Works Both Ways

We hear it all the time, and it is often from the lips of the new atheists, but they aren’t the exclusive voice here. “Religion causes more war and suffering than atheism does.” Jeffrey Burton Russell, in his book, Exposing Myths about Christianity, takes this claim on.

He opens with this: “It is deliberate disinformation” (55).

How do you respond to this accusation against the Christian faith?

The claim is that war and violence are essential to religion; the claim is that if we eliminated religion we’d eliminate much of war and violence. The true face of Christianity, the claim is, can be found in the Old Testament battles and in the crusades (usually uninformed) and the inquisitions and the 30 Years War … Rwanda … Sri Lanka … Ireland.

When Christians counter-claim that atheists were violent, the atheist response is: “it wasn’t their atheism that made them vicious” (57). In fact, these atheistic regimes “were determined to destroy religion for the simple reason that they knew it competed with their own claims to total authority and power” (57). “Violent ideological programs of all sorts have something in common: they whip up hatred and indignation, they repress differing opinions, they strive to annihilate opposition, and they look for scapegoats to dehumanize people” (57).

So Russell makes this counterclaim: “The antitheist argument boils down to this: a Christian who does evil does so because he or she is a Christian; an atheist who does evil does so despite being an atheist. The absolute reverse could be argued, but either way it’s nothing but spin” (58).

He concludes: “The solution is to put Christ above the world and love above power” (58).

My response:

1. Yes, it works both ways. The atheist can’t excuse Lenin or Stalin or Mao Zedong or Pol Pot if he/she wants to point to the crusades or the inquisitions or Calvin’s contribution to burning of heretics. If we want to count numbers, atheism is not going to win this one. Atheists need to be more evenhanded on this argument.

2. The problem is that the standard of morality for the follower of Jesus makes the vicious wars of Christendom inexcusable and unconscionable. You can’t read the Sermon on the Mount, at least Matthew 5, and then go to war.  The atheist critique of Christianity is spot-on, so long as it sticks to genuine facts and doesn’t start calling Hitler a Christian. Christendom, and it really gets it start with that war-mongering Constantine, failed Jesus. The crusades, and here is an old crusader pub in Nottingham, failed Jesus. The inquisition… etc … failed Jesus. We need to repent and ask for forgiveness and begin anew.

3. Pointing out the atheist’s problem in order to minimize “our” problem is bad form. We need to repent and pledge to work for a better expression for the body of Christ.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Tim

    All good thoughts, but you’re going to want to leave Hitler off that list. While his personal beliefs aren’t entirely known, he presented himself publicly as a Christian, and presented religious arguments in appeals to support. And of course the Christian leaders and populous of Nazi Germany did in fact support him by and large.

    I do of course agree that you can have authoritarian or sectarian secular ideology that is at its root atheistic. But there is little to find specifically within atheism that would recommend authoritarian or otherwise sectarian ideologies over more benign and healthy alternatives.

    However, the same cannot be said of certain religions by and large. There are appeals to sectarianism (as in the case of the Johannine literature in the New Testament), divinely justified acts of otherwise unjustifiable violence (numerous examples in the OT, of particular note are the herem passages in the conquest narratives).

    While certainly expressions (some would say the “true” expressions) of Christianity or Islam would eschew sectarianism or violence as acceptable to their faith, the teachings within their sacred texts remain for those who take a different interpretative route.

    Of course, other religions are less vulnerable in this regard. Buddhism seems one obvious example (though exceptions do exist). Jainism even more so.

    But even the “new atheists” such as Sam Harris acknowledge as much. It is some religion that can engender destructive sectarianism, authoritarianism, and violence.

    Regarding “secular” ideologies that can do the same, in modern times Social Darwinism would be one example. However, you could note that the political party in the US that advocates the strongest Socially Darwinist policies and really seems to take them to heart (i.e., remove the safety nets, sink or swim, nobody’s going to bail you out) are Republicans. Which also happens to be most heavily represented by born again Evangelical Christians. Secular / atheist / agnostic / non-religious types tend to lean more left.

    So what ideology does atheism recommend? I’d say it doesn’t favor any particular ideology. But by and large human / equal rights, liberty, critical thinking, science, and a prosperous society are all important to most atheists I know. Perhaps because all that is here and now (i.e., “earthly”), and it doesn’t involve trying to morally impose some inequitable / discriminatory (but divinely sanctioned) will on others in the sort of way that seems all too easy to do if one feels they have a religious mandate. More of level playing field, respect each others rights type stuff.

    So, yes. I agree that atheistic regimes adopting a secular agenda do exist in history. And I agree that atheists shouldn’t try to just brush that off. There should be the sort of acknowledgement I think you are asking for. But at the same time, there is a difference in how in our present day atheism and religion work as forces in this world along sectarian and violent lines. We don’t see atheist suicide bombers. Or flying themselves into buildings. Or rioting in the streets if someone draws the wrong religious figure in a cartoon. Or trying to prevent certain people from marrying. Or preventing or expunging certain people from military service. Or kicking certain kids or parents out of the boy scouts. Or pushing patriarchal oppressive agendas against women. Or against interfering with how someone chooses to end their life when suffering terminally.

    Just something to think about.

  • phil_style

    I agree with Tim, putting Hitler in the same religious context as Stalin or Mao is an oversight I think. The 3rd Reich regime co-opted christian religious terminology to promote their politics – so it’s very difficult to claim they were atheists. Many of them (quite possibly Hitler included) believe they carried some kind of divine right.

    The issue for theists is entwined with the euthyphro dilemma. Can “evil” be unconscionable if it is willed by God? And will people who believe absurdities commit atrocities? Atheism has a strong hand to play here, because the atheist can embrace a purely pragmatic morality/ ethics. The moral pitfall for the atheist, is when she determines that the ends justify the means (aka Anders Brevik). In this scenario, violence is justified if it brings about a “better” tomorrow.

    For the christian, morality must be that the means justify the ends. The christian is called to virtue and Imitatio Christi – let the outcome be what it may, trusting in God.

  • http://BillintheBlank.com Bill Blankschaen

    In defense of Scot’s point here, coopting Christian language doesn’t make anyone a Christian.

  • James Petticrew

    Although I don’t care for the tone at times Peter Hitchens in his book “The Rage Against God” makes some very good points, (contra his brother of course) that the new atheists claim that should God be excluded humanity would become “better” and yet the clear attempts at doing so, Stalin in the Soviet Union and Paul Pot in Cambodia have in fact resulted in suffering beyond that every inflicted even by a defective “Christianised” state. He attacks his brothers special pleading that Stalin’s Russia was in fact a religious state for what it is, purile special pleading.

