Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Origins of Moral Repugnance

A vehement argument about paganism vs. Christianity vs. atheism has raged in our comment sections for quite some time now. It pops up in almost every thread, on-topic and off-topic, and seems to be a major preoccupation of Gates of Vienna readers.

Homer’s conscienceWhen I refer to Christian morality, I don’t mean today’s deranged (post-) “Christian ethics” which Conservative Swede has so rightly pilloried, but the moral structure championed by Christianity while it was still a fully-functioning religion with a coherent moral philosophy. Those who are discontented with what Christianity brought might want to take a closer look at what it superseded.

“Morality” in this case does not refer to whether one should have sex before marriage or give alms to beggars, but concerns more atavistic human behaviors, whose absence we now take for granted as part of being civilized and humane. Outside of the most hard-core satanists, no modern Westerner seriously believes that human sacrifice or the ownership of people as property are morally acceptable.

But heathendom had no moral qualms about these and many other repugnant practices. One of the last pagan Norwegian kings — Håkon the Bad, if I remember rightly — sacrificed his seven-year-old son to Odin the day before a crucial battle in an attempt to guarantee victory. The boy’s mother may have strongly opposed her husband’s actions, and Håkon himself may have shed tears over his son’s demise, for all I know. But no one among the heathen Norse considered his actions morally wrong.

Christianity changed all that. Yes, I know that Christians bought and sold slaves for centuries after Europe was Christianized, but when slavery was eventually abolished, it was due to the activism of fervent Christians like William Wilberforce, who insisted that public practice be brought into conformance with avowed Christian belief.

The modern Western conscience is a legacy of Christianity and Judaism, even if it has become a vestigial free-floating artifact, a sort of terminate-and-stay-resident program that has remained active in Western cultural consciousness even as the religious impulse that spawned it decays and disappears. The Greeks and Romans gave us reason and public administration, but not our moral sense — that entered Europe with Christianity.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

The comments on last night’s post about the Vikings brought this topic up again. During the discussion, in reference to pre-Christian pagan practices, mace said: “There is much that is repugnant about Roman civilization, I’m not an uncritical admirer.”

This was my response:

I’ve no argument with you there.

However, there is an apparently unexamined historical premise that you and many other commenters ignore when discussing such matters: The capacity to feel “repugnance” about these hideous things is a gift from Christianity and Judaism.

Yes, Christians were (and are) serial hypocrites about their morality. Yes, Christians committed many, many crimes which their religion found morally objectionable.

But their sort of conscience — the conscience which they themselves violated when they committed what they considered to be sins — didn’t even exist in Europe until it was introduced by Christianity.

The actions which today’s atheists and secularists find “repugnant” possess that characteristic only because Christianity introduced the idea of their being repugnant. Before the Christian era, enslavement and mass rape and slaughter were something everyone on the receiving end wanted to avoid, but such acts were not freighted with any moral opprobrium. That was simply what invading and occupying armies always did.
- - - - - - - - -
The capacity to recognize most of what we consider immoral behavior as immoral was a gift from Christianity. To a believer, it was wrong in the eyes of God, and therefore immoral to do it.

Over the centuries such morality became internalized, until it represented the unthinking common ethical structure that all of today’s atheists, secularists, and neo-pagans have inherited. It is a gift to them from medieval European Christianity.

Pagan Europe — Greek, Roman, Celtic, and Nordic — simply did not feel distaste for most of what we find morally distasteful. This fact is amply attested by contemporary Greek and Roman writers.

To fail to recognize this and acknowledge it is evidence of an inability to examine and understand our history in any real depth. These things are demonstrably true, as evidenced by the historical record, despite any modern ideology which prompts us to believe otherwise.

Anyone who is nostalgic for pagan practices must accept the ethical legitimacy of human sacrifice, infanticide, slavery, and many other practices which modernity would find morally repugnant. You can’t pick and choose; it’s a package deal.

To invent a heathen belief system which does not include these factors is a fun game, but it has nothing to do with historical reality. That sort of paganism did not exist. It is imaginary.

Dallying in such fantasies may be emotionally gratifying, but it is intellectually shallow. The reality is more difficult to grapple with — but then, the truth is often hard to bear.

65 comments:

revereridesagain said...

Since my morality as an atheist is based on the same laws of nature referred to in the Declaration of Independence, I see no point in gratuitously accusing me of being amoral for no other reason than that I do not base my morality on the statements of Jesus.

However, it seems that people here are still willing to second-guess and disrespect heroic atheists such as Geert Wilders, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Bosch Fawstin, Edward Cline, Pat Condell, Wafa Sultan, and so many others. I can't presume speak for people such as the above, but for me this nonsense has gone far enough and I will no longer sanction this sort of condescending attitude based on supernaturalist wishful thinking and a childish fear of death.

So for the last time, no we do not need your baby jesus to construct a rational moral code. Your claim that the choice is paganism or christ is just plain silly and your placement of atheists and "secularists" on one side of morality and christian bible-thumpers on the other is irrational and insulting.

As Pat Condell frequently points out, trying to parse issues of dogma with supernaturalists is a waste of time. I'm too old to have that much time to waste.

It's been a slice. Bye.

Baron Bodissey said...

revereridesagain --

Since you've chosen to do a hit-and-run job here, I don't suppose you'll ever see this response. But here goes anyway...

If you think I am insisting on your choosing between Christ and paganism, you have failed to read closely what I said here.

I am describing the origins of the morality as followed by both you and me, as well as most of our readers. It comes from the same source, which is Christianity, even though some of us are Christians and some of us aren't.

As for your faith, or lack of it -- that is up to you, and I'm not attempting to impose anything on you. I don't proselytize; it's not in my nature.

Kairos said...

You are wrong about the "origin of morality", Baron. Despite the fact that Christianity brought up some ethical rules that were not known in pagan religion the medieval Christendom was a violent system built to control every last inch of the lives of the Fidels - like Islam is today. The secular enlightenment - I name Voltaire, Kant and Gallilei for example - has fought down the power of the christian clerus in centuries of struggle, many people who just did not think the way they should were killed. This is what Western civilisation is about. Church and State has to be divided!

As a private religion without political meaning Christendom may be your belief or not. But it can not work as medium for conversation.

The problem with Christian morality is: It is just for Christians. Atheists, Hindus, Muslims or Pagans can give a crap about what Jesus did or said or if he died or was reborn. Same thing with Mohamed or other prophets.

To argue about morality you need a moral standard that is above (or better: beneath) Gods and Idols: Something that is directly connected to man (like the "natural law" revereidesagain reffered to).

A secular ethic is the only thing that possibly can work to morally connect people from different cultures and religions.

Good thing is: Modern Christendom and the moral philosophy of enlightenment are in main points very similar (holiness of human life for example). But we must not forget, that our fathers had to tame Christendom to become a religion that respects personal liberty and does not longer claim political power.

EileenOCnnr said...

Did Christianity change the moral behaviors of Europeans, or did Europeans change in their nature first and then the type of Christianity that evolved in Europe became a reflection of those changes?

(Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Which comes first, nature or culture?)

Athos said...

Full agreement, Baron. Those who don't subscribe to biblical morals and ethos, yet who want the culture which grew from the same engage in that kind of shoddy thinking that stops short of conclusions/inferences of their argumentation.

Also, as others have observed, it only takes 2 or 3 (4 at most) generations of those who have abandoned or rejected the biblical ethos and morals to go thoroughly native; i.e., neo-pagan, replete with all paganism's symptomology (cf. all three posts).

Little wonder the sad old West is rapidly succumbing to the two-pronged attack of the Scimitar and neo-paganism. Alas.

Nilk said...

Revereridesagain, that would be the Laws of Nature and "Nature's Creator," in the Declaration of Independence wouldn't it?

It doesn't matter which way you slice it, the men who wrote your Declaration agreed that there was a Creator over all, or else they wouldn't have included reference to Him.

If you have unalienable rights, where do they come from?

And as for the Church not outlawing slavery, the Church did outlaw it, but as usual, people went their own way and disregarded the teachings.

