Tuesday, March 17, 2015

On Vitriol Part 1

So, while I was away from active blogging, I got to miss a whole lot of vitriol about gender politics in gaming, a fact which I am actually kind of relieved about. Unfortunately, it is a subject that will not go away. Last week both wundergeek and Zak S. launched salvos at each other, both in the name of defending themselves from the other.

While gender politics are a hot button issue that repeatedly finds people from all sides being attacked, this situation is by no means unique because attacks against various people and groups are a regular feature on the internet.

I highlight wundergeek and Zak S. because this situation was/is rather high profile in our corner of the internet and because I don’t particularly agree with either of them. I may very well be wrong, but neither seems to think much of Christianity and I have the distinct impression that if push came to shove they would each probably describe themselves as human secularists or even atheists. I say this not as an attack on either of them, but rather out of personal experience.

I sympathize with both of them tremendously. I believe that ideas are important. I hold that human reason has been, is and will be capable of wondrous and amazing things.

They both look and sound like I did when I could proudly claim that I was an atheist and a human secularist.

Therefore, in order to really speak on the situation (and all of the various attacks that so many of us who inhabit the internet have to deal with in some way fashion or form), I need to discuss why I am no longer an atheist and human secularist and why that is so important.

This story begins in Eastern Europe.

Back when Yugoslavia still existed and was embroiled in a civil war, I lived within a stone’s throw away from the border. Thus, I was a peripheral witness to what was going on there. I heard gunshots. I felt shockwaves as bombs were dropped. I saw MiGs violate airspace. I was actively propagandized by the Croatians. I met and befriended Serbian refugees. I saw things I wouldn’t wish on anyone — things that I cannot un-see.

This experience broke me. I found myself reexamining my entire life. Rather than breaking down the logic of theism (as I had spent so many years of my life doing), I look a good, long look at atheism and human secularism. To my horror, I found it lacking.

If there is no God, what is good, ethical, moral or truth? Rather, what is the source of what is good, ethical, moral or truth? While laws, constitutions and/or societal norms might help us define these things, they are not the source. Laws, constitutions and societal norms all come from us — human beings. Therefore, sans God, we are the measure of what is good, ethical, moral and truth. Given this, what makes what I believe to be good, ethical, moral or truth any better than someone else’s? By what justification can I say that Hitler was wrong?

One might be tempted to point to logic, reason and/or science. These are things that Western society has, for some time, agreed are beneficial to help us come to a consensus as to what is good, ethical, moral or truth; however, in a world sans God, logic, reason and science had nothing to do with Hitler being wrong. Although we may try to convince ourselves otherwise, the real reason that Hitler was wrong in a world without God is that the allies were able to marshall enough military strength to force and coerce the Germans into their version of what is good, ethical, moral and truth. Had Hilter won, his version would be the norm.

Without God and with human beings as the source of what is good, ethical, moral and truth, the only criteria that matters when it come to who is correct or not is force. He or she who is the most willing to coerce with force their version of what is good, ethical, moral and truth wins. There is no external, eternal measure by which to justify how Might Makes Right isn’t correct.

Thus, as our society becomes more and more convinced that God is passe, and that human secularism is accepted as normative we can expect the kind of vitriol that has wundergeek and Zak S. at each other’s virtual throats. While wundergeek and Zak S. have diligently defended themselves by pointing to a variety of examples of what they actually have said and actually believe, it doesn’t matter in a world dominated by human secularism. What does matter in a world without God is that whoever is going to win this fight is the one who is willing to use any and all means of coercion in order to force their world view on the rest of us.

In other words, in a world without God, goodness, ethics, morality and truth mean nothing.


JB said...

Mmmm...you make it difficult to pick sides. And yet my heart (or "gut") tells me one secularist is more abusive than the other...

; )

Clovis Cithog said...

“I have lived long enough to know what I did not at one time believe- that no society can be upheld in happiness and honor without the sentiment of religion.”
Marquis Pierre La Place

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves,
but wiser people so full of doubts. "
Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970)

Simon said...

"In other words, in a world without God, goodness, ethics, morality and truth mean nothing."

