Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The New Man

Some people, tired of Judaeo-Christianity often turn to more "relevant faith traditions" which bring you closer to Mother Earth and practice rituals like the following. (Hat tip Tim Blair)

Participants in a ritualistic ceremony danced, chanted and played drums while one of their friends lay dying from heat exhaustion, an inquest has heard. Deputy State Coroner Anthony Schapel today was told the group believed Rowan Douglas Cooke was "astral-travelling" after being exposed to extreme heat inside a North American Indian-style "steam lodge" ... led by a "new age healer" ... where earth altars were erected near a "steam lodge" built from pine poles, silver insulation and blankets. Members of the group took turns to sit inside the sealed, dome-like structure while water was poured over heated volcanic rocks to create steam. ... Other members of the group then found Mr Cooke and Mr Asfar unconscious inside the "steam lodge" and dragged them outside, where six blankets were put over Mr Cooke. Ms Davis said while both men were still breathing, no attempts were made to revive them because the group believed they were having "out of body" experiences.

Read the rest of it. The "healers" stuck a man inside a steam cooker and when he collapsed, danced around his prostrate form to speed him on his astral travel. We've managed to replace the Blessed Trinity with the Three Amigos in the 21st century and call it progress. Communism collapsed after a eight decades of trying to "strangle the last king with the entrails of the last priest" without establishing itself as a replacement, but having in the meantime dissolved every human institution it deemed to hold it back. Having set out to destroy all the old beliefs so that it could set up New Man in its place, the great indigenous European religion of Marxism succeeded in the first but dismally failed at the second. It created a cultural vacuum in which the family, the church and even the legitimacy of Western civilization have been melted in an acid bath of cynicism; created a void into which anything may rush -- anything that is, except the beliefs which the West had adopted from long historical evolution because they worked. They are disallowed by definition precisely because they work and are therefore instruments of "domination". In their place is anything that can be labeled "alternative": that is, the alternative to what works. The scientific method is abandoned in favor of steam tent healing and astral travel. The emancipation of women is cast aside in favor of sharia law. The most "progressive" journalists of the day fall over themselves to endorse Hugo Chavez's crackdown on the Venezuelan press. It's justice in a way -- for the Left -- but it is catastrophe for the rest of us.


Blogger Kirk Parker said...

"the group believed they were having 'out of body' experiences."

In some sad way, they were right, weren't they? But to paraphrase Tom Petty, coming back is the hardest thing.

6/05/2007 06:48:00 AM  
Blogger ADE said...

My point of departure, W.

We've managed to replace the Blessed Trinity with the Three Amigos in the 21st century and call it progress.

We must distinguish between Belief and Make Believe.

The Blessed Trinity is Make Believe.

I liked the Three Amigos. Grew up with them. Was one of them.

Never met a Blessed Trinity in my life.

Expect I never will.

Now the mission is to make sense of the present without regression to Make Believe.

But I take your point. If I'm the decider, we're in serious make-believe territory.

Best choose doubt.


6/05/2007 07:20:00 AM  
Blogger Marzouq the Redneck Muslim said...

All religions have rituals like this in varying and less extreme ways. Fasting is a good example.

Peyote is another First American sacrament. Wooooweeee!

An aside: I think I may have read it here on The Belmont Club. Harvard recently completed as study published medical journals. The study group was fairly large and the study was long. The study subjects were First Americans, as I like to call them. The study compared brain data of these people who by law can use peyote as their religious sacrament. Some also drank alcohol, some did both and some only used the sacramental peyote.

Those who only used peyote had no brain damage as far as the researchers could tell. The alcohol users (many were serious abusers, alcoholics) had brains in pretty bad shape. The alcoholics according to duration and frequency of abuse, had severe brain damage.

Yeah, coming back is the hardest thing in more ways than we want to know.

6/05/2007 07:26:00 AM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

Materialism is shallow and honest. Mock-religion is shallow and dishonest. After the era of the latter, there comes the Second Religiousness.

You mistake Marxism as a cause. It is instead a by-product. A pernicious weed, perhaps, but one that could only grow in a garden untended.

6/05/2007 07:55:00 AM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

You write, ...the beliefs which the West had adopted from long historical evolution because they worked.

