Response to Dan Hillman on Judge Moore

I'm moving up a comment to the front page before the whole thread slips off the edge. The comment is from Dan Hillman and is in response to my bashing of Judge Moore and his followers. When an ally of Moore said that the polls were under-estimating his support, I joked that, ""I think he might be right. After all, how many of the braindead hicks that would vote for Moore can afford phones?" Hillman responded:

That's right. It is totally impossible for people to be intelligent and have faith. And it is totally impossible for smart people to believe that justice is really a moral - and therefore also religious - issue. Anyone who actually believes the Bible is the ultimate authority on truth, reality, and justice must be a "braindead hick" who can't "afford phones."

Talk about ignorant bigotry.

Well, it might have been, if I'd actually said what you claim I said. But I didn't. I did not say, nor do I believe, that it is "totally impossible for people to be intelligent and have faith." In fact, I don't think belief in God has much of anything to do with intelligence. I know as many intelligent Christians as I know intelligent non-Christians, and as many ignorant fools among both groups as well. Supporting Roy Moore is not synonomous with "people of faith". Indeed, I'm quite sure that most "people of faith" find Moore as ridiculous and abhorrent as I do. Roy Moore is not your average Christian, he is a genuine and actual theo-fascist. He really does believe that judges should ignore both statutory and constitutional law if they conflict with his interpretation of "God's law". And he really does believe that gay people should be imprisoned or put to death. And yes, I do believe that anyone who subscribes to such a position can fairly be described as an ignorant bigot.

This is the kind of sophomoric arrogance that now dominates the far left. I say sophomoric, because these people think that they know more than what they do. They have a college degree (where they were brainwashed to think as a secular humanist), and so they assume that anyone and everyone who is educated must recognize that justice is not really related to morals or religion.

What makes this so amusing to me is that you are throwing a tantrum about how unfairly I am allegedly stereotyping "people of faith" (which I am, of course, not doing at all) while simultaneously engaging in precisely that kind of stereotyping, and without any justification at all. You seem to think that anyone who opposes real theocracy is a member of the "far left", which is simply laughable in my case. I'm for school voucher programs, abolishing the income tax and I've defended folks like Clarence Thomas from ignorant attacks from Democrats; I'm certainly not a member of the "far left". And of course, you claim that anyone with a college degree has been "brainwashed". Well that's convenient for your position, but it bears little resemblance to reality. And you're also beating up a straw man. I know no one who takes the position that justice is not related to morality.

But if they would humble themselves and think a little bit more, they might recognize that issues of justice, ethics, morality, and politics are fundamentally related to theology.

If by "fundamentally related to theology" you mean that theology has things to say about justice, ethics, morality or politics, I would agree. But that doesn't appear to be what you mean; you appear to mean that you cannot have a position on any of those things without theology, and that is patently absurd.

The very idea that people have rights is a "self-evident truth" that people accept "by faith." But why do we have rights? We have rights because human life is valuable. We have rights because we have been created in the image of God.

You added the "by faith" part. That something is "self-evident" does not mean it must be accepted on faith. But even if it did, that hardly supports Moore's theocratic views. The Bible doesn't say one word about legal or political rights, nor did Christian theology prior to the Enlightenment. The belief in individual rights simply cannot be traced to the Bible or to Christian theology.

I was in Colonial Williamsburg last year, where I saw a living historian impersonate Patrick Henry in the early 1800's. During the Q & A time, a person in the crowd questioned whether he (Henry) could foresee a time in the future when the public display of the 10 Commandments would be considered intolerable. Patrick Henry responded, "The 10 Commandments?! Our whole law is based on the 10 Commandments! You have no need to worry."

Of course, the crowd laughed at the irony.

And the crowd should have laughed at the irony, but not for the same reason you seem to think - and that's all the more deliciously ironic. I mean, far be it for me to dispute the views of a third-rate actor at a tourist trap, which I'm sure are well informed (/sarcasm), but there are multiple reasons why this claim is false, none of which you seem to be aware of. First of all, the notion that Patrick Henry would have claimed that the American system of law, based upon the Constitution, was based on the 10 commandments is ridiculous. Henry opposed the passage of the Constitution, at least partly because it didn't include any statements of religious nature or intent. Patrick Henry was a "Christian nation" advocate and he refused to take part in the framing of the Constitution, and fought against its passage, in part because it was a "Godless document" (he had other objections as well, of course).

Second, because it would be quite odd if our "whole law" is based on the 10 commandments when at least 7 of them would be blatantly unconstitutional. The only two commandments that could be legally enforced in this country are the prohibitions on theft and murder. A third prohibition, the one against bearing false witness, can only be enforced in some situations (like perjury). Isn't it bizarre to claim that our law is "based on" a set of rules, 3/4 of which are prohibited from being made into law in this country? Yes, it certainly is.

The secularists reject the authority of God.

No, they reject your claim to know what God demands and reject your authority to impose those alleged demands on others.

They prefer the authority of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's "evolving standards of decency."

What's funny about this is that, while decrying my accusation of ignorance, you keep displaying that ignorance. The phrase "evolving standards of decency" came from the Supreme Court ruling in Roper v Simmons. That ruling was written not by Ginsburg but by Anthony Kennedy. And it was in the context of cruel and unusual punishments. But also bear in mind that no less a conservative authority than Justice Scalia has said publicly that he would not uphold a law that allowed for public whippings, regardless of the accepted standards of punishment at the time of the original writing of the 8th amendment. So it seems that "evolving standards of decency" govern everyone's views on the question of cruel and unusual punishments. But of course, that would mean that your accusation against "secularists" is not unique to "secularists" at all, and that kind of ruins a perfectly good rant, doesn't it? Sorry about that, but reality has a way of doing so.

First of all, what are the standards of decency? Second of all, how are they evolving? Thirdly, who decides and interprets what those standards are? Fourthly, aren't these all religious questions in the final analysis?

The first three questions are all a matter of some dispute; reasonable people may disagree. But I know this much: we've tried it Judge Moore's way. We've tried theocratic societies where judges enforce "God's law". We did it in Puritan Massachusetts, for example, and the result was that Quakers and Baptists were thrown in prison, witches were burned and actual liberty was virtually non-existent. Refusing to have a child baptized, for example, led to banishment from the colony. We tried it as well in Calvin's Geneva; ask Michael Servetus how that turned out. We tried it in Europe for centuries, wedding church and state together and giving the state the authority to impose ecclesiastical law. The result? I'll give you two answers, one from Thomas Jefferson:

"Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined, and imprisoned, yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites."

And one from James Madison:

What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people...During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.

Been there, done that, wrote a Constitution that ended it. And yes, anyone who seeks to bring it back may fairly be described as ignorant and dangerous.

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In the midst of making a fool of himself, Hillman did say one thing that made a wee bit of sense:

But if they would humble themselves and think a little bit more, they might recognize that issues of justice, ethics, morality, and politics are fundamentally related to theology.

This statement isn't totally wrong -- it's just a bit vague about whose theology our concepts of "justice, ethics, morality, and politics" are related to. Hillman needs to understand that there's more than one "theology" at work here.

We did it in Puritan Massachusetts, for example, and the result was that...witches were burned...

Actually, the result was that Christians were falsely accused of witchcraft and hanged (alleged witches were burned in Europe, not here). Not that that changes anything on a moral level, of course...

Dan Hillman wrote:
I was in Colonial Williamsburg last year, where I saw a living historian impersonate Patrick Henry in the early 1800's.

That's quite a trick, given that Patrick Henry died in 1799. Did the historian just lie there and attract flies?

Didn't he realize you were just paraphrasing good ol' boy John Stuart Mill that while conservatives aren't necessarily stupid people, most stupid people are conservative?

By justawriter (not verified) on 08 May 2006 #permalink

Hillman: "The secularists reject the authority of God."
Ed: "No, they reject your claim to know what God demands and reject your authority to impose those alleged demands on others."

that's where the rubber meets the road for me in all this. We are supposed to take Hillman's high holy word for what God wants. Or Moore's. And for some reason God is this vicious, bigoted thug who conveniently wants everything Hillman and Moore want. Hillman's pontification about being "opposed to people of faith" is just hogwash. It's the same twisted propaganda all totalitarian theocrats use. It's intended solely to con otherwise good people into giving up their rights and freedoms. Good people need to be smarter than that.

On the Patrick Henry thing, your arguments don't quite fit. Williamsburg (and the actors portraying it) is meant to be set around 1775ish, just prior to the first gunshots in Concord. This means that the constitution didn't exist at the time and the only laws that Henry would have recognized would have been Virginia colonial law and the laws of the UK. Though English Common Law had certainly changed considerably, there was still an attitude that it had some remnants of divine connection to Biblical law.

The attitude wasn't supported factually, of course, as it owed much more to Roman law and simple evolution than to any specific Biblical claim, but it was still a prevelant attitude.

Second, your argument about Henry's "Christian Nation" stance actually supports the actors' statement, not contradicts it. No, Henry wouldn't have been "shocked" by it, given that he'd already seen the alternatives taking place in his own colony, much less the totally secular Articles of Confederation the next year. But he certainly would have been dismayed. He wouldn't, however, have been in denial as the actor portrayed it.

The actor was following the standard rules for living history performance which is to generally ignore and diffuse questions about the future. What is is what always will be. I know this much having done that sort of performance myself at renaissance festivals and other demonstration environments.

Of course, in no way should an actor's portrayal of Henry be treated as dealing with the real thing, nor should Henry himself be considered support for the idea that America should be a theocracy. Henry was far the exception. The main thing he agreed with the others on was that separation from England was the only course of action for the colony to take before it could properly chart its own course, theocracy or otherwise.

By Joe Shelby (not verified) on 08 May 2006 #permalink

Roy Moore is not your average Christian, he is a genuine and actual theo-fascist. He really does believe that judges should ignore both statutory and constitutional law if they conflict with his interpretation of "God's law". And he really does believe that gay people should be imprisoned or put to death. And yes, I do believe that anyone who subscribes to such a position can fairly be described as an ignorant bigot.

Bigot certainly. But not necessarily ignorant. Likely ignorant given Jesus' views about the death penalty for "adultery" or the legitimacy of the pagan Roman empire. But not necessarily ignorant: there are any number of weird and wonderful biblical hermeneutic systems. (You might be able to make a case for dumb-assery though.)
Now as for those who think U.S. law is based on the ten commandments, well, they're either ignorant, haven't bothered to actually think about the matter, or have their heads so far up their arses they're seeing their tonsils from the wrong side. I don't really see any other possibilities there.

