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Atheism : New Fundementalists

I had a lovely and rather weird conversation with the man sat next to me on the plane.

He was intrigued by my atheism, mainly because he couldn’t understand how our morality works. When he asked how progress was perverted by Islam, rather than terrorism, I pointed out the damage caused to science and the adherence of Islamic Principle and the applied theology that has crippled many an Inquisitive Muslim.

But it’s weird seeing the Huffington Post’s Hunter Roberts depict atheists as fundamentalists. The description under her name may make me guffaw but that’s the thing.

There are people out there who think their lives are out of their control and who will place faith on a complete stranger who offers to sacrifice a bird and read the entrails to divine the reason for such bad luck. It may not be entrails but may involve crystals, chakras or some other form of divinity. But it’s basically tripe. It’s some person justifying their choice of flouncy sleeves or robes by pretending to be a wizard and what is worse, we buy into that. Spirituality may be harmless but it is simply incorrect and paves the way to all sorts of faulty thinking that leaves a person open to being conned and controlled.

And these people may claim that I have a soul to save, but the truth is my soul is entirely an illusion created by the idea that human beings have a divine spark that makes the unique. We are ultimately very intelligent chemistry. Our cells have structures dictated by biochemistry and their function is intricately linked to that. This includes every single thought.

Every single feeling of love, hate, jealousy, rage, kindness, joy and peace? Every single emotion you have had has been chemistry in action. If you think this is bleak then you don’t see the point. You want to be told your emotions are magic not because it’s true but because you fear the realisation that every single thing you feel can be altered by an external force. Oh this may mean that you can also fall out of love based on chemistry, but also means that diseases such as depression and seizures and schizophrenia are no longer divine afflictions of your soul but treatable diseases.

What terrible chemistry is involved in the feeling of love alone? That pain and joy and irrational bonding? Do you think the eye is less beautiful because it’s mechanics are physical rather than unknown? Same applies to the soul. Your soul can be biologically defined as the neurological state that defines you as an individual. That unique chemistry of the brain that makes you, you. Your love of sushi is entirely down to some chemical switches in your skull that rewards you when you eat sushi and the ability to recall that you like that.

So let’s get our souls aligned to our chakras and delve into this.

“I don’t believe in God,” he said looking up from the menu. Was he challenging me because he knows I’m a Christian minister, I wondered?

It’s weird, maybe atheists like this exist, but I have rarely judged people who sit next to me on public transit. In fact my atheism is more puzzling to those around me because I don’t appear to be an untrustworthy knave who eats babies. It’s generally been religious people behaving like this.

Why do I need to challenge you? You  have a belief that I consider irrational. You believe in something I don’t. You challenge the Hindu and the Muslim with your faith and they won’t believe in it either. Your gods are no more irrational than a many handed blue one, your stories no more real than that of those you deride to worship the myriad false and dead gods of other religions.

Peter was the husband of a close friend, who had kindly done me a favor. To show my appreciation I was taking him to lunch. Was he intentionally being aggressive? I didn’t want to argue. I smiled. “Well, I’m not in the business of conversion,” I said, “but for the record, I probably don’t believe in the same God you don’t believe in,” I was hoping to avert hostility and maybe open a dialogue about our understanding of the divine, since he brought it up. He wasn’t having it.

“No,” he said leaning forward, “I mean I don’t believe in any God!” His words pierced the atmosphere. I conciliated. “I’m not attached to the word. ‘God’ is just a placeholder for the ineffable, call it what you will,” I said, trying to find common ground.

Sure, you could place a god as a placeholder, but our issue with your gods is not that they are placeholders but are entities that tell you to tell us how to live our lives.

“I don’t believe in any of that!” He was becoming openly belligerent. I wasn’t sure how to proceed. His wife also called herself an atheist, but we’d had a great discussion about theology as well as sex, love, and our life stories on a bus trip all the way from Budapest to Prague. Before I could respond he threw down the gauntlet, “I’m a scientist. I believe in science.”

Should I tell him I believed in science, too, just like I didn’t believe in the tooth fairy? That I have a healthy respect for scientific method and discoveries, including the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which infers a more fluid universe than ever we imagined? That I detest Biblical literalism and recognize evolution as going back billions of years, but also see it as the embodiment of a God immanent in and not separate from creation? It seemed he was more interested in shooting me down like some sort of straw man. I wondered if he had ever met a minister up close and personal. I took a breath and began.

Sure however most atheists realise that science is not accepted by religion explicitly but grudgingly. To many Muslims science is a way of glorifying god. Rather than opt for the evidence they contort science to fit their religious view. The issue here is that you may agree with the modern view of science, but if science crosses a line which you hold sacred then you then science will be held wrong. Your line is just further than the creationists and various luddites you deride.

“You know,” I sighed, “There have been so many developments in theology in the past fifty years, it’s unfortunate they haven’t reached the informed general public. It’s like we’re still talking about an outmoded version of God who requires checking your brain at the door, which few intelligent people are willing to do–a God who is like a puppet master pulling strings, controlling life, saying, ‘A billion dollars for you, Mr. Romney, but nothing for this guy in Africa. That’s nutty. That’s not God, at least not the God I worship.”

And none of these developments in theology are supported by any rigorous evidence, we are in fact tap dancing around the major issue in that the original premise for a god is faulty. Developments in theology are in effect dragging a philosophical idea to a new destination. This is not a discovery on par with a scientific discovery. In effect this is an attempt to hide your gods behind the next unknown.

He broke in. “I told you–I don’t believe in ANY God!”

“Yes,” I persisted, assuming him to be an interested and open-minded conversation partner, “but you must have some version of what you don’t believe in. Everyone does, and most people have the same version or understanding of God that they had in approximately the third grade-I call it the third grade catechism version-and it never gets upgraded. God as a thing. It remains their definition of God, never questioned or amended, and then when they’re older, maybe in college, they decide to either ‘believe” or ‘not believe’ in that God. Imagine what it would be like if you never changed your understanding of sex or reproduction from when you first learned about it!” I laughed, having gotten it on the QT that he was pretty sophisticated in that realm. I thought the analogy would appeal, if only to make him curious. It didn’t.

