Bruce Charlton’s “Christianity”

Take a moment to read Bruce Charlton on being a reactionary and on Christianity.

Charlton always has good things to say, but I confess that I’m unable to understand his belief in “Christianity” as essential to a reactionary.

Are liberation theologists really on the same side as those who reject Vatican II? Are unitarians on the same side as the Eastern Orthodox Church?

I am not religious, though if forced to choose between a pro-Christian and anti-Christian position, I would take the pro-Christian position if I were allowed to define my position a bit.

This blog subscribes to Mencius Moldbug’s theory that modern progressivism is form of Christianity, a sort of ultra Calvinism. In other words, it’s no accident that unitarian universalism is headquartered in Boston. Nor is it history’s largest coincidence that all of the descendants of Puritans are today’s super-Progressives. Regardless of your religious beliefs, do you really believe in coincidences that large?

Actually this blog subscribes to the theory that lots of ideologies are best understood as religions. Unfortunately, they’re not all separated from the state.

I have a friend who’s a priest and he makes a very convincing case that everything is Martin Luther’s fault. Frankly, he might right.

I can sympathize somewhat with the position that belief in some sects of Christianity is a necessary condition for reaction. I disagree, but I can see the logic in such a position. But I’m totally lost when this position is extending to all types of “Christianity.”

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90 Responses to Bruce Charlton’s “Christianity”

  1. “But I’m totally lost when this position is extending to all types of “Christianity.”” Yikes! Surely you don’t imagine I am saying that Liberation Theology and Unitarianism is Christian?

    Um, where to start…

    1. Reactionaries must be religious – yes, but they do not have to be Christian specifically. Moslems and Orthodox Jews, for example, can be – and usually are – truly reactionary.

    2. By Christian I mean what Christian meant for most of its existence in most of the world. I don’t see why tiny cliques of Western intellectuals in the past few decades (or even the past few centuries) should be able to redefine Christianity to suit themselves just on their say so. By this definition there are actually few Christians in the West – it is a small minority. Intellectuals are usually the *worst* Christians – surely we ought to focus on the best Christians? Ascetic Saints, Holy Fathers, the poor (I mean the real poor – of which there are approximately none in the West)

    3. As for the relation between Christianity and Political Correctness I have written about this LOADS of times. You may not agree, but my argument is at least coherent and covers all the facts.

    The chapter PC as a Christian heresy (which you have read, I guess) in Thought Prison is one example:

    http://thoughtprison-pc.blogspot.co.uk/

    • Foseti says:

      That’s helpful.

      You should really consider using a different word, since the overlap between your “Christianity” and the common meaning of the word appears to be very small.

      The interesting bit I’d like to know more about is why #1 is the case. What is the essence of these (mutually exclusive) beliefs that cannot be shared by someone who doesn’t believe in one of them? What are the unifying principles of hardcore Christianity, Islam and Orthodox Judaism that provide the necessary conditions for reaction? Is there really no non-theological alternative to these principles?

      • Well I won’t use a different word (‘they’ ought to use a different word) but I often prefix it with ‘real’ or ‘orthodox’ or ‘traditional’.

        I don’t suppose anyone would become a monotheist in order to become a reactionary – but I think that if someone sincerely ants NOT to be a Leftist/ Liberal/ PC then they would have to become a monotheist.

        Why? Because there is no other compelling reason NOT to be a Leftist (or at least to pose as a Leftist) – given that this is expedient in our society as it now is (and that short term selfishness is now and is certain and benefits me – whereas anything else is conjectural and indirect).

        Modern society rejects and inverts the natural the inbuilt and spontaneous – and under such conditions ‘natural’ arguments (like evolutionary psychology) have zero traction; and reason has zero traction, because in rejecting the natural we have no reason to assume the validity of reason. The only imperative is therefore divine revelation – only those religions focused on divine revelation can resist Leftism.

        If you go against the history of Man and reject divine revelation on principle (as impossible, nonsensical etc) – then you cannot help but be Leftist. Feelings are the bottom line, especially one’s own feelings in the here and now – there is no reason not to do what you feel like doing here and now. The more intelligent are simply more strategic about their hedonism.

        Luckily, most atheists don’t behave this way, and do not discard all their spontaneous morality! – but they are being inconsistent, and society is drifting that way over time.

        So – anybody can concoct a theoretical non-theological alternative as a basis for reaction – but not a reason or motivation for living by it – not one that is strong enough to overcome the subversive effects of short term selfishness.

