Understanding ‘God’s war’ against abortion and Wendy Davis in Texas

Understanding ‘God’s war’ against abortion and Wendy Davis in Texas July 2, 2013

To follow on from the article posted the other day, the Guardian reports:

Religious activists who want anti-choice bills passed in Texas and elsewhere view politics as a battle between good and evil

Senator Wendy Davis votes against a motion to call for a rules violation during her filibusters of an abortion bill. Photograph: AP Photo/Eric Gay
Senator Wendy Davis votes against a motion to call for a rules violation during her filibusters of an abortion bill.

Texas state senator Wendy Davis has electrified the pro-choice movement. Not just because of her sheer endurance in a nearly 11-hour filibuster, not just because she stood up to condescension and sexism, and not just because she did it all with aplomb and grace. For pro-choice activists, it has felt far too infrequent that they’ve seen a Democrat – much less one from a deep red state like Texas – unabashedly support reproductive rights without an ounce of ambivalence or calls for elusive common ground.

Although there’s a contagious exhilaration sweeping the pro-choice movement, a sober assessment of what politicians like Davis are up against is an essential reality check. The pro-choice activists – the “unruly mob,” as Lt Gov David Dewhurst called them – who crammed the Texas Senate chamber Tuesday night were motivated by an escalating outrage at cruel restrictions on women’s autonomy being imposed by male politicians at the behest of religious activists. Senate Bill 5 was a last straw, and the success of activists in blocking it (temporarily, at least) has sparked renewed enthusiasm around the country. Already there’s talk of Davis winning a 2014 race for governor.

But to match the intensity of anti-choice activists, sustaining this sort of opposition is going to take perseverance. While it’s clear that Davis is inspiring a movement, her supporters need to be in for a long haul just as anti-choice activists in Texas have patiently chipped away at abortionaccess and are still playing a long game to ban it altogether.

Religion in Texas, like everything else, is big. Small talk frequently is opened with the question, “Where do you go to church?” Governor Rick Perry convened his own megachurch in Houston’s Reliant Stadium in 2011, just before he launched his failed presidential run. The crowd was fervent and very diverse. It was not just old white people gathered at a Christian Coalition of America reunion. Sure, the old guard was there – James and Shirley Dobson, founders of Focus on the Family, virtually passed the torch. But the new generation is more pentecostal, more racially diverse, young, old, and in between, and very committed to the idea that they are locked in a spiritual battle with Satanic forces that will destroy America with abortion and LBGT equality. They weren’t there for Perry, necessarily; they believe they were called there.

Religious activism in Texas has been particularly successful at restricting access to abortion and reproductive healthcare. Whereas some Republicans pander to their anti-choice base, Perry has actually delivered. Before the pending bill, SB5, which the Senate will revisit in a special session on 1 July, Perry had pushed through other abortion restrictions including ultrasound requirements, waiting periods, and parental consent laws. He even signed one anti-abortion bill in a special ceremony in a Christian school on a Sunday morning.

Texas’s lead has inspired other states to mimic its successes. A bill thatpassed the Ohio legislature last night includes a provision to create its own version of a program Perry has championed in Texas through which federal funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) are used to finance crisis pregnancy centers, which offer Christian counseling designed to dissuade women from having abortions.

It doesn’t matter whether Perry is a “true believer”, he has acted like one, and created a mold that few Republican successors would be inclined to break. In a 2010 speech at a fundraiser for a crisis pregnancy center, he said:

“I feel like I am in the garrison of an army that has devoted itself to the defense of the unborn, here in this state and across the country and am proud to be counted in the ranks.”

The religious activists who call on him to ram anti-choice bills through the legislature view politics as a battle between good and evil. They believe they are on a mission from God to battle Satanic forces. In that same 2010 fundraiser speech, Perry described his mission as “bigger than any law or policy,” of being engaged in a struggle not of “flesh and blood,” but “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

Less than 36 hours after Davis’s successful filibuster this week, Perrytold anti-choice activists at the National Right to Life Committee convention that said it was “unfortunate” that Davis, the daughter of a single mother and one herself, did not draw an anti-choice conclusion from her own life experience. Davis beautifully replied that Perry’s were “small words that reflect a dark and negative point of view”.

Perry’s demeaning comments, though, were very much drawn from the anti-abortion zeitgeist in Texas and elsewhere, which emphasizes what they claim is the redemptive power of foregoing an abortion. Activists using this approach say they are preaching love rather than condemnation, but Perry’s remarks revealed the judgmentalism at the heart of it. To anti-choice voters, Perry’s comments were commonplace. To pro-choice voters, they were an insult and a provocation.

The war on women is a powerful motivating force for supporters of reproductive rights. They should be clear-eyed, though, about the realities of what motivates their opponents.

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  • How do you catch wind of all these American news stories? I hardly ever hear what’s going on in England unless it’s big, like Kate Middleton topless big.

    • Ha! Nice one.

      Good ole’ Guardian, but also a lot of other nice sources from groups I belong to on facebook.

  • Daydreamer1

    Religion in Texas, like everything else, is big. Small talk frequently is opened with the question, “Where do you go to church?”

    I worked in Texas on some oil wells in 2008. A mans got to eat and my daily shop involved going to the large Walmart just down the road from my hotel.

    One day I queued at the checkout and the woman infront of me started chatting with the woman working the checkout. The conversation literally involved:

    Checkout Lady: ‘Hi’

    Shopper: ‘Hi’

    Checkout Lady: ‘Are you having a good day’

    Shopper: ‘Not bad, we have only just moved here.’

    Checkout Lady: ‘Oh, ok, what church do you go to?’

    The above statement about small talk definitely wasn’t outside of my experience of Texas. Everywhere you go it just feels like church after church. There were no spirits in Walmart either, and diners were asking you to become members so they could serve you a beer.

    • I’m glad I live in the secular part of America.

      • Daydreamer1

        It was a very different experience to here in the UK. It was more akin to what you get with our 70+ year olds. It is very rare to meet a young Christian, and even rarer to find that they are not struggling with reconciling science and their faith.

        I know 3 Christians. One is only culturally such with a very weak sense of it left over from Sundays that probably diminishes thoughout the week. The other two are more classically Christian, but one of them says it is a struggle.

        Then there is the clear family link. None of them just decided to be one based on some external evaluation. They are all continuing what they did as children alongside their families today.

        • Religiosity is on the decline in the US esp. in the the cities and liberal parts, but there is a huge swath of conservative America where religion is an important part of daily life. I almost never go to these areas so it is almost another country to me. The under 30 population is 1/3rd non religious so In another generation or so, we’ll finally shake off the fundies from our ranks – hopefully.

          • David Marshall

            You guys dream on. Voltaire thought he had it whipped 230 years ago; but it turned out deism was just a passing phase. Out of ultra-liberal Seattle comes Mars Hill Fellowship.

            Looks to me that Europe faces a choice between sharia, the machines, or getting back to its Christian roots and remembering where it got its mojo in the first place. But if Europe goes under, no telling if the rest of the world will notice. With all due respect, that wave has passed.

            Texas, meanwhile, is booming. I’m not sure even I can figure that one out.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Looks to me that Europe faces a choice between sharia, the machines, or getting back to its Christian roots and remembering where it got its mojo in the first place.

            Not interested in a second dark age, thanks very much.

          • Nice!

          • David Marshall

            I’d guess you’re not interested in history at all, based on that gloss.

          • Andy_Schueler

            And you´d be wrong.

          • David Marshall

            All right, then. Check out this bibliography of 130 or so books that demonstrate the historical point I was making. How many of them have you read? How many do you plan to read? What brought about the original Dark Ages, do you think? Based on what?

            http://christthetao.blogspot.com/2012/11/how-christ-liberates-humanity-123-proof.html

          • Andy_Schueler

            Check out this bibliography of 130 or so books that demonstrate the historical point I was making. How many of them have you read?

            A handful – which amounts to roughly half of the ones from this list that are actually relevant to this issue.

            What brought about the original Dark Ages, do you think?

            Many reasons, most importantly the loss of most classical greek and latin literature, which again had many reasons, including the tendency of Christians to preserve Bibles. books about the Bible and books about books about the Bible, while letting literature that would have been actually useful – Architecture, Math, Science etc. – rot.
            Thankfully, the Muslims had a different attitude back then and preserved this literature + added many new insights, while Christian Europe came up with the best method ever devised to keep even the brightest of minds almost completely ignorant about the world:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scholasticism

          • Honest_John_Law

            Don’t you love it when a Yankee shows up and advises how Europe should conduct its affairs? BTW, as I am sure you know, some prominent regions of modern-day Europe were established long before Christianity emerged. Such regions had “roots” that predated Christianity.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Don’t you love it when a Yankee shows up and advises how Europe should conduct its affairs?

            Yup. A lot of US-americans seem to believe that the rest of the world just has to share their tribalistic views when it comes to politics and their idiosyncratic notions of concepts like “liberal”, “conservative”, “socialist” etc. pp.
            A slightly unfair generalization, but someone had to say it… :-D

          • David Marshall

            No kidding! And Greece and Italy are doing real well right now, aren’t they?

