The Raving Theist

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God Squad Review CL (Hellbound Jews)

November 28, 2005 | 108 Comments

Do Christ-denying Jews burn in Hell for all eternity? A Jewish wife and a fundamentalist husband have “successfully solved [their] differences” on that sort of question, but for some reason it still arises whenever they take their ten year old son (being raised as a Jew who “has an appreciation and reverence for Jesus Christ”) to visit daddy’s family. Surprisingly, his fundamentalist Christian relatives assure him that both wife and son are going to hell for being Jewish. The Squad tells him that a few years of family harmony far outweigh the prospect of listening to his loved ones screeeeeeeeeam in anguish forever and ever. In fact, the central premise of mainstream Christian doctrine is pushed aside as if it were irrelevant:

We’ve been asked many versions of this question over the years, and honestly the structure of your family is more important than the structure of Christian theology in working it out.

Obviously, there is a strong “The-only-way-to-the-father-is-through-me” tradition in Christian thought, emphasizing that accepting Jesus as the Messiah is a precondition for salvation.

Paul’s epistle to the Romans, Chapters 9-11, strikes a more theologically accepting tone, but in the end, it’s unwise and unfair to argue with members of your husband’s family or try to change their beliefs. As hard as it is to accept, they have a right to believe that Jesus was not just a good carpenter but God’s essential gift to humanity for salvation.

Let it be.

At the end of days, we’ll all be able to sort things out, but the end of days doesn’t seem to be on the immediate horizon. Your critical task now is to preserve the spiritual integrity of your home.

It seems that their desire to remind your husband about their beliefs has not yet spilled over to warning your son that he’s headed for hell. When and if they start scaring a 10-year-old boy and dividing your family further, you and your husband must insist that they keep their beliefs to themselves.

For now, just tell your husband to slip the punch. Encourage him to listen to his family’s comments about religion, smile, and change the subject.

Is the end of days really the best time for us to “sort things out”? It’s going to be pretty hectic then, what with folks being sucked up into the sky or dodging fireballs — not exactly conducive to any figurin’. If a really big meteor were en route to our fine planet, I think we’d trying to intercept it before it got to the horizon.

And my impression was that God sorts us out on Judgment Day, rather than letting people engage in further debate on what He’s got in store. Plus, isn’t the deadline for accepting Christ the time just before one’s death, rather than the end of days? If we all got to decide upon finding ourselves alive after death, it wouldn’t be a very difficult decision, and certainly no would take until the end of days to guess at the answer.

Finally, what’s wrong with “scaring” the boy about something that could be really scary? I’m sure his parents scare him about the consequences of running around in traffic or playing with matches. Certainly the dangers of Christ-rejecting are much worse — more like juggling with nuclear warheads. A little family discord is nothing compared to what might happen to sonny if his father’s relatives are right. If the Squad is truly on the fence on the question, why not err on the side of safety and give the kid at least a 50/50 chance of selecting the right truth?

Comments

108 Responses to “God Squad Review CL (Hellbound Jews)”

  1. Gene Bob
    November 28th, 2005 @ 1:02 am

    the following document would be useful (IMHO); does it exist?

    table — (column A): religion
    (column B): name of holy book
    (column C): cited passage indicating that unless you buy THEIR religion, you’re going straight to hell

    this should only take what – 10 years to compile? :)

  2. mark
    November 28th, 2005 @ 4:57 am

    Surely the correct answer depends on which branch of Christianity the parents and husband belong too.

    I think one of the principles of the early Lutheran movement was that personal morality mattered more than adeherence to Church doctrine. In this instance the squad seem to be putting the child’s welfare (i.e. a secure and unconfused upbringing) ahead of fundamentalist teachings.

    It does seem pretty sensible to say that teaching the child to behave morally in any faith is more important than forcing him to accept two faiths, which would give him a confused moral sense. As I say, whether sucha decision is right really depends on the branch of Christianity they belong too.

    It is of course, a totally relativist judgement.

  3. Anonymous
    November 28th, 2005 @ 7:45 am

    “it’s unwise and unfair to argue with members of your husband’s family or try to change their beliefs”

    If only every religidiot felt that way, they’d all keep their goddamned mouths shut.

  4. cloudywithachanceofcheeseburgers
    November 28th, 2005 @ 8:58 am

    the real issue is why do so many christians go by the bible, if they don’t? No major denomination has denounced a book of the bible, published their own version with text redacted, etc. It is still the holy book. And because they have no interest in attacking the foundation of their own religion, moderate Christians bolster the foundations of radical fundamentalist Christianity than anyone else.

    Obviously “it just depends,” but this guy can’t go back to his family and say, “you’re just full of shit,” because that would mean that the bible is full of shit, and that’s intolerable. Instead, moderate christians look more like logic pretzels that human beings.

  5. Anonymous
    November 28th, 2005 @ 9:06 am

    cloudy, that’s my whole problem with EVERY religious moron. The ones with moderate beliefs that can’t be questioned allow for the radical assholes who dump embryos in the garbage instead of allowing research, or blow up innocents in the middle east.

  6. Baconeatingatheistjew
    November 28th, 2005 @ 9:52 am

    Ask the Fundy parents to point out where in the bible it says that only those who accept Christ will be accepted in heaven.
    And then ask them why the bible calls bats fowls. Then ask the parents how one can accept one part of the bible and not the other.

  7. Lily
    November 28th, 2005 @ 11:36 am

    Since the Constitution allows for groups like the John Birch Society to exist and for people to talk about their love of fecal matter and sodomy in public, why don’t we rewrite the Constitution? That makes as much sense as:

    A. calling for a redacted Bible
    B. blaming “moderate” Christians for those who are not moderate.

    This comment was really funny:

    Obviously “it just depends,” but this guy can’t go back to his family and say, “you’re just full of shit,” because that would mean that the bible is full of shit, and that’s intolerable. Instead, moderate christians look more like logic pretzels that human beings.

    Yes, he can go back to his family and tell them that they are wrong and it doesn’t change anything in the Bible or in how it ought to be understrood. You don’t know any “moderate” Christians, obviously, or you would be impressed by how unpretzel like they are.

    Bacon: what on earth are you talking about? Didn’t you read any of the discussion about the Bible that went on recently? If the Bible does call bats fowl (that bit of info has escaped me) what does that have to do with anything? It isn’t a scientific treatise and I am not terribly impressed by errors of that sort in a 2000+ year old text. Were you under the impression that God wrote it directly?

  8. Yes!
    November 28th, 2005 @ 12:12 pm

    This article is right on.

    And I have to agree with the “pretzel logic” comment about moderate Christians. They tend to pick and choose what they believe. This makes them impossible to pin down in a debate, and seem (to me, anyway) dishonest. At least the fundies are consistently insane. Moderates, like I said are dishonest to themselves, picking and choosing whichever tenets make their life easier, are easily defensible, etc. “The only way to the father is through me” is pretty clear. If you believe in the bible at all, you have to believe that Jesus meant “Non-Christians are going to hell.” Plain and simple. If you want to call yourself Christian and also think that Jews won’t burn in hell, you are contradicting yourself and lying to yourself.

  9. Lily
    November 28th, 2005 @ 12:44 pm

    Yes!

    No. Nice try though.

    Jesus said that no one comes to the Father but by Him. He did not say by believing in him (although anyone who actually rejects him has got a problem); he said that he was the way. What that means for people who have never heard of him is very much not plain and simple. The Bible says of the Jews that they are the chosen people and we know that the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. So at a minimum, your (corporately speaking) attempts at exegesis are pretty puerile. There is a lot more to be said and we don’t need to lie to ourselves to realize that there is more here than meets the eye.

    I wonder, have any of you ever tried to grapple with these issues by actually studying them? As in sitting down with the Bible and a couple of good commentaries or the Catholic Encyclopedia and trying to understand what is being said? At least then you could engage in real debate instead of the name calling that goes on here.

  10. Mookie
    November 28th, 2005 @ 1:24 pm

    Lily,

    I have read several passages pertaining to god commiting genocide. Do you think you can help me to understand these parts of the bible? To me, it seems like god is a lot like Hitler, but I could be wrong. I’m an atheist and don’t really condone murder, even in the name of god, so all this is kind of strange and sad to me.

  11. Lily
    November 28th, 2005 @ 1:55 pm

    Mookie: I can try. Which passages do you have in mind? I have no way to make the unpalatable palatable to you, though.

  12. folieaduex
    November 28th, 2005 @ 2:00 pm

    trying to figure out how to “register” on this site.

  13. Mookie
    November 28th, 2005 @ 2:18 pm

    Wow, genocide is palatable to xians! That certainly explains the Holocaust, the crusades, terrorism, and all other religiously-inspired mega-violence. And they claim to be moral! Ha! No thanks, Lily, I don’t ever want to accept genocide. I much prefer my stance on respecting human life.

  14. a different tim
    November 28th, 2005 @ 2:34 pm

    Why not let the kid flip a coin?

  15. Lily
    November 28th, 2005 @ 2:36 pm

    Thanks for proving yet again that intellectual honesty cannot be found among this group, which is why I did not bother to “refute” the genocide charge in my last message. I knew you weren’t being honest and that the reference to genocide was quite bogus.

    Religously inspired mega-violence is caused by religions that preach violence, like Islam. Christianity does not preach violence and so you may be very sure that it is people who do not understand the religion they say they belong to that are the problem, when there is one. Linking the Holocaust and the Crusades is just plain dumb and shows precious little knowledge of either.

  16. jahrta
    November 28th, 2005 @ 3:15 pm

    Alrighty then – stupidity of this caliber cannot be left to grow and fester unchecked.

    Lily – having someone like you call atheists “intellectually dishonest” is the absolute apex of hipocrisy and blind ignorance.

    I also enjoy how you label Islam violent (which it is) while at the same time ignoring the countless instances in the bible in which god slays entire peoples because they fell out of his favor, or when jesus tells his apostles to bring his enemies before him so that they may be put to the sword.

    Religions are violent because people are violent, and people create gods/religions and the rules by which they live.

    The only religion I can think of that isn’t violent in its teachings is buddhism – especially zen (which ironically was the religion associated with the samurai).

  17. Bruce
    November 28th, 2005 @ 3:26 pm

    Christianity does not preach violence and so you may be very sure that it is people who do not understand the religion they say they belong to that are the problem, when there is one.

    Wow, the majority of Christians who have ever existed before you must not have understood the Bible and the teachings of Jesus as you truly do. I guess all those Christians who were doing God’s work over the centuries torturing and killing witches, non-Christians, Christians of opposing sects, and other various infidels are all burning in hell because they weren’t real Christians like you.

    When there is one? WTF planet are you living on? Did you actually take a history class in high school? Most of the problems throughout the past 2000 years have been a direct result of religious conflict. Please, take a few history classes at your local community college.

  18. Lily
    November 28th, 2005 @ 4:20 pm

    I used to teach history, Bruce. At a big ten University. I think I grasp the basics. One of which is honesty. Intellectual honesty. Particularly when dealing with material one doesn’t care for.

    You all have so childish an understanding of 1) history; 2.) religion; 3) human nature; 4) yourselves that I cannot begin to explain anything here. But I will answer a few points.

    Jahrta: Jesus never, ever, told anyone to bring “his enemies before him so that they may be put to the sword”. That isn’t even an honest, but stupid, reading of scripture. There is nothing that could lead anyone to believe that. Where’d you get it from?

    Nor are there countless instances of God slaying entire nations that fell out of favor. The Old Testament does record a lot about the wars of ancient Israel. That is why Bishop Ulfilas decided against translating the book of Kings into Gothic. He thought the Goths were quite warlike enough, thank you, without the excuse of the OT to encourage them any further. The OT records the ancients’ understanding of divine judgment on the wicked. God is certainly at work in all human affairs but I will say no more since this is no venue for subtlety.

    You are right about one thing. Humans are often violent. Some more so than others. When you trot out the inquisition, witch hunts, etc. do you all never think about the context in which those things occured? Do you understand that cultures can progress in understanding through their experiences over time?

    Let’s take witches, for example. If you believed that Satan had given certain people power to injure you or kill your loved ones and that these people were doing just that, what would the appropriate response be? Try to think like a person of the 17th century before responding. In other words, think imaginatively about the past.

    I know it is a stretch but try to think like a member of a germanic tribe, recently converted, who already has a deeply ingrained comitatus mentality. Since disloyalty to the king was treason, do you not understand that it was easy for them to make the leap that heresy was treason against God and would bring down His wrath on the nation that did not root it out?

    One thing I would really love is if you all would drop your annoying habit of attributing to me and the other Christians here your own egotism. No, I do not think I understand the Bible better than everyone else. I am pretty sure there are umpteen millions of people who understand it better than I and practice its precepts far better than I ever will. What I do know is that we are all individuals. Some of us are further along, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, etc. than others. Some of us are committed believers. Some of us are lukewarm. Some of us are so nominally Christian as to be kidding ourselves. It has always been that way and always will be. I have no idea who is in hell and who is not. That is for God to sort out.

  19. jahrta
    November 28th, 2005 @ 4:31 pm

    Lily – I don’t have the verse handy, but I recall seeing it many times on this and other sites. If you think I’m lying and wish to dismiss it, fine – but how about soddom and gamorah, the great flood, and any number of other instances of god singling people out for destruction because of the actions of a few, or because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? now, before you get yourself worked up into a frenzy, keep in mind i don’t believe in any of this crap. I’m merely using the materials of your own faith to prove to you that it is anything but warm and fuzzy, especially if you’re a woman, gay, black, mentally handicapped or jewish.

    As far as this being “no venue for subtlety,” that’s only as it appears to you because atheists here have no stomach for the brand of bullshit you theists hoist upon us here, heavily garnished with your own sense of superiority. I can think of only two theists who post here regularly whom I actually respect, and that’s because they don’t try to cram their own moral relativity down my throat.

    We know how this will all turn out, even if you yourself do not.

  20. Lily
    November 28th, 2005 @ 5:18 pm

    You may have seen the verse here and on other sites but who disputes that? It just doesn’t come from the Bible.

    Moral relativity? Christians are not moral relativists. That is why we are counter cultural today in this sea of I’m OK, You’re OK– I wouldn’t dream of judging anything you do…

    Like I said, the Old Testament is a very ancient account of the creation of the world and the establishment of Israel, its wars and its subsequent fortunes. Why would you expect it to be pretty? Why would you expect the writers to describe those wars in modern terms? Maybe you expected a Babylonian Convention that would keep war polite just like the Geneva Conventions do today? /sarc

    At some point you are going to have to deal with the reality that human beings are not pretty. That was one of the major things that drew me to study the Bible initially. Its estimation of human nature rings very true. So does its answer to our basic problem.

  21. Lily
    November 28th, 2005 @ 5:42 pm

    I guess it won’t hurt to add one more thing. Can you possibly believe that we think the OT is warm and fuzzy? This kind of insanity is why you think we are thrusting our superiority down your throats when we are merely trying to correct your facts. You will not have it. That is what I mean by intellectual dishonesty. If ever you dealt with real Christianity instead of the bogeyman you have made up, then there would be real honest to goodness debate here.

    Until that blessed day comes, you continue to fight amongst yourselves, as much as with us, in your shallow sandbox with your fingers in your ears (one of you undoubtedly has it stuck elsewhere.). Pitiful.

  22. Mookie
    November 28th, 2005 @ 7:13 pm

    Lily,

    A quick google search yielded: http://www.religioustolerance.org/imm_bibl1.htm

    Maybe this will back up some of our claims. Religion is human-hating drivel, and when people hate themselves, they don’t mind killing others, they don’t think it is wrong. “Kill them all, let god sort them out” has been uttered by more than one murderer. Are all xians like this? I certainly hope not. They are not helping by buttressing these absurd and profoundly detrimental ideas with their own drone-like adherence to such ancient and violent texts. If god, the very pinnacle of morality, can perform genocide on a whim, how are we not like him if we do the same? The scary side of mindless beliefs is revealed.

