Hitchens-disser Larry Alex Taunton says that atheists can’t be moral, and there’s no culture without Christianity

Hemant Mehta (“the Friendly Atheist”) is all over atheist news like white on rice (or, as they say, “like ugly on a frog”), so I usually avoid posting on the same things he does. But in this case I’ll make an exception. As Hemant notes in a post from Monday, Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump’s candidate to be Attorney General, has some weird (or should I say “mainstream”) views on atheists. In an earlier post, Hemant noted that Sessions, during his confirmation hearings, had this exchange with Democratic Senator Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (Hemant’s emphasis):

WHITEHOUSE: Does a secular attorney have anything to fear from an Attorney General Sessions in the Department of Justice?

SESSIONS: Well, no… and I use that word in the 90,000-foot level. A little concern I have that we as a nation, I believe, are reaching a level in which truth is not sufficiently respected, that the very idea of truth is not believed to be real, and that all of life is just a matter of your perspective and my perspective, which I think is contrary to the American heritage…

We are not a theocracy. Nobody should be required to believe anything. I share Thomas Jefferson’s words on the memorial over here: I swear eternal hostility over any domination of the mind of man. And I think we should respect people’s views and not demand any kind of religious test for holding office.

WHITEHOUSE: And a secular person has just as good a claim to understanding the truth as a person who is religious, correct?

SESSIONS: Well… I’m not sure. [Long silence]… We’re gonna treat anybody with different views fairly and objectively.

That’s clearly ridiculous, since if anything secular people, not adhering to unevidenced superstitions, surely have a better claim to understanding the truth than do religionists.

But put that aside. Let’s move on to Larry Alex Taunton. Remember him? He’s the Christian author who wrote the misguided, tendentious, and probably duplicitous book The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist, arguing that, at the end of his life, Hitchens was flirting with becoming a Christian. That book has been thoroughly debunked (see herehere, here, here, here, and here, for example), and nobody with two neurons to rub together believes what Taunton said.

But Taunton’s animus against atheism is again on view again in a piece he wrote for (of course) at Fox News. In this case Taunton uses Sessions’s statements to argue that atheists cannot be moral. In Taunton’s piece, “Why Jeff Sessions as our next attorney general should reassure, not alarm, all Americans“, Taunton says this (my emphasis):

As a student of history, no doubt Senator Sessions also knows that secular regimes, lacking any belief in laws beyond those they manufacture, alter, and violate at will, were responsible for the deaths of no less than 100 million people in the Twentieth Century alone.

That’s more than all religious wars from all previous centuries combined.

That is because atheism unquestionably exacerbates the evil in our nature. And if Christianity doesn’t make you good—strictly speaking, from a theological perspective, none of us are—it makes you better than you might otherwise be.

I am reminded of novelist Evelyn Waugh’s famous quip, made in response to someone drawing attention to his all-too-obvious faults: “Without supernatural aid, I would hardly be a human being.”

All of this is at the heart of the Senator’s remarks: If one does not believe in a Lawgiver, how can we be sure he will acknowledge any law at all? The point isn’t that the secularly-minded cannot be morally outstanding people; the point is that there is no logically compelling reason to be anything other than entirely selfish.

I mean, if there is no God to judge you in the next life for your actions in this one, why not do preciously as you want to do?

Americans should be comforted by the knowledge that the man who might become the highest law enforcement officer in the country believes that some laws are absolute and inviolable no matter what the cultural zeitgeist of the moment is; because sometimes the zeitgeist says slavery is OK and Jews should go to concentration camps.

Comforted? We should be scared that the highest law official of the country might want us to answer to laws from the Great Lawgiver in the Sky rather than from our own legislatures. (By the way, I do believe in a Lawgiver. It’s called Congress.) God’s laws, may, for instance, differ from secular law on issue about abortion, about gays, about censorship, and so on.

