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  •  Their's is a false faith, a Christianist faith, in (29+ / 0-)

    the power of coercion.  They grow weary of discussion and volition and want to end dissent by suppressing it.

    What they want in a president is a new Constantine, a new Justinian.

    Didn't work then, and we have centuries of conflict that has done nothing but diminish respect of the Christian religion for all the violence inflicted in the name of piety.

    Not only are they ignorant of science, but of history as well.

    Life is the ultimate economic bubble; we leave this life with all the capital we initially invested: none.

    by Superskepticalman on Wed Aug 29, 2012 at 07:46:52 AM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  good will and ill will, seeking rationales: (7+ / 0-)

      I don't know Roman history well enough but I'll go look up Constantine and Justinian.  You might have a potentially viral meme there, that could express a whole lot of this very compactly.

      Though also, I'd argue that any philosophical system, whether religious or otherwise, can be used by people of ill will or by people of good will, to accomplish their respective goals.

      There's good will, and there's ill will, and shades in between.  These are emotional dispositions: personality traits.  They seek out rationales, and use whatever rationales the locally-available philosophical systems provide.  Occasionally they innovate in various ways and create new ideologies that may also include elements of pre-existing ones.

      But the main thing is: the will to do good or evil seeks out whatever rationales it can find.  

      The problem isn't the philosophical system (with rare exceptions such as Naziism), the problem is the individuals who abuse it.  

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Wed Aug 29, 2012 at 07:53:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If you are interested in learning about (8+ / 0-)

        That time period, I very highly recommend Ramsay MacMullen's book, Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries. It's not nearly as dry as it sounds - MacMullen is an excellent writer. He shows what happened after Constantine made Christianity the state religion, what the prevailing religious thought (both Christian and pagan) was, and the social context of it all. It's a historian's view of the times. I have found it excellent for making sense of the hows and whys of Christianity's spread.

        The whole point of society is to be less unforgiving than nature. - Arthur D. Hlavaty

        by Alice Venturi on Wed Aug 29, 2012 at 10:19:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  See also "The Closing of the Western Mind," by (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          FarWestGirl, G2geek, Alice Venturi

          Charles Freeman from 2002.

          Life is the ultimate economic bubble; we leave this life with all the capital we initially invested: none.

          by Superskepticalman on Wed Aug 29, 2012 at 02:48:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks for the book suggestion (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          G2geek, Alice Venturi

          I have been reading Elaine Pagels, who has many books on gnosticism and the eventual choice (which was political, of course) of a standard form of Christianity in the 2nd century through its evolution as the state religion during the reign of Constantine.  Bart Ehrmann also has good books on extinct forms of the religion.  Fascinating stuff.

          Real plastic here; none of that new synthetic stuff made from chicken feathers. By the morning of 9/12/2001 the people of NYC had won the War on Terror.

          by triplepoint on Wed Aug 29, 2012 at 05:48:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  "The Ruin of the Roman Empire," James J. O'Donnell (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FarWestGirl, G2geek

        from 2009 is another excellent book. The author presents Justinian as the neo-conservative of his day, invading Italy, Sicily, and north Africa to restore the empire's greatness and bring the Nicene faith to the otherwise heretical.

        Life is the ultimate economic bubble; we leave this life with all the capital we initially invested: none.

        by Superskepticalman on Wed Aug 29, 2012 at 02:46:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  please... (0+ / 0-)

      You're claim that "their's is a false faith" is just as problematic as their claim that Islam is a "religion of terrorism" or, for that matter, their claim that their version Christianity should be the law of the United States.
      I have no problem acknowledging that people have all kinds of different belief systems. Some of them are rational, some based on tradition and ritual, and some based on a wish that the world was other than it is. It's not my place to deny their belief. The problem comes when they want to enforce their beliefs on me.
      My fundamentally liberal self says "I don't tell you that you believe wrong, and you don't tell me that I believe wrong, and we can all live happily together."

      •  dominionism IS a false faith: Mammon worship... (0+ / 0-)

        .... dressed up as Christianity.  

        Most fundamentalists are not dominionists.

        However, dominionism has positioned itself to dominate fundamentalist thought, and is doing so quite effectively.

        (Note: Mammon = the god of worldly wealth and power.)

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Wed Aug 29, 2012 at 08:54:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Christianity is not false. It's not even wrong. (0+ / 0-)

          Saying this implies that there is a correct version of christianity.

          Christians may argue with one another about the correct interpretation of their religion, but they or anyone else cannot claim any interpretation as true more than a person can claim to know the true meaning of a work of literature.