  23. Bruce
    November 28th, 2005 @ 7:38 pm

    When you trot out the inquisition, witch hunts, etc. do you all never think about the context in which those things occured?

    Yes, they were convinced they were doing God’s work. It wasn’t until a truly secular constitution was created that people were able to break the bonds of religious tyranny.

    Do you understand that cultures can progress in understanding through their experiences over time?

    Of course. As secularism has replaced religion in civilized society, we have advanced in a few hundred years faster than the preceding 1800 under religious rule.

    Moral relativity? Christians are not moral relativists.

    So Christianity’s morals have not changed one iota for 2000 years? I’m going to have to call bullshit on that one. Religion has to change as society evolves or it will be left in the dust. You honestly can’t come up with one example of a change in the Church’s moral teachings in the past 2000 years?

    If ever you dealt with real Christianity instead of the bogeyman you have made up, then there would be real honest to goodness debate here.

    Funny how even you Christians can’t decide on just what exactly is real Christianity. Why are there so many different sects and beliefs regarding what the Bible, God and Jesus says? Why should we believe your interpretation any more than we should believe Joseph Smith’s or the Pope’s? If there is no moral relativity, if the Bible is the absolute truth, then it should be easy for you all to agree on the same thing. The fact that there is so much infighting amongst yourselves just proves that Christians morals are open to human interpretation, which means they are in fact relativistic.

    I know, every time a Christian does something wrong, “they aren’t a real Christian”. We have heard that tired excuse over and over again. I think you need to be honest with yourself. The violence we associate with Islam today was practiced by Christianity just a few hundred years ago. Secularism has tamed Christianity in the west. Hopefully it will do the same elsewhere or we are all in a world of trouble.

  24. Beolf
    November 28th, 2005 @ 7:50 pm

    Lily, always refreshing to get another point of view. I tend to get rusty having a dialog with those who already agree with me mostly.

    The gist of your response was that there is a very human element to the bible. I couldn’t agree with you more. The only difference is I believe that’s all there is in the bible. One would naturally expect the primitive leaders of the time to justify barbarity as the will of God.

    If only some of what is in the bible has divine inspiration then how should we recognize it? It would seem that we would already have to know what is morally true even before we look in the bible, which I contend we do

    So far there has been a lot of unsubstantiated claims in this thread. I thought I’d provide some links to bible discussions that are well sourced if provocatively titled.

    Why Does God Hate Amputees
    The Evangelical Atheist – God is a Dick

    The former deals with a number of aspects of Christianity. The title refers to how it is that with all the healing that is wrought by prayer, mysteriously amputees never have their limbs restored. The second hops though the bible and analyses what is said from the perspective that it’s the word of God.

  25. Debbie
    November 28th, 2005 @ 8:16 pm

    Lily,

    You are looking for specifics …. as a historian, you will no doubt be familiar with the treatment of the Cathars by the most senior members of the Catholic Church, under direct guidance of the Pope.

    Can you explain the fate of the Cathars in the context of a loving and peaceful religion?

  26. Anonymous
    November 28th, 2005 @ 9:09 pm

    When someone willfully identifies herself with a group, that person is identifying herself with all the members of that group, even the ones she wishes weren’t members.

  27. Lily
    November 28th, 2005 @ 9:13 pm

    We know precious little about the Cathars, Debbie. I mean hard facts and not Da Vinci Code type crap. There is a tremedous amount of myth out there about them. We do know that they were gnostics, or at least practiced some form of gnosticism. As dualists who disdained oaths, and the structure of the state, they were a serious political problem.

    Again, look at the context of the times. They lived in a period where heresy was as disruptive to the commonweal as any political movement and the Church did try to contain it. Depending on the time period, some popes tried to live and let live, others were more active. But no one was as hard on them as the kings and rulers of the places they were strongest because they were so disruptive. Frederick II springs to mind. But I cannot say more. I am too lazy to do any research and that is about as much as I remember about them with confidence.

    Since I dislike burning people at the stake or executing them for any reason, but especially over religious differences, I am not going to defend the *almost* indefensible. But I would remind you that in these same centuries, John Lackland, having ticked off the pope royally (pardon the pun) and facing an interdict (excommunication of the whole of England), investigated turning Muslim, feeling that even an inferior god’s protection was better than no godly protection at all. You simply cannot ignore historical contexts. But that requires some work and thought on your part. You might be willing to do it but too many here are not.

    Bruce:

    It would have been nice, if you had read what I wrote. I would very much like you to answer the question I posed: how would you respond if you believed that someone had been empowered by satan to harm or kill you and yours? Especially if that belief were widely shared. Try to be honest in your answer.

    I must say I despair of trying to get through to you about any of the stuff I wrote. Google the “Apostles Creed”. That is what all Christians believe. Anyone who doesn’t, is not a Christian in any meaningful sense of the word. Everything else that divides us is a matter of emphasis or else, in a couple of instances, of a nature that you all, who can’t even get basic facts straight, simply are not in a position to understand.

    Why you can’t understand why umpteen gazillions of people over 2000 years in various parts of the earth might hold different views or interpret things somewhat differently is a mystery to me.

    However, Christian morals are not open to interpretation any more than Jewish morals are. Or Algonquin. Remember the 10 commandments? You will find them in just about every civilization under the sun. There is nothing relativistic about that. But there was a lengthy discussion about this just last month (maybe this month). I am not going to repeat what was stated there.

  28. allonym
    November 29th, 2005 @ 7:35 am

    Lily,
    I would like to understand what you are getting at when you insist on understanding historical context. I mean, it sounds a plain enough plea on its face, but what are you hoping to help us understand? I ask because it seems you are suggesting that (for example) those who burned “witches” could still have been acting as good Christians because, through the lens of their historical context, burning people accused of witchcraft was an appropriate response. Now I know you stated that you are not trying to “defend the … indefensible,” but if that is not your point then I don’t see how this kind of historical context is relevant to the debate. And if that [i]is[/i] what you’re saying, then I’d counter that that’s pretty morally relativistic.

    On another note, if the ten commandments are found in most civilizations (throughout history, I presume), then isn’t that also pretty good argument that the idea behind the commandments is a very secular/humanist/practical one rather than a purely religious one?

  29. cloudywithachanceofcheeseburgers
    November 29th, 2005 @ 8:12 am

    Lily — I’m not going to get into blaming Christianity for all the sins of the past. I’m just saying moderate Christians ignore what is in their own bible so that they can keep it. You can say the OT is an “ancient” understanding of law that includes stoning people for what, in a “modern” understanding are minor offenses. So, my question is, if that’s such a universally-held belief among Christians (which it isnt), what use do those passages serve? Why not just get rid of them? I’ll tell you why — because Christians are wedded to the bible as the holy book. I have less of a problem with Christians who follow the teachings of Christ and throw out a lot of the bible.

    But without the Old Testament, you don’t get to see all the prophecies of the Messiah artificially fulfilled in Jesus, so they lose a major tenet of his being the Son of God, so they have to keep it, even if it contradicts the message that you understand of a peaceful, loving God.

    We’ll never solve the riddle of what definitively caused human behavior several hundred years ago. Let’s just stick to what’s in the bible, and why it’s considered so sacred, if it’s so backwards.

  30. Lily
    November 29th, 2005 @ 8:31 am

    Cloudy: There is no riddle as to what caused human behavior several hundred or several thousand years ago. It is the same thing (things, really) that drive human behavior today; lust, greed, anger, love, hope, fear, etc. The Bible faithfully records for us God’s dealings with his chosen people over many centuries. Just as we cannot wipe out the Holocaust because it horrifies us, we cannot wipe out the OT, even though parts of it horrify us. It is us. It is part of our growing pains.

    The OT does not contradict the NT. The NT shows us the fulfillment of the promises of God. Those promises would make little sense except in the light of the OT.

    By the way, in the OT people were stoned not for minor offenses but for major ones. It is the view of the appropriate punishment that has changed, not the view of the offense. Adultery is still a horrible offense– just ask anyone whose lfe and family have been torn apart by it. We just don’t stone adulterers anymore. Some offenses are still grievous but we don’t punish them because our view of the way to treat them or think about them has changed.

    That is why the moral teachings of the OT are still intact and still accepted by believing Christians and Jews. That is why we neither can nor should want to get rid of the OT. Jesus fulfilled the law and showed us a new way to keep it and understand it. But the two are intimately connected.

  31. DamnRight
    November 29th, 2005 @ 10:15 am

    The OT is not a record of “us”, it is a record of what God told “us” to do… unless you don’t believe the bible is “the word of God”… if you are suggesting that God didn’t say all those heinous things, then we’re somewhat on the same page… or, has God changed from OT to NT?… or does Hell now replace the more immediate punishements (often of the innocents) in the Christian context?… was Jesus not “God incarnate”?… is he was, then he is responsible for some extremely immoral acts… and as such, has no right to sentence anyone to Hell…

  32. Lily
    November 29th, 2005 @ 10:23 am

    Cite please? God has never said any heinous things. You aren’t just mixing apples and oranges; you are mixing galvanized screws and tapeworms, cotton sheets and compost. In other words, there is no teasing apart the mix of things you’ve got going on in this post.

  33. DamnRight
    November 29th, 2005 @ 11:18 am

    Ok, so you agree with me, God is not speaking in the OT… I’m good with that.

  34. Keith
    November 29th, 2005 @ 11:27 am

    Why you can’t understand why umpteen gazillions of people over 2000 years in various parts of the earth might hold different views or interpret things somewhat differently is a mystery to me.

    Lily,

    Our perception of you is defined by statements like the one above. You assume what we think and know.

    What atheists have been trying to tell you is we believe we understand exactly why this happens (this is what you perceive as our arrogance), and we believe we have a perfectly valid explanation. If there is a One, True, All-Powerful God who exists in this world, it would be more probable that there wouldn’t be different opinions in religion. Because there are a seemingly endless number of different opinions, it is much more likely that there isn’t an All-Powerful God manipulating our existence, and science backs this up (just apply the theory of evolution to religion and viola: a nested hierarchy with common ancestors, and a prediction that there will be even more variations to religion in the future). Our intellectual honesty tells us that we should follow the more probable (we call it logical) choice and consider the existence of God, and the consequences of Hell and Heaven as false.

    Our question to you is: What do you think is God’s reason for the difference of opinion amongst religions?

    We as atheist believe that the position “God wants us to have free-will to decide what to believe” is indefensible. A good essay adressing this can be seen at http://www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/divineblackmail.html. We also believe that claiming ignorance of God’s reasons is exactly that: ignorance.

  35. Lily
    November 29th, 2005 @ 12:07 pm

    Well, that is one way of evading substantiating your claim.

  36. Bruce
    November 29th, 2005 @ 12:18 pm

    how would you respond if you believed that someone had been empowered by satan to harm or kill you and yours?

    This is like asking me how I would respond if I thought voices in my head were telling me to kill the President. In our system of government, if someone is found to be insane, we do not hold them directly responsible for their actions. So, if you would like to argue that Christians who believe that Satan is trying to kill them are insane, I would be willing to consider that. Of course, we do separate the insane from the general population in order to protect ourselves from their behavior.

    The interesting question to ask is why do the vast majority of Christians today not believe that Satan is actively trying to kill them and thus do not believe that they must torture and kill non-believers? I’ve already answered this: secularism has tamed Christianity. It isn’t just a coincidence that they call the period of scientific advancement and transition from the Dark Ages the Enlightenment.

    Another interesting question to ask is why did Christians believe that Satan was actively trying to kill them and thus feel it was necessary to torture and kill infidels in order to protect themselves? Of course back then, we didn’t have the scientific knowledge we do today that disproves the various religious myths that we used to take as truth. Why? Well, the church was very active in trying to suppress science, since advancements in knowledge most often contradicted church doctrine. Thus, it was a self-perpetuating ignorance. In order for the church to maintain control, it had to suppress knowledge and scientific advancement. Since the church was already in control of the state, it was in a position to suppress any information it found disagreeable through force. Fortunately for humankind, the human desire to know the unknowable was able to break through the bonds of religious intolerance.

    Why you can’t understand why umpteen gazillions of people over 2000 years in various parts of the earth might hold different views or interpret things somewhat differently is a mystery to me.

    I understand it completely. In fact, that is exactly what I was arguing. The bible does not represent absolute truth because it has to be interpreted by people since it does not answer all of our questions absolutely. You seem to want to argue that the bible is absolute but a the same time apologize for having to interpret its meaning.

    However, Christian morals are not open to interpretation any more than Jewish morals are. Or Algonquin. Remember the 10 commandments?

    Thou shall not kill. Or is it thou shall not murder? Christians can’t even agree on the exact wording of that one let alone how to interpret it. So is capital punishment condoned by this commandment or not? And you do remember the punishments doled out in the bible for breaking those commandments? Are those open to interpretation as well?

    You complained earlier that people were unfairly labelling you with this “holier than thou” attitude, but yet you keep insisting that the bible is the absolute truth. That doesn’t strike you as just a little bit arrogant?

    That is for God to sort out.

    The ultimate in arrogance. Non-believers beware. You can reject God all you want, but you will pay for it in the end, and eternally at that.

  37. Mookie
    November 29th, 2005 @ 1:14 pm

    “think about the context”

    Hitler wanted to kill all the Jews. Why? Let’s look at it in context. Hitler believed he was doing the will of god. He felt it was the mission of the Aryan race to exterminate the Jews. Such a holy and blessed task! Many xian Germans went along with this because to them, it was also a holy and blessed task. How to perform this holy and blessed task of god? Genocide.

    It seems to me like, in context, a religious nutball read some moldy book about bronze-age tribesmen and their skydaddy, convinced a bunch of other people who had read the same book that they all needed to kill the descendants of these tribesmen, and then then set about doing it. Witchburnings were just as inexcusable. “think about the context” does not change this one bit.

  38. Mookie
    November 29th, 2005 @ 1:15 pm

    “think about the context”

    Hitler wanted to kill all the Jews. Why? Let’s look at it in context. Hitler believed he was doing the will of god. He felt it was the mission of the Aryan race to exterminate the Jews. Such a holy and blessed task! Many xian Germans went along with this because to them, it was also a holy and blessed task. How to perform this holy and blessed task of god? Genocide.

    It seems to me like, in context, a religious nutball read some moldy book about bronze-age tribesmen and their skydaddy, convinced a bunch of other people who had read the same book that they all needed to kill the descendants of these tribesmen, and then then set about doing it. Witchburnings were just as inexcusable. “think about the context” does not change this one bit.

  39. Mookie
    November 29th, 2005 @ 1:15 pm

    Sorry for the double post.

  40. Lily
    November 29th, 2005 @ 1:17 pm

    Bruce: You are wrong on all counts. How did you manage that? You cherry-picked my message, misrepresented what I asked you, and attribute to me opinions which I have explicitly rejected. I do not say that the Bible is absolute truth. I have said this as have all the Christians on this blog over and over again. You just don’t listen. I have just said it again in another message that is being held for review. Look for it.

    And how is arrogant of me to say that God decides people’s fates and not me? You use words in ways that are directly the opposite of their normal meanings. No one can argue with that. And I will not try again.

  41. Lily
    November 29th, 2005 @ 1:50 pm

    Having been side-tracked by Bruce’s message I didn’t realize that others of you have asked some good questions. Let me try to respond as briefly as possible. I actually am at work and trying to meet a deadline!

