Letter to the Author of the Book, Darwin and Hitler, With Added Discussion on The Topics of Evolutionary Ethics, Is Living for Pleasure All There Is?, Dangers of Religion, Fear of Atheism/Atheists, Fear of Evolution, and, Christian Men/Women of Science Who Are Pro-Evolution
by Edward T. Babinski
Letter to Dr. Richard Weikart, member of the Intelligent Design movement's "Discovery Institute," and author of the book, Darwin and Hitler:
Dear Dr. Weikart,
In Darwin and Hitler you agreed that German Darwinists before Hitler's day ought not be described as "proto-Nazis" so you focused on the ways in which their views overlapped and presaged those of the latter Nazi ideology. However as the following recent books demonstrate, a similar point could also be made concerning the Christians in Germany before Hitler and during Hitler's reign, and the ways in which their prejudices overlapped with that of Nazi ideology:
Betrayal: German Churches and the Holocaust
Edited by Robert P. Ericksen & Susannah Heschel
The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945
(Cambridge University Press)
A summation of the above two works at "about.com" states, "German Christians supported the Nazis because they believed that Adolf Hitler was a gift to the German people from God. German Christianity was a divinely sanctioned religious movement which combined Christian doctrine and German character in a unique and desirable manner." Prior to World War II even the Southern Baptists here in my conservative little city of Greenville S.C. wrote glowingly of Hitler's character, accomplishments and his faith, as published in the local Baptist Courier.
Besides the two new books, a recently published biography of the present Pope mentions the interplay between the Catholic church and Nazism:
Pope Benedict XVI: A Biography of Joseph Ratzinger
John L. Allen Jr.
SELECTIONS: Many ordinary Catholics objected to attacks on their church, but there was simply no opposition to Nazism tout ensemble. ... In fact, there were key points at which Nazi and Catholic attitudes intersected and created a basis for mutual support. Both groups hated the Weimar Republic. The Nazis opposed Weimar because it was allegedly too Jewish and led by the "November Criminals" who sold out the country after the First World War; Catholics objected to it because it smacked of liberalism, sexual degeneracy, and an irreligious spirit. Cardinal Faulhaber, for example, gave a speech in May 1933 in which he expressed thanks for the Volksgemeinschaft, or spirit of community, which Hitler had fostered, and rejected "liberal individualism." Moreover, Catholics shared with Nazis an instinctive fear of the Bolsheviks. Finally, there was a form of anti-Jewish sentiment that was openly accepted among Catholics, based in part on the theological argument that the Jews sinned by rejecting Christ and in part on the historical fact that many Jews had played leading roles in the Kulturkampf. As early as 1925, a Franciscan priest named Erhard Schuland wrote a book called "Katholizismus und Vaterland" (Catholicism and Fatherland) that called on Germans to fight "the destructive influence of the Jews in religion, morality, literature and art, and political and social life." Schuland expressed what was very much the consensus in German Catholicism of the day... Archbishop Konrad Gröber of Freiburg was known as the "Brown Bishop" because he was such an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazis. In 1933, he became a "sponsoring member" of the SS. After the war, however, he claimed to have been such an opponent of the Nazis that they had planned to crucify him on the door for the Freiburg Cathedral. Bishop Wilhlem Berning of Osnabrück sat with the Deutsche Christen Reichsbishop in the Prussian State Council from 1933 to 1945, a clear signal of support for the Nazi regime. Cardinal Bertram also had some affinity for the Nazis. In 1933, for example, he refused to intervene on behalf of Jewish merchants who were the targets of Nazi boycotts, saying that they were a group "which has no very close bond with the church." Bishop Buchberger of Regensburg called Nazi racism directed at Jews "justified self-defense" in the face of "overly powerful Jewish capital." Bishop Hilfrich of Limburg said that the true Christian religion "made its way not from the Jews but in spite of them."... After April 7, 1933, civil servants in Germany were required to prove that they were not Jews. Because births had been registered by the state only since 1874, the church was called upon to provide many records. The Catholic church cooperated right up to the end of the war. Likewise, after the 1935 Nüremberg laws that forbade marriage between Aryans and non-Aryans, most Catholic priests did not perform such ceremonies, even though the number of Jewish conversions to Catholicism was accelerating because of the persecution.
