Who Would Jesus Bomb?

bombby Lara M. Gardner

I have seen the bumper sticker a lot. I saw it again recently and kept ruminating on it, asking the same question — “Who would Jesus bomb?”

Over and over, the answer that came to mind was everyone, if certain fundamentalist Christians have their way.

Those asking this question are under the false assumption that fundamentalists are framing their religion on the behavior of Jesus Christ. Such an assumption is erroneous, and in the long run could contribute to the Armageddon so many fundamentalists of Abrahamic religions hope will occur.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

A frightening number of persons are focused heavily on this prophecy (ever hear of the “Left Behind” series?) and support global policies that seem geared to ensure its occurrence. Why is this? It’s simple: Armageddon offers “evidence” to back up these belief systems.

“See,” they want to say, “what did we tell you? Our prophets foretold the world would come to an end, and therefore we were right.” The disheartening aspect of this is that it doesn’t seem to matter whether this prophecy is self-fulfilling or not. For whatever reason, there is a need for vindication to prove to non-believers that they were right all along. Never mind if the world ends if you get to be right.

Logic is not part of the equation when thinking like a fundamentalist. If it were, there would be no focus on Armageddon at all. According to the Bible, humans do not know when it will happen; how therefore could they engineer its manifestation? And if divine interference is a given, it will occur without human intervention.

Literal Interpretations 

Pullquote: You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.
Anne Lamott

Fundamentalists are called fundamentalists because they claim to follow a literal interpretation of whichever text they profess to follow (although of late Christian fundamentalists prefer the term “evangelical” because of the negative connotations associated with “fundamentalist”).

But let’s be honest. Fundamentalism is only a literal interpretation of whatever rules the fundamentalist is interested in following. They pick and choose. They must because many of the rules in these ancient, many times translated and transcribed texts are in diametric opposition to one another.

A Cowardly System of Belief

Pullquote: Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.
Blaise Pascal

Ultimately, fundamentalism has little to do with trying to live a moral and honorable life. Rather, it is giving authority and responsibility to a book instead of the self.

It is based on fear, guilt, control, manipulation, and hypocrisy. It gives an excuse for inexcusable behavior. It allows one to judge others while simultaneously claiming not to do so, to control how women use their bodies, to decide for others who they can marry, and on and on. It is a way to include and exclude — junior high on a global scale. Worst of all, it provides an excuse to justify horrific actions, including the use of bombs.

Fundamentalism is popular because it requires little effort and no imagination. It isn’t moving beyond fear, but into it. At its heart it is a cowardly system of belief.

For all these reasons, we should work to eliminate fundamentalism. Any benefits it offers are vastly outweighed by its risks. Allowing our society and our world to be ruled by fundamentalism could very well be our undoing. This would not be evidence of anything except the end of humanity.  Martin Luther said, “Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding.” Such are the sentiments of fundamentalism — reason enough to progress to a world without it.

Lara Gardner is a writer and non-practicing attorney living in New York City.

  • dr.R.

    For whatever reason, there is a need for vindication to prove to non-believers that they were right all along.

    The mindset of such people is pathetic… I think ‘childish’ is still too mild.

    Fundamentalism is popular because it requires little effort and no imagination. It isn’t moving beyond fear, but into it. At its heart it is a cowardly system of belief.

    But what’s in it for them? Are they too afraid to consider alternative ways of thinking? Or are they indulging in their self-righteousness?

  • Johnny Cache

    I read a wide variety of science and free thought blogs. Unreasonable Faith is one of my favorites. Daniel, I really enjoy your site and get a lot of good information from your posts and from the replies of your knowlegeable readers. I even learn things from the nut jobs that post here, although the idiocy displayed is rather frightening if you start thinking about the potential number of those kinds of people there are in the world.

    I think you’ve now done yourself one better by having guest posters. This one by Lara Garder is excellent. It is a superb distillation of the consequences of fundamentalist thinking. I’m going to use some of Lara’s points next time I get into a debate with my brainwashed fundamentalist –er– evangelical neighbor.

  • Confused

    For all these reasons, we should work to eliminate fundamentalism.

    Sadly, I think without eliminating Christianity entirely, this is going to be an eternal battle.

    If we could somehow flip a switch and turn all of the fundamentalist christians today into either atheists or liberal christians, I truly believe that within a few years christian fundamentalism would reappear.

