God Wins?

Satan’s evil. Very evil. I mean, he killed 10 people!

godsatan.jpg

I’m not sure what the source is for God’s death toll, but a figure that’s in the same ballpark as the number above is documented here.

(via GraphJam)


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • Tess

    I am quite confused about what exactly an atheist is – I find it difficult to believe that any rational person can believe that there isn’t a creative force in the universe. The evidence for this is our world and universe. There must be some force that created our world and universe and before that something else, and before that something else. Ultimately you must logically follow that at the beginning there must be something eternal (at least as we can perceive it). We just call this eternal force “God” (although you can call him Suzy or Bob or Freddy – it’s just the word our language has given him). Do atheists believe that there is no creative force at all? If so, how do you reconcile our obvious existence without acknowledging some creative force? It seems to me from the postings I read, that most objections are to religion and men’s (and women’s) foibles as opposed to denouncing a God. Can you clarify your logic here?

  • http://cynical-c.com Chris

    Steve from Dwindling in Unbelief had a great post where he went through the bible and came up with the raw data for the God vs Satan kill counts.

  • http://auryn29a.livejournal.com Auryn

    Who are the ten people Satan killed? I’m not coming up with anybody off the top of my head.

  • I like tea

    Yeah, the Old Testament is hilarious in this way. God kills countless men, women, and children in the Flood, rips kids apart with bears, etc., etc., and he’s somehow the good guy?

    I say Satan is the good guy. What did he ever do to anyone? Well, besides Job?

    Who are the ten people Satan killed? I’m not coming up with anybody off the top of my head.

    Job’s family and servants. I’m not sure Satan even appears as a character in the OT outside the book of Job.

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    Yeah, I would like to know who are the ten people were too. Just goes to show he’s a pussy in any case which is what we Christians have been saying all along :-P

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    Steve from Dwindling in Unbelief had a great post where he went through the bible and came up with the raw data for the God vs Satan kill counts.

    Chris — I had already provided this link in the post, but thank you!

  • http://cynical-c.com Chris

    Sorry Hemant. I missed that somehow….. I’m blaming the devil.

  • Jen

    But it’s somehow different for God for some reason….

    Tess- it is true, we atheists do not believe in a creative force in the universe. You might even say that is why we use the term “atheist” and not “theist”, “Christian” or “deist”. In fact, to me, your logic makes no sense- why does there have to be a being/force at the beginning of the universe? Why not cut out the middleman and just have the universe be the strange, eternal idea? Can you explain why your creative force would design me to include earlobes?

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    Wow, some of the commenters on Dwindling in Unbelief are a little preachy.

    Tess, you’re way off topic here. Look up responses to the Cosmological argument. In brief, if you define God in such a way, you’re not guaranteed that God fits any of the other usual definitions.

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    Ah, I see, there was a previous post where it identified God and Satan shared responsibility for the deaths of Job’s kids. Actually, there is a sense in which this guy has both seriously underestimated and seriously overestimated killings attributable to God. In one sense, all death is a consequence of God’s judgement, but understanding that judgement was inself occasioned by human sin, then all death is attributable to humanity.

  • Jonsi

    You have to add about 30 million to that graph, to account for the world population estimated at the time of the flood. It always struck me as odd, that the birth rate to repopulate the Earth implied lots of sex, which according to my Catholic upbringing, was considered so sinful.

  • Richard Wade

    Hi Tess,
    Are you there? I’ll be glad to clarify things you are puzzled about regarding atheists as best I can, but I don’t want to write a lot of stuff unless I know you’ll be reading it. Respond to this comment and we can start a dialogue.
    Richard

  • BZ

    Some of the killings were helping the Israelites defend themselves, and in others the Israelites were clearly the aggressors. For some of the death count, God merely helped one army defeat another, in others God gives a direct order to kill and in yet other instances God does the killing directly. It would be nice to have a breakdown of how many deaths are which.

  • http://alcaritown.myminicity.com/ Sanity

    people, if you click the link to Dwindling in Unbelieve, you’ll see a nice breakdown of the numbers. Keep in mind that this number doesn’t include things “All the firstborn in egypt” or the whole population of the earth with the flood.

  • Beth

    Tess, read this at Wikipedia if you are interested in why we don’t believe in a creative force.

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

    Trust me, lots of us would love to have continued believing in a god, particularly a Deist kind of god. The evidence just doesn’t support it. The reason you believe in it is not because of the evidence, but because you’ve been indoctrinated with the idea of a god from an early age.

    Consider things such as:
    -Why would an omnipotent god need (require) or want (desire) anything? If god doesn’t need or want anything, what is the motivation for creating a universe?
    -Why would a benevolent god create THIS universe with all its ills?
    -Why would an omnipotent god use evolution as a mechanism?
    -Why create mortal life? Why is death part of the universe if god is benevolent?

  • Daniel Hoffman

    This is one place where I find atheism fatally inconsistent.

    According to atheistic naturalism, death and killing have gone on as a natural process and a necessary one for literally millions, probably billions of years. There is no hard and fast difference between humans and any other mammals – yet you suddenly want to label man killing man as “evil” – and then mock Christianity with you’re completely arbitrary (even if almost universally accepted, still arbitrary) standard.

    And anyways, Christianity never claimed that “evil” is measured by someone’s death count. So, please be aware that attempts at witty mockery like this are as relevant to the real issues as cardboard.

  • Daniel Hoffman

    This is where I find atheism fatally inconsistent.

    According to atheistic naturalism death and killing are a natural and necessary process and have been going on for literally millions or billions of years. Humans have no essential difference from other mammals, yet somehow man killing man is labeled “evil” and then Christianity is mocked on a completely arbitrary (even if almost universally accepted, still arbitrary) standard. So, do you want to call killing objectively and morally evil and consistently account for objective moral evil, or do you want to admit that according to your world view killing cannot possibly be really and objectively evil, and that you calling God evil for killing people really has no ground under it other than consensus opinion?

    And anyways, Christianity never claims that evil is measured by a body count. So the chart really has no relevance to Christianity anyway.

  • http://www.bernerbits.com Derek

    Oh boy Daniel. The years of indoctrination have not been kind to you.

    According to atheistic naturalism, death and killing have gone on as a natural process and a necessary one for literally millions, probably billions of years.

    Erm, yes, it’s called evolution, not “atheistic naturalism”. Most Christians accept it too.

    mock Christianity with you’re completely arbitrary (even if almost universally accepted, still arbitrary) standard

    First of all, you’ll find that many atheists don’t mock the entire religion so much as a comparatively small sample of very loud and obnoxious fruitcakes therein. Further, calling any honest objection to an argument for the existence of God “mockery” puts you in a bad place and makes people not want to talk to you.

    Second of all, calling murder wrong is not arbitrary in the slightest. It’s based on the ethic of reciprocity, which, even though Jesus referred to it, predates him by a couple thousand years. Don’t murder if you don’t want to be murdered.

