TCS Daily


The Cultural Illiteracy of the Easy Atheists

By Mary Grabar - June 21, 2007 12:00 AM

Best-selling atheist authors are capitalizing on a wave of ignorance and stupidity. The latest offering, God Is Not Great, comes from a bon vivant with a British accent.

To be sure, Christian fundamentalists and literalists have given Christopher Hitchens much to work with. For example, Memorial Day saw the opening of the Creation Museum in Kentucky, where Genesis comes alive with Adam and Eve alongside animatronic dinosaurs 6,000 years ago. More of God's country in Tennessee is slated for despoliation with a theme park to be called Bible Park USA.

While the theme park and museum builders have sincere intentions, I wish they'd read some books. And I'm talking about more than the Bible.

Consider the great works of literature written by Christian authors. Though I saw these authors mocked in graduate school, the force of their ideas prevails. Their wisdom and humanity contrasted sharply with the nonsensical nihilism put out by trendy authors.

Reading Milton led me back to the Bible. Shakespeare revealed the evil of atheism through characters like Iago. Dostoyevsky exposed the evils of pride and self-devised "justice."

How odd, then, for Hitchens to invoke literature as he does:

"We are not immune to the lure of wonder and mystery and awe: we have music and art and literature, and find that the serious ethical dilemmas are better handled by Shakespeare and Tolstoy and Schiller and Dostoyevsky and George Eliot than in the mythical morality tales of the holy books."

But Hitchens must be banking on a readership that has not read Shakespeare, Tolstoy, and Dostoyevsky. These Christian authors dramatized the themes and stories of the holy book that Hitchens disparages. Shakespeare has Iago explain the materialist origins of his wickedness:

"Virtue? A fig! 'tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus. Our bodies are our gardens."

For Shakespeare, the sociopath emerges from a materialist conception of the self, from the rejection of the spiritual -- specifically, Christianity.

Hitchens's dismissal of religious faith as something that arises from primitive fear and ignorance of the workings of nature is not clever or new. He only needs to go to one of his referenced authors, to whom he purportedly searches for an ethical model, and read in The Brothers Karamazov:

"socialism is not merely the labour question, it is before all things the atheistic question."

In Devils, Dostoyevsky exposes the self-delusion of the atheistic revolutionaries who presume themselves bold and more intelligent that the God-fearing around them. In a send-up of "free-thinkers" meetings, Dostoyevsky has a female student say:

"I mean, we know, for example, the superstition about God derived from thunder and lightning . . . It's only too well known that primitive man, terrified by thunder and lightning, deified his invisible enemy, conscious of his own weakness with regard to them."

In another one of the strategy sessions on remaking the world, another of Dostoyevsky's atheist characters in Devils refers to pamphlets that urge "total destruction, on the pretext that however much you try to cure the world, you won't be able to do so entirely, but if you take radical steps and cut off one hundred million heads, thus easing the burden, it'll be much easier to leap over the ditch." One hundred million, of course, is the death toll of the atheistic communist regimes in the century following Dostoyevsky's.

I am sad to say that if you go into a Christian bookstore you will not see Dostoyevsky on the shelf. Instead, you'll find pastel-covered saccharine tomes, the pious stories of easy Christianity that the devout Catholic Flannery O'Connor disparaged.

Of course, easy Christianity is vulnerable to easy atheism, which is what is offered in Hitchens' tome. It's a shame the great works of Christian literature are not to be found on the shelves of Christian bookstores. It's a bigger shame that they haven't done any good on Christopher Hitchens' bookshelf either.

The author is a writer living in Georgia.
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145 Comments

The easy, popular road leads to Perdition
Matthew 7:13-14

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

Hits the nail right on the head, doesn't it? Just like this article.

Next, consider Iago's statement: "Virtue? A fig! 'tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus. Our bodies are our gardens."

Iago has won the day. Values are figs masquerading as virtues discovered during the course of self-evaluation, often with the aid of psychotherapy and a library of fatuous self-help books. We are thus or thus regardless of whatever virtues personal convenience and utility suggest are best suited to the moment. Gardens comprised of such bodies lack the Tree of Life.

