That Crazy Little Thing Called Love.

A few days ago, I was watching a Christopher Hitchens video in which he was asked by a Christian why he spoke out like he did against Christianity’s overreach, and I realized that people who are markedly vocal non-believers get asked that a lot. I get asked it myself sometimes. So today I want to talk about why I speak out like I do.

The Emperor's New Clothes - (2) - procession

The Emperor’s New Clothes – (2) – procession (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To start, let’s get this out of the way: the question itself is a silencing tactic. It’s meant to cow the person doing the speaking. It’s meant to cast aspersions upon the speaker and to make them doubt their own right to speak out against something they see as morally wrong. Non-believers often make reference to the old story of “the Emperor’s New Clothes,” and it’s worth mentioning that it doesn’t matter one little bit to the truth that it’s a young child who finally speaks the truth about the naked emperor; the emperor is actually naked, and someone needs to say it.

When a Christian squints at a dissenter and asks, “Why do you have to talk about this great moral wrong you perceive?” what they are doing is showing that they care more about the fact that the moral wrong is being discussed than they do about the moral wrong itself. And I don’t think anybody else but them misses that distinction. One great moral wrong in Christianity is this tendency of Christians to circle the wagons and shoot the messenger whenever something’s brought up that makes them feel uncomfortable. I doubt they would ever ask this question of one of their own preachers talking about things they actually want to hear. I have never once heard a Christian ask one of their big leaders, “Dang, man, why do you have to keep talking about the inerrancy of the Bible? Why do you have to keep talking about Jesus being the way, the truth, and the life?” No, this question only gets asked of dissenters, and only about subjects the privileged person doesn’t want to hear discussed aloud, and only issued to someone who is challenging the privileged group’s dominance. It’s an attempt by someone in a privileged group to maintain dominance and privilege by shutting up any critics, and nothing more.

So I reject, utterly, the implication that it is a question that I should give any power over me. Far from shutting me up, it reminds me of why I speak out and of the necessity for doing so.

I think it’s important to cover what are not the reasons for why I do what I do.

I don’t set out to deconvert anybody from Christianity itself or any other religion, or to proselytize for my own way of thinking. I think that both of these acts are disrespectful, and ultimately I think that the religious label one slaps across one’s ideology is not any kind of predictor of how that person will behave toward others. How we treat other people is way more important than whether we call ourselves Christians, atheists, pagans, Jedi, or anything else. If you told me you were a Christian, that wouldn’t tell me a single thing about what you are like as a person or whether I’d want to take a weekend vacation with you. Telling me you were a Southern Baptist might tell me a bit more, but it still wouldn’t be definitive; one error that non-believers often make is in treating Christianity like a monolith when it simply isn’t. Even within the fundiest of all fundie churches, one can find people of all persuasions. By contrast, if you told me that you were a secularist, or pro-choice, or an MRA, that would tell me a great deal about where you stand regarding other people’s rights and how to treat other people–but it wouldn’t tell me much about what religion (or non-religion) you follow, because those aren’t religious labels.

And I’ve got no desire at all for Christians to stop pursuing their religion all they want in their own private lives. As Mr. Hitchens himself said in that video (to paraphrase; I can’t find it right now), he had no desire to take away people’s toys and indeed it seemed to him that there would always be a certain subset of people who would always value those toys. I really and genuinely don’t care what religion people follow. We can’t just believe or not believe at the drop of a hat or flick of a switch. Belief is caused and brought about for a great many reasons, and usually it dies only when the believer’s support system for that belief falls apart, which takes a lot of time sometimes. Religious belief itself ties into our deepest, darkest fears about death, our most intense desires for justice, and our fondest hopes for mercy and love. And frequently religious leaders employ the most shockingly manipulative bits of emotional strong-arming to convince their “flocks” of the most shockingly stupid guff. So even the most intelligent and loving people can get caught up in the most bigoted, hateful, most science-denying, most intensely unjust religions. But ultimately, I think that the right to believe what you think best and the right to worship as you see fit trumps whatever I think about how good or moral that belief or worship is. If you’re an adult, you have the right to spend your time and money however you want, and it’s not my right to tell you otherwise.