By Andrew Wade (not verified) on 08 May 2006 #permalink

Joe Shelby wrote:

On the Patrick Henry thing, your arguments don't quite fit. Williamsburg (and the actors portraying it) is meant to be set around 1775ish, just prior to the first gunshots in Concord. This means that the constitution didn't exist at the time and the only laws that Henry would have recognized would have been Virginia colonial law and the laws of the UK. Though English Common Law had certainly changed considerably, there was still an attitude that it had some remnants of divine connection to Biblical law.

The English common law certainly had lots of Biblical and ecclesiastical law in it. But Hillman clearly thinks that Henry was talking about our law, post-Constitution, not English common law.

Second, your argument about Henry's "Christian Nation" stance actually supports the actors' statement, not contradicts it. No, Henry wouldn't have been "shocked" by it, given that he'd already seen the alternatives taking place in his own colony, much less the totally secular Articles of Confederation the next year. But he certainly would have been dismayed.

I'm not arguing with the actor, I'm arguing with Hillman and his notion that Henry's position had any impact on the meaning of the Constitution.

The belief in individual rights simply cannot be traced to the Bible or to Christian theology.

In fact, you can go farther than even that statement. I have been doing a sort-of self study on English royalty, beginning with the Tudor dynasty. I am now on the Stuarts, and during both James I and Charles I time, the issue of popular rights and individual freedoms was in direct conflict with royal perogative and considered seditious. The Bible was used as the authority for the concept of the "divine rights of Kings." Under that system of thinking, the freedoms espoused by the Founding Fathers would not only NOT be based on the Bible, they would represent heresy.

They have a college degree (where they were brainwashed to think as a secular humanist)Too dumb to respond to.

huh. formatting thing. Here we go:

They have a college degree (where they were brainwashed to think as a secular humanist)

Too dumb to respond to.

They have a college degree (where they were brainwashed to think as a secular humanist)

Guess that makes me a secular humanist too.... Heh, news to me.

Anyway, I would add one thing to Ed's commentary: While "individual rights" can be drawn from the Bible, it can only be done by reversing its viewpoint. Biblically, moral living is not "to respect the rights of others" but "to perform one's duty." For instance, rather than having a right to be treated fairly, one has a duty to treat others fairly.

Such rights (for others) logically follow from such duties (for oneself), and thus it is not terribly surprising that the Enlightenment happened first in the Christian west. Since people rarely live out their duties as they should, it becomes necessary to legislate rights (which are more practical). But the difference is not insignificant. The rights viewpoint is passive and self-focused (what others can't do to me) while the duties viewpoint is active and other-focused (what I should do for others).

Ken Brown wrote:

Such rights (for others) logically follow from such duties (for oneself), and thus it is not terribly surprising that the Enlightenment happened first in the Christian west. Since people rarely live out their duties as they should, it becomes necessary to legislate rights (which are more practical). But the difference is not insignificant. The rights viewpoint is passive and self-focused (what others can't do to me) while the duties viewpoint is active and other-focused (what I should do for others).

This sounds like a post hoc rationalization to me, an attempt to read Enlightenment thinking back into the Bible, for several reasons. First, because I don't think any of the Enlightenment thinkers who formulated the argument for individual rights ever pointed to such a connection. Second, because while one can point to a few specific instances in the Bible that might support the more general duty to others, one can also point to a vast range of legal provisions that certainly did not apply that principle in any way like the idea that we have, as individuals, a right to live our lives as we see fit so long as we do not harm others against their will (which is the Enlightenment notion of individual rights we are seeking to explain). It certainly did not extend to the right to have sex as one pleased (the punishment for pre-marital or homosexual sex was stoning) or the right to practice another religion within that society or any other actual individual rights that we hold to be unalienable. There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that this general notion of a duty to others is logically connected to the notion of individual rights that the government may not infringe, nor is there anything in Christian theology prior to the Enlightenment that makes such a connection (at least so far as I am aware). So if there is indeed a connection here, it seems to have escaped all of the Biblical authors and all of the great Christian theologians throughout the centuries. On the other hand, the Enlightenment thinkers whose ideas of personal freedom have shaped our world pointed rather explicitly to many of the pagan philosophers of Greece and Rome.

Ed: hence, my closing paragraph ("shouldn't have been a reference and/or authority in the first place", though not in those words). I agree that most "theocrats" have a mixed up sense of history and the stances of the founding fathers (including their conflicts) on religion and the government and the order in which things went from boston revolt to constitution and innauguration.

By Joe Shelby (not verified) on 08 May 2006 #permalink

First of all, as I was rereading through some of my comments, some of them were a bit harsh and based on some false assumptions that I had made. I apologize for that.

Second of all, I propose that we all treat one another in a friendly manner, regardless of our religious, political, and ideological differences.

Ed Brayton, calling all of Moore's supporters "braindead hicks" is inaccurate, mean, arrogant, and foolish.

About a year ago, I read Roy Moore's autobiography: So Help Me God: The Ten Commandments, Judicial Tyranny, and the Battle for Religious Freedom. Great book. I highly recommend it. Moore is an honorable Vietnam veteran, a graduate of one of the military academies, a hard and ambitious worker, and a man of faith who understands that God's law is higher than man's law.

Brayton said about Moore: "He really does believe that judges should ignore both statutory and constitutional law if they conflict with his interpretation of 'God's law'."

When I worked for the government, I had to sign a statement saying that I support the Constitution. Well, I had to include a stipulation: I support and defend the Constitution only as long as doing so does not conflict with my devotion to Jesus Christ. Otherwise, I could not in good conscious pledge support to that man-made document which depends on the secular ideas of the Enlightenment.

So, if/when the Constitution and the Bible command opposites, we must obey God and not man. To not do so would be idolatry.

The state commands allegiance. God commands allegiance. Sometimes you can give allegiance to both, but when you can't, you had better give allegiance to God.

Brayton said, "If by 'fundamentally related to theology' you mean that theology has things to say about justice, ethics, morality or politics, I would agree. But that doesn't appear to be what you mean; you appear to mean that you cannot have a position on any of those things without theology, and that is patently absurd."

I am saying that ethics is a subset of theology. Politics also is a subset of theology. All truth is God's truth. We have been created in the image of God. That is why murder is wrong. You might know "instinctively" that murder is wrong without thinking about the fact that you have been created in God's image, but the reason you think so still comes down to the fact that you have been created in God's image - whether you think about that or not.

The Bible says in Proverbs to defend peoples' rights. The Bible does not say much about rights, but it does say some. Rights come from God. A right is a just claim, and the Bible says, "The just shall live by faith."

On the Patrick Henry thing: the setting might have been the late 1700's, but I thought it was the early 1800's. He did die in 1799.

I am also aware that Henry was contending for a Christian nation, and he did not get what he wanted. It does drive me crazy when I see Christians spouting off that our forefathers established a Christian nation. That is not the case. But they also did not have the same vision as Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the far left.

But none of that matters to me in the sense that I don't care what our founding fathers thought. They were a bunch of sinful men, and their ideas were largely shaped by the Enlightenment (secular humanism). I am also not contending for "theocracy," because a theocracy which is not a true theocracy is a really bad thing. (That is, a theocracy that is so in name, but not in actuality).

What I am saying is that secularism is a form of a religion. They don't really define their god too well, and they claim authority over religion. They don't say that they do, but in practice, they do. There is no neutral ground. The idea that our laws should be based on secular principles has led to the murders of millions of unborn babies. Furthermore, secularism does not solve our problems. There were religious wars hundreds of years ago, but there were plenty of millions of people killed in secular wars in the 20th century. Yet, secularism marches on - and the secularists are religiously devoted against religion.

I am not saying that everyone who gets a college degree is a brainwashed secular humanist. But I am saying that many, who do, are.

I am familiar with Roper v Simmons, but later in another case (i forget which one right now), Ginsburg used the same phrase and suggested that the standards have evolved more. i.e. Ginsburg wanted something her way, so she declared that standards have evolved to her way. This is judicial tyranny.

God is not bigoted. But He is fierce ... and good. He is the Lion of Judah. He is Holy. He pours out His wrath on those who disobey Him. But He is also loving and merciful. He died on the cross for us poor sinners. This is great news for sinners like us.

There are no "good" people. There are only those who have been justified by faith through the blood of Christ, and are being sanctified by that same faith. But people are not good. We are wicked and sinful. To think otherwise is to embrace illusion. That is a very dangerous thing to do.

God's Word commands us all: "Be holy, because I am holy." Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart. Step out in faith, and obey God.

God bless you all.

By DanHillman (not verified) on 08 May 2006 #permalink

Ed,
You've misunderstood me, and I'm sure it's my fault. I was trying to say that rights and duties are not interchangeable, and that it is only by totally reversing the Bible's communal viewpoint that one can arrive at "individual rights." It is not impossible to do so, but neither is it truly biblical.

That said, was it not Augustine's City of God which made clear that the kingdom of God is not to be equated with any earthly political body? Biblically, it is only within the covenant people that impurity (sexual and otherwise) can be punished. And only here because, by accepting the covenant, one vowed to be pure and to be held accountable. Only God has the right to judge those who reject his covenant. It was because the Christian west ignored this (along with its duty to "serve one another in love") that church and state became so entangled and corrupt in the first place, and something like the Enlightenment became necessary.

This is not at all to suggest that the Enlightenment itself was an inherently Christian phenomena (in many ways it was anti-Christian), but neither is a rights-based secular state irreconcilable with classic duty-focused Christianity. No Christian can accept that he himself has a right to extra-marital sex, but neither can they force non-Christians to accept that standard of purity against their will. The Christian message is a call to repentance, not an entitlement to coerce.

Just one little clarification on Henry:

"I am also aware that Henry was contending for a Christian nation, and he did not get what he wanted. It does drive me crazy when I see Christians spouting off that our forefathers established a Christian nation."

Actually, Henry was a supporter of the "Christian State," not the "Christian Nation" view because Henry didn't support the notion of the United States as one "great" nation, but rather as a compact of free and independent states. He did vote against the Constitution, in part, I think, because it didn't make the necessary supplications to the God of the Bible. But his main reason for opposing the US Constitution was the way it centralized power.

Particularly, he objected to the phrase, "we the people of the United States," (he preferred "We, the states") because this implied, quoting him, one "great consolidated government," which Henry regarded as "pernicious, impolitic, and dangerous." Henry made it clear that he preferred "a confederation" with "the States" as "agents of this compact."

