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Humanism is a heresy Confusion is bound to follow the death of God

Is humanism sanction for genocide? Credit: Patrick Aventurier/Gamma-Rapho/Getty


November 26, 2022   13 mins

“There is nothing particular about man. He is but a part of this world.”

This observation on the pretensions of humanity — cool, disillusioned, unsparing of sentimentality — was made in the Forties, midway between our own time and the publication of The Origin of Species. Darwin did not, in his foundational work on evolution, focus on Homo sapiens. Only with the publication, 12 years later, of The Descent of Man did he explicitly address the question of “whether man, like every other species, is descended from some pre-existing form”. Nevertheless, the implications of his theory, for humanity’s claim to a special status, had been evident enough from the start. Bishops might mock, and demand to know whether Darwin’s followers were descended from gorillas on the father’s side or the mother’s side, but humans ranked, in the final reckoning, as organisms just like any other. For them to imagine otherwise, to regard themselves as somehow superior to the rest of creation, was a conceit verging on the ludicrous.

Darwin was not, of course, the first to have undermined the notion that humans might stand at the centre of the universe. In 1638, the young John Milton, in Florence, “visited the famous Galileo grown old, a prisoner to the Inquisition, for thinking in Astronomy otherwise than the Franciscan and Dominican licencers thought”. It was not the sun that revolved around the Earth, so Galileo had taught, but the Earth that revolved around the sun. Time came to prove his hypothesis right.

Today, we know that the sun is an undistinctive star in an undistinctive corner of an undistinctive galaxy in a universe so stupefyingly vast that it can hurt the brain even to try and comprehend its size. Set against the icy immensities of space, what is humanity, then, but the merest speck of a speck of dust? What scope is left us as a species to claim any dignity at all? “In science,” as the astronomer Seth Shostak has put it, “if you think you’re special, you probably aren’t.”

Strikingly, however, in an age that has seen the theory of evolution almost universally accepted in Britain, and the limits of our knowledge of the universe pushed to ever more incredible extremes, there seems to have been no diminution in the value that we, as a culture, ascribe to human life. Quite the contrary. That we are all of us possessed of certain fundamental rights, simply by virtue of being human, and of a dignity that embraces our entire species, are doctrines so widely accepted in contemporary Britain that many of us barely recognise them as doctrines at all. It is a measure of just how radically these beliefs privilege human beings that they have increasingly come to be described, over the course of the past century, as “humanist”.

The term is a vague one; and the fuzziness of the definition has encouraged various attempts to endow it with a greater precision. In 2002, the World Humanist Congress, meeting in the Netherlands, issued what its delegates presented as “the official defining statement of World Humanism”. The Amsterdam Declaration proclaimed, “the worth, dignity and autonomy of the individual and the right of every human being to the greatest possible freedom compatible with the rights of others”. Religions — dismissed as “dogmatic” — were condemned for their ambition “to impose their world-view on all of humanity”. Science and its methods, by contrast, were highly praised. Not for humanists any Bronze Age mumbo-jumbo. Ethics were to be derived, not from sky fairies, but “through a continuing process of observation, evaluation and revision”.

To accept the truth of all these various propositions — one might almost call them dogmas — requires, of course, less the exercise of reason than a leap of faith. That science sustains a belief in human rights is hardly an obvious proposition. Implausible too is the conviction of those who issued the Amsterdam Declaration that their own values are where “a continuing process of observation, evaluation and revision” is bound to lead — so much so that they rank, in effect, as universal. International the Humanists may claim to be, but in truth they are preponderantly Western. The delegates who met in Amsterdam for the first World Humanist Congress came from the Netherlands, the United States, Britain and Austria; only one of the 18 subsequent congresses have been held outside Europe, North America or Australasia; the headquarters of Humanists International is in London. Its understanding of “universal” is, then, a somewhat culturally contingent one.

Humanists, unsurprisingly, tend to reject this characterisation. They prefer to see themselves as the heirs of traditions of intellectual enquiry that embrace the globe, and reach back millennia. In ancient India, in Confucian China, in classical Greece, writings have been identified by humanists that appear to prefigure the very things that they themselves believe. Yet the risk of this approach is not merely that it results in cherry-picking, but that it can obscure the very alien quality of those texts which are being cherry-picked.

Take, for instance, ancient Greece: a civilisation for which humanists have long had a particular fondness. Epicurus, for all that he featured in a list of famous atheists drawn up by the philosopher Sextus Empiricus, believed in gods. The only value of research into the natural world, so Epicurus believed, was to enable the philosopher, by properly appreciating the pointlessness of superstition, to attain the state of tranquillity that was, so he taught his disciples, the ultimate goal of life. The closest modern parallel is less Richard Dawkins than the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

To draw on a fittingly Darwinian analogy, ancient atheists and modern humanists resemble one another in the way pterosaurs resemble bats: as examples of similar features developing in unrelated species. That isolated prefigurings of humanist beliefs are to be found scattered in ancient texts does not in itself demonstrate an evolutionary relationship between them.

But how common, in antiquity, are the fundamental tenets of humanism: that humans — no matter their sex, their place of origin, their class — are all of equal value; and that those who walk in darkness must be brought into light? Not common at all, I would say. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that their fusion was pretty much a one-off.

There is no single text, perhaps, that is more consistently the object of humanist contempt than the book of Genesis. The creation of the cosmos in six days; Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden; Noah’s flood: here are stories that have long served as prime exhibits in the contention that religion is merely a farrago of childish nonsense. This is why Genesis can pretty much be guaranteed not to feature in round-ups of the ancient texts that humanists are prepared to acknowledge as influences. Yet humanists, no less than Jews or Christians, are indelibly stamped by it. In fact, if there is a single wellspring for the reverence they display towards their own species, it is the opening chapter of the Bible.

Gods in antiquity were not in the habit of endowing humanity with an inherent dignity. Quite the opposite. “I will make man, who shall inhabit the world, that the service of the gods may be established, and their shrines built.” So spoke Marduk, who according to the Babylonians created humanity out of a sticky compound of dust and blood to be the slaves of deities. Here was an understanding of man’s purpose, bleak and despairing, that it would have been very easy for the exiles brought to the banks of the Euphrates from sacked Jerusalem to accept: for it would certainly have corresponded to a sense of their puniness before the immensity of Babylon the Great.

But the exiles from Judah did not accept it. They clung instead to the conviction that it was their own god who had brought humanity into being, per Genesis. Man and woman, in the various stories told by the exiles, were endowed with a uniquely privileged status. They alone had been shaped in God’s image; they alone had been granted mastery over every living creature; they alone, after five days of divine labour, had been created on the godh day.

The corollary of this was, of course, very clear: that the cult of Marduk ranked as the merest superstition. So too did the pantheons worshipped by other peoples: the Canaanites, the Egyptians, the Assyrians. Male gods and female gods; warrior gods and craftsmen gods; storm gods and fertility gods: they were all of them, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, “less than nothing”.

In the Middle Ages, no civilisation in Eurasia was as congruent with a single dominant set of beliefs as was the Latin West with Christianity. Elsewhere, whether in the lands of Islam, or in India, or in China, there were various understandings of the divine, and numerous institutions which served to define them; but in Europe there was only the odd community of Jews to disrupt the otherwise total monopoly of the Church. Just as humanists do today, it cast its values and ideals as universal — “catholic”. From dawn to dusk, from midsummer to the depths of winter, from the hour of their birth to the very last drawing of their breath, the men and women of medieval Europe absorbed its assumptions into their bones.

Even when, in the 16th century, Christendom began to fragment, and new forms of Christianity to emerge, the conviction of Europeans that their faith was universal remained. It inspired them in their exploration of continents undreamed of by their forefathers, and in their attempts to convert the inhabitants they found there.

Today, at a time of seismic geopolitical re-alignment, our values are proving to be not nearly as universal as most of us in the West had assumed them to be. The need to recognise just how culturally contingent they are, and not to confuse them with “human nature” is, perhaps, more pressing than it has ever been. To live in a Western country is to live in a society that for centuries — and in many cases millennia — has been utterly transformed by Christian concepts and assumptions. So profound has been the impact of Christianity on the development of Western civilisation that it has come to be hidden from view.

So it is, for instance, that the Amsterdam Declaration can airily dismiss the dogmas of religion, even as it simultaneously takes for granted the existence of “universal legal human rights”. Yet to believe in the existence of human rights requires no less of a leap of faith than does a belief in, say, angels, or the Trinity. The origins of the concept lie not in “the application of the methods of science” so prized by the Amsterdam Declaration but in medieval theology.

When, in the 12th century, Christian scholars sought to fashion a properly Christian legal system, they naturally turned to the Bible for guidance. There, they read that all men and women were endowed with an inherent dignity. All souls were equal in the eyes of God. Yet how, that being so, were Christians to square the rampant inequality between rich and poor with the insistence of numerous Church Fathers that “the use of all things should be common to all”? The problem was one that, for decades, demanded the attention of the most distinguished scholars in the Latin West.

