New York Times readers respond to James Wood

Three days ago, The New York Times published an op-ed by Harvard professor James Wood, noting that the tragedy in Haiti makes hash of theodicy and of the notion of a powerful and beneficent God.  Well, Times readers couldn’t let that one go by, and so  several of them wrote back. Of course they can’t reconcile the notion of a good God with natural disasters, but they try anyway:

We do not know the answer to this conundrum except to say that is the nature of freedom in an imperfect world and that is the mystery of the providence of God. God will work all things for our good even if we don’t understand. That is what faith is: the moment we say we understand, there is no longer any faith.

I love that last sentence.  The guy says that we don’t understand anything about God, but he’s absolutely certain that “God will work all things for our good”!  How does he know that?

This from a professor at Harvard Divinity School:

The bishop’s theology is neither mystifying nor contradictory, and in fact represents one version of a view held by many Christians and other religious people: namely, that God is deeply present in and through the events of the world — often inscrutably, but always powerfully and lovingly — and though we cannot for the life of us see how, even catastrophes include divine presence and power.

Mr. Wood may not share this view, but he has no right to scorn it, especially from a safe harbor.

Of course he has a right to scorn it!  In fact, he has a duty to scorn it.

What Haiti tells us is exactly nothing about God but everything about ourselves: we are mortal and vulnerable, every one. For some, this is the beginning, not the end, of religious devotion. Is it not imperiously condescending to those Haitian Christians gathered to worship in the rubble to say that “no invocation of God beyond a desperate appeal for help makes much theological sense”? Such a worshiper might counter: suffering and death come to all, even to a God who in his love took on our mortal, vulnerable condition as his own.

And another:

James Wood neglects the two fundamental themes of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures: the Exodus and the Resurrection. Both suggest that catastrophe is never the final word and that human beings should never be without hope. A fair reading of history suggests that such hope is not misguided.

What these letters prove, as if we need more proof, is that being smart doesn’t mean that you’re rational.  There is no evil, no disaster, so great that the faithful can’t rationalize it as the plan of a loving God.  Could some of them please tell us what circumstance would convince them that either there is no God, or that the one who exists isn’t so benevolent after all?

53 Comments

  1. Posted January 26, 2010 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    “Could some of them please tell us what circumstance would convince them that either there is no God, or that the one who exists isn’t so benevolent after all?”

    The paperback edition of WEIT!

  2. Bob Williams
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    This underlines the difference between intelligence and intellectual capacity. Few men and women have a balanced proportion of both and those who have just one or the other can be monsters. Most controversy arises from these facts.

  3. Tulse
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    The guy says that we don’t understand anything about God, but he’s absolutely certain that “God will work all things for our good”! How does he know that?

    I think this general point should be emphasized more in these discussions. Christians delight in ascribing all sorts of concrete attributes to their god, but then in these kind of events retreat to apophatic theology and say that their god is a mystery. They can’t have it both ways. If their god is so mysterious and unknowable, how do they even know that it is good, and worthy of worship? How do they know their god isn’t actually evil, and mysteriously does apparent good in the world to forward some long-term evil plan that only it sees, rather than the reverse?

    • gillt
      Posted January 26, 2010 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      Mentioned that very same double-standard just the other day when a Christian said it, but it was the accommodating atheist who said I was ignorant of how faith worked.

      • JD
        Posted January 26, 2010 at 10:46 am | Permalink

        Normally when I bring this up to someone they say “I know because the bible tells me so.” People love to fall back on the bible but they don’t seems to comprehend that they themselves are just picking and choosing the attributes from the bible they want their god to have. Thus, the wheel of power begins: http://mattcbr.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/break-the-cycle.jpg

  4. gillt
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    In The Broken Estate, Wood writes:

    “It will become clear that I believe that distinctions between literary belief and religious belief are important, and it is because I believe in that importance that I am attracted to writers who struggle with those distinctions. Around the middle of the nineteenth century, those distinctions became much harder to maintain, and we have lived in the shadow of their blurring ever since. This was when the old estate broke. I would define the old estate as the supposition that religion was a set of divine truth-claims, and the Gospel narratives were supernatural reports; fiction might be supernatural too, but fiction was always fictional, it was not in the same order of truth as the Gospel narrative.”