Related statements of interest from two Popes:
Pope Gregory XVI (1831-1846): From the polluted fountain of indifferentism flows that absurd and erroneous doctrine, or rather, raving, which claims and defends liberty of conscience for everyone. From this comes, in a word, the worst plague of all, namely, unrestrained liberty of opinion and freedom of speech…It is in no way lawful to demand, to defend, or to grant unconditional freedom of thought, or speech, of writing, or of religion, as if they were so many rights that nature has given man.
Pope Pius XI (1922-1939): Benito Mussolini is…a gift of Providence, a man free from the prejudices of the politicians of the liberal school.
ALDOUS HUXLEY'S CONCLUSION
Aldous Huxley pointed out that advocating either a dogmatically harsh "philosophy of meaninglessness" OR an equally dogmatic and harsh "philosophy of meaning" has led men (for men, not women, are primarily the ones who make such things happen) to imprison, torture, murder, and/or wage war against others for either self pleasure AND/OR to please their God:
"No philosophy is completely disinterested. The pure love of truth is always mingle to some extent with the need, consciously or unconsciously felt by even the noblest and the most intelligent philosophers, to justify a given form of personal or social behavior, to rationalize the traditional prejudices of a given class or community. The philosopher who finds meaning in the world is concerned, not only to elucidate that meaning, but also to prove that is it most clearly expressed in some established religion, some accepted code of morals. <...> The desire to justify a particular form of political organization and, in some cases, of a personal will to power has played an equally large part in the formulation of philosophies postulating the existence of meaning in the world. Christian philosophers have found no difficulty in justifying imperialism, war, the capitalistic system, the use of torture, the censorship of the press, and ecclesiastical tyrannies of every sort from the tyranny of Rome to the tyrannies of [Calvin's] Geneva and [Puritan] New England. In all cases they have shown that the meaning of the world was such as to be compatibel with, or actually most completely expressed by, the iniquities I have mentioned above--iniquities which happened, of course, to serve the personal or sectarian interests of the philosophiers concerned. In due course, these arose philosophers who denied not only the right of Christian special pleaders to justify iniquity by an appeal to the meaning of the world, but even their right to find any such meaning whatsoever. In the circumstances, the fact was not surprising. One unscrupulous distortion of the truth tends to beget other and opposite distortions. Passions may be satisfied in the process; but the disinterested love of knowledge suffers eclipse."
Besides Huxley's wise observation, others including Eric Hoffer (author of The True Believer), and Heinz Pagels (author of The Dreams of Reason), have pointed out that the "fundamentalist mindset" is what is most common to outbreaks of religious, philosophical and political fanaticism:
"Characteristic of all fundamentalism is that it has found absolute certainty--the certainty of class warfare, the certainty of science, or the literal certainty of the Bible--a certainty of the person who has finally found a solid rock to stand upon which, unlike other rocks, is 'solid all the way down.' Fundamentalism, however, is a terminal form of human consciousness in which development is stopped, eliminating the uncertainty and risk that real growth entails." (Heinz Pagels, The Dreams of Reason)
This recalls Mark Twain's gentle poke: "We have infinite trouble in solving man-made mysteries; it is only when we set out to discover the secret of God that our difficulties disappear."
