Apologist Religionwashes History

I an now coining a phrase: religionwashing. Like whitewashing, it’s when apologists for a religion attribute all the good things in history to their religion while absolving it of any responsibility for the bad things in history. An apologist named Tom Dickson on Fox News demonstrates religionwashing:

Dickson explained that many people were turned off by the Bible because it had been used as a “tool for oppression and slavery and violence.”

But he argued that those were “universals of human culture, you don’t need the Bible to have war, violence and slavery. They were there in Greece and Rome before the Bible.”

According to Dickson, “the Bible gave to Western culture its tradition of charity for the poor, love of enemy, human rights. These things didn’t come from Greece and Rome, they came from the influence of the Bible.”

Yes, you see, if any bad thing existed prior to the Bible then the Bible can’t be blamed for it even though the Bible endorses it explicitly. And any good thing that happened after the Bible was compiled is directly attributed to Christianity even if the Bible conflicts with it. Take human rights, for example. I’d love to hear just a single example of the Bible endorsing “human rights” that isn’t completely in conflict with direct orders from God in that very same Bible. Is genocide a violation of human rights? Then you certainly can’t give credit to the Bible for being against genocide because God orders it repeatedly in that book. Slavery? Same thing.

Another example of religionwashing: All terrible behavior exhibited by the adherents to all other religions is directly attributed to their religion, but none of the kind and generous behavior. For one’s own religion, the reverse is true: Any adherent to their religion who does something terrible is obviously not a Real Religion Member, while everything good they do would obviously not have happened without being an adherent to said religion.

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  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Have some patience. They have the “charity for the poor, love of enemy, human rights” on the schedule, coming right up after they break, dismantle or privatize TANF, Medicaid, Obamacare and SSI, kill all the Muslims, and enact Constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, contraception, Islam and the Franchise for “urban” (*wink wink*) groups.

  • raven

    It’s not religion washing. Or white washing. It’s simply lying.

    It’s also not new. They’ve been doing it for 2,000 years.

    Once again, for those xians who have lost their excuse cards:

    1. They weren’t True xians.

    2. Atheists do it too.

    3. It was a False Flag operation.

    you don’t need the Bible to have war, violence and slavery. They were there in Greece and Rome before the Bible.”

    Dickson has got the second one down. The Greeks and Romans did it too. It’s true but irrelevant. It means xians are no better than the Pagans. Which we already knew. The question should be, “Were they any better?” Not really. It was in fact, Germanic xians who invaded and ended the Roman empire.

  • eric

    According to Dickson, “the Bible gave to Western culture its tradition of charity for the poor, love of enemy, human rights. These things didn’t come from Greece and Rome, they came from the influence of the Bible.”

    Actually, in classic Greece a citizen was measured, in part, by their charitable contributions to the city via things like public works, festivals, commissioning plays, etc… You gained social status by the amount you gave in charity. Its arguable that they had a far more charity-conscious culture than we do.

  • raven

    There are no human rights as we know it in the bible, as pointed out by EB.

    Democracy was well known back then, but it is never mentioned in the bible. In Romans it says to obey the rulers because they were appointed by god. In those days they were all kings and emperors. And oh yeah, pay your taxes.

    Slavery was accepted and jesus even gives instructions on how and why to beat your slaves.

  • robnyny

    It is classic religious revision. Everything good is a result of religion, even if religion killed people for saying it was good. Nothing bad can be definitively linked to religion.

  • garnetstar

    OT, but had to share: I once read (so sorry I can’t remember where) someone who termed the insistence that American society is no longer at racist “whitewishing”.

  • tuibguy

    Have you submitted “religionwashing” to the Urban Dictionary yet?

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    raven,

    jesus even gives instructions on how and why to beat your slaves.

    No he didn’t. You do know what a parable is don’t you? You do know that if it was meant to be literal, straightforward teaching then it would have been given as such? What you speak of is a parable alluding to Jesus’ second coming and judgement, not literal instructions on how to beat slaves.