The solution, arrived at by 1200, was one fertile with implications for the future. A starving pauper who stole from a rich man did so, according to those learned in the Church’s canons, iure naturali — “in accordance with natural law”. As such, they argued, he could not be reckoned guilty of a crime. He was merely taking what was properly owed him.

Any bishop confronted by such a case, so canon lawyers decreed, had a duty to ensure that the wealthy pay their due of alms. Charity, no longer voluntary, was being rendered something novel: a legal obligation. That the rich had a duty to give to the poor was, of course, a principle as old as Christianity itself. What no one had thought to argue before, however, was a matching principal: that the poor had an entitlement to the necessities of life. It was — in a formulation increasingly deployed by lawyers in medieval Christendom — their ius: their “right”.

Yet this doctrine — despite its origins in Christian jurisprudence — was one that would come, in time, to slip the moorings of doctrinal Christianity. Indeed, first in the American Revolution, and then in the French, the claim would be made that human rights owned nothing at all to the distinctive history of Latin Christendom. They were instead eternal and universal. “The Declaration of Rights,” proclaimed anti-clerical French revolutionaries, “is the Constitution of all peoples, all other laws being variable by nature, and subordinated to this one.” A momentous discovery had been made: that the surest way to promote Christian teachings as universal was to portray them as deriving from anything other than Christianity.

The West, over the duration of its global hegemony, would prove itself brilliantly adept at exploiting this realisation. Repeatedly, Christian concepts were re-packaged for non-Christian audiences. Today, as in the 18th century, a doctrine such as that of human rights is far likelier to be signed up to if its origins among the canon lawyers of medieval Europe is kept scrupulously concealed. The emphasis placed by United Nations agencies on “the antiquity and broad acceptance of the conception of the rights of man” was a necessary precondition for their claim to a global, rather than a merely Western, jurisdiction.

Yet this in turn veiled a further irony: for what was the contempt displayed by the iconoclasts of the French Revolution for Christianity if not a sign of Christianity’s influence? “The old has gone, the new has come!” So Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians, had proclaimed. Change, in the opinion of the Romans, was by definition sinister. The phrase res novae — “new things” — served as a synonym for everything in society that was most menacing. Christianity, on the other hand, glorified revolution. Just as Isaiah had condemned the gods of the Egyptians and the Babylonians as mere idols, fit to be toppled into the mire, so had Christians in the early Middle Ages equated progress with the banishment of superstition. Trees sacred to pagan gods were exultantly felled by missionaries, and churches planted where blood-stained altars had originally stood.

Humanists, when they celebrate the liberation from dogma and superstition that is to be gained, in their opinion, from “the application of the methods of science”, are bearing witness to the enduring hold on Western civilisation, not of Greek philosophy, but of Biblical prophecy. It was certainly no accident that many of Darwin’s most enthusiastic defenders should have borne the unmistakeable stamp of radical Protestantism. “Few see it, but I believe we are on the Eve of a new Reformation and if I have a wish to live 30 years, it is that I may see the foot of Science on the necks of her Enemies.” So wrote Thomas Henry Huxley, an anatomist and biologist whose genius for savaging bishops led to him being described as “Darwin’s bulldog”.

That it was his duty to bring light to the world was Huxley’s devoutest conviction. His sense of himself as a member of an elect had — as contemporaries were quick to note — a familiar quality: “He has the moral earnestness, the volitional energy, the absolute confidence in his own convictions, the desire and determination to impress them upon all mankind, which are the essential marks of the Puritan character.” Huxley’s conviction that medieval Christendom had been nothing but bigotry and backwardness was one that ultimately descended, not from Voltaire, but from Luther. Agnostics — a term coined by Huxley — have always tended to display, in their attitudes towards Christianity, a marked susceptibility towards Protestant propaganda. He is merely another illustration of the great paradox of our age: that Christianity has no need of actual Christians for its assumptions still to flourish.

It is hardly surprising, of course, in a society that has increasingly abandoned the institutional practice of Christianity, yet still clings to its assumptions, its values, its myths, that we should shrink from staring the implications of our current predicament fully in the face. “When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one’s feet.”

Such was the warning given almost a century and a half ago by Friedrich Nietzsche: the most radical, because the most unsparingly honest, of modern atheists. He gazed unblinkingly at what the murder of its god might mean for a civilisation. Humanism, despised by Nietzsche as an ideology to which the English were peculiarly prone, was dismissed by him as palpable idiocy:

“When the English actually believe that they know ‘intuitively’ what is good and evil, when they therefore suppose that they no longer require Christianity as the guarantee of morality, we merely witness the effects of the dominion of the Christian value judgment.”

“For the English,” Nietzsche concluded witheringly, “morality is not yet a problem.”

It was not from reason that the doctrine of human dignity derived, but rather from the very faith which humanists believed themselves — in their conceit — to have banished. Proclamations of rights were nothing but flotsam and jetsam left behind by the retreating tide of Christianity: bleached and stranded relics. God was dead — but in the great cave that once had been Christendom his shadow still fell. The myths of Christianity would long endure. And yet they were no less myths, for all that, because they now wore the show of the secular. “Such phantoms as the dignity of man, the dignity of labour”: these were Christian through and through.

Nietzsche did not mean this as a compliment. It was not just as frauds that he despised those who clung to Christian morality, even as their knives were dripping with the blood of God; he loathed them as well for believing in it. Concern for the lowly and the suffering, far from serving the cause of justice, was a form of poison. Christianity, by taking the side of everything ill-constituted, and weak, and feeble, had made all of humanity sick. Nietzsche lamented what Christians had done to classical civilisation. He admired the Greeks not despite but because of their cruelty. Indeed, so scornful was he of any notion of ancient Greece as a land of sunny rationalism that large numbers of students, by the end of his tenure as a professor, had been shocked into abandoning his classes. “In the days before mankind grew ashamed of its cruelty,” he wrote, “before pessimists existed, life on earth was more cheerful than it is now.”

And yet Nietzsche, a man who had renounced his citizenship, despised nationalism, and praised the Jews as the most remarkable people in history, had warned what confusions were bound to follow from the death of God. “When you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.” Good and evil would become merely relative. Moral codes would drift unanchored. Deeds of massive and terrible violence would be perpetrated. “After a terrible earthquake, a tremendous reflection, with new questions.”

Half a century after Nietzsche wrote this, and almost two decades after the outbreak of the Great War, the Nazis came to power in Germany. Hitler, who in 1928 had loudly proclaimed how Christian his movement was, had come increasingly to share in Nietzsche’s contempt for Christianity. Its morality, its concern for the weak, the FĂŒhrer viewed as cowardly and shameful. Christian teachings had resulted in any number of grotesque excrescences: alcoholics breeding promiscuously while upstanding national comrades struggled to put food on the table for their families; mental patients enjoying clean sheets while healthy children were obliged to sleep three or four to a bed; cripples having money and attention lavished on them that should properly be devoted to the fit. Idiocies such as these were precisely what National Socialism existed to terminate. The churches had had their day. This, in the opinion of devout Nazis, was a conviction bred not of fantasy or faith, but of the proper understanding of science. The strong — as Darwin had conclusively demonstrated — had both a duty and an obligation to eliminate the weak.

“There is nothing particular about man. He is but a part of this world.” These words — with which I opened — were spoken by Heinrich Himmler. Here, in his conviction that Homo sapiens had no claim to a special status, and that it was conceit for humans to imagine themselves somehow superior to the rest of creation, was all the sanction he needed for genocide.

He, at any rate, had understood what licence was opened up by the abandonment of Christianity. Perhaps it is this that lies behind our readiness to accuse those with whom we disagree of being fascists, or Nazis, or Hitler: the dread of what might happen should such words cease to be taken as insults. Certainly, the humanist assumption that atheism and liberalism go together is plainly just that: an assumption. It is not truth that science offers moralists, but a mirror. Racists identify it with racist values; liberals with liberal values. The primary dogma of humanism — “that morality is an intrinsic part of human nature based on understanding and a concern for others” — finds no more corroboration in science than did the dogma of the Nazis that anyone not fit for life should be exterminated. The well-spring of humanist values lie not in reason, not in evidence-based thinking, but in history: the history of Christianity.

The above is an abridged version of the 2022 Theos Annual Lecture, “Humanism: A Christian Heresy”. 


Tom Holland is a writer, popular historian and cricketer. He is not an actor. His most recent book is PAX

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Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago

A article that nails our current philosophical connundrum spot-on!
As touching as it is to think “all of us possessed of certain fundamental rights simply by virtue of being human”, absent a Judeo-Christian or at least monotheistic view of the world, human rights are not at all self-evident. If you’re just a smart ape, you can have government granted privileges, but you can’t have innate rights. Rights must be built into a being at its creation, and smart apes don’t have a creator.

It is not surprising that Enlightenment-era, liberal creations like freedom of association and freedom of religion and even the right to life are weakening in parallel with Western man’s embrace of so-called humanism. What is surprising is how few (even highly educated) Western people seem to realize the connection.

