Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Friday, July 07, 2006

Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool (Pt. 7)

Is Christianity cruel?

I wish to return to my critique of Christ-hating anarchist and blues guitar aficionado, Chaz Bufe and his 20 Reasons to Abandon Christianity. It has been a while since we paid Chaz a visit. I confess it is difficult to maintain freshness with a review particularly when the writer is blind to the philosophical problems of his own perspective. I for one become annoyed with having to repeat myself; but I am committed to follow through with a post on every one of Chaz's points, so let me trudge on.

With this post, Chaz complains Christianity is cruel. I will lay aside what I have already mentioned in previous critiques, that being how Chaz conveniently ignores the cruelty of secular anarchists in the past century as they attempted to establish their enlightened utopias free from the bondage of religious superstition. Apparently, Chaz doesn't think the slaughter of millions of individuals who stand in the way of such regimes like the former Soviet Union and our current day Red China and North Korea is a particularly cruel act.

Rather than quoting the entire point, allow me to hit on two examples Chaz raises when he accuses Christianity of being cruel: sexual repression and burning witches.

Let us begin with the first, Christians supposedly having repressive attitudes toward sex. Chaz lays out an extended citation from William Lecky to illustrate his charge of sexual repression on the part of Christians:

For about two centuries, the hideous maceration of the body was regarded as the highest proof of excellence. . . . The cleanliness of the body was regarded as a pollution of the soul, and the saints who were most admired had become one hideous mass of clotted filth. . . . But of all the evidences of the loathsome excesses to which this spirit was carried, the life of St. Simeon Stylites is probably the most remarkable. . . . He had bound a rope around him so that it became embedded in his flesh, which putrefied around it. A horrible stench, intolerable to the bystanders, exhaled from his body, and worms dropped from him whenever he moved, and they filled his bed. . . . For a whole year, we are told, St. Simeon stood upon one leg, the other being covered with hideous ulcers, while his biographer [St. Anthony] was commissioned to stand by his side, to pick up the worms that fell from his body, and to replace them in the sores, the saint saying to the worms, "Eat what God has given you." From every quarter pilgrims of every degree thronged to do him homage. A crowd of prelates followed him to the grave. A brilliant star is said to have shone miraculously over his pillar; the general voice of mankind pronounced him to be the highest model of a Christian saint; and several other anchorites [Christian hermits] imitated or emulated his penances.

There are three things to note with this citation:

First, this citation is from the book called History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe by 19th century atheist historian William Lecky. Lecky published a two volume puff piece under the guise of genuine history that exposed the backward, anti-rational superstition of the Christian faith and the triumphal victory of Enlightenment rationalism in the societies of Europe.

The problem is that Lecky is about as competent an historian on the history of the Church and religious philosophy as Michael Moore is a documentarian on the events of 9-11. Chaz's source is of dubious origins and it is further compounded with problems because he doesn't tell us where Lecky is getting his information about these two men.

Second, the section Chaz chose to quote is a biographical description on the lives of two mystic hermits, Simeon the Stylite (see picture) and Anthony of Egypt. Both men were monastic ascetics who cut themselves off from the world to live in the desert for the pursuit of deeper spirituality. Ascetic monastics represented (and still represent) an unbiblical extreme in Christian spirituality. The goal of the ascetic’s spiritual life is to pursue spirituality by utterly abandoning all the comforts life has to offer. Simeon, for example, took the idea of loving not the world to the point of building himself a house on a pillar and making it his home for 30 plus years. In his mind, he was loving not the world by physically removing himself from it. I, too, readily reject such absurd notions of Christianity. Jesus and the Apostles never taught this type of discipleship. This is just another fraudulent example of Chaz's dishonesty against what he is criticizing.

Third, what exactly does this section from Lecky's book have to do with sexual repression? There is no mention of sex in the entire citation.

Is Christianity really sexually repressive? Let's consider the facts, shall we.

Take for instance the Puritans. They are held up as the model of sexual repressiveness, right? But most people tend to ignore the fact that Puritans had large families of 8 plus children. That sounds like they are sexually liberated to me. A recent example is the Duggar family of Arkansas. Last year, the mother gave birth to the couple's 16th child. That is a couple that had sex at least 16 times. Who were the critics of this sexually free family? None other than single, free thinking secular progressives who basically want to have their cake and eat it too. Columnist Mark Morford wrote a bigoted piece decrying the Duggars as freakish dullards with too many babies to feed.

But Morford is a classic example of the so-called liberated free thinker. Let us be reminded of how Chaz considers himself a "free thinker." But remember, "free thinker" is really just a code word for sexual deviant: a pervert. When secular atheists boast that they are "free thinkers" they want you to believe they have opened minds and consider many areas of intellectual pursuits. This is a dishonest picture. In truth, the idea with the term "free thinker" is of a person longing to be free to have as much sex with whomever (or whatever) he or she desires with reckless abandon and impunity, and without fear of judgment from societal norms.

