Archive for January, 2009

Positivism, Abortion and the Destruction of the Midianites

January 24, 2009

Wakefield Tolbert presents further arguments from atheists such as Steve Kangas concerning scientific progress leading to modern, humane, democratic society, and the problem the destruction of corrupt societies by God, such as the Midianites and Sodom and Gomorrah, poses for opponents of abortion, who view the killing of those societies’ children as a way of preventing their abuse in those societies.

BR,

Thanks for bringing all this to the forefront.

I hope I have not only done Dr. Logic justice in my presentation of his main points (having had to scale down from many to just get to the core arguments), but the topic as well.

His basic premise seems to be that religion in general is unscientific, science is
the fount of all meaningful knowledge, and that what he considers the harmful
effects of faith are ameliorated by advanced secular democracy.

His take is simliar to that of the late Steve Kangas, who wrote a rather long list
of the alleged crimes of religion, including a handy list of the “war on science and religion” from Andrew Dickson white. Additionally, Kangas mentioned the notion of progress being scientific alone is, by the accounting of the enlightened secularists like himself has now merged with moral progress. Thus for example only in modern times have we defeated what Kangas claims are almost the sole provence of religion: war, famine, pestilence, appeal to authoritarian styled authority over democracy, deprivation, fascism, patriarchal rule, rape, incest, pograms and other
whole scourges of minorities, racism, genocide, feudalism, serfdom, class distinctions, etc. Then of course the charge that the Bible itself is filled with atrocity commanded by God, and that only science has found a way around this, and thus in the modern age we now know much better.

Well, you see the picture:

http://www.huppi.com/kangaroo/L-bibleatrocities.html

http://www.huppi.com/kangaroo/L-socialbreakdown.htm

then we have something many mention, where Kangas manages, amazingly as his tactic is wont, to merge two issues into one.

Abortion and the Bible, and the difference between “viability” and “dependency”, and why the Bible and “prolifers”, unlike science, cannot offer clear dividing lines or reasoned arguments about when life begins for humans, along with an alleged contradiction in God’s character.

To wit, God had the Midianites destroyed utterly, except for girls and women to be placed into what some see as sexual slavery. Now if this is the case not only is this atrocious in and of itself, BUT ALSO, we have the problem of the pro-lifers claiming that all unborn life is precious. With the destruction of the Midianites, and no doubt with the leveling of Sodom and Gomorrah and reclacitrant cities like Jericho, the unborn were killed also. This leaves a problem for Christians. Or so I’d think. Kangas has a point here: If your argument was like Pat Robertson’s, where we see God might have SPARED the unborn a needless suffering the in captivity of sin and dysfunction, the PRO-CHOICERS would pipe up to say this is JUST how that make THEIR argument. By eliminating unwanted pregnancy, they are doing what God did with the Midianites and Sodom, etc.

Thanks for the appreciation, Wakefield. I’m glad you enjoyed my comments, and I’m sure you did Dr. Logic justice in your description of his views. Let’s critique the underlying assumptions of both him and Steve Kangas.

Firstly, they’re both Positivists, essentially following the 19th century views of the founder of sociology, Auguste Comte, who believed that human society evolved from religion, through philosophy, to science, which was the highest stage of human development and would eventually provide the solutions to humanity’s problems. Unlike modern atheists and humanists, he attempted to create a religion based around science and humanity, with an elaborate ritual and hierarchy. This didn’t work, but nevertheless it has influenced much of contemporary atheist and humanist ideas, such as the supposed connection between scientific progress and moral progress. You can find these same ideas expressed in some of the optimistic science fiction, like Star Trek.

