‘Christian’ Putin Targeting Other Christians in Ukraine

As innumerable Christian right figures in this country praise Vladimir Putin for his brutal crackdown on gay rights (the type they still dearly wish they could do in this country), the New York Times reports that Russian forces are targeting Christians in the Ukraine who aren’t Russian Orthodox.

Since they began their drive to grab chunks of territory back in April, pro-Russian insurgents have repeatedly shifted their political agenda, undecided over whether they want eastern Ukraine to become part of Russia, an independent country or an autonomous region of Ukraine in a loose federal state.

Throughout, however, leaders have declared themselves bearers of the banner of “Holy Rus,” both a theological concept akin to the Kingdom of Heaven and a reference to a state in the Middle Ages that comprised the territory of modern Ukraine, Belarus and western Russia.

Embracing Orthodox Christianity as a force to unite these now divided Slavic lands and also their own fractured movement, the rebels, fortified recently by an influx of weapons and soldiers from Russia, used their period in power here purging Slovyansk of rival Christian denominations.

They seized the Good News Church, a large evangelical complex, moving in Russian icons and replacing Protestant services with Orthodox ones. They parked tanks in the center’s gardens and, blessed by Russian Orthodox priests chanting prayers, began lobbing shells at Ukrainian forces outside town. When the rebels fled, they needed two big trucks to haul all their weaponry.

Petr Dudnik, the Good News Church pastor, said he did not know who exactly was behind the takeover but said it fit into a long campaign by the Russian Orthodox Church to portray competing denominations, particularly evangelicals, as a heretical fifth column inspired and financed by the United States…

“We cannot ignore the fact that the conflict in the Ukraine has unambiguous religious overtones” Patriarch Kirill I, the Moscow-based head of the Russian church and its Ukrainian affiliate, wrote in a recent appeal to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Istanbul, the Orthodox faith’s most senior cleric. Accusing rival churches, including a breakaway Ukrainian Orthodox church, of persecuting believers who obey the Moscow patriarchate, he cast efforts by the Ukrainian military to confront Russian-backed rebels as a religious war intended to “overpower the canonical Orthodox Church.”

Rival church leaders say there is indeed a religious struggle underway but insist its root cause is political and what they see as the Moscow patriarchate’s role as an instrument of Kremlin policy. “Patriarch Kirill has become part of the Russian government, and it is in this light that his words and actions should be perceived,” said Patriarch Filaret, the head of an Orthodox hierarchy based in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital…

The Moscow church has avoided giving explicit support for separatist gunmen but made no effort to rein in pro-Russian fighters who, claiming to serve the Russian Orthodox Church, imposed a reign of terror on Slovyansk marked by murders, kidnappings and general thuggery.

Among their principal targets were Christians defiant of the Moscow church’s claims of religious primacy and suspected of connections with the West.

“Their logic is simple: You are an American church and America is our enemy so we have to kill you,” said Mr. Dudnik, the evangelical pastor. No one at his center had been killed, he said but added that the rebels had murdered four evangelical Christians from another Slovyansk church.

But remember, Scott Lively says that Putin is creating a “beacon of freedom to those who love God‘s design for the family.” And Pat Buchanan says that God is now on Putin’s side, along with all the other praise from Christian right leaders. They apparently are okay with Putin attacking other Christians, as long as he goes after gay people too.

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  • colnago80

    And Pat Buchanan says that God is now on Putin’s side, along with all the other praise from Christian right leaders

    I’m sure that when Putin goes after the Raping Children Church, ole Pat will warble a different tune.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eo.raptor.3 eoraptor

    Does anyone really think this Putin guy, former Colonel of the infamous KGB, really buys into any of this religious mumbo-jumbo? Sure, it’s a handy tool in the empire building repertoire, but one doesn’t have to believe it to use it.

  • sugarfrosted

    @1 They probably already are and Pat is too stupid to notice.

  • Michael Heath

    The NYTs article reports:

    Rival church leaders say there is indeed a religious struggle underway but insist its root cause is political and what they see as the Moscow patriarchate’s role as an instrument of Kremlin policy.

    Whoosh of the year? Authoritarians leverage the religious to achieve their political objectives. That doesn’t absolve religion, it instead indicts religion.

    Conservative religions develop and rely on defective thinking skills in its congregants; that makes those congregants such a ripe demographic to leverage because they’re so easily manipulated by the authority figures with whom they identify.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    Does anyone really think this Putin guy, former Colonel of the infamous KGB, really buys into any of this religious mumbo-jumbo? Sure, it’s a handy tool in the empire building repertoire, but one doesn’t have to believe it to use it.

    Uh oh, you apparently were left of the distribution list:

    MEMO

    TO: Everyone

    FROM: Atheist Central

    Please remember that everyone who claims to be a Christian, is. And (win-win) the worse their behavior, the more genuine– the more of a True Christian™ they are. All suggestions that maybe, just maybe they are simply being manipulative are to be summarily dismissed with a blanket No True Scotsman charge. That is all.

  • D. C. Sessions

    The first priority is to stand up for religious authoritarianism — once that’s normalized, they can fight over who is in charge, just as it always was.

    Look back over Europe’s Wars of Religion and what stands out is that they were fine with people who changed sides as the wind blew, but anyone who questioned the Natural Order (with princes, religious or otherwise, in charge) was going to be in the crossfire. And, to be fair, history has proven them right: once the so-called “Enlightenment” set in, all of them lost out. It wasn’t just a shift in the balance between one sect and another.

    As for those Heterodox Christians in Ukraine, don’t worry. They haven’t been forgotten. Their time will come and they’ll be marched out to rally against the Russian Heretics, just not now.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Why the scare quotes for “‘Christian’ Putin”?

    Intra-Christian violence has featured in that religion since at least the Council of Nicaea.

  • D. C. Sessions

    heddle:

    Please remember that everyone who claims to be a Christian, is.

    I’m anxious to hear from you how else those of us who make no claim to being Christian religious authorities should proceed.

    For instance: Pope Francis, Barack Obama, you, the Russian Patriarch, Putin, and Mitt Romney all claim to be Christians. I’m pretty sure that if we put all of you into a room to discuss the matter you wouldn’t all agree. So who are we, who explicitly reject all of your sets’ teachings, to claim a higher authority to decide?

  • Michael Heath

    eoraptor writes:

    Does anyone really think this Putin guy, former Colonel of the infamous KGB, really buys into any of this religious mumbo-jumbo? Sure, it’s a handy tool in the empire building repertoire, but one doesn’t have to believe it to use it.

    I have two competing conclusions based on Bob Altemeyer’s work on authoritarians and that being a defective thinking attribute.

    Vladimir Putin first appeared to be a classic example of a social dominator. From this perspective he does know better and is cynically exploiting authoritarians. There are many authoritarians to exploit in Russia given the Russian Orthodox Church and the legacy of the Soviet regime.

    However, Mr. Putin’s arguments on the Ukraine when this issue first came out were classic examples of the same delusional thinking that we see from conservative Christians here in the states, i.e., authoritarian thinking. I have no idea if Putin’s devout or not, but he was exhibiting the behavior of an authoritarian in his initial engagements with the public on the Ukraine. If this thinking does define him, then he’s a “double high”, both a social dominator and an authoritarian. They’re the worst sort because they actually believe their own bullshit while having the talent to manipulate the authoritarians who identify them as part of their tribal hierarchy.

