Observations

One constant of the atheist metanarrative is that religious explanations, which they equate with superstition (of which Christianity is a part) invariably get replaced by scientific explanations. They often cite the fact that whereas once people thought Zeus generated lightening bolts, they now have natural explanations for such phenomena and so we should expect science to replace all non-naturalistic explanations.

Now beside the fact that this is fallacious logic (an appeal to history) and that it ignores the reality that it was Christianity that displaced Zeus, not science, it is a contention that would seem to undermine the advocacy of atheism all together. If atheists truly believed this then there would be little need to advocate for atheism since the inevitable advance of science would certainly render all religious belief moot.

Of course the fact that they have been expecting this to happen for over a century may explain the anxiety of some.

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21 Responses to Observations

  1. The Judge says:

    Thought this might interest you – it’s my latest published article. An analysis of Cameron’s The Terminator as a spiritual parable:

    http://www.rhythmcircus.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=885:rethinking-the-terminator&catid=51:film-articles&Itemid=63

    I’ve avoided, mostly, using the explicit term Christianity, but I think the connections are obvious. It’s an example of something I tend to come back to in my discussions – how spirituality re-narrates itself in different forms, not necessarily (or even preponderantly) in what we call “high art.”

    By the way, this is part of the reason why I originally objected to your statement that ‘we have forgotten most of our Christian heritage’. No story is ever retained in its purity. It gets re-absorbed and re-expressed in different forms, pertinent to their cultural milieu, often very unexpected ones. It’s the only way that stories stay alive.

  2. Justin says:

    The Bible has been a fairly static work for nearly 2,000 years now (despite some of the fringe claims like those of Bart Ehrman and the like). Interpretations of what is in the book have come and gone, but a staggering amount of work has gone into making sure that it isn’t re-absorbed and re-expressed. Perhaps it’s one of the few exceptions?

  3. Mike D says:

    Now beside the fact that this is fallacious logic (an appeal to history)

    This would be a valid objection if Sam Harris et al were arguing that this has been the case before, ergo religious thought is and always will be invalid – but that is not the argument. The point is to illustrate that religion, unlike science, has consistently failed to demonstrate itself as a reliable tool for the acquisition of knowledge, as evidenced in its continual usurping by scientific knowledge – which should lead us to more closely examine why this is the case, such as critically examining the mechanisms of knowledge acquisition in religious thought.

    and that it ignores the reality that it was Christianity that displaced Zeus

    This would be a valid objection if the argument were that science has displaced Greek mythos as a system of religious faith, but as your example of lightening notes, science is concerned with the acquisition of reliable, valid knowledge about reality. Christianity did not usurp Zeus as an explanation for lightening bolts. (Although it’s worth noting that some people do believe that Jesus sends lightening bolts… I’m still waiting to get struck for my blasphemy!)

    If atheists truly believed this then there would be little need to advocate for atheism since the inevitable advance of science would certainly render all religious belief moot.

    Even before we knew that microorganisms cause disease, we could have used scientific methodology and logical reasoning to demonstrate that demon possession or tainted blood were not valid causes of disease. Similarly, we need not conclusively disprove theistic cosmology (for example) to demonstrate that its assumptions are unfounded. And to argue that the burden is upon science to offer a valid counter-explanation to such unfounded theistic assumptions (e.g., by proving string theory) would simply be an argument from ignorance (I’m not saying you’re making this argument here; it’s just an example). It would be tantamount to saying, if we lived in olden times, that until we can prove the ridiculous-sounding theory of tiny invisible (to the human eye) beings causing diseases, we must accept that demons cause them.

    Thus it’s perfectly valid to challenge the validity of faith-based claims to knowledge (which is precisely what the gnus are doing), even if every possible religious assertion has not been usurped by a robustly proved scientific theory. It’s worth noting, too, that no scientific theory can “disprove” any unfalsifiable assertion, whether religious or otherwise. All science can do is render such explanations superfluous. E.g., since germ theory is rigorously supported by research and demon possession has never been demonstrated to be a valid diagnosis, we can disregard the latter even if it cannot be disproved (maybe demons lead the germs!).

