Monday, December 28, 2015

If You Don't Believe All People Are Made In The Image of God You Will Have No Secure Basis For Asserting Equality Of Any Kind

It is rather funny, some of the things that atheists use as an excuse for hating religion, especially Christianity.   In an online brawl this weekend  one of them thought they'd come up with a solid reason for their hatred because Christians believe they are made in the image of God, as it says in Genesis.  But the same Christians hold that all people are made in God's image, including the atheists who use that as a reason to hate Christianity.  Of course atheists don't hold that all human beings are made in God's image, which led to another point in the weekend's brawls - it happens when I'm too busy to do any research.

Another atheist got really steamed when I said that liberalism was not the product of the Enlightenment, that it was a development of Jewish egalitarian justice as conveyed to a wider population through the Christian ethic of universal love, pretty much what Jurgen Habermas said.  If there's a way to get an atheist, especially a Britatheist steamed it will be to note that the Enlightenment, embodied in the writers and philosophers of the Enlightenment, was hardly enlightened.  Many if not all of the major figures of the Enlightenment were racists who held that people of African and other non-European ancestry were inferior to white people, many of them either held slaves, themselves, or supported slavery.  Voltaire was a pretty repulsive racist whose writings on the subject could be used intact in white supremacy pamphlets today.  John Locke, in writing up his constitution for the Carolinas included slavery within his unequal stratification of society.

David Hume was a racist who is credited mightily with abolitionism which, in his case, was about as weak as a cup of tea brewed from one leaf.  He was, as well, a racist whose writings wouldn't give an advocate of slavery any problems and contained much to make hay out of.

I am apt to suspect the negroes and in general all other species of men (for there are four orfive different kinds) to be naturally inferior to the whites. There never was a civilized nation of any other complexion than white, nor even any individual eminent either in action or speculation. No ingenious manufactures amongst them, no arts, no sciences…. [T]here are NEGROE slaves dispersed all over EUROPE, of which none ever discovered any symptoms of ingenuity; tho' low people, without education, will start up amongst us, and distinguish themselves in every profession. In JAMAICA, indeed, they talk of one negroe as a man of parts and learning; but 'tis likely he is admired for very slender accomplishments, like a parrot, who speaks a few words plainly.

As I noted in the argument, when the escaped slave and abolitionist author David Walker was arguing rather brilliantly against almost exactly the same argument made by Thomas Jefferson, it was The Bible that he used, not David Hume. Though if he had Jefferson might have been surprised, Thomas Jefferson, despite making almost identical arguments for the inferiority and subjugation of black people, hated Hume's writing for other reasons.  Hume was hardly a liberal democrat even in his own time and on contemporary terms.  He was roundly rejected by most of the founding generation of American democracy, from the few anti-slavery figures such as John Adams to the slave holding Jefferson.

The much touted Enlighenment, as adored by intellectual atheists of the left as those vulgar materialists on the right is one of the most ridiculously overrated intellectual movements in history. Its promotion has shadowed the actual history of liberalism in the Christian writers such as the earliest advocates for the abolition of slavery and other forms of oppressive inequality.  I remember the atheist fury when that movie about the British effort to abolish slavery came out ten or more years ago when it noted that the effort was distinctly a Christian one but that is, in fact, the case as it was with the American abolition movement.   As was largely the case with the effort for women to achieve equality and for the rights of workers.  Most of those efforts were informed by The Bible they knew and not by the Enlightenment writers who they either didn't know or would have found weren't supportive of their causes.  It's been my observation that the citation of John Locke, William Blackstone, David Hume and other figures of the Enlightenment is more apt to be in favor of restoring the inequality of the late 18th century than it is in any effort to establish equal justice and an equal distribution of material wealth and such good as equality of education.  In so far as atheists try to suppress the influence of the teachings of Jesus and the radical egalitarian economic justice of the Jewish scriptures in favor of some atheist line of thinking, they are destroying the basis of liberalism in the American sense of the word in favor of the late 18th century "liberalism" which merely frees those with more power to do as they want without any regulation.

I have come to suspect that unless a society is primarily influenced by some absolute metaphysical holding that is the equivalent to the egalitarian economic and justice teachings founded in the Mosaic Law and the teachings of the Jewish prophets, they will not either achieve or sustain democracy.  I don't think anything but a holding that equality is the endowment of our Creator will be sufficient to overcome the depravity of natural selfishness.  Any society in which a majority of people do not have that sense which governs their choices and actions will be an oppressive, unequal society.  What people think leads to what they do and what they do is the substance of which a society and its character are made.  The extent to which people can deny or wiggle out of or ignore that inequality is wrong, that it is evil, that to participate in it is a sin which produces pain and disaster is the extent to which egalitarian democracy is made impossible or is destroyed.  I think that is the reason we are losing everything gained in the past two-hundred years in the United States and reverting to the country which produced the evils that liberalism exists to abolish and stop.

