Go Back   AFA Forums > Atheism > Ask an Atheist

Ask an Atheist Want to know Atheists' viewpoints on things? Want to better understand the Atheist worldview?
Here's the place.

Reply
 
Thread Tools
  #1  
Old 27th April 2012, 02:32 PM
Xeno's Avatar
Xeno Xeno is offline
Extant
 
Join Date: May 2010
Location: Altitude 700 m
Posts: 8,274
Default christianity: a civilising effect through the ages?

This thread arises out of this comment in a post by oberg:
Quote:
Originally Posted by oberg View Post
I wonder, though, if we aren't all cultural christians, given the overall civilising effect of christianity over the ages.
and my statement that I demur from that view. Oberg continued in response to my invitation to discussion:
Quote:
Originally Posted by oberg View Post
Sure thing. <text deleted>. I suppose there are numerous semantic arguments that can be made to claim that western civ is no better (relativist anthropolgy and other theories that claim all is the same etc ... I don't tend to buy that), that other civs.

Perhaps framing a discussion around my initial comment, which I currently support, - "the overall civilising effect of christianity over the ages" - in the context of Western Civilisation and perhaps a little comparative religion and comparisons of civs as well.
I agree this forms a sound basis for discussion. My placeholder marks a comment about "holding together" a society. I agree that ritual belief can be important in holding together a society. It is not the same subject as "civilising effect", so I deleted those words and do not propose to discuss them. If it is felt that they are a vital part of "civilising effect" then that can be argued.

My Australian Oxford definition of "civilise" says
  1. (a) bring out of a barbarous or primitive stage of society.
    (b) (historical) impose upon (especially an indigenous people) a way of life alien to them.
  2. enlighten; refine and educate.

I propose in relation to those three definitions that:
  • christianity had no unique civilising effect.
  • christianity's role as a conveyor of Greek and Roman knowledge to Europe, largely from the Arabs, in mediaeval times was not a function of christianity itself but rather of people who were followed the prevailing religion, exactly as did the Arabs who extended Graeco-Roman knowledge.
  • I may concede that an alien way of life was imposed on people
  • enlightenment, refinement and education were strongly extant before and during the Roman Empire in pre-NT times, wholly uninfluenced by the OT, and later recovered through contact with other cultures as societies regained their economic position long after the fall of Rome.
As I have discussed elsewhere, it is certainly true that the church initially had the wealth (extorted from people on promise of an afterlife) to support an educated class who could translate Graeco-Roman documents recovered from contact with Arabic people. However, the church did nothing much that was civilising, rather than entrenching its own power. While initially supportive of reason as a better way to understand god, the church rapidly turned against research and reason when it found things were not turning out as they hoped. Indeed, the church opposed kings and people who would democratise justice or government rather than concentrating it on the church and through its patronage. Further, the church was directly responsible for, shall we say, some very uncivil behaviours such as massacre of unbelievers. Since the Renaissance, the church has been one or two generations behind the advance of civilisation at every step of the way, later claiming the credit for natural order as any good conservative would.

I'll wait to see whether people want to take this up before raving further.
__________________
There are no good arguments for gods.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 27th April 2012, 03:30 PM
oberg oberg is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 30
Default Re: christianity: a civilising effect through the ages?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Xeno View Post
This thread arises out of this comment in a post by oberg: and my statement that I demur from that view. Oberg continued in response to my invitation to discussion:I agree this forms a sound basis for discussion. My placeholder marks a comment about "holding together" a society. I agree that ritual belief can be important in holding together a society. It is not the same subject as "civilising effect", so I deleted those words and do not propose to discuss them.
I will do my best at discussing this with you. I don't have any time right now though and probably won't get into it until early next week. We have guests at the moment and sitting around on a forum would just be rude .
talk soon
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 27th April 2012, 04:50 PM
I_FH's Avatar
I_FH I_FH is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Adelaide
Posts: 259
Default

My understanding is that the Church was largely responsible for the Dark Ages. Persecution of science and all that.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 27th April 2012, 06:04 PM
rayne's Avatar
rayne rayne is offline
I am a fish
Moderator
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Brisbane
Posts: 3,901
Default Re: christianity: a civilising effect through the ages?

http://instituteofknowledge.blogspot...ppression.html

Quote:
Being afraid of taboos rises to oppression, and a society must make sure there are laws protecting those taboos. Hence people like the 18th century philosopher Kant argued that religion should be a private affair, the taboos in religion will hinder the progress of a society. Those who fear taboos will have to oppress people who have different views solely in order to preserve their power, yet most scriptures themselves say people are given a choice, why force the choice upon them.
From Christopher Hitchens:

Quote:
“Violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children: organized religion ought to have a great deal on its conscience.”
http://www.vexen.co.uk/religion/time....html#DarkAges

Quote:
In these ages of faith, organized religion becomes the leading authority on morality and civil administration. In the history of Europe, it is called the dark ages. Europe saw, during the time of Christian rule, a collapse of all development, the loss of science and academia, and the backtracking of humanity towards barbarianism. During this time, the Arab world overtook the West and became the light of humanity, developing science and intellectualism while Europe floundered.The fall of the West during this time was not solely the fault of Christianity - part of the reason for the rise of Christian theocracy was the fact that the collapsing Roman Empire left some anarchy in its wake. But it definitely did not help matters that the Age of Faith was embodied by religious, Christian governance.


