Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Christianity and Women: Challenge to Loftus

From John Loftus' 'Debunking Christianity' blog, this afternoon, accompanied by the cartoon at right:

"I am against sexism, most emphatically, without any doubt at all. In fact, one of the main reasons I do what I do is because of what religion has done and continues to do to women. I argue against religion for that reason alone."
My response:

Resolved: That the Gospel of Jesus has done more to help more women than any other teaching in the history of Planet Earth.

I challenge you, John.

I issue this challenge assuming that John is sincere, and because millions of other people agree with him that Christianity has harmed women terribly. 

Supplemental question: if my claim turns out to be true, John, would that open your mind to rethinking your rejection of Christianity?

Update: Loftus declined to debate, but his followers insisted on my making the case for my position, anyway.  I subsequently did so, with a seven-part series, beginning here.   Needless to say, Loftus never responded substantively, though I did stir a few other hornet's nests. 


John W. Loftus said...

David I'm not sure I have the time for this but go ahead if you'd like. Let's see if you can tell me something I have not already considered before.

Anonymous said...

lOFTUS posturing as "Pro Woman" is a problem to begin with.

For one thing, just look at what he says about them in WIBA...he admits a sexual relationship with an employee and then trashes her in his book.

Does he ever think how it might affect her?

And look at how he treats his ex wife, the mother of his kids...he says she LACKED PASSION as some kind of excuse for his use of his employee in an inappropriate manner.

This is all from HIS BOOK, by his own admission.

I sometimes wonder if he even remembers what he writes.

MORRISON is Lawrence

Anonymous said...

And John, can't you do SOMETHING about that hat?

David B Marshall said...

John: I have something more formal in mind, with set lengths, arguments on both sides, then rebuttals. I'm not sure I have time, either, but I think it's worth making time, given how important we both agree the issue is.

David B Marshall said...

Anon: I'm not sure how to address you -- Lawrence? Morrison? Anon? But a few things: (a) I agree that how we treat women in our private life is highly relevant to our integrity as we make arguments; (b) However it is not relevant to their soundness. (c) I'd prefer to emphasize substance, not personal issues. (d) If your name isn't either Lawrence or Morrison, and you want to critize someone personally, I think it's best to give your name, so your target knows where the attack is coming from. Otherwise he might suspect an innocent person, and not know what context to put the attack into.

Thanks much.

John W. Loftus said...

I'm already doing this topic in a book co-written with Randal Rauser. I shouldn't take that material and use it here.

David B Marshall said...

John: Yes, I've published on the subject, too, touching on it in four of my books. I don't think I'd need to copy any of my previous wording, and think I can make an effective argument on this subject against anyone, the evidence being pretty darn overwhelming.

John W. Loftus said...

David, all I can say is show me your stuff if you wish.

The troll would hate you if he only knew what you believed. He cannot be reasoned with. He'll appear to do so only for so long.

David B Marshall said...

John: I'm not going to argue by myself. All right, let's take it that you're too busy right now; I'll take a rain check. I have a book AND a dissertation to edit, myself, so while I'm sorry to miss it, life is full as is. But please do keep in mind that I think your position is the opposite of the truth, that you are missing something deeply important, and that as an historian, I think I can show it, overwhelmingly.

John W. Loftus said...

You can do this despite what we find in the Bible? I convinced myself of your view at one time.

David B Marshall said...

John: Don't assume, because you were once a preacher, that you know what I think, or what I'll say. (Unless you've read those chapters, in which case you might have some idea.) I think I can convince not only myself, but any neutral audience, that the Gospels have helped more women far more deeply than any other text you can name.

Crude said...

I think I can convince not only myself, but any neutral audience, that the Gospels have helped more women far more deeply than any other text you can name.

How about a biased person with an axe to grind, who has a lot of emotional, intellectual and semi-financial investment in denying what you seek to prove?

David B Marshall said...

Crude: I have no delusions about that.

Crude said...

Then why are you trying to get a debate with...

Ahh, too easy.

