Category Archives: atheology

Gore Vidal’s ascription of “homosexual” to the “primitive religion” of Christianity

Just caught some re-broadcast of a 1988 interview of Gore Vidal, a man whose work I don’t know too well, but whom I am inclined to admire. He certainly made his path to hell but he stood out in the steps he took to get there.

Vidal’s interviewed him for his early book (1948, I think), The City and the Pillar, a heroic book about “gays.” Vidal immediately interrupted and said it wasn’t about gays. It was about two normal young men who had an affair. One went on to live a successful “heterosexual” life, and another didn’t.

Vidal went on to compare the very idea of “heterosexual” and “homosexual” as kinds of persons as a fiction. The words are adjectives, he insisted, that describe kinds of sexual actions. Not persons. He spoke of saying one is one or the other as akin to saying one likes the taste of potatoes and another prefers some other food.

On the sexual preference as food preference analogy, I thought Vidal raised a bunch of obvious questions. For example: is Vidal asserting that marital love has nothing to do with sexual exclusiveness. Is he asserting that marriage and family are ridiculous superstitions? It seems to me that he implied that only primitive religious believers could get jealous of an adulterous spouse. I not only disagree with that, I don’t see how Vidal could claim that we should all find it immediately obvious. Yet it seemed to follow naturally from what he said. (I didn’t get to hear all of the interview, so maybe he addressed the issue.)

With that caveat, I was surprised how much I found myself agreeing with Vidal’s basic argument and disagreeing that the error he was combating stemmed from “primitive religion.” On the contrary, I think the idea of a “gay” or “homosexual” person is a sophisticated rationalization unknown in the ancient world.

I don’t know what connection Vidal would allow between Christianity/ies and the Bible, but certainly the Bible, if anything, is more primitive than the forms of the Christian religion that he opposes. And it contains the monotheism that he hates. But the Bible knows nothing of homosexual persons. It condemns sexual acts 1. that violate marriages, 2. that are same-sex, 3. that cross species, and less severely 4. that are outside of marriage.

The only time one finds something approaching types of sexually perverse persons, is in Paul’s list of types of sinners in First Corinthians 6.9 which speaks of two kinds: penetrators and receptors. There is nothing modern about this list. It includes thieves and swindlers–occupations no one will consider an orientation or addiction. Drunkards also makes the list, so perhaps someone can make a case that the sexual types belong in that more slavish category, but nothing in the text demands it.

This is, in fact, the only category that exists in any real way across the globe outside the modern world. I read a few years ago about an Algerian male applying for immigration as a refugee from persecution to Canada (if I remember it right). When one read his testimony it was obviously a completely different conception of sexual “orientation.” As a known receptive partner, he was fair game for rape from all the surrounding males who considered themselves completely normal men.

We see the same thing happening in our prisons (and is allowed and even boasted in as a deterrent for “white collar” criminals by out authorities–May God smash the system).

The idea of a generic same-sex orientation as a kind of person is a modern invention. It is not primitive at all but a sophistication. And I agree with Vidal that it is mainly a delusion.

on-the-anti-ayn-rand-schtick

On the anti-Ayn-Rand schtick

I heard once of a Christian kid who became an atheist of the Ayn-Rand kind. This blew my mind. I couldn’t believe that anyone with real Christian knowledge would be swayed by her assertions (on atheism, it is too kind to call them arguments).

So if I had known that person, or if it was ever to happen to someone I know, perhaps I will shift in my present stance.

But for now, my present stance is that most of the Christian attacks on Ayn Rand are posturing and pretentious. Not as much as she was, I guess, but with less virtue to compensate for the vice.

Yes, Ayn Rand was a materialist atheist. Yes, atheism is opposed to Christianity. Telling us that Atheism is opposed to Christianity is not worth the typing it takes to write the sentence. We know this already.

If you want to see Christian appropriations of Ayn Rand, you should read Herbert Schlossberg’s Idols for Destruction. A few of his appropriations are worth ten times all the ranting refutations put out by people claiming to be intellectual.

And if you want to see her refuted, you will learn more of value by reading her fellow atheist (or at least agnostic) Murray Rothbard. Granted, Rothbard, has an axe to grind (for good reason). But he did, at one point, sincerely admire her and try to interact with her. That is better than just about an Christian’s attack.

I find it appalling, that one can be considered intellectual in Christian circles to be acquainted with Marx, or Nietzsche, but somehow appreciating some aspects of Ayn Rand’s thought is outside the boundaries.

I’ll agree that Rand is somewhat immature. I don’t own any of her works any more. But in college I read most of them. I couldn’t finish The Fountainhead because I think “no means no” and not even Howard Roark should guess that she really wants it. But I read the rest of her fiction, including her play, “The Night of January 16th.” And I read many, many of her essays.

And I remember distinclty that in several of them, she defended traditional Christians from Liberal theology. She could tell the difference and saw in Liberalism an enemy of real thinking. In many cases, reading her was like reading H. L. Mencken’s obituary of J. Gresham Machen.

Yes, I think Mencken was an amazing genius and a brilliant writer, even if he wasn’t brilliant as he thought he was. And I read Camille Paglia,. And I think Justin Raimondo is the greatest American columnist alive today. (Actually, I don’t think it. It is simply a fact.)

