Franklin and Billy Graham, 1994

Franklin and Billy Graham, 1994 Wikimedia Commons

As Russian troops patrol the Crimean peninsula and mass along the eastern border of Ukraine, Franklin Graham has been catching some flak for invidiously comparing Vladimir Putin’s protection of Russian children from gay “propaganda” to America’s embrace of same-sex marriage. He was, Graham assured Charlotte Observer reporter Tim Funk, behaving no differently than his father, “who he said took unpopular but moral stands in his prime against racial segregation and communism.”

My father never worried about polls. I don’t care about them, either. And with the issues we are facing today – if my father were a younger man, he would be addressing and speaking out in the exact same way I’m speaking out on them.

I don’t think so. For better or worse, Billy Graham in his prime was a consummate political calculator who never let changing circumstances get in the way of his evangelistic enterprise.

Of course, to suggest that the young revivalist was doing anything unpopular by attacking Communism at the height of the Cold War is beyond silly. But the issue of Graham and racial segregation is more complicated.

Although he began integrating his crusades in 1953, he only forbade segregated seating after the Supreme Court banned separate-but-equal public schools in 1954. As late as 1958, he permitted himself to be publicly introduced by the segregationist governor of Texas. In the words of Grant Wacker, author of the forthcoming (in September) America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation, “On civil rights, Billy was rarely in the vanguard but almost always well ahead of his constituency.”

Among the most interesting episodes in Billy Graham’s career was his close encounter with electoral politics in 1960. Faced with the possibility of the nation’s first Roman Catholic president, Graham at first helped Norman Vincent Peale mobilize Protestant leaders for Richard Nixon, but insisted on staying behind the scenes. Then, 10 days before the Kennedy inauguration, he accepted an invitation to play golf with the president-elect in Palm Springs, telling a group of reporters, “I don’t think Mr. Kennedy’s being a Catholic should be held against him by any Protestant.”

Franklin Graham, by contrast, has questioned President Obama’s Christian faith and now says that some members of his administration are so “hostile to Christians” that they “are anti-Christ in what they say and in what they do.” I don’t know Billy Graham and Billy Graham’s not a friend of mine. But Franklin, you’re no Billy Graham.

Categories: Beliefs

Beliefs:

Mark Silk

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service

40 Comments

  1. Franklin Graham is the Kim Jong Un of the Graham Ministries. Someone whose sole claim to authority comes entirely from his lineage as opposed to his actions or character. A person with no discernible skills, intelligence, charisma or political savvy (as compared to his predecessor) who relies entirely on name recognition to just get by.

    Billy Graham escaped a lot of criticism for his form of evangelicalism by being as close to the middle of the road as possible for such things. Embracing social causes after they already had popular momentum. Avoiding stepping on the toes of traditionalists.

    Franklin seems determined to take all of that built up good will and flush it down the toilet in favor of support of far-right wing politics and increasing irrelevancy. Oh well.

  2. samuel Johnston

    As we have discussed on this forum often, the Catholic church hierarchy is venal, dishonest, and an Old Boys Club that protects its important members from the just wrath of their victims. Billy Graham is symptomatic of what has gone wrong with mainstream Protestantism. Namely, it stands for nothing, has no intellectual justification, and its most successful activity is whipping up tent revival style enthusiasm for a quick and easy way to heaven. It has little left of its serious and austere glory years when the road to salvation was difficult, steep, and required personal sacrifice.
    This is not to say I approve of the old ways, (the ways of my fathers), but at least there were some constructive by products, such as the work ethic, and a patient humility for God’s full plan to be revealed. Graham’s continuing revival had no such long term positive effect. It only offered superficial emotions and opportunism, so son Franklin has no stern moral training to fall back on.

  3. Neither Jesus nor his followers got involved in the politics or national conflicts of their day but instead promoted peace and love. The major theme of their ministry was God’s kingdom or heavenly government which Jesus said was “no part of this world” and neither would his followers be. The “good news of that kingdom” being preached worldwide is that it will soon put an end to all man-made governments, rule with righteousness and justice from the heavens over mankind on earth, and bring grand blessings to all nations, including destruction of all wicked ones (Psalms 37:10,11; Isaiah 11:1-10; Revelation 22:1-4).

