The ‘I’m a Good Person’ People

 

How do you know you’re living in a post-Christian, neo-pagan society? How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m a good person,” or even, “He’s a good person?” This is essentially a judgment about the state of someone’s soul, which we Christians believe is only discernable by One Judge, and He ain’t you or me.

The “I’m a good person” people are mainly, although not always, on the secular Left. Their piety is put into practice with woke-ism rather than Protestantism or Catholicism, for example, although sometimes Christians stray so far left, you’ll hear the same self-assessment coming from them. Secularists on the Right who say such things are generally people who assess themselves good because they’ve mainly avoided disordered behaviors (in religious terms, “sins”) they’re not terribly attracted to, while carrying on with the ones they prefer, guilt-free. These are the “I may regularly sodomize the person I ‘love,’ but I believe in your right to your freedom of religion and free speech and, oh, incidentally, I haven’t murdered anyone” people.  Let’s just say the standards they set for themselves could be a little higher, even if they go unmet, like in the case of, oh, 100% of Christians.

Faithful Christians, while recognizing the value of every human life made in the image and likeness of God and made to be good (made to share in the Beatific Vision), will address each other as “my fellow sinner” as Bishop Barron does in his sermon on the Prodigal Son. We know we’re falling short of the good God intends for us.

These thoughts on “good person” people, neo-paganism, and ancient paganism contra Christianity come from the appended videos, which I think you’ll find worth your time, wherever you are on the religious-pagan spectrum. The Joe Heschmeyer clip includes an amusing reflection on the title of this post*. Namely, if you ask an “I’m a good person” person if he deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom or the Nobel Prize, he’ll say, “obviously not.” But, if you then ask him if he’s going to heaven because he’s a “good person,” he’s pretty comfortable answering “yes,” with no sense of irony that he believes himself deserving of nothing less than eternal bliss! Oh, really? Huh.

Gary Michuta’s book Revolt Against Reality sounds like another one I’ll have to buy and be too distracted to finish (squirrel!), but it addresses the ethical hinge of history that was the Incarnation. In his conversation with Cy Kellett, he starts by saying the effects can reveal the cause. How did the world change by the life, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? The ramifications are too many and too profound to cover in a reasonable length post, but start with how women and children were viewed with the advent of Christianity. Rather than being property of men, as pagans believed, women and children became valued as other children of God, with all the inherent dignity that entails. Christians (especially Catholics) are accused of oppressing women and wanting to keep us “barefoot and pregnant.” The opposite is true, and in the case of Catholics, it’s most evident in the devotion to the Blessed Mother. Women were elevated by the Incarnation, not diminished.

Take also, science. Science developed in the Christian West because of the belief that God is coherent and consistent within Himself — and that He made the world intelligible. Why bother to try to understand it otherwise? This realization was one of the prime motivating factors for my reversion to the faith of my fathers.

No examples that could be given of the radical change in ethics with Christianity will be exempt from Christians acting badly (we’re all sinners). As apologist Joe Heschmeyer says, the sins of individual Catholics are not the result of them acting “too” Catholic, but rather not Catholic enough!

*Joe has some profound thoughts on the built-in need for humans to make sacrifices that still pertain to the secular Left today (pssst — human nature is unchanging, pass it on). Their sacrifices just take the form of recycling or putting a COEXIST sticker on their bumper.

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  1. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
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    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

     

    Similarly, I don’t think people rise from the dead. The way the world appears to work it this: When people die, they stay dead.

    So, someone writes a document a few thousand years ago expressing the claim that Jesus rose from the dead. I think it is far more likely that this person who wrote this was mistaken or misleading than correct in his claim.

    I think this is a good epistemology.

    Your assessment is built entirely on an anti-supernaturalist assumption, not on evidence. So, no, I think it is wrong from the outset. 

    As for people dying and staying dead: As a general case, sure. But, again, there is a choking torrent of evidence that God can and does raise people from the dead. And from places like Frankfurt, Würzburg, Ulan Batuur, Chicago, Mumbai, London, et alia ad quasi-infinitum. So, yes, the dead tend to stay dead, unless God intervenes. That’s rather how we distinguish the miraculous from the quotidian. 

    • #121
  2. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

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    Similarly, I don’t think people rise from the dead. The way the world appears to work it this: When people die, they stay dead.

    So, someone writes a document a few thousand years ago expressing the claim that Jesus rose from the dead. I think it is far more likely that this person who wrote this was mistaken or misleading than correct in his claim.

    I think this is a good epistemology.

    Your assessment is built entirely on an anti-supernaturalist assumption, not on evidence. So, no, I think it is wrong from the outset.

    As for people dying and staying dead: As a general case, sure. But, again, there is a choking torrent of evidence that God can and does raise people from the dead. And from places like Frankfurt, Würzburg, Ulan Batuur, Chicago, Mumbai, London, et alia ad quasi-infinitum. So, yes, the dead tend to stay dead, unless God intervenes. That’s rather how we distinguish the miraculous from the quotidian.

    It’s not an anti-supernaturalist assumption.  Instead, it is based on my observations about the way the world seems to work.

    If I toss 100 rocks into a lake and all 100 of these rocks sink, I am inclined to think, “When you toss a rock into a lake, the rock will sink.”  

    So, if Jeff says to me, “My great-great-grandfather was able to toss rocks into lakes and command them to float,” I am not going to believe him.  

    Now, I realize that Jeff’s great-great-grandfather might have been able to cause rocks to float.  It’s just that if you ask me, “Do you think Jeff’s great-great-grandfather could cause rocks to float?” my response is going to be, “No.”  

    Even if God exists and God does occasionally perform miracles.  Still, any individual miracle claim still seems suspect to me.  A miracle isn’t impossible.  But an individual miracle claim is more likely to be a false claim than a true claim.  

    • #122
  3. Roderic Reagan
    Roderic
    @rhfabian

    Western Chauvinist: Secularists on the Right who say such things are generally people who assess themselves good because they’ve mainly avoided disordered behaviors (in religious terms, “sins”) they’re not terribly attracted to, while carrying on with the ones they prefer, guilt-free.

    In my sojourn with the atheists (I’ve written about that previously) I never came across one who wasn’t atheist at least in part to justify some libertine foible or another.   The trouble was that God doesn’t allow for such exceptions.  

