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The one thing missing from the Olympic opening spectacle – this country’s Christian inheritance

An evening of wonder and spectacle could feature the industrial revolution without the Salvation Army

By on Monday, 30 July 2012

London Olympic Games - Day 0

On holiday earlier this week in Scarborough, I came across a copy of the Ethical Record, the monthly journal of the South Place Ethical Society. This Society, which has been patronised in the past by humanist luminaries such as A J Ayer, Julian Huxley, Bertrand Russell, George Bernard Shaw, Leslie Stephen (father of Virginia Woolf) and Sidney Webb, is an educational charity “whose aims are the study and dissemination of ethical principles based on humanism and free thought, the cultivation of a rational and humane way of life and the advancement of research and education in all relevant fields”.

This particular copy of the journal had an article aimed at disabusing members of the Society from thinking that the UK had once been a group of Christian islands. After all, the writer pointed out, look at the origins of the days of the week: cobbled together from Norse pagan mythology – how Christian is that, I ask you? And what about Christmas and Easter? Really a celebration of the winter solstice, followed by a spring fertility ritual.

What the writer hadn’t realised, obviously, is that it is part of the genius of Christianity to adopt “nature” and transform it into something of grace. So of course, from a philological point of view, one might recall the merely pagan origins of the names of the days of the week while at the same time rejoicing at the new life breathed into the calendar by the Christian liturgical year.

I thought of this narrow and abridged interpretation of our country’s history by the Ethical Society when pondering Danny Boyle’s spectacular showcase of “Great Britain Limited” in his Olympic opening ceremony last week. Jim White in the Telegraph described the film maker’s quirkily brilliant imagination as “ninety minutes of dazzling theatre, dance, film and music; a mash-up of our cultural history delivered at breakneck speed.” Yes – it was all that, and it even made Boris Johnson cry. Yet at the risk of sounding like a beggar at this rich feast for the ears and eyes (if not the mind), I want to add that you can’t separate a country’s cultural history from its spiritual history, especially if this goes back for nearly two millennia.

Danny Boyle comes from a working class Irish Catholic family, was educated by the Salesians and thought about becoming a priest in his youth. Now he describes himself as a “spiritual atheist”. How can you be both? I don’t think the famous thinkers and writers I listed above would have described themselves as “spiritual humanists”. Danny Boyle’s problem is that atheism on its own sounds stark, boring, even ugly. Adding the word “spiritual” gives you an extra dimension: soulfulness, creativity, the divine spark of the imagination, which he brought to such zany triumph in his introduction to the Olympics.

What could Boyle have added to his island story that might have acknowledged the deeper underpinning of our cultural heritage? It’s hard to suggest anything that wouldn’t appear comic or naff, or simply struck a wrong note – but here are my thoughts. Perhaps the evening’s early theme of our “green and pleasant land” to the accompaniment of William Blake’s “Jerusalem” sung by choir boys could have included a nod to the legend of Joseph of Arimathea coming to Glastonbury, especially as a Glastonbury-style tor was included in this tableau. OK, it is only a story – but a pious, ancient, Christian one.

Much has also been made of Boyle’s working-class and therefore Left-wing roots. But being a socialist in the past was never seen as incompatible with being a Christian. William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, was a working-class man whose Christian faith led him to devote his life to the poor. When the theme of the Industrial Revolution was being played out in the stadium, why could we not have thrilled to the sight of a Salvation Army band, something odd, loveable and quintessentially English?

If the band had played that great Christian hymn “Abide with Me” (which was actually sung at the end of the evening as 50 dancers dramatised the conflict between life and death) it would surely have stopped the entertainment feature of the night in its tracks for a brief moment? Boris Johnson might even have wept.

And another thought: there was Rowan Atkinson, running along a beach while the theme tune of the film Chariots of Fire was being played: what about a mention of the real Eric Liddell, a devout Christian missionary in China, who wouldn’t run on the Sabbath because it was no longer part of the pagan calendar but the Lord’s Day?

These isles are full of noises, as actor Kenneth Branagh, aka Isambard Kingdom Brunel, intoned; they are also full of wonder, as Danny Boyle tried to suggest in his idiosyncratic kaleidoscope. Let’s just not forget that the greatest wonder of all, which has changed history itself, is our Christian inheritance.

