Christianity and the Origins of Democracy – the Sixteenth Century: Part 4

View of John Knox that Princes and the People themselves have a Right and Duty to Depose an Unjust Monarch Preventing the Establishment of True Religion

In his view of the relationship between the king and his subjects, Calvin allowed that unjust rulers could be deposed by the inferior magistrates, but stressed the subject’s duty to obey established authority, even when it was corrupt. John Knox, however, believed that the aristocracy and the estates also had their authority granted by God, and so had the right and duty to defend the innocent, punish criminals and establish proper religion. If the monarch refused to allow religion to be reformed, and the true faith to be established, then it was the duty of the aristocracy and the estates to depose them. If the aristocracy and estates refused to do this, then it was the duty of the people themselves to reform the church, a view he addressed directly to the people themselves in his Letter to the Commonalty. This view, that the people themselves had the right and duty to rebel against their social superiors when they were unjust and prevented the proper establishment of true religion, was immensely radical in an age when government and politics was viewed as the exclusive activity of princes and aristocrats, to whom the masses of ordinary people should be loyal and obey, but who were otherwise excluded from government and their political participation was viewed with suspicion and distrust.

View of Goodman that Kings Owed their Power to the People, and so can Depose Unjust Monarchs

Knox was not alone in his views, however. The English Calvinist, Christopher Goodman, stated in his book, How Superior Powers ought to be obeyed of their subjects; wherein they may lawfully by God’s word be disobeyed and resisted, published in Geneva in 1558 that kings owed their power and their authority to their acceptance as kings by their people, and that ordinarily they should be respected. Like Knox, he also believed that the aristocracy was ordained by God to defend their nation’s true religion, laws and prosperity and to act to limit and restrain the king’s power. Kings were also God’s subjects, and like everyone else they were obliged to work to the best of their ability in their vocation. If they abused their position, they could be deposed and punished. This was not just the duty of the aristocracy, but also of ordinary people, who are required to reform the church if the king and aristocracy refuse to do so.

View of Ponet that God Established Government for Human Welfare, but Form of the Government Left to Humanity to Decide

Another Protestant exile from the reign of Mary Tudor in England, John Ponet, also believed in and expounded the right of the subjects themselves to overthrow an oppressive monarch. Ponet had been bishop of Rochester and Winchester during the Reign of Edward VI before he sought refuge in Strasbourg after Mary’s accession, publishing his treatise on government, A Shorte Treatise of Politicke Power in 1556. Unlike Mariana and Buchanan, for example, who believed that government arose out of humanity’s natural inclination for company and co-operation, or the need for protection from aggression when in the primeval phase of human existence, Ponet believed that humanity was too corrupt to govern itself through reason. He attributed the belief that it was possible to the ancient pagans, and considered that history demonstrated that they had been wrong. Ponet believed that human actions should be guided by divine law, which is the law of nature. However, humans did not obey law unless coerced, and so God had created political power for humanity’s benefit, granting humanity the power to legislate for itself and enforce such legislation with appropriate punishment, including execution. God did not, however, specify which form of government humans were to adopt. That was left to humanity itself. God did not grant authority to only one individual, but to the community, as a co-operative association based on the reciprocal need of each individual for every other. It was the community that maintained justice and general welfare.

View that Best Form of Government Mixed Government of Monarchy, Aristocracy and Democracy, and that Power of Monarch Limited by Constitution and God’s Law

Ponet did not believe that any people could sensibly give unlimited power to a prince, and so considered the best form of government to be a mixed constitution where sovereignty was shared between the prince and a parliamentary assembly. England, France and Germany were all ruled by this form of government. Even those monarchs who ruled without a parliamentary assembly were subject to constitutional limits to their authority. They were bound by God’s law, and so could only legislate on relatively unimportant matters. Furthermore, Ponet urged that people should not automatically accept legislation that was merely human in origin. Laws must be considered and obeyed on their own merits, and not because of the authority of the people who had passed them. While people owed kings their love and loyalty, their first loyalty was to God, then their country and only afterwards to the monarch. He regarded princes as merely members of the commonwealth, which could exist without them. He stated that princes were liable unjustly to seize their subject’s property as their own, alter the coinage and raise taxes, political conduct that Ponet declared to be mere brigandage. They did not hold of themselves their kingdom, but simply had it in stewardship. Under the law of nature, people had the right to depose and execute oppressive rulers and tyrants, and so the community had the ability to withdraw the authority it had granted to the prince. While this should be done by the community as a whole, private assassination was justified in some circumstances.

Demands for Religious Toleration for Roman Catholics and Protestants by Edwin Sandys in England

Apart from the ability of the subject or citizen to take part in the process of making political decision, one of the great pillars of modern democracy is freedom of conscience. While both Roman Catholics and Protestants in the Sixteenth century generally wished to suppress each others’ religions through force, there was also a profound desire amongst many Christians for unity and toleration in Christendom. Edwin Sandys, a son of the Archbishop of York and pupil of Richard Hooker, in his A Relation of the State of Religion, criticised the intolerance of both Roman Catholics and Protestants. Both Roman Catholics and Protestants were Christians, and shared the same fundamental beliefs and doctrines that were the essence of Christianity. The doctrinal points that divided them could never be decided for certain. Thus, he felt, that Roman Catholics and Protestants should respect each other, and that the unity of Christendom could be restored through the establishment of a European church based on the Christian doctrines held by both Roman Catholic and Protestant. This was to be done either by a general council, which would impose its authority on the Pope and other participants in the controversy, or by the princes, though he did not feel that they could be trusted to put this into action. In order to put an end to religious disunity and conflict, Sandys wished to prohibit the claims to superiority by the various sects and faiths in Christendom. Instead of persecuting the various Christian sects, governments should instead force them to respect each other. He did not, however, believe that anti-Christian opinions should be tolerated, and so did not advocate modern concepts of secular democracy.

Demands for Toleration of Roman Catholics and Protestants in France by Politiques

The Politiques in France had expressed similar views rather earlier. They were mostly Roman Catholics, but also some Protestants, who regarded with horror the devastation, caused by the Wars of Religion, and felt that the only way to save France from further carnage and destruction was through negotiation and peace with the Huguenots. A 1574 pamphlet described the suffering inflicted on all classes in France by the War, and called for the Huguenots to join a states-general to bring about peace and save France from further destruction. Other pamphlets noted the moral damage the wars had caused, and the way they had discredited Christianity as a whole. The Huguenot writer La Noue declared that the wars had created a million libertines and Epicureans, while other writers stated that religious persecution had not suppressed heresy, but created only atheists. They argued strongly that the only way for states to survive and prosper was by tolerating two religions, and that the state should be above any specific religion. They also strongly argued that the existence of two religions in a country did not necessarily produce civil conflict or disunity, a point of view shared by Henry of Navarre himself. The Politiques were extremely sceptical about the claims of the Churches to possess the sole religious truth, but believed strongly that Roman Catholics and Protestants shared the same, basic, fundamental points of Christian doctrine. Thus the toleration of both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism did not threaten the Christian nature of civil society, which was based on the fundamental Christian principles held in common by both Roman Catholic and Protestant. In 1590 the pamphlet Le Pacifique attempted to demonstrate the agreement between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism on fundamental doctrinal points in the form of a dialogue between a Roman Catholic and Protestant, who discover that the share the same basic Christian beliefs.

Demands for Religious Toleration by Sebastien Castillion

Similar views on toleration were held and strongly argued by the humanist Sebastien Castellion and Giacomo Contio, or Acontius. In his De Haereticis an sint persequandi of 1542-5, possibly written with a little assistance from Lelio Sozini, who held Unitarian views, and Martin Borrhee, and his Contra libellum Calvini, written in response to Calvin’s participation in the execution of Michael Servetus for heresy in Geneva, De Arte Dubitandi, the Four Dialogues of 1578, and the Conseil a la France desolee of 1562, Castellion argued for religious toleration. In the De Haereticis he attempted to support his arguments by quotations from some of the early Church Fathers and contemporary theologians and religious authorities such as Luther, Erasmus and Calvin himself. He considered that because there were points of doctrine that could not be decided for certain, all that could be required of people is that they attempt to understand the Word of God and follow it according to their conscience. Castellion felt that Christianity consisted in the knowledge that Christ was the Son of God and that his teachings were divine. He did not believe that religion lay in either ceremonies or beliefs that people could not understand, and firmly stated that Scripture did not support the persecution of those of different religious opinions. One defended religion not by killing for it, but by suffering death. He did, however, believe that the government had the right to punish those who denied the resurrection, the immortality of the soul and the authority of the government, though they should not be executed.

