Mark 9:24

Idols of horsemen

In On Atheism on July 19, 2011 at 5:40 am

Among atheists most follow the pattern Kreeft notes: “If we do not worship God, we will worship idols, for we are by nature worshipers.” I’ve seen intellect, sensation and an abstract subjective happiness. Some, perhaps like men who very shallowly read Asimov, instead have faith in identifying the vague progress of science as a science of universal progress. They transpose the proper utility of science in the material and use it as a weapon, aiming at the immaterial. They ignore the simple fact that we recognize metaphysics because Aristotle knew physics answers only hows and is useless toward whys.

What is founded on the world does not reach very high beyond it, and will shudder with the earth.

Read Asimov a little deeper, though, and we see he realizes that science cannot correct what is wrong with men. It does not take much knowledge of the deterioration of the Spacers, or of the Empire, or even of the Foundation to disassociate Asimov from utopianism. However clever Hari Seldon, his psychohistory fails. As Lewis notes in his explanation of original sin:

That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended — civilizations are built up — excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin.

We also see some elite condescension in atheist circles which, although it has a parallel in certain prelates who disdained drumming in St. Peter’s when the African bishops were scheduled for Rome, has no parallel in the man who said, “the more African, the better.” Some atheists, observably not despairing of anything but Christians, have a kind of pride we find in every heresy — even the Gnostics thought they were bearers of a secret immortal truth available to an elite few, and they believed that the deluded Christians should be dissuaded with absurdities. We see it in the state endorsement of Arianism, in the mockeries of the Manichees and throughout materialist scientism.

Atheists who deny materialist scientism exists deny reality, for it does not take long, talking to rank-and-file village atheists, to find someone who says they believe that just because science has not solved all the problems of metaphysics — not to mention the ethical and material problems in government, education, social ills, &c. — that only means science has not solved the problem yet. That naturalist science is the best worldview because all metaphysics can be explained physically. We cannot truthfully say that only empirical things are true — such a statement undermines its own credentials.

In all fairness, this is so absurd and so clearly wrong few if any practiced atheists do this. “It does not exist among scientists,” the good atheists say, “but only among the non-scientists who get their science from the news.” Correct. But if we are to listen to your bad news that God does not exist, how are you going to convince not just the intelligent but the middling and the outright dumb — remember the movement!  remember the good fight! remember the revolution! — who cannot, by reason of mental infirmity, understand in a true way?

If they are skeptical of all men as you suggest, you will be the first they will disdain, being so radical against and patronizing toward and disconnected from the democracy of the dead. If they accept this, then this will be but the first of a thousand submissions. They will listen to you and they will trust you and they, whether you like it or not, will be your disciples. Not even God can do the logically impossible, and yet you command men to disobey commandments, to have faith in this thing I say by not having faith in things any men say. If you are a man, this is impossible. Only God, or at least someone participating higher in the form of rational being, can tell men to distrust men, or to stand against men who do wrong, with any authority.

You tell them: Hold nothing sacred. Question everything. If they are to remain coherent, they will question everything but your commandment on the matter.

  1. Ben wrote:
    >But if we are to listen to your bad news that God does not exist, how are you going to convince not just the intelligent but the middling and the outright dumb — remember the movement! remember the good fight! remember the revolution! — who cannot, by reason of mental infirmity, understand in a true way?

    As Thoreau said, I come into this world not primarily to change it but to live in it.

    As a physicist, I do not need to convince the “outright dumb” that my views on either physics or theology are correct.

    As educated people increasingly abandon religion, I imagine that the “outright dumb” will eventually follow along.

    I fear you misjudge the purposes and goals of those of us who are anti-religious: we do not quite fit into your boxes.

    Dave Miller in Sacramento

  2. Thank you for your insights.

    You are right to say that you do not need to convince the outright dumb of anything. My point: Surely this undermines the movement some leading atheists are convinced exists or should. This undermines the uphill push to humanism, essential if atheism is to eclipse the role of faith in ethics.

    Educated people abandon religion? Could I get a source? Surely the faithful have a crushingly higher birthrate which alone, pragmatically, would turn the tide of human opinion against the self-described godless.

    As for the eventually following along: So you expect them to follow based on the appeal to authority? Isn’t this dishonest? If we care for someone we must dissuade him from accepting even a truth on the basis of a falsehood. Do you wish to abandon the great heritage of universal brotherhood bequeathed by our Christian ancestors?

    Western civilization, it seems to me, stands by two great heritages. One is the scientific spirit of adventure – the adventure into the unknown, an unknown which must be recognized as being unknown in order to be explored; the demand that the unanswerable mysteries of the universe remain unanswered; the attitude that all is uncertain; to summarize it – the humility of the intellect. The other great heritage is Christian ethics – the basis of action on love, the brotherhood of all men, the value of the individual – the humility of the spirit.

