Saturday, June 09, 2007

The case for the nonexistence of Jesus

In critiquing Christopher Hitchens performance in the Great God Debate, I gave him low marks for placing doubt on the existence of the historical Jesus. But prompted by a comment on Mark D Roberts' blog, I read an article by Earl Doherty entitled "The Jesus Puzzle" which presents a compelling case, based on an analysis of the books of the New Testament as well as Christian apologists of the second century, that the insertion of the historic figure of Jesus into the Gospel account of Mark was a later invention for a Christian tradition that had its origins in a marriage of Greek Platonic philosophy and Hellenized Judaism. Here is the crux of Doherty's thesis:

Part One, "A Conspiracy of Silence," takes a detailed look at the pervasive silence on the Gospel Jesus of Nazareth which we find in almost a hundred years of earliest Christian correspondence. Not once does Paul or any other first century epistle writer identify their divine Christ Jesus with the recent historical man known from the Gospels. Nor do they attribute the ethical teachings they put forward to such a man. Virtually every other detail in the picture of the Gospel Jesus is similarly missing. If Jesus was a "social reformer" whose teachings began the Christian movement, as today's liberal scholars now style him, how can such a Jesus be utterly lacking in all the New Testament epistles, while only a cosmic Christ is to be found?

This missing dimension in the early Christian record cannot be shrugged off, as New Testament scholarship has had a habit of doing. Timeworn "explanations" such as that the early church "had no interest" in the earthly life of Jesus, or that Paul's theology did not require it, are simply inadequate, if not in many respects fallacious. Scholars love to malign the so-called "argument from silence," but when the void is this pervasive and profound, the rationale for it had better be of sterling quality, and such a thing not even the most recent scholarship has provided. In this first article, I point out elements to that silence in the epistles which have been little if at all remarked on before.

Part Two, "Who Was Christ Jesus?", is the core of the series, for it attempts to set out the concept of the spiritual Christ who was the object of faith for Paul and much of the early Christian movement. This faith grew out of the prominent religious and philosophical ideas of the age, both Jewish and Greek, about an intermediary force between God and the world, a spiritual "Son"; it operated within views of the universe which have long since been abandoned. I also compare Paul's Christ with the savior deities of the current Graeco-Roman mystery cults, and although it is no longer fashionable to maintain that much of what is distinctively Christian was directly derived from the mysteries, both these religious expressions share elements of the same thought-world and are in part branches of the same tree. Seeing Christianity in this light goes a long way toward understanding some of Paul's thought. At the same time, Paul's words about Christ are examined to show that apostles like himself are offering a faith based on revelation from God, mostly through the interpretation of scripture, in an age of divine inspiration which had nothing to do with the recent career of an historical man. The second article finishes with a brief look at another conclusion: that Christianity, as shown by its great diversity in the early period, did not arise at a single time and place or out of a single missionary movement, but expressed itself in different forms in many sects and locations. I offer a definition of the terms "Jesus" and "Christ" as they were used during this initial period.

Part Three, "The Evolution of Jesus of Nazareth," begins with a search for the Gospels. These documents, which scholars now admit are expressions of faith, not history, were written in stages and probably not as early as traditionally supposed. Ultimately they are all dependent for their picture of Jesus' life on a single source, the earliest version of Mark. Nor does any sign of them emerge in the wider Christian world until well into the second century. Next, I take a close look at the document known as "Q" in which the core of the historical Jesus as teacher, miracle-worker and apocalyptic prophet— something quite separate from the cultic Christ of Paul—was first created. I show how signs within that document and its evolution indicate that no historical figure lay at its roots. Those who now claim that the Christian movement began out of the teachings of a Jesus as represented in the Synoptic Gospels, are forced to base such a figure almost exclusively on that lost Q document, and what can be gleaned about its original nature and developmental stages. Claims of corroboration in the rediscovered Gospel of Thomas rest also on uncertain foundations. The article concludes with a survey of how Mark put the first Gospel together out of separate elements, its scriptural ingredients and sectarian features.


Very interesting and illuminating reading.

75 Comments:

Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Wow. The New Testament is a fraud and the Old Testament is a bore.

June 10, 2007 3:38 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

They're both a fraud.

June 10, 2007 9:39 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

But seriously, Doherty's analysis highlights facts that I was unaware of, such as the fact that the majority of the non-Gospel writings in the New Testament, both in Paul and the acts of the apostles, talk of Christ with no reference to the existence of the actual man Jesus. All writings prior to Mark are silent on Jesus. If early Christianity was solely a by-product of Jesus' preaching career and his subsequent death and resurrection, you would have expected that references to him would be the central focus of all of the earliest writings, but the earliest writings are silent.