Demands for Complete Freedom of Conscience by Acontius

Acontius was a military engineer who had been employed by Pescara in Milan and Queen Elizabeth in England. In his Strategematum Satanae of 1565 he argued that most people formed their beliefs without the guidance of either reason or God, simply accepting tradition or the opinions of the mass of people around them. They are intolerant of others, partly because they cannot bear to accept that their beliefs may be wrong. He argued that religious controversy and wars were Satan’s way of causing trouble and destruction on Earth. He believed that there were a few basic beliefs necessary for salvation, but that most of Christian doctrine was simply speculation without any real value. He argued that only those doctrines that affected human conduct on Earth had any value. Magistrates had no power to punish heresy, not just because they had no power themselves to do so, but also because there was so much difference in opinion between the Churches on what was heretical that they too had little authority to make such decisions. He believed that there should be absolute freedom of religion, and that people came to the truth through doubt and free inquiry and discussion. For Acontius, those who undoubtedly possessed extremely heretical doctrines should be punished merely with excommunication, which should be a source of regret rather than anger and hatred.

Contribution of Christian Humanists to Education and their Stress on Tolerance and Dialogue rather than Conflict

Another fundamental pillar of democracy is the belief in the value of education, and that a just society and good government must be based on informed, educated opinion. In this area too the Christian humanists of the 16th century made a profound contribution. Erasmus believed that humans could be assisted to become good as they possessed free will, though this free will itself had to be aided in its turn by God’s grace. The human will could be directed towards goodness through religious devotion and learning. For Erasmus, if princes were educated according to humanist principles, the result would be a good society where princes ruled justly and, following Christ, established peace instead of war. As a result, he and other humanists, such as John Colet in England, established schools and academies. Their influence on the aristocracy was profound. Although their political ideas of a just society was Utopian, their idea of an educated aristocracy informed by humanist culture nearly became reality, so that after the mid-sixteenth century even minor members of the nobility had libraries showing a wide variety of interests. 26 Moreover, Erasmus and his followers, although entirely orthodox Roman Catholics, stressed the importance of dialogue, toleration and the importance of settling matters peacefully, rather than resorting to force. Their stress on God’s love for humanity, rather than His judgement of their actions, influenced Reginald Pole, Contarini, Castellion and the Socinians, and his advocacy of a tolerant Christianity was immensely popular in Spain, especially amongst the Conversos, whose ancestors had converted to Christianity from Judaism to avoid expulsion and persecution. 27

Conclusion:

Both View that Power of the Monarch Absolute and that Royal Power Limited by the Constitution and Sovereignty of the People existed in Sixteenth Century

Thus, although much of the political theory of the sixteenth century stressed the absolute power of the monarch and the duty of their subjects to obey them, there were also other political views, held and defended by both Roman Catholics and Protestants across Europe, that stressed instead the constitutional limits on monarchical power, the importance and role in government of representative assemblies and right and even duty of subjects to resist and depose unjust rulers. Political theorists, theologians and philosophers in England, Scotland, France, Geneva and Switzerland considered that governments had been established for the benefit of their peoples, not the rulers’, that societies and governments were based on contracts and covenants between their members, rulers and the Almighty, and that monarchs owed their power not to any personal virtue, but because the community delegated it to them. The power of the monarch was limited by the law of God and natural law. Princes and parliaments acted as constitutional checks to monarchs to prevent oppression, and who were also representatives of the community and so had a duty to protect their ancient rights. If kings exceeded the bounds of their authority or failed to establish true religion, they could be overthrown by the aristocracy and other leading governmental officials and institutions, or even by private citizens. These views were based on medieval political theory, contemporary interpretation of Scripture and the necessity amongst Roman Catholics and Protestants wishing to defend their religion and defeat and destroy their opponents of finding theoretical support for their resistance to persecution, oppression or the authorities’ failure to maintain the true faith.

Sixteenth Century also Period of Demonds for Religious Toleration, and Improvements in Education

Alongside these demands for political freedom were criticisms of both Roman Catholics and Protestants for their intolerance, and demands for an end to religious persecution and freedom of conscience amongst a very few individual political theorists. Furthermore, the Christian humanist belief that the human will could be formed and directed towards goodness through education led to the foundation of schools and libraries, and an attitude of tolerance and dialogue rather than violent coercion.

Influence of Demands for Constitutional Limits to Monarchy and Participation in Government of People and Representative Assemblies and Religious Toleration Limited in 16th Century, but had strong Influence in 17th Century England

The impact of these ideas was limited, however. Although princes in Poland, Hungary and elsewhere granted toleration to various Christian denominations and sects, this did not necessarily prevent them from acquiring increasing power over their tenants’ lives and properties, so that during the 16th century serfdom increased. In western Europe, in France, Germany and Spain political power became increasingly centralised in the monarch and representative institutions, such as the estates, declined in importance, eventually to produce the absolutist monarchies of the 18th century. Nevertheless, these doctrines continued to have an effect. The Vindiciae, although largely abandoned by the Huguenots shortly after its publication, influenced contemporary Dutch political ideas and considerably influenced English political theories in the 17th century. 28 Castellion’s demands for religious toleration influenced the radical theologian, Dirck Volckentzoon Coornhert. In turn, he influenced Arminius, who otherwise strongly opposed and argued against his theology. Arminius’ religious views strongly influenced British theology and political theories in the 17th century, during the British Civil War/ War of the Three Kingdoms. In England although it was not noticed at the time, claims such as Thomas Smith’s that it was parliament that really represented every individual in the country pointed towards the Civil War in the next century. 29 Thus, while Europe generally became more authoritarian following the sixteenth century, nevertheless the political theories stressing the constitutional limits on monarchical governments and the role of representative assemblies influenced the Netherlands and Britain, creating the ideas for greater religious and political freedom that were to appear in the 17th century and which found practical expression in the British Civil War/ War of the Three Kingdoms and the development of modern, political theories like John Locke’s.

Notes

  1. Koenigsberger and Mosse, Sixteenth Century, pp. 104-5.
  2. Koenigsberger and Mosse, Sixteenth Century, pp. 105-6.
  3. Allen, History of Political Thought, p. 331.
  4. Allen, History of Political Thought, p. 268.

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37 Responses to “Christianity and the Origins of Democracy – the Sixteenth Century: Part 4”

  1. Feyd Says:

    Well I think you’ve covered all the basics here Beast 🙂 I almost feel guilty reading stuff of this quality for free!

  2. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Just read the other posts–over 50 comments in all along the lines of Hitler and the connection to Social Darwinism. Wow.

    Well, the only thing at this point to say is that it looks like there is EVERY effort to wiggle Hitler off the hook of alleged hard sciences and place his comments on the Christian aisle because at various times he made commentary for political gain.

    Polititians and dictators alike NEVER do that–do they? Any secularists want to chime in on the topic of cultural opportunism?

    Do crows not bother to eat dead things off the road? I think Occam’s razor suggests that while Hitler was on the one hand dismissing Christianity as an off brand Judaism that was malignant ( we have lots of those quotes) and on the other dismissing Darwinist books and free thought societies, it sounds in sum more like the efforts of dictatorial regimen than real Christianity.

