RSS

Church Leaders “Frown Upon” Crucifixions

22 Mar

The Associated Press reports that devout Christians in the Philippines “re-enacted Jesus Christ’s suffering Friday by having themselves nailed to crosses in rites frowned upon by church leaders.” In addition to the 30 people who were scheduled to be crucified, scores of others flagellated their bare backs with bamboo sticks. I’m really impressed that Church leaders “frown upon” this practice. They condemn homosexuality, birth control and condom use to prevent the spread of AIDS, but merely disapprove of, don’t condone, don’t encourage, “frown upon” crucifixions. This is sick, sick stuff.

Why, pray tell, do believers subject themselves to these horrors? They do so in order to “fulfill a vow or pray for a cure for illnesses.” Whose teachings led these people to believe that rituals like these are the stuff that vows are made of? Whose teachings led these people to believe that these rituals enhance their prayers? If the Church has not taught these things, then why isn’t it taking measures to correct these horrible misperceptions? Oh! Look at this! The Church has not remained silent after all: “Archbishop Paciano B. Aniceto of San Fernando city urged devotees not to turn Holy Week into a ‘circus’.” Oh, all right, then. The Church did speak out after all: if you insist on doing these things, at least have the decency to keep matters dignified.

Surely, the attitudes displayed by Church and political leaders who allowed these proceedings don’t have any relationship to the fact that “The yearly tradition has become a tourist attraction…which sometimes draws thousands of local and foreign tourists.” It’s not a necessary practice, and we don’t want to be crass during the solemn season of Holy Week – but, God be praised, we’re sure raking in the cash! These crucifixions and flagellations are pretty damn good for the economy!

So, who are the winners and losers in this debacle?

Winners:

The tourist industry – increased patronage is always good
The governments – they get increased tax revenues and they don’t have to expend any efforts to keep people happy and preoccupied
The Church – extreme displays of religious devotion will spur others to greater faith

Losers:

The crucified ones – they suffer from the delusion that undergoing this torture will have tangible effects on their lives and that their prayers are more likely to be answered in their favor for having endured these rituals; they will also carry physical scars of these ordeals for the rest of their lives
The tourists – people who pay hard-earned money to watch these horrors, most of whom likely believe they are valid expressions of worship
The world at large – anytime these sorts of extreme expressions of religious devotion are tolerated, rationality loses ground and humanity loses little bits of its dignity.

– the chaplain

About these ads
 
32 Comments

Posted by on March 22, 2008 in religion

 

32 responses to “Church Leaders “Frown Upon” Crucifixions

  1. PhillyChief

    March 22, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Very nice observations of the situation. I like the breakdown of winners and losers.

    I would think the church would be against this because it makes their Jesus story less special. I mean, if all these people can endure a good chunk of the crucifixion, then that minimizes the original “sacrifice” somewhat, no? Then all they’re left with is the dying, which of course wasn’t a sacrifice anyway since it allegedly didn’t stick.

     
  2. ken

    March 22, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    A comment from ‘the other side’.

    First, I understand why you place the church in the ‘winners’ column from a historical viewpoint. I suggest that the world used to be a different place, influenced (perhaps manipulated might be appropriate here) by religious dogma. But with the advance of communication as it is, I believe the balance is tipping. If my understanding is correct, I would place the church in the ‘loser’ column. They lose credibility (some will argue that we don’t have any credibility to begin with … I guess I am speaking from a broader context than from the views of hardline athiests). I believe this type of activity is a result of some form of dogmatic belief system and the church as a whole is reluctant to speak too critically against such behavior as the dogmatic factions might find their own particular dogmas being questioned. The church looses when it refuses to accept and function in the dynamics of the social and scientific constructs of the ‘real world’.

     
  3. heather

    March 22, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    It’s sickening isn’t it?
    There’s a piece in the Independent about this, which ends with the words.

    “Travel agents in the Philippines offer packages to Cutud to see the spectacle. In the past, some foreigners have undergone Good Friday crucifixions. They include a Japanese man who later allowed footage of his ordeal to be used in a pornographic film.”

     
  4. The Exterminator

    March 22, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    Here are a few you left out:

    Winners:
    the media – Crucifixion: Live at 11!
    the Bush administration – Don’t pay any attention to our lies and criminality. Watch the crucifixion. Live at 11!
    American jingoists – Aren’t people in other countries DUMB?

    Losers:
    ken – He has to dig deep into his bag of apologetics, to explain away the extreme behavior of his co-religionists.

     
  5. ken

    March 22, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    Exterminator,

    There may be areas in life where I might be considered a loser, but not here. The people in this article are not my ‘co-religionists’ unless you are using the most ridiculously (root word ridicule) widest brush you can find in your arsenal.

    Is the reason for this post to place every Christian into a uni-camp of idiocy? Is the best way you know how to elevate the supremacy of the athiest construct by finding the worst examples (an extremely limited example, by the way) of other constructs and then mock the entire diverse group that might have any common element? I thought you were a better debator than that.

