Sunday, February 07, 2010

GUEST POST: Gimme That Old Time Religion!

James S. Valliant's pictureA guest post here by James Valliant (right), who takes time out from writing his upcoming book on the historical Jesus to puncture another, not entirely unrelated myth: that civilisation is underpinned by Christianity.
Settle back for the full fifteen-minute argument.
[The essay, by the way, originally appeared
here at SOLO.]

On a discussion thread at SOLO, Lindsay Perigo cited an important quotation from Ayn Rand:

    "As a child, I saw a glimpse of the pre-World War I world, the last afterglow of the most radiant cultural atmosphere in human history. If one has glimpsed that kind of art--and wider: the possibility of that kind of culture--one is unable to be satisfied with anything less. I must emphasize that I am not speaking of concretes, nor of politics, nor of journalistic trivia, but of that period's 'sense of life.' Its art projected an overwhelming sense of intellectual freedom, of depth, i.e., concern with fundamental problems, of demanding standards, of inexhaustible originality, of unlimited possibilities and, above all, of profound respect for man. 
    “The existential atmosphere (which was then being destroyed by Europe's philosophical trends and political systems) still held a benevolence that would be incredible to the men of today, i.e., a smiling, confident good will of man to man, and of man to life. It is impossible for the young people of today to grasp the reality of man's higher potential and what scale of achievement it had reached in a rational (or semi-rational) culture. But I have seen it. I know that it was real, that it existed, that it is possible. It is that knowledge that I want to hold up to the sight of men--over the brief span of less than a century--before the barbarian curtain descends altogether (if it does) and the last memory of man's greatness vanishes in another Dark Ages."

One poster replied as follows:

    "The interesting thing about this to me is that this period of time which she clearly sees as the epoch of civilised man, was the last period where Christianity was universally accepted by all except those few who (mis)understood evolution. (More to follow on this...soon!)
    "It was also the last period before socialism came in to being. Although charity and altruism flourished.
    "It was also the time when money could be inherited without being taxed so heavily that it all but disappeared. This meant that many people could pursue their interests without regard to the gas bill (in the words of that rake, Lineberry), patronise artists so that they too did not need to worry about the gas bill and look after the truly poor and the ill.
    "This latter Dickensian aspect I note she ignores in her romanticism but, as far as people were concerned, there was a defined set of values that (almost) all European (Christian) people shared. This is what made this period so great. The history of the West is the history of Christianity. As Christianity declines, the greatness of the Western world follows."

For the moment, let's ignore the fact that the first rise of Christianity in Europe actually corresponded to the decline of Classical Civilization, and the fall of the Roman Empire, and consider her assertion about the 19th Century.

If Christians, in the name of their faith, did horrible things in the more remote past, had they simply misunderstood the Bible that they were poring over in such detail and with such devotion? Did they finally get clear on the meaning of their true doctrine only after the better part of two millennia?

In fact, the 19th Century was far, far less Christian than any of the previous 14 centuries had been in Europe, and the poster seems to have fallen for the recent attempts by contemporary Christians to deny their doctrine and their history.

The burning of thousands and thousands at the stake for no reason other than their heretical faith, the torturing of thousands and thousands more in order to get them to confess to any deviation from the Bible, the burning of books in the city square for being too "worldly," imprisoning scientists if they wrote something threatening to the Church's authority -- and all of it specifically, overtly and exclusively done in name of Christian "love" -- is all a matter of historical record. Can one seriously claim that the faith bears no responsibility whatever?

A religion that explicitly teaches enmity to worldly knowledge and worldly philosophy, with a Christ who suggested the existence of "mysteries" to be revealed only to the select inner few, is a religion at root hostile to reason and science.

The Bible itself has witches, e.g., Saul met the powerful witch of Endor, and ghosts, and angels and demons, and demonic possession, and revelatory visions of the "levels" of heaven, and most of that other stuff the poster later went on to deride as "pagan."

It's not just a crazy coincidence, of course, that Western science only got going again following the rediscovery of pre-Christian Greek ideas, starting with Aristotle's logic and climaxing in the restoration of the observational science of the ancient Ionians. Copernicus, for example, got his ideas about the earth and the sun from an ancient, pagan source, one that he suppressed upon publication.

Isn't it funny how those pagan Greeks seemed to have discovered science, but not those Divinely Chosen Jews, who, indeed, were fighting tooth and nail to keep the influence of Greek culture just as far away as possible. And, to this day, that is what Hanukkah actually celebrates.

But perhaps the most absurd example of this is the American conservative who is convinced that the U.S. Constitution and form of government are based directly on the ideas of the Judeo-Christian tradition. We are asked to believe that it took a mere 1,776 years of reading that darned Bible before any of those great and learned Christian scholars figured out its true political implications!