    As Dinesh D’Sousa pointed out, you can’t have the double standard and say that on the one hand Stalin and Mao and the sundry tinhorns who killed and maimed many MAGNITUDES more people than anyone under the banner of the Cross ever did can get off the hook because they didn’t “FULLY” proclaim secularist “ideals” all the while rolling people over, while on the OTHER hand Hitler’s tangential “connetion” to Christianity and Norse legends and babble about Teutonic knights was a full blown advocacy for HIS killings. Sam Harris takes this absurdist tack. As does Richard Dawkins.

    Hitler the maniacal religious killer. Stalin and Mao not “really” atheist maniacal killers due to their not understanding economics and human relations well enough.

    Harris takes aim at the “cult of personality” in Mao and says this is more akin to religion. Hmm. But I’ll bet it is for certain that Stalin and Mao also laid claim to a “scientific” worldview of their own time to pay homage to the new spirit of the scientific age coming into fashion. Many people try and do this.

    But that’s just the problem. Athiesm is not always the more gentle, coffee house variety from beatnik poets and liberal bloggers mad at lack of AIDS funding, or whatnot.

    So Harris confutes his own premise almost automatically in any case. It was said by one French philosopher that while it might be untrue that without religion man can’t organize society, it is certainly true that without religious the result is that man will ultimately end up ACTUALLY just organizing society against man. Today we have, rather than Hitler’s Blitzgrieg, the BITSgrieg. Little tiny BITS and pieces of laws nipping at the ankles that form an easy-listening type of tyranny, but tyranny nontheless. Millions of laws and edicts and regulations and social nuances that can easily get one in trouble in everything from giving your pets the wrong food to multi-culti insensitivities and hangups about making people mad over commentary. Forged by what people claim government needs to do to make a better world. Yet the world is not getting better. Just more efficient in some technological realms, more nettlesome to handle, and more troublesome to navigate one’s life.

    And no, pace Sue, the US and the rest of the West is not evil just because it ships the most armaments combined with being putatively “Christian”. It ships the most armaments due the fact we live in a dangerous world full of thuggery and the response of our (secular) government and mostly secular culture have the moral duty to respond to oppression and terror lords. Response to terror is not terror or its inculcation. Else we’d only be able to show our nobility by banning police forces as well.

    At the core you still have secularism, as Mark Steyn pointed out, that in many places has evolved into merely a happy face on a stick. An empty headed nothingness that preaches peace at any price, socialism and handouts as economics, and leaves a cultural vacuum into which anything can get poured. IN the past it was tyranny. Today in Europe Islamist demands are getting their way due to the milkwater, tepic responses of secularist governments not having the courage or the muster to feel the need to fight back against the very forces they claim secularism banished in the first place (religion, large family size, radicalism, churches)..

    Europe has now evolved John Lennon’s pious song (‘Imagine’) about a secular state of no religion and vacation for all and health care at someone else’s expense. Trouble is, they have some neighbors from London to Rotterdam who have a more personalized world view from Allah and think there is more to life than being coddled by government from cradle to grave and drinking wine on the beach all the time.

    BTW– within the next two weeks I’ll try and be getting the other articles published on the blog, beast.

    Thanks for the postings!

  3. Beastrabban Says:

    Hi Feyd and Wakefield – thanks for the kind comments. They’re much appreciated.

    After I’ve finished posting the material on the Christian contribution to the development of democracy I’ll try and tackle the issue of why Christianity and the issue of personal salvation and the relationship of humanity to the Allmighty goes beyond politics and can’t be reduced to simple political formulas about the ideal state. I’ll also try and explain why, after the French Revolution, some authoritarian monarchists like Joseph Le Maitre in France supported theocratic absolute monarchy. The simple reason is that rationalistic democracy had, in their view, produced nothing but violence, civil unrest and horrific wars, and only an absolute monarchical regime supported by religious authority and revelation could restrain humanity from even more destruction and bloodshed.

    Now clearly that’s an extreme view that the vast majority of Christians around the world would reject. Nevertheless, I feel it should be covered simply to explain why some of those who supported such reactionary, anti-democratic regimes did so for reasons quite apart from wishing to use the power of the state to enforce their own religious or political beliefs. I am not seeking to defend contemporary opponents of democracy, like the horrendous tyrants in places like North Korea, but simply trying to make the point that at the time the philosophers, lawyers and theologians who argued against democracy had entirely logical and comprehensible reasons for doing so.

  4. Beastrabban Says:

    Hi Wakefield – Thanks for your reply and observations on the connection between the Nazis and Social Darwinism. Actually, there’s a lot of information on the Nazis’ connection to the volkisch movement, scientific racism and forms of Social Darwinism. I am probably going to have to write another, very long blog post about it. In the meantime, here are some snippets.

    Firstly, the Nazi swastika was initially a symbol of one of the sects from Haeckel’s Monistenbund – The Monist League. It was originally developed by the Monists as a symbol of Aryan sun worship. The red background represented the blood of the Aryan people. Hitler took it over and secularised it, stating that he had added the red to stress the ‘socialist’ element in National Socialism and take it over from Marxism and Social Democracy.

    As for the Nazis themselves, they always included a large number of anti-Christians and atheists, and this was a cause of friction with the Church. For example, after the Nazi Machtergreifung , one of the leading storm troopers in one of the southern German cities – I’ve got a feeling that it was either Munich or Nuremberg, but I’m not sure, died.

  5. Beastrabban Says:

    This particular thug was Anton ‘Firebug’ Maikowski, whose monicker shows the gangster mentality amongst the Nazis very clearly. I’ve got a feeling he was killed in a brawl or a street fight. He was also an atheist. At the time of his killing one of the local policemen also passed away. This man was completely the opposite: he was a Roman Catholic and a leftist. Clearly the two men had absolutely nothing in common. Nevertheless, in order to stress that all Germans were now united in the Nazi state, the Nazi party insisted that Maikowski and the policeman should have joint funerals, and that their coffins should be placed next to each other during the service. This really, really did not impress the local Roman Catholic church.

    As for Hitler, in the 1920s a book appeared in which the author claimed that Hitler had told him in a conversation that Judaism and Christianity had been the origins of Bolshevism since Moses led Israel out of Egypt. I’ve got a feeling that this was denied by the Nazi leadership. However, the Nazis, like the Pan-German movements generally, tended to be extremely hostile to the Roman Catholic church. In the Third Reich there was a section of the Gestapo devoted to monitoring the Church. After Hitler was released from the Landsberg, he went to see the authorities in Bavaria about securing the release of six other Nazis who were still held there. The local head of state was a devout Roman Catholic, and Hitler was criticised severely by the other Nazis for approaching him and pledging future Nazi good behaviour and support. Hitler’s response was that, unlike other German politicians, he couldn’t warn his enemies before he killed them. Furthermore, in 1938 the Nazis began an active campaign against the Roman Catholic Church, closing convents and monasteries and attempting to prevent priests and clergy from preaching. It’s been estimated that during the Third Reich 1/3 of Roman Catholic clergy in Germany were imprisoned in the concentration camps.

  6. Beastrabban Says:

    As for the particular brand of Christianity that Hitler tried to introduce, this was an attempt to create an ‘Aryan’ Christianity purged of Jewish elements, such as the Old Testament and St. Paul. The origins of the German Christians, as this movement was known, go back to the mid-19th century and Julius Langbehn. Langbehn was a rationalist who firmly believed that modern Biblical scholarship had utterly disproved traditional Christianity. He hated both Roman Catholics and Protestants, and sneered at Luther’s translation of the Bible. He viewed Christ as no more than a brilliant philosopher, who rejected Judaism. Needless to say, contemporary scholars such as E.P. Sanders, Geza Vermes and others have shown how profoundly Jewish Jesus and His teaching were.

    Langbehn wished to create a specifically German religion from a rationalistic interpretation of Christianity, but rejected both Christ’s divinity and His absolute, profound humanitarianism, expressed in the Sermon on the Mount. Langbehn hated the sayings ‘blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth’ and so on, because they ran directly counter to the idealisation of strength and contempt for weakness he felt were quintessential German values. After his death, his writings were collected and became the central ideology of the ‘German Christians’ Hitler supported.

