INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
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More essays by Ray Harris | Ray Harris' website: www.novelactivist.com
Ray Harris is a frequent contributor to this website. He has written articles on 9/11, boomeritis, the Iraq war and Third Way politics. Harris lives in Australia and can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
'THE CHRIST CONSPIRACY'
Tony begins his reply to my article Christianity: The Great Lie with his own views on some of the issues I raised. This is perfectly reasonable and I have no desire to comment on them at length, so I'll confine myself to where I believe Tony to have either misread my argument and then misrepresented it.
First, in regard to this question.
Was Christianity the first religion to take God out of nature, out of man, and place “Him” in a remote heaven? Or was it part of a growing trend?
This is a rhetorical question intended to imply that I place the blame solely on the shoulders of Christianity. This is not the case. I mentioned that Zoroastrianism (Persian religion) had an impact on Judaism. I assumed that the reader understood Persian dualism and its influence on Christian and Gnostic thought. My argument was that there were many schools of religious thought in the Greco-Roman tradition, some of which were nondual and some of which were dualistic, with many variations of monotheism, polytheism and atheism. What Christianity did was favour dualistic monotheism and attempt to wipe out pagan and heterodox variations, including the Greek philosophical mystery traditions, such as the Pythagoreans. This created a flatland where the idea of a remote God became official doctrine to the exclusion of arguably more sophisticated and accurate models.
Tony goes on to say:
If Christianity arose from pre-Christian sources in the Oikumene, as his essay maintains, then is not Christianity an outgrowth of the same matrix that produced western civilization as we know it? If Christianity is a lie, then it is a western lie; it did not pop out of a vacuum.
Yes, it is part of the same matrix, but as I argue above it is not the full matrix, it is a much, much narrower dogma that survived, actually destroying many great works from rival interpretations within the same matrix. Tony then makes a silly error of fact and logic. No Tony, Christianity, which arose in the Middle East is not a Western 'lie'. There are aspects of the Greek tradition which show a closer association with Hindu concepts of God (Indo-European) than with Semitic concepts of God. What Christianity did was adopt the Semitic tradition in favour of the Indo-European. It is the Semitic component that is the lie, not the Indo-European. The current division of West/Europe, Middle East and Far East is a relatively recent conceit, as much created by the Muslim conquest of previously Christian lands as anything else. It's a modern convention based on the borders of a Catholic Europe and a Muslim Middle East. In Roman times large parts of Western Europe were considered 'barbaric' and the Middle East was the epicenter.
Next - a clarification on memes and vMemes. I'm not sure what Chris Cowan has to do with it exactly, but I was using the term meme as it's creator Richard Dawkins intended and as further explained by Susan Blackmore in 'The Meme Machine'. Beck and Cowan adopted this idea and transformed it into the concept of vMemes. It is the followers of SD that confuse memes with vMemes, not I.
The conflation of modern science with eastern metaphysics is a minority view. Most of those in the “hard” sciences dismiss these claims. I do not necessarily agree with the ultra-physicalist paradigm, but I do think the link between Buddhism/Hinduism/Taoism and the current science is overblown.
I agree. So where exactly did I conflate the two ideas? What I said was that it was 'broadly compatible'. Perhaps Tony should look up his dictionary and read the definition of the word compatible, “able to exist together harmoniously”. The Christian idea is of an eternal and separate God who creates the Kosmos, either through the Big Bang or through Creation. This is based on a misunderstanding of the Big Bang theory which says that the Kosmos is self-created; an idea 'broadly compatible' with the Eastern idea of a self-created Kosmos. If Tony is going to make a useful critical comment here he needs to both represent my position accurately and both Christian, Eastern and scientific cosmology accurately.
This is a problem for many true believers. Yet this does not take away from the fact that science still developed in Christian countries.
This is just plain nonsense. Science developed in several civilizational complexes. How Western-centric is it to ignore Chinese, Indian, Egyptian and pagan Greek science? The ability to develop science is based on the ability to develop to the rational stage. The scientific revolution in the West only happened after reason was freed from control by the Church and secularized. Up until that point scientific discoveries were suppressed by the Church, with the offices of the Inquisition keeping a close watch on innovation. Leonardo Da Vinci made significant discoveries in anatomy but his work never saw the light of day until some centuries later. Why? Because some idiot told the Pope Da Vinci was a necromancer.