    He writes “Athiests … ought equally to concede that Godless regimes and movements have given birth to terrible persecutions and massacres. They do not do so, in my view, because in these cases the slaughter is not the result of a misunderstanding, or of excessive zeal. Utopia can only ever be reached across a sea of blood. This is a far greater problem for the Atheist than it is for the Christian, because the Atheist uses this argument to try and demonstrate that religion specifically makes things worse than they would otherwise be. On the contrary, it demonstrates that our ability to be savage to our own kind cannot be wholly prevented by religion. More important still, atheist states have a consistent tendency to commit mass murder in the name of the greater goal.” p113

  • phil_style

    @Bil Blankscaehn “In defense of Scot’s point here, coopting Christian language doesn’t make anyone a Christian.”
    Correct. But one runs the risk of excluding everyone from “Christianity” once we exclude those who sin, yet make christian claims. The no true Scotsman problem come to mind.

    The question is; did the historical Christianity of Europe enable and abet (in part) the rise and maintenance of the fascist regimes in the mid 20th century? I would say that the answer has to be Yes.
    But as Christianity “responsible” for them? No. Was national socialism and fascism a “christian phenomena”? No.

    Was Hitler a “christian”? No.
    Was Hitler an “atheist” almost certainly not.

    Napoleon is a far better example from history to think about. No one is alive now who remembers his atrocities, so we can more freely discuss his wars without too much emotional attachment.

  • scotmcknight

    I deliberately included Hitler, and no reasonable person could believe he was a Christian in spite of his words. He used the churches of Germany so far as they permitted him, and they permitted him far too often and too much … the rampant ideology, the sickness… so the inclusion of Hitler to me is a pejorative historical judgment.

  • james petticrew

    I think Hilter was the outward face of the Nazi state, if you look at Himmler and what he was doing with the SS, which was in reality the Nazi state personified and designed eventually to replace institutions of the existing state it was very clearly antiChristian although not athiestic. Himmler sought to return to some preChristian mythical Ayran religion and sent archeologists all over the place looking for evidence of it

  • http://DerekLeman.com/Musings Derek Leman

    Christianity is on the hook for the Holocaust. Let’s say Hitler was in no way a Christian (I agree). Nonetheless, the “Christ-killer” caricature of Jewish people was one major contributor to the Holocaust. There is a chain of guilt from the church fathers to the Crusades to the Inquisition to the pogroms and ghettos to the Final Solution. Christian theology has repeatedly recognized this fact (that Christian theology led to the Holocaust) and post-Holocaust theology has been one good result. WWII shocked Christian theology into awareness and supersessionism has been an official bogeyman ever since (though many “conservative” Christian theologies, still in 2012 retain features of blatant supersessionism). R. Kendall Soulen’s The God of Israel and Christian Theology is the finest exploration of a Christian theology of Israel I have read to date.

  • paul darilek

    My response to the accusation: Which war was caused by religion?

    Their argument has a causality problem. Religion is invariably invoked in war, but that’s different than causing it. Wars are always fought over land and money. By the same logic we could say “More wars have been fought over nation-states than anything else in the history of mankind, so we need to abolish countries so we can all live in peace.”

  • phil_style

    @Tim, comment #1: We don’t see atheist suicide bombers. Or flying themselves into buildings. Or rioting in the streets if someone draws the wrong religious figure in a cartoon. Or trying to prevent certain people from marrying. Or preventing or expunging certain people from military service. Or kicking certain kids or parents out of the boy scouts. Or pushing patriarchal oppressive agendas against women. Or against interfering with how someone chooses to end their life when suffering terminally

    This is food for thought. But for the moment we don’t have any societies where we can make good comparisons where all other variables have been equalized. I would like to be able to test an “atheistic” society that has large proportions of its population that are resource poor (excluded), culturally threatened (or perceived to be) by foreign powers, without access to political power and living in close proximity to others who share very similar desires for the same limited resource base (i.e. resource rivalry). If that society does not result in violent tension and conflict (even to the point of self-sacrificial acts of violence) then I would be surprised. However, it might be claimed in response that such baseline conditions could not exist in a truly atheist society anyways (i.e. that an atheist society would not attached mythical/ supernatural values to its own culture and/ or power structures in the first place – thus resulting in the power and resource imbalances present in non atheistic societies)…..

    Like Rene Girard, I often have to I turn to the arts and, recalling the very modernist speech in the movie “Braveheart” where Mel Gibson invokes the power of “freedom” to spark violent self sacrifice. It’s important to note that there is no appeal to divine right, or the supernatural in this speech (which would have been the case in 12th century Europe), yet it is convincing as a call to a just war! Why? Clearly, for the characters involved (and presumably to appeal to the morality of the audience) “freedom” is worth dying for in this sense.

    Freedom/ Democracy were/are the modern justifications for violence, yet neither justification requires an appeal to the supernatural in the way that older wars seemed to have. This is at least not inconsistent with atheism – and, once again, relies on the idea that the end (freedom) justifies the means (violence).

  • Diane

    Hitler was hostile to Christianity–he thought it a great historical misfortune Germany had been Christianized. He did manipulate the churches–the churches were complicit with his genocidal ideology and have much to atone for.

    We simply must give up the war mongering as Christians and stand more firmly on peace. That won’t stop war but it will make us less likely to race into battle headlongStalin or Hitler do give us a glimpse at an atheistic–or in Hitler’s case, non-Christian–state. We see an extreme devaluation of human life and a series of massive, arbitrary bloodbaths.We see death and destruction on an unprecedented scale, and not just that, but stunted, terrified lives lived without trust or security. Christianity has much to atone for, but it’s theology of valuing the human being, leaning into abundance and trust, advocating for love, peace, mercy, forgiveness and equality is the right trajectory for human history.

  • http://krusekronicle.com Michael W. Kruse

    The curious thing about saying that Hitler was a Christian is that I frequently hear it most adamantly declared by people who insist that America is not a Christian nation. By the later they mean that America may give a head nod to Christian values but America has not lived by Christian principles. Yet because Hitler says he was a Christian and, despite all his other mystical beliefs and his moral behavior, he therefore must be one. More than a whiff of ideological selectivity here.

