The War Against the War of Faith Versus Science
A reader, briefly named EdV, hurls down his gauntlet at me. He makes the asseveration that Christianity retards the progess of the arts, sciences, and the cause of liberty.
I humbly submit for your candid consideration that Christianity provides the only rational ethical basis for human liberty, and the only rational metaphysical basis for empiricism.
The ethical basis of liberty is the obviously counter-intuitive principle that all men are created equal in dignity and should be equal under law, and that the law is not make by law-makers but is discovered by them, since it exists in a metaphysical or ideal form, produced by a source beyond human making.
Logically, there are only two possibilities: law are manmade, like poems, or laws are discovered, like geometry proofs.
If laws are manmade, any man with the power to change the law is right to do so, and law is merely the will of the stronger. No liberal or equal laws can be erected on such a basis.
If laws are discovered, then they must pre-exist mankind, and the justice of those laws must be a stubborn fact no human will can change, and ergo their justice must derive from a non-human source.
Justice cannot come from the material universe, from the merely by-play of atoms in motion, because Justice is a non-material and non-temporal thing. Justice is a mental thing: an ideal or an idea. Mental things only exist in minds. Justice is also universal and eternal, or else it is not justice. Ergo the only mind that could have invented or decreed the idea of Justice is an eternal and universal Mind. And this all men know to be God.
Without such a Divine Mind, there can be no justice, merely partisan interest or temporary Hobbesean armistices. Without justice, there can be no liberal or equal laws.
Since men are evidently not equal in every measure except their dignity as human beings, only a mystical belief in the dignity of human beings, that is, the belief that men are made in the image of God, can sustain that dignity.
Any other measure leads to immediate inequalities. If we say the dignity of man is based on his capacity for reason, then logically neither babies nor senile crones nor anyone who can be painted as ignorant or stupid has any right to enjoy the benefits of equal and free laws. Indeed, it cannot have escaped the notice of any observer of the modern world that those political parties and regimes who base their laws on any principle other than the divine equality of man all too soon become elitist: the Soviets were run by the Nomenklatura; the Democrat Party in America is surrounded by an atmosphere of sanctimonious elitism so thick that you could scoop it into bowls and eat is as soup.
(The Political Correctors in the US and Britain are composed of people stupider or wickeder than average whose only claim to moral superiority is their laughably transparent claim to be smarter and purer than average. They are so braindead and morally retarded that they cannot even tell if babies are human or not. They cannot deduce whether or not members of the same sex can mate, and need laws to protect their mating rituals and vows. Even the simplest moral calculation, such as asking whether minorities can be ‘racist’ or such as asking whether it is right to concede civilization, unfought and undebated, meekly to the Jihad, is too complicated for their pea sized brains, and requires moral courage beyond the power of their subpea sized testes. All these things are beyond their allegedly titanic intellectual efforts. ‘A is A’ is something they don’t know what it means, these paragons of the intellect. Fie on them all.)
But, my scorn for the anti-intellectual intellectuals to one side, whether you agree or not of the moral and mental caliber of these Morlocks, let us at the minimum agree that they are elitist: they believe a cadre of experts, learned, or concerned citizens should have the right to order the affairs of the layman, the ignorant, or the unconcerned, based on the superiority of their learning and their compassion. They do not believe in the equality of man (or the privacy of property, which is a corollary thereof).
The modern intellectual does not believe that a stupid man or an evil one has a right to earn his own money as he would, and spent it as he would, to speak as he would, worship as he pleases, consume as he pleases, dig up or drill as he pleases, and burn what he pleases on his own land. The only liberty that the modern intellectual is eager, nay, is sanctimoniously devout to grant the subjects of his enlightened despotism is the right to sin as they please, especially sexual sins.
In short, the claim that all men are created equal cannot be based on any empirical or scientific claim, because then it can be empirically disproven. It must be based on a mystical claim, a spiritual reality that all enlightened men perceive by spiritual means, because then to dispute or dismiss it is benighted.
Without equal government, a liberal (I mean liberty-protecting) government is not logically possible. Once you grant that the elite moiety has the right to dictate the education and behavior of the benighted majority, the idea of restrictions on the government, the idea of Constitutional prohibitions on that the state may do, the very idea that the state is only authorized to do those things the governed authorize, will be greeted with Pellosian bewilderment and indignation. “Are you serious?”
But let us give EvD his comment in context, lest this debate become disjointed from its environment:
Sorry, but you’re still wrong. (BTW, pointing out that the author is anti-atheist is not an ad hominem attack, any more than the author’s continuous and unabashed referencing of various “pagan” eyewitnesses (whom he repeatedly suggests may have lied or distorted facts because they may have been anti-Christian) is ad hominem. One’s religious biases are certainly relevant for us to consider. This is not a personal attack.