So we are utilising the deist version of god rather than the Christian one?

This is like saying “Okay, you don’t believe in Jesus… what about Zeus? Krishna? The Smoking Mirror? Tlaloc? Surely Kali?”

The standard definition of a god is an entity that has created the universe and that may or may not have placed various requirements on humanity.

“Nothing,” he repeated. “I believe in none of that shit. I told you: I believe in Science!” He mentioned St. Christopher Hitchens. He was getting very intense. He started to itemize the many evils in the world. I listened. He raised the holocaust as well as his voice, along with some horrors of which I was unaware as proof of the nonexistence of God.

I nodded. “I agree there is great evil in the world.”

“It’s not evil, it’s just the way life is. But with such a world, how can there be a God?” he asked. It was a rhetorical question.

No, see the thing is we look at the holocaust quite simply forgetting that the great evil was perpetrated due to more than a Millenia of anti-semiticism. 200 years prior such a pogrom would not only have been common place but driven by the religious Christians of the day. The only difference is the utilisation of science. Zyklon B was a product of science, and by itself it is not an evil thing. What was evil, was the notion that Jews were responsible for all ills and this idea was a product of religious bigotry driving anti-semitism.

To me this cripples the claim of a kind and benevolent and all powerful god. And I do not have to invoke St. Christopher.

I still assumed I was talking to a liberal thinker, open to discussion. After all, I knew this to be true in other realms, like politics and sex. So I took a sip of my mineral water and plunged in, “Hmm, I might have something useful to say about this,” I offered. “I wrote a whole chapter in my dissertation on it called ‘The Changing of the God,’ about how serious theologians had to address those questions in the wake of the holocaust. Beginning with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who attempted to assassinate Hitler, these questions gave rise to new theologies and a new understanding of God.” He had not heard of any of this, of course, but I didn’t expect him to have. I told him about Bonhoeffer’s letters from prison disavowing the “God of Religion” and calling people to a more adult relationship with the divine, a challenge that theologians would grapple with for the next half-century. “You see, the question of how God can allow evil presupposes that old version of God–the puppet master God–the one pulling strings and ‘allowing’ some things and not others. That’s what I meant about… “

Yet we are discussing a single monotheistic god which in itself is a limiting concept since the notion of a singular god is entirely born out of the Abrahamic Faiths.

Instead we have the god of Pullman, an emaciated and wasted thing. To which I must ask? Why must we pray to this frail man in a box who cannot do anything? This figurehead of heaven has less of a role in the lives of man than a single bee. Why worship him? Why believe in this entity?

“I already told you, I believe in science, not God,” he interrupted. In his mind they were mutually exclusive. I stopped. I wanted to ask what he thought about science and spirituality, the new physics, Einstein and Bohm, who operated with a sense of order and wonder at the universe itself as a great mystery of divine proportions. I wanted to, but I didn’t because I realized he didn’t want to engage with the questions; he already knew the answers. He wasn’t interested in a discussion. That’s when I got it.

Einstein spoke of Spinoza’s god which is an entirely different god to your Christian one. And I see Spinoza’s god as an engineering joke. A god who for “no fathomable purpose” fine tuned a set of laws to precipitate the universe then “bogged off for tea”. This again is not a god that can be prayed to or reasoned with since as we realise “he is off for tea”. The chance of such a god existing is also low and indeed there is no evidence for one either. In fact such a god is created only when we consider that the norm is to believe in a being who created the universe and that the notion that it could be an entirely natural phenomenon just like evolution or gravity has been widely regarded as blasphemous.

A lot of people ask why I don’t use philosophy to defend my atheism.

I don’t because I don’t really have time to be philosophical and I work in an intensely practical environment.

I was talking to a fundamentalist. What I was saying threatened his very identity and construct of life. My lunch companion knew who God was, and he didn’t believe in “him.” It was a Santa sort of God, the kind that a small child believes in and then is disappointed by when he doesn’t get a pony in his stocking. I remembered being told he was abused as a child. Clearly that God had failed him.

Sure, but then we would have to redefine the entire “Christian god” and claim that the MAJORITY of Christians have it wrong. And it was people that failed this man not the non-existent gods.

It wasn’t my first experience of trying to discuss religion a fundamentalist, but in the past they were of the Christian variety. The experience was eerily similar. I was talking to someone who claimed to know exactly how ‘it’ is, who believed in a fixed, finite, and disinterested universe made of mere matter (despite quantum physics calling into question matter itself and some pretty weird discoveries about waves and particles shape-shifting) and believed in it with a kind of scientific literalism as dogmatic as Biblical literalism.

Except scientific literalism makes airplanes fly. Aeronautical Engineers are fundamentalists when it comes to aerodynamics. I am a fundamentalist doctor and do not believe in the usage of alternative medicine or magic to cure my patients. We are assuming the scientist is the same as the priest when it comes to verified phenomenon and the evidence needed to hold said views.

A fundamentalist is unwilling to consider the unsettling possibility that the universe is more complex, mysterious, and multi-dimensional than anything our symbol systems, descriptions and analyses can apprehend. A fundamentalist systematically disregards anything that might contradict his worldview, be it carbon dating or mystical experience. A fundamentalist is unwilling to examine definitions and presuppositions, or hear about developments, scientific or otherwise, that might cast doubt or suggest seeing them in a new light—like the bumper sticker popular a decade or so ago with Biblical literalists, “God said it, I believe it, and that’s that.”