    #10 I think Phil is getting to the point here. There has never been a nation of predominantly of atheists. Which is also to say that there has never been a case where atheists have been in the majority and tested in terms of succumbing to populist movements when the majority feels threatened. (And here I’m suggesting that the Soviet Union and China had atheistic minorities that were successful in suppressing majority sentiments. Atheists weren’t the majority.) My sense is that most widespread violence comes from unchecked power and those with the power will use religion, atheism, or whatever else is at hand to justify preservation of power. Lord Acton: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Scot –

    I deliberately included Hitler, and no reasonable person could believe he was a Christian in spite of his words.

    So either Hitler was a Christian, or he was an atheist? There’s no other possibility?

    As I’ve said here before: Hitler wasn’t an atheist. He sure wasn’t a traditional Christian, of course, but he was sort of a neo-Pagan para-Christian who explicitly rejected evolution and based his racism on the idea that the ‘races’ had been created separately. The Holocaust owed far more to the virulent strain of anti-Semitism that Martin Luther embraced and fostered. That was certainly the motivation for the majority who actually carried out the crimes in person.

    It’s interesting to note, too, that every one of your other examples was a communist atheist. As Tim noted, different religions have different records on atrocities. Is it inconceivable that there might be variations among atheisms?

  • http://none Robert Mayes

    There is a lot of misinformation about Adolf Hitler’s supposed Christianity, created in large part by claims made in Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. A good counter argument that addresses the lack of Hitler’s Christianity is Uwe Simone-Netto’s book, The Rise and Fall of the Shirer Myth.

    It is foolish and non-factual to think that Christianity causes wars. Even the Crusades were battles to take back areas that Muslims had taken by their savage conquests. And how many atheists caused wars because of their belief in claiming power for themselves and exalting their will above others? There’s a pretty good list above in the article. What needs to be realized is that the will to exalt one’s self to power and the domination of one’s will at the expense of others is natural to atheism and not to the teaching of Christianity. Christianity teaches believers to deny themselves and suppress their will so that God’s will may be done, and His will for us to do is expressed chiefly in His Law. Atheism and anti-theism relies on one’s natural reason, power, progress, and so on. Which is a more likely path to the end extreme of persecution and bloodshed? I would argue that it is the atheistic path of self-exaltation that leads to violence, and not the genuine Christian path of self-denial. How many atheist rulers have committed heinous acts of persecution in all centuries against Christians? More Christians were put to death for their faith by their atheist rulers in the 20th century than in the previous 19 centuries combined. The unrest in the world, particularly in this country but also in many others in Africa and the Middle East, give much to suggest that Christianity may soon be entering another great period of persecution, much like the first two centuries of it’s existence. When one adds to this number the millions of lives taken by abortion, a position that atheists and anti-theists have generally adopted as “free choice”, we see just how much bloodshed can be supported by the atheist/anti-theist cause.

    Someone earlier mentioned Emperor Constantine and his “war-mongering”. I’m sure people could include other Christian politiical leaders who have engaged in warfare too. What is not realized by atheists and anti-theists is the Scriptural teaching of the two kingdoms and of vocation. The two kingdoms differentiates God’s rule in the world through political means (most often by those who are unaware that God is working in and through them, even through despots, tyrants, and especially atheists) for the sake of providing for temporal means, for opposing outbreaks of crime and sins against the neighbor, for punishing the wicked, and in the case of tyrants and despots, for teaching the people of a country patience and directing their hearts to trust in something other than political rulers. “Trust not in princes, they are but mortal. Earth born they are, and soon decay.” It has been said by Christian theologians in the past that God raises up one nation to oppose another. Why? Because of the attacked country’s previous deeds caused by their self-exalted wills, that resulted in greed, lust, sinful pride, bloodshed, etc. The result is that God raises up another nation to power, regardless if the leaders and the people themselves are not Christian. This nation will then oppose the previous nation as a way to bring God’s determined judgment against such crimes coming from the self-exalted will to power. God rules in the world differently than He rules in the Church. In the Church, the theology of the two kingdoms says that God rules by mercy, forgiveness, grace, love – ruling over the soul and the conscience by His mercy. Here is God’s spiritual rule, which is the arena for God’s proper and natural work, that of showing forgiveness to sinners.

    The Christian teaching of vocation is also important. Vocation teaches that each position in life has certain responsibilities, duties, and also authority to carry out said duties from God. The vocation of an emperor is to serve the people in his country, to provide for their temporal welfare, to take taxes, to enact laws and enforce them, to protect and defend the citizens of that empire from physical danger, and to wield the sword of judgment against all who wickedly exalt themselves against the law. Again, God authorizes those who are in positions of authority that they might do these (or as mentioned above in the case of despots and tyrants, that they may lead people to greater patience). That Constantine and other Christian rulers have had the vocation of being an emperor in no way makes Christianity responsible for wars. It simply means that they were Christians who stood before God in faith, while at the same time standing among other people as one holding a vocation in which violence is authorized. There is such a thing as a just war.

    Enough for this dissertation. Hope you found this post thought-provoking.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Tim –

    We don’t see atheist suicide bombers.

    Well, actually, the Tamil Tigers – atheist Marxist/Leninists – have used suicide bombers. (Check out this link; makes an excellent case that suicide bombing is a tactic used solely by a population resisting perceived invasion and oppression.)

  • scotmcknight

    Ray, I now seen what folks are saying. I was assuming Hitler was not a Christian, I was not assuming he was an atheist, though classifying with them makes these readings reasonable. I will now delete his name…

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    There are violent and non-violent Christians and there are violent and non-violent atheists. I would say on this specific issue of non-violence, Christians and atheists may be closer in more ways than they think than for those who endorse and promote violence as either God’s way of doing things or there is no God so anything is permissable!

  • http://thefrailestthing.com Mike

    Just wanted to note that no discussion of this issue is complete these days without taking into consideration William Cavanaugh’s work. Here is an article length presentation of this thesis:

    http://www.hds.harvard.edu/news-events/harvard-divinity-bulletin/articles/does-religion-cause-violence

    His book on the subject is titled, “The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict.” I wrote a brief review of the book here:

    http://thefrailestthing.com/2010/11/12/the-past-is-never-dead/

  • http://Leadme.org Cal

    The thing is, any “atheist” regime is a lie. Depending on your definition of god, there really is no such thing as an atheist. The Soviet atheists worshiped the Hegelian prerogatives of progress and scientific method. Mao worshiped China and he himself was worshiped. Be it a multiverse, or a leader or an abstract idea (freedom, justice, power), everyone worships something. We in the West have eschewed god to mean we’re talking about the God of the Bible, but usually not even that. Most of the time it is a limp-wristed, vending machine desitic god (Moral Therapeutic Deism to use the coined term).

