Do you want to be bullied, ridiculed and dehumanised by a LIBERAL culture warrior?
Say to him or her any of the following things.
1) Systematic racism against afro-americans is alive and well in America in 2016. This shouldn’t be tolerated. But there are also innocent white kids who get bullied and battered just because of their skin colour. This should be called racial hatred and equally combated.
2) Nowadays, there is still an intolerable level of homophobia and misogyny in the Western World. We must not deny this but eagerly fight it. However,in 2016 the oppression of gays and females is MUCH worse in Muslim countries. They (and liberal Muslims who defend them) are much more in need of our support than Western females and homosexuals.
4) A man whose life has been destroyed by a false rape accusation is as much in need of our help and compassion as a woman whose life has been destroyed by a true rape.
5) While assessing the existence of real discriminations in the here and now in a given society (say America), you shouldn’t directly compare the whole groups of non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics, blacks and Asians because these populations can be extremely different in terms of poverty, culture and many other factors.
Instead, while investigating academic success, unjustified police arrests, discriminations etc., you should compare homogeneous groups such as:
a) wealthy whites and wealthy blacks coming from wealthy neighbourhoods
b) poor whites and poor blacks coming from poor neighbourhoods
c) qualified men and qualified women applying for academic positions in philosophy or mechanical engineering.
6) Anti-black racism isn’t only a Western phenomenon. There are awful cases of persecutions of black Africans in Arabic countries as well. This is something progressive Arabs clearly expose and fight. Curiously, this is something progressive Westerners choose to completely ignore because it destroys their most fundamental beliefs.
7) Race-based affirmative action is unjust and inevitably upholds artificial divisions of humankind.
Instead, it should be replaced by a set of three measures
i) wealth-based affirmative action
ii) any enterprise must have the same amount of employees belonging to the ethnic minority as the amount of that ethnic minority among qualified candidates.
iii) public education in poor neighbourhoods must be extremely strengthened and improved through the intervention of the State. Much more money needs to be spent in these areas.
8) Discriminating a person because he or she is obese, unattractive or behaves oddly due to a mental health condition isn’t any less immoral than discriminating him or her based on race, gender or sexual orientation.
9) Stealing the wallet of a person swinging it around in the street is as immoral as stealing it from his or her closed pockets.
But given the bad mentality of a large number of people, it might not be wise to hold it in one’s hands while walking down certain streets.
Raping a sexily dressed and attractive woman is as wrong, egregious and wicked as raping a “modestly” dressed woman.
But given the bad mentality of a large number of men, it might not be wise to dress oneself provocatively under certain circumstances.
Liberalism, rationality and morality
I want to make it perfectly clear that what I wrote does NOT concern all liberals, but only the true “culture warriors” among them.
These people view themselves as the champions of truth, reason, decency and intelligence.
Actually, my numerous interactions with them have shown me they aren’t any different from nasty religious fundamentalists aggressively defending their cherished dogmas, without evidence and often even in the face of evidence.
I consider myself a progressive Christian because I believe that the Bible contains contradictions and errors and that we need to use our God-given conscience in order to figure out what is right and what is wrong in a complex world and to make moral progress.
And this all too often leads me to think outside the box, as the content of this post proves.
Frankly, I am ready to give up any of the nine “heretical” beliefs I laid out if you give me compelling rational arguments against them.
Insulting and dehumanising me would be definitely most entertaining (to me) 🙂
Alas, it is unlikely to change my mind in the least.
It is particularly embarrassing that many of these self-righteous “leftists” are self-professed Christians.
By bullying their respectful opponents and treating them like the scum of the world, they are dishonouring Christ who taught us to even love our enemy.
(I argued elsewhere that this principle stands at the very centre of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth).
This naturally entails trying to put yourself in the shoes of a person experiencing injustices and act as you would like one acts towards you if you were in his or her situation.
Pseudo-progressives, on the other hand, believe that moral progress is all about acting in accordance with politically correct dogmas nobody ought to question.
Currently, these alleged “sacred truths” can be summed up in the following way
“Oppression almost always stems from heterosexual white males who attack the right of women, homosexuals and non-whites.”
(Of course, “whites” and “non-whites” are artificial (and incoherent) constructions they more or less unconsciously uphold. This shall be the topic of another post).
Now, I certainly wouldn’t deny that misogyny, homophobia and systematic racism are still huge problems (especially in religious conservative or fundamentalist circles, at least as far as the first two ones are concerned).
But I think it is nonsensical and extremely offensive to pretend that poverty and unjust economical structures aren’t in and of themselves a significant cause of oppression.
I also believe it is wrong for these people to pretend to follow the teachings of Martin Luther King while ignoring an essential part of it.
Martin Luther King on poverty
While describing the way in which annoying aspects of the message of prophets are rewritten by the mighty of a society, liberal Christian scholar Thom Stark considered the case of Martin Luther King in modern America.
And we do this today. Martin Luther King Jr. was a notorious gadfly. He is remembered today solely for his role in the civil rights movement, but, especially in his later years, King was a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War, and spoke out often and dynamically against free-market capitalism. He said that the U.S. needs to honestly face the fact that the movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society.
