Today in our Pages section (see the top of our margin), we post a review by Jillian Becker of How Jesus Became God by Bart D. Ehrman.
Here is part of it.
Bart D. Ehrman’s book How Jesus Became God is a formidable challenge to Christian belief. It stands to his credit that he pursued his researches to the point where he changed from a believing Christian into an “agnostic”. (I put the word in quotation marks because I think the word as applied to religious belief is a cop-out, an intellectual bromide. If you do not believe there is a god, whether your unbelief is weak or strong, you are an atheist.)
An enormous amount of what he says fits with what is known and makes good sense. But in one vital area he goes wrong. He goes wrong because his perspective is Christian – even though he no longer thought of himself as a Christian when he came to write the book. He was not able to free himself sufficiently from the Christian viewpoint because he could not totally shrug off his Christian indoctrination.
Where is it that he goes wrong? ? He traces the vital beginning of the process of Jesus becoming God to the first, Jewish, followers of Jesus. That is the core of his thesis. And, interesting as his book is, generally well-researched as it is, it fails to make its case; because the author has not understood who the earliest followers of Jesus were and what they believed about him.
There is convincing evidence that the man whose Greek biographers called by the name Jesus (and we must call him that for want of knowing what his birth name was) did exist in the province of Judea between the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius, and that he was a rabbi with a burning (fanatical, even insanely fanatical) desire to bring about a new Kingdom of God, like the one he and his nation believed had been the free and glorious kingdom of David and Solomon. He prophesied that the “Son of Man” – or the Messiah, the Annointed One – would come and effect this wonder, and he even came to believe that he was that “Son of Man”, that Messiah, himself.
Now let’s look at more of the probable story from a non-Christian (and unbelieving) standpoint.
Jesus’s gesture of attacking some Roman soldiers, along with a couple of his followers armed with two swords – one of them used to slice off a Roman’s ear – did not bring the result he expected. He had convinced himself such a move on his part would be the signal to God to start the series of earth-transforming miracles that would destroy the Roman Empire and bring back the freedom and glory of the Jewish people. The Romans arrested him, brought him to a cursory trial, and condemned him to death by crucifixion – the punishment prescribed for insurrection by Roman law. The punishment was duly carried out. (As Ehrman says, the body was probably flung on the ground somewhere to be devoured by birds and worms and scavenging beasts.)
His little circle of close followers, shocked, terrified, and grieving, fled from Jerusalem to save their own lives, but returned after a while and were to be found among the numerous sects and factions of perfectly orthodox Jews who lived there and carried out their obligations under the law in and to the Temple. They could not bear to give up their idea that Jesus was the Messiah. And as he had not succeeded in doing what a Messiah had to do, they trusted that he would soon return and complete his task. They even sent out missionaries to preach to dispersed communities of Jews and their hangers-on of “God fearers” that Jesus was the risen Messiah and he would return in glory to save the Jewish nation.
Now we come to the tricky bit. Did they then believe that Jesus had come back to life after his execution? Yes. So to them he was still alive? Yes. Did they believe that he had suspired not just in spirit, but in his body? Seems very likely that they did. And this would not have been strange among the Jews of the time. Every sect and party, every faction and movement, religious and political, except one – the Sadducees, the party of the royal priests – believed in the bodily resurrection of the dead. The general resurrection (the dogma ran) would occur at the end of days. But Jesus’s resurrection, his disciples believed, would be sooner than that – very soon. And they might well have pictured him returning in clouds of glory, descending from the sky and instantly causing the political liberation and resultant spiritual renewal of Israel.
Did they then believe that he was, or became after his death, or perhaps had always been God, or a god, or “the [unique] Son of God” – no. If they had believed any of that they would no longer have been Jews. But doesn’t the idea of his return in clouds of glory and descending from the sky imply divinity? Yes. And Ehrman argues well that there was precedent in the Jewish religious annals for an orthodox belief that (a) there were beings other than God himself in the divine sphere who were thus themselves divine – angels, seraphim, cherubim; and (b) that men had been raised to the sphere of divinity and – it could be argued – shared in the aura of the divine. It is even true that the Hebrew word for God – Elohim – is a plural. And that Psalm 82 speaks of creatures on earth being “gods”. He cites the (apocryphal) books of Enoch and The Wisdom of Solomon for the strongest evidence to support his contention that, while Jehovah was believed by the Jews to be the chief God, there were many lesser gods in Jewish scriptures.