            But “Yankees” are as much the children of Medieval Europe as modern Europeans are, and owe as much to it. And since the “Yankees” had to help save Europe from itself three times in the last 100 years, so far, well it seems like someone needs to give those folks advice.

          • Honest_John_Law

            “No kidding! And Greece and Italy are doing real well right now, aren’t they?” – David Marshall

            In an earlier post, you appeared to advise that Europe get back to its Christian “roots” to rediscover its “mojo”. If that is what you are advising, I wonder how getting back to Christian “roots” would create millions of new good-paying jobs in Italy and Greece and other European nations that are struggling.

            “But “Yankees” are as much the children of Medieval Europe as modern Europeans are, and owe as much to it.” – David Marshall

            I wonder how warmly Native Americans feel about European colonization of the “New World”. I wonder if they minded being forced off the lands they inhabited long before European settlers arrived and took much of it by force. I wonder if later episodes like the Trail of Tears endeared Native Americans to the “Yankees”.

            “But if Europe goes under, no telling if the rest of the world will notice. With all due respect, that wave has passed.” – David Marshall

            If by “goes under” you mean a socioeconomic collapse, the world will certainly notice (considering that the EU collectively is the largest economy on Earth as ranked by GDP).

          • David Marshall

            John: Like Andy, you’re having trouble following the point. The history of every people is full of injustices. No one is denying that. What gets me is the unwillingness of so many skeptics here to recognize what is so patently obvious — that the Christian faith is closely connected to the greatness of Europe’s past. This is, to me, frankly pathetic, and would be even if you were one of those young Chinese I occasionally meet, who want to entirely ditch their Chinese heritage. (Most Chinese are very patriotic.)

            The EU is collectively the largest economy on earth? A few years ago, each country that constitutes the present EU was itself among the world’s greatest powers — Greece, Italy, Holland, Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, and Britain have all taken turns at the front rank of nations. Now, Europe as a whole is slightly larger than the US (one country), which itself is about to be eclipsed by China and India?

            As I said, that wave has passed. Ours is passing.

          • Andy_Schueler

            What gets me is the unwillingness of so many skeptics here to recognize what is so patently obvious — that the Christian faith is closely connected to the greatness of Europe’s past

            Oh I certainly don´t deny that in any way, shape or form. Because this statement is superficially similar, but still very different to what you said before:
            Europe’s Christian roots, which created most of what is worthwhile in western civilization
            And you have not supported this claim with any examples or arguments, although I asked you several times – and yelling “Rodney Stark!!!” a dozen times is still not an argument, no matter how often you repeat it.

            This reminds me of your ridiculous attempts at defending “From Darwin to Hitler”. It was completely obvious that you had not the foggiest clue what you were talking about, and you had no argument beyond “I´m right and you must read the book before you can disagree with that”. (btw, I´ve read it in the meantime, surprise surprise – the book was exactly what I expected it to be, thanks for wasting my time).

            If you had any arguments, it wouldn´t be that obvious that you are bluffing.

          • David Marshall

            I’m not “yelling Rodney Stark,” I’m asking you to start reading books about the historical impact of Christianity, of which I gave you a long list. Stark’s are, in fact, particular interesting on this subject, but if you have some innate aversion to one of the world’s leading sociologists of religion, who did most of his research on this subject as an agnostic, there are plenty of other choices, a couple of which I also named, and many more, cited above.

            Again, and as with Weikart’s book (also a real historian), I would much rather you take the initiative to read books that trouble your biases; no, I am not going to copy them out for you here. If you choose to remain ignorant, then feel free.

            But maybe I should just let you argue with yourself for a while:

            A: “Our “Christian roots” are the traditions of the Catholic Church, and I see literally no reason whatsoever to be proud of these roots. We had to fight against the Catholic Church for pretty much all of the freedoms that we now enjoy in european democracies.”

            B: “Oh I certainly don´t deny (that the Christian faith is closely connected to the greatness of Europe’s past) in any way, shape or form.”

          • Andy_Schueler

            I’ll just let you argue with yourself for a while:

            A: “Our “Christian roots” are the traditions of the Catholic Church, and I see literally no reason whatsoever to be proud of these roots. We had to fight against the Catholic Church for pretty much all of the freedoms that we now enjoy in european democracies.”

            B: “Oh I certainly don´t deny (that the Christian faith is closely connected to the greatness of Europe’s past) in any way, shape or form.”

            Hint: “connected to” and “created by” are not synonymous. Did you know that?

            Again, and as with Weikart’s book (also a real historian), I would much rather you take the initiative to read books that trouble your biases; no, I am not going to copy them out for you here. If you choose to remain ignorant, then feel free.

            Dude, unlike your position based on Weikart´s propaganda dreck, I had actually read primary sources on that subject and I bothered to come up with actual arguments, and provided relevant quotes and links to the freely available primary sources. You casually dismissed all of that without any arguments because I had not read a secondary source that you happened to like, and you were even too lazy to quote from that source to point out how my arguments based on primary sources could be wrong .
            And I wasn´t wrong – the book was exactly what I predicted it to be back then. Again, thanks for wasting my time.

          • Honest_John_Law

            “John: Like Andy, you’re having trouble following the point.” – David Marshall

            Not so. It is your opinion on the matter that is questioned here.

            ” What gets me is the unwillingness of so many skeptics here to
            recognize what is so patently obvious — that the Christian faith is
            closely connected to the greatness of Europe’s past.” – David Marshall

            Strange, isn’t it, that civilizations in Italy and Greece made a major imprint on the world well before Christianity was firmly rooted in either civilization. As far as what role you think “Christianity” played in the ascension of any civilization, Jared Diamond has his ideas about what “advantages” any one civilization might have had over others. ‘Guns, Germs and Steel’ is well worth reading (imo).

            “The EU is collectively the largest economy on earth?” – David Marshall

            According to how the IMF calculates GDP, yes, the EU collectively is the largest economy on Earth. The world will certainly notice if Europe “goes under”. Frankly, it would demonstrate complete ignorance of the global economy for anyone to suggest otherwise.

          • Andy_Schueler

            No kidding! And Greece and Italy are doing real well right now, aren’t they?

            Oh yeah, the solution must be going back to their christian roots, no wait…
            Percentage of people who affirm the question “I believe there is a God”:
            – Greece 79%
            – Italy 74%
            – EU27 average 51%

            Yup, sounds like the problem is a lack of faith, doesn´t it?

          • Andy_Schueler

            And since the “Yankees” had to help save Europe from itself three times in the last 100 years, so far, well it seems like someone needs to give those folks advice.

            And of course, the problem was a lack of faith again – no wait…
            Percentage of Germans that register as Christians now: 63% (nominally, only 40% actually do believe in God).
            Percentage of Germans that were Christians when the Nazis rose to power: 94%.

            What was your point again?

          • David Marshall

            If you believe 94% of Germans were Christians in any real sense of the word in 1933, then I have some rare gemstones to sell you. Read Michael Burleigh on that one — he’s an historian, so I’m afraid you won’t find his book on Wikipedia though.

            And if you can’t follow my points (evidently), maybe go for a run first, to shake the cobwebs out of the brain.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Oh David, we´ve already been there two times – your ignorance with regards to the third Reich is breathtaking and that you don´t understand the No true scotsmen fallacy doesn´t change the fact that you are using it right now.

          • David Marshall

            Andy: How bizarre, given your purported interest in history, that you cite a Wikipedia article about Scholasticism from 1100 to 1500 to support your contention that Christianity is to blame for some sort of horrid “Dark Ages” in Europe. (Do you know Stark’s arguments against the very concept? Can you refute them?) You do not, apparently, realize that that period in European history was (aside from bubonic plague, which ancient Rome had had to deal with, too) the most creative and probably freest civilization the world had yet known, thanks in no small part to some of the very names cited in that article.

            What killed Rome was the demographic failure of paganism, that had been going on since the 2nd Century, followed by a series of barbarian invasions. As Loftus’ friend Richard Carrier points out in one of their books (though he tries to hide the fact), science in Europe died long before Christianity gained ascendency. Christian monks maintained and expanded what remained of “high culture” in the early Middle Ages, and almost all advances — of which there were many — were sponsored by the Church.

            As for Muslims “preserving the literature,” actually it was largely preserved by Nestorian Christians and Jews under Muslim rule, along with Byzantine — the remains of the Roman Empire. (Odd how people forget that northern Europe was not the center of human civilization before Christianity got ahold of it.)

            It’s truly pathetic that you “see no reason” to be proud of Europe’s Christian roots, which created most of what is worthwhile in western civilization, and a lot that has improved life around the world. I find it hard to believe that you’ve read any significant number of the books I cited.

            If you were an East Asian atheist, and said that about Buddhism or Confucianism, I would feel sorry for you, and try to talk some sense into you. (Despite the evils both religions are sometimes associated with in East Asia, rightly or wrongly — yes including pogroms, and torture, and wars.) To not see the value of Confucianism in Chinese history, or what Buddhism did for Japan, or Christianity did for Europe, is to cut oneself off from one’s own roots, and to be intellectually naked besides. You really ought to get some of those books I mention in that post, and read them.

          • It’s bizarre how, given that the Christian religion was the default world view of the ‘Western’ world at the time, that Christians laud Christianity as being responsible for every discovery and knowledge derived during that long period, rather than seeing humans responsible.