Hillman: "When I worked for the government, I had to sign a statement saying that I support the Constitution. Well, I had to include a stipulation: I support and defend the Constitution only as long as doing so does not conflict with my devotion to Jesus Christ. Otherwise, I could not in good conscious pledge support to that man-made document which depends on the secular ideas of the Enlightenment."

which means when you signed it you were lying your ass off. You had absolutely no intention of defending the Constitution unless it was conventient and didn't conflict with something you felt you wanted to do and could find Biblical justification for.

Hillman: "So, if/when the Constitution and the Bible command opposites, we must obey God and not man. To not do so would be idolatry."

Which is why fundamentalism is so very dangerous. You are above the law, a law unto yourself. Anything you take it into your head to do, as long as you can find justification somewhere in the Bible--which is not hard--you can do it. Flat. Lying obivously, that's easy, see above. Theft, violence, maiming, murder, torture--nothing stands between you and anything you can imagine that you would like to do. Not because you wish to break the law like a common criminal but because the laws simply don't apply to you.

Secular people will always stand against you because we *like* the rule of law. You will notice Judge Moore isn't doing well in his race for the governor. Other Christians will also stand against you because they like that "nation of laws" thing too.

1. Mr. Brayton, you're right about Patrick Henry, but too easy on Hillman's misinterpretation. Not only did Henry oppose the Constitution, he opposed the entire process. Appointed as a delegate to the Philadelphia convention, he refused to serve. Frustrated that Madison called for a popular convention to ratify, instead of the legislature which Henry thought he had in his own pocket, Henry hustled to organize the convention in Virginia to stack it against ratification. When Madison outmaneuvered Henry with the force of his arguments, and won ratification, Henry tried to stop the proposal of the Bill of Rights by frustrating Madison's sure election to the U.S. Senate. When Madison then announced he'd run for the House, Henry hand-picked the one man in Tidewater Virginia who could beat Madison, and financed the campaign. When Madison converted even Henry's handpicked candidate (James Monroe -- but there is yet another wonderful story), Henry just got petulant. Asked to serve in the new government by George Washington, Henry petulantly refused . . .

Henry was in no wise a "framer" of the Constitution nor of the freedoms we enjoy today. He fought them hammer and tong, tooth and nail. And lost.

2. Roy Moore? Back when he first started his use of the Ten Commandments as a political weapon (instead of as a set of religious commandments), his political backers got my name from some old conservative organizations. They asked me for money and other support. I told Moore that I'd support his public rally in Alabama if he'd simply add a statement that he supports the First Amendment. Until it crashed, I had saved the e-mail I got from his group: "We don't need that shit!"

How else to read that than Roy Moore thinks our Constitution is shit? He has the gall to claim he stands for the Ten Commandments, or for Christianity, or for God? See Jefferson's comments above, quoted by Mr. Brayton, about hypocrites. It applies in spades to Roy Moore. Ironically, so do Jefferson's comments about fools apply to Moore.

I am surprised that Roy Moore could pass a bar with his views of the Constitution. I am shocked that he would go back on the oath he took when he got to West Point, and when he graduated. Shame on him.

By Ed Darrell (not verified) on 08 May 2006 #permalink

Hillman said:

Ed Brayton, calling all of Moore's supporters "braindead hicks" is inaccurate, mean, arrogant, and foolish.

And then, just a few paragraphs later, he also said:

I am not saying that everyone who gets a college degree is a brainwashed secular humanist. But I am saying that many, who do, are.

See, if Ed makes a claim about the followers of a specific person who advocates specific positions, he's mean, arrogant, and foolish. If Hillman does the same for "many" who graduate from any college, at any time, in any place, in any discipline, from any background whatsoever, well then he's Godly.

Glad to clear that up.

They have a college degree (where they were brainwashed to think as a secular humanist)...

What's with this anti-intellectual nonsense that's so prevalent these days? It seems like it's assumed that anyone who attended a college or university other than Liberty or Bob Jones is a liberal, atheist zombie, but not by choice, mind you. It's part of a nationwide conspiracy amongst college professors to spread their radical agenda on behalf of the resurrected spirits of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. College students are incapable of independent thought.

I'm only speaking for myself and my college friends here, but during the entire four years I spent at one of the most liberal universities in the world (Class of '05), I don't recall a single instance of a professor or any other instructor trying to influence students' political opinions or religious beliefs in the classroom. Maybe it was all so subliminal that I didn't notice.

I just don't get it. We're living in an era when a huge portion of the population thinks scientists don't understand science (See: evolution), psychologists don't understand psychology (See: homosexuality), and David Horowitz is a noble crusader.

I am saying that ethics is a subset of theology. Politics also is a subset of theology. All truth is God's truth.

Well, then that must be one of two things. Either
A) No atheist has a shot at truth, or
B) It is possible to find truth without God.

If A, then I would ask you to explain why many atheists are entirely capable of being vastly more moral, just, and knowledgeable than many theists.

If B, then what is the benefit of being concerned with God in the first place?

Simply put, you're appealing to two primary non-falsfiable claims to support your ideas, which means that you can't have a productive exchange with anybody who doesn't accept those claims along with you. Those being 1. that God exists, and 2. that we can know him/her/it.

I am saying that ethics is a subset of theology. Politics also is a subset of theology. All truth is God's truth.

Well, then that must be one of two things. Either
A) No atheist has a shot at truth, or
B) It is possible to find truth without God.

I think there might be one more option, and that is
C) Atheists find truth with God, but they won't admit it.

Mr. Hillman hints at that when he says: You might know "instinctively" that murder is wrong without thinking about the fact that you have been created in God's image, but the reason you think so still comes down to the fact that you have been created in God's image - whether you think about that or not.

An atheist could just as easily say that theists who think they find truth with God are full of poopy crap, and the atheist would be about as convincing as the apologist who tries to tell atheists that they indeed are the ones who are full of the crap.

I probably should have phrased it "It is possible to find truth without believing in God."

In response to whether or not atheists can find truth:

Because of the talents and giftings that God gives atheists, and because of the doctrine of "common grace," atheists are capable of finding part of the truth. Atheists don't get everything wrong. In high school, my best friends were atheists. They were very smart people. We agreed about many things. We disagreed about theology. And we were still friends. They even got me a "Jesus is Lord" hat for my birthday.

As to my loyalty to God above my loyalty to the Constitution: I am not at liberty to twist the Scriptures to make them say what I want to say. I have been called to love God, love my neighbor, to proclaim the gospel, and to stand up for justice and mercy. The Holy Spirit is real. If I twist the Scriptures to make them say what I want to say, then I am in sin.

Inasmuch as the Constitution is in agreement with the Scriptures, I respect it and humbly submit to it. I am commanded to do so in the Bible. See Romans 13.

You seem to be suggesting that the Constitution should trump my faith in the Bible when in conflict. I'm sure Hitler felt that anyone who disagreed with his laws "because the Bible says so," were out of line too. Of course, the Constitution is different than Hitler's ideology, but the point remains that man is flawed and evil. Therefore to submit to a man-made document over God's Word is unwise and wrong.

In response to Jeff Heber, that "many" word is a key word. If Brayton had said "many" Roy Moore supporters are "braindead hicks," I might say that he is at least being slightly more accurate. But he is implying that "all" Roy Moore supporters are "braindead hicks." I don't think I should need to make this distinction, but there you have it.

Gretchen, no one can know anything about the truth of God unless God reveals it to them. But I still think that through discussions, God can use people to cause other people to think about something that they may not have really considered previously.

As far as Christians engaging in politics: I believe that people are right when they say that we can't go "top-down" to form a Christian nation. Rather, we should form relationships and preach the gospel. As we do, Christians will influence politics, which is a good thing.

But on the other hand, when Christians take a back seat to all things political, they give control over to the secularists. The Bible says to do justly. Therefore, Christians should engage in the culture and society and politics, because it is an issue of justice.

I believe that the Christians who lived in Nazi Germany probably had some answering to do to God for not standing up against Hitler.

I believe that Christians who do not take a stand against abortion and homosexual "marriage" will have to answer to God for their silence.

Futhermore, it was Christians in the 19th century who led the charge for abolitionism, and their reasons in many cases were (gasp) religious. Also, many Christians were involved for the fight for civil liberties in the 60's again for religious reasons.

So, this idea that Christians ought not be engaged in the political process does not make sense. But I do agree that first and foremost, we ought to love God and love our neighbor and preach the gospel to individual people.

God bless you all. Check out my blog: meditationsofdan.blogspot.com

By DanHillman (not verified) on 09 May 2006 #permalink

Gretchen, no one can know anything about the truth of God unless God reveals it to them. But I still think that through discussions, God can use people to cause other people to think about something that they may not have really considered previously.

My point was that since everything you're arguing rests on the presumption that morality and justice come from God, there is no common ground for productive discussion with someone who disagrees with that. Further, I would argue that even if the person you've conversing with does grant that, their conception of God and what kind of truth comes from God may be dramatically different from yours. Therefore, even another theist has no nowhere to go with you on that course of discussion beyond "Okay, morality and justice come from God. So what?" This can happen even if you agree on the Bible as a common authority-- which version of the Bible? Which interpretation?

In short, what you've got is a door-slammer of a presumption there. It effectively acts as a barricade to "causing other people to think about something they might have not have really considered previously," as opposed to enabling that process as you suppose.

That's right. It is totally impossible for people to be intelligent and have faith.
It's not, I know such persons. Their political views are far from Dan Hillman's, though.
And it is totally impossible for smart people to believe that justice is really a moral - and therefore also religious - issue.
Are all atheist people immoral?
Anyone who actually believes the Bible is the ultimate authority on truth, reality, and justice must be a "braindead hick" who can't "afford phones."
Maybe he can afford phone, but the book which says that the world was created in six days cannot be considered "the ultimate authority on reality" without some effort on interpreting it. And we all know different people can interpret the same text in different ways. If it wasn't so, we wouldn't have hundreds of different Christian denominations, would we? This leaves aside the inconsistencies in the Bible, especially between the Old and the New Testament.

I've been many times arguing for recognizing religion as a source of our moral beliefs on this blog, but here I must take side with Ed Brayton and the rest of the atheistic gang ;-) -- there is no way we can base a modern country on the Bible without exluding the non-believers from it. Is this what Mr Hillman wants?

By Roman Werpachowski (not verified) on 09 May 2006 #permalink

I agree with Gretchen - Mr. Hillman has set up his argument based on the presumption (which I assume he really does believe) that the bible is the true word of God and therefore can't be questioned or challenged or doubted. For those of us who don't agree with that presumption, there is no longer any ground on which we can debate.