One can argue - and I would - that morality, ethics, and belief in Truth and in God evolved because they are adaptive - individuals and societies that value the Good have tended to outcompete those which don't. The bad can win, evil can triumph, but if often doesn't, especially not in the longer term. We see that with the failure of the Third Reich and the eventual failure of the Soviet Union, and converselt in the survival and spread of Christianity despite the fall of the Western Roman Empire. In the short term moral inversions such as Islamic State and Nazism may spread very rapidly, like cancer, but they tend not to last.

Zak Sabbath said...

A morality that would lead you to write this post without just asking me first what I think is not a morality at all.

I am alive and available.

So either Christianity is a poor morality or you're doing it wrong.

FrDave said...

Thanks for dropping by, Zak. I apologize if this offends you in some way, but as yet, I don't understand why.

What is morally wrong about sympathizing with you? Or using you as an example of a common reality on the web, where two parties go after each other, especially when you are very public about your opinions? Or that I did write (and I do believe) that you feel that you are defending yourself? Or do you feel that I am accusing you of being an atheist (I am not, you just strike me as being similar to me when I was one). Or is it morally wrong to use your very public posts as a jumping off point for the telling of a personal journey and my own reasons for no longer being an atheist?

Again, if I offended please let me know why.

FrDave said...

Evil triumphs every single day and has since Adam partook of the fruit. Sure, Christianity is an answer to that evil, but the triumph that it claims against evil is one that would not naturally evolve, because it isn't an obviously rational or logically sound answer to the problem of evil, especially if one looks at the behavior of the martyrs. Otherwise, morality, ethics, etc. have always been imposed.

Zak Sabbath said...

Ignore "offense."

I am talking about best practices for productive discussion.

You talk _to_ people before talking _about_ them.

Your story is "This person thinks this"

"I used to, then learned better. I now believe true things"

It's a condescending story, no matter how much human sympathy you feel toward anyone involved.

If you want to productively discuss a thing, rather than snipe behind someone's back---you go to them and have a conversation.

If they refuse: THEN you can talk about them without reference to them.

This way seems morally cowardly: you use a person as a lesson in a tale that you do not open to their questions because you are afraid what they might say.

That seems dishonest--Christ told the moneylenders what he thought, no? He didn't go hang out with the apostles and say "Ok, now that the moneylenders are gone, here's what I think they're doing wrong", did he?

Thiles Targon said...

Turns out Zac knows the one true way. Don't be sympatric behind someone's face be a jerk to their face.

FrDave said...

Zac, thanks for coming back. Some reactions:

• I apologize for not talking to you first; however, you and I are both public figures in this part of the interwebs and we both have to live with the fact that your ideal best practice isn't going to happen all of the time.

For example, I wrote a piece a couple of years ago about Christianity and D&D that several people reacted to publicly on their blogs. Not only did folks take issue with what I said, but they didn't talk to me first before talking about me on their blogs; however, their posts led to a very interesting, mature and edifying discussion that just about everybody was really happy took place, especially me.

• My story isn't just "I think this." I post very serious questions that should be asked. Then, I walk through the thought process of why I think what I do.

• I am sorry you perceive the way I wrote this piece as sniping. My intention was to point out the fact that both you and wundergeek are living with the consequences of a world that accepts Might Makes Right as normative.

• I am talking to the people I intend to have a discussion with — anyone who reads my blog. While you are a catalyst for me to make public these thoughts, you are not the main topic nor the target of this post.

• There is nothing cowardly about writing a blog that can be read by anyone on the entire planet.

• If we want to talk about best practices for productive discussion, dismissing an entire post as condescending certainly isn't best practice. I ask a couple of serious questions. If you have different answers why not share and contribute to what could be a productive discussion?

• If you actually understood the meat of what I was trying to get at, both of your comments seem to prove my point. You seem to be more interested in dismissing everything I say based on the way I said it, rather than actually engaging what I said. This is a tactic used by people interested in coercion rather than productive discussion.

Zak Sabbath said...

I have no power to force you to do anything, so I don't think coercion is the word you want there.

FrDave said...

You do have power, though, Zak. Influence is power in an era where information is used as a means to an end. You are a professional writer with multiple published works who was a consultant on the latest version of D&D, arguably the most important brand in the genre. I am a hobbyist.