    Consider Mitt Romney. When he first started running for president in 2008 and then again in 2012 the media was spinning a story line whose facts argued he was a social dominator. That Romney was really a moderate who knew better and was merely posing as a conservative in order to win.

    But when the media really started to drill down on Romney deep into the 2012 campaign season, it became clearly evident he was also an authoritarian. One illustration of the latter attribute was his shock at losing the election in 2012, in spite of the fact the odds were strongly against him during the entire campaign with little chance of changing that by early-summer of 2012.

    So now we know Romney used his social dominance skills not to play conservatives in the presidential campaign, but instead to play moderates and liberals when he was a Massachusetts-only politician. The real Romney was the guy claiming the 47% were takers to be reviled.

  • colnago80

    Re Michael Heath @ #9

    Mitt Romney violates the old saw that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Mitt’s father, George, was a standup guy, Mitt is a putz. This apple fell very far from the tree.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Mr. Heath:

    Picking a nit on terminology, Altemeyer describes two types of “right wing authoritarians:” the high-RWA followers, and the high-RWA leaders. Most of his book deals with the followers, and the leaders are somewhat different in, for instance, their willingness to compromise. Both, however, are authoritarians.

    And yes, I realize that social dominance theory takes the “follower vs. leader” distinction and runs with it to a much greater extent than Altemeyer describes. However, no matter which way you slice it Putin (and Romney) are RW authoritarians. Infact, you could make a pretty good case that both Soviet Russia and the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints were both so well-structured to produce RWA followers that they might as well have been designed for the purpose.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eo.raptor.3 eoraptor

    Infact, you could make a pretty good case that both Soviet Russia and the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints were both so well-structured to produce RWA followers that they might as well have been designed for the purpose.

    What makes you think they weren’t?

  • colnago80

    Re D. C. Sessions @ #8

    You have forgotten that the blog’s resident physics professor and former math department chairman is the self appointed arbiter of who is and who is not a Christian.

    Actually, in the case of Putin, I tend to agree with him. IMHO, like Schicklgruber, he is a Christian by convenience because it is helpful to his cause.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Mitt’s father, George, was a standup guy, Mitt is a putz. This apple fell very far from the tree.

    George grew up in Mexico and other places where he was constantly interacting with “gentiles” and more to the point, people who were different from him in many other ways. Mitt grew up surrounded not only by the Mormon church and other Mormons, but in the upper strata of that society.

    George had to work for everything he got. Mitt thought it was a terrible privation when he had to spend some of his stock portfolio to continue at Harvard, or to live in a house with servants in Paris.

  • D. C. Sessions

    What makes you think they weren’t?

    Do I?

  • D. C. Sessions

    You have forgotten that the blog’s resident physics professor and former math department chairman is the self appointed arbiter of who is and who is not a Christian.

    And therefore, precisely my point: we are not qualified to say of this one “he is a follower of Christ” and of that one, “he is not a follower of Christ.” Perhaps heddle could clarify that point for us, but I suspect that he has other responsibilities than to be on 24/7 call to make those rulings for unbelievers.

    Looks like, absent reliable authority, we’ll just have to take people at their word.

  • rabbitscribe

    I’m pretty sure it’s reasonable to refer to the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church as a Christian. If you want to split hairs, Russian Holy Orthodox Christians are persecuting Russian Evangelical Protestant Christians and there hasn’t been a peep about it from American Evangelical Protestant Christians because apparently minor issues like a completely different, “grace plus works” Gospel, different Bibles, etc. are trumped by the doctrinally non-negotiable “hate the gays” issue.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    D. C. Sessions says,

    we’ll just have to take people at their word.

    Why? Notable atheist Jerry Coyne considers our president to be a manipulative liar.

    Contrary to colnago80 ‘s oft-repeated falsehood–you cannot find one instance where I have stated someone (who makes the claim) is not a true Christian. I only point out that in a case such as Putin it is worth considering the possibility that he is faking it for political purposes.

  • sinned34

    All suggestions that maybe, just maybe they are simply being manipulative are to be summarily dismissed with a blanket No True Scotsman charge.

    Because True Christians could never be manipulative. It also doesn’t help that there are around 5,000 different flavours of “Christian”, so it can be difficult to determine whether a person who calls themselves “Christian” can be accurately considered as such. This is further complicated by the fact that, unlike those few idiot atheists that claim “Christians all really know there isn’t a god”, I can’t read minds, so I can’t tell if Putin is just manipulating a certain variant of Christians for political gain, if he actually is a committed member of said Christian sect, or some combination of the two. We have little choice but to take him at his word and note that he seems to be an authoritarian version of a Russian Orthodox Christian.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    We have little choice but to take him at his word and note that he seems to be an authoritarian version of a Russian Orthodox Christian.

    That’s a cop-out. I’ll once again refer to a wise-atheist Jason Rosenhouse who stated something to the effect that “If you say you are a Christian and you claim Elvis was the Christ, then you are not a Christian.” He also stated something more nuanced, that people like Bishop Spong–who claim to be Christian but deny the deity of Christ, are not in any meaningful sense of the word, Christian.

    Not to mention that Christians are supposed to judge other Christians by their fruit. If there is not fruit (whatever that means), then we are to regard them as unbelievers.

  • kraut

    The political idiocies of the western presstitutes never cease to amaze. What has Putin to do with the tactical situation on the ground in Novorussia? If Putin really would support the NAF to the extent claimed by the western Nato shills – the forces of the Kiev fascist supported and upheld government would simply not stand a chance. There would be air support, massive heavy armament delivery to the militias.

    “I have always said that the interests of Russia and Novorussia are not the same. For one thing, Putin was not elected to fix the Ukraine or, much less so, start a war with NATO. My personal sympathies go to both the people of Russia and the People of Novorussia, whom I see as one and the same, really. But the fact is that Novorussia is not part of Russia (yet?) and that the people of Novorussia have not elected Putin to represent or, even less so, defend them. The Russian people have. Putin clearly has his first priority the interests of Russia and the Russian people who have elected him, and this is how it should be. To expect him to have a higher loyalty to the Novorussian people would be simply foolish. But these self-evident facts do not mean that Putin does not care or wants to “sell out” Novorussia.”

    http://vineyardsaker.blogspot.ca/

  • kraut

    http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/09/09/ukraine-crisis-remains-unresolved-paul-craig-roberts/

    “Washington has no interest in resolving the troubles in Ukraine. Washington has successfully used Ukraine to create fear of Russia both in Europe and in the United States. Washington has successfully used Ukraine to damage European-Russian economic and political relations, and Washington has succeeded in starting a new Cold War that will keep profits flowing into the US military/security complex.”

    a different analysis than what Mr. Brayton, obviously a spokesperson for Neocon interest when it comes to certain US foreign policies tends to propagate when it comes to Nato vs. Russia..

  • http://www.facebook.com/eo.raptor.3 eoraptor

    Let me say again, Putin was a fooken colonel in the USSR KGB! I suppose it’s possible fooled all his KGB cohorts about his religious convictions (actually, lack thereof) so as to attain his status as an upper echelon thug. But, the odds seem mightily against it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/den.wilson d.c.wilson

    eoraptor @23:

    It’s also possible that Putin had a late in life conversion after the fall of the Soviet Union. I tend to lean to toward the cynically manipulating the masses by publicly appearing Christian theory myself, however. Then again, I also believe that there have been many popes, patriarchs, bishops, protestant ministers, etc who had a good “Can you believe they’re buying this shit?” laugh behind closed doors as they counted their money.

