Christianity and the Witch-Hunt Mentality

Christianity and the Witch-Hunt Mentality March 14, 2019

Editor’s Note: Get ready — this Clergy Project member is really worked up and he’s full of facts – which certainly cannot be said about the subject of his criticism. /Linda LaScola, Editor

====================================

By David Madison

It’s alive, potent, and dangerous

It isn’t hard at all to come up with a hundred verses in the gospels and epistles that would shock Christians. We would hear,

“How can that be?” or “Well, I don’t believe that!” or “That’s not part of my religion.” Robert Conner doesn’t exaggerate:

“The overwhelming majority of Christians know bupkis about what’s in the New Testament.”

Even if, at one time or another, they’ve come across the alarming texts, they become masters of denial; their ‘nice religion’ remains invincible. Jesus too remains intact, despite many of the despicable things he (supposedly) believed and said.

Nor do most of the folks in the pews have much of a clue about the full scope of horrors committed through the centuries by Christian zealots who have gained positions of power. All in the name of protecting the faith. How many Christians have read substantive histories of the church? William Zingrone sums it up pretty well: “Most regular folks don’t know shit about their own religion. If they did, they would quite likely be able to see it as if from the outside, as they do all other religions…” (The Arrogance of Religious Thought: Information Kills Religion, p. 59)

When Christopher Hitchens died, and many Christians found out for the first time that one of his books was titled, God Is Not Great, they lit up social media with hate and venom…more or less proving Hitchens’ title. In 2014, John Loftus published an anthology whose title is a nod to Hitchens, Christianity Is Not Great: How Faith Fails.

It includes 23 essays about the harms done by this major world religion. Four of the essays are by Loftus himself, including one called, “Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Witch to Live: The Wicked Christian Witch Hunts.”

Even if Christians are vaguely aware of this Bible-based atrocity, they shrug it off.

“Oh, that was long ago and far away. Not my fault.”

But, no, that won’t do. There are lessons to be learned from the theologically based witch frenzy, lessons that apply to—are predictive of— Christian behavior today. Loftus’ essay provides insight into what people are capable of when they think they’re ‘doing the Lord’s work’ to protect the faith.

Theology had caused such incalculable damage, and Christians would do well to be suspicious of any and all of it. Loftus quotes from Outbreak! The Encyclopedia of Extraordinary Social Behavior by Evans and Bartholomew:

“The witch culture against which the Christian Church took up arms was an artificial construct created by their theologians.” (p. 109)

An artificial construct. Theology is good at this sort of thing, and most such constructs fade or crumble as human knowledge of the world has advanced. No matter how much popular piety still flirts with demons—and shame on the Vatican for being a primary cheer leader—Loftus points out the inconvenient truth:

“…no reasonable, scientifically minded person in today’s world should believe that the devil (or Satan), who commands a host of demons and empowers witches who cause great harm using their black-magic spells and potions, actually exists.” (p. 109)

Scientifically literate Christians—though we now fear they are in the minority—cannot assume that all such nonsense is in the past. Loftus lists about ten counties in Sub-Saharan Africa in which ‘witch beatings and burning’ are contemporary practice. And since these are

“carried out by Bible-believing Christians, the earlier which hunts are not merely an historical anomaly. Witch hunts could arise on Christian soil whenever conducive conditions arise.” (p. 110)

Loftus points out that blame for this Christian horror rests largely with one of the most famous theologians:
“In the thirteenth century Thomas Aquinas provided the arguments that inspired the European witch hunts. Contrary to the Canon Episcopi, which instructed that heretics were merely to be ejected from the church, Aquinas argued heretics should be killed…Since heretical ideas could send people to an eternally conscious torment in hell, it was the greatest crime of all. So logic demanded that the church must get rid of them.”

“All it took for the witch hunts to begin was a sizeable number of powerful people who accepted Aquinas’s ideas and had the political need to follow through on them.” (p. 113)

Hold that thought: “The political need to follow through on them.” It has implications for Christian wickedness that we see around us in our own time.