You have yet to actually engage in any meaningful way the original post. This entire discussion has had the effect of talking about means. You have therefore demonstrated that the original post is beneath you — the one with more influence.

This is the same tactic used by politicians and mainstream media when confronted by a story broken by a blogger or internet-news organization. The story becomes the blogger and the way the story was broken rather than the story itself. Thus, those with more influence coercively dismiss the story by not engaging in it. Thus, influence is used coercively to ensure that the original story is not taken seriously.

I will grant that this may not be your intent, but it sure does seem like you are engaging the same tactic. For the sake of a productive discussion I hope I am wrong.

Zak Sabbath said...

You are, obviously, wrong.
Here's how you can tell:
What possible force do you fear I will bring to bear? Specifically?
And in order to force you to do what? Specifically?

FrDave said...

Thanks for continuing the conversation Zak, I appreciate it.

Coercion on the Internet isn't about forcing me to do anything, but rather about how information is framed, perceived and interpreted. You should be very familiar with this, since you and yours have to deal with it all the time.

In your case, your words are framed to make you out as anti-trans to make sure that everybody else doesn't take you seriously.

You have yet to respond to the actual questions posed in the original post and have otherwise dismissed it all as condescending. Given our relative levels of influence, this pattern of behavior mimics the one used against you and yours, with the goal of dismissing those questions as unimportant and much less important than telling me how I am amoral, condescending, etc.

If your actual goal is productive discussion, then let's have one rather than you throwing epithets and dismissing anything I try to say.

Truth be told, when you aren't being angry, you are actually a really interesting writer.

Zak Sabbath said...

Please answer the questions and do not be vague:

What possible force do you fear I will bring to bear? Specifically?

And in order to force you to do what? Specifically?

I'm not talking about you on some other page to get people to come here and create an "impression" of you. I am talking directly TO you.

So it is deeply disturbing and bizarre to have you assuming bad faith and assuming that I am saying exactly what I think in order to put pressure on you.

Disagreeing with you _is not a coercive act_. It is 100% necessary for either party to learn anything they didn't know before.

So please answer the questions. Honestly.

FrDave said...

I would agree, disagreement is not a coercive act. I am merely pointing out the fact that your behavior in this thread has the appearance of the same kind of stuff you have to put up with when people try to label you as anti-trans. I hope I am wrong.

There is nothing, in particular, that you can do to me to force me to do anything (other than possibly give up on trying to have a conversation with you or ever writing anything about you again by being as confrontational as you tend to be); however this thread is not taking place in a vacuum. Anybody on the planet can read it. Therefore, your words and the way you conduct yourself are also aimed at anyone reading this post. The folks crying "you hate transsexuals” are not primarily targeting you. Rather, they are trying to coercively get other people to avoid you, your blog, your games, etc. for fear of being labelled and having to put up with the crap you do.

Now it is my turn. This whole thread has little to do with the original post, which you condemned as condescending without actually dealing with any of the substance. One might interpret this as using the same tactics as the those targeting you — it is a warning to anyone who wants to write about this subject — do it and you will end up being hounded by Zak S.

Again, I hope I am wrong. The easiest way to demonstrate that: answer the questions posed in the original post from your perspective. Honestly.

Zak Sabbath said...

" your behavior in this thread has the appearance of the same kind of stuff you have to put up with when people try to label you as anti-trans."
Not at all by any means. What they did was the opposite of what I am doing

I am coming _directly to you with concerns and asking questions to you_ .

They gossiped about me in private and then launched a public harassment campaign without talking to me at all.

So you should apologize for saying that.

Also: it is _bizarre_ to suggest that contacting you the only way I know how is "hounding" you.

What can I possibly do _besides_ leave a comment?

Or is "hounding" any comment that doesn't glowingly approve of your post?

FrDave said...

That's why I haven't definitely accused you of the behavior and thanked you for continuing to respond…I would like to think you would do things differently. I apologize.

There is still room to interpret this thread as "hounding," however. Virtually the entirety of this post continues to be about means rather then the substance of the original post.

