Bachmann, Pearcey, Francis Schaeffer, Creationism, Dominionism, and Violence – some points

| 232 Comments

On August 15, The New Yorker published an article by Ryan Lizza asserting that Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann was influenced by “Dominionism”, via fundamentalist theologian Francis Schaeffer and one-time Schaeffer student Nancy Pearcey. “Dominionism” as it is being used here, refers to Christian Reconstructionism, the idea that old-fashioned Old Testament Biblical Law should become U.S. law, a position usually associated with Rousas John Rushdoony.

We have have met Nancy Pearcey before; amongst other things, she is a current ID proponent and Discovery Institute fellow. Back when it was still cool to cop to being a creationist, though, she was a longtime editor of the young-earth creationist Bible-Science Newsletter, endorsed the idea that humans lived with dinosaurs, and was a coauthor of the first ID book, Of Pandas and People. For documentation, see my 2006 PT post Yet another version of the origins of ID and, for the publication of much of Pearcey’s chapter of Pandas in the Bible-Science Newsletter, see my 2005 PT post Why didn’t they tell us?

Pearcey authored the 2004 book Total Truth (forward by Phillip L. Johnson, remember him?), and Michelle Bachmann recommended the book, providing Ryan Lizza his link:

Francis Schaeffer instructed his followers and students at L’Abri that the Bible was not just a book but “the total truth.” He was a major contributor to the school of thought now known as Dominionism, which relies on Genesis 1:26, where man is urged to “have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Sara Diamond, who has written several books about evangelical movements in America, has succinctly defined the philosophy that resulted from Schaeffer’s interpretation: “Christians, and Christians alone, are Biblically mandated to occupy all secular institutions until Christ returns.”

In 1981, three years before he died, Schaeffer published “A Christian Manifesto,” a guide for Christian activism, in which he argues for the violent overthrow of the government if Roe v. Wade isn’t reversed. In his movie, Schaeffer warned that America’s descent into tyranny would not look like Hitler’s or Stalin’s; it would probably be guided stealthily, by “a manipulative, authoritarian élite.”

Today, one of the leading proponents of Schaeffer’s version of Dominionism is Nancy Pearcey, a former student of his and a prominent creationist. Her 2004 book, “Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity,” teaches readers how to implement Schaeffer’s idea that a Biblical world view should suffuse every aspect of one’s life. She tells her readers to be extremely cautious with ideas from non-Christians. There may “be occasions when Christians are mistaken on some point while nonbelievers get it right,” she writes in “Total Truth.” “Nevertheless, the overall systems of thought constructed by nonbelievers will be false–for if the system is not built on Biblical truth, then it will be built on some other ultimate principle. Even individual truths will be seen through the distorting lens of a false world view.”

When, in 2005, the Minneapolis Star Tribune asked Bachmann what books she had read recently, she mentioned two: Ann Coulter’s “Treason,” a jeremiad that accuses liberals of lacking patriotism, and Pearcey’s “Total Truth,” which Bachmann told me was a “wonderful” book.

Ryan Lizza (2011). “Leap of Faith: The making of a Republican front-runner.” The New Yorker, August 15, 2011.

Unfortunately, this is more than a little confused. Like shoes, communists, and ice cream, there are many varieties of crazy right-wing fundamentalist. They share many similarities – e.g. “evolution BAD!”, but they are not all identical. Amongst fundamentalists, some are explicit Calvinists and many are not, although Calvinism is widely influential throughout the fundamentalist movement. Amongst fundamentalists, some are postmillenialists, some are premillenialists. Amongst the Calvinist postmillenialists, only some of them are Christian Reconstructionists.

(Stop when you get a headache, but, roughly: postmillienialists believe that the Book of Revelation says the “millenium” already came – i.e., God’s kingdom began 2000 years ago with Jesus – and it is up to believers to convert the world and create a Golden Age before Christ returns again; premillenialists belive the millenium is still to come, and when it does, Christ will return and rule the Earth.)

My sense of it is that premillenialism is clearly dominant over postmillenialism within U.S. Christian fundamentalism. I am less sure of the situation among conservative Calvinists. But, the major personalities associated with Christian Reconstructionism are well-known – Rushdoony, Rushdoony’s son-in-law Gary North (no relation to Oliver North of Iran-Contra and cable TV fame), and Howard Ahmanson (a major funder of the Discovery Institute, although apparently he has rejected some of the more radical positions of Rushdoony, see wikipedia). The list does not include Francis Schaeffer or Nancy Pearcey, who are both, I would say, Calvinist intellectuals who are pretty mainstream within fundamentalism/conservative evangelicalism. Schaeffer and Pearcey overlap closely with a whole suite of fundamentalist intellectuals who share a very similar set of views – Biblical inerrancy, antievolution and possibly young-earth creationist, but not insistent on a young-earth like the Henry Morris school, politically activist, culture warriors on all the traditional issues, etc. The suite of views is extremely widespread in U.S. fundamentalism – for example, it describes most of the important personalities at the Discovery Institute, in the ID movement generally, at Biola University, Dallas Theological Seminary, etc. Apart from “conservative evangelical”, I’m not sure there is a good common term for this large group, except perhaps “the Schaeffer school” or something.

Anyway, this group has been protesting the link Ryan Lizza made between Michelle Bachmann and the Christian Reconstructionists. Douglas Groothius, an unblinking, uncritical, straight-down-the-line fan of ID of Denver Seminary, points out the lack of connection between Pearcey/Schaeffer and Rushdoony. The DI’s Richard Weikart, writing at the Pearcey Report website, makes similar points (while showing just how influenced he was himself by Schaeffer as a youth). And we have a series of freakouts from UD (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or heck, just search UD on “Bachmann”…we know their favorite I guess).

So far, so good, in my opinion. Being a fan of Francis Schaeffer does not make one a dominionist or Christian Reconstructionist. Christian Reconstructionists deserve to be criticized, and those who flirt with the ideology need to be called out, but more generic fundamentalism is bad enough on its own to criticize, there is no point in making false charges. And those who make unsubstantiated links between the two are opening themselves up for pretty effective rebuttals, like this one in the Washington Post.

