No True Scotsman, All Over Again

Over on the Antievolution bulletin board, an IDC advocate made the claim that people were simply being ridiculous to be concerned about the religious right getting more deeply involved in the government. Among other reasons for complacency was the notion that since Karl “Turd Blossom” Rove was part of the Bush White House staff and was an atheist, that surely there couldn’t be anything amiss.

I had something to say about that…

Does the term “Straussian” tickle any synapses? These are folks who believe that religion is the opiate of the masses, but have better PR agents than Marx did.

More can be said. A Straussian is someone who is quite willing to take Pascal’s Wager… with other people’s souls. They prefer the masses adhere to a moral code that they themselves find far too restrictive. As such, they are nothing more than moral parasites, aiming to benefit from a body of people that behaves by a set of rules that they know that they can exploit to their own advantage. They therefore have no difficulty in aiding in the intrusion of religion into politics and government, so long as they themselves can continue to use the result to make their own lives more comfortable.

As you may have guessed by now, I don’t have much respect for the Straussian view of things.

Another issue from the same IDC advocate concerned who takes responsibility for the bad actions of people professing to be Christians. According to her, folks like the Reconstructionists cannot be “true Christians” because Christ’s words don’t say to take over the government. Essentially, this approach means that Christians adopting that view will never learn anything from the bad examples of history, since they have taken the step of declaring them irrelevant for themselves.

Altogether too many people view scripture as a collection of several thousand independent statements flying in close formation. Despite the plain fact that Christ’s words do not justify the project of making government an arm of the church, this is nonetheless a longstanding tradition with lots of application within the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox denominations. Certain Protestant denominations apparently see this as something where they need to play catch-up. Whether or not those folks meet some criterion of “true Christian” makes little difference; they exist despite any such criticism. They certainly believe themselves to be true Christians and operate with the full intolerance that they mistakenly feel that state grants them.

Pointed critiques like these certainly underscore the appeal of the “no true Christian” form of argument:

Why not give Christianity a trial? – George Bernard Shaw

Christianity as a specific doctrine was slain with Jesus, suddenly and utterly. He was hardly cold in his grave, or high in his heaven (as you please), before the apostles dragged the tradition of him down to the level of the thing it has remained ever since. – George Bernard Shaw

Christ and The Church: If he were to apply for a divorce on the grounds of cruelty, adultery and desertion, he would probably get one. – Samuel Butler

If Jesus, or his likeness, should now visit the earth, what church of the many which now go by his name would he enter? Or, if tempted by curiosity, he should incline to look into all, which do you think would not shut the door in his face?… It seems to me … that as one who loved peace, taught industry, equality, union, and love, one towards another, Jesus were he alive at this day, would recommend you to come out of your churches of faith, and to gather into schools of knowledge. – Frances Wright

Of all religions, the Christian should of course inspire the most tolerance, but until now Christians have been the most intolerant of all men. – Voltaire [François Marie Arouet]

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried. – Gilbert Keith Chesterton

There is not a greater paradox in nature,—than that so good a religion [as Christianity] should be no better recommended by its professors. – Laurence Sterne

Far easier to exculpate the source by posthumous (and contemporaneous) excommunication than to take responsibility for the sinners as well as the saints. It is, moreover, the attitude that nurtures and leads to the very excesses that will, in hindsight, become the excommunicated lapses that future apologists will thence ignore as pertaining to their own behavior.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.