I am still hoping to actually hear your answers to the questions I asked. That, is, after all how the two of us (and anyone who cares to read this) can have that productive discussion you mentioned at the beginning of the thread.

Zak Sabbath said...

"What is morally wrong about sympathizing with you?"
If you read my initial post I did not say that sympathizing was the thing you did wrong

" Or using you as an example of a common reality on the web, where two parties go after each other, especially when you are very public about your opinions? "

Because of the reason I said in my initial comment:

If you see a problem with my behavior, the best way to fix, address, or understand it is to open a dialogue with me, not open a dialogue I may never see with a bunch of people _about_ me.

Statements like
"While wundergeek and Zak S. have diligently defended themselves by pointing to a variety of examples of what they actually have said and actually believe, it doesn’t matter in a world dominated by human secularism"

...are insulting because, for example, _whether Anna's friends all tell her she needs to seek therapy_ matters quite a lot to her and anyone she attacks.

FrDave said...

Zak, this is why I have found this whole thread to be so frustrating. I apologized for using you as an example. I didn’t realize you would take offense because it has not only happened to me, but it doesn’t bother me when it happens to me. Also, its one of those things that comes with the territory. I will endeavor to do better next time.

We also agree that it matters very much to Anna and her friends as to whether or not she needs therapy. It is insulting that such things don’t matter. Yet, if one follows human secularism to its logical end, there is nothing with which to to say otherwise. That’s ultimately the reason why I turned my back on it. You matter. Anna matters. I couldn’t say that with any integrity while trying to hold onto and defend human secularism.

Zak Sabbath said...

Well perhaps, if you take a moment--perhaps in a week, perhaps in a month, when you are farther from it--and re-read with your name substituted for mine and with Christian and secular humanist switched, you might see how the way you wrote this could provoke a reaction not unlike mine.

"Two Christians are fighting. This is bound to happen. Let me tell you the story of why I am not a Christian."

But maybe wait a while first. All real moral systems emphasize the difficulty of behaving as if one were in the circumstances of the object of one's contemplation.

FrDave said...

Of course it's bound to happen, it has happened consistently throughout time; however, I can at least know that there is an eternal, external standard that we can all point to where each party knows that they matter. With human secularism, there is no such guarantee.

Zak Sabbath said...

A guarantee is only a guarantee if you know it's true.

The promise you are valued is made by all kinds of entities in this life. Only some come through when it matters.

FrDave said...

And God has come through more times than I can count. And that is just in my life...

Zak Sabbath said...

Well next time you see him, put in a good word for Mandy. He seems to have had it in for her since day one.

FrDave said...

Suffering sucks, I know. We have been doing a lot of that lately. It is at times like these when it is easy to get mad, because diseases like the ones Mandy has and my daughter have are not fair. One thing that helps me get through each day: focus on the beautiful. Therein I do see God. You guys are in my prayers.

Mike Monaco said...

You know this is a self-defeating argument, right? Saying God legislates right and wrong raises the question: is God just arbitrary, then, and relying on force (do what I say or I throw you into hell), or is he *really* good, that is, his commandments meet the standard of being good, in which case the good does not actually depend on what he wills, and we could investigate what is good independently of religion?
I'm far from convinced that the good must come either from man or from God. Why not from reason? You baldly assert that one cannot use reason to demonstrate that Naziism was evil. What utter baloney.

FrDave said...

In a world sans God, there is no rationality, because what is rational is entirely dependent upon who is in power. If they say Nazism is good, it is good regardless of how insanely irrational such an argument is. Just ask anyone who had to live through Communism how rational life was...

Your conception of God as legislator doesn't jive with the apostolic faith as understood by the Church Fathers. The Law is not the means of salvation nor the means by which we are judged. Rather, the Cross is God's judgement. He so loved the world that He sent us His Only-Begotten Son who willingly was crucified for us so that death no longer has its sting.

God is good, He doesn't demand it or legislate it.

Mike Monaco said...

