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One Night with the King
Posted: 10 November 2006 07:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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(I’m criticizing Rami’s argument that the ethical content of Christianity is deficient. I’m not arguing that this ethical content was in fact dictated by God—I can’t imagine what such an argument would look like.)

I don’t understand your position.  Let me recap mine.  In A Night with the King, the filmmakers made the point that Jews believed that one day their messiah would come and would promote the idea that all men are equal.  Jesus did no such thing.  He did not say we were all equal.  He favored the poor and he said that the rich would have an incredibly tough time of getting into heaven.  This is not equality.  This is favoritism of the other side.  Also, Jesus came, but did nothing to abolish slavery.  Jesus, the Word made Flesh, who is supposed to be coeternal with the Father, ordered the genocide of the Amalekites because they were messing with the Chosen People.  The very idea of one people being favored by God is contrary to the idea of all people being equal. 

If God were indeed the essence of goodness, if all goodness necessarily flows forth from God, then one would imagine that God would have included as prohibition of slavery as one of this commendments.  Instead, what did he give us?  Stone blasphemers, adulterers, homosexuals, etc.  Don’t eat pork or bats.  Not a word about slavery being wrong.  If he spelled it out for us that we should not screw or eat pigs, why didn;t he spell it out for us that we should not own slaves, that it is a moral abomination?  I mean, of all things, he let us figure that out on our own?  And when after several thousands of years we didn’t figure it out, he did not send a prophet or an angel or something to say “OK, enough is enough, if you are dumb enough not to figure this out on your own, here it is, etched in stone: Thou Shalt Not Have Slaves; All People Are Equal.”

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Posted: 10 November 2006 08:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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[quote author=“Rami”]I know that.  But Christians claim that Christianity is founded on Judaism.

That’s a pretty indisputable historical fact. But not all the rules found in the OT are taken up by Christianity.

“Love your neighbor” does not in any way imply that you should treat your neighbor and all of your “neighbors” as if they were equal to you.

“Love your neighbour as yourself”—sounds pretty equal to me.

You can sincerely love your slave without feeling that he is equal to you.

I think I see what you’re getting at, but that’s phrased poorly. I would say that a slaveowner could sincerely love his slave, and believe that he and his slave are in fact equal in the sense that’s relevant to the “love your neighbour as yourself” commandment. Similarly, nowadays a Christian CEO could love his janitor—their socioeconomic positions are wildly unequal, but the idea would be that this inequality is not relevant to the ethical commandment. Such claims (that a sort of political-social-economic inequality is compatible with the principle that everyone has equal ethical worth) presuppose a particular political-social-economic system. And Christianity doesn’t deal with that sort of issue directly.

Furthermore, Jesus, who is co-eternal with Jehovah, ordered the genocidal slaughter of the Amalekites.  How do you reconcile this with “Love your neighbor”?  Killing them softly?

That does seem irreconcilable. But, as far as I know, Christians aren’t ordered to slaughter anyone.

Well, God gave us all kinds of silly rules about how eating bats and not sleeping with animals, told us how to stone blasphemers and adulterers.

Again, such rules aren’t maintained in Christianity.

Also, just because morality comes to us from God does not in any way mean that God gave us the ability to reason about morality.

I suppose one might think that God created us to be moral robots. I don’t know anyone who really thinks that (though some theists come close to saying it)

From what I understand Kant was devout as Einstein.  In Kant’s day just about everyone in his society was a “Christian”.  But what did that mean?  His Christianity was very different from the kind of Christianity that reigned during the Dark Ages.  Richard Dawkins, in his The God Delusion, says that Kant was likely an atheist—although in his day it was certainly not the fashion to proclaim one’s godlessness.

Kant clearly wasn’t much of a Christian. I think the theological position he develops in his published works could still count as Christianity according to very liberal theological standards, but most Christians would probably say he wasn’t really a Christian. That said, Dawkins’ claim that Kant was some kind of atheist calls for some pretty strong evidence. Kant put some serious effort and thought into his work on religion. He spent a lot of time arguing that we must have (a kind of) faith, and spends a lot of time explaining what that faith should look like—if he was an atheist who just wanted to stay out of trouble, he could have just stayed silent on the issue.

Well, the kinder, gentler philosophy of Jesus certainly did not arise out of the Old Testament.

Actually, that love business comes from the OT. The OT has a lot of blood and gore, but it also has a soft and touchy side.

This gentleness arose from the Socratic ideals, brought to the Near East via the process of Hellenization.

I’m familiar with a significant part of the moral philosophy of Socrates (insofar as he has such), and it does not seem to have much to do with the moral teachings of Jesus. Could you give me a taste of the evidence for your claim?

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Posted: 10 November 2006 09:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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[quote author=“Rami”]In A Night with the King, the filmmakers made the point that Jews believed that one day their messiah would come and would promote the idea that all men are equal.