          But they could gain insight into analyzing and debating it, again like discussing the meaning and insights provided by a work of literature.

          The best one could talk about is discussing historical movements and practices of christianity.

          •  Agreed that Christianity is not false or wrong. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            theano, Paul Rogers

            However it's amply clear that dominionism is diametrically at odds with the central tenets of Christ's teachings.  This has been illustrated at great length by people who have studied the subject in excruciating detail, including our own Frederick Clarkson and Troutfishing.  

            I am aware of a tradition in Christianity whereby it's considered improper to take the measure of another person's soul or their faith.  However this is the loophole through which dominionism sails its battleships into port and takes over, mercilessly.  Keyword search "cell church" for one category of example.  

            Let me be really blunt about this:  Those who subscribe to that tradition and cite it to give dominionism a pass, are being played for suckers by people who are motivated by the sheer ruthless will to power.  

            Or let me ask you this: Would you give the Spanish Inquisition a pass as well?  How'bout the Taliban with their claims of fidelity to Islam?  

            Most Islamic scholars consider the Taliban to be heretical and illegitimate, an expression of something that is ultimately alien to Islam but has dressed itself up in Islamic garb.  

            It's long overdue for mainstream Christians as well as progressive Christians, to reject dominionism in a similar manner.

            And if you doubt me one iota on this, keyword search the name "Rousas Rushdoony" (sometimes spelled "Rushdooney," so try both) and read up.  Search out the NAR, "New Apostolic Reformation" and read up.  Go to and read up.  Read Jeff Sharlet's book The Family.  Then see if you can support the statement that these peoples' interpretation of Christianity, that they are attempting and have in part succeeded to enact into the laws of the land, has more in common with the teachings of Jesus Christ, or with the teachings of Vladimir Lenin.  


            "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

            by G2geek on Wed Aug 29, 2012 at 11:31:00 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Religion has no true interpretation, only popular. (0+ / 0-)

              I fully agree that if they are concerned with doing good works, mainstream christianity's job ought to be to reject dominionist theology.  The alternative is to flat out reject all christianity, and I just don't think it's realistic to expect that.

              But as for what christianity means, or what teachings are central to it is also a matter for the christian community to argue about.  As a non-believer, I can only say that I don't agree the dominionists have a basis to claim authority or moral superiority in any way.

              I reject the validity of the dominionist viewpoint because I reject christianity.  As far as I'm concerned, the dominionists have just as much legitimacy to claim what they do as any other christian.  The claims of christianity are not a reliable way to establish any kind of morality.

              The fact that the dominionists are mostly concerned about sheer ruthless will to power is at best an ironic bit of trivia.

              Claiming the dominionists are wrong about christianity is the same sort of claim people make about catholicism not being true christianity.

              It is also an ironic bit of trivia that the place where the Pope lives is an extravagant mansion.  (A fact I recall a Catholic priest interviewed for Bill Maher's 'Religulous' found as humorous as I do.)

              But does that mean their brand of christianity is invalid?

              As for the Taliban, the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, etc...  Religion has always been used by the unscrupulous to perform extreme acts of savagery and terrible deeds against others throughout history.  That history does not invalidate religion, nor reflect a majority of its practitioners.  But religion is often used as a successful justification for such behavior because it can be twisted by different interpretations to allow for such behavior.

              There is no valid version of christianity or any other religion.  I do prefer some versions over others; some I respect over others.  The fact that some christians and I agree on a matter of politics ought to be enough.

              Like the meaning of a work of fiction, religion is open to individual and cultural interpretation.  Religion has no true interpretations, only popular interpretations.  That is the precise flaw of these ideas.

              •  philosophies of all kinds can be used by... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Paul Rogers

                .... people of good will and people of ill will.  Just look at Marxism for a wholly secular example: often cited as the rationale to support human rights, and often cited as the rationale to crush human rights.  

                The nexus of our disagreement appears to be between something similar to "moral realism" and something similar to "moral relativism" or at least "moral subjectivism."

                My proposition is based on moral realism: that moral and ethical statements refer to facts that exist independently of the speaker's interpretation.  In this case those facts are the facts as best we know them, of what the founder of Christianity said and did (that would be Jesus).  

                Thus the statement "Christianity holds such-and-such to be a moral/ethical truth" refers back to the facts as best we know them, of what Jesus said and did.  The same formalism can be applied to the ethical statements of any other religious or other philosophical system that was founded by one or more specific individuals.  