  7. Beastrabban Says:

    Now let’s start on the issue of Social Darwinism. This was around long before the Nazis came to power, and they were profoundly influenced by it. German historians have noted just how much of the ideology that supported the First World War by nations such as Britain were based on Social Darwinist racist views, in which war between nations and races was seen as a beneficial process leading to the removal of genetic undesirables and improving the race and humanity.

    Social Darwinism entered Nazism largely through the writings of Ludwig Woltmann, though there were reservations. Firstly, Woltmann himself wasn’t an anti-Semite. Also, many Nazis disliked the idea of evolution as it contradicted their idea that the race was eternally fixed. In one of the museums in the Third Reich a Roman bust was displayed alongside a photograph or bust of a modern German, with a caption stating that the race was the same a thousand years ago as it was today. Nevertheless, Social Darwinism was an element of Nazi ideology, and it certainly played a part in Hitler’s view of the superiority of the middle and upper classes. When the left-wing members of his party questioned why he had not attacked them, he replied that they were superior, because they had been selected for their social roles in terms which suggest that he felt something similar to Natural Selection had operated in human society to allow them to rise to their position in society, similiar to Herbert Spencer’s idea of the ‘survival of the economic fittest’.

  8. Beastrabban Says:

    As for the support of large elements of the Christian churches for Hitler, unfortunately this did exist and is disgusting and shameful. However, historians have suggested that the pro-Nazi elements in the Church gave their support to it not because of any theological reasons, but because of their identification of Christianity with patriotism. It should be noted here that many of the Protestant ministers who were radicalised against the Nazis did so because of the notorious ‘Aryan’ paragraph the Nazis tried to insert into the constitution of the Evangelical Church. This stressed the ‘aryan’ nature of Christianity, in contradiction to traditional Christian dogma, going all the way back to St. Paul, that baptism regenerates everyone, regardless of whether they’re Jewish, Greek, barbarian, slave, free, male or female, and they were keen to defend those ministers who were of Jewish origin, against dismissal and persecution by the Nazis.

    Now I don’t actually doubt that the Nazis banned atheist societies. If you read Hitler’s Table Talk , he makes it very clear that he wasn’t an atheist, and didn’t believe in atheist education. Indeed, the Nazism broke up a meeting in which Thomas Mann’s criticisms of the Third Reich were being read out because it supposedly represented unpatriotic ‘Humanism’. This does not indicate any support for Christianity in itself. Haeckel in the 19th century always maintained that he was a pantheist, not an atheist. While Haeckel’s works may well have been banned, a lot of support for the Nazis and other Fascist groups in Europe was a response to the threat of Communism, both real and perceived, and it seems to me that in their initial stress on their support for religion, the Nazis were trying to pose as the defenders of the Church against the threat of Communism and, more generally, atheist materialism, as a cynical method of gaining power.

  9. Beastrabban Says:

    Returning to the subject of the Nazis’ relationship to science and medicine, there’s been research by historians into the very strong support links between the medical profession and the Nazis. The doctors were the first group to offer their support as a profession to the Nazis. A Nazi medical association was formed in the 1929, four years before the Nazi seizure of power in 1933 and before any of the other professions formed similar associations. Some of the leading racial theorists, whose work was promoted during the Third Reich and which supported the Nazi eugenics and racist programme, only joined the Party very late, because they felt that science was above mere party political considerations. They were personally apolitical, even though their work was fully endorsed and promoted by the regime.

    There’s also the scandal that many of the Nazi doctors and racial biologists continued to practise after the War, and their connections to the Nazi regime were deliberately concealed. Post-war editions of their textbooks were re-written to remove passages indicating support for their Nazis and their racial views. Some of the doctors and scientists who were former Nazis also appear to have been active in sociobiology when this emerged in the 1960s. This does not mean that sociobiology is necessarily Nazi, however.

    As for Darwinism, while the works of Darwin and Haeckel may well have been banned during the Third Reich, Darwin was certainly still mentioned in Nazi textbooks. The official handbook of the Hitler Youth, the Nazi Primer written by Fritz Brennecke, contains a brief description of the fossil evidence for ancient animals and evolution, and states that this discovery is associated with Charles Darwin. Now this is not, clearly, a complete endorsement of Darwin or Natural Selection. Nevertheless, it does indicate that some support for Darwinism continued during the Third Reich as official Nazi policy.

  10. Beastrabban Says:

    As I said, I’m probably going to write a long blog post sometime on the subject of Hitler, Christianity, the volkisch movement and Social Darwinism. However, the Christian Cadre have a great piece utterly refuting the article by Walker, citing by Rich and the others, that Hitler was a Christian, and there’s another, really great, informative piece that does the same by an historian over a Bede’s Library .

  11. Beastrabban Says:

    As for the ability of evolutionary biologists to pronounce on morality, way back in the 1970s the atheist evolutionary biologist Jacques Monod stated that evolutionary destroyed all morality, though he felt it could be reconstructed according to scientific epistemology. As scientists of Christian faith have pointed out that scientific epistemology was based on the Christian and theist conception of the cosmos, Monod really hasn’t made his case that evolution can supply the basis for morality. Rather, you could see it as being the exact opposite.

  12. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Thanks .

    Well yes, that was sorta their downfall. The Darwinists, that is.

    Trying to forge a system of morals when in fact, as Daniel Dennett has plainly admitted, Darwinism is the Universal Acid. Along with the fables it destroys all notions of morals and even the “unscientific” notion of the soul. BF Skinner took this angle though his approach was different. It seems that trying to forge morals from Darwinism does two things at once, in a way. First, it is a fool’s errand to suggest that as Steven Pinker said, the brain evolved for efficiency and not for Truth, thus the emphasis is on utilitarian notions that hinge of pain and pleasure. Fair enough, but these in and of themselves are not necessarily indicative of Truth or morals. Not all pain is bad and not all pleasure indicates that a rightious personal choice that benefits you or society has been made. We do things–or claim to–for reasons not always locked into the Genome. Second, I’ll point out that Mark Steyn’s thesis is that some secularism seems prestigious at first since it is often allied with Darwinian input on things and turns around to forge social justice, but ends up being an empty vessel devoid of long-term historical meaning for the inhabitants ruled under such notions. Thus Darwinism in its political form, if not biological form, turns into a social projects that CAN preach mighty things but contradicts itself and ends up saying little other than ‘lets all be nice and friends and stuff and get along and put away those nasty nukes, and not eat animals since they are our brethren, etc, etc” Young people seeking cultural significance like to chew on something with some meat. For some, this is alternative religion. As Anglicanism wains in some places, Islam is more than happy to pick up the slack, and secularism tries mightily to pick up converts on lifestyle and sex issues, but fails to compete.

  13. PTET Says:

    secularism tries mightily to pick up converts on lifestyle and sex issues, but fails to compete.

    Gee, is secularism dominant on our society or isn’t it? I wish you guys would make up your minds.

    Sure, we are all looking for meaning… And sure, “Darwinism” (whatever the hell that is) doesn’t have all the answers…

    “‘lets all be nice and friends and stuff and get along and put away those nasty nukes, and not eat animals since they are our brethren, etc, etc””

    And that is wrong or bad HOW, exactly?

    Because it doesn’t let you impose your religious views on everyone else, by any chance?

    [Nice to see you all again. It’s been a while].

  14. Feyd Says:

    Will be looking forward to those promised articles Beast!

    Hi WT, and nice to see you here again PTET. I hope you and your friend Rich are well! Now if only that Ilion would come back.

  15. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Good to se PTET back in action. Still curious about his take on some things, however.

    Gee, is secularism dominant on our society or isn’t it? I wish you guys would make up your minds.

    Gee, PTET. It seems that context is an issue in comprehension that continues to challenge you and your cohorts, just as it did when I last checked into your site. I give up. The only thing I’ll say at this point is that the PROCESS of continuing to COMPETE with ISLAM is failing. This is not to say that secularization of most of Europe is very nearly complete. The problem for secularism is not that they have not virtually embalmed the entire citizenry in coddled notion of happiness as stemming from government expenditure and power. Though that is certainly true. The problem is that they have no answer to the other segment not so easily willing to assimilate into a vapid and meaningless culture that europe has now become. To wit, Islam is a more meaningful force for its own youth than secularist notions and pieties. Jihad is a young man’s game, after all.

