We received from Jeremy Biffert three letters at the same time, and respond to them separately. These files are not a dialogue, although subsequent dialogue ensued on this one.
One more letter,
Those who would seek to do away with God on the basis of scientific truth must also sacrifice the possibility that love itself exists. Love defies all full human understanding yet exists, known to everyone without proof. It is easily the most sought after and abused human need. It is more than spiritual, more than physical, more than thought. God is Love and when you seek to slay God you also run love upon the sword of your rejection of the truth. The statement God is Love makes no logical sense to the human mind and yet the heart can know it is true. If one can know that they are capable of Love then one can know that they are capable of knowing God and understanding His love for them.
This is the simple answer to the claim that a good God could not exist given human suffering. Human suffering proves God’s love. Think about the nature of love. When you love someone do you force them to love you back? No, you can’t, if you do you violate your love for that person. God has loved us in this way. He has given us the ability to reject truth and create evil if we so choose. He has also made Himself and His ways known to people not only through His word in the Bible but also through our hearts, our consciences. The beautiful thing is that God’s love and mercy run deeper than the evil humans have created for themselves in this world, even inside of the context of organized religion. The evil that humans are capable of can never extinguish the eternal nature of God’s love and mercy. The truth of God’s love is greater than the church, greater than what anyone believes it to be and certainly greater than the misrepresentation that has happened during events such as the Inquisition. It is greater even than our sin. And doesn’t this simply make sense? Think of our own love. . . when you love someone and they do something to hurt you do you simply turn your back on them, curse them and hope that they die. Probably not, you go to the person and explain that the way they treated you hurt and hope that they will acknowledge that they have harmed you and not do it again. What if they tell you to go and piss off? Well maybe you try a couple more times and then give up go away and hope that they come to their senses. In the mean time this person is running around believing that their harmful behaviour isn’t really harmful! This is exactly what God is doing with most of humanity! Except that I believe He tries infinitely harder to get through to each of us and reveal His truth, His forgiveness and guidance for moral living. His truth, you say, how ridiculous well, of course it is His truth. If God created the Universe and everything in it then He also created truth, this is just a given and has to be accepted if you know that God exists. We don’t make up truth as we go along in life, we can discover it, walk in it, be set free by it but we can’t make it up. When we try to make it up we make up a lie. OK, lets just say that the person you love does acknowledge that they have harmed you and they are sorry about it, in fact they hope that they never do that thing to you again. In that moment your relationship can be reconciled if you choose to forgive the person. The way they treat you after that will reveal if they truly believed the way they had treated you was wrong or if they just wanted to gain your approval in the hopes that they could continue benefitting from your relationship. It is sad but this is how many of us Christians live, not really repenting and hoping to reap the benefits of God’s mercy. It doesn’t work however because God will not be mocked or used. Anyway, a truly repentant friend will try to not treat you in the harmful way anymore. So what was it that reconciled the relationship? It was the sincere acknowledgment of wrong doing coupled with forgiveness. Makes since doesn’t it? This is exactly what a relationship with God through Jesus Christ looks like. We acknowledge sin, trust that we are forgiven because Christ gave his life for us and prove that we have repented by changing our behaviour. The truth that we can be forgiven is what gives us the hope for right relationship with God. If you wronged a friend and knew that your friendship was lost and believed that your friend would never forgive you even if you did apologize then that relationship would be lost forever. Thank goodness this is not the case with humanity and God.
I’m not sure if this will make sense to you or not. I am trying to be as simple as possible. Faith in Christ has much deeper aspects to it than this but this is the foundation. I discovered this through reading Matthew in the New Testament. I knew I was a sinner and trusted God to forgive. He’s proved Himself to me consistently, through good times and bad for the last five years. Heck, in retrospect, even in my weakest most doubtful moments He was still right there with me. Knowing this is what makes Christians such nut cases when it comes to sharing our faith. Most of us know the truth and know that if it applies to us then it applies to everyone else also. There is a fine line between living your faith and slam dunking it down someone’s throat though. Anyway, I hope that you will continue to point the finger at un-Christlike behaviour in the church. Your knowledge of Christ’s teaching should at least give you an idea of what faith being lived out should look like.
Forgiveness is the foundation of Love,
You don’t have to believe in God to know that this is true,
From: “Positive Atheism Magazine”
To: “Jeremy Biffert”
Date: Friday, April 13, 2001
Those who would seek to do away with God on the basis of scientific truth must also sacrifice the possibility that love itself exists.
This is a good one! Science is a method for discerning truth from error, the best we’ve thus far encountered in our brief history as a species.
Love is a human abstraction among other things, and does not exist apart from the emotions, thoughts, desires, and passions of humans. You cannot isolate love from humanity and still have love: the human component is necessary for love to exist.
I can’t wait to hear your defense of this position. I promise not to read ahead for the answer this time, but will comment line by line, discovering each new point you make only after I have finished the previous one.
Love defies all full human understanding yet exists, known to everyone without proof.
Perhaps the uniquely Christian “Love” claims to “defy all full human understanding” but most who study human behavior, especially as relates to neuroscience, think they have a pretty good grasp of the mechanisms that establish the purely human emotions that many people try to mystify by calling “love.” Fortunately for us, and for our prospects for discovering truth, almost all who try to mystify human love in this manner fall into one of two categories: (1) poets; (2) people who are trying to sell other people on a specific religious dogma. This makes it very easy to see where the attempts to mystify religion will take a person, and that if we simply apply ourselves, we can understand human love in a manner similar to the way we can learn about gravity, positron-electron pairs, natural selection, how nervous a system allows an organism to distinguish between its own body and that which is not its own body, and almost any other legitimate question that may come to a person who is stricken with insatiable curiosity tempered with that unique sense of honesty which marks a scientist.
For you to so carefully qualify your statement in terms like “full human understanding” shows your colors: absolutely no concept enjoys “full human understanding” simply because of the fallible nature of the human mind. So, if something must have “full human understanding” in order to exist, then nothing exists.
It is easily the most sought after and abused human need.
I don’t see how you can justify calling it a “need.”
It is more than spiritual, more than physical, more than thought.
Wha? Are we talking about the same thing, here? or are you trying to mystify what you’re talking about in order to sell me on your religious dogma?
God is Love
Ah! So God is not Jesus Christ after all! Goody! I hate that guy and am real glad that He’s not God!
God is Love and when you seek to slay God you also run love upon the sword of your rejection of the truth.
Also, please demonstrate to me that I have rejected the truth. Be sure to show your work. It’s cheap and easy to simply assert that I’ve rejected the truth, so I want you to back up your claim. Since I don’t think you will do this, I accuse you of slander in advance, and will apologize with a retraction of this accusation upon your having backed up your statement about me.
The statement God is Love makes no logical sense to the human mind and yet the heart can know it is true.
