Comment: (Editor’s note: This one is a comment, a response, another comment and another response)
I do not view Christianity as a socially healthy phenomenon–I think it hurts far more than it helps, that it retards our growth globally. To prolong its survival isn’t an attractive proposition for me.
I do not question the contention that some pretty horrible things have been done by people who falsely took the name Christian. As you point out, this does not mean that Jesus is responsible for this bad bevavior done by hypocrites in his name or that this kind of behavior even represents the religion he established, but the honest truth is that believers cannot simply blow off these problems, even if they publicly reject the behavior.
I think it is worth noting a few things which Christianity has given us. I am a careful student of history and from my perspective here are a few things we would not have if not for the influence of Jesus Christ:
1. Science. Without the influence of Christian philosophy and Christian thinking, we would not have science today. I challenge anyone to dispute this. The idea of unchanging, universal laws of nature are the direct result logically and historically, of Christian philosophy.
2. Without the influence of the ministry of Jesus slavery would still be rampant everywhere in the world.
3. Without the influence of Christianity we would not have the concepts of human rights and women’s rights. No other culture except one influenced by the Bible has produced these things.
I cannot and will not claim Christianity, even real Christians, have a perfect social record, but I believe the world has been made a better place by the influence of Jesus Christ more than any other person who has lived.
I think real science predates Christianity–the Ionian philosophers, for example. I also think science had a long recovery period due to Christianity. I think those who went to great lengths to justify Christianity (St. Augustine, etc.), who invented doctrines after the fact, set mankind back immeasureably. I think Western civilization has been severely scarred by the psycological implications of these "popular" doctrines–original sin, etc. I think Christianity is in fact polytheistic (there is no mention of a Trinity in "canonical" books). I believe it fear-based and manipulative, built around control, both financially and mentally. I believe it retards independent thought, the right to question the absurd, cloaking itself in borrowed morality, constantly playing the good-cop/bad-cop routine. I believe those who controlled the course of Christianity (Constantine, etc.) did so for both personal and political reasons, again to manipulate popular thought and collective will. I believe the religion is completely contrived and concocted outside its supposed founder, Jesus. I believe it promotes a belief system he did not intend. I do not believe he is divine–not bad, but not god.
The slave issue is a red herring. It’s similar to asserting Lincoln freed the slaves here (he did no such thing, and in any event it was a war measure directed only at rebel-controlled areas). The other issues, too, all have historical precedents. Christianity could, out of necessity, been used as a convenient vehicle to accomplish the inevitable, but to attempt to credit it with such a diverse litany of accomplishments is, to me, fantastic. Do you really believe these things? It’s ok, but I just don’t see it.
I teach the history and philosophy of science. The Ionians came up with a kind of pre-science, but bottom line, virtually all the theories of Aristotle et al were ultimately completely disproved because they refused to do experiments. The Greek philosophy said that the creation is decrepit, decaying and, basically evil, so they were unwilling to get their hands dirty. The Greeks discovered part of the philosophy which is required to create science. The discovered that there is order in the universe, but because of their (in my opinion) false philosophy that the earth is bad, they failed to discover science. It was Roger Bacon, William of Ockham, Copernicus, Galileo and friends who invented science. They began with the following presuppositions (which includes the belief that creation is good, not evil):
1. The universe is governed by a single, ordered, unchanging set of physical laws (this presupposition came from their theology)
2.. The universe can be understood (this also came from their theology which said that God wants to be known)
3. The physical universe is not evil. The heavens and the earth declare the glory of God.
Read Galileo. He is great on this. He said that the creation and the divine word both reflect the glory of God and reveal him to us. He proposed to investigate that creation through experimentation and the forming of theories.
No, the Ionians definitely did not discover the scientific method. The reason they did not is that their philosophy was not suited to this discovery. I believe it is because their assumptions, specifically about the evil nature of physical things, were wrong. It was correct Christian philosophy which led to the discovery of science. This is a historical fact.
I agree that Augustine set humanity and Christianity back a lot with his false doctrine of original sin and predestination. Unfortunately, Baptist theology mimics the false theology of Augustine. I respect a lot about Augustine. He was a brilliant man, but he made the mistake of assuming predestination—that human beings have no choice and part in salvation. I agree that this decision set about a series of events with a very lamentable conclusion. So, you and I have a big problem with Augustine, although I assume that if you read Augustine you will agree with me that he was a brilliant philosopher. Original sin and predestination gave the Roman church an excuse for some bad behavior. Please do not blame the Bible, God, or true Christianity for this mistake.
