September 2019

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30          

« Optimism | Main | Moneyed interests »

Oct 10, 2012


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


I grew up going to a Methodist church most every week. I stopped going in high school. Not so much because of any theological issues, but because I didn't want to be around the people who also showed up every week and controlled the church. In my adolescence, I called them hypocrites. Today I'd probably just say they didn't like being challenged and saw the church as a refuge from challenge.


This right here is an indictment on why organized religion is a bad thing:

David Boyd

Well put.

Ed Cone

Prell, you could just as easily link to Church World Service or Urban Ministry or Michele's blog for examples of organized religion serving as a conduit for the best and most positive energies humans can muster.

That said, politicized religion of the angry, fearful, and exclusionary variety diminishes religion's claim on the high ground and probably pushes some people away completely.


Indeed, as a pseudoconservative and false Christian, The Evil Dr. Guarino is not emblematic of the good works regularly performed by the truly religious.


Sorry but in the entire history of our planet, millions of people have either died, been persecuted, discriminated against or sent to war as a direct result of some organized religion. All the "good works" of the truly religious don't equal a single drop in the ocean that is the negative effects and history of religion in general.

I was raised a strict catholic but I stopped attending regularly when I left home and went to college. Although I don't subscribe "hypocrite" status to all Christians, enough of this philosophy pervades religion today to make me sick to my stomach. My entire family is religious and when I hear them rail against the poor or sling slurs at people for being gay I step back and am glad I stopped going. I practice my faith in my own home, in my own heart. Too many evils have been done in the name of God to make up for anything on the net positive side IMHO.


Ged, I feel sorry for you.


I don't so you shouldn't. You don't know me, I'm a pretty happy person sans going to church. So are almost all of my friends. Good religious people abound but the hate done in God's name, the continual reversal of the march of science in our daily lives in the name of "Faith" and the sheer discrimination I see piled upon people who are "not like us" all fly in the face of so-called religious people, especially many Christians.

There's nothing to be sorry about. I turn to God in my own way, not when a priest demands it during his Sunday sermon.


I feel sorry for you because you've apparently lost faith in your fellow man. You simply must come to believe those you describe are not true Christians.

formerly gt

GED, i suggest that you google genocides, megadeaths, etc in the 20th century.

The death toll from the actions of secular regimes during the last century easily tops 100 million and is probably in the 200 million range.

In comparison, what is the death toll from the inquisition? what about the crusades? how does that compare to even the deaths caused by the 2 atomic bombs?


I suspect GED is one of those lamentable souls to whom the poor are no more than an abstract. Whereas, if he spent any time in their presence, he would quickly witness the compassion and dignity which are the hallmarks of the truely religious.

Ed Cone

People abuse institutions of kinds, and Ged's comment paints organized religion with too broad a brush. But his reaction to the abuse of religion helps explain the phenomenon revealed in the study, and his last line is an example of that phenomenon at work.


GED too well displays exactly what is wrong with liberals today. Smug and self-satisfied, the last thing they are willing to do is get their hands dirty.



Judge not, lest ye be judged.

Again, you don't know me. Stop pretending that you do please. I did community service in college, build housing for the homeless, worked soup kitchens and homeless shelters and even helped three teachers of mine at various stages of my life who were missionaries prepare for annual trips to Haiti, Africa and the Philippines. I know all about getting my hands dirty and my comments about organized religion still stand.

You all can pretend that "True Christians" do nothing but good work, but I know from personal experience that's simply not the case. They are all too often filled with bigotry, fear of the unknown and intolerance for people who don't hold the same sexual or moral compass they do. I have three friends right now who keep themselves in the closet for fear of being disowned by their Christian families. Why is that? Because their *faith* tells them their children are deviants.

Ed's point about a broad brush is appropriate, but I and other's like me paint such a picture because the colors exist. They have been on the palette for a long, LONG time and I see NO SIGNS they are being sponged away.



One other thing. Having compassion for the poor is not a commodity for the truly religious. It has nothing to do with religion and EVERYTHING to do with being a decent human being. It's about being brought up right, in or out of religion, with depth and compassion for other people's plights and suffering. To suggest that religious people have a monopoly on compassion is ridiculous. I have agnostic and atheist friends who have more compassion for their fellow men then an entire congregation of church-goers who do nothing but sit on their behinds and throw money in the donation baskets from week to week (witnessed this personally growing up).

I also know more than a few people who were abused as children by their Catholic priests who would disagree with the notion of the "compassion of the truly religious".