  • sinned34

    That’s a cop-out. I’ll once again refer to a wise-atheist Jason Rosenhouse who stated something to the effect that “If you say you are a Christian and you claim Elvis was the Christ, then you are not a Christian.

    I disagree that it’s a cop-out. Yes, if somebody holds a belief that contradicts what is commonly considered a central tenet to a major religion, it’s likely they shouldn’t really be considered part of that religion. But what qualifies as a central tenet? Is the Trinity a central tenet? Because there are lots of otherwise Christian sects that don’t believe in it. Catholics believe the Pope is God’s messenger on Earth. The Jehovah’s Witnesses think that of the Watchtower Society. Evangelical Christians think glossalia is evidence of the Holy Spirit. What if the “Christian” in Jason’s example says Elvis was the modern embodiment of Christ? If Christians can’t agree on which of these is true, then how can you expect non-Christians to make that judgement?

    To reverse this, if a person claims to be an atheist, saying they don’t believe there’s a god, but that they believe in astrology, are they still an atheist? What if they believe in reincarnation? Leprechauns? Demons?

    Not to mention that Christians are supposed to judge other Christians by their fruit. If there is not fruit (whatever that means), then we are to regard them as unbelievers.

    I’d say that the Russian Orthodox church looks to be doing just that to the Evangelical Christians in the Ukraine.

  • http://artk.typepad.com ArtK

    @heddle

    Why? Notable atheist Jerry Coyne considers our president to be a manipulative liar.

    Impressive side-step there. A couple of more inches and you would have reached a non sequitur. There’s a substantive difference between a person’s statement of fact about themselves, “I am a Christian” or “I am an atheist” and a statement of opinion about another person (“Obama is a poopy-head.”) If you honestly can’t tell the difference between those two, then I pity your students. If you can tell the difference between the two, then you are being disingenuous here at best.

    Not to mention that Christians are supposed to judge other Christians by their fruit. If there is not fruit (whatever that means), then we are to regard them as unbelievers.

    Great! That starts the ball rolling. All D.C.Sessions, or I, or anybody else here want is a usable rubric so that we can tell Christian from non-Christian. So, is Putin a Christian or not? How do you judge his fruit? You claim doubt as to what “fruit” is in this sense, so how are you able to decide whether someone is a Christian or an unbeliever by this criterion? Are there other, more concrete criteria that we can use? If you can’t provide any kind of usable criteria, then I’m afraid all we have to go by is people’s claims about themselves. That’s the only evaluate-able evidence that we’ve got.

    Defining a term like “Christian” with an otherwise undefined term (“fruit”) makes the definition useless. In mathematics that would be like defining a “field” in terms of a “commutative ring” without defining what a “ring” is. It tells us nothing.

    Further, you say that “Christians are supposed to judge Christians…”. So what do the rest of us use to decide who is a Christian and who isn’t? I don’t want to paint Christians in a bad light. I don’t want to stumble on a No True Scotsman. But to do that, I have to know what a True Scotsman is.

  • eric

    Heddle:

    I only point out that in a case such as Putin it is worth considering the possibility that he is faking it for political purposes.

    No, that’s not what you did. Your very first post on this thread was a sarcastic attack on a person who said exactly that – that Putin is faking it.

    The most rational and reasonable “point” to be drawn from your @5 post is that you intended it as a bit of off-topic poop slinging at the (gnu) atheism movement.

  • dmcclean

    That’s a cop-out. I’ll once again refer to a wise-atheist Jason Rosenhouse who stated something to the effect that “If you say you are a Christian and you claim Elvis was the Christ, then you are not a Christian.”

    Wait a second, heddle, back up the train. That’s a cop-out. Why should only those who claim that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ be worthy of the name Christian? Christ is a title (which I’m sure you know, but others potentially may not), not a name. Sure, Elvis might be a ridiculous person to choose, so I’ll grant that slightly. But why should atheists be dragged in to deciding who “really” was or was not “the Christ”?

    Is it just “neener, neener, Jesus claimed it first and won the race to the trademark office, sorry Jews” so now no one else can claim it, even if Jesus was a pretender and the “real” Christ comes tomorrow? Because in that case, the Wikipedia article thinks that someone I’ve never heard of named Judas Maccabeus beat your guy to it by almost two centuries.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    ArtK ,

    There’s a substantive difference between a person’s statement of fact about themselves, “I am a Christian” or “I am an atheist” and a statement of opinion about another person

    Irrelevant. Try again. eoraptor said (paraphrase): Putin says he is a Christians, but I don’t think so.” . Coyne said (paraphrase) Obama says he is a Christian, but I don’t think so. Those are exactly the same. No difference to be found.

    If you honestly can’t tell the difference between those two, then I pity your students.

    Generally, I consider anyone who resorts to the cheap “I pity your students” (whether it is with me or with, say PZ) to be an idiot.

    Great! That starts the ball rolling. All D.C.Sessions, or I, or anybody else here want is a usable rubric so that we can tell Christian from non-Christian. So, is Putin a Christian or not?

    You missed the nuance. I tried to help with italics in #20. I didn’t say that you judged (by fruit) whether they were a Christian (which is impossible) but whether you should regard them as a Christian. So your question should be whether I would regard or treat Putin as a Christian. For example, if he showed up at my church, would I serve him communion?

    So what do the rest of us use to decide who is a Christian and who isn’t?

    Common sense. You can read the NT (or just from ridimentary knowledge) and get a picture of how Christians are supposed to act. You can get a sense of minimal doctrine–e.g., Jesus is a deity. Then you can judge. As Jason Rosenhouse did. As Jerry Coyne did. As eoraptor did. It’s not rocket science.

    Eric,

    No, that’s not what you did. Your very first post on this thread was a sarcastic attack on a person who said exactly that – that Putin is faking it.

    You missed the boat on that. It wasn’t a sarcastic attack on him (or her), but a sarcastic attack on almost everyone else. I didn’t attack eoraptor, I applaud eoraptor (and Rosenhouse and Coyne) for not succumbing to the “everyone who says he is a Christian, is cop out.

  • dmcclean

    Phenomenal point, #27, I didn’t even notice that on my first reading of the thread. Spot on.

  • dmcclean

    Heddle, good response in the end of 29 which I didn’t see before 30. Your comment at 5 can indeed be read that way, so I retract 30.

    Common sense. You can read the NT (or just from ridimentary knowledge) and get a picture of how Christians are supposed to act. You can get a sense of minimal doctrine–e.g., Jesus is a deity.

    This can only happen after we accept your religious tenet that the character Jesus of Nazareth in the NT is the Christ, begging the question.

  • colnago80

    Re Heddle @ #20

    The the blog’s resident physics professor and former math department chairman would then disagree with his pal Michael Heath that Thomas Jefferson was a Christian because he attended Episcopal services. Jefferson rejected the Virgin Birth, the miracle stories in both the Hebrew and Christian bibles, the Resurrection, the divinity of Yeshua ben Yusef of Nazareth, and the Trinity.

  • http://artk.typepad.com ArtK

    @ heddle

    ArtK ,

    There’s a substantive difference between a person’s statement of fact about themselves, “I am a Christian” or “I am an atheist” and a statement of opinion about another person

    Irrelevant. Try again. eoraptor said (paraphrase): Putin says he is a Christians, but I don’t think so.” . Coyne said (paraphrase) Obama says he is a Christian, but I don’t think so. Those are exactly the same. No difference to be found.

