What divides Christians and non-believers|290|

#41
When I refer to ‘science’ I am referring to what is called the scientific method; which is an epistemological methodology and discipline for getting beyond cultural and personal narratives and interpretations etc to the factuality of what is the case.

I am not referring to any particular technological form or technical means that science may take or use at any period in its development. Science, as I mean it, is a way of knowing; an epistemological methodology and discipline. The scientific method yields factual data from experience, with which we can develop and test theory and generate real knowledge and technologies.

Science is more than a narrative; reflect on that next time you are on an aircraft. The aircraft is not staying aloft because of a narrative or because of beliefs. The aircraft is possible because human science, or human knowing and understanding, has understood something real about the factual nature of this world – what we call physics; and that understanding has been used to create a reliable technology of civil aviation.

Of course there are cultural narratives about science that arise; but cultural narratives about science are not science. By science I mean the methodology that produces factual data and reliable knowledge and stuff that works; not the stories people might tell themselves about whatever they imagine science is or isn’t.

So for me science is a special way of dealing with experience that yields factual data….not personal narratives. The scientist endeavours to systematically exclude personal narratives and discipline their knowing and understanding to access facts. Obviously scientists do this imperfectly. Pure science is difficult to do because of our propensity for creating narratives and interpretations and beliefs.

My point all along has been to differentiate between the personal narratives aspects of NDEs and the raw data content of NDEs. I do not mean to belittle the personal narrative aspect of the NDE; not at all; I mean only to point out the scientific possibility of accessing the raw data; and the knowledge and understanding of human consciousness and the afterlife it could yield.

There is no reason why the data of paranormal experiences such as NDEs cannot yield to the scientific method of knowing; to the discipline of excluding personal narrative to access raw data. That data can give us valuable insight into the nature of human mind, and the nature of the other realms.

The main obstacles to a proper scientific study of NDEs come from deniers of NDEs, such as scientific materialists (which is a narrative, not science), and also from believers in NDEs, who insist they are beyond explanation and actually don’t want them investigated scientifically. There are many who will resist scientific investigation of NDEs and consciousness and spirituality etc. because they want to hold onto personal narratives and beliefs about these things.
Science doesn't have narratives? You're kidding me, right? Your faith in the practitioners of science is touching, but not well-supported by evidence. Fact is, scientists, more than many, hang on to outmoded and even disproven narratives like grim death. They hang on to neo-Darwinism, catastrophic anthropogenic global warming and absurd cosmological theories, to name but three. For scientists like this, and I think a lot are, they'd happily call a turnip a tortoise if that was agreed by respected authoritative sources. Sorry, but I think many of them are spineless and rather stupid despite their phDs--they could do with growing a pair if you ask me.

NDEs will never be understood using scientific methods, only narrativised. Hardly surprising when the actual experience itself is narrativised by experiencers. Everything is a narrative: what you've written is your own personal narrative; my response is a narrative, too. The world is choc-a-block with narratives. Like I said, it's amazing that some of the narratives manage to model and produce such useful devices as aeroplanes and satnavs.
 
#42
Science doesn't have narratives? You're kidding me, right? Your faith in the practitioners of science is touching, but not well-supported by evidence. Fact is, scientists, more than many, hang on to outmoded and even disproven narratives like grim death. They hang on to neo-Darwinism, catastrophic anthropogenic global warming and absurd cosmological theories, to name but three. For scientists like this, and I think a lot are, they'd happily call a turnip a tortoise if that was agreed by respected authoritative sources. Sorry, but I think many of them are spineless and rather stupid despite their phDs--they could do with growing a pair if you ask me.

NDEs will never be understood using scientific methods, only narrativised. Hardly surprising when the actual experience itself is narrativised by experiencers. Everything is a narrative: what you've written is your own personal narrative; my response is a narrative, too. The world is choc-a-block with narratives. Like I said, it's amazing that some of the narratives manage to model and produce such useful devices as aeroplanes and satnavs.

Once again Michael you present arguments that display that either you don’t read my posts or you don’t understand them.
For instance, you say that scientists have narratives; and you present that as an argument against me.
If you read what I wrote you would see I have acknowledged that scientists entertain narratives. I have clearly stated that all humans do.
For instance many scientists entertain the narrative of scientific materialism. I state that clearly in my post.
Scientific materialism is a narrative; it is not science.