    That’s where we go with Hitler. He was a pious and devout man, but he worshiped Nature’s god. The real god behind the ancient Aryan religious practices, who established the order of things and guided by providence (something Hitler very much believed in) to the supremacy of his favorite children, the German race. However, just using the word “providence” and some Christian word-smithing (he was a politician) doesn’t mean he believed any of it. In fact, with his Reich’s bishop, he went to work cutting through the ‘Jewishness’ which was made totally permissible by the intellectual sophistication and respectability of theological liberalism introduced by Schliemacher in Germany. Jesus was no longer the Messiah, but an Aryan Achilles fighting the barbarous Jews, for blood and land. As for Himmler, he is said to carry around a copy of his favorite book, the Bhagavad Ghita.

    The problem is when the teaching of Jesus and the preaching of word and sacrament becomes a civil/folk religion. From that we get everything from Crusades, Witch Hunts to political pandering in American politics (you know who I mean). Crusaders thought they were really doing justice to God, but they served some other gods. It’s not their fault the Scripture was not taught and that it was denied from their eyes by Roman prelates. We see that same principle today with preachers who bend and twist or import ideas to Scripture where the teaching on the Sermon on the Mount and the command to love and walk as Jesus did means nothing.

    Robert Mayes, we just disagree. Vocation is not in the Scripture. It is a good idea (being a Christian in one’s roles (culturally, familially, economically)) into it being a calling of sorts. If Constantine loved the Gospel he would’ve abdicated, but power is alluring. Followers of Christ are to be reviled and thought foolish by the world yet these things our Lord loves. Being Emperor is as open to a believer as being a hitman or a prostitute.

    Cal

  • Scott Wildey

    Tim (post 1)

    You do bring up some good points and a reminder to not paint to broad a bush stroke on categories of belief.

    A couple of counterpoints: Most Christians I know want to do the “earthy things” you describe as your atheist friends, which seems to me as great middle ground for us to come together. The burning question to me (and no, I haven’t read Harris’ new book yet) is where does that desire come from? Personally, the Christian worldview is much more plausible and compelling.

    Next, almost all people certainly do put limits or boundaries on marriage (telling people who can and cannot marry). It’s why we have a definition of marriage to begin with. If there were’t any boundaries (no one saying who can or can’t), it would be hard to point to something we call marriage. I.e., what would the definition be if no one put boundaries on it. It’s a bit disingenuous to say otherwise. I think it’s more honest to say: “These are the boundaries I would define it as, which is more right then the boundaries you would put on it.”

    Lastly, for sake of time, I’ll summarize. My overall sense of the post was that it was made from an honest place with good intentions, but that it also falls into the Elephant trap–the old adage about the three blind men who approach the elephant, each with a different perspective, but all wrong. The story fails to point out the bias of the overseer: where did that person attain such a privileged position?

  • T

    I think that the argument that following Christ (the Jesus reported in the NT) makes one violent is a serious stretch. I think most folks understand that. I think, further, it’s going to be common, because of the credibility that is associated with Christ for so many, to argue or rationalize or sell something as “Christian” or “God’s will,” but that doesn’t make it so. People are going to try to justify themselves and their proposals through whatever means are persuasive, and for a large part of the world, Christ is held in esteem, so his name will be used to persuade, if possible. Many who want to be trusted and followed will try to ride Jesus’ coat tails.

    But if the assertion is that the character or agenda of Christ is such that actually following him leads to violence, I just point people to what Jesus said and did, or ask them to point me to what he did or said that would lead his followers to violence. The longer you look, the sillier the idea becomes.

  • Kristin

    Violence and oppression are bad, but using religion, and especially my God, to endorse said oppression and violence is exceptionally sick. The issue here is sin and I question the notion that religion “produces” or “causes” greater quantities or depravity of sin. Instead perhaps we can concede that religion is equally if not more so “vulnerable” to corruption and abuse of power?

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Cal –

    Be it a multiverse, or a leader or an abstract idea (freedom, justice, power), everyone worships something.

    Not without stretching the word ‘worship’ so far it becomes unrecognizable.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Robert Mayes –

    What needs to be realized is that the will to exalt one’s self to power and the domination of one’s will at the expense of others is natural to atheism and not to the teaching of Christianity.

    I’d disagree that it’s “natural to atheism”. It’s hardly any kind of logical consequence. And again I point out that every single example people have put up so far of atheist atrocities has been done by communist atheists. Not all atheists hold to communism, to put it mildly.

    Which is a more likely path to the end extreme of persecution and bloodshed?

    People can use (and one of the points of this discussion is that they have used) any rationalization to persecute. Personally, I’d think relying on unverifiable principles – indeed, ones expressly beyond human ken – would be a higher risk factor. But – as I’ve also said here before: Now, just because a worldview doesn’t include the idea of the supernatural does not mean that it is automatically free of dogma. One definition of dogma is “a doctrine or code of beliefs accepted as authoritative”; another is “a point of view or tenet put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds”. As has been made entirely clear in the past, non-religious philosophies and worldviews (including various flavors of atheism) can be just as dogmatic as any religion. For example, consider communism as practiced by Stalin and Mao… A worldview that doesn’t include supernatural elements can be just as rigid and dogmatic – or as flexible and open – as any religion.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Mike –

    Just wanted to note that no discussion of this issue is complete these days without taking into consideration William Cavanaugh’s work.

    Well… if you say there’s no such thing as ‘religion’, then sure, religion can’t be a cause of violence. (I think there are coherent definitions of ‘religion’, but oh well.)

  • http://Leadme.org Cal

    Ray Ingles:

    How do you mean? For everyone there is a top priority which they ascribe the highest worth and show reverence. It does not necessarily mean a god or a divine. Everyone has a master which they serve. It may be a party, an individual, an abstract idea or system, or a heavenly figure but it is something. Possible ideas: Science, knowledge, family, life, justice, Communism, the Republican Party, Barack Obama, Napoleon, honesty, pleasure, will.

    I suppose we can disagree on definitions of gods and worship.

  • james petticrew

    Peter Hitchens point in THE RAGE AGAINST GOD is that states which have had a deliberate policy of the promotion of atheism and the eradication of religion have not turned out to be less violent than states dominated by religion but MORE, leave aside Hitker and the Holocaust, Stalin killed at least as many as Hitler and Pol Pot’s genocide represented a huge proportion of that population both clearly atheistic states.