Mr. Hillman also quotes extensively from the bible to justify his positions, which is fine I suppose since the bible is the basis for said positions. But the bible wasn't written in English. It was written in Greek and Hebrew. I studied ancient Greek and Latin in college and read some bible passages and I have to tell you, ancient grammar and language and vocab are very different than our modern tongues. I honestly don't have much respect for anyone who lives by the exact words of the bible if they can't read them in the original languages. Now, I have no idea whether or not Mr. Hillman reads Greek and Hebrew and I'll not make an assumption either way. But really, I think this is a vital point for any discussion with someone who takes the bible as the literal word of God. A translation is not the same thing. Especially if it's a translation into English of a Latin translation of the original Greek and Hebrew. When parsing the meanings of individual words, a tremendous amount of nuance gets lost in translation.

Also, Mr. Hillman has forgotten the cardinal rule of internet debate - the first person to bring up Hitler loses, because it's almost always a desperate, over the top rhetorical trope, which is certainly the case here.

Dan Hillman wrote:

We have been created in the image of God. That is why murder is wrong.

OK, I'll bite. What is then the moral and spiritual difference between:

- A man who poisons his grandmother to get his hands on the inheritance
- A doctor who performs an abortion
- An Allied soldier who shoots dead an al-Qaida insurgent in Iraq.

By Nebogipfel (not verified) on 09 May 2006 #permalink

Dan Hillman wrote:

Second of all, I propose that we all treat one another in a friendly manner, regardless of our religious, political, and ideological differences.

I have no interest in being friendly to people who are the enemies of everything I believe in and who would, if they had the power, destroy people I care about. Judge Moore fits that bill and so does anyone who would support his agenda.

About a year ago, I read Roy Moore's autobiography: So Help Me God: The Ten Commandments, Judicial Tyranny, and the Battle for Religious Freedom. Great book. I highly recommend it. Moore is an honorable Vietnam veteran, a graduate of one of the military academies, a hard and ambitious worker, and a man of faith who understands that God's law is higher than man's law.

In other words, he's a theocrat - a man who would imprison or kill people I care about because the Bible tells him to and who thinks that our constitution, which forbids such barbarism, is irrelevant when he disagrees with it. If he had his way, this would be a totalitarian society that put people to death for homosexuality, premarital sex and a host of other things that are neither his business nor any government's business. Ambitious he certainly is, but he works hard at is converting a free society into a fascist one. I won't stand mince words when I speak about him, nor will I be friendly to him. He is the enemy of everything that matters to me.

When I worked for the government, I had to sign a statement saying that I support the Constitution. Well, I had to include a stipulation: I support and defend the Constitution only as long as doing so does not conflict with my devotion to Jesus Christ. Otherwise, I could not in good conscious pledge support to that man-made document which depends on the secular ideas of the Enlightenment.

So, if/when the Constitution and the Bible command opposites, we must obey God and not man. To not do so would be idolatry.

Then frankly, you should not have been allowed to serve in our government in any capacity. You support and defend the constitution unless you disagree with it.

I am saying that ethics is a subset of theology. Politics also is a subset of theology. All truth is God's truth.

Sorry, but this is pure idiocy. By this standard, everything is a subset of theology. Why, then, bother having the word "theology" to refer to a specific type of idea if all ideas are within the realm of theology?

The Bible says in Proverbs to defend peoples' rights. The Bible does not say much about rights, but it does say some. Rights come from God.

Nonsense. Name the verse that discusses rights in the same manner that we mean them in constitutional terms. There is not a single verse that refers to political or individual rights at all. And there are lots and lots of laws in the Bible that clearly restrict rights and prescribe death for the exercise of them. That is the antithesis of any notion of human liberty.

I am not saying that everyone who gets a college degree is a brainwashed secular humanist. But I am saying that many, who do, are.

I'm sorry, weren't you the one complaining about the "unfriendly" use ot stereotypes?

I am familiar with Roper v Simmons, but later in another case (i forget which one right now), Ginsburg used the same phrase and suggested that the standards have evolved more. i.e. Ginsburg wanted something her way, so she declared that standards have evolved to her way. This is judicial tyranny.

But even Scalia says that he would not vote for an originalist conception of the 8th amendment that allowed public whippings, which were allowed at the time of the Constitution. So is that judicial tyranny as well? And why single out Ginsburg, for crying out loud? The phrase "evolving standards of decency" goes back, at least, to a 1958 Supreme Court case (Trop v Dulles). Come on, admit it. You had no idea what Ginsburg either said or meant by this (and she didn't say it in a supreme court ruling, but in a speech defending its use by Kennedy in Roper), you just saw this bandied about on some right wing blogs and ran with it. Why not blame it on Earl Warren, who actually used the phrase first? Oh, right - because you didn't know that. Parrotting is so much easier than learning.

I'll skip the rest of the meaningless preaching at the end of your screed. If you believe that the laws found in the Bible take precedence, legally, over the Constitution, then you are anti-American, anti-freedom and anti-reason. I would no sooner be friendly to you than I would be friendly to someone trying to steal my car. You want to steal something far more valuable, our liberty.

Ed says:

I would no sooner be friendly to you than I would be friendly to someone trying to steal my car. You want to steal something far more valuable, our liberty.

Unless your car is in fact a Jeep Liberty, in which case he could steal both.

Think about it ... I didn't.

(Apologies for stealing the above line from Colbert).

Nebogipfel,

Please don't identify "the insurgency in Iraq" with Al Qaida.
It's simply inaccurate. Al Qaida is comprised of religiously fanatical Muslims, most of whom are not in Iraq, Bush propaganda notwithstanding/ The insurgency is comprised largely of local Sunnis representing the vestiges of a _secular_ government. The lingering inability to differentiate different schools of thought in the Arab culture leads people to label all Arabs and/or Muslims as terrorists.

I don't have time to deal with all of Hillman's latest nonsense (maybe later?), so I'll just take this paragraph of his for now:

The Bible says in Proverbs to defend peoples' rights. The Bible does not say much about rights, but it does say some. Rights come from God. A right is a just claim, and the Bible says, "The just shall live by faith."

This statement clearly implies that those who do not "live by faith" (Hillman's faith, that is) are not "just;" therefore they do not have a "just claim" to the rights that the "just" who "live by faith" can claim; therefore, those who don't share Hillman's faith must be treated as inferior according to the laws of Hillman's God -- which, as he explicitly said, override the laws of men.

So, Mr. Hillman, if you interpret some part of the Bible to mean that you simply cannot respect the rights of people whose beliefs are different from yours, would this mean that you would be unable to obey the most basic laws of your country?

You're not very patriotic, are you?

So, if/when the Constitution and the Bible command opposites, we must obey God and not man. To not do so would be idolatry.

Where, pray tell, does the constitution of this nation conflict with the bible? Where does the bible tell us that we should have expressions of faith in government facilities?

You base your entire supposition on the idea that the bible tells us to take over our government. That our faith should somehow take over and trump everyone elses. You are wrong. Let me repaet that, you are wrong. We are commanded to be in the world not of it.

Futhermore, it was Christians in the 19th century who led the charge for abolitionism, and their reasons in many cases were (gasp) religious. Also, many Christians were involved for the fight for civil liberties in the 60's again for religious reasons.

I don't remember any of those Christians saying that they were above the laws of their country, and not bound by them. Even when they flat-out broke the law (non-violent civil disobedience), they did so in such a way as to recognize that the law did indeed apply to them (admitting guilt and accepting legal punishment without complaint). Furthermore, they always advocated CHANGING THE LAWS TO MAKE THEM BETTER, and expected all people to be bound by the new, improved laws.

I think there are answers that are not so hard re: the secular law and religious law conflicting:

If the secular law and the religious law conflict, the secular law trumps and the religious believer has the option of disobeying the secular law and paying the consequences for his civil disobedience.

The believer can then try to change the law or petition government for an exemption. There is a big issue as to whether one is constitutionally entitled to an exemption which I won't touch here.

If the believer is in a position of civil authority and doesn't want to carry out a law which conflicts with his religious conscience, he can 1) ask for an accomodation -- that is, have someone else who works for government carry out the duties, or 2) quit his job.

I think Justice Scalia said something similar where the question was Catholics whose religious views were anti-penalty. Justice Scalia said something along the lines of the death penalty is clearly constitutional and if you are such a Catholic in a position of authority you should quit your job before you try to impose your views through the civil process.

RickD wrote:

Please don't identify "the insurgency in Iraq" with Al Qaida

Very well, to avoid tangential arguments on the nature of the Iraqi insurgency I will rephrase:

What is then the moral and spiritual difference between:

- A man who poisons his grandmother to get his hands on the inheritance
- A doctor who performs an abortion
- An Allied soldier who shoots dead an insurgent in Iraq.
- An executioner who carries out a lawfully imposed death sentence

I'm just interested; if God has commanded, "thou shalt not kill", then that is a moral absolute. So surely any deliberate taking of human life is sinful and immoral? Or not?

By Nebogipfel (not verified) on 09 May 2006 #permalink

Hillman: "As to my loyalty to God above my loyalty to the Constitution: I am not at liberty to twist the Scriptures to make them say what I want to say. I have been called to love God, love my neighbor, to proclaim the gospel, and to stand up for justice and mercy. The Holy Spirit is real. If I twist the Scriptures to make them say what I want to say, then I am in sin."

It's only twisted and sinful when someone else does it. When YOU do it it's a plain reading of the clear text. Nobody, no matter how monumental a butcher they turned out to be, belived they were misinterpreting God's commands. Exactly as you believe, they believed that God was speaking to them in a clear voice.

That's why we have a nation of "mens" laws and not a theocracy. God always speaks plainly to each of his believers but he appears to be saying different things to each of them.

All nations that adhere to "God's Laws" above the laws of mere men have been totalitarian nightmares. Every one. Jefferson, Madison, et al. didn't just read it in the history books. They lived it. They knew about the horror that happens when religion becomes wedded to political power and they did everything they could to prevent it from happening here.

Yes, of course, you had to lie about upholding the constitution. It's a stumbling block to theocracy. It was intended to be. I will fight to keep it that way as long as I have breath in my body and as you can see from the reactions here on this blog, I am not alone in that resolve.

Gretchen,

Half of debate is spent discovering what your opposition's presuppositions are. I have already made my presuppositions available, so that half is certainly over. But that's when the opening rounds end, and then we get into the real debate: Who's presuppositions are right?

