Four articles appear below:
1    A Short History of Christian Intolerance
2    The Bible on Tolerance
3    The Bible on Tolerance—A Reply
4    Christian Tolerance



A Short History of Christian Intolerance

Kirk Straughen

(Investigator 166, 2016 January)



By and large, Christianity has been an intolerant religion. This proposition may seem rather extraordinary, perhaps even offensive. Therefore, I will qualify this statement by saying that I believe the vast majority of Christians are decent people, for clearly many lead exemplary lives just as non-Christians do. Nor do I mean to imply that all varieties of the Christian faith are dangerous. This essay is not aimed at those Christians who reject violence, embrace the concept of tolerance and acknowledge the vital necessity of human rights.

My criticism is aimed at Christianity in its traditional form — a religion that has been largely intolerant, dogmatic and violent towards those who hold views different from the orthodox opinions of the age. In other words what I am about is criticizing fundamentalism, which may be broadly defined as a mindset that views the Scriptures as the infallible word of God, and that all human activity and thought must be subordinate to the alleged Word of God.

Having said this I do not mean to imply that every fundamentalist is a blood crazed fanatic — most are not. However, there does appear to be a minority who are, and these individuals have the potential to stir up people's hatreds, prejudices and fears and lead them down the path to violence, and it is this dangerous minority that must be opposed by all decent minded people.

In addition I realize that traditional Christianity has no doubt helped many people by giving them a sense of meaning to their lives, and offering comfort in times of trouble. Nonetheless, I have arrived at the conclusion that this version of the religion has played a part, along with other social and political factors in hindering the emergence of a rational and humane society, and that this is a justifiable conclusion based upon historical evidence, as I shall attempt to show.


The War Against Religious Tolerance

In a world as ours with such diverse faiths that embrace suppositions that are unproven and possibly incapable of proof, the idea and practice of religious tolerance is, in my opinion, one area of paramount importance, especially today when we possess weapons of mass destruction that could fall into the hands of violent extremists.

However, when we examine the history of most monotheistic faiths, what we find is a litany of persecutions and atrocities committed in the name of their respective beliefs. Christianity, in particular, has a distressing record.

If we examine the New Testament, we find that from the very beginning the church believed those who disagreed with its doctrines were evil merely because they held contrary views:

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is a deceiver and an antichrist. (2 John 7)

Of course, it's a small step from believing those who hold different opinions from one's own are evil to the next level of actively persecuting them. Unfortunately, history shows this is exactly what happened when the church gained sufficient power to eliminate dissenters.

During the first four centuries of Christianity, Christians sent one another to hell purely with words. This was really only because there was no existing power structure to reinforce those words with actions. As soon as the emperors Theodosius and Gratian, however, raised the numerically strongest community of Christians, the Catholics, to the status of a state church, by edict of the 28 February 380, 'heresy' at once became a crime against the state. (1)

To list all the cruelties committed in the name of Christianity would require an entire book. However, an example of the terrible barbarity that religious intolerance can give birth to is illustrated by the atrocities committed during the period of the Crusades (11th-14th centuries), when Christians declared 'holy war' (a misnomer if ever there was one) against Jews and Muslims, murdering both by the thousands:

On the way to the Middle East, they [the Crusaders] decided that only one of their goals was to wrest control of Jerusalem from the Muslims. A secondary task was to rid the world of as many non-Christians as possible — both Muslims and Jews. The Crusaders gave the Jews two choices in their slogan: "Christ killers, embrace the Cross or die!" 12,000 Jews in the Rhine Valley alone were killed as the first Crusade passed through. Some Jewish writers refer to these events as the "first holocaust. Once the army reached Jerusalem and broke through the city walls, they slaughtered all the inhabitants that they could find (men, women, children, newborns). After locating about 6,000 Jews holed up in the synagogue, they set the building on fire; the Jews were burned alive. The Crusaders found that about 30,000 Muslims had fled to the al Aqsa Mosque. The Muslims were also slaughtered without mercy. (2)

Unfortunately, Christians not only killed Jews and Muslims, but also turned on each other when nonconforming sects branched off from the mother church. Some examples of those persecuted are as follows:

•    Albigenses. In 1208, Pope Innocent III ordered their extermination. Thousands were slaughtered, with many being tortured before being killed.

•    Apostolic Brethren. In 1300 most were killed by troops of the bishop of Milan.

•    Waldensians. In 1487, Pope Innocent VIII ordered their extermination. Again, atrocities were committed.

•    Protestants. In 1542 Pope Paul III attempted eliminate Protestant influences in Italy. This persecution became a reign of terror under Pope Paul IV. Many were killed on mere suspicion of being heretics.

The Inquisition, which was instituted by Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) in Rome and then established by Gregory IX in 1233 for the discovery and suppression of heresy, and its Spanish counterpart (established in 1478) were instrumental in persecuting heretics, Jews and those suspected of being witches. The Inquisition can be divided into the following three phases (1) The medieval persecution of heretics (2) the Spanish Inquisition, (3) The Roman Inquisition that began after the Reformation. Precise figures of the number of people killed as a result of the activities of the Inquisition in its various phases remains unknown due to the paucity of historical records.

Garcia Carcel estimates that the total number processed by the Inquisition throughout its history was approximately 150,000; applying the percentages of executions that appeared in the trials of 1500-1700 — about 2% — the approximate total would be about 3,000 put to death. Nevertheless, it is likely that the toll was higher, keeping in mind the data provided by Dedieu and Garcia Carcel for the tribunals of Toledo and Valencia, respectively. It is likely that between 3,000 and 5,000 were executed.

Modem historians have begun to study the documentary records of the Inquisition. The archives of the Suprema, today held by the National Historical Archive of Spain (Archivo Historico Nacional), conserves the annual relations of all processes between 1540 and 1700. This material provides information on about 44,674 judgements; the latter studied by Gustav Henningsen and Jaime Contreras. These 44,674 cases include 826 executions in persona and 778 in effigie. This material, however, is far from being complete-for example, the tribunal of Cuenca is entirely omitted, because no relaciones de causas from this tribunal have been found, and significant gaps concern some other tribunals (e.g., Valladolid). Many more cases not reported to the Suprema are known from the other sources (i.e., no relaciones de causas from Cuenca have been found, but its original records have been preserved), but were not included in Contreras-Henningsen's statistics for the methodological reasons. William Monter estimates 1000 executions between 1530 and 1630 and 250 between 1630 and 1730.

The archives of the Suprema only provide information surrounding the processes prior to 1560. To study the processes themselves, it is necessary to examine the archives of the local tribunals; however, the majority have been lost to the devastation of war, the ravages of time or other events. Jean-Pierre Dedieu has studied those of Toledo, where 12,000 were judged for offences related to heresy. Ricardo Garcia Carcel has analyzed those of the tribunal of Valencia. These authors' investigations find that the Inquisition was most active in the period between 1480 and 1530, and that during this period the percentage condemned to death was much more significant than in the years studied by Henningsen and Contreras. Henry Kamen gives the number of about 2,000 executions in persona in the whole of Spain up to 1530. (3)

As can be seen, persecutions and atrocities were both regular and widespread throughout the history of Christianity. This apocalypse of persecution is probably best exemplified by the bloody and barbarous conflict in Europe between Catholics and Protestants, a state of affairs that culminated in the Thirty Year's War (1618 - 1648):

The Thirty Year's War was a human catastrophe. It settled nothing, and killed uncountable multitudes. One estimate says Germany's population dropped from 18 million to 4 million. Hunger and deprivation followed. Too few people remained to plant fields, rebuild cities, or conduct education or commerce.