    A side-step on a side-step. We’re dancing! That was not what you said about Coyne. You said that he considers Obama to be a malicious liar. Which is a statement about another person. I’m not taking Coyne at his word. I’m going to take Obama, or you at your word, in how you describe yourselves. That’s because the only criterion that I have is that self-declaration. I don’t know, or really care, what criteria Coyne uses. The fact that he’s an atheist carries absolutely no weight with me as far as his judgment about whether Obama is actually a Christian or not.

    You missed the nuance. I tried to help with italics in #20. I didn’t say that you judged (by fruit) whether they were a Christian (which is impossible) but whether you should regard them as a Christian. So your question should be whether I would regard or treat Putin as a Christian. For example, if he showed up at my church, would I serve him communion?

    I’m sorry, but you’re avoiding the point by being picky about the choice of words. You used the term “judge.” The fact that the result is “regard”, doesn’t take that away. How do I “judge” in order to “regard” someone as a Christian or not? For the sake of avoiding the side-step, I’ll use your terminology. Would you regard Putin as a Christian? Should I regard Putin as a Christian? If I say “Putin is a Christian,” would you object to that statement? If I said “Putin and Heddle are Christians,” would you object to that one?

  • colnago80

    Re Kraut @ #22

    Paul Craig Roberts? Roberts is a crackpot economist who pushed the fraud known as supply side economics during the administration of Ronnie the rat. He’s about as reliable a source of information and commentary as the Hun’s heroes Phillip Weiss and Max Blumenthal.

  • http://artk.typepad.com ArtK

    @ heddle

    (Darn… italics failure in my last comment.)

    Common sense. You can read the NT (or just from ridimentary knowledge) and get a picture of how Christians are supposed to act. You can get a sense of minimal doctrine–e.g., Jesus is a deity. Then you can judge. As Jason Rosenhouse did. As Jerry Coyne did. As eoraptor did. It’s not rocket science.

    “Judge” or “regard”? Please decide what terms you’re going to use!

    Your point about the NT is fine. If that’s your proposed rubric, I may be able to accept it. But in that case, there are perhaps a handful of Christians in the world. In fact, the majority of the people I’ve met who act like Christians are supposed to, according to the NT, are avowedly not Christian. Makes your rubric weak. If using self-description as a criterion produces false positives, using NT behavior as a criterion produces false positives as well. It may tell me who may be a Christian, but it’s useless for telling me who isn’t one. (Or, to remain consistent, who I should regard as a non-Christian.)

    Also “common sense” is a lousy condition. I’m surprised that someone with a physics and mathematics background would use it. There’s a lot of physics that defines “common sense.” What is “common sense” in any case? Do we have the same set of “common sense”? By using that term, you don’t answer anything, you just push the answer one level deeper. There’s no definition for “common sense” so a definition of “Christian” that uses it, isn’t a definition at all. You see, I want “rocket science”, not hand-waving. As the cartoon goes, I think you need to be more explicit in step 2.

    I really hope you don’t teach logic.

  • dmcclean

    Can we please drop the “Schicklgruber” nonsense? The person to whom colnago80 is referring at 13 was never named Schicklgruber at any point in his life, his father changed his last name to Hitler 12 years before the person in question was born.

    What exactly is supposed to be the point of insisting upon calling this person Schicklgruber, colnago80?

  • whheydt

    Re: heddle @ #29…

    You can read the NT (or just from ridimentary knowledge) and get a picture of how Christians are supposed to act.

    By that standard, it would be virtually impossible to find anyone in public life that could pass as a Christian.But, isn’t it something of a Christian truism that “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven”? Not to mention the very common trope of “all men are sinners.” Given those usages, one cannot, therefore tell if someone is or is not a Christian just by comparing their behavior to the Biblical expectations…and one is back to accepting self-definition.

    (And if it comes to that…how can a non-Christian tell if *you* are actually a Christian? Everyone here has just been taking you at your word on that point…)

  • http://artk.typepad.com ArtK

    @ dmcclean

    I regard the “Frankenberger” and “Schiklgruber” as an odd case of Tourette’s. I have some pity for colnago80 for suffering from this. In etiquette, we have the “polite fiction” that nobody farts; I think we need to just apply the same “polite fiction” to colnago80’s verbal farts.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    ArtK,

    You said that he considers Obama to be a malicious liar. Which is a statement about another person. I’m not taking Coyne at his word. I’m going to take Obama, or you at your word, in how you describe yourselves.

    Actually I said that Coyne considers Obama to be a manipulative liar. Did you read the link? It begins with Coyne writing:

    Obama is a smart man, smart enough to know that unless he pretends to the trappings of faith, he has no credibility with the American people.

    I stand by the comment that Coyne called Obama a manipulative liar. According to Coyne, Obama is lying about his beliefs to manipulate the electorate. And he says that because he, an atheist, judges Obama not to be a True Christian. Furthermore I would argue that eoraptor (who can correct me if I am wrong) is, in effect, calling Putin a manipulative liar. So, once again: same thing. Not different. As for you taking Obama, or Putin, or me, or anyone at their word–that’s your prerogative. Obviously Coyne and Rosenhouse and eoraptor think differently. They believe that words like “Christian” have meaning.

    “Judge” or “regard”? Please decide what terms you’re going to use!

    I used both intentionally. Once again: Christians judge others who claim the title by their fruit (deeds). Based on that judgment they decide–not whether that person is a Christian (for, who can say?) but whether to regard that person as a Christian. If necessary, to excommunicate them. For example, I would have excommunicated Fred Phelps because I regarded him as an apostate. This is done with the complete understanding that you might be be excommunicating a Christian (or canonizing an unbeliever)–you can’t see inside them. So you are correct–this results in both false positives and false negatives.

    Also “common sense” is a lousy condition. I’m surprised that someone with a physics and mathematics background would use it.

    Well yeah, and you feel sorry for my students too. I get that. Personally I like using common sense, even in physics.

    I really hope you don’t teach logic.

    Fair enough–I really hope you were not one of my students.

    whheydt

    By that standard, it would be virtually impossible to find anyone in public life that could pass as a Christian.

    Yep. If they have to fulfill the responsibility perfectly. That is why the standard we use is not perfection. It is looking at someone and asking yourself–based on what I know about Christianity does that person make a reasonable (though flawed) approximation? The will be a lot of subjectivity–but clearly atheists like Coyne and Rosenhouse and someone like eoraptor (whose religiosity I don’t know) think that one can make a reasonable assessment. Are they all wrong?

    And someone like Coyne, I speculate, also grasps that perfection to the Christian ideal (as he understands it) is not the appropriate standard. I think Coyne would say some of the things Dembski does/did (or I do, if I was on his radar) are not the ideal, but he would probably not say that Dembski is not a Christian. But about Obama, he concluded differently. Even though like Dembski, Obama self-identifies as a Christian.

  • http://artk.typepad.com ArtK

    @ heddle

    It would be easier to compress a water balloon than have an honest debate with you

    Fair enough–I really hope you were not one of my students.

    No fear. I had professors who would actually debate the topic (which is “how do tell who is a Christian or not”) and not weasel out by latching on to irrelevant things.

    You’ve avoided my fundamental question, so let me pose it again (you may freely substitute “judge” for “regard”):

    Would you regard Putin as a Christian? Should I regard Putin as a Christian? If I say “Putin is a Christian,” would you object to that statement? If I said “Putin and Heddle are Christians,” would you object to that one?