    • #123
  4. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Roderic (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist: Secularists on the Right who say such things are generally people who assess themselves good because they’ve mainly avoided disordered behaviors (in religious terms, “sins”) they’re not terribly attracted to, while carrying on with the ones they prefer, guilt-free.

    In my sojourn with the atheists (I’ve written about that previously) I never came across one who wasn’t atheist at least in part to justify some libertine foible or another. The trouble was that God doesn’t allow for such exceptions.

    One of my favorite books is “Radical Son,” by David Horowitz.

    David Horowitz grew up in a secular Jewish family in New York.  Both his parents were schoolteachers and both were communists.  Horowitz acquired many of the political views of his parents.  He was part of the New Left during the 1960s.

    But during the early 1970s, Horowitz’s experiences led him to start doubting his Leftist beliefs.  Eventually, by 1984 he publicly announced his transition out of Leftism in a column he co-wrote titled, “Lefties for Reagan.”

    The interesting thing about Horowitz however, and one can learn this by reading his memoir “Radical Son,” is that even as Horowitz adopted Right of Center political views, Horowitz never became a believer either in Orthodox Judaism, Christianity or any other belief in the supernatural.

    Horowitz is just one example of someone who never found Christianity, or any other belief in the supernatural, convincing.   Is it because Horowitz just wanted to sin?  Possibly.  But if one seriously believed that not accepting Jesus as Savior results in eternal conscious torment (in hell), it seems unlikely that one would simply shrug this off and be an atheist.  It’s more likely that Horowitz just never found the Christian worldview persuasive.

    I bring Horowitz up because we generally think of non-believers as people of the Left.  But what about people on the Right who never found “Jesus rose from the dead” and “You need Jesus in your life” convincing?

    • #124
  5. J Climacus Member
    J Climacus
    @JClimacus

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    H

    Are you defending St. Thomas Aquinas’s “Put heretics to death” or not?

    This is why I mentioned Churchill’s drinking and Gallipoli when you brought up your admiration for Churchill. Suppose someone claims to be “thinking critically” about Churchill but the only thing they ever talk about with respect to Churchill is his drinking, and it appears that may even be all they know about him. Would you consider this person to be genuinely “thinking critically” about Churchill, or simply have grabbed the first convenient thing they found about Churchill that could be used to dismiss him? Wouldn’t a genuinely critical appreciation of Churchill take Churchill as a whole – including the bad parts – and view everything in the context of him as a complete man? 

    That’s how your use of Aquinas appears. Aquinas was not particularly exercised about heretics, and his views were actually rather mild for his day. 99% of his energy, interests and contributions were devoted to other things, and a true judgment of the man would take all that into account. I have no problem discussing his views on heresy, but not when it is clear that the subject is only brought up as a club to beat him with, not in the context of a genuine attempt to appreciate the man, critical or not. 

     

    • #125
  6. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    J Climacus (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    H

    Are you defending St. Thomas Aquinas’s “Put heretics to death” or not?

    This is why I mentioned Churchill’s drinking and Gallipoli when you brought up your admiration for Churchill. Suppose someone claims to be “thinking critically” about Churchill but the only thing they ever talk about with respect to Churchill is his drinking, and it appears that may even be all they know about him. Would you consider this person to be genuinely “thinking critically” about Churchill, or simply have grabbed the first convenient thing they found about Churchill that could be used to dismiss him? Wouldn’t a genuinely critical appreciation of Churchill take Churchill as a whole – including the bad parts – and view everything in the context of him as a complete man?

    That’s how your use of Aquinas appears. Aquinas was not particularly exercised about heretics, and his views were actually rather mild for his day. 99% of his energy, interests and contributions were devoted to other things, and a true judgment of the man would take all that into account. I have no problem discussing his views on heresy, but not when it is clear that the subject is only brought up as a club to beat him with, not in the context of a genuine attempt to appreciate the man, critical or not.

     

    I agree that we should look at both our agreements and disagreements with figures like St. Thomas Aquinas and Winston Churchill.  

    • #126
  7. J Climacus Member
    J Climacus
    @JClimacus

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

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    HeavyWater (View Comment):

     

    Similarly, I don’t think people rise from the dead. The way the world appears to work it this: When people die, they stay dead.

    So, someone writes a document a few thousand years ago expressing the claim that Jesus rose from the dead. I think it is far more likely that this person who wrote this was mistaken or misleading than correct in his claim.

    I think this is a good epistemology.

    Your assessment is built entirely on an anti-supernaturalist assumption, not on evidence. So, no, I think it is wrong from the outset.

    As for people dying and staying dead: As a general case, sure. But, again, there is a choking torrent of evidence that God can and does raise people from the dead. And from places like Frankfurt, Würzburg, Ulan Batuur, Chicago, Mumbai, London, et alia ad quasi-infinitum. So, yes, the dead tend to stay dead, unless God intervenes. That’s rather how we distinguish the miraculous from the quotidian.

    It’s not an anti-supernaturalist assumption. Instead, it is based on my observations about the way the world seems to work.

    If I toss 100 rocks into a lake and all 100 of these rocks sink, I am inclined to think, “When you toss a rock into a lake, the rock will sink.”

    So, if Jeff says to me, “My great-great-grandfather was able to toss rocks into lakes and command them to float,” I am not going to believe him.

    Now, I realize that Jeff’s great-great-grandfather might have been able to cause rocks to float. It’s just that if you ask me, “Do you think Jeff’s great-great-grandfather could cause rocks to float?” my response is going to be, “No.”

    Even if God exists and God does occasionally perform miracles. Still, any individual miracle claim still seems suspect to me. A miracle isn’t impossible. But an individual miracle claim is more likely to be a false claim than a true claim.

    This is Hume’s famous argument against miracles. It’s well known that this argument begs the question.  A miracle is by definition something that happens outside of ordinary experience. Do such things happen? It’s no answer to say that you don’t believe them because they are outside your ordinary experience. That just repeats the definition. 

    You judge an individual miracle claim as “more likely” to be a false claim,  based on what? Your conviction that miracle claims in general are false?  That bakes the conclusion into the premises. 

    That doesn’t mean any particular miracle claim should be taken at face value. But it does mean that evaluating a miracle claim in a reasonable manner must involve something other than a blanket dismissal based on a prior conviction of their unlikelihood.

    • #127
  8. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    HeavyWater (View Comment):
    It’s not an anti-supernaturalist assumption.  Instead, it is based on my observations about the way the world seems to work.

