The Watchtowers of Atlantis Tremble


John C. Wright's wrote a piece titled "The Watchtowers of Atlantis Tremble" in which he responds to Terry Pratchett's pro-euthanasia documentary which was recently aired on BBC.

Say one thing about Wright, say the man doesn't shy away from controversy. Here's an extract from his article:

What if Hitler had been happy?

What if he had told a few jokes and smiled a few smiles? The world would have let him kill far more than he killed, and to this day we would be using some less judgmental word than ‘genocide’ to describe the horror.

We are accustomed to viewing evil, the pure, desperate, hellish evil that kills countless innocents and corrupts whatever it touches, as something angry and vile and violent. An angry man is easy to spot.

But most evil is more subtle, more seductive, and comes along as gentle as a sheep.
I had occasion to hear speak in public a writer whom I admire if not adore. The man is witty and wise, genial and gentle, and has the knack to raise a laugh. And what a charming accent! With merely a word or a lift of his eyebrow, he can raise a smile from an audience, or a robust laugh, or bring a tear to the eye. I have never met anyone more likable.

And he is a man without God, who takes a very practical view of euthanasia
.

[...]

The genial writer did not bother to defend his deed. He did not think it necessary. He acted as if his evil were unremarkable or perhaps mildly admirable, and the audience merely nodded, lulled by his voice, led by their love for him and his works to give him the benefit of the doubt. Or, being prone to pity or open to pragmatic considerations, perhaps they did not think the question worthy of dispute. It would have been rude to disagree, a sour note in the choir of self-congratulation.

The genial writer did not bother to defend his deed. He merely told a joke or two instead, and the crowd laughed and applauded, and their hearts were moved toward him, and they nodded.

He did not call it suicide, of course. That would have been politically inconvenient and incorrect, which is another way of saying, it would have been honest.

He said we should use a different word. I forget what foolish Orwellian euphemism he used. The point is to make the nature of the deed less obvious, and to aid the already titanic human capacity for self-deception to reach super-titanic magnitude.
Not all evils are obvious. Not all sins seem sinister. Some rest on appeals to pity, or practicality, or are defended not with a syllogism but with a witticism
.

[...]

He talked a soul into Hell. And the room gave him a standing ovation.

Not all civilizations are created equal. Civilization is not made of wheels and gears and tricks of technology, or the cunning of roads and coined money and elegance in art. Civilization is spirit. The spirit of the West respects and reveres human life, and our laws are designed to respect the rights of those lives because we respect those lives. The Culture of Death has no respect for life, none for man, none for the individual. The weak baby in the womb or the suffering crone in the wheelchair they seek efficiently to expunge from life, even while seeking to remove from the public view that cross of the God who protects the weak and infirm, and gives the hopeless hope to live, both now and in eternity to come.

Civilization is Christianity. Christianity is civilization.

Examine carefully, O zealous agnostic, what you are throwing on the smoldering ashheap when you tell yourself all you are casting away is the hypocrisy and judgmentalism and intolerance of the Christian superstition. Some things are nailed to the crucifix which you must and will trample when you trample the crucifix underfoot to prove to the great Sultan of the underworld your loyalty to his creed of correctness, non-judgment, and toleration of abomination.

In addition to abstractions like democracy and scientific progress, very concrete things like legal protection of your rights and your right to life are nailed to the Cross of God, and came into the history of the West, and the history of the World, because of that Cross and they grew like seeds from the life-giving blood shed there
.

[...]

So I felt, listening to the sweet applause my fellow men gave to a vile crime, adoring it: and they saluted suicide and called it a civil right, and called brave the procurer pimping for the cause of suicide.

On the day I heard the genial writer speak, and urge the earth toward euthanasia, and heard the room applaud, on that day I felt the world slide downward an inch toward the eager fires below. One more inch
.

Well, I'm Christian and I'm pro-euthanasia. . .

Guess I'm going to Hell. . . :/

Follow this link to read the full piece.

49 commentaires:

Anonymous said...

Well another example of religious person trying to place their values onto others. Maybe suffering is something to cherished and prided?

-paran

Elfy said...

I'm also Christian and also pro euthanasia. What is it about Wright? Does this man not think before he posts these things?

Harry said...

John C. Wright terrifies me. Not because of who he is, or what he believes, but that many people do believe the same terrifying concept. That concept is that the only moral forward for civilization is the narrow vision he espouses, in this case that all civilization follow the guidelines and beliefs of Christianity.

Christianity has enormous value. It gives many people a sense of purpose and worth and value. But it is not the only way, and the evidence is all over the world in all the civilizations that have prospered without it.

The worst bit of irony is that he compared Pratchett to Hitler (I don't know how correct this is, though I truly doubt its reasonableness), when his intolerance and blinkered vision is a trait he shares with Hitler, and was in my opinion the cause of Hitler's evil.

Anonymous said...

I just threw up a little...

Funksoul123 said...

"Christianity is civilisation"
Orly...
Just got to love the "We are right and allways will be" way of thinking.

Anonymous said...

"Civilization is Christianity. Christianity is civilization."

I only skimmed his comments but even just skimming he lost me there. :S

Ramah

Anonymous said...