However – one subset of the counterarguments by Groothius and others is devoted to defending Francis Schaeffer from the charge of recommending violence to overthrow an allegedly tyrannical American government. Groothius writes:

Third, the key Christian influences on Bachman are not Rushdoony and his followers, but Francis Schaeffer and Nancy Pearcey. Schaeffer referred to Rushdoony’s views on mandating biblical law as “insanity,” and never sanctioned any form of theocracy. (The name “Rushdoony” does not even appear in the index of Schaeffer’s five-volume collected works.) Schaeffer explicitly condemned theocracy in A Christian Manifesto (p. 120-1). Nor did he call for the violent overthrow of the government if Roe V. Wade were not overturned. Schaeffer rather explained various ways of resisting tyranny according to a Christian worldview and in light of church history. He saw “civil disobedience” (his phrase) as a last resort and did not stipulate any specific conditions under which it would be advisable in America. In fact, Schaeffer worried (on p. 126) that speaking of civil disobedience is “frightening because there are so many kooky people around.” Further, “anarchy is never appropriate.”

Now, this sparked a memory for me. Back when I was researching the origins of the ID movement, I read much of the commentary on the 1981 McLean vs. Arkansas case. After the creationists lost that case, various participants wrote various accounts. One of the notable ones was by old-earth creationist and Dallas Theological Seminary member Norman Geisler (website / wikipedia). Geisler was the guy who, at trial, admitted on the stand that he thought that, yes, he didn’t think UFOs were aliens, he thought they were demons instead.

Anyway, soon after the trial, he wrote his take on it in the evangelical magazine Christianity Today. Geisler’s account is interesting for several reasons – for example, his argument for “equal time” for “creation science” is essentially identical to the later ID movement’s arguments (and indeed, Geisler turns out to be a key figure in the origin of ID, he participated throughout the origin of the movement, and it is clear that from then to now he never saw much difference between “creation science” and “intelligent design” – see especially his 2007 book Creation and the Courts). But the article is also interesting for its conclusion, which invokes Francis Schaeffers just-then published book A Christian Manifesto.

[…]

[I post the concluding few paragraphs for context, and so you can see Geisler getting worked up.]

The fact that “creation” may imply a Creator while “evolution” does not is no proof that the former is religious and the latter is not. Believing that there is no God can be just as religious as believing that there is a God. Humanists hold, and the Supreme Court has ruled, that belief in God is not essential to a religion (U.S. v. Seeger, 1964).

Fourth, scientific progress depends on teaching alternative models. There would be little progress in science if it were not for minority scientific opinions. Copernicus’s view that the earth revolves around the sun was once a minority scientific view. So was the view that the earth is spherical, not flat. If no alternative models to Newton’s law of gravitation were allowed, then Einstein’s insights (and space travel) would have been rejected and scientific progress retarded.

That creationism may be a minority view among scientists today does not make it wrong, and certainly does not mean it should not be heard in science classes. (Arguing that it should be taught only in social studies classes is like telling someone running for Senate that he can present his view only to sociologists’ groups, but not to political gatherings.) One of the most despicable examples of intellectual prejudice I have ever witnessed was when evolution scientists at the Arkansas trial claimed that creationism was not science and that creationists were not scientists. It reminded me of Voltaire’s famous satire in which he described ants on one anthill looking at the different colored ants on another anthill and declaring that they were not really ants and that what they were on was not really an anthill.

John Scopes summed up well when he said, “If you limit a teacher to only one side of anything the whole country will eventually have only one thought, one invididual.” I believe it would be (is) a gross injustice for the court to rule it unconstitutional to teach both sides of any issue. Although I would not go as far as some in these matters, one can understand why Francis Schaeffer in his recent book, A Christian Manifesto (Crossway, 1981), has called upon Christians to engage in civil disobediance and even use force to overcome the tyranny he sees implied in a negative decision in the Arkansas creation-evolution issue.

[p. 29 of: Geisler, Norman L. (1982). “Creationism: A Case for Equal Time.” Christianity Today, XXVI(6), 26-29. March 19, 1982. Bold added.]

Now Geisler is not some random guy, he was and is a giant of conservative evangelical theology – bigger than Groothius, frankly. If Geisler got this impression from Schaeffer’s book, there is probably something there.

I happen to have Schaeffer’s A Christian Manifesto. The penultimate chapters are entitled “The Limits of Civil Disobediance” (chapter 7), “The Use of Civil Disobediance” (chapter 8), and “The Use of Force” (chapter 9). And the book contains a lot rhetoric about tyrannical government, reviewing the situation in communist contries and the like, but then applying the logic to the U.S., e.g.:

[Samuel Rutherford, a Presbyterian theologian, influential during the period of English history (1649-1660) when Cromwell and the Parliament overthrew the king and ruled a Commonwealth, see here and here; it was burnt after the Restoration of the crown] offered suggestions concerning illegitimate acts of the state. A ruler, he wrote, should not be deposed merely because he commits a single breach of the compact he has with the people. Only when the magistrate acts in such a way that the governing structure of the country is being destroyed – that is, when he is attacking the fundamental structure of society – is he to be relieved of his power and authority.

That is exactly the situation we are facing today. The whole structure of our society is being attacked and destroyed. It is being given an entirely opposite base which gives exactly opposite results. The reversal is much more total and destructive than that which Rutherford or any of the Reformers faced in their day.

[end of Chapter 7]

[pp. 101-102 of: Francis Schaeffer (1981/1982), A Christian Manifesto (Crossway, revised edition 1982) ]

What kind of things are destroying society? Well, abortion, as Groothius mentions, but also…you guessed it! Evolution! I won’t type out the whole passage, but pages 109-111 are devoted to the then-ongoing McLean case. Of the counteraction in the courts, Schaeffer writes, “Here is a clear case fitting Rutherford’s criteria.” (p. 109). On the next pages, he says,

The ACLU is acting as the arm of the humanist consensus to force its view on the majority of the Arkansas state officials.

