Creationist Wisdom #679: Preacher Wins the Prize

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Rockdale Citizen of Rockdale County, Georgia. It’s titled Where Christianity has held sway, freedom has reigned, and the newspaper has a comments section.

Unless the letter-writer is a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name — but today we’ve got a preacher. This is the fifth time we’ve featured a letter from John Pearrell, pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington, Georgia. The church’s website says they’re affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. The first of the rev’s letters was here: #322: The Preacher, the second was #350: The Preacher Returns, this was the third: #402: The Preacher Again, and the fourth was #601: The Preacher Yet Again.

The rev’s newest letter isn’t as creationist as the earlier ones, but it’s interesting nevertheless. We’ll give you a few excerpts, enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary, and some bold font for emphasis. Okay, here we go:

In an interesting turn of events, the renowned atheist apologist, Sir Richard Dawkins [Sir Richard?], conceded that, “Christianity may actually be our best defense against aberrant forms of religion that threaten the world.” Dawkins admitted that he has “mixed feelings” concerning the decline of Christianity, because this faith-based group might just be “a bulwark against something worse.” He said, “There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings. I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death.” Dawkins is onto something.

Let’s find out what the rev can do with Dawkins’ remark: He says:

In the first three centuries, Christianity was a movement persecuted by Rome. They had no real power or influence apart from a contagious, courageous love.

The rev recites some good deeds the church did in those days, Then things became different:

In the fourth century, that changed. The Roman Emperor Constantine embraced Christianity. The movement Christ began suddenly became a monument in Rome. Constantine embraced Christianity because he believed he could conquer in the sign of the cross. It wasn’t long after that that the persecuted became the persecutors, and the church exchanged the power of love for the power of the sword.

Isn’t it odd how that always seems to happen when church and state are united? Let’s read on:

It is this distortion to which those who oppose the church today often point.

Distortion? It’s fulfillment! Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. But the rev looks on the bright side:

However, when one examines the truth of the church, one sees a movement that has accomplished great good in our world. Distorted Christianity supported slavery; true Christianity ended slavery.

Yes, “true” Christianity ended slavery — but it somehow took 18 long centuries before it happened — and it didn’t happen until after the Enlightenment. That’s not a coincidence. Slavery would be with us still — and justified by scripture as it always was in the past — were it not for the industrial revolution and the internal combustion engine that made slave labor economically obsolete.

The rev is probably thinking of the American Civil War — but there were devout people on both sides. It wasn’t prayer that won the war, it was the North’s superiority in population, industry, and firepower. Yet the rev gives Christianity all the credit. Hey — does he know that Charles Darwin was a big advocate of emancipation?

According to Wikipedia, the rev’s own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, was “founded and rooted in the Southern United States, following a split from northern Baptists over the issue of whether slave owners could serve as missionaries.” They also say:

“Slavery in the 19th century became the most critical moral issue dividing Baptists in the United States. Struggling to gain a foothold in the South, after the American Revolution, the next generation of Baptist preachers accommodated themselves to the leadership of southern society. Rather than challenging the gentry on slavery and urging manumission (as did the Quakers and Methodists), they began to interpret the Bible as supporting the practice of slavery (see Slavery in the Bible) and encouraged good paternalistic practices by slaveholders. They preached to slaves to accept their places and obey their masters.

Anyway, the rev’s very selective romp through history continues:

Science developed best in those places where Christian influence has been greatest. Indeed, scientist Johannes Kepler described science as “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.”

[*Groan*] Religion is taking credit for science again. Centuries before Christianity, the Greeks were the first scientists, but the rev gives no credit to the Olympian gods. Greek philosophy wasn’t taught in Christian Europe for centuries, but when it was brought back after the Crusades, the results were the Renaissance and then the Enlightenment. That’s where science comes from.

As for Johannes Kepler, he did some interesting work in astronomy, but he was also a bit of an astrology buff. He died in 1630 — three years before the the climax of the Galileo affair. Those were perilous times, so if he said he was “thinking God’s thoughts,” he may have sincerely believed it, or maybe he was just being prudent. Anyway, the contents of the bible weren’t responsible for his work — or the work of any other scientist. Here’s more

And let’s not forget that the vast majority of education in Africa came as a result of Christian missionaries to that continent. (We are told that 2/3 of the schools south of the Sahara were established by Christian missionaries).

Uh huh — and now it’s wonderful in Africa as a result. Oh, wait — see Witchcraft accusations against children in Africa. As long as we’re discussing witchcraft, we note that the rev overlooks some rather embarrassing historical events — like the Salem witch trials. And take a look at this List of people executed for witchcraft. Ah well, moving along:

Dawkins is partially right. Partially because he doesn’t go quite far enough. As Christianity ebbs, the doors to all sorts of harmful vices and practices will open and it will come pouring out of closets everywhere.

Yes, they’re pouring out of the closet. And now we come to the end:

Where Christianity has held sway, freedom has reigned. As Christianity fades away, freedom will die.

When any religion has held sway — that is, wielded political power — priests rule, witches burn, thinking people tremble in silence, and society stagnates. Too bad the rev wasn’t born a few centuries ago. He missed the glory days. However, for his efforts in trying to claim the credit for science and freedom, we’ll award him this month’s Rosie Ruiz prize.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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13 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #679: Preacher Wins the Prize

  1. Eddie Janssen

    “he did some interesting work in astronomy”
    There has to be a better way to describe Kepler’s contribution to astronomy.