            Using the same logic, Christianity is also responsible for the development of torture devices such as the iron maiden. Also responsible for each and every bad thing developed in that time. It’s all just bad special pleading. Of course, I wouldn’t claim either position.

            Humans do a lot of good and a lot of bad. Religion gets pulled in as being responsible for both. In reality, human nature is responsible. It invented a lot of things, you know.

            Like Christianity.

          • Honest_John_Law

            Jonathan, I am sure you know this, but the early European settlers who colonized the “New World” were overwhelmingly Christian. Consider the plight of Native Americans, for example, who were inhabiting “New World” lands long before European settlers arrived. Many of them were systematically slaughtered and/or forcibly relocated off the lands they inhabited.

            Manifest Destiny at its finest…

          • David Marshall

            Jonathan: Maybe you should read some of those books, too. No, it’s not “bizarre,” it’s historically informed. Or it would be, if you cited me accurately: I didn’t say Christianity was “responsible for every discovery and knowledge” over all those years. But surely you ought to recognize the downright perversity of denying that Europeans have ANYTHING to be grateful for, in regard to their Christian heritage. Surely you are not such a fanatic.

          • Andy_Schueler

            David, I would be careful with the “fanatic” label, because your view is far more biased than mine or Jonathan´s is. Even in the most generous interpretation of your views (which would involve that everything positive done by a Christian was because he is a Christian, but not vice versa (which is absurd to begin with)) you would still exaggerate the influence of Christianity and minimize the influence of classical antiquity and the islamic world to breathtakingly absurd degrees…

            And I already asked you to be specific:
            Regarding the “freest civilization that the world had so far seen”, which freedoms would you have enjoyed as an average citizen in 10th century rome that you would not have had as an average citizen in 1th century rome or in 10th century Baghdad and vice versa?

            And regarding the “most creative civilization that the world had so far seen” – please list the scientific and technological discoveries that are creative discoveries of Christian Europe instead of being imported from the islamic world. I´d be willing to bet that I could come up with a list that is at least twice as long using just a single century from classical antiquity or the islamic golden age. How about it?

          • David Marshall

            As you said, and demonstrate again here, you do indeed have great difficulty in grasping my actual points. My view is certainly not that “everything positive done by a Christian is because he was a Christian.” That’s not a “generous,” it is a perverse and unwarranted, reading, which depends simply on ignoring what I’ve actually written on the subject.

            There’s no sense in talking with you about history, frankly, until you’ve started to read a few more books. Start with Stark: of course “10th Century Rome” is rather bizarre, since it was hardly a major city, even in Italy, for one thing since it had been sacked by Muslim invaders in the previous century. Did you know that? Read some books. Maybe I should add Paul Fregosi’s Jihad to the list.

          • Andy_Schueler

            My view is certainly not that “everything positive done by a Christian is because he was a Christian.” That’s not a “generous,” it is a perverse and unwarranted, reading, which depends simply on ignoring what I’ve actually written on the subject.

            Right, how could one possibly get the impression that you implied that when you say something like “Europe’s Christian roots, which created most of what is worthwhile in western civilization”.

            There’s no sense in talking with you about history, frankly, until you’ve started to read a few more books.

            Yeah, two people can play that game. You should read some books, start here:
            http://www.amazon.com/God-Fascists-Vatican-Alliance-Mussolini/dp/1616148373/
            http://www.amazon.com/Ancient-Medicine-Sciences-Antiquity-Series/dp/0415520959/
            http://www.amazon.com/Cosmology-Antiquity-Sciences-Series/dp/0415121833/
            http://www.amazon.com/Ancient-Natural-History-Histories-Antiquity/dp/0415115450/
            http://www.amazon.com/Scribes-Scholars-Guide-Transmission-Literature/dp/0198721463/
            http://www.amazon.com/Greek-science-after-Aristotle-Lloyd/dp/B007EQT8JW/
            http://www.amazon.com/The-Aristotle-Adventure-Transmitted-Renaissance/dp/0964471493/
            http://www.amazon.com/Greek-Science-New-Surveys-Classics/dp/0199223955/
            Get back to me when you´re finished. And don´t ask me for an argument before that – we´ve just established that both of us don´t need to provide any actual arguments until we´ve both read every book that the other one has read (that´s pretty stupid if you ask me, but since you insist).

            Start with Stark

            Yell “Stark!!!!” a few more times, maybe it magically turns into an argument after a few dozen times.

            of course “10th Century Rome” is rather bizarre, since it was hardly a major city, even in Italy, for one thing since it had been sacked by Muslim invaders in the previous century. Did you know that? Read some books.

            And being sacked in the preceding century magically removed all those alleged freedoms that the citizens enjoyed – thanks to Christianity – freedoms that they didn´t have in classical antiquity or in 10th century Baghdad? No? Just a red herring because you have no arguments and are desperate? I thought so.

          • David Marshall

            I don’t care how you got the impression, what matters is whether it was warranted. And if you think “Europe’s roots in Christianity created most of what was worthwhile in western civ” entails “everything positive done by a Christian is because he was a Christian,” you need to work on your logic. It does no such thing. What you did, it seems, was jump to conclusions based on some vague impression you got without reading carefully. Let me advise you to read more carefully from now on, and respond to what I actually say.

            If you want historians of science, there are in fact a couple on the list that “support ‘my’ views” on this subject in EVERY way, shape and form, including a new one by my friend, Dr. Allan Chapman, who has taught the history of science at Oxford University for some 30 years. And I could refer you to other historians, like David Landes of Harvard, those his comments on the subject are more concise, and to scientists who write on the subject, like Paul Davies and Charles Thaxton. And of course Stark cites dozens of historians on this topics, if you’d bother to read his book. So your new claim:

            “Funny that actual historians of science don´t support your views in any way, shape or form, isn´t it?”

            Is revealed to be empty bombast in every way, shape and form — and you could have known it to be empty, simply by scanning the list I gave and finding the section on “Birth of Science.”

            Instead of acknowledging the irony of your referring to Rome, which had been sacked by the glorious Muslim civilization you were praising, and was eclipsed by many other Italian cities in the Middle Ages, you feebly try to turn that error to advantage. But yes (the point at issue), Medieval Europe was far freer than the Islamic world, for one thing because women were treated much more liberally, for another because there were so few slaves. If you have an aversion to Stark, understandably since he systematically punctures your biases, citing a slew of historians along the way, read Bernard Lewis on women, or Seymour Drescher, Abolition: A History of Slavery and Anti-Slavery. These are top-notch scholars. These are arguments I have actually read, mind you, and that actually make my point, with supporting evidence: I am not just throwing out links at random.

            Your comments are becoming so shrill, your errors so clumsy, and your “rebuttals” so feeble, that I’m beginning to feel a tad embarrassed at bothering to rebut them. Do, at least, try to read a little more carefully — it’s a habit that will make your life richer.

          • David,
            Andy has done a much better job than you in establishing arguments and making empirically based points. You have, time and again, merely asserted a conclusion based on a bibliography. That does not cut the mustard.

            Andy has feeble rebuttals? You have not even produced points for him to rebut other than generalised assertions at the start which were far from being robust.

          • David Marshall

            Jonathan: Really? So you think Andy’s gross misreading in the first paragraph above is actually warranted? Or his claim that “actual historians of science” do not support my views “in any way, shape or form,” even though I just cited several who do?

            I know you were impressed by his initial jibe about the “dark ages,” supported by nothing, his sweeping generalizations about the Catholic Church, which he later contradicted himself on, and his bald assertions about freedom in the Middle Ages, which I have cited some of the world’s leading scholars to contradict.

            Do I need to look up exact quotes and give them to you? Andy hasn’t done that. So here’s the rule — if a poster agrees with your prejudices, you give him a complete pass on self-contradiction, gross misreadings of his opponent, historical blunders like his mention of Rome and his simplistic assumption about “Islamic” civilization, and sweeping assertions without an iota of evidence, aside from a couple Wikipedia links, at least one of which turns out to actually undermine his argument? But those you disagree with must not only cite 130 books that undermine the skeptical conceit of the day, but type out all their arguments for you here?

            That’s rather inconsistent.

            Here’s my challenge, in return. Unlike you, I am being fairly consistent in how I evaluate responses from Christians and from atheists. Loftus, Carrier, and Avalos are among those who have attempted to respond, so far. Go ahead, make my day:

            http://christthetao.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-bad-jesus-atheists-reply.html

          • David, my point is that, when you look at the totality of your comments, there is little actual substantive argument. You reference people’s names and books without actually giving the arguments.

          • If you expect me to go and read 130 books when I have a reading list as long as my arm and 6 writing / editing commitments, then you are mistaken! All it take sis a couple of paragraphs of point making and we can get the ball rolling. So, how is Christianity responsible for most of what was worthwhile? How was this a necessary influence?

          • David Marshall

            I doubt the concept of “necessary” influences in history. Things that cause, have their effect, one can only guess in most cases what other causes might have had the same effect. This is why, for instance, I am careful not to say theism was necessary to the rise of science — only that it in fact aided that rise, twice.