    Yet you are capable of error. Your perceptions may be faulty. You devote a lot of words to theories based on the obverse. You hang quite a bit on that one tiny nail.

    • #128
  9. J Climacus Member
    J Climacus
    @JClimacus

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    J Climacus (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    H

    Are you defending St. Thomas Aquinas’s “Put heretics to death” or not?

    rchill as a whole – including the bad parts – and view everything in the context of him as a complete man?

    That’s how your use of Aquinas appears. Aquinas was not particularly exercised about heretics, and his views were actually rather mild for his day. 99% of his energy, interests and contributions were devoted to other things, and a true judgment of the man would take all that into account. I have no problem discussing his views on heresy, but not when it is clear that the subject is only brought up as a club to beat him with, not in the context of a genuine attempt to appreciate the man, critical or not.

     

    I agree that we should look at both our agreements and disagreements with figures like St. Thomas Aquinas and Winston Churchill.

    It’s not about agreements and disagreements. Agreement (and disagreement) doesn’t mean anything unless they are built on a solid foundation of knowledge.  The only way to evaluate Churchill (critically or otherwise) is to study the man’s life as a whole, and make an assessment on that basis. If neither of us knows much about Churchill, but we agree he was a great man, what does that agreement mean? Just that we are satisfied in our ignorance. 

    With respect to Aquinas, it doesn’t matter whether we agree that his views on heresy were good or bad.  Agreement doesn’t prove anything. Far more valuable would be understanding his views on heresy, where they came from and why he thought as he did, whether we ultimately agree with him or not.  And that would involve an appreciation of those views in the context of his thought as a whole.

    Why? Because Aquinas was one of the deepest and most profound philosophers in history, as well as a man of outstanding character and holiness.  Whatever he thought about heresy is likely to have some rational basis to it, whether we ultimately agree with it or not.

    The standard modern approach is to latch onto his views on heresy, condemn him for them, and then congratulate ourselves for being so much better than those nasty medievals.  Meanwhile, we slaughter innocent unborn by the millions, merely because they are inconvenient, a situation Aquinas would find horrifying and a reversion to the evil practices of the old pagans.  He would find our claims to have “progressed” beyond him to be puzzling. 

     

    • #129
  10. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    J Climacus (View Comment):

    It’s not an anti-supernaturalist assumption. Instead, it is based on my observations about the way the world seems to work.

    If I toss 100 rocks into a lake and all 100 of these rocks sink, I am inclined to think, “When you toss a rock into a lake, the rock will sink.”

    So, if Jeff says to me, “My great-great-grandfather was able to toss rocks into lakes and command them to float,” I am not going to believe him.

    Now, I realize that Jeff’s great-great-grandfather might have been able to cause rocks to float. It’s just that if you ask me, “Do you think Jeff’s great-great-grandfather could cause rocks to float?” my response is going to be, “No.”

    Even if God exists and God does occasionally perform miracles. Still, any individual miracle claim still seems suspect to me. A miracle isn’t impossible. But an individual miracle claim is more likely to be a false claim than a true claim.

    This is Hume’s famous argument against miracles. It’s well known that this argument begs the question. A miracle is by definition something that happens outside of ordinary experience. Do such things happen? It’s no answer to say that you don’t believe them because they are outside your ordinary experience. That just repeats the definition.

    Even if miracles do happen, if someone tells me about an event that seems far-fetched, I am not likely to believe what I am being told.

    Even an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi, who believes that God exists and has performed miracles, doubts that Jesus rose from the dead.  Why?  Because each individual miracle claim still seems improbable based on our everyday experience.

    That’s why even most Christians aren’t going to go to a snake handling church and handle  poisonous snakes believing that if they have faith in Jesus no harm will come to them.  They are going to take the more tried and true approach of avoiding poisonous snakes.  Muslims are likely to do the same thing.  Same for Jews and Hindus and Mormons.

    That’s why when someone is diagnosed with heart disease, we usually think they should see a cardiologist, not a “faith healer.”  We are more confident things happening the way they have happened before, not based on a some far-fetched miracle story says they did.

    • #130
  11. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    J Climacus (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    J Climacus (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    H

    Are you defending St. Thomas Aquinas’s “Put heretics to death” or not?

    rchill as a whole – including the bad parts – and view everything in the context of him as a complete man?

    That’s how your use of Aquinas appears. Aquinas was not particularly exercised about heretics, and his views were actually rather mild for his day. 99% of his energy, interests and contributions were devoted to other things, and a true judgment of the man would take all that into account. I have no problem discussing his views on heresy, but not when it is clear that the subject is only brought up as a club to beat him with, not in the context of a genuine attempt to appreciate the man, critical or not.

     

    I agree that we should look at both our agreements and disagreements with figures like St. Thomas Aquinas and Winston Churchill.

    It’s not about agreements and disagreements. Agreement (and disagreement) doesn’t mean anything unless they are built on a solid foundation of knowledge. The only way to evaluate Churchill (critically or otherwise) is to study the man’s life as a whole, and make an assessment on that basis. If neither of us knows much about Churchill, but we agree he was a great man, what does that agreement mean? Just that we are satisfied in our ignorance.

    With respect to Aquinas, it doesn’t matter whether we agree that his views on heresy were good or bad. Agreement doesn’t prove anything. Far more valuable would be understanding his views on heresy, where they came from and why he thought as he did, whether we ultimately agree with him or not. And that would involve an appreciation of those views in the context of his thought as a whole.

    Why? Because Aquinas was one of the deepest and most profound philosophers in history, as well as a man of outstanding character and holiness. Whatever he thought about heresy is likely to have some rational basis to it, whether we ultimately agree with it or not.

    The standard modern approach is to latch onto his views on heresy, condemn him for them, and then congratulate ourselves for being so much better than those nasty medievals. Meanwhile, we slaughter innocent unborn by the millions, merely because they are inconvenient, a situation Aquinas would find horrifying and a reversion to the evil practices of the old pagans. He would find our claims to have “progressed” beyond him to be puzzling.

     

    We have “progressed” beyond St. Thomas Aquinas in some important sense.  Today, in the United States of America, if someone says that he doesn’t think Jesus rose from the dead, this person isn’t going to be killed as a result.  He is much more likely to be invited to a debate where his debate opponent will be a Christian who tries to persuade the audience that Jesus actually did rise from the dead. 

