etc. Best we not try to connect metaphysical beliefs and totalitarianism, eh?

    BTW, I don’t much care about people mocking my Internet handle. I’ve come to expect it, and some mockery is only natural, and even amusing from time to time. But if mockery is going to be standard, systematic procedure here at “Thinking Christian”, then, well, when in Rome…

  154. Tom Gilson says:

    doctor(“logic”),

    You say you did not say that Nazis were Christian. I remind you of this:

    First of all, the Nazi’s were a Christian movement. The Nazi’s didn’t interpret Christianity the way you do, but they were Christians nonetheless.

    Having just read a long biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I can affirm your point that there were “German Christians,” as they named themselves, who supported Hitler. I don’t contest that. They allowed their nationalism, their embarrassment over Versailles, their longing for restoration of national glory, and Hitler’s moralism to override what they should have seen of his murderousness. There was another stream of Christianity called the “Confessing Church” that stuck closely to Christ and his Word, and which stood against Nazism.

    Nazi anti-Semitism grew out of multiple streams, especially Darwinism and Luther’s legacy. I can accept that.

    Someone could say that proper Christianity is liberal, peace-loving, kind, tolerant, etc., and that “no true Christian” would support the Nazis. However, there is no single Christianity in history, and not a unified Christianity today. “True Christianity” is what a particular Christian sect interprets it to be.

    No, true Christianity is whatever God understands it to be.

    But for practical purposes, the Christianity under debate here is not Jehovah’s Witnesses, mainline liberalism, the Unification Church, or any such thing. What is under debate here is “mere Christianity,” the Christianity so described by C.S. Lewis and described in the historic creeds of the church.

    Christians have made mistakes through the years, but there is a source document, the Bible, that guides us toward the truth.

    The champions of atheism in present society are also champions of freedom of intellectual inquiry, liberalism, science, and civil rights.

    Civil rights? Sure. As long as it’s according to your definition (compare here), and as long as you ignore the profession, training, and beliefs of the 20th century’s major civil rights leaders. Science? Sure, if your definition of science includes a stipulation against God doing anything anywhere at any time in natural history, and especially if “present society” only reaches back a couple of decades. then atheists are more likely to champion that. Liberalism? Sure, if by that you mean modern immoral liberalism. If instead you mean freedoms like those in the Bill of Rights (classic liberalism), then no; that was produced out of distinctly Christian soil. Intellectual inquiry? Please, could you try to be a bit more blindly insulting than that?

  155. Tom Gilson says:

    A direct question now in response to this:

    First of all, I didn’t say in my comment that Nazis were Christian. Maybe you should read my comment again.

    Do you now repudiate your prior statement that Nazism was a Christian movement, and that the Nazis were Christians?

  156. Tom Gilson says:

    I have written a side note concerning conversation-stoppers, especially for doctor(“logic”) but also for other regular participants in this blog. I did not place that full item here because it’s rather off topic, and I’m asking that we not discuss it here. You have my contact information at the top of the page.

  157. BillT says:

    DL,

    Believe what you want about the political orientation of the Nazi party. It will neither be the first or last thing you’re wrong about.

  158. Victoria says:

    Tom said

    What is under debate here is “mere Christianity,” the Christianity so described by C.S. Lewis and described in the historic creeds of the church.

    To that we could add N. T. Wright’s ‘Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense’, ‘After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters’, ‘Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today’, to name just three titles for starters. There is also a very good little book written by James Sire, Scripture Twisting – in it he discusses specific ways that the Bible is misread – perhaps we could start another thread sometime…

  159. Tom Gilson says:

    At any rate it is not the vague and almost infinitely malleable thing d(“l”) is trying to equivocate us into thinking is the topic of discussion. It is something broad and yet specific.

  160. Charlie says:

    DL’s correction is noted. I can find nothing explicitly demonstrating Sanger’s appreciation of Hitler. She did, as editor of the Birth Control Review, publish her correspondent and German eugenist, Ernst Rudin. At the same time, her statements on eugenics were virtually identical to Hitler’s.
    http://www.spectacle.org/997/richmond.html

    So I will not list her any longer as a “fan” of Hitler’s. I might substitute her good friend (and lover?) George Bernard Shaw when I want to refer to a random liberal who agreed with Hitler.

    Or the liberal Carnegie and Rockefeller foundations which funded Nazi eugenic programs right up to the outbreak of the war.

  161. Charlie says:

    Hitler as a socialist:

    There is probably no one who has devoted more effort than George Watson to tracing the historical sources of totalitarian ideas in socialist intellectual thought going back to Marx and the revolution of 1848. Watson has published his findings, first in “The Idea of Liberalism” (1985) and now in “The Lost Literature of Socialism” (1998). Watson states, in both publications, that

    ‘ … the long socialist tradition of genocide … was almost a century old when Hitler began his programme of racial mass-murder in 1941-2. … In the European century that began in the 1840s, as I have shown, everyone who advocated genocide called himself a socialist, and no conservative, liberal, anarchist or independent ever did anything of the kind. Lenin and Stalin had been exterminating people for years when Hitler began.’

    Hitler was also arguably a socialist: in his own words, and according to those who knew him. Hitler’s socialism was only a variant of the genre. Hitler’s close confidant in the 1930s, Hermann Rauschning, published conversations with Hitler in “Hitler Speaks” (1939). The following are some remarks by Hitler on communism:

    “I have learnt a great deal from Marxism, as I do not hesitate to admit,” Hitler went on. “I don’t mean their tiresome social doctrine or the materialist conception of history, or their absurd ‘marginal utility’ theories and so on. But I have learnt from their methods. The difference between them and myself is that I have really put into practice what these peddlers and pen-pushers have timidly begun. The whole of National Socialism is based on it. Look at the workers’ sports clubs, the industrial cells, the mass demonstrations, the propaganda leaflets written specially for the comprehension of masses; all these new methods of political struggle are essentially Marxist in origin. All that I had to do was take over these methods and adapt them to our purpose. I had only to develop logically what Social Democracy repeatedly failed in because of its attempt to realise its evolution within the framework of democracy. National Socialism is what Marxism might have been if it could have broken its absurd and artificial ties with a democratic order. … there is more that binds us to Bolshevism than separates us from it. There is, above all, genuine, revolutionary feeling, which is alive everywhere in Russia except where there are Jewish Marxists. I have always made allowance for this circumstance, and given orders that former Communists are to be admitted to the party at once. The petit bourgeois Social-Democrat and the trade-union boss will never make a National Socialist, but the Communist always will.”

    http://pages.interlog.com/~girbe/roots.html

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