The Writings of Atheists
I tend to innoculate myself from such writings. Why - as a believer assured in my faith - should I attempt to make sense out of the ramblings of these writers. My faith is unshakeable because I choose to make it that way. I am not afraid to read such missives - but I find that I do not have the energy or the desire to try to convince these all knowing individuals of the errors of their ways.
Others would argue - what if they are wrong? Don't you feel compelled to try to "save" them?
There are too many wise men who have done a much better job than I could ever possibly do to lay out the case. I cannot top them. So - I hold onto my faith as the precious part of my being that it is!

Funny you should menton atheists in Russian novels.
Tom Flynn in the current issue of Free Inquiry magazine writes that "I know more atheists and secular humanists than most people get to meet, and, excepting the ones in Russian novels, hardly any of them seem despondent."

(Reference:
The Big M.) Of course,

Who are the Hard Atheists?
And what about the large legacy of culture that is (for example) pagan or non-religious. Is someone really going to argue that (for example) Homer is of an artist than any writer who came later, Christian or otherwise? It's certainly possible to appreciate writers who were religious (Dostoyevsky, for example) without sharing their religious views. In short, where's the issue?

What about easy criticism?
Get out your Carl Sagan Baloney Detector Kit, the article is merely a collection of cheap shots. It creates an easy-to-shoot-down straw man atheist out of a mixture of conflating various meanings of atheistic, common associations of atheism with nihilism, materialism and socialism, and misrepresentations of Hitchens, Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky.

Take for instance materialism. An atheist might be prone to scientific materialism, but that's a far cry different from the metaphysical materialism the author confuses.

Or socialism, which is not connected with atheism but Christianity. See Ludvig von Mises, _Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis_*, on "Christian Socialism": "State Socialism and Christian Socialism are so entangled that it is difficult to draw any clear line between them, or to say of individual socialists whether they belong to the one or the other."

But what would you expect but cheap shots from a Christian close minded and dependent on authoritarianism, and opposed to free thought and free will.

Talk about a cheap shot!
How can anyone tie socialism and Christianity together?

Jesus had little use for any governments and socialism requires the force of the state.

The fact that some Christians CHOOSE to live in a communal society is their CHOICE, not by force.

The Pilgrims tried socialism and quickly realized they would starve if continued.

Those who justify their socialism with the teachings of Christ have fallen into the trap of trying to force faith.

Maybe you should read Martin Luther's Christian Liberty.

Amen, Brother
"I hold onto my faith as the precious part of my being that it is!"

I agree-- if you want secure peace of mind, and no unsettling doubts, cling to your faith tightly and do not admit any ideas that may be troubling.

Especially DO NOT READ The End of Faith, by Sam Harris. It is troubling. Very troubling.

Christian socialism
Early Christianity-- that which sprang from the teachings of Jesus-- was based on the communality of the Christian community. In fact it taught the communality of us all.

There was no Church hierarchy, and all had an equal standing to teach the Gospel. In fact in the early coven, each of the members took turns giving the teaching (usually a reading) as well as officiating at the service. The only One above them was Jesus.

After the conversion of Constantine, all that was changed. The schismatic, the unorthodox and the heretical were cast out, and the remainder made to swear fealty to the Holy Roman Church by means of a loyalty oath, written up at Nicea.

What took place there was a political coup, and a brilliant one.

Reactive identity
I think Mary is right about the shallow Christians and the shallow atheists. We've all known Christians whose identity was primarily reactive: "I'm not a secular humanist!" summarizes their worldviews. I've also known Christians reacting to those Christians, whose worldview is basically "I'm not a fundamentalist!" Then there are the atheists like the ones Ms. Grabar talks about, whose identity is "I'm not a Christian!"

I don't know where an atheist would go to develop his own worldview. Not, as Ms. Grabar points out, to Christians like Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Milton, or Tolkien. A Christian, however, should go first to the Bible. Then to C. S. Lewis (fictional and non-fictional works). Then to Dostoyevksy and Shakespeare. If he can handle more than Lewis' spiritual works, he should take up "The Confessions" or St. Augustine and "The Consolation of Philosophy" by Boethius. If all goes well, a little Kierkegaard, handled with care; a dash of Bonaventure; Aquinas to taste; a modicum of Francis Schaeffer; and top it all off with Chesterton's "Orthodoxy." If the reader is always in the habit of returning to the Bible, he will understand Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Milton, Tolkien, Augustine, Boethius, Aquinas, Bonaventure, Chesterton, Lewis, Schaeffer, and the Scriptures better for it.

the nicean creed is a loyalty oath?
in what weird alternative universe?