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    ArtK,

    Would you regard Putin as a Christian?

    I have no opinion in the matter. I do not know enough about him.

    Should I regard Putin as a Christian?

    That’s entirely up to you. The point I am trying to make is that it is more reasonable (and honest) to look at Putin and say 1) He seems like a Christian to me or 2) He doesn’t seem like a Christian to me or 3) I don’t have enough information, as opposed to the cop out: 4) Well, he says he’s a Christian, that’s good enough for me.

    If I say “Putin is a Christian,” would you object to that statement?

    Not in principle. But if you added “because he says he is” then we would be back at square one, and I’d be asking you what you thought about Coyne saying Obama is not a Christian is spite of the fact that Obama says he is, and we’d be back to you insanely saying that that was somehow different.

    If I said “Putin and Heddle are Christians,” would you object to that one?

    Same question, same answer. Adding my name doesn’t change anything.

  • http://artk.typepad.com ArtK

    … and I’d be asking you what you thought about Coyne saying Obama is not a Christian is spite of the fact that Obama says he is…

    Why do you keep bringing up Coyne’s opinion of Obama? Neither of them is the subject of this post. Nor is Jason Rosenhouse. The subject of the post is Vladimir Putin and, to an extent, whether he is a Christian or not. You attempted to preemptively address accusations of No True Scotsman and so left yourself open to the question: How do you define (judge, regard, accept, discern, feel, perceive) who is a Christian and who isn’t.

    I don’t care what Coyne’s opinion of Obama’s Christianity is. If I were debating him, then I would care. But I’m in a discussion with you and I care about your opinion of who is a Christian and who isn’t.

    I have no opinion in the matter. I do not know enough about him.

    Ok, then how much would you need to know and what kinds of things would you need to know in order to have an opinion? What evidence would convince you he was, and what evidence would convince you that he wasn’t?

    4) Well, he says he’s a Christian, that’s good enough for me.

    Absent any more usable criteria, that’s all I have. I keep hoping that you, as an intelligent Christian, will help me develop better discernment, but so far, that hasn’t happened.

  • colnago80

    Re Heddle @ #41

    Given the litany of Jefferson’s non-beliefs, would you consider him to be a Christian?

    Re Dmcclean @ #36

    Actually, Alois Schicklgruber first changed his name to Heidler after his mother Maria married Johann Heidler who then adopted him. The spelling was later changed to Hitler. Son Adolf Frankenberger/Schicklgruber/Heidler/Hitler was pond scum under any of those monikers.

  • colnago80

    Re ArtK @ #42

    Intelligent Christian; isn’t that internally contradictory?

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    colnago80

    Given the litany of Jefferson’s non-beliefs, would you consider him to be a Christian?

    I would not regard Jefferson as a Christian. I’ll add, though I shouldn’t need to, as whether or not he was a Christian, I don’t know and can’t know. This will not stop you from claiming that I say who is and is not a Christian–but I have to engage in this exercise in futility.

    ArtK,

    Why do you keep bringing up Coyne’s opinion of Obama?

    Because Coyne (like eoraptor) is an example of an atheist (at least in Coyne’s case) who does make a judgment. It is perfectly relevant. I can understand why you don’t want to discuss it–it’s rather inconvenient. If marquee atheists feel free to say that someone is not a real Christian–well that is in direct contrast to the “whoever sez so, is” crowd.

    Ok, then how much would you need to know and what kinds of things would you need to know in order to have an opinion?

    With someone like Putin it is not easy. It is hard to separate what they think they must do as a head of state from what they do personally. (Another good reason for Christians to stay out of politics.) Something like wanton mass murder, given that it is very hard to reconcile that with love your neighbor as yourself, would cause me to regard him as a fraud–but I don’t know enough to say that I know him to be a mass murderer. That being said–it is no doubt true that some Christian heads of state (GWB) have made decisions that cost many civilian lives. Now with someone like Fred Phelps it is easy, since his heinous actions were taken not to defend the state but ostensibly in the service of Christ, and those actions were violently contrary to the teachings of Christ.

  • Scr… Archivist

    Is that a Limahl song that I hear?

  • dmcclean

    @colnago80, #43

    Actually, Alois Schicklgruber first changed his name to Heidler after his mother Maria married Johann Heidler who then adopted him. The spelling was later changed to Hitler.

    This is correct, as far as it goes. The “actually” is misplaced, however, because as I said, this name change happened 12 years before Alois’s son Adolf Hitler was born.

    Son Adolf Frankenberger/Schicklgruber/Heidler/Hitler was pond scum under any of those monikers.

    Yes, he was. So why insist on using the first two “monikers” which were never his name at any point in his life? What’s the point of insisting on doing that?

  • dmcclean

    Please interpret that post as if it did not include the blockquote fail, I will be more careful with the preview button.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Once again: Christians judge others who claim the title by their fruit (deeds). Based on that judgment they decide–not whether that person is a Christian (for, who can say?) but whether to regard that person as a Christian.

    And within your tribe that’s a perfectly good system, and arguably the only workable one. You have your canon law, and you decide according to that law whether someone is a Member of the Tribe. Same as halacha allows a bet din to decide whether someone is Jewish, and if Jewish whether they’re qualified to be a witness. All of which is quite circular: to decide whether your group recognizes someone as a Christian, you have to subscribe to the bylaws of the group.

    Leaving those of us outside of the Tribe no way to recognize Members of the Tribe because the canon law of one Tribe conflicts with the canon law of another. For you it’s easy — you have only one to deal with. Those of us who don’t subscribe to yours, though, have no reason to grant it authority over the Mormon, Orthodox, Coptic, etc. ones. And life is too short to learn the canon law for thousands of different groups for the sake of a spectator sport.

    So the question remains: how about you, Mel Gibson, Mitt Romney, a Quaker, and a Witness (to keep the number small and odd) get together and put out a white paper on which sects are and aren’t Real Christians. Sort of a Field Guide. If you can all agree on that, it’ll help those of us who don’t have a dog in that particular fight keep track of the players on the field.

    In the meantime, it’s really not worth being rude to someone who defines himself as a Christian. It’s not like it makes a practical difference.

  • dmcclean

    heddle,

    ArtK is right in your dispute about relevance of Coyne. Your initial mention of Coyne was

    Why [do atheists have to take people at their word about whether they are Christians]? Notable atheist Jerry Coyne considers our president to be a manipulative liar.

    This is a total non-sequitur. In 45 you are pivoting to a claim that it’s relevant “[Because Coyne (like eoraptor) is an example of an atheist (at least in Coyne’s case) who does make a judgment.”

    Uh, so what? Nobody on the thread claimed that no atheists exist who do make such judgments. If he had, your example of Coyne would have been relevant. But what was claimed was that we shouldn’t and aren’t equipped to do so. Coyne’s opinion is not relevant to that.

    You went on to say:

    I can understand why you don’t want to discuss it–it’s rather inconvenient.

    Perhaps this reasoning also explains your unwillingness to address my claim that atheists aren’t equipped to adjudicate who is a Christian. Namely, I’m objecting to your assertion that it’s “common sense” that Jesus of Nazareth as described in the NT is the “Christ” and so Christians must believe some flavor of that. Please explain how we should know that you’ve picked the correct “Christ” to be Christian toward.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    D. C. Sessions,

    Leaving those of us outside of the Tribe no way to recognize Members of the Tribe because the canon law of one Tribe conflicts with the canon law of another.

    And those who do? Like Coyne and Rosenhouse? Are you saying they are wrong?

