Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Almost an apologetic

The name of Christ has caused more persecutions, wars, and miseries than any other name has caused.
John E. Remsburg- [Author] {1910}

Whoever imagines himself a favorite with God holds others in contempt.
[Robert Ingersoll, "Some Reasons Why"]

Where horrendous evils are concerned, not only do we not know God's actual reason for permitting them; we cannot even conceive of any plausible candidate sort of reason consistent with worthwhile lives for human participants in them.
Marilyn McCord Adams, "Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God"

Where it is a duty to worship the sun it is pretty sure to be a crime to examine the laws of heat.
[John Morley]

Where knowledge ends, religion begins.
Benjamin Disraeli

Where the cross has been planted only superstitions have grown.
[Lemuel K. Washburn, Is The Bible Worth Reading And Other Essays]

Whenever I think of how religion started, I picture some frustrated old man making out a list of all the ways he could gain power, until he finally came up with the great solution of constant fear and guilt, then he leaped up and started planning a new wardrobe.
[Steve Blake]


Lately, I've been reading a lot of blogs (an awful lot blogs, and I should be doing something much more mathy), basically all of the liberal or progressive in a European sort of way. For the most part, I agree with almost all of the concrete policy positions the author propound (with some exceptions), even if I don't always think terribly highly of their analyses (or their timbre). Religious life in the left-blogosphere is largely agnostic, and there are a great many vocal atheists. Now, I think I once expressed here that I accept atheism as a religion--and I stand by that--but I have to gripe some about the barrage of indictments laid on Christianity. The quotes given above outline a few of the more common accusations. I have no reason to deny that many, many awful crimes were and are perpetrated in the name of the Cross, and I can't deny that the Church has been friendly to free thought.

Obviously, to claim that humanity, or Europe, say, would have been a kinder, gentler place without Christianity is a ridiculous counterfactual. On the other hand, it's also a counterfactual to suppose that humanity without Christianity would have been just as cruel and bloodthirsty. My own sense of it (which I offer without proof) is that all those crimes of Christianity are human crimes, born of the human organism and its pathologies. Christians are judgmental because people are judgmental. Christians are violent because people are violent. Christians are hypocrites because people are hypocrites. Without Christianity, we would find another excuse, and presumably, we would gnash our teeth about that excuse. I'm not sure I believe that it's terribly productive to fling oneself against an excuse if one wants to root out those evils--it's easy enough to find a new excuse. In fact, many of the attackers have found their excuse. Maybe I have, too.


Now, I want to talk about something completely different: I've read some large number of science fiction stories in my life, and some large number of those stories involved a powerful ancient race of beings, sometimes wise and gentle, sometimes not, compared to whom humanity is a child race--the extremes of our technology savagely primitive by comparison, the extent of our intelligence equally primitive. There have been quite a few New Age groups and cults founded on the notion of wise, ancient aliens who will soon come to help us on our way. Today, I found this picture. Apparently, it is a young solar system, something like 5% of the age of our own. I've decided that I like the idea that we will the ancient wise aliens someday, and that we might be the first ones. When we teach the younger ones from the wisdom born of all our pain, we can hope that no other species will have to bare it. That sounds like the White Man's Burden. I'll have to keep thinking about it.