Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Reply to Solon

Respectfully, if you want to speak on this topic you need to go study philosophy seriously, and not in the wasteland of the typical Anglo-Saxon phil. department in the US. Christian belief is centred on the notion of a true world of being, apart from the false world of becoming. I.e., Christianity condemns the bodies we know, this world we know, as false and meaningless.

This strikes me as a misrepresentation. The world is, of course, God's creation according to Christianity. We're Christians, not Gnostics.

Christianity has placed all value in another world for which it has no evidence whatsoever, but in which you must have faith.

Again, a misrepresentation. Christians offer evidence on behalf of their beliefs. Or very often do. I'm not a fideist. Now it may turn out that evidence is lacking, but you aren't entitled to just assume this.

Your only value is that you partake in it by the mystery of the "soul." The suspicion arises, however, that this "other" world does not exist, and that it is thus, as the opposite of this world, the opposite of life, i.e., death, nothingness. Ultimate judgments are never true but only useful semiotically, revealing of the judgment creators.

If true, this would include your own comments. You're in no better or worse shape than the Christians you attack. Your own ultimate judgment is no more true than mine on your own view!

Christianity's genealogy suggests it's judgments arose out of a hatred of life, by a people that suffered from life. Is Christianity an expression of revenge upon life? Hence a form of illness?

Now you are claiming to make true judgments about what is ill and what is healthy. If there's no truth, you can't do that.

22 comments:

Solon said...

First let me say that I enjoy stopping by weekly to read your posts. Thank you for taking the time to post them and even more so for speaking to my comments.

>>Christian belief is centred on the notion of a true world of being, apart from the false world of becoming.
>>This strikes me as a misrepresentation. The world is, of course, God's creation according to Christianity.

I don't see why it would be a misrepresentation. Christianity believes there is only one true world, and our world is certainly not it. Our world is false, an error, as is our body, something to [i]rise[/i] from. Of course, one is then stuck explaining our strange predicament, and it begins very tellingly with a story of punishment. One [i]falls[/i] into this world. One [i]rises[/i] out of it. It's again telling that Christianity had to proscribe against suicide early on. Someone, or some people, who suffered from life in our world created this particular answer, amongst all possible answers.

>>Christianity has placed all value in another world for which it has no evidence whatsoever, but in which you must have faith.
>>Again, a misrepresentation. Christians offer evidence on behalf of their beliefs.

There is a fascinating tale of another world told by a few oppressed Jews, nothing more. It is impossible for humanity to stand outside the world and know such ultimate accounts. The fundamentally required asset of a Christian is faith, not dialectical skill.

>>Ultimate judgments are never true but only useful semiotically, revealing of the judgment creators.
>>If true, this would include your own comments.

You've just made my point precisely (though we can find "truth" within a system to which we have access). Which leads us back to the body.

>>Christianity's genealogy suggests it's judgments arose out of a hatred of life, by a people that suffered from life. Is Christianity an expression of revenge upon life? Hence a form of illness?
>>Now you are claiming to make true judgments about what is ill and what is healthy. If there's no truth, you can't do that.

A good point. But I'm saying that a suspicion arises amongst certain types, not the truth writ large. We smell something unhealthy here, in the same way a particular diet weakens and repulses us, though no doubt for some it is necessary for survival, in the way a severely lowered metabolism might be. Christianity fundamentally devalues our world and bodies, and values the opposite, but if we reject this "opposite" that Christianity is selling, we're only left with this world, and then Christianity strikes us as a bizarre predilection for the opposite of life. When an animal seeks to escape from life, does that not reveal a sickness? When we examine the genealogy of the fundamental beliefs of Christianity, we find at root their creation amongst a vengeful, long-oppressed people. Perhaps Christianity was spiritually a "severely lowered metabolism", a way out?

In these cases it is always helpful to look semiotically at pagan religions and their completely contrary focus on the enhancement of animal powers, growth, procreation, and the transfigurement of suffering and death into an affirmation of our world of becoming. Not a diminution of and escape from life, but an enhancement and affirmation of it. Stand any pagan lingam up in the middle of a Christian church and we immediately highlight the prudish, abstracted, anti-animal, anti-humanism of Christianity.

Really, how is that these pagans arrived at such a contrary and positive valuation of our bodies and world, with absolutely no more or less evidence to go on than Christianity had?

Kzer-za said...

Your conception of Chrisitianity sounds a lot more like Gnosticism than the traditional beliefs of the church.

Rising from the dead does not mean escaping from this life. The resurrection does not mean that the body is evil, it affirms the goodness of it. The traditional Christian belief, and the one widely held in the early church, is that we will one day rise bodily from the dead with our bodies immortal and imperishable. They will be restored, renewed and somehow transformed to a new level. The traditional Christian belief is not that our final hope is a disembodied existence (though there probably is some sort of intermediate state before the resurrection) and that the body is something to escape from.

What you're describing is gnosticism - a heretical sect that the early church fought (not in the violent sense) hard against! It has made a comeback recently, and admittedly many Christians are implicitly gnostic to some extent without really realizing it.

In fact, bodily resurrection was almost unthinkable among the pagans. "Resurrection" in the ancient world always meant bodily rising from the dead, not any other form of afterlife (whether it be reincarnation, a vague perpetuation of the soul, or whatever), and few if any pagans believed in it. Celsus, one of the first anti-Christian writers, was disgusted by the very concept of bodily resurrection. Before Christianity, resurrection was a belief basically exclusive to Judaism, and only some sects of it.

Kzer-za said...

A good book on the resurrection and a de-Gnosticized view of the afterlife (really the traditional Christian one) is NT Wright's "Surprised By Hope." It is primarily written to Christians though.

Also, Christianity does not inherently condemn sex, though it does teach that it is for married people only (for pleasure and companionship, not just children), which is obviously an unpopular stance these days. The Bible has a whole book (Song of Solomon) whose primary topic is sex. Paul said that it is better for some to remain single and that God calls some to be single. But he also says that husbands and wives have a duty to satisfy each other, that their bodies belong to each other and not themselves alone, and that they should not deprive each other (and when Paul says "it is good for a man not to touch a woman", the Greek structure shows he's addressing a view held by some within the church, not espousing that view).

Solon said...

Thanks for your comments. I don't purport to be a scholar of internecine Christian warfare, so thanks for the Gnostic reference, but...

Christianity is inundated with unresolvable confusions and contradictions with numerous factions arguing various stories.

For example:

>>They will be restored, renewed and somehow transformed to a new level.

Frankly, it sounds like a cartoon version for the local yokels when the early Christians went around trying to sell all this: "Your body? Uhhh, sure, we can let you take it with you! No one else will give you that deal, my friend, check around. And tell you what, if you sign up today, we'll even throw in our body restoration service for free, seeing as you'll be old and dead. That's a huge saving!" We shouldn't think this was a naive business.

Essentially, however, I think my description is accurate and fair. The body that ages and rots is not divine; the soul is. This world of woe is one we have fallen into through sin and punishment; the true world awaits the "redeemed." The rest is coloring.

>>In fact, bodily resurrection was almost unthinkable among the pagans.

I hope I didn't make you think I was arguing for pagan resurrection. Pagans, it seems to me, affirm death as an aspect of life. Christianity affirms it as a release from (this) life.

>>Before Christianity, resurrection was a belief basically exclusive to Judaism, and only some sects of it.

I see little essential difference between Judaism and Christianity on most points. Christianity is Judaism feminized, abstracted, made cosmopolitan. Same root.

>>The Bible has a whole book (Song of Solomon) whose primary topic is sex.

Well, the Jews have, to their honor; the Christians stole it.

>>Christianity does not inherently condemn sex

No, obviously it can't because we are undeniably animals, but the process of birth and death is quite the nasty little riddle thrown in the road to true being. What I am saying is simply that next to pagan religions' divinization of procreation and sexuality, Christianity's anti-animality (and hence anti-sexuality) is put into very strong relief.

And I'm asking, fundamentally, how it is that such different replies to these unanswerable questions came to be. What sort of people were drawn to them?

Ilíon said...

Gnosticism predates Christianity by many centuries in the Hellenized world. The word names a category of sets of beliefs, rather than some specific set of beliefs.

After Christianity began to be noticed, some Gnostics tried to subsume Christianity into their version(s) of gnosticism. This is what the early Church fought as a heresy.

Jason Pratt said...

Solon:

I can’t decide yet from your wording (either in the letter Victor is replying to, or in your next reply), whether you’re trying to condemn truth claims of Christians on the ground that “ultimate judgments are [in principle] never true but only useful semiotically, revealing of the judgment creators”; or whether you’re claiming that attitudes of the sort you’re attributing to Christians lead to that fruitless and vain kind of epistemic result.

If it’s the latter, then you need to be aware that opponents to Christianity (and other religions) have often tried to claim the former themselves in direct opposition to Christian epistemic claims, and that Victor thought you were trying to do the same, too. You also need to be aware that your doctrinal descriptions are not indicative of orthodox Christianity, whose theologians and philosophers have routinely condemned such an anti-creational attitude. More on this below.

