« Something Old, Something New | Main | Fearing Fear Itself »

April 12, 2008

Comments

Modern secularism rejects the notion that human beings feel a deep-seated, unquenchable craving for making connections with Godliness, in its various definitions and manifestations

that's just flat out untrue. a lie. a strawman. a deliberate distortion.

F Medvedev and the rest of the mouthbreathing hypocrites.

What a world lies in that word "Curiously," at the start of the second-to-last paragraph of the post...

The quote from Medved would make me furious if I had the energy. But I'm working right now, so...maybe more later.

Does the President even say the Pledge of Allegiance very often? And if he does, can't he just say the version that was just fine until the right-wing John Bircher fncktards went and God-ified it to root out Commies?

Also, his baloney in there about "how could an atheist president honor Billy Graham or Mother Theresa?" FFS. The real question is, "WHY would ANY president do that?"

s/Medvedev/Medved/

Rather a silly statement, given the fact that religion, as practiced in the US, has left spirituality far behind and focuses entirely on the materialistic.

Medved is correct in his premise that a strong Christian conservative President would be acceptable to the Umma, while an athiest President would be offensive:

9:11 But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then are they your brethren in religion. We detail our revelations for a people who have knowledge.

Now all we have to do is repent, defer to Islam as the ‘religion of peace’, sign a bunch of checks every month, send our talent abroad to build them infrastructure, await the details of their revelations, allow Islam to be taught in public schools, and we’ll get along swell. Right?

Right?

Interesting verse number.

Medved proves once again that he's under the impression that Osama Bin Laden
is a donor to the Republican National Committee.

Now, look, I'm sure devout Muslims, along with devout Christians and devout Atheists are sick and tired of watching Brittany Spears getting in and out of her car and take it as a sign of the West's decadence.

As an agnostic, I personally don't see what the big deal is.

But I'm going to run the video one more time in slo-mo to see if I can see what the big deal is.

I have a feeling Osama and Medved are doing the same, the dirty guys.

It's always fascinating to watch how people who reject the obvious answer to a question contort themselves with the most far-fetched alternatives.

Look, I think that this is a load of evasive crap. I think moderate Muslims think about our policy towards Palestinians, our occupation in Iraq, and our history of meddling in the region. Period.

Having God on our side is not going to put anyone at ease.

After all, we've just had one of the most openly religious administrations in our history. Is anyone in the Middle East reassured by George Bush's Christianity?

I'm sure Medved thinks that none of the obvious reasons moderate Muslims are upset actually upset anyone. In fact, I'd wager that he believes not just that they ought not upset anyone (which would be wrong, but argumentatively tenable), but that they in fact do not upset anyone (which would be ludicrous, but the conclusion he needs to dismiss the notion of blowback).

What I take away from Medved's piece is this: never vote for a Quaker for President.

You'd think this brand of intolerance would go away and be left as an ugly footnote in American history. Guess that was too much to hope for.

Modern secularism rejects accepts the notion that human beings feel a deep-seated, unquenchable craving for making connections with Godliness Añejo Tequila, in its various definitions and manifestations ages and proofs. Amen

Mark this day - Jay Jerome has contributed a comment with which I can wholeheartedly agree!

That is all.

I’m impressed Bill, I’m sure many others are at your mastery of the Qur’an, but your report of it bears only the sort of weight it bears in the minds of those with whom we have to deal.

A believer may, will, and must confer with an unbeliever, a fundamentalist may find common ground with a believer. A fundamentalist may be able to speak openly with a fundamentalist of another faith if there is mutual understanding, a condition contrary to their customary mind-set. Interleaved are varieties of reflex, imagination, and commitment of course. No sharp straight lines.

Secular thinking existed in the Islamic world in the twelth century. Averroes (1126-1198) “Averroes is critical of philosophical compromises made in the name of theological orthodoxy...In general,..he was allowed to express his views freely and with influence.” Of course, he had a much greater influence on our own civilization, which took centuries to unfold.

A Christian fundamentalist believes the Bible is the literal, word-for-word Word of God. Metaphor is only allowed in rare instances; The Song of Solomon is the primary case. A Christian evangelical sees the Bible as the Divinely inspired literal-and-figurative Word of God. The difference seems to come down to the scope allowed for the creative faculty of imagination. Liberal Christians see a range of views ranging from largely ultimate to loosely relevant.

Not gonna link right now, happy to if necessary, but the consensus of which I’m aware is that Islamic fundamentalism is losing its grip in a widespread way. Moderate Islam, in a variety of expressions, is the form of belief with which we may expect to be dealing.

The variety of views of the Qur’an held by that majority conditions your quotations. It limits the degree to which draconian declarations are taken to be definitive. All your appalling, intended-as-revealing citations might be matched by quotations from the Bible.

Myself, John, I can’t see what you and Osama and Medved see in her. All the real icons of female sexuality [“babes”] are on bloggingheads,

No?

Like I said felix notculpableandneitheramI, I can't see a thing.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I guess bloggingheads is O.K. if a person likes David Frum flashing himself before the world.

Unless I'm missing something, so I'll put my glasses on next time I go over there.

Wonder what makes this a moment to sound off on the dangers of electing an atheist president, when every one of the current candidates appears to be a believing Christian?

Dear Hilzoy, I trust you are well. I read your interesting column about Medved with interest. I need to first say I know very little about Medved. I'm a NATIONAL REVIEW conservative, so I mostly either read that magazine or go to NR Online.

One point I want to make is this, if 85 per cent of the American identify themselves as Christians, is it really so unreasonable for them to prefer their Presidents to at least formally affirm their basic beliefs and ideals?

As for Islam, I frankly admit I have little liking for that faith. The more I learn about it, the less I like it. You mentioned the Crusades, I in turn will point out the Muslims were waging jihads against Christians and pagans CENTURIES before the Crusades. And the Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683 was merely the last militarily conventional jihad.

In case you don't know of the book, I would like to recommend to you Harry Austryn Wolfson's THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE KALAAM. Far too briefly, the book discusses how Islamic theologians reacted to contact with Classical and Christian philosophy and theology. Wolfson convincingly demonstrates WHY Islam has so much trouble handling what we too loosely call "modernity." Because its resistance to the better ideas of the Classical/Judaeo Christian and Western tradition arises from the belief of too many Muslims that our ideas and beliefs are a THREAT to them.

Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

Because its resistance to the better ideas of the Classical/Judaeo Christian and Western tradition arises from the belief of too many Muslims that our ideas and beliefs are a THREAT to them.

no irony there. nope, not a bit.

so, yeah, let's kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity!

if 85 per cent of the American identify themselves as Christians, is it really so unreasonable for them to prefer their Presidents to at least formally affirm their basic beliefs and ideals?

people can prefer what they like. what would be nice is if their preference was based on something more than booger-eating ignorance.

Nell, I'm with you. I was wondering earlier if there was actually some "reason" (using the term loosely) why Medved wrote this now. Am I not keeping up with the news? Is some atheist being considered for a VP slot? Or is this some kind of pre-emptive strike in some other direction, or a smoke screen, or....?? Well, beats me.

I was wondering earlier if there was actually some "reason" (using the term loosely) why Medved wrote this now

At Althouse,Blogger Yachira said...(click on this, I love the blogger profile.)

"Obama To Rural Pennsylvanians: Vote For Me, You Corncob-Smokin', Banjo-Strokin' Chicken-Chokin' Cousin-Pokin' Inbred Hillbilly Racist Morons."

Oh my! It is so pathetic how teh hoi polloi are clinging to their religion, etc. in PA.

Just to make Medved's flesh creep: when Joe Biden got inro trouble for plagarizing a speech in the 1988 campaign, he was quoting an atheist! How much more scary do you need to get?

One point I want to make is this, if 85 per cent of the American identify themselves as Christians, is it really so unreasonable for them to prefer their Presidents to at least formally affirm their basic beliefs and ideals?

If 85% of Americans are caucasian, is it so unreasonable for them to prefer a white President? I kid, I kid.

More seriously, saying that 85% of Americans are Christian is rather non-sensical. 85% belong to denominations that describe themselves using the word Christian, but most of those denominations violently disagree about what Christianity entails. I'm a Christian and I have a lot more in common with many atheists than I do with many southern baptists. This is one of those cases where refusing to engage the details really does leave you knowing less than you should.

Electing a President is different from marrying a spouse. Religion is a perfectly legitimate criteria in one of those decisions but not in the other, just like foreign policy experience is a perfectly legitimate criteria for only one of those decisions.

You mentioned the Crusades, I in turn will point out the Muslims were waging jihads against Christians and pagans CENTURIES before the Crusades.

Indeed, Islam's military conquests before the crusades were morally unacceptable. I mean, they were so much worse than Rome's or Charlemagne's Alexander the Great's or Ghengis Khan's. If you want to claim that Islam is special in this regard, it would help if you explained what was it that Islam did that differed so much from contemporary peers.

Because its resistance to the better ideas of the Classical/Judaeo Christian and Western tradition arises from the belief of too many Muslims that our ideas and beliefs are a THREAT to them.

Talking about "muslims" as an aggregate makes about as much sense as talking about "christians" as an aggregate. There are different competing sects of Islam. In addition, muslims are found in many different cultures and nations. It is ridiculous to believe that an Indonesian muslim will behave just like a Moroccan muslim.

    "Obama To Rural Pennsylvanians: Vote For Me, You Corncob-Smokin', Banjo-Strokin' Chicken-Chokin' Cousin-Pokin' Inbred Hillbilly Racist Morons."

no, i'm afraid that was James Carville. you know, the guy who famously quipped:

    "Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between."

which is, ya know, an insult to the voters of both PA and Alabama.