I will add this though: If your view is supportable, David, then it seems to me that anyone casting the Gospel of Jesus as harmful to women could reasonably be taken as doing harm to women. Especially if they did so knowing or being reasonably informed that their position was wrong.

Morrison said...

David, my name is as stated, and I am currently in Lawrence, Ks.

And my statements about how Loftus deals with women are all taken from the biographical portion of his book, WIBA.

I think this IS relevant, because we can't assume that Loftus is going to deal with the material honestly...he might, in given situations, but it is definitely are Red Flag.

He biases can not help but affect his arguments, as he frequently says about Christians. John emplys a remarkable double standad.

And I don't know what he meant by saying I would hate you if I knew what you believed.

Perhaps John Lofuts will explain, but more likely he will avoid answering or just repond with more pesonal attacks of his own.

The thing is that John admits that he hurt a lot of people in his life, and he seems to think that all those people...many of whom were not Christians...have just forgeten about it and should now treat him with respect. And none of this is second can all be found in the bigraphical protion of his book.

The point of this? John...or more accuately his sock puppets (he demonstrably alters posts)...will skewer you mercilessly on his blog but somehow prentend like he is being scholarly.

Extian said...

David, I see a lot of challenges, but I don't see any arguments from you. Are you going to state your case or are you backing out?

I was looking forward to your evidence.

David B Marshall said...

Morrison, Crude: OK, thanks for the warnings.

To be frank, I'm not worried about winning this argument: my real concern would be with the other side embarrassing itself, as, say, Richard Carrier did when debating Craig, either by making bad arguments, or (which Carrier did not do, but others have) by lapsing into vitriol. I would want the debate to be readable and respectable on both sides: it's not much fun winning a baseball game if the other side commits too many errors.

I haven't read John's autobiography. But my own experience is, he can be reasonable, at times. (Unlike some of his fans.) I've debunked a couple of his arguments in earlier blogs, and he responded gracefully. As for "sock puppets," he actually responded more stridently when I gave Hector Avalos a richly-deserved thumping (see the earliest blogs on this site, also at

But anyway, it doesn't look like John is going to take me up on the challenge. Pity, I'd love to take a bite out of these myths in that kind of format.

David B Marshall said...

X: A challenge has to be accepted as well as issued. If John comes around and agrees to a debate, the next step will be to agree on format. The arguments would come after that.

Anonymous said...

David, John said in the very first post lets go ahead a see what you have.

You stated a challenge, and you know John rejects your claims.

Make your argument!

Otherwise, it looks like you are backing out.

You claimed you had this overwhelming case.

Well, what is it?

Eddie Hayes

David B Marshall said...

Eddie: I challenged John to a debate. He said he's not sure he has the time, but that I should "go ahead!"

Go ahead with what? A debate requires two parties.

Dark Star said...

The idea of two men quoting other men on how much (or how little) Christianity has done for women has to be one of the most laughably vile proposition I've heard of in a long while so this should be amusing.

And already the ad hominem has begun, Well Done True Believers!

David B Marshall said...

I was thinking of something semi-formal. Here's a possible format:

* Both sides post an opening argument of set length (3000 words?) for their position in relation to the proposition:

"Resolved: That the Gospel of Jesus has done more to help more women than any other teaching in the history of Planet Earth."

These arguments either be posted simultaneously, or given to an honest arbitrator, so they remain independent of one another until posting.

* Each person posts his arguments on his own site, giving links to opposing site.

* Both then rebut opposing arguments once.

* Both then submit a shorter concluding statement.

* Other people can, of course, chip in on either blog.

That's my idea, anyway. I'm open to other suggestions, but I think it would be useful to have some structure to the debate, and maybe let some more people know about it. If one takes the time to make an argument, it's better to ensure there's an audience for it.

David B Marshall said...

Dark Star: The world needs more laughter. The value of an argument is not determined by the gender of the person who makes it, though.

Larry Tanner said...

"Resolved: That the Gospel of Jesus has done more to help more women than any other teaching in the history of Planet Earth."