    I suppose if I wanted to retaliate, I could easily get out my own ridiculously wide brush and paint all athiests into a camp with some of the heinous examples of athiests of the world – but I have more respect for you than that.

     
  6. PhillyChief

    March 22, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    Question Ken, why don’t various christian groups say anything against this, and I mean more than just a frown?

    If religious moderates don’t openly speak out and distant themselves from religious extremists, then how are we supposed to know you don’t condone their behavior? Until that happens, I think moderates shouldn’t cry too loudly if they get lumped under the big religious umbrella with the yahoos.

     
  7. The Exterminator

    March 22, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    ken:

    I knew I could get you to bite. You’re easy.

    Anyway, you said: I believe this type of activity is a result of some form of dogmatic belief system and the church as a whole is reluctant to speak too critically against such behavior as the dogmatic factions might find their own particular dogmas being questioned.

    if you were not put into a position of having to “apologize” for those idiots who have themselves crucified, you’d be able to just say: They’re nuts.

    But you didn’t. Instead, you blamed the activity on “some form of dogmatic belief system.” I’d argue that the belief system of Christianity, no matter how one spins it — and, believe me, ken, I wish that all Christians spun it the way you do — is always dogmatic. There are certain givens that can’t be questioned. If you don’t dogmatically accept that some historical Jew named Yeshua was executed by the Romans for some reason that related to the salvation of his future followers, you’re not a Christian.

    To me, that’s dogmatism.

     
  8. ken

    March 22, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    Okay, I got the hook out (I think) …

    In my construct I view dogma (principle, tenet or creed) in is most base form as quite neutral. However, I see dogmatism (intolerant of any other principle, tenet or creed), religious or otherwise, as harmful. Particularly when those who practice such dogmatism hold political power. To be dogmatic about something is arrogance.

    With that in mind, I guess I do have dogmas – but I call them beliefs. These beliefs are formed from my core convictions (what I am convinced is to be true), but they are not included in my core-convictions. I have many more beliefs than I do convictions. My beliefs are subject to challenge – both by myself and by my ever changing social and scientific environment. When I view my beliefs to be proven obsolete or wrong, I adapt.

    My convictions might agree with Christian tradition, but are not founded in Christian tradition. They are founded in a personal experience with my God. My convictions are faith-based and thus cannot be proven. I think some of our greates liberties are to be able to place our varying views and information into the public pool of thought and then given the privilege to construct, refine and advance our beliefs from that pool. But, we also have the responsibility to allow others to do the same. This allows for ‘social evolution’ and for better or for worse, the society that adapts new thought then must deal with the consequences of that thought. I realize this is quite an ideal statement, and there are many layers of complexities involved in the real world.

    When I speak of church dogmatism, I speak of factions of Christianity which continually expand core convictions to include their particular beliefs. One of the best known examples of this would be the whole idea of a flat world that the rest of the universe traversed around. This was a universal cultural/social belief at the time, and so the ‘official state church’ (Roman Catholicism) made it a dogma of the church. This concept is found nowhere in the Bible, and the Bible was never intended to be a book of science anyway. The powerful Roman Catholic Church also conveniently elevated church tradition and church hierarchy as supreme authority – to question the church was to question God Himself (sic). Thus, when Copernicus (a devout Roman Catholic) came on the scene with the incredible scientific discovery of a sun-centered solar system and the earth and planets orbiting the sun – he was quashed by dogmatism and science was set back a couple of hundred years.

    I may share some core convictions with the Roman Catholic Church, which are faith-based, but I am deeply opposed to most of their dogma, and totally opposed to their dogmatic intolerance. I am also opposed to any ‘church construct’ that marries the church with political power. This increases the opportunity to impose dogmatism which is counter-productive to the free thinking of any culture.

    “If you don’t dogmatically accept that some historical Jew named Yeshua was executed by the Romans for some reason that related to the salvation of his future followers, you’re not a Christian. ”

    You have identified a large portion of my core-convictions here – I accept it by faith, but I am not dogmatic about it.

    Philly,
    “If religious moderates don’t openly speak out and distant themselves from religious extremists, then how are we supposed to know you don’t condone their behavior? ”

    That is an excellent question and I would like to know the answer myself. Perhaps if it received front-page status the moderates might make more noise. I don’t know.

     
  9. the chaplain

    March 22, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    Heather:
    The idea of blending crucifixion footage into a porn film is beyond disgusting. UGH!

    Ken:
    You said, “I would place the church in the ‘loser’ column.” I don’t agree that the RC Church loses credibility when stuff like this happens. As you note, it has zero credibility with non-believers (which includes atheists, agnostics and adherents of other faiths) already. There’s nothing to lose there.

    Even if the RC leadership loses credibility with RC adherents, it won’t mean anything until people stop attending and tithing to their churches. As long as the membership rolls look good and the cash flows into their coffers, most Church leaders don’t care one way or another what the peons think about them. It’s a hierarchy: those at the top don’t have to care about the opinions of those lower down the ladder.

