• Christianity is Not Great update

    Below is the latest chapter outline for John Loftus’ new book Christianity is Not Great for which I am contributing a chapter on morality. I have finished it and it has now been sliced and diced for size (aah, the joy of editing).


    Christianity is Not Great, edited by John W. Loftus


    Introduction: An Overview of the Harms of Christian Faith.


    Part One: Why Faith is Harmful:


    1) The Failure of Christianity and Triumph of Reason, by Robert G. Ingersoll


    2) The Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Christianity, by Victor J. Stenger


    3) Faith: From Moral Virtue to Unreliable Reasoning Process, by Peter Boghossian



    Part Two: Political/Institutional Harms:


    4) The Crusades and the Inquisition, by Jack David Eller


    5) Pandemonium: The Barbaric Christian Witch Hunts, by John W. Loftus


    6) Colonization and the Wholesale Destruction of Indigenous People Groups, by Jack David Eller


    7) Christianity and the Rise of American Democracy, by Richard Carrier


    8) The Ugly Truth: Christianity and Slavery, by John W. Loftus



    Part Three: Scientific Harms:


    11) The Dark Ages, by Richard Carrier.


    12) The Gender Binary & LGBTI People: Religious Myth and Medical Malpractice, by Veronica Drantz.


    13) Christianity Can Be Harmful To Your Health, by Harriet Hall.


    14) The Christian Abuses of the Sanctity of Life, by Ronald A. Lindsay.


    15) Christianity and the Environment, by William Patterson.



    Part Four: Social & Moral Harms:


    16) The Cultural Wars, by Ed Brayton.


    17) The Harm of Christianity to Women, by Annie Laurie Gaylor.


    18) Women of Color Beyond Faith, by Sikivu Hutchinson.


    19) The Psychological Harms of Christianity, by Valerie Tarico and Marlene Winell.


    20) Secular Sexuality: A Direct Challenge to Christianity, by Darrel W. Ray.


    21) Abusive Pastors and Churches, by Nathan Phelps.


    22) Christianity’s Lack of Concern for Animals, by John W. Loftus.



    Part Five: Who’s to Judge and Correct Harms?


    23) “Tu Quoque, Atheism?” – Our Right to Judge, by Jonathan MS Pearce.


    24) Only Humans Can Solve Human Challenges, by James A. Lindsay.


    25) Living Without God, by Russell Blackford.


    Category: Books


    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce

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    • LukeBreuer

      Use of the term ‘Dark Ages’ is curious, given Wikipedia’s Dark Ages (historiography):

      This definition is still found in popular use, but increased recognition of the accomplishments of the Middle Ages has led to the label being restricted in application. […] However, many modern scholars who study the era tend to avoid the term altogether for its negative connotations, finding it misleading and inaccurate for any part of the Middle Ages.

      I hope this book spurs an appropriate response, so that there is no sampling bias. As it is, the sampling bias is, well, built into the very fabric of the book, it seems. Unless the authors are going to take the best version of the opposing argument they can find, replete with evidence, before asserting that their explanation is the better one given all of the evidence?

      • That’s a very deliberate usage of the phrase because i think, thought do not know for sure, that carrier refutes those who try to plaster over the era with more benign overtones. He has written on this before (and is sort of his area of expertise – science in the ancient times).

      • eg

        One might object and say, “Historians no longer believe there were any ‘Dark Ages’!” That depends on what you mean by Dark Age. What I mean by that term here is any era in which a considerable amount of knowledge is lost, especially scientific and technical knowledge, while the ruling zeitgeist looks backwards to a time before more enlightened ways of doing things were embraced. The loss of over 90% of all literature, and the corresponding historical and scientific knowledge it contained, is a fact. The abandonment of the highest civilized, technological, historical, and scientific ideals of the early Roman elite, in exchange for more barbarian ways of thinking and doing things, is a fact. And that is, by my definition, a Dark Age.

        Far less was recorded during the middle ages, and far less accurately, than had been the case in classical times, and only a small fraction of what was recorded before was preserved, and even what survived remained known to astonishingly few, and put to good use by even fewer. Again, by my definition, that’s a Dark Age. At the same time, the greatest aspirations of the pagans, with their struggling ideals of democracy and human rights, just like their empirical ideals and the scientific spirit they inspired, were chucked out the window in favor of more primitive ideas of “god-given” kings constantly at war over a feudal society, pontificating popes and pulpit-thumping preachers, burning witches and the widespread embrace of hocus pocus, even by the educated elite. That’s a Dark Age. And however much one might not like it, we had one.

        One might object and say, “Well, it wasn’t totally dark, some improvements in technology were made, some history was recorded, a lot of ancient knowledge preserved.” But that would only be a valid point if I were claiming a Pitch Black Age. Even with a little light, it was plenty dark. Moreover, by far most of what was invented, improved, or preserved came after the 12th century. The Dark Ages preceded that. Even what was preserved through to the 12th century was only barely so, much of it only in a few isolated places, sometimes only in a single manuscript, perhaps two or three, scattered across the world and collecting dust on forgotten shelves, often damaged or surviving only in translation. And by far most of what survived was preserved only in the comparably wealthier Middle East, where times were never as dark as they definitely became in Europe. Hence the Dark Ages more aptly describes the history of Europe than of the medieval Middle East, although even the latter experienced a notable decline from pre-fall Rome in every aspect of civilization and culture.

        • LukeBreuer

          In that case, I look forward to see what Carrier writes, given what that Wikipedia page indicates as well as a few books I’ve read.

    • LukeBreuer

      To what extent is this book going to take a falsificationist approach, by which I mean: “I propose that X is true about history; I will endeavor to disprove X, show my work, and conclude by my failure that X is at least a good approximation.”? To go a bit further, will the authors in this book demonstrate:

           (1) I am not subject to a sampling bias.
           (2) I am not over-specifying to Christianity when this critique applies to all of humanity.
           (3) Any counterfactual claims (e.g. “the world would have been better without Christianity”) are sufficiently motivated.

      ? Common to books like this, on both sides of the fence, is caricaturization of the other side, replete with claims not based on responsibly sampled evidence, unsupported counterfactuals, correlation and not causation, etc. To pick on Christians, they love to say that atheism is terrible because of what Stalin did. But we know that there is a vast range of moral behavior of people who identify themselves as atheists. Can the Christian truly demonstrate that being an atheist makes you a worse person than being a theist/polytheist? Probably not. It would be nice if this book were to not be like the common pattern I have described.

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