Easy Christianity Again
Just because people call themselves Christian doesn’t mean they have anything to do with Christianity. You have to penetrate the surface rhetoric.

Western Europe has out distanced Orthodox Europe because it welcomed Aristotle and Cicero. It’s pagan Greek and Roman philosophers that make the difference even if Christians re-package the ideas in Christian garb. Jesus never created a model of government; Aristotle and Cicero did. Paul never discovered a scientific law; Euclid and Galen did.

Our ideals come from our Classical heritage. What social ideal came from Christianity that wasn’t already apart of Greek and Roman writings?

Is each person an end in herself?
The pagans were well aware that there is a telos for a human being. But I think it's pretty safe to say that the idea that the human being is the telos derives entirely from the Christian story. Can you imagine Kant saying that every person is an end in himself without his Christian upbringing? I'm not aware of any Greek philosopher who said that.

It absolutely is
Look into the origins of the formal Church. Before, anyone could be a Christian. All they had to do was to declare it to be their belief. And they could practise in the tradition of those Christians they worshipped with.

Under the Church, only one theology and one method of worship was permitted. It was a good old boys' club. Any schismatics were declared to be heretic, showered with anathema and thrown out on their butts. Commonly they were banished to the ends of the earth.

The defining element in subjugating everyone, formerly free to follow the dictates of God and their own conscience, to the dictates of a church hierarchy, is the issuance of sanctions. Either you are a part of the group, or you are BANNED from any religious activity. This doctrine has to be enforcible, and becomes rigid dogma.

The Nicene Creed was their loyalty oath, to distinguish the members of the True Church from the godless and the misbegotten. That is, just regular unmanageable people. In essence what was done was to put religion under a franchise, where you could not post a cross without payment to the Proper Authorities.

The pagan philosophers
"Western Europe has out distanced Orthodox Europe because it welcomed Aristotle and Cicero."

Where they drew the line was in discouraging the spirit of free inquiry. The Greek philosophers explored everything, without boundary. Western philosophy, prior to the Renaissance, treated the Greek writings as a canon, praiseworthy because they were written down by revered ancient folks. Contemporary authors were not encouraged to blaze new trails in the same manner, but were educated to memorize the teachings by rote and not question them.

That's why science was set back so severely in the West. People believed the words of old dead white guys in opposition to the evidence of their own eyes. The scientific tradition during the Dark Ages was dead everywhere but in Islam, where Muslim and Jewish scholars advanced the real scientific tradition, in the spirit of the old Greeks.

A good example of the opposition of the Church to rational inquiry was the way they treated Hypatia, the last pagan teacher. Under the auspices of Bishop Cyril of Alexandria she was captured and flayed alive. After her, no more inquiries for a long, long time.

Not just a matter of belief, but of enthusiasm
I've always felt that the real distinction was not between the ardent Christians and the fervent atheists. Both believe passionately in whatever they belive in.

No, the real distinction is between the True Believers and the people who aren't that excited by any form of belief.

A lot of this is probably due to early upbringing, just as the Jesuits understood when they said "Give us the child for seven years, and we'll have him for life". When I was a kid I used to know some Catholic kids. They told me "You're lucky, not being Catholic. You can believe anything you want to. Us, we have to either be Catholic or anti-Catholic."

Sources, please.
Judge Bean--

Please share your source for this information. I've studied the early Church in detail and am ignorant of your "facts."


Thanks

Marjon, you're arguing one true Scotsman
You suggest "Maybe you should read Martin Luther's Christian Liberty"

I have. So did Hitler.

Will you read Mises?

God Bless You For Reminding Us
That a Russian Orthodox seminary student named Josef Dzugashvili found Dostoyevsky so highly inspirational.

Actually that comes from Cicero
And Cicero got that from the Stoics.

Cicero on natural law:

"Clearly Christians weren’t in power during their first 3 centuries. Thus, we know little about what kind of government they’d support. This leaves Christianity without a founding political theory. I’d argue that Christianity is quite flexible and readily lends itself to supporting monarchy, individual liberty, or socialism. In my opinion, the soul of Christianity dovetails nicely with socialism.

Conservatives often argue that the problem with socialists (and communists) is that they want “heaven on earth” i.e. they actually want to put Christian ethics in practice. They argue that human beings are too sinful to achieve such a result. This suggests that the Christian ideal is not relevant to the real world. Perhaps that’s why Christians, when they first came to power, decided to adopt the Roman model of government. Christianity is best when it is kept private. Don’t you both think?"

