The Christian Persecution Complex, and the Myth of the School Prayer Ban

Prayer in school

Christians really have it rough in America, don’t they? They have to purchase all their earthly goods using money with “In God We Trust” (the official national motto) emblazoned on it. They have to recite a Pledge Of Allegiance with “one nation under God” inserted into it. Most of their leaders at national, state and local levels are fellow Christians, and their president is sworn into office with his hand on a Bible. Milestone ceremonies such as weddings and funerals are almost always conducted by ministers. Witnesses in court swear to tell the truth “so help you God”. Christians control most of what kids learn in school and most of what citizens see and hear in the media — which just might explain why you hear so much about Islamic terrorists and almost nothing about the equally prevalent (and usually closer to home) Christian terrorists.

The nefarious War On Christmas limits their celebration of their favorite holiday to only three months out of the year– and even then, some wretched spoilsports insist on extending holiday good cheer to everyone instead of restricting it to Christians. Gays are trying to get married, which somehow would make Christians less married.  And oh yes, prayer has been “outlawed” in public schools. Which, as everyone knows, is why schools are failing so miserably, and kids have no moral compass, and the nation is rapidly going down the drain.

Except that the last named is a patent lie. Or, to be as charitable as possible, it’s at least a patent misconception. The continually falling crime rate suggests that Americans are finding their moral compass rather than losing it. More to the point, prayer has never been banned from schools, not by the Supreme Court, nor Congress, nor President Obama, nor Michael Moore, nor anyone else. What really happened was that the Supreme Court put a damper on (though by no means did it entirely eliminate) religious tyranny. And many Christians, deprived of their tyranny, feel that they themselves are being tyrannized.

To be sure, there are plenty of Christians who are perfectly decent human beings. Many of them even recognize the importance of separating church and state. But they, alas, are not the ones who have inherited the scepter and the megaphone.  It has often been the very worst representatives of Christendom who have risen to the upper echelons of society; consequently, mainstream Christianity, perhaps more than any other religion, has devolved with an arrogant attitude of unbridled entitlement; many Christians tend to feel that they have an unassailable right to control the world, to make their beliefs official policy for everyone– while at the same time whining about how much they are being persecuted and oppressed. We’ve already discussed how anyone who challenges their vendetta against gays is portrayed as being bigoted, hostile and anti-Christian.

Unfortunately, we already have a history — a very long and very bloody history — to illustrate what happens when the church is granted its desire for absolute domination.  In the good old days when religion ruled the world with an iron crucifix, anyone who ran a little afoul of the official doctrine or lifestyle would be the recipient of a very special religious ceremony. It might entail, for example, having deep gashes cut into their limbs and chests, which then would be filled with hot lead. Or being skinned alive. Or having all their flesh ripped off by hooks. Or being dismembered at the rate of one joint per day. Or having all their bones broken and then being dragged through the streets.  Or, if they were very lucky, they merely had a hot iron mask placed on their face, leaving them blind and disfigured. Or were merely subjected to the heretic’s fork.

heretics fork

And this type of treat, mind you, was not reserved just for nonbelievers; quite often the victims were themselves pious Christians who happened to interpret the Bible in a slightly different fashion from whoever was in a position of authority at the moment. Cecco d’Ascoli, an Italian scientist, was burned at the stake in 1327 for calculating the date of Jesus’ birth using the stars. A  Spanish Protestant writing master was burned at the stake in 1676 for decorating his room with the (so-called) Ten Commandments. Nothing like a little fatal torture to teach people about the Love Of Christ and the Will Of God.

Incidentally, it’s another misconception that burning at the stake involved anything so merciful as merely setting someone afire. In reality, the “heretics” generally were slowly roasted alive. This became the preferred method of execution after some Christian or other began to worry that some Biblical passage or other prohibited the shedding of blood. So they came up with a prolonged and agonizing method of killing that didn’t spill a drop. Whatever it takes to keep God happy.

Note that the two incidents mentioned above occurred more than three centuries apart; so obviously, they weren’t just isolated outcroppings of a temporary hysteria. Christianity’s endorsement of torture and barbarism lasted nearly 1500 years — which rather neatly coincides with the era in which the church controlled government.  Fifteen centuries of unrestricted license to murder, torture, maim and commit the most vile acts the twisted mind can conjure up. And yet Christians today feel victimized because they no longer can force students to pray, and some people wish them “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas”.

This reign of terror more or less started winding down about the time the pious brought their faith to the New World, in a quest for religious freedom and tolerance — which included stamping out the native religions if not the natives themselves. In the Shangri-La of religious freedom and tolerance they founded, citizens might be horse-whipped or pilloried for missing a church service, and they might be hanged for being a “witch”, but at least they wouldn’t be burned a the stake for “heresy”. Maybe Christians so often feel persecuted because they so often have persecuted each other.

Eventually,  a more genteel social order developed in which a legal structure was in place to protect against these horrors; but that doesn’t necessarily mean that theocrats wouldn’t still do something comparable if they still could get away with it. They’ve still found plenty of other ways to lord it over the populace.

Those of us beyond a certain age (and mind you, I’m not all that old) grew up in an environment in which Christianity’s sway was still near-absolute and generally unquestioned. Church attendance was mandatory — sometimes literally so, as a judge could order people to attend church as part of their “rehabilitation”. Prayers and Bible readings were routine in school classrooms. Teachers could be fired for teaching scientific principles that the church did not approve of. Prospective graduates, in addition to attending a commencement ceremony to receive their diplomas, had to attend a baccalaureate to be given a final push toward a Christian life — just in case the previous 12 years of programming didn’t completely take.  Anyone who dared question any of this would become the target of relentless Christian bullying.

But this finally began to change in the Sixties, And the change was, in no small measure, the result of the actions of one incredibly courageous woman. It’s hard not to admire her sheer cojones even if you don’t approve of her actions.

mmohair

Madalyn Murray O’Hair (1919-1995) was an army veteran, a respected social worker, and a devoted single mother of two. And oh yes, she was also an atheist.  And that one little thing, in the eyes of her community and indeed her nation as a whole, more than cancelled any of the good she may have done.  “Atheist” had come to be synonymous with pure evil — an attitude many people still possess today. Good Christians often utter the word with the same kind of snarl with which you’d expect them to say “traitor” or “terrorist” or “pedophile” or “liberal”. Not surprisingly, then, she and her two sons were not very popular in the city of Baltimore, where they lived. And it became much worse after she initiated the lawsuit that would make her “the most hated woman in America”.

That all began in 1960 when her 14-year-old son Bill* begged her to intervene because he was being forced to participate in prayers at school. So she launched a lawsuit which eventually made its way to the Supreme Court. And she won. And how did the Good Christians react? Here’s her account of what happened, even before the Court delivered its ruling:

I’d been a psychiatric social worker for 17 years, but within 24 hours after I started the case, I was fired from my job as a supervisor in the city public welfare department. And I was unable to find another one, because the moment I would go in anywhere in town and say that my name was Madalyn Murray no matter what the job opening, I found the job filled; no matter how good my qualifications, they were never quite good enough. So my income was completely cut off.

The second kind of reprisal was psychological. The first episode was with our mail, which began to arrive, if at all, slit open and empty — just empty envelopes. Except for the obscene and abusive letters from good Christians all over the country, calling me a bitch and a Lesbian and a Communist for instituting the school-prayer suit — they somehow arrived intact, and by the bushel-basketful. Hundreds of them actually threatened our lives.

(There were) anonymous phone calls we’d get at every hour of the day and night, which were more or less along the same lines as the letters. One of them was a particular gem. I was in the VA hospital in Baltimore and I had just had a very critical operation; they didn’t think I was going to make it. They had just wheeled me back to my bed after two days in the recovery room when this call came in for me, and somebody who wouldn’t give his name told me very seriously and sympathetically that my father had just died and that I should be prepared to come home and take care of my mother. Well, I called home in a state of shock, and my mother answered, and I asked her about Father, and she said, “What are you talking about? He’s sitting here at this moment eating bacon and eggs.” Obviously, that call had been calculated to kill me, because whoever it was knew that I was at a low ebb there in the hospital.

Then they began to take more direct action. My Freethought Society office was broken into; our cars were vandalized repeatedly; every window in the house was broken more times than I can count, every flower in my garden trampled into the ground all my maple trees uprooted; my property looked like a cyclone had hit it. This is the kind of thing that went on constantly,constantly, over a three-year period.

But it was just child’s play compared to the reprisals visited upon my son Bill. He’d go to school every day and hand in his homework, and a couple of days later many of his teachers would say to him, “You didn’t hand in your homework.” Or he’d take a test and about a week later many of his teachers would tell him, “You didn’t hand in your test paper. You’ll have to take the test again this afternoon.” This was a dreadful reprisal to take against a 14-year-old boy. It got to the point where he had to make carbon copies of all his homework and all his tests to prove that he had submitted them.

But that’s nothing to what happened after school, both to him and to his little brother, Garth. I lost count of the times they came home bloodied and beaten up by gangs of teenage punks; five and six of them at a time would gang up on them and beat the living hell out of them. Many’s the time I’ve stood them off myself to protect my sons, and these fine young Christians have spat in my face till spittle dripped down on my dress. Time and again we’d take them into magistrate’s court armed with damning evidence and eyewitness testimony, but the little bastards were exonerated every time.

But I haven’t told you the worst. The neighborhood children, of course, were forbidden by their parents to play with my little boy, Garth, so I finally got him a little kitten to play with. A couple of weeks later we found it on the porch with its neck wrung. And then late one night our house was attacked with stones and bricks by five or six young Christians, and my father got very upset and frightened. Well, the next day he dropped dead of a heart attack. The community knew very well that he had a heart condition, so I lay a murder to the city of Baltimore.

These were, one gathers, the actions of True Believers who felt that they were being persecuted and oppressed because of their beliefs.

But please note that contrary to what you so often hear, the Supreme Court’s ruling did not — repeat did not — ban prayer in schools. On the contrary, in several cases addressing the issue over the years, the Court consistently has affirmed that prayer on school property is a constitutional right — provided it is performed at an appropriate place and time. But the appropriate place and time do not include during class or in any manner that might constitute a government endorsement of religion. It was not until the year 2000 that the Court finally got around to figuring out that this eliminates official school functions such as ballgames.

Students and teachers, however, have the right to — and often do — still pray on campus. They may pray between classes, at lunchtime, before school starts, after school is over, etc. etc.– so long as it doesn’t dovetail with official school business and doesn’t drag in unwilling participants.  In short, it’s an arrangement designed to satisfy everyone.