Further, anyone who claims that Nazism was an atheist regime, for instance, doesn’t know what they are talking about. And really, wasn’t it a Christian view that demonized the Jews in Europe, leading to the death of six million of them? It’s extremely bizarre to blame secularism for the Holocaust, to say the least.

Finally, if you’re moral for religious reasons, that’s not logic compelling you to be moral. It’s fear—or rather, a misguided notion that if you don’t obey God, you’re going to fry. If that’s not a selfish reason, I don’t know what is.

Taunton continues.

. . . The Cultural Left’s romance with secularism is naïve at best, malicious at worst. History demonstrates where that worldview all too often leads.

The moral and intellectual sensibilities of the West are still running off of the accumulated capital of a rich Judeo-Christian heritage.

But watch out. When the fumes in that tank are spent, tyranny cannot be far away.

As T.S. Eliot rightly observed, “If Christianity goes, the whole culture goes.”

My response: Scandinavia.  Christianity has largely gone there, but, last time I looked, there was still plenty of culture.  Now of course Taunton could argue, as religionists love to do, that even the morality in nonbelieving countries is a vestigial remnant of Christianity, but I don’t believe it. Denmark has been largely without religion for several generations, and yet the morality remains. And does Taunton really think that only Christianity, as opposed to other faiths, is a guarantor of morality?

Taunton’s motivations for his odious book are clear: he hates secularism, couldn’t abide the fact that Hitchens was facing death without wavering in his atheism, and therefore made up a story to support Taunton’s preconceptions—and perhaps to make a quick buck on the side. The man is odious.

taunton

Taunton

 

76 Comments

  1. colnago80
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    The notion that the Nazi regime in Germany was an atheist one is piffle.

    1. In every public statement either oral or in writing, Hitler purported to be a devout and practicing Christian. AFAIK, no one has uncovered any evidence to the contrary.

    2. In order to join the SS, an applicant had to swear that he was a devout and practicing Christian.

    • Rita
      Posted January 26, 2017 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      I’m stealing your comment for future use!

    • Mike Cracraft
      Posted January 26, 2017 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      I’d recommend the 2nd volume of R.J. Evan’s
      history of the 3rd Reich. The Nazis tried to replace Christianity with a racial religion and had considerable push back from the RCC and the major Protestant sects and finally gave up. Of course many devout Christians went along with the crimes of Hitler due to their extreme support of nationalism and anti-Semitism. I’m not sure about point 2. but will do some more research. In any event there was always much friction between the regime and many churches.

      • Carl
        Posted January 26, 2017 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        I recommend Church of Spies, The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler. The wartime pope ran a clandestine network whose goal was assassinating Hitler. This is not to say that most of the Catholic laity and hierarchy were not with Hitler, but an important faction was working against him.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted January 26, 2017 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

          It was also the Vatican who ran the rat line that enabled so many senior RC Nazis to escape to South America. The RC church never excommunicated a single person for Nazi war crimes. They did, however, excommunicate plenty of women for leaving violent Nazi husbands.

          The Vatican was the first foreign government to formally recognize Hitler’s leadership of Germany. Almost every member of Hitler’s senior leadership team was RC, like Hitler himself. There were brave individual priests etc, both Catholic and Protestant, who stood up to him and suffered as a result. However the established Church supported him to the end. They held celebrations for things like Hitler’s birthday.

          The Church was complicit in the regime. If they hadn’t been, Hitler may not have been so successful.

          • Posted January 26, 2017 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

            There used to be and, may still be, photos on the internet of Catholic priests standing with Hitler. In some photos, they are giving the Nazi salute. Although the Roman Catholic church had certain individuals who tried to help those being persecuted by the Nazis, church leadership did anything they considered necessary to protect their churches and Catholic followers in Germany. As Heather remarks, they provided the network for getting Nazis out of Europe to South America. This was despicable.

          • Carl
            Posted January 26, 2017 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

            Yes, yes, Herman Goering was excommunicated … for marrying a Protestant.