Dave Weeden
Dave Weeden
1 year ago

Completely agree with this. I didn’t realise the connection until recently. Reading ‘Dominion’ helped.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

“you can’t have innate rights.”
If you consider early, small tribes/communities, why could not an innate right be conferred on the newborn by tribal members? I don’t think you necessarily need a creator for certain rights to be bestowed on people by others. Once conferred, in time, it’s considered innate.
“Rights must be built into a being at its creation, â€œ
Or over a period of evolution.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

“why could not an innate right be conferred”
Because something the tribe granted the tribe could take away and therefore it is a privilege not a right, as I said above.
Enlightenment liberalism is fundamentally monotheistic because the individual rights it posits logically require a transcendental source of some kind. The fact that this makes atheists very uncomfortable doesn’t change its veracity.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

If you believe existence precedes essence, and you may not, then an individual is a free agent. That freedom is innate, it’s what he is, he’s nothing else but that. If you are free then, for me, you have an innate right that is not conferred. If someone takes that right from you, if they believe they have only conferred it on you, then they are committing the greatest crime.

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

A human as a living biological organism is not innately free. They are determined by cause and effect, thermodynamic laws, biological programming via RNA and DNA and social experiences through memetics.

Humans are simply vessels of cause and effect under the spell of free will which is just an over identification with the human imagination.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Gwynne

But they can kill themselves.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Gwynne

But they can kill themselves.

Kate Heusser
Kate Heusser
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

How is that ‘freedom’ innate, or remotely realisable to the newborn, which is only marginally less contingent on its mother for the provision of all necessities of life than during its gestation period? The very dependency of the immature usually (normally) engenders a feeling of duty in the mother, and in others in the closest family – perhaps in the wider tribal group or even the vast majority of the human population. But that duty has to be felt and accepted or, at the least, observed (perhaps for fear of reprisals) by those with the capacity to influence the child’s survival and thriving, or it is worthless. Nothing ‘innate’ about it.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Kate Heusser

“engenders a feeling of duty in the mother, â€œ
Its not duty a mother feels, but love. Love is not learned, love is innate.

Bdkay
Bdkay
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

You need to explain why if you make that assertion. Where does love come from?

Sam Brown
Sam Brown
1 year ago
Reply to  Bdkay

“Love” as we experience it is a biological mechanism. It provides bonding of humans, but probably also other species, which enhances survival and therefore procreation thus improving the surviveability of the species or the tribe. The one thing thing it doesn’t require is blind faith in the fabulous.

Sam Brown
Sam Brown
1 year ago
Reply to  Bdkay

“Love” as we experience it is a biological mechanism. It provides bonding of humans, but probably also other species, which enhances survival and therefore procreation thus improving the surviveability of the species or the tribe. The one thing thing it doesn’t require is blind faith in the fabulous.

D Day
D Day
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

at 3am it sometimes feels very like duty

Bdkay
Bdkay
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

You need to explain why if you make that assertion. Where does love come from?

D Day
D Day
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

at 3am it sometimes feels very like duty

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Kate Heusser

“engenders a feeling of duty in the mother, â€œ
Its not duty a mother feels, but love. Love is not learned, love is innate.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

I think you are rather making Tom Holland’s point for him! You are stating a modern western ideological assumption, which would seem absurd to most human cultures and still today in most of the world.

On a more obviously practical level none of us are ‘free agents’ because we start off in life as helpless babes and thereafter can only exist in human society, despite the conceit of a few libertarians and survivalists that we can go off to live alone in a log cabin in Montana (all of us?!) and hunt for our dinner. I wouldn’t last too long in any case!

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

A human as a living biological organism is not innately free. They are determined by cause and effect, thermodynamic laws, biological programming via RNA and DNA and social experiences through memetics.

Humans are simply vessels of cause and effect under the spell of free will which is just an over identification with the human imagination.

Kate Heusser
Kate Heusser
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

How is that ‘freedom’ innate, or remotely realisable to the newborn, which is only marginally less contingent on its mother for the provision of all necessities of life than during its gestation period? The very dependency of the immature usually (normally) engenders a feeling of duty in the mother, and in others in the closest family – perhaps in the wider tribal group or even the vast majority of the human population. But that duty has to be felt and accepted or, at the least, observed (perhaps for fear of reprisals) by those with the capacity to influence the child’s survival and thriving, or it is worthless. Nothing ‘innate’ about it.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

I think you are rather making Tom Holland’s point for him! You are stating a modern western ideological assumption, which would seem absurd to most human cultures and still today in most of the world.

On a more obviously practical level none of us are ‘free agents’ because we start off in life as helpless babes and thereafter can only exist in human society, despite the conceit of a few libertarians and survivalists that we can go off to live alone in a log cabin in Montana (all of us?!) and hunt for our dinner. I wouldn’t last too long in any case!

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

If you believe existence precedes essence, and you may not, then an individual is a free agent. That freedom is innate, it’s what he is, he’s nothing else but that. If you are free then, for me, you have an innate right that is not conferred. If someone takes that right from you, if they believe they have only conferred it on you, then they are committing the greatest crime.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

The problem comes when a larger tribe takes away those rights.
Then it isn’t innate.
Because then it doesn’t exist.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  martin logan

Freedom exists. You can deprive a person acting on it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

The illusion of freedom exists within the context of universal cause and effect, thermodynamic laws, biological programming via RNA and DNA and social experiences through memetics.

Similarly, love translated as a duty of care is a biological mechanism driven by genetics, epigenetics and memetics.

The ‘natural law’ of universal cause and effect, thermodynamics, biological programming via RNA and DNA and social experiences through memetics had been coopted by Christianity and remodeled as proto human rights.

This began the separation between human and animal.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Gwynne

Then I guess you’re an unloved child.

Maeve Barnes
Maeve Barnes
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Gwynne

By repeating loads of terms like ‘thermodynamic’, ‘RNA’, ‘DNA’ you fall into the logical fallacy of distraction. What if this so called ‘illusion’ is actually more real than the biological programming. What if the biology is merely the underlying physical mechanism that allows us to use our minds and bodies and the physical world (ie reason) to access the transcendental.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Gwynne

Then I guess you’re an unloved child.

Maeve Barnes
Maeve Barnes
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Gwynne

By repeating loads of terms like ‘thermodynamic’, ‘RNA’, ‘DNA’ you fall into the logical fallacy of distraction. What if this so called ‘illusion’ is actually more real than the biological programming. What if the biology is merely the underlying physical mechanism that allows us to use our minds and bodies and the physical world (ie reason) to access the transcendental.

D Day
D Day
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Define freedom

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

The illusion of freedom exists within the context of universal cause and effect, thermodynamic laws, biological programming via RNA and DNA and social experiences through memetics.

Similarly, love translated as a duty of care is a biological mechanism driven by genetics, epigenetics and memetics.

The ‘natural law’ of universal cause and effect, thermodynamics, biological programming via RNA and DNA and social experiences through memetics had been coopted by Christianity and remodeled as proto human rights.

This began the separation between human and animal.

D Day
D Day
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Define freedom

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  martin logan

Freedom exists. You can deprive a person acting on it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Gary Cruse
Gary Cruse
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

To use a substantive example, does one really need a deity to derive the right to self defense? Or is it fundamentally rooted in all forms of life, requiring no human or deity to ‘derive’ it?

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Duties and expectations of the members of a band or tribe were always far more emphasised than any notion of their ‘rights’ – I can’t think of a example of the latter. This of course is still largely true in most non-Western cultures. I often meet for example gay, more accurately ‘predominantly homosexual’ men from Muslim societies, and they certainly aren’t free to decide to not marry (a woman) or to lead their own lives as a British gay man nearly always can. At least, not without devastating consequences such as being completely cut off from family and their name dishonoured.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

“why could not an innate right be conferred”
Because something the tribe granted the tribe could take away and therefore it is a privilege not a right, as I said above.
Enlightenment liberalism is fundamentally monotheistic because the individual rights it posits logically require a transcendental source of some kind. The fact that this makes atheists very uncomfortable doesn’t change its veracity.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

The problem comes when a larger tribe takes away those rights.
Then it isn’t innate.
Because then it doesn’t exist.

Gary Cruse
Gary Cruse
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

To use a substantive example, does one really need a deity to derive the right to self defense? Or is it fundamentally rooted in all forms of life, requiring no human or deity to ‘derive’ it?

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Duties and expectations of the members of a band or tribe were always far more emphasised than any notion of their ‘rights’ – I can’t think of a example of the latter. This of course is still largely true in most non-Western cultures. I often meet for example gay, more accurately ‘predominantly homosexual’ men from Muslim societies, and they certainly aren’t free to decide to not marry (a woman) or to lead their own lives as a British gay man nearly always can. At least, not without devastating consequences such as being completely cut off from family and their name dishonoured.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrew Fisher
Liam Keating
Liam Keating
1 year ago

Christianity gives us no more innate rights than humanism does. We pretend when we transfer our authority to give or not to give from us to a God.