I’m not sure what they’re talking about here exactly. Abraham was promised that “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed”, and in the NT this promise is meant to be fulfilled through Jesus. If everyone’s being blessed, well, that’s some kind of equality. But it definitely isn’t the political sort of equality that would come to the mind of the average American when they hear the phrase “all men are equal”. But one should hardly expect sound theology (or politics, or any sort of distinction between religion and politics) from the movie, seeing as how it’s produced by the TBN folks, who are about as anti-Christian as you can get.

Jesus did no such thing.  He did not say we were all equal.  He favored the poor and he said that the rich would have an incredibly tough time of getting into heaven.

I dunno if that’s right, but in any case, that would be a pretty weak kind of favouritism, considering how the rich can stop being rich pretty easily if they really want to.

If God were indeed the essence of goodness, if all goodness necessarily flows forth from God, then one would imagine that God would have included as prohibition of slavery as one of this commendments.

I don’t imagine that at all. After all, we managed to figure it out ourselves, didn’t we? If we can manage to do something, and if we ought to do it, why do you imagine that God woud do it for us? That doesn’t make sense as a general rule. It seems to me that if we can do something, and if we ought to do it, then that’s just the sort of thing that God might be inclined to leave entirely up to us.

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Posted: 11 November 2006 06:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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“Climacus”][quote author=“Rami”]I know that.  But Christians claim that Christianity is founded on Judaism.

That’s a pretty indisputable historical fact.

Well, it is only part of the truth.  Christianity arose out of the pagan religions it later strove to exterminate.  It is essentially a Jewish version of the mysteries.  But that’s another subject.

But not all the rules found in the OT are taken up by Christianity.

I understand that.  However, it does not change the fact that the God Christians worship is the same God that is in the OT.  And Jesus is coeternal with that God.  So, in effect, it was Jesus who ordered the genocide of the Amalekites.  It was Jesus who bothered to tell us how to make Ezekiel bread (not that I am complaining, cuz I love Ezekiel bread), but did not think it wise to say “And by the way, thou shalt own no slaves; thou art all my children and will treat one another as equals.  Slavery is an abomination.”  There is just no way around it, Clim…  I know Christians often say “Oh, but that’s the Old Testament.”  So what?  It’s the same God they worship—the God who ordered the genocide, who killed innocent children, who drowned the entire world.  And Jesus, coeternal with the Father, was coresponsible for all of this.  So when Christians act as if Jesus introduced a kinder, gentler ideology to the world, I think they are forgetting that “IN THE BEGINNING was the Word.” 

“Love your neighbor” does not in any way imply that you should treat your neighbor and all of your “neighbors” as if they were equal to you.

“Love your neighbour as yourself”—sounds pretty equal to me.

You can love your neighbor as yourself; it does not mean that you have to treat them as equals.  You can love and adore your slave girls, you can treat them with kindness and affection—without giving them their freedom.  “Love your neighbor” is extremely vague, Climacus.  And again, God could have cleared this up by simply saying “Do not own slaves; it is an abomination.”  He didn’t.  Instead he told us to treat our slaves.  He told us how to sell our daughters into slavery.  I don’t know, I don’t sense that God is outraged at the immorality of slavery much.  As a matter of fact, God seems to condone it.  And this was precisely the confederates’ point before and during the Civil War.  And they were right.  The fact that we view slavery as immoral today did not arise out of the Bible or Christianity.  It arose out of humanism.

You can sincerely love your slave without feeling that he is equal to you.

I think I see what you’re getting at, but that’s phrased poorly.

Sorry, even though English is my best language, it is not my native tongue.

I would say that a slaveowner could sincerely love his slave, and believe that he and his slave are in fact equal in the sense that’s relevant to the “love your neighbour as yourself” commandment. Similarly, nowadays a Christian CEO could love his janitor—their socioeconomic positions are wildly unequal, but the idea would be that this inequality is not relevant to the ethical commandment. Such claims (that a sort of political-social-economic inequality is compatible with the principle that everyone has equal ethical worth) presuppose a particular political-social-economic system. And Christianity doesn’t deal with that sort of issue directly.

The example with the CEO and the janitor does not apply.  In this country we are legally equal.  All citizens have the right to vote, to free speech, to freedom of religion, etc.  My problem with “love thy neighbor” is that “love” is very vague.  It could mean so many things.  So, to clear up God’s position on this, we look to see if there is anything else in the Bible according to which God is opposed to slavery.  There isn’t.  God condones it.  Now, the fact that you interpret “love thy neighbor” to mean that we should all be equal speaks to the nobility of your character, Climacus, but I am sorry to say, there is just no scriptural support for this position.

Furthermore, Jesus, who is co-eternal with Jehovah, ordered the genocidal slaughter of the Amalekites.  How do you reconcile this with “Love your neighbor”?  Killing them softly?