    Let me deal with one decidedly foolish comment about Hitler thinking he was doing the will of God. Is it possible to have a high school diploma and not know that Hitler despised Christianity and sought to break its hold? I will not excuse the complicit churches. I have said over and over that there is such a thing as a bad Christian (or a nominal one). They will have the end they deserve.

    On the other hand, allonym, you asked some really good questions about what I wrote. I appreciate that you actually read and tried to understand what I was saying. You asked: … it seems you are suggesting that (for example) those who burned “witches” could still have been acting as good Christians because, through the lens of their historical context, burning people accused of witchcraft was an appropriate response.

    Motive has always played and still does play a role in determining how serious a crime is. I don’t say that they were acting as good Christians but that given their belief, one can understand why they did what they did. We don’t drown witches today. Why? It isn’t because we are somehow more humane. We just don’t believe in them any more. If we did, I posit that we would still be ridding ourselves of them in the way our brethren did at Salem.

    You also asked: On another note, if the ten commandments are found in most civilizations (throughout history, I presume), then isn’t that also pretty good argument that the idea behind the commandments is a very secular/humanist/practical one rather than a purely religious one?

    I wouldn’t put it in quite those terms since I believe in natural law, which means, among other things, that some things are revealed by nature itself. To borrow from CS Lewis, I say that the world has never lacked for good advice about how to live. Plato, Confucius and a whole host of others have done a pretty good job of it. What Christianity offers is supernatural help in living up to that advice. Along with a fuller account of the nature of mankind, why we were put here, what God expects of us and where we are going.

  42. Mookie
    November 29th, 2005 @ 2:06 pm

    Lily,

    “Is it possible to have a high school diploma and not know that Hitler despised Christianity and sought to break its hold?” Very much so. Ten seconds of searching revealed this:

    http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/quotes_hitler.html

    I suggest you do some research BEFORE you post a reply. It would save me time and you embarrassment.

  43. Lily
    November 29th, 2005 @ 2:48 pm

    Mookie: Are you seriously sending me to a page of quotes by a biologist as proof of your statement? Do the names Bonhoffer or Kolbe or Niemoller mean anything to you? Have you never heard that the Nazis rounded up priests and nuns by the scores and damned near wiped out the priesthood (=killed *thousands* ) in Poland?

    Here is a quote from Hitler to the point: “One is either a Christian or a German. You can’t be both.”

    Even more to the point: http://www.camlaw.rutgers.edu/publications/law-religion/NInst3.htm

    These papers posted at the Rutgers University Law site are documents that were originally gathered to be used at the Nuremberg trials. They tell the story of Hitler’s intention of destroying Christianity completely.

    It was wrong of me to be so rude to you and I apologize for it. My only excuse is that it is so tiresome to see this linkage made over and over again.

    But many of those who put this stuff out there are historians and do know better. It is a cynical attempt to discredit Christianity. There is a literal ton of information out there about the Nazis attitudes and intentions towards the Church and Christianity. It is impossible to overlook it honestly.

  44. cloudywithachanceofcheeseburgers
    November 29th, 2005 @ 3:49 pm

    A few things:

    1) Lily, it’s fine for you to consider the OT a historical document. Unfortunately, when I go to church, a big gold bible is raised high and walked around the church. “The word of the lord,” says the minister, and everyone agrees, “the word of the lord.” And then KISSES it. Ok? That is not the act of community that can look at the bible and say some of it is accurate, and some of it is helpful.

    2) Nobody wants to burn all the copies of the bible. We’re just saying here, that if you say you believe in Christian values, you should jettison the bible as a dead weight dragging you down.

    3) You mentioned the Constitution in your first post, and implied that changing it would be heresy. You are wrong. The Constitution had some quite offensive things in it, defining slaves as 3/5’s of a vote. We changed that. We added women’s rights. The right to tax income. And a few other ammendments as well. We didn’t just leave it, or IGNORE it because we didn’t like some parts of it. We CHANGED it.

    4) When you say adultery is still a major offense, as it was then, you are showing your true colors. You still do believe in Old Testament values, and you just sound dissapointed some soft-headed liberals have gotten into power and banned lynchings. Because by any goddamned measure you can think of, ADULTERY is *NOT* *NOT* the major offense to us as it was to Old Testament jews. How do we know? Because they KILLED adulterers, and we don’t even send them to jail. We also don’t KILL people for trying to convert people, which Deuteronomy instructs us to do. Why? Because it’s not even an offense in anyone’s books! So, please, you are just flat out , demonstrably wrong on that point. Please, before you reply, read Leviticus and then get back to me.

  45. HappyNat
    November 29th, 2005 @ 4:09 pm

    “Cite please? God has never said any heinous things.”

    Guess it depends how you define ‘heinous’, but god sounds like a mean bastard in the quote below.

    “I have wiped out many nations, devastating their fortress walls and towers. Their cities are now deserted; their streets are in silent ruin. There are no survivors to even tell what happened. I thought, ‘Surely they will have reverence for me now! Surely they will listen to my warnings, so I won’t need to strike again.’ But no; however much I punish them, they continue their evil practices from dawn till dusk and dusk till dawn.” So now the LORD says: “Be patient; the time is coming soon when I will stand up and accuse these evil nations. For it is my decision to gather together the kingdoms of the earth and pour out my fiercest anger and fury on them. All the earth will be devoured by the fire of my jealousy. “On that day I will purify the lips of all people, so that everyone will be able to worship the LORD together. My scattered people who live beyond the rivers of Ethiopia will come to present their offerings. (Zephaniah 3:6-10 NLT)

  46. Bruce
    November 29th, 2005 @ 4:20 pm

    I do not say that the Bible is absolute truth. I have said this as have all the Christians on this blog over and over again.

    Excellent, so the bible is not absolute truth. Atheism 1, Bible 0.

    Thus, if it is not absolute truth, then how do you know which parts are true and which parts are false. You said that Christian morals are not open to interpretation. How do you know that they are not open to interpretation or just plain wrong if you can’t determine the bible’s veracity. How do you know that any part of the bible is “truth”?

    If the bible is not absolute truth, then you are going to have to provide other credible evidence to support any biblical claims since I have no way of knowing what is actually true in the bible.

    And how is arrogant of me to say that God decides people’s fates and not me?

    So, you have a source document that is not the absolute truth but yet you have no problem implying that you know that God has the ablility to punish me eternally. Almost every religion suffers from this institutional arrogance. It is the epitome of arrogance to “know” the truth without sufficient evidence and then be so prideful as to let the rest of us know the error of our ways. You don’t see it as arrogance because you take your faith as fact.

    Or maybe I misunderstood you when you said “That is for God to sort out.” Maybe you really meant, “I could be wrong, in fact, there may be no God at all, as it is just impossible for us to know for sure, but a part of me wants to believe that there is a God even though I have no credible evidence to prove it, so on the small chance that I am right and all those other religions and atheists are wrong, then you will ultimately have to answer to my God”.

  47. Lily
    November 29th, 2005 @ 5:58 pm

    Bruce: 0 Bible: 1

    It is so cute to watch you take the bait. And take it you did.

    If you had paid attention to any of the things we have tried to tell you, you would know that the Bible is a series of ancient writings of various genres (stories, songs, reportage, history, fable, etc.) It would be absurd to take as absolute truth a piece of writing that begins “once upon a time” the time honored convention for signalling the start of a story.

    Do you understand now? Truth is not some mysterious quantity that cannot be known. You apply to these documents the light of natural reason, understanding and knowledge of history and understanding of literary conventions. If you do, you will be 7/8ths of the way there. There is more but you will ignore this so why bother to go on?

    As for the rest, it has been explained to you all over and over again that it is the Church, established by Jesus Christ, that guarantees the teachings of scripture (although Protestants do believe that scripture alone is enough, which can lead to some weird individual interpretations). There have been some excellent discussions of this in the last couple of months. Whoever is interested will be able to find them.

  48. hermesten
    November 29th, 2005 @ 6:25 pm

    “Christians are not moral relativists.”

    You’ve got to be kidding. You’re moral absolutists? So, Christians do not kill, period? So, for example, there never was any such Christian referred to as Stonewall Jackson? Or was General Jackson just not a “real” Christian?

    Cause if you’re saying there are times when it’s ok for Christians to kill, you’re saying killing is only immoral in relation to the reason for killing someone. And of course, Christians have always found excuses for killing those who belong to other tribes. That makes you a moral relativist.

  49. Lily
    November 29th, 2005 @ 7:03 pm

    Hermesten: You must have a peculiar way of defining moral relativity. It sure isn’t clear to me what you can possibly mean. Your example doesn’t make sense. The Bible, like other moral codifications, explicitly says that we may not murder. That is an absolute. We may not commit adultery. No ifs, ands or buts. An absolute. We shall honor our parents. No way out. No lying, stealing, cheating. None. These commandments are issued to individuals and tell him what God expects of him.

    The Bible is very clear that governments are instituted among men to restrain evil and have been given the sword to do so. General Jackson may have much to answer for but not for being a General who would have to kill or order others to be killed in war, so long as the war is just. The Catholic Church has developed a very nuanced just war theory. The Protestants have not, to my knowledge, although in principle they agree with the Catholic church. There are a few pacifist denominations, of course.

    To call this moral relativity is a sign of impaired cognition which depends on our ability to categorize rationally. I will leave it to you to try to figure out why.

  50. Mookie
    November 29th, 2005 @ 7:17 pm

    If morality were absolute, we would not be able to do anything immoral. What xians define as moral is just what they believe is moral, it is not some objective, truthful morality. There is no such thing.

  51. Bruce
    November 29th, 2005 @ 8:18 pm

    the Bible is a series of ancient writings of various genres (stories, songs, reportage, history, fable, etc.) It would be absurd to take as absolute truth a piece of writing that begins “once upon a time” the time honored convention for signalling the start of a story.

    Lily, you keep making my points for me but then assume you are winning the argument. I couldn’t agree more with your description of the bible. What I don’t understand is how such a book can convince you and so many others that God exists. Again, how do you know which parts are “truth” and which parts are fable, myth, allegory, wishful thinking, etc…

    You apply to these documents the light of natural reason, understanding and knowledge of history and understanding of literary conventions. If you do, you will be 7/8ths of the way there. There is more but you will ignore this so why bother to go on?

    Oh, I see, so you must interpret what the bible says to get the real meaning. But yet Christian morals are not open to interpretation? No, you never said “interpret”, you said you must apply the “light of natural reason, understanding and knowledge of history and understanding of literary conventions.” Yes, because none of these things is ever open to interpretation.

    it is the Church, established by Jesus Christ, that guarantees the teachings of scripture

    Again, how can Jesus guarantee the teachings of the scriptures if they aren’t all true. Did he tell us which ones are true and which ones aren’t? If so, why do so many Christians have varying interpretations?

  52. Debbie
    November 29th, 2005 @ 11:07 pm

    You clearly know nothing about the Cathars. There is a lot of well regarded academic research on their history. You should do some research before posting. And yet your premise in posting is that everyone who is critical of religion is ignorant, uneducated and simplistic.

    For a start, they were not seen as a problem in the areas of Languedoc in which they lived. Many ‘nobles and lords’ ruling these areas suffered the same gruesome fate for protecting the Cathars and their apparently harmless beliefs.

  53. steven
    November 30th, 2005 @ 6:37 am

    So governments can kill but not individuals? What if a few people get together and decide to start their own government? What defines a valid government?
    If you have a nutter like Hitler in power then does that mean that killing all the jews was ok because the governement did it?

  54. Anonymous
    November 30th, 2005 @ 7:27 am

    Lily, your condescending method of discourse is driving some debaters away. Is that your intent?

  55. Lily
    November 30th, 2005 @ 7:38 am

    Debbie: I know a fair amount about the Cathars. I am a medievalist by training. But… whatever.

  56. hermesten
    November 30th, 2005 @ 10:28 am

    It’s funny you talk about just war theory, Lily, and protestants, in a way that implies you are a Catholic, when you have clearly stated your support for the war in Iraq, which is not, by this theory, a just war.

    As Steven and Mookie point out, you’re just playing semantic games. Let’s use “murder” and make the example very concrete, based on something that has really happened.

    In this example, all the facts are the same, except one: who does the killing.

    One morning, my neighbor accidently hears a conversation taking place in the house next to his over his baby monitor. The people next door to him are Middle Eastern and have often acted in ways that most Americans would consider “suspicious.” The conversation he hears seems to clearly indicate a plan to blow up the school bus as it picks up the neighborhood children. The bus appears as he is looking out the window, and at the same time he sees his neighbor, dressed in bulky clothes and jacket, on this rather warm morning, heading straight for the bus at a rapid pace.

    Fearing the children on the bus are about to be killed, he grabs a gun and runs out his front door shouting at his neighbor to halt. With a clearer view, my neighbor sees an outline of a bulky object under the man’s jacket that looks to him just like what suicide bombers are shown wearing in Iraq on the nightly news. The neighbor also has a very large bag in his hand. Instead of stopping, he darts onto the bus without even looking back. My neighbor leaps desperately onto the bus and empties his gun into the back of the other neighbor’s head.

    Ah, but it turns out he has killed an innocent man. The bulky object was a back brace augmented by a pillow. The large package contained a child’s science project which she had left on the kitchen table. The conversation overheard on the baby monitor was the man’s teenage boys playing around and acting stupid.

    Will we hear the neighbor called a would be hero who made a tragic mistake? Or will this neighbor be prosecuted for murder? Will we hear how he must suffer for this lamentable error, or will we hear about how an innocent man has been murdered and children deprived of a father by an uninformed vigilante neighbor, who, is all probability, is a racist?

    Now, imagine the neighbor who made this terrible mistake is an FBI agent. Will HE be prosecuted for murder? Will he be called a vigilante? Or will we hear about how terrible mistakes are sometimes made when trying to protect the public?

    Or, imagine that the neighbor who got shot was an FBI agent.

    The “morality” is the same in every case, yet the consequences will be different. In each case, a man who must act immediately, tries to prevent children from being murdered, and makes a mistake while acting on information that he genuinely believes to indicate that a mass murder is about to take place before his eyes. And we all know that “Christians,” moral relativists that they are, will not object to the difference in consequences.

    On another subject, just war theory does not legitimize killing people in another country to change their form of government, or make “democracies.” Yet you, and other’s here of your persuasion, have defended the killing in Iraq based on some pie-in-the-sky notion that we are imposing “democracy” in the Middle East That makes you a moral relativist extraordinaire.

    Furthermore, the Bible itself is a catalogue of moral relativity –killing innocent women and children in the name of God, for instance, as chronicled in Numbers. You reference the “commandments” which you say prohibit “lying” (not really true, as the term used is “false witness”), stealing (seems to be ok if done in God’s name, e.g. Numbers again), and adultery (and man, do the great Biblical figures do a lot of that, sometimes murder AND adultery —who was that King again?). In any case, the Bible clearly considers adultery, false witness, coveting your neighbor’s ass, and saying Goddammit, as more serious moral breeches than abortion and slavery, as these things are clearly prohibited, while abortion is not, and slavery is condoned. Talk about your moral relativity.

  57. Lily
    November 30th, 2005 @ 12:08 pm

    Hermesten:
    I have absolutely no memory of expressing any kind of opinion on the war in Iraq and am reasonably certain that I have not done so. Would you care to tell me where I did?

    It would be helpful if you would define moral relativity. I know what the text book definition of that concept is but you appear to use it differently. You write a lengthy story that is supposed to illustrate something but, at best, only illustrates political/legal relativity; not moral. Morality never enters into it. Then you put the cherry on the sundae by adding And we all know that “Christians,” moral relativists that they are, will not object to the difference in consequences.

    We all do not know that. But I am not going to waste my time discussing this “story” any further. You have made up your mind in advance, proved your point to your own satisfaction and that is that.