"Another characteristic, not of fundamentalism, but of fundamentalists is their intellectual modesty, their almost saintly humility. Nietzsche said once that we are all greater artists than we realize, but fundamentalists are too timid to think of themselves as great artists. They take no credit for what they have invented; they assume they have no part in the creation and maintenance of the Idols they worship. Like the paranoid-very much like the paranoid, in fact -they devise baroque and ingenious Systems, and define them as "Given." They then carefully edit all impressions to conform to the System. There is no vanity, no vanity at all, in people who are so intensely creative and so unwilling to recognize their own cleverness." (Robert Anton Wilson, The New Inquisition: Irrational Rationalism and the Citadel of Science)
Speaking of the class of fundamentalism known as "Protestant Christian fundamentalist/inerrantist," one such person, Gleason Archer, created a 480-page Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties in which he ingeniously attempted to explain away a host of "apparent" contradictions found in the Bible. ("Apparent" contradictions are the worst kind, because they are clearly apparent, and no explanation to try and explain them away is as inerrant as the text whose innerrancy one is attempting to defend.) Archer's single volume "encyclopedia" however, is far too short. What he needs to do is produce an enormous set of encyclopedias dealing with "Bible difficulties," along with a yearly supplemental volume to explain away the latest problems raised by textual and archeological research. A similar unwillingness to recognize their own cleverness was also apparent in the Plymouth Brethren (nineteenth-century Protestant fundamentalists who insisted the Bible was literally true.) One person raised in that milieu, recalls:
"They devised an elaborate system of mental watertight compartments. The contradictions of Old and New Testaments were solved by a Doctrine that what was sauce for the Jewish 'Dispensation' was not necessarily sauce for the Christian "Dispensation." Cleverer than Luther, they made possible the Epistle of James by a series of sophisms which really deserve to be exposed as masterpieces of human self-deception. My space forbids. So, despite all the simplicity of the original logical position [i.e., that the 'Word of God' must be without error or contradiction], they were found shifting as best they might from compromise to compromise. But this they never saw themselves; and so far did they take their principle that my father would refuse to buy railway shares because railways were not mentioned in the Bible! Of course the practice of finding a text for everything means ultimately 'I will do as I like,' and I suspect my father's heroics only meant that he thought a slump was coming."
One corollary is that if a Protestant fundamentalist searches diligently for something in the Bible they can usually find it there. (It's just this uncanny "gift" they have which they take no credit for, and do not dare suppose has anything to do with their individual level of mental agility and creativity.) In fact, if Crowley's father had just searched a little more, and with a bit more faith (and creativity) he COULD have found railways mentioned in the Bible. Chaplain Tresham Dames Gregg did, and delivered a noteworthy sermon on the subject that was published as a booklet in 1863, The Steam Locomotive as Revealed in the Bible. A Lecture Delivered to Young Men in Sheffield. Rev. Gregg's sermon is a little gem of fundamentalist ingenuity and creativity in which he demonstrates that God gave the prophet Ezekiel a vision of a steam locomotive. (Ezek. 1:4-25)
A fundamentalist not only believes that "with God, all things are possible," but, "with the Bible, all interpretations and invented explanations for a passage's meaning are possible" (except, of course, any that disagree with his church's doctrine, or imply the existence of errors or contradictions).
So fundamentalists (I am using Protestant fundamentalists/inerrantists as my primary example since I am most familiar with them) display at least two major characteristics:
(1) absolute certainty,
(2) an unwillingness to recognize all the cleverness employed in keeping their "absolute certainty" afloat.
There is also a third characteristic, namely,
(3) grabbing the oars of the "D.S.S. Absolute Certainty" and using them to beat the heads of landlubbers who refuse repeated invitations to join the crew.
As A. E. Van Vogt observed in his pamphlet, Report on the Violent Male, and Colin Wilson observed in his book The Criminal History of Mankind:
"The Violent Male-and almost all violence is committed by males-seems to be a man who literally cannot ever, admit he might be wrong. He knows he is right... His ego definition, as it were, demands that he is always Right, nearly everybody else is always Wrong."
Wilson emphasizes that this model describes not only many, many infamous criminals, but quite a few of the more infamous statesmen and churchmen of history, who were not called criminals only because they were powerful enough to define what was "crime" in their society.
Edward T. Babinski (former fundamentalist Christian)
P.S., I was reading the chapter dealing with "Social Darwinism" in Michael Ruse's recent work, The Creation Evolution Debate, and wondered what you thought of his opinion of the history and philosophical implications (or rather non-implications) of Social Darwinism vis a vis your own? Have you two been in contact? If so, I'd like to know what you both have been talking about.
Have you responded to the review of your book, and the accompanying comments and questions found here?
Have you seen the following online article?
"Of Darwinism and Social Darwinism"
Robert B. Reich
Published on Tuesday, November 29, 2005
My review of your book:
Darwin to Hitler: Weikart, the Discovery Institute, and History
by Edward T. Babinski
THE "RELATED LINKS" SECTION BELOW IS FOLLOWED BY QUOTATIONS FROM SCHOLARS ON THE FOLLOWING TOPICS:
"IS LIVING FOR PLEASURE ALL THERE IS?"