In fact, there are major problems with it from the outset. Firstly, many historians, philosophers and anthropologists are particularly critical of the notion of progress. The British Christian historian, Herbert Butterfield, called this kind of view ‘the Whig view of history’ – the idea that history is a story of continuous progress, culminating in freedom, democracy, and the British Empire. As you can see, he was criticising the British version of this view, which viewed the British Empire as bringing freedom, progress and prosperity to its colonies around the world, rather than conquering them and oppressing their peoples in the more contemporary view of the Empire. Part of the argument against progress is the view that the present view of history is very much determined by the development of history itself, but if that history had been different, then our view of history would have been very different. For example, if democracy had not emerged, and society remained strongly hierarchical, then presumably the notion of historical progress would have been one of the development of proper notions of hierarchy and authority, rather than egalitarianism and democracy.

There are other problems in that the view that science automatically leads to moral progress has been rejected by many of the horrors that took place and were committed by advanced, technological societies. For example, one of the major criticisms made of the development of nuclear weapons was that in creating them, humanity’s technological and scientific skill had gone far beyond humanity’s ability to act morally. One can also add the examples of scientific experimentation on unwitting or unwilling subjects, even in democratic western societies, such as nuclear experiments on civilians, and covert experimentation on civilians. Science, it has been claimed, is morally neutral, and that’s more or less the case. It’s application for good or evil depends on the individuals and governments involved, not on the scientific method itself, so science does not necessarily lead to greater morality or freedom.

There is also the problem in that he views scientific progress as leading to what is basically modern secular humanism, but this assumes that only secular humanism is scientific, and that science is necessarily the basis for equality and democracy. However, Communism also claimed to be scientific and to be the only true Humanism, so scientific development can be interpreted as leading away from bourgeois democracy to highly authoritarian systems of government.

There’s also the point made by Christian philosophers like Roger Trigg in his book Religion in Public Life: Must Faith be Privatized? that the notions of equality on which modern democracy is founded are derived from the Christian conception of equality before God as contained in and articulated by the philosophy of John Locke in his Two Treatises of Government, which provides the basis for modern democracy. Trigg makes the point in the book that contemporary atheist philosophy generally simply assumes that democracy and equality are the best forms of government and society, without being able to defend or support this view. Trigg therefore considers that only through religious faith can democracy be properly supported. Indeed, the whole conception of modern individualism may be considered to derive from the Puritan idea that each person is responsible for their own salvation and so should diligently investigate scripture for themselves. It was this individualist view of the responsibility of every person to seek salvation that led many Puritans to support the British Revolution against Charles I. In the case of the view that science necessarily leads to equality and democracy, this appears to have developed from people reading Locke’s metaphysic into modern science without recognising its basis in Christianity.

Many Roman Catholic philosophers reject Locke’s philosophy, but nevertheless also consider that it is only through Christianity that notions of human dignity and equality at the heart of modern democracy can be supported. Roman Catholic philosophers such as Jacques Maritain, in his detailed appreciation and analysis of democracy in America, have argued from St. Thomas Aquinas and Aristotelean philosophy that it is only through Christian theology, rather than reason, that politics can be adequately supported and defended.

Regarding issues such as famine and deprivation, while Christianity accepted that poverty would always exist, it was also committed to its alleviation long before the emergence of contemporary science. Joseph, when he was vizier of Egypt, for example, opened the storehouses to alleviate the famine. Furthermore, the French historian, Jean Gimpel, in his book, The Medieval Machine, noted that people in the Middle Ages had a very modern attitude to estate management and farming, citing the English 13th century agricultural writer, Walter of Henley, the philosopher and theologian, Robert Grosseteste, and the two treatises Seneschaucy and Husbandry. One can similarly find agricultural handbooks advising landlords and farmers how they could improve yields in the 16th century. The early Church regularly preached the virtue of charity and of providing for the physical needs of the poor, and medieval ecclesiastic writers also insisted on the duty of the Church to provide for the poor. In fact the Church was often unable to do so through poor organisation, human corruption and poverty amongst some of its own members itself. For example, while some parts of the church were extremely wealthy and corrupt indeed, other parts of the church, such as many Benedictine monasteries in the 14th century, were so poor that they were themselves in need of poor relief. Furthermore, the acquisition of ecclesiastical funds by the state did not necessarily lead to better provision for the poor. Alfred Cobban in his book, The Social Interpretation of the French Revolution has noted that the provision of funds to alleviate the famine that occurred at the time of the French Revolution actually became much less, and the famine much more severe, after the ecclesiastical money reserved by the French Roman Catholic church for famine relief was confiscated by the Revolutionaries.