  58. Mookie
    November 30th, 2005 @ 1:43 pm

    Lily,

    “political/legal relativity; not moral. Morality never enters into it.”

    Hahaha! This is too rich! You sure do like going nowhere fast.

  59. Lily
    November 30th, 2005 @ 2:50 pm

    Mookie:
    Shouldn’t you be in study hall right now?

    I will give you that trying to pursue any sort of debate here is going nowhere fast. But if you can find where that “story” illustrates any kind of moral dilemma, I would like to know where it is. Only if you can find such a dilemma, can we decide if a given response is morally relative or not. The morality of the action (or immorality to make things clear to you) is clear. It is the legality (“consequences” as Hermesten puts it) that Hermesten ends up snarking about.

    Now go back and study for your algebra test.

    Hermesten: I had to think about it but I think I do vaguely remember saying something about the Iraq war. I just don’t remember what or why. If you do, I will certainly be impressed by your memory.

  60. hermesten
    November 30th, 2005 @ 5:23 pm

    Lily, you are the perfect example of a Christian moral relativist, since the basis of your support for the Iraq war appears to be nothing more than tribal identity. Your position is especially ludicrous if you’re a Catholic, since, according to the americancatholic.org website, the Pope himself says that the Iraq war is a violation of just war theory. But we don’t have to rely on the Pope, we can evalute the criteria for ourselves. Let’s just take your own comments from another thread:

    Lily: “He was in violation of UN resolutions that explicitly gave us the sanction to go in, WMD or not, just because he ouldn’t let the inspectors inspect.”

    Even though this is nonsense AND hypocritical (given that Israel is also in violation of UN resolutions), we will accept it at face value for the sake of argument. What does just war theory say (theory quoted from the americancatholic website)? The Iraq war violates these four of the seven conditions listed for a just war:

    “Just cause. War is permissible only to confront “a real and certain danger,” i.e., to protect innocent life, to preserve conditions necessary for decent human existence and to secure basic human rights.”

    Violation of a UN resolution, and most especially, not letting “inspectors inspect,” is not a “real and certain danger.” (see the comments of Scott Ritter, an inspector and marine officer, for why this is a lie anyway, and how the “inspections” were rigged to fail by the US) If it was, we’d be invading Israel too.

    “Comparative justice. In essence: Which side is sufficiently “right” in a dispute, and are the values at stake critical enough to override the presumption against war? Do the rights and values involved justify killing? ”

    So your position would be, that not letting the “inspectors inspect,” even though not even the Bush administration claimed there was an immenient threat of Saddam using WMDs, was so critical, that it justifies us killing little children by bombing cities and machine gunning families at road blocks?

    “Last resort. For resort to war to be justified, all peaceful alternatives must have been exhausted.”

    There was no immenient threat, hence, no “last resort.” All alternatives were most certainly not exhausted. Futhermore, other countries, such as France, Russia, and Germany, advocated further negotiations. The fact is, that Saddam finally accepted even the intentionally outrageous inspection regime designed to fail and create a pretext for invasion, and the Bush administation still said: too late, Saddam has to go.

    “Proportionality. This means that the damage to be inflicted and the costs incurred by war must be proportionate to the good expected by taking up arms.”

    The country is in chaos. Hundreds of people are killed every week. The country was looted during our initial occupation. We’ve destroyed whole cities like Falluja. We deliberately bombed civilian targets like restraurants, killing many innocent people in attempts to kill one man, Saddam. The current government in Iraq says the country is no better off now than when Saddam was in power. There are gangs of thugs and death squads roaming the country from different political factions. Oil and electricity production are still below pre-war levels. For an Iraqi, there is no safe place in the entire country. As a video recently posted to the internet shows, “security contractors” drive around the country randomly shooting Iraqis for sport. All of this was predictable and predicted BEFORE the invasion. Bush fired the general that said we didn’t have enough troops. I could go on and on.

    Lily: “…the Iraqis don’t want Sadam back and if we ever manage to pull of a semi democratic Iraq or, at least, a stable, peaceful Iraq, we will have done more to ensure the peace of the region than anyone could ever have dreamed of even 10 years ago.”

    Are you joking? The region is at war now. Iraq is a breeding ground for terrorists, and terrorist acts are beginning to spill over into countries like Jordan. Iraq was stable and secular, BEFORE we invaded. At best, Iraq will be a Muslim-theocracy like Iran. And Bush is anxious to attack Iran, even though it is “stable” and “semi-democratic.”

    Iraq is more of a threat now that it is a terrorist training and proving ground, than it ever has been. We dream of “peace in the region?” You must be joking, or completely ignorant of US foreign policy for the last 50 years. The US has worked hard to keep the Arabs at each other’s throats. We supplied Saddam with weapons during the Iran/Iraq war for the express purpose of weaking both countries so there would be no significant Arab power in the Middle East. We deliberately prolonged the war to secure this objective, increasing the death and suffering on both sides.

    In Iran, we formented a coup that replaced a democratically elected government with the Shah. Great for us, ….urr. the oil companies, while he lasted, but his excesses led to the current Islamic government.

  61. Lily
    November 30th, 2005 @ 6:53 pm

    Sorry, Hermesten. I don’t agree with your take on any of that. The war on terror is a war of self-defense, among other things and self-defense is always licit.

    The more important point that you keep skirting (or, perhaps, don’t understand) is the difference between individuals and states. Individuals can be Christians. States cannot. At best (from my perspective), one can hope that Christian ethics will inform policies. Certainly, it is a help to have ethical politicians. But even if 100% of our congress and our President and his cabinet were strong, perfect Christians, it would not guarantee perfect Christian ethics in our public life or in our conduct of the affairs of state. After all, the majority of our laws are made by regulatory bodies that are not elected, are not accountable and have a life of their own. Affairs of state? We have seen in recent days how the State Dept. does its own thing with impunity. How do you rein them in?

    (Actually, you may remember a British comedy series called
    Yes, Minister and then later Yes, Prime Minister. The picture it draws of bureaucracy stripped of its local color, is a pretty darned good description of how things work here, too. Its print version might be in your local library.)

    Now, unless we impose a litmus test on everyone who works in government, how do we ensure that everyone will be a perfectly ethical Christian? Will everyone be happy? Will you? I mean you all don’t agree with the theists on anything, apparently, including the ethics that a mature Christian understanding dictates. Shall we discount you?

    But, of course, all of this is wasted bandwidth. You don’t want Christians to act like perfect Christians. You accuse us of “relativity” and stupidity in order to insult us, not because you are disappointed that we don’t live out our Lord’s commandments perfectly.

  62. Mookie
    November 30th, 2005 @ 7:42 pm

    Lily,

    “But if you can find where that “story” illustrates any kind of moral dilemma, I would like to know where it is.”

    Two possible outcomes for the story: 1) The man was correct in his assessment of the situation, and saved the children by dispatching the terrorist, 2) The man was incorrect and ended up murdering an innocent person. The fact remains that he killed the person. If it were #1, we would call him a hero, if it were #2, we would say it was an immoral act. That is the relativity of it.

    Verbatim: Will we hear the neighbor called a would be hero who made a tragic mistake? Or will this neighbor be prosecuted for murder? Will we hear how he must suffer for this lamentable error, or will we hear about how an innocent man has been murdered and children deprived of a father by an uninformed vigilante neighbor, who, is all probability, is a racist?

    “I used to teach history, Bruce. At a big ten University… Intellectual honesty.”

    Your ad hominem attacks undermine these previous statements. You don’t know if I am in high school or taking algebra, yet you respond to me assuming that I am. It was intended to be degrading or demeaning somehow, but it only belittles you, the attacker. I have to wonder how many people you misled in your history classes. You obviously have trouble finding facts before you share nonsense, and it is highly likely you did the same whilst teaching. I would dread taking your class, and can see a possible reason as to why you “used to” work for a university.

    We have witnessed you losing ground this entire debate, easy-to-find facts have been brought to your attention, and yet you continue to use blatantly false logic and semantic games to keep it going. What is your goal? What is your stance, exactly, in light of the dissolving of your arguments? You squirm and shirk and twist, but it does not seem to be for any particular reason. Do you like being wrong? Do you like to feel ignorant?

  63. allonym
    December 1st, 2005 @ 2:07 am

    Mookie asks if Lily likes feeling ignorant; I would posit that Lily doesn’t feel ignorant at all. And I would add that sometimes the ironic effect of ignorance is that one doesn’t recognize one’s own.

    Lily, I’m glad you appreciate that I actually read your comments and treated them fairly. I’ll tell you what I don’t appreciate, though: insinuating that someone you don’t know is uneducated because you disagree with their views, or because you interpret facts differently than them. For all you know, the person you’re trying to insult by implying (essentially) that they are a high school student [i]is actually[/i] a high school student, in which case your insult would be the height of arrogance: is there something inherently wrong with being a young adult of high school age? Would that make one’s viewpoint less important? Less correct? You have not offended my sensibilities one bit by the defense of your beliefs, but this particularly immature attack has sure put me off!

    Jeez, this whole thing has strayed so far off-topic that I can think of nothing further to say of any real relevance. I guess I’ll be signing off, then.

  64. Anonymous
    December 1st, 2005 @ 6:20 am

    I already asked Lily if it was her intent to drive away debaters with her condescending method of discourse, and her lack of an answer WAS her answer.
    That should be enough info for everyone else regarding Lily.

  65. Lily
    December 1st, 2005 @ 7:33 am

    If you all want to hear my answers, you will have to ask RA to release my messages from Cyberhell. Since I don’t want to spend time writing messages that disappear, that is all I will say for now, except to say that it is no insult to be young or to have it pointed out. And yes, it does make one’s viewpoint on adult matters less likely to be correct.

  66. hermesten
    December 1st, 2005 @ 10:42 am

    Lily, I consider Yes, Minister, and Yes, Prime Minister to be the single most important primer on the operation of so-called “democratic” government ever produced. It is more instructive than a degree in political science. Your reference to this series, in the context of your other remarks, tells me I was right on the money when I spoke about your tribal identity.

    Rationally, you can’t possibly believe that this series shows how government works and take any of the nonsense coming from politicians, like the “war on terror,” seriously, or at face value. This suggests to me that you believe something more like “this is how the government works when it’s being run by liberals, or democrats.” However, republicans and “conservatives” are “different”: either “not as bad” or “much better.”

    To me, this is the worst kind of moral and intellectual dishonesty. This “my country (or party, or side), right or wrong, but my country” stuff is moral relativism with all of its cowardice intact. And it tells me, that like so many others who hold your views, you’re an American first, and a “Christian” second –which is moral relativity writ large. In my view, if Christianity, or any other value system, doesn’t transcend nationalism (and it obviously doesn’t), it promotes tribalism, and is virtually worthless as an ethical system.

    Your strawman argument about a Christian government not being morally “perfect” is as silly and as trite as the bumper sticker that goes: “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” The fact is, I accepted your rules for a “just war,” which I think are very good rules. My point was not to show that all Christians are moral relativists, just that you are, and that the professed values of Christianity are not moral absolutes. People like you, professing to be Christians, spout pretty sounding values like the criteria for a just war, but when you’re confronted with their actual meaning, your response is dismissal, out of hand: “oh, sorry, don’t agree with any of that.”

    Lily: “You don’t want Christians to act like perfect Christians. ”

    Actually, I do. I value life, that of others, as well as my own.
    If your religion actually made people better, I’d have some respect for it. My biggest point in calling Christians moral relativists is that Christians don’t practice what they preach. Yes, you are commanded “thou shalt not murder,” but this commandment is meaningless because people like you just define murder to suit your purposes. Just like the moral cretin we call president, who says, “we don’t torture” because we have redefined what we do with some euphemism like “aggressive interrogation.” Good people who are Christians would be good people anyway.

    And finally, the favorite neo-con strawman: conflating the attack on Iraq with “terrorism.” Saddam, and Iraq, had nothing to do with “terrorism” before we invaded. Bin Laden, remember him, that guy the Chimp said we were going to hunt down as a first priority? He was in Afghanistan; now he’s in Pakistan (or maybe dead, being preserved as a boogeyman). Bush has increased terrorism world-wide, not reduced it. Attacking Iraq increased terrorism, it didn’t reduce it. The “war on terror” is an agit-prop empowerment strategy politicians are using to strip us of our rights and create a police-state.

  67. jahrta
    December 1st, 2005 @ 10:58 am

    Lily

    I’ve known plenty of politically-minded young people who can more than hold their own in a debate, and I’ve also shared cubicle space with some of the most idiotic mouth-breathing adults to be found anywhere on the planet.

    Age is not really a standard for intelligence, especially when many adults in positions of authority cling to antiquated and counter-productive dogmatic ideologies.

  68. Lily
    December 1st, 2005 @ 11:29 am

    Jahrta: You are absolutely right that age is not a standard for intelligence. But it is a standard for assessing the likelihood that an individual has the knowledge, wisdom and experience to instruct others on complex matters.

    Hermesten: Something I have noticed here before is that you all are very much like us, emotionally and intellectually. And that makes sense. We are all 20th/21st century Americans sharing the same language and culture. Your last message is a good example. You are a fundamentalist. You see no shades of gray, only black and white. I am either 100% with you or I am cast into outer darkness. A lot of you are like this. I could go on and draw further parallels to evangelicals, “moderates” or liberals but you see what I am driving at.

    This whole thread has gotten so wide-ranging that answering the various questions that have been asked or responding to all the erroneous statements that have been made is pretty impossible. But I will try to address broadly some of the points that have been raised.

    Re: Hitler. See comment 43 which has finally appeared.

    Re: Interpretation of the Bible This has been so thoroughly discussed in the last month or so that I can’t help but wonder, if any of bothered to read it. If you did, it doesn’t appear to have improved your understanding or modified your opinions one iota.

    The ongoing problem seems to be that you understand interpretation to mean that anything goes. Any point of view is valid and that there are no limits to how one can understand the text; no way to say “this is correct, this is not”. This is a false point of view. This is why there are disagreements over some matters among denominations. But these disagreements simply do not amount to anarchy. I have asked you to Google “Apostle’s Creed” to see what we all believe. I am not going to spell it out for you here.

    Re: morality. Again, in recent weeks this has been thoroughly discussed in various threads. I am not going to repeat the argument. To say that there is no universal morality that is binding and valid on all people at all times is to go against the overwhelming consensus of humanity. If you can find me a culture that thinks murder is fine; adultery, wonderful; cheating and stealing, lovely; please tell me about it.

    Re: My ignorance You are free to believe what you want. But to set the context for the rest of my response, I will tell you that I am a highly educated professional adult. I still work for a university. When I tell you that your facts are wrong, they are wrong. I do not pronounce facts wrong, unless I know what I am talking about.

    While you tell me that Hitler was a Christian and send me to a web page of quotes by a biologist (yeah, yeah, I know he is a famous one), as proof, I send you to a reputable law school hosting Nazi documents detailing their intentions for dealing with Christians. See the difference?

    Re: Insults This one made me laugh out loud. At work. Let’s see. I tell you to go study for your algebra test. You tell me that I am degrading and demeaning you???!!! I tell you that you are young. Oh the horror!! I, on the other hand, am a godidiot suffering christ psychosis, an oppressor of freedom (whatever that means), and my personal favorite “…Christians can be ACCURATELLY refered to as mentally retarded, regardless how many PH.Ds, MDs, and Science degrees they have! “… and this is just from one quick look at the threads today.

    Yeah, boy, I am real insulting.

  69. hermesten
    December 1st, 2005 @ 12:28 pm

    Lily: “You are a fundamentalist. You see no shades of gray, only black and white. I am either 100% with you or I am cast into outer darkness.”