If it’s the former, then your own very numerous hard truth claims about “Christianity” are themselves “never true but only useful semiotically, revealing of the judgment creators”--specifically they aren’t true about Christianity at all, but only reveal something about you. (Apparently not something true about you, either, though, which makes the so-called ‘revelation’ rather specious. {g}) I mean if your claim about truth claims (or “ultimate judgments”) never being true is itself true, over against your claim about such things never being true.

Here in the philosophical wasteland of the US, though, we like to think that even our opponents might possibly be capable of making actually true truth claims. Otherwise we’d just talk about you to each other as if you were only some Furbee, or perhaps just ignore you and go off to do something worth our time instead.

Hopefully you meant the former, though, and not the latter; I could see pretty easily how that might be true, and I’d even be willing to agree with that judgment of yours against the specious epistemic results of the ideology of the people you’re talking about. I would only add that it isn’t us. {s}


{{Christianity believes there is only one true world, and our world is certainly not it.}}

No orthodox Christianity (which most Christian groups, East and West, nominally are) proclaims or promotes this idea. Even some of the explicitly counter-orthodox groups (like the Mormons) don't promote this.

The vast majority of Christian groups do promote supernaturalism, which is not even remotely the same thing as 'our world' being 'false' or 'an error'. The canonical texts speak of this world being created good by God, and then corrupted by rebellion of the creatures; with God concerned to restore His creation to the glory He originally planned for it. Christianity is about saving God's creation, not about leaving it behind as some kind of error.

There were some counter-orthodox groups in the 2nd century and later who did take the line you're representing, in regard to creation, but they were roundly condemned, both at the time and ever afterward, by the forebears of the people you're picking a fight with here. {g} The closest thing within orthodoxy to this kind of attitude was found among the desert ascetics, but even they held to the hope of the redemption of the world, and they're widely regarded as having over-reacted to the evils prevalent in human society. (There's also a temptation by sloppy theologians to over-rhetoricize concerning the distinctions between creation and Creator, but insofar as the theologians retain some degree of orthodox profession they'll turn around and correct themselves on that--though sometimes they only do so when they think it's convenient. {s})

{{One falls into this world. One rises out of it.}}

Not in any canonical text. We're born into this world, not as punishment for something we did as pre-existent souls, but because that was God's original plan. We may leave it temporarily when we die, but as the saying goes, "We'll be back." {g} And the expectation is that we'll recover our healed bodies, too, transformed into a new mode of existence.

Origen did speculate that we 'fall into' this world, but that element of his theology was strongly condemned by subsequent orthodox theologians--of which (again) the people you're talking to here are the direct descendants.

{{It's again telling that Christianity had to proscribe against suicide early on.}}

Suicide was proscribed as murder; and indeed was proscribed as a selfish rejection of the created world. If Christian theology was really what you keep trying to tell Christian theologians (ahem), suicide would have been positively advocated for purposes of freeing ourselves from this erroneous world asap.

{{There is a fascinating tale of another world told by a few oppressed Jews, nothing more.}}

Too bad you haven't paid enough attention to the tale, despite its 'fascinating' quality, to get the ideological details better. {s}

And I, for one, do not rely on old stories of "a few oppressed Jews" to arrive at my metaphysical beliefs. (I do make use of them for some historical beliefs, but those are beliefs about this world. {s})

Even if you yourself regard classical apologetics as worthless, many of us do not; and it is a severe category error to simply ignore our efforts as though we do not even exist. (Now, if you want to go attack the presuppositionalists and/or the fideists, have at it; but you're at the wrong journal for that, here. They’re guests sometimes, but not the main contributors.)

{{The fundamentally required asset of a Christian is faith, not dialectical skill.}}

Actually, the fundamentally required asset of a Christian is charity, not faith (or dialectical skill either). Jesus accepts people in the Gospels who have no particularly recognizable “Christian faith” at all; whereas on the other hand practically all of what He has to say about punishment is directed toward uncharitable servants of His. (Including the apostles themselves at times!)

Having said that, there has always been a strong temptation to Christianityity (so to speak), where the ideology is protected by assertive bulwarks; but even that heresy (which strictly speaking is the real ‘gnostic’ heresy--salvation by doctrinal knowledge/profession) is a corruption of the virtue of loyalty and trustworthiness.

{{But I'm saying that a suspicion arises amongst certain types, not the truth writ large. We smell something unhealthy here}}

Your innuendos don’t count as rational criticisms, however. Which is probably why you shift elsewhere to direct oppositional truth claims: those don’t look like only suspicious innuendos.

{{Christianity fundamentally devalues our world and bodies, and values the opposite}}

Christianity recognizes a distinction between rational and non-rational behavior. I’m pretty sure atheists do, too, and agree with us that the natural world simply goes about its amoral non-rational operations of reaction and counterreaction as a neutral field. Instead of ‘devaluing the world and our bodies’, though, we look at it as valuing persons over non-persons. Which is not the same as saying that non-persons aren’t important, too, including to persons (in various ways). Only a person can actively love, with true love, whether the object of that love is another person or a non-personal entity. Both are proper in their own ways, but personhood has to be protected (where it’s vulnerable) in order for love to continue to be an option.

To be “only left with this world”, is to be only left with amoral non-rational behaviors. Christians do reject that! (As do quite a few other religions.) But then, it isn’t us who have “a bizzare predilection for the opposite of life.”

{{When we examine the genealogy of the fundamental beliefs of Christianity, we find at root their creation amongst a vengeful, long-oppressed people.}}

Who, specifically as part of their religion, are slowly and painfully being taught to love their enemies, whether those who oppress them or those who they themselves wanted to oppress. Judaism is one of the most self-critical religions on the market; Christianity picks that up and runs with it. (Exemplified, once again, by the teachings of the man we think was and still is not only the Jewish Messiah but the Jewish God Incarnate.)

{{In these cases it is always helpful to look semiotically at pagan religions and their completely contrary focus on the enhancement of animal powers}}

The enhancement of irrational powers is not exactly the bulwark and promotion of rationality, though. (Which is why the pagan philosophers tended to be dismissive of popular religions of the masses.)

I happen to have a great fondness for paganism; but the “prudish, abstracted, anti-animal” attitude you’re talking about is pro-humanism, not anti-humanism. Rational guidance and stewardship of the non-rational elements, requires not letting the non-rational elements carry us off into irrationality. (It’s also implicitly parallel to the ontology of supernaturalism, where the non-rational derives from the rational, which loves the non-rational but does not value it over the rational.)

{{Really, how is that these pagans arrived at such a contrary and positive valuation of our bodies and world, with absolutely no more or less evidence to go on than Christianity had?}}

Why is it easier for me to eat three cookies at Subway with my lunch, rather than stick to my resolution to drop 20 pounds? Rationality is always at least a little harder to do than irrationality; and irrational behavior tends to be more immediately enjoyable, too. (Drug abuse is a classic example of that problem.)

There’s also the question of whether I should be buying those cookies, or saving up that money to send off to help buy food for people elsewhere who don’t have my advantages. Selfishness is usually easier (and more immediately self-pleasing) than charity, too.

Self-discipline is hard work, and frequently requires us to go against our self-pleasing instincts, valuable though those may be in other regards. Ascetics are typically trying to be self-disciplinary, even though they can go too far with that.

{{Frankly, [bodily resurrection] sounds like a cartoon version for the local yokels when the early Christians went around trying to sell all this}}

More like coherence with what they thought Judaism was rightly teaching, and what Jesus had recently undergone Himself. It’s odd that you’re dismissing the local yokels this way, though, since those people were precisely the pagans! (‘Pagan’ practically means ‘yokel’. {s}) You admit that this would be appealing to pagans, as an affirmation of the body; but then you dismiss such an appeal as lowbrow populism--after singing the praises of bodily glorification previously over against some religion which was supposed to be completely antithetical to the body and the natural creation, which antitheticality you dissed in comparison with those great nature-avowing pagans.

Frankly, it looks like any stick is good enough to beat ‘Christianity’ with. {s}

{{I hope I didn't make you think I was arguing for pagan resurrection.}}

No, but you went to some trouble to make us think that Christian resurrection claims, of a transformed and redeemed body, would be specially attractive to the local yokels (== the pagans. {s}) We already knew that, though. {g}

What’s interesting is that you think we necessarily have to be dropping that doctrine, or presenting it as some kind of trick maybe in order to fool those local yokels when we really believe something else. Um, no, the orthodox really do believe in the restoration and salvation of the body as well as the spirit.

{{The body that ages and rots is not divine; the soul is.}}

True; but the body that ages and rots is still loved by the divine, and will be saved along with the soul, someday.

{{This world of woe is one we have fallen into through sin and punishment}}

More like we (along with rebel spirits) changed this world into one of woe through sin, with the woe-result being part of the punishment for doing that.