    As for the RC Church’s standing with Protestant and Orthodox Christians, I’m not sure there’s much to lose there either. I can’t speak knowledgeably about current relations between the Roman and Orthodox Churches, so I’ll leave that one alone. Having been associated with evangelicals and fundamentalists all of my life, I know that the RC Church generally has little credibility with them. So, there is little for RC leaders to lose in the eyes of many Protestant Christians.

    I stand by my original contention that the Church wins more than it loses in this situation.

    In addition to my own experiences with Protestant lack of respect for Catholics and Catholicism (which entails that there is little or no credibility at risk), I offer Exhibit A: your own statement that “The people in this article are not my ‘co-religionists’ unless you are using the most ridiculously (root word ridicule) widest brush you can find…” Sorry, Ken, but it does not require a very broad brush at all to point out that you’re a Christian and they’re also Christians. Therefore, there is a very significant sense in which they are your co-religionists. I take it that this particular branch of the Christian Church has never had much credibility with you either.

    I don’t believe you would ever engage in these sorts of misguided practices, nor do I believe that you would turn a blind eye and rake in the cash or benefit otherwise if others were doing these things in your presence. But, so long as all of you call yourselves Christians, you moderate types in the middle will, as Phillychief pointed out, continue to get lumped in with those on the outer edge unless you (as a group, not you individually) speak out clearly against this sort of stuff.

    You posed this question to Exterminator (I think), but since it references the post, I’ll answer for myself. Exterminator can add his two cents (or nickel or dime) if he wants to do so: Is the reason for this post to place every Christian into a uni-camp of idiocy? Is the best way you know how to elevate the supremacy of the athiest construct by finding the worst examples (an extremely limited example, by the way) of other constructs and then mock the entire diverse group that might have any common element?

    I think you know, from reading the post, that my sympathies lie with the misguided believers who are abusing themselves for no good reason. I did not intend to point and laugh and say, “Look at those idiots!” I do not consider this a laughing matter. I’m outraged and saddened by it. I meant to address the point that, somewhere along the way, these poor folks have adopted some grievously harmful beliefs. A large part of the responsibility for their misunderstanding lies with the people who have taught them so poorly and indoctrinated them so thoroughly. Those same leaders did nothing to stop these people from expressing their faith in this obnoxious manner. Instead, the crucifixees and flagellators were advised to get tetanus shots and use sterilized nails. I suppose that was helpful. :(

    I agree with your statement that “the church as a whole is reluctant to speak too critically against such behavior as the dogmatic factions might find their own particular dogmas being questioned. This is insightful. Still, if the church is to move forward and be at all relevant in the future, it will have to start actively and visibly opposing the extremists within the flock, or suffer the consequences of being “painted with the same broad brush.”

     
  10. ken

    March 22, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Chaplain,

    You said: “I think you know, from reading the post, that my sympathies lie with the misguided believers who are abusing themselves for no good reason.”

    I do know, and I’m sorry. In my knee-jerk reaction I didn’t realize I was indicting your motives on this post. And I agree with much of your followup.

    Although, I think it would be prudent for athiests as well as religions of other persuations to recognize that there is just as much diversity within what is recognized as the ‘Christian Church’ as there is in any other world-view construct – including atheism. My understanding of your athiestic conviction is “There is no evidence of there being any god, therefore I do not believe in god.” But from that single conviction there are a myriad of belief systems, some of which lead to desecration of human life. I contend this is because they have developed dogmatic beliefs that justify their actions (just like religious dogmatism).

    I felt as uncomfortable in being labeled co-religious with this group as I am sure Exterminator would be being labeled a co-athiest with Stalin. They may share a common core-conviction, but their beliefs have placed them in two very different worlds.

    The apostle Paul gave the church of Thessalonica some very good counsel when he said, “Test everything. Hold on to the good.” We all should test our beliefs (particularly in light of the Golden Rule, whether the atheist one Philly holds to or the Christian one I hold to), and throw out that which might be bad for our neighbor. Sharing a construct with my neighbor in the context of a relationship that gives him/her dignity and hope is not bad. Prohibiting all other constructs and forcing my own (or your own) is dogmatic intolerance – I don’t care who it is.

     
  11. the chaplain

    March 22, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    Ken:
    You said, “I think it would be prudent for atheists as well as religions of other persuasions to recognize that there is just as much diversity within what is recognized as the ‘Christian Church’ as there is in any other world-view construct – including atheism.”

    This is good advice. Most of the atheists that I know are aware of the diversity within the Church Universal. Nevertheless, there undoubtedly are other atheists who neither recognize nor care about those very real distinctions. What can I say? There are idiots in every camp. Maybe we should take them out and shoot them! :)

    You probably realize that much atheistic criticism is directed at those believers who criticize us most harshly and who oppose us most openly. In the USA, these tend to be evangelical and fundamentalist Christians. We atheists may use “Christians” and “Christianity” as short-hand terms, but we’re aware that we are not always discussing the whole range of Christian believers and beliefs. There are times, however, when we do question religions and religious beliefs in general. In those cases, we do use the terms “Christian” or “Islamic” or whatever as all-embracing terms. I guess the best thing we can do, without being unduly pedantic in our writing, is to lay out clearly, from the outset of a post, the group about whom we are writing, and then use the “short-hand” terms as needed to facilitate readability.