  5. NewEnglandBob
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    What scares me that since these people can delude themselves so much and so convincingly, then what is to stop them from being brainwashed and becoming active proponents of racism or other xenophobic irrational behavior.

    Who will them come for next? Jews? Muslims?, Catholics?, Hindus?, Gays?, Black people?, Hispanics? Women? Bald guys? Short people?

    They seem to not have any need to justify their irrationality other other than faith.

    • Posted January 27, 2010 at 6:43 am | Permalink

      This again proves that, more often than not, reason is a slave of emotions.

  6. MikeTheObscure
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Bishop Toussaint’s utterance implies that it was the will of a benevolent God that many impoverished people already living hard yet blameless lives should be maimed and killed. I find it astonishing that the Harvard professor can conclude that such theology is neither mystifying nor contradictory: he has offered no plausible justification for his view but has merely presented an argumentum ad populum fallacy (the bishop’s view is sais to be “held by many Christians and other religious people”) embellished by further mystery and contradiction. He fails to explain precisely (1) how God (an immaterial being) could have been present at all – let alone “powerfully” – in the earthquake (an event in the material world), and (2) how it is known that God is present at all – let alone “lovingly” – at times when His presence is said to be inscrutable.

  7. Hempenstein
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Harvard divinity professor: “…God is deeply present in and through the events of the world — often inscrutably, but always powerfully and lovingly…”

    Yeah, like when he collapsed the cathedral on the Archbishop. I guess it’s enough to just satisfy the powerful clause.

    Tulse @ 3: Christians delight in ascribing all sorts of concrete attributes to their god…

    Unfortunately, they can’t ascribe revelation of the proper mixture of sand and Portland to the Haitians as one of those attributes.

    • Tacroy
      Posted January 26, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, like when he collapsed the cathedral on the Archbishop. I guess it’s enough to just satisfy the powerful clause.

      That was just God giving him a great biiiiiiig hug! With a pile of masonry!

  8. Posted January 26, 2010 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Lets face it. If there is a god, its always out to lunch.

  9. Posted January 26, 2010 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    “What Haiti tells us is exactly nothing about God …”

    So close and yet so far.

  10. Gingerbaker
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    “What these letters prove, as if we need more proof, is that being smart doesn’t mean that you’re rational.”

    Years ago I used to work in a biology lab, and would read Current Contents, a publication which gave the Table of Contents of important journals, and which would also give brief abstracts of interesting studies.

    I remember being gobsmacked by a psychology study which compared highly educated people with high IQ’s versus low achieving folks with average IQ’s.

    Both groups listened to a script which argued plain nonsense – black equals white, eg. But the scripts used a lot of complicated sophistry. They were intellectually interesting. And the intellectuals were significantly more likely to be confused by them and agree that, yes, black does equal white.

    The less accomplished group, on the other hand, saw the turd-polishing immediately and tuned out the sophisticated clap trap easily.

    The religiously inculcated do not perceive the tortured logistical paths they navigate as roads which should by their very nature be straight, rather, they see in every zig and zag a truth made greater by its complexity, whose perfection is evidenced by the sophistication of its labyrinthine symmetry. Such is the glory of god!

    And, of course, it has to be a complicated, convoluted, tangled web – such is the nature of rationalization for a God who never bloody shows himself outright and clearly, isn’t it? It truly takes a cult to make billions believe black is white.

  11. Posted January 26, 2010 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    God is deeply present in and through the events of the world — often inscrutably, but always powerfully and lovingly

    But how the fuck can you possibly know that?! If it’s inscrutably, you pompous jackass, then you don’t know that it’s always lovingly. And how do you know it anyway? Only by denying what’s in front of your face. Only by saying up is down and no is yes. Add up all the suffering and loss and sorrow and agony in Haiti and then just assert that that’s God “always lovingly present” – well then what would God always hatingly present look like?

    I hate this shit. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. I hate the callous frivolity of it, the supid obstinate refusal to admit reality and the wicked insistence on claiming that horrible events are caused by a loving parent-figure. It’s disgusting.

    • Occam
      Posted January 26, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
      “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
      “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”

      Thus the raping murderous brute becomes the loving parent. This is not about denial, this is about power.

      No piece of skullduggery, however mind-boggling, is too absurd to be hewn into people’s heads if you have the requisite power.
      The question really is, which is to be master.
      I am less and less hopeful that a plurality of people are willing to be masters of their own minds, think with their own brains.

