Tag Archives: christianity

John Gray

Pre-Christian philosophers such as the Epicureans speculated about free will. But it only became a central issue in western philosophy with the rise of Christianity and has never been prominent in non-western philosophies that do not separate humans so radically from other animals. When secular thinkers ponder free will and consciousness they nearly always confine themselves to humans, but why assume these attributes are uniquely human? In taking for granted a categorical difference between humans and other animals these rationalists show their view of the world has been formed by faith. The comedy of militant unbelief is in the fact that the humanist creed it embodies is a by-product of Christianity.

John Gray, Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia, London, 2007, p. 266

John Stuart Mill

If mankind were capable of deriving the most obvious lessons from the facts before them, in opposition to their preconceived opinions, Mormonism would be to them one of the most highly instructive phenomena of the present age. Here we have a new religion, laying claim to revelation and miraculous powers, forming within a few years a whole nation of proselytes, with adherents scattered all over the earth, in an age of boundless publicity, and in the face of a hostile world. And the author of all this, in no way imposing or even respectable by his moral qualities, but, before he became a prophet, a known cheat and liar. And with this example before them, people can still think the success of Christianity in an age of credulity and with neither newspapers nor public discussion a proof of its divine origin!

John Stuart Mill, ‘Diary’ (April 10, 1854), in The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Toronto, 1988, vol. 27, p. 667

Ruth Hurmence Green

Suppose you had never heard of Christianity, and that next Sunday morning a stranger standing in a pulpit told you about a book whose authors could not be authenticated and whose contents, written hundreds of years ago, included blood-curdling legends of slaughter and intrigue and fables about unnatural happenings such as births, devils that inhabit human bodies and talk, people rising from the dead and ascending live into the clouds, and suns that stand still. Suppose he then asked you to believe that an uneducated man described in that book was a god who could get you into an eternal fantasy-place called Heaven, when you die. Would you, as an intelligent rational person, even bother to read such nonsense, let alone pattern your entire life upon it?

Ruth Hurmence Green, The Born Again Sleptic’s Guide to the Bible, Madison, 1979, p. ii

Henry Sidgwick

[T]he inhuman severity of the paradox that ‘pleasure and pain are indifferent to the wise man,’ never failed to have a repellent effect; and the imaginary rack on which an imaginary sage had to be maintained in perfect happiness, was at any rate a dangerous instrument of dialectical torment or the actual philosopher.

Christianity extricated the moral consciousness from this dilemma between base subserviency and inhuman indifference to the feelings of the moral agent. It compromised the long conflict between Virtue and Pleasure, by transferring to another world the fullest realisation of both; thus enabling orthodox morality to assert itself, as reasonable and natural, without denying the concurrent reasonableness and naturalness of the individual’s desire or bliss without allow.

Henry Sidgwick, ‘Hedonism and Ultimate Good’, Mind, vol. 2, no. 5 (January, 1877), p. 30

Derren Brown

There was a real irony to the NLPers I knew who prided themselves on their communication skills yet because of their need to let everyone know how engaging they were, they were among the least engaging people I have ever known. In one extreme, we see this in the Christian fanatics who stand on the street and preach the word of their Lord, unaware that for every one rare, impressionable soul who might respond positively to their shouting and intrusion there are many hundreds of others in whom they have merely confirmed a belief that all Christians must be nutters. People are too often terrible advertisements for their own beliefs.

Derren Brown, Tricks of the Mind, London, 2007, p. 357

William Rowe

[F]rom the assumption that there exists an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good being who created the world nothing can be logically deduced concerning whether certain other religious claims held by Judaism, Islam or Christianity are true.

William Rowe, ‘Friendly Atheism, Skeptical Theism, and the Problem of Evil’, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, vol. 5, no. 2 (April, 2006), pp. 79-92

Peter Singer

The clearest sign of a Christian, and more specifically evangelical, influence on Bush’s ethics is his repeated invocation of a conflict between good and evil. We have seen that Bush often talks of “the evil ones” and even occasionally of those who are “servants of evil.” He urges us to “call evil by its name,” to “fight evil” and tells us that out of evil will come good. This language comes straight out of apocalyptic Christianity. To understand the context in which Bush uses this language, we need to remember that tens of millions of Americans hold an apocalyptic view of the world. According to a poll taken by Time, 53 percent of adult Americans “expect the imminent return of Jesus Christ, accompanied by the fulfillment of biblical prophecies concerning the cataclysmic destruction of all that is wicked.” One of the signs of the apocalypse that will precede the Second Coming of Christ is the rise of the Antichrist, the ultimate enemy of Christ, who heads Satan’s forces in the battle that will culminate in the triumph of the forces of God, and the creation of the Kingdom of God on earth. Projecting this prophecy onto the world in which they live, many American Christians see their own nation as carrying out a divine mission. The nation’s enemies therefore are demonized. That is exactly what Bush does. When, during a discussion about the looming war with Iraq with Australian Prime Minister John Howard in February 2003, Bush said that liberty for the people of Iraq would not be a gift that the United States could provide, but rather, “God’s gift to every human being in the world,” he seemed to be suggesting that there was divine endorsement for a war to overthrow Saddam Hussein. David Frum, Bush’s speechwriter at the time of his “axis of evil” speech, says of Bush’s use of the term “evil ones” for the people behind 9/11: “In a country where almost two-thirds of the population believes in the devil, Bush was identifying Osama bin Laden and his gang as literally satanic.”

Peter Singer, The President of Good and Evil, New York, 2004, pp. 202-203

Alan Ryan

Mill held […] that persecution was usually successful if it was tried for a reasonable length of time, and that it only failed where the numbers of the persecuted were so great that the policy could not be kept up for long. The Roman persecutors of Christianity might easily have succeeded in stamping out that faith altogether—a claim to which some reviewers took exception on the grounds that it suggested that God might have chosen to desert his revelation[.]

Alan Ryan, J. S. Mill, London, 1974, p. 137