Biden’s Christianity, Lincoln, and the Truth of Who We Are

Biden's America is a place and idea in which the trappings of empire or glory are ephemera in comparison with perennial human relationships---families; friendships; communities; schools; neighbors; partners.

Presidential Inaugural Addresses remain the American political speech par excellence, the sole rhetorical event that seeks a broad, even global, audience and that is written with the intention, though typically unrealized, of saying something of permeant significance. 

Watched by millions of people on television, reprinted in their entirety online, and discussed ad nauseum by countless pundits, these quadrennial speeches are considered by politicos and citizens alike to be important political events in themselves. The addresses sometimes signal future action, but more typically they suggest the most reflective thinking of the presidents, closer in spirit to contemplation than argument.  They provide incoming presidents with a rare opportunity to share with the world their understanding of the American political experiment in its broadest framework. They sometimes touch upon policy issues but more often they connect deeper concerns of the day with the meaning of American life and in light of perceived historical, philosophical, and even cosmic purposes.  In short, the inaugural allows the president to proffer a snapshot of the fundamental political principles and concerns of the day. 

Inaugural speeches sound alike by design. The predictability of their form is part of their power.  Inaugural speeches are not designed to surprise the audience as much as to encourage them to think through and finally embrace their shared political identities, principles, and affections. They are thus more ceremonial, solemn, principled, and foundational in substance than most other presidential speeches (to say nothing of presidential tweets) which, in contrast, tend to be far more partisan, point-keeping, policy-oriented, negative, pointed, and ephemeral in content.  

Joe Biden’s speech falls squarely within America’s rhetorical inaugural tradition. It links the future to the present by way of the past, and it gently reminds us time and again that our partisan and ideological differences—“they are deep and they are real”—are less constitutive or important than all that unites us as Americans. Here Biden takes a page from the standard inaugural playbook. In the wake of the fantastically bitter election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson famously asserted, “We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.” Jefferson’s theme of rising above our partisan differences infuses Biden’s speech.

Nonetheless, Biden’s speech is also something of an outlier by the standards of modern sensibilities. In tone, if not substance, it harkens back to the addresses of the 18th and 19th centuries in its emphasis on humility—his own humility but also the requisite humility of Americans necessary for the perpetuation of the democratic experiment. Completely absent in his speech is the clarion call to bold or heroic or world transformative action typical of the 20th Century addresses.  In these speeches, America and Americans are challenged to vanquish every foe and to solve the problems of the world—to free the oppressed, to end poverty, to populate the cosmos, to beautify our cities, to build “a great cathedral of the spirit” (Nixon’s 1st). Modern addresses have sought more or less to liberate the citizen from the trouble of grappling with the human predicament. Biden’s call to action is more pedestrian but more human and decidedly more Christian.  He says we can “right wrongs” by rewarding work, providing health care, ensuring safe schools and ending the virus. He invites us to wake up from our sleep and remember ourselves. He implores us to turn away from our most extreme (and thus our ugliest and most toxic) expressions and attitudes. The foes we face in Biden’s vision are the disruptive and unruly extremes that tempt us all—“anger, resentment and hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence.”  

During an earlier Cold War era, an era in which bravado was the natural response to the great deeds we performed in WWII and the daunting task of containing Communism we faced, John Kennedy urged American citizens to pay any price, to bear any burden, and to meet any hardship, to usher in a brave new world.  Biden is more interested in the down-to-home goal of treating “each other with dignity and respect.”  We need to confront our own demons of “political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism.” Kennedy wanted to liberate humanity, to forge alliances for progress, and to equip the Peace Corps to win over the world’s hearts and minds.  Biden pleads with us to not be jerks.

Inaugural Addresses are not esoteric texts with secret messages teased out by knowing scholars. They’re written for and delivered to a broad audience.  They aim at eloquence but not subtlety or complexity of thought.  Little about Uncle Joe has suggested the tendency to aim at complexity in his speeches heretofore, but a careful read of this speech reveals the vexing delicacy of the task he faces. Donald Trump’s Inaugural Address was shockingly dark in rhetorical tone but blithely naïve and Pollyannaish in its posture toward all the future winning America would enjoy.  In contrast, for all of Biden’s optimistic rhetoric and his “can-do” life coach-style of encouragement about the good opportunities we face if we move in unity, his speech is profoundly troubling in context, and is perhaps the darkest inaugural address in our history. 

Speeches are shaped by their settings as well as their audiences and moment. The city from which Biden delivered his address was shut down and devoid of the throngs who typically flock to the event. The city was filled with thousands of military personnel, cluttered by military-style barriers, and decorated with symbols commemorating the hundreds of thousands of lives laid waste by Covid-19. The text of Biden’s speech treads lightly on its dark theme, but its brooding spirit infuses the text from within. 