“There are forty million poor people here. And one day we must ask the question,
‘Why are there forty million poor people in America?’ And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalist economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life’s marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. You see, my friends, when you deal with this, you begin to ask the question, “Who owns the oil?” You begin to ask the question, “Who owns the iron ore?” You begin to ask the question, “Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is two-thirds water?” These are questions that must be asked.” King went on to call for a synthesis of capitalism and communism that involved nothing less than a total overhaul of the U.S. economic system. This is the King we don’t remember on Martin Luther King Day every year. And that is the purpose of Martin Luther King Day. King, whatever else he was, was an enemy to the power structures in the United States. The genius of declaring a national holiday in King’s honor is that the elites get to claim King as one of their own; they get to control, to a large degree, how we remember him. He was a dissenter from the establishment orthodoxy, but the establishment could hardly shut him out of the collective memory, and far less could they vilify him. So what they did was to call him “son” and thereby acquire the means to control howthe public remembers him.
In an article entitled “King’s final message: Poverty is a civil rights battle”, Stephanie Sieck further drives the point home.
King’s final message: Poverty is a civil rights battle
On Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, some will volunteer, some will attend celebrations of his life and legacy, some will do nothing at all. “I have a dream,” the title of King’s best known speech, will be repeated countless times, along with well-known stories about his commitment to nonviolence, his letters from a Birmingham jail, his marches against segregation and the bullet that ended his life on April 4, 1968.
But few will remember how King lived his last birthday, as he turned 39 on January 15, 1968.
According to accounts of the day retold by Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King III, King spent the day working on a campaign that he hoped would force Washington and the American public to acknowledge and resolve the problem of poverty for people of all races, religions and backgrounds in the United States. The Poor People’s Campaign was the agenda for the day, with a short break for birthday cake.
While King’s dream, the march on Washington and fight against segregation are well-known to children and adults now, fewer are aware that King spent the last months of his life fighting poverty.
When he died in Memphis, he was there to support fair wages and union representation for Memphis sanitation workers.
Rebecca Burns, who wrote about King’s last days, death, and burial in “Burial for a King,” said King’s antiwar and anti-poverty legacy are overshadowed in part because their solutions are more elusive.
“It’s a much more complex issue – it’s not, pardon my choice of words, as black and white as voting rights or where you sit on a bus,” Burns said. “It’s harder to talk about that in sound bites.”
Clayborne Carson, director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, said that King’s dreams of economic justice remain unrealized, but not because they are impossible to achieve.
“It is easier to celebrate King as a civil rights leader, because that was the easier part of his vision to realize,” Carson said. “The southern Jim Crow system was a regional anachronism rather than a national problem – the gulf between rich and poor – that we still prefer to ignore.”
The Poor People’s Campaign reached out to poor whites, many of whom felt most threatened by the civil rights movement’s successes in black equality, as well as impoverished migrant farm workers who harvested the nation’s food and Native Americans who languished on reservations. Injustice anywhere, King said, was a threat to justice everywhere.
Race-based and gender-based affirmative action
This leads me to the topic of affirmative action and its usefulness in addressing injustices.
In another post, I argued that affirmative action should first and foremost be based on the wealth and well-being of individuals.
Pseudo-progressive passionately disagree and believe it should always only be based on gender and race even if this leads one to privilege a wealthy woman over a poor man in quite a few cases.
Richard D. Kahlenberg is an American scholar having spent considerable time analysing affirmative action in higher education.
On the whole, university leaders much prefer the prevailing system of racial preference in admission, which ignores issues of economic inequality and instead focuses, as Walter Benn Michaels acidly observes, on “what color skin the rich kids have.” (One study found that almost nine in ten African Americans at selective colleges are middle or upper class— though the whites were even wealthier.)
Recruiting fairly privileged students of color is far less expensive than including low-income and working-class kidsof all races. While higher education’s vigorous defense of affirmative action on one level represents a sincere desire for greater racial equality, it has another less virtuous side to it, as racial preferences avoid the hard work of addressing deeply rooted inequalities and instead provide what Stephen Carter has called “racial justice on the cheap.”
Most notably, in the late 1960s, before his death, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrestled with the issue of how best to remedy our nation’s history of discrimination. On the one hand, he argued in his 1964 book Why We Can’t Wait that compensation is due to black Americans. “It is impossible to create a formula for the future which does not take into account that our society has been doing something special against the Negro for hundreds of years,” he wrote.
In the book, and in subsequent testimony before the Kerner Commission in 1967, King called for “compensatory consideration,” noting, “if a man is entered at the starting line in a race three hundred years after another man, the first would have to perform some impossible feat in order to catch up with his fellow runner.” But instead of urging adoption of a special program for blacks, as some civil rights leaders had done, King called for a color-blind Bill of Rights for the Disadvantaged:
“While Negroes form the vast majority of America’s disadvantaged, there are millions of white poor who would also benefit from such a bill.”
“It is a simple matter of justice that America, in dealing creatively with the task of raising the Negro from backwardness, should also be rescuing a large stratum of the forgotten white poor.”