Fine. But now we come back to what the followers of Jesus believed. First of all, who were they? At one point Ehrman calls them “illiterate peasants”. Well there he is probably wrong. For one thing, Jewish boys (most if not absolutely all) were taught to read so that they could read aloud a portion of the law when they turned thirteen. Secondly, there is nothing to say that either Jesus or his followers were uneducated men or even poor men. (The Christian tradition that Jesus was a carpenter and the apparent son of a carpenter has no basis in any discoverable historical fact. The family could have been well-to-do. There were means to support him as a rabbi – a voluntary teacher of the law – in his last year or two.) The disciple Matthew (not to be confused with the name attached to one of the gospels) was certainly literate, being a tax collector.
If Ehrman is right that they were mostly illiterate peasants, then the chance that they would have known anything of the apocryphal books of Enoch are remote, and virtually nil that they could have known of The Wisdom of Solomon – written in Greek – or the works of their contemporary Philo of Alexandria in Egypt.
And even if they were literate, as they almost certainly were, they were not scholars or theologians. There is no way they would have been able to argue for the existence of lesser gods, even if they knew Psalm 82 off by heart. They would have been taught that “God is One” – the central tenet of Judaism. So Ehrman’s sophisticated arguments from esoteric and academic sources for the possibility that they could believe Jesus was or became a god, are inapplicable to them. …
In this 2011 video, Christopher Hitchens talks aboout the immorality of Christianity, and the absurdity of religion in general.
For light relief today, we quote from the wonderful pair of volumes titled A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom by Andrew D. White, first published in New York in 1896.
Here is what happened when Christian theologians “exerted themselves to fix the date” when one or another or all three of the persons of the Trinity created the universe. (Whether all three persons, or only one of them and then which one, was not settled; nor whether it was accomplished in six days or in a moment.)
The general conclusion arrived at by the overwhelming majority of the most competent students of the biblical accounts was that the date of the creation was, in round numbers, four thousand years before our era; and in the seventeenth century … Dr. John Lightfoot, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, and one of the most eminent Hebrew scholars of his time, declared, as the result of his most profound and exhaustive study of the Scriptures, that “heaven and earth, centre and circumference, were created all together in the same instant, and clouds full of water,” and that “this work took place and man was created by the Trinity on October 23, 4004 B.C., at nine o’clock in the morning“.
Here was, indeed, a triumph … the result of hundreds of years of biblical study and theological thought since Bede in the eighth century, and Vincent of Beauvais in the thirteenth, had declared that creation must have taken place in the spring. Yet, alas! within two centuries after Lightfoot’s great biblical demonstration as to the exact hour of creation, it was discovered that at that hour an exceedingly cultivated people, enjoying all the fruits of a highly developed civilization, had long been swarming in the great cities of Egypt, and that other nations hardly less advanced had at that time reached a high development in Asia.
We plan to entertain ourselves and our readers with morsels from this abundant store from time to time.
We usually agree with Dennis Prager on political issues.
We never agree with him about religion.
Today he writes at Townhall:
As one who loves America – not only because I am American, but even more so because I know (not believe, know) that the American experiment in forming a decent society has been the most successful in history – I write the following words in sadness: With few exceptions, every aspect of American life is in decline.
“Decay” is the word.
He writes of the “decline of the family”, with figures to prove it; and the “decline of education”, with a short list of examples of poor education that could be extended to a great length.
He goes on to assert that –
Most universities have become seminaries for the dissemination of Leftism. Moreover, aside from indoctrination, students usually learn little. One can earn a BA in English at UCLA, for example, without having read a single Shakespeare play.
Yes. Oh, but we have misquoted him in order to say yes, he is right.
What he actually writes is –
Most universities have become secular seminaries for the dissemination of Leftism. …
Why did he put in the word “secular”? Most of the universities of the West are powerhouses pumping out Leftists who will do all they can to destroy the civilization that sustains them. Their fault is not that they are “secular” but that they are Leftist, statist, collectivist. Their being secular, and not teaching some system of dogma that may not be questioned, would be the one thing about them that is good, were it not for the fact that Leftism too is a system of dogma that may not be questioned.
He continues in indignation – which we share – to deplore what the academies teach:
To the extent that American history is taught, beginning in high school and often earlier, American history is presented as the history of an immoral nation characterized by slavery, racism, colonialism, imperialism, economic exploitation, and militarism — not of a country that, more than any other, has been the beacon of freedom to mankind, and the country that has spent more treasure and spilled more blood to liberate other peoples than any other nation.