She (Hypatia) was not killed in a street. Orestes was attacked in a street. Hypatia, according to the most reliable reporter, was killed in a church. Historical fact as reported by the best reporter of the era. No way around it.
Yet the location is almost beside the point. Cyril’s character is extremely well-known, and it’s true that even other Christians didn’t like him (and that they ultimately lay the blame for Hypatia’s murder at Cyril’s feet.) He is, as I wrote, one of the father figures of modern Christianity. His intolerance, violent temper, and Old Testament “driving out enemies to the faith” attitude is important to our discussion, because it sets the tone for what Christianity brought upon civilization later (i.e. it is okay to exterminate the South American civilizations in the 1500s as long as when the dust settles we have good Christian men and women left standing; it is okay to paint illuminated prayer-books over the pagan works of Archimedes, etc.)
And despite the spin in the articles, Christian philosophy is not about questioning the world, but rather, about submitting to a Bronze Age patriarchal figure. Cyril is the then-embodiment of that patriarch. Like his uncle, he slashed-and-burned a field in Alexandria which had known debate and discussion
Now, to veer off into parallel (but still relevant) matters….
I like your writing style and I consider you an intelligent guy, but I take issue with your spin. It’s swell that you’re Christian, that it gave you order and meaning to your life. But that doesn’t change the fact that Christianity’s philosophy is actually anti-Enlightenment. The great discoveries and social progress of the last couple centuries have happened in defiance of Christianity. Consider how different American civilization would be if we had been founded, as modern day Cyrils would prefer, on a religious Constitution instead of a secular one.
Care to respond?
Dear sir, go back to your Logic 101 textbook and look up ‘ad hominem.’ The information is also available on many website around the internet. If you do not know what it means, merely ask me, I will explain it to you.
My life had plenty of meaning and order before my conversion, and I do not believe in Christ because I seek order and meaning there, but because it is the truth.
I concede the point that Hypatia was murdered in a Church. Will you concede the point that the reason for the murder was what that same eyewitness reported it to be, namely, a political altercation no different from any of the countless others agitating the city of Alexandria for a hundred years?
“Christianity’s philosophy is actually anti-Enlightenment. The great discoveries and social progress of the last couple centuries have happened in defiance of Christianity.”
If so, explain the utter lack of great discoveries and social progress in areas of the world, and times of history, where Christianity was not present? If you say A opposes or hinders the growth of B, then in the absence of some supervening cause, should we not expect the absence of A to correspond to the flourishing of B?
Empirical Science was founded in the Dark Ages, ironic as that sounds. They are called “Dark” not because they were a province of ignorance and magic (that came later, during the Renaissance) nor of brutal Church persecutions, inquisitions, and witch-hunts (that came during the Reformation); they are called “Dark” because the records were burned during wars with Norse and Saracen.
Empirical science is the unique cultural product of Christianity. Neither the Greek philosophy nor the Jewish world-view either by itself created the conditions for the progressive notions hidden in them to flourish. Christianity is the marriage of these two traditions: Jewish faith and Greek metaphysics.
Empirical science presupposes a rational and real world governed by a rational and real creator, able and indeed meant to be understood by a rational animal like man: the metaphysic of the pagans supposes either an illusionary world, or one governed by whimsical and malign spirits; the Mohammedan presupposes the world is as arbitrary and incomprehensible as the will of Allah, into which no man may inquire; the metaphysic of the modern materialist presupposes the universe cannot be understood because man is not rational, nor can he explain where nature came from, or why it is rational. This by no means implies that non-Christians cannot do scientific work! But it does imply that the pagan, the Mohammedan, the atheist can give no account, no reason, and make no sense of why their work is scientific, or how it relates to reality. Science is not a natural or native product of their world view, and is, in fact, ultimately incompatible with it. The best they can say is that is just is because it just is, and rule all further or deeper inquiry into causes out of bounds. No man is allowed to ask from whence the Big Bang arose, or what or who must have existed in non-time and non-space, something made not of matter nor energy which gave rise to the great explosion of timespace and matter-energy that initiated the entire sidereal universe.
Unfortunately, since you are a random stranger on the Internet, I do not know how much history you know, or how much of the history of natural philosophy. Are familiar with these men and their writings:
- St. Thomas Aquinas?
- Robert Grosseteste?
- Nicholas of Oresme?
- William of Occam?
- Roger Bacon?
- Nicholas of Cusa?
- Isaac Newton?
