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Thread: If athiests ruled the world

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    feel like funkin' it up gwahir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. E View Post
    I agree with this entirely.

    While religion may somewhat hurt the world, it also does good in the world (I'm not implying that atheists don't do good too). If the world was run by atheists I think things would probably be generally the same as they are now. Most cases of religion hurting people are mislabeled. If there was no religion people would have to be more honest about why they did the bad things they did, but they would still do them. If there was no religion it wouldn't eliminate the issues of abortion, gay marriage, race, sex education, or anything else, it would just change some of the reasons why some people were divided on the issues.
    What?

    What?

    Without religion, there would be no reason to fight abortion laws and no reason to hate gays. There'd be none of these ridiculous taboos about sex, so sex education would be at an infinitely higher standard. Your assertion is nonsense.

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    Journeyman Cocksmith Mr. E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gwahir View Post
    What?

    What?

    Without religion, there would be no reason to fight abortion laws and no reason to hate gays. There'd be none of these ridiculous taboos about sex, so sex education would be at an infinitely higher standard. Your assertion is nonsense.
    I disagree. People hate people who are different than them, religion or no religion. Gay rights would still be an issue, just like race rights. I think it is a little presumptuous to assume that there wouldn't be taboos either. We don't know how society would have developed without religion, and there is no way to know. All of these are moot points anyway because it is too late for there to have been no religion, lol. Even if everyone on earth magically decided there wasn't a god one day it wouldn't solve every problem ever. Back when I was a hardcore conservative (the days did exist, as much as I am ashamed of them) my arguments against abortion and gay marriage had nothing to do with religion.

  3. #83
    windmills of your mind Think's Avatar
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    I knew Karl Popper would come up

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. E View Post
    If someone plays some music for me that I think sucks I have the right to say it sucks, but out of respect for their opinions I generally just say that I don't like it and maybe give some reasons why. It isn't that I don't have a right to say it sucks, it is just an issue of respect and decency. If you don't choose to have respect and decency then that is your right, but just because it is your right to be that way doesn't make it justified or reasonable.
    Like I said in my analogy, I wouldn't criticise the 40 year old for believing in the tooth fairy, because I didn't want to offend him. But, if for whatever reason I find that I am, the stupidity of his belief should be enough.

    I have friends of all sorts of faiths, but I would never sit with them and criticise this, out of respect for them as people. This however is the internet.

    Mr E, religion still acts as a massive source of hatred and problems. Whilst people may hate gays for any number of reasons, religion has been a major source since it was invented. In Iran, if you get caught, you get murdered by the state, because it is a sin against god. This is both terrible and stupid.

    Removing religion wouldn't solve all of the worlds problems. It would help remove some of them though. All of this because people believe some myths. The whole thing is insane. So if you do feel the need to have a go at religion, this gives a very good reason. No one ever died because they disobeyed the tooth fairy.

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    Journeyman Cocksmith Mr. E's Avatar
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    So what you are saying is picking on idiots is mean, but still ok because they are idiots. I see...

    I am aware of abusive theocracy, and they are horrible and the world would probably be better without those, I will say that. However, beyond that things would generally be the same. Who knows, there could be countries that execute gays because it is an affront to the natural order. Religious extremists could (and probably would) just be replaced by natural order extremists. It is human nature for there to be dissenting opinion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. E View Post
    So what you are saying is picking on idiots is mean, but still ok because they are idiots. I see...

    I am aware of abusive theocracy, and they are horrible and the world would probably be better without those, I will say that. However, beyond that things would generally be the same. Who knows, there could be countries that execute gays because it is an affront to the natural order. Religious extremists could (and probably would) just be replaced by natural order extremists. It is human nature for there to be dissenting opinion.
    Mocking idiots to their face, and criticising their views on the internet are not the same. That is the point I am trying to make, I apologize if I failed to express it in a meaningful manner. They are not the same. People on this forum say all kinds of crap that I am pretty sure they wouldn't say out in public, because people can actually see you and maybe shout at you, threaten or assault you.

    You seem to imply that removing religion would be pointless as nothing much would change. Actually, I think a few important things would change. Religion has always been the biggest force against human thought and progress. Removing this would be a good thing. And yes, in some cases it would be replaced by secular ignorance and bigotry, however it would not be wholly replaced and therein lies the value.

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    Senior Member Syme's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gismo View Post
    Actually, I think a few important things would change. Religion has always been the biggest force against human thought and progress.
    Uhh, would you care to support this assertion? You kind of just say it off-hand, like it's a well-established fact that everyone knows already.

    I'd say the biggest force against human thought and progress has been institutional conservatism (or institutional inertia, or institutional self-preservation), which can certainly be seen in religious institutions but also in all manner of non-religious institutions.

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    feel like funkin' it up gwahir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. E View Post
    my arguments against abortion and gay marriage had nothing to do with religion.
    Yes they did; you just didn't know it.

    The are only ISSUES because of religion. YOU only argued against them because they were issues in the first place. Are you saying that if they weren't already very big conservative no-nos, you would have picked reasons out of the air why they were wrong? That's ludicrous.

    There is no secular reason to hate gays and only incredibly silly and tenuous secular arguments against abortion.

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    ))) joke, relax ;) coqauvin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gwahir View Post
    Well, I will! Not forcefully, but I will say that there is no satisfying answer to the question of how a benevolent god can allow such suffering.
    Syme gives a pretty good point by saying:

    Quote Originally Posted by Syme View Post
    All He has to have done is decided to give us free will and not renege on that decision.
    And on top of this, as an analogy, when you raise your children, ideally, you raise them to be themselves, but also to do good as themselves. You train them when they're young to do the right thing, but the idea is to instill in them the concept that they are responsible, for their own actions and the consequences from them. If you continually save them from the consequences from their actions, they get the idea that anything they do is fair game, and every society is littered with people who epitomize this through reckless action that goes unchecked. But that's straying from the point.

    The point is if you overbaby your child, like what you're implying by putting their lives on railway tracks and having them achieve a preconceived notion of success based entirely on your own desires, it leads to miserable fucking people, in most situations. Ideally, God wants you to be happy and free to choose, but if he forces you to make those choices, what's the purpose in that? I mean this whole argument rests on pretending I understand God's desires, the existence of a soul allowing free will and a ridiculous oversimplification of these concepts, but the heart of the stance is: God is daddy who says you're old enough to take care of yourself; you've been raised with the right influences around you, but you are the one who has to choose to do them and live by them, ultimately. Claiming that the existence of suffering implies a God that doesn't care, but that's not necessarily the case - it can still explain a God who does care, but also one who respects your right to be yourself and make your own choices and live by them, even if it does cause you and others trouble.