I never said compassion was exclusive to the truly religious. Re-read my comment for comprehension.


I did. My point still stands. Compassion is no more the "hallmark" of a religious person than any one else. Morality doesn't necessarily flow from the bible. There are many religious people who are just as immoral or in-compassionate as their fellow agnostics. And please don't repeat the "That's not accurate of *truly* religious people" canard. That's a logical fallacy.


Can any of you point to even a single instance of a theocracy in all of history that was more deadly than 20th century's series of atheocracy's, China, USSR, Cuba, Nazi Germany, North Korea?

Ed Cone

I don't think it's a simple numbers game, or a simple division between regimes that carried out modern, mechanized killing and those stuck with older methods. Religion was used by the Nazis, for example, to identify victims and fan old prejudices. And religion was used for centuries to motivate and justify slaughter, subjugation, and enslavement. Technology has made killing more efficient, but the Thirty Years War was in relatve terms about as devastating as things get. And so on.

Institutions, secular and religious, are run by people. People do awful things to each other.


yeah, how exactly do you qualify whether or not religion played a part in the a-bomb being dropped?

- i'm sure a good number of the deciders were religious, just as some were not
- it wasn't dropped in the name of a religion; only a country that basks in the glow of our judeo-christian heritage
- how does a "good christian" square the realities of war, the panic of a nation and the good book when killing more than 200,000 people overnight?

people are good and bad, whether they're religious or not, and institutions are not all the same -- your mileage will vary.


Amen Sean, my point exactly. Being religious doesn't necessarily make you a "good" person.


Yes, pun intended in that last post. :-P


just as being religious doesn't necessarily make you bad, too. the whole conversation is a zero sum gain. it's why we have freedom of religion AND freedom from religion in this country.

David Wharton

Ged, you are right that compassion is a virtue that can be practiced by anyone regardless of religious affiliation. But it's a virtue with a particular history. Compassion as I think you mean it -- compassion for the poor, the weak, the sick, the imprisoned, widows, orphans -- had almost no presence whatsoever in the pagan West before the rise of Christianity. (I can't speak about the East, since I don't know anything about it.) The value that the West continues to place on that virtue is a legacy of the Christian tradition.

So when you say it's about being "decent" or "brought up right," I think you're assuming some ideas of decency -- compassion, kindness, goodwill to all people -- that have been powerfully shaped by Christianity. Those are not values that any ancient Spartan or Roman child would have grown up with.



Being religious doesn't necessarily make you a "good" person.
I have never known that to be the argument.

I do, however, believe a society tolerant of religion is a better society than one that is not. That would include the tolerance to allow the religious to influence the government that leads us.

Sean asks:

yeah, how exactly do you qualify whether or not religion played a part in the a-bomb being dropped?
Aside from the Muslim faith the world's religions seek peace and peace is what was found among Shintoists and Buddists as well as Jewish and Christians through the atom bomb. It is a shame that Israel has been restrained from taking a similar path to peace (winning the war, not dropping the bomb), as 60 years or so of forcing an incendiary scheme of war avoidance on Israel has proven far more violent for the world than any war.

Ed Cone

DW, the virtues you describe are virtues in Buddhism and, for that matter, Judaism.


poli, you're speaking about religions as if they are individual people with a singular brain: "christian is a peaceful guy, budda helps the elderly across the street, but islam is a murderer." that's ridiculous as a premise, without even mentioning the complexity of sects in all faiths, let alone the people that profess them. to DW's point, inversely, there have been many well-brought up christians who have pulled the trigger or ordered others to do so. the same with muslims. etc. but i don't need to tell you that, you're not dumb...

i truly don't understand the fascination to find complete dishonor in islam as people such as yourself do. the koran is pretty damn nuanced and cryptic to the non-arabic speaking westerner.

i won't even address your nuclear winter fantasy.

David Wharton

Ed, yes. But only the Judaic versions made it into Europe via Christianity, which modified and expanded them in some very distinctive ways.

Ed Cone

DW, fair enough, just responding on the topic of pre-Christian religious teaching on the subject. As I mention here from time to time, I'm a fan of the Sermon on the Mount. And if you want to borrow some dead-tree books on Buddhism, I got 'em.


Tom Cruise has dropped some bombs in the name of Scientology.



i won't even address your nuclear winter fantasy.

I suppose when war is all a person knows of a people it can become all that person can envision for a people.

Permanent war + closed mind = permanent war.