King knew that class-based approaches would disproportionately benefit victims of historic discrimination without violating the color-blind ideal he had famously articulated in the 1963 March on Washington.
Given these political realities, it is perhaps not surprising that the father of racial preferences was not Lyndon Johnson or Martin Luther King and instead was Richard Nixon. In 1969, Nixon proposed the Philadelphia Plan that imposed racial hiring quotas on the city’s construction industry. Bayard Rustin, the great civil rights leader and friend of labor who planned the 1963 March on Washington, was suspicious: why would Nixon, who was no great supporter of civil rights, support a policy of racial preferences? Rustin charged that Nixon was using the Philadelphia Plan to “deliberately throw black and white workers at each other’s throats.”
I think this should give a pause to all of us truly interested in genuine social justice .
In 2015, the real victims of slavery and segregation are mainly those blacks living under the threshold of poverty.
Race-based positive discrimination overwhelmingly favours economically privileged blacks and latinos at their expense and that of poor whites.
Whites of lower classes, in turn, are all too easily lured into far-right movements such as the Tea-Party or the personality cult of xenophobic billionaire Donald Trump.
It seems clear to me that privileging wealth-based or class-based affirmative action over race-based affirmative action (without necessarily always giving up on the latter) would lead to a far more just and stable society, as Martin Luther King would have desired.
In 2016, in a Western secular context, it doesn’t demand any moral courage to stand for the rights of Afro-Americans unjustly killed, homosexuals being bullied or women victim of sexism.
For there is a large consensus that those things are egregiously wrong and shouldn’t be tolerated.
You probably don’t need to be a Christian in order to recognise the wisdom in the following words of Jesus of Nazareth:
46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
There is no great moral merit in defending values the large majority of your peers agree with.
It does require, however, a tremendous courage to criticise politically correct dogmas.
For many pseudo-progressives react like outraged religious fundamentalists and do not hesitate to resort to emotional bullying and unfair characterisations of the arguments of their opponents.
I know that it is very unlikely I could ever change their minds and I don’t even want to try it.
For all other readers, I think it might be worth considering what follows.
In 2016, the mighty of this world (i.e. the billionaires and millionaires governing Western oligarchies) can, by and large, cope with a black leader (such as Barack Obama) or a female leader (such as Angela Merkel and probably Hilary Clinton) who uphold neo-liberalism, Western imperialism and do not call into question their scandalous economic privileges.
“It’s not a radical concept that maybe the United States government should represent working families rather than a handful of billionaires.”
No, it isn’t a radical concept at all, indeed.
But it is a lot harder than posting pictures in favour of gay marriage or abortion on your facebook account, getting a lot of “likes” and thinking in turn you are a noble hero contributing to saving our world.
I guess that if I wrote such a long post, it is only because I am an evil heterosexual white man who takes pleasure in oppressing women, ethnic minorities and homosexuals (and devouring small children alive).
Therefore, you don’t have to bother about refuting my arguments, let alone trying to fairly understand and describe my actual positions.
The ironic thing is that once we recognise that Biblical writers can speak with conflicting voices, we cannot fail to realise that the condemnation of homosexuality occupies an absolutely negligible space within both the Old and New Testaments in comparison to social justice issues .
For most Biblical writers, the real sin of Sodom was not to have allowed same-sex relationships but to have callously refused to care for the poor and the needy.
While I strongly doubt that God’s wrath will fall upon America because John and James love each other and strive for a lifelong marriage, I do believe that neglecting the health care of poor kids in order to allow millionaires and billionaires to pay less taxes is a crime worthy of destruction.
I recently stumbled across a picture showing another aspect of the religious hypocrisy going on.
Consequently, I feel a profound solidarity toward all people around the world whose culture and identity have been destroyed or devastated.
There is no doubt that the ordeals experienced by native Americans are worse, by many orders of magnitude, than those we went through.
Their men and women have been massively murdered, their languages and traditions have been forbidden and they have been treated as worthless foreigners on their own land.
And all those things were perpetrated by people calling themselves the worthy servitors of Christ.
Given that, it seems truly shameless to whine about having to “bear” homosexual couples being recognised in American society.
Now let me be clear about one thing. I respect other Christians believing that homosexuality is a sin, even if I believe they’re deeply wrong on that. I do appreciate there are many decent and loving people among them.
I am, however, truly angry against inconsistent bigoted Christians who focus most of their God-given energy on combating homosexuality while refusing to address the injustices committed against native Americans and the atrocious suffering of poor children who are affected by diseases which can be easily treated in any developed country.
If a perfectly good God revealed Himself through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, I am afraid that American fundamentalists are unwittingly bearing false witness against him.
I found an interesting post written by an American atheist reporting about her negative experiences with religiously conservative members of her family.
Musings on the Eve of a Family Reunion: Things not to say to your atheist relatives if you want them to continue to enjoy your company
This weekend, we’ll be traveling for my family reunion. Usually, it’s one of the highlights of my summer, but this year…feels different.
I don’t like conflict. It’s not enjoyable for me at all. It makes me feel shaky, to the point where sometimes, I will physically shake. My head will spin a bit. In bygone times, I sometimes backed down from it for just that reason–it felt insurmountable. Nowadays, I’m not so apt to back down, in part because I usually formulate my beliefs based on reasons that I can defend if I need to. That doesn’t mean that I want to, though.
