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May 22, 2014 - May 15, 2014

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Double Fisk

Gil may have been a dirty pinko, but he got this one right.

NO MORE DUCKING. He's right about one thing. I've been ducking. I told myself Robert's debasement of himself was too sordid and tragic to get mixed up with any longer. I was kidding myself. The truth is I just didn't want to deal with it. To my shame. When you see a loved one succumbing to addiction, you don't wash your hands of them. You fight for them. Whether they like it or not.

Changed the formatting from the original single fisk. My earlier comment and his fisk are in the block quote, his fisk in bold, like so. When I quote something other than that, it'll be in a deeper block quote. My new comments have no indent. I trust you can keep up.

Running late, so I’ll respond to just the most egregious part of this post.
I love it when debaters do this. I’m just hurrying. If I make an ass of myself it’s because I was on my cell and on the run to an important appointment… Right.

This double fisk is, what, two months out from the original? I bet he'll gripe about that too. No pleasing some people.

"But what you can’t do is wash away the murderous record of the human societies that have attempted to rule the daddy fable out of the story. Their record is not only catastrophic but inhuman and monstrous. Their defense is rational philosophy."
Pardon me. Who’s not thinking anymore? Rational philosophy was their PRETENSE.
And yours.

Particularly brainless shit-talk. I thought reason was "a tool for making arguments." Making reason another word for rhetoric. Did you just not think before you wrote?
Their defense was a religion without God.
And yours. Your determination to exterminate opposing views, dare I say faiths, is consistent with the atheist totalitarians of Germany, Russia, China, Indochina, and North Korea. You just don’t recognize your soul brothers.

When a tweed-encrusted academic says something appalling like "the record shows Marxism works," that's not an opposing view. It's a lie. Just like "Christianity caused America," or "Christianity is responsible for human individuality as we know it," or "Ayn Rand's philosophy leads to totalitarianism(!) inevitably." It speaks volumes that you see my telling the truth about your faith as an act of "extermination." Insisting you square your beliefs with reality makes me Pol Pot reincarnate. Of all the shabby, stupid shit you've said to me over this prolonged debate, this might stick in my craw the sharpest. Religious freedom doesn't include the freedom to lie about history without being called on it. When you lie, your strategy is-- literally-- pretending to be stupid to make a stupid point.

It doesn’t take a daddy fable to believe in something beyond reason.
But what do you believe in beyond reason? The lingering, holy scent of Ayn Rand? Damn! Just got it. Screw daddy. Mommy!!!

Do you remember the difference between refutation and shit-talk? Do you remember that there is a difference?

Marxism doesn’t work. Throughout the Soviet experiment, the exploiting capitalist West throve and the virtuous East starved. It didn’t take long to see, even through the fog of purges. But it took them more than another half century to admit it. China still hasn’t outright admitted it, even though they’ve molted most of the policies that made Communism distinct from good old fashioned dynasticism. You think they’re not religious? Sheeeyit, you think North Korea isn’t religous? They’ve even got a daddy fable of their own. A couple generations of daddies.
Your dreariest straw man. All daddies are the same daddy. Any daddy will do, and all are delusional…

Um, mine? Here's your exact goddamn words, in bold and italic:

But what you can’t do is wash away the murderous record of the human societies that have attempted to rule the daddy fable out of the story.

I dare you to pretend that's somehow out of context. You've written an entire essay (and much more besides) making a case for God's indespensible role in humanity's moral development. Not the Christian God. Plain-brown-wrapper Daddy God.

How’s that working out for them?
Not bad at the moment. For the ones in charge.

Trite. If you knew history as well as you claim, you'd know dictators lead lives of terror and paranoia. Only class warrior losers-- and their dupes-- think the lives of apex predators look like the rooftop garden from Metropolis. Was Hitler's bunker a nine-month bacchanal?

OK, you got me. The filmmakers made up Downfall out of whole cloth to help me win this argument.

Of course, the freedoms championed and prized by libertarians aren’t doing so well. A reminder, for example, that capitalism as practiced by regimes like China’s is merely an economic system, not the exclusive basis of a free and freeing civilization.

I agree. A moral base is required. Moving on.

Relax. That probably doesn’t count. Somehow.
Duh. A religion that compels people to bow to their political leaders and ranking political superiors is a fake religion. Its basis is force and the power to regulate, not intrinsic moral authority.