Regarding Fascism, although this horrifically did have the support of sections of the Christian Church, it had its origins – at least in Italy and Germany – in militant nationalism that could include a rejection of Christian morality. The Italian Fascists in particular stated that Fascism was based on moral relativism, rather than the traditional Christian view that morality is objective and transcendental in origin.

Now let’s examine the critique of the Pro-Life attitude towards abortion, and whether this is indeed contradicted by the destruction of corrupt societies such as Sodom and Gomorrah and the Midianites. Firstly, it must be recognised that the capture of the Midianite women and girls by the Israelites as wives was not considered to be a form of slavery. The Mosaic Law stated that women captured in war and married by the captors were not to be treated as slaves. They were given an amount of time to mourn the death of their families, and were to be properly treated and provided for. If a man wanted to divorce one of them, he was to give his former wife her freedom and not sell her as a slave. As for the complete destruction of societies like the Midianites, ancient warfare generally could be extremely brutal. Under Roman law, a besieged town was granted humane treatment if it surrendered. However, this was granted only if it surrendered before the battering ram had struck the town gates for the third time. If it had not surrendered before then, then the entire population of the town was massacred if it was taken.

Now the corrupt societies of Sodom and Gomorrah and Midian were destroyed because it was felt that they were completely corrupt, and every member of that society shared in its corruption. Hence the complete destruction of those societies. Clearly there is a difference here between the destruction of these societies and abortion. The children of these cultures were not destroyed to prevent their abuse by their elders, but because it was considered that they shared in their societies’ corruption and that these societies should therefore be completely destroyed, which included the massacre of their children. The sacrifice of infants by these societies was one reason for their destruction. The killing of these societies’ children by the Israelites was not to prevent their being used in such sacrifices, to but to destroy completely the society that practised that and other corrupt acts. So, there is indeed a good point that the Pro-Life position is not supported, and is indeed contradicted by claims that the Israelites killed the children of these societies to prevent their being used in human sacrifice. However, the reason for these societies’ complete destruction was still because, amongst other horrific acts, they practised child sacrifice.

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Answering Dr. Logic

January 12, 2009

Wakefield Tolbert, one of the many great regularly commentators on this blog, has asked the following question:

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 E
urope 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.

Let’s critique Dr. Logic’s argument and its basic assumptions. Firstly, he states that

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

There’s immediately a problem of definition here. Dr. Logic has offered us his definition, but recognises that there others. This immediately raises the question of whether Dr. Logic’s definition is correct. Now one other definition is that fundamentalist movements are simply attempts to return to the original basis of a religion or ideology, which is felt to have been attacked or distorted by more recent developments. Now fundamentalists are usually considered to be individuals who stress the absolute, literal truth of a religious text, such as the Bible or Qu’ran, and for many people Creationists are the most obvious examples of fundamentalists because of their profound belief in a literal interpretation of Genesis.

However, Dr. Logic’s definition of fundamentalism also includes less literal forms of religious faith and denominations, such as Roman Catholics, who stress the authority of the church’s teaching as well as the Bible but who generally have an allegorical interpretation of Genesis. Indeed, Dr. Logic himself considers that Creationists are the classic example of fundamentalists: ‘Creationists are the textbook case of fundamentalism.’ However, there are major problems with his position.

Firstly, he contrasts authority with experience. Yet the authority of a religious text, such as those of the Bible, is based on experience, that of the presence and activity of God in human history. The Gospels, for example, are based on the experiences of the apostles and the first people to witness Christ’s ministry and teaching, while St. Paul’s own ministry and theology are based on his own, profound experience of Christ and the Gospel. Indeed, the list of witnesses St. Paul supplies in his epistles, and the names of particular individuals mentioned in the Gospels, are given to demonstrate the truth of the narratives as accounts of events witnessed and experienced by real people, who would vouch for their truth. Thus the authority of the Gospels and the New Testament epistles, for example, are based very much on personal experience, so that there is no basic division between authority and experience. Thus authority and experience are not necessarily contrasting and distinct.