If there is no higher authority, then who is to say that your way is correct?

It'd rather have a biblical God who declares that murder is unlawful and a sin, than one who says that it's a sin except for when it's not.

Who decides?

Fjordman said...

revereridesagain: Don't be such a crybaby. And who decided that the ADI contains laws of nature? The Declaration of Independence also states that all men are created equal, which is patently false.

Eileen: I really disagree with you if you believe that absolutely every single ideological shift is associated with a genetic shift. It doesn't work that way. Culture is a combination of genes plus ideas. Genes matter a great deal, yes, but ideas are still important.

Sol Ta Triane said...

Kairos

Christ did not teach a religion per se but a better philosophy of life for humanity. Read the parable The Good Samaritan and you will see that Jesus created what you call moral "secularism". He was explaining morality in secular terms. He was undermining intolerance and misplaced judgement.

Please take your time and try to know it's meaning.

The actual teaching of Christ sunk into society, greatly improving it. Yes, to a large degree Christ's message was distorted and became weird religion. But don't merely look at the flaws in Christianity if you want the whole picture. I'm bored by people who merely trash religion and haven't studied it deeply.

I appreciate calm agnostics like Fjordman who don't seem attracted to religion yet can see some societal benefit and don't see the need for the constant pot shots.

How about this challenge. Why not read the four brief Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John with and open mind, and contemplate whether these texts deranged or harmonized the minds of man. I say it has helped mankind greatly, but that's my opinion. I'm tolerant of opposing views.

Fjordman: Did you ever read The Overcontrol of Evolution in the Urantia Book. In Vedic view, everything came from God/Transcendental Mind. Why assume that genes create man's mind instead of Mind creating genes?

Félicie said...

Baron, what you have written is very compatible with the writings of Rene Girard. Have you read Girard? Girard's postulating the mechanism of mimetic congagion that leads to the act of so-called founding murder (human sacrifice) might have been the most important philosophical-anthopological discovery in the past 100 years. If you haven't Girard, I highly recommend him. I would propose to begin with "Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World." One of the central themes is the same one you are raising: why has Christianity made the practice of human sacrifice obsolete?

Félicie said...

P.S. Any idea of morality without a transcendent being to ground and enforce it is absurd.

mace said...

Baron,

The argument that without religious belief there is no morality was refuted by Classical philosophers long ago,in fact there is evidence that a moral sense is innate in those of us who aren't psychopaths.After all, the God of the Old Testament supported slavery,the massacre of the inhabitants of captured cities and the oppression of women.Different God from the one of the New Testament? Religious 'morality' is based on a system of rewards and punishments in the 'hereafter'- i.e.simple obedience to the wishes of some supernatural being as 'interpreted' by its servants (who were often were prepared to intervene on a sinner's behalf for a modest fee).Morality is the internalization of values, freely, as to the way we deal with others and the natural world. Some secular form of the 'Golden Rule' predates Christianity by many centuries,Confucianism is an significant example of such a system.

The Classical Greeks did consider the moral and ethical basis of slavery and the status of women see 'Greek Ways' by Bruce Thornton.
As to 'Christians' working to abolish slavery-there were many God-fearing,devout 'Christians' who believed that their God gave them dominion over the lower 'races'. Those moral imbeciles had absolutely no objection to slavery in the US or Apartheid in South Africa or recently have had no qualms about protecting pederast priests from justice.Therefore,some Christians are 'moral' and some are not.
Neither atheists nor the religious have necessarily any claims to superior moral systems of thought and behavior.

Baron Bodissey said...

Félicie --

Yes, I have read at least one piece by Girard. In fact, I had it in my mind while I was reading about the pagan Norse and human sacrifice.

kritisk_borger said...

I’m really not a big fan of debating Christianity/atheism on anti Islamic blogs as it takes the focus away from what’s really important here, but I’ll just make a quick note.

Baron said ...

“Anyone who is nostalgic for pagan practices must accept the ethical legitimacy of human sacrifice, infanticide, slavery, and many other practices which modernity would find morally repugnant. You can’t pick and choose; it’s a package deal.”

I’d say it’s the same thing goes with Christianity. You can’t conveniently push aside the eye for an eye doctrine of the Old Testament and all the other bad things which was perpetrated throughout history in the name of Christ. And you can’t only focus on the New Testament and solely what Jesus preached about love and forgiveness. You’ve got to include it all, the good and the bad.

When I make an overall assessment of Christianity I find it to be historically an intolerant religion. That however doesn’t mean that I deem all the practitioners of the religion today as intolerant (some still are) but when judging the religion through the actions of its practitioners up through history I’d say that it’s a fair statement to make.

Baron Bodissey said...

mace --

You have once again failed to read what I actually said.

The argument that without religious belief there is no morality...

I did not make that argument. Read it again. I said that pagan morality was different, and I used its acceptance of human sacrifice as an example of that.

I am not so crass as to think no morality existed in Europe before Christianity.

I also maintain that no atheistic morality has arisen that did not have its roots in religious morality. But that's a relatively trivial assertion, because until roughly 250 years ago there was no significant atheist community that could collectively develop an independent moral philosophy. All such philosophy had to stand on the shoulders of philosophers who believed in God -- there were no other precedents to use.

As to 'Christians' working to abolish slavery-there were many God-fearing,devout 'Christians' who believed that their God gave them dominion over the lower 'races'.

Yes, there were. But, as I mentioned, their behavior violated the morality that their own religion professed. That's why the opponents of slavery eventually won out.

It's no coincidence that the abolition of the slave trade by the British coincided with one of the "Great Awakenings" of Christian revival.

I don't think there's any point in my continuing to argue with you. What I'm saying and what you attempt to rebut are two different things.

We seem not to share a common intellectual vocabulary and syntax that would allow real communication to take place.

EscapeVelocity said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
EscapeVelocity said...

Christianity gives us more than morality. Its metaphysical construct is the foundation of our government systems. Another for example, is the idea of progressing from here to somewhere in the future, the linearity of time, as opposed to the Chinese and other constructs which are cyclical, based on the cyclical observations of nature. Both of these flow from Judaism, but they are European foundations because of Christianity. This linearity of time focuses the mind on working towards a future, and not just on the here and now. Building civilization, progressing in knowledge, built upon observations recorded and analyzed in the present and the past.

Just a couple to throw out there.

Robin Shadowes said...

Okie-dokie, so let's not bash christendom then since it has obviously offered us a fairly decent moral compass for us sinful beings to try to follow. One thing I don't mind to bash at all is those who represent Thy Holy Lord In The Heavens. I highly recommend a series of articles on the Nexus magazine about the corrupt popes throughout the ages. I checked the other day and they are still available for free although only in pdf format nowadays. Considering the recent debacle over pedophilia in the catholic church, not much has changed. Those pederast priests, bishops and cardinals obviously has a very damaged moral compass to boot.

Rocha said...

Christianity like everything else in the west has being deeply touched by cultural marxism. It's that diesise that's killing us not christianity. I do have a personal problem with all these sin thing and anti wealth moral that specially catholics do have. But i do see christianity as a very positive factor in the world. It's just that christianity plus cultural marxism is a killer poison.


@Baron,

Its funny to me how these neo-pagan are, with all that mumbo-jumbo about earth and the goddess. It's at least to me that did some reading on the Antiquity laughable.
Infanticide? Slavery? Why touch on these shaggy issues... Lets talk of occasional human sacrifice like the "Wicker Man"... Strangely enought all wiccas i found do not knew about it or run in circles like mad trying to excuse it...

mace said...

Baron,

Well,that gives me the last word,

'We seem not to share a common intellectual vocabulary and syntax that would allow true communication to take place'.No you're mistaken,we do,you just don't like what I write. I was wondering when that point would occur,I only seem to see such comments from believers.
I wasn't referring to pagan morality,you should read what I write,you're making a straw man argument and shifting your ground. I wrote religion is not necessary for morality and that religious 'morality' is not a moral system. No atheist in his right mind would publically reveal his lack of faith during the tyranny of the Catholic Church,all had to pay lip service to the prevailing doctrine or die.Much like the Islamic world today wasn't it.The Christian 'revival' was due to the external pressure of secular, Enlightenment, morality,which is, thankfully, still continuing, much to the irritation of the Catholic Church.