But scour the text of the Bible and you will not find any recommendation of political freedom or republicanism whatever. No, we are told to just "obey" the governmental "authorities" placed over us, because God has appointed them, by St. Paul himself, who likely wrote during the reign of the monster Nero(!) "Slaves obey your masters," St. Paul commands us in repeated passages (which were cited by slave-owners for centuries). Jesus commanded men to pay their taxes to Imperial Rome, and a Roman centurion, it seems, had more faith than any of Jesus's contemporary Jews, as Jesus himself declared. And tyrants like Louis XIV used the Bible to show that God intended a hereditary monarchy, like the line of King David. Why else would Jesus have had to be David's royal heir if this was not the divinely intended system?

Pre-Christian models of democracy from ancient Athens, and pre-Christian models of republicanism from ancient Rome -- i.e., a purely pagan tradition -- were the true models for America's Founding Fathers, who designed a state complete with two executive consuls, one with "veto" power, a Senate, a popular assembly, etc., etc. Just look at Washington, D.C.: it looks like ancient Athens or Rome, not a Gothic Cathedral, of course.

What about property rights and creating wealth? Christ taught folks not to worry about what they wore, what they ate, etc., and to avoid "storing up treasures" here on earth. Rather, he said, attend to the "Kingdom of Heaven" instead. Christ taught his disciples to hold all of their property communally, that it was (at least) tricky for a rich person to get into heaven, that the "rich young man" should give up all of his property if wanted to be saved, and that poverty was even a "blessing." St. Paul held the love of money to be the root of no less than all evil. And I could go on. In short, it is socialists, not capitalists, who have the much better argument for doctrinal support in the words of the Bible.

What about basic freedoms: speech, religion, etc.? These are not to be found in the Bible, either. And, if they had been there, in any way, then why was this never noticed by the Councils, saints and theologians who piously taught what they thought was good Biblical policy, century after century after century?

No, it was the horrible institution of Christian persecution, century after century, which inspired sensitive minds to first consider the idea of freedom of conscience, and, again, only with a good deal of philosophical help from those ancient, pagan sources, from Aristotle to Cicero -- and from natural law to the experience of the Spartacus slave rebellion.

Indeed, America's Founding Fathers refused to "render unto Caesar" (even a modest tea tax) and that was the very basis for their refusal to obey the "authorities placed over them by God," in direct disobedience to St. Paul. Many of those Framers thought slavery was evil, too, and it was this belief that provided the basis (e.g., see the Gettysburg Address) for later abolishing it. These men were not "peace makers" but war makers. They battled, not praised, the Imperial "centurions" of their own time. And they were not "meek" about it, either.

The principal author of America's Declaration of Independence, Jefferson, cut the miracles out of his own translation of the New Testament, and the author of the most popular and persuasive political text of the age, Paine, was an even more severe critic of the Bible, and an atheist. Ben Franklin was an Enlightenment scientist. American Founders taught that the pursuit of personal happiness and material wealth were virtuous.

Sexual repression is one the great legacies of Christianity, of course, but contemporary Christians have rewritten the text and their history here, too. Jesus praises those who "become eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake," and St. Paul advised celibacy for any Christian who could handle it (like himself). For the birth of Jesus to be "sinless" his mother must have been a virgin. Monastic and priestly vows of celibacy are well grounded in Biblical text. (Just as vows of poverty are.) And, of course, simply "lusting in your heart" (along with other thought crimes) is itself a sin! Now, where is all the contemporary blather about sex being "holy" in the actual text? Answer: it ain't there.

Only the most incredible game of mental Twister has converted in people's minds the New Testament into saying anything positive about sex whatever.

Racism has its Biblical authority, as well. Jews were to keep themselves racially pure as any reader of Ezra becomes oppressively aware. The very idea that God had a Chosen People, if even only a temporary basis, is racist, and, thus, so is the Mosaic Law itself. And when those Chosen had killed their own Messiah, as the New Testament asks us to believe, Christians then took to abusing them on the same racial basis.

The 19th Century which Rand praised actually begat many of the greatest threats to established religious opinion, certainly many of the greatest since the advent of Christianity itself: Darwin and evolution, women's rights, Biblical "form criticism," the discovery of a prehistoric world that long predated the generational calculations of the Old Testament, etc., etc., not to mention material comfort of the sort despised by Christ.

The Christian faith is founded on the older Jewish faith, and it was a savage one. A religion that sought racial purity once upon a time, one that fought any injection of that scientific, Hellenistic culture just as hard as it could, one that hoped for a monarch from their ancient line of hereditary kings, and one that slaughtered animals in order to appease their God (when its temple stood), like most of the other ancient faiths. And, before that, again, like other faiths, it almost certainly practiced human sacrifice. (Why should God have had to tell Abraham not to kill little boys,if the killing of little boys was not happening?) The Old Testament God also favored genocide on occasion, telling King Saul to slaughter the Amalekites, all the men, women, children, slaves, and even animals(!) When Saul failed to slaughter every living Amalekite and Amalekite beast, this was a sin of such magnitude that God took the throne away from Saul, and gave it to David, Saul's rival, and to David's descendants, like Jesus himself.

Thus, Jesus's ancestors owe their royal status to the fact that David's predecessor was not as assiduous in his genocide as God would've wanted!