     
  12. The Exterminator

    March 22, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    ken:

    I know you’ve heard this already, but I guess it needs repetition.

    An atheist is a person who does not believe in any gods. Obviously, a lack of belief (what I’d call a “freedom from belief”) is not a belief. Each atheist comes to his or her atheism in a unique way. Why? Because there are no atheist “holy” books, no atheist myths that have been told over and over again for millennia, no atheist prophets who allegedly delivered messages to the world. In short, there’s no atheist dogma. Whatsoever. None.

    Christians, however, by definition, believe that there was a historical Jew named Yeshua … etc. They base this belief on a specific set of “holy” books, a specific collection of myths that have been told over and over again for millennia, and alleged messages to the world from so-called prophets. That’s dogma.

    And I’m not going to argue whether or not Stalin was, in fact, an atheist. Stalin’s name comes up like a bad meal with ridiculous regularity from Christians who forgot that he learned every despicable thought-control tactic when he was still little Joey Dzhugashvili attending the Gori Christian school and then the seminary. Be that as it may: Even if he were an atheist, that would only mean that he and I found common ground specifically relating to our freedom from faith in the Abrahamic God. But I should point out that you and Stalin would be co-atheists when it comes to belief in Thor or Isis or Quetzlcoatl or Minerva. So what?

    On the other hand, you and the self-crucifying loons both live by the same myth. You share most of your most basic beliefs. They think they can get cozy with their deity by sharing his pain. You think that you can get cozy with that very same deity by preaching his love and spreading it throughout the world — maybe even to the poor delusional ignoramuses who will be crucifying themselves in the next generation.

    The way to help these poor propagandized ignoramuses is to wean them from their reliance on the death-cult that is Christianity.

     
  13. ken

    March 23, 2008 at 6:39 am

    Exterminator,

    Then by extrapolating the argument you just laid out to its most basic conclusion, leaving out all other factors: the core conviction of athiesm (freedom of belief) is the ultimate vehicle of chaos and anarchy?

     
  14. PhillyChief

    March 23, 2008 at 8:28 am

    How on Earth did you come to that conclusion Ken from what Ex wrote?

    If you’re basing your idea that atheism = anarchy because Ex called atheism a “freedom from belief” and you think that means ALL belief, that’s incorrect and frankly, you should know better by now. An atheist has no belief in any gods, not no beliefs, period.

    I also would like to know more about these belief systems you speak of that have as their foundation atheism, and how that leads them to “desecration of human life”.

    I feel no more and no less comfort from the fact that Stalin was also an atheist than I do about the facts that he also was a white male herbivore who drank alcohol and wore trousers. I find nothing in any of those facts that are responsible for anything he did, good or bad.

     
  15. ken

    March 23, 2008 at 10:36 am

    First, that was a question, not an accusation. The statement was made that athiesm is “freedom from belief”. He stated that in response to a position I took that even athiests have a dogma by the definition I used at the start of that post. That definition did not limit beliefs to belief in a god, so I am assuming that Exterminator was working from that definition. I believe at the core of any society there must be some sort of common manifesto or creed (spoken or not) that serves as a bond of that society. I don’t know how widely it became embraced among the athiestic humanists, but I remember years ago that there was devised and published a ‘humanist manifesto’ apparently because the humanists discovered there could be no cohesive society for those who were comletely freed from belief in anything outside of their own realities. So, if you had your desire, and Christians decided to abandon their belief in God, you leave them nothing to transfer their belief to and you destroy the fabric of their ‘community’ within the larger society. My question is, if there is no athiestic dogma whatsoever, what then would bond an athiestic community? If that bond is only and ultimately ‘freedom from belief’, I can see it only leaving social chaos and anarchy. If there is another solution, I am very interested to hear and understand it.

    I will give you one example of an athiestic belief system (that stems from the thought of freedom from belief) that desecrates human life:

    In a previous post you said you would tell the Catholics to stop f**king children. (That does not proceed from a belief based in the core convictions of Christianity, by the way – and I and millions of Christians will and do raise our voice with you on that one). I cite this example because you show a compassion for the innocence of children. However, there is a practice that emerged from athiestic thought that allows for a child to be partially removed from the womb, his head cracked like a walnut and his brains sucked out. To me that desecrates human life as much as any Priest who does what you described.

     
  16. PhillyChief

    March 23, 2008 at 11:37 am

    I’m sensing it’s difference of terminology time again, Ken.

    dogma – 1a: something held as an established opinion; especially : a definite authoritative tenet
    b: a code of such tenets (pedagogical dogma)
    c: a point of view or tenet put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds
    2: a doctrine or body of doctrines concerning faith or morals formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church

    It seems clear that you Ken are using a rather benign, general use of it like the first half of 1a, whereas most here would ignore that part and use the rest. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that the idea of ANY core beliefs being absolute and unquestionable is unsavory to us.