      • “What are the unifying principles of hardcore Christianity, Islam and Orthodox Judaism”

        I didn’t answer this. But I think the answer is that these three are united in that they do not start with an acceptance of how there is stuff and rules (most societies in history have been happy to accept this) – but ask where the stuff and rules come from, and why there is something rather than nothing, order rather than chaos – and so they posit a creator God, who creates from nothing (ex nihilo) and underwrites order – and then also makes humans who can know all this etc. I think this deep metaphysical question and set of assumptions is what unites these three monotheisms.

        (There is also perhaps Zoroastrianism – but I don’t know anything about it.)

      • Foseti says:

        I’m a bit uncomfortable with a necessary condition for reaction that excludes, for example, all of the Asian societies. Are there really no Japanese reactionaries?

      • “I’m a bit uncomfortable with a necessary condition for reaction that excludes, for example, all of the Asian societies. Are there really no Japanese reactionaries?”

        Implicitly I am assuming that we start as who we are in the situation that we are in; not as differnt kinds of people in different places – for example, I did not mention animistic or totemistic hunter gatherers (e.g. the Ache of South America, or Aborigines of Australia) as an options.

        But I get a sense that you are searching around to find a specifically NON-Christian way to get to the place you want to be. This search could go on for the rest of your life, as you discover then explore one possibility after another. Certainly I spent nearly 40 years on this kind of project…

      • Foseti says:

        I’m not considering Shintoism or any other Eastern “religion,” I’m just trying to understand your distinction.

        For example, you could have made an argument that to be a reactionary, a person must believe in the traditional beliefs of his society in their strictest form. A reactionary Japanese person would have to be a strict Shinto (or whatever) and I would have to be a strict Catholic, perhaps (unless you want to get really reactionary and suggest that I have to believe in Norse mythology). I could understand this argument – tradition being necessary for reaction. So I was trying to determine whether this is what you were arguing. Apparently it is not.

        I take from your comments that the specific attributes of Judaism, Christianity and Islam that provide a necessary condition for reaction are: 1) monotheism and 2) divine revelation.

        It’s interesting to me that you don’t seem to be arguing that they are “true.” The truths revealed from these traditions, after all, are in (at least) some cases contradictory. The process for discovering truth seems to be the distinction.

      • asdf says:

        Foseti,

        I’ve previously asked you to review “That Hideous Strength”, but more importantely to read “The Screwtape Letters” and “The Abolition of Man” (also the first two in the trilogy would be nice but not necessary). “The Abolition of Man” addresses you concerns much better then any of us will in the comments and I see no reason to continue poorly stating what another has said much better.

      • @Foseti “It’s interesting to me that you don’t seem to be arguing that they are “true.” The truths revealed from these traditions, after all, are in (at least) some cases contradictory. The process for discovering truth seems to be the distinction.”

        Blimey! Well of course they can’t all be true! – I thought you were asking about what they had in common. Christian’s believe that Jesus was the Son of God – and therefore that what he said was true, including what he said about himself. The others don’t.

      • Alex J. says:

        “You should really consider using a different word, since the overlap between your “Christianity” and the common meaning of the word appears to be very small.”

        Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him (1 Kings 19:18).

        I believe the common word for this group is “The Remnant”.

  2. asdf says:

    Haven’t been able to follow the links yet.

    I’d second Bruce’s two points.

    1) Being anything besides a nihilist at least requires some theism.

    2) Its not very useful to focus on the various differences between sects of Christianity. All the big fundamentals are being screwed up. They are practiced by very few as Bruce mentions. Let’s get those right and then worry about the intricacies of doctrine and ritual.

    Foseti, are you against “religion” or against the very concept of theism? I think this is very important to sort out to have any kind of discussion here.

    • Foseti says:

      I’d love someone to define religion, before I’m forced to say whether or not I’m for or against.

      The only religions that I respect are the ones of the sort that Charlton lists as true Christianity.

      I also understand that a lot of philosophical concepts (that I like) are very difficult to defend without recourse to God.

      • asdf says:

        Religion to me is a social organization whose stated goals/beliefs are of a philisophical/ethical/cultural nature.

        Others may define it differentely.

        “I also understand that a lot of philosophical concepts (that I like) are very difficult to defend without recourse to God.”

        I’d go farther and say no philisophical concepts are possible to defend without recourse to God. Nothing except nihilism at least.

        You should get on reading all that CS Lewis.