                This is the same formalism as can be used for any other elements of a religion or other philosophy, e.g. "Aristotelian logic holds such-and-such to be a logical truth" refers back to the facts as best we know them, of what Aristotle said and did.  Thus: ethics, logic, ontology, epistemology: statements in any of these areas that are made by a given speaker in reference to the founder(s) of a specific lineage of ideas, can be referenced back to the original founder(s).

                One can of course refer back to an entire school of thought that developed over time from a particular founder to something more general.  One can even place oneself into such a lineage and claim to make wholly original statements that are in keeping with that lineage.  

                But no, I do not believe that any of this is a popularity contest, any more than obtains with other elements of other philosophies.  I cannot claim to adhere to Aristotelian logic and at the same time justify statements that wholly violate Aristotelian logic.  I cannot claim to adhere to scientific method and at the same time justify altering (tampering with) research data to support a pet hypothesis.  

                Yes there is plenty of room for deviation from an original school of thought.  What there is not, is room for diametric contradiction (speaking of Aristotle).  

                Thus one can condemn dominionism as being fundamentally un-Christian and anti-Christian.  Can and should.


                But there is another level at which this particular battle can be fought: the level of pure tribalism (their tribe vs. our tribe) or animal-level power, whereby one tosses aside any effort to logically explain one's opposition to e.g. dominionism or Ayn Randism or whatever, and just fights it on the following level:

                "Do whatever is necessary to defeat the enemy."

                Now in the progressive universe we understand that the idea of "doing whatever is necessary" has its limits.  Unlike the extreme right, we don't go calling for fellow progressives to shoot so-and-so, or blow up such-and-such.  

                Thus my rules for Gray Ops:  No violence, and nothing more illegal than peaceful sit-ins, parking tickets ("strategic parking" is like a sit-in conducted by automobiles;-), and data-spills (go Anonymous!), but within those limits, "do whatever works."

                For example it would be wholly acceptable to have a noisy protest go right into a dominionist church in the middle of services and disrupt the hell out of them (heh heh) with chants condemning them as false Christians, sinners, demons, Mammon-worshipers, etc.   The only reason to not do that is if it would backfire as a tactic.  

                For example it would be wholly acceptable to use "sonic distractors" against a convention of Focus On The (Other Person's) Family: little concealed electronic devices, planted throughout their venue, that emit random electronically-recorded loud peeps, chirps, doorbell sounds, coughs, farts, and suchlike, that will distract the people at the meeting and cause them to search fruitlessly for the source of the bothersome noises.  

                For example it would be wholly acceptable to line the halls outside of John Yoo's office at (whatever college he ran off to after UC Berkeley started getting too hot for his own reptilian comfort), and greet him with a clever noisy protest designed to chase him the hell off that campus as well (and fuck his academic freedom: he can have it back after his victims have been made whole, or maybe after hell freezes over).  

                It would be wholly acceptable to demonstrate in Washington DC by causing strategic street gridlock so the city grinds to a screeching standstill, and then letting Congress know that we will do that every day of the week until we get our agenda on the table.   It would be wholly acceptable to do likewise on Wall Street.  Etc.

                So take your choice: you can go after the dominionists on the grounds of being bad Christians, or if you don't like that, just go after the nasty tyrannical little turds by whatever means are likely to disrupt their power grab.  

                "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                by G2geek on Thu Aug 30, 2012 at 02:17:09 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Religions are very different from philosophies. (0+ / 0-)

                  There are certainly ways you could choose to define a christian that does not run afoul of what I've been saying.  Basing your morality on what Jesus said is one of those things.  But there's a very serious, and glaring problem with that which you fail to address.

                  There was no Jesus Christ.

                  When I say that, I don't mean that the story was not based on a historical figure.  There very well could have been a historical figure.  There could very well have been someone with that exact name saying everything nice the Jesus in the bible said.  There may very well have been someone crucified after all those things.  I don't care whether these aspects of the Jesus Christ character are real.

                  If someone like that ever existed, that is where the similarity ends.  Nobody came back to life.  Nobody performed miracles.  Nobody is the son/spirit/whatever of some creator of the universe.  The gruesome torture of this being did NOT absolve humanity of some imaginary crimes.  There is no supernatural figure that has the ability to forgive us of our crimes against our fellow human beings.

                  When people call themselves christian, in most contexts, believing that is what is important.  In most contexts, when people talk about a Jesus Christ, they are speaking of a magical being who did impossible things and often times continues to do impossible things.

                  They are speaking about a Jesus Christ that does not exist.