"DANGERS OF RELIGION"
"FEAR OF ATHEISTS, ATHEISM"
"FEAR OF EVOLUTION"
"CHRISTIAN MEN/WOMEN OF SCIENCE WHO ARE PRO-EVOLUTION"
Racism and Creationist Dogma (Answers in Genesis's racist article)
Jan. 8, 2006 response to Answers in Genesis and their racist article
Christianism & Christian Nationalism
Christianism & Christian Nationalism
Christianity in the Confederate South
Christian Reconstructionism & Dominion Theology
Dominionism & Dominion Theology
Commonalities: Christian Reconstructionism & the Christian Right
Religious Privilege & Christian Privilege
What is Christian Privilege?
Hidden Christian Privileges in American Society
Christian Supremacy & the Dhimmitude of Non-Christians
Adolf Hitler & Christian Nationalism: Nazis' P...
Book Review - Betrayal: German Churches and the Holocau...
Book Review - Twisted Cross: The German Christian Movem...
Weren't the Nazis Pagans? The Holy Reich: Nazi Con...
Book Review - The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Chris...
LINKS TO ALL OF THE ARTICLES
Martin Luther--Selections from his notorious German work, "The Jews and Their Lies" (A book that Hitler used to show off at his rallies)
Martin Luther: Hitler's Spiritual Ancestor
Review of two books on Evolutionary Ethics by Richard Weikart
MORE ON EVOLUTIONARY ETHICS
QUOTATION from philosopher Mary Midgley, "Wickedness: An Open Debate," The Philosopher's Magazine, No. 14, Spring 2001:
Darwin proposed that creatures like us who, by their nature, are riven by strong emotional conflicts, and who have also the intelligence to be aware of those conflicts, absolutely need to develop a morality because they need a priority system by which to resolve them. The need for morality is a corollary of conflicts plus intellect:
"Man, from the activity of his mental faculties, cannot avoid reflection… Any animal whatever, endowed with well-marked social instincts, would inevitably acquire a moral sense or conscience as soon as its intellectual powers had become as well-developed, or anything like as well-developed as in man."(Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man)
That, Darwin said, is why we have within us the rudiments of such a priority system and why we have also an intense need to develop those rudiments. We try to shape our moralities in accordance with our deepest wishes so that we can in some degree harmonize our muddled and conflict-ridden emotional constitution, thus finding ourselves a way of life that suits it so far as is possible.
These systems are, therefore, something far deeper than mere social contracts made for convenience. They are not optional. They are a profound attempt--though of course usually an unsuccessful one--to shape our conflict-ridden life in a way that gives priority to the things that we care about most.
If this is right, then we are creatures whose evolved nature absolutely requires that we develop a morality. We need it in order to find our way in the world. The idea that we could live without any distinction between right and wrong is as strange as the idea that we--being creatures subject to gravitation--could live without any idea of up and down. That at least is Darwin's idea and it seems to me to be one that deserves attention.
QUOTATION from primatologist Frans De Waal, Peacemaking Among Primates
Forgiveness is not, as some people seem to believe, a mysterious and sublime idea that we owe to a few millennia of Judeo-Christianity. It did not originate in the minds of people and cannot therefore be appropriated by an ideology or a religion. The fact that monkeys, apes, and humans all engage in reconciliation behavior (stretching out a hand, smiling, kissing, embracing, and so on) means that it is probably over thirty million years old, preceding the evolutionary divergence of these primates...Reconciliation behavior [is] a shared heritage of the primate order…
QUOTATION from Albert Einstein
A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.
IS LIVING FOR PLEASURE ALL THERE IS?
Human beings experience pleasures of many different kinds, including the grand pleasure of accomplishing great and difficult things over one's lifetime, things that aid, teach, or draw applause from many of our fellow beings, especially accomplishments in fields as varied as athletics, science and music.
Therefore, "pleasure" is not just about being fed wine and dried figs while concubines fan you. Both Eastern and Hellenistic philosophies and religions know the different between things that are truly pleasing and pleasurable in deeply fulfilling ways, compared with mere indolence.