    I will restate my earlier (and I what I think should be obvious) point: atheism is no belief in a god or gods, period. Atheism does not dictate or discourage belief in anything else. Atheism has no core beliefs (what you call dogma). It is, however, a position arrived at predominantly due to an acceptance of empirical evidence and experience being the elements by which we, using reason, come to know, understand and make decisions about ourselves and the world around us.


    So, if you had your desire, and Christians decided to abandon their belief in God, you leave them nothing to transfer their belief to and you destroy the fabric of their ‘community’ within the larger society.


    Their belief, absolute belief, is the cancer, not necessarily what they believe, so why would I want to give them some sort of methadone or new tit to suck? Id say most of what they know and believe about the world needn’t change, since most of it doesn’t come from their holy books anyway. It’s the morality of society that dictates your reading of a holy book and IS your morality. It doesn’t come from that book and if anything, that book helps to steer people away from what they really know is moral. Your $1 still spends the same if you take “god” off of it, you’re still professing your patriotism by pledging allegiance with the “under god” removed, your valuing of human life shouldn’t change because you gave up a god belief and the universe as a whole doesn’t lose any of it’s majesty and wonder just because you stop believing it was made.


    However, there is a practice that emerged from athiestic thought that allows for a child to be partially removed from the womb


    First, connect the dots, Sparky.
    1. Define “atheistic thought”
    2. Explain how it leads to desecrating life

    Second, what you’re talking about is abortion of fetuses, not killing children.

     
  17. the chaplain

    March 23, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Ken:
    I thought you had more respect for atheists than to throw out this line: “there is a practice that emerged from atheistic thought that allows for a child to be partially removed from the womb, his head cracked like a walnut and his brains sucked out. “

    I second Philly’s two-point challenge and add a third point: demonstrate that no theists support abortion rights.

    I’m going to turn the tables on you a bit:
    “There is a practice that emerged from theistic thought that women should be beaten for being raped.”

    Or how about this one:
    “There is a practice that emerged from Christian thought that only those who believe in God have the moral capacity to a) serve on juries, b) serve as witnesses in legal proceedings, and c) hold public offices.”

    Do you, as a theist, agree with either or both of these propositions?

     
  18. the chaplain

    March 23, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    Ken:
    What do you mean by “an atheistic belief system?” Are you suggesting that god-belief, or lack thereof, is the initial premise of all belief systems? That this belief (or lack thereof) must be established before any further beliefs in a “system” can be articulated? If so, then I can only assume that you believe that atheists have no foundations for morality, apart from what they’ve inherited or absorbed from the good moral theists that surround them.

     
  19. The Exterminator

    March 23, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    ken:

    The statement was made that athiesm is “freedom from belief”.

    I said: An atheist is a person who does not believe in any gods. Obviously, a lack of belief (what I’d call a “freedom from belief”) is not a belief.

    But you used a common Fox news tactic and took the second sentence out of its context. Why didn’t you just delete a few words from the first sentence and claim that I said: An atheist is a person who does … believe in a… god?

    Educated people do not read words, phrases, sentences, and even paragraphs as discrete snippets without any relationship to their surroundings. Finding “context clues” is a reading strategy taught to third-graders. It should have been crystal clear to any literate person that the “freedom from belief” I referred to in the second sentence was a belief in “any gods” as specified in the first.

    Just to make myself clear, here’s a belief I do have: ken, I believe you like finding and distorting “sound-bites” much better than you like responding to an entire argument.

    Of course, you could snip out a few words there to make it look like I said:ken, I believe you.

    However, I don’t believe you’re that sneaky.

     
  20. ken

    March 23, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Wow! I have been enjoying spending the day with my children and grandchildren so I have gotten behind and am not sure if I can adequately catch up. I’ll try to respond to some of your more pointed questions:

    Philly,

    I began my thought with a clear definition for dogma – even if it was benign, I used THAT definition in my argument. If you want to expand or change the definition to better fit your argument, fine. But don’t change my argument be reassigning definition AFTER the comment was made.

    “First:”
    1. Define “atheistic thought”. “There is no god, therefore there is no creator, therefore there is no intrinsic value to human life other than what the current culture assigns it, and there is no ultimate purpose to human life beyond the relatively few years lived out on this earth.”
    2. Explain how it leads to desecrating life.
    I think if you reexamine my statement and context I did not claim that ALL atheistic thought leads to desecrating life; you asked for AN EXAMPLE as to how it COULD. I gave an example of a belief system that stems from atheistic thought, however I did not say that all atheists share the same beliefs.

    “Second, what you’re talking about is abortion of fetuses, not killing children.”
    IF your belief system does not believe that a human fetus is a human life that has intrinsic value, then I guess my example missed the mark for you. When then does human life gain intrinsic value, and what determines that intrinsic value?

    As for human desecration from athiestic belief systems, I can give other examples like the Stalins, Ceaucescus, Hoxas, Maos, etc. All of who began with an atheistic construct and used the authority and power of the state to enforce it against theistic communities. This is in modern history – my lifetime.

    Chaplain,

    (“I thought you had more respect for atheists than …” post)
    Please go back and carefully read the context of this statement. I was asked for an example. It would be like me asking you for an example of how white people desecrated African Americans and after you cite an example I take offense because I’m white. Come on!