I am willing to accept that the universe is more complex and every single day we find more and more complexities about the universe, but none of those require a magical being to have created the Universe. The universe’s secrets are not revealed through prayer but through science. The mysteries of the universe are not just discovered by solved by science, not by prayer or meditation. Multi-Dimensional? Maybe, but there is unlikely to be a dimension called heaven ruled over by a god called Jehovah any more than there is a Naraka ruled over by Yama.

This is another theist hiding god behind the next theorem and the next law who tells us of the glories they see beyond our theorems if only we would reject them.

Beware those who seek first and last theorems, behind them lurks an angry god.

When did atheists become the new fundamentalists? I have known many atheists beginning with my wonderful dad, who insisted I not use the word “God” or pray at his funeral. But this new breed is different: closed-minded, entrenched, and bellicose, shouting and proselytizing their disbelief in the God of their fathers as determinedly and humorlessly as their forebears proselytized with such certainty for a definite, iron-clad system of punishments and rewards in a pie-in-the-sky afterlife. Why do these new atheists allow the Christian fundamentalists to define their reality? And why are they so angry?

Oh there are a lot of reasons, let Greta sing you the song of her people.

Comments

  1. Wylann says

    Hrm, who wants to take bets that this ‘fundamental atheist’ was entirely made up?

    Anyone?

    Also, even if true, painting all atheists with this brush is as bad as lumping all xians in with muslim terrorist suicide bombers. Which would this wannabe theologian prefer? :D

  2. machintelligence says

    We are ultimately very intelligent chemistry. Our cells have structures dictated by biochemistry and their function is intricately linked to that. This includes every single thought.
    Every single feeling of love, hate, jealousy, rage, kindness, joy and peace? Every single emotion you have had has been chemistry in action.

    Damn. I wish I could write like that. But I can’t, which is why I read your blog, and occasionally make a donation.
    Please keep up the good work.

  3. says

    What a delightful sounding woman. She takes this “fundamentalist” atheist to lunch which apparently gives her the authority to continually try to force the conversation in a direction that he clearly and repeatedly says he’s not interested in.

  4. says

    Spirituality may be harmless but it is simply incorrect and paves the way to all sorts of faulty thinking that leaves a person open to being conned and controlled.

    Logically, I don’t see this as making much sense. If spirituality leads to “all sorts of faulty thinking” that is harmful, then it is harmful. Unless I’m missing something in translation? Thinking about your comment more, are you trying to say that spirituality can be harmless at some times and harmful at other times? That I would agree with.

  5. cafeeineaddicted says

    @ 4 Leo:
    I can tell you how I read that. Spirituality may be directly harmless, in that your aunt Marge thinking she has a vague connection with all her past selves through the crystals on her mantle doesn’t generally change every day behavior in a way that causes harm. It is however superstitious thinking, and that can almost certainly cause trouble in the long run.

  6. Psychopomp Gecko says

    There’s that bit at the end, too. This idea that atheists are just now being offensive and big meanies. This seems to be the biggest thing I notice when people discuss what they call “New Atheism”. When you look back at the works of past atheists, and you’ll see that they had plenty to say that was just as bad as anything we’re saying now. Or would this person like to talk about how fundamentalist Thomas Jefferson was when he compared the majority of the New Testament to a dungheap?

    Perhaps they’d like to read Letters From the Earth and ask why Mark Twain seemed so angry at religion? “In time, the Deity perceived that death was a mistake; a mistake, in that it was insufficient; insufficient, for the reason that while it was an admirable agent for the inflicting of misery upon the survivor, it allowed the dead person himself to escape from all further persecution in the blessed refuge of the grave. This was not satisfactory. A way must be conceived to pursue the dead beyond the tomb.”

    Darn Bertrand Russel, that fundamentalist New Athiest: “There is something feeble and a little contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths. Almost inevitably some part of him is aware that they are myths and that he believes them only because they are comforting. But he dare not face this thought! Moreover, since he is aware, however dimly, that his opinions are not rational, he becomes furious when they are disputed.”

  7. kraut says

    “but you must have some version of what you don’t believe in”

    This is hilarious. I have to have a concept of which god I do not believe in? Exactly the argument that once was brought forward – as an atheist I believe in one less god (in the case of monotheistic religions) than you do,
    So yes, I am an monoatheistic muslimchristianjew and a multiatheistic hindushintowhatever

  8. smrnda says

    Religious people, Christians especially, are all about saying that atheists believe in some simplistic straw-god and that they’re just refusing the more sophisticated god defined by vague, inflated language that they believe in. I even heard one clip of a pastor saying that given what atheists don’t believe in ‘I must be an atheist too, because I don’t believe in that god either.’

    The problem is any attempt to rehabilitate god into something compatible with science and reason just ends up making a god that’s nothing but fluffy, woo-ish rhetoric, and with a god so badly defined ‘belief’ or ‘disbelief’ end up being meaningless.

  9. Holms says

    Is there a link to the orignal article? The only link that I can see it to Greta’s book.

    He had not heard of any of this, of course, but I didn’t expect him to have.

    This article author is coming off as a very patronising wanker.

    I was talking to someone who claimed to know exactly how ‘it’ is, who believed in a fixed, finite, and disinterested universe made of mere matter (despite quantum physics calling into question matter itself and some pretty weird discoveries about waves and particles shape-shifting) and believed in it with a kind of scientific literalism as dogmatic as Biblical literalism.

    The pastor not realise, but that parenthetical aside in now way rebuts the idea of a purely physical universe. Those interesting findings were all discovered with good old physical methods of testing and the same logic that led to basically every other discovery.

    Not only that, but the ramifications of those findings are obviously being completely misunderstood. No, quantum physics does is not ‘calling into question matter itself’, so much as ‘we are finding more stuff out about matter’.

