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+8 votes
How has Christianity affected our external and internal worlds? I see it referenced a lot but I feel like I'm missing some basic understanding about how insidious it is, beyond some of the more obvious things like ideological thinking, moralism, millenarianism, etc.
by (2.5k points)
Where you at dot??! You said 'christian' was one of the worst things you could say about something. Can't remember where.
gdmt. i'm right here. it's another of the big fucking definitional questions people are all excited about all of a sudden, and i'm spinning.
the more something is core to our conceptions of the ... totality... the harder it is to get a handle on how to talk about it. which is why the questions are so important, of course.
plus, i'm the only one who has attempted capitalism (and almost civilization), gdmt. you go answer one of those and let me think!!!


4 Answers

+4 votes
sigh. fine! shit.

a. dualistic thinking. heaven/hell, body/spirit, good/evil, pure/corrupt, man/woman, goes on and on. dumb! (ha. nature/civilization, if you want to get a little more controversial...)

b. god is outside of the world/humans have dominion (related concepts)... this is related to apocalyptic thinking, but i think it is deeper than that.

c. missionaries. nuff said

d. knowing what people need better than they know themselves (ok, that's saying more about missionaries, but fuck it)

e. reward system is outside of the world (ie, don't struggle now, be a good person and your reward comes after you die); this is related to b, of course.

f. saviors/martyrs, dying for a cause as the ultimate expression of commitment.

others can help flesh out those ideas.

edited to remove pique. :)
by (53.1k points)
edited by
+5 votes
In addition to dot's post...

-Linear time. It uprooted cyclical time (based on seasons, migrations, etc) and everything is now moving towards some thing in the future, even that which is anti-Christian.

Christians said that there was Original Sin, God was angry, God forgave us because Jesus died for our sins, he rose again, and he will come again for Gehenna/Rapture/Apocalypse. There's a clear beginning and end of the fate of humanity.

Human life also became viewed in a similar way. We are born neutral, need to be baptized in order for God to care about us, and we live sinful lives that need to be forgiven before eventually dying and receiving paradise.

Anarchists, socialists, communists, and Revolutionaries of all stripes have adopted this mentality. I don't think I could argue it, but I suspect the concept of Progress, and all the secular and atheism that came from it, is based on that switch in mode of thinking.

Another thing I can't prove but intrigues me: perhaps this explains the 'not living in the moment' phenomenon. Buried beneath layers of mental processes we have all been trained to think of life linearly, and always focus on whats next. School and work probably contribute to this as well.

Edited for grammar.
by (4.0k points)
+3 votes
I would add, to the other great answers, not only the disenchantment of the world within which we live, but a very deep hostility to it. The desire always for something better than reality, the preference of our ideals, and our valuations of those ideals, to reality as we may live it. This is alive and well every bit in atheistic humanism as it is in Christianity.

It has thus also provided for the creation of 'subject' and 'object' differentiation, the self-distancing commonly called 'objectivity.' This has most definitely contributed to modern science, but also to political discourse, civilization/domestication, etc. It's one of the main reasons why environmentalism will never provide any basis for living and flourishing with all life, as 'it' remains largely a civilizing and therefore distancing project.

This is the contradiction of a 'true' world with this one which hardly has 'existence' at all. While this may be of Socratic/Platonic in origin, Christianity, as Nietzsche put it, made that Platonism over for masses.

Edited to expand my thoughts a bit.
by (7.5k points)
edited by
I can't believe that when writing my answer I forgot one salient tendency I've found among Christians when conversing with them: a siege mentality.

What I mean by this is that no matter how much hateful judgement they may spew on others, any inconvenient fact, critical argumentation, responsive ridicule, is taken as an all-out assault on the City of God. It's as if these folks are constantly surrounded by the enemy. Isn't that the what the tradition has taught about 'this world,' though?

I understand that this is a generality, but I've definitely encountered this enough times to also understand it has more than a mustard-seed's amount of truth to it.
I agree with the mustard-seed's amount of truth, but I'm wondering if you're referring to a particular strain of Christians. My experience has mostly been with Catholics, and generally speaking, they don't talk all that much about being surrounded by the enemy, even though I sense the fear lurking in the background.
Oddly enough, in my interactions with them, Catholics do tend to be a bit more down to earth, reachable about things religious, more open to rational discussion even if they do cease discussion in the end. Perhaps it's part of their heritage, incorporating Aristotelian-ism long ago and all.

I was thinking more along the lines of many American protestants, born-agains, etc., who become unhinged and bellyache about attacks on their faith.

Edited for clarity.
Thanks for your reply, AF. I've had similar experiences with born-agains and others. As you said, these are generalizations, but I have found differences in responses based on the strain of Christianity. One thing that seems universal among them though, is the unyielding belief in laws. I love the Mel Brooks scene in History of the World where Moses walks out with three stone tablets and declares "I give you these 15...." then he drops and breaks one of the tablets, and continues "uhhh...10 commandments!".

edite: to fix the lines in the joke.
–8 votes
Ugh, this old argument. Yes, government enforced Christianity (the vast majority of Christianity, despite what the US government will claim about the seperation of Church and State) has caused a lot of problems and has often been an obstacle to truly free thinking. These other answerers are correct about that.

However, this smug sense of superiority that atheists get because they think are somehow more advanced than those who are religious is bullshit.

Christian thought, when interpreted by those with more open, tolerant minds, has made a significant contribution to anarchist thought, before the atheism of the 19th century came into vogue. Many of the most successful attempted utopian anarchist and communist communities of the past, like those of the Hutterites and the Quakers and even the Amish were founded on Christian principles. "Leo Tolstoy," the genius Russian author was also a "Christian Anarchist."

Hegel and his followers, the Hegelians, the people who influenced Proudhon and Marx to an extreme degree were also Christians, and their original philosophy of dialectical change was based on the interaction between the spirit of God and human society. Proudhon and Marx essentially took that philosophy and replaced God with material conditions, making the theory much more practical. Though Proudhon and Marx, both militant atheists, improved Hegel's theory a lot, it can't be forgotten that they owed their foundations  to Christian thinkers.

Though Christianity does affect a person's worldview in some way (depending on that person's interpretation of Christianity), as does any other belief, it is NOT possible to erase a person's culture, no matter how much you disagree with them. The Communists learned that the hard way through their failed "Cultural Revolutions" that attempted to rid people of religion and culture through the use of atrocity and mass murder.

Christianity and anarchism CAN co-exist, as can any other religion and anarchism. Any aspect of culture that doesn't infringe on the rights of others (and no, infringing on the rights of others is not a core tenant of Christianity, that's just an excuse used by those who want to maintain their own secular power) should be allowed to freely exist in any anarchist society. If it can't, then we might as well hang up our hats and give up, because it is not possible to destroy culture, and even if it was, that would be the opposite of anarchy.

I'm not a Christian, so don't take this as an apology, but anarchy relies on tolerance for ALL beliefs and ways of life, and militant atheism does not meet that criteria.
by (-10 points)
edited by
Sorry, that bit about not reading the entire post wasn't directed at you bornagain. It was directed at the people trying to tell you what I was saying. The bit about reading the stuff for yourself was, obviously, directed at you, but not as critically. I was just trying to say, don't take his interpretation as complete truth. Oh, and by tolerance, I mean basically what Amor said: To "allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference."
No worries. I was responding to their definitions of what you wrote, and I can see how that would be frustrating. If you'd like to give a further description of that particular point, I could respond to it if you're interested.
Well, I think I've covered it pretty well, but I'd be happy to answer any specific questions you've got.
lantz: "First, this point has already been refuted. All beliefs and ways-of-life that don't infringe on the rights of others ARE of equal value."

Ooooo. 'rights' now we're gettin' spooky. What may 'rights' consist of?

Who judges the scales of 'equality? God? Humanity? The Pope? Obama? Kropotkin? Your mom?

How does one weigh 'rights' to make sure they identify as ' the same in all respects'?

What exactly does 'infringe' mean? Hell, I've dealt with Christians who consider ridicule as 'oppression' all while condemning others for homosexuality, atheism, and other ways of 'not being right with God.'

lantz: ". It is only when that belief results in oppression of the religious that it becomes a problem.'

That's asinine. I think atheists, 'militant' or even mild-mannered atheists, are in far more hot doo-doo with certain Middle Eastern cults than vice versa.

lantz: "However, the militant athiest viewpoint does not support equality,"

Some religions/ideology do in theory, none really do. Why am I obligated to  'support' either? Who am I 'obligated' to, exactly?

lantz: "More baseless accusations and superficial nitpicking. Just because I ignored an old anarchist motif, I'm ignoring history?...And besides, the whole "No gods, no masters" thing is not crucial to anarchist philosophy, it's just a buzzphrase"

1. One God, One master, seems to know...archism.

2. More importantly, you are just trying to cover your ass, your naked self-contradictions, by appealing to snobs, emotions, and the authority of spooky contemporary democratic buzzwords:  'rights,' 'obligations,' 'equality.' They sound nice on paper, but hardly make for anything overturning the current Western domination of thought, discourse, 'democracy' and Power.
I can't claim to know everything about rights. I'm a humanist, I just believe that all people, along with their beliefs, must be respected as long as they don't infringe on other people. The fact that morality and the idea of rights are tough issues to define doesn't mean they don't exist. They are hardly a modern idea either. Rights are one of the most important ideas that humans have come up with, and just because they've been incorporated into democracy (in an not-completely-successful attempt to safeguard democracy from the tyranny of the previous monarchys) does not mean they are irrelevant. Rejecting everything because it is associated with government is a childish, single-minded approach to anarchism.

Second, toleration does not imply the obligation to support anyone, and it doesn't matter who is in more "doo-doo," intolerance is intolerance. I wouldn't recommend an anarchist system based on militant Islam either.

Third, "One God, One master" is not the opposite of "No god, no masters," this is a false point, as are the previous two points.

You haven't said one productive thing here. As in the other thread, I don't think this is going anywhere.