At least I dare to dream of war's end.

poli, you're speaking about religions as if they are individual people with a singular brain:

I believe individual nations, as nuanced as they may be, have individual "personalities". I believe the same is true of religions. And more gernerally I believe the same for any group of individuals of any number.

To presume otherwise would lead one to believe that there is no variation between one group of individuals and another, that all religions are the same, that all nations are the alike. Fanciful.

In regard to Islam.. What is the body count associated with Buddhists? Hindus? Christians? Is the media afraid of any of these religions? Where are the 14 year old feminists shot in the head by Christian, Wicken or Buddhist clerics? How many Mosques have been fire bombed by Unitarians? by Christians? by Buddhists? by Shintoists? It wasn't Christians that sodomized Hussein. It wasn't Christians that stripped and executed ambassador Stevens, but it has been a self-professed Christian in the White House that has attempted to ignore the execution of a representative of the United States.

Personalities, individual, national, religious, of any group are a fact of life and reputations are earned.

Andrew Brod

DW: Only the Judaic versions of... what?, Judaism?, made it into Europe via Christianity? I'm not sure what you mean by this.

Or do you mean Judaic versions of Buddhism? I didn't know that connection dated so far back. I know of the relatively recent phenomenon of the JewBu, a Jew who practices Buddhism, but that's it.

David Wharton

AB: I meant Judaic versions the virtue of compassion, etc. Buddhism didn't have much pull in late antique and medieval Europe. My point was that Ged is making a largely Judaeo-Christian critique of organized religion.

EC: I'm reading James' Varieties of Religious Experience right now -- maybe some Buddhism should come next.


I'm a little amazed after all this time that the notion of the false Christian has not gained greater acceptance. To follow Christ, one must adhere to certain tenets, the first of which is compassion for the poor. Anyone who claims to be a Christian, but does not in his daily actions prescribe to at least this meager notion, is not in fact a Christian.


Straight Christian lives a year as a gay man, abandons his homophobia

"You learned to be very afraid of God," said Kurek. According to the preachings of his church, "The loving thing to do is to tell my friend who is gay, 'Hey, listen, you are an abomination and you need to repent to go to heaven.' I absolutely believed in that lock, stock and barrel."



To follow Christ, one must adhere to certain tenets...


Corrected via your formation -- To follow Christ, one must strive toward certain tenets.

Not only is failure likely, but it is a given. Perfection is unattainable. What is important is to be on the correct trajectory. One is not a "false Christian" for falling short, one is a Christian. The world's religions differ do not from one another in this regard.

It is for that reason the concept of the "false Christian" will not gain traction. It makes as much sense as the concept of the false Atheist.

polifrog not differ...


that's a low bar to set, frog, and probably why many people don't care about being in the club.


For most the highest hurdle is faith.



The modern peace movement is almost 200 years old; its origins can be traced to the period that followed the devastating wars of the Napoleonic era in Europe. In those two centuries, peace movements have had little discernible impact on world events, and what effect they have had has often been bad: the European peace and disarmament movement of the 1930s, for example, greatly facilitated Hitler’s plans for a war of revenge. For all the good they have done, those well-intentioned souls who have sought to achieve world peace through the organization of committees, the signing of petitions, the holding of rallies, and the promotion of international treaties might just as well have stayed home.” But it makes some people feel good about themselves, and the people involved can be useful in others’ schemes.

He's on the right track but he ain't there yet.

Ed Cone

One has to wonder where these peaceniks get their nutty ideas.

I've cited that book before, with mixed results.


"...little discernible impact on world events..."

There is that little thing called the EU, but other than that...


I don't get that from the plowshare quote you reference.

The plowshare quote appears to be more predictive than commandment. It describes what will occur after tribulation, a period during which the lord rules the land. We are not there yet. Do you believe that we are?

Prior to tribulation what are we to do?

Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.

Yes. Beat plowshares into swords.

From a political perspective we can say that unearned peace, absent an overarching power, is the surest path to permanent war.

Peace imposed: Was the ethnic pressure-cooker of the Balkans peaceful under overarching Soviet rule? Arguably so. Was the peace earned? It was earned via Soviet force.

Peace through conflict resolution: At the other extreme is that peace earned absent an overarching power such as the evolving earned peace in the Balkans today. I find this a more preferable path to peace than that peace earned by the Balkans under Soviet force. Although messier than peace imposed, it is a truer longer lasting form of peace as conflict melts away.

The pursuit of peace absent both conflict resolution or an overarching force to impose peace: This is the path to unearned peace, a peace neither earned through resolution nor imposition. We see the fruit of following this path in Israel today. There is not an overarching authority to impose peace, yet the international community dissuades Israel from engaging in conflict resolution. The result is permanent war.