Nor am I being a shit for the sake of being a shit. Like most other dissenters, I speak because I genuinely see a need for someone to say the Emperor is naked. Just as it’s a Christian’s right to pray or worship as he or she sees fit, it is my right to speak about what I perceive in that model of belief. I don’t normally invade Christians’ forums or groups to showboat my disbelief or rile people up unnecessarily; I don’t normally care what they say in their own little groups. I wouldn’t go to a church service just to point and laugh like that character from the Simpsons. I try to be respectful of other people’s faiths when I’m a guest in their “houses,” be those houses real homes or churches or temples or whatever. I do participate in some Christians’ blogs, but I always remember that those blogs are their “home” online in a very real sense and I try to conduct myself according to their rules–and I recognize that they have the right, ultimately, to boot me if they don’t like how I act. But I trust them to separate out “how I act” from the simple fact that I don’t believe in their god. In the same way, I have some very sharply critical things to say about Christianity, but I try to carefully separate out just what kind of Christian I’m talking about and not to take potshots at the people who I know are trying to rescue the religion from where it’s heading.

So having covered the non-reasons for speaking out, what are the actual reasons for doing so?

First, because for the last thirty or forty years, Christianity ran roughshod over society and grabbed quite a bit of political and cultural power over the rest of us. And we let them do it, largely because most of us still subscribed to Christianity, and because many of us still thought that Christianity was a moral system that was ultimately trying to do good in society. But that wasn’t the case. As Christianity’s more extremist elements continue to wreak havoc, it’s becoming more and more clear that no, actually, Christians are not a moral powerhouse and do not have some kind of stranglehold on morality that non-Christians simply don’t have. I’ve watched them turn America from a land of opportunity and freedom into a dysfunctional, dystopian near-Taliban, and the only thing that has stopped them–the only force that seems even vaguely capable of halting their breakneck destruction of liberty and revision of history itself–is vocal dissent and peaceful opposition to the limit of the law’s allowance.

Second, I speak out because Christians themselves are not speaking out (or doing so effectively anyway) against the extremists and abusers in their culture, and even the well-meaning ones among them are certainly not stopping those extremists and abusers from exercising control over the conversation. As Hemant Mehta says frequently over at Friendly Atheist, we simply cannot trust Christians to do the right thing without compelling them to do so. They will lie, break the law, cheat, steal, vandalize, threaten, coerce, and even murder to get their way, and nobody within their tribe seems able or willing to stop them. So it falls to dissenters to do what Christians themselves either cannot or will not do.

Third, I speak out because Christians, as a group, are trying their hardest to enshrine their privilege and dominance into law. If they were just keeping to themselves and not bothering anybody, nobody would care about them. When’s the last time you worried about what Hellenic reconstructionist pagans were doing? Probably never, if you even knew such a group existed at all before I mentioned them just now; they don’t try to strangle government or force anybody to live any particular way. But we have to be concerned with speaking out against Christians because Christians dominate government at every level and genuinely believe that they know better than the rest of us how we are to live and what we are to do with our lives. Our dissent focuses not on Christians’ private lives but on how they are trying to force others to live, which is why it is almost always skeptics who debunk the various urban legends Christians spread about students stopped from praying (which didn’t happen, but that sure didn’t stop Faux Noise from making a HUGE stink about it) or supposedly kept from holding prayer meetings at a private home (haha no, that wasn’t at all the case; it was for seriously violating safety codes by building a church on a residential property). Without dissenters there to tell the truth about these persecution fantasies, Christians would feel a lot better about forcing their religion on the rest of us. But they sure aren’t the ones debunking their urban legends–and if those legends don’t get debunked by dissenters, they won’t be debunked at all, and that’s how religious mythology gets rolling.

Fourth, because Christians may not even realize what the arguments are against their faith system. I’ve often talked about Christians as living in a bubble–a very thick one that keeps them from fully seeing, hearing, or engaging with the outside world. They generally consider it a point of pride that they are totally cut off from that outside world; it is seen as a threat and a danger to one’s Christian walk. Just learning about the Theory of Evolution is regarded as dangerous to many of ’em. And in decades past, when effective arguments against Christianity were difficult to find and when disbelief was so stigmatized, it was a lot easier for them to believe–as I did, indeed–that there just aren’t any arguments against Christianity. Do you know why I hang out on some Christian blogs? Because I think it is very important to me to mix up with people who don’t believe the same way that I do. I think it’s hugely important to listen and learn, and you can’t learn if all you’re hearing is echoes of your own thinking. I truly think that this attitude is why I don’t think of Christianity as a monolith; I interact with a great number of Christians who are markedly different from each other and from that toxic sort you hear about in the news most often. And when a Christian is aware of and understands the arguments against Christianity’s various claims, that person is much less likely to fall into extremism. But they have to know those arguments exist first, and that is where dissension becomes important.