That does seem irreconcilable. But, as far as I know, Christians aren’t ordered to slaughter anyone.

Not even abortion doctors?  :wink:  Sorry… 

The reason why the God of the OT and the kinder, gentler Jesus of the NT are so different in character is because Christianity was essentially the product of a different, pagan, Hellenistic ideology, rooted in neo-Platonism.  This ideology was forcibly made to fit Judaism, most likely by Hellenized Jews who fashioned a Jewish version of the Mystereis to which they were exposed thanks to Hellenization.  That is the reason this is irreconcilable.  The God of the OT was all about the Jews, protecting and favoring the Jews, smiting their enemies.  Morality seem to have little to do with any of it.  God had no problem with killing innocent children if it would benefit his favored people, the Jews.  Christianity was the product of a more sophisticated and radically different theology - the pagan mysteries.

Well, God gave us all kinds of silly rules about how eating bats and not sleeping with animals, told us how to stone blasphemers and adulterers.

Again, such rules aren’t maintained in Christianity.

That is not the issue, Climacus.  The point I am making that God actually bothered to tell us not to eat bats, yet it slipped his mind to tell us not to own slaves.  Actually, he did not ignore the issue of slavery, as He told us not to sell our daughters into slavery and how the Jews should not enslave other Jews (how does this send the message that we are all equal?), etc.  There is nothing in his instructions on the issue of slavery that says “Slavery is an abomination.”  There is plenty in His instructions on slavery that says “Slavery is just fine if you don’t enslave Jews.  Other people are fine.”  I am sorry, “equality” is not the word that comes to mind.  So, back to my original point, if Jesus was coeternal with the Father, then it was Jesus who told the Jews they could enslave non-Jews.  This is not reconcilable with the idea that we are all equals and should love one another as we love ourselves.  Two totally different ideologies from totally different sources.

Also, just because morality comes to us from God does not in any way mean that God gave us the ability to reason about morality.

I suppose one might think that God created us to be moral robots. I don’t know anyone who really thinks that (though some theists come close to saying it)

No.  My point is that on issues of morality God spelled it out for us: do this, don’t do that; it is an abomination.  If God was going to let us figure it all out, he could have simply given us the ability to reason and would have given us no moral commandments.  But he didn’t do that.  So, I think you are engaging in apologetics, Climacus, by arguing that a moral law on a HUGE issue like human slavery did not need to be spelled out by God, even though God did not mind giving us instructions as to how to make Ezekiel bread and how we should not eat bats.  One would think that in the middle of that cooking show he could have said, “Oh, and by the way, make the bread yourself; don’t make your slave do it for you.  As a matter of fact, unchain your slaves and set them free, for they are my children just as you are, and you are to treat them as your equals.”

Well, the kinder, gentler philosophy of Jesus certainly did not arise out of the Old Testament.

Actually, that love business comes from the OT. The OT has a lot of blood and gore, but it also has a soft and touchy side.

Well, as I said, Jesus’ ethics are diretly traceable to neo-Platonism.  I wish I had my book with me…  If you are interested, you can get The Jesus Mysteries on http://www.overstock.com for under $10.

This gentleness arose from the Socratic ideals, brought to the Near East via the process of Hellenization.

I’m familiar with a significant part of the moral philosophy of Socrates (insofar as he has such), and it does not seem to have much to do with the moral teachings of Jesus. Could you give me a taste of the evidence for your claim?

“Turn the Other Cheek”.  It is straight out of Socrates.  Rather than misrepresent his ideas, while I am still waiting for my friend to return my book to me, let me see if I can find an Internet link.

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Posted: 11 November 2006 06:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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This gentleness arose from the Socratic ideals, brought to the Near East via the process of Hellenization.

I’m familiar with a significant part of the moral philosophy of Socrates (insofar as he has such), and it does not seem to have much to do with the moral teachings of Jesus. Could you give me a taste of the evidence for your claim?

Here is one example of the similarities between the ethical teachings of Jesus and Socrates, over 400 years before Jesus:

Jesus:

““You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:38-42, NIV)
A parallel version is offered in the Sermon on the Plain in the Gospel of Luke:

“But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,”
“Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” (Luke 6:28-31. King James Version)


An analogous sentiment is spoken by Socrates in his conversation with Crito in 399 BC before his execution in Athens.

“One should never do wrong in return, nor mistreat any man, no matter how one has been mistreated by him.”

This moral guides Socrates in his argument to a conclusion that he should not attempt to escape from punishment despite being wrongfully imprisoned. [Wikipedia: Turn the Other Cheek]

Actually, there is much more to this speech.  It is really a dialogue between Socrates and Crito, much like the dialogues between Jesus and his disciples.  I’ll try to find the rest of it.