Specifics, please. What do you mean by "help," and what do you mean by the "Gospel of Jesus"?

Or will this be one of those debates where people define things the way they want as they go along?

David B Marshall said...

Larry: I would limit "help" to "help women live longer, happier, more fulfilling lives in this world," and say nothing about Heaven, if that's what you're wondering. It's better to argue from verifiable data.

I think there's room for some flexibility on "the Gospel of Jesus." John can interpret it his way, I'll interpret it mine, and I think there'll be enough commonality that head-to-head disagreement will occur. But if he hasn't defined it carefully, maybe that will turn out to be one of the problems.

Anonymous said...

Proving your case wouldn't necessarily prove John wrong. Even if Christianity had helped women a great deal in the past, John's statement could still be true. It could be the case that Christianity advanced women's rights 80% of the way, but has been holding back the next 20% for the past 50 years (for example).

And you may not be operating with the same definition of women's rights as John uses. If this is about why he left Christianity, as Morrison says, John may be thinking of a woman's right to be her pastor's sex interest and subsequently be slut-shamed by him. Christianity is often repressive of women's rights to do those things.

Anonymous said...

David, make your case.

Whether John responds or not is his problem.

The question is important, and I would like to see an answer no matter what Loftus does.

Bring it on!

Eddie Hayes

Crude said...

Whether John responds or not is his problem.

Actually, it's David's problem. I mean, this entire idea was brought about due to a claim by John. John declined the offer to defend his claim. As near as I can tell, John wouldn't even respond to the supplemental question.

Going on with no input from John would just invite massive goal-post moving. "David said this, but even if that's true, what I MEANT was..."

I'd actually be interested in David and John going at this, but there's a reason no debate follows the format of "You just say whatever, and I'll chime in to criticize whenever I please, at my leisure."

Dark Star said...

David B Marshall said "The value of an argument is not determined by the gender of the person who makes it"

Good, we agree then. So you wouldn't mind if a female Roman Catholic priest, ordained by the RCC, presented your side of the arguments?

Or will you next be making the separate but equal argument (why does that sound familiar?)

Anonymous said...

29 comments, and all we get from David is excuses about why he can't make his case.

David, put up or shut up about this.

Vox Popoli

David B Marshall said...

DX, Vox Assini: I don't get what either of you are on about. DX, your comment seems totally out of left field to me -- I'm not even a Catholic. What's your point?

Vox, you make even less sense. I issued John a challenge. I didn't make any promises to you, and don't plan to. My arguments on this subject are in print. Read them, and post a angry 1 star review on Amazon, like a normal fanatic, or turn stalker, as some do: don't wave your hands at me in my house and tell me to "shut up." No one asked your opinion in the first place, and if you don't want mine, go somewhere else.

Crude said...

This is amazing. David issues a challenge after John makes a pretty bold statement. John declines, because apparently he is so concerned about women's rights that he refuses to debate the subject in detail lest it somehow reference knowledge he prefers to sell in book form.

Now *David* is being lambasted for not, uh... engaging in a debate by himself. Or something.

This smells a lot like projection from fanboys.

(And I love the catholic crack. Christians all born-again fundamentalist evangelical catholic YECs to some people.)

Anonymous said...

OK, David, you say your argument is in print.

Can you at least tell me in what book or article you have this argument?

I would like to know the answer, regardless of whether Loftus responds...and I know Loftus is just a bully, and hense a coward deep down, but I would really like to know what the argument is.

I have run into this problem before.

Vox Popoli

David B Marshall said...

Vox: OK, maybe I was too harsh. Yesterday morning, I actually started writing a three-part argument for how the Gospel has improved the lives of women. I'm not sure if I'll finish any time soon -- I have a LOT of writing to do this month.

In the meanwhile, the cheapest and easiest source is chapters 8 and 9 of The Truth About Jesus and the 'Lost Gospels.' The first is entitled, "Jesus was the Original Feminist," the second, "The Gospel Brings True Sexual Liberation." The book is out of print, but you can get it on Amazon really cheap, and its a quick, easy read. There's also a chapter in Jesus and the Religions of Man largely on this issue, which NPR commentator Frederica Matthewes-Green really liked, but that book is more intense reading.