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted January 26, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      Well said, Ophelia. Many of feel the same as you do but can’t express it as well.

      Occam – I don’t think most people think about the Humpty Dumpty scenario (besides the sniveling theologians who practice it). They are more confused and brainwashed than they are conniving.

    • Eric MacDonald
      Posted January 26, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      Right on, Ophelia! Well said! I hate it too. It’s so dishonest and squalid and tawdry and evil to keep shouting that it’s all about love when people are suffering so. Someone is dying alone beneath the rubble, and an idiot at Harvard – at Harvard, mind you! – is saying that it’s all about God’s love.

      Julia Lawton, an English anthropologist, did research on dying in an English hospice (The Dying Process). She says that there was not one person during the period of her research who found their faith strengthened by the experience, not one! It is so dishonest to go on making claims about God’s inscrutably loving presence in the midst of disaster. It’s not true. It’s a lie. And besides the idiocy of such claims, its being a lie, repeated again and again, in the presence of suffering people, makes it downright hateful.

      Writing about the Holocaust, Irving Greenberg said: “But let us agree to one principle: no statement, theological or otherwise, should be made that would not be credible in the presence of the burning children.” There is no theological statement that can be credible in the presence of burning children. Time to put a stop to it. It’s caused enough harm already. No one has a right to make claims about God’s love in the presence of the suffering, or at their expense of those who suffer. It’s empty drivel from the terminally scared.

    • Michael K Gray
      Posted January 26, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      Well said.
      I’m sure that they (the liars for gods) do not really believe their absurd theodical mental masturbations, but intend it to callously defraud their brainwashed zealots into allowing them to retain or enhance their exalted status as privileged human parasites.

  12. BaldApe
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Wouldn’t it be nice if people who don’t know what they are talking about just didn’t?

    I am so tired of this issue. The whole thing reduces to “we don’t know everything.”

    In order to “know” that the Haiti earthquake is evil, you have to be able to know all of the consequences of the earthquake happening, and also all of the consequences of the earthquake not happening. In that context, the argument (against the existence of God) from evil reduces to an argument from things-I-think-are-evil.

    Not very impressive anymore, is it?

    I don’t believe that God exists, but the argument from evil is a silly reason not to believe.

    • Paul
      Posted January 26, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      Wouldn’t it be nice if people who don’t know what they are talking about just didn’t?

      It would also be nice if people would follow their own advice.

      The Problem of Evil is not a refutation of God. The Problem of Evil points out the incoherence of the concept an omnibenevolent/omnipotent God (which happens to be what most of Christianity believes in) in a world where Bad Things Happen. If you care to do more than wail at a strawman, at least start there.

      • Posted January 26, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

        Yeah. And I forgot to thread my reply. See #13.

      • Insightful Ape
        Posted January 26, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

        The problem if evil IS a refutation if god as portrayed by Christianity and Islam.
        And I don’t even know why I should be concerned with any other kinds of gods. Those gods don’t have sizeable congregations.

      • Insightful Ape
        Posted January 26, 2010 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

        In other words, even if all we see is measery, suffering and death, we’re still supposed to believe that at the end of the day, something positive may come out of it.
        Right.
        Well then, what is the point of prayer?Isn’t prayer a way of achieving what WE perceive to be the best outcome?Shouldn’t we give up on praying once and for all, because after all, god knows best? Why bother?

    • Darrell E
      Posted January 26, 2010 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      Your reasoning here is flawed, even, dare I say, silly.

      The concept of evil applied to mindless events like earthquakes is a fallacy more often used by the religious. Rational non believers do not attribute agency to natural disasters.

      The argument from evil is about pointing out that the christian god is pretty much the most awful being ever conceived, even granting, or especially so, that everything in the bible were true.

      Maybe you won’t be so tired once you realize that you do not understand the argument. Try substituting “suffering” for “evil” and that might help you sort it out a little better.

      • BaldApe
        Posted January 26, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

        I have heard the argument used, maybe by people who themselves don’t understand the argument, to say that there is no god.

        And my point still stands. We can’t know if some event results in more suffering, or evil, or whatever, if we don’t know all of the outcomes of its alternative.

      • Posted January 26, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

        And my point still stands. We can’t know if some event results in more suffering, or evil, or whatever, if we don’t know all of the outcomes of its alternative.

