What Would It Take to Get You Back to the Pulpit?

What Would It Take to Get You Back to the Pulpit? August 5, 2019

Editor’s Note: The author asks a good question of former clergy and asks another good question at the end of this essay. With a little tweaking, it could apply to anyone who ever left religion. /Linda LaScola, Editor

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

By Bob Ripley

When someone writes about you instead of talking to you, you may miss what they write.

That happened when I did a recent Internet search for my book Life Beyond Belief: A Preacher’s Decoversion to grab the link to Amazon for someone who wanted to know where to get a copy.

Among the Google hits, was a link to a blog post written shortly after the book’s publication, almost five years ago, by someone who lived in my city.  He said he knew me.  Why he didn’t talk to me isn’t clear.

The writer’s website is https://preparedtoanswer.org.  He is a self-described “former pastor and trained Christian apologist”, which I assume means that he has answers for critics of Christianity.

Here are two of his ten propositions to rebut my book.  Since science cannot prove that God does not exist, then my ‘belief’ that God does not exist is not based on reason but on faith.  Ripley has…

“simply exchanged one set of religious presuppositions for another”.

Another assertion is that I’m operating with a false (unbiblical) sense of both God and man.  When, in my book, I point out the distasteful character of the God of the bible, his answer is that God is perfectly holy and so he’s not operating from ego but truth, so God is to be worshipped.  As for my false sense of man, when I point out the problems with God’s justice, I’m forgetting that we are sinners who need to be saved.

You’ve likely heard these and other “answers” from believers.

But it was the writer’s last line that got me thinking.

 “By God’s grace my prayer is that Ripley will, perhaps for the first time, find his way home.”

Earlier he admitted that he had heard me speak to his colleagues and, at one time, counted me a real brother in ministry.  Now his prayer was that I may come home, perhaps for the first time.   Was I not home before?  Was I not a true Christian back then?  Many of us have had our solid Christian credentials questioned in the light of leaving Christianity.

But what about the idea of coming back home?  What would it take for me to change my mind a second time and return to the fold?  Is there anything at all that could bring those of us who used to believe, to believe again?

If an all-powerful deity said “hello” to humanity in such a way that every human everywhere would know it.  That would do it.  Of course, then we wouldn’t be believing any more.  We’d know.

But is there some argument from an apologist, trained or otherwise, that might sway me to once again bow before an invisible god?

The short answer is ‘no’.  I’ll explain with an analogy.

On a recent holiday, I met a guy who loved to do card tricks.  He was good.  One day, he fudged the code of magicians and showed me how he did a couple of his tricks.   Where I had just been awed by his hocus-pocus and now saw how he managed to create an illusion, there was no way I could go back to believing he had special powers.

It may not be the best analogy but it’s one what seems most apt these days.  Once you see how we got here and how religion got here, it is inconceivable, short of that spectacular worldwide greeting from the creator of the universe, that I could see myself back in the pulpit.

What about you?  Do former clergy ever return to the pulpit? 

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

Bio:  Bob Ripley was a syndicated religion columnist, broadcaster, former preacher and author of Christian devotional material.  His book, which came out in October 2014, is titled Life Beyond Belief: A Preacher’s Deconversion. Find out more about the book and his other writing here.

 

 

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  • Michael Neville

    Since science cannot prove that God does not exist, then my ‘belief’ that God does not exist is not based on reason but on faith.

    The writer has obviously not had much interaction with atheists because he’d know the response is that science isn’t about proof, it’s about evidence. Since there’s no evidence that any gods (the writer should know there’s more gods than the one he fancies) exist, then a lack of belief in gods is a conclusion that doesn’t require faith. Despite what some might claim, absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

    I know many people object to the acronym PRATT (Point Rebutted A Thousand Times) but this is a clear example of one.

    “By God’s grace my prayer is that Ripley will, perhaps for the first time, find his way home.”

    Hark,we hear the bagpipes playing “No True Scotsman”.

  • Sastra

    The excellent question “what would it take to change your mind?” always cuts both ways, but many Theists apparently believe that belief in God allows you to take on some of His infallibility. I’d be curious as to how the apologist would answer the same question.

