|Calvinism...oh, my stars and garters
||[Feb. 8th, 2010|05:14 pm]
Obsessed with Reality
So, I did what I said what I wouldn't do, and I got into another online debate with Rhoblogy. He was commenting on a
news article right wing apologist piece regarding the CIA's use of torture. Ostensibly, the Jack Bauer image of, through one means or another, beating the information out of the prisoner isn't accurate--rather, the "enhanced interrogation" is used to break down the detainee's resistance to the point where they become willing to cooperate. They can then be transitioned to regular debriefings, and it is in these sessions when duress is no longer present that the real information extraction is taking place.
Now, this is interesting, because the article holds that under Islam, prisoners are required to resist as far as they're able, but once their limits are reached Allah will not hold them culpable for being only human. As the article had it, the torture effectively removed the "moral burden" to resist. Now, Rho's interpretation of this was just unbelievable to me--he apparently read that as the hand of God weighing on the souls of the terrorists for their misdeeds.
Even jihadists who are hardened to the murder of women and children feel the weight of God's law on their hearts, convicting them of guilt. May the Holy Spirit be pleased to bring them all to repentance, not just conviction of moral burden.The whole point is that these people don't believe they did anything wrong and are because of the torture, cooperation isn't sinful either because they are in a no-win situation and have essentially no choices left. Allah is still waiting for them in paradise. At any rate, I challenged Rho to justify why torture could be considered moral, under any circumstances.
I knew I was probably wasting my time, but I don't regret this particular debate, because I did learn some things along the way. Going in, I knew that Rho was one of these Christians who believe god is like Richard Nixon. Seriously, if God commands it, then it's not immoral. Murder, torture, human sacrifice or genocide are just peachy if it's God's instruction. But, I did put my foot in something of a bear trap, because I came in with the claim that torture is immoral. When you make the claim, you have to back it up, that's just the rules of argumentation. Rho wasn't making a claim directly, he was just waxing rhapsodic about how wonderful it was that people could be tortured into having their souls saved. And before you could say "No wait, Chewie, don't!" I'd taken the bait.
So yes, an atheist trying to explain the basis of a morality to a fundamentalist that doesn't appeal to the commands, nature, or intercession of a deity is not only time well spent, but a deep and illuminating exploration of the base issues involved, I'm here to tell you. In between the endless variations of "you're just making unsupported assertions," "prove to me there's anything objectively wrong with XYZ" and "obviously you're ignorant of the deeper philosophical history of these issues," I at least got in a good exploration of the Euthyphro dilemma with one of the other commenters, and I learned something else that was interesting.
You see, Rho isn't just a Christian. He isn't just a fundamentalist. He is a self-professed hard-core Calvinist, so much so that he spends as much time attacking Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy as he does atheism and empiricism. I've since read up on that particular philosophy, since I hadn't really gone over it since the chapter on the Protestant Reformation in Senior year of high school. I knew they believed in predestination, and I knew they believe that not everybody can get saved, and that's it. There's a lot that Rho believes that is now much clearer to me.
I've debated morality with Rho once or twice before this, and I noticed that he has this strange doublethink that I didn't quite fully perceive. You see, the only reason people can be moral without God's Word is that it is on some level written on our hearts. I replied then, if that is true, and the Bible is God's word, then anyone, Moslem, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist or Atheist should be able to read the Christian bible and at least recognize that this book is MORAL front to back. But oh no, "Typical atheist--forgetting the doctrine of sin in Christianity." At the time my reply was along the lines of "dude, I do not believe in your Special Pleading and Ad Hoc rationalization."
I now realize what specifically he was referring to. Calvinism holds that our natures are so polluted by sin (not sure if it's Original or the workaday temptations of life*) that we humans instinctively reject God's morality. Not only that, it is only through divine intervention that our hardened hearts can even desire salvation. All things being equal, we're born into sin, we live sinful lives governed by sinful thoughts, and after we die, God's judgment for our sin casts us into hell, unless God decides at some point to take us off this road.
This made things more clear to me, as to why he'd implore the Holy Spirit to bring the terrorists to Christ. But quite frankly, it does make me more certain than ever that I should not waste any more time talking to him. Certainly his faith allows him to dismiss my arguments out of hand; as far as he's concerned, it's just the Sin talking. But now I really, really don't care what he thinks, because the God he believes in goes beyond the "Chaotic Neutral" character of the Biblical Yahweh. As far as I'm concerned, the Calvinist god is actually evil.
Picture this: you are drowning in the torrential floodwaters of a swollen river, hanging on for dear life. Above you, a National Guard rescue helicopter is dropping lifelines and flotation devices. But you notice that only a certain percentage of the people struggling to survive are actually getting rescued, and others are ignored. Then you look up again, and realize that the motherfucker in the chopper door is the guy who pushed you into the water in the first place.
Calvinists believe that only the "elect" are saved. Remember, if God doesn't see fit to touch your hardened heart, your fallen nature rejects his teachings and you don't get to ask him to do so. Only the elect get coverage under the Christ Damnation Insurance Plan. So, apparently, the reason I'm an atheist is because he's okay with me going to hell, and the twenty years after the age of reason before I stopped believing were completely pointless, because God never really entered my sinner's heart.
As if that weren't bad enough, the Bible also says God made me, and that he knew me in my mother's womb. I didn't have any say in getting born. I didn't have any say about whether I'd get burdened with sin. So not only is god a capricious rescuer, he's the reason I'm in the river! And then, he gets to decide whether I even wake up to how much peril I'm in? What kind of a universe has god made, that is so polluted that he can't endure the presence of anything tainted by it, who chucks in his "beloved" creations in to suffer eternally unless he saves them MAYBE, if they're among the lucky few?
Quite frankly, if I need that god's intervention to start believing that black is white, up is down, faith is knowledge and the Bible is moral, I'd rather stay as I am. And I'm not going to give someone who thinks I deserve that the time of day, I'll tell you that much. I have to consider his scorn to be high praise.