Is Christianity Misanthropic?

Acknowledgement

This post was prompted by Richard Glover’s question “What about Christianity do you see as misanthropic?”, and I felt that his question deserved a longer response than would be appropriate in a comment box, so here goes.

What Is Christianity?

Before I can answer Richard’s question, I need to make clear my own understanding of the nature of Christianity. (Hint: those who would disagree with me should start here.) I see Christianity as having two parts: a core, and society’s response to that core.

Society’s response to the core is as varied as the individuals who come into contact with that core. At one extreme, we have individuals who believe in what is essentially a personal God, a basically benificent creature who has no relationship to the God of the Old Testament. These people interpret the Bible in a very flexible fashion. At the other extreme, we have people who believe that the Bible is a true and precise record of God and all of creation; such people for example include Young Earth Creationists, and those who allow their relatives to die by preventing routine life-saving medication.

Groups in society display an equally wide range of responses to the core. At one extreme we have countless organisations doing good work in the name of Christianity, looking after those members of society who are unfortunate or poor. At the other extreme, we have examples such as the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisitions.

The responses of individuals and groups to the core vary through time and place, and are governed as much as anything by the mores of the society in which they live.

What Is The Core?

By now, you will probably have inferred that by the core I mean the Bible and all that springs immediately from it. I believe that the core is misanthropic. In the best of scientific tradition, I am now required to justify that claim.

At the bottom of all this is the question of whether or not an individual accepts the scientific method. I have faith in the scientific method (okay, I chose that word deliberately!) because I have found that it works for myself and (more importantly) for those who rely on me. The scientific method relies on using falsifiable evidence: if the evidence and interpretations claimed can be reliably repeated, then there is a chance that the claim is true. The more often the repetition is observed, the more often the claim is likely to be true. I base my life on this. I am aware that many (most?) people choose not to go down this analytical route.

We now come to the Bible, and its central thesis, which is of a virgin woman giving birth to a male child, and that child ascending to heaven after his crucifiction. None of the evidence in this is falsifiable; as such it must be immediately dismissed. Moreover, since science has shown us that there is a difference in mass between X and Y chromosomes, how did one of X chromosomes in Mary’s womb get converted to a Y chromosome without killing Mary by all that mass being converted to energy? Anybody who claims that an “angel did it” is relying on evidence that is not falsifiable.

The above is merely one example of claims made by Christians based on evidence that is not falsifiable. The claim by Christians that other people believe the same thing used as justification for their own positions also ultimately lacks the quality of falsifiability.

So Why Is Christianity Misanthropic?

By denying the scientific method, the core of Christianity causes teachers to teach falsehoods, such as “DNA wasn’t invented then”, “It was Noah’s flood that caused the Grand Canyon”, and “The Earth is only 6,000 years old”. This misleads learners. This is unacceptable in a civilised society.

On the basis of the above, I conclude that (the core of) Christianity is misanthropic.

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About notoreligion

I was a victim of religious predators as a child. I am here to oppose their ongoing evil.
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18 Responses to Is Christianity Misanthropic?

  1. Thanks for the post. You’re a ninja!

    As you implied might be the case on Twitter, I do disagree. There are a few things which spring immediately to mind: the NT was written before modern scientific method was derived, so it can hardly be said to ‘deny’ it; in claiming the Bible must present falsifiable evidence, you dismiss the whole method of history–so now we can’t really know anything about the past.

    But the real thing I want to take up with you (respectfully, I hope, and with a genuine desire to engage and understand) is this: ‘the core of Christianity causes teachers to teach falsehoods.’ I think there’s a logical disconnection in your argument here. You mentioned that the response to the core of Christianity is varied. Many Christians (myself included) would argue that the creation accounts, etc., are not necessarily literal passages. Surely, since there are a great variety of interpretations, the Bible can’t be the source of those ‘misanthropic’ positions; they come from the interpretation.