    Another strawman. When you don’t like the subject at hand, change the subject. Your values appear to be about as relevant to your behavior as the time on a stopped clock is to our planet’s travel around the sun. Calling it murder when someone else kills, and killing when your tribe does it, is not a value system. “Doing the right thing” when it’s easy, or suits your purpose, doesn’t make you a good person.

    The irony is, we probably agree about a lot of things, just as long as the underlying values are in accordance with objectives of your particular tribe. I suspect that, in general, where we part may only be where principle is in conflict with your tribal objectives.

    You’re a perfect illustration of how meaningless Christianity is as a value system. You purport to be educated and subscribe to certain values; but when the contradition between pretense and reality is pointed out to you, on your own terms, you wave your hand in dismissal.

    Lily: “When I tell you that your facts are wrong, they are wrong. I do not pronounce facts wrong, unless I know what I am talking about.”

    Ha ha ha ha ha. Well, excuuuuuuuuse me! It’s the infallible Lily. If people like you are really allowed into a university classroom to do more than empty the trashcans, it’s no wonder Americans are so profoundly ignorant. Oh well, it sorta makes sense: there’s no room for logic in ideology.

    Lily: “If you can find me a culture that thinks murder is fine; adultery, wonderful; cheating and stealing, lovely; please tell me about it.”

    I must give you credit here, for this is really a marvelous way of saying that Christianity is not only morally relative, but actually irrelevant. Stalin, Mao, Hitler –none of them thought “murder is fine.” The communists were notoriously anti-sex. Hitler spoke often of decadence and degeneracy. So, they fundamentally agreed with Christian values. And they never “murdered” anyone. They merely “killed” people, when necessary, to create “a better world.” All of these despots were completely against murdering either “good” Russians, “good” Chinese, or “good” Germans. And you too have nothing against shedding a little blood of the innocents to make a “semi-democratic” Iraq. I mean, you can’t make an omlette with breaking a few eggs.

  70. DamnRight
    December 1st, 2005 @ 1:07 pm

    Lily, I believe that labeling you “ignorant” is by way of giving you the benefit of the doubt… it is hard to believe that any one not ignorant, as you attempt to portray yourself, could hold herself in such high esteem while presenting the weakest of arguments (I’m giving more benefit of the doubt here since I really found avoidance and obfuscation of issues and questions rather than arguments)… I’m done with this thread…

  71. Mookie
    December 1st, 2005 @ 8:18 pm

    Lily,

    In response to #43: http://www.bowness.demon.co.uk/belt.htm
    http://www.rumburak.friko.pl/BIBLIA/religia/falszywa.php

    “When I tell you that your facts are wrong, they are wrong. I do not pronounce facts wrong, unless I know what I am talking about.”

    Oops, looks like you really don’t know what you’re talking about. Germans were pretty churchy in the 1930s, and the folks that joined or otherwise supported the Nazis were almost entirely xian. Hitler would not have gone very far had he been an atheist and espoused his desire to destroy xianity.

    “I, on the other hand, am a godidiot suffering christ psychosis, an oppressor of freedom”

    I’m glad you have finally admitted you have a problem. Now the healing can begin.

  72. hermesten
    December 2nd, 2005 @ 9:33 am

    Well Lily, I had a fairly long reply for you, but RA blocked it, and I don’t care enough to write it up again.

  73. Lily
    December 2nd, 2005 @ 12:16 pm

    Hermesten: RA will release it eventually. I will look forward to reading it. This one is likely to fall into cyberhell, too, since I think length is one of the triggers.

    Your last comment was interesting on so many levels. I wonder if you understand that when you heap one false premise on top of another, your chances of being correct grow exponentially less likely? You started out by saying that you agreed with me that Yes Minister was a fantastic primer on how governments work.

    But, instead of stopping and wondering, if perhaps there was more to what little you know of my political opinions (limited to my support for the war in Iraq) you jumped to one false conclusion after another. Let’s see:

    Rationally, you can’t possibly believe that this series shows how government works and take any of the nonsense coming from politicians, like the “war on terror,” seriously, or at face value. This suggests to me that you believe something more like “this is how the government works when it’s being run by liberals, or democrats.” However, republicans and “conservatives” are “different”: either “not as bad” or “much better.”

    This is just plain wrong. I have major disagreements with the Republicans. But, because you didn’t stop to find out, if this might be the case, you went on to damn me:

    To me, this is the worst kind of moral and intellectual dishonesty. This “my country (or party, or side), right or wrong, but my country” stuff is moral relativism with all of its cowardice intact.

    Yes, I would agree that this is pretty bad morally and intellectually. But no matter. You have my number:

    And it tells me, that like so many others who hold your views, you’re an American first, and a “Christian” second

    Wrong again.

    –which is moral relativity writ large. In my view, if Christianity, or any other value system, doesn’t transcend nationalism (and it obviously doesn’t) … wrong again as regards Christianity. I can’t speak to other systems.

    it promotes tribalism, and is virtually worthless as an ethical system.I agree with that.

    But of course, working through this and trying to understand my support of political positions you don’t support would entail, thought, charity, and the ability to see shades of gray.

    This exact same procedure drove that convoluted story you posted, which Mookie, have totally missed the point of my response, went on to “explain” to me.

    Let’s see:

    Ah, but it turns out he has killed an innocent man. …
    Will we hear the neighbor called a would be hero who made a tragic mistake? … or will we hear about how an innocent man has been murdered and children deprived of a father by an uninformed vigilante neighbor, who, is all probability, is a racist?

    No loaded question here! “Would be hero”? Only if the evidence weighed by rational people so strongly pointed to his conclusion and the action he took being rational under the circumstances, that it would have to be concluded that he did the right thing. His being a racist (which of course gets added because you think that makes a difference no matter what else might be going on).

    What if the neighbor who made this terrible mistake is an FBI agent. Will HE be prosecuted for murder? Will he be called a vigilante? Or will we hear about how terrible mistakes are sometimes made when trying to protect the public?

    This is your idea of a moral dilemma? If his reason for acting were so strong that any rational person would have come to the same conclusion, he can’t possibly be called a vigilante.

    Or, imagine that the neighbor who got shot was an FBI agent. By someone acting on the same strong (though erroneous) information?

    The “morality” is the same in every case, yet the consequences will be different. In each case, a man who must act immediately, tries to prevent children from being murdered, and makes a mistake while acting on information that he genuinely believes to indicate that a mass murder is about to take place before his eyes. And we all know that “Christians,” moral relativists that they are, will not object to the difference in consequences.

    What difference in consequences? The ones that you expect me to know, though you have not stated them? For heaven’s sake, Hermesten. Can’t you do better than that? Let me help you out, as best I can.

    I think I am expected to know that the in the first scenario the man will get off scot-free to the applause of all his evil (Christian and republican) neighbors. And he maybe should, if the evidence that led him to do what he did really is that compelling.

    In real life, I don’t think that is what would happen. I am guessing that he would be convicted of manslaughter but not jailed because his actions were rational under the circumstances. And this would be true in the other two scenarios as well.

    Finally, let’s revisit this gem:

    On another subject, just war theory does not legitimize killing people in another country to change their form of government, or make “democracies.” Yet you, and other’s here of your persuasion, have defended the killing in Iraq based on some pie-in-the-sky notion that we are imposing “democracy” in the Middle East That makes you a moral relativist extrordinaire.

    It does no such thing. You think that enabling democracy in Iraq is pie-in-the-sky. That is a proposition which you have not tried to defend much less proven. Even if you do prove it, somehow, that does not make me a moral relativist. It makes me wrong. Do you understand the difference?

  74. hermesten
    December 2nd, 2005 @ 3:29 pm

    Lily, at this point, it’s been a good two days, so I doubt I will see my previous reply posted. You’re absolutely correct that I was making assumptions without much factual basis, and that making such assumptions can lead to false conclusions. I would call my guesses in this case “probabalistic” because in my experience many people who make some of the statements you have made here do so for the reasons I have suggested. I am happy to accept your contention that these assumptions do not apply to you.

    It’s good that you agree that morality should transcend nationalism. However, contrary to your contention, I see no evidence that Christianity does this. It certainly didn’t do it in Nazi Germany, where the German people were predominately Christian, yet only a very small minority offered any opposition to the Nazi regime. In fact, the atheisitc communists were more likely to put their lives on the line opposing the Nazis in Germany, and in every other occupied country in Europe.

    There is no evidence of this in the US either, where 40% of our military is now said to be evangelical Christians. And in fact, with a few rare exceptions like Frank, most of the Christians I run into advocate obdience and subordination to the State whenever “nationalism” is at issue: they are predominately pro-war, conflate supporting the troops with not questioning political officials (unless of course, they’re democrats), supressing dissent, and worshiping the State with the pledge of “allegiance.”

    Since WWII, there is virtually no public history of ethical resistance to illegal and immoral conduct in and by the US military. The Israelis find ethical objections by people in uniform to be a freqent fact of military life that must be dealt with. Even the Spanish had pilots who refused to bomb civilians in Kosovo. Other than the home schooler who refused to wear UN symbols on his uniform, I haven’t heard of a single case of a Christian objecting to military conduct for ethical reasons. However, a Muslim chaplain ojected to treatment at Gitmo, and was quickly punished for his temerity.

    Are you going to tell me that only atheists in the miliary are torturing and humiliating people, shooting civilians, dropping willie pee and nalpalm on human beings, bombing civilian targets, running CIA secret prisons, and rendering “suspects” to foreign countries for torture? Where are all the Christian objectors? Shouldn’t there be more objectors in the US than there are in Spain and Israel, simply as a function of population?

    Lliy: “His being a racist …”

    Here you miss the point, which isn’t that he is a racist, but that under the circumstances described, he would be accused of racism.

    Lily: “If his reason for acting were so strong that any rational person would have come to the same conclusion, he can’t possibly be called a vigilante.”

    You’re either very loose with the language, or seriously out of touch with the American media. In our media, even self-defense, if taken by someone who is not a duly authorized government official, is labeled as vigilantism. Remember Bernard Goetz? Cops, on the other hand, can put 40 slugs into an unarmed man and it’s just an unfortunate “accident.”

    Lily: “I think I am expected to know that the in the first scenario the man will get off scot-free to the applause of all his evil (Christian and republican) neighbors.”

    You’re teasing me here, surely. The “civilian” would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, at least initially, and, as I alluded to before, if he was white, and the guy he shot of another race, he would be branded a rascist. The government would lie and/or fabricate evidence if necessary to obtain a conviction, and pile on charges. And if the guy he shot turned out to be something like an FBI agent they’d pile on still other charges like assualting a federal agent.

    If there was enough outrage and a groundswell of political support for the shooter, the goverment might reduce the charges to manslaughter, or even drop them, but this would be entirely a function of the political situation, and the government would have done everything possible to blacken the man’s reputation in advance of any trial, precisely to forestall any political support for him. Of course, this might well be different, ala Jon Benet, if the shooter was politically well-connected, or weathly enough to afford a first-class defense attorney –like OJ.

    If it was a cop who did the shooting, there would be no charges. We would told how bad the cop felt about his mistake. We just saw this happen in Britain, and the outcome would be exactly the same here. The government would lie about what happened to make the cop look better. Cops virtually NEVER even get prosecuted for misconduct, much less convicted. I was looking at the numbers awhile back, and in most states, where a DA considers charges against a cop, 99% of the time they choose not to prosecute.

    Now, with the cronyism of the current administration, even mercenaries –euphemistically called “contractors” in our media, get a completely free pass when they shoot people –at least if they do it out of the public eye. After Katrina, they shot people in New Orleans without even stopping to see the damage, and there were no consequences of any kind –just like in Iraq.

    Lily: “You think that enabling democracy in Iraq is pie-in-the-sky. That is a proposition which you have not tried to defend much less proven. Even if you do prove it, somehow, that does not make me a moral relativist. It makes me wrong. Do you understand the difference?”

    More strawman argument. It doesn’t matter how effective the democracy is, the fact that it won’t be effective in Iraq just makes the breech worse: the condtions for a just war do no allow wars for the purpose of creating democracies or changing another country’s form of government.

  75. Lily
    December 2nd, 2005 @ 6:38 pm

    Hermesten: Re your last paragraph: this is not a strawman argument. The just war theory doesn’t stand in splendid isolation from all other bits of Christian morality! You say that it doesn’t matter if democracy in Iraq is effective or not. In a way that is true but it wouldn’t make the war unjust. One always does the right thing, regardless of outcome, unless one is… a moral relativist! :)

    Saddam was a monster and his sons were worse. Removing them means that many thousands of people, maybe tens of thousands, are going to live out their natural lives and, hopefully, in better circumstances than they ever could under the Baathists. Now, does the just war theory allow for the saving of innocent lives and the likely improvement in the peace of the mideast?

    Honest people can answer these questions differently. None of us has full knowledge about the situation in the mideast nor can we see the future. The just war theory is not as simple as you seem to think it is; else why are there whole treatises interpreting it and trying to tease out its implications? That honest people come to different conclusions is neither surprising nor does it make one or the other a moral relativist.

    Re this It’s good that you agree that morality should transcend nationalism. However, contrary to your contention, I see no evidence that Christianity does this. Of course Christianity does this. Read the New Testament and see! Of course, some *Christians* don’t. That is the sorrow of being human. We are all fallen creatures who have to work with whatever brains, cultural conditioning and emotional strength we have.

    I don’t understand why you think Christians should be monolithically alike (to coin an awkward phrase). I have said before that we, like every other person on the planet, are all at different places, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, physically, and any other -ally you can think of. Some of us are only nominally “Christians”. They claim the name but have no intention of letting Christianity interfere with their interests and lives. It has always been that way. Have you ever read Acts? (A book of the Bible). The first such stories are recorded there. The German “Christians” who were complicit in the horrors of the Hitler regime will be dealt with as they deserve. Ditto any soldier who sees crimes being committed but does not report them.

    But with regard to our soldiers, in addition to the above, let us be very sure of our facts, first. Not everything that the media claims is a crime is one. The stupid torture bill is a case in point about useless grandstanding. Torture is already illegal. If it is happening, it needs to be prosecuted and punished. Passing another bill may make the Dems feel virtuous but will do nothing to stop what may be going on.

    The implications of your killer/terrorist story has almost completely changed with the addition of the media and the government to the mix. In your original post you alluded only to what the neighbors would think. I still think that they would, in each case, find the the killing terrible but not deserving of punishment, if all the circumstances are as persuasive as you have described. I basically agree with your description of how the media and govt. would respond. But I don’t see how that makes Christians moral relativists. I think all of us would see the killing as murder (but all of us understand, as the law allows, that there are degrees of culpability) but find that it is manslaughter and may be deserving of little or no punishment. It is always hard to say when dealing with a hypothetical case.

    I am beginning to think that your beef with religion is rooted in your misunderstanding of or, perhaps, disdain for human nature. I can’t entirely blame you but the solution is to be found iin what we were intended to be and will be again, if we allow God to work on us. God loves us despite what we currently are. That is a whole lot harder for us. But it can be done.

  76. Mookie
    December 2nd, 2005 @ 7:55 pm

    “I am beginning to think that your beef with religion is rooted in your misunderstanding of or, perhaps, disdain for human nature.”

    Hahaha! This from an original sinner.

  77. Mort Coyle
    December 2nd, 2005 @ 8:15 pm

    It seems to me like much of this discussion boils down to: “Look at all the bad things Christians have done”, which, in turn, is used as a basis for denigrating Christianity. What should be an obvious point seems to be overlooked:

    Let’s say I were an athiest. In fact let’s say I were a very vocal and well-known atheist who claimed to represent atheists world wide. Yet, while claiming to be a paragon of atheism I also prayed to God, studied the Bible and went to church every Sunday. In other words my actions contradicted my claims about what I stood for. Would this then negate atheism as a viewpoint? Would all atheists therefore be fools and hypocrites? Or is it simply that I’d be a bad representation of what atheism is about?