Communism certainly makes a moral claim. By what standard do you answer that claim?

Think one child policy. (oh that’s right. You’re on record as knowing exactly when a fetus becomes a baby. Three months and two days? Thanks, Brizoni.) That’s why it doesn’t count.

Yep. Your memory's toast. I mopped the floor with you on the abortion question. Quick, delete it before anyone looks! Personhood (THERE'S a fine fat cherry for you to pick! Why'd I say it like that?) begins when the brain switches on. No brain, no self, no person. What was your objection to that? Only God knows when He puts a soul in a baby? Words to that effect? Come the fuck on. The God answer is always, always for people who haven't looked hard enough.

The Chi-com government also has the phony official certitude you do. Only their rationally derived decision is that any pregnancy more than one child already born should be terminated on behalf of, uh, “we the people.” Oh. Are they wrong? You gonna tell’em Mr. I’m kinda sorta enliiiiightened in the brain department? Thought not.

I'm sure they'll take your word for it. Mr. Jesus says don't do that c'mon guys I promise I'm not making the whole Jesus thing up even though no compelling evidence is available at this time that's why it's called faith dummy so just believe it. What a firm foundation for a moral base. A maybe.

Unless they’re burning them to keep Shanghai’s smog rate up to snuff, they’ve got a pile of dead tadpoles the size of the Emperor Chin’s pyramid. One dead’un for every clay soldier, at least. Bet you’re proud, M’sieur B. The world’s biggest nation shares your clinical view of the (un)importance of a human fetus. Why we should trust you implicitly. They’re just working through the growing pains of the post-god phase.

Oh sure. Exactly the same. I think it's just dynamite when they leave baby girls to die in the forest. Precisely equivilent to flushing a clump of coagulated pre-body parts with no self inside it. Not all religion is the same, but all atheism is the same. Your dreariest straw man. I've explained this before. At this point, your ignorance is willful. You just don't want to give the matter any more thought.

Dare I bring up the Islamic world?
Go right ahead. Historically dicey ground for you, I think, but I’m sure you’ve got something specious to offer.
No one has gone harder in the paint for the daddy fable. What do you think of their virtue? You don’t like it? Why not? God has instituted moral laws by which His people must live. What’s not to like? You say the laws ought to be different? Interesting. How do you presume to know better than God what His laws should be?
As I thought. A deliberately obtuse and legalistic crock. I don’t presume. I observe and I have faith in the difference between the core figures of both religions. One, a prophet who preached kindness to others regardless of station and offered up his life as a penance for all the sins of the world. The other, a prophet who embarked on a career of military conquest, took child brides to bed, and encouraged his followers to slaughter all of other faiths. There is no point at which I have argued anything other than that the God who pointed the way to modern consciousness and profoundly felt moral conscience is most important for his curiously freeing exhortations to partake of divinity by exploring the glories of creation while preserving the humility of allowing others to do the same. One religion has repeatedly resulted in the expansion of knowledge, individual opportunity and liberty, and the magnificent diversity thereby afforded to human experience.

You sort of collapsed into a random superlative generator towards the end.

Let's talk about your difficulty giving credit where it's due. Imagine if African tribes suddenly stopped killing each other. You turn on the news one day and the whole continent is holding hands singing Heal the World. When asked by the roving reporter, Desmond Mandella II explains "This is the doctrine of tribalism. It demands that tribes live in peace with other tribes. Tribalism means we are all One Tribe." How would you react? Would you mumur "Ah, good for them, finally embracing true tribalism, how nice." Or would you scream "NO IT DOESN'T!", leap to your feet, and throw the remote at the TV? Because you know for umpteen-thousand years, tribalism has meant slaughter all the other tribes to the last man, rape the women until you get tired of them, and either kill or rape the children as the fancy strikes you or hey why not both, because they are The Other and just don't count. You would immediately recognize that tribalism as such had squat to do with an outbreak of peace. Some new factor would be the prime mover in this scenario, would it not?