It never even occurred to me that there could be a cult of Christianity without Jesus, the two are so inextricably linked in Christian theology. But the tradition of the Christ predates Jesus's time, and is of Greek origin, not Jewish.

Like I said, fascinating stuff.

June 10, 2007 10:05 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

It sure occurred to me. Here are the first paragraphs of my review of Michael Jordan's (no, not that Michael Jordan) 'The Historical Mary':

Since there was no historical individual Jesus, he cannot have had an individual mother who can be investigated as "The Historical Mary." However, to the limited extent that the relations in scripture (orthodox or apocryphal) have anything to do with events that really happened around the time of Augustus, there might be AN historical Mary who represented the class of mothers of the various men whose preachings were collected (and confabulated) as the sayings of "Jesus."

Michael Jordan manages to hold both these incompatible viewpoints at the same time: That there was an individual Mary, but that the person he investigates is defined by a class of women who were fertility priestesses in a cult that partook of both Jewish and pagan traditions.

The whole thing is posted at Amazon.

'The Five Gospels' by the Jesus Seminar, in which all the big noises in American scriptural scholarship voted which parts of the gospels referred back to THE historical Jesus is equally funny.

They didn't agree on much, but what they did agree as what they regard as the certain Jesus was pitifully small and remarkably insipid.

Their Jesus isn't even as profound as 'Desiderata.'

Of course, if you're willing to believe that people come back from the dead, anything as ridiculous as evidence is beside the point, isn't it?

June 10, 2007 12:07 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Their Jesus isn't even as profound as 'Desiderata.'

Which means it isn't even a patch on Deteriorata:

Detiorata

Go placidly
Amid the noise and waste.
And remember what comfort there may be
In owning a piece thereof.

Avoid quiet and passive persons
Unless you are in need of sleep.

Ro-tate your tires.

Speak glowingly of those greater than yourself
And heed well their advice,
Even though they be turkeys.

Know what to kiss.....and when!

Consider that two wrongs never make a right
But that THREE.........do.

Wherever possible, put people on hold.

Be comforted that in the face of all aridity and disillusionment
And despite the changing fortunes of time,
There is always a big future in computer maintenance.

You are a fluke
Of the universe.
You have no right to be here.
And whether you can hear it or not
The universe is laughing behind your back.

Remember the Pueblo.

Strive at all times to bend, fold, spindle and mutilate.

Know yourself.
If you need help, call the FBI.

Exercise caution in your daily affairs,
Especially with those persons closest to you.
That lemon on your left, for instance.

Be assured that a walk through the ocean of most souls
Would scarcely get your feet wet.

Fall not in love therefore;
It will stick to your face.

Gracefully surrender the things of youth:
The birds, clean air, tuna, Taiwan
And let not the sands of time
Get in your lunch.

Hire people with hooks.

For a good time call 606-4311;
Ask for "Ken."

Take heart amid the deepening gloom
That your dog is finally getting enough cheese.

And reflect that whatever misfortune may be your lot
It could only be worse in Milwaukee.

You are a fluke
Of the universe.
You have no right to be here.
And whether you can hear it or not
The universe is laughing behind your back.

Therefore, make peace with your god
Whatever you conceive him to be---
Hairy thunderer, or cosmic muffin.

With all its hopes, dreams, promises and urban renewal
The world continues to deteriorate.

June 10, 2007 1:12 PM  
Blogger David said...

Hmm, my general rule is that any mention of the Pueblo is antisemitic, but I have to admit that this might not be.

(Not that there aren't perfectly valid non-antisemitic things to say about the Pueblo, but in my experience only antisemites bring it up.)

June 10, 2007 6:15 PM  
Blogger David said...

Just so no one is confused, I'm not in any way suggesting that Skipper is antisemitic.

June 10, 2007 6:16 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Do you mean the Liberty?

The Pueblo was the one captured by the Norkoms.

June 10, 2007 8:53 PM  
Blogger monix said...

In another place, Harry promised me: "Secularism will make you free." Funny, it seems all the secularists, atheists and agnostics are obsessed by questions of religion while I'm feeling pretty relaxed about it.

June 10, 2007 11:26 PM  
Blogger Ali said...

Yeah, I kind of tune out of the discussions.

June 11, 2007 3:19 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

monix:

Harry meant free to be splenetic about religion. But I'm sure the Daily Duck is up to the challenge of proving that you are not relaxed at all. Or that, if you are, you haven't a clue as to what religion is about and would be far from relaxed if you did. Or perhaps evolution made you a naturally relaxed person who would be just as relaxed by atheism or voodoo.

Anyway, don't relax too much. I hear Hitch is coming out with a sequel: God is Not Relaxing!.