    The word “Christian” means “Christ-like one”. A Christian is someone who is attempting to follow Jesus as a lifestyle. If a person or group of persons or organization or nation claims to be Christian but isn’t following the teachings of Jesus, then they’re as bogus as my hypothetical God-believing atheist. Following Jesus isn’t always easy, and we all fall short of how well we’d like to do (which is why we find comfort in God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness). There is a world of difference though between those who honestly try to live a Christian (Christ-like) life and those who claim the name but blatantly act in a contradictory manner.

    The New Testament writers spent considerable amounts of ink dealing with the topic of phony Christians. “Wolves in sheep’s clothing”, “Trees that bear bad fruit”, “Weeds among the wheat”, “Clouds without rain”, “False Teachers”, “False Prophets”, “Anti-Christs” are some of the colorful terms used in the New Testament to describe these phonies who have plagued the Church from day one (remember that Judas guy?).

    So what did Jesus teach? Respect and restoration, especially for marginalized people (which in his day were women, slaves, Gentiles, lepers, etc.). Self-sacrifice. Giving up our own rights and privileges for the sake of others. Integrity. Honesty. Cooperation. Generosity.

    People who seek power and control over others; who oppress; who torture and kill “heretics”, etc., are not acting in a “Christ-like” manner, regardless of what titles they may give themselves. Does that mean that Christianity is flawed because people can call themselves Christian and do horrendous things? No, it means that those people are flawed. And, of course, we can find similarly flawed people carrying the banners of every “ism”, “ian” and “ity” (usually to the embarrassment of the true adherents).

    Many of Jesus’ discourses in the Gospels were spoken to people who were seriously contemplating terrorist acts and open revolt against their Roman occupiers. Jesus advised them instead to “Pray for your enemies”, “Turn the other cheek [when struck]”, “Go an extra mile [when conscripted to carry a load for the Romans]”, “Give the shirt off your back [when your coat is taken]”, be a “peacemaker”. Jesus warned them not to pursue the course of rebellion. He proposed a completely different kind of kingdom and a completely different way of bringing it about.

    The people did eventually revolt against the Romans and in 70 A.D. Jerusalem was sacked and the Jewish temple; the center of their religion; was utterly destroyed. It is estimated that 1 million died. Many more were sold into slavery. In 132 A.D. there was another failed revolt and this time the Romans razed Jerusalem to the ground, expelled the Jews from their homeland and executed or enslaved vast numbers. Those who followed Jesus’ words had extricated themselves long before these incredibly self-destructive revolts occurred.

    Someone here quoted Jesus as saying “…those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them – bring them here and kill them in front of me.” I’ve seen atheists reference this scripture before, including the maker of that joke of a movie, “The God Who Wasn’t There”. The scripture is Luke 19:11-27. It’s part of a parable; a story; that Jesus is telling. The words are spoken by a character in the story who is a king. The story is actually based on the true story of Herod’s son Archelaus who was a despot. It is incredibly dishonest to pull this phrase out of it’s context within a parable and try to make it appear as if it were a command that Jesus gave. What is even more heinous is that to do so is to put words into Jesus’ mouth which are the antithesis of what he was all about.

    The early Christians gave dignity to women, slaves, the disabled, foreigners, abandoned children, etc., in a time and place where they were utterly marginalized by the popular culture. Followers of Jesus were first called “Christians” by others who observed their behavior. Such “Christ-like” behavior is the antithesis of those who killed Cathars or Huguenots or Native Americans or Armenians or Jews or Bosnians in the name of Jesus.

  78. Mookie
    December 2nd, 2005 @ 10:59 pm

    MC:

    “”Look at all the bad things Christians have done”, which, in turn, is used as a basis for denigrating Christianity.”

    Are all xians genocidal warmongers like Hitler? No. Are all xians as misinformed as lily? Unfortunately, a great many are. Besides, and how smart can one really be if they believe in fairy tales?

    You make a nice case for religion, and I can see how one would want to emulate (some) actions of Christ; I had a professor who said, “I’m a xian, but I don’t believe in god.” The fact remains that the belief in the supernatural and absolutes are dangerous on their own, in and of themselves. How many children heard “God did it” whenever they asked a question regarding what they observe? Here the god of the gaps shows up and extinguishes curiosity, limiting countless minds with unsubstantiated nonsense. How many nations have proclaimed their adherence to a particular religion, often in opposition to others? Here we see the power of the state being tied in with the supposed power of the absolute. How many women, children and slaves have been subjugated by men who link their authority and power to passages in the bible? Here we see adherence to an antiquated moral code that does not and should not apply to modern-day circumstances. This has been said so many times already it’s not even funny. You’d think people would get it the first time.

  79. Lily
    December 2nd, 2005 @ 11:57 pm

    Mookie: it is a darned shame that you will not listen to any voice but your own. Hitler was not a Christian and I provided adequate proof of that on the other thread on which that came up for discussion.

    But I gotta ask: what am I misinformed about?

  80. Mort Coyle
    December 3rd, 2005 @ 1:11 am

    Mookie,

    “How many women, children and slaves have been subjugated by men who link their authority and power to passages in the bible?”

    Sad but true. Of course the same can be said for men who link their authority and power to materialism, consumerism, capitalism, Marxism, Darwinism, nationalism, yada-yada-yada. The issue isn’t the “ism”, it’s the men.

    And, of course, how many have been liberated by men and women who link their desire to help and serve to passages in the Bible?

    “Here we see adherence to an antiquated moral code that does not and should not apply to modern-day circumstances. This has been said so many times already it’s not even funny. You’d think people would get it the first time.”

    What has come along in terms of moral codes which has proven to be any better, or less susceptible to the dark side of human nature? As one of my favorite musicians, Roger Waters, sang:

    “Muslim or Christian,
    Mullah or Pope,
    Preacher or poet,
    Who was it wrote,
    Give any one species too much rope,
    And they’ll f*ck it up.”

    It’s not just religion that can become evil when it’s married to the power of the state. Power corrupts and the real root of the problem is man’s lust for power and control at any cost. Religion is just one of many things that can be corrupted by that lust. Science is another. Politics too. Etc., etc.

    Jesus knew that. For example there’s a story in the Bible where the people were so excited about Jesus that they decided to go find him and make him king. Jesus responded by taking off to a mountain by himself so they couldn’t do it. (John 16:14-15)

    One of my favorites though is this saying of Jesus to his disciples:

    “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)

    This echos something John wrote in chapter 13 of his gospel:

    “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him…
    When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

    In that culture, washing the crap off of people’s feet was the job given to the lowliest servant.

    Paul summarizes it this way in his letter to the Philippians (chapter 2):

    “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!”

    Do you see the point? The way of Jesus is not to seek power and control but to seek to serve and heal and restore
    and reconcile. What’s so antiquated about that?

  81. Mookie
    December 3rd, 2005 @ 8:14 am

    “The way of Jesus is not to seek power and control but to seek to serve and heal and restore and reconcile.”

    Why is the Vatican encrusted in gold? Why does it take a pope to crown an emperor? Why do the words “In God We Trust” appear on American currency? It is the absolute that does this. Your remark on “isms” left out that not all “isms” include absolutes.

    Lily,

    Do a google image search for “Gott Mit Uns”, I think you will be unpleasantly surprised.

  82. Mort Coyle
    December 3rd, 2005 @ 11:02 am

    Mookie,

    Having “In God we Trust” on coins is a far cry from the religious subjugation and oppression you were speaking of earlier. My understanding is that it was placed on coins during the Civil War due to public demand. I suppose that nowadays if there were strong public sentiment to have it removed it would be, but most people don’t seem to mind it.

    Regarding your questions about the Vatican and the Pope, I would say, “Indeed, why”. Actually, as with most things, there is a historical explanation. Rather than explain it here, thus generating another long post, here’s a link to an article that gives a pretty accurate and balanced account of how the church went from the very simple and humble group that Jesus and the Apostles started to the massive structure of Medieval Catholicism:
    http://www.christianheritageuk.org.uk/Publisher/Article.aspx?id=2696

    Keep in mind though that just because wealthy and powerful institutions such as the Catholic church still exist doesn’t mean that there aren’t also still simple and humble people who are trying to follow the way of Jesus, including many within Catholicism.

  83. Mort Coyle
    December 3rd, 2005 @ 11:21 am

    Mookie,

    Having “In God we Trust” on coins is a far cry from the religious subjugation and oppression you were speaking of earlier. My understanding is that it was placed on coins during the Civil War due to public demand. I suppose that nowadays if there were strong public sentiment to have it removed it would be, but most people don’t seem to mind it.

    Regarding your questions about the Vatican and the Pope, I would say, “Indeed, why”. Actually, as with most things, there is a historical explanation. Rather than explain it here, thus generating another long post, here’s a link to an article that gives a pretty accurate and balanced account of how the church went from the very simple and humble group that Jesus and the Apostles started to the massive structure of Medieval Catholicism:
    http://www.christianheritageuk.org.uk/Publisher/Article.aspx?id=2696

    Keep in mind though that just because wealthy and powerful institutions such as the Catholic church still exist doesn’t mean that there aren’t also still simple and humble people who are trying to follow the way of Jesus, including many within Catholicism.

  84. lily
    December 3rd, 2005 @ 12:06 pm

    Mookie:

    I recommend Google to you all sometimes because it is a quick and easy way to find information for those who have no background or education in many of the topics that come up in these threads. But it isn’t always reliable and sources need to be evaluated. I can prove a lot of things that are not true by googling and accepting whatever some crank or, simply ignorant person, puts out there.

    Just yesterday (or the day before) John Siegenthaler, Sr. wrote an article in USA Today describing how he had found an article in Wikopedia describing him as a suspect (briefly) in the assassination of John and Robert Kennedy. This, in turn, got picked up by Answers.com and another Internet source. This story was totally false and deliberate character assassination.

    Because of my major, I had to study the Hitler era in some depth. While that era is not my area of expertise, I think that I have a sufficiently informed understanding to tell you that the Nazis, like every other political party, had no trouble co-opting symbols that would advance their cause. They also had no trouble using religous language quite shamelessly. So well did the Nazis understand the power of language to shape attitudes and beliefs that “Nazi German” is still the subject of scholarship and debate today.

    If anyone is interested, here is a link to an interesting article hosted at the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies:

    http://migs.concordia.ca/occpapers/n_german.html

  85. simbol
    December 3rd, 2005 @ 12:59 pm

    Mookie

    Frankly, I don’t think is tenable to affirrm that catholics, as a church, supported Hitler. At least not the hierarchy. Until 1937 there was a tough confrontation between nazis and catholics not only because the persecution of catholics but also because the nazi project for creating a National Church, sweeping catholics and protestants. See the Pius XI Enciclical “Mit Brennender sorge”(With Burning Sorrow-1937), here the position of the Vatican is clear. This is a quote of a paragraph: “We have no greater desire than to see in Germany the restoration of a true peace between Church and State. But if, without any fault of Ours, this peace is not to come, then the Church of God will defend her rights and her freedom in the name of the Almighty whose arm has not shortened”. It’s also true that the church of Pius XII took a passive position in the following years. This has been explained. While you cannot condone this passive position you cannot condemn its motive that was to protect catholics under an all powerful Hitler. I’m atheist but what is fair is fair.

  86. hermesten
    December 6th, 2005 @ 12:29 pm

    “You say that it doesn’t matter if democracy in Iraq is effective or not. In a way that is true but it wouldn’t make the war unjust.”

    True, but irrelevant, because the issue isn’t the final effectiveness of the action (though this too is debatable because just war theory says no to a war whose failure is likely or predictable –but I chose to ignore this aspect). The issue is that just war theory sets conditions to be met, and even if you make the case that changing a government is a condition, it isn’t a sufficient condition.

    Secondly, the US congress didn’t declare war on Iraq. The authorization for military action it gave the Chimp (itself an illegal abdication of Congressional responsibility) was to punish those guilty of 911 and to protect the US against an immenient threat –not to create democracy in the Middle East. So the war is also illegal under US law.

    “Now, does the just war theory allow for the saving of innocent lives and the likely improvement in the peace of the mideast?”

    Independently of an immenient threat to the US. NO. And if it did, just war theory would be trivial and meaningless, since this pretext can be invoked for just about any war. We could attack Ireland and Spain on this specious pretext.

    “I don’t understand why you think Christians should be monolithically alike.”

    I don’t. And that’s not the standard I apply or seek evidence for. I am merely looking for evidence where people claiming to be Christian acted in accordance with their professed moral philosophy in larger numbers than some other group that doesn’t hold to such a philosophy. I don’t see any such evidence. However, I do see evidence that other groups, such as Israeli Jews and communists in occupied Europe, have contested immoral action in greater numbers than other groups.

    “The stupid torture bill is a case in point about useless grandstanding. Torture is already illegal.”

    It isn’t, actually. The depraved lunatics in the Bush administration have merely redefined what constittutes torture so that drowning and beating people to death is just aggressive interrogation. 108 prisoners have died in US custody. 26 of those deaths have been defined as homocide: which means they must have been too egregious to cover up. Prosecutions for these murders? Zero.

    But if what you say is true, there would be absolutely no reason to oppose such a bill, since it would have no effect on current operations, and the Bush administration could take the moral high ground. The reason they are opposing this bill is because they fear prosecution for what they’ve done and what they’re doing.

    Now we’re hearing about a German citizen we admit to having abducted in Europe because his name sounded similar to that of a suspected “terrorist” and a CIA operative had a “hunch” he might be the guy. Kiddnapped by the US in a foreign country and rendered to Afghanistan where he was beaten and abused. Held for an additional two months after his innocence was no longer questioned, and then dumped in some forrest in Eastern Europe.

    In Italy, the CIA abducted a guy right off the street in Milan and rendered him to Egypt. Then they lied to the Italian police, telling them he had fled Italy to some other country, and disrupted a police investigation, preventing the Italians from arresting this man. If this is ok with you, then I guess you’d have no problem with the Chinese abducting some guy from Taiwan they claimed was a terrorist off the street in Atlanta, and then telling US law enforcement that the man had gone on a trip to India.

    These cases go on and on. There are thousands of CIA rendition flights on record. This isn’t the action of some rogue agent. This is Bush administration policy. The sole purpose of rendition is to conduct torture in ways that avoid prosecution under US law. Also, there is no need for secret prisons in foreign countries if your actions can stand the light of day. Police states and dictatorships run secret prisons, not democracies.

    And how many US military officers need to come forward with stories about widespread mistreatment of prisoners, beatings, torture, abuse, and even murder, on orders from the top, before you believe our generally honorable men in uniform, who have everything to lose and nothing to gain, over sleezy lying draft-dodging politicians out to save their own a s s e s?

  87. hermesten
    December 6th, 2005 @ 12:57 pm

    “It seems to me like much of this discussion boils down to: “Look at all the bad things Christians have done”, which, in turn, is used as a basis for denigrating Christianity.”

    I think it is you who are missing the point. My argument has never been that Christians are any worse than anyone else. My argument is simply that Christians are no better than anyone else, and that therefore, Christianity is irrelevant to the moral improvement of mankind.

    Where Christians have been tested with power, their record is very poor. For centuries, the Christian Church was a partner in oppression with every Christian State. This history was an important consideration for the men who founded this country.

    I won’t say all, but much moral progress has been made in opposition to the Christian Church. Their “Christianity” certainly didn’t prevent pious southern plantation owners from enslaving other human beings while they spoke in lofty terms about “liberty.” Is this because Christians are bad? No, it’s because they’re human and seek to preserve the status quo when it is perceived to be to their benefit, regardless of the moral nostrums they preach. And that’s the point, their religion doesn’t change their essential humanity.

