Religion and atheism argue in the labyrinth of good and evil 9

Dennis Prager is a brilliant advocate for conservatism. We agree with him on political issues.

But he is religious.

He writes, and we comment:

Conservatives often speak of Judeo-Christian values and how the current civil war in the United States and the rest of the West is essentially a battle between those values and the Left, which rejects Judeo-Christian values.

They are right.

But they rarely explain what Judeo-Christian values are. Yet, without an explanation, mentioning Judeo-Christian values is useless.

So, let me do that now.

First, a word about the term. Some Jews and Christians find the term confusing, if not objectionable, since Judaism and Christianity have different theologies. But no one speaks of Judeo-Christian theology, only of Judeo-Christian values.

Judeo-Christian values are essentially another term for biblical values. Judaism and Christianity are both based on the Old Testament—its God, its Ten Commandments, its admonition to love one’s neighbor as oneself, to love God, to lead a holy life, etc. Christians also believe in the New Testament, but only an opponent of Christianity would argue that the New Testament negates the values of the Old.

For our comment on all that, see our critical discussion of “Judeo-Christian values” here.

Here they are:

1) Objective moral standards come from God. As I have written and spoken about in a PragerU video and elsewhere, if there is no God who declares murder wrong, murder can be subjectively wrong but not objectively wrong. So, while there can certainly be nonbelievers who hold murder, stealing, and other actions wrong, without God, those are opinions, not moral facts. Without the God of the Bible, there are no moral facts.

No. People do not want to be hurt, robbed, or killed. For a society to make laws discouraging people from hurting robbing and killing is common sense, and such laws were made before any religion laid down moral rules as divine injunction

Besides which – and in answer to all following points – no god ever spoke to a human being. All religious moral laws are human-made. 

2) God judges our behavior, and we are therefore accountable to God for our behavior. Outside of a religious worldview, there is no higher being to whom we are morally accountable.

We need no “higher being” to judge us. We are responsible for what we do and bear the consequences of our behavior. As we say in our “Articles of Reason” (see under Pages in our margin), “justice may be elusive, but judgment is inescapable”.  

3) Just as morality derives from God, so do rights. All men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” declares the Declaration of Independence.

If your “rights” are violated, will “God” come to your aid? Rights are granted by man-made law, and justice must be sought in accordance with laws. 

4) The human being is uniquely precious. While the Bible repeatedly forbids cruel behavior to animals … only human beings are created in God’s image.

Presumably he means “God’s moral image”. In theJewish scriptures, God is vengeful and cruel to the innocent (“unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me”), puts temptation in the way of his creatures and then punishes them for succumbing to it (Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil), capricious (alternately making Pharaoh relent over the release of his Hebrew slaves and then “hardening his heart” again and keeping them, time after time), permits Satan to inflict terrible suffering on human beings to test their faithfulness to him (Job). And in history, the Jewish God allows millions of his “chosen people” to be tortured to death (the Holocaust).  And the Christian God, according to his scriptures, made humankind eternally indebted to him for sacrificing himself for them – for which at the same time, and as a double burden of guilt, they must be held to blame. So – no.  In both the Jewish and Christian bibles, the divinities set no model of good behavior.    

5) The world is based on a divine order, meaning divinely ordained distinctions. Among these divine distinctions are: God and man, man and woman, human and animal, good and evil, and nature and God.

Distinctions – as between man and woman – exist by nature. That God is distinct from nature is true enough. He exists only in human minds as a supernatural being. Humanity made God, not God humanity. There is no reason to believe that nature exists because a supernatural being made it. 

6) Human beings are not basically good. Therefore, the most important moral endeavor is making good people. Religious Jews and Christians understand that the greatest battle in life is with one’s nature. For the opponents of Judeo-Christian values, the greatest moral battle is not with one’s nature; it is with society (specifically, American society).

We agree that “human beings are not basically good”. But we say that self-interest requires their decent behavior and most people understand this. The law helps to make people good. It is fear of others and fear of the law that prompt restraint, not biblical values.  

7) Precisely because we are not basically good, we must not trust our hearts to lead us to proper behavior. The road to hell is paved with good hearts. Feelings make us human, but they cannot direct our lives. This alone divides the Bible-based from those on the left.

It is a false dichotomy, the religious on the one side, “the left” on the other. Millions of Leftists are religious Christians and Jews.   

8) All human beings are created in God’s image. Therefore, race is of no significance. We all emanate from Adam and Eve, whose race is never mentioned. That many religious people held racist views only testifies to the almost infinite ability of people to distort what is good.

This confirms that it is “God’s moral image” that is meant. The various races are characterized by physical differences.    