    And its still a cop out. I feel perfectly reasonable and capable in looking at someone who identifies as a Muslim and make my own determination about whether I think they are actually a Muslim–or if they are just making a cultural/tribal identification. I might be wrong–but it is not unreasonable that a person could behave in a manner that was so consistently in contradiction to Muslim principles that I would simply stop taking him at his word. Likewise It’s just bullshit to say you have no basis to recognize a sufficient deviation from minimal Christianity.

    dmcclean,

    But what was claimed was that we shouldn’t and aren’t equipped to do so.

    Right. I’m saying that’s bullshit. See above. Anyone who has a rudimentary knowledge of Christianity can make a judgment as to whether someone is deviating so much that calling them a Christian makes no sense. For example, any atheist, any Muslim, any Buddhist can reasonably say: Christianity at a minimum teaches Jesus is a deity–if you deny that, then no matter what you call yourself–you’re not a Christian. Others may disagree–but it is a perfectly reasonable view to hold. Words have meaning.

    I used Coyne and Rosenhouse and eoraptor as counter-examples. Your assertion that it they are irrelevant is not convincing. I find their counter-examples (especially since one of them commented here) to be spot-on relevant.

    So I have addressed your claim that atheists aren’t equipped. They are, as long as they have a minimal knowledge. This question about “picked the correct Christ” is nonsense.

    I’m objecting to your assertion that it’s “common sense” that Jesus of Nazareth as described in the NT is the “Christ” and so Christians must believe some flavor of that.

    Then I find your objection nonsense. Now, some Christians deny the inerrancy of scripture, but if you deny that Jesus is the son of God and that he died on the cross to make atonement for our sins, than it is at the very least reasonable for anyone to say: you are not a Christian no matter what you call yourself. Words have meaning. Otherwise you might as well admit that one can claim to be an atheist and yet believe in god–because who are we to question his self-identification?

  • Michael Heath

    heddle writes:

    He also stated something more nuanced, that people like Bishop Spong–who claim to be Christian but deny the deity of Christ, are not in any meaningful sense of the word, Christian.

    Bishop Spong nicely represents millions of liberal Christians where Jesus is central to their faith, but they wisely don’t accept him as a god.

    When we compare the behavior of these liberals vs. theologically conservative Christians, it’s no contest from my perspective; not even close. Sure the liberals are weak on some important dogmatic matters, but no single group opposes Jesus’ commandments on how to treat others more than theologically conservative Christians. So while it’s easy to challenge the credibility of liberal Christians, it’s far easier to show how energetically opposed theologically conservative Christians are to Jesus’ commandments on how to treat others.

    So from my humble perspective, Spong is a far better Christian than say, you. That’s given how your church abuses gay children, a clear violation on how to treat others and how to treat the ‘least among us’.

  • Michael Heath

    wheydt writes:

    isn’t it something of a Christian truism that “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven”? Not to mention the very common trope of “all men are sinners.”

    Only the dumbest conservative Christians think this, where they are not representative of conservative Christianity. Conservative Christians in general argue, and I think rightly so, what heddle argued:

    Not to mention that Christians are supposed to judge other Christians by their fruit. If there is not fruit (whatever that means), then we are to regard them as unbelievers.

    Ironically enough, conservative Christians are predominately committed to behavior that violates Jesus’ edicts on how to treat others – with no other large groups in the U.S. even challenging them for the title. So instead I observe such judgments being based on how well one poses as a good Christian, rather than actually following the edicts of Jesus on how to treat others and the least among us – an effectively impossible task. E.g., conservative churches heaping abuse on gay children who are congregants of their church, their commitment to causing the suffering of the homeless, poor, widows, and children rather than credibly striving to help these groups.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    MH,

    Spong is a far better Christian than say, you

    See, it is not so hard to grasp the concept that atheists can judge the veracity on a Christian’s claim. Even Heath gets it.

  • laurentweppe

    Why the scare quotes for “‘Christian’ Putin”?

    Because there’s a fairly high chance that a guy who has been a member of the de facto nobility of the sword of a regime founded by a bunch of dudes who loudly claimed that religion was in its very essence a con meant to facilitate social control in favor of parasitic plutocrats may be not be the epitome of sincerity when he proclaim his über-christian-ness.

    ***

    I didn’t attack eoraptor, I applaud eoraptor (and Rosenhouse and Coyne)

    Really, I’d think twice before applauding a guy whose favorite, self-serving, sectarian supremacist pet theory is “Every smart person who ever lived was in fact a closeted atheist

  • dmcclean

    So the other 30-odd people who claimed or were thought by significant groups of people to be the Christ in the Wikipedia article of such people that I linked were wrong, because reasons, and so clearly a Christian is someone who believes in the Christ that you believe in, also because reasons. Got it.

    I’ll grant that it’s “reasonable” to adopt your definition that Christ = Jesus on the grounds of popularity. It’s arbitrary, and more than a bit arrogant, but let’s go with it. It doesn’t rescue your claim that we should wade into other matters of doctrine, or even worse, “fruit”.

    Like it or not, X’s who do Y are not “counterexamples” to the claim that X’s shouldn’t or aren’t equipped to do Y.

    Lot’s of people think Jefferson was a Christian. Naming them would not provide “counterexamples” to your claim that he, not believing in Jesus’s divinity, was not. It would however provide some level of evidence that things aren’t as clear cut as you are portraying them to be, and that there are strong reasons to not even wade into this pool of deciding who is and who isn’t. (Just for fun, and because the title of his book was so appropriately chosen, I’ll name David Barton.)

    Also, here’s a thread where you casually no-True-Scotsman some “bumpkin Christians”, contrary to your claim at 18 that you never do that. This is what a counterexample looks like.

    I can find many more where you hold forth on what is taught in scripture against counter-claimants who are pointing to large groups of self-avowed Christians who disagree with you, as if your word on it should be dispositive of the argument, which is in effect almost the same thing.

    For fun, here’s one where you criticize an atheist for trying to adjudicate who is a real Christian (at comment 16), preferring that he would judge you on your word that you believe in the inerrant word of the bible.

    Here, you no-true-Christian Hitler, and, at 42 claim that you know he wasn’t a Christian even though he claimed to be one because of his behavior, which presumably violated some of what you believe to be the teachings of Christianity. Earlier upthread you quickly glided past the fact that many of his followers thought they were following him in service of what they understood to be the teachings of Christianity. Again, atheists are expected to adjudicate this theological dispute in favor of you, because…. well, it isn’t clear why. Because you’re Christian theology is the one true Christian theology.

  • dmcclean

    See, it is not so hard to grasp the concept that atheists can judge the veracity on a Christian’s claim. Even Heath gets it.

    Heath is wrong. But if he had instead said that Spong had just as strong a claim to Christianity as you do, rather than claiming his was strictly stronger, he would have been correct.

    (I have a comment in moderation, so I’ll shut up at least until that one goes through. I foolishly included 3 links instead of 2.)

  • D. C. Sessions

    I might be wrong–but it is not unreasonable that a person could behave in a manner that was so consistently in contradiction to Muslim principles that I would simply stop taking him at his word. Likewise It’s just bullshit to say you have no basis to recognize a sufficient deviation from minimal Christianity.

    According to whose definition of “minimal Christianity?” I seriously doubt that you agree with Mitt Romney on what they are.