Carville is a Clinton advisor? no way. impossible.

I've got no brief for medved, he doesn't make sense, but this comment from Hil does not make sense either.

"invading their countries without provocation"

Why the plural? You are talking about Iraq here, right? Gotcha. Bush invaded another country, Afghanistan, but that was provoked.

Do you believe that the Bush administration is at war with Islam?

The Bush administration says it is not war with Islam, they've fired some people whose rhetoric has gone too far down that road, I believe them on this particular point even if there are plenty I don't believe them on.

When the United States fought Panama, was it attacking "Catholicism"?

Was it attacking Lutheranism or Buddhism in the 1940s?

Was Indonesia attacking "Catholicism" when it invaded East Timor?

Was India attacking "Islam" in 1971?

Was Pakistan attacking Hinduism in 1965?

Would if it have been good for the world if Catholics, Lutherans, Buddhists or Hindus had chosen to regard those political wars as religious wars?

Who was the first in modern times to start talking about war on Islam - Muslims or non-Muslims?

You can lexis-nexis it

if 85 per cent of the American identify themselves as Christians, is it really so unreasonable for them to prefer their Presidents to at least formally affirm their basic beliefs and ideals?

No, it is not. There might be better, or at least equally good, things to consider when voting for a President, but similarity of basic beliefs is far from the worst reason for casting a vote.

Voting for a Christian because their point of view is agreeable to you: sounds fine to me. We just need to make sure that courtesy is extended to those with other points of view as well.

Voting for a Christian because they could more easily preside over public rituals containing religious language, or because it would be less likely to piss off militant fundamentalist Muslims: kind of weird, don't you think?

Magistra: And my flesh was already creeping (just a flesh wound, ma’m, pay no never mind). But maybe plagiarizing an atheist is all right? Because they deserve no consideration, much less credit for anything good that comes out of their mouths (don’t touch the pea soup)? Good ideas should never be left alone with an atheist, y’know. Anyway, if it’s good, was obviously already stolen from someone who wasn’t an atheist.

David Frum (we in Canada apologize, but it was the only way we could get rid of him) is one of the few the thought, the mere thought of viewing, made me feel sufficiently queasy to leap for my crucifix. And quickly leap to another channel.

Speaking of crucifixes, yesterday’s episode, Jesus Junk (it’s what the retailers call it) features the casual introduction of a green Cross lollipop. When he licks it it’s kinda weird. And funny.

Anyway, John, take it from me, as one who’s been in that room briefly, and seen the essential genre close up in its entirety, there’s not much to stir the loins, being for all intents and purposes plastic.

Of course, you may have a profound fondness for plastic, so I don’t want to block the view.

I’ve taken for granted and by deduction that it was unlikely. Something to do with wit, intelligence, and subtlety (yours; heaven forfend, not mine!). My lamentable parochialism rearing its head perhaps.

I'm confused: is Obama a Muslim or a Godless Communist atheist?

Hi, Thank for your comments. First, I was not offended by the "Caucasian" remark. I know you were just kidding.

Yes, I know Catholics disagree with all Protestants and that many Protestants disagree with each other. BUT, ever since the 18th century at least, the have agreed, more or less, to disagree without killing each other. But "mainstream" Christians do agree on such basics as the divine inspiration of the Bible, the Trinity, the divine incarnation of Christ, his passion, and resurrection. My point was that if about 85 percent of the American people believe like that, it is not SURPRISING they favor candidates who at least formally affirm such beliefs.

As for comparing Mohammed to other conquerors like Alexander the Great, Charlemagne, and Ghenghis Khan, I agree there is no real moral difference. What WAS unique was Mohammed teaching that Allah approved of using force to spread Islam. And that idea can be found in the Koran and Hadiths.

And I was NOT trying to speak of Muslims as tho they made up a single monolithic block. I tried to qualify my comments using terms like "many" or "too many." But I do think the jihadist strain of Islam is especially prone to resurface. That was one reason, as well as Islam's concept of God, why Magdi Allam (the Egyptian Italian ex Muslim) recently left Islam to become a Catholic.

Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

In my last note here, I forgot to include "Turbulence," to make it clear whom I was addressing. Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

I think we should make our policies based on what we think conclude is right, based on our best judgement, more than on any highly speculative theories of winning a "war on ideas" in the Muslim world or the world in general.

We can't control the way others hear the messages we want to send, whether ours is a message of intimidation or a message of reconciliation.

There's plenty of ways to justify opposing the Iraq war or torture without reference to a "war of ideas". You can use arguments like international law, a universalist concept of justice, utilitarianism or simple prudence to arrive at the same conclusions.

The danger in justifying all these conclusions on the basis of "a war of ideas" to make some people in the world like us, is that it implies a promise that if alot of provocative activities are stopped or various conciliatory actions are taken, that we could expect to see them reciprocated in good faith.

It presupposes a worldview where unilateral niceness reliably melts the hearts of people with hostile political agendas or viewpoints.

On the one hand, I doubt full-bore unilateral niceness would ever be adopted as a US policy, even if significant deviations from current policy occur. So, from that point of view, the worldview that says "I know the world will always reciprocate my good behavior" is not too dangerous because nobody will make that the core of their policy.

On the other hand, if someone did base policy on that worldview, it would be doomed pretty quickly when "bad things happened to good people" and then we'd have mass enthusiasm for going back a strategy of being "the baddest bad-ass in the prison yard" all over again.

Better to sell doing the right thing on the basis that it's the right thing. Better to denounce the wrong thing on the basis that its the wrong thing, or that the wrong thing does not work.

"Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between."
which is, ya know, an insult to the voters of both PA and Alabama.

This was a worse insult. via Instapundit

As for comparing Mohammed to other conquerors like Alexander the Great, Charlemagne, and Ghenghis Khan, I agree there is no real moral difference. What WAS unique was Mohammed teaching that Allah approved of using force to spread Islam. And that idea can be found in the Koran and Hadiths.

I don't think this is correct. Roman emperors were considered living gods in the official state cults and they spread those cults as their empire expanded. Aren't you familiar with the history of the early church where many martyrs were compelled to worship the emperor at temples? Charlemagne certainly relied on the divine right of kings and pushed the notion that he was entitled by God to do anything, including making war. Ghenghis and Alexander certainly claimed that their imperial conquests were divinely sanctioned.

The truth is that almost every imperial conquest in the ancient world was done with the approval of the relevant gods, according to the conquerors. And in many, but not all cases, the conquering empires strongly, um, encouraged their newfound subjects to worship gods associated with the empire. I'll grant that Ghengis was mostly an exception to that. Rome was more complicated, especially in the early years in that it was quite tolerant provided you were willing to sacrifice to the emperor occasionally. But after Christianity became the law of the land, Rome became somewhat less tolerant. Charlemagne was even less so.

There's plenty of writing in the Old Testament about how we should place the unbelievers under the ban and kill every single living thing lest the unbelievers pollute our culture and lead us away from God. The Koran seems almost pluralistic in comparison.

So John:
You’ve seemed stuck up of late, story-wise. Should we be concerned?

Agnosticism’ll do that to you.

"Talking about "muslims" as an aggregate makes about as much sense as talking about "christians" as an aggregate. There are different competing sects of Islam. In addition, muslims are found in many different cultures and nations. It is ridiculous to believe that an Indonesian muslim will behave just like a Moroccan muslim."

It makes about as much sense as talking about "the west". Please please get as angry about it the next time somebody brings up western colonialism, domination or whatever. They need just as stern a lecture as people get when they accidentally confuse the maghreb with the middle east or Iranians with Arabs. It would go like this:

"'Western', what is this 'western'? I see French, I see Americans, I see Germans and Belgians, but I don't see any country called 'West' or 'Westland' or 'Westia' that had an empire or an economic policy. I mean don't you know that Americans have diametrically opposed views on capital punishment and vacation times. Ha ha, that will teach you to venture your opinion about western people you ignorant occidentalist bigot. I need a UN resolution against occiphobia. It's this kind of thing you know, along with your gross generalizations about the decadent moral effects of this so-called 'western' culture, that make alot of western people convinced that there is a war on the west."

This was a worse insult. via Instapundit

damn. that was a good one!

Yes, I know Catholics disagree with all Protestants and that many Protestants disagree with each other. BUT, ever since the 18th century at least, the have agreed, more or less, to disagree without killing each other.

Um, I'm sorry, but what about WW1? Or even the War of 1812? Why don't all major wars in europe since the 18th century count against your analysis? This seems like an obvious point, so I must be misunderstanding you...

But "mainstream" Christians do agree on such basics as the divine inspiration of the Bible, the Trinity, the divine incarnation of Christ, his passion, and resurrection.

No, they don't really. Many Christians don't believe that the entire Bible was divinely inspired, many disagree about what it means for something to be "divinely inspired" and many don't even agree on what books should be included in the Bible. The nature of the Trinity is subject to great debate and the incarnation, passion, and resurrection are interpreted very differently in different denominations. These are not small differences. These disputes have lead to vicious wars in the past; the only reason they don't lead to wars today is that everyone has discovered that they'll never completely win and that its more profitable to live peacefully. In any event, since none of that stuff has anything to do with the business of government or even of personal values, I can't see how it would be relevant to electing a President. You can pull just about any conflicting ethical message you want from the Christian Bible and still claim to be faithful to it -- that means that knowing someone is a Bible-believing Christian doesn't tell you anything useful about them.