    So, then: is it the Biblical core of Christianity which is misanthropic, or those who interpret it in such a way as to reach ‘misanthropic’ conclusions?

    • notoreligion says:

      Sorry to duck your question, I am not in a position to answer it directly, as it does not quite align with my world view. (Note to self: this is a learning opportunity for me.) What I can offer are my observations and reasoning that lead me to the conclusion the core of Christianity is misanthropic. So here goes …

      I see it as the duty of teachers to equip learners with such understanding that the learners can function best in their own future lives. We live in a scientifically sophisticated world, unlike the world of even only 500 years ago to which you allude. I also hold the view that where there is overwhelming scientific evidence for something to be claimed as a “fact” (for example, the Earth is round, and is part of a heliocentric system), then teachers have a duty to avoid teaching as “facts” things which run counter to that weight of scientific evidence. By such “facts” I mean the three examples cited in my post, as well as (as I was once taught) that angels are also a scientific “fact”.

      Teachers who teach such “facts” are betraying the learners’ future lives; such teaching is in my view misanthropic. That applies regardless of the teacher’s motives. The source for such literalist teaching is the Bible.

      The foregoing is for me the logical connection in my argument: connecting the core of Christianity with its misanthropy.

  2. (Forgot to subscribe…)

  3. Okay, but let me reiterate my point: the Bible doesn’t necessitate a literal interpretation. The misanthropy (if it is that) is surely on the part of the interpreters, not the text itself. Not all people who teach the Bible teach it as ‘scientific fact;’ surely it is those who do who are at fault (and I agree they’re at fault), not the text itself.

    It seems worth saying though (and I’m sure you will have heard this before): scientific facts aren’t the whole truth. One of my favourite poets calls facts ‘small, compact faiths;’ they tell us something true, but they don’t tell us everything. My point is this: I don’t think scientific fact can tell the whole truth, because life and human experience is more than a collection of facts.

    It still seems to me as though, if interpreted literally, the core of Christianity can lead to misanthropy; it seems clear though that it doesn’t necessarily have to. So while there might be a connection, I still think it’s incorrect to claim that the core of Christianity itself is misanthropic.

    Enjoying learning where you’re coming from. Keen to keep discussing it!

    • notoreligion says:

      I feel that we are coming to a common point of understanding (always a desirable outcome of a good debate in my opinion). I agree with you that the core does not need to be (and usually isn’t from what I see) taught literally. I regard the literalist teachers as being part of that core, and hence part of the problem. (And as a da capo aside why I am extremely concerned about having chaplains, rather than trained counsellors, in secular schools.) I am all too aware of how young minds can be taught to believe scientific nonsense by suitably subtle (or in my case very unsubtle) teaching techniques.

      You also touch on the much wider topic of what it is to be human: there is a lot more to it than just being coldly logical at times (a necessity when considering scientific problems), we also enjoy feelings. I am not competent to comment in that area, as I am neither a psychologist nor a sociologist.

      Thanks for the conversation!

  4. Pingback: Is Christianity Misanthropic? « I woke up this morning with a frappachino in my hand…

  5. richardrglover says:

    Right. Now we’re really getting somewhere!

    Now our disagreement is different: I don’t think literalist Bible teachers are part of the core of Christianity. I think the core is the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus, and the OT and NT texts which give context, point to and expound on those. In my understanding, that’s the core–different interpretations of the core are just that: interpretations.

    I think you’re quite qualified to comment on what it means to be human. After all, you are one! 🙂

    • notoreligion says:

      Ah, you touch on another issue, whose version of Christianity are we talking about? My atheism gives me a “get out of jail free” card: I don’t have to think too hard about that question! 😉

  6. richardrglover says:

    Well, you do, actually. If you really care about what’s true and what isn’t, and you think Christianity is (or leads to) great evil, then you must think about that question. Hard. Not thinking about it isn’t an ‘atheist get-out-of-jail-free-card;’ it’s just a cop-out.