June 11, 2007 3:26 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

David:

Hmm, my general rule is that any mention of the Pueblo is antisemitic ...

You are a master at reinforcing your points by making the reader work through double, or hidden, meaning.

Yet despite knowing that, and after many careful ponderings and re-readings, I can only say: huh?

Monix:

Secularism makes freedom of conscience, among a great many other freedoms, possible.

Religion has never done that.

June 11, 2007 3:59 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

"Thou shalt relax!"

"Blessed are the relaxed, for they shall benefit from a heart-healthy lifestyle."

"For God's Kingdom will come like a thief in the night, so no use worrying about it. Relax!"

"What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his cool?"

"I come not with a sword but with a massage."

June 11, 2007 4:23 AM  
Blogger David said...

Harry's right. I'm an idiot. Carry on.

June 11, 2007 5:15 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

That is an interesting thesis.

And whether or not the secularists are obsessed with religion is utterly irrelevant to its truth value.

June 11, 2007 5:48 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

As then presumably would be whether believers lop peoples' heads off in its name.

Loved your strategic "utterly", but what is "truth value"?

June 11, 2007 6:01 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Its state of being either true or false.

June 11, 2007 6:40 AM  
Blogger monix said...

Hey Skipper said:
Secularism makes freedom of conscience, among a great many other freedoms, possible.

Religion has never done that.


Sorry but I can't let that one pass. The explicit teaching of the Catholic church is "Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article 1782)

June 11, 2007 7:03 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

He mustn't? Then why was I forced to take the Legion of Decency pledge? Why did the church claim the right to limit the pool of women I could pick a mate from?

Peter and David always object that I go back to medieval times, so I'm just taking stuff that happened in my own life.

On your side of the pond, why did the church fight so hard to prevent non-Catholics from sending their children to non-Catholic state schools?

June 11, 2007 9:00 AM  
Blogger monix said...

I'm afraid I've not come across the League of Decency, so can only think it was a local custom. (Google just came up with a jazz band!) Why you would be forced to join, I'm at a loss to understand. There have been some pretty odd, sometimes terrible, things done in the name but without the knowledge or sanction of the church.

As for attending non-Catholic schools in UK - it was discouraged, not forbidden; both my sisters attended a non-catholic school in the 1950s and early '60s. There used to be a strong suspicion of Catholics in UK, that we were not patriotic and couldn't hold public office, this led to a rather insular and defensive attitude among the Catholics.

June 11, 2007 10:24 AM  
Blogger David said...

Harry: You get to choose whether to be a Catholic. You don't get to choose what rules the church enforces.

June 11, 2007 12:18 PM  
Blogger David said...

Monix: Harry's position is that anything that the Church in Tennessee did, or any official thereof said, to him when he was young was done at the specific and inerrant command of the Pope. He also predicts that, in the end, we're going to have to go and kill as many Muslims as we can find.

Other than that, he seems like a pretty good guy.

June 11, 2007 12:22 PM  
Blogger monix said...

David:I know you must be right!

June 11, 2007 1:09 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Harry: You get to choose whether to be a Catholic.

That hasn't always been the case, David (ok, qualified: one could always choose between being a Catholic, or the stake).

Why?

June 11, 2007 6:36 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Actually, as Orrin has defended so nuttily, you don't get to choose.

If the fervid nurse baptizes the baby born of a Jewish couple, he's Catholic and they take him away.

According to the Roman Catholic Church, you cannot undo baptism. Nor can you resign. Catholics can 'fall away' or 'lapse,' but they're still Catholics.

Mormons seem to have similar views, while Muslims recognize but do not accept apostasy.

There's something wrong with a situation in which I have to instruct believers what the church teaches, but here goes:

The Legion of Decency was not some Tennessee aberration. It was the National Legion of Decency, and all 175 or so bishops organized the pledge on the same Sunday.

I am appalled, I guess, that people who have nailed themselves to the religious mast seem not to know anything about the church's position on secular education -- it was and is ag'in it.

Pius X wrote an encyclical against 'modernism,' basically what's in our Constitution plus non-Catholic education in all forms.

As for free will, that comes with some knobs. "For, once ascribe to human reason the only authority to decide what is true and what is good, and the real distinction between good and evil is destroyed." Pope Leo XIII, encyclical "On the Nature of True Liberty."

Encyclicals, as I guess none of you knows, are pastoral letters telling Roman Catholics in detail how they are to understand their faith.

June 11, 2007 10:32 PM  
Blogger monix said...

Harry: The League of Decency doesn't seem to have existed in England and it sounds as if we had a lucky escape.
Papal encyclicals are letters, often quite enlightening but sometimes reflecting the prjudices and fears of the times in which they were written and Leo X111 lived in the 19th century and Pius X died in 1914 - things have moved on a little. Have you read the documents from Vat 2? That Council tried to shake off some of the burdens that had been imposed through centuries of bureaucracy.

