An Armistice in the War against the War between Science and Faith

From an ongoing conversation:

Dear Mr. EvD,

As promised, since you did not answer, or even address, the point I asked of you, I cannot bring myself to continue the discussion any longer.

You make statements about history (such as that the medieval Christians thought the world flat — Dante included?) that betray an ignorance of the subject matter.

I asked you for specifics, to name the Papal Bull showing the hostility of the Church to the progress in the Dark Ages, and listed the inventions: you declined to answer.

I asked you if you were familiar with the writings of the founders of science, whom I listed by name, all medieval Christians. You declined to answer.

(Instead, you quoted a bull asking for the spread of the Christian faith, and chose to represent the nightmarish empire of the Aztecs as the victims, rather than the perpetrators, of superstitious genocidal brutality. Whatever one’s opinion of the spread of the Christian faith, it has no bearing on the topic at hand.)

You proposed that Christianity is anti-Enlightenment and that the Enlightenment is Anti-Christian. I replied by distinguishing between the French and the Anglo-American Enlightenment, and offered that the latter was not Anti-Christian, as proof whereof, I offers quotes by the Founding Fathers.

My argument was that their opinion represented the Enlightenment opinion, and the evidence is that the Enlightenment opinion is not Anti-Christian.

I did not offer these quotes as proof of the subject matter thereof, merely to establish what the Enlightenment opinion was. The Enlightenment was decidedly pro-Christian, so much so that at least one Founding Father, a central figure of the Enlightenment, says that the Christian religion is paramount for good government.

Now, at that point, your choices to save your argument were to distinguish the cases or define your terms. You have said that the Anglo-American Enlightenment was not the Enlightenment you meant. You could have said that these men were Enlightenment thinkers on the topics of government and economics, but where benighted on the topic of religion. You could have said that they wished to be anti-Christian but were afraid to do so. All I asked you to do was to answer the question.

What you chose instead to do was to argue with the figure who is arguably the best and ablest ruler the human race has ever produced, George Washington, and you chose to argue with him in the particular topic of his particular expertise, how to govern. As well argue with Einstein about Relativity.

Your method was to quote the Laws of Deuteronomy. You do not seem to know what the men of the Enlightenment thought of the theological status of the laws of Deuteronomy. You do not seem to know the position of the Church Fathers on that question, or St. Paul.

Your proffer of allegedly Anti-Christian quotes from the Founding Fathers reveal only quotes showing that the Founders were disestablishmentarians: that is, they wished for the sake of the flourishing freedom of religion, for religion to be not interfered with by the Federal government. The Enlightenment opinion was that the establishment of religion was one of the causes of faction that led to the insecurity of the Union (see the Federalist Papers #10).

You may perhaps be of the opinion that it is in the best interests of the Christian religion to be that state religion, and enforced by law. I was of that opinion when I was an atheist. However interesting this may be, it is not on our current topic. The current topic is the Enlightenment, and the opinion of the Enlightenment is that it is in the best interests of the Christian religion to be disestablished and free from government support or interference. (As an aside, the current history of the world seems to support the Enlightenment opinion. In America, Christianity is thriving; in England, where Anglicanism is established at law, Christianity perishes.)

You do not seem to know the facts of history. You express surprise, for example, that I mention the date when the oar came in use rather than the pole. You seem to think Medieval Christians thought the world was flat, as if they were not the people who carefully preserved the writings of the ancient astronomers and mathematicians.

You dismissed my question as a straw man argument, and changed the subject. This is not allowed by the rules of the game called logic. You are like a player who moved a pawn backward in chess: whatever game you are playing, it is not one I care to play.

Ironically, you then played the straw man game with me, pretending that we were arguing about whether the US Constitution mentions Christ by name. What we were arguing about was whether Christianity is anti-Enlightenment and the Enlightenment is Anti-Christian. (I am, by the way, a lawyer who has indeed studied Constitutional Law. I am familiar with the document and the surrounding documents.)

