One thing that differentiates Atheists from religious people is the recognition that regardless of the underlying religious doctrine, believing that one is doing things to please their God can make even good people descend into acts of unspeakable barbarity.
It is the ‘knowledge’ that one is the instrument of ‘The Almighty’ that gives people the impetus to leave their humanity behind and commit acts of unspeakable cruelty.
In many debates between famous theists and Atheists on the topic of morality: every single Christian apologists (whom I have seen – and I follow this a lot) states that ‘morality’ is what God commands.
As in, defining right from wrong is God’s prerogative – and God’s prerogative alone!
If that does not frighten you, the following bi should: many Christians truly and honestly believe that they have a personal relationship with Jesus and that he whispers right and wrong into their ears. And Jesus hardly ever whispers the same things to two different people….
Why am I going into this?
Well, non-Muslims are eager to prove – with actual quotations from their scriptures – that their faith could never be used to justify brutality in the name of their God.
Raise the Crusades with Christians and they’re apt to go off the handle about Muslim aggression and the Crusades being defensive wars. OK – that is true – for some crusades.
What about the Albigensian Crusade?
That one was fought by Catholics against Gnostic Christians who were non-violent and wanted nothing other than just to practice their own faith, without interference from the Catholics.
Or the immolation of Jan Hus and the subsequent Crusade to murder anyone who dared disagree with the immolation of the peace-loving priest? The suppression of the disciples of Hus got so brutal that simple folk would have no choice but to take up farm implements to protect themselves and their children from the aggression of the fully armoured, mounted, armed and militarily trained knights!!! Much of my own family – peaceful farmers who just happened to be in the path of the Crusaders and suspected of, may be, perhaps, because of their geopgraphic location, harbouring Hussite sympathies – were butchered in the most horrible ways possible.
These were not Muslim aggressors: these were peaceful Christians who just wanted to practice their faith unmolested by the Pope and his Church tyrants!
And, apart from wars: Christianity was used to impose a tyrannical system of peasantry on the majority of European populace: ‘as above, so below’ was the name of the doctrine which permitted the nobles to own their serfs, rape and kill them at will. It wasn’t until another one of my ancestors, Jan Sladky ‘Kozina’ invited his lord to God’s judgment – and won – that peasants realized that their suffering was not ‘God’s will’ and began the uprisings which eventually ended serfdom in Europe.
So, it comes as little surprise to me that Christianity has spawned its own ‘Christian Taliban’ group.
That is not my assessment: that is what they describe themselves as.
It’s here and it demonstrates that all belief in ‘divine-dictated-morality’ is necessarily going to lead even good people to do evil things.
But, don’t take my word for it: read all about it!
‘That’s the theory. In practice, Korchynsky wants the war in eastern Ukraine to be a religious war. In his view, you have to take advantage of the situation: Many people in Ukraine are dissatisfied with the new government, its broken institutions and endemic corruption. This can only be solved, he believes, by creating a national elite composed of people determined to wage a sort of Ukrainian jihad against the Russians.
“We need to create something like a Christian Taliban,” he told me. “The Ukrainian state has no chance in a war with Russia, but the Christian Taliban can succeed, just as the Taliban are driving the Americans out of Afghanistan.”
For Korchynsky and the St. Mary’s Battalion, the Great Satan is Russia.’
Nothing like a bit of a holy ‘war’…
March 18, 2015 at 20:30
I was half expecting to find a comment from God here saying that She agreed with this.
From my less certain mortal perspective, I could say that I agree in part and disagree in part with your arguments. The historical overview raises few concerns. It is simply interesting to note that radical Islam today is rather similar to radical Christianity about seven centuries ago (to perhaps three centuries ago, then things got slowly a bit more humane).
What is left out of your analysis is the revealing factum that political correctness is essentially liberal Christianity attempting to make amends for past bad behaviour in what would appear to me (and I am guessing to you) as a vast over-reaction on an epic scale (rhymes with epic fail).
Where I might disagree (as a believer) is on these two points. First of all, it is not my experience that Jesus whispers different things to different people, rather that our faith reveals truths to us that are often surprisingly similar from one person to another. What Solzhenitsyn perceived in the Gulag, authentic Christians perceived in the Nazi death camps, and to a lesser extent we see it in our own persecution by what we see as godless globalist elites (some have what is called a “measure of God” as in liberal Christian beliefs, but the headbanging truth of the matter is that liberal Christians often start by denying the divinity of Christ). In other words they are Buddhists who happen to venerate a philosopher known as Jesus of Nazareth. While one might think that a believer would say that was better than no faith, actually it is worse because it deludes people into thinking that they themselves are God. From that, many other unspeakable acts have flowed over the past century or two.