    Third, just because death and dying are part of the natural course of things doesn’t mean that murder isn’t wrong. Most animals only kill for food or defense. These are also considered justifiable killings among humans; where do you think meat comes from? Besides, personal ethics aside, there’s an obvious evolutionary advantage to not killing other humans: the propagation of the species.

    Finally, just because you find one argument against the existence of God weak doesn’t mean that atheism is a “fatally inconsistent” position.

  • http://hydrogenproject.com mkb

    It always struck me as odd, that the birth rate to repopulate the Earth implied lots of sex, which according to my Catholic upbringing, was considered so sinful.

    All Catholic teaching I have ever been exposed regards sexuality as a gift from God (this include 7 years of Catholic school in addition to catechism)

    The real disturbing part of that myth is Noah’s sons repopulating the earth with who exactly?

  • Siamang

    According to atheistic naturalism death and killing are a natural and necessary process and have been going on for literally millions or billions of years.

    Yeah, so? Fire is a natural process that’s been going on for billions of years. Doesn’t mean I go around setting everything on fire. Let me translate… fire, ouchy, no like. Killing OUCHY… no like.

    I mean, my four-year-old understands tit-for-tat. It’s not so frigging hard. Don’t hit others, because they don’t like it and they’ll hit you back. Chimps understand it, for crying out loud. Robots understand it.

    Why do (some) Christians seem to think it’s rocket-science, and nooooo wayyy could anyone even understand that if it didn’t say so on some stone tablets once upon a time in a bronze-age-campfire story?

    I mean, if the ancient jews really needed a god to tell them why they shouldn’t kill, steal, etc…. who told the people for the thousands of years of human civilization BEFORE them? And who told the chimps? Where’s their stone tablets?

    In geopolitics, it’s called mutual deterrence. Sometimes it’s called mutually-assured destruction. Whatever you call it, the godless communists in the cold-war nevertheless understood just fine thank you without a bible.

    Or maybe I’m just dumb or something. Why can my four-year-old figure out tit for tat without ever reading the bible?

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    “…you’ll find that many atheists don’t mock the entire religion so much as a comparatively small sample of very loud and obnoxious fruitcakes therein…”
    Wherever atheists take care to distinguish between the whole and the part I am inclined to say, be my guest. Unfortunately I find that happens all to rarely and broad brush strokes are the more common tactic.

  • Siamang

    Wherever atheists take care to distinguish between the whole and the part I am inclined to say, be my guest. Unfortunately I find that happens all to rarely and broad brush strokes are the more common tactic.

    All of the atheists who aren’t posting on the internet are polite and never mock religion.

    And all of the theists not posting on the internet are also polite and respectful of atheists.

    But unfortunately, I just painted all people off the internet with too broad a brush, and so I’ll recant and say that roughly half of them are bastards.

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    “…All Catholic teaching I have ever been exposed regards sexuality as a gift from God…” That has been my experience too, by and large.

    I fall into the Protestant camp these days, and we obviously have a different spin on issues such as celebacy for leaders and the permissability of wearing little rubber things, but in terms of the act itself I find pretty much all Christians denominations affirm sex as a gift. What may lead to confusion is our insistance that the gift not be cheapened. We say, be careful, not because it is so sinful, but because it is so sacred. Within the sacred context of lifelong commitment though the message is, enjoy.

  • Siamang

    We say, be careful, not because it is so sinful, but because it is so sacred.

    I’m interested in the historical aspect of when that flip happened in the church. It seems to be within this living generation.

    Or is it a case of religious retcon: “Properly understood, the scriptures ALWAYS envisioned the modern view on sex!”

  • Daniel Hoffman

    Erm, yes, it’s called evolution, not “atheistic naturalism”. Most Christians accept it too.

    Atheistic naturalism is a particular view of the world. Evolution describes a particular biological process.

    First of all, you’ll find that many atheists don’t mock the entire religion so much as a comparatively small sample of very loud and obnoxious fruitcakes therein. Further, calling any honest objection to an argument for the existence of God “mockery” puts you in a bad place and makes people not want to talk to you.

    The thing wasn’t an honest objection to the existence of God. It was a chart graphing deaths attributed to God and deaths attributed to Satan, in an effort to make it look like God is the ‘bad’ one. It could much more accurately be described as a potshot than an honest objection.

    Second of all, calling murder wrong is not arbitrary in the slightest. It’s based on the ethic of reciprocity, which, even though Jesus referred to it, predates him by a couple thousand years. Don’t murder if you don’t want to be murdered.

    What predating has to do with it I have no idea, but do you realize you just condemned murder on purely pragmatic grounds? As far you went, you just said murder is fine if you can get away with it.

    Third, just because death and dying are part of the natural course of things doesn’t mean that murder isn’t wrong. Most animals only kill for food or defense. These are also considered justifiable killings among humans; where do you think meat comes from? Besides, personal ethics aside, there’s an obvious evolutionary advantage to not killing other humans: the propagation of the species.

    Well, sure it doesn’t necessarily mean murder is wrong. But how are you defining wrong? Pragmatism? Your opinion? The majority opinion?

    Finally, just because you find one argument against the existence of God weak doesn’t mean that atheism is a “fatally inconsistent” position.

    The chart wasn’t an argument against the existence of God, or even an argument at all. I was just saying that coming from an atheist, such an objection to Christianity is not at all compelling.

  • Siamang

    What predating has to do with it I have no idea, but do you realize you just condemned murder on purely pragmatic grounds?

    This from the guy who said that slavery was justifiable based on the Bible as long as the slave masters followed ALL of the rules of the Bible regarding how slave owners should act.

    I was just saying that coming from an atheist, such an objection to Christianity is not at all compelling.

    Coming from someone who thinks slavery can be justified by merely following ancient religious laws, I don’t have the highest opinion of your ability to reason out moral issues.

    No thanks to God, but thanks to the will and reasoning and compassion and sacrifice of man, that I was born and will remain a free human being.

    Those who believe they can justify evil based on a book have not looked into the hearts of their fellow man. To follow the laws of a bronze-age kingdom is to consign mankind to collapse.

    Those who base their lives on ancient books containing the dusty laws of kingdoms long dead, rather than compassion for their brother are slaves themselves. Slaves to the dead kleptocrats of forgotten generations.

  • Daniel Hoffman

    This from the guy who said that slavery was justifiable based on the Bible as long as the slave masters followed ALL of the rules of the Bible regarding how slave owners should act.

    I believe that’s a bit of reading into what I said. I said it might be possible to justify slavery, in principle at least, biblically, but that those who try to are probably not making every effort to live up to their own obligations. And I am not talking about American slavery here which involved kidnapping and racism – I’m talking about the economic principle in the ancient world of people being the servants of others for their livelihood, and for their only means of financial support. Something you may be missing is that if owners did live up to the principles required of them, it would wind up pretty much not being slavery.