June 11, 2007 11:45 PM  
Blogger monix said...

A further question for Harry: why would it bother you that baptism is regarded as a one-off? You make it sound as if the Baptism Police will come and round you up if you decide it's not for you. All it means is that if you should decide to return, you'll be made very welcome!

June 12, 2007 12:00 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Harry just takes it seriously and straight. I don't know why he does, but he does.

Most Catholics, most religious people, do not. They pick the best bits and behave humanely.

This is why religion is mostly harmless within secular states, and why I am not anti-religious. If religion was taken seriously where I live, I would be much more like Harry.

June 12, 2007 1:46 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Harry, I know a god witch doctor who can undo your baptism. You'll need to provide your own goat, though.

Monix, just curious. If you can brush off the encyclicals of past popes, then doesn't that contradict the whole notion of having a pope to begin with?

June 12, 2007 4:59 AM  
Blogger David said...

Darn it. Just when we were getting Harry to move into the 19th century, I had to open my mouth and send him back to the middle ages.

June 12, 2007 5:13 AM  
Blogger monix said...

Duck: Papal encyclicals are letters and not the same as papal decrees (of which there have been very few - 12 I think in 2000 years). People get confused about what papal infallibility means; the pope, like any other bishop, can express his personal views as a theologian or pastor, and you and I can choose to disagree. That might contradict some notions of having a pope but that is getting into a whole new territory!

June 12, 2007 7:33 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

According to the Roman Catholic Church, you cannot undo baptism. Nor can you resign. Catholics can 'fall away' or 'lapse,' but they're still Catholics.

Mormons seem to have similar views...

For Mormons, excommunication undoes baptism, and members can officially resign, for the few who find simply severing contact to be unfulfilling.

If an excommunicated member later decides, and is allowed, to rejoin the Church, then she must be baptized again.

Excommunication is sometimes seen as a punishment, by those cast out or by those doing the casting, but in Mormon theology it's ultimately done to spiritually benefit those being excommunicated, for reasons that I won't bore anyone with.

[Harry] also predicts that, in the end, we're going to have to go and kill as many Muslims as we can find.

And he might be right about that - I give it a 1/3 chance that we'll end up killing most, a 1/3 chance that we'll kill many but not most, and a 1/3 chance that we'll only kill a few hundred thousand more than we've already killed.

June 13, 2007 1:10 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Make that a ¼ chance that we'll end up killing most, a ¼ chance that we'll kill many but not most, and a ½ chance that we'll only kill a few hundred thousand more than we've already killed.

I am, after all, an optimist.

June 13, 2007 1:16 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

By 'we' I presume you mean the American military.

There are about 1 billion Muslims in the world. So by 'most' you mean more than 500 million.

So, Oro, you're suggesting there's a 1 in 4 chance that the American military will kill more than 500 million Muslims. Have you got a timescale for this little project?

June 13, 2007 1:46 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Before 2050.

June 13, 2007 3:38 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Oh that's sensible then. Glad to see you're being realistic about it.

June 13, 2007 4:01 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Let us suppose that a nuke goes off in a major American city, that it was clearly smuggled in, not carried on an ICBM, and that, (rightfully or not), the act is blamed on Islamofascists, as it currently would be.

What's your scenario for the American response, and for the response of every other advanced nation, and for less-advanced nations that might have nukes and/or large conventional militaries ?

I find the "wholesale slaughter" scenario to be the most credible.

But I think that "before 2050" is the most likely timeline for such a possible event, because around the middle of this century Arab Muslims are more likely to be focused on fighting each other over the dregs of their riches, as the oil goes dry, and with each passing year the technology of the advanced nations further outstrips the abilities of Islamicists to circumvent it.

So it's entirely possible that by 2050, it won't be possible for low-tech operatives to smuggle a nuke into a major American city.

June 13, 2007 4:41 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

The equivocation between Islamic terrorists and Muslims genuinely worries me.

June 13, 2007 5:24 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Brit:

Then you take Sam Harris's thesis seriously?

June 13, 2007 7:47 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

No, my worry is the same as it's always been. That prejudice bred by ignorance, and by fear of Islamic extremists, will lead to racist attacks on Muslims who live in the west.

June 13, 2007 8:09 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

That prejudice bred by ignorance, and by fear of Islamic extremists, will lead to racist attacks on Muslims who live in the west.

Isn't happening in America, despite all of the Muslims who have been arrested over the past five years for plotting to kill innocents.