If there was ever a clearer example of the lower “magistrates” being treated with tyranny, it would be hard to find. And this would be a time, if the appeal courts finally rule tyrannically, for the state government to protest and refuse to submit. This fits Rutherford’s proper procedures exactly.

It is a time for Christians and others who do not accept the narrow and bigoted humanist views to use the appropriate forms of protest. [p. 110]

[…]

The people must act against tyranny by returning these issues to themselves. [p. 111]

[…Schaeffer reviews a Time poll showing that 76% of the public supported “teaching both theories”, and says…]

Any election figure getting such a percentage would consider this a mandate. Surely, the Founding Fathers would have considered this situation to be tyranny. It would be appropriate to remember the Boston Tea Party of December 16, 1773. [p. 111]

Schaeffer certainly seems to be saying that something approaching secession is an “appropriate form of protest.” Certainly the Boston Tea Party did not exactly lead to peaceful results. Now, Schaeffer does exhibit some signs of sense – he carefully defines “force” as broader than “violence”, to include, for example, nonviolent protest. And he clearly says these should be tried before rebellion.

But, Schaeffer also uses the word “tyranny” and associated rhetoric throughout the book – dozens of times, I think – and he also says at several points that if the government ignores protest, more extreme measures are legitimate. A few examples of extreme rhetoric:

Again we must see that what we face is a totality and not just bits and pieces. It is not too strong to say that we are at war, and there are no neutral parties in the struggle. One either confesses that God is the final authority, or one confesses that Caesar is Lord.

[p. 116, end of Chapter 8]

There does come a time when force, even physical force, is appropriate. The Christian is not to take the law into his own hands and become a law unto himself. But when all avenues to flight and protest have closed, force in the defensive posture is appropriate. This was the situation of the American Revolution. The colonists used force in defending themselves.

[p. 117, beginning of Chapter 9]

[…]

The thirteen colonies reached the bottom line: they acted in civil disobediance. That civil disobediance led to open war in which men and women died. And that led to the founding of the United States of America. There would have been no founding of the United States of America without the Founding Fathers’ realization that there is a bottom line. And to them the basic bottom line was not pragmatic; it was one of principle.

Please read most thoughtfully what I am going to say in the next sentence: If there is no final place for civil disobediance, then the government has been made autonomous, and as such, it has been put in the place of the Living God. If there is no final place for civil disobediance, then the government has been put in the place of the Living God, because then you are to obey it even when it tells you in its own way at that time to worship Caesar. And that point is exactly where the early Christians performed their acts of civil disobediance even when it cost them their lives.

[p. 130, end of Chapter 9. Italics and sentence repetition original.]

I think we can now see why even Norman Geisler, certainly no wilting flower of liberalism, wrote that “…I would not go as far as some in these matters” when discussing Schaeffer’s book.

232 Comments

Weren’t Adam and Eve given “dominion” before “The Fall?”

So why would God allow such craven idiots to continue to have “dominion” after they demonstrated that they were “irresponsible?”

One of the more important points that emerge from Nick’s analysis is that nearly all forms of sectarianism are endless quagmires of suspicion and warfare; the very thing that the Founding Fathers aimed to avoid.

With something like 38,000 continuously splintering sects within Christianity alone, and with the continued splintering that goes on in other religions as well, it isn’t hard to imagine what would happen if one of these militant groups of sectarians got hold of the reins of power in the United States. Soon the entire world would be engaged in wars of the most vicious kinds we have seen historically among religions.

When considering the mutual suspicions and hatreds among fundamentalist sects here in the land of religious freedom, one would do well to go back through Christian history and consider all the intrigues that have taken place ever since the Council of Nicea.

Just ex-rectum, I’m going to conjecture that if we had some way of identifying all the people who oppose Obama simply because he’s “black” and all the people who support Bachmann because she pounds her bible harder than any other candidate, we would find a nearly complete overlap in these voting blocs. I’m skeptical that Bachmann is bringing in many voters outside this set.

Flint said: I’m skeptical that Bachmann is bringing in many voters outside this set.

I am certain that Bachmann can be a troublemaker, but she is a loser as a candidate. She can only appeal to her own factional base, and everyone else, including or even particularly the swing-vote independents, distrusts her intensely. I will be astounded if she even wins the primaries.

Oh, if they only had open primaries for presidential elections! The wingnuts wouldn’t even bother to run.

I have occasionally wondered, in occasional daytime nightmares, if there might a strategy underlying the complete madness of the current Republican politics. And that would be to make politics so ugly, so repulsive, and so viciously dirty that rational, intelligent people – voters and potential candidates alike – will simply opt out of the process.

It is getting so expensive to run for political office that only the hidden gatekeepers with billions of dollars and well-organized smear tactics will get to determine who runs for any office. The wackier you are, the better chance you will have to win if only the wackos vote.

These extremist Right Wing groups are using the same tactics that the ID/creationists use against science. They’re cranking out all sorts of fake historians, fake economists, fake scientists, fake records of accomplishment, fake sociology, fake law, fake political science, fake institutions of learning.

In fact, take any subject that is well-studied and understood by anyone, and forms the basis of a halfway decent education consisting of objective sharable knowledge, and these extremists will have prepared a completely fake version of all of it. And then, with the most incredibly crass chutzpa, they accuse everyone else of doing exactly what they themselves are doing.

That’s really dangerous if they have discovered a huge market for this crap.

My guess is that she no longer has much love for her fellow Dominionists at the Discovery Institute since having the bait and switch run on her during an election. Remember how Santorum had to look like he was flip flopping on the creationist issues when he started saying that he no longer supported teaching intelligent design during his failed reelection bid? I wonder what the IDiots reaction is when they find out that they have been had and that there isn’t any ID science worth teaching to school kids? Every single IDiot rube legislator and school board has had the bait and switch run on them by the guys that lied to them about the science of intelligent design. It was less than a week after Bachmann made the mistake of claiming that she supported teaching intelligent design that the ID perps at the Discovery Institute were running bait and switch on her. The only IDiots that still support the ID scam are the ignorant, incompetent and or dishonest. If Bachmann starts pedaling the teach the controversy switch scam we will know that she is one of the dishonest ones and/or really incompetent. How sad is that? It probably doesn’t matter since she was stupid or dishonest enough to support the ID scam in the first place.