      • Foseti says:

        “Religion to me is a social organization whose stated goals/beliefs are of a philisophical/ethical/cultural nature.”

        That’s hugely broad – it covers nearly everything.

      • I don’t think there is a real definition of ‘religion’ that is both wide enough to include (say) Zen Buddhism, and narrow enough to exclude sports fanatics.

        People who are genuinely ‘religious’ don’t talk about religion. Before I became a Christian I had been very interested by religion for many years – but when I became a Christian this stopped.

        The term and subject of religious studies was coined by ex-Christians who wanted to study Christianity (and other similar belief systems) from a secular perspective (e.g. sociology, psychology, anthropology etc) – and implicitly adopted a relativistic and Leftist perspective on ‘religions’.

      • asdf says:

        Foseti,

        Necessarily if we are going to refer to religion as it is commonly used today. How else could we, as Bruce puts it, encompass all of the various things people call religous today. Some churches take the Bible literally and some don’t. Some believe in one God and some many. Some reincarnation and some not. Some have hierarchies and some are practiced totally individually. All of these people would probably call “religous” if you asked them.

      • asdf says:

        I would like to echo Bruce’s thoughts in his second paragraph. Religion is not a tool for social change. It is not a tool to remake the material world in some way you think good.

        Demonic advice from the screwtape letters:

        “Whichever he adopts, your main task will be the same. Let him begin by treating Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. The quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the ’cause’, in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce of the British war- effort or of Pacifism. The attitude which you want to guard against is that in which temporal affairs are treated primarily as material for obedience. Once you have made the World an end and faith a means, you have almost won the man and it makes very little difference what kind of wordly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes and crusades matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours– and the more ‘religious’ (on those terms) the more securely ours.”

      • josh says:

        I think there are two kinds of religions, those that tend to nihilism and those that don’t.

        To be resistant to nihilism a religion must accept all four of Aristotle’s causes as features of reality that have “existence”. Of course formal causes logically imply final causes, and both of these imply a creator (I and other Christians believe they imply monotheism, but not every religion has worked this out).

        The nature of Christianity implies final causality. Anyone who doesn’t accept this is not a Christian and whatever they call themselves will drift toward nihilism. A nihilist can’t be a reactionary because there is no reason to resist modernity as there can’t be anything objectively wrong with modernity. Even hedonic utilitarianism is arbitrary. Why prefer utilitarianism to egoism? Even egoism is arbitrary (accepting the self exists implies formal causality, which implies universals are “real” which implies God.), but may be the least arbitrary alternative to natural law. If you are willing to grant that your entire existence as an individual thing is an illusion (an illusion to whom exactly?) there is no *reason* you should or should not try to gratify your illusory desires rather than just kill yourself. This is what Carlyle calls the “everlasting no”.

        Do you accept final causality? If not, how can you say there is anything wrong with the world? If so, how can you not see that this implies God?

      • Candide III says:

        accepting the self exists implies formal causality, which implies universals are “real” which implies God

        You’ve lost me on the first step. If there is a thicker tome treating on this subject, feel free to recommend!

      • josh says:

        There are many, obviously, but my entry point was Edward Feser. He has two books explicating Aquinas’ use of Aristotelian metaphysics. “Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide” is great and very readable and “The Last Superstition” is a polemical and fun take-down of the Richard Dawkins of the world that covers much of the same material as well as some philosophy of the mind stuff. Both very good reads.

      • Candide III says:

        asdf: I see you’re quoting CS Lewis a lot. I like his work too, but one thing bothers me. Haldane once caught Lewis condemning sodomy but doubting whether usury is absolutely wrong:

        Mr. Lewis admits that Christian, Jewish, and pagan moralists condemned [usury], but points out that our society is based on it, and adds: “Now it may not follow that we are absolutely wrong.”

        I never found out how Lewis had responded to this charge (his response, if it exists, is not on the internets). You will probably agree that this is an important point.

        PS: I know Haldane was a communist and all that.

      • asdf says:

        What appealed to me about Lewis is his general approach to Christian theology. As a late in life convert from mild atheism to theism his thoughts are similair to my own. One reads Lewis in order to buy into the basic theological underpining of Christianity.

        When it comes to specific doctrinal attitudes and moral rules he is much weaker, and he says as much in the prefaces and introductions of most of his books. Take “Mere Christianity” for instance. He states flat out his goal is to get people to buy into the idea of Christianity, not argue the finer points of what sort of Christianity or whether a particular sect/rule/doctrine/biblical interpretation makes sense. I’m not saying that he never makes more specific moral statements in his writing, but they are the weakest part and he knows and states as much.

