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this is a draft i wrote a few hours ago. if i were to write it again, i'd change lots of stuff. i consider it flawed. however, i think most of the improvements i'd make wouldn't really make the ideas much more interesting. i'll get more right next time. *shrug*

Christians generally don't argue very well explicitly. From all their "scientific" evidence against evolution, to resorting to defending the existence of God by appeal to faith. From thinking that beatings can teach people, and often thus not being interested in coming up with arguments to use on that set of people who should be beaten, to appealing to the authority of priests, God, or holy books. From "you can't prove God doesn't exist" to "we hold these truths *self-evident*". (If you think any of these are done by, say, less than 20% of US Christians, lemme know.)

However, despite all this, these people have a lot of good, true ideas to offer, especially with regard to morality. The Christian tradition has 2,000 years of monotheism ("One God from Whom comes morality" they might say. But the key is they believe there exists is only one morality for all people.)

Now, combine good, valuable ideas with bad arguing. Who learns these ideas from them? Only people who want to. And it's not a matter of just deciding you'd like to know what they do, and reading a few books. The only known way to reliably learn these things is to identify with the tradition, and to honestly enjoy it. And then, one day, after sufficient interaction, most of their claims that they treat as manifest truth, will *feel* true to you, even though they were never *argued* persuasively to you.

Anyone who did this, who really cared about the Christian tradition, would not want to identify themselves as an atheist. (This is why it's hard to find many people who call themselves atheists in the US.) People who do call themselves atheists either oppose the Christian tradition (learned and then rejected the stuff), or are ignorant of it.

And that's why atheists are frowned on so much. Wicked or ignorant, take your pick.

You can read Samizdata and USS Clueless until your eyes fall out, but the moral content won't be there. Do they *ever* assert that we are the good guys, or that certain people are the bad guys? Nah, that's simplisme. On the other hand, if you read IMAO or Scrappleface or The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, you will find moral claims (albeit unargued) all over the place. And for members of the tradition, who understand why these claims are considered true, that the arguments aren't repeated everytime simply doesn't matter.

Elliot Temple on June 14, 2004

Comments (7)

What about Atheists who oppose the bad parts of Christianity? Like, belief that morality comes from God? Can you explain how they are wicked, or ignorant?

Maybe this would be fixed in your second draft.

Dan at 5:58 PM on June 14, 2004 | #963

well i gave an argument they would not call themselves atheists anymore if they were neither wicked nor ignorant. b/c becoming not-ignorant involves identifying with xian tradition. and people who do that wouldn't want to identify themselves as atheists anymore, b/c they would care about xianity.

Elliot at 6:05 PM on June 14, 2004 | #964

I think it's acceptable to condemn something with some good ideas if it also has bad ones. But it's a good idea to be clear what ideas you agree with, especially when talking to people who will misunderstand. I think one can understand Christianity and agree with what they get right but still condemn it based on their many errors.

I don't think you should be forced to settle for *good enough*. If something isn't good, say so. Take the good ideas and get out. Anyone who doesn't go with you obviously clings to the bad ideas enough to warrant the condemnation.

Dan at 6:13 PM on June 14, 2004 | #965

people who are actually members of the christian tradition would not say that Christianity merely "has some good ideas", and would not have a problem situation where they were wondering if these good ideas are important enough not to condemn Christianity.

nor would they think being a member of the tradition was settling for less. as all members know, you are not prevented from being a member of other traditions too, and from having your own views too. (on another subject, this is a major flaw in Islam: you aren't allowed to be part of Islam *and*, say, part of Western Civilisation)

Elliot at 6:32 PM on June 14, 2004 | #966

I'm a little confused.

There are bad ideas in Christianity. Disagree or agree?

These ideas are as much an entrenched part of the Christian tradition as their good ideas. Disagree or agree?

These ideas are worth condemning. Disagree or agree?

Christianity is worth praising based on its good ideas. Disagree or agree?

Christianity is worth condemning based on these bad ideas. Disagree or agree?

Um yeah. Maybe more but I want answers to that first.

Dan at 6:51 PM on June 14, 2004 | #967

the good ideas are not accessible just by reading a book, or asking a Christian (most of the bad ideas are accessible that way).

Elliot at 6:53 PM on June 14, 2004 | #968

Oooh, interesting.

I've gotten pretty chummy with the Christian tradition in the past, but not sure I've experience that...

I'll have to think more on this.

Dan at 6:56 PM on June 14, 2004 | #969

What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)