The End of Male and Female: Whatever one’s position on same-sex marriage, one must acknowledge that at the core of the argument for this redefinition of marriage is that gender doesn’t matter. Marriage is marriage, and gender means nothing, the argument goes. So, too, whether children are raised by mother and father or two mothers or two fathers doesn’t matter. A father has nothing unique to offer a child that a mother can’t provide and vice versa.
Why? Because – for the first time in recorded history – gender is regarded as meaningless. Indeed, increasingly gender doesn’t even exist; it’s merely a social construct imposed on children by parents and society based on the biological happenstance of their genitalia. When signing up for Facebook, one is offered nearly 60 options under “gender.” In various high schools across the country, boys are elected homecoming queen. A woman was recently kicked out of Planet Fitness for objecting to a man in the women’s locker room. She was accused of intolerance because the man said he felt that he was a woman.
Then he comes to –
The End of Right and Wrong: At least two generations of American young people have been taught that moral categories are nothing more than personal (or societal) preferences. Recently, an incredulous professor of philosophy wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times titled “Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts.” In it he noted, “Without fail, every value claim is labeled an opinion” (italics in original). This extends to assessing the most glaring of evils.
And he gives Nazism as an example of “glaring evil” – which it was and is.
And that brings him to his dogma:
The End of Religion: There are no moral truths because there is no longer a religious basis for morality.
What is “a religious basis for morality”?
Christian love? Love everyone regardless of what they do? Hate the sin but reward the sinner with love and do not hold him responsible for his sin? ? Forgive everything and anything? “Resist not evil” (as Jesus Christ is reported to have said in his “Sermon on the Mount”)? And – through many centuries – a religion that burnt people to death who questioned the dogma?
Judaism’s expectation of divine vengeance? “For I the Lord thy God am a jealous god, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me”? That as part of the revered “Ten Commandments” of the moral law in a religion that holds justice to be its highest value? And – for many centuries – a religion that punished people with pain and even death if they disobeyed the commandments in the dogma?
Islam’s “Kill the Infidel”? Keep women subjugated to the will of men? Burn people, stone them, amputate their limbs, and enslave them? And – to this very day – kill people who question the dogma?
Is it necessary to remind those who think religion is necessary to a moral life that there are – to this day – faiths which command that people’s lives be sacrificed to propitiate imaginary beings?
How is passionately believed religion helping the peoples of Africa? In Uganda, South Sudan, and the Congo where the fanatically Christian “Lord’s Resistance Army” feeds the earth with human blood? The Central African Republic where Muslims in the North recently slaughtered untold numbers of Christians, and now Christians from the South are slaughtering as many Muslims as they can? In Somalia, where aid workers trying to bring medicine and food to masses of sick and starving people are imprisoned and killed by devout Muslims? In Libya, where al-Qaeda is killing and maiming in the name of Allah? Under the Islamic State (IS/ISIS/ISIL) in Syria and Iraq? In Iran ruled by pious old men? That list too could be continued to become very long.
More than the Enlightenment, it was the Bible – especially the Hebrew Bible (which was one reason America’s Christians were different from most European Christians) that guided the Founders’ and other Americans’ values. Not anymore …
No. Our firm understanding is that the Enlightenment gave birth to the United States of America. If some of the Founders cited the bible (whether the Jewish bible as Prager likes to believe, or the Christian which came round tentatively to tacking the Jewish bible on to its own canon), that in no way changes the historical fact that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are supremely documents of the Enightenment; which is to say of reason. Reason, all on its own, without anyone claiming to have heard a god speaking the idea to someone long ago, established a state on the foundation of individual freedom of both thought and action.
If you acknowledge that American society is in decay, it is your obligation to fight to undo it. If you can’t acknowledge that American society is in decay, you are providing proof that it is.
America is in decay. Leftism, the secular form of Christianity, is the name of the rot that is destroying it.
One doesn’t have to like everything Christopher Hitchens says in this medley of his arguments to enjoy it.
The nice thing is that he speaks well for atheism, and puts down his religious opponents, on every point they raise, briskly and thoroughly.
A chat about atheism, religion, and science. Recorded December 14, 2010.
Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens.
Can you call yourself free if restrictions are put on your freedom?