I think the above essay is wrong on most points although I agree the Amsterdam declaration is too. We confer rights on each other partly as risk aversion by conferring rights on ourselves at the same time, partly due to caring about each other.

We have various ingroup boundaries which expanded during the age of exploration and globalisation.

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam Keating

The fallacy of human rights is revealed when we consider the existence of life and death within the context of thermodynamic laws.

The Universe is a procession of life (negentropy) and death (entropy). In other words, the fabric of the Universe is one of continual transformation and therefore the continual recycling of matter and energy.

The belief in human rights relies upon a faith that the life death relationship that underpins the fabric of the Universe does not apply to the human species.

Similarly, a belief in human rights relies upon a faith that human rights can always be realised via infinite biotic and abiotic resources.

Similarly, the right to life cannot be universalised to the entirety of biological life since biological life is sustained by the relationship between life and death.

Thus human rights are inherently particularistic, not universal, and in turn the reductionism of human rights simply leads to the belief in human exceptionalism.

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Gwynne

The concept of human rights is a western idea & as such is deeply individualistic. As such it can’t be (although oft claimed) universal. In societies where the importance of family & community is valued over individual rights or freedoms, there is a jarring with this concept.
Although the rights of groups is often talked about, its notable that only an individual can exercise their rights in law. Hence, there’s usually a test case taken by an individual to create a legal precedent that can be used by others or groups.
What’s usually overlooked in the debate about human rights is that it is practically speaking impossible to build a caring society upon such ideas.
I find it interesting that this who champion rights for various special interest groups love their own dogmas, while dismissing religions because of their dogmas.

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Gwynne

The concept of human rights is a western idea & as such is deeply individualistic. As such it can’t be (although oft claimed) universal. In societies where the importance of family & community is valued over individual rights or freedoms, there is a jarring with this concept.
Although the rights of groups is often talked about, its notable that only an individual can exercise their rights in law. Hence, there’s usually a test case taken by an individual to create a legal precedent that can be used by others or groups.
What’s usually overlooked in the debate about human rights is that it is practically speaking impossible to build a caring society upon such ideas.
I find it interesting that this who champion rights for various special interest groups love their own dogmas, while dismissing religions because of their dogmas.

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
1 year ago
Reply to  Liam Keating

The fallacy of human rights is revealed when we consider the existence of life and death within the context of thermodynamic laws.

The Universe is a procession of life (negentropy) and death (entropy). In other words, the fabric of the Universe is one of continual transformation and therefore the continual recycling of matter and energy.

The belief in human rights relies upon a faith that the life death relationship that underpins the fabric of the Universe does not apply to the human species.

Similarly, a belief in human rights relies upon a faith that human rights can always be realised via infinite biotic and abiotic resources.

Similarly, the right to life cannot be universalised to the entirety of biological life since biological life is sustained by the relationship between life and death.

Thus human rights are inherently particularistic, not universal, and in turn the reductionism of human rights simply leads to the belief in human exceptionalism.

Liam Keating
Liam Keating
1 year ago

If God can make someone innately valuable, anyone can. By loving, valuing someone for their innate isness rather than for any external usefulness, I would say that the someone is made innately valuable. Everyone has that amount of power.

Even if you argue against the semantics of the latter point, I don’t see how any description of a God makes a difference to the question.

Dave Weeden
Dave Weeden
1 year ago

Completely agree with this. I didn’t realise the connection until recently. Reading ‘Dominion’ helped.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

“you can’t have innate rights.”
If you consider early, small tribes/communities, why could not an innate right be conferred on the newborn by tribal members? I don’t think you necessarily need a creator for certain rights to be bestowed on people by others. Once conferred, in time, it’s considered innate.
“Rights must be built into a being at its creation, â€œ
Or over a period of evolution.

Last edited 1 year ago by Brett H
Liam Keating
Liam Keating
1 year ago

Christianity gives us no more innate rights than humanism does. We pretend when we transfer our authority to give or not to give from us to a God.

I think the above essay is wrong on most points although I agree the Amsterdam declaration is too. We confer rights on each other partly as risk aversion by conferring rights on ourselves at the same time, partly due to caring about each other.

We have various ingroup boundaries which expanded during the age of exploration and globalisation.

Liam Keating
Liam Keating
1 year ago

If God can make someone innately valuable, anyone can. By loving, valuing someone for their innate isness rather than for any external usefulness, I would say that the someone is made innately valuable. Everyone has that amount of power.

Even if you argue against the semantics of the latter point, I don’t see how any description of a God makes a difference to the question.

Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago

A article that nails our current philosophical connundrum spot-on!
As touching as it is to think “all of us possessed of certain fundamental rights simply by virtue of being human”, absent a Judeo-Christian or at least monotheistic view of the world, human rights are not at all self-evident. If you’re just a smart ape, you can have government granted privileges, but you can’t have innate rights. Rights must be built into a being at its creation, and smart apes don’t have a creator.

It is not surprising that Enlightenment-era, liberal creations like freedom of association and freedom of religion and even the right to life are weakening in parallel with Western man’s embrace of so-called humanism. What is surprising is how few (even highly educated) Western people seem to realize the connection.

James Rowlands
James Rowlands
1 year ago

Killing a man and burning a lump of coal. Is there any difference? The Atheist of he is honest and consistent might say no. It is after all just rearranging some carbon atoms.

I haven’t found an Atheist yet who will follow through the logic of his conviction and therefore explain the vast numbers murdered by Atheist Governments in order to create a “ just society” or similar

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  James Rowlands

The crimes committed by the likes of Stalin are no more an example of the evils of atheism than the crusades were of Christianity, suicide bombers of Islam or any number of atrocities carried out by lunatics in the name of religion

Max Price
Max Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You miss the point; The only reason you consider these crimes is because Christian morality is in your bones.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Max Price

You’ve missed or deliberately side-stepped Billy Bob’s point: Large scale atrocities occur under religious and non-religious (though ideologically zealous) justifications. People kill in the name of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, the Fatherland, the Revolution, etc.
I personally think morality and human kindness are well-served by a belief in Providence, a just and merciful one. But the notion that “Thou shalt not commit murder” is Christian–or the invention of any particular creed–is an ahistorical overreach.

Richard Parker
Richard Parker
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

HL Mencken famously opined that when we claim to need a God, we in fact mean that we need a policeman. As I get older, I’m beginning to see that as more of a sensible proposition than a throwaway bon mot.

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Parker

The older I get the more I realise that Mencken had an answer for almost anything. It was pointed out to me that he was an anglophobe but:

1) So what?
2) He almost had to be an anglophobe to promote American culture in those days.

Alan B
Alan B
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Parker

Ah, but who will watch the watchmen?

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Parker

The older I get the more I realise that Mencken had an answer for almost anything. It was pointed out to me that he was an anglophobe but:

1) So what?
2) He almost had to be an anglophobe to promote American culture in those days.

Alan B
Alan B
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Parker

Ah, but who will watch the watchmen?

M Harries
M Harries
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

“ That the rich had a duty to give to the poor was, of course, a principle as old as Christianity itself. ”

Sorry, I don’t seem to have the ability to start a Comment? So I posted that ^ here.

Anyway, did the notion of moral obligation to help the less fortunate exist in any society anywhere before Christianity came along? Is it right that Christianity appropriates this, as the author seems to think?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  M Harries

It certainly has Hebrew antecedents, in what Christians label the Old Testament. For example: ‘He that oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but those who are kind to the poor honor him’ Proverbs 14:31
‘Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice; to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke. Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?’ Isaiah 58:5-7 (New Revised Standard Version)
I believe Jesus of Nazareth brought a new message of compassion and righteousness that remains transcendent and powerful (which is almost too obvious to mention), often on a scale and with an emphasis that was unique, at least in the surviving historical record.
But though he challenged the religious dignitaries (Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees) and institutions (God’s church over mankind’s), Jesus was a Hebrew. And not every extant original saying–Christian, Hebrew, Hindu, Buddhist, or Zoroastrian–emerged in a perfect vacuum until it was said or written in its extant form. Such inspired authorship can occur–and does in the teachings of Jesus in several places–in my non-affiliated estimation.
There’s a type of Christian Singularism that’s similar to American Exceptionalism, with its fraudulent claims about having ‘invented’ freedom itself or whatnot.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Pat Q
Pat Q
1 year ago
Reply to  M Harries

The Hebrew faith – precursor to Christianity – had as one of its central tenets the caring for widows, orphans and sojourner. As an agricultural practice, lands owners were to leave parts of their fields and vineyards unharvested to allow the poor among them to glean the remnant grain and fruit for themselves and families.

Bdkay
Bdkay
1 year ago
Reply to  Pat Q

These practices emanating from the same Source that birthed Christianity.