From
http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/2006_12_01_archive.html

Of course the Stoics view of God was pantheist ... nature was God. But Christians had no problem reading the above in their distinctive manner.

The Hellenic telos, particularly that of Aristotle, was individual human happiness. The Stoics and Epicurians view ethics in terms of the individual with virtue (for the Stoics) or individual comfort (Epicurians) as the ultimate individual telos.

Christianity sees the individual’s telos not in this life but in the communing with God in the next. You live for God, not for yourself. You’re not an end in yourself but a servant of God. Your soul may be individual but individual liberty to live this life to the fullest is a Greco-Roman concept. The Greeks called it eudaimonia, which is often translated as happiness but is best thought of as self-actualization. Cicero talks about this idea as a universal. It wasn't a universal for the Greeks.

Aquinas championed Aristotle and re-introduced this very idea but added that Christianity goes beyond and completes Aristotle. Nevertheless, he helped set the course for Western Christianity to re-discover and integrate pagan knowledge. There was no such figure in Eastern Orthodox Christianity and the East stagnated. Muslims rejected their Aquinas (Averroes) and stagnated.

I give Western Christians credit for being flexible enough to incorporate and further Greco-Roman thought. That’s something worth admiring.

Sources please
Judge Bean--

Again, sources please. Yours is a common view of history. It is wrong.

While no one could deny the tremendous achievements of Islamic and Jewish scientists in the Eastern lands that were formerly Christian, to say that inquiry was "discouraged" in the West is wrong. Following the fall of Rome in the 5th Century, successive waves of invaders--Germans, Hungarians, Muslims, Vikings, etc.-- made every day life in Europe pretty much a struggle for survival. In fact, most of the Latin and Greek texts were lost to the West. In that environment, there was little leisure time for scientific inquiry. However, it did take place.

See the Wikipedia article on "History of Science in the Middle Ages" for a quick and fair survey. Pay particular attention to the section entitled "Great Names of Science in Medieval Europe." EVERY ONE of them is churchman.

Here's the correct quote ... corrected the cut and paste.
And Cicero got that from the Stoics.

Cicero on natural law:

"There is a true law, a right reason, conformable to nature, universal, unchangeable, eternal, whose commands urge us to duty, and whose prohibitions restrain us from evil. Whether it enjoins or forbids, the good respect its injunctions, and the wicked treat them with indifference. This law cannot be contradicted by any other law, and is not liable either to derogation or abrogation. Neither the senate nor the people can give us any dispensation for not obeying this universal law of justice. It needs no other expositor and interpreter than our own conscience. It is not one thing at Rome and another at Athens; one thing to–day and another to–morrow; but in all times and nations this universal law must for ever reign, eternal and imperishable. It is the sovereign master and emperor of all beings. God himself is its author,—its promulgator,—its enforcer. He who obeys it not, flies from himself, and does violence to the very nature of man. For his crime he must endure the severest penalties hereafter, even if he avoid the usual misfortunes of the present life."

From
http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/2006_12_01_archive.html

Of course the Stoics view of God was pantheist ... nature was God. But Christians had no problem reading the above in their distinctive manner.

The Hellenic telos, particularly that of Aristotle, was individual human happiness. The Stoics and Epicurians view ethics in terms of the individual with virtue (for the Stoics) or comfort (Epicurians) as the ultimate individual telos.

Christianity sees the individual’s telos not in this life but in the communing with God in the next. You live for God, not for yourself. You’re not an end in yourself but a servant of God. The soul may be individual but individual liberty to live this life to the fullest is a Greco-Roman concept. The Greeks called it eudaimonia, which is often translated as happiness but is best thought of as self-actualization. Cicero talks about this idea as a universal.

Aquinas championed Aristotle and re-introduced this very idea but added that Christianity goes beyond and completes Aristotle. Nevertheless, he helped set the course for Western Christianity to re-discover and integrate pagan knowledge. There was not such figure in Eastern Orthodox Christianity and the East stagnated. Muslims rejected their Aquinas (Averroes) and stagnated.

I give Western Christians credit for being flexible enough to incorporate and further Greco-Roman thought. That’s something worth admiring.

Giving credit where credit isn't due
>I give Western Christians credit for being flexible enough to incorporate and further Greco-Roman thought. That’s something worth admiring.