But Christian extremists absolutely refuse to be appeased. They want a battle, they want an enemy, they want power. They will settle for nothing less than complete dominance. In the words of one of the leading icons of the “religious right”, Randall Terry, founder of the (so called) pro-life group Operation Rescue:

I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you… I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good… Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a biblical duty, we are called by God, to conquer this country. We don’t want equal time. We don’t want pluralism.

For people like this “religious freedom” isn’t about having the right to pray; it’s about having the “right” to force other people to live by your beliefs.

We still have a long way to go before religious neutrality achieves anything like an equal footing with Christian authoritarianism; before nonreligious politicians have as much a chance to be elected to office as Christians do; before it is no longer the default mode for children to be indoctrinated into whatever religion their parents follow; before mainstream Christians are more concerned with following the teachings of Jesus than with demonizing non-believers; before the U.S. as a whole recognizes that true freedom of religion must necessarily include freedom from religion. But we have at least made some progress. And to fundamentalist reactionaries, that progress is construed as a personal affront. They no do doubt will even consider it a vicious attack to report the facts we’ve reported here; what they cannot do, however, is dispute that these are indeed facts.

Rather than acknowledge — and perhaps try to make amends for — the multitude of evils that have been done, and are still being done, in the name of their faith, they try to shift blame to their critics, portraying themselves as hapless victims of a secularist jihad. In doing so, they continually spread such dishonest narratives as the “War on Christmas” and the fabled “school prayer ban”.

(* Christians often delight in pointing out that as an adult, Bill converted to Christianity despite his atheist upbringing. The part of the story they tend to leave out is that he demonstrated his “Christian values” by abandoning his daughter Robin, whom his mother adopted and raised as her own.

Indeed, O’Hair may have been too generous for her own good. She made a practice of offering jobs in her organization to former felons — which probably made her considerably more charitable in that regard than most churches. In 1995, one such former employee and convict whom she’d fired for stealing from her enlisted two accomplices to abduct and extort O’Hair, Robin and O’Hair’s other son Jon Garth — both of whom were officers in O’Hair’s organization. All three eventually were murdered and dismembered. 

After learning of the crime, Bill responded by writing an article attacking his murdered mother, brother and daughter, with not a kind word for any of them. He characterized his mother — the mother who had bravely stood by him during his childhood years of being brutalized by Christian bullies, and had gone to bat for him in the courts at his own pleading and at great risk to herself — as the embodiment of pure unadulterated evil. He repeated as undisputed truth every unsavory rumor and allegation he could think of about his mother, including the accusation that she had a fondness for — horrors — pornography, and the suspicion that her organization was, like a good many churches, less than perfectly forthright with the IRS.)

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47 thoughts on “The Christian Persecution Complex, and the Myth of the School Prayer Ban

  1. Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s allegations of her kids being beaten up by Christian youths is possible but we heard her side of story and I wouldn’t be surprised if she made it up for sympathy. Her son Bill who has since become a Christian says the rumors about Madalyn Murray O’Hair are true.

    Most Christians aren’t against store employees saying Happy Holidays-what they are against are stores forbidding workers from saying Merry Christmas. Main reason there has been controversy since 1989 over Christmas is because of anti-Christian hostility. With Christmas, which is a Christian holiday, it’s my view people should not be offended by Merry Christmas. Yes, Christmas is celebrating Jesus Christ’s birth but there is no reason why atheists should be offended by Merry Christmas. Most Hindus, Muslims and other faiths do not get offended by Merry Christmas. Mostly Hindu India has Christmas decorations with the word Christmas though most Hindus do not give much thought to fact Christmas is about Jesus. Most Hindus in India aren’t being offended by Merry Christmas.

    There are atheists who are not offended by Merry Christmas. Companies should not forbid employees from saying Merry Christmas-but if you aren’t going to allow Merry Christmas to be said, then don’t allow Happy Holidays or Season’s Greetings. Just say hello, goodbye and thanks for shopping. Don’t put a Christmas tree up and insult it by calling it a Holiday tree. Just have no Christmas tree. There is no reason why atheists should be offended by Merry Christmas or calling it a Christmas tree, but if people are going to be offended by this, then just be neutral.

    • Abner,

      These are excerpts taken from a wikipedia discussion about Madalyn Murray O’hair:

      Re: Atheistic fundamentalists[edit]
      The hateful and ignorant comments left here by people who did not even know Madalyn O’Hair, or her family, only serve to illustrate the difference between people guided by reason and those who are not. I knew her well, had the pleasure of working with her for a number of years, loved her — she presided at my wife’s and my wedding — and I enjoyed her wonderful humor and down to earth personality. The same goes for her adoptive (read abandoned) daughter Robin, who was a gem. Also, Madalyn did not invent atheism or atheist activism — it has a rich history stretching back even to Demokritus “the laughing atheist.” However, she was the first person to give atheists the courage to come out of their “closets” in large numbers and there would be no turning back, despite the sad, stupid, and occassionally violent bigotry of some religionists. This entry does not do justice to her — for instance, ignoring the impact of her landmark book “Freedom Under Siege” — nor is it an accurate (leaving out that she earned a JD degree from South Texas College of Law) or well-balanced portrait, in general, relying heavily upon unsubstantiable rumors, specious sources (like Bill Murray, a man who abandoned his young family to poverty, and who showed up drunk and armed outside the Pacifica radio station I volunteered at in Houston, demanding that we “send out the bitch so I can kill her!”), and sordid police gazette table scraps. All the talk about the socked away millions is such a joke, as both the family and the organization scraped by for many years on a trickle of donations. Madalyn lived in a modest home, had a proletarian wardrobe, ate at taco joints, and adopted abandoned animals, yet she was generous. If the money existed, she certainly wasn’t showering on herself. Repeating ugly slander only makes one person look bad – the writer. –J-no 04:37, 17 August 2006 (UTC)
      Madalyn’s house did not seem very modest or proletarian to me, and her tastes in wine, restaurants, home furnishings, and cars was not very proletarian either.
      Madalyn lived as an aristocrat and her house reflected that interest. (Untrue – jdc)
      when were you there?
      Keith K —Preceding unsigned comment added by 173.28.138.167 (talk) 19:41, 24 January 2011 (UTC)

      (The facts from a guy who really was there) I have never edited or contributed to Wikipedia so I hope I am doing this correctly. It is tempting to make changes but I am making none here, only adding mine. I do not recognize any of the other writers here, but I worked with Madalyn from 1978 to 1985, becoming her chapter director in Kentucky and then moving to Austin to work with her cable TV show and perform other functions. I also knew her son, Jon Garth Murray, and Robin Murray O’Hair, as well as Gerald Tholen and his wife. I intend to come back later and address issues more completely but for now, I simply want to agree with J-no in the first note above and refute the anti-Madalyn bigotry here. The second note by Keith K is completely untrue. Madalyn’s house was very modest, as were her tastes. In no way did she live an aristocratic lifestyle. I think someone donated an older model Mercedes at some point, hardly cause for such criticism. When she was representing the organization, she tried to present a professional and successful appearance but her ‘off-hours’ dress was usually a simple house-dress and other than a preference for martinis over beer, she and her family led a middle or lower-middle class lifestyle. I am offended by the “aside” above which refers to Madalyn’s so-called ‘homophobic rant’. I never heard such a thing from her and I think it is telling that the writer continues by referring to her son, Jon Garth, as ‘Jown Gowth’, obviously mocking his speech impediment. Perhaps the prejudices he alludes to are his own. I also knew some of the people from the India Atheist Center and never heard her refer to anyone there in the manner indicated. I will be happy to discuss this with anyone interested. Since there appears to be people here claiming first hand knowledge which seems doubtful, I will give some indication of my association. I sponsored her 1984 Atheist Convention in Lexington, Ky, where I briefly met her other son, William J. Murray. I wrote introductions to two books reprinted by American Atheist Press, The Rational View, and Dog Fennel in the Orient, both by Charles Chilton Moore. I wrote and recorded two atheist songs (sorry Steve Martin, Atheists DO have songs), ‘Shake Loose’ and ‘I’m Not Falling Anymore’, which were sold by her organization. Out of time for now. It is not surprising that attacks on Madalyn and her work continue. Don’t believe everything you read. jdc 12.237.106.5 (talk) 18:51, 8 August 2011 (UTC)
      If there is information missing from this biography, and you can cite sources, then feel free to add whatever you think is missing. DJ Clayworth 18:22, 17 August 2006 (UTC)

      The phrase, talk is cheap, comes to mind. And, if one wants to spin rumors and assassinate character based on the things any one person says, than Madalyn’s son William needs to face the music about his own alcoholism and his own violent personality, as evidenced by his appearance outside a police station in Houston where a witness heard him scream, “Send out that bitch so I can kill her,” and, for abandoning his daughter who was fortunate to be generously provided for by Madalyn.

      In general its very easy to lie about and criticize the dead isn’t it?—especially when they are not longer around to dispute their detractors, or able provide their side of the story!

  2. If the store is forbidding workers from saying Merry Christmas, then I agree with the boycott. With boycotting, customers have a right to shop in places they think are friendly to them. If you don’t like a store, then you don’t shop there. Customers including Christians have a right to do their business in companies they think are friendly to them. It’s their money and they have a right to spend it as they want as long as it’s legal.

    Religion aside, my guess is that you aren’t offended by how I now spend my money. After May 2012, I decided that I will no longer drive a Japanese car (Japanese make nice cars and most are fine people but Japan’s trade policy when it comes to cars is 1 sided in favor of Japan). My view with cars is that people should either drive an American car or if they buy an import car, either get a German car, Korean car or an Italian car. I’m against Mercedes and Audis and I believe German cars should be limited to Volkswagen, Porsches and the BMW Formula 1 race car. If it were up to me, they would no longer import foreign trucks & SUV, because if you’re going to buy a truck or SUV, it must be American.

    Anyhow, I’m guessing that you aren’t offended by how I spend my money when it comes to cars. I have been driving a 2011 VW Jetta since 2011 and before that I had a 1999 Chevrolet Cavalier. I don’t think how I buy things as a customer is offensive, yet people are offended by Christians urging stores to have Merry Christmas and how they spend their money. It’s their money & it’s their right to decide how they legally spend it. If they want to tell businesses that if they don’t recognize Christmas, that they won’t shop there, then it’s their right. Businesses want to make $ and keep their customers happy and if businesses think that they can make more money from their Christian customers by saying Merry Christmas, well that’s what businesses will do.