    You’re a fucking idiot.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    No, heddle, you’re the idiot. A parable is two ble.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    Modusoperandi ,

    No, heddle, you’re the idiot.

    Ha! I cannot deny that the evidence suggests you are correct. For your years of service, the government awards you a pair o’ bulls and guarantees you a happy life!

  • CJO, egregious by any standard

    eric:

    Actually, in classic Greece a citizen was measured, in part, by their charitable contributions to the city via things like public works, festivals, commissioning plays, etc… You gained social status by the amount you gave in charity. Its arguable that they had a far more charity-conscious culture than we do.

    It is certainly true that a high degree of civic engagement characterized urban elites in the Hellenistic and Greco-Roman periods. Wealth was not supposed to accumulate, it was to be used in the service of such things as you note, and a wealthy citizen who did not fund such projects was reviled as a miser. But I’m not sure that this practice is equivalent to charity per se. It was pretty image-conscious and self-serving most of the time, and nothing like a social welfare program was ever the goal.

    It really does seem to be the case that as Christianity spread beyond its origins as a fringe cult, it could be differentiated from the traditional polytheistic cult as more inclined to financial support for the poor and vulnerable of society. We know this, in part, because of observations from contemporary sources like the rabid Hellenist Julian “the Apostate”, who wrote in a letter to To Arsacius, High-priest of Galatia, in around 362 AD:

    Why do we not observe that it is their [the Christians’] benevolence to strangers, their care for the graves of the dead, and the pretended holiness of their lives that have done most to increase atheism [for Julian, this meant rejection of polytheist cult] For it is disgraceful that, when no Jew ever has to beg, and the impious Galileans [Christians] support not only their own poor but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us. Teach those of the Hellenic faith to contribute to public service of this sort.

    Dickson’s argument doesn’t wash. It’s completely bogus, as Ed says. But we shouldn’t commit the complimentary error and refuse to acknowledge any positive or pro-social aspects of the new faith that may have contributed to the rise of Christianity.

    It should also be noted that as the Church came to dominate society, the same kind of elite giving to fund building projects and the like continued, but now they gave exclusively to the Church under the guise of “storing up treasure in heaven.” This diversion of funds that formerly were available for civic improvements of various kinds was one of the death knells for the old center of gravity of life in the ancient world, the polis. In a sense, as Peter Brown has noted, Christianity took the sacred out of the city limits and installed it among ascetic monks in the desert. So by no means am I saying that the rise of Christianity was necessarily good for the society at the time; it all but destroyed it. Just that ethical monotheism in antiquity really does seem to have included a noticeable and remarkable orientation toward helping the poor as individuals.

  • moarscienceplz

    The Greeks and Romans did it too. It’s true but irrelevant. It means xians are no better than the Pagans. Which we already knew.

    Oh, but it’s worse than that. The Bible is the inspired word of the One True God, right? So if the Bible says slavery is OK because the The Greeks and Romans did it first, then that means God Himself used the all too human pagans as a model for His ‘perfect’ morality.

  • Nick Gotts

    heddle@8,

    True, it was a parable, and true, raven’s an idiot. But surely you don’t say “When I come back I’m going to act like a master beating disobedient slaves” unless you think it’s OK for a master to beat disobedient slaves.

  • Alverant

    Did the Greeks and Romans treat their slaves as badly as christians? I read a book about pirate history and a century after the Golden Age of piracy when Port Royal was destroyed in a quake, the sugar plantation owners executed slaves by tying them down on the ground over kindling and setting fire to their feet so the slave could watch the fire moving up their bodies for maximum pain. I mention this because preachers the quake was blamed on the pirates and not on the treatment of the slaves.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    CJO, egregious by any standard “it was to be used in the service of such things as you note, and a wealthy citizen who did not fund such projects was reviled as a miser…”

    Small world. My motorcycle gang was the Reviled Misers. We were the cheapest gang west of the Mississipi, and people didn’t like us much. I can’t remember where the name came from, though.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    Nick Gotts @8,

    But surely you don’t say “When I come back I’m going to act like a master beating disobedient slaves” unless you think it’s OK for a master to beat disobedient slaves.