What Harris should admit, though, is that some of his own beliefs, particularly the theories of Jung, are also beyond the pale of genuine science. Jung is now an anomaly in academic psychology and is mostly relegated to the margins of a few specialized institutes. How would he respond to Jung's critics?
I would respond in this way. The Jungian system is a paradigm that involves hermeneutics. The truth of its claims can only be revealed through following the injunctions appropriate to the paradigm. It does not claim to have the complete answer, only that it is useful in understanding a positive psychological process Jung called Individuation. The Jungian paradigm is valid within its terms of reference and can easily take its place within the integral worldview. Tony should take the time to read Wilber on Integral Methodological Pluralism and integrative epistemology.
During the early development of Islam, there was a Jewish tribe in Medina who did betray the Muslim community, but not for religious reasons.
Tony really needs to get a grasp of his facts. There were three Jewish tribes in Medina, the Bani Nadir, Bani Qaynuqah and Bani Qurayzah. It may be the Muslim version of history that says the Jews betrayed Mohammed for political reasons, but the Jewish version says something different. It says that Mohammed was a false prophet and that the rabbis of Medina rejected his claim to prophetic authority. They even said he was an illiterate who had never studied the Torah; and that he had concocted the Koran from a grab bag of stories he had heard. This clearly is a religious disagreement. You see, it all hinges on whether or not you believe Mohammed was a genuine prophet. If he was a fraud then one can easily understand why he was rejected by his own tribe and finally by the Jewish tribes of Medina.
It is about denying the right of Jews to be the occupying power of this country. Did Muslims deny the plan to give them Madagascar? Given biblical prophecy, the fact that some Jews were already living there, and their historical connection to the land of Israel, it is understandable that they wanted Palestine after they suffered pogrom after pogrom. Does that bolster their legal right to rule this land now?
Madagascar? And the Jews were expected to take this seriously? There is no doubt that the Jews were indigenous to Palestine, why should they go anywhere else and why should it be Muslims who determine where they can and can't settle? The fact remains that the state of Israel was created by an act of the UN and that provides the legal foundation. Unless of course, Tony wants to put forward an argument that there should be no international law and no UN. There is no easy answer to who can lay claim to a given land, especially a land that has changed hands so many times. At what point do you say a conquest was illegal? 50 years ago? 500 years ago? The reality for Israel is that at midnight on the day of the UN vote Arab armies invaded Israel and tried to wipe it out. Various Arab and Muslim forces have tried ever since to wipe Israel off the map. Hamas has still not reversed it's policy of destroying Israel. Under such a continual threat what exactly should Israel do?
This is the Christopher Hitchens argument. If America had a national church under the control of the government, then Christianity would have withered in relevance and influence, in tandem with the secularization of the government. That may be true in Great Britain, but I doubt that would have worked here. The idea of separating church and state originated not with Jefferson, but the Anabaptists. It was a sensible way of protecting religious minorities, well, at the time, minority Protestant sects. Without that, we might very well have an overt theocracy today without even a pretense of freedom of worship, or freedom from worship. The religious conflicts in Europe would have likely been repeated here.
No, it's not the Christopher Hitchens argument and I'm not advocating an American national church. Tony is partly right, the US protestant sects like the Anabaptists favoured a secular state because they understood it was the only guarantee of their freedom. When religion and state are combined, religious sects seek to dominate politics and to then persecute sects they dislike. In Saudi Arabia it is not only non-Muslims who are persecuted but non-Sunni sects as well. In Brunei the state goes even further and endorses the Shafiya'a maddhab of Sunni sharia and the other maddhabs are restricted. But the protestant sects bought this debate from Europe to America, from a Europe that had begun to reject the Catholic theocracy after the Renaissance, which itself saw a revival of Classical ideas of humanism. If we are going to argue where the original sources of ideas come from then let us follow an accurate genealogy.
After writing 'Christianity: the Great Lie' the latest issue of the Australian journal Quarterly Essay was published. This journal publishes single essays on contemporary issues and the current volume is entitled 'Voting for Jesus: Christianity and Politics in Australia'. It contains quotes from Justice Michael Adams of the Supreme Court; a prominent member of the Uniting Church. Justice Adams was both a member of the NSW Law Reform Commission and the Uniting Church Board for Social Responsibility. In 2001 he addressed the Australasian Christian Legal Convention. It is worth reading this paper Law Reform , but I'll provide selected quotes.