  4. Why are these articles so biased? Isn’t this supposed to be a news site? Putting quotes around “propaganda” makes it seem like the author is invalidating that viewpoint. Why not just give the news, fair and plain? Putin is protecting children from gay propaganda. No quotes necessary, just say what it is without bias.

    • Mark Silk

      This is a news and opinion site, Jesse, and this particular piece is opinion — a blog post. As for putting quotation marks around “propaganda,” the explanation is that that’s a direct quote from the Putin legislation. “Propaganda” is not a neutral term.

  5. I don’t care how nice certain Christians may be. Because their children, indoctrinated in the same stew of nonsense, will grow up to be wackos, fascists, gay-haters, tribalists or ….all of the above.

    And there is nothing to stop them from the wildest interpretations of “What God wants”.
    There are no checks and balances in religion. Irrational nonsense – all of it.

    • Max,

      The Bible is the ultimate “check and balance” for followers of Jesus. I’ve never met a follower of Jesus that was anywhere close to a hater of any person. If you’d like to posit that many wackos claim to be Christians but don’t exhibit any of Christ’s qualities, of that I would agree, and thus I would not characterize them as “true” Christians.

      Regards.

      Bob

      • “No True Scotsman Argument.” Even though people proclaim their Christian faith and use it to justify their bad behavior, they were never “really Christians”. You know its a fallacy argument, right? Something which has false or faulty reasoning.

        I know that may make you feel better about how fellow Christians act, but it is not much of an argument.

      • samuel Johnston

        Bob,
        The Bible is not a trustworthy guide to the past, or even of the life of one so called – Jesus of Nazareth.
        Jesus was not his name, he was not born in Bethlehem, did not live in Nazareth, and did not die publicly on a cross. Go to the library and read about the quest for an account of the actual, historical person whom we have named Jesus, Christ, the Savior etc.

      • @Bob,

        The Southern Baptist Church was founded by slave owners, for slave owners in the name of Jesus. I’m sure none of them were the least bit evil.

        But in case you need a reminder:

        “Bring to me those enemies of mine who would not have me as their king, and execute them in front of me.” – Jesus (Luke 19:27)

        Does that sound loving to you? I think it sounds pretty awful.

    • And what, exactly, are the “checks and balances” of atheism? Hmm?

      If they exist, can you point out how the officially atheist government of China is following those “checks and balances” in its treatment of Tibetan Buddhists and dissident Christians?

      • Checks and balances for atheists being morals not being outsourced to some arbitrary authority comes to mind. Using some kind of mythical reward/punishment system which has more loopholes and exceptions than tax laws doesn’t sound like a really effective system.

        For some reason many Christians have to be told why being harmful to others is a bad thing. Whereas anyone else knows these things as part of being a normal human existence.

        Can I point to how every nation which proclaimed to be officially of a given faith discriminates, persecutes and sometimes commits genocide against anyone outside of that given faith?

        Shall we talk about the religious excuses used for committing mass murder?

        How about the excuses you have used to justify discrimination?

  6. Nobody can ever be another Billy Graham, even if they do everything to Mark Silk’s liking. There can only be one, and soon he’ll be gone.

    But as for me, I’m rather glad that Franklin Graham is doing things his way and not Mark Silk’s way.

    The fact is that, for all his failings, at least Vladimir Putin didn’t betray American Christianity (and ulitmately betray America itself, for that matter) the way the flip-flopping “evolving-beliefs” Barack Obama did.

    So Franklin Graham had the courage to briefly say out loud what a lot of Americans were noticing anyway: that Putin seems to be more of a moral leader on that ONE issue, than Obama. Graham did the right thing, even if his critics didn’t (and still don’t) like it.

    • Putin just brought back the religiously inspired pogrom which was so popular in the 19th century (and the reason why millions of people of Russian descent came to America during that period) and you praise him for it as moral.

      Wow, if there is any proof that Christian notion of morality is utter garbage, you are it.

      • Seems to me that Putin hasn’t even come CLOSE to doing “pogroms” on the level of that famous atheist, Mr. Josef Stalin.

        Why did atheism kill millions, (perhaps approaching tens of millions), of people Larry? Why are you atheists running roughshod over those Tibetan Buddhists?

        Where exactly are you guys getting your atheist checks and balances and “morals” from? When you don’t worship God, you worship yourselves instead, and then you start imprisoning and murdering your dissidents, isn’t that correct Larry?