    The reason is that as long as christianity promotes two viewpoints:
    - the message of the bible is true
    - the message of the bible is simple
    there will be people who view any attempt to interpret the bible in terms of modern or progressive ethics and morality as weasling away and twisting it’s message to mean something else.

    My biggest problem with liberal christianity (with the exception that it’s built on deceit, but that applies to christianity as a whole) is that it necessarily, if inadvertantly, encourages the existence of fundamental christianity.

  • http://endemoniada.org Martin

    I fully agree with Johnny Cache (haha) above. I’ve only been following this blog for a short while, but it’s quickly becoming one of my favorites, and the one I look forward to read the most.

    The guest speaker concept is, of course, great. It’s always good to show that you allow different viewpoints and opinions. In this manner, I’d love to see more theist guest writers like the one you had a few weeks ago. However, pick those who you respect and who will handle the discussion with dignity, don’t fall for the temptation to invite puppets we can easily knock down. Discussion is good and healthy, and this is one of the healthiest blogs I know of :)

    Lara, well written!

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  • Barry

    I agree with I-thority that fundamentalism is found in many areas other than the religious realm and have been as dangerous and unreasonable as any faith based dogmatic assertion ever has been.

    A couple of other points:

    Fundamentalism is used as a broad brush in this article. It is used to describe anyone who believes in the inerrancy of the Bible, which may be true by her definition, but she goes on to say that all fundamentalists are unreasonable power hungry fanatics. This is patently absurd when one considers who is considered a fundamentalist by definition from Mennonites to certain portions of catholics. Some of these groups are openly pacifists, and her attack unjustly includes them and other who don’t wrap a flag around their faith.

    People on this blog have mentioned how weak “liberal” Christianity can be, and in some instances I agree, and that is what she seems to be pushing for. But what is that we would benefit from, from such a faith? If there isn’t a God their rituals are empty. If there is a God and he hasn’t communicated with us their rituals are still empty. Personally I’d rather stay home and watch football than dress up and go to a building in which we read poetry from a book that is meaningless.

    Fundamentalism shouldn’t be simply defined by a literal reading of a text. A literal reading of a text is the “normal” reading of a text allowing for the use of figurative language of course. We may have differing viewpoints of what Lara said, but we are not trying to figure out the meaning of what she said, are we? The debate comes down to asking whether a certain text should be read in wooden literal manner or if we are supposed to take the parable and get the literal principle behind it. I’ll admit it is no easy task but it one that is explored by honest people intelligent people, not just a bunch of crazies bent on destroying the world.

    She also says that fundamentalist morality is based on fear, and I would agree that some that I have know have practiced this form of morality control. But it doesn’t have to be that way, because I’ve also seen moral “judgements” made out of love and concern and if you haven’t experienced that you’ve had poor parents. My parents didn’t let me roam the streets at night when I was kid because loved me, and only in that sense does fear play a factor, we fear harm to those that we care about. But if God doesn’t exist fear plays no less of role in “morality”. Why do we do what we do, because we fear punishment or we fear the survival of the human race depends on our choices. Fear doesn’t have to the domain of cowards alone.
    “If we take the generally accepted definition of bravery as a quality which knows no fear, I have never seen a brave man. All men are frightened. The more intelligent they are, the more they are frightened.”
    General George S. Patton quotes (American General in World War I and II, 1885-1945)

  • LRA

    If there was a historical Jesus, I think he would bomb Herod’s court (as Herod wasn’t considered a “true Jew” by the people of that time) and possibly the Roman Empire. I think he had no idea that his country preacher mission stuff would blow up the way it did 400 years later. I think he thought he was the Jewish messiah (meaning a revolutionary prophet- not a divine figure- that was blastphemous).

    Enter Paul. Now, he’d blow up women and non-converts.

    As far as Revelations goes, I think it was meant to reference the end of the Roman Empire. That has already happened, and so the “end of the world” has come and gone already!

  • Jonathon

    Fundamentalism is fundamentalism, regardless of sect. The behavior of fundamentalist Christians is little different from fundamentalist Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc. In each case, the fundamentalists believe that “more is better” so if scripture demands modesty (for example) their solution is to take the instruction to the nth degree.

    A good example from Islam is the issue of hijab or wearing the veil. There is absolutely no Qur’anic basis for the dress code for women enforced in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, etc. which essentially demand that women cover everything except perhaps her eyes. The instruction related to the hijab is specific to the wives of Muhammad and wasn’t enforced on other women in the Muslim community. Forced, compulsory dress codes found in the places mentioned above have no basis in Islam or in the sunnah of Muhammad.