True,believers and atheists don't share the same universe,they live in theirs, atheists live in the real one.

I'm sure you're offended, however since there's no longer a chance of the Christian equivalent of a fatwa, I won't worry.It's not my fault that the Church has the appalling record that it has.
Finally,I don't care what people believe,including Moslems,as long as the state is secular,maintains its Western liberal values and is not captured by superstition. I realize that many people are psychologically predisposed to believe and can't use logic past a particular point. I should have known better than to argue with a religious person.

Trebuchet said...

I think much of the vehemence of the atheist now displayed toward those who profess a belief in a “Creator” could stem from the fact they recently lost one of their most respected leaders, Anthony Flew, to the Creationist. After 50 years at the forefront of atheist thought and as many years studying the evidence against a Creator; he finally came to the conclusion that the preponderance of evidence came down decidedly on the side of Creation. I really think this is what has led Dawkins, Hitchens and the like to become so overtly crabby, much like pub crawlers towards one of their mates who have suddenly been afflicted with sobriety. My suggestion to the atheist who purport to possess an open mind is to read Flews book “There is a God”. That is if you can muster the courage.

Dymphna said...

@Sol Ta Triane--

Re your suggestion that someone read the four books of the Xtian evangels for themselves, I have a further idea.

Thomas Jefferson edited those four books of the New Testament to please his own inclinations as a deist. He wasn't interested in the superstitious supernatural aspects of Xtiany but he was most impressed by Christ's philosophy. Thus he excised everything he believed was the accretion of later writers who had an axe to grind.

This describes how he did it and what content he saved from the original. His point was to prove that the principles espoused were of great value for anyone:

In an 1803 letter to Joseph Priestley, Jefferson states that he conceived the idea of writing his view of the "Christian System" in a conversation with Dr. Benjamin Rush during 1798–99. He proposes beginning with a review of the morals of the ancient philosophers, moving on to the ethics of the Jews, and concluding with the "principles of a pure deism" taught by Jesus, "omitting the question of his deity." ...

Jefferson used a razor to "cut and paste" so that:

There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man. I have performed this operation for my own use, by cutting verse by verse out of the printed book, and arranging the matter which is evidently his, and which is as easily distinguishable as diamonds in a dunghill. The result is an octavo of forty-six pages, of pure and unsophisticated doctrines...

The work he ended up retaining was printed and distributed to members of Congress. Jefferson's Bible is still in print today. It is a remarkable book.

America's founders were Deists, for the most part. They were not Christians -- at least those involved in the writing of our Constitution, Bill of Rights, etc. were Deists. I would include in that list Washington. Although he retained a pew in the local Episcopal church (no longer the Church of Virginia which was a mini-me of the C of E for some generations), Washington was a deist at most. Maybe even an agnostic about the whole matter.

Our founders were children of the Enlightenment, as such they were determined to live by sound philosophical principles. But none of them would have argued that their beloved principles were not derived from Christian and Jewish moral precepts.

The Enlightenment simply built a lateral branch of Christian ethics in order to avoid any whiff of theocracy. Deo gratias...

Dymphna said...

@ mace:

You say, among other things...

I wrote religion is not necessary for morality

Proving again that you missed the main point. The point is that our current ethics are derived from those systems which came before us, and Xtianity was one of the main pillars. Xtianity itself took Jewish moral reasoning plus Platonic and Aristotelian philosophical constructs in order to build its own system of first principles.

Whether or not these events were "necessary for morality" is not the issue. The point is that Western culture, as it presently stands, derived its moral code from Christian principles.

[Rocha is right when he says it has been contaminated with the Communist, socialist agenda that has degraded much of Western thought. That goes for Xtianity with its "liberation theology" and for western political thought with its Gramscian strain.]

Then you say:

I'm sure you're offended, however since there's no longer a chance of the Christian equivalent of a fatwa, I won't worry...

How can you presume to know another is offended when they've never told you so? You're jumping to conclusions that don't exist. You infer something that isn't there.

The Baron isn't offended by your remarks, he simply observes that you get mired in content repeatedly, while what he is attempting to discuss is process. The difference between content and process is crucial, yet you violate those boundaries in your remarks. Thus you continue to miss the point.

Your comment re not having to worry because "there's no longer a chance of the Christian equivalent of a fatwa" proves this point. No Western intellectual believes that living under a theocracy is a good idea. Your notion that he would (if he could) silence you by fatwa, is both a reductio ad absurdum and a personal attack.

===============

I don't care what people believe, including Moslems, as long as the state is secular, maintains its Western liberal values...

On that point we agree, but so what? It’s tangential to the main idea in his post. Once more, with feeling:

the modern secular state with its Western liberal values is historically and philosophically based on prior ideas espoused by Christian moral philosophy.

The problem the Baron has, and that I have, is the common refusal to look at the intellectual, philosophical history of the West. The a priori givens in much of mainstream Western moral philosophy is Christian-based, just as Christian ethics was derived from Jewish and Greek thought. As one example, EscapeVelocity used the linearity of time:

Both of these flow from Judaism, but they are European foundations because of Christianity.

He’s right: that idea is all through Ecclesiastes and the Psalms; it was at odds with the then-current cyclical cosmology.

But the pre-Socratics had grasped that concept, too. From a fragment of Heraclitus we have the notion that “one can’t step into the same river twice”. In the 20th century Whitehead would use this basic idea to formulate process philosophy (and Christian philosophers, e.g., Hartshorne, would borrow from Whitehead to decribe process theology).

The beat of history goes on and it's a process, mace.

4Symbols said...

In hoc signo vinces

Apologies for being lazy but every time this debate crops up on GoV these lyrics come to mind.

All that you touch
All that you see
All that you taste
All you feel.
All that you love
All that you hate
All you distrust
All you save.
All that you give
All that you deal
All that you buy,
beg, borrow or steal.
All you create
All you destroy
All that you do
All that you say.
All that you eat
And everyone you meet
All that you slight
And everyone you fight.
All that is now
All that is gone
All that's to come

Dymphna said...

@Trebuchet:

Heavens, I hadn't thought of Flew in a while. He sure caused many a flurry and flutter when he changed his mind about his long-held and stoutly-defended atheism. For his colleagues it seemed a personal abandonment.

Maverick Philosopher had an intermittent series of discussions on the philosophical consequences of Flew's ideas, iirc. However, every time I try to access his blog of late it times out.

Dogmatic atheists were aghast that one of the pillars of their faith upped and changed his mind. They accused him of, among other things, dementia. Ain't nothing' uglier than fisticuffs amongst philosophers.

At any rate, Flew's defection had several consequences. One was to fuel aggressive atheism with folks like Richard Dawkins & (of course) the New York Times going ballistic. How dare an emminent scholar, one at the very tippty-top of the academic heap, change his mind?

Well, at least Dawkins made some money on his beliefs, what with his aggressive book on atheism. It was not intellectually rigorous. It couldn't be since he had to talk to us hoi polloi rather than the upper reaches of the choir. He wore another rut in the road with the same arguments that people have been using since...oh, since Gregory of Anselm. Dick Dawkins was not an honest broker.

Here's a snip from Cranmer, back during the dust up:

...Ever keenly involved in politics, he [Flew] was an adviser to Margaret Thatcher, and during the Times’ magazine interview allegedly ‘spent far more time talking about the dangers of unchecked Muslim immigration and his embrace of the anti-E.U. United Kingdom Independence Party’.

And so the only conclusion must be that he is senile and demented.

Cranmer knows Antony Flew quite well; they have corresponded and conversed about life, the universe, and the EU, and Cranmer would simply like to state that this is not a man who suffers from dementia. If the Professor had converted to Roman Catholicism, it would have been hailed all over the world; if to Islam, it would have been portrayed as progressive; if to Buddhism, supreme enlightenment. But no, Antony Flew has discovered the simplicity of a faith in God and the enduring truths of the Jewish and Christian scriptures. There are no priests, no bells, no smells; just Anthony Flew and his Lord. And add to that his opposition to the EU, and his concern about the rise of Islamism
...