        Well, as a bit of radical skepticism, fine – we naturally don’t know all the outcomes of anything. But radical skepticism isn’t a very good guide for actual practice – and no the rules don’t change just because it’s ‘god’ that we’re talking about.

        Would you torture a child because we don’t know all of the outcomes of its alternative? Would you think it was morally good or neutral to torture a child because we don’t know all of the outcomes of its alternative? Would you think a friend or neighbor did an okay or good thing by torturing a child because we don’t know all of the outcomes of its alternative?

        When considering the morality of a particular event, you use your best guess as to the outcome, don’t you? You think pain is pain, and should be avoided unless it is for a known good outcome, like fixing a cracked tooth. Or am I wrong? Do you arrange your life differently?

      • Paul
        Posted January 26, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

        And my point still stands. We can’t know if some event results in more suffering, or evil, or whatever, if we don’t know all of the outcomes of its alternative.

        Irrelevant. We can know that people suffer. An omni* God could create a world where there was no suffering. The very existence of suffering, or evil, is what gives rise to the Problem of Evil, not whether such suffering/evil produces enough good to outweigh the bad.

      • Paul
        Posted January 26, 2010 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

        I should add that the reason why “less sophisticated people” might say the argument shows there is no god is that they are used to thinking of god like most religious believers — that god is indeed a benevolent force of love etc etc. The Problem of Evil most definitely gives lie to that sort of god.

        So, Problem of Evil notwithstanding, it’s possible there is a malevolent, indifferent, or impotent deity. But that’s not the referent normally intended when one mentions ‘god’.

      • Posted January 26, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

        BA: “And my point still stands. We can’t know if some event results in more suffering, or evil, or whatever, if we don’t know all of the outcomes of its alternative.”

        Its immediate result is pretty obvious: suffering beyond comprehension on a massive scale for hundreds of thousands of people.

        I think it’s fair to assume that this is “bad” and presents a difficult challenge the usual picture of the three-O “God”.

    • Eric MacDonald
      Posted January 26, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      Well, perhaps you should go back to swinging in trees! Of course the argument from evil is a good reason not to believe in God. And anyone seeing someone suffer pain and grief and disaster who says, ‘Well, you don’t know, maybe in the sum of things all this makes sense,’ should shut their trap!

      I don’t know about Islam, but for Judaism and Christianity, pain and evil has always been a problem for belief. So serious a problem is it that it has become a branch of philosophical theology!

      Of course, it depends upon the kind of god you believe in. You could, I suppose, believe in a god who causes as much evil as possible, in which case happiness and pleasure become problems (see Stephen Law’s “The God of Eth”). But most people believe in a god who makes everything come out fine in the end, and, of course, you’re right, we don’t know whether things do come out fine in the end, whatever that could possibly mean, after some of the horrendous evils that have happened to some people and other sentient beings. Given the evidence, though, there’s not a shred of it that is any indication that what happens to people is the result of the loving actions of a watchful, loving being. And that’s pretty good reason not to believe in one.

  13. Posted January 26, 2010 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    “I don’t believe that God exists, but the argument from evil is a silly reason not to believe.”

    But it’s not a silly reason not to believe a benevolent loving kind God exists. We don’t see a parent taking an axe and a baseball bat and a blowtorch to a child and then say we don’t know all the consequences of the parent not taking an axe and a baseball bat and a blowtorch to the child, so why should we say that of a putative benevolent loving kind God?

    • Eric MacDonald
      Posted January 26, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, Ophelia, should have scrolled on down, and then I would have seen that you already answered the Bald Ape!

      • Posted January 26, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

        My fault for forgetting to thread, Eric. I seem to have a threading blind-spot today.

  14. Posted January 26, 2010 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Last week, I was trying to teach my students the difference between “reasoning” and “rationalizing” and oh, wow, these ridiculous and infuriating letters certainly would’ve come in handy and would have illustrated the point much better than my lecturing did.

  15. Posted January 26, 2010 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    As Nietzsche noted, pain is not so unendurable if it has a purpose. Meaningless pain is unendurable.

    Much of the point of theology and of theodicy is to “find” (impose is closer to the truth) purpose into the purposeless. That evolutionary theory is purposeless is one of the most frequent “arguments” made against it, and, of course, is one of the big reasons why it’s so successful, as no purpose is obvious in either the world or in life at large.