J Brindle said...

Hmmm.... What was the status of women in, say, the year 1400? Is their status now better or worse? (I say 'better')

Has Christianity changed its essential doctrines since then? (no)

So what has changed? (social and political beliefs about the rights of individuals and a dramatic decline in the social and political power Churches have over the lives of individuals, especially women).

What is responsible for such a decline in Church power? (the rise of science and secular philosophy)

It seems evident to me that even if at some point explicit appeals to the New Testament were used to justify affording women better status, these were after-the-fact interpretations based on prior values whose foundation was philosophical rather than religious.

The situation here parallels very closely that of American slavery. Both proponents and opponents appealed to the Bible to justify their positions, but these appeals came AFTER deciding that their positions were correct on other grounds.

Anonymous said...

So whenever religious people do something you approve of, it's philosophy not religion. If you disapprove, it's religion and not philosophy.

Got it.

David B Marshall said...

Brindle: That's a nice gentle set-up above the net; thank you! I won't tip my hand any more for now, though.

Dr H said...

David says:
(Which of course one cannot say of the Spaghetti Monster, Mercury, Spiderman, or other such genuine human inventions.)
I don't know about that -- in the last UK census 390,000 people in England and 70,000 in Scotland indicated their religion as "Jedi Knight", making it the fourth-largest religious affiliation reported.


David B Marshall said...

It's remarkable, then, that I've never seen anyone there with a lightsaber. Are they all retired, like Obiwan? It may explain why the Nazis decided not to invade, though. But you seem to be responding to the newest post, not this one.

Dark Star said...

David wrote: "if my claim turns out to be true, John, would that open your mind to rethinking your rejection of Christianity?"

I would like to answer that for myself. No, it wouldn't.


This single, secular issue, is not the central message of Christianity. Show me a major denomination from 33-333 who had dogmatically declared women to be full equals of men or had declared anything related to the well-being of women as a central concern?

If there was some evidence the early church actually cared about the well-being of women to any great extend that would be surprising and wonderful news but NOT evidence for any of the central claims of Christianity itself.

Namely that there was an actual person "who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the ethic of the Kingdom of God, who founded the Kingdom of Heaven upon earth and died to give His work its final consecration" which Albert Schweitzer concluded "never had any existence".

That there is a God who commanded the genocide "of Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites"; that there is a God who brought death upon all the first-born of Egypt; that there is a God who flooded the earth murdering possibly millions of people and animals.

And really, as the EARLIEST apostles and church leadership knew with full authority that the Earth was fixed and immobile and the center of a universe the biblical authors clearly had absolutely zero accurate knowledge of.

1 Chronicles 16:30 "...all the earth: the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved"
Psalm 93:1 "...the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved"

The scientific revelations about the nature of our universe from Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton shook the foundations of the Earth loose from its moorings and the Biblical authority was shattered to any with an open eye.

And yes, these men were Christians, they were also Astrologers and an Alchemists and many other things. Some were good men, some were bad.

I Absolutely DO NOT blame every bad thing done by a Christian on Christianity but I DO blame Christianity itself when the Bible is cited (and reasonably so) as the justification for those bad acts. I absolutely blame Christianity itself for the death of innumerable Jewish people and scholars and laypersons through the ages WHEN those actions were seen to be commanded by the bible.

I blame Christianity for it's role in much of the slavery in history.

I blame Christianity for having priests set foot on new soil, pronounce (often in Latin, never in the native tongue which was often unknown) that this land was his/her Majesties and all who did not immediately submit to their authority and accept Jesus Christ as their savior would be put to the sword.

The Crusades, and Inquisitions, the Witch Hunts, the murders the Tortures, the suppression of scientific progress when seen to undermine the ignorant proclamations of the Church.

Yes, all those things are Christianity, part and parcel.

