Crystal Balls, Sex Toys, Judas Cradle, Rhology and the Nihilist
Because your post oftentimes responds directly to statements I made in my most recent offering, I think the statements in question should be included, to provide context. I hope the formatting is clear: First, appearing in italics, will be the statement to which you are responding. That shall be followed by your response and, finally, my new rebuttal. Here goes….
“Nobody reading my essay could possibly think I was directly comparing suicide bombing with Alabama’s infantile law.”
Rhology: You yourself said this, though: "Of course, Rhology, you must recognize that my comparison was not of methods but of mindset."
But I agree that religious freedom (which I believe the US should have) should exist and that your statements about it are correct.
Nihilist: You have quoted me correctly, but taken it in the wrong context. I was comparing Christofascists to Islamofascists, not the sex-toy ban to suicide bombing. In fact, I immediately followed up the quote you selected with a clarifier: “That is, for both Christofascists and Islamofascists, there is an assumption that they have a right to inflict their arbitrary moral opinions on those around them.” This type of authoritarianism—I call it moral narcissism—is the point of comparison. But let me assure you, I am happy to know that you believe in religious freedom. However, if that truly is your stance (and I hope it is), then you must join me in condemning the Alabama law to which I am opposed. It is inarguable that the state’s sex-toy ban is inspired by the Christian moral construction. In that construction, unconventional sex is sinful—and introducing toys into coitus is unconventional. If Bible-inspired statutes, such as the one in Alabama, are applied to Christians and non-Christians alike, religious freedom is retarded. If I lived in that state, I would be an atheist in name and belief, but would have to be a de facto Christian if I wanted to avoid legal harassment.
“I readily admit that, at this moment and for the last few centuries, Muslims behave far worse than Christians do.”
Rhology: Well, I'm looking for more than that! :-D Islam behaved VERY badly its first 2 centuries of existence, as an institution. The medieval RCC was bad; institutional Islam was pretty bad too, enslaved and killed far more people, and took far more territory with the sword. In the name of God and in line with their religion (see the link I posted), as opposed to the Inquisition and Crusades, neither of which are fully justifiable on biblical grounds (though the Crusades are justifiable to a decent extent).
Does that make sense?
Nihilist: On this point, we are in substantial agreement. At least since 1700, Islam and its followers have been far worse than Christianity and its masses. I would argue that, from around 1250 to 1700, many self-proclaimed god-fearing Christians engaged in hideous evil, directed particularly toward people accused of witchcraft and those who did not acquiesce to the controlling church powers. However, I concede that, after that point, things were substantially “cleaned up,” as it were.
Nevertheless, looking at the period when both institutions were behaving badly (according to my confected standards, that is), I think it is rather a waste of time to talk about which was more horrible. Suppose that a terrorist group sets off a bomb in Los Angeles and kills 500,000 innocent civilians. Suppose another cell detonates an explosive in New York City, but only kills 300,000 innocents. Is the latter cell “less evil” than the former? Such a question, to me, seems beside the point. And, although my knowledge of Islam is limited, I do know that some of the torture devices supposedly used by Christians are absolutely shocking in their heinousness. The website Medievality.com describes the Judas Cradle as follows: “The Judas Cradle [was] a terrible medieval torture where the victim would be placed on top of a pyramid-like seat. The victim's feet were tied to each other in a way that moving one leg would force the other to move as well - increasing pain. The triangular-shaped end of the Judas Cradle was inserted in the victim's anus or vagina. This torture could last, depending on some factors discussed below, anywhere from a few hours to complete days.” Just ghastly.
“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” [1 Corinthians 11:3 (KJV)].
Rhology: It's a distinction of role, not of nature.
And you're right - it's SERVANT leadership, much like Christ, the Lord and Creator of the universe, space, time, matter, and energy, washing the disgusting, dirty, and manure-encrusted feet of His disciples and then dying for them, abandoned by them.
That's my calling as a Christian husband.