        The largest threat to a man’s soul today is materialism. If you can’t get that right (as some commentators here can’t) then you can’t get any of the other stuff right.

        We argue a great deal about what is to be done, but very inoften is it considered why someone would do it and where they would get the strength from. I converted in response to two moral trials I faced. The first I time I rejected materialism, but didn’t know why. The second time I was more versed in Lewis and theology and I more correctely understood why I did what I did and where the strength came from.

  3. Samson J. says:

    I am not religious, though if forced to choose between a pro-Christian and anti-Christian position, I would take the pro-Christian position if I were allowed to define my position a bit.

    Big F, I might have more to say later, but for now I only want to congratulate you on being in the 0.1% that are actually open and honest about the issues.

  4. […] criticizes Bruce Charlton’s claim that there are only three sides: Christianity, Islam and secular […]

  5. spandrell says:

    The idea that Christianity is necessary for reaction assumes that we can go back. But we can’t. Society won’t be Christian again, whatever that means anyway. There were fundamental differences between American methodists and the Greek Orthodox. Are they both allies? They never behaved like it.

    • asdf says:

      Spandrell,

      Faith is not about “we”. It’s about an individual relationship with God. To the extent you believe God wants you to associate with other people in a religious context (or do anything else) you should follow that impulse, but it is always and everywhere about your relationship with God.

      See the above Screwtape quote. Faith is not a means for achieving some earthly objective. Once the objective (reaction, whatever) becomes the goal and faith the means it all falls apart.

      • Gabe Ruth says:

        Second part is well said. The first part needs a little more elaboration, as to the skeptical it sounds like a leftist Trojan horse. The individual relationship with God must lead to a deeper understanding of one’s place in the chain of being and the proper order of things, and so it necessarily affects our relationship to others. But you’re quite right about the priority.

      • spandrell says:

        That’s protestant crap. Religious people are overwhelmingly tribal.

      • asdf says:

        Spandrell,

        You are comming at this from a very flawed core perspective and I’m not sure how to explain it to you.

        I suggest reading many of the sources I talked about in this comment thread as a starter.

  6. Allan says:

    I would say
    that to be a true reactionary
    requires some kind of outlook
    that is not atheistic-materialist.

    This would not necessarily be a religion
    in the traditional sense.

    A ‘hard-core’ atheist
    no matter what they profess
    never can be a true reactionary.

    So far as I am concerned
    they all will to lead us to the same trash-heap
    as their brothers
    Marx and Lenin.

    • Nyk says:

      This depends on what you mean by ‘hard-core’. A hedonic utilitarian atheist may be a reactionary because he believes that reactionary values are better at improving the quality of life than the alternatives.

      • Simon says:

        Hedonism, utilitarianism, and atheism are not reactionary. Wrong, by definition.

      • asdf says:

        Why would someone value hedonic utilitarianism without a God?

        The problem is always “why” you believe in something. All stated objective have no “why” without God. And lacking a “why” they become meaningless and undefendable. Nihilism is the only logical result of a lack of “why”.

      • Candide III says:

        Simon: this begs the question, what is reactionary?

        asdf: the “why” is difficult to squash, even with religion. What’s an acceptable answer to the question “why do you believe in God?” You can try to wriggle out by relying on revelation, but that is only kicking the “why” down the road. Or you can try to achieve closure by giving a circular answer to this question (e.g. because God made me so). But I don’t know how this is better than no answer at all.

      • asdf says:

        Candide III,

        We are entering territory better tackled by better authors in longer tomes.

        I will leave with a CS Lewis quote both entertaining and relevant:

        “I spent most of my life very upset at God for not existing.”

        *I might be slightly mistating a few words, its from memory.

  7. james wilson says:

    The idea that Christianity and Islam are comparable in any meaningful way is proof that the author of this idea is as detached from Christianity as he is from Islam.
    You will notice that when Charlton addresses Christianity he never speaks of Jesus Christ. This is yet another of the innumerable curious forms of Christianity.

    A Englishman more experienced in these affairs pointed out that that the simple test of a good religion is whether you can joke about it.

    Tocqueville, as well as other great men of that period who may have not been greatly religious, put it this way, “I doubt whether man can ever support at the same time complete religious independence and entire political freedom and am drawn to the thought that if a man is without faith, he must serve someone and if he is free, he must believe. Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morals without faith.