    Coming from someone who thinks slavery can be justified by merely following ancient religious laws, I don’t have the highest opinion of your ability to reason out moral issues.

    Are you distinguishing here between racism, economic necessity, the differences in standard of living between our world and their’s, etc… and that even if indentured servitude might in some cases be justifiable in principle, the totality of the biblical ethic (love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and your neighbor as your self) if followed by everyone would have the effect of making slavery a non-issue?

    Those who base their lives on ancient books containing the dusty laws of kingdoms long dead, rather than compassion for their brother are slaves themselves. Slaves to the dead kleptocrats of forgotten generations.

    I’d suggest you read Philemon. It’s only a page long, and shows how Paul dealt with a slave who had escaped from his master and had become a Christian under Paul’s ministry.

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    Siamang said,

    I’m interested in the historical aspect of when that flip happened in the church. It seems to be within this living generation.

    Well, I don’t pretend to be an expert in this, but from what I understand, the negative attitude towards sex that people sometimes encounter within the church came in through the back door via the Gnostics and the NeoPlatonists and, yes, it does rear its head from time to time. But it tends to be a folk religion sort of thing – it is extrinsic to Christianity not intrinsic to it – there is no Biblical support for it.

    For example, in the Old Testament Genesis we are immediately confronted with God declaring the material world good and instructing humanity to go forth and multiply; throughout the Old Testament we find adultery condemned but never marital sex; and to top it all off in the Song of Songs we are even presented with an erotic / romantic love poem as scripture. Turning to the New Testament, sure we are confronted with the celebracy of Jesus (unless you believe Dan Brown) and Paul, which at first glance would seem to contradict this. But a deeper look shows Paul counseling people to marry if they are burning with desire, that it was improper for partners to withold sex from one another except for short mutually agreed periods, that Peter had a mother-in-law (I’ll leave you to draw the obvious conclusion) and that oversears (bishops) and elders (priests) were counseled to have “but one wife” lest they were inclined to think it was ok to have many. Protestants would also argue that Mary was not “ever virgin” but only virgin for a bit. A little known fact is that, even within the Catholic priesthood celebacy was considered voluntary, not manditory, until around the year 1000 and even then the justification for the more restrictive practice was not for any supposed “sinfulness” attributable to sex. Of course Protestant leaders have always married, starting with martin Luther, and from what I understand marriage is an option for Orthodox priests too.

    So I would argue the church has never completely flipped on this, it has lost its way at times, it has let in erroneous teaching, but even when anti-sex teaching has infiltrated it has always stood in tention with the more core teaching of the original goodness of Creation, a teaching which continually undermines it. It has also stood in tension with the more core teaching of the resurrection, which affirms the value of embodiment.

    To return to the Catholics, whatever some local Catholics you know might have said, or whatever you thought they may have said, or wherever you got that understanding from, it is my understanding that the official teaching of the Catholic church is that sex is good and a gift from God in line with the Genesis teaching.

  • I like tea

    The chart wasn’t an argument against the existence of God, or even an argument at all. I was just saying that coming from an atheist, such an objection to Christianity is not at all compelling.

    No, it’s not – nor is it intended to be – an argument against the existence of God, so for you to object to it on those grounds is pretty dimwitted.

    The argument is against the assertion that the Christian God is a God of love. Does a God of love murder millions of people? I’m not about to argue with you about whether or why murder is wrong/evil/immoral/sinful, but I think it’s self-evident that slaughtering millions of people is contrary to the notion of loving humanity. That’s not even a moral issue – it’s simply a matter of definition.

  • EKM

    Daniel Hoffman said,

    The thing wasn’t an honest objection to the existence of God. It was a chart graphing deaths attributed to God and deaths attributed to Satan, in an effort to make it look like God is the ‘bad’ one. It could much more accurately be described as a potshot than an honest objection.

    And later said

    The chart wasn’t an argument against the existence of God, or even an argument at all. I was just saying that coming from an atheist, such an objection to Christianity is not at all compelling.

    No, the chart was not really an argument. But the atheosphere is not monolithic. I think Daylight Atheism tends to be more geared towards disproving religion, while Atheist Revolution tends to be oriented towards politics and culture (the author is based in Mississippi and likes to keep a low profile) and Pharyngula is heavy on the science. Granted, there is some overlap, but different blogs and sites have different focuses. Hemant tends to be more on the lighter side. He tends to have a lot of posts from spoof sites (like the Onion), a lot of sites that are so out there it can be hard to tell if they are spoofs or not, and he also has contests as well. I would say the comments here are on the lighter side as well.

    So atheists are not all serious all the time.

  • Daniel Hoffman

    The argument is against the assertion that the Christian God is a God of love. Does a God of love murder millions of people? I’m not about to argue with you about whether or why murder is wrong/evil/immoral/sinful, but I think it’s self-evident that slaughtering millions of people is contrary to the notion of loving humanity. That’s not even a moral issue – it’s simply a matter of definition.

    Christians assert a lot more about God than that He is love. “God is love” is a biblical statement, and so comes in a biblical context – and the biblical context has a whole lot more to say about God than that He is love. And a lot more to say about humanity, and redemption, and the creator/creature relationship, sin, law, grace, God’s purposes, His highest allegiance, distinguishing between persons, etc…

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    I like tea, the problem with your assertion is that none of these deaths can be correctly defined as divine murder within a Christian reference frame. Capital punnishment, yes, but murder no. Murder implies an illegality. As God IS the law, talk of him acting illegal is nonsensical. It is akin to saying the law is illegal. For your argument to have more traction with Christians you would have to demonstrate why captial punnishment is unloving.

  • Richard Wade

    As God IS the law, talk of him acting illegal is nonsensical. It is akin to saying the law is illegal.

    This line of thinking is why there are so few kings left in the world. Good riddance.

    The impression an outsider like myself gets from all the OT carnage either performed directly by God, with God’s help or on His orders is a puzzling contrast to His commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” If those stone tablets were a little brittle, maybe a corner broke off that held the phrase, “…unless I tell you to.”

    Maybe you could help me understand?

  • EKM

    Matt Stone said,

    I like tea, the problem with your assertion is that none of these deaths can be correctly defined as divine murder within a Christian reference frame.

    Christian reference frames have no validity.

    —-

    Richard Wade said,

    The impression an outsider like myself gets from all the OT carnage either performed directly by God, with God’s help or on His orders is a puzzling contrast to His commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” If those stone tablets were a little brittle, maybe a corner broke off that held the phrase, “…unless I tell you to.”

    Isn’t that the Euthyphro problem in a nutshell?

  • llewelly

    For those puzzled as to why God killed so many, recall that murder is a demonstration of power. Therefor, God, in order to retain his position, must demonstrate far more power than Satan. That’s why God wins, and why you don’t want to be on the side of a loser like Satan.