Are you familiar with the Middle Ages? Below is a partial list of the inventions in the Middle Ages, when Christendom was the unchallenged and dominant world view.
Of the things on this list, please tell me which ones were opposed, oppressed, or hindered by the Church?
I am not asking whether the Chinese had gunpowder or paper before the West: I am asking whether Christianity discouraged these things which came into widespread use at that time.
I will reject with scorn any airy generalities: give me the name of the Papal Bull and the date anathematizing the invention or the inventor.
- Hour glass
- Numbering System The roman numerals were replaced by the Arabs numbering system in the Middle Ages
- Minute Glass
- Printing Press the printing press was invented in the mid 1400’s
- Sun dial
- Traverse Boards Traverse boards were navigation instruments, an older version of the Astrolabe
- Cross-staffs Cross-staffs were used to measure the angle of the Sun or a star above the horizon
- Nocturnals — a timekeeping instrument
- The Rudder
- Artesian wells — eliminated the need for pumping
- Mills — to pump water, grind grain, and crush ore
- Moldboard Plough
- The Bit and Bridle
- The high-backed saddle
- Siege weapons
- The Longbow
- The Crossbow
- Chemical/Alchemical Processes, Apparatus – e.g., furnace and still, assay-scales; distillation of alcohol
(By the way, the word “inventor” INGENETOR, is a Medieval Invention, and occurs naturally in no language outside Christendom: they use our word after contact with the West.)
As for the Enlightenment, here we must be careful to avoid an ambiguity. There are two children who claim to be the culmination and heir of the Enlightenment: one in America, the American Revolution and its aftermath, and one in France, the French Revolution and its aftermath.
Of these two, one of them was firmly grounded in the Christian tradition, opened it meetings with prayers, mentioned the Creator in its founding documents, and tried to eliminate government meddling in the affairs of the Church. Its fruits were liberty, liberality, and longevity.
The other unambiguously rejected the Church and all its forms, set about to tear down steeples and put up cathedrals to the goddess Reason, scorned all talk of God. Its fruits were the Terror, followed by Napoleon, Imperium, Secret Police, war and ruination. It did not last a single generation. The methods and rhetoric of the French Revolution are the direct causes and fathers of the Fascist movement in Italy, the Nazi movement in Germany, and the Red Revolution in Russia.
Science has only one martyr to its name: and that is Lavoisier, father of chemistry, killed by the French Enlightenment. The case trying to paint Galileo and Hypatia as martyrs to science falling to obscurantist Christians founders on historical fact.
Turning to the American Revolution, I submit to you that they, and not the French, are the true heirs and true culmination of the Enlightenment. When I compare your statement about the role of the Christian religion in this noble revolution in human affairs, forgive me if I take their word over yours: because history has proven that they knew whereof they spoke. They are the ones who designed and wrote the Constitution, after all, and the surrounding documents.
Now, I would like you to examine the following quotes, not for the truth of falsehood of what they say (I do not expect you or any man to believe something merely because a famed figure said it) but to examine them to confirm the proposition that (1) these are the true representatives of the Enlightenment and its spirit and (2) they saw Christianity as integral to rather than independent of (or hostile to) the Christian religion. Indeed, one quote below expresses the idea that kingless self-government (which is the very touchstone of the Enlightenment) is impossible for a people who do not voluntarily submit themselves to the ethical precepts of the Bible.
Now, this is a rather remarkable statement, and is in direct and overwhelming contradiction to your own. If Christianity and the (American) Enlightenment were at odds, then there should be at least as many statements condemning the Christian religion to be found in the letters and writings of the figures recognized as the leaders and archtypes of the Enlightenment.
Can you provide such a list?
Can you find the quotes from each of the men listed below condemning, not establishment of religion as a state function, but religion in general and Christianity in particular?
(I will concede un-argued that Thomas Paine was a Deist, if you will concede that Deism is a religion. Christianity holds that man knows God by means of tradition, scripture, and natural reason. The Protestants rejected tradition as a source, saying that scripture and natural reason are sufficient. Deism, to be precise it is that form or heretical version of Christianity that does the Protestants one better by rejection not just tradition but scripture as well, and relies on natural reason alone. Deism is not agnosticism and certainly not atheism. Indeed, it is an oddly optimistic religion, because it rests its entire case on the argument from design: Deism expects all men to come to know God through natural philosophy and scientific reasoning. That is not atheism nor agnosticism.)
Can you provide a list of the anti-Christian writings of the Enlightenment figures and founders? If not, where is your evidence, and I mean historical evidence and not mere airy speculation, that the Enlightenment was in opposition to Christianity and in despite of it?
