“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not "perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16-17)
“In the relation to God, unconditional exclusiveness and unconditional inclusiveness are one. For those who enter into the absolute relationship, nothing particular retains any importance—neither things nor beings, neither earth nor heaven—but everything is included in the relationship. For entering into the pure relationship does not involve ignoring everything but seeing everything in the You, not renouncing the world but placing it upon its proper ground. Looking away from the world is no help toward God; staring at the world is no help either; but whoever beholds the world in him stands in his presences…” (from I and Thou
“When I attempted a few minutes ago, to describe our spiritual longings, I was omitting one of their most curious characteristics. We usually notice it just as the moment of vision dies away, as the music ends, or as the landscape loses the celestial light… For a few minutes we have had the illusion of belonging to that world. Now we wake to find that it is no such thing. We have been mere spectators. Beauty has smiled, but not to welcome us; her face turned in our direction, but not to see us. We have not been accepted, welcomed, or taken into the dance. We may go when we please, we may stay if we can, no one cares. Now, a scientist may reply that since most of the things we call beautiful are inanimate it is not very surprising that they take no notice of us. That, of course, is true. It is not the physical objects that I am speaking of, but that indescribable Something of which they become for a moment the messengers. And part of the bitterness which mixes with the sweetness of that message is due to the fact that it so seldom seems to be a message intended for us, but rather something we have overheard. By bitterness I mean pain, not resentment. We should hardly dare to ask that any notice be taken of ourselves. But we pine. The sense that in the universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, the bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret.” (from The Weight of Glory
Days of Heaven
The Thin Red Line
The New World
“Truth is the truth of Being. Beauty does not occur alongside and apart from this truth. When truth sets itself into the work, it appears. Appearance—as this being of truth in the work and as work—is beauty. Thus the beautiful belongs to the advent of truth, truth’s taking of its place. It does not exist merely relative to pleasure and purely as its object.” (from “The Origin of the Work of Art.”)
“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (I Corinthians 13:12)
“All media work us over completely. They are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical, and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered.” (from The Medium is the Massage
And in my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floorboards
For the secrets I have hid
(from “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.”)
F. Scott Fitzgerald
“And as I sat there brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s long dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it, He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.” (from The Great Gatsby
“All representations, even the most abstract, infer a rendezvous with intelligibility or, at the least, with a strangeness attenuated, qualified by observance and willed form. Apprehension (the meeting with the other) signifies both fear and perception. The continuum between both, the modulation from one to the other, lie at the source of poetry and the arts.” (from Real Presences
“What is the nature of a being that is able to produce art? Man is finite. He is, as one could say, mixed of being and nonbeing. Once he was not. Now he is and some time he will not be. He is not by himself, but thrown into existence and he will be thrown out of existence and cease to be for himself. He is delivered to the flux of time which runs from the past to the future through the ever-moving point which is called the present. He is aware of the infinite. He is aware that he belongs to it. But he is also aware that he is excluded from it… Out of the anxiety, and the double awareness that we are finite and that we belong to infinity from which we are excluded, the urge arises to express the essential unity of that which we are in symbols which are religious and artistic.” (from On Art and Architecture
“Poets have, indeed, often communicated in their own mode of expression truths identical with the theologians’ truths; but just because of the difference in the modes of expression, we often fail to see the identity of the statements.” (from The Mind of the Maker
Over the Rhine
What a beautiful piece of heartache this has all turned out to be.
Lord knows we've learned the hard way all about healthy apathy.
And I use these words pretty loosely.
There's so much more to life than words.
(from “Latter Days”)
“He will grant thee a hiding place within Him, and once hidden in Him he will hide thy sins. For He is the friend of sinners... He does not merely stand still, open His arms and say, 'Come hither'; no, he stands there and waits, as the father of the lost son waited, rather He does not stand and wait, he goes forth to seek, as the shepherd sought the lost sheep, as the woman sought the lost coin. He goes--yet no, he has gone, but infinitely farther than any shepherd or any woman, He went, in sooth, the infinitely long way from being God to becoming man, and that way He went in search of sinners.” (from Training in Christianity
“In what belongs to the deeper meanings of nature and her mediation between us and God, the appearances of nature are the truths of nature, far deeper than any scientific discoveries in and concerning them. The show of things is that for which God cares most, for their show is the face of far deeper things than they; we see in them, in a distant way, as in a glass darkly, the face of the unseen. It is through their show, not through their analysis, that we enter into their deepest truths. What they say to the childlike soul is the truest thing to be gathered of them.” (from The Voice of Job
The Bustle in a House
The Morning after Death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted opon Earth –
The Sweeping up the Heart
And putting Love away
We shall not want to use again
“In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted short cuts to love. When a man comes to die, no matter what his talents and influence and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror.” (from East of Eden
He woke up, the room was bare
He didn't see her anywhere.