    As for the two theistic practices you cited and asked about my position: I do not agree with either.

    (“What do you mean by “an atheistic belief system?” post)
    I already stated my construct beginning with core-convictions, not beliefs. In my world view construct I have defined beliefs as realities that are formed from core-convictions (I define this as something one is convinced of). I place beliefs in the category of opinions – some are very strong, but not immutable. From what I believe your more articulate representatives have taught me, atheists do not believe in absolutes beyond what science has proven. In my way of thinking, atheists then have nothing more to offer beyond science than opinions (this is not a statement of disrespect – although it may be a misperception on my part). Thus I summarize that their beliefs about humanity, purpose and values are all opinions. Is this true or not? I am not saying that atheists are immoral. I am asking, apart from the sources you named, on what basis do atheists establish morals outside of some kind of conviction?

    Exterminator,

    I try very intentionally not to be sneaky. I lay it out as honestly and as best I can. I did not intentionally separate the two sentences – but in hindsight I see I did. I admittedly confess that I am not as good at this as you are, but I keep trying. Perhaps when things get so complex that I start offending you, it may be time to back away. I really am not here to condemn people who hold differing views than I hold. I am reluctant to continue to go any deeper when that is perceived to be happening.

     
  21. parallelsidewalk

    March 23, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    Leaving the rest of this debate alone, which I assume is an ongoing thing, I don’t think Christians should be expected to forcibly denounce every dumb thing someone else who calls themselves a Christian does. Maybe confirm that they disagree with it, and that’s about it. When I was a Muslim (which I’m not any longer), I got tired of having to listen to people hold me personally responsible for every moron with a beard and kufi, and I’m sure most say, Green Party members, wouldn’t want to be blamed for Shining Path just because they’re all “leftists”.

     
  22. PhillyChief

    March 24, 2008 at 12:43 am

    I’d say you’re being deliberately provocative with your definition of dogma, Ken, and I’m not going to accept your definition and therefore not accept any usage of it in connection to atheism. There’s a very clear and well understood intent in using that word and you’re far from being dumb enough not to know that, so your outlining of your benign definition, I feel, is disingenuous. It reminds me of when I was in high school. We had a lot of Greeks in my school and you’d hear them call people “malakas”. When asked, they’d say it meant friend and they’d snicker. It took awhile before I learned what it really meant. Anyway, what you’re doing Ken feels like that. I feel like you’re calling me a malaka and telling me it means friend.

    And as been pointed out numerous times to you Ken, your examples like Stalin and Mao are not examples of atheistic belief systems anymore than they are examples of herbivore, trouser wearing, or heterosexual belief systems.

    I got news for you, there is no intrinsic value to human life, and no objective good and bad, and that’s true whether you believe in a god or not. Life has no intrinsic value simply because your god made it. That’s not inherent value. That’s assigned value, first from your god. Then you choose whether to go along with this assigned value or not. That’s two layers of subjectivity, first your god’s and then yours. That’s not true inherent value. As for good and bad, well once again it’s not objective but subjective, coming from your god, but now you have new questions. Does it really come from him, or is it truly objective? If the former, than anything he says is good has to be good, like dashing babies on rocks. If the latter, then he’s just a messenger and slave to the objective morality. As an atheist, I’m at least honest with myself and accept that value is subjective. Furthermore, I’m free to form my own opinions of value, and good and bad, without some yoke preventing me from considering certain groups of humans as equals and worthy of respect.

    Human life begins and ends with the mind, Ken. Obviously I’m no dualist. There’s no magic goodness responsible for my consciousness, and every study ever done supports that. So to answer your abortion question, thalamocortical connections start to form somewhere between 5-6 months which would be the first chance for any kind of thought to begin, however crude. Before that, it’s not a human life, imo. Even at this point, what it is is unclear and I of course place more value on the life that is, the mother’s, over the life that could be. So yes, your example “missed the mark” because you haven’t shown to me an example of atheism leading to desecrating human life. Surely though, if your hypothesis is true, you must have more examples than just that one, right? I mean, you weren’t making such a sweeping statement based solely on that, were you?

    Parallelsidewalk: When religious moderates don’t denounce the actions of extremists, it translates as acceptance and encourages the extremists. Maybe if they felt they didn’t have as much support for what they do, they might not do some of the things they do. Your silence allows them to believe they have more support than they really (I hope) have.

     
  23. PhillyChief

    March 24, 2008 at 7:39 am

    Sorry, I meant omnivore, not herbivore. Silly me.

     
  24. Ken

    March 24, 2008 at 9:21 am

    Philly,

    You don’t believe there is a God – I do. That has been established.
    I cannot prove there is a God, you cannot prove there isn’t (nor do you need to). That has been established.

    I respect your freedom to make that choice and have no intent to try to ‘convert you’ nor to mock the choices you make in life. I hope that has been established.