    Insofar as I misrepresent atheists, I should note that a prior post yet unpublished quotes PZ Meyers as saying quite as much as I attribute to the “good atheist.” For the purposes of making amends, here’s the excerpt I use:

    By the way, I didn’t want to single out just the cracker, so I nailed it to a few ripped-out pages from the Qur’an and The God Delusion. They are just paper. Nothing must be held sacred. Question everything. God is not great, Jesus is not your lord, you are not disciples of any charismatic prophet.

    Nothing must be held sacred. Question everything. These are the premises I address, and they are hardly from a minor figure among atheists.

    • Ben wrote to me:
      > Educated people abandon religion? Could I get a source?

      Sure, the various ARIS surveys, the Larson-Witham study, etc.

      Common knowledge. Christianity has been declining in recent decades in the USA (and even more so in Europe); the level of disbelief is especially dramatic among top scientists as Larson-Witham shows.

      Ben also wrote to me:
      > Surely the faithful have a crushingly higher birthrate which alone, pragmatically, would turn the tide of human opinion against the self-described godless.

      Actually, the high Catholic birth-rate was more dramatic a half-century ago when I was a kid.

      Of course, it is still true that True Believers seem to reproduce at a higher rate than atheists: the only way I see to explain this in light of the ARIS results is that an awful lot of the kids of you True Believers are defecting.

      I and my own sibs, and many of my cousins, are all examples, by the way. We were all raised in conservative Christian families but rejected the lies.

      Pretty cool.

      Ben also wrote to me:
      >You are right to say that you do not need to convince the outright dumb of anything. My point: Surely this undermines the movement some leading atheists are convinced exists or should. This undermines the uphill push to humanism, essential if atheism is to eclipse the role of faith in ethics.

      Nah. I’ve been a militant New Atheist for an awfully long time; the “outright dumb” (your phrase, of course) have just never interested me.

      As I said before, do you think I should diligently be teaching quantum physics to the “outright dumb”? Seems silly.

      Ben also said:
      >Do you wish to abandon the great heritage of universal brotherhood bequeathed by our Christian ancestors?

      I have a couple brothers. They’re bother enough (okay, one is really a good guy). I don’t have universal brothers. Never did.

      I’m not a Christian. Nor a post-Christian derivative such as a socialist or a democrat, who claims to believe in nonsense like “universal brotherhood.”

      Ben also wrote:
      >As for the [“outright dumb”] eventually following along: So you expect them to follow based on the appeal to authority? Isn’t this dishonest? If we care for someone we must dissuade him from accepting even a truth on the basis of a falsehood.

      I do not much care what they do. I imagine they probably will end up eventually following along. Why is it “dishonest” of me to imagine that that is probably what they will do? I don’t have much choice in the matter, you know, concerning their behavior.

      Ben also wrote:
      >Insofar as I misrepresent atheists, I should note that a prior post yet unpublished quotes PZ Meyers as saying quite as much as I attribute to the “good atheist.”

      Hmmm… PZ does not speak for me, or for any other atheist I know of, except for himself. I agree with him on some things, disagree on others. Probably the same is true between you and me – I strongly suspect there are some political issues you and I might agree on, for example (my political views cut across the usual spectrum, which is why it is a good bet that you and I agree on at least some of those views).

      Perhaps, that is the main point I am trying to make to you. You think you can say how atheists think, what they believe, etc. But ‘atheist” is a matter of “negative definition,” and negative definitions can be very misleading. You and I and the late Osama bin Laden are all “aHindus” for example: that is, none of us believe in Hinduism. But one cannot conclude from that fact that the three of us agree on much of anything: not believing in Hinduism is a pretty slender reed on which to suppose any commonality among us.

      Similarly, there is pretty much zero commonality among atheists except that none of us, by definition, believes in a god. Not much to base an analysis on.

      There are a number of atheists I have known whom I deeply despised. There have been a number of atheists I have counted as friends. Same thing could be said of tall people, brunettes, etc. You are just making an error to think you can make the sort of general statements about atheists you are making.

      Dave

  3. Ben,

    I think I may have figured out this fixation you have on atheists’ supposed need to convert even the “outright dumb” to atheism. See if this makes sense:

    Many of you Christians feel a strong “missionary” obligation to convert all of your fellow human beings to Christianity, because, supposedly, this is the only way they can be saved from being sent to eternal Hellfire by the Great Torturer whom you guys worship.

    Fair enough.

    But we atheists do not believe in Hellfire or the Grand Torturer. So, I hope you can understand that we lack this missionary impulse to “save” every single last human being. “Save” them from what?

    Indeed, many atheists I know do not much care whether even their own spouses or children are atheists. Atheism is not a belief system; it is just the lack of a belief system.