If you want me "rethinking your rejection of Christianity" then you have a lot of history to undo and donating to a few orphans does not buy off the sins. Hamas performs a lot of humanitarian services also, why is Christianity better than they are? Is Christianities hands free of bloodshed and violence and hatred and racism? Not just a few bad apples, the whole rotten core.

I don't know what THE answers are, but I'm not blind and dumb.

I can only hope you are right, I HOPE that women have been BETTER off with Christianity than if it had never happened. But you would have to prove that and I don't see how that is possible. At best you can show a FEW positive occasions.

You cannot show how it WOULD have been had Christianity never happened.

Anonymous said...

If you want me "rethinking your rejection of Christianity" then you have a lot of history to undo

No, just a lot of your crazy delusions about history and Christianity to undo.

Dark Star said...

Your avoidance of specifics in your ad hominem allegation of delusion is noted.

Columbus, Ponce de Leon, Panfilo de Narvaez, Hernan Cortés, Francisco Pizarro... all Christians, all well-known murders and enslavers of uncountable numbers of indigenous people.

Bernal Diaz wrote of the sack of the Aztecs, that “When the Christians were exhausted from war, God saw fit to send the Indians smallpox, and there was great pestilence in the city.”

Dr. Michael McDonnel wrote in
The 'Conquest' of the Americas:
conquistadors regarded plunder, slaves, and tribute as the just desserts for their efforts in forcing pagans to accept Christianity and Spanish rule. After all, the conquistadors did scrupulously adhere to the Spanish law of conquest by reading the requerimiento, which ordered defiant Indians to immediately accept Spanish rule and Christian conversion, or face punishment in a “just war”. The requerimiento announced that “The resultant deaths and damages shall be your fault, and not the monarch’s or mine or the soldiers”. Attending witnesses and a notary usually certified in writing that the requerimiento had been read and ignored by the usually uncomprehending Indians, thus justifying the death and destruction that so often followed.

Well, Thank GOD they followed the proper protocol before they murdered and enslaved entire populations!

The was "used to justify the assertion that God, through historical Saint Peter and appointed Papal successors, held authority as ruler over the entire Earth; and that the Inter Caetera Papal Bull, of 4 May 1493 by Pope Alexander VI, conferred title over all the Americas to the Spanish monarchs"

But I'm sure as a master of History you already knew all that, right? Or am I just "deluded" again and making that all up?

Or maybe you could read about Diego de Landa Calderón, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Yucatán and what he did to the Mayan culture and peoples.

I will be happy to clarify other specific bits of "delusion" if you are unable to use Google for some reason.

But you embarrass yourself if you deny that Christianity has a violent and tainted history all the way from the earliest days where Tactius in Annals 15.44 wrote the Christians were "a class hated for their abominations"

Have your read anything on the Philadelphia Bible Riots and the Nativist movement?

Christian fueled sectarian violence continues today both between different groups of Christians and those of other 'faiths' (especially Islam).

Is your next move to play the "no true Christian" shell game?

Dark Star said...

David wrote "I've never seen anyone there with a lightsaber".

You lack a sophisticated understanding of Jedi Knight theology so you fail to comprehend that the lightsaber is present in a spiritual sense. This is as Aenon Jurtis foretold, writing "unbelievers would deny that which was before their eyes, yet demand to see".

You just lack the faith required to understand it.

David B Marshall said...

DS: Let me make a suggestion: relax a little. Take a deep breath. Don't feel like you have to get it all out before you inhale again.

We've all read those kinds of posts, many times before. There are websites that specialize in just such litanies. Christianity has 2000 years of history, and as the most influential religion in human history, of course some powerful Christians have terrible crimes to answer for -- as do powerful people of every other persuasion.

But let me suggest that rather than dumping such lists on people here, you dig a little deeper. Try to be a little more self-critical, and please don't imply such stupid things as that Tacitus recognized Christians were hated for mass-murder -- the abominations you are talking about -- when there is not a shred of evidence that Christians had committed any such crimes in his day, and in fact were on the receiving end of persecution. Confusing the 2nd and the 16th centuries is a pretty serious act of anachronism.