If your description was “accurate and fair”, then orthodox theologians wouldn’t keep affirming bodily resurrection and the salvation and restoration of the natural world, but would dump that as soon as they got the locals on board. True, there were some secret societies that promoted themselves as the spiritual elite who did try to teach the mere dumping of the world; but those spiritual elitists were roundly condemned (then and afterward) by the orthodox theologians. Again, there are certainly some ‘Christian’ scholars who today dump the whole notion of bodily restoration and the salvation of the world for a more ‘spiritual’ ‘Christianity’--but they also tend to dump significant portions of orthodox doctrine in the process as being ‘superstition’ or whatever.

If you want to go pick a fight with them, go for it. They could use it. {g} Most of us, though, are still orthodox or largely so, and we still look for the salvation of the world, and believe that if we aren’t cooperating with God in working toward that then we’re sinning against God: Who so loves all of creation that He Himself was born as flesh among us, to live and die and rise again with the recovery of that poor bruised abused battered ripped and mistreated flesh--not only for the sake of the people who love Him, but for the sake of His enemies, too.

(Granted, most Christians start to get hinky about this and decide sooner or later that God either will give up trying to save and restore His enemies or else never intended to do so to begin with. As far as I’m concerned, you’re welcome to gripe about that, too! {g} But I’m a Christian universalist, precisely because I take orthodoxy extremely seriously. And even those other more-or-less orthodox Christians still affirm in their own way that God is trying to save at least some of the world from the ruinations of rebels.)

{{Christianity is Judaism feminized, abstracted, made cosmopolitan.}}

Sounds like Judaism paganized. {g} Odd how we’re supposed to have “stolen” the Song of Songs from the Jews.

Actually, to be fair, Jews and Christians both have overwritten the Song with Messianic/Divine higher meanings in interpretation. But sexual romance as an image of the relationship of God to creation is far from being simply antithetical to sexual romance. As I think many pagans would have agreed, and still would agree. {s}

(Not incidentally, the most erotic scene in my novel Cry of Justice gave me the most opportunities for positive religious mysticism, too. {g})

{{but the process of birth and death is quite the nasty little riddle thrown in the road to true being.}}

Death may be, but birth isn’t. God tells man and woman to go forth and multiply in Genesis 1, before the Fall--problems related to birth and sex occur after the Fall, in the Genesis story. But even there, God promises that one born of woman will someday defeat rebellion. And in the fulness of time, God Himself is born of woman. (Who, so far as the canonical stories actually go, apparently goes on to have quite a few other children the old-fashioned just-as-God-sanctioned way. {s})

Death is the problem; not birth. But God defeats death by submitting to death, going through it and beyond it to life again--and not just leaving His natural body (born of woman) behind to become a mere bodiless spirit.

If you’re going to diss the story told by a few oppressed Jews, at least get the story right. {s}

JRP

Solon said...

>>Gnosticism predates Christianity by many centuries in the Hellenized world.

Gee, thanks. Also for defining commonplace words on the other thread. How about we assume a moderate level of phil. knowledge, and a facility for using google, and anyone who needs help can ask for it?

Btw, this wasn't meant facetiously: "thanks for the Gnostic reference, but..." I'm not aware of the book you mention.

JRP, your post is going to take a while, but I'll read it, thanks. To begin, though, I certainly don't think only Christians are incapable of standing outside the world and offering judgment upon it.

Solon said...

By the way, what are all the Ss and Gs and such???

Jason Pratt said...

Solon,

They're emoticons. {s} == smile. {g} == grin. I'm a pretty cheerful guy.

{g!}

JRP

Ilíon said...

Ilíon: "Gnosticism predates Christianity by many centuries in the Hellenized world."

Solon: "Gee, thanks. Also for defining commonplace words on the other thread. How about we assume a moderate level of phil. knowledge, and a facility for using google, and anyone who needs help can ask for it?"


I think not:

Solon: "I don't purport to be a scholar of internecine Christian warfare, so thanks for the Gnostic reference, but...

Christianity is inundated with unresolvable confusions and contradictions with numerous factions arguing various stories.
"

Or, would you prefer that I assume you *do* know that Gnosticism is not Christianity, and yet try to classify it as Christianity anyway?

Jason Pratt said...

Incidentally, I had a composition error near the beginning:

{{Hopefully you meant the former, though, and not the latter}}

That should read, "Hopefully you meant the latter, though, and not the former." I was distracted by occurrences back here, and lost my train of thought. Sorry. {g}

JRP

Solon said...

>>Or, would you prefer that I assume you *do* know that Gnosticism is not Christianity, and yet try to classify it as Christianity anyway?

I'd prefer you stop randomly interjecting definitions and noise entirely, but that's just me. If you're just here to pee on the thread, do some gardening or something pleasurable instead.

(You might also realize that, as the poster to whom I was replying had just noted, there are Gnostic strains within Christianity - amongst many strains I'm not an expert on.)

Solon said...

>>They're emoticons. {s} == smile. {g} == grin.

What's the difference? I was figuring the 's' was for sarcasm when reading your post.

Jason Pratt said...

Grins are stronger smiles; smiles are gentler grins. {s} Or, teeth and no teeth, come to think of it. {g}

I don't usually emoticon sarcasm, but I do sometimes add {wry} to wry, ironic or even sarcastic comments. Not always, though.

Good question, though. It isn't always easy to tell a person's attitudes in writing.

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Btw, on my use of 'gnostic' and 'Gnostic': I use the former term, non-capped, to refer to a general category of 'salvation by doctrinal knowledge or profession'. Many religions feature this in various fashions, and it's endemic in Christianity's history. I would also argue it to be a technical heresy. It isn't however the same as rejection of the material world as an illusion, an error, or as intrinsically evil.

I use the capped version of the term (Gnostic) to refer to a set of groups who first show up clearly on the cultural radar in the 2nd century CE. These groups not only always featured salvation by knowledge, but also typically featured elitist salvation by secret knowledge; easy syncretism of concepts and figures from other religions; and a philosophical position (with mythology and often cosmology to match) promoting the material world as evil, illusory and/or an error. Some of these groups had a high opinion of Jesus as some kind of exalted created being sent to lead people to freedom from materiality with the goal of loss of personality and refusion into the original rational entity (somewhat similar to types of Buddhism). Other groups don't seem to have bothered with Jesus at all.

They were not indicative of majority Christian teaching, though--much of the point to their attraction was secret elitism--and were frequently explicitly counter-orthodox. For example, they often positioned YHWH as a lying evil selfish entity either responsible for the creation of materiality (which he shouldn't have done) or else just trying to fool other people into accepting him as the overgod creator. (cf Philip Pullman's use of YHWH in his fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials. Not all Gnostic systems bothered to talk about YHWH, but it isn't surprising that they would treat YHWH this way when they did make reference to him Where they incorporate both Jesus and YHWH into the system, Jesus is always opposed to YHWH, so far as I know. I am not aware of any reference to Christ, other than just in the name 'Christianity', in Pullman's series, btw.)

The orthodox position has always been, however, that the Jewish YHWH is the supreme God from Whom and by Whom all things exist; that He created the natural world for good purposes; and that Jesus of Nazareth is this same God willingly born into Nature as a human, in order to save and restore His beloved creation. Even when some orthodox communities went nearly off the deep end with their asceticism, they still were proclaiming that gospel; which is one reason (among several) why they were still considered orthodox despite their extreme asceticism.

A friend of mine, apologist and author David Marshall, published a book last year helpfully outlining the differences between the Gnostics and orthodox theology. He gave an interview to me for posting on the Christian Cadre journal, here. There are many other resources, both in print and online, but he's a pretty friendly place to start. {s}

JRP

Solon said...

JRP, thank you for your many comments. I'm leaving on a trip very shortly - funnily enough, I'll be visiting the Vatican at some point - so not sure when I can reply again.

In general, we are coming at this very differently:

1) You are focused on the minutiae of Christianity (Chr); I'm interested in the base ideas, pun intended, which I see not only in Chr but also, for example, in analogous exemplars of nihilism like Socratism, or Buddhism (both of which, to me, offer a far more intelligent and even noble approach than Chr.). So, if I am wrong in essense, I care; I do not care, however, if a certain riddle about the body was resolved at a Chr conference in the 5th century, or if one view is largely orthodox or not, etc. We are discussing merely optimistic (more earthly) and pessimistic (less earthly) approaches to the same problem within the same realm, with my emphasis above on the pessimistic result, and your helpful re-emphasis of the optimistic ride. But I do not use "optimistic" in a positive sense; they are both born of the same disease. Socrates was an optimist who crash-landed with a Silenic condemnation of life when the optimism for solving the "problem" of life ran out: "we owe a rooster to Asclepius."