                  If one wants to define christianity as only following the teachings of a moral leader, following what they perceive as a moral philosophy, that is fine.  But doing so requires a dishonest manipulation and usage of the word.  Doing so means that christianity is no longer a religion, but a philosophy.  At that point, a christian no longer believes in the supernatural elements of the bible, and they're the same as I, an atheist.

                  It's like defining a god as 'the energy of the universe'.  You can say that you have faith in a god, and when challenged, give an asinine definition like that.  But it's not an honest definition.  When a theist talks about a god, they're not talking about something that vague.

                  These are loaded words.  Christianity typically means belief in the divinity (and redemptive power) of Jesus.  In most cases, that's exactly what the word means.  When people speak about a god, they usually mean some supernatural intelligence with some specific agenda in mind.  In most cases, that's exactly what the word means.

                  Playing games with the definition of the word to make a point furthers nothing other than muddying the debate and obscuring the real argument.

                  The reason why this is important is because exactly what Jesus's teachings are is the whole reason there are different ideologies within christianity in the first place!

                  In some teachings, you'll go to Hell if you aren't a fanatic willing to defend Jesus to outsiders.  My mother was afraid of Hell at a young age because she was taught that if you don't preach the religion at someone in life, then Jesus will not defend you when God is deciding whether or not you should go to Hell.  She was scared she would die before getting that chance!

                  She was also taught that you could die at any moment, and be sent to Hell for the briefest moment of doubt.  She eventually gave up religion entirely, but such teachings made her afraid of retribution before then whenever she had doubts (god can of course read your mind, so hears your doubts the instant you have them.  Terrifying).

                  Not all people who call themselves christians believe such things.  I would hope people don't dwell on such horrible ideas and call it spirituality or good.

                  It does matter what people say Jesus's teachings were.  Arguing what is the most accurate and oldest accounts is one thing, but the whole reason we have differing factions of christianity is because there is no consensus.  The lunatics over at Conservapedia understand this, which is why they've taken it upon themselves to write a conservative version of the bible (to remove the bias of liberal lies, probably introduced by liberal college professors who 'translated' the bible).

                  In a historical context, what matters is how people who call themselves christian actually choose to practice their religion.  I generally do not have a high opinion of christianity's impact on peoples' behavior.  But I still hope that christians can gain some insight from christianity in the same way the deep contemplation of great literature or artwork can help reveal some insight about the human condition.  From my understanding, there are plenty of christians who do exactly that.  I find those people generally acceptable and agreeable on matters of political policy (the only thing that really matters for a community like this).

                  But christianity (like every other ideological position) is subject to the No True Scotsman fallacy.  If the theology of the dominionists is so wrong, christians should go talk to christians about it.  Whether or not they can succeed is the only evidence of the claim that dominionism is incompatible with christianity that I am willing to accept.  Don't tell me that the dominionists are antithetical to christianity.

                  I have no interest in reforming the christian religion.  It is up to the people who think it has some value to save it.

                  As for the latter, I wouldn't really advocate most of those tactics.  As contradictory as it might seem following that rather antagonistic ranting of mine, we do live in a civil society.  I wouldn't much care to engage in the chosen tactics of asshats in order to combat them.

                  They already believe they're being persecuted and whining about unfair bullying.  No reason to do what they do, and give them validation.

                  Besides, the nature of being the good guy is that you don't demean yourself to using tactics like that.

                  •  neurophysiology, war, hell, and Martin Luther King (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Paul Rogers

                    "Religions are very different from philosophies:"  Religions typically engage parts of the brain that don't have direct connections to the other parts of the brain that handle verbal information.  Religions typically mobilize certain types of altered states of consciousness.  

                    So?  What?  

                    There is an easy fallacy to fall into, of imposing a value-scale upon states of consciousness, often heard among "New Agers" who speak of "higher" states of consciousness, but also heard among rationalists who view rational thinking as "higher" than something else.  

                    Which state of consciousness is best for doing abstract math?  For designing a skyscraper?  For making love?  For playing the violin?  For painting a work of art?  For composing a song?  

                    And tell me that Aristotle et. al. never indulged in altered states of consciousness in order to come up with good ideas.


                    The position that there was not a historical Jesus of Nazareth is part of the radical atheist position and is arguable at minimum.  

                    One can be wholly Christian in the sense of adhering to Jesus' teachings subject to current knowledge, just as one can participate in shamanic rituals while recognizing that the mushrooms one just ate contain a compound known as psilocybin that affects the brain in such-and-such a manner.