  4. jackhudson says:

    This would be a valid objection if Sam Harris et al were arguing that this has been the case before, ergo religious thought is and always will be invalid – but that is not the argument. The point is to illustrate that religion, unlike science, has consistently failed to demonstrate itself as a reliable tool for the acquisition of knowledge, as evidenced in its continual usurping by scientific knowledge – which should lead us to more closely examine why this is the case, such as critically examining the mechanisms of knowledge acquisition in religious thought.

    I wasn’t referencing Harris, but if this is his point, then he is plainly wrong – science as a methodology is largely the result of Christian thinkers (like Newton, Pascal, and Bacon) who readily intertwined their scientific thought, philosophy and theology. But science and Christianity are different in their effects on the acquisition of knowledge in this respect – Christianity forms the basis of societies, cultures, and institutions in which human though can operate in such a way as to allow human flourishing. Science has no creative power in this regard. While science is the product of such societies and can used as a tool within such societies for much good it is not itself useful as a foundation for human culture; and the outcomes of trying to use it that way can be horrendous.

    This would be a valid objection if the argument were that science has displaced Greek mythos as a system of religious faith, but as your example of lightening notes, science is concerned with the acquisition of reliable, valid knowledge about reality. Christianity did not usurp Zeus as an explanation for lightening bolts. (Although it’s worth noting that some people do believe that Jesus sends lightening bolts… I’m still waiting to get struck for my blasphemy!)

    What Christianity replaced first and foremost was the magical and superstitious thinking of pagans and animists. Instead of a pantheon of fickle gods who acted according to their own whims and were often indifferent to human life, there was one transcendent God who was the unchangeable source and sustainer of the universe and had ordered and organized the universe in such way that that humans could live in it. God had ordered life to operate according to certain laws, and likewise the universe operated according to certain laws which could be comprehended by human minds since the universe was created for us. Science was merely understood by early developers of science to be the tool for doing this, not the means by which we were to live our lives.

    Even before we knew that microorganisms cause disease, we could have used scientific methodology and logical reasoning to demonstrate that demon possession or tainted blood were not valid causes of disease. Similarly, we need not conclusively disprove theistic cosmology (for example) to demonstrate that its assumptions are unfounded. And to argue that the burden is upon science to offer a valid counter-explanation to such unfounded theistic assumptions (e.g., by proving string theory) would simply be an argument from ignorance (I’m not saying you’re making this argument here; it’s just an example). It would be tantamount to saying, if we lived in olden times, that until we can prove the ridiculous-sounding theory of tiny invisible (to the human eye) beings causing diseases, we must accept that demons cause them.

    I don’t consider science to be synonymous with atheism. And I don’t think the science as a method is at odds with theism per se; certainly not of the Christian variety. My contention is that if it is true, as atheists contend, that science invariably replaces theistic explanations with naturalistic ones then the inevitable result will be their desired outcome – the elimination of religious belief. If that is the case, then there really isn’t any need to advocate a metaphysical position (atheism) since progress of science itself inevitably assures the desired outcome. I am not saying this means others necessarily need accept religious explanations, merely that the goals of atheism are moot if science invariably does what atheists claim it does.
    I have often wondered though if atheists believe that science has this power, why they all don’t become scientists? I would think this would be the quickest route to insure their goals.

    Thus it’s perfectly valid to challenge the validity of faith-based claims to knowledge (which is precisely what the gnus are doing), even if every possible religious assertion has not been usurped by a robustly proved scientific theory. It’s worth noting, too, that no scientific theory can “disprove” any unfalsifiable assertion, whether religious or otherwise. All science can do is render such explanations superfluous. E.g., since germ theory is rigorously supported by research and demon possession has never been demonstrated to be a valid diagnosis, we can disregard the latter even if it cannot be disproved (maybe demons lead the germs!).

