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12 comments | Saturday, April 29, 2006

It doesn’t take much to notice that Christianity leaves a bad taste in many non-believers mouths. In just about every discussion I have had with non-believers the same objection raises to the surface (crusades, inquisition etc…). Though there are often many other issues brought to the table, the historic atrocities carried out in the name of Christianity always arise as an assumed defeater of The Faith. The objection of historic atrocities of Christianity is often further employed to individual hypocrisies and moral failures. The objection itself is expressed in a multitude of ways; however, the essential element to any formulated presentation of the argument asserts that Christians and/or their actions show Christianity to be false.

The problem with the objection of historical or individual Christian hypocrisy is that is trivial. Not trivial in the sense that reprehensible actions are not a major concern; trivial in the sense that the issue is irrelevant to truth or falsity of Christianity. More often, this is used as a red herring and diverts the topic onto a frivolous trail. The criticism of moral failures of Christians, whether collectively or individually, does not undermine Christianity. The objection is the same if some one was to assume calculus was false if Isaac Newton was arrested for drug dealing.

Rather than diverge the topic onto a trail that logically does not invalidate Christianity, one ought to focus on the historical and factual claims at hand.

Christianity is not a systems based on ethics. It’s not a “Confucius says…….” belief system. Ethics are peripheral to the central message of Christianity. The central message of Christianity is about the personage of Jesus Christ. Being a Christian does not mean that one is “better” than anyone else. Christian ethics is a process; one does not instantaneously become a Mother Teresa or reach some form of moral perfection. Again, Christianity is not a list of rules, but a submission to the person of Christ who desires our obedience. The rules are important; however, they are only the values that surface as part of redemption provided by Jesus Christ.

Another issue at hand is that one does not have to simply accept that said persons who commit reprehensible acts are Christians. It’s not an attempt to deny that Christendom, throughout history has been egregious. However, it is a legitimate to question one who professes Christianity and then acts reprehensibly immoral. Such acts are the very antithesis to Jesus Christ’s will and should not be lumped together so effortlessly. Jesus warned of wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15). If wolves are culpable for immoral actions—the sheep should be spared the ridicule. Nevertheless, one should distinguish between what an individual or group of Christians do and what Jesus Christ expresses as His will.

One issue about the objection that I find rather ironic is that the Christian Worldview provides the basis for morality while secular ethics fails. 90 out of a 100 times, those who bring moral failures of individuals or Christendom to the table are moral relativists. Moral relativists will object to Christianity based on historical events like the crusades or “witch hunts.” However, according to their position, morality is abased on social context; thus, the social context permitted the crusades. Therefore, by their own system of morality—the actions are not immoral.

It would appear to me that when moral failures of Christendom are used as a secular apologetic; they are based on emotions as opposed to any modal rejection of Christianity. Nevertheless, Christians ought to be sensitive to their own behavior and live transparently. Living an exemplary life as a Christian will be the most effective apologetic. Though we still make mistakes and fall short, what a better place to be hypocritical than in Christ where God offers forgiveness and renewal?

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Blogger Jeff said...

It may also be worthwhile to challenge the claim of Christian 'atrocities'.

Christianity's Real Record

5/01/2006 12:19 PM

Blogger Beowulf said...

Thanks for the link. I like Greg Koukl’s style and have heard him speak on several occasions. I agree that much of the alleged atrocities of Christianity are far overblown or exaggerated. Unfortunately, It has been my experience that those making the allegations of a dark Christian history will not accept (or refuse to hear) any counter factual information regarding matters of this nature.

Nevertheless, this is a subject worthy of some research and study. Far too much weight is given to Christianity atrocities thriving on what the general consensus is on the issue.

Thanks again

5/01/2006 4:37 PM

Blogger Jeff said...

Right, It needs to be added to the debate or else it seems like one is conceding the point that Christians have been as atrocious, or more so, than others through history.
To simply say that the claim is a red herring, and therefore irrelevant and stopping at that point (however valid) conveys the wrong message.
And I would say this is important regardless of how the other side responds to the claim.

5/02/2006 5:26 AM

Blogger KA said...

I agree that much of the alleged atrocities of Christianity are far overblown or exaggerated. Unfortunately, It has been my experience that those making the allegations of a dark Christian history will not accept (or refuse to hear) any counter factual information regarding matters of this nature.
Now, that's not true at all.
For instance, I'm well aware that the Quakers were at the forefront of the abolition movement. Or people like Wilberforce or Wesley, who were spat on in church no less, for opposing slavery.

Far overblown or exaggerated? I'm afraid you'll have to bolster that argument w/some solid facts.

You may bridle at the history of your religion: I bridle at the automatic ascription of atrocities due to historical examples to my non-belief.

