Field of Science

RC revisited

Its been awhile, but let's pull out another of our favorite series Ray Comfort is an Idiot (RCIAI) or Fun Plucking the Low Hanging Fruit.

For today's analysis let's take #9 from....

If you are a beginner atheist, there's a belief system you should embrace and a language you should learn, or you will find yourself in trouble. Here are ten suggestions for the novice:

9. Blame Christianity for the atrocities of the Roman Catholic church--when it tortured Christians through the Spanish Inquisition, imprisoned Galileo for his beliefs, or when it murdered Moslems in the Crusades.

Ok, while Im not a historian, Im not an ahistorian like Bananaman seems to be.  This screed suffers in so many ways, but first let's just establish some timelines.

Martin Luther the primary figure associated with the Protestantism split from Catholicism was born in 1483 and died in 1546. There were already factions within the Catholic church before this time (as there are always variations within groups), however Bananaman is an Evangelical flavor of a Christian which is a branch of Protestantism. The Protestant Reformation is considered to have begun in 1517 although it is really impossible to stick specific dates to philosophical ideas. Regardless, early 1500s is reasonable.

Ok, now we have a conundrum. When did Christianity start? We have to infer that Bananaman asserts that after 1500ish Catholics were/are no longer Christians. What about before that? Who were the Christians in 1323, 1066, 817, 594, 323? Protestants didn't exist in any real form at these times. Catholicism in some form or another (again these institutions and the philosophies of these institutions constantly albeit slowly changes) was the church.

Peter of the apostles started the church that became the Catholic church. Is he a Christian, were any of the apostles? To move forward and make heads-or-tails of Bananaman's position, I think we have to assume that after Peter, the Catholic church embodied Christianity, but over time lost its way, resulting in the Reformation driven by Martin Luther, and then Christianity was embodied by the Protestants, and ultimately just the Evangelicals, which coincidentally happens to be Bananaman's flavor of Christianity.

Ok, Can we blame the Catholic church on the Spanish Inquisition? Yes.
Can we blame the Catholic church on Galileo's imprisonment? Yes.
Can we blame the Catholic church on the crusades? Yes.

But here are some interesting additional dates. Remember the Protestant Reformation is dated at 1517.
The crusades  1095 - 1291
Spanish Inquisition established  1478
Galileo imprisoned  1564

So Bananaman feels Christianity (Protestants) should not be blamed for things the Catholic church did by using 2 examples that occurred before Protestants existed when the Catholic church was Christianity. For this, he can have Galileo being caused by the No True Christians (which is a logical fallacy in and of itself). Regardless, Bananaman's examples are akin to saying you can't blame the United States for slavery in the South because Hawaii and Alaska weren't states then.

And while I am unwilling to paint all Christians with any kind of brush, there are plenty of non-Catholic Christians today and yesterday that have done plenty of horrible things. Suffice it to say some people suck, some people are Christians, and some Christian people suck. (and yes, you can easily swap atheist for Christian in the previous sentence, as well as plumber, democrat, Ohioan, etc.)


Edward said...

It seems to me that you risk allowing the anti-atheists to define the debate when you bother to refute claims like this. To me the more productive response is to simply point out that defining religion as good or bad or assigning blame for religiously inspired atrocities have nothing to do with atheism.

The Lorax said...

You may have a point Edward, but I would argue that I am not really involved in a debate here. If one reads Comfort's lunatic approach to bashing atheism and thinks that some serious discourse is possible, then I would suggest a change in medication for that person. However, there are people who read that kind of screed and think well, gosh that's a great argument, see how stupid atheists are?

People do buy his book "You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence, But You Can't Make Him Think: Answers to Questions from Angry Skeptics." Now I do not expect to change the minds of these people. However, some might consider Comfort's arguments buyable or may the arguments sound flawed but don't have the time energy or resources to refute them. Maybe I can help there. Plus when dealing with serious criticisms and tough reviewers of manuscripts and grant proposals all the time, sometimes it is cathartic to pluck some low hanging fruit (as I said in my post).

Caleb said...

Not incredibly relevant to the discussion at hand, but here goes:
Kiara and I recently got back from a month long honeymoon in Italy. Rome was on the "must do" list, for many obvious reasons. Though I am not Catholic, I felt very privileged to visit the Vatican. More than anything, this visit emphasized how the Church has lost its way over the years. As we wandered past the many tombs, catacombs, etc. of long dead Christians, I couldn't help asking myself "What went wrong?" Many of these tombs were from the very earliest days of Christianity...2, 3 or 4 generation removed from the death of Christ. For these "martyrs", Christ and his teachings were as tangible as my Grandfather's stories of his Grandpa. At this point in history, these people (Christians? Catholics?) were the ones killed and persecuted, not the other way around. They were willing to die to promote a vision of social justice, Christ's main message.

So when did true Christianity start/end? It began when Christ started his ministry, and ended shortly after his death. The epistles are packed with disagreements, just a few decades after the death of Christ. For those first few centuries, maybe it wasn't so bad. But now, I believe that it has been so corrupted by human fallibility, greed, etc. that what we have today does not resemble the original in the least.

(This is coming from someone who considers himself a Christian, in at least a very vague sense)