So, if it makes no logical sense (that is, it’s nonsense), then why are you so earnest that I believe it? Why should I believe nonsense (that which makes no logical sense)? More importantly, how can I believe nonsense? If it makes no sense, then I cannot formulate it into a statement that I can say, “This is what I believe” or “This is not something that I believe.” My usual reaction to nonsense such as the Christian religion is to try to ignore it. There are some Christians, though, whom I consider to be monumental pests, who simply will not leave me alone about it. By invading my privacy, they take from me what I feel is my right to ignore their pestilence (or whatever the dictionaries call the act of being a pest).
For someone to know that something is true, that proposition must first be true. Otherwise, the accurate way to say it is that someone thinks something is true.
You appear to be quite uneducated about human biology. The human mind contains billions of cells arranged and trained in such a way as to pull off thought (however flawed or inadequate that process may be in some individuals). The human heart, on the other hand, is almost solid muscle, and cannot pull off anything but rhythmic contraction — which itself is governed by the human brain.
If one can know that they are capable of Love then one can know that they are capable of knowing God and understanding His love for them.
There’s that capitalized Christian “Love” again.
If I can know that I am capable of removing the colorful foil from egg-shaped pieces of chocolate, then the Easter Bunny must therefore exist. What you have done is argue in a circle. You define “Love” as something vaguely to do with God, and then say that God can be understood only through this “Love.” However, the “Love” that you describe, in the case of the Evangelical Christian way of thinking, amounts to little more than obedience to a religious dogma. It has little if anything to do with the purely human emotion that some call love.
You have made no case for your assumption that a god exists, you have merely spoken as if we both agree that your god exists. You have said absolutely nothing.
Just as many Christians shun physical masturbation because it does not result in bringing new young ones into the Christian fold, so do many rationalists disdain mental masturbation because it does not result in bringing new understanding into the base of human knowledge.
This is the simple answer to the claim that a good God could not exist given human suffering.
What you have said is far from simple. In fact, you even admitted that it “defies understanding” and “makes no logical sense to the human mind.”
Human suffering proves God’s love.
This is a good one! I can’t wait to hear your defense of this position. I promise not to read ahead for the answer this time, either, but will comment line by line, discovering each new point you make only after I have finished the previous one.
Think about the nature of love.
But you just told me that it “defies understanding” and “makes no logical sense to the human mind.”
Think about the nature of love. When you love someone do you force them to love you back? No, you can’t, if you do you violate your love for that person. God has loved us in this way.
Howso? by threatening to send us into the fiery pits of the Christian Hell for eternity if we don’t love Him? I don’t think I could love a Jesus who would do that to anybody — even if I were somehow exempted from this Hell-fire contingency and were allowed to love Him voluntarily, on His own merits, and spontaneously, from the depths of my own being. Just as I could never love a rapist even if he were my own biological father — even it that were how I came about! — I cannot love a god who would send His subjects to the Christian Hell for any reason. This is particularly the case if the only “crime” which earns that punishment is the crime of not loving Him. For all that he did, not even Hitler deserves the Christian Hell. But according to the legend, the gods of the Christian religion will send a bloke to the Christian Hell simply for not loving the one or more of the gods of the Christian religion.
I will go along with the part about Christians rejecting truth and creating evil. I’m not so sure about the part about the Christian gods having given us this ability.
But the Christian Church has created much evil in her 2,000 years. Perhaps you do well to study your heritage as a Christian. A good place to start would be by reading the work by the brilliant historian William Edward Hartpole Lecky, called History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe (3rd edition, 1878). I had to go into therapy — literally — after typesetting that work for the Web, I found it so utterly upsetting to read what the Christians thought their gods had told them to do to my ancestors and ideological forebears. Another work that is perhaps easier to grasp is The Dark Side of Christian History by Helen Ellerbe, particularly the chapters “Controlling the Human Spirit: The Inquisition and Slavery” and “The Witch Hunts: The End of Magic and Miracles.”
Again, I spent several weeks in almost constant dread after typesetting these chapters for the print edition, simply because I cannot fathom a group such as the Christian Church obeying the commands of brutal gods such as Jesus Christ and his Father, who allegedly ordered their followers to “go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:) This is the same God of Love who inspired the faggot and the stake when He is alleged to have said, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:6). It doesn’t matter whether or not he really said these things or even whether He actually went to and fro in the Earth and walked up and down in it — or whether he even existed at all — the sad fact is that the Christians thought these were His commandments to them. The Christians gleefully obeyed these orders to force us to become Christian upon penalty of violence at the hands of the State. And if we did not go along with their butchery, they tied us to poles and lit us on fire — slow fires to give us more of a chance to repent — but only after ripping out our tongues first so that we could make no statements which might prove embarrassing to the Church.
And if you think I’m twisting the meaning of these passages, you best study your heritage as a Christian, because these are the very passages that the Christians used for centuries to justify what RH Robbins called “the shocking nightmare, the foulest crime and deepest shame of Western civilization.”
Keep in mind that you have a religion to practice today because these things took place back then. Had the Christian religion been allowed to contend against the other philosophies and outlooks and claims to truth, it would, today, be a faint whisp of memory on the historical scale. The Christian religion’s supremacy owes itself only to the systematic brutality inflicted upon my ancestors and ideological forebears.
How soon we forget: The Inquisition spanned centuries and was still officially active in some places as late as 1834. The witch hunts likewise spanned centuries and both extermination efforts crossed the Atlantic. I doubt I’ll live to see the bicentennial of the end of the Christian Inquisition. And this was not merely a Roman Catholic thing: Luther, Calvin, Knox, and their followers were not any less brutal in spreading the “Good News” of Christ’s “Love” for humanity and “winning souls” for their role model.
If an all-powerful deity allowed His children to make such a choice, He can only be described as an ogre. I have a better explanation: God was not there to prevent His children from committing this madness because He does not exist.
As for rejecting truth, tell me this: When was it established that the Earth is a globe and not flat, as it appears to the unaided mind? Try B.C.E. 600. Aristotle showed that the shadow on the moon during an eclipse is always curved, and this would not likely be the case were Earth any shape other than a globe. When was it known approximately how large the Earth is? Try B.C.E. 400. By B.C.E. 200, the philosophers (what scientists were called back then) at Alexandria had even determined that the Earth is not a perfect globe, and had make a remarkably accurate calculation as to how far off it is from being a perfect globe. This was groundbreaking because Aristotle had some unjustified presuppositions about everything in “the heavens” being a perfect circle or orbiting in a perfect circle. He based these views on his religious ideas about Earthly realm being imperfect but “the heavens” being perfect.
When was the first steam engine invented? Again, during the third century B.C.E., Hero, another Alexandrian philosopher (scientist), had developed a two-piston steam engine. It didn’t do anything except turn a wheel, to demonstrate how it worked, because Hero lacked the confidence to think he could forge metal strong enough to build an engine powerful enough to pull the weight of itself, its cargo, and its fuel.