    • From Wikiquote–Madalyn Murray O’Hair,

      “Your petitioners are Atheists and they define their lifestyle as follows. An Atheists loves himself and his fellow man instead of a god. An Atheist thinks that heaven is something for which we should work for now – here on earth- for all men together to enjoy.”

      Certainly these are not the words of an evil person—just someone whose refusal to conform threatened and angered narrow minded religionists who were frightened about really caring for the human spirit!

    • Madalyn Murray O’Hair, from Wikiquote:

      “I was shamed into it by my son, Bill, who came to me in 1960 — he was 14 then — and said: “Mother, you’ve been professing that you’re an atheist for a long time now. Well, I don’t believe in God either, but every day in school I’m forced to say prayers, and I feel like a hypocrite. Why should I be compelled to betray my beliefs?” I couldn’t answer him. He quoted the old parable to me: “It is not by their words, but by their deeds that ye shall know them” — pointing out that if I was a true atheist, I would not permit the public schools of America to force him to read the Bible and say prayers against his will. He was right. Words divorced from action supporting them are meaningless and hypocritical. So we began the suit. And finally we won it. I knew it wasn’t going to make me the most popular woman in Baltimore, but I sure as hell didn’t anticipate the tidal wave of virulent, vindictive, murderous hatred that thundered down on top of me and my family in its wake.”
      “Playboy Interview: Madalyn Murray”, Playboy (October 1965), on why she pursued Murray v. Curlett

      It’s often easier to attack someone for being a ballsy woman, a bitch, or one to “those feminists,” then to openly admit that such a person is also possessed of great virtues. Those who would rather condemn and criticise, are often insecure and threatened by someone with the guts to look them in the eye, and tell them that they are wrong. Strangely enough Its seems that an individuals attempt to believe in human reason and have real concerns for his or her fellow men, is often considered to be worthy of being ostracised, slandered, and punished, when such a person should be applauded by those who consider themselves holy and/or devout!

  3. http://barbwire.com/2015/01/07/0700-teens-suicide-shows-tragic-folly-transgender-delusion/

    There is something wrong with a man thinking he is a woman or a woman thinking she is a man. It is mutilation with dangerous hormones. Most transexuals were sexually abused in childhood which messed up their minds and transexuals sexually abuse children. Transexuals are mutilated gays and lesbians. I don’t care what others say but mutilating a man or woman to make them fake members of opposite sex is gay/lesbian. And gay/lesbian groups are apologists for Transexuals which is why the word T is there. They must abolish this surgical mutilation.
    All transexuals are homosexual/lesbian as the act of mutilating to become false opposite sex is itself an act of homosexuality/lesbianism-sad maiming and make this illegal. Finally, sex change maimings which is mutilating some1 to make them fake members of opposite sex is comparable to trying to make a man a fake animal because he thinks he is an animal trapped in a human body. Most feminists are not speaking against this. 1 would hope that feminists would oppose the mutilation that happened to Chastity Sun Bono as feminists have spoken against Female Genital Mutilation which happens in some nations. Transexuals are mutilations which no Dr. should take part in, yet most feminists are not condemning this female genital and breast mutilation as what happened to Chastity S. Bono where her healthy breasts were mutilated, dangerous hormone shots and her genitals mutilated.

  4. POP,

    Although I can’t understand why some commenters feel justified in making a post that obviously involves legal and social persecution of someone completely within her rights and constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, into a personal indictment against specific types of sexuality and other unrelated topics, I must say it is extremely distressing to know the lengths to which Madelyn Murray O’hair was accosted and persecuted for asserting those freedoms.

    I know that one of the things Jesus told his followers, was that they would be persecuted by others, for their righteous loyalty to his teachings. But so many “believers,” fail to get the point, that sometimes, out of their own ignorance and personal enmity, they become the persecutors of those who are simply seeking to assert their rights as Americans. In fact, if one considers truth, as being one of the fundamental qualities Jesus would most likely revere, then one can only conclude that all of the great scientists and philosophers who dared to challenge the power and authority of the early Christian church, were actually the ones being persecuted for their righteousness–not the other way around!

    Although I know many religious people who are truly sincere about their attempts to love and forgive others, no doubt this world often makes it very difficult to take any position that seriously challenges the intellectual or (moral?) security of those who want to hide behind the status quo. The extreme brutality and cruelty displayed by supposedly righteous church leaders during middle ages, truly rivals the brutality and repression shown by HItler’s Nazi Germany, and is something that any true believer should learn from, and feel ashamed about, since many claiming to revere Christs message, were really nothing more than brutal and sadistic people.

    Particularly sad is the fact that one of O’hair’s sons later became a convert and then abused and maligned his mother’s name, even though she personally beat off attacks on him from bullies, and actively helped him pursue his studies at a school that deliberately set up one unnecessary road block after another in front of him to discriminate against him and falsify his scholastic record.

    I am not a psychiatrist, but it seems obvious that O’hair’s son was probably suffering from some kind of stockholm syndrome after being beaten and abused over things that he did nothing to deserve. Perhaps since he didn’t understand why he was being treated in this way, he decided later that somehow his mother was to blame for it all—just by refusing to denounce her own constitutional rights? In any case, any compassionate person must feel sorry for the way Ms. O’hair and her family were treated, and the description of the vicious and ugly ways the church has tortured people, is truly upsetting! It only evidences how extreme and and narrow minded people can be while convinced that their own sadistic behaviour displays just the opposite quality!

    • Peter W. Johnson, though you critiqued me in past, I hope that you reply to my post because most of it won’t be copy&paste. To what you wrote. I’m not a Christian but I agree with what William J. Murray says. Though I know you are hostile to me & that you have said that you don’t want to reply to me, I hope you do so here.

      I mostly don’t believe there is a thing like Stockholm Syndrome as that is hyped and less impact then believed. Stockholm Syndrome is mostly rubbish that psychiatrists & psychologists mostly made up as psychologists & psychiatrists interests is to tell people that they have a problem because that’s how they make money and profits, including junk science for studies, grants, etc. I believe Stockholm Syndrome is mostly junk science. http://www.businessinsider.in/Why-Stockholm-Syndrome-Could-Be-A-Total-Myth/articleshow/24443632.cms

      The allegation that William J. Murray was beaten up as a boy because his mom was an atheist is again Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s side of story which I have not seen confirmed. It’s possible that it happened & if true that would be wrong. But it’s also possible the allegation’s a lie told to get sympathy and Madalyn Murray O’Hair does have a credibility problem. I have not seen William J. Murray confirm or deny the allegation.

      Madalyn Murray O’Hair had a right to be an atheist & I supported her free will to be 1. In the interviews I saw Madalyn Murray O’Hara gave, she was arrogant & obnoxious. Madalyn Murray O’Hair was also a Communist who wanted to move to U.S.S.R.-millions were killed by Communism there as they were in Communist China. Communism has killed more than Nazism. Madalyn Murray O’Hair did not respect her son William J. Murray’s free will to become a Christian http://www.wnd.com/2012/06/top-god-haters-unholy-crusade-4-95/ & Madalyn Murray O’Hair mistreated her son William J. Murray.

      William J. Murray decided on his free will to become a Christian when he was 33 years old. He did so after thinking about this and he believes there is a God. Yes, William J. Murray supports voluntary school prayer in public schools but there’s nothing wrong with that. There can become conflicts with allowing prayer in public schools in that if you allow public school prayer, then conflicts can possibly happen when non Judeo-Christians such as Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists do their prayers. I don’t care about public school prayer 1 way or the other.

      It’s 1 thing to believe your religion is right. Christians believe that they are right and other faiths are wrong, Hindus will believe their faith is right and others are wrong, atheists believe there is no God. There’s nothing wrong with believing your religion is right because somebody is right and somebody is wrong. There was nothing wrong with Madalyn Murray O’Hair being an atheist and saying why she did not believe in God. But Madalyn Murray O’Hair did not just do this. Madalyn Murray O’Hair condemned people who did not share her view. Madalyn Murray O’Hair even condemned atheists who did not go along with her Communist view.

      Madalyn Murray O’Hair was an arrogant haughty woman who mistreated others and she mistreated her son William J. Murray because he believed in God and decided to become Christian. William J. Murray supported his mom’s free will to not believe in God but Madalyn Murray O’Hair condemned William J. Murray’s free will to believe in God. It’s sad for William J. Murray to have had his daughter murdered along with his mom and 1/2 brother. Anyhow Peter W. Johnson, though in past posts you have said that won’t reply to me, I hope you do so here as it’s replying to what you wrote. Again, I’m a non-religious person who agrees with William J. Murray because what he said is right & I think William J. Murray is sincere.

      • Abner,

        As long as you aren’t trying to rationalize using Madelyn’s story to somehow condemn transexuals, or to demean all gay people as being sick and evil, and instead try to comment about actual relevant issues, I will comment on your recent post.

        About your sources for the damning (but possibly slanderous) allegations made against Madalyn, including those made by her own son—The Religious Freedom Coalition is right wing religious publication that as such, is not a place to find objective or accurate commentary about a woman who so many severely hated and resented—primarily for insisting on asserting her Constitutional rights as an atheist. And, The link to your other website contained a personal statements from William J Murray who, since he has served as chairman for the Religious Freedom Coalition himself for many years, is also not likely to provide comments that are, exactly, the epitome of objectivity either!

        The major reason I added some more information to the mix is not because you say you’re an atheist, but rather, as a reminder that not everything one reads and/or hears, truly comes from an objective source. And those of us who hear what we want to hear tend to immediately praise or condemn Madalyn, by picking and choosing from the information we want to believe is true. That also goes form my opinions in defense of O’hair, but the post that I provided from Wikipedia, which is a site willing to publish comments from both those who liked Madalyn, and those who considered her “evil,” is probably a better source. If you noticed, the contributor who insisted that Madalyn was an evil woman with no likeable qualities, primarily makes claims that, in a court of law, would likely be dismissed as mere hearsay. And, Madalyn supposed evils are certainly not confirmed by the two commenters who disputed his remarks, both of whom, incidentally,revealed many personal details about themselves and how they knew Madalyn.

        I am not going to say that the Stockholm Syndrome is real or not but it is certainly thought to be by many reputable psychiatrists and therapists, so I mentioned it as one possibility way to explain Williams behavior.