            But sorry, a serious argument for the positive historical influence of the Gospel cannot be made on this thread of your blog — nor is one needed, since no serious argument has been made on the subject here to contradict. I have writing projects and a book to blurb, myself.

            I have made portions of that argument on my blog, over the past few years, such as for the dramatic effect the Gospel has had in elevating the status of women — that took about nine long, long posts, including lots of historical and sociological data, and will take more to complete, and elicited hundreds of responses from skeptics — a pre-1800 time-line on the proto-abolition of slavery, my debates with Avalos on that subject, and these lists of books and of reformers inspired by the Gospel, among others.

            But there is no substitute for reading serious historical arguments by leading scholars like those I have cited in this thread. Whether you wish to be informed about this subject enough to take the time to do so, is of course up to you. We all suffer from time constraints, which merely means we need to be cautious in what we say about matters we haven’t had time to read up on, if we don’t want to say silly things and affirm discredited shibboleths.

          • Honest_John_Law

            “But sorry, a serious argument for the positive historical influence of the Gospel cannot be made on this thread of your blog — nor is one needed, since no serious argument has been made on the subject here to contradict.”

            What, exactly, is the point of attempting to make such an argument in the first place? Are you suggesting that the “positive historical influence” of the Gospel actually serves as proof that Jesus actually rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven etc.?

          • David Marshall

            John: There is a connection, but it’s a complicated one, that is one of my writing projects. But no, I haven’t made that claim in this thread, nor does it need to be made.

          • Honest_John_Law

            Are you planning to delineate between Catholic Christianity, Orthodox Christianity, and Protestant Christianity when you strive to demonstrate a connection between Europe’s historical “mojo” and its Christian “roots”?

          • Andy_Schueler

            I have writing projects and a book to blurb, myself.
            I have made portions of that argument on my blog, over the past few years, such as for the dramatic effect the Gospel has had in elevating the status of women — that took about nine long, long posts, including lots of historical and sociological data,

            Which you could get published as a book, but you don´t have a snowballs chance in hell to get this published in an academic journal dealing with either history or sociology. Regarding sociology, you do no statistical controls (I already told you that you might be surprised to see what happens if you control for availability of birth control, level of secularization and average religiosity (to name only a few factors…)) although such tests are trivial to do and they are absolutely necessary, right now, you don´t even try to test what you are claiming in this respect.
            But again, you still could get this published as a book (but not in the scientific literature), and this is one of the two reasons why I´m skeptical of your main source Rodney Stark – because he might be a great sociologist, but he has no training as a historian, and one of his books won a prize from Christianity today and got endorsed by a hack from the dishonesty institute, while it lacked a similar reception among historians. That raises many warning flags – especially given your previous defense of Weikart´s book, which turned out to be a giant bluff.

          • Was that not indeed the criticism levelled at Stark. Good sociologist. Sucks as a historian?

            This article:

            http://scienceblogs.com/evolvingthoughts/2008/09/06/rodney-starks-idiotic-history/

            debunks his work The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success.

          • Honest_John_Law

            Richard Carrier also had something to say re. the role of Christianity in the progress of science:

            http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2006/11/science-and-medieval-christianity.html

          • Andy_Schueler

            Yup. I was only aware of Stark from Carrier´s chapter in The Christian Delusion – Carrier comes to the same conclusion.
            There might even be a kernel of truth in what Stark argues, in that the stumbling block that Christianity has been for the progress of science and technology had been exaggerated by many scholars, especially in the 18th and 19th century, but that is hardly newsworthy since no contemporary historian of science claims any such thing afaict.
            But extrapolating from “not as big a stumbling block than had been assumed” to “was absolutely necessary for the scientific revolution to happen” is completely absurd. There was hardly any scientific progress in medieval Europe for almost one millenium after Christianity rose to power, and if you ignore all the scientific and technological advances that only emerged as imports from the islamic world – it looks even worse.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Wow, I reread Carrier´s chapter in The Christian Delusion yesterday, then David´s “rebuttal” here (in which he also “rebuts” Avalos` chapter), and then finally I reread Avalos´ chapter in The Christian Delusion.
            I thought David was just a blowhard, but his “rebuttal” in this case is Ken Ham level ignorance + dishonesty.

          • David Marshall

            The authors claim that Stark’s facts are 90-100% wrong, then mention several facts that they admit (if you read carefully) are actually right. This is an odd phenomena that I have noticed before.

            Kepler, Newton, and Pascal argued, or would have argued. Yeah, and EO WIlson says when they were on the Harvard faculty together, James Watson wouldn’t even deign to talk with him, for ideological reasons. That’s no rebuttal. If anything, Stark predicts and helps explain that sort of thing.

            But I have also taken exception to the main point these guys debunk from Stark before, myself. (His claim about ancient science.) It is a little childish to find an error, even an important error, in so important a scholar as Rodney Stark, and use that to discredit him in general.

          • Andy_Schueler

            But I have also taken exception to the main point these guys debunk from Stark before, myself. (His claim about ancient science.) It is a little childish to find an error, even an important error, in so important a scholar as Rodney Stark, and use that to discredit him in general.

            Regarding ancient science, Carrier shows that Stark not only “made some errors”, his premises are spectacularly wrong, and some of these errors are so severe that it boggles the mind how anyone who spend even a few minutes of research could make them (e.g. “ancient scientific progress came to a halt after Aristotle” – it literally takes no more than three minutes of research to find out that this is wrong (and most people actually learn that in school or should have learned that in school…)). He might still be a good sociologist, even a great sociologist – that doesn´t change the fact that his work on history is breathtakingly ignorant.

          • David Marshall

            Carrier’s errors are far more severe, as I (and lots of other people) have shown numerous times and in many places. Yet I have no trouble admitting that Carrier is a genuine historian, and sometimes a smart one, worth citing in his areas of expertise. He’s about five rungs down the ladder from Stark, for that one oversimplification, but I’m not so desperate to diss scholars who disagree with me that I have to play those kinds of games.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Carrier’s errors are far more severe, as I (and lots of other people) have shown numerous times and in many places. Yet I have no trouble admitting that Carrier is a genuine historian, and sometimes a smart one, worth citing in his areas of expertise. He’s about five rungs down the ladder from Stark, for that one oversimplification, but I’m not so desperate to diss scholars who disagree with me that I have to play those kinds of games.

            You just wasted 82 words for a substance free rant that boils down to “I like Stark more than Carrier”. You did not address what I actually said, that Carrier showed that Stark´s premises are spectacularly wrong and that he makes crucial mistakes which undermine his arguments completey (e.g. “ancient scientific progress came to a halt after Aristotle”) and that some of those mistakes could have been avoided with a few minutes of research (just browsing through the first google hit for “Aristotle” would have been sufficient to realize that this claim is wrong).
            All you have is a tu quoque – Carrier´s mistakes are allegedly even worse, which if your mere assertion would be true, would mean that both Carrier and Stark completely suck as historians.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Carrier’s errors are far more severe, as I (and lots of other people) have shown numerous times and in many places. Yet I have no trouble admitting that Carrier is a genuine historian, and sometimes a smart one, worth citing in his areas of expertise. He’s about five rungs down the ladder from Stark, for that one oversimplification, but I’m not so desperate to diss scholars who disagree with me that I have to play those kinds of games.

            You just wasted 82 words for a substance free rant that boils down to “I like Stark more than Carrier”. You did not address what I actually said, that Carrier showed that Stark´s premises are spectacularly wrong and that he makes crucial mistakes which undermine his arguments completey (e.g. “ancient scientific progress came to a halt after Aristotle”) and that some of those mistakes could have been avoided with a few minutes of research (just browsing through the first google hit for “Aristotle” would have been sufficient to realize that this claim is wrong).
            All you have is a tu quoque – Carrier´s mistakes are allegedly even worse, which if your mere assertion would be true, would mean that both Carrier and Stark completely suck as historians.

          • David Marshall

            It’s not that “I like” Stark more, it’s that he has proven himself more, as every informed scholar on the planet recognizes.

            I admitted Stark was wrong about ancient science, years ago. Why should by impressed if you want to bomb that rubble? But you’re a complete fool if you think that discredits his historical arguments in general — which would be no surprise.

            No, occasional errors would NOT mean “Carrier and Stark completely suck as historians.” What are you, Andy, 15 years old?

          • Andy_Schueler

            It’s not that “I like” Stark more, it’s that he has proven himself more, as every informed scholar on the planet recognizes.

            Which historians recognize that Stark has proven himself more as a historian than Carrier has?

            I admitted Stark was wrong about ancient science, years ago. Why should by impressed if you want to bomb that rubble? But you’re a complete fool if you think that discredits his historical arguments in general — which would be no surprise.

            It was by far not the only thing that he was completely wrong about. Carrier showed that all of his premises are spectacularly wrong. And you don´t disagree with any of Carrier´s arguments – you misrepresent what Carrier argued and what Stark argued. Note that you turn what Stark is defending “Christianity was necessary for the scientific revolution” into “Theism was necessary for the scientific revolution” – and this is still BS, only by misrepresenting Carrier as well and also by applying the very correlation fallacy he points out right in the beginning of the essay can you pretend that Carrier supports “exactly what Stark is claiming”.