The library at Alexandria had hundreds of thousands of volumes. The civilization in the Roman empire enjoyed a level of tolerance and democracy that we Americans and Europeans only pretend to have today. The infrastructure was impeccable, as was the aqueduct system and many other things that we take for granted today. Unfortunately, Rome was very Imperialistic, and this Imperialism got the best of more than a few Caesars. One emperor, Constantine, noticed that his men, who had practiced the popular Persian religion Mithraism, were converting in hordes to this new whip-start of a religion, Christianity.
This is because Christianity mimicked Mithraism in all but one detail: Mithraism was more poetic than anything, and did not capture the imagination to the point where its practitioners would abandon their own personal autonomy and sense of human dignity for the sake of the religion. In all other respects, though — down to the birth-date of the human god-man-savior who was born of a virgin and died for the sins of mankind and was raised on the third day — Christianity was an almost complete adaptation of Mithraism, combined heavily with elements of the also-popular Gnosticism, salted with the ethics of Confucianism and Buddhism (also widely practiced in the Eastern Mediterranean as early as the second century B.C.E.), hung upon the history of the Hebrew people, and modeled after the life story of one of her failed political Messiahs named Jesus.
But Constantine was alert enough to see that Christianity is a religion that’s made-to-order when it comes to subjugating the masses and instilling loyalty to the State. So he did what any would-be ruler would do: he latched on to the Christian doctrine, calling Christianity his own religion, and became what Americans today would call a Republican. When he won the “election” (read: “war”), he immediately implemented his campaign promises to make Christianity the State religion, using rhetoric that was similar to that later used by another megalomaniac who wishes to repeat history. The Byzantine Empire tried to keep some semblance of Greek culture and the love for human learning alive, but this did not last long because God Himself was on the side of ignorance and savagery. The Church gained absolute power shortly after the Christian god sent the plague, which killed over 100 million Europeans, driving the survivors into the clutches of the Christian clergy and decimating Europe to an extent from which she never fully recovered.
Before this, though, the Christians, with their loathing for anything human and everything material (everything that wasn’t “spiritual”), wiped out all the major libraries and schools and philosophical gardens, burning the library at Alexandria, and butchering, among others, the brilliant scientist Hypatia for violating the commandment that a woman should never teach a man. A mob of Christian monks fell upon her and hacked her to death with oyster shells. The aqueduct system fell into disrepair because Christians taught that the human body was not something we should nurture — or even bathe. The Earth became flat again because that’s how the Bible describes it, and what little medicine the followers of Hippocrates had developed was verboten, as was any research into medicine, particularly obstetrics. The history of the world was rewritten by Eusebius to reflect the Christian “spin,” and any evidence which contradicted the Christian version of reality was systematically destroyed. That which could not be completely blotted out was edited.
All this continues today, to one extent or the other, but only where the victims of Christianity allow it to continue. The same thinking that butchered Hypatia now brutalizes women’s health-care providers. The same thinking that wrote Eusebius’s “history” now calls Washington, Lincoln, and Einstein pious believers in the Judaeo-Christian deity and tells lie after lie about evolution and the Big Bang. Christianity cannot stand on her own merits, so her adherents must lie and brutalize and inflict their religion upon us by force of law. They cannot trust their religion to change the hearts of even her own adherents, so they put little reminders on our nation’s money just to keep their own people in line (and maybe gain one or two converts over the past 50 years since that bald-faced lie was placed our currency during the frenzied anti-Communist anti-atheist hysteria of the McCarthy era). They were no longer allowed to “lynch niggers” because the public began to openly frown on that “sport,” so they needed a new victim — and they found one in the form of my immediate cultural predecessors.
The cultural revolution of the 1960s quieted them down a bit, but they returned in full force during the Reagan era, and the new victim has become the drug user, who now gets it in newly carved orifices unheard of since the Christian Inquisition.
So science, medicine, mechanics, commerce, public utilities, government, Liberty, dignity — and even the very shape of the Earth — all took a big bath for about 15 centuries as a direct result of the government of Rome deciding to become a “Christian nation.” Only the Enlightenment’s emphasis on human rationalism and human Liberty — particularly Liberty of the press — brought the more vicious elements of the Christian suppression of intellectual inquiry to an end.
If an all-powerful deity allowed His children to make such a choice, He can only be described as an ogre. I have a better explanation: God was not there to prevent His children from committing this madness because He does not exist.
He has also made Himself and His ways known to people not only through His word in the Bible but also through our hearts, our consciences.
Speak for yourself: I have read the Christian Bible twelve times, now, and my conscience gives me a very clear message that opposing the government institutionalization of Christian morality is a struggle that is so crucial to the welfare of humanity that it is worth the sacrifice of my quality of life in the form of enduring bigotry to effect a change. It would also be worth my very life itself if my martyrdom could vividly display the madness that is institutionalized Christianity.
This is what my conscience tells me. If your god exists and has said that He has revealed to all that the Christian scheme is a good thing, worthy of support and institutionalization, then we have an exception in my case, and your deity is not all-powerful. And I suspect that I’m not alone: there are more nontheists (“weak” and “strong” atheists combined) in the world than there are Roman Catholics, and there are almost as many nontheists as there are Protestants, Roman Catholics, and “fringe” Christians (such as Mormons and Christian Science practitioners) put together.
It was this argument that plagued me the most during my brief stint as a Bible-believing Christian: If God writes His law on the hearts of all people, and if this law clearly includes the prospect of burning in the Christian Hell for eternity, where their worm dieth not and there is not a drop of water to soothe a parched tongue, then why would anybody take any risk that could possibly land them in the Christian perdition? Nobody in their right mind would knowingly take this risk, so therefore no God implanted this knowledge into the minds of all humans — at least, this cannot be said to have been done very effectively.
I say that no such God even exists: this explanation fits all of the facts, whereas your explanation raises more problems than it even seeks to answer, and it ends up failing in its attempt to answer any of the problems it pretends to address.
The beautiful thing is that God’s love and mercy run deeper than the evil humans have created for themselves in this world, even inside of the context of organized religion. The evil that humans are capable of can never extinguish the eternal nature of God’s love and mercy.
But why is God’s love and mercy not powerful or compelling enough to extinguish the evil?
I think this is because no such thing as the Christian godhead exists to extinguish any evil.
The truth of God’s love is greater than the church, greater than what anyone believes it to be and certainly greater than the misrepresentation that has happened during events such as the Inquisition. It is greater even than our sin.
This is cute poetry, but if you can coax the Roman Catholic church to cough up some of the sealed government records of what took place during the Inquisition, humanity will be all the better for it.