    As to the analogy with the magician, I suspect some people will jump at the possibility that he might occasionally be truly magic and you can’t rule that out. After all, psychics get exposed over and over and loyal followers only take that as adding to their credibility, as they can imagine a genuine psychic falling prey to the demand for perfection. They’d argue that you’re asking the magician/ psychic/God to meet your expectations. It’s an impossible argument to answer completely, since no reasonable amount of evidence will be ruled sufficient: it’s they who demand perfection.

  • Mark Rutledge

    If I wanted to “go back” I’d simply return taking my post-supernatural world view with me, and re-imagine everything compatible with a world view that Neal DeGrasse Tyson would be proud of. Right now I’m happy doing other things.

  • ElizabetB.

    But, Bob, it would depend on what the all-powerful deity said, wouldn’t it? If the character and values were still “distasteful,” you might “know” but decline the pulpit…. no? Thanks for the question!

  • carolyntclark

    A return to the pulpit is not the same as returning to belief.The pulpit can be the place of emotional, social and financial survival in spite of not believing.

  • … What would it take for me to change my mind a second time and return to the fold? Is there anything at all that could bring those of us who used to believe, to believe again?

    If an all-powerful deity said “hello” to humanity in such a way that every human everywhere would know it. That would do it. …

    What if God does not want you to believe in him because of power, but because of goodness? Scientific ‘evidence’ tells you nothing about ‘goodness’; at best it can tell you that it takes X to do Y and the likely results will be Z. So unless you worship power, you’d need another way to evaluate—one which appears to lie outside the bounds of current science. And so what you say earlier becomes relevant:

    … in my book, I point out the distasteful character of the God of the bible …

    I haven’t read your book so perhaps you’ll just so go read it, but I wonder if you are judging YHWH by the standards of the time the book was written, or [only] by later standards, standards which may only exist because they built on previous standards. The question then becomes: would God give us lesser standards as stepping stones to greater standards? We have an unquestionable example in the divorce law per Jesus’ words, but that is just one example. We might think that other than that, we finite beings are able to thoroughly understand infinitely perfect standards. But what if this is just wrong? What if we do need stepping stones?

    Also, I do wonder whether the Bible does a lot more work on the topics of ‘hypocrisy’ and ‘self-righteousness’ than modern sciences wishes to do. That would be a rather different reason to dislike the Bible: because it exposes more readily what we Moderns which to keep under wraps, in the dark, hidden away and generally denied. But perhaps I am wrong and modern science has extensive studies of hypocrisy and self-righteousness of which I am unaware? I have been pointed to ‘cognitive dissonance’ in the past when I mentioned this, but I see the semantic ranges as different enough that if my interlocutor can’t point me to what I’m asking for, that is troubling for a world which seems to need rather more than simply and only “more science and technology”.

  • It’s good to know many of us, including Bob, are already back in the “pulpit.” Speaking in churches (where we’re still welcome), ethical humanist, atheist and quaker meetings, teaching classes, writing books, articles, posts, columns. All these are the “New Pulpits” for freethinkers who walked away from the podiums of pretentious piety.

  • Those who desire such magic seem like the kind who don’t actually want to do what the following takes:

    And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)

    Instead, such people seem to want genies who will respond to their every whim (not just three wishes).

  • Jim Jones

    > What Would It Take to Get You Back to the Pulpit?

    Perhaps a new and different church, like the one I have in mind. Interestingly, this might be the only one that survives.

    (Not that I was ever a preacher, but I also was never a congregant except under duress).

    What do I have in mind? A church(?) that ignores the mythical Jesus and the impossible gods and concentrates on kindness.

    Here’s one example of many I see which get less coverage that is given to the worst of us:

    https://www.boston25news.com/news/trending-now/school-students-learn-american-sign-language-to-communicate-with-deaf-kindergarten-classmate/954868127

  • Jim Jones

    > What if God does not want you to believe in him because of power, but because of goodness?

    Each man sees his god every day. In the bathroom mirror. That’s why god wants what you want and hates who you hate.

    Goodness has nothing to do with it.

  • What you say is an accurate description of some of the evidence; see for example Creating God in your own image (actual article). But I’m very wary of ‘some’ ⇒ ‘all’ reasoning; done without proper scientific checks, it is actually anti-scientific. A specific reason to doubt what you say is Otto Borchert’s The Original Jesus; Borchert makes a pretty convincing case that Jesus was not considered an excellent person by (i) his disciples; (ii) the Jewish masses; (iii) the Jewish elite; (iv) the Romans; (v) the Greeks; (vi) us today. I presented this thesis to Richard Carrier when he was in SF and offered to give him my copy of the book; he declined. But if Jesus is not actually who we would make “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature”, your thesis has a problem.