Ed, I understand your aversion to the messiness of conflict resolution among nations but I doubt you would favor the imposition of peace either. You want an unearned peace.

Not surprisingly I see an economic parallel.

Just as the pursuit of peace without first suffering the perils of war leads to permanent war such as that Israel endures today, the pursuit of economic growth without first suffering the perils of contraction leads to permanent stagnation and depression such as that our nation endures today.

I believe this congruency as exemplified by the painless paths to both peace and economic growth promulgated by the left is indicative of infantile leftist thinking or lack thereof. Utopianism is anything but Utopian, yet the left pursues it still.

Andrew Brod

Not surprisingly, Frog's economic parallel is wrong. And the idea that Israel didn't "first suffer the perils of war" before pursuing peace is... odd.

As for quoting Biblical texts, it often cuts both ways. I count twice when the Hebrew Bible (a.k.a., with some alterations, the Old Testament) refers to converting swords to plowshares (Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3) and once when it goes in the opposite direction (Joel 3:10, which Frog quoted). I doubt that either direction is intended to be our sole orientation. In any case, the context for Joel's admonition is an Israel beset by enemies. There is little option but to fight in those circumstances, regardless of Frog's armchair views of "earned peace."

My reading is that the Hebrew Bible doesn't view peace merely as a luxury to be enjoyed in a Messianic future. It is that, but it's also a tool to be used to achieve that future. The world-to-come isn't something that will just happen; it'll happen when we make it happen.

Of course that doesn't imply plowshares always and swords never, just as it doesn't imply the opposite. It means finding the balance and aspiring to a world in which swords don't have to be used often. I don't believe that the principles of peace movements should always be translated into policy, but I do believe that policy needs to factor in their principles. Denigrating peace movements as Frog does reveals a pretty one-dimensional view of the world.

Finally, Utopia (the broader concept, not the specific characterization in Thomas More's book) is pursued by Judaism and Christianity and other religions. Claiming that it's the province of the Left is... odd.


"The Evil Dr. Guarino is not emblematic of the good works regularly performed by the truly religious."

How would you know? One of those voices you hear in your head tell you so?



I count twice when the Hebrew Bible (a.k.a., with some alterations, the Old Testament) refers to converting swords to plowshares (Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3) and once when it goes in the opposite direction (Joel 3:10, which Frog quoted). I doubt that either direction is intended to be our sole orientation.

Depending on circumstances it appears we are given a singular direction to follow regarding swords or plowshares. Swords in the absence of God, plowshares in the presence of God. The terms "absence" and "presence" are poor terms but they convey a distinct difference between that period before tribulation (Joel) and that period after tribulation (Isaiah).

The deciding factor between plowshares or swords appears to be whether there is an overarching authority imposing peace or not.

You may argue man may impose the necessary authority under which swords may become plowshares, but I feel that is Utopianist, destined to fail, unAmerican, and distinctly non religious. I can think of no religion that asks of its adherents what only the adherent's God can provide --- in this case a peace that is earned through suffering at the hand of man prior to tribulation, a peace earned through faith after tribulation.

Conflating the two does not promote peace, but rather Israel like suffering.

Andrew Brod

Advocating peace is both un-American and distinctly non-religious? That's quite a point of view.

In any case, if you think I'm advocating all plowshares and no swords, you're missing the point. As usual.


No. You were making the case for both plowshares and swords commensurately while I was making the case that each have their moment from a biblical perspective, therefore biblical text can not be used to argue for plowshares and swords at the same moment.

Neither was I making the case that advocating for peace was unAmerican or distinctly non-religious.

Advocating for peace through conflict resolution is both American and in line with biblical text for that period prior to tribulation. A period I suspect we are currently living through from a biblical perspective.

However, advocating for peace via the imposition of peace by an overarching authority I believe we can all agree is unAmerican. Additionally, in that period before tribulation, it would be considered an affront to biblical text. I believe the text is quite clear that an imposed peace is not the province of man but of God.

That is not to say you make the case for an imposed peace. Instead both Ed and yourself seem to be in favor of an undefined something between an imposed peace and peace through conflict resolution. As I have stated, I believe that is unworkable and not only because there is no mechanism, but because we have evidence of that route's failure ... Israel.

Note, neither do I miss your point, nor do I mischaracterize it. I leave those particular tactics to you while simply making my case.

The comments to this entry are closed.