But your god’s love is not greater than “sin” because, according to the Christian scheme of salvation, “sin” still prevails in the world: the vast majority of humans who will ever live will have existed only to become, collectively, a cosmic pickup truck stacked full of wooden shipping pallets and heading to the beach to feed The Great Bonfire For Jesus — according to the legends, anyway.
And doesn’t this simply make sense?
It’s not supposed to make sense! It’s faith! Don’t ya know what faith is? Faith is when you believe somethin’ that nobody in their right mind would believe!
— Archie Bunker
You said as much yourself, above, when you pointed out that it “defies understanding” and “makes no logical sense to the human mind.”
If one must understand the convoluted scheme of Christian Salvation in order to avoid taking a very long ride on The Rotisserie Of Righteousness, then we’re all screwed because nobody has been able to explain the Cross of Christ to me and still admit that they fully understand what they’re talking about. As for me, after hearing it explained to me over a thousand different times by as many different people, I’m still completely clueless. You’ve been no help, as your attempt at explaining these things is as confused as any I’ve heard.
Think of our own love ... when you love someone and they do something to hurt you do you simply turn your back on them, curse them and hope that they die.
But the Christian godhead (according to the theory, anyway) does just this to people who do not “abide” in Him (John 15:1-6). Jesus cursed a damned fig tree for gaud sakes!
The “Love” in the Christian scheme of Salvation amounts to nothing more than obedience to Christ — coerced obedience out of fear of going to the Christian Hell or enticed obedience in hopes of going to the Christian Heaven. This is not morality. This Cosmic Bribery may effect proper behavior in some people, but it cannot rightly be called moral behavior by any standard. Morality involves doing something because it’s the right thing to do; morality never involves doing something as a means to obtain personal gain (the Christian Heaven) or to avoid personal loss (the Christian Hell). Acceptable or commendable behavior inspired by the Christian Plan of Righteousness is rightly called proper but it is not rightly called moral. Only acceptable or commendable behavior that was done because it was the right thing to do can be called both proper and moral.
Probably not, you go to the person and explain that the way they treated you hurt and hope that they will acknowledge that they have harmed you and not do it again. What if they tell you to go and piss off? Well maybe you try a couple more times and then give up go away and hope that they come to their senses.
Not always. I assume that most people know what they’re doing. If it’s clear that the person is just plain ignorant, I might bother with an explanation; otherwise, I assume that people do things out of deliberate choice, knowing what risks are in store and knowing the possible and likely consequences of their actions.
If someone threatens me with physical violence, that’s it. I don’t go back. I’ve only ever forgiven one person for this, but it was never the same. Ditto for stealing from me. If I know somebody has raped someone, that’s it. I won’t go there. Period. End of discussion. Don’t even ask. “Cliff’s List Of Mortal Sins” is not all that long, but I’ve never regretted the loss of anybody who has crossed that very distinct and wholly uncontroversial line. I’m much more lenient with bigotry against me, because I know that line to be somewhat fuzzy.
If such a person works as a checkout clerk, and theirs is the shortest line at the supermarket, I’ll wait in the longer line; if theirs is the only line, I might go through it, but I won’t say anything apart from stuff like “paper bags, please,” and “it’s a credit card.” I’ll be polite in a business sense, but I won’t look them in the eye; rather, I’ll glance right above the top of their forehead, which is the proper and dignified way to treat someone you loathe when the social situation gives you have no choice and when your personal views are rightly kept to yourself.
But I never take any action of this kind without being reasonably assured that I have all the facts. If I know that I don’t have all the facts, I’ll presume innocence and simply remain alert. There are plenty of people who might wish to be friends to these individuals: I am not one of them.
In the mean time this person is running around believing that their harmful behaviour isn’t really harmful!
No. I presuppose that people know what they’re doing and that they fully accept the consequences of their behavior — unless I can make a very clear case otherwise, or unless the line is fuzzy (such as bigotry). If someone steals from me or threatens me with physical violence, they do not want to be my friend — they do not want to have anything to do with me. It’s as simple as that. I don’t need to speculate as to what’s “really” going on in their mind, because their behavior is all I really have to go on and their behavior tells the whole story (as far as I need to be concerned with it, anyway).
This is exactly what God is doing with most of humanity!
That’s too bad.
At least it would be if there were such thing as a God. Fortunately for all of us, it’s a simple matter to dismiss the Christian god-claim as pure fiction.
Except that I believe He tries infinitely harder to get through to each of us and reveal His truth, His forgiveness and guidence for moral living.
This cannot be the case — even accepting the theory for the sake of discussion — because (according to the theory), there is such a place as the Christian Hell. Only a fraction of humans even call themselves Christians, and slightly under half of all adult humans cannot even identify the Christian cross among a group of marketing logos. And of that fraction of humans who call themselves Christians, only a drop in the bucket accept the scheme that you here describe. The bulk of Christians are Roman Catholics who have a completely different view of what it takes to be saved from the Christian Hell, and most Protestants are not Evangelical Bible-believing Christians but are either Liberals or Calvinists. Evangelical Christianity is, for the most part, a uniquely American phenomenon.
So, the Christian god is virtually powerless when it comes to getting through to humans.
Or — the Christian god does not exist outside of the fruitful imaginations of Christians.
His truth, you say, how ridiculous well, of course it is His truth. If God created the Universe and everything in it then He also created truth, this is just a given and has to be accepted if you know that God exists.
If it is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:11) because truth is defined as whatever God says, then we are all just a bunch of marionettes: morality equals obedience to God, and there is no intrinsic right or wrong because right and wrong is what God says it is. Morality is therefore subjective and we’re on the slippery slope to situational ethics, albeit on a cosmic scale. God cannot even be called “good” because there is nothing apart from God against which we may assess God’s character.
If it is impossible for God to lie because God is Himself a moral being, then God Himself is subject to something greater than Himself, something that can be seen as involving intrinsic morality.
If it is impossible for God to lie because God does not exist, but is, rather, a primitive human conceptual invention, then we have none of these problems, because morality is likewise a human social construction, tailored in concert with the manner in which evolution has seen fit to build the human mind. Of course, the social construction of the god myth is also tailored in concert with the manner in which evolution has seen fit to build the human mind, as is shown in the new book by Dr. Andrew Newberg, Why God Won’t Go Away (see the April, 2001, issue of Positive Atheism Magazine).
One part of the human social construction of morality is based upon the limitations of the human mind and body surviving in a partially friendly and partially hostile environment. Another part of the human social construction of morality is the result of natural selection (that is, it is itself naturally selected), in that certain behaviors almost guarantee that no offspring will survive to pass on those traits.
This neatly explains the human characteristic of nurturing, because the human spends a larger percentage of its life span as a helpless infant and child than any other species. Chimpanzees spend a slightly smaller percentage of their life span in this helpless state, and each of the kittens that I’ve ever raised has caught a mouse by the age of three months and knew what birds were long before then. But even the cats groom and nurture one another as adults (except the grey one, who is probably a purebred).