Instead of just throwing out random acts of unkindness, please try to dig a little deeper, next time.

J Brindle said...

I think, as Dark Star has suggested, the challenge here promises more than can reasonably be delivered. "That the Gospel of Jesus has done more to help more women than any other teaching in the history of Planet Earth."

What would be required to show this to be true would be to have some way of reliably tracking the historical impact of doctrines in a comparative fashion. So, just to pick one example, suppose I offer the following counter-resolution:
"Resolved: That the philosophy of Aristotle has done more to help more women than any other teaching in the history of Planet Earth."

Now, on the face of it, this is almost as absurd as the original resolution. After all, Aristotle suggests that women are by nature inferior to men.

But here is the outline of a defense: All of Aristotle's reasons for female inferiority trace back to empirically falsifiable claims. For example, one reason was that semen contains complete human beings and only men have semen, so women are only provisionally necessary for procreation. Through the rise of scientific empiricism, these foundational bases for the doctrine of female inferiority became unsustainable. What remains is the Aristotelian view that human value is based on reason. So, the more women have been able to demonstrate their ability to participate in the public sphere as full rational agents, the more their status has increased. This boils down to the thesis that the basis of social oppression of women has been a persistent belief in the inferiority of women with respect to their abilities to compare with men in activities that are considered socially indispensable to equality. It is from Aristotle that we primarily get the view that the right of social and political equality derives from reason (rather than from God, or from physical strength, etc.) So, if not for Aristotle, women would never have gained the goods they now enjoy in Western democracies.

Now, I don't actually know whether or not this thesis is right. That's not the point. The point is that I see no way of providing a defense of it other than by telling a variety of historical "just-so stories" that admit of no reliable empirical confirmation or disconfirmation. The same seems true of the original resolution re. the influence of the Christian Gospel.

The following is true, however. As far as I know, no one today justifies belief in the inferiority of women by appealing to Aristotle. But there are people who justify their claim of female inferiority by appealing to the Bible.

Does the Gospel message of Jesus then continue to provide a force for improving the status of women? It seems very much to depend on which approach to the interpretation of Christian doctrine one is looking at.

David B Marshall said...

Brindle: If anyone was wondering whether you and other Loftus disciples are open-minded about the issue, these posts should set that question to rest, anyway. You haven't even seen my arguments, and you're already lining up possible ways to dismiss them, sight unseen, which you seem to think are bound to work!

But one principle you bring up I agree with, and that will be helpful in the upcoming discussion: to show that A causes B, it is best not only to show that there is a plausible historical sequence of events beginning in A and ending in B, and that B is more commonly found when A has been present in a society, one should also show that there are causative qualities in A that more or less directly imply B, rather than the circuitous connection you posit between Aristotle's ideas about value and the status of women. So I think in that sense, your comments are helpful.

Dark Star said...

"DS: Let me make a suggestion: relax a little. Take a deep breath. Don't feel like you have to get it all out before you inhale again."


"We've all read those kinds of posts, many times before."

There is a reason for that, the truth doesn't tend to vary - how many different versions of Christianity are there?

"some powerful Christians have terrible crimes to answer for -- as do powerful people of every other persuasion."

I addressed this objection in my post:

I Absolutely DO NOT blame every bad thing done by a Christian on Christianity but I DO blame Christianity itself when the Bible is cited (and reasonably so) as the justification for those bad acts.

"please don't imply such stupid things as that Tacitus recognized Christians were hated for mass-murder"

I did not imply any such thing, I stated exactly what Tacitus said (he also said "hated for their evil practices"). There isn't much more known historically that can be stated unequivocally (about those earliest days) outside of Nero implicating them in the Great Fire (a controversial claim, much debated, but I'll give Christians the benefit of doubt here). I can see how you perhaps read more into it so let me be clear, Christians didn't "turn to mass-murder" until around 391.