He told himself he didn't care,
pushed the window open wide,
Felt an emptiness inside
to which he just could not relate
Brought on by a simple twist of fate.
(from “Simple Twist of Fate”)
“What is the malaise? You ask. The malaise is the pain of loss. The world is lost to you, the world and the people in it, and there remains only you and the world and you no more able to be in the world than Banquo’s ghost.” (from The Moviegoer
Lost in Translation
“Church is to be participated in and not consumed. The point is not what one gets out of it, but the worship of God; the service takes place both because of and despite the needs, strengths, and frailties of the people present. How else could it be?” (from Dakota
“Whenever I think of Edward, I think of playing catch in a hot street and that wonderful weariness of the arms. I think of leaping after a high throw and that wonderful collaboration of the whole body with itself and that wonderful certainty and amazement when you know the glove is just where it should be. Oh, I will miss the world!” (from Gilead
“Preaching the gospel means announcing Jesus as Lord of the world; and, unless we are prepared to contradict ourselves with every breath we take, we cannot make that announcement without seeking to bring that lordship to bear over every aspect of the world.” (from What Saint Paul Really Said
It's weird to think of all the things
That have not been keeping up with the times
It's ten o' clock the sun is down
Just begun to set the western hills on fire
I hear that you don't change
How do you expect to keep up with the trends
You won't survive the information age
Unless you plan to change the truth to accommodate the brilliance of man
The brilliance of man
(from “Letter From a Concerned Follower”)
“Gazing at some detail like a bird or a cloud, we can all ignore its awful blue background; we can neglect the sky; and precisely because it bears down upon us with an annihilating force it is felt as nothing. A thing of this kind can only be an impression and a rather subtle impression; but to me it is a very strong impression made by pagan literature and religion. I repeat that in our special sacramental sense there is, of course, the absence of the presence of God. But there is in a very real sense the presence of the absence of God. We feel it in the unfathomable sadness of pagan poetry; for I doubt if there was ever in all the marvelous manhood of antiquity a man who was happy as St. Francis was happy.” (from The Everlasting Man
Gus Van Sant
"I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves. He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one's lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor--it is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him. That which is has been already and that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by." (Ecclesiastes 3:10-15).
“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing?—it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.” (from On the Road
"Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee..."
“Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen."
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Check out D’Souza’s “What’s So Great About Christianity?” I heard him speak, and if the book reflects the talk, he’s a formidable opponent to the New Atheists. I think he’s debated a few of the marquee atheists.
Here is D’Souza’s debate with Hitchens on this book/topic: http://youtube.com/watch?v=l-NduvegITQ
Definitely worth watching (it is in 9 parts – all on Youtube). They discuss some of the very things you pointed out in the post.
Hello, you wrote,
Where has atheism and paganism been used to justify evil? It appears one such place you cite is Soviet Russia. If you could, please elaborate on and support the contention.
In any case, the argument is a bit odd. It seems to be, “Yes, we’ve been bad, but others have been worse!” Better than the worst doesn’t seem to me to be a very laudable standard.
You mentioned all the good Christians have done in support of the contention that “Christianity has done more to make the world a better place than any other organized movement or guiding principle in history.” What you failed to mention or address is that many of the reforms you say Christians championed were based on practices which Christians previously deemed moral. Why, for example, did it take Christians 1800 years (or more, depending on how you count Christians) to finally decide slavery was wrong, after long saying it was ok, or even that it was God’s will? Yes, Christians were on the forefront of the abolitionist movement, but they were also on the forefront in opposing it this movement. Look up the history of the Southern Baptist Convention.
You say that the reform impetus was at least based on Christian teachings. You’ll have to identify specifically what Christian teachings they were based on, since much of these teachings are actually based on ethics and precepts which existed long before Christ arrived on earth. No one was feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and protecting the widows until Jesus said these were good things to do?
For examples of how atheism opens up new potentialities for evil, I suggest reading Dostoevsky, Melville, or any number of other nineteenth century writers who were writing in the first century of atheism’s widespread acceptance. The reason communism (which shuns religion) is so destructive as an -ism is that it reduces everything to power, leaving very little room for any sort of transcendental morality… Thus the “purging” of millions of people is justified because it is about furthering the utopian socialist “idea”… the same reason fascism in WWII justified mass slaughter: in pursuit of a purified world order in which everyone acquiesced to the dominant rule. In contrast, true Christianity elevates the weak over the strong (“blessed are the humble, poor, etc…”), turning our human impulse to exert our will on and lord over others via power (Plato’s thymos) on its head. Of course wayward Christians have at times (i.e. the Crusades) fell into the same trap, but this is because we are all still human, suffering from the same impulses of our fallen nature.