  2. Remember the development of science under the culture of Islam.

  3. Oh, pity the fool! Has this dude ever heard of the Spanish Inquisition? Or any of the others? You know, torture, burning people alive, those inquisitions. Until quite recently the Vatican still had an Office of the Inquisition (which was renamed but not refunctioned). Is he aware of the medieval practice on Church enforcers going from village to village in Europe and executing anyone who looked like a non-believer? This was common practice during the “crusades.” How about burning witches and “heretics” at the stake? Freedom, my ass.

    The the so-called persecution of Christians for the first 300-400 years of its existence is largely spin. The first mention of Christians in any documents for which we have good dates for is about 112 CE. Christians were often persecuted because they refused civic obligations they claimed their religion prevented them from doing, not because of their religion, but because of their refusal to do their civic duty as seen by the authorities of the time.

    The appalling thing is that so-called teachers of religion know so little about their own religion or worse, they do know and pander to “common knowledge” known to be false because that is what their “flock” (aka sheeple) believe.

  4. TomS says: “Remember the development of science under the culture of Islam.”

    Yes. Stimulated by their exposure to Greek culture, and then re-discovered by the Europeans’ exposure to Islamic culture.

  5. I just added a couple of paragraphs to the post to mention the pro-slavery roots of the rev’s own denomination. He somehow failed to mention that.

  6. Charles Deetz ;)

    Galileo seems a singular and effective counterargument to the Rev’s thesis.

  7. Rome persecuted the xtians??? NO!! The persecuted the criminals that would not follow Roman law!!! Just as the English are persecuting isLame because so many do not want to follow the English Laws.

  8. Let us not forget Michael Servetus, medical scientist, who was burned at the stake in Calvin’s Geneva for his beliefs about the Trinity.

  9. TomS screams of persecution don’t count when one cult of xtians kill other cults of xtians. That’s called plain stupid or religion they mean the same thing!

  10. In an interesting turn of events, the renowned atheist apologist, Sir Richard Dawkins [Sir Richard?], conceded that, “Christianity may actually be our best defense against aberrant forms of religion that threaten the world.” Dawkins admitted that he has “mixed feelings” concerning the decline of Christianity, because this faith-based group might just be “a bulwark against something worse.” He said, “There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings. I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death.” Dawkins is onto something.

    Assuming the quotes from Dawkins are genuine, I see at least two obvious problems.
    (1) Timothy McVeigh was a Christian zealot, responsible for what was then the worst act of terrorism ever committed on U.S. soil.

    (2) Plenty of Christians, if not entire denominations, believe the penalty for abortion should be death. As for apostasy, the movement known as “Christian reconstructionism,” which is expressly theocratic, doesn’t hesitate to call for the death penalty for unbelievers. Then, of course, there was the long-simmering terror war in Ireland. I could go on, but why bother?

    Richard Dawkins may be a brilliant scientist, but his reading of history is surprisingly selective.

  11. Dave Luckett

    McVeigh was not “a Christian zealot”. He was brought up Roman Catholic and had been confirmed, but stopped attending church in his teens and never went back. He identified himself as an agnostic in a letter to a newspaper the day before his execution. Although he might have retained weak theist beliefs, for he received the last rites, he was not a member of any Christian congregation, and nothing that he said or did identified him as a religious zealot of any kind.

    He was angry with the Federal government over the Waco siege, the war in Iraq, and what he regarded as its intrusions into personal freedom. The rest of what can be made out from his writings consists of rage, generally unfocussed but all-consuming. He may have used amphetamines – he had friends who were accused of trafficking. He was a registered Republican and member of the NRA, but seems to have been a survivalist and an inchoate libertarian, mostly of the “I ain’t no kind of ‘ist’, I jest hates the gummint” sort.

    His letters quoted in the Wikipedia article demonstrate the classic psychopath disconnect – he understands that the people he has bereaved feel sad, and says he’s sorry that they do – but he can’t muster any empathy at all. This kind of thing, he says, happens every day, and they should just get over it.

    He was a monster,and he’s better off dead. But he wasn’t any kind of Christian activist.

    Anders Breivik, the other mass murderer often identified as a Christian terrorist, is a white supremacist with Nazi trappings. He seems to have had no connection to any Christian church, described himself as an “Odinist”, wrote in his rambling “manifesto” “I’m not going to pretend I’m a very religious person, as that would be a lie”, and denied ever having been a Christian. The only other connection to religion he seems to have is that he hates Muslims.

    There have been various murders and other attacks carried out by what can reasonably be described as “Christian terrorists”, usually acting alone. They can so far be counted on the fingers of one hand, in the US, although it sometimes happens in what used to be called the third world. In the US, all of the individuals involved were very distant outliers from any of the mainstream Churches, even the fundamentalist ones. Often they were a cult of one, like Eric Rudolph. Others were identified with organisations that apparently existed only in their minds.

    Maybe there are plenty of right wing fundamentalist Christians who think that abortion is murder, and that the penalty for murder should be death. There is still no instance of them forming a mob and lynching some doctor or clinic worker. When, as rarely occurs, murder is done, it’s always a lone crazy, and the Christian churches roundly and unreservedly condemn it.

    Until that changes, I agree with Dawkins.

  12. RetiredSciGuy

    I, too, agree with Dawkins.

    Interesting point, though… the Christian Right is fond of calling the United States a Christian nation. If that were so, why do we fight wars? What about “turn the other cheek”? What about “love thine enemy”? Isn’t Jesus called “The Prince of Peace”?

  13. Dave Luckett

    @ RetiredSciGuy;

    This is a pretty good discussion of the Christian doctrine of the just war, an idea that goes back to St Augustine. It is not for me to argue that any of the wars of the United States were or were not just, or justly waged. That is none of my business, and would be no more than a matter of opinion anyway.