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Posted: 11 November 2006 06:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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[quote author=“Climacus”][quote author=“Rami”]In A Night with the King, the filmmakers made the point that Jews believed that one day their messiah would come and would promote the idea that all men are equal.

I’m not sure what they’re talking about here exactly. Abraham was promised that “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed”, and in the NT this promise is meant to be fulfilled through Jesus.

But what does that mean???  Remember, the Jews had absolutely no belief in the afterlife back then.  There was no heaven, no hell, not even Satan yet.  To the Jews “blessings” were mainly three things: a long life, prosperity and lots of children.  Look at how Job was “blessed” when he passed the test.  He had a nice long, propserous life and had lots of children.  He was blessed.  He was “blessed” with a good life.  That’s what being blessed meant back then.  It is only Christian theology that has reinterpreted that word to mean something utterly different, with the infusion of the ideas of the soul, the afterlife, heaven, hell, and all that crap…  So, the business of Jesus being the fulfillment of OT prophecy is nonsense.

If everyone’s being blessed, well, that’s some kind of equality. But it definitely isn’t the political sort of equality that would come to the mind of the average American when they hear the phrase “all men are equal”. But one should hardly expect sound theology (or politics, or any sort of distinction between religion and politics) from the movie, seeing as how it’s produced by the TBN folks, who are about as anti-Christian as you can get.

Hahaha.  I agree.  Then again, what IS sound theology?..

Jesus did no such thing.  He did not say we were all equal.  He favored the poor and he said that the rich would have an incredibly tough time of getting into heaven.

I dunno if that’s right, but in any case, that would be a pretty weak kind of favouritism, considering how the rich can stop being rich pretty easily if they really want to.

Yes, it is right.  Don’t make me cite chapter and verse…  It’s the Sabbath, after all LOL  Jesus said something like “Verily I say unto thee, it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven.”  His target demographic was the poor.  THEY were now the chosen people, the favored ones, the blessed ones.  Look at the story about Lazarus and his master.  Lazarus went to heaven and was looking down at his master who was burning in hell.  This is not equality; it’s favoritism. 

And you are right, in the early days many Christians did believe that they needed to strip themselves of their riches, sell everything and lead pious lives of poverty.  This was the inspiration behind the entire monastic movement.

If God were indeed the essence of goodness, if all goodness necessarily flows forth from God, then one would imagine that God would have included as prohibition of slavery as one of this commendments.

I don’t imagine that at all. After all, we managed to figure it out ourselves, didn’t we?

Well, yes, we did, and that is a testament to the fact that God is not necessary in order for us to lead moral lives.  But let’s not change angles now…

We also would have figured out that eating bats is not the best idea.  God gave us that rule to protect us.  Yet, he did not bother to protect millions of hs children from being enslaved.  Instead he decided to let us figure it out?  He tells us not to eat bats, but he doesn’t tell us not to enslave his children?  Not only does he not do that, he also gives his chosen people instructions as to whom to enslave, how and how to treat them!  I’m sorry, Climacus.  There is absolutely no scriptural evidence that God is opposed to slavery and there is evidence that he condones it.

If we can manage to do something, and if we ought to do it, why do you imagine that God woud do it for us? That doesn’t make sense as a general rule. It seems to me that if we can do something, and if we ought to do it, then that’s just the sort of thing that God might be inclined to leave entirely up to us.

Then why bother giving us any moral guidance at all?  We can figure it ALL out on our own, just the way we figured it out that slavery was wrong.

It seems to me you just arrived at the conclusion that God is unnecessary in terms of our morality.  Congratulations.

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Posted: 11 November 2006 09:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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[quote author=“Rami”]So, in effect, it was Jesus who ordered the genocide of the Amalekites.

No, it could have been the Father rather than the Son. Or something. Don’t ask me to make sense of trinitarian doctrine, but I guess one principle is that one bit of the trinity can do something without that involving the other two bits.

It’s also possible for a Christian to suppose that that order didn’t actually come from God. (Samuel could have been a false prophet, or been misreported.)

My problem with “love thy neighbor” is that “love” is very vague.  It could mean so many things.

I’ve granted this. I’ve gone to some lengths to show how two people might accept this general principle, while disagreeing greatly as to how it applies to particular issues. In particular, people might disagree as to how to apply it in the political sphere. On this issue, Christianity is, as far as I can tell, largely silent.

The reason why the God of the OT and the kinder, gentler Jesus of the NT are so different in character is because Christianity was essentially the product of a different, pagan, Hellenistic ideology, rooted in neo-Platonism.

Again, this is a striking claim, which requires some rather powerful evidence to back it up. This would require more than bits and pieces of parallels between things that Jesus said and things that Socrates said, because these might be merely coincidental (great minds think alike).