So, let me ask you? What is your final and ultimate authority on truth, goodness, and reality? Do you believe in God? Why or why not? What do you do with this figure of history - this dude who walked the earth 2000 years ago - Jesus Christ? Was he a crazy lunatic? Was he an untruthful liar? Or ... logically, there is only one other alternative: the Son of God?

God bless you.

To those who choose not to be friendly to me, I bless you in Jesus' name. I pray God's very best for you and your family. I pray that His Kingdom will come and His will be done in your hearts and lives.

In the final analysis: It is all about the cross. Jesus died for us people.

To the fellow believer who insists that I am wrong: I first of all bless you. Secondly, I challenge you to be like a Berean and search the Scriptures to see if what I am saying is wrong. The Bible says "the just shall live by faith." The Bible speaks in Hebrews 11 of people who "through faith, established justice."

And for the record, I am an "old Earth creationist." The Hebrew word for day in Genesis 1 is used throughout Genesis, and virtually every other place it is used, it is not used to represent a 24 hour period. That said, I embrace and love my "young Earth creationist" brethren.

Blessings to all!

By DanHillman (not verified) on 09 May 2006 #permalink

Wow, DanHillman was so busy blessing everything in sight (sorta like that Onion headline about JPII), he forgot to address the isssues raised by his comments. I'm sure he was just so high on God's lovingkindness that he just made an honest mistake. I feel the warmth of his religious snobbery trickling all over me...but is God's blessing supposed to smell like a New York subway station?

But that's how many so-called Christians avoid honest debate among equals: say something stupid, insulting or inflammatory, insist it's in the Bible, clear as day, and when others -- including Christians who interpret the Bible differently -- get insulted or angry, pretend to be full of God's loving blessings and smile down their noses at all the inferior heathens.

Hillman also forgot a rather pertinent quote from Jesus Christ...you know, the guy whose teachings CHRISTIANS are supposed to follow? "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and unto God that which is God's." Rough Translation: your devotion to God does NOT entitle you to brush off your duty to your neighbors and your society. Even though "Csesar" was a foreign pagan tyrant, Jesus did NOT say that his followers (but not the followers of other faiths) could treat Caesar's laws as illegitimate.

Susan,

It really does all come down to an issue of trust, doesn't it?

Americans have chosen to trust the masses and the "wisdom" of the Constitution.

God has commanded us to trust Him. He is good. He is powerful. He is Sovereign. He is loving. He is worthy of our trust.

More importantly than your political persuasion is your spiritual salvation. For those of you who do not believe in Christ, I am telling you that you have the opportunity to be saved and forgiven, if you will come to Christ by faith. But those who reject Christ will experience God's wrath. That is the message of the Bible.

So, politics aside, what will you do when you find out its true?

As a believer, this is obviously a major concern for me.

By DanHillman (not verified) on 09 May 2006 #permalink

Dan-

I will not allow this forum to be used to proselytize. If you want to discuss the issues raised here, that's fine. But I won't allow you to preach here and try to win converts. It bores the hell out of me.

Raging Bee, I didn't forget. I'm just short on time. I'd hope you understand that.

Very few people who know me think of me as a snob. Harsh? Yes. Sinful? Yes. A snob? No.

By DanHillman (not verified) on 09 May 2006 #permalink

So, let me ask you? What is your final and ultimate authority on truth, goodness, and reality? Do you believe in God?

What if I told you I believe, very strongly, in a God that was different from yours? And what if I told you that the voice that speaks in my heart says you're wrong? Whose "voice of God" should dictate policy, and how would we decide this?

What do you do with this figure of history - this dude who walked the earth 2000 years ago - Jesus Christ?

Remember his actual words (like the ones I quoted above) and do my best to apply them meaningfully in my daily life. What do YOU do with him?

Was he a crazy lunatic? Was he an untruthful liar? Or ... logically, there is only one other alternative: the Son of God?

Who here called Jesus crazy OR a liar? And why can't he have been one of many "Sons and Daughters of God?" Why can't he be another imperfect human, inspired by a perfect God, who did his level best to lead the rest of us to perfection?

Smugly pretending that everyone who disagrees with you is an ignorant atheist doean't work here. It's also "false witness against thy neighbor." Isn't there a Commandment thingy against that sort of thing?

Dan Wrote: Was he a crazy lunatic? Was he an untruthful liar? Or ... logically, there is only one other alternative: the Son of God?

Raging Bee Wrote: Who here called Jesus crazy OR a liar? And why can't he have been one of many "Sons and Daughters of God?" Why can't he be another imperfect human, inspired by a perfect God, who did his level best to lead the rest of us to perfection?

Or maybe he was a man who said some great things, didn't touch on a lot more, then had a lot written up about him later that made him more then he claimed? I'm Jewish Dan and I reject Jesus as the Messiah so where does that leave me? Am I partially moral and just 'confused'?

Dan Hillman wrote:

But those who reject Christ will experience God's wrath. That is the message of the Bible.

I know this is off topic, but it's a question that I've wanted to ask for some time now and I can't resist scratching the itch:

Just how *does* it feel to have a parent who will burn some of your siblings in a fire that never goes out?

By Nebogipfel (not verified) on 09 May 2006 #permalink

...Otherwise, I could not in good conscious pledge support to that man-made document which depends on the secular ideas of the Enlightenment.

So, if/when the Constitution and the Bible command opposites, we must obey God and not man. To not do so would be idolatry.

There's a bunch of Muslims who say much the same thing. Here's a really brief summary of the results of such attitudes:

a) Brutal, rigid, corrupt religious tyranny in Iran, accountable only to their own interpretation of the Koran;
b) Brutal murder of Christians, Baha'is, gays, lesbians, and others who have done no harm to their fellow humans;
c) A shameless campaign to intimidate peaceful critics of Islamic extremism and impose Sharia law in (secular/Christian) Europe;
d) 9/11.

Any comment on any of these results, Mr. Hillman?

Dan Hillman said: Was he a crazy lunatic? Was he an untruthful liar? Or ... logically, there is only one other alternative: the Son of God?

Ah, the old Trilemma: "Lunatic, Liar, or Lord"? No one who mentions it ever seems to think of the *fourth* option: the Gospels were written years after the fact, by people who may or may not have actually been there, but who *definitely* had a point to prove, and who may very well have put the words in Jesus's mouth that they believed he would've (or should've) said.

Never mind the cumulative effect of centuries of translations and editing. We can't judge if Yeshua ben Yussef was "Lunatic, Liar, or Lord" because we don't really know anything about him.

Was he a crazy lunatic? Was he an untruthful liar? Or ... logically, there is only one other alternative: the Son of God?

Ahh you've read C.S. Lewis I see.

Its still just as bad an argument as when he made it!

Please learn some more logic before you declare that these three choices exhaust all possible alternatives.

By Soren Kongstad (not verified) on 09 May 2006 #permalink

And for the record, I am an "old Earth creationist." The Hebrew word for day in Genesis 1 is used throughout Genesis, and virtually every other place it is used, it is not used to represent a 24 hour period.

Ahhh and of course no one would disagree with that position. A position I ahve always felt a little dishonest from the biblical point of view.

But you are free to keep it.

Hillman wrote: Futhermore, it was Christians in the 19th century who led the charge for abolitionism, and their reasons in many cases were (gasp) religious.

And there were a large number of Christians, both north and south, who supported slavery precisely ON religious grounds. "Descendants of Ham" and all that. Since I live in coastal South Carolina, I find the idea that abolitionist ideas are synonymous with religion, particularly the Christian religion, laughable.

Was he a crazy lunatic? Was he an untruthful liar? Or ... logically, there is only one other alternative: the Son of God?

Or was he some mere mortal that's been misquoted and misrepresented for over 2000 years now. Lots of guys in Palestine back then named Jesus. Several were crucified during the time the biblical Jesus supposedly did his thing. After all, crucifixion was about as common back then as people being sentenced today to 5 to 10 for a drug conviction in the US.

Hillman wrote The secularists reject the authority of God.

Which God???? Shiva? Allah? Zeus? Oden? Baal?

Yes, I reject the authority of the Christian god for the same reason I reject the authority of Thor. I can have just as much faith in the existence of Zeus as you have in your Christian god and that will in no way improves the odds of his or her actual existence.

Dan said:

Half of debate is spent discovering what your opposition's presuppositions are. I have already made my presuppositions available, so that half is certainly over. But that's when the opening rounds end, and then we get into the real debate: Who's [sic] presuppositions are right?

As I just got done explaining to you, your presuppositions are non-falsifiable, and therefore useless in this discussion. Your belief in God's existence cannot be used as evidence of anything. The moment you start out a discussion on justice and morality saying "Well, I believe justice and morality come from God," then the discussion on justice and morality is over and the one on whether God exists and what he's like begins. But some of us don't want to spend all of our discussions talking about whether God exists and what he's like.

So, let me ask you? What is your final and ultimate authority on truth, goodness, and reality?

I don't have a final and ultimate authority on truth, goodness, and reality. And I submit that neither do you. You may have passed the buck to a particular text to make those decisions for you, but that doesn't make the text a "final and ultimate authority." It simply makes it your authority. There's a big difference. My authorities from day to day are my own experiences, empathy, and reasoning skills. They change and are refined as I learn.

Do you believe in God? Why or why not?

No, because I am not convinced of his existence, nor do I see how it could be proven to me. I'm a finite being; I have no business claiming to be certain of the existence of an infinite being. And there's quite a bit of evidence against such a being, if you're defining him as the omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent type, and quite a lot of reasons not to worship him if he's the god of the Bible.

What do you do with this figure of history - this dude who walked the earth 2000 years ago - Jesus Christ? Was he a crazy lunatic? Was he an untruthful liar? Or ... logically, there is only one other alternative: the Son of God?

Actually there are many other alternatives. Maybe he didn't exist. Maybe he was a healer whose reputation got embellished far beyond what it should have. Maybe he was just confused. By the way, "untruthful liar" is redundant.

Whatever he was, I don't particularly consider him the most admirable man as he was depicted. I don't especially admire any person who believes in hell and worships a god who created it, including Jesus, and I don't see why anything written about him should be relevant to our standards of justice and morality today.

Dan: remember what Christ said "My kingdom is not of this world".

By Roman Werpachowski (not verified) on 09 May 2006 #permalink

From Dan Hillman:

"it is totally impossible for smart people to believe that justice is really a moral - and therefore also religious - issue."

Moral and therefore religious? Did you mean to leave out the "im-" at the beginning, Dan, or was that an accidental omission?