    Now, I will agree that most people, most of the time, do not want their ideas of goodness being challenged. But this just mean change is hard. What you say here runs the risk of making it impossible. I say no thanks. A good scientist is open to anomalies.

  • persephone

    Goodness is simple science. Goodness has been required for the continued existence of our species, and nearly every other creature that exists. Group cooperation; nurturing young, even those not our own; providing for those unable to; emotional suffering at the loss of a member, including leaving remembrances at their graves.

    Humans survive because of the majority of us are good, mostly. It’s now unfortunate that we have developed such power that the minority can destroy the rest of us.

  • I doubt your views here could survive a sober version of Rome’s history. A look at the evolutionary record surely allows for species to be plenty nasty and yet propagate. And science knows nothing about goodness except that which is conducive to power—giving that minority power to destroy the rest if they so choose.

  • Jim Jones

    PS: I’ll take on Mr “Prepared to Answer”. Let’s see what happens.

  • persephone

    You make the common mistake of focusing on the few rather than the society in general.

  • And I think you’re scapegoating the few and denying the very real responsibility the masses have, which they so often flub. Just look at the kind of news demanded and rewarded by the masses. You think that constitutes ‘goodness’?

  • Raging Bee

    What if God does not want you to believe in him because of power, but because of goodness?

    Then he should tell his (alleged) spokespersons to stop trying to gain power and threatening others. And maybe he should also get rid of all those Bible passages that glorify him solely for his power.

    And why would anyone believe in God “because of goodness” (unless of course you want God’s power to help you do good)? Goodness doesn’t require belief in any supernatural beings.

  • Raging Bee

    And science knows nothing about goodness except that which is conducive to power…

    Do you have any idea what that means? Or are you just randomly spitting out anti-rational/anti-atheist hate-points?

  • Raging Bee

    A good scientist is open to anomalies.

    That’s what loonies and cranks tend to say when scientists discount their off-the-wall theories and allegations.

  • LB: And science knows nothing about goodness except that which is conducive to power

    RB: Do you have any idea what that means? Or are you just randomly spitting out anti-rational/anti-atheist hate-points?

    Science lies wholly on the ‘fact’ side of the fact/​value dichotomy: it teaches us how to make nuclear bombs and nuclear power plants. It can tell you what various individuals claim is ‘good’ and it can investigate the neural processes which operate when people think about matters thought to involve ‘goodness’. But science cannot tell you what is ‘good’. Scientific studies of what people consider ‘good’ and how that is neurally processed will enable those who possess knowledge of the results and expertise in using that knowledge to better dominate the rest.

    This has absolutely nothing to do with atheism (lack of belief in God or gods) and nothing to do with rationality (proper use of logic on evidence). What is truly valuable, per the modern understanding of ‘science’, is 100% subjective. Science studies what is objective.

  • LB: A good scientist is open to anomalies.

    RB: That’s what loonies and cranks tend to say when scientists discount their off-the-wall theories and allegations.

    Feel free to support this with actual evidence and scientific responses which discount anomalies. As it stands, the fact that a statement can be used badly does not mean its use is always bad. Sharp knives can be used to efficiently kill and to save lives.

  • LB: A good scientist is open to anomalies.

    RB: That’s what loonies and cranks tend to say when scientists discount their off-the-wall theories and allegations.

    Feel free to support this with actual evidence and scientific responses which discount anomalies. As it stands, the fact that a statement can be used badly does not mean its use is always bad. Sharp knives can be used to efficiently ‮llik‬ and to save lives.

  • LB: What if God does not want you to believe in him because of power, but because of goodness?

    RB: Then he should tell his (alleged) spokespersons to stop trying to gain power and threatening others.

    And if they refuse to listen? Is he supposed to use power?

    And maybe he should also get rid of all those Bible passages that glorify him solely for his power.

    It is fully acceptable to praise the one who uses power to rescue the weak and vulnerable and oppressed. If you are unable to recognize the context of the use of power, that is your problem. I’m still going to use physical violence on someone who’s about to commit a rape, if a sharp word does not work while I close the distance.

    And why would anyone believe in God “because of goodness” (unless of course you want God’s power to help you do good)? Goodness doesn’t require belief in any supernatural beings.