And regarding your “turn the other cheek” comparison: Socrates in the Crito warns against mistreating those who mistreat you (in particular, he is arguing that he should not break the law and try to escape the death penalty, which was imposed upon him by his fellow Athenians). Jesus’ point was different, something like: that you should choose not to retaliate against those who harm you, even if your retaliation would take the form of perfectly justified. An illustration: suppose you run over my cat. Well, I would be perfectly justified in taking you to court and suing you for that. Socrates would be fine with me doing so—I am perfectly within my rights to take you to court. But Jesus would rather that I address the problem in another way—even if you end up running over my dog the next day.

No.  My point is that on issues of morality God spelled it out for us: do this, don’t do that; it is an abomination.

Actually, I don’t see what abstaining from eating shellfish (etc.) could possibly have to do with morality. Do you? The (observant) Jews I know don’t even think of such rules as moral issues. (Dunno how they think of them exactly.)

If God was going to let us figure it all out, he could have simply given us the ability to reason and would have given us no moral commandments.

I didn’t say we ought to think that God left us without any explicit moral guidance whatsoever. I just don’t see why we ought to think that God would have to tell us about this or that particular moral issue.

It is only Christian theology that has reinterpreted that word to mean something utterly different, with the infusion of the ideas of the soul, the afterlife, heaven, hell, and all that crap… So, the business of Jesus being the fulfillment of OT prophecy is nonsense.

I’m not sure how exactly to interpret the “blessings” of Jesus, but there’s nothing wrong with supposing that Jesus fulfilled God’s promises to Abraham in a way that Abraham couldn’t have understood at the time they were given. I take it that it’s a frequent freature of prophecy that it’s not properly understood until after it’s been fulfilled.

Then again, what IS sound theology?..

Hm, maybe something like the religious analogue to honest politics.

Jesus said something like “Verily I say unto thee, it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven.” His target demographic was the poor.

Two points. First, again, it’s remarkably easy to become poor if you want to. Second, this only counts as a bad sort of “favoritism” if we rule out the possibility that being rich is a genuine problem; that wealth might reasonably be taken to affect your worthiness to enter heaven.

It seems to me you just arrived at the conclusion that God is unnecessary in terms of our morality. Congratulations.

“just arrived”? I’ve never (at any point of my life) thought that God is necessary for morality.

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Posted: 12 November 2006 07:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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[quote author=“Climacus”][quote author=“Rami”]So, in effect, it was Jesus who ordered the genocide of the Amalekites.

No, it could have been the Father rather than the Son. Or something. Don’t ask me to make sense of trinitarian doctrine, but I guess one principle is that one bit of the trinity can do something without that involving the other two bits.

Hahahaha!  Consubstantial.  Even if the three persons are separable from each other, despite being cosubstantial and comprising One Person, God, even if one were to suppose that it was God the Father who ordered the genocide, Jesus obviously went along with it.  Or do you suppose there was a disagreement between the Father and the Son, and the meek and gentle Jesus we know from the gospels found the Father’s order to be too harsh and opposed Him? 

I’m sorry, I just find the concept of the Trinity to be such a silly, transparent dodge…  But if its veracity is going to be presupposed, then hey, I am going to have a little fun with it…

It’s also possible for a Christian to suppose that that order didn’t actually come from God. (Samuel could have been a false prophet, or been misreported.)

Wait a minute.  Samuel was sent by God to replace Saul, who failed to execute God’s order properly (by actually sparing one Amalekite).  So, the scriptures do not support your assertion here.  Or are you asserting that the scriptures are not to be trusted?

If God was going to let us figure it all out, he could have simply given us the ability to reason and would have given us no moral commandments.

I didn’t say we ought to think that God left us without any explicit moral guidance whatsoever. I just don’t see why we ought to think that God would have to tell us about this or that particular moral issue.

Well, hold on here.  You want to have it both ways.  God gives us guidance but he also gave us the ability to think and reason.  Well, if we have the ability to reason, then why do we need any guidance at all?  Why can’t we figure it all out?  I mean, God did not trust us to figure out that eating bats is not cool, but we left the issue of slavery for us to figure out on our own???  And when he saw that for the majority of the the history of civilization we did not manage to figure it out that slavery is immoral, he did not intervene and say “Hey, dumb asses, use your brains!  This is why I gave you the ability to reason.  Slavery is immoral!”  And I know God didn’t HAVE to tell us explicitly that slavery is wrong, but don’t you think a loving God would want to consider the lives of billions of slaves, and just bother to utter three words: “Slavery is immoral”.  Just three more words.  It could have followed the commandment to stone insubordinate children.