Nihilist: I would not say that the gender roles prescribed by Christian doctrine are misogynistic per se, but they certainly are antithetical to modern ideas about absolute equality (save for the obvious plumbing differences). In my last post, I simply was making the point that, even though you argue against what I consider to be Islam’s mistreatment of women—and you make your arguments with eloquence and insight—you subscribe to a religion in which wives are supposed to submit to their husbands’ headship. Again, there is quite a difference with respect to degree, but not much difference in the overall gist.
But let me add something here. As evidenced by your comments later on about Jeffrey Dahmer, an individual you believe might currently be in heaven due to his being born again, you are a Christian who adheres slavishly to scripture. It seems to me that, in your mind, your beliefs need not conform to popular wisdom, modern mores or even common sense. That is, if a biblical prescription seemed to fly in the face of common sense, you probably would err on the side of the Bible and presume that your common sense was somehow faulty, at least this once. Bearing that in mind, what if Jesus had explicitly preached that women should walk ten steps behind men, or that they never should show their faces in public, or that they never should shake hands with men? If Jesus had made such pronouncements, would you live in accordance with them? I ask not to be antagonistic but because, to me, your devotion to scripture seems uncompromising, nay, absolute.
“702 were tried and executed in Protestant territories”
Rhology: OK, I didn't realise that about Prot territories. Of course, the Salem trials were Prot, (and executed a whopping [less than] 20 witches) but this still compares very favorably with Islam. It's not as simple as this, though. The state and church were not separated or barely separated at that time. Principles like American religious freedom were more or less unheard-of; it's anachronistic to judge them by our modern standards. Finally, I'll just remind everyone that you said above that you can't extend moral judgments beyond yourself anyway.
Nihilist: My position is not that I cannot extend moral judgments beyond myself. Rather, I simply have no pretension that my moral opinions are objective facts. In my opinion, murder is horribly evil. In my view, torture is anathema to civilized existence. In my judgment, donating $1 million to underprivileged children is morally righteous. However, if you asked me to prove those opinions to be factually accurate, I could not. There is no known way to prove a moral statement or moral code; as such, we are left only with opinion.
“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”
Rhology: It's not that I deemphasise certain psgs b/c I feel like it. The key is that this law and so many others in the OT Law were CIVIL laws given for the governance of OT Israel, which was a nation, a theocracy. OT Israel no longer exists. Those civil laws don't apply.
Nihilist: Fair enough…point well taken. I do maintain, however, that such passages provided “theological cover” for the torturers, butchers and murderers. I would be willing to bet a large sum that, at the height of the witch-hunts, the aforequoted passage was recited more than once. However, your clarification vis-à-vis Old Testament law made me think of Leviticus 18:22 and its condemnation of homosexual activity. Is not Levitical law also “out of date,” as it were? Would not the new covenant of the New Testament supersede Levitical law? Should not that particular verse be retired from the contemporary gay rights discussion?
“Neither [witchcraft nor sorcery] exists and neither ever has.”
Rhology: I disagree with this statement. They do exist. Why else would the OT Law prohibit them?
Shoot, they exist TODAY! Have you never heard of a séance, channeling, Ouija boards, mediums, Tarot card readers, thaumaturgists...?
Nihilist: There appears to be a chasm between our definitions of witchcraft. Yes, some people use tarot cards, Ouija, crystal balls and the like. However, none of those trinkets has the powers attributed to it. Tarot cards offer as much mystical insight as a deck of Bicycle playing cards, and Ouija is a children’s toy playing on the ideomotor effect. So, by “witchcraft,” you apparently are referencing adults who indulge in children’s folly. Perhaps the Old Testament, too, was referring to such exemplifications of stunted intellectual growth.
“the pious people who tortured and murdered “witches” centuries ago, in your judgment, are presently in that place where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Rhology: Witchcraft was illegal in those areas at that time and was (I'd argue more or less rightly) considered a threat to civil security, so it was treated as a crime. It's not how I'd do it, but it has a fair amount to commend it - the nation would be freer of the evil influence of the occult, the people would be holier in conduct, the gross immorality that usually accompanies witchcraft would be less present, etc.