    It is “good” that our society rejects that view of St. Thomas Aquinas.  A society where people can debate religious ideas rather than slaughter each other over them has made progress over the system that Aquinas endorsed.  

    That’s my opinion at least.  

    • #131
  12. J Climacus Member
    J Climacus
    @JClimacus

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

     

    Even if miracles do happen, if someone tells me about an event that seems far-fetched, I am not likely to believe what I am being told.

     

    The “far-fetchedness” cuts both ways. Suppose your grandfather claims to have seen a rock float on water. You know your grandfather to be a scrupulously honest man. He takes a lie detector and passes. Some of his friends claim to have seen it as well.  The local authorities don’t believe him, and he refuses to recant even when they throw him in prison for saying it. 

    This incident has already gone beyond just a bare claim of an unusual happening. Whether you think the rock actually floated or not, it’s clear that something out of the ordinary happened. It won’t do to just write off the incident.  Perhaps there was a mass hallucination, or a peculiar optical illusion, or whatever – it’s clear that whatever the explanation turns out it to be, it will be something unusual.  It’s far-fetched that the rock floated on water. But it’s also far-fetched that your grandfather would claim to see such a thing and lie about it.

    I claim the situation is similar but more profound with respect to the Resurrection. Here we have a group of men who not only claimed to see a resurrected Jesus, but suffered persecution for the claim up to and including martyrdom. The Gospel they proclaimed based on this spread like wildfire among all classes of people. Over the course of time, it inspired a civilization that produced results unique in history in morals, agriculture, literature, art, music, science, political organization, among other things.  Dante, Shakespeare, Caravaggio, Bach, Handel, etc., were all inspired by the Gospel and produced works of art beyond the imagination of the ancient world – “far-fetched” is hardly the word for them. This civilization produced revolutions in science by men avowedly inspired by their faith. Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Leibniz, Pascal, etc… all the early modern scientists were Christians and saw that faith as foundational to their enterprise.  Western Civilization is “far-fetched” compared to what has been achieved by any other civilization, and that civilization was not shy about acknowledging its source in the Gospel and the Man behind it. That such a civilization was ultimately founded on a failed apocalyptic preacher of no more inherent meaning than any other, is to me staggeringly far-fetched.

    Does this prove the Resurrection? No. The Resurrection is itself far-fetched.  What we have here is a situation where whatever view one has of it is going to involve something that is far-fetched. There is no escaping it.  The one view that I think does no justice at all to the history is writing off the Resurrection as though it were just another trivial miracle claim, like handling snakes or seeing a rock floating.  Something happened in the first century in Palestine that rocked history to its core.

    • #132
  13. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    J Climacus (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

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    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    This is Hume’s famous argument against miracles. It’s well known that this argument begs the question. A miracle is by definition something that happens outside of ordinary experience. Do such things happen? It’s no answer to say that you don’t believe them because they are outside your ordinary experience. That just repeats the definition.

    You judge an individual miracle claim as “more likely” to be a false claim, based on what? Your conviction that miracle claims in general are false? That bakes the conclusion into the premises.

    That doesn’t mean any particular miracle claim should be taken at face value. But it does mean that evaluating a miracle claim in a reasonable manner must involve something other than a blanket dismissal based on a prior conviction of their unlikelihood.

    Correct. It’s not in our ordinary experience that whole cities vanish in a flash of light and heat, killing nearly everyone in them in an instant. But we have eyewitness accounts and documents demonstrating that exactly this happened. Twice.

    The irrationality of Hume’s argument against miracles reaches its absurd peak when he asserts  that one should not believe in a miracle if one sees it with one’s own eyes. Really? At that point, Hume has abandoned all pretense of empiricism or rationality and is asking a person who has direct, observational evidence to ignore that evidence in favor of prejudice.

    And, true, that does not mean one should take all or any particular claim of the miraculous at face value. Direct, personal observation, testimony of multiple witnesses, material evidence (which Hume totally ignored, again, irrationally) that point to the credibility of a miracle account can and do warrant belief from rational people.  When, say, prophetic statements about pregnancies of three women on the edge of childbearing age having daughters (and they were not planning on having more children, incidentally) are all fulfilled within 1 year of them being disclosed by the person who made them, well, then the rational thought process is to believe the source of those prophetic statements.

    By the way- if you want to meet these girls’ parents (the girls are now about 12 years old) they live in Austin.

    • #133
  14. J Climacus Member
    J Climacus
    @JClimacus

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

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    H

    I agree that we should look at both our agreements and disagreements with figures like St. Thomas Aquinas and Winston Churchill.

    Why? Because Aquinas was one of the deepest and most profound philosophers in history, as well as a man of outstanding character and holiness. Whatever he thought about heresy is likely to have some rational basis to it, whether we ultimately agree with it or not.

    The standard modern approach is to latch onto his views on heresy, condemn him for them, and then congratulate ourselves for being so much better than those nasty medievals. Meanwhile, we slaughter innocent unborn by the millions, merely because they are inconvenient, a situation Aquinas would find horrifying and a reversion to the evil practices of the old pagans. He would find our claims to have “progressed” beyond him to be puzzling.

     

    We have “progressed” beyond St. Thomas Aquinas in some important sense. Today, in the United States of America, if someone says that he doesn’t think Jesus rose from the dead, this person isn’t going to be killed as a result. He is much more likely to be invited to a debate where his debate opponent will be a Christian who tries to persuade the audience that Jesus actually did rise from the dead.

    It is “good” that our society rejects that view of St. Thomas Aquinas. A society where people can debate religious ideas rather than slaughter each other over them has made progress over the system that Aquinas endorsed.

    That’s my opinion at least.

    Well, OK. I’ve invited you into a more sophisticated discussion of Aquinas, but it looks like we are going to stay with the “drive-by” potshots.  I’ll end this part of the discussion by pointing out that heresy is not someone saying “Jesus did not rise from the dead.” Jews, Muslim, and atheists are not heretics and Aquinas did not advocate burning them at the stake. The appropriate attitude toward them was conversion through proclamation of the Gospel, holy works, and maybe the occasional miracle.

    A heretic is someone who claims to have the authentic Gospel of Jesus Christ in defiance of the authority of the Church, and makes up his own version of the faith. The Church took this seriously because people – like Jews and Muslims – could be converted to a false Gospel, and perhaps Christians converted to a false Gospel as well. But it looks like there is no interest in paying attention to such distinctions, or being at all accurate with respect to Aquinas, so I’ll just drop this thread of the conversation.

