Friday, September 15, 2006

Respecting Islam?

Pope Benedict XVI recently made this remark quoting a 14th century Byzantine Emperor:

"He said, I quote, 'Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.'"

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14846353/
http://www.foxnews.com/
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,213930,00.html
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,213930,00.html
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,213779,00.html

Of course, the Islamic community is enraged - as expected. Unfortunately, if appears that the pope is backing down somewhat from his statement.

I can't help but to note the incredible differences between Islam and Christianity. Jesus said, "Turn the other cheek" and "Love your enemies." Jesus washed Judas' feet knowing that Judas was going to betray him. Jesus gave His life for the people who nailed Him to the cross, and prayed, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." Jesus taught us to be patient and kind. The Bible teaches us, "Be angry, but do not sin."

I don't see any of this in the Muslim response to the Pope's comments. Even if the Pope is wrong (which I don't think he is), any religious idea that would encourage this kind of response from the Muslim world is not worthy of respect. In fact, the response of the Muslim world seems to prove the Pope's point. Now, theoretically, it is possible that Mohammed was really a peaceful loving guy, and all these offended Muslims are simply in sin for responding to the Pope with such arrogance and anger and hatred, but from everything I have heard and read about Mohammed, he did spread his cult religion by the sword.

If we are going to establish a better world for our future, then we will have to examine closely the history of Islam, Islamic theology, and the life and message of Mohammed. If we are to have a better world, then Muslims are going to have to own up to the facts.

It seems to me - from my limited knowledge, that bin Laden and his terrorist network are most closely in line with the teachings of Mohammed than the modern secularized Muslim world is. Yet that doesn't stop the modern secularist Muslims (along with the rest of the secular world) from making such ignorant statements like, "Bin Laden is not a 'true Muslim'" and "True Islam is a good and tolerant religion." Essentially, modern secularists are trying to project modern secuarlist ideas onto Islam and then calling that true Islam. They are doing the same thing to Christianity. Projecting modern secular ideas onto Christian theology, calling it 'true Christianity' and then condemning orthodox Christians as "extremist fundamentalists." In other words, any Christian who believes that the Bible is the inspired, infallible, and authoritative Word of God and who also knows how to use syllogisms in debate, these are not true Christians.

The difference of course between Christian fundamentalism and Islamic fundamentalism is that Christian fundamentalists believe and practice the truth, and the truth is good and right. Islamic fundamentalists stay true to Mohammed, but Mohammed was a false prophet.

To be fair, much evil has been done in the name of Christianity. This is wrong. You'll be happy to know that Jesus was the most harsh with the prideful religious people - not the humble sinners.

Moderate Muslims need not to project modernity on to Islam; they need to renounce Islam. They need not embrace modernity or postmodernity either. They need to embrace Jesus Christ - the Son of God.

And they need to be able to have a conversation with those who think that Mohammed is a false prophet without becoming angry at those who proclaim truth.

I hear people disrespect Jesus Christ all the time. There is a place for holy anger; don't misunderstand me. But we should be quick to listen and slow to anger. And in our anger, we must not sin. So, when I hear people disrespect Jesus Christ, I calmly, proactively, patiently, and forcefully urge that person to repent. Meanwhile, I treat them with love and respect and kindness, trusting that the kindness of God leads toward repentance.

By the way... the doctrines of Islam that are in agreement with Christian theology are to be respected, revered, and obeyed. But the doctrines of Islam that disagree with Christian theology are damnable doctrines, and by believing them and practicing them, people practice evil in the name of religion.

Exalting God necessarily means disrespecting all doctrines that oppose Christianity.

I would love to have a Jesus vs Mohammed public debate with a Muslim.

Lay down the pride, people. You are really screwing up the world by holding on to your arrogant pride. "God abhors the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

39 Comments:

Blogger Dan said...

Correction:

I said, "Of course, the Islamic community is enraged - as expected."

This was brash and a sweeping generalization. I ask forgiveness from anyone who might have been offended. There are probably millions of Muslims who were not offended in the least by the popes'comments. And there were probably many more who are offended, but have not reacted with the same anger and resentment that many have.

So, I should have said, "A very loud and vocal portion of the Islamic community are enraged by the Pope's comments."

I also said, "I don't see any of this in the Muslim response to the Pope's comments. Even if the Pope is wrong (which I don't think he is), any religious idea that would encourage this kind of response from the Muslim world is not worthy of respect. In fact, the response of the Muslim world seems to prove the Pope's point."

Again, when I said, "the Muslim response" and "the Muslim world" I was generalizing. Again, forgive me. It was the respone of many Muslims, not necessarily the Muslim response or "the" response of the Muslim world - as if there are no divisions in the Muslim world.

Forgive me for these generalizations.

What I am interested in discussing is the gray area between the "moderate" Muslims and the "radical" Islamic terrorists. It seems like there is a huge gray area in between these factions. I mean, the leader of Iran condemns 9/11 (at least vocally) but calls for the destruction of Israel. Some Muslims believe that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, whereas other Muslims see Hezbollah as "freedom fighters." Some who see Hezbollah as freedom fighters love Osama bin Laden, and others hate him.

In all cases, any point of Islamic theology that disrespects orthodox Biblical Christianity is a heretical doctrine. Muslims need to turn to Jesus Christ.

11:59 AM  
Blogger elvis777 said...

Hey Dan,

The truth is all religions are insane.

Let's use our god gifted brain. You say that god enjoys himself forever. In the meantime the poor souls in hell are suffering forever. But god is all knowing so he should know how each soul is feeling in every moment. Not a nominal knowledge but a real concrete knowledge in the sense that he feels exactly what each soul is feeling. All the physical pain of each soul otherwise there would be something he really doesn't know. So he enjoys himself and all those in paradise and feels also all humanity's lives and all the souls in hell. So he is feeling both pain and pleasure at the same time. Crazy right ?

I know how you will respond: either 1) it is a mystery I don't know or 2) I don't have all the answers. So then why use your god gifted brain if you can't figure it out ? because religions are crazy, full of contradictions and most of all FALSE.

2:27 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Joe,

Do you ever enjoy yourself?

If you don't, you need some serious help.

You do? How could you? There is all kinds of suffering in the world! How could you have any joy or pleasure while people sin and suffer?

Every week during the early service at church, I help out in the church nursery. Sometimes babies cry. Sometimes they are crying because they are not getting something they want. So, they throw a temper tantrum. Do I quit enjoying myself because the baby is upset? That would be crazy.

If God was not a joyful and happy God, then He would be a very moody and unstable God - perhaps a depressed God. That God would hardly be worth worshipping or imitating.

God does get angry; He does have wrath. But deeper than that He experiences joy and love and fellowship in the Presence of the Trinity. In fact, that is why He gets angry at sin. Sin robs people of joy. Sure, perverted people get pleasure when they sin, but it is a perverted pleasure.

The joy of the LORD is our strength. We can not and will not deal with the problems of this world successfully if we lose sight of joy.

In the midst of all our struggles and problems, we can find joy and peace and love in God. How can you be full of love and anger at the same time? How can you be joyful and sad at the same time?

Human beings (created in God's image) do all the time. Since we love people, we hate that which destroys people. Since we enjoy fellowship and relationships with people, we become angry when terrorist thugs murder our fellow man.

In one sense, God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked; He desires that people would repent and believe. He desires to show people mercy and compassion, forgiveness and love. But in another sense, God's just wrath is fully satisfied when those who have continually rejected God receive their just penalty.

God looks out for the just. He will uphold their cause. He protects them. Nothing bad can happen to the redeemed of God without God letting it happen. In all things, He is working everything out for the good of those who love Him - who have been called according to His purpose.

The Pope is right. The world is way too secular. Having been secularized, people have become deaf to that call.

3:34 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

But _IS_ it wrong to spread religion by the sword?

Obviously-- I think so. But, in my experience, most Christians don't hate Mohammed because of his military role-- they just hate him because he's not Jesus.

For the Pope to use the "spreading through the sword" criticism against Islam seems quite hypocritical, given his predecessors' history of religous wars.

Similarly-- the hebrews spread their religion through the sword-- ancient judaism was a racist, sexist, genocidal religion-- modern islam looks like Gandi by comparison. And Christians seem to have no problem with THOSE religious wars.

Now it's true that Jesus didn't seem to do a lot of violence during his short career before being executed as a common criminal-- but many Christians believe that nonviolent side was just a transitory phase. He will return and do some serious killing soon. Lots of blood is spilled in Revelation-- so perhaps the Prince of Peace is amenable to the sword himself...