At any rate you do express your own position more or less clearly as one who believes in the reality of NDE reports and also believes they are beyond understanding. I also mentioned your kind of people in my post too.
You seem to believe everything is beyond understanding; and that airplanes fly and this computer technology works in spite of humans knowing nothing
As if all this technology works just by happenstance.
So we disagree fundamentally; which is fine.
To my perception your beliefs are absurd so I wont argue with them.
But I do sincerely wish you well and thank you for sharing your beliefs.

All the very best
 
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#43
Once again Michael you present arguments that display that either you don’t read my posts or you don’t understand them.
For instance, you say that scientists have narratives; and you present that as an argument against me.
If you read what I wrote you would see I have acknowledged that scientists entertain narratives. I have clearly stated that all humans do.
For instance many scientists entertain the narrative of scientific materialism. I state that clearly in my post.
Scientific materialism is a narrative; it is not science.

At any rate you do express your own position more or less clearly as one who believes in the reality of NDE reports and also believes they are beyond understanding. I also mentioned your kind of people in my post too.
You seem to believe everything is beyond understanding; and that airplanes fly and this computer technology works in spite of humans knowing nothing
As if all this technology works just by happenstance.
So we disagree fundamentally; which is fine.
To me your beliefs are absurd so I wont argue with them.
But I do sincerely wish you well and thank you for sharing your beliefs.

All the very best
Airplanes fly because the theory of why they fly sufficiently closely parallels the actual reason that they fly. But one day, I have no doubt of it, a plane will drop from the sky because there'll be discovered a hole in the present theory of flight. Science makes progress through finding holes in present theory, and every now and then, there's a total revolution in present theory or narrative.

The old theory will still be adequate for certain purposes. For example, Ptolemaic astronomy, though total nonsense with its epicycles, is actually good enough even today for navigation. Then again, the Newtonian conception of gravity is good enough to get a man to the moon, but relativistic adjustments allow GPS's to work. Does that mean that space-time exists and is literally curved? Not at all. It's just a metaphor, a way of thinking about reality that happens to work for certain purposes, and will always be able to be applied that way regardless of whether relativity is eventually superseded.

A big factor in convincing people that science can finally and incontrovertibly be right is probably the effectiveness of mathematics as a descriptive tool. But why should mathematics be so useful? It's easy to reify it, give it a life and power of its own, though in the end, it's a completely abstract construct of the human mind that can and frequently does lead to absurd concepts like black holes and dark matter. The maths may be correct, but the problem is, it's often being used within, and is helping to shape, a conceptual narrative that's barking mad.

Computers are devices that perfectly embody human logic. They're actually totally obedient (albeit blindingly fast) morons. It's only the speed at which they work that--through enabling them to carry out millions of mind-numbingly trivial operations a second--lends them their mystique. Logic and mathematics are the only systems we know that must necessarily work, because they are totally bounded within the confines of the human mind--and that's why they're so satisfying: one need never venture outside to take a reality check. It's as if modern-day scientists live inside a goldfish bowl, and see a world distorted by the spherical walls of their prison.
 
#44
Airplanes fly because the theory of why they fly sufficiently closely parallels the actual reason that they fly. But one day, I have no doubt of it, a plane will drop from the sky because there'll be discovered a hole in the present theory of flight. Science makes progress through finding holes in present theory, and every now and then, there's a total revolution in present theory or narrative.

The old theory will still be adequate for certain purposes. For example, Ptolemaic astronomy, though total nonsense with its epicycles, is actually good enough even today for navigation. Then again, the Newtonian conception of gravity is good enough to get a man to the moon, but relativistic adjustments allow GPS's to work. Does that mean that space-time exists and is literally curved? Not at all. It's just a metaphor, a way of thinking about reality that happens to work for certain purposes, and will always be able to be applied that way regardless of whether relativity is eventually superseded.

A big factor in convincing people that science can finally and incontrovertibly be right is probably the effectiveness of mathematics as a descriptive tool. But why should mathematics be so useful? It's easy to reify it, give it a life and power of its own, though in the end, it's a completely abstract construct of the human mind that can and frequently does lead to absurd concepts like black holes and dark matter. The maths may be correct, but the problem is, it's often being used within, and is helping to shape, a conceptual narrative that's barking mad.

