I absolutely love the new articles!!! Just because of the articles have been recommending on deck to people

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it is unlikely that you would want to spend the time to exegete these scriptures that you threw into your post: https://imgur.com/a/CTQAc5Y

... b/c your conclusions clearly show an obvious superficial understanding.

... again, i'm not trying to be critical, just, to call out this example.

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A study of Chinese culture and chinese cultural roots can really serve to highlight this point of humanitarianism and egalitarianism being non-universal.

Chinese society is "collective" but not egalitarian. It doesn't pretend that all beings are created equal; it clings to the implicit hierarchy of humans in their roles. If you're a woman, a child, a grandmother, a husband, you have a role to play and if you don't play it, you're shamed and ostracized by society, not encouraged or supported.

Chinese moral ethics says that your parents are superior to you, the child, and that you have to have filial piety - extreme respect, obedience, and care - for your parents. They even go so far as to have 24 filial exemplars, with children doing such things as selling themselves into slavery to pay off their father's funerals, or otherwise sacrificing themselves for their parents, and being praised for it as being the shining examples of ethical behavior.

And Chinese culture has been a complete social ecosystem within itself for 5000+ years already; its plausible that if Christianity didn't come about, we would have strong hierarchical confucian and taoist values and we would not even think of the world in the language of equality and human rights.

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Hello! I had a few thoughts that I would share regarding this piece. My response will refer to you, Torenberg, in the third person because it is copied from an email exchange with a friend. I mean no offense but only to engage in good-faith dialogue about what I think are promising ideas.

The first thing I noticed was just how broad the scope of this piece is. First, Torenberg never explicitly specified the particular geographical area he intended to cover. I suppose that because he references US church attendance that he is specifically writing about the development of secular humanism in the US, but this is still confusing because it fails to consider the incredible historical, religious, and social diversity within the US. The thesis of this essay, in my opinion (as someone from the Deep South), is most applicable to the coasts, which do not, despite their stranglehold on academia and national political discourse, represent the country as a whole

Second, he consistently uses “Christian” when really he means “Protestant.'' This is an issue, first, because it erases the considerable number of Catholics in this country (roughly 20%), and second, because it overlooks the considerable theological and social differences between Catholics and Protestants (who themselves vary extraordinarily) under the Christian umbrella. I’m also confused as to where he gets his numbers from. He, at one point, says that only 10% of Americans today are Protestant, when really it is just south of 50% (according to Pew Research Center, which is admittedly about 5 years out of date). It is possible that Torenberg was referring to the percentage who attend some sort of church service regularly, but that would still be about ⅓ of the population, much more than the stated 10%.

Beyond the (excessively) broad scope of the piece, I noticed a number of historical and biblical inaccuracies. Just off the top of my head and in no particular order:

Torenberg seemingly credits Christianity with the origination of the “an eye for an eye” approach to justice, which actually originated in Hammurabi’s Code in the 18th century BC. Though Judaism has its roots in Mesopotamia and Christianity, its roots in Judaism, Christianity, in theory if not historical practice, eschews reciprocation of violence (hence Jesus turning the other cheek).

Torenberg goes off on a tangent about witch-burning and the scientific method, and somehow makes the argument that science has been developed outside of religion almost in contrast to each other. I may have misunderstood his argument here because I’m not quite sure if Torenberg even knew what his argument was here. Science was not developed as a non-religious system of knowing. If anything, the scientific method that we know of today was largely developed and improved upon by Christians, many of whom were members of the clergy. The Church holds that faith is held above reason, yes, but the idea that the two are incompatible or even easily separated is Enlightenment nonsense.

Torenberg posits that Communism is the “logical endpoint of a secularized Christianity” based on a very literal interpretation of Jesus’ statements decrying wealth. Communism does not just advocate for class warfare though. Communism also requires the abolition of private property and state control over the means of production. How we get there from Jesus saying “woe to the rich” is beyond me.

Those were just a few examples off the top of my head; I am sure there are more examples in this essay of Torenberg making sweeping arguments from rather irrelevant and historically inaccurate trivia. Overall, I’m just left confused as to what his point was. Does modern-day coastal liberal humanism resemble the reasoning, zeal, and oftentimes structure of a religion? Yes, I think so, but I do not think that Torenberg successfully makes that case in this article. It’s a real shame, because I think his conclusion is (close to) right, even if his proof is muddled. But it’s also very possible I simply misunderstood his points. Maybe?

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I really enjoyed what Tom Holland said about Christianity and Marxism. How Marx was just a grumpy Church Father but without the theistic metaphysics.

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Girard didn’t necessarily object to the new atheists because he saw them as properly destroying sacrificial Christianity. But he warned that equality without Christ would lead to war, which is where we are going. Religion, even primitive sacrificial religion, transcends acquisition of things. Politics never transcends because politics is all about who gets what. It’s about possession. Religion leads to science because it allows us to better work together to develop materials, cure diseases etc. Without religion we always would rather win over our rivals rather than succeed.