The disaster helped break the historic entwinement of Christianity and politics. The concluding Peace of Westphalia prescribed an end to the Pope's control over civil governments. (4)

To list all the atrocities committed by both sides is beyond the scope of this work, so I shall confine my example to the outbreak of a wave of terror in Ireland, 1642, when Irish Papists wrecked their savage and bloody vengeance on English Protestants:

They hung up women who were big with child, ripped open their bellies so the infants dropped out, throwing these living babies to wild dogs. They took the twelve-year-old child of one, Thomas Stratton, and boiled him in a cauldron; while another youngster had his backbone broken and was left in the fields to die slowly. (5)

Of course the fanatics, knowingly or unknowingly, were following the example of their Bible, which contains accounts of entire cities, men, women and even children being slaughtered at the Lord's command:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, "I will punish what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way, when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling ox and sheep, camel and ass." (1 Samuel 15:2-3)

As for ripping unborn babies from their mother's womb — unfortunately, this atrocity also has a Biblical precedent:

Samaria shall bear her guilt, because she rebelled against her God [by worshipping other gods]; they shall fall by the sword, their little ones shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women ripped open. (Hosea 13:16)

Distressingly, the enemies of God, the sinful and those who decide to worship other gods (even their children) deserve nothing but destruction by the cruelest and most horrible means that can be devised. Clearly, there are parts of the Bible that extremists can refer to in an attempt to justify atrocities — if it's okay to kill the people of Amalek and Samaria then it is okay to kill others whom they feel God is telling them are just as deserving of death.


The Enlightenment and the Humanization of Religion

The decline of religious persecution in Europe began during The Enlightenment, a period roughly corresponding with the middle of the 18th century, a period that was characterized by a flowering of intellectual thought, particularly in France, whose aim was the critical examination of accepted principles and authorities in the field of politics, science and religion:

Chief among the French Freethinkers was Voltaire, whose campaigns against religious cruelty and injustice gave such cases international notoriety. His tireless efforts, along with those of the other Freethinkers proved highly influential, and their ideas helped to set Western civilization on a more humane, tolerant, and rational path.

The enlightenment spiritualized the principle of religious authority, humanized theological systems, and emancipated individuals from physical coercion. It was the Enlightenment, not the Reformation or the Renaissance that dislodged the ecclesiastical establishment from central control of cultural and intellectual life. By emancipating science from the trammels of theological tradition the Enlightenment rendered possible the autonomous evolution of modem culture. Diderot said, if you forbid me to speak on religion and government, I have nothing to say. Hence natural science occupied the front of the stage.

Most of the philosophers wrote on natural science. To Diderot, d'Holbach and the encyclopaedists all religious dogma was absurd and obscure. LeMettrie and d'Holbach were consistent determinists. Voltaire disagreed with them and said they had a dogmatism of their own. Diderot too insisted on the free play of reason. But he was an unashamed pagan and believed in a kind of pantheism or pan-psychisrn, not pure atheism or materialism. He was humanistic, secular, modern and scientific. He expected from his method a regeneration of mankind.

English deism, however, was more pervasive in the Enlightenment. It emphasized an impersonal deity, natural religion and the common morality of all human beings. Deism was a logical outgrowth of scientific inquiry, rational faith in humanity, and the study of comparative religion. All religions could be reduced to worship God and a commonsense moral code. There was a universal natural religion. (6)


Contemporary Christian Extremism and its Causes

Unfortunately, Christian extremists still exist today, and would commit human rights abuses if they had the chance. The focus of their hatred may have shifted slightly, but the underlying sentiment remains the same, as this quotation clearly shows:

Among the hardest core of the Religious Right are those who embrace "reconstructionism," which advocates imposing a radically fundamentalist interpretation of "Biblical law" onto American society. On the September 4, 1998 Armstrong Williams talk show, Colorado talk-radio personality Bob Enyard called for the death penalty for gays and adulterers. Last year, a Christian radio talk-show host in Costa Mesa, California said, "Lesbian love, sodomy are viewed by God as being detestable and abominable. Civil magistrates are to put people to death who practice these things." The announcer urged listeners to contact legislators and ask that they enact capital punishment for homosexuality. The station manager called the program "an honest dialogue concerning Christian beliefs." Congressional candidate Randall Terry, former head of Operation Rescue, extends this view of "Biblical law" to include "Biblical slavery" and capital punishment for rebellious teenagers. (7)

Once again, the Bible sets the tone, which the extremists unquestioningly follow:

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them. (Leviticus 20: 13)
But who among my readers would care to live in a society ruled by fanatics who believe it is acceptable to kill people just because of their sexuality? How many of my readers, if they had a son or daughter who was gay, would approve of them being put to death?

But why are the fanatics so fanatical? Christianity in its traditional form tends to focus on the concept of sin, the unworthiness of humanity and the powerlessness of the human condition. Such beliefs can engender a sense of low self esteem and dependency which, in turn, creates a need in the believer to belong or identify with something greater than the self in order to gain feelings of self worth (God loves me) and empowerment (God is with me).

Generally speaking, the monotheistic nature of Christianity fulfils the above desires through an exclusivist theology — the belief that there is only one god — a God above all others. Unfortunately, this concept of exclusiveness, although fulfilling the individual's psychological needs by belonging to a group perceived as special (the Elect, or chosen few), can have negative consequences. This arises when religion becomes central to the concept of self, for anything that is perceived as threatening cherished beliefs threatens the self, and therefore can engender a violent response.

In addition, individuals who feel they, and they alone possess the Truth, can have their judgment clouded by an attitude of disrespect, perhaps even contempt, for beliefs different from their own. This in itself is bad enough, but when it is combined with the idea that an invisible war is raging between the forces of good and evil (personified by God and the Devil); then the situation can become explosive.

Indeed, given the dualistic nature of Christianity and the prominent position of Satan in the religion's traditional theodicy, it is almost inevitable that non-Christians and heretics come to be seen as the enemies of God, an idea exacerbated by the concept of Hell:

Most monotheistic religions have historically taught that God will judge people after death and send them either to Heaven or Hell. Many, perhaps most people believe that they and their fellow believers will end up in Heaven, and that most or all followers of other religions will go to Hell. That is, God has such a low opinion of other religions that he will have their followers tortured for all eternity without hope of mercy or relief. If God hates followers of other religions so intensely, then it may well be difficult for true believers to love and value them. A variant of this mindset involves the Rapture: that Christians who are saved will rise through the air to meet Jesus Christ in the sky. The unsaved will remain on earth to experience the mass slaughter — the largest genocide the world will have ever seen — during the Tribulation. (8)

Religious intolerance can arise through viewing the Bible as both literal and inerrant: To fundamentalists the Truth has been revealed — Scripture is the infallible Word of God, and for them that is the end of the debate. They, the True Believers, are the chosen few, the divinely blessed, and everyone else is wrong — simply mistaken at best, or at worst in league with the Devil. Needless to say there can be little, if any reasoning with people who have this attitude.