We of The Atheist Conservative say that a person’s freedom should be limited by nothing but everyone else’s freedom.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia seems to have a different idea of what freedom means.
He grants that with the first amendment the Constitution enshrines the principal of freedom of religion, but according to reports (see below) insists that “freedom of religion” does not include a right to “freedom from religion”.
So you are free to worship something or other, but not free to worship nothing.
How many ways can the idea be expressed? You are not free not to worship anything at all. You are not free not to worship. You have to worship something. It can be anything at all, but you must worship it. Hold it sacred. The thing. Or the person. Or any number of things or persons. You are Constitutionally obliged to consider it or him or her or them divine.
You are perfectly free to decide which it or him or her or them you consider divine. But you are not free to consider that nothing is divine.
You may choose (for instance) an abstraction, a dead Jew, a rock, a wooden or plaster or cloth or straw or polystyrene object, a devil, an ancestor. Or any number of the same. Or even a mixed bag of all of them – a Deity Allsorts.
That is right and proper and permitted by the Constitution of the United States. But you cannot deny that something or someone is, or a bunch of persons real or imaginary are, or at least that a state of mind can be achieved in which you understand that absolutely everything is, divine.
Not, anyway, according to the Constitution.
Which logically means that the Constitution forbids you to refrain from worshiping something. If you do, you may be in breach of Constitutional Law.
And it may follow that the thing you must worship must also be honored with the performance of rites. Simply believing it to be divine may not be enough. To be religious you must follow some ritual of worship. Otherwise you could just claim to worship your Aunt Sally and never do a thing about it. Even your Aunt Sally herself, if she’s alive on this earth and not moved on, or over, or through, or up to another (imaginary but Constitutionally-acknowledged) world, might not believe you are really sincere.
And this from a judge we have held in high esteem? Did he really say something that implied all that? What in fact did he actually say?
The Washington Times reports only these words of his:
I think the main fight is to dissuade Americans from what the secularists are trying to persuade them to be true: that the separation of church and state means that the government cannot favor religion over nonreligion.
And MSN interprets his words like this:
Defending his strict adherence to the plain text of the Constitution, Scalia knocked secular qualms over the role of religion in the public sphere as “utterly absurd,” arguing that the Constitution is only obligated to protect freedom of religion – not freedom from it.
He probably meant nothing more, after all, than that religious groups may put up their shrines and symbols in public places, and publicly display mottoes with religious references, and that atheist protestors have no grounds in law for objecting.
Austin Cline, who is an atheist, agrees with this view in an essay titled What is Freedom From Religion? But he discusses much more than that issue.
Freedom of Religion Requires Freedom From Religion
Conservatives insist that the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion, and argue against strict separation of church and state. Too often, though, conservatives seem to have a flawed understanding of what freedom from religion really entails and fail to realize that freedom from religion is crucial to religious liberty in general.
It is evident that a person misunderstands the concept of freedom from religion when they say that promotion of the idea is part of an effort to eliminate religion from the public square, to secularize America, or to deny religious believers a voice in politics. None of this follows from a belief that people have a right to be free from religion.
What Freedom From Religion is Not
Freedom from religion is not a demand that one never encounter religion, religious believers, or religious ideas at all. Freedom from religion is not freedom from seeing churches, encountering people handing out religious tracts on the street corner, seeing preachers on television, or listening to people discuss religion at work. Freedom from religion is not a demand that religious beliefs never be expressed, that religious believers never voice an opinion, or that religiously-inspired values never have any impact on laws, customs, or public policies.
Freedom from religion is thus not a social right to never encounter religion in public spaces. Freedom from religion has two relevant aspects: personal and political. On the personal level, a right to be free from religion means that a person has the freedom not to belong to any religion or religious organization. The right to be religious and to join religious organizations would be meaningless if there did not exist a parallel right not to join any at all. Religious liberty must simultaneously protect both the right to be religious and the right not to be religious at all – it cannot protect a right to be religious, just so long as you pick some religion.
What Freedom From Religion Is
When it comes to politics, the freedom from religion means being “free from” any government imposition of religion. Freedom from religion does not mean being free from seeing churches, but it does mean being free from churches getting governing financing; it doesn’t mean being free from encountering people handing out religious tracts on a street corner, but it does mean being free from government-sponsored religious tracts; it doesn’t mean being free from hearing religious discussions at work, but it does mean being free from religion being a condition of employment, hiring, firing, or one’s status in the political community.