    Quote Originally Posted by gismo View Post
    What I do want to make clear is that I do think religion is stupid and has lost its relevance, there are much better ways of understanding ourselves and our world.
    Guys, the old way of donig things, the heart of which is still very much applicable, should totally be scrapped because it's been abused in the past.

    I would love to see you point out a set of rules on that level that haven't been abused in the past, and deserve to be scrapped simply because of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by gismo View Post
    And there are those who don't think there is one, but arrived at this conclusion by different means. Whilst less thoughtful, I would first like to say that it doesn't imply hatred. The notion of an invisible man in the sky, and blind faith in the Bible, which is quite clearly a book of myths totally staggers me and I find it's stupidity glaringly obvious. This group generally cannot give the same arguments as the first, their arguments tend to be "lol godfag" or something like that. Whilst crude, and something I personally try to avoid (if I am being serious), it doesn't imply hatred (I doubt few, if any of these guys have murdered a religious person for their faith, the opposite cannot be said however) and it doesn't always carry with it a notion of "im clevr".
    Ok, you are comparing the history of organized, or at least publically recognized, Atheism, which has existed for... what, half a century, tops? and comparing it to the entire history of organized religion, something that has lasted for millennia, existed in human culture as it developed through some particularly bloody periods and the aftereffects of living in those periods. Of course people have killed for opposing beliefs - the length of time it's been around and the cultures and eras it has existed through mean that it's impossible for it to have been otherwise. With the culture we're in now, with the exception of some particularly brutal backwoods enforcement, religious people don't physically assault or abuse those who don't follow their beliefs. The idea that they do otherwise is absurd, so claiming superiority over them on those grounds is completely mistaken.

    Quote Originally Posted by gismo View Post
    Yes, there are some people who criticise religion for being stupid and then try to claim that therefore they must be clever, we all know it doesn't work like that. I want to make it clear that you can still make mindless digs at god without adopting this attitude, and that in my mind is ok too.
    Making mindless digs at anything reeks of ignorance, and there is no pride to be taken from ignorance.

    Quote Originally Posted by gismo View Post
    Since when did criticism of religion have to be from a point of scientific understanding? Alot of people here seem to think that if you wish to have a go at god, you better be able to justify it. Why? To make it clear, this isn't the same as "lol stupid christians, I therefore am clever by virtue of mockin u", the christian god and myths quite clearly are not true, the nonsense of it all is striking, so if people want to take midnless digs at it, go ahead.
    If you want to 'have a go' at anything on an intellectual level, you had better be able to back yourself and your viewpoints up. Simply mocking something doesn't imply any sense of superiority, and the viewpoint you've adopted that, because their beliefs are foolish in your eyes, these people somehow become less human (more worthy of denigration and your hate) and are therefore more worthy of contempt begs for escalation.

    Quote Originally Posted by gismo View Post
    Again to make it clear, I don't like it when people take digs, then try to imply it gives them intelligence, or try to mask themselves as the first kind of atheist, as I don't believe the deserve to. One of the other video's about telling christian boys how to avoid the urge, whilst I didn't find it amusing, I have no issue that the guy chose to make it.
    oh you're a good guy because your own views are "well we shouldn't do that, but i still support it."

    my correlation with the other one was that it was a poorly done satire that only appeals to a certain asinine crowd, much like, say, a television show entitled: Ow, my Balls![/quote]


    Quote Originally Posted by gismo View Post
    Many of you are according far too much respect to religion.
    I think you have too little respect for religion and the benefits its given in its relationship with human development on a societal level. You would rather look at the harm it's done and the foolishness of literal interpretations of allegories and claim that's the only value religion has. Nobody pays attention to the quiet, devout religious couple that goes to church twice on sunday, maintains their jobs, pays their taxes and lives their lives quietly. This isn't even to imply that only religious people do that, it's more to say that religion has encouraged this kind of living, of participating in your community and loving the people inside it, for a lot longer than any secular movement, and to greater effect.

    Quote Originally Posted by gismo View Post
    Again, I sense I am having trouble expressing my point....look at it this way, let us say personX believes in the tooth fairy. PersonX is 40 years old. What alot of you guys are saying is that to criticise him for this belief, you must provide sound reasoning as to why this is wrong, because the blatent stupidity of the situation is not enough. Thats not to say he should be criticised, in person at least, I wouldn't do that for the same reason I never talk about religion with my religious friends, I don't wish to offend them. But if I were to criticise it, surely the blatent stupidity of this notion would be strong enough cause. And yes, I brought religion down to the level of the tooth fairy, as in my opinion they are very alike in essence, wishful belief in a fantasy. Except one is far less prevelant and dangerous.
    Ok, belief in the tooth fairy doesn't contain the same level of commitment, of commandments and rules to follow, of practices and cultures that religion does. The only comparison that it has is the one you've made, where you choose to take what can easily be seen as wishful and unrealistic and saying that's the only aspect of religion, and it's worthy of contempt and mockery. This is , probably in na´vety, completely ignoring the benefits that religion has offered and accomplished. Anything that exists as long as organized religion and wields the power that religion has achieved is going to have black marks in its history. Abuse of a law doesn't imply that it's ineffective.

    Quote Originally Posted by gwahir View Post
    Bad music doesn't harm anyone, Mr E.

    I agree that there's no need to be discourteous to people who don't deserve it (which is the majority of religious people). But sometimes it's not discourtesy, and sometimes they deserve it.
    Religion doesn't always harm people, and it's not a fair representation to make saying that's all it does. You are willfully choosing to watch and acknowledge only the terrible things it's done.

    Quote Originally Posted by gwahir View Post
    What?

    What?

    Without religion, there would be no reason to fight abortion laws and no reason to hate gays. There'd be none of these ridiculous taboos about sex, so sex education would be at an infinitely higher standard. Your assertion is nonsense.
    What?