    I disagree that we can’t disprove religious ideas. I would say it is as disproved as humanly possible that the sun isn’t on a chariot being ridden across the sky by Apollo, or that a wolf isn’t eating the moon over the course of the month. But such ideas were gone before science was developed because the worldview of Judeo-Christianity usurped them, clearing the way for scientific thinking (and ironically the comfortable existence of atheism in the Western world).

    And Christianity and Judaism have never advanced the idea that demon possession is the only (or even primary) cause of disease. Even in the OT you have Jewish laws which advocated practices like sterilization, quarantine, ritual cleansing, avoiding potential disease bearing vectors, not to mention the fact that certain living practices like those that forbade sexual promiscuity which would have avoided a host of diseases (like AIDs, which now plagues Africa). Those practices may not have been the result of a particular hypothesis or set of experiments, but that doesn’t mean the knowledge itself was illegitimate. In fact it took science a few thousand years to explain why such practices had value.

    Of course, health isn’t merely the product of scientific knowledge, but of habits and choices. Christopher Hitchens had all the knowledge necessary to avoid the disease that is killing him, but that knowledge alone can’t change human nature and our tendency to live immorally. This is why scientific knowledge alone isn’t sufficient for human flourishing.

  5. Justin says:

    The point is to illustrate that religion, unlike science, has consistently failed to demonstrate itself as a reliable tool for the acquisition of knowledge, as evidenced in its continual usurping by scientific knowledge – which should lead us to more closely examine why this is the case, such as critically examining the mechanisms of knowledge acquisition in religious thought.

    This is the really unsophisticated assumption that scientific knowledge is the end-all be-all of human knowing. This is demonstrably false, and pure absurdity. As far as I can tell, this false assumption is simply (and solely) the result of a superiority complex that is a natural human tendency when one thinks they know something someone else doesn’t.

    The fact of the matter is that your post completely ignores the “consistent failure” of science to give us any form of moral knowledge. Science can surely help build a better bomb, but it cannot tell you when to drop it. Science can give us iPhones but can’t tell us whether we should send to others prayer lists or nude photographs of underaged children. One becomes considerably less concerned with photon wavelengths or quantum entanglement or the theory of evolution when you’re being shelled on a daily basis, or live in an area where mugging and murder occur daily. I would venture to guess they find a working knowledge of relativity utterly useless in such circumstances. I find that most of the smug outspoken proponents of science as the end-all be-all of human existence and knowledge, and therefore an acid test for all sources of knowledge, live pretty sheltered lives and take for granted the other types of knowledge needed to make life complete.

    We can see what happens when an entire country ignores these things, too. It’s leaders plunder the treasury, because science cannot tell us that taking money that isn’t ours is wrong. Poverty levels go up, because science cannot tell us that having six children with four fathers out of wedlock while on welfare is wrong. The judicial system gets bogged down, because science cannot tell us whether or not we should follow contracts (promises). And on and on.

    The implication that you’re making, Mike, is that none of this is of any importance whatsoever if science is mute when asked about it. But I take it if you get mugged, or were someone to fire a rocket into your home, or if your children were sharing nude photos of themselves at the age of 10, that you might find it somewhat important. All of these are real, tangible issues, every bit as real as a quark or gluon. Which science book will you turn to when you want answers or guidance in dealing with these issues?

    And if you think that you don’t need a solid foundation for morality then the guy raping your daughter probably agrees with you.

    It’s really tragic that this notion even exists, but I find it is the rule rather than the exception in atheist thought. Science provides us with more efficient means to an end, but it cannot tell us whether we should seek that specific end. Both the means and the end have tangible effects on our lives.

  6. kenetiks says:

    Now beside the fact that this is fallacious logic (an appeal to history) and that it ignores the reality that it was Christianity that displaced Zeus, not science, it is a contention that would seem to undermine the advocacy of atheism all together. If atheists truly believed this then there would be little need to advocate for atheism since the inevitable advance of science would certainly render all religious belief moot.