If a literal interpretation of the Bible is a contributing factor in religious intolerance, then what can be done? Perhaps the answer lies in encouraging people who need religion to cultivate the following attitudes:

Regardless of belief system, an individual IS no longer a "fundamentalist" when one develops:

When the Bible is examined in the light of the above quotation, it becomes clear that the authors of Scripture were, by and large, fundamentalists at heart, and that later Christians, believing their opinions to be the Word of God, adopted attitudes that hindered the emergence of the idea of tolerance.

Firstly, in view of those massacres I have outlined it is impossible to claim that passages of Scripture such as 1 Samuel 15:2-3 exemplify tolerance and unconditional love for others. Secondly, social interaction with those of different beliefs is actively discouraged:

Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)

As can be seen, all unbelievers are stereotyped as being evil purely on the basis that they are non-Christians, which is hardly fair to any reasonable minded person. Thirdly, learning form others together with considering the possibility that one's own beliefs could be wrong are completely rejected because the True Believer knows it all:

But the anointing which you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you; as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in him. (1 John 2:27)

Fourthly, efforts to make society a better place are negated by an emphasis on slavish submission to injustice:

Servants be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to the kind and gentle but also to the overbearing. (l Peter 2:18)

Being submissive is all very well, but not to the point where people accept injustice and inequality. If people hadn't fought against slavery this dreadful institution would still be with us today.


Conclusion

The very nature of traditional Christianity can engender intolerance in its adherents. The religion's monotheistic and exclusivist theology, combined with the idea of a vindictive deity who is at war with the powers of darkness, tends to breed fear and hatred of other beliefs, with those who follow them being seen as the enemies of God.

Religious tolerance came about not through the rediscovery of pacifist principles in Christianity, but through the efforts of the philosophers of the Enlightenment and a grudging realization (after hundreds of years of brutal conflict) by the various creeds that they couldn't exterminate each other, and that the price of such attempts was far too high for all.

When we consider the hindering effect traditional Christianity has had on the progress of society towards tolerance, it is clear that all forms of religion must be separated entirely from the sphere of education, politics and science. The fanatics may rail against secular society, but what they don't seem to realize is that it's secular society that keeps the various creeds from each other's throats, and that's a good thing for everybody.

Finally, what the fanatics need is a good dose of humility. None of them have stood before God and looked upon his or her face, and when they do (if there is a God and an afterlife) they might be in for a terrible surprise indeed.


Bibliography

(1) Kahl, Joachim page 63 in The Misery of Christianity, Penguin Books Ltd, England, 1971

(2) Christian Apology for the Crusades
www.religioustolerance.org/chr_cru1.htm

(3) Spanish Inquisition
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Inquisition#Death _tolls

(4) Haught, James A. page 107 in Holy Horrors, Prometheus Books, New York, 1990

(5) Scott, George Riley page 94 in A History of Torture, Studio Editions Ltd, London, 1995

6) Age of the Enlightenment
http://mars.wnec.edu/~grempel/courses/wc2/lectures/enlightenment.html

(7) Anti-Gay Politics and the Religious Right:
 www.pfaw.org/pfaw/general/default.aspx?oid=2049

(8) Causes of Religious Intolerance
www.religioustolerance.org/relintoI4.htm
    
(9) Freeman, Anita A Psychological Analysis of Fundamentalism
www.anitra.net/activism/fundamentalism/psychology.html

Unwin, Kenneth Co., London, 1946 A Century for Freedom, Watts & Co., London, 1946

Holy Bible (Revised Standard Version)








THE BIBLE ON TOLERANCE

Anonymous

(Investigator 167, 2016 March)



EXCELLENT IN TOLERANCE

The Bible's advocacy of tolerance is easily demonstrated:

•    "At a time when many societies interpreted physical disabilities as divine punishments and even ostracized sufferers Jesus taught: "Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame."" (Investigator #165)

•    When slavery, nationalism and racism were the norm the New Testament taught: "In that renewal [when Jesus is followed] there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all." (Colossians 3:11)

•    When Samaritans were despised Jesus associated with them and included a "good" Samaritan in a parable. (John 4; Luke 10:29-37)

•    When Jews suffered from racism and oppression the Bible taught "Salvation is from the Jews" and included Jews as "servants of our God". (John 4:22; Romans 3:1-2; Revelation 7:3-5)

•    When upper classes got almost all the recognition Christianity welcomed the poor. (James 2:1-9; Galatians 2:10)

•    When vengeance was normal the Bible introduced the God who forgives and commanded, "Be imitators of God…" (Mark 11:25; Ephesians 4:32; 5:1)

•    When all nations warred and oppressed each other the Bible taught that they all actually belong to the one, same big family. (Acts 17:26-31)

God himself is tolerant because: "God … has endured [or tolerated] with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction." (Romans 9:22)


JUDGED ON CONDUCT

Mr Straughen (Investigator #166) claims, "from the very beginning the church believed those who disagreed with its doctrines were evil merely because they held contrary views."

Actually, the Bible teaches that all people are morally defective because all are born that way. (Romans 3:9-20) This doctrine facilitates humility, tolerance, and restraint. (Matthew 7:1-5)

The biblical criterion for regarding people as "evil" is conduct not "views". The Bible teaches that people will be judged by "what they have done" (Revelation 20:13) not "by what they believed". Christ's sacrifice for people's salvation covers non-Christians if they on their own accord obey essential ethics. Paul says they may be "excused". (Romans 2:15-16) It's a teaching that promotes tolerance.

Straughen calls John's warning (II John 7-11) against accepting "deceivers" and anti-Christs into one's home "intolerant" and claims it leads to "the next level" i.e. persecution.

When modern countries face enemies that plot their destruction, they suppress enemy propaganda. Baraniuk (2015) reports:

Another approach being used to tackle radicalization is the removal of web content that promotes ISIS's message … more than 90,000 pieces of terrorist-related material have been scrubbed off the web since 2011.

Authorities today not only exclude ISIS representatives from schools and homes but scrub their propaganda off the Web!

Deceivers and anti-Christs worked to destroy Christianity. And II John was written after Emperor Nero had hundreds of Christians executed, many burned to death. The exclusion of opposers from one's "home" without further action against them is the epitome of tolerance, especially since the following also applied:
 
See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. (I Thessalonians 5:15)

Straughen's implied claim that the vulnerable and oppressed should take no precautions would be acceptable only to tyrants and criminals.



CRUSADES

Straughen next introduces the "atrocities during the Crusades".

The first point to make is that biblical Christians become such by personal response to Christ and accepting biblical teaching. Many other "Christians" are merely so-called and made no commitment:

Even so, many will follow their licentious ways, and because of these teachers the way of truth will be maligned. (II Peter 2:2; Matthew 7:21-23; Jude 3-13)

Therefore one answer is to attribute atrocities to the pseudo Christians.