(In other words, rebound to nihilism. Asked by King Midas what is most desirable for man, Silenus replied: "Oh, wretched ephemeral race, children of chance and misery, why do you compel me to tell you what it would be most expedient for you not to hear? What is best of all is utterly beyond your reach: not to be born, not to be, to be nothing. But the second best for you is - to die soon." )

2) You are fixated on an imagined Truth with a capital T; without it you have us then fall straight to complete irrationality. This destruction highlights Chr nihilism. There is rationality and truth within a system; the system itself is never true or rationally grounded. In other words, no Truth with a capital T is accessible. For example, 2+2=4 is true given mathematics; mathematics itself is never True. Within Chr killing is wrong, but the Chr system of morals never is. It's a declaration, a creation, and one of many possible such creations. (What then are these systems if they are never true? They are expressions of a certain type of life form.) So, while you are asking about Truth, I'm asking what is true within a system, and, far more importantly, how a certain system (judgment, view, morality, etc.) came to be established. In other words, genealogy and psychology. What type of life form gave rise to this?

Chr attempts to solve the "problem" of human existence that it sees. It's not that there is a problem, but it sees one. The dualism of Christianity is evident everywhere, including your comments: body/soul, body/mind, person/animal, good/evil, true/false, heaven/hell, life/afterlife. You may quibble about the details, but as there are no dead Christians walking around, I think we're safe in assuming that the "world" and "body" Chr speaks of and promises is not this particular world and body, however they wish to finesse it. Hence Chr devalues what we are in favor of some imagined sanitized opposite where pain and suffering (i.e., becoming) have finally been "solved" by being extirpated. But if we have no faith in this opposite, or see no problem with life, and accept and affirm that life IS a process of birth and death and becoming, where joy and suffering are inextricably linked, then this Chr opposite of a true world that holds all value amounts to nothingness. Hence nihilism.

In particular:

>>The body that ages and rots is not divine; the soul is.
>>True; but..

Let's stop with the essential.

>>Suicide was proscribed as a selfish rejection of the created world

Exactly. "Morality" was required to keep one here for now.

>>Too bad you haven't paid enough attention to the tale, despite its 'fascinating' quality

The point was, you have no more grounding for this tale that any pagan has for his. So why the starkly contrasting valuation of life? If not in the reasons, it is in the persons.

>>>we find at root their creation amongst a vengeful, long-oppressed people.
>>Who, specifically as part of their religion, are slowly...

Irrelevant. I'm looking critically at how these particular answers were invented. What was the attraction? You answered:

>>Rationality is always at least a little harder
>>Self-discipline is hard work

Painfully ignorant and self-serving, excuse my language. As I've been pointing out, there is absolutely nothing more rational about the ground of Chr judgments than pagan ones. Not a spec more. If there is, demonstrate it. You can't. The chasm standing before your imagined ground was only leapt because..."truth" was "revealed" to you. It's a cheap magician's trick. Chr is a diet for a particular life form. Is any diet more rationally grounded and true than another? Never in itself. Only to accomplish a certain goal does it serve as a means. And in its condemnation of this world and suffering it demonstrates what it is a means to, as well as its weakness vis-à-vis paganism's affirmation of the aforesaid.

>>Actually, the fundamentally required asset of a Christian is charity, not faith

It doesn't matter much to me, but I don't hear about charitable pagans being saved, merely those who have faith in your savior. The point was, god is not accessible; you must have faith. (Or cheat and say it was revealed to you through a secret portal. Malkovich, Malkovitch?)

>>Frankly, [bodily resurrection] sounds like a cartoon version for the local yokels when the early Christians went around trying to sell all this
>>It’s odd that you’re dismissing the local yokels this way...

The joke was not a dissertation to get prolix or pedantic about. But you're right in that strength is not absolute but a measure of the ability to overcome. It is always easier to fall back, much as Rome did, or the Khmer kingdom did after its exhausting period of the more optimistic, somewhat Christian-like, Mahayana Buddhism at the time of Angkor.

>>if we aren’t cooperating with God in working toward that then we’re sinning against God: Who so loves all of creation that He Himself was born as flesh among us, to live and die and rise again with the recovery of that poor bruised abused battered ripped and mistreated flesh--not only for the sake of the people who love Him, but for the sake of His enemies, too.

Surely you are embarrassed having to trot these party tricks out in the midst of a rational conversation, rather than in a get-together for sect members? For non-sect members, it's like talking to Tom Cruise who then starts spouting babble about Thetes, or whatever they are called in Scientology. We have to wait until you return to Earth so as to continue.

>>This world of woe is one we have fallen into through sin and punishment
>>More like we (along with rebel spirits) changed this world into one of woe through sin, with the woe-result being part of the punishment for doing that.

Same thing, given that this world is not the world it was after the crime. But very telling if we contrast again. Compare with tragic hubris in Greek mythology which bestows a certain nobility upon humanity and suffering, rather than, as in Chr mythology, forever poisons existence with an invention called "sin" in order to explain our suffering. The former affirms suffering and our world; the latter condemns it.

>>Jews and Christians both have overwritten the Song with Messianic/Divine higher meanings
>>the most erotic scene in my novel Cry of Justice gave me the most opportunities for positive religious mysticism, too

You've demonstrated perfectly how Chr sucks the blood and life out of human animality and sexuality and leaves in its place a mere abstraction. It is sickly.

>>God promises that one born of woman will someday defeat rebellion. And in the fullness of time

Sure, "someday." Keep the faith. Or charity, was it? :-)

Which returns us to my point at the beginning about optimism, and it's subsequent failure. I'm going to cheat and cut and paste from the other thread with an analogous example of nihilistic optimism where a problem with life was seen and needed to be resolved. The Christian tale is, in essence, the same:

--------
It is the exact same with Socrates, who finally admitted he saw life as a disease for which death was the only answer, and his philosophy betrayed that. Understanding Eros - desire - is key. In the Symposium the father of Eros is Expedient (Poros) whose name means "path." He represents the mind and can lead to divinity as he has a touch of the divine in him (recall the good Christian, Kant). The mother of Eros is Poverty, or Need, (Penia) and represents the body and becoming. Feminine "need" is the driving force. When Eros' "expedients" succeed in "enriching" Eros by attaining true being, Eros dies! One desires, even philosophizes, only out of need; true being is static. Creativity, even philosophy, is absent from the gods, as there is nothing they could desire to change. Falling into our world is a form of degeneration, equivalent to the Semitic myth of the Fall. Once here, the goal is simply to escape back into the repose of true being. Socrates (i.e., Socratic faith in reason) is the demon who leads us out of becoming and dies into being - out of need, weakness.

Contrast the Nietzschean "demon" who leads us to the thought of the eternal recurrence: "how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal". It is not thought true but rather the body's possible affirmation of and faith in the permanence - "truth" - of becoming, i.e., of life, as opposed to the unattainable "true" world of being sought via reason by Socrates for repose from life, until his search ended in the condemnation of life.
---------

Solon said...

>>We are discussing merely optimistic (more earthly) and pessimistic (less earthly) approaches to the same problem within the same realm
>>they are both born of the same disease.

By the way, having perspective like this helps you to understand that the so-called atheists you guys tend to argue with are, a la Richard Carrier et al., really just naive rational-optimists on the same road. They want to do away with the Chr god yet find Truth, renew Chr morality, and solve the "problem" of life. Give me an honest Chr any day.

Jason Pratt said...

Solon,

Sorry for the delay; aside from finishing up actual ‘work’ work projects last week, I was trying to take a break from composition (but not succeeding very well. {g}) Also, it takes me a while to write these things.

{{In general, we are coming at this very differently:}}

Yeah, rather. {g!}

{{You are focused on the minutiae of Christianity (Chr)}}

I’m a theologian; it’s my job (though a non-paying one, so perhaps I should say it’s my hobby. {lol!})

Also, as someone who actually practices my faith, I like to keep track of what it is that I actually believe, and why. Since I didn’t invent Christianity, it also behooves me to keep track (including in a critical fashion) of how various Christians before me handled the faith, both so that I can avoid mistakes they made, and so that I can profit from any good that they may have achieved. Moreover, since my faith has a certain historical component, I have a responsibility to figure out (insofar as I can, both from my own studies and with help where I can find sober analysis on the topic) what the originators (and/or Originator) of Christianity taught and did, and what implications I ought to be drawing from that.

Now, the “base ideas” of the faith, are part of a set along with minuitae. If I don’t have a basic concept of the faith, then the minuitae are worthless--or maybe worse than useless! Which St. Paul also said, though far more pertinently and poetically, when he was talking about the basic idea of the faith: which (as I said previously) is charity. Without that we are nothing; it doesn’t matter what we know, or think, or believe.

Moreover, this was what Jesus consistently came back to: yes, salvation from sin is crucial (even literally!), as is trusting God to save us from sin. And he (or He rather) did lead people to realize Who He was (or, if you prefer, who he was claiming to be), and expected the proper loyalty from people who had the advantages of being able to grasp this. But--and this has always baffled those Christians who got the idea that doctrinal accuracy was how God saves--Jesus also said, and exemplified very consistently, that belief in Him and even works done in His name were worthless without charity to our neighbors. And that includes to enemies. (YHWH had said much the same thing in the OT prophets, being very critical of Israel in the process. Jesus was following suit.)