    • #134
  15. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

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    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    This is Hume’s famous argument against miracles. It’s well known that this argument begs the question. A miracle is by definition something that happens outside of ordinary experience. Do such things happen? It’s no answer to say that you don’t believe them because they are outside your ordinary experience. That just repeats the definition.

    You judge an individual miracle claim as “more likely” to be a false claim, based on what? Your conviction that miracle claims in general are false? That bakes the conclusion into the premises.

    That doesn’t mean any particular miracle claim should be taken at face value. But it does mean that evaluating a miracle claim in a reasonable manner must involve something other than a blanket dismissal based on a prior conviction of their unlikelihood.

    Correct. It’s not in our ordinary experience that whole cities vanish in a flash of light and heat, killing nearly everyone in them in an instant. But we have eyewitness accounts and documents demonstrating that exactly this happened. Twice.

    The irrationality of Hume’s argument against miracles reaches its absurd peak when he asserts that one should not believe in a miracle if one sees it with one’s own eyes. Really? At that point, Hume has abandoned all pretense of empiricism or rationality and is asking a person who has direct, observational evidence to ignore that evidence in favor of prejudice.

    And, true, that does not mean one should take all or any particular claim of the miraculous at face value. Direct, personal observation, testimony of multiple witnesses, material evidence (which Hume totally ignored, again, irrationally) that point to the credibility of a miracle account can and do warrant belief from rational people. When, say, prophetic statements about pregnancies of three women on the edge of childbearing age having daughters (and they were not planning on having more children, incidentally) are all fulfilled within 1 year of them being disclosed by the person who made them, well, then the rational thought process is to believe the source of those prophetic statements.

    By the way- if you want to meet these girls’ parents (the girls are now about 12 years old) they live in Austin.

    My point is that almost everyone, whether they are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Mormon, Hindu, atheist or agnostic, tend to disbelieve far-fetched claims.  

    This does not mean that these people aren’t willing to update their beliefs when provided new information.  It’s just, on its face, a far-fetched claim is not believed until additional information is provided.  

    Christian apologists do argue that there is additional information that should persuade someone that Jesus actually did rise from the dead.  Quite often the argument is that Christians would not have suffered severe persecution for a belief in Jesus’s resurrection if Jesus had not, in fact, been resurrected.  

    But it is possible, perhaps even likely, that some of the Christians who suffered severe persecution for their beliefs mistakenly believed that Jesus rose from the dead. 

    The Christian apologist often implies that if a Christian was sincere and was willing to die for his professed beliefs then his beliefs couldn’t be in error.  But I think this implication is flawed.  

    I think the early Christians, who suffered persecution, were sincere and wrong.  

    Even a very honest man can be mistaken.  That seems much more likely than some guy rising from the dead. 

    • #135
  16. HeavyWater Reagan
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    H

    I agree that we should look at both our agreements and disagreements with figures like St. Thomas Aquinas and Winston Churchill.

    Why? Because Aquinas was one of the deepest and most profound philosophers in history, as well as a man of outstanding character and holiness. Whatever he thought about heresy is likely to have some rational basis to it, whether we ultimately agree with it or not.

    The standard modern approach is to latch onto his views on heresy, condemn him for them, and then congratulate ourselves for being so much better than those nasty medievals. Meanwhile, we slaughter innocent unborn by the millions, merely because they are inconvenient, a situation Aquinas would find horrifying and a reversion to the evil practices of the old pagans. He would find our claims to have “progressed” beyond him to be puzzling.

     

    We have “progressed” beyond St. Thomas Aquinas in some important sense. Today, in the United States of America, if someone says that he doesn’t think Jesus rose from the dead, this person isn’t going to be killed as a result. He is much more likely to be invited to a debate where his debate opponent will be a Christian who tries to persuade the audience that Jesus actually did rise from the dead.

    It is “good” that our society rejects that view of St. Thomas Aquinas. A society where people can debate religious ideas rather than slaughter each other over them has made progress over the system that Aquinas endorsed.

    That’s my opinion at least.

    Well, OK. I’ve invited you into a more sophisticated discussion of Aquinas, but it looks like we are going to stay with the “drive-by” potshots. I’ll end this part of the discussion by pointing out that heresy is not someone saying “Jesus did not rise from the dead.” Jews, Muslim, and atheists are not heretics and Aquinas did not advocate burning them at the stake. The appropriate attitude toward them was conversion through proclamation of the Gospel, holy works, and maybe the occasional miracle.

    A heretic is someone who claims to have the authentic Gospel of Jesus Christ in defiance of the authority of the Church, and makes up his own version of the faith. The Church took this seriously because people – like Jews and Muslims – could be converted to a false Gospel, and perhaps Christians converted to a false Gospel as well. But it looks like there is no interest in paying attention to such distinctions, or being at all accurate with respect to Aquinas, so I’ll just drop this thread of the conversation.

    I guess what I am saying is that I am glad that the authority of the Catholic church is much reduced compared to the 13th century, the time in which St. Thomas Aquinas lived.  

    People can read the New Testament and come up with varied viewpoints on what it means to be a Christian, even at the risk of saying something that other people, including the Catholic church, think is heretical.  

    This all seems to revolve around making it possible for people to get into heaven and avoid hell.  But here again, it’s not like we can verify that “If you believe X, you will end up in heaven and if you believe Y, you will end up in hell.”  

    It’s great to speculate as to who goes to heaven and who goes to hell.  It’s great to speculate that places like heaven and hell actually exist outside of the religious imagination.  

    • #136
  17. J Climacus Member
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    I guess what I am saying is that I am glad that the authority of the Catholic church is much reduced compared to the 13th century, the time in which St. Thomas Aquinas lived.

    I used to think this way as well, but now I wonder. If the Catholic Church were in charge as it was in the 13th century, some heretics might be executed. The Inquisition executed a few thousand heretics over a few centuries, so that might happen again. On the other hand, the Church would not have permitted the snuffing out of millions of innocent lives in the womb that has occurred in this country over the last 50 years.  The heretics at least had the chance to defend themselves and repent. The unborn are given no chance to defend themselves and are slaughtered merely because they are inconvenient.  The distinction between abortion and just plain old infanticide is fast disappearing as well, as evidenced in the Colorado “abortion any time up to crowning” law.