    Atheists can’t have it both ways, claiming that violence by avowedly atheistic states has no implications for their position but claiming that violence carried out by and in States which have a religous majority proves religion to be inherently detrimental to humanity.

    His secondary point is that this suggestion even religion cannot restrain the human capability for violence against others.

  • phil_style

    @ Cal “Depending on your definition of god, there really is no such thing as an atheist.”

    All concepts can be eliminated this way.

    As Ray and other have made clear on numerous occasions, most atheists are in fact non-supernaturalists. Let’s also adopt their definition, it helps. In that respect, I’m confident that there are atheist regimes and atheists in existence.

  • http://Leadme.org Cal

    Also:

    When I say Top Priority, I don’t mean a singular spot rather a level. People can have many gods/things they worship. It is only something like the Biblical idea of ‘sole, completely radical exclusive worship’ but that is not the exclusive definition of the idea of worship.

  • http://Leadme.org Cal

    phil-style:

    I would agree with that formulation. I think I’ll start using it. Do you know who first coined that idea?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    It is similar to the saying, “to err is human, to really screw up requires a computer”. Religion is able to apply leverage to sinful situations and make them worse. That’s how I think of the Hitler issue in this, religion did play a part and he would need to be counted as Christian for that reason

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Cal, I agree with Ray, you are contorting the word worship to mean something that is unrecognizable. The way you are using it is Christianeze. In its plain meaning, worship would have to include, actual worship. Like praying, sing to, wafting incense toward, kneeling before, etc. No atheist does that.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    …and Cal, some more thoughts on the idea you are representing that says “Everyone has a master which they serve. It may be a party, an individual, an abstract idea or system, or a heavenly figure but it is something.” To be frank, this is complete nonsense to me, just letting you know the degree to which I disagree with this idea. Another topic that came up on the radio this morning was where they were saying something like “everyone has an authority that they are listening to and following. We are following the authority of god, but other follow other people or ideas…”. You get the idea.

    There is a very big difference between consciously putting oneself under the authority of something, and using the best rationality that you can to make choices. One is passive, the other is active. I am not going to debate the whole idea that each has its own presuppositions, of course they do. What I want to argue is that one involves passive acquiescence, the other involves active questioning of all authority relating to the thought. There really is no comparison.

  • http://Leadme.org Cal

    DRT:

    Why is that its “plain meaning”? That’s rather exclusive. Plato’s act of worship was contemplation, reflecting and thinking on the Ideal. How is that Christianeze?

    And some atheists do do praying and singing in parody of the traditional to things that do matter. Look at LeVey’s Church of Satan. He didn’t actually believe in Satan or any super-natural entities of any stripe but the reason the rituals were preformed (besides controversy) was to show reverence to human will-power (which Satan was a symbol). A rose by any other name.

  • phil_style

    @Cal, #30. Ray can probably add more but I think the notion that atheism is about non-supernaturalism probably comes from Laplace? (“I have no need of that [God] hypothesis”) It refers to the sufficiency of nature to explain all observable phenomena, and therefore the purported irrelevance (if not non-existence) of the supernatural.

  • http://Leadme.org Cal

    DRT:

    Putting oneself under an authority does not make you necessarily passive. I think of half a dozen examples of ministers or generals to kings or emperors who revered their rulers but contradicted their decrees when they thought it critically wrong.

    Depending on how you want to cut a man, by obeying the ‘voice of reason’ (as the euphemism goes) you are obeying a certain logic of the world, that 1+1 = 2. This may sound a little inane, but the point isn’t to make the conservative christian triumphalist sound of ‘They’re so stupid!’. It is a point I think of Human Nature to want to worship, even if it is recurved on itself to worship of one’s own ego. We may disagree on this.

    If it is any accord, I was not raised a ‘conservative Christian’ nor was a Christian as a child except only nominally. I still worshiped, but my god was the one of the Founders who was “Nature’s god” as the old adage went.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Cal, the primary meaning of worship is:

    reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred.

    and the primary definition of sacred is

    devoted or dedicated to a deity or to some religious purpose; consecrated.

    You are playing word games by contorting that to mean anything like someone placing high value on not harming people or something similar. Or them placing high value on using rational argument to decide issues.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Cal says:

    Putting oneself under an authority does not make you necessarily passive. I think of half a dozen examples of ministers or generals to kings or emperors who revered their rulers but contradicted their decrees when they thought it critically wrong.

    What? Sounds like they were not under the authority of that leader after all. My point is that if you are under the authority then you do what it says even when you disagree with it. Again, you are trying to play games with the words here. Of course people still move and talk and breath when under authority, that is not the point, the point is that they become passive to the decree under which they put themselves. They are not actively doing what they feel is the right thing to do.

    And this whole Christian thing of coming back with you worship your own ego, or, like you said, ” It is a point I think of Human Nature to want to worship, even if it is recurved on itself to worship of one’s own ego.” is not the same. I am talking about a method for decision making here. You can use the method of acquiescing to someone or something that you use as an authority, or you can use your reason. Just because you use your reason does not mean that you are somehow worshiping yourself.

    Look at it this way. At some point someone needs to decide, for themselves, whether they will make decisions based on the authority of someone else or if they will do it based on their reason. The act of making that decision is an act of reason. Therefore both parties have put their own reason as the basis for their approach to decision making. You cannot say that someone who continues to use reason is worshiping himself anymore that the one who reasoned that they need to put themselves under an authority. Actually, the ones who put themselves under an authority is worshiping their own decision making ability much much more highly than the one who continues to use reason. The one under authority is assuming that they made the best decision possible at that time and they stubbornly refuse to admit that they could be wrong. Whereas the one who continues to use reason implicitly admits that they are fallible and continue to seek out the best solutions.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    To bring my conversation with cal back to the point of this post….

    It seems to me that religion has historically been characterized by this act of putting oneself under another authority so that the adherent will follow that authority regardless of their own sensibilities. I think that is pretty true. And it does not take a huge leap to see how that can add considerable fuel to the fire of war since you have taken rational thinking out of the loop.

    I agree with the atheist allegations that religions have a terrible effect on war and death in the world. That is one of the reasons I seriously entertained cashing in the whole religion game.

    But I have come back because I feel there is a new Christianity that is within reach that will restore rationality to the religion and mitigate these impacts. I want to be part of bringing that Christianity into the world because it can help make the world a better place instead of feeding the fires of passion.

  • http://Leadme.org Cal

    DRT:

    And the second definition of worship is: to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion. I don’t think I’m making outlandish claims here.