    Europeans need to find some measure of resolve in responding to terror more than saying, “don’t bother me, even if I have low fertility rates and need the labor of immigrants. After all, I’m drinking wine at the beach on my 12 weeks government mandated vacation.”

    There is more to life than sleeping in late and childless sex and being coddled by government benefits and free handouts from health to job services all the way from womb to tomb.

    There is nothing wrong with “being nice” to people. But this is a sappy bumper sticker slogan only, and it is no irony, as with the foregoing discussion about Adolf Hitler and other human failings along with the fights for rights against kings and kingdoms, that sometimes you have to be willing to fight for what you’ve gained. There IS value to secular society as well as religious. The Apostle Paul said so himself and warned us to be under their governance. But sappy slogans do not make for government prowess in savings an entire culture.

    The problem is not in being nice but what happens when native Torontoins and Londoners and Madrid bombers get hot for decapitation and the very Archbishop of Canterbury himself knuckles under and has little say in defense of his own nation and faith other than we need to accept Sharia Law as all but inevitable. No doubt Edward Longshanks would have felt something urgent to do at this late hour, right?

    My critique has nothing to do with fears or advocacy of imposing my will or views on others. That’s just abusive nonsense.

  16. PTET Says:

    Hi WT

    I see you’ve lost none of your loquaciousness.

    I agree with pretty much everything you say.

    The enemy is radical Islam, and we as a society need to provide more than platitudes to fix it.

    However, I don’t think offering “Christianity” as an alternative to “Islam” is going to help.

    Best.

  17. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Hi again PTET!

    Christianity as an answer to all ills social? In and of itself, no. If by offering Christianity you mean that this would in itself shield us from the coming problems. You DO need secular input–and this involves government decision-making–as well. Of course. God himself laid out plans for honoring the power of secular government. But that is not the same as secular CULTURE. The two work together often but are not the same thing.

    No such guarantee is given that we avoid trials in life due to faith. Just ask all the martys of history.

    True. I agree. It would help, however. What I meant was that from a cultural point of view, Christianity offers an ideology that I personally think (and in the opinion of much better men astute in studying various cultural issues, like BR) that while it is certainly on the decline, it WAS the building block of what you and I would call “Europe”, replaced the old tribal hegemons, and gave reason and science the starting gun when it got rid of the animistic and primitive beliefs and established social order. Obviously minus any social order (be it Christianity or some from of ideology), you descend to chaos. In a transitional society, which many people are guessing Europe is in at the moment, the long term trouble is not current chaos (bad as that is) but the fact that no one has mapped out where they want to be. We may all be in for a darker and more dangerous world in the coming decades.

    It is of no use to appeal to an authority that in turn is preoccupied with appeals to mass needs of consumerist and government consumption and politically correct pieties in hopes of pacifying everyone’s anger—–but cannot face down external and internal cultural strife.

    BR has spent much time and energy composing–from the political side of things–the very reason that much of what we all live under in representative government, despite its internal issues and contradictions–hails from the influence of Christianity and the forging of social order. And he has made some really powerful points. Others have mentioned these but not quite gone into the details all in one place as with BRs blog.

  18. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Regarding Hitler and the Nazis, I meant to have added that while Harris and Hitchens spend much time nailing Christianity for what Harris calls the “cultural” climate of “hate” caused by Martin Luther and some others under the umbrella of Chrisitanity, and there is some kernals of truth to this, it seems that Nazi hatred of the Jew was more a particular German aversion. Cultural, but not all due Christianity. In the past, or so is my understanding, a Jew could have avoided trouble by conversion. Even in the Inquisition. Not so in Nazi Germany, where the emphasis was on your background. You could not escape death or arrest by simply saying you’ve renounced the laws of God in the Hebrew Bible, the Torah, the Talmud, or converting to Christianity.

    To the death camps you’ll go anyhow. So it seems a racial issue more than anything else. I think BR is correct in that this stemmed mostly from a nationalist fervor that like many nationalist fervors, seeks to demonize a people as an easy scapegoat for economic and social ills probably actually caused by domestic policies and Weimar rule.

    Still, Harris blames the hatred of the Jew on Christianity. It is regrettable, of course, that Luther had some ugly commentary and that while Christians should have considered the Jews their own cultural kin, this was not always the case. For that matter I could bring up small town southern churches here in the US that still use deragatory language against African Americans among those sitting in the pews and make unwelcome people of other backgrounds and have some rather odd and cockamamie poppycock notions too. Too bad. Yes, sometimes the Skeptics point out that Christiandom has become all too often ChristianDUMB. All I can say is that we are all people and many people depending on education and social interaction never develop properly. Same is true of many Skeptics, who rehash the same things over and over and have some really oddball takes on politics and culture, for example. I think what is going on is what a friend of mine said in that often you’ll see many people not particularly thirsty for knowledge. Faith does not depend on this, however. I assume BR would say that while apologetics is fine (which is what his site is geared to) it is necessary for the edification of others on some occasions if they are seeking, but not necessary for faith alone. Everybody has different levels of knowledge they need to secure faith?

  19. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Another more common take on the unfairness of life in general is found in an all too common parody of Christians. Perhaps it is just abusive nonsense. But still, I have not seen a crisp answer from theologians on this particular one. There is some truth here, in that certain things are so horrific they defy description.

    Ever hear of Gustave and (a parody) how William Dembski pontificates on a wise Designer who wonderfully and fearfully (quite so, it seems) makes the Leviathan?

    Now you will. Too, you’ll see how one mockery of Christianity refers to those who apparently say Jesus can convert Gustave from a child ripper and gut crunching fanatic into a peaceful reptilian denizen of the freshwater deep. Of course Dembski says no such thing. But the implication is that ID or God-revelation for answers to such horror is so easily mocked:

    ((**WARNING–graphic content for many reasons–verbal and descriptive. Gustave is truly not to be trifled with unless you have a 30.06 **))

    http://thestubborncurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2007/07/killer-croc-converts.html?showComment=1185989580000

    The idea here apparently being twofold:

    1) Poe’s Law dictates that no parody of Christians is ever so unreal or dismissible, or every so easy to dissect, since the idiotic redneckish Fundy-Maniac billing always fits.

    2) A wise designer would NEVER create such a creature as Gustave.

    Interesting too that William Dembski is mentioned here in parody as well. Granted the quotes are baloney, but apparently this author feels that ID is something that can be reverse engineered to explain away anything. (As can Genesis purportedly can be so absurdly used to explain why nasty animals are even around if God is loving and wise, etc., etc)

    For good or ill, Obamaniacs never seem to hold themselves to this kind of parody. Fainting and swooning in the aisles over the New Messiah is not enough to raise PZ’s ire either. Although he recently did crumple a page of the Koran in the trash, and mocked Obama’s former nutcase pastor Jeremiah Wright.

    Yes, the natural world can be very dangerous to humans. Crocs, snakes, lions, rioting chimps, child predators, and cuddly polar bears–oh my!

    The usual explanation is that we live in a fallen world. But I wanted your take on this also, since you often have more Scriptural and historical insights into how this is all placed in context from a God who cares for living beings. The sight of children especially being killed in such gruesome manners is disheartening, to say the least, regardless of what we all believe about nature. Gustave is certainly not sentient enough to be a sinner. He’s just perpetually hungry. But what about God’s concerns for the kids and the feelings of their parents and this horrific loss. Now one assumes the same could be said for ANY loss of children and loved ones: to cancer, to other disease, to old age, to car accidents, to home accidents. All these and more kill children too every year in the Western world as much as the Third World. We are not promised it is to be perfect. Scripture reveals not only the fallen state but also that animals throughout history have preyed on humans for one reason or another. Bears have attacked teens who mocked prophets, dogs have devoured the flesh of Jezebel, and lions have torn men tending sheep. And Gustave’s ancestors no doubt took place in the killing of male Jews though into the River Nile by Pharaoh. Is the world supposed to be a better place in modern times?