The basic idea of my belief, including my theological belief and all the technicalities involved in that, is true love. That includes truly loving Nature, too, within its propriety. God willingly sacrifices Himself for the sake of even Nature’s existence. I had better damned well respect it, then, and not try to abuse it.

It is true that this is even more pertinent in regard to persons; for while Nature cannot (yet) truly love anything, persons can do so. But that doesn’t abrogate my duty to truly love even that which cannot yet truly love anything. It is only by love that we even exist as persons from non-persons to start with; if God had not first loved Nature, we would not be here to discuss these issues.


Where we are coming at things very differently, then, is this: I, the believing and practicing Christian, think my basic beliefs are about true love. You, the opponent to Christianity, think my basic beliefs are not about true love. Which I don’t blame you for, since Christians throughout our history have often tended to forget this (as might be expected since we are after all still sinners; when I consider my own sins I typically see that I have ignored or taken mere advantage of love, for example.) Nevertheless, even when Christians forget, they often still remember it in a secondary fashion.


Anyway, orthodox Christianity--and most of the Christians commenting on this journal are at least nominally orthodox, including Victor--is not at all about nihilism. The actual official nihilists (such as Nietzsche) were the sworn enemies of Christianity and especially of orthodox Christianity.


{{So, if I am wrong in essense, I care}}

Orthodoxy debates have always been about working out proper implications of the essence of our beliefs. Which is why those conferences in the 5th century (or whenever) are relevant to your criticisms, and to your being correct or incorrect about what the essence of Christianity is.

I could take any of them as an example, but for purposes of self-criticism I will take an example I happen to dissent from: among the Eastern Orthodox, there was a fierce debate across a few centuries (up through the rise of Islam, which for certain technical reasons exacerbated this particular debate) whether Christians should make use of icons or not. The only thing I have against icons is the same thing that most of the Christian iconoclasts had against them: making official use and veneration of icons leads too easily into idolatry. The iconoclasts went too far off the horse and banned any visual representation of God or Christ (for a while), but they were (over-)responding to the insistence of the iconophiles that people be encouraged to use icons in a formal religious devotion.

Now, here’s the point. I don’t agree with the iconophiles as to their sanguinity regarding the use of icons in worship. But I do agree with their constant and steady theological defense (which, as they well knew, their iconoclast opponents also agreed with, which is precisely why the iconophiles used that defense): iconography theologically celebrated the love of God for physical material and the natural world, and in its own way the practice was (and still is today) trying to look forward to the salvation and glorification not only of persons but also of non-personal natural material.

I will take another example out of many I could mention, but also regarding a practice that in some way I myself do not agree with. The Eastern Orthodox and the (Western) Roman Catholics, along with some Protestant Churches, avow the real presence of Christ in the transubstantiation of the bread and wine (though especially the bread for some reason I’ve not yet quite understood. {s}) I do not and cannot agree with some of the uses and doctrines attached to this, mainly in regard to salvific efficiency; but I do agree with and hugely respect a key rationale and importance these groups recognize to be exemplified by the Real Presence: God loves the natural world, and glorifies it, giving Himself for it in His own sacrifice of Himself, not only so that it can exist, but so that it can someday become more than it already is. Indeed, the Roman Catholics go so far with this doctrine, that throughout its history (and this practice is being slowly recovered today) churches have been encouraged to set aside a nave or some place for the perpetual adoration of the Host.


When you ignore Christian doctrinal history, and the details of Christian doctrine, then you end up with a deeply truncated and proportionately inaccurate idea of the essence of Christian doctrine, too. If you’re going to oppose Chrisitanity root and branch, at least be accurate in what you’re opposing. The people whom you are condemning as having a condemnation of life, are the same people who in the modern world are most likely to oppose (on specifically religious grounds) abortion, homosexuality and even birth control.

It’s true that people who managed to restrain and control their irrational impulses, including sex drives, earned much respect in antiquity (including among the pagans in some famous variations--the Vestal Virgins come to mind); it’s also true that earning such respect would lead to a temptation to magnify that virtue to poisonous extremes, and that did in fact happen among Christians (as well as among some pagans--the devotees of Ganymede come to mind). But those extremes can be clearly and directly critiqued within and by the actual core beliefs themselves, at least in the case of orthodox Christianity; and eventually that’s what happened, too.


Onto the second topic:

{{You are fixated on an imagined Truth with a capital T; without it you have us then fall straight to complete irrationality.}}

Actually, my notions and uses of ‘rationality’, ‘non-rationality’, and ‘irrationality’, have to do with the property capability of action distinct from reaction. I consider truth to be personal correspondence with fact: assuming for sake of argument that facts could exist without any persons existing at all (i.e. per atheism), there would be no truth so long as there were no persons. (This is typically admitted by non-Platonist atheists, which I think are the majority, though I am personally acquainted with at least one Platonistic atheist.) With persons, i.e. those entities who can rationally act instead of only automatically reacting, then truth becomes possible.

Now, it ought to be obvious that if I have a fixation on objective facts, existing independently of whatever I perceive to be true about them, then insofar as I reason about Nature at all (which is frequent and perhaps constitutes the strong majority of my topical reasoning), I am extremely far from nihilism and am never going to be going in that direction. It was the modern nihilists who were most closely linked to the abandonment of “Truth with a capital T”; and I think that this has been true of positions closely related to nihilism (such as Buddhism, or many varieties of it anyway--there are scads {g}) in the history of religion and philosophy, too.

Do I believe in truth? Yep--consequently, I am obviously not a nihilist! Do I believe in “Truth with a capital T”? Yep, I believe in that, too--because I am an orthodox trinitarian theist, who believes that the foundational ground of all reality is an eternally coherent interpersonal relationship. (Perhaps not incidentally, the real nihilists have had a notable habit of spitting on that idea more than anything else in religious history.)

Do I think that human rationality would be impossible without God, and especially the existence of that kind of God? As a matter of fact, yes I do; though I also go further and claim there would be no existence at all without such a God (a belief I hold thanks to an aggregate of many technical reasons, which I cannot possibly summarize in a comment, even one of my typical lengths. If you are going to deride a Christian for being anti-rational, btw, it might be better not to turn around and complain about a Christian being interested in minutiae, prolixity and pedantry. {g})

Do I think people can be ‘rational’ without them believing such a God exists? Of course; duh. Reality goes on about its business regardless of what people think or believe about it (except to the extent that they themselves contribute to the events in reality, of course, introducing new situations. But that doesn’t change the ground of reality.)

Do I consider a person to be necessarily “irrational” (“completely” so or otherwise) if they deny objective truth? No, not necessarily, because my use of “irrational” is very strict and fairly technical: it has to do with actively rational entities temporarily reverting to only reacting in their behaviors. Instinctive behaviors in rational entities are “irrational” according to this usage, for example.

Do I consider people who make arguments (or even declarative statements) based on truth claims, who then try to present truth claims (per se) as being only indicative of the beliefs (and/or other mental states) of the claimants, to be falling straight into illogic one way or another? Yep, I do. And I would suggest that the fault lies in the insistence that such claims only reflect mental states of the claimants.

When “rationality and truth” are only to be considered present as mere descriptions of an abstract system, then it ought to be obvious that the people who insist against such a position that rationality and truth are more important than that, are not only trying to avoid the nihilism of merely subjective rationality, but are also standing up for the importance of the objective world in the truth-correspondence of a rational thinker. I want to know what the facts are, about that desk in front of me; and if I am not being true in my thinking in regard to those facts, then I am behaving at least inaccurately and maybe also irresponsibly.

{{For example, 2+2=4 is true given mathematics; mathematics itself is never True.}}

If mathematics is neither true nor false, then it is completely irrelevant (at best) whether 2+2=4 is “true”. To which I would add that the statement quoted above smacks of logical incoherency as a proposition set that is supposed to have legitimate meaning of relationship between the clausal elements (i.e. the two mini-sentences separated by the semi-colon.)

{{Within Chr killing is wrong}}

It would be more accurate to say that Christians believe ‘there is such a thing as wrong killing, or murder’. Some versions of Christianity go the distance on that and identify all killing as murder; but the language of the scriptures on that topic, are about ‘murder’, not simply ‘killing’ per se (so far as I have been able to tell.)

In any case, a system of belief that declares any-or-all-killing to be really morally wrong, cannot be nihilistic (as ought to be patently obvious).

{{but the Chr system of morals never is [wrong].}}

I am familiar with a wide range of opponents to Christianity who would disagree with that statement, at least in regard to some particulars. {g} I think that they would appreciate me at least potentially taking them seriously on their claims about this, rather than simply treating their statements as being the equivalent of verbal fluorescence of a particular color: the mere expression of a particular type of life-form. (Admittedly, that would feel very safe to me, I suppose; but would I not be instantly derided for being an uncritical fool, or a coward, unwilling or unable to face up to challenges to my ‘faith’?)