The proposed atheist replacements of morality, such as the current one based on an idiotic and self-contradicting evolution of morals under natural selection exacerbates instead of inhibits assumptions of inequality and all of the evils that inequality gives birth to.  The notion that natural selection, BASED ENTIRELY IN NOTIONS OF INEQUALITY  could be turned around to create equality is proof that you have to be wiling to be dishonest to try to replace morality with that.  The earliest proponents of natural selection were notable for being opposed to the idea that all people were equal, using natural selection to argue for inequality and advocating the "goodness" of even the most obviously evil practices arising from that.  I have mentioned their almost immediate assertions for the benefits of infanticide, murder of those deemed unfit, allowing them to starve and die of disease and everything up to and including imperialist genocide.  All of which I've documented in the very words of those who invented natural selection.  And the same is true for any other atheist or secular replacement for the Jewish conception of morality contained in The Law and the prophets.  There are things that could be cited, such as the morality taught by The Buddha, though it presupposes that in any generation there will be inequality as people and other beings work out their fate under karmic forces.  The same is true for various Hindu schools of thought.  While, under some of Buddhism and Hinduism there is a very high degree of morality asserted, unless there is also a call for equality within every generation then those will not produce a durable and truly egalitarian democratic government.  Such a government begins as an ideal which we will find it almost impossible to even approximate and even coming to that approximation will take enormous self-denial and self-restraint, of people doing what they would rather not do, of sacrificing their own self-interest when they could, easily, treat other people as they would not want to be treated in both small and large ways.  I think such an effort to achieve what can be takes enormous effort and anything that hampers it will be an enormous danger to it.

If there is any other proposal for producing the equivalent of the Jewish-Christian basis for egalitarian democracy, I'd very much like to know it and would support its morality as equal to it.  I suspect that it is quite possible to do so under Islam though I am not a scholar of Islam to any great extent.  Some writers calling for a society governed by the ideal equality of conduct of those making the Hajj seem to me to be calling for something like that.  Any previous faith that I had that that could be done in secular and non-theistic terms is dead.

* Update 
"Voltaire was a pretty repulsive racist whose writings on the subject could be used intact in white supremacy pamphlets today. "

Citation, please. Otherwise I'm going to assume you based that statement on the work of Prof. Otto Yerass.

It is a serious question among them whether [the Africans] are descended from monkeys or whether the monkeys come from them. Our wise men have said that man was created in the image of God. Now here is a lovely image of the Divine Maker: a flat and black nose with little or hardly any intelligence. A time will doubtless come when these animals will know how to cultivate the land well, beautify their houses and gardens, and know the paths of the stars: one needs time for everything.

Voltaire, Lettres d'Annabed

All the rest of this vast continent [of America] was shared, and still is, by small societies to whom the arts are unknown. All these peoples live in huts; they wear the skin of animals in cold climates, and go nearly naked in the temperate ones. Some feed from hunting, others on roots that they knead. They have not seeked another way of life, because one does not desire that which one does not know. Their industry has been unable to go beyond their urgent needs. Samoyèdes, Lapps, habitants of the north of Siberia, those of Kamtschatka, are even less advanced than the people of the America. Most of the Negroes, all Kaffirs, are plunged in the same stupidity, and they will stagnate a long time.

Voltaire, Essai sur les mœurs

[The Jewish people] dares spread an irreconcilable hatred against all nations; it revolts against all its masters. Always superstitious, always avid of the well-being enjoyed by others, always barbarous, crawling in misfortune, and insolent in prosperity. Here are what were the Jews in the eyes of the Greeks and the Romans who could read their books.

Voltaire, Essai sur les mœurs

If you like, I could go on.  I'm rather pressed for time as my brother is semi-conscous and I want to see him or I'd find them in the original instead of online translations.  Your Voltaire is an imaginary product of atheist propaganda, he was a total and absolute pig and a petty crook in real life, pretty much like your Charles Darwin is totally imaginary.


  1. I'm familiar with G.E. Moore's attempt to create an ethical system, his Principia Ethica. The fact that is is obscure explains its success. I've also read Aristotle's "Ethics," which has nothing to do with morality (Socrates was more of a moralist).