Thus, my answer to your criticism that Christanity has merely been “better than the worst” is that we are all still humans–Christians are not immune to our fallen nature, any more than anyone else is. Christianity is meant to rehabilitate our fallen selves (it is a process) and because it is so counter to our fallible instincts (to want power, recognition, gratification, etc), it is only natural that Christians frequently let their negative impulses get the better of them. My argument is NOT that Christians are any “better” than non-Christians (because we are all equally depraved)… but only that the restorative, grace-centric ideal of Christianity towards which we Christians all strive tends to yield GOOD things in the world.
As to your objection about the slavery issue: It is true that many Christians were outspoken defenders of slavery… but up until about 200 years ago, everyone was. Slavery was universally accepted as a given in almost all cultures, and the notion that it was wrong was not trumpeted by anyone until the late 18th century, when Christians were the first to raise objections to its morality. Yes it is true and shameful that many “Christians” fought vehemently against abolition, but again, so did many non-Christians… We are all equally fallible and prone to use whatever means at our disposal (e.g. religion) to rationalize our twisted convictions.
Finally, in answer to your objection that Christ’s teachings weren’t really unique in history but rather based on prior ethics and precepts: you tell me what belief systems prior to Christ were based on the self-sacrificial precepts such as “to die is gain” (Phil 1:21) or “to save your life you must lose it” (Mark 8:35) or that we should turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39) or feed our enemy (Romans 12:20). Or that “the meek shall inherit the earth” (matthew 5:5). Human history (and indeed, our human instincts) are entirely contrary to these notions: the fittest survive (not those who sacrifice for others), the strongest prevail, the ambitious are rewarded, the victorious in battle (i.e. Greek and Roman mythology) are the most god-like.
Jesus comes along without a crown or a scepter or a sword and assumes the role of a suffering servant, born to a nobody peasant in a haystack without an army or thrown behind him. He’s the most unlikely person to change the course of human history, and yet he did. Why?? This is the question you should be asking.
Hey… I’m in one of your Comm sections. Why aren’t you this articulate in class?
Ah, but this is a bit afar from your original claim, which was that atheism and paganism have been used to justify evil. Opening potentialities for evil is a pretty mild accusation, one to which religions like Christianity seem far more susceptible.
I agree with your assessment about communism, but be careful not to conflate atheism with anti-religion.
It seems to me that your rationale for Christian offenses is a bit self-serving. When it’s Christians who perform them, they’re simply reflecting our fallibility and “fallen nature.” Why does this not equally apply to Hitler, Stalin, or, for that matter, fascism or communism?
I think what you’re trying to avoid is the implication that within Christianity itself are found the seeds of its adherents’ misdeeds. This is actually quite an easy thesis to support. There is plenty to mine within the Bible to justify all sorts of nastiness, not just goodness. Really, where did Christians get the idea to burn “witches”? Or justify slavery? Or deny equal rights to women? Or destroy “heretics”? Or oppose democracy? Every sort of evil that Christians practiced was given a thorough theological justification. And it continues today.
Your discussion of slavery is not wholly accurate, as there was opposition to the institution prior to the 18th century. Economic, and, yes, theological, factors played a part.
Your discussion of unique Christian teachings is a bit confusing to me. You appear to suggest that suicide is ethical, with the Phil. 1:21 and Mark 8:35 citations.
Turning the other cheek hearkens back to Socrates, who said in 399 BC, “One should never do wrong in return, nor mistreat any man, no matter how one has been mistreated by him.” In any case, it’s not a precept which is usually employed, even by Christians. Buddhists are probably one of the few religions which have consistently applied it.
Romans 12:20 is not strictly an exhortation to feed one’s enemies. It’s typically interpreted as showing kindness to those who do you evil. This is another old precept. The Buddha said, “Let a man overcome anger by love, let him overcome evil by good; let him overcome the greedy by liberality, the liar by truth!”
Many unlikely individuals have changed the course of history. Why aren’t you worshiping them as well?