        As far as the behavior of William Murray as a drunk, and as someone who willfully walked out on his own daughter, I think, (as I have heard members of AA say), that he should take his own moral inventory before being so eager to describe his mother as being an evil person.It’s well known that many alcoholics have had histories of lying to avoid responsibility for their own offenses, rather than admit their faults as a prerequisite for recovering from their own illnesses, and, even a born again Christian is not necessarily any exception to this rule. In fact I have had legal hassles with those who claimed to be saved by Christ, but felt no qualms at all about telling the most outrageous lies in order to win their disputes in court. They may give lip service to the idea of not bearing false witness against their neighbors, but apparently must have also believed that Jesus would grant them an exception in rewards for their righteousness, in cases like mine. And of course, this does not apply to all religious people, but it HAS certainly been my experience that some “believers,” will do anything at all, as an means to an end. Perhaps William is not one of these people, but his faith alone is obviously no guarantee that he isn’t!

        By bringing up Williams defects, I am not trying to portrait Madalyn as a saint either, just to place William’s attitudes in perspective. I really think it would be a mistake to take every word from someone having had an evangelical conversion, as literal gospel, since, William also, has obviously gone to many extremes to avoid his own responsibilities Personally, it makes perfect sense to me that, if Madalyn DID literally get between him and the bullies that kept acosting him, and fought those at his school who were harassing William just for being her son, it is very unlikely that she was doing this only to gain sympathy. it’s also perfectly understandable how a mother so maligned for her principles would want to disown William after such a critical betrayal.

        Of course, Madalyn may have had many obnoxious or unsociable attitude that some people felt offended by—but I don’t doubt how difficult it must have been for her to stand up for an unpopular opinion, and I find it’s only logical to expect that many people (including Christians), would willing to harass her and attack her, for taking a stance that disputed the moral beliefs that they were accustomed to clinging to.

        I think a good rule in this case would be that none of us should be so hasty, as to pass judgments against something we have very little knowledge about, and which basically involves scandalous judgments and criticisms coming from those who were already biased, and who likely considered her an enemy from the start.

        My criticisms of William Murray and my reminder to consider all aspects of any story, are an attempt to remind you that you can’t always judge a book by its cover, especially one written about an unapologetic atheist who was very willing to fight those who so unethically sought to deny her rights. And my personal apprehensions about religious people who are so quick to throw stones, while really living in glass houses themselves, are primarily the result my own belief in a God of Love and compassion that many people only pay lip service to, as they continue to lie about, and malign, others who merely threaten their own beliefs.

        That being said, I will not get caught in an endless series of narrow discussions with someone who repeatedly portrays gay people in a hostile light–even assaulting a grieving father with vitriolic character insults aimed at his brutally murdered son, and who then has the gall to accuse Madalyn of condemning “people who do not share her views!” Abner, what you don’t see is your own hypocrisy, and I still think you’re a jerk!

  5. It’s worth pointing out that, just as there are some Christians who are intolerant and hostile towards alternative beliefs, there atheists who are the same.

    I once found a Facebook page of people dedicated to the activism of Richard Dawkins, who openly criticized fundamentalist Christians for attacking them, but also derided all Christians as superstitious fools. I pointed out that I wouldn’t attack them and in fact I respected their point of view, then asked if they would show me the same courtesy. They unanimously declared they would not, and stated that if I continued to discuss my Christian beliefs in public I deserved whatever abuse I received. One even called me a “liar for Christ” when I claimed to be a scientist (because I didn’t talk the way he expected a scientist to talk), despite the fact that I have an MS in biochemistry and have co-authored several research papers. These people admitted that they believed faith to be evil, belief in God to be a delusion, and religion to be a form of insanity. They paid lip service to the idea that they would change their views if presented with evidence, but also claimed that they could not imagine any evidence that would change their minds. And most bizarre of all, they demanded that I must accept that the Bible was 100% true and written by God, otherwise I could not be a true Christian.

    Of course, these are just a tiny minority and do not represent the opinions of all, or even most, atheists. But they underscore the facts that intolerance and fanaticism can be found in any group, and that the real enemy is intolerance and fanaticism, not Atheism or Christianity.

    • True. I personally have not encountered any intolerant atheists (to my knowledge) but I’m sure they must be out there. It’s interesting to speculate whether, had atheists ruled the Western World for centuries as Christians have, thy would have perpetrated the same level of horrors. I can’t imagine that it would have been comparable, but certainly there would have been some abuse of power. Human nature is human nature.

      • I have found that some atheists want to portray all Christians as ignorant, superstitious fools, and that some Christians want to portray all atheists as arrogant believers in self-sufficiency. But perhaps both are responding to a stereotype that is seldom completely true about the other. Many Doctors who have been trained to be scientifically objective, none-the-less, do not want to be critical of the power of faith in human healing. And many Christians are eager to point out that, the fanaticism in cases where parents refuse to obtain quality medical care in blind preference to faith healings, are really about these parents abusing of their children. So yes, the main offense involves fanaticism and an inability to see the positives in the other side that, invariably exist if one looks far enough into specifics.

        The reason I felt it necessary to come to O’Hair’s defense, is because so many remember her to be a ferocious crusader for truth and humanism, and it’s just too easy to spread possible slander, by assassinating the character of someone with such moxie and convictions, who happens to be human enough to have a variety of traits–some of which appeal to certain people, and to others—not so much!

        Since the quotes I took from Wiki Quotes are documented, I choose to see Madalyn as a courageous person who refused to let others tell her what to think. Therefore as someone who was willing to fight in order to preserve freedoms, which all of us are said to hold as self-evident and inalienable, she should be regarded more a hero rather than a villain. There are just too many narrow minded Americans who give lip-service to the term equality, yet balk at any real attempts to preserve democratic freedoms, for those who happen to disagree with them. The fact that she did not try to display fake humility, may ultimately make her genuinely humble than any two-faced religious bigot will ever be!

        I Happen to be a believer in Christ, but I favor O’Hair’s attitudes over some of the outrageous ways that many religious people try to define freedom according to their own biases. Unfortunately, many so-called “religious” fundamentalists have more to learn from people like O’Hair, then she would ever need to learn from them.
        When narrow mindedness is hidden behind the mask of any religious faith, it ultimately does more to undermine faith in God than anything Madalyn Murray O’Hair, could ever have dreamed of!

  6. You won’t find them unless you challenge their beliefs, or especially ask them to be tolerant of religion and theists.

    “It’s interesting to speculate whether, had atheists ruled the Western World for centuries as Christians have, thy would have perpetrated the same level of horrors.”

    Asking that kind of question is largely fruitless, because so much depends on subjective points of view. The use of the term “horrors” for example. I can agree that what kings and cardinals did against “witches”, “heretics”, Jews, and Muslims “in the name of God” was reprehensible, but I would argue whether it was any more horrific than what the Nazis or Stalinists or Maoists did in the name of racial or economic ideology. I would also argue that they all did what they did out of political power, not religious or ideological fervor. As Jacob Bronowski observed, give anyone near-absolute power and they become monsters in one form or another.

    Also, it ignores the tremendous good that came out of Christian Medieval Europe. I mean, one could ask if atheists would have created the same level of feats of art, architecture, and science that Christians accomplished. Atheist activists like Dawkins and his followers want to argue that the “horrors” were committed in the name of God; that’s what the kings and cardinals at that time claimed, so why doubt them? But the same claim was made about the great cultural accomplishments, so by the activist logic they were also done in the name of God. In other words, Christian Western culture accomplished much good even as it perpetrated much evil. To ignore the good just to concentrate on the evil is a form of cherry-picking that presents a fallacious argument.

    An activist can argue that atheists could have accomplished the same feats without religious belief. Conceding that, I could then ask, couldn’t they have perpetrated the same horrors as well? Going back to Bronowski’s observation, if atheists had near-absolute power, what assurance can we name that would have prevented them from persecuting non-atheists? And why could that assurance not also be applied to Christian leaders?

    An activist might state that the assurance is that atheists haven’t committed any atrocities. But atheists don’t have the power to do so, unless you count bullying and intolerant speech. If we concede that, then I would point out that before Constantine’s conversion, Christians had no power to commit atrocities either; in fact, it was they that had atrocities perpetrated against them. Both observations argue that it is power, not faith or ideology, that promotes “horrors”.

    The main problem with a “what if?” question like this is that, without a crystal ball, we cannot know what alternative outcomes would really be like. You and I have our own opinions and hopes and fears, and we each want to believe that our respective philosophies are the better answer, but without the ability to run a real-world “simulation” to see what would happen, such speculation is largely moot. Personally, I don’t want to see anyone have near-absolute power, no matter how saintly or rational they seem to be, because it seems to me inevitable that absolute power corrupts absolutely, regardless of faith or philosophy or ideology.

    • Well spoken. But my main reason for figuring that an atheist heritage would not have committed atrocities to the same degree is that ideologies have a way of driving violence; and while you may not agree, I see atheism as, in most cases, more an absence of an ideology than an ideology itself.

      • POP,

        That, and the fact that, atrocities carried out in the name of Christ, either by power hungry leaders, or by those who believed their ideologies and followed such leaders blindly, were particularly immoral and horrific—and if course, ironically so—Just because anyone with a brain should be able to plainly see, when reading the gospels, that this being named Jesus, wanted no part in the power trips of this world, and was one of the few voices in human history which earnestly preached forgiveness, tolerance and nonviolence. Be that as it may, many power hungry individual chose to use the entire Bible as a means to subjugate and control of others anyway–something Christ would never have done! Even when urging other human beings to believe in him, one gets the feeling that he was not trying to subjugate or enslave the minds of anyone in his audience. However many who came after him seemed to have just that in mind! And oddly enough, such dogmatic social “authorities,” are typical of the true believers that made Madalyn Murray O’Reilly’s fight to maintain the separation of church and state, into the ambitions of a supposed monster—a case of simple and undeniable psychological projection.

      • Yes, ideologies can drive violence. But as I tried to point out, I see the issue in terms of the inevitable corruption due to the possession of near-absolute power, not ideology, or the lack thereof.

        The atheists on the pro-Dawkins Facebook page would no doubt argue they have no ideology, other than perhaps free-thinking and rationality. Yet based on how they responded to me, I would not be optimistic about my safety if they possessed the kind of power a medieval Christian king or cardinal had.

  7. Something else worth posting on this subject:

    Alister McGrath, a biochemist and Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University, may be Richard Dawkins’ most prominent critic. As the author of “Dawkins’ God: Genes, Memes and the Meaning of Life,” he was interviewed extensively for Dawkins’ recent documentary, “The Root of All Evil.” Not a frame of these interviews made it into the final edit. Below is a slightly modified version of remarks delivered by McGrath in response to Dawkins’ latest book, “The God Delusion.”

    http://www.alternet.org/story/47052/the_dawkins_delusion

    • An interesting commentary, but it is in itself rife with subjective interpretation. Nothing particularly objectionable about that in itself. But what’s far less excusable is something like this: “Might the unexpected resurgence of religion persuade many that atheism itself is fatally flawed as a worldview? That’s what Dawkins is worried about.”