    I am in fact thinking of making an entire posting out of this whole bruha at some point……

  20. Beastrabban Says:

    Hi Wakefield – thanks for posting that. My impression is that the Stubborn Curmudgeon actually isn’t saying anything new or problematic, despite the horrific and distressing nature of the problem of evil.

    Firstly, an observation on his blog’s name. It looks to me like he’s deliberately trying to parody the Christian blog, The Constructive Curmudgeon , which I think was by Douglas Groothuis. That particular blog made some very insightful points taking apart the New Atheism, particularly some of the very questionable stuff Daniel C. Dennett wrote in his book on the evolutionary origins of religion. The Stubborn Curmudgeon looks to me like he’s trying to rebut the points made by Christian apologists and philosophers like Groothuis through satire and subversion. However, there are real problems with his approach.

  21. Beastrabban Says:

    Now let’s get on to the content of the Stubborn Curmudgeon’s post.

    Firstly, there’s the problem of his comment in the sidebar about no satire or parody being inapplicable to Fundamentalists. The problem with this is that ‘Fundamentalist’ is used simply to describe someone with a very literal religious or Christian faith. It’s assumed that such a faith must be irrational, but this is simply an assumption. Now Christian philosophers like J.P. Mooreland or William Dembski, who reject belief in Darwinian evolution, may be wrong in their views, but nevertheless they’re based on logical argument, and so by this standard aren’t irrational.

    The Stubborn Curmudgeon also seems to assume that bizarre and irrational beliefs are characteristic of Fundamentalism, and possibly, by extension, religion as a whole. This is highly questionable. Firstly, it assumes that an extreme form of Christian faith is somehow characteristic of the whole, without actually presenting any reason why, or even supplying any argument that it actually is. Moreover, it doesn’t consider other, secular, sociological factors that may have influenced the development of these particular Christian sects.

    There is also the problem in that, paradoxically, the people who have some of the least irrational beliefs and highest respect for science are Creationists. Answers in Genesis at their site have an article – I’m afraid I’ve forgotten precisely which one – citing surveys and articles in a number of entirely orthodox, even sceptical journals and scientific magazines, such as Sceptical Inquirer and New Scientist pointing out that the people who most strongly reject ‘New Age’ beliefs and have the most respect for science are, indeed, Creationists.

    As for credulity, one could possibly turn this back on the Stubborn Curmudgeon himself. Stephen Jay Gould referred to conventional evolutionary theorists producing ‘Just So’ stories, which were based on very little except conjecture, and Denyse O’Leary has covered a number of such tales and their problems in her blog. Now science does indeed progress through advancing and rejecting hypotheses through scepticism and testing, but when some of the hypotheses proposed are described as the greatest advance in science so far, which will yield ultimate insights into the nature of reality, despite their flaws and the existence of contrasting views, it’s reasonable to consider how far such theories are supported by fact and reasonable hypothesis, and how far they’re the product of scientists’ own personal, philosophical views into the nature of the cosmos, regardless of how far these theories actually correspond to reality.

  22. Beastrabban Says:

    Now let’s discuss the subject of the satire itself, African Christians supposedly preaching and converting a monstrous, child-eating crocodile called ‘Gustave’.

    Now it seems to me that the Stubborn Curmudgeon is trying to do two things here.

    Firstly, he’s attacking the various Christian saints, like Saint Francis of Assissi, who preached to the animals.

    Secondly, the story seems to be a spoof of various African stories of talking animals and the bizarre attempts to perform miracles reported of African Christian ministers. For example, during the rule of Idi Amin in Uganda, a talking tortoise was supposed to have come out of the forest prophesying the end of the world and the downfall of Amin’s regime. It was supposed to have been arrested and taken into custody at the local police station. Meanwhile, the regime was so worried about the rumour and its effects in strengthening and promoting further opposition to Amin’s tyranny, that it banned all discussion of the rumour.

    Now it seems to me that such stories are based in indigenous African folk beliefs, rather than being the product of Christianity. I doubt that there was ever a talking tortoise. Nevertheless, you could argue that the rumour performed a valuable sociological function in that it allowed Amin’s brutalised subjects to voice their discontent with the regime, and their hopes for his overthrow, and to look forward to a time when this would occur.

    As for the reports of African ministers attempting to perform irrational and dangerous stunts, some of these seem to be just rumours with no factual basis. For example, a few months ago it was reported that a Christian minister in West Africa had drowned in front of his congregation while attempting to walk on water like Christ. However, the source for the story seemed to be a single press agency, and the story itself couldn’t be verified. It looks like just another rumour that was taken up as fact by the press. Thus, while there are indeed some extremely unpleasant and immoral expressions of religious faith in Africa, such as the hysteria and persecution of innocent women and children believed to be witches, other stories need to be taken with more than a piece of scepticism. It could be suggested here that the Sceptical Curmudgeon, in suggesting that a Christian group has preached to a man-eating crocodile, has shown himself actually to be less than sceptical, and ready to believe these weird stories about African Christianity.

  23. Beastrabban Says:

    Now let’s consider the main point of the Sceptical Curmudgeon’s story – that of the problem of natural evil and predation in nature. Regarding his statement that a wise designer would not have created a creature as monstrous as Gustave, there are a number of problems with this view.

    Firstly, according to some Creationist views, natural evil and predation are the result, not of God’s design, but of the Fall. In extra-Biblical Jewish legend, I understand that originally in the Garden of Eden the animals were intelligent and had the power of speech, and lived in harmony with each other under the stewardship of Adam and Eve. After the Fall they lost that intelligence and the ability to speak, and began to prey on each other.

    Similarly, in contemporary Christian Creationism predation is the result of the Fall, due to God withdrawing some of His sustaining and guiding power from the Earth, allowing the animals to develop from their previously vegetarian forms into predators.

    Dembski in his paper, The Reach of the Cross has pointed out that there is a problem with this account of the origin of natural evil and predation in that, if one accepts the conventional age of the Earth and the gradual appearance of the various forms of plant and animal life, as in Old Earth Creationism, then predation actually predates the Garden of Eden and the Fall. His solution is that the effects of the Fall work backwards in time, to corrupt the Creation from its very beginning. I’ve got a feeling he bases this view partly on the phenomenon in Quantum Physics in which an experiment or observation can apparently work backwards in time to effect the performance of a particle, as well as forward. Apart from this, Dembski’s point here is again, that God, as a good designer, did not intend predation as part of Creation, but that it is a product of the corruption of nature due to the Fall.

    Finally, theo-evolutionists have pointed out that predation is part of a varied and complete eco-system, and that without predation the creatures in the world would be limited to autotrophs – plants. Thus, if God wished to create a varied, dynamic and diverse world, this would include not just plants, but also herbivores and carnivores as part of a larger ecosystem. Thus predation is not necessarily a problem for Jewish and Christian theology.

  24. Beastrabban Says:

    Furthermore, in the Stubborn Curmudgeon’s view that a child-eating crocodile presents a problem for the idea of wise designer, there’s an element of anthropocentrism. The assumption is that a wise designer would not create anything that was harmful to humanity. This view, however, certainly isn’t found in the Bible. The deserts, for example, are an extremely difficult environment for humanity to inhabit, yet the Bible states that they were also created by the Lord, along with other, equally extreme environments, and that He is also present in them. Furthermore, God also gives food to predators, such as birds of prey and lions, as well as peaceful herbivores. In the Christian worldview, humans have been given stewardship of creation and are in a unique relationship to the Almighty, having been made in His image. However, God has created the universe according to His own plans, and while humans are an integral part of the creation, that creation is not confined solely to what is beneficial or useful to humanity. God has created environments and creatures that are harmful to humans, but which nevertheless He considered it good to create.

  25. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Thanks for the fascinating input, BR. I figured you’d find the context of all this and quickly flesh it all out.