One of the commenters has a great joke--

I read a saying in the bhagavad gita: "How many lives must a man who loves god live before he reaches him? 7 lives. And how many lives must a man who hates god live before he reaches god? Just 3, because he thinks about him more.".

Hey, I just noticed something! The commenter was Homophobic Horse, who also visits here occasionally. Ol' HH reads the Bhagavad Gita? Life is full of pleasant surprises.
==================
4Symbols...(I always think of your nic as "For Cymbals". Makes a nice sound)

So where did you come up with those lyrics? I realize that this is a case where maybe it's obvious to everyone, but I lead a sheltered life...

...anyway, I like them. Who by?

S said...

I hate to jump in on this topic but I have to ask:


kritisk-borger
**I’d say it’s the same thing goes with Christianity. You can’t conveniently push aside the eye for an eye doctrine of the Old Testament and all the other bad things which was perpetrated throughout history in the name of Christ. And you can’t only focus on the New Testament and solely what Jesus preached about love and forgiveness. You’ve got to include it all, the good and the bad. **


Why can't you forget the old testament and only use the new for morality, the old only as history?
Isn't the New - the ways of Christ which a Christian looks to for guidance? The Old is the way of before Christ so therefore a Christian, which means they follow Christ, wouldn't look to, or shouldn't look to, the Old for guidance?

I am wondering because to me that only makes sense. After all Christ did push all that aside and started a new way. I'm not religious but curious about why you say that. Or why anyone says that.

4Symbols said...

Dymphna,

The lyrics are from Eclipse on Pink Floyd's album The Dark Side of the Moon.

I have also sounded the nic as "For Cymbals", read somewhere that cymbals were introduced to Europe as part of the war booty taken from the Turk's at the GoV.

Cymbals also have an interesting association with Christianity.

Kairos said...

I posted a longer answer in german and english on my own blog:

http://kairos.myblog.de/

Just scroll down until you see the english text.


And @ sal ta traine: Just because I have not your opinion it does not mean that I did not study the matter deeply. I am bored of religious people who declare that non- believers just do not know enough about their religion to join.

Dymphna said...

@ 4Symbols...

As I thought. If I'd just asked the Baron before asking he'd have given me the full story on the lyrics you posted.

Here's the lyrics by Roger Waters, as the B recalls them. Notice the last few lines --

All that you touch and all that you see
all that you taste, all you feel
and all that you love and all that you hate
all you distrust, all you save
and all thatyou give and all that you deal
and all that you buy, beg, borrow or steal
and all you create and all you destroy
and all that you do and all that you say
and all that you eat and everyone you meet
and all that you slight and everyone you fight
and all that is now and all that is gone
and all that's to come and everything under the sun is in tune
but the sun is eclipsed by the moon
.

He says that the song is about Barrett, after he developed schizophrenia, probably as a result of too much LSD (or rather, the LSD precipitated a latent schizophrenia.

Acc to Da B, "Eclipse" was the climax though, after this one:

Brain Damage

The lunatic is on the grass
The lunatic is on the grass
Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs
Got to keep the loonies on the path

The lunatic is in the hall
The lunatic is in my hall
The paper holds their folded faces to the floor
And everyday the paperboy brings more

And if the dam breaks open many years too soon
And if there is no room upon the hill
And if your head explodes with dark forebodings, too
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon

The lunatic is in my head
The lunatic is in my head
You raise the blade, you make the change
You re-arrange me 'til I'm sane
You lock the door and throw away the key
There's someone in my head, but it's not me

And if the cloud bursts thunder in your ear
You shout and no one seems to hear
And if the band you're in starts playing different tunes
I'll see you on the dark side of the moon


He also recited the whole of "Time", but I'll just do the snip that's relevant to this thread:

Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over,
Thought I'd something more to say
...

[Okay, homeschoolers. Tell your parents that today's history lesson from the Baron was Pink Floyd and the dangers of using hallucinogens. Dangerous if you're a latent schizophrenic, that is)

mace said...

Dymphna,

I was also originally discussing the contribution of the so-called Judeo-Christian tradition to Western values-in my opinion not as much as claimed.I thought that the discussion had moved on, and I'll concede that,after reflection, I've noticed that I went off at a tangent and used uncharacteristically intemperate language.
Late night and (prescription) drugs.

Conservative Swede said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Conservative Swede said...

Baron,

So you are saying that either we stay with Christian ethics or otherwise we are forced to engage in human sacrifice, or what is your point? I guess this sort of set-up is the only way to make staying with Christian ethics look like the desirable choice.

EscapeVelocity said...

Conservative Swede, we have an existing infrastructure. You wish to burn it to the ground, while essentially retaining its core values and morality, and build a new mythology on top of it, all the while Islam is making massive headway into your subjugation.

Im sorry, but that is just plain dumb, as far as strategy and tactics go. You just become another group battling to take the place of the old Christian Order. Muslim, Marxists/Socialists, Atheists, Neo-Pagans....they all want to destroy the old order and institute their new order on what is leftover.

EscapeVelocity said...

Islam and the Left are way stronger than any Neo Pagan movement, unless you envision some Hitlerian vision.

Baron Bodissey said...

Conservative Swede --

So you are saying that either we stay with Christian ethics or otherwise we are forced to engage in human sacrifice, or what is your point? I guess this sort of set-up is the only way to make staying with Christian ethics look like the desirable choice.

Not at all.

I am emphasizing that modern moral thought -- of which you are exemplary practitioner -- owes its origin to medieval Christianity.

The pitiful remnant of Christian moral philosophy which functions nowadays -- and which makes the Vatican insist that allowing in unlimited immigrants and taking care of them at state expense is a moral imperative -- is not up to the job.

But all of us who come to moral conclusions about what is wrong today, and what makes the behavior of our political leaders immoral and treasonous, are drawing on moral philosophy that was formed primarily through Christian theology, and not paganism (although paganism obviously played its part).

That's all I'm saying. It's good to look at where we've come from.

Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,
The maker's rage to order words of the sea,
Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,
And of ourselves and of our origins,
In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.


-- Wallace Stevens, from "The Idea of Order at Key West"

Conservative Swede said...

EV,

...and build a new mythology on top of it...

I think I'll leave to the Baron to answer whether the building of a new mythology is possible. Obviously you are taking the opposite position of the Baron here.

Regarding what else you write here and elsewhere, you are clearly hostile to any criticism of Christianity, which you describe as "hostile to Christianity". I get this sort of reaction also from other people who are overly allergic to criticism of their pet beliefs, and I have already answered it e.g. here. So no, it's simply not true what you say about me being "hostile to Christianity", "wishing to burn things to the ground", and the other slanders about me that you are systematically disseminating.

EscapeVelocity said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Baron Bodissey said...

EV --

That's enough. Read the rules.

Conservative Swede said...

Baron,

I am emphasizing that modern moral thought -- of which you are exemplary practitioner -- owes its origin to medieval Christianity.

First: Thanks for the compliment! And so are you, I'd say. Real morality is about consequence ethics, and we are pretty rare brothers in this domain. You stand for a good profound Germanic intellectual honesty.

However, no. My moral thinking does not owe its origins in the medieval Christianity, which can easily be shown and which I will come back to. Instead I see the introduction of Christianity, in spite of some upsides, as the first stage towards ethical rot.

However, before we get into that, let's examine what you have written:

Anyone who is nostalgic for pagan practices must accept the ethical legitimacy of human sacrifice, infanticide, slavery, and many other practices which modernity would find morally repugnant. You can’t pick and choose; it’s a package deal. (my emphasis)

You are simply wrong here. Surely the new (which I call "the revolutionary") religions, such as Christianity and Islam, are indeed package deals (in spite of their many other differences).