Although you were attempting to wax sarcastic, you are correct about this much: No thinking person could discern any parallels between contemporary morality and Biblical "justice." Unless, of course, you believe that it's imperative in the year 2006 A.D. to stone people to death for homosexuality, adultery and other "sins," and are somehow convinced that the U.S. government agrees with you.

Roman opined:

there is no way we can base a modern country on the Bible without exluding the non-believers from it. Is this what Mr Hillman wants?

Mr. Hillman might say no, but I don't think you'd find a majority of Moore supporters agree with him.

Hillman:

Futhermore, it was Christians in the 19th century who led the charge for abolitionism, and their reasons in many cases were (gasp) religious.

Religious, yes. Bible-based, not so much. Nothing in the bible specifically condemns slavery; there are rules about how one should treat slaves, for instance the prohibition on beating them to death -- but only if they die the same day (Exodus 21:20-21) -- but the institution of slavery is Just The Way Things Are®.

Let's hear it for "evolving standards of decency."

Raging Bee,

It is obvious to me that Islam is false. The arguments Muslims use probably mirror my own. They take their religious presuppositions as seriously as I do. Many of them also proceed logically from those presuppositions. Their arguments are valid. But their arguments are not sound because some (not all) of their presuppositins are false.

Consider this argument - the classic sysllogism.
All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

This is a valid argument.

The following argument is also valid:
All snakes are mammals.
All fish are snakes.
Therefore, all fish are mammals.

This is a valid argument, because IF all snakes are mammals and all fish are snakes, it would necessarily follow that all fish are mammals.

But the argument is not sound, because the presuppositions are false.

So, Muslims present all kinds of valid arguments that are not sound. They should therefore be rejected.

Furthermore, anyone who suggests that I am being illogical is being illogical. My arguments are valid. This is indisputable. Some of you don't believe the premises from which I start.

Nebogipfel: I wrestled with that question for years before I got saved. Finally, someone challenged me with this. After I said, "I could never accept a God who would condemn all unbelievers to hell," a Christian challenged me with "Do you want to join them?"

That got my focus off of me, a sinful man trying to sit in judgment over a Holy God, and on to the fact that I am indeed a sinful man and that the Holy God is the judge. I need to submit to Him.

The reality is that we deserve hell. That's how bad we are. But He is merciful.

Paleotn said, "And there were a large number of Christians, both north and south, who supported slavery precisely ON religious grounds. "Descendants of Ham" and all that. Since I live in coastal South Carolina, I find the idea that abolitionist ideas are synonymous with religion, particularly the Christian religion, laughable."

My wife is a doctorate student studying slavery, abolitionism, and religion during the antebellum period. There were thousands of Christians who opposed slavery for religious reasons. That is a fact. There were also non-Christians who opposed slavery. But many abolitionists found their motivation, inspiration, and convictions in their faith.

On the historical existence of Christ (this is to answer some of the questions being thrown at me Ed), the idea that the Jesus of the Bible did not exist is not reasonable. Unless you also deny the existence of Alexander the Great, Plato, and other famous ancients, then you can not consistently make the claim that Jesus never existed. I don't think that any real historian denies that Jesus never existed.

For Halcyon: Do you believe that Moses was a real prophet who really met with God? Do you believe in the Torah - as God's Word? According to the Gospel of John, Jesus claimed, "Before Abraham, I AM!" That is why he got crucified. Such a claim was considered blasphemous because Jesus was essentially equating Himself with Yahweh, which is why the Pharisees stirred up the crowds to demand for the Messiah to be crucified. Jews didn't crucify people; they stoned people. The Romans crucified people. Pilate was a crowd-pleaser. If Jesus made that claim, then the trilemma is solid. Such a man would not be considered a "great man." He would be considered insane or a blasphemer... unless He was telling the truth. The Pharisees did not recognize the Messiah. They were blinded. So, they crucified Him, and thus fulfilled prophecies.

Furthermore, how do you explain the conversion and effectiveness of the Apostle Paul? How do you explain the spread of the early church during a time of severe persecution? Unlike Islam, Christianity spread non-violently, until the church began to mix with the Roman government. Then, the worst parts of politics corrupted the church. But during the first few centuries, the church spread by loving one another and preaching the gospel.

By DanHillman (not verified) on 09 May 2006 #permalink

The reality is that we deserve hell. That's how bad we are. But He is merciful.

This is not Christianity.

By Roman Werpachowski (not verified) on 09 May 2006 #permalink

Romans 6:23 (NIV)
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in[a] Christ Jesus our Lord."

It is obvious to me that Islam is false. The arguments Muslims use probably mirror my own. They take their religious presuppositions as seriously as I do. Many of them also proceed logically from those presuppositions. Their arguments are valid. But their arguments are not sound because some (not all) of their presuppositins are false.

And how do you know that? From your own presuppositions? Then you're going in circles.

Dan, faith is faith. You cannot call yourself a believer and then claim you can support your religion with reason. If it was possible, we wouldn't call it "faith".

I think that as a Christian, you err. "My kingdom is not of this world". "Give back to Ceasar what is Ceasar's and to God what is God's". Jesus did not call on his followers to force everyone else to live according to his words!

By Roman Werpachowski (not verified) on 09 May 2006 #permalink

I had previously said, "The reality is that we deserve hell. That's how bad we are. But He is merciful."

Roman said, "This is not Christianity."

Roman, I implore you to read the book of Romans slowly, carefully, and prayerfully. What I am stating is true Christianity.

Also, check out Matthew 28:18-20, "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age."

We have been called to preach, to go, to make disciples, to teach people to obey.

I also know we are to render to Caesar's what is Caesar's. We should pay our taxes. We should respect the authorities that God has established. But we should disobey those authorities when those authorities call us to go against God.

By DanHillman (not verified) on 09 May 2006 #permalink

Dan,

I'm not going to deal with all you apologetics points, suffice it to say that they are perhaps the most hodgepodge spew I've seen assembled on an internet forum in some time. I simply can't believe you find your arguments logical much less coherent.It's just one big piece of circular logic.

But their arguments are not sound because some (not all) of their presuppositins are false

Methinks you should look in the mirror more often.

Furthermore, anyone who suggests that I am being illogical is being illogical. My arguments are valid. This is indisputable.

Delusion and ego.

After I said, "I could never accept a God who would condemn all unbelievers to hell," a Christian challenged me with "Do you want to join them?"

That got my focus off of me, a sinful man trying to sit in judgment over a Holy God, and on to the fact that I am indeed a sinful man and that the Holy God is the judge. I need to submit to Him.

The reality is that we deserve hell. That's how bad we are.

I actually feel sorrow for you.

the idea that the Jesus of the Bible did not exist is not reasonable. Unless you also deny the existence of Alexander the Great, Plato, and other famous ancients, then you can not consistently make the claim that Jesus never existed. I don't think that any real historian denies that Jesus never existed.

Well, no. But this is not a real comparison. We have items directly relating to the others you mention. You believe in Jesus, you believe on faith. And yes real historians do doubt he existed.

If Jesus made that claim, then the trilemma is solid.

it isn't and never has been.

"And for the record, I am an "old Earth creationist." The Hebrew word for day in Genesis 1 is used throughout Genesis, and virtually every other place it is used, it is not used to represent a 24 hour period."

Why bother interpreting "day" as anything other than a 24-hour period? Do you believe that by changing a "day" in the creation story to some other length of time, you'll suddenly have an account that is jives with modern science? I see a lot of fundamentalists use excuse that maybe a "day" in the creation story was some other length of time, and I always want to ask them: Have you even read Genesis?

Among other things, the Genesis creation story says that:
- The earth was created before the stars.
- Plants were created before the sun.
- Whales were created before land animals.

These details alone contradict pretty much everything we know about phsyics and biology. So why bother being an old earth creationist? Old earth or young, if you want to accept the Bible as written, you will have to throw science out the window.

By Z.Z.Black (not verified) on 09 May 2006 #permalink

Roman, I implore you to read the book of Romans slowly, carefully, and prayerfully. What I am stating is true Christianity.

Tell me where the Bible says that we "deserve hell". The New Testament says one cannot reach salvation without Christ. But that's not the same thing.

Also, check out Matthew 28:18-20, "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age."

To TEACH, not to subjugate or force people to worship your God.

I also know we are to render to Caesar's what is Caesar's. We should pay our taxes. We should respect the authorities that God has established.

The Roman Ceasar was not an authority established by God. Hence your requirement "that God has established" is not founded in the Bible.

But we should disobey those authorities when those authorities call us to go against God.

Nobody is forcing you to "go against God". In fact, any free country GUARANTEES you the right to worship your God.

By Roman Werpachowski (not verified) on 09 May 2006 #permalink

Hillman retorted:
Unless you also deny the existence of Alexander the Great, Plato, and other famous ancients, then you can not consistently make the claim that Jesus never existed.

Oh please! We have huge numbers of cooberating sources telling us Alexander did in fact exist. Various sources with various points of view all stating without doubt that Alexander was a real person. And that's not even considering the physical evidence of his existence. Same with Plato. In fact, we have Plato's own writings.

As for Jesus, there are no statues, no busts, no writings. Only a handful of people that supposedly saw him, their accounts written decades after the events. Heck, the church establishment threw out many of the writings on a historical Jesus saying it was heresy. Josephus simply makes reference to his supposed followers. Maybe some Jesus person did exist and did some interesting things, but that certainly does not make him the son of some supreme god. To be honest, there's just as much evidence that Mohammad hitched a ride on a flying carpet as there is Jesus ascended into heaven.

As for Abolition, of course there were thousands of Christians against slavery based upon their religions. Most of them were from what would be today called the "liberal" denominations such as Quakers and Congregationalists etc. What you fail to realize is that there were thousands upon thousands of honest, god fearing, church going people who SUPPORTED slavery ALSO because of their Christian beliefs. The point being that whether one was a Christian or not DID NOT mean one was an abolitionist or pro-slavery. Both sides felt just as strongly that the Christian bible supported their view of the issue. My god man, it split the Baptist denomination in two. And it's just in the last decade that the southern Baptists apologized for their institutional support of slavery.

I think all you need to do is to get know some gay people. Spend a few hours with a gay couple and it all becomes clear.

The bible is simply wrong.

I can not believe in a 2000 year old text when contrary evidence is staring me in the face.

By John Cercone (not verified) on 09 May 2006 #permalink

The Roman Ceasar was not an authority established by God. Hence your requirement "that God has established" is not founded in the Bible

Roman, I agree with you on most of the rest of what you wrote but the bible does state all governments exist at God's whim.