Maybe ignorant racist attacks on Muslims are a European thing, although mostly what we hear about in America are Euro politicians and filmmakers being assassinated by crazed Muslims.

June 13, 2007 8:16 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

How many Muslims do you know personally, Oro? (You know at least one virtually.)

June 13, 2007 8:16 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

I don't know how many I currently know, (although I've known at least three who made a point of proclaiming their religion, and they were fairly nuts), and that's the point: Integrated people have nothing to fear, and even the unintegrated generally suffer nothing more than hard looks, if that, in America, despite "prejudice bred by ignorance, and by fear of Islamic extremists".

But whom I know is rather irrelevant, since I live in the United States, and the problem lies in the Middle East. Those are the folks whose behavior and future choices are driving, and will drive, the response from the world's advanced nations.

They can do it the easy way, or the hard way. I hope for easy, but expect hard, since up 'til now that's how they've mostly wanted it.

June 13, 2007 8:28 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Your comment above was pretty casual about the prospect of racist violence on Muslims, but you seem to have wisely deleted it.

I can remember it, however, and it relied on another racism-justifying equivocation: "they" being Muslims who either are extreme Islamicists or corroborate with them, and "they" being all Muslims.

June 13, 2007 8:45 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

...another racism-justifying equivocation: [...] "they" being all Muslims.

You'll have to explain what that means.

Are you saying that "they", people who are so hostile to America that they would seek to do her harm, even at the cost of their own lives, are perceived to be all Muslims, but that some of them are not ?

If so, which other groups can you point to that have actually physically attacked America ?

Further, do you deny that almost all of the major terrorist groups active today are engaged in religiously-based campaigns, and composed of Muslims ?

June 13, 2007 8:57 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

That's an irrelevent begging of the question. Of course all Islamic terrorists are Muslim.

All IRA terrorists are Irish republicans. It does not follow that all Irish republicans are terrorists, (nor indeed, that we will one day have to kill 50% of Irishmen).

I'm denying that all Muslims are Islamic extremists.

This is something you agree with, but it's amazing how easily it's forgotten.

An argument like the one you deleted (which runs: if Muslims suffer racist attacks they only have themselves to blame, because Muslims corroborate with Islamic terrorists) is an example of forgetting it, and equivocating between "particular Muslims who corroborate with terrorists" and "any Muslim who suffers a racist attack."

June 13, 2007 10:37 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

I'm denying that all Muslims are Islamic extremists.

Of course they aren't - but that's irrelevant to whether or not tens or hundreds of millions of relatively innocent Muslims might someday be killed by the advanced nations.

Very few people in Dresden were Nazis, and I imagine that few in Hiroshima really cared that much about Americans, but that didn't save any of them from being incinerated.

As long as Muslim societies tolerate extremists living among them, they will be tarred with the same brush, and I'm gobsmacked to think that you apparently believe that if something even more appalling happens to America, due to Muslim terror, that Americans will or should take the time to segregate the truly awful from the merely accomodating.

An argument like the one you deleted (which runs: if Muslims suffer racist attacks they only have themselves to blame, because Muslims corroborate with Islamic terrorists)...

Now I wish that I had left it up, although it was an inelegant and unnecessarily forceful post, because of course I wrote nothing of the sort.

Again, I stand by my earlier statement that bigoted attacks on Muslims in America are no greater a problem than are any other kind of bigoted attacks, whether they be racial or sexual in nature.
In fact, there's very good reason to be more afraid of being attacked in America if you're openly homosexual, and less afraid if openly Muslim.

So this canard about "racist attacks" is simply pointless, at least about America. Perhaps the European experience is different, and there are plenty of Muslims getting beat up in England and France. I don't know.

But let's examine the point about mainstream, down-home Muslims collaborating with and giving sucoor to extremists and terrorists.

If there were a family living in your neighborhood, of whom only a few were gang members, but the rest lived alongside and apparently tolerated these criminals, would you really be surprised if a few of the "noncombatant" family members got caught in a crossfire between their relatives and a rival gang ?

The bottom line is, I don't expect Muslims outside of the advanced nations to get killed because of their religious affiliation, I expect that there's a CHANCE that many of them might get killed because they live around the wrong people, and they don't do anything about it.

Just like the civilians in Germany and Japan during WW II.

And I further expect that Muslims living in advanced nations won't suffer much at all, although they might come in for some hard scrutiny.

It's not a religious thing on our side, we don't care why they want us to die, it's a religious thing on their side. We're only following their lead.

June 13, 2007 8:30 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

Let me try to explain the difficulty I'm having here, Oro.

It's not clear to me whether your talk of killing at least half of all Muslims is just your dire prediction, or whether it's a course of action you would seriously consider supporting.