Those fuddy dudes, like Christian morality, which tells individuals to control their sexual impulses; teaches faithful, sexual commitment to one person of the opposite sex; and maintains a since of propriety with those restrictive age of consent laws, are frowned upon by "free thinkers" as being "dinosaurish" and unenlightened. Even more disdaining is the idea that sexual encounters will result in ... gasp ... the birth of children. The very thing Morford, and I am sure, Chaz, fears happening with sex starved religious folks. In reality, it is Chaz's view of sexual relationships that is repressive and I would add, warped. His view of sex is sexists in that Chaz just wants to use and reuse women for his own pleasures and it is ultimately self-destructive, because he doesn't want the responsibility of raising the next generation of Christ-hating anarchists. In short, Chaz is nothing but a adolescent minded playboy who refuses to grow up.

Next is his complaint that Christians are notorious witch hunters and worse, witch burners. I bet you all were wondering when we would be getting to the witches?

It is a common charge by feminist revisionists of world history that the Inquisition burned millions of ladies both young and old for being witches. The images of naked women being burned at the stake by the millions is a fantasy not only passed along by fringe feminists, but even affirmed by more reputable critics of religion like the late Carl Sagan in his book Demon Haunted World. I reckon he got bored with astronomy and thought he would try his hand in world history. The common figure cited by Sagan, along with other feminist historians, is that the church burned close to 5 million women as witches. I believe this is the number Dan Brown provides in his novel The Da Vinci Code.

Let's do the math.

5 million women over a period of 300 years?

Dividing 5 million (witches burned) by 300 (years of the Inquisition) by 365 (days in a year) we get roughly 46 women being burned at the stake a day.

There is no way this figure can be supported. It is utterly absurd. One point of commendation is that Chaz just mentions hundreds of thousands of women, which is more accurate. Historically, the number is closer to 30,000 witches burned over a course of 300 years. That number is still outrageous, but is it due in part to a superstitious Church? Not entirely. Philip Sampson, who has written an excellent little book called the 6 Modern Myths About Christianity and Western Civilization, points out how,

In fact, detailed studies have shown that the Inquisition, far from "stimulating the prosecutions," acted as a brake on lay courts and popular zeal. As the historian William Monter notes, "The mildness of Inquisitorial judgements on witchcraft contrasts strikingly with the severity of secular judges throughout northern Europe"; " most secular European legal systems punished their prisoners more severely than the Inquisition." In Southern Europe the execution rate was low, especially in Italy and Spain - precisely where the Inquisition was involved - because of the higher standards of proof that it demanded ... the Inquisition demanded evidence, investigated the truth of charges and was suspicious of fantastical confessions. Contrary to Carl Sagan's belief that the Inquisitors disregarded motives of jealousy or revenge in those who made accusations, they were in fact required to investigate such matters carefully. Thus, when Anastasia Soriana, presented herself before the tribunal at Murcia in 1584 and declared that she had had a carnal relationship with the devil. She was told to go home because she was suffering from delusions. She presented herself again at the tribunal at Toledo with the same story. Again she was sent home. Far from encouraging prosecutions the Supreme Council of the Inquisition protected women against charges of witchcraft.

Then Chaz winds up his claim of Christian cruelty by raising the spectre of Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist crackpots as an example of sound minded, biblical Christianity. Amazing.

Once again, Chaz has demonstrated that he is clueless as to what he hates. He attacks cartoons, not Christians.

Next up: Is Christianity Anti-Intellectual?



Blogger Hiraeth said...

The difficulty, I'm afraid, Mr. Butler, is that these people have no interest in real history. I find it most illuminating that many books atheists use are rather old. Read more recent books on the Crusades, the Puritans, etc, and you will find a rather more rounded picture.

It is interesting that these people prefer old rationalists, men who often lacked formal historical training, and who did not know of numerous sources that we now have access to, to modern historians. That, or moderns who are not historians, like Carl Sagan or Arnold Toynbee. History done properly shows the positive results of the evangelical Christian faith. Wilberforce and Shaftesbury got a lot more done for the ordinary man than Tom Paine and Karl Marx.

2:19 PM, July 10, 2006  
Blogger Marla said...

Hello, I was just doing a search on KVJ only and stubbled across your blog and this post. Very interesting! I was recently interested in the statistics of deaths through communism and found a link on democide and genocide. If interested you can view it here http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/welcome.html I wrote a short post on it on my blog (which is no where near as informative as your blog! But you can see it here http://goatrevolution.com/blog2/2006/09/09/52/#respond )

Also from a book I was reading, it claimed that through communism 25 million people in the Soviet Union were killed and about 65 million in China! That far out numbers 5 million witches even at that stretch.

Anyway, I appreciate your post and look forward to checking your other links.

Take care,


3:45 PM, September 16, 2006  

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