However, the traditional (organically evolved) polytheistic religions are not. Look at Hinduism for example. There is no core doctrine or simple formula to adhere to as in Christianity and Islam. Instead it's the thousands of years of collected Indian spiritual culture. It's not a package deal, it's a buffet; from which the Hindus pick and choose from their rich historical spiritual treasure. As explained by the excellent Indian commenter Thinklogic at Faithfreedom.org, a Hindu can be a polytheist, a monotheist or a atheist, and is still nevertheless as Hindu. Traditional Germanic, Roman and Greek polytheism belong in the same category.

The difference between traditional religions and new "package deal" religions, such as Christianity and Islam, is like the difference between natural languages and man-made languages (such as programming languages). Since religion is to people like the surrounding water is for the fish it's usually extremely hard to look beyond one's own premises. So for someone within a box of a man-made religion (perfect and simple as a programming language) it's hard to interpret the nature of an organically evolved religion.

Hinduism has a wide and varied collection of scriptures, the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, etc. It's a buffet to choose from. Same with the many goods. The idea of ignoring or dismissing a god is unthinkable for a doctrinal monotheist, but that's how it works in polytheism. People pick their favorite gods. The Shiva cult in Hinduism is effectively monotheistic. Buddhism, which is a branch of Hinduism, is of course atheistic spirituality.

Same with traditional Germanic religion. At the time of the change to Christianity, in the frozen image of Germanic polytheism communictaed to us under the label of "Asatru", Oden and Thor were the most popular gods, but before Njord and Ull had been more popular. Polytheism is flexible and always changing.

You suggest, Baron, that we "must accept the ethical legitimacy of human sacrifice, infanticide, slavery" if we'd replace an imported Middle Eastern god with our own ethnic gods. This is of course not all true, and beyond the pale to suggest. And there is the kind of slander against another religion baked into this that we often see. A sort of slander that I have e.g. been the very first to defend Christianity against. You actually suggest that e.g. human sacrifice and infanticide are integral to Paganism in the same manner that anti-Christians suggest that oppression, misogyny, witch-burning, inquisition, etc. are integral to Christianity (and colonialism, slavery, crusades and whatnot...). Just because it happened temporally concurrently with Christian hegemony it does not make it integral to Christianity. You are jumping to the same sort of conclusion in the same sort of way regarding Paganism.

Baron Bodissey said...

CS --

You actually suggest that e.g. human sacrifice and infanticide are integral to Paganism...

No, you misunderstand me. My assertion is not that human sacrifice was integral to paganism. There were many devotees of various gods who did not practice it or recommend it.

But it was not considered morally wrong by any of them, and that's the point. Human sacrifice did not violate the commonly held moral code, any more than it did among the Romans. If you know of a counterexample that's available in the historical record, please cite it, and I'll retract my assertion.

Of course, as someone else pointed out, most accounts of Nordic paganism were written by Christians (and most of the rest were written by Muslims), so finding an unbiased account may be difficult. But we work with the materials we have.

Conservative Swede said...

Baron,

What you are claiming is that a modern Pagan "must accept the ethical legitimacy of human sacrifice..."

You can write whatever you want about the past, I don't care much because Christians and Pagans have been quarreling about this for centuries. It's this wild and careless extrapolation of yours from the past, as you want to narrate it, into the present, that I take an issue with.

Baron Bodissey said...

CS --

I'll try to be clear.

Any modern Nordic paganism (and we have several such pagans who comment here regularly) which does not view human sacrifice as morally acceptable is not re-establishing an ancient paganism, but creating a modern one.

A paganism which forbids human sacrifice is fine with me -- it's the kind of paganism I can quite easily tolerate -- but it doesn't have a historical basis.

A moral decision that human sacrifice was wrong and should be prohibited didn't exist in Europe until Christianity imported it. The doctrine was essentially Jewish, drawing on the account of Abraham and Isaac, which codified the end of human sacrifice among the Hebrews.

From that point on, it was only the idolaters among Israel's neighbors who "passed their sons through the fire" as a sacrifice to Baal or Moloch. The Hebrews considered the practice to be an abomination.

So this is what I mean. The forbidding of human sacrifice was not part of the Nordic moral code, but of the Judaic code, as laid down in the Torah. Christianity carried that concept into Europe.

Chechar said...

The discussion of this thread resonates with what I wrote in chapter 12 of The Return of Quetzalcoatl:

Moreover, the Mesoamerican mythology of the great transgression by some gods to create life without parental consent [explained in a previous chapter] exemplifies what Ivan Strenski has pointed out in his book Contesting Sacrifice: originally all cultures have had at its basis universal guilt, and thus require of purification rituals to repair the broken bond with the divinity.

For identical psychological impairments of the Amerindians, a huge quantity of human sacrifices was perpetrated at the other side of the Atlantic: in China, Chad, Egypt, Tahiti and even in the Greco-Roman world. Diverse societies in India, Indonesia, Melanesia, Filipinas, the Amazons and many others continued with their terrible practices before they were colonized. During the pre-classic times of Mesoamerica the ancient Spartans offered sacrifices to Agrotera. Rome practiced several forms of human sacrifice until they were abolished by senatorial decree. The circus races of the Coliseum represented a less barbarous form of sacrifice since, unlike their neighbors, it was not done with one’s own children. The Romans were the arrowhead of the most advanced psychoclass of their times. When Scipio Africanus took Numantia, the Romans found mothers with half-devoured bodies of their children. Celts and Druids also practiced human sacrifices. The Gauls built hollow figures that, filled up with alive people, were burnt. Gaul was conquered by Caesar. Rome’s victory over Carthaginians in the Punic Wars was a milestone of a superior psychoclass over the inferior one. The sacrifices to the Phrygian god Attis consisted in chosing a young man who was treated like a king for a year only to be sacrificed. Were it not for the fact that the Mexica sacrifice was so splendorous, I would say that the young man who immolated himself for Tezcatlipoca [again, explained in previous chapters] was a late copy of the Phrygian sacrifice.

In our times, among the forms that arguably could be described as sacrificial we could include rituals such as Cuban santería or Indian tantrism. More shocking is the sacrifice known as sati in the most retrograde areas of India, where the custom dictates that the widow should throw herself to the funeral pyre of her deceased husband. At the moment of writing, the last of these cases was reported on October of 2008 in Kasdol in the district of Raipur.

It also resonates with a passage of Chapter 13:

Notwithstanding that we initiated like everybody else, the power of the West lies not only in the fact that the white people have comparatively high IQs, but that both Judeo-Christians and Greco-Romans gave up the practice of sacrificing their children. What remained in Europe was a mere metaphor of such sacrifice. Robert Godwin hit the nail when stating that Christianity’s unconscious message is that, when we murder our innocent child, we murder God. “The crucifixion of Jesus is meant to be the last human sacrifice, with Jesus standing in for our own murdered innocence.”

kritisk_borger said...

S,

As long as the church and Christians up through history has relied upon the teaching of the Old Testament, and as long as they have killed and harmed people based on the teaching of the Old Testament is see no reason why it should be left out of this discussion.

It doesn’t matter that these “Christians” weren’t “real Christians” because they weren’t somehow living according to the bible. As far as I’m concerned anyone who believes in Jesus and God and has accepted them into their lives is a Christian. If they don’t always follow the bible that just means that they’re sinners, and Jesus did say that all humans are sinners.

rebelliousvanilla said...

I don't find anywhere in the Bible where it says that the ownership of people is morally evil and inhumane either. And I'm not sure what you mean by the satanist remark - satanism from what I read of it is merely stating that being selfish is good. It's more or less a mockery of the inverted morality of Christianity which if taken to the extreme leads to the conclusion that living your life for your own sake is morally evil and that you have to live for others.