    Let me make a clarification, and try end it on a note that is relevant to the post:

    Placing oneself under the authority is an act of will, and yes it does not mean that therefore you worship will (which of course rationality may inform). However, my contention is that everyone puts themselves under some form of authority. Rigorous Logic is an authority. Things may work out formulaicly and may be obeyed even if empirical evidence seems contrary or intuition contradicts it. Reason can be as thick and brutish a club as any prelate wearing a skirt. My point is that we’re apt to deify things, even subconsciously.

    Placing oneself under authority does not mean rationality is not present. I don’t know why you assume you have to check your brain in at the door and then advocate a thinking religion.

    I agree with you that Religion, as we know it, is very prone to give the best possible means for allowing a conscious to remain under an authority. Evil is magnified when you think you’re doing it for the all powerful gods/God. Some gods are weaker than others (I speak metaphorically), where if one worships the abstract of Justice, it does not demand for viciously as a religious text says a god may. Atheists (or non-supernaturalists) worship their own set of “gods” and are not driven to the fervor that some of the more demanding religious practitioners would demand. Not all gods are alike in what they want.

    I’m speaking very strangely about this because it shows our common humanity in this.

    I sit under the authority of Jesus, and call Him God and Lord, and yet I think and ask. There is a lot of what is called Christianity that is shameful to the Gospel and I hope I can stand with you in promoting that.

  • http://Leadme.org Cal

    By that, I mean Christianity that shows the better world our world will be, not shameful Gospel.

    Don’t think I need to clarify, but just in case!

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Cal, I think we see where each is coming from, but I just want to add that I think this whole application of religious language (worship, putting under authority) while technically may be true, seems to me to be more incendiary than helpful and ask that we stop it.

    Also, there is a difference. Reason is a method, not an end. Things worshiped are generally ends, things, not methods. Applying them to methods seems to be incorrect to me.

    Thanks for talking.

  • http://Leadme.org Cal

    Thinking about it as I write I still stand that everyone recognizes gods, but I do think that worship, while a function, is not necessarily exercised in the same capacity. While technically right, my argument is seeming more and more contrived as you give push back and then the significance of worship over obeisance (say, worshiping Jesus) becomes meaningless.

    As for Reason, tell that to Robespierre! You ever read about the bizarre phenomenon as him being the chief priest of Reason, re-enacting a Mosaic scene of him coming off a mountain with the dictates of Reason? Indeed, Reason can be worshiped!

    Thanks for the push back and also for talking

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Cal, I talk about the supernatural and the natural (and what it means for ‘religion’) here.

    As to ‘worship’ – well, secondary meanings can be very misleading. One of my pet peeves is the usage of the term ‘militant’. Quick, what’s the first thing that pops to mind when you hear the phrase ‘militant Islamist’?

    Was it “someone passionate about Islam, and who argues obnoxiously for it”? I’m betting not. No, there’s a double standard there. You actually have to pick up a gun and kill somebody to be considered a ‘militant’ believer, but all you have to do to be considered a ‘militant’ atheist is write a book.

    Indeed, ‘militant’ is used in this specifically perjorative sense of only a few groups I can think of. ‘Militant’ atheists, ‘militant’ feminists, and ‘militant’ ‘homosexual activists’. It’s strikingly parallel to how the word ‘fundamentalist’ has, for many, ceased to mean anything specifically theological. It just means ‘someone more theologically conservative than I care for’.

    As you point out, “Reason” can be worshipped. Does that mean that anyone who values reason worships it? And even if they ‘regard it with great respect’, would that mean they ‘regard it as sacred‘? Those would seem to be distinct topics that get mixed together by sloppy use of the term ‘worship’ that muddies the distinct meanings that word has.

  • Joshua Wooden

    Ray,

    Apart from the bit about Hitler (which Scot clarified), what do you makes of Scot’s observations (and the argument of the book) as a whole? Do you think it works both ways or not, and if not, why?

  • Joshua Wooden

    Ray,

    As for your last comment on the use of the word “militant,” I’d simply like to point out that the actual definition is: “vigorously active, combative and aggressive, especially in support of a cause,” and a second definition I read (only slightly different is) “combative and aggressive in support of a political or social cause, and typically favoring extreme, violent, or confrontational methods.”

    I’ve heard conservatives, liberals, atheists and Christians be described as militant (as an Evangelical, most of my friends and family would identify the Religious Right or Moral Majority, led by Jerry Falwell, as militant. I would also classify neo-fundamentalist Christians like some of the New Calvinists as militant). Come to think of it, the only group of people where the term militant means “violent” in my experience is with radical Muslims, and even then I usually hear the word “violent” instead. So, I would just like to point out that 1) the dictionary supports both usages, 2) so does popular culture, and 3) so does my personal experience of hearing its usage.

    You may indeed be correct that “all you have to do to be considered a ‘militant’ atheist is write a book,” but that depends on the content of that book, doesn’t it? I’ve read several books that I would classify as “vigorously active, combative and aggressive, especially in support of a cause,” and not just books written by atheists (and for that matter, not even the best examples).

    So there may be a double standard, but if anything I only see that double standard being applied to radical Muslims, not atheists. As I’ve said, the term is also applied to Christians who never “pick up a gun and kill somebody,” as you say (or even come close, for that matter).

  • Keith Irwin

    Nobody addressed the claims against the Old Testament and God’s promotion of war.

  • http://wildebeestchronicles.blogger.com win

    I always find this argument interesting. Partly because it’s very nature is a gross oversimplification thus invalidating itself. But besides that, the very understanding of war is in question.

    War is a continuation of politics by other means (Clausewitz). Politics and war are exercises of power. Power is the root cause of war. It started almost immediately in human history. You have something I want, so I will take it from you. The survivor gets to keep it. In this we have not evolved so much from lions vs hyenas over a dead Wildebeest.

    War, therefore, being the ultimate power struggle – the attempt by one nation/tribe/city-state/etc to impose its will on another – it’s no great shock for the ones involved to use religion (any religion) to justify themselves for the war and to get manipulate their people to fight for them.

    Have wars been fought in the name of Christianity? Yes. Buddhism? Yes. Islam? Yes. Hinduism? Yes. The goal of the enlightenment project was to rid ourselves of this religious nonsense and thus usher in an era of piece. Well, that culminated in the very secularly rooted disaster of World War I. The issues never really got settled until World War II.