Again, if he gave us the ability to reason, then did we really need divine guidance to tell us stealing is wrong?  Did we really need God to tell us that life will be better if we get along with our neighbors?  Did we really need God to tell us to treat tohers with kindness if we expect the same in return?  I mean, this is basic, basic stuff!  Yet, God apparently felt He had to spell it out for us.  But a huge issue like slavery—nah, we can figure that out on our own… 

AND besides, does God frown on slavery?  No.  He apparently has no problem with it.  He tells the Jews to enslave other people.  As long as the slaves are not fellow Jews, He’s cool with it.  Address this issue, wouldya, Clim?  :D

It is only Christian theology that has reinterpreted that word to mean something utterly different, with the infusion of the ideas of the soul, the afterlife, heaven, hell, and all that crap… So, the business of Jesus being the fulfillment of OT prophecy is nonsense.

I’m not sure how exactly to interpret the “blessings” of Jesus, but there’s nothing wrong with supposing that Jesus fulfilled God’s promises to Abraham in a way that Abraham couldn’t have understood at the time they were given. I take it that it’s a frequent freature of prophecy that it’s not properly understood until after it’s been fulfilled.

Oh, that is such a posteriori reasoning…  Besides, the Bible is God-breathed, is it not?  Whether Abraham understood it or not does not matter.  God is the author of those verses, n’est-ce pas?  Also, why do you suppose there was no belief in the afterlife at the time Abraham lived?  I mean, Christianity is all about saving one’s eternal soul.  If this is such a central issue for God, then don’t you think God would have made it clear at the very beginning than there is an eternal life, an immortal soul, heaven, hell, etc…  Instead all we get is “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”: when you are dead, you are dead, so live while you are alive, and if you are good and do as I tell you, I will give you a LONG life, riches and children.

Jesus said something like “Verily I say unto thee, it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven.” His target demographic was the poor.

Two points. First, again, it’s remarkably easy to become poor if you want to.

So?  It was also remarkably difficult for a poor man to become wealthy.  If you were born poor, chances are you would stay poor your whole life.  So, for those without any hope of acquiring wealth or having any kind of a comfortable life, Jesus’s message was very appealing.  The poor became the Chosen People, the favored ones.  The wealthy (who were not bloody likely to give up their wealth) were now inferior to the poor.  Incidentally, as I said, some wealthy people did give up all of their wealth in order to inherit the kingdom of God.  Thais, a wonderful, wonderful novel, by Anatole France, is based on a true event: a wealthy prostitute burnt up all of her wealth, thereby almost crippling Alexandria’s economy, and became a nun.

Second, this only counts as a bad sort of “favoritism” if we rule out the possibility that being rich is a genuine problem; that wealth might reasonably be taken to affect your worthiness to enter heaven.

Why would we rule it out as a problem?  Jesus is very clear that being rich IS a problem.  If you are rich you can’t get into heaven.  If you are rich, you will be like Lazarus’ master—burning in hell, unable to quench your thirst, looking up at the bliss of heaven, unable to warn your loved ones who are still living…  The poor at the time LOVED that message.  They thought “See?  It’s better to be poor.  We may be miserable now, but in the afterlife, the rich are going to be miserable, for eternity.”  And this is why they went to their death, this is why they martyred themselves—for the vain hope of a better life in the afterlife, a life in which THEY will be the favorites, the special ones, the Chosen People.

It seems to me you just arrived at the conclusion that God is unnecessary in terms of our morality. Congratulations.

“just arrived”? I’ve never (at any point of my life) thought that God is necessary for morality.

OK, be straight with me here.  Are you just playing devil’s advocate with me?  I am so confused…  Are you a believer at all?  I am desperate to place in a nice, little, labeled box, and I just can’t…  Help me out.  If I don’t know box to put you in, how am I supposed to apply stereotypes and prejudices to you?  :shock:

Honestly, it’s been nice chatting with you.

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Posted: 12 November 2006 02:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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[quote author=“Rami”]Or do you suppose there was a disagreement between the Father and the Son, and the meek and gentle Jesus we know from the gospels found the Father’s order to be too harsh and opposed Him?

No, I suppose that’s not the way the trinity’s supposed to work.

Or are you asserting that the scriptures are not to be trusted?

You can believe in them if you like, but it seems to me that one ought not to be dogmatic about how they’re to be believed. At least according to some, it is open to a Christian (and, as far as I know, also a Jew) to doubt whether this or that OT prophet was a genuine prophet.

Well, hold on here.  You want to have it both ways.  God gives us guidance but he also gave us the ability to think and reason.  Well, if we have the ability to reason, then why do we need any guidance at all?

Obviously, if our moral reason is self-sufficient, then we don’t need moral guidance via divine revelation. But we still might get some. And if one is speaking to God, morality is one of the things he might want to talk about, though I don’t see how one could predict what aspect of morality might come up, or whether morality would come up at all. He might, for example, decide to talk about baking recipes instead.

And I know God didn’t HAVE to tell us explicitly that slavery is wrong, but don’t you think a loving God would want to consider the lives of billions of slaves, and just bother to utter three words: “Slavery is immoral”.