We don’t make up truth as we go along in life, we can discover it, walk in it, be set free by it but we can’t make it up. When we try to make it up we make up a lie.
I don’t understand why so many people cannot accept that they do not know or do not have enough information to warrant assenting to a claim, but will readily assent to the wildest claims nonetheless.
This is why I do not go along with the Christian god-claims, there is not enough to justify believing that what the Christians are telling me is true. It is more honest of me to say I don’t know or I don’t think so. I would never claim that the Christian god exists because I could never even come close to defending that claim.
is an established maxim and moral that he who makes an assertion without knowing whether it is true or false is guilty of falsehood, and the accidental truth of the assertion does not justify or excuse him.
— Abraham Lincoln, chiding the editor of a Springfield, Illinois, newspaper
OK, lets just say that the person you love does acknowledge that they have harmed you and they are sorry about it, in fact they hope that they never do that thing to you again. In that moment your relationship can be reconciled if you choose to forgive the person.
If I love someone, the relationship does not need reconciliation. If that person would steal from me or rape someone, I’d be hard-pressed to convince myself (or anybody else, for that matter) that my relationship to that person involved anything called “love.”
But let’s say that they could even restore things to the way they were: they still haven’t undone the fact that they did it. If someone stole from me, I still live with an element of distrust not only for that person, but for all people who pretend to be my friends. And you cannot un-rape someone or un-murder someone.
I don’t understand your concept of forgiveness. I mean, I understand what you’re trying to say, and can grasp the concept you’re trying to convey, but I cannot fathom holding those values. In short, I find your concept of forgiveness reprehensible.
I can accept that people change, and that they make a conscious decision never to repeat a certain behavior. And I can accept people on those terms. I do not shoplift. But I have shoplifted when I was so crippled that it was the only way for me to get food, when walking five blocks on an icy sidewalk from my icy hovel to the supermarket was half a day’s work, and walking back sapped the rest of the day’s energy from me. And if I were to again become as helpless as I was, I might shoplift again. But under normal circumstances, I won’t even take the pen that the supermarket clerk hands to you when you sign your check. Nevertheless, the department store dick is fully justified in following me around every time I enter the store: he doesn’t know me, but only knows my reputation — my distant past. I know that his merchandise is perfectly safe, but I cannot expect him to see things the same way because I do have a history of having shoplifted in the past. I also know that I am capable of shoplifting again under certain, specific conditions, such as crippling disease combined with utter poverty and the angst of hopeless despair (“What are they gonna do, throw me in jail? That would only improve my lot!”).
But for me to condition my love on someone “apologizing” to me would be crude. I like most people and I think highly of humanity as a whole. I find myself very attracted to certain people, and I find myself quite attached to people I’ve know for a long time. But I don’t think much about the mechanics of how this works or what’s going on, and I particularly shun the use of inexplicable buzz-words like love to describe what’s going on.
I have thought long and hard about my own values, and about what behaviors I will find acceptable or unacceptable in others. If someone wants to hang with me, they must behave in a certain minimal way — and my standards for others are not nearly as strict as those to which I hold myself. But if someone cannot behave according to my very minimal standards (don’t steal from me; don’t abuse my animals; put the toilet seat back down when you’re done; etc.), then they are not allowed to visit my home. If they cannot behave according to other unspoken minimal standards (don’t degrade me for my religious views; don’t threaten me with physical violence; don’t spray spittle in my face while talking to me; etc.), then I won’t hang with them in public, either.
If I meet someone and we agree that we want to be life partners — that we want to have a perpetual sexual fling, a business relationship, a family unit, be best friends, and whatever else, all wrapped into one — then and only then will I begin to wonder what the word love might mean. Until then, I try to avoid the word. My parents are my parents and my sister is my sister, and the words Mom and Sister are sufficient without me needing to analyze or limit or describe them using words like love — words which I cannot begin to tell you their meaning. I prefer simply to describe, and if that does not work, I will satisfy myself with a wordless understanding that I feel no need to discuss with anybody.
I’m not sure if this will make sense to you or not.
I understand what you are saying, but disagree that these are values to behold. I find the whole concept of conditional love reprehensible, and choose, rather, to avoid the word love in lieu of a clear understanding of what people mean when they use that word. One of my all-time favorite people, someone I wanted, at one point, to be my life companion, eventually threatened to kill me. Whoops! She also degraded my religious views, claiming to be superior to me because she believes in the supernatural and I don’t. Naturally, I cannot have anything to do with someone who would cross the first line, and the fact that she has crossed both lines makes it impossible for me to even feel comfortable in her presence. So, I’ve had to adjust to life without her company.
She was raised a Christian and thought she could simply say, “I’m sorry” and everything would come up smelling like roses with me. I was raised an atheist, where the lesson was hammered home that anything you do, good or bad, has definite and often unchangeable consequences, so you must be very, very careful never to do something for which you may later want to apologize — because an apology will never fix anything. Not that we didn’t apologize formally when we made mistakes — we did — but the apology never meant that things were now okay. It was a formality that you went through to acknowledge to the others that you were in the wrong, as often as not because that’s what it took to get someone else off the hook. You still did what you did, and the results of your actions were still in effect.
A lot of what I did was out of ignorance, and my parents understood. Some of what I did was inexplicable, and it permanently damaged my relationship with my parents — to this day. And they did a few inexplicable things as well, and made a lot of innocent mistakes. I don’t know very many people whose relationship with their parents is as healthy as my relationship is with mine, but still, the relationship is damaged and will never be the same. They know I’m not the same as I once was, but that does not change what I put them through while I was that way.
I am very keen on the concept of changing and growing (repenting, if you will). And I can see the good behind sealing the police and court records of a juvenile offender — or even an adult offender who has had no brushes with the law for a given number of years and has no violence on his record. This is acceptable policy for a government. But in the dynamics of human relationship, I cannot fathom expecting people to simply forgive and forget. I can see someone shrugging off a past offense, and I can see memories becoming dim over time, but I don’t see any good in deliberately forgetting or, rather, pretending to have forgotten. I don’t see this as a reasonable expectation or even a reasonable ideal.
The Christian concept of forgiveness is, to me, magical thinking — an idealistic pipe-dream. It has no basis in reality, as far as I can see reality. If this is something between God and man (and I don’t think it is), then it is unique to the relationship between God and man: it cannot be modeled after any human experience, and it is unreasonable to model human experience after this concept.
Faith in Christ has much deeper aspects to it than this but this is the foundation.
I can accept that people have mystical experiences, because I have a vague understanding of what the mind is going through during these experiences. I have even had such mystical experiences myself — deep mystical experiences where I have touched all points in space and time simultaneously (or so it appeared to me at the time). I can even induce an experience that is not nearly as profound as some of my peak experiences have been, but I can induce similar experiences at will, given the right conditions. I’m sure that if I tried, I could easily induce a deep experience as well — again, given the right conditions and a little practice (and perhaps the right drugs).