Unfortunately, it is not as simple as modus ponens. From Sociobiology:

In order to generate the amount of [socio-cultural] variation actually observed to occur, it is necessary for there to be multiple adaptive peaks. In other words, different forms of society within the same species must be nearly enough alike in survival ability for many to enjoy long tenure. ...

The controls governing human societies are not nearly so strong, and the effects of deviation are not so dangerous. The anthropological literature abounds with examples of societies that contain obvious inefficiencies and even pathological flaws--yet endure. The explanation may be a lack of competition from other species, resulting in what biologists call ecological release.

Until recently, the inter-cultural sparking frequencies were low enough for many marginally advantageous cultures to arise and perpetuate. Now that cultures interact at the speed of light, the selection process speeds up. Inefficiencies and pathologies are tolerated less. Robustness and adaptability are valued more.

I do not deny that a religiousness is needed in the West. It will probably derive from America (a distinct civilization). Even more likely, it won't be embraced until dismemberment.

Nevertheless, it is an absolute certainty that this new religiousness will not be a return, a reversion. Whatever it is, it will be a comprehensive revision.

6/05/2007 08:15:00 AM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

One thing that the experience of Iraq should underline is that many things, even apparently bad things, exist for a reason. And before we destroy them it sometimes pays to examine what role they play the better to avoid unintended consequences.

Revolutions are typically followed by long periods of disorder because many of the institutions they destroy have to be replaced with versions of the same because the functions they fulfilled turned out to be important. One example is the reinstitution of ranks and discipline in the Revolutionary French Army.

The Left set out to make a revolution as thorough as anything which had gone before. From one perspective, it would have been better had they succeeded. But for reasons which will occupy historians for decades, key parts of the project failed. Socialist states became totalitarian bankrupts. But in the West, just enough of their program succeeded to undermine the existing institutions, which whatever they might have been, served a particular purpose.

If the Left had succeeded in capturing America, there might have followed a period of pacifism, but in all probability a Socialist America would have eventually emerged as heavily armed as the Soviet Union, with more money and better weapons. And had a September 11 been inflicted on that hypothetical Socialist America, the entire Middle East would have been rapidly enslaved in revenge and the inhabitants sent to concentration camps if they were not exterminated outright.

But the Marxist project didn't succeed as intended. Where it managed to, it flourished by mutating into what we see today. For instance Marxism was originally very big on the Conquest of Nature, but in its Western anti-establishmentarian manifestation (the predominant form it took where it was trying to bring down the society) it was anti-industrial, culminating in the Green Movement. Take another example: militancy. Bolshevism was a military and militant organization, whose tools were the revolver, bomb, brassknuckles and straight-razor. But in the West, it took the anti-establishmentarian form of Pacifism, which has come to mean Thou Shalt Not Defend Theyself. We have a mutant form of Marxism, a parody of itself actually, able to weaken what it has successfully discredited without actually being able to replace it.

6/05/2007 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

One thing that the experience of Iraq should underline is that many things, even apparently bad things, exist for a reason. And before we destroy them it sometimes pays to examine what role they play the better to avoid unintended consequences.

I remember a story about some people taking an eco-tour walking along a beach at turtle egg hatching time. They spotted a young turtle poking its head out of the sand about to get picked off & eaten by a bird. They all felt terrible and chased the bird away. Very shortly thereafter the nest burst forth of young turtles all getting picked off by birds, they had to scramble to undo the damage they unintentionally did.

One of Christianity's lessons is that in the long run bad things often serve a greater good. Hmmmmm.

6/05/2007 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

There's something deeper going on here, though. When a self-described progressive can describe Christianity as a "shit-show," and in the next breath speak with reverence of Islam's charisma (this happened to me last night), there is something wrong. I'm just not sure it is Marxism. In fact, lately I've noticed that criticism of Western Civ and Christianity is not really "Marxist" -- i.e. not derived from a set of first principles. Instead, it is visceral, emotive, unmoored. At least in my generation, anti-Christianity is a posture, an attitude.

Now, you can argue that these are secondary effects, natural consequences of a century or so of constant ideological erosion. I think these are consequences of some kind of erosion, I just think you might have misidentified the acid in the acid bath.

6/05/2007 09:50:00 AM  
Blogger Professor McConnell said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/05/2007 09:56:00 AM  
Blogger Professor McConnell said...