Amongst fundamentalists, some are postmillenialists, some are premillenialists. Amongst the Calvinist postmillenialists, only some of them are Christian Reconstructionists.

(Stop when you get a headache, but, roughly: postmillienialists believe that the Book of Revelation says the “millenium” already came – i.e., God’s kingdom began 2000 years ago with Jesus – and it is up to believers to convert the world and create a Golden Age before Christ returns again; premillenialists belive the millenium is still to come, and when it does, Christ will return and rule the Earth.)

Don’t forget the amillennialists!

With something like 38,000 continuously splintering sects within Christianity alone,

So the average size per sect is slightly below 100,000 members? (Or would it be slightly above that?)

The only IDiots that still support the ID scam are the ignorant, incompetent and or dishonest.

When was it otherwise?

Henry

Henry J said:

With something like 38,000 continuously splintering sects within Christianity alone,

So the average size per sect is slightly below 100,000 members? (Or would it be slightly above that?)

While the “38,000 sects” is technically correct, there is some double counting because many denominations do not have a centralized global organization. For example, many countries have churches that are equivalent to my denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA), from the standpoint of doctrine and polity – each of these gets counted separately in the 38,000. There are also a few behemoth communions – there are lots of Roman Catholics, for example. I’d be interested in the median size of Christian sects.

To be fair, of course, I can think of at least five significant Presbyterian denominations within the USA alone. Regardless of double counting, I agree with Mike’s underlying points. I think it would be a disaster for the USA if any denomination (including my own) were actually able to take control of our government. Separation of church and state has been good for both the church and the state.

Ron Okimoto said:

My guess is that she no longer has much love for her fellow Dominionists at the Discovery Institute since having the bait and switch run on her during an election. Remember how Santorum had to look like he was flip flopping on the creationist issues when he started saying that he no longer supported teaching intelligent design during his failed reelection bid? I wonder what the IDiots reaction is when they find out that they have been had and that there isn’t any ID science worth teaching to school kids? Every single IDiot rube legislator and school board has had the bait and switch run on them by the guys that lied to them about the science of intelligent design. It was less than a week after Bachmann made the mistake of claiming that she supported teaching intelligent design that the ID perps at the Discovery Institute were running bait and switch on her. The only IDiots that still support the ID scam are the ignorant, incompetent and or dishonest. If Bachmann starts pedaling the teach the controversy switch scam we will know that she is one of the dishonest ones and/or really incompetent. How sad is that? It probably doesn’t matter since she was stupid or dishonest enough to support the ID scam in the first place.

It’s so hard to find a politician dumb enough to support ID, yet smart enough to follow the DI’s wink-wink, nudge-nudge strategy…

Re: Presbyterians – I love the historical family tree on wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:C[…]ion2_900.jpg

“Separation of church and state has been good for both the church and the state.”

This is incredibly true. Reading Mark Noll (a historian) has convinced me that *the very reason* religion in the U.S. is so vigorous, and sometimes weird, is because of the First Amendment. He basically argues that the disestablishment of religion “took the lid off” of religion in America. There was no state preference for any denomination, no national church, etc. Therefore, the only authority left amongst 1800s pioneers was the Bible (King James Version) as interpreted by individuals and pioneer preachers of wildly varying levels of education, literacy, etc. Mormonism and several other new branches of Christianity emerged out of this chaos in the early 1800s in western New York state. Noll traces Americans’ extreme Biblicism through the Civil War (the South was more traditionally Biblical) through to the fundamentalist revolt of the 1920s.

So, ironically, the very people who most attack Church-State Separation were created by it in the first place!

There was an accomodationist article in the New York Times a few days ago, “American Theocracy Revisited” - http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/29/o[…]visited.html - which also makes Nick’s case that not all fundagelicals are the same.

”…

In his movie, Schaeffer warned that America’s descent into tyranny would not look like Hitler’s or Stalin’s; it would probably be guided stealthily, by “a manipulative, authoritarian élite.””

So, “…guided stealthily, by “a manipulative, authoritarian élite.” Do I hear the Republicans answering this call? Perry, Bachmann, et. al anyone?

I believe there may be more of a threat to the stability of the United States from within than from without. We’ll have to see if there’s any rationalty left in the voters, or if the religious righteous will win out. Will we have more (failed) rain dances by the likes of an Ayatolla Perry?

Article quoting Pearcey: “There may ‘be occasions when Christians are mistaken on some point while nonbelievers get it right’,…”

Now she’s no St. Augustine, so I’m guessing that even as she was peddling the “humans lived with dinosaurs” thing she privately knew it was nonsense. But that the “masses” needed to believe it to behave (be saved?). Then at some point someone (Johnson?) told her that all one needed to do was promote unreasonable doubt of evolution, and the audience fills in the blanks with their favorite fairy tale.

Mike Elzinga said:

With something like 38,000 continuously splintering sects within Christianity alone, and with the continued splintering that goes on in other religions as well, it isn’t hard to imagine what would happen if one of these militant groups of sectarians got hold of the reins of power in the United States. Soon the entire world would be engaged in wars of the most vicious kinds we have seen historically among religions.

It might be relevant to note what causes all this splintering. Unlike science, religion has no underlying reality to act as objective arbiter. Splintering happens when two leaders respected by different parts of the congregation have theological disputes, which are inherently incapable of resolution. So your opinion on that theological matter comes closer to matching one or the other, and you follow that one.

The reactions to science I’ve seen among these people follows this same pattern. The idea of testing against reality is outside their experience and orientation, so they see science as just another sect, and they see the “appropriate” approach to science as precipitating another schism. The whole “teach both sides, teach the controversy” campaign rests solidly on this orientation. Present the tenets of both faiths, and let the congregation follow their hearts.