I agree that there have been negative psychological consequences of Augustinianism. However, I believe that there are even more serious negative consequences to the choice that the atheist makes which is to reject the idea of absolute morality and truth altogether. The idea that individuals have no intrinsic value (atheism, naturalism) is not a psychologically healthy belief. The idea that we are random accidents, with no purpose, no direction and no meaning is not a helpful philosophy toward psychological health. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. I agree that Augustinianism was an unhealthy perversion of Christian thinking, but I also believe that competitor world views ought to be held to scrutiny as well. However, I find myself agreeing with you on these points!!!
Christianity is definitely not polytheistic. There is no mention of the word trinity in the Bible. This is true. The word was invented by Tertullian at the end of the second century. However, the idea that God is revealed in more than one aspect or person is biblical, as I could show by many passages. If your claim is that the word trinity is not found in the Bible, then that is true. In fact, the word comes from Latin, not Greek. If your claim that the Nicene definition of God is not in agreement with biblical teaching, then I am afraid I cannot agree with you on that.
I am an independent thinker on almost every level I can think of, so I cannot accept that the nature of biblical theology demands lack of independent thinking. Augustine is a good example of a fantastically clear thinker who was also a devoted Christian (even though I disagree with his predestination because of my independent thinking and reading of the Bible). If you mean that accepting truth exists (and that therefore those who disagree are wrong) is lack of independent thinking, then I believe your thinking is not clear. If you mean that many Christians do not think clearly and independently, then I guess I will have to agree with that, but will point out that this is not limited to Christians. I agree that those who had a strong influence on the path of historical Christianity had mixed motives. ALL of us have mixed motives. The question is not whether people in the history of Christianity made mistakes and had mixed motives, but whether Jesus Christ is the Messiah and the Bible is inspired by God. I believe the answer is yes on both cases. Christian history is not inspired by God. You do not reject atheism or any other ism because some of them who hold to these ideas do bad things. You should reject an idea because it is not true, not because of inconsistent behavior of those who hold to it. Many believers in gravity are real jerks, but I still believe in gravity. I have investigated the Christian claim and found it to hold up to reason, logic, evidence, experience and every other kind of investigation. I have found it to do so immensely better than any other world view, including scientific materialism, postmodernism, existentialism, Buddhism, Hinduism, atheism, etc…. I have thoroughly investigated all these philosophies (admittedly some more thoroughly than others) and concluded that the Christian idea is the only one which is consistent with reality and which answers the important questions.
That is my conclusion…..
Your criticism are mostly with Christianity so-called, not with actual Christian ideas. Not that NONE of your criticisms are of actual Christianity—some of them are legitimate challenges to actual Christianity, but relatively few are. I think we should clear the table and discuss the criticism of the things actually said and done by Jesus and the things found in the scriptures.
If the slave issue is a red herring, then please explain why this is so. The work of William Wilberforce and his allies did the trick. You can try to ignore this if you like, but this is no red herring. It was the idea of individual dignity, which came from the Christian idea of a personal God with a personal relationship with individuals which led to the idea of individual human rights. Atheism certainly does not lead to the idea of the dignity of the individual. That’s for sure. My value according to scientific materialism a few dollars (for the chemicals of which I am composed), or perhaps value as a set of genetic material (of which I should make as many copies as possible, no matter the consequences). Atheism could not be a moral force to eliminate slavery. Neither could Hinduism or dualism or Stoicism or Postmodernism. In any case, the historical case is a matter of record. I am NOT talking about Abraham Lincoln, although it is worth noting that the principle force behind the abolitionist movement in the US was Christian groups.
The abolition of slavery was not inevitable. If you think so, I suggest you look more closely at history. It was the convictions of certain individuals that this was morally wrong. That is the evidence of the abolitionist movement in England, where the entire world movement to eliminate slavery began.
You say that Christianity is completely contrived. This is such a vague claim that I do not know how to respond. Which belief we find in the Bible did Jesus reject? I am not talking about Catholicism or Baptistism or…. I am talking about biblical Christianity. Specifically, which biblical teaching do you think Jesus would reject, and what is your evidence for this? We need clear thinking and evidence, not slogans and simple unsupported statements.