You are so very right, as is often the case.

To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, those who refuse to believe in true orthodox Christianity, as held in the West for over a millenium, will believe in anything - even the very pagan slavery and foolishness their ancestors were so happy to freed from by Christ.

As I believe you and others have said, Marxism is a materialist egalitarian counterfeit of Christianity. I am afraid really radical libertarianism (that even rejects the rule of law) is a counterfeit of the freedom Christians have in Christ (see Galatians).

If the West is to survive, we must rediscover the spiritual truths that made the West possible. The issue is not what we want, but what is true. No human would invent an idea like the Trinity. But there is plenty of evidence in history and life that it is true - and that for most people in the West between 400 AD and 1820 AD, it worked well too.

6/05/2007 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger bobalharb said...

It may have been Chesterton who said something like--"Christianity hasn't been tried, and found wanting, but is difficult, and hasn't been tried."

6/05/2007 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

When I was in the UAE one of the two English dailies featured a recent convert to Islam. They noted the Swede had tried out 20 some other religions in his life but declared he finally found the one true religion in Islam.

I wonder if in the next year an English Daily in Iran featured a Swede who converted to Zooroasterism after trying (20+)+1 religions.

6/05/2007 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger Alexis said...

I think the modern Left and modern multiculturalism are more influenced by Theosophy than by Marxism. Whatever else one says about Marxism, at least in its earlier forms, it was a progressive religion (analogous to Mormonism in some respects) that saw the universe in a hierarchical manner. Capitalism, for all of its faults, was perceived to be an improvement over feudalism just as socialism was thought to be an improvement over capitalism; a multiculturalist worldview in contrast would not see the advantage of modernity over the rankest superstitions of the Paleolithic era.

Here is a quote from "The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ", 28:11-26 (as channeled by Levi H. Dowling).

(Supposedly, Jesus was preaching in the Hindu holy city of Benares.)

A lawyer said, I pray you, Jesus, tell who is this God you speak about; where are his priests, his temples and his shrines?

And Jesus said, The God I speak about is every where; he cannot be compassed with walls, nor hedged about with bounds of any kind.

All people worship God, the One; but all the people see him not alike.

This universal God is wisdom, will and love.

All men see not the Triune God. One sees him as the God of might; another as the God of thought; another as the God of love.

A man's ideal is his God, and so, as man unfolds, his God unfolds. Man's God today, tomorrow is not God.

The nations of the earth see God from different points of view, and so he does not seem the same to every one.

Man names the part of God he sees, and this to him is all of God; and every nation sees a part of God, and every nation has a name for God.

You Brahmans call him Parabrahm; in Egypt he is Thoth; and Zeus is his name in Greece; Jehovah is his Hebrew name; but everywhere he is the causeless Cause, the rootless Root from which all things have grown.

When men become afraid of God, and take him for a foe, they dress up other men in fancy garbs and call them priests.

And charge them to restrain the wrath of God by prayers; and when they fail to win his favor by their prayers, to buy him off with a sacrifice of animal, or bird.

When man sees God as one with him, as Father-God, he needs no middle man, no priest to intercede;

He goes straight up to him and says, My Father-God! and then he lays his hand in God's own hand, and all is well.

And this is God. You are, each one, a priest, just for yourself; and sacrifice of blood God does not want.

Just give your life in sacrificial service to the all of life, and God is pleased.

When Jesus has thus said he stood aside; the people were amazed, but strove among themselves.

Jesus preaching in Benares, from The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ, 28:11-26, (as channeled by Levi H. Dowling).

The "Gospel of Aquarius", first printed in 1908, became a literary classic of the counterculture of the 1960's and 1970's. Far from being a Marxist tract, it was a revolt against Presbyterianism.

Anti-Marxist polemic is fun, but I think Marxism is an exacerbating effect rather than the principal cause for the decline of western civilization.

6/05/2007 11:47:00 AM  
Blogger NickB said...

"The issue is not what we want, but what is true. No human would invent an idea like the Trinity. But there is plenty of evidence in history and life that it is true - and that for most people in the West between 400 AD and 1820 AD, it worked well too."