Another problem is that Dr. Logic appears to have an empiricist attitude to knowledge. Something can only be considered true if it accessible to human experience, which he appears to identify with the scientific method. However, empiricism is no longer accepted by most scientists and philosophers of science because many of the objects and entities investigated by science are not accessible to human experience but are the products of human reason. For example, it is impossible to see a single electron. Scientists nevertheless are confident that electrons and other subatomic particles exist, because the scientific models that suggest their existence are the best explanation for the results of certain experiments and natural phenomena, such as electromagnetism, and have not been falsified. Thus in science, direct experience of an object or entity is not necessarily a criterion for its existence.

Another problem for Dr. Logic’s argument is that there appears to be an underlying assumption that the scientific method is the only true form of knowledge. Yet philosophers such as Mary Midgeley and Alvin Plantinga have pointed out that there are other forms of knowledge that are equally valid in providing true information of the world, apart from science. Indeed, there are areas in which the scientific method simply cannot be used to assess the truth of a particular claim or provide information. For example, it may be difficult or impossible to verify scientifically the existence of a historical individual, such as, for example, Julius Caesar. Nevertheless, the existence of authoritative written texts and biographies documenting his life and career make it certain that he existed.

Also, Dr. Logic seems to consider that a theory or model of reality is valid only if it can be altered and refined over time. Yet if a theory or model is fundamentally sound, such alterations don’t correct any flaws, but add to them. Moreover, there may be genuine limits on human knowledge and scientific investigation, where theories and scientific models effectively remain conjecture and their truth or otherwise cannot be demonstrated. In which case, their refinement and alteration also may not constitute correction, as these refinements in turn may also not make the theory closer to the truth.

Now let’s deal with Dr. Logic’s comments about fundamentalists:

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.’

This clearly isn’t true of many people of faith who could be described as fundamentalists, who do present arguments for the authority of the Bible and scripture based on philosophy and reason. The awesome J.P. Holding, for example, has a literal view of the Creation account in Genesis, yet his web site is devoted to demonstrating the historical truth and authority of scripture.

Now let’s deal with Dr. Logic’s comments that:

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.

There are a number of flaws with this argument. Firstly, there’s the statement that ‘Fundamentalism has no corrective mechanism’. This is problematic because fundamentalist movements consider they are correcting ideological trends that have no validity and are themselves a danger to the truth.

How does the fundamentalist know that his authority is, well, authoritative? Apparently, not by experience.

This assumes that Fundamentalists are fideists, and that they believe something is true solely through faith. But throughout history people of faith have attempted to use reason to demonstrate the truth of their beliefs, and this has included personal experience and observation of the world.

Without correction, we cannot claim commitment to the truth because we reject a priori any possibility that we could be wrong.

This statement is problematic because it assumes, in turn, that the fundamentalist must be wrong, and so could itself be seen as a rejection of the truth.

‘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.’

Again, this is questionable as it assumes that religious fundamentalists may not be able to support their ideas through reason. Furthermore, merely because religions are based on revelation does not mean that they are equally valid or invalid, as much philosophy of religion concerns the question of distinguishing whether a religious experience is true. Furthermore, even from within a particular religious tradition it is possible to criticise a particular fundamentalist interpretation of it. For example, Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda have targeted and murdered civilians and non-combatants, yet the Qu’ran expressly forbids this. Despite their Muslim fundamentalist views, therefore, al-Qaeda have directly acted against a literal interpretation of the Islamic law.