  • karlf

    By trying to explain and control our natural, animal behaviour using religious theories, such as ‘original sin’, religion only suppresses this behaviour rather than overriding it through true understanding.

  • TreenonPoet

     The civilising force is morality. Not only is morality not unique to Christianity, but Christianity, in part, encourages immorality. I am not talking about ‘dark periods’, and I do not accept that when humans do good it is due to Christianity, but when they do bad it is due to ‘sin’.

    Children have died because parents have prayed rather than take their child to hospital. Don’t you dare tell me that the child dies because of its sins.

    The Catholic Church would rather see a pregnant mother and her unborn both die than to perform an abortion that might at least save the life of the mother. If there is any ‘sin’ there, it is with the Church.

    Religions propagate mainly as a result of trusting infants being lied to. I could go on. These things are happening in the 21st century. If you claim that I am distorting the truth, I can supply links to articles that back me up (though the Catholic Herald might remove them).

  • theroadmaster

    “What is this message that is central, yet so obscure that many other Christians supported slavery for many years? A claim that the others were not true Christians would commit the ‘no true Scotsman’ fallacy.”
    Slavery was seen as a social convention which was entrenched in many societies from pagan times down to as late as the19th century.  St Paul in his writings tried to ameliorate it’s worst aspects.  Various popes even condemned it, but admittedly it had taken a long process before it became universally reviled and forbidden in all of it’s forms. But Christianity was the chief driver of the anti-abolitionists both in Europe and America where it was finally outlawed  completely over the course of the 19th century.  I doubt that this would have happened without the pervasive influence of religion at that time.

    “For example, the information that homosexuals are born that way ought to dispel ideas that homosexuality is wrong, whatever fixed scriptures might say to the contrary”
    Catholic teaching forthrightly condemns any insult, physical or verbal against anyone who is suffering from same-sex attraction.  But explanations for this attraction at best are inconclusive when one looks at the scientific research on it.  They(explanations) involve the interaction of different factors, whether they be psychological, hormonal or nurture.  But that elusive “gay” gene has not been found to explain it.   The Church reasonably argues that homosexual sex goes against the natural order for which sex has been designed.

    ” By definition, the supernatural cannot exist in reality. To state that the supernatural exists is irrational. To instill irrationality into schoolchildren is very bad. Children who succumb may be afflicted for life.”

    Your first premise is faulty.  The supernatural can exist as our definition of what is “real” is only dictated by our sensory perception of it, which is turn is relayed to our brains.  We see only the external manifestation of it in a limited sense. At a sub-atomic level, outside our visual spectrum, we have the countless collisions and interactions of unseen particles which continue to effect our universe.  80% of of our cosmos consists of “dark matter” of which we are ignorant about.  As to your point on indoctrination, millions of children, through the years, have gone through religious teaching in school and have come out of the end of it, as fulfilled, balanced young adults with a strengthened sense of their moral purpose in life.  What sense of hope does a completely secularised or atheist curriculum offer pupils in terms of their ultimate purpose in life?

    “Those laws are influenced by morality, not specifically by religion. A law that allows ‘faith’ schools to discriminate against science teachers who do not share the faith is immoral and is influenced by religion ”
    Morality as I’ve stated earlier is not a standalone concept which has no source.  Religion has informed practically all the positive moral values which have taken hold over the centuries.  To deny this , is to be ignorant of the historical development of western society.  Even the so-called Enlightenment values of the late 18th century Liberty, Fraternity and Equality, sprung from traditional Christian values.  In relation to a religious school’s right to employ teachers on the basis of their beliefs, such a school should have the right to take on staff who concur with their ethos.  This is in keeping with standard practice in other organizations who have missionary goals e.g organizations dedicated to advancing the interests of women.  A Catholic school has a particular view of life which is served by millions of employees in hospitals,charitable organizations and schools etc.  Why should such a school employ people whose beliefs and behavior undermine Catholic doctrine and beliefs?

  • Mhannab1

    Perhaps Mr. Boyle could have arranged a spectacular conflagration of some kind representing Catholics and Protestants burning one another at the stake.   