It cannot escape notice that this devastating chapter in Christian history is another major blow to theism itself—well, against the concept of a caring, powerful God. Loftus describes what happened:

“Between 45,000 and 60,000 people, 75 to 80 percent of them women, were killed as witches during the early-modern witch hunts that took place in Europe…While little could be universally said about all these witch hunts, the common denominator is the Christian belief in the devil and the black witchcraft arts.” (p. 110) There are plenty of biblical texts that feed the superstition, including the much-quoted Exodus 22:18: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”

Jesus himself chatted with demons—the gospel of Mark specializes in this kind of reporting—he could even transfer them into pigs. Matthew, in his expansion of the Temptation Story, provides the dialogue that took place between Jesus and Satan. It’s no wonder that a demon-haunted world has been taken for granted down through the centuries. Loftus shows just how rotted the brain ofJohn Wesley, the founder of Methodism, had become:

“Giving up of witchcraft is in effect giving up the Bible. With my latest breath I will bear testimony against giving up to infidels one great proof of the invisible world; I mean that of witchcraft and apparitions, confirmed by the testimony of all ages.” (p. 112)

What a strange thing for a Christian theologian to concede, that one great proof of the invisible world is witchcraft.

But how do theologians handle the scandal of God’s inaction? He couldn’t think of ways to intervene in the killing of 45,000 – 60,000 witches? Of course, this is but one example of colossal human suffering that God has allowed on his watch—he’s got the whole world in his hands, right?—as the millennia rolled along.

Of course, they invent excuses; that is their specialty, as Loftus points out:

“Christian defense lawyers, called apologists, seek only to get their divine client acquitted no matter what the intellectual or moral cost. Rather than face the evidence that shows their God to be nothing more than the product of ancient people…these apologists use convoluted legalese to obfuscate and confuse the jury… “Tens of thousands of people, mostly women, suffered intensely and were killed needlessly because this God didn’t do anything to help them.” (p. 118)

If you’ve got the stomach for it, read Loftus’ major section of the essay on the use of torture in the interrogation of witches. Once the theology was in place that witches were evil creatures in league with the devil, then mercy was no longer a consideration.

“It was believed that witches could withstand greater pain for extended periods of time due to the power of the devil…In come cases, the lack of a confession under extreme torture was even considered to be strong evidence that the accused was in fact a witch.” (p. 124)

Christians today will usually grant that these ‘un-Christian’ excesses are to be deplored—well, maybe the zealous persecutors in Sub-Saharan Africa won’t—but the basic problem hasn’t gone away: theological certainty remains a clear and present danger. By no means are we free of the witch-hunt mentality; now that witches are passé, Christians settle on other targets, and the suffering is just as terrible.

The Natural Function of Women, According to Men…of course
It would be impossible to calculate the damage done by religion-based patriarchal assumptions about male superiority. What a surprise: Christianity has participated in this sin—along with most religions—precisely because men invented the Judeo-Christian faith and, overwhelmingly, still run it. Misogyny is embedded in the Bible in so many subtle and overt ways. No surprise that most accused witches were women, the corrupt descendants of Eve. Witch-hunting was theologically based terrorism, and the prevailing misogyny today still is.

In a 2013 article titled, “Twenty Vile Quotes Against Women By Church Leaders from St. Augustine to Pat Robertson,” Valerie Tarico describes the complicity that should shame defenders of the faith:

“Why has the main current of Christianity produced a steady diet of misogyny for over 2,000 years? The answer may lay partly in human biology and culture. But it also lies in the Iron Age texts of the Bible itself. The Judeo-Christian tradition of building up men by tearing down women goes all the way back to the most ancient parts of the biblical collection, to the opening pages of Genesis, and continues unabated through the New Testament.”

Now, back to that earlier thought: “The political need to follow through on them.” Namely, Aquinas’ ideas about killing those who cooperate with demons. There was a political need to go after them, namely to protect the power of the church, and secondarily, I suppose, of the faith as well.

According to the patriarchy, women have an established, sacred and limited role, primarily the bearing of children. With a nine-month gestation period, and years of child dependency following that, women had their place. Period.