Indeed, you might have noticed, friends, that a lot of the things I talk about on this blog are things I wish I’d known as a young Christian. Often I find myself writing to 18-year-old me, telling her what I wish someone had told her, showing her the things I wish someone had shown her. Nobody showed her those things. She didn’t even know they existed. She believed what she was told, because she had no reason otherwise to disbelieve. She thought Christians were good people because she was told that they were and didn’t know that many are not. She believed Christianity made people better people and societies better societies not because they do, because they don’t, but because there was no voice saying that they don’t and she didn’t even know to consider otherwise. That doesn’t mean she didn’t eventually figure it out, but it took a lot longer and she had to invent the wheel from scratch herself, and claw her own pathway out of the pit. She didn’t even know that many others had already invented that wheel, or know the path used by those who had clawed their way out of that pit before she needed to do it.

Now things are a lot different. Thanks to the internet, you can find debunks to common Christian claims within moments; now the debunk of a preacher’s claims during a church service can be discovered before the altar call is made by any child with a smartphone. Before, ignorance was the default; now it is a choice, as the saying goes, and usually when we see some hugely-ignorant Christian making hugely-ignorant claims, it’s going to be a very young Christian who still lives in the bubble, like the Idaho teenagers eagerly creating that “The Thaw” video that made the rounds some months ago. And I wonder how many of the ignorant teenagers in that video still hold those views now that the internet’s gotten done with debunking their beloved project?

See, thanks to dissenters, the wheel is right there, the path lit by lanterns placed there by the legions of ex-Christians who’ve gone before today’s seekers. Now disbelief is less stigmatized; now Christian dominance is less assured and more questioned. The culture war that Christian leaders banked on to bring people back to the fold has backfired, causing their churches to hemorrhage people who once believed–or those skeptics who might at least have bought into the myth of the Happy Christian Society, as indeed many skeptics did long ago, if it weren’t so glaringly obvious that this myth is nothing but a self-serving fairy tale meant to terrorize people into not examining the religion’s increasingly deranged claims and increasingly obvious grabs for power.

And it all happened because dissenters spoke out and were willing to say loudly and publicly that the Emperor was naked. As Christopher Hitchens said in that video, his goal is not to take away toys, but to make Christians aware that not everybody wants to play with the same toys, and to stop them from trying to force him to play with their toys. He wants to stop them from enforcing their toys into law and teaching their playtime games to children in science classes.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love

Crazy Little Thing Called Love (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ultimately, I do what I do because I love humanity. I love it so much that I will not rest while people are hurting in it. And lies hurt people and cause serious and real and lasting harm and damage to people when they try to force themselves to conform to a rule of law and to a delusion of power that simply doesn’t fit a healthy, loving, moral person’s life. I know the painful truth, that questions like the ones posed to dissenters are exactly how Christians keep each other in line. I know that “sowing discord” is one of the harshest slams one Christian can make to another. I know, because I was Christian once. These accusations cover up lies and keep them moving, keep them alive, and ultimately give them power.

And those lies have serious repercussions on people who would probably never even question any of them if dissenters weren’t out there crying aloud in the wilderness and making people aware of the breathtaking scope of them all. The awesome part is that it’s not just atheists who are dissenting out of this love, but everybody including sane Christians themselves. Love takes all kinds of forms, and it comes from our hearts, not from our religious self-labels. It hurts me to see someone hurting, and unlike the Bible’s god, as a moral person, I try to help as best I can when I see someone hurting. And unlike way too many Christians, I actually know what “love” really is and what really constitutes “hurting.” For a long time I let that pain go on without comment and let people redefine abuse as love, and I see where that got me. I feel a keen responsibility now to do better than that.

There’s a serious constraint on a lot of ways I could make a material difference in this world; I’m not wealthy, and suffer a chronic health condition that makes movement difficult sometimes. But I can write a little, and I can speak, and I can try my best to bring truth and light to a world that desperately needs it.

And so I speak.

I speak because of that crazy little thing called love.

And I won’t stop, no matter what “just asking questions” Christians try to zing me with to shut me up and cow me into not speaking.