    Religion is the only factor on the development of a societal or cultural understanding of sex? This isn't true, with an admittedly weak example being the island of Tikopia who practice Zero Population Growth based on the tiny size of their island and the realization that unchecked growth would lead to massive starvation.

    I would further clarify this, but I've lent out my copy of Collapse! to a friend in Ontario, and so I won't have it for a few days, but Jared Diamond mentions this, and also talks about the sexual taboos involved in Tikopian society, all of which was present well before any contact with Europeans, much less any religious influence.

    Quote Originally Posted by gismo View Post
    Like I said in my analogy, I wouldn't criticise the 40 year old for believing in the tooth fairy, because I didn't want to offend him. But, if for whatever reason I find that I am, the stupidity of his belief should be enough.
    The issue here isn't whether or not they believe in God, it's whether or not it's ok to harass them for adhering to a religions precepts (personal beliefs and level of fundamentalism notwithstanding). The tooth fairy analogy doesn't take that into account.

    Quote Originally Posted by gismo View Post
    I have friends of all sorts of faiths, but I would never sit with them and criticise this, out of respect for them as people. This however is the internet.
    well i'm friends with black people so it's ok if i call people niggers on the internet although i would never do it to their face (out of respect you know)

    Quote Originally Posted by gismo View Post
    Mr E, religion still acts as a massive source of hatred and problems. Whilst people may hate gays for any number of reasons, religion has been a major source since it was invented. In Iran, if you get caught, you get murdered by the state, because it is a sin against god. This is both terrible and stupid.
    No! Ignorance and Bigotry are the source of hatred and problems! While some fundamentalist and extreme sects of varied religions certainly have those two qualities in spades, they don't have a monopoly on those aspects. As much as I hate to bring Godwin's Law into this, Nazi Germany also hated and persecuted (to the point of death) Homosexuals, and for completely non-religious reasons.

    Quote Originally Posted by gismo View Post
    Removing religion wouldn't solve all of the worlds problems.
    Well at least you're smart enough to realize that.

    Quote Originally Posted by gismo View Post
    It would help remove some of them though.
    Call me crazy, but removing certain power structures that influence millions of people would alleviate some problems. Of course, they would wildly exacerbate others, but we'll conveniently ignore that.

    Quote Originally Posted by gismo View Post
    All of this because people believe some myths.
    Being religious isn't about believing in myths, it's about living by the tenets of your faith. These tenets are also created to create a strong community that supports itself. But again, it's not about that, is it?

    Quote Originally Posted by gismo View Post
    The whole thing is insane.
    There are so many non-religious things that are completely fucking insane and do more harm than religion, but again, we'll just ignore that aspect.

    Quote Originally Posted by gismo View Post
    So if you do feel the need to have a go at religion, this gives a very good reason.
    Oh, so because the other side believes different things than me (the justification the other side uses to demonize you), it's ok to be a bigot.


    Quote Originally Posted by gismo View Post
    No one ever died because they disobeyed the tooth fairy.
    I've already explained that you're tooth fairy analogy is flawed and why it's flawed, but if you want more clarification, I can provide it for you.

    Quote Originally Posted by gismo View Post
    You seem to imply that removing religion would be pointless as nothing much would change. Actually, I think a few important things would change. Religion has always been the biggest force against human thought and progress. Removing this would be a good thing. And yes, in some cases it would be replaced by secular ignorance and bigotry, however it would not be wholly replaced and therein lies the value.
    You are really going to have to back up a massive statement like that.

    As a hint, where there is a vacuum of ignorance and bigotry, something will always come in and fill it up. Because religion has done so in the past doesn't mean that nothing else will. I guarantee you that any power structure that has been around as long and exerted that much force will have abused once or twice in it's past, but that is not the structure's fault - it is the blame of those who ran it, and what allowed them to get into power.

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    feel like funkin' it up gwahir's Avatar
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    Coq, your answer is not satisfying enough. Like I said, it's one thing to raise your child to make his or her own decisions, but it's another to let them fall to the consequences of others' decisions. It's also another thing to turn your back when your child makes really bad decisions that lead to the intense suffering of others.

    It's a stretch, but I'll grant that it's acceptable for God to sit back and let people reap the consequences of their choices. I will not grant the same allowance for God to sit back and let innocent people reap the consequences of the choices of others.

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    ))) joke, relax ;) coqauvin's Avatar
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    Yes but the keystone of that is that you are granted free will, and part of that is accepting the consequences of temptation and succumbing to that seduction.

    If in the face of that temptation, you still lead a virtuous life, that is truly a remarkable, wonderous thing. If you succumb to it, there are repercussions for it; there is nothing that can absolve you of responsibility for what you've done in your life. It is, in this explanation, not God's job to ensure that you live life the right way, because those who would succeed would have that effort be cheapened, I guess? I am not a perfect theologian, so I can't really express a lot of details about it, but suffering is a part of life and overcoming that and coping/maturing/learning is all steps in growth and maturity.

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    feel like funkin' it up gwahir's Avatar
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    There's suffering and there's adversity. Adversity yields character and strength. Suffering is meaningless pain. (Those don't quite work as definitions, but "meaningless pain" is the specific kind of suffering I'm talking about.) A life of inescapable suffering because of someone else's actions is something that a benevolent, omni-etcetera god should have forseen and should not allow. There is no justification for unjustifiable suffering!

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    Journeyman Cocksmith Mr. E's Avatar
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    Gwahir I am sorry, but you are wrong. There are non-secular reasons to hate gays and be against abortion.

    Non-secular reasons to hate gays: They are different than me and I don't like that, It is just not natural
    Non-secular reasons to be anti-abortion: It is against the natural order, People should have to live with their mistakes not get a free pass

    Just because you personally blame religion for those two things being issues doesn't mean if you took religion away they wouldn't still be issues. Ironically enough to your point, I was an atheist during the times of my extreme conservatism. Now I am something else entirely that I won't go into.

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    kiss my sweaty balls benzss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Syme View Post
    Uhh, would you care to support this assertion? You kind of just say it off-hand, like it's a well-established fact that everyone knows already.

    I'd say the biggest force against human thought and progress has been institutional conservatism (or institutional inertia, or institutional self-preservation), which can certainly be seen in religious institutions but also in all manner of non-religious institutions.
    It wouldn't be prudent to apply this to all cultures, but in western and Mediterranean Europe, the rise of Christianity certainly sponsored the establishment of institutions and the destruction of others. Whether deliberate or not, monasteries, for example, were wealthy and politically influential and Christian or Christian-sponsored institutions always strove to keep the people at large ignorant.