    It seems that yes, there was an attempt at parody using both the Christian faith (or at least some strains of Francis of Assisi) that perhaps all of God’s creation has some spiritual dimension in addition to animistic beliefs of native African tribal areas and shamen. Though on the last point I’m not sure how often or to what extent these old ways are still revered. I’m sure there is some of it. In the Soul Of Science Nancy Pearcy reminds readers that in Europe Christianity is the main force of actually chasing away the primitive “enchanted realm” thinking of the natives of that era and replaced them with notions that if God is soverign and orderly, then Creation is also. But there was no mention of the rock demons being thusly chased, only to make a return under the Church. And it is funny as someone pointed out on Uncommon Descent, that Bill Mahar’s new anti-religion comedy film coming soon has its own social hypocrisy on Who Believes What among the Faithful vs. the Non.

    http://online.wsj.com:80/article/SB122178219865054585.html

    Though this is a study of Americans. Perhaps the Brits hold the same curious beliefs among the seculars? Not sure.

    And its true that the Sciptures never say all is peaceable on the banks of the Nile. Qutie the opposite, and “Leviathan” is thought be the Nile Croc (as is Gustave) and the writer of Job, expressing God’s message on his Creation’s wonders, actually mocks the reader asking “will thou entreat him, or place a hook in his nose?” The exact verse number escapes me at the moment. Still.

    I wanted your permission (when I get around to it!) of possibly using some of your contribution here if attributed, in a post I;m planning that details this parody and the counterargument on my own site. It would be similar to what I wrote earlier, but hopefully crisper.

  26. Beastrabban Says:

    Hi Wakefield, you certainly have my permission to use whichever material from my above comments on the StubbornCurmudgeon’s attempt to satirise Christianity to criticise and rebut it. I’m really glad you find it useful. There are a number of additional points that can be made about it.

    Firstly, there’s the question of the standard of rationality by which the African Christians in the parody can be judged irrational for wishing to convert the crocodile. According to the Western view of rationality and the difference between humans and animals, then what they are doing is indeed stupid. However, the Western view is the product of the Judaeo-Christian worldview that sees humans as uniquely rational, as opposed to animals, who are not. Yet other cultures have viewed animals as also possessing intelligence, like humans. If the Africans in the story have this worldview, then by the standards of their culture, what they are actually doing is perfectly reasonable, now matter how irrational it may seem to Westerners. Thus, if one adopts a cultural relativist viewpoint, what they are doing is perfectly rational by the standards of their society.

    If one adopts the viewpoint of mechanistic reductionism, in which people are controlled by their genes or memes, and are not conscious, then the Africans in the story, although irrational by our standards, similarly are no more irrational than the rest of humanity. Rationality implies that it is possible to make a reasonable choice through one’s own free will. But if free will is, like consciousness, and illusion, all that can be said about the Africans is that they are automatically following the dictates of their biology and culture. They are not foolish for doing so, as the nature of human intelligence and biology means that they cannot choose otherwise. Thus, at the most, all that can be said about the encounter is that creatures of one type of intelligence have mistakenly approached a creature with a totally different type of intelligence under the biological and cultural assumption that its intelligence is analogous to their own. They have no choice in behaving otherwise, just as people from different cultures, who find this episode insane, have no choice but to follow the dictates of their culture and biology and view it as such.

  27. Wakefield Toblert Says:

    Spot on.

    Actually, though I am NOT some kind of fring believer in animal rights, it IS interesting earlier you mentioned Francis of Assisi, and I always wondered where he got his notions (all Scriptural?) about animal rights.

    Would he say Gustave is to be left alone if we can but isolte him from the villagers somehow. The reason he’s not dead–interestingly–is that what crocodilian expert Dr. Adam Britton says about these–there is more there than meets the eye. These are sensitive and intelligent animals. But do they have rights as we understand the concept. Now “rights” as you and I understand the concept is an intellectual/moral concept beyond animals as such. I would say they have protective rights as applied by humans for the moral reason as in the Scriptures of the wise man regarding his beasts kindly. But the other issues (and I’ve seen videos of young women crying in the woods over the loss of old growth forests in some pagan ritual) things get complicated. Or do they?

    I once had the pleasure of seeing some researcher on TV who went to the extreme. Of course animals have no moral input as we know the term. It’s mostly action/reaction. A Skinner box. But this scientists claimed that they have only “blindsight” and are not even aware half the time of what they are going. I though that a little absurdist in its reductionism.

    To the other: In fact I’d add that biologists themselves, if daring to say that “all” (!) can be reduced to memes and functions, are surely echoing what even Dawkins said once, in that A) he too is a “cultural Christians, thus recognizing in part the contribution to his European ancestry, and B) the genome protection that evolved for Africans is a coping mechanism that actually must have worked at some point in the distant past, else it would have never evolved nor be participated in today.

    Now of course that is for me a parody of the parody makers. Tradition no more makes something logical or correct than what my father called “force of habit.”

    It would be some time before I can get around to that kind of post as I am busy with things not even started yet. But try I will. As you know I’ve been remiss in my own posting of late and behind the curve here in American and can’t even keep up with political events. As you might see or here from those around you, Sarah Palin is now the most controversial female figure in recent history, as she is an average but accomplish women with 5 kids, some contradictory but understandable family issues the seemingly mock her profession of conservative Christianity, and the feminists have launched full attack mode. Some of this is so horrific and ugly I would not post it here on a more staid and reflective site like yours. Suffice it to say that with all this going on things are interesting. The culture war is an actual phrase here in America and the fight is on.
    The accusation is that Sarah is riding on the shoulders of feminist and social activist/left wing troublemaker female giants who came before but disdains their ideology, and she’s a dummy housewife who yaps about Alaska all the time and shoots moose (actually that’s attractive to men like me! LOL!!–the shooting moose part), etc., etc.

    So I’m not sure of the direction of my own site, if it should now switch to more theological themes now that I’m exploring other areas and enjoy those the most, or stick with mostly politics.

  28. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Haven’t heard from you in a while.

    Hope all is well!

    As you might guess, things here are erratic in this election cycle and the economic meltdown. Had to slack off on some things and dealing with some personal and health issues, but other than that just miss your fantastic postsQ

    –W

  29. Feyd Says:

    Sorry to hear about your health WT. I hope Beast has been quiet beacause he’s to busy with enjoyable things, but I will say a prayer for you both just in case!

  30. Beastrabban Says:

    Hi Wakefield and Feyd – thanks for your comments and encouragement! 🙂 I’m sorry I haven’t posted anything here in quite a while, but I’m afraid I’ve also been busy. I’ve still got a number of things to do, but hopefully it won’t be too long before I start posting again.

    I did read your observations about the American election on your blog, Wakefield. It’s been fascinating reading as the American election has received a lot of coverage over here. The British satirical magazine, Private Eye , was impressed by the level of debate in the election, as the candidates actually debated economic and social policies with each other face to face on television. They felt that the standard of debate and campaigning was actually higher than that on British television during election campaigns. I also know a lot of people who were impressed by McCain’s graciousness when conceding defeat to Obama. It’s something that very rarely happens in politics or anywhere else in the public sphere.

    Anyway, I’m sorry you’re health’s been poor. I hope it gets better soon, and that the other issues you’ve mentioned also improve. Thanks too, for the encouragement and prayers, Feyd – they’re greatly appreciated.

    – best regards,
    -Beast

  31. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    It’s been quite a moment in American politics, to be sure.

    There are many different ways to approach these latest happenings, to be sure. In some respects this election was a cathartic release and Obama’s multi-racial background and humble beginnings speak positive volumes about change in America for the good. But there are some sharp economic, ideological, and policy differences that some of us see that put a shade of grey on all the hype and symbolism of “unity” in the nation. Granted much of the response was due to the unpopular war, a downturn in the subprime mortgage lending that is crippling the economy, and of course everyone blames the complex happenings on the other party.

    Naturally. Nevertheless it WILL be interesting to see just how “centrist” an Obama administration will be when so many pundits claim that in reality he is very far leftist (in the American experience, as for much of Europe, he seems just what the doctor would order in their way of thinking???).