If it's the latter, then it's my turn to be gobsmacked. Things that make me think it's the latter are the identification of your self with the action - so you say "we" instead of "the US administration"; and your use of the word 'should' in this:

and I'm gobsmacked to think that you apparently believe that if something even more appalling happens to America, due to Muslim terror, that Americans will or should take the time to segregate the truly awful from the merely accomodating.

Well then, yes they should. And also they will.

Oro, any action that resulted in at least 50% of all the world's Muslims being killed would not be another Dresden or Hiroshima, it would be Armageddon, the end of civilisation, game over for humanity. So, yes, call me a peacenik if you will, but I would be agin' it.

But anyway, what the hell are you talking about? The most populous Muslim countries by a long distance are Indonesia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Are you going to nuke them as the quickest way to the 50% mark?

June 14, 2007 1:10 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

It's not clear to me whether your talk of killing at least half of all Muslims is just your dire prediction, or whether it's a course of action you would seriously consider supporting.

Let me refer you to my upthread post, in which I write: "Make that a ¼ chance that we'll end up killing most, a ¼ chance that we'll kill many but not most, and a ½ chance that we'll only kill a few hundred thousand more than we've already killed."

Are you seriously saying that this passage doesn't help you to distinguish which it might be ?

Things that make me think it's the latter are the identification of your self with the action - so you say "we" instead of "the US administration"...

Because people who divorce themselves from their nation's actions, regardless of how much they might disagree, are jerks.

If they are that disgusted, then they ought to emigrate, not pretend that they're somehow above the situation.

Finally, I find nothing in American history to support your thesis that if the U.S. get nuked by terrorists, the American people will observe the niceties of criminal law, rather than the brutal traditions of warfare.

For instance, the initial invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11 punished people who had no direct connection to the attack, and many who had no indirect connection, who were entirely innocent - just citizens of the wrong nation, at the wrong time.

But if you have any example which might tend to support your contention that the American public's first instict after being nuked is concern that the right parties be punished, I'll be happy to read it.

June 14, 2007 3:43 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Because people who divorce themselves from their nation's actions, regardless of how much they might disagree, are jerks.

If they are that disgusted, then they ought to emigrate, not pretend that they're somehow above the situation.


By that reasoning America should have completely emptied itself decades ago.

It's normal linguistic usage to differentiate things your government does that you support from things you don't by saying "we" or "they".

There's also a difference between patriotism and fanatical nationalism, which you don't seem to grasp.

I don't have much evidence that Americans will insist that the right parties be punished for crimes, I just hope they would.

June 14, 2007 4:01 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

There's also a difference between patriotism and fanatical nationalism, which you don't seem to grasp.

Rather, you attribute to me certain characteristics, without caring enough to verify the assumptions.

June 14, 2007 5:35 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Then I apologise if that statement was inaccurate.

June 14, 2007 6:13 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Hmmm. This seems to have morphed from the non-existence of Jesus to the too-much existence of allah.

For pete's sake, Brit. I, an atheist, have to explain to you Christians what the Catholic Church stands for. You're expecting an awful lot if you think you Christians are going to parse out the varieties of Islam.

If it comes tom that, not only won't Americans wait to separate the good Muslims from the bad Muslims. There is no way, in principle, to do so. As they all keep saying, it's the same allah.

June 14, 2007 8:42 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

You are a very knowledgeable, literal-minded man, Harry. (You're the only person who has responded to my poetical efforts by questioning their factual accuracy, for example.)

The mistake you always make is to think that the world works in a literal-minded way.

June 14, 2007 8:48 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

On the other hand, isn't it a bit patronizing and presumptuous to not take them at their word ?

Especially if those in Arab or Persian nations do nothing to attempt to convince us that they abhor violence, and present the opposite practical example at every opportunity ?

June 14, 2007 1:06 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

Even if you don't get it, it's sufficient to just not be a dick all the time to people with religion.

June 14, 2007 1:37 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

If that last is directed at me, I don't agree that I don't get it.

Even if the whole world doesn't work in a literal-minded way, the people trying to kill me do. To them, you and I are equally infidels and no doubt I am a Christian, or enough of one for their purposes.

If you're going to demand finely graded understanding of various religions, your time would be more profitably spent in the Koran Belt.

June 14, 2007 7:16 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

Some people really do want to kill you. I share your disapprobation for these people.

But not everyone really wants to kill you, including millions who are the same religion as the ones who really do want to kill you. That's the case no matter how much you insist to the people who don't really want to kill you that they ought to for reasons of intellectual consistency.

June 15, 2007 5:56 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

That's nothing but the 'good German' argument, which it still surprises me coming from an Englishman, though it shouldn't.