The only response from you I regard as legitimate was your counter example of the advances of the pagans. This is a good point: Aristotle and Ptolemy and so on made real contributions to natural philosophy. I must distinguish the cases and partly retract my statement: your original comment was not about natural philosophy, the plaything of the learned men of antiquity, from which no improvement resulted and no science came, but about the progress of the Enlightenment, which includes scientific progress. The scientific progress of the men I listed as the fathers of science was indeed inspired by the pagans and, where something was useful on which to built, they built on it. As I said in my post, Christianity is as much Greek as it is Jewish. My point is that the discoveries you mention languished, as useless as the Chinese discovery of gunpowder, until the Christian world view discovered their uses.

If you will not answer my questions, I will not answer yours. If you change the subject, I will allow the matter to drop.

Please do not interpret this as a slight against you or you skills as a debater. I have limited time for such amusements, despite my enjoyment of them, but time does not permit me to engage a man who will not engage me. Life is too short for me to spend my time chasing you around the field of battle as you flee my questions.

The demand for empirical proof of the Christian religion is one I can satisfy: I am an eyewitness. Would you use the same standard of proof a court of law uses for determining the guilt or innocence of a man accused of murder as you would in the case for or against the Christian religion? Would you allow written testimony of other eyewitnesses long dead?

Would you allow a philosophical argument as a type of proof: namely that the Christian account of the world makes better sense and has more explanatory power than the pagan or atheist account, which has strange lacunae and even stranger ad hoc explanations?

I am not offering to present such a proof (indeed, I am bowing out of the conversation, until and unless you answer the one question I said was the question without an answer to which I would not continue) I am merely asking what your standard of evidence is. Are you asking for empirical evidence concerning a metaphysical proposition?

I asked you to name the modern Cyrils to whom you refer, that is, a Christian pastor or priest who has his followers to riot and to flay his political rivals alive with sharpened clamshells or rooftiles. Your comment that Jerry Falwell is like Cyril betrays your unwillingness to answer a serious question. You did not answer, but instead pretended that the question was illegitimate. For shame.

If you are here for a serious debate, then debate. Answer the questions asked and provide the proof demanded. If you are here merely to utter unserious and empty-headed rhetoric, be my guest, but expect unserious reply, or no reply.

Let me offer you a bit of advice. If the Christian religion is false, that fact should suffice to condemn it. There is no need to invent flimsy slanders against a position that can be proven false with non-flimsy proofs. There is no need to shoot blanks if you have ammo.

On your quest for ammo — by which I mean I encourage you to familiarize yourself with your defense’s case before you try to argue the prosecution case at trial — I suggest you make a strong attempt to discover what actually happened in history and what the Church actually preaches and teaches.

If you approach a learned Christian, a doctor of the law and a scholar of the classics, and someone familiar with theology and philosophy but your only argument is to accuse him of believing things neither he nor any other nonheretical Christian believes (quick — give me one example of a Christian stoning, from any period in history, including during the Spanish Inquisition — what? Not one?) you will find your persuasive power very limited.

What I discovered, when I was an atheist, in my search for ammo to use against my hated enemies, the Christians, is that most of what I thought they believe and preach was not what they believe and preach. Most of the history, such as the Protestant invention of Capitalism or the Christian burning of Pagan books in the Dark Ages, never happened.

Those ideas are propaganda invented during the wars between Protestant and Catholic Kings, and each side invented the most scurrilous lies to tell about the other, including gross exaggerations of their enormities, and French Enlightenment writers like the Marquis de Sade, and writers inspired by the French Enlightenment, such as Marx, took the propaganda of both sides, thought it was serious and factual, and used it to condemn Christians in general.

A little research would help your case. Thanks to the wonder of the Internet, without moving from your chair, you can look up the Papal Bulls and Church documents condemning astronomy (you will find not a single one) and look up the documents and edicts condemning astrology (you will find many). You will even find out where the oldest astronomical observatory still in use is. (Hint: It is the Vatican observatory).

Then you will not make easily disprovable statements of no persuasive power, such as your quip that the Christian religion is (or is like) the support of astrology over astronomy.

Once you discover what the case the opposition maintains actually is, and what the facts actually are, then these sophomoric straw man arguments will stop, and a sober argument will begin.

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