Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Rhology Confusion

I was happy to see that Rhology, an eloquent and rather polite Christian, decided to offer a rebuttal to my response to his pithy provocation. Although I have little desire to enter another extended dialogue with him—my final post in our previous dialogue was more than four thousand words, including quotes from him—I feel that some of his points absolutely require a response. Therefore, a response there shall be….

Rhology: #1 - The JN would inflict his moral views on the rest of us, just as he says we should not do. In making the very statement that one should not inflict one's moral views on another, he does the same. As James White says, "Inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument".

Nihilist: Sorry, Rhology, but a careful reading of my essay clearly shows that I make no statements regarding objective morality. I do not assert that Christofascist and Islamofascist authoritarianism are immoral in any objective or absolute sense (although they offend my confected moral code). I also do not proclaim that leaving each other alone, and embracing a diversity of ethical opinions, constitutes moral rectitude in any objective or absolute sense (although, personally, I find the Zero Aggression Principle persuasive). In the piece, I simply made an inarguable observation about behavioral coherence. Given our manifest moral ignorance—illustrated by the fact that no moral code has been proved objectively correct—the idea of a Christofascist attempting to impose his arbitrary moral opinions on me is precisely analogous to me, an aficionado of red, demanding that Rhology abandon his own favorite color and recognize the superiority of mine. I classify such behavior as neither moral nor immoral; it is incoherent and silly. Given the dearth of moral facts, attempts at coercion are manifestly incoherent. And, let it be known: My embrace of moral relativism does not flow from my unique possession of moral truth; rather, I am a moral relativist because I recognize our collective moral ignorance, and a relativistic view flows naturally therefrom. It makes no sense for one to be coercive with respect to things about which one is ignorant.

Rhology: #2 - He challenges my comparison between "Christian" violence and jihadist suicide bombers with an illustration of a law in Alabama that prohibits the sale of sex toys.

Nihilist: Come on now—maintain a modicum of rationality here. Nobody reading my essay could possibly think I was directly comparing suicide bombing with Alabama’s infantile law. I was presenting an example of the morally authoritarian Christofascist mindset. Moreover, I was explaining that, when such laws are passed, my freedom from religion is being infringed, insofar as such statutes are clearly inspired by the Christian moral construction. I take my constitutional rights seriously. If the right to vote includes an implicit right not to cast a ballot, then freedom of religion includes an implicit right not to indulge in religious observance.

Rhology: I love it - the West, for all its faults, faces an enemy that wants to impose sharia law on all people. It wants women to walk 10 steps behind men, never to show their faces in public, to be prohibited from shaking hands with men, to be worth 1/2 of a man with respect to lawful testimony in court. It wants to charge a heavy tax on/kill those who will not convert to Islam. It wants to behead those who insult Islam or Mohammed. Virtually all of its earliest expansion, both under Mohammed and after him, came through military activity and forced conversions, to the point that all of the Iberian Peninsula, much of France, all of the Balkans, up to Vienna, was taken and held by Muslim forces. The number of men AND WOMEN who strap bombs to themselves every year to blow up civilians and children is almost too numerous to consider. And the JN is concerned about the imposition of a few laws banning the sale of sex toys?

Nihilist: You are preaching to the choir in this instance, Rhology. I conceded this point in the essay to which you are ostensibly responding, writing, “I readily admit that, at this moment and for the last few centuries, Muslims behave far worse than Christians do.” I am appalled by the violence committed in that religion’s name, whether it takes the form of suicide bombings or full-out wars. Islam’s stated policy toward apostates is particularly hideous, in my judgment, given my own Christian apostasy. The mistreatment of women hits me particularly hard, given the fact that I consider myself a feminist and champion for equality of rights. However, I must say, your indictment of Islam’s misogyny rings rather hollow. After all, as a Bible-believing Christian, you presumably affirm the following verse: “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)].
Christianity and Islam differ in their treatment of women, but the difference is of degree rather than kind: Islam is wildly misogynistic, while Christianity merely declares that a wife is to submit graciously to the servant leadership of her husband. When you disavow the aforequoted passage, I will be more inclined to cheerlead your well-informed condemnation of Islam.

Rhology: The JN, in his post, goes on and on about "the church" committing the Inquisition and Witch Trials and such. It's hard to imagine how he could be so uninformed as to think there could be any connection beyond a simple name (ie, they were part of the "Christian church" and I am part of the the Christian church) between my position and that of medieval Roman Catholics. Apparently he missed the multiple posts I've written against the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox positions and the fact that I'm a contributor at Beggars All Reformation Apologetics, which would be hard to confuse with medieval Roman Catholicism.

Nihilist: It seems that you consider your preferred variety of Christianity much more to the heart of the matter than I do. The bottom line, for me, is, apart from Mormons and maybe a few other fringe denominations, Christians—no matter the flavor—are “men of one book,” to co-opt a sentiment attributed to Aquinas. To start, I must correct your attempt to foist all the blame on Catholics. Please forgive me for quoting from Wikipedia, but the source material it cites (H.C. Erik Midelfort, Witch Hunting in Southwestern Germany 1562-1684, 1972) simply would be too laborious to track down. It writes, “One theory for the number of Early Modern witchcraft trials connects the counter-reformation to witchcraft. In Southwestern Germany between 1561 and 1670, there were 480 witch trials. Of the 480 trials that took place in Southwestern Germany, 317 occurred in Catholic areas, while Protestant territories accounted for 163 of them. During the period from 1561 to 1670, at least 3,229 persons were executed for witchcraft in the German Southwest. Of this number, 702 were tried and executed in Protestant territories, while 2,527 were tried and executed in Catholic territories…. Historians today dispute the comparative severity of witch hunting in Protestant and Catholic territories. ‘Protestants blamed the witch trials on the methods of the Catholic Inquisition and the theology of Catholic scholasticism, while Catholic scholars indignantly retorted that Lutheran preachers drew more witchcraft theory from Luther and the Bible than from medieval Catholic thinkers’.”