Bdkay
Bdkay
1 year ago
Reply to  Pat Q

These practices emanating from the same Source that birthed Christianity.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  M Harries

It certainly has Hebrew antecedents, in what Christians label the Old Testament. For example: ‘He that oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but those who are kind to the poor honor him’ Proverbs 14:31
‘Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice; to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke. Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?’ Isaiah 58:5-7 (New Revised Standard Version)
I believe Jesus of Nazareth brought a new message of compassion and righteousness that remains transcendent and powerful (which is almost too obvious to mention), often on a scale and with an emphasis that was unique, at least in the surviving historical record.
But though he challenged the religious dignitaries (Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees) and institutions (God’s church over mankind’s), Jesus was a Hebrew. And not every extant original saying–Christian, Hebrew, Hindu, Buddhist, or Zoroastrian–emerged in a perfect vacuum until it was said or written in its extant form. Such inspired authorship can occur–and does in the teachings of Jesus in several places–in my non-affiliated estimation.
There’s a type of Christian Singularism that’s similar to American Exceptionalism, with its fraudulent claims about having ‘invented’ freedom itself or whatnot.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Pat Q
Pat Q
1 year ago
Reply to  M Harries

The Hebrew faith – precursor to Christianity – had as one of its central tenets the caring for widows, orphans and sojourner. As an agricultural practice, lands owners were to leave parts of their fields and vineyards unharvested to allow the poor among them to glean the remnant grain and fruit for themselves and families.

Gayle Rosenthal
Gayle Rosenthal
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Excuse me …. The proscription against murder is from the Ten Commandments – “Thou shalt not kill.” The is Mosaic Law and the Hebrew Bible. Christianity appropriated it. It is Jewish Law, which in large part, Christians rejected in favor of a saviour and salvation. Perhaps humanism is an attempt to reverse this decision, but a better choice would be to recognise that Judaism is a more beneficial lens through which to view the challenges of humanity.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
1 year ago

Surely there was nothing universal about the 10 commandments . They were meant for the ‘chosen people’ .
Did the injunction against murder even apply to killing non -Jews ? Genuinely unsure about this .

Last edited 1 year ago by Alan Osband
Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 year ago

Christianity didn’t ‘appropriate’ the ten commandments; it inherited them!

Christianity is Jewish!

Maeve Barnes
Maeve Barnes
1 year ago

Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.”

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
1 year ago

Surely there was nothing universal about the 10 commandments . They were meant for the ‘chosen people’ .
Did the injunction against murder even apply to killing non -Jews ? Genuinely unsure about this .

Last edited 1 year ago by Alan Osband
Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 year ago

Christianity didn’t ‘appropriate’ the ten commandments; it inherited them!

Christianity is Jewish!

Maeve Barnes
Maeve Barnes
1 year ago

Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.”

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Anyone who claims to murder in the name of Christianity clearly is not practicing Christianity. That makes about as much sense as someone murdering in the name of Veganism.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Yes but the point is that atheists have no principled basis to condemn such atrocities by whomever committed, except maybe a tortured utilitarianism that can easily be refuted. Whereas a Judeo-Christian can appeal to God having created man in his own image, etc.

Last edited 1 year ago by Martin Johnson
Richard Parker
Richard Parker
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

HL Mencken famously opined that when we claim to need a God, we in fact mean that we need a policeman. As I get older, I’m beginning to see that as more of a sensible proposition than a throwaway bon mot.

M Harries
M Harries
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

“ That the rich had a duty to give to the poor was, of course, a principle as old as Christianity itself. ”

Sorry, I don’t seem to have the ability to start a Comment? So I posted that ^ here.

Anyway, did the notion of moral obligation to help the less fortunate exist in any society anywhere before Christianity came along? Is it right that Christianity appropriates this, as the author seems to think?

Gayle Rosenthal
Gayle Rosenthal
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Excuse me …. The proscription against murder is from the Ten Commandments – “Thou shalt not kill.” The is Mosaic Law and the Hebrew Bible. Christianity appropriated it. It is Jewish Law, which in large part, Christians rejected in favor of a saviour and salvation. Perhaps humanism is an attempt to reverse this decision, but a better choice would be to recognise that Judaism is a more beneficial lens through which to view the challenges of humanity.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Anyone who claims to murder in the name of Christianity clearly is not practicing Christianity. That makes about as much sense as someone murdering in the name of Veganism.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Yes but the point is that atheists have no principled basis to condemn such atrocities by whomever committed, except maybe a tortured utilitarianism that can easily be refuted. Whereas a Judeo-Christian can appeal to God having created man in his own image, etc.

Last edited 1 year ago by Martin Johnson
Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Max Price

Not really. I’d imagine most religions would consider mass murder to be a crime, as would non believers. To imply I only find it wrong because I’ve grown up in a nominally Christian country I think is incorrect

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Especially when military chaplains each blessed their side in the various world wars.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Or sided with the Nazis on religious pretenses #Pius XII

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Religions generally follow along one step behind popular cultural morals.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Religions generally follow along one step behind popular cultural morals.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Killing and murder are two very different things. Killing those who want to exterminate you and your people beforehand is very different than murdering someone in order to steal their property or to keep them from visiting your wife when you leave for work.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

As did God in the Old Testament

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Or sided with the Nazis on religious pretenses #Pius XII

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Killing and murder are two very different things. Killing those who want to exterminate you and your people beforehand is very different than murdering someone in order to steal their property or to keep them from visiting your wife when you leave for work.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

As did God in the Old Testament

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Especially when military chaplains each blessed their side in the various world wars.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
1 year ago
Reply to  Max Price

Exactly. The acts of Stalin weren’t crimes, the acts of the so-called lunatics were, and thank God for that.

Wim de Vriend
Wim de Vriend
1 year ago

Huh? When you talk about the acts of Stalin, are you referring to the several million Ukrainians he starved to death in the early 1930s, the millions of “suspect’ nationalities he “purged” by having them shot in the back of the head later in that decade, or the millions that perished in his frigid Gulags? Or the deaths of the millions of small farmers he accused of being “kulaks”? Just wondering.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
1 year ago
Reply to  Wim de Vriend

You are quite right. What I meant, but said poorly, is this: The acts of Stalin, and those like him, were made possible by Hegel, who said that innocence will come only at the end of History. The midwife of History is violence. Stalin was “on the side of History” precisely because he was not squeamish about murder. Nietzsche put this way: There will never be enough water to wash away all the blood. This is the reality one faces if the acts of Stalin aren’t crimes.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
1 year ago
Reply to  Wim de Vriend

You are quite right. What I meant, but said poorly, is this: The acts of Stalin, and those like him, were made possible by Hegel, who said that innocence will come only at the end of History. The midwife of History is violence. Stalin was “on the side of History” precisely because he was not squeamish about murder. Nietzsche put this way: There will never be enough water to wash away all the blood. This is the reality one faces if the acts of Stalin aren’t crimes.

Wim de Vriend
Wim de Vriend
1 year ago

Huh? When you talk about the acts of Stalin, are you referring to the several million Ukrainians he starved to death in the early 1930s, the millions of “suspect’ nationalities he “purged” by having them shot in the back of the head later in that decade, or the millions that perished in his frigid Gulags? Or the deaths of the millions of small farmers he accused of being “kulaks”? Just wondering.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Max Price

You’ve missed or deliberately side-stepped Billy Bob’s point: Large scale atrocities occur under religious and non-religious (though ideologically zealous) justifications. People kill in the name of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, the Fatherland, the Revolution, etc.
I personally think morality and human kindness are well-served by a belief in Providence, a just and merciful one. But the notion that “Thou shalt not commit murder” is Christian–or the invention of any particular creed–is an ahistorical overreach.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Max Price

Not really. I’d imagine most religions would consider mass murder to be a crime, as would non believers. To imply I only find it wrong because I’ve grown up in a nominally Christian country I think is incorrect

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
1 year ago
Reply to  Max Price

Exactly. The acts of Stalin weren’t crimes, the acts of the so-called lunatics were, and thank God for that.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

The opening chapter of John Gray’s Straw Dogs, if I recall correctly, addresses this very matter.
If you want a pithier version, Peter Hitchens said that “we live in the afterglow of Christianity”. He was clearly implying that we will be sorry when it has finally died. “Humanism” is just clutching at straws.
We should be haunted by Chesterton’s observation that when men stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing, they believe in anything.
I cannot help but be an atheist, but I acknowledge the truth of what they are saying. I cling to agnosticism as my personal, unsatisfactory, way out of my little quandry.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Why should we be haunted by Chesterton’s proposition? The only haunting is carried out by those who continue to quote it, as if it has some special resonance beyond the realisation by those who’ve divested themselves of religious self-deception that morality is, of course, a human construct.