I'm probably in the minority but i liked that piece. I'm not sure I feel as strongly as he does about euthenasia, mind you, but I have to give him credit for having balls. He's going to get ripped by a lot of people. People mad at the pro-life comment dropped in there, at the Christianity in the piece, and at the fact he is disagreeing with the hugely popular Pratchett. But it isn't a redneck rant, it's actually pretty well written.

Ted Cross said...

What an idiot. I'm so tired of some (note I said 'some') religious folks trying to push their opinions onto all of us. There is nothing wrong with euthanasia if done properly. I only hope it's available to me should the situation arise where I would prefer to go out with some peace and dignity rather than suffer on endlessly with no quality of life.

tomlloyd said...

"Civilization is Christianity. Christianity is civilization."


I actually shuddered when I read that line. And they wonder why Islam is growing so quickly and the world hates the power of pious, fat white men...

Anonymous said...

"... very concrete things like legal protection of your rights and your right to life are nailed to the Cross of God, and came into the history of the West, and the history of the World, because of that Cross and they grew like seeds from the life-giving blood shed there"

LOL, this guy has obviously studied an alternative history.

Claudine said...

Hmmm. I'm a borderline atheist with a background in Christianity. I'd take Terry Pratchett any day over him.

Cecrow said...

As a simple writing exercise, we could examine this author's beliefs and reverse all the language on him. It's a dificult enough subject to be just that easy, when his position appears to be no less extreme in the other direction; but also add 'judgemental'.

By his own confession, Pratchet stated his personal beliefs in a 'live and let live' kind of way. If only we could all do that without making ourselves victims of opposing vitriolic viewpoints.

Anonymous said...

This is a classical "eh, you know, whatever" topic (serious but indefinite and full of stuff about free will and exceptions)

Scott said...

Haha, Tom Lloyd's comment wins.

Man, the more I hear about Wright, the more I want to find him and punch him in the jaw with Richard Dawkin's fist.

Sean T. M. Stiennon said...

Elfy: "Does the man not think before he posts these things?"

I can't tell if you're being serious. I also can't see how this sort of post could be the result of anything but deep, prolonged thought.

Erlinion said...

Okay, I will neglect that Wright is so certain of his uncertified beliefs about raging fires below ruled by a Sultan (yahoo, political incorrectness) or the power of the cross (Which one, by the way? Orthodox? Catholic? Eastern or western? Protestant, and if so, which variant?) - these are not worth elaborating. Let's just focus on some of his more ridiculous assertions.

Political incorrectness is not the equivalent of honesty, just as political correctness is not the equivalent of dishonesty. To claim the opposite is to say that racism, sexism, and all other kinds of chauvinism is in fact okay, just not PC to talk about. And, for me at least, this is an appaling idea. Say what you will about PC behavior, its a big, big improvement over the political attitudes of the ages gone by, especially in a society that is on its way becoming global.

Christianity is not the same as "civilization". The equation of the two shows Wrights dogmatic thinking and lack of understanding concerning historical facts. Saying this disregards the high civilizations in the East and West before the emergence of christianity, and high civilizations in the East after. Not to mention the civilizations of Africa, Australia, Oceania and the Americas. Does he really believe the society of the Ancient Greeks, by being decidedly non-christian, cannot be considered as civilization, in any academic meaning of the word?

Further, the Western world is lucky enough that its institutions are now separated from religious ideas, meaning the universal human values can be cherished without the necessary acceptance of unproven superstitions. The US began its life like that by design, and Europe gradually came to this position. The right to life and the legal protection of rights is not "nailed to the cross", but are kept intact by a secularized judicial system precisely for the reason that the followers of "The" religion cannot abuse them to hurt the adherents of other faiths. Would these rights become officially connected to one religion, it will be the blackest day of the Western civilization.

Finally, euthanasia is an ambiguous concept at best, but it is not the same as suicide. There are conceivable positions in life where (highly regulated) it could mean the only dignified exit from this world. And Pratchett, who himself suffers from an incurable desease, should be more of an authority in this regard than an overzealous nutjob.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against christianity or religion in general; I myself doesn't follow any of the faiths, but if someone wants to believe, I don't have the right or the inclination to stop him or her. Coexistance is possible. But I am against using religion to spread ambiguous viewpoints backed up by ridicuolus claims.

Kirshy said...

Well said Erlinion. I would just like to add that the next 10-20 years will very likely see a change in peoples opinion of euthanasia. All of the baby boomers right now are watching their own parents die, and in many cases they are seeing those loved ones reduced to lesser versions of the people they were. I know my own parents don't want to end up like that.

Megazver said...

Being born again is a hell of a drug.

locusmortiis said...

Its not often that you see someone Godwin their argument in the first sentance.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid of the bigotry and intolerance this article brings out. Not by Mr. Wright, mind you, but by these posts. Both Mr. Pratchett and Mr. Wright have the right to state their beliefs. These rights are part of the "Western", "Christian" culture that so many posters apparently despise. Both arguments have intellectual merit. My emotional feelings line up more closely with Mr. Wright. That doesn't mean he's right, it's just what he believed. I've always enjoyed Mr. Pratchett and now I have gained great respect for Mr. Wright. The "haters" on both sides I can do without.

Anonymous said...