4:44 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Interesting article. Let's see how long the "rational discussion" lasts.

I understand why the Pope would say what he did, being that Islamist fanatics (as opposed to Muslims) identify jihad as waging war (constantly), so naturally that is what everyone else thinks of. However, there is a lesser jihad and a greater jihad. Lesser jihad becomes an obligation only when Islam itself is threatened; the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is a good example of this. (Terrifying day for me, by the way. I'm an atheist, but I never sympathized with the Soviet Union.) Greater jihad means the struggle against evil within oneself, and arguably that's not what suicide bombers are interested in! (They're not much into thinking about their own faults.)

(I know this because I know a lot about many religions, though I am not religious myself. I actually thought of getting a Master's of Religious Studies, but what would I do with it?)

Yes, the Gospels teach to "turn the other cheek," but I must ask, how many people actually do it? (When do I do it?) I think that verse gets invoked a lot by those who aren't turning the other cheek in an argument. ;-) In a similar sense, the "onward Christian soldiers" idea originally meant a war against evil, not against other human beings. This idea is similar to the "greater jihad."

I don't agree that Mohammed advanced only evil new ideas. Women--at first--had more rights under early Islam than they had under the pre-existing ruling elite of the Arabian penninsula and Persia (Notice that I am not including Greece/Egypt/Rome in this statement.) Mohammed himself married his own boss, a divorced older woman who became his first wife! At one time, many women under Islam had more rights to education, inheritance, ownership of property, and choice of husband than did European women. That changed with the Renaissance, and today, women under Islam have gone distinctly backward (except for Indonesia, which is an interesting case).

During the Middle Ages in Europe, Arabia was a beacon of learning and advancement. That's not true today! I would not have said what the Pope said; I would have said instead, "Though the West has some things to answer for, it's time for Muslims to take a stand against terrorism, suicide bombers, the oppression of women, and relentless bitching about what they don't like." Not everything is the fault of the United States. Israel is not the cause of all the problems that beset Muslim nations. They need to think about what they can build, for a change. I love Middle Eastern culture and history--naturally, being a belly dancer (Raqs al-Sharki), I'm sick of seeing dancers persecuted by Islamist nutjobs in Egypt and elsewhere, whereas it's taking off in the United States--and I'd like to see the Middle East join the rest of the world in education, social justice, and technology.

I'll never forget this quote from a man in Iran, during the 2000 New Year celebrations: "The whole world is celebrating, and here we sit finding things to be angry about." Yeah, that about sums it up.

I'm a bit long-winded, in case you haven't noticed.

6:31 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

Kristine, welcome to the party.

I too am an semi-atheist who spends far too much reading about religion. Not long ago, I applied to a bunch of seminaries in prepartion for being a catholic priest, but being quite clear in my essays that I was not catholic, or christian, or indeed, even religious--- but that I saw no reason that should stop me from fulfilling my duties as a priest. The results were quite humorous.

--
On the USSR invasion of Afghanistan: "Terrifying day for me, by the way. I'm an atheist, but I never sympathized with the Soviet Union."

Oh I totally sympathize with the Soviet Union. Such hope-- such beautiful rhetoric. They got Women's sufferage before the US did (which, I suppose, is easier when you don't actually have free elections). Not to mention-- they had the best national anthem in the history of the world. Plus-- that Gorbachev-- was he cuddly or WHAT?

What a pity it was all a lie.
--

But then, I suppose there are a lot of wonderful ideas that turn out to be lies. I'm looking at you, religious people. :)

12:03 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Kristine,

So nice of you to join the conversation. Welcome! And by no means do I find you "longwinded?" Have you seen the extent of the debates Marco, myself, and "Elvis" have had? ;)

I love debating for the sake of debate. However, there is more at stake here than the mere pleasure of debate. So, I seek to maintain a reverent attitude.

As for spreading religion by the sword...
Marco, you bring up the Old testament. This can get a little complicated, but hey, the wolrd situation is a little complicated.

I am not a pacifist. I believe that there is real evil in the world, and that in order to secure freedom in its truest sense (see again my blog about the nature of true freedom) and to secure justice, there is a time for war. But that war must be for the cause of justice.

Therefore, I maintain this stance... If we can't kill in the Name of God, we really have no business killing at all. Since God is real and just and righteous and holy, we are to do everything for His glory, in His Name, according to His ways. So, if we are to wage war at all, we should only do so if it is truly tue right thing to do. We should only do so if after doing our duty, we would be able to face God without shame for doing what we have done.

If we can't do that, then that is probably a good indication that the war is not just.

So, what constitutes a just war? Well, the ideology driving the war must be just. And as soon as we start talking about ideology, we are essentially talking about morality and justice. And as soon as we talk about morality and justice, we are necessarily talking about religion.

Remember my definition of religion (which by the way, to this point has gone unchallenged and therefore stands as the definition we will be using - if you don't like this definition, then I challenge you to come up with a better definition, and perhaps the majority of our debate will be over definitions).

Religion - A set of ideas, doctrines, beliefs, and values that command a certain measure of allegiance and respect.

So, unless soldiers in a war are fighting without any just cause, they are really waging a war over religion - according to the definition I have provided.

In the Old Testament, there were times when God commanded Israel to be agents of His just wrath. Looking back through history through the lens of distortion and secularism, without really knowing the fulness of the situation, it is easy to see why so many find this unjust. But I trust in the Bible and the God of the Bible. God commanded the Israelites into war because it was the just thing to do.

(And by the way, when Israel sinned, God often used the other nations to punish Israel for her sins - even when their motives were not just).

Many people are fans of Jesus, but not of the Old Testament. As previously discussed, this is not consistent, because Jesus endorsed the Old Testament and celebrated the Jewish Holidays (including Passoever and Hannukah). If you think about what those holidays are about, then you can clearly see that Jesus did not by any means redefine Jehovah of the Old Testament. Jesus is Jehovah.

But certainly I stand by this idea... If I can't wage war for the glory of God with authentic faith and confidence that by fighting I am establishing the justice and Shalom of God in the earth, then I can not wage war at all.

Kristine, you are certainly right in some respects. Many people (myself included) often are quick to call others to live according to the teachings of Christ, but very rarely look inwardly, and command ourselves to look into the teachings of Christ. True disciples of Christ preach first and foremost to themselves, and then to the world.

That's one of the reasons why it is good to be in fellowship with other people who will hold you accountable. We all have bind spots. One of the reasons for the church to exist is to provide accountability for one another. I have friends that I invite to hold me to account, and I have friends who have invited me and others to hold them to account. And I often have to resist pride and arrogance in my own heart. I often have to confront myself and command myself to receive correction from other people (my wife helps me out with this).

But on the other hand, I also know that the enemies of God will twist Christ's teachings and use that to pressure people to throw out their convictions. For example, some people will say, "Christ said, 'Turn the other cheek,' so you should admit that you are wrong." Well, when you are wrong, you should definately admit it. But there is nothing humble about throwing out godly convictions whenever those convictions get challenged. That's the sign of a coward, not a saint.

That's why I never apologize for the gospel. I apologize when I screw the gospel up. I apologize for my own sin. But I don't apologize for standing up for truth and righteousness.

On belly-dancing...
Do you do this as a hobby? Do you see it as an art form - kinda like ballet or other forms of dancing? I have no problem with belly dancing provided that it is not done in a lewd way. Anything that would intentionally tempt men to be unfaithful to their spouses would seem out of line. (Of course, some gals have this tough; all they have to do is walk by, and guys are being tempted). But that doesn't mean that I think that exposing your belly button is sin. Depending on how it is done, it seems like it could be a cool art form.

Well, blessings to you all.

12:23 AM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

But in endorsing the Old Testament wars, you prove my point-- you, like most Christians, have no problem with spreading religion at the point of a sword. You just want it to be YOUR religion that's spread, not Islam.

For example-- if we had the might to outlaw the practice of Islam in Iraq and to force, not the WORSHIP of Christ per se, but certainly the teaching Christian doctrine and laws in accordance with your beliefs-- wouldn't you have to support such a proposition (assuming, of course, we had the military might, which we don't).