Looking down the barrel of this weekend, I’m incredibly stressed at the prospect of interacting with my family as someone who’s “out and proud” as a nonbeliever. I am afraid of having to constantly defend myself–not because I can’t, but because I don’t want to. I want to be accepted with the same acceptance that I have for them. Unconditionally.
I work best when I can take these worries put them down somewhere outside of my own head, so here’s my list of things you should never say to your atheist relatives if you want them to enjoy your company and not dread having to interact with you. Enjoy.
1. This isn’t how you were raised.
2. You’re just going through a dark time.
3. You’re just rebelling.
4. You just want to be able to sin.
5. Can’t you see God all around you?
6. *any variation of “But Christians really believe this…” or “That person is not really a Christian…”*
7. What does your life mean?
8. What if you’re wrong?
9. How can there be morality without God?
10. Why do you hate something you don’t believe in?
11. You’re just mad at God.
12. You’ve just encountered bad Christians.
13. You really believe.
14. You do have faith. You have to have faith in (science/evolution/etc).
15. Don’t you want to believe? Just in case?
16. God doesn’t believe in atheists.
17. You can’t prove that there’s no god.
18. You’ll be back to God when you need him.
19. Why don’t you give your children a choice?
This is just a brief list, some of which is compiled from personal experience and some from wider stories and interactions online.
Basically, what I’d like to see in interactions with my family is the same lack of ulterior motives that was there before I left religion. I’d like to believe that all of our interactions are in good faith.
I have reason to believe that’s not the case–if there’s one thing our family does well, it’s gossip, and there’s definitely plenty of it circulating right now. I suppose my other wish would be, if I can’t have that lack of ulterior motives, to have brash, bald-faced honesty. I’d rather put it all out there, no half-truths or veiled questions.
If I can’t have no conflict at all, I’d rather just have it out and get it over with.
Instead, I’m stuck somewhere between the two, imagining conversations that might be, and hoping that they won’t be, and wishing that I didn’t have all of this knocking about in my brain. And fully realizing, of course, that it’s just as likely that I’ve blown all of this up in my head because I’m simply an anxious person.
No way to know at the outset. As the cliché goes, the only way out, is through, and so through I go.
Here is my answer to her post where I draw on similar experiences.
I’m an European progressive Christian and really love this post of yours:-)
“I want to be accepted with the same acceptance that I have for them. Unconditionally.”
I truly like that part. I can very well relate to this and hope that things will get better in your case.
Many atheist philosophers would answer that no such thing is possible.
I also want to react to
“19. Why don’t you give your children a choice?”
I am all in favour of giving children a choice. I think that good enlightened Christian parents should always say something similar to that to their offspring: “Look, we’re Christians, we think this is the best worldview and we believe that atheism is wrong and flawed. Yet, we do recognise there are reasonable and lovely people among other religious communities and atheists. Therefore, we really encourage you, our beloved child, to make up your own mind. If you sincerely conclude that atheism is true based, for example, on the problem of evil, then you should follow your conscience and Reason and give up your faith. God will never punish a sincere person following his or her honestly acquired convictions. Either way, stay always kind, loving and humble.”
Since your relatives would most likely never say that to their kids, they’re probably hypocrites ,
Now I wanna share my own experience.
I’m a Germanic Frenchman born in secular France and I often went through an ordeal similar to the one you’ve described.
In France, the reigning ideology is called Jacobinisme and it can be summarised as follows: “French is the only language of the country. All dialects and other languages ought to disappear from the public sphere. Religion is a relic of the past which ought to disappear completely or at the very least become insignificant“.
I fell away from Jacobinisme by beginning to proudly speak and defend the declining German dialect of my region and becoming a Christian.
I then began to hear the following things from relatives and acquaintances:
1) You’re an old-fashioned fossil
2) You’re religious just because you’re “a weak animal”
3) (mocking my German accent)
4) You shouldn’t speak in dialect in the presence of French people
(after I had just whispered something to my father in our Germanic dialect)
5) What a religious brain-washing you underwent!
6) You speak German because you’re a Nazi!
(forgetting that my half-Jewish motherly grandfather could have perished in a Nazi death camp)
I usually also base my beliefs on reasons I can defend and a while ago I decided to react to these claims while trying to remain as kind and respectful as possible.
As a rule, I have no problem defeating their weak arguments and the discussions evolve in other directions 🙂
I wish you good luck with your relatives.
I hope we’ll have opportunities to interact with each other in the future.
Best wishes from Lorraine / Lothringen (my homeland).
This is probably gonna be the most embarrassing post I’ve ever written.
If I were allowed to “come out”, I’d say I can identify myself very well with many things this kid (who shares my condition) had to say.
I particularly like the end of his video where he reminds people that those children acting strangely and inappropriately have feelings too and that you shouldn’t put them down due to features they’re not responsible for.