Take these quotations from the Buddhist collection of wise verses, known as The Dhammapada (new trans. by Glenn Wallis):
Living with an eye to pleasure,
unrestrained in the sense faculties,
immoderate in eating, indolent, and idle--
Mara overcomes such a person,
as the wind overcomes a weak tree.
Living without an eye to pleasure,
well restrained in the sense faculties,
moderate in eating, faithful, and energetic,
Mara does not overcome such a person,
as the wind, a rocky hill. (7-8)
The craving of a person who lives carelessly
grows like a creeping vine.
He plunges from existence to existence,
like a monkey seeking fruit in the forest. (334)
Not through a torrent of money
nor in sensual enjoyment
can satisfaction be found. (186)
Speaking of Western philosophers, Evangelical Christian scholar, Luke Timothy Johnson, PRAISES ancient Greek and Roman moral philosophy in his college course (available from The Teaching Company), "Practical Philosophy: The Greco-Roman Moralists." The course is billed thusly: "Imagine a course that teaches you not only how to think like the great philosophers, but how to live. Greeks and Romans of the early imperial period are often overlooked in the annals of philosophical study, but provided down-to-earth advice on how to live a solid, happy life." Harry McCall listened to Johnson's tapes and said, "I would challenge any fundamentalist to listen to this course, but I'm sure they would say 'It's a tool of the Devil!'"
Which also reminds me of something that Dr. Albert Schweitzer (the liberal Christian theologian who focused on "reverence for life," and who worked as a medical missionary in Africa for decades) pointed out: "For centuries Christianity treasured the great commandment of love and mercy as traditional truth without recognizing it as a reason for opposing slavery, witch burning and all the other ancient and medieval forms of inhumanity. It was only when Christianity experienced the influence of the thinking of the Age of Enlightenment that it was stirred into entering the struggle for humanity. The remembrance of this ought to preserve it forever from assuming any air of superiority in comparison with thought." Also in the same book, Schweitzer cautioned against "the crooked and fragile thinking of Christian apologetics." [Albert Schweitzer, Out of My Life and Thought: An Autobiography (New York: The New American Library, 1963)]
And, getting back to Hellenistic philosophy's down-to-earth advice, consider this:
May I be no man's enemy, and may I be the friend of that which is eternal and abides.
May I never devise evil against any man; if any devise evil against me, may I escape without the need of hurting him.
May I love, seek, and attain only that which is good.
May I wish for all men's happiness and envy none.
When I have done or said what is wrong, may I never wait for the rebuke of others, but always rebuke myself until I make amends.
May I win no victory that harms either me or my opponent.
May I reconcile friends who are wroth with one another.
May I, to the extent of my power, give all needful help to all who are in want.
May I never fail a friend in danger.
May I respect myself.
May I always keep tame that which rages within me.
May I never discuss who is wicked and what wicked things he has done, but know good men and follow in their footsteps.
The Prayer of Eusebius, written by a 1st-century pagan, as quoted in Gilbert Murray, Five Stages of Greek Religion. (Incorrectly attributed on the web to a 3rd-century Christian also named "Eusebius," but this was a 1st-century pagan philosopher's prayer. See Professor Murray's book.)
I will be as careful for you as I should be for myself in the same need.
Calypso, to Odysseus, in Homer, The Odyssey, Book 5, verses 184-91. (Roughly late 8th century BCE.)
As for being able to survive without explicit faith in God, nor with explicit theological ideas about the unseen, the afterlife, it's obvious that today there are whole nations with low percentages of believers in God, yet they are not presently doing horrendously badly. There's Japan (50% of whom don't even believe in a higher Spirit), and nations of Europe, especially northern Europe and the Czech Republic, to China (whose crime rate is still the lowest in the world I think--because their legal system stresses rehabilitation and pressure to reform placed on the offender by his whole family, and because the state assigns you a job after prison) whose economy is rising swiftly. Neither did polytheistic nations fare horribly badly in antiquity, such as the enormous and long lasting empires of Egypt, Babylon and Rome, the latter of which featured Hellenistic literature, sculpture, plays, philosophy, architecture, endless roads, as well as giving us early scientists, city planners, republican-based democracy, advanced trade and advanced soldiering (for its day), as well as 500 years of peace, the Pax Romana. Even Hinduism is with us still, a religion of vast inclusiveness and many paths to God.