Christians will often suggest that it was God who, through Moses, invented laws against murder, theft and perjury (see DeMille's intro to The Ten Commandments), when most other ancients also had forbidden these things, of course. They make it sound as if Jesus actually invented the Golden Rule, when others had stated it well before his alleged birth. They make it seem as if Jesus even invented love and compassion, when, of course, the models for this also long pre-dated Christianity.

Well, Jesus did give us a concept of forgiveness which would permit eternal rewards for murderers and despots who simply accepted him in their "hearts," and one that condemned to eternal punishment good people who had simply failed to accept a certain belief. Yes, we have a gun to our heads, it seems, just as Jesus declared repeatedly, for we must believe or be condemned to "the lake of eternal fire," and, as St,. Paul told us, "good works" will never earn you place in heaven. It simply cannot be earned by sinners such as we.

And, why? Adam and Eve sinned. Thus, all of their descendants, all of us, apparently deserve to die -- no, we deserve eternal torture -- because of the sin of distant ancestors. Sound fair? Okay, we get blamed for the sins of our distant ancestors, but, just as bad, our only hope is in the sacrifice of someone else, too.

Adam sins, you get punished. Jesus dies, you (might) get saved. Ask yourself what YOU did to merit forgiveness, or what YOU did deserve eternal torture, and you're barking up the wrong tree -- YOU don't matter. God is angered. God is appeased. (And like the common ancient practice of human and animal sacrifice, apparently it requires blood-sacrifice to appease this angry God, the mere belief in which conditions our salvation.)

No, your only role is to deny your own judgment and to accept without evidence, proof or logic, the epistemological blackmail offered. Believe or be condemned to eternal torments. Nice set up for a religious faith, right? (And don't tell me that Catholics are any different from others here, for Purgatory itself is open only to believers in good standing, as well.)

Your own eyes, your own mind, your own reasons do not matter, and the only basis for belief that we are given is the threat of damnation, pure and simple. You will search the Bible in vain for any Thomistic arguments for the existence of God, for there are none. And with or without them, one is expected to believe or be damned for all time.
Doesn't all of that sound fair and compassionate?

Christianity codifies a virulent hatred of life on earth every bit as savage as any other faith in history. Fortunately, this faith significantly and substantially weakened in the Enlightenment long enough for political freedom to be born and for science and industry to gain a foothold. Both science and freedom came about among European Christians despite the best efforts of pious Christians to prevent their development, and only on a foundation of pagan, pre-Christian ideas, and with conservative Christians fighting each and every step of the way.

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43 Comments:

Blogger Owen McShane said...

So now I understand why all those other pagan tribal societies became civilised before Western Civilisation.

I am no Christian, but I grew up in a communist household and have heard all these claims before.

The GrecoJudeoChristian tradition has one great thing going for it. Genesis begins with an act of innovative will.
The others are teleological/fatalist.
And please get the Galileo story right - it was his academic peers who (the Aristotelians) who demanded the Church persecute Galileo. The Church was reluctant because the Church was beginning to realise that science and maths was a source of power and wealth.
Had the CHurch been enthusiastic it would have been all over in a day.

2/07/2010 09:50:00 am  
Blogger Dave Mann said...

Following the enlightenment we experienced the 20th century which will surely go down in history as the hundred years of war when the world was turned into a bloobath over and over again. There have always been wars, of course; but this last century was when the human race got some real firepower in its hands and really started to kick some ass.

Added to this (and maybe causally linked), the roadblock of superstition and irrational fear is once again being drawn across the highway of human progress.

Environmentalism is potentially just as repressive a force as Christianity has ever been. Indeed, it seems that the establshed church itself is in the process of morphing into a kind of perverted comeback 'Church Of Gaia' in order to tap into a sick feeling of guilt and fear which appears to be ever-present in the human psyche.

2/07/2010 10:07:00 am  
Anonymous Sally said...

Most of that post is incorrect. Obviously it comes from someone who confuses how Jesus taught people life (with peace, hope and love) with political organisations which hijacked religion as one of their means of repression.

You hardly injure the image of Christianity by retelling the well known tales of horrible people who were not following the teachings of Jesus. Such people have always existed and will continue to exist.

The fact that you cannot separate CHRISTIANITY from CHRISTIANS tells that you cannot make any kind of sensible argument.

I don't consider Chinese people horrible just because their government is not a democracy. It isn't logical. The people are separate from the state and also from the ideology the state uses to control it's people.

You lack of appreciation for this makes your article juvenile.

2/07/2010 10:40:00 am  
Blogger Dave Mann said...

If I may add a further thought...

It seems to me that the old labels of Left/Right are no longer relevant; or at least, not adequate to describe the forces which are at play.

On one side we have the Indigeno-Green-Controllers. For these people primitive tribal culture has more value than western civilisation which itself is threatening the planet. Humanity needs to slow down and rediscover the ancient wisdoms because the pursuit of material comfort is a sin which will destroy us and free speech needs to take a back seat in favour of showing 'respect'.