Can you please name one piece of evidence? one bit of evidence that 'no human would invent the trinity' or that 'it is true'? I would love to hear it.

6/05/2007 12:12:00 PM  
Blogger Marzouq the Redneck Muslim said...


I can not agree with you more about Marxism. Beautiful commentary!

If the Euros haven't caught on (there is evidence that they are catching on, witness the recent elections in Germany and France) the European culture would have become Eurabia "a la Fallaci". It may be an improvement if Democratic Sharia be adopted.

Life goes on......

Salaam eleikum Y'all!

6/05/2007 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger Evanston2 said...

Christopher asks "Can you please name one piece of evidence...that 'no human would invent the trinity' or that 'it is true'?"

Well, regarding invention of the Trinity (three persons, one essence), it is difficult to apprehend (no less fully comprehend). That is, the Trinity is not an "easy sell" and if you were to invent a religion, it would not seem to be a winning concept.

The Bible, in fact, is full of incidents and doctrines that run counter to what we like to believe about ourselves and how we like to picture God.

The success of cultures strongly influenced by the Bible is one indicator of "truth" insofar as biblical Christianity appears to handle man as he really is. To contrast it with Marxism/communism, there was nothing wrong with the ideology -- just that it did not fit with the real nature of man. Hence Wretchard refers to the "new man" who never came.

Regarding truth of the Trinity in particular, it is useful in explaining how a uniform, seemingly closed system that preceded the "Big Bang" would have differentiation. But obviously this assertion and all others about God are necessarily abstract. For example, the only being that totally knows God exists is an omniscient God. So I can hardly "prove" the Trinity to be "true." The idea of the Trinity is a description of what the Bible says, not an explanation.

Hopefully this addresses the basics of Christopher's questions. This comment is not an apologetic nor by necessity does it answer the questions in detail. For those who are interested in a detailed explanation of a Christian viewpoint (to see if it has any validity) I recommend you "Google" for "R.C. Sproul" and click around. If you want a big book that deals with a large variety of philosophical issues, I recommend the Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics.

6/05/2007 01:50:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

Death is the ultimate out of body experience. Next he might experience burning man first hand. Waiting for someone who knows to tell me about it, perhaps Houdini will drop in next October.

Religion may take a leap of faith to believe but it takes no such conclusion to appreciate our cultural heritage and share with those like minded souls who are not ashamed of our collective history as a people.

6/05/2007 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger Professor McConnell said...


Evidence of the truth of orthodox Christianity is to big a subject for a blog and a bit out of the scope of this blog. People have been arguing about it for centuries because the stakes are so high. If Christianity is true, we might need to believe it and it might change the way we want to live. We cannot resolve the argument here. Besides, I am not going to be bloging the next two weeks so I can't even send you to my blog to argue about it. There are many other sites devoted to this sort of thing though. But, least you think I am evading, I will give a short response.

I would put the evidence in several categories: the Bible and its evidences, remarkably changed lives, providential historical events, and logical arguments.

The best argument on the Trinity is simple logic: If you were inventing a religion, would you put a doctrine in it that has no corollary in experience and creates doubt, misunderstanding, antagonism, and resentment? Of course not. This is why people who have invented religions almost always reject the Trinitarian view of God.

If you are interested here are a few accessible popular works:

Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict.

Gordon Clark, A Christian View of Men and Things.

G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy.

Simon Greenleaf, The Testimony of the Evangelists.

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.

Edward John Carnell, Christian Apologetics.

Francis Scheaffer, The God Who is There.

Ronald Nash, Faith and Reason.

These do not prove Christianity. But they discuss the evidence and the presuppositions involved in believing or not. Since God is the most fundamental reality, He can be known and evidenced, but not proven per se (sort of like the Heisenberg principle).

6/05/2007 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

The Nicene Creed is what happens when religious dogma is made by committee.

6/05/2007 02:35:00 PM  
Blogger Whiskey said...

Wretchard -- while I'm sure the Left seized on Marxism and in a debased way aka Derbyshire's "Volk Marxism" had various degenerate parodic mouthings of it's platitudes, I think the issue of the Left is deeper.

Let us look at what characterizes the Left:

1. A rejection of science, particularly evolution (oh yes, the Left HATES Darwin more than even the creationists), but also biology and nearly everything else.