        • Ye who is ignorant of Russian history (history in general). Pogroms were the province of the czars.

          The Russian Orthodox Church, very much a state established church, used to whip up public frenzy against Catholics, Jews and Central Asian Muslims going on for centuries.

          If Stalin and Mao were such clear examples of atheists, then why did both regimes allow religious belief when it was expedient and politically convenient? Because they aren’t clear examples of atheism in action. You are using an ignorant canned argument.

          “Larry? Why are you atheists running roughshod over those Tibetan Buddhists? ”

          Its called colonization. Forcibly taking land and changing the ethnic demographics by force. Something they learned from Christians on their rampage through their country and countless others. Obviously such behavior is not a function of religious belief or lack thereof.

          If you can’t understand why basic human existence with other people requires that you avoid harming them, then you need a lot more than religion to guide you. Psychiatric help perhaps. You are arguing from the point of view of a sociopath. You are not interested in the answers anyway. You always seem to be deaf to the explanations no matter how many times they are made.

          Your religious checks and balances do not exist. You use God to justify every hateful and harmful act you can think of. Every rule is excepted and excused when it is convenient for you. There is no greater moral relativist than a Christian.

          When you don’t worship God(s), you don’t worship, period. You do not devote yourself to the irrational following of any given thing. You atheist haters don’t understand that part. You are so used to not thinking very hard. So used to using phony canned arguments and outright fictions that you cannot conceive of anything beyond your own belief.

          The only person worshiping their self is you. You have this grand delusion that you are God’s chosen mouthpiece and sole arbiter of public morals. That all people must take your authority seriously because you speak of divine wisdom. Pure unadulterated narcissism

        • I can tell you where they get their checks and balances from, Doc. From the lingering influence of 2000 years of Christian ethics on culture, law and everyday values. Otherwise Europe would still be one-third slave and feeding unwanted and defective infants to wild animals for the “good of society,” and here in America moms would still be teaching their kids the sacred duty of torturing your enemies to death. That was pre-Christian “normal human existence” and every time atheists have taken over they’ve demonstrated how very normal it all is to fallen humanity.

          • @Shawnie,

            “Wherever Atheists have taken over….” everything falls apart?

            ATHEIST COUNTRIES ARE HAPPIER:
            Holland, Denmark, Sweden, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia, etc…

            ATHEISTS ARE GOOD:
            Atheists are only 7% of the country
            but LESS THAN .05% of the prison population!

            Evidence, ATHEISTS CONTRIBUTE BROADLY TO SOCIETY:
            95% of Physicists are Atheists
            60% of Heart Surgeons are Atheists
            52% of Pediatricians are Atheists
            40% of Journalists are Atheists

          • You don’t actually believe the horsecrap you just wrote, right?

            Christian ethics has always a misnomer. It means finding excuses not to act well towards others. Of never taking blame for one’s actions or opinions. “Its not me, God says so”. How many excuses have you every come up with to avoid “loving thy neighbor”? How many have you come up with this week alone?

            People knew how to act morally long before Christianity, they know how to do so after they abandon such ideas. You just want to take credit where it was never due. Morals do not come from outside sources. They come from how we deal with fellow people. That great internal mix of empathy and understanding which makes humanity the way it is. Anyone who has to rely on some outside authority to act towards others does not understand what moral decisions are.

            “Christian values” never stop people from extolling discrimination (like you have done on numerous occasions). Lying for the Lord is so common that it is your second nature. I have yet to see atheists preaching that some people should be utterly excluded from society. You do that on a daily basis. If anything Christians have found a cultural way to quiet their internal moral compasses. To ignore right and wrong in favor of what some religious authority tells them.

            You don’t know anything about atheists but that doesn’t stop you from hurling ignorant insults at them. What is so threatening to you that someone chooses not to believe as you do? Are you really that vain? Are you that insecure?

          • “People knew how to act morally long before Christianity”

            Enough begging the question. They knew how to treat their own well. But the idea of a moral duty being owed to ANYONE apart from recognized social and tribal ties was Christianity’s legacy to the world. Odd that you have such faith in “internal” human empathy when slavery, infanticide, oppression of women and generalized brutality were the completely accepted and non-protested universal default settings for humanity for millenia before Christianity was ever heard of. Wonder why this wonderful “internal mix of empathy and understanding” waited so long to surface???