The people who really did this were the Renaissance and enlightenment figures who rediscovered the classics that had been buried and dogmatized by the church, often doing so against the vigorous opposition of the church. Or how do you interpret what happeend to Galileo?

Except not much science came out of the middle ages
and when it really started to heat up, starting with Copernicus, the church was on the wrong side.

I looked at the wiki - sure, you had people logic chopping and a few isolated tinkerers and achemists, but you don't have a feeling of free, chips fall where they may inquiry.

In total I'd still say
Yes, of course, not all Christians welcomed the rebirth of Ancient learning and the new spirit of scientific enquiry. However, the 12-13th century Renaissance flourished in the Church (with opposition of course) and the 14-15th century Renaissance was driven by individual men of independent thought; they didn’t reject their religion, however. The rise of humanism also wasn’t an embrace of atheism. You might argue that the men of the Enlightenment were functional atheists; many were deists who view nature in natural terms only.

So I do think Christians deserve credit for coming to terms with Greco-Roman thought and ultimately with the rise of science.

The problem today is that they don’t appreciate their Greco-Roman heritage. All this talk about religion is distracting us from what is important and what previous generations (religious or not) were able to learn and build upon. We need to understand our Classical heritage and the gains by the Renaissance and Enlightenment. America is a child of the British Enlightenment. It can not be understood without appreciating of the context of our founding.

Didn't reject religion because if they did they'd get buned at the stake
The basic picture is that Enlightenment not only didn't happen because of the Church, it happened in spite of it.

>Renaissance was driven by individual men of independent thought; they didn’t reject their religion, however.
with the example of Giordano Bruno before them, this is hardly suprpsing.

>So I do think Christians deserve credit for coming to terms with Greco-Roman thought and ultimately with the rise of science.

More accurately, people who happened to be Christians who accomplished what they did without the support of and often against the opposition of the church. Nor did Christian doctrine or literature offer much inspriation in this direction.

> America is a child of the British Enlightenment. It can not be understood without appreciating of the context of our founding.

Not just the British, either: the French were extremely influential. And, again, this went against the religious grain.

Are we really disagreeing?
It is a conjecture to assume an individual, living prior to the 18th century, was an atheist. Few were and if they were we wouldn’t know it. Some of the founding fathers were clearly deists but if they lived a century before they would have been burned at the stake.

I have no problem with agreeing that religion was a drag on the rediscovery of Ancient learning and it was a force to oppose during the rise of science. However, you go too far when you don’t acknowledge that those who forge the way forward we’re able to do so while considering themselves Christians.

Prior to the 19th century virtually every writer ascribed morality to religious sources even when they were incorrect. They read Ancient authors and cherry-picked their Biblical passages to conform to philosophy. That they could to that shows some flexibility in Christianity. I’m not a Christian and I’m not sympathetic to Christian teaching but that doesn’t stop me from appreciating how Christians have come to grips with ancient learning.

I just wish they'd focus on history and philosophy; and keep religion a private matter. It is quite distracting to the public debate.

Until people could read for themselves
It was something called the Reformation.

I have read Mises.
What's your point?

What is Christianity?
If you've studied the "early Church" in detail, what you've studied is what was begun with Constantine's conversion. Before, there was no Church but only scattered groups of believers. Christians were reviled and endangered before they became the official religion.

I'm thinking this may encompass the period you've studied, of the early Roman and Byzantine Church:

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06001a.htm

Also, history is written by the winners. You'd have to dig deeper to see what was lost. You've only studied what was retained.

The fact is that during Christianity's underground period, prior to 325 AD, there were very few churches. And there was no hierarchy, Further, what was taught that is now outside of the accepted official canon has been suppressed. That is, burned. Some fragments are still in existence, such as the Qumran Scrolls.

The first three centuries AD were a period of the flowering of many new religions and belief systems. Christianity was merely the one that won. And in fact, not even Christianity survived. It was transformed into something else by the process of becoming an official state religion, ruled autocratically from above.

For one example of many, consider the theme of tolerance and acceptance. Before Constantine this was central to the philosophy of Jesus. After, intolerance reigned.

Don't know if we're disagreeing but...
Yes, Chritianity was influential in European history, and European history is a busy place. But still...

>However, you go too far when you don’t acknowledge that those who forge the way forward we’re able to do so while considering themselves Christians.

Sure, the question is, was the Christianity a help or a hindrance. Newton, for example, was a devout Christian but reviewing his life and writings, many people regard the time he spent writing about religion a total waste.