Politics and religion work well together in this respect, since political positions are much like religious opinions - based not on anything objective (nor should they be), but on how society should be organized and administered to maximize personal comfort, satisfaction and security. If you try to explain to a politician (especially a religious politician) that science works according to completely different rules, their reaction can only be “of course it follows the rules I live by. What else IS there?” And you can’t explain how science works, because for them, there simply is no other way.

At the extreme, with science regarded as a false faith, we find reflexive opposition to funding any. Why subsidize those opposed to the Truth?

Gee, the Darwiniacs are up in arms about a Christian running for President of Eagleland. According to cocktail party chat in places like Melbourne, it is a “fact” the the USA is already a Christian theocracy and Darwin-believers and rump rangers are shot for sport, but I think people here know that’s true, but I digress. Your courtroom precedents kicking Jesus out of your public schools have empowered Christophobes worldwide. Kevin Rudd and his administration have all but banned Christianity from Australian life and the impetus to do it comes directly from American commie groups like the ACLU! If Bachmann becomes President, Christians the world over will rejoice!

Flint said:

It might be relevant to note what causes all this splintering. Unlike science, religion has no underlying reality to act as objective arbiter. Splintering happens when two leaders respected by different parts of the congregation have theological disputes, which are inherently incapable of resolution. So your opinion on that theological matter comes closer to matching one or the other, and you follow that one.

The reactions to science I’ve seen among these people follows this same pattern. The idea of testing against reality is outside their experience and orientation, so they see science as just another sect, and they see the “appropriate” approach to science as precipitating another schism. The whole “teach both sides, teach the controversy” campaign rests solidly on this orientation. Present the tenets of both faiths, and let the congregation follow their hearts.

Politics and religion work well together in this respect, since political positions are much like religious opinions - based not on anything objective (nor should they be), but on how society should be organized and administered to maximize personal comfort, satisfaction and security. If you try to explain to a politician (especially a religious politician) that science works according to completely different rules, their reaction can only be “of course it follows the rules I live by. What else IS there?” And you can’t explain how science works, because for them, there simply is no other way.

At the extreme, with science regarded as a false faith, we find reflexive opposition to funding any. Why subsidize those opposed to the Truth?

I think you have hit on a very important insight into the “culture wars”. It is one that every scientist would do well to remember. It is also another reason to make sure that every student has a solid grounding in basic scientific concepts from grade school on up. When reality ceases to be an arbiter, only chaos can prevail. That’s why we all need to be smart, (Maxwell Smart).

Flint said: Politics and religion work well together in this respect, since political positions are much like religious opinions …

I can only remember the various Jewish resistance organizations fighting among themselves in MONTY PYTHON’S LIFE OF BRIAN.

Geisler was the guy who, at trial, admitted on the stand that he thought that, yes, he didn’t think UFOs were aliens, he thought they were demons instead.

Geisler claims that UFO’s are real and piloted by demons from hell. This is apparently a common fundie belief.

If your worldview includes countless demons and angels fighting titanic battles around us every day (also a common fundie belief), this makes perfect sense.

All this would be amusing in a lunatic fringe sort of way if there weren’t so many of these crackpots and they weren’t determined to take over the USA and destroy it.

The only bright spot is that they are driving people out of xianity by the millions a year. I was one of them. It’s a race between whether they destroy US xianity first or the USA itself.

I believe there may be more of a threat to the stability of the United States from within than from without. We’ll have to see if there’s any rationalty left in the voters, or if the religious righteous will win out.

The amount of damage Bushco did to our economy and budgets in 8 years was huge. It will take probably a decade to fix it. We may never fix it.

One more Tea Party christofascist president, and the USA is over with. They won’t win their wannabe Dark Ages culture war. But they don’t have to if they destroy the US economy. All our accomplishments are based on having the largest economy in the world and one that is healthy and growing.

DavidK said:

“…

In his movie, Schaeffer warned that America’s descent into tyranny would not look like Hitler’s or Stalin’s; it would probably be guided stealthily, by “a manipulative, authoritarian élite.””

So, “…guided stealthily, by “a manipulative, authoritarian élite.” Do I hear the Republicans answering this call? Perry, Bachmann, et. al anyone?

I believe there may be more of a threat to the stability of the United States from within than from without. We’ll have to see if there’s any rationalty left in the voters, or if the religious righteous will win out. Will we have more (failed) rain dances by the likes of an Ayatolla Perry?

I am sure Schaefer must have had in mind the film adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”, which is both creepy and scary.

raven said:

I believe there may be more of a threat to the stability of the United States from within than from without. We’ll have to see if there’s any rationalty left in the voters, or if the religious righteous will win out.

The amount of damage Bushco did to our economy and budgets in 8 years was huge. It will take probably a decade to fix it. We may never fix it.

One more Tea Party christofascist president, and the USA is over with. They won’t win their wannabe Dark Ages culture war. But they don’t have to if they destroy the US economy. All our accomplishments are based on having the largest economy in the world and one that is healthy and growing.

I think you’re overstating your case, raven. I could substitute Obama for Bushco and I think that would be a far more accurate assessment.

Paul Burnett said:

There was an accomodationist article in the New York Times a few days ago, “American Theocracy Revisited” - http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/29/o[…]visited.html - which also makes Nick’s case that not all fundagelicals are the same.

I agree with Nick’s assessment, having also read part of Noll’s work too. However, neither he nor Ross Douthat (who is, along with David Brooks, one of The New York Times’ current conservative-oriented columnists; I have heard him when he fills in for Brooks on the PBS News Hour point counterpoint segment with either one versus The Washington Post’s Mark Shields.) are alone in arriving at such a conclusion. I think that may be an important reason why a noted atheist like Lawrence Krauss accepts invitations from Fundamentalist Protestant Christians to speak at their churches and schools. Or why biologist E. O. Wilson - who grew up in Alabama’s “Bible Belt” and thus understands them - has sought to work alongside Fundamentalist Protestant Christian environmentalists who are interested in preserving “GOD’s Creation” (Earth’s biodiversity), while also reminding them that biological evolution is very well established, highly corroborated, scientific fact and that the only current theory capable of explaining it is the Modern Synthesis.