If we, as PROGRESSIVES, want to strive for a just society where discrimination based on race, gender and sexual orientation no longer exists, we should also combat the systematic discrimination and bullying of those having a peculiar mental condition, the obese, disabled… Of course, doing this might be A BIT more difficult than just putting the colours of the rainbow on one’s Facebook page in order to celebrate gay marriage and to show how “cool” and “modern” you are.
I am sickened by the endless number of pseudo-progressives focusing all their time and energy on institutional white racism (or remnants thereof), gay rights and misogyny while callously ignoring the suffering of children being battered because they’re white, men falsely accused of having committed a rape, divorced fathers missing their children, a qualified obese person being rejected after each interview or autistic, psychotic and hyperactive individuals being segregated owing to their “abnormal” mental features and behaviours.
“And if you greet only your brethren, what more than others are you doing? Do not even the Gentiles (the heathen) do that?”
There is a clear general pattern which emerges here: there is no great merit in engaging in moral behaviour a large part of the society you’re living in takes for granted.
There was clearly a time where standing for gay rights was a revolutionary act.
I certainly still believe this should be done but it irks me seeing so many self-righteous people who feel great about themselves because they do so while at the same time passionately despising those whose physical or behavioural appearance do not fit societal norms.
For me, being progressive often involves being a lonely warrior challenging unjust states of affairs which are considered perfectly legitimate.
It doesn’t demand a lot of courage to assert one’s support for gay marriage while bashing Conservatives opposing it. You’re going to find countless people joining you and admiring you for doing so.
It can be much harder to fight the discrimination that people seen as unattractive face in the workplace and in their daily life.
It can be much harder to foster tolerance and acceptance towards individuals whose behaviour is perceived as weird or out of place because of conditions such as ADHD, autism, social anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder and so on and so forth..
I really wish I’d see much more progressives waging war on these injustices.
I’ve already exposed one fundamental flaw of the New Atheism (also-called Anti-Theism): their failure to appreciate the fact that the entity they call Religion (with a capital R) is an incredibly diverse phenomenon.
NO, you should consider every specific denomination and compare its own performance and problems with respect to science,sexism, racism or homophobia.
It is silly to say to a liberal Methodist defending Gay marriage: “Get out of here hateful bigot!” just because he’s an American Christian, and American Christians have on average a low view of homosexuals.
(What follows is his post I quoted while emphasising certain sentences).
Jerry Coyne says I am wrong about creationism, misogyny and homophobia
Jerry Coyne, author of Why Evolution is True (both blog and book) didn’t like my recent posts about the link between creationism, sexism, and homophobia. In a recent post, he argues that I have made a logical fallacy and risk miring the battle against creationism in the ‘atheist wars’ over feminism.
Jerry introduced the post by saying some nice things about me, so I’ll return the compliment: I owe Jerry a great deal. Until I read his book, despite having not been to church in eight years I still thought it made sense to say “evolution is only a theory”. Although at that point I thought evolution was probably right, I had no idea how much evidence there is, nor why my understanding of the term ‘theory’ was wrong-headed. Thanks to him I entered the world of evolutionary science, and my life is the richer for it. And, as Jerry himself points out, he’s been a frequent supporter of my writing and I wouldn’t be as successful a blogger as I am without that patronage.
I sort of appreciate the sentiment of Jerry’s opening sentence—”It’s never a pleasure to criticize the views of someone I admire”—but actually I see no reason why this should be an unpleasant enterprise. One of the best things about my post-church life is that I now feel free to disagree with people without automatically making them my enemies. It’s also possible that I am mistaken about this, in which case I should be glad he’s pointed it out.
The title of Jerry’s post is “Does creationism matter more because it’s connected with misogyny and homophobia?” When you phrase the question like that, I struggle to see how the answer can be anything other than “yes”. Misogyny and homophobia, Jerry and I agree, are unqualified ills. If you take something that’s already bad and add misogyny and homophobia, you make it even worse. I didn’t say (and I do not believe) that if creationism were not homophobic or misogynistic there would be insufficient reason to oppose it. I did argue that the homophobia and misogyny that creationism involves are more pressing matters, and it seems Jerry agrees on this point. Near the end of the post, he writes “In fact, oppression of women and of gays are matters of greater import than is the teaching of creationism, and if I could wave a magic wand I’d make the first two disappear before the third”, which might leave some readers wondering where exactly he and I differ.
Jerry says I’ve made a logical fallacy, which is always a handy shortcut making your opponent look bad. If I’ve made a logical fallacy, I am objectively wrong. This is no mere difference of opinion, or difference of values, which might take longer to sort out or even be irreconcilable. I have made a fallacy, and I am a phallus.
Except that I don’t think I have. Jerry says it’s the underlying cause of all three that we need to oppose, and that was exactly my point in “Why creationism matters“. Possibly I didn’t make this sufficiently clear, in which case I’m glad for the opportunity to do so. We must be tough on creationism and tough on the causes of creationism. Jerry is right. Sort of.
The underlying cause of creationism, homophobia, and misogyny, says Jerry, is religion, and it is religion we must oppose. And here, I suspect, it is Jerry whose logic is flawed. Clearly, not all religion is all of these things, although much (perhaps most) of it is. Some religious people are among the most vocal opponents of creationism, and for some their faith is an extra reason to oppose the subjugation of women and gay people. Some of those people are among this blog’s most vocal supporters. So we’re going to need a different reason to oppose all religion, because this one is not fit for purpose.