    Even Anthony Daniels believes that, and he is an atheist. And there you are, Foseti.

    BTW, both Tocqueville and Chesterton detested Islam thoroughly. And Islam was not a reaction to anything, it was an atavistic creed established in a void. But what Islam reacts to now is simply and virtually anything that is not Islam.

    The commonalities which Islam shares with the West are to be found in in the atavistic religion of socialism, and to the devolved forms of Christianity with large endowments and empty pews.

    • bgc says:

      @james wilson “The idea that Christianity and Islam are comparable in any meaningful way is proof that the author of this idea is as detached from Christianity as he is from Islam.
      You will notice that when Charlton addresses Christianity he never speaks of Jesus Christ.”

      What! I’m sorry – what planet are you writing from? One with poor e-mail reception, clearly. Getting nice weather out there?

  8. […] Foseti questions Bruce Charlton’s linkage of Christianity and reaction. Jim weighs in. […]

  9. James James says:

    “You will notice that when Charlton addresses Christianity he never speaks of Jesus Christ.”

    That is a very good point which I hadn’t noticed before when reading his blog. Bruce, what is your explanation for this? Asdf quotes Screwtape; it seems to me that Screwtape’s words apply to you.

  10. Bruce says:

    Above, Bruce Charelton writes:

    “Because there is no other compelling reason NOT to be a Leftist”

    There must be something compelling lots of people not to be Leftists because those that are in charge have to compel/coerce lots of people to be Leftists.

    • @Bruce

      Agree that Leftism requires mega propaganda; but what I meant was that in our world as it now actually is, where this propaganda prevails, then we need to answer why not just go along with Leftism and make the best of the situation (as most people do)?

      I addressed this in Thought Prison in the chapter near the end called “Wjy don’t you convert to political correctness?”

      http://thoughtprison-pc.blogspot.co.uk/

      • asdf says:

        Want to read that tome now.

        Yes, the fundamental problem is why. People can craft “what should be done” plans all day. The problem is that someone actually has to do them. People’s plans tend to fall away when they are faced with real power to abuse, real sacrifices that have to be made, etc. That kind of power only comes from a why.

  11. SL says:

    As an atheist I find the suggestion a little odd that I cannot be a reactionary. However, “reactionary” is merely a word, one which some of you clearly imbue with meanings I did not expect.

    • James James says:

      I agree. Anomaly-UK uses “neo-reactionary” to distinguish atheist reaction from “throne and altar”-based reaction. (Atheist reactionaries cannot use religion as a basis for their ideology, so perhaps they have to find something else.)

      As an atheist reactionary, I use both interchangeably.

      • @SL “I find the suggestion a little odd that I cannot be a reactionary. ” – the point of the linked postings was to explain that while it is facile for you, or for anyone else, to stake a theoretical claim that you are both an atheist and a reactionary – the evidence (as I read it) is that this claim has zero traction in practice when things get difficult, or even slightly uncomfortable, or even when things threaten that they *might* get uncomfortable.

        What we see in the world is that it takes very little in the way of bribery, coercion or threats to make an atheist sell-out on his reactionary ‘beliefs’ – while it is an obvious fact of world history that religious people will suffer and die rather than abandon their religions.

        (Of course these beliefs may be false or evil or both – but nonethless people obviously will suffer and die for religious beliefs.)

        So it is a matter of the difference between theory and practice: reactionary on theory or on paper versus reactionary in practice in the world.

        The point being that there is no compelling reason for an atheist to be reactionary, or indeed to be anything else; so there is no compelling reason for an atheist not to change his mind. So he does, quite easily, when it is expedient.

        (If you add up all the negatives, it does make sense…)

        (Examples to the contrary will almost all be those raised as devoutly traditionally religious people who become atheists as teens or adults – but they retain the transcendental absolutism of religion. The moral flaccidity of modern ‘sheeple’ comes from their having been raised atheist in an atheist society – the first real atheists in world history.)

      • James James says:

        BGC,

        What about communism? It seems to me that there are at least *some* non-supernatural ideologies which have motivated their followers to fight and die.

        (As you know, Moldbug thinks that American communism is basically the 20th-century Protestant Christianity memeplex with God removed, but everything else pretty much the same. So the ideology is non-supernatural, but it’s not unfair to describe it as religious (and irrational, psychotic, as you do).)

        Also, who says that fighting and dying is necessary to take over power? PC didn’t win by winning wars.