  10. says

    No, see the thing is we look at the holocaust quite simply forgetting that the great evil was perpetrated due to more than a Millenia of anti-semiticism. 200 years prior such a pogrom would not only have been common place but driven by the religious Christians of the day. The only difference is the utilisation of science. Zyklon B was a product of science, and by itself it is not an evil thing. What was evil, was the notion that Jews were responsible for all ills and this idea was a product of religious bigotry driving anti-semitism.

    What simplistic cliche-driven utter stupidity. It completely ignores the the possibility, which evidence (as opposed to your trailer-park anti-Christian bigotry) suggests as a reality, that those who brought us the holocaust co-opted Christianity (as at times they also co-opted evolution) for their own purposes and propaganda. You should investigate the Rutgers University (a real hotbed for Christian fundamentalism!) and its Law school’s Nuremberg project which looked into the evidence that the Nazis had an active plan to persecute the Christian church

    Here is a place to get started. And here is another.

    Try to do a little research before parroting simpleminded claims.

    Cue: “But Hitler quoted Martin Luther! ” followed by “No True Scotsman!”

    Sorry, the world is never as simple as low-brow bigots like you think it is.

  11. badgersdaughter says

    So it’s a surprise now that some Christians persecuted other Christians? I think I just broke my jaw yawning.

  12. says

    badgersdaughter,

    So it’s a surprise now that some Christians persecuted other Christians? I think I just broke my jaw yawning.

    So you prefer to stick your head in the sand if reality shakes your itty-bitty world view just a micron. You want to hold to the view that the upper ranks of Third Reich were devout Christians who may have persecuted other Christians–because that is such a comforting thought. I understand. But the reports show that plan was to use German Christiandom, sort of as useful idiots, while planning for its replacement with a non-Christian “Germanism.” You can indict German Christians (and atheists and scientists) for going along–although even that is not trivial since studies show that most people “go along”, but it is much more difficult (if not impossible) to make the pea-brained claim that the holocaust was designed as a product of institutional Christian anti-Semitism. There is this inconvenience of documentation.

    Gee. An atheist only wants to preserve, mindlessly, a naive anti-Christian view of the holocaust. I think I just broke my jaw yawning.

  13. Maloc256 says

    @heddle

    Whoa, those are quite some vitriolic comments. Now, while some of what you said is indeed documented, you did not really adress the original comment you quoted from the blog.

    What exactly is wrong by saying that the holocaust’s justification was riding on a wave of pre-existing, hundred years old anti-semitism which in large parts was religiously motivated?

    I mean, if you’re going to insult people left and right, at least make sure you answer the actual point, instead of going on a tangent about a connected but different one.

    I mean really now. You just answered things nobody said, insulted them even. That’s beyond strawmanning, this is shouting at an empty room and planting a victory flag.

  14. says

    Maloc256 #13,
    Wrong. The blog author wrote:

    What was evil, was the notion that Jews were responsible for all ills and this idea was a product of religious bigotry driving anti-semitism.

    This is, at best, naive and misleading. It completely ignores the evidence (as seen best in the Rutgers Nuremberg project) that the designers of the holocaust were not out to exterminate the Jews because they were devout Christians with sincere Luther-esque antisemitism, but rather they co-opted Christianity (and at times evolution) to make their actions palatable. As I said, one can shame the Christians for allowing themselves to be used in this manner, but that is quite different from the message the post author sent.

    There is religious bigotry here–found in the intense need of some to hold fast to simple arguments blaming the holocaust on Christianity. And there is a strawman here, but it is not of my making. Try again.

  15. smrnda says

    @heddle

    You should read something like Grayzel’s”History of the Jews.” Vicious and violent antisemitism was pretty much the norm in Christian Europe, often encouraged by the church authorities. The Holocaust was just the usual antisemitism with better technologies making it more deadly. Jews were pissed and shat on by Christians in Europe for well over a thousand years, you can’t pretend the Nazis just conjured antisemitism out of nowhere.

    The Nazis could not have co-opted Christianity for antisemitism since Christianity had be co-opted for that purpose long, long before the Nazis.

  16. says

    smrnda, #15

    Yes, you are correct, and it was to our complete and utter shame. I do not deny that Christianity has the most horrible, disgraceful record in this regard (anti-semitism). What I deny is that the Nazi leadership was sincere in its expression of Christianity. Now if there was no documentation you could argue that this is simply a No True Scotsman argument. But there is documentation that their plan included the persecution and eventual elimination of German Christianity.

    Of course many argue that today anti-Semitism is on the rise (based on reported incidents) in post-Christian Europe. Can’t blame us for that.

  17. Maloc256 says

    @heddle

    Let’s say that we have two groups of nazis.
    One group are devout Christians with Luther-esque antisemitism.
    The other are merely co-opting christianity. Hell, let’s even say they were all atheists.

    The end result is exactly the same, and they share a common ground: the use of religious rethoric to push for a heinous thing and get people to support it.

    Going back to the point I made, and which the first blog citation you gave alluded to: prejudice against jews was already a thing. Largely religiously motivated. The nazis, whether they were christians or not, had fertile ground to harvest.

    Now, yes, it is more complex than this. As you said, science was also used to further give justification of the jews’ supposed inferiority. The nazis were in fact, in the long run, planning to have their own faith for their Reich. A number of catholic and protestant priest did in fact try to resist when the nazis were starting to demand more obedience to the state.

    But there is nothing bigoted, naive, simplified or otherwise, to point out that the use of religion, whether genuine or manipulated, was used in all this, with succes. You can call up other factors, but it does not diminish the role religious rethoric played. I really do not see why merely pointing this out deserves a flurry of insults, based solely on the assumption, the mere assumption that the speaker therefore thinks christianity is to blame for it all and must be a bigot. Frankly, you are in fact reacting to things you are implying the speaker believes, even though he said no such thing. I admire your willingness to battle bigotry and mistaken arguments, but in this case, I’m afraid you have hit the wrong target.
    I genuinely believe we are on the same side here, but if this is our standard for what ”bigot” means, we are setting a very low bar.

