Saturday, January 14, 2012

In Defense of My Response to Jefferson Bethke: Part 1

If you don't know who Jefferson Bethke is by now, you're living in a cave. For the uninitiated, he's responsible for a YouTube video (with over 10 million views) that attempts to establish that Jesus came to abolish religion and that a relationship with Him is antithetical to religion. You can watch the video and read my response to it here.

A few people have voiced objections to various parts of my response. I would like to respond to these objections. "Rob B" will be first. His words will be in bold.

This segment alone [my words on religion starting wars] was enough to convince me that the author of the article was both logically limited, and/or purposefully rhetorically manipulative, and severely biased.

Seriously? I'm surprised you had such a strong reaction to that part. Those are some bold charges you have made against me.

Anyone want to guess how small a % of all Christians the Amish make up?

The number of Amish people is irrelevant. Bethke said, "religion has started so many wars." My goal was to put things in perspective. Many religions have not started wars. This is an irrefutable fact, as evidenced by the Amish and other pacifist religions.

Who feels like defending the crusades as just?

There were certainly abuses that took place during the Crusades. No one denies that. But, the Crusades are also grossly misunderstood, and far from the atrocity that some people make them out to be. At any rate, I acknowledged in my original post that Catholics have not always conducted wars according to the Church's "Just War theory," but this is the fault of sin, not religion.

Jimmy Akin also makes a good point about this whole "religion is bad because it starts wars" theory:
He repeats the cliche that religion starts lots of wars, which is nonsense. Religion is a powerful motivator, and thus is often invoked in wartime, but the real reasons most wars have been fought have nothing to do with it. Instead, they have to do with political control–either allowing certain political leaders to gain or remain in power (e.g., who is the rightful heir to the throne) or they have to do with gaining political control of resources (e.g., land, money, food supplies, transportation and trade routes) or they have to do with a particular leader’s ambitions (i.e., being remembered as a great man, or not being remembered as a weak man). When leaders aren’t being totally naked about those things, they dress them up with national pride or religion, but ultimately they are not at the root.

The reason political leaders invoke religion when going to war is that religion is a powerful motivator that is built into human nature, which is why religion appears in all human societies. It’s a human universal, and religion in that sense is not something Jesus came to abolish. He didn’t come to root the religious impulse out of mankind but to shape it and channel it properly (e.g., “Blessed are the peacemakers”).
For the rest of Akin's response to Bethke, see "Why I Hate People Hating on Religion".

Moving on now ...

There are wonderful people who practice all religions.

That said, it's very important that religious organizations are criticized when criticism is warranted, and it is far too often. I believe Jeff's criticisms were intended to be directed at organized religion. It seems fairly clear from the context that this is the case.

I agree. Bethke's beef is with organized religion. I'm confused as to why you think you and I are in disagreement on that point.

Yet your first point, and the one which frames the entire article, assumes he is using the Catholic church's definition: "A set of beliefs and practices followed by those committed to the service and worship of God. The first commandment requires us to believe in God, to worship and serve him, as the first duty of the virtue of religion."

What follows is a bit mindblowing to me, because Hinduism fits this definition. The definition also does not exclude people who may follow the same beliefs as most Catholics, but have determined different practices that they routinely engage in.

So what's your point? I'm having trouble following you here. Hinduism is a religion as I have defined it. When Catholics reject Church teaching and follow their own whims they create a religion unto themselves. I agree. What's so "mindblowing" about that?

Would you have the audacity to argue that the Catholic church has not, many times throughout history, excommunicated people and not accepted potential converts merely because those people refuse to follow specific practices included in its dogma?

I don't really understand how this is relevant at all to the topic of my original post. I don't deny that the Church has excommunicated people. I think this is a good thing, but now is not the time to go down that rabbit hole. If I am not scrupulous to stay on topic, this debate could go in all sorts of directions.

I would read the rest of this post, but I just don't see it as a productive use of my time.

I gave you the time of day, perhaps you will extend to me the same courtesy?

Pax Christi,

PS: Go here for Part 2.

1 comment:

  1. Though I am not a catholic I sincerely enjoyed your rebuttal to this abhorrent video. And I do mean abhorrent. This is the great modern heresy.

    For another brilliant rebuttal on the whole "religion is responsible for so many wars" argument typically used my atheists but now being adopted by many Protestants I would like to refer you to the John Lennox and Richard Dawkins debate in Alabama. Now, John Lennox isn't a Catholic, but he is arguably one of the smartests Christians of this age if you were so inclined to believe that one does not have to be Catholic to be a Christian as I not that some of your blog followers clearly do not. Either way it's an incredible retort that basically outlines what things look like when we try to abolish religion, Christianity in particular.

    Richard Dawkins, in his book "The God Delusion" uses John Lennon's song 'Imagine' as a foreward. John Lennox turned it around... imagine a world without atheism and the hate of religion. Imagine a world with no Hitler, no Stalin, no Mao Tse-Tsung, no Pot Pol. These were all men who hated religion and thought it should be abolished. That belief was at the cost of some estimates of over 110 million human lives since 1917. You could add up the high end of any historical estimate for the Crusades, toss in both Inquisitions and the witch trials and you still may come up with just under 100,000 human lives lost.

    I thought that was an incredible defense of such a grossly incorrect account.

    Cheers :D


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