My immediate, visceral reaction to Mr. Wright's piece was disgust. No gay person anywhere (including me) is stranger to the experience of having someone else squawk about their moral beliefs as universally relevant in an attempt to impose them on other people.
I do not buy this "Christianity is civilization, civilization is Christianity" line. Not one bit, because one of my degrees is history.
And the rhetorical strategy of using Hitler or the Holocaust in relation to personal moral quandaries (despite qualifying it afterword) is a surefire way to inflate the moral quandary out of proportion, and to demean the memory of how terrible a crime genocide really is.
But, when you look at the heart of it, Pratchett and Wright both have the same basic belief: Life is to be respected and honored.
Wright believes that someone should honor what Wright believes to be the God-given gift of life, no matter how difficult, painful or undignified.
Pratchett believes that life is to be honored and respected, but that a life without dignity would be no life at all. He knows the future that would await him if he did not go through with his current plans, and that future would be long, painful and reduce him to nearly nothing before finally killing him.
I still think Wright is wrong in this; I think we deserve to decide for ourselves how we will meet our own fates. But it is helpful to know that, despite some rhetorical flourishes that are entirely over the top, the two men are not as far apart as it might seem.
I guess that's why these are thorny issues, right? No one has a corner on the right answer.

Anonymous said...

Terry Pratchett, for years one of the United Kingdom's most beloved authors, facing an end with dignity and wishing that others had the same choice.
Sir Terry Pratchett.

So...John who? Who will even remember this man?

Anonymous said...

I am surprised by the degree of intolerance expressed by many in the above comments. Disagree with Wright's position all you want, but if you are "terrified" by what the "idiot" wrote or want to "punch him in the jaw" for his opinion on the issue of euthanasia, perhaps you need to reassess your own ties to our common humanity.

Anonymous said...

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything" sums it up for me...both men have a right to their opinions...

Anonymous said...

As a volunteer who went overseas I had many conversations regarding whether I would rather live horribly maimed and as a burden to m family or to die. I personall would rather die. There is a decimate distinction between living and suffering. As a Christian I do not hold to a God that has no compassion in those situations. I know myself and many of my fellow Marines would have taken our own lives rather than be beheaded on the Internet. I watched my great grandmother die slowly from Alzheimers. She died when she lost the reflex to swallow. To avoid that slow agony is no sin in my eyes.

Anonymous said...

Sadly many do not experience working with the dying, and yet hold opinions as to the suffering they perceive death incurring. To be stricken with a slowly progressive form of Alzheimers (as Pratchett has been) is a cause for sadness, but not a justification for euthanasia. The illness he suffers from (in what many would consider a rare and more kind form of the illness) is one which will undoubtedly be one that would not benefit from euthanasia becoming more prominent - to do that would limit the already spartan funding for treatments and cures of the condition - as cessation of an illness is not cure.

But faith, while giving much to the world, also has to give compassion to the people who suffer. How that compassion is expressed in the article is cause for concern, as the love of life and value of all people is lost in hyperbole.

The comments on this blog site reflect more our judgements on the emotive nature of the article. THe underlying ethics both for and against euthanasia aren't really addressed here (and probably shouldn't be - i'd rather find out a bit about the Malazan Empire right now - my brain is starting to hurt)

Erlinion said...

@ Anonymous (4:57 PM)

"I'm afraid of the bigotry and intolerance this article brings out. Not by Mr. Wright, mind you, but by these posts."
&
"These rights are part of the "Western", "Christian" culture that so many posters apparently despise."

Well, I am only speaking for myself here, but I don't think its bigotry that drives my answers. More like common sense, I hope; and maybe a bit of indignation at the sight of so delusory claims.

Moreover, I actually cherish the accomplishments of Western civilization. But most of the things I value (the fundamental human rights to life, happiness, and freedom of action and thought) were accomplished mainly during the Enlightenment as direct reaction against religious doctrine. Modern democracy sprang up from these ideas, as did secularism, and these are governing factors in the affairs of the contemporary West.

We need to make an important distintcion here: it would be a big mistake to equate Western civilization with christianity. It wouldn't be nearly as preposterous as equating capital letter Civilization with capital letter Christianity, of course, but still. The impact is unmistakeable, and for a big chunk of history, christianity predominantly defined the West, these are all true. But the roots of nowadays Europe were pagan in nature (Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Celtic, Germanic, etc.); and, even more importantly, since the Enlightenment three centuries ago, Western civilization has been moving away from the sentiment of the strictly religious, and has become increasingly secular. A welcome change, I think, that furthered the cause of religious, racial, national etc. tolerance all over the West. I believe this is the very reason why the Western civilization is worthy to live in. As a contrast, look at all the groups where religious fervor, fanatism and fundamentalism is still the norm, as it was in Europe and its sphere of influence before the Enlightenment, and tell me how well that turned out for them, and the rest of humanity.

So yes, these rights (including the freedom of religion, I might add) form an essential part of Western civilization. This was never in question. But of the christian culture, as if they were "nailed to the cross"? I vote no.

Sharkman said...

In his defense, please note that the man's name is Wright. That is a lot of pressure to live with your entire life. It's the kind of pressure that could lead someone to consider taking their own life.

Anonymous said...

He doesn't even say why suicide is bad. He goes on and on about how it's really suicide and that's why it's worse than it's made out to be, but that doesn't change any of the arguments of for and against. And every idiot knows that it's not a simple, unambiguous topic, yet it's also a topic that is never simply rejected in our culture. The "euthanasia" (probably term deliberately chosen for far more inhumane associations) topic is just looking at it from a legal point of view, speaking about it openly, whereas the morality is nothing new or something that Pratchett brought up. If he wants a real discussion and not just writing out his Christian neurosis in kitschy rhetoric, there are probably countless more complex, insightful and serious ones.
Religion is all about being puffed up.