That's what makes the Pope's specific criticism about Muhammed so ironic. People who live in stained glass houses shouldn't be throwing stone. Now, if Gandi wants to criticize Muhammed for his military conquests, that's one thing. But averaged over the course of the last 1500 years, Christians are no better on this than the Muslims are.
---

On Bellydancing-- it's SUCH a healthy activity, I don't even know where to start. I've known lots of women who got into Belly Dancing-- so many, in fact, that Kristine would be the SECOND atheistic minneapolian belly dancer I've talked to this week.

It seems to have a dramatically positive effect on womens' mental health, body image, etc. If I was a psychiatrist, I'd prescribe it all the time.

As for being lewd-- a little lewdness, now and then, is a good thing. If that lewdness causes someone to be tempted into infidelity-- well, the world is fraught with temptation, so it doesn't make much sense to try to de-temptify the world. Easier to put on slippers than to try to carpet the whole world.

In my experience, however, most bellydancers are closer to being librarians than they are to being strippers-- which is true of life in general. There seems to be 10 Mary Magdalenes for every Jezebel. Which is sort of a pity, actually, because I'd certainly rather have a stimulating conversation with a radical Thyatiran prophetess than have dinner with a guilt-ridden subservient partriarchy-worshipping five-shekel-'ho.

(This, of course, is reason #25, from my "Big Book of Why Marco's Probably Going to Hell)

2:03 AM  
Blogger elvis777 said...

Dan,

So you really didn't answer me. That is because if you really think about it you can only conclude that god can't possibly exist and that all religions are false. So follow this carefully.

God knows everything, therefore he knows exactly how everyone feels and all their physical sensations, pain/pleasure etc. If he didn't know even some minimum physical sensation of pain or pleasure in someone, if he didn't directly experience it exactly and completely, there would be some items (and important ones for that matter) that he really doesn't know. There would be things outside of him, that he doesn't know or feel or maybe even control.

So god sends the bad boy to hell. He must be feeling exactly all the pain, directly, physically, he must be experiencing exactly what the bad boy in hell is feeling, else he would be a minor god, just a god who vaguely knows that fire hurts but doesn't really know and can't have (or doesn't want ?) the direct experience. So god feels extreme pain forever, and the pain of all the millions in hell and at the same time all the pleasures of all in heaven and at the same time all our lives here on earth.

So how can you feel extreme PHYSICAL PAIN AND PLEASURE AT THE SAME TIME ? No way, without breaking the logical laws of contradiction. Either you are enjoying or you are suffering. You can't be both so this wacky god can't possibly exist.

Another deep contradiction is the fact that to really know a person god would have to be exactly that person, 100% exact without any further knowledge or powers. If he experiences a person's life but from the outside or with some other knowledge or power, HE CAN'T POSSIBLY EVER KNOW EXACTLY WHAT THAT PERSON FEELS AND REALLY IS. Once again he would be a minor god, or a false god, or a clown, or just a god who punishes but doesn't want to feel all the pain he furnishes. So god can't possibly exist, ALL RELIGIONS ARE FALSE.

5:56 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

"People who live in stained glass houses shouldn't be throwing stone."

While not a quote from Scripture, this is certainly a Scriptural principle. You make my point that the only way you can be right about anything is to borrow from God's truth and reason.

Joe,

No, sir. You're wrong about that. You're trying to put God into a box in which He won't fit. He can know everything without being subjected to eternal torture.

Hell is not just "a lake of fire." In hell, people are cast out of the presence of God forever. They experience no joy, no fellowship with God, no love. And for sinners that don't repent and believe, this is a just punishment. God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but His holiness is satisfied when stubborn unrepentant sinners finally experience their due penalty.

God is much bigger than the box in which you are trying to fit Him.

Marco,

In endorsing the OT Laws, I am endorsing inquiring of God and following God. I am saying that when we fight wars, it ought to be for the cause of justice. And of course, justice is all about ideas and reality. Justice is about epistemology and ethics.

Or are you a pacifist? Do you believe we should go to war - ever? If so, should it not be for the cause of justice? And when you fight for your ideas of justice, you are fighting for what you believe in - essentially you are fighting for your religion. You don't call it that; but see again my definition of religion - which stands because it has thus far been unchallenged.

I am not endorsing a bunch of redneck "Christian - not really" cowboys killing in the Name of God. I am saying we need to be wise and discerning. Our cause and our methods must always be just.

And of course I want the laws of Iraq to be just laws! That's what we ought to be fightig for - to establish justice.

In my idealistic vision for Iraq, I don't know that I would necessarily outlaw Islam. But the law would be based on Judeau-Christian principles. Muslims, atheists, etc would be welcome, but they would have to respect Christian law.

I have been to a couple different Christian colleges. Many Christian colleges don't require their students to be Christian, but the rules that govern the school are Christians. Christianity is encouraged, not oppressed. Anyone (Christian or not) that violates the rules are subject to various kinds of punishment. Anyone (Christian or not) that upholds the rules are rewarded. And non-believers have the opportunity to live in a Christian community. He is living in that "city set on a hill." He observes many authentic Christians. Many then embrace Christ because they see in Christians smoething real and authentic - a real concern about justice, a love of God, and a love of people.

As I have said earlier in another thread, I am essentially contending for Camelot.

Even though, I am not a Richard Gere fan, I recently watched "First Knight" and even though they really put their own twist on the story of Camelot, I thought it was a good flick.

I liked the themes and the dialogue between King Arthur and his enemy (I forgot his name). King Arthur was committed to justice and would pray the prayer that I've put up here several times since I've seen the movie (May God give us the wisdom the see the right; the will to choose it; and the strength to make it endure). King Arthur believed that there were moral absolutes set by God, that the law must be just and based on those moral absolutes, and that when people try to wreak havoc on a peaceful and just society, there is a peace that only comes on the other side of war. His enemy suggested that King Arthur's laws and King Arthur's God were tyrranical, that morals are not absolute, but that each culture decides for themselves what is right and wrong. That was the heart of the conflict. It was really a clash of religious ideologies: postmodern secular humanism vs Christian justice; tyranny under the guise of freedom vs. real freedom under just laws and under a just God.

You argue, "But we can't get everyone to agree about God." To which I say, "So..." We can't get everyone to agree anyway. That does not stop me from moving forward. We shouldn't check with everyone and get permission from everyone before we establish justice. Once we see the right, we ought to fight for the right.

We do need to make sure we can see straight. God help us.

What is so bad about the far left and the ACLU is that they don't want teachers in public schools to ask God for help. Oh, they can ask God for help on their own time, and they can silently ask God for help in the classroom. But they can not ask God for help out loud in the classroom. They must only advance the religion of secularism in the classroom.

Like I said, God help us. God help us, when those who ask for God's help do so only at their own peril.

Certainly in my vision for Iraq, all teachers would be encouraged to ask God for help.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

by the way Joe,

"All religions are false" is a religious idea. If you are right, then you are wrong. (in which case we are now in postmodernism). If you are wrong, then you are wrong. Either way, you are wrong.

This is one of those "Godel's Incompleteness Theorem" statements. Kinda like, "This statement is false."

7:56 AM  
Blogger elvis777 said...

Dan,

You are putting god in a smaller box, I am trying to put him in a larger box where he really knows everything, not just a nominal knowledge. And that means he must experience directly and for eternity all the pain of all those in hell otherwise he is a clown.

Of course you will say he can do it, he is capable of all etc. But you can't say it without breaking logic. So logic can be broken by god, then he doesn't follow any logic, you cannot depend on such an entity.

I think blind faith is wiser, it is uselss trying to use your brain on such a total contradictory clown.

8:49 AM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

Dan,

See, you get yourself into trouble when you decide to redefine religion so as to include ALL belief systems, rather than just applying to those belief systems that involve God, the supernatural, etc. In colloquial usage, atheism, humanism, libertarianism, etc are not usually considered "religions".

Now, if consider those philosophies to be substatially similar to religious belief that you want to call anytime anyone believes in anything to be a religion-- that's your perogative. It's a non-standard usage, and lots of people aren't going to understand what you mean, but, I understand what you mean, and that it stems from your concern that beliefs about, say "justice", are looked at differently than beliefs about the supernatural.
--

But you get yourself into trouble when you forget that you've redefined it, and that you are no longer speaking the same language as others.

For example-- you claim that Elvis's assertion that "All religions are false" is self-contradictory, because it's a religious idea. But of course, that's because you didn't translate it correctly. In Danlish, what he said is:

"All the belief systems that include a supernatural God are false"

This, of course, is NOT a self-contradictory idea.
----

Similarly, you claim that parts of the constitution are self-contradictory, because saying the govt will not "establish a religion" IS establishing a religion. But that's only because you forgot to translate from English to Danlish.