Not that I think this is a valuable conversation worth continuing. We might as well be discussing how spiderman came to acquire his powers. We'd get more consensus.

at God's whim != in God's name

By Roman Werpachowski (not verified) on 09 May 2006 #permalink

Roman, you said, "The Roman Ceasar was not an authority established by God. Hence your requirement 'that God has established' is not founded in the Bible."

It is ironic that you are contending that the Roman Ceasar was not established by God, because it is in the 13th chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans where it plainly states that every established authority has been established by God.

Roman, you also said, "Tell me where the Bible says that we 'deserve hell.' The New Testament says one cannot reach salvation without Christ. But that's not the same thing."

The Bible says in Romans 3 that there are "none righteous, no not one." Later in Romans 6, it says that the "wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life." The Bible clearly teaches that a hell exists, and that those who refuse Christ will go there.

To say that sinners do not deserve hell is to accuse the God of the Bible of injustice - if we are in agreement that unredeemed sinners will go to hell. God's wrath is just. If people were basically good, and they went to hell for rejecting Christ, then God wouldn't be just. But people aren't good. We're wicked, evil sinners. We can only be saved by the redeeming blood of Christ. Apart from God, all our good deeds are "filthy rags." (Isaiah 64).

Again, I implore you: Read Romans slowly, carefully, prayerfully.

Gretchen, do you even hesitate to stand in judgment over Jesus?

By DanHillman (not verified) on 09 May 2006 #permalink

It is ironic that you are contending that the Roman Ceasar was not established by God, because it is in the 13th chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans where it plainly states that every established authority has been established by God.

It is ironic that you claim this and at the same time put the blame of corrupting Christian church on... Roman government! Yes, this one established by God. Tell me, why did God establish a government which crucified people, threw them to circus to be eaten by lions and forced gladiators to kill each other? And if a government established by God corrupted the Christian church, than wasn't it God indirectly corrupting the church?

You say: every established authority has been established by God. So Stalin's rule has been established by God?

The problem with attributing divine authority to human institutions is that automatically God becomes responsible for the aims of these institutions. While one could say "God is perfect but men are fallible" to justify the failings of the church itself, this falls flat when confronted with human governments which sought to abolish religion. Why would God establish such governments? Why such mockery?

Again, you forget the crucial words of Christ: "My kingdom is not of this earth". It's very important -- it contradicts your ideas of some divine-inspired authority ruling our lives here on earth.

By Roman Werpachowski (not verified) on 09 May 2006 #permalink

The Bible says in Romans 3 that there are "none righteous, no not one." Later in Romans 6, it says that the "wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life." The Bible clearly teaches that a hell exists, and that those who refuse Christ will go there.

It also teaches that God wants to save us all and that for Him nothing is impossible. So?

It's really a question of how one sees himself and his fellow men. What I respect religion for, is that it saves us from the "Enlightenment for dummies" view that Man is so wonderful, so powerful, so wise and so good. Well, how come we do so many bad things in our lives? Religion, when it reminds us about the dark side of ourselves, is a Good Thing. But when used to promote the view that we're hopelessly sinful and will descend into misery without external help -- I call it a deviation. One can be a good man without believing in God. And I also believe that if God exists, He will save all of us, even the most sinful -- maybe we will have to come through some purgatory, to repay our sins according to their weight (and, most importantly, to understand what we did wrong), but at the end we will ba saved. Otherwise, it would make no sense. And I don't think that the Bible does not support what I say. Remember about the Law of Infinite Cornucopia!

By Roman Werpachowski (not verified) on 09 May 2006 #permalink

For Halcyon: Do you believe that Moses was a real prophet who really met with God? Do you believe in the Torah - as God's Word? According to the Gospel of John, Jesus claimed, "Before Abraham, I AM!" That is why he got crucified. Such a claim was considered blasphemous because Jesus was essentially equating Himself with Yahweh, which is why the Pharisees stirred up the crowds to demand for the Messiah to be crucified. Jews didn't crucify people; they stoned people. The Romans crucified people. Pilate was a crowd-pleaser. If Jesus made that claim, then the trilemma is solid. Such a man would not be considered a "great man." He would be considered insane or a blasphemer... unless He was telling the truth. The Pharisees did not recognize the Messiah. They were blinded. So, they crucified Him, and thus fulfilled prophecies.
Do I believe it's the word of G-d? Yes, do I believe it's the perfect word of G-d? Considering the inconsistencies in it let alone the issues with simple things like Noah and the ark and the flood, not really. And I think the people were also upset that he was going around being called the Messiah without being close to fulfilling the requirements of what/who the Messiah would be, but so what if he made the claim, he may have thought he was and been wrong. Though we haven't even gotten to the point of how do we even know Jesus made that claim. As others have already pointed out to you it's not like the New Testament was written right afterwards and wasn't pruned and re-written.

Furthermore, how do you explain the conversion and effectiveness of the Apostle Paul? How do you explain the spread of the early church during a time of severe persecution? Unlike Islam, Christianity spread non-violently, until the church began to mix with the Roman government. Then, the worst parts of politics corrupted the church. But during the first few centuries, the church spread by loving one another and preaching the gospel.

How do you explain the conversion and effectiveness of the Buddhist faith it's not like they've been jumping on the holy war bandwagon either. And if you think Christianity spread non-violently take a look at it's whole history, let alone the boost it got when it became the official religion of the Roman Empire.

Roman,

Firstly, do you acknowledge that the Bible is the inspired, infalliable, authoritative Word of God?

I assume that you do, but I could be wrong, so I want to clear that up first.

Romans 13:1 - "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God."

God is Sovereign over all of history Roman. He raised up Pharaoh, and hardened his heart, for the very purpose that His glory would be made known throughout the whole earth. And it has. When pagan nations sinned, there were times when God had the Israelites go in and be agents of his wrath. Then, when the Israelites sinned, God had the pagan nations go in to conquer the Israelites. Then, God held those nations responsible for the sinful decision to raise their sword against Israel!

God raised up the Romans in the fullness of time. It wasn't an accident that Jesus was born when he was into the political situation in which he was. It was all in God's plan that the sinners in authority in Roman government would carry out their sinful actions, and through that God would still be glorified! God predestined His Son to be crucified at the hands of sinners. And through that He accomplished His purposes of providing us poor sinners with a way to be redeemed, justified, and sanctified.

Read the Book of Daniel. Daniel 2:21 says (of God), "He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them."

God has established all authorities according to His Sovereignty and His wisdom and His will. That does not mean that God is to blame for every sinful action that every authority has ever committed. That is a human argument, and it is erroreneous. God is Sovereign. He is in control of all history. He raises men up into authority, and He strips men of their authority. He even raised up Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her position for a season. I don't know how God works; His paths are beyond tracing out. But I do know that God does work, and I put my trust in Him.

You can not consistently deny that God has established every authority that is established and affirm the truth of the Bible.

Halcyon, I said that in the first few centuries, before Christianity got all mixed up with the Roman empire, Christianity spread non-violently.

Roman said, "One can be a good man without believing in God." This is a popular idea of the day. It is also wrong. No one is good. No, not one.

This doesn't mean that we are without hope. God, in His mercy and love, sent Christ to die for us, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. We can only be saved by grace, not by being good. To assert your own goodness is to contend that Christ simply died a martyr's death. Christ died to pay the price for our sins, a price we can never pay on our own. So that those who put their faith in Him can be freely justified, by grace, not by works, lest any man should boast.

As soon as you assert your own goodness, you are basically asserting that Christ didn't need to die for you, and you are cutting yourself off from receiving God's grace. But if you confess your sinfulness - not just that you have done bad things, but that you are totally depraved - then you will receive mercy, grace, and forgiveness.

When depraved people assert that they are not depraved, the depth of their depravity is plainly exposed.

By DanHillman (not verified) on 09 May 2006 #permalink

Okay folks, enough of the theological debate. I don't care whether the Bible is or is not the word of God or what Christians are or aren't commanded to do. It has nothing to do with the actual issue under dispute here.

While reading this thread has been fascinating it has left me somewhat nauseous. I am sure there are others like Moore in the world. Some who use their position in government (god's law trumps man's law and the U. S. Constitution), a pharmacy, a hospital, a school, a police department, ... to "spread the love" of their religion by denying people their rights or other due because their view of their religion conflicts with the law. God's law trumps man's law. I hope that in the end rational people will prevail.

LM Wanderer

Okay folks, enough of the theological debate. I don't care whether the Bible is or is not the word of God or what Christians are or aren't commanded to do. It has nothing to do with the actual issue under dispute here.

Awww... please! May I just one more time?

Firstly, do you acknowledge that the Bible is the inspired, infalliable, authoritative Word of God?

No. It is subject to interpretation, which may be fallible. I treat it as a source of moral guidance, but reserve the right to make up my own mind when it conflicts with my conscience.

Roman said, "One can be a good man without believing in God." This is a popular idea of the day. It is also wrong. No one is good. No, not one.

I knew so many good men who were not Christians, that all i can say is: evidence refutes your thesis.

By Roman Werpachowski (not verified) on 09 May 2006 #permalink

I knew so many good men who were not Christians, that all i can say is: evidence refutes your thesis.

I think his point is that nobody is good, period. Christian, or otherwise. What a lovely outlook.

"Shrug." -- Reverend Lenny Flank

Dan Hillman wrote:

After I said, "I could never accept a God who would condemn all unbelievers to hell," a Christian challenged me with "Do you want to join them?"
...
The reality is that we deserve hell. That's how bad we are. But He is merciful.

Well, you are entitled to your beliefs. And, frankly, welcome to them. I'm afraid that argument has been a source of too much self-loathing for me to take it seriously any more.

But (in the interests of not abusing Mr. Brayton's hosptiality any further) I think it is relevant to the original topic which (I think) was about how far religion should control civil government.
Mr. Hillman, you don't come across as a control freak who wishes to impose your religious beleifs on others just for the sake of it. You are, I think, genuinely concerned with saving souls precisely for the benefit of those souls who will be spared eternal damnation.

But that's the problem. It is exactly that argument that can lead otherwise sane and "good" people to perpetrate atrocities with an "it's-for-your-own-good" smile on their faces; it leads to the Spanish Inquisition. And (as I understand it) it's precisely *why* the U.S. Consistituion was written to seperate Church from State.

By Nebogipfel (not verified) on 10 May 2006 #permalink

When the category is "church and state," and the topic is "Response to Dan Hillman on Roy Moore," it is pretty tough to avoid a theological debate.