      That strays way beyond interpretation, into psychic psychoanalysis. To speculate about what might be in someone’s head is one thing; to declare flatly that you know it is a huge red flag.

      And then there’s this:

      “Yet the analogy — belief in God is like a virus — seems to then assume ontological substance. Belief in God is a virus of the mind. Yet biological viruses are not merely hypothesized; they can be identified, observed, and their structure and mode of operation determined. Yet this hypothetical “virus of the mind” is an essentially polemical construction, devised to discredit ideas that Dawkins does not like.”

      The point here seems to be that the figurative analogy Dawkins uses can’t be valid because it isn’t literal.

      The writer also treats, in these remarks at least, “worldview” as a synonym for “dogma”. It isn’t. The former is a set of values one adopts for oneself. The latter is a set of values one expects others to adopt. Religion is normally a dogma. Atheism is normally not, though it might be considered so in some cases — arguably in the case of Dawkins.

      And the writer attempts to discredit Dawkins’ assertion that atheism does not inspire the systematic brutalization of populations the way religious beliefs do with the standard ace-in-the-hole of the Soviet revolution. It’s a highly suspect argument. Certainly, Soviet communists committed atrocities, and certainly they were officially atheistic; but it doesn’t follow that the atrocities were committed because of atheism. Here’s an interesting commentary on that topic:

      http://www.skepticink.com/azatheist/2013/09/29/the-cause-of-the-20th-century-atrocities-was-not-atheism-2/

  8. I think it’s true that most atrocities and horrific acts in human history cannot be primarily attributed to either religion or political ideologies, however, these two different ways of thinking, have both been used by power hungry governments and Churches in order to provide a framework with which, the arm twisting and power plays of ruthless authority can find a convenient venue for their greedy rationalizations. And, under these types of power plays religion certainly can be interpreted and rationalized either as a way to justify dogma or, to lay the groundwork for further Dogma.

    From what I have read about the lives of great religious leaders like, Jesus, Buddha, or Mohammed, their main concerns were for the acquisition of wisdom and humanistic compassion—It was the politicians and Popes who came after, who saw their teachings as ways to control the lives of ordinary people, and to exact allegiance to whatever cause they devised, in order to win for themselves, ever greater power and influence.

    As the POP pointed out, persecution at the hands of Churches and their leaders was particularly ruthless and sadistic. Yet it is really the desire for power, that has motivated the Demagogues throughout history to exercise control over governments and people by spreading horrific forms of fear and prejudice. To me though, ruthlessness and power tripping coming from religious leaders seems especially heinous and corrupt, since those who truly inspired such faiths provided ample wisdom pointing to just the opposite of such corruption, as being the very real hope for the ultimate salvation of humanity. In contrast, I don’t see as much of that blatant hypocrisy and distortion among the messages delivered by ugly people Like Mao, Hitler, and Stalin. At least they came right out and admittedly sought power for powers sake, without needing so many lies and deceits, in order to mask their real intentions. For sure economic prosperity and freedom were their frequent propagandistic foils, used to subjugate and control others, but honestly doing so in order to advance a Master Race, or a “classless” society are more directly stated goals which don’t seem so utterly hypocritical and deceptive as striving to accomplish base deceptions in the name of Jesus, God or Muhammad.

    For what it’s worth though, in Dawkins’s Playboy interview of a few years ago, he pointed out that religion relies on supernatural gimmickry to win converts—such as miracles and other apparent types of hocus pocus. However, in this, he is in perfect agreement with Christ, who said, “Ye of little faith, unless ye see miracles you will not believe.” Dawkins also expressed doubt that science would ever be able to explain every mystery or unknown in the universe—however, those who depend on infallible doctrines, seldom admit to the fact that they actually don’t know all of the answers. So, in that sense, the atheism professed by Dawkins is much more human and real, since it is capable of casting doubt on its own fallible human limits. Such issues are inevitably steeped in contradictions and typified by many paradoxical motivations.

  9. I think you’re being a tad too harsh in your first comment. I see McGrath’s statement as being the expression of his personal opinion, not an absolute statement of fact. In essence, it’s a thesis, an argument based on his understanding of Dawkins’s own arguments.

    Regarding your second comment, I believe that McGrath’s point was that Dawkins’s claim that religion is a “virus of the mind” is mostly speculation with no definitive evidence to support it, unlike real viruses. Memes are by no means settled science; there are many researchers and academics who question the legitimacy of memetics, or at least a memetic theory of religion.

    I’m afraid I don’t agree with your third comment at all. First, I believe you are setting up a false dichotomy: I see no reason why a “dogma”, or religious belief, cannot be a worldview, and I do not find your distinction based on your definitions convincing. At it’s most basic, a worldview is a person’s personal view of the world and how he or she interprets it. If his or her personal view and method of interpretation is based on his or her religious beliefs, then religion can be a worldview, dogma though it is.

    Secondly, I would consider atheism to be a dogma by your definitions; at least, the atheism that Dawkins’s promotes. And quite frankly, I consider the belief there is no God to be as religious as the belief there is a God.

    As for your fourth comment, it makes no sense. The Soviet’s own stated policy was to get rid of religion, to create a society without religion. Isn’t that what atheism essentially is, the absence of religion? Isn’t that what atheists want, the elimination of religion from society? That’s certainly what Dawkins wants. (No, I’m not saying atheists want to destroy religion or use violence to get rid of it like the Soviets did. I would consider it intellectual honesty for an atheist to condemn Soviet atrocities while also calling for people to give up religion.)

    If we must take people who commit atrocities “in the name of God” at their word, then we should do the same for declared atheists like the Soviets. In which case, McGrath’s argument is valid. However, if we can argue that, despite their claims, the Soviets didn’t necessarily do it for atheism, then we can also argue that religionists don’t necessarily commit atrocities for their God.

    Or, to put it in your own words, certainly some believers in God commit atrocities, and certainly they are religionists; but it doesn’t follow that the atrocities are committed because of religion.

    • I did not mean to suggest that dogma and worldview are mutually exclusive. We certainly could say that a dogma is a particular type of worldview, or even that the distinction is a matter of degree rather than kind — i.e., that a person who becomes fanatical enough in a particular worldview is inclined to believe that the rest of the world should adopt it too.

      But the definition of dogma isn’t just mine, although you may not find it expressed in that fashion in a dictionary. From what I can gather, more than half of Christians believe in hell — which is to say, they believe that people will receive the ultimate penalty for not adopting their own worldview/ dogma/ whatever. That’s pretty dang dogmatic.

      If you consider atheism to be religious, then obviously you’re subscribing to an extremely broad definition of the term. That worldview has no deities, no ministers, no sacred text, no code of conduct. I know many people think that not believing something constitutes believing something, but I regard that as semantic legerdemain, rather like saying that if you don’t eat anything at lunchtime, then you have had your lunch for the day.

      Yes, I certainly thought about the possibility that the same standard might be applied to atrocities committed by both religionists and atheists. But even if we conclude that, say, the Inquisition was not really motivated by religious bigotry, the fact remains that religion was used as the justification by those who committed the deeds. I haven’t seen any evidence that this was the case in the Soviet crucible, or at least certainly not to nearly the same degree. The antipathy toward religion was part of a broader context; atheism was but one component (and really one of lesser importance) of a political/ social/ economic paradigm. Nor were the eliminationist tactics applied toward religion uniformly harsh and violent. In scope, if nothing else, Soviet anti-religionism pales in comparison to medieval anti-heresy.

      • And all the while, scientists and dissident’s who tried to resist the Church’s dogma, were tortured into submission or even death, in the most sadistic ways imaginable, in order to “save their mortal souls.”

        No doubt religious authorities believed it was better to kill someone than risk “losing his or her soul” by treating an offender humanely after his offense—partly because they accepted such horrific views about what scriptures said were the wishes of God, but also, because church authorities must have desired to maintain the power of their positions in any ways they possibly could! Naturally, any of those who dared contradict the ideas preached in their Churches, became obvious threats that might eventually contribute to the erosion their own authority and their own power.

        Either way, it’s frightening to know just how far human beings will go, in order to defend the wishes of authorities, their cruel ideas, their lust for power, and/or their own psychological security. But POP, the examples you gave of the ruthless inhumanity practiced by the medieval Church are truly horrible—even beyond being merely evil. So sadly, I must conclude that threats to power were probably the primary motivations of religious authorities when they did such incredibly cruel things. Did anyone who did such things do so merely because of faulty genuflection, or because someone failed to say the lords prayer etc? Yes, but sometimes even more savagely when their power or authority was threatened

        Sadly, even though Madalyn Murphy O’Hair was not subject to such Nazi-like cruelty, (except possibly from the man who murdered her), she was similarly punished with the social ostracization at the hands of her own neighbors, who relentless insisted on bullying her son, and constantly creating obstacles to impede her. These are things less cruel than pouring molten lead into the wound of a prisoner of conscience, but one has to wonder whether allowing religions to erode the separation of Church and State, would even today, eventually result in such comparable and inhumane cruelty, rather than the sincere faith and compassion they are constantly said to create?

        “What a piece of work is Man.”—shakespeare as musically quoted by the cast of the musical, “Hair.”

      • Actually, there is no evidence that the church killed any scientists during the Middle Ages (5th to 15th centuries) for challenging dogma; that occurred later, and had more to do with Counter Reformation politics. That’s a myth started in the 19th century, much like the myth that Medieval people believed the Earth was flat, or that bathing was unhealthy.

        Nor is there any evidence that anyone was killed for being a witch. Heretic, yes; witch, no. The Medieval church taught that witchcraft was a superstition. It wasn’t until the 15th century and later that the church initiated witchhunts, and those mostly occurred in Protestant countries, not Catholic.

        It doesn’t help their cause that atheists spread myths as if they were historical fact.

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/quora/how-the-middle-ages-reall_b_5767240.html

      • Biochemborg,

        From doing an hour or so of research concerning the persecution of scientists by religious authorities, I conclude that, in regards to the period between the 5th and fifteenth century, you are correct that the Catholic Church did not overtly kill numerous scientists on the grounds of religious blasphemy. But your reference to an anti-reformist backlash, during which the Catholic church did kill and torture many scientists and religious dissidents by categorizing them as, “heretics,” only proves that this particular term was broadly applied.