            I would argue the Church’s main fault was breeding antisemitism into the population from ancient times onward. For this it’s hard to overdo the condemnation. Just as it is with many Muslim societies today.

            The wartime story is far from black and white with ordinary Catholics and clergy sometimes performing heroic acts at the risk of their own lives.

            Also, it takes a deep dive into history in order to assess official Church behavior toward the Nazis. With the Nazis in power, perhaps direct opposition would have been counterproductive, making things worse.

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted January 26, 2017 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

              In Germany it would probably have to have been the Protestants who took the lead as they were by far the majority.

              Early on, Hitler deliberately appealed to religion to get support.

              And I agree about the anti-Semitism that came from the Church from the beginning as well.

      • Posted January 26, 2017 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

        The Nazis tried to replace Christianity with a racial religion …

        They didn’t try to *replace* Christianity, they tried to *reform* it by marrying it with racial ideology. They called themselves the “Deutsche Christen” and promoted what they called “positive Christianity”.

        You are right that the different Christian sects (RC, Protestant, Deutsche Christen) squabbled with each other, but that’s fairly typical. (link)

      • Jonathan Dore
        Posted January 26, 2017 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

        Whether Hitler was a Christian or a believer in some bizarre mixture of Christianity with Germanic pagan overtones, the important point in the context of this discussion is that two varieties of superstition don’t cancel each other out to make an atheist, they simply multiply the ways in which one is *not* an atheist.

    • Bethlenfalvy
      Posted January 26, 2017 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      colnago80: “In order to join the SS, an applicant had to swear that he was a devout and practicing Christian.”

      That’s pure nonsense.

      The Nazis were not favourable to traditional Christian institutions but didn’t promote atheism either (“too Marxist”) and fought the Freethinkers Movement.

      Instead they introduced a new category: “Gottgläubigkeit” (literally “believe in God”, albeit not in a traditional Christian sense; call it sort of deism on a racial base).

      Among SS members the percentage of “Gottgläubige” was particularly high in the 1939 census.

      Further information & sources:
      https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gottgl%C3%A4ubig

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted January 27, 2017 at 6:06 am | Permalink

      Wehrmacht belt buckles carried the motto GOTT MIT UNS

      • Bethlenfalvy
        Posted January 27, 2017 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

        So, what do you insinuate?

        “Gott mit uns” was also the slogan of the army (and imprinted on the buckles) in the first republic, under the Kaiser and under the Prussian kings. In its modern German form it originated as a battle cry in the anti-Napoleonic Wars of Liberation.

        Understandably, for political reasons the Nazis tried to place themselves in a line of traditon to legitimize their regime. The slogan doesn’t indicate an ideological proximity of the NSDAP to the Christian churches.

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted January 28, 2017 at 3:11 am | Permalink

          It just seems to me an unlikely motto for an atheist regime. Hitler made plenty of other changes to the iconography of his regime, but kept this.

  2. Posted January 26, 2017 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Atheists are bad/immoral?: Scandinavia

    Xians are good?: Rwanda, Bosnia, Croatia, and on and on and on

    • Posted January 26, 2017 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      It’s ridiculous how they always assert xianity so reliably fosters moral behavior in the face of so much evidence to the contrary. When a xian misbehaves they make an excuse so that they can maintain the “correlation”. Non-xians are never excused.

      Heads I win, tails you lose!

  3. CDubya
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    “And I thought they smelled bad… on the OUTside.” – Captain Solo

    Yes, a bit childish. (shrug)

    • DrBrydon
      Posted January 26, 2017 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      I LOL’d.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted January 26, 2017 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      Allusions to Star Wars are never childish!

  4. Peter
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    “A little concern I have that we as a nation, I believe, are reaching a level in which truth is not sufficiently respected, that the very idea of truth is not believed to be real,.. ”
    An apt remark if applied to his boss Trump

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted January 26, 2017 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      I too was a bit surprised here. His answer was what I wanted to hear. But I still don’t trust him.