    So while there is probably no doubt that traditional institutions can inhibit progress, the extent to which they do it is probably the better question; and the fact that early Christianity hardly championed free thought and creativity, then proceeded to infect 'secular' politics with these ideas, didn't do a great deal for civilisation until, well, the invention of the printing press.
    Last edited by benzss; 04-10-2009 at 01:14 PM.

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    λεγιων ονομα μοι sycld's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. E View Post
    Gwahir I am sorry, but you are wrong. There are non-secular reasons to hate gays and be against abortion.

    Non-secular reasons to hate gays: They are different than me and I don't like that, It is just not natural
    Non-secular reasons to be anti-abortion: It is against the natural order, People should have to live with their mistakes not get a free pass

    Just because you personally blame religion for those two things being issues doesn't mean if you took religion away they wouldn't still be issues. Ironically enough to your point, I was an atheist during the times of my extreme conservatism. Now I am something else entirely that I won't go into.
    There are much better ethical concerns against abortion that need not invoke a supernatural component to humans.

    I'll go into them in a second, but first let me give you the atheist's campaign slogan:

    "A cock in every butt, and some pot in every menage."


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    Quote Originally Posted by sycld View Post
    There are much better ethical concerns against abortion that need not invoke a supernatural component to humans.

    I'll go into them in a second, but first let me give you the atheist's campaign slogan:

    "A cock in every butt, and some pot in every menage."
    I was just giving simple examples, I didn't think too hard about it.

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    λεγιων ονομα μοι sycld's Avatar
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    Briefly stated, the biggest ethical concern with abortion is that there simply is no clear-cut point at which you can say this thing in the mother's womb is a human. The viability criterion really makes no sense since it is arbitrarily set by how good our technology is to sustain the child outside the womb, i.e. viability keeps getting pushed back to earlier and earlier stages of development as technology improves, and if it were an absolute criterion for "humaness," then it would be independant of our state of technology. Also, one could claim that a child outside of the womb is stll not "viable," as it requires intensive support from the parents or other caretakers to survive. Some have made this claim and have been lambasted for promoting "infanticide," but really, how is a completely helpless 3 month old child any more viable if he can't even put food in his own mouth without assistance?

    I still think that accesible abortion provides benefits to both individuals and to society that out-weigh the ethical concerns that come along with it, but I still recognize that abortion is a more complex issue than many of its supporters would like to think.

    Also, there are plenty of reasons that people give for hating gay people or any other sort of people, from pseudo-scientific reasoning to just plain out-and-out unjustified disgust. Sure, there might be less intolerance for gay people if Christianity didn't so strongly condemn homosexuality, and Christianity might even be the source for such intolerance in our society, but if Christianity were to disappeared tomorrow, gays would still have to face some degree of prejudice.
    Last edited by sycld; 04-10-2009 at 02:16 PM.


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    ))) joke, relax ;) coqauvin's Avatar
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    I mean the greeks were notorious for their love of man/boy love, and i'm pretty sure they got lambasted for that.

    although to be honest my sources are pretty sketchy so i mean that could theoretically just be modern prejudices applied to older viewpoints.

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    Senior Member Syme's Avatar
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    Yeah, I think the secular objection to abortion is perfectly clear. You don't need the slightest shred of religious belief to reach the conclusion that abortion is wrong. You only need to believe that a fetus is a human being, and that killing it therefore constitutes murder, and that murder is wrong.

    For the record, I'm pro-choice. But I agree with sycld that you don't have to be religious to have a problem with abortion, and that the arguments against abortion are more valid than a lot of pro-choice people give them credit for.

    Quote Originally Posted by benzss
    It wouldn't be prudent to apply this to all cultures, but in western and Mediterranean Europe, the rise of Christianity certainly sponsored the establishment of institutions and the destruction of others. Whether deliberate or not, monasteries, for example, were wealthy and politically influential and Christian or Christian-sponsored institutions always strove to keep the people at large ignorant.

    So while there is probably no doubt that traditional institutions can inhibit progress, the extent to which they do it is probably the better question; and the fact that early Christianity hardly championed free thought and creativity, then proceeded to infect 'secular' politics with these ideas, didn't do a great deal for civilisation until, well, the invention of the printing press.
    I don't think it's as simple as this. No offense, but this is kind of the "pop history" view of Christianity's intellectual impact on European history. The fact is that the intellectual history of Europe is more complicated than this, and that the church's impact varied greatly over time, and from area to area. The popular image of the church fighting against intellectual progress hardly holds true in a consistent fashion over Europe's history. For instance, there was a period from the 12th to the 14th century where Europe saw a blossoming of scientific and philosophical thought that was largely spearheaded by religious thinkers, and was certainly not opposed by the religious institutions of the day. The approaches and ideas of these thinkers would probably be pretty surprising to most modern people who associate the medieval period with ignorance or backwardness. The arrival of the plague more or less put an end to that, though, and eventually brought about the cultural shifts that would produce the conservative attitudes that predominated in the post-plague period and have lead most people to associate the European church with anti-intellectual, anti-scientific, or anti-progress zealousness. I don't think it's fair to say that Christianity in Europe has consistently been a force against progress or thought. It has played that role during some periods of history, and it has also played a very different role during other periods of history.