    What is ignored in this argument is the good carried out by religious people in the midst of these disasters. It’s not the Red Cross for nothing. Christians were at the forefront of the abolitionist movement to rid America and the world of slavery. Been to a hospital lately? Thank a Christian because it was Christians that developed the whole concept of the hospital (St. Basil of Caesarea). In the middle of D-Day you have nuns tending to both sides’ wounded and getting killed in the process. They showed no fear crossing the battlefields. In the concentration camps you had Christians dying along with the Jews, though as political prisoners, not as part of an extermination campaign (e.g Bonhoeffer). You have numerous Christian organizations (and Muslim, Jewish, etc) working for peace in the world.

    Voted lately? You can thank religion for democracy and republicanism (note the little “r”). When Christianity, especially, is working, there is freedom, prosperity, and peace. It’s only when those in power want something that they will invoke religion. And usually after the fact.

    It’s like making a purchase. No person on the planet makes an objective, rational buying decision. It’s an emotional decision. Facts and objectivity only happen after the decision is made to rationalize the decision to justify the purchase. “I got a great deal on this.” They say. Ask them “how to you know? To what did you compare?” and watch them dance.

  • http://johnmarkharris.net John Mark Harris

    “Hitler’s Secret Conversations 1941-1944″ Farrer, Straus and Young, Inc. 1953 (in Britain “Hitler’s Table Talk 1941-1944″ also Oxford University Press paperback in the US).

    These are quotes from Adolf Hitler. A translation of the “Bormann-Vermerke” (Borrman endorsements). A collection of notes by Martin Bormann, Hitler’s personal secretary during the war.

    They are published in the original German in Adolf Hitler, Monologe im Führerhauptquartier 1941-1944. published by Orbis Verlag, Hamburg

    Night of 11th-12th July, 1941:

    National Socialism and religion cannot exist together…. The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity. Bolshevism is Christianity’s illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew. The deliberate lie in the matter of religion was introduced into the world by Christianity…. Let it not be said that Christianity brought man the life of the soul, for that evolution was in the natural order of things. (p 6 & 7)
    10th October, 1941, midday:

    Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure. (p 43)
    14th October, 1941, midday:

    The best thing is to let Christianity die a natural death…. When understanding of the universe has become widespread… Christian doctrine will be convicted of absurdity…. Christianity has reached the peak of absurdity…. And that’s why someday its structure will collapse…. …the only way to get rid of Christianity is to allow it to die little by little…. Christianity the liar…. We’ll see to it that the Churches cannot spread abroad teachings in conflict with the interests of the State. (p 49-52)
    19th October, 1941, night:

    The reason why the ancient world was so pure, light and serene was that it knew nothing of the two great scourges: the pox and Christianity.
    21st October, 1941, midday:

    Originally, Christianity was merely an incarnation of Bolshevism, the destroyer…. The decisive falsification of Jesus’ doctrine was the work of St.Paul. He gave himself to this work… for the purposes of personal exploitation…. Didn’t the world see, carried on right into the Middle Ages, the same old system of martyrs, tortures, faggots? Of old, it was in the name of Christianity. Today, it’s in the name of Bolshevism. Yesterday the instigator was Saul: the instigator today, Mardochai. Saul was changed into St.Paul, and Mardochai into Karl Marx. By exterminating this pest, we shall do humanity a service of which our soldiers can have no idea. (p 63-65)
    13th December, 1941, midnight:

    Christianity is an invention of sick brains: one could imagine nothing more senseless, nor any more indecent way of turning the idea of the Godhead into a mockery…. …. When all is said, we have no reason to wish that the Italians and Spaniards should free themselves from the drug of Christianity. Let’s be the only people who are immunised against the disease. (p 118 & 119)
    14th December, 1941, midday:

    Kerrl, with noblest of intentions, wanted to attempt a synthesis between National Socialism and Christianity. I don’t believe the thing’s possible, and I see the obstacle in Christianity itself…. Pure Christianity– the Christianity of the catacombs– is concerned with translating Christian doctrine into facts. It leads quite simply to the annihilation of mankind. It is merely whole-hearted Bolshevism, under a tinsel of metaphysics. (p 119 & 120)
    9th April, 1942, dinner:

    There is something very unhealthy about Christianity (p 339)
    27th February, 1942, midday:

    It would always be disagreeable for me to go down to posterity as a man who made concessions in this field. I realize that man, in his imperfection, can commit innumerable errors– but to devote myself deliberately to errors, that is something I cannot do. I shall never come personally to terms with the Christian lie. Our epoch Uin the next 200 yearse will certainly see the end of the disease of Christianity…. My regret will have been that I couldn’t… behold .” (p 278)

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Joshua Wooden –

    I’ve heard conservatives, liberals, atheists and Christians be described as militant

    Do a Google search on “militant islamist”, “militant Christian”, and “militant atheist” (include the quotes). See how many results you get, and count how many results in the first few pages reference violence. I think you’ll find the proportions enlightening.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    win – Been to a hospital lately? Thank a Christian because it was Christians that developed the whole concept of the hospital

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hospital#History: According to the Mahavamsa, the ancient chronicle of Sinhalese royalty, written in the sixth century A.D., King Pandukabhaya of Sri Lanka (reigned 437 BC to 367 BC) had lying-in-homes and hospitals (Sivikasotthi-Sala) built in various parts of the country. This is the earliest documentary evidence we have of institutions specifically dedicated to the care of the sick anywhere in the world… The first teaching hospital where students were authorized to practice methodically on patients under the supervision of physicians as part of their education, was the Academy of Gundishapur in the Persian Empire. One expert has argued that “to a very large extent, the credit for the whole hospital system must be given to Persia”.

    Voted lately? You can thank religion for democracy and republicanism (note the little “r”).

    Er… no. Religion supported the divine right of kings and so forth up until the ‘Enlightenment’. In the “Federalist Papers”, the athors of the Constitution argued for adopting it and referenced several Enlightenment thinkers in the process. The number of times they referenced the Bible, or religion at all, in the “Federalist Papers”? Zero.

    Don’t get me wrong. As I’ve said on this site, I’m willing to give [religion] more credit in some areas (while still seeing it as a net negative). And you’re right that religion has accomplished much that’s good in the world. I’m just not convinced it’s the best or only way to accomplish those goods.

    Consider that chemistry grew out of alchemy, and astronomy grew out of astrology. Alchemy and astrology were still mistakes.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    John Mark Harris – I think we’ve all agreed that Hitler wasn’t a Christian. The issue was, was Hitler an atheist? None of your quotes actually establish that. (Minor note: Hitler never referenced ‘evolution’ in the biological sense, and indeed specifically rejected the idea that species could change. His racism was based on the idea that the ‘races’ of humanity had been created separately.)

  • Joshua Wooden

    Ray,

    What would that prove?

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Joshua Wooden – I think it would indicate that your sample might be unrepresentative. (Also, would you agree with this bit by Alvin Plantiga? Try substituting ‘militant’ for ‘fundamentalist’ in it, along with a few other obvious translations.)

    Also, missed your other question:

    Do you think it works both ways or not, and if not, why?

    I don’t think it’s quite that simple. I think there’s something to Voltaire’s “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” As I noted up above, “I’d think relying on unverifiable principles – indeed, ones expressly beyond human ken – would be a higher risk factor.” (That’s what the supernatural always seems to boil down to, in practice – something humans cannot fully comprehend.)

    I think the actual main problem, the main cause of atrocities, is dogmatism – being sure that you’re right, and everyone else is obviously wrong. Atheists are demonstrably not immune to that sort of thinking, but in my experience believing you’ve got a supernatural pipeline to Truth is a major risk factor.

    Some religions do better on the humility thing than others. Similarly, not all strains of atheism are equally at risk of dogmatism and abuse of power.

  • CGC

    Hi Keith #47,
    There are a many good books on this topic and two that I have read recently that I for one found helpful are “Laying Down the Sword: Why we Can’t Ignore the Bible’s Violent Verses” by Philip Jenkins and David’s Lamb’s book, “God behaving badly: is the God of the Old Testament angry, sexist, and racist.” Both of these books are good and I can’t help but think although most Christians don’t believe that God is angry, sexist or racist, we tend to project that onto other Christians who may interpret the Bible differently than we do.

    I have Darrin W. Snyder Belousek book sitting in front of me that looks good called, “Atonment, Justice, and Peace: the message of the cross and the mission of the church” but I will say, reading an almost 650 page book is quite intimidating to me at the moment since I am reading several other books at the same time :-)

  • Joshua Wooden

    Ray,

    I don’t want to get hung up on one of your pet peeves when it’s not the focus of the discussion – for now, suffice it to say that I disagree – but after reading what you wrote in regards to the actual post, I think you and I would generally agree.

  • John Inglis

    The point about Christianity and hospitals, etc., is not that the independent creation of such could never happen outside of Christianity, but that it was rare outside of Christianity one the one hand, and innate / inherent to Christianity on the other. Certainly the modern hospital system around the world derives from the western version of same that arose within the framework of cultural christianity.

    It would be going to far to claim as some Calvinists do (that nonChristians can do no good), but it will also not do to ignore the huge role of Christianity as both causative and formative in respect of modern hospitals, modern science, modern democracy, etc.

  • John Inglis

    As to Hitler, one must take into account that he was raised and confirmed as a Catholic. Hence his religious views evolved over time and so, obviously, he was not consistent in his beliefs over time. It is also true that he landed on a position of despising Christianity.

    Some of his evolution is apparent in that his later quotes (1940s, given above by another commenter) indicate his hatred of Christianity. Earlier, however, one can find quotes like this one from a 1922 speech: “My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter . . .” It is also no secret that Hitler liked Nietzsche, and that Hitler was a great propagandist.

    On the other hand, Hitler’s killing of Jews was acceptable to broad swaths of the Christian culture. Catholics at the time still officially deemed the Jews to be treacherous (perfidious Jew), and Lutherans, well they had Luther: “The Jews deserve to be hanged on gallows, seven times higher than ordinary thieves,” and “We ought to take revenge on the Jews and kill them.”

    I think the “it works both ways” concept is more applicable to saying that it’s difficult to pin mass murder on either so-called Christians or so-called Atheists (rather than saying it’s possible to pin it on either). There are so many vagueries, including the obvious facts that no nation has ever been consistently christian or atheist from top to bottom, and that atheism and theism do not cover all possible categories of belief.

  • Mark h

    So, where is Hitler? I’m confused, and not sure he was the point. I’m wondering how much longer I need to seek forgiveness for the Crusades and the Inquisitions? Not trying to be smart, but I’m growing weary of apologizing for the Hitlers and the Constantines of Christiandom, or better put, of our world. I feel Scot in his comment that no one in their right mind would place Hitler as a follower in the ways of Jesus. If he was, then I have a difficult time processing whether I am or not. Apologies, I didn’t read all the posts, so if it’s obvious I missed a diatribe or two along the way, please extend grace, and credit it to a lack of EQ.

  • CGC

    Hi Mark and all,
    The Catholic Church has already apologized for the crusades and the inquisitions. I will say as one who is part of the body of Christ (the church), I’d rather take an apologetic approach which may lend some healing to people who feel slighted or abused by the church rather than “it’s not my fault or I never did that!” As far as nasty skeptics who want to make Christians look bad, I doubt anything we say is going to change minds or change anything. There has to be some humility and civility on both sides if there is going to be genuine dialogue rather than some kind of monologue of one group over and against another.

    I was at a Promise Keepers clergy event (10,000) some time ago where a native-American speaker challenged the audience on the atrocities of broken treaties made by our government and how we often break our treaty with God and others. Half the ministers got up and walked out mad! They were shocked and scandalized by this preacher’s words and I was shocked and scandalized that so many were scandalized :-) I at least wished we could have had a serious conversation that day but half the clergy had walked away!

  • http://wildebeestchronicles.blogspot.com Win

    it’s a little ethnocentric to imply that democracy and republicanism started with America. I specifically didn’t say Christianity was responsible for democracy and republicanism. I said religion.

    One could make an argument that Christians were some of the earliest communists (in the strictest sense of the word – they lived in communes and shared their possessions and money). And it worked. One could make just about any argument they want about Christians and find historical examples to discredit or credit it. It’s a human entity. It’s an institution of forgiven forgivers. Those who have experienced the most grace tend to extend the most grace. Those looking for a vehicle to advance their agenda have certainly found their way in. That doesn’t discredit the core message of Christianity. Most everything else is a red herring or a straw man.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Win –

    it’s a little ethnocentric to imply that democracy and republicanism started with America. I specifically didn’t say Christianity was responsible for democracy and republicanism. I said religion.

    And I pointed out that, in arguing for democracy and republicanism, the Founders didn’t need to resort to any religious sources for justification. Even the original stirrings of democracy in ancient Greece weren’t driven by religion particularly – other cultures shared the same gods and didn’t even consider counting potsherds for anything.


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