            No, occasional errors would NOT mean “Carrier and Stark completely suck as historians.”

            You can try to trivialize such errors as much as you want, if someone writes a book about the history of Christianity and mentions that “there were no Jews left on this planet after the first century CE was over”, this would not be a random error that could be ignored – it would mean that the author is completely and utterly ignorant about the subject.

            What are you, Andy, 15 years old?

            How witty.

          • David Marshall

            Considering your many errors in both history and plain exegesis in this thread already, I’d be careful whose eyes you try to pull splinters out of. Now you seem confused between the “scientific literature” and history, which is the subject here.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Well, newsflash for you David – there are peer-reviewed journals dealing with sociology and history. Try sending your arguments re “the gospel liberating women” to one of those and you´ll see what I mean – an amateur in these subjects like you can get his arguments published in a book (just like D´Souza and Stark can get books published about issues that they are completely ignorant off), but that doesn´t mean that anyone who is actually trained in these subjects will take these arguments serious.

          • David Marshall

            Sorry, dude. They already do.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I know you were impressed by his initial jibe about the “dark ages,” supported by nothing, his sweeping generalizations about the Catholic Church, which he later contradicted himself on

            Liar.

            historical blunders like his mention of Rome

            Liar.

            sweeping assertions without an iota of evidence, aside from a couple Wikipedia links, at least one of which turns out to actually undermine his argument?

            Liar.

            and his bald assertions about freedom in the Middle Ages, which I have cited some of the world’s leading scholars to contradict.

            You didn´t even try to address my challenge.

            We are done here. Lying scumbag.

          • Easy Andy – keep it civil please. I’d like to keep David here! (even if he hasn’t answered your challenge or any substantive points…)

          • Andy_Schueler

            Yeah, sorry for going a little overboard – I edited my comment.

          • David Marshall

            That’s after the invective was removed? Wow. If the invective was at all original (as opposed to “liar, liar, liar,”) and you know more about science than you do about history, I urge you to try out for a regular spot on Pharyngula.

            All these points have already been demonstrated, above; it would be a bore to belabor them.

          • Andy_Schueler

            All these points have already been demonstrated, above; it would be a bore to belabor them.

            Let me fix that for you:
            “All these points have already been asserted without evidence above; they were also boringly repeated without evidence.”

          • Honest_John_Law

            “…I’m beginning to feel a tad embarrassed…” – David Marshall

            You should feel embarrassed for offering the following pearl of wisdom:

            “But if Europe goes under, no telling if the rest of the world will notice. With all due respect, that wave has passed.” – David Marshall

            This is easily among the most daft comments I can remember in some time.

          • David Marshall

            John: It’s actually two comments, in case you didn’t stop to count. The first, read in context (which is a good way to read things, John) is of course hyperbole. The second, I have explained in what sense that is true — and it’s pretty hard to deny.

          • Honest_John_Law

            “John: It’s actually two comments, in case you didn’t stop to count.” – David Marshall

            This is the entire paragraph from which I extracted your comments:

            “Looks to me that Europe faces a choice between sharia, the machines, or getting back to its Christian roots and remembering where it got its mojo in the first place. But if Europe goes under, no telling if the rest of the world will notice. With all due respect, that wave has passed.” – David Marshall

            The last two sentences in that paragraph (as written) appear to support the central topic of the paragraph (i.e. Europe must make reforms or it will collapse). Thus, the last two sentences, as written, appear to be complimentary (i.e. they both support the central topic of the paragraph). If those last two sentences do represent separate and distinct topics, they do not belong in the same paragraph. If so, perhaps you should brush up on basic grammar (in case you don’t understand basic sentence and paragraph structure). Furthermore, the EU “wave” has not passed. It is the largest economy on Earth… and the world will notice if it “goes under”.

            “The first, read in context (which is a good way to read things, John) is of course hyperbole.” David Marshall

            I do not believe it was presented that way. There is nothing in your paragraph I highlighted above that remotely suggests hyperbole. However, it is not worth arguing with you, as it appears you are trying to save face from what was a daft declaration by you. Feel free to crawfish and obfuscate as you like…and save face…

          • David Marshall

            John: My grammar is fine, but yours is a little narrow. You seem to assume that the only valid form a paragraph can take is “topic sentence-supporting sentence–other supporting sentence.” That is simply not the case. And if your criticism of my paragraph really comes down to the complaint that on an obscure blog, I introduced new thoughts in the last two sentences of a paragraph — wow, you guys are desperate.

            Yeah, John, that’s it. I literally meant that if Europe sinks into the Atlantic (or just goes broke), no one in China or Japan or Canada will even bother reporting the event. Have it your way.

          • Honest_John_Law

            “And if your criticism of my paragraph really comes down to the complaint that on an obscure blog, I introduced new thoughts in the last two sentences of a paragraph — wow, you guys are desperate.” – David Marshall

            This is too funny. You are the one who first lashed out at me for (apparently) not realizing you were making two distinct comments on two separate topics in the same paragraph. I didn’t know the grammar cops were out in force. Then again, Jonathan is English, so I guess that we should (literally) mind our P’s and Q’s on his blog re. proper use of the English language… ;->

            David, have you considered the possibility that you many not have communicated your points clearly when you first interjected your opinions on this thread? Jonathan and I had the same observation that your original statement re. Europe recapturing its “mojo” is a generalized statement that lacks succinctness. “Mojo” is a subjective term that could mean different things to different readers.

            “Yeah, John, that’s it. I literally meant that if Europe sinks into the Atlantic…” – David Marshall

            Reductio ad absurdum. I obviously didn’t claim that you meant that.

            Perhaps you were being sarcastic in your original comment re. Europe “going under”, but since I don’t know you, I had no reason to believe you were being sarcastic. Okay. Let’s drop that one and move on.

          • David Marshall

            Sigh. Does one need to interject smiley faces? Yes, by all means, to a substantive point.

          • Honest_John_Law

            I was trying to be cordial. I observed Randal Rauser using one just today on his blog. BTW, you might learn something from Randal re. being cordial with those who have opinions different from your own. He appears to be far more professional (and cordial) than you (imho).

            You came to this site and made a rather vague statement re. how Europe might consider returning to its “Christian roots and remembering where it got its mojo in the first place”. If, by mojo, you are referring to prosperity and economic vitality, I am still wondering how you might explain how struggling nations in Europe (e.g. Italy and Greece) could restore prosperity and economic vitality by returning to their “Christian roots”. If you think you have it figured out, by all means, submit your findings to the IMF and the World Bank and see if their economists agree. Kindly let us know how it goes.

          • Andy_Schueler

            And if you think “Europe’s roots in Christianity created most of what was worthwhile in western civ” entails “everything positive done by a Christian is because he was a Christian,” you need to work on your logic. It does no such thing.

            You should read carefully because I did not say that your comment entails “everything positive done by a Christian is because he was a Christian” – I said that this would have to be assumed for your comment to not be historically absurd.

            Instead of acknowledging the irony of your referring to Rome, which had been sacked by the glorious Muslim civilization you were praising, and was eclipsed by many other Italian cities in the Middle Ages, you feebly try to turn that error to advantage.

            What error? Again, what the fuck does Rome being sacked in the preceding century have to do with the point I was making?

            Medieval Europe was far freer than the Islamic world, for one thing because women were treated much more liberally

            I know you don´t like Wikipedia, but unlike your sources for which you are not only to lazy to give quotes (or at the very least a brief summary of the arguments in your own words), you don´t even give page numbers or chapters. In this respect, wikipedia is clearly superior:
            While in customary law inheritance was limited to male descendents, the Qur’an introduced rules on inheritance with certain fixed shares being distributed to designated heirs, first to the nearest female relatives and then the nearest male relatives.[57] According to Annemarie Schimmel “compared to the pre-Islamic position of women, Islamic legislation meant an enormous progress; the woman has the right, at least according to the letter of the law, to administer the wealth she has brought into the family or has earned by her own work.”[58]

            The general improvement of the status of Arab women included prohibition of female infanticide and recognizing women’s full personhood.[59] Women were generally given greater rights than women in pre-Islamic Arabia[60][61] and medieval Europe.[62] Women were not accorded with such legal status in other cultures until centuries later.[63] According to Professor William Montgomery Watt, when seen in such historical context, Muhammad “can be seen as a figure who testified on behalf of women’s rights.”[64]

            Your comments are becoming so shrill, your errors so clumsy, and your “rebuttals” so feeble, that I’m beginning to feel a tad embarrassed at bothering to rebut them.

            You are confusing substance-free verbiage with rebuttals.
            My challenge was:
            Regarding the “freest civilization that the world had so far seen”, which freedoms would you have enjoyed as an average citizen in 10th century rome that you would not have had as an average citizen in 1th century rome or in 10th century Baghdad and vice versa?
            You completely failed to address it – all you did was asserting that women had more rights in medieval europe than they had in the medieval islamic world (although your sources don´t even seem to address the islamic world substantially, but that is hard to tell without you referring to chapters and / or pages).
            Regarding freedom of religion, speech and expression (for example) things got much worse under Christianity compared to antiquity (and compared to the medieval islamic world) – do you really deny that?