Furthermore, it could be argued that fundamentalists may well be acting according to experience when they adopt their fundamentalist views. Many Muslims in the Middle East turned to fundamentalism because the programmes of modernisation and westernisation adopted by their governments did not provide their societies with greater prosperity or freedom, and the rapid changes associated with these modernisation programmes created massive social problems and disruption. In this instance, modernisation had created problems, which, they believed, could only be solved through the creation of a fundamentalist state and the strict application of Sharia law.

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. “

Again, this is extremely problematic. Firstly, this seems to equate fundamentalism with violence and the attempt to impose a set of religious laws by force. While this is true of certain forms of militant fundamentalism, it may not be true of others. For example, many Christians are profoundly concerned at certain secular trends that they feel threaten the sanctity of human life, such as abortion and stem cell research. However, opposition to them in the West largely consists of the lobbying of politicians, and letters and articles in the press and other media to argue and explain their position in the hope of changing or influencing legislation in those areas, rather than use force and violence.

Instead of reaching consensus based on shared experience, the fundamentalist regards shared experience as either threatening or subservient to his unchangeable prior beliefs.

There are, again, profound problems with this statement. Firstly, it seems to regard shared experience as a criterion of the truth and morally binding, and that it is, indeed, possible to discover a common rationality. Yet the Enlightenment project ended in the 19th century because philosophers found it impossible to decide upon just such a shared rationality. Additionally, the fact that something is considered to be true by the majority does not mean that it actually is. In the ancient world, for example, infanticide was morally acceptable, but the vast majority of people in the West today, regardless of their particular religious views, regard this with horror and consider it objectively wrong. Thus, something like infanticide is still objectively wrong, even if it is, or has been, considered as morally acceptable by the majority.

Furthermore, merely because a particular moral view held by a majority of citizens does not have a basis in a religious doctrine or belief, does not necessarily make it rational or correct. Many philosophers consider the basic assumptions made by atheists to be similar to religious views in that they are not necessarily self-evidently true, but require explanation and support from another set of beliefs in their turn, which may similarly also not be self-evidently true, and so require support from other beliefs. In the case of Muslim fundamentalists, to them their view of reality makes more sense, and is more self-evidently true, than that of the contemporary, secular West. On the other, some religious beliefs may also be supported by rational argument, such as those offered by some religious groups against abortion, or at least, certain types of it. Furthermore, even if a fundamentalist or person of faith rejects the validity of a certain political decision, this does not necessarily mean that they will use force to overturn it. Again, in the west those who object to certain political decisions on moral grounds general do so through the democratic process and by attempting to change the attitude of the majority, rather than impose their view by force.

Now let’s deal with his 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.

Now ancient societies were profoundly conservative and it is true that in ancient Rome science and technology were not developed or adopted, for reasons, which are unclear. Indeed, Roman authors like Pliny complained that there was less scientific research after the world had been united under the Roman Empire, than when Greece and the world was divided into separate states. Scholars have suggested a number of reasons why the Romans failed to make much progress scientifically, all of which have been criticised. One suggestion is that the availability of slave labour meant that mechanisation was not competitive in reducing the costs of production. Others have suggested that emperors deliberately rejected technology in favour of providing employment to the vast number of unemployed free citizens in ancient Rome as a way of creating both jobs and internal peace and security. There is a story that when one engineer presented one of the emperors with a design for a machine for raising pillars, the emperor rejected it as he had to provide work to feed the plebs, the Roman free poor. Some classicists reject this story, however, as legend. A

Another explanation for the failure of the ancient world to develop science is the aristocratic nature of the society and the low status of the teknon, or artisan. In the ancient world, philosophical speculation about the nature of reality was generally the province of the aristocratic elite, who looked down on manual work. Thus, while ancient engineers were capable of producing highly sophisticated machines, such as the Antikythera mechanism, which modelled the movements of the planets, the development of such devices may have been seen as below that of true, aristocratic philosophers and so they were not generally adopted or applied.