Your arguments that Christianity is not unique among belief systems (with which I agree) seem to contradict your argument that Christianity is uniquely responsible for evil throughout history. Either Christendom can be forgiven for its errors and evils, or no philosophy can– including socialism, capitalism, Islam, paganism, Americanism, democracy, free trade, conservativism, liberalism, feminism, the civil rights movement, pacifism, anarchism, libertarianism, humanism, and every other -ism. All -isms have sinned. To pretend that Christianity or religion have justified evil without philosophical perversion any more than any of these is disingenuous and ridiculous and makes you look like you have a chip on your shoulder more than anything.
I’m straining to find where where I said–or even hinted–that “Christianity is uniquely responsible for evil throughout history”.
Can you help me out and cite the statements which give you the impression this is my view?
Yeah, I’ve always been curious what people like Dawkins, et al, do with all the Christian-based hospitals and universities.
Then again, I get too angry with their fundamentalism to actually read their arguments.
“When one interrogates the assumption that Christianity has done more harm than good to humankind, we see that it is an idea founded in a rather shoddily conjured historicism.”
you say, completely ignoring the harm Christainity is doing today. What about the subjugation of women? Treating 50% of our dear species as though they were simply an afterthought, one put here simply to serve men at that, is hardly an example of “GOOD things in the world.” now is it?
How about the way in which Chriatian ideas (and most other theological theorizing) close off (most) avenues of thought? Assuming that God has already written down all there is to know about the world isn’t exactly the best grounding for a culture of critical thought now is it? and, frankly, where would we be without that eh? probably agreeing with everything you say, that’s where, and that CERTAINLY wouldn’t do us much good.
The Christians you are referring to who treat women as “an afterthought” are not in the majority… In fact I submit that it is probably the case that there is a lower percentage of people who participate in the subjugation of women within Christianity than outside of it. In any case, such behavior (treating women as servants of men) is not sanctioned by most Christian churches today.
And I’m very perplexed by your assertion that Christian ideas close off most avenues of thought. On the contrary, I think history has proven (in the work of countless philosophers, thinkers, writers, scientists) that Christian faith has a rather more illuminating effect on one’s thought life. I like what C.S. Lewis says about it in his quote: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
To build off of what Brett said, I find it curious when folks criticize Christianity for believing that God “has already written down all there is to know”.
AFAIK, there’s nothing within Christianity that posits that the Bible is the sum total of human knowledge, or that it should be seen as such. There’s a difference between believing that the Bible is infallible Word of God, and believing that it’s akin to a set of encyclopedias. There’s much that the Bible doesn’t touch on, which is why God has given us curiosity, intellects, etc.
Additionally, you could make a good case that God actually encourages us to study and understand the world, and the rest of creation. There’s a doctrine within Christianity called the “Cultural Mandate” that states that man has been placed on this world in order to understand, harness, and improve it — this is what is referred to in Genesis 1:28. And one can’t really begin to do that unless they seek to study and understand — even critically — the world.
On a sidenote, I find it interesting that skeptics criticize Christianity for believing that God “has already written down all there is to know” even as they criticize the Bible for being so vague and sketchy. So, on the one hand, we have complaints that the Bible makes too many claims, and on the other hand, we have wishes that the Bible made more claims so as to clear up all of the confusion.
“The Christians you are referring to who treat women as “an afterthought” are not in the majority”
I wasn’t talking about Christians, I was talking about God:
“And the rib, which the Lord had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man”
GEN 2:22 (KJV)
so wether or not “such behavior is …sanctioned by most Christian churches” is a bit irrelevant.
As for “skeptics criticiz[ing] Christianity for believing that God “has already written down all there is to know” even as they criticize the Bible for being so vague and sketchy. ” – we don’t. We critisize YOU for thinking that God “has already written down all there is to know” when “the Bible [is] so vague and sketchy”, see the difference?
I think that you are misinformed about what Christians believe. For instance, Christians are not a monolithic entity, and many have differing views on the veracity of the Bible. Most would tell you that the Genesis 1 account that you quote is no more historic fact than Aesop’s fables, and reflects the cultural and theological understanding of the time in which it was written. (I’m also not sure why Eve being knit from Adam’s rib means that she is subservient to Adam; Adam was, after all, made from mud and is not beholden to it.) In other words, the vast majority of Christians do not believe in a literalistic interpretation of scripture, despite what the history of the belief system suggests.
In Hebrew, the creation of humanity as recorded in Genesis 2 looks a bit different than it does in English. The man was created from the earth, and the Hebrew verb “yatsar” is often used to describe the work of a potter. The woman was formed from the rib of the man, and the word used to describe her creation, “asah,” is more frequently associated with the work of a master craftsman. Thus, in Hebrew thought, God brought more of his craft and skill into play when creating the woman.