I would call this group the Blockers.

On the other side we have the Scientific-Rational-Expanders. These people think that human progress is due largely to science and technology which itself has the capability of solving our material lives and giving us more freedom and comfort in which to grow. For this group the scientific method of experimentation, challenge and evaluation can be extended into almost any area of life and freedom to express one's views trumps 'respect' every time.

I would call this group the 'Accelerators'.

How does this work for you as readers? Would you agree or disagree with the idea of these two distinct mindsets?

My labels of 'Blockers' and 'Accelerators' probably have a built-in value judgement and so the labelling needs work.... but I think these two groups are going to be pivotal as they become locked in conflict in the 21st century. At present though, the tide is definitely turning in favour of the blockers and this concerns me.

2/07/2010 11:28:00 am  
Anonymous James said...

"Libertarians, while they remain under the thumb of doctrinal Objectivists who seek to make the movement a Jim Jones style mind control cult, are false flyers of the flag of freedom."

Unlike you Mr Red "hang em from lamposts if they hold a different view!" baiter...?

2/07/2010 11:30:00 am  
Blogger Callum said...

Dave: I'm not sure I'd agree with your two categories, purely due to the fact that the Left, for the hundred years between 1860-1960, was all about technology and science. They still advocated socialism (in a much more open way then now); they couldn't see the dichotomy.

Likewise, it was the conservatives who, along with Fabian socialists, opposed science and industry during the early years of the industrial revolution (and who are still weary of them today).

So, although people could be broadly categorized into your two groups, it doesn't tell us much about their actual political persuasion.

2/07/2010 11:42:00 am  
Blogger Ruth said...

Great post by Mr Valliant. Be sure to let us know when his next book is published.

The essay puts paid to the notion of Christian Libertarians and Islamic Libertarians - there is no such thing.

I note so-called Christian Libs like the Flannigans are trying to muscle in to the freedom loving crew - please don't think they are your friends.

2/07/2010 02:49:00 pm  
Anonymous James said...

"I note so-called Christian Libs like the Flannigans are trying to muscle in to the freedom loving crew - please don't think they are your friends."

I second that....M and M are dirty nutjobs who get up to some very non-Christian antics when in conflict with others..

2/07/2010 03:50:00 pm  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

Ruth said...
I note so-called Christian Libs like the Flannigans are trying to muscle in to the freedom loving crew - please don't think they are your friends.

Ruth, I don't think that there is something wrong with being christian libertarians. See, Hamilton Libz candidate Tim Wikiriwhi argues his politics very well.

2/07/2010 04:11:00 pm  
Blogger Ruth said...

Absolutely James. And they seem to have taken over the Blogger's Drinks as well, which is why I will not attend.

2/07/2010 04:12:00 pm  
Blogger Owen McShane said...

Dave Mann,
I think you would find a kindred spirit in Virginia Postel and in particular her book "The Future and its Enemies."
She talks about Dynamists and the Stasists.

She properly points out that planners who fantasise about twenty year plans (Like the ARC) are actually stasists who want to lock the world into their blueprint rather than it develop along its many futures.
Go to:
http://www.dynamist.com/tfaie/index.html

She is a friend and colleague of mine from some years back. She came to NZ.

2/07/2010 05:13:00 pm  
Blogger Dave Mann said...

Thanks Owen. I'll have a read of this shortly. I just opened the site and the first paragraph makes a lot of sense!

2/07/2010 09:51:00 pm  
Blogger Dave Mann said...

Bloody hell.... this is MY kind of thinker!

"she shows how and why unplanned, open-ended trial and error - not conformity to one central vision - is the key to human betterment"

This is almost exactly how the Theory of Evolution works, isn't it??

.... (still reading, LOL)

2/07/2010 09:59:00 pm  
Anonymous Sean Fitzpatrick said...

@James and Ruth

Libertarians are not an objectivist-only club - people of religious belief are often quite happy with the idea of servant government and these days seldom believe in using legislative force to make people to conform to their ideas.

2/08/2010 09:25:00 am  
Blogger Lucia Maria said...

James,

Interesting post.

Once I got past the inflammatory languague and sweeping generalisations and ignored the outright errors, you made some good points (such as the Christian world being on the decline in the 19C).

It is a pity though, that you are refuting a Christianity that you only seem to know on a surface level, or through a Protestant lens.

I certainly hope that you are doing a lot more research than what you've exhibited in this post for your upcoming book. Hopefully you've at least read the Pope's book on Jesus.

2/08/2010 05:54:00 pm  
OpenID ropata said...

A classic Gish gallop, where the author spews out a myriad of false claims and half truths. No attempt is made to understand or provide a RATIONAL argument, it's just a laundry list of grudges to paint a strange caricature of Church history which bears little resemblance to actual Christian life and experience. It reveals more about the author's personal prejudices than anything useful. I suppose the audience is pleased to have their bigotry reinforced by this tirade.