  • Richard Wade

    The other thing that’s puzzling about divine doing in is that since the end of the OT all three versions of the god of Abraham seem to have gotten squeamish about killing. He doesn’t do it himself any more, no he hires hit men. There’s no shortage of holy warriors today in all three Abrahamic branches. Is that like when the Godfather gets old he doesn’t dirty his hands on his enemies but leaves it to his soldiers? What, God got arthritis or something?

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    .

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    EKM said,

    Christian reference frames have no validity.

    I respond, atheist reference frames have no validity.

    That’s a darn sure way to kill dialogue ain’t it. Can you think of a better approach? Or is dialogue and mutual understanding of no interest to you? I am open to listening if you are.

    llewelly said,

    …God, in order to retain his position

    Can you cite me a Bible verse where God was ever worried about losing his position as God? Methinks you are reading things in that aren’t there. I though atheists valued … evidence?

    Richard,

    The Old Testament itself reveals that God was less than impressed when the Israelites demanded a king for themselves, and the prophets of the Old Testament were the chief critics of the Israelite kings. So critique of monarchialism is well established within the biblical tradition – the prophets and Jesus strongly distinguished between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of men. Understand that any comments I make on God’s authority are grounded in that understanding.

    As for the ten commandments, the commandment in question is “you shall not murder”. You can see for yourself here
    http://www.ibs.org/bible/word/index.php?word_request=%22not+murder%22&submit=Search&match_type=any&start_book=1&end_book=73&limit_select=span&whole_word=yes&limit=25&sortby=bookorder&selected_version_word=niv

  • EKM

    Matt Stone said,

    EKM said,

    Christian reference frames have no validity.

    I respond, atheist reference frames have no validity.

    Sloganeering is a darn sure way to kill dialogue ain’t it! Can you think of a better approach? Or is dialogue and mutual understanding of no interest to you? I am willing to listen if you are.

    If you are a Christian, I will decide if you are ready to listen. You guys can dish it out, but you can’t take it.

    If you don’t like my attitude, go to your church and talk to your friends about their attitude. Go talk to the people who say this supposedly free country is for Christians only.

  • Richard Wade

    Matt, that is interesting about the OT prophets who were critical of the Israelite kings, and I will keep the distinction of the kingdoms you have referred to in mind. My remark about good riddance to kings in the world today comes from my having been brought up in a democracy. Any statement resembling “I am the law” is abhorrent to me, regardless to whom or Whom it is attributed.

    Thanks for clarifying the commandment “Thou shalt not murder.” I was going by the Cecil B. DeMille version. So it simply means, “Don’t kill each other unless you can write some laws that say it’s okay,” and then the unspoken part that you were talking about adds, “I write my own laws up here that trump any of yours, so I can kill whomever I please.”

    I think I’m getting the gist of it.

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    Richard said,

    The other thing that’s puzzling about divine doing in is that since the end of the OT all three versions of the god of Abraham seem to have gotten squeamish about killing. He doesn’t do it himself any more, no he hires hit men.

    Well I can’t speak for Muslims of Jews but here is a Christian response:

    Firstly, you have forgotten the book of Revelation. To invoke a poetic image from that book, the four horsemen of war, famine, disease and death continue to ride through history till Jesus comes. Judgement isn’t over till its over. In the interrim, EVERY death in this world is a judgement of God on the injustice of this world, whether it be through intermediaries or otherwise. Your death, my death. That is revelation of the prophets, from the first book of the Bible to the last.

    Secondly, you have forgotten the gospel, or possibly not understood it. On one level the crucifixion and resurrection may be understood as the climax of the holy war tradition. The emphasis within the Old Testament, when it came to war, was always “God will fight for us”. Even when God engaged the Israelites as intemediary warriors the emphais was always on God’s strength, not theirs, and on may occasions he commanded them to go into battle with inferior numbers, and on some occasions with nothing but musical instruments. To have faith meant to trust in God for your deliverance, not your strength of arms, even when you were armed. Many of the wars of Israel may be seen as outworkings of the faith of the kings of Israel, or lack thereof, particularly towards the end. During the exile which followed the destruction of Israel expectations arose of a messianic deliverer, through whom God would defeat injustice (all injustice but especially the injustice being suffered by the hebrew people) and restore the Temple and true worship. These expectations were fulfilled in Jesus but not in the manner expected (his teachings on the temple are very interesting in this respect). I lack the time to go into this fully but the rub is, through his death and resurrection Jesus showed that the ultimate power behind all empires, the power to take life, was powerless next to God who rose him from the dead. The decisive victory has been won, even if the war still rages. If the weapons of death have been defeated, why should we trust in them? As we have been commanded by Jesus, we should leave judgement to God. That is what the new covenant requires. God no longer commands us to war because he has won the war to end all wars through Christ. If your not famiar with this line of thought, it known in some circles as the “Christus Victor” interpretation.

  • Richard Wade

    Matt, thank you for your patient explanation. I understood most of it with the exception of:

    God no longer commands us to war because he has won the war to end all wars through Christ.

    Well His soldiers sure have been busy since then. They haven’t gone on leave. Maybe they didn’t get the memo. They’ve been saying God wants them to war on so-and-so frequently for two millennia. In the last few years His Muslim and Jewish armies are more on active duty lately than His Christian forces. Many of the Christian “officers” are more coy about it, but they’re still talking about a lot of scary stuff and doing some of it, and they’re still claiming they’re getting their orders from Headquarters.

    Since we’re not getting any more documented orders directly from God, how do you discern what are His wishes and what are the lies of the people who use Him as a rationalization for their ambition? There’s a hell of a lot of that going around.

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    Richard, sorry I was posting while you were posting so my last comment was written without seeing yours. Having been brought up in a democracy myself I am no fan of dictatorships either, hereditary or otherwise. I realise that the imperial / kingly / dictatorial metaphors that the Bible employs don’t communicate so well in our society. It means more time needs to be taken to tease out what is actually being said, and what is not, than it might in another culture. It is worth remembering that when Jesus was asked about thrones by James and John in Mark 10 his next words were, “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant”. His understanding of leadership was a complete inversion of dictatorship. As we understand the Old Testament God through Jesus, not the other way round, it colours everything we see the Old testament saying.

    As for “I am the law” being abhorrent, is not “physics the law” for many atheists? We just call our ultimate reality I AM (aka YHWH) rather than physics.

    Yes, within most ethical systems there are distinctions between different kinds of killing. In contemporary western societies we distinguish between murder, manslaughter, military action, capital punnishment and so on. What distinguishes them all are questions of legitimacy and authority. There are circumstances under which a policeman is authorised to shoot someone in the street. These are different to the circumstances under which military personal are authorised to do likewise. Different again for executioners and civilians. A policemen can only be said to be convicted as a murderer when he goes beyond what he is authorised to do. A soldier can only be convicted of murderer when he goes beyond the rules of engagement. And yes, since ethics is defined by God, God trumps everyone in life/death authority.