    Both good people and bad people are in a minority (defining good as those who do good even when the personal cost is high, and bad, those who act only in their own self-interest without concern to the cost of their behavior to others). The majority of people are more or less “neutral” in the sense that they will essentially follow what can be described as the path of least resistance. They will act simply to minimize their personal cost, and will be good or bad in accordance with the circumstances they find themselves to be in.

    Any justification good people find in Christianity, or religion in general, to be good, is more than offset by the potential it gives bad people for exploitation, by offering them moral cover for their actions.

  88. DC
    December 6th, 2005 @ 1:04 pm

    Lily,

    While appearing very knowledgeable your arguments are laced with logical fallacies.

    ‘ established by Jesus Christ, that guarantees the teachings of scripture (although Protestants do believe that scripture alone is enough, which can lead to some weird individual interpretations)’

    No more wierd than those of the men whose interpretations you follow. Tradition is perhaps the worst way to know anything as it assumes the first interpretation was the correct one. Reality and reason are far better barometers.

    Of course celibrate priests, annulments for nonexistent marriages, actually encouraging divorce, stopping birth control, praying to saints and a ‘virgin’ Mary are all correct interpretations.

    ‘Some of us are only nominally “Christians”.

    One true scotmans fallacy.

    I like some of what you say but as a fellow Christian you are trying to make factual arguments for faith issues. Any such dogmas that disagree with reality directly makes it questionable.

    I also find peoples arguments much more compelling when they are honest. The bible advocates slavery, has a host of ancient rules not needed in modern life BUT it also has many gems and a story that reflects the redemptive nature of God. I feel religion gets lost on the bigger picture and bogs down in dogma.

  89. DC
    December 6th, 2005 @ 1:59 pm

    ‘I think it is you who are missing the point. My argument has never been that Christians are any worse than anyone else. My argument is simply that Christians are no better than anyone else, and that therefore, Christianity is irrelevant to the moral improvement of mankind.’

    I think this may be very true. Much of the improvement in the ‘morality’ of culture has come from the debating of ideas sometimes for centuries.

    This is also why Christians have a hard time admitting that those who did what they now perceive as terrible acts where in fact Christians when given the time period they lived in, and the philosophical level of the society they lived in, they where in fact as Christian in that culture as the Christians of today are in ours.

    It’s not the religion but the prevailing society that the religion exists within that shapes the morality of the individual. Which is why successful religions incorporate the prevailing cultural morals and others either die or isolate themselves in an attempt to survive. In truth the isolation never actually works just prolongs the death of the sect/religion.

    Christians are not counter-culture, there is no resistance to Christian ideas. The pseudoresistance to ‘Christian’ ideas typically comes from other Christians who disagree with an aspect another group is promugating based on a philosophy derived from the prevailing culture.

    No one group speaks for Christianity. No faith group can claim more certainty. The one who accepts reality is likely the one closest to the truth.

  90. GH
    December 6th, 2005 @ 2:10 pm

    ‘If the Bible does call bats fowl (that bit of info has escaped me) what does that have to do with anything? It isn’t a scientific treatise and I am not terribly impressed by errors of that sort in a 2000+ year old text. Were you under the impression that God wrote it directly’

    She loses here already. People like Lily like to dress her ideas up in fancy scholarly type arguments but most, if not all, theistic arguments are best when simple. Making them appear complex simply obscures the underlying assumptions.

    She states that the text may have errors, which then begs the question if it has errors and God(by her admission) didn’t write it directly what method is she using to discern what he did write and how does she know that it is error free?

    If she says tradition she is simply relying on the opinions of other men. No better in this regard than you or I. No more evidence that the ‘radical interpretations’ she inferred above are in fact any more radical than the very interpretations she embraces. So it all boils down to men choosing this or that. With no facts at all at the bottom.

    Which is why these are faith articles.

  91. Lily
    December 6th, 2005 @ 3:47 pm

    Hermesten:
    Homicide is a word used for innocent deaths (caused accidentally by others), too, as in the death of those taken from the battlefield and treated for their injuries who die, despite the medical intervention. That ACLU report is an excellent case of simply lying by omission of facts– most of the deaths they examined were not listed as homicides; 13 were. The ACLU simply lumped all the “undetermined”, and “no cause listed” to the 13 to get the larger number. This doesn’t look like official policy to me though the number examined is too small to be certain.

    We do not know that there are secret prisons. No one has pointed one out yet or produced any convincing evidence of their existence. It is all rumor at this point. It is this mixture of obvious and probable lies that makes me and others tune out the nay-sayers. God help us if they unearth something that does stink. They have cried wolf 1000 times too many.

    DC and GH y’all have come late to this dance. All this stuff you have pooh-poohed has been thoroughly thrashed out in various threads quite recently. If you would like to inform yourselves of the facts and arguments that I and particularly SteveG and a few others have made, I will be glad to discuss this stuff with you further. If you have trouble finding any of it, let me know.

  92. hermesten
    December 6th, 2005 @ 4:02 pm

    “It’s not the religion but the prevailing society that the religion exists within that shapes the morality of the individual. ”

    This is a good way to put it, though I am not suggesting that there is a clear dividing line between the one and the other. I would express it in terms of one influence being predominant, rather that a simple relation of cause and effect.

  93. GH
    December 6th, 2005 @ 4:19 pm

    ‘If you would like to inform yourselves of the facts and arguments that I and particularly SteveG and a few others have made,’

    Oh i read it. Which led to my comments. Strange how one comes to view their comments, sans any logic, as informed and those who come later as uninformed.

  94. GH
    December 6th, 2005 @ 4:41 pm

    ‘Any point of view is valid and that there are no limits to how one can understand the text; no way to say “this is correct, this is not”. This is a false point of view.’

    Right and a history of factions rubbing each other is meaningless. You claim this is a false point of view, maybe. But in reality there is no way to reliably know whose view of the supernatural is correct or if it even exists. If your only talking about biblical study then current study doesn’t reinforce your claim at all.

    You can understand where each and every verse of the bible comes from but it doesn’t reinforce a single supernatural claim inand of itself.

    It is not false to say that you cannot say ‘this is correct and this isn’t.’ The ability of a wide variety of religous scholars to defend and debate various religious doctrines lends to this fact. To assume that your interpretation of a verse is the correct interpretation is rather silly. The one which corresponds to reality is the one most likely to be correct. In this regard you tend to get a hodgepodge across the board. Some baptist doctrines seem sound, some catholic but they all fail across the board in terms of dogma.

    If you believe the bible was divinely inspired accept it as such. You have no method for choosing which parts are God derived and which aren’t other than the views of men. You can grant some are allegory and others literal and understand the nature of the book. But you have no substantive way of ensuring your ‘religion’ based on this understanding is more correct than any other.

    So in the end it all comes down to your accepting the views of men. Period. You have no more claim for correctness than any other. And real biblical scholars like Callahan would say you certainly don’t have a leg to stand on.

    ‘ This is why there are disagreements over some matters among denominations. But these disagreements simply do not amount to anarchy.’

    DISAGREEMENTS? That’s putting it mildly. Sects have had wars with one another but I guess your correct it’s not anarchy per se.

    Personally I feel people who base their religions on the infallibilty of the bible are at least consistent. Otherwise what you are actually doing is latching onto an essentially govermental body where the opinions of men are all you are really folowing. Which if you choose to do is fine by me, just don’t go around saying it makes sense in any rational manner.

  95. Lily
    December 6th, 2005 @ 4:58 pm

    Sorry GH. This is ground that has been covered so many times that the grass is gone and nothing will ever grow there again. You are mostly wrong but I don’t have the energy or the interest to go over it again with you. It is simply impossible to get through to those whose minds are absolutly closed. Case in point: You wrote:

    Oh i read it. Which led to my comments. Strange how one comes to view their comments, sans any logic, as informed and those who come later as uninformed.

    No where did I say any such thing nor could a fair minded person derive that from what I wrote. Most people would have understood me to be saying– “Look at what we wrote before and we will take it from there”. But repeat the whole thing again? I think not.

  96. hermesten
    December 6th, 2005 @ 5:01 pm

    “The ACLU simply lumped all the “undetermined”, and “no cause listed” to the 13 to get the larger number. ”

    There are a lot of problems with your analysis, the first being that these are merely the reported deaths. There is no reason to believe that deaths of all prisoners, especially those who have been “ghosted,” are reported.

    Next, we have an administration run by neocons, who as a matter of political philosophy, believe that sometimes you have to lie to the proles in order to serve the “larger good.” The proles, you see, don’t know what’s good for them.

    Next, we have it on the record that the position of this administration is that if someone under “enhanced interrogation” is killed, because say, you beat them a little too hard, it’s not murder and it’s not torture because you didn’t intend to kill them.

    Next, I’m not claiming that the deaths listed as “homocide” were deliberate murder. In fact, for the moment, though given these kinds of policies, this will change, I suspect that the brutalization of these prisoners wasn’t intended to result in death. I base this not on any perceived respect for law or morality on the part of the administration, but simply on the fact that at least some people who have been tortured have been released, and not murdered to shut them up. The way we’re going though, we will eventually get to the point where we do start burying our mistakes.

    Next, the Orwellian term “enhanced interrogation” is a deliberate perversion of the English language intended to obsfucate, like “enhanced tax revenue” to describe a tax increase. This kind of language is used by liars and people with something to hide. Anyone who talks like this can’t be trusted.

    Next, the administration apparently is afraid of making torture illegal, which makes no sense unless they want to torture people.

    Lilly: “It is this mixture of obvious and probable lies that makes me and others tune out the nay-sayers.”

    All judgement of this kind must be based on probablity. Condi isn’t going to take reporters on a tour of secret prisons. The government controls the flow of information. Those seeking to expose malfeasance and illegality are always at a disadvantage. The State has all the advantages. If you require criminal trial level evidence in order to accept the fact that our government is doing bad things in our name, then you’ve given the State the power to do anything it wants. Most of this stuff can never be “proven,” and by the time it becomes obviously true, it’s usually too late.

    What I don’t understand is why the obvious and probable lies from the government don’t cause you to tune out the politicians. If you don’t want to be like one of those people in postwar Germany saying, “we didn’t know,” you need to tune in to the naysayers. If the naysayers are wrong and you believe them the consequences will be far less damaging than if you don’t and they are right. And if they’re right, but the time you’re convinced, it may very well be too late.

    You also need to consider this simple fact: modern marketing and communication techniques –advertising if you will– is very sophisticated. US disinformation is far more sophisticated and effective than anything the Soviets could have even dreamed of. Even I know that when you want to cover your a s s you muddy the water.

    How far back do you want to go in US history? The government has been caught lying time after time after time. In the face of this history of deception, when do you stop being credulous? Practically everything the current administration says is a childish and transparent lie. Pick anything, it doesn’t matter. How about the recent silly talk on the subject of paying to plant articles in the Iraqi press? Why on earth would you believe anything that comes out of the mouths of politicians?

    A Captain who graduated from West Point has a lot to lose by saying he witnessed torture and abuse that was widespread and driven by policy. He has even more to lose if he’s lying. Anyone in the Bush administration has every reason to gain and nothing to lose by lying

    This administration is flushing this country and what it purports to stand for down the toliet. When you talk about the “naysayers” you talk about “probability” but you seem to give the government the benefit of the doubt, and they don’t deserve it: they forfeited it a long long time ago. But as a practical matter, as many of our founders well knew, simple prudence requires that the State never get the benefit of the doubt. Power cannot be trusted. Eternal vigilence is the price of liberty.

  97. h
    December 6th, 2005 @ 5:02 pm

    “The ACLU simply lumped all the “undetermined”, and “no cause listed” to the 13 to get the larger number. ”

    There are a lot of problems with your analysis, the first being that these are merely the reported deaths. There is no reason to believe that deaths of all prisoners, especially those who have been “ghosted,” are reported.

    Next, we have an administration run by neocons, who as a matter of political philosophy, believe that sometimes you have to lie to the proles in order to serve the “larger good.” The proles, you see, don’t know what’s good for them.

    Next, we have it on the record that the position of this administration is that if someone under “enhanced interrogation” is killed, because say, you beat them a little too hard, it’s not murder and it’s not torture because you didn’t intend to kill them.

    Next, I’m not claiming that the deaths listed as “homocide” were deliberate murder. In fact, for the moment, though given these kinds of policies, this will change, I suspect that the brutalization of these prisoners wasn’t intended to result in death. I base this not on any perceived respect for law or morality on the part of the administration, but simply on the fact that at least some people who have been tortured have been released, and not murdered to shut them up. The way we’re going though, we will eventually get to the point where we do start burying our mistakes.

    Next, the Orwellian term “enhanced interrogation” is a deliberate perversion of the English language intended to obsfucate, like “enhanced tax revenue” to describe a tax increase. This kind of language is used by liars and people with something to hide. Anyone who talks like this can’t be trusted.

    Next, the administration apparently is afraid of making torture illegal, which makes no sense unless they want to torture people.

    Lilly: “It is this mixture of obvious and probable lies that makes me and others tune out the nay-sayers.”

    All judgement of this kind must be based on probablity. Condi isn’t going to take reporters on a tour of secret prisons. The government controls the flow of information. Those seeking to expose malfeasance and illegality are always at a disadvantage. The State has all the advantages. If you require criminal trial level evidence in order to accept the fact that our government is doing bad things in our name, then you’ve given the State the power to do anything it wants. Most of this stuff can never be “proven,” and by the time it becomes obviously true, it’s usually too late.

    What I don’t understand is why the obvious and probable lies from the government don’t cause you to tune out the politicians. If you don’t want to be like one of those people in postwar Germany saying, “we didn’t know,” you need to tune in to the naysayers. If the naysayers are wrong and you believe them the consequences will be far less damaging than if you don’t and they are right. And if they’re right, but the time you’re convinced, it may very well be too late.

    You also need to consider this simple fact: modern marketing and communication techniques –advertising if you will– is very sophisticated. US disinformation is far more sophisticated and effective than anything the Soviets could have even dreamed of. Even I know that when you want to cover your a s s you muddy the water.

    How far back do you want to go in US history? The government has been caught lying time after time after time. In the face of this history of deception, when do you stop being credulous? Practically everything the current administration says is a childish and transparent lie. Pick anything, it doesn’t matter. How about the recent silly talk on the subject of paying to plant articles in the Iraqi press? Why on earth would you believe anything that comes out of the mouths of politicians?

    A Captain who graduated from West Point has a lot to lose by saying he witnessed torture and abuse that was widespread and driven by policy. He has even more to lose if he’s lying. Anyone in the Bush administration has every reason to gain and nothing to lose by lying

    This administration is flushing this country and what it purports to stand for down the toliet. When you talk about the “naysayers” you talk about “probability” but you seem to give the government the benefit of the doubt, and they don’t deserve it: they forfeited it a long long time ago. But as a practical matter, as many of our founders well knew, simple prudence requires that the State never get the benefit of the doubt. Power cannot be trusted. Eternal vigilence is the price of liberty.

  98. Lily
    December 6th, 2005 @ 8:09 pm

    Hermesten: This is just plain wrong; dangerously so:

    What I don’t understand is why the obvious and probable lies from the government don’t cause you to tune out the politicians. If you don’t want to be like one of those people in postwar Germany saying, “we didn’t know,” you need to tune in to the naysayers. If the naysayers are wrong and you believe them the consequences will be far less damaging than if you don’t and they are right. [my emphasis] And if they’re right, but the time you’re convinced, it may very well be too late.

    Take them on faith, eh? NO. The consequences will be a bloody disaster. Literally and figuratively.

