2011-10-17

Does anti-supernaturalism imply anti-Christian hostility?

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by Neil Godfrey

Of course not. This is the common — non-rational — response of some Christians when I protest that I have no time for entertaining any possibility (even theoretical) of the miraculous in historical studies.

Being committed to naturalist explanations does not mean that one is “anti-Christian” in the sense of harbouring some sort of anti-social bias or hostile agenda against Christianity.

As a naturalist and atheist Christianity or any other religious belief simply never enters my consciousness as a framework for interpretation when I am exploring historical questions. That is not hostility against Christianity. That is not some sort of crusading vendetta to attack Christianity. Christianity or any other religion simply never rises above the horizon of consideration, pro or con.

Yes I certainly do argue against faith and religion with selected audiences who are receptive to or interested in my arguments. I admire Charles Darwin for the respect he showed for the feelings of his devout wife. I have people close to me who are deeply attached to religious faith and I have no desire whatever to hurt them if I can help it.

Besides, I am more interested in exploring historical questions of Christian origins and I would like to try to avoid as much as possible giving anyone reason to reject my arguments on the grounds that they emanate from some sort of hostile anti-Christian bias. As it is there are people who do attack my views for that very reason. But they have no evidential basis to make those claims. Such claims are gratuitous and bogus mind-reading.

Scholars with a Christian bias or a supernatural belief in Jesus being alive today belong in seminaries the same way mullahs belong in madāris. What concord hath Christ or Allah with the Rational Mind?

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Neil Godfrey

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0 thoughts on “Does anti-supernaturalism imply anti-Christian hostility?”

  1. There is Still One Only True Miracle in the History of Christianity

    The origin of Christianity is still a mystery, which is a good thing for all the scholars studying it for the last 250 years.
    But there is still one great miracle in its history: how it came to spread the story of Jesus all around the Mediterranean and all over Europe. This historical success has been much more the doing of the Catholic Church, than that of the Christian doctrine and the result of the only true miracle in the history of Christianity.

    The historical breakthrough of the Catholic Church was first the political infighting for the Roman Empire’s crown among a few contestants resulting in the legalization of the new religion by the emperor Constantine (Edict of Milan, 313). This was later followed by the council of Nicaea (325), to establish the Church’s orthodox dogma by defeating Arianism and affirming Jesus’s parity with God, and adopting the basis of the Nicene creed of a Jesus Christ Redeemer and Savior.

    Only 55 years later came the extraordinary crowning of the Catholic Church with its Nicene creed as the exclusive form of religion in the Roman Empire by emperor Theodosius “the Great” (Edict of Thessalonica, 380). This was quickly supported by the council of Constantinople (381) to eliminate competing variants in the doctrine by affirming the inclusion of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity and editing the Nicene creed as a “symbol of faith”.
    Once the Church was granted this extraordinary monopoly, it soon followed up with a systematic and savage campaign to consolidate its position, and to make sure to replace all the ancient Roman worships and cults with the new religion. This result was obtained by means of the suppression and persecution of all heretical Christian sects, and a long series of special decrees enacting the official proscription of pagans. Thus was given to the Catholic Church a free rein to ride piggyback on the immense expansion of the Roman Empire. 

    It is the support of the new Church and the annexation of its new doctrine by the two Roman Emperors Constantine and Theodosius for their own political uses that turned out to be the unexpected miracle in the history of Christianity, giving it open and monopolistic access to the huge Western and Asian markets. The real triumph was not that of the Christian doctrine, but the monopoly gained by the Catholic Church. 
    Without this historical accident of the endorsement of the Church by the Roman Emperors, the new religion of Christianity with all its various sects and conflicting branches would have certainly suffered from continued repression and disappeared along with the dozens of other cults that flourished throughout the Roman Empire.

    And thousands of scholars, historians and theologians would have not employed their energy and their time wondering about the origin of Christianity and the existence of Jesus.

  2. Anti-supernatural bias.

    I’ve got the hang of how anti-supernatural bias works.

    If a work has Jesus talking to Satan, it is purely anti-supernatural bias to question the basic historicity of the story line, and the view of a crank to doubt the existence of any character in it, even if we don’t know who wrote the work or when or where.

    If a work has a character talking to an albino assassin, only a gullible fool would think any part of the book was in any way connected to real historical events,

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