"Murder" is never justified, so I grant that. Executions after trial are quite another matter.
I don't see why torture would be justified, so I grant that.
Nihilist: The witch-hunt escapade is shocking not only for its brutality and sheer level of hideousness, but also for its absolute silliness. Consider the following passage, from “Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions,” by Charles Mackay:
“In 1595, an old woman residing in a village near Constance, angry at not being invited to share the sports of the country people on a day of public rejoicing, was heard to mutter something to herself, and was afterwards seen to proceed through the fields towards a hill, where she was lost sight of. A violent thunderstorm arose about two hours afterwards, which wet the dancers to the skin, and did considerable damage to the plantations. This woman, suspected before of witchcraft, was seized and imprisoned, and accused of having raised the storm, by filling a hole with wine, and stirring it about with a stick. She was tortured till she confessed, and was burned alive the next evening.”
You refer to execution after trial with some degree of approval, but do not forget that (a) torture was used not to punish people for their “crimes” but in order to secure extravagant confessions, and (b) the charges oftentimes were jaw dropping in their ludicrousness. Let us just agree that, in that time, the prevailing standards of evidence were rather flimsy. Then again, maybe the wine-filled hole really did confect the tempest. But probably not.
Rhology: On a related note, I believe it is documented on better-than-urban-legend grounds that Jeffrey Dahmer converted to Christianity shortly before his death. If that is true, if he placed his faith and reliance on Jesus Christ to forgive him of his sin and give him eternal life, he is my brother in Christ and will spend eternity in heaven in the presence of Jesus. I am a great sinner, Jesus Christ is a greater Savior.
Nihilist: That is a very telling statement, and supports my earlier assertion that you follow a by-the-book interpretation of Christianity. That is, if common sense—or even your innate instincts—seems to be at odds with New Testament teachings, you still stick with the Bible. It again raises the question in my mind: If the Bible had contained different moral prescriptions—ones that your current self finds repugnant—would you have followed them? In any event, I have seen, on more than one occasion, the televised interview to which you refer. Dahmer indeed does profess born-again Christianity and promotes intelligent design creationism. However, given the fact that Dahmer was a serial murderer, rapist, necrophile and cannibal, I tend to be suspicious of anything he said. As we know from Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy, just to name a couple, serial killers tend to be diabolically clever…able to gain people’s confidence and seem completely sincere. If my recollections are correct, Bundy, at various times, convinced his victims he was a plainclothes police officer or a handicapped man needing assistance. Gacy, for his part, made his young male victims so comfortable that they were willing to see Gacy’s “handcuff trick.” Might murdering, raping, necrophiliac, cannibalistic Dahmer have pulled one final con job?
Rhology: These Inquisitors, if they had saving faith in Christ, will be saved. If they didn't, they are condemned and stand in the exact same place as you do - hellbound. I urge you to turn away from your sin and repent, believe in the Savior. You won't regret it; I can promise you that much.
Nihilist: I appreciate your repeated attempts to convert me, but, alas, such represent an enterprise doomed to failure. But worse yet, your attempts at conversion are directed from the weakest possible angle: Somebody who embraces the Christian superstition because he fears damnation to hell exemplifies nothing more than pathetic cravenness. If one must be Christian, one should be so because, in one’s mind, Christianity hits upon truth—not because one is fearful of punishment. In my mind, any creative deity would look more positively on principled, intellectually rigorous skepticism than gutless bet hedging. But let me also stress that I know pain is a function of the nervous system, tissue damage and other physical factors. I have seen no evidence that a wispy, incorporeal essence could be made to feel pain. Even “emotional pain”—the kind that sometimes keeps us awake at night—has to do with brain activity. A wispy, incorporeal essence possesses no brain of which to speak. Therefore, the suffering with which you threaten me seems rather…well…incoherent.