Thanks for responding.
Well it is good that you're not making the argument I thought you were. Perhaps it was uncharitable of me to think you were and I apologize. I was incensed, as Zak above was, but what comes across as a very condescending attitude toward nonbelievers.
But I really don't understand the premise that rationality is impossible without God. Are you saying "what is rational is entirely dependent upon who is in power." is true in a world sans God, but not true in a world with God? Or are you saying it is true full stop, and a world with God is a world with someone in power who establishes some "good" state of affairs vis rationality? Is it only God who establish a rational world order? I just don't see how any of those claims could hold up to scrutiny. Maybe you mean something else?

FrDave said...

In turn, I apologize that what I wrote in the post seems so offensive, I certainly did not mean it to come across that way.

I do not mean to say reason is impossible sans God, but, rather, it becomes irrelevant in the face of power. To put it crudely, it doesn’t matter if everyone in the room disagrees with the one guy who has a gun and is willing to use it. Whatever he says goes until such time that someone else is willing to forcibly take the gun away, but then there is still someone in the room with a gun.

To use another illustration, even if the scientific method is flawlessly used to demonstrate an hypothesis it doesn’t matter if those in power want a different result and are willing to use their power to get that result.

In other words, in a world with out God power trumps reason. Certainly one could use reason to obtain power, but power is the ends and power is what matters. Again, ask anyone who suffered through Communism about whether or not reason helped them survive through even a single day. Members of my family today are alive not because they were able to rationally argue the merits of any particular issue, but because they were able to accumulate enough power to protect themselves.

The existence of God removes the ability of people in power to claim moral and ethical authority and truth based on their own ability as human beings. Thus, people without power are free to use reason to find and experience the good. It becomes possible to remove power from the equation (though, the fallen world will always be filled with people who will try to shoehorn it back in).

Thus, sans God vitriol is not only normative but necessary (as a means to get power), with God not only do we not need vitriol, but we have an exemplar of how to have meaningful relationships with the radical other.

Mike Monaco said...

Was offensive, not seemed offensive. Offense was taken and not just by me. QED. :)

But wait a minute, you do believe God exists, right? Because on one hand you are saying power trumps reason in the absence of God, and on the other you are also saying power trumps reason in such and such a time and place, i.e. the world is sans God.

Or are "a world sans God" and "a world with God" just figures of speech, standing for not having vs having belief? -- Are you talking about private worlds or the external world?

You see, I suspect that God's supposed ability to remove the ability of power to trump reason is a matter of *his* power, as an "authority". The issue seems to be: does moral authority have to come from God? Not a lot of philosophers think so, because so-one has offered a compelling reason to think so, and plenty of other grounds for moral authority have been proposed -- some theistic, some not.

FrDave said...

Offense was taken. You are right. Again, apologies.

When I use the phrase "sans God" I mean to posit a reality where God does not exist, as if atheism were correct. I could also point to historical realities where entire societies turned their back on God where there is a pattern of behavior consistent with my criticism of said reality sans God.

Can there be moral authority outside of God? Yes; however, the source of all moral authority sans God is humanity. Therefore, regardless of how well planned, reasoned or thought out such a man-made authority may be, it becomes irrelevant in the face of anyone willing to use force to subject the rest of us to their version of morality.

Another way to understand my criticism is that humanity by nature is mutable. Therefore any morality authority that is derived from humanity alone is also mutable. What is right today will not be tomorrow.

Since God is eternal and immutable, the moral authority that derives from Him is also eternal and immutable. Regardless of how much we strive to change God, we cannot. This is a good thing, otherwise we would not be able to share in His eternity.

Mike Monaco said...

Well, this is where we get into pretty intractable questions -- certainly things it is rarely profitable to debate online. I mean, how do you know which version of God's will to believe (all versions thus far communicated having been mediated by the humans you say are unreliable). We're left with traditions and texts and like it or not these really do change over time, are interpreted differently, and are applied to new situations. Thousands of books have been written of apologetics and commentaries and interpretations of scripture for Christianity alone. Consider the status of slavery in Christianity. Plenty of Christians found in accord with God's will, plenty found it against his will. By your argument one side or the other might be right, but we'd really never be able to say which, because both will argue, perfectly reasonably, that the other is making a fallible human judgement.

I just don't see how it is helpful to conceive of a Platonic ideal of morality that is corrupted by any human attempt to apply it to situations.