    However, in the same way that the authority of a policeman differs to that of a civilian, it should always be remembered that the authority of God differs to that of a Christian. We have no authority to take judgement into our own hands, unless it is by God’s express command, and God (aka Jesus) says some pretty radical things about judgement in the New Testament which is generally understood as trumping anything said in the Old Testament. God may kill whomever he judges worthy of death, Christians cannot.

    (By this point you are probably suspecting I am no supporter of JWs jihad)
    (Oh, and life/death authority issues feed directly back into the resurrection, once again its God exercising tha trump card, in reverse)

  • Richard Wade

    Matt, you sure stay up late. Maybe you’re on the West coast like I am. You sound a lot like Mike Clawson. Just an observation, and a compliment.

    You asked:

    As for “I am the law” being abhorrent, is not “physics the law” for many atheists? We just call our ultimate reality I AM (aka YHWH) rather than physics.

    Mmmm, not for me nor any atheists I know. Physics and science in general is simply a systematic way of looking at the universe in terms of empirical evidence, describing what we see, forming a hypothesis, making a prediction, putting the prediction to a test, modifying the hypothesis according to the results of the test, and repeating the process again and again. Science never says “This is the truth.” It only says “This is the best explanation we have so far based on what we have seen so far,” and that is said with a big eraser handy. Any notions of “ultimate reality” are irrelevant and are generally avoided. A physicist might get a little carried away after too many quarks and a couple of martinis, but his colleagues will sober him up the next morning. Ultimate things are what religionists are interested in. Scientists are only interested in the best explanation so far. I don’t think you have drawn a parallel here, but I appreciate the gesture of conciliation.

    However, in the same way that the authority of a policeman differs to that of a civilian, it should always be remembered that the authority of God differs to that of a Christian. We have no authority to take judgement into our own hands, unless it is by God’s express command, and God (aka Jesus) says some pretty radical things about judgement in the New Testament which is generally understood as trumping anything said in the Old Testament. God may kill whomever he judges worthy of death, Christians cannot.

    Could you talk to your colleagues about that? Because I have never met a bunch of people so fond of, so eager to, so giddy about, so orgasmically enthralled with passing judgement than are (many, not all) Christians. They are really into it. They pass judgement on themselves, each other, complete strangers, dead people and most of all on folks who disagree with them or who are just different, and they say it’s all God’s judgement not theirs, claiming to know what He wants, thinks and feels, and how they are going to do His bidding on those He has supposedly judged. (For some reason He is impotent to do it Himself, but they don’t explain that.) This bidding ranges from disapproving, shunning, slander, oppressing through laws, boycotting, firing, sabotage, beating and even killing both within and without the law, rules of engagement or whatever, and it’s all okay because they claim they hold God’s trump card in their own hands. That is stolen merchandise and it should be returned.

    (By this point you are probably suspecting I am no supporter of JWs jihad)

    It’s getting late for me and I don’t know who JW is. If you meant George the Usurper, then “we be of one blood, thee and I.”

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Goodness! How did I miss this thread? Great dialogue. May I jump in and make a few comments?

    No thanks to God, but thanks to the will and reasoning and compassion and sacrifice of man, that I was born and will remain a free human being.

    Siamang, If you change the word God to religion and add the word one in front of the word man, it would be perrrrrrrrfect!!! :-) It would then read:

    No thanks to religion, but thanks to the will and reasoning and compassion and sacrifice of one man, that I was born and will remain a free human being.

    ..

    I’m interested in the historical aspect of when that flip happened in the church. It seems to be within this living generation.

    There is more sex in the Bible than most books I read. The way I see it, all of it has to do with our human-ness. Sex is a part of being human, period. Judgment against it comes from religion, not from God. Many times, we violate the very meaning of love because of lust…which we just cannot seem to get away from. Not good or bad, but just is.

    Jesus comes in and offers a way out of lust into unconditional love. As a woman, it’s very easy for me to understand the metaphor of him being the groom, making love to his bride (us) via the Holy Spirit. We invite him into us, as virgins (spiritually), and willingly receive him as our lover. This, to me, is the way God viewed sex from the beginning. There is no “flip”.

    God may kill whomever he judges worthy of death, Christians cannot.

    Matt, I have a slight problem with this statement. I don’t believe God judges anyone worthy of death. Death is a human trait. God claims everyone worthy of life… never death. Love claims life.

    I have never met a bunch of people so fond of, so eager to, so giddy about, so orgasmically enthralled with passing judgment than are (many, not all) Christians.

    Richard, what colorful description of religion! I really don’t think Christians have a monopoly on this, however. If you go by my definition of religion (although very few people agree with me), all of humanity falls into this category.

    This bidding ranges from disapproving, shunning, slander, oppressing through laws, boycotting, firing, sabotage, beating and even killing both within and without the law, rules of engagement or whatever, and it’s all okay because they claim they hold God’s trump card in their own hands. That is stolen merchandise and it should be returned.

    Wow… Brilliantly said! I stand in awe! ;)

  • I like tea

    I like tea, the problem with your assertion is that none of these deaths can be correctly defined as divine murder within a Christian reference frame. Capital punnishment, yes, but murder no. Murder implies an illegality. As God IS the law, talk of him acting illegal is nonsensical. It is akin to saying the law is illegal. For your argument to have more traction with Christians you would have to demonstrate why captial punnishment is unloving.

    You goddamn fucking retard. Did every single person killed in Noah’s flood deserve “capital punishment”? Did every firstborn child in Egypt deserve “capital punishment”? Do kids who make fun of an old man deserve “capital punishment”? God kills unnecessarily in the Old Testament, and that’s unloving.

    Also, I never used the word “illegal,” but I guess you’re too much of a shithead to notice.

  • Iztok

    I like tea, the problem with your assertion is that none of these deaths can be correctly defined as divine murder within a Christian reference frame. Capital punnishment, yes, but murder no. Murder implies an illegality. As God IS the law, talk of him acting illegal is nonsensical. It is akin to saying the law is illegal. For your argument to have more traction with Christians you would have to demonstrate why captial punnishment is unloving.

    Yeah, kinda like Hitler (yes I know I lost by default invoking him). He “was the law” when he did all the atrocities in his country and beyond. Yet what he did is still murder. I am sure that none of his soldiers considered what they were doing was murder within their reference frame.

  • Iztok

    You goddamn fucking retard. Did every single person killed in Noah’s flood deserve “capital punishment”?

    In Christian reference frame the answer is yes. God expects us to be perfect yet he didn’t give us tools/chance to be perfect. And everyone that is not perfect is a sinner. And since any sin compared to no sin is infinite sin, then we are all infinite sinners and deserve to be punished. You know, the magic anything divided by zero thing comes to be the same. Twisted logic but one that keeps them from facing reality.

  • http://www.bernerbits.com Derek

    you just condemned murder on purely pragmatic grounds? As far you went, you just said murder is fine if you can get away with it.