  • rjt1

    Would you say there is such a thing as a human spirit – that is some non-material aspect of the human person? I was assuming you were a materialist, that is to say someone who thinks that everything can be accounted for by matter. On materialist principles, human thoughts and feelings would surely be epiphenomena of material interactions, so the human spirit and spirituality would also be epiphenomena. I find such a position incredible.

  • rjt1

    Yes, it does seem to be confused thinking.

  • batb

    Show me any other group — or religion — in the world that provides the massive educational and medical resources to the most underprivileged people that the Christian Church does, with the Catholic Church in the lead.

    Do your homework, Treenonpoet. Understand that hospices, which have become hospitals, for the sick and dying were founded by Christians in the Middle Ages and that many have continued under the auspices of religious organizations — and then tell me with any integrity that “because some Christians have done good, Christianity is good.” What kind of rational conclusion is that?

    By their fruits you shall know them.

    As for your comment that “the essentially religious component of a medical contribution [is] … irrational, you provide no proof of its supposed “irrationality.” Just because you can’t see, feel, touch or smell religious conviction (though you can see the often salutary effects of religious conviction) doesn’t in any way render it “irrational.”

  • batb

    I can’t answer the “why is that?” I do have some ideas why, however! Suffice it to say that there have been many studies which have corroborated this finding, many of them not religiously motivated.

  • karlf

     What are your ideas? The placebo effect?

  • karlf

     In the middle ages England (for example) was a Christian country and everyone was Christian by default i.e. everything was the work of Christians.
    Religious conviction is irrational because it is based on “faith” instead of logical, reasoned thinking.

  • Gavin Wheeler

     *Welsh* charm, thank you very much boyo! ;)

    And I notice you don’t actually refute any of my points, you just imply that I am horrid to make them. So am I to conclude that it is fine for Ms Philips to criticise Danny Boyle,even in blatantly unjustified terms, fine for her to call atheism “stark, boring, even ugly” and to imply that atheists cannot be spiritual, and it is fine for *you* to criticise me without giving any detailed justification, but it is simply appalling for me to criticise Ms Philips for her baseless criticisms, even with explanation?

    Given all the other famous brits not featured in the spectacle (as far as I know) such as Newton, Darwin, Shakespeare et al, I still think it is absurd to criticise it for not including the Salvation Army or Joseph of Arimathea.

  • TreenonPoet

     I have already dealt with many of your points in ways that you seem oblivious to. I used the subject of homosexuality to try to illustrate the need to adjust thought about morality in accordance with the latest knowledge. That was in response to your complaint about fluid morals and would be valid whatever relevant new knowledge emerges, but you do not acknowledge that. I did not want to start a discussion about the morality of homosexuality, but I must respond to your statement that the Church reasonably argues that homosexual sex goes against the natural order for which sex has been designed. That is not a reasonable argument at all. Bisexual reproduction has certain evolutionary advantages over asexual reproduction. There was no intelligent design involved when it evolved, which the profusion of inefficiencies in nature makes clear. As long as there are sufficient heterosexuals for species thus evolved to thrive, the existence of homosexuals is not a problem for the species and there is no natural law that says otherwise.

    To try to answer your questions:-

    What sense of hope does a completely secularised or atheist curriculum offer pupils in terms of their ultimate purpose in life?

    By their purpose, I assume you mean the thing that most motivates them (while life gets in the way). Whatever it is that they are aiming for, the chances of achieving it will be increased if they are taught the latest important knowledge including the techniques of rational thought. This does not have much to do with secularism or atheism. Agnostic atheism is just the result of applying rationalism to the subject of feasible deities, and secularism is the separation of church and state. Each should be discussed and the relevant popular myths dispelled, but it is rationalism that should underpin the curriculum.

    Telling them that they can get something by praying for it, or that they must worship an imaginary deity, is lying, attempting to instill irrationality, and could indirectly cause harm to others, or at least cause much time-wasting.

    Why should such a school employ people whose beliefs and behavior undermine Catholic doctrine and beliefs?

    Because schools should be about educating, not miseducating, and faultless teachers should not be discriminated against just because they refuse to deliberately miseducate children.