    Bear in mind that most of us have zero interest in the issues of transsubstantiation, work salvation, etc. that have led to so much bloodshed over the centuries. Most of us, in fact, don’t even recognize the terms much less care how they play into definitions of “Christianity.”

    My interests are similar to (if different in application) that of the schtetl residents who, when hearing that a group is approaching town, want to know if they are Christians: do we need to hide the women, children, livestock, and valuables?

    Your intra-tribal interest in arcane parlor games isn’t interesting. How you identify yourselves is, from experience, a useful input into life-and-death decision making.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    …to portray competing denominations, particularly evangelicals, as a heretical fifth column inspired and financed by the United States…

    That’s not very far from the truth.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    D. C. Sessions,

    According to whose definition of “minimal Christianity?” I seriously doubt that you agree with Mitt Romney on what they are.

    Is this really that hard? You judge according to your definition. You have something in mind (assuming you are somewhat educated) of what minimal Christianity is. I gave an example: that Jesus was a deity, but even then I only gave that as an example. I said that was reasonable. If I meet a Muslim who never prays–I don’t consider them a real Muslim. Someone may have a different yardstick. Some Muslims might consider the same person to be in good standing.

    At least Heath (who doesn’t agree with my minimum, which would exclude Spong) has the cajones to admit that he has a picture of what it means to be a Christian and that I do not measure up very well. At least Heath doesn’t fall back on the ridiculous “I dunno–it’s just whoever says they are.”

    So now we have multiple examples of atheists (assuming in the case of eoraptor) who judge Christians and yet I would bet the farm that they violate your requirement. That is, they did not first come to an agreement on what minimal Christianity is. That’s rather obvious since I know from their writing that one deemed Spong a non-Christian and in another case Spong was held up as an exemplary Christian. They have their own personal picture and judge against that picture. Your “whose definition?” is a complete red-herring, and your ensuing foray into detailed doctrine like “transubstantiation” is a doubling down on the red-herring.

    Oh yeah–colnago80 reminds me that there have been lengthy debates on this blog among atheists (including our esteemed host) as to whether or not Jefferson was a Christian. Was that all nonsense? Should the debate have and started and ended at simply “Well, did Jefferson say he was a Christian?”

    After some searching, here is a money-quote from our host Ed:

    On the question of whether one can be a theistic rationalist and a Christian at the same time, it depends very much on how you define “Christian.” Who decides who can and can’t be a Christian? What is the criteria? What must one believe and still be a Christian? If you define it broadly enough, then it’s possible. Now I tend to be someone who defines Christianity pretty broadly, but I do think there is one thing that one must believe in order to reasonably be called a Christian — you must believe that Jesus was the son of God. That, in my view, is the touchstone of Christianity; absent that, Jesus is not an object of veneration but merely a guy with a bunch of ideas. Since Jefferson explicitly rejected the divinity of Jesus — indeed, rejected the very idea that he had ever claimed divinity at all — I would say that I do not consider him to have been a Christian.

    (boldface added)

    I feel that I must add, though I shouldn’t have to, that the point is not that Brayton has a litmus test that I would agree with–but that he came up with one (obviously different from Heath’s) period.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Is this really that hard? You judge according to your definition. You have something in mind (assuming you are somewhat educated) of what minimal Christianity is. I gave an example: that Jesus was a deity, but even then I only gave that as an example. I said that was reasonable.

    This all started because you rejected my standard as invalid. Obviously you’re trying to have it both ways here.

    If Putin confesses against interest to being a Christian, who am I to argue? I frankly don’t give a rat’s ass about his “beliefs,” even assuming I were in a position to determine them experimentally (I believe the traditional method involves torture.)

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    D. C. Sessions,

    This all started because you rejected my standard as invalid

    What standard? Please refresh my memory (I reread your posts and can’t discern one beyond the “whoever says they are” crap.) Do you have an actual standard (that I missed) or not? Please state the standard clearly–I would like to (I’ll do the homework) see if I can find anyone who claims to be a Christian but doesn’t meet your standard. That would be an interesting case, would it not?

    Obviously you’re trying to have it both ways here.

    No, that’s not at all obvious. I think I have been consistent: 1) Everyone, including atheists, can make a judgment as to whether someone meets a minimal standard–you don’t have to be in the tribe and 2) it’s a cop out to say otherwise and to fall back on “whoever says that are.”

    If Putin confesses against interest to being a Christian, who am I to argue?

    Someone with a brain willing to take someone’s claim to see if it passes muster, using your own standards. And how do you know it is “against [Putin’s] interest”? If (just speculating) it is a popular perception with the common Russians and his associates know that “yes, wink-wink nod-nod, he’s a Christian” how is that necessarily against his interest? (I’m not really interested in how it might be against his interest–you stated it as a fact. How do you know that?)

  • eric

    Heddle:

    With someone like Putin it is not easy. It is hard to separate what they think they must do as a head of state from what they do personally. (Another good reason for Christians to stay out of politics.) Something like wanton mass murder, given that it is very hard to reconcile that with love your neighbor as yourself, would cause me to regard him as a fraud

    That’s utterly sectarian and subjective. The church has had a ‘just war’ doctrine since the 400s AD – historically, it has a much stronger claim to being really Christian than Calvinism, which is 1,100 years younger. Numerous Popes have called for crusades and purges. The Reconquista and follow-on inquisition were clearly Christian events. Then there’s the Albigensian Crusade and the massacre of the Cathars. Ferdinand and Isabella, Torquemada, and the RCC Popes circa 1100s to 1400s – are you saying they were all frauds? How about Martin Luther’s infamous writings calling for Jews to be killed or exiled – do you think that means Luther was a fraud?

    Putin supporting the Orthodox’s church rooting out of ‘heretics’ is completely consistent with many many historical acts that mainline Christian sects and major Christian historical figures have supported. If you use his support of such a ‘purge’ to say that he seems like he’s not Christian to you, then you’re going to have to conclude that it seems like most of the church leaders through the middle ages weren’t Christians either.

    I’ll tell you what it seems like to me. It seems like Putin’s support of his sect trying to eliminate other sects in the area is perfectly consistent with the way many Christian sects have acted over the last couple of thousands of years. His bloodthirsty behavior gives me no reason to doubt his sincerety, because we have ample and in fact overflowing evidence of sincere Christians embarking on bloodthirsty conquest.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    Eric #62,

    Yeah, so, congratulations. If I read you correctly you are taking Putin not just at his word, but because you think he is acting like a Christian. It seems to me that we ate then in agreement–you can make a judgment and do not have to use the weasel’s “whoever says they are.”

  • eric

    Heddle,

    I happily take Putin at his word. I’m saying that your reasoning – of saying that his violent policies seems like he may be insincere – is complete bullflop. It’s historically naive, myopic cherry-picking of the worst sort, and utterly without analytical merit. It is exactly the fallacy you claim to be trying to avoid, the no true Scotsman fallacy, because you have ignore all the historic examples of sincere violent Christians in order to arrive at your premise, that violent behavior (or support for it by others) may be an indicator of insincerity.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Please remember that everyone who claims to be a Christian, is. And (win-win) the worse their behavior, the more genuine– the more of a True Christian™ they are. All suggestions that maybe, just maybe they are simply being manipulative are to be summarily dismissed with a blanket No True Scotsman charge. That is all.

    What the fuck does that even mean? Even for heddle it’s incoherent.