    Even from a secular utilitarian perspective, it’s hard to see how we moderns come out the winners here.

    I also think I understand why we are reluctant to speculate about who is going to hell and who isn’t.

    • #137
  18. HeavyWater Reagan
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    I guess what I am saying is that I am glad that the authority of the Catholic church is much reduced compared to the 13th century, the time in which St. Thomas Aquinas lived.

    I used to think this way as well, but now I wonder. If the Catholic Church were in charge as it was in the 13th century, some heretics might be executed. The Inquisition executed a few thousand heretics over a few centuries, so that might happen again. On the other hand, the Church would not have permitted the snuffing out of millions of innocent lives in the womb that has occurred in this country over the last 50 years. The heretics at least had the chance to defend themselves and repent. The unborn are given no chance to defend themselves and are slaughtered merely because they are inconvenient. The distinction between abortion and just plain old infanticide is fast disappearing as well, as evidenced in the Colorado “abortion any time up to crowning” law.

    Even from a secular utilitarian perspective, it’s hard to see how we moderns come out the winners here.

    I also think I understand why we are reluctant to speculate about who is going to hell and who isn’t.

    Heck.  I can speculate that there is no such place as heaven or hell.  Others are free to disagree.  

    I think we moderns have come out the winners.  

    • #138
  19. Django Member
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    I guess what I am saying is that I am glad that the authority of the Catholic church is much reduced compared to the 13th century, the time in which St. Thomas Aquinas lived.

    I used to think this way as well, but now I wonder. If the Catholic Church were in charge as it was in the 13th century, some heretics might be executed. The Inquisition executed a few thousand heretics over a few centuries, so that might happen again. On the other hand, the Church would not have permitted the snuffing out of millions of innocent lives in the womb that has occurred in this country over the last 50 years. The heretics at least had the chance to defend themselves and repent. The unborn are given no chance to defend themselves and are slaughtered merely because they are inconvenient. The distinction between abortion and just plain old infanticide is fast disappearing as well, as evidenced in the Colorado “abortion any time up to crowning” law.

    Even from a secular utilitarian perspective, it’s hard to see how we moderns come out the winners here.

    I also think I understand why we are reluctant to speculate about who is going to hell and who isn’t.

    Heck. I can speculate that there is no such place as heaven or hell. Others are free to disagree.

    I think we moderns have come out the winners.

    On one side of the scales we have 60+ million aborted and infanticide being proposed in CA. On the other side of the scales we have your right to speculate that there is no such place as Heaven or Hell. You think we’re the winners. I think that if you really believe that, your head is broken. Please think again.  BTW, I capitalize Heaven and Hell because they are places. Like East San Jose. 

    • #139
  20. HeavyWater Reagan
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    I guess what I am saying is that I am glad that the authority of the Catholic church is much reduced compared to the 13th century, the time in which St. Thomas Aquinas lived.

    I used to think this way as well, but now I wonder. If the Catholic Church were in charge as it was in the 13th century, some heretics might be executed. The Inquisition executed a few thousand heretics over a few centuries, so that might happen again. On the other hand, the Church would not have permitted the snuffing out of millions of innocent lives in the womb that has occurred in this country over the last 50 years. The heretics at least had the chance to defend themselves and repent. The unborn are given no chance to defend themselves and are slaughtered merely because they are inconvenient. The distinction between abortion and just plain old infanticide is fast disappearing as well, as evidenced in the Colorado “abortion any time up to crowning” law.

    Even from a secular utilitarian perspective, it’s hard to see how we moderns come out the winners here.

    I also think I understand why we are reluctant to speculate about who is going to hell and who isn’t.

    Heck. I can speculate that there is no such place as heaven or hell. Others are free to disagree.

    I think we moderns have come out the winners.

    On one side of the scales we have 60+ million aborted and infanticide being proposed in CA. On the other side of the scales we have your right to speculate that there is no such place as Heaven or Hell. You think we’re the winners. I think that if you really believe that, your head is broken. Please think again. BTW, I capitalize Heaven and Hell because they are places. Like East San Jose.

    If you really think human rights were more respected in 13th century Europe than in either 21st century America or Europe, I think your head is broken.  

    • #140
  21. Django Member
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    I guess what I am saying is that I am glad that the authority of the Catholic church is much reduced compared to the 13th century, the time in which St. Thomas Aquinas lived.

    I used to think this way as well, but now I wonder. If the Catholic Church were in charge as it was in the 13th century, some heretics might be executed. The Inquisition executed a few thousand heretics over a few centuries, so that might happen again. On the other hand, the Church would not have permitted the snuffing out of millions of innocent lives in the womb that has occurred in this country over the last 50 years. The heretics at least had the chance to defend themselves and repent. The unborn are given no chance to defend themselves and are slaughtered merely because they are inconvenient. The distinction between abortion and just plain old infanticide is fast disappearing as well, as evidenced in the Colorado “abortion any time up to crowning” law.

    Even from a secular utilitarian perspective, it’s hard to see how we moderns come out the winners here.

    I also think I understand why we are reluctant to speculate about who is going to hell and who isn’t.

    Heck. I can speculate that there is no such place as heaven or hell. Others are free to disagree.

    I think we moderns have come out the winners.

    On one side of the scales we have 60+ million aborted and infanticide being proposed in CA. On the other side of the scales we have your right to speculate that there is no such place as Heaven or Hell. You think we’re the winners. I think that if you really believe that, your head is broken. Please think again. BTW, I capitalize Heaven and Hell because they are places. Like East San Jose.

    If you really think human rights were more respected in 13th century Europe than in either 21st century America or Europe, I think your head is broken.

    You dodged the 60+ million abortion issue. If you don’t have the right to life, the rest don’t matter. 

    • #141
  22. HeavyWater Reagan
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    I guess what I am saying is that I am glad that the authority of the Catholic church is much reduced compared to the 13th century, the time in which St. Thomas Aquinas lived.

    I used to think this way as well, but now I wonder. If the Catholic Church were in charge as it was in the 13th century, some heretics might be executed. The Inquisition executed a few thousand heretics over a few centuries, so that might happen again. On the other hand, the Church would not have permitted the snuffing out of millions of innocent lives in the womb that has occurred in this country over the last 50 years. The heretics at least had the chance to defend themselves and repent. The unborn are given no chance to defend themselves and are slaughtered merely because they are inconvenient. The distinction between abortion and just plain old infanticide is fast disappearing as well, as evidenced in the Colorado “abortion any time up to crowning” law.