Computers are devices that perfectly embody human logic. They're actually totally obedient (albeit blindingly fast) morons. It's only the speed at which they work that--through enabling them to carry out millions of mind-numbingly trivial operations a second--lends them their mystique. Logic and mathematics are the only systems we know that must necessarily work, because they are totally bounded within the confines of the human mind--and that's why they're so satisfying: one need never venture outside to take a reality check. It's as if modern-day scientists live inside a goldfish bowl, and see a world distorted by the spherical walls of their prison.

Whatever about airplanes falling through holes in the theory of flight…..?
Once again you present points with which I agree as arguments against me.
It seems we use very similar knowledge and insights to reach very different conclusions. Interesting don’t you think.

One last point: I do not claim or believe that science can be finally and incontrovertibly right. That too is clearly stated in my earlier posts.
There will always be plenty of room for irrationality and mystery.
Science will never banish the unknown.
 
#45
There will always be plenty of room for irrationality and mystery.
Science will never banish the unknown.
You couldn't avoid associating irrationality with mystery, could you?;) Not everything that is irrational is mysterious, and not everything that is mysterious is irrational.

But seriously, we do disagree at a fundamental level, and I think that you're making unwarranted extrapolations about the efficacy of present-day science. That said, we'll have to agree to disagree and leave this particular argument for others to evaluate.
 
#46
You couldn't avoid associating irrationality with mystery, could you?;) Not everything that is irrational is mysterious, and not everything that is mysterious is irrational.

But seriously, we do disagree at a fundamental level, and I think that you're making unwarranted extrapolations about the efficacy of present-day science. That said, we'll have to agree to disagree and leave this particular argument for others to evaluate.
I think you have a grump against science and you are taking it out on me because I mentioned it favorably
 
#47
maybe Moody said that 40 years ago, but today he's saying that NDE can't be understand scientificly/logicly. While I not fond of the way he frames the argument, but I get his point.

Hi Alex
I have been listening to the talk you linked by Raymond Moody and I have some comments which I hope you will take into consideration.
I apologise this is so long; but it is a complicated issue.

You gave me the link to Moody’s talk in response to comments I made about the scientific investigation of NDEs. I therefore presume that you believe Moody is discussing the scientific investigation of the afterlife in his talk.

My first response is this - Moody is not discussing the scientific investigation of the afterlife in his talk. He is discussing the philosophical investigation of the question "is there a life after death"; and he states that in his view this is not yet a scientific question, but may be the most important philosophical question there is.

Note that he says, “not yet”.
So perhaps he believes it can become a scientific question.

This is a complex lecture and a complex issue; I cannot cover it all here; but I will try to mention a couple of points relevant to our discussion.

In part Moody is discussing the investigation of the afterlife by means of pure reason or logic. He is asking, is it possible by the use of pure reason or logical argument, philosophical argument, to rationally logically prove the existence of an afterlife. Specifically, is it possible to make logical sense of the statements of NDEers; and use them to prove anything about an after life?

So let me address this matter of pure reason or logic.

Pure reason or logic is not science. If it were scientists could investigate and completely uncover the structure of reality simply by thinking about it. To believe this was possible was the fundamental philosophical error of the Ancient Greeks. Both Plato and Aristotle each in their own way made this error. What David Hume did was to clearly demonstrate by logical argument that this is not possible. David Hume’s argument refers to the scope and efficacy of pure though or logic. Hume used logic to demonstrate the limits of logic.

It took humanity 2000 years to intellectually get past the logical errors about truth and science inherited from the Ancient Greeks.

Logic is not science.

So, Moody is in part discussing the philosophical investigation of the afterlife by means of pure thought; and the production of rational logical arguments, proofs, about the existence and nature of the afterlife, on the basis of the verbal accounts given by NDEers.

That is not at all what I mean by the scientific investigation of NDEs.

Science is not about proving the rational or logical existence of anything. Science is about investigating what exists - i.e. the empirical facts of experience. Science works with what is already known to exist and asks questions like how does it arise and how does it function. In the case of NDEs, what exists is the experience of the NDEers, and that is what science can investigate.