>Prior to the 19th century virtually every writer ascribed morality to religious sources even when they were incorrect.
Voltaire? Hobbes? Shakespeare (all those plays based on Plutarch)? Cervantes? I really don't see this.

Marjon, asking says you have not read Mises
Please go back and read a conservative point of view. Then reply. You know, with counter arguments.

Medieval science-- it's like British cuisine
An interesting article, O Nameless One-- although curiously devoid of content.

The author doesn't mention many names. Boethius, actually a Roman, was an encyclopedist. Alcuin of York was an educator. Gerard of Cremona was a copyist and translator. And of course, Bede, who actually was a great thinker. That's about it until you hit the 13th century, and people like Roger Bacon. Four guys in eight centuries, and only one of them doing original work. The lamp has grown dim.

Meanwhile strikingly original work is taking place in Granada, Persia, Iraq, India and China, Even the author of your article says things like this:

"Scientific inquiry was never particularly strong in the Latin side of the Roman Empire, especially when compared with its Greek/Hellenistic counterpart. With the end of Roman civilization, Western Europe entered the Middle Ages with great difficulties that affected the continent's intellectual production dramatically."

...and this:

"By the year 1000 AD, Europe remained a backwater compared to other civilizations such as Islam, or China."

You know me (although I don't know you)... I'm always happily proven wrong. But you'll have to come up with something a little more elucidating than this before I break out the humble pie.

What's your point?
1. God did not care much for the state according to 1 Samuel 8:

" He told them: "The rights of the king who will rule you will be as follows: He will take your sons and assign them to his chariots and horses, and they will run before his chariot.
12
He will also appoint from among them his commanders of groups of a thousand and of a hundred soldiers. He will set them to do his plowing and his harvesting, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.
13
He will use your daughters as ointment-makers, as cooks, and as bakers.
14
He will take the best of your fields, vineyards, and olive groves, and give them to his officials.
15
He will tithe your crops and your vineyards, and give the revenue to his eunuchs and his slaves.
16
He will take your male and female servants, as well as your best oxen and your asses, and use them to do his work.
17
He will tithe your flocks and you yourselves will become his slaves.
18
When this takes place, you will complain against the king whom you have chosen, but on that day the LORD will not answer you.""

2. Jesus didn't support any government and was killed by the governments of His day.

3. Martin Luther's Christian Liberty challenged the Church and its rules for earning your way to heaven.
Up to that time, Jews, Catholics and Muslims believed following the law and doing good works would earn your way to heaven. Luther changed that paradigm back to the intent of Jesus, we are saved by faith and God's grace alone.

I can't find any basis for socialism in the Old or New Testatment.

Men have used religion for centuries to jusitfy their use of force even if it is against that religion.

Therefore, there is no basis in Christ for socialism.


"We are all entitled to call ourselves socialist, if by the term we mean that we are devoted to the early socialist goal of the well-being of all members of society. Reason and experience make clear that the means to achieve this is not through central planning by the state, but through political and economic freedom. Thomas Aquinas had an axiom: bonum est diffusivum sui. “The good pours itself out.” The good of freedom has indeed poured itself out to the benefit of humanity."

http://www.hillsdale.edu/imprimis/2007/05/

The Church started the university system like Oxford.
"A city or state was willing to make considerable allowances for a whole group of scholars so the university was granted legal immunities and privileges, which could later be recognised internationally by the Pope who, for example, bestowed his benediction on Oxford in 1254 [NOTE]. Furthermore, the masters needed students and they could form a universitas of their own. Thus Bologna, usually recognised as the first university, was a corporation of students (universitas scholarium), while Oxford and Paris were corporations of masters (universitas magistrorum). No foundation documents exist for these earliest institutions but later in the Middle Ages universities were specifically set up by localities or rulers with charters that give a good idea of what was considered the usual form. Of the earliest universities, Bologna began as a secular law school for the study of the newly rediscovered Corpus Juris Civilis of Justinian [NOTE] while Oxford and Paris both grew out of a loose association of clerical private teachers [NOTE]. Later disputes led to an exodus from Bologna of students and masters to Padua [NOTE] among other places, while Cambridge was founded after a similar migration from Oxford."