    Admittedly, many of us “New Atheists,” such as Dick Dawkins and myself, do have a bit of a missionary impulse. We would like to alter the social atmosphere so as to eliminate discrimination against atheists. We would like to encourage people who are capable of rational thought to free themselves from the straitjackets imposed by religion. But we do not have to free every single human being: there are some people (perhaps those you call the “outright dumb”) who simply cannot engage in rational thought, come what may. And, some people just do not want to engage in rational thought: it is surely not our obligation to force them to!

    Imagine a world in which some religion had convinced everyone to refrain from using their legs to walk and insisted that everyone roll around in wheelchairs. Pretty sad, eh? So, some kind people might try to convince those folks to dump their religion and give walking a try! But, of course, paraplegics would still not be able to walk.

    See the analogy? Out of the kindness of our hearts, Dawkins and I would like to see people free their minds from the crippling effects of Christianity. But, I suppose, your “outright dumb” folks still will not be very good at thinking.

    Keep in mind also that we atheists offer nothing to “replace” religion, any more than AIDS researchers offer anything to “replace” AIDS. In both cases, we wish to simply free people of the disease; we certainly do not have some other disease we wish to offer in replacement!

    And, that is the main reason that I suppose your “outright dumb” would eventually become atheists. In a sane society, everyone would just recognize that Christianity is a set of silly old Iron Age myths, the same as almost everyone now views the myths of Odin, Isis, Zeus, Ishtar, et al. Why would even your “outright dumb” folks suppose that Christianity alone was actually true?

    Of course, it will take time to reach that enlightened state. Not much I can do about that. As Thoreau said, I came into this world primarily to live in it, not to change it.

    All the best,

    Dave

  4. Thank you again for your insights.

    If you believe I am wrong, then consider Meyers’ food for thought. You seem to hit every one of the pet peeves of his. I never conflated atheists into a movement except those who claim a movement. That’s why I specifically linked three examples of this thinking. One person said in so many words: Not playing soccer is not a sport. This analogy fails due to the nature of several consolidated pockets of atheists: If not playing soccer develops rules and organization and these people become a force which descends as a horde with a decided purpose, however, then it has become enough of a sport to describe it using sporting terms.

    Love for all men is the patrimony of the West. Do not deny this lightly. To refuse truth to your fellow man seems to betray a contempt which is, I hope, just for show. Why embrace disgust toward those who lack the cleverness to overthink? And to ignore the blossoming of faith in Africa and Asia and the renewals in South America and the former Eastern Bloc seems to betray an ignorance even everyone who lives outside the modern West. I do not find contempt towards men and the opening of every firmly locked door any sort of enlightenment, nor do phrases like “The Great Torturer” show any serious understanding of the curious case for Christianity.

    When men forget to ask why and merely ask how, we thereby relinquish any possible purpose. Answers to “Why?” must always be a positive act of faith rather than the negative lack of faith. Only in theory can men shrug forever.

    • Ben wrote to me:
      > Love for all men is the patrimony of the West.

      Ben, I think that statement is obviously, factually untrue (and among all the non-Westerners I know – I married into an Asian family – I do not know of any who would accept it).

      Traditional Christianity, for nearly two millennia, has taught that the majority of the human race deserves eternal torture in Hell, simply because we do not accept some weird myths about a dead Jewish carpenter. Many, many Christians have, quite logically, been extremely willing to emulate their God by torturing non-believers in this life.

      To call this “love for all men” seems to me utterly, horrifically obscene, really, truly quite as bad as claiming that Hitler *truly* loved the Jews.

      I will not pretend that I love all men, when the truth is that, like all human beings, I truly love only a few. But, unlike traditional Christians, I do not hate any of my fellow human beings enough to claim that they deserve eternal torment in Hell. I need not remind you of Aquinas’ comment that part of the joy of Heaven would be observing the suffering of the innocents in Hell!

      There is a middle ground between the love Christians falsely profess and the deep hatred embodied in traditional Christian teachings.

      Ben also wrote:
      >To refuse truth to your fellow man seems to betray a contempt which is, I hope, just for show.

      I’m not refusing truth to my fellow man! It’s not my fault that most people, probably including you, cannot understand relativistic quantum mechanics or Galois field theory, even though I can and do understand both. I’m just noting that the people you yourself chose to describe as “outright dumb” are limited in their understanding. Not my description and not my fault.

      You are bearing false witness, here.

      Ben also wrote:
      >Why embrace disgust toward those who lack the cleverness to overthink?

      You are the one showing disgust: you chose to describe them as “outright dumb,” not me. You are engaged in Freudian projection, Ben.

      Ben also wrote:
      >And to ignore the blossoming of faith in Africa and Asia and the renewals in South America and the former Eastern Bloc seems to betray an ignorance even everyone who lives outside the modern West.

      These are generally very poorly educated countries. Christianity is generally born of ignorance. Christianity is declining in the comparatively well-educated countries in the West and increasing in various poorly-educated countries.

      I wish I could help stem the tide of ignorance and gullibility that leads people in such countries to ignorantly adopt the moral monstrosity of Christianity. But, I am not sure what I can do.