My point was that if about 85 percent of the American people believe like that, it is not SURPRISING they favor candidates who at least formally affirm such beliefs.

And my point was that almost any "Christian" Presidential candidate will be considered a heretic bound for hell by most "Christian" denominations. Given that disparity, it seems more than a little ridiculous to talk about "Christianity" as a meaningful category in this context.

It makes about as much sense as talking about "the west". Please please get as angry about it the next time somebody brings up western colonialism, domination or whatever. They need just as stern a lecture as people get when they accidentally confuse the maghreb with the middle east or Iranians with Arabs.

First off, I'm not upset. I don't know why you would impute such emotion to my words; that seems like a bizarre and counterproductive thing to do.

Secondly, I do think it is just as stupid to talk about "the West". I don't often hear people using that phrase though, or, at least not people I respect enough to engage with.

I mean don't you know that Americans have diametrically opposed views on capital punishment and vacation times.

Well, to the extent that G-8 nations or NATO for example coordinate and act in concert, it could make sense to talk about that specific group. Saying "NATO bombed Belgrade" makes sense in a way that saying "brown-skinned people hate America" does not. I think most people are clear that "the West" didn't invade Iraq but that the US and UK did.

Ha ha, that will teach you to venture your opinion about western people you ignorant occidentalist bigot. I need a UN resolution against occiphobia. It's this kind of thing you know, along with your gross generalizations about the decadent moral effects of this so-called 'western' culture, that make alot of western people convinced that there is a war on the west."

OK, now I'm going to pull a Farber and point out that this has nothing to do with anything I've said. I hope you enjoy arguing against imaginary opponents; no doubt they're easier to take down than real ones. If you want to engage with what people here have written however, I suspect we'll all find it more productive.

I'm confused: is Obama a Muslim or a Godless Communist atheist?

Your confusion is understandable.

The fact is, he is all of those things. As well as being a purveyor of liberation theology. He's a crypto black nationalist, too.

Plus, he has a funny name and big ears.

He does give a good speech, though.

I thought he was a crypto black rationalist. Not?

An atheist works for me, but I suspect that an outspoken atheist would be unelectable. How I’d like to see politicians respond on the question of religion: “It’s a personal matter and frankly none of your business.”

On Crusades, I prefer Inquisitions myself.

NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... Our two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency.... Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.... Our *four*...no... *Amongst* our weapons.... Amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, surprise.... I'll come in again.

I'm sure America has elected atheist presidents.

If 100% of Americans were atheists, would god still exist?

I get the distinct impression that Christians fear the answer is no: they seem to view their god as some sort of ageing celebrity who would dry up and disappear absent adequate publicity such as a mention in the Pledge.

If I believed in the sort of god Christians, Jews, and Muslims profess to believe in, I would consider it beneath His dignity to drag him into earthly politics. But I guess people like Medved have a less exalted view of their god than that.

-- TP

"I'm sure America has elected atheist presidents."

The Jefferson Bible.

Dear Russell. I missed your comments in my haste when skimming thru this.

Thank you for conceding it is not unreasonable for American Christians to prefer voting for candidate who, broadly, share their faith. And I do agree there are other factors we should consider in people who want to be our leaders.

And I do agree it's fair to ask American Christians to consider the POVs of candidates for office who happen to be Jews, Buddhists, Wiccans, Hindus, etc.

And I did not have in mind advocating any kind of established or state church or religion.

Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

Hi, Turbulence. Many thanks for your comments. I'll try to respond to the most important points you made.

I disagree with the analogy you made to the Emperor cult of the Roman Empire. That was not an ORIGINAL part of the Roman religion. The idea of divine kings originated in places like Egypt and was taken up by Alexander the Great and his Hellenistic successors. The pagan Romans used "Deified" emperors more as a basically "civic" means of encouraging loyalty to the Empire. The refusal of convinced Christians of the Early Church to worship the Emperor struck many pagan Romans as an act of disloyalty.

I also disagree with you saying Charlemagne believed in the "divine right of kings." I saw nothing like that in the best source we have for Charlemagne's life, Einhard's VITA KAROLI MAGNI. That idea belongs more to the 16th-17th centuries. Especially James I in England and Louis XIV in France.

Now I'll comment on your second note to me. I'm sorry if I was unclear. I had in mind the civil wars between Catholics and Protestants in France and at least the BEGINNING of the Thiry Years War as being "religious" wars. The wars you mentioned, such as WW I, were not MOTIVATED by religion, but by plain old national rivalries and secular quarrels.

Yes, I know Catholics and Protestants disagree in many important ways. Such ss which books belong in the Bible But if you expand the definition of "Christian" too far, it will become emptied of meaning. I still believe a basic core is needed. And for that, the Nicene Creed will do as well as any other for a summing up. And you seem to be AGREEING with my basic view that Catholics and Protestant resignedly agreed they would have to live with each other after the Peace of Wesphalia in 1648.

And I do agree that Catholics, say, would disagree with the Methodist theology of President Bush. But I and many other CAtholics still voted for Bush for OTHER than strictly religious reasons.

You are correct about how the Old Testament contains savage passages decreeing the "ban" for certain cities. BUT, the ancient Jews never claimed they had a mandage to conquer the entire world. The Koran does claim that for Muslims. Also, the OT, especially as time passed, does show the ancient Jews becoming more civilized. One example being how the Prophet Elisha refused to allow the King of Israel to execute the Syrian soldiers who tried to kidnap him. At Elisha's bidding the King of Israel treated the Syrians honorable and released them.

Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

I disagree with the analogy you made to the Emperor cult of the Roman Empire. That was not an ORIGINAL part of the Roman religion

The first imperial cult was started by the very first emperor of Rome; it lasted for centuries until Christianity was made the state religion. Why on Earth would it matter that the imperial cult wasn't "original"?

The pagan Romans used "Deified" emperors more as a basically "civic" means of encouraging loyalty to the Empire. The refusal of convinced Christians of the Early Church to worship the Emperor struck many pagan Romans as an act of disloyalty.

While the imperial cult was associated with civic loyalty, it was also a religion: people worshiped the emperor as a living god, made sacrificial offerings, took vows, etc. It was no less serious than the cults of other gods in the roman pantheon. The imperial cult had temples and priests and religious ceremonies. Sometimes a cigar really is a cigar.

The idea of divine kings originated in places like Egypt and was taken up by Alexander the Great and his Hellenistic successors.

First of all, I think the notion of kings claiming divinity predates Egypt and may reach back to Sumeria. Secondly, I think you've got your chronology backwards: Alexander conquered Egypt and began the Hellenistic line there. Thirdly, Alexander claimed to be the son of Zeus. Also, note that this idea of divine kings showed up in lots of other places unrelated to Egypt: you see it in Persia and many other societies around the world. It is politically useful to believe that the gods sanction the state, and so states adopted that belief in a myriad of societies around the world.

Even if you want to argue that Alexander was corrupted into believing that he was divine by the Egyptians, you still have to accept the fact that for a decent portion of his conquest, he went around telling people he was divine.

I also disagree with you saying Charlemagne believed in the "divine right of kings." I saw nothing like that in the best source we have for Charlemagne's life, Einhard's VITA KAROLI MAGNI. That idea belongs more to the 16th-17th centuries. Especially James I in England and Louis XIV in France.

I was indeed mistaken. My apologies. However, Charlemagne did consider himself God's representative on Earth and thus did espouse the notion that God supported spreading his kingdom by force of arms.

Now I'll comment on your second note to me. I'm sorry if I was unclear. I had in mind the civil wars between Catholics and Protestants in France and at least the BEGINNING of the Thiry Years War as being "religious" wars. The wars you mentioned, such as WW I, were not MOTIVATED by religion, but by plain old national rivalries and secular quarrels.

If you want to restrict the argument to wars that were "motivated by religion", then I think we're stuck: you could say that all wars were motivated by religion to some extent or you could say that no single war was motivated exclusively by religion: phenomena as complex as wars invariably have multicausal origins.

Which wars do you suggest were primarily motivated by religion in the last few centuries? The algerian war? Anticolonialism. The six day war? Neoanticolonialism. I think you'll have a hard time coming up with a war fought by moslims in that time period for which I can't make a good argument that non-religious reasons played a significant role.

Yes, I know Catholics and Protestants disagree in many important ways

That's something of an understatement, isn't it? The doctrine for many protestant churches holds that Catholics are going to burn in hell for eternity, that their religion is so defective that it is as akin to atheism. I am at a loss to understand why a protestant who believed such things would find a Catholic candidate any better than an atheist.

And for that, the Nicene Creed will do as well as any other for a summing up. And you seem to be AGREEING with my basic view that Catholics and Protestant resignedly agreed they would have to live with each other after the Peace of Wesphalia in 1648.

Even if I stipulated that the Nicean Creed was accepted by the vast majority of Christians, I don't understand how that is relevant to electing a President. Different churches that accept the Creed don't at all agree on what the creed means or what its practical implications are. Having a President who can recite the Creed doesn't seem very important to me, in and of itself.

You are correct about how the Old Testament contains savage passages decreeing the "ban" for certain cities. BUT, the ancient Jews never claimed they had a mandage to conquer the entire world. The Koran does claim that for Muslims.

I'm sure the Palestinians, Jordanians, Syrians, and Egyptians will take great comfort in your belief that Israelites believe they're entitled to "only" greater Israel and not the whole world. Once again, I kid, I only kid.

More seriously, lots of other groups, like Great Britain for whom the OT is holy writ of the state religion, have claimed that they're entitled or mandated to conquer the whole world. I believe there was also something called Manifest Destiny. You know, conquer vast tracts of land, spreading Christianity and capitalism!

Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I don't see the Islamic hordes rushing out to convert or conquer everyone in site. At least, no more so than various Christian denominations. Many countries in the middle east have substantial Christian minority populations that have lived in peace with their Islamic countrymen for over a millenia. If Islam compels its followers to kill or convert infidels, its followers must really suck to have left millions of infidels unkilled and unconverted in their own countries! That suggests to me that we don't have to worry much.

Also, the OT, especially as time passed, does show the ancient Jews becoming more civilized. One example being how the Prophet Elisha refused to allow the King of Israel to execute the Syrian soldiers who tried to kidnap him. At Elisha's bidding the King of Israel treated the Syrians honorable and released them.

Sure, there's lots of good stuff in addition to bad in the Old Testament. But the same holds true for the Koran: you can find horrible verses demanding that infidels be virtually enslaved, and you can find wonderful verses demanding that infidels be treated fairly and that moslims live in peace with them. That's my point: any message you want can be justified with these holy books, so the mere presence of a horrible sounding verse cannot be dispositive.

Don't get me started on Charlemagne, or we can be here for days...but I'll give you just two quotes. One from an eighth century Frankish prayer book:

'Let us pray for our most Christian emperor, that our Lord God may make all barbarian nations subject to him for our eternal peace'.

And another from a contemporary poem on Charlemagne's Saxon campaigns:

'Through the strength of virtues, through javelins smeared with gore
He [Charlemagne] crushed down and subjected it [the Saxon gens] to himself with a shimmering sword
He dragged the forest-worshipping legions into the kingdoms of heaven.'

Charlemagne and the scholars around him justified aggressive war on other peoples (Christian and non-Christian) via the Bible. He wasn't the first Christian ruler to do this and he certainly wasn't the last. (St Augustine used one of Jesus' parables to justify using violence against heretics). There is a message of peace in the Bible, but there is also a message of violence, and pretending it isn't there comes either from ignorance or the desire to mislead.

Be careful folks: magistra has weapons-grade medievalism, and she's not afraid to use it!

Dear Turbulence. Many thanks for the two notes you sent. I'll try to respond.

Yes, I agree the Imperial cult was taken seriously by many pagan Romans. And, yes, the beginnings does go back to Augustus and the cult of "Roma" and the Deified Julius Caesar. But, at first, there was resistance to this in ROME itself. It took some time for the Imperial cult to be accepted there. And I say this resistance was because it was not ORIGINAL to the ancestral pagan religion of Rome.

And I mentioned the idea of divine kings in ancient Egypt because the idea was more clearly and forcibly developed there. And while I would need to check Kramer's (not sure I recall the name right)book THE SUMERIANS to be sure, I don't think the Sumerians believed their kings to be GODS. And I do disagree with your comment about pre Muslim Iran or Persia. As dualistic Zoroastrians, the Persians did not believe their kings were divine. Blessed and protected by the good god Ahura Mazda, yes, but not GODS.

And I do agree Alexander the Great claimed to be the son of Zeus. I could point out he took pains to have or allow the Egyptians declare him the son of their chief god Amon-Ra.

And, yes, I do concede Charlemagne believed he was in a special way, an agent of God. No argument there.

Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

Dear Turbulence. Here I'm responding to your second note.

Of course I agree almost all wars have MIXED motivations for them. But SOME motivations are more primary than others. I still say that the wars after the Peace of Westphalia were motivated largely by non religious factors.

And I do agree that Muslims tend to justify their wars according to the precepts of the Koran. That is one reason why I regard the Jihadist strain or version of Islam with such hostility.

Oh, I certainly know many so called "fundamentlistic" or "evangelical" Protestants deny we Catholics are Christians at all. Which amuses me. After all, everything that makes any Protestant a Christian at all came from US. I firmly believe the Catholic Church to be the ORIGINAL Christian body.

And, any Baptist politician like Mike Huckabee, for example, who wants to run for the Presidency has no choice but to appeal to us as wel. Catholics are too NUMEROUS in the US for a prudent pol to act like a Jack Chick or Bob Jones.

Again, it seems I was unclear. I was not saying a pol has to confess the Nicene Creed to win office. I was merely trying to avoid expanding the DEFINITION of "Christian" too widely or vaguely.

And while there was a religious factor to the imperial expansion of the UK and US in the 19th century, I disagree that it was PRIMARY. Britain, for example, was far more concerned with protecting colonies like Austraia, and commercial interests. The conquest of India was not motivated primarily to wipe out Hinduism but to protect British trade and commerce there.

I'm sorry, but I don't share your optimism about Islam. And many Christians in the Middle East have been FLEEING their countries due to increased persecution by Muslims. For a more detailed discussion of this I recommend Bat Ye'or's THE DECLINE OF EASTERN CHRISTIANITY UNDER ISLAM (hope I got the title right, I no longer have the book), and George Weigel's FAITH, REASON, AND THE WAR AGAINST JIHADISM. And Weigel is one writer who HOPES for "reformist" Muslims to de Jihadize Islam.

And I'm afraid I'm more pessimistic than you and Weigel are about Islam. I've seen too many texts in the Koran expressing hatred and contempt for non Muslims. Also, the NICER parts of the Koran dates from the earlier, Meccan phase of Mohammed's career. Muslim theologians argue that the later, Medinan surahs abrogates the earlier texts when any contradiction between them is found. So, texts like, say, Surah 5.51 or 48.29 supercedes the "gentler" passages.

Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

I firmly believe the Catholic Church to be the ORIGINAL Christian body.

You are welcome to your uninformed and ahistorical opinion.

In fact, since the first Christian church was founded in Jerusalem, the Orthodox Church has an equal or superior claim to be considered the original Christian body: but in practical terms, it is clear that just as Judaism today is not Judaism of the first century, nor is Christianity - and nor is Islam. Religions change over time.

As long as we're talking about Christian preferences in politics, it may be worth noting that Jesus commended the centurion who came in search of healing for his servant, and said nothing the gospels preserve about the centurion needing to convert. Nor does Paul say that it would be better for believers to have fellow believers in office - he just says that God ordains authorities and that believers should submit to the law.

Where in Scripture is there justification for this idea that the faith of a candidate for office should be any business whatsoever of Christians?

Excuse me, is this the War of Ideas? These ideas seem a little bit old for modern warfare. They probably should be writing their memoirs [in memory of Maj. Dennis Bloodnok].

I will give you one more up-to-date data point. I happened to be in London this week (Jes knows the details) and on the way to Heathrow this morning for my return flight I had a taxi driver who engaged me in conversation. I don't know his ethnicity or religious affiliation but I can say that he was not a native English speaker though he obviously was a qualified London taxi driver (indicating several years' experience).

Our conversation was wide-ranging and after I explained a bit about American politics (he started by asking me about Obama and Clinton) he made a point of telling me about the large number of enemies George W. Bush has created for America (as he put it) around the world. His starting point was that GWB was elected twice.

I tried to explain that there isn't really a "left" with any power in the United States in contrast to the "right". I pointed out that Fox News is a Rupert Murdoch operation (he agreed) but I don't know whether I convinced him. I also used the example the Dixie Chicks and the response they received -- he hadn't heard of that.

He eventually came around to 9/11 conspiracy theories. He strongly believes one that I haven't researched yet.

I offer this anecdote for what it is worth as an insight into the current status of the War of Ideas. We're not winning.

Ral, as thanks for this contribution, I wish to present you with this oil painting of a 50-pound note, and a certificate of authenticity forged on the premises by Whacklow, Futtle, and Crun.

And many Christians in the Middle East have been FLEEING their countries due to increased persecution by Muslims. For a more detailed discussion of this I recommend...

Actually, I know a fair bit about this issue because my parents are native Christians who emigrated to the US from the middle east. And I have to say, I don't think your analysis holds up. The truth is that lots of people from the middle east are desperate to come to the west because even highly educated professionals have tremendous difficulty earning a living wage in many parts of the middle east. I have cousins with degrees in civil engineering that are now town engineers in Australia that literally could not afford to rent an apartment in the middle east. Christians disproportionately emigrate to Christian countries because everyone wants to be surrounded by like. Also, in many middle eastern countries, Christians are disproportionately likely to emigrate because they are more likely than average to have the degrees and cash needed to emigrate: ethno-religious minorities often have higher median education and wealth than the majority (see Chua's book World on Fire for more data on this phenomena).

Nevertheless, in the last 30 years, many middle eastern countries have witnessed increasing violence and discrimination against Christian minorities. However, most of the people I see breathlessly repeating this fact in US media completely fail to put it in context. First, this is a relatively recent phenomena: my parents left the middle east for economic prosperity and to avoid being drafted rather than to evade Islamic persecution. Secondly, these attacks are taking place in an environment where economic development appears to have failed spectacularly for most of the population: there are many more people every year, but the pie isn't getting any larger, so most people feel poorer every year. In conditions like that, any discernible group will face attacks and discrimination: people need to find a victim. Indeed, small religious minority groups, including some breakaway Islamic groups, have faced similar pressure. Now, are Christians getting persecuted because they're Christians per se or because as a class they have higher economic standing? It is difficult to untangle these effects, but I don't think religion per se is the primary factor here based on my research. We saw this same behavior in Rwanda: the killings began at a time when people were being crush economically as population grew but resources didn't. That's why in some Rwandan villages, you had Hutus murdering other Hutus while leaving Tutsis alone: the issue wasn't a burning hatred of Tutsis per se but needing to find an enemy to lash out at and take their stuff.