Since I mentioned Buddhism, above, may I add that as a philosophy it doesn't ask how things came to be, and doesn't stress what one must believe about God or the gods. In case you haven't read much Buddhism, I highly endorse a book by Alan Watts (a former Anglican priest) titled simply, Buddhism. Also see Watts' book on another eastern philosophy with some traits in common with Buddhism, namely, Tao: The Watercourse Way. Conrad Hyers has a wonderful little book titled, Once-Born, Twice-Born Zen. And one of the Jesus Seminar fellows has produced a series of books that lines up sayings of Jesus beside sayings from Buddhism, and another book that lines up Jesus sayings with sayings from Taoism. Some of the parallels are quite interesting. There's also a thin book titled, Oneness, and another titled, One Heart, that features the most enlightening sayings from all the world's major religions.
A few more of my favorite sayings from the Dhammapada:
In this world hostilities are never appeased by hostility.
But by the absence of hostility are they appeased. (5)
All tremble before violence.
All fear death.
Having done the same yourself,
you should neither harm, nor kill. (129)
"They berated me! They hurt me!
They beat me! They deprived me!"
For those who hold such grudges,
hostility is not appeased.
"They berated me! They hurt me!
They beat me! They deprived me!"
For those who forgo such grudges,
Do not speak harshly to anyone.
Those to whom you speak might respond to you.
Angry talk really is painful.
The result might crash down on you. (133)
Win over an angry person with poise.
Win over a mean person with kindness.
Win over a greedy person with generosity,
and one who speaks falsely with honesty. (223)
There was not, nor will there be,
and now at present no person is found
who is wholly praised or wholly faulted.
As an elephant in battle bears the arrow
shot from a bow,
I will endure insult;
for many people have poor self-control. (320)
There was not, nor will there be,
and now at present no person is found
who is wholly praised or wholly faulted. (228)
Better than a thousand statements
composed of meaningless words
is a single meaningful word which,
having been heard, brings peace. (100)
Month after month one might offer a thousand sacrifices for a hundred years.
And another might, for an instant only, honor a person who cultivates himself.
Better is that honoring than the one which was offered for a hundred years. (106)
A few more ancient sayings, this one's really old:
Do not return evil to your adversary; Requite with kindness the one who does evil to you, Maintain justice for your enemy, Be friendly to your enemy.
Akkadian Councils of Wisdom (from the ancient Babylonian civilization that existed two millennia before Jesus was born) in Pritchard's Ancient Near Eastern Texts
Return love for hatred. Otherwise, when a great hatred is reconciled, some of it will surely remain. How can this end in goodness? Therefore the sage holds to the left hand of an agreement but does not expect what the other holder ought to do. Regard your neighbor's gain as your own and your neighbor's loss as your own loss. Whoever is self-centered cannot have the love of others.
Taoist wisdom (written centuries before Jesus was born)
That which you want for yourself, seek for mankind.
Islamic holy teaching (Sukhanan-i-Muhammad, 63)
People were Christian before Christ ever existed. People were humanistic before humanism was ever organized.
People were loving before LSD was ever discovered.
Timothy Leary, as quoted by Paul Krassner, "The Cynic Route from Crazy SANE to Loving Haight," The Realist, 1967
DANGERS OF RELIGION
QUOTATION from Keith Ward (himself pro-religion) in The Case for Religion:
[E]ven the great monastic communities of western Europe, such as Cluny Abbey, founded on renunciation of the world and denial of the flesh, quickly became owners of vast estates and wielders of enormous political power. They no longer protested against the world. They were the world, in all its pageantry and power, and they validated the dream of empire, which they consecrated as Crusades to destroy the infidel. That is why people should not look to religion for salvation or for a solution to the ills of the world. Failure to see the possibilities for corruption and destruction in religion is a failure of spiritual perception of the first order. Few people fail to see the destructive possibilities of other people's religions, but they can be remarkably blind to their own.