    Well, Daniel, if you get to know me I’m a pretty pragmatic guy for the most part. However, I think in your crusade to pick apart technicalities, you’ve missed an important nuance here. When paired with selfishness (I won’t kill you because someone would probably kill me in return), the ethic of reciprocity permits “getting away with it”. However, when the ethic of reciprocity is paired with respect (I wouldn’t kill your brother because I know what it would feel like if my brother were killed), the idea of getting away with it doesn’t even really come to mind.

    I know you and many Christians believe that any “moral standard” imposed by atheists is arbitrary and hypocritical, but just because a standard comes from a consensus based in a few generally intuitive principles rather than a sacred tome penned by a Creator does not make them any more spurious.

    But how are you defining wrong? Pragmatism? Your opinion? The majority opinion?

    You’re now holding me up to an artificial standard of rigor! By “calling murder wrong”, I simply meant that for most people, there is a sort of basic, visceral sense of “wrongness” about murdering other people and they wouldn’t hesitate to say so.

    The chart wasn’t an argument against the existence of God, or even an argument at all.

    You’re right that the chart wasn’t an argument against the existence of God. I saw the post immediately preceding yours, which contained a few actual “typical atheist questions”, which I thought you were responding to. However, when someone looks at the OT and says “your God sure seems to kill people an awful lot,” you might be better served by asking that person to elaborate on their point of view. It certainly doesn’t make for good conversation to call an entire group of people “fatally inconsistent” and God-mockers.

    I was just saying that coming from an atheist, such an objection to Christianity is not at all compelling.

    I could say “coming from a Christian, such an objection to atheism is not at all compelling,” and guess what, it would sound like the ad hominem attack that it is, and one way or another we’d both be left resenting the other with nothing more to say.

  • http://www.bernerbits.com Derek

    “…you’ll find that many atheists don’t mock the entire religion so much as a comparatively small sample of very loud and obnoxious fruitcakes therein…”
    Wherever atheists take care to distinguish between the whole and the part I am inclined to say, be my guest. Unfortunately I find that happens all to rarely and broad brush strokes are the more common tactic.

    Hey Matt, I never said I was an atheist. Now who’s using the wrong brush? ;)

    Seriously though, I do try and take pains to place criticism where it’s due and argue the belief rather than the person. Trouble is some Christians are so deeply rooted into their theology that *any* objection is taken as a personal affront, and as an ex-evangelical I find it tiresome to try and walk on eggshells for the sake of dialog.

    But there I go again with my broad strokes :)

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    I like tea,

    Now, why would you go and display such an irratic behavior in otherwise very intelligent conversation? Don’t you realize that it does nothing but help disqualify your viewpoint? Resorting to name calling only indicates that you’ve run out of valid arguments.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    In Christian reference frame the answer is yes. God expects us to be perfect yet he didn’t give us tools/chance to be perfect. And everyone that is not perfect is a sinner. And since any sin compared to no sin is infinite sin, then we are all infinite sinners and deserve to be punished. You know, the magic anything divided by zero thing comes to be the same. Twisted logic but one that keeps them from facing reality.

    Iztok, I disagree. That is the Christian reference frame in your mind and the minds of many who choose to twist the logic. I don’t know if it’s ever a good idea to make assumptions and generalities about the other side’s views while engaged in a conversation with them. And if the questions are asked with genuine interest (without undue name-calling or dismissive tone), then you will get honest and sincere answers.

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    Richard, actually I’m an east coast Aussie. Now I’m being a night owl.

    And since you mention Mike – checking the bios and stuff I think I actually know his wife Julie from interacting with her blog and the emerging women network. Mike, if I have got this correct I understand congratulations are in order.

    As for physics, scientists do talk about the “laws of physics” do they not? If you personally find it a bit of a stretch though, no matter, I was just seeing if the analogy might serve as some rudimentary common ground.

    As for talking to my colleges, I try. We have this saying, “God gave you two ears and one mouth, try to use them in that proportion”. And believe it or not many do actually take that on board. But you know how it goes, there are always those who reverse that principle. And we Christians don’t seem to have a monopoly on that now do we (says with tongue firmly in cheek).

    As for your last comment, yes I meant George the Usurper. He’s not only usurped your country you know, he also usurped my religion, and global politics … hmmm, don’t get me started. I recently blogged that Christian integrity was more important than Christian influence. George seems to have that back the front. Quite happy to be a blood brother on this issue.

    Must go, getting late.

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    Derek, apologies if my surmise was off base, I was drawing inferences from your language use. Happy to be enlightened on where you stand. I couldn’t discern anything from your website so you’re going to have to spell it out for me. By now labelling yourself “ex-evangelical” are you saying you’re a liberal Christian, or something else?

    As for me, I would describe myself as an evangelical Christian who’s path has been informed by orthodoxy, catholicism, anabaptism, postliberalism, reformed theology, cross cultural missiology and mysticism amongst other traditions. Prior to embracing Christ some 15 years ago (approx?) my path led me through agnosticism, New Age and Buddhism. What I consider most essential is what most nicene Christians would affirm – Jesus, resurrection, that sort of thing. What is more ideosyncratic to particular traditions I consider more periperal and optional. Personally I couldn’t give a toss about six day creationism or premillenial dispensationalism so if anyone here thinks they can get a rise out of me that way, good luck. I respect disagreement, provided its respectful, and don’t take anything as a personal affront other than personal vilification. I can be sarcastic at times I admit, but it is generally meant in a lighthearted teasing manner, so if I slip into that please don’t read too much into it. I will never disparage an honest question and I also seek to learn myself. I would say that facing doubts honestly is the only way to deeper faith. Hiding from doubts stunts spiritual growth. I do however distinguish between open-minded doubt and close-minded cynicism when I make that statement. Hopefully that fleshes things out a bit more.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    And since you mention Mike – checking the bios and stuff I think I actually know his wife Julie from interacting with her blog and the emerging women network. Mike, if I have got this correct I understand congratulations are in order.

    Yes you do, and yes they are. :)

  • http://www.bernerbits.com Derek

    Hey Matt,

    It’s cool, I was trying to give you a hard time more than anything, but all in good fun. I’m currently eschewing labels for the most part but I think “agnostic” would be the most precise descriptor. Truly, “atheist” is somewhat accurate too as I don’t profess an explicit God-belief (at least not a Christian God-belief) but I’m not immune to the occasional wondering and I feel like there’s too much in the way of circumstantial evidence and hearsay that I just haven’t investigated to my satisfaction. You could also call me a “pragmatist” as Daniel here has alluded to and not be totally off base.