(Note there is an important distinction between what an NDEer experiences and what they interpret that experience to be)

The scientific investigation of NDEs is therefore the collection and investigation of the relevant data of the phenomenon. This can in time lead to the formulation of theory which we can endeavour to find ways to test. In other words over time with the proper application of scientific methodology we can build a real science of NDEs.

This work is already going ahead; but due to the general intellectual climate today it is limited and marginalised and generally misunderstood. Scientific materialism is a modern philosophical error which I hope humanity will be able to get beyond in this century. Heaven forbid it should take something like 2000 years.

Finally, I disagree with Moody’s characterisation of NDE accounts as nonsense. The problem is, NDEers must rely on their personal knowledge, gained through their life experience in this world, to interpret the NDE experience, and this is what leads to the apparently nonsensical characteristics in their accounts. The NDEer is groping in terms of their knowledge of this world to make sense of an experience which is not of this world. This is precisely why I insist we need to get beyond or behind the overlay of personal interpretations, to the underlying pure experience the person had – which is exactly what the scientific method is designed to do; to access the raw data of experience.

My presumption is that NDEs are real experiences of something real. If this is correct, then we can use the scientific method to investigate those experiences and thereby endeavour to gain knowledge of whatever it is the experiences are of.

All the best
David
 
#48
Science is not about proving the rational or logical existence of anything. Science is about investigating what exists - i.e. the empirical facts of experience. Science works with what is already known to exist and asks questions like how does it arise and how does it function. In the case of NDEs, what exists is the experience of the NDEers, and that is what science can investigate.
What we deem scientifically factual is at best a favoured interpretation of what exists. As you say:
(Note there is an important distinction between what an NDEer experiences and what they interpret that experience to be)
Is there any real process designated as an NDE? I think there probably is, but is what it actually is ever going to be understood, or is that beyond the power of science?
The scientific investigation of NDEs is therefore the collection and investigation of the relevant data of the phenomenon. This can in time lead to the formulation of theory which we can endeavour to find ways to test. In other words over time with the proper application of scientific methodology we can build a real science of NDEs.
At best, the proper application of scientific methodology only leads to an accepted narrative (theory if you like) about reality. The framing of the narrative is determined at any given time by what is considered scientific and what is considered proof. But inevitably, this limits investigation and understanding of what something actually is. Moreover, even personal experience limits it: different people interpret whatever real thing the NDE is in different ways. We can never understand things that exist as they actually are, because between us and them there will always be some degree of conditioning to influence our interpretation and approach to studying them.
My presumption is that NDEs are real experiences of something real. If this is correct, then we can use the scientific method to investigate those experiences and thereby endeavour to gain knowledge of whatever it is the experiences are of.
We can certainly use scientific methods to investigate anything real, but in the end all we will end up with is a more (or less) convincing narrative about it. It's a narrative that is constantly changing due to all sorts of factors: paradigms in operation and motivations of researchers to mention but two.
 
#49
What we deem scientifically factual is at best a favoured interpretation of what exists. As you say:

Is there any real process designated as an NDE? I think there probably is, but is what it actually is ever going to be understood, or is that beyond the power of science?

At best, the proper application of scientific methodology only leads to an accepted narrative (theory if you like) about reality. The framing of the narrative is determined at any given time by what is considered scientific and what is considered proof. But inevitably, this limits investigation and understanding of what something actually is. Moreover, even personal experience limits it: different people interpret whatever real thing the NDE is in different ways. We can never understand things that exist as they actually are, because between us and them there will always be some degree of conditioning to influence our interpretation and approach to studying them.

We can certainly use scientific methods to investigate anything real, but in the end all we will end up with is a more (or less) convincing narrative about it. It's a narrative that is constantly changing due to all sorts of factors: paradigms in operation and motivations of researchers to mention but two.


Thanks for those points Michael. I agree with most of what you say in principle, if not in interpretation.
I take a more optimistic view than you do.

I presume you are not saying we shouldn’t investigate NDEs at all? And on that basis, I am assuming your issue is with scientific arrogance; over reaching claims of veracity and absoluteness; or something of the kind. You’re objecting to, depending on how one looks at it, arrogant or ignorant scientific hubris.
If so I would object to that too.