In rich lands as well as poor, Christianity meant stagnation for its first nine hundred years in power. Then some Christians start using logic for things other than handwaving away the non-meat taste of Communion, and Christianity gets to take the credit? After (almost!) a millennium, something good manages to sneak into existence under its nose, and you say "oh yeah, that was Jesus, He was warming up to that the whole time, yea and praise." Nice try. The best parts of our world only flourished when thinkers in the Christian West contrived a faith-based excuse to not subordinate their minds to faith. Once the neo-Aristotelians managed the great rationalization that glorifying the world was glorifying God's creation and therefore God, it was finally game on for human accomplishment in the West. It was a roundabout worldliness, but it did the job. As Leonard Peikoff describes it,

The result, in historical short order, was the revolt against the authority of the Church, the feudal breakup, the Renaissance.... It was a gradual, tortuous change, with each century becoming more worldly than the preceding, from Aquinas to the Renaissance to the Age of Reason to the climax and end of this development: the eighteenth century, the Age of Enlightenment. This was the age in which America’s founding fathers were educated and in which they created the United States.

Gradual progress, yes. But measurable. Unlike in all the Christian nations, past and present, untouched by Aristotle and the Greek spirit.

Time to look at the Byzantines.

They had no progress. Where was their Aquinas? OK, maybe that's not fair. How about a John Adams? Or a John Locke? Where were their Quakers demanding the end of slavery before that was cool? Their Voltaire? Their Bacon? Their measly Montesquieu? Their anyone? Did they even squeak out so much as a Magna Carta? Let alone an America! For a moment just now I thought it might be dirty pool to ask about their Newton, but I've changed my mind. Wasn't Christianity responsible for Newton? Wasn't he a pious man? Why didn't his God produce one of him in the East, where it had two unmolested centuries to work with? Not to mention a few hundred years after that when things hadn't yet gone completley to pot. What was He­ waiting for?

Two centuries. More. Untouched by the Plague of Justinian or the plague of Islam. What did they have to show for it? The Hagia Sophia. And they invented hospitals as we know them-- though they didn't get around to devising any new medical techniques. Christ alive, you'd think even later something new would have occurred to some doctor who spent his whole life on duty during the plague years. But nope. No God-breathed growth in medicine. And squat in biology, jack in art (mosaics are cute, and big, but that's all they are), pretty much bupkiss in architechture not counting that one nice church and its copies, fuck-all in literature (they wrote, but what did they write worth remembering? Why are there no classics of Byzantine feeling and thought?), not so much as half a mouse fart in technology, the square root of dick in mathematics, zip in astronomy, zero in political philosophy, zilch in any philosophy. Even a big fat goose egg in theology. For longer than the United States has existed. In the East, nothing held your non-fake religion back. Except itself.

As in science and philosophy, they stagnated politically. They enjoyed a couple cultural revivals after major setbacks, but no reforms. Their military wasn't as rapacious as Rome's. That's an improvement. But I don't have to tell you they didn't enact anything like the United States Constitution. Slaves were slaves, nobles were nobles. The serfs remained shackled. Freedom as we know it wasn't on Byzantium's radar. Christianity's God had ample, ample opportunity to establish an America. He wasn't interested.

Don't think their long stretch when things were bad gets you off the hook. Civilizations worth their salt have a way of thriving when the chips are down. Hollywood didn't shut down during World War II. Science didn't run and hide under a rock. It was a shining moment for America not just militarily, but culturally. The Christian East had a long-ass while to make a similar moment of their own. They never did. In war, as well as in peace, their response to human potential was a long shrug. When a culture lives for the glory of the next life, this life-- real life-- inevitably gets the shaft. Richard Carrier in his essay on the Scientific Revolution sums up history's ultimate indictment of Christianity as a bridle on worldly progress:

A cause that fails to have its predicted effect despite being continually in action for a thousand years is usually considered refuted, not confirmed. Excuses will be made, claims of impediments, but no Scientific Revolution occurred in the Eastern half of the Christian world either, which had none of the West's excuses. The East was not overrun by barbarians and remained prosperous and developed for five centuries. Such excuses are usually denied anyway-the new trend is to insist even the Western Middle Ages were shot through with an unrivaled spirit of innovation and economic and intellectual vigor. But even if you reject that and accept the West was held back, why did the Scientific Revolution still never happen in the Byzantine Empire, despite being just as Christian, and in every respect more successful?