The idea that people have rights as distinct from duties does not appear to be a Biblical idea at all. Moreover, the source of duty (say, towards, widows, orphans and strangers) is not the inherent worth of the other but the command of God who cares for that other. Yet the idea of human rights, both individual and communal, appears to be the most powerful theme running through virtually every positive social change over the last 200 years. The genesis of the notion of such rights seems rather to lie in Hellene and Roman antiquity than in Christian thought.
This applies to Islam as well. The Koran in many ways is derived from the Bible. It is why many Muslim thinkers reject the notion of human rights. Rights are not derived from humans but from God's command.
It seems impossible to escape the damning conclusion that the Church contributed almost nothing to the cause of justice, let alone kindness and humility (to use Micah's succinct description of the will of God); indeed, most Christians and certainly most churches have consistently opposed changes that might have given more rational, more fair or more humane justice. Virtually all the reforms of the 18th and especially the 19th centuries have been brought about by persons convinced by humanist and rational notions of the social order and, more recently, by democratic forces asserting human rights. They were impelled by much the same intellectual and social ideas that both led to and were significantly influenced by the rejection of superstition, the development of science, and commitment to the central role of reason in human life which had gathered force since the astonishing discoveries of Kepler, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and a host of others like them.
I do not think it can be seriously contended that any substantial legal, social or political advance, even in the modern era, has been marked by a Christian consensus, with the possible exceptions in the USA of the extension of civil rights to Afro/Americans in the 1960's and 1970's and the changes to the Australian Constitution concerning indigenous Australians in 1967. The devastating analysis of the relations between the church and the National Socialist State by Bonhoeffer (see Ethics and No Rusty Swords Collins, 1965) shows how the (Lutheran, but the analysis applies to all the churches,) Church in Germany not only failed to combat Nazism but became complicit in its crimes. It seems frighteningly true that there is no reason to suppose that, given similar conditions in other cultures, there would have been a different outcome. By way of example, consider the role of the churches in apartheid South Africa or in (especially) southern USA or, more recently, the failure of the Serbian Orthodox Church to take a stance against the atrocities committed by Serbians in Kosovo. So observed, the Church appears to be less a light on the hill than a chameleon, taking its colour from its environment.
I would add here that I'm not sure about the extension of civil rights to Afro-Americans, seems to me that many white Christians opposed civil rights. Elsewhere Adams says the following in regard to the Abolitionist movement.
The two most significant reform movements in modern times in which Christian ideals played a prominent role were, of course, the abolition of slavery and improvement of labour conditions. I say "Christian ideals" rather than "Christians" because the reality is that Christians were deeply divided on both these questions. William Wilberforce and his supporters in the House of Commons were known, derisively, as "the Saints", a strange mockery in the mouths of devout Christians. (Wilberforce was also a major figure in the Proclamation Society which in 1797 prosecuted a bookseller for criminal libel for selling from his shop, though in ignorance, Paine's Age of Reason, and procured a heavy sentence of imprisonment.). In the USA, where Protestants where in the overwhelming majority, "the two largest denominations -Methodist and Baptist - had split into hostile northern and southern churches over the question of slavery and the third largest - Presbyterian - split largely across sectional lines and partly on the issue of slavery" (Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, James M McPherson Penguin 1990, p40). Even so, the principal arguments on each side were humanitarian, social and economic rather than religious. The other, and infinitely more significant, social change was that wrought by the Reformation which also and necessarily involved Christians on both sides of the conflict.
Adams then goes on to argue that the current persecution of homosexuals is hypocritical because it is selective. Biblical principles also condemn a range of heterosexual crimes, such as adultery, but the Christian right chooses to ignore these sins. Why? Because homosexuals, as a minority, are an easy target.
It is also a fundamental part of any conception of justice worthy of the name that people must be treated equally. It is therefore impossible for Christians to justify the law's treating consensual homosexual behaviour so differently from consensual but illicit heterosexual behaviour, whilst both are condemned by them as equally immoral. This demonstrates that the motive for the law is not to do justice but to do injustice.
Adams comes to a damning conclusion, a conclusion that comes to the very heart of my concerns.
In the end, there is no reason to suppose that the Church will try to defend that which it never helped to create, a liberal democracy governed by the rule of law, for all that individual Christians might do so. In this context, the concerted attack on secular humanism by significant elements of both Catholic and Protestant Churches, though often in ignorance, should be seen as especially sinister.
As I argued in my article – we face a new age of unreason driven by religion. It is something we should all be alarmed by.
Ray Harris, June, 2006