Theology is the science of Dominion.
- - - My God is your god's Boss - - -
One very small modern day example of domination-seeking fundamentalist Christians.
QUOTATION from Blaise Pascal, Pensees, (1670)
Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.
QUOTATION from G. K. Chesterton in the Daily News, as quoted by Robert Blatchford, God and My Neighbor
Christianity has committed crimes so monstrous that the sun might sicken at them in heaven.
QUOTATION from C. S. Lewis in a letter to Bede Griffiths, dated Dec. 20, 1961, not long before Lewis' death, The Letters of C. S. Lewis, ed., W. H. Lewis, (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1966), p. 301.
Even more disturbing as you say, is the ghastly record of Christian persecution. It had begun in Our Lord's time--'Ye know not what spirit ye are of' (John of all people!). I think we must fully face the fact that when Christianity does not make a man very much better, it makes him very much worse... Conversion may make of one who was, if no better, no worse than an animal, something like a devil.
QUOTATION from Albert Schweitzer, Out of My Life and Thought: An Autobiography (New York: The New American Library, 1963).
For centuries Christianity treasured the great commandment of love and mercy as traditional truth without recognizing it as a reason for opposing slavery, witch burning and all the other ancient and medieval forms of inhumanity. It was only when Christianity experienced the influence of the thinking of the Age of Enlightenment that it was stirred into entering the struggle for humanity. The remembrance of this ought to preserve it forever from assuming any air of superiority in comparison with thought."
Perhaps over the millennia and via increased communication and heightened literacy and knowledge of others and the world, religion has not civilized man, but man has civilized religion? God improves as humankind advances.
ON THE FEAR OF ATHEISTS/ATHEISM
ATHEISM DEFENDED BY A CHRISTIAN
Atheism tends to be a term of disrepute in the Western world, but we ought to do all we can to change this situation. The honest atheist is simply a person who has looked out upon the world and has come to believe that there is no adequate evidence that God is, or that there is good evidence that God is not. Very seldom does this make a man happy or popular...A man who has no practical belief in God may nevertheless be a good man. Sometimes it is the very goodness of a man which makes him an unbeliever; he is so superlatively honest, so eager not to accept anything without adequate evidence, so sensitive to the danger of believing what is comforting, merely because it is comforting...Such a man we can only honor."
Elton Trueblood (Quaker theologian), Philosophy of Religion
A CATHOLIC DEFENSE OF ATHEISM
Atheism is clearly always a permissible view of man in a world in which God is not immediately evident.
20th Century Encyclopedia of Catholicism
ANOTHER CHRISTIAN DEFENDS ATHEISTS
Not one man in a thousand has the goodness of heart or the strength of mind to be an atheist.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
A DEIST ASKS, "WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ATHEISTS?"
If there are atheists, who is responsible but the mercenary tyrants of souls who say: "Believe a hundred things in the Bible either manifestly abominable or mathematically impossible; otherwise the God of mercy will burn you in the fires of hell, not only for millions of billions of centuries, but for all eternity."
Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary, entry under "Atheist, Atheism," Second Section
A DEIST DEFENDS HERETICS
All the heretics I have known have been virtuous men. They cannot afford to be deficient in any of the other virtues, as that would give advantage to their many enemies; and they have not, like orthodox sinners, such a number of friends to excuse or justify them.
Ben Franklin as quoted in Benjamin Franklin: His Wit, Wisdom, and Women by Seymour Stanton Block
A BELIEVER IN GOD WHO LIVED HAPPILY WITH ATHEISTS
I believe in God, although I live very happily with atheists...It is very important not to mistake hemlock for parsley; but not at all so to believe or not in God.
One day a man was asked if there were any true atheists. Do you think, he replied, that there are any true Christians?
Denis Diderot (1713-1784), cited in Against the Faith by Jim Herrick
I give blood. I volunteer my organs. I donate to charities. I return my shopping cart. I never needed religion to puppeteer me through life and tell me how to feel about gays, abortion, and capital punishment or how to raise my kid. When people ask me what I am, I say Earthling.