      However, unlike you, I do have enough respect for my fellow human being to believe that as the world develops economically, people in those countries will get better educated, and that then Christianity will disappear in those countries as well.

      Historical processes can be painfully slow. But, in the end, the monstrous evil of Christianity, one of the most evil systems of belief to ever plague the human race, will fade away from this earth.

      But, sadly, it will take time.

      All the best,

      Dave

      • Thank you again for your insights.

        What is the moral monstrosity of Christianity? Where is Christianity morally monstrous? Universal love, though all men fall short of this ideal, is still the principle which guides Christian moral theology. We defend love as an act of will towards the standard: an extreme understanding of agape, self-sacrificial love towards everyone. If we fall short, which we do, this does not in any way diminish the standard.

        For the record, “outright dumb” was a phrase I used twice and ironically. You’ve used it eleven times in ignoring the thrust of what I have to say. It is not hatred to say that people exist who aren’t clever or intelligent because this is not an insult — notwithstanding other concerns, it is not directed to any particular person or group of persons — but a fact. Perhaps this bears mentioning: Intelligence, while good, is not a virtue. It is a gift, just as easily used to find truth as to cleverly ignore it.

  5. @Dave

    Could you kindly cite some examples that would corroborate or suggest in any way that Christianity is one of the “most evil systems of belief to ever plague the human race?”

    Thanks

  6. Additionally, I think it is quite demonstrably false that

    “Traditional Christianity, for nearly two millennia, has taught that the majority of the human race deserves eternal torture in Hell, simply because we do not accept some weird myths about a dead Jewish carpenter.”

    Missed that the first time around, sorry.

    Thanks

    • Ben wrote to me:
      > [Ben]Additionally, I think it is quite demonstrably false that
      >[Dave]“Traditional Christianity, for nearly two millennia, has taught that the majority of the human race deserves eternal torture in Hell, simply because we do not accept some weird myths about a dead Jewish carpenter.”

      Well, have you read Paul’s epistles? He is quite emphatic that no one can get into Heaven except by faith in Jesus and that all humans deserve to go to Hell, but some are saved by their faith in Jesus. Of course, since most human beings for the last two thousand years have not had faith in Jesus, most of us end up in Hell, and, Paul says, we deserve it.

      If you have not read Paul, do.

      Or there is Aquinas’ comment about how part of the joy of Heaven lies in enjoying the suffering of those who are in Hell.

      Or for that matter, give Pat Robertson a ring.

      I know that a few decent Christians reject this, but it has been mainstream Christianity going back to Paul.

      I’m pretty sure you know this. I can’t imagine anyone familiar with Christianity disputing it, and I can’t recall anyone who ever did dispute it in my fifty years of discussing these issues with people, prior to you.

      This is in fact the biggest, constantly-repeated non-Christian objection to Christianity.

      You really do know this, right?

      • I am, generally speaking, familiar with the writings of Paul.
        Fortunately for me, I am not a Paulite, I am a Catholic. As such, I do not adhere to whatever poor interpretation of Paul you ascribe to me. I adhere to the teaching of the Catholic Church, which is remarkably clear (as is Her habit).
        If I quote myself (a very bad habit, but one driven by necessity — i.e. time):

        ” Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. Outside the Church there lies no salvation.

        This is an essential aspect of Catholic doctrine, relating to the claim that the Church is the one true faith, established by Christ and sustained by the Holy Spirit.

        That said, it is readily acknowledged that Christ is capable of working without and, in
        fact, does work without the visible confines of the Church. Pope Benedict (then Fr. Ratzinger) spoke of this in a lecture (which has been criticized on one hand by what most would call the ‘liberal’ wing of the Church for being to exclusive, and on the other by various groups of sedevecantists for being too inclusive and purportedly reversing doctrine) given in 1969, saying:
        “In this state of things [the posited numerical decline of Catholicism in the future], one should no longer be concerned with the salvation of ‘the others,’ who for some time now have become ‘our brothers.’ Above all, the central question is to have an intuition of the
        Church’s position and mission in History under a positive new point-of-view. This new
        point-of-view should allow one to believe in the universal offer of the grace of salvation
        as well as the essential part that the Church plays in this. Therefore, in this sense the
        problem changed…”

        Anyone familiar with Karl Rahner has read about his concept of the “Anonymous Christian” (also criticized, predictably, by the two aforementioned sects), which was emerging at roughly the same time Fr. Ratzinger was formulating the views contained in the excerpt above…

        …These beliefs have always been present in the Church. Doctrinally, Catholicism has always been a unique combination of orthodoxy and orthopraxy (in contrast, perhaps, with Protestantism on one end and some forms of Taoism on the other). Throughout history the focus may have swung from one end to the other, usually as a result of heresy or schism, but the unique order has been maintained. In part due to Vatican II, we have seen in the latter half of the last century and are still seeing in this one a reemphasis of the true concept of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. One that takes into account God’s ability to work both inside and outside the visible structure of the Church. We are free to believe that all are saved, and, indeed, we are required to hope that they are. ”