Atheists, however, don't have a similar distinction. They don't teach that atheists are good and evil atheists are pseudo atheists. Therefore, when 20th-century atheistic regimes impoverished whole nations and killed over 100 million people, much of the blame goes to their ideology. Furthermore, crimes reported daily in newspapers — assaults, drug use, rapes, burglaries, etc — are by people without respect for God or biblical standards. Criminals live by the atheistic assumption that if they can escape the law there is no retribution.

The Bible teaches: "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good." (Proverbs 15:3; 5:21) Psychological research confirms that such a belief makes a difference. Marks (2013), for example, reports that police are starting to use body-warn video cameras because, "People in a brawl often calm down suddenly when told they are being videoed…" Knowing that one is watched alters conduct, helps suppress temptation.

The second point regarding the Crusades is the Medieval world had very few rules of war; the "Christians" merely did what others did:

Another rule of medieval war was "To the victor go the spoils." Loot and booty were major motivating factors, especially for the common soldiers of all armies. Hence, surrender agreements with cities usually provided for very substantial settlements, which then were shared out. But when cities were taken by storm, the spoils were obtained by looting. (Stark 2009, p. 158)

The third point is that the Crusades responded to 400 years of Muslim aggression that had conquered half the Christian world. Land not conquered suffered perpetual slave raids so that many coastal areas of Europe were abandoned. Statistics for that period are lacking but in the 16th to 19th centuries European slaves numbered millions. In 1535 when Charles V of Spain invaded Tunis, he freed 20,000 Christian slaves — 20,000 in just one city! (Stark 2004) At the apocalyptic naval battle of Lepanto (1571) 15,000 Christian slaves of the Ottomans drowned but another 15,000 were freed.

In 1786 when Thomas Jefferson negotiated with Tripoli's ambassador on ending attacks on American ships the ambassador replied:

It was written in their Koran, that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every mussulman who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise.


"CHRISTIAN" WARS

Similar points apply to Catholic-Protestant conflicts — the perpetrators did not follow the Bible or represent its ethics.

Jesus said "Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets." (Luke 6:26) The implication is that when "Christians" are popular it will be because they have become like the world around them, therefore followers of Christ in name but not in conduct.

Nevertheless during the Medieval European wars the majority of people lived quiet lives, worked their farms or trades, and raised their families.  

Using Straughen's logic we should judge Australia by focusing on murderers, rapists, torturers, plunderers, corrupt administrators, thieves and pedophiles and argue: "Unfortunately, Australians not only killed Aborigines and Japanese but also turned on each other…"

This sort of logic repeats the error of Christopher Hitchens whom I answered in #129 as follows:

In his book God is Not Great (2007) Hitchens argues that religion "poisons everything", and to make this case he catalogues crimes and stupidities of people professing to follow a religion…

The world has thousands of Christian ministries that heal, educate, fight poverty, and improve living standards. I have mentioned a few such ministries (#118 pp 43-44, #126 p. 64, and #128 p. 6) but Hitchens mentions none of them…

Hitchens’ cataloguing game can be played using any category of people one chooses — such as students, TV viewers, scientists, females, politicians, doctors, car drivers, psychologists, etc — and then catalogue all the bad and ignore all the good of that group…

Hitchens’ book … is nonsense because his procedure can be used to demonize any category of people whatsoever.

Perhaps we should also allow for the sort of world that dragged Medieval Christianity down: In 793 Vikings raided the island of Lindisfarne off NE England, destroyed the monastery, and murdered the monks. In the following century Viking slave raids and pillage devastated villages and towns from Ireland to Russia.

Other raiders came from Central Europe, invasion after invasion. After that came the Mongols of whom White (2014) writes: "An estimated 40 million people were killed under Khan's rule." That's 15% of the human race — an era many times more violent, relatively speaking, than 1914 to 1945! Plundering armies, recurring famines, disease epidemics, the unavailability of Bibles, and almost universal illiteracy meant minimal knowledge of the Scriptures.


FANATICS

Straughen mentions Irish Papists ripping women's bellies open and claims:

Of course the fanatics … were following the example of their Bible, which contains accounts of entire cities, men, women and children being slaughtered at the Lord's command.

When we read about men who kidnapped women and tortured and murdered them in Australia we don't argue:

Of course the fanatics were following the example of Australia's military which slaughtered and mutilated people in France, Africa, New Guinea and other wars.

Australia's wars were not fought as examples to show how Australians should treat each other; nor do historians write history to encourage more fighting. Similarly, Old Testament history is not written to encourage warfare, rather to discourage it.

So, what about the Amalakites whom "the LORD" ordered destroyed? (I Samuel 15:2-3) The Amalakites were the first to make unprovoked attacks on the Israelites after the Exodus from Egypt. (Exodus 17:8-16; Deuteronomy 25:17-19) Amalakite attacks and pillage recurred for centuries and eventually produced retaliation. Israelite warfare by the Law of Moses was consistent with the rules of war at the time except that it avoided rape, deliberate mutilation of captives, castration of males, and working captives to death.  

Lessons applicable today from the Amalakite events are:
1 The tolerance required to delay retribution for 4 centuries;
2 God won't tolerate evil forever, eventually time runs out.    


BABIES

Straughen argues: "As for ripping unborn babies form their mother's womb — unfortunately, this atrocity also has a biblical precedent." He cites the prophecy in Hosea 13:16 of what would happen to Samaria i.e. the northern kingdom of Israel and claims "Distressingly, the enemies of God … deserve nothing but destruction by the cruelest most horrible means that can be devised."

Hosea 13:16 was a prophecy of what the Assyrians would do. It was a prediction and statement of fact — it was not a command.

Nevertheless, there is a warning for today's world in what Assyria did to Israel, which is that the long-term rejection of God has terrible consequences which God has no obligation to prevent.  

Straughen, in his zeal to demonize the Bible, makes an error six-year-olds usually avoid – he confuses statements of fact with imperatives (commands). Consider: When historians describe how atheists killed 20% of Cambodia's population in the 1970s do the historians intend such information to be a "precedent" for other atheists to imitate? Are historians distressingly teaching that, "Cambodians deserve nothing but destruction by the cruelest most horrible means"?

Such misrepresentation by Straughen after 20 years of evidence on the Bible's accuracy and its benevolent impact indicates he is in a dark place.


ENLIGHTENMENT

Straugen attributes the decline of religious persecution to "Freethinkers" who "helped to set Western civilization on a more humane, tolerant and rational path"

However, whatever humane principles such men advocated were already in the Bible and taught in thousands of churches because Genesis 18:18 foretold "blessing to all the nations of the earth" to come through the descendants of Abraham i.e. Jesus and Christianity. (Acts 3:25-26)

The back cover of The Victory of Reason (2005) says:

Rodney Stark advances … that Christianity and its related institutions are directly responsible for the most significant, political, scientific, and economic breakthroughs of the past millennium. Christian theology, Stark asserts, is the very font of reason. Among the world's great monotheistic traditions, Christianity alone embraced logic and deductive thinking as the path toward enlightenment, freedom and progress.

The back cover of What If Jesus Had Never Been Born (1994) says:

Kennedy and Newcombe … irrefutably demonstrate how Jesus' life has helped reshape the world for good.