    Atheists continually tell me that the evolutionary record shows that God is not ‘good’; just where are they going to get their idea of ‘goodness’, other than what evolution delivered to them? The self-contradiction is amazing. I on the other hand believe that neither I nor evolution am/is the sole source of ‘goodness’, and that God is willing to teach me/us more about ‘goodness’ as I/we need it, if I/we request it. I certainly don’t believe that more low-entropy energy is going to help me be a better person. And sure, I expect God will also help me do good. A proper master–apprentice relationship involves knowledge-transfer, skill-transfer, and physical assistance.

  • Raging Bee

    Atheists continually tell me that the evolutionary record shows that God is not ‘good’…

    I’ve never heard any atheist say that, for the simple reason that “the evolutionary record” says NOTHING about God or any other supernatural being. Are you sure you’re not misinterpreting what you’ve heard?

    …just where are they going to get their idea of ‘goodness’, other than what evolution delivered to them?

    I get my ideas of goodness from learning, reason and experience. Just like pretty much everyone else I’ve ever spoken to about the subject. If you’re trying to recycle that old blither-point about how we can’t be good without God, you’ll have to do a lot better than that.

    And sure, I expect God will also help me do good.

    Based on what evidence, exactly?

  • Raging Bee

    As it stands, the fact that a statement can be used badly does not mean its use is always bad.

    Okay, as soon as you show yourself to be anything more than the cranks and loonies you sound like, I’ll take you seriously.

  • Raging Bee

    RATIONAL INQUIRY can indeed tell us what is good: we can observe and verify the effects of certain actions, and judge them good or bad accordingly. Most people do this sort of thing every day, albeit with varying degrees of competence and consistency, whether we admit it or not. Again, no God(ess)(s) necessary.

  • Raging Bee

    Just a quick protip: why do you keep on re-pasting dialogue from previous comments? It’s needlessly repetitive, and sometimes a little annoying. At most, just re-paste whichever part of the other person’s comment to which you’re responding. Just sayin’…

  • Sometimes I see the context as important. Surely it’s trivial to skip down to the last blockquote and then my reply?

  • LB: Atheists continually tell me that the evolutionary record shows that God is not ‘good’ …

    RB: I’ve never heard any atheist say that, for the simple reason that “the evolutionary record” says NOTHING about God or any other supernatural being. Are you sure you’re not misinterpreting what you’ve heard?

    It’s a form of the evidential problem of evil, from ‘natural evil’. The claim is that an omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect deity would not create life using evolution as we currently understand it: unguided, competitive, vicious, etc.

    I get my ideas of goodness from learning, reason and experience.

    What do you have that evolution did not give you and form in you?

    If you’re trying to recycle that old blither-point about how we can’t be good without God …

    Were I to make such an argument, I would say that we can copy without God, but that humans have a deep need to move forward and innovate, not merely maintain stasis. Analogous to how we need a low-entropy source of physical energy, I say we need a low-entropy source of goodness. I am assuming that there are ever-more-intricate ways to be good, as well as something equivalent to future scientific revolutions. (For example: perhaps some [non-human] primates can be taught to do science, but due to various reasons, we failed to see this and instead experimented upon them.)

    LB: And sure, I expect God will also help me do good.

    RB: Based on what evidence, exactly?

    I’ll give you one example for starters: I think the Bible takes hypocrisy and self-righteousness much more seriously than modern science. Perhaps I am simply ignorant of the relevant modern science on this matter, but (i) I would have expected to see it referenced in The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life; (ii) I have asked this frequently among atheists online and gotten at most a response along the lines of ‘cognitive dissonance’—which simply doesn’t have nearly the social and political ramifications of hypocrisy + self-righteousness.

  • RATIONAL INQUIRY can indeed tell us what is good: we can observe and verify the effects of certain actions, and judge them good or bad accordingly.

    Consequentialist ethics—judging based on “the effects of … actions”—is not the only kind of ethics. And some people will consider given effects good while others will consider given effects bad. Alasdair MacIntyre described this in 1981:

    The most striking feature of contemporary moral utterance is that so much of it is used to express disagreements; and the most striking feature of the debates in which these disagreements are expressed is their interminable character. I do not mean by this just that such debates go on and on and on—although they do—but also that they apparently can find no terminus. There seems to be no rational way of securing moral agreement in our culture. (After Virtue, 6)

    Things have not changed, since. “RATIONAL INQUIRY” can, it turns out, generate very different moral visions.