There'll always be an England, I guess.

Your grandathers said, the Germans couldn't possibly be serious, think of the wonderful music.

You say, the Muslims cannot possibly be serious, they drink beer and play rugger.

It's their problem. We cannot fix their religion for them.

First, they have to recognize they have a problem. Whatever else may be the case, there is no evidence at all that they do.

June 15, 2007 9:29 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

There are Englishmen who are Muslim, just as there are Englishmen who are Christian.

But of course you think the Christians are evil too.

June 15, 2007 10:29 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

If you mean that there are Muslims in
England who are appeasers, I'm with you.

It's curious. Muslims apparently believe simultaneously that infidels are so evil they are not worth not killing, but so saintly that if you do kill them, the survivors will not retaliate.

A low-quality bet, if you ask me.

June 15, 2007 8:07 PM  
Blogger Brit said...

I'm not asking you.

June 16, 2007 12:11 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I find a curious -- actually, shocking -- line from Stanley Baldwin in vol. 2 of Kershaw's life of Hitler, from 1935:

(Quoting from memory, don't have the book by me)

'With a pair of lunatics like Hitler and Mussolini, you can never tell what will happen.'

Oh, I think you could have told exactly what would happen.

More's the pity, I expect history to repeat itself, too.

June 16, 2007 3:43 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I find myself tonight in a kind of Huntingtonian fugue-state, as I read the reports from Gaza's Evening of the Ginsu Knives.

Yesterday, I chatted a bit with Bill Sylva, the newspaper's handy man, who was a reservist in the Corps of Engineers and spent a year in Iraq building schools.

Today, Hamas is reported to have looted Dahlem's palace, even to digging up palm trees. Well, I can understand that.

But apparently Hamas is also cutting down telephone poles.

It's not as if they are depriving Jews of phone poles. It's their own phone poles.

They really are not like us.

June 16, 2007 9:54 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Well Harry, I've seen you conclude general comments on Asians with that line and, of course, Muslims. I presume you don't think Africans are much like us either. There are obviously lots of folks today who see unbridgeable gulfs between Hispanics and us. How do you feel about the Swiss?

There seems to be an increasingly popular trend in modern thinking whereby everyone jumps through endless intellectual and scientific hoops to prove conclusively they are not racist and that indeed there is no such thing as race, but then feels free to characterize whole swaths of humanity as so culturally different and so menacing that we need to erect barriers to protect ourselves from them or prepare for the inevitable fight to the finish.

June 17, 2007 3:16 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Culturally different does not equal menacing. You should try living among Polynesians.

The way they 'reason' is every bit as puzzling to me as any Palestinian's, but often attractive.

Besides, in a general way, I can support Palestinian independence. I support Kurdish independence.

I'm just having trouble figuring out why, if you are taking your own country back, you cut down your own telephone poles.

So I sure don't support independence for these guys, because they are menacing to everybody, to their compatriots as much as to any outsider.

Call it pancultural menace.

As for Asians not being like us, one of the things that popped up in my fugue-state was the story in Tuchman's life of Stilwell, where he built a road in China. When he came back 10 years later, there was no sign there had ever been a road.

The carriers on that road (no doubt, though Tuchman doesn't say so) disassembled their wheelbarrows at the end of the day and carried them home on their shoulders, to save wear on the axles.

How you can be that careful of your axles and that disdainful of the road they roll over just doesn't fit for me. I cannot think like that.

June 17, 2007 10:22 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Harry - it is not the Good German argument that I'm making.

The answer to the Good German argument is "anyone is capable of evil, even one of those marvellous Germans." It is not: "if x is German then x is evil."

I'm not arguing that those marvellous Muslims are incapable of wanting to kill you.

I'm arguing that just because somebody is Muslim, it does not follow that he wants to kill you.

You seem to think it does. You're making a kind of reverse Good German argument - the Bad Muslim argument, and it's equally flawed.

June 18, 2007 1:14 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Brit:

I think you have completely missed the Good German argument.

It was (IIRC) made famous by defendants at the Nuremburg trials, and went something like this: "I did it, but I'm not guilty, because I was only following orders."

The reason it became called the "Good German" argument was that the perceived proclivity towards orderliness in Germany allowed the listener to complete the defendants assertion with a silent "... just like a Good German."

Islam is very authoritarian. It demands some very evil things. Good Muslims are obliged to do those things.

I can't see why any non-Muslim should accord the tiniest respect to the religion itself, or a significant minority of its believers.

As for the rest, they simply aren't Good Muslims, although they do provide, advertantly or not, cover for those who are.

Because someone is Muslim means that someone should want to kill you; a lack of desire can only be attributed to Q'uranic ignorance, or a lack of faith.