There’s no need for a belief in Humanism any more than there’s a need for a belief in a god. My point is this: there’s no need for belief in an external authority full stop; it only leads to disillusionment when dismantled. The problem the Christian West has inherited is precisely that sense of disillusion. It’s time we started to move on. We exist. It’s in all our self-interests to refrain from doing harm to others, however much we’re unable to fulfil that premise.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

No, it is not in all of our interests to refrain from doing harm to others. Colonialism was in the interest of Europe, slavery was in the interest of the slave owners. the subjugation of Xinjiang and the exploitation of resource-producing countries is in the interest of the Han Chinese, the conquest of Ukraine is in the interest of Russians (for the warm feeling of being an empire if nothing else). Sexual exploitation is in the interest of the Epsteins and the grooming gangs, and the masters of the Caliphate. Paedophilia was in the interests of Jimmy Savile, who had a long happy and exciting life right up to the point where he died and rotted. Meat eating is in the interest of humans, come to that. The idea that a group of strong people owe any respect or consideration to weak foreigners is pure abstract morality.

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

As you say, dogmatic statements just don’t work because people are different and have different priorities. A mother of a child at school does not believe that all are equal and nobody should harm another – she believes that her child is more than equal and, perhaps, can do no wrong. Families are closer than just ‘people’.
Then politicians try to instil a belief that our country is better (= more worthy) than other countries so deaths in France are not quite as sad if you don’t live in France. If you watch Al Jazeera, millions of people are living today in fear and poverty (mainly in Africa) but our main worry today is whether England will get knocked out of the World Cup.
I don’t believe that people are basically nice to other people, nor indeed think of other people unless they are close relations.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

Mainly agree with you – but I do not think it is politicians who ‘instil a belief that our country is better (= more worthy) than other countries’. We just naturally care about and identify with our own group against other groups.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Preferring the “in group” is natural, but turning that feeling into hatred of the others and, so to speak, invading Poland, is where the politicians and ideologues enter. Feeling positively toward people we see as like ourselves does not inevitably mean we have to oppress or attack others.
Consider the South African apartheid regime that racially classified everyone as White, Coloured, or Black, kept Blacks in virtual servitude and gave Coloured very limited rights, but declared Japanese national, with whom they wanted commerce, to be “honorary Whites.”
The people in control use every available principle–good, bad or indifferent–as an excuse to do what they want to do, anyway, usually for their own aggrandizement. It is the way of the world.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Preferring the “in group” is natural, but turning that feeling into hatred of the others and, so to speak, invading Poland, is where the politicians and ideologues enter. Feeling positively toward people we see as like ourselves does not inevitably mean we have to oppress or attack others.
Consider the South African apartheid regime that racially classified everyone as White, Coloured, or Black, kept Blacks in virtual servitude and gave Coloured very limited rights, but declared Japanese national, with whom they wanted commerce, to be “honorary Whites.”
The people in control use every available principle–good, bad or indifferent–as an excuse to do what they want to do, anyway, usually for their own aggrandizement. It is the way of the world.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

Mainly agree with you – but I do not think it is politicians who ‘instil a belief that our country is better (= more worthy) than other countries’. We just naturally care about and identify with our own group against other groups.

P Branagan
P Branagan
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

How nauseatingly Yankophile can one be. Selective ‘morality’ on a grand scale. No mention of the appalling brutality committed by the US and Canada on the First Nations of North America. While, on the other hand being utterly brainwashed by the MSM’s constant repetition of US government propaganda about the false accusations of mistreatment by the Chinese government of the Muslim Uighers.
Why is it that the World Muslim Congress, which represents the interests of Islamic peoples across the globe have no issue at all with the situation in Xinxiang? In fact why is it they they specifically praised the Chinese for the enormous improvement in the living standards of the peoples in Xinxiang?

I despair at human gullibility and our capacity for hatred.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  P Branagan

A bit touchy, are you? I started with colonialism and slavery, the first done by my people, the second universal, but historically associated with the US. I cannot list all the massacres of history, there would be no room. You are quite right that the treatment of the Uighurs or Tibetans by China is quite similar to the treatment of the Algerians by France, and not entirely different from the treatment of the Indians by US settlers, but other people’s crimes are not a reason for refusing to accept responsibility for your own actions.

As for the ‘false accusations of mistreatment by the Chinese government’ the known facts speak pretty much for themselves. China is not immune to criticism, however much the wolf warriors would like to make it so. The World Muslim Congress is presumably keeping shtum because there is nothing they can do, they need favours from China, and they are not feeling strong (or arrogant) enough to blame China for mistreatment, particularly since many of them are doing equally bad things themselves.

How come a man named P Branagan is working for Beijing, anyway?

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Mr Branigan does seem a little biased.

But to continue the discussion above I have to say that I’m in the middle of reading a new book called, “A Village In The Third Reich”.

This book is superbly written and draws you in like a magnet. It is a little scary. It tells the story of a quiet village in the south of Germany, an ultra-Catholic, farming community which very slowly changes its religion. Day by day, week by week, Roman Catholicism morphs into National Socialism.

As you say, it is not the politicians who motivate us; rather it is the desire to be like our neighbours. But if the politicians/clergymen keep saying the same things, one person changes, another copies, then a third…. and so on. Then the individual is scared to argue.

So, the world is now officially woke. Why? The world bemoans the fate of muslims in China but are your friends actually visiting China to find out for themselves? So, you get this polarisation – either you are for or against. But if you stay in the middle of the road, traffic from both directions hits you.

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I answered this but it got removed and I can’t work out why?

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

He could be an Irish Tankie. I only read about them yesterday .

Last edited 1 year ago by Alan Osband
Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Mr Branigan does seem a little biased.

But to continue the discussion above I have to say that I’m in the middle of reading a new book called, “A Village In The Third Reich”.

This book is superbly written and draws you in like a magnet. It is a little scary. It tells the story of a quiet village in the south of Germany, an ultra-Catholic, farming community which very slowly changes its religion. Day by day, week by week, Roman Catholicism morphs into National Socialism.

As you say, it is not the politicians who motivate us; rather it is the desire to be like our neighbours. But if the politicians/clergymen keep saying the same things, one person changes, another copies, then a third…. and so on. Then the individual is scared to argue.

So, the world is now officially woke. Why? The world bemoans the fate of muslims in China but are your friends actually visiting China to find out for themselves? So, you get this polarisation – either you are for or against. But if you stay in the middle of the road, traffic from both directions hits you.

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I answered this but it got removed and I can’t work out why?

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

He could be an Irish Tankie. I only read about them yesterday .

Last edited 1 year ago by Alan Osband
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  P Branagan

Why start with the brutality committed by Western nations? Why not go all the way back to the beginning of recorded history, which can be summarized in one word, war. That is the point of Christianity in the first place. Man is fallen and should need redemption.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Indeed. Before Europeans reached the Americas, the people there had spent many centuries exterminating and enslaving each other. And Europeans had been doing it to each other for at least as long, or longer, before any came to te New World.
That does not absolve the Europeans who did terrible things in the Americas, but is does provide necessary perspective.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Indeed. Before Europeans reached the Americas, the people there had spent many centuries exterminating and enslaving each other. And Europeans had been doing it to each other for at least as long, or longer, before any came to te New World.
That does not absolve the Europeans who did terrible things in the Americas, but is does provide necessary perspective.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  P Branagan

A bit touchy, are you? I started with colonialism and slavery, the first done by my people, the second universal, but historically associated with the US. I cannot list all the massacres of history, there would be no room. You are quite right that the treatment of the Uighurs or Tibetans by China is quite similar to the treatment of the Algerians by France, and not entirely different from the treatment of the Indians by US settlers, but other people’s crimes are not a reason for refusing to accept responsibility for your own actions.

As for the ‘false accusations of mistreatment by the Chinese government’ the known facts speak pretty much for themselves. China is not immune to criticism, however much the wolf warriors would like to make it so. The World Muslim Congress is presumably keeping shtum because there is nothing they can do, they need favours from China, and they are not feeling strong (or arrogant) enough to blame China for mistreatment, particularly since many of them are doing equally bad things themselves.

How come a man named P Branagan is working for Beijing, anyway?

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  P Branagan

Why start with the brutality committed by Western nations? Why not go all the way back to the beginning of recorded history, which can be summarized in one word, war. That is the point of Christianity in the first place. Man is fallen and should need redemption.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

It may be some forms of colonialism were occasionally in the interests of the colonised , or at least a part of the colonised .

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

As you say, dogmatic statements just don’t work because people are different and have different priorities. A mother of a child at school does not believe that all are equal and nobody should harm another – she believes that her child is more than equal and, perhaps, can do no wrong. Families are closer than just ‘people’.
Then politicians try to instil a belief that our country is better (= more worthy) than other countries so deaths in France are not quite as sad if you don’t live in France. If you watch Al Jazeera, millions of people are living today in fear and poverty (mainly in Africa) but our main worry today is whether England will get knocked out of the World Cup.
I don’t believe that people are basically nice to other people, nor indeed think of other people unless they are close relations.

P Branagan
P Branagan
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

How nauseatingly Yankophile can one be. Selective ‘morality’ on a grand scale. No mention of the appalling brutality committed by the US and Canada on the First Nations of North America. While, on the other hand being utterly brainwashed by the MSM’s constant repetition of US government propaganda about the false accusations of mistreatment by the Chinese government of the Muslim Uighers.
Why is it that the World Muslim Congress, which represents the interests of Islamic peoples across the globe have no issue at all with the situation in Xinxiang? In fact why is it they they specifically praised the Chinese for the enormous improvement in the living standards of the peoples in Xinxiang?