The back cover of The Book That Made Your World (2011) says:

If there is one book that has shaped Europe's art, architecture, commerce, education, ethics, family life, freedom, government, healthcare, law, language, literature, music, politics, science, social reform, and much more, it is the Bible.


HOMOSEXUALITY

Straughen cites certain American extremists and writes:

Once again, the Bible sets the tone, which the extremists unquestioningly follow: "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them." (Leviticus 20:13)

Straughen asks "But who … would care to live in a society ruled by fanatics who believe it is acceptable to kill people just because of their sexuality?"

No, it wasn't their sexuality, rather homosexual sexual activity as part of Canaanite religious ritual. Furthermore, Leviticus 20 was part of the Law of Moses limited to Israelites and Israel. At Jesus' death the whole world became God's people and this new situation required new laws. The New Testament excludes homosexuals who lack self-control from fellowship (I Corinthians 5:13) and otherwise requires Christians to set them a good example. That's amazingly tolerant!

The topic deserves further analysis but for now remember that AIDS, initially spread by homosexuals, brought national economies to the brink of ruin and made millions of children fatherless! Christian charities, not atheist charities, acted to help the orphans.


UNWORTHY

Straughen next claims that the Christian "exclusivity" of belief in "one God" and the focus on sin produces "low self esteem".

Firstly, to rationally demonstrate from scientific discoveries that one Almighty God exists is not easy. Can Straughen prove the real existence of the other supernatural gods that he implies people should believe in?

Secondly, the Bible focuses on sin to reduce its power and help people replace sin with "good works" — and that produces high self esteem. And it is "inclusivity" not "exclusivity" because everyone is invited.

Does Straughen really think that people who cave in to practicing immorality, racism, gambling, lying speech, pedophilia, cowardice, selfishness, laziness, hatred, illegal drug-use, drunkenness and other sins have great self esteem?


MISMATED

Straughen claims "all unbelievers are stereotyped as being evil purely on the basis that they are non-Christians, which is hardly fair..." He cites II Corinthians 6:14

Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or What fellowship has light with darkness"

Actually not just unbelievers but everyone has evil tendencies by birth and, "All have sinned and fall short…" (Romans 3:9-23; 5:12)

The Bible counsels Christians to limit their social interaction with non-believers because it is difficult to give up ingrained evils and rise to the standards of God. But once achieved, it is easy to fall back down. It is easier to gamble if surrounded by gamblers, easier to rob if a member of a gang, easier to practice homosexuality if surrounded by homosexuals, and easier to take illegal drugs if one's friends do.
 
Humans are morally distractible but biblical counsel counteracts this weakness. Countless psychological studies on peer pressure and interpersonal influence confirm the following:
Do not be deceived; Bad company ruins good morals. (I Corinthians 15:33)


SENT TO HELL?

Straughen cites The Misery of Christianity which says: "During the first four centuries of Christianity, Christians sent one another to hell purely with words."

Actually, during the first four centuries it was idol-worshippers who "sent people to hell" with horrors that Christians, relying on the Scriptures, opposed — such as infanticide, mutilation of infants, slavery that worked people to death, "sacred" sex, crucifixions, torture, forced fighting in amphitheatres, and more. In Roman arenas millions died — in the Colosseum alone 700,000 — until Christians got the practice banned.

Christians, meanwhile, introduced an early equivalent of the age-pension (I Timothy 5:9-10), they purchased the freedom of Christian slaves, and in the 4th century organized hospitals, orphanages and even a home for blind beggars.


SLAVERY AND TOLERATION

In 1619 a Dutch ship brought 20 Negroes to North America:

The colonists needed those slaves and at first treated them more as bond servants with a chance to gain freedom by working off their "indentures" in the same way as white bond servants… (Demaris 1971)

As Negro numbers grew: "They were no longer looked upon as indentured servants but as slaves for life." (ibid)

The institutionalization of slavery ignored the Bible which teaches that great evils have small beginnings. Eventually millions of Negroes were enslaved, deprived of education, often sexually abused, and hanged or whipped if they rebelled — finally requiring a Civil War with 600,000 deaths to free them.

Here I'll consider a paradox:

If the intolerant are tolerated, they may prevail and make an end to toleration. But if they are not tolerated, one has already made an end to toleration. (Dictionary of Philosophy 2005)

The Bible's solution distinguishes major sins from misjudgments with less serious consequences. The former should be opposed, and the latter forgiven. The dividing line is not clear-cut and depends on individual ability to forgive or be "long–suffering".

The Christian ideal is to be intolerant of evil in oneself and work for its reduction in society, but tolerant of others' moral weaknesses.  Straughen, however, wants tolerance for its own sake without distinguishing whether what is tolerated is destructive or productive. Slavery deserves intolerance.


AGAINST SLAVERY

Straughen accuses the Bible of "slavish submission to injustice" because it says "servants be submissive to your masters". That was answered in Investigator's slavery debate #76-#84. Runaway slaves in the Roman Empire could be crucified whereas outstanding service often led to freedom:

But innumerable slaves were freed for good service. Masters in Rome constantly spurred on their slaves to work hard by offers of bonuses with which they could buy their freedom… Roman slaves were often able to secure that they were well treated. Many had hours of recreation during the afternoon, and might have found the week of forty hours in the twentieth century irksome. (Thomas 1981)

Many 19th century abolitionists were Bible believers.

In Britain William Wilberforce (1759-1833) worked for the abolition of the slave trade in Britain, achieved in 1807. He authored A Practical View of Christianity (1797).

George Stephen (1794–1879) worked to abolish slavery throughout the British Empire (achieved in 1833) and authored A Life of Christ.

In America influential abolitionists included:

•    John Rankin (1793-1886):  Presbyterian minister.

•    Samuel Gridley Howe (1801-1876): A lifelong Unitarian who besides abolition of slavery worked for prison and school reform, Greek and Armenian foreign relief, and founded Perkins School for the Blind.

•    Charles Sumner (1811-1874): Episcopalian Senator from Massachusetts who wanted "a society where knowledge virtue and religion took precedence". (Wikipedia)

•    Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887: Congregational minister.

•    Angelina Emily Grimké Weld (1805-1879): Wikipedia says: "Drawing her views from natural rights theory … the Constitution, Christian beliefs in the Bible, and her own experience of slavery and racism in the South, she argued for the injustice of denying freedom to any man or woman..."

•    Julia Ward Howe (1819–1910): Author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic (1862) which inspired Union troops during the Civil War and includes the words: "As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free." An article titled "Christianity and Reform" which Julia Howe wrote for Friends' Intelligencer (Volume 27, 1870, No. 22) reveals her respect for the Bible.

•    Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865): Signed the Proclamation of Emancipation that freed the slaves. Lincoln was a believer:

"That I am not a member of any Christian Church, is true; but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures…"
(July 1846 Handbill Replying to Charges of Infidelity)

"All the good the Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man's welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it."
(September 1864 Spoken when presented a Bible)

Today Christianity still leads the way. "Anti Slavery International" founded by Thomas Clarkson and Thomas Buxton in 1839 is still active. Newcomers are the "Walk Free Foundation" (Andrew & Nicola Forrest) and "Global Freedom Network".