Finally, the community response to increasing economic strangulation tends to increase sectarianism. Christian families hear at church that the Ghirgis family can't make ends meet with their pharmacy, so they start giving them all their business. Now their Muslim neighbors can (legitimately) complain that Christians only buy from other Christians. That encourages them not to patronize the Ghirgis family's pharmacy, etc. but it also encourages them to stop patronizing ALL Christian businesses. These dynamics are very real: my relatives in the middle east deal with a completely different set of providers than their Muslim neighbors that live next door. This phenomena is new: in my parents' time, nothing like this existed. And these dynamics make violence and discrimination much easier: when the majority poor riot, they're going to burn down the Ghirgis family's pharmacy first because 1. they don't shop there, and 2. their Islamic friend's pharmacy is struggling for business, and 3. stupid Christians hate Muslims and never buy from them.

This nuanced picture is very different from that which you presented. These dynamics are not simple. I find the distortions that people promulgate on these issues to be immensely frustrating. Cherry picking facts is fun for the whole family, but sometimes you can't get anything right without understanding the broader context.

Northern Ireland (not actually free of killing) has a strong religious component too.
As for Caesar (or other religious) worship as a "civic duty", that's exactly what certain Christian groups demand in the US*/**. Gandhi in South Africa fought a law that declared all non-Christian marriages void. Btw, officially it was not the worship of the Caesar himself but his "genie" (that could be roughly equalled to a very personal guardian angel). To my knowledge the idea of divine kingship for the Roman emperors came from the East through the filter of Hellenism. It did not necessarily mean that the emperor himself was a god but that he represented them on Earth while alive (becoming one himself only after death), so being more a case of hypertrophic Caesaropapism.
Religion and WW1: the Ottoman empire tried to "jihadize" it not actually on their own initiative but because (at least partially) of pressure from the German Reich. Churches on all sides of the conflict tried to make hay out of it (including campaigns against abortion and birth control) but had not much part in starting it.
For Christian whackos on the actual warpath look for the Lord's Resistance Army in Africa. I don't know, whether that's preferable to the average violent Islamists***.

*in Austria the dominant party on the right wing demands that immigrants prove their loyalty by yearly eating a Wiener Schnitzel (=pork) in public or before witnesses (they were not yet able to make that law but are still working on that iirc)
**banning non-Christians from immigration and revocation of citizenship for objectors that already are citizens.
***Actually the Islamists look less threatening.

Sean: Muslim theologians argue that the later, Medinan surahs abrogates the earlier texts when any contradiction between them is found.

This claim is frequently made on anti-Islam websites. I suppose it sounds convincing to them, because evangelical Christians frequently seem to feel that the teachings of Paul abrogate the teachings of Jesus when any contradiction between them is found, so perhaps they think Muslims would do the same with the Qu'ran.

So, texts like, say, Surah 5.51 or 48.29 supercedes the "gentler" passages.

No, this is nonsense.

"It must be understood that the Qur'an is divine revelation, and as such all information in it is of divine origin. Allah revealed the Qur'an from Himself.lt is the words of Allah which existed before creation. And thus nothing can be added, subtracted or altered. In essence, the Qur'an existed and was complete before the creation of the Prophet Muhammad (sws), so it could not possibly contain any of the Prophet's own words or advice. An inclusion of such information would clearly contradict the purpose for which the Qur'an exists, compromise its authority and render it inauthentic as a divine revelation." - Gary Miller/Abdul-Ahad Omar

"But embrace of Jewish or Mormon practices doesn’t show contempt for the Protestant or Catholic faith of the majority, but affirmation of atheism does. ... A president with a mandate doesn’t have to be a regular church-goer, or even a convinced believer; but he can’t openly reject the religious sensibility of nearly all his predecessors and nearly all his fellow citizens. A leader who touts his non-belief will, even with the best of intentions, give the impression that he looks down on the people who elected him."-Medved

While some atheists are contemptuous of religion, many are not.
And I can find plenty of Christians in my Bible belt community who sure as Hell look down on non-Christians, and for that matter Christians who aren't "Bible believing" enough for them.

In a strange way, Medved has a point: He's quite right about how much religion has been woven into our government (I don't think it's a good thing, but there you are). But he's also slightly ridiculous--why the heck does a U.S. president need to honor Billy Graham? And why does he think a "believer" president from a different tradition would be able to do so without hypocrisy? I'm a Christian, and I certainly don't feel Graham's rallies represent some huge boon to America.

I agree, this would make more sense if there was an atheist in the race--especially given Medved's emphasis that he's not saying church attendance or anything like that is required, just belief (of course, if he put church-going on the list, Bush would be screwed, since he doesn't). And unlike Dinesh D'Souza, he's not linking atheism with sex, women's rights, gay rights and all the other right-wing bugbears. Odd.

As for Who Is Michael Medved: In the seventies, he and his brother wrote a series of film books mocking Hollywood stinkers (50 Worst Films of All Time, Golden Turkey Awards). Then he moved into mainstream film criticism. Then he became a culture warrior, arguing that Hollywood sleaze is destroying America and that Hollywood spends too much time worrying about creating art and not enough about money (on the grounds G-rated films are such big moneymakers, if Hollywood really cared about the bottom line everyone on screen would still sleep in twin beds). Then he became a general culture/right-wing critic. It's an interesting career trajectory.

Dear Jesurgislac. Many thanks for your remarks. I have time to respond to only one note today. Yours seem simplest to reply to.

And I in turn disagree with your denial that the Catholic Church is the original form of Christianiy. Of COURSE the Church BEGAN in Jerusalem. NO Catholic denies that. And, of COURSE. the Orthdodox Churches were part of that Catholic Church before the schism of 1054.
I also point out the attempts made by both Catholics and Orthodox to heal the schism and reunite. Esp. at the Council of Florence around 1440.

I don't know if you have heard of him, but I would like to recommend to you Vladimir Soloviev's book THE RUSSIAN CHURCH AND THE PAPACY. Soloviev was a Russian Orthodox whose studies of the Scriptures, Fathers, and Church history convinced him the Orthodox churches were tragically mistaken in breaking away from communion with the Catholic Church.

And from a different point of view, I recommeand as well John Henry Newman's AN ESSAY ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE. Newman began as a firmly convinced Protestant when he too started studying the Fathers and Church history. Similarly to Soloviev, he ended up becoming convinced the Church of England was wrong and that the only right course for him was to become a Catholic.

Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

Note to Self: Write an article on why a fundamentalist Christian should never be President... There's lots of proof for that supposition.

Write an article on why a fundamentalist Christian should never be President... There's lots of proof for that supposition.


So, who did you have in mind? I think as close as you're going to get is Jimmy Carter the Baptist. Possibly Lyndon Johnson and James Garfield, Disciples of Christ. Nixon and Hoover were Quakers; dunno if that qualifies. The rest are mostly Episcopalians and Methodists, with a few Unitarians and the odd Catholic.

Coming from someone who argues that slavery has gotten a bad rap ...

hilzoy: Where does Medved argue that slavery has gotten "a bad rap"? You've linked to an article in which he refers to slavery as "an evil institution." I don't see any evidence, in this article or elsewhere, that he has ever viewed slavery in a more favorable light. I eagerly await your retraction ....

"Where does Medved argue that slavery has gotten 'a bad rap'?"

Medved:

[...] Unfortunately, the current mania for exaggerating America’s culpability for the horrors of slavery bears no more connection to reality than the old, discredited tendency to deny that the U.S. bore any blame at all.

[...]

An honest and balanced understanding of the position of slavery in the American experience requires a serious attempt to place the institution in historical context and to clear-away some of the common myths and distortions.

[...]

In short, politically correct assumptions about America’s entanglement with slavery lack any sense of depth, perspective or context. As with so many other persistent lies about this fortunate land, the unthinking indictment of the United States as uniquely blameworthy for an evil institution ignores the fact that the record of previous generations provides some basis for pride as well as guilt.

HTH. HAND.

Sean: And I in turn disagree with your denial that the Catholic Church is the original form of Christianiy.

Well, you can disagree if you like, but it's completely unhistorical to argue that the modern Catholic Church is anything like the "original form of Christianity".

I could recommend to you the website Early Church Texts and the study of some scholarly histories of early Christianity (you'll find a decent bibliography here). That would give you a much better idea of why the Catholic Church's claim to be "original Christianity" is as much a matter of faith as the same claim made by the Orthodox Church, the Latter Day Saints, the Jehovah's Witnesses, or the Irvinites.

I decline your recommended reading: I'm already quite aware that converts believe the teaching of their faith is true, and don't need to read another couple of biographies to find it out. (You might find it educational to read an autobiography of a Catholic who converted to Islam or to Judaism, to see how the same mental process occurs no matter which religion the convert is coming from or to. But I suspect that you don't particularly want to be educated in that way...)

Did Hilzoy bother to read the article Medved wrote on slavery? Medved mentions "evil" I think three or four times, and hard as I tried, I just can't see how he's arguing "that slavery got a bad rap." Writing that kind of makes it seem like Medved wouldn't have a problem with slavery. From reading the article, I honestly believe Medved wouldn't reinstitute slavery, even if he could. Why does Hilzoy imply otherwise?

It's worth noting that the Medveds attracted notoriety in film fan circles when it turned out that they hadn't actually seen some significant fraction of the movies they mocked in their books. They were relying on posters, blurbs, and other people's reviews. It was really not a surprise to find them going for the conservative movement, nor them being welcomed in it - the machine seems to have a special fondness for brazen liars.