This is just a special case of the general problem of evil; and if there is to be an answer here, then I suppose it would be a special case of the general theodicy that states that God lets us make mistakes, and live with our own mistakes, as well as the mistakes of others. (If that sort of theodicy isn’t satisfactory to you, then I sympathize—I’ve never witnessed an argument about the problem of evil and theodicy that was particular satisfying, on either side.)

He tells the Jews to enslave other people.  As long as the slaves are not fellow Jews, He’s cool with it.  Address this issue, wouldya, Clim?  :D

Well, I’d like to help you out, but I know even less about Judaism than I do about Christianity. I don’t know what Jews think about OT rules such as the above. As for what Christians think about these rules, well, they’re not considered binding in Christianity—apart from that, it beats me. It’s sometimes claimed that such rules are supposed to be a historical artifact of the “hardness of their hearts” in that period of Judaism’s evolution, similar to what Jesus said about divorce.

I take it that it’s a frequent freature of prophecy that it’s not properly understood until after it’s been fulfilled.

Oh, that is such a posteriori reasoning…

I think you mean “post hoc” reasoning here. I mean, that is my point: figuring out the meaning of prophecy is (at least in central cases) essentially post hoc. That’s just the way prophecy goes.

I mean, Christianity is all about saving one’s eternal soul.  If this is such a central issue for God, then don’t you think God would have made it clear at the very beginning than there is an eternal life, an immortal soul, heaven, hell, etc…

Well, it’s a general theme of Christianity that lots of the important things aren’t clear at all at the beginning, or the middle, and possibly even until the very end. And I don’t think the NT is particularly clear about the afterlife.

Thais, a wonderful, wonderful novel, by Anatole France, is based on a true event: a wealthy prostitute burnt up all of her wealth, thereby almost crippling Alexandria’s economy, and became a nun.

Alexandria’s economy was dependent on a single prostitute? That must have been one happening city.

Why would we rule it out as a problem?  Jesus is very clear that being rich IS a problem.

Do you have some sort of objection to this? Do you think that this is a problem with Jesus’ teachings? Calling it “favouritism” isn’t a mark against it unless you can say how the “favouritism” is unfair. Hospitals “favour” properly trained MDs over medically untrained quacks, but most people are quite happy with this sort of “favouritism”.

OK, be straight with me here.  Are you just playing devil’s advocate with me?  I am so confused…  Are you a believer at all?

I’d prefer to leave this issue of classification to God, if there is a God.

If I don’t know box to put you in, how am I supposed to apply stereotypes and prejudices to you?  :shock:

I generally find that people can manage in this department, if they just put their mind to it. “Seek and you shall find”, and all that.

Honestly, it’s been nice chatting with you.

Ditto.  grin

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Posted: 13 November 2006 09:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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Well, hold on here.  You want to have it both ways.  God gives us guidance but he also gave us the ability to think and reason.  Well, if we have the ability to reason, then why do we need any guidance at all?

Obviously, if our moral reason is self-sufficient, then we don’t need moral guidance via divine revelation. But we still might get some. And if one is speaking to God, morality is one of the things he might want to talk about, though I don’t see how one could predict what aspect of morality might come up, or whether morality would come up at all. He might, for example, decide to talk about baking recipes instead.

Well, that’s fine and dandy.  But that means that God considered baking recipes more important than instruction on the subject of slavery.  Oh, but wait!  He did give us instructions on the subject of slavery.  A prohibition of slavery was not one of them.  The bottom line is, God has no problem with slavery; God encourages slavery.  And this is the God that Bible-believers, many of whom are descendants of 18th- and 19th-centurt slaves, worship.

And I know God didn’t HAVE to tell us explicitly that slavery is wrong, but don’t you think a loving God would want to consider the lives of billions of slaves, and just bother to utter three words: “Slavery is immoral”.

This is just a special case of the general problem of evil; and if there is to be an answer here, then I suppose it would be a special case of the general theodicy that states that God lets us make mistakes, and live with our own mistakes, as well as the mistakes of others. (If that sort of theodicy isn’t satisfactory to you, then I sympathize—I’ve never witnessed an argument about the problem of evil and theodicy that was particular satisfying, on either side.)

Personally I don’t consider evil to be an intellectual problem.  “Evil” is a subjective value judgment; it has no absolute moral value.  Evil is a difficult thing to reconcile only for people who think the universe was created by a good God, who pronounced it to be “good”. 

My issue is, if God defines what is good and what is evil, and God never bothered to forbid slavery and even encouraged it with specific instructions on whom to enslave and how, then we have an intellectual problem.  One possibility is that our conclusion that slavery is immoral is wrong.  See what happens when we let reason decide what si right and what is wrong?  We come up with answers different from God’s answers.  Another possibility is that our reasonable conclusion about the immmorality of slavery is correct and God is immoral.