"Despite the huge volume of modern scholarship on the scientific revolution, there is no agreed answer to the question of why it happened in Western Europe in the seventeenth century and not elsewhere or earlier. Some theories include: sociologist Robert Merton’s suggestion of Puritanism provided the conditions for science, Thomas Kuhn’s system of normal science and revolution, Frances Yates claiming credit for hermetic magic, Duhem and Stanley Jaki for Catholic theology and Lynn White’s contention that the driving force was provided by technological change. No single theory has proved entirely satisfactory or convincing, as they tend to look either at internal or external causes rather than a combination. For the external environment, the medieval contribution might have come from the institution of the university, the reception of Greek and Arabic thought and the worldview of a rational creator God. Internal to medieval science, there is the work of developing, criticising and discarding hypotheses begun by scholastic natural philosophers and still ongoing."

http://www.bede.org.uk/university.htm

But not much science (or art, or literature) came out of those universities until much later
they trained lawyers, priests and doctors but were mostly just professional schools. Science was mostly done by individuals working on their own: Lavoisier, Laplace, Davy, Gauss, Euler, Watt What were important were non-university 'societies' like the British Royal Society whihc really didn't owe much to the church.

The experience of Newton (a devout Christian, by the way) is illuminating in this regard:

"He was elected Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in 1669. In that day, any fellow of Cambridge or Oxford had to be an ordained Anglican priest. However, the terms of the Lucasian professorship required that the holder not be active in the church (presumably so as to have more time for science). Newton argued that this should exempt him from the ordination requirement, and Charles II, whose permission was needed, accepted this argument. Thus a conflict between Newton's religious views and Anglican orthodoxy was averted."

In the 19th century, German universities develooped the modern model and became intellectual powerhouses. But that again didn't have much to do with religion.

That Cicero was quite a dude
"Clearly Christians weren’t in power during their first 3 centuries. Thus, we know little about what kind of government they’d support."

The guy dies in 43 BC, and already he's figured out what the first three centuries of Christianity are going to look like. I'm impressed.

"Christianity is best when it is kept private. Don’t you both think?"

Oh yes, lordy. Never practise what you preach. Always keep it to yourself, and outwardly do the opposite. Morality and politics never mix.

""Woe unto you...,hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup
and of the platter...cleanse that which is within the cup and the
platter...."

Guess who said that?

Wait a minute...
I see your correction now. Cicero didn't say all that stuff. You did.

"Conservatives often argue that the problem with socialists (and communists) is that they want “heaven on earth” i.e. they actually want to put Christian ethics in practice. They argue that human beings are too sinful to achieve such a result. This suggests that the Christian ideal is not relevant to the real world. Perhaps that’s why Christians, when they first came to power, decided to adopt the Roman model of government. Christianity is best when it is kept private. Don’t you both think?"

Apparently JC was just kidding when he chased the money lenders from the temple, saying all those things about them and the Kingdom of Heaven. His philosophy is confluent with the divine pursuit of Profit.

Just so long as one keeps this rule in mind: Sunday religion in one pocket. Cash accounts in the other.

And when it did, it was what O'Reilly rails against as "secular humanism"
But maybe you're not lining up with O'Reilly about this.

Leading scholars in early centuries were clergymen
"The leading scholars of the early centuries were clergyman for whom the study of nature was but a small part of their interest. They lived in an atmosphere which provided little institutional support for the disinterested study of natural phenomena and they concentrated their attention on religious topics. The study of nature was pursued more for practical reasons than as an abstract inquiry: the need to care for the sick led to the study of medicine and of ancient texts on drugs,[5] the need for monks to determine the proper time to pray led them to study the motion of the stars,[6] the need to compute the date of Easter led them to study and teach rudimentary mathematics and the motions of the Sun and Moon.[7] Modern readers may find it disconcerting that sometimes the same works discuss both the technical details of natural phenomena and their symbolic significance.[8]

Around 800, the first attempt at rebuilding Western culture occurred (see: Carolingian Renaissance). Charles the Great, having succeeded at uniting a great portion of Europe under his domain, and in order to further unify and strengthen the Frankish Empire, decided to carry out a reform in education. The English monk Alcuin of York elaborated a project of scholarly development aimed at resuscitating classical knowledge by establishing programs of study based upon the seven liberal arts: the trivium, or literary education (grammar, rhetoric and dialectic) and the quadrivium, or scientific education (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music). From the year 787 on, decrees began to circulate recommending, in the whole empire, the restoration of old schools and the founding of new ones. Institutionally, these new schools were either under the responsibility of a monastery, a cathedral or a noble court."