"Instead of just throwing out random acts of unkindness, please try to dig a little deeper, next time"

Dismissive again

You asked if a positive finding relative to women and Christianity would result in "rethinking your rejection of Christianity". I know you specifically asked John but it is an open forum, so I gave a partial overview as my answer.

The point being that I can't see such a narrow discussion having ANY bearing on the fundamental issues with Christianity. I could, for the sake of argument, grant you the resolution and wouldn't change a thing for me, nor many (daresay most) others.

Even if you could show that humans are happier and healthier believing in God, it doesn't make the premise, that an actual God exists, true. Kids are often extremely happy about Santa and some probably try to be better just for Santa.

David B Marshall said...

DS: Suggesting that you mellow out and talk like one person to another, rather than as if you were in enemy territory lobbing rhetorical grenades at an enemy, and that to concede anything would mean betraying your fellow Gnus, is not "dismissive," it reflects the different culture that I'm hoping to encourage here, as opposed to on, say, PZ Myer's Pharyngula.

Mad Nero accused Christians of burning Rome, and you find the claim "controversial?" How about mad Joe Stalin, who accused peasants he shot of wrecking the economy? Will you give the peasants the benefit of the doubt, for the sake of the argument, too?

Here's what you said about Tacitus (it's visible directly above, do you think we can't read?):

"But you embarrass yourself if you deny that Christianity has a violent and tainted history all the way from the earliest days where Tactius in Annals 15.44 wrote the Christians were "'a class hated for their abominations.'"

This is right after a litany of the former -- violent actions by "Christians."

You are assuming that (a) Tacitus' "abominations" involved violence (the word "and" here means both, not one or the other) and (b) his accusations were true.

The context of your immediately preceding comments, makes "mass murder" the most plausible reading of the word "violence" that you used.

Here's the passage that you have referred to in two different ways, now:

"Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired."

This is clearly a passage about torture and mass-murder OF Christians, not BY Christians. Tacitus reports (and accepts) that Christians are guilty of some vague crimes that may somehow justify these horrors, but there is no indication that we would see those alleged crimes as crimes, nor that Tacitus really knows anything as specific about them, as he does about the genuine mass murders he reports.

For you to bring this passage up in two different ways, as if it could be used to indict CHRISTIANITY, bespeaks a fanaticism that coheres well with the fanaticism of your tone.

The question, then, becomes not about the history of Christianity, but about you. Let me ask it directly. Why do you hate Christians so much? That seems to be the core issue, here.

Dark Star said...

I will take your former advice and be brief.

The Stalin thing is a boondoggle.

The underlying issue is forced credulity by authority, I condemn it in all forms of fascism not just Christianity. I can go into much greater detail on Stalin and the Jesuits if you aren't aware of the history.

I apologize for any confusion re: Tacitus - all I can tell you is that I honestly didn't intend to imply more and I acknowledged how it could have been misread previously. And no, I didn't misread that passage at all, I am aware that the Christians were persecuted at that time. And I explained in my previous post that we do not know exactly why that is but we also know that Roman was very tolerant of other religions as long as you paid your taxes and accepted the Roman gods. So why the extreme persecution, accusations of abominations, etc?

But it is a fact they were not welcomed with open arms by all.

Dark Star said...

Sorry, your final question "Why do you hate Christians so much?"

Simple. I don't hate *Christians* at all. I am a former Christian (30 years apostate), my entire family remains Christian. Nothing 'horrible' happened to me. No story to tell. First and foremost I care about what is true, I studied the bible, I studied the Christians, I studied history, I studied biology, I studied physics, I studied cosmology, I studied psychology... and all the pieces of the puzzle point in one direction - away from the claims of Theology.

I also find the religion of Christianity (and Islam, and Judaism) to be an abomination for all the reasons I've listed; summed up as servile credulity to an authority. Everywhere we see this type of behavior we find otherwise good men who set aside what they must know is right and they allow themselves to act out of fear and ignorance with predictably poor results.