            “I have yet to see atheists preaching that some people should be utterly excluded from society. You do that on a daily basis”

            Where and when did I ever make THAT claim?

            “What is so threatening to you that someone chooses not to believe as you do?”

            No personal threat to me whatsoever. What I deplore is not that some believe differently but that our population has become so historically illiterate that they have forgotten where our western values and ethics come from and thus have no way of guessing on what kind of limb we may find themselves once we irrevocably repudiate the source. Perhaps the ethics and values may linger on. Or perhaps not. The atheist regimes of the world have certainly given us no cause for optimism.

          • @Max: European countries are NOT atheist ones. Their legal systems and culture are built around Christian beliefs and values. Many of them still have established churches (which is unfortunately a cause of much of their spiritual apathy on a personal level). They’re also relatively homogenous populations which makes getting along much smoother, human nature being what it is. But repudiate the transcendent source of human rights, as the Soviet Union and the other atheist regimes of Europe and Asia have done, and all you’re left with is the power of the state and whatever “values” those who run it may or may not possess.

          • @SHAWNIE,

            Here’s your most ATHEIST COUNTRY on earth:

            “Congress shall make no law establishing any religion”

            That’s the United States of Atheism.
            And it is pretty darn Good!

          • Shawnie you are so full of crap.

            You throw around terms like “Christian values and morals” but you can’t even define them in a coherent fashion. All it means is you want Christianity to take credit for everything in our culture in a haphazard ignorant, self-aggrandizing fashion. Nothing inherent about Christianity opposes slavery, discrimination genocide, oppression of women. Plenty of people found justification for such things in the Bible. Some still do.
            Your view of history is ridiculous. Europeans being ethnically homogenous? How many different languages do they speak there?

            The same religious authority which extolled monarchy and dictatorship. Fundamentalists still do. That is why they flourish in unfree societies. People like yourself are more likely to support dictators than oppose them. Doc is a perfect example of this. The guy is extolling human rights abuse because he thinks its godly.

            As for human rights, they came from people who forsook divine authority as a guide for laws. Its called the Enlightenment. A period where religious authority gave way to secular notions and learning. Our Constitution is built upon this thinking. It was the only one of its kind which is entirely secular in nature.

            You only benefit from the freedoms of this country because our founders decided that our laws must be rational and secular in nature. That God’s law is not relevant in a nation where people worship many or no Gods.

          • Larry, I have spelled out the defining feature of the Christian value system for you numerous times already. Your inability to read and comprehend is your own problem.

            Sorry to pop your pleasant little bubble of delusion but human rights didn’t suddenly surface during the enlightenment. Human rights as we understand them today began to be manifest when Basil of Caesarea convinced the emperor to ban infanticide, when Constantine took the first steps toward ending the disgusting gladiatorial spectacles, when physicians began to treat and nurse plague victims instead of fleeing the city while the sick died in the streets, when sexual fidelity becsme as expected of men as of women, and when Gregory of Nyssa for the first time condemned slavery as an institution because of is inconsistency with the Christian view of human beings as created in God’s image and equal in worth before God and endowed with fundamental rights by virtue of human birth alone. Those things did not occur during the enlightenment but during the first few centuries of the Christian era. Even Jefferson, who modern day atheists quite funnily worship for his unbelief, perceived the difficulty of making any kind of compelling case for fundamental human rights without a Creator to “endow” them.

            And even if the enlightenment HAD been the beginning of all this, you still haven’t even begun to explain why this innate human empathy that you believe in took so many millenia to show itself, and why it could not subside once again. For all your smack talk, Larry, you come off as touchingly naive.

  7. No, you keep ducking the question like Dracula shies from garlic. You lie like a cheap rug. You will claim anything as “Christian moral foundation” where its convenient. Still no coherent definition. There isn’t supposed to be one. It is meant for engaging in silly revisionist claims like yours.

    You are holding the Late Roman Empire as the progenitor of human rights? LMAO! Slavery did not die out in Europe until the Roman Empire fell. It was replaced with serfdom. Not much of a difference. This is the same period where Sectarian purges were pretty damn commonplace. Christian v. Pagan and visa versa. Official mass murder in Christ’s name was just getting popular.
    You are also giving credit to Christianity where it goes back much further. The things you mentioned, banning infanticide, caring for plague victims, all go back to at Hellenistic society (as does most of Western culture).

