Quote of the day: Walter Kaufmann # 2

This, like yesterday’s quote, is from Walter Kaufmann’s wonderful book,The Faith of a Heretic (Doubleday & Co., New York, 1961; quote from page 139):

Let those who like inspiring interpretations be no less forthright in telling us precisely where they stand on immortality, the sacraments, and hell; on the virgin birth and resurrection; on the incarnation and the miracles; on John’s theology, and Paul’s and James’; on Augustine and Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and the various creeds. And on: “Resist not evil.” And “Let him who would sue you in court for your coat have your cloak, too.” And: “No one comes to the Father through Me.”

That would clearly be the end of theology. The theologians pay a price for perpetuating a mass movement; they are not content, as the prophets were, with a small remnant. If each spoke out boldly and unequivocally, no mass movement would be left. It would become apparent that there are almost as many different views as preachers, that such phrases as “the message of the New Testament” and “the Biblical view” and “the Christian answer” are hollow, and that the temporal and spatial continuity of Christendom depends on ambiguity.

The preacher who insists on being forthright loses at least half his audience: at best, he has the choice which portion he would like to keep. If he wants to have a congregation that does not consist solely of intellectuals, he has to speak in a manner that makes sense at which Tillich calls “the natural stage of literalism. . . in which the mythical and the literal are indistinguishable”; and he must also keep the confidence of those who have reached “the second stage of literalism, the conscious one, which is aware of the questions but represses them”; nor must he antagonize those who despise literalism.

And so theologians walk a fine line between metaphor and literalism. I see this as a form of hypocrisy, and it reminds me of something Sam Harris said in The End of Faith about the dangers of “moderate” religionists (p. 21):

By failing to live by the letter of the texts, while tolerating the irrationality of those who do, religious moderates betray faith and reason equally.

It can’t get more concise—or elegant—than that!


  1. Posted January 3, 2013 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    thank you for the quotes. That book is rather expensive on amazon, but it’s tempting.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      If your local library can’t loan you the book… you can borrow a digital copy from these guys [you have to register & log in]:-


      MY ASSUMPTION: Since it is out of print I don’t see how you would be depriving the rightful people of royalties by doing this

      • Posted January 3, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

        You’re right about libraries and I’d go for ILL if my local library wasn’t so damned inept that they can’t even get their staff to shelve correctly.

        • David M
          Posted January 3, 2013 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

          You can read it online here:

    • Gordon Hill
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      My local university has it… another source is through inter-library loan if you local library participates. Ours does and while it’s free, an occasional donation probably helps the service continue.

      Also, to find a copy near you, try World Catalog at http://www.worldcat.org/

      • Posted January 3, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        wow, worldcat is very cool. when I was getting my degree OCLC was the bomb (yes I’m old)

    • Posted January 3, 2013 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      I paid little for it and its companion ” Critique of Religion and Philosophy ” around the time it was published. I recommend both books for their content and his comely style. He also has a anthology of atheist writings out.
      He was not a gnu atheist.
      I suggest that others should use those two books as a springboard whence to glean thoughts. He deserves more attention!

  2. MJA
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Once One finds the truth,
    One must live it.
    And that takes a life time of practice.
    Be One,


    • Mark Fuller Dillon
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      Once one finds a truth,
      One must accept the awareness that a truth might be provisional
      And this can take a lifetime of practice.

      Be honest.

    • Darth Dog
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      Find a good hot dog vendor. He can make you One with Everything.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 11:18 am | Permalink

        What about my change?

        • Sameer
          Posted January 3, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

          Change only comes from within!

          • HaggisForBrains
            Posted January 3, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Permalink


    • Notagod
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Permalink


      Do you eat jesus meat?

      Were you made from dirt or spare rib?

    • Posted January 3, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      And how does One know when One has found it? What if One gets run over by a bus before One has practised enough? (And how much is enough?)

      I have never had any trouble being One without effort. In fact I’m not sure how I would go about being Several or None (at least while still alive) or Fractional.

  3. jiten
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    What a fine, elegant writer. I’d love to see a Sophisticated Theologian respond to this!

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      When you can snatch this pebble from my hand, Grasshopper.