You yourself would seem to be among those opponents, too!--unless you didn’t mean for me to take your own judgment even potentially seriously, when you wrote (for example) that “to you” Socratism or Buddhism offer a far more intelligent and even noble approach than Christianity. Was I supposed to ignore that as being not even possibly of value, as an obvious value judgment, to anyone but you?! Was that only an expression of a certain type of life form, and not even potentially anything more?

{{(What then are these systems if they are never true? They are expressions of a certain type of life form.)}}

Itself only a declaration, a creation, and one of many possible such creations; only an expression of a certain type of life form, and only true (if it can be called that) within a system of thought that is itself neither true nor false: it doesn’t even have the dignity of being wrong.

I mean, according to your system of thought, those statements are true about the truth claim of your quoted statements.

I do not call this irrationality (I save that term for other, more focused purposes). But I do call it a logical failure. (Or as my pupil, who is fond of “teh internets” would say, “EPIC FAIL!” {g})

I could level that critique, based on your own attempted systemic claims, at practically every single declarative statement in your post, not-incidentally. You only avoid mutually assured epistemic destruction by fudging in favor of your own declaratives: you expect me to treat your declaratives according to a very different standard of evaluation, than that which you level against all declaratives.

It ought to be obvious, in any case (though just as obviously it isn’t obvious to you {s}), that when I am asking about truth (whether or not with a Capital T), I am, by doing so, intrinsically respecting your own attempts at truth declaration as being something more than only expressions of a certain type of life form. Your own truth claims (which are just as legion as anyone else’s), may be right--or wrong--or right in some ways while wrong in others--or right to some degree but wrong beyond that point. They have a value, in regard to objective realities, to be discovered (insofar as that is possible), beyond your own feelings about them.

{{I'm asking what is true within a system, and, far more importantly, how a certain system (judgment, view, morality, etc.) came to be established.}}

And yet you complain when I talk about the details of a system and how it came to be historically established... (In other words, genealogy and psychology, among other things.) {s}

Morover, unless there are true answers to be discovered regarding the geneaolgy and psychology etc., then your inquiry is epistemically worthless (even if perhaps useful in some other fashions.)

{{I think we're safe in assuming that the "world" and "body" Chr speaks of and promises is not this particular world and body}}

A truth claim which, aside from having problems as a truth claim in your epistemic system, turns out to be significantly false as to at least one important detail. You might be more accurate in your evaluations (not to say more safe in your assumptions) if you bothered to quibble some more. {s}


{{Let's stop with the essential.}}

And stopping there is to be distinguished from a process of shutting down discursive thought in order to protect your truth-claim assertions (particularly about what is “essential” in a belief that you don’t even hold) from being challenged... how?

{{Exactly. "Morality" was required to keep one here for now.}}

And the content of that morality means nothing to you; so you might as well ignore that the content flies directly in the face of your truth-claims about the essentiality of the belief. This could be called ‘convenient’, I think... {s}


{{The point was, you have no more grounding for this tale that any pagan has for his.}}

By your flat assertion. Whereas, any testimony we might have to the contrary for having a better grounding for our beliefs (metaphysical or historical) is to be dismissed by epistimic fiat, as being only expressions of a particular life form and nothing more. This also could be called ‘convenient’.

{{So why the starkly contrasting valuation of life?}}

A contrast which exists only in your mind, and has no substantially accurate relation to the actual situation. (A criticism I am not borrowing from your epistemology, though I could do that too, but by comparison between your claims and the actual content of what you are opposing.)

{{I'm looking critically at how these particular answers were invented.}}

Except for when I start giving answers about the history and logical/principle content of the belief which don’t gell with your beliefs about the beliefs. Then the details are “irrelevant”. After dismissing actual discussion of details on my part, you can then call the fragments left over (divorced from their contexts) “painfully ignorant and self-serving”, and go on to make imaginative assertions about my lack of analytical competency and my dishonest trickery (“a cheap magician’s trick”).

This kind of tactic goes on for a while; and I have other things to do today. So I’ll pass over mentioning every such instance from here on out.


{{It doesn't matter much to me, but I don't hear about charitable pagans being saved, merely those who have faith in your savior.}}

I suspect this matters very much more to you than you’ve let on. {s} But, had you paid attention to me better, instead of conveniently ignoring what I was saying, you would have seen me being critical of Christians who take this route. (As was Jesus Himself, in the canonical Gospels.) I’m an orthodox universalist.

Be that as it may: even when nominally orthodox Christians reject the salvation of non-Christians, it’s typically because non-Christians (in various ways) don’t affirm the reality and/or importance of something that happened in this world, for the sake of this world, crucially indicative of God’s accessibility in this world. (Not that that’s going to matter much to you, either; you’ll just call it “irrelevant” and go on treating the belief as if it was radically different than it is. Christians have done the same in their time, too. It isn’t morally right, whoever is doing it; and it doesn’t lead to more accurate beliefs about reality either. That includes when Christians mistreat pagans.)


{{Surely you are embarrassed having to trot these party tricks out in the midst of a rational conversation, rather than in a get-together for sect members?}}

My apologies for trying to tell you what my beliefs actually are, in a discussion about what my beliefs are. Perhaps that is an impolite party trick that I should be embarassed about, in the midst of a rational conversation about my beliefs.

However, if I was talking to Tom Cruise about Tom Cruise’s belief, and he started talking about Thetans or whatever it is he believes in, I myself might consider Tom Cruise’s testimony about Tom Cruise’s belief to be relevant to the conversation I was having with Tom Cruise about his belief. I’d also be willing to bet a Coke that Tom Cruise, at least, would appreciate me allowing his testimony about what he believes to count as evidence about the content of his beliefs.

It’s very odd: I appear to have more respect for the belief-profession of someone I would technically regard as a type of pagan, than you do! {g}

The answer to your question, by the way, is: no, I am not embarassed to talk about the content of my beliefs in the midst of a rational conversation purportedly about the content of my beliefs. (But you’ve made it abundantly clear that this is not really supposed to be a conversation, rational or otherwise, about the content of my beliefs.)


{{Same thing, given that this world is not the world it was after the crime.}}

Not the same thing, insofar as the world itself is not an illusion or error in its inception, and is slated to be saved from our rebellion.

{{Compare with tragic hubris in Greek mythology which bestows a certain nobility upon humanity and suffering}}

Actually, Greek hubris in Greek mythology bestows a certain nobility on suffering insofar as the suffering teaches the hubristic character a lesson about his pride. That actually compares very well with Christian theology, come to think of it. {g}

The whole point to hubris is that some mortal decides he (or she) is going to defy the gods and/or the fates; and gets roundly slapped down for it (sometimes leading to a major disaster in the process). One interesting critique of Christianity by classically trained pagans, was that the people who wrote the Gospels were grossly inept at storytelling: Jesus clearly counted, due to his authority claims, as the maximum example of hubristic pride, and rightly gets thrown down because of this--and then comes back, vindicated by the god!! WHA!!? (Tolkien, back in the 30s, coined a new technical term to describe this genre reversal: eucatastrophe.)

Anyway, in real life (and not on a stage), hubris does tend to poison human relationships; and typically doesn’t do much for the natural environment either. {s}

And, at the risk of continuing to quibble about irrelevant details: in Christian mythology, pride doesn’t forever poison the natural world and human existence. At worst, the impenitent proud are sequestered off somewhere in a prison, sooner or later (details vary depending on various schools of Christian theology), to keep them from abusing God’s world any further; after which God heals the world. (Not that this notion is foreign to religions outside Judeo-Christianity; far from it. But sometimes pagan religions are cyclical instead; plenty of examples of that in the Mediterranean region.)

{{an invention called "sin" in order to explain our suffering}}

Please. Injustice was hardly a concept invented by Christians, or even by the Jews. Call it only an invention if you will: it is invented by all mankind throughout history, and factors into our religions on a very regular, basis, too. The details sometimes differ, but basic concepts remain the same. (This observation is regularly advanced as both Christian and anti-Christian apologetic, btw.)


{{You've demonstrated perfectly how Chr sucks the blood and life out of human animality and sexuality and leaves in its place a mere abstraction. It is sickly.}}

So... adding extra meaning to human sexuality beyond the mere pleasure of it, counts as sucking the blood and life out of human sexuality, leaving in its place a mere abstraction... hmm... and yet we think it counts as enriching human sexuality beyond what it already is, which would seem to at least have the advantage of being a non-contradictory statement about the content of our own beliefs... (yet another example of how our beliefs are irrelevant to this discussion about our beliefs, apparently. {wry g})


{{Sure, "someday." Keep the faith. Or charity, was it? :-)}}

You forgot to mock hope there, too, btw.

My hope hasn’t failed. And hope is logically opposed to nihilism.