Rhology: Anyone can claim to "clutch the Bible" as JN puts it. "Who follows its teachings?" is a far better question for two reasons:
1) You're making a claim that the Bible teaches such.
2) You're talking to a guy who claims to follow the Bible in everythg it teaches.

Given all this, perhaps the JN could enlighten us as to how he comes to these conclusions:
-If torture and murder cannot be laid at the Bible’s figurative feet, that tome certainly can be said to have inspired some of this.

-“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” is just begging for trouble, especially when there are nonconformists, heretics and ugly crones about.

Ie. What is the context of this command? To whom was it given? When? What connection does that have to the New Testament church, of which I am a part?

Nihilist: The Bible does condemn witchcraft and sorcery, despite the fact that neither one exists and neither ever has. [Admittedly, some sad cases like to play dress up and pretend to cast spells, but the efficacy of such hocus-pocus is underwhelming.] And, in spite of your implications to the contrary, the verse I quoted, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” [Exodus 22:18 (KJV)], did contribute to the alacrity with which some Christians indulged in the torture and murder of nonconformists, heretics and ugly crones. Had that verse been expunged at some point—much like the exclusion of apocryphal writings—perhaps the torturers’ theological “cover” would not have existed.
Look, Rhology, I admit my ignorance of Christian denominational variations. I also trust that different denominations emphasize and de-emphasize certain passages of the Bible, and wed themselves to alternate dogmas. However, I would rather not delve into all that: Even though I am substantially familiar with the Bible, given your scholarship vis-à-vis the text, I would lose a debate on that territory. But, then again, I am sure a “fairyologist” would handily defeat me in an interlocution about speckle patterns on fairy wings. So, I shall not feel bad….
I would like to grant you this opportunity to affirm that which I wrote earlier: “Neither [witchcraft nor sorcery] exists and neither ever has.” I also would like to grant you the opportunity to declare, for all to read, that 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.”


Blogger Rhology said...

Hi JN,

I'll post this same comment here and on the relevant post at my place.
First of all, you're not on the Wall of Shame b/c you actually answer questions! You're not afraid of a good tussle, you don't run away, you respond to charges made against your position. You respond with stuff that's on-topic. You don't moderate dissenting comments into oblivion. You don't confuse attacks on your position with attacks on YOU. Those are what have earned the denizens of the WoS their hallowed place. I appreciate your modus operandi a great deal.

The point I've been trying to make about Irony #1 is, if you will, a meta-point. Let me try to explain better, since I doubt I'm doing an adequate job. In arguing against the possibility of making overarching moral claims (like my position does, you're 100% right), you yourself make the same kinds of claims.
However, I think your latest offering might have clarified what you mean and so my argument would need to be revamped. Now, I'd argue that I am 100% justified in taking what I took from your original post, given the way you worded it, but now everythg changes. The irony is more or less removed to a different spot, one that's slightly less obvious.

Moving on to irony #2 (which I found, unfortunately, to be the less interesting of the 2, haha):

Nobody reading my essay could possibly think I was directly comparing suicide bombing with Alabama’s infantile law.

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.

I readily admit that, at this moment and for the last few centuries, Muslims behave far worse than Christians do.

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 justifiable on biblical grounds.
Does that make sense?

“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)].

But where do you get misogyny out of that? The New Testament also affirms the ontological equality of men and women in Galatians 3:28-29 and says this in Ephesians 5:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.

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.

702 were tried and executed in Protestant territories

OK, I didn't realise that about Prot territories. Of course, the Salem trials were Prot, (and executed a whopping <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.

OK, two more:
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”

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.
Tell you what, I'll post on that issue fairly soon and you can read and learn a bit.

1)“Neither [witchcraft nor sorcery] exists and neither ever has.” I also would like to grant you the opportunity to declare, for all to read, that 2) 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.”

1) 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...?

2) I can make no statement of certainty on the state of most anyone's soul. What I can say is that those who participated in these persecutions were not wholly justified in doing so. It's not as clear-cut as I think we like to make it in modern times, but I think you wouldn't want to be judged by the standards of 24th-century people when they dig up a hard disc drive with your blog contents saved on it, someday. You'd want to be judged in the context of your thoughts, your environment.
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.
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. 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.


8:48 AM EDT  
Blogger MothandRust said...

I got onto the 'wall of shame'... hey, any publicity etc.

I love the fairyoligy quote.

9:17 AM EDT  
Blogger Georgia said...

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.
This is my point with these damn blue laws. This so called christian majority considers many things a threat to civil security.
Homosexuality outlaw sodomy.
Sex toys or birth control can't procreate with sex toys or birth control.
Adultery, fornication, sodomy spread of disease.
Rhology you might buy into this crap but education and good parenting will be better than use of force. Humiliating or setting an example does not work. It only leads to rebellion which weakens the society.

10:18 AM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

Thanks for the quick response. I also appreciate the clarification regarding my exclusion from the Wall of Shame.

I have a few things I would add, but, in fact, not very much.

Expect a new post over the weekend.

7:08 PM EDT  

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