Anonymous said...

Just as Christianity gave birth to some children who weren't so nice, likewise did the Enlightenment give birth to some pretty mean kids and grandkids (think French Revolution, Marxist Stalinism, and similar movements which were in no way grounded in religious sentimentality, but instead sprang from a humanist tendency toward social improvement apart from any god). The proverb about pots and kettles comes to mind in this discussion. Dehumanizing ideological opponents by name-calling and personal insults is unbecoming the rational thinker. Remember that tolerance is a two-way street.

maine character said...

The strange thing about this is Wright is so set in this idea that suicide (including the special case of euthanasia) is in opposition with the teachings of Jesus.

The truth is the Bible never directly condemns it. In fact, there was early sect in North Africa called the Donatists that had many young men so willing to become martyrs, to be killed before they could sin again and be lifted straight to heaven, that they often turned to actions that would guarantee their own deaths.

It’s because of them that the Church, a full 310 years after Jesus died, made a law against suicide. And even then, funeral rites for suicides weren’t revoked for another 222 years.

I’m not judging euthanasia either way, but it’s simply inaccurate to state that laws against it were nailed onto the cross.

Erlinion said...

@ Anonymous (6:08 PM)
(If your comment was intended at me, at least partly; I'm not sure, but based on the part concerning Enlightenment, I'm inclined to answer.)

"Dehumanizing ideological opponents by name-calling and personal insults is unbecoming the rational thinker."

Well, I guess that is a point I have to take. I admit that the "religious nutjob" remark and the derogatory tone was a little bit harsh in my first comment. The heat of the moment, and all. It was not intended as an insult to the general religious public, but as a mock of one individual who doesn't seem to understand what he's talking about, and happens to be religious. But you're right, it was an uncomely name-calling, it had no place in a civil discourse, and I apologize to all who felt insulted by it.

That said, though, I think the points I brought up criticizing Wright's statements are all valid (and I feel promted to remark that those were not challenged yet). The level of generalizing and fact-twisting he's showing here could as easily be the product of calculated malice as of ignorance and/or dogmatic thinking (in my experience the latter usually goes hand-in-hand with the former, whether it's tied to religious ideas or not), but it's certainly not the product of background knowledge and careful examination.

"Just as Christianity gave birth to some children who weren't so nice, likewise did the Enlightenment give birth to some pretty mean kids and grandkids [...]"

This is true. And I would be the first to admit that religion has quite positive effects, too (I just don't think the good qualities make up for the bad ones). But what you state here was not in question. The fact that the Enlightenment had some wild seedlings doesn't change my argument, namely that some of the other ideas of that selfsame age, which proved to be more beneficiary over the years, are now forming the very basis of life in the modern West.

Tomas said...

Forgive me for eliding the issue of euthanasia. My own viewpoints are basically equivalent to those of Mr. Wright. Even the civilization question, with the caveat of civilization meaning western civilization, is utter truth to me.

Wright's background is that of Roman Catholicism. For Roman Catholics (and most any traditional Christianity which can claim a history longer than 100-500 years), suffering, when united with the life of Christ, is a virtue. The idea that "going out with dignity" allows one to manipulate life as one sees fit simply doesn't add up in their mindset. Life is so precious that even dignity is sacrificed to it - for only out of life can dignity come.

It's a mentality that is utterly foreign and repugnant to a modern western mind. It is somewhat more understandable by ascetic eastern sects, especially Buddhism with a focus on accepting the suffering of the world.

But to a western mind, formed by the enlightenment and "modern thought" which, on the whole, tried to ignore Christianity as anything more than a societal narrative and replace it with "pure reason" (an idea assumed by basically all but unable to be explained by anyone), traditional Christianity makes no sense.

Thus most people, when confronted with these ideas, will lash out, talking about how stupid the person is and how much they're just bigoted. Most people believe that if someone comes from a completely different mindset, they must be mentally handicapped.

Congratulations to those who have lashed out at Mr. Wright in such a manner on continuing the proof of just such a thesis.

For the record, I'm a Roman Catholic. I profess Christ crucified. Those like me tend to know we'll be crucified as well. I think Wright is definitely such a man.

AMDG

Jebus said...

I actually found it quite fascinating, he obviously believes in what he believes wholeheartedly and anything outside that is just plain wrong.

I've never heard of the guy, and probably never will again so it doesn't really bother me. He can espouse whatever he wants and I'm totally cool with that - in fact i fully support him his soapbox. Doesn't mean I have to take him seriously.

Either way, the only thing I really didn't like about the article was the fact he actually says some lies - he says TP talked the guy into it, when in fact the guy had already made up his mind and had the process in place to die. Terry was simply along for the ride to understand it and see it - he even tries to dissuade him at one stage. This guy needs to watch the doco before actually telling us what TP did and did not do since all of it is written based on a talk TP gave, not the actual doco itself!

Anonymous said...

@ Tomas:

Christ was never crucified. Christ was invented many years later.

A man who MIGHT have been named Jeshua who was a charismatic speaker and had an idea about a simple way of life MIGHT have been crucified by the Romans. That's about all history can say for certain.