    The only valid atheistic ethic I know of is Sartre's, and it's so burdensome no one wants to talk about it. Even John Rawls' Theory of Justice is just namby-pamby Christian morality without Jesus, and therefore without any force to make us conform to Rawl's wishful thinking, except that things might be nicer if we did.

    1. I think Moore's most valid idea is that we know many day to day facts with a certainty that any level of logical verification could ever achieve.

      I agree that Sartre's ideas are unlikely to ever become a reality in any real society. They are, further, complicated by his advocacy for Marxist regimes which were engaged in total depravity.

      I came to the conclusion that the argument that atheists were morally superior based in the otiosity of contented university profs is probably a fluke and nothing to base a general observation of atheist morality in. It's lack durability under testing is best judged when a rival writes a paper attacking their work or there is a department shakeup or a tenure struggle. As Steve Weinberg showed at Sean Carroll's summer camp for atheist scholars, it's pretty much the morality of spoiled two-year-olds.

  2. Adding: and interestingly Jefferson's clearest statement (though not his alone) about "egalitarian democracy" starts out with "All men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights."

    Apologists on-line (the unserious kind) try to explain (atheist-splain?) that Jefferson didn't mean what that obviously says, but take it out and where do we all get "certain inalienable rights" that call to judgment a Stalin or a Pol Pot?

    1. I am convinced that the only durable basis for acting out of equality, for achieving political equality, a basis from which people will make the self-sacrifice necessary for that to happen, passing up opportunities to press for their advantage over other people in violation of their rights, is by that very assertion that it is an equal endowment from God. I don't think any other basis has any hope of making an actual difference in society, certainly as politics or even social relations. The difficulty of making it real in the United States, even when that is one of our national slogans, shows that it has to really, truly be believed with a strength to make it actual in real life.

  3. "Voltaire was a pretty repulsive racist whose writings on the subject could be used intact in white supremacy pamphlets today. "

    Citation, please. Otherwise I'm going to assume you based that statement on the work of Prof. Otto Yerass.

  4. TC: You might be interested in reading some of Sri Aurobindo's political writings. As someone who had a prominent - if not the predominant - influence on the independence movement in India at the beginning of the 20th century, and also as someone who received the highest quality classical education at Cambridge and later taught himself Sanskrit to read the Indian philosophic classics in the original, he was fully aware of the challenges of secular vs spiritually based morality.

    In the chapter, "Standards of Conduct" in "The Synthesis of Yoga," he deftly weaves the understanding of the relationship between our essential equality as "spiritual beings" and the inequality of our superficial nature. He also has several chapters on equality later in the same book, and also in his "Essays on the Gita."

    I think you'd find, if you examined many of the greatest writings of the Tibetan Buddhists, many similar ways of understanding our essential equally from a spiritual point of view (and just to add, the "creator God" that the wisest Buddhist reject is not the God of Christianity but the Deist God of that very same Enlightenment that you so deftly skewer.

    Apart rom that, extremely interesting and well-written column.

  5. I just re-read the end of your essay and wanted to offer a ray of hope.

    I'm sure you have heard naturalists (atheists, whatever name they're calling themselves today) say, "We don't need God (spirituality, beliefs, dogma, etc) to be moral. We're good people, we are kind, compassionate, yada yada."

    And you would be, from a purely intellectual point of view, to respond as you did in this excellent essay, and explain to them the Jewish, then Christian roots of their "secular humanist" view.

    But from a more experiential point of view (or perhaps more appropriately worded, a more mystical perspective?), perhaps we might say (though we definitely wouldn't say this explicitly to the humanist!) that their "intuition" - moral intuition? - regarding goodness, kindness, compassion, equality, etc - did not necessarily have to come through various religious/cultural institutions (or what's left of them today). Because they ARE in truth spiritual beings (sorry, that phrase probably sounds ugly to you, but since I just arrived here for the first time I don't know what language to use - souls?) made in the image of God, of course they would have access to a fundamental moral intuition of the essential moral worth of all human beings.

    I have found, in fact, that taking this perspective immediately lessens the resistance I've had in talking about, say, Indian philosophy - BOTH to secularists and those of a rather fundamentalist religious persuasion. Start with what we have in common - with the fundamentalist, that we have an essential connection to God; with the fundamaterialist, with the fact that we share a fundamental intuition regarding equality, kindness, compassion, etc.

    Not sure if this makes sense - as I said, I just arrived at this page and am not sure how to word this here, but hope it is at least interesting! Now off to your post on Messiaen... (studied his music when I was majoring in composition many moons ago)