The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Friday, December 24, 2010

"Anti-Christmas Scrooges miss the real reason for the season"? Really!

I had intended pretty much to ignore the impending Christmas holiday, treating it as a non-event on this blog. However, there's a column by Bill O'Reilly in the Examiner, which seems to have been quoted by a number of other sites, entitled "Anti-Christmas Scrooges miss the real reason for the season." To this, I feel a need to reply.

I think I understand "the real reason for the season" very well. It commemorates the birth, approximately two millennia ago, of a man in whose name more people have been killed than in the name of anyone else in world history. Whether it is Christians of one stripe fighting Christians of another stripe (various religious wars in Europe over the past two millennia) or Christians killing Jews and Muslims (the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition), the fact is that Christians' celebration of the birth of the founder of their religion is not a reason for anyone else to celebrate. I do not begrudge private celebration of Christmas in the homes and churches of my Christian neighbors. Just do it privately. I would not be happy with a celebration of Adolf Hitler's birthday; why should I take part in a celebration of Jesus of Nazareth's? But Christian zealots do not understand that. O'Reilly asks, "Why would any rational person get testy about a federal holiday that brings joy to the majority of their countrymen and helps the economy, to boot?" My answer is, "Suppose we had a Federal holiday celebrating the birth of a man whose followers murdered your ancestors. How would you feel about that?"


Asclepius said...

I believe more men and women have been killed in the name of Karl Marx than in Jesus Christ.

Many, many, many times more.

Asclepius said...

And, if we're in the business of being intellectually honest, we must admit that killing in the name of Christianity marks a failure to live up to the dogmatic principles contained within the religion.

Thus, the problem isn't Christ: it's with the followers of Christ. Your analogy to Hitler would only be valid if Hitler was a nice guy, and somewhere along the line, Hitler's followers got it wrong.

Opinionator said...

Asclepius: Karl Marx lived in the mid-19th century, and none of his followers gained enough power to kill anyone until the early 20th. With that many centuries head start, I doubt you're right. How many people were killed in the Crusades, the Inquisition, the religious wars in Europe, etc.? All this before Marx was even born.

And regarding your second comment, I accept most of what you say: it was his followers' actions, rather than anything Jesus actually said. However, the net result is that the world would have been a better place if Jesus had never been born. And this is my thesis.

Asclepius said...

However, the net result is that the world would have been a better place if Jesus had never been born. And this is my thesis.

I strongly disagree with your thesis; historically, Christians have done more in a spirit of charity than any other group of people. The Catholic Church, for example, is the largest provider of health care in Africa. When it keeps to its true nature, it is certainly more helpful than harmful.

Regardless, however, one absolute truth: the perversion or abuse of a concept does not render that concept de facto bad. As the great G.K. Chesterton said at the beginning of the 20th century, "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried."

My comment about Marx was intended to be flippant. However, as far as ideologies go, Communism undoubtedly killed more people than Christianity. Between Mao and Stalin, the rough estimate is 72-101,000,000. This doesn't at all include those who have suffered under Vietnamese or North Korean progroms.

The rough estimate for the Crusades is roughly 9,000,000 deaths but we must note here that around half of those were Christian combat deaths.

Also important to note historically is that the Crusades were not initially religious so much as they were political, due to a Muslim creep-through-conquest in the Western World. While the first three Crusades were legitimate efforts by Europe to take back lands recently lost, the spirit of the Crusades certainly went south very quickly.

Opinionator said...

Well, you give a figure for the Crusades alone. I included the Inquisition and the religious wars in Europe. I could have also added the Russian pogroms, and if you count all those cases where Christians killed non-Christians for religious reasons, as well as all cases where Christians of one kind killed Christians of some other kind for religious reasons, you will get a figure that dwarfs your number, I'm sure. "In the name of Jesus" covers a lot of killing!

"When it keeps to its true nature, it is certainly more helpful than harmful." Perhaps so. But that has nothing to do with the thesis that "the net result is that the world would have been a better place if Jesus had never been born." For if Jesus had never been born, none of the "perversions of Christianity" would have taken place, and none of the good things you choose to cite would have, either. And the question is, which are the greater? My point is not to regard what an ideal Christianity might have done, but what the people who considered themselves Christians actually have done in his name.