Science as you say does not give direct access to what is; we only have direct access to our experience of what is. The best we can get is what you call narrative and scientists usually call theory; meaning a systematic account which produces consistent experimental results and gives us a degree of agency and efficacy in dealing with what is; i.e. yields technologies and procedures etc that work in practice; like airplanes or this computer technology.

There is no good reason why the experiences of NDEers should be excluded from scientific (meaning disciplined and systematic) investigation. And there is no good reason to insist nothing of value might come from such an investigation. Just because the outcomes will not be absolute knowledge of what absolutely is, is no reason not to do the work.

My hope for NDE research would be insight into the nature and structure of human consciousness, and information about what happens when we die; perhaps even information about realms other than this world. Maps and charts, so to speak, which while not being the territory itself, can be useful. I hope you would agree that even if maps or narratives or theories are not the territory, they are nonetheless useful; and systematic work that generates them is valuable.

It seems to me there are many today who are dismayed by the ignorance of scientific materialism. I too abhor the myopia of the Academy in these times; but I will not throw the baby out with the bathwater. The scientific method (meaning disciplined and systematic investigation of human experience) is the best method we have yet devised for generating effective knowledge and technology in the world.
 
#50
I am glad that this interview is the end of the series about what the bible and the Jesus myth really means.

Just one point for Alex. You seem to imply that since many near death experiencers meet Jesus, this indicates that Jesus is or may be real.
But this is not a proper interpretation of the data, in my opinion.
I don’t think Hindu or Buddhist NDEers meet Jesus. They meet appropriate icons from their own traditions.
In my opinion the testimony of NDEers is culturally influenced or contaminated; and to properly or scientifically interpret it, we must strip away the cultural overlays and endeavour to access the raw experiential data; what they actually experienced, as distinct from what they interpret it to have been.
The interpretations are personally significant for the NDEer, but they cannot form the basis of a scientific analysis of the experience.
I think we have to beware of adopting the 'scientific' reasoning style of the sceptics! Sceptics tend to take the evidence presented - say of NDE's - and twist it until it fits their preconceived notions. I don't think we should fall into that trap. We can't 'decontaminate' the record of NDE's - any more than the sceptics can - we just pollute the record further with layers of interpretation.

So let's suppose some people do 'meet Jesus' as part of their NDE's - what could that really mean?

Clearly (at least to me), it is unreasonable to think, like many Christians, that Christianity is unique, and that all other faiths are basically wrong! One possibility might be that our societies on earth somehow extend into the non-physical realm, and that real personalities exist representing Jesus, Budda, etc.

Another idea might be that these figures are playing a role to help people to adjust to death. From that point of view, meeting Jesus might be analogous to meeting Father Christmas, something that is sort of real, but not quite how it seems to a child!

I think the abysmal record of science in recent times (medical research, climate change, consciousness research...) should make us all pause and think about how easily such methods go astray. I think decontaminating NDE's of cultural baggage sounds too much like the process in which microwave data is somehow cleaned of large local contributions (i.e. contributions from within our galaxy), and then assumed to contain data about the big bang!

David
 
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#51
I think we have to beware of adopting the 'scientific' reasoning style of the sceptics! Sceptics tend to take the evidence presented - say of NDE's - and twist it until it fits their preconceived notions. I don't think we should fall into that trap. We can't 'decontaminate' the record of NDE's - any more than the sceptics can - we just pollute the record further with layers of interpretation.

So let's suppose some people do 'meet Jesus' as part of their NDE's - what could that really mean?

Clearly (at least to me), it is unreasonable to think, like many Christians, that Christianity is unique, and that all other faiths are basically wrong! One possibility might be that our societies on earth somehow extend into the non-physical realm, and that real personalities exist representing Jesus, Budda, etc.

Another idea might be that these figures are playing a role to help people to adjust to death. From that point of view, meeting Jesus might be analogous to meeting Father Christmas, something that is sort of real, but not quite how it seems to a child!

I think the abysmal record of science in recent times (medical research, climate change, consciousness research...) should make us all pause and think about how easily such methods go astray. I think decontaminating NDE's of cultural baggage sounds too much like the process in which microwave data is somehow cleaned of large local contributions (i.e. contributions from within our galaxy), and then assumed to contain data about the big bang!