William P.O'Neil, "Playing the God Card," Chicago Tribune, Feb. 10, 2000
I just returned from the Blood Connection in my home town where I spent an hour giving red blood cells and having the plasma pumped back into my arm. I am told that my blood will save someone's life. And, if it was someone injured by doing something stupid (such as driving while intoxicated and getting in a wreck), I have (in effect) given my blood so they might have life...and, since they did not die from their "sinful" act of driving while intoxicated because of my blood, then my blood could be said to have given them life which is metaphorically similar to the way Gospel tracts teach that Jesus shed his blood for our sins and gave use life via his "vicarious atonement." In fact I was told by my nurse that my blood or blood products would be used to save the lives of multiple persons. I bring up the connection to Christian theology because I used to be a Baptist preacher and attended Christian colleges and seminaries for six years. Back in 1997 the supervisor at my government job told our secretary that he would not give the "Man of the Year" award to a "damn atheist," so he gave the award to a Christian on the staff (so much for the separation of Church and State). Ironically, the Christian who receive that award was later fired, my supervisor passed away at a relatively young age, while old Harry the "atheist" is giving blood to save the lives of others.
Harry McCall, contributor to Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists
THE FREETHINKER/ATHEIST AS SEEN BY CHRISTIANS
I have often remarked that the Christian in his treatment of the freethinker passes through three distinct stages. In the first instance he depicts the heretic as someone almost incredibly vile. There is a good reason for this, since in order to justify his suppression, he must be loaded with moral opprobrium and the social censure used to enforce the religious condemnation. So to the orthodox imagination unbelief becomes a mere cloak to cover incredible scoundrelism. A catalogue of vices is drawn up of which the Freethinker ought to be guilty, and the heretic of religious fiction is made to live up to the program. The next stage is when the freethinker is better known, and the Christian assumes a pitying attitude. The heretic may be a decent sort of a fellow, although he is terribly mistaken in his view, but--and the "but" is altogether fatal. Then, as freethinkers become better known, he is promoted to almost the level of the Christian himself. Sometimes we are told that he may be as good as a Christian, a degree of excellence which to a visitor from another planet would hardly appear to mark an incredible degree of moral development.
Professor Drummond used to address his class, "I knew a student, an avowed atheist. He roomed with a man who contracted typhus. What do you think the atheist did? He neglected his classes to nurse his chum, who after a severe struggle, recovered. What of the nurse? He contracted the disease and died. The atheist died and went to heaven and received the 'well done, thou good and faithful servant.'" Drummond thought it worthwhile to point out that an atheist did what hundreds, probably thousands of people are doing every week in some form or another. Of course, in the majority of cases it is not advertised. Men and women help each other, nurse each other, take risks for each other, and sometimes pay the cost of the risks they run. It is only advertised when it happens to be done in the name of Christ, while the larger number of cases are known only to an immediate circle of friends. Clearly, if Christians had lied less about their opponents, if they had slandered them less, if they had been brought up with a healthier appreciation of the qualities and capabilities of normal human nature, Professor Drummond would not have needed to inform his class that an atheist might be a decent human being.
The author from whom I have taken the Drummond anecdote tells the story as illustrating the latter's liberality of mind. It is quite clear that had his hearers really understood the nature of morality, had they been taught that morality springs from, and has sole regard to the social relationships, there would have been no point in the story and no need for its telling. The atheist does not need an anecdote to inform him that a Christian may act in a human manner. He knows that human nature, like murder, will out, and the moral promptings which are expressions of so many thousands of generations of associated life cannot be prevented expressing themselves by the most anti-social religious teachings.
Chapman Cohen, Essays in Freethinking
SHOULD WE USE THE CONCEPT OF GOD TO MAKE A BETTER WORLD?
I am not of the opinion that we should make use of the concept of God in striving for a better world. This, it seems to me, is incompatible with the integrity of a modern cultured person.
IS IT EVER PROPER TO ACT AS IF GOD DID NOT EXIST?
There is a wonderful Hasidic story about a rabbi who was asked whether it is ever proper to act as if God did not exist. He responded, "Yes, when you are asked to give to charity, you should give as if there were no God to help the object of the charity."
Alan Dershowitz, Letters to a Young Lawyer