    My intent in dialoguing here is to gain a better understanding of atheism, (free-thought), and its positive contributions and not to argue over its abuses. This becomes very laborous because I seem to be asked to constantly to defend the abuses of Western Christendom or to defend God Himself. The abuses of Western Christendom are indefensible, and I, being a finite being cannot possibly defend an infinate God.

    I think this discussion has been pulled into an area where my intents are being misunderstood and my words are being construed as disrespectful. There is much I could say to respond to you, but I think It is better that I just let it lie.

     
  25. the chaplain

    March 24, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Ken:
    I respect your desire to let some of the more heated pieces of this exchange die right where they are. Wisdom often consists in knowing when to walk away. The only thing I want to respond to, because it is an excellent question that perplexes many religious believers (I’m going to take the opportunity you’ve provided to address a broader audience in addition to you), is this one:

    I summarize that [atheists'] beliefs about humanity, purpose and values are all opinions. Is this true or not? I am not saying that atheists are immoral. I am asking, apart from the sources you named, on what basis do atheists establish morals outside of some kind of conviction?

    Phillychief’s view, stated earlier in this thread, is that morals are subjective: “I’m at least honest with myself and accept that value is subjective.” As far as I can tell, that is a view shared by many atheists.

    My view departs from his in that I believe that moral values are objective, but not absolute. Humankind has existed for millions of years. In that time, people have tried countless forms of social organization, religious structures, legal systems, etc. Those of us who are alive today have accumulated the wisdom – and the baggage – of those cumulative experiences. Humans have learned, through trial and error – experimentation, if you will (however crude in form) – that some social structures are more beneficial than others, that some laws and regulations work to the good of a greater proportion of a given population than others, that some economic arrangements benefit a greater number of people than others, etc. We haven’t figured it all out yet. I suspect that this learning process will continue as long as humanity exists.

    The beauty of communication is that successive generations don’t have to keep re-inventing the wheel, in this case, the wheel of moral foundations. One generation can transmit what it learns to the next, so that the younger generation can avoid repeating the errors of its forbears and continue expanding our knowledge. Consequently, moral values are based on objective lessons learned in that oldest of educational institutions: the school of hard knocks. Moreover, since the circumstances in which humankind exists are constantly changing, some of these objective values can be adapted to fit with unforeseen realities. Thus, the values are objective, but not absolute.

     
  26. The Exterminator

    March 24, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    ken, you said: My intent in dialoguing here is to gain a better understanding of atheism, (free-thought), and its positive contributions and not to argue over its abuses.

    I’m beginning to doubt that. You’ve been told over and over that atheism is not a unitary worldview; it’s merely a rational attitude that prevents its possessors from getting sucked into the religious nonsense of majoritarian rulers. Since atheism is not, in and of itself, a specific philosophical stance, it hasn’t made any “contributions” (to what?), positive or negative. Nor can “atheism” be responsible for any “abuses.” There’s no single thread of atheistic thought that can be traced back to the mythical story of a freethinker’s sacrifice for the good of mankind, or a heathen’s descent from a mountain with a set of rules given to him (or her) by a superhuman egotist.

    You seem to want to shoehorn atheism into being an alternative to religion, albeit one that has a specific philosophy and that acts almost as if it’s a religion itself. But that’s not what atheism is. Atheism is more of an isn’t. It’s a freedom from religious beliefs, freedom from blind faith of any kind. And when I say that, I mean all forms of religion and blind faith, not limited solely to those that apply to the Abrahamic god. In that sense, communism is most definitely not an atheistic political philosophy because it insists on a blind faith in the state, or its leader, or “the people,” or the system itself.

    No atheist is accountable for the thinking of any other atheist. On the other hand, religionists who claim to be following the precepts of a specific god are accountable for the behavior of all those who also claim to be following the precepts of that same god. Why? Because such a god’s moral rules can be found in particular documents — in Christianity’s case, the bible. So any action by a Christian based on his or her interpretation of the bible reflects, in some way, on all other Christians who follow that same bible. The problem with a “holy” book like the bible is: It can’t be updated, amended, or clarified. It’s locked in because it’s a divine revelation. You’re stuck with it, the whole thing.

     
  27. PhillyChief

    March 24, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    Take from this then Ken that:

    1. Use of “dogma” in connection to atheism is provocative because your definition of the word is not a mainstream definition nor one atheists use

    2. Your assertion that Stalin, Mao and the usual suspects carted out as diabolical atheists acted diabolically due to their atheism will always be met with opposition because it’s incorrect. If you think you can prove your assertion, then by all means do so, but if you simply assert this you are provoking a fight.

    3. If you assert abortion = desecration of life and fetuses = human babies, chances are you will be laughed at, ignored, or corrected.

    What is TRULY laborious Ken, is dealing with the same old tired and incorrect theist arguments, from “man came from monkeys?” through “Stalin and Hitler…”, “limits to the 5 senses”, “you atheists believe in nothing”, to “atheists assert there is no god so you’re all faith based, too” and beyond. Now I can muster the patience to walk someone through why they’re wrong, assuming that this might be the first time they’ve ever heard what I’m about to say, but I know for a fact you have heard some of these before, mostly from me, both here and on JP’s blog. To continue to assert things after they’ve been dismissed, what motivates one to do such a thing? As a matter of fact, I specifically pointed out to you the involvement of the Russian church in instigating and aiding an armed revolt against the communists, prompted by their loss of wealth and status, and that THAT was largely responsible for how Stalin treated them afterwards. You even agreed with me! To now continue to trot out Stalin the way you have here I simply can’t fathom in light of that.

