Jesus and Mo Wednesday by Veronica Abbass | June 1, 2016 10 Comments crime Share this:TweetMoreEmailPrint Related
History is full of examples of good and bad religious peoples; as well as good and bad atheistic peoples. I think we can all agree that ones Ideology does not determine ones behavior. Ideology can definitely influence behavior, but there are so many other factors that shape our interpretations of said ideology.
I have basically said nothing; much like the above cartoon.
It could be similar to the Alcohol Anonymous success rates: just about the same as not joining any group of any kind.
People familiar with repeat offenders will cite many such cases involving the jailhouse converts. Using the latest definition of religious faith “pretending to know…” this is what should be expected. Pretense is a deeply flawed and logically empty moral structure.
You have indeed said nothing of value, yet somehow you come off as feeling smug for it.
Of course there have always been good and bad people of all stripes, but opposition to religion is not about opposition to religious *people*; it is about opposition to the ideology. Religion is a bad ideology, no matter what form it takes. It makes perfect sense to eliminate bad ideologies – that’s how we progress. We didn’t say: “well, there are good and bad slavers and good and bad abolitionists, so fuck it, guess slavery’s not really a problem, it’s just how people interpret ideologies”. We identified the bad ideology, and the bad arguments for it (and there were many *very* similar to the one in the cartoon above), and we eliminated it. And we progressed as a civilization because of that.
You are correct, I was feeling quite smug! Even worse is that I erred; I totally misinterpreted the cartoon.
The barmaid got Jesus and Mo to admit that religious is just a trick, albeit useful (the barmaid is quite the trickster! Kind of like that proverbial snake in that proverbial garden, eh?!)
As usual, this atheist cartoon argues that religion is an illusion; a false idea/belief. You argue religion is a bad ideology that should be eliminated in order for us to progress. What would you replace it with?
I am sure that the longevity of an idea is not necessarily a strong argument for its goodness/truthfulness, but I would argue that there must be something good with an idea that withstood centuries of persecution and ideological challenges (of course, I speak of Christianity) – even if I don’t yet know what that something is.
There is definitely an evolution of ideas; perhaps this is what you mean by progress? Weak ideas fall and strong ones prevail. 2000 years is a long time; perhaps there is something to this Christian ideology?
I don’t agree with the longevity argument. It held sway due to force and coercion. As “free” societies feel more free, they drop the shackles that religion had on them. When there’re less and less consequences for doing so then even more so.
I once argued the same “the force and coercion” argument, but it seems to simplistic to explain 2000 years of history. There is some truth that force and coercion played a role in maintaining Christianity’s status once it became the dominant religion, but there are two basic observations which have caused me to question your overarching argument.
1. Christianity was a persecuted religion for 400 years.
2. Christianity today continues to win converts (both lay people and academic people) without force and coercion, but rather through other non-aggressive means.
You also assume that religion is a shackle that free societies eventually drop. I think the contrary: an overly free society – let’s call it a secular or non-religious society – will eventually come to adopt some form of religion, since religion satisfies a particular human dimension – call it spiritual – that history has shown people need.
A final loose point that a few years ago gave me pause: Mao tried to eliminate all religion in China. After his death the churches started to rebound. Now China is on course to become the largest Christian nation in the world.
A final final very loose point: I once read about this philosophical debate where Chinese philosophers argued that China needs Christianity in order to progress like their Western neighbours (shit! I wish I could locate that source!). Anyways, those two – admittedly vague – points make me question the claim that religion is a bad ideology that stems progress and the force and coercion arguments.
“there must be something good with an idea that withstood centuries of persecution and ideological challenges”
Very sensible. Religion is also a tool of conquest. With Christianity it takes fewer military personnel to dominate at home and abroad.
Christianity has proven itself to be a very cost effective weapon of persecution by mind control. Indigenous people, along with everyone else, are convinced they should obey because these priests are imposing God’s will.
God, concealed behind a big green curtain, always turns out to be the currently ruling oligarchies. Fear of God is more potent than fear of man, also less expensive.
“Christianity was a persecuted religion for 400 years.”
We are encouraged to believe this stuff. Christianity, the way we have it, never existed until the Catholic Church go going.
What did exist were crazy messianic Jews who were constantly in bloody battle with Rome.
That stuff about persecuted gentile Christians is obviously Roman Church propaganda. There were tens of thousands of Roman soldiers and citizens killed by rebellious messianic Jews. These casualties are not part of the Gospel Fables because they don’t fit into the religious story being created for mass indoctrination and control.
People are suckers for storybook fables.
> You argue religion is a bad ideology that should be eliminated in order for us to progress. What would you replace it with?
Why would it need to be replaced with anything? What did we replace slavery with? What would we replace racism with? The “absence of racism”?
Sometimes it’s okay for an ideology to just die, and not be replaced with anything.
> There is definitely an evolution of ideas; perhaps this is what you mean by progress? Weak ideas fall and strong ones prevail.
That is a misunderstanding of both history and evolution.
How would you define “weak” and “strong” with respect to ideas? “Strong” ideas are ideas that last and “weak” ideas are ideas that don’t? Those definitions are circular, and meaningless. In evolution, the species that prevail are not necessarily “stronger”, or “better” in any meaningful definition of the word… and in fact, they may survive by being horrifically monstrous and destructive to their hosts, like nasty viruses. Or they may survive because some other species has wiped out their predators. Or, frankly, by just being damn lucky.
Ideologies persist not because of any quality held by the ideology. They persist because there are people who persist them. Christianity has not lasted because there’s anything “better” about it than the many religions that have faded into history. It has lasted because Christians have lasted, and Christians have a vested interest in keeping Christianity alive.
The best that an ideology can do toward ensuring its longevity is to instill in its supporters a drive to stomp out competing ideologies. It is no coincidence that the periods of largest growth of any religion – including Christianity – coincide with the periods of most aggressive militarism and imperialism of its followers.
> 1. Christianity was a persecuted religion for 400 years.
That’s actually not true, or rather it is a gross exaggeration.
First, your numbers are off. Constantine legalized Christianity in 313, and it became the official state religion not long after. If Christianity was founded in the mid-1st century, that would mean a *maximum* of ~250 years of persecution.
But the reality is that there was no persecution for most of those 250 years. During that time the status of Christianity changed wildly as regimes changed hands – some did hate Christianity, but many favoured it. There were isolated and localized instances of persecution, yes… but there were also isolated and localized instances of Christianity doing the persecuting.
The only *real* period of serious persecution began in ~303. And since Christianity was legalized in 313, that gives you only a maximum of 10 years of *real* persecution. But you don’t even get that, because the persecution *actually* ended in 306, and even while it was going on, it was not widespread because there were still many areas where Christians were favoured.
So all told, you’ve got a total of ~5 years of actual persecution, and even then only sporadic and localized.
The lurid tales of Christians being rounded up and fed to lions in the Coliseum were largely a Christian invention from the early Middle Ages. The reality of the early days of Christianity is that Christians were far more often the persecutors than the persecuted.
> 2. Christianity today continues to win converts (both lay people and academic people) without force and coercion, but rather through other non-aggressive means.
That’s not really true either.
Christianity isn’t really “winning converts” at all. In fact, it is hemorrhaging members. It was recently reported that at current rates, Christianity will be overtaken by Islam as the largest religion in a few decades.
The primary means by which Christianity grows today is simply breeding. And that’s mostly happening in poorer countries where people are being taught not to use contraceptives because they’re sinful. “Don’t use a condom or you’ll burn in Hell” is undeniably a form of coercion.
> I think the contrary: an overly free society – let’s call it a secular or non-religious society – will eventually come to adopt some form of religion, since religion satisfies a particular human dimension – call it spiritual – that history has shown people need.
The reality is that this hypothesis is being shown wildly false. By any sane measure of “free”, the more free a society is, the less religious. And religiosity is dropping in almost all “free” societies.
> Mao tried to eliminate all religion in China. After his death the churches started to rebound.
Repression of any ideology inevitably leads to that ideology’s resurgence once the repression ends.
The rise of Christianity in China is not because China somehow had a Christianity-shaped hole that needed filling. It’s because now that Christianity is no longer illegal, it’s a new and shiny thing, and hip because it’s Western. There will naturally be a bump in membership… but I can predict with confidence that it will peter off then decline quite rapidly.
> I once read about this philosophical debate where Chinese philosophers argued that China needs Christianity in order to progress like their Western neighbours…
And there are piles of quotes from people who say Western countries need to adopt the philosophies of Islam to progress… or Buddhism… or whatever the hell else. It’s always fashionable to say your culture could benefit from copying ideas from other cultures. And you can always find some thinker enamoured of the mystique of other belief systems.
I agree, bad ideologies should die. But is Christianity is truly a bad ideology? How can that be determined?
I don’t really think you can just get rid of religion and replace it with nothing;’ talk about wishful thinking! Religion is not like slavery or racism. I used to think that perhaps the persistence of religion was due to some “god gene” or maybe questions of psychology. But then if that’s true than maybe the persistence of atheism is equally the result of our genes and psychology.
This brings me to the heart of this rebuttal.
I want to ask you about your argument that “ideologies persist not because of any quality held by the ideology. They persist because there are people who persist them.”
This is a very interesting statement because I think it hints at your underlying theory of history, which is that all ideas are social constructs. This is to say that the rise and duration of an idea has nothing to do with its essential truth, rather its rise and duration is solely the result of time and space constraints?
Is this what you believe?
If this is true than it appears to me that truth in an atheistic worldview is an illusion, yet another social construct whose life or death is determined solely on the whims of society.
Onto another point.
The point of noting the persecution of Christianity is simply to show that its rise was not solely the result of force and coercion. That’s all
There do exist genuine converts to religion (as there are genuine converts to any ideology). Some of these converts were persuaded based on the evidence and rational argumentation. Others converted simply due to emotional reasons.
The fact that Christianity is hemorrhaging members says nothing about its truth…but does that not take us back to the question that either truth actually exists is just a product of society???