    So it’s not surprising that they’re saying the usual, that there’s a purpose even though we can’t see it, that everything will be for the best in the end. It’s hope, and they’re (well, many of them at least) demanding that reality, schools, and society must acknowledge that hope is reality.

    It would seem more like their desire for it all to be purposeful is true if all of society would agree that it is. They don’t want Wood saying that it’s not purposeful, because that damages the effort to see purpose where none is in evidence.

    Their psychological reaction is understandable, because most of them likely are religious in the first place because they don’t want to face the purposelessness of the inanimate world, let alone that of the animate world.

    Glen Davidson
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

    • Ty
      Posted January 26, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      Glen, I really enjoy your comments here and at the other science blogs where our venn diagrams overlap.

      Keep up the good work.

  16. Insightful Ape
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    God loves the people of Haiti.
    As much as he loved the dinosaurs.

    • Rixaeton
      Posted January 26, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      Insightful Ape has the right of it. The assumption that there is a loving god is just that, an assumption. Lets take what actually happened, a tectonic plate moved in a given direction, as the only event that has a purpose. So god is rearranging the surface of the Earth for… whatever reason, without mitigating the effects on the inhabitants.

      This is a loving god in the same way a farmer is a loving, generous food giver/parent to livestock before slaughtering them.

  17. Posted January 26, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    As Nietzsche noted, pain is not so unendurable if it has a purpose. Meaningless pain is unendurable.

    But that’s not necessarily true. Pain is not more endurable if its purpose is to give jollies to a sadist. Is it really more endurable if its purpose is to punish “sin” by torturing children and so on? Is the anguish of people who’ve lost sisters, friends, parents, children, more endurable if they think its purpose was to punish the people of Haiti in general?

    • Eric MacDonald
      Posted January 26, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

      If Nietzsche said it – and I would very much like the reference – he must surely have been referring to pain that has some meaning for the sufferer. Knowing that a sadist was getting his jollies from torturing me would not make my suffering meaninful. Knowing, however, that I was suffering so that I would get better, say, in a dentist’s chair (dentists must have a complex about this!), might make the pain a bit more endurable. But for most pain and suffering, where there is no reasonable expectation that it is “for” something, there can be no meaning. And talking about a loving, inscrutable being, who loves us in and through suffering, may express hope, but it certainly cannot express reasonable hope or expectation, and it is simply lying to suggest otherwise.

      Take that away and people would have nothing left, is what some of the religious say. But perhaps, if we did not hope for something beyond this life, we’d do our best to see that this life, to the extent that we could, was better for others, and we’d be less ready to cause suffering too. Perhaps we’d make sure, too, that we didn’t bring into this world people who are bound to suffer, because of the hideous ideologies that cause so much suffering, and because the over-population that most of those ideologies endorse.

      • Posted January 26, 2010 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

        Very good point, Eric. I wonder if the ‘deep faith’ of the people of Haiti that we keep being told about has any effect on, say, building codes. Maybe not, maybe that’s purely poverty and corruption in high places…but I wonder.

        (Dentists – yeh – but they get to soothe the complex by knowing that in the long run they’re reducing pain enormously. I’ve had a couple of cracked teeth and have pondered the fact that until very recently people just had to put up with that, or else just pull the tooth.) (Earthquakes have no such excuse.)

  18. sasqwatch
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    This from a professor at Harvard Divinity School:

    …God is deeply present in and through the events of the world — often inscrutably, but always powerfully and lovingly… Mr. Wood may not share this view, but he has no right to scorn it, especially from a safe harbor.

    Correction: The good Harvard Divinity School professor SHOULD NOT share this view, ESPECIALLY from a safe harbor.

  19. s. pimpernel
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Benson; it’s disgusting to have to hear this up is down nonsense.

  20. MadScientist
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Wow –

    “I don’t understand nature and I refuse to accept what other people have learned about nature – therefore god”

    “We are ignorant but surely the god we believe in must be true even though all evidence is that the god we believe in does not exist.” The “we don’t understand why god is being such an asshole, but he must be a good asshole – we’re just missing something” argument.

    • Darrell E
      Posted January 26, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

      The “we don’t understand why god is being such an asshole, but he must be a good asshole – we’re just missing something” argument.