  4. Pastor Fuzz
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    The phrase should read “No one comes to the Father EXCEPT through me” (John 14:6).

    Regarding the citation from Sam Harris at the end of this post: I suppose I’m a religious moderate — actually, I’m an irreligious moderate. In any case, I’m a rabbi. I try to be consistent. I don’t “live by the letter of the texts” (we Jews don’t really do that in any case; the religion rests on continual interpretation), and I try not to tolerate the irrationality of the true believers. If I’ve learned one thing in 39 years as a practicing rabbi, it is that it is arrogant, foolhardy and usually dangerous to think you know what “God wants.”

    • Sastra
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 11:21 am | Permalink

      Do you also think it is arrogant, foolhardy, and usually dangerous to think you know that “God exists?”

      Perhaps it is best to approach that question as clearly and objectively as possible, leaving out any personal motivations and desires, don’t you think? It’s more humble that way.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      Hi Rabbi Pastor Fuzz

      You finish with this:-

      … “God wants.”

      The quotation marks confuse me ~ who are you quoting [if that’s the intention of the marks]. Can you explain what difference it makes to the meaning if you leave them out?

    • Posted January 3, 2013 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      But we are rather sure that God wants us to cut off the tips of penises though, right? I mean, that just goes without saying I guess.

      • Posted January 3, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Permalink


      • Notagod
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

        I think the ribbi’s god wants those penis tips bitten off. Could you confirm that Pastor Ribbi Fuzz?

      • Posted January 3, 2013 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

        As with Dr. Semmelweis, who was ousted for promoting the washing of hands before microscopes and germ theory… research is showing some benefit to male circumscision, not just for the male for for his sexual partners, male or female. Ritual washing in general and hand washing in particular were in the Old Testament, so throwing them out just because of that is, well, not very good reasoning.
        To refer to male circumscision as “cutting the tip off penises” is anatomically false and propagandisticatlly misleading. The tip, or glans, remains intact. The foreskin is miniminzed, not completely removed.
        It is important to discuss the topic honestly, without exaggeration or other forms of propaganda, if one wishes to be taken seriously, especially here.

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted January 3, 2013 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

          What is your evidence?

          And no, it is an amputation (“cutting off”) of healthy, multifunctional (sexual mechanics, immune system) tissue. What is propagandist with a medical description?

          Your “minimized” seems propagandist however. Do you “minimize” outer ears, eye lids, lips, toes or finger lengths?

          Do you do body modification solely for religious reasons? If so, why?

          The risks surely not outweigh the benefits. How can you recommend this?

          [I hear from sources that I don’t care to assemble right now that:

          – If hygiene is good, it is much the same viral risks et cetera.

          – Except for sexual diseases, where condoms are best.

          – Sexually the pristine mechanics is better for both partners.]

          • Posted January 4, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

            So, then, you continue to insist that the glans of the penis is amputed. Either you continue to choose ignorance, then, or you know better and continue to spread ignorance, anyway.

            • John Scanlon, FCD
              Posted January 5, 2013 at 11:42 am | Permalink

              You usually talk sense here (as far as I recall), but this is a stupid argument. Yes of course it’s an amputation, a mutilation, and it is false and stupid to pretend that the prepuce can’t correctly be called the ‘tip’ of the penis. Please consider stopping digging.

              • Posted January 5, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

                Clearly, acknowledging the realities of anatomical science, from gross anatomy to histology, is not digging. Perhaps your continued insistance in rewriting science, though, is.

        • Larry
          Posted January 4, 2013 at 12:21 am | Permalink

          I am about as outraged by your comment as Torbjörn Larsson, OM sounds, so I will second his reply. Also, even if everything you’ve written here is true, you don’t justify that circumcision is standard practice on infants in almost all hospitals in the U.S.. I don’t know about the rest of the world. Stating that I desire a personal choice in this matter and I want choice offered to all men is not propaganda. Keep your beliefs off my body. Imagine your outrage if I suggest we cut off all toes because it’s difficult to keep it clean between them.

          • Posted January 4, 2013 at 11:53 am | Permalink

            As a podiatrist (my first of two medical degrees), I can tell you that amputation of toes, which I have had to do as medical necessity, is no small thing in terms of biomechanics.