Uncounted numbers were tortured and killed for practicing witchcraft, sorcery, magic, satanism, trickery and alchemy. Witches and werewolves were hunted down by people on the payroll of the Church. The infamous Spanish Inquisition was formed by the Catholic Church to hunt down Christians who didn't believe quite the right things about Jesus, and Jews, and atheists, and all sorts of other people. A second instrument against heretics, apostates and infidels was the Crusades. With Christian Churches exerting massive influence over Western peoples, entire armies were raised in its name to wipe out Jews (the first crusade), heretics (Cathar Christians) and Muslims (later).


The troubled life of anyone developing new ideas under the shadow of organized religion (who justify their power in terms of "truth") slowed down every science and medical school imaginable. Except torture equipment of course!

Religion has done some terrible things and the things it does do (help the poor and needy) is usually conditional (The Salvation Army won't help gay people or gay couples in need until the break up and repent). They work on the framework of deserving/undeserving poor based on their bible. Why religious organisations can do great things..they only help those who they feel is worthy.
__________________
[odd]The immenseness of the universe - and Jesus sitting on the outside worried whether a species, that happens to be alive during a blip on the timeline of existence, is masterbating or not. Priceless.

[faddishworm]Forgot to mention, one of the most powerful things you can say to your christian friends is "You are in the same boat as Ken Ham, he just chose different parts of the bible to follow".

Theists! Don't forget to read the Great Big List before posting.
Goldenmane’s Third Rule of Public Discourse
Goldenmane's Exposition On Rule Fucking Three
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 27th April 2012, 06:14 PM
I_FH's Avatar
I_FH I_FH is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Adelaide
Posts: 259
Default

Well put but I still hold the Salvos in high regard. They do far more for the community than is asked of them, and have done for decades. An outdated view in a Christian charity is not unexpected.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 27th April 2012, 06:17 PM
Voltairine's Avatar
Voltairine Voltairine is offline
And, of course, a-t-h-e-i-s-t
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: Hong Kong
Posts: 2,229
Default Re: christianity: a civilising effect through the ages?

Quote:
christianity: a civilising effect through the ages?
I don't see how when Christianity itself had to be civilised, with secularism helping to temper its excesses.
__________________
......
I have no problem sharing a common ancestor with the apes; it's being related to some people that bothers me.
- Ms Volts

I'm not a scientist, I'm what you might call an informal cheerleader. - Bill Bryson
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 27th April 2012, 06:48 PM
wearestardust's Avatar
wearestardust wearestardust is offline
feminazi
Moderator
 
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Canberra
Posts: 6,478
Default Re: christianity: a civilising effect through the ages?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Voltairine View Post
I don't see how when Christianity itself had to be civilised, with secularism helping to temper its excesses.
That, I think is the answer in short.

Also seeking pith: we are civilised in spite of religion, not because of it.

It is frequently claimed that this or that advance was done by Christians: but over the last millenium and a half, pretty much everyone in the western world was a Christian, so claiming Christianity as a cause doesn't just on that basis stack up.

Here's an excessively truncated sequence of events as I see it, with many errors I am sure as I just made it up.

- Constantine makes everyone a Christian.

- Western christendom falls to various Germanic peoples who don't care about technology. Much learning and technological skill are lost.

- The west has more or less to reboot. A lot of the dark ages (which weren't quite as dark as some might think) were a result of having to relearn about three millenia's worth of learning and development.

- socially Christianity promotes subordination of the individual to society. Integration of church and state makes the church politically and socially conservative, and puts church together with secular leaders on the same side against everyone else (notwithstanding church and secular leaders constant battling over who is on the top of the top).

- the year 1,000

- knowledge starts to push on the boundaries of issues to do with the broad nature of the universe. Church pushes back and insists on subordination of knowledge to doctrine and authority.

- Luther!

- People carry from the reformation the idea of individual responsibility before god into the social, philosophical, political and scientific spaces. Enlightenment ensues.

- Many individuals who happen to be Christians battle against other people who also happen to be christians to create secular societies, freedom, end slavery, promote democracy, and things of that nature (don't tell anyone but while the ones who are fighting against these things are generally the religious authorities, those fighting for freedom and science are sometimes deists or even lose their faith altogether in the process).