  18. Maloc256 says

    @heddle

    Okay, so smrnda basically said what I just said, but better. Oh well.
    Just one last thing about this:
    Of course many argue that today anti-Semitism is on the rise (based on reported incidents) in post-Christian Europe. Can’t blame us for that.

    You are correct, it’s mostly pushed by those idiotic (but still dangerous) neo-nazis. Some of them are using the White Christian Purity nonsense, but it’s not fooling anyone anymore. We have come a long way, but still we should be vigilant, Greece is a recent example.
    Europe still has a pretty large religious population, though, so I would not exactly say Post-Christian. Still in large numbers and representin’, I would say. Many of whom are making it very clear that neo-nazis are not part of them and fighting the good fight.

  19. says

    Maloc256,

    I would conclude by saying we all should be watchful that people can distort ideas (those we like and those we don’t like) for their own purposes. There is no doubt that people have co-opted and distorted evolution and successfully used such distortion to garner support for social Darwinism and eugenics. (Some also distorted Christianity to the same end.) It repulses me when people trivially blame evolution for eugenics, in the same way that it bothers me that they trivially blame Christianity for the holocaust. To me it is a sign of someone who is intellectually lazy, at least as long as the naive argument is to his advantage,

  20. Maloc256 says

    @heddle

    I don’t think I need to add anything, your conclusion says it all. It is perfectly reasonable to dislike it when broad statements are made, be it knowingly or by inadvertence, about something we hold dear to our hearts.

    I wish you good continuation. I give you a toast from across the Atlantic.

  21. kraut says

    @ heddle – I agree that the Nazis used religion in Germany to forward their own supremacist agenda.
    The problem however was that to protect their property the catholic church signed a concordate with the Nazis, making them active supporters of Nazism.

    “The most damning example is Pacelli’s role in negotiating a treaty with German dictator Adolf Hitler known as the Reich Concordat. The agreement essentially said Hitler would allow the Vatican to maintain a measure of religious control over the churches in Germany in exchange for German Catholics staying out of politics. The result was that German Catholics (and later Catholics in occupied countries) who might have protested Hitler’s policies remained silent at the Vatican’s instructions. Hitler saw the agreement as “particularly significant in the developing struggle against international Jewry.”

    Pius XII was silent during the war. As early as March 1942, he was informed about the “catastrophic situation of the Jews in a number of Catholic countries, or countries with large Catholic populations.” Allied leaders repeatedly asked the pope to speak because they believed his words could make a difference, but he refused to do so — even when deportations of Italian Jews began in the pope’s backyard. ”

    http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/reviews/Cornwell.html

  22. kraut says

    As to the reaction of protestants to Hitler:

    “The “German Christians”

    There was no excuse for this mass approval of Nazism by the German Protestants or, for that matter, by any other German group. They could have been aware of Hitler’s ideology and aims: he had revealed much of them in his autobiography Mein Kampf, published in the twenties. They could also have an inkling of what was likely to happen to the German churches if the Nazis gained power. Long before January 1933, when Hitler became chancellor, groups had arisen in Germany which attempted to combine Christianity with the type of paganism that the Nazis also espoused or would espouse. In 1932, that is, before Hitler became chancellor, a number of these groups had united in what came to be known as the movement of the “German Christians” (Deutsche Christen).

    This movement espoused the Nazi party’s “positive Christianity,” which is meant, among other things, that it denied sin and depravity, as well as humility, and that it stressed nationalism and the saving character of the state. The church, as part of the state, was to march along-side the people to bring it to its earthly paradise. As Karl Barth described it, “The state is eternal, equal to the Bible in expressing God’s will. The Fuehrer is equal to the commands of God, rather, he is above them.” [3] With Hegel, Nietzsche, Rosenberg, and Wagner as their prophets, the “German Christians” preached their perverted gospel.”
    http://spindleworks.com/library/peet/german.htm

    http://www.catholicapologetics.info/apologetics/protestantism/hitler.htm

    It is interesting to juxtapose that antilutheran diatribe with this picture:
    http://www.google.ca/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&docid=8FctaCt7xmQxIM&tbnid=ghOSaZNSiY0LpM:&ved=0CAgQjRw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fluegenmaul.blogspot.com%2F2011%2F09%2Fdie-arroganz-des-vatikan.html&ei=MQcEU5WQMOnR2wXlxoDoCw&psig=AFQjCNF9N0sJVgEQdhniN-3wR0Iz1iV9FA&ust=1392859313845060
    It is fun to see christians catfighting among themselves. No atheist influence needed.

  23. Holms says

    So, does anyone have a link to the original article or not? Or is this article more of a reply to email perhaps?

  24. says

    kraut 22,

    It is fun to see christians catfighting among themselves. No atheist influence needed.

    I completely understand. We get the same happy juice watching accommodationists, pitters, the dreaded dictionary atheists, SJWs, and the A+s (have I missed any denominations?) all battle it out.

  25. badgersdaughter says

    He knows it’s incorrect. He’s just trying to offend you by comparing the various differences of opinion among freethinkers to the angels-on-a-pin ideological differences between Protestant Christians. It’s very telling that he uses his religion as the comparison to which you should be offended. I suppose you should be offended, at that.

  26. says

    badgersdaughter,

    He knows it’s incorrect.

    And how do you know that? My claim is that the kind of “fun” that kraut reported in #22 in regards to Christians fighting with Christians– well we get the same guilty pleasure watching the internecine warfare between accommodationists, pitters, dictionary atheists, SJWs, A+’s, and GNUs (I knew I forgot one denomination in #24– but how could I have left off the GNUs?) arguing about: what is a True Atheist™?

    Come on now. Watching atheists go after each other over such “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” questions like “is it OK to use the word stupid“? and “what the important difference between transgender and transgendered“–this is very fun stuff.