Atheism doesn't equal communism, or vice versa. Atheism is a component: it isn't the entire system. Atheists are from all walks of life these days. Last poll showed we beat Hinduism (yay!). Israel has a large secular population: so does Japan. Neither of them are communist.

However, I personally am willing to shoulder the black eyes of atheism: because I should step up to bat, to prevent atrocities like the French Revolution from occurring again. To me, responsibility is accepting the good w/the bad: any group of people need to learn from both minuses as well as pluses. There are crazies everywhere, I think we can agree on that.

There's a problem w/your belief system, as I see it: whenever anyone decides they're the 'chosen people', or believe they have the truth (& are the only holders of it), there's an automatic inclination of arrogance. This is just human nature. & when people feel they're right, & noone else is, well, the historical record speaks for itself, whether we're talking Torquemanda or Hitler.

& it goes to track record. On a microsmic scale, this is how we measure a criminal. It also goes to learning via example: most people just go along w/whatever anyone else does - herd instinct. In some ways, I feel, xtianity contributed over the centuries, to the European ethnocentricity & colonialism.

So, no, not a red herring. It's a legitimate point, & needs to be addressed on your side of the fence. But I for 1 am not overly fond of the attitude of, "Well, that doesn't count, we'll just marginalize it by saying, hey, they weren't with us!" Especially when there's no real standardiztion of 'us'. I'll not trot out the old fallacy: we know what it's called. It's that unwillingness to take responsibility that I find somewhat infuriating.

I can't speak for everyone else, but personally, I wish the xtians would sit on their hands & wait for the 2nd coming: then you can say, "We told you so!" After all, it was prophesied, wasn't it? Supposed to happen, whether you take a hand in it, or not?

I'll leave you w/a quote, from Harris' appearance on the Colbert Report:
"There are . . . 44% of Americans think that Jesus is going to come down out of the clouds as a superhero and rectify every problem that we create on Earth, in the next 50 years. And this affects social policy. I mean, this affects the kinds of wars we wage, or don't wage, this affects the kind of medical research we're willing to fund or not fund, and this should be terrifying, because clearly, there's no good reason to believe this. Even Biblical reasons not to believe this. And so we're building a civilization of ignorance here."

& we're talking the US citizenry here, raised on Sat. morning cartoons, comic books, action movies & 2 dimensional villains, always the happy ending. So yeah, I think the 'Super hero from on high' is a valid comparison.

5/02/2006 11:45 PM

Blogger Beowulf said...


1) You ignored the term “in my experience” people don’t want hear counterfactual information.
2) People do exacerbate Christian history/ I dint deny the history
3) You completely ignored the content of my post.

Anyways, I do appreciate your perspective on the issue. It’s always good to see the issue at a different angle.


5/03/2006 8:24 AM

Blogger Jim Jordan said...

ra wrote There's a problem w/your belief system, as I see it: whenever anyone decides they're the 'chosen people', or believe they have the truth (& are the only holders of it), there's an automatic inclination of arrogance. This is just human nature. & when people feel they're right, & noone else is, well, the historical record speaks for itself, whether we're talking Torquemada or Hitler.

You were doing find up until the boldened points.
1) An authentic Christian does not feel a call to arms but a call to serve. Knowing you are right and others wrong doesn't lead ineluctably to genocide, and certainly doesn't make bf a mass murderer by default.
Jesus' command to love one another is an absolute in the Christian faith. There's a serious disconnect between "love one another" and "let's go out and kill".

2) Torquemada did not have the political power that Hitler had and therefore caused the deaths of thousands of times LESS people. Still horrible though is Torquemada, but he is horrible for how he used his political power. That was the instrument that made such death possible.

My questions to you; Doesn't atheism lead directly to statism?
In the power vacuum intrinsic to a godless country, doesn't the State assume absolute power by default?

I think you would have to agree that the State has been the killer even if the killing was done in the name of Christianity. In any case, I pity the poor fool who kills in the name of Christ. As a Christian, that's the longest, hardest fall imaginable.

Take care.

5/03/2006 9:58 AM

Blogger Jim Jordan said...

44% of Americans think that Jesus is going to come down out of the clouds as a superhero and rectify every problem that we create on Earth, in the next 50 years

Jesus' words on His return.
Mark 13:32 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

Sam Harris should be scolding these so-called Christians for hypocrisy. How arrogant that they know the day or hour of Christ's return? Do they know MORE than does Christ Himself? But is this problem with Christ or our culture's corruption of his own words to excuse their own irresponsibility? The latter? Thank you.

I loved this Sam Harris quote about confronting Christians:
I'm not advocating that we all rush back and destroy every Thanksgiving dinner over these issues. And then who knows where it would go from there? There is room certainly for being civil and just turning the other cheek.