2/09/2010 03:40:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A new book "God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science" argues pretty convincingly that Christianity supplied some of the missing ingredients that meant the scientific revolution never happened in the ancient world (becuase, let's face it, it didn't and it had plenty of time). And lots of stuff about how Christians supposedly held back science gets debunked too.

2/09/2010 04:25:00 am  
Blogger madmax said...

All of you Christian apologists make me laugh. You are defending a thought system which believes that a carpenter walked on water and rose from the dead. Do you realize that in order to defend Christianity you must defend REVELATIONS and MIRACLES!!

I know there have been many Christian intellectuals throughout the ages. Many of them brilliant, honorable men. But that doesn't change the fact that Christianity is at root a primitive death worshiping cult which has as its centerpiece a human blood sacrifice to propitiate an angry and vicious god.

Christian Libertarians are, in the end, sterile and impotent. Christianity undermines whatever other positive pro-freedom elements they may have.

We need to get past religion in general and Christianity in particular. It is not part of man's future but a reminder of his primitive past.

2/09/2010 05:57:00 am  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

Madmax, liberatians do advocate for freedom and that's basically what's required. It is irrelevant whether one is a Moslem, Christian, Chinese, Tongan, Black, White, Fat, Obese, Skinny, Ugly, Beautiful (with Tom Cruise looks), Vegetarian, Omnivore, Carnivore, School Dropout, Physicist, Economist and the list goes on.

Objectivists tend to attack Christians, but what has that got to do with Freedom fighting? None at all.

Why not attacking Tongans for eating dog meat & lamb flaps, I am sure that is illogical because it makes us Islanders obese. Well someone labelled Tongans as barbaric in one of the local blog, simply because a dog owner to bbq his dog. This dog owner never violated anyone's rights. But as long as I don’t violate anyone’s rights then what I do privately is irrelevant if I am a practicing libertarian?

The attack on Christians is none other than an exaggerated feeling of self-important (intellectual-wise) that objectivists feel that they have superior reasoning capabilities, therefore they have a right to attack Christians as a form of re-education.

It should be justified to attack Christians when they start interfering with your rights, but not for their belief, since to do so, it is un-libertarian.

Concentrate on growing the party memberships and stop this nonsense of attacking people's belief because it has got nothing to do with libertarianism.

Here is a fact. It is much much easier to convince a christian (or any other religious person) to believe in freedom fighting than to convince him/her to abandon his/her religious belief and this is an undeniable fact.

PS: Grew up Methodist, where my brothers and sisters are still practicing (my dad a retired Tongan Methodist minister) but I am now an atheist. My family members don't try to lecture me on what to do. Well, they don't violate my rights. I also don't tell them what to do, even though I frequently brought up the subject of physics in how some biblical accounts violated it, which they can't be true (ie, the bible is false in that sense - a good example is, Moses walking stick turned into a snake), but again they (my family members) stick to their belief and being dismissive of the science that I tried to educate them on. Should I cut off ties with them simply because I have told them that a walking stick changed into a snake, which violated physics? Of course not. It is not their belief that I should cut ties from them, but when they cross the line and try to curb my freedom.

2/09/2010 08:25:00 am  
Blogger Madeleine said...

Ruth wrote: "they seem to have taken over the Blogger's Drinks as well, which is why I will not attend."

In the past year there was only ever one person who didn't manage to fit in and get along with everyone at bloggers drinks and he was a bigot too.

I enjoy the range of people who come to bloggers drinks and I would welcome yours or anyone else's attendance. It is a pretty accepting and warm bunch of people.

2/09/2010 11:27:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

"It is a pretty accepting and warm bunch of people."

Well, apart from me. I'm viciously intolerant. :-)

2/09/2010 11:30:00 am  
Blogger Madeleine said...

Ruth wrote: "I note so-called Christian Libs like the Flannigans are trying to muscle in to the freedom loving crew - please don't think they are your friends."

We've never even met Ruth. On what basis can you make this assessment? (Or should I be asking how old you are?)

Are you suggesting the grown adults in this thread who have met us are incapable of making their own judgments?

Are you the whip for the Libertarianz Party or something?

And people wonder why libertarianism get compared to cults LOL!

Try debating the merits of the positions you take issue with instead of trying to issue orders as to who your fellow libertarians' are allowed to associate with.

Let me guess, you think Jim Peron was set up right?

Oh Ruth, please do come to bloggers drinks, we'll have a drink and you'll see that we don't bite and that you might actually not find us too bad. You should come too James - then you can check out my "lovely eyes" in person and find out for yourself if I really do use try to pass photos of my daughter off as myself on my blog.

2/09/2010 11:49:00 am  
Anonymous The Standard Reader said...

I suspect that Ruth is a good friend of Jim Peron (an immigrant libertarian) who was kicked out off the country for allegation of being a paedophile.

Ruth is not a libertarian. She is a John Key hugger. Apparently, she has invited John Key and Bill English to her house for dinner (perhaps a few times). Also, she has been invited to the US Embassy for the regular social functions in there, and she is sometimes being briefed by the Embassy CIA station chief officer about what's happening in the world.