    Well, I agree that you could make that argument (that it implies approval) and it is not obviously wrong. The counter-argument is that Jesus was using the best simile (analogy?) available. He could not liken the final judgment and ensuing punishment to say, a parent punishing a child, because they have no similarity whatsoever. The punishment of a disobedient child loved by a parent is to be minimal with an eye toward reconciliation. The punishment that Jesus promises to the unfaithful is maximal with no eye toward reconciliation. So he equated it to a master beating a slave. Given that this (in the view of the counterargument) is the primary meaning of the parable, it is not, in my opinion, necessary to assume that Jesus approves of the literal practice. It was a pedagogical device. There are many aspects to the parables that obviously do not translate to any literal application. So if you do not assume the hermeneutic that parables are never to be taken literally (which I do, but can’t impose that on you) then I agree that this particular parable is gray, and open to your interpretation.

  • abb3w

    No charity for the poor? How about the Greek tradition of theoxenia?

    Perhaps Christianity deserves some credit for applying the idea a little broader, but it’s an incremental progression (that Humanism seems to be attempting to take further) rather than a qualitative discontinuity.

  • scienceavenger

    But he argued that those were “universals of human culture…

    You mean like the golden rule, laws against theft and murder, and traditions of honoring one’s mother and father?

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    heddle “So if you do not assume the hermeneutic that parables are never to be taken literally (which I do, but can’t impose that on you) then I agree that this particular parable is gray, and open to your interpretation.”

    Is there an interpretation where He doesn’t come off as an asshole?

     

    abb3w “How about the Greek tradition of theoxenia?”

    Dibs on name for boner pill!

  • Anne Fenwick

    @14 – Alverant – ever heard of the Roman Games? Every major town in the Roman Empire had an arena for the ‘entertaining’ execution of slaves. The primary evidence makes horrific reading – it’s hard to believe what human beings have leant themselves to st times. The situations aren’t identical to later Transatlantic slavery but it would take a while to go through the details.

  • Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    “the Bible gave to Western culture its tradition of charity for the poor, love of enemy, human rights. These things didn’t come from Greece and Rome, they came from the influence of the Bible.

    from abb3w:

    No charity for the poor? How about the Greek tradition of theoxenia?

    Look, Western ideas came from the bible, geddit? Don’t bring me your stinking proof. That would be like saying potlatch proves you don’t need Christianity to have charity for woodchuck’s sake. My goodness gracious, in that world you could almost say that divided government, with balances, and a minimum age far beyond that of simple majority (almost placing one among the, shall we say, “elders”) being necessary for wielding executive power were ideas whose development among Europeans was fostered by preexisting ideas among the Haudenosaunee!

    No good Republican would want to imply that!

  • Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @scienceavenger:

    Also, traditions/laws against sabotaging beer. Or shortchanging beer buyers. Or women drinking beer.

    Beer is important. Just ask Hammurabi.

  • Michael Heath

    heddle,

    Your argument may work in a time and place context from one fallible human of that time to a small population of even more fallible humans in that same time.

    But if the perspective is the ‘eternal word of God’, then the NT passages regarding slavery demonstrably and unambiguously advocate slavery.

    And even if we presume the passages are one fallible human to another, your argument’s weak given that the NT clearly demands humans slavishly submit to God. So that’s the standard, therefore it’s no surprise the biblical writers would be A-OK with humans practicing slavery amongst one another when their God demands the same of them towards him.

  • Al Dente

    heddle @16

    The punishment of a disobedient child loved by a parent is to be minimal with an eye toward reconciliation. The punishment that Jesus promises to the unfaithful is maximal with no eye toward reconciliation.

    So Jesus is just a sadistic bully, “punishing” people just for the sake of inflicting pain.

  • david

    The jewish tradition of tzedakah predates Christianity.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    Michael Heath,

    the NT passages regarding slavery demonstrably and unambiguously advocate slavery.