Freedom from religion isn’t a demand that religious beliefs never be expressed, but rather that they not be endorsed by the government; it’s not a demand that religious believers never voice an opinion, but rather that they not have a privileged status in public debates; it’s not a demand that religious values never have any public impact, but rather that no laws be based on religious doctrines without the existence of a secular purpose and basis.
The political and the personal are closely related. A person cannot be “free from” religion in the personal sense of not having to belong to any religion if religion is made a factor in one’s status in the political community. Government agencies should not endorse, promote, or encourage religion in any way. Doing so suggests that those who accept the religious beliefs favored by the government will, by extension, be favored by the government – and thus a person’s political status becomes conditioned on their personal religious commitments.
What Religious Liberty Is
The claim that the Constitution only protects “freedom of religion” and not “freedom from religion” thus misses an important point. Religious liberty, if it is to mean anything, cannot merely mean that the state won’t use the police to stop or harass adherents of certain religious ideas. It must also mean that the state won’t use more subtle powers, like those of the pocketbook and the bully pulpit, to favor some religions over others, to endorse certain religious doctrines rather than others, or to take sides in theological disputes.
It would be wrong for the police to close synagogues; it is also wrong for police officers to tell Jewish drivers during a traffic stop that they should convert to Christianity. It would be wrong for politicians to pass a law banning Hinduism; it is also wrong for them to pass a law proclaiming that monotheism is preferable to polytheism. It would be wrong for a president to say that Catholicism is a cult and not really Christian; it is also wrong for a president to endorse theism and religion generally.
This is why freedom of religion and freedom from religion are two sides of the same coin. Attacks on one ultimately serve to undermine the other. The preservation of religious liberty requires that we ensure that the government not be handed any authority over religious matters.
Cline also sets out this for our enlightenment:
Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom
In 1779 as a member of the General Assembly, James Madison supported Thomas Jefferson’s historic Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom; after Jefferson left for diplomatic duties in Europe in 1784, Madison became the bill’s prime sponsor. Enactment failed every year from June 1779 until it was finally adopted in January, 1786.
The Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom was an important milestone in establishing religious liberty in America and disestablishing official churches.
The Act has questionable opening lines – but read beyond them.
The Virginia Act For Establishing Religious Freedom.
Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind free;
that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do;
that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time;
that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical;
that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporal rewards, which proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labors for the instruction of mankind;
that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than our opinions in physics or geometry;
that, therefore, the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to the offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow citizens he has a natural right;
that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honors and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it;
that though indeed these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way;
that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles, on the supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency, will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own;
that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order;
and finally, that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.
Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
And though we well know this Assembly, elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no powers equal to our own and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable would be of no effect in law, yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.
“Errors cease to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.”
“No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship … but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions on matters of religion.”
Could freedom of speech be more plainly or strongly supported than by those statements?
They mean that we must be free not only to hold any opinions whatsoever on religion, but also to express them publicly whenever and however we choose.
The time may not be far off when humankind as a whole will be free from religion; when people will learn about the irrational beliefs their close ancestors held with passionate conviction and be amazed that in an age of science they could have swallowed such nonsense.
(Hat-tip Don L)
A selection of video-recorded statements by Christopher Hitchens on religion.
He is blunt and accurate, and entertaining as he always was (which we appreciated, even when – on political issues – we disagreed with him).
(Hat-tip to our reader Marnee)
Sam Harris is an atheist. We like a lot of what he writes and says. Just recently one of our readers sent us this statement of his, which we acknowledge, sadly, to be most probably true:
For the rest of our lives, and the lives of our children, we are going to be confronted by people who don’t want to live peacefully in a secular, pluralistic world, because they are desperate to get to Paradise, and they are willing to destroy the very possibility of human happiness along the way.
We have watched videos of him lecturing. We have read some articles of his. And all with appreciation. So when we were sent his new book for review, we expected to like it.
Do we like it?
To read Jillian Becker’s review of Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion by Sam Harris, click on its title in our margin, under Pages.
As the current wars of religion rage on, the mainstream media are chiefly reporting the war in Gaza. They put much stress on the number of Palestinian deaths – information they get only from Hamas, which has every reason to claim as many deaths as possible. Hamas’s tactic is to provoke attack and then show the wounds – the deaths of the women and children it uses as shields – and cry loudly until “the world” rescues them from defeat.