    Again, I think the biggest single obstacle to human thought and progress has been institutional conservatism--the reluctance of people to give fair treatment to ideas that differ from or challenge the ideas that inform the institutions of the day, and the tendency of institutions to exhibit hostility towards ideas that differ from or challenge the ideas they are based on. This isn't an innately religious problem; certainly religion has been guilty of it at various points, but no more so than the institutions of secular society (economic and political institutions, for instance).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Syme View Post
    I don't think it's as simple as this. No offense, but this is kind of the "pop history" view of Christianity's intellectual impact on European history. The fact is that the intellectual history of Europe is more complicated than this, and that the church's impact varied greatly over time, and from area to area. The popular image of the church fighting against intellectual progress hardly holds true in a consistent fashion over Europe's history. For instance, there was a period from the 12th to the 14th century where Europe saw a blossoming of scientific and philosophical thought that was largely spearheaded by religious thinkers, and was certainly not opposed by the religious institutions of the day. The approaches and ideas of these thinkers would probably be pretty surprising to most modern people who associate the medieval period with ignorance or backwardness. The arrival of the plague more or less put an end to that, though, and eventually brought about the cultural shifts that would produce the conservative attitudes that predominated in the post-plague period and have lead most people to associate the European church with anti-intellectual, anti-scientific, or anti-progress zealousness. I don't think it's fair to say that Christianity in Europe has consistently been a force against progress or thought. It has played that role during some periods of history, and it has also played a very different role during other periods of history.
    Well yeah I agree. Which is why I stated it's probably not a good idea to lump all of Europe (and beyond) under one banner, and also noted that it was early Christianity that largely hindered progress.

    edit: and medieval humanism was largely inspired by classical thought anyway. It's my contention that sans Christianity, Europe would have advanced at a far faster rate.
    Last edited by benzss; 04-10-2009 at 03:35 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by benzss View Post
    Well yeah I agree. Which is why I stated it's probably not a good idea to lump all of Europe (and beyond) under one banner, and also noted that it was early Christianity that largely hindered progress.
    Early meaning 300s to 1000s? How did it hinder progress in a systematic way during that period?

    Quote Originally Posted by benzss
    edit: and medieval humanism was largely inspired by classical thought anyway. It's my contention that sans Christianity, Europe would have advanced at a far faster rate.
    But the religious institutions of the period provided the means by which classical knowledge was preserved (often literally, physically preserved in fortified monasteries that could hold out against Viking/Saracen/Magyar raiders), studied, debated, taught, spread, and built upon. They set up a continent-wide, supranational network of education and intellectual intercourse. Do you think that if the church hadn't existed, then some supranational secular institution would have emerged to fulfill the same role? Given the political conditions of the period, this strikes me as extremely unlikely.
    Last edited by Syme; 04-10-2009 at 04:05 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Syme View Post
    I don't think it's as simple as this. No offense, but this is kind of the "pop history" view of Christianity's intellectual impact on European history. The fact is that the intellectual history of Europe is more complicated than this, and that the church's impact varied greatly over time, and from area to area. The popular image of the church fighting against intellectual progress hardly holds true in a consistent fashion over Europe's history. For instance, there was a period from the 12th to the 14th century where Europe saw a blossoming of scientific and philosophical thought that was largely spearheaded by religious thinkers, and was certainly not opposed by the religious institutions of the day. The approaches and ideas of these thinkers would probably be pretty surprising to most modern people who associate the medieval period with ignorance or backwardness. The arrival of the plague more or less put an end to that, though, and eventually brought about the cultural shifts that would produce the conservative attitudes that predominated in the post-plague period and have lead most people to associate the European church with anti-intellectual, anti-scientific, or anti-progress zealousness. I don't think it's fair to say that Christianity in Europe has consistently been a force against progress or thought. It has played that role during some periods of history, and it has also played a very different role during other periods of history.

    Again, I think the biggest single obstacle to human thought and progress has been institutional conservatism--the reluctance of people to give fair treatment to ideas that differ from or challenge the ideas that inform the institutions of the day, and the tendency of institutions to exhibit hostility towards ideas that differ from or challenge the ideas they are based on. This isn't an innately religious problem; certainly religion has been guilty of it at various points, but no more so than the institutions of secular society (economic and political institutions, for instance).
    Okay Syme, you're obviously ignoring that facts that every liberal "knows":


    • Everyone in Europe was a dirt farmer and a Catholic until the 15th, at which point a full-fledged economy, cities, and philosophical movements sprung out of absolutely nothing with no precedents whatsoever. Some guy was just like, "lol dirt farming sux imma just gonna go read plato" and BAM!-- Renaissance.
    • Humanism and a liberal sense of morality clearly has its ultimate roots in the highly-stratified, strictly caste-based, and extremely misogynistic Classical social models and ways of thought. It obviously has nothing to do with the Christian synthesis various philosophical systems in which such expression as this were made: "there is no man nor woman... slave nor free... but all are one in Christ."
    • The great inspirations for some of Western art's most profound works are obviously not drawn from Christianity, and those works that are were just made cynically by the artist for profit and with hidden anti-Christian messages. Like for example, Dante's Comedia Divina (which was written in the Middle Ages but is actually a work of the Renaissance duh) was clearly made for profit, even though it was mostly written during his exile and a period of profound private privation, and quite clearly the roof of the Sistine Chapel is nothing more than a lampoon of Christian belief rather than a forceful expression of personal belief completed through tortured and painful exertion.


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    Quote Originally Posted by benzss View Post
    Well yeah I agree. Which is why I stated it's probably not a good idea to lump all of Europe (and beyond) under one banner, and also noted that it was early Christianity that largely hindered progress.

    edit: and medieval humanism was largely inspired by classical thought anyway. It's my contention that sans Christianity, Europe would have advanced at a far faster rate.
    Bullshit. I'm not going to argue that Humanism was not influenced at all by Classical thought; indeed, it was. However, Humanism is fundamentally Western tradition that has its roots in Christian moral thought, even if it has advanced far beyond its roots.
    Last edited by sycld; 04-10-2009 at 04:04 PM.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Syme View Post
    Early meaning 300s to 1000s? How did it hinder progress in a systematic way during that period?
    Take the spread of Christianity in Europe, which was complete at roughly AD 1000. Instead of competing philosophical theories, you were only allowed to have one - Christianity. For example, several of Charlemagne's capitularies (legislation) dealt harsh penalties to those who wandered away from the church, and since monasteries and seminaries had a monopoly over education, any non-christian thought was repressed in a way it wasn't beforehand (at least under the Roman Republic). This is not to mention the papal influence on domestic affairs of Catholic states, where in all cases pagan thought was pretty much outlawed and in many cases lost. The re-discovery of Aristotle's philosophy and the emergence of Scholastic thought largely gave rise to humanism and the rise of secularism.

    Of course, insofar as Christianity can be blamed for the dark ages, it's no coincidence that the decline of the western Roman empire and the rise of separate, competing Christian nations led to a decline in literacy thanks to the almost complete lack of secular institutions.