The religion of people who advocated certain things is irrelevant, what the religion preaches is what matters. For example, the fact that Hitler or Stalin were atheists is inconsequential to what atheism implies. At the end of the day, slavery is ok according to the Bible, just like the thing that should happen to rape victims is being married to their rapists is part of the Bible. All these changes came because of certain parts of Christianity blending with the social context of that time. In the same sense, pagans could say that you can't pick and choose about Christianity - slavery is ok and you must marry your daughter to her rapist if such an unfortunate event happens to her. Punishment for adultery is death inside Christianity too and stoning people to death isn't that foreign of it either. But I guess Christians today don't pick and choose about their religion, right? Now, as someone who was religious for a longer period of her life than she was atheist, I know that these things aren't integral part to Christianity as the religion developed, but they're parts of it in the same way as human sacrifice is to paganism and I think that the ideas of the NT won simply because society progressed independent of religion. I mean, if Christianity really had beef with slavery, it had more than 1000 years to make the case against it, why did it do it so later on? It's based on context, just like if paganism would be revived, it wouldn't be identical to the way it was 2000 years ago. The same argument about this not being an ancient paganism can be applied to Christianity. Human sacrifice is an integral part of paganism as stoning adultresses is for Christianity as in neither is integral.

Kairos, you don't need to connect different people from different religions and cultures. You just need to not have them live together, it's that simple. And for religious people, nothing is above God, so you'd be preaching to the walls.

Sol Ta Triane, I agree with you. I really don't get why people want it to be black or white when there are shades of grey. Christianity isn't morally evil, just like it's not perfect. Analyze the good and the bad. For this reason, militant atheists piss me off.

EV, our government systems don't come from Christianity. They come from the Greeks and Romans.

Trebuchet, science doesn't base itself on who supports it or not, but on the validity of the claims made. It's like me pointing out the irony of LeMaitre, a Catholic priest, being one of the people who proved the big bang theory. It's irrelevant. In the end, I can't know if there is a God or not and what was before the big bang took place, just like evolution doesn't explain yet the way life began, it just shows how it evolved. I mean, I was a good Christian girl who fasted on each Wednesday and Friday(plus the ones before holidays) and went to church at least once a week and prayed every day. Should atheists be happy I'm an atheist now?

S, you can't ignore the OT because the NT explicitly says that the OT is still valid(Matthew 5:17, for example). Besides, aren't they both the word of God? If God is all knowing, then why did he change his mind and suddenly found a lot of the things he desired people to do immoral?

Rollory said...

I have to object to this:

"But their sort of conscience — the conscience which they themselves violated when they committed what they considered to be sins — didn’t even exist in Europe until it was introduced by Christianity."

Christians today, by and large, absolutely refuse to let themselves think about the readily observable fact that black men are far more likely to violently rape a pretty young white woman than a white man is. Said white women are often the worst examples of this, they fear being thought racist - thought, not even openly called - far more than than they fear rape and potential murder. There's usually several headline-grabbing stories per year like this - I was going to try listing them but I'm realizing that they all blend together because the details are always the same: pretty blonde trusts third worlder when she shouldn't, because (at least in part) it's the Good thing to do.

This is a qualitative change from Hakon's killing his 7-year-old child?

No. No, it's not.

The conscience existed, it was simply suppressed in certain cases, because that suppression was considered necessary. As it is today. Humans are good at fooling themselves.

EscapeVelocity said...

EV, our government systems don't come from Christianity. They come from the Greeks and Romans. -- RV

I think you should study the development of the English government. Secondly the US government in particular is underpinned by Christian metaphysics. The Greeks and Romans didnt have inalienable rights and all men were not created equal (in the eyes of the lord.) That men should be free to get right with God, without the ability to reject God, there is no ability to come to God. This freewill was bestowed upon men by God, for a reason, which any government system should seek to protect. Just some of the Christian metaphysical and philosophical underpinnings of the government systems created by Euro-Christians.

Of course you arent purview to these given the state of education systems today, and the rampant hostility to Christianity in the Unis and the intellectual classes.

EscapeVelocity said...

I don't find anywhere in the Bible where it says that the ownership of people is morally evil and inhumane either. --- RV

Christianity is more than the Bible. There is 2000 years of philosophy which goes with it.

rebelliousvanilla said...

Rollory, here it's funny about how unapologetic girls are about not taking cabs that are driven by non-whites, for example, and it's something I do too, but I was shocked when I realized that most of my friends and classmates do the same, even if we didn't exchange tactics. Friendly looking, middle aged, white male is my profile. Also, I always call the cab company and make an order even if the cab is in front of me so that they have my details and know the cab who took me. Then I never take the cab until exactly where I live. And I would have considered this normal if I didn't know how the West is(just like asking a male friend to take you home with the cab and you pay the fair and then he goes home is something relatively normal here). I have to say that feminism doesn't help. Our problem is that we trust Western Europeans on what's the good way to run your society...

EV, I'm Romanian. We have religion classes(Orthodox Christianity only) here so we are not just taught the intelligent design, we learn about different saints and have tests on that. What you are describing isn't a system of government though - the republic is a system of government and it has nothing to do with Christianity. The concept of ius naturale is also a Roman design(the whole legal system is of Roman design, actually). The ideas behind natural law existed since before the US Constitution, the God part just gives it moral force.

And yes, Christianity is more than the Bible, but the Bible is the holy book, last time I checked. The core of Christianity says nothing about slavery being wrong or God doesn't make it wrong. The moral framework of slavery being wrong is a liberal idea, not Christian, but yes, it's congruent with the Christian ethics of the NT, if you ignore the OT, which the NT says that it's just as valid.

IoshkaFutz said...

Not being a pick-and-choose buffet, Christianity was originally the maintainer and protector of what was good (morally acceptable) in Paganism.

But at present, Christianity is dead through a counter-Trinity of abstraction. The abstraction began with the Protestant Reformation, as symbolized by the lack of a savior, a man - THE MAN - on their cross: from body to piece of wood. As a result, the heroism of the Saints and Martyrs was replaced by rationalism. Then came the Enlightenment to "systemize" matters. "Man will not be free until the last King is strangled with the entrails of the last priest." Till this day our various peoples are chanting FREEDUMB, FREEDUMB!

"Man will not me free until .................... (unpopular thing/group) is strangled by the guts of (unpopular thing/group)."

We haven't really gotten past that, though Condell the freedom man is now talking about Culture and birthrights.

Then came science: the truest truths can only be those attained from the neutral POV of a rock or outer space alien. Total alienation is the way. (It also happens to be the way to extinction: cultural, aesthetic, racial, moral suicide).

Knowledge and facts now trump morality, and even among the religious, "theology" trumps faith.

The problem with Christendom is not Christianity, but that in our great intelligence, we allowed our benighted selves to be unincarnated, thoroughly despiritualized, and effectively systematized.

No wonder we now have some beloved northerners hankering for Wotan, Thor and the Great Huggly-Muggly. Even though reduced to cartoon characters, at least they have soul, personality, vitality.

So the real choice is whether to believe in nothing (but fashions, moods, whims, hoping that they are not only right, but will in time even make the right mistakes), or import the more manly and warrior Gods back from the Cartoon Network, or press a few undo buttons (after first dropping to our knees, asking for forgiveness and strength from the Blessed Virgin).
CAMBRIA WILL NOT YIELD Scary stuff.

S said...

**Human sacrifice is an integral part of paganism as stoning adultresses is for Christianity as in neither is integral.**-RV

It is not only NOT integral, Christianity FORBIDS stoning, doesn't it?

Unlike the OT. I have to take issue with not seperating the OT and the NT. If the NT is not a NEW WAY, then why bother with Christianity at all? If all the barbarism from the OT is going to be acceptable still, then the NT fails.

Why bother with a religion if it can be ANYTHING you want it to be? If you can point to the OT and say see here it says I can do this, human sacrifice and stoning, when the NT clearly says you can not, and say Christianity teaches that it is ok. How can that be? And the NT was written to be a whole new way but followers keep bouncing back to the old. There a lot of circular logic going on there. Head spinning circular logic.

You might as well follow the Koran, because as all the misunderstands know, it can be ANYTHING they want it to be.

Never 'studied' the bible, though I grew up hearing lots of quotes from my religious parents and living around religious people who work hard at being good people, am glad I didn't waste my time if that is what religion classes teach. I hope you are wrong. Anything from the OT that goes against the NT should be invalid to Christians and if not, then they should call themselves Abrahams followers like muslims or simply the followers of THE ONE god.