Nor did men want competition in their spheres, and any intuitive man can sense women are just that. Hence theological terrorism was brought into play: the place for women had been determined by God. Anything that could exempt women from their sole destiny as child-bearers had to be resisted based on theology as much as possible.

The modern hysteria about abortion must be seen in this context: come up with anything to force women to carry a fetus full-term. In a recent article in Harper’s Bazaar, Jennifer Wright offers a stinging condemnation of Catholic hypocrisy about abortion, and includes this observation:

“It was only in 1869 that the fetus was considered ensouled since the moment of conception, and excommunication was considered a punishment for all abortions. In other words, the idea that personhood begins at conception doesn’t date back to the time of Christ. It barely predates light bulbs.”

It really doesn’t matter when Catholics started to believe that ‘ensoulment’ happens at conception. Such talk is irrelevant theobabble, fake news. How would they possibly know that? Soul itself is a bogus idea. Where are the reliable, verifiable data to back up such claims? William A. Zingrone points out the trap that theologians have set for themselves:

“Most religious anti-abortionists imbue the zygote with a soul and/or personhood from the moment of conception, and then attempt to shame us into decrying abortion for killing an unborn human; for being baby-killers. The lack of reality and ultimate irony in this sleazy sensational and emotional claim of the pro-life movement, is that their god (if he existed), whichever one they believe in, kills 50-70% of developing blastocysts and embryos in the first few weeks of development, making their god the biggest abortionist of them all by their own definition.” (p. 76, The Arrogance of Religious Thought)

God is the biggest abortionist? What could be the rejoinder to this? Maybe challenge the 50-70% figure? Or that it’s God’s prerogative to kill whichever embryos he chooses, for whatever reason he wants? This amounts to the most intrusive theism imaginable. If God does indeed tinker at this level in human bodies, how does he remain guiltless as we survey the countless genetic diseases?

Back to the politics. What is the motivation for theologically based terror? In an article on the Debunking Christianity Blog last year, Teresa Roberts called it correctly:

“The big divide has narrowed between the religious right and the rest of us. This has created a huge problem for those who are in need of a moral high ground in order to insist that the rest of us are either going to hell or are politically depraved. Abortion is one of only a handful of things left. The religious right has little else. They are divorcing and remarrying, having sex before marriage, choosing spouses from other races, living together before marriage and if they get pregnant, they reserve the right to live in plain sight and keep their babies.

“Why is the religious right currently so politically obsessed with abortion? Abortion has evolved into a single driving issue of such monumental proportions in part because society has become far more secularized than we realize. The shift away from a moral code dictated by churches and enforced by government has caused a great deal of discomfort for individuals and institutions that once wielded so much power over our lives.

“They feel the shifting tide as they continue to lose their tight grip on the reins of society. It has turned them into crusaders, not just for the protection of the unborn but for a return to the glory days when the church had the final and last say over what would be tolerated and what would not.”

The Other Favorite Target of Evangelical and Catholic Crusaders 
What could be worse than a witch? Religious zealots, driven by ferocious theology, are sure that LGBTQ people are an offense to God—enough for him to unleash hurricanes and plagues to get even. The ‘clobber texts’ in the Bible provide sufficient fuel for their anger, with no hint that they’ve tried to probe the reasons for widespread cultural revulsions against gay people; no hint that they’ve shown any curiosity about studies of human sexuality during the last half-century. We’ve heard too many of the zealots calling for ‘death to gay people’—acted upon by street gangs—to imagine that the Christian witch-hunt mentality has faded away.

Some Christians manage to manipulate faith into innocuous new shapes; they have toned down their religion derived from earlier savage eras. There are the mild-mannered pious, but by their silence they enable the contemporary witch-hunters in modern disguise. It is all so tiresome.

At the close of his essay, John Loftus notes:

“…the willingness of Christians to revise their beliefs due to the changing times and harsh realities of life, just as they have always done, and just as they will continue to do. They’ll never give up on faith. They’ll never give up on God. They’ll just change what they believe. I for one am utterly and completely unimpressed.” (p. 132)

====================

Bio: David Madison, a Clergy Project member, was raised in a conservative Christian home in northern Indiana. He served as a pastor in the Methodist church during his work on two graduate degrees in theology. By the time he finished his PhD in Biblical Studies (Boston University) he had become an atheist, a story he shares in the Prologue of his book, published in 2016: 10 Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith.   This post is reprintedwith permission from The Debunking Christianity Blog.