I despair at human gullibility and our capacity for hatred.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

It may be some forms of colonialism were occasionally in the interests of the colonised , or at least a part of the colonised .

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

.” It’s in all our self-interests to refrain from doing harm to others, however much we’re unable to fulfil that premise.”
??
Quite the opposite!

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

How so?

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

The Mongol horde.
The Viking invasions
The extermination of the native Americans
The behaviour of the native Americans towards each other.
The ubiquitous nature of slavery throughout history.
One could go on for pages.
All driven by self-interest.
It was Christian evangelical zeal that enabled
The Royal Navy to destroy the slave trade – the greatest act of decency in the otherwise squalid history of the human species

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

None of those examples contradict my point, rather prove it!

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

“It’s in all our self-interests to refrain from doing harm to others, however much we’re unable to fulfil that premise.”
Perhaps words have different meanings for you than they do for me.
My examples are examples of the excercise of un-restrained self-interest. The perpetrators of those acts were not committing an error of judgement. They understood their own self-interest perfectly well and acted upon it.
I did you the courtesy of re-reading your post.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Thankyou. In referring to self-interest, i’m not referring to acts of violence by groups, but as the word suggests, by the self against one’s own community.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Sounds like there could be a consensus here. There is a self-interested reason to refrain from doing harm to members of one’s own group, but no reason at all to protect non-members in any way. Is that the point you are trying to make?

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I’d simply refer back to my original point, which is that there’s no need whatsoever to invoke the authority of a god to enable a working ethos for humanity. In fact, there can’t be, since it all derives from human thought in the first place.

Claire D
Claire D
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Maybe not for “a working ethos for humanity”, but Christianity has been an extraordinary refinement of a working ethos. Just in terms of Art, imagine a working ethos of humanity without Bach or Mozart, or the whole of English Literature, Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky, or the architecture – the physical engineering and symbolism – of gothic cathedrals. Christianity inspired all that and more.

Forgive me but “a working ethos of humanity” is a very limited ambition to have for us and typical of a post-modernist outlook. Is that really all you want ? I can’t believe it.

Last edited 1 year ago by Claire D
Claire D
Claire D
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Maybe not for “a working ethos for humanity”, but Christianity has been an extraordinary refinement of a working ethos. Just in terms of Art, imagine a working ethos of humanity without Bach or Mozart, or the whole of English Literature, Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky, or the architecture – the physical engineering and symbolism – of gothic cathedrals. Christianity inspired all that and more.

Forgive me but “a working ethos of humanity” is a very limited ambition to have for us and typical of a post-modernist outlook. Is that really all you want ? I can’t believe it.

Last edited 1 year ago by Claire D
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I’d simply refer back to my original point, which is that there’s no need whatsoever to invoke the authority of a god to enable a working ethos for humanity. In fact, there can’t be, since it all derives from human thought in the first place.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Sounds like there could be a consensus here. There is a self-interested reason to refrain from doing harm to members of one’s own group, but no reason at all to protect non-members in any way. Is that the point you are trying to make?

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Thankyou. In referring to self-interest, i’m not referring to acts of violence by groups, but as the word suggests, by the self against one’s own community.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

“It’s in all our self-interests to refrain from doing harm to others, however much we’re unable to fulfil that premise.”
Perhaps words have different meanings for you than they do for me.
My examples are examples of the excercise of un-restrained self-interest. The perpetrators of those acts were not committing an error of judgement. They understood their own self-interest perfectly well and acted upon it.
I did you the courtesy of re-reading your post.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

No:
“the greatest act of decency” was undoubtedly the Constitutio Antoniniana or Edict of Caracalla by which all free men across the Roman Empire became full Roman Citizens.

andy young
andy young
1 year ago

Roman slaves might have disagreed with that verdict

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  andy young

If they obtained manumission, as many did, they and their wives now became Roman Citizens.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  andy young

If they obtained manumission, as many did, they and their wives now became Roman Citizens.

David Mayes
David Mayes
1 year ago

Yes, but also Caracalla is remembered as a cruel and evil tyrant. Context is always crucial to a good understanding.
The Roman empire was experienced in its time as a stupefyingly vast, miraculous creation. Emperors were as gods. To become a Roman citizen was to be admitted into this miracle. Paul was born a citizen and his famously peripatetic ministry is a concrete expression of that citizenship.
Christendom is a mythologising of the Roman empire with the cosmic imperial visions of the Old Testament Jewish prophets. And two thousand years later the myth has largely come true.

Last edited 1 year ago by David Mayes
andy young
andy young
1 year ago

Roman slaves might have disagreed with that verdict

David Mayes
David Mayes
1 year ago

Yes, but also Caracalla is remembered as a cruel and evil tyrant. Context is always crucial to a good understanding.
The Roman empire was experienced in its time as a stupefyingly vast, miraculous creation. Emperors were as gods. To become a Roman citizen was to be admitted into this miracle. Paul was born a citizen and his famously peripatetic ministry is a concrete expression of that citizenship.
Christendom is a mythologising of the Roman empire with the cosmic imperial visions of the Old Testament Jewish prophets. And two thousand years later the myth has largely come true.

Last edited 1 year ago by David Mayes
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

None of those examples contradict my point, rather prove it!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

No:
“the greatest act of decency” was undoubtedly the Constitutio Antoniniana or Edict of Caracalla by which all free men across the Roman Empire became full Roman Citizens.

Will Rolf
Will Rolf
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Brett, if you have a chest of gold coins in your house and I kill you and take it, then my self interest has been served immensely. Your interests have been poorly served. We can create a village where we agree to respect each other’s life and property but our interests are still served by attacking the neighboring village, killing or enslaving the people and seizing their land and property.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Will Rolf

Are your interests really served when you must do this time and time again, and in the process lose valuable members of your own tribe (and you may not always win) and then have to live in a constant state of fear?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Will Rolf

Which is what happened for Millenia, under numerous faiths and peoples. Only difference is our villages slowly became bigger and eventually turned into nations, which means now any crime of that nature is seen as being against your own

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

In monocultures possibly

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

In monocultures possibly

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Will Rolf

Are your interests really served when you must do this time and time again, and in the process lose valuable members of your own tribe (and you may not always win) and then have to live in a constant state of fear?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Will Rolf

Which is what happened for Millenia, under numerous faiths and peoples. Only difference is our villages slowly became bigger and eventually turned into nations, which means now any crime of that nature is seen as being against your own

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

The Mongol horde.
The Viking invasions
The extermination of the native Americans
The behaviour of the native Americans towards each other.
The ubiquitous nature of slavery throughout history.
One could go on for pages.
All driven by self-interest.
It was Christian evangelical zeal that enabled
The Royal Navy to destroy the slave trade – the greatest act of decency in the otherwise squalid history of the human species

Will Rolf
Will Rolf
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

Brett, if you have a chest of gold coins in your house and I kill you and take it, then my self interest has been served immensely. Your interests have been poorly served. We can create a village where we agree to respect each other’s life and property but our interests are still served by attacking the neighboring village, killing or enslaving the people and seizing their land and property.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

How so?

ben arnulfssen
ben arnulfssen
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Just because you are ignorant of Chesterton’s aphorism doesn’t make it any less true

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

It is interesting that you mention an external authority; probably the main reason many people choose not to believe in God.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

The problem is that people often think it is NOT in their self-interest to refrain from violence.
Exhibit A is Putin.
Exhibit B is Xi.
Exhibit C is Khamenei.
And yes, there are a number of western leaders in the same boat.

Bdkay
Bdkay
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

“It’s in all our self-interests to refrain from doing harm to others”. I can list countless examples of pragmatic exceptions to that assertion. The ethic of non-violence cannot possibly proceed from utilitarian philosophy.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

No, it is not in all of our interests to refrain from doing harm to others. Colonialism was in the interest of Europe, slavery was in the interest of the slave owners. the subjugation of Xinjiang and the exploitation of resource-producing countries is in the interest of the Han Chinese, the conquest of Ukraine is in the interest of Russians (for the warm feeling of being an empire if nothing else). Sexual exploitation is in the interest of the Epsteins and the grooming gangs, and the masters of the Caliphate. Paedophilia was in the interests of Jimmy Savile, who had a long happy and exciting life right up to the point where he died and rotted. Meat eating is in the interest of humans, come to that. The idea that a group of strong people owe any respect or consideration to weak foreigners is pure abstract morality.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

.” It’s in all our self-interests to refrain from doing harm to others, however much we’re unable to fulfil that premise.”
??
Quite the opposite!

ben arnulfssen
ben arnulfssen
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Just because you are ignorant of Chesterton’s aphorism doesn’t make it any less true

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

It is interesting that you mention an external authority; probably the main reason many people choose not to believe in God.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

The problem is that people often think it is NOT in their self-interest to refrain from violence.
Exhibit A is Putin.
Exhibit B is Xi.
Exhibit C is Khamenei.
And yes, there are a number of western leaders in the same boat.