And of course, there is another possibility.  The lines in the Bible were not written or even inspired by any god.  They were written by men who reflected their own worlview, according to which slavery was a given.

He tells the Jews to enslave other people.  As long as the slaves are not fellow Jews, He’s cool with it.  Address this issue, wouldya, Clim?  :D

Well, I’d like to help you out, but I know even less about Judaism than I do about Christianity. I don’t know what Jews think about OT rules such as the above. As for what Christians think about these rules, well, they’re not considered binding in Christianity—apart from that, it beats me. It’s sometimes claimed that such rules are supposed to be a historical artifact of the “hardness of their hearts” in that period of Judaism’s evolution, similar to what Jesus said about divorce.

I am not addressing the issue of whether such rules are to be followed today or not.  I am addressing the issue that the God worshipped by Christians and Jews actually (allegedly) said these words, actually ordered Jews to enslave non-Jews.  How can anyone not be uneasy serving such a god?

I mean, Christianity is all about saving one’s eternal soul.  If this is such a central issue for God, then don’t you think God would have made it clear at the very beginning than there is an eternal life, an immortal soul, heaven, hell, etc…

Well, it’s a general theme of Christianity that lots of the important things aren’t clear at all at the beginning, or the middle, and possibly even until the very end. And I don’t think the NT is particularly clear about the afterlife.

I know.  That kind of bad reasoning drives me bonkers.  The Mormons do that quite a bit.

Why would we rule it out as a problem?  Jesus is very clear that being rich IS a problem.

Do you have some sort of objection to this? Do you think that this is a problem with Jesus’ teachings? Calling it “favouritism” isn’t a mark against it unless you can say how the “favouritism” is unfair.

Of course I have a problem with it!  Don’t you?  Do you think that rich people are automatically less worthy of salvation that poor people?  You don’t see the unfairness in this? 

And back to my original post, about the story of Esther and that inane movie…  The claim was that Jesus would bring a new philosophy that people are of equal worth, that slaves and masters are equals.  And that is NOT the message of Jesus.  His message is that the poor will be blessed and the rich will burn in hell.  Equality, my arse :wink:

OK, be straight with me here.  Are you just playing devil’s advocate with me?  I am so confused…  Are you a believer at all?

I’d prefer to leave this issue of classification to God, if there is a God.

Agnostic.  Figures…  :twisted:

I generally find that people can manage in this department, if they just put their mind to it. “Seek and you shall find”, and all that.

Hahahaha!  You amuse me.

Honestly, it’s been nice chatting with you.

Ditto.  grin

Oh, stop.  You are embarrassing me…

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Posted: 24 December 2006 05:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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Rami,

I recalled this conversation and felt bad about dropping it cold. Thought I’d pick it up again. Happy solstice!

[quote author=“Rami”]And this is the God that Bible-believers, many of whom are descendants of 18th- and 19th-centurt slaves, worship.

Whoa, apples and oranges. I can’t speak to all the historical details, but the practice of ancient slavery was quite a different phenomenon from that perpetrated upon Africans by Europeans in the modern era.

And of course, there is another possibility.  The lines in the Bible were not written or even inspired by any god.  They were written by men who reflected their own worlview, according to which slavery was a given.

And there’s a third possibility, that the rules were given by god, but with distortions stemming from the worldview of the mortals at the time.

I suppose one version of this thought would involve an application of Jesus’ explanation for why the allowance for divorce made in the Mosaic law should be abolished. It was allowed once upon a time, “because of your hardness of heart”, but no longer. I’m sure this thought has been applied to the issue of slavery.

How can anyone not be uneasy serving such a god?

One ought to be uneasy anyways. Forget slavery. He could, at any given time, order you to offer up your son as a burnt offering. Eep!

Do you think that rich people are automatically less worthy of salvation that poor people?

No, and the bible doesn’t say that the rich are less worthy of salvation. It says that things are more difficult for the rich. Is this so odd? Abstract away from the issue of Christian salvation. If you accept that poverty is a moral problem that everyone must address, then it seems true that the rich really do have some explaining to do. And maybe they’re up to the task (the rich can achieve great things with their great resources), but on the face of it, riches are a moral burden. (Some rich people with a strong sense of moral obligation can attest to this: some of them lose sleep worrying about how best to apply their wealth to the various problems of the world.)

The claim was that Jesus would bring a new philosophy that people are of equal worth, that slaves and masters are equals.

Well, salvation is equally open to all. Is there a message of specifically political equality to be found there? Well, many have applied it in that way (including probably the majority of the Abolitionist movement).

His message is that the poor will be blessed and the rich will burn in hell.

No, that’s not true at all. (Regarding the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, which you brought up earlier: the rich man is not condemned for being rich, but for refusing to help Lazarus in his time of need, refusing even to give Lazarus the crumbs from his table.)

Agnostic.  Figures…

Oh, god, I hope not!

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