2. A deep and abiding romanticism, explicitly tied to Status. Tibet and Darfur are "cool" issues, not so much the killing in Liberia or the need to stop Mugabe or even General Butt Naked (yes there really is such a person, sadly).

3. A hunger for fads, and faddishness in trends and gurus. Thus Timothy Leary is replaced with Carlos Castenada who is replaced with Jim Jones who is replaced with Alvin Toffler who is replaced with Nelson Mandela who is replaced with the Dalai Lama who is replaced with Al Gore. Or hippie movements, replaced with Native America chic, replaced with "small is beautiful" chic replaced with Kaballah which is in turn replaced with Gaia.

4. A fake egalitarianism where concern for the people is paramount, but only in the abstract, and the goal of control over trivial parts of people's lives: i.e. how many squares of toilet paper they use is expressed openly.

I think Wretchard this paints a fairly interesting diagnosis.

Science is rejected because it can threaten "truths" of a powerful, social elite, and can empower ordinary people beyond the elite's control. The complexity and social mobility (both ways) of the modern world leads to romanticism, particularly of primitive peoples (Drew Barrymore: " I took a pooh in the woods on all fours like an animal. It was awesome!") and primitive ways. Because the world is changing too fast for them and they want it to stop. Fads being indicative of extreme competition among the elite for status, ala Mayan nobles or the Court of Louis the XIVth. Fake egalitarianism to conceal the need to exert control over the most minute social behavior ... to alleviate the elite's sense of loss of control over their own lives.

A robust and confident aristocracy cares not what the peasants eat or what they do otherwise, it would be unseemly to even care. That our latter day aristos care is deeply disturbing, a sign of a collapsing elite. So too the faddishness of the aristos, the romanticism, and the rejection of science (any man, noble born or commoner, can use science).

I would suggest that the class of people (do working folks have enough time to build a sweat lodge? Would they care? No.) is disturbed, not the civilization as a whole. Though their control over critical levers must be addressed.

I foresee a populist, Jacksonian revolt, with mostly good results. Certainly the elites simply can't lead anymore.

6/05/2007 02:43:00 PM  
Blogger Professor McConnell said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/05/2007 03:01:00 PM  
Blogger Professor McConnell said...


Excellent zinger.

But the idea of the Trinity predates Nicaea and the other conferences. It is evident in the Bible even though the label came latter.

I think you are part right in your earlier post about Theosophy. "Liberal" religions of "peace and love" but not holiness or justice or law or atonement or responsibility have been very influential in the modern and postmodern West. Unitarianism would be an earlier example than Theosophy. While still "Christian," in a sense, Quakerism and Pietism would be other examples. Liberal Christianity, that rejects the atonement etc. has been much of the same universalist pacifist piece.

Without hard edged objective ideas about what is and is not true or just, defending others or fighting for justice against unprincipled and unscrupulous foes like the Islamofacists becomes very difficult.

I agree with Annoy Mouse that there is a lot to respect, even in people I disagree with, in our historic heritage. In war time Stoicism, Platonism, etc. make better Allies than those who cannot see some evils as far greater than others.

At least we have the freedom to discuss these ideas and persuade others. Our Islamist enemies only allow one decision - submission or death.

I also think Whiskey has a good point. The left has a "folk Marxism." Ideas pass down to ordinary people from philosophers in a distorted form. Much of what New Agers and postmodernists believe today is a result of "fellow traveller" propaganda from the mid-twentieth century onward or watered down ideas from Nietzsche or the existentialists. They do pick and choose causes based on what is "in" with their social set. And some of that is still the leftover influence of the party line of fifty years ago. As a Christian, I am also tempted to see spiritual influences in human affairs. So often seemingly contradictory bad ideas assault the West in a sort of Pincer movement. People who supposedly hate each other cooperate against the common good. The left and the Islamists are one example.

C. S. Lewis deals, though simply, well with this kind of influence in his novels That Hideous Strength and the Screwtape Letters..

6/05/2007 03:01:00 PM

6/05/2007 03:23:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

“...set up New Man in its place, the great indigenous European religion of Marxism succeeded in the first but dismally failed at the second.’

!! ... Great Indigenous European Religion... !!