>>>>>Photo Credits:  By Carlo Crivelli – The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=149804 ; by Andrea Reese ; Original source: Hundred Greatest Men, The. New York: D. Appleton & Company, 1885., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2159250

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Absolutely – the fewer they “arguments”, the more vitriol they will use to back them up.

  • Jake Blair

    Wow! I sympathize, but Madison is too full of hate for me. Repeated vicious personal attacks, like attacking his ex wife in his book and making fun of her, aren’t going to convince most people.

    • mason

      How do you know who is going to be convinced and by what methods?

      • ctcss

        Mason, would you rather have someone be convinced by an axe-grinding rant by someone who is very one-sided about everything that is “wrong” about religion, or would you rather have them be convinced by a thoughtful and balanced discourse about the subject? For instance, I’d have been far more likely to listen to what Trump said if he used a thoughtful and balanced approach regarding the needs of our nation, but he never goes there. And thus, I pretty much have to dismiss everything he says.

        Give me a thoughtful, balanced approach any day. I don’t need smugly stated vitriol from anyone, no matter what the subject is.

        • Linda_LaScola

          I would say that on some subjects, a “thoughtful and balanced” discourse is not appropriate. For instance, regarding clergy sexually abusing children, or standing by or facilitating clergy who do.

          Also the definition of “smugly stated vitriol” could be very personal. For instance, telling people that they are going to hell because they don’t believe in an invisible supernatural being could fit the bill.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Not everything has two valid sides.

          Vax vs. antivax comes to mind.

    • How interesting that the hysterical, knee-jerk reactions we read here DO NOT address the issues I raise! These comments are deflections. “stupid insult” “you are pitiful” “too full of hate” Come-on! Talk about the issues instead of resorting to panic and ad hominem.

      This is the sum total of what I said in my book, very blunt yes, about my ex-wife: “Added to my mix of torment was another dead weight: My wife remained deeply committed to her religious beliefs. After we divorced, she married another Methodist minister, and when that marriage ended, too (but not because he was gay), she went to seminary herself and became—you guessed it—a Methodist minister. As I was desperate to get out of religion, she was plunging farther down that rabbit hole. On no level whatever were we a match.”

      • ctcss

        How interesting that the hysterical, knee-jerk reactions we read here DO NOT address the issues I raise!

        David, the issues you raise are basically a litany of the failings of the human animal, no matter what their stripe. A thoughtless and heartless approach to any area of human life is going to be filled with tragedy. Religion, like, politics, military, law enforcement, finance, business, sports, law, etc. can be approached thoughtfully, generously,and kindly, or it can be approached thoughtlessly, selfishly, and cruelly. Humans need to be ready and willing to be watchful about reining in their lizard-brain tendencies. Thus, your most relevant quote, to me, is “who have gained positions of power”.

        All too often, humans toss aside the higher ideals present in many religious teachings and instead, go for worldly power and riches, and become the very antithesis of what they should have been striving for. Thus, it is not very surprising that humans engaged in religious endeavors have done very cruel and thoughtless things towards their fellow humans. And I would hope you can admit that thoughtlessness and cruelty are quite easy to find in all sorts of other non-religious human activities, as well.

        That’s just the way things are as long as we, as individuals and groups, fail to strive for higher ideals and form our actions based on those ideals.

        The reason I am religious is because I value the high ideals and actions I find therein. And I daresay there are also people who are not religious that also value high ideals and actions, no matter where they have found them.

        So present me with a fair and balanced discourse about people and the various endeavors they engage in. But please stop with the one-sided ranting. You’re better than that.

        • DoctorDJ

          “The reason I am religious is because I value the high ideals and actions I find therein.”
          OK. So, keep the stuff I like, and ignore the evil dross described in the article? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5a5791799574fbea728a7dd1525912ddd2a4c03ab29d4daa7be9941ea4d2843d.jpg

          “…there are also people who are not religious that also value high ideals and actions, no matter where they have found them.”
          Yes, we humans don’t need an ancient text to be moral, loving, and civilized creatures. And, as Weinberg said, ‘With or without it [religion], you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion.”