  • eric

    I should also add that the failure of your approach is exactly why many nonbelievers use the ‘take them at their word’ approach instead. Since there is no observed correlation between sincerity of christian religious belief and christian dedication to principles such as pacifism, charity, and so on, we must instead take people at their word as regards to their sincerity.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    If I read you correctly you are taking Putin not just at his word, but because you think he is acting like a Christian.

    Well, yeah, he IS acting like a lot of prominent Christians have acted, many times in the history of the Christian world.

  • dmcclean

    What’s even more ridiculous about this derail is that the OP isn’t so much about whether atheists in general or Ed in particular think Putin is a Christian. It’s not even in essence about Putin’s actions.

    It’s about the parade of Christians (both by avowal, and by having many many followers who also call themselves Christians, and by belief that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, and by belief that Jesus of Nazareth was divine) who have been praising Putin as a Christian, and praising the Christian-ness of his and his government’s anti-homosexual policies.

    What of those people, heddle? Lively, Buchanan: true Christians in your opinion? Why or why not?

  • D. C. Sessions
    This all started because you rejected my standard as invalid

    What standard? Please refresh my memory (I reread your posts and can’t discern one beyond the “whoever says they are” crap.)

    And that’s my standard, which you reject as “crap.”

    Thanks for confirming my point.

    Do you have an actual standard (that I missed) or not? Please state the standard clearly–I would like to (I’ll do the homework) see if I can find anyone who claims to be a Christian but doesn’t meet your standard. That would be an interesting case, would it not?

    Indeed — I’ll be most interested in your demonstration of someone who claims to be a Christian but doesn’t meet my “Claims to be a Christian” standard.

    Obviously you’re trying to have it both ways here.

    No, that’s not at all obvious. I think I have been consistent: 1) Everyone, including atheists, can make a judgment as to whether someone meets a minimal standard–you don’t have to be in the tribe and 2) it’s a cop out to say otherwise and to fall back on “whoever says that are.”

    My standard is, “he claims to be a Christian.” Which you reject, thereby contradicting your stated “Everyone, including atheists, can make a judgment as to whether someone meets a minimal standard.”

    So which is it? Do I have the right to use the “he claims to be a Christian” standard, or do I have to conform to some other rule that suits your requirements?

    If Putin confesses against interest to being a Christian, who am I to argue?

    Someone with a brain willing to take someone’s claim to see if it passes muster, using your own standards.

    Which I do: he claims to be a Christian. Apparently you don’t think I have a brain, since that’s the only way out of syllogism you’ve just posted.

    Let me be as clear as possible here: I am less interested in your dogmatic disagreements than I am in whether someone’s tenth-level dwarvish cleric is allowed to use a mace in combat against a gelatinous cube. The latter, at least, has practical outcomes for people I care about, and therefore I will listen politely as they babble meaninglessly. If they claim that their dwarvish mace is awesome, I will take them at their word because it costs me nothing to be polite regarding their fantasies and, other things equal, being polite makes the world incrementally better than being rude.

    Thus, I take you at your word when you say you’re a Christian. Just as I would take you at your word if you claimed to have a high-ranking Ranger with a +7 longbow.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    Indeed — I’ll be most interested in your demonstration of someone who claims to be a Christian but doesn’t meet my “Claims to be a Christian” standard.

    Which demonstrates what your so-called standard is worth.

  • busterggi

    ‘Christians’,

    ‘Christians’ who persecute other ‘Christians’.

    Are the most traditional ‘Christians’ in the world.

    Even Calvinist heretics.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Which demonstrates what your so-called standard is worth.

    What practical value does it lack? It’s not like I need to decide whether to allow someone to take Communion with my congregation, after all. Otherwise, it’s a social claim “Yeah, I’m a Bard.” OK, you’re a Bard. If it makes you happy for people to call you a Bard, I’m down with that. It costs me nothing to indulge your harmless fantasy — it’s not like you’re talking about something with practical implications, such as whether or not you’re an EMT.

  • Michael Heath

    For the record, I’m confident that Ed’s description of what a Christian is can’t withstand even the merest whiff of scrutiny. I’ve attempted to get him to defend his position but no luck ever on that one. Now it’s my understanding he never reads the comments.

    I find his position absurd when you compare his description to millions of extant people who identify as Christians and: are devout, publically practice their religion, are members of a Christian denomination (liberal Mennonites, Congregationalists, Quakers), and demonstrate fealty to NT edicts on many matters far better than groups this forum has no problem conceding are Christians.

    What I find interesting in this venue is that repellant behavior condemned in the NT is worth nothing when describing someone is a Christian, only that they believe Jesus is God determines whether a person is a Christian or not. Now I have no problem calling a conservative Christian a Christian, they not only are, but represent a large swath of Christendom. But I also don’t have a problem calling liberal Christians that label when they: call themselves that, are members of a Christian congregation – just one that doesn’t dogmatically assert Jesus is God, actually practice what the Bible’s Jesus teaches on matters critical to others, and see Jesus as a central figure in relating to what they believe is a providential god who offered up Jesus to humans as a method to relate to God.

    They’re both Christians, just different flavors.

  • Michael Heath

    One issue I see here are commenters defectively conflating contexts.

    I get and appreciate why a Southern Baptist doesn’t think a Mormon is a Christian, but only within a religious context. I also appreciate a liberal Congregationalist’s point, whose church demonstrably helps humans, while they condemn Pat Robertson’s and his ilk as not Christian because that group has caused massive suffering. But this is a theological argument between competing sects within Christianity – a fact Ed ignorantly avoids.

    This is not the context in this forum, or the public square in general. From that vantage point I think we should take a broader perspective in what is and what is not a Christian that’s agnostic regarding ‘down in the weeds’ theological debates while judging the works of another. The list I’ve used in whether someone is a Christian is the following:

    1) Thee person self-identifies as a Christian

    2) Jesus is a central figure in their religious beliefs, not a peripheral figure like it is for Muslims.

    3) The Bible is a key resource for practicing their faith

    4) They’re generally theists; if they aren’t they must adhere more strongly to these other factors

    5) Most would attend a Christian denomination regularly; members of a Christian church provides even more weight.

    6) They culturally identify as Christians. The cultural identification is a stronger factor in some sects vs. others. In the American context Catholics or Mormons have a lot of non-believers who still identify as Christian, somewhat similar to Jews who are atheists. I don’t think this factor alone is sufficient to claim “Christian”.

    Please note I don’t get into judging whether they’re “filled with the [holy] Spirit” which can supposedly be determined by their works. The fact that conservative Christians fail this test miserably or the fact that liberals generally do behave better but often don’t believe Jesus is God, is not a good indicator of whether someone is a Christian from a public square perspective, that’s a theological debate that should be irrelevant in our context.

    The utility of this model is it allows us to more productively interface with both self-identified Christians and Christian groups without diving down the rabbit hole on whether they’re a Christian or not a Christian. That rather than the ad hominen war trolls like colnago80 encourages, or avoidance tactics that Christians lacking emotional intelligence employ.

    And while I generally loved Jerry Coyne’s book on evolution, his emotional intelligence is at best sophomoric, a PZ Myers for remedial atheists. So I don’t understand why anyone would quote him to buttress their argument beyond what he reveals that’s understood by scientists. From a public square perspective, it’s obvious to those of us that are informed that Barack Obama is a Christian and obvious that Coyne’s a mere child on matters of religion and politics.

  • jws1

    “Emotional intelligence” – is that a judgment on whether someone makes rational arguments or emotional ones? I’m not sure I understand.

  • jws1

    Shit. Shoulda googled first. Sorry Heath.