What presumably the authors and certainly the modern courts have held is that the government CAN promote some ideas (we can teach math, for example), but it cannot promote a belief in God. By all means, you can disagree with the wisdom of that policy, but it's not self-contradictory when the words have the conventional definitions.
--

This is why I hate so many of the 'definition based' arguments. Words have no meanings-- they just mean whatever we think they mean. They have no substance, they are just signposts-- a big finger pointing in a general direction.

I tend to think that there is no word that really means the exact same thing to two different people. When the contents of our brain are finally examined under a microscope, I think we will find that a word is like a snowflake-- no two peoples' version of that word are the same. If we're lucky, my version and your version are 'close enough for government work'.

The ancient greeks spent their lifetime debating "What _IS_ Excellence?" or "What _IS_ virtue?", as if their word for it (arete) has some one true meaning that could be discovered through sufficent detective work.

--

Furthermore, definitions are often used in a giant game of logical sleight-of-hand.

When a magician makes a coin in his left hand disappear, he distracts your attention and removes the coin. But he doesn't instantly reveal that the coin is gone-- he allows you to accept that the coin is still in his hand. And then, minutes later, after you've forgotten about the distraction, he slowly reveals that the coin has disappeared. For the audience, the illusion is amazing-- there WAS a coin in his hand just a few seconds ago, but now it's gone. In reality, the actual trick was done minutes ago.

Definition based logical arguments are like that. I introduce a definition that seems reasonable-enough at first glance. Then I do some deduction, and then I reveal to you, TA-da!, the magic has been done. Only after careful analysis do you realize that the real trick was done the moment you accepted my definition.

(granted, that makes it seem like the logician is being dis-ingenuous. Usually, they are being sincere, and are as fooled by their own magic trick as anyone else).

For example, take the Ontological Argument for the Existence of God-- which is by far MY favorite of the philosophical proofs of the existence of God.

Here it is:

1. God is the entity than which no greater entity can be conceived.
2. You understand "no greater entity can be conceived". It exists in your mind.
3. In your mind, there is something which no greater entity can be conceived.
4. Now, if there was something that existed only in your mind, it wouldn't be as great as something that existed in your mind AND in the real world.
5. So if the "no greater entity can be conceived" in your mind doesn't exist in reality, then I can conceive of a different entity that's even greater-- an entity that exists both in your mind and reality.
6. But the entity that exists in your mind is an entity which no greater entity can be conceived.
7. Therefore, the entity in your mind must also exist in reality.
8. Therefore, God exists.


In step 1, I tell you that God is the greatest possible being--- he is, "the entity than which no greater entity can be conceived."

It seems reasonable enough at first. After six very reasonable steps later, you're reached the conclusion that "God exists".

When I was in seventh grade, I read Anselm's version of the ontological argument, and when I got to the end, I was truly amazed, and felt like I'd just finished watching the greatest magic show in the universe.

The experience of reading it was very odd. "Step 1-- yeah, that's true. Step 2-- well OF COURSE that's true. Step 3-- duh. I'm amazed he even mentioned that step, it's so obvious", etc, etc, etc, all the way until you get to the just as obvious step 8, which is "Therefore God exists".

Now, since the ontological argument doesn't talk about, oh, the bible, or the creation of the universe, or indeed, ANYTHING other than pure logic. Now, if I somehow prove to you that I am the King of Siam without ever mentioning Kings, Siam, or myself, all the way until the very end-- you're going to be left with the impression that something fancy is going on. But what?

I read over it again, looking for which step was false. And then again. And then again.
--

Now, with the wisdom of study, I realize there there are three or four holes in the logic. But the day I first read it, i could find only one:

The defition used for God is not what most people regard as God. Many people would agree that God is "the greatest thing", but most people don't think that's ALL that God is. They think that God is, ofr example, an intelligent being outside the universe who created the universe who has prescribed moral laws, etc.

But we haven't even talked about any of that. Sure, we argued that "no greater entity can be conceived" exists, but maybe "the entity which no greater entity can be conceived" isn't a wise bearded man in the sky. Maybe the greatest thing in the world is true love. Or maybe it's a nice nice MLT... mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich where the mutton is nice and lean, and the tomato is ripe.

1:02 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

"Or are you a pacifist?"

Not exactly, but I think if I truly believed in a God-- if I _KNEW_ there was a God and a Heaven and I would be a pacifist. I'm always amazed that Christians aren't pacifists.

If there is a God and a heaven, then this is all just a very brief nightmare. A roller-coaster that's chaotic and stressful, but just hold on-- it'll be over momentarily, and then everything will be okay. If there is a heaven, then what does it matter if my enemies kill me. If there's a heaven, this is all just a big video game, and so what if I die? I'll just get to heaven all the sooner. This is just an infinitely short bad dream-- the sooner it's over, the better.

On the other hand, if we think there might not be a God, then we don't reckon time the same way, do we? This is all the time I'll ever have. My death won't be my liberation-- it will be my destruction.

In that situation-- the case for wars just got a lot better. Maybe pacifism is STILL the right answer-- in my heart, I hope it is, even if I personaly might not have the strength to live by it. But Jesus is SUCH a pacifist in the gospels-- dying himself rather than hurting others.

(Obviously, Jesus is a good deal bloodier in Revelation-- which is notable for being the only book in the Bible for which we can make a good case that the author may actually have been psychotic)

1:32 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Marco,

Yet again, you cause me to think. That's one of the many things that I love about you.

I do have a solid response forming in my mind, but I'm short for time right now. I don't want to just recklessly blurt this out. There is no hurry. I want to be careful and prudent in my response.

Till next time....

7:09 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Okay, I'm totally swamped with homework right now, so I'll just comment off-topic on the belly dancing.

(Sorry to take over the thread, Dan.)

There's such a misconception surrounding this, fed by television and movies, and before that, westerners who invented the "Dance of the 7 Veils" and all that rot. No, it's never meant to be lewd. It's not even meant primarily for a male audience.

Although that was certainly done by slaves (remember what I said about pre-Islamic culture?) and, after the English colonized Egypt, many dancers were also turned into prostitutes.

But no, especially in the Middle East, women dance with other women and men with other men at celebrations such as weddings. Usually if there's one performer for a mixed group she's a professional. When people actually see it live, they are often surprised at what it's really like. (My brother asked me, "So can you dance like the green woman on Star Trek?" Yuck. But when he saw me practice, he said, "That's really a subtle discipline.")

My favorite audience is children. They get it. This is all about family entertainment and innocent enchantment. I've been working on a routine in which I'm a caterpillar who turns into a butterfly, or I'm a mermaid, etc.

So I hope that answers your question. And I'd love to get into the weightier issues here (esp. Middle Eastern history) but I'm afraid that I have tons of homework!

10:27 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Marco / All,

You are correct when you say that I have "redefined" religion. Certainly, the way I defined it is not what the Founding Fathers meant when they wrote the Constitution. They certainly were taking my definition but along with some kind of phrase or clause that included God/gods/supernatural realm/etc.

Here is my response to this: One, morality and justice are essentially "religious" ideas - even as our Founding Fathers used the word "religion." Two, I don't much care what our Founding Fathers said or thought. Three, to base ideas about morality and justice purely on natural and secular philosophy is unfair, unwise, not right, and tyrannical. Let me expand on these ideas.

1. We "know" certain things in the natural world are "true" and "real" because we hold to certain philsophical presuppositions and beliefs. We have presupposed that our ability to discern truth and reality through empirical observation is trustworthy. It is worth noting that this presupposition precedes the conclusions at which we arrive after having used our senses to observe the world. It can be argued that such a postulate is essentially a "religious" postulate - even as our Founding Fathers used the word religion.

Furthermore, most of us (certainly our Founding Fathers were included in this) were convinced of the reality of moral codes, moral standards, some real right and wrong, justice, standards of decency and civility, whatever you want to call it. Whatever you call it, you can't "prove" that this moral law really exists - at least not empirically. You can't see it, hear it, touch it, taste it, or smell it. I'm talking about the standard itself - the code. Certainly you can see injustice when you see someone murdered in cold blood. And you can see civility when you see people giving gifts to one another during holidays. But as for the moral code itself, we know it is real, but that knowledge is not based on any empirical evidence whatsoever.