  27. badgersdaughter says

    heddle, I wasn’t born in a barn yesterday. I’ve been reading your posts on various blogs for a long time.

    You seem to forget that freethinkers are trying to debate what the best ways of determining reality are, and the best ways to do good for other humans. As Carrier points out, if Jesus was really speaking to and interacting with believers, why should there be any debate within Christianity at all? I agree, lively debate is fun stuff within the freethinking community. But it’s just miserably sad within Christianity.

    As for you, and separately, I’ve noticed a couple things about you. You have a consuming need to be viewed publicly as a defender of the faith that obviously outweighs your actual faith and your motivation to practice it according to the teachings of Christ. And you have a need to be confirmed in your righteousness that far outstrips your actual ability to be right. What have you actually learned here, other than how to hone your scorn and pride and hatred?

  28. says

    badgersdaughter,

    As Carrier points out, if Jesus was really speaking to and interacting with believers, why should there be any debate within Christianity at all?

    Oh, well, that settles it then. Why you must be one of Carrier’s legion of avid fans that span the globe from Hong Kong to Poughkeepsie (or whatever he wrote about himself on his blog, that is whatever 1×10-12 percent of whatever he wrote about himself on his blog). Did he prove this statement using Bayes’ Theorem, or Quantum Mechanics (such the humble polymath!) or was it just issued ex cathedra?

    I agree, lively debate is fun stuff within the freethinking community.

    Yeah.. thats what the debates look like–they look like people having fun. Pitters and Pharyngulytes slapping each other on the back and saying “well-done worthy adversary!” before turning out the lights. Guffaws all around. You guys do know how to party.

  29. says

    badgersdaughter #30,

    True, I cannot match your Pharyngulytic level of reason and uber-rational arguments containing Harvard-debate-level rhetorical phraseology like: [I wasn't born in a barn yesterday] and [freethinkers are trying to debate what the best ways of determining reality are] and [As Carrier points out,] and [it’s just miserably sad] and [You have a consuming need] and [obviously outweighs your actual faith ] and [you have a need to be confirmed ] and [ hone your scorn and pride and hatred] and the always show-stopping [You proved my point and then some]

    The reason and rationality just drips from your posts.

  30. abear says

    Fair warning to FTBers; I have a reliable source that heddle is a Slymepit member in good standing.
    Also, is it not true that Martin Luther wrote a venomous anti-Jewish treatise “The Lies of the Jews” ?

  31. says

    abear,

    air warning to FTBers; I have a reliable source that heddle is a Slymepit member in good standing.
    Also, is it not true that Martin Luther wrote a venomous anti-Jewish treatise “The Lies of the Jews” ?

    I don’t know what a slymepit member in good standing means. Does it mean I have posted there? I have. And one of the things that I pointed out in posting there is that the treatment I received there was indistinguishable from what I received on Pharyngula. Peas in a pod if you will.

    So: post on slymepit or post on Pharyngula–and get treated exactly the same way–I guess that suggests if I am in good-standing at one then I must be at the other, too.

    Or does “in good standing” only require that I think Abbie is many times the scientist PZ is? If that’s the case, then yes I am.

    In any case: bite me. I’ll post where I want to post unless the owner asks me to leave.

    Also, is it not true that Martin Luther wrote a venomous anti-Jewish treatise “The Lies of the Jews” ?

    Is that actually a question? (And I’m assuming you mean On the Jews and their Lies.) Are you asking a real question that suggests that Luther’s anti-semitic writings might be, I don’t know, a little known fact? Really?

  32. Friendly says

    So what can we glean from their own speeches and writings about whether European Christians of the period after World War I — even those who later opposed the Nazis — had a role in demonizing Jews and thus helping to set the stage for the Holocaust?
    Cardinal and Vatican nuncio Eugenio Pacelli, later Pope Pius XII, 1920s:

    “the capital of Bavaria [...] is suffering under a harsh Jewish-Russian revolutionary tyranny.”

    Various Catholic journals or books given the Imprimatur of being free from doctrinal error, 1933-1939:

    - Jews have had a “demoralizing influence on religiosity and national character”;
    - The Jewish spiritual community has brought the German people “more damage than benefit”;
    - Jews were “the first and most cruel persecutors of the young church”;
    - Jews not only killed Jesus but are in the forefront of those who still want to destroy the church.

    Bishop Otto Dibelius, letter of 1933:

    “One cannot fail to appreciate that in all of the corrosive manifestations of modern civilization Jewry plays a leading role.”

    Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer after the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses in April 1933:

    “The state’s measures against the Jewish people are connected [...] in a very special way with the Church. In the church of Christ, we have never lost sight of the idea that the ‘Chosen People,’ who nailed the Savior of the world to the cross, must bear the curse of the action through a long history of suffering.”

    Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber, Advent sermons of 1933:

    “with the coming of Christ, Jews and Judaism have lost their place in this world.”

    Father Wilhelm Maria Senn, writing in a Catholic publication in 1934:

    Hitler is “the tool of God, called upon to overcome Judaism.”

    A German Christian woman, letter to the German Foreign Minister, 1935:

    “Why don’t our rulers declare themselves for the Volkskirche, which is fighting for a living Christianity? With our great leader Adolf Hitler, our previously dead church also experienced the reawakening of a vital spirit. [...] [Julius] Streicher, the Franconian leader, said in a speech: ‘The murder of Golgotha is written on the foreheads of the Jews.’ Yes – and that is why there is a curse on that people. Jesus, however, died for us and so we should believe in him and accept him.”

    Archbishop Karl Gröber, Handbook of Contemporary Religious Questions, 1937:

    - Bolshevism is “an Asiatic state despotism, in point of fact in the service of a group of terrorists led by Jews.”
    - Marxism is “the materialistic socialism founded primarily by the Jew Karl Marx.”
    - The Führer’s warning is that “No people can avoid this clash between its national tradition and Marxism, which is opposed to national ties and led mostly by Jewish agitators and revolutionaries.”