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Dear Erik,

This piece has touched my soul on so many levels. I found myself clipping so many paragraphs...

I will have to re-read it several more times.

Could I have the pleasure of a personal meeting to share some ideas I've been working on?

Perhaps you may find the concept of "Jesus before Christianity" fascinating.

Until we meet, God willing, I would offer a gift (life-changing, perhaps, as it did change mine): a resource that describes what Jesus was teaching, thinking and doing. Almost half a million words all about Jesus.


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Very thought-provoking! Check out the book "Power vs Force" by Dr. David R. Hawkins. It demonstrates how strongly interwoven science and spirituality (including Christianity) are - like different sides of the same coin: the Great Awakening.

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You write: “Human rights are a myth in that they don’t exist as natural laws and can't be convincingly derived from logic. Christianity legitimized them, and as such, cannot be “good” or “bad” as we understand those terms”. A Christian perspective would certainly disagree and argue your take is not an accurate understanding of human rights. I would encourage you to read the French Thomist philosopher Jacques Maritain who was actively involved in a series of philosophical discussions that led to the drafting of the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. After the aftermath of the Second World War and the immense loss of human life, Maritain among other philosophers worked to understand how to conceptualize human rights and human dignity in a way that would prevent such a tragedy from reoccurring. Forming a cross-cultural consensus came out of a shared sense that there are some things that could be generally seen to be obviously good and others morally condemnable and horrific. The Declaration itself served as a sign to all nations that some agreement was possible and these rights would later make their way into the constitutions of a great number of UN Member States. Yet, Maritain would add that such rights are not authoritative simply due to their adoption by consensus, instead, there must be a foundation for these rights which is the natural law. Maritain viewed natural law as unchanging in the sense that it is an objective standard that was not socially constructed but divinely ordained. Progress in understanding this law could occur over the centuries due to our human limitations in understanding of the law. Human beings could and should try to deepen their comprehension of natural law yet Maritain also points out that men are not angels. Not only are men lacking in the fullness of virtues, they also do not have the fullness of knowledge that such an extensive understanding of the transcendent moral laws would entail.

Maritain defines natural law as unwritten law. Thus, if the 1948 Declaration was largely influenced by an understanding of natural law, then its enumeration of rights is more instructive than precisely binding. The Declaration serves then to educate towards this progression of fullness rather than be a definitive and authoritative pronouncement. Human rights by this account are no myth.

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You seem to overlook that a lot of the concepts used in christianity existed before, either in other religions or in philosophies.Because christianity managed to supress those other religions or cultures, and to embed itself in the social, political and financial life of our Westerne societies of course it became the main carrier for it. But if we hadn't had chrisitianity, something else would have taken it place, and would quite probably have yielded broadly the same results.

And many others concepts were developped in spite of if not christianity's tenets (or an interpetation one can have of them), at least in spite of christianity's churches. We don't marry our sister's-in-law, we no longer have slaves, we don't stone adulterers, we don't buy indulgences...

Stuff happened. We're in mostly christian societies. Hence everything that happened is because christians. Yep correlation = causation.

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Kant's Dove comes to mind.

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I was linked to this page randomly from another substack, and don't really know to what extent I agree about what you're arguing or not. But since you've requested feedback... the absence of any discussion about Kantianism or virtue ethics is really, really confusing to me, as someone who spends a lot of time talking to his Christian friends about Kant (and his deontologist followers) and Alasdair Macintyre (and his virtue ethics followers). Utilitarianism is a fun thing to beat up (I do it too!), but incomplete for the discussion here, I would suggest?

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I think you're spot on, though I'd argue this is an older idea that you may realize. Chesterson, Lewis, Guinness, Dillard, and Augustine all spent enormous time on this, hell even nietzsche did (though he actively argued against it). Whys that matter? Because the old secular naturalists and progressives never saw Christianity as an enemy to progress even when they disagreed. Now, it's at best fighting a mirror of itself, or entirely empty, both destructive.

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your theology is so off it hurts, but, it doesn't necessarily lessen your high-level point... it just shows weak diligence for argumentation(s). i think the "fishbowl" metaphor works for folks in the west... but, much less in most other geographies.

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I'd love to hear counters to these arguments to make them better.

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And I think you are onto something with your critique of utilitarianism; why not just genetic test the fetuses for propensity to criminal behavior (or being gay, or dumb or fat) and abort the bad ones? What in atheism denies that? What will humanity look like after a few generations of that? I actually think is where we will end up. Technology to solve social problems.

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Intriguing take. No one notices the atmospheric pressure surrounding their physical beings...but it’s influence and effect are ever present.

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