    Most people do this sort of thing every day, albeit with varying degrees of competence and consistency, whether we admit it or not. Again, no God(ess)(s) necessary.

    I see, so in-groups are good at detecting and counteracting hypocrisy and self-righteousness within their ranks? In my experience this is not just false, but catastrophically false. If you don’t let everyone get to do a bit of defining of what is good vs. evil, you end up oppressing and marginalizing those who don’t get to do any defining. I see nothing wrong with God sticking up for those humans who have no human defenders, but possibly you do. I also see no problem with God calling us all out of a kind of ossified stasis where we’re happy with mediocrity; possibly you do.

  • JJ: Each man sees his god every day. In the bathroom mirror. That’s why god wants what you want and hates who you hate.

    LB: What you say is an accurate description of some of the evidence; see for example Creating God in your own image (actual article). But I’m very wary of ‘some’ ⇒ ‘all’ reasoning; done without proper scientific checks, it is actually anti-scientific.

    RB: Okay, as soon as you show yourself to be anything more than the cranks and loonies you sound like, I’ll take you seriously.

    I see, so providing qualified evidence for an atheist’s negative claims about religion constitutes being a ‘crank’ and a ‘loony’? Was it the refusal to engage in ‘some’ ⇒ ‘all’ reasoning [¿wrt a group you hate?] which makes me a ‘crank’/​’loony’?

  • Raging Bee

    Consequentialist ethics…is not the only kind of ethics.

    No, but it’s the BEST kind.

    There seems to be no rational way of securing moral agreement in our culture.

    Actually, progressive movements for social justice and improvement have secured PLENTY of moral agreement in our culture. It’s just not an agreement that supports old-style authoritarianism and the religions associated with same; which is probably why so many old-school authoritarians don’t want to acknowledge it.

    I see, so in-groups are good at detecting and counteracting hypocrisy
    and self-righteousness within their ranks? In my experience this is not
    just false, but catastrophically false.

    So how does religion make any of that any better? It doesn’t, because it’s just another creation of the same hypocrites you’re rightly complaining about.

    I also see no problem with God calling us all out of a kind of ossified stasis where we’re happy with mediocrity…

    I have no problem with God calling out evil…he/she can start anytime he wants…I’ve been waiting for such a thing all my life…how much longer do I have to wait?…Because it would certainly be better than all the people pretending to speak for God who can’t get a decent message out to save their miserable lives.

  • Raging Bee

    I think the Bible takes hypocrisy and self-righteousness much more seriously than modern science.

    Then why do so many self-righteous hypocrites use the Bible, and not “modern science,” to justify their actions?

  • LB: Consequentialist ethics … is not the only kind of ethics.

    RB: No, but it’s the BEST kind.

    So how many humans can be sacrificed for the promise of “Utopia Forever!!11”? After all, the fact is that in our present broken situation, people are dying left and right. What if we were to restructure the system whereby the promise is that things will be much better after—but to make an omelet you gotta break some eggs?

    … There seems to be no rational way of securing moral agreement in our culture. (After Virtue, 6)

    RB: Actually, progressive movements for social justice and improvement have secured PLENTY of moral agreement in our culture.

    Subsets of humans have always aligned internally in order to oppose the Other. What happens when they get in power? They have to deal with reality, such as whether biological males who identify as females ought to be allowed to compete in women’s sports. Things are much simpler when you’re not in power.

    LB: I see, so in-groups are good at detecting and counteracting hypocrisy and self-righteousness within their ranks? In my experience this is not just false, but catastrophically false.

    RB: So how does religion make any of that any better? It doesn’t, because it’s just another creation of the same hypocrites you’re rightly complaining about.

    That’s easy: by taking seriously the possibility that hypocrisy and self-righteousness can infect the most powerful in the group. You see this in the Tanakh and the NT. Very little has been evidently done to blunt those texts; whether people read them and whether they are rationalized this way and that is another matter.

    I have no problem with God calling out evil…he/she can start anytime he wants…I’ve been waiting for such a thing all my life…how much longer do I have to wait?

    What do you expect it to look like? An act of power like Mt. Carmel? Do you think that unlike 1 Ki 18:20–19:21, the response to that power would be instantaneous and everlasting obeisance? It the answer to the first or second question is “no”, then how would God show what is right, without using might?