        • Well, heavy sigh. This is more deflection, diversion, application of the soft soap, AND pretending to possess more purity of heart. Ctcss, you are displeased my attitude, but decline to engage in the specific issues that I describe in the article—and the cold hard facts—as mentioned in quotes from Evans & Bartholomew, John Loftus, Valerie Tarico, Jennifer Wright, and Teresa Roberts. Have all these folks approached religion “thoughtlessly, selfishly, and cruelly”? I fess up to “bluntly and “sarcastically” …these have been tools of discourse for centuries.

          You mention religion in the same breath with “law, military, finance, sports, business”—but religion alone claims that it acts on behalf of God, and assumes the role of enforcer as well. That ferocity is dangerous indeed. Yes, of course, non-religious people are cruel as well, but getting religion out of the morality business would be a step forward. I have almost finished Fédéric Martel’s new book, In the Closet of the Vatican; I’ve just been reading about Benedict XVI’s deeply entrenched homophobia—wired into his brain as a young man—so typical of the 1930s and 40s. But he fused his homophobia with theology, with disastrous results.

          Yes, indeed, “a litany of the failings of the human animal”—agreed. But isn’t religion supposed (by its own logic, its own bragging), to help elevate us above the failings? “Oh, that’s just the way humans are” is not a way to exonerate religion, let it off the hook for the horrible things done in the name of God.

          And please: back off of the condescension, the presumed superiority of a gentleman debater, e.g. “See how much calmer and more reasonable ctcss is.” “present me with a fair and balanced discourse” “stop with the one-sided ranting” “you’re better than that”

          GET to the issues that I raise. It’s not good enough to imply that religion cannot be faulted because there are the bad guys in so many areas of human endeavor. Religious folks need to own up to the grievous evils committed in the name of god(s) and faith.

          And speaking of owning up: how come the anonymity? I attach my name to my articles, and my photo. In my book and in my articles, I am open and honest about my background. Who is the faceless, nameless Ctcss? Am I missing something? Do you have a website so we can know who you are?

          • ctcss

            Ctcss, you are displeased my attitude, but decline to engage in the specific issues that I describe in the article—and the cold hard facts—as mentioned in quotes from Evans & Bartholomew, John Loftus, Valerie Tarico, Jennifer Wright, and Teresa Roberts. Have all these folks approached religion “thoughtlessly, selfishly, and cruelly”?

            David, I may be misunderstanding you here, but I wasn’t trying to say anything about the authors you cited, but rather, the cruel or thoughtless acts by people that they were referring to. I may not be a fan of your cited authors, but I certainly wasn’t trying to tar those authors as being cruel, etc.

            And you never seem to get the point I try to make which, to my mind, answers the question of why people of whatever stripe do terrible things. Which is, they do terrible things because the ideals they are cherishing when they do those horrible acts are rather low, selfish, cruel, etc. (BTW, people are not usually one-dimensional. Thus, sadly, it is possible for someone to do good in one instance and do something terrible in another instance, depending on the thoughts that are currently guiding one’s actions, moment by moment. We are all works in progress. No one is all saint or all sinner. Hopefully we will desire to do better as we go along.)

            And then there was this overly simplistic and snarky thought.

            isn’t religion supposed (by its own logic, its own bragging), to help elevate us above the failings?

            Only if one actually puts in the solid, persistent effort to actually adhere to the high ideals it demands. It has to be pondered, cherished, and lived in order to make a positive change in one’s character. This is not an easy task to accomplish. Simply slapping a label on one’s forehead is not enough.

            And regarding the mystery of who I am, I value my privacy. I try to let my ideas speak for me. If you cannot get a sense of who I am by reading those, I can’t really help you. And no, I do not have a website, nor do I desire one.