    I tune the naysayers out because when they speak to things I am informed about, they are almost always wrong. Their political diagnoses are just flat wrong (from my perspective). I cannot, in good conscience, make common cause with them on issues that I am uninformed about because they are so painfully wrong on issues I am informed about. I find them completely untrustworthy.

    Chalk it up to the problem of not having full knowledge and having to depend on what one knows from the past and from plain old gut feeling.

    I would be glad to talk about this further but cannot tonight. Is there a forum where this could be a discussion once this message gets sent to the archives?

  99. GH
    December 7th, 2005 @ 9:58 am

    ‘Sorry GH. This is ground that has been covered so many times that the grass is gone and nothing will ever grow there again. You are mostly wrong but I don’t have the energy or the interest to go over it again with you. It is simply impossible to get through to those whose minds are absolutly closed.’

    I AM MOSTLY WRONG? WOW! My mind is closed? Have you read your responses? You think you are right regardless of the vacuity of your arguments.

    Actually I am very fair minded and open to new ideas. You just haven’t presented any. You have essentially argued that when one reads a bible verse you can know you are reading it correctly. How do you know this? You never say outside of a hierarchy and tradition. what ensures these avenues are correct? Nothing at all. How do you know their reading of these verses is the correct interpretation, better than in your words ‘The wild Protestant ideas’?

    You have no evidence and no proof. You essentially give your mind over to a hierachy and then defend the idea. What is funny is that for virtually any bible verse you would likely ignore the Protestant idea in favor of a Catholic idea even though many protestant scholars have proven the origin and nature of certain passages to be diferent than catholic tradition. Sometimes even the majority of catholic scholars see the error but can’t move the idea due to the hardline nature of the current regime.

    This essentially means that even within a church or sect no agreement on any two passages is likely to exist. This is the simple fact of the way religion works.

    None of your argument, as tired and weak as it is escapes this very true reality. But your mind is closed to reality and you choose to live in a fantasy world where you are correct and everyone else wrong. Even on matters of faith where no evidence points to anyone being so. It’s the very definition of closemindedness.

  100. GH
    December 7th, 2005 @ 10:12 am

    ‘I am informed about, they are almost always wrong. ‘

    Of course. But your mind is open.

    ‘Their political diagnoses are just flat wrong (from my perspective). ‘

    Give an example.

    ‘I cannot, in good conscience, make common cause with them on issues that I am uninformed about because they are so painfully wrong on issues I am informed about. I find them completely untrustworthy.’

    Isn’t that the exact same thing the other side, which has equally informed people who find your side the same.

    What you don’t appear to grasp is that the evidence certainly doesn’t back you up within your religious discussions and on this political topic the evidence points to you backing the wrong horse.

    You don’t say your wrong often do you?

    And yet you complain about others being close minded.

  101. hermesten
    December 7th, 2005 @ 10:37 am

    Lily, I’m not talking about accepting anything on faith, I’m speaking to probabilities.

    Lily: “But I don’t see how that makes Christians moral relativists.”

    Let me address this specifically. I should have before. Let me start by saying that much of the time when I refer to “you” I am on shaky ground, making assumptions about you based on the little you’ve said in our exchanges, and conflating “you” with others who hold similar positions. Sometimes it’s just easier to say it this way.

    First, I concede that you are not, strictly speaking, a “moral relativist,” since your position is that Christianity is a superior moral code, and not the conventional position of the moral relativist: that all value systems are equal.

    It’s probably more accurate to say simply that Christian morality is not absolute: that Christian morality is conditional and situational. The practice of Christian morality is relative to the place and time, and to the prevailing social and political conditions. This is really what I am alluding to throughout most of our discussion.

    My measurement of any moral philosophy is by deeds and not words. The best point of measurement is where the system is under stress. It’s easy to be good when it doesn’t cost anything.

    What is probably the worst thing about Christianity is that after the first 300 years or so, it has practically always whored for the State. There are exceptions of course –a few catholic preists in Latin American, for instance, who represented the people instead of the power, and died for it. But they were essentially rebels, outsiders, and anti-establishment. And the irony is that those priests were generally vilified by American Catholics for their leftist political orientations. I knew few Americans, and no Catholics, who sided with the people over their oppressors in Latin America.

    I find all this trash talk about “democracy” in the Middle East highly amusing. The US has probably subverted more democracies than any other nation in the history of the world.
    We supported Saddam in the Middle East until the war with Iran ended. Of course, prior to our support for Saddam, we overthrew the democracy in Iran. Then, in order to prevent Iraq from being a regional power, we invaded Kuwait and restored a monarchy. The US has never had any intention to create real democracy in Iraq, because a real democracy would soon be a Muslim theocracy, throw the US out of the country, and take a very large oil reserve out from under our control.

    You speak of saving innocent lives in Iraq, but as one claiming to be a moral absolutist, there are two problems with that position. One is that the country under Saddam was orderly and peaceful. Saddam didn’t randomly kill people. He targeted enemies of his regime. You didn’t have to worry about your children being machine gunned at a road block or your family wiped out in a bombing. Let us not forget, that as bad as Saddam was, the people in Iraq were allowed to own fully automatic weapons, something not even allowed to Americans, so despite the opposition, there had to be enough support for the regime to forestall insurgency. The the real issue here is that people under Saddam could choose to cooperate and live. People living in Iraq now are subject to random violence and sudden death at anytime, and there is nothing they can do about it.

    The other obvious problem for an “absolutist” talking about saving innocent lives in Iraq is that no such concern has been demonstrated for innocent lives, taken in far greater numbers, in other countries, especially Africa. Conservatives aren’t generally agitating for the US to save lives in, say, Rawanda. This is primarily the kind of action advocated by the left. The Chimp himself, in his first run for the presidency, said his administration would not engage in “nation building.” The people in North Korea are suffering far more than Iraqis were under Saddam, but we’re not bringing “democracy” to N. Korea. I don’t hear Christians advocating an invasion of Korea. How come? Obviously because the passion for saving innocent lives is conditional, and not absolute.

    The standard rhetorical trick of all dogmatists, including Christians, is redefinition. Sort of like the old joke about economic exams: we don’t change the questions from test to test, just the answers. Thou shalt not murder? Why, that doesn’t apply to non-Christians, heathens, atheists, pagans, the indigenous people of America, or black slaves, because they’re evil (heathens, pagans, atheists), or they’re not really “human beings. ” All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others, you see. And of course, WE don’t target “civilians” (Dresden, Tokyo, Nagasaki, Hiroshima), and WE don’t “torture.” Wink, wink.

  102. DC
    December 7th, 2005 @ 10:49 am

    To lily,

    This doesn’t make you correct:
    ‘I will tell you that I am a highly educated professional adult. I still work for a university. When I tell you that your facts are wrong, they are wrong.’

    So all professionals in your field agree? Why should I take your word if I can find other views? I am also a highly educated professional adult who works and writes professionally. So I could also be arrogant and say when I tell you your facts are wrong they are wrong. You argue for a universal morality, well of course, but this doens’t mean it has a supernatural origin. Of course all humans should have a similiar system considering we evolved from the same African population. You make morality far to simple by relying on the specific contexts murder, theft, adultery. Ignoring the multitudes of other contexts into which morality is subjected. It’s perfectly moral to kill a cheating spouse in some cultures, but not so here. Multiple wives are the norm in 82% of human cultures past and present, but are considered immoral in the USA.

    The basic ‘morals’ as you call them alow our group species to function with minimal disturbance. They are seen in a more primitive form among other primates. No religion has a right to claim their morality is better than anothers. There all have positives and negatives, each can defend their arguments if need be.

    Some facts are likely correct but most fields(at least mine) works in various shades of grey. Almost all of education is like this. We think this, we can prove this. Some things we have consensus, some we don’t. On matters of theology we don’t namely because there is no real evidence for any point of view over any other. You can believe otherwise but it simply isn’t true, and even if we did have consensus it wouldn’t establish any religious claim as factual. No two theologians agree across the board even within a religion. So to pretend anyone has the ‘correct’ interpretation is a form of the ‘one true scotsman fallacy’.

    As an educator, or former educator you should realize many young students have a far better grasp of logic than older counterparts. Being educated doesn’t mean you are a better thinker. In some ways it can close a mind if one doesn’t endeavor to keep the spirit of learning alive by allowing one to think they are right when they are not.

    But I’m out, this discussion reminds me why my father told me never to argue religion or politics. It’s pointless.

  103. Lily
    December 7th, 2005 @ 11:29 am

    DC: Facts are those things about which no interpretation is needed or possible. They are either correct or incorrect. For example: If someone says: “Bill Clinton served one term as president”, this is factually wrong and no discussion is needed. When I say: “your fact(s) are wrong”, I am talking about this sort of thing.

    But, as I said earlier, you and GH are late to the dance and making the same false arguments (about things which are open to interpretation), in my opinion, as the other atheists here. I just don’t have the energy to go through it all again.

    Hermesten: I can’t agree with this … probably more accurate to say simply that Christian morality is not absolute: that Christian morality is conditional and situational. The practice of Christian morality is relative to the place and time, and to the prevailing social and political conditions. This is really what I am alluding to throughout most of our discussion.

    Christian morality is neither conditional nor situational. However, any given individual’s ability to act in accordance with what it demands of him does depend on his properly understanding it and having the moral strength to do what is needed. That will differ from person to person. To deny that Christianity has met and passed the test over and over again is to ignore the witness of history and to denigrate the sacrifice of heroic people who acted out of the love of God.

    This was quite interesting: What is probably the worst thing about Christianity is that after the first 300 years or so, it has practically always whored for the State.

    This is idealism mixed with a sort of historical blindness or, perhaps, misunderstanding of human nature. Mort Coyle posted a link to a very interesting article, I think on his “Voices of Theism” post, that talks about the very real faustian bargain that the early Church made by allowing itself to become the state’s religion. It is worth reading. In any case, whatever mistakes the corporate body makes, the mystical body continues to preach and practice the faith.

  104. UN
    December 7th, 2005 @ 11:34 am

    It should be mentioned that the Koran is also historically accurate to it’s believers does that mean it’s claims are also factual? So is the book of Mormon. It is actually very accurate from a historical perspective.

    How about other holy books?

    To say the jews who DO reject Jesus will receive some special compensation for essentially being born jewish is beyond stupid. Be born a jew, do whatever you want, deny Jesus, and get to heaven anyway. What a deal!

    Maybe everyone should just convert to Judaism, it appears Lily has created a loophole for the human race.

  105. Lily
    December 7th, 2005 @ 12:06 pm

    You would be ill-advised to count on any loophole I create.

  106. hermesten
    December 7th, 2005 @ 3:27 pm

    Lily, this is just about all anyone needs to know about our current government:

    By Sidney Schamberg

    This adamantine stance is visible in virtually every corner of the Bush government. Here is a useful example, from a superb November 27 story by Adam Liptak of the Times. The story was about the rigid Bush policies concerning “enemy combatants” taken prisoner in the Iraq war, who have been allowed almost no legal rights, even those granted by the Geneva Conventions. Most of the prisoners are simply being held indefinitely without trial.

    Liptak described a hearing last December before a federal judge in Washington, Joyce Hens Green. Using hypothetical questions, Green pressed a Justice Department official, Brian Boyle, for a clearer, more specific explanation of who could be detained as an enemy combatant under the government’s definition.

    The judge first asked if it would include “a little old lady in Switzerland who writes checks to what she thinks is a charitable organization that helps orphans in Afghanistan but really is a front to finance Al Qaeda activities.”

    She next asked: What about a resident of Dublin “who teaches English to the son of a person the CIA knows to be a member of Al Qaeda?”

    Finally, “What about a Wall Street Journal reporter, working in Afghanistan, who knows the exact location of Osama bin Laden but does not reveal it to the United States government to protect her source?”

    Boyle replied that the military could detain all three people as enemy combatants.

  107. Lily
    December 7th, 2005 @ 4:20 pm

    Yeah, this one was (is) worrisome, alright. However, Boyle doesn’t have the last word in these matters. THis story is almost a year old. What has the Bush Administration said since?

  108. Mort Coyle
    December 7th, 2005 @ 11:37 pm

    My goodness, so many interesting things one could respond to if time permitted!

    UN said:
    “It should be mentioned that the Koran is also historically accurate to it’s believers does that mean it’s claims are also factual? So is the book of Mormon. It is actually very accurate from a historical perspective.”

    Have you actually read either the Koran or the Book of Mormon? The Koran was written by a single author (Mohammed) and is primarily comprised of moral imperatives, not historical narrative. The Book of Mormon, on the other hand contains a considerable amount of purported historical narrative which has proven to be very unreliable. Whereas the Bible contains certain historical accounts which cannot at this time be either proven or disproven (such as the exodus of the Jews from Egypt), the Book of Mormon can (and has) been *proven* to be wildly inaccurate in a great many ways via a great many methods (including archaeology, linguistics, DNA analysis, etc.). By the way, here’s a fascinating book about the history of the Mormon religion: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1568582196/102-4776257-3238533?v=glance&n=283155

    Like the Koran, the Book of Mormon is claimed to be authored (or, to be more precise, dictated) by a single individual. By contrast, the Bible is a collection of writings of various genres composed over a period of 1600 years by over 40 writers who lived in places ranging from Egypt to Israel to Iraq to Turkey to Italy. Despite its unique status of being more of a compilation than the work of a single author, the Bible is incredibly cohesive and unified (much more so than either the Koran or the BoM).

    UN also said: “To say the jews who DO reject Jesus will receive some special compensation for essentially being born jewish is beyond stupid. Be born a jew, do whatever you want, deny Jesus, and get to heaven anyway. What a deal!”

    I agree. There is a doctrine known as “Dispensationalism” which has become popular in Western Christianity in the last 150 years or so, as evidenced by the atrocious “Left Behind” books. This doctrine does, in fact, teach a “special compensation for essentially being born jewish”. Dispensationalism is not a traditional Christian teaching however.

    DC: But I’m out, this discussion reminds me why my father told me never to argue religion or politics. It’s pointless.

    No disrespect to your father, but aren’t religion and politics two of the most important things that shape our world? By all means we should argue, debate, dialog about them!

    hermesten said:
    “I think it is you who are missing the point. My argument has never been that Christians are any worse than anyone else. My argument is simply that Christians are no better than anyone else, and that therefore, Christianity is irrelevant to the moral improvement of mankind. … Where Christians have been tested with power, their record is very poor.”

    A Christian would be the first to agree that they, as an individual, are no better than anyone else. Yet, the Christian does attempt to live a life that pleases God and reflects Jesus. Jesus claimed to be providing a living model of what God is like. The Christian ethic springs from this living model, who loved the sleaziest sinners, sought out the most marginalized and downtrodden, gave healing, dignity and hope, sought reconciliation and restoration and inclusion and, ultimately, gave everything. This is the Imago Dei; the image of God. The Christian imperative is to perpetuate the Imago Dei in this world by one’s own life. The Christian motivation is not fear (as is often claimed by atheists), but love. People or systems that become fixated on power and control tend to become corrupt and lose this foundation of love. They do become fear-based and very destructive. They lose the Imago Dei. Perhaps that was why Jesus made it so clear that power and control were not his way. Rank and file Christians have been responsible for untold benefits to mankind through acts of self-sacrifice, generosity and concern for others. The value of the individual (as a beloved creation of God), the value of women and children, the abolition of slavery, caring for the sick and elderly, public education, ethical business practices, just and fair government, civil rights, etc. Wherever Christianity has taken hold it has dramatically improved the standard of living and the ethical climate and has served as a tempering influence on human barbarity. Even though men and systems of men have at times attempted to commandeer Christianity into a tool of subjugation, they have never been able to eclipse true Christianity, which Jesus likened to a pinch of yeast that spreads almost imperceptibly throughout an entire lump of dough (the dough, of course, being the world).

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