When what did what?

Crusades
"The Renaissance and Reformation

The Crusades were not without effect on the Renaissance and the Reformation. Friendly intercourse with the Mohammedan world brought Europe into contact with accomplishments and virtues which were felt to be lacking at home. Men became aware of a moral system independent of Christianity that was nevertheless worthy of respect. Theological disputations between Christian and Mohammedan revealed the fact that the Catholic dogma was not invulnerable. From the attention to the hitherto unsuspected merits of an opponent it was not a far step to a critical examination of one's own condition. In Germany suspicion of the motives of the Church in urging the wars against the Mohammedans and a reluctance to contribute toward the realization of the plans formulated by an ambitious papacy and carried on by self seeking warriors became manifest.

Thus the Church, which had made itself the leader of the Crusades, came to suffer the consequences of their ill success. Faith in papal absolutism waned; and a new religious spirit appeared, first in the sectaries (Cathari and Albigenses), and later in the Reformation. This spirit was fostered by the inspiration of that higher culture of which Frederick II. is the preeminent type, by the development of the sciences, and by the growth of commerce with the East, which enriched Europe and turned the attention of men from purely religious to material and cultural interests in the movement known as the Renaissance. "

http://www.religionfacts.com/christianity/history/crusades.htm

I would equate the original essay about atheist's using reference material made possible by theists as those communists and socialists in the USA who use their freedom to adocate slavery for their fellows.

Christianity is not the church.
"Christianity was founded in the early 1st century AD, with the teaching, miracles, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Today it is the largest religion in the world, with around 2 billion followers. Especially dominant in the western world, today's Christianity has a wide variety of forms, beliefs and practices."

http://www.religionfacts.com/christianity/index.htm

Iliterate?
Why would the author consider an atheist illiterate just because he rejects all those superstitious christian authors? Doesn't make sense, but then again it doesn't make sense to have blind faith in supernatural causes either. Since the beginning of time humans have posited hundreds, or thousands of gods, right? But christians are presumptuous enough to say that only their favorite one of all those gods, is the right one. In the final analysis it's also funny then, that a guy like Hitchins or Dworkin, only believe in "ONE LESS GOD', than this author. What if the author is in a room with a say Hindu guy, how could he justify that the christian god is the right one, and that all the hindu ones arent? As for myself I'm partial to, what's the name of the god of wine again, Bacchus, is it?

Precisely my point
Christ's teachings were in fact a protest against the corrupt practises of the Temple, and a return to a more personal, direct style of worship.

As this world is ruled by politics, such a religion could not stand undefiled indefinitely. Hence, the Holy Roman Church, and all its later spinoffs.

And they called the era the dark ages
not that there's anything wrong with dark ages of course. Did you have a point?

then
did you have a point? Do you have a question?

still playing the same pathetic anti-reality tune
give it a break would you?

> would equate the original essay about atheist's using reference material made possible by theists as those communists and socialists in the USA who use their freedom to adocate slavery for their fellows.

In your demented bookkeeping, social security is a socialist program that enslaves Americans. Adjust your vocabulary or your meds.

It was NOT dark because of the church.
It was during this time that a new religious movement, called monasticism developed. After the establishment of the Benedictine order at Monte Cassino in 529 AD, monasticism spread quickly throughout the medieval church and the monastery replaced the functions of the early church and became a link between the classical city and medieval city. The withdrawal of the church from cities to monasteries caused the church to be orientated more inwardly than outwardly. While some times the church is blamed for the spiritual darkness of the dark ages, in many ways it was the only light, no matter how dim, that shone in the darkness of surrounding barbarism and heathenism. During this time it was the priests and the monks that saved from the ruins of the Roman Empire the treasures of classical literature, along with the Holy Scriptures and patristic writings and preserved them for better times. Certainly while the light that shone was more from ecclesiastical tradition and not always the clear light found in the Word of God, nevertheless it was light in the dark days of that time and it continued until the Reformation brought the true full light of Christ back to the world. Yet even throughout this spiritually dark time Christ had His witnesses in all ages and countries."

http://www.gotquestions.org/dark-ages.html

You need to be more specific.
I have NO idea what you are talking about with O'Rielly.

USA doesn't allow socialists and communits freedom of speech?
"The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them."

"The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation."

http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quotes_by/vladimir+ilyich+lenin

So you disagree that the atheists were using sources which came to be because of theists?

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