            OK, briefly to try to answer your problems:

            John Loftus on Witchcraft

            I have no quarrel with him calling out this horrific act by Christians. They should never have done that. And the irony of all of it, to me, is that instead of trying to follow the high ideals espoused by Jesus, they took the simplisticly cruel sound bite in Exodus as license to harm others. The irony is that this was Jewish scripture, but for some reason, you don’t really hear about Jews being simplisticly literal-minded about their scripture and killing people “just because”. Nor was Jesus the kind of person who approached things simplistically and literal-mindedly. He truly wanted his followers to think deeply about what sort of God concept they were worshipping, and to act compassionately towards others because that was the concept of God he was trying to instruct them in.

            Evans & Bartholomew

            I have no problems with them referring to witchcrafft as an artificial construct which seemed to be used for nefarious purposes. Once again, people who engage in cruel and selfish actions do these terrible things because the ideals they cherish are rather low, selfish, cruel, etc.

            Valerie Tarico and Jennifer Wright

            Gosh, hold the presses! Men far too often have treated women shabbily and cruelly! Once again, people who engage in cruel and selfish actions do these terrible things because the ideals they cherish are rather low, selfish, cruel, etc. And once again, why are the high ideals that Jesus taught not being observed and acted upon by those who decided that cruelty towards others was a better policy to follow?

            Teresa Roberts

            Once again, why is it such a surprise that people who are focused on worldly power rather than high ideals are very likely going to abuse that power and harm others? Jesus didn’t propose that his followers gain worldly power in order to properly follow him. He exhorted them to love their neighbors and their enemies, to not judge others, and to compassionately forgive those who were sinners, since all of us make lots of mistakes in our daily lives, sometimes rather horrific ones.

            Look David, if you are characterizing the Christian religion as being nothing other than the actions of people (leaders and followers) doing bad things, then in that rather narrow and proscriptive sense you have a point. But from where I stand, I see a lot of good in religion when the ideals of Jesus are the defining characteristics of the religion that Jesus was trying to teach others about and encouraging them to follow. That’s the kind of religion I am interested in following. To do otherwise is simply hypocrisy. And hypocrisy has never been a helpful guide to loving, kind, and helpful behavior. That’s why Jesus seemed to reserve his harshest criticism for hypocrites because they knew better, but failed to act on that knowledge.

            Yes, all Christians should freely admit that horrific things have been done in the name of God, but the only real solution to the problem of people (religious or otherwise) behaving badly is to make it our personal duty to live up the the highest ideals we can so that the troubling human problems we encounter can be healed.

            My 2 cents

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          “Higher ideals”

          – Absolute monarchy
          – Slavery
          – subjugation of women and children
          – demonization of LGBTQ people
          – disdain for education and progress

          the list goes on…

    • Linda_LaScola

      Given David Madison’s response below, quoting what he said about his ex-wife, I will not pay attention to your negative remarks. Please do not comment here again in a negative personal way without providing evidence,

  • Kendall Fields

    Yet another stupid insult made by an atheist. You are pitiful.

    • mason

      And what was that insult?

      • Kendall Fields

        Oh I don’t know how about this article?

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Details, a**hole.

          If you think we’re going to take YOUR KIND’s word for *anything*, after the documented crap you’ve pulled, you’re dreaming.

    • DoctorDJ

      “Stop picking on my religion! Waa Waa Waa!” https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f4397f307ae0bc60ab7de2e3aebb09a8fe39e1f9d90a8d8167ba7f153ee690a6.gif Anything constructive to offer? No? Then just go away.

      • Kendall Fields

        Aww are you upset that I pointed out the truth. If you have anything good to say, then say it. But given that you haven’t already, I won’t hold my breath.

        • mason

          That’s what Hitler said about his critics. “If you haven’t anything good to say, then don’t speak”

          • Kendall Fields

            So you are calling DoctorDJ Hitler? Not cool man.

          • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

            As usual, you missed the point again.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          You called it stupid.

          I didn’t see you addressing a SINGLE point to actually refute it.

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      That’s no way to engage with the argument(s).

      You’re merely childish and unhappy, and trying to force us to be quiet because you’re unhappy.

      YOUR KIND can’t get away with that any more, and we’re never going to grant you that undeserved privilege again.