    • Posted January 26, 2017 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      A supremely self-unaware remark is what it is.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted January 26, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

        +1. Trump is the biggest liar in the history of political fact-checking.

        • Posted January 26, 2017 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

          He has Liarrhea …

        • Posted January 26, 2017 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

          And Sessions himself is a theist. I mean, talk about not respecting the truth.

  5. DrBrydon
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    If Sessions is really concerned about the state of truth in our society, he might want to look a little closer at his bedfellows. Perhaps we need to update the old mantra “no enemies on the left” to be “no enemies in the pew.” As for Taunton and culture, it seems that Europe, and the Roman Catholic Church in particular, spent more than a millennium trying to match, let alone surpass, Greek and Roman culture.

    • sensorrhea
      Posted January 26, 2017 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      And along the way the Catholics borrowed huge areas of Greek thought to incorporate into their philosophy.

  6. darrelle
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Taunton is damaged goods. His religious convictions render him incapable of accepting anything that he can’t rationalize to support his beliefs, which makes him sound like a clueless moron. Apparently it also seems to compromise his ethics. He is a danger to society.

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    SESSIONS: Well, no… and I use that word in the 90,000-foot level.

    Well, there’s Sessions’s problem: Up there in the stratosphere at the 90,000-foot level, the air’s too thin to think straight. The man’s dizzy from oxygen deprivation; no wonder his answer’s so incoherent.

    Hope he makes it back down before the brain damage is permanent.

    • Kevin
      Posted January 26, 2017 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      8 Miles High

      You’ll find that it’s stranger than known…

      My theory: Almost everyone in Washington is not from outer space, they sleep at night in outer space—oxygen starved, compromised mental faculties.

  8. Historian
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Taunton:

    —————
    “The moral and intellectual sensibilities of the West are still running off of the accumulated capital of a rich Judeo-Christian heritage.”

    “But watch out. When the fumes in that tank are spent, tyranny cannot be far away.”

    —————–

    Maybe Taunton is correct that tyranny is not far away. We have Trump, overwhelmingly supported by the evangelicals. According to Pew, white evangelicals supported Trump 81% to 16%.

    http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/09/how-the-faithful-voted-a-preliminary-2016-analysis/

    • eric
      Posted January 26, 2017 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      Yep. You could take his quote and replace “Judeo Christian” with “Enlightenment”, and it would sound almost like he was talking about this election.

      • Posted January 26, 2017 at 11:32 am | Permalink

        I’d suggest we in fact should replace “Judeo-Christian” with “Enlightenment”.

        I’d like Taunton to list specifically what pieces of JC heritage have been and currently are making society work, and that we can’t do without.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted January 31, 2017 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

          Hmmm. I think you have a good point there. Since we’ve had about 1600 years of “Judeo-Christian” culture, something like 2500 years of Confucian culture, just under 1400 years of Islamic culture, about 250 years of
          Enlightenment culture ; and almost all the science, technical, population (mixed blessing that) and quality-of-life progress has happened in the “Enlightenment” period … well, you’ve got a pretty good correlation, though you’d have a lot of work to do with some people to convince them that there is also causation.

          (Bloody glad I error-checked : I’d initially typed “Enightenment”, which would have been depressingly forward-looking.)

  9. Posted January 26, 2017 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Sadly the alternative facts universe of religion is now metastasizing into our government.

    Also – scientists march on Washington DC may come to pass. Haven’t done that since 1968 but may join in.

  10. Carl
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Dear fellow atheists,

    I would like to recommend a better response to the old “Hitler and Stalin were atheists” defense of religion. Hitler and Stalin were atheists, so what? Who wants to claim every atheist is a stellar human being?

    The standard Hitchens response and others similar are good supplementary arguments but
    instead, point out there is one country in the world that is founded on atheist principles, and whose founders and original lawgivers were nearly all atheists*. We don’t need to wonder what a country based on the philosophy of atheists would look like, we only need to accurately understand the history of the United States.