Flint said: It might be relevant to note what causes all this splintering. Unlike science, religion has no underlying reality to act as objective arbiter. Splintering happens when two leaders respected by different parts of the congregation have theological disputes, which are inherently incapable of resolution.

Which I’ve argued on a number of occasions: Science has mutually agreed conflict resolution principles (e.g., appeal to intersubjectively observable evidence that’s independent of idiosyncratic beliefs), whereas religion has none. Religion has only two conflict resolution tactics: suppression (internal or external, non-violent or violent) or schism.

Sooner or later, if (one species of) theocrats gains political power, the next day blood may well flow down the aisles and under the pews.

Nick Matzke said:

Re: Presbyterians – I love the historical family tree on wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:C[…]ion2_900.jpg

“Separation of church and state has been good for both the church and the state.”

This is incredibly true. Reading Mark Noll (a historian) has convinced me that *the very reason* religion in the U.S. is so vigorous, and sometimes weird, is because of the First Amendment. He basically argues that the disestablishment of religion “took the lid off” of religion in America. There was no state preference for any denomination, no national church, etc. Therefore, the only authority left amongst 1800s pioneers was the Bible (King James Version) as interpreted by individuals and pioneer preachers of wildly varying levels of education, literacy, etc. Mormonism and several other new branches of Christianity emerged out of this chaos in the early 1800s in western New York state. Noll traces Americans’ extreme Biblicism through the Civil War (the South was more traditionally Biblical) through to the fundamentalist revolt of the 1920s.

So, ironically, the very people who most attack Church-State Separation were created by it in the first place!

No. The principle of the separation of church and state has been exploited by atheists, communists, feminists, anarchists and all other anti-religious folk. What the founding fathers meant was that the State should not intervene in religion and promote any one faith denomination. After all, there was religious pluralism from the outset in America. The alternative was that of an “established church” as was the case in England - but the early puritan settlers escaped the country because of it.

What the fathers did not mean was that religion should be excluded from all political and public life - this is what the atheists and secularists demand. They had no problem with prayer and the teaching of religious belief in the classroom so long as there was no attempt made to injure the beliefs of others. They believed in freedom whereas atheists and secularists believe in totalitarianism. And the fact is that they want to force everyone to believe in their own pseudo-religion of Darwinism!

I am hopeful that once President “Gradual change we can believe in” has been voted out of office, we can allow freedom to prosper - something the NCSE fears.

Btw, for all of you who claim that “theocracy” is inherently anti-science, consider that the world’s only true theocracy - the Islamic Republic of Iran - is also experiencing the greatest growth in scientific output:

http://www.newscientist.com/article[…]-growth.html

If only America could adopt Iran’s pro-science approach. It is not too late. Only by bringing God back into science can such a revival take place.

raven said: Geisler claims that UFO’s are real and piloted by demons from hell. This is apparently a common fundie belief.

I find it hard to think it’s common. It makes Jack Chick sound reasonable in comparison.

But I certainly don’t find it the least difficult to think a fair number of fundies believe it: “Nope, can’t fix the system – we’ll need to start over and do a clean install on the OS.”

Atheistoclast said:

Btw, for all of you who claim that “theocracy” is inherently anti-science, consider that the world’s only true theocracy - the Islamic Republic of Iran - is also experiencing the greatest growth in scientific output:

http://www.newscientist.com/article[…]-growth.html

If only America could adopt Iran’s pro-science approach. It is not too late. Only by bringing God back into science can such a revival take place.

*** Sighs dreamily ***

If only my country could be truly free … like Iran …

Iran ENVIES the amount of scientific growth pouring out of this country. Most of their geneticists had to take such courses at the Azad University of Tehran to avoid military service, not to pursue the rigors of such inquiry. This claim is nonsense.

Do Americans have the free right to reject the theory of gravity or relativity as they see fit? Do they have the guaranteed right to explore personal theories of medicine and pharmacology without government interference? Yes, as individuals, they do. But they do NOT have the right to teach their individual discoveries in a public school science class WITHOUT REVIEW! That would be extremely dangerous, not to mention frivolous. Evolution has had 150 years of peer criticism leveled against it. It has withstood every attack and has prospered into our current understanding of modern biology. A better theory would explain more and lead to more advancement and discoveries in scientific (and not in political) circles. I await such a theory.

Most modern scientists recognize a Creator. What is NOT recognized are Biblical inerrancy arguments – not for the last 200 years at least. Nutty Bachmann Turning Evolution Overdrive because of a literalist reading of the Bible, again, is just not a good example of the scientific method in action, and no one is fooled by her rhetoric.

Atheistoclast said:

Btw, for all of you who claim that “theocracy” is inherently anti-science, consider that the world’s only true theocracy - the Islamic Republic of Iran - is also experiencing the greatest growth in scientific output:

http://www.newscientist.com/article[…]-growth.html

If only America could adopt Iran’s pro-science approach. It is not too late. Only by bringing God back into science can such a revival take place.

But their publication record is not as good as ours, so they lose!

Atheistoclast said:

Just Bob said:

Atheistoclast said:

I think you will find that the First Amendment prohibits the free exercise of religion (anywhere).

Freudian slips can reveal so much. Wishful thinking in this case.

Yes, I am sure you would like religion to be banned.

Umm…I was directly, verbatim quoting YOU. Or didn’t you get that?

You seem to have a problem admitting mistakes, whether it’s broad generalizations that are clearly not generally true, or simple slips of the brain, like the above. Hell, I do them. We all do them. Your inability to own up to yours is yet another symptom of what is becoming increasingly clear is a serious level of disturbance.

You’re so full of shit, Theistoclast.

You make big, maniacal claims about how you’re going to wipe out atheism.

So do it. Destroy out my atheism, loudmouth.

Show me just one piece of unequivocal, empirical evidence that your gods exist. That will do the trick, blabber boy.