    • notoreligion says:

      Okay. The extreme end of the bell curve of Christian opinion derives its interpretation from a literal interpretation of the Bible. This is the core, which leads to its misanthropic manifestations (“Angels are real”, “DNA wasn’t invented then” etc). People who do not adhere to such literal interpretations show more independence of spirit (I guess I am showing my assumptions about what it means to be a human here 😉 ). Having got this far with my understanding (with a lot of help from your questioning!) the rest of it then becomes incredibly easy for me: identified, categorised, fits into population distributions with corresponding density patterns – areas which I deal with without a second thought.

      I feel the need to summarise: the core of Christianity (i.e. the literal interpretation of the Bible) I regard as misanthropic because all the damage that it does to society, but I do not (and cannot, for I see no evidence to support this) assert that the broader Christian tradition causes great evil.

      Please forgive me if this comment shows an air of being simply “thrown together” – I will confess to being a trifle tired as I write.

  7. richardrglover says:

    Sure. That makes more sense. I think, obviously, we still disagree on the ‘core.’ I wouldn’t say that the core of Christianity is ‘the literal interpretation of the Bible.’ Indeed, the fact that you see no evil (or cause thereof) in the broader Christian tradition calls into question the identification of ‘literal interpretation’ with ‘core.’ Surely, by that distinction, literalists become a minority, not the core.

    But we may just have to agree to disagree at this point!

    • notoreligion says:

      Nicely put! As ever, I suspect a difference in perspective between ourselves. (And ain’t that grand?) (Now puts on analytical hat, and expects to lose it in the ensuing gale.) For me (hint: another opportunity for you to challange me) Christianity revolves around the concept of and perhaps historical reality of a person born of a woman commonly identified as Mary Mother of Jesus. For me, this is by definition Christianity. Without that as an essential part of the definition of Christianity, the whole concept of Christianity collapses (at least in my opinon). Ergo, the virgin birth is part of the core, and anybody who rejects the “reality” of the virgin birth is by definition not a Christian, but somebody whose ethos is based on, and possibly very closely related to, Christianity. This (possibly flawed) argument leads me to the conclusion that all Bible literalists are part of the core of Christianity. (And please don’t ask me who else I see as part of that core, my brain is still racing to catch up with you!)

      I still need to get my head around how the “Crib Story” celebrated annually relates to all this.

  8. richardrglover says:

    Okay. Now we really are of differing opinion. But first: I agree! Jesus, essentially, is Christianity. He’s the core.

    And (here’s our difference), I believe he was an historical person: really born, really human, really alive, and, yes, really born of a virgin.

    Why do I believe this? Because of the historical evidence. Historical evidence isn’t ‘scientific’ (in the post-Enlightenment, rationalist sense of the word). But there is no historical evidence for or against Jesus’ historical existence or the virgin birth–there can’t be. So what we have left is historical evidence, which I find quite compelling. So, despite our scientific method not being able to explain it, I believe Jesus of Nazareth was born of a virgin, died by crucifixion, rose bodily from the grave &#8212 and is still alive.

    So we disagree again 🙂

    • notoreligion says:

      As you have guessed, and looking at it from a scientific perspective, I regard the Virgin Birth as on a par with Piltdown Man: an impossibility, a hoax. (Thanks for pushing my thinking processes this far. 🙂 )

  9. richardrglover says:

    Lol. HTML fail: that was supposed to be an em-dash near the end of the penultimate paragraph.

  10. richardrglover says:

    Sure, and I understand your position; it’s just that I don’t think scientific method can say anything about the virgin birth. You can’t collect any data. You can’t test it. So science can’t write it off, because it can’t say anything about it at all.

    But I think I’ve made that point already 🙂

    • notoreligion says:

      It fails the scientific requirement of using falsifiable evidence, and so is not valid from a scientific viewpoint. Given that, I would argue that science not only can, but should, “write it off” (your words, though I would prefer the perhaps less emotive “discount it”). As ever, 🙂

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