EDUCATION

The Bible emphasizes knowledge — Proverbs 1:7, 22, 29; 2:6-11; 3:19-20; 15:2, 14. Fittingly, therefore, books and free education for the poor were Christian initiatives.

Goodspeed (1940) writes:

They [early Christians] were to an unusual extent a book-buying and book-reading people. They were also a translating and publishing people… [In 140 C.E.) Christian publishers … resorted to the leaf-book form, the codex, and found it so practical … and convenient that it became their characteristic book form.

Alfred the Great (1849-900) "established a school at court to teach the children of the nobility alongside his own children and poorer children who showed great promise." (Phillips 2015) Alfred "initiated a programme of education far ahead of its time." (Jones 1989)

In 1382 Bishop William Wykeham founded Winchester College and in 1384 Katherine Berkeley founded Wotton grammar school. Both offered free education to boys. By the 19th century schools numbered hundreds and included girl-only schools. (Orme 2010)

Schooling and the "leaf-book form" became a "blessing to all the nations of the earth."


UNIVERSITIES AND SCIENCE

Universities began in Christianity in the 13th century. (Haskins 1957)

The University of Adelaide, "ranked among the top one per cent of universities worldwide", which I attended, began with a ₤20,000 donation in 1872 by a Presbyterian Christian, Walter Watson Hughes (1803-1887). He was influenced in his donation by his minister Rev. James Lyall (1827-1905) as well as Rev. James Jefferis (a Congregationalist).

Most scientists have a university education and modern science itself began in Christianity. Two scientists among many were:

•    Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727): A Unitarian and the "father of modern physics".

•    Gregor Mendel (1822-1884): A Catholic monk who laid the foundations of genetics which transformed 20th century medicine and food production.

With science came modern technology. Cyrus Hall McCormick (1809-1884) invented the mechanical reaper, an idea he attributed to God. With 6000 sold in 1861 his reapers supplied the nation with wheat when millions of farm-workers transferred to the army.

Today science has gone worldwide and the proportional Christian contribution is reduced but still occurs. Francis S. Collins, author of The Language of God (2008), was the director of the Human Genome Project.


LAW

Alfred the Great (1849-900) revised English law, basing his law code partly on the Bible. Phillips (2015) writes that Alfred's law code took: "measures to protect the weak against corruption and oppression."

British law developed further, eventually took effect throughout the British Empire, and promoted the humanization of the human race — a "blessing to all the nations."


HUMANITARIAN WORK AND CHARITY

•    Clarissa Barton (1821–1912): Opened a free school for 600 children, worked on Civil War battlefields as an independent nurse, founded the Office of Missing Soldiers, and founded the American Red Cross and the National First Aid Society. Barton's parents were of the Universalist Church and she identified as a Universalist.  

•    Reverend John Flynn (1880-1951): Started the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Australia in 1928.

•    Edward Chad Varah (1911-2007): British Anglican priest who founded the Samaritans in 1953, the world's first crisis hotline organization.

•    Eileen Lodge: A British Christian nurse who established the Nepal Leprosy Trust in 1972. The NLT''s largest venture is Lalgadh Services Centre which sees 65,000 patients yearly.

•    In Australia the Anglican Church introduced marriage guidance by trained counsellors after WWII. Originally based on the "sanctity of marriage" the idea soon went secular. ("Compass" TV documentary, 14 June 2015)

Today millions of Christian ministries improve lives worldwide. On a webpage listing organized faith-based "Children's Charities" in Zimbabwe I counted 32.

Big ministries that are household words include World Vision, Christian Blind Mission International, Mercy Ships, Cure International, Christians Against Poverty, Global Mission Partners, and Frontier Services.

Regarding small local efforts I asked at several churches: One person helps organize social get-togethers for the intellectually handicapped. Two conduct their "Kerbside Ministry", collecting bicycles householders throw out, repair them, and ship them to Africa. Another organizes monthly lunch meetings and visiting speaker for retired men. Others help 1,000 Cambodians whom the government forced to relocate, to build new homes.


SEE THE STARS

Since "all have sinned and fall short" Bible critics are often motivated by personal sins, which become their idols, their substitutes for God, which they tolerate when intolerance would be better.

 Such critics:
1.    Ignore that their high living standards originated because Christians followed the Bible;
2.    Misrepresent Scripture to create prejudice against it;
3.    Look at lapsed Christians for excuses.

Nevertheless, the prophecy is fulfilled:

Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars… (Daniel 12:3; Philippians 2:14)



REFERENCES:

Baraniuk, C. Anti-recruitment drive, New Scientist, 27 June, 2015, 18-19

Demaris, O. 1971 America The Violent, Penguin books

Goodspeed, E. 1940 Christianity Goes to Press, Macmillan

Haskins, C.H. 1957 The Rise of Universities, Cornell University Press

Jones, B. 1989 The Macmillan Dictionary of Biography, Third Edition, Macmillan

Kennedy, J. & Newcombe, J. 1994 What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? Word Publishing

Mangalwadi, V. 2011 The Book That Made Your World, Thomas Nelson

Marks, P. Police, camera, action, New Scientist, 26 October 2013, p. 21

Mautner, T. 2005 Dictionary of Philosophy, Penguin

Orme, N. The First Free Schools, BBC History, Christmas 2010, 47-49

Phillips, C. 2015 50 Leaders Who Changed History, Quantum Books

Stark, R. 2004 For The Glory Of God, Princeton

Stark, R. 2005 The Victory of Reason, Random House

Stark, R. 2009 God's Battalions The Case For The Crusades, Harper-Collins

Thomas, H. 1981 An Unfinished History of the World, Pan Books, 109-110

White, F. Lord of War Khan, All About History, 2014, No. 17, 50-59

http://uudb.org/articles/samuelgridleyhowe.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Forrest

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles-Sumner

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Barbary_War

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Rankin_(abolitionist)

www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/quotes

www.globalfreedomnetwork.org

www.redcross.org/about-us/history/clara-barton

www.rlt.org.uk/about/the-organization/

www.walkfreefoundation.org


 




The Bible on Tolerance — A Reply

Kirk Straughen

(Investigator 168, 2016 May)


In Investigator No 167 Anonymous responds to my article in the previous issue and outlines his defence of the Bible. Because of the wide range of subjects covered by him my reply must necessarily be brief, and will examine only a limited number of points.

On page 25 Anonymous appears to be claiming that deceivers and antichrists who work to destroy Christianity were meant to be merely excluded from Christian society rather than actively persecuted.

But consider 2 John 1:7: "For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist."

Those who deny Jesus by this definition are antichrists, and are therefore either knowingly or unknowingly in league with the devil — the enemy of God.

The Jews have experienced the brunt
of Christian intolerance and persecution primarily because they do not believe that Jesus is, the Son of God — the True Messiah. Here is a brief list of the persecutions they were subjected to because of their unbelief:

•    Synod of Elvira (306): prohibited intermarriage and sexual intercourse between Christians and Jews, and prohibited them from eating together.

•    Councils of Orleans (533-541): prohibited marriages between Christians and Jews and forbade the conversion to Judaism by Christians.

•    Trulanic Synod (692): prohibited Christians from being treated by Jewish doctors.