    Because it would certainly be better than all the people pretending to speak for God who can’t get a decent message out to save their miserable lives.

    The Tanakh and NT contain plenty of instances of people pretending to speak for God, who the texts claim actually weren’t. So your objection would need to apply to them, as well. There seems to be a desire for a kind of censorship—and surely God could censor perfectly. But would this really work? Would it actually train up humans to become arbitrarily like God? Or would it keep them more like immature children—the very thing that the cleverest of all creatures insinuated YHWH was doing to A&E?

  • Any tool which helps pierce façades of hypocrisy and self-righteousness can also be used to build better façades. Similarly, Twitter doesn’t publish the detailed guidelines by which it bans people because otherwise those people could learn to more closely follow the letter of the law while violating the spirit.

  • Raging Bee

    Right…you promise God will call out evil, and then you call me power-hungry when I point out that this isn’t happening. Do you really think all that flailing about is fooling anyone? It’s obvious you have no case, and are just tossing talking-points at the wall hoping for something to stick.

    Go to bed.

  • LB: I see nothing wrong with God sticking up for those humans who have no human defenders, but possibly you do. I also see no problem with God calling us all out of a kind of ossified stasis where we’re happy with mediocrity; possibly you do.

    RB: Right…you promise God will call out evil, →

    I did? Where?

    RB: I have no problem with God calling out evil…he/she can start anytime he wants…I’ve been waiting for such a thing all my life…how much longer do I have to wait?

    LB: What do you expect it to look like? An act of power like Mt. Carmel? Do you think that unlike 1 Ki 18:20–19:21, the response to that power would be instantaneous and everlasting obeisance? It the answer to the first or second question is “no”, then how would God show what is right, without using might?

    RB: ← and then you call me power-hungry when I point out that this isn’t happening.

    I did? Where?

    Do you really think all that flailing about is fooling anyone?

    The only flailing I see is you misinterpreting what I actually wrote. I for one think that “calling out evil” is actually very difficult. I intentionally provided a “no” option for you so that you could delve into such difficulty. I would still like that to happen.

  • Raging Bee

    So how many humans can be sacrificed for the promise of “Utopia Forever!!11”?

    I dunno, no one I know is advocating any such thing. Maybe, for once, you should try arguing with progressives who exist OUTSIDE your own head?

  • Raging Bee

    Wow, you’re kinder and more forgiving that most of the Christians who show up here!

  • Raging Bee

    And how, exactly, does any religion make that situation any better? History, both ancient and recent, clearly shows it doesn’t.

  • Raging Bee

    Excuse me, 69dumbass, but we fulfilled that command in the last century. Do try to pay attention.

  • Raging Bee

    Since science cannot prove that God does not exist…

    Excuse me, but it’s claims of things’ existence that need to be proven, not claims of non-existence. This is a basic principle, not just of logic, but of plain common sense: non-existent things don’t leave material traces of their non-existence.

    So yes, absence of evidence is indeed evidence of absence — especially when the absence of evidence has been consistent for all of human history.

  • Raging Bee

    That’s easy: by taking seriously the possibility that hypocrisy and
    self-righteousness can infect the most powerful in the group.

    Yes, and we do that using rational inquiry. Religion is useless here.

  • What are the best examples you know of, of using rational inquiry to detect and deal with hypocrisy and self-righteousness within the in-group?

  • Pretty sure the earth is closer to subduing us than us subduing it. And dominion ≠ domination and mass extinction.

  • Depends on the religion, as not all religion is alike. René Girard, for example, argues that all religion other than Judaism and Christianity, up through the time of Jesus, served to rationalize scapegoating (that is, convince everyone that the scapegoats deserved what happened to them). Only Judaism and Christianity unveiled scapegoating for what it was. With Jesus, the one could finally be right while all the rest of society was wrong.

    Now if you want to blur all religion together, that’d be like taking the average trajectory of ships from the Atlantic to the Pacific: approximately through Brazil.

  • I dunno, no one I know is advocating any such thing.

    You might want to look at the Cultural Revolution for an example of this happening. The larger point is that consequentialism—“the BEST kind [of ethics]”—can be used to justify some pretty horrible means.

    Maybe, for once, you should try arguing with progressives who exist OUTSIDE your own head?