I respect this style of religion.
What I do not respect is when those who practice religion take it upon themselves to use their experiences to define reality for others, and who judge others according to the conclusions to which they’ve come during or as the result of their own personal mystical experiences. The most despicable religion is that practiced by someone who has swallowed the slick lines of a huckster and who has become the parrot of a creed. And the most pathetic ones are those who have spent long hours seeking out ways to justify assent to the creed.
I have a great deal of respect for those who have either learned or stumbled upon a way to achieve a mystical experience, and who have subsequently come to their own conclusions about that experience, leaving plenty of room for others to travel on their own paths and come to their own conclusions. After all, our minds are finite and very fallible, and matters of religion are, in the long run, of zero consequence.
This is why I never try to de-convert anyone or convince them to change their ways. You will note that I have expressed my opinions and have left it at that. If someone makes a claim, I will address it with all that I have, because you never know if you’ll stumble on that one argument which makes the whole scenario fall into place: this is the liberal scientific method applied to the claims of theism.
It’s one thing for me to say, “I could never see myself believing that way,” or “I don’t understand how anybody could find merit in this or that claim.” But it’s another thing altogether for me to try to talk you out of it with the motive of changing you or “straightening you out.” It’s arrogant of me to think myself superior to you in any respect.
While I pride myself in my knack for thinking through a philosophical argument, I am not capable of holding down a full-time job in the competitive marketplace or maintaining close, day-to-day friendships with any but the most special of people. I could never hold down a family, but I picture you as heading a wonderfully stable and thriving family, and will keep this image of you unless you tell me otherwise.
Therein is the dignity of balance. I can tell you why I disagree with you on religious matters, but I place very little value on religious and philosophical matters (even though I spend lots of time working out the arguments — as a hobby). What really matters is what kind of life we lead and what contributions we make toward the quality of life for others. None of this has anything to do with religious or philosophical outlook.
Since I am an atheist, I have had first-hand experience with the stigma and bigotry that results from my being incapable of lying to myself or to anybody else. If someone asks, I will tell them the true thoughts on my mind, or I will announce that it’s none of their business (or a more polite form of same). And whenever I do this, I have inevitably lost a potential friend. There are no answers, but I sincerely believe that by experimenting, both here on the Forum and in our daily lives, reporting back to the Forum the results of our experiences, perhaps one day we will join Catholics, Jews, African Americans, and lately homosexuals, in gaining widespread acceptance among members of the community.
Also, I have been caught up in fundamentalism, and spent years after that cowering in a philosophical, psychological, and cultural corner, wondering which way is even up. I could have used many things that simply were not available to people like me, people who need to adjust from the faith-based mind set to a rational-based method of thinking. And there are no real answers in this respect. But I sincerely believe that most who are now going through what I once went through are perceptive enough to examine the futile attempts of myself and others to cope with this adjustment. That is the main purpose of this forum, and my discussions with theists are, to me, just practice in learning how to get along.
“Positive Atheism” Magazine
Five years of service to
people with no reason to believe
To: “Positive Atheism Magazine”
Date: Saturday, April 21, 2001
Just wanted to touch bases with you again. I have been away from my e-mail for a couple of weeks and was excited to get back and read what you had sent me. I must admit that much of what you write is hard for me to understand and requires more than one reading. I’m sorry that people similar to myself and your reading of the Bible have brought you to hate Jesus Christ (or the idea of him, or what Christians have come to believe about Him). The grounds that you stand on are very firm and I am aware of the disgusting side of Christian history. I feel the same about some Christian history now as I did before I picked up the Bible and make no apologies for it.
I did not see the same things as you did as I read the New Testament. I certainly don’t consider myself unintelligent or loaded with blind faith I just loved what Jesus taught. I wasn’t brought up in a Christian home as you know but accepted Christ in my Grandparents basement after reading Mathews gospel. I wondered to myself as I read what Christ taught; “What Bible were they reading as they undertook the inquisition?”, “What Jesus were those people serving?”, “How could people have possibly read these passages and come up with cold blooded murder?”
What I assume, and of course I’ll never know what those people were thinking, is that those supposed Christians were not serving Christ at all but only there own interests. I can’t know what was going threw the minds of Roman Catholics as they searched out anyone who did not believe in the Church. Many Christians also went to the stake during the inquisition, I know, I know, they read the same Bible and kill each other, it is ridiculous. It certainly is not the history of Christianity that caused me to give my life to Christ. It was not the tears in my friends eyes as he tried to explain Christ’s love, it wasn’t even the first pastor that I had ever heard who actually sounded like he believed what he was preaching. The reason I gave my life is the same reason that nearly every Christian who writes to you would give. I saw my sin for what it is and knew that my only hope for relationship with God was through repentance and acceptance of Jesus Christ. You know all this from speaking with Christian people and I’m not sure why I’m writing it to you now. I guess I just want you to have a clear picture of where I’m coming from. When I write I will be referring to Jesus Christ, The Holy Spirit and God the Father as if they all exist and as if they all are one in the same. This is simply what I believe. I don’t believe in multiple Gods but one God in three persons, similar to the way I view myself, body, mind and soul. I believe that the Father represents the mind of God, the Spirit His soul and Jesus Christ His body. The three are separate but they are also one. I will try to be careful and not disrespect you by writing as if you believe this also but I do believe that Christ is just as real for you as He is for me. I speak about Him as I would about my little brother, a friend or anyone else. I believe that Jesus Christ knows you just as He knows me. This is just where I’m coming from.
I enjoyed this bit of your last letter,
The emotion we describe with the word love is complex and very personal, and no two people would describe it the same way (unless they were both members of the same totalitarian cult). So, to base a claim on “love” or to make an argument by mystifying this human emotion does not carry much weight with me.
I also believe that love is very complex and very personal. I agree with you that no two people will describe it the exact same way (unless they were both members of the same totalitarian cult). But just as I don’t believe God to simply be an emotion I also don’t believe love to be emotion. I believe that love will cause emotion but that the emotion is a result of the love and not the love itself. Sometimes I don’t feel like I love my Mom, or my fiancée or even myself for that matter but it does not mean that my love for them or myself does not exist.
I really have to cut this short. I’ve got an economics exam to study for and have already spent to much time on this letter. I suppose that I feel obligated as you obviously put much thought into your replies. It is appreciated.
Much of what I have previously written to you has been misunderstood. I hope that what’s in heart will be more clearly reflected in what I write in the future. I wish that I had more time right this very moment but unfortunately I don’t. I accept your challenge in regards to sending a handful of my experiences that have led to my definition of just what Love is. I won’t even quote Corinthians because I’m sure you’ve had those verses sent to you enough times to make you want to barf... ;-) Thank you for taking such an interest in our dialogue it really is fascinating. I’ll do my best to put away with the ‘selling of my faith’ and simply try to communicate to you the truth as I have come to know it. I hope that I won’t be just another pesky Christian in your e-mail box and that we will both benefit in some way from this correspondence.
