Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Summer Books / "The Truth Behind the New Atheism"

Ok, we see that the Ukulele is great, cheap, wholesome and simple fun.  I have learned some new songs and a variety of styles--more simple fun.

Let's get back to some of the books.  There is one that I have begun:
"The Truth Behind the New Atheism", by David Marshall.

I have only read it in little bits and can't say much about it as a whole, at this point.  There are, however, cogent points along the way.

It seems to me that we bump into something called Gnosticism quite often, only that it likes to be a hidden system, though not actually very systematic, and is therefore somewhat slippery and hard to grasp or identify.  Certainly, no one comes right out to say:  I believe such and such because I am a Gnostic.

But that does not make it any less real.  I am getting to have a Gnostic--radar and think maybe I should read more about what it is.

I will quote a bit from page 105-107.  Marshall takes apart Richard Dawkins's claim that the Bible teaches caring only for your in-group.

"Jesus limited his in-group of the saved strictly to Jews,"  says Dawkins. "Sam Harris says the New Testament was written by people who hated Jews.  Hartung and Dawkins say Jesus hated Gentiles."... "Here New Atheists part company even with radical New Testament scholarship, not to mention anyone who has ever read the Book with an open mind!  Even skeptical Bible scholars say the most consistent theme not just in Jesus' teachings, but in his actions, was to tear down barriers between people.  Robert Funk, founder of the radical Jesus seminar, noted that all through the gospels, Jesus "privileged" the poor, sick, infirm, women, children, tax collectors and foreigners.  Liberal colleagues such as Marcus Borg, John Crossan, and Walter Wink underline this point repeatedly.  "In a society ordered by a purity system, the inclusiveness of Jesus' movement embodies a radically alternative social vision." ...Ironically, Dawkins hones in on the phrase "love their neighbor" to illustrate his belief that Jesus only cared about the "in-group". But there was a particular moment in history when "neighbor" emphatically stopped meaning "another Jew" and came forever to mean "anyone you meet."  Dawkins should recognize that moment, for he twice uses the term Good Samaritan."  (Marshall, p. 107)

Quote Marshall, p. 108.

A Samaritan was not a Jew.  He was a despised half-breed.  He was an improbable hero for a rabbi in an era when the always nationalistic Jews were chafing under foreign occupation.  That is precisely, Funk points out, what made the Good Samaritan so typical a hero in a story by Jesus.  The sheer absurdity of accusing Jesus, of all people, of "exclusiveness"  seems almost inspired (by whom, I leave the reader to consider). 

How did we really discover our common humanity?

Aristotle held that "from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule."  He even claimed it was better for the "lower sort" to be ruled by masters, since they were "by nature slaves."  Gnostics said some were naturally incapable of being saved from this "lowest region of all matter."  According to the Rig Veda, the four great castes proceed from the mouth, arms, thighs, and feet of Brahma.

With a few kindly allies such a Confuscius, the bible taught us racial unity.  It has always been a theistic dogma that humans are alike in nature and dignity as the image of God.  In one of the earliest Old Testament documents, Job said, "  If I have denied justice to my menservats and maidservants... what will I do when God confronts me?...did not he who made me in the womb make them?"  (Job 31:13-15)  Paul wrote, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female;  for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).  Augustine thus rebutted Aristotle:  Whatever society may do to us, no one is a slave by nature.  There was a great future in that insight.  but there was also a great future in the response by social Darwinist Hermann Klaatch:  "The humanitarian nonsense which grants equal rights to all on the premise of the unity of humanity, is to be condemned from the scientific standpoint." 

---------------  end of quote

This is also interesting from the point of view of the Reformation, where a great popular movement brought literacy and biblical teaching to the masses, wresting it from a priestly class, that had gone quite corrupt.  Also, it was noted quite clearly that there needed to be a shift from Aristotle to Augustine, which I sometimes wonder what that could all mean. Here is one aspect of this shift. 

We hear often, however, even in Luther that people should stay in their callings.  What he means, though, is not that some should be serves and some Lord, but that each should faithfully do his work, since each has his own load to carry.  We need not aspire to all be in a spiritual class, but we serve God in our vocations, as husband, wife, child, student, king, soldier, farmer, pastor, etc.  These are all ennobled by the blessings and callings of God.  This teaching is quite contrary to those who see in the daily affairs a kind of bane that we need to escape.   

We see also how some rationalize their tendency to cruelty, pride and unjust behavior. 

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