9) Fear God, not man. Fear of God is a foundation of morality. In the Book of Exodus, Egyptian midwives were ordered by the Pharaoh to kill all newborn Hebrew boys. They disobeyed the divine king of Egypt. Why? Because “the midwives feared God”.  In America today, more people fear the print, electronic and social media than fear God.

We advise a sensible fear of the media. And of kings and other tyrants.

10) Human beings have free will. In the secular world, there is no free will because all human behavior is attributed to genes and environment. Only a religious worldview, which posits the existence of a divine soul—something independent of genes and environment—allows for free will.

Whether we actually have free will or not, we have to live as if we have it, so to all intents and purposes, we have it. It has nothing to do with having “a divine soul”. 

11) Liberty. America was founded on the belief that God wants us to be free. On the Liberty Bell is inscribed just one thing (aside from the name of the company that manufactured the bell). It is a verse from the Bible: “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof.” The current assaults on personal liberty—unprecedented in American history—emanate from those who reject the Bible as their moral guide (including more than a few Jews and Christians who have joined the assault, having been indoctrinated with anti-religious views in high school and college).

We reiterate that millions of Leftists are religious. Belief in the supernatural does not logically bring liberty. Often quite the contrary (examples: the Inquisition’s Spain, Calvin’s Geneva).   

When Judeo-Christian principles are abandoned, evil eventually ensues.

In the name of the Hebrew god in ancient times, and in the name of Christianity for many hundreds of years,  great evil was done – mass slaughter, extreme cruelty, which surely are evils. 

One doesn’t have to be a believer to acknowledge this. Many secular conservatives recognize that the end of religion in the West leads to moral chaos—which is exactly what we are witnessing today and exactly what we witnessed in Europe last century. When Christianity died in Europe, we got Communism, fascism, and Nazism. What will we get in America if Christianity and Judeo-Christian values die.

Communism, fascism, Nazism are also religions, without gods or with them. (Many Nazis worshipped Nordic gods.) 

We are getting evil rule in America by many who say they are Christians. Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi claim to be  “good Catholics”. 

Leftism is a child of Christianity. (See our articles here and here.) 

In conclusion: “Judeo-Christian values” or religious beliefs of any sort are not a cure for America’s calamity.  

Posted under Christianity, Ethics, Judaism, Religion general, United States by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, April 13, 2021

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Götterdämmerung: Jehovah, Jesus, Allah 1

We need to engage the argument raised by Mark Tapson in a review article titled Christianity, Islam, Atheism. It is also the title of a book he is reviewing. We have not read the book, and we trust him to be giving a fair representation of what the author says in it. We examine the ideas as Mark Tapson presents them to us:

Now that the Boston bombers have turned out, contrary to the fervent hope of the left, to be not Tea Partiers but Muslims, the media are spinning the terrorists’ motive away from jihad and shrugging, helplessly mystified, about the “senseless” attacks. And so our willful blindness about Islam continues. Nearly a dozen years after the 9/11 attacks, too many Americans still cling to militant denial about the clear and present danger of an Islamic fundamentalism surging against an anemic Western culture. What will it take to educate them? And once awakened, what steps can we take to reverse the tide?

Good question.

The vicious Boston attack makes these questions and William “Kirk” Kilpatrick’s new book Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West all the more timely. [The book is] intended not only as a wake-up call to the West about Islam, but also as a practical guide, especially for Christians, to push back against its spread and to countering Islam’s Western apologists.

Christianity, Islam, and Atheism opens with a section titled “The Islamic Threat,” in which Kilpatrick describes the rise of supremacist Islam and our correspondingly tepid defense of Western values.

It is true that supremacist Islam is rising, and that the West is defending its values only tepidly.

Our collapse in the face of Islam, he says, is due in large part to our abandonment of Christianity, which has led to “a population vacuum and a spiritual vacuum” that Islam has rushed to fill.

None of that is true. The West has not yet “collapsed in the face of Islam”, it has just ceded too much ground. By “population vacuum” we suppose he means the shrinking populations of the European countries, which are importing population (the wrong – Muslim –  population) to compensate for a shortage of workers, but whose socialist economies cannot provide enough jobs for the immigrants once they’re there.

As for “a spiritual vacuum”, it exists only in the eyes of these Christians who notice  that once-Christian Europe has become largely non-religious. Europeans who still want to believe in a skylord have not shown a new fascination with Allah; most of them have stuck to Jesus or the Trinity.

It seems that a lot of prisoners convert to Islam. Some say that’s because they get better food and other privileges that the European authorities have been intimidated into conceding to Muslims. It may be, of course, that the cruel and blood-thirsty god Allah* exerts an irresistible pull on villainous men, but it’s a bit of a stretch to call that “filling a spiritual vacuum”.