        To further clarify the concept of Hell I would point out that the Church teaches that those who are in Hell are there as a result of a choice they have made. God does not damn anyone to Hell, and that fate is certainly not desirable for Him. He does, on the other hand, and as a result of our free will, allow us to damn ourselves. “The doors of Hell are locked [from] the inside.” No Catholic wishes (at least, should wish) damnation upon anyone. This is prohibited, and in direct contradiction to the teachings of the faith. I myself, while often being in favor of a liberal use of violence in the correct circumstance (an opinion I am not willing to defend as Catholic, and also an opinion that I am willing to repudiate if it is shown to be contrary to Catholic teaching), wish Hell upon no one (although I worry that I could if something horrible were to happen to me — e.g. the murder of a family member). I will note, in support of previous statements, that I do tend to have generally universalistic views regarding the salvation of mankind. Again, I affirm that Hell exists, but I think it more likely that all or most of humanity is saved as compared to the likelihood that most or all are damned. As far as I can tell, this is not in contradiction with any Catholic teaching. Regardless, I would not presume to know who is and is not in Hell. I will say, also, that I speak only for Catholicism. I will not, and cannot, speak for any other religion or sect.

        Anyway, Dr, it seems to me that, for a fifty something professional physicist (&c.,&c.,&c.), you sure do spend a lot of time posting comments dripping with condescension on relatively obscure (no insult, Ben — the quality of the writing is superb) blogs in the far reaches of the Internet. I’ve already noted the near intolerable nature of your commenting, and the, charitably speaking, arrogant way in which you present it. Don’t you have Science, or at least science, to attend to? And if you don’t, do you have any better examples? Perhaps examples that are evidential?

        Remember, you are trying to show not that Christianity is wrong, or false, or even bad, but that Christianity is “[one of] most evil systems of belief to ever plague the human race,” and is “Monstrous, unspeakable, nauseating, breathtaking evil.”

        • Thank you again for your insights, and for your compliment.

          I think perhaps the most illustrative example each of us has ignored so far has to be that the Church proclaims many in Heaven and presumes no one in Hell. (Dante was a Catholic, but he was not the Magisterium.) This despite having scriptural evidence which may point Judas to Hell — yet we don’t proclaim him an anti-saint. It is against the Christian message, even if it is a temptation of fallen human nature.

    • Sorry for confusing Colin with Ben (at least I think I did, this page displays weirdly on my machine).

  7. Ben wrote to me:
    > For the record, “outright dumb” was a phrase I used twice and ironically. You’ve used it eleven times in ignoring the thrust of what I have to say.

    Well, Ben, I was answering your question in which you referred to the “outright dumb.” When you ask a question with some phrase in it, you should not be surprised when someone responds directly to your question.

    And, I *have* to ignore most of what you say! If I disagree with one of your sentences, it takes a paragraph to explain why. And then you respond with a paragraph for each of my sentences, and soon we are writing encyclopedias!

    No choice.

    If you mean that I am responding to things you said that you think less important than things I ignore, well, I have to decide what seems to me worth replying to.

    Again, no choice.

    Since we have radically different beliefs, it is no surprise that we differe radically on which of your statements are worth replying to.

    C’est la vie.

  8. Ben wrote to me:
    > Universal love, though all men fall short of this ideal, is still the principle which guides Christian moral theology. We defend love as an act of will towards the standard: an extreme understanding of agape, self-sacrificial love towards everyone. If we fall short, which we do, this does not in any way diminish the standard.

    I know that Christians keep claiming this; I think it is an obvious lie.

    When most Christians are willing to damn a God who would condemn billions of innocent people to Hell, then I will consider it.

    Will you, for example?

    Are you willing to say that if God condemns even one innocent person to Hell simply because that person does not accept Christianity, then you are willing to damn such a God?

    • Thank you again for your insights.

      I’ll ignore what must be a typo — innocent? if you’ve read Paul, you know first about original sin and second about all those other sins we’re so fond of — to resort to the always lucid Lewis:

      There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “All right, then, have it your way.”

      Hell is, essentially, the fulfillment of the wish.of those who wish God would just leave them alone. Moreover, you conflate “deserving Hell” with “finding yourself there.” Careful. As for those outside Christianity, I refer you to an earlier post, and I’ll excerpt:

      If it is possible for anyone outside the Church to nonetheless receive the grace of God — which it surely is if God freely gives and men freely accept such a gift, and Christians are not in the habit of limiting God in His omnipotence — it is not the ordinary means of receiving grace. It is, in an illustrative word, extraordinary.

      In the words of a Chestertonian literary avatar: “Why, the Catholics of the Catholic Middle Ages talked about the virtues of all the virtuous Pagans until humanity was sick of the subject.”

      • Ben wrote to me:
        >I’ll ignore what must be a typo — innocent? if you’ve read Paul, you know first about original sin and second about all those other sins we’re so fond of — to resort to the always lucid Lewis…

        Well, of course, you are being facetious in suggesting that it is a typo.

        And that is my main point.

        You Christians, who claim to be so full of universal love, insist on concocting this evil nonsense about “original sin” (can you find an explicit mention of this bizarre idea anywhere prior to Paul???) to declare that all of us deserve to go to Hell.

        That is *not* love.

        That is hatred.

        There is a reason that Tacitus said Christians were known for their “odium humani generis,” their hatred of the human race.

        Even though we have done nothing by any standard of reason that justifies eternal torture in Hell, still we deserve it because of Paul’s pathological concept of sin.

        Yes, I know Lewis’ rationalization; we all know that it is a rationalization, and that it covers up a simple reality: people, the vast majority of the human race, who honestly and sensibly conclude that the myths about Jesus are just what they obviously are, myths, and therefore reject Christianity, as Lewis himself once did, before he turned to the Dark Side.

        You say you want to understand how we anti-Christians think? Are you sincere?

        Well, it really should not be hard for you to see why, when we hear this doctrine that a normal ten-year-old child deserves to suffer eternal torment in Hell because of his “sin,” we basically want to throw up.

        It brings to mind, very seriously, Hitler’s saying that the Jews deserved to suffer for reasons that made no less sense at all than the reasons you Christians give.

        This is evil, evil on a colossal scale that no one seems to have imagined before the rise of Christianity. And from that evil quite logically flowed other evils: if Jews deserved (like all humans) to suffer for all eternity in Hell, and if they were going to so suffer since they had chosen to reject divine grace via Jesus, then why not give them a bit of a foretaste of divine torment with a bit of earthly torment in the here and now?

        And the same for heretics, Muslims, etc.

        All so very logical.

        Unless, of course, you see, as most of the human race does see, the utter illogic and breathtaking evil at the root of the whole system, the horrible condemning of the entire human race.

        Evil indeed. Monstrous, unspeakable, nauseating, breathtaking evil: that is Christianity.

        Not love at all, but horrifying evil: “odium humani generis.”

  9. Thank you again for your insights.

    Again, in the words of a Chestertonian literary avatar: “Why, the Catholics of the Catholic Middle Ages talked about the virtues of all the virtuous Pagans until humanity was sick of the subject.”

    Original sin is the diagnosis. It is only half of the message of Christianity, and it would be very bad news if it did not come with the hope of a cure. It cannot be hatred because we also preach of an even greater redemption. To use again your image of an AIDS researcher, is it hatred to recognize that AIDS exists if your goal is to purge it? I think it belies a kind of contempt to ignore cancer, to paraphrase Lewis again.

    “Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin.” I don’t see how you can explain human history without using something very much like “fallen nature” or “original sin” in your theory. You are welcome to try.

  10. Bem,

    First, there is an equivocation in the meaning of “original sin.” On the one hand, it is often used to simply point out that hman beings are not automatically angelic, that human beings often do nasty things, etc. I.e., it is clearly not part of the nature of our species that we are guaranteed to behave morally.

    No one really doubts that: it is basically equivalent to saying that we have free will.

    But that sense of “original sin” is a far cry from saying that all human beings are innately and inherently so evil that they deserve to spend all eternity being tormented in Hell. This second sense of “original sin,” let’s call it “innate depravity,” which is connected with such ideas as “With Adam’s fall/ We sinned all,” is the version really needed to get most of the human race to deserve to go to Hell.

    And it is that second sense that is monstrously and insanely evil in a moral sense. It condemns human beings independently of what they have actually done, just as Hitler did, or blows up trivial shortcomings so as to justify eternity in Hell.

    To call that “Hitlerian” is unfair even to Hitler, for even Hitler did not (and could not) torture his victims for all eternity.

    Second, Christianity most assuredly does not “come with the hope of a cure.” For one thing, as I just said, “original sin” in the relevant sense of innate depravity is a disease created by Christianity. As I asked earlier, can you come up with any example of this insanity before Paul? This hateful and evil idea is not obvious common sense, whether in ancient times or to most human beings today. It seems to be the invention of a deeply evil man, Paul. We have no serious indication that Jesus himself taught it during his life (I am discounting the bizarre Gospel of John, as most critical scholars do, as having no serious historical value).

    For another, after Christianity invents this “sickness” for most of the human race, it offers as a cure something that surely will not “cure” most of the human race: most people are just not outright dumb enough to buy the Christian myths as literal reality.

    If it was not obvious in Paul’s day, it is surely obvious by now, that the supposed “cure” that requires people to believe in very, very implausible fairy tales is a cure that cannot possibly be used by most of the human race. You cannot force yourself to believe in something, and most of the human race cannot force itself to believe in Christian myths.

    Of course, at one level, it does not matter: it is all a pack of lies, apparently invented by Paul, and so most of the human race will not really be going to Hell.

    But, at another level, it really does matter: Christian parents abuse their children with threats of Hellfire; for two millennia, Christians have emulated their God by treating non-believers just as they think He intends to treat those non-believers, etc.

    So, while the belief is nonsense, the holding of the belief has had horrifying, tragic consequences for the human race.

    Christianity is the Great Evil, the Great Satan, if you will, of human history.

    Your beliefs are satanic.

    Dave

  11. Ben wrote:
    >I don’t see how you can explain human history without using something very much like “fallen nature” or “original sin” in your theory. You are welcome to try.

    Ben, you really do not know the answer to that? Really?

    You have really had so little contact with non-Christians that you really think we are all deeply puzzled by why humans are often so rotten? Really?

    All educated people, and nearly all uneducated people, know the answer to that. Did you go to school?

    Humans often want things such as power, money, and sex that they can often get by doing nasty things to other humans – stealing, raping, enslaving, etc. They therefore often go ahead and steal, rape, or enslave to get what they want.

    Quite simple.

    You know anything about chimpanzee troops? Chimps can be very, very nasty to each other when they are competing for something they both want.

    And, humans separated from chimps only a few million years ago. Jared Diamond wrote a book a few years ago, The Third Chimpanzee: common chimps, bonobos, and humans are his three varieties of chimps.

    The interesting question is why humans are sometimes better to their fellows than chimps are. The answer seems to be our much bigger brain, which probably evolved largely to facilitate social interaction. We humans have learned that, sometimes, we can better get what we want by being less impulsive and by aiming for long-term cooperation with others. Some humans are a bit better at this than others.

    And, for a whole variety of reasons, cooperation tends to be strongest within small groups. But group loyalty often results into aggression towards those outside the group.

    All this exists among common chimps, but has developed further among humans.

    You *really* do not know this???? Really???

    Try reading Bob Wright’s The Moral Animal for a readable introduction to the literature.

    Of course, religions in general, and Christianity in particular, are largely “badges of group identity.” You prove your membership in, and loyalty to, the group by claiming to hold distinctive beliefs that humans who are not in the in-group would be very unlikely to hold. Of course, this facilitates aggression against those who are not part of the in-group, probably the most horrible example of this being Christianity itself, with its insistence that non-group-members deserve not just attack and murder but *eternal* torture in Hell.

    Most human beings, happily, are not quite as brutishly, chimpsihly aggressive towards their fellow human beings as Christians are.

    You really have never heard of this? You have no knowledge at all of evolutionary biology?

    Which planet have you lived on for the last thirty years?

    Dave

    • Thank you again for your insights.

      Fair call on the equivocation. That was never my intent. To solve the issue, let’s go back to the Catechism for an authoritative ruling. In short, original sin is a deprivation of the original justice and holiness granted by God.

      As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called “concupiscence”).

      It seems Lewis rather than Calvin has the best take on depravity, in any case. Sin is not that we’re so wicked we can’t even recognize our wickedness. As with all evil, it is a deprivation of an original good, not the substitution for something with some other thing.

      I have no doubt that there exists some, or more than some, lingering effects of apeness in our nature. It might even be possible that the original sin was disobedience to God by climbing up a certain tree to grasp a certain fruit, in line with an animal nature, man rejecting his human nature. That’s food for thought for some other day. It might make a good book.

      In any case, you miss exactly what I wrote. I said “very much like,” and you kindly provide an example. Do you realize that your doctrine of lingering apeness is very much like the fallen nature? As I discern it, the chief difference is that you do not posit that we fell once. You say we fall into unconscious apeness a great many times.

      For your part, I do see some equivocation on the nature of “all deserving damnation” line of attack. You cannot at once say that Christians say everyone, including Christians, deserves damnation to show an extreme hatred of men if you also say that it is merely a badge of identity supported by the evidence that Christians believe only non-group members deserve to go to Hell. Again: “Why, the Catholics of the Catholic Middle Ages talked about the virtues of all the virtuous Pagans until humanity was sick of the subject.” It is the pattern of Christians to praise goodness especially when they find it outside the group.

      There may be something in the unthinking disgust Pharisees have for publicans — “thank you, God, for not making me like him” — but everywhere in the Gospel is this behavior a counterexample.

      —–

      It is no surprise that if you discount part of the Gospel you create something different. It seems you’re more interested in creating a version you can more readily mock rather than engaging with it as it exists. You of all people know this is the textbook straw man.

      • Ben wrote:
        > It is no surprise that if you discount part of the Gospel you create something different. It seems you’re more interested in creating a version you can more readily mock rather than engaging with it as it exists. You of all people know this is the textbook straw man.