Avocados? Have some guacamole! Zebras? Lie on this fine rug?

But gods? NOTHING.

Atheistoclast said:

The GOP always appeals to the Christian Right but almost always do nothing when in office. We need a government that reflects the will of the people…

Um… Yeah.

So if it’s the “will of the people” to live in a religiously governed land, why exactly is it that you think the GOP firebrands suddenly go quiet when they get into office?

Really, AC, for most of the politicians I’ve met, “Pander” could be their middle name, and “Spineless” should be tattooed on their ass for the so that the emergency room doctors don’t panic if they’re ever brought in from a skiing accident.

Following the easy path and pandering to the largest number of people for the longest possible time is an ingrained trait in politics. Has been for 2000 years.

If they ever really believed what they tell the Wingnuts to get through the primaries about how America wants to be a christian nation then why do they suddenly forget all this the moment they get into the general election?

Atheistoclast said:

The GOP always appeals to the Christian Right but almost always do nothing when in office. We need a government that reflects the will of the people and not that of a corrupt elite. Personally, I favor a more direct form of democracy. Nobody can possibly “represent” me.

So you disagree with one of the foundational principles of the United States of America. Good to know … especially since our representative democracy was based on church polity.

I have a structure in my back garden that can easily serve as a stone altar. If Clastie will supply the half-tonne of wood, I will supply the barrels of water and the sacrificial beast (what with the water shortage, steers are readily available here, and I’m sure nobody above will be upset that it’s not a “bullock”).

He is then free to invoke his deity as specified in I Kings 18: 25-39.

If his god answers with fire, then we’ll have a wonderful ol’ Texas barbecue and his points will all be proven. Withal I shall happily suffer the fate of the unfaithful as delineated in I Kings 18: 40.

Shebardigan said:

I have a structure in my back garden that can easily serve as a stone altar. If Clastie will supply the half-tonne of wood, I will supply the barrels of water and the sacrificial beast (what with the water shortage, steers are readily available here, and I’m sure nobody above will be upset that it’s not a “bullock”).

He is then free to invoke his deity as specified in I Kings 18: 25-39.

If his god answers with fire, then we’ll have a wonderful ol’ Texas barbecue and his points will all be proven. Withal I shall happily suffer the fate of the unfaithful as delineated in I Kings 18: 40.

You are assuming that he worships the god of the bible. SInce he has advocated policies that are contrary to the explicit teachings of Jesus, I would say that that is, at the least, an unwarranted assumption. It is possible that he wants every day to begin with prayer mats facing in a certain direction. That would explain a lot.

DS said:

Shebardigan said:

I have a structure in my back garden that can easily serve as a stone altar. If Clastie will supply the half-tonne of wood, I will supply the barrels of water and the sacrificial beast (what with the water shortage, steers are readily available here, and I’m sure nobody above will be upset that it’s not a “bullock”).

He is then free to invoke his deity as specified in I Kings 18: 25-39.

If his god answers with fire, then we’ll have a wonderful ol’ Texas barbecue and his points will all be proven. Withal I shall happily suffer the fate of the unfaithful as delineated in I Kings 18: 40.

You are assuming that he worships the god of the bible. SInce he has advocated policies that are contrary to the explicit teachings of Jesus, I would say that that is, at the least, an unwarranted assumption. It is possible that he wants every day to begin with prayer mats facing in a certain direction. That would explain a lot.

Has there ever been a single theocrat who DIDN’T discard the explicit teachings of jesus the instant they became inconvenient, then lie about it?

“he has advocated policies that are contrary to the explicit teachings of Jesus…”

That would make him…gasp!…antichrist!

(And yes, the word is an adjective, meant to apply to any and all people who are anti-christ—working against the teachings of Jesus–like Atheistoclast. It’s never used in Revelation as a noun. According to the Bible, there never was nor ever will be “the antichrist”.

And another Australian, Barry Setterfield, is the genius who proposed that the speed of light is not constant, but was infinite at creation and has since slowed down to its current stable speed.

Could he have been using as units (width of universe) / (time) ?

Henry

And the pledge should read: “One nation under Canada…”

Except for Alaska, which is to one side of Canada.

phantomreader42 said:

Has there ever been a single theocrat who DIDN’T discard the explicit teachings of jesus the instant they became inconvenient, then lie about it?

Don’t Christian theocrats simply pass off their own powergrabbing as being Jesus’ teachings to begin with?

apokryltaros said:

phantomreader42 said:

Has there ever been a single theocrat who DIDN’T discard the explicit teachings of jesus the instant they became inconvenient, then lie about it?

Don’t Christian theocrats simply pass off their own powergrabbing as being Jesus’ teachings to begin with?

I admit I haven’t read all of this thread but I just want to make one observation:

AC wrote

You couldn’t be any more wrong. 93% of NAS-affiliated scientists are either atheists or agnostics. They say it is OK to believe in a God just so long as He does nothing!(The Deist ideology). The universe and life is self-contained and self-originating. It requires no creative agency other than its own natural laws.

Yes, at least since Galieli, Copernicus & al, it has been acknowledged that God seems absent from the manifest world. Science has not found the tiniest slot in the manifest universe where to insert God as a causative element.

But that doesn’t negate the true meaning of religion or the teachings of Jesus. What we learn if we cast off the shackles of literalism and study with an open mind is that religion, God, and the Kingdom of Heaven are spiritual concepts. They are about matters of spirit, the human soul.

The hypothetical, mythical “god” as creator of the universe is a myth whereas God as the divinity in the human soul is, although unknowable, a reality. It makes itself felt; it influences peoples lives and make people miserable if the ignore it. That is the reality for all of us, and denial of that is not good for us. Even atheists – refusing to believe in fairytales, in their lives they behave like any good Christian (and often even much better) because that’s the way we are made.

Rolf said:

What we learn if we cast off the shackles of literalism and study with an open mind is that religion, God, and the Kingdom of Heaven are spiritual concepts. They are about matters of spirit, the human soul.