Biblical literalism, on the other hand, is a root cause of all three of the problems at hand. The problem is the way creationists read the Bible. It promotes not just creationism, patriarchy, and gay-bashing, but also the denial of history, the enthusiastic acceptance of immorality, and an irrational rejection of opposing evidence. It is an intellectual black hole. But not all religion is Biblical literalism. I am (if you’ll forgive the term) agnostic on the question of whether the world would be better off if there were no religion at all. My hunch is that it probably would, but there isn’t enough data to be sure. Anyone who claims with certainty that religion must be annihilated for the good of humanity is taking a faith position. Which is somewhat ironic.
In my follow up post, “Creationism is inherently homophobic and misogynistic“, I made a somewhat stronger claim, but I still don’t think I made a logical fallacy. The argument here was this: the Biblical creation myths themselves contain verses which are anti-women and anti-gay. Now I’m not going to say there’s only one possible interpretation of those verses, because only fundamentalists think that way. But I did argue that if you interpret those verses using the same hermeneutic that creationists use to interpret the surrounding text, then you reach nasty conclusions. And I backed this up by empirically showing that those are, indeed, the very conclusions that creationists often come to.
The most trenchant criticism of that post, funnily enough, came from a Christian. Regular reader and commenter Kevin Long pointed out that I was expecting logical consistency from a group of people who have black belts in holding internally contradictory beliefs.
You’re thinking too logically here. Religion is not particularly logical. People are not particularly logical or theoretical about these things. People don’t usually haul out their beliefs and inspect them item by item. Most people are handed a set of beliefs early on in life, and then they just run with them, accepting the whole thing, but adapting bits when they need to. Most of these beliefs are rather fuzzy. Your gay Creationist friend is an example of that, and that type of thinking is, and has always been, the majority. This is actually an encouraging thing: people who are adaptable always outweigh people who are strictly inflexible.
That’s hardly a defence of creationism or of religion, but it does mean I could be more optimistic about the possibility of equality-affirming creationists. Of course, the problem, which Kevin’s post hints at, is that creationist beliefs actually rest on church traditions and authority, despite the fundamentalist insistence that they come purely from a plain reading of the Bible. Those church traditions are usually patriarchal and exclusionary. Kevin also pointed out that there are creationists who are not literalists with regard to other aspects of the Bible; my argument obviously wouldn’t hold in those cases. Our thread on the subject is worth a read.
I think the most important reason Jerry Coyne didn’t like my posts is that they failed the SJW sniff-test. And yes, at this point I must reveal (if it was not already clear) that I am one of those pesky feminist atheists threatening to divide the ‘movement’ with concerns over misogyny. Because what happens in this life matters more to me than what people think is going to happen after we die, I care more about equality, access to education, and social justice than I do about the nonexistence of gods.
Here follows my response to this post.
Simply amazing, Jonny!
If I didn’t fear to offend you, I’d be tempted to call you a prophet (in the noblest sense of the word).
There are so many true things you expressed here in such a stark and beautiful manner.
You (and Kevin) are entirely right that there is no consistent fundamentalist living under the sun.
Indeed, the Bible speaks with conflicting voices on many topics so that inerrantists have necessarily to distort some verses in order to take others at face value.
Their picking and choosing is (as you pointed out) strongly influenced by religious traditions and economical and social factors.
In the context of the American culture war, it is all too easy to use words in a fuzzy way without clearly laying out their meaning in order to make ideological points.
Over and over again, one can find people shouting: “Atheism has killed millions of people in the former Eastern block! Atheism is responsible for the Gulags!” and other loudly saying that “Religion is killing millions of people in the Middle East!”
For the sake of the argument, I will assume that atheism means the denial of God’s existence and religion any community based on supernatural beliefs (bypassing the difficulty of defining “natural” and “supernatural”).
If that’s the case, it is completely fallacious to say that atheism caused all the atrocities committed by these regimes in the past.
There’s absolutely no logical connection between denying God’s existence and thinking that such kinds of mass murders are morally warranted.
Countless atheists find these utterly abhorrent.
Likewise, it is completely fallacious to say that Religion causes misogyny and homophobia. There’s absolutely no logical connection between asserting “there is a supernatural realm” and “Gay people and women ought to be discriminated”. Countless religious folks find this utterly appalling.
While Jerry Coyne might be an incredibly brilliant scientist, he makes very blatant fallacies while wearing his armour of reckless culture warrior.
I appreciate your great modesty and the fact you care more about decency and love than about winning an argument.
I also think you’re entirely right to point out that the harmful moral beliefs of fundamentalists are worse than their teaching creation science.
Now I want to comment on the thought that the world would be better off without Religion .
I think it is a binary way to consider things.
As I wrote about Coyne’s initial defence of this idea:
“Basically his (implicit) reasoning was as follows:
1) It would be good to live in a world where creationism (and other anti-scientific beliefs) have wholly disappeared.
2) If ALL religions were to fade away, creationism would be no more.
3) Hence it is morally good to use our best techniques of psychological warfare to utterly destroy ALL religions.
Interestingly enough, French racists use exactly the same kind of reasoning:
1′) It would be good to live in a France where anti-white hatred no longer exists.
2′) If ALL blacks and Arabs were driven out of the land, anti-white hatred would be no more.
3′) Hence it is morally good to expel ALL blacks and Arabs from France.
Let us grant that both 1) and 1′) are true.
2) and 2′) are certainly technically true in both cases.
If ALL religions were to go away, there would be no longer any form of creationism, and if ALL blacks and Arabs no longer lived in France, anti-white hatred would be no more.
But it should be clear that a vital fact has been entirely left out of the picture in the second racist reasoning. There are countless blacks and Arabs (indeed the majority of them) who do not hate white folks and are completely respectful of French laws and customs.
It would be egregiously wrong to expel them as well for this would be a gruesome form of collective punishment.
Exactly the same thing can be said about Coyne’s reasoning.
There are countless moderate, progressive and even conservative religious believers who are not opposed to science and reason and who do not cause any harm to the society in which they live.
Advocating to systematically bully them out of their faith is equally egregious.“
(I can modify the example if you don’t deem it appropriate here. I do think it’s a good analogy which nicely illustrates the dangers of this type of reasoning).
I am convinced that the world would be better off if all fundamentalists who jettison their reason and moral intuitions for the sake of dogmas would give up their belief systems (and there are also many “secular” fundamentalists satisfying this definition).
But I see no reason to think that a thoroughly godless world would be better off than a world with religious people who are all driven by genuine love.
Let me end this long comment by saying one positive thing about Jerry: he has an adorable kitten he takes care of 🙂
Four years ago I did my own series along similar lines titled “How to Confound Christians with Bad Arguments.” The first installment was: “Compare Santa to Jesus.” Needless to say, naming and shaming this kind of ignorance is an important way to maintain the health of a belief community.
While I think it is worthwhile to point out the problematic memes in another belief community, it is even better to commit some time to pointing out the problems in your own community. And that’s why I’m doubly appreciative for Jeff’s new series.
I have always aimed to do the same thing by extending at least as much criticism to elements within my own belief community as I direct outside it. As a case in point, in a few weeks my new book will be in the marketplace. In Is the Atheist My Neighbor? I launch a book-length critique of a particularly pernicious Christian meme, namely the idea that deep-down atheists really do believe in God and they are sinfully suppressing this belief so that they may live with impunity. I believe this is a very harmful meme which has left much misunderstanding, pain, and suffering in its wake. (Incidentally, the book also features an interview with Jeff Lowder. Bonus!)
So how ought we to respond to harmful memes? Must we always speak out against them? The Book of Common Prayer includes the following confession: “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done.” Note in this confession that there are two distinct sins. Yes, there is the sin of commission, namely those things we have done. But there are also the sins of omission, those things we ought to have done but failed to do. To propagate memes of ignorance, bigotry, and prejudice within your belief community constitutes a sin (or if you prefer, an “error” or “indiscretion”) of commission. But to fail to censure memes of ignorance, bigotry, and prejudice also constitutes a sin, namely a sin of omission.
In other words, there is no neutral place to stand with respect to this pernicious nonsense. Can you imagine the impact if every time one of these memes was posted or tweeted a chorus would rise up in indignation? Things would begin to change pretty quickly. To sum up, you’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.
My interaction with an atheist
Epicurus wrote an interesting comment:
I look forward to reading the book. I’ve always felt that Christians are trapped and must believe that non christians are suppressing belief because of Paul’s writings and attitudes on the matter. It will be interesting to read Randal’s examination of the topic.
To which I answered:
Not all Christians believe in Biblical inerrancy.
What’s more, Paul can be quite ambiguous on that very topic.
“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.”[a] 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honour and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the GENTILE. 11 For God does not show favouritism.”
A straightforward interpretation of this passage would be that Paul did believe that HEATHENS were able to strive for good works, thereby inheriting immortality.
Consider further this parable of Jesus:
“31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Were the righteous ones people who put their faith in Jesus during this lifetime and were “saved by grace”?
I think it’s a terribly convoluted interpretation of this passage.
A likely interpretation is that Jesus (and possibly also Paul) believed in a kind of virtue ethics according to which salvation comes through the cultivation of a just and humble Christ-like personality while sincerely acknowledging one’s sins and need for salvation.
Therefore, I do think it is quite possible for a Christian to believe that many persons dying as atheists will inherit eternal life whereas self-righteous bigots of all kinds will be no more.
I certainly know quite a few atheists who are much closer to the spirit of Christ than many of his followers.
Epicurus “Therefore, I do think it is quite possible for a Christian to believe that many persons dying as atheists will inherit eternal life whereas self-righteous bigots of all kinds will be no more”.That all sounds fine, but what do you do with verses that suggest differently? Because you don’t believe in inerrancy you can ignore them and use the ones you like?
Hi. My point was that, at the very least, Christians aren’t compelled to have such an attitude towards atheists. While the Bible can often speak with conflicting voices, I do not think we can find anything telling us unambiguously that unbelievers are immoral but many things clearly asserting the contrary.