    But the religious institutions of the period provided the means, on a continent-wide, supranational basis, by which classical knowledge was preserved (often literally, physically preserved in fortified monasteries that could hold out against Viking/Saracen/Magyar raiders), studied, debated, taught, spread, and built upon. Do you think that if the church hadn't existed, then some supranational secular institution would have emerged to fulfill the same role? Given the political conditions of the period, this strikes me as extremely unlikely.
    A lot of the classical documents kept by monks wasn't kept for its intrinsic value. For example, Cicero's works were kept as good examples of prose and oratory, not because De Re Publica was a good example of secular republicanism. Aristotle's works only re-emerged in the 1100s thanks to Islamic scholars.

    Quote Originally Posted by sycld View Post
    Bullshit. I'm not going to argue that Humanism was not influenced at all by Classical thought; indeed, it was. However, Humanism is fundamentally Western tradition that has its roots in Christian moral thought, even if it has advanced far beyond its roots.
    Of course it did. It got its cues from Scholastic thought, which just mixed Christianity and classical philosophy.

    edit: and humanism was indeed rooted in Christian moral thought, but I'd argue that without Christianity that moral thought would not have changed much. Were ancient laws hugely different from medieval laws? Or even modern laws? If anything moral thought regressed and become more insular during Christianity's dominance.
    Last edited by benzss; 04-10-2009 at 04:11 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by benzss View Post
    Of course it did. It got its cues from Scholastic thought
    Thank you for agreeing with me.

    Of course Scholasticism derives much from Classical thought. So did Christianity. However, Scholasticism is not simply an offshoot of Classical thought; it is a branch of philosophy that is essentially alien to Classical philosophy.


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    Quote Originally Posted by sycld View Post
    Thank you for agreeing with me.
    I guess my point was that humanism wasn't all that different from classical thought which predated it by several hundred years.

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    Quote Originally Posted by benzss
    A lot of the classical documents kept by monks wasn't kept for its intrinsic value. For example, Cicero's works were kept as good examples of prose and oratory, not because De Re Publica was a good example of secular republicanism. Aristotle's works only re-emerged in the 1100s thanks to Islamic scholars.
    Regardless of the reasons monks had for preserving classical works, they were preserved. I repeat: You say that Christianity retarded European intellectual development, but Christian religious institutions were essentially the only forum for the preservation, teaching, or discussion of scientific, philosophical, etc. ideas in medieval society. So again: Do you contend that if the Christian church hadn't existed, a secular institution would have emerged that could fulfill the same roles? On a supra-national, continent-wide basis? In the medieval political climate?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Syme View Post
    Regardless of the reasons monks had for preserving classical works, they were preserved. I repeat: You say that Christianity retarded European intellectual development, but Christian religious institutions were essentially the only forum for the preservation, teaching, or discussion of knowledge and ideas in medieval society. So again: Do you contend that if the Christian church hadn't existed, a secular institution would have emerged that could fulfill the same roles? On a supra-national, continent-wide basis? In the medieval political climate?
    I can't really speculate. One would assume that some kind of polytheistic superstitious religion, like that in Rome of Greece, would have been dominant, both of which were opposed to atheism but neither of which retarded creative intellectual thought outside of that. It's very difficult to say 'what if..' in this instance, but I think it's quite clear that Christianity imposing itself, as you say, as the only forum for discussion, then weighing in with its own philosophy, certainly did not help progression, and in comparison to previous and later years (between AD 400 or so and AD 1200) probably did hinder it.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming Christianity exclusively, but it was a major element in the slowing of intellectual development.

    edit: And I'm unsure the 'they WERE preserved' thing is particularly relevant. On the contrary to your statement, I think that the intent of the monks is supremely relevant. Documents which did not have value in terms of prose, letter writing, poetry, whatever, simply were not copied, even if they did have intrinsic intellectual value. Unless, of course, they supported Christian thought.
    Last edited by benzss; 04-10-2009 at 04:25 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by benzss View Post
    I guess my point was that humanism wasn't all that different from classical thought which predated it by several hundred years.
    The Classical period, like every period of human history in every continent, is complex and so full of self-contradition that it's not easy to pin it down.

    However, much of Classical thought was dominated by the idea of a strict caste-based society with a large, servile mass as its base and leadership mostly coming from a small elite. Most of the Classical era made even Medival Europe seem like a fluid society by comparisson.

    Also, I may be full of shit here, and if so someone please correct me, but aside from Stoicism and some of the mystery religions that fluorished in the late Roman Empire, what strong expressions of humanism were there in Classical thought?


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    Quote Originally Posted by sycld View Post
    The Classical period, like every period of human history in every continent, is complex and so full of self-contradition that it's not easy to pin it down.
    Wouldn't disagree. Since we're not writing academic papers here, I couldn't be arsed being amazingly specific.

    However, much of Classical thought was dominated by the idea of a strict caste-based society with a large, servile mass as its base and leadership mostly coming from a small elite. Most of the Classical era made even Medival Europe seem like a fluid society by comparisson.
    Perhaps. Classical philosophy largely didn't advocate this... but it often worked out the other way. For example, Polybius' and Cicero's opinions on the Roman Republican constitution were not actually fully realised in practice.

    Also, I may be full of shit here, and if so someone please correct me, but aside from Stoicism and some of the mystery religions that fluorished in the late Roman Empire, what strong expressions of humanism were there in Classical thought?
    The Stoics were strong of course, as well as Epicurean thought. Then the civic thought was developed from ancient Athenian politics (Plato, Aristotle, even some derived from Thucydides). The classical influence on humanism is pretty broad.

    edit: i assume we're talking about Renaissance Humanism here
    Last edited by benzss; 04-10-2009 at 05:09 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by benzss View Post
    Perhaps. Classical philosophy largely didn't advocate this... but it often worked out the other way. For example, Polybius' and Cicero's opinions on the Roman Republican constitution were not actually fully realised in practice.
    Well, maybe, but

    The Stoics were strong of course, as well as Epicurean thought. Then the civic thought was developed from ancient Athenian politics (Plato, Aristotle, even some derived from Thucydides). The classical influence on humanism is pretty broad.
    Still though, is there any basis for tolerance of difference and of moral law treating all subjected to it equally, regardless of state or esteem? These two things are the cornerstone of modern humanism, and yes, Stoicisim and Epicureanism (Stoicism in pariticular) held viewpoints that pointed in this direction, but none to with the same degree of influence nor with the same enduring power as Christianity.