{{When Eros' "expedients" succeed in "enriching" Eros by attaining true being, Eros dies!}}

Whereas in Christianity, Eros (desire) is rightly ordered and fulfilled to overflowing, giving birth to Joy--even though Joy existed first and created Eros to be fulfilled and satisfied. Then the fulfillment and the desire exist forever together in mutual complement.

Not exactly a terribly original concept in world religions; but significantly different from what you’re trying to claim is true {cough} about Christianity.

{{Creativity, even philosophy, is absent from the gods}}

Whereas, in Christianity, creativity and philosophy (the love of wisdom) are traits of the divine.

(One might add that creativity and philosophy were far from being absent as traits among actual pagans in Socrates’ day, too, not even counting elsewhere-and-when. He didn’t have a whole lot of respect for paganism, which as I recall is part of what got him executed. {s} Whereas, Nietzsche’s non-naive non-optimism ended in madness and suicide.)

{{By the way, having perspective like this helps you to understand that the so-called atheists you guys tend to argue with are, a la Richard Carrier et al., really just naive rational-optimists on the same road.}}

I knew that already, thanks; and without having to consider the search for truth to be a disease. Without having to consider the (so-called??) atheists to be only naive, either. {s} Your perspective adds nothing in that regard--except intrinsic disdain for my opponents (which disdain I have no use for). Thanks anyway.

JRP

Solon said...

Good god, you Christians are verbose and intent on making philosophy blush in embarrassment. No comment on the first 30 paragraphs.

>>God willingly sacrifices Himself for the sake of even Nature’s existence.

Again with the absurd, cult-babble claims out of left field.

>>That includes truly loving Nature, too, within its propriety. ... I had better damned well respect it

Except you do NOT. You only love a sanitized version of it that you dream of dying into.

>>It is only by love that we even exist as persons from non-persons to start with; if God had not first loved Nature, we would not be here to discuss these issues.

Again with the absurd, cult-babble claims out of left field.

>>think my basic beliefs are about true love

I agree they are, BUT not love for the world and humanity that we know, that exists, rather for the opposite of what they are.

>>orthodox Christianity is not at all about nihilism.

So you apparently think.

>>The actual official nihilists (such as Nietzsche)

Your comments on N are, frankly, embarrassing. N was saying, if this is what you call "truth," well, here is where it leads. Better to lead you off the cliff than continue this slow decline.

>>The people whom you are condemning as having a condemnation of life, are the same people who in the modern world are most likely to oppose abortion, homosexuality and even birth control.

Entirely superficial. Life = becoming where suffering and joy are intertwined. You honor some phantom opposite. Tragedy honors life amidst suffering and death because they are a part of the process of life.

>>Do I believe in truth? Yep--consequently, I am obviously not a nihilist!

You seem to have little understanding of nihilism. That statement could only makes sense if truth exists; if it doesn't and you place all value there, you are nihilistic.

>>Do I think that human rationality would be impossible without God...?

I never asked that.

>>If mathematics is neither true nor false, then it is completely irrelevant

Again with the god-or-hell dialectics. It's conditionally true, and there is great use in overarching 'fictions'.

>>a system of belief that declares any-or-all-killing to be really morally wrong, cannot be nihilistic (as ought to be patently obvious).

How patently absurd! You clearly do not know what nihilism is. You're injecting a Chr. respect for all souls into this.

>>Was that only an expression of a certain type of life form, and not even potentially anything more?

As is every ultimate judgment given what I've said, including yours!

>>{but the Chr system of morals never is [wrong]
>>I am familiar with a wide range of opponents to Christianity who would disagree with that statement

Obviously it is only wrong if there is a truth by which to judge it wrong - which you and your opponents have no access to. Your opponents, btw, are generally highly ignorant of what atheism is, from what I've seen, largely being holier-than-thou closet Chr. You can't do away with the Chr. god and maintain his morality.

>>itself neither true nor false: it doesn’t even have the dignity of being wrong

Exactly! Logic bites its tail and says, "I can't know that." And thus...??? Start to really think.

>>you expect me to treat your declaratives according to a very different standard of evaluation, than that which you level against all declaratives.

Not at all!

>>They have a value, in regard to objective realities, to be discovered (insofar as that is possible), beyond your own feelings about them.

You have no basis whatsoever by which to compare them to some independent Truth (the one you dream of).

>>unless there are true answers to be discovered regarding the geneaolgy and psychology etc., then your inquiry is epistemically worthless

It's not the epistemology you desperately cling to, sorry. In relation to your independent Truth, yes, every approach is because that is an inaccessible fantasy. So what it does genealogy reveal then? Think about it.

>>Let's stop with the essential.
>>And stopping there is to be distinguished from a process of shutting down discursive thought

You want to ignore the hiding place of your fundamental source of value. I want to reveal it.

>>And the content of that morality means nothing to you...

Irrelevant to the point and makes point no sense.

>>any testimony we might have to the contrary for having a better grounding for our beliefs (metaphysical or historical) is to be dismissed by epistimic fiat

And still you give nothing more grounded and can't. (Historical? That's laughable. How many such ridiculous Chr-like god claims have been made in history and still it raises no suspicion in you of the absolute silliness of your assertions?)

>>So why the starkly contrasting valuation of life?
>>A contrast which exists only in your mind, and has no substantially accurate relation to the actual situation.

Again, ignoring what is given within a system and the following suspicion that your fantasy world doesn't exist.

>>This kind of tactic goes on for a while
>>So I’ll pass over mentioning every such instance from here on out.

As have I, quite generously.

>>{s}

All these little brackets and such are annoying, I must say. Why not write/quote in a standard manner? Should we all invent our own ~~quotation marks~~ to make it more unreadable?

>>I don't hear about charitable pagans being saved
>>I’m an orthodox universalist.

Again, pedantic, off-topic point, but good to hear there are a couple of you who'll let anyone in because it's another good example of how Chr is a weakened, cosmopolitan version of Judaism. Not even the will to differentiate and choose anymore!

>>something that happened in this world, for the sake of this world, crucially indicative of God’s accessibility in this world

Again with the absurd, cult-babble claims out of left field.

>>Surely you are embarrassed having to trot these party tricks out in the midst of a rational conversation
>>My apologies for trying to tell you what my beliefs actually are

It was rational until you began with the cult babble-assertions which had nothing to do with the logic of the points under discussion.

>>you’ve made it abundantly clear that this is not really supposed to be a conversation, rational or otherwise, about the content of my beliefs.

Again, the Chr all-or-nihilism rebound!

>>Same thing, given that this world is not the world it was after the crime.
>>Not the same thing, insofar as the world itself is not an illusion or error in its inception,

Of course it is, the "True" world is revealed. Hosanna!

>>and is slated to be saved from our rebellion

Oh my, our terrible rebellion! We exist! We need to be punished for that! Let's invent "sin" and inject that into the heart of the world. Now I see why we suffer and what the solution is! -Is anyone not laughing?

>>The whole point to hubris is that...

Amazing, you walked right through the forest and didn't even see it.

>>an invention called "sin" in order to explain our suffering
>>Please. Injustice was hardly a concept invented by Christians, or even by the Jews.

Good god, sin does not equal injustice! That explains why you misunderstand Greek mythology and hubris so badly. Prometheus did not sin, he overstepped. Even the gods are subject to the sway of Dike (which does not even translate well as justice).

>>So... adding extra meaning to human sexuality beyond the mere pleasure of it, counts as sucking the blood and life out of human sexuality

It does if it is replaced by a longing for another world of nothingness, as in your case. It's symptomatic. Compare a Greek statue with an erection. It mostly definitely partakes in this world.

>>My hope hasn’t failed. And hope is logically opposed to nihilism.

Again, a seriously bad misunderstanding of nihilism. Socrates had tremendous hope too. You're both hoping for a solution to this world you ultimately cannot value.

>>Whereas in Christianity, Eros (desire) is rightly ordered and fulfilled to overflowing, ... Then the fulfillment and the desire exist forever together in mutual complement.

...completely removed from suffering and the becoming of life. I.e., no longer life but its opposite, optimistically interpreted as a salve for a needy "soul."

You Chr really do hate life, don't you? That's why we want to dig around and see how you created these offensive valuations of humanity and our world.

>>Creativity, even philosophy, is absent from the gods
>>in Christianity, creativity and philosophy (the love of wisdom) are traits of the divine.

There is no place for it in your world because it claims all already. Yet another of Chr inconsistencies?

>>He didn’t have a whole lot of respect for paganism

Actually, he didn't have respect for faith; questioning faith in gods was only a symptom of that. But he had faith in Truth!

>>Whereas, Nietzsche’s non-naive non-optimism ended in madness and suicide.

Can you permit me some juvenile antics for a moment?

HA, HA, HA, HA, HA!!!!!!!!

Beside being completely wrong - N didn't commit suicide, jeezuz! - your N/hubris/nihilism comments read like someone whose philosophy came from reading an incompetent like Karen Armstrong.