Sean, you're still not explaining any scriptural foundation for this zealous interest in the personal convictions of leaders. (Passages about church leadership won't cut it, just to forestall the obvious, because as Jesus and Paul both explained, the church is not the state, and vice versa.)

As for ignoring the majority or thinking them wrong...it's worth remembering that there was never majority support for the war on Iraq until after it was underway. But one seldom hears Bush condemned for his scorn for the majority in this regard, or any other. I want to see someone being consistent about such things before I'm willing to give weight to a selective criticism - if it would be bad and wrong to have a president whose religious views differed from the majority, then it was bad and wrong to go war on Iraq, it is bad and wrong to mess in any major way with Social Security, it is bad and wrong not to have universal health care, and on and on.

Of course, that kind of poll-driven politics wouldn't be biblically justifiable, either.

It's probably a waste of time pointing this out to you, juandimensional, but only a gibbering moral idiot would have written Medved's point 3.

Jes— V cool site, Early Church Texts. Thanks.

Let me extend my previous remark to include Medved's point 6.

"Writing that kind of makes it seem like Medved wouldn't have a problem with slavery."

No, it doesn't. It makes it seem, and not "kind of," like she was writing that Medved implied "that slavery got a bad rap."

Not having a problem with slavery is an entirely different concept that you are introducing as a straw man, since, in fact, no one said anything of the kind other than, you know, you.

Medved's piece was itself an attack on a straw man, an attack based on the false premise "open-minded students of our history" feel "more guilt than pride" over U.S. history and that there is a "current mania for exaggerating America’s culpability for the horrors of slavery."

Then he purports to supply an "honest and balanced understanding of the position of slavery" unlike "the common myths and distortions" that, you know, those nasty leftists teach on college campuses.

Then he goes through various more straw men claims, by the numbers.

1. "In this context there is no historical basis to claim that the United States bears primary, or even prominent guilt for the depredations of centuries of African slavery."

Since no one claims that, another winner. And so on.

The overall point of the piece might well be read as "slavery? It's just not so darn bad as some say, and even if it was, you have to appreciate the context, and darn it, just quit saying such unfair stuff about the U.S. and slavery."

No one has remotely claimed that Medved was claiming that slavery was hunky-dory. We're claiming that his piece is a piece of tripe consisting of nothing but straw men and whining about largely non-existent America-bashers. Those are two different complaints.

Dear Jesurgislac. Thank you for your second note to me, despite my disagreeing with you.

And I reiterate, the Catholic Church (and in a somewhat lesser way, the Orthodox churches)is the original form of Christianity. You seem to have the mistaken idea that if the Church of today is the same Church of, say, AD 100, it should LOOK the same in every way. Not so! Let me propose the analogy of the acorn and the mature oak tree. The tiny acorn and massive oak looks so different-but they are from the same ORIGINS.

Further, in Scripture alone, you will find the beginnings or origins of the seven sacraments (such as the Real Presence/Mass, Baptism, confession of sins, the sacrament of the sick, etc.) the three fold hierarchy of bishops, priests, deacons, Papal primacy, separation of Church and state, and so on. And all of these so CATHOLIC ideas, beliefs, institutions, etc., can be found as well in such early post apostolic writings as the Didache, Clement of Rome, Igantius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus of Lyons, etc. My personal favorite being the Letters of St. Ignatius (d. c. AD 107).

And of course I agree that accepting the claims of the Catholic Church is also a matter of faith. I simply argue that based on the evidence of the Scriptures and the Fathers, our claims are solidly based on EVIDENCE and logic.

And your dismisssal of Soloviev and Newman completely missed the point. The works of theirs I cited were NOT autobiographies, but serious studies of the sources I cited and how and why Soloviev and Newman came to the conclusions they reached.

Thank you for the link for the Church Fathers. I might used it. Altho I have a fair selection of the Fathers at my home and can easily google for more.

Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

Dear Bruce. Thank you for the paragraph in one of your notes asking for comments from me.

Truth to say, I don't quite know how to reply. I've never advocated in any of my notes that a candidate for office SHOULD be a Baptist, Catholic, Jew, or Buddhist. All I was trying to suggest was that if 85 percent of the American people identify themselves as Christians, it was not PER SE wrong or unreasonable of them to prefer voting for candidates who share their basic beliefs and ideas.

Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

I simply argue that based on the evidence of the Scriptures and the Fathers, our claims are solidly based on EVIDENCE and logic.

Yes, that's what the Jehovah's Witnesses say too. It didn't seem to occur to them (I tried pointing this out several times when I was doorstepped by them) that no matter how logical a structure is, if it begins from mistaken premises, it's still wrong.

I don't say that Catholics are wrong to believe their Church is the original church. That's faith: it's not history, it's religion.

Jes— V cool site, Early Church Texts. Thanks.

I didn't even know it existed till I was hunting it up for Sean - I was trying to find an edition of the early church texts I remembered to point out to him. Google-fu produced this instead, and I think it's rather nifty, especially the fancy things it does with Greek etymology.

Not an "edition of the early church texts" - a history of the early church based on those texts. Bah.

Dear Jesurgislac. I wish to comment on your note criticizing what I said about the Muslim principle of "abrogation."

I stand by what I've said about how Muslim theologians resolve contradictions in the Koran using "abrogation." Your quote from Mr. Miller is unconvincing, because it is not TRUE. The Koran ITSELF authorizes the abrogating of texts when Mohammed changed his mind about this or that matter. See Surah 2.106.

If I could figure out how to insert a link or two in here, I would. Because all I needed to do was google "Muslim theory of abrogation of Koranic texts" to find lots of sites discussing abrogation.

Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

The Koran ITSELF authorizes the abrogating of texts when Mohammed changed his mind about this or that matter. See Surah 2.10

I notice on googling that verse is a favorite one of hate-Islam sites and Christian "discussions" of Islam - it took me four Googlepages to get to an actual text of the Qu'ran.

In terms of faith, your assertion that this applies "when Mohammed changed his mind" is neither textually nor theologically correct: the verse makes no reference to Mohammad nor to "changing his mind".

The book from which that single verse is taken is Al-Baqara, "the cow", from the argument between Moses and the people of Israel about a heifer that should be sacrificed to find a murderer. It is a book of law, as Leviticus is, and it is also a book about convincing the pagans and Jews of Medina to become Muslims, as the book of Joshua is about the conquest of Canaan by the Israelite army.

It is for the most part a very early Sura (I think there are some framing verses that it's agreed have been added later). The verse that Islamophobes are so fond of citing is, in context, clearly talking up Islamic law to the pagans and Jews: "None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar: Knowest thou not that Allah Hath power over all things?"

If I could figure out how to insert a link or two in here, I would.

Easy. Key in (substituting right and left angle brackets for the [ } I have entered)

{a href="the url of the site">The name of the site{/a}

Because all I needed to do was google "Muslim theory of abrogation of Koranic texts" to find lots of sites discussing abrogation.

Yes, but did you notice? Most of them were not by Muslims. The top-level most-linked to site is an article by a Jesuit.

This article by a Muslim does discuss "abrogration":

Nowadays, you can easily identify two kind of people who are considered to be pro-abrogation advocates, one is the Muslim fundamentalists, who refuse not only to consider to the falsity of this destructive principal, but they are not willing to see what are the implications of acknowledging abrogation in legislation sources, and they consider refusing this principal, as a border line heresy at best.
The second, might be a surprise to many, for they have nothing to do with Islam, they are the anti-Islam missionaries, orientalist, and Sunday evangelical preachers.
For both groups, the reason behind such support is clear, for without it, Islam today would have a completely different face, a face which is in more coherent with the essence of the true message as revealed by the prophet and taught in the Noble Quran.

Sean, what I'm trying to do is suggest that "All I was trying to suggest was that if 85 percent of the American people identify themselves as Christians, it was not PER SE wrong or unreasonable of them to prefer voting for candidates who share their basic beliefs and ideas." has problems much greater than may first appear.

In the first place, it's not Biblical. Christians are nowhere instructed to prefer Christians in position of secular authority, and are explicitly cautioned in various contexts about separating themselves from others. Second, we've seen a recurring complication when people pay too much attention to people who make public professions of faith - they get crooks, liars, and self-loathers. The rate of fraud is much higher among prominent figures within the Christian Right, for instance, than in the population at large, and it appears that there are more active but closeted gays in the upper ranks of the Republican Party than in the population at large.

So yes, I think that giving attention to a candidate's professed label should be so far below other considerations as to be negligible. Is the candidate honest? Competent? Do they show the qualities of compassion, of prudence, of love of justice and peace? We would, for instance, have been much better off with P.Z. Myers president the last four years than Bush, no matter how much profession of holiness Bush makes.

If you read the debates around the Constitution, you'll find that one of their concerns behind the no-religious-test clause was hypocrisy. They knew from their own experience that when religious labels are deemed important, people lie. And you can scarcely rad the history of the abuse of religious labeling by Nixon, Reagan, and both Bushes and not see their point all over again. Giving weight to the candidate's claimed faith invites gullibility in voters and corruption in candidates. Furthermore, I don't see how any honest observer can look at the history of the US since World War II and find the slightest reason to believe that overt Christian display in candidates is associated at all with qualification to govern honestly, justly, or competently.

It's been tried, again and again. It doesn't work. Insofar as Christians should care about what actually happens in the world, as opposed to what people should wish for, I think they should feel a duty to tell themselves and each other that whether a candidate claims to be Christian simply shouldn't matter much, and to prefer good candidates of any creed, including none. Because we've had a couple generations now of professing Christians destroying American principles and the actual living conditions of everyone but the very wealthiest, and it's about time to try something else already.