    Are you saying that since christianity displaced another religious belief system(Leaving aside how it did this) that it must therefor be either true or a at least a more reasonable explanation of the universe?

    With the exception left aside, that it doesn’t explain anything. This would seem to undermine the statement in it’s own terms.

  7. jackhudson says:

    No – I am saying that previous explanations based on religious ‘superstition’ were in fact eliminated not by science, but by Christianity. I would argue this laid the foundation for the development of science.

  8. kenetiks says:

    And you would do so with the utmost futility.

  9. jackhudson says:

    It is a fairly straight forward historical fact.

  10. kenetiks says:

    No, it’s not.

    It’s cherry picking at it’s finest.

    As many positive points in historical references to christianity, I’m pretty sure I can match them to just as many, if not, more historical references where christianity has done just as much damage to halt progress and fight against human accomplishment.

    It’s odd to me that you continue to claim christianity to be the be-all end-all solution and the epitome of the sunrise of modern civilization. It’s no more to thank for it than the roman gods or any other religion. They all played their part in the progress or lack thereof. The claim is the height of arrogance and completely stupid. Since I personally feel that you are in fact, not even remotely a stupid person; This leads me to conclude that you are doing this on purpose in the vain hope to square the circle or cherry pick in attempt to cast a favoring light onto your personal religious belief system.

    I don’t feel that atheism or Greek philosophy is the cause of western civilization either. Every step, every acquisition or loss of knowledge was and is just one part of the intricate puzzle of how we got to where we are today and I personally feel that this type of Glenn Beck-ish arrogance and utter foolishness is beneath you..

  11. jackhudson says:

    @kinetics,
    You’re actually responding to a much bigger claim than I made. I am not saying the advent of Christianity turned human society in lollipops and rainbows, and I am not saying no other sorts of societies made contributions to Western society – this is obviously false. What I am saying is that Christianity was the primary force for eliminating superstitious belief in Western society.

    The empires that preceded the Christian West, the Greek World and the Roman world were intent on imposing certain political systems, but were almost completely indifferent to the imposition of certain religious beliefs. While the Greeks and the Romans introduced their belief systems to other cultures, the beliefs in the Roman and Hellenistic gods weren’t required – one could comfortably retain one’s beliefs in one’s own cultural gods as long as one gave proper acknowledgement to Alexander or Caesar (who were considered in their own right deities). That is why centuries after the Roman world began there were still druids and believers in the Nordic gods and Germanic spirits, as well as animism in vast segments of Europe. Christianity however was exclusivist. It didn’t mandate a particular political system, but one couldn’t be a Christian and believe in Odin or Zeus, or in spirits inhabiting trees and rocks. All the ancient altars were eventually denuded of power. It was in this cleared field as it were that the philosophical underpinnings and methodologies of modern science sprang up. It is no accident that the originators of modern science, the Newtons and the Bacons and the Pascals, etc. were themselves children of the Reformation.

    Now again, this doesn’t mean the Church was perfect or singular in its influence – but unlike it’s predecessors it was simultaneously progressive and exclusive; a paradoxical combination that allowed for the development of modern science.

  12. jackhudson says:

    I think the fact that you see those aspects of human experience as aberrant is evidence that there is an expectation (whether conscious or unconscious) in the human soul of a certain kind of life, a life of order and health and peace.

    Places like St. Judes exist because humans recognize a higher order against which we measure this flawed and imperfect life. It’s this ideal that’s drives us to rectify harms and human suffering. If naturalism is true, then such efforts are futile since we are merely fighting nature of which we are a part and a product. Your list doesn’t negate the orderliness of the universe; it verifies our inherent comprehension of it.

  13. kenetiks says:

    @kinetics,
    You’re actually responding to a much bigger claim than I made. I am not saying the advent of Christianity turned human society in lollipops and rainbows, and I am not saying no other sorts of societies made contributions to Western society – this is obviously false. What I am saying is that Christianity was the primary force for eliminating superstitious belief in Western society.