    More on that later. At the moment I’ll need to be attending to some reports.

    However, thanks for the good word. Hope all continues to be well.

    I’ll check in later on!

    –W

  32. Beastrabban Says:

    Hi Wakefield – thanks for the comment and the observations on American politics. The American election has received a lot of coverage over here, and there have also been two TV series on America broadcast by the BBC. One was on The American Future: A History , by the historian Simon Schama, and the other was by Stephen Fry, who played Lord Melchett in Blackadder . Fry’s series was interesting in that he stated he didn’t want to do a series about how America was full of eccentrics or weirdoes, because we had enough of them over here. Instead he wanted to document what was characteristic about all of the 50 states he travelled through, mostly in a London taxi. He was mostly very positive about America. He liked the razzmatazz in even minor league football games, and the intense interest and effort that went into even local election campaigns. He was also quite sympathetic to the hunters. Hunting is an intensely controversial issue over here, possibly because to its opponents it appears to be a brutal bloodsport enjoyed by the aristocracy, and so there is more than a degree of class friction involved. Fry, on the other hand, even though he politely asked that the only shooting he wanted to do was with the cameras, pointed out that most of the hunters in America were working class blokes taking a vacation in the woods. There’s a lot more that could be said about this issue, and the difference in attitudes towards local politics between Britain and America. I hope to blog about this in due course.

    Anyway, I’m just letting you know that I shall be away this weekend, but hope to be back on Monday.

  33. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Thanks.

    Well, you’ll see this on Monday in that case! Thanksgiving Holiday will be this Thursday (last Thursday in November) so we’ll be busy here. I’ll be detained doing some reports but will return hopefully soon enough. I’ve had little time to make any more blogging occur but do have some other insights later on, and hopefully not too far behind the curve. I’ve had to limit my postings.

    I was thinking of the UK/America divide as well lately after watching BBC’s Keeping Up Appearances last week. Funny stuff, and I’m sure you know the program featuring a henpecked husband and a wife name Hyacinth who just can’t get enough of the notion that she’s high society even while shackled by the likes of Onslo and her dimwit sisters. The show has some raunch to it in some episodes but for the most part follows the generall Brit pattern of humor that is more witty than American humor and certainly less noisy and brash.

    Likewise to what Fry observed, I’m sure Americans are fascinated by the same kind of measure on all things British. PBS has been running a series on the British Crown featuring in this case the presentation and protocals of so much as a visit to the Queen. Elizabeth seems affible enough as a person but the rigamorole of being around her and catering to every need and edict is astonishing, to say the least. Plates on tables are measured with a ruler for precision placement, and dinner and drink hours are their own protocal with kitchen staff at the ready for her Majesty and all her guests and dignitary’s every desire and comfort.

    As you know we have rarified air in some political circles but not to this degree and formality. I wondered as I watched this the protocal of most people’s (commoners) encounters with such a person and the expectations. Do Americans have to bow before a monarch. Certainly not other heads of state? What level of conversation is deemed OK? Attire? Commentary or conern? I know that in the old days of the manor life a servent generally could NOT directly even address the master of the house. These kinds of class interactions are endless fascination to Americans because other than the movies it is not part of their culture or expectation even with all authority just shy of the President.

    Most Americans who are not the jet set variety have little idea about the British Isles, the differences there among some groups being as stark in some cases as the regional differences here. In fact it was, according to historian Shelby Foote, not until after the Civil War and its dark fallout that we began to say “the United States IS” rather than “the United States ARE”, the identity not being solidly national rather than statehood. One could ask about the loyalties of General Robert E. Lee as well, who said he fought for the South due his allegience to Virginina, etc.

    Elsewhere I’m sure regional and sectarian strife far beyond the separatist and local identities that have plaugued the Crown are still pronounced in some respects. Though I guess in the UK proper everyone is fairly much British, whether hailing from London or of Welsh backgroun or Pict, etc.

    As to hunting, of course I saw on one show (BBC America, perhaps) that some have suspected that fox hunting is attacked exactly as it is a class issue with the detractors masquerading as animal rights activitsts. One wonders if they have any consistancy to non-violent animal encounters or are purely vegan and what their other temperments are. Guns are more freely owned over here and can be had with a 5 day waiting period background check and a trip to WalMart’s sporting section. This is not universally admired, and the very issue of gun ownership is hotly debated by the more liberal bloggers as is the very issue of Second Amendment definitions as well.

  34. Feyd Says:

    A very merry Christmass to you Beast, WT, and all other Beast fans out there!

  35. Beastrabban Says:

    Thanks for the further comments on America, Wakefield. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to reply to them as they deserve, as there’s certainly a lot of really interesting stuff there. I hope, however, you had a enjoyable Thanksgiving.

    Thanks for the Christmas wishes, Feyd. I also wish you and Wakefield the very best for Christmas and New Year.

    Take care, and look forward to talking to you soon.

    – Beast Rabban

  36. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Hi BR and Feyd!

    I certainly had a great Thanksgiving and Christmas, as I’m sure you did as well and for Feyd and the other venturers too!

    Have much to do and wrangling over a few things here at home (everything from work, to new tires for the car, and end of the year taxes, and other nettlesome fixits, etc–talk about Holiday Cheer!) so I have had little time to fiddle with much blogging either.

    I’ve given up keeping up with all the happenings, but have some pared down commentary I’m working on!

    (However, I will be adding some insights later on in January.)

    Have a blessed Christmas season and New Year!

    –WT

  37. Wakefield Tolbert Says:

    Three questions:

    1) What is your take on the following from Doctor Logic, who asserts that religion is bad due to not being self corrective, and having only dogma as a backup. Now by his definition, fundamenalist paints a wide brush, being about all who seriously persue faith based Christianity:

    “What Is Fundamentalism?

    According to my definition, a fundamentalist is someone who prefers to take knowledge from authority rather than from experience.

    Creationists are the textbook case of fundamentalism. They’ll spare no effort to discredit the science that falsifies literal biblical claims, but spend no effort justifying their belief in the authority of the Bible. If they were as skeptical of the Bible as they were of radiological dating, they would quickly denounce the Bible as a work of fiction.

    Fundamentalism is not just another form of irrationality. It’s irrationality with conviction. Fundamentalism has no corrective mechanism. How does the fundamentalist know that his authority is, well, authoritative? Apparently, not by experience. Without correction, we cannot claim commitment to the truth because we reject a priori any possibility that we could be wrong.

    The Christian fundamentalist cannot complain that Osama bin Laden is using the wrong epistemology. bin Laden is using the very same epistemology as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. Reason and experience are equally unimportant to all three of these clowns because each will carefully fold his experience to fit into his holy box.

    The problem with every fundamentalism is that it results in unnecessary conflict. Instead of reaching consensus based on shared experience, the fundamentalist regards shared experience as either threatening or subservient to his unchangeable prior beliefs. ”
    _________________________________________

    2) His insistence in some war between science and religion, relying mostly on Richard Carrier and Andrew Dickson White. You’ve mentioned this before in some posts but did not directly address the claim that “superstition” resulted in the SUPPRESSION of budding science and/or science that had been around but stymied by the fall of Rome and the resultant takeover of Europe by Christianity.

    3) The associated of Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Pol Pot, and other with atheism is unfair, as opposed to Christiandom’s association with the horrors of the medieval purges, because what we have in the former is a personality cult–and not the proceedings and results of ideology per se.

    IE–socialism turned into something more peaceful in other places in Europe, apparently inidicating the ground some seeds fall on is more important than the seed of ideology themselves.

    Moreover, in advanced western democracies, the cult of personality is tempered via the voting box, and religion is suppressed. Thus atheist (or tending that way) Sweden is very peaceful internally and in international relations, as is ofr the most part Britain and France and numerous others who long ago gave up blookthirst and imperialism and internal conflict.

    The noted exception being the IRA–but that was a religious conflict, as DL points out, protostants agaisnt catholics raging over influence and terriroty. NO?

    Thus, to sum up, Religion creates most internal strife and even most imperialist ambition.

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