Moreover, when God decides the man should not be alone, he says he will create an “ezer” for him. This word is often used to describe how God as the helper of people, especially the oppressed and lost, and is not used to mean servant, slave or subordinate.
Drawing conclusions about God from English translations of the original language of the texts — especially 400-year-old translations that have been replaced by ones based on earlier and clearer documents — is often a poor choice.
About a year ago, my Sunday school class went through the first couple chapters of Genesis with someone who was very knowledgeable in the original language, and it was incredibly eye-opening. Put simply, there’s so much that is absent in the English translations. The key points are there, sure, but much of the subtlety and nuance that helps you figure out exactly what is going on, is missing — as Brett pointed out above.
I daresay that if people had even a slightly better understanding of the original text, and what it does and does not say in the original language, there’d probably be a lot less misunderstanding when it came to certain things like gender relationships, environmentalism, and creation in general. And I think people would find a whole new level of beauty within the language of the Scriptures.
For example, the idea of God creating a helper for man that wasn’t meant to be a mere servant, but an actual helper — someone who provides the strength that man is lacking — is incredibly beautiful, very true (as I have learned time and again after getting married), and far more liberating than the mindset that seems to be associated with Christianity so much of the time.
Rodney Stark is a well-respected sociologist-historian with several excellent books on the lasting historical influence of Christianity. Personally I can only vouch for “The Rise of Christianity,” but I’ve heard “The Victory of Reason” is just as solid.
How on earth has atheism been used to justify “evil”?
This discussion is interesting to me because it glosses over so much of the realities of scripture. When both old and new testaments have language which obviously gives approval to, or at least tacit complicity in slavery, and speaks of a woman who is raped with Silver and marrying her making up for it, or stoning our children who speak back and get drunk and such, or any of the other laws, which Jesus says he doesn’t change one jot or tiitle until the end of the world. I mean Christianity is an immoral religion, and The All-Knowing, All-Powerful, All Goodness and Compassion and Forgiveness God that is worshiped is also the God that All-knowingly unleashed Lucifer/Satan on us and created all the evil that is hell.
Now on top of all this, “most Christians” negate their own faith, since they say (as stated above) that the Genesis is an allegory or a moral story or a myth to teach us, and deny it’s LITERAL truth. This avoids being a mindless creationist who avoids the slam-dunk nature of Evolution, and thus allows one not to be a creationist and still be Christian…Um, well, not so fast, since the purpose of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus was to cleanse us of original sin, so if there was no Adam and Eve and thus no original sin and it’s all an allegory, why do we need Jesus then?
Slap the cherry on, and you have a world where Genesis didn’t happen literally and that m,eans the human race is probably 100,000 years old and God allowed all the Human history that happened for 98,000 years (obviously showing we were able to be moral and ethical enough to survive and flourish) to just happen with absolutely no stepping in, no being noticed as the one true savior, etc. and then WHAM! in the last 2000 years he decides to jump in, get involved and do the work of “God”, and we are to become subservient believers, worshipers, etc.
Yet he NEVER says, “All that stuff in the Jewish books, absolutely doesn’t apply. Slavery is BAD.” or provide us now with a perfect translation into 20 or 30 languages, or shows up on the Tonight Show and lets us ask some questions. I mean you would think that somewhere God would be on the record saying “Slavery is BAD.”. But your book says the opposite.
Also, re: totalitarian Governments and atheism: Well, there is a LOT of evidence, including his own writings, that Hitler never was an atheist, and worse for the case of Christianity there, that MOST of those who committed the worst atrocities WERE Christians or more specifically Catholics. Stalin and a few others WERE atheists, but they didn’t commit their crimes in the name of Atheism or atheist ideals. If someone robs a bank, and happens to be Baptist, I do not say they committed a crime in the name of baptist ideals. If they write a manifesto saying that God told them to kill black children and then shoot themselves, this is explicitly a crime that can be related to Christianity. The crusades were EXPLICITLY about religion, the Irish/English conflict is SPECIFICALLY about religion, the Israel conflict, the ethnic cleansings in many places, witch burnings, the inquisition, all VERY specifically ABOUT religion.
Anyway, Christianity has done so much more harm than good, in creating frustrated people who cannot live to their potential and who truly stifle much of their reality (be they gay, women [for most of history]or whatever). People who live oppressed lives of rules and subservience and guilt are unhappy people, and unhappy people make bad neighbors and friends and family. This has been one of Christianity’s worst crimes in my opinion. Fear and Guilt, the twin fangs of the vampiric Catholic empire…