          • Andy_Schueler

            David, wow…

            You do not, apparently, realize that that period in European history was (aside from bubonic plague, which ancient Rome had had to deal with, too) the most creative and probably freest civilization the world had yet known

            :-D. Right, the “most creative”, which is why they didn´t even manage to come close to re-discovering all of the stuff that had already been discovered in antiquity in over one thousand years.
            The list of technological and scientific discoveries for the first one thousand years after the fourth century is absolutely pathetic, even if we count all the stuff that was already discovered before in antiquity.
            And “freest civilization in the world”?? Right, there was totally much more freedom of religion than there was in antiquity! No wait… my mistake, you were actually tortured to death for that.
            Also much more freedom of speech – if you don´t mind getting tortured to death for what you say. Also much more rights to read religious texts in your mother tongue, no wait – you were tortured to death for that as well.
            If that is your vision of a free society, you might enjoy Pakistan.

            It’s truly pathetic that you “see no reason” to be proud of Europe’s Christian roots, which created most of what is worthwhile in western civilization

            Sure, like democracy and the universal declaration of human rights – no wait… the Catholic Church fought tooth and nails against that, thanks Christianity! Also thanks for a millenium of intellectual stagnation and thanks for inventing “heresy”. Great job.

            Christian monks maintained and expanded what remained of “high culture” in the early Middle Ages, and almost all advances — of which there were many — were sponsored by the Church.

            As for Muslims “preserving the literature,” actually it was largely preserved by Nestorian Christians and Jews under Muslim rule, along with Byzantine — the remains of the Roman Empire.

            No idea where you got this nonsense from, but you might want to read up on this issue, start here:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transmission_of_the_Classics

          • David Marshall

            Andy: Your ignorance is astounding. I’ve already tried to correct it by referring you to some 130 books on the positive social impact of Christianity. You respond by pointing me to two Wikipedia articles, one of which badly undercuts your biases, if only you would read it carefully, and knew the people it is talking about. I’ll decline reading the other one, thanks very much — the mountains are calling, and Wikipedia is not where I normally get my history from, anyway.

          • Andy_Schueler

            I’ve already tried to correct it by referring you to some 130 books on the positive social impact of Christianity.

            Of which the vast majority have nothing whatsoever to do with the influence of Christianity on medieval Europe.

            You respond by pointing me to two Wikipedia articles, one of which badly undercuts your biases, if only you would read it carefully

            You just can´t be specific about it, but this is totally not because you are a blowhard but rather because…

            I’ll decline reading the other one, thanks very much — the mountains are calling, and Wikipedia is not where I normally get my history from, anyway.

            Right. You prefer reliable sources like Dinesh D’Souza.

          • Honest_John_Law

            “Andy: Your ignorance is astounding.” – David Marshall

            Is this the point where you will post your resume and cite the different scholars who have recognized your work…

          • Andy_Schueler

            Also, I´m interested – regarding the “freest civilization that the world had so far seen”, which freedoms would you have enjoyed as an average citizen in 10th century rome that you would not have had as an average citizen in 1th century rome or in 10th century Baghdad and vice versa?

            And regarding the “most creative civilization that the world had so far seen” – please list the scientific and technological discoveries that are creative discoveries of medieval europe instead of being imported from the islamic world. I´d be willing to bet that I could come up with a list that is at least twice as long using just a single century from classical antiquity or the islamic golden age. How about it?

          • No, secularism is here to stay. I don’t see Europe going back to its “Christian roots” ever. It’s secularism that stands the greatest chance in turning the tide against Islamism and keeping it at bay. Unfortunately some liberal Europeans want to bend over backwards to make the Islamists feel at home and they are unknowingly sealing their fate.

          • David Marshall

            Well, we agree about a goal, anyway. We’ll see what happens.

  • GearHedEd

    …the ‘Taco bleats on…

  • David Marshall

    Jonathan: Let me explain how I came to post on this thread a few days ago.
    Some Christians were complaining about John Loftus’ dishonesty and fanaticism on a web site I frequent. I came to John’s partial defense: I don’t think he’s ever lied to me directly, I said. And while it doesn’t seem possible to have a serious conversation on his site, and don’t much recommend trying, I have found some of his challenges interesting and useful.
    This put me in mind of SIN. (As many things do. :-)) I tend to think of Stephen Law and yourself as two of the more reasonable SINNERS, so that’s how I happened to drop by your blog, to see if there were any rational conversations on offer.

    I am cautious about triumphalism in general, and found myself irritated by the secularist triumphalism exhibited in a few posts early in this tread. Like “The Thinker,” I’m from a highly secular part of the US, but unlike him, apparently, I recognize that the South has been doing pretty well, of late. Nor do the ups and downs of religious affiliation over a few years much impress me, taking a longer view of things. But what sparked my response was the blithe assumption that the “fundies” are simply a sad symptom of the bad old days that we secularists are now going to “shake off” — as if the glories of western civilization were not mostly created by highly religious people, largely out of Christian piety.

    Few things disgust me more than a want of gratitude, or disloyalty towards one’s own ancestors. Maybe that’s the Chinese in me.

    Anyway, this happens to be a topic on which my opinion is worth something. I have a terminal degree in a closely-related field, have read hundreds of books on the subject, have gotten high marks on my own related writings, and have even witnessed some of the relevant history for myself.

    So I begged to differ. And I linked two articles giving some 130 books that I recommend showing how the Gospel has improved life on this planet, along with a list of 60 of so key individuals who have radically changed society for the better by what they learned from Jesus. And I mentioned four or five very eminent scholars.

    The response here to all that, has frankly made me think again about how blogs operate, and how loyal but ignorant fans can influence even bloggers who have some initial sense into adopting very foolish positions and attitudes.

    It is beyond me why Andy’s rantings, the shrillness and shere inanity of which seem to increase with every new exposure of past blunders, impress you. (Richard Carrier at least knows some things, and possesses native smarts, even if he often forges in way over his head.) But I guess I can find intellectual solace for perhaps losing yet another forum for rational discussion to ignoramuses and fanatics, in pegging your “will to believe” in this case, in part to a broader sociological phenomena. (Which Rod Stark describes pretty well, BTW.)

    You’ve generally been a good host. But the courtesies, which you rightly request, are less important than remaining genuinely skeptical of claims by one’s own eager supporters

    • Andy_Schueler

      It is beyond me why Andy’s rantings, the shrillness and shere inanity of which seem to increase with every new exposure of past blunders…

      Yeah, right – “blunders” like not mentioning a historical fact that had literally nothing whatsoever to do with the point I was making. That you insist that the omission of a completely and utterly irrelevant fact amounts to a “blunder”, is pathetic (and since I asked you two times what my omission of this fact had to do with the point I was making, with no reply from you – I can only conclude that you know that this fact has nothing to do with the point I was making, but you will still repeat your false accusation of my “blunder” ad nauseam, this doesn´t speak well of your character).

      … impress you. (Richard Carrier at least knows some things, and possesses native smarts, even if he often forges in way over his head.)

      Seriously, I couldn´t care less about your opinion. After reading this:
      http://christthetao.blogspot.de/2010/10/new-atheism-and-ab-uses-of-history.html
      – I can only conclude that you are either a notorious liar or way too deluded for a rational conversation. Why a guy like Carrier would even debate you is beyond me, looks good on your C.V., not so much on his.

      • David Marshall

        Andy: If you fail to recognize the many blunders in your comments above, I’m sure I can’t talk you into seeing them.

        I’m happy to defend all my arguments on my blog against criticism, including my takedowns of Carrier, Avalos, or other atheists, and regularly do so, there. (Though I ask posters to adopt an adult tone — which gratefully, they generally do.) This is not the place to respond to a long argument in another forum. As for when you “lost respect for me,” I don’t really care.

        See if I can find any comment here that relates to the topic . . . Oh, here are two:

        (1) “Posting a list of books, most of which not even dealing with European history, is not an argument (if you consider it to be an argument – then consider my list of books to be the counterargument to that and get back to me when you finished all of them).”

        About three dozen have to do with Europe. But all of them support MY original point, as follows:

        “Europe faces a choice between sharia, the machines, or getting back to its Christian roots and remembering where it got its mojo in the first place.”

        Since all 130+ books I cited have to do with the “mojo” Christianity can lend a culture, all of them help establish MY original point.

        Your book lists appears, by contrast, to be a random (and very short) selection of general history books, which one hopes you have actually read.

        (2) “You complain about others making exaggerated claims, but you yourself make them all the time (medieval Europe being the “freest and most creative civilization that the world had so far seen” is, even if we would grant you all your other claims you made in this thread, one of the most ridiculously exaggerated things I´ve ever heard.)”

        Exagerrated? Not wrong?

        Seems to me, this statement might be true and it might be false, but it is strange to call it “exagerrated.” But what is your candidate for a freer and more creative civilization up to that point?

        • Andy_Schueler

          Andy: If you fail to recognize the many blunders in your comments above, I’m sure I can’t talk you into seeing them.

          :-D. I´ve mentioned three times now that you accuse me of a “blunder” by pointing out that I omitted a random historical fact that has literally nothing whatsoever to do with the point I was making. And two times I asked you to explain how this omission has anything to do with the point I was trying to make – you didn´t reply, but you keep on accusing me of that alleged “blunder” ad nauseam. If you wonder why people are rude in interactions with you, this is one of the reasons.