    *atheists – I include here deists whose deism is not a watery Christianity, but a robust philosophy that explicitly excludes a caring, providential, personal, or law giver God.

    • Posted January 26, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      Very many theists will simply not accept that the founding fathers were essentially atheists. They just won’t.

      They have alternative facts, thanks to historians liars like David Barton.

      • Carl
        Posted January 26, 2017 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

        Of course they won’t accept it; they are theists. My hope is that more atheists will delve deep into American history and understand in their bones that the founding philosophy of our republic and the founders is atheistic, despite the fact that a majority of citizens have always been theists.

        • Posted January 26, 2017 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

          And those theists fought very hard to try to get Xianity and religion into the constitution.

          It was always defeated, thank Hank.

          The founders had a good sense of history (and it’s long reign of bloody religious wars) and meant exactly what they said in the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted January 31, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

        Does the average American on the (whatever the American equivalent of the Clapham Omnibus is) remember that there is a clear distinction – and something like a century – between the Pilgrim Fathers and the people who wrote the American Constitution?
        I must admit to having to double-check on the terms myself when thinking about foreign history.

    • Hermocrates
      Posted January 26, 2017 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      In fact, it is the other way around. The societies of Nazism and Stalinism are examples where irrational beliefs made people behave highly erratically.

      Being a non-theist is better than being a theist in the same way as being a non-nazi (resp. a non-stalinist) is better than being a nazi (resp. a stalinist).

    • Posted January 26, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      Hitler and Stalin were atheists, so what?

      Hitler was not. All the evidence says the opposite.

    • deadweasel
      Posted January 26, 2017 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

      My response to the “AtheistStalinMaoPolPot killed millions so suck it unbeliever” accusation is simple: This is all happening according to your supreme being’s plan. If you don’t like it, go bawl to him.

  11. Posted January 26, 2017 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    One of the most outrageously stupid statements I’ve ever heard is “Hitchens was considering becoming a Christian towards the end of his life.”

    Another would be that Nazism is an atheist movement. Half of the German population didn’t suddenly drop their Christianity overnight in the 1930s.

    There are still churches in Germany with Nazi decor — usually preserved deliberately for the historical record. One has a sculpture of a Nazi soldier walking with Jesus and the disciples.

    One church in Berlin still has this statue
    http://tinyurl.com/hzeyxx5
    of a saint giving a “blessing”, which from a distance looks more like the Nazi salute. No one seems to have realized what it is, but it is exactly what it looks like!

    (The sculpture is from 1936. The church might argue that the saint’s hand gesture is a blessing, but I’ve never seen any other statue of a saint giving a blessing with a raised right arm!)

  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    How’d Hitch stay cooped-up in a car with this guy, listening to his drivel?

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted January 31, 2017 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      For pay, wasn’t it?

  13. Posted January 26, 2017 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    The “Lawgiver” schtick is almost as tired as the “Stalin and Hitler” schtick.

    Has Taunton never come across Hobbes, or Rousseau, or older Greek and Roman thinkers? We obey our own rules because of the social contract.

    • Posted January 26, 2017 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      The US Constitution beats the bejesus out of the Bible.

      The Right doesn’t believe in social contracts. They are doing their best to tear up ours.

  14. Posted January 26, 2017 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    “I mean, if there is no God to judge you in the next life for your actions in this one, why not do preciously as you want to do?”

    That’s the very definition of cynicism – “an inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest.”

    And Jesus himself, whether you regard him as an actual historical figure or just a character in a story, was cynical. He preached good behavior, but there was always a promised reward attached at the end. He apparently never expressed the view shared by many atheists that one should simply “be good for goodness sake.”

    I disagree with Whitehouse and agree with Sessions as quoted above, but in the sense that atheists have the edge in morality. Steven Weinberg has it right: “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil – that takes religion.”