    Not really, you have a habit of claiming that “this” or “that” wouldn’t have been possible without christianity or at least we owe christianity or christians the benefit of the doubt, that we owe our modernity, knowledge and basically our lives to your personal belief system. That we should just take the word of the faithful at face value. As I said, christianity itself is only one small but necessary part in history.

    And christianity is responsible for the conversions of other belief systems(much of which was at the tip of a sword), but this says nothing of it’s truth or authenticity nor does it make it responsible for anything other than conversion from one “superstition” to another.

    The empires that preceded the Christian West, the Greek World and the Roman world were intent on imposing certain political systems, but were almost completely indifferent to the imposition of certain religious beliefs. While the Greeks and the Romans introduced their belief systems to other cultures, the beliefs in the Roman and Hellenistic gods weren’t required – one could comfortably retain one’s beliefs in one’s own cultural gods as long as one gave proper acknowledgement to Alexander or Caesar (who were considered in their own right deities). That is why centuries after the Roman world began there were still druids and believers in the Nordic gods and Germanic spirits, as well as animism in vast segments of Europe. Christianity however was exclusivist. It didn’t mandate a particular political system, but one couldn’t be a Christian and believe in Odin or Zeus, or in spirits inhabiting trees and rocks. All the ancient altars were eventually denuded of power. It was in this cleared field as it were that the philosophical underpinnings and methodologies of modern science sprang up. It is no accident that the originators of modern science, the Newtons and the Bacons and the Pascals, etc. were themselves children of the Reformation.

    As I said, a necessary part of history. But by no means exclusive.

    Now again, this doesn’t mean the Church was perfect or singular in its influence – but unlike it’s predecessors it was simultaneously progressive and exclusive; a paradoxical combination that allowed for the development of modern science.

    No, progress was fought tooth and nail by the church and it’s followers. The path of science was a slow and painful march at a snails pace where many existences where ruined and innumerable lives lost to the church’s “progressive” attitude.

  14. Nate says:

    I would dispute, at least by comparison, how much of Christianities spread was at the ‘tip of a sword’.

    Much of its spread was done in a remarkably peaceful manner. Compared to Islam, communist ‘atheism’, and the religions seen in the eastern Mediterranean before the Romans showed up to the party.

    Lets not dispute the communism part please, before Russia needed religion they did quite a job scrubbing it away with violence and blood. For different reasons than proper religions spread, but none the less.

  15. kenetiks says:

    Here we go again.

  16. Nate says:

    Where are we going? I’m all packed.

  17. jackhudson says:

    Not really, you have a habit of claiming that “this” or “that” wouldn’t have been possible without christianity or at least we owe christianity or christians the benefit of the doubt, that we owe our modernity, knowledge and basically our lives to your personal belief system. That we should just take the word of the faithful at face value. As I said, christianity itself is only one small but necessary part in history.

    @kinetics

    I am not sure where you are getting that I am saying that you should take what I or any other Christian says at face value; I would think even a cursory glance at a number of the 300+ posts on this blog and the thousands of comments would indicate I go to some pains to base what I write on logic and science and history and philosophy. You may not agree with my take, and you may think I am misusing such evidences, but I don’t think you can point to a place where I have ever said, “You just have to take what I say at face value”.

    If you don’t agree that Christianity was the primary belief system that replaced pagan beliefs in Western Europe sweeping away the mythologies and superstitions, then I am open to alternative explanations. The fact is we have a pretty good picture of a pre-Christian world in many places outside of Europe and the US – places that continue to be tribal and feudal, and dominated by belief systems that prevent the advancement of their cultures. And many of these places were influenced in ancient times by the Greeks and Romans much as Europe was, and yet did not retain those influences once those empires waned.