  12. James James says:

    ASDF writes: “1) Being anything besides a nihilist at least requires some theism…

    Why would someone value hedonic utilitarianism without a God?

    The problem is always “why” you believe in something. All stated objective have no “why” without God. And lacking a “why” they become meaningless and undefendable. Nihilism is the only logical result of a lack of “why”.”

    This is the oldest trick in the book, and it doesn’t work. It begs the question, by assuming that you are a Christian (or whatever) already. If you are a Christian, then you see no reason to adopt any ultimate goal without God. But someone who is not yet a Christian, and is looking around for an ultimate goal/purpose, then Christianity is just another ultimate goal, which someone could choose to adopt just as much as hedonic utilitarianism (or whatever), and requiring just as much justification as any other ultimate goal. It still needs to be justified by using premises agreed by both parties to the argument.

    The word “nihilism” is propaganda. The few hedonic utilitarians I know do not consider themselves nihilists. “Nihilist” implies that they have no ultimate goal. But they do: Hedonic utilitarianism! For a Christian to say “but what is the justification for your choice of hedonic utilitarianism misses the point. It is still their ultimate goal, even though they can justify it. And since they have an ultimate goal, they are not nihilists.

    Here I must clear up a confusion of language. It is not a contraction to say that “hedonic utilitarianism is my ultimate goal, and here is my justification for it”. Christians think that they can justify their Christianity, but that doesn’t stop it being their ultimate goal.

    • josh says:

      Nobody is really a nihilist. To be a nihilist is not only to not believe that there is real goal directedness (final causality) in the universe, but also one must not believe in universals (formal causality). Nobody really believes that cats are only an arbitrary construction of the mind (which itself is an illusion of sorts), even the philosophers who claim they believe exactly this. The point is, it *is* the only *logical* result of the turtles all the way down view of the universe. It is the “everlasting no”.

    • asdf says:

      Your grammar is very bad in this comment, so I don’t want to reply to it if I don’t understand what you are saying. Please proofread if you are going to follow up.

      I ask again:

      What is your justification for making hedonic utilitarianism your ultimate goal?

      It does not “miss the point” to ask this question. It is, quite frankly, the whole point.

      • josh says:

        I should proofread, but I never reread what I write. Apparently, my grammar is so bad, that it did not come across that I am not a hedonic utilitarian, but a Christian.

      • josh says:

        or maybe you were replying to James. My bad.

      • James James says:

        “I ask again:

        What is your justification for making hedonic utilitarianism your ultimate goal?”

        No, let’s not change the subject. The point is that people with values and purposes are not nihilists, even if they haven’t thought about the (perhaps non-existent) justification for their values and purposes. A nihilist is someone who *has* thought hard about the question you are asking, and concluded that there is no justification.

        Your question may be very important, but you’ve got to stop calling your opponents nihilists when they are not.

      • Simon says:

        Just misguided.

        The question: is is true that there is no ultimate purpose to human life?

        You can not know, without reference to God.

        Pity that, huh.

  13. Simon says:

    Here’s what all you clever atheist/hedonists/utilitarians need to meditate on this weekend:

    Consider truth, and the conditions of its existence. Acknowledge truth is non-existent without God. As a result, acknowledge the existence of God.

    That’s enough for one weekend.

    • James James says:

      “Acknowledge truth is non-existent without God.”

      Wrong.

      • Simon says:

        Justification?

      • James James says:

        Er, what? I think it is you who need to provide a justification.

        I can conceive of a world in which truth is possible without God. Truth is just a correct description of the world. “The sky is blue”: true. If God didn’t exist, it would still be possible to correctly describe the world. This is equivalent to me saying “I can conceive of a world without God”, which is handy, because you are arguing that that a world without God is impossible.

        (Conceivable is not necessarily the same as possible, but in this case it is.)

        Anyway, I don’t want to get into arguments about the existence of God: we’ve all done it before and I’ve probably read all your arguments already on Edward Feser’s blog.

      • Simon says:

        As with most atheists, James, you don’t go deep enough. Understandable, as it would destroy your whole worldview, which is extremely painful to the human mind.

        You’re trying to convince me that a particular view of the world is true, that the way you view the world is true: so we can safely conclude you believe truth exists.

        Now, as a condition of its existence, truth must be objective.

        The source of objective truth is, logically, God.

        So you implicitly:

        Accept truth’s existence, which means you:

        Believe it is objective, which means you:

        Believe God exists.

        Fairly simple.