Is “the world” really concerned about the deaths of civilians in the Middle East? Or only concerned when they die because Israel strikes back at the Arab enemy after years of rocket attacks?
Is “the world” moved by Arab deaths if Israel can’t be blamed for them? Not so much. Shall we say Muslim deaths then? Also not so much.
What about Christian deaths at the hands of Muslims? The oppression and intense persecution of Christians? Christians being stripped of all they possess and expelled from lands their ancestors have lived in as Christians since the second century C.E? Hardly at all.
No outcry about their treatment from Christian America? No. Not a word from those Presbyterians who have lately evinced so much interest in boycotting Israel? No.
The Pope? He’s praying for their persecution to end. No persecutor named. If he was expecting a quick response from his God now that Omniscient attention has been drawn to the issue, is he disappointed?
The Archbishop of Canterbury? No – the Anglican clergy likes Islamic sharia law and helped introduce it into Britain.
What about the UN? You must be joking! The UN is an agency of the Arab states.
David Singer writes at Canada Free Press:
The Syrian civil war has claimed 170,000 lives in three years; this past weekend’s death toll in Syria was greater than what took place in Gaza. By some accounts, the past week may have been the deadliest in the conflict’s grim history. Meanwhile, the extremist insurgents of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), have continued their ravages over a swath of territory stretching from eastern Syria to the environs of Baghdad, Iraq’s capital; the spike in violence in Iraq has led to more than 5,500 civilian deaths in the first six months of this year.” …
The newly-declared Islamic State (IS) – which includes Mosul – Iraq’s second largest city – already exceeds the area of Great Britain. …
Christians were given 24 hours to leave Mosul or convert to Islam and pay a tax – or die.
Nuri Kino – reported on Fox News – confirms the tragic situation in Syria and identifies those engaged in persecuting these ancient Christian communities:
Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, also has been nearly emptied of Assyrians, Armenians and other non-Muslims …
The prideful tone in which the perpetrators speak whenever I have interviewed them — both Al Qaeda and IS — is equally shocking. These are mostly disgruntled young men who were teetering on the edges of society in their own homelands, often in European suburbs, and now believe they have the power to do whatever they want in the name of Islam. They can claim any house in IS-controlled areas of Iraq and Syria as their own, and tell the owners to either leave or risk being killed. They can take any woman as their wife …
At least 700, 000 non-Muslims — Christians, Mandeans, Yezidis and others — have left Iraq by now. No one knows how many have left Syria.
Nina Shea reports in Fox News:
ISIS has set out to erase every Christian trace. All 30 churches were seized and their crosses stripped away. Some have been permanently turned into mosques. One is the Mar (Saint) Ephraim Syriac Orthodox Cathedral, newly outfitted with loudspeakers that now call Muslims to prayer. The 4th century Mar Behnam, a Syriac Catholic monastery outside Mosul, was captured and its monks expelled, leaving behind a library of early Christian manuscripts and wall inscriptions by 13th-century Mongol pilgrims. Christian and Shiite gravesites, deemed idolatrous by ISIS, are being deliberately blown up and destroyed, including on July 24, the tomb of the 8th-century B.C. Old Testament Prophet Jonah, and the Muslim shrine that enclosed it.
Patrick Coburn does not mince his words in The Independent:
It is the greatest mass flight of Christians in the Middle East since the Armenian massacres and the expulsion of Christians from Turkey during and after the First World War.
Yet the media show little interest in exposing the decimation and dispersal of the Christian communities in Syria and Iraq.
And here’s Mark Steyn:
Baghdad used to be 40% Jewish. Tripoli used to be 40% Jewish. And the Jews were all chased out there. And now it’s the turn of the Christians. … ISIS are effectively doing every day what the European media and American campuses accuse Israel of doing. Everyone thinks Israel is slavering with blood and wants to eliminate every last Muslim in Gaza. No, they don’t. They just want to live with them. The difference is ISIS actually wants Iraq cleansed of Christians in the way it was cleansed of Jews, just as the Muslim Brotherhood wants Egypt cleansed of Coptic Christians the way it was cleansed of Jews.
But still the West, Christian by tradition if not in belief or observance, shows little concern.
This can be seen not only in the dearth of comment from governments and churches, but also among the people who seek their information and spread their opinions on the “social media”.
David Singer adds this statistic to his article:
Google reports on the Israel-Gaza war outnumber reports on the ISIS-Christian conflict by about 20:1.