David

Sceptics and believers alike both twist the evidence to suit their beliefs and agendas. Real scientific investigation endeavours to minimise personal distortions; and is therefore quite difficult for people to do. But as I say elsewhere, just because sceptics and believers misuse scientific methodology and logic is no reason to throw them out.

I think your notion of our world’s social forms extending into the afterlife realm is very interesting and may be correct in a general sense. It is obvious that the human personality extends into the afterlife – at least it is to me on the basis of NDE reports. The death of the body is not the death of the person.

I recall reading somewhere in Swedenborg’s accounts of the other realms that there are levels or areas or whatever where souls of the different religions etc congregate; and I have often read in esoteric literature that when we die we ‘gravitate’ in a sense to an appropriate level and environment for our mental condition or state.

Just in case what I have written about possible other realms pushes some buttons, let me say clearly, I am reporting what I have read, not what I know. I don’t know the truth about death or the afterlife; and I make no claim to. My only claim is that it is something we should investigate in a systematic way.

I can understand why that thought would be a problem for the sceptics; but why that though should be a problem for people who accept the reality of NDEs beats me; but there it is.

Perhaps some are reacting to the myopia of the academy; or to the commercial and political misuses of science. Perhaps others have beliefs about NDEs or the afterlife which they cherish and are fearful might be challenged by real investigation.
 
#52
maybe Moody said that 40 years ago, but today he's saying that NDE can't be understand scientificly/logicly. While I not fond of the way he frames the argument, but I get his point.
Alex,

I was fortunate enough to attend this event in person. Drs. Moody, Goldblatt and Lisa Smart put forth the thesis that there is real communication from those individuals in a half-in/half-out state of life. The dying are sharing information about the mind's view of a new environment experienced by a person. An environment for which a uniform context has not yet developed for the person. Nonsense, per Moody, is a special kind of linguistic mode where out of context words or symbols are arranged in decipherable patterns.

In direct opposition to your take - they believe the science of linguistics will help decipher actual messages and reporting of the transition of life to death. I am afraid you did not get Dr. Moody's point.
 
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#53
Alex Tsakiris: I hear you and that’s interesting. I’m still not totally making the connection though between the logical component of it. I understand there’s deliberate nonsense and we lapse into nonsense…

Dr. Raymond Moody: Yes. I don’t know if you’ve studied philosophy but you know how in philosophy they’ll talk about the logic of a concept or something. I’m talking here in that sense. In terms of a set of rational principles that you can use to further inquiry on certain questions that have been left unresolved. One of these is the question of life after death.

The rational principles in the new research, with Moody as PI, includes linguistics to find corresponding meaning for the nonsense patterns of final words.
 
#54
Wow - I am home again, and I finally listened to this interview.

I was struck by a lot of things:

1) Despite his obvious intelligence and scholarship, Joel does seem to believe several contradictory things at once! At one point he seemed to sound very orthodox (he said he believed in the Creed), at others he seemed to say he potentially believed in supernatural/spiritual phenomena, and at others he seemed pretty sceptical, with a scarily naive belief in neuroscience.

2) I think he is basically right about conspiracy. Conspiracies are possible, as in the start of the Vietnam war, but an awful lot of stuff seems to happen as a result of bumbling cock-ups, even if, as with science, there is ultimately something of a conspiracy to try to conceal the cock-up!

3) I am always amazed when people whose subject touches on consciousness or religion, state that they haven't really read much about NDE's or reincarnation.

4) I was also struck by the observation that students in seminaries learn a very different version of Christianity than people learn in Church. Alex said this, and Joel seemed to accept that as true, and I have heard something similar from others. This lead on to the idea of Christianity as a consumer product, and I must admit that seemed to fit pretty well!

5) Joel also seemed to dismantle the gospels pretty thoroughly, even though he sometimes seemed to deny that he was doing just that!

Although I agree with others that we don't want to focus too much on Christianity, I think this was a very worthwhile interview.

David
 
#56
What divides Christians and non-believers?

Less than you might think:

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2015/05/for_its_moral_i095901.html


For Its Moral Ideals, Evolutionary Materialism "Freeloads" on Christianity

Nancy Pearcey May 8, 2015

Westerners pride themselves on holding noble ideals such as equality and universal human rights. Yet the dominant worldview of our day -- evolutionary materialism -- denies the reality of human freedom and gives no basis for moral ideals such as human rights.