    Even from a secular utilitarian perspective, it’s hard to see how we moderns come out the winners here.

    I also think I understand why we are reluctant to speculate about who is going to hell and who isn’t.

    Heck. I can speculate that there is no such place as heaven or hell. Others are free to disagree.

    I think we moderns have come out the winners.

    On one side of the scales we have 60+ million aborted and infanticide being proposed in CA. On the other side of the scales we have your right to speculate that there is no such place as Heaven or Hell. You think we’re the winners. I think that if you really believe that, your head is broken. Please think again. BTW, I capitalize Heaven and Hell because they are places. Like East San Jose.

    If you really think human rights were more respected in 13th century Europe than in either 21st century America or Europe, I think your head is broken.

    You dodged the 60+ million abortion issue. If you don’t have the right to life, the rest don’t matter.

    I think it’s possible to hold two views simultaneously: [1] Unborn babies have a right to life and [2] People should not be burned at the stake for holding unorthodox religious beliefs.  

    • #142
  23. Django Member
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    Since so much of the thread focused on Aquinas, and since I posted the Berlinski interview and recommend his book, I thought I’d post a bit of his commentary on Aquinas. This if from the section of the book entitled The Cause. 

    … A master of the high scholastic method – Latin, liturgy, and logic – Aquinas synthesized Aristotelian philosophy and the doctrines of the Catholic Church so successfully that to this day, the style of argument adopted by the Vatican represents his influence. Nonetheless, Aquinas is not an easy philosopher to read, and he is not fashionable. This is not a decisive point in his favor, but it is difficult to ignore.

    Aquinas was born in 1225 … His life coincided with a period of great brilliance in European art, architecture, law, poetry, philosophy, and theology. Commentators who today talk of the dark ages when faith rather than reason was said ruthlessly to rule, have for their animadversions only the excuse of perfect ignorance.

    • #143
  24. Flicker Coolidge
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    It’s not an anti-supernaturalist assumption. Instead, it is based on my observations about the way the world seems to work.

    Yet you are capable of error. Your perceptions may be faulty. You devote a lot of words to theories based on the obverse. You hang quite a bit on that one tiny nail.

    I think that the whole point of turning water into wine, and feeding the thousands, and raising the dead, and walking on water, and having the winds obey him, and the very nature of miracles was intended to give credence to Jesus’ divinity not to undercut it.

    • #144
  25. HeavyWater Reagan
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    It’s not an anti-supernaturalist assumption. Instead, it is based on my observations about the way the world seems to work.

    Yet you are capable of error. Your perceptions may be faulty. You devote a lot of words to theories based on the obverse. You hang quite a bit on that one tiny nail.

    I think that the whole point of turning water into wine, and feeding the thousands, and raising the dead, and walking on water, and having the winds obey him, and the very nature of miracles was intended to give credence to Jesus’ divinity not to undercut it.

    Exactly.  If a gospel writer had written a gospel that simply said, “Jesus gave some sermons, ate lunch with some of his followers and raised a ruckus during Passover,” some other gospel writer would have said, “We need more supernatural ooomph to get people motivated to join this movement.   Let’s add a few miracles, using the Hebrew bible as a guide.”  

    • #145
  26. Flicker Coolidge
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    It’s not an anti-supernaturalist assumption. Instead, it is based on my observations about the way the world seems to work.

    Yet you are capable of error. Your perceptions may be faulty. You devote a lot of words to theories based on the obverse. You hang quite a bit on that one tiny nail.

    I think that the whole point of turning water into wine, and feeding the thousands, and raising the dead, and walking on water, and having the winds obey him, and the very nature of miracles was intended to give credence to Jesus’ divinity not to undercut it.

    Exactly. If a gospel writer had written a gospel that simply said, “Jesus gave some sermons, ate lunch with some of his followers and raised a ruckus during Passover,” some other gospel writer would have said, “We need more supernatural ooomph to get people motivated to join this movement. Let’s add a few miracles, using the Hebrew bible as a guide.”

    I take it you really believe that.
    It sounds like you’re projecting your own ways into others’ writings.

    Lot’s of people project their own ways onto others as a way of interpreting the world.

    • #146
  27. J Climacus Member
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    It’s not an anti-supernaturalist assumption. Instead, it is based on my observations about the way the world seems to work.

    Yet you are capable of error. Your perceptions may be faulty. You devote a lot of words to theories based on the obverse. You hang quite a bit on that one tiny nail.

    I think that the whole point of turning water into wine, and feeding the thousands, and raising the dead, and walking on water, and having the winds obey him, and the very nature of miracles was intended to give credence to Jesus’ divinity not to undercut it.

    Exactly. If a gospel writer had written a gospel that simply said, “Jesus gave some sermons, ate lunch with some of his followers and raised a ruckus during Passover,” some other gospel writer would have said, “We need more supernatural ooomph to get people motivated to join this movement. Let’s add a few miracles, using the Hebrew bible as a guide.”

    Here’s the problem with the “Jesus was just one of many charismatic religious leaders who stirred up trouble, his story no different than any other”  take on Him. It does nothing to account for the extraordinary impact the movement founded on His Name has had.  It revolutionized morals, politics, art, literature, warfare, music, among other things, and launched a civilization that achieved things unimaginable by others. Why did this particular preacher have such a powerful impact? Why didn’t he just fade away into history like all the others?

    Nietzsche, to his credit, understood the revolutionary impact that Christianity had and attempted an explanation in books like On the Genealogy of Morals and The Antichrist.  I think his interpretation fails, but he at least understood the magnitude of the task.

    • #147
  28. HeavyWater Reagan
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    It’s not an anti-supernaturalist assumption. Instead, it is based on my observations about the way the world seems to work.

    Yet you are capable of error. Your perceptions may be faulty. You devote a lot of words to theories based on the obverse. You hang quite a bit on that one tiny nail.

    I think that the whole point of turning water into wine, and feeding the thousands, and raising the dead, and walking on water, and having the winds obey him, and the very nature of miracles was intended to give credence to Jesus’ divinity not to undercut it.