But even setting that problem aside, I don't honestly see the advantage of an immutable morality over a mutable one. Circumstances change. Our ability to take action changes. It might be wrong, today, not to do something it was not possible to do in the past, and so what was right then is not right now. That doesn't seem to invalidate morality to me.

Mike Monaco said...

The other issue, come to think of it, is that we're coming perilously close to a "No true Scotsman" argument. I could rattle off a number of evil societies or regimes that claimed to be following God's commands, and you could say they were mistaken (not *true* Scotsmen). Let's cut to the chase, as Godwin's law has been tested in the thread. The Nazis covered their stuff in crosses and put "Gott mit uns" on their belt buckles and so on to the extent that atheists will gleefully point out that the Nazis were Christians, while Christians will point to other things Nazis said or wrote and say, "Well they were not really Christians". My point being, having a supposedly eternal and immutable authority does little if anything to rein in abuses or evil-doing in the name of good.

The underlying issue, I'd want to say, is that you seem to propose a solution to the undermining of morality via abuse of power by humans with a means that is notoriously prone to abuse -- claiming authority from God.

FrDave said...

We use standards all the time in all walks of life. They bring order out of chaos and make life much better and easier. Imagine if every electronic devise used a different current or if every intersection used different colors for their stop lights or if every computer had its own operating system. These aspects of our life would become useless. Without an immutable moral standard, morality becomes useless. In such a world, Nazism is just as a legitimate moral choice as any other.

FrDave said...

I am well aware of all the crap that has been committed by folks in the name of God. Remember, I used to use all of those things as weapons to argue against God, especially a Christian God. I will point out, however, that there is a form of Christianity that has consistently argued the same standards for almost two millennia. This same form of Christianity has also consistently stood up against tyrants, political powers, murderers, slavers, etc. It has also been very successful without having to use power or coercion. This happened despite all the hypocrisy, idiocy and fallibility of humanity. That does speak to the possibility that something other than human reason and ability made it and kept it so consistent.

BTW, I own all the crap done by people who call themselves Christians, even though most of them would be called heretics by ancient standards specifically to avoid being accused of No True Scotsman. In turn, atheists ought to own up to all the crap pulled by other atheists otherwise they are also guilty of No True Scotsman. I’ll take the bad Christians over the bad atheists any day.

Mike Monaco said...

When we can, as humans, take ownership of the crap other humans have done, that's progress. Certainly there have been terrible atheists too. If you blame the terrible things Communists did on their ideological atheism, well, that seems like a stretch. I always thought serious Marxists basically filled in all the slots normally occupied by things like "God," "Heaven," and "Final Judgement" with "Historical materialism," "the classless society," and "revolution" ... they are so certain of their inevitable triumph it is a faith really. But they call themselves atheist, by and large, so we should take them at their word.
Yes I am an atheist but I don't think it makes me morally superior or privileged over others. Therein lies the rub. Christians tend to claim that their religious views actually give them a privileged moral stance.
When I believed in God and was Roman Catholic I thought very much the same thing about my church -- that it had a direct line back to the source. Turns out every Christian sect thinks theirs is most like the apostles. What I would call the Eastern Orthodox church has at least as good a claim as the Roman Catholics IMO and a better claim than the Protestants.
But I don't know how to put the crimes of the religious on the scale against the crimes of secular, or why that is useful. Obviously there have been way more religious folks than atheists in history and way more atrocities committed by them than by atheists. My view of the Eastern Orthodox is not nearly so rosy as yours, but I understand the Byzantine empire to be a part of that tradition.
My point is not to disparage your church.
I think I understand your viewpoint better now, so I thank you for engaging in this discussion.

Mike Monaco said...

Well, that is a common claim, that morality is either "objective" (and beyond human reason) or "subjective" (and merely whim). I think there is plenty of space between those horns. Couldn't there be an intersubjective ground of morality? I mean, sure different societies allow different behaviors but no society approves of murder. They have different understandings of what constitutes murder. And some of those understandings are wrong, and fully informed and rational folks could agree about that.

FrDave said...