I don't understand how you can rationalize this away, because of some feeling you have that there somehow must be a God? The Romans had that SAME feeling about their gods. It doesn't make your choice any more realistic than theirs.

You only know me from addressing a few very narrow and specific points. I am a loving, giving, caring person - and I assume the same from you in your personal life. If someone was in need the LAST thing that would ever cross my mind is "is that person a believer in God or not". I have many religious friends, I actually know very few non-believers; there aren't a lot of us out here. It was only very recently that I even began to read any 'atheistic' literature; I had already come to the same conclusions independently and I assure you I have given them a tremendous amount of thought over the past 30 years.

So don't confuse a few words with the actual person.

David B Marshall said...

DS: Good! I'm glad you recognize the problem I raised with how you used the Tacitus quote. That helps make your answer to my question, "Why do you hate Christians so much?" more credible.

I don't think a serious case can be made for your contention that Christianity makes people servile to the state, though. One can always tell anecdotes. I could tell them on the other side, endlessly. Much of the resistence to tyranny in human history has been inspired by the Bible.

I am always suspicious, when someone says "all the pieces of the puzzle" support one single idea. They never do. Life is too complex for that. I can only think the person who sees things so simply, sees that pattern because they're looking for it.

But maybe we should put this argument on a hold, until I have time to make my case for the Gospel & women. That'll give us a more empirical basis for discussion.

Dr H said...

But you seem to be responding to the newest post, not this one.
Yeah, sorry about that. Blogger could use a little improvement in format...

Anyway, if you and John ever do decide to have this debate, let me know. I'd like to se it.

Dr H said...

Dark Star said:
summed up as servile credulity to an authority.

Heh, religion as politics.

J Brindle said...

David wrote: "You haven't even seen my arguments, and you're already lining up possible ways to dismiss them, sight unseen, which you seem to think are bound to work!"

Indeed, I haven't seen your arguments. But I'm more than willing to give them a fair consideration.

Nevertheless, I think I am rightly skeptical in advance of seeing those arguments. The reason has to do with the form of your thesis. Consider the generic form of that thesis: Doctrine D has done more to help more members of group G than any other doctrine in history. Now consider the kinds of scientific or historical evidence that would be necessary to confirm that thesis to some significant degree. I know something about both how historical and scientific research is generally conducted, and don't see a clear way to exclude possibly relevant confounding variables. But I'm willing to be surprised.

(By the way, I wonder at your choice of the term "Loftus disciple". It seems to function as a term of dismissal - a sort of guilt by association. Not exactly a hallmark of rationality. I'll be happy to address your own arguments if you do likewise.)

David B Marshall said...

JB: Glad to hear it. Don't read too much into terms like "Loftus' disciple;" Dr. H has been taking such occasional jibes, and dishing them out, for some time, yet knows full well I respect him as a leading West-Coast authority (now that PZ Myers is in Minneasota) on the order Octopoda, and on gamelan music. No doubt there is also much more to you than that you frequent John's blog. :- )

Anonymous said...

Servile submission to the state?

When atheists get actual political control, they promptly start demanding servile submission to the State.

Who ya kiddin?

Vox Popoli

Dark Star said...

>> When atheists get actual political control, they promptly start demanding servile submission to the State

Zuckerman, Hitchens, et al., have demolished this puerile claim repeatedly.

I would reply in detail but I'm being brief because I'm told that short unsupported claims are preferred here over detailed arguments; as witnessed by this post.

David B Marshall said...

"I would reply in detail but I'm being brief because I'm told that short unsupported claims are preferred here over detailed arguments; as witnessed by this post."

Who told you that? Unlike, say, PZ Myers or John Loftus, most of my blog posts are substantive and detailed. I have never deleted a post because it was too substantive; sometimes because it was vacuous or obscene.

David B Marshall said...

This is an old thread, now, but the issue is still hot, and Loftus is still running from my arguments. Anyway, it's probably about time I added a link here to the first of the six or seven part series I wrote, making a case for the proposition above. This is the first post, which is then linked to five or so more, after that. You can also now click on the link at the end of the post above.