    And don’t pretend to walk away like we’re on equal ground and you’re simply tired and don’t pretend that your word choices and phrasing are simply innocent. Your assertions don’t hold water, your attempts to prove them have failed, and your reuse of prior refuted arguments is silly and smacks of insincerity. You keep saying you’re here just to dialogue, but how does asserting that atheism can lead to an ideology of desecrating human life and that Stalin acted out some atheist agenda become mere dialoguing, like some casual chat over tea and krumpets? Those are bold and provocative shots, and you’re not some dumb-dumb who can’t know that but on the off chance that you are, now you know.

    Chaplain: Are you saying that morals are an objective thing and that over time we’re coming closer and closer to discovering what they are, or are you saying that some of our subjective morality has been agreed upon and in place for so long that it’s become objective?

     
  28. the chaplain

    March 24, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    Phillychief asked: Are you saying that morals are an objective thing and that over time we’re coming closer and closer to discovering what they are, or are you saying that some of our subjective morality has been agreed upon and in place for so long that it’s become objective?

    I’m not 100% clear on this myself, as I’m still working through these issues. Probably more of the latter. At root, all values are subjective because they originate in the minds, needs and desires of human beings. They are not “out there” waiting to be discovered, which is one reason (maybe the only one?) why they’re not absolute.

    On the other hand, humankind has experimented with lots of ideas and found some to be more useful, just, or appealing in other ways, than others. These attributes can be objectively measured. For example, does a society benefit more when all of its members are free than it does when some portion of the population is enslaved? I think it can be objectively demonstrated in social, intellectual, artistic and economic terms (to name a few) that greater freedom is more beneficial to a society as a whole than slavery is. More freedom allows more people to bring their ideas to various marketplaces (not just economic ones). More freedom alleviates the need to quell social unrest, as opposed to having to keep slaves in line with various forms of “discipline.” And so on.

    In short, even though values originate in subjective minds, once they are put into open play between at least two individuals, they have the potential to become objective. Once we agree to try out a value, we can (and should) submit it to objective tests: do we both find it agreeable? does either one of us have suggestions for tweaking it? does it work fairly for both parties? These are all questions that can be settled objectively.

    In my mind, longevity in itself does not impute value on any thing or idea. I also don’t think “agreement” is achieved without some period, perhaps many periods, of testing and tweaking. In short, I don’t think value is either entirely subjective or objective, it’s both. I think the values that are more worthwhile and more widely held are being tested, tried and refined all the time and are, consequently, much more objective than we may realize.

    There are, of course, some values that are important to me, but not to you (perhaps taste in a particular musical style). These will likely remain more subjective than objective. That’s okay, because great social issues are not going to live or die because I like Bach and you (perhaps) don’t. The more that is at stake, such as social and political values (women’s rights, an uncorrupted, fair justice system, etc.), the more objectively grounded our values should be. I believe such grounding is possible and desirable (to throw in one of my values :) ).

     
  29. The Exterminator

    March 24, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    chappy & Philly:
    At some point, when the human brain is more fully investigated in the context of its evolutionary development, I think there may turn out to be certain moral values that are hard-wired into it.

    In the meantime, chappy, I’d be inclined to go along with Philly and say that — given our present knowledge — we have to think about values as if they’re subjective. I’m hopeful that the so-called “Golden Rule” in its negative aspect will turn out to be evolutionarily based, and I’d also be delighted if taboos against murdering and stealing were found to arise from a combination of chemicals common to all homo sapiens. But I have no problem with allowing that they’re subjective for now. Just as I have no problem asserting that Bach is better than rap.

     
  30. bullet

    March 25, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    I disagree with you, Ex. I’d be much happier with a set of morals that we learned through rational observation rather than instinctively developed. Our values ARE subjective; that’s what makes them so great. The FF’s could have based this nation on any sytem and picked one borne of rational philosophy, not ignorance, myth, greed or lust for power.

    As to the Philly and Chappy: Can subjective values ever become objective? If there is a set of universal truths out there (just like the unified field theory, I guess) we’re probably a long way from discovering it. Until then, I think we MUST consider our values, even those we believe hold up under totally objective reasoning, as subjective so as not to be unable to change or refine them.

    As a silly example: The <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prime_Directive”Prime Directive” is objective within its fictional context, but was developed subjectively through trial and error.

    Or I could be talking out of may ass. It’s been a long, frustrating day.

     
  31. bullet

    March 25, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Dammit!

    Prime Directive

    Too much editing!

     
  32. bullet

    March 25, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Also, those fuckers are nuts. I hope I never believe in anything strongly enough to nail myself to a tree. At least they aren’t doing it to someone else.

     

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 102 other followers

%d bloggers like this: