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Old 01-16-2008, 07:06 PM   #31
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Freedom in the world 2008.

http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=395

From the table of countries see if you can spot any similarities between counties rated "free" and those deemed "not free."
Secular liberal democracies are free and theocracies are not.

The mere fact that "the west" has been, and is, prone to stupid superstition does not make a secular world indebted to a theistic one.

A religious society is not condusive to individual freedoms and a religious state will be downright opposed. The issues consistently championed by religious groups make that observation pretty clear, even the most innocuous ones are no match for a free secular society.
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Old 01-16-2008, 07:15 PM   #32
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Enlightenment thinking springing up of coarse; not in the Arab world, not from Eastern Philosophy, but in Christian Europe post Magna Carta & Reformation.
And why did it take 1300 years from the time Christianity achieved the state recognition and protection needed to flourish before that got around to happening, if it were so inevitably inherent in the religion itself? How would you articulate the distinction between secularism and democracy with reference to the religious trajectory you're proposing (since you brought up "freedom," presumably meaning individual and collective liberties, which in world-historical terms is much more directly associated with democracy than with secularism--the latter also being characteristic of medieval India, for example)? Why did Averroism argue for a stronger separation of reason and faith then Thomism did, if that distinction is so inherently impossible in Islam but so inevitable in Christianity? (And what about those pagan Greeks and Romans both schools of thought were influenced by--are they irrelevant to the ultimate historical result?) Where might the development of mercantilism into modern capitalism (are those distinctly Christian institutions?), with its concept of contractually based rights, fit into this theological-inevitability portrait? Power struggles between monarchs and the aristocracy? The Enlightenment was a Western phenomenon, yes, but to seize on the theological character (if we can even talk about that as a fixed constant) of what for 1300 years had been the (established state) majority religion of the West and finger that as the sole critical determinant is nothing more than a straight correlation=causation argument, and not at all compelling.

Now, none of that necessarily has much to do with who should form political interest groups to pursue their collective goals and who shouldn't, and I'd leave it to you and Sean to debate whether that's 'good for Christians' in particular. But I do think there's a substantial difference between lobbying for what could, in reason-based terms, be argued to benefit some particular group's material self-interest, and lobbying for religion-based preferences as to what 'the ideal society' should look like in general. And a difference in turn between the latter and actually referencing some particular religion's scriptures as a preferential source for legislative guidance in the lawmaking process proper. 'Because the Bible says so' isn't a sound political argument for opposing housing and employment protections for gay people, and it isn't a sound argument for supporting the expansion of food stamp programs or subsidized childcare either (not that the latter occurrence is anywhere near as common as the former).
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Old 01-16-2008, 07:16 PM   #33
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Sometimes I wish the Americans would establish a state church. That would ensure that the society is secularized in the fastest possible way.
That's what happened in the UK, in a way. Took 300 years though!
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Old 01-16-2008, 09:29 PM   #34
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Well, when I quoted the paragraph from the article I left one line out that was right in the middle.

"Once any group of Christians gives itself away so completely to a political party, it ceases to be the church. The church becomes a branch office of the group's political party of choice —

Once any group of Christians gives itself so completely to a political party it morphs into the FRC of America? Clearly not. Now, for whatever reason the author choose not to bring up the point I made but, from other sections of his piece I do detect at the very least a double standard.
The question is not whether Christians on both the right and the left do it. . .the question is whether it's good for them to be doing so. As you said, you need to argue the question on it's merits and saying "Yeah, but they do it too" isn't arguing on the merits.

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Why the last seven years? What about Jimmy Carter, who professed to being born-again during his winning 1976 campaign? Or the Reverend Jesse Jackson who won 5 primaries or caucuses in 1984?
And what are the alternative "values" that, presumably, written laws would have be been based on these past seven years if not for GWB and the FRC of America?
Again I ask, which Democratic presidential candidate has been single-handedly raised to national prominence by religiously motivated voters? Of course the articles implications apply to all Christians regardless of political stripe, but obviously it would address the group that is actually having the most impact on the public discourse.

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Does the author show equal concern that social institutions such as labor unions, the AARP and countless others become politically involved? Can they not become corrupted as well over time by this allegiance, or only church organizations that support the GOP?
Of course they can--but this is an evangelical Christian writing to other evangelical Christians, not someone opining about the corrupting influences of lobbying in general. Plus I expect he expects Christians to hew to higher (or at least different) standard than labor unions and the AARP.




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Fair question and one we've touched on before. Early Christians had no power -- had no vote. They didn't live in a democracy
True. How would Paul have voted if he could? We can't really say. We don't even know what kinds of candidates there would have been. But in terms of having power, at least was Jesus was on earth, he undoubtedly had the power to change the state of things. . .indeed there was a lot of pressure on Him to do exactly that. He could have easily set up a godly kingdom to replace the pagan, polytheistic Roman one (with their practice of infanticide etc). You and I believe He had the power, but He chose not to use it. He also didn't leave any instructions for His followers to do so.

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Originally posted by INDY500
and besides, they saw their primary mission as one of the conversion of sinners, not politics.
In my opinion, that should still be the primary mission of the church, not politics. Laws don't change hearts, and that's what matters most for Christians--changing hearts.


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It is just as valid for a Christian to argue or vote his values as for anyone else theirs.
Indeed and no one is arguing that they shouldn't vote their values. I'm not even arguing that Christians shouldn't run for office. And neither is the article. It is saying that Christians should not allow a political party to use and manipulate them (or try to use a political party to get their values enshrined in law). It's saying that Christians who align themselves with one party, exclude certain Christian values that dont' mesh with that party.
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Old 01-16-2008, 10:05 PM   #35
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Would Western secular values even exist without Christianity?
Yes, for the most part, since secular values have their ultimate origin in Greco-Roman philosophy. Christianity did make only two notable contributions to Western philosophy, and that was through the writings of St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Thomas Aquinas. Augustine's contributions had nothing to do with secularism, as his writings were in the backdrop of the disintegration of the Roman Empire, whereas Aquinas' writings were heavily influenced by, yes, that same Greco-Roman philosophy--and also by Islamic philosophy via Al-Andalus ("Moorish Spain").

There's two important things to note about Aquinas:

1) He would have been nothing without the Islamic and Jewish scholars in Spain. Most, if not all, of his exposure to Greco-Roman writings came through translations of Arabic sources done by Spanish Jews. It must be noted that Al-Andalus was, by far, the most advanced nation in Europe at the time.

2) His contributions, like that of Augustine, are pretty much solely confined to that of Christianity. Neither wrote anything that directly contributed to secularism.

Compare this to Islamic scholars, who, due to the large empire they lived in, stretched all the way from India to the Levant to Spain, covering all the ancient sources of knowledge. Christian Europe, on the other hand, was completely isolated from this, and the Germanic tribes that destroyed the West Roman Empire let their knowledge fall, fading into obscurity.

Islamic scholars, however, not only kept the ancient knowledge alive, but also made massive contributions to further this knowledge, such as in mathematics, astronomy, architecture, philosophy, medicine, and science. This knowledge was heavily concentrated in Al-Andalus, which then filtered into Western Europe. Plus, as the Christian Reconquista advanced and pushed out the Moors, they would marvel further at the knowledge left behind and transmitted it further into Europe.

It is quite interesting to note that, by the time of the early Renaissance, both Christianity and Islam abandoned their pursuit of knowledge, in favor of more strict, conservative religious attitudes that rejected such scholarship as "pagan," and, hence, "evil." As such, the mantle of such scholarship was passed onto Imperial Europe, as the monarchs were still quite enamored with the idea of technological advancement. As such, from the Renaissance onward, the mantle of secularism was furthered by the state and not the church.

As for Jews and the "dhimmi" status, it is wrong to make blanket statements about how they lived in the Islamic world, one way or another. Frankly, it had much to do with the particular school of Islam or the monarch in charge. Spain is a great example of this conundrum. With the fall of Visigothic Spain and the arrival of the Moors, Jews welcomed their arrival, because the Christian Visigoths were heavily anti-Semitic. As such, Jews fared very well in Islamic Spain for the most prosperous first few hundred years. As more conservative Northern African tribes invaded Spain, Islam in Spain became much more intolerant and much less progressive. As such, depending on the ruler, Jews often preferred to live in Christian northern Spain. However, often within a few years, Christians would then resume persecuting Jews, and then they would flee back to Islamic Spain. After the Moors were completely driven out of Spain, it is quite telling that all Muslims and Jews were expelled from Spain, with the majority of Jews then moving to yet another Muslim nation, the growing Ottoman Empire. So no matter what one says about the status of Jews in Europe and in the Muslim world, more often than not, Jews preferred to live in Muslim nations. A tax, after all, was preferable to being killed.

Regardless, one thing is very quite clear, and that neither Christianity nor Islam have made any substantial contributions to the world around them for centuries, instead preferring to focus on moral pronouncements of often dubious substance. I lament the fact that it has really been 700 years since religion was last truly relevant.
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Old 01-16-2008, 11:28 PM   #36
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That's what happened in the UK, in a way. Took 300 years though!
Exactly.
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Old 01-17-2008, 12:30 AM   #37
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Regardless, one thing is very quite clear, and that neither Christianity nor Islam have made any substantial contributions to the world around them for centuries, instead preferring to focus on moral pronouncements of often dubious substance. I lament the fact that it has really been 700 years since religion was last truly relevant.
I would be interested to know what part of this irrelevance you lament, to me it seems a society where religion is truly relevant is an unhealthy one.
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Old 01-17-2008, 03:23 AM   #38
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...vote their values.

...try to use a political party to get their values enshrined in law.
How would you describe the difference between the two?
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Old 01-17-2008, 07:01 AM   #39
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How would you describe the difference between the two?
Hmmm. . .it's clear to me but hard to explain.

I guess, in my view everyone does--and should--"vote their values" in the sense of voting for what they believe is right or what is best for the country. And I don't think that any Christian should be chastised because their faith informs what they think is right or what is best for the country. I do think it's absurd when it is sometimes suggested that Christians should somehow refuse to allow their beliefs affect how they vote. I do think Christians should be able to differentiate between policies that are beneficial to the country regardless of your faith or lack thereof (policies that help the poor for example or even, some might argue, a pro-life abortion stance) and policies that are specifically designed to legislate your faith (prayer in the schools, ten commandments on the wall). Obviously the difference between these two types of policies can be a little hazy and very much up for debate, but I do think Christians should recognize there is a difference between the two, even if parsing out that difference is difficult.

Using a party to get your religious world view enshrined into law falls under that second category in my mind.

What I see going on with the Religous Right is a sense of entitlement--a sense that this is "our" country and we can't let "them"--you know, the secular humanists etc--take it from us. That seems totally incompatible with the spirit of Christ to me. Christians should vote like everyone else, but our faith teaches that the problems of the world can't soley be solved by the power of "earthly governments." I would expect those who don't believe in God to put a lot more energy and emphasis into forcing their agenda, however well-intentioned, into law because after all--that's all there is from their point of view. Understand, I'm not suggesting Christians shouldn't be involved in taking action or being vocal in what they believe to be right, it's just they should understand that their faith teaches the most important changes can't be made in the halls of Congress or in a court of law.

I'm not sure if I really explained that well, but it's the best I could do right before bedtime
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Old 01-17-2008, 08:34 AM   #40
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I would be interested to know what part of this irrelevance you lament, to me it seems a society where religion is truly relevant is an unhealthy one.
I'm referring to one that embraces and respects scholarship, rather than one that embraces nonsense. I guess it's hard for me to describe, but I guess it is like the difference between theistic evolution/evolutionary creationism (scholarship) and intelligent design/creationism (nonsense).