It really bothers me that people refer to Christ....which is an entity that was invented by rich, fat, white me to sell their notions of control in a religion that they bastardized and would be UNRECOGNIZABLE to the person who invented it.

What the original person (if he lived) had set outas a way of living was NOTHING like what is in the bible.

Sigh, I can't understand why zealous Christians can't crack a textbook and inform themselves about ACTUAL HISTORY for once before opening their yaps.

Erlinion said...

@ Tomas
(Reply 1/2; yeah, this will be a long one.)

I have to admit, the question of the euthanasia is a secondary one to me in this discussion. At this point, my personal opinion is it should be legalized, with strict conditions to prevent abuse, and it should depend on the personal whish of the subject. In the lack of clear consciousness and/or a specific request, written or verbal, it should not be allowed, for moral and possible religious reasons.

However, what primarily prompted me to write were the factual errors and broad generalizations in Wrights narrative. If he doesn't like the idea of euthanasia, it's fine by me; it is a sensitive question, after all, the opinions concerning it greatly vary even in my close social circle. What particularly bugs me, though, is when someone generalizes and outright distorts historical facts (or scientific facts, for that matter) to fit his own rhetoric. That, I find unacceptable.

"But to a western mind, formed by the enlightenment and "modern thought" which, on the whole, tried to ignore Christianity as anything more than a societal narrative [...]"

I don't think 'ignore' is the right word here. The West can not ignore its own past, and thus, can not ignore Christianity. I think its more accurate to say it has moved past the strict religious assumptions of Christianity towards a view that is more open-minded to different ideologies. But as long as there is a "West" as a concept, some impact of Christianity will always remain on it; let's hope it will gravitate more towards the 'love thy neighbour' sensibility than the 'persecute the heathen' one.

"[...] and replace it with "pure reason" (an idea assumed by basically all but unable to be explained by anyone)[...]"

Pure reason, or scientific thinking, is not that hard to figure out, nor it is hard to explain. It is basicly the idea that the forming of an opinion, or more importantly, the forming of a worldview should be based less on subjective factors, and more on the systematic observations of our sorrundings, along with the logical evaluation of said observations. The key to this is critical thinking, a method of understanding that does not accept information by the merit of personal wishes, but analizes it in the light of knowledge that has been already learned, based on the merit of evidence. This set of mind is uncompatible with an intellectual authority that tries to impose itself on others. Over time, a critical thinker builds up a "databank" that is based on logic, and checks every new piece of information against this background. Henceforth, he or she discovers the sorrounding world by using this guideline, and by trusting sources which preferably use this same guideline.

This does not mean, however, that the ideal world of a critical thinker consists of a uniformized, emotionless, computer-like humaninty that is only concerned with facts and nothing else. Subjectivity cannot be entirely barred out, dreams and desires always come into play; in a way, we are all subjecive worlds in ourselves. This has been pointed out (a little too excessively, I think) by the post-modernist thinkers. But even with this in mind, the examinaton of the reality that is independent of human opinions is the common ground of all subjectivities, and an aspirition towards objectivity is the best possible way to bridge the gaps between them.

(To be continued.)

Erlinion said...

@ Tomas
(2/2)

"Even the civilization question, with the caveat of civilization meaning western civilization, is utter truth to me."

Not to me, though. Even with this restriction, the equation of "[Western] Civilization = Christianity" would fail to fit the contemporary reality of the West, ignoring profound changes in its population and general worldview during the last few hundred years.

"Thus most people, when confronted with these ideas, will lash out, talking about how stupid the person is and how much they're just bigoted. Most people believe that if someone comes from a completely different mindset, they must be mentally handicapped."

I am not against different mindsets. Quite the opposite; I think that different ways of thinking, when they are open to discussion and have a common ground through which they can communicate, enrich the human society that enables them to flourish. And thankfully, the western world seems to have been generally going in this direction for the last few centuries - precisely because of secularism, one might add, for dogmatic thinking rarely provides fertile ground for diverse opinions.

In fact, this is why I feel a bit of distaste when one ideology claims to be the exclusive holder of the final truth against which every argument can only be false. This kind of arrogance, whether it concerns a religion or a political/intellectual movement (all of which can function without it, by the way), effectively kills off every chance of civil discussion between the opposing ideas. I felt Wright was trying to conway a similar sentiment of arrogance regarding Christianity, or more precisely, Roman Catholicism. And let me tell you, your comment shows a similar vein: "Those like me tend to KNOW we’ll be crucified as well." I don’t know if your choice of words were deliberate here or not, but the fact that you claim to "know" the tenets of your faith to be true rather than "believe" or "think" they are is not exactly a telltale sign of open-mindedness.

With all this said, I probably wouldn't have "lashed out" against Wright if it weren't for his far-less-than-accurate claims concerning historical facts. I'm not exactly sure if he's a bigot or not, but based on how well he seems to understand his subject matter, I do think he is ignorant towards what he is talking about. And ignorance is something we cannot allow to proliferate in our discussions if we want to work out a common plan for our future.

Anonymous said...

"Civilization is Christianity. Christianity is civilization."

I think those who suffered during the inquisition, those burned at the stake for witchcraft, the indigenous peoples of Central & South America who were put to the sword if they didn't convert, the Knights Templar who were exterminated for being too powerful, the victims of the Crusades, the slaves of Christian southern landowners, people dying agonizing deaths in hospital beds, and many, many more might disagree with that assessment.