And - kb- you are meaning Christian history can't be separated?

countercultureconservative said...

Baron,

you are exactly right. As a christian, I've never believed that atheists have to be christian or even religious to be moral human beings. One of the most moral persons I've ever met is an atheist. But your recognition that our morality comes from millennia of Western culture stewing in the Christian pot, not something you came up with yourself, sets you apart from the herd. It takes intellectual honesty to admit that, let alone recognize it. Western atheists are children of the culture just as much as we Christian are.

Baron Bodissey said...

countercultureconservative --

Yes, and it's also important to see clearly the appalling state into which modern Christian moral philosophy has fallen. It is a sad degenerate relic of what it once was. All the major Protestant denominations as well as the Catholics have become purveyors of the same pap that is touted by secular society -- multiculturalism, materialism, white guilt, the evils of nationalism, etc. Only Orthodoxy seems immune to fashionable cant.

The best moral philosophers I know personally, with one exception, are atheists or agnostics.

We Christians can and should defend our heritage, but there is no way we should defend modern Christian institutions. They have fallen under the spell of evil times, and worship Mammon like everyone else.

wildiris said...

S, here is a section from New Advent's "The Catholic Encyclopedia" in regards to the Marcionites.

"Heretical sect founded in A.D. 144 at Rome by Marcion and continuing in the West for 300 years, but in the East some centuries longer, especially outside the Byzantine Empire. They rejected the writings of the Old Testament and taught that Christ was not the Son of the God of the Jews, but the Son of the good God, who was different from the God of the Ancient Covenant. They anticipated the more consistent dualism of Manichaeism and were finally absorbed by it. As they arose in the very infancy of Christianity and adopted from the beginning a strong ecclesiastical organization, parallel to that of the Catholic Church, they were perhaps the most dangerous foe Christianity has ever known."

You're a little late to the party with you observations. Much Christian scholarship has gone into dealing with the points you're trying to make. If you sincerely are interested in grappling with the questions you’ve raised, there is 18+ centuries of reading material waiting for you.

Zenster said...

rebelliousvanilla: I really don't get why people want it to be black or white when there are shades of grey.

An old axiom states that:

Without generalizations, nothing can be taught.

The universe's complementary and dualistic nature is a well known fact. Binary numerical calculations are inherently less error prone. Much as with early analog computers, the introduction of gradated values increases the opportunity for confusion of state. Polarity is a natural feature of our world and thought processes.

Early human survival relied upon snap or "blink" decisions and that trait is probably very deeply ingrained in our neural structures. It is not just a matter of ease or convenience.

That these proto-human behaviors may have bifurcated with respect to gender would be no great surprise. Women seem to prefer the "shades of grey" model while men, thoroughly modified by ancient hunter-prey and combat related behavior patterns, seem to gravitate towards "black and white" decision making structures.

It may be that the historical survival of women has not been so keenly dependent upon rapid sorting and assessment of perilous situations as it has been for men. That might explain the appeal to females of more gradated analysis.

Be that as it may, it still remains that both the physical and, especially, the metaphysical worlds exhibit some distinct polarizations. There is Right and Wrong, There is Good and Evil. These fundamental realms do not lend themselves readily to "shades of grey".

Should this be unclear, consider the case of rape. It is always wrong. In the realm of Good and Evil, Islam springs to mind as a primary example of the latter. That a supposed "religion" extols the wanton destruction of human life while degrading half of its own adherents swiftly disqualifies from any reasonable inclusion in that category.

"Shades of grey" is wonderful for thought experiments and academic instruction but reality often operates in a quantized mode that is just as frequently binary in nature.

EscapeVelocity said...

Zenster is banging around the right bushes.

Good and Evil are human constructs which the most successful civilizations are bound by, attempts to move beyond those limitations in the 20th century have led to the degradation of society, civilizational decline, and the worst terrors and human rights abuses in the history of man.

Even when we have tried to move beyond it, we still cling to absolutes, "We must be tolerant of any behavior or cultural custom," is an absolute imperative. However "the Other" in there culture are not required to be tolerant, and thus we have a suicidal civilizational position.

Moral relativism is nihilism. The demarcation of Good and Evil is progress and leads to success. Moral relativism is Darwinian failure. Good and Evil lead to Enlightened societies...out of barbarism, animalistic behaviors, the law of the jungle, might makes right, and so on and so forth.

Abandoning Good and Evil, leads necessarily to barbarism, animalistic behaviors, the law of the jungle, might makes right. It is regressive.

As Theodore Dalrymple says, to regret religion is to regret civilization. Morality is what makes men more than beasts.

rebelliousvanilla said...

S, I'm not a Christian anymore and there's a reason for it. I mean, unlike Islam, literalism isn't a core part of Christianity so you can get away with what you are saying, but the NT says that the OT is valid, it's not me who says it. And all the Abrahamic religions are like this, it's just that Jesus didn't exactly do what Mohammed did, if you know what I mean, and since Mohammed is the al'insan al'kamil'his way is THE way. Also, there are certain differences that makes Islam be forced into literalism and not doing that would make it stop being Islam, which is not valid for Christianity.

I didn't learn this in religion class. Unlike a lot of Christians, I did read the Bible. Basically, what you're saying is what my religion class teacher said(he was a priest) when I asked him. All these contradictions are part of the reason why I couldn't believe anymore and it lead to me getting into Islam, Judaism and they didn't make sense to me either. It's more complicated, but this is the brief story. I guess it's one of my problems, I follow through on my beliefs and ideas and it leads to a lot of them not making sense and me replacing them. Also, there are certain things in the Orthodox Christianity that don't make sense - like having to confess my sins to a priest and him forgiving me when God is omnipresent and listening to my prayer. I guess it's because I can't get be asked to make amends like that. To be honest, I prefer I would have still been able to believe because I think I would have became a nun considering how crappy the world is - I'd find some peace and sacrifice my life on Earth for the one in heaven.

countercultureconservative, I reject a pretty big part of the Christian morality. I do believe that a lot of things in it are good though. For example, not being the village bike before marriage is right because it leads to a better society. Just like raising the children inside a marriage and no-fault divorce not existing is the right way. I don't find lusting for someone's wife wrong though(following through on it is, though), it's a simple biological fact, just like I find it normal to covet what others have.

4Symbols said...

In hoc signo vinces

Imagine if we throw it all away and the Aliens from that far off rock turn out to be Christians.

rebelliousvanilla said...

Zenster, there aren't shades of grey in what is right and wrong, what is true or false. I wasn't discussing that and it's a straw man. The influence of something is a shade of grey. For example, the enlightment isn't totally good, it's filled with bad ideas that lead to the mess we are in now. Same with the influence of Christianity, it's neither the way EV describes it, putting all the results of Europeans, even when they have nothing to do with religion under the banner of Christianity, neither as a lot of people find Christianity morally evil. Since you like binary things, both of these positions are false.

I don't really get the little male-female difference you made since it's not relevant at all. And that axiom(that is new to me, by the way) wants to say something else that you wanted it to mean.

EV, I agree, things like right or wrong are binary things, there are no shades of grey there. I wasn't talking about that though. I'm far from being a moral or cultural relativist. I actually don't find why we should be tolerate to anything that is foreign in our home country. Tolerance is the last virtue of a dying society.

What does moral relativism has to do with Darwinism?

Conservative Swede said...

There are indeed interesting aspects of this discussion, and I will return to it in my blog, something like "The Origins of European Morality". In a week or so, when I have more time.

Glenn said...

Good evening all. I have been reading all of the comments on this post with some interest and have decided to add some background information. It is almost impossible not to make blanket statements about ideas and beliefs of other times. Some of the commenters here have almost taken it for granted that chattel slavery was universally viewed as being permitted by the Bible. I want to make the point that that is not the case, chattel slavery was not universally accepted as having biblical sanction at least in the United States (I won't venture a guess about Europe) prior to the American Civil War.