            Now, as to male circumcision, you and Torbjörn Larsson, OM appear to consider the topic as though someone were, just this moment approaching you with a scalpel.

            Read the medical literature, particularly the recent American and WHO materials. Argue the science, if you choose, but cut the ignorance, the propaganda, and the self-righteous emotinal rants.

            • Larry
              Posted January 4, 2013 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

              So you think it’s wrong for me to say that men should have a choice? Why? And I’m sure many Doctors give the parents a choice, but when my three sons were born, the Doctors assumed circumcision and I didn’t know enough to agree or disagree, so I let the Doctors decide. So instead of insulting me again, please educate me. Tell me why it would be wrong to leave things alone and allow the man to make the decision when he’s older.

              And I didn’t suggest amputating any toes. Obviously amputating toes is a much more serious medical procedure than circumcision, but I never said it wasn’t, I said imagine your outrage if I suggested it.

              • Posted January 5, 2013 at 6:04 am | Permalink

                Your manipulative change of focus fools no one. The topic you just veered away from is the anatomy and actual procedure involved. You claim “tip of the penis” which is the glans. Circumcision does not amputate the glans. End of story.

              • Posted January 5, 2013 at 6:05 am | Permalink

                As for toe amputation, whether you personally brought it up or someone else on this divergence, I answered it.

              • Posted January 5, 2013 at 6:10 am | Permalink

                Finally, as for you deciding for any and every other parent what is best for their child, from vaccinations to pierced ears to male circumcision to amputation of extra digits on feet or hands, especially when your choice is based so obviously on your emotional reaction to a procedure, forget about it. You decide for your children. Let others decide for theirs. We’re not talking withholding of antibiotics, chemotheraby, or application of magical potions in place of real medical care. This, according the the American pediatric collective and the World Health Organization, is a legitimate procedure with legitimate benefits to be considered and legititamately weighed against any risks. The publications are public.

              • Posted January 5, 2013 at 6:11 am | Permalink

                Actually, I will add one more thing: Cut the Gish Gallop.

              • Larry
                Posted January 5, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

                @docatheist, more than one of us responded to you and you have us confused, but you will find a way to say I’m wrong about that too. I never mentioned the tip of the penis and I never used the word “glans” like you say I did. I didn’t veer away from any topic and I didn’t use a “manipulative change of focus”. I’m not trying to fool anyone either. What a shame you don’t seem to know how to discuss this without attacking people for things they haven’t done. You seem to live in a world full of straw men. Congratulations on graduating from medical school. You might want to consider enrolling in charm school.

              • Posted January 5, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

                Well, you did get one part right: You’re confused.

        • Posted January 4, 2013 at 8:04 am | Permalink

          You realize that the point of thesystemoftheworld’s comment had nothing to do with circumcision, don’t you?

          • Posted January 4, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

            Regardless of his original intent, his incorrect usage of the concept of circumcision required correction for false the propaganda that it is.

        • Notagod
          Posted January 4, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

          You need to be very careful when evaluating support for procedures that are done in honor of christianity*, there would naturally be a strong motivation to skew the results to favor the christian.

          * Using christianity loosely and is intended to be inclusive of any of the damned god religions.

          • Posted January 4, 2013 at 11:56 am | Permalink

            As a physician, surgeon, and owner of two undergraduate science degrees plus two American medical degrees, I can assure you, religion has nothing to do with my stand on the subject.

            • Notagod
              Posted January 4, 2013 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

              In no way did i state that your stand was religion based. I suggested you use caution due to the religious dictates. However, remember, don’t use the condoms!

              • Posted January 4, 2013 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

                I sure wish you made sense. Then, there’d be something worthwhile to argue. You mentioned religion, now your angry that I clarified. You bring up condoms, next. WTF?!

              • Notagod
                Posted January 5, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

                So you like your penises skinned. Wouldn’t you feel a lot prouder if those being skinned made the decision instead of having it forced on them?

                Since you brought up your marvelous credentials I should mention that I met a CPA that received the highest score ever recorded in the state for a CPA exam. Couldn’t do shit though, had no idea how to apply the ability to ace a test to practical problems in the real world.

              • Posted January 5, 2013 at 6:57 pm | Permalink


                From links on that page:



                Now, argue with those experts. These publications are less than six months old.

              • Posted January 5, 2013 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

                By the way, if you bother to google “tip of the penis”, you’ll find that what comes up is “glans.” “Foreskin” comes up as “prepuce”, and while it’s described as reaching the tip of the flaccid penis, it is not, itself, the tip of the penis. Shall I put those links here for you, too? It is better to do it, yourself. Then, you can read even farther and learn even more.

              • Notagod
                Posted January 6, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Permalink


                All we are asking is that the child have the opportunity to make their own decisions concerning their own bodies. You are asking that they not be allowed to. Even at your own links the conclusion is that the health benefits of circumcision are slight. Combine that with the likelihood that the studies could be skewed due to religious and social reasons predominant in the United States and I conclude in favor of the autonomy of the child.

                Your bias has also been noted in previous threads:

                There really is no need to go through it again.

              • Posted January 6, 2013 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

                Claim bias all you want. Facts are facts, science is science, experts continue to review, and parents have legal decision-making rights on behalf of their children. You insist on depriving parents of the right to make the best choices they can for their own children. You also assume that there is no difference between infant and adult circumcision. That is not a logical assumption, based particularly on nervous tissue development and brain accomodation. For further information on that aspect, read up on limb amputations, both congenital/neonatal and adult. Having personally performed such surgeries and cared for such patients, and read the literature when it was applicable to my practice, I can assure you, there are significant differences.

                There is nothing more to say. We’re done.

    • Posted January 3, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      In what ways do you not tolerate the irrationality of true believers? Sam Harris also said that moderate, liberal religion is the shade tree under which fundamentalism luxuriates, meaning that by validating the general idea of religion, and specifically that faith is a virtue, you give the fundamentalists a boost.

      You should ask yourself if the reason you can’t assert what god wants is the same reason you can’t assert god exists.

      • ForCarl
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

        No wonder Frederick Clarkson over at Talk2action went after Sam Harris so harshly. Fred is a crusader against the religious right, but staunchly defends liberal Protestantism/Catholicism. I once made the “mistake” of pointing out that liberal Christians are joined at the hip with fundamentlists as long as they both hold the bible up as a source of divine wisdom. Fred did not take kindly to the observation. If you ever visit his site or cross paths with him over at Daily Kos and reveal in your comments that you are an atheist or you admire Sam Harris, just watch the sparks fly.

    • Neil Schipper
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

      Pastor Fuzz, I hope you don’t reply to them.

      They won’t be happy until WEIT is just like Pharyngula or reddit.

      They scratch, yet pretend they don’t itch.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

        It is more that people are annoyed by the continued display of incorrect ideas and/or arguments.

        I think new and fresh insights would be welcome. The same commentary as last week, not so much.

  5. El Abogado del Diablo
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 11:16 am | Permalink


    Hi. I did not know where to write to you, so I am commenting here (I did like the post, though I am not commenting on it).

    In the Hufftington Post of today, in their “science” section, they have two pieces that are frankly absurd. I have commented on them, but do not know if they will publish my comments. The pieces are:

    1. Science’s Sacred Cows (Part 1)
    2. Evolution Scientist Carl Woese Dies: ‘The Most Important Evolution Scientist of the 20th Century’

    I know you have commented amply on this subjects, but this people keep talking as if they were actually saying something smart (what’s worse, some kind of breakthrough).

    Have a great day, it is always great to read your blog, keep the great work!

  6. El Abogado del Diablo
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 11:19 am | Permalink


    It seems they at leat have published one of them (I am sesalaza). Hopefully they publish both, and hopefully others here will help too.

  7. Posted January 3, 2013 at 11:19 am | Permalink


  8. Sastra
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Three things kill faith: curiosity, clarity, and consistency.

    I know people who insist that God comes in many guises, and that there is no One True Religion or One Right Path to God. All religions are true, all of them are valid, all faiths work. Religious believers are like the blind men and the elephant: the different aspects of belief are simply different parts of a greater whole. God/Spirit does not care which view you hold.

    Therefore, never tell anyone that their religion is wrong, or that they don’t understand God and you do. God is in all religions.

    So I ask them: does this mean that people who believe that God is NOT in all religions are WRONG? That you understand God and they don’t? That God is one way: God is the way you see it, part of every religion and there is one and only one way to view religion: as equally valid for all? You’re right and people who think otherwise are wrong?

    That drives them freaking crazy. But it’s true.

    Clarity is not their friend. The more you get into detail and the more you start analyzing ideas the more the happy Spiritual Smorgasbord falls apart and you end up with factual claims instead of personal feelings.

    • Posted January 3, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      Good point. They haven’t embraced inclusiveness and tolerance the way they think they have. They’re the same as all the rest.

    • Mark Fuller Dillon
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      “Religious believers are like the blind men and the elephant: the different aspects of belief are simply different parts of a greater whole.”

      The “christian” woman I love, who has left me over these matters, often quoted the blind men parable, yet she was always quick to reject the tenets of catholicism, islam, vodou, and even large portions of mainstream christianity.

      She never liked to hear that the followers of these religions are as firm in their belief as she is, that they, too, consider their beliefs beautiful and good and true; yet she never hesitated to point out just how wrong they are.

      • Neil Schipper
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

        I don’t know what your options are, and am in no position to offer specific advice beyond:

        Possibly, you are a fool.

        Demand of yourself a willingness to entertain this possibility, at least from time to time.

        • Mark Fuller Dillon
          Posted January 3, 2013 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

          And why, exactly, would you consider me a fool?

          Please feel free to use Powerpoint slides.

          • Neil Schipper
            Posted January 4, 2013 at 12:26 am | Permalink

            Hey you reworded my remark with a non-trivial alteration.

            A Robert Cray song contains these lyrics:

            She was speechless
            when I made her cry
            But she had the last word
            if you count goodbye

            Now I’ve got cold silence
            across the killing floor
            Looks like I won the battle
            but lost the war

            • Mark Fuller Dillon
              Posted January 4, 2013 at 12:36 am | Permalink

              I’d say there were no winners in this case… perhaps because there was no battle.

              But there were some irreconcilable viewpoints — to put it mildly.

    • Posted January 4, 2013 at 6:49 am | Permalink


  9. eric
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    And so theologians walk a fine line between metaphor and literalism. I see this as a form of hypocrisy, and it reminds me of something Sam Harris said…

    It reminds me of something Bart Erhman said (multiple times) in his earlier books. Paraphrasing: priests already know about all the misquotes, forgeries, and inconsistenties I’m about to talk about in my book, because this material is taught in Seminaries. A big question is thus: why don’t they educate their parishoners in what they’ve learned about the bible and Jesus?

    I don’t think he outright accuses the vast majority of priests of hypocrisy, but his question certainly leads in that direction. Priests learn uncomfortable truths about the NT as part of their training, then hide those truths from their parishoners.

    • Posted January 3, 2013 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      Actually, Eric, I did, and people were quite prepared to hear and respond to it. Very few found difficulty with accepting that these things are known. Religions started out as integral with cultures, and helped people place themselves in relationship to each other and to the mystery of existence. It seems a bit odd to suggest that there is no mystery attached to the fact that we, as conscious, purposeful beings, exist, even though we can explain, now, how we did come to exist. But there is a certain misfit between the process and the consequence which many people still feel, but which, for early peoples, was very great. It is scarcely surprising that they should have come up with narratives about how we got here. Nor is it so surprising that, for some people, the tradition, if not the particulars of the beliefs attached to it, should continue to give them a sense of belonging that they could not achieve in other ways? That’s why I think Harris’ accusation is too harsh:

      By failing to live by the letter of the texts, while tolerating the irrationality of those who do, religious moderates betray faith and reason equally.

      I am quite prepared to say that it is not unreasonable to wrap up one’s life in a mythical narrative, so long as you don’t forget that that is what you have done. The problem is that most people do forget, and problems start when they do. I found my own mythical narrative turned into immoral prescription by the church, which forgot that demythologisation has to be radical, or the betrayal of both faith and reason is inescapable. I think it usually is, but I am not convinced that it is necessarily so.

      • Ken Pidcock
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

        I am quite prepared to say that it is not unreasonable to wrap up one’s life in a mythical narrative, so long as you don’t forget that that is what you have done.

        A major concern is what is conveyed to others, most especially to children. When I was young, I enjoyed playing Christian, but it felt immoral as I aged.

        • Neil Schipper
          Posted January 3, 2013 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

          Given that neuropsych remains “Ptolemaic”, the kind of thinking you demonstrate in this comment seems to me worthwhile.

      • Posted January 3, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

        Ken makes a good point, Eric. It’s not ok to let the myth you’ve chosen to wrap your life in affect your own or other’s children.

        This is really the whole reason many (most?) atheists protest so much. If one’s religion was kept to itself there’d be no problem. But that is impossible. We don’t live in a vacuum, no man is an island, etc…

      • Marella
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

        If you wish to wrap your life in a mythical narrative I think there are better ones than the Bible. The Rainbow Serpent for example, or Harry Potter. I am unclear what purpose this would serve however.

  10. therealhaxwell
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Another book, with similar, and equally elegant reasoning (but completely free, due to its status in the public domain) is Some Mistakes of Moses, by Senator Robert Ingersoll.

  11. Ken Pidcock
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    Cute quote from Kaufmann’s 1959 article.

    But the story of Christ remains uncomfortably similar to the saga of the boss’s son who works very briefly in the shop, where makes a great point of his home and is cruelly beaten by some of his fellow workers, before he joins his father as co-chairman of the board and wreaks horrible revenge.

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      …where he makes… Sorry.

      • Posted January 3, 2013 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

        That does throw an entirely different light on the whole story, doesn’t it?

  12. coconnor1017
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    The quote you cite by Harris was too honest to ignore when I read him while I still prided myself on being a progressive Christian. I realized that my self-identification afforded me no virtue.

  13. Posted January 3, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    “It would become apparent that there are almost as many different views as preachers,”

    I have long thought this was the real meaning of “The Lord gave the Word: great was the company of the preachers” Ps 68:11, though Handel set it as though that was a good thing.

  14. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Churches always have to cater to their most traditionalist-minded members, which causes change to be slow and results in liberal/metaphorical/nonliteral religion always being saddled with ambiguity and baggage.

    As others have noted, a common dilemma of graduates of liberal seminaries is the discovery that at least in some churches they simply cannot speak from what they have been taught if they get saddled with a conservative congregation.

    Now the quote by Sam Harris is (in a less pernicious way) ambiguous, since there are certainly !*some*! religious liberals who certainly !*do*! speak out against religious fascists. (John Shelby Spong, Frank Schaeffer, Andrew Sullivan, Matthew Fox all come to mind). So I’m not sure what Harris thinks of these people.

    I tend to agree with Susan Jacoby (author of “Freethinkers”) and Ed Brayton that Sam Harris is simply mistaken in saying that moderate religion acts as an enabler of fundamentalism.
    (See http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2012/09/19/jacoby-on-women-in-atheism-and-humanism/ ) but I think Sam Harris is actually going further than Kaufmann here. Kaufmann is correct that the price paid for trying to perpetuate a mass movement is a lack of clarity among many religious liberals, especially if they are in the pulpit of a slightly conservative neighborhood church, perhaps less so in an academic salon.

    • Neil Schipper
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

      [..] Sam Harris is simply mistaken in saying that moderate religion acts as an enabler of fundamentalism

      Similarly, Jerry Coyne frequently plays the Scandinavian card as if moderate religion wasn’t a significant factor.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

        What is your evidence for that moderate religion is a significant factor in reigning in fundamentalism?

        I didn’t know there was a “Scandinavian card”. But it is a good example of how little religion matters for a functional society, and how beneficiary the absence of moderate religion can be.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

      I think silence is the enabler. Where is the moderate organized protests to moderate the religion?

  15. marksolock
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Mark Solock Blog.

  16. Mark Joseph
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Great quote from Kaufmann. Still, at the end of the first paragraph, I would add, “And: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”

  17. Neil Schipper
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    .. and he must also keep the confidence of those ..

    Bring back that
    old tyme atheism!

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