Christophobia

Donn R. Day





What is "Christophobia?"[1] Its an irrational hatred of Christians/Christianity. While anyone can be Christophobic, this trait is most readily seen in atheists. A recent example from an article on the Secular Web will illustrate this point. The writer, randau [2], states;

The need to debunk religion (the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on humankind) and to spread secular reason is becoming more and more critical. The detriment and burdens to which religion has subjected society and the progress of civilization have long since exceeded an acceptable level of secular tolerance (emphasis in original).
A little later on he continues;
The passive 'live and let live' secular attitude toward religion (not reciprocated) is a luxury that can no longer be afforded. The stakes are two [sic] high. In serious jeopardy, is our right to live a rational life in a rational world (emphasis in original).
What provides fuel for randu's Christophobic attitude is;
Too many wars and atrocities have been perpetrated in the name of Religion and/or motivated by zealots of religious teachings. Things such as the persecution and/or impediment of scientific investigation throughout history, the Catholic Inquisition and Crusades of the middle ages, the Salem witch trials and burnings, Nazi persecution and attempted genocide of one religion by another, bombing abortion clinics and murdering their doctors, etc.[3]
Before we analyze the above comments, let's look at one more example of randu's Christopobia.
A religious zealot will never be convinced of the error of his/her thinking through logic and reason, but there may be hope for those that are not yet locked into religious indoctrination. However, all the logic, reason, and evidence in the world isn't going to convince the vast majority of people who are primarily "emotional" thinkers, i.e., think with their "guts" rather than their "minds," (emphasis in original) which consequently makes them more susceptible to religion.



The first fallacy that randau makes is that he doesn't realize that the above statement can be turned around and said thusly:

An atheist zealot will never be convinced of the error of his/her thinking through logic and reason, but there may be hope for those that are not yet locked into atheist indoctrination. However, all the logic, reason, and evidence in the world isn't going to convince [the vast majority of] people who are primarily "emotional" thinkers, i.e., think with their "guts" rather than their "minds," which consequently makes them more susceptible to atheism.
Of course, randau, because he is blinded by his Christophobia, believes that atheists think rationally, and religious people think "emotionally." Randau need only check the Western Philosophical tradition and see that the world's greatest philosophers (the group that would seem to be most able to think "with their minds") are primarily theists. Atheists often forget that as a philosophy atheism is fairly new. A.N. Wilson writes in God's Funeral.
Perhaps only those who have known the peace of God which passes all understanding can have any conception of what was lost between a hundred and a hundred and fifty years ago when the human race in Western Europe began to discard Christianity. The loss was not merely an intellectual change, the discarding of one proposition in favor of another. Indeed, though many intellectual justifications were offered by those that lost faith, the process would seem to have been, in many cases, just as emotional as religious conversions; and its roots were often quite as irrational [4] (emphasis mine).
Randau shows this irrational bent when he makes statements such as religion is "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on humankind." This statement is an emotional one, not one based on logic and reasoning. So too is his statement that "the detriment and burdens to which religion has subjected society and the progress of civilization have long since exceeded an acceptable level of secular tolerance." The truth is, as pointed out by philosopher Peter van Iwagen;
The Enlightenment has, historically speaking, felt a certain affection for European civilization. (Admittedly, this affection is not what it used to be.) After all, European civilization produced the Enlightenment so it can't be all bad. Nevertheless, the single greatest factor in the development of European civilization was the Church, so it can hardly be all good either. (emphasis added)
Randau then proceeds to the litany of supposed atrocities and sins of religion, starting with the "persecution and/or impediment of scientific investigation throughout history." Just what persecution is he talking about? What impediment? Again, the words of Peter van Iwagen.

Modern science--the kind of science of which Newton's derivation of Kepler's laws of planetary motion is a paradigm--has arisen only once in history. Oh, there has been some observational astronomy here and some attempt at systematic medical knowledge there. The achievements of the Greeks in taking the first steps down the path of science were magnificent, particularly in descriptive astronomy and statics--that is, in scientific studies that were essentially applied geometry. But the Greeks took a few steps down the road of science and faltered.

Here is the story the Enlightenment tells. There would have been a scientific revolution like that of sixteenth-century Europe in the classical world if the biblical literalism and other-worldliness of Christianity had not stifled ancient science and created the Dark Ages. Over a millennium later, science and the scientific method were reborn in the mind of Galileo (or maybe Copernicus had something to do with it). The Church persecuted Galileo, but it failed to kill the infant he had fathered, and has been steadily losing ground to science ever since. (If you would like to see this story set out in more detail, consult A. D. White's History of the Warfare of Science and Theology.)

I don't want to get into an historical argument. I will simply tell another story, a story that is in my view better supported by the evidence. (This view is of course the view of an amateur, but a have, I suppose, as much right to it as any follower of the Enlightenment who was not a trained historian of science has had to the story told in the preceding paragraph.) Ancient science discovered very little after about the time of the birth of Christ--which amounts to pretty quick work if Christianity stifled ancient science. The modern growth of science did not begin suddenly in the sixteenth century, but was continuous with the natural philosophy of the High Middle Ages. (This has been well documented by Pierre Duhem.) There has been little persecution of science by the Church. There is nothing in the history of the relations of science and Christianity that can be compared with the Lysenko era in Soviet biology or the condition of science in Germany under the Nazis. When one looks carefully at the persecution of Galileo, the debate between Huxley and Bishop Wilberforce, or the Scopes trial, one finds that most of what one thought one had known about them isn't true, and that the real episodes do little to support the Enlightenment picture of a perpetual "warfare of science and theology."

Just as rationality has "happened" only once in the history of terrestrial life (unlike vision or flight), so science has "happened" only once in the history of humanity (unlike writing or the calendar). And the unique occurrence of science--real science , which does not stop with precise and systematic descriptions of phenomena, but goes on to probe their underlying causes--happened in a civilization that was built upon the Church. The task of explaining why there was no science in India or China developed into something of an industry in the eighteenth century. To someone who shared the values of Voltaire, it was extremely puzzling that "rational" Confucian China, an ancient and settled civilization with a long history of scholarship and a demonstrated capacity for mechanical invention, should never have developed science. The failure of the much admired classical world to develop science in the modern sense could be blamed on Christianity, but what was it to be blamed on in the case of China? After all, science had flowered in monk-ridden Europe, and it could hardly, therefore, be a particularly frail blossom; why, then, not in China? The question was never satisfactorily answered. It has since been largely ignored. Two devices contribute to this. First, there is a tendency to use the word 'science' so broadly that at least some "science" can be found practically anywhere. If this does not solve the problem, it helps to sweep it under the carpet. Secondly, there is a tendency to identify the history of the world with the history of Europe. While this tendency has lately been much deplored by some of the current representatives of the Enlightenment (and rightly so), it has been useful to the Enlightenment, for it enables one to think of the birth of science as something that belongs to the history of "the world" rather than to the history of a particular civilization; since there is only one world, this makes the unique birth of science seem somehow less puzzling.

I would suggest that science is an outgrowth of western Latin Christianity, connected with it in much the same way as Gothic architecture. (That is, the connections are historical and causal, not logical, and the causation is not inevitable.) I would suggest that the Christian world-view of the High Middle Ages produced a mental climate that made the birth of science possible. (The suggestion has sometimes been made by representatives of the Enlightenment that a belief in miracles is inimical to science. Well, those who actually were responsible for the birth of science--Galileo and Newton, for example--believed in all of the miracles of the New Testament. It really is very hard to see how those who believe that, in the normal course of events, nature works by mechanical causes are going to be less effective scientists if they believe that miracles occur at special junctures in what Christians call salvation history--or even that they happen frequently at Lourdes. The real conceptual enemies of science are astrology and magic. There was a very dangerous outbreak of serious interest in astrology and magic during the Renaissance, which the Church worked very hard to suppress.)

The fact that the single birth of science occurred in Christendom is, therefore, a fact that is not congruent with the creed of the Enlightenment and which must, therefore, either be ignored or explained away by the Enlightenment. Christians, however, will be comfortable with the fact that the single most powerful instrument for understanding the world developed in a culture that had been shaped by (as they believe) a unique revelation of the mind and purposes of the Creator of that world.

Further evidence of this line of thought is provided by Michael Bumbulis, Ph.D., in Christianity and the Birth of Science.

The founders of modern science were all bunched into a particular geographical location dominated by a Judeo-Christian world view. I'm thinking of men like Louis Aggasiz (founder of glacial science and perhaps paleontology); Charles Babbage (often said to be the creator of the computer); Francis Bacon (father of the scientific method); Sir Charles Bell (first to extensively map the brain and nervous system); Robert Boyle (father of modern chemistry); Georges Cuvier (founder of comparative anatomy and perhaps paleontology); John Dalton (father of modern atomic theory); Jean Henri Fabre (chief founder of modern entomology); John Ambrose Fleming (some call him the founder of modern electronics/inventor of the diode); James Joule (discoverer of the first law of thermodynamics); William Thomson Kelvin (perhaps the first to clearly state the second law of thermodynamics); Johannes Kepler (discoverer of the laws of planetary motion); Carolus Linnaeus (father of modern taxonomy); James Clerk Maxwell (formulator of the electromagnetic theory of light); Gregor Mendel (father of genetics); Isaac Newton (discoverer of the universal laws of gravitation); Blaise Pascal (major contributor to probability studies and hydrostatics); Louis Pasteur (formulator of the germ theory).