To be plain, that theme is that our democratic experiment was and continues to be in peril.  Biden reassures us at the outset of his speech that democracy is fragile, but “at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.”

“At this hour.”

At this hour democracy has prevailed.  But will it prevail moving forward?  One cannot be so presumptuous.  Biden mentions the Civil War twice as well as our own “uncivil war.” He equates his own commitment to unify the country with Lincoln’s commitment to liberate the slaves.  Biden’s fixation on America’s gravest historical moment is no accident, for Biden’s speech is closest in spirit not to any previous inaugural address but to Abraham Lincoln’s 1838 Lyceum Address.  Young Abraham Lincoln, not yet 30 years old, gave this speech, his first major articulation of his political sentiments, to a group of his peers in Springfield, Illinois in 1838. Lincoln went beyond what was called for by the occasion, moving from the usual praise of nation to consideration of some of the most difficult political questions one can pose about democratic government.  In that speech Lincoln addresses the vexing question of how best to secure the “perpetuation of our political institutions.”  Lincoln expresses grave concern about the state of the American union.  Biden shares that same concern.

In the Lyceum Address Lincoln dismisses the notion that our demise could emerge from external threat. “All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined… in a trial of a thousand years” could not bring the United States to its knees.  So Lincoln asks:

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

Moreover, Lincoln does not address the topic as an abstract or hypothetical question.  He suggests that change must come, or the American experiment will come to a dishonorable conclusion.

If the laws be continually despised and disregarded, if their rights to be secure in their persons and property, are held by no better tenure than the caprice of a mob, the alienation of their affections from the Government is the natural consequence; and to that, sooner or later, it must come. 

Lincoln’s greatest fear was the influence of demagogic men of towering ambition and their effect on the population.  For such an ambitious man, “distinction will be his paramount object, and although he would as willingly, perhaps more so, acquire it by doing good as harm; yet, that opportunity being past, and nothing left to be done in the way of building up, he would set boldly to the task of pulling down.”

Democracies presuppose the proposition–the “abstract truth”–that all men are created equal.  Therefore, above all other forms of government, democracies must fortify themselves against ambitious demagogues—demagogues such as Donald J. Trump. Lincoln reminds us that to combat the threat of such ambitious demagogues, citizens must be attached to their laws and institutions. 

It’s hard to miss the parallels between Lincoln’s concern of political disintegration and Biden’s. Though Biden does not mention this speech, it’s pretty clear his speechwriters studied it and its lessons closely.  Like Lincoln, Biden locates the direst threat from within. It is astounding how little Biden mentions the world. His speech is profoundly insular, but that is no oversight or chauvinistic bias.  He mentions that we have allies in passing, but he mentions no country by name—friend or foe—and nowhere does he suggest that any of our problems emerge from external threat.  Again, this is no accident.  Like Lincoln, Biden is reminding Americans that despite the problems we may have with other countries, only we can bring an end to our republic.

And while Lincoln’s and Biden’s respective remedies to the maladies we face are not identical, there is far more overlap between them than difference.  Both Lincoln and Biden argue hard that the remedy against mob rule and the dangerous threat of demagogic men is a rock-solid commitment to the democratic means of resolving differences.  Whereas Lincoln calls for a civil religion centered on venerating the Constitution and unwavering obedience to the law, Biden takes inspiration from an actual religion, Christianity.  He borrows St. Augustine’s exquisite description of a people as “a multitude defined by the common objects of their love.” Biden goes on to list these objects of our love: “Opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honor and, yes, the truth.” Missing is any Trumpian language of bellicosity, winning, overcoming, battling, forcing victory, of being best.  Biden’s America is a place and idea that suggests the trappings of empire or combat or glory, or even the obsession of besting those around us, are ephemera or even illusory in comparison with the reality of perennial human relationships—families; friendships; communities; schools; neighbors; partners.  Human beings are agents of will, but we are neither autonomous and self-creating nor utility-maximizing individuals.  We are social creatures whose fate is sometimes beyond our control, and to pretend otherwise is folly.  We are weak in isolation but strong in partnership.  He reminds us that “there is no accounting for what fate will deal you.”  It follows then that some days when you will “need a hand,” but there will be other days “when we’re called to lend a hand.” 

As the founding generation had recently died out when Lincoln gave his speech, Lincoln called for Americans to continue to tell the story of the Founding to forthcoming generations, to forge a common future identity in light of our shared past.  Just as we cannot understand ourselves in isolation, neither can a generation be understood, or even complete, apart from those who came before and those who will follow.  Biden again follows Lincoln’s lead but once again places the thought in Christian-inspired terms.  He quotes the “American Anthem,” a song that sings that “centuries have brought us to this day” and asks “What shall be our legacy?”