Our Founding Fathers said, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." While, the definition of "equal" can be debated, and the truth of this presupposition hinges on the said definition, this is certainly a religious postulate - even as our Founding Fathers would have used the word "religion." In the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, they referred to God and the blessings He has bestowed upon us several times. Much of what was written in the Constitution came from postulates assumed about God.

Anyway... all ideas concerning the reality of moral standards, justice, rights - these are essentially religious ideas. To base a Constitution on the idea that a just God has given us rights, and then to insist that no law would be passed which respects the establishment of religion ... that seems a little inconsistent and hypocritical. Something that can only be accomplished by politicians. This brings me to my second point....

2. I don't care much about what our Founding Fathers thought. I have mentioned this earlier. It is a great tragedy that so many people - in blind faith - have exalted the Founding Fathers in the place of God and have taken their words as gospel. It is almost as if they were incapable of making mistakes, and so of course, we ought to put complete faith and trust in the Constitution. To be fair, one of the wiser things our Founding Fathers recognized was their own human imperfections. Thus they set up a way for the Constitution to be amended, but that is no easy task. Meanwhile, in a sense, the Constitution is the "American 'Enlightenment' Bible" and is reered by most Americans as such. People take the words of the Founding Fathers as gospel. Very sad.

I, of course, start with the premise that the gospel should be taken as gospel, and that the word of our Founding fathers ought to be compared to the Word of God. For indeed, He is the authority on epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics. The existence of the moral code that presses down on us comes from the truth that we have been created in God's image. That is why we have dignity, and that is why our laws must protect our dignity. That's why torture is wrong, for example, and ought to be illegal, and anyone who disobeys that law should be brought to justice, and that swiftly.

3. To base ideas about morality and justice purely on natural and secular philosophy is unfair, unwise, not right, and tyrannical. For the government to embrace philsophical naturalism and to reject Christian theology is not in line with the pressupositions on which the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were based. It is also out of touch with reality. Plus there is no scientific evidence that supports the idea that philosophical naturalism is right and Christian theology is wrong. (That is, it hasn't been proven via the scientific method). Rather, it is simply a different (and really arbitrary) set of presuppositions that are being trusted. Philosophical naturalism may not be "religious" if you insist on the "supernatural" being part of the word "religious," but it certainly has many "religious-like" attributes. So, by embracing philosophical naturalism over Christian ideas of morality and law is, in a sense, choosing one "religion" over another. Both philosophies present a view of the world. They agree to a certain extent and disagree to a certain extent.

So the questions are, "Which is right? Which are true? Which are real?" All moral/judicial/political debates really boil down to these questions - questions involving epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics.

And thus, the First Amendment, to a large degree, is patronizing nonsense. Furthermore, most people live in such a way that reveals that they don't "deeply respect" the First Amendment - they just don't admit it. But when you talk about taking away a child from their parent because the parent was preventing their kids from being vaccinated due to religious convictions, you are not really protecting "religious freedom." If people are only free to practice their religion, as long as they get an okay from you, then to say that they have freedom of religion is patronizing. When my faith tells me that all my money belongs to God, and then you vote to raise taxes to advance idolatrous secular humanistic ideas in public schools, you are really patronizing me when you say that you are all about defending my "religious liberty." When Christian teachers in public schools are not allowed to publicly and conspicuously acknowledge the God who has given us life, liberty, and happiness, and then to assert that you are all about protecting "religious liberty," you are patronizing us.

The real bottom line is this: We have been created in God's image - and therefore with tremendous dignity. He loves us. Our sin has separated us from God. God sent His Son to die on the cross for us, so we can be redeemed. Everyone who repents and believes will be forgiven and granted abundant and eternal life with God. Everyone who rejects God is under a curse. God has commanded all nations to believe and obey Him and to labor for the establishment of justice. To not believe God is to treat God with contempt. It is sinful. I can say this only because I know that God is real, and He rewards those who diligently seek Him.

Marco, we really ought to get together for a cup of coffee some time. Well, I don't drink coffee, but maybe I can half one of those Barnes and Nobles croissants or something. I should very much enjoy meeting you in the flesh.

God bless you all, my friends.

5:54 AM  
Blogger The Science Pundit said...

"The difference of course between Christian fundamentalism and Islamic fundamentalism is that Christian fundamentalists believe and practice the truth, and the truth is good and right. Islamic fundamentalists stay true to Mohammed, but Mohammed was a false prophet.
"


Was that meant as parody, or do you actually believe that?

1:28 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Preceding this...

Lay down the pride, people. You are really screwing up the world by holding on to your arrogant pride. "God abhors the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

...with this...

I would love to have a Jesus vs Mohammed public debate with a Muslim.

...strikes me as somewhat problematic. Hypocritical, even.

The Pope is right. The world is way too secular. Having been secularized, people have become deaf to that call.

The list of the world's most secular nations corresponds very strongly with the lists of the world's most economically successful, most politically stable, most free, and most "happy" nations. The other ends of those lists correspond very closely, too.

As such, I fail to see why secularism is a Bad Thing™.

3:44 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I mean that, but I should say, "One of the differences..."

We can get into all kinds of details about the differences. But I think that it is quite ironic that secularists don't recognize how "fundamentalist" they are in their beliefs and ideas.

Not all fundamentalism is bad. Indeed, before we say anything good, bad, or indifferent about "fundamentalism," it might be worth defining.

As a "Christian fundamentalist" I believe that things like murder and rape are wrong - because God Almighty says so. If anyone would like to compare me to Osama bin Laden because of that, then that person has chosen the path of foolishness.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Note that there are two different "dans" on this blog. It appears that you should be able to distinguish the difference between them quickly and readily.

3:50 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Dan,

You see it as "problematic" and "hypocritical" to challenge people to lay down their pride and then to challenge a Muslim to a theological debate?

Is it impossible for a Christian to debate theology with a Muslim (and enjoy the debate) without being proud? Or would engaging in such a debate necessarily put me in the same camp with the "proud" and "hypocritical?"

Are you not making a judgment about me without even knowing me?

In the day in which we live, examining Christian and Islamic theology, comparing and contrasting the two, evaluating them both very carefully... that seems to be a wise and prudent thing to do.

I fail to see the problem and the hypocrisy. Call me blind ... if I am. But if you do, I would ask that you do so in a friendly manner as a friend, because you are convinced of something, and because you desire for me, your friend, to see "the light."

Peace to you, sir.

3:59 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

This is a bit of a tangent from this discussion, but...

If there were more pastors like my pastor...

More liberals would probably become conservatives and/or not be so alienated from Christ;

More conservatives and/or Christians would enjoy their sex lives;

More homosexuals would be drawn to Christ, rather than repelled away from Christ.

Check out the Song of Solomon when you get a chance. Apparently, God is very interested in us enjoying our sexuality - to the horror of some "fundamentalists."

...

I think, at some point, I'm going to put a list together of all the things I hate about "Christian fundamentalists," and then expose how those things are not really "Christian."

As I do, I may end up being cut to the heart, which will probably be a good thing. God is in the business of performing "heart surgery."

4:49 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

You see it as "problematic" and "hypocritical" to challenge people to lay down their pride and then to challenge a Muslim to a theological debate?

No, I see it as problematic and hypocritical to challenge people to lay down their pride after saying things like "any point of Islamic theology that disrespects orthodox Biblical Christianity is a heretical doctrine. Muslims need to turn to Jesus Christ" and "moderate Muslims need not to project modernity on to Islam; they need to renounce Islam. They need not embrace modernity or postmodernity either. They need to embrace Jesus Christ - the Son of God" and "they need to be able to have a conversation with those who think that Mohammed is a false prophet without becoming angry at those who proclaim truth" and "the doctrines of Islam that disagree with Christian theology are damnable doctrines, and by believing them and practicing them, people practice evil in the name of religion."

None of these statements strike me as being particularly humble. In fact, they're all quite arrogant in both tone and content, not to mention virtually indistinguishable from the rhetoric that comes out of the mouths of your Muslim counterparts. All you have to do is swap the terminology.

Here's the point: politeness does not equal humility. Friendliness doesn't mean you're not arrogant. It just means you're good at dissembling.

Personally, I think humility is overrated anyway, but then again, so is religion.

Are you not making a judgment about me without even knowing me?

I can only judge you by what you say, so unless what you say is a poor representation of who you are, this question has no meaning.

5:51 PM  
Blogger breakerslion said...

Hi. Just checking in to let you know that I checked out your blog, this post, and the comments. This is a very interesting discussion. As an athiest, my first inclination is to say "pass" in lieu of expressing an opinion.