Housekeeping: I hate it when I’m right, especially when it comes to right-wing conservative fundagelicals trying to revise history about Biblical slavery. Also, I swear I didn’t see this piece about a TRUE CHRISTIAN™ slaver until after I’d already begun writing the last piece about slavery. Wow, talk about timely!

For next time, we’re going to take a look at the latest round of excuses Christian leaders are offering for why their religion is losing ground so hard. We’ve talked about this topic before, but this is one of the wildest, most self-serving, most blatantly dishonest dish of porridge I’ve seen in quite some time, and they were dumb enough to commit these excuses to (digital) paper–whoopsiedoodle! Join me next time for another round of Christian Leaders Sticking Their Heads in the Sand, and a thorough debunk of yet more lies.

The Emperor’s still naked, folks. And it’s our responsibility to say so.

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About Captain Cassidy

I blog over at Roll to Disbelieve about religion, culture, cats, and tabletop RPGs.
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24 Responses to That Crazy Little Thing Called Love.

  1. hannahgivens says:

    I was taught repeatedly that the outside world was desperate to debunk Christianity but had absolutely no sound arguments, it was all a bunch of gibberish. The debunking of the non-Christian arguments basically consisted of “arguments” such as: “Evolution? Hah! That sounds ridiculous!” and that was it. I was just having a conversation with someone else and explaining the tipping point for me… It was discovering that the world outside MAKES PERFECT SENSE. It’s not full of loonies who can’t string two sentences together because they’re quaking with guilt and fear over their purposeful rejection of the one true god. Blogs were a big part of that realization. :)

    (And for the record, I was homeschooled, but wasn’t even part of an extremely fundamentalist or separatist group. I had outside friends, I read books, we watched a shitload of Bill Nye and counted it for science homework. But the perspective was completely different.)

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    • I know a few families that are homeschooling in a somewhat more sane way than fundies normally do it–some atheist families, some pagan, etc. It’s good to find out about another person who had a good experience with it like it sounds like you did. :) Like you though I was taught that atheists and non-Christians were idiots, willfully-ignorant buffoons who just had some personal reason to refuse to admit that Christians totally had total proof for everything they claimed. It was rough for me to realize that no, actually, they were pretty well-spoken folks who had very good reasons for coming to the conclusions they had! So I think I totally get where you’re coming from–it all made perfect sense when one considered the idea of there not being a Christian god orchestrating and creating everything, a lot too much sense really. Either we went through all these silly contortions, evasions, denials, and perspective shifts… OR we considered that it was all just hooey and suddenly it all clicked. Scary stuff in its way.

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      • hannahgivens says:

        Yep, exactly!

        (And I did have a great experience with homeschooling, since you mention it. :) It was a religious homeschool group, but quite a big one, and as I said, not a terribly fundamentalist one. We homeschooled mostly in the name of a quality education since the public schools are pretty crappy around here. I definitely feel like my education was better in many ways, more comprehensive and effective than public school and more open than many religious groups would’ve been, since a large part of it consisted of “let’s go to the library and read a bunch of books and we’ll count that as school,” especially when I was younger. I could generally pick out any books I wanted at whatever reading level, and the ability to read widely has served me well.)

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        • That sounds delightful–and I bet it was indeed a much better way to get the information. I was publicly schooled and it worked out all right; I think I benefited from the social environment, but things were a lot different when I was growing up than they are now. My sister’s always telling me horror stories about what the public schools her kids are in are doing–like removing phonics from learning to read, WTF?!?, which almost kept her son illiterate and held back a grade till she found out what the problem was, got him phonics books, and worked with him herself to get him up to speed; the teacher, meanwhile, didn’t concede that the boy had even needed phonics till she confronted him over it. It just blows my mind. It’s the same district we both grew up in–but wow it’s a whole different world! Older adults like us may not realize just what’s going on nowadays. Homeschooling can be a really viable alternative in such cases, and for some kids. I bet you hear the horror stories about homeschooling with the same shock that I do.

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          • hannahgivens says:

            Yeah, I’ve heard a lot of craziness about public schools. I hear some about homeschooling too, but less often, presumably because fewer people are homeschooling and fewer people will hear about the craziness, since the crazy homeschooling tens to happen in more isolated communities or just solitary families. Our group was a big one of about 70 families, where we actually had a lot of co-op type classes, hired teachers to teach some classes (as long as the teachers were Christians), and had sports teams and whatnot. So, it was kind of the best of both worlds. Still, we interacted with a lot of more solitary families, and it gets creepy sometimes. (Usually when there are seven kids and they all dress alike in identical floor-length denim skirts. That’s the first warning sign.)