Anonymous said...

Let us not be selective in our review of history. Some of the above comments make it seem as if Christianity invented wars of conquest, mass murder of nonbelievers, blood sacrifices to vindictive gods, slavery, political corruption, and most other societal ills. On the flipside, there seems to be an impression among some that the Enlightenment sprang whole cloth out of nowhere, championed by atheistic and humanistic free-thinkers, with no regard for the roles played by the Renaissance and Reformation that improved upon the earlier scholastic traditions of Catholicism which had helped to advance scientific and philosophical inquiry in the late Middle Ages. If we just keep this argument focused on John C. Wright's essay, perhaps we can all agree that he indeed overgeneralized and overincorporated quite a bit in his zeal to try and prove his point regarding the morality of euthanasia. If you feel offended by what Wright writes, don't read him. But we should leave the Christianity bashing aside.

Anonymous said...

At anonymous 8:56pm:

I must have missed something...I thought we were discussing his essay. Did he not claim that "Civilization is Christianity. Christianity is civilization" in his essay? I offered a rebuttal to his statement, yet you decide to call my rebuttal "Christianity-bashing" and "selective history" so you can easily dismiss my point of view.

No one is fooled by your feeble attempt to steer the conversation to a place less discomforting to you.

Anonymous said...

I think all these "anonymous" comments are starting to run together.

Tomas said...

@anon 10:09

Of course, if you want to claim this, you only know this person through the “rich, fat, white men” who presented him, thus have no knowledge if it really is or isn’t what this person taught. Further, it’s a little ethnologically wrong to consider the group of semitic fishermen, or other semitic communities who decided to make up a broad mythology in under 100 years, “fat, white men.” At best you should use the term Greek (Orthodox) or Roman (Catholics). I’d also recommend you peruse the question of the “historical Jesus,” the predominant strain of biblical criticism on the Gospels. Perhaps the work by the Jesus seminar may be of interest to you.

Make your accusation of lack of learning from this side of an anonymous cover and back up your accusations.

@ Erlinion

Thank you for the direct response.

I do believe there’s a lot of meat to the euthanasia question, but, admittedly, few believe it’s beyond a matter of personal choice. I’m not sure this is the place for the greater discussion.

Christianity and culture though is a discussion I relish. I defend Wright’s rhetoric, actually. There are layers upon layers to the story of western culture, but just about every layer is either Christian in substance, passed to the West by Christianity, or in response to Christianity. Western culture simply would not be what it is, theoretically would not be, without Christianity.

To say that the enlightenment “moved past” the strictness of the medieval age, I’m sorry to say, reveals a conscious or unconscious agenda. It reveals a belief in unending progress, that man of the future, by definition, understands reality better than the man of the past. It also bespeaks of a belief that the medieval age was simply a time of utter fiat belief to the Church.

The number of churchmen and schoolmen who only much after their death were censored (such as the Rhineland mystics epitomized by Meister Eckhart) or the visceral debates over the nature of God and ethics (Duns Scotus and Ockham often found themselves at odd with Thomas’ writings which were in fact in ill repute outside of the Dominican order who themselves were, along with the Franciscans, considered somewhat maverick still) tend to make abundantly clear how quite wrong it is to think that the middle ages were a time were proper thinking was silenced. The major heretic put down, that of the Albegensians and Cathar, was really motivated because the crazies were clanning in the hills and sacrificing themselves to “free their souls from the their evil material bodies.”

If one wishes to discuss Giordano Bruno or Galileo, well the work that got Bruno sent to the stake was De Magica, which purported to explain the use of magic both beneficial and malevolent, and Galileo had the book thrown at him because he kept pissing off all his friends (including the pope) and refused to offer any proper evidence to Robert Bellarmine beyond “the tides prove the planet moves!” The intricacies of Galileo’s pride are often ignored as he is claimed a martyr.

Tomas said...

When the shift is brought about in the enlightenment toward a more, so called, rational view of the universe, much of this is ignored. Eliding speculative thinking the movement, beginning with Bacon and Descartes, is to seek out a knowledge that will be practical, that will give us tangible gains like immortality. Ultimately, this will lead to the horrors committed in the industrial revolution and the contemporary wage-slave problem; what matters is not speculative values such as good, truth, or beauty but rather quantitative values of production – men are commodities to be bought and sold for the growth of the powerful’s riches rather than a being of infinite value who’s greatest worth is found in attaining virtue.

The very idea of pure reason you put forward actually implies subjectivism. Objectivism and subjectivism are two sides of the same coin. All facts, ideas, observations, when shared by men, are filtered through the narratives and attitudes they hold. This does not mean that truth itself is not shared, it is, but it means that truth is found only in relation to things – most specifically, only in relation to the man who seeks it. These are ideas that go all the way to Thomas Aquinas, though they find their strongest realizations in the personalist thinkers such Mounier, Marcel and the existentialists such as Kierkegaard. (Post-modernism, led by Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, will seek to destroy this idea, replacing it with historical dialectic, will to power, and unconscious urges respectively).

Thus there is never such a thing as “reality out there” which you check “ideas of reality in here” against. Reality is relationship between you and everything. It is righting this relationship which is the key to “finding reality” and the scientific process helps only in so far as it widens our view – it gives us no answers but only offers new eyes and new techne.