    No they do not, not demonstrably and unambiguously, not even close. You can try to argue that the NT advocates slavery. (Not with a very strong argument, but you can try.) But can also argue on much firmer ground, as I have done many times, that it does nothing more than acknowledge that it exists, and fails (by design) to make its abolition a priority. It makes spreading the redemptive gospel a priority, not a social gospel. So Paul’s attitude is: whether you are a slave or a master you can bear witness to the gospel and that is more important that your station in life. And oh, by the way, you will be held accountable for how you treat slaves. If you read Paul’s letter to Philemon you see that Paul is not returning a runaway slave because he wanted to see him face the punishment the law permitted (such as a slavery advocate would be expected to endorse) but rather Paul pleads with Philemon to accept Oneisimus as a free man, even offering to pay for whatever loss Philemon incurred, and even reminding Philemon that he should do this if for not other reason that he “owed” Paul.

    Paul himself spread the gospel when was illegally imprisoned. He matter-of-factly accepted his fate, and used it to preach the gospel, even assuring a guard that he would not escape when the jail was opened by an earthquake–which would have put the guard in a tough legal spot. Yet Paul does not advocate for prison and judicial reform. But that is quite different from saying he advocates illegal imprisonment.

    You can argue against my position, But your claim that the NT demonstrably and unambiguously advocates slavery is demonstrably and unambiguously false. You will only be able to argue (fallaciously) that a failure to condemn slavery explicitly = advocating slavery.

    A much stronger criticism might be that the NT should have been vocal against slavery rather than just accepting it as an extant institution. In other words you might argue that the NT should be more of a social gospel. Furthermore you could argue that its failure to be very vocal against slavery opened the doors for those who sought biblical support for their economic policies. But that it quite different from saying it demonstrably and unambiguously advocates slavery, which is borderline nonsense.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    Al Dente

    So Jesus is just a sadistic bully, “punishing” people just for the sake of inflicting pain.

    Gee, that irrelevant point, one that has nothing to do with what was being discussed, really has thrown me for a loop. How could I possibly respond?

  • Michael Heath

    In fairness to all the Abrahamic religions, spreading altruism was a primary motivator for both Christianity and Islam when they were first developed. The same was eventually also featured in Judaism, centuries (millenia?) prior to the invention of Christianity.

    So while the wingnut’s wrong about Christianity being the only source worth mentioning when referring to Western Civilization, we must acknowledge the role all three religions played as we evolved from clans/tribes that somewhat cared for their respective weak to nation states who originally did not.

  • Michael Heath

    heddle writes:

    . . . your claim that the NT demonstrably and unambiguously advocates slavery is demonstrably and unambiguously false.

    Again, my point is obviously true only if the Bible is the errant word of God. The Bible claims God has incredible power and knowledge; he could have demanded the abolition of slavery. Even some semi-bright people of the time spoke out against it, but not God. He not only failed to do so, his chosen people, leveraging ‘God’s Word’, became the most successful administrators of slavery in human history – an ample validation.

    You can’t have it all ways. God’s evil because he demonstrably promoted slavery – especially in the OT and at a minimum – enabled it in the NT (was he changing?). Or instead the Christian god, if he even exists, had nothing to do with the passages regarding slavery. Instead they were written by mere humans who evolved their thoughts about slavery as the books of the Bible were written, edited, and published.

    Other explanations also exist, but claiming the powerful attributes in the Bible regarding God are true while simultaneously claiming God wasn’t a promoter of slavery does not compute. Particularly when we consider the role the Bible and Christians played in amping up the slavery industry for 1400+ years.

  • http://festeringscabofrealityblogspot.com fifthdentist

    Yossarian: “That’s some catch, that Catch-22.”

    Doc Daneeka: “It’s the best there is.”

  • Michael Heath

    Al Dente writes:

    So Jesus is just a sadistic bully, “punishing” people just for the sake of inflicting pain.

    heddle replies:

    Gee, that irrelevant point, one that has nothing to do with what was being discussed, really has thrown me for a loop. How could I possibly respond?

    You’ve never responded to this point, even when it was relevant. You can’t without contradicting yourself.