      • Simon says:

        Of course, here I am speaking of the metaphysical nature of truth, not banalities like “The sky is blue”.

      • James James says:

        “Now, as a condition of its existence, truth must be objective.

        The source of objective truth is, logically, God.”

        I don’t agree. Truth is a property of statements about the world. Its “source” is the world, by which I mean a statement is true if it accurately describes the world.

        “Of course, here I am speaking of the metaphysical nature of truth, not banalities like ‘The sky is blue’.”

        What do you mean? What things can be true or false, other than statements about the world?

      • Simon says:

        “The sky is blue”,

        is a true statement. Now consider the statement:

        “There is no such thing as truth”

        Obviously false.

        So, there is such a thing as truth.

        As a condition of truth’s existence, there must be a standard, a thing by which truth and falsity are differentiated. Call it what you want: an Entity of Pure Truth, the Coherence of Existence, whatever, but what you’re really conceding is the existence of God.

        If there is no standard by which truth and falsity are differentiated, truth would not exist.

        Do you find a fault with my reasoning?

      • James James says:

        “Do you find a fault with my reasoning?”

        Yes! The standard by which truth and falsity are differentiated, by which statements are evaluated, is the world! (Wittgenstein’s “world”, which includes all true statements.)

        You keep on starting with banalities, and then making a sudden non-sequitur jump to God without any intervening explanation.

        E.g.

        “‘The sky is blue’,

        is a true statement. Now consider the statement:

        ‘There is no such thing as truth’

        Obviously false.

        So, there is such a thing as truth.

        As a condition of truth’s existence, there must be a standard, a thing by which truth and falsity are differentiated…”

        With you so far.

        “Call it what you want: an Entity of Pure Truth, the Coherence of Existence, whatever, but what you’re really conceding is the existence of God.”

        What? No I’m not! Does not follow.

        “If there is no standard by which truth and falsity are differentiated, truth would not exist.”

        Ah, you are just a Platonist. You are equivocating between different meanings of the word “exist”. You are claiming that because truth the concept exists, therefore truth is an object (“an Entity of Pure Truth”). Wrong. Truth is not an object, it is a property of some statements about the world. I mean, come on. What is this gibberish – “an Entity of Pure Truth”?

        Also, “an Entity of Pure Truth” is not the same as the fact that the world does not contain contradictions (“the Coherence of Existence,Coherence of Existence”).

      • Anonymous says:

        Are “skies” a meaningful category with a real independent existence or is the concept of “sky” simply an arbitrary category, the result of the way atoms of the brain combine to give the illusion of a “mind” related to but distinct from the material of the brain. If there were no brains, would there still be skies or would there simply be energy and flux, unseen and unfelt? If all the universe is just energy and flux in different patterns, but there were nobody to notice the patterns, it would be meaningless to say where a “cat” ended and the “air” around it began. They both are simply part of the great flux of matter interacting with all other matter. If brains are simply matter, the distinctions they draw are not real or true. What we call Truth relies on the idea that categories or “forms” are real and not arbitrary (or even useful) contructions of a material brain. We can not otherwise talk about the properties “skies” or “blueness”. If these categorieshave real existance than we acknowledge the existence of non-material reality. Then, the question becomes, what gives these categories existence.

      • Simon says:

        Aha! I know exactly what is going on here, and I have been explaining myself poorly.

        Expect full responses tomorrow…

      • josh says:

        anonymouse above was me.

  14. Simon says:

    I’ve also been considering evolution from its correct frame as well.

    Modern evolutionary theory postulates that we evolved from certain combinations of atoms, to what we are today.

    My question is, is what is the significance of this? If all we are is atoms that have “combined” and began “reproducing” (whatever that means), what is the significance of this?

    A giant ball of atoms in a universe of atoms has “reproducing” (again, what does this mean, and why is it significant?) atoms upon it.

    Does anyone really believe this? Does this make sense to anyone?

    • Simon says:

      I also think this explains why 99.9999% of all mankind has been theistic: we do differentiate ourselves from the rest of existence; we do realise we exist, and that something recognises and causes our existence.

    • James James says:

      Makes perfect sense to me.

      Your argument is

      1. If we are just atoms reproducing our patterns, then we have no significance.
      2. We do have significance.
      Therefore, we are not *just* reproducing patterns of atoms.

      I dispute premise 2.

      • Simon says:

        You may think you are being terribly rational and hard-nosed here, James James, but consider your position.