          I’m happy to defend all my arguments on my blog against criticism, including my takedowns of Carrier

          Yeah well, the alleged “takedown” of Carrier that I linked to turns out to be a complete misrepresentation of Carrier and Stark.

          About three dozen have to do with Europe. But all of them support MY original point, as follows:

          “Europe faces a choice between sharia, the machines, or getting back to its Christian roots and remembering where it got its mojo in the first place.”

          Since all 130+ books I cited have to do with the “mojo” Christianity can lend a culture, all of them help establish MY original point.

          1. You didn´t establish that this is indeed a trilemma that Europe faces. Re “Scharia” – try getting some information about Europe from a source other than Fox News.
          2. The vast majority of books in your list have nothing to do with your claim since Christianity evolved substantially over the centuries and diverged into countless subcultures – some anecdotes about Christian missionaries in China could hardly be less relevant for the point you are trying to make.

          Your book lists appears, by contrast, to be a random (and very short) selection of general history books, which one hopes you have actually read.

          Unlike your list, all items on mine are actually relevant.

          (2) “You complain about others making exaggerated claims, but you yourself make them all the time (medieval Europe being the “freest and most creative civilization that the world had so far seen” is, even if we would grant you all your other claims you made in this thread, one of the most ridiculously exaggerated things I´ve ever heard.)”

          Exagerrated? Not wrong?

          Seems to me, this statement might be true and it might be false, but it is strange to call it “exagerrated.” But what is your candidate for a freer and more creative civilization up to that point?

          And this is why I challenged you to come up with a list of freedoms that an average citizen would have had in 10th century Rome, but not in 1th century Rome or 10th century Baghdad and vice versa.
          You made a very strong claim and supported it with almost nothing – all you pointed to were more rights for women in medieval europe which they allegedly wouldn´t have had in antiquity and which they allegedly didn´t have in the islamic world at the same time. Your sources however don´t even seem to address social changes in the early islamic world so where did you get this from? (wikipedia says the opposite, that the islamic world was more progressive wrt women´s rights than medieval Europe was, I invite you to check their sources).
          And even granting you that medieval Europe granted more rights to women – what about freedom of speech, expression and Religion, do you seriously want to claim that there was on average more tolerance of religious diversity and more protection of free expression in medieval Europe compared to antiquity instead of significantly less freedom with regards to these issues?
          You made this claim that this was the freest and most creative society that the world has ever seen, I´ll take that claim seriously as soon as you produce the comparison mentioned above and as soon as you explain why the “most creative civilization the world had so far seen” developed almost no new technologies for almost a millenium and even longer than that if we don´t count everything that had already been discovered in antiquity or was imported from the islamic world.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_technology

          • The point being, David, is that you said “start with Stark” or something similar. Andy did, and he failed to be anything like a robust case. He was found wanting. So that’s not a good start.

          • David Marshall

            Andy started by pointing out a single arguable error Stark, one of the world’s leading sociologists, made in regard to ancient science, which is Richard Carrier’s field, not Stark’s. (An error that I admitted years ago.) There is hardly a scholar on the planet who could write so sweeping a series as Stark’s, and verge into my fields without me being able to play this sort of game against them. It is not any sort of a ghost of a refutation of the detailed historical analysis for which I actually cited Stark. Anyone who thinks, “I can find an error in X scholar, therefore X scholar should be dismissed in totality” is a fool, plain and simple.

            I have pointed out numerous gross errors Carrier makes in his OWN field, Dawkins makes in his OWN field, also Pagels, Borg, you name them. But that by no means gives me license to dismiss their main arguments in totality simply on that ground.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Andy started by pointed out a single arguable error Stark… There is hardly a scholar on the planet who could write so sweeping a series as Stark’s, and verge into my fields without me being able to play this sort of game against them.

            1. Nope, it´s not an “arguable error”, it was spectacularly wrong and it would have taken no more than three minutes of research to realize that as I keep on telling you.
            2. Portraying it as a minor mistake that doesn´t undermine his arguments is simply dishonest. It was not a minor mistake, it was a catastrophic mistake – as bad as book about Christian history claiming “there were no Jews left after the first century CE” – and it is an error that undermines one of his premises.
            3. You keep on portraying my criticism as finding a random negligible error and dismissing Stark´s entire case based on that. I don´t. I repeatedly (at least three times by now) pointed out that this was only the most blatant error, but that all of his premises have been refuted by Carrier in The Christian Delusion. And I also keep on pointing out that you don´t disagree with Carrier´s refutation, you misrepresent what Carrier argues and you misrepresent what Stark argues as well (now it´s suddenly no longer “Christianity” but “Theism” that was necessary for the scientific revolution, which is not what Stark argued and which is still wrong – only by misrepresenting Carrier as well (especially by ignoring that he shows how scholars that were skeptics or pantheists in antiquity also found philosophical justifications for their work – which he shows right before your favourite part about Galen justifying his work based on his theistic convictions) can you pretend that he supports “exactly what Stark claims”).
            4. I´ve said all these things repeatedly, and you never address it – you keep on misrepresenting what I said and attack a ridiculous strawman.

            Anyone who thinks, “I can find an error in X scholar, therefore X scholar should be dismissed in totality” is a fool, plain and simple.

            And I´m not arguing that and never have. I repeated the points above multiple times and you never address them.
            And not only that but you are also being rather unpleasant while misrepresenting what I said – you are a fool that simply can´t be reasoned with (again, if you wonder why people are rude in interactions with you – take a look in the mirror).

          • David Marshall

            Again, the fact that you pick 10th Century Rome, as if it were comparable to 1st Century Rome or 10th Century Baghdad, reveals your fundamental lack of understanding of the era. Rome had become a decayed ruin: the real action in Italy was going on, and would soon go on, in other cities. And of course, you picked the 10th Century, when I said “Medieval Europe,” precisely because you think it belongs to the really dark period of the alleged “Dark Ages.”

            But OK, how free were people in Baghdad? The place was a center of the international slave trade!

            “In the 9th century the Baghdad caliphate got slaves from western Europe via Marseille, Venice, and Prague; Slavic and Turkic slaves from eastern Europe and Central Asia via Derbent, Itil, Khorezm, and Samarkand; and African slaves via Mombasa, Zanzibar, the Sudan, and the Sahara.”

            Of course ancient Rome was also filled with slaves, some of whom were put to death to entertain the crowds.

            In MOST of Western Europe, by contrast, slavery had almost died out by the 10th Century.

            How about the status of women? Bernard Lewis, a leading scholar of Islam, points out that what Islamic visitors repeatedly remarked on when they visited Medieval Europe, was how free the women were. (He gives telling quotes.)

          • Andy_Schueler

            Again, the fact that you pick 10th Century Rome, as if it were comparable to 1st Century Rome or 10th Century Baghdad, reveals your fundamental lack of understanding of the era. Rome had become a decayed ruin

            Bullshit, it was a low point in the history of Rome but it was not a “decayed ruin”. And for the umpteenth time – THIS IS COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY IRRELEVANT UNLESS YOU CAN DEMONSTRATE THAT THE AVERAGE CITIZEN IN 10TH CENTURY ROME HAD LESS RIGHTS BECAUSE THE CITY WAS SACKED IN THE PRECEDING CENTURY.

            But OK, how free were people in Baghdad? The place was a center of the international slave trade!

            “In the 9th century the Baghdad caliphate got slaves from western Europe via Marseille, Venice, and Prague; Slavic and Turkic slaves from eastern Europe and Central Asia via Derbent, Itil, Khorezm, and Samarkand; and African slaves via Mombasa, Zanzibar, the Sudan, and the Sahara.”

            Of course ancient Rome was also filled with slaves, some of whom were put to death to entertain the crowds.

            In MOST of Western Europe, by contrast, slavery had almost died out by the 10th Century.

            Slavery was transformed into serfdom (and there were on average much more people being serfs in medieval Europe than people being slaves in ancient Rome and Greece). And ancient Rome and Greece also had a very complex system regarding slavery with some classes of slaves being virtually identical to what serfs were in medieval Europe.
            I also note how you completely ignored (for the fifth time) freedom of speech, expression and Religion – I take that as an admission that these freedoms were (much) less valued and protected by the ruling classes in medieval Europe compared to antiquity.
            Again, this is why I asked you to come up with a list of freedoms that an average citizen would have had in 10th century Rome, but not in 1th century Rome or 10th century Baghdad and vice versa – because then you would have seen that you are simply cherry picking the freedoms that improved and ignore the ones that the average citizens lost under Christian rule (at best, this is if I would grant you that freedoms wrt slavery / serfdom and women´s rights were actually better in medieval Europe compared to the islamic world at the same time and compared to antiquity).

            How about the status of women? Bernard Lewis, a leading scholar of Islam, points out that what Islamic visitors repeatedly remarked on when they visited Medieval Europe, was how free the women were.

            Anecdotes are not data (especially if they are cherry picked). I know little about this subject but I trust this article based on many sources more than your anecdotes.