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          • Holy moley, like the Sound of Music’s crazy-fundie version.

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  2. SM says:

    Not Christan-specific, but I’ve noticed that, with many people, there’s actually a resistance to learning anything new. Or seeking out dissenting voices. It’s very much of an ‘in-crowd/out-crowd’.

    Totally get what you’re saying about zoning in on the group with power to really complicate things for the rest of us. In the US, that’s various forms of Christianity. In other countries, that may be another religion, special interest group, etc. But it’s people’s duty to speak up about things that may have the capacity for actual harm.

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  3. Jed Rothwell says:

    You wrote: “Christianity made people better people and societies better societies not because they do, because they don’t . . .”

    I believe you are wrong about that. There are clear cut examples in which Christianity did make better societies. For example, it reduced violence in Scandinavian Viking societies. In the 20th century, in Melanesia, the Solomon Islands and Borneo the spread of Christianity greatly reduced warfare, feuds, raids and interpersonal violence. This was not because Western colonialism imposed the rule of law. There were only a handful of Europeans. Many natives never saw a European, and some had no idea they were being “colonized.” The spread of Christian morality gave people an alternative way to treating one another. It was a revelation to them.

    I recall reading an interview in an anthropology journal with an older man who recalled the pre-Christian era morality. He wept when he thought of all the suffering. He said, in effect: “We thought we had no choice. We thought this is the only way people can live.” He sounded like a teenager in a U.S. ghetto who feels he has to protect his reputation against any slight, even if it means beating or shooting people.

    The movie “Mongol” portrays the rise of Genghis Khan in tribal Mongolia in the 13th century. I think it is an accurate portrayal of one form of pre-modern morality. I think most modern people would agree it is barbaric and that Christianity or Buddhism are more civilizing. (So is Confucianism, which is not a religion, per se.) You can see the movie and judge for yourself.

    I do not think that modern Christianity is morally superior to modern humanistic beliefs in the U.S. or Europe, but it was superior to some of the ancient systems it displaced. Measured in terms of tolerance, open mindedness, and willingness to accept science, most modern Christian sects are ahead of most modern Islamic ones. In the Medieval European era the opposite was true.

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    • That doesn’t mesh well with the stuff I’ve read regarding the Christianization of Europe; it sounds a little imperialist to me–one need not see tons of Europeans to suffer the effects of imperialism. I remember reading an account of Vikings who became Christian and who just incorporated Christianity’s general ideas into their existing culture; one group got together in their little church and prayed for Jesus to grant them victory in battle before rushing out to slaughter their enemies. It might have had some effect on their cooperation levels with others, but nothing I’ve ever read indicates that it was this great civilizing influence. It was integrated into existing ideas and culture, which is why Irish Catholicism seemed so different from German, etc, and why these cultures still went to war almost constantly with their enemies. And certainly once Catholicism got rolling it wasn’t some vast peacemaker; between Crusades and Pope-approved or even -instigated wars, Europe did not enjoy some vast period of peace under Christianity. Read about the Renaissance-era Pope Julius II sometime; the man habitually wore a breastplate and led Rome into more wars than anybody cared to think about, earning him the moniker “The Warrior Pope.” Was Christianity always warlike? No, and it might have been less warlike than some of the systems it replaced, but on the main I don’t think it’s accurate to say that it was a super-peaceful system in actual practice or that it was imposed without any kind of integration into local custom.

      Christians in the modern age are no better than anybody else, and one might argue demonstrably worse given crime statistics and societal dysfunction in more religious states. What’s funny is that a couple days ago I ended up in a comment squabble with some Christian who is convinced that “an eye for an eye” and a super-punitive, vengeance-based justice system are totally awesome and we need to kill more criminals and then we’d all be perfectly safe. Don’t you just love that religion of peace…

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      • Jed Rothwell says:

        I know little about European medieval history, but I did read a study that Scandinavian violence began declining in the centuries following the introduction of Christianity. Not immediately. I majored in Asian history so I know more about Japan, Mongolia, and the South Pacific. The changes in the South Pacific mainly occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries and are well documented. As I said the people living in these islands during the changes were still alive in the 1970s when anthropologists interviewed them. There is no doubt that many local people credit Christianity for positive changes in their society, and a large reduction in violence. Before WWII, in some Melanesian societies, “25% of all deaths and over 30% of male deaths were attributable to war.” As far as I know, that is the highest percent of any society on record. Any higher and the society would likely go extinct. See:

        http://www.hindawi.com/journals/janthro/2014/658597/

        As I said, the testimony of the people who survived these conditions resembles testimony of young people raised in violent ghettos in the U.S. or Europe who managed to escape into mainstream society, and to put that behind them. They usually say, “we did not know there was any other way to live.” Their world view was restricted. That is what you would expect of people living in South Pacific Islands, because it was very difficult to travel and tribes were isolated from one another. Hundreds of mutually incomprehensible languages arose because they were so isolated.

        The European “colonialists” had practically no influence on these remote islands, because the islands had no economic value, and there were only a few thousand Europeans there. The native people had no knowledge of the outside world. Most of them encountered outsiders for the first time during WWII. The Americans and Japanese armies did not teach them to put aside war and live in peace; it was Christian philosophy that did that. Compared to what they had before, it was very much “a religion of peace.” That is a relative quality, not absolute.

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        • I know about as much about 19-20th century Pacific history as you do about medieval/Renaissance, it sounds like; the Christianity of the Middle Ages wasn’t much like in later centuries. It wasn’t a peaceful religion at all once it got rolling; if you’ve ever heard of Christian leaders converting people by the sword, there’s a lot of truth to that, including in Scandinavia, I’m afraid. I do also know that when Europeans hit the New World, many folks in the Native American population already living here thought they were hugely hostile and dishonest people–and dirty ;) But who knows, there might be some group out there so violent and warlike that even Christianity, with its dominionist and manifest-destiny overtones, was less violent still. I can accept that. And it’s beyond a doubt that as it is practiced in America, mainstream Christianity does absolutely nothing to improve society.

          You know, sometimes I hear Christians tell me that if they hadn’t converted, they’d be even worse people than they are already. It’d be funny if it weren’t so tragic.

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          • Jed Rothwell says:

            In this case, the Europeans had no effect on the highland people in New Guinea, where there was a great deal of violence. No one knew the people were there until 1939 when a Museum of Natural History expedition flew airplane over the island and have a look. The natives living on the seashore had no idea there were people inland. So obviously, the Europeans were not to blame for the violence. They sent explorers to the highlands, who were eaten, as I recall.

            Christianity was seen as much less violent than Japanese society in the 1590s, when it first became popular there. It was later suppressed but for many decades it was viewed by many people as humanistic alternative to the horrors of the warring-states period. There is a 1-year weekly historic drama about that now playing on NHK, “Kambe.” The previous drama “Yae no sakura” was about Joseph Niijima (a.k.a. Neesima) who founded Doshinsha U., the first Christian college in Japan. That was also seen as a humanist advance. Niijima married Yae, a famous woman soldier who suffered a great deal in the Boshin war just before Meiji, and who was looking for an alternative to the unforgiving, inhuman samurai war traditions of slaughtering defeated enemies and fighting to the death. She was a real person. See:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yamamoto_Yaeko

            In both Japan and the South Pacific, Europeans never really held power, and they were never able to colonize the way they did in Africa and India, so the people did not have as much to fear from the Europeans, or as many reasons to resent them and their religion.

            You are alienated from it, so naturally you see only the dark side. From the point of view of many Asian people it has much to recommend it. An anthropologist I knew in the 1970s who spent a lot of time in the Pacific said, “it is easy to condemn the 19th century missionaries, but at least they cared whether those people lived or died, unlike most Europeans.” The Europeans were never in the Pacific in large enough numbers or with enough military force to compel the locals to adapt Christianity — or even to find the locals! — yet large numbers of people in these places did become Christian on their own volition, so they must have seen something to recommend it. Looking at the culture it replaced, I can understand why they felt that way.

            Christianity is also popular in Korea, where no European nation ever held sway. The popularity predates the Korean war.