However, I have many things to do in my life, and this forum can be quite addictive. So, while I am leaving many questions unanswered and/or partially answered, I am now signing off.

I only hope and pray that some of you might give some real consideration to my arguments and that some of you might be provoked to read the Bible and ask God to reveal Himself to you. Take care.

By DanHillman (not verified) on 10 May 2006 #permalink

"To say that sinners do not deserve hell is to accuse the God of the Bible of injustice - if we are in agreement that unredeemed sinners will go to hell. God's wrath is just. If people were basically good, and they went to hell for rejecting Christ, then God wouldn't be just. But people aren't good. We're wicked, evil sinners. "

I love this line of argument, which I see all the time. To vaguely keep it on blog, if not on topic, you see it particularly with young earth creationists. It goes something like this: "If evolution is true, then Man didn't fall, so Christ's sacrifice was in vain! Therefore evolution isn't true." It's archetypal question begging. If you start from the premise that God is just, because it says so in the Bible, then of course man is wicked and sinful. That's because it's the only way to reconcile what God does to man in the Bible with the concept of justice. The problem is that if you don't start from that premise, which is only granted because it says so in a book, it's fairly obvious that the God of the Bible is a psychopath.

By Ginger Yellow (not verified) on 10 May 2006 #permalink

The problem is that if you don't start from that premise, which is only granted because it says so in a book, it's fairly obvious that the God of the Bible is a psychopath.

The God of which Bible? In my opinion, the religion evolves. Demanding that each word from the Bible is to be taken equally seriously is silly, since they are often contradictory. Every Christian believer gets to pick and choose what part of the Bible he bases his faith on. I think sane Christians will consider the bloodier parts of the Old Testament as a story written long ago by Jewish shepherds, with some divine inspiration, but suited to the time and age which is long past.

By Roman Werpachowski (not verified) on 10 May 2006 #permalink

Dan Hillman wrote:

I only hope and pray that some of you might give some real consideration to my arguments and that some of you might be provoked to read the Bible and ask God to reveal Himself to you.

I suspect that many contributors to this thread have already spent quite a lot of time considering these and similar arguments; and, indeed, have spent considerable time reading the Bible and thinking about what is written there. Hence the passion aroused by being written off as "brainwashed secularists". Don't forget, theocrats have been running the world for about 96% of recorded history. Theocracy's track record speaks for itself.

By Nebogipfel (not verified) on 10 May 2006 #permalink

Dan Hillman writes:

I only hope and pray that some of you might give some real consideration to my arguments and that some of you might be provoked to read the Bible and ask God to reveal Himself to you. Take care.

And it would also be good for you Dan, to heed the advice of St. Augustine, who long ago recognized that a poor argument in favour of religion actually does more damage than not making an argument at all.

Often a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and even their sizes and distances,... and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all that we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, which people see as ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn.

From: De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim

Now Augustine was talking about bad arguments about nature here and the literal meaning of Genesis, but the advice holds for all argumentation in general.

DanHillman wrote:

The reality is that we deserve hell. That's how bad we are. But He is merciful.

If that's how you feel about yourself and your fellow children of God -- AFTER being "saved," no less -- then your God has done nothing for you; you're just a ready-made victim.

After I said, "I could never accept a God who would condemn all unbelievers to hell," a Christian challenged me with "Do you want to join them?"

So that's how you were converted -- by nothing more than an unsubstantiated threat of eternal punishment? You asked a reasonable question, some bullying zealot responded with a threat to silence you, and you caved? Without even demanding a smidgen of proof? That's really sad. And if that's the approach you take to converting others, then you've pretty well proven that: a) you don't fully comprehend the gifts our Gods bring us; and b) you resort to dire threats because you have nothing positive to offer.

If Jesus made that claim, then the trilemma is solid.

It could also mean that Jesus made an honest mistake; or that he was misquoted; or that people like you misunderstand what he said. Saying that we're calling Jesus a liar whenever we question YOUR INTERPRETATION of the Bible is a dishonest non-sequitur, and dishonest non-sequiturs make Baby Jesus cry.

Unlike Islam, Christianity spread non-violently, until the church began to mix with the Roman government. Then, the worst parts of politics corrupted the church.

Having just admitted that the Church was indeed corrupted by politics, can you now admit the possibility that this corruption may have infected the Church's choice of which books to include in "The Bible," and their subsequent interpretation of those books?

Oh, and don't kid yourself about the "non-violent" spread of Christianity; there's plenty of violence and bigotry in the spread of Christianity as well.

Apart from God, all our good deeds are "filthy rags." (Isaiah 64).

This is exactly the same rhetoric used by bullies, dictators, wife-beaters, rapists, and child-molesters to belittle and shame their victims, and make themselves feel superior: "It doesn't matter what you do or how good a person you are, you're still a piece of crap until I, and I alone, say you're not. Nobody else's approval or respect matters but mine, bitch!" The Pagan community is full of people who understand such abuse all to well, and recognize it as evil and ungodly.

Again, I implore you: Read Romans slowly, carefully, prayerfully.

Romans? Why is one apostle's letter to "the Romans" more important than the words and spirit of Christ himself? Are you a Christian, or a Paulian? I implore YOU: read the words of Jesus, "slowly, carefully, prayerfully" (whatever the hell that means), and WITH COMMON SENSE.

Gretchen, do you even hesitate to stand in judgment over Jesus?

What's wrong with that? You don't hesitate to "stand in judgment" over every other holy person and faith known to Man. Do you really think Jesus expects otherwise of us? It's not like he hasn't suffered worse.

Don't forget, theocrats have been running the world for about 96% of recorded history. Theocracy's track record speaks for itself.

Now this is one hell of a statement -- I mean the 96% figure. How did this come by?

By Roman Werpachowski (not verified) on 10 May 2006 #permalink

Are you a Christian, or a Paulian?

I'm not sure you can be one without the other so intertwined are they.

) you don't fully comprehend the gifts our Gods bring us; and b) you resort to dire threats because you have nothing positive to offer.

I like your counter but aren't you really doing the same thing as he? Just proferring your version of God even if it does make marginally more sense?

These are idle thoughts and not meant to be argumentative.

Christianity spread non-violently, until the church began to mix with the Roman government. Then, the worst parts of politics corrupted the church.

And now you and Roy Moore want to repeat this mistake. Why do you believe the result will be any different this time around?


Don't forget, theocrats have been running the world for about 96% of recorded history. Theocracy's track record speaks for itself.

Now this is one hell of a statement -- I mean the 96% figure. How did this come by?

Recorded history began about 5000 years ago. The Enlightenment began about 200 years ago; 4800 is 96% of 5000. (*Pauses to think*... OK, I realise the Enlightenment actually began before 1806, so maybe the figure drops to 93 or 92%)

So, this is certainly not a scientifically robust analysis, but I think the point still stands ;-)

By Nebogipfel (not verified) on 10 May 2006 #permalink

Oh, and another thing:

But if you confess your sinfulness - not just that you have done bad things, but that you are totally depraved - then you will receive mercy, grace, and forgiveness.
When depraved people assert that they are not depraved, the depth of their depravity is plainly exposed.

Sheesh, and people say that they find the idea of being descended from apes demeaning...

By Nebogipfel (not verified) on 10 May 2006 #permalink

Nebogipfel: two points...

First, your revised figure for "percent of human history when 'theocrats' ruled," is still fishy, for the simple reason that not all pre-Enlightenment rulers were, strictly speaking, "theocrats." Brutal, intolerant, and bigoted, perhaps, but "theocrats" do not have a monopoly on such evils. Some tyrants ruled independently of any established religion, some used an established religion as cover or a base of support, some (especially in multi-religious states) were neutral about religion, some supported one religion and suppressed others...there are many flavors of tyranny and religion here, and relatively few of them fit any meaningful definition of the word "theocracy."

Second, I agree completely with your latter post. Jesus spoke a lot about dignity and forgiveness (and much of the world's religions are about living with dignity and honor), but too many of his so-called followers have twisted his words to demean and belittle just about everyone on Earth, including themselves. Some so-called Christians, in fact, show what I would describe as a fetish for degrading and self-degrading rhetoric.

Actually, I think a lot of countries were not theocracies. They often had an official religion, but it was often the case of religion serving the needs of the state, not the other way round (i.e. the church served to explain why everyone should listen to the emperor/king/chief, not the other way round). Some were multi-religious, and couldn't be theocracies at all.

For example, of the Polish kings said, long before the Enlightenment came to be, "I don't want to rule people's souls" to indicate he did not want to use his power to convert everyone to Catholicism. Was he a theocrat?

By Roman Werpachowski (not verified) on 11 May 2006 #permalink

I know this is painfully obvious, but...
It must be a failure of our civics education, but it amazes me that Dan and Roy and many sincere, well-meaning folks do not get that our system was set up to enable Christians, Muslims, Deists, atheists, and those with belief systems not yet invented (just keep your noodly appendages to yourself, ok?) to get along together peacefully. That since each belief system has differing preconceptions, none could be allowed to hold sway over the others. A new system based on agreed-upon fundamentals had to be constructed. Of necessity such a system must be secular; not anti-religious, but a-religious. It's Roy and his ilk who are trying to wreck things for everyone, by insisting that their religious freedoms include the right to impose their views on everyone else. I think it's easier to recognize that something very precious is endangered when the problem is Sharia, and it's the other side of the world, but to me the threat here is potentially just as great.

FWIW, much of Roy Moore's financial support has come from out of state. It's not just Alabamians.

Yes, you know, the more I thought about the 90+% theocracy figure, the more holes I realized you could poke in it, depending on how you define a theocracy.

Perhaps what I meant was that Religion with a capital R has held sway over the great majority of human cultures, and where a ruler has ruled with the (alleged) approval of God or a god, the results are not what you would expect were that ruler truly being guided by God.

But it's an interesting point; if the kings of Poland (or, indeed, anyone) is convinced that their religion is "true", that no truth or salvation can be found outside that religion, how could they NOT want to use any means at their disposal to bring those who are lost into the light of truth?

It seems to me that the problem with a secular, a-religious state is that, in treating all religions as equally permissable, actually treats none of them as being "true". How can that possibly NOT get up the noses of the people who believe in the True Faith (whichever one that may be)?

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm certainly not suggesting that religion should be banned, or anything stupid like that. Maybe that an a-religious state is the least worst possible solution. But it does seem to be an anomaly.

By Nebogipfel (not verified) on 11 May 2006 #permalink