    A logical conclusion of Jesus in the Bible if he exists as described there is that he’s the ultimate extortionist. A god who threatens unimaginable suffering for all eternity if you don’t slavishly, childishly, and blindly submit to him. And if one attempts to submit, even those people can’t confidently validate they’ll avoid an eternity of suffering. Where this same god has also proven incapable of validating even his existence, let alone his nature and demands of human.

    Of course my logical conclusion of Jesus doesn’t square with other claims regarding his nature. And yet somehow the Bible is the inerrant word of an all-powerful, all-knowing God. Yes Virginia, the Bible’s full of contradictions.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Michael Heath “A logical conclusion of Jesus in the Bible if he exists as described there is that he’s the ultimate extortionist.”

    Now you’re just being ridiculous. He was a carpenter, not a circus performer. He wasn’t even all that flexible.

  • peterh

    When you thought they couldn’t get stupider . . . . . .

  • eric

    Did the Greeks and Romans treat their slaves as badly as christians?

    With the Greeks, it varied from city-state to city-state. The Spartans were awful; it’s why they trained their male citizens to be great warriors, because they were always facing slave revolts and had to be able to win battles when greatly outnumbered. They kept entire Greek towns in slavery, forcing them to produce grain etc. for Sparta. They could not mobilize the per capita numbers that other city-states could, because they always had to leave a force at home to pacify the slaves. On the other end of the scale, in many other Greek city states the typical practice was to keep at most one or two foreigners (not Greeks) as slaves per household and treat them well enough that when the male population mobilized for war, there was never really any revolt.

    Neither system is moral and neither should be condoned. Nor should we pretend that the OT slavery the Jews practice or NT slavery that the early Christians at least tolerated was a good thing. It wasn’t, and any deity handing down life lessons (in either 10C form or personal avatar form) cannot (IMO) be considered all that benevolent if they say nothing explicit against slavery.

  • eric

    Heddle;

    Gee, that irrelevant point, one that has nothing to do with what was being discussed, really has thrown me for a loop. How could I possibly respond?

    LOL are you serious? The man who drives threads from 10-20 comments into 30-50+ comment threads because he always responds to off-topic comments on religion or the bible is wondering how he could respond to an off-topic comment? That’s rich.

    If you read Paul’s letter to Philemon you see that Paul is not returning a runaway slave because he wanted to see him face the punishment the law permitted (such as a slavery advocate would be expected to endorse) but rather Paul pleads with Philemon to accept Oneisimus as a free man

    Right. Paul sends the slave back to the slave-owner and appeals to the slave owner to free him because he acknowledges that the slave-owner has the right to make that decision about his slave. That is approval of the slave-owning system. He’s working within it rather than arguing against it.

    Do you know what someone actually opposed to slavery would have done? They would’ve not sent the slave back in the first place. Seriously dude, if you were to take Paul’s actions and translate them into a different time and place (say, Antebellum US), you would abhor them. Let’s create a comparable story and you tell me whether the main character is acting good or evilly. Alice lives in New York, where she is under house arrest. She befriends Bob, a runaway slave formerly owned by Charlie, also under house arrest. Alice gets the opportunity to free Bob from house arrest and send him somewhere. So what does she do? Does she send Bob to Boston? Some other free city? No. She sends him back to Charlie with a note that says “dear Charlie, please free Bob.” Does that sound like a good act to you? Does that sound like the action of someone opposed to slavery as a system to you? It doesn’t to me.

    That’s the act of someone who condones the system. Paul condones the system of slavery of his time by acknowledging that it is the slave-owner who has the legal right to decide the legal status of the slave.

  • http://heb712.blogspot.com heddle

    eric

    LOL are you serious?

    Yes I’m serious. I respond to outright lies and distortions that the dumb ass Raven is fond of making. Al Dente’s “So Jesus is a poopy head” doesn’t pass my threshold of interest.

    Right. Paul sends the slave back to the slave-owner and appeals to the slave owner to free him because he acknowledges that the slave-owner has the right to make that decision about his slave. That is approval of the slave-owning system. He’s working within it rather than arguing against it.

    Are you out of your fucking mind? Does it really compute with you that obeying the laws of the land is equivalent to endorsing the law sof the land? Can we assume that you practice what you preach to Paul, i.e., that any law that you obey you also, necessarily, advocate it? Do live in your own little binary world in which you want to place Paul?

    And that is merely the legal reason why Paul might return an escaped slave without advocating or endorsing the institution. It is not at all an important component.

    The main reason Paul returned Oneisimus is his value as an in situ newly converted witness. He believed his testimony, as a free man or as a slave, would be of great benefit in the early church. And it also seems clear that he hoped to change Philemon’s heart. But the bottom line is the letter to Philemon is unambiguously not the letter of someone endorsing slavery. It is the letter of someone who places slavery as secondary compared to the so-called Great Commission. What you claim you’d bravely do if you were in the same situation is irrelevant.

    if you were to take Paul’s actions and translate them into a different time and place (say, Antebellum US), you would abhor them.

    Maybe, but they weren’t done in the antebellum south so your point is worthless. Everything was different then. In the south you have people co-opting Christianity as a justification for slavery. There Christianity is the majority religion and not a nascent sect that Paul was obligated to spread. In the antebellum south, Paul may have decided that he didn’t have to put social justice issues on the back-burner while he dealt with the very survival of Christianity. He may of felt the co-opting of Christianity for evil purposes could not be ignore. Perhaps Paul in the 21st century US would have many different priorities than in 1st century region of Palestine. Perhaps, with Christianity established, he would speak out against the kind of illegal imprisonment he endured while in the 1st century he viewed it more as an opportunity.

  • dingojack

    Yes Dickson – because expressly biblical inspired slavery of the Antebellum south of the USA is precisely the same as, say, slavery within the Roman Empire*. There’s just oodles of large emporia, large villas and fine family crypts owned by manumitted slaves dotted all around Atlanta Georgia, for example. @@

    Dingo

    ———

    * I’d recommend: Rome’s Cultural Revolution. Andrew Wallace-Hadrill. Cambridge University Press, 2008.

  • eric

    Are you out of your fucking mind? Does it really compute with you that obeying the laws of the land is equivalent to endorsing the law sof the land?

    In the case of someone choosing to send a slave back to his owner when you don’t have to, yes. That’s endorsement of a law of slavery. How could anyone see it as otherwise?

    It is the letter of someone who places slavery as secondary compared to the so-called Great Commission.

    Indeed, it is. I could not have said it better myself. Paul thinks (ending someone’s) slavery is of secondary importance to spreading the gospel. Such is the horror of Christianity.

  • pwuk

    The holy rinse and spin cycle

  • theignored

    Speaking of “religionwashing”, this doesn’t really do with history but these are examples of the insane shit these people will say:

    –http://www.fstdt.com/QuoteComment.aspx?QID=103626 <–taking credit for logic

    –http://www.fstdt.com/QuoteComment.aspx?QID=102120 <–taking credit for morality

  • theignored

    Ah. Here we go. THIS is where I should have posted this link. It documents the relationship between xianity and slavery which apologists ignore.

    http://web.archive.org/web/20130122043445/http://www.worldfuturefund.org/wffmaster/Reading/Religion/slavery.htm

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    So, good things that existed before the bible don’t get credited to christianity? By his logic, then christianity is a complete no-op.

  • dingojack

    pwuk (#39) – you forgot to add ‘Batman!’ to the end of your post.

    :) Dingo

  • Michael Heath

    heddle,

    Your argument only works if Paul acting on his own as a fallible human. That rather than your belief the Bible is the inerrant word of God where God once again is just fine and dandy not condemning slavery but instead instituting it, promoting it, and enabling it. God’s moral failing to weigh-in against slavery in the NT then leads to horrendous ramifications to follow. That’s once Christians gain political power several hundred years later and practice slavery on a massive scale for more than a millenia.

    The institution of Christian slavery is either a failure to communicate on God’s part, or its consistency with the Bible is emblematic on how the Christians’ god behaves in the Bible. Actually God’s far worse than mere slaver given other biblical passages.