    The fact of the matter is nobody cites what you claim as the beginning of “civilized” Europe. Europe was fairly barbaric pretty much up until the rise of secular power and nation-states. The bane of the powerful church authority. Europe itself was a hotbed of conflict up to the end of WWII. The Bosnian war of the 90′s was just a taste of what European wars used to be like. Brutal, genocidal, based on ridiculous ethnic/religious divisions. Given European attitudes in colonial territories, one could say they were not really civilized until two generations or so.

    Fact of the matter is all dictatorships are bad news. Throwing in examples of one type says nothing about alleged organizing principles. Religious based dictatorships are just as repugnant as their atheist versions. Big friggin deal. If you are going to play the numbers game, religious inspired murder beats 75 years of Soviet/Maoist style dictatorship by orders of magnitude. [Taiping Rebellion beats Stalin for body count and took half the time as his reign :)]

    How about we go to the acknowledged foundation of Western Democracy, the American Revolution. Whose spiritual fathers were John Locke, Voltaire and others who believed authority over people had to be earned. Not given from on high.

    If you want an example of a modern western government following Church rule, look at Francoist Spain or Peter Montt’s Guatemala. Both were repressive, sectarian, almost fundamentalist states which engaged in wholesale mass murders of people.

  8. “The fact of the matter is nobody cites what you claim as the beginning of “civilized” Europe.”

    “Nobody cites?” Is that supposed to be a rebuttal? That quality of being too easily impressed with authority is showing again in your comments. Are you not able to look at world history yourself and note where and when ideas and trends originated? If that is too hard, you might be interested in The History of Human Rights: From Ancient Times to Globalization by Dr. Micheline R. Ishay, in which she correctly identifies enlightenment concepts of human rights as simply Judeo-Christian ethics dressed in secular language and repackaged for use by a secular society. Also Religion, Politics and Human Rights: Understanding the Role of Christianity in the Promotion of Human Rights, by Dr. Barbara Ann Rieffer, which makes the following entirely apt observations:

    “The Judeo-Christian tradition has affirmed the principles of human dignity, brotherhood, and equality. The Torah advocated reciprocity of duties and stressed that as your brother’s keeper, you are responsible for his or her well being (Genesis 4:9). The Torah also teaches its followers to feed those who are starving and to care for those in need (Genesis 42, 43). Building on the Old Testament, Jesus of Nazareth taught his followers to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, assist the ill and shelter the homeless. These religious traditions offered civilization the foundation on which the international human rights framework would be built. These early writings articulated a moral code detailing the duties and responsibilities of all people. The concept that individuals have a duty to others is the basis for the present day belief that governments and individuals have duties beyond their borders. Most importantly…these early religious beliefs promoted the initial discussions about rights…It is in this initial formulation of the INHERENT [emphasis mine] dignity of every human being and duties to others in which we see the origins of the idea of human rights which was eventually ratified and incorporated into international law in the 20th century.”

    Nobody, BTW, is arguing that everyone in the west has followed these ideals consistently and perfectly, but only the west gives us a transcendent moral vision from which we may legitimately deplore their neglect. The ancients would simply have found us ridiculous for worrying about these issues at all.

    • You seem to be under the impression that I have to accept your appeals to authority seriously. You cite out of the mainstream religious apologists as if it carries the weight of scholarship of the subject in its entirety. It doesn’t.

      Judeo-Christian used in your little quote is as self-serving and undefined as you used it. Trying to lump Jewish and Christian notions in an overly generalized fashion to pretend its a coherent whole. In reality There are huge differences between the Judeo and the Christian parts of that term. There are huge differences in which religious laws and pronouncements are meant to be applied, interpreted and acted upon. Huge differences in motivations.

      Its a nonsense term to make Christians sound more inclusive and less sectarian. But it is a fiction. It is always used to refer to Christian ideas, usually at the expense of Jewish ones. Usually informed by an ignorance or superficial reading of Jewish cultural/religious/moral ideas.

      http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article4803.htm
      [Notice I provide links to my quotes so you could evaluate its source, unlike yourself]
      “Is there then any truth in this term, “Judeo-Christian”? Is Christianity derived from Judaism? Does Christianity have anything in common with Judaism?