Harry is right, They don't think like we do.

June 18, 2007 6:15 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Well, whatever you want to call it, I'm arguing against what I thought Harry was calling the good German argument:

"Your grandathers said, the Germans couldn't possibly be serious, think of the wonderful music.

You say, the Muslims cannot possibly be serious, they drink beer and play rugger."

June 18, 2007 8:28 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I think my point was closer to the way Brit took it, though I don't disagree with Skipper's version, either.

Kershaw is fond of the phrase 'working toward the Fuhrer' to describe how the 'good Germans' (virtually all of them) were in tune with Hitler, even in advance of some of his worse ideas.

Let me try again. I think I've said this before.

All organizations have a program: Islam has a program, the Daily Duck has a program, the Thursday Night Keglers Social Club has a program.

Part of Islam's program -- the only part that interests me -- is the eventual, divinely-promised triumph of dar al-Islam over dar al-Harb (that would be me).

This is very dangerous to me.

Therefore, any Muslim who doesn't explicitly reject that program (and, yes, I understand the program is not one of the 5 determining rituals that Muslims consider the irreducible sign of being Muslim) is dangerous to me.

Call it fellow-traveling, being a useful idiot, what you will.

If a Muslim doesn't explicitly reject the program, then he's on the wrong side.

As some anonymous Internet Islamophobe put it: the only good Muslim is a bad Muslim.

June 18, 2007 9:37 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

But don't listen to me. Listen to the religious affairs minister of the largest Muslim country:

'ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan on Monday condemned Britain’s award of a knighthood to author Salman Rushdie as an affront to Muslim sentiments, and a Cabinet minister said the honor provided a justification for suicide attacks.

“This is an occasion for the (world’s) 1.5 billion Muslims to look at the seriousness of this decision,” Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq, religious affairs minister, said in parliament.

“The West is accusing Muslims of extremism and terrorism. If someone exploded a bomb on his body, he would be right to do so unless the British government apologizes and withdraws the ‘sir’ title,” ul-Haq said. ...

In the eastern city of Multan, hard-line Muslim students burned effigies of Queen Elizabeth II and Rushdie. About 100 students carrying banners condemning the author also chanted, “Kill him! Kill him!” '

Do you think fantasies like this inhabit the fever dreams of Rowan Williams?

June 18, 2007 9:44 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

Yes, you've said it before many, many times.

I answered it directly up above:

"But not everyone really wants to kill you, including millions who are the same religion as the ones who really do want to kill you. That's the case no matter how much you insist to the people who don't really want to kill you that they ought to for reasons of intellectual consistency."

Your response is just to say it again.

Fear and loathing is usually based on ignorance. Yours is based on a particular brand of ignorance: too much booklearnin', not enough understanding of people.

Oroborous thinks America might kill 500 million Muslims. You seem to think the killing of twice that number would be justified based on a strict interpretation of the Koran which you openly admit few real-life Muslims actually hold.

I don't know who you mean by 'us', but you guys really are not like me.

June 19, 2007 3:04 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Congratulations Skipper/Harry, you have successfully used all that formidable brainpower to completely dehumanize the "other". It's a great 20th century tradition that keeps life from becoming too subtle or boring. No need to trouble ourselves with difficult strategic and intercultural issues anymore, or to judge and question ourselves. Tyrannical regimes and the people they tyrannize are now one and the same and equally guilty. And they are bad Muslims to boot, so let's just roll!

June 19, 2007 3:22 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

Not dehumanize, humanize.

You miss the point. I don't, and I'm sure Skipper doesn't, want them to make us kill them. I want them to make their compadres stop trying to kill us.

How complicated is that?

If what you call bad Muslims and I call good Muslims stopped patronizing the aggressive imams, stopped bowing at the Saudi-financed mosques, stopped giving a nod and a wink to the Muslims peddlng the Secret Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, things would settle down quickly enough.

Besides, as Skipper says so often, is is not ought. Whether the infidels ought to lash out and heap up hecatombs of Muslims once (some) Muslims have succeeded in their drive to inflict insufferable pain on the infidels or not is irrelevant. They will.

Where have we seen that happen lately? Oh yeah.

June 19, 2007 9:06 AM  
Blogger David said...

I stopped checking this thread because I don't care whether Jesus really lived, and look what happens. And even worse, it seems to be my fault.

I think I'll mostly comment over at Duck's new thread (Brit's said most of what I'd say anyway) but it is worth noting the irony that "they've" killed fewer than 10,000 of "us" while we've killed at least 250,000 of them. I'm not sure that the balance of terror lies where you guys think it lies. (And, no, I'm not making a moral equivalency argument. We're right and they're wrong.)

June 20, 2007 11:50 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home