For those of you willing to read a Christian argument against the institution of slavery, Project Gutenberg has put up a digital copy of IS SLAVERY SANCTIONED BY THE BIBLE? by Isaac Allen. Not only will this show that a truly biblical case can be, and was, made against slavery but I also want to make a point about the way Mr. Allen argued his case. He treats the scripture as the word of God, there is no moral relativism anywhere in his tract. Once again I cannot make a statement about European Christianity of the same period but the United States prior to the 20th century had a very muscular form of Christianity. There were no "shades of gray."

I am sure that some of you will find this of interest.

Glenn

linbetwin said...

To be honest, I prefer I would have still been able to believe because I think I would have became a nun considering how crappy the world is - I'd find some peace and sacrifice my life on Earth for the one in heaven.

RV, I wanted to be a monk when I was a teenager and still a believer. This wish only lasted a few months though. I was Orthodox, but I wanted to be a Catholic monk (I don't like Orthodox beards). I dreamed of a medieval monastery in the Alps, with loads of old illuminated books and a life of learning. But I feared I would be quickly bored and disappointed with monastic life. I feared I would encounter lazy, gay, non-believing monks.

Then I slowly deconverted. I realized I could no longer hold religious beliefs.

If you think the world is crappy today, read about the past. You'll find that almost everybody who wrote about the state of the world, in every century, in every country, thought the world was crappy. The past is always brighter than the present and the future is always bleak. Pick your favorite glorious age in the past and you'll find that people in that age thought their world was utterly corrupt and about to collapse. Read about how life really was in the hay days of religious morality and patriotism. Read about the lives of ordinary people, crime levels, insecurity, disease and suffering, oppression, taxation and so on.

We live in a period of unprecedented change (I'm talking about science, technology, social structure - NOT about Obama's change). Our century, with all it's horrors, is by far the most important and exciting in the history of the human species. This rapid change is not all for the good, of course. I don't like moral relativism and the decadence of modern art, for example. But I think this is inevitable when everything is changing so fast and an entire worldview is shaken to the core. Don't worry, this too shall pass. There have been periods of moral laxity in the Middle Ages, but the world came to its senses. Maybe we need a bit of a Muslim threat to shake us out of our complacency.

S said...

RV- You and I are on the same page about religion, I think.

wildiris - centuries of reading? No thanks, religion already makes my eyes glaze over. Although I do know all the stories. My arguement is the only reason I feel Christianity is bascially good, with all it's flaws, and Islam isn't, with all it's flaws. If I thought that all Christian's looked to the OT then I would be condemning it also.


And why do the articles disappear so quickly? Is it my computer? This article is already gone! The only reason I can see this is the "Recent Comments" section.

Why?

Chechar said...

My latest Q chapter contains, once more, paragraphs that could amplify the context of the above discussion between the Baron and Swede:

In The History of Childhood deMause writes: “The image of Medea hovers over childhood in antiquity.” But in the post-Homeric Greece it was already unusual to kill grown-up children as Medea did. Although many of those who publish in his journal do not seem to be Christians, including deMause, one of the things that surprise the freethinker who first encounters psychohistory is the Judeo-Christian spirit that can be breath in his model. The most prominent psychohistorians seem to reject the vision of the Enlightenment: to consider the Middle Ages darker than the most lucid moments of Greece and Rome. [...]

In my own version of psychohistory, the Athenians should have treated the children well enough to allow the explosion of arts, philosophies and policies that we have inherited. However, due to the tenet that “the further back in history one goes, the lower the level of child care,” deMause and his disciples have blinded themselves to see the obvious. True, an archaic ritual performed at Knossos (like those of Mesoamerica) included the cooking and eating of children as part of the fertility celebration. But as Ramon Xirau writes at the beginning of his Introduction to the History of Philosophy, the Greece that we know is great precisely because it gave up such practices: something I’ve always related to the Hebrew story of Abraham, who at the last moment changed his mind as to sacrifice his child. The veracity of Xirau’s opening paragraph can be substantiated in the final chapter of the most erudite contemporary study on the subject, Human Sacrifice in Ancient Greece by Dennis Hughes. To the Greeks of the time of Plato and Theophrastus, says Hughes, human sacrifice was a thing of the past; what was left in their time were isolated cases “and the custom is particularly associated with non-Greeks.” Certainly, once the Knossos type of sacrifice was abandoned, many babies in Greece were left in jars to starve, abandoned in the hills, roads, and found under the frozen streets. This was a custom approved by Plato and Aristotle. In fact, when I reread Will Durant it seemed to me that the ancient Hellas fell for having returned to mass exposure (a phenomenon similar to abortion and the massive contraception self-inflicted currently among whites in the West). But if the psychogenic theory of history is true, the brutal modes of childrearing in the Middle Ages had to be necessarily worse, given that the medieval mind lost again autonomous consciousness for more than a millennium. The rejection of the central conclusion of the Enlightenment by those who closely follow deMause makes me think that psychohistory must pass through a post-DeMausean stage if the discipline is to be taken seriously.

Chechar said...

Furher to my previous post:

Something completely lost to the modern mind is that, in a world full of sacrifices as the Ancient World, the innocent child has to die, ordered by his father: an all too well known practice. It is impossible to understand the psychoclass that gave rise to Christianity ignoring this reality turned into a powerful symbol. However, my working hypothesis is that the forms of parenting had to suffer, in general terms, a regression during the Middle Ages. As I said, I was tempted to include a graph different from deMause’s: one that showed the great slump since the best times of Ionia, Athens and Rome. I didn’t do it because that would mean starting from a dogmatic position: that childcare was necessarily worse because the history waned in the centuries of darkness. As a working hypothesis it is respectable; as an axiom it would be dogmatic. We must always keep in mind that in Scandal in Bohemia, Sherlock Holmes said to Watson: “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”

(Taken from my latest chapter.)

Chechar said...

Excerpt from the Epilogue to The Return of Quetzalcoatl:

After the captivity in the comparatively more civilized Babylon in 586 B.C., the Jews abandoned their practices. In his book King Manasseh and Child Sacrifice: Biblical Distortions of Historical Realities, published in 2004, Francesca Stavrakopoulou states that child sacrifice was part of the worship of Yahweh, and that the practice was condemned only after the exile. Like their Christian successors, the Jews had sublimated their filicidal desires in the Passover ritual. Each year they celebrate the liberation of their people and remember how Yahweh killed the firstborn Egyptians: legendary resonance of the habit of killing one’s eldest son.

But the biblical Moloch (in Hebrew without vowels, מלך, mlk), represented as a human figure with a bull’s head was not only a Canaanite god. It also was a god of the descendants of the Canaanites, the Phoenicians. The founding myth of Moloch was similar to that of many other religions: sacrifices were compensation for a catastrophe from the beginning of time.

In the previous chapter I said that Plutarch, Tertullian, Orosius, Philo, Cleitarchus and Diodorus Siculus mentioned the practice of the burning children to Moloch in Carthage, but I refrained from wielding the most disturbing details. Diodorus says that every child who was placed in the outstretched hands of Moloch fell through the open mouth of the heated bronze statue, into the fire. When at the beginning of the 3rd century B.C. Agathocles defeated Carthage, desperate and immersed in the most abject magical thinking the Carthaginians began to burn their children in a huge sacrifice as a tactical “defense” before the enemy. The sources mention 300 incinerated children. Had I run a career of film director, I would feel the obligation to visually show to humanity their infamous past by filming the massive red-hot bronze statue while the Greek forces besieged the city, engulfing child after child, who would slide down to the bottom of the flaming chimney. In addition to Carthage, the worship of Moloch, whose ritual was held outdoors, was widespread in other Phoenician cities. He was widely worshiped in the Middle East and in Punic cultures of the time, including several Semitic peoples and as far as the Etruscans. Various sacrificial tophets have been found in North Africa, Sicily, Sardinia, Malta, outside Tyre and a temple of Amman.

Terracotta urns containing the cremated remains of children, discovered in 1817, have been photographed numerous times.

4th and final post.