                    Today we can look back and say "Jesus believed in certain kinds of supernaturalisms" just as we can say "and Shaman So-and-So believes in certain kinds of supernaturalisms."  One can choose to believe in those supernaturalisms or not, as an entirely separate and distinct issue from the value of the general wisdom that the particular individual conveyed.  

                    But if you think rational people don't believe in supernaturalisms, have I got a surprise for you.

                    How often do you hear the word "growth" in political speeches?  How often do you hear it from people you consider rational?  

                    Now tell me: "how do you get unlimited growth on a finite planet?"  That question is isomorphic with "how do you map an infinite plane onto a Euclidean solid?"  Find me the answer to that and I'll get you nominated for a Field Prize (the math equivalent of a Nobel).  

                    In fact it's an article of faith, and since it defies the laws of nature, it's another supernatural belief.  

                    Economic growth is the "resurrection miracle" of our times.

                    As for "nothing good came of Christianity," tell me about Martin Luther King or Desmond Tutu.

                    Sorry to hear that your Mom had what amounts to a subclinical anxiety disorder attributed to or rationalized by religious beliefs.  

                    As for Gray Ops tactics, either a) one fights one's enemies under a paradigm of diplomacy, or b) one fights one's enemies under a paradigm of war.   Gray Ops are the war paradigm minus the violence.  But phrases such as "demean yourself" merely give in to the prevailing power dynamics by granting the powers-that-be the additional power to circumscribe limits of "acceptable" tactics.  And that's another strange supernaturalism that I do not believe in.

                    "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                    by G2geek on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 02:50:04 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  A few short replies, and some nerd cred. (0+ / 0-)

                      I don't generally care whether or not there was a historical figure that the Jesus Christ character was based on.  I am no historian and don't really care about that era in history.  I was speaking about the Jesus that came back from the dead as not being real.  That is not a controversial statement for a non-christian to make.

                      Plenty of otherwise rational people believe silly things.  We're all allowed a pass for one or two things.  This is why I try to refrain from insulting specific individuals as much as I can.  Nobody can be perfectly rational at all times.

                      As for state of consciousness, I don't know where you got that bit from.  I'm indifferent about altered states of consciousness in general.  I just don't care to place much of a value judgement on any of those things in particular.  They might be important to someone else, but they aren't for me.

                      I argue about these things because I place a high value on what is true.  Whether or not an idea came to someone in an altered state of consciousness has no bearing on its truth or legitimacy when it is expressed in language.

                      I totally agree with you that talking about economic growth as always a good thing is silly.  Especially considering that we're undergoing a catastrophic global climate shift on the basis of our species' population and economic activity.  Growth is not always good, and it's generally easier to convince people to ignore problems than it is to get them to address them.

                      I don't know what you're trying to say by growth being isomorphic to mapping an infinite plane onto a platonic solid.  Check out a Riemann Sphere, though.  The mapping even misses the point on the top of the sphere, so there's even some room left over for a single extra point.  Then map the sphere onto a platonic solid via any simple projection mapping, and we're done.

                      Actually, I have a feeling you meant to say a homeomorphic map (check out the 5th example given).  Either way, it doesn't really matter.  Pure mathematics has little to do with economics.

                      Economic growth can occur via service products (a personal shopper or a babysitter uses no natural resources on its own, but adds economic value, for instance.)  And as such, it doesn't require the use of a non-renewable, finite resource.

                      But it is absurd to think that we are going to be doing that.  That would require us to transition our economy from one that uses more and more natural resources at an exponential rate to one which caps our use of resources at a constant rate.  We're not doing that, no politician argues we should do that, and I doubt people in general would be willing to do that.

                      Well, not until we destroy the world via our strange worship of capitalism.  But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.  No sense screaming into the wind.  Saying one wants to grow the economy isn't necessarily the most rational solution, it's a magical solution.  I agree there.

                      For the thing about christianity, I didn't say nothing good came out of it.  I said that I don't consider it worthy of saving.  Those statements are not the same.

                      My mom is okay now that she's left religion.

                      As for the gray ops tactics, I generally do enjoy stories about them.  Just recently, I enjoyed James Randi recounting a tale of him busting the charlatan Peter Popoff.  I just prefer to hash things out in words if it is possible.  Let the general public who may be witnesses see who has the most intelligent, reasoned position.

                      Oh, and as for a gray ops, let me give you a bit of info you may find interesting.  Red State's inept redesign allows any visitor to rate the comments registered people leave on diaries.  Just saying...

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