Let me be clear on this: I cannot respect your beliefs. I belive that they are man-made, for a variety of self-serving purposes. This does not mean that I need to challenge your beliefs particularly, nor does it mean that I cannot respect you. I prefer to judge individuals on the resultant behavior. If your beliefs help you to be ethical, and motivate you to better yourself, and give you a sense of security, fine. You're happy; I'm happy. If your beliefs motivate you to shoot an abortion doctor or blow up a building, you're an asshole and I'm not happy.

I could go on and on about the convenient "whipsaw" contradictions found in most major religions, but that would just take this thread in another direction. The classic example in Christianity is "an eye for an eye" contrasted with "turn the other cheek". I am familiar with most of the apologies/excuses for this and others. In my world, this is used to guide the flock in whatever direction is required by the leadership. Think, "trampling out vintages" when deemed appropriate.

To my way of thinking, you have been sold a comic-book universe by a group of people who are either hucksters, or ones who have themselves been sold a bill of goods by the god-by-proxy shaman/preacher/priest class.

On the other hand, on first impression, you are a kind person who would make a good neighbor. I would also make every effort to be a good neighbor to you. What more can one reasonably ask of another?

8:34 PM  
Blogger breakerslion said...

Apologies for the missing letters that I did not catch. New keyboard, stiffer action.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Okay...

First of all, a couple ground rules.

I'm going to request from all of us that we refrain from using foul language on this blog.

I'm also requesting from all of us that we maintain an ethic of kindness and respect for the personhood of the people we are debating (although we may not respect their ideas). Since we are all created in God's image, we all have dignity, and we all ought to treat each other with the proper respect.

At times during these kinds of debates, we may fail, and grace and mercy will be given to people. But I am requesting that we make this a serious goal.

As for the ideas of people, they are to be respected only if they are worthy of respect. The tricky thing here is this: We are all right; just ask us. So, how can we create an environment where a free exchange of ideas is welcome, and yet where the good ideas are given their proper respect?

This leads to my third "rule" which is really a "guideline." If in the course of a debate, we come across an idea that causes us to reconsider our ideas and beliefs, and we deal with the idea and ourselves and our attitudes honestly, and we become convinced of the new idea, and that idea demands a certain change of attitude and lifestyle... that we would all be open to this, and that we would do our best to begin to change.

Otherwise, the debate is merely a foolish argument - and while I enjoy a good debate for the sake of debate - the wisdom of the Bible commands us to avoid foolish arguments with people who just want to argue and are not interested in seeking truth or growth. And that ethic will be a guideline on this blog.

If you would make it a goal to commit to these ethics on this blog, then you are welcome here. But if you aren't, then you are not welcome here. If not, I am asking you to leave.

dan,
you said, "None of these statements strike me as being particularly humble. In fact, they're all quite arrogant in both tone and content...."

On tone...
I place a high value on truth. I have always been of the opinion, even before I was a Christian, that if someone is telling me the truth, and if it will help me, then the tone is not so important. I remember in high school, playing on a recreational basketball team, and we had a coach who was a mean cus. Most of the guys hated him. I didn't mind him, because he made us a better team. A coach's first priority is to coach, not to cheerlead.

And since I'm that way, I kinda expect other people to be that way too. However, the truth is that tone does matter. I often speak and write the way I do, because I see our culture as one in which people have very little tolerance for truth, and slick, politically correct rhetoric rules - even if the truth is not contained in the rhetoric. I have more respect for people who simply speak truth.

But tone does matter. As I attempted to consider my words from your point of view, I can see why you would consider my tone to be very arrogant. And in truth, I could have made the same point in a more positive and humble tone.

So, I apologize for my tone. Please forgive me.

And now, I shall seek to defend the content in a positive and humble tone ... God help me.

The truth is that the content of those statements are logical if you presuppose that the Bible is the truth. I would point out again that all the Islamic ideas and doctrines that are in agreement with Christian dogma are great ideas and deserve full respect and allegiance.

It is impossible (and undesirable) to render real respect to two contradictory ideas. People who say that they do that are really patronizing you and are really staying on the surface of things.

So, if idea A says, "Love your neighbor" and idea B says, "Hate your neighbor," you can't respect and/or celebrate both ideas simultaneously. To love your neighbor is to disrespect the creed that says that thou neighbor must be hated.

And rightfully so, such a creed is not worthy of respect.

So, Christianity asserts that we are all sinners and that we deserve the wrath of God because of our sin, but that God provided a way of salvation by sending His Son to die on the cross for us - the just for the unjust. I plead with you to really consider this mesage. Jesus loves us so much. He came and died for you and for me. We are sinners; God is holy. He can not and will not stand for sin in His presence. His holiness compels Him to pour out His wrath on us. But the great news is that He is merciful and kind - that by the cross - He has justified those who have faith in Jesus. He has not abandoned His justice in favor of mercy. He has justly given us mercy and His righteousness. That all who would believe in Christ would be saved.

We can only be saved, forgiven, cleansed, made righteous, and redeemed through the blood of Christ. Christ died and rose from the dead - therefore defeating sin and death for us, that we can be forgiven.

Islam asserts that Jesus is not the Son of God. They have totally rejected the doctrine of justification by faith. And so Islam asserts that salvation is something to be achieved by works of some kind - something to be earned. Christianity asserts that there is nothing we can do to make up for our sins. We are spiritually/morally bankrupt and indebted to God. It is impossible for us to pay our debt. But Jesus Christ paid the debt for us. Islam says, that Jesus Christ did not pay the debt for us, that each person must work real hard and then hope that Allah decides that we did good enought to earn his mercy. The whole idea of earning mercy is a twisted concept.

And therefore, while it is true that Islam preaches some good virtues, at its center, they reject orthodox Christianity and is therefore a heretical religion. However, that does not mean that I endorse hating Muslims. I endorse loving Muslims, developing relationships with Muslims, and gently speaking the truth of the gospel in love to Muslims - in the hope that they could experience the grace, mercy, and love of God - and escape the coming wrath.

See, the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. My goal is not so much to "expose heresy," but to exalt God. The gospel is beautiful and true, and I speak out against Islam and other heresies, because the heresies go against God. God is awesome and loving and merciful. Heresies that describe God inaccurately should be exposed, so that a right description of God might be made known.

And let me say this to all the unbelievers viewing this. God is Sovereign. God is Sovereign over all events in the world. He is Sovereign over all of history. He is Sovereign over your life and your salvation. God has predestined people to believe. He works out all things for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Why is secularism "bad?" Well, I'm not going to give you a secular reason to reject secularism. That would be self-defeating. The reason why secularism is bad is because it doesn't glorify God, and God is real, and has commanded you to worship Him. Those who has predestined, He has called; those He has called, He justified; those He has justified, He has glorified. And so, if God is for us, who can be against us?

So, believe it or not, I sleep peacefully at night knowing that God loves you, that He is just and merciful, and that He is in control. And if today, you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts. For by hardening your heart, you become deaf to the call of God. If you continually reject God, eventually God will give you over to your own desires. Let me just warn you: You don't want God to do that.

8:11 AM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

"morality and justice are essentially "religious" ideas"

Well, you have a belief that anything that isn't nihilism is a religion. But you know, there are a lot of belief systems that just don't have one of the defining qualities of relgion: an complete inability for people to agree.

Now, if I did a survey about, say, murder, among the worlds people, I expect that 99.99% of the world population would accept the wrongness of simple murder. So, the basic of 'justice' are not disputed-- everyone from hammurabi on down has agreed with the basic principles of justice.

Science is similar. At the cutting edge, scientists disagree about the details, but these disputes get resolved, and once sufficent data has been obtained, all of science can agree. What's the difference between Hydrogen and Helium? What's the circumference of the Earth? Why do volcanos erupt, etc? These used to be big questions, but now EVERY sane practitioner of science can agree on such things.

In contrast-- i might add that religion usually deals with no only the unknown, but also the unknowable. Religion has shown NO ability to reach consensus on absolutely anything. On matters of faith, we, as a society and a planet, are just not going to agree.

Humans can't agree. Societies can't agree. Christians can't agree. Even members of the same physical church can't agree-- they split and fork like crazy.

So, don't say science is a religion: Science can be proven or disproven-- if you find mammal fossils that predate the mesozoic, the whole world will change. In contrast, there isn't anything I could ever say, do, or show you that would disprove your religious beliefs.