  • batb (been around the block)

    No, not the placebo effect, though that could account for some healing.

    Prayer connects us to God, the Creator of the Universe, who does exist (I didn’t always know or believe that: ‘too long a story), and it opens us to an attitude of praise for and gratitude towards what is good and salutary. Being thankful in all things opens us to healing and light rather than closing us in on ourselves and dwelling on the negative.

    I have experienced, in myself and others, the powerful effects of prayer and am just sorry that you obviously haven’t.

  • theroadmaster

    You have replied to my points but dealing effectively with them is another matter.  Morality does not exist on it’s own merits but needs a belief system to sustain it.  We can rationalize what it is, based on our natural instincts.  One must question why morality exists in the first place, if there is no point to this life, beyond a dark void at the end of it.  Morals exist in the abstract but we can still grasp them.  What is the source of the rationale for our ethical laws?  It all lies in a pre-ordained order that did not come from nothing.
    At the end of the day, the primary function of sex is to reproduce with a secondary both very important benefit of  enhancing the love between a man and woman within marriage. The first point is an inescapable biological fact and the latter is in relation to the complementariness between a man and a woman on many levels.  Homosexual sex does not provide these two necessary criteria and thus does not conform with the natural law. We need marriages open to procreation to maintain a healthy demographic in society as well as contributing to it’s social cohesion and well-being.

    One can still be rational and espouse a religious faith as the two are not incompatible.  The origins of our universe invites an inquiring mind to look beyond the purely materialistic and random chance for a Creator God. The Revelation of God as shown in the biblical sources continues to attract millions of converts around the world

    Your misuse of the term “mis-educate” rather betrays a very narrow interpretation of education.  Faith education proposes that every human life is worthy and has been fashioned by a Divine Creator.  Each possesses a soul that will return to a heavenly paradise if it’s owner leads a faultless life.  Thus it sets the bar high in terms of attitude and behavior.  It hardly seems the stuff of oppressive ideology to me.

  • theroadmaster

    By “animal behavior”, I suppose you mean our base behavior in terms of promiscuous sex, greed, jealousy etc.  So are you proposing that we have no restraints to protect society from the destructive nature of these realities? Some forms of religious can be oppressive, but healthy guilt can be liberating when one realizes that such destructive behavior is not in their best interests.

  • theroadmaster

    Morality is an intrinsic part of religion which sustains it.  Just look at the 3 great monotheistic religions of the world and you will realize that.  Devoid of such belief systems, morality becomes subjective and over time withers and dies.  Just look at the current state of societies in the western world, as communities continue to disintegrate because of this very reason
    Please don’t generalize about the behavior from a few extreme cases of parents refusing to take their seriously ill children to hospital, and relying on prayer alone.  Concerned religious parents in the vast majority, would have no hesitation about calling on a hospital’s services if such an unfortunate scenario happened.Catholic teaching puts equal weight on the life of the unborn child and mother, and does not discriminate against either.  In rare cases where one or both are under threat, in terms of their lives during a difficult pregnancy, the Church rightly teaches that the medical team have no right to take the life of the unborn child directly, as he/she is not a disease to be eradicated.  The symptoms of  the condition/sickness are to be treated, and if unfortunately the child or mother dies during the course of that, a great tragedy has occurred..You keep making accusations that have no basis about Religious teaching in school.  In this instance you indiscriminately use the phrase “lied to” to characterize it.  That is your very narrow and intolerant position but millions of parents around the globe who recognize the invaluable contribution that Catholic schools make, think otherwise.

  • Nat_ons

    The modern Olympic Games, like its ancient ideal, is a formalised typed of pagan worship: the gods and goddesses Victory, Struggle, Beauty, Luck are as alive today – in idea – as they ever were among the Hellenes.

    One real difference, in substance, is the absence of slaughter as a means of praise, thanks or feast; only Rome’s bread and circuses ideology seems now to prevail.

    Christianity cannot readily fit into to this form even if Christians may – without conflict of conscience – join in the games.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/tomchiversscience/100157346/the-ancient-traditions-of-the-olympic-games-bloody-silly-dances-and-nazi-propaganda/ 

    The Nazis are not alone in using the ideologue-framed worship of success as a vehicle for assertion of  culture shaping ideas. Political Correctness is the great success to which such games are put among us, in silly dances and propaganda and mere nationalism; liberal values every but as much as tyrannical ones can be harmful. Damning the Olympic Games as a grossly pagan feast of ideological love of winning must appear as a form of blasphemy or idiotic party-pooping, it need be neither; as catholic orthodoxy has show over millennia, paganism need not be feared but might saved from its own narcissism for divine charity .. but neither must indifferentism toward the truths of faith among unorthodox catholics be allowed to remove the inherent threat that untamed paganism can (and does) still pose.

  • karlf

    I’m proposing that we endeavour to understand more about this behaviour so that it can be dealt with more effectively – in this respect religion has nothing further to offer

  • karlf

    I still don’t see why God should help people to heal when they are prayed for, and not the others. Why would God heal those who are prayed for while letting children die in all sorts of ghastly ways. It makes no sense whatsoever.

  • rjt1

    I didn’t notice a church in the scenes of the English countryside yet they are a characteristic of every village in England, and, of course evidence of Christian evangelisation and influence, unwelcome to some but part of the real picture.

  • Judithjmidwinter

    All of them are evil. Catholic religion was the most evil in the 1930s when it explicitly and openly supported European Fascism - although in the 1940s the pope did his best to back track, although it was much too late.

  • Judithjmidwinter

    See above.

  • Judithjmidwinter

    But despite this claim, it is simply not true.

    Google the “Harvard Medical School Study on prayer” and sickness.(The largest study of all).

    See press release: 
    http://web.med.harvard.edu/sites/RELEASES/html/3_31STEP.html

  • Judithjmidwinter

    Nonsense. This is untrue.

    Do your homework. There is no such reliable evidence. See link to the largest and fully respectable study of all at Harvard (Link above).

  • Judithjmidwinter

    But there was no such increased healing. Face the facts man.

  • Judithjmidwinter

    Oh no. The spirit is a natural aspect of the brain/mind.

  • Judithjmidwinter

    The strangeness of the idea is a result of your narrow understanding of the word – or your definition of it as something supernatural (whatever that word is intended to convey, and here we really do get into confused waters).

  • Judithjmidwinter

    They are mostly falling down.

  • rjt1

    If the spirit is a natural aspect of the human mind, I take it that it is a product of physical processes and is therefore determined entirely by them. Doesn’t this entail that your atheist convictions are a product of those same processes?

    If a materialist account of human nature can’t accommodate freedom of thought, it is surely an inadequate account. There is something more to the human being than can be accounted for by physics.

  • Katel

     why do you persist in answering a sad individual who really is very lost since he is navigating a website completely at odds with all he/she believes in

  • karlf

    Which probably indicates that all the positive results were due to placebo and psychosomatic effects.

  • TreenonPoet

     

    One must question why morality exists in the first place, if there is no point to this life, beyond a dark void at the end of iti>”

    As far as we know, we humans are the most advanced lifeform that has existed on Earth, and it took over 3Ga for us to evolve. Who knows what mankind might be capable of (if we are not wiped out by a catastrophe). You can be pessimistic or optimistic about what mankind might achieve, but why be pessimistic? Why not work towards improving the quality of life (reducing suffering and war, prolonging life, improving the environment, etc. etc.) and mitigating setbacks? That seems to me to be worthwhile, and after you die, others will benefit from your contribution. The better the social co-operation, the more easily such improvements can be achieved. It has always been so, and I do not see why that would not be the case for an advanced society of aliens on another planet, and to a lesser extent amongst other animals on Earth. If you see the connection between social co-operation and morality, I guess that you know the answer to your question. If you see morality as a religious thing, such as pleasing an imaginary deity, then I can’t help you.

    the primary function of sex is to reproduce

    What would you say was the primary function of sex amongst homosexuals? My question is aimed at determining whether you don’t mean ‘primary function’ at all, but ‘primary intention’ as deemed by you to be what God intended, because you continue to talk about natural law, yet reject naturalism.

    One can still be rational and espouse a religious faith as the two are not incompatible.

    The two are completely incompatible, even if the mind can switch from one to the other. There is no rational reason to believe in the object that is the focus of the religious faith. If there was a rational reason, then it would not be a religious belief. This fact is unaffected by the number of religious believers.

    Faith education proposes that every human life is worthy and has been fashioned by a Divine Creator.

    It does not just propose so, it insists that it is so and must be believed not only in the total absence of any supporting evidence, but in the face of contradictory evidence. Not only does this involve lying to the pupil, but it involves persuading the pupil to think irrationally. In what way is that not miseducation?

  • Kevin

    “being a socialist in the past was never seen as incompatible with being a Christian”

    Socialism, i.e. Marxism, has always been atheistic. Some Christians may be members of the Labour Party, but the Party famously “does not do God”. Praising the NHS, as was done in the ceremony, is about ensuring that the goodwill generated by the practice of medicine forever transfers by association to Labour, and not to a rival such as the Church that founded St. Bart’s eight centuries before the Attlee Government. A similar situation exists in education, with Catholic schools in the Socialists’ firing line.

    Crush the Church’s ability to practise charity, and all you have left is family values, the living of which will soon be made illegal via the drive by Boris Johnson’s party to out-Labour Labour.

    Time to stop asking for respect from malicious Socialists and start rendering unto God all the things that are His.

  • theroadmaster

    I think that we are not too far apart in terms of our aspirations for humanity. I firmly believe in a Divine Creator while you are not convinced about that.  I think that we all possess souls that are are of Divine origin and do not require an explanation in terms of an alien intervention. It is good to have this discussion with you, although we disagree i the essentials.

  • theroadmaster

    Religion has much to offer in terms of the higher aspirations for humanity.  We are worth more than our base instincts and lower aspirations.

  • theroadmaster

    Well, I think that humans are consistently in need of Christian enlightenment(including me).  I do not pretend to have all the answers, but I try to offer the best advice that I can.

  • rjt1

    I’ve visited many old churches over the years and none of them were falling down as far as I know, but they did present many challenges in terms of maintenance.

    Whether one has faith or not, I think one can say it would be a pity if buildings of such beauty were allowed to fall into disrepair.

    Moreover, churches and cathedrals form a major part of our cultural heritage. Ignoring that is to distort the truth.

    As Christians, we feel that our contribution is being airbrushed out of the picture.

  • karlf

    We are what we are i.e. evolved animals with the mentality that comes with that. If we don’t understand that mentality we cannot override it. The maintained ignorance of the Church is only a hindrance to progress in this area.

  • theroadmaster

    Because we recognize that we have base instincts, does not mean that we can’t controlthem. We are endowed with reason,which distinguishes us from the rest of the animalkingdom

  • karlf

    What distinguishes us from other animals is that we can recognise our animalistic behaviour and control it – that’s the basis of civilisation. The teachings of the Church hinder the progress of our understanding of these animalistic traits.

  • Judithjmidwinter

    This could be so. There could possibly be a ‘self’, but this in no way could be a soul as understood in religion. The ‘self’ would be part of the universe, but in a way unknown to us at the moment. Still less could there be a God.

    Determinists however do have very sophisticated and water tight arguments supporting their view about the illusion of free will. 

    An ‘inadaquate account’ – yes that’s easy to accept. But so what? We are a young species and have far to go. Our accounts and understandings will become more ‘adequate’, better, more accurate…… as time goes on. We do not know many things; some, perhaps all, we will get to know in the future. We may cease to be humans before we understand some things.

  • Vconnolly11

    Not surprising when the BBC through Jeremy Paxman is reported to say on Newsnight, in an interview with Richard Dawkins, that those who believe in The Old Testament are stupid, and that Genesis was religious hogwash. We know the BBC are communist to which even they have admitted. Communism is there to take GOD out of the lives of the people, but it is a lie as GOD does exist, and The Bible is a living Book.

  • rjt1

    You seem to be very certain that there ‘could not be’ a soul or a God and that you will know what you do not yet know. I thought atheists only accepted what they could definitively prove but you seem to be saying this ‘on a wing and a prayer’, if you will excuse the phrase.

    But what does it mean for a self constituted by the (physical?) universe to know anything? Is there really a self on this account or does it just reduce to a series of electrical impulses in a biological machine. Can a machine know or does it just follow its program to a predetermined conclusion without understanding? 

    If determinism were correct, then coming to the conclusion that determinism was true (or false) would be the inevitable outcome of whatever processes (presumably physical processes) led to that conclusion. So why would a determinist try to convince a non-determinist that her arguments were correct since arguments are accepted or rejected as part of some inevitable process?

  • batb

    I’m not a man.

  • TreenonPoet

     

    why would a determinist try to convince a non-determinist that her arguments were correct since arguments are accepted or rejected as part of some inevitable process?

    Surely the determinist would hope to supply information new to the non-determinist that would lead the non-determinist to an inevitable change of mind when taking into account this new information (because, even though the non-determinist thought she had a free choice in the matter, she actually had no control over the effect that the new information would have once she had absorbed it)?  The ‘inevitable process’ can produce different outputs when inputs change.

  • judithjmidwinter

    It is rather strange that nobody has mentioned the fact that the Christians banned the Olympic Games in AD 393 because of the nudity of the athletes.
    Gymnos, from which our word gymnastics comes means ‘naked’.

  • TreenonPoet

     I hope I have shown you elsewhere that morality cannot ‘wither and die’, even if the degree to which it is applied can vary. Rules of behaviour can help or hinder moral decision making. There are good and bad rules in the scriptures of the Abrahamic religions. One of the bad rules is that the prescribed set of rules is immutable. Those that enforce this rule are bringing the concept of moral codes into disrepute and are thus encouraging relativism. It is not relativism to strive to get closer to absolute morality. Religites who block this struggle are (probably unintentionally) encouraging subjectivity, not opposing it. It is true that many who call themselves Christians are pragmatic about certain rules. However, Christianity is not the consensus view of nominal Christians – it is not democratic. Neither does it have a rational basis.

    The above is evident in the fact that most so-called Christians realise that it is better to take a child to hospital than to rely on James 5:14, but what about ‘true’ Christians?

    Elsewhere in this thread, I tried posting a link to an article about one of the cases in which a US diocese insisted that it was wrong to save a pregnant woman’s life by performing an abortion. In that case, the Sister responsible for the decision to abort was made to suffer by the Catholic Church. The Catholic Herald removed my post, so I suggest you google “Religious Hospitals Probed for Denying Women Care”. There is a much worse case where doctors at a Catholic hospital would not intervene to save the life of a pregnant woman because it would slightly shorten the life of the unborn. (I did not want to delay this post further trying to find my reference to that.) I do not know how widespread this sort of thing is and I am not trying to generalise over all Catholic hospitals, but the doctrinal principles which resulted in the instances are, as I understand it, general.

    It does not matter how good a Catholic schools may be in some ways, it does not excuse miseducation. Education conveys the latest knowledge. The latest knowledge is that there is still no evidence for the existence of the Catholic God. Therefore to tell a child that God exists is to lie. It does not matter whether the teacher has faith in the existence of God or not; the teacher’s responsibility is to convey the latest knowledge. The Catholic Church is guilty of a massive campaign of misinformation and encourages such lies to be told over and over again. It knows it can’t produce the evidence, so it knows that what it is doing is wrong, but to do anything else would not be in the Church’s selfish self-interest. This is not the only area where the Church puts its own interests ahead of those of the innocent children it entices. Such is the depth of its depravity, and Phillips wants to celebrate this?

  • Jonathan West

    I get the impression that Francis Phillips would not have been satisfied with the christian content of the Olympic opening ceremony unless it had consisted of an open-air mass led by Archbishop Vincent Nichols.

  • rjt1

    Why would a determinist ‘hope’?

    Does any self-professed determinist really believe in determinism deep down, in their own case?

  • TreenonPoet

     Even if the laws of physics did not allow for randomness, the universe would still be too complex to allow the future to be forcast accurately, however predetermined it might be. It is unlikely that a determinist would know enough about a non-determinist’s mind to know whether a particular fact about determinism would be persuasive or not.

    As a determinist myself, I experience the illusion of free will, but I have never encountered data that gave me cause to doubt that it is an illusion. It is the inability to introspect so “deep down” that creates the illusion, but also makes it impossible for me to answer your second question fully.