        The Orthodox Catholic Church did censure clergy during the reformation for abandoning their specific teachings. So in a sense you could say, one group of religionists, tortured and murdered other religionists, for the specific heresy of differing with the conventional dogma of the Catholic Church.. But the fact that Protestants were persecuted in this struggle over the “true” teachings of Christianity does not negate the fact that many scientists were threatened and/or tortured, in the following centuries, soon after the end of the middle ages and beyond. And whether they were accused under the term of “heretics,” does not negate the fact that religionists have used extreme violence and repression to oppose other religions, and also to oppose the scientists who happened to follow those other religions Here is a paste of some pertinent material taken from one of numerous websites:

        “Cecco d’Ascoli, an Italian scientist, was burned at the stake in 1327 for having calculated the date of Jesus’ birth using the stars. But there were more significant heresies than astrology. Movements to reform the Church, based on the teachings of John Wycliffe (England), Jan Hus (Bohemia) and Gerard Groot (Netherlands) were all condemned as heretical, though their popularity guaranteed their survival, and in time these teachings would trigger the Reformation. Heresy still covered everything from refusing to take oaths to refusal to pay church tithes. Any deviation from Church norms was enough to merit death: vegetarianism, the rejection of infant baptism, even holding the (previously orthodox) view that people should be given both bread and wine at Mass.

        In 1482, under Pope Sixtus IV, 2000 heretics were burned in the tiny state of Andalusia alone. Pope Leo X condemned Martin Luther in 1520 for daring to say that burning heretics was against the will of God. Evidently he thought it presumptuous for an ordinary human being to claim to know God’s will. Perhaps he was right, because Luther changed his mind in 1531 and started advocating the death penalty for heretics and blasphemers. He thought it should be a capital offence to deny the resurrection of the dead, or the reality of heaven and Hell.

        Translating the bible into vernacular languages, or helping with the printing of such a bible was heresy according to the Roman Church. Generally, in Europe, women were buried alive for this offence. Men were burned alive. One printer in Paris was burned on a pyre of his own books. In the sixteenth century William Tyndale translated the bible into English. In danger of arrest and in fear for his life he fled the country. He was arrested in the Netherlands, and in 1536 was executed for heresy for agreeing with the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith.”

        While it’s true that much of this persecution was overtly done in order to to prevent other religious theologians from threatening the authority of the Catholic Church, the fact that some of these rebels were also scientists, was not insignificant, and the term “heresy,” meant in a general sense, any rebellious person who did not agree with what was considered infallibly right by those who enforced conventional doctrine. And under this general definition scientists who challenged conventional church authority were also persecuted.

        In the case of Galileo—he was threatened with torture after basically pissing off church leaders by asserting that the Earth was not the center of the universe as Copernicus had asserted before him. And, although he renounced his beliefs under the (threat of torture) not being (actually tortured), at the age of 70 he was placed under house arrest and not freed even after he went blind. Pope Urban the eighth, was the authority that decided to threaten him with torture in 1633. The Catholic Church made it clear that Galileo’s sins were in believing that the Earth revolved around the sun–something claimed by he and other scientists! Rene Descartes was persecuted by the church for the heresy of agreeing with Galileo, and Campanella was tortured seven times for also agreeing with Galileo!

        In general I am aware that many of the great Astronomers, and other scientists who were tortured, or otherwise persecuted by the Church, lived after the historically official end of the middle ages, but that does nothing to exonerate religion of the vicious attacks they experienced at the hands of church authorities. I also think there is little doubt that the atmosphere of fear and repression that the church created, inevitably had to have had, a detrimental effect on the acquisition and spread of scientific knowledge and enlightenment.

        I am also aware that many learned men of more ancient times, had a great degree of knowledge about already well understood things, like the fact that the Earth is round, and that Columbus himself should not be credited for discovering that long known fact. But in no way does that knowledge lead me to dismiss the role of religion for using violence and torture to achieve conformity. And even in Galileo’s time as well as the time of Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, and Edmond Halley the Church bitterly opposed their scientific heresies and resisted the knowledge they offered for more than a hundred years–one of those being the belief that Comets were thrown in anger from the right hand of God, and were portents of War—which is another possilble way to explain the orbs or spericle symbols in many of the churches artistic renderings, as mentioned in the link you provided.

        I agree that often religion has been used as a foil and merely as way to justify the political power mongers who use it for their own power driven ambitions. But it has also had a heavy influence on early astronomical explanations like those of Ptolemy, who devised a rather sophisticated but absurd way to justify, (in Rube Goldberg fashion) the notion that the earth was the center of the solar system, and in fact, the cosmos.

        You are correct to mention specific periods of early history in which religious authorities have actually been quite tolerant of those who differ. But in cases like the bloody Holy wars which took place over hundreds of years—called the Crusades—there is no doubt that religion was used as a prime motivation to kill and torture others in the name of God.

        As a believer in Christ, I find it particularly upsetting that (for whatever reasons) religious people have controlled and inspired the masses to rally around ideas that should be sacred, but have instead been perverted by church leaders or political persons who use them as a means to power, If ordinary people were not so eager to accept such perverse versions of faith, then we would not have nearly so large a problem with fanatical groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS recruiting impressionable young people to carry out their violent agendas. How can any spiritual value be found in the bizarre and tragic aspirations held by so many soulless minions who are so damned eager to blow themselves up, in order to receive their own private harem of girls in a mythical martyr’s afterlife? And wouldn’t we also not find so many gullible people who close their minds to Astronomy, climate change, evolution, genetics, and in general, any body of knowledge that threatens to contradict their narrow beliefs?

        Personally, the fact that religions or political leaders can so easily offer us perverse doctrines, that are easily snatched up by legions of followers, means that there are really few distinctions between the two–especially when power hungry leaders readily admit that they openly value violence, aggression, and sadistic behavior in order to win their earthly power and rewards! But when those who rationalize any form of violent and/or aggressive behaviour as being indicative of religious virtue, and then cannot see the utter hypocrisy and ugliness inherent in their vicious aspirations, we as members of a supposedly compassionate and evolved human race, are only sowing the seeds of our own ignorant destruction!

      • I hope you’re not arguing that atheism is morally superior to theism because it has caused fewer atrocities, and for reasons other than religious ideology. That would be small comfort to the victims.

        I can’t respond to your post in a more thorough manner, because to effectively refute your claims would require me to write several pages worth of text, which is too long for a blog comments section, and nothing is resolved if we trade sound bites.

        I will, however, say that most modern historians believe that the Medieval church used religion as an excuse for committing atrocities that were actually motivated by political, social, and economic factors. In which case, as I’ve already argued, there is no real difference between theistic and atheistic morality with regard to how they treat dissidents, and that the common denominator is that atrocities are perpetrated by those who have the power to do so, regardless of ideology.

      • It’s not my intent or role to judge anyone’s morality. What I do say, however, is that it’s a myth that religious faith is required to ensure moral behavior.

        I’m certain that in some cases, religion was simply a mask of immunity behind which the unscrupulous and powerful persecuted their victims. That was certainly the case in Salem — some of the “witches” were persons whose property was coveted. I’ve no doubt that it also happened in the Middle Ages. But is it really the primary explanation for the scale of atrocities that occurred? The research I’ve done has yet to convince me of that.

  10. The scale of the atrocities, which is in fact disputed by some scholars, was caused by people in power using that power to persecute people they didn’t like, for whatever reason.

    I’m not an historian of the Middle Ages. All I can say is that the sources I’ve read claim that there is no convincing evidence that religious dogma was the primary explanation for the atrocities, over and above political, social, and economic factors.

    • Biochemborg,

      One of the most disconcerting things about the historical use of atrocities by those in power, when they try to force conformity, either through religious or political beliefs, is not that the Church is a pawn to power seeking politicians, but rather, that no matter what its motivations, or who pulls its strings, a literal multitude of religious “believers” have eagerly sucked up this BS to the point where they are convinced that committing atrocities in the name of Christ, Buddha, Mohammed or, for that matter, the tooth fairy—are somehow indicative of pious moral behavior, and that when doing any of these horrific things, they are really carrying out the “will of God?”

      When I mentioned to a commenter on another forum, that the Old Testament, contains edicts handed down by moses, that would require anyone who did any work at all—even gathering firewood on the Sabbath—to be put to death, a self identified Jehovah’s Witness essentially told me that it was necessary for God to rule his people with an iron fist, in order to prepare them to accept Christ’s gospel of love, later on? I was impressed by how religionist can rationalize any behavior, no matter how violent or hateful, as being the undeniable desire of God.

      To me the Gospels which depict the beauty and heart touching spirituality of Christ’s teachings, leave no room at all for theological rationalizations that could possibly cause anyone to embrace such ugly and vile behaviors–yet throughout history innumerable people have been willing to kill and torture other’s in order to obey the ambitions of one Church or another, and by entertaining the perverse notion that what they are doing is somehow the will of God!

      So, as part of my point, I want to ask, “Are all of the minions and followers of corrupt religious leaders, really any better than the corrupt politicians, using religion for their own purposes?” My feeling is that at their best, all of the world’s great spiritual leaders, have clearly been interested in teaching us to revere life, and in teaching us to treat others as we would be treated ourselves. So in that sense, supposedly religious people–not just their leaders—are all responsible for allowing power mongers of all kinds to live and prosper due to their appeal to the gullibility of the minions who fail to question their toxic efforts to conspire against humanity.

      The supposedly ruthless atheists of the world are, at least, more honest about their beliefs concerning acquiring power, wealth, and material success, and, they often have little need to hide their avarice behind a mask of piety before doing practicing it. So who are the ones most at fault—the honest and shameless power mongers, or those fine people who are so good at using their faiths as an excuse to persecute and dominate others—all in the name of Christ, or in the name of any other Iconic religious figures? As far as I can see, no human being who claims to do atrocities in the service of God, has absorbed any of the fundamental message which all great spiritual leaders have clearly tried to make us understand!

      I am also aware that outspoken atheists who rail against the superstitious minds of those who find great value in their faiths, often consider all such people, to be pursuing mere fairy tales and entertaining irrational fiction.

      A while back, I was mailed requests to subscribe to magazines like, “Free Inquiry” and the publications of other secular humanists who want to share their philosophies in order to free us from the foolishness of gullible Christians or gullible believers in general. One enclosed pamphlet I received, summarized the entire teachings of Christ as coming from someone who, “Got himself born of a virgin,and then let himself be tortured to death in order to forgive Eve for stealing an apple.” What many secular humanists don’t see, (and to me the word “humanist” is good word no matter what philosophy it is used to describe), is that no matter how esoteric or even foolish, the rituals and beliefs of religious people may be, they are seldom so morally bankrupt as to follow such seemingly meaningless drivel, for no good reasons.