    You’re the one who thinks consequentialism is the best kind of ethics. I was pointing out a deficiency. I’m rather sure you exist outside of my head.

  • PixieCorpse

    So screwing ceaselessly is nobody’s whim? Nobody’s idea of a good time? Just hard work?

    I know a few men whose first words to a genie would be “First wish: I wanna have so much sex my babies consume the planet. Second wish: I want all the mean animals to die if they bother me. Third wish: I want to eat anything I want to eat, forever.” Strangely enough, this is exactly what “god” wants men to do. And here we are.

    But no, some of us don’t want to do the hard work and make the sacrifices god requires of us, or…something…? There’s some kind if hocus pocus going on here, but it ain’t magic.

  • Raging Bee

    The larger point is that consequentialism…can be used to justify some pretty horrible means.

    So can religion. But unlike religion, consequentialism can use rational inquiry to check its results. That’s how nearly all of us consequentialist liberals (and many Chinese) were able to understand that the Cultural Revolution was a bad thing.

  • Raging Bee

    Only Judaism and Christianity unveiled scapegoating for what it was.

    Wow, I can’t believe you’re really that stupid. Christians have been scapegoating Jews for their entire history, with Hitler’s playbook — “On the Jews and Their Lies” by Christian leader Martin Luther — being just the tip of a very old toxic iceberg.

    If you’re really that stupid, or that deep in denial, then there’s no point in talking to you. Grow up two decades and come back when you’re ready to face reality.

  • LB: Only Judaism and Christianity unveiled scapegoating for what it was.

    RB: Wow, I can’t believe you’re really that stupid. Christians have been scapegoating Jews for their entire history …

    Unveiling something doesn’t mean you instantly solve it for all time and in all places. It means it’s the first time it was exposed for what it is, at least in a way which didn’t get erased by the sands of time. Christianity does not claim to be free from hypocrisy; it merely has the tools to call the thing hypocrisy. That’s far better than not having the tools. Back in Rome, when the paterfamilias could ‮llik‬ any member of his family with impunity, there was nothing for those people to call on. Nothing.

    Moreover: any tool which helps pierce façades of hypocrisy and self-righteousness can also be used to build better façades. Agree, or disagree?

  • Dunno why religion can’t use ‘rational inquiry’. You still have the problem of where your ‘ought‘ comes from—logic and evidence can only tell you what is.

  • Anything can be perverted, which you’ve well-exemplified by how you interpreted Genesis 1:28. It couldn’t be that humans were tasked with preventing ‘natural evil’. It couldn’t be that humans were tasked with overseeing evolution, perhaps even teaching animals to communicate [better]. I have no idea where you got “Just hard work”, but I hear that raising kids is very hard work.

    If you prefer to live in a smaller world where less is required of you, then probably that’ll work out for you. You might even be able to rationalize away why you have a nicer life than most people on the planet when all you did was win an accident of birth lottery. I myself cannot live with that; I believe too strongly that “To whom much is given, much is required.” And I believe that those who work harder—when their life circumstances truly made that an option—should be rewarded more. Those who follow the way of Jesus can then take that “more” and feed it back into the system. Those who hoard it—well, such hoarding will incentivize the “have-nots” to do less of that kind of rewarding, grinding the whole system to a crawl. Civilizations have risen and fallen; there’s no guarantee ours won’t fall.

  • Raging Bee

    Christianity … merely has the tools to call the thing hypocrisy.

    What, you think no one could ever call out hypocrisy before Christianity came along? That’s 69fucking ridiculous.

    Your flailing defensiveness is sliding into desperation. Give it up — you don’t have the chops for this subject-matter.

  • What’s the best calling out of hypocrisy you know of, before Jesus?

  • Raging Bee

    I guess you really ARE as dumb as you sound.

  • persephone

    Amazing, isn’t it? Got rid of their god and turned into a decent human being.

  • persephone

    Name one news show that has more than a million viewers. Maybe some Fox show, but most TV shows barely break that mark anymore.

  • I’m sorry, but I don’t see the relevance of your question. Most news is obtained from sources other than TV these days. Are you suggesting that those sources are better than the sources of TV news which now have under a million viewers per night?