What we learn if we cast off the shackles of literalism and study with an open mind is there is no evidence for religion, gods, heaven, spirits, or souls beyond the assertions of believers.

You can claim that all those things really exist somewhere in never-never land, but here in the real world, all you’ve got is hot air.

Rolf said:

The hypothetical, mythical “god” as creator of the universe is a myth whereas God as the divinity in the human soul is, although unknowable, a reality. It makes itself felt; it influences peoples lives and make people miserable if the ignore it. That is the reality for all of us, and denial of that is not good for us. Even atheists – refusing to believe in fairytales, in their lives they behave like any good Christian (and often even much better) because that’s the way we are made.

It seems more likely that atheists behave morally because they choose to do so, not because of fear of punishment. Whereas those who believe in god and act amorally often use god as a justification for doing so.

AC has left the building, having declared victory over all of us and clasted a bunch more atheists.

Just Bob said:

AC has left the building, having declared victory over all of us and clasted a bunch more atheists.

Just as long as he left. Now that he has outed himself and all can see him for the religious bigot that he is, it is safe to assume that his religious agenda is what has motivated all of his misconceptions about evolution. For him, evolution simply must be false. IT has to be false, so that he can fight atheism, period. No evidence, no paper, no author or reviewer can be right, because evolution just can’t be true. Any observation, including entire fields of science, can be dismissed, no matter whether he has any knowledge of them or not. Of course he still has to hide his religious agenda in attempting to publish in scientific journals, hence the contradictory statements made in his abstract. Then he can claim to be a real publisher scientist, just because he hid his real agenda successfully. Of course his papers never show what he claims they do, but who’s going to notice. Then, all he has to do is project his own dishonest motivation onto every other author, and presto, none of their conclusion are right, they’re just promoting their own atheistic agenda (whether they are atheists or not).

Seriously, why let such a self-confirmed bigot post off-topic nonsense on every thread?

DS said: Seriously, why let such a self-confirmed bigot post off-topic nonsense on every thread?

People enjoy arguing with him, so why not? If people ignored him he’d give up quickly, but that’s not gonna happen.

Atheistoclast said:

The most suitable time for worship is morning assembly - indeed, the best way to start the day is to pray. If non-religious students don’t want to participate then they can clean the student toilets or make coffee for the teachers.

How obvious can AC be that his real agenda is to try to influence/intimidate/force children to adopt his religious views?

The most suitable time for worship is BEFORE or AFTER school hours. That way those who want to participate can, and those who wish to ignore the whole foolish enterprise can. After all, freedom means the freedom to say no, without toilet-cleaning punishment awaiting.

Science Avenger said:

The most suitable time for worship is BEFORE or AFTER school hours.

Frankly, it’s most suitable not at school at all. Before or after school in one’s own house of worship or one’s own home, but if it’s AT SCHOOL, even if it’s before or after hours, then it’s revealed to the school population, both teachers and adults, who attends and who doesn’t. In other words, who is the RIGHT KIND of good little Christian and who isn’t. It’s NOBODY’S BUSINESS at school who attends prayer meetings and who doesn’t.

If you want to know who goes to the proper church (yours, of course), then go there yourself. School is not the place to check up on anybody’s religiosity. Kids don’t need more reasons to divide into groups or ostracize each other.

apokryltaros said:

Atheistoclast said:

DS said: There is a time set aside for students to do whatever they want to do. It’s called recess. If students want to use that time to pray, fine. Why do they have to be forced pray in front of the rest of the class, in direct violation of the commandments in their holy text?

The most suitable time for worship is morning assembly - indeed, the best way to start the day is to pray. If non-religious students don’t want to participate then they can clean the student toilets or make coffee for the teachers.

Forcing students to do menial labor simply because they don’t want to participate in prayer is illegal in the United States: it violates the 1st Amendment of the Constitution.

This is exactly what is done in the military. Recruits and low ranking soldiers and sailors have to do unpleasant menial work if they do not attend “services”.

SWT said:

Atheistoclast said:

phhht said:

Atheistoclast said: the best way to start the day is to pray…

The best way to start the day, poor deprived puritan, is sex with someone you love. Believe me, prayer doesn’t even come close.

Yes, well you do just that and give into licentiousness and carnal pleasure. But that makes you no different from a baboon. As a human being, made in the image of God, I prefer to commune with the Almighty Creator of life and the universe upon whom all subsists. It is an illusion that we have an existence separate to that of our Creator - He is the Source of everything.

Union with one’s spouse is not “licentiousness”, and the physical expression of love is certainly consistent with a righteous life. The fact that humans can choose to use sex as an expression of love and intimacy is, I think, part of distinguishes us from the other animals.

Hardly, bonobos do it all the time, and I am sure there are other examples.

I wonder if you know of George Soros’ strategy?

Mike Elzinga said:

I have occasionally wondered, in occasional daytime nightmares, if there might a strategy underlying the complete madness of the current Republican politics. And that would be to make politics so ugly, so repulsive, and so viciously dirty that rational, intelligent people – voters and potential candidates alike – will simply opt out of the process.

It is getting so expensive to run for political office that only the hidden gatekeepers with billions of dollars and well-organized smear tactics will get to determine who runs for any office. The wackier you are, the better chance you will have to win if only the wackos vote.

These extremist Right Wing groups are using the same tactics that the ID/creationists use against science. They’re cranking out all sorts of fake historians, fake economists, fake scientists, fake records of accomplishment, fake sociology, fake law, fake political science, fake institutions of learning.

In fact, take any subject that is well-studied and understood by anyone, and forms the basis of a halfway decent education consisting of objective sharable knowledge, and these extremists will have prepared a completely fake version of all of it. And then, with the most incredibly crass chutzpa, they accuse everyone else of doing exactly what they themselves are doing.

That’s really dangerous if they have discovered a huge market for this crap.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on August 31, 2011 3:01 PM.

BILL #3: “Synapses and the Self” by V.S. Ramachandran: Updated for 2011 was the previous entry in this blog.

Carnival of Evolution 39 is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.37

Site Meter