    • Posted January 26, 2017 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      By the way, doesn’t Taunton look an awful lot like Mr. Deity?

    • Carl
      Posted January 26, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      A good atheist is a naturalist. That people are (mostly) motivated by self interest is a scientific view. It is only cynical from a theist point of view.

      I also disagree that the view shared by many atheists is “that one should simply be good for goodness sake.” Or, I claim that shouldn’t be the view. This imports a transcendental concept into a naturalistic world view – “goodness” does not exist freestanding in a natural world. Self interest + reason = ethics is the right formula for a good atheist.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted January 26, 2017 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

        Your formula suggests that “good” atheists should be indifferent to the suffering of others where it doesn’t impact their own self-interest. I think most ethicists (and Peter Singer in particular) would take strong exception to that definition and argue that minimizing suffering is a good in itself, independent of one’s self-interest.

        • Posted January 26, 2017 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

          Yes, I’m not seeing empathy in that equation.

          • Carl
            Posted January 26, 2017 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

            Empathy is a highly problematic emotion. Paul Bloom makes this case in his new book Against Empathy, The Case for Rational Compassion.

        • Carl
          Posted January 26, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

          I am not suggesting indifference to suffering – that’s where the “reason” term of equation comes in. My self interest, perspicuously understood, makes me desire for others what I desire for myself.

          • Gregory Kusnick
            Posted January 26, 2017 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

            Granting that one rationally prefers to live in a society where kindness rather than cruelty is the norm, that still leaves open the question of how we should act in cases where others’ misfortune has negligible effect on our own quality of life. I think we need more than rational self-interest to do good in such cases.

            Why, for instance, should a childless corporate CEO rationally care about the dire consequences of global climate change a generation or two hence if he won’t be around to experience them? How is that future suffering relevant to his present self-interest?

          • Posted January 26, 2017 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

            Desiring for others what you desire for yourself is a consequence of empathy.

            I’d suggest that Bloom has misdirected his critique. His beef is with rash decisions made on the basis of emotions rather than reasons. But empathy and the emotions it might engender are two different things. We have a word for people who are incapable of empathy (understanding the experience another individual is having): sociopaths. Attacking empathy is like attacking technology. Sure, people do awful things with technology, but technology also makes great things possible, plus, we need it. We have to learn to resist the temptation to use technology for bad.

  15. ToddP
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Taunton:

    . . . The Cultural Left’s romance with secularism is naïve at best, malicious at worst. History demonstrates where that worldview all too often leads.

    The Conservative Right’s romance with theocracy is concerning at best, terrifying at worst. History demonstrates where that worldview all too often leads.

    • Posted January 26, 2017 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      My priority problem is not the Cultural Left’s romance with secularism, nor the Conservative Right’s romance with theocracy, but the Cultural Left’s romance with Islam.

  16. sensorrhea
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Taunton is such a jerk. He’s also an illiterate writer.

    The thing about the deaths attributed to communism is that they resulted from an ideology and ways of thinking nearly indistinguishable from religion. Mao & Stalin were essentially religious figures even as they claimed to be atheist.

    Taunton’s simplistic arguments have been long debunked. What’s next, Taunton on Pascal’s wager?

  17. BJ
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    How I wish Hitchens was still here to debate such people and viciously opine on both Trump and the regressives. We need him now more than ever.

  18. rexsalad
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Just last night I was hoping for an opening on your forum to mention that I`ve had a strong intuition that Hitchens would have single-handedly taken Trump down, especially before he got near to becoming viable. Besides decimating the candidate he would have witheringly shamed and changed the course of the coverage at CNN et al.

  19. Posted January 26, 2017 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    The Nazis, or Communists are bad examples to show the immorality of non-believers or believers. Each of the ideologies endorsed and was endorsed by either the Catholic or Orthodox Church, and at other times they were opposed to each other.

    The Christian authorities liked a worldly reliable authority, as they liked it in the thousand years before. But of course that meant that they can be effective state religion and have a direct share of power. At different times, the worldly authority — Nazis or Communists — became such authoritarian, that they wanted absolute control, and then went against the religious influence.

    In other words, the authorities were totally fine with them, including the murdering of millions. There was only a problem when the worldy power itself took over religious elements and limited the influence of the religious authority. In a nutshell, they were authorities cooperating and fighting each other over control, not ethics.

    Same mixed situation on the ground. The majority of Germans during the Nazi regime were of course Christians, but arguably Germans never were paragon Christians. It continues in this mixed fashion with individuals: many believers, especially the Catholic clergy liked Hitler and later they helped Nazis escape through the “rat lines”. Yet others opposed the Nazi regime, and used the relative protection of the Church to help the oppressed.

    Even the matter of religion or secularism isn’t all that clear. Communism and Nazism have taken on religious features and depending on definition (more Durkheim than Dennett) can be viewed as Secular Religions.

    • Posted January 26, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      Communism and Nazism have taken on religious features and … can be viewed as Secular Religions.

      Naziism had religious aspects from the start. Their original 25-point program stated: “The Party advocates the standpoint of a positive Christianity …”.

      The Nazi party even set up its own theological institute!

      Hitler’s speeches often contained statements such as: “The national Government, seeing in Christianity the unshakable foundation of the moral and ethical life of our people, attaches utmost importance to the cultivation and maintenance of the friendliest relations with the Holy See.” (link)

      • Posted January 26, 2017 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

        I am now reading “Mein Kampf”. So far, I have noted no references to Christianity, and a handful of references to G*d’s will that will be carried out by Hitler (he means the Holocaust). His mentionings of G*d’s will are not numerous, but they are at very significant places. I think that Hitler did not think much of Jesus, but believed in G*d and thought himself a sort of representative of G*d on Earth. Of course, in other, less open texts he surely presented himself as a Christian.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted January 31, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

          I think that Hitler did not think much of Jesus, but believed in G*d and thought himself a sort of representative of G*d on Earth.

          Bit of a megalomaniac this Hitler guy.
          Well – obviously : he copied his moustache from a cat.
          One is tempted to wonder when (not “if”) Donald Smallhands will start claiming to be his god’s representative on Earth. But since I haven’t watched the news since lunchtime, it may have happened already.

  20. Markus
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    I’m from Finland, born in the 80’s, having lived in the US and visited over there many a time. I’m very happy that at least among the younger generation here (below 50 years old), especially in the capital area and larger cities, religion is either totally unimportant to the clear majority or a logical object of ridicule. I would estimate that of the 15-40 year old people in the capital area and the 10 largest cities, totaling almost half of our population, at least 80 % would be agnostic/atheist. In Norway, Denmark, Sweden – other top-5/10 countries in the world, it would be even higher. It’s great to live over here where expressing (literal) biblical belief makes you to be looked upon as a Jesus-freak.

    • Markus
      Posted January 26, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      Haha, I mean “of the people aged 15-40 years”

      • Posted January 26, 2017 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

        Either is fine in English (well, ‘Murican English anyway!)

  21. Posted January 26, 2017 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Poor ignorant Taunton who apparently doesn’t know that Nazis and Germans were Christians and predominantly Roman Catholic.
    I wonder what he thinks (if he does) about the
    fact that we chose to work with Russia against Germany during WWII. That decision led to a lot of difficulty in a Germany divided between East and West. Although the leadership in Russia may have been atheistic, the Russian Orthodox faith still had its’ churches and many clandestine believers. How does Taunton think the Christians reconstituted so rapidly in Russia when Putin relaxed the anti-religious stance?

  22. Jacob
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    It’s laughable that in defense of religion being a grounding for inviolable laws he states, “…sometimes the zeitgeist says slavery is OK and Jews should go to concentration camps.”

    His own holy book says explicitly that slavery is OK!

  23. rickflick
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    I think Taunton is a greedy lowlife and moral midget eager to sell books. He writes what he knows will appeal to the privileged Christian consumer base. Which would make him a contradiction to his own thesis – that only Christians are moral. Taunton is exhibit A.

  24. Posted January 26, 2017 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Reviewing the transcript of Sessions’ session on 10-Jan-2017, there seem to be some key errors in that transcript. Beware.

    http://www.rifuture.org/whitehouse-williams-sessions/

  25. Filippo
    Posted January 26, 2017 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    ” . . . secular regimes, lacking any belief in laws beyond those they manufacture, alter, and violate at will, were responsible for the deaths of no less than 100 million people in the Twentieth Century alone.

    That’s more than all religious wars from all previous centuries combined.”

    Well, we’ll never know the results of those religious wars had the participants otherwise had mid-twentieth century weaponry.

    ” . . . why not do preciously as you want to do?

    It may be that in some sense to do something precisely is to do it preciously.

  26. Anselm
    Posted January 27, 2017 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    Scandinavia is a good example. Wikipedia’s list of countries by degree of religious affiliation is at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Importance_of_religion_by_country. It shows the Scandinavian countries and Finland being among the most irreligious, with 17-28% of their populations regarding religion as important in their daily lives. The equivalent figure for the US is 69%.

    The Gini coefficient (measuring a country’s degree of economic inequality) is given in the CIA World Factbook at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2172rank.html. This shows the Scandinavian countries and Finland ranking in the lowest (i.e. MOST equal) 12, with coefficients of around 25%. The far more religious US, on the other hand, ranks 43rd, with a coefficient of 45 – i.e. nearly twice as unequal. This from a population 71% of which is Christian, a religion whose purported founder purportedly told his adherents to “sell all that you have and give it to the poor” (Matt.19:21).

    Meanwhile, according to the Statistics Portal at https://www.statista.com/statistics/234653/religious-affiliation-of-us-prisoners/, 89.4% of the US prison population in 2011 were of some religious persuasion or other, 65.1% of those being Christian, the vast majority Protestant. This Christian prison population maps onto the general US religious population of 76.6%, the Christian proportion (including Mormon) being 72.2%. (By contrast, it should be noted that 10.6% of the US’s prison population expresses “no religious affiliation”, compared to the 31% of that country’s general population for whom religion is “unimportant” or the 22.8% who are “unaffiliated”.)

    There’s also a 2015 LA Times article by Phil Zuckerman at http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-1101-zuckerman-violence-secularism-20151101-story.html summarising the correlation between societal violence and religiosity, both globally and within the US: the more religious a country’s population, the more violent. I found his US state-by-state comparison particularly interesting, in that it meshes pretty closely with the global trend: the most religious states (the Southern ones you’d expect, like Louisiana) are the US’s most violent, the least least religious ones like Maine the least so. There are global outliers like Vietnam and China. That’s the point: they’re statistical outliers.

    What I conclude from these and other statistics demonstrating – at the very least – the lack of a link between increased levels of irreligion and social disfunction is that the posturing of the likes of Taunton are just that: posturing. How does he know any of what he says about the supposed correlation between irreligion and all kinds of nastiness? Easy: the Bible says so – specifically, Galatians 5:16-24, which spells out in gory detail what happens when you don’t live by the specifically Christian Holy Spook’s indwelling: “sexual immorality, moral corruption, doing whatever feels good, idolatry, drug use and casting spells, hate, fighting, obsession, losing your temper, competitive opposition, conflict, selfishness, group rivalry, jealousy, drunkenness, partying, and other things like that” (CEB). One way Taunton DOESN’T know about this is by examining cold, hard facts.

    Will we hear any more theist ranting about the nation’s godless slide into depravity? Of course we will – why let mere facts get in the way of a good piece of dogma? What can be done to break the popular reflex association of “godlessness” with all manner of depravity rather than its opposite?

    • rickflick
      Posted January 27, 2017 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      Good documentation.


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