      • Jake Blair

        “Your Kind”…The favorite phrase of BIGOTS.

  • Jim Baerg
  • mason

    If all the abuse by Christianity was in the rear view mirror of humanity, it would be wonderful.

    But it’s not, and although Evangelical fundamentalist brand of Christians, Protestant or Catholic, don’t posses the kind of power to conduct inquisitions, witch hunts, etc. they still inflict massive mental damage upon credulous children, cause many divorces and broken homes, cause loss of employment and persecution in US bible state areas. Still a long way to go https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/30b4458e2385894355ac06ccf4951a81f7f4ba0a49b5b1a6c173db609b7caea7.jpg .

  • ElizabetB.

    Thanks for the strong warning against toxic religion. I am currently in the middle of around 5 books, and in one of them I have been struck by the positive reading of the Jesus story — such a contrast with this essay! Gordon Kaufman (learned of him here at RD — thanks!!) is a very nuanced theologian, but in “Jesus and Creativity” he takes as his description of the Jesus tradition “the good Jesus” —

    “Jesus may come to mind as one who is a model of how one is to live — outgoing and caring for others, thoughtful and kind, patient and self-giving, forgiving others’ offenses. The stories of Jesus’ behaviors, practices, and sufferings may be remembered at such times [of self-reflection]: his concern for the poor and the outcast; his healings and forgiveness of sins; his refusal to resist violently (or to avoid) those who eventually crucified him; his forgiveness of his enemies from the cross; his radical teachings about love of neighbor and love of enemies….” [31]

    “…this understanding [‘abundant life’ as this-worldly] offers the satisfaction of living out our years entirely within this world in which we find ourselves — with all its problems and pain, tragedy and suffering — a life to be lived within a community of love and forgiveness and hope, of reconciliation and healing and joy. It is a life given over to building new communities of peace and justice and well-being for all, a life devoted to protecting and enhancing the environment that sustains humans and many other species here on planet Earth — a this-worldly kind of ‘abundant life.’ ” [91]

    I’m curious to know how Kaufman will deal with the negative in the tradition. In the meantime, I agree with ctcss that we are dealing with the highs and lows of humanity, in every area of life. But it’s so striking, the contrast between “Creativity” and “Witch-Hunt.” Mindspinning : ) Thanks again for the warnings, David

    • mason

      The “good” Jesus & the “bad” Jesus?

      Since the “bad” Jesus is the same as the bad God in the Bible, “I and the Father are One.” , John 10:30 … and the “bad Jesus & the bad God” are both together and apart despicable totalitarian fascist religiously genocidal deities on a scale worse than Hitler (they plan to torture those who fail to bow, worship and adore them for all eternity) why would anyone try to salvage anything as a model from these barbaric ancient mythical deities? Hitler and Mao did “caring” things for their followers who adored and worshiped them. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9183770f4ceb57b83b05b18a011fe284f7b769c3b84b6838df204645f4e2999b.jpg

      • ElizabetB.

        Why try to salvage anything? — In this case, I think maybe because Kaufman is a very thorough-going evolutionist, in all arenas… My take is that he doesn’t see Christian dogma as a once-for-all-time defined entity, so it would not be a matter of “salvaging” — Instead, he sees historical development in human ideas from time immemorial. So — and this is just me talking now — as we humans walk around with vestigial tails, so a “good” Jesus tradition may be evolving out of all the awful stuff that has surrounded it so far…. Maybe he also worries that we may be going the other way… I haven’t dug in yet to what he does with evil.

        Also, a book of his I’ve just started is talking about the strands of human thought around the world — it looks like he’s thinking about how religions and philosophies worldwide are beginning to evolve in contact with, and affected by, each other. In particular, I think “God –Mystery–Diversity” explores how Buddhist concepts relate to and can helpfully affect Christian ones.

        Of course, it’s much easier to take the long view when you are not one of those being harmed — a “witch,” a non-white, a person who’s glbtq. For their sakes, the OP warnings are necessary and to be heeded.

        Whatever, the stark contrast of the “WitchHunt” and “Creativity” descriptions are headspinning!!!