2/09/2010 12:05:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suspect that Ruth is a good friend of Jim Peron (an immigrant libertarian) who was kicked out off the country for allegation of being a paedophile.

For those playing along at home, MAdeleine Flannighan found the smoking gun that saw Jim Peron kicked out of New Zealnd. Click the link to read all about it.

2/09/2010 12:36:00 pm  
Anonymous Sally said...

Madmax seems angry bout something. Yet he misunderstands that which he is angry against.

Christians believe that their life comes from God and that God wants them to be essentially good people.

Evil acts perpetrated in the name of Christianity are notto be blamed on Christianity the same way that not all Muslims wish to be associated with Osama Bin Laden.

You are falling into the age-old trap of believing that someone is something just because they say they are. Murderous kings and Empires call themselves Christian but you will not see their actions condoned by any Christian Churches because they are not behaving like Christians.

I feel sorry for those who feel the need to attack and vilify other people just because they think and act differntly. It is even worse when those doing the vilifying are Libertarians - supposed to be the strongest believers in individual freedom of thought and conscience.

2/09/2010 02:35:00 pm  
Anonymous Glenn said...

Holy frikken moly! Has James (the author of this post) actually set foot in a classroom?

As for the others (James/Ruth, assuming you are in fact different people), I get the feeling you never left the classroom. You couldn't possibly go to drinkies because so-and-so might be there. It's cultists like you who make sure that any libertarian party will be forever sidelined in New Zealand while you have anything at all to do with it (assuming of course that you do, but you'd fit right in).

2/09/2010 08:20:00 pm  
Blogger Callum said...

"You are falling into the age-old trap of believing that someone is something just because they say they are."

Sally, this is an interesting claim. You say that because the perpetrator of an evil act believes in Christianity, doesn't mean that act was necessarily caused by Christianity.

Yet at the same time, most people would say that it was the Nazi ideology that drove them to horrific acts.

Likewise with condoning the acts: if Neo-Nazis started condemning Nazi acts, could we therefore say that Nazism was not to blame for the Nazi acts?

What I'm trying to say is, how do we determine whether an act, was or wasn't caused by ideology? Where do we draw the line?

(I'm not trying to condemn Christianity, BTW. It's such a broad - and often contradictory - religion, that almost any act, good or evil, could be justified by it).

2/09/2010 09:57:00 pm  
Blogger Callum said...

Glenn: Ruth is not associated with the Libz.

In fact, she was talking a few years ago of creating her own political party - not sure if it's come to fruition.

2/09/2010 10:06:00 pm  
Anonymous stanblanch said...

What is it with some of the people contributing to this blog?..Play the ball not the man.I am not a theology student but a Catholic College education ensured that I read and thought about some of these these issues with an open mind.A few times I set out to discuss some of my thoughts on religious beliefs with a good mate who went to a secular High School His name was Barry and he had a good mind and could carry a good conversation ( Kelston Boys High) I discovered it was like trying to explore facets of a flemish painting with a young child. His only experience of religion and christianity came from a Baptist youth club that used to meet in a Community Hall,Played and sang upbeat music which was followed by a free supper Praise the Lord being the battle cry.Being a teenager he confessed that the young women there were his main drawcard . So it was kind of difficult sounding him out on idea's for my essay , subject discussing the latest Papal enciplical and how it applied to members of the Church and wider Society.Although never a fervently religious person the subject always fascinated me, Later I took the first prize for Catechism & was presented with a book by the Bishop of Auckland." Thomas Beckett" I can remember Barry saying ..." Who's he?"

2/10/2010 08:56:00 am  
Anonymous Sean Fitzpatrick said...

Callum

Ideologies do not 'cause' people to do anything. People make choices, usually for reasons they themselves do not fully consciously understand, and then may develop or adopt an ideology to rationalize it.

2/10/2010 09:25:00 am  
Blogger Bree said...

"You say that because the perpetrator of an evil act believes in Christianity, doesn't mean that act was necessarily caused by Christianity.

Yet at the same time, most people would say that it was the Nazi ideology that drove them to horrific acts.

Likewise with condoning the acts: if Neo-Nazis started condemning Nazi acts, could we therefore say that Nazism was not to blame for the Nazi acts?

What I'm trying to say is, how do we determine whether an act, was or wasn't caused by ideology? Where do we draw the line?


Are we to take it that you are not seeking to disassociate libertarianism from the likes of the bigotry towards an entire class of people as expressed by James and Ruth?

Each group of followers/adherers of a belief system in society has its fringe members, the nutters on the corners, those who engage in racism, bigotry, violence, etc invoking the name of the belief.

If you do not want Christians to have the ability to say people who engage in x violent, bigoted, racist action are outside the Christian faith, despite their claims to the contrary, then you do not get to disown the libertarians who invoke libertarianism to justify their bigotry towards Christians (ie James and Ruth) or who in the name of libertarianism engage in violent conduct, the destruction of property and other illegal acts.

Unless you think libertarians get special rules?