I can show you evidence that the bible is wrong. I can show you tons of evidence. The world doesnt' appear to be six thousand years old. It doesn't appear that all the living creatures were created in a week. Noah's ark, as it's traditioanlly told, certainly seems to be false-- there is no sign of any worldwide flood at any time since humans have existed. The gospels contradict each other about thousands of details, yet, to you, this does not disprove your assertion that it is the 'word of God'. The Gospel of Mark misquotes the old testament constantly-- the author gets his historical facts wrong. On and on and on.

It's never enough. There is no amount of evidence I could possibly show you that would disprove religon. The same is true for all the other religions running around.

So, the distinction between "morality, justice, science" and religion isn't as arbitrary as it might seem. The analogy of the upstairs -vs- downstairs that you love is accurate here.

After six thousands year of world history full of people arguing non-stop over religion, repressing each other, killing each other, etc, the founding fathers did essentially say "Fine-- look. You kids go play upstairs. If you can't stop fighting about this, then at least fight about it in your homes and your churches and your private meetings-- but no more using laws and militaries and government and schools as tools in this battle over what can never be decided on.

Now, I know that you, as a person deeply embedded in religion, see this as a religious war-- the religion of science dominating over your religion. We don't see it this way, of course-- explicitly DENYING religion in a public school, for example, would be just as wrong as explicity promoting it. We're really not trying to push a religious point of view-- we're trying to say "it's not a public school's place to have this conversation".

But, I know this looks to you like my 'religion' oppressing yours, by even making ANY decision at all. By even not talking about religion, the claim is made that this very act is and of itself promoting a 'religion'. I disagree with this claim, because I think there are some real differences between religion and "science, math, and a basic undertanding of universal human morality".

But, let's suppose that you don't accept any difference whatsoever, but just see it as simple one religion oppressing another.

Very well-- but don't claim any moral superiorty here. Your theistic religion would repress all other beliefs if yours was in charge-- just like it did back in the middle ages when it WAS in charge. Just like the fundamentalist nations do now.

So, even if secular humanism is just a dominating religion-- we're much less repressive than you would be, given the chance. If the Southern Baptist Chuch ran the country, for example, Darwin would have been stoned to death, libraries would be illegal, women would be told to shut up-- "women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church." (1 Cor 14). If the Southern Baptist Church ran the country, the gays, the atheists, the muslims, and anyone else who wasn't sufficiently pious would be rounded up and shipped to concentration camps, where they couldn't infect people with their heresy and sin.

So don't criticize modern america for being repressive simply because we won't let public school teachers attack Islam and Buddhism and Judaism from their podiums. Don't criticize modern america because we believe that government should try its best not to establish a religion and impose it on the population. If Christianity were in power-- it wouldn't even try to be respectful of diverse beliefs. If Christainity were in power, we'd see what real repression is-- it wouldn't be a "could you please not talk about religion in public school", it would be "if I suspect you disagree with me one iota, you are a criminal". You call our system of government repressive merely because we refuse to repress ENOUGH.

5:05 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

"Marco, we really ought to get together for a cup of coffee some time."

Tis quite nice of you to issue such an invite. Sadly, I'm a good deal more reclusive than you might realize, and I must decline. But-- rest assured that if I were going to have a in the flesh conversation with someone I know only online, it would certainly be you. As is, however, I don't have very many in-the-flesh conversations at all these days, even with people I've known for years.

I'm also very, very different in person. I think you'd find it surprising, but I'm INTENSELY non-combative in person. When these sorts of topics come up in real life, I rarely if ever express an opinion. About the closest I get is asking questions that tend to lead people to consider issues I think might be helpful for them to consider-- I do that only rarely, and nine times out of ten, no one in the room is aware that i've even doe anything that could be indicative of an opinion.

5:19 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

The truth is that the content of those statements are logical if you presuppose that the Bible is the truth.

And therein lies the problem.

Spare me the patronizing credo. It's only convincing if you already believe every word of it.

The reason why secularism is bad is because it doesn't glorify God...

Does God not want us to be successful, stable, free and happy, then, or does He just not care? Because out here in the real world, there's an ironclad correlation between those things and entrenched secularism, and an equally strong disunion betwteen those things and entrenched religiosity.

The best possible example of a nation that has aggressively pursued religion over secularism is Iran. Great place, right? And in case you'd like to claim that Iran doesn't count as "religious" because they're Muslims, Poland, Romania and most of Central America are also ostensibly very godly places. Also great places, if you're into poverty, oppression and at least in Central America, the occasional roving death squad.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have places like Japan, France, Sweden, Austria, Holland, Norway and the UK. In terms of economic prosperity and quality of life, the differences should be immediately obvious.

A god who wants us to be happy, free and successful whether or not we believe in him seems far more Christian to me than one who just wants to be worshipped regardless of the (often detrimental) effect it has on our lives. And please don't try and tell me that they're one in the same, because it is axiomatic that "gloria in excelsis Deo" and "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" are and always have been mutually exclusive political philosophies.

5:43 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

If you continually reject God, eventually God will give you over to your own desires. Let me just warn you: You don't want God to do that.

OH NOES, God, PLEASE don't threaten me with a life of watching football, eating fabulous food, reading books about evolution, and having lots of sex with beautiful, large-breasted women.

I'm not sure if I'll be able to resist falling down at your feet in a state of mindless submission to authority, if that's my only alternative.

5:54 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Dan,

God cares about us very much. He sent His Son, so that we could be forgiven and have life - abundant and eternal. The glory of God is nothing less than the making the human heart fully alive.

And when people are in right relationship with God, this happens. When people live self-centered lives, they miss out on some of the richest blessings that could be theirs. But when people live God-centered lives - they find joy in serving others - and they become truly joyful and free.

But I would oppose a theocratic government, because such a government would not be truly theocratic (run by God), it would be a perversion of true theocracy.

I am simply pointing out that ... having seen the evil of perverted theocracies, America has swung like a pendulum to the other extreme. We are becoming more and more a postmodern/neopagan society.

God is not mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The day of judgment is coming. When you stand before God, you will remember reading these words. I just hope that that day will be a day of great joy for you, and not a day of terror and anguish.

Jesus loves you.

6:47 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Marco,

You know that I am an Old Earth creationist.

I believe the Young Earth creationists are misinterpreting that part of the Bible.

The reason why its so easy to agree about mathematics and most aspects of science is due to the fact that it is right there and plainly observed and the truth of physics doesn't cause us to become uncomfortable about our sin.

But when we start talking about morality and religion, there is great division because, people in their deceitful rebellious hearts have been given over to a depraved mind, so that they will not and can not recognize that which God has made plain to everyone. Morality and religion cuts to the heart. Furthermore, while it is very obvious that there are moral absolutes; there is no empirical evidence for these moral absolutes, so in a post-Enlightenment world, irreverent philosophers have managed to brainwash large portions of the world.

And everytime we willfully sin without repenting, our hearts become hardened, and we become more and more incapable of recognizing moral and spiritual truth.

The ACLU is extremely suppressive. Furthermore, they are suppressing all the wrong stuff. They are suppressing righteousness and justice.

Injustice should be suppressed, and in the Name of God, I do claim moral superiority, not because I'm better than you. I'm not. I'm a wretched sinner. But God has spoken through His word and His spirit and His people. And you suppress the propagation of the gospel, and yet support the tyrranical propagation of secular humanism. You have claimed the moral superiority. Who do you think you are?

Blessings, friend.

6:58 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

"You know that I am an Old Earth creationist. I believe the Young Earth creationists are misinterpreting that part of the Bible. "

But that makes my point exactly-- Religion is so disputed that no one can agree on anything. It's not fair to just pick one set of beliefs, call that the true one, and use the legal system to enforce it.

Or, if you prefer to look at it this way: that IS what should happen. Whichever religion is in power should use the authority of the state to propogate its beliefs. Unfortunately for you, your religion lost, and a 'religion' of secular humanism has taken over, and it is now using its dominance to ensure the rights of people to follow any religion they want. Just be glad it's that 'religion' that took over, and not Islam, Catholicism, or any of the other ten thousand christian religions that consider heresy a crime. Be glad that Secular Humanism runs the constitution, and you can say ANYTHING without being charged with a crime-- if your fellow christians ruled the world, you wouldn't have the opportunity to be an Old Earth creationist, or to disagree with the orthodoxy in any other way.