Spot on. One measure of their success may possibly be seen in other comments here. And still the Marcusian and Gramscyite wrecking crews are hard at work. I'm "talking 'bout MY generation" so indulge me when I opine—as a matter of personal knowledge—that they be at it still, with a cold, blind vengeance.

Personally, I have no trouble understanding why their core target is anything that hints of “Judeo-” or “-Christian,” if only because I understand such to be the actual targets.

Indigenous European religion, indeed. LOL, rollin’ *on de floor!* All the Theosophy and Shamanism of this stricken world are weak-kneed, second-best fill-ins for the Religion that couldn’ occupy the throne it cleared for itself.

There will be no joy for the Euro-nativists under the scimitar’ caress and neither any for we who precede them, as much as we might rail against their terminally suicidal anti-Judeo-Christian campaign.

Opposition to Jihad is hobbled by the weakness of appeals to "European" or "Western" unity. If Greater Europe is determined to go native, by its own definition it won't be entertaining remarriage with Mounts Sinai or Golgotha.

... hey, maybe they'll consider shacking up until the Jihadi's are gone?

6/05/2007 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

All the Theosophy and Shamanism of this stricken world are weak-kneed, second-best fill-ins for the Religion that couldn’[t] occupy the throne it cleared for itself.

Above comment meant to say, along with W, that Marxism can't become a successor to its victims, leaving lesser lights than the victim to flourish instead.

Looking back, it is hard to credit Marxism with bringing much light. W's point, if I understand it, is that the darkness wrought by Marxism is the proximal cause of the injury we have suffered here in the West. Clarifying who "we" be has now become our urgent problem.

Theosophy itself is no antidote to Wahabism. Look, for example, at Sufism: anciently adopting a cloak of Islam, they are become not infrequently more fascistic and murderous than the orthodox zealots who persecute them.

Marxism, the Great Indigenous European Religion! I'm laughing through the tears, what a bitter joke... but it really is funny!

6/05/2007 03:56:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hmm, my comment disapperared. Let me try again.

Wretchard, I don't know why you're trying to tie the rejection of Christianity to the rejection of western values and enlightenment. The developments in the west that made us flourish are science and free markets, not religion.

And as for the "atheists believe in anything" schtick, anyone who says this with a straight face must not know any atheists. The people in this story are not atheists. They just belive in a different, less anthropomorphic god than you.

New-age spiritualism from an atheist perspective here: http://www.newhumanist.org.uk/Volume121issue3_more.php?id=2030_0_42_0_C

6/05/2007 05:20:00 PM  
Blogger Professor McConnell said...


Western science emerged largely because of the Christian world view. In a seriously pagan world, the universe is alive, magical, and unpredictable. In a post modern world view science claims privilege and creates hierarchy of "truth" and "falsehood" and so is unacceptable unless deprived of the very objectivity that makes it science. In a really materialist world view science is pointless since all that brain activity is just chemical reactions anyway. It is the Christian understanding of the world as predictable, reasonable and bound by the divine order that made science on a massive scale possible. Sure Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, etc. helped. But until the common man understood that the material world was understandable and predictable science had little real impact.

As for the other ideas of the enlightenment, they too were possible in a world made safe for such thought by a Christian consensus. Kind of like the way enlightenment thought has made the world safe for the leftists.

As for free markets, they too grew out of the slow but steady application of the Christian world view to society. Ancient Israel was the only ancient society I know of with no wage and price controls. This was not lost on the reformers or Adam Smith.

6/05/2007 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Supposing science and free markets evolved from Christianity, which I think is doubtful, but is a debatable position, retiring Christianity in favor of rationalism is hardly foolish. Supposing Christianity helped people think of the world as predictable and thus led to science, it still contains magical elements: talking donkeys, virgin births, walking, talking dead people floating through walls and ascending to the skies. In fact, divine intervention in the natural world is the exact opposite of what a scientist would expect. If the enlightenment came from Christianity, what's so wrong with moving past the religion, like we did with regards to alchemy and chemistry, astrology and astronomy?
Tying this into Wretchard's post, rejecting Christianity does not in fact lead to irrational thinking. In fact, it's often, but not always, the opposite.

6/05/2007 08:22:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...


Let's suppose that there's a market for superstition and wild stories of magic, monsters, miracles, and intolerance.

Given such a market, wouldn't it be in the interests of atheists to ensure that the market for superstition were dominated by the religions with the least irrationality? Indeed, that may be Wretchard's principal point.

Imagine if it were possible to vanquish al-Qaeda by inventing a false monotheistic religion with a sufficient amount of superstition to appeal to the kind of people who would otherwise support al-Qaeda. It would have plenty of magic, monsters, violence, miracles, heroism, wild visions, and some shockingly absurd metaphysics. And let's suppose this artificial religion catches on and and is militant enough to displace Islam. Then, we would be back where we started, because the same people would probably be attacking us using a new banner of the religion originally manufactured to undermine al-Qaeda.

I am not sure whether it is possible to eradicate superstition, as the impulse toward superstition may be innate within humanity. Still, I think both Enlightenment rationalists and rationalist theologians could agree that draining the swamp of rank superstition is a good idea. As difficult defeating al-Qaeda may be, it will be far more difficult to drain the swamp of superstition that feeds our common foe.

6/05/2007 10:22:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...


Many people we think of as "atheists" are actually agnostics or subscribe to a different belief system. It is possible have religion without ever believing in life eternal or a God who cares about individuals. There are religious systems, both primitive and modern which have many gods or have men for gods. Marxism is a prime example.

But I think there was a disinclination, early on to admit religious systems in which persons were the primary source of religious authority. There were real practical advantages to removing the ground of ultimate reality from the province of human politicians. So the Declaration tells us that a mysterious Creator gives us our unalienable rights. A true atheist in some some semantic sense, however you could define an atheist under those circumstances, could never believe that. But an agnostic could. As could a person who believed that there was some kind of meaning to the universe, and that we were obliged to recognize that meaning.

What we have done by removing this delicate concept is left the door open for those who maintain that the Koran is the literal word of Allah. Not human writing inspired by God, but the exact verbatim word of God Himself. Now if we will not maintain this indefinite Creator we will certainly meet the definite Allah.

We could explain to mankind how an atheist might judge things, but good luck on that.

6/06/2007 02:11:00 AM  
Blogger Evanston2 said...

What is more magical: a material universe that just leapt out of nothing (isn't cosmic "spontaneous generation" the mother of all magic?) or specific things that people really witnessed: "talking donkeys, virgin births, walking, talking dead people floating through walls and ascending to the skies?"

When you say that "divine intervention in the natural world is the exact opposite of what a scientist would expect" you effectively exclude supernatural events from your definition of science. Fine, but then don't call it "science." Call it materialism -- that the universe is all there was, is, or ever will be.

Materialists are commonly guilty of this tautology: that the only acceptable scientific answer is materialism, therefore anyone else is wrong and unscientific. That is, their starting premise defines the only acceptable, "logical" answers. This is not science.

Science is properly defined by use of the empirical method. Just as forensic science and archaeology are used to prove that a given thing or event could not have been produced by matter acting on its own, other branches of science may lead to explanations that are beyond our present knowledge of the material universe. Whether those are "divine" or "supernatural" or merely "science fiction" depend on your definition.

I do not expect for you to adopt my perspective. Just explain existence and I'll be happy to concede that Christianity is crazy talk.

6/06/2007 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger gatsby said...

[quote]The developments in the west that made us flourish are science and free markets, not religion.[/quote]

I think we're underestimating Christianity. It's common to do so; it took me years to understand. The single most direct contribution Christianity gave to the modern Western world was belief in the sanctity of the individual. This core belief evolved over time, allowing people to develop their own talents and their own eccetricities. The Rennaissance is the embodiment of the common belief of the time: "God is most pleased by the beautiful things you create for him."

Islam, in contrast, means literally 'submission'. Throughout history, anything that veers from the official dogma is stamped out and eradicated. Islam has excelled at keeping its own people uninventive, unscientific, and relatively backwards. The only times Islam shows itself to be innovative is when those within the religious ranks decide to make an effort toward heterodoxy, or when Islam itself receedes in influence. The libraries and scientific findings that Islam claims as its own are historical aberrations compared to the larger beliefs Islam pushes.

I'm reading the Road to Serfdom, and it seems to touch on many, many of the themes mentioned here.

6/07/2007 09:59:00 AM  

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