    I do tend to make use of the vernacular in discussion, and I admit in many ways I identify with some atheistic thought processes, and find the type of intelligent discourse on this and other atheist-friendly blogs compelling. I mainly avoid the explicit terminology when I can because I don’t necessarily like the psychological “I believe all this and only this” baggage that tends to come with a lot of the “belief labels”.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Matt,

    Given that you’re an Aussie, have you heard of C. Baxter Kruger and his writing, such a The Parable of the Dancing God? I was recently having a conversation with someone and heard that his theology is much more accepted in places like Australia and New Zealand.

    Have you heard of the novel called “The Shack” by William P. Young?

    Just wondering what the current Christian atmosphere is like over there… I imagine it’s much different than the Bible Belt of the U.S. (?)

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    Derek, no worries, I actually find the agnostic position easier to empathize with.

    And as you may gather from my introduction I am cautious of applying simple labels to myself too. I cannot call myself evangelical without significantly qualifying it given the unhelpful stereotype that word conjures up for the average person in the street. Unfortunately however, I can’t avoid the evangelical label either as if I do I find people tend to apply a different set of assumptions to me. Damned either way. I don’t know if you’ve seen the recently released Evangelical Manifesto but it goes some way towards explaining things.
    http://www.evangelicalmanifesto.com/docs/Evangelical_Manifesto.pdf

    I can’t say I buy into atheistic thought processes but I do enjoy science and appreciate open minded enquiry. I am particularly interested in cosmology, relativity theory and the nature of time. But, with a hat tip to Godel, I acknowledge logical limits to logic, scientific limits to science and am skeptical of the value of unbridled skepticism. If its a consolation though I also acknowledge there are theological limits to theology. :-)

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    Linda

    I had not heard of “The Parable of the Dancing God” but in scanning the site I noted references to perichoresis, a concept from Orthodox theology which I have some affinity for and which makes sense of the book title. Can’t say I would endorse it without reading it but it looks intriguing.

    I have heard of “The Shack” but again have not read it. I learnt about it from a friend vassilating between agnosticism and Christianity the other week. From what little I do know I am not sure I would agree with it, but then again, who knows.

    And yes, the Christian atmosphere over here is much different to the Bible Belt in the USA. Sydney Anglicanism and Hillsong Pentecostalism is about as fundamentalist as we get. Consider that my introduction to the Baptist Church I am now a part of was a video death game match with the associate pastor over a couple of beers. I get the impression that would give our counterparts out your way a hernia. We’re a bit more relaxed about peripheral issues you might say. Consider, who are the two most prominant Christians in our government? Answer: the Prime Minister, who has ratified Kyoto, announced a withdrawal from Iraq and forged a bi-partisan apology to our indigenous peoples, all with the space of a few months since election to office, and the Environment Minister, former lead singer of rock group Midnight Oil and former head of the Nuclear Disarmament Party. That sound like your idea of Christian political leadership, or the sort of government that would get elected BY A LANDSLIDE over there? Yes, the atmosphere is very different. Yet, the world is increasingly connected now so your problems are our problems.

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    I should also add, part of the difference is also that Australia seems much further down the track of Post-Christendom. The God politics of America seems very foreign to us. I also can’t help noticing that even though Dawkins is a Brit, it seems to be the American Christians he reserves his biggest guns for, not his home grown variety. You seem to breed a stange variety over there.

  • http://www.bernerbits.com Derek

    Hey Matt,

    Incidentally I’m almost done with Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter (it’s taken me half a year — I’m a bit of a slow reader!). One of the very interesting conclusions he draws from the incompleteness theorem is, if the brain is anything like a computer (and there is good reason to suspect it is) then there are necessarily limits to knowledge — there exist ideas that we can express whose truth is simply unknowable.

    I think it’s less important to focus on the limits of something, though, especially for so powerful a tool of knowledge like logic, and more on what we are capable of learning from it. Otherwise you leave room for arguments like “Well, your logic appears sound, but after all, it’s just logic. And Gödel showed that logic is incomplete.”

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    Derek, I would possibly define my approach as post-rationalism (or hyper-rationalism) in contrast to pre-rationalism, in the sense that I still acknowledge the strengths of rationalism even as I acknowledge its rational limitations. So respect the tool, both its limits and its strengths, is the way I see it. I have no time for anti-intellectualism but, yes I have found “there exist ideas that we can express whose truth is simply unknowable” and that calls me to explore realms beyond pure intellectualism.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Matt,

    Thank you for answering my questions. I think it’s important for us to remind ourselves that there exists a world out there outside of the U.S. There are perspectives different than our own.

    You seem to breed a stange variety over there.

    Haha. Yes, I agree. However, strange does not discriminate. It treats all cultures equally, I believe.

    It’s an interesting point about Dawkins. I wonder why that is… There certainly are other countries out there where fundies thrive. But are they not the countries where our missionaries have gone and evangelized? Hmmm….

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    I wonder why that is… There certainly are other countries out there where fundies thrive.

    I think its that yours are exceptional. You excel at everything.

    By way of example. I recently started up a prayer group in my local Baptist church and one of the respondants was a Christian from India. I was passed on the tip, just be careful, he’s SOUTHERN Baptist affiliated. Duly warned I watched my language to make sure I didn’t set him off with any trigger words. But you know what, I’ve found him to be a very lovable guy, and he’s now seen the blog and knows, knows what sort of stuff I get into and it hasn’t fazed him. I had to reassess, obviously the more excessive stuff hadn’t translated across the cultural divide. I have breathed a sign of relief.

    I don’t know whether it the combination of the gun culture over there or your constitution or your pilgrim heritage or the fact you have the worlds biggest army or what, but there’s something.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    obviously the more excessive stuff hadn’t translated across the cultural divide.

    Hmm… that makes me think. Do you think some cultures are more receptive to the hard-core legalism? I’m under the impression that people in Africa, for example, are very vulnerable to that. Perhaps it has to do with the current economic and political condition the culture is in. And there are definitely some cultures that are more fascinated with the mystical and the supernatural.

    Just random thoughts going through my head… Sorry for rambling without a direction. :)

    I don’t know whether it the combination of the gun culture over there or your constitution or your pilgrim heritage or the fact you have the worlds biggest army or what, but there’s something.

    Yes, I’m sure all of the above plays a part. We do have that way of shoving our ideals down everyone’s throats… “We know what’s best for you; so you’re gonna let us help you, whether you want/need it or not.”

  • Richard Wade

    Matt, sorry I took so long to respond to this:

    As for physics, scientists do talk about the “laws of physics” do they not? If you personally find it a bit of a stretch though, no matter, I was just seeing if the analogy might serve as some rudimentary common ground.

    I think we have extensive common ground in our concern for the well being of people and in wanting to find ways to improve conditions on here-and-now Earth. Those are more important and more satisfying mutual interests than physics/metaphysics anyway.

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    Richard, yes well I have made common cause with Wiccans over issues of freedom of religion. I am sure I could stretch myself to make common cause with Atheists too, where mutual concerns overlap.

  • Darryl

    On one level the crucifixion and resurrection may be understood as the climax of the holy war tradition. The emphasis within the Old Testament, when it came to war, was always “God will fight for us”.

    This points up one of the themes that prompt unbelief in the Bible’s God: the provincial character of the O.T. God.

    Wallace Stevens wrote “A Mythology Reflects Its Region.” God is made to be universal because he must be the Creator and all-powerful (otherwise he’s not God), but in day-to-day living he’s completely local–he’s even got an address. You can find him in town at his spiffed-up residence, complete with servants, as long as his children are behaving themselves.

    Yes, he’s a partisan–the Partisan of partisans. Rather than gather all his creation together in mutual respect and understanding, he prefers to fight for a nation’s army, and, coincidentally, kill as they kill, and plunder as they plunder, and get revenge as they get revenge. Yes, the God of the O.T. is a real S.O.B. Just the kind of God you would expect to find if a single people, beset by many enemies, and in search of real estate, decided to invent a God.
    Can’t you see that for a skeptic it is much more likely that this God is an archaic invention rather than the God of the Universe? The Universe has a Hard-Right Conservative for a God? Hell no!

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    Linda said,

    Do you think some cultures are more receptive to the hard-core legalism?

    I would say so, yes, though it is much harder to pin down why.

    I’m under the impression that people in Africa, for example, are very vulnerable to that.

    I am under a similar impression. We have Sudanese Christians in my area that are very separatist. Afraid of contamination if they mix.

    Perhaps it has to do with the current economic and political condition the culture is in.

    I suspect that has its part, though I think heritage has its part too. In Australia for instance we have this thing we call the “tall poppy syndrome” which means we tend to cut down anyone who thinks too highly of themselves. That happens in the religious sphere too. Leaders who grow too proud risk eliciting strong counter reactions from followers, not to mention the rest of society. Comes from our harsh environment and (anti-authoritarian) convict past I think. Fundamentalism has much less traction here as a consequence, except amongst the mentally disturbed. Consequently we tend to view some of your religious leaders as mentally disturbed when they act the way they do. Phelps for instance, was he dropped at birth?

    One proviso here, I would not automatically associate supernaturalism with fundamentalism. New Age was huge over here during the 80s-90s suggesting we are wide open to low commitment supernaturalism.

  • Richard Wade

    Matt, I think when we focus on our mutual humanity, on things like our common need to love and be loved, our sense of justice, our desire to secure our children’s future and our simple awe and respect for nature then it’s not a stretch at all and we can work comfortably together for many common causes. That kind of collaboration is one of the things I keep hoping will start around the globe. Little, tiny efforts to work together keep springing up here and there. Maybe they will reach a tipping point and really take off.

    That’s interesting about the Wiccans. Was that a recent issue/controversy in Australia?

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    In Australia for instance we have this thing we call the “tall poppy syndrome” which means we tend to cut down anyone who thinks too highly of themselves.

    I love that! That’s it! I’m moving to Australia!

    Phelps for instance, was he dropped at birth?

    I don’t know about Phelps, but my mother tells me I was dropped at birth. (I entered the world prematurely while my grandmother was out frantically looking for a midwife in the middle of the night.) That explains a lot! :)

    Matt, I do have one question…

    You seem to be very open-minded about all religions without being judgmental, yet you seem to have a firm belief in who you are. I’ve always believed that is possible, but never actually met a person of faith who is completely genuine in their claims of open-mindedness. So my question, if you choose to answer it, is this:

    In your opinion, is Christ who he says he is? Is he is not, then he is a lunatic, and the last 2,000 years of Christianity have been a lie. If he is (I happen to believe he is*), then all of the other religions have to be false. How do you reconcile this in your mind? How can you believe something to be so fundamentally true and yet have respect for other beliefs that are in opposition to that truth?

    That brings me to this thought… perhaps the last 2,000 years of Christianity have been a lie… Perhaps we had it all wrong, and the majority of us still have it wrong. *Perhaps the truth He spoke and the truth we think he spoke are also in opposition…(?)

    See? That’s what happens when you’re dropped at birth… ;-)

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    I think when we focus on our mutual humanity, on things like our common need to love and be loved, our sense of justice, our desire to secure our children’s future and our simple awe and respect for nature then it’s not a stretch at all and we can work comfortably together for many common causes.

    I agree, Richard. I so wholeheartedly agree. However, is that enough? As I asked Matt above, what of respect? Does love equal respect? And if you could not have both… if you had to choose one, which would you rather have?

    Love, with lack of respect; or
    Respect, with lack of love?

  • Richard Wade

    Linda, I was just giving a sampler, not intended to be complete, but you are right I should have included respect. Respect for the other person’s humanity is an essential ingredient in any successful relationship and respect for your own humanity is essential for health.

    The type of relationship determines whether or not love is an appropriate ingredient. Relationships such as teacher-student, business partners, employer-employee, doctor-patient, counselor-client, or neighbors will be successful if they contain mutual respect, but love is not essential there and it can actually interfere with the integrity of the relationship.

    Relationships such as lovers or spouses need both respect and love to be fully successful. Such a relationship having love without respect can be a clinging, needy, resentment-filled mess and probably will not last. Such a relationship with respect but without love can last in some cases, but may not be fully satisfying to the members’ needs. Over a long time, the proportions of love and respect that lovers or spouses have for each other can shift. They can increase, decrease, find a new balance, or become off balance.

    So, in my opinion love is not the same as respect, and respect is the more essential.

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    Linda

    A verse which I think sums up my approach (or at least the approach I aspire to) is 1 Peter 3:15, where Christians are counseled:

    “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”

    In essence, I do not see DISAGREEMENT as mandating DISRESPECT, at least not from a Christian perspective, and my suggestion to fundamentalists is that they don’t take the bible literally enough on this issue and so actually betray the word of God.

    To condense a lot into a little, just because we believe Jesus has been revealed as the way, the truth and the life, this does not mean we have all truth, or that we have a monopoly on every truth we have or that truth may not be found beyond Christianity. What we have is a re-orientating truth, one that causes us to see other truths in a different light. This should not render us incapable of learning from others.

    I personally find interacting with other paths very valuable as it sharpens my thinking and often highlights forgotten truths within my own tradition. For example, you guys have already prompted me to deeper reflection on the nature of justice. My own understanding of the Bible has grown richer as a consequence. Why should I disrespect anyone for that?

    I may disagree with you on some issues, even very important issues – that does not render me incapable on appreciating your questions or our common humanity.

  • http://mattstone.blogs.com Matt Stone

    Actually, to illustrate my comment about re-orientating truth, have you ever seen the movie “Sixth Sense”? In the last 5 minutes of the movie Bruce Willis discovers a truth that reframes everything he knows. Its not as if everything that happened before was false. It wasn’t. But this final truth radically shifted his perspective on everything that happened before. That’s what Jesus is like for me, he’s that sort of truth. So I am not saying everything you know is false, or that everything I know is true. Its just that Jesus, if true, changes everything.


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