8:14 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Marco,
You are clearly concerned about tyrannical religious injustice.

I would stand with you against tyrannical religious injustice. When I talk about an ideal society; of course, such a society is a theocracy.

But if a sort of theocracy was established, I would rail against it, because I can almost guarantee you that the high officials in the government would propagate a heresey in the name of religion. And then the truly godly would be persecuted by that government.

But you secularists think that secularism just solves that problem. It doesn't. You also persecute the truly godly. You have some moral sense (since you were created in God's image), so you do a good job of not torturing people (unless you are unborn, you care nothing about them). But you also don't allow school teachers to acknowledge God publicly conspicuously.

So, no, I am not content. I will not be silent until the Justice and Shalom of God is established. And in truth, you are also very passionate in this debate, because you want justice and peace too. So, this is a very positive debate. We are discussing how to best establish justice and peace.

You see "secularism" as a sort of hedge of protection - a buffer zone that protects us from ungodly religious tyranny.

Secularism is very deceptive. Until God reveals His glory to you, you will remain deceived.

To be fair, some "secular" ideas are good. Ideas like "Racism is wrong" and "Protect the rights and the dignity of people." Those ideas, by the way, are Christian ideas. So, the only times when secularism is right is when secularism borrows from Christian theology.

"Religion is so disputed that no one can agree on anything. It's not fair to just pick one set of beliefs, call that the true one, and use the legal system to enforce it."

That's exactly what secular humanism does. A set of ideas and philosophies concerning "education" is decided upon, and then children are brainwashed to think in a certain "secular" way. And furthermore, if there is no God, then all this talk about "It's not fair..." makes no sense whatsoever. We would have no moral sense if there was no God and if we weren't created in His image. Justice has no meaning if we are not fully human - created in God's image. Thus, "it's not fair" is a religious argument. It is very strange to make an argument for secularism using a religious argument. You really should be a politician. They are great at doing that. See also our Founding Fathers.

"We hold these truths to be self evident - that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights...." And since we have a Creator who has given us rights, let's not let him interfere with our government. It is a very strange idea ... America is. If we didn't want God as the basis for our government, then they shouldn't have included Him in the Declaration of Independence. That shouldn't have referred to Him over and over again.

10:18 PM  
Blogger JanieBelle said...

Dan,

It's people like you that scare me.

11:32 PM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

I hear the argument, time and again, that morality could not exist without a God. It doesn't make much sense. It's like saying calculus couldn't exist without a God-- I find it hard to comprehend.

I can easily imagine a world, just like ours, that didnt have a god, or had an amoral god, or even an evil god. I often suspect we are living in such a universe.

Now, it's true-- if there's no God, it's harder to determine what morality may be, if you dont' have an all-powerful deity that you can let do all your moral thinking for you. But, I for one see no guarantee that God is moral-- certainly, a Satanic figure could create a universe and be God over it, and this still would not make him moral.

--

"But if a sort of theocracy was established, I would rail against it"

But how do you define what sort of theocracy you would rail against, aside from one that does exactly what you think it should do.

That's the whole problem with theocracies and dictatorships-- EVERYONE wants the government that will do exactly what they personally want it to do. (and I know, you claim that what you want just happens to be what God wants-- but so does everyone else).

So, on average, everyone ends up happier in a secular world, because here, everyone can be whatever religion they want. Any theocracy is going to make ONE person perfectly happy, and everyone else, the victims of their religious persecution.

--

"To be fair, some "secular" ideas are good. Ideas like "Racism is wrong" and "Protect the rights and the dignity of people." Those ideas, by the way, are Christian ideas."

Ha! Only because you define Christian to be "Things you personally agree with". Prior to 1960, Racism was a vital element in most christians lives-- it still is today in many christian sects. Sexism is still a Christian idea. And most christians don't want to protect the rights of all peoples-- certainly not my rights of free speech, free assemble, free press, and freedom to worship as I see fit.

They're not christian ideals. They're GOOD ideas that many christians now accept.

--

"But you also don't allow school teachers to acknowledge God publicly conspicuously. "

Of course I do. School teachers have the same rights as any other citizen-- they can say whatever they want after the school day is over, they can read any book they want, they and go to any church. In public school, they get paid not to talk about God. So does a doctor. So does a psychologist. So does a police officer. So does a waitress, or a convenience store clerk, or pretty much any employed person.

they also get paid not to talk about mohammed, or Buddha, or Communism. They are also being paid not to talk about their political affliliations, or their personal lives, or the childhood.

1:30 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

But Christianity demands that teachers teach to the glory of God. And you are not permitting that to happen.

Many "Christians" and those who claimed to be Christians have been and are racist. But Scripture clearly condemns racism. Scripture also condemns sexism. Scriptures insists that there are differences between the sexes, but that neither should look down on the other.

The Bible also commands us to stand up for the rights of the oppressed.

If a Christian teacher does not have the right to follow God's Spirit as she teaches, then those who would deny her that right are persecuting her for her faith.

At least call it what it is. "Freedom of religion, provided that I approve."

The thing is I really understand and appreciate your concern. So do most Christians. That's why we don't have a theocracy.

You fear a hypocritical Pharisee-like tyranny that would deprive you of your freedom. I have shown pretty clearly that if the First Amendment - if you examine the letter of the law - is a philosophical contradiction. If the Founding Fathers had anything in mind when they came up with the First Amendment, they wanted to protect the citizens of the United States from unjust Pharisee-like religious tyranny.

But they also wanted to protect the rights of authentic religious expression.

But the hardcore secularists have radicalized and killed the spirit of the First Amendment. Instead of using it to protect people from unjust religious tyranny, they are using instead to promote unjust secular tyranny, which as I pointed out is much like unjust religious tyranny. Both are godless. The purpose of the constitution is to preserve life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness - to secure blessings and freedom. But the hardcore leftist secularists - with all their lawyers and activists - in complete rebellion against God, have completely redefined the First Amendment. Our Founding Fathers were trying to get Protestants and Catholics, Puritans and Anglicans to all get along (and Jews as well). They would often open a session of Congress with prayer. They did include references to God in the Declaration and Constitution. They did have Enlightenment ideas in mind - but the ideas they had were that they were not going to allow America to go through the religious wars that Europe had.

But the ACLU and the modern secularists have radicalized this whole idea - trying to follow the letter of the law of the First Amendment - rather than the spirit of the law. So, they are trying to kill any public display of Christmas. They don't want any public manger scenes or crosses or any Christian symbols. Billboards that advertise alcohol and "Sex and the City" are okay, but a manger scene is not okay. The ACLU is a fascist organization imposing its radical secular vision on America - with religious fervor.

Secularism is a worldview.
Christianity is a worldview.

And we live in a country where freedom to worship God has been lost, and we are under secular tyranny.

I have spent quite a bit of time thinking and writing about a Utopian society. But in truth, Christianity is not about Utopia. What has made Christianity successful and culturally relevant throughout history has been the people's commitment to confession. The Christian community is no utopia; at our best, we are a confessing community - one where people actually call their sin, sin.

And when real people in the secular world actually call their sin, sin; then they are promoting an atmosphere of life and love. Those are the kind of people we want to govern this country. People who refuse to recognize their sin as sin - whether they are religious or secular - they are going to screw up our country in the name of religion or in the name of secularism.

7:22 AM  
Blogger MarcoConley said...

"But Christianity demands that teachers teach to the glory of God. And you are not permitting that to happen."

Nothing's stopping anyone from teaching Christianity. We're just respecting the right of children to go to a school where they have as school that is as close to respecting all religious as we can possible make it. When private school are outlawed-- THEN you've got something to be upset about.
--

"But the hardcore secularists have radicalized and killed the spirit of the First Amendment."

I prefer to think that "this nation has risen up and lived out the true meaning of its creeds". Certainly, in the 18th century, the 'rights' being protected were only those of white, protestant Christian, land-owning males.

"they wanted to protect the citizens of the United States from unjust Pharisee-like religious tyranny. "

And who among the christians ISN'T a Pharisee-like religious tyranny, if they became the leader of a theocracy that imposed their beliefs on others. What demonination shall we pick to head the new theocracy? Better make sure we make that choice correctly, because you won't get a chance to change your mind later.

Say what you will about our secular democracy, but at least we let people change their minds. You can say anything you want, you can organize, and if you can ever get two-thirds of the Congress and three-fourths of the legislatures to agree, you can do anything you want. A theocracy won't give you the same offer.

4:07 PM  

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