A Christian empire with none of the West's disadvantages should have done better than keep pace with the West. By your own hypothesis. An honest man would admit when a slam dunk is a slam dunk. But you? Maybe YOU don't remember so good, but I haven't forgotten how you tried to weasel out of this before.

No new science? By what standard is this a deficiency? Only by Western European standards. In the NEXT millennium. Seems to me the Byzantines had a pretty good thing going. Until the Muslims crashed the party.

Congratulations. You're the Jay Carney of Christianity. By what standard is no new science a deficiency? By the standard of human flourishing. A healthy culture blazes trails in every direction it can look.

I had another list of names for you, then. More conspicuous absences from what should have been Christianity's glory days. You didn't respond to it. I wondered if you'd given me your typical presumptuous half-read, but no. A month later, you used the same formulation of the same argument to attack Islam.

The Muslim tradition may have had a few brief moments of brilliance in the past, but there is no Muslim Shakespeare, Michelangelo, da Vinci, Bach, Pasteur, Mozart, Voltaire, Locke, Jefferson, Lincoln, Mark Twain, Einstein, or Gershwin.

Red fucking handed. No pretending to be stupid to make this stupid point. A culture's proof is in its pudding, and Christianity's pudding before Thomas Aquinas put Aristotle's reality-centricity in the mix? I hate to overdo the excrement metaphors, but...

Oh, and. All the giants you mentioned? Post-Aquinas. Must have been an unlucky slip, given all the pre-Aquinian names you could have gone with. All those names that flood one's mind when one reflects on the Christian West's triumphant first thousand years.

The other has repeatedly bound its followers in poverty, subjugation, and hatred. (Think of the family violations called honor killings. Yeah. we gotta kill sis because she got raped by my best friend. That’s the ticket. Ali Ali Akbar. Now let’s suck some rug for Mohammed. Pretty much the same as Christians picketing at abortion clinics. Evil religions. Eeeeevillll.)

I never said Christianity was as bad as Islam. I just said it's not good enough. Your second dreariest straw man.

All the same to you, I understand, because every religion is bad unless it’s the particular one you believe with fanatically hostile and polemically evangelical ferocity. You know. The same bad awful horrible things we needn’t draw distinctions between. Hmmm. No wonder you’re willing to share couch room with the Islamists. Only a reasonable person can see the horrifying commonalities between al Qaeda and Iowa Methodists.

You think you're embarassing anyone but yourself?

Oh, so their God is fake and your God isn’t? Can you prove it? What’s your evidence? By what standard can you judge the laws of one daddy fable better than another?
Guess I covered this mostly already. [This is why it's good to read a piece all the way through before responding. So you know what you're responding to.] All I’ll add: I don’t think their God is a fake. I think their prophet, the one they interpose between men and God, is a fake who plagiarized the Bible to create the earliest template of totalitarianism — a religion vested in the state, ruled by men masquerading as priests for the purpose of controlling subjects.

Cheap, evasive hair splitting. The question stands. If obedience to God isn't the intrinsic core imperative of ethics, why obey God at all? Especially if even His existence is a fair coin toss. And since, as you say, intelligence is required to discern right from wrong anyway.

My conclusions come from faith guided by intelligence. But since there is no definition in your lexicon for the word faith, I’m sure my answer, however commonsensical, will strike you as delusional, dumb, and nonresponsive. So be it, genius.

One more time. If morality is obedience to God, then God ("God") can command anything at all. He is above reproach. You'd like to think God wants freedom and flourishing for His children, but you've got no evidence for that. At least no evidence that can't be plausibly interpreted any number of ways. Your "fake religion" line is so much gas when you can't prove God even exists, let alone what He "really" wants.

If morality is that which promotes human surviving and thriving, in the real world, then any prospective God's commandments are to be judged against that standard, and discarded if they don't meet it. Which makes unprovable, undemonstrable God at best a distraction and at worst Islam. "Faith guided by intelligence" is like digging a well using the WikiHow but throwing in some water witching for good ("good") measure. One works. The other is a waste of time. No matter how emotionally invested you are in the silly y-shaped stick. You're a transtheist with a God addiction. I'd be sympathetic if you hadn't been such a screaming little baby about it.

No, I’m sure the Muslims don’t count either. Maybe you think Christianity is the only daddy fable that works (whatever that might mean absent a standard above obedience to God).
Whatever that might mean? Back to my “moral infant” reference. To you, no religion possesses any content other than superstition. We’re all just fools... [blah blah blah, inanity I've addressed already] declare your allegiance to such elementary principles of virtue while believing you have the power and the right to amputate yourself from their source. I think that might be your position.

Their source? Wrong. Religion is not the source of morality, any more than your hundred-pound woodgrain Zenith creates Breaking Bad episodes. Unlike the more purely physical natural sciences, morality has been slow to tiptoe out of the shadow of superstition. I'm using that word literally, not as a sneering pejorative. God's anger causing volcanoes was a superstition. A cause misidentified. Seasons change when Persephone goes underground. A giant scarab rolls the sun across the sky. The sighs of a lonely god cause wind. Enlil's penis "waters the dykes" at the sight of a beautiful woman. You commit-- or are committed to perpetuating-- the same exact error in the realm of morality.

Necessity is the mother of moral invention. The source of the need for-- and hence the justification of-- ethics has always been the requirements of human life. Men need a code of behavior to work together or just live among each other. (And you've noticed dietary rules were part and parcel of divine comand until pretty recently. Survival is the standard and purpose.) It doesn't take God to see that. Or to work out rules that help keep the lineup of human passions in check.

As one would expect, that code, its root imperfectly seen, has been rewritten practically every time it changed hands. Some revisions for the worse, some for the better. The Mosaic law is a great example of a shaky rough draft. "Let's just keep women in a seperate tent when they're on their monthlies. Period blood is terrifying, who knows what you can catch from it? And remember when Moshe got sick from that crawdad? Clearly we can never eat those again. Come to think of it, ban all shellfish. Why take the chance? And homosexuality definitely has to go. Women are hard enough to stand as it is. Who in his right mind would bother with them at all if we didn't even need them for sex? Gotta think long-term!"

It's easy for me to laugh from the safety of my 3000/3000 hindsight, but I won't deny the Law of Moses was better than no law. Does that mean it's good enough 21st century America? Hardly. Shellfish are usually safe to eat. Periods are annoying to men and women, but managable without quarantine. Homosexuality isn't the tribe-annihilating vice it could have been to desert nomads struggling to keep their numbers up. It's still gross and everything, but so are anchovies. Let people eat what they want, who cares. None of these things in and of themselves are a threat to human survival. Like my weekend, freedom and flourishing are enhanced by Midol, Shrimpfest, and tolerant sodomy laws.

Morality's true root has always been the reality of surviving and thriving. Taking God out of the code doesn't uproot the code any more than taking God out of natural philosophy uproots science. On the contrary. We've reached the point where God is an untenable middleman in both. It's called growing up. It's not always pretty, but there's no turning back when the time comes. You remember the difference between a romantic and a sentimentalist. Modern Christians are sentimental. You, who ought to know better, ought to be romantic. I think you mostly are, and do. You just can't bring yourself to let go of that last bit that you know you should. That last little maybe.

But in my human experience, which is far longer than yours, reason is a popgun against the temptations of life.

I have two witty ripostes. Pick whichever hits closer to home.

a) Speak for yourself.
b) What about integrity? How long has it been for you?

And there does come a day when everything that went around (or by) comes around again. (Btw, spare yourself the pain and sorrow you claim to feel about my pitiful delusions regarding matters of faith. I enjoy a continuing sense of wonder about the universe and the interrelatedness of its affairs, both large and small, from quarks to galaxies, and all the human stuff in between that I would not trade with any man, most particularly you.)

Then live up to it. To the man you used to be. Who challenged suicidal convention with scorching insight. This Christian Renfield you've whithered into is a disgrace.

Maybe you think century after century of Catholic kneading didn’t prepare the German mind to receive Hitler’s message about those verminous you-know-whos. Maybe you honestly think the Dark and Middle Ages were a thriving, perfectly respectable ramp-up to the Renaissance– after all, they produced lots of cool Viking tribal art and a single poem– wait, sorry, are we praising Beowulf or sneering at it as primitive this week?
This is argument? Really? Where your ignorance is not only insulting but astounding in one who presumes to characterize a millennium he knows nothing of he didn’t obtain from TV documentaries and graphic novels. What a lunkhead jerk you can be when you think you’re closing in for the descabillo. Even people who know better can be terrified into doing wrong. Why something better than your soulless, solipsistic rectitude is necessary. And King Harald’s Saga ain’t the Dream of the Rood or even Beowulf.

What a nerve I've struck! Good. Face this, of all facts you don't dare let in the Story. Christianity in Germany tilled fertile soil for the FInal Solution. Catholic AND Protestant, so have fun trying to blame one "wrong" variant over the other. Hitler didn't create antisemtism ex nihilo. Your feeble "terrified" excusing of the German public's complicitiy? Disgusting. But it's the best defense you can possibly muster, in light of what history has given you to work with. Not even "reason" can help you now.

Maybe you think a thousand years is a reasonable amount of time for a philosophy to marinate before producing any demonstrable results in the way of civilization. Which lets Latin America off the hook for being a Third World toilet of tribal warfare. They’ve got another, what, four hundred years before all that Jesus really kicks in?­ I just thank God they don’t have enough Jews to scapegoat as a group when the time comes.
This your vedugo? Fall on it yourself, contemptuous one. It’s been a rough go for Latin and South America (I’m sure you’re lumping them in together, because you’re a truly accomplished lumper inner…) [And you're about to call ME a cherry picker.] since the Spanish arrived on their shores in 1014 AD (for the punctilious, a scant half century before the Norman invasion of England). I concede that.

The Spanish brought Christ with them, but not Aquinas, on account of the latter's gall to not have been born yet. The Catholics haven't been eager to export him since the Renaissance. Notwithstanding the lip service they still give him when pressed.

And 785 years later, certainly, they should have been ready with their mimeograph machines to copy verbatim the constitution of the only nation on earth that organized itself from the start as a government based on the Christian idea of inalienable human rights embedded in law. Sure. As straw men go, an excellent choice. [Took the words right of my mouth.] Unless not all of Latin America is, what was your phrase, “a toilet of tribal warfare.”
Tribal toilet trash who would have wised up to Christianity if there was anything in it a thousand years ago.

Think they’re more ready for the enlightened wisdom of Ayn Brizoni now, do we? Ready for Hayek and Rand ya think? Good luck with that.

So by your narrative, eight centuries-- hell, TEN centuries now ISN'T LONG ENOUGH for a Christian idea to take root and blossom in a Christian land?! You and your god are a bust. You really believe your own weasling, don't you? You know what they ARE ready for? More of the same. Yet another Christian success story. Still tell yourself you see The Whole? In a pig's eye. If you ever once looked at the whole, it would kill your reprobate faith stone dead.

Maybe you thought I'd be overwhelemed by the sheer eloquence of that pic of smiling campesinos. Even Africa has friendly natives. Until the clock strikes genocide. Again.

Let’s look at this from another angle, just to be safe. Remind me how Japan has adopted the (correct) daddy fable. How else have they stopped being a genocidal world power? They must be Godding it up like crazy! But in fairness, their economy isn’t doing as well as it could. That’s enough excuse to say they too don’t count.
Sometimes when you go cherry picking, the cherries you pick don’t make for good pie. Japan might fall into that category. Of course, Japan counts. But if you knew anything about their ancient history, as far back as 1945, for example (that’s a couple centuries in Brizoni time), you’d know that the miracle of a peaceful and prosperous Japan began with a conquering Christian nation who decided to rebuild rather than rule them, a Christian military governor who wrote them a constitution modeled on that of the United States, and a uniquely speedy transformation from Occupation to most favored nation trading status. Do they buy it all? No. Their legal system is still quasi feudal (better than 90 percent conviction rate on all crimes charged), suicide is still a national scandal, women have the vote but are subject to the most dehumanizing kinds of graphic novel rape and humiliation, and the concept of individual liberty empowering people to aspire beyond the bounds of family tradition remains problematical. Are they Christian? No. Are they unaffected by the Western Christian tradition? No. But I guess you’d have to know something about Japan to discern the differences.

How is a country merely "affected" by Christianity in the last 70 years, though imperfectly free, still so fantastically more successful than countries that have been full-on Christian for a thousand years? I'll tell you. LatinSouth America was converted to regular, unalloyed Christianity. Japan was touched by America. Something over and above Jesus and Paul and Augustine. Yes, Christian sentiment was common among the Founders. So was slaveholding. Was the institution of slavery necessary for the Constitution, simply because it happened to have persisted to then? Or was it a blatant and shameful contradiction of the American spirit? No, King Straw, I'm not saying Christianity is as bad as slavery. I'm saying it's not good enough.

Your pet notion that atheism as such caused the horrors of the 20th century is an old rusty shank of Christian propaganda that was wedged in your head at a young age.
"Atheism as such”. Good one. More semi-slick misdirection.

Misdirection from what? Dreary straw man number one? Been there, torched that.

“An old rusty shank of Christianity wedged in your head at a young age.” Fantastic. Now you have the nerve to know what it was like to be me growing up with Russian ICBMs aimed at a city 40 miles from where they told us to hide under desks. Maybe, under such circumstances, you start to think for yourself before anyone else gets beyond the stage of instructing you with Noah’s Ark coloring books.

Then why didn't you finish the job?

I’ve written about my own process of grappling with Christian faith before. You just never listened or understood. Because all you’ve been raised to do is do what you want, when you want, whenever you want to do it, and nobody, not even God, has the right to tell you anything different. [God isn't real.] Hmmm. Seems I wrote a book about this once. And I’m the deluded, presumptuous, cowardly, witless one. What I’m suggesting is that Christianity has ameliorated many of the world’s ills, for many centuries, you utter fool.

But it wasn't Christianity. As I've shown. As history shows. Your most cherished thesis-- "Almost everything we think of as progress in modern history is a direct function of Christianity"-- fails the test of both past and present. Which means its corollary-- "The line of defense against a new Dark Age is not defense of all religions, but one religion in particular, Christianity"-- is a doomed, fruitless strategy. Do you care? I've invited you to prove me wrong, or admit I'm right. Instead, you've smeared, smudged, fudged, weasled, inflated, conflated, and evaded with all your might, mind, and strength. As though fact itself will bend to your will if you lie well enough. It hasn't worked. All you've managed to do is remake yourself in the image of your god. The Void.

And that you lacked first the wit and then the courage to dislodge. You’ve built too much of your worldview around it. Now it’s a keystone. Or so you fear.
The stupidest insult of all. There is nothing about you or anything you have to say that I fear. Quite the contrary. I find you and your hysterically rigid positions ["Facts are stubborn things."] incredibly — I-n-c-r-e-d-I-b-l-y — boring. My weariness with your pseudo intellectual arguments is practically unbounded. You really think you can lecture me about wit and courage? Really?

This isn't what boredom looks like.

Ask yourself this. If “rational philosophy” is to blame for our modern ills, how did you come to that conclusion? Did you reason that reason is the enemy? By doing things like weighing the evidence and all that? If not, what method did you use? And if reason isn’t the enemy, why do you insist on conflating avowed rationality with authentic rationality?
Avowed rationality versus authentic rationality. Yeah. I think I know the difference now. Avowed rationality is the work of manipulative, controlling despots who don’t agree with you. Authentic rationality is the work of manipulative, controlling despots who are named Brizoni.

Only possible interpretation. Unless you're full of shit, you know you're full of shit, and I've caught you red-handed knowing you're full of shit.

As I said above, reason is a tool for building arguments. It revolves around itself and ultimately consumes itself — as with the post modernists — if it is unhooked from Truth, meaning the anchor provided by thousands of years worth of basic human definitions of goodn[ess and virtue. About which you seem to know astonishingly little.

It's fitting you end with what might be your greatest error. Reason includes reality. The point of reason IS to identify reality. If you reason without reality, you're doing it wrong. If by capital T- Truth you're trying to smuggle in beliefs that can't be justified by an appeal to reality, declaring those beliefs sacrosanct and off-limits to rational scrutiny, that's also wrong. Not that you would ever...

Let's see. What's left? Not much. I guess we're at the point in the intervention where I have to threaten to stop enabling your sickness, but I haven't done that in years. I don't know how else to reach you. The truth-- capital or lowercase-T-- doesn't seem to catch your interest. I would have thought at least the pride of being right would matter to you. The fact that your spin on Christianity is no cure for America doesn't move you at all.

Verily, I think, you already have your reward. The unsurpassable self-satisfaction of digging in your heels. No power on earth can make Robert Laird change his mind!

No matter how wrong he is.

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