Tuesday, August 29, 2006

"The crimes of Christianity"

The two standard lines of attack against the Bible come from science and higher criticism.

These, in turn, boil down to the possibility of miracles. If you don’t believe in the miraculous, then you don’t believe in divine inspiration or revelation or any event which would “violate” the “laws” of nature.

However, it’s a tall order to make a case against the possibility of the miraculous.

So the final line of attack consists in a stereotypical litany of charges against the track-record of the church.

This, in turn, has driven the effort to secularize the state and disestablish the church.

And that effort has been quite successful, but with ironic consequences.

There are different ways of addressing this charge.

1.According to Christian theology, Christians are sinners. So documenting the fact that Christians may be guilty of sinful conduct is a confirmation rather than disconfirmation of Christian theology.

2.The unbeliever also faces the challenge of coming up with a moral framework of his own. Many secular thinkers admit that atheism has no foundation for moral absolutes.

But, in that event, they are in no position to indict the church.

3.Another response is to point out that many of the paradigm-examples of ecclesiastical malfeasance are largely urban legends. A member of the CADRE has done a very illuminating series on that subject.

http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2005/04/many-crimes-of-christianity-refuted.html

4.Finally, I want to go back to the “solution.”

The argument against the church was more persuasive back in the days of Voltaire and Thomas Paine.

After all, the church was often a pretty venal place.

Mind you, that’s really not the fault of the church.

If Louis XIV or Henry VIII wants to make some ne’re-do-well nephew the bishop of York or Amiens, who’s going to stop him?

He has an army. Interdicts are no match for swords and canon balls.

The church was often the consolation prize for second-born sons of the nobility.

Since they weren’t first in line to inherit the crown or the paternal estate, a plum, ecclesiastical preferment was a nice way of buying off a potential political rival.

Likewise, these were the days of a state religion, in which more-or-less everyone was a baptized member of the church.

But the process of secularization has had an unintended consequence.

On the one hand, it hasn’t done away with atrocities of one kind or another. Indeed, they’ve been on the rise.

On the other hand, by driving the Christians from the public square, the privatization of faith has had the effect of separating the sheep from the goats.

Not entirely, of course, but to a far great degree than was possible in the past.

And it’s not the Christians committing the mass atrocities.

With the benefit of hindsight, this raises the retrospective question of who was most responsible for past atrocities.

If, when you succeed in segregating the believers from the unbelievers; and if, when you succeed in empowering unbelievers while disempowering believers, the atrocities not only continue, but escalate (e.g. Maoism, Nazism, Stalinism, abortion, infanticide, euthanasia), then the logical inference to draw from this historical experiment is that it was the closet infidels in a society without church/state separation who were primarily responsible for past atrocities.

So the very success of modern-day secularism undercuts the original premise of modern-day secularism.

9 comments:

  1. Mark Mordrell8/29/2006 6:15 PM

    "it’s a tall order to make a case against the possibility of the miraculous."

    Why do you think that?

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  2. "it’s a tall order to make a case against the possibility of the miraculous."

    I think you meant to say,

    "It's a tall order to make a case for the miraculous."

    You're welcome.

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  3. Mark,

    Well, for one thing you'd have to actually prove the non-existence of God in order to argue against the possibility of God (something atheist's are always quick to point out is proving a negative, which is logically impossible without omniscience).

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  4. Correct: s/b "possibility of the miraculous" not "possibility of God"

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  5. Might I suggest that some of these people browse the literature of Nonconformity in the late nineteenth century. The arguments presented in this post are echoed precisely.

    David Gay's recent (1997) book 'The Battle for the Church' is a good modern presentation of the Free Church argument.

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  6. I would note that the most vocal group in support of the separation of church and state, and of liberty of conscience in the nineteenth century were Nonconformists, not secularists. Understanding that the shackling of religion to the state, and the use of the state to enforce uniformity in religious practice led to great evil, my nonconformist forebears refused to accept money from the state, giving up the acceptance of royal bounty in order to more effectively campaign for religious liberty.

    The enslavement of the church to the state began with Constantine and had bad effects on both entities. The ideal should be 'A free church (religious equality) in a free state (equality before the law).' That is what my forbears believed, and what is good enough for them is good enough for me.

    I recommend Larsen's 'Friends of religious Equality' for further information.

    I am totally opposed to any use of the state to enforce relious uniformity. Where Protestants did this, they acted wrongly, as did Catholics, if not in some cases wickedly. i am aware that in some cases ham-fisted Papal policies or the actions of extremists brought persecution to peaceable men and women (for example Elizabethan England, where the Pope called on all faithful Catholics to reject Queen Elizabeth, a monach who had stated that she had 'no desire to make windows into men's hearts). In one land where Catholics did this, they drove my ancestors out of their home and out of their country.

    We may not do evil that good may come. Of that I am sure. But I prefer to view the church as she is, where we may remedy abuses, than the church as she was, where those abuses can only be deplored.

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  7. Mark Mordrell8/29/2006 8:11 PM

    Calvindude: "Well, for one thing you'd have to actually prove the non-existence of God in order to argue against the possibility of God"

    This has already been proven to me.

    "(something atheist's are always quick to point out is proving a negative, which is logically impossible without omniscience)."

    So, you need omniscience to know that square circles do not exist?

    I'm so sorry for you.

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  8. Mark, may I be so bold as to ask how the non-existence of God has been proven to you?

    Share this with us. Remember, assertion is not argument.

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  9. Mark Mordrell said:

    "it’s a tall order to make a case against the possibility of the miraculous."

    Why do you think that?

    ***********************

    I've given my reasons in my ebook, This Joyful Eastertide.

    ReplyDelete