            Finally, since you cannot explain why the allegedly most creative civilization the world had so far seen developed almost no new technologies for almost a millenium (and again, if we discard everything that had already been discovered in antiquity and discard innovations based on imports from the islamic world – it looks even worse), you might want to retract this part. It was most emphatically not the “most creative civilization” that the world had so far seen, it was not even above average. The scientific and technological progress up to the renaissance was pathetic (and yes, I know that this “pathetic” is a judgmental term, just like “dark ages” is a judgmental term, but the facts underlying this judgment – that scientific and technological progress almost came to a complete halt for almost a millenium in the western and the eastern roman empire – are universally agreed upon among historians (and before you cite scholars that allegedly disagree, note the timeline – if they talk about the 13th century and afterwards, it doesn´t address my position at all))

          • Abul ʿAla Al-Maʿarri (973-1058 AD) was a blind poet, philosopher, religious critic, and a rationalist who valued reason over dogma and superstition. He recognized that religion was completely fabricated and rejected any concept of divinity. He also believed that religion benefited nobody but those in charge and their priests. His poems are small and easily digestible, and accurately and concisely convey
            his views on religion.

            Creation Reveals A Lack of Sense

            You said, “A wise one created us”;
            That may be true, we would agree
            “Outside of time and space,” you postulated.

            Then why not say at once that you
            Propound a mystery immense
            Which tells us of our lack of sense?

            The Two Universal Sects

            They all err—Moslems, Jews,
            Christians, and Zoroastrians:
            Humanity follows two world-wide sects:
            One, man intelligent without religion,
            The second, religious without intellect.

            Death’s Debt is Paid in Full

            Death’s debt is then and there
            Paid down by dying men;
            But it is a promise bare
            That they shall rise again.

            What is Religion?

            What is religion? A maid kept close that no eye may view her;
            The price of her wedding gifts and dowry baffles the wooer.
            Of all the goodly doctrine that I from the pulpit heard
            My heart has never accepted so much as a single word.

            Fools Awake!

            O fools, awake! The rites ye sacred hold
            Are but a cheat contrived by men of old
            Who lusted after wealth and gained their lust
            And died in baseness-and their law is dust.

          • David Marshall

            The fact that you (Andy) compared Rome to Baghdad showed you have no great feeling for the era. It was not an important point, but a telling one. But generally, one should compare things that are closely comparable, when possible — not a capital of an empire with an effective ruins. (Rome had a population that was maybe 1/40th its previous population, while other Italian cities were much larger.)

            Serfs had far more rights than slaves. An unwillingness even to admit that the virtual end of unwilling slavery represented a huge step forward in freedom, again reveals an essential fanaticism.

            “I also note how you completely ignored (for the fifth time) freedom of speech, expression and Religion – I take that as an admission that these freedoms were (much) less valued and protected by the ruling classes in medieval Europe compared to antiquity.”

            Of course you jump to the wrong conclusion. The real explanation is that I haven’t read all of your posts very carefully, and take little pleasure in replying to people who exhibit signs of fanaticism.

            My impression is that freedom of thought waxed and waned dramatically in the Medieval period, as it did in antiquity, depending largely on outside pressure. I think it’s probably pretty much a wash, on this issue, but that’s just a guess. One couldn’t go around blaspheming God, but then, one Socrates wasn’t the only one to get in trouble for non-standard beliefs in the pagan world, either.

            Those aren’t my anecdotes, they are observations by Muslim visitors to Europe, seconded by Bernard Lewis, an eminent scholar of Islamic history.

            A series of invasions toppled the Western Empire, depopulated the cities, and kept Western Europe unstable until the West went on the offensive in Spain and the Middel East. Europe was already developing the creativity that would overwhelm the world, even before 1000 AD, as “Christian” civilization began to form in fits and starts, under leaders like Charlemagne and Alfred the Great. This is demonstrated in several of the books on my list. Science of course could not take off until society was stabilized, and it did still well in the Middle Ages, which is the period we are talking about. The 13th Century began 800+ years after Theodisius, not 1000, and is in fact part of the Middle Ages. And of course “creativity” is not limited to science — music, architecture, painting, poetry, mathematics, logic, philosophy — yes of course Medieval Europe was the most creative civilization the world had yet known. And yes, it was also far freer than the two competitors you have named, ironically, two of the greatest centers of human trafficking the world has ever known. (Song China and ancient Athens might be plausible rivals for creativity.)

          • Andy_Schueler

            You are an unreasonable fool and a fanatic and I have zero interest in wasting more time on you.

          • Honest_John_Law

            “Re slavery and serfdom – the “virtual end” of slavery again took almost a millenium after Christianity rose to power and the abolition of slavery can thus hardly be taken as credit for Christianity – especially because slavery was reinstated again in the new world, by Christians using the Bible to justify their atrocities. If you don´t blame Christianity for the latter it is more than a little hypocritical to praise it for the former (although it is indeed true that the status of slaves tended to improve in newly christianized regions, on average, and this could be taken as a credit for Christianity).” – Andy

            Andy, I think this is being somewhat generous to Christianity. Slavery was not officially abolished throughout the existing US until 1865 (when the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution was passed), and if the Confederate States had won the American Civil War prior to 1865, slavery well may have existed for longer in various states.

          • David Marshall
          • Honest_John_Law

            Christians were still openly advocating slavery in the US some 1,800+ years after Jesus walked the Earth. If the Confederate States had won the American Civll War, slavery may well have lasted longer in the New World than it did.

          • David Marshall

            I think I’ll let you “win” by sheer volume of blather. There’s obviously no chance in hell of talking sense into you, and we have almost no audience, so I won’t argue just for the fun of it. (Which it isn’t.)

            Whatever else you say in this long, long post, the fact that you end with the equation, the USA is to Mozambique in economic development, as Song China was to Medieval Europe in creativity, ought to be enough to show any posters here with a trace of historical sense or objectivity, just how far out into the tulies you have wandered. Yeah, walk around the old colleges of Oxford, down Roger Bacon Lane, past Merton College, up past Balliol: the Mozambique of pre-modern creativity, that was Medieval Europe. You may have some “zingers” in this post that rival even that one, hard as that is to believe, but I think I’ll look around and see if anyone has new comments that actually merit reply, first.

          • Andy_Schueler

            While we are talking about blathering:

            Whatever else you say in this long, long post, the fact that you end with the equation, the USA is to Mozambique in economic development, as Song China was to Medieval Europe in creativity, ought to be enough to show any posters here with a trace of historical sense or objectivity, just how far out into the tulies you have wandered. Yeah, walk around the old colleges of Oxford, down Roger Bacon Lane, past Merton College, up past Balliol: the Mozambique of pre-modern creativity, that was Medieval Europe. You may have some “zingers” in this post that rival even that one, hard as that is to believe, but I think I’ll look around and see if anyone has new comments that actually merit reply, first.

            127 words… 127 words that boil down to – “You´re wrong and stupid! I might have no arguments whatsoever beyond some pathetic red herrings, but you´re WRONG!”.
            ProTip: instead of wasting your and my time with this shit, you could have tried something along the line:
            1. “You´re right that there was next to zero scientific and technological progress for almost a millenium in medieval Europe, and it looks even worse if we discard everything that had already been discovered before or that was merely an import from the islamic world BUT, it was still one of the, if not the most creative civilization the world had so far seen because [insert argument here]”
            or:
            2. “You´re wrong about there being almost no scientific and technological progress in almost an entire millenium in medieval Europe, the rate of progress was actually higher than in any other civilization the world had so far seen because [insert argument here]”.

            See how easy that is? You´re welcome.

          • Honest_John_Law

            Andy, I am beginning to believe Mr. Polanco was better at making an argument than he is.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Yup, Mr. Polanco at least tried. David on the other hand seems to only be capable of producing verbiage full of mere assertions, red herrings and cherry pickings.

    • Just out of interest, David, have you actually read these 130 books? Because to read that many books on one subject only would take me, with my writing demands, about 20 years.

    • Just out of interest, David, have you actually read these 130 books? Because to read that many books on one subject only would take me, with my writing demands, about 20 years.

    • Just out of interest, David, have you actually read these 130 books? Because to read that many books on one subject only would take me, with my writing demands, about 20 years.

    • Just out of interest, David, have you actually read these 130 books? Because to read that many books on one subject only would take me, with my writing demands, about 20 years.

    • Just out of interest, David, have you actually read these 130 books? Because to read that many books on one subject only would take me, with my writing demands, about 20 years.

    • Just out of interest, David, have you actually read these 130 books? Because to read that many books on one subject only would take me, with my writing demands, about 20 years.

    • Just out of interest, David, have you actually read these 130 books? Because to read that many books on one subject only would take me, with my writing demands, about 20 years.

      • David Marshall

        Well, let’s see . . . I’ve read 75% of them pretty much cover-to-cover, 15% substantially, and about 10% just a few highly pertinent portions. One book, recommended by Doug, I haven’t read at all yet; another recommended by someone else, I bought and read since then.

        I’m not that young anymore, and I’m generally reading about ten books at a time. (And like you, writing several others.) But there are a few books that are especially important in that list, especially in the “overview” category. For a real quickie, though, look up Robert Woodberry’s article on missions and democracy, number 61.