      Reviewing the last two thousand years of Western Christian history there is really no evidence of a Judeo-Christian tradition and this has not escaped the attention of honest Christian and Jewish commentators.

      The Jewish scholar Dr. Joseph Klausner in his book Jesus of Nazareth expressed the Judaic viewpoint that “there was something contrary to the world outlook of Israel” in Christ’s teachings, “a new teaching so irreconcilable with the spirit of Judaism, ” containing “within it the germs from which there could and must develop in course of time a non-Jewish and even anti-Jewish teaching.”

      Dr. Klausner quotes the outstanding Christian theologian, Adolf Harnack, who in his last work rejected the hypothesis of the Jewish origin of Christ’s doctrine: “Virtually every word He taught is made to be of permanent and universal humanitarian interest. The Messianic features are abolished entirely, and virtually no importance is attached to Judaism in its capacity of Jesus’ environment.””

      http://curtisknowsnothing.blogspot.com/2012/01/theres-no-such-thing-as-judeo-christian.html

      Simply put, Judaism and Christianity share no tradition. Historically, the two have been at odds since Acts. There is no shared historical tradition. There is no shared liturgical tradition. There is a nominal shared tradition in secular philosophy and the arts. There is also a similar moral standard between the two. This gives rise to the “Judeo-Christian values” variant. While slightly more accurate, its reflection of the “Judeo-Christian tradition” myth still makes it fall a bit flat. The only thing truly shared between Judaism and Christianity is the Hebrew bible/Old Testament.

  9. Um, Larry, I quoted no “mainstream apologists” of any religious variety but rather an international studies professor from the University of Denver in the first instance, and a professor of political science from Central Washington University in the second, both of whose works can be readily pulled up and perused at Google Books. And I could have posted many more (including the last truly great atheist thinker Nietzsche, who knew the origins of the western concept of human rights and was honest enough to repudiate them openly), but possessing an actual education and therefore a view of history that is panoramic rather than myopic and piecemeal I have no need to “appeal” to any of these authorities or rely on any of them to any significant degree. They are merely a sampling of academic commentary on the subject to dispose of your extremely ignorant claim that “nobody cites” Christianity as the foundation of western human rights.

    Citing book reviews on blogs is not sourcing your claims, of course, but never mind. A couple of outlier opinions do not substantially change the minds of those who are well-acquainted with history — unless they have an agenda (looking at Larry), in which case the otherwise revered “scholarly consensus” will be happily thrown out the window.

    • Yet somehow Judeo-christian ideals are attacked and refuted on the “judeo” end and the distinct christian bias of interpretation comes through in its use. Which is still do vague defined to be a meaningless catch all.

      Given the attitudes towards old testament material, judeo-christian is far less accurate than christo-islamic. Both religions take dogmatic views of old testament text, both rely way too much on blanket religious authority figures for direction.

      Centuries where the church was the only coherent authority did not produce any kind of civilizing influence beyond what the Roman empire had accomplished before. they were barbaric, imperialistic and dictatorial as their predecessors. Our Democratic ideals owe more to the waning of religious authority than it was derived from it.

      Christianity caused barbaric behavior in Europe for almost 1500 years. Even as late as the 90′s inter sectarian violence could not be eradicated.

      • So the repudiation of mass slavery, infanticide, murder for entertainment, serial divorce and unlimited male sexual privilege, and the introduction of universities as we know them today for studying the rational laws of a rational God, and real hospitals for the care of the gravely ill, had no civilizing influence? If you say so. It’s hard to argue with such odd values.

        Christianity did not “cause” barbarism for 1500 years. Humans are barbaric beings, as they were before Christianity and continue to be even today. The difference is that Christianity deems barbarism an offense against inherent human dignity, while pre-christian civilization acknowledged no inherent human dignity capable of being offended other that that endowed by social and tribal ties. That we in the 21st century find “discrimination: worth discussing at all is entirely due to the Christian view of inherent individual worth underlying our culture’s value system, and nothing else.

        • Because it never happened during that period. A political science professor’s opinion of history is like asking a chiropractor about brain surgery. Way out of their depth.

          All of the things you mentioned which was alive and well when the Church was the sole coherent authority. Infanticide, unchecked male authority, murder for entertainment and capricious law by decree were alive and well in “the Christian world” through the middle ages and Renaissance.