    Pastor Martin Niemöller, sermon of 1937:

    “We speak of the ‘eternal Jew’ and conjure up the picture of a restless wanderer who has no home and who cannot find peace. We see a highly gifted people which produces idea after idea for the benefit of the world, but whatever it takes up becomes poisoned, and all that it ever reaps is contempt and hatred because ever and anon the world notices the deception and avenges itself in its own way.”

    Bishop Ivan Šarić of Sarajevo, 1941:

    “The descendants of those who hated the Son of God, persecuted him to death, crucified him and persecuted his disciples are guilty of greater sins than their forbears. [...] Satan aided them in the creation of socialism and communism. [...] The movement of liberation of the world from the Jews is a movement for the renewal of human dignity.”

    Bishop Berning of Osnabrück:
    Privately, in his diary, in February 1942:

    “it appears likely that a plan exists to murder the Jews.”

    Publicly:

    [No speeches or writings hinting of this suspicion.]

    For much, much more, see Six Million Crucifixions by Gabriel Wilensky.

  33. Holms says

    My claim is that the kind of “fun” that kraut reported in #22 in regards to Christians fighting with Christians– well we get the same guilty pleasure watching the internecine warfare between accommodationists, pitters, dictionary atheists, SJWs, A+’s, and GNUs (I knew I forgot one denomination in #24– but how could I have left off the GNUs?) arguing about: what is a True Atheist™?

    No one disputed your claim that you find those arguments fun, so I’m not sure why you’re defending it. Rather, it was your claim that these differences are equivalent to denominations within atheism. No one is arguing from a position of revelatory authority, there is no debate about the True Interpretation of Atheistic Scripture, because atheism is not a religion. As you well know.

    There is simply a wide variety of thought between people who happen to identify themselves as atheists. It is your insistence in treating atheism as a religion when it plainly isn’t that leads to the impression that you are being disengenuous.

  34. kraut says

    Lets go on a bit about what catholic priest did after the war to help…”Eichmann himself stated that many priests helped him escape to Argentina “without asking questions”.

    Historian Gerald Steinacher wrote that Argentine authorities and Catholic priests worked “hand in hand” to protect Nazis. Bishop Alois Hudal helped Eichmann get the documents he needed to escape”
    http://en.mercopress.com/2011/04/16/eichmann-s-escape-helped-by-german-intelligence-and-roman-catholic-church
    “Steinacher believes the Vatican’s help was based on a hoped-for revival of European Christianity and dread of the Soviet Union. But through the Vatican Refugee Commission, war criminals were knowingly provided with false identities.

    The Red Cross, overwhelmed by millions of refugees, relied substantially on Vatican references and the often cursory Allied military checks in issuing travel papers, known as 10.100s.”
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/may/25/nazis-escaped-on-red-cross-documents

    “Priests active in the chain included: Fr. Vilim Cecelja, former Deputy Military Vicar to the Ustashe, based in Austria where many Ustashe and Nazi refugees remained in hiding; Fr. Dragutin Kamber, based at San Girolamo; Fr. Dominik Mandić, an official Vatican representative at San Girolamo and also “General Economist” or treasurer of the Franciscan order – who used this position to put the Franciscan press at the ratline’s disposal; and Monsignor Karlo Petranović, based in Genoa. Vilim would make contact with those hiding in Austria and help them across the border to Italy; Kamber, Mandić and Draganović would find them lodgings, often in the monastery itself, while they arranged documentation; finally Draganović would phone Petranović in Genoa with the number of required berths on ships leaving for South America (see below).

    The operation of the Draganović ratline was an open secret among the intelligence and diplomatic communities in Rome. As early as August 1945, Allied commanders in Rome were asking questions about the use of San Girolamo as a “haven” for Ustashe.[16] A year later, a US State Department report of 12 July 1946 lists nine war criminals, including Albanians and Montenegrins as well as Croats, plus others “not actually sheltered in the COLLEGIUM ILLIRICUM [i.e., San Girolamo degli Illirici] but who otherwise enjoy Church support and protection.”[17] The British envoy to the Holy See, Francis Osborne, asked Domenico Tardini, a high-ranking Vatican official, for a permission that would have allowed British military police to raid ex-territorial Vatican Institutions in Rome. Tardini declined and denied that the church sheltered war criminals”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ratlines_%28World_War_II_aftermath%29

    Of course, of course…just a few bad apples, from germany to austria to spain to croatia….

  35. says

    Holms #35,

    there is no debate about the True Interpretation of Atheistic Scripture, because atheism is not a religion. As you well know.

    I don’t treat atheism as religion and have argued and blogged many times that it is stupid to do so. Analogies do not have to be pushed to the ultimate limit (where they always break down) to be useful. Very true: atheism is not a religion. However that does not mean, at all, that atheists do not act like religionists and split into factions and argue (in a very ugly manner) over what appears to outsiders to be minutia. We didn’t give you the labels (Accomodationaist, A+, pitter, etc.) you did. It does don’t imply that I am calling atheism a religion to point out that the vitriol expressed toward, say Ken Miller (Accomodationist) on sites like Pharyngula looks very much like a Baptist complaining that Methodists are too liberal.

    There is simply a wide variety of thought between people who happen to identify themselves as atheists.

    You would get the same explanation from a lot of Christians explaining why there are so many denominations.

    is your insistence in treating atheism as a religion

    If you keep insisting that I am treating atheism as a religion, when I am not, then you are the one who is disengenuous. Try to grasp the obvious: saying that you are fractionating and arguing ungraciously with lines-in-the-sand, just like religionists do, is not the same thing as calling atheism a religion.

  36. Holms says

    You would get the same explanation from a lot of Christians explaining why there are so many denominations.