      Yeah. Not only are we “just missing something” but we are incapable of understanding why because it is just to far beyond us. Ya just gotta have faith, don’t ya know.

      Or as the sign out in front of one of the far too numerous churches in my town said the other day, “It’s hard to stumble when you are down on your knees”. (I feel kinda nauseous now)

      • Posted January 26, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

        “It’s hard to stumble when you are down on your knees.”

        Wow. That’s nice. Well so God should just chop all our legs off, right? It’s hard to stumble when you’re a quadriplegic, too.

  21. Dan L.
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    @OB:

    I think Glen was trying to say something more along the lines of:

    “Pain is more endurable when the sufferer believes there is a purpose to it.”

    In your example, I think that the sadists purpose, “for my enjoyment,” would typically not be regarded as a purpose that would justify the pain for the sufferer. However, if the sufferer believed there was another purpose even without that actually being the case, I could see how it might alleviate the suffering of the sufferer. For example, while the torturer may merely be torturing for his own amusement, the sufferer might be better able to endure the pain if he thought he was being tortured for information (making the ordeal into a test of courage or strength) or if he thought he was being punished for some perceived transgression.

    I think it’s a pretty beautiful insight; it certainly makes me feel like I have a better handle on religious thinking.

    I don’t see this as a justification for theodicy; merely an explanation for it.

  22. Dr.John R. Vokey
    Posted January 27, 2010 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    “I hate this shit. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. I hate the callous frivolity of it, the supid obstinate refusal to admit reality and the wicked insistence on claiming that horrible events are caused by a loving parent-figure. It’s disgusting.”

    Sometimes you just leave things to Ophelia Benson. Really. I certainly could not have said it better.

  23. Posted January 27, 2010 at 1:15 am | Permalink

    “Judeo-Christian” Scripture?!?

    Dictionaries define “Judeo” as a combinative form. Thus, the compound word “Judeo-Christian” implies that Judaism (Torah) is no more than a dependent element of Christianity.

    In typical supersessionist and displacement Christian tradition (see Oxford historian James Parkes, The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue as well as the History Museum pages of http://www.netzarim.co.il), Christians thoughtlessly presume the prefix “Judeo-” to subsume and lay false claim to Judaism (Torah) by means of an impossible union of “Judeo-” (pro-Torah) with “Christian” (supersessionist and displacement antinomian=anti-Torah=misojudaism). Thus, the phrase “Judeo-Christian” implies supersession and displacement by Christianity, relegating Judaism to an ancient, no longer existent, historical people replaced in the distant past by Christians. This is no less misojudaic and repugnant than labeling the Tanakh (the original, Jewish, Bible) the “Old Testament.”

    Where values are shared, the accurate (and honest) way would be to state “Judaic and Christian…” (values, traditions, etc.) instead of “Judeo-Christian.”

    Now that you know an accurate and acceptable alternative there is no reasonable justification to insist on continuing to use misojudaic terminology.

    Suggesting that the “Resurrection” has any such connection with Judaism is more insulting than laughable.

    • Posted January 27, 2010 at 6:42 am | Permalink

      “Judeo-Christian” is a Christian propaganda term to co-opt Judaism as a subset of the much larger Christianity. As you note, the word is misleading and makes little sense.

      It’s true of course that most of the [Christian] Bible comes from Jewish tradition, and that early Christianity arguably does as well (with a lot of nonJewish stuff included as well), but that’s about the extent of the overlap.

      • Sigmund
        Posted January 27, 2010 at 8:49 am | Permalink

        There is a subset of Christians who suffer from a sort of “God’s chosen people” envy. The addition of the Judeo aspect suffices to convince them that they are chosen – and, more importantly – others are excluded. If you ever wondered what sort of person could nail an innocent person to a cross for blasphemy you need look no further than this bunch of ‘Christians’.

      • Occam
        Posted January 27, 2010 at 9:10 am | Permalink

        Let me offer an alternative wording in my own blunt terms:
        “We segregated you, we expelled you, we killed you. But since some of you are still around, and given the inconvenient fact that the Torah was written in Hebrew, let’s use you against the godless heathen.”

        I find the euphemistic abuse of the term ‘Abrahamic religions’ even more entertaining: “We’ll include Islam, we’ll paper over thirteen centuries of mutual massacres and being at each other’s throats, but let no one say that the One True God does not exist.”


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