Whoops, one last thing:

At a minimum, I can't see how anyone who takes "by your fruits who shall know them" and "but those who do my will" seriously can talk about the desirability of considering a candidate's faith without a whole lot of public reflection and repentance for the tremendous harm that stance has done to our country so far. We are in terrible shape, and is it partly the fault of those who thought that the Christianity or lack of it a candidate claimed matters.

I was going t oreply to Juandimensional et al, but Gary said almost everything I would have said. The one additional thing: I chose the phrase "has gotten a bad rap" precisely because it did not imply that Medved had defended slavery, said slavery was just fine, etc. All it means is: it has been unduly criticized; made out to be worse than it was. Which is, I think, what Medved said.

(PS: yes, of course I read the article.)

To Mr. Farber,

"The overall point of the piece might well be read as "slavery? It's just not so darn bad as some say, and even if it was, you have to appreciate the context, and darn it, just quit saying such unfair stuff about the U.S. and slavery."

The first question I'd ask you is, is there a context to slavery, or is it all equally horrific and indistinguishable? And if it is distinguishable, can anyone argue that some aspects of it may be less horrific than common knowledge suggests without claiming "slavery got a bad rap"?


Second, is the historical legacy of slavery in America as represented in the country's consciousness exactly at the right level? Is it possible we are not aware enough of slavery's pernicious legacy and its effects even today? And if that
is possible, then isn't it possible that we give it too much weight? Or is that argument impossible to make in good faith?

Third, as for straw men, maybe I'm wrong, but there seems to be both within America and without, the idea that the "peculiar institution" is more peculiar to the U.S. than to England, or to Europe, or South America, or the Arab world. Is there another country that struggles with its legacy of slavery as publicly and as often as we do? That's a serious question. I'm unaware of any. I do hear commonly that the economic wealth of this nation was built upon slave labor. Is questioning this "truth" taboo? Am I saying "slavery got a bad rap" if I ask the question?

My point is that Hilzoy's offhanded remark was a cheap shot. That doesn't mean that people on the right don't take cheap shots all the time. It doesn't mean that I even agree with Medved, because on the larger issue, I don't believe we as a country appreciate enough the damage slavery has done. What I do agree with is that people of good will, even conservative ones, should be able to challenge accepted wisdom without being labeled an apologist for slavery, which parse as you might, the words "slavery got a bad rap" clearly implies.


Dear Hilzoy,

I didn't notice your comment, until after I posted, but now that you have, I'll ask you a question directly.

Medved is Jewish. He claims that not six million, but perhaps four to five million Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis in WWII.

In other words, the Nazis were "unduly criticized; made out to be worse than [they were]". Will you write that "Michael Medved argues that the Nazis have gotten a bad rap on the Holocaust." Can you write that with a straight face unaware of what your words imply? Do you see now, what a low blow your choice of words were?

People of good will, even conservative ones, should be able to challenge accepted wisdom.

The problem is, it is impossible to read Medved's article knowing *anything* about slavery and say that Medved is a person of good will. He is blatantly biased in his arguments. Take for example, his claim that 'slavery existed only briefly...in the history of the Republic'. He carefully makes his calculations to exclude a century and a half of American slaveholding before 1776. Similarly, the claim that the 'US merits special credit for its rapid abolition' is just stupid. The UK banned the slave trade in 1807: the US carried on with slavery for nearly sixty more years and a large percentage of its population were prepared to fight a war to perpetuate slavery. Medved is not trying to making a historically-based argument: he is trying to play down the inexcusable. That's why he ends an article on slavery in the US by saying: 'the record of previous generations provides some basis for pride as well as guilt.'

Sean, I agree with you it would be perfectly natural for American Christians to vote for a Christian, whether or not it's scripturally mandated or a good idea.

That has nothing to do with Medved's article, His point was that electing an atheist would be a bad thing in itself, which is a separate question from whether Christians would vote for an atheist. He's arguing that it will gut the religious elements of our government and offend Muslims (ahh, those conservatives, so quick to support their Muslim brothers in religion).

"The first question I'd ask you is, is there a context to slavery,"

Yes.

"or is it all equally horrific and indistinguishable?"

No.

"And if it is distinguishable, can anyone argue that some aspects of it may be less horrific than common knowledge suggests without claiming 'slavery got a bad rap'?"

Yes. Medved, however, didn't make some other argument.

"Second, is the historical legacy of slavery in America as represented in the country's consciousness exactly at the right level?"

I don't think the premises it would be necessary to measure to answer the question are measurable, so the question isn't answerable.

"Is it possible we are not aware enough of slavery's pernicious legacy and its effects even today?"

I'm not much for questions premised on some sort of group consciousness, but a "yes" could be a reasonable answer.

"And if that is possible, then isn't it possible that we give it too much weight?"

It's possible, but I don't believe there's any evidence that that is so.

"Or is that argument impossible to make in good faith?"

Given that one would have to be living in some sort of oblivious fantasy world, with no sense of what it's like to have dark skin in this country, I'd say that it's possible to make such an argument in good faith, but only with a tremendous amount of accompanying ignorance and general lack of experience at what life is like in the U.S. for people different from one's self, a considerable lack of knowledge of civil rights history, Reconstruction, African-American history, the actual detailed political history of 1820-1861, and so on.

But if the person making the argument is well familiar with, say, The Wilmington Race Riot, and Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney, and Reconstruction, and more, they're perhaps not deeply moved by urgency to speak up against America's record with slavery being spoken of too harshly, all things considered.

"Third, as for straw men, maybe I'm wrong, but there seems to be both within America and without, the idea that the 'peculiar institution' is more peculiar to the U.S. than to England, or to Europe, or South America, or the Arab world."

You're wrong.

And "there seems to be" is not a cite. If you have a checkable cite that demonstrates your claim, put it forth. If you don't have a cite, you don't. Speculation about is neither an acceptable subsitute, nor a desirable one.

"Is there another country that struggles with its legacy of slavery as publicly and as often as we do? That's a serious question. I'm unaware of any."

I'm not going to measure "as publically and as often," but are there lots of other countries that have struggled, or continue to struggle, with the legacy of slavery?

Well, jeebus, yes. That you're unaware of any, well, um, ok. Brazil, Britain, West Africa, France, the Netherlands (aka "Holland"), Portugal, oh, darn, I'm going to run into the spam filter.

Posted a reply I cut short halfway through, on the legacy of slavery in various countries, and sure enough, it's caught in the you-know-what trap. I pray to the Lords of Kobol for the comment's release.

Juandimensional: no, I don't.

Dear Fraser. Many thanks for your note. I have time for a quick reply before going to work.

But, in my original reply to Hilzoy I was not talking about Mr. Medved. Because I know too little about him to do do. So, I did not. Hilzoy's column sparked ideas on other topics which I did comment on.

Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

Magistra writes;

"Take for example, his claim that 'slavery existed only briefly...in the history of the Republic'. He carefully makes his calculations to exclude a century and a half of American slaveholding before 1776. "

I don't want to be in the position of defending Medved, but he has a point. When we talk about an entity's responsibility for slavery it's not fair to claim that blame extends before that entity's inception. Prior to 1776, or the Ratification, you weren't an American, you were a Georgian, or a Virginian or a New Yorker etc., and loyal to the Crown. Slavery was legal in England and we were part of that dominion. The sin belonged to England. If England had outlawed it, the Founders would not have fought the Revolution to preserve slavery.
The sin became ours when we became a nation. The political entity that is the U.S. got rid of slavery less than a hundred years after its inception. That's not a meaningless distinction.

Second, to use England as a comparison, when they abolished slavery there were fewer than 14,000 slaves and no chattel slavery in England. This isn't to say there weren't far more in their colonies, but abolition for the English was not anywhere near the financial threat to the Monarchy that abolition in the U.S. was to our government. Can you think of any other country that sacrificed anywhere near so much of its economic wherewithal to end slavery? If not, doesn't that deserves some notice?

Further, as awful as it is to realize that a large part of the populus was willing to go to war to defend slavery, how more enobling is it that more than half of the population was willing to go to war to preserve a union that would not tolerate slavery? It would have been much easier to turn a blind eye. What other country fought slavery at the potential cost of its own existence? Does that deserve notice, or is the mention of it merely "playing down the inexcusable.?"

Finally, is it downplaying the inexcusable to say that our guilt was greater in preserving slavery so long after other Western countries ended the practice, and our sacrifice in lives and money greater than any other nation in ending it?

If the ratchet only clicks one way, that our actions were inexcusable, then Lincoln, the abolitionists and the Union Army deserve no praise for putting out a fire they should have never allowed to burn in the first place. But if they do deserve praise for their actions, aren't we as Americans allowed to take some pride in that fact? And if we are, then don't you end up with 'the record of previous generations provides some basis for pride as well as guilt.'? How is that wrong? And how is that bad faith?

Juandimensional, check your history. At the time of the Revolution slavery was not legal in England although the slave trade was.

Slavery itself was legal only in the colonies. It doesn't take much Googling to learn this.

"...how more enobling is it that more than half of the population was willing to go to war to preserve a union that would not tolerate slavery?"

That's a nice thought, but it's a total fantasy. The South attacked the North at Fort Sumter. The North didn't declare war on the south, to eliminate slavery, or for any other reason. The South seceded in order to preserve their right to expand slavery in the West, to maintain that the return of escaped slaves was a protected Constitutional right, and for a variety of other reasons, including protecting the right to maintain slavery in existing territory, which was, however, not under threat.

I suggest reading Lincoln's First Inaugural, among other documents.