While all denominations do make the claim to be THE apostolic faith, the Orthodox have the strongest claim. Luther wouldn't recognize or condone the Lutherans of today. Zwingli wouldn't recognize or condone the Evangelicals. Calvin wouldn't recognize or condone any of the Reformed churches. Even a Catholic from as little as 150 years ago wouldn't believe some of the things the Catholic Church of the 21st claims as dogma. In contrast, I know St. John Chrysostom (a 4th century bishop of Constantinople) could walk into my Church and recognize that we teach the very same things about God and Church that he taught.

Mike, my pleasure to talk. I wish this kind of thing happened more often.

Personally, my own journey toward Christianity was very much influenced by comparing atrocities by Christians and atheists. Yes, as you point out, atheism as a means of organizing a society has been around only about 1/10 of the time Christianity has been around, but that still affords an ability to compare apples to apples.

The French Revolution (the first atheist revolution) and the Spanish Inquisition are roughly contemporary (the latter ended in the 18th century and so did the Reign of Terror). Conservatively, the Inquisition murdered 1080 people over the course of its ignoble 160 year existence. Conservatively, the Reign of Terror accomplished that in a little over a month and did so every month for the better part of a year.

BTW "Historic materialism," "the classless society," and "revolution" are all products of a very systematic use of human reason are are still held up today as being rational in comparison to my own faith in God.

FrDave said...

This is why I find faith in rational folks so terrifying. Once you start putting degrees of what constitutes murder upon the concept of taking someone else's life, it is a can of worms because it is then possible to justify any killing as something other than murder. We end up right back with the Nazis and their concentration camps or the Communists and their gulags. Rational people agreed that these were not murder camps.

Christ made it perfectly clear that every single individual life was valuable, unique and unrepeatable. Killing anyone for any reason under any circumstance is a sin. Period. When you start from that standpoint, it is much, much more difficult to justify the crap pulled by the Nazis and the Communists.

DeusNihl said...

"Killing anyone for any reason under any circumstance is a sin. Period."

Tell me - did you just not read the old testament and Revalations or are you just ignoring them? Because there are plenty of places therein where YHVH demands and appluads the killing of others by his followers - when he's not busy doing the killing himself that is.

Please do not mistake me though - I find your belief here admirable (if somewhat misguided). It is however just that - your belief. It is not reflective of the material in which it finds its source. In said books (Job most plainly) it is jtterly clear that YHVH operates from a distinctly "might makes right" philosophy.

FrDave said...

Thanks for thinking of me admirably (in a backhanded way). A couple of things:

1) It is not my belief. It is the teaching of the Orthodox Church. I just choose to adhere to that teaching. Therefore, I am of one mind with a myriad of men and women that have accepted the same teachings for almost two thousand years (and more, if you include the various saints of the Old Testament).

2) Unlike many people who criticize Christianity by isolating single passages or books of Scripture, I follow in the footsteps of the saints who read the Bible as a whole. Because there appears to be numerous contradictions (especially when one uses your hermeneutic) it becomes necessary to understand Scripture from a revelatory POV, not an historical one.

While there are historical elements in the Bible (many of which a verifiable by extra-biblical means), it is not history. Rather, it tells us who God is and who we are in relationship to Him.

The Fathers of the Church have been reading the OT allegorically for almost two millennia. The killing you refer to can be linked to the theme of sin — turning away from God. Over and over again the people of God allow the concerns of the world to overwhelm their desire to be with God. Therefore, we must be vigilant and “kill off” the sources of those things that lead us away from God.

The Book of Job is a wonderfully comforting balance to the Book of Deuteronomy, which indicates that every bad thing that happens to you is due to your sin. Therefore, if Deuteronomy were read in isolation from Job, cancer would be the fault of everyone who contracted it. Job points out that disease, natural disasters and other tragedies which affect the world just are — they are nobody’s fault.

One must therefore take both Deuteronomy and Job into account when trying to understand why a tragedy has affected our lives.

If you do not believe me, then please take the time to read the Church Fathers and see how they quote Scripture. They never do so in the way modern scholars do by isolating every book as if they are separate entities. They have no problem juxtaposing verses from all over the place. Therefore, the Orthodox Church reads the Bible as a whole. In turn, so do I.