So where did the idea of equal rights come from?

The 19th-century political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville said it came from Christianity. "The most profound geniuses of Rome and Greece" never came up with the idea of equal rights, he wrote. "Jesus Christ had to come to earth to make it understood that all members of the human species are naturally alike and equal."

The 19th-century atheist Friedrich Nietzsche agreed: "Another Christian concept ... has passed even more deeply into the tissue of modernity: the concept of the 'equality of souls before God.' This concept furnishes the prototype of all theories of equal rights."

Contemporary atheist Luc Ferry says the same thing. We tend to take the concept of equality for granted; yet it was Christianity that overthrew ancient social hierarchies between rich and poor, masters and slaves. "According to Christianity, we were all 'brothers,' on the same level as creatures of God," Ferry writes. "Christianity is the first universalist ethos."

The Confession of Richard Rorty

A few intrepid atheists admit outright that they have to borrow the ideal of human rights from Christianity. Philosopher Richard Rorty was a committed Darwinist, and in the Darwinian struggle for existence, the strong prevail while the weak are left behind. So evolution cannot be the source of universal human rights. Instead, Rorty says, the concept came from "religious claims that human beings are made in the image of God." He cheerfully admits that he reaches over and borrows the concept of universal rights from Christianity. He even called himself a "freeloading" atheist: "This Jewish and Christian element in our tradition is gratefully invoked by freeloading atheists like myself."

At the birth of our nation, the American founders deemed it self-evident that human rights must be grounded in God. The Declaration of Independence leads off with those bright, blazing words: "We hold these truths to be self-evident -- that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights."

In the summer of 2013, a beer company sparked controversy when it released an advertisement for Independence Day that deleted the crucial words "by their Creator." The ad said, "They are endowed with certain unalienable rights." (Endowed by whom?) The advertisement is emblematic of what many secularists do: They borrow ideals like equality and rights from a biblical worldview but cut them off from their source in the Creator. They are freeloaders. Christians and Jews should reclaim those noble ideals, making the case that they are logically supported only by a biblical worldview.

Atheists often denounce the Bible as harsh and negative. But in reality it offers a much more positive view of the human person than any competing religion or worldview. It is so appealing that adherents of other worldviews keep freeloading the parts they like best.
More articles by Nancy Pearcey
http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=submitSearchQuery&query=Nancy Pearcey&orderBy=date&orderDir=DESC&searchBy=author&searchType=all&includeBlogPosts=truecommand=submitSearchQuery&query=Nancy Pearcey&orderBy=date&orderDir=DESC&searchBy=author&searchType=all&includeBlogPosts=true

"...where did the idea of equal rights come from?

The 19th-century political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville said it came from Christianity. "The most profound geniuses of Rome and Greece" never came up with the idea of equal rights, he wrote. "Jesus Christ had to come to earth to make it understood that all members of the human species are naturally alike and equal."

The 19th-century atheist Friedrich Nietzsche agreed: "Another Christian concept ... has passed even more deeply into the tissue of modernity: the concept of the 'equality of souls before God.' This concept furnishes the prototype of all theories of equal rights."

Contemporary atheist Luc Ferry says the same thing. We tend to take the concept of equality for granted; yet it was Christianity that overthrew ancient social hierarchies between rich and poor, masters and slaves. "According to Christianity, we were all 'brothers,' on the same level as creatures of God," Ferry writes. "Christianity is the first universalist ethos."
 
#57
Actually, though a practicing Christian myself, I think the distinction between pre-Christian parochialism and Christian ethical universalism is sometimes drawn too sharply. You do have ideas of universal "brotherhood" (not quite sisterhood, I'm afraid) among different individuals or groups - the Stoics, for example. It was Diogenes who declared himself a "citizen of the world." But it is true that these various philosophers and schools were but blips on the radar screen. Christianity was truly revolutionary in its ability to shift the collective consciousness of the West towards, at the least, lip service to broad compassion, and, and best, effective care for previously marginalized or ignored demographics (widows, orphans, etc.) Cf. the nuanced take on how Christianity transformed the ancient world, which gives credit where credit is due to pagans (i.e., Julian the Apostate), in David Bentley Hart, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies.
 