    Speculative history is always a dangerous and quetionable practice to engage in, but it's not so clear to me that humanism would have been successfully developed under some alternative religion than Christianity.

    Also, even though it's rather off-topic, it's possible that without Christianity's strong uniting power, Europe might have beome Islamic in the 7th century or later, or maybe some other mystery religion would have filled in the gap (Mithraism, anyone?). It's entirely possible, nay even probable, that the stodgy old system of gods which few had any love by the time of Constantine's peace would have found much vitality among Europe's people after the fall of the Roman Empire.


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    Quote Originally Posted by sycld View Post
    Still though, is there any basis for tolerance of difference and of moral law treating all subjected to it equally, regardless of state or esteem? These two things are the cornerstone of modern humanism, and yes, Stoicisim and Epicureanism (Stoicism in pariticular) held viewpoints that pointed in this direction, but none to with the same degree of influence nor with the same enduring power as Christianity.
    They didn't have the same influence as Christianity, or they didn't have the same influence with regard to free thought as Christianity?

    Speculative history is always a dangerous and quetionable practice to engage in, but it's not so clear to me that humanism would have been successfully developed under some alternative religion than Christianity.
    Of course it wouldn't have. It wouldn't have even been relevant had Christianity not been dominant. A lot of the central tenets of humanism (development, human endeavour etc) were already evident in classical Greek thought. The most progressive part of renaissance humanism was that it brought Christianity out of its self-imposed isolation in intellectual terms.

    Also, even though it's rather off-topic, it's possible that without Christianity's strong uniting power, Europe might have beome Islamic in the 7th century or later, or maybe some other mystery religion would have filled in the gap (Mithraism, anyone?). It's entirely possible, nay even probable, that the stodgy old system of gods which few had any love by the time of Constantine's peace would have found much vitality among Europe's people after the fall of the Roman Empire.
    Christianity's uniting power was limited. England and France have been at war for years, and Charlemange's union of Gaul and Germania didn't last very long thanks to the Holy Roman Empire. The various Italian city-states were also Catholic, yet warred almost constantly. It's easy to overstate Christianity's unifying influence, but between the varying Christian states it did very little.

    edit: although it is interesting to note the power of Islam in some parts of Mediterranean Europe. It should also be noted that in many respects, Islam was more advanced than Christian Europe at the time. But, as you say, speculative history is pretty dodgy.
    Last edited by benzss; 04-10-2009 at 05:26 PM. Reason: grammar and an edit

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    Quote Originally Posted by benzss View Post
    They didn't have the same influence as Christianity, or they didn't have the same influence with regard to free thought as Christianity?
    I should have prefaced that with "In the time of their blossomings during the Classical period." Maybe that would make it clearer? Well, Stoicism was very widely embraced by the Romans, but even still...

    Of course it wouldn't have. It wouldn't have even been relevant had Christianity not been dominant.
    So are you saying that Humanism is a recovery from Christianity of the liberally moral and humanist (in a modern sense of the word) Classical socities?

    Christianity's uniting power was limited. England and France have been at war for years, and Charlemange's union of Gaul and Germania didn't last very long thanks to the Holy Roman Empire. The various Italian city-states were also Catholic. It's easy to overstate Christianity's unifying influence, but between the varying Christian states it did very little.
    Oh no, of course you're correct. But let's use the city states of Greece as an example. There was little love between Athens and Sparta, who engaged in war with each other frequently enough. They identified even less with each other than did the entities that would later become the European nations during the Middle Ages. However, they still found enough in common with each other to be able to unite under the Hellenic League and repel the Persians.

    Likewise, the warring states of Europe were able to unite under the banner of "(Western) Christendom" to be able to defend themselves against the Muslim invaders and to later engage in those unfortunate Crusades. Spain fell early to the Muslims only because it was outside of Charlemagne's empire, which he did defend succesfully and which was able to find some justification for its unity through Christianity.

    In response to your EDIT, let me add that I'm not saying that Christianity was "better" or morally "more advanced" than Islam at the time. My point was merely that it lended some sense of unity to otherwise warring states that allowed them to repell a common invader.


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    I was wrong about homophobia being a purely religious thing. Mr E's example isn't really good enough, but there are ones, like in mainly secular Asian countries which place enormous emphasis on family.

    But abortion, not so much. You may be killing a living human, but without an idea of the "soul" and without the black-and-white commandment from on high not to murder, what's happening is akin to the killing of an animal. A foetus may be a human, but it is no more sapient than a crab (and probably less). It is certainly not a human person. I'm not saying nobody would argue against abortion, but I'm saying that without the religious arguments against it, it's really a fairly simple discussion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by benzss View Post
    I can't really speculate. One would assume that some kind of polytheistic superstitious religion, like that in Rome of Greece, would have been dominant, both of which were opposed to atheism but neither of which retarded creative intellectual thought outside of that. It's very difficult to say 'what if..' in this instance, but I think it's quite clear that Christianity imposing itself, as you say, as the only forum for discussion, then weighing in with its own philosophy, certainly did not help progression, and in comparison to previous and later years (between AD 400 or so and AD 1200) probably did hinder it.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming Christianity exclusively, but it was a major element in the slowing of intellectual development.
    You say you can't speculate, but then you DO speculate; you are saying that Christianity made European intellectual development slower than it would have otherwise been. That's speculation, because it speculates that European intellectual development would have been more rapid in a speculative history where the Christian church didn't exist.

    I do agree that the Church's domination of the intellectual sphere stifled some intellectual activity even as it facilitated other intellectual activity. I'm not saying it was all positive. What I'm saying is that I think you're on very thin ice to speculate that intellectual development would have been more rapid without the church--which, again, is exactly what you have speculated despite saying "I can't speculate".

    Quote Originally Posted by benzss
    edit: And I'm unsure the 'they WERE preserved' thing is particularly relevant. On the contrary to your statement, I think that the intent of the monks is supremely relevant. Documents which did not have value in terms of prose, letter writing, poetry, whatever, simply were not copied, even if they did have intrinsic intellectual value. Unless, of course, they supported Christian thought.
    Nevertheless, large quantities of material were preserved. The reasons that the monks preserved materials did of course play a role in determining what specific materials were preserved, but I don't see how it's relevant to the basic fact that these religious institutions DID preserve knowledge which might otherwise have been lost, which can only be a good thing. How is the intent of the monks relevant to the fact that their activities--religiously motivated activities--preserved writings that otherwise might have been lost?
    Last edited by Syme; 04-11-2009 at 12:31 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Syme View Post
    You say you can't speculate, but then you DO speculate; you are saying that Christianity made European intellectual development slower than it would have otherwise been. That's speculation, because it speculates that European intellectual development would have been more rapid in a speculative history where the Christian church didn't exist.
    No, I can't speculate as to an alternative history. I can't say whether or not, for example, Islam would have taken over most of Europe and done x, y or z. I am saying overall Christianity's impact on development was a hinderance due to its very nature.

    I do agree that the Church's domination of the intellectual sphere stifled some intellectual activity even as it facilitated other intellectual activity. I'm not saying it was all positive. What I'm saying is that I think you're on very thin ice to speculate that intellectual development would have been more rapid without the church--which, again, is exactly what you have speculated despite saying "I can't speculate".
    In fields such as literacy and philosophical richness, the rise of the early church pushed civilisation backwards for some time. In comparison to surrounding eras.

    Nevertheless, large quantities of material were preserved. The reasons that the monks preserved materials did of course play a role in determining what specific materials were preserved, but I don't see how it's relevant to the basic fact that these religious institutions DID preserve knowledge which might otherwise have been lost, which can only be a good thing. How is the intent of the monks relevant to the fact that their activities--religiously motivated activities--preserved writings that otherwise might have been lost?
    It's relevant because they were merely copied, not used for any intellectual endeavour. It's symptomatic of the insularity of early Christianity. Yes it's a good thing they were preserved, but if you look at the eras before and after early Christianity, on balance less was done


    edit: sorry scyld, I'll get back to you tomorrow. Going away for the weekend etc.
    Last edited by benzss; 04-11-2009 at 04:30 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by benzss View Post
    In fields such as literacy and philosophical richness, the rise of the early church pushed civilisation backwards for some time. In comparison to surrounding eras.
    You don't think this is attributable instead or at least in part to the collapse of the Western Empire after it was overrun by the Teutonic Tribes, whereas the Eastern Empire was able to survive throughout the so-called "Middle Ages"?

    Speaking of which, what about Byzantium? It was Christian too, you know. If anything, I would contend that the Western Church as essentially the only pacifying force in the West helped to speed up recovery. Yes, we fell behind the early Muslim world, and maybe that has something to do with the hegemony of the Church, maybe not, but I think it's a bit more complicated an issue than the Western Church merely acting as only a retarding force from the time of the fall of the Roman Empire up to the 13th century.
    Last edited by sycld; 04-11-2009 at 03:13 PM.


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    kiss my sweaty balls benzss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sycld View Post
    You don't think this is attributable instead or at least in part to the collapse of the Western Empire after it was overrun by the Teutonic Tribes, whereas the Eastern Empire was able to survive throughout the so-called "Middle Ages"?

    Speaking of which, what about Byzantium? It was Christian too, you know. If anything, I would contend that the Western Church as essentially the only pacifying force in the West helped to speed up recovery. Yes, we fell behind the early Muslim world, and maybe that has something to do with the hegemony of the Church, maybe not, but I think it's a bit more complicated an issue than the Western Church merely acting as only a retarding force from the time of the fall of the Roman Empire up to the 13th century.
    I'm referring mainly to regional development in Western and Central Europe. Yeah, I know Christianity isn't the only factor at work... ironically the fall of the very institutions syme (perhaps rightly) blames for slowing progression was probably the main reason for the general decline in the 'dark ages'. But based on everything I've seen from the era, Christianity did its best actively to stifle any non-Christian thought. Was it the only hindrance? No. Was it solely to blame? No. But I'd judge that its overall effect on progression was limited and initially quite damaging.

    I'm not going to disagree with you that the later church was a pacifying force of sorts and in some cases actively encouraged non-Christian (eventually secular) development. The Eastern Empire by virtue of its connections to Rome actually did hold onto some secular Graeco-Roman advancements, as evidenced by the Justinian Code, which I would argue was an advancement in itself. The very same emperor was partly responsible however for the massacres that ensued during his attempt to 'liberate' Italy from the Ostrogoths. I wouldn't praise or blame Christianity for either of those things.

    edit: forgot that earlier post...

    Quote Originally Posted by sycld View Post
    So are you saying that Humanism is a recovery from Christianity of the liberally moral and humanist (in a modern sense of the word) Classical socities?
    I'm saying that, in a sense, renaissance humanism picked off where classical philosophy ended. Everything in between was barely philosophy, even if there was some interesting theology. I can't speak for modern humanism because I suspect it means something slightly different.

    Oh no, of course you're correct. But let's use the city states of Greece as an example. There was little love between Athens and Sparta, who engaged in war with each other frequently enough. They identified even less with each other than did the entities that would later become the European nations during the Middle Ages. However, they still found enough in common with each other to be able to unite under the Hellenic League and repel the Persians.

    Likewise, the warring states of Europe were able to unite under the banner of "(Western) Christendom" to be able to defend themselves against the Muslim invaders and to later engage in those unfortunate Crusades. Spain fell early to the Muslims only because it was outside of Charlemagne's empire, which he did defend succesfully and which was able to find some justification for its unity through Christianity.
    It's an interesting paradox, isn't it? I've looked into the problem of 'state' and 'nation' and it seems that many peoples can identify themselves under the same banner, culture or, as we'd call it, 'nation' - like the Greek city-states, Christendom or even the modern Anglosphere - but the states they organise themselves into can, and often will be, perpetually at war. Yet, in most cases they will band together against an enemy who opposes their collective cultural values. This doesn't mean that the culture is conducive to peace, it just means the culture is conducive to a collective defence. Still an interesting point though that many scholars wrestle with.

    In response to your EDIT, let me add that I'm not saying that Christianity was "better" or morally "more advanced" than Islam at the time. My point was merely that it lended some sense of unity to otherwise warring states that allowed them to repell a common invader.
    It did to an extent, but it didn't really stop the Christian states fighting wars with each other.
    Last edited by benzss; 04-12-2009 at 09:14 AM.

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