      Many people of faith in the 1960s were members of the courageous freedom riders who risked their lives in order to win human equality for the many black Americans who had been socially emasculated and tortured by good old boy Jim Crow and his odious societal laws, for decades! And they did not give up even when their own lives were being risked! The same can be said for many of the brave people who deliver much needed food and medical supplies to war torn, and violent areas of the world, despite the obvious risks to their lives and well-being.

      Atheists can do the same things, but the point is, that no ones should marginalize or sell short the faith of another, just because he or she doesn’t comprehend the personal significance of that person’s articles of faith! As the POP noted, many of them are truly fine people who even might believe in the need for the separation of church and state—It’s just that too many others remain prone to the lure of corrupt leaders. I believe that many of these people would never agree to such atrocities, if they actually comprehended the real messages transmitted by the many, and various, loving religious Icons who have tried to reach them about love.

      I find it even more shameful when those of us who often consider ourselves to be so devout, subscribe to the utter lunacy of violent and extreme ideologies. Hitler, Stalin and Mao, may have been more ruthless than believers, but such autocrats have been more transparent in their frank desires for power, and their own ruthless types of ideologies. Those of us who might believe in the teachings of Christ, for example, should be doubly ashamed when hiding such monstrous sin, behind a mask of religious legitimacy! The violence perpetrated by both power hungry political leaders and ruthless authorities in the Church, may be very much the same to their victims, but no religious follower with any conscience or strength of character at all, would ever be fooled by either of these imposters—unfortunately by definition, those who do it for God or Christ, are perhaps the most corrupt of all!

  11. Mr. Johnson:

    I’m not sure what you’re point is. My argument is not that the church never committed any atrocities. What I have argued is that the claim they were done solely or primarily for religious reasons is a simplistic myth, like claiming the Medieval church taught that the Earth was flat, or tortured scientists, or killed “millions” of witches. It’s a strawman that allows people to gloss over more complicated issues of politics, economics, and social changes that are more difficult for them to understand or don’t fit neatly into their ideology. Or to feel morally superior to the savage barbarians of the past.

    Quite frankly, I find it upsetting when free-thinkers use strawmen, sweeping generalizations, cherry-picking, false dichotomies, and double standards to support their own cherished ideological claims, even as they condemn their opponents for doing the same.

    • This has been, I think, one of the most interesting discussions yet in these comments pages. And it’s inspired me with the idea to do a future post on witch trials, since there are several popular myths on that topic.

      But let’s not lose sight of the real point my post was trying to make. For many centuries, religion controlled virtually every aspect of people’s lives; and while the results were not consistently harmful, there were certainly some disastrous consequences; and it certainly was not a Golden Age of personal liberty. The church did persecute people who didn’t conform to official dogma. Sometimes that persecution was quite severe. Sometimes it even included burning at the stake. Sometimes people were executed for “witchcraft”. The main error people so often commit is saying that witch trials were common during the time span commonly designated the Middle Ages. But that’s not just a misconception spread by atheists; it’s spread by almost everyone. When I was a kid it was written into textbooks, and I’m pretty sure they weren’t written by atheists.

      And yes, it’s also an oversimplification to say that the church was antagonistic toward science. In fact, it was quite supportive of science so long as science didn’t step outside the bounds of Biblical “truth”. The church controlled science just as it controlled everything else (and somewhat like Soviet communists later controlled the church).

      It’s interesting that you have brought up the question of morality. One of the most widespread and persistent myths in the world (not merely the Christian world) is that religion and/or belief in God is the foundation of ethical behavior. It’s a myth that you can expect to see me tackle at greater length in the future.

      • POP,

        I agree with your comments, but may have perceived
        falsely that Biochemborg, was attempting to exonerate region authorities by linking an article that refuted the many myths about Church based atrocities, said to take place during the actual historical period described as the middle ages. About this particular point he is apparently right, and perhaps his intent was merely to offer a fair understanding about the Churches role in atrocities–not just an effort to defend all of them by pointing out historical inaccuracies about some of them.

        As you say, it seems that everyone, religious or not, has participated in circulating these misconceptions. Yet to my mind, there is absolutely no doubt that the Church has played a significant role in repressing scientific knowledge and perpetrating violence towards others, so my personal intent was not to let Biochemborg use mythologies to dismiss all of that–however my intentions may have been wrongly derived.

        I agree that those who have religious faith have also endured prejudice from those who espouse atheism and/or strictly rational thinking. However just because the psychic structure of spiritual and religious thinking does not always follow logical lines, that in in itself is no reason to condemn that which is not fully rational, as being fully and completely untrue.

        But if Biochemborg’s intent was merely to point out the sometimes bad rap given to religions due to historical inaccuracies, he is no doubt justified, and I am sorry to have offended him. Saying that because something is often true, does not imply that any belief similar to it is automatically true or false, There is positive value to be found in the beliefs of devoutly religious people, as well as in the frequently justified criticisms of atheists. Neither of these groups is incapable of morality, no matter what their intellectual basis may be, but neither of them is incapable of using great prejudice to justify taking a part in violent and sadistic actions either. Stereotypes are alway hard to avoid, so can it ever really be said that anyone can always be objective–be they an atheist of a Baptist?

      • And my point is that much of your criticism is based on myths and strawmen. The link I posted only scratches the surface of just how egregious these falsehoods are.

        I also oppose your deliberate misrepresentation of general Christianity, by trying to link it to radical fundamentalism.

        I didn’t raise the question of morality; that is a red herring. I’ve never stated that “religion and/or belief in God is the foundation of ethical behavior”, and I don’t believe it as an article of faith either. At best, historically, religious-based ethics are older than non-religious-based ethics since religion is older than formal philosophy.

        My choice of words “morally superior” came from my childhood: where I grew up, morally superior was a synonym for “better”.

        I stated that you seemed to be arguing that atheism is a better (superior) philosophy than theism because it commits fewer atrocities. I wanted to pint out that it makes no difference to the victims whether their persecutors believe in God or not; an atrocity is an atrocity, and atrocities committed by atheists are just reprehensible as those committed by theists, scale notwithstanding.

      • You have twice (by my count) invoked “moral superiority”. However you choose to define the term, it’s pretty hard to have moral superiority or moral inferiority or moral anything without morality itself. My mentioning of plans for a future line of discussion was not intended as an assumption that you are guilty of spreading the myth mentioned; it was merely a segue. I have never tried to link “general Christianity” with radical fundamentalism; on the contrary, I’ve explicitly stated NUMEROUS times that they are quite different. I really don’t see how that constitutes “deliberate misrepresentation”, and I certainly hope your misrepresentation of my writing isn’t deliberate.

    • Biochemborg, my point was made in response to your specific claims that most actual cases of persecution took place after the historical period known as the middle ages. The link you referenced contained some very interesting information that I had never heard before, however I wanted you to know that even if the things listed there truly are commonly held myths about religious persecutions which rarely took place between the period of 500 to 1500 AD, that does not negate the fact that many individual thinkers, belonging to religious groups, or merely spreading beliefs that were not considered palpable by religious authorities, definitely have taken place very often after those dates, and also within some of those dates.

      My perception of your comments was that they were intended to exonerate religious authorities by pointing out that in many early centuries AD, The Catholic church was in fact, very tolerant to those religions that did not agree with their own. Undoubtedly that is very true as the article you referenced points out, I just did not want anyone to negate the negative role played by religion when undertaking cruel and sadistic acts towards those disagree with their particular dogmas.

      A second point I wanted to make was that even if the church has only been used as a device to aid those whose true intent is the acquisition of political power, I personally think those who blindly follow the edicts of any church, when taking part in atrocities directed at their fellow human being, does not say much about the church’s ability to pass on the real significance of Christs teachings–if it did, we would never see so many people who took up profane causes in the name of their faiths—or any faiths! In that sense they are perhaps more culpable for aiding those seeking power, than any of those who don’t try to conceal their real ambitions?

      I also hoped to make it clear that I understand how many atheist like Richard Dawkins, can do a disservice to the intentions and virtues of those real Christians as well as members of other major faiths, by unfairly relegating all of their beliefs to the level of meaningless fairy tales. To me the life of Christ obviously means much more than that, and no matter how bizarre those beliefs may sound to people like Dawkins, that does not imply that many such people do not chart their lives in very positive ways because of the faith they have. Furthermore, it is not very open-minded for any atheist to denigrate believers, in such a sophomoric way, while making fun of those believer’s particular doctrines and beliefs.

      As you know, I can get very long winded, and the fact that I wrote most of my recent comments late at night while trying or cope with bouts of insomnia, may have caused me not to express myself correctly. Actually I do believe that in most cases the true motivations for sadistic acts and the persecutions of others, IS directly related to the quest for power by greedy leaders. I just wanted to express my embarrassment over the fact that so many ordinary people have always existed who so foolishly agree to accept the deceptions of various power hungry leaders hook line and sinker–seemingly without much criticism. This is my reason for holding those who do violence in response to their own religious zealotry to a higher standard–simply because the teachings of Christ clearly communicate anything but such taking part in such cruel persecutions. But what I said were completely my own opinions, and I did not intend to offend you or anyone else when I expressed them!

      • You wrote: “Biochemborg, my point was made in response to your specific claims that most actual cases of persecution took place after the historical period known as the middle ages.”

        I never said that. I simply pointed out that in two specific cases — scientists and witches — the claim that the Medieval church persecuted them and killed them in the millions is a myth based on sanctimonious scholars of later centuries trying to demonstrate their culture’s superiority to the “ignorant” Medieval churchmen. (And even during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, when the persecution of scientists and witches occurred, the total number seems to be more like 100,000 than anything close to “millions”.)

        I read your follow-up post where you state that you may have misunderstood me, but even then you failed to identify that you read into my statements things that weren’t there. I state exactly what I mean; I do not make hidden implications. If you’re not sure you understand what I’m saying, it’s better to ask for clarification than to jump to conclusions.

      • Biochemborg,

        Here are most of your comments that I was trying to respond to:

        “Actually, there is no evidence that the church killed any scientists during the Middle Ages (5th to 15th centuries) for challenging dogma; that occurred later, and had more to do with Counter Reformation politics. That’s a myth started in the 19th century, much like the myth that Medieval people believed the Earth was flat, or that bathing was unhealthy.

        Nor is there any evidence that anyone was killed for being a witch. Heretic, yes; witch, no. The Medieval church taught that witchcraft was a superstition. It wasn’t until the 15th century and later that the church initiated witchhunts, and those mostly occurred in Protestant countries, not Catholic.”