[...] Apprehension seems to exist among the people of the Southern States that by the accession of a Republican Administration their property and their peace and personal security are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all the while existed and been open to their inspection. It is found in nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but quote from one of those speeches when I declare that--

I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.

Those who nominated and elected me did so with full knowledge that I had made this and many similar declarations and had never recanted them; and more than this, they placed in the platform for my acceptance, and as a law to themselves and to me, the clear and emphatic resolution which I now read:

Resolved, That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the States, and especially the right of each State to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of power on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depend; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any State or Territory, no matter what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.

I now reiterate these sentiments, and in doing so I only press upon the public attention the most conclusive evidence of which the case is susceptible that the property, peace, and security of no section are to be in any wise endangered by the now incoming Administration. I add, too, that all the protection which, consistently with the Constitution and the laws, can be given will be cheerfully given to all the States when lawfully demanded, for whatever cause--as cheerfully to one section as to another.

[...]

One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute. The fugitive- slave clause of the Constitution and the law for the suppression of the foreign slave trade are each as well enforced, perhaps, as any law can ever be in a community where the moral sense of the people imperfectly supports the law itself. The great body of the people abide by the dry legal obligation in both cases, and a few break over in each. This, I think, can not be perfectly cured, and it would be worse in both cases after the separation of the sections than before. The foreign slave trade, now imperfectly suppressed, would be ultimately revived without restriction in one section, while fugitive slaves, now only partially surrendered, would not be surrendered at all by the other.

[...]

I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution--which amendment, however, I have not seen--has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments so far as to say that, holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.

[...]

In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to "preserve, protect, and defend it."

I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

"But if they do deserve praise for their actions, aren't we as Americans allowed to take some pride in that fact?"

As an abstraction? Sure. On the basis of a fantasy in which the North nobly went to war to eliminate slavery? No, because that is a lie.

"And if we are, then don't you end up with 'the record of previous generations provides some basis for pride as well as guilt."

As a glittering generality, in vacuo? Sure?

As applied to Medved's conglomeration of straw man accusations and ahistoric, unsupported, claims and apologies regarding slavery and how it is taught in America?

No.

Hilzoy writes:

"Juandimensional: no, I don't."

I realize you're busy, and I'm flattered you bothered to answer at all, but I forgot to put a question mark after my first and most important question, so you may have missed it.

My first question should have read,"Will you write that 'Michael Medved argues that the Nazis have gotten a bad rap on the Holocaust?'" And if not, why not?

I thought the comparison was apt. They're both horrific historic events that by your definition should warrant a "bad rap".

Medved claims that both the institution of slavery and the Nazis re: the Holocaust were "unduly criticized; made out to be worse than [they were]." In the case of the Holocaust, Medved claims a million or more fewer Jews died than the generally accepted number of six million. Doesn't that mean he thinks the Nazis have gotten a bad rap on the Holocaust? By your lights isn't that a perfectly acceptable way of phrasing it that no reasonable person would find objectionable?

Did I make mistake in reasoning, or am I missing some obvious distinction?

"In the case of the Holocaust, Medved claims a million or more fewer Jews died than the generally accepted number of six million."

Link, please?

Regardless, while we might or might not discuss something else Medved may have said, it's unclear why some other thing he may have said would be necessary to discuss this piece.

Mr. Farber,

You're mischaracterising my words.

"As an abstraction? Sure. On the basis of a fantasy in which the North nobly went to war to eliminate slavery? No, because that is a lie."

I chose my words very carefully, "... more than half of the population was willing to go to war to preserve a union that 'would not' tolerate slavery..."

The North tolerated slavery (barely) until the hostilities started, and after that point, at any time the North could have chosen to submit to the
South's demands and preserve a union that 'would' tolerate slavery and not risk dissolution. That's not a difficult distinction. The attack on Fort Sumter could have been greeted with rapprochement and the sufferance of slavery to expand into the western territories. Lincoln could have stopped the war at any time. Fort Sumter didn't occur in a vacuum, unexpected and unforewarned. The compromises floated before the war to preserve and expand slavery could have been accepted. To the North's lasting credit, they were not. That is noble, and that is something we can be legitmately proud of even if Michael Medved says it.


Further, the idea that the abolition movement and the revulsion of the North against slavery wasn't moving in a way that(along with economic factors) made the war inevitable is simply counterfactual. That Lincoln had grave doubts and sought ways out of a potentially suicidal war is not to be marveled at. The fact that he braved the annihilation of the country is. This is yet another thing we can be legitimately proud of. So is the Emancipation proclamation.

I find it difficult to accept that only those you agree with politically can take pride in our country's achievements in ending slavery without earning the characterization that we believe "slavery has gotten a bad rap," which I guess, if you agree with Ms. Hilzoy, carries no pejorative connotation in your eyes anyway.

"The North tolerated slavery (barely) until the hostilities started,"

I'm not sure what you mean by "barely," but there was no threat to slavery in the South.

"...and after that point, at any time the North could have chosen to submit to the South's demands and preserve a union that 'would' tolerate slavery and not risk dissolution."

Really? That's fascinating. Could we have some cites on this, please?

"Lincoln could have stopped the war at any time."

Cite?

"I find it difficult to accept that only those you agree with politically can take pride in our country's achievements in ending slavery...."

Me, too. Cite?

"The attack on Fort Sumter could have been greeted with rapprochement and the sufferance of slavery to expand into the western territories."

Without wanting to get into endless detail here, should we count how many states had already seceded and formed the Confederacy before they then attacked Fort Sumter?

which I guess, if you agree with Ms. Hilzoy, carries no pejorative connotation in your eyes anyway.

I wasn't that interested in reading Medved's piece on slavery, but your posts piqued my curiosity.

Those who want to discredit the United States and to deny our role as history’s most powerful and pre-eminent force for freedom, goodness and human dignity invariably focus on America’s bloody past as a slave-holding nation.

That's the opening line from Medved's essay. Which points out one of the differences between hilzoy and me.

When faced with an opening statement like that, hilzoy will extend the benefit of the doubt, soldier on, and then carefully consider and respond to each point made. She didn't lay that out here, but then again, she's kind of busy.

When I, however, encounter an opening salvo like that, I shake my head and try to remember where I last put my boots and shovel.

I did read through, as it turns out, but I just don't have the energy or inclination to attempt a response to each of Medved's weird points.

I don't have the energy or inclination because Medved is not arguing in good faith. He has a point to make, not particularly about the history of slavery, but about how special the US is, and about how disloyal a person you are if you disagree.

It's not a game I feel like playing.

But if they do deserve praise for their actions, aren't we as Americans allowed to take some pride in that fact?

To me, personally, taking pride in the fact that we finally abolished slavery, and have made the progress we have made in race relations, is kind of like taking pride in the fact that you no longer get drunk on the weekends and beat the crap out of your wife and kids.

It strikes me as kind of unseemly.

YMMV

Thanks -

Mr. Farber,

The citation of sources is necessary in academic endeavors, but one can demand too many, especially when one is engaged in a non-academic endeavor such as blogging. At some point the "cite?" query becomes an attempt to dodge a question, although I'm afraid I can point to no academician to back up this statement.

If you honestly believe that the Civil War would have taken place regardless of any attempts on the part of the North to capitulate, and that you cannot be convinced otherwise without a citation, then you lack the requisite judgment to effectively ascertain the merits of any citations offered despite your excellent knowledge of the Civil War.

Mr. Farber

As to your "cite?" question about Medved's statement about the Jews... why don't you just trust me? I have heard him say it more than once. I might, if I wanted to devote the time, find the quote if it is transcribed anywhere. But I assure you it is real, and any discredit that falls should I misinform you, lands only upon me and not yourself.

Failing that, let's discuss the subject using a rhetorical device, the hypothetical question, or "Hypo" as it is sometimes called. They are all the rage in fields like law and philsophy, which require the ability to make fine distinctions about sometimes abstract concepts. The theory goes, that insights can be gleaned from testing a rule or concept by applying it to a fictitious fact pattern that is similar to(or even diametrically opposite of)an existing fact pattern.

As to why I'm discussing the Holocaust statement here, I'd submit that the reason I posted in the first place, and the reason you responded, was because I thought Hilzoy's characterization of Medved's article as arguing that "slavery had gotten a bum rap." was a cheap shot. You, and I won't bother to cite you, seemed to disagree.

The reason I believe it's a cheap shot is that an average reader would believe that Medved was an apologist for slavery or, at the very least, that he would be viewed negatively by an average reader based on that statement alone.

So, I mentioned what I believe to be a valid comparison, his statment that four to five million Jews perished at the hands of the Nazis and not six million. Again, we have another horrific historical circumstance and a man who says that, by Hilzoy's definition, the Nazis were unduly criticized [calling four to five million deaths six million deaths is undue], and that the Nazis were made out to be worse than they were re: the Holocaust[killing six million is worse than killing four to five million].

Now I have no citations that killing six million is in fact worse than killing four to five million, but that notwithstanding, I think the comparison between Medved's statements on the Holocaust and Slavery are apposite.

So I ask you what I asked Hilzoy, would you write that "Medved argues that the Nazis have gotten a bad rap re: the Holocaust?" If not why not?

Please tell me if you honestly believe that the subject person of the above would not seem to an average reader (again I know an abstraction, but be bold)to be an apologist for the Holocaust, or at least, be viewed negatively by that average reader?

There. I've been very long-winded, and if you've made it this far I appreciate it. While I disagree with most of what you've written, you're a very sharp guy, and very knowledgeable. But will you answer my three questions honestly? I'd do the same for you.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad