The Blame Game

self-righteous-hippieContinuing on with the ways in which the New Atheists misrepresent the religion they claim to see through, we come to a moral objection.

So the topic this time: If you’re claiming that religion is the cause of nearly all the wars and conflict in history, you aren’t talking about Christianity (or any other religion, or all religion, for that matter).

The most obvious objection to this meme is that it simply isn’t true. Though many atheists like to take us on a tour of the crusades, and put strange glosses on wars that were clearly not caused by religion, these “arguments” only ever reveal an ignorance of the historical facts.

The best evidence such a person could muster here is the crusades themselves, and even they have many socio-political roots that are simply ignored by this popular meme. Once we get out of the Crusades, however, it becomes clear that war (and, really, all human killing of one another) is almost always over land, money, and power. Religion definitely takes a back seat.

This, it seems to me, is so obvious that what is most interesting here is how anyone can seriously deny it. Personally, I expect that the reason is something along these lines:

There have been many times in history that a zealous group decides (on flimsy evidence) that it has found the source of nearly all the evil in the world, and can eradicate most of life’s problems by eradicating that thing.

There are countless examples of such scapegoating, from the rationale behind Jim Crow laws, to the Reign of Terror, to the Holocaust, to the overblown rhetoric of partisan politics. But the point is that it is scapegoating. There is always this curious fact that it is someone “out there” who is the problem, and that “we” don’t have that same weakness–that same evil can’t possibly be in “us”.

I suppose that this is why there is, inescapably, a strain of self-righteousness in these groups that leads them to create the very evils they began by decrying. And I’ve seen a lot of this sort of thinking in the New Atheist rhetoric. It is amazing how similar Richard Dawkins and Jerry Falwell sound. Neither one seems at all aware what happens when an angry “them” hating group actually gets the power they seek. It’s never been pretty.

So much has been said, but let us move on to the second, and much more serious, objection.

Christianity (and many other religions) specifically forbids this kind of thinking. Christ speaks against judgment and self-righteousness, and insists that no one can be his follower unless she first admits to having that same inner darkness that lives in others.

To see others as worse, even to the point of being willing to make war when one is facing no threat to innocent life, is to contradict Christianity.

True, Christians contradict Christianity all the time. But this hardly means that it is “religion” that causes the wars that Christians wage for other reasons.

Nor is it enough to say that people often couch their war cries in religious language. What people couch their war cries in hardly reveals the actual reasons for the war (particularly when so many of the reasons are too shameful to publicly admit). And I highly doubt that couching one’s war cries in the language of democracy, freedom, or safety (which has also been done) will lead anyone to think that those things are an evil cause of war.

And, to some extent, even the battle cries betray the lie. No one ever ran through a battlefield crying “transubstantiation”, because no war was ever primarily about doctrinal differences. War is either a terrible necessity against an unreasonable foe, or motivated by the greedy, prideful, and heartless parts of our nature.

And it is only a self-righteous refusal to admit having such a part that leads one to point to an institution and say “war is all their fault”. One even suspects that this is connected to the frequent inability to understand any need for salvation, but that’s a post for a different time.

55 responses to “The Blame Game

  • kcchief1

    “Once we get out of the Crusades, however, it becomes clear that war (and, really, all human killing of one another) is almost always over land, money, and power. Religion definitely takes a back seat.”

    And why do you think the Israelites where involved in so many wars and killing entire villages, men, women and children ? Yes it was over land. The land their God supposedly gave to them and told them to kill the inhabitents.

    Did religion take a back seat to this ???

    • Debilis

      I suppose I could get into all the issues surrounding that, but it seems rather beside the point.

      This definitely isn’t a good defense of the NewAtheist position-if that was what it was meant to be.

      But perhaps it is simply a rhetorical jab that wasn’t really trying to make a case about the most common causes of war?

      Either way, I don’t see how my position should change as a result of this comment.

    • pancakesandwildhoney

      Yes it did. Think about it. What was the early OT?

  • kcchief1

    “I suppose I could get into all the issues surrounding that, but it seems rather beside the point.”

    First of all , I am not an Atheist. Secondly it is NOT beside the point. That’s a cop out on your part.

    Tell me where I am wrong in the statements I made previously. It matters not what the score is concerning deaths by religion vs deaths by other causes. Any deaths caused by religion is wrong.

    • Debilis

      I completely agree that any death caused by religion is wrong. If that is all you are claiming, then yes, that is true. I was arguing with two other ideas that are commonly tacked onto that.

      First, that religion is a primary cause of war and death.

      Second, that this is somehow an indictment against religion in general.

      My point was that I don’t yet see any reason to believe either of these claims, and good reasons to dismiss them.

      I’m unsure, but it seems that you might agree with me that these claims are not well supported. If so, I’d be happy to change topics to something else. If not, I’d want to know what support you feel I’ve missed.

  • dpatrickcollins

    Any deaths caused by religion is wrong.

    Notwithstanding the fact that critics of Christianity must reach back thousands of years to attempt to build the case it is at its core a violent religion (and in the process ignore a great part of and central revelation of scripture), I am curious to know whether you think any deaths caused by any ideology is wrong.

  • kcchief1

    “Notwithstanding the fact that critics of Christianity must reach back thousands of years to attempt to build the case”

    That’s a pretty silly statement since the history of Christianity spans over 2,000 years and further when you go back through Judaism.

    Debilis is the one who said, “So the topic this time: If you’re claiming that religion is the cause of nearly all the wars and conflict in history, ”

    I think the word “history” allows me to go back as far as I want to. Did you even read his post before you commented ???

    Debilis provides no evidence that Atheists think that all wars were overwhelmingly caused by religion. It may be true but he provides no source material.

    I’m not an atheist. I just don’t like to see Christians throwing inflammatory statements out there and expecting everyone to accept them as fact. When I confronted him with the history of the israelites, he dodged the question because he knew he couldn’t defend it.

    And then you jump in and cry foul because I went back to far . Really ?

    • Debilis

      I know this wasn’t directed at me, but as it is largely about me, I thought I should clarify my position.

      First, I didn’t remotely mean to imply that all atheists think this. Apologies if that seemed the case. I was referring only to the New Atheists (the fans of Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Krauss, et al). They, as a group, tend to make that claim. And I was pointing out that it is not well defended.

      I also apologize if this was inflammatory. I wasn’t looking to pick a fight. I was merely responding to a claim I’ve personally encountered many times. I thought it was unfair to make that claim of religion without actually making a case (and when a good case could be made against).

      And, third, I promise I’ll answer all of your questions about the conquest of Israel once I figure out what it is you’re arguing. So long as the accusation is being made, I found that a little inflammatory (a rhetorical attack on Christians that didn’t actually prove anything about the claim I was denying) and thought it was best to simply ignore.

      But, if you are seriously concerned about how that has shaped Christianity in particular, and religion in general–and worry that this shows religion to be a source of great violence, I’ll discuss that idea (but I never found it very plausible, I must say).

      • kcchief1

        “But, if you are seriously concerned about how that has shaped Christianity in particular, and religion in general–and worry that this shows religion to be a source of great violence, I’ll discuss that idea (but I never found it very plausible, I must say).”

        I think you just voiced your answer.

  • kcchief1

    Oh and by the way, to answer your question, YES I think it’s wrong when any ideology causes death. “Defending” is a topic for another discussion . “Causing” is the topic of this discussion.

    “Notwithstanding the fact that critics of Christianity must reach back thousands of years to attempt to build the case it is at its core a violent religion (and in the process ignore a great part of and central revelation of scripture)”

    I didn’t see where you denied at it’s core religion is violent, you just claimed I was ignoring a great part and central revelation of scripture. Again the part you claimed I ignore is not part of the discussion.

    Is this your belief ?

  • kcchief1

    You need to come to Springfield, IL (where I live) to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum to see how religion “played a major role” in the Civil War.

    Harry S. Stout
    Professor of History, Religious Studies, and American Studies
    Jonathan Edwards Professor of American Christianity, Yale Divinity School
    ©National Humanities Center says this:

    “It’s abundantly clear, as recent scholarship has demonstrated that religion stood at the center of the Civil War for both sides. Both North and South looked to God for meaning, and each side believed—with equal fervor and certitude—that God was on its side. Many ministers, generals, leaders, and editors went so far as to proclaim that God had ordained the war and would determine its length, its damages, and its outcome. The victor would show, in other words, whose side God really supported. New England political and religious leaders had long proclaimed themselves God’s “chosen people.” With the start of the Civil War, southerners laid claim to the title and, through speech, print, and ritual actions, proceeded to “prove” their claim.

    Original Handwritten Document For the South, this “chosen” status not only presumed ultimate victory in what would turn out to be a long and bloody conflict, but also put God’s imprimatur on the Confederate national identity. In fact, the South claimed to be a uniquely Christian nation. The new Confederate Constitution, adopted on February 8, 1861, and ratified on March 11, 1861, officially declared its Christian identity, “invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God.” Southern leaders chose as their national motto Deo Vindice (“God will avenge”). Confederate President Jefferson Davis proclaimed that the time had come “to recognize our dependence upon God … [and] supplicate his merciful protection.” This national acknowledgment of religious dependence, as the South frequently pointed out during the war in both the religious and the secular press, stood in stark contrast to the “godless” government of the North that ignored God in its constitution and put secular concerns above the sacred duties of Christian service and the divine commission.”

    • Debilis

      This is much more on topic, thank you.

      As to a response, I’d say that the fact that both sides did this is very strong evidence that the Christian religion is not the reason why these people went to war.

      Certainly, anyone dead set on going to war is going to try to justify that act. If that person happens to be religious, there’s a good chance that God’s name will be invoked. If that person is secular, it is much more likely that terms like “freedom”, “equality”, “fair-treatment” will be evoked.

      But, unless you’re willing to argue that it would be inflammatory to say that belief in freedom isn’t the cause of nearly all war, then I don’t see why you take such issue with my doing the same thing with respect to religion.

      And, personally, I do say that. I think it is a horrible distortion of history to say that belief in freedom is the primary cause of war, and those who claim that it is need to present a better case than point to some anecdotes about people claiming that they fight for freedom.

      Now, do you take issue with this? Is this inflammatory? If not, what is the difference in saying the same thing with respect to religion?

      And, frankly, I think a much stronger case could be made that people have gone to war for freedom than that the Confederacy actually went to war for God. Yes, they made self-righteous claims to that effect, but you don’t think that, perhaps, cultural conflict, economic pressures (such as the debate over tariffs), an entrenched racism, and the feeling of being judged as morally repugnant might have had something to do with it?

      In fact, that last is a decent explanation as to why the Confederacy was so keen to play the holier-than-thou card. They had people accusing their culture of being morally corrupt. Perhaps they were feeling a bit defensive?

      We can discuss all that if you’d like. But the point is that a glib “religion caused it” is not an intelligent answer.

  • kcchief1

    @dpatrickcollins, this example is only 150 years old. Is this recent enough for you ?

  • Frank Morris

    kcchiefs, are you seriously claiming that the Civil War was fought over God? The Civil War was mostly about slavery and abolition, with other cultural and economic concerns as well.

    I think debilis’ point is solid when he says that there is a difference between what national leaders SAY is their goal and what really IS the cause of the war. Leaders of warring nations will always put a positive spin on their motives. They are fighting for “freedom” or “democracy”, “national security”, “to prevent oppression” or even for “peace”.

    Does that mean that freedom, security and peace are horrible and that oppression is great?

    Doesn’t Christianity promote “turn the other cheek”? Even if not all Christians in history achieve that ideal, isn’t it still a worthy goal?

    The Crusades were religion oriented, but that was not exactly by people who were following the ideals of the religion they falsely claim. And we are talking about more than a millennium ago.

    Last century was the bloodiest in history, thanks to atheists Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin.

    Not only is religion standing in opposition to war, and in support of peace, forgiveness and brotherhood, but religions are also there to provide humanitarian assistance in catastrophes such as war, famine, disease or severe weather disasters.

    • kcchief1

      “Last century was the bloodiest in history, thanks to atheists Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin.”

      You might be right Frank, although I haven’t been able to find where Hitler stated this directly. I did find a few of his quotes which might suggest he was sympathetic to Christianity at times and obviously used it to his advantage. Whether he truly believed any of this or not remains with him.

      “We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.” -Adolf Hitler, in a speech in Berlin on 24 Oct. 1933

      “My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow my self to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice… And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows . For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.” -Adolf Hitler, in a speech on 12 April 1922 (taken from a book called My New Order, a collection of some of the more significant speeches he made from 1922-1941 (edited by Raoul de Roussy and published by Reynal & Hitchcock).

      “Christianity could not content itself with building up its own altar; it was absolutely forced to undertake the destruction of the heathen altars. Only from this fanatical intolerance could its apodictic faith take form; this intolerance is, in fact, its absolute presupposition.” -Adolf Hitler Mein Kampf

      “Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” -Adolf Hitler (Mein Kampf)

      “Secular schools can never be tolerated because such a school has no religious instruction and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith…. We need believing people.”
      -Adolf Hitler, April 26, 1933

  • kcchief1

    Frank Morris, I provided commentary from scholars on the Civil War. You can and will draw your own conclusions.

    You can also keep “drinking the Koolaid”

    You all keep crying foul when I bring up evidence in that it is too old. Don’t you understand History has no time constraints ? Because you can’t defend what the Israelites did or what the Church did during the Crusades, you want to remove them as evidence because they happened too long ago !

    Hogwash !

    This is what people in the Middle East are now saying about the Holocaust . It happened too long ago and therefore there is no credible evidence to support it ever happened !

    Where is the turning of the other cheek in this recent development ?

    • pancakesandwildhoney

      The CAR Christian-Muslim situation is an incredibly complex conflict. And I think attempting to reduce the situation to a glib rhetorical question about violent Christians is misleading, simplistic, and unfair.

      • kcchief1

        I made NO comments to the link I provided. I simply asked you a question. So your claims of my being misleading, simplistic and unfair is the typical cop out by Christian Apologists when they have no answer .

        A better answer which would be an honest one is that , ” I don’t know how to address this situation”

        So far you and your apologists on this post have accused me of :

        1.) Having to revert back 1000’s of years to support my comments

        2.) Not being on topic

        3.) Being misleading, simplistic, and unfair

        4.)rhetorical attack on Christians

        These are hardly well thought out answers to my questions. They are simply cop outs from people who apparently don’t have a real answer.

        I might be wrong in all of the statements I made. Instead of chiding me for having the guts to bring these questions up, why not enlighten me ?

        As I have stated before, I am not an atheist. I am a deist but not necessarily in the traditional sense. I was a christian for 50 years until I had too many questions I could no longer rationalize in my head.

        If these blogs are meant to discuss and or debate questions, I think I have presented mine. If this blog is to get in line and accept everything the blog host says as fact, or be accused of the 4 things I’ve been accused of, then I guess I’m in the wrong place.

        I think I have been respectful here. I did accuse someone of being silly. I hope this is allowed. 🙂

        • pancakesandwildhoney

          I am not an apologist, so….how about practicing what you preach, dear brother?

          As for your comment on the CAR, it appeared to me that you were trying to score a rhetorical point with that question. If not, mea culpa, but the situation in the CAR is far too complex and variegated for a simple categorization of religion causing violence. That is my answer.

          You say: “These are hardly well thought out answers to my questions.”

          The irony here is that you do what you accuse your “opponents” of doing. Why should I desire to engage in dialectic with someone like that? But of course I am not a defender of Christianity, so I could care less what you think an answer to one of your “oh-so-profound” questions should look like. Religion is bad, dude. Really bad sometimes, even. But guess what? It is also good. Really good sometimes even. Sometimes it is a bit of both at the same time. It is just human culture. It’s part of who we are as humans, dude. It’s neither the Devil nor the Savior. The homo religiotificus is neither a natural kind nor a fatal outcome of human history. It is one of our own cultural products that we have to evaluate. Both hosannas and exorcisms are to be avoided; they take us nowhere. Is religion good? Yes, no…sometimes. What other answer is there? Or must religion be wholly bad? I try not to deal wholly in the blackest blacks and the whitest whites. For you, though, it seems everything, everybody, is either all good or all bad, without any of those intermediate shades which, in life, complicate reality and perplex the eye that seeks to probe it truly. This kind of simplifying pattern, of course, gives charm to some rather primitive modes of thought. And, in fact, your somewhat silly positioning of the debate here is, basically, an old, religious one known as: The War between Good and Evil. The problem is that both sides to it are caricatures.

          “Nature binds truth, happiness, and virtue together by an indissoluble chain,” said Condorcet. I don’t agree. Conflict of values is an intrinsic, irremovable element of human life. Existence, to contradict Hegel and Marx, is a metaphysical chimera. If, as I believe, the ends of men are many, and not all of them are in principle compatible with each other, then the possibility of conflict–and of tragedy– can never wholly be eliminated from human life, either personal or social. The necessity of choosing between absolute claims is then an inescapable characteristic of the human condition.

        • kcchief1

          “If, as I believe, the ends of men are many, and not all of them are in principle compatible with each other, then the possibility of conflict–and of tragedy– can never wholly be eliminated from human life, either personal or social. The necessity of choosing between absolute claims is then an inescapable characteristic of the human condition.”

          This is the kind of answer I was asking for ! I don’t see everything in black and white either !

          Thanks for taking time to explain your position rather than make 1 line jabs . Dude !

          I mean this sincerely.

    • Frank Morris

      pancakes, your response was terrific. There is good and bad in all human endeavors, even in religion, but does that make religion bad? …sometimes, but more often good and often really good.

      kcchiefs, I think you are still dodging the point that it is not the actual tenets of the religion that is the cause of a war, so much as anti-religious people falsely claiming religion as their excuse.

      As an analogy, if a US politician is extremely corrupt and yet once caught he/she uses – as an excuse – a desire for the best interests of the public good, is the public good wrong? Since it happened in a democracy, is democracy wrong and should we institute tyrannical dictatorships instead?

      On a wider note, when a wrong-doer causes harm to society, they will usually claim a positive-sounding reason for the harm they caused. This does not mean their actions had anything to do with anything good, nor that anything they did causes good to be bad.

      In your many years of going to church, how often did any of your religious leaders advocate war or genocide? Seriously, you know your church supports understanding and love, and opposed even slight harm to others, let alone mass death.

      A group that advocates peace is a benefit to society, not a cause of war, no matter how much you quote the lies of warmongers.

  • One and Done………. | The Divine Spark Within

    […]   kcchief1February 27th, 2014 at 11:26 pm […]

  • kcchief1

    No where did I say war was caused solely by religion. I was trying to point out how religion can contribute heavily in the argument for and justification of war.

    My original statement , “And why do you think the Israelites were involved in so many wars and killing entire villages, men, women and children ? Yes it was over land. The land their God supposedly gave to them and told them to kill the inhabitents.”

    You dismissed my argument by saying, “I suppose I could get into all the issues surrounding that, but it seems rather beside the point.”

    How could this be beside the point when the Israelites were ordered by god to go to war to claim this land and kill everyone in their path ? This might be a case where religion was the cause for war. Am I wrong ? Please feel free to explain why .

    Nor did I claim you were wrong in your claim about the atheists. I would like to see your source/s for this claim however.

    Your fellow apologists didn’t even want to admit religion had anything to do with war except to be compassionate and to help in humanitarian causes.

    Frank Morris says, “Not only is religion standing in opposition to war, and in support of peace, forgiveness and brotherhood, but religions are also there to provide humanitarian assistance in catastrophes such as war, famine, disease or severe weather disasters.”

    In conclusion I believe my original comments were relevant and I would welcome your comments.

    No, I wasn’t claiming wars are caused by religion so I guess we agree here except I want to hear your explanation of the Israelites.

    I don’t think Religion can claim to have been totally impartial or without any guilt in war.

    Back to you

    • pancakesandwildhoney

      The early OT was more theological propaganda than history. So….

      • kcchief1

        I totally agree. Many current day scholars , especially Jewish ones no longer consider hardly any of the OT stories to be historically true.

        They are still included in the bible and this is why I used them as some of the earliest examples. Myth or factual, the thinking behind them is still relevant.

        • pancakesandwildhoney

          “consider hardly any of the OT stories to be historically true.’

          The early OT, right? Not the entire OT, surely?

          “Myth or factual, the thinking behind them is still relevant.’

          Of course, but, in my mind, it is a better example of religion being manipulated for evil ends than religion causing evil.

        • kcchief1

          “Of course, but, in my mind, it is a better example of religion being manipulated for evil ends than religion causing evil.”

          What if God is fighting with the Israelites as in Deut 20:1-4 ?

          20 When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. 2 When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army.3 He shall say: “Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. 4 For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”

          Would you care to explain how as you say, ” religion being manipulated for evil ends than religion causing evil.”

        • pancakesandwildhoney

          Have courage, be brave, do not fear, etc. that is what I see.

          Do you think God was actually fighting with the Jews? Sword and shield?

        • kcchief1

          You are obviously using different glasses than I, the ones that erase God out of these scriptures.

          There is no reason to continue this as you are unwilling to see the truth for what it is.

  • Arkenaten

    The problem here, of course is the rather vague, but in a sense, specific wording of whether religion is the cause of war.
    What exactly does this mean?
    In itself it is somewhat of an ambiguous statement and could be interpreted several ways. And this is where the religious have an escape route.

    To be more precise one should rather say how many wars were specifically caused because of religious differences?
    This would be easier to quantify.
    (I don’t know by the way – other than the liquidation of the Canaanites and probably the Crusades ( certainly the first one)

    Or, how many wars were because a particular nation or leader stated he or she was commanded by a god and embarked on a preemptive strike against another country.

    Just using these two examples there are probably very few wars in the whole of human history where religion is the First Cause.

    However, there are plenty of wars where religion plays a major part and without the religious element much of this conflict would be a non-event in the first place.

    Simply consider Northern Ireland. The religion cannot be separated from the politics. The fighting is between Protestants and Catholics.
    The Middle East has a similar problem and umpteen regional conflicts across the globe currently involving Muslims and Christians.
    Many of those fighting in Afghanistan will state they are Mujaheddin – Arabic mujāhid fighter, literally, one who wages jihad

    Then there is the violence perpetrated within the same religion but over different doctrine. Syria is a good if somewhat confusing example. But then , all religious conflict is confusing
    And let’s remember the violence perpetrated against individuals within a particular faith. Islam immediately comes to mind.
    The brutality even extends to honour killing, stoning for adultery and the genital mutilation of children because of religious doctrine.

    Even Christianity is founded in blood. Glorifying the horrendous death of its founder and its initial disciples.

    So while religion may not be the direct cause of war in the absolute literal sense there are more than enough horrendous examples to show that it is a direct cause of violence.

    So, religion being the literal first cause of war? Probably not.

    Rampant widespread violence perpetrated in the name of religion.
    You tell me?

    Peace, love, tolerance? No. I don’t think so, and the evidence would agree.

    • Debilis

      I agree that your more modest interpretation of the claim is somewhat easier to defend, but only somewhat.

      Really, I don’t see many wars at all for which anyone can realistically say “if it weren’t for religion, this war wouldn’t have happened”.

      Take your example of Northern Ireland. These people have the same theological/religious background as people in other parts of the world who aren’t fighting. But in any part of the world with similar political conditions and backgrounds, there does seem to be conflict.

      I’m not claiming to know for sure, but it is pretty hard to look at that and say “yep, it is the religion, and not the politics, that is the problem”.

      Perhaps, however, you are inclined to say that you never denied that politics are a key factor–even a bigger factor than religion.

      But, if you don’t deny this, then you agree with my initial point: that religion isn’t the main cause of conflict in the world (contra Sam Harris’ hysterics).

      I would completely agree with the idea that what people believe will affect how war comes about–but to claim that this is somehow more true of religion than other beliefs is just silly.

      For a prime example of an approach that is out of touch with the facts, I’ll offer the idea that Christianity is somehow war prone because it “glorifies” the death of its founder.

      First, it doesn’t. It glorifies several things surrounding that death (such as his willingness to die rather than give up on the love of humanity).

      Second, as I’ve already hinted, it is pretty hard to sell the idea that appreciation of a man choosing to suffer for the love of all people is a form of war-mongering.

      Those who promote this view need to understand the difference between caricature and a rational argumentation. The later requires that you address an idea that actually exists, not some completely weird version of it.

      So, one of the few places that I completely agree with the New Atheists is that I don’t believe in or like the versions of religion that they don’t believe in or like.

      I just can’t seem to find those versions anywhere in the actual, real world. They seem only to exist as internet fables about strange peoples from far away lands.

      So, no. This isn’t evidence. It is a meme, nothing more.

      • pancakesandwildhoney

        At least Nietzsche, contrary to so many secularists these days, despised Christianity for what it was–its devotion to an ethics of compassion. Its love for the weak, the diseased, the downtrodden, the social outcast.

        The message of the Gospels is one of radical pacifism, a message that breaks down social distinctions and economic barriers, that promotes love in all cases.

        • kcchief1

          Too bad few people practice this type of Christianity you describe today.

        • pancakesandwildhoney

          Not enough, I agree. But that is in no way a justifiable condemnation of Christianity. Much like the horrors of the French Revolution are not a justifiable condemnation of the Enlightenment. The standard against which all Christian behavior should be measured is the Cross.

        • Debilis

          Well said.

          I definitely don’t understand the point of hating a Christianity that doesn’t actually exist. Particularly when the one that does is so much more praiseworthy.

        • pancakesandwildhoney

          Alas, every society needs an Evil Empire. When no obvious candidate fills the bill, we will conjure one up in the vain hope that somehow it will make us feel better about ourselves.

  • kcchief1

    I’m not condemning Christianity. I just happen to think the Christianity of today is not what it originally was.

    Geza Vermes concludes that Jesus did not reach out to non-Jews. For example, he attributes positive references to Samaritans in the gospels not to Jesus himself but to early Christian editing. He suggests that, properly understood, the historical Jesus is a figure that Jews should find familiar and attractive. This historical Jesus, however, is so different from the Christ of faith that Christians, says Vermes, may well want to rethink the fundamentals of their faith. ref:wikipedia

    • pancakesandwildhoney

      Lol. I know the scholarship on the HJ. You can’t establish Jesus as Christ as a historical fact. It cannot be “proved.” It is something that can be discerned only by deep, involved intuition, by an apprehension of the wonder and meaning of the given structure of things in which our own reality and our own waywardness fit and find their place, and in which we find our creative task for the future.

      Of course, I respect Vermes’ work, and agree with him in parts, but not on Jesus not reaching out to non-Jews.

      • kcchief1

        “Of course, I respect Vermes’ work, and agree with him in parts, but not on Jesus not reaching out to non-Jews”

        These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them saying, Go ye not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go ye rather unto The Lost Sheep Of The House Of Israel. (HOLY BIBLE) Matthew 10:5-6

        And behold a woman of Canaan came … and cried unto him saying, have mercy on me .. my daughter is seriously possessed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying. Send her away: for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am Not Sent But Unto The Lost Sheep Of The House Of Israel. But she came and knelt before him, saying. Lord, help me. But he answered her and said, It is Not Fair To Take The Children’s Bread And Cast It To The Dogs. (HOLY BIBLE) Matthew 15:22-26

        Acts 11:19

        “Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.”

        • pancakesandwildhoney

          Jesus’ mission was for the “lost sheep of the house of Israel,” insofar as he really didn’t seek to win Gentiles, but the gospels do describe positive contact with Gentiles. One story in particular speaks to this more precisely and, in fact, it is very important in this story that the healed person is a Gentile. When Jesus was in Syria, a Gentile woman begged him to cast a demon out of her daughter. Jesus replied, “Let the children first be fed, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”She persisted, however, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs” Jesus yielded and cured her daughter. (Mark 7.24-30) Matthew puts his own spin on the story, but it is an important elaboration. In his account the disciples beg Jesus to send the woman away, as your quote above indicates; Jesus said not only “Let the children first be fed”, as in Mark, but also that he “was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”; and Jesus remarked that the woman’s faith was great when he finally acceded to her request (Matt. 15.21-28). Matthew notes the resistance to Gentiles both on the part of the disciples and Jesus himself, and this heightens the impact of the story: the Gentile woman had great faith. Also, Matthew has the story of the centurion whose servant Jesus healed, which includes the statement that “not even in Israel have I found such faith.” (Matt. 8.10) Matthew underlines the view that Gentiles who have faith can participate in the kingdom proclaimed by Jesus.

          In fact, all of the gospel writers favor the mission to the Gentiles. Matthew especially, which makes your quote rather odd, seeing as Matthew, more than any other Gospel writer, wished to emphasize that Gentiles could have greater faith than even Jews. We even have in Matthew Jesus saying “many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. (Matt. 8.11)

          Of course, on general grounds, seeing as many Jews expected Gentiles to turn to the God of Israel and to participate in the coming kingdom, as the the whole NT bears out; and Jesus was a kind and generous man, I think Jesus was pro-Gentile conversion. Moreover, the alternative to this view would have to be that Jesus expected all of the Gentiles to be destroyed and that seems highly unlikely. For one reason, an appreciable part of Jesus’ teaching consists of assurance that God loves each individual, no matter what the person’s shortcomings, and that he wishes the return of even the most insignificant sheep. God’s love of the outcast, even those not generally obedient to his will, is the theme of some of Jesus’ greatest parables. Just to mention two: God is like a shepherd who goes in search of one lost sheep; God is like a good father, who accepts his prodigal son back with rejoicing. Let us not forget that Jesus associated with “sinners” and befriended them even while they were still sinners!

          Furthermore, much of Jesus’ teaching–his hope for a coming new age; his confidence that God will provide for and save his children; his call for people to trust and obey God–is summed up in the most repeated part of his teaching: the Lord’s Prayer. It is a prayer that can be prayed by anyone at anytime. It does not mention the twelve tribes of Israel, or describe the Gentiles as dogs, or elevate Jesus and his disciples. The Jesus of this prayer is the Jesus who has been and is universally admired.

          Your quote of Acts 11.19 is either some sort of confusion or an attempt to mislead, for in the proceeding verses, starting with the very next verse, verse 20, it says “Some of them however men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.” (Acts. 11. 20-23)

          Of course, you can read the Bible in a very literalistic way, like you are reading the front page of the newspaper, but that level of interpretive sophistication won’t get you very far with the NT or, for that matter, much of the Bible. The Bible is a compilation of books written by many different men in many different contexts, and can be placed in many different literary genres. To read Matthew in a very literalistic and superficial way, especially concerning Gentile conversion, is to be operating way outside of scholarly consensus, and is, to my mind, more eisegesis than exegesis.

  • Arkenaten

    Take your example of Northern Ireland. These people have the same theological/religious background as people in other parts of the world who aren’t fighting. But in any part of the world with similar political conditions and backgrounds, there does seem to be conflict.

    If you understand the history of the conflict then perhaps you wouldn’t be so glib with your answer. Maybe do a bit more research? It would help.

    The Bradford University study commissioned by the BBC reckoned around 5 -10% could be directly attributed to religion being a first cause.

    And let us never forget the liquidation of Canaan. A direct command from God.
    Or even the annihilation of humankind re : The Flood.

    The lines do tend to get smudged these days because of so many other factors involved. Politics especially.

    But in days of Yore, atheism was not really a recognized position at all.
    At some point, medieval Europe was effectively a theocracy and the only dissent came about with the rise of Islam. By then, Judaism was pretty much a non-event ( and they were often caught in the middle of the Islam – Christian conflicts) and most of the other fighting was over heresies and pogroms within Christianity itself.

    Even after the reformation it didn’t stop: and this in part was the reason so many fled Europe to the New World where it started again.
    Ostensibly every settler was a Christian or to a lessor extent,Jew.

    The genocidal campaigns against North American Indians, who were regarded as little more than savages, in a similar vein as European settlers in Australia regarded Aborigines as sub human and hunted them for sport, were perpetrated by Christians, exercising supposed Christian values in their Land Grabs with complete disregard for human rights.
    The colonization of North America is a litany of violence and broken promises, mostly by people who regarded themselves as “God fearing, Christians.’
    This is undeniable fact.

    Of course, with most of the world now being settled and in a large part colonialists were Christian and later Muslim, the world as we know it is often ”divided” with religion in mind. The ‘Traditional West” has always been considered Christian.

    Much of Africa and its borders were decided by ‘Christian’ European men using little more than a map and a pencil, with very little thought for the indigenous peoples.
    All done for King and Country…and ‘God’

    So, to conclude: Harris’s claims sound exaggerated. Yet, to merely dismiss it as a meme , without looking at the negative effects caused by religion, past and present, and how it effects normal society is grossly irresponsible, to say the least).

    I reiterate, rampant widespread violence perpetrated in the name of religion., physical as well as psychological, is very, very real indeed, especially in the more radical Islamic countries and the fundamentalist Christian areas.

    • Debilis

      I don’t see how my answer was nearly as glib as “here’s two examples of conflict, that proves that religion is a cause of most war”.

      And, even if I accept your arguments, how does 5-10% add up to “most”? That was the claim I’d argued against. As atheists are always eager to point out, I don’t accept most of the religions of the world. Surely, 5-10% isn’t much of a problem for someone who rejects most religion anyway?

      Nor did I say that there is never a time when war is appropriate. I specifically denied that, actually. There are times in which war is necessary, and I don’t see how you’ve shown that any example that could reasonably apply to my actual beliefs is unnecessary.

      Really, even the anti-religous gloss here gives the game away. What does “exercising supposed Christian values in their Land Grabs” mean other than exactly what I’ve said: that people use religion as the excuse, but that land, money, and power are almost always the real reason.

      In fact, as a Native American, I take issue with those who, enjoying the financial and economic privileges that come as the result of land grabs from my ancestors, act as if they have no responsibility for it because it was all “those people”, and not the good atheists.

      If atheists really wouldn’t have done that, they’d prove it by giving the land back.

      Really, this makes no more sense than taking the traditional tour of atheist killers. But, of course, I’m sure to be treated to cries that they killed for the sake of communism, or some other belief.

      But that’s exactly like saying that Christians killed for something other than believing in God.

      The simplistic, prejudicial way that people tend to look at another group and say “it’s all their fault” feels very good. But it isn’t true.

      And that’s the end of it. Harris’ claims sound exaggerated because they are exaggerated. While he’s busy getting worked up about the great threat of religion, the actual causes of almost every war in history are going unnoticed.

      • Arkenaten

        Oh, I agree, people do use religion as an excuse.
        They used it for slavery, for and against, apartheid, and a myriad of other things.
        Thus it is a mite difficult to actually identify what is/was a true religious war.
        The Crusades ( the first one certainly) are probably the best that comes to mind from a Christian POV

        Many of the Afghans fighters consider their struggle a Jihad/ religious war and Christian ideology ( values) have been at their forefront of much of the colonization effort of the world; many believing it was their god-given duty to convert the heathen.

        They did a pretty good job all things considered, albeit with a fair amount of ”incentive”.

        So, I agree with your stance that most wars cannot be directly attributed to religion.

        But to deny that so many conflicts then and now have a very large religious component is disingenuous in the least.

        But in the spirit of the post, and keeping strictly to the letter then yes , you are most certainly correct in your assertion about Harris.

        • Debilis

          Okay, so we agree that religion is often used as an excuse, and that most wars aren’t a direct result of religion. Glad to see agreement in general.

          I’m not sure whether I agree with the claim that most wars “have a very large religious component”. That strikes me as vague. Surely, religion comments on everything in people’s lives, including war. But if that is supposed to mean that religion was somehow a major contributing factor to the violence, I doubt it.

          Perhaps some religions do that; I can’t claim to know. But I don’t see much reason at all to be deeply afraid of religion in the way that many insist that we should.

          Beliefs (whether religious or secular) can always be used as an excuse for war. Most of the time, it isn’t the professed belief that one has to worry about, but when people start using it as an excuse to judge others. That’s definitely been done with religion, but it is the judgement that ought to worry us.

          In any case, I appreciated the thoughts, and hope all is well with you out there.

        • Arkenaten

          Surprised, you made no comment on the book review?
          It pretty much defines the overall position.
          All things considered it certainly strengthens the case for secular humanism as a much better alternative to r all religion.

          Things are fine down here…raining, which is nice!

          After reading the book, one cannot help but surrender to the historical evidence of religion
          as an effective and almost constant factor in starting, catalysing, justifying or condoning

        • Debilis

          I don’t know that it does. Secular societies don’t have a better record.

          Of course, I’m aware that you referred to secular humanism, but if one is going to insist that secular societies not be counted in that number if they don’t hold to humanist principles, then the theist is allowed to reject any society that doesn’t hold to the principles of a given religion.

          It is the secular in secular humanism that needs to be defended, and historical evidence is not helpful in doing so.

        • Arkenaten

          I don’t know that it does. I don’t know that it does. Secular societies don’t have a better record.

          This is a debatable point, but in the end religion is static. The books have been written. There is nothing new.
          Science and secularism will either reveal that religious texts, including the characters within their covers are true/real or not.
          So far religion is losing …

          Paine said it best.

          The study of theology, as it stands in the Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authority; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion.
          – Thomas Paine

          Secular humanism merely eschews the supernatural; the god belief if you prefer.

          Religion is ultimate divisive as there is not a dingle unifying faith.
          Furthermore, religion can only flourish in a secular society, which is quote ironic.

        • Debilis

          I don’t see how it follows from the idea that a particular religions scriptures are canonized that the religion itself is static. That seems an oversimplification that would apply better to a book on mathematics than one on spirituality.

          I’m not going to get into asking reasons why you think that “religion is losing”. If you want to provide evidence for that, we’ll have to find a more appropriate topic.

          On topic is the claim that religion is divisive on the grounds that there are more than one of them. This would only be relevant if there were only one secular view. But that is simply false. Secular people are also diverse in their approaches to life.

          But it is simply false to say that religion only flourishes in a secular society. First, it is debatable that there ever has been a secular society outside of communist dictatorships. Modern western culture is a mix of religious and secular ideas (far more deeply intertwined than most seem to think). It is not flatly secular.

          More to the point, there are plenty of religious societies in which religion flourishes. That is true by definition–unless you are going to argue that there has never been a religions society.

          I really don’t see an argument here unless by “secular society” you actually mean “secular government”. If that is the case, I agree that religion is better off when it is not reduced to an office of the state, but is treated as an independent entity. But I don’t see what this has to do with my original comments. Perhaps that’s not what you meant?

        • Arkenaten

          The core of this argument says it best.

          You are a Christian. This fits you to a T

        • Debilis

          I don’t see how this has anything to do with the subject of the conversation.

          Really, it’s just an ad hominem fallacy. Simply accusing me of unquestioning bias (which isn’t true, as anyone who actually knows me can attest) does absolutely nothing to counter anything I’ve said.

          A statement is either logical or not. The personal sentiments of the one making it has nothing to do with it.

        • Arkenaten

          No, it’s not a fallacy and neither is it ad hominem.

          This is what religious indoctrination is all about.
          I don’t blame you, I merely ask that you recognise that your world view is based upon an unverifiable superstitious belief; almost exclusively based upon the erroneous writing of an ancient ‘book.,compiled and redacted by the church, who lied cheated murdered and abused their position until they had established an almost unassailable foothold in the fabric of humanity.

          The winner writes the history. I get it.
          But it is changing.
          Once you begin to acknowledge the falsehood of this book then you, like so many others will begin to realise how your whole worldview is skewed toward supernatural belief. Once you do this you can takes steps to correct it.

          But first you have to recognise this fact. This is the tough part.
          I cannot offer any advice in this regard, other than engage deconvertees in frank discussion. Reading the bible with an open honest frame of mind will help.
          Think you could do that?

        • Debilis

          You are specifically changing the subject from the religion as cause of war to religion as unverified. That is a red herring fallacy. You’ve coupled that with an attack on my ability to think clearly, that is an ad hominem fallacy.

          Now, you’ve drifted back into several sweeping claims about history. If you’d like to offer support for those claims, I’d be very interested to discuss, but simply demanding that I have to agree with your (unsupported) claim that the Bible is false, and then further demand that its being false makes it a spur to violence, does nothing.

          This is anything but “an open honest frame of mind”. It is horribly distorted. One doesn’t have to be remotely religious to see that these are fallacies and wild accusations.

          So, you are free to make such claims, but support them. Don’t simply insist that you are right. Present the evidence.

        • Arkenaten

          The bible can be demonstrated to be erroneous.
          The Pentateuch is regarded as fiction.
          The Virgin Birth is based upon a mistranslation
          The “Zombie Apocalypse”
          The Slaughter of the Innocents.
          The exorcisms of demons into the swine – ridiculous, the nearest cliff is miles away.
          Luke’s nonsensical description of ”Nazareth” and his blatant lack of geographical knowledge of the area.

          How big a list would you like?

          Thus , your world view is based>/em> upon this
          book, either literal or cherry picked to suit.

          This is what indoctrination is about.

          I hope this has made things a little clearer for you?

        • Debilis

          We’ve already been over the fact that these claims only refer to your idea of Christianity. We’d have to grant you the title of unquestioned interpreter for them to work.

          More to the point, this isn’t the point. None of that defends the claim that religion is the main cause of war. I know it sounds more interesting than the old boring theory that war is mostly wiser by human selfishness and prejudice, but the latter has the advantage of true.

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