Oooh, yes! Great advice! Wonder where he heard that one?

5/03/2006 10:26 AM

Blogger reno said...

Bonjour !!!

Regards from belgium !


5/03/2006 12:23 PM

Anonymous onimitsu2004 said...

The moral failure of Christianity as an organized religion arises because of the leadership of men who by nature are inherently immoral. I don't think it invalidates the faith. I do think it invalidates the church and the way men have tried to organize and parcel out Christianity by picking and choosing what to believe and what to do from the Bible. I grew up with evangelical parents and moved around a lot; I've been to many kinds of churches, and they were all the same - they picked and chose what to follow and believe like they were in a cafeteria. I haven't been to church since I turned 18 and moved out of the house. It isn't the hypocrisy that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth; it's the buffet Christianity that does.

On a bigger picture, this entire debate of "the actions of Christians invalidates Christianity" arouses my larger beef with church and Christians in general - there is entirely too much of a focus on what you specifically do rather than what kind of person you're supposed to be. And critics of Christianity who love to point out its hypocrisies also have this same problem - too big a focus on what Christians do, and not enough of a focus on analyzing what it is Christians are supposed to be. I always thought the whole point of Christianity was to be like Christ. Just trying to do what he did is not good enough. You have to try to be what he was. And critics need to realize this too.

The Aristotelian approach is that you "do" and then "become" and then "do" again. If I were to criticize Christians and the church, I would criticize that they spend too much time "doing" and not enough time "becoming." God does not reward rote obedience. It's the heart that matters.

I've met men who smoke, drink, and have casual sex who have four times the character and integrity than Christians I've met who abstain from these things. I've met people who were vulgar in speech, but were honest, trustworthy, and dependable characters. I can see why Jesus hung around non-believers so much aside from wanting to save them. Their character is more transparent because they "do" and "be." Most believers just "do", and that's just not good enough.

In short, I agree Christian hypocrisy doesn't make Christianity false. I do think it shows that what Christianity has been doing is wrong because of its reliance on men and not God; there is too much attention on doing, not enough on becoming.

5/05/2006 2:28 AM

Blogger Beowulf said...


Thank you for your input. You have brought a good diagnosis to the table. I agree that much of the Church leadership has lead astray many followers. Their selfish motives trumped what they were/are allegedly to standing for.

I am sorry you have had such difficulties with Church. To be honest, I have had the same difficulties myself. It’s quite the turn off. Good Churches are few and far between these days, but their out there.

I also concur about buffet Christianity. All too often we pick and choose what will, or won’t be Christian on our own accord. It’s so easy to do, and I try to be cautious to give justification for any of my reason behind my beliefs. However, with the Church in the un-unified state that it is—people have been free to pick and choose doctrine as they see fit. Knowing that there is no quick fix to this (other than the return of Christ), I go with the following:

In the Essentials—Unity; In the Non-Essentials—Liberty; In all things—Charity.

With all the “varieties” of Christianity, I think it’s easy to overlook some of the core principals that unify all Christians.

I think you make an excellent point about doing vs. being. You were correct, that Christians seek to be Christ like. This is part or the regeneration offered by Jesus. Of course, the change is progressive. One thing I would note, is that Christianity is not central on being Christ like per se, because non-believes can be much more “Christ like” than a believer. As you pointed out, there are plenty of examples of non-believers who have exemplified better character than believers. However, no matter how “good” one is, according to Christianity, one can never be good enough; we can never “earn” our way into heaven through good works or what not.

The Aristotelian approach is close to Christianity but misses on an important mark. In Christianity, first God “does” and then "you become" and then "you do." So, for Christianity, one cannot “do” (as in earn) to become a Christian. As you pointed out, one can “do”, but it would never be good enough.

The best point I think you made was when you stated, “Christianity has been doing is wrong because of its reliance on men and not God.” I couldn’t agree more.

Thank again.

5/06/2006 12:57 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another question to ask is why Christians are generally less attractive than other people. For example; check out www.metacrock.blogspot.com

You may just see this as a nasty comment, but I seriously wonder if unattractive people are attracted to christianity more than other people and why?

5/16/2006 4:37 AM

Blogger Beowulf said...

You’re going to find all scales of aesthetics on each side of the fence. From what I can tell, it’s a pretty equally scattered. It could be the case that those who are rejected because of their looks find Christianity comforting because their not treated as an outcast, different, or inferior because o f their physical appearance.

Metacrock is far brighter than most people. And probably would give you an intellectual spanking. Besides, in atheism, there really is no such thing as beautiful. There are only conventions of the mind.

5/16/2006 8:48 AM


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