My other point of disagreement would be that God cannot be the foundation of morality. I think with respect that what you meant there was that since God does not exist, (s)He cannot be the foundation of morality. But then, if God does exist, what sort of entity would (s)He be if not qualified to be the foundation of morality? Just as we are the foundation of our children’s morality up to a certain age, so God is the foundation of our morality.
However you make a valid point when you say that people make rather large and depressing errors in what they assume God’s inspiration to be. The existence of human saints (you may have met one or two but take Mother Teresa as one example) reminds us that it is possible to get this right. Jesus preached good guidelines for the highest form of living and it is not His fault if people read that and go off on some tangent to burn Korans or do the idiotic things that the Westboro Baptist nutters do, or even whatever was going on a generation ago in Ireland.
Now as to this Ukrainian situation, I think that may be a combination of somewhat distorted Christian discernment and sheer exasperation with the Russians who just don’t seem to get that they are not wanted all over the world to run things for other people (especially as they are so bad at it in their own country). At least when the Germans rolled in, you had the understanding that they had succeeded somewhere before.
Now to listen to my Mozart and Beethoven … and you say there is no God.
Really, what are you thinking? Give God a chance, you might be pleasantly surprised.
March 19, 2015 at 18:47
Of course, if I lived in Ottawa I might be more inclined towards atheism, it must seem God-forsaken at this time of year. As I once lived in Peterborough county, I know whereof I speak. So I was only a believer eleven months of the year until moving out here. 🙂
May 26, 2015 at 07:37
So, were the “liberals in a hurry” so beloved by American New Dealers back in the 1940’s an “atheist Taliban”?
The 20th century murdered roughly 169,000,000 people in the names of “progress”, “dialectic”, “liberation” and other such godlettes. In the names of the same, it displaced and imprisoned many more. Indeed, it caused more such suffering in the space of one century than Christianity did in 15 between the conversion of Constantine and _Ruggles v. New York_ (an 1811 case in which the State Supreme Court of NY upheld the imprisonment of Nicholas Ruggles for blasphemy against Jesus Christ).
I really get tired of the post-Christian crowd crowing about how peaceful and open-minded and tolerant it is. I suspect that a lot of the Feminazi-ism and other idiocies of the Left that you decry in these pages is in fact an “atheism” (actuallly, worship of a host of man-made god-lettes) showing where it is leading.
May 27, 2015 at 21:40
Perhaps we have a difference in opinion that is grounded in our deeply divided understanding of the underlying principles.
I understand the term ‘religion’ to be as defined in Jungian terms: whether it is theistic or atheistic is secondary and really quite irrelevant to the behaviour of its adherents. Rather, all dogma-based doctrines that put belief and loyalty to the dogmas above empirical evidence are, in my never-humble-opinion, religions.
That puts Christianity into the same category as progressivism, feminism and all them thingies you decry.
Atheism is a word that was created: as such, it was created with a very specific definition. It means ‘absence of belief in deities’.
It does not mean ‘belief there is no god’ (its most common misuse), nor does it imply any other positive belief, which you describe it to be.
Personally, I think I am most accurately described as an ignostic: I am incapable of arriving at any plausible yet functional definition of what ‘god(s)’ or ‘the divine’ may possibly be, so how can I possibly form any coherent opinion set on the subject!?!?!
May 28, 2015 at 15:50
Welcome to the fray!
You have stepped square into the middle of an on-going debate between Xanthippa and me.
I claim that
(1) the structure of the human psyche is such that people need religion, so if you ban religion, people will subconsciously (therefore uncritically) replace it with something else,
(2) that the problems associated with religion are not caused by religious faith, but by evil people who exploit man’s need for religious faith much as they exploit man’s other needs, and
(3) if you take away the mysticism (as Marxists and other secular Edenists do), the abuses get worse because the masquerade of rational belief seduces people into dropping their guard against fanaticism.
Xanthippa argues the opposite.
Here are some links to most of what we have said on the subject:
Wired for Religion: the title speaks for itself.
Free Saudi Liberals: morphed into a fascinating discussion of “science vs. religion” when a very thoughtful Muslim joined the conversation.
10 Women Christian Men Shouldn’t Marry: contains two interesting threads of conversation; one here about traditional religious vs. secular feminist views of relations between men and women, and another here about the importance of the ten commandments.
Christian equivalent of the ‘uncovered meat’ comment: also contains two threads of discussion; one about feminism vs. religion regarding rape here, and one here about the eternal mysteries, which you need not even be religious to revere, but which modern “positivism” denies.