    The difference being that religious denominations are laying claim to being the true authority on the nature of the universe.

    If you keep insisting that I am treating atheism as a religion, when I am not…

    If you use the word ‘denominations’ to describe the different atheists, it looks quite a bit like you are treating atheism as another religion. So no I don’t think it’s disingenuous to mistake your meaning when you choose to use religious terminology to describe atheism. If you diclike being mistaken in this way, look to your own writing.

  37. says

    Holms,

    The difference being that religious denominations are laying claim to being the true authority on the nature of the universe.

    Not always true (I have never been in a denomination, Presbyterian or Baptist, that claims to be the “true” authority). I don’t of any mainline Protestant denominations that claim their doctrinal statement is infallible. And anyhoo, how is that much different is that from, say, the claim up above, #28:

    You seem to forget that freethinkers are trying to debate what the best ways of determining reality

    Seems that you guys are claiming a pathway to the holy grail of absolute truth as well.

    If you use the word ‘denominations’ to describe the different atheists, it looks quite a bit like you are treating atheism as another religion.

    Only if you can’t make a trivial abstraction and use denominations as “distinct differences within a common umbrella.” Does “denominations of currency” ring a bell? Just for one example?

  38. Holms says

    And anyhoo, how is that much different is that from, say, the claim up above, #28:
    “You seem to forget that freethinkers are trying to debate what the best ways of determining reality”
    Seems that you guys are claiming a pathway to the holy grail of absolute truth as well.

    “The best ways of determinging reality” clearly implies ‘via secular means’ as opposed to say scriptural readings and interpretation of revelation, a fairly major differentiation you seem to have left off.

    Only if you can’t make a trivial abstraction and use denominations as “distinct differences within a common umbrella.” Does “denominations of currency” ring a bell? Just for one example?

    That’s one meaning amongst several, with another major meaning including strong religious connotations. The chief method of determining which meaning is intended is by looking at the surrounding conversation for context. This conversation being largely about religion and atheism.

    So, you used terminology that can have non-religious meaning, in a conversation where the subject is religious in nature, and you expected the non-religious meaning to be apparent despite the context? I must confess, I have no idea how I was supposed to know that given the context. My suggestion remains: look to your own writing to avoid this confusion regarding your intended meaning.

  39. says

    Holms,

    “The best ways of determinging reality” clearly implies ‘via secular means’ as opposed to say scriptural readings and interpretation of revelation, a fairly major differentiation you seem to have left off.

    I only left it off because it obvious. Did I really have to say it? Do you have to have everything spelled out for you? Do you have to be warned when a word choice should not be taken at its most narrow definition? My point was only that you guys also claim to be seeking an “absolute truth” of your own. (And not one, if we are talking about science as opposed to “is stupid an acceptable word?” that I disagree with–hell I participate therein.)

    My suggestion remains: look to your own writing to avoid this confusion regarding your intended meaning.

    And my suggestion remains: try to read things intelligently. Making an argument based on a strict definition of a word (especially when the word doesn’t demand it) is no way to go through life. And don’t jump to unwarranted conclusions. If I wanted to say atheism is a religion (which it isn’t), I’d say so,

  40. Holms says

    “Unwarranted conclusions” … despite a contextual match between that particular meaning of your word choice and the conversation at hand.

    Not really buying that.

  41. Shatterface says

    But this new breed is different: closed-minded, entrenched, and bellicose, shouting and proselytizing their disbelief in the God of their fathers as determinedly and humorlessly as their forebears proselytized with such certainty for a definite, iron-clad system of punishments and rewards in a pie-in-the-sky afterlife. Why do these new atheists allow the Christian fundamentalists to define their reality? And why are they so angry?

    Even by the minister’s own account the ‘closed-minded, entrenched, and bellicose, shouting and proselytizer’ gets in about one word to her ten.

  42. Shatterface says

    Um, ‘diclike’ is a typo for ‘dislike’ for those confused by my hasty typing.

    I think ‘diclike’ is appropriate if someone is behaving like a dic.

  43. ildi says

    heddle is a Slymepit member in good standing

    That explains quite a bit. Let’s see:

    What simplistic cliche-driven utter stupidity.

    Jump right in with both guns blazing; get people on the defensive right away.

    the pea-brained claim that the holocaust was designed as a product of institutional Christian anti-Semitism

    …maybe they won’t notice the flat-out lie.

    What I deny is that the Nazi leadership was sincere in its expression of Christianity. Now if there was no documentation you could argue that this is simply a No True Scotsman argument. But there is documentation that their plan included the persecution and eventual elimination of German Christianity.

    …as if the plan to eliminate the competition isn’t about as traditional Christian behavior as you can get.

    …it bothers me that they trivially blame Christianity for the holocaust.

    No longer talking about Nazi leadership? Wasn’t that your half-baked premise?

    Speaking of genocide, such delicious irony that this flailing about comes from a Christian who thinks the Canaanite genocide was totes ok because God ordered it, and would go for another one if he was sure God was behind that one, too, except some new covenant based on the ultimate bloodshed (his own son) means God has given up his bloodthirsty ways. (Maybe the Nazis didn’t get that memo? They sure seemed to be doing God’s work mighty well…)

    Moving on…

    have I missed any denominations

    internecine warfare

    was it just issued ex cathedra

    claiming a pathway to the holy grail of absolute truth

    The favored (yet increasingly transparent) Steersman maneuver of using a slew of words with a specific connotation to make a crap-ton of false equivalences, then when called on it:

    Do you have to be warned when a word choice should not be taken at its most narrow definition?

    I could go on, but why? Heddle wins the debate at the expense of any personal integrity or good faith. Great success!

    Pitters and Pharyngulytes slapping each other on the back and saying “well-done worthy adversary!” before turning out the lights. Guffaws all around. You guys do know how to party.

    Oh, claim it, asshole!

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