Ruth and James are not speaking for libertarianism when they say what they said above. Ditto those who kill people in the name of Christianity or who invoke the state to justify welfare in the name of the belief. You can't have it both ways.

2/10/2010 10:57:00 am  
Blogger Callum said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2/10/2010 04:09:00 pm  
Blogger Callum said...

"Ideologies do not 'cause' people to do anything."

On an individual basis, sure. But what about when thousands or millions of people commit atrocities and the only common denominator between them is their ideology?

Bree: you're right when it comes to individuals. The deeds of nutjobs are caused by their nutjobbery, not their ideology. But what about the atrocities of thousands of men?

That's what I'm trying to say. Where do we draw the line between individual nutjobs, and large numbers of (otherwise good) people who honestly believe they are acting in accordance with their ideology?

2/10/2010 04:22:00 pm  
Anonymous Sean Fitzpatrick said...

Callum

"But what about when thousands or millions of people commit atrocities and the only common denominator between them is their ideology?"

What is there to say that is all that they have in common? I would say a general misanthropy would be a more common denominator and one cause / ideology / faith or another to bring them together is a convenience more than anything else.

The same misfits and sickos who joined the Nazis en masse because it gave them an opportunity to bully, humiliate and abuse others were the same section of the gene pool that joined the Spanish Inquisition en masse to be able to get to do the same thing in a previous generation. Plus ca change, plus cest la mem chose.

2/11/2010 02:42:00 pm  
Blogger Callum said...

"What is there to say that is all that they have in common? I would say a general misanthropy would be a more common denominator and one cause / ideology / faith or another to bring them together is a convenience more than anything else."

What other common denominators were there among Russia, China, North Korea, Cuba and Germany, apart from their dictatorial and collectivist ideologies?

Atrocities have happened in nations of all different cultures, wealth, and religions. The only common denominator between them is their collectivist ideology, regardless of variant.

"The same misfits and sickos who joined the Nazis en masse because it gave them an opportunity to bully, humiliate and abuse others were the same section of the gene pool that joined the Spanish Inquisition en masse to be able to get to do the same thing in a previous generation."

You're absolutely and undeniably right, Sean. These same people exist today, and will always exist. The difference is that today, they do not have the moral sanction provided by ideology to commit their atrocities.

We still believe that man has a right to life. Yet when men believe that man's life is merely the prawn of a state or God, who's to stop the sickos you mention destroying his life as they see fit?

This is why collectivist ideologies are the cause of atrocities. When there is no moral sanction for man's life, he will always become the plaything of psychopaths.

2/11/2010 04:03:00 pm  
Blogger Madeleine said...

Matt has written a counter-post to the major historical errors in James's Valliant's piece. Part One is now online: Freedom, Science and Christianity: A Response to James Valliant Part I.

2/12/2010 10:14:00 pm  
Anonymous Glenn said...

Yet when men believe that man's life is merely the prawn of a state or God, who's to stop the sickos you mention destroying his life as they see fit?

I laughed at the accidental seafood reference.

But the answer is: Those who think that God does not permit us to destroy each other's lives as we see fit. This is precisely the theological outlook underlying, for example, John Locke's works on liberty.

2/13/2010 03:23:00 am  
Blogger Callum said...

"I laughed at the accidental seafood reference."

:-)

"But the answer is: Those who think that God does not permit us to destroy each other's lives as we see fit. This is precisely the theological outlook underlying, for example, John Locke's works on liberty."

Alright. But as both have the same underlying premise (ie God as the cause of morality), why ought we to believe one view over the other?

2/13/2010 09:08:00 am  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

Madelaine, that is an excellent post from Matt. I may not agree with the defense of religious belief (I'm an atheist by the way), but his piece showed a well researched article and that's how it should be when you try to debate a topic that you're passionate about (like I do when debating climate science non-sense). I can see that because of his use of references, such as [2], [4] or [8] , etc,... I know this because I see it all the time, since I read lots and lots of peer review publications (in a wide varieties of fields) and I can relate to references that authors included in their papers (at the end), exactly as Matt had done in his piece.

2/13/2010 12:01:00 pm  
Anonymous James said...

"Oh Ruth, please do come to bloggers drinks, we'll have a drink and you'll see that we don't bite and that you might actually not find us too bad. You should come too James - then you can check out my "lovely eyes" in person and find out for yourself if I really do use try to pass photos of my daughter off as myself on my blog."

Probably not a good idea.

"For those playing along at home, MAdeleine Flannighan found the smoking gun that saw Jim Peron kicked out of New Zealnd. Click the link to read all about it.'