- Many people of faith do good things, but faith becomes an increasingly irrelevant part of western society. Religion is increasingly on the sidelines, but to this day fights against freedom and knowledge, increasingly hysterically carping from the sidelines.
__________________
Quote:
Originally Posted by Goldenmane View Post

You want respectful discourse? Learn how to fucking discourse.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 27th April 2012, 06:59 PM
Mithridates's Avatar
Mithridates Mithridates is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: Melbourne
Posts: 211
Default Re: christianity: a civilising effect through the ages?

Hi Folks

Seems to me that Xeno is on the money here.

Christianity's claims to be a civilising influence start to look a bit shaky on closer examination.

Religion has consistently, over many centuries, opposed those seeking to advance scientific and medical knowledge, usually for reasons of superstition. For example, in the sixteenth century, when an Italian surgeon pioneered a skin grafting technique to reconstruct the noses of patients affected by syphilis, the church attempted to ban his work because syphilis was God's punishment for immoral behaviour (!) (although how a mere mortal could undo the will of an omnipotent God was not explained ).

For a more recent example, as Christopher Hitchens commented, if you wanted to impose the maximum amount of suffering possible on the African people living in countries where the AIDS virus is widespread, you could hardly do better than the Vatican's policy on condom use.

Then there is the modern day witch craze, also in Africa, in which children are being subjected to torture, mutilation, and in some cases, murder, because their families believe they are possessed by demons. This disgusting activity is being driven by members of the Pentecostal Church.

As Xeno pointed out, highly developed and sophisticated civilisations pre-date christianity and owe nothing to it. Further, many pagan texts were burned by fanatical christians after the Roman Emperor Theodosius banned pagan religions altogether in the late 4th century. It is more due to Arabic civilisation that at least some texts survived.

The common response to such criticisms is to point out christian charitable works, but most mainstream churches are politically very conservative and oppose the kind of social policies that would make charity less necessary, and have a history of supporting oppressive regimes.

Apologies for a bit of a wordy post - my 2c worth became a couple of dollars

Regards

Mithridates
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 27th April 2012, 07:21 PM
DanDare's Avatar
DanDare DanDare is offline
On my mission today...
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Posts: 4,797
Default Re: christianity: a civilising effect through the ages?

Bookmarky.

I'm trying to play Theist's Advocate by finding ways in which xtianity could actually be seen as a civilising agency.

I thought perhaps law, but the claim that because they had various scriptural commandments somehow made them the inventors of law is a little crap, what with the Romans, Hamurabi, Egyptians et al.

I thought perhaps the saving of literacy in monasteries during the great march backward might have been a point, but outside of christendom much of the knowledge survived and fed back into Europe anyway, and the church was responsible for the about face anyhow.

Art and music? Hardly unique to xtianity, and much in Europe had to be done despite xtianity or forced to conform to it.

Theology as the foundation of logic and reason? Nope, that was nicked from the Greeks and suppressed heavily in non clergy.

I'm still thinking but I haven't found anything to put forward yet.
__________________
Everyone please read The Great Big List of forum etiquette and argument form.
Science Works !
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 27th April 2012, 08:30 PM
rayne's Avatar
rayne rayne is offline
I am a fish
Moderator
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Brisbane
Posts: 3,901
Default Re: christianity: a civilising effect through the ages?

Quote:
Originally Posted by wearestardust View Post
That, I think is the answer in short.

Also seeking pith: we are civilised in spite of religion, not because of it.

It is frequently claimed that this or that advance was done by Christians: but over the last millenium and a half, pretty much everyone in the western world was a Christian, so claiming Christianity as a cause doesn't just on that basis stack up.
Correlation does not also equal causation. We've advanced greatly as a species and that advancement may have be brought about by people who happened to be Christian but Christianity isn't necessarily the reason for the advancement.

I'm quite fond of this Dawkins quote: Morality does not originate from the Bible, rather our moral progress informs what part of the Bible Christians accept and what they now dismiss..

The concepts of what is moral and what is immoral has changed over time. Some Christians have said that our laws are made according to what the bible says which is often an argument against things like same sex marriage. God apparently thinks it's immoral therefore our laws reflect that. If that was the case then premarital sex would be illegal and so would all BC.

Religion hasn't made society more civilised, society has made religion more civilised.
__________________
[odd]The immenseness of the universe - and Jesus sitting on the outside worried whether a species, that happens to be alive during a blip on the timeline of existence, is masterbating or not. Priceless.

[faddishworm]Forgot to mention, one of the most powerful things you can say to your christian friends is "You are in the same boat as Ken Ham, he just chose different parts of the bible to follow".

Theists! Don't forget to read the Great Big List before posting.
Goldenmane’s Third Rule of Public Discourse
Goldenmane's Exposition On Rule Fucking Three
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT +10. The time now is 02:34 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.