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          • Again, I suspect we’re coming at it from different places. I know medieval history very well. You clearly know more modern history very well. I can absolutely assure you that it’s not my “alienation” from Christianity that makes me see medieval/Renaissance Christian leaders and people as bloodthirsty and violent. Christian society was bloodthirsty and violent, because the people who adopted or born into it were so. Its leaders were war-chiefs just like anybody else, and the Vikings you mention still committed atrocities upon their enemies–after praying to Jesus to give their arms strength in battle, of course. The Inquisition tortured people, the Roman Christian Emperors destroyed dissenters by various foul means, and Popes regularly led troops into battle (when they weren’t commanding the assassination of serious dissenters, like Queen Elizabeth I or the Medici princes, or ordering Crusades to enrich themselves). Popes also gave the blessing to pan-African slavery as well as to the excesses that occurred in Central and South America. This violence, war, dominion, and destruction was all stuff that Christian cultures did while claiming to be enlightened and superior.

            Please don’t do that to me, that dismissal of what I’m saying like that, okay? I get what you’re saying–that some societies were so brutal that Christianity might have gentled them some–but please understand that I’m not an idiot. I have done history professionally for some years. Christianity was genuinely not a gentler of quite a few societies it entered. It didn’t stop anybody from going to war if they were going to go to war. Christians are like anybody else–there are some dark sides to them and some light sides. If some dude wants your stuff, his religion ain’t going to stop him from taking your stuff if he really wants it. He’ll just find some way to take your stuff while justifying it to his religious sensibilities, that’s all, and that’s what has happened in history ever since the religion got codified. And I still see quite a bit of imperialism in what you describe, incidentally; you’re presenting the stories you are with this implication that there’s simply no way in the world that imperialism is what was going on, but that is not the case. That doesn’t follow. You see what I mean? One need not have tons of white people floating around for imperialism to happen. I wonder if you’re not alienated enough from the religion, such that you’re blind to its dark side. ;)

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        • SM says:

          Can’t reply to your later comment, so replying to your earlier one.

          Christianity is also popular in Korea, where no European nation ever held sway. The popularity predates the Korean war.

          While Christianity in Korea has definitely been fairly open (at least compared to Japan) since the very beginning of its introduction, from my understanding, its current strength was mostly due to two things: 1) resistance to Japanese colonialism and affirmation of Korean nationalism and 2) the strong emphasis on schools, hospitals and other such efforts. The first is key. The churches in Korea, despite being Christian, still have a strong Korean flavor to them. This made them a natural focal point when the Japanese were trying to stamp out everything Korean during their occupation. Christianity ended up being one of the rallying points for Korean nationalism, for the Korean identity when the Japanese were trying to eradicate that very thing. It’s no wonder that it’s so strong in Korea.

          The second point, also important but probably less so compared to the resistance against the Japanese, led to the dominance of specifically Protestanism in Korea. Some of the biggest philanthropists that Korea remembers are American evangelicals, and it’s for that reason that a lot of the Protestantism in Korea seems to be strongly evangelical, specifically the American brand of evangelical. And while Christianity was better for the women than, say, neo-Confucianism, it’s important to note that the status of women in South Korea is still not as good as it could be. The gender roles aren’t so very changed though the punishments for straying certainly improved.

          So while it’s true that the relation to European colonialists was rather tangential (except in the case of philanthropy), it was very much due to outside influences exerting pressure (in this case the Japanese) that it became so very hot in Korea. I’m not sure you can imply that the Koreans simply adopted it because it was a ‘message of peace’ and ‘more civilized.’ Certainly there were a number that thought that way. But its current popularity is strongly driven by Korean nationalism.

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          • I’d agree and would add–Isn’t Korea like the world capital of cosmetic surgery at this point, with men and women both aspiring to Western-style appearances? That might be a bit tangential but they sure don’t seem to be opposed to the idea of westernization.

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          • SM says:

            Not sure why I can’t reply to your comment Captain Cassidy, so replying to mine instead. S. Korea has the most plastic surgery per capita (but the most plastic surgery still goes to the US last I checked the numbers). Some of that plastic surgery is going out to their neighbors (Japan, China, Russia, Mongolia and probably many other places) who like the low prices and relatively safe procedures there, but it’s also definitely out there in the subways and stuff. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many plastic surgery ads in one place in my life. It’s not wholly accepted per se, but it’s not really being hidden either.

            However, their plastic surgery is of a very different type than the kinds typically asked for in the states. And the ideal of beauty isn’t so very different than Japan or China’s. The standards of beauty does seem to focus on features that are more common in westerners, but the beauty ideal is far from the same as western beauty ideals (if such a thing exists). For instance, breast surgery is probably one of the most popular plastic surgery in the states. Not so in S. Korea. I don’t have the exact stats with me right now, but I would not be surprised if eye surgery or nose surgery were the top in S. Korea.