Shame its false.Jims now living in the States and doing very well for himself.He found the real publisher of Unbound,a guy named Tim who once rented space in Jims shop in SanFranciso and discovered he had been committed for sex crimes to an institution some time ago.Tim told Jim he had used Jims name as he was under scrutiny by law enforcement for some other matters and didn't want attention.He apologised to Jim for taking and using a personal piece Jim had written about his own violent abuse (not sexual) at the hands of his Father and publishing it in Unbound which lead some people to think Jim was endorsing child sex which is a nonsense.Jim is actually a passionate campaigner for child protection and still writes on the matter frequently when an outrage (usually committed by the State)is inflicted on children.In Unbound Jim is referred to in the third peson which suggest that the publisher is someone else

Glenn:
"As for the others (James/Ruth, assuming you are in fact different people), I get the feeling you never left the classroom. You couldn't possibly go to drinkies because so-and-so might be there. It's cultists like you who make sure that any libertarian party will be forever sidelined in New Zealand while you have anything at all to do with it (assuming of course that you do, but you'd fit right in)."

The reason for my not wanting to go anywhere near Mrs Flannagan is that we have history...although we have never actually met.She lied and twisted to get a good man,my friend, sent from NZ which destroyed his relationship with his partner who stayed here as he was not able to enter the US due to their laws.She posted my personal family details on Kiwiblog and also claimed I had sent a photo of my penis to a women named Liz Shaw.I suspect (but can't prove) that she also rang my home number on several occasions and hung up after a few seconds.

She has a history of radical anti gay activity including using poo in her protests and claiming shes had her breasts groped...including by a Labour MP.

So no.....I won't be attending bloggers drinks with Mad Madds anytime soon.

2/13/2010 03:47:00 pm  
Blogger Madeleine said...

James Jenkins wrote of me:

"She lied and twisted to get a good man,my friend, sent from NZ which destroyed his relationship with his partner who stayed here as he was not able to enter the US due to their laws."

What I said about James' friend, paedophile apologist Jim Peron whose New Zealand visa was not renewed following the fruits of my research, is documented in the Locke Foundation Report which is available at Jim Peron Unbound.

Before accepting James' charge that I lied and twisted things about his friend, read my report. You'll see a well documented and supported piece of research which demonstrates that my conclusion and the above statement that Jim Peron was a paedophile apologist is reasonably held honest opinion.

I am not responsible for the actions of the New Zealand government or for Jim Peron's choice to flee to a US state that did not permit his partner to follow him.

James continues "She posted my personal family details on Kiwiblog"

I don't know anything about James Jenkins' family details beyond what he himself has placed online. Perhaps James could post a link to back up this allegation?

James says that I claimed he "had sent a photo of my penis to a women named Liz Shaw."

Liz Shaw was a campus celebrity famous for being right wing and posing nude for some magazine. At the height of her notoriety James commented to the effect he was attracted to her (though in much sleazier terms than I have just used).

Liz Shaw is one of my friends.

Liz told me that James had looked her up on MSN, was chatting to her and then sent her a picture of a penis he claimed was his. I challenged James about doing this, he denied it, Liz entered the conversation and challenged James' denial as false. James always retells the story omitting that part.

I've sent Liz a link to this discussion so hopefully she will re-tell her side. Again, given the information I had to hand, the history of Liz being honest and James being a sleazy creep who'd hit on me despite knowing I was married I know who I believe, which makes my statements reasonably and honestly held.

2/15/2010 11:01:00 am  
Blogger Madeleine said...

James continues his littany of issues with me, "I suspect (but can't prove) that she also rang my home number on several occasions and hung up after a few seconds."

James cannot prove this because it never happened. I don't have his phone number, I never have and if I did and if I wanted to phone him, I wouldn't hang up.

James continues by repeating things he knows to be false because they were retracted by the publication that made them "She has a history of radical anti gay activity including using poo in her protests"

A student newspaper made this story up then retracted it when we complained. A protest Matt made happened to coincide with someone leaving poo outside an MP's office. The police investigated and found zero connection with either Matt (or I) - Matt was acting lawfully and peacefully (I did not participate in the exercise of that protest so how James pins it to me is beyond me). The student newspaper retracted its comments and apologised.

James knows all this as he was on the same email group as us at the time where this was discussed.
(I'm still not clear on how even if I was into protesting with poo that would be an example of radical anti-gay activity)

James fanciful blatherings turn sexual stating I claimed I'd " had her breasts groped...including by a Labour MP."

Again a student newspaper invented this. A Labour MP grabbed my arm and pinned it to my side to prevent my sign showing up in the background of a camera shot of the Labour party leader during an election campaign. In the police statement I was required to be very specific about where he was holding my arm, I mentioned that his hand was pinning my arm at breast height. This morphed into he groped my breasts when the student newspaper got hold of it. I never claimed this, it never happened. The Labour MP violated my right to freedom of expression and committed technical assault against me but he did not make any sexual advances. I have always been clear on this as James full well knows.

James is not wrong in saying "we have history" - he routinely lies about me on blogs and forums and email groups and to whomever he meets for reasons that I can only guess at (I'm not a shrink).

Despite all this I'd still happily meet him in a public place, such as bloggers drinks, for a drink but then I guess I'm not as hung up on our "history" as he is.

2/15/2010 11:02:00 am  
Anonymous Liz Shaw said...

I honestly don't remember but at the height of my infamy it probably did happen. I don't remember sorry Mads.

2/15/2010 11:49:00 am  

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