Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, June 26, 2017

Week three comment 3 June 26, 2017

                When I read the following, I found myself asking how many believers could honestly contest what Mill states and I found myself more than a little embarrassed knowing that I fell into this group. “To what an extent doctrines intrinsically fitted to make the deepest impression upon the mind may remain in it as dead beliefs, without being ever realized in the imagination, the feelings, or the understanding, is exemplified by the manner in which the majority of believers hold the doctrines of Christianity. By Christianity I here mean what is accounted such by all churches and sects – the maxims and precepts contained in the New Testament. These are considered sacred, and accepted as laws, by all professing Christians. Yet it is scarcely too much to say that not one Christian in a thousand guides or tests his individual conduct by reference to those laws. The standard to which he does refer it, is the custom of his nation, his class, or his religious profession. He has thus, on the one hand, a collection of ethical maxims, which he believes to have been vouchsafed to him by infallible wisdom as rules for his government; and on the other, a set of every day judgments and practices, which go a certain length with some of those maxims, not so great a length with others, stand in direct opposition to some, and are, on the whole, a compromise between the Christian creed and the interests and suggestions of worldly life. To the first of these standards he gives his homage; to the other his real allegiance. All Christians believe that the blessed are the poor and humble, and those who are ill-used by the world; that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven; that they should judge not, lest they be judged; that they should swear not at all; that they should love their neighbor as themselves; that if one take their cloak, they should give him their coat also; that they should take no thought for the morrow; that if they would be perfect, they should sell all that they have and give it to the poor. They are not insincere when they say that they believe these things. They do believe them, as people believe what they have always heard lauded and never discussed. But in the sense of that living belief which regulates conduct, they believe these doctrines just up to the point to which it is usual to act upon them.

                It is a sobering response to your question, “Is our society still more hostile to non-believers than to alternative-believers,” when one considers that by Mill’s estimates that nine hundred and ninety nine out of a thousand Christians don’t adhere to the standards established by their founder. Perhaps most of us are guilty of talking the talk and not walking the walk. The cliché “actions speak louder than words,” applies, since it is easier to talk about cleaning up a manure pile than picking up a pitch fork and shoveling it into a spreader; Mill would have understood this analogy.


  1. Mill would, and pragmatists too. "Learn by doing." Talk is cheap. But every sect has its dead dogmas, and not just every religious sect. There's an orthodoxy among some disbelievers too. Mill here is appealing to everyone, to act from conviction and volition, not mere rote conformist habit. James (& Dewey et al) heard him.

  2. Hi Don,
    As always, I enjoy your posts.
    I believe it was J Vernon McGee that said Christians are not perfect, but they are forgiven. Becoming Christ-like is an ongoing, day-by-day process of sanctification. Some are better at it than other just as some Christians stay on the milk of the word too long before moving to the meat of it, both in knowledge and practical application. Mill’s estimate of 999 out of a 1000 Christians do not act out what they believe was just that…an estimate; it was not a scientific study. On the other hand, the Barna Group that does research on Christians and churches concluded that only 9% of those who claim to be Christian actually have a Biblical world view, which means that 91% have a secular world view. That is not a whole lot off from Mill’s estimate.
    When it comes to societal hostility toward specific groups, it is obvious to me that bashing Christians has been in vogue for at least 25 years. Morning TV shows, late night comedians, and the media in general, all denigrate Christianity on a regular basis. All of this bashing finally manifested itself in Christian murder. In June of 2015, Dylann Roof entered a church in Charleston, South Carolina and murdered nine of my brothers and sisters in Christ while they were having a Bible study. He did not enter a mosque and kill Muslims. He did not enter a synagogue and murder Jews. He entered a church and murdered Christians. Again in 2015, at Umpqua Community College in Weston, Oregon a gunman singled out Christians for murder during a shooting rampage. He asked them if they were Christians and the ones that said yes, he shot in the head. He did not single out Muslims or Jews to be murdered; he systematically selected Christians. Christians are being systematically cleansed via mass murder from the Middle East. So, even though many Christians are not being Christ-like to their fullest potential, many are doing so to the point of death.
    Mill said, “Orthodox Christians who are tempted to think [as I sometimes am] that those who stoned to death the first martyrs must have been worse men than they themselves, ought to remember that one of those persecutors was Saint Paul.” (On Liberty, p. 27)

    1. He was targeting African-American Christians. What evidence is there that he was motivated by media hostile to Christianity in general?

      Mill, btw, endorses a secular worldview and rejects any notion that a religious worldview is prerequisite to virtue. His target is hypocrisy of whatever stripe.

    2. If Dylann Roof’s only criteria for victim selection was that they be African American, he could have found any number of places where African Americans congregate. I submit that his criteria was just as much Christian as it was African American. In addition, none of the Christians that were singled out for murdered at the Umpqua Community College were African American.
      The media, as well as opinion programs and comedians, do what they do in order to affect social and cultural thinking and change. They do and say incendiary things for the express purpose of influencing their audience and what they say is not said in a vacuum. To say it has no effect on society or culture or on those who are already bordering on lunacy, would be in direct opposition to their obvious intent.
      What evidence is there that the two are connected?
      I am simply employing current journalistic standards when I connect media’s relentless and persistent Christian bashing to Christian murder. By today’s standards, evidence is not a prerequisite for accusations. How much evidence did the NY Times have when they accused Sarah Palin of influencing Lee Loughner in the Gabby Gifford shooting? After that shooting and after Sarah Palin was accused of causing it, Maryland Democrat congressman, Steny Hoyer said, “Far too many broadcasts now and so many outlets have the intent of inciting people to opposition, to anger, to thinking the other side is less than moral. I think that is a context in which somebody who is mentally unbalanced can somehow feel justified in taking this kind of action. I think we need to all take cognizance of that and be aware that what we say can, in fact, have consequences.”
      I agree with Hoyer…we all need to be aware that media has the power and the platform to influence millions of people; what they say has consequences and sometimes those consequences are dire, especially when someone like James Hodgkinson hears it.

  3. Don,

    How does the "tyranny of the majority" play into this thought process?

    1. Hi Don, I'm finally getting back to your question:
      Tranny of the majority:
      The following is spoken of within the boundaries of government: Tranny can come for despots and dictators such as Vald III, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, or some better known despots such as Stalin or Pol Pot of Cambodia. We are familiar with this kind of tranny. These men ruled not as the majority, but as the minority. Tranny of the majority, I believe, comes from majority rule, such as in a true democracy where each person has a vote and whatever the majority wants, they get. Neither Mill nor our Founding Fathers wanted a democracy because they knew the end result would be tranny of the minority. Many times what the majority wants will be at the expense of the minority.
      Fortunately for us, we have neither a dictatorship nor a democracy, but a representative republic where neither one individual nor the majority can rule. When things go wrong, and they will, they require correction. That correction would never take place in a dictatorship or a democracy.
      Do you agree Don, or do you have a different opinion?

  4. You asked: "How does the "tyranny of the majority" play into this thought process?" I'll reply tonight. I will be on the road all day today with no Internet for my computer and I hate doing this on my phone.