        You (a random bit of atoms) are arguing with me (a random bit of atoms) about something or other. Your actions betray you.

        Now, let’s keep consistent to the theory of evolution; let us not change our frame.

        This is essentially what the modern theory of evolution states:

        1. All is atoms

        2. All is atoms

        Does this describe reality to you? Really?

        If all is atoms, why are we here arguing about this? Why does our very existence scream to us the contrary? Why the fuck are you arguing with me about the truth of anything if this is what you perceive reality as (of course you don’t really, it would be impossible, but you think you do)?

        The modern theory of evolution so incredibly deficient and retarded, it is beyond words.

      • Gabe Ruth says:

        Calm down, Simon. There’s no point arguing with a person who believes he has no significance. The best he can hope for is the fate of Bartleby the scrivener, but most aren’t that lucky.

        “And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”

      • James James says:

        “Why does our very existence scream to us the contrary?”

        How? It doesn’t.

        “Why the fuck are you arguing with me about the truth of anything if this is what you perceive reality as (of course you don’t really, it would be impossible, but you think you do)?”

        Wrong. Of course it is possible.

      • Simon says:

        To make this coherent, can you give me a valid reason to change my frame? Why should I not consider you to be solely a collection of atoms?

      • James James says:

        “Why should I not consider you to be solely a collection of atoms?”

        I’m happy for you to consider me a collection of atoms. I am!

        I happen to be a collection of atoms with unusual properties that we don’t understand, such as consciousness and qualia, but a collection of atoms I am.

      • James James says:

        You claim that my actions and beliefs are contradictory, like a solipsist talking to other people. But I don’t think it’s analogous. I don’t even understand your position, since you think it too obvious to bother spelling out. “If all is atoms, why are we here arguing about this?” Why does it follow that “if all is atoms” we shouldn’t have arguments?

        (Even a solipsist can have good reasons for talking to other people: you have to be nice to your colleagues if you want a salary to pay for your material comfort.)

      • Simon says:

        Haha, James, I’m afraid you just failed my credibility test.

        I’m afraid I won’t grant you consciousness or qualia.

        There is no difference between you and a rock, or a bit of water, or a tree, or a house. Indeterminate matter. Atoms around atoms.

        Do you understand the concept of framing?

        It’s been fun.

        (Thanks, Gabe, James was a beta tester.)

      • James James says:

        “can you give me a valid reason to change my frame?” “Do you understand the concept of framing?”

        No, I don’t know what you mean by frame/framing. Googling didn’t help.

  15. Simon says:

    Ok, I’ll try to spell it out.

    A car is a car. But it is also a collection of atoms. Depends on what frame you’re using.

    A human is a human. But it is also a collection of atoms. Depends on what frame you’re using.

    If in the beginning, all was atoms, what’s changed?

  16. James James says:

    Oh, you’re just a Platonist, confused by giving special significance to descriptions. Abstraction can be helpful, but some abstractions are gibberish (see my remarks on your “Entity of Pure Truth” in my comment above: https://foseti.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/bruce-charltons-christianity/#comment-12130 ).

  17. Simon says:

    This is how I’ll finish up here; everything I’ve said gets clarified here:

    When you deny the existence of God, you cut yourself off from the absolute, and content yourself with the contingent.

    If you wanted to know the true purpose of man’s life, you would have to accept that God exists, because he is the only one that would know…

    • asdf says:

      Simon,

      Many men spend a lot of their lives “very angry at God for not existing”. Then something happens and they realize how silly that sentence is. Usually that something isn’t an argument on a message board. James may or may not come around sometime.

  18. […] – Bruce Charlton’s Christianity, Review: The Electric Kool-Aid Acid […]

  19. […] Foseti’s (somewhat) recent post on ‘your’ Christianity seems to me to be the atheistic obverse to your coin. You posit a Christianity that bears some resemblance to Lewis’s, with a different sort of nihilism behind it. (I am not trying to agitate you by the use of that word; I am speaking frankly, and I do not think that false diplomacy is of much use in such a discussion.) Lewis wanted to simply bracket away most of the questions of what the Church really is by painting it with a right–ish version of the broad church brush; you’ve used the idea to beg off making choices. It’s little wonder that a Foseti may doubt the Nietzschean/Moldbuggian line about Christianity as the fountainhead of modern liberalism, but cannot seem to respect Christianity— or be able to fully reject the line. (There is some truth in it, in any case.) […]

  20. How do I use my wordpress theme on my regular subpages?

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