          Whatever you think Christianity accomplished there, think again. Rule of law in any real sense had zero to do with Christianity or religious ethos. They came from both English Common Law (as a way to keep Norman lands Norman) and Continental European Civil Codes (which came from Napoleon and contemporaries with nationalistic aspirations)

          The church did not create real hospitals and doctors, Hippocrates did. You like to take credit where it isn’t due. The Black Death and the infusion of learning from the Islamic world put actual methodology to medicine and prompted the first real formal training in the subject.

          “Christianity did not “cause” barbarism for 1500 years.”

          The Cathars, Jews, Balkan Muslims, Native Americans, and the victims of every European war until the 18th century beg to differ. Sectarian fighting BETWEEN Christian sects did not die down until the “Age of Enlightenment”.

          There is no such thing as “Christian Worldview of inherent individual worth”. Far from it. Christianity comes up with great excuses NOT to find people worthy of consideration. They are all “full of sin” or “worthy of going to hell unless…”. There is no respect for other faiths, beliefs or people who do not fall under its arbitrary tenets. Christianity has been used to excuse horrific acts since its inception and continues to do so. You have no problem using it as an excuse to act badly towards others. Christian moral concepts are a sham. A pretense. An excuse not to use actual moral judgment.

          Humanism, the belief that people have an inherent worth regardless of religious belief is what drives the civilizing interests of our society. Getting as far away from religious authority as possible to find actual morals. Not just outsourcing them to some self-proclaimed authority as you do constantly.

          You owe your democracy and freedom to people who did not think that the Bible and Christianity were enough to organize a government and society around. The Constitution is a perfect example of this. There is nothing Christian about it. Democratic as opposed to autocratic (“The Kingdom”?). Inclusive of beliefs instead of exclusionary. Rational instead of arbitrary. (“God says so” is never going to be the basis of a law here)

          • “All of the things you mentioned which was alive and well when the Church was the sole coherent authority”

            Sin was present then, and ever shall be, because yes people are “full of sin,” as you phrase it. But they did not exist as universally accepted things that no one saw anything wrong with, as in Roman times. Do YOU think, for example, that the belief that every born child should be raised instead of left out for wild animals to eat is “revolting and sinister?” The Roman historian Tacitus did, and his entire society agreed. What changed?

            “The church did not create real hospitals and doctors, Hippocrates did.”

            Hippocrates created neither. He was not the first doctor and he established no hospital. The closest thing to a hospital that existed in the Roman world was temples where sick people could hang out waiting for a word from one of their gods about what to do. But nursing the sick was not deemed a duty, even within families. When the great plague that killed Marcus Aurelius and more than a quarter of Rome’s population struck, the foremost “physician” of the day, Galen, fled to the country until the danger was over, while the afflicted were not nursed but put out on the streets to die lest they infect others. It was during these very times that Christianity saw the most impressive growth for the simple reason that they considered it a holy duty to nurse their sick and therefore saw much greater plague survival rates which others mistook for Christian “miracle-working.” This duty to care for those created in the image of God and of infinite worth to God eventually blossomed into hospitals as we know them today.

            “Humanism, the belief that people have an inherent worth regardless of religious belief is what drives the civilizing interests of our society.”

            That is not the definition of humanism. Although it IS a good summation of the Christian view of those created in “Imago Dei.” But if an atheist humanist accepts the idea of inherent human worth, where does that value come from in an entirely physical universe? The physical universe is not at all concerned with the value or the “fairness” of anything, only with what is. Also, I am still waiting to hear how, if empathy is written into our genes, the idea of inherent human dignity and value was virtually unknown to our species for so many millenia.

            You are correct about our government not being built around religion — I am not sure why you keep returning to this, unless you imagine that somewhere I have made a statement to the contrary. The government was to allow everyone to follow their own conscience without government interference. It is good for both church and state that this should be so. It is interesting, however, that most of the founders (even those whose views were decidedly less than orthodox) did not believe that the average citizen could long handle the kind of freedom bestowed by the constitution without the restraining influence of religion. Ours is the very time in which we might see whether they were right or not. I am an extremely interested observer.

            BTW, you need to actually find out a bit about political science. It is impossible to study political science without a thorough working knowledge of history. Human rights and its history and origins, in fact, are a subcategory of political science studies. You will discover this yourself if you ever go to college.

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