Mormon Inquiry

Mormon Inquiry

Christianity and equality

I recently ran across this transcript of remarks by Dinesh D’Souza, author of a variety of books, most recently What’s So Great About Christianity. While the New Atheists have become the darlings of the media, you have to dig around to find articulate responses. Here’s a paragraph near the end of D’Souza’s speech, summarizing his view that Western notions of equality and the dignity of human life are grounded in Christian morality.

The eradication of Christianity–and of organized religion in general–would also mean the gradual extinction of the principles of human dignity. Consider human equality. Why do we hold to it? The Christian idea of equality in God’s eyes is undeniably largely responsible. The attempt to ground respect for equality on a purely secular basis ignores the vital contribution by Christianity to its spread. It is folly to believe that it could survive without the continuing aid of religious belief.

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posted December 15, 2008 at 3:02 pm

While I’m not a fan of the New Atheists the problem is that the responses to them have often been frankly horrible. Take the above. That’s horrible reasoning.
Does the author honestly think one can’ justify human equality without Christianity? That atheists don’t hold to it? Many atheists probably hold to it better and for better reasons than most Christians do. (Since within Christianity one can easily defend a division based upon believers vs. unbelievers which isn’t possible in atheism)
To honestly believe that such notions can’t survive without Christianity boggles the mind. First off it ignores other cultures. (What, Tibetian Buddhism prior to Chinese invasion was a place without equality?!?!) Second it demonstrates a surprising ignorance of philosophy and the arguments found therein for equality.

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posted December 15, 2008 at 3:56 pm

Pfft. This ‘author’ needs to go back to school to brush on Logic 101.
Atheists are not some faceless hoard of creatures that appear on earth in a puff of fire and brimstone, and immediately set to war on Christianity.
Most Atheists I know have come from very religious backgrounds/families. Most of them don’t care about religion at all, and would defend your rights to believe just as they’d want the same respect not to. Most of them simply want their right to live free of your dogma, and to keep it from being forced down their throat…
Like forming intellectual lynch-mobs to force your theology into public schools, or injecting civil secular law with your religious beliefs through voter driven initiatives, etc.
But what I find most ridiculous about this authors point of view was what they didn’t say, but rather, what they speciously implied; that Atheists do not hold to the principal of human dignity, or equality.
How utterly insulting – not just to Atheists, but the arrogance of the statement bespeaks a mindset of convinced superiority to the exclusion of all others.
And how telling of the mindset of a man who’d reprint the statement and offer it as truth.

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Rick M

posted December 15, 2008 at 8:45 pm

The idea that people that profess a faith cannot or should not have as much say as those that do not, is reprehensible. Attached is a link that refutes such a divisive notion.
What most do not understand is the the plan of salvation, and Christianity, didn’t start with Christ’s mortal life. It started long before that, and that it is eternal, not bound by man’s limited idea of time.

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posted December 15, 2008 at 9:10 pm

Read the article, guys. The paragraph quoted above makes a lot more sense in it’s proper context.

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Rick M

posted December 15, 2008 at 10:05 pm

D’Souza is very articulate and there is usually more wisdom in his writings than people give him credit.

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Chino Blanco

posted December 16, 2008 at 8:26 am

So much for Judeo-Christian ethics.
Thanks, Dave!

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David Clark

posted December 16, 2008 at 10:37 am

It’s not enough to argue that you can derive equality from a certain abstract philosophical position, and that’s not the point that D’Souza makes. The point is that the embrace of equality, with only minor exceptions, only happened in Western countries which were heavily Christianized. Your Tibetan Buddhism example is the exception that proves the rule.
In other words he’s not making an argument from theory (which are a dime a dozen) but an argument from what actually happened. Sure, in some alternative universe a John Locke type philosopher could have developed in 12th century Japan, and his arguments for equality could have been embraced and implemented throughout his society. There’s nothing necessarily preventing that from happening. Except that it did not happen, so it’s not a powerful argument to say that it could have happened.
Since (again with only minor exceptions) it only happened in heavily Christianized countries one has to ask why. D’Souza’s answer is that Christianity paved the way for the recognition of equality. Most atheists don’t want to deal with the contingencies of history, which is what D’Souza is attempting to have them do.

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posted December 16, 2008 at 2:45 pm

I’ll read the full article and comment on it later. I was just responding to the quoted portion.
David that’s a good point up to a point. One could ask whether Europeans really had a tradition of equality. Culturally they really didn’t. Yes you can point to Christianity as having a theoretical tradition of equality but frankly you can find that in both Buddhism and Islam as well. So I think this line of pursuit has problems. Also there is the question of whether we point to Europe only because it happened to advance to a stage before the other cultures. Had Europe’s social evolution been delayed say 400 years would that tradition of equality have developed elsewhere? There is also the related question of technology and the question of how much advanced technology in Europe provided the economic ground to let people consider equality.
My final point may be moot depending upon the article in context. However I’d just say that an atheist could say that Christianity was fine as a cultural development to produce thinking about equality but is now no longer necessary. This is the idea of a development direction in history. (Hegel’s view of history being the obvious example of this) That is atheism is the natural successor to Christianity. (Nietzsche’s point about the madman recognizing this truth and thus pointing out that it is the Christian priests who killed God but that society just hadn’t noticed it yet) I’m not saying I agree with that view just that it seems fair to allow the atheist to make that argument.

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posted December 17, 2008 at 2:37 pm

If atheism is a natural successor to Christianity as a flag bearer of equality then how does one figure the untold misery inflicted by modern atheistic regimes into that development?

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posted December 23, 2008 at 3:54 pm

Unless I am mistaken, Jack’s comment about the “untold misery inflicted by modern atheistic regimes” may be a reference to the estimated 100+ million who were killed under these regimes in the 20th century. If so, that’s a very disturbing point.

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Karen Brown

posted December 23, 2008 at 9:00 pm

First, as to the numbers, you have to account for technology. There simply wasn’t a way for any regime, regardless of intent, to have managed that in the past.
Secondly, they are all from the same political philosophy. Now, find us an atheist who did anything like that and was NOT a Communist?
Now, if you are going to judge all atheist by the actions of communists, does that mean we get to do the same with theism and, say, fascism, the Inquisition, the Crusades, the Conquistadores, various Jihads, the Falangists of the Spanish Civil war, and so on, and so on, and so on, and so.. well.. you get the idea.
The fact is, that even various famous Christians have noted that, used incorrectly, I’m sure, religion has a unique ability to inspire fairly nasty acts that can even act against the direct best interests of the perpetrator (something philosophy has a hard time doing..)
Or, to quote CS Lewis..
” Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

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posted December 31, 2008 at 12:08 pm

the issue is that Communism was militantly atheistic. It embraced atheism, saw it as the ideal. If atheism were an uplifting and ennobling philosophy, then it should have turned Communism into a great engine of moral good.
Your Christian examples do not bear up under scrutiny. Those were isolated events. Communism, on the other hand was systemic and went hand in hand with atheism.
An even better study is the American and French revolutions. The American revolution was steeped in religious faith. One only need to read the Declaration of Independence.
The French Revolution, on the other hand, adopted atheism. Embraced it.
The American revolution gave the world the greatest establishment of freedom and prosperity the world has ever seen. The French revolution gave the French Robsepierre, the Committee for Public Safety and the round-the-clock beheadings.
. It performed

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