I guess, for me, I believe that religion is generally inevitable and isn't going away, so what I'm hoping for is religion that is sane and reasonable, rather than insane and hysterical. An in-depth study of religious history shows that there have been alternating periods of just that, even if much of that scholarship has been surpassed by modern scientific knowledge. After all, such was the fate of most ancient Greco-Roman knowledge too.
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Old 01-17-2008, 10:38 AM   #41
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And why did it take 1300 years from the time Christianity achieved the state recognition and protection needed to flourish before that got around to happening, if it were so inevitably inherent in the religion itself?
Actually, Irvine asked me if there was anything "bad" about Christianity. I was going to mention something very similar. While it's easy to reflect upon history, it certainly is unfortunate that, even possessing "The Word of God", mankind has had to socially evolve through trial and error with the inevitable consequence of some very bloody dead-ends. There's a myriad of reasons for this of coarse, but that slavery, anti-Semitism, forced-obedience and other evils continued to exist for so long within the shadow of the Church is indeed tragic.

One would hope that "self-evident truths" were always so.
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Old 01-17-2008, 01:08 PM   #42
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Regardless, one thing is very quite clear, and that neither Christianity nor Islam have made any substantial contributions to the world around them for centuries
I don't accept that.

As I have mentioned, the commandment to "Love thy neighbor as thyself" has compelled Christians to feed, house, clothe and render aid to their fellow humans whether they live down the street, in the next city or on the other side of the globe. There is no Greco-Roman root for charity and compassion to strangers.

Not to minimize the role of the Enlightenment, but equally important in creating the moral foundation for the American Revolution and our founding documents was the First Great Awakening in the mid-1700s. "Inalienable rights endowed by our Creator" isn't really secular thinking is it?

The Second Great Awaking in the early 1800s led to prison reform, women's suffrage and finally to the abolition of slavery. Although it has existed in numerous forms around the planet for as long as records indicate, it was Christian writers, theologians and politicians in Europe and North America that got the slave trade legally banned. And for the most part the world followed our lead.

So we can see that Christianity by it's charity, thought and action has in actuality made a great contribution to the world around it. Along with giving billions of people hope, purpose and a way to make sense of the events in their daily lives.
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Old 01-17-2008, 01:21 PM   #43
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The Second Great Awaking in the early 1800s led to prison reform, women's suffrage and finally to the abolition of slavery. Although it has existed in numerous forms around the planet for as long as records indicate, it was Christian writers, theologians and politicians in Europe and North America that got the slave trade legally banned. And for the most part the world followed our lead.
Yes, for the most part. Some of the world had enacted statutes abolishing slavery before the American Christians realized that maybe it was antithetical to their teachings....

Maybe most of the world would have been better of following that lead.
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Old 01-17-2008, 02:17 PM   #44
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Using a party to get your religious world view enshrined into law falls under that second category in my mind.

What I see going on with the Religous Right is a sense of entitlement--a sense that this is "our" country and we can't let "them"--you know, the secular humanists etc--take it from us. That seems totally incompatible with the spirit of Christ to me. Christians should vote like everyone else, but our faith teaches that the problems of the world can't soley be solved by the power of "earthly governments." I would expect those who don't believe in God to put a lot more energy and emphasis into forcing their agenda, however well-intentioned, into law because after all--that's all there is from their point of view. Understand, I'm not suggesting Christians shouldn't be involved in taking action or being vocal in what they believe to be right, it's just they should understand that their faith teaches the most important changes can't be made in the halls of Congress or in a court of law.
As I read this I think we agree on most things. I agree on the importance of not being beholden to any one political party. Unfortunately, we currently only have two viable political parties in this country and one of those fervently supports a procedure that, while I wouldn't make illegal, I feel should be more restricted. So while individual Democrats may get the occasional support of evangelicals (Evan Bayh does just fine here in Jesusland for example), if there's gonna be any mass exodus from the GOP it will be to independent, not Democratic status.

I hope you'll agree with me that, in the end, if we live as salt and light in the world, we archive more casting nets than casting ballots.
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Old 01-17-2008, 03:26 PM   #45
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Yes, for the most part. Some of the world had enacted statutes abolishing slavery before the American Christians realized that maybe it was antithetical to their teachings....
It was William Wilberforce, a Christian abolitionist, who labored for years in British parliament to abolish slavery in the UK.
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