May 28, 2015 at 19:20
While CodeSlinger may be right about me arguing the exact opposite of the three points he himself has made, I would rather like to think that my position is slightly more nuanced than that. Please, permit me to encapsulate my points into three points that correspond to CodeSlingers, but that describe what it is I think I am arguing for:
1) Humans have logic and conscious thought which, through self-discipline, allows us to control our baser impulses. Desire for religion is one such baser desire of our psyche – but one that is so destructive that we must teach all people, from earliest childhood, the tools they will need through life to fight against this base and dangerous desire for religion.
2) Problems associated with religions are caused by ‘faith’. Not ‘religious faith’ but by ‘faith-based decision-making’ rather than ‘evidence-based decision-making’. It really does not matter whether the faith is directed towards religion or politics of faux-science: if people are self-indulgent enough to permit wishful thinking to rule their decisions, they they should be called out and shamed for it: not rewarded and held up as ‘pious’ or ‘spiritual’. ‘Faith’ is simply one self-indulgence humanity needs to outgrow!
3) There is no such thing as mysticism or mysteries or divine/sublime – and pretending there is is either self-delusion or intentional fraud. And defrauding people, regardless of how noble that goal might be, is simply wrong and immoral and not to be tolerated. The end never justifies the means: the means define the end!
As you see, there is a slight difference in what I think am saying to what CodeSlinger understands me to be saying….and perhaps the error is mine. Please, do consider this to be an as accurate-as-possible formulation of my positions as I think I am capable of expressing.
May 29, 2015 at 00:45
You write “we must teach all people, from earliest childhood, the tools they will need through life to fight against this base and dangerous desire for religion.”
People have made the same claim about our base desire for sex. Or power. Or, well, any of our base desires. If only we could be completely rational and stamp out these base desires, we would reach utopia: Heaven on Earth. Or so goes the claim.
Man is, indeed a rational animal. But it is a serious mistake to be over-zealous in elevating rationality above animality. In fact, this is the core mistake made by everyone who thinks he can create a utopia, whether religious or secular.
Some of our greatest virtues – love, mercy and conscience, or example – are not rational. They are rooted in our limbic system, which is part of our animality.
Some of man’s greatest achievements were, and continue to be, driven by the basest motives. To wit, all of the world’s great art, architecture, science, and technology – with very, very few exceptions.
This will always be the case, as long as we are human.
Without our animality, we are not fully human.
This is why, in matters relating to human beings and their ways of living with nature and with each other, I always advocate reason tempered with compassion, and never either one alone.
Human well-being is maximized by finding the optimal balance between rationality and animality, not by pitting them against each other.
May 29, 2015 at 00:52
You write “problems associated with religions are caused by ‘faith’. Not ‘religious faith’ but by ‘faith-based decision-making’ rather than ‘evidence-based decision-making’.”
But faith per se is not the problem. Misplaced faith is the problem.
We have all seen little guys who would not quit win over big guys who thought they couldn’t lose. It happens all the time. But how does it happen?
It’s because of faith – on both sides.
On the one side, the victory was made possible by having enough faith; on the other side, defeat was brought on by having too much faith.
The problem is, we cannot know which is which until after the fact.
Xanthippa, you will find yourself hard pressed to name anyone more supportive of evidence-based reasoning than I am. But if Gödel has taught us anything, it is never to mistake what is merely provable for what is actually true.
Not all truths are accessible to rational proof.
In life, there are many situations in which all the evidence in the world is no replacement for simple faith. Faith allows us to endure what would otherwise be unendurable, and achieve what would otherwise be unachievable.
Like all our faculties, faith can be a great strength, or a great weakness.
It all depends on how we use it.
May 29, 2015 at 00:55
You write “there is no such thing as mysticism or mysteries…”
I have explicitly named several of the eternal mysteries in our conversations. Consciousness, for one. The fact that anything at all exists, for another. The difference between time and space, for a third. The simultaneous greatness and wretchedness of the human condition, for a fourth. Need I go on?
These are all true mysteries: they will never be fully explained.
You can state flatly that there is nothing mysterious about them.
But there is.
We don’t understand them, so they are mysteries.
We will never fully understand them, so the mysteries are eternal.
An eternal mystery does not necessarily involve the supernatural or magical.
It does necessarily involve the ineffable or inexpressible.
Indeed, it is precisely by letting go of the supernatural and embracing the ineffable that religiosity evolves from primitive, concrete rituals of sympathetic magic to advanced, abstract contemplation of the eternal mysteries.