  • PixieCorpse

    Of course our civilization will fail. Every other civilization has. When it does, it will certainly not be my fault, even though I did have the privilege to be born a white person in the USA. It will be the fault of those more powerful than I am. If I do nothing to stop them, I’m also guilty. If I try but fail to stop them, I am not. I simply see no reason to believe trying to stop them by doing nothing other than breeding and farming will be effective.

    In the meantime, I feel sure your world is working out reasonably well for you, too. After all, you’re on the internet with me. And you have a religion designed by men for men that assures you you’re doing just fine. I think that must feel at least somewhat comfortable.

    My point was that *merely* reproducing and dominating the earth is not much of a calling compared to all the things humans really ought to do. We ought to treat one another with compassion, help the poor, heal the sick, treat each other equally regardless of sex or race, and maybe even *not* reproduce if the world has already been dominated and subdued to the point of being damaged by our reproduction. It requires teaching our children to do the same.

    *Yours* is the worldview that requires less. You also seem to have Jesus confused with Ronald Reagan. As nearly everyone knows by now, when Reagan said giving tax breaks to the rich is the same as giving money to the poor, he was not being truthful. Rich hoarders are rewarded here below, not punished. Anyone who sits around waiting for them to get their comeuppance is gonna have a lot of time for reproduction and landscaping. And that’s fine. It just isn’t the sole work of humanity, or even necessarily the noblest.

  • Your whole comment makes more sense with the following emendations to the text:

    And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Masses: Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth; and Elites: subdue it, and have dominion domination over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth, including the masses.” (Genesis 1:28′)

    You’ve taken A&E out of the Garden where there is shalom (peace, balance, harmony), and embedded them in an unjust, exploitative world. Genesis 1:28 was not directed to that scenario; the rest of the Tanakh was, and includes commands to e.g. take care of the orphans, widows, sojourners, and oppressed. The Tanakh works hard to prevent the kind of mass/elite dichotomy we have today; this starts in declaring all humans imago Dei instead of just male leaders and includes commands to future Israelite kings to not amass so much money and power that they would no longer consider their fellow Israelites to be brothers. (Deut 17:14–20)

    As to my alleged confusion of Reagan with Jesus, please show me where Reagan said anything like “To whom much is given, much is required.” That comes from the parable in Lk 12:41–48, where any servant-in-charge who shirks his duties by beating lower-level servants and partying will get this punishment: “cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful”. No trickle-down economics can be found in that parable. The Bible presents God as giving to humans so that those humans can enjoy the gifts, but also give of them to those who are less blessed. The more we give of ourselves to others, the more God can give to us. There’s no assumption in the Bible that the rich will automatically give to the less-fortunate.

    What we have in the world today is a very strong masses/​elites dichotomy. This is exceedingly common throughout history. You have to cherry-pick Christianity and Judaism pretty hard to show either supporting this; for example you’d have to redact the bit where Jesus says to his disciples:

    You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your ‮evals‬, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mt 20:25b–28)

    How exactly does this permit “less”? How does the life of Jesus or Paul exemplify “the worldview that requires less”?

  • persephone

    Millions viewing the same show was mentioned. There are well over 300,000,000 people in the U.S. To say something applied to the majority is ridiculous.

  • PixieCorpse

    1) You weren’t originally talking about Paul or Jesus, only the Genesis verse and how it apparently sums up everything humans need to do. That’s what I’ve been objecting to.
    2) I don’t care enough to keep arguing whatever it is we are or aren’t arguing.

  • My original point was that people who want magic are lazy babies. Genesis 1:28 takes a lot more than that. Your own representation of Genesis 1:28, at least targeted toward the masses, was “nothing other than breeding and farming”. There was no trace of “subdue [the earth], and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” You lowered the standard.

  • Jim Jones

    Thanks for your interaction Jim Jones. I’m happy to continue but it doesn’t really seem like our conversation is relevant to the article posted here. I will ask that if you wish to continue our dialogue you email me at info@preparedtoanswer.org. I’d be happy to converse with you further, and since it would be by email perhaps you could tell me your real name. 🙂

    So, not so prepared after all!

  • I wasn’t talking only about Fox News. A nice example is the brouhaha about the Covington High School boys with MAGA hats allegedly oppressing a Native American—a story which could only be told by an out-of-context video recording which went viral. But how many mainstream news organizations picked it up? The mainstream news media seemed only a few steps away from ‮nmad‬ing high school boys to ‮lleh‬, on the tiniest of evidence and zero cross-examination.