        No, no strawman at all: I’m just reporting the consensus of Biblical scholars, going back a very long time. Don’t blame me: blame the Biblical scholars! You need to study some Biblical scholarship (I recommend Bart Ehrman, but any standard text will do).

        I suspect that, if you check it out, you will find that even Catholic scholars agree that the Synpotic Gospels are more reliable historically than John.

        If you want my personal opinion, I doubt that even the Synoptics have much historical value: I think even the Synoptics consist almost completely of myths manufactured for tendentious theological purposes. But many Biblical scholars disagree with me on that point.

        Ben also wrote:
        > Sin is not that we’re so wicked we can’t even recognize our wickedness.

        I’m afraid you have caught yourself in a contradiction: you see the vast majority of the human race really does *not* “recognize our wickedness.” As you know, even a lot of Christians no longer believe in “original sin.” Nope, most of the human race embraces the Pelagian “heresy”: i.e., we believe we have the choice to be either good or wicked. I, of course, am glad for this, since, as you know, I love heresies.

        Ben also wrote:
        > Do you realize that your doctrine of lingering apeness is very much like the fallen nature? As I discern it, the chief difference is that you do not posit that we fell once. You say we fall into unconscious apeness a great many times.

        Oh, not at all. I do not think we have “lingering apeness.” I think, as I suppose all biologists think, that we *are* apes, one-hundred percent apes, through and through. And, I don’t think we “fall into unconscious apeness.” I think our similarity to other apes is usually quite conscious and intentional: you know, people who lie, rape, and kill to get what they want are usually quite aware of what they are doing! They do not “fall into” such behavior in a fit of absent-mindedness.

        You really do need to read more on evolutionary psychology. You see, science makes the Bible unnecessary, quite unnecessary. We now understand the origins of human nature far, far better than any of the authors of all those silly old Iron-Age myths in the Bible.

        And, so, we can stop the old hateful lies that say that most of the human race deserves eternal torture in Hell. Leave the evil darkness behind, Ben. Come out into the fresh light of modern scientific truth. Just try it: you’ll be a better man for the effort. Leave your evil past as a Christian behind you.

        You’ll feel better, not so hateful.

        Dave

  12. It’s impossible, Mr Baxter. It is becoming more and more clear the Dr Dave will not accept anything that disproves his beliefs.

    Dr Dave, I address one final set of questions to you (seeing as you did not respond to me earlier in the thread).

    Do you believe Catholicism is evil because of the actions of it’s followers?
    or
    Do you believe that Catholicism is evil because of the teachings of the Church?

    Please answer very clearly. I don’t need a long post filled with insults or credentials, or faux incredulity. Just tell me why you believe Catholicism is evil.

    • Thank you both for your insights.

      Colin: If a blog is a soapbox, then the example is more like Paul in the Areopagus than the advice to “kick the dust from our feet.” That said, I think responding much farther is best done as a formal entry.

      Dave: If we are not more than apes, we have no reason to behave otherwise. This means undermining every sensible moral code, as well as the therefore-incoherent claim of Christianity being the greatest possible evil. If Christianity is evil, then evil things exist. If you correctly say Christianity is evil, then men are capable of discerning evil and therefore that which is not evil. If this is the case, then I will side with the democracy of the dead — and all the living, at least moments they aren’t to careful — in believing firmly that we mustn’t behave like apes.

      Understanding human nature is not understanding the origins of human nature. A man who saw a brick thrown into a window may understand how the window came to be broken, but such knowledge is far less useful than the knowledge of the nature of broken windows, i.e. do not step on broken bits of window, broken windows no longer open usefully and neither do they close at all.

  13. The cartoon is not analogous to our situation. Dr Dave is making a verifiable claim: namely, that Catholicism is evil because of doctrine or practice. I am asking him which reason is his, so that I may show him either the corresponding citations in the Catechism disproving his proposition or the historical evidence discrediting his propaganda.

    It is not necessarily unreasonable to think that God does not exist. It is not unreasonable to argue against those who believe that God exists. It is unreasonable to put forth the previous claims, and then not accept any answer at all.

    I am not asking Dr Dave to accept Catholicism. I am not asking Dr Dave to embrace God, religion, or the supernatural in any degree. I am, in fact, not asking Dr Dave to make any logical leap at all. I’m not talking metaphysics. I am only asking Dr Dave to clearly and without bluster put forth the reason why he thinks Catholicism is “satanic,” “monstrous,” and “evil” (among other things), that I might disprove with cold, hard, godless logic his allegations.

    The question of whether God exists is debatable. The proposal that Catholicism is internally consistent, less so, but still arguable. The charge that Catholicism is evil is easily settled, so long as Dr Dave gives me a definite answer of why he thinks it evil.

    Will you do that for me, Dr Dave?

  14. [...] becomes relevant to the wider audience because your author, in a losing battle against his idol, his idle, his timesink, decided to recuse himself from the Internet, for all reasons but [...]

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