•    Synod of Narbonne (1050): prohibited Christians from living in Jewish homes.

•    Synod of Gerona (1078): required Jews to pay taxes to support the Church.

•    Third Lateran Council (1179): prohibited certain medical care to be provided by Christians to Jews.

•    Fourth Lateran Council (1215): required Jews to wear special clothing to distinguish them from Christians.

•    Council of Basel (1431-1443): forbade Jews to attend universities, from acting as agents in the conclusion of contracts between Christians, and required that they attend church sermons. (1)

Anonymous goes on to claim that people are judged as evil by what they' have done rather than their views. However, consider John 3:18 — "He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."

If your view is that Jesus is not the Son of God then you will be condemned. Again, consider Matthew 5:28 — "But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." So, we can see that a person doesn't have to do anything physically to be considered evil. A mental act, whether it is to deny the divinity of Jesus or to have lustful thoughts is sinful and therefore evil, and in Psalm 5:5 it says of God: "Thou hatest all evildoers."

I don't think Anonymous' reference to Nero helps his argument with regard to 2 John 7. Nero's name isn't mentioned, nor specifically the persecution. The statement is unqualified and  applies to all unbelievers.

With regard to Anonymous' comments on the atrocities committed by the Crusaders: He appears to be saying that those who committed such crimes weren't true Christians (pseudo Christians, as he calls them], and it seems to me that this is a version of the No True Scotsman argument, which can
be defined as follows:

When a universal ("all", "every", etc.) claim is refuted, rather than conceding the point or meaningfully revising the claim, the claim is altered by going from universal to specific, and failing to give any objective criteria for the specificity
[example] ...

John: Members of the UbaTuba White Men's Club are upstanding citizens of the community.
Marvin: Then why are there so many of these members in Jail?
John: They were never true UbaTuba White Men's Club members.
Marvin: What's a true UbaTuba White Men's Club member?
John: Those who don't go to jail.

This is a very common form of this fallacy that has many variations. Every time one group member denounces another group member for doing or saying something that they don't approve of, usually by the phrase, "he is not really a true [insert membership here]", this fallacy is committed.

The universal claim here is that no UbaTuba White Men's Club will ever (universal) go to jail. Marvin points out how, clearly this is counterfactual as there are many UbaTuba White Men's Club members in jail.

Instead of conceding or meaningfully revising the claim, the implication that no "UbaTuba White Men's Club" is changed to "no true UbaTuba White Men's Club members", which is not meaningful because John's definition of a "true UbaTuba White Men's Club member", apparently can only be demonstrated in the negative if an UbaTuba White Men's Club member goes to jail. This results in the questionable cause fallacy as it is also an unfalsifiable, and of course, it commits the no true Scotsman fallacy. (2)

If the persecution and atrocities committed against Jews, 'Muslims and heretics weren't committed by Christians, then who committed these crimes — Martians, perhaps? No, I'm not being sarcastic, I'm merely pointing out these crimes were committed by Christians — not the type of Christians Anonymous or I would care to shake hands with, but Christians nonetheless.

Anonymous goes on to state that the Christian knights committed atrocities because this was standard military procedure, so to speak. However, there are also similar atrocities in the Bible as I have pointed out, so we can also say they were following the Bible. The Bible reflects the age in which it was written, true. However, I don't think these crimes and attitudes are in any way excusable just because they were typical of the times.

On page 33 Anonymous denies that fundamentalist Christianity's focus on sin has detrimental consequences for believers. The idea of sin is a control mechanism that fundamentalist religious leaders use to manipulate the faithful. Former fundamentalists have an insight into this process as shown below:

Within fundamentalism, there are those who believe a doctrine of "once saved, always saved," also called "eternal security." This means that once you are born again, you are permanently a part of God's family...
The anxiety of this doctrine is determining whether you were ever truly saved. Especially for those whom did not have a dramatic experience of rebirth, this belief is not much comfort. Believers work hard at making salvation "take" and blame themselves for not believing enough or not being humble enough to be accepted...

The other side of this doctrinal issue is the "holiness" camp. These groups believe that a believer must be faithful. One's place among the saved can be lost. The idea is that salvation is a continuous process, based on the Apostle Paul's admonition to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). They say that God wants loyalty; sending Jesus to die on the cross was an immense gift. So believers cannot simply do whatever they like, dishonour God, and expect to walk into heaven.

As can be expected, fundamentalists in this camp experience anxiety about their daily lives. Thoughts and behaviours must be acceptable at all times because there is the ever-present danger of going past the line into damnation. They still believe God will forgive sin, so regular repentance is important. However, the rules are fuzzy; no one knows where the line is. Furthermore, many believe it is not enough just to not sin; you must be "on fire" for God. In Revelation 3:16 Jesus is quoted as saying "Because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth." So believers worry about not having enough enthusiasm. Yet no one knows what "lukewarm" really means. (3)

As can be seen in fundamentalist Christianity the concept of sin and the fear of divine punishment can have a damaging effect on the believer.

Finally, on page 39 Anonymous closes his reply with the following claim: "Such critics [of the Bible] are often motivated by personal sins the Bible condemns, which have been their substitutes for God, which they tolerate when intolerance would be better."

I ask my readers to consider the following paraphrase of the above: "Critics of the Koran are often motivated by personal sins the Koran condemns, which have been their substitutes for Allah, which they tolerate when intolerance would be better."

If someone criticises the Koran, can we dismiss their criticisms as shown above? In my opinion the idea that criticism of a holy book is motivated by the sins of the critic is simply a defensive rationalisation.


Notes

(1) http://remember.org/history-root-c1assical.html

(2)
www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/135/No_True_Scotsman

(3) Page 65 - 66 in Winell, M. Leaving the Fold, New Harbinger Publications, Oakland, 1993.

Holy Bible (Revised Standard Version)




 


CHRISTIAN TOLERANCE

Anonymous

(Investigator 170, 2016 September)


INTRODUCTION

In Investigator #167 I showed that the Bible teaches tolerance and has made the whole world more tolerant.

Mr Straughen (Investigator #168) poses some more objections.


ANTICHRISTS, JEWS AND COUNCILS

Straugthen (#168) supplies a list of prohibitions imposed on Jews by various Church synods and councils from 305 CE to 1443 CE and suggests they followed II John 7: "For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist."

"Antichrist" does not mean "Jews" but refers to men who went "out into the world" by deserting Christianity and then try to subvert the faith of others. (I John 2:18-19)

The purpose for warning against antichrists is not to persecute them but to put Christians "on your guard": "Be on your guard, so that you do not lose what we have worked for, but may receive a full reward." (II John 8)

A warning to be "on guard" against traitors and deceivers who seek converts to their cause is hardly "intolerance". Compare Government response to ISIS propaganda regarding which Baraniuk (2015) writes: "Another approach being used to tackle radicalization is the removal of web content that promotes ISIS's message..."

To make the Bible appear to teach intolerance Straughen has widened the concept and made self-protection against threat equivalent to "intolerance".

I quote my previous comment (#167) regarding Jews:

When Jews suffered racism and oppression the Bible taught "Salvation is from the Jews" and included Jews as "servants of our God. (John 4:22; Romans 3:1-2; Revelation 7:3-5)

Whether various Church councils did right or wrong in imposing restrictions would depend on the circumstances.