From: “Positive Atheism Magazine”
Date: Sunday, April 22, 2001
The emotion we describe with the word love is complex and very personal, and no two people would describe it the same way (unless they were both members of the same totalitarian cult). So, to base a claim on “love” or to make an argument by mystifying this human emotion does not carry much weight with me.
I also believe that love is very complex and very personal. I agree with you that no two people will describe it the exact same way (unless they were both members of the same totalitarian cult). But just as I don’t believe God to be simply an emotion I also don’t believe love to be emotion. I believe that love will cause emotion but that the emotion is a result of the love and not the love itself. Sometimes I don’t feel like I love my Mom, or my fiancée or even myself for that matter but it does not mean that my love for them or myself does not exist.
If love (either as devotion and attraction) is not a human emotion, then what is it? If its source is not the system of structures and processes of the human nervous system (the “hardware” of which was developed bit by bit over the course of three billion years and the “software” of which is programmed to the point of full functionality during the first one-fifth to one-fourth of a the average human’s lifetime), then what might that source be? In addition, how can we detect this source to verify what you are saying and to compare what you say with what others have speculated on these matters?
This raises another question: If Adam was created a fully functional adult, did he not miss out on those experiences which we all recognize as being crucial to forming our very identity as a conscious, aware “Self”? How could a full-grown human suddenly come into existence and function without having lived through infancy, then childhood, then youth? If such a being was fully human, how could it even function? And if such a being came to be as a fully functional entity, how could it be fully human?
In raising this question I must also ask, If the Garden of Eden story is not literally true, then why do we still take the meaning of the Cross as literal truth? Can we have it both ways?
What I assume, and of course I’ll never know what those people were thinking, is that those supposed Christians were not serving Christ at all but only there own interests. I can’t know what was going threw the minds of Roman Catholics as they searched out anyone who did not believe in the Church.
So clear is the message of Christ in this regard that the one doctrine agreed upon by both Roman Catholic and Protestant alike was that heresy is rightly persecuted to the fullest extent of human depravity. Martin Luther burned Jews. John Calvin burned Servetus — slowly and with glee — and at the behest of his arch-nemesis, Rome. Roman Catholics tortured Protestants and Protestants butchered Roman Catholics over every point of doctrine except one: they fully agreed that Christ advocated the persecution of heretics. This was never questioned except by a few wayward sects.
Both factions served the very Christ of the Bible. They served him with all their hearts, in full accordance with their understanding of his will for them. They grew up in a completely different world than did you and I, because they lived before the Enlightenment installed human reason as the supreme arbiter of truth and reality, before Wollstonecraft, Paine, and others declared that humans have inalienable rights with which not even God Himself would dare to tamper. Thus, they saw a completely different Christ in their Bible than we do in ours. Passages which were clear to them are incomprehensible to us; statements of Christ which we take for granted were great mysteries to the pre-Enlightenment mind.
The Enlightenment shook Western thinking to its core so thoroughly that the very Bible no longer says what it once said. True, the words remain the same: it’s our understanding and our values which have changed. The humanistic thinking of the Enlightenment was so vividly compelling that almost all human understanding had to be adjusted to conform to it. Whatever thinking that could not be updated to comply with the new standards set by the Enlightenment died a natural death. Evangelical Christian apologists, of course, are never quick to give credit where credit is due: almost all agree that wonderful things happened to Christianity during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but few will discuss the role that the Enlightenment played in all this.
Even the most fundamentalistic of sects must work within this compelling framework of post-Enlightenment humanism, which forced Christians to reexamine their entire system of belief, including the very nature and person of Christ. They were forced to tailor both his image and his will to fit into the framework of post-Enlightenment thought. Had they not snapped to attention in the reverberation of a Joycean crack of thunder that was the Enlightenment (“...aronnkonnbronntonnerronntounnthunnt...”) making major changes to their descriptions of Christ’s nature and person as well as his will for humankind and his role is in human affairs, the predictions of the eighteenth-century Freethinkers would have rung true, and Christianity would by now have been reduced to a rarity, a mere historical curiosity.
This turned out to be a rather simple matter because the Bible, particularly the New Testament, is a helter-skelter blend of religious thought from across the world.
The New Testament religion expressed by Paul is a blend of the dying and resurrecting godhead of Mithraism and the saving election of Gnosticism. Its historical framework is a corruption of the linear time-frame of Judaism filtered through the dualistic metaphysics of Persian thought. Its ethical stand, of course, blends the authoritarian fundamentalism of a cultic religious zealot with the attractive compassion and humanistic reasonableness of Pharisaic reform and Buddhism.
The Gospel Jesus is, in one respect, very exclusivistic: if you are not for me, you are against me. There is no being neutral, no color or even shades of gray in this black-and-white world, no room for disagreement in his authoritarian regime. People who do not “abide in” him are like branches that wither and die — “and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” The men and wopmen are not to be burned for rape, pillage, or murder, they are to be burned for not “abiding in” (that is, agreeing with) Jesus.
Another aspect of the Gospel Jesus is very compassionate, full of simple, obvious wisdom. Most of the compassion and wisdom sayings of Jesus can be traced directly to either Buddhism, which was somewhat popular in the eastern Mediterranean at the time, or to the humanistic elements within the Pharisaic reform movements, which, despite the New Testament’s slander of the Pharisees, advocated a very compassionate, very humanistic revision of the brutal Mosaic law.
But since Jesus represents the ultimate of any quality attributed to him, the compassionate Jesus of the New Testament necessarily expresses the ultimate act of compassion. This act is said to have been accomplished on the Cross. Jesus, as the story goes, assumed human form primarily for the purpose of dying on the Cross: everything else he did while on Earth was incidental to this one act. Why did he die on the Cross? To save humanity, they tell us. So we ask, why do we need to be saved? Because, they tell us, Jesus (as God) created the Christian Hell. Were this need for salvation merely the need for cleansing so that we can properly appear in God’s presence (as Mormonism’s watered-down plan of redemption teaches), I doubt Christ would have needed to take such drastic measures. But the teaching of the Christian Hell shows the Cross to be the most compassionate act conceivable, because a single man, woman, or child who has been sentenced to spend eternity in the Christian Hell will endure more pain than all Earth’s creatures added together will endure on Earth for the enture duration of her existence.
This compassionate Jesus is almost impossible to reconcile with the authoritarian Jesus, so I can understand why most Christians would emphasize one Jesus over the other, and even at the expense of the other. Post-Enlightenment humanism has forced the church to emphasize the compassionate Jesus: it is almost impossible to relate to the authoritarian, Jesus having been raised in a cultural reality framed by post-Enlightenment humanism.