I would contend that Christianity=Western Civilization, especially since anything in the past hundreds of years that isn’t Christian, which is very little, tends to be a reaction against it. Only in the past fifty years has anything non-Christian become predominant (though not the first time it has become vocal, like in the French Revolution), and even then, one questions if this is really “not Christianity” or “Christianity without Christ” – the second is arguably a contradiction that will inevitably fail.

And claiming truth denies dialog. Poppycock. It is the failure to claim a truth which leads to no dialog. If one has no dog in a fight, one doesn’t care, as proved by our mostly apathetic nation. Everyone has a belief and a truth claim or simply ignores what’s going on around them. You have one – No claim can hold a truth claim. This is why you feel the need to discuss the matter. It’s good. It’s healthy. It will inevitably bring you to the truth. A sword which has no hardness to it cannot be hammered out and sharpened; it will simply remain limp, taking whatever blows come at it. And one needs an equally hard stone which to be sharpened against. Dialog occurs when two truth claims are brought into contact – not when two people with no claims talk. The first seeks truth; the second seeks to just congratulate each other on not knowing much.

Anonymous said...

@Tomas

Just the sorts of answers and religious zealotry I'd expect from a person from Texas I suppose. I'm not surprised.

Let's see, what refutes EVERYTHING you say. Well the scrolls found at Nag Hammadi, or even the more popular dead sea scrolls. All of which showcase the religion that Christians practice today as an absolute bastardization of the original tenets and ideas.

I mean, this is a religion that outlawed and attempted to cover up a gospel written by Mary Magdalene simply because she was a woman, but also because she was close to Jeshua himself. Charming.

I think the most apt point about Wright's insanity ( and it IS an insanity) is that he seems to deem Christianity as the only civilization and that anything else will result in some sort of non-descript, post life torture in an imaginary fiery hell (a concept invented to keep the devout "in line", again a form of control). What makes me actually HOWL with laughter is that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam ...wait for it...ALL BELIEVE IN THE SAME GOD. The same deity, that of the God of Abraham...sure they all call that deity something different (Islamic peoples call him Allah), but it's the same person... the ONLY thing that is different is who the prophet supposedly was who brought them the "word" of their god. Jesus, Mohammed, or Moses. That's it.

So Wright, claiming to be AT ALL informed on the subject of his own religion, should be very aware that to say such a thing as Christianity IS civilization and thus attempting to cancel out other religions as false routes...ipso facto...results in the denouncing of his own overall deity as non-civilized. *slow clap* well done Mr. Wright, you are such a scholar!

You see Tomas, arguing for a man who hasn't even thought through his own damned beliefs enough not to make a statement that is going to defeat his own argument, is a study in idiocy.

But like I said, Texas is in the bible belt, so I'd expect no less from you.

You can also pretend you read Pat's site regularly if you like...but it's a lie, you don't read it, we all know you don't read it...we also know that you are here to troll from Wright's site...so do me a favour, and tell him to study about his own religion before he writes a long nonsensical, diatribe that basically alienates him from MOST of humanity, not that he ever qualified to begin with.

Erlinion said...

@ Anonymous (8:56 PM)


"Let us not be selective in our review of history."

Well, an unselective review a history would be a treatise that is quite a few billion pages long, and it would take multiple lifetimes just to glance it over. ; )

But I think I understand what you mean by this, and I cannot agree more. Nitpicking the facts, tailoring them to a rhetoric and ignoring relevant others is not an ucceptable debating tool. I hope someone tips off Wright about that.

"Some of the above comments make it seem as if Christianity invented wars of conquest, mass murder of nonbelievers, blood sacrifices to vindictive gods, slavery, political corruption, and most other societal ills."

I don’t think anyone made an argument for that.

"[...] there seems to be an impression among some that the Enlightenment sprang whole cloth out of nowhere, championed by atheistic and humanistic free-thinkers [...]"

Of course, the Enlightenment did not popped up from an intellectual vacuum. You’re right, the precursors include the Reformation and the Renaissance, and it is customary to trace back its roots to the Scholastic movement of the Late Middle Ages, which in turn was triggered by the reintroduction of classical philosophy (and most notably of Aristotle) into the European cultural scene from Arabian sources. Human societies, and hence, the history of said societies are not impervious of the lines of causality (that’s why we can study them with academic methods in the first place), and we could probably go back way further in this inquiry, to the monastic reforms, to the Carolingan Renaissance, to tribal structures, to the dawn of man, nay, the dawn of time. And yes, the foundations and consequences of the other great European moments you mention were generally confined to Christianity, for it had the predominant ideological authority here at the time. But while the Enlightenment also started its course in Christian conditions, its consequences enabled the spread of non-religion and secularism in the European cultural sphere, which brought Western civilization from a primarily religion-focused wordview to a more ideologically diverse standpoint. This is why I constantly refer back to it; I don’t think anyone can ignore this tendency in a proper assessment of the contemporary West.

By the way, multiple currents of thought formed up the concept of Enlightenment, so yes, there were also theists who championed it, mostly deists, beside the „atheistic and humanistic freethinkers”. It is important to note, though, that the opinion of the deists also diverged from the established dogmas, so die-hard Christians at the time considered these thinkers to be no better then the other non-believers; for this, their impact on the flow generally pointed towards the same direction.