#59
http://www.realclearreligion.org/articles/2015/11/11/rene_girards_revelation.html
November 11, 2015
Rene Girard's Revelation
By Robert Barron

René Girard, one of the most influential Catholic philosophers in the world, died last week at the age of 91.
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There are some thinkers that offer intriguing ideas and proposals, and there is a tiny handful of thinkers that manage to shake your world. Girard was in this second camp.
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In the second half of the 20th century, academics tended to characterize Christianity -- if they took it seriously at all -- as one more iteration of the mythic story that can be found in practically every culture. From the Epic of Gilgamesh to Star Wars, the "mono-myth," to use Joseph Campbell's formula, is told over and again. What Girard saw was that this tired theorizing has it precisely wrong. In point of fact, Christianity is the revelation (the unveiling) of what the myths want to veil; it is the deconstruction of the mono-myth, not a reiteration of it -- which is exactly why so many within academe want to domesticate and de-fang it.
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Girard opined that desire is both mimetic and triangular. He meant that we rarely desire objects straightforwardly; rather, we desire them because others desire them: as we imitate (mimesis) another's desire, we establish a triangulation between self, other, and object.
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The tension that arises from mimetic desire is dealt with through what Girard called the scapegoating mechanism. A society, large or small, that finds itself in conflict comes together through a common act of blaming an individual or group purportedly responsible for the conflict. So for instance, a group of people in a coffee klatch will speak in an anodyne way for a time, but in relatively short order, they will commence to gossip, and they will find, customarily, a real fellow feeling in the process.
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Hitler was one of the shrewdest manipulators of the scapegoating mechanism. He brought the deeply divided German nation of the 1930's together precisely by assigning the Jews as a scapegoat for the country's economic, political, and cultural woes. Watch a video of one of the Nuremberg rallies of the mid-thirties to see the Girardian theory on vivid display.

Now precisely because this mechanism produces a kind of peace, however ersatz and unstable, it has been revered by the great mythologies and religions of the world and interpreted as something that God or the gods smile upon. Perhaps the most ingenious aspect of Girard's theorizing is his identification of this tendency. In the founding myths of most societies, we find some act of primal violence that actually establishes the order of the community, and in the rituals of those societies, we discover a repeated acting out of the original scapegoating. For a literary presentation of this ritualization of society-creating violence, look no further than Shirley Jackson's masterpiece "The Lottery."

The main features of this theory were in place when Girard turned for the first time in a serious way to the Christian Scriptures. What he found astonished him and changed his life. He discovered that the Bible knew all about mimetic desire and scapegoating violence but it also contained something altogether new, namely, the de-sacralizing of the process that is revered in all of the myths and religions of the world. The crucifixion of Jesus is a classic instance of the old pattern. It is utterly consistent with the Girardian theory that Caiaphas, the leading religious figure of the time, could say to his colleagues, "Is it not better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to perish?" In any other religious context, this sort of rationalization would be valorized. But in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, this stunning truth is revealed: God is not on the side of the scapegoaters but rather on the side of the scapegoated victim. The true God in fact does not sanction a community created through violence; rather, he sanctions what Jesus called the Kingdom of God, a society grounded in forgiveness, love, and identification with the victim. Once Girard saw this pattern, he found it everywhere in the Gospels and in Christian literature. For a particularly clear example of the unveiling process, take a hard look at the story of the woman caught in adultery.
"In the second half of the 20th century, academics tended to characterize Christianity -- if they took it seriously at all -- as one more iteration of the mythic story that can be found in practically every culture. From the Epic of Gilgamesh to Star Wars, the "mono-myth," to use Joseph Campbell's formula, is told over and again. What Girard saw was that this tired theorizing has it precisely wrong. In point of fact, Christianity is the revelation (the unveiling) of what the myths want to veil; it is the deconstruction of the mono-myth, not a reiteration of it -- which is exactly why so many within academe want to domesticate and de-fang it."

"In the founding myths of most societies, we find some act of primal violence that actually establishes the order of the community, and in the rituals of those societies, we discover a repeated acting out of the original scapegoating."

"But in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, this stunning truth is revealed: God is not on the side of the scapegoaters but rather on the side of the scapegoated victim. The true God in fact does not sanction a community created through violence; rather, he sanctions what Jesus called the Kingdom of God, a society grounded in forgiveness, love, and identification with the victim."
 
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