Yet it's not just the bunching of these founders in a Christian culture alone that is significant. Perhaps even more significant is the complete lack of analogs for these men from other cultures. Where is the Greek version of Newton? Where is the Muslim version of Kepler? Where is the Hindu version of Boyle? Where is the Buddhist version of Mendel? Such questions are all the more powerful when you pause to consider that science studies truths that are universally true. How is it that so many other cultures, some existing for thousands of years, failed to discover, or even anticipate, Newton's first law of motion of Kepler's laws of planetary motion? So it's not just that the Christian religion is associated with the birth of modern science, it's also the fact that modern science was not birthed in cultures which lacked the Christian religion.

The next two things that randau mentions are the Catholic Inquisition and Crusades of the middle ages. Once again, Peter van Iwagen.

The Enlightenment makes much of the suffering and death caused by the awful things Christians have done--the Crusades and the Inquisition seem to be the standard examples, although if I were to give the Enlightenment advice on how to conduct its case, I would suggest that it pay more attention to the Thirty Years' War. But with whatever justification these things can be ascribed to the Christian religion, such episodes as the Terror of the 1790s, the Great Terror of the 1930s, and Pol Pot's experiment in social engineering in the 1970s can with the same justification be ascribed to the Enlightenment. And these caused thousands of times as many deaths and incomparably greater suffering than all of the pogroms and religious wars in the history of Europe. T he Crusades et al. were quite ordinary episodes in the immemorial string of crimes that mainly compose what the world calls history and what St Paul called this present darkness. The French Revolution was, as Burke was the first to realize, something new, a new kind of horror. The new kind of horror did not, of course, really hit its stride till about seventy years ago. Let no one say that I have blamed the great post-Christian horrors of the last two centuries on the Enlightenment. My claim is this: lay out an argument for the conclusion that responsibility for the crimes of the Crusaders and the Inquisition is to be laid at the door of Christianity, and I will produce a parallel argument of about equal merit--not very great, in my opinion--for the conclusion that responsibility for the crimes of the Committee of Public Safety, the Soviet Communist Party, and the Khmer Rouge is to be laid at the door of the Enlightenment.

Next to come by randau are "the Salem witch trials and burnings, and Nazi persecution." A future article by Solid Rock Ministries will deal with the truth about these first two issues, but an excellent article that touches on this is available at Atlantic Monthly. Solid Rock Ministries has dealt with the Nazi regime in the article Was Hitler A Christian? We will be adding additional information to this article soon.

Finally randau ends with "bombing abortion clinics and murdering their doctors." Here there can be some agreement. There is nothing to be gained by these actions.

There is an excellent book that answers many of the charges that atheists and skeptics like to raise against Christianity, and some of what were touched on by randau. Here are some comments about this book, Christianity On Trial.

Anti-Christian bigotry thrives in the intellectual world. Critics claim Christians have spent the better part of two thousand years suppressing freedom, individual rights and democracy, while choking off science and most other forms of intellectual inquiry, and even encouraging war, oppression and environmental destruction.

Even though these particulars are either outright false or purposefully misleading, such indictments rarely get challenged, while the achievements and works of mercy of Christianity go largely ignored. Now Vincent Carroll, editor of the Rocky Mountain News, and freelance writer David C. Shiflett demonstrate how Christianity ended slavery, built the world’s first true hospitals and universities, raised up the poor, and spread the ideals of peace, justice and individual dignity.

"Anti-Christian bigotry," the authors say, "relies on forgetfulness and loss of perspective. Its antidote is historical memory." Carroll and Shiflett reconstruct the true record of core Christian teachings and put events such as the Crusades (and practices like slavery) in proper cultural perspective. Many of the details are verified by secular scholars, and the discussion, both broad and selective, covers a great deal of ground – from Christianity's influence on the foundation of the West to attempts to link the Third Reich to a perverted form of Christianity (when it reality Hitler was completely contemptuous of any form of religion at all).


Notes


[1] Just as homophobic comes from combining homosexual/phobia, so too Christophobic comes from combining Christ, Christian or Christianity with phobia. Phobia is an irrational, excessive, and persistent fear of some particular thing or situation (Webster's).

[2] In light of The Secular Web revealing the real name of Christian apologist James Patrick Holding, I find it amazing that they allow this writer to use the pseudonym "randau." On his Website "randau" states; "Some of the things I write about are controversial, so I've chosen to do my writing under a pen name." This is extreme Christophobia.

[3] While atheists often use the generic term "religion, their anger and hatred is most often directed toward Christians and Christianity. All of the "atrocities" mentioned here relate to Christians.

[4] A.N Wilson, God's Funeral (Ballantine Books, 1999) pg. 4.


























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