>>Your perspective adds nothing in that regard--except intrinsic disdain for my opponents

Actually, I find YOUR beliefs embarrassing, but it's no matter to me. We all die in a few more years, and even our bug-like species will stop hopping about on this rock entirely at some point, and even this little rock itself will disappear, and if fantasizing about a world that won't be so mean and "unfair" to you makes you a more pleasant person to be around while you're here, well then, all the better for the rest of us if you maintain faith that Daddy has not forsaken you!

“Was der Mensch als Gott verehrt,
Ist sein eigenstes Innere herausgekehrt"

------------

A true postscript: on my recent trip, when this atheist was walking through St. Peters at the end of the day, I suddenly noticed that my shoes had simply come apart and both "soles" had fallen away. What else to conclude? Jesus lives! And apparently the fisher is a bad speller!

Solon said...

By the way, I was thinking one helpful classification would be:

1) Platonist denial of the sensual. The true world exists (if only we could get there). The most abstract Chrs, Agnostics, etc. Kant.

2) Christian hatred of the sensual. Proof of depravity. Original sin. Self-castratism. The hairshirt. Rev. Phelps.

3) Christian sublimation of the sensual into love and "do-gooding." The sensual and suffering as proof that agape exists if only we are worthy. The poison of "sin" as proof of the loving doctor and solution. Illness and otherness at the heart of Chr love. Gay Republicans.

4) Nietzschean commanding of the sensual. Not to deny the sensual but to accept it as the source of energy and creativity, then harness it, shape it into a whole; hence comprehensible, perhaps beautiful. A love that knows. Hence the focus on culture, in-corporation, breeding, ranking, commanding, aesthetics, tragic love. Caesar with the heart of Jesus.

Jason Pratt said...

{{Can you permit me some juvenile antics for a moment?}}

Why not? Your whole post is filled with them this time, too. {s}

{{Beside being completely wrong - N didn't commit suicide, jeezuz!}}

This is fairly indicative of your competency in your post; though I'll accept responsibility for putting the words “madness” and “suicide” together as though Nietzsche “ended” in both in the same way.

His system of thought certainly advocated suicide for those strong enough to achieve “death at the right time”, a death chosen freely that would make it possible to have “a real leave-taking”; and he famously tweaked pessimists for not going the distance and carrying their beliefs to the logical extreme, the irony being that he regarded them as not strong enough to go through with it. The concept was that only a person should “impose value judgment” on that same person’s life--if any value judgment was going to be imposed at all. I expect he tried to reject the notion of a person making a judgment of self-value, too, though that would be inconsistent with grounds for suicide beyond the act being the ultimate expression of the will to power: we cannot will ourselves to self-existence, but we can take our own life. (cf his friend Wagner’s comments on Odin rising to the height of willing his own non-existence, in the story of the Ring Cycle.)

As to the madness, I think Nietzsche admitted that unless one’s will to power was sufficiently strong enough to (in effect) simply assert-past the implications of rejecting all value, the weaker mind would be destroyed by the attempt of staring into that abyss; which was precisely why ‘weaker minds’ kept trying to cling to value judgments--it was a safeguard against their own self-destruction.

Certainly, I’ve been getting a lot of that kind of sturm-und-drang from you, in your insistent derision of my ‘fantasies’ about truth and how this reveals such poisonous incompetence on my part!

But of course, someone who has made a habit of trying to reject value judgments, whose mind for whatever reason (old age, disease) starts to get weaker, would be increasingly vulnerable to the madness that would predictably follow for the weaker mind that tries the route of willing past all value judgments.

Several corollaries follow. First, the person who resolves to make this attempt, has only three choices over time (unless he is an immortal übermensch, of course). He can choose suicide before his will-power faculties begin to degrade; or he can give up trying to reject value judgments and succumb to the illusion of truth; or, if he insists on trying to keep at his rejection in his increasingly weakened mental state, he’s going to go mad as a result.

Another corollary is this: if the kind of value-claim judgments and truth claims being rejected turn out to be necessary components of rational analysis (including argument and meaningful disputation), or even of willful assertion in some ways, the rejector must either leave off trying to do rational analysis, or he must increasingly blind himself to the value judgments and truth claims he himself is making. If the latter, then such a person will insist both on deriding any and all value judgments and truth claims (of the dangerous sort, the sort that necessarily affirms truth exists independently of the thinker) he perceives being made, and will equally insist that he is not making such claims even though he is. Either way (by refusing to do logical analysis at all, or by perisisting in trying despite the reliance on making those dangerous truth claims by doing so), such a person will be progressively handicapping his ability to do logical analysis.

Yet another corollary: a person in such a state will tend to reject and deride corrections to mistakes he is making about facts, and insist on his own assertions being true about the external reality; probably basing those assertions on whatever seems least threatening to his own ego.

This is because the key concept is to avoid the imposition of external truth claims, including value judgments, insofar as humanly possible (however humanly possible that might be.) Such an ‘imposition’ necessarily requires submission of the subject, in some sense; consequently truth-claim attempts are interpreted, ideally, as competitions between wills in their assertions of mastery. He who aspires to the ideal willing of power, however, cannot do so while submitting to external impositions, since such a submission intrinsically defeats the aspiration, whether one is submitting to the will of another, or submitting to non-rational forces. (Resisting and counter-competing against the former is easier, but the ideal OverMan is master of non-rational Nature as well.)

Not incidentally, there would be no room in such a worldview for claims that God, as the greatest of power-wills, sacrifices Himself (even willingly) for the sake of lesser beings (even for them to exist), much less that God would submit to an enforced passion (such as execution by torture). God must be God (in such a system of thought) by virtue of comptetitive competency in the exercise of will to power. To say that He abdicates in any way for the sake of anyone but Himself, is to say that God per se must not actually exist.

Or again, the existence of any free-willed creature at all, especially one that enacts what would be rebellion (under this system) if God exists, automatically proves that God must not exist, for God would never let such a person exist. Consequently, neither are the actions of such a creature rebellion after all against any such overarching Truth (for want of a better word).

Or, yet again, if the height of the will to power is to will one’s own non-existence, then the greatest God could only ‘exist’ by acting to will Himself out of existence, which means that God cannot exist. (Also it means that if any creature managed to attain such a perfection of will to power, that creature would self-destruct in doing so.)

I would ask how I’m doing so far, but that would be to submit myself to the value judgment of another, hm? {g} (As would removing emoticons out of charity because they annoy you.)


I’m trying to decide whether it’s worth my time to comment on your classification scheme in regard to my own beliefs, since pretty clearly you’re going to either ignore what I say about my own beliefs or assert against what I say about my own beliefs or deride my beliefs as being unworthy even of discussion (where you don’t do one or the other). But since there’s at least a small chance Victor will redate this post someday, I suppose I will say something for the sake of other readers.

I do not deny that the sensual exists. (That eliminates me from category one.)

I do not consider sensuality proof of depravity, or even anything to do with original sin. (That eliminates me from category two.)

I do not consider that sensuality and suffering are proof that true love exists, nor that the existence and giving of true love is dependent on us somehow becoming worthy of such a thing. I do think it is nonsense (eventually) to talk seriously about sin and injustice without tacitly affirming the existence of God (as you yourself admit); but I’m extremely iffy about appealing to sin per se as proof that God exists, and I’m certain I have never appealed to sin per se as proof that God is a loving doctor and solution (to sin?--I think you omitted a clause here or something.) If I go the route of appealing to morality, I am very much more likely to appeal to justice and the positive good, including among and in regard to my opponents; but I also understand the technical limitations involved in doing this (meaning when it comes time for me to do a full apologetic, I don’t use this method.) I do appeal to reason, especially in positive regard for my opponents; but that seems to be irrelevant (at best) to your third classification. Also, I am not a gay Republican. {g} In any case, I don’t fit there either.

(You might have learned or made good educated guesses about all this from actually reading me; but I suppose that that would have counted as submitting to the imposition of will of another. {s})

I consider energy and creativity (if you prefer to put it that way) to be the source of the sensual, not the other way around, and I am more in favor of leading than commanding per se; so that may exclude me from category four. But anyone who bothers to actually read what I write will find appreciation of culture, incorporation, breeding (in several senses of that word), ranking, leadership, aesthetics and the special value importance of tragic love and war--values in all cases which I discover the quality of, and work within. (Which itself probably excludes me from category four, too, insofar as you’re talking about Nietzschean command.)

JRP

Solon said...

I don't wish to be disrespectful, but I'm not sure there is even a single thing in your reply worthy of commenting on, except to say that none of it bears any relation whatsoever to N, N's thought, or the implications of N's thought.

I have no idea what in god's name you've been reading on the subject but throw it in the trash quickly and read N himself, then perhaps Heidegger on N, and come back in 5 years and shake your head in disbelief at your comments above.

Good luck.

Until we meet again in the body of some old Jew...