I grant your general point, however. It would be terribly question-begging to base doctrines on verses we arbitrarily pick and choose, once we’ve already concluded that the Biblical Canon isn’t internally coherent.
Ultimately, I base my faith on God defined as the greatest Being which can exist.
In the end, I think this is a hope which cannot be proven through rational arguments. Neither can atheism or materialism. (Many mainstream Christians in Europe consider “faith” as an existential decision to hope in God rather than as a set of knowledge claims).
I also think, however, that EVERY belief system must be grounded through unproven presuppositions.
Consider for example the possibility that we are living in a simulation which was created ten minutes ago.
I’ve no doubt that (almost) all of us find this completely absurd on an emotional level.
Yet I do not think that you can show this to be rationally implausible without begging the question in one way or the other. (You can try to prove me wrong if you so wish).
Ooops, I might have gotten a bit too far from the original topic 🙂
I want to agree with you, but when I read things like Romans 1:18-32, or Psalm 14:1, etc, I can’t
My interaction with a Conservative Evangelical
A little bit later, a Conservative Protestant criticised my views on salvation:
So you’re advocating Pelagianism? There’s no need to go that far.
Rom 2 is tricky. Thee point isn’t salvation by works. If you read the whole chapter, the gist is to jolt Jews out of complacency in thinking that they can sin and be saved, merely because they possess the Torah as a birthright, and that many gentiles are actually closer to heaven than they.
As to the sheep/goats parable, note the word “brethren”. This does not refer to generic acts of charity, but to good deeds done to Christians, so the doer would in some sense be considered Christian (ex. he who gives a cup of cold water, etc.)
None of this contradicts Rom 1, which seems to suggest that unbelievers hold (“suppress”) the knowledge of God’s existence, out of base motives.
I could as well say that Roman 1 is “tricky” and use Roman 2 to interpret it as meaning the collective sin of the culture rather than that of all individuals belonging to it.
Suppose that both Jesus and Paul believed that the deepest truth of the universe is that you have to believe in Christ on this side of the grave in order to be saved.
I think they would have said something like that:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For you did put your faith in me before entering the grave “
Roman 2: “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgement will be revealed. 6 IF He “will repay each person according to what they have done.”, WE WILL ALL BE DAMNED. 7 To those who CONSCIOUSLY BELIEVED IN HIS SON DURING THEIR LIFETIME, he will give eternal life.8 But for those who DID NOT BELIEVE IN HIM, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who DID NOT BELIEVE IN HIM: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honour and peace for everyone who does good THROUGH BELIEVING IN HIM: first for the Jew, then for the gentile. 11 For God does not show favouritism.”
The fact that Jesus and Paul used very different words and phrases is a terrible fit to the classical Protestant view of salvation.
I might add that Rob’s answers are pretty far-fetched in other respects as well.
While Paul’s main point in Roman 2 was certainly to criticise a belief in Jewish supremacy, the way he expressed himself makes it pretty likely he believed that humble heathens striving for a righteous life will inherit immortality and glory.
So, Rob’s remark concerning Paul’s main intention while writing this fails to engage with my reasoning.
As for Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats, Rob’s argumentation sounds really bizarre to my subjective ears. It appears to go like this
1) The word “Brethren” in the parable refers to “Christians in need”
2) Thus, those who inherit salvation are those who helped Christians in need
3) A person helps a Christian in need if and only if she is herself a Christian
4) Therefore, all Christians will go to heaven whereas all unbelievers will go to hell.
That’s the only way I can make sense of it.
While I cannot judge Rob as a person, I think that this particular argument wasn’t particularly convincing.
1′) As Jesus taught this, there wasn’t yet any Christian around and it seems quite clear that “Brethren” referred to his fellow Jews trying to do the will of this Father while he was preaching in Israel. And whenever “doing the will of the Father” is mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew, it means good works towards God and one’s neighbour and not faith in Him as the only possible “fire insurance”.
3′) involves that, whenever confronted with a Christian in need, all Christians will help the person in question whereas all non-Christians will selfishly refuse to do so. This is truly an extraordinary claim which can be all too easily refuted by reading testimonies of Christians in areas of armed conflict.
Saying that these passages teach “salvation by faith only” nonetheless means that Paul and Jesus were quite sloppy in their choice of words and examples. Given their extreme ambiguity, it would have been then quite legitimate for the Church before (and after) Luther to interpret this in good conscience and perfectly legitimately as supporting the “false teaching” of salvation by works.
This comes over as a desperate attempt at salvaging one’s dogmas no matter what.
I believe that honestly leaving every Biblical text speak for itself instead of imposing a predefined pattern on it leads to two important conclusions:
A) The Bible is not inerrant: it can clearly speak with conflicting voices
B) The large majority of texts go against major doctrines held by Conservative Protestants. Indeed,
So, this was doubtlessly a terribly chaotic post 🙂
During these two interactions, I obviously touched on a lot of topics. I hope that my readers have found some of this interesting, regardless of whether they’re Christians, atheists or belong to an entirely different species altogether.