"If you feel offended by what Wright writes, don't read him."

I don’t. This is the first instance I laid my eyes on one of his writings, and hopefully, it will be the last.

"But we should leave the Christianity bashing aside."

I can’t speak for others, but it was never my aim to bash on Christianity, only to refute Wrights allegations. As I said before, I stand beside ideological diversity, and Christians can have valuable insights to add to the mix. I’m only bothered in this front if one religion (or any ideology) starts to claim utter superiority over all the others based on percieved moral eminence. Should it succeed, an ideological purge is only one step away from this position. A humanity with a uniformed ideology is a boring, and kind of terriying prospect for me.

"[...] perhaps we can all agree that he indeed overgeneralized and overincorporated quite a bit in his zeal to try and prove his point regarding the morality of euthanasia."

I’m glad we can agree on this regard.

(And for Tomas: although I fell behind schedule, and it will take a while, an answer is in the works.)

Tomas said...

@anon (1:16pm)

“Just the sorts of answers and religious zealotry I'd expect from a person from Texas I suppose. I'm not surprised.”

Really? You’re just going to attack my state? I’ll admit, this pisses me off more than I want to admit. Mostly because its been decided that, even admitting that you are right and I am wrong, I must be derided because of where I’m from or the views I hold. Do you deride polytheistic Africans because, since their African, they’re clearly full of nonsense? If I went past a line Pat, I’m sorry.

“Well the scrolls found at Nag Hammadi, or even the more popular dead sea scrolls. All of which showcase the religion that Christians practice today as an absolute bastardization of the original tenets and ideas.”

Again, really? The dating of these scrolls place them after the earliest dating we have on the Pauline epistles and Gospels. The theology they espouse are in utter contradiction, not only the what are currently considered the Orthodox scriptures, but amongst themselves (there’s not one “Gnosticism” but an almost numberless amount of variation). They are basically completely derided and denied by most of the Church fathers, major and minor, from the second century on.

How in the world do these claim to be the “true” tenets while the Nag Hammadi library is the true source? A better conclusion would be to say that there is no “true” Christianity. We can have that discussion if you wish, but the idea that the Nag Hammadi is the true writings over the orthodox scriptures is a fiat comment.

As for the Dead Sea Scrolls, they’re collections of various books of the Hebrew and only a very few scholars are making claims that there are fragments of possible verses among the scrolls. Fringe scholars claiming that one verse has been found among fragments.

“I mean, this is a religion that outlawed and attempted to cover up a gospel written by Mary Magdalene simply because she was a woman, but also because she was close to Jeshua himself.”

So, whatever is written is true? Or if it’s more controversial, it’s true? Well, you might want to take back some comments regarding Mr. John C. Wright’s essay.

Tomas said...

“What makes me actually HOWL with laughter is that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam ...wait for it...ALL BELIEVE IN THE SAME GOD. The same deity, that of the God of Abraham...sure they all call that deity something different (Islamic peoples call him Allah), but it's the same person... the ONLY thing that is different is who the prophet supposedly was who brought them the "word" of their god. Jesus, Mohammed, or Moses. That's it.”

Really? On what grounds? Because the Jews and Muslims call us heretics and blasphemers of the highest order because we claim a) that God is both one and three, thus denying the absolute monotheism of both and b) claim that Jesus was actually God, God was man. These points tend to make abundantly clear that we believe in very, very different Gods. Even the connection between Christianity and Judaism can’t be made into identity – with Christ (for a Christian) the exclusivity of the Jews ended and the law was moved far beyond the Torah.

Thus you’re slow clap and claim of intellectual superiority is suspect…

“But like I said, Texas is in the bible belt, so I'd expect no less from you.”

Again, really? I’m kind of hated among bible belt Christians. I’m one them Catholics who worship Mary and statues and do whatever the Pope (the whore of Babylon and anti-Christ) tell me to, like sacrifice children to our priest perverts and do magic on pieces of bread and cups of wine.

I tend not to comment, but I do read Pat’s site regularly. I use to be very big in Sci-Fi and Fantasy in High School. College screwed with my timing and I haven’t really read much in a while, but because of Pat I’m slowly getting back into it. Pat introduced me to Joe Abercrombie and Scott Lynch which have got my appetite restarted. I’m getting through the Cassandra Kresnov books now, also on his rec. Really, his is the only sight I read on fantasy.

In fact, I don’t really read Wright’s stuff. I get my Catholic essays elsewhere and he tends to write in these huge blocks that I groan at the thought of reading (funny, when I tend to create blocks other people ignore. I did rather enjoy his Golden Age and look forward to reading his post-conversion stuff, hoping for some stuff that deals with Catholic themes.

But, of course, we all know that since I’m religious and from Texas, these are lies.

@Erlinion

If you want to continue, I’d recommend emailing me. I’m too lazy to be checking this especially when my only other interlocutor has decided my residency should be proof of my lacking intelligence. I’m always up for discussion though. I apologize for getting a little heated in the last post. I really shouldn’t write late at night.

Anonymous said...

What an evil, twisted ass this guy is. How else to describe someone who would insist and impose a slow and suffering death upon all to comply with some arbitrary interpretation of a book of fairy tales?

Scott said...

Such a nice and informative article which probably people had their faith in one creator. In which other had their Christianity is way for how you exercise your faith.