    Exactly. If a gospel writer had written a gospel that simply said, “Jesus gave some sermons, ate lunch with some of his followers and raised a ruckus during Passover,” some other gospel writer would have said, “We need more supernatural ooomph to get people motivated to join this movement. Let’s add a few miracles, using the Hebrew bible as a guide.”

    Here’s the problem with the “Jesus was just one of many charismatic religious leaders who stirred up trouble, his story no different than any other” take on Him. It does nothing to account for the extraordinary impact the movement founded on His Name has had. It revolutionized morals, politics, art, literature, warfare, music, among other things, and launched a civilization that achieved things unimaginable by others. Why did this particular preacher have such a powerful impact? Why didn’t he just fade away into history like all the others?

    Nietzsche, to his credit, understood the revolutionary impact that Christianity had and attempted an explanation in books like On the Genealogy of Morals and The Antichrist. I think his interpretation fails, but he at least understood the magnitude of the task.

    If people believed, incorrectly, that Jesus rose from the dead and if people believed, incorrectly, that belief in Jesus could save one from eternal conscious torment, this would explain why the Jesus movement gathered momentum and had a huge influence on civilization.

    Yes.  Christianity, in all of its variety over time and space, has had an enormous impact on culture, society, politics and so on.

    But that’s not the same thing as various bits of the New Testament being accurate.

    I don’t think Mohammed actually, truly, heard the voice of God in a cave in the 7th Century.

    But many people believed, perhaps incorrectly, that Mohammed heard the voice of God.  And, thus, Mohammed had a huge impact on the world, including Christianity.

    • #148
  29. J Climacus Member
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    Exactly. If a gospel writer had written a gospel that simply said, “Jesus gave some sermons, ate lunch with some of his followers and raised a ruckus during Passover,” some other gospel writer would have said, “We need more supernatural ooomph to get people motivated to join this movement. Let’s add a few miracles, using the Hebrew bible as a guide.”

    Nietzsche, to his credit, understood the revolutionary impact that Christianity had and attempted an explanation in books like On the Genealogy of Morals and The Antichrist. I think his interpretation fails, but he at least understood the magnitude of the task.

    If people believed, incorrectly, that Jesus rose from the dead and if people believed, incorrectly, that belief in Jesus could save one from eternal conscious torment, this would explain why the Jesus movement gathered momentum and had a huge influence on civilization.

    But there were plenty of other movements that claimed similar things, both then and today.  Pretty much every religion says bad things will happen to you if you don’t follow the religion. So this does nothing to explain why this religion displaced all the others.  Using a feature that something has in common with every thing else of the type won’t serve as an explanation for the peculiar effects of that particular thing.

    Yes. Christianity, in all of its variety over time and space, has had an enormous impact on culture, society, politics and so on.

    But that’s not the same thing as various bits of the New Testament being accurate.

    I never said it was. I said the impact demanded an explanation.  Simply writing off Jesus as just a run-of-the-mill apocalyptic preacher is far-fetched given the impact he had – and I know you won’t stand for far-fetched explanations. The explanation doesn’t have to be supernatural (Nietzsche’s wasn’t), but it’s got to be equal to the task.

    I don’t think Mohammed actually, truly, heard the voice of God in a cave in the 7th Century.

    But many people believed, perhaps incorrectly, that Mohammed heard the voice of God. And, thus, Mohammed had a huge impact on the world, including Christianity.

    Islam is essentially a simplification of Christianity. And it hasn’t had the revolutionary impact that Christianity has. Islam did not revolutionize politics, or foster a profound philosophical tradition, produce symphonies on the level of Mozart or the plays on the level of Shakespeare, produce modern science, or end slavery, among many other things.  It did produce a martial culture that conquered a good part of the world, but there is nothing new or surprising in that.  It’s pretty much business as usual for human history.

    • #149
  30. HeavyWater Reagan
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    Exactly. If a gospel writer had written a gospel that simply said, “Jesus gave some sermons, ate lunch with some of his followers and raised a ruckus during Passover,” some other gospel writer would have said, “We need more supernatural ooomph to get people motivated to join this movement. Let’s add a few miracles, using the Hebrew bible as a guide.”

    Nietzsche, to his credit, understood the revolutionary impact that Christianity had and attempted an explanation in books like On the Genealogy of Morals and The Antichrist. I think his interpretation fails, but he at least understood the magnitude of the task.

    If people believed, incorrectly, that Jesus rose from the dead and if people believed, incorrectly, that belief in Jesus could save one from eternal conscious torment, this would explain why the Jesus movement gathered momentum and had a huge influence on civilization.

    But there were plenty of other movements that claimed similar things, both then and today. Pretty much every religion says bad things will happen to you if you don’t follow the religion. So this does nothing to explain why this religion displaced all the others. Using a feature that something has in common with every thing else of the type won’t serve as an explanation for the peculiar effects of that particular thing.

    Yes. Christianity, in all of its variety over time and space, has had an enormous impact on culture, society, politics and so on.

    But that’s not the same thing as various bits of the New Testament being accurate.

    I never said it was. I said the impact demanded an explanation. Simply writing off Jesus as just a run-of-the-mill apocalyptic preacher is far-fetched given the impact he had – and I know you won’t stand for far-fetched explanations. The explanation doesn’t have to be supernatural (Nietzsche’s wasn’t), but it’s got to be equal to the task.

    I don’t think Mohammed actually, truly, heard the voice of God in a cave in the 7th Century.

    But many people believed, perhaps incorrectly, that Mohammed heard the voice of God. And, thus, Mohammed had a huge impact on the world, including Christianity.

    Islam is essentially a simplification of Christianity. And it hasn’t had the revolutionary impact that Christianity has. Islam did not revolutionize politics, or foster a profound philosophical tradition, produce symphonies on the level of Mozart or the plays on the level of Shakespeare, produce modern science, or end slavery, among many other things. It did produce a martial culture that conquered a good part of the world, but there is nothing new or surprising in that. It’s pretty much business as usual for human history.

    I agree that the impact of Islam on the world is quite different from the impact that Christianity has had on the world.

    But my point is that a religious belief, even if false, can have an enormous impact on the world.  

    You want to know why some religions have a more significant impact on civilization than other religions.  The answer to this question might never be known with any certainty or specificity.  But the fact is that false religions do have an impact, sometimes huge ones. 

    Christianity might very well be a false religion that had an enormous impact.  

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