Bdkay
Bdkay
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

“It’s in all our self-interests to refrain from doing harm to others”. I can list countless examples of pragmatic exceptions to that assertion. The ethic of non-violence cannot possibly proceed from utilitarian philosophy.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

I agree with you, I can appreciate that religion has done much good in shaping society and instilling moral values, and to be honest I’m slightly envious of those who are religious as I’d imagine it’s much more comforting to believe that when I die I’ll see all my friends and family again rather than being chucked in a hole and being eaten by worms. Unfortunately I simply can’t bring myself to believe in any of it

Dave Weeden
Dave Weeden
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I don’t agree with him. There absolutely is a need for an organising belief. Religion outsources, if you will, any metaphysical thinking, and, as the derivation of the word suggests, it binds coreligionists together. I was enormously impressed by “Darwin’s Cathedral” which argues that religious belief is functional and that Christian beliefs and practices particularly so.
I don’t believe it’s been in our self interest to refrain from doing harm to others in our evolutionary past. The ape scene in “2001” is clear enough about that. And as resources are still scarce, I think it’s not true. Ask a Ukrainian if it’s in his self interest to refrain from harming Russian soldiers. Thinking otherwise is merely an unexamined hold over from Christianity.
The disillusionment comes from the dismantling of the binding principles. Tom Holland and Nietzsche both see that.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Weeden

I’ve referred to Straw Man arguments elsewhere, but the examples of supposed conflicts of self-interest you quote are precisely that. For example, the Christian ethos hardly prevented nations under attack from defending themselves, or seeking to overcome evil regimes as in the two world wars, so why quote the ‘self-interest’ argument as an example in the case of Ukrainians defending themselves?

Clarity of thought is required, as ever.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Weeden

I’ve referred to Straw Man arguments elsewhere, but the examples of supposed conflicts of self-interest you quote are precisely that. For example, the Christian ethos hardly prevented nations under attack from defending themselves, or seeking to overcome evil regimes as in the two world wars, so why quote the ‘self-interest’ argument as an example in the case of Ukrainians defending themselves?

Clarity of thought is required, as ever.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Religion, if practised committedly, is rarely comforting; it is hard and challenging, requiring self-denial, humility, and the diminishing of one’s ego. Most of us are not up to the job.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Does that make it “true”, in the sense that if based upon a god, that god exists? (There are other religions that aren’t, of course.) And if based upon an untruth, the degree of comfort derived depends upon one’s capacity for self-deception.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

Even less reason for me to become religious then. I have to ignore every rational thought in my head to believe something I’d otherwise think to be a loads of codswallop, and all I get for it is hard challenging work? I’ll stick to my life of sin I reckon

Claire D
Claire D
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Reason does not come into religious faith, faith is beyond reason. It requires you to submit to a power, God, that you do not, nor cannot, understand. It is not easy, it is a giving up of yourself and your own will, it’s hard and an ongoing struggle, but the reward is love.

Claire D
Claire D
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Reason does not come into religious faith, faith is beyond reason. It requires you to submit to a power, God, that you do not, nor cannot, understand. It is not easy, it is a giving up of yourself and your own will, it’s hard and an ongoing struggle, but the reward is love.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago

Which is why the gate to heaven is narrow, according to Matthew 7:13-14.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Does that make it “true”, in the sense that if based upon a god, that god exists? (There are other religions that aren’t, of course.) And if based upon an untruth, the degree of comfort derived depends upon one’s capacity for self-deception.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago

Even less reason for me to become religious then. I have to ignore every rational thought in my head to believe something I’d otherwise think to be a loads of codswallop, and all I get for it is hard challenging work? I’ll stick to my life of sin I reckon

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago

Which is why the gate to heaven is narrow, according to Matthew 7:13-14.

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You have really hit the nail on the head. Religion is about finding a meaning. My mother pooh-poohed religion for almost all of her life but changed suddenly after her 70th birthday. A sort of panic set in.

I am like you. I would rather create a challenge for myself than believe a fairy tale. But it gets more difficult as you get older.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

Is it really about finding meaning, or just a desperate attempt to comfort ourselves that our existence is not merely based on randomness?

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

Same thing, surely?

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 year ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

Meaning can be found in other things than religion.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

Do you enjoy believing that you are merely a meaningless spec of carbon and have absolutely no purpose being alive? Then, by all means, have at it.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Yes I do. Our lives have meaning because humans are more advanced than other life forms and have a memory and consciousness about how our actions affect the lives of others and our surroundings, but ultimately our lives have no more meaning than that of any other animal, hence the reason the vast majority of us disappear into irrelevance once our lives are over

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Well, if you are certain about that, then there is no need for further discussion, is there?

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Well, if you are certain about that, then there is no need for further discussion, is there?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Yes I do. Our lives have meaning because humans are more advanced than other life forms and have a memory and consciousness about how our actions affect the lives of others and our surroundings, but ultimately our lives have no more meaning than that of any other animal, hence the reason the vast majority of us disappear into irrelevance once our lives are over

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

Same thing, surely?

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 year ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

Meaning can be found in other things than religion.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

Do you enjoy believing that you are merely a meaningless spec of carbon and have absolutely no purpose being alive? Then, by all means, have at it.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

Ever hear the saying, “there are no atheists in a foxhole”?

Jerry Mee-Crowbin
Jerry Mee-Crowbin
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

I’ve spent some extremely uncomfortable moments in a slit trench, as we call it. I’m a rock solid atheist.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago

Congratulations….I guess.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago

Congratulations….I guess.

Jerry Mee-Crowbin
Jerry Mee-Crowbin
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

I’ve spent some extremely uncomfortable moments in a slit trench, as we call it. I’m a rock solid atheist.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

You could challenge yourself by looking into the ‘fairy tale’ without preconceptions or bias.

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

Which particular set of fairy tales are we talking about?

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

Which particular set of fairy tales are we talking about?

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

Is it really about finding meaning, or just a desperate attempt to comfort ourselves that our existence is not merely based on randomness?

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

Ever hear the saying, “there are no atheists in a foxhole”?

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris W

You could challenge yourself by looking into the ‘fairy tale’ without preconceptions or bias.

David Ryan
David Ryan
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You don’t necessarily have to believe in it. You can believe you will be eaten by worms, and still light a candle and say a prayer. It might even do you some good

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  David Ryan

Not really. It will bring me no comfort praying to something or someone that I don’t believe is there unfortunately.

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You know the old saying; there are no atheists in foxholes.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

I know some.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

My grandfather was lucky to survive the war having been pinned down on a few occasions (and shot during a couple of them), and he thought religion was a load of bullocks. If I had bullets whizzing over my head, the fables in the bible would be a long way from my mind I imagine

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

I know some.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  Brett H

My grandfather was lucky to survive the war having been pinned down on a few occasions (and shot during a couple of them), and he thought religion was a load of bullocks. If I had bullets whizzing over my head, the fables in the bible would be a long way from my mind I imagine

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You know the old saying; there are no atheists in foxholes.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 year ago
Reply to  David Ryan

Not really. It will bring me no comfort praying to something or someone that I don’t believe is there unfortunately.

Dave Weeden
Dave Weeden
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

I don’t agree with him. There absolutely is a need for an organising belief. Religion outsources, if you will, any metaphysical thinking, and, as the derivation of the word suggests, it binds coreligionists together. I was enormously impressed by “Darwin’s Cathedral” which argues that religious belief is functional and that Christian beliefs and practices particularly so.
I don’t believe it’s been in our self interest to refrain from doing harm to others in our evolutionary past. The ape scene in “2001” is clear enough about that. And as resources are still scarce, I think it’s not true. Ask a Ukrainian if it’s in his self interest to refrain from harming Russian soldiers. Thinking otherwise is merely an unexamined hold over from Christianity.
The disillusionment comes from the dismantling of the binding principles. Tom Holland and Nietzsche both see that.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Religion, if practised committedly, is rarely comforting; it is hard and challenging, requiring self-denial, humility, and the diminishing of one’s ego. Most of us are not up to the job.

Chris W
Chris W
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You have really hit the nail on the head. Religion is about finding a meaning. My mother pooh-poohed religion for almost all of her life but changed suddenly after her 70th birthday. A sort of panic set in.

I am like you. I would rather create a challenge for myself than believe a fairy tale. But it gets more difficult as you get older.

David Ryan
David Ryan
1 year ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

You don’t necessarily have to believe in it. You can believe you will be eaten by worms, and still light a candle and say a prayer. It might even do you some good

Dave Weeden
Dave Weeden
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

A small point, but Chesterton didn’t actually say that. It was originally in an essay about him, by his Belgian translator.
“Émile Cammaerts – Wikipedia” https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89mile_Cammaerts

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Weeden

Thankyou. I didn’t know that.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Weeden

Thankyou. I didn’t know that.