“A secular society… can’t fight a spiritual war,” Kilpatrick writes. Contrary to the multiculturalist fantasy dominant in the West today, “cultures aren’t the same because religions aren’t the same. Some religions are more rational, more compassionate, more forgiving, and more peaceful than others.”  …

That depends on what historical era you are looking at. Today most Christian sects are usually peaceful. But that hasn’t always been the case, and may not be the case in the future.

As for Christianity being more compassionate, sure it is in theory but again has not always been in practice. And whether compassion is as desirable a value as Christianity insists it is, remains philosophically open to question.

The same can be said of forgiveness. In our view forgiveness is not a very good idea. First, it makes no difference to what has been done. Second, and more important, it is contrary to justice.

As for some religions being more rational than others, all religions depend on faith, not reason. It is impossible to argue that one irrationality is superior to another.

Kilpatrick notes that Christians today have lost all cultural confidence and are suffering a “crisis of masculinity,” thanks to the feminizing influences of multiculturalism and feminism. He devotes significant space to encouraging Christians to, well, grow a pair, to put it indelicately, in order to confront Islam, the “most hypermasculine religion in history”:

“On the one hand, you have a growing population of Muslim believers brimming with masculine self-confidence and assertiveness about their faith, and on the other hand, you have a dwindling population of Christians who are long on nurturance and sensitivity but short on manpower. Who seems more likely to prevail?”

We take his point. We would be happy to see well armed muscular Christian men marching to war – literally, not figuratively – against Islam.

Kilpatrick devotes a chapter to “The Comparison” between Islam and Christianity, in which he points out that Christians who buy into the concept of interfaith unity with Muslims would do well to look more closely at our irreconcilable differences instead of our limited common ground; he demonstrates, for example, that the imitation of Christ and the imitation of Muhammad lead a believer in radically different directions.

Again, not always. Leaving aside the question of whether Christians  killing other Christians and non-Christians believed they were acting as their Christ would have acted in the same circumstances, there were centuries during which multitudes of Christians “imitated Christ” by rejecting this world and deliberately seeking hideous martyrdoms. Some still do.  As Muslims do.

In “The Culture War and the Terror War” section, Kilpatrick notes that Christianity is on the losing side of the many fronts of our own culture war, and this doesn’t bode well for the West’s clash with a resurgent Islam. An obsession with the shallow, ephemeral distractions of pop culture isn’t helping to shore up our cultural foundations. “Our survival,” he writes, “hinges not on generating a succession of momentary sensations, but on finding narratives that tell us who we are, where we have come from, and where we are going”:

“Our ability to resist aggression – whether cultural or military – depends on the conviction that we have something worth defending: something that ought to be preserved not only for our own sake but also for the sake of those who attack us.”

Yes. But that something doesn’t have to be the irrational beliefs and moral sentimentalities of Christianity. It could, for instance, be one’s country. And for Americans that could mean the high values that America was founded to embody, above all individual freedom under the law.

In the section “Islam’s Enablers,” Kilpatrick addresses the multiculturalists, secularists, atheists, and Christian apologists for Islam whose intellectual influences have contributed to the moral decline and Islamization of the West. In a chapter with the great title “Multiculturalists: Why Johnny Can’t Read the Writing on the Wall,” Kilpatrick comments on the indoctrinating impact of multicultural educators and their whitewashing of Islam and denigration of our own culture:

“[O]ur students would have been better served if they had spent less time studying the Battle of Wounded Knee and more time studying the Battle of Lepanto, less time understanding the beauty of diversity and more time understanding the misery of dhimmitude.”

We wholly agree with this statement. We too see multiculturalism as as an evil. We see Christian apologists for Islam as fools. But how are secularists and atheists – as such – contributing to the moral decline of the West? Mark Tapson does not tell us, and we wonder if the book does.

Finally, in “The Cold War with Islam,” Kilpatrick is pessimistic of our desire to win the hearts and minds of “moderate Muslims.” He examines at length just what that label actually means, and then notes that such a strategy isn’t an especially helpful one:

The promotion of the moderate myth is counterproductive because it misleads the West into thinking that its problem is only with a small slice of Islam and because it strengthens the hand of traditional Islam, which is the source of radicalism, not the solution to it.

Again,we secularists-and-atheists agree.

Then comes this:

What are his recommendations for mounting a defense of our values against the aggressive spread of Islamic ones?

Reviving the commitment to our own Judeo-Christian values for starters, and then, “instead of a constant yielding to Islamic sensitivities, it may be time for some containment. Sharia… should not be allowed to spread through Western societies.” He touches on immigration, noting that it’s a problematic issue but suggesting that it’s reasonable to question the motives and agendas of immigrant groups. The message we must send? “Islam will not prevail. The West will not yield. You must accommodate to our values and way of life if you choose to live among us.”