If your argument is merely that the French Enlightenment, which culminated in terror and madness, was opposed to Christianity, and Christianity to it, that argument I will concede with a smile, albeit that argument hardly redounds to your credit.
I am only interested in talking about the Anglo-American Enlightenment. As should be plain, I consider them to be the mere opposite of the French Enlightenment, just as I consider Mohammedanism to be the mere opposite of Christianity, or a satanic parody of it.
Here are the men who did not see the contradiction between Enlightenment and Christianity that you see. Again, I am not asking you to dispute the truth or falsehood of what they say: i am asking you to explain, as a matter of historical fact, how these men (who, by your theory, where directly opposed to Christianity) came to say these things.
To make my question clear, consider this parallel. Suppose a random stranger on the internet challenged you with the statement that the Enlightenment was pro-Monarchist and wished at all costs to preserve the ancient regime of state-established churches and aristocratic privilege. The only way open to you to show the anti-Monarchist fervor of the Enlightenment would be to quote the Enlightenment figures and challenge your challenger to explain them away. That is what I am doing here with you. Your claim that the Enlightenment (in America) was anti-Religious or in despite of religion is as absurd, as historically blind, as a claim that the Enlightenment was pro-Monarchist rather than anti-Monarchist, or pro-establishmentarian rather than anti-establishmentarian.
You have to explain why all these men, none of whom were cowed or unwilling to speak out against Monarchy in the most clear and powerful terms, are speaking out in favor of Christ in clear and powerful terms, when your claim is that their opposition to Christ was like their opposition to Monarchy.
Or were they secretly opposed to Christianity without knowing it? And somehow, by some miracle of insight, you know what they opposed when they did not?
If you decline to respond to this specific point, or change the subject, or invent some “just-so” story to explain away plain historical fact, I will not pursue the conversation further with you.
Here is a (very abbreviated) list of quotes. I could have tripled or quadrupled its length without any additional effort. Explain how each one was either given under duress or was secretly a quote showing a preference for atheism over Christianity:
- John Adams and John Hancock:
We Recognize No Sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus! [April 18, 1775]
- John Adams:
“ The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principals of Christianity… I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”
“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” –October 11, 1798
- Samuel Adams: (Yes, that Sam Adams, the one the beer is named after)
“ Let divines and philosophers, statesmen and patriots, unite their endeavors to renovate the age by impressing the minds of men with the importance of educating their little boys and girls, inculcating in the minds of youth the fear and love of the Deity… and leading them in the study and practice of the exalted virtues of the Christian system.” [October 4, 1790]
- Charles Carroll – signer of the Declaration of Independence | Portrait of Charles Carroll
” Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure…are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.” [Source: To James McHenry on November 4, 1800.]
- Benjamin Franklin:
“ God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured in the Sacred Writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel” –Constitutional Convention of 1787
“In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered… do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?” [Constitutional Convention, Thursday June 28, 1787]
- Alexander Hamilton:
“For my own part, I sincerely esteem it [the Constitution] a system which without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests.” [1787 after the Constitutional Convention]
“I have carefully examined the evidences of the Christian religion, and if I was sitting as a juror upon its authenticity I would unhesitatingly give my verdict in its favor. I can prove its truth as clearly as any proposition ever submitted to the mind of man.”
- Patrick Henry:
“It cannot be emphasized too clearly and too often that this nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason, peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.” [May 1765 Speech to the House of Burgesses]
- John Jay:
“ Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” Source: October 12, 1816. The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, Henry P. Johnston, ed., (New York: Burt Franklin, 1970), Vol. IV, p. 393.
- Thomas Jefferson:
“I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.”
“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep forever.” (excerpts are inscribed on the walls of the Jefferson Memorial in the nations capital) [Source: Merrill . D. Peterson, ed., Jefferson Writings, (New York: Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., 1984), Vol. IV, p. 289. From Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII, 1781.]
- James Madison
“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We’ve staked the future of all our political institutions upon our capacity…to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.” [1778 to the General Assembly of the State of Virginia]
- George Washington:
The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion” …and later: “…reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle…”
“ It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and Bible.”
Finally, as to you last point: give me the name of a ‘modern day Cyril’ and show the quote and the date when he said what you are implying he said. Tell me the name of the Christian leader who has asked his flock to butcher pagan scientists in churches with rooftiles or clamshells.
And I am asking for Christians, not Mohammedans. I am not asking for Christians who oppose aborticide or gay marriage or who scoff at Darwin or scoff at Social Darwinism, Eugenics, Scientific Racism, and so on.
If you cannot provide an example of a ‘modern day Cyril’ I would like you to retract the comment.