    Now I don’t think Europeans have genetic or inherent characteristics that allowed for the Western world to develop such as it is, so I am left with culture and belief systems – and the fact is the history of Europe and the history of Christianity are intertwined. And when we consider modern Western science and trace its intellectual roots we find its birthplace firmly ensconced in the period following the Reformation in Europe. This was a movement which brought about on the religious side the freedom for individuals to investigate Scripture for themselves, and on the philosophical side, the introduction of methodologies that allowed individuals to investigate claims about nature.

    This specific methodology, a product of the thinking of Francis Bacon which he introduced in Novum Organum was an attempt to combat not just religious superstition, but the way of thinking introduced in Europe from Aristotle as detailed in his philosophical work Organon.

    As an aside it is one of the great ironies of history that Galileo’s persecution by the Catholic Church is seen as a conflict between science and Scripture. The reality is the church had adopted by way of medieval Scholasticism the philosophies of Aristotle and ensconced them as church tradition as unassailable truth – it was against this rule that Galileo was measured and found wanting. It wasn’t a battle so much between science and Scripture but between an old pagan methodology and a new Western European philosophy.

    So Bacon sought to tear down what he called ‘idols’ of the mind – idols of personal bias, idols of perception, idols of ‘schools of thought’ long passed down etc. And it is no accident he called them idols, because in Judeo-Christian processes idols are that which substitute for truth, for reality. And upon this methodology Bacon created to remove such idols from men’s minds – the superstitions and pagan philosophies which clouded men’s minds. And it was upon this foundation that organizations like the Royal Society sprang up in which thinkers like Newton and Leibniz and Boyle and Wren and Hooke conducted, discussed and wrangled over the foundational discoveries and theories that gave rise to modern scientific thought.

    Now the fact that none of these men were atheists, and that many of them were nominally if not devout Christians is important if not critical. In fact Bacon, who is really the father of the scientific method was a devout Christian and defender of Christianity. These facts at least demonstrate that certain contentions by the New Atheists simply aren’t true. Now you may not hold these tenets yourself kenetics, in which case we are in agreement – but many atheist leaders regularly proclaim them.

    The first claim these historical facts demonstrate is that there is no inherent contradiction between the Christian faith and science. If there were, we would not expect to see science originate from individuals who were religiously devout.

    Also I think it undermines the notion that the only reliable truths we have are scientific ones. It seems pretty obvious that in developing scientific methodology, Bacon relied upon certain assumed truths that can’t be investigated scientifically. Science can’t stand alone.

    And it would also contradict the notion that Christianity is necessarily ‘anti-progress’. Now I think this is tougher one because what we consider ‘progress’ now is really a retrospective position – we like certain things that have occurred in the past. In terms of future progress though, we can only be call it progress if it leads to a goal which is commonly agreed upon to be good – and I don’t know where such a goal would be derived from in atheism.

    Bacon’s original purpose , the desire is to remove intellectual idols, would motivate my strongest criticisms of New Atheism. It doesn’t seek to advance scientific methodology per se, but rather it seeks to erect certain philosophies like scientism, materialism, and naturalism as unassailable dogmas to which everyone must kowtow. That is as intellectually vacuous in my mind as was the unthinking adherence of the medieval Catholic Church to Aristotelian philosophies.

    I have atempted to be specific here kenetics so as to avoid the charge that I am speaking in generalities, even at the risk of being long-winded. I have no problem with you calling my facts into question (with other facts, hopefully) but I would hope you don’t merely dismiss it with a hand wave, since I see you too as more thoughtful than that.

    And thanks again for your comments.

  18. jackhudson says:

    I’ve avoided, mostly, using the explicit term Christianity, but I think the connections are obvious. It’s an example of something I tend to come back to in my discussions – how spirituality re-narrates itself in different forms, not necessarily (or even preponderantly) in what we call “high art.”
    By the way, this is part of the reason why I originally objected to your statement that ‘we have forgotten most of our Christian heritage’. No story is ever retained in its purity. It gets re-absorbed and re-expressed in different forms, pertinent to their cultural milieu, often very unexpected ones. It’s the only way that stories stay alive.