            In terms of embracing westernization, yes and no. S. Korea is a bit of a special case. Whereas China is wary of the US, and Japan certainly remembers the war and the bombings, many in S. Korea remember American aid. Of course, there are tensions that crop up (such as when the two schoolgirls were run over by a tank) and there seems to be the familiar anger at mixed-race couples, but overall, relations are fairly good. There’s definitely resistance (especially by the older generation), but it’s very much tempered by relatively cordial relations.

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          • That was just fascinating. I’d forgotten you were there! You know, it’s so true that wherever one goes online, one can count on someone knowing more somewhere in the community listening in. Thank you. I seem to recall reading that it was the eyelid surgery to get the double-fold, and chin and nose jobs to get away from the rounder look.

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  4. karenh1234567890 says:

    The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) is a case in point for violence in the name of Christianity. It was

    Thirty years of tearing apart the German areas of Europe.

    One side yelling “Gott mit ins” (God with us or God be with us). This was the Protestant, mostly Lutheran German aristocracy and the Swedes.

    The other side yelling “Jesus Maria”. This was the Roman Catholics as funded by the Holy Roman Empire.

    Both sides living off the peasants. Armies weren’t funded and supplied by the home countries. Foraging, scavenging, raping, and pillaging were used routinely for paying and feeding the armies, most of whom were paid mercenaries. The Sack of Magdeburg was horrific.

    The Spanish and Roman Inquisitions were going strong at this point, too.

    Overlapping the Thirty Years War was also the Eighty Years War (1568 – 1648). That was between Spain which owned the Benelux and the Dutch who had become Reformed (Calvinist) and why Belgium and the Netherlands are separate Countries. And part of why the peoples in the Flemish part of Belgium and the Walloon part of Belgium still do not much like each other.

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    • I learn something new every day around here. I hadn’t known about the Belgian conflicts. Seems like a small country to hold so much division, but that’s how it goes when two groups are convinced they’re both right, I reckon. Thank you for weighing in. I was hoping someone would :)

      The one thing that really springs out at me when I study history is that for most of Christianity’s long and colorful reign, fervent Christian leaders were ghastly. For every Queen Elizabeth I who didn’t want to make “windows into men’s souls” and didn’t really care what religion anybody was as long as they were loyal English subjects, there were a dozen Bloody Marys who got cranky when stopped from burning ALL the heretics. Even for these more modern societies, I seriously doubt it was Christianity itself that stopped any bloodshed; my hypothesis is that if I dug into these tales, I’d find that it was a bit more than just accepting Jesus into the natives’ hearts. This whole thing sounds suspiciously like a case of a culture’s history being written by the winners. Christianity itself can’t stop conflicts and war–it (or rather its numerous divisions and dissensions of opinion) causes way too many for me to take that idea seriously. But conflict negotiation skills and the like aren’t specific to any religion, so I suspect that’s what was going on. I’ll take a look at it soonish after I get the current round of posts done.

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      • karenh1234567890 says:

        It was during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation period when Protestant churches were forming and taking people and countries away from the Roman Catholic Church.

        I started learning about the time period because I read 1632 by Eric Flint (published by Baen Books). It is a massive alternate history series based on the premise “What if a small town in West Virginia in the year 2000 was suddenly transported intact to Thuringia during the Thirty Years War. The transportation was a lot of handwaving, but the people they meet and deal with were real. Up until they showed up, it is a given that the history of that era that we have in our history books was what happened in the story. You can download the first book, 1632 from the Baen Free Library for free. It has turned into a group effort with others publishing stories in that setting and having it being accepted as “canon” (lots of rules about what can or can’t be written). For example, you cannot invent movers and shakers who didn’t really exist, any thing pre-transportation must really have happened, etc.

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  5. karenh1234567890 says:

    Old divisions don’t die… We have a friend from Glasgow and my husband likes Football (soccer) so he asked her if she supported one of their most famous teams Celtic FC. No, the Catholics support Celtic. She was a Protestant so she supported the other Glaswegian FC, the Rangers.

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  6. Pingback: Joyce Meyer: Prosperity Gospel for Women (Is A Crock). | Roll to Disbelieve

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