Since Jesus foretold that real Christians and imitations would "grow together" (Matthew 13:30) it is possible that some Church councils or members thereof were "imitations" and acted contrary to biblical teaching.

What I do is investigate the ethical and scientific accuracy of the Bible but do not defend all who claim to be Christians. This is comparable to someone who praises Australia's high living standards and fair laws but is not obligated to defend every Australian criminal.

The persecution Jews suffered from supposed "Christians" centuries ago was exceeded by non-Christians in the 1940s. During the 1940s some Christians assisted Jews and some even suffered the death penalty for doing so.

Straughen continues to look at the "mud" for excuses rather than the "stars" for inspiration. (Daniel 12:3)


JUDGED ON ACTIONS

The Bible is clear that people will be judged by their actions, by "what they have done":

For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (II Corinthians 5:10).
…all were judged according to what they had done. (Revelation 20:13)

Straughen claims that belief alone condemns a person and cites John 3:18 —  "He who believes in him [Christ] is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."

John 3:18 agrees with the doctrine that "all are sinners" and God's arrangement to save people from the consequences is Jesus. John 3:18 is not about beliefs in general but about whether or not we accept the method for our rescue. If we don't accept we're in a condition of condemnation or "condemned".

Straughen may appreciate the point better if we apply words similar to John 3:18 to a sinking ship and lifeboat situation:


He who believes in the lifeboat is not condemned because the lifeboat can save him, but he who does not believe is condemned already because he does not believe in the method of escape.

"Condemned already" expresses the certainty of dire consequences. It is not a command to persecute non-believers but a reason to share the truth that could rescue them.

Straughen also thinks Matthew 5:28 — "I [Jesus] say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" — disagrees with biblical teaching that people will be judged "by what they have done".

Lusting and adultery are behaviours many people "have done". In Mathew 5:28 Jesus is teaching how to avoid lust and adultery, which they can do by thinking about something else. Avoid wrong thoughts and wrong conduct decreases.


SCOTSMAN

Straughen claims that to argue that not all Christians are genuine Christians is "a version of the No True Scotsman argument":

When a universal claim is refuted, rather than conceding the point or meaningfully revising the claim, the claim is altered by going from universal to specific, and failing to give any objective criteria for the specificity…

It is unclear what "universal claim" Straughen thinks is being revised. That not all who profess to follower Jesus are genuine has been obvious since Judas Iscariot and is predicted in the New Testament. (Matthew 7:21-23; Acts 20:29-30)     

Rather than judge other people's motivations — something only God can do accurately — individuals should monitor themselves:

Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? (Matthew 7:1-5)
For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. All must test their own work… (Galatians 6:3-5)

If in a situation where I simply must decide which "Christians" are genuine I would provisionally pick people who:

1.    Profess to believe the Bible;
2.    Profess to accept Jesus as God's means for salvation;
3.    Have a record of "good works" that benefit others;
4.    Are not associated with "false prophets";
5.    Avoid committing "sins" that exclude from "God's Kingdom" — Revelation 21:8; I Corinthians 5:9-13; 6:9-10.



CRUSADERS

Straughen claims that the Crusaders committed similar atrocities as in the Old Testament and were merely following the Old Testament. This has two fallacies:

1.    There is no biblical command to re-enact Old Testament wars since orders addressed to troops during wartime do not apply after the war is over. In WWI Australian troops killed thousands of Germans but any Australian who treats these past events as commands to kill Germans today would be imprisoned.

2.    The Crusades were not based on Israel's wars with Canaanites — Straughen needs re-read our discussion on Canaan in #132-135).
According to the Old Testament God's long term agenda is to "bless all the nations of the Earth" and elevate them to the situation of power and prosperity where "nothing will be impossible". Idol worshipping Canaanites who went on slave raids, practiced human sacrifice, added sexual rituals to their idol worship and wanted to exterminate monotheism could never "bless all the nations". The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah demonstrated the asteroid threat the world faces. Nations that worshipped idols made no progress toward thwarting such threat, but the line from Abraham, to Christ, to Christianity and science may soon be able to! This indicates planning 4000 years ahead, by the God the Bible calls "Yahweh". That's the broad context of Israel's wars with Canaanites — world prosperity and human survival.

Regarding the Crusades: The First Crusade (1095 CE) was not a war of conquest but responded to an appeal by Emperor Alexius of Byzantium to the Pope to save Byzantium from Muslim aggression.

Frankopan (2012) says the First Crusade was, "a last-ditch effort to save the Byzantine Empire".

The Crusades delayed Byzantium's collapse by three centuries with the unforeseen but happy consequence that Byzantine scholarship and manuscripts permeated Europe and boosted the beginning of modern science and technology. Without any Crusades Byzantium would have fallen earlier and Europe suffered centuries of forced conversions, beheadings, crucifixions, protection tax (i.e. extortion), kidnapping, slavery and "Sharia" law — as happened in Spain. And we wouldn't have modern science.


Straughen wants to judge Christian tolerance or otherwise by entering broad topics of history. However, the objective way to judge is by:
1.    Biblical commands that apply today;
2.    Christ's example;
3.    Christians who do their best to follow Christ's example;
4.    The benefits from Christianity including modern science and medicine, and millions of Christian charities and ministries.


FUNDAMENTALISM

Straughen quotes "former Fundamentalists" who claim that Fundamentalists are anxious about their salvation, because the boundaries of acceptable conduct are unclear and they may prove unworthy, and therefore, says Straughen, "the concept of sin … can have a damaging effect on the believer".

Modern legal systems also have unclear boundaries — which is why innumerable conflicts must be settled in courts. The alternative is to describe all imaginable circumstances and define the conduct that is right in every imaginable situation.

As I explained in #167, p. 33 the Bible focuses on sin to reduce its power and help people replace sin with "good" works. To progressively remove from one's conduct immorality, racism, gambling, cowardice, selfishness, laziness, hatred, illegal drugs, drunkenness and dishonesty produces self-esteem not "damage".


FINALLY

Finally, Straughen labels as "defensive rationalization" my claim that "critics of the Bible are often motivated by personal sins".

My claim is not "rationalization" but true by observation and "cognitive dissonance theory".

Wikipedia explains:

In Psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas or values, performs an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas, or values, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. Leon Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance focuses on how humans strive for internal consistency.

A person who has character defects criticized in the Bible but thinks himself good will experience "dissonance" when confronted with biblical standards. If unwilling to undergo self-improvement, he will either strive to refute the Bible, or turn away, to maintain his "internal consistency". Jesus explained:

For all who do evil hate the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light… (John 3:20-21)

Clearly, "critics of the Bible are often motivated by personal sins".


REFERENCES:

Baraniuk, C. Anti-recruitment drive, New Scientist, 27 June, 2015, 18-19

Frankopan, P. The View from the East, History Today, September 2012, 38-45


"Anonymous" has contributed articles to Investigator Magazine since 1989.
His agenda is evidently to prove the Bible true, and it's all on this website:


http://users.adam.com.au/bstett/

http://ed5015.tripod.com/