Before this, there was room for compassion, to be sure, but never at the expense of the souls of the lambs. Compassion ended abruptly at the point where the spiritual security of the congregation began, and this safety had but one threat: heresy. Those who are not gathering are by default scattering (according to Jesus); thus, any deviation from orthodoxy was, by definition, of Satan. In Elijah’s and Daniel’s times (assuming “Bel and the Dragon” to be of Daniel’s era), false gods were simply make-believe, the sales-pitches of religious hucksters. After the Jews were influenced by Persian dualism — by the time of Paul and the author of Peter’s epistles — false gods had become demons in disguise.
Fighting heresy, in the sense of fighting Satan himself, was seen by Christians as an act of compassion — in its own twisted way. According to the gathering-or-scattering motif, if murdering someone’s body was a crime, then all the more was murdering someone’s soul (through heresy) a heinous crime. Thomas, in Summa Theologica, said: “If forgers and malefactors are put to death by the secular power, there is much more reason for excommunicating and even putting to death one convicted of heresy.” Executing heretics had been policy since before Augustine; Thomas was simply justifying the continuance of this practice.
You and I cannot see this today, however, because we each see things through humanism-colored glasses — like it or not. Post-Enlightenment humanism is the strongest basis for and influence upon Western thinking today. Post-Enlightenment humanism replaced what was previously considered “Christian,” to the point where such notables as Voltaire, Jefferson, Paine, and later Eliot and Ingersoll predicted the swift demise of Christianity. Since then, Christian spin-doctors have had to create an updated Jesus, one who is more easily reconciled with what was shown to us during the Enlightenment.
But we must not rest on the assurance that the warm-and-fuzzy Jesus of modern, post-Enlightenment Evangelicalism and Roman Catholicism has saved us from the prospect of the return of Christian persecution. Influential Christian spokespersons such as Rev. Tim LaHaye and R. J. Rushdooney have made great strides toward discrediting, in the minds of many Evangelicals, anything that smacks humanism — even those components of humanism which most of her critics agree are her shining accomplishments. They are doing this on at least two fronts: LaHaye works from the perspective of the compassionate, post-Enlightenment Jesus, à la John Smyth and John Wesley; Rushdooney works from the perspective of the authoritarian, pre-Enlightenment, Reformation-era Christ, à la John Calvin, John Knox, and Jonathan Edwards.
Secular Humanism, to LaHaye, is the ultimate heresy, the ultimate evil, stealing the souls of countless of Christ’s lambs and slated to usher in the widely touted One World Government feared by all Pre-Tribulation Premillennialists (go figure: this “Hell on Earth” will not occur, they tell us, until all “real” Christians been whisked off into space during the Christian “Rapture”). After the world has gone to Hell in a handbasket, they say, Christ will return, set things straight, and usher in an oxymoronic era of Christian peace, with himself on the throne of political power.
Rushdooney, a Postmillennialist, does not foresee the “Left Behind” scenario, and would rightly deem it a form of hysteria-generating hucksterism. Rather, he taught that Christ cannot return until the Church has gained complete control over all human governments and completes her appointed task of bringing about world peace. To him, peace (and thus Christ) will come when all humans submit their wills (their reason) to Christ; human reason must step down from her throne so that Christ may reign supreme. The tendency to trust human reason is the very problem that Rushdooney’s church is appointed to solve.
On both fronts, humanism, the very reason you and I tend to think of Christ as compassionate rather than authoritarian, is being discredited through the same varieties of slander campaigning currently being waged against the liberal scientific method in general and the Theory of Evolution in particular.
Science is, after all, human reason systemized into a method for determining which ideas are worthy of our assent. Science addresses human fallibility by allowing anybody at all to challenge any so-called fact. No claim to truth is above reproach; every claim to truth is subject to being overthrown. In science, a lowly patent clerk (Albert Einstein) can successfully challenge the prevailing understanding of how physics works, and a lowly graduate student (Joycelyn Bell) can overthrow major aspects of our understanding of astronomy. No person or institution sits as the arbiter of truth. Science is a process, an ongoing discussion; it is not simply a body of facts.
(This is why I advocate grounding school children in the process of scientific method rather than bickering over creationism versus evolution. With a firm grasp of scientific method and access to that ongoing, world-level discussion, creationism versus evolution stops even being a question.)
A Christian cannot clearly reconcile Rushdooney’s angle with LaHaye’s angle any more easily than he can reconcile the authoritarian Christ with the compassionate Jesus, both of whom are described in Scripture. Both cannot exist simultaneously unless the Christian drastically alters the definition of either authority or compassion. The intellectuals of the eighteenth century saw this, threw the baby out with the bath water, and became Deists or Unitarians. (Atheism did not become intellectually tenable until Darwin dispensed with the Argument from Design and Hubble solved the problem of entropy.)
The layperson does, however, see at least one thing common with both doctrines: The one thing upon which both LaHaye and Rushdooney agree is that Secular Humanism is anathema, and human reason in general is not to be held as a trustworthy guide for discovering truth. Amidst these otherwise misty depths of confusion and controversy, human reason in general and humanism in particular show up clearly as the enemies of Christ, and thus the enemies of the Church.
Without even having a clear understanding as to why a Christian ought to shun humanism (both camps issue slanderous reports as to what humanism and human reason even are), the stage is set for everything which contributed to the loving Christ to revert back to the authoritarian Christ of yore, with its accompanying theocratic government. Compassion will once again be defined in terms of eliminating the enemies of Christ — not for Christ’s sake, of course, who can take care of himself, but for the sake of the lambs of God, whose souls are murdered through the evils of heresy, which entices them to embrace false gods and to forsake the compassion of Christ, forcing God to throw them into the Christian Hell — prepared, ironically, for those devils who, through the spread of heresy, would dare to expose God’s children to the dangers of these very flames.
If we become the theocracy advocated by both LaHaye and Rushdooney, what would be the chances that neither LaHaye nor Rushdooney could pass the test of orthodoxy? Since each advocates as extremely important a controversial doctrine (one that is difficult to justify through both Scripture and reason), then I suspect each man would be out on his ear in a future Christian theocracy of any variety. Since neither man’s pet doctrine can be reconciled with the other’s, it is most unlikely that the two men would simultaneously pass the test of orthodoxy. One might make it, but not both, because their ideas are simply too far apart. Any expression of Christianity worthy of being called orthodoxy would be too narrow of a path to accommodate both ideas at the same time.
Said one Jesus to the other: “This town ain’t big enough fer the both of us!”
So at high-noon, the two men, standing back-to-back on Main Street, guns in hand, took their first measured pace away from one another.
“Positive Atheism” Magazine
Five years of service to
people with no reason to believe