    @Judge

    Sorry of the delay in my response. If you want a quick response, you must cease writing long thoughtful articles and limit yourself to snarky attacks. Otherwise I have to read and think in order to respond. 🙂

    I enjoyed your analysis of Terminator. I thought your exploration of various spiritual themes in the movie was quite insightful. As a Christian I frequently notice such themes, though I doubt the inclusion of these elements is always intentional. It also doesn’t surprise me that such ideas permeate our stories – I think we are intrinsically spiritual creatures, and so infuse much of what we do with spiritual desires and thoughts.

    I don’t know if you are familiar with their discussions on such things, but C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien (as well as Chesterton) spoke of the power of mythology to communicate certain truths. Of course for them Christianity was the one ‘true myth’ but one could see its shadow or type in other stories. In fact in Christian circles there is an understanding of ‘types and shadows’, typically understood in the Old Testament, but conceivably found in other cultural stories anticipating the story of the gospel.

    I think you see it in many of our modern stories.

    Take E.T for example – a kind and wise creature descends from the heavens, attracts a following of childlike (literally!) followers. The creature can heal, exhibits power over the elements, even raising creatures back to life. He is persecuted by authorities, dies, rises again and ascends back into heaven leaving something of himself in the hearts of his closest companions.

    Or The Matrix, which reads like Paul’s writings in Romans. An unbeliever encounters a people who believe in an unseen reality. They challenge him to take a step of faith and choose (The red pill or the blue?) and when he chooses to accept, he discovers that the world is not as it seems – the whole of humanity is enslaved and ignorant of their condition, from which he is now saved. He then becomes himself skilled in the knowledge of the ‘real world’, the story of how humanity becomes enslaved, and how to do battle against those who enslave humanity. He then devotes his life to freeing others after learning to overcome obstacles (which reside primarily in his own mind) through faith.

    I don’t know that an evangelist could have penned better analogies.

    Personally I believe, and think Scripture affirms, that God, “set eternity in the hearts of men”. Though many might not admit it, we have a common longings and so continually re-express those longings in our stories and art. And there is nothing in me as a Christian that needs to deny this tendency – the Gospel as I understand it, though rooted in Scripture, is a living thing to be expressed in the lives and cultures of humanity. So it is no offense to my faith to agree with you that it “gets re-absorbed and re-expressed in different forms, pertinent to their cultural milieu, often very unexpected ones.” I would contend that Christianity is in fact a progressive belief system, and was intended to be so. Take the words of Jesus:

    “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

    It’s not a static thing; it’s a growing and intertwining thing. There are many such examples.
    So when I say as you quote above and elsewhere that we have ‘forgotten our Christian heritage’, I am not attempting to deny other influences or the idea that our beliefs progress and get re-expressed, merely that the ideas have a foundation in reality and aren’t merely the product of our desires and imaginations.

    I hope this is clear and helpful, I will try to respond to your ‘uber-essay’ 🙂 when time allows.

    Thank you for your thoughtful tone.

  19. kenetiks says:

    @nate

    You were already packed. Or unpacked rather. Trotting out Communism = Atheism = Genocide. Or some such.

    @Jack

    I’m going to refrain from responding just yet. I may just pick up responding at a later time to newer posts. Not that I’m conceding anything. But the last two weeks have been a rough time for me and my attitude isn’t the cheeriest. So I’m going to take a rain check.

    I did read your response and it was quite informative.

  20. Nate says:

    Nah, don’t read that into it. The Soviets spread state atheism like so many other religions were spread.

    It wasn’t their goal to spread anything other that state power, atheism suited their purpose, until it didn’t. It says nothing about atheism what so ever.

    And I know perfectly well that atheism has nothing to do with communism, strictly speaking.

  21. jackhudson says:

    @kinetics

    No prob, hope things get better.

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