        So is your claim that absolutely no persecution of scientists, took place during the historical period spanning the middle ages because there is no proof or evidence of that? And that many people were killed for being Heretics, not witches? Do you mention this lack of evidence in order to deny or minimize the extreme actions that have been carried out by the Christian Church in the name of a Christian God–as well as by other religions in the names of their Gods?

        The concession I wanted to make was in admitting that you may not have been trying to completely exonerate religions, or religious authorities, by calling to attention the lack of proof concerning the religious persecutions of scientists, or of those subscribing to other faiths, who existed during those specific centuries. And also that, perhaps by doing so, perhaps your intent was merely to point out the “bad rap,” that this historical myth gives Christians–not so much to defend the many wrongs done by church authorities throughout time—but rather, about making sure that (unwarranted) blame is not being used to condemn them. Am I right about this being one of the misconceptions I falsely perceived in your posts?

        If so, I hope you will also get my point that, persecuting those who disagree, under the heading of being “heretics,” is just a broader application used to justify or label those who are threatened with violence and repression in order to punish religious differences that defy orthodox notions espoused by Catholic religious leaders. But, being in disagreement about conventional Church doctrines and being treated with hostility and threats of physical pain, by those who don’t accept one’s personal theological differences, in my book, does not speak very highly of a church that may have committed very few specific abuses during the Middle ages,or during any age at all, but later took a righteous attitude about their abuses being justifiable in the name God, anyway.

        So, I now know that actual cases in which scientists or witches were tortured and/or threatened because of their theological disagreements or “heresies,” likely did not happen during the historic time span between 500 to 1500 AD—but does that mean that the “Church” in general, including Catholics, Lutherans, and those of many other denominations, should not be criticized or philosophically condemned because these abuses and persecutions were carried out by religious authorities during different historical periods, and were therefore, somehow, less heinous because they only involved power struggles only between various “heretics”
        and more religiously orthodox authorities?

        I get the point that there is no specific evidence indicating that the church targeted scientists during the Middle ages, and therefore, that the church of those times may not have been such a negative influence on the dissemination of scientific knowledge as is commonly thought. However, there is also no reason to use this commonly held misconception in order to diminish the Church’s role in persecutions that took place at other times, and, the fact that during many of those other times, it has surely stood in the way of scientific endeavors that could have advanced scientific knowledge and improved the human condition. Am I wrong to detect a bit of this philosophical justified defense in many of your comments? And. about using straw man argument–according to your specific references, that would only be true if the historical period called the Middle Ages was the only source including examples of religiously justified persecutions–since my larger point was not to discredit only the church existing during the middle ages, but to point out that, religion in general, has been used to commit violence and to persecute others during many different times. I am sorry for my specific misconceptions about exactly when numerous religiously justified persecutions took place, but that far from exonerates any Church, (not only those of Christians) for using threats of torture and ruthless power plays to subjugate their followers through the demand for absolute compliance to all of their doctrines.

        You’re remarks may not have been intended to give this impression, but considering the content of many of your statements, I believe it is quite understandable if I didn’t get your actual point.

        I also hope you can understand my additional point that, those initiating political power plays in the name of religion, or those who use religions as a kind of smoke screen which masks their true intentions, are prime examples of spiritual corruption, and as such, do not cast favorable impressions about the morality authority of the church and its doctrines, (or of any Churches doctrines)!

        The mere fact that thousands of zealots were ready to take up their weapons and kill in order to reclaim the “Holy Land,” or, that Jim Jones was able to conduct a very efficient kool-aid party resulting in the suicides of hundreds of his followers, and the fact that so many young kids are perfectly willing to make themselves into human bombs, who will then (after being blown up), be transported to heaven, speaks loudly for the corrupting influences that any religion can have when used to enhance personal, or collective power–despite the fact that most major faiths teach things that are completely contradicted by the actions of Al Qaeda and ISIS—both of which hide behind religious doctrines in order to rationalize their atrocities.

        I am not saying that Hitler’s actions (for example) were less violent or destructive than those committed by supposedly fundamentalists “faiths” like ISIS, or, that religious or political power mongering is more hideous when done by one, rather than the other. I am simply pointing out the irony that political and military leaders, often don’t need to disguise their intentions in the ways that many religious hypocrites and corrupt authorities do. Many political power men, come right out and admit that they are really trying to control others (or even the world), by enhancing their own personal power, and, in a sense (this particular point) illustrates how they may seem more honest and truthful than some corrupt church authorities who have persecuted both heretics and scientists alike, at various points in human history.
        It just seems more acceptable (to me) that openly pursuing power and the domination of others while admitting to one’s intentions, without using some spiritual facade, speaks in a small way for honesty, while pursuing wars and the persecution of others, under the guise of religious “virtue,” is much more deceptive–for what it’s worth that’s a point I was trying to make.

  12. Just recently when speaking to a religious audience, President Obama once again had the candor to express his beliefs honestly when pointing out that Christians too, have had historical periods that include massive efforts to persecute and do violence towards others.

    As was to be expected, pundits and partisan commenters everywhere jumped at the chance to use his statements to imply that he is somehow unchristian or “soft on terrorists.” However, I think most who comment on these forums will understand that the President’s candid remarks, were intended to help diffuse the violence and bias against moderate Muslims, who in no way approve of what political groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS are doing when they distort the Muslim faith to justify their own agendas. His intent was to illustrate that Christians too, should not get on any high horses about being morally superior to Muslims, or any others who are not Christians, for the reason that the crusades represent a dose of reality which illustrates how “believers” in any country, political system, or faith are capable of using religion to mislead others and to facilitate their own violent agendas.

    So, in a world full of division and hate, the President merely used the Crusades, to point out that no one of any faith, has the right to get on a high horse, and use the actions of a vocal and violent minority to detract from the peaceful messages that the very large majority of Muslims, (and those of other faiths), actually holds, and more importantly, believes in. Unfortunately, by reminding us not to get on our high horses, right wing religious zealot and conservative political propagandists will undoubtedly use his remarks to their own advantage and hurriedly struggle to get back in their saddles as they gallop away in search of narrow-minded ideological gains.

    President Obama, and the current Pope, are both to be commended for daring to speak honestly at certain times when keeping silent would have been the most expedient and prudent thing to do in regards to their political and spiritual reputations. People like them will always incite their many enemies who stubbornly try to use any excuses they can to discredit those whom they oppose. So, the minority of bigots and zealots who are invariably part of any faith, are now drooling like so many dogs gobbling down pieces of red meat! However I say, “Way to go Mr. President—speaking the truth is often hard, and you’re one of the few who actually dares to thinks outside the box and have the courage to be real about the truths you honestly affirm!

  13. You wrote: “So is your claim that absolutely no persecution of scientists…”

    Stop it. I never said, or even implied that. It is a logical fallacy to go from “no evidence” of X to X “absolutely never happened”. Since an intelligent person such as yourself should know that, I can only assume this is not a misunderstanding, but a deliberate misrepresentation. That either means you refuse to acknowledge your use of myths to make your arguments, or you are trolling.

    Either way, I am done debating you.

    For the record, this began with you stating the Medieval church slaughtered scientists. I simply pointed out that this was a myth because there was no historical evidence to support it. You acknowledged that, but then started playing games, even going so far as to passively suggest it might be wrong. I have no time for games.

    • Biochemborg,

      It was me who discussed your statement that no scientists were persecuted by religious authorities in the Middle Ages–or else the response from you that I was notified about in my email inbox, also referred to similar comments made by the POP–who your recent comment seemed to address.

      All I can say is that the beginning quote about this claim, comes from a direct paste of one of your comments about this issue, and it was pasted word for word into my comment. In it you clearly claim that:

      “Actually, there is no evidence that the church killed any scientists during the Middle Ages (5th to 15th centuries) for challenging dogma; that occurred later, and had more to do with Counter Reformation politics.

      What I see are the words, “Actually there is NO evidence that the church killed ANY SCIENTISTS during the middle ages (5th to 15th centuries) for challenging Dogma.”

      Unless you are arguing the point that, because no one was “killed,” that does not indicate PERSECUTION for disagreeing with church dogma, then I must say that I don’t know why you are accusing me of playing games in some dishonest way? Is that the point that I apparently don’t get–that murder is being discussed rather than other forms of persecution?

      My knowledge about the Reformation, includes being taught that Martin Luther, caused a religious controversy when daring to disagree with the orthodox church, by nailing the (was it the 95) theses on a church door–My religious background includes that I was confirmed in the Lutheran Church. If I am not correct that counter (reformation politics) included other kinds of offenses than murdering those who disagreed, than I apologizes–was your point made only in regard to the (murder) of religious dissidents and/or scientists, rather than other ways in which they were harassed and/or punished?

      In any case, I probably know much less about the Middle ages than you, but I had no intentions of harassing you or playing games. I only stated my honest opinions based on your statements, as well as on the link you provided about the myth of religious persecutions being so widespread during that time.

      I have always respected you as an intelligent commenter, and I am truly puzzled by your adverse reaction!

  14. Biochemborg,

    Here again is another paste:

    You wrote: “So is your claim that absolutely no persecution of scientists…”

    Did you notice that I was asking you this question in order to discover if you really were claiming that there were absolutely NO persecution of scientists by religious authorities in the Middle Ages? I thought that when you said there of no “evidence” of any scientists being killed during the middle ages due to religious heresies, that, you were effectively arguing that there actually WERE NOT ANY CASES of that kind of thing at all! So if I am guilty of anything, it is in failing to note your reference to the word “evidence,” and assuming that by using it, you flatly denied ANY cases of religious persecution of scientists during the middle ages of even existing.

    If I split hairs, I can admit that no EVIDENCE OF, is not the same as stating that ABSOLUTELY NO SCIENTISTS WERE persecuted. But why does my use of such a minor technically erroneous assumption, make you feel so angry? Logically speaking, the fact that there is no EVIDENCE of such persecutions does not guarantee that there really weren’t ANY which actually happened during the middle ages. Nor does it dispute the notion that perhaps thousands of such cases actually might have happened–even if NOT proven by evidence—a remote possibility yes—but, my mistaken assumption was that you DID consider that ABSOLUTELY NO SCIENTISTS were persecuted by religious authorities between 500 and 1500 AD, and that mistake on my part, is not so difficult to understand! Essentially I conceded your point that erroneous myths have made us think otherwise, and therefore, cannot be considered as representing actual facts.

    If I get such hostile responses by agreeing with you and conceding some of the point made in your statements and links, what can I expect when I actually DO NOT agree with you?

  15. Pingback: Ricochets From Roseburg (Random Notes on the Latest Gun Massacre du Jour) | The Propaganda Professor

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