I suppose all those opinions call forth for some Christian “world view analysis” to tell me who is a pervert and who an atheist and on and on.

People act as if the recognition of Ayn Rand’s genius (with her blindness) is some sort of right wing bias. It is the critics who usually reveal they are not so much defending God as the state.

Enough is enough. Attacking the New Atheists is like shooting a man giving himself a lethal injection. ( Faith and Theology: Another pile of doodlings )

The way slogans seduce us: Angel, Absurdism, and Faith (not the girl)

YouTube – Joss Whedon: Atheist & Absurdist.

I love Joss but I have extreme skepticism about what he claims he has suffered for his atheism. I also hate the hearing the word “faith” used for an opinion on God’s existence. Whether or not God is trustworthy is a matter of faith. Whether or not he exists has nothing to do with faith (and Hebrews doesn’t say otherwise).

But I’m posting this because I remember actually liking Angel’s slogan: “If what we do doesn’t matter; then all that matters is what we do.” And I feel really stupid for not seeing the irrationality of it immediately. Sometimes I think paradoxes give off the glint of hidden wisdom when they are just plain nonsense.

Angel’s conclusion at the end of Season 2 (or near the end) was that (to repeat) “If what we do doesn’t matter then all that matters is what we do.”

If what we do doesn’t matter, then anything might matter except what we do. You can’t draw a the contradiction of a premise from that premise as if it was a conclusion.

Now that I’ve gotten that issue out of the way (in my own mind, at least), let me say why I think Whedon’s view appeals to people, especially to Christians.

Being able to evaluate and value one’s decisions and commitments without having knowledge of the eternal plan for them is a requirement for the human condition. It is set forth most starkly in the Bible in the book called Ecclesiastes.

So, I think the appeal is precisely because Joss’ view is a close replica of the truth.

But I don’t think it works if there is no plan at all. (And claiming there is no plan seems to actually assert endless knowledge rather than humbly deny it. But that argument would be endless, so I’ll let it go.) It is one thing to make decisions and do your best without understanding why your circumstances exist or how you fit into a larger picture. But it is another to say that there is no picture.

To really act as Angel does actually requires faith. And that, in my opinion, is why Whedon had to include a miracle in his story. Viewers would have felt like there was no point without it.

Darwinism is atheism but the reverse isn’t true

Physicalism per se can’t vindicate adaptationism [Darwinism] … Arguably, what determines which trait was selected-for is which laws governed the selection: given the laws, the counterfactuals follow; given the counterfactuals, you can distinguish a trait that isselected-for from a trait that isn’t. But physicalism isn’t committed to any particular inventory of laws; it says only that every causal intervention falls under some physical law or other. It follows from physicalism that if there is such a process as natural selection, it falls under physical laws (inter alia). But that says nothing at all about whether there is such a process. S the next time someone tells you that adaptationism is required by the ‘scientific world view’, we recommend that you bite his or her ankle. (p. 130)

via Jerry Fodor shows why Dawkins is wrong in saying “We must believe Darwinism” | Uncommon Descent.

The argument against God on the basis of the existence of evil

An Agnostic Argument based on Epicurus – Faith & Life.

The problem is that the premises can always be changed around. To wit:

  1. If a perfectly good god exists, then there is no evil in the world unless he has some morally sufficient reason for permitting that evil.
  2. There is evil in the world.
  3. A perfectly good god does exist.
  4. Therefore, there is a morally sufficient reason for that god permitting the evil in the world.

The atheologian has to prove that there can be no such morally sufficient reason. But how can he prove this? It would be a universal negative and claim to know all the possibilities that a god would have to account for.

hat tip

Steps to “Enlightenment” unbelief

STEP ONE: pagans worship nature as a chaotic force without rules.  They personify the forces they can distinguish and try to bribe them or manipulate them through offerings and rituals.

STEP TWO: The gospel is preached to pagans and they repent of their false gods and turn to the one true God who has revealed himself in Jesus.

STEP THREE: The Christians learn and internalize over time the idea that God is knowable and that creation can be studied in order to learn about His wisdom.

STEP FOUR: study of creation involve measuring, timing, and hypothesizing rules that describe nature accurately.

STEP FIVE: The Christians learn and internalize that nature is not chaotic but acts in predictable ways that can be described by “rules.”

STEP SIX: A rule governed impersonal mechanism is posited which does not allow miracles.  God is abandoned because “everyone knows” that only witnesses lie; nature never varies.

From Dionysius to Jesus and Paul to Newton to Hume.

But the story is not over.

So an atheist sits next to me on a train going from Missouri to Kansas

And naturally we get into an argument.  As we’re going along I look out the window and see some white rocks lying on the hillside in a pattern that looks like it says,

WELCOME TO KANSAS

“I wonder who put those rocks there.” I say.  “Do you think the state did it or someone who happens to own the adjoining property?”

“What?” My atheist companion shakes his head.  “You theists see purpose everywhere.  You don’t need personal agency to explain rocks lying on the ground.”

“You didn’t think that looked like a purposeful pattern?”

“Naw.  That could have easily been formed by natural forces.”

“OK,” I concede.  “So when do you think we’ll cross the border into Kansas?”

My atheist friend looked confused.  “What do you mean?”

I repeat my question.

“Didn’t you just see those rocks you were talking about?” says the atheist.  “They told us we just entered Kansas.”