As for going on the offensive, “instead of making excuses for Islam… we should be devoting our energies to exposing its hollowness,” relentlessly sowing the seeds of doubt among Muslims and encouraging them to abandon the faith.

In all of which we heartily concur except “reviving the commitment to our own Judeo-Christian values”. To which we will return.

Finally, there is this:

Taking that to the next level, Kilpatrick urges Christians to undertake the daunting task of mounting a widespread evangelizing of Muslims, luring them to Christianity with the liberating message of the Gospel. He concedes that this is a long-term strategy and we have no time to lose, but “both Islam and the left stand on very shaky ideological ground… Christians should take courage from knowing that in this war of ideas, all the best ideas are on their side.”

Yes, Islam and the left do stand on very shaky ideological ground. But so does Christianity. Its theology to start with is so super-absurd that it’s a wonder the early Christians managed to sell such a bill of goods even to ignorant slaves and women in the declining years of the Roman Empire.

But what are the moral-philosophical ideas of Christianity? Let’s look at a few of them, the ones that contemporary Christians commonly say they hold.

To love all mankind? Impossible. An encouragement to hypocrisy.

Forgiving wrongdoing? Unjust. Kindness to the guilty is cruelty to the righteous.

Loving the sinner while hating the sin? A refusal to hold individuals responsible for their actions.

Acting humble? Self-abasement is an act of pride, not humility. Pride is not bad, but dissimulation is.

Teaching Christian theology and mythology as “the Truth”? Not only wrong but self-defeating, as doctrines were never even settled, disputes over them being the cause of wars and persecution throughout Christian history.

Omitted from the discussion in the review article is the fact that multitudes of Christians are also devout leftists. While it is true that the left is coddling and kow-towing to Islam, it is also true that Christian churches are teaching Marxism, often under the name of “liberation theology”.

To speak of a “Judeo-Christian” tradition is to ignore the hideous fact that Christendom has been actively persecuting the Jews from the time its gospels were written. What is meant is that Christianity, after some initial hesitation, accepted part of the Jewish moral code. But citing a “Judeo-Christian tradition” ignores the fact that Christianity was a revolt against Judaism, and owes more to Greek mysticism and cosmogony, Greek other-worldliness, and Greek religious rites – the unrespectable side of classical culture – than it does to Judaism. It also ignores the thousand years of darkness that Christianity brought down on Europe. Europe owed its greatness not to a “Judeo-Christian” tradition, but to the classical enlightenment Christianity eclipsed, and its eventual rebirth.

We too would like the West to be true to the values and practices of its highly evolved civilization, which we would name not as compassion, forgiveness, charity, love, but as freedom, democratically elected government, law and order, tolerance, reason, the pursuit of science, and an endless striving to make human existence happy, long, informed, exploratory, and innovative.

Its passed time that those old bug-a-boo superstitions, shrouded in the cobwebs of the ages, were swept away.

Enough of Jehovah, the sometimes over-vengeful, sometimes just, tribal-chief type of tyrant.

He was dropped by the Christians, though they might pretend that he somehow weakened and mutated into their God the Father or dissolved into the whole of their mystical Greek-style Triune Godhead. As God the Father he’s been so inconspicuous as to be best pictured dozing if not comatose these last two thousand years. Enough of him.

Jesus the Christ, whether as plump European baby, or as golden-curled Caucasian male model in a full-length white nightgown, or as a tortured body executed for sedition by the Romans on a wooden cross, or as well-nourished judge seated on a stump with a cloud for a footstool condemning multitudes to Hell, has nothing of interest to offer enquiring minds. Enough of him.

As for Allah with his side-kick Muhammad – the savage bully and his mouthpiece – he could be dispelled with more certainty and speed if the West would give up religion, and all respect for religion as such.

The downfall of the gods began quite some time ago and is overdue. (No nod to Nazism-inspiring Wagner should be inferred.) They – the gods – should all have disappeared in the Enlightenment. But they’ve been allowed to hang about far too long. Away with them.

Let the West defend itself with confidence in its intellectual, secular-moral, economic, and military superiority; with guns, drones, Specter bombers, and nuclear war capability; with science, technology, intelligence, and the Constitution of the United States; and always above all with unrelenting critical analysis of all ideas.

 

* Quotation from the linked source: “There are 493 passages that either endorse violence or talk about the hatred of Allah for the infidels, meaning all non-Muslims. The Quran is a book mainly concerned with how Muslims are to think and act towards those outside of Islam; that is, either kill them or force them to live as second-class citizens and pay [special punitive] taxes (Jizya).” It explicitly commands Muslims to “kill the infidel” (eg. Koran 9:5). It prescribes atrocious punishments for such “crimes” as adultery, homosexuality and apostasy. It is a manual of instruction in barbaric aggression.