    I do not believe that Christianity or Islam in themselves are the problem. There is much in each of these traditions that is good and uplifting. However, those who seek to create an idol of scripture focus on the negative aspects of scripture, the anger and wrath of God, and base their belief in fear and not love. Literal translations ignore the shades of meaning, the differences in languages and the drift of word meanings over time. What was written in the King James Version of the Christian Bible made a lot of sense at the time, but the language we speak today is not the same as was spoken at the time of translation. Additionally, since most Christians don’t learn to read the Greek and Aramaic used in the Gospels or the Hebrew used in the Old Testament, there is no basis whatsoever for the assertion that the Bible is infallible. They have no evidence to back up their assertion.

    My observation has always been that if Christians and Muslims actually tried to live up to the teachings of their respective scriptures then the world would be a better place. Currently, however, they fail to do so. So, a reformation at least is required in both of these faiths.

  • Elemenope

    @ Elliott

    I am by no means a Buddhist, but when you say that Buddhism has been bent, you imply that it has been in a way, perverted.

    My argument is that you don’t have to try hard to pervert the the Christian faith, because its fundamentals are already perverted.

    “Getting back to the basics” of the Christian faith means all kinds of bad things.

    My problem with this line is that modern “fundamentalist” Christianity isn’t by any means reaching back historically to an earlier more basic faith. That is something they like to claim, but the truth of it is that literalism of the sort they preach has *never* been a dominant form of Christian faith. Even the writings of the very early Church fathers indicate a highly metaphorical understanding of the events and precepts described in the Bible. And that itself shouldn’t be shocking to anyone; they were using the book of another religion (Judaism) and re-purposing it for this alternative interpretation. They could do naught but *interpret*.

    This 19th century aberration in the evolution of Christian thought we call “fundamentalism” has nothing to do with fundamentals nor with historical forms of Christianity.

    The examples of Buddhist extremism you provide aren’t that kind of “getting back to the basics” so in my understanding, it isn’t fundamentalism.

    Any kind of irrational thought provides a nucleation point for crazy, but some thoughts condense a lot more crazy than others.

    There are certain forms of rational thought that can also birth some serious crazy (Ayn Rand and Auguste Comte come to mind). It is an interesting hypothesis, regardless. Do certain ideas attract the attention of people predisposed to thinking in this “fundamentalist” mode (absolute anti-evidential apocalyptic self-sufficient belief) better than others? Are some ideas easier to bend into service of such people than others?

    I would suspect so. It was one of the reasons the church fathers were so nervous about the Apocalypse of John. They had seen what apocalyptic cults had done in Judaism and in Hellenic traditions, and were not particularly anxious to follow them.

  • Question-I-thority

    It might be helpful to think of fundamentalism as a subset of authoritarianism. When the Great Leaders die or ‘become’ transcendent, parsing the Words of said Great Ones become paramount to people with both investiture and strong hierarchical needs.

  • John C

    @Daniel…

    Fear and manipulation are unfortunate and unhealthy by-products of fanatical religious extremism. No sensible, peace-loving individual could possibly condone the incessant doom-saying and fear-mongering prophecies so prevalent in today’s anxiety ridden climate.

    Your readers are intelligent, educated and justifiably concerned about such harmful thinking and its possible implications on society at large. Unfortunately, the stigma of this extremism paints a wide brush stroke coloring various “christian” idealogies with a greatly distorted hue.

    Overall, Unreasonable Faith is an impressive public forum for high quality, (mainly theist antagonism) discussions, yet there remains a sincere lack of appreciation for the distinction between such extremism and the true spiritual disciplines that communicate widely disparate and tolerant, even inclusive viewpoints.

    Contributors like Ms. Gardner and many of your readers appear to have little interest in making these important distinctions, instead preferring to perpetuate the negative stigma’s tied to such extremism and remain content to lump the whole of “christianity” into these narrow minded ideological sects, ie fundamentalism, the religious right, etc.

    Perhaps a greater receptivity, objectivity and education of the theist spectrum is warranted within the UF community.

    Sincerely,

    JC

  • She Rocks

    This post rocks. But I am a little biased as Lara is a dear friend. Thank you for opening up your blog to outside writers. There are others like us, and it is comforting to hear their intelligent, thoughtful ideas.

  • Jesse

    As a Christian, one might expect me to balk at this post. However, I think Lara has a point. Basing foreign policy on the desire to speed the arrival of Armageddon is a horrible philosophy. Nowhere did Jesus instruct his followers to provoke the end of the world… unless I missed something in my reading.

    If anyone wants to read a critique of the “Left Behind” way of thinking from a Christian perspective, have a look at Hank Hanegraaf’s “Apocalypse Code”. He’s taken a lot of flak from what Lara refers to as ‘fundamentalist Christians.’

  • http://wmute.livejournal.com wintermute

    If anyone wants to read a critique of the “Left Behind” way of thinking from a Christian perspective

    Better still, for those few of you who don’t know of it already, read Slactivist’s review series. Start at the bottom, and work your way up.

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  • Evangelist

    The Chinese, I’m almost certain it would be the Chinese.

  • marcion

    Who would Jesus bomb? Paul.

  • http://fightingignorance2.ning.com/ HoleyHands

    Here’s a good theme song for this post!
    “Jesus Hits Like A Atom Bomb”

  • claidheamh mor

    You go, Lara Gardner!

    Especially my favorite bit:

    It is based on fear, guilt, control, manipulation, and hypocrisy.
    Fundamentalism is popular because it requires little effort and no imagination. It isn’t moving beyond fear, but into it.

    Well crowed!

    • ME

      Again, Atheism requires no imagination or effort at all. Fundamentalism (while being very narrow minded) takes years worth of studying to be accepted in the ranks of the Fundamentalists. It’s understanding and acceptance that is being sought. I think I’d call that effort and not fear and guilt.

  • Lewis

    “Who Would Jesus Bomb?” ..Uh Sodom and Gamorrah?
    People need to read their old testament before embarking on national campaigns.

    • ME

      Jesus wasn’t even born when that happened. On top of the fact that Jesus (or God?) was preaching love and acceptance at this point in history and had stopped destroying cities and flooding the planet.

      Didn’t pay attention in bible class much huh?

      Also, the whole Sodom and Gamorrah stories were criticisms of civilization and how God hated civilization. Hence why most stories in the Old Testament have God destroying civilization, forcing people to work the land who try to become God (Adam anyone?), and chose Able the herder over Cane the farmer/civilization builder.

      Of course the whole three in one thing could be used to get pass such an obvious flaw in your argument. Jesus is God and if God did that then Jesus would do that blah blah blah.

  • ME

    “Fundamentalism is popular because it requires little effort and no imagination. It isn’t moving beyond fear, but into it. At its heart it is a cowardly system of belief.”

    It’s actually the exact opposite. Atheism is appealing because it requires little effort and no imagination. Here’s atheism: Life is real, God isn’t. Can you summarize a religion in five words? I think not. Atheist spend way too much time worrying about what religions are doing. In fact they are sometimes FEARful of religion.

    To become a fundamentalist you have to spend years studying texts, memorizing passages, rules, etc. It’s much like why some people join and like the military, they have set rules and codes of honor. It gives people a feeling of belonging and safety. A feeling of being a member of a community that cares and looks out for them. Of course, both groups do not have a very good heart at its core, but that does not change the facts of what is true and what isn’t. And this entire argument is as far from true as possible

    I do not believe in God, I think religion is a bunch of mysticism and trickery. My only problem with religion is that none of the texts or beliefs have any respect for life or nature outside of human life and human civilization.

    That doesn’t mean that this argument isn’t like moldy swiss cheese and makes atheist look incredibly stupid and gullible.

  • cello

    My biggest problem with liberal christianity (with the exception that it’s built on deceit, but that applies to christianity as a whole) is that it necessarily, if inadvertantly, encourages the existence of fundamental christianity.

    This is probably true IMO because of personality types. I think it’s brain chemistry or something biological that predisposes someone to think in black and white terms. This personality type would choose to follow a religious fundamentalist path.

  • Question-I-thority

    The propensity toward fundamentalist thinking seems to be a trans-social problem, not just religious. I hate to invoke Godwin so early in the morning, but Stalin, Hitler, etc. seem to have earmarks of fundamentalism.

  • Confused

    I was reflecting on the idea that a tendency towards fundamentalism is engrained in biblical teaching by default, and was reminded of on one of my observations from reading the bible cover to cover.

    One recurring motif, certainly throughout the old testament is that of endlessly recurring cycles of backsliding and redemption. From Exodus onwards, with only a few exceptions (such as the laws in Leviticus, a few side stories like Ruth and Job, and the “collections” like Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes) the bulk of the Old Testament documents how the Israelites got it wrong and were punished by God with a cataclysm, then returned to their fundamentals and everything was alright.

    Even the stories of Jesus had him attacking (sometimes physically) the establishment because it had wandered away from the truth, as he saw it.

    The inescapable message of the bible is that a return to the fundamentals of your faith, refusing to accept a moral zeitgeist, is mandatory and to fail to do so is terribly dangerous.

    Promoting the message of the bible as reliably true, whether you take it literally or not, necessarily promotes fundamentalism, and fundamentalism is evil.

  • Question-I-thority

    The brain chemistry probably also induces toward structured heirarchy and strong personality leadership.

  • Confused

    I might be overstepping the limits of political correctness here, but I would go further an say it’s dependent on general intelligence. Very intelligent people recognise the nuances and subtleties in scripture and believe that much of it should not be taken literally. Not very intelligent people prefer simple, black and white explanations.

    Once you have an established church, you start to have factors which muddy the issue – indoctrination into a belief system can cause intelligent people to believe strange things, for example; but I really think that in a mixed population of christians, less intelligent people tend to be more fundamentalist in their views.

  • http://unreasonablefaith.com Daniel Florien

    Thanks Johnny! That’s very kind. I hope the blog will keep getting better and better!

  • Elemenope

    This is primarily why I think it is a mistake to situate the blame with “Christianity”. There is ample reason to believe the defect is not with Christianity, but with human nature itself.

    It just so happens that in our society, the most popular brand of fundamentalism happens to be Christian, and so most of the fights against a fundamentalist anti-logical eschatologically driven insertion into our way of life are against the Christian flavor of that impulse.

    I’m pretty sure that liberal Christians are as embarrassed if not more than Atheists of the fundamentalists who twist their beliefs into this hideous matrix of self-satisfied certainty in the righteousness of vicious, apoplectic hatred of everything unlike them.

  • marcion

    “I hate to invoke Godwin so early in the morning, but Stalin, Hitler, etc. seem to have earmarks of fundamentalism.”

    But Hitler’s fundamentalism was fundamentally darwinian. Fundamentalist darwinians will of necessity believe certain races are inferior because they’re less evolved.

  • http://unreasonablefaith.com Daniel Florien

    Yes, I’m definitely open to theist writers. Hopefully I’ll receive some thoughtful and well-written posts from them.

    Oh, and thanks for the kind words! I really appreciate it.

  • http://elliottcallahan.com/blog Elliott

    Nah. The problem is definitely Christianity.

    You’re probably right that there’s a drive to take a belief system to an extreme, but if we were dealing with fundamentalist Buddhists, the situation would be different.

  • boomSLANG

    “I’m pretty sure that liberal Christians are as embarrassed if not more than Atheists of the fundamentalists who twist their beliefs into this hideous matrix of self-satisfied certainty in the righteousness of vicious, apoplectic hatred of everything unlike them.”

    ‘Could be. The other side of the coin is that there are likely biblical literalists/fundamentalists who are, as well, embarrassed of/disgusted with the liberals out there “who twist their beliefs” into something so liberal and universal, that it’s barely recognizable as ” True Christianity” anymore.

    Where interpretation is concerned, it’s hard to say who’s doing the “twisting”.

  • cello

    I agree with this to an extent. We would be better off if the Bible didn’t give them so much authoritarian and violent material to work with. At least Jesus himself is a moderating factor and had the foresight to dole out the love thy neighbor concept.

  • http://unreasonablefaith.com Daniel Florien

    @cello

    Jesus is a good moral example up until Revelation, when he comes down to kill everyone who doesn’t believe in him. So much for turning the other cheek, eh?

  • Roger

    Jesus in some of the gospels comes off as a bit of a poncy tosser. He rolls up into the synagogue and starts beating the shit out of people because the synagogue has become a marketplace–imagine if I rolled up into a Baptist bake sale and started whipping a bunch of old ladies, kids and old men because they were selling baked goods? I’d be on the evening news as a domestic terrorist.

    He curses a fig tree–which was out of season, by the way–for not having fruit. Um, dude? Your celestial daddy was allegedly the one who set the physical laws in motion, so if you want to be pissed about not having figs when you want them, get pissed at pops, not the tree. Besides, what the frak was that supposed to teach anybody?

    And hell, he only goes so far with that “love thy neighbor” business even before Revelation. His whole discourse on the second coming is a thinly veiled revenge story–all those who didn’t believe he was the authentic, original, one-of-a-kind Son of Gawd were gonna be cast into hell. And the Jesus of the Gospel of John is straight-up pissed off…with “the Jews.”

  • Elemenope

    While Buddhism has no overarching eschatological impulse the way that Christianity does (which makes it harder to create a fundamentalist dogma with any real fervor), it cannot be denied that Buddhism has been bent, and quite severely, in the service of authoritarianism in Tibet (where there was until recently a flat-out theocracy) and Burma (where the priestly class, again until *very* recently, essentially co-ran a brutal dictatorship).

    Also, there have been fringe sects of Buddhism, who much like in Christianity and Islam have turned to violence, forsaking ahimsa, to augment their position in political and intra- and inter-religious disagreement.

  • http://www.elliottcallahan.com/blog Elliott

    I am by no means a Buddhist, but when you say that Buddhism has been bent, you imply that it has been in a way, perverted.

    My argument is that you don’t have to try hard to pervert the the Christian faith, because its fundamentals are already perverted.

    “Getting back to the basics” of the Christian faith means all kinds of bad things. The examples of Buddhist extremism you provide aren’t that kind of “getting back to the basics” so in my understanding, it isn’t fundamentalism.

    Any kind of irrational thought provides a nucleation point for crazy, but some thoughts condense a lot more crazy than others.

  • Jeff Eyges

    I know some fundamentalist Buddhists (there actually are a good many of them among Western Buddhists). Believe me – it is a VERY different situation.

  • LRA

    Of course, no second coming, though….

  • Elemenope

    On the topic of Revelation, I always found it interesting that while many church fathers, from Eusebius and Jerome, all the way up to Martin Luther, thought that the Apocalypse of John was just this side of utterly absurd, it ended up in the canon. IIRC, Luther himself spoke to the issue, saying in effect that the book was just too damn popular amongst the people (heck, it is a wild story), and so removing it from the canon would do great damage to the popularity of Christianity.

  • cello

    Revelation probably served as the National Inquirer of the times.

  • http://alphonsuspeck.wordpress.com/ alphonsuspeck

    What’s in it for the fundamentalist is a “clear” rule set (no ambiguities allowed) and freedom from having to “think” at all. They essentially let the Bible to do their thinking for them.

    To quote from a Harry Potter book, “Never trust anything that thinks unless you can see where it keeps its brains.”

  • Elemenope

    LOL. Really gives some heft to “Religion is the opiate of the people.”

  • Trey

    I’ve read some interesting theories that the book of Revelation was, in fact, an ancient “political cartoon” of sorts to bring hope to the faithful weathering the storm of persecution. If so, it helps to makes sense of all the crazy symbolism, because the intended audience would understand which parties are represneted by the vaerious symbols and be able to hang together and encourage each other during the eventual decline of Rome.

    The basic claim of Revelation is that it all works out in the end, anyway, for those who perservere, which is an article of faith. I don’t see the need to make it so complicated.

    However, if one insists that Revelation is literal truth written for YOU, NOW, *TODAY!*, then I guess you’re stuck with seven-headed dragons, giant locusts with the faces of men, and other strange events that don’t translate well to the 21st century. Believe me, I’ll be the first to be completely flabbergasted if the First Horseman shows up knocking at my door…but then, it will allegedly be too late, anyway.

  • LRA

    I’d love to know who the whore of Babylon was then!

    ;)

  • Elemenope

    “Never trust anything that thinks unless you can see where it keeps its brains.”

    And the important corollary “Never trust a computer you can’t throw out the window.”

  • Roger

    Shorter John C: The No True Scotsman fallacy.

  • cello

    Thank you for such coherent and lucid comment. It is a welcome addition to usual repertoire.

  • claidheamh mor

    John, scroll up… up… toward the sky-god, toward the top of the page, to the first of your “double dips”, to see my reply.

    If you posted twice, you need to check back in both places!

  • Elemenope

    The definition of “Christian” is insufficiently demarcated to yield a programmatic way of distinguishing “Christian” from “not Christian”. This does *not* mean that all statements of the form “this entity, X, which self-labels ‘Christian’ is not a Christian” are empty of truth content, nor does it mean they are not testable, so long as there is no ad hoc redefinition of the terms *after* the claim is analyzed.

    “No true Scotsman” gets thrown around a lot in discussions of topics which are messily demarcated. Sometimes, I think, far too quickly.

  • http://wmute.livejournal.com wintermute

    Hrm. Because of the paging system Typepad now uses, you need to start on page 24, and click through the “previous” links as you go. Annoying, but well worth it.

  • John C

    Should have posted originally as a reply…sorry for “double-dipping”.

    @Daniel…

    Fear and manipulation are unfortunate and unhealthy by-products of fanatical religious extremism. No sensible, peace-loving individual could possibly condone the incessant doom-saying and fear-mongering prophecies so prevalent in today’s anxiety ridden climate.

    Your readers are intelligent, educated and justifiably concerned about such harmful thinking and its possible implications on society at large. Unfortunately, the stigma of this extremism paints a wide brush stroke coloring various “christian” idealogies with a greatly distorted hue.

    Overall, Unreasonable Faith is an impressive public forum for high quality, (mainly theist antagonism) discussions, yet there remains a sincere lack of appreciation for the distinction between such extremism and the true spiritual disciplines that communicate widely disparate and tolerant, even inclusive viewpoints.

    Contributors like Ms. Gardner and many of your readers appear to have little interest in making these important distinctions, instead preferring to perpetuate the negative stigma’s tied to such extremism and remain content to lump the whole of “christianity” into these narrow minded ideological sects, ie fundamentalism, the religious right, etc.

    Perhaps a greater receptivity, objectivity and education of the theist spectrum is warranted within the UF community.

    Sincerely,

    JC

  • http://unreasonablefaith.com Daniel Florien

    John that’s the most coherent comment you’ve ever written. Thanks for your efforts to be clear.

  • claidheamh mor

    Well, John, there’s plenty of negative stigmatizing out there. Maybe many of us who write (or just blog and post) about it are not unhappy with someone’s quiet spirituality.

    So it’s like this… hmm, let’s see… some simple analogies…

    If someone puts up a “no loitering’ sign, that doesn’t mean they hate you for stopping a minute to eat an ice cream cone.

    They’re attacking the negative parts of religion.

    In his book, “The World’s Religions” (I recommend it), Huston Smith says that he could easily have written about all the corruption and problems in religion, but that that particular book was dealing with the valuable parts.

    If you’re OK with that, then be OK with other writers who may recognize some beauty or positivity in the world’s religions, but their particular writing is dealing with the negative parts.

    Capisce?

  • http://www.elliottcallahan.com/blog Elliott

    Sorry, I should have clarified. I didn’t mean to say fundamentalists are reaching back to a more idyllic time of purer faith. They consider their “fundamentals” to be the bible alone. As a former fundamentalist, I can assure you that they consider the ultimate source of the Christian faith to be the bible: they are not open to the bible+ take of catholicism.

    You are right to say this is an historically recent development — I have heard said from a religious studies professor friend that the rise of Christian fundamentalism coincides nicely with the rise of postmodern relativism, and can be interpreted as a reaction thereto — but it is not an historically unique development. As far as I know, the inquisition was also set into motion by a trend for more literal biblical interpretation. The puritans and their witch hunts were an eventual result of the “back to basics” of the reformations of the 1500-1600′s.

    All I’m saying is that if you are going to go nuts with something, it’s easier to go nuts with the Bible than let’s say, the Tao Te Ching, or other religious texts.

  • Elemenope

    I have heard said from a religious studies professor friend that the rise of Christian fundamentalism coincides nicely with the rise of postmodern relativism, and can be interpreted as a reaction thereto

    Certainly makes sense. Also I would add to that the pressure from the Darwinian-Einsteinian revolution in perspective (of what, first, Humans are, and second, what the fundamental character of the universe is), as well as Marx’s, Nietzsche’s, and Freud’s utterly brutal hermeneutical critiques of religion.

    …it is not an historically unique development. As far as I know, the inquisition was also set into motion by a trend for more literal biblical interpretation. The puritans and their witch hunts were an eventual result of the “back to basics” of the reformations of the 1500-1600’s.

    True. I would distinguish only that even in those movements’ most strident attempts at literalism fall far short of the modern attempt to reduce Christianity to a sola scriptura exercise of plain English reading.

    All I’m saying is that if you are going to go nuts with something, it’s easier to go nuts with the Bible than let’s say, the Tao Te Ching, or other religious texts.

    Personally I blame the advent of the concept of linear time (as opposed to the prior dominant frame of cyclical time), which of course necessarily implies an *ending*. The character and anticipation of the ending is what, I think, drives the passion toward thinking of spirituality in terms of conflict, and adds the urgency of “being on the right side” of that conflict.

  • John C

    Well said, thanks Elemeno! (sorry if my agreeing with you has done any irreparable harm to your UF status and reputation amongst your fellow Atheists) lol.

  • Elemenope

    Well said, thanks Elemeno!

    You’re welcome. :)

    (sorry if my agreeing with you has done any irreparable harm to your UF status and reputation amongst your fellow Atheists)

    I don’t think it works that way.

  • John C

    Thx Cello…

    I’ll take that as a polite…slam…lol.

    “music is the occult metaphysical exercise of a soul not knowing that is philosophises”

    Arthur Shopenhaurer

  • cello

    @ John C

    I really didn’t mean it to be a slam. But I can see how you could read it that way. Sorry. I just prefer plain speech.

  • John C

    I was just kidding Cello…no worries…please.

  • Elemenope

    Godless commies that they are.

  • Elemenope

    True. And if the thing were merely an academic exercise, one could sell popcorn for the argument; it would be entertaining at the very least.

    While age and history are not necessarily linked with truth, I would say the centuries of scholarship and tradition on one side of the argument makes it a rather unfair fight. The main reason that fundamentalists shut down almost immediately in any debate I’ve ever seen, either with their more liberal brethren or with skeptics, is that they simply don’t have the ammo to sustain their beliefs in hostile territory.

  • John C

    @Claidheamh mor…

    Yes, I am all too familiar, and in fact in much agreement with many of the “negative’s”.

    I maintain that religion (in its culturally understood context) is not at all the true message & offer of Christ, He gets lumped in with the whole religious lot. Religion is external, its focused on rule-keeping, dogma, etc. Its burdensome and oppressive and in some cases can lead to hatred and great harm.

    Christ offers an internal, change of nature (His) in us. Its a pre-empting of our old, faulty, inherited nature that was handed down from adam, a new creation, a spiritual life. We journey from an external existence to an internal…life. Or as Paul says…its the mystery of the ages…Christ IN you. Col 1:27. And He is love.

    External=bad
    Internal=good

  • http://progressatallcost.blogspot.com/ markbey

    at john c

    john…Or as Paul says…its the mystery of the ages…Christ IN you. Col 1:27. And He is love. ….

    mark… why is your god gonna burn me or not allow me into heaven based on a mystery, which grows ever more obsure the more people you talk to.

    what do you mean and he is love. please specific details.

  • claidheamh mor

    And John,

    A shorter version of what I told you:

    This entire site is exposing and discussing religion’s nasty bits.

    If your messages of love aren’t necessarily bad or wrong, they are still irrelevant here.

  • Confused

    The statement that any race or species is more or less evolved is something anyone who studies evolution quickly comes to realise is either unclear or meaningless. By one argument, all species are equally evolved because they’ve had the same evolutionary time to evolve in. Even if you can make the case that some species are “more evolved” than others, when you get down to it, measuring that difference yields unexpected results. For example, by some metrics chimps are “more evolved” than humans.

    Darwinian theory does not lead to the belief that races are inferior because they’re less well evolved; it merely states that in nature inferior individuals will tend to be removed. Judgement that a certain race is inferior is coloured by the values of the one making the judgement.

    Incidentally, the race Hitler and Stalin especially chose to victimise were the ones that two thousand years of persecution by christians had made into an acceptable target.

    As for Hitler being a fundamental Darwinian, I’m skeptical because he rarely if ever mentioned Darwin. Much more frequently he referred to the germ theory of disease, pioneered by Koch and Pasteur – there is a lot of evidence that he saw persecution of inferior minorities as treating a disease that was afflicting his society, rather than trying to enact natural selection.

    If I may ask, are you a creationist? If so, don’t you think that rather biases your opinion on the applications of Darwin’s theory?

  • http://unreasonablefaith.com Daniel Florien

    If there was evidence that some races were inferior, then we’d believe it. However, there is no evidence. Stephen Jay Gould has some good essays on that from an evolutionary point of view.

  • http://wmute.livejournal.com wintermute

    But not Ringo.

  • John C

    Good one Winter…i’m not sure many caught it tho…lol

  • charlie

    Even better still-
    http://www.joebageant.com/joe/2005/12/what_the_left_b.html
    Sorry, I’m old and a computer idiot and don’t know how to link. Maybe someone could do that for me. It’s a great takedown.

  • charlie

    Wow, I linked it without knowing it. I am an idiot.

  • Jeff Eyges

    “Who Would Jesus Bomb?” ..Uh Sodom and Gamorrah?
    People need to read their old testament before embarking on national campaigns.

    And your point is what – that they deserved it?


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