Also, the ancient philosophers generally worked from a process of logical deduction from first principles, rather than scientific induction, as they distrusted sense experience, which they felt could be deceptive. These are sociological and philosophical explanations for the lack of technological and scientific development in ancient Rome. In fact the British classicist E.R. Dodds, in his essay ‘The Ancient Concept of Progress’ notes that the concept of progress appears to have been only ever accepted by a large number of the public in the 5th century BC, and though throughout antiquity most of those who believed in progress tended to be scientists, after the 5th century all of the major philosophical schools either denied the existence of progress, or restricted it. Thus it could be considered that it was philosophy, rather than religion, that prevented the ancient world developing a concept of progress.

Now let’s examine his comment

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.

Firstly, the personal dictatorships of Stalin, Mao and Hitler were based on the view contained within Communist and Nazi ideology that contemporary, bourgeois democracy prevented societal or racial progress or development. Both Nazism and Communism developed personal dictatorships from an ideological rejection of individual freedom. In the case of Communism, it was felt that democracy was only a stage that humanity would pass through before it was replaced by socialism and then world Communism. Indeed, democracy was rejected by Communist leaders like Lenin, because it was felt to act against the interests of the working class as expressed and directed by the Communist party.

European Fascists similarly rejected democracy as it was felt to act against the true interests of the nation or race as a whole by allowing individuals to pursue their own interests rather than those of the nation. In Communism, Lenin in particular stressed the importance of a highly centralised, authoritarian party in order to enforce party unity and prevent the emergence of different factions, as had occurred with the Populists and Socialist Revolutionaries. Now it is true that one of the reasons for the emergence of these anti-democratic philosophies is the lack of democratic tradition in both Germany and Russia. However, this does not mean that the authoritarian regimes and the dictatorships that emerged in Russia and Germany did not claim an ideological basis. Also, the Communist regimes considered that they had discovered the objective, materialist basis of history and society, and that religious belief was a threat to the proper development of society according to the materialist dialectic process, and so had to be suppressed. While the dictatorships of Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot were indeed personality cults, the violent rejection of democracy and attempted destruction of religion were based very much on Marxist ideology.

Regarding Christianity’s association with the horrors of medieval persecution, it’s true that Christians have committed horrific atrocities in the name of their religion. However, this does not mean that Christian belief necessarily requires and demands the use of force to enforce religious adherence, and throughout history there have been Christian groups that have strongly objected to the use of force by Christians.

Then there’s Dr. Logic’s comments:

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.

Firstly, it is indeed true that the Nazi and Communist dictatorships arose in countries that had no tradition of democracy. However, it could be argued that Sweden has been successful in securing peace and prosperity because it’s form of Socialism is reformist, rather than Communist, and so gradually sought to replace capitalist society through the electoral process rather than through revolution. Lenin violently denounced reformism as he felt that reformist socialists were supporting bourgeois class interests rather than those of the working class. Furthermore, it could be argued that Sweden, and other European nations like England and France, have succeeded because it has retained many of the forms and values of Judeo-Christian society, rather than attempt to replace them outright, as was the case with the Communist and Nazi dictatorships.

As for the statement that religion creates war and imperialism, this is extremely problematic. Clearly religion has formed a component of imperial expansion, but in many cases this was secondary to secular, national, military and commercial interests. The European empires were founded largely through the desire to gain territory and commercial prosperity for the European imperial nations themselves as much as to promote Christianity. In the case of the British Empire, many Christians were firmly opposed to imperial expansion because of the consequent maltreatment and exploitation of the indigenous peoples. The Evangelical Anglicans and other Protestants in particular strongly believed that Britain also had a duty to the indigenous peoples in Britain’s colonies, and that they should be protected from abuse.

In the case of the sectarian violence between Roman Catholic and Protestant in Northern Ireland, this strongly influenced by conceptions of national identity and the history of British imperialism, rather than based purely on religion. Henry II, the king of England who first conquered Ireland in c. 1145, did so primarily in order to control one of his barons, Strongbow, who had already conquered part of Ireland for himself.

Thus religion does not necessarily lead to irrationality, conflict and violence, and Fundamentalism does not necessarily reject reason, experience and the peaceful democratic process.