Biden’s address is a lesson in the possibilities and fragility of human flourishing. It is rooted in part in Lincolnian rhetoric and Christian ideals, but is grounded in a surprisingly sophisticated  moral anthropology.  It is also a warning.  Biden warns us, though subtly and mostly by implication, that if we misconstrue who we are as human beings we will lose our democracy.  Who we are, finally, are not winners or losers or good guys and bad guys but social beings who are created to be open to the truth about ourselves and to the facts of the world. Unless we remain bound in humility by all the attendant limitations that such truths about who we are imply, we will achieve neither greatness nor goodness. And we will lose our precious democracy in the process.

FILED UNDER: General, Government, History, Joe Biden, Presidency, US Politics
Michael Bailey
About Michael Bailey
Michael is Associate Professor of Government and International Studies at Berry College in Rome, GA. His academic publications address the American Founding, the American presidency, religion and politics, and governance in liberal democracies. He also writes on popular culture, and his articles on, among other topics, patriotism, Church and State, and Kurt Vonnegut, have been published in Prism and Touchstone. He earned his PhD from the University of Texas in Austin, where he also earned his BA. He’s married and has three children. He joined OTB in November 2016.

Comments

  1. flat earth luddite says:

    well said. thank you.

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  2. Scott O says:

    Yes, well said, well written. Unfortunately we now know that Lincoln’s words were more of a prediction than a prophylactic.

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  3. MarkedMan says:

    Nothing to add. So well said.

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  4. gVOR08 says:

    @flat earth luddite: Second that. Thank you, Dr. Bailey. The parallel to Lincoln’s era is insightful.

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  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    neither can a generation be understood apart from those who came before and those who will follow.

    History, the backstory of the character, Human.

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  6. Hal_10000 says:

    I’m just so relieved right now. Trump is gone. And while I’ll disagree with Biden a lot, he’s just a fundamentally decent person. And a competent one. The way they had the first day’s agenda laid out, ready to go, was a breath of fresh air. I realize it’s coming 400,000 deaths too late, but we’re finally getting a leadership that understands just how bad things are and has the moral clarity and the competence to do something about it.

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  7. Gustopher says:

    Wonderfully said. But, since this is the internet, I’m going to at least nitpick.

    Biden goes on to list these objects of our love: “Opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honor and, yes, the truth.” Missing is any Trumpian language of bellicosity, winning, overcoming, battling, forcing victory, of being best.

    Not sure if that was an autocorrect adventure or there was another word you were reaching for, but I’ve never heard Trump or anyone in his orbit even use the word “overcome.”

    I would have remembered it, from the taste of vomit in the back of my throat.

    They can have “YMCA” because, honestly, that’s hysterical. But the day they start singing “We Shall Overcome” about modestly higher marginal tax rates and oppressive multiculturalism is the day I finally give up and get a gun.

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  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Thankyou, very well said indeed.

    Lincoln’s greatest fear was the influence of demagogic men of towering ambition and their effect on the population. For such ambitious men, “distinction will be his paramount object, and although he would as willingly, perhaps more so, acquire it by doing good as harm; yet, that opportunity being past, and nothing left to be done in the way of building up, he would set boldly to the task of pulling down.”

    Lincoln never foresaw somebody as wholly narcissistic as trump becoming president. He was and always will be incapable of doing any “good” for others and his only ambition is to tear down that which better men than he had built while polishing his own turds and saying “See how beautifully they shine?”

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  9. Scott says:

    Good essay putting the address in perspective. I thought the address was well done. While speechwriters have a great deal of input, the responsibility is on the speaker. What I find interesting is how Biden has grown. In his younger days, he was considered a ambitious lightweight. But he is heftier now and that is encouraging. That gives hope.

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  10. Tony W says:

    Beautifully written.

    Every four years I fantasize that America is ready to live up to its ideals, to honor truth and science, to build itself up for our mutual benefit, to dismiss those who would selfishly benefit without accepting responsibility.

    To me, that is the uniquely American Dream. That people who would do good have as much opportunity for impact as the wealthy and powerful who wish only to add to their good fortune, consequences be damned.

    Biden seems uniquely qualified to help us understand that we do not want to live in a society among people with nothing to lose. That building up the lowest among us, raises our collective ‘average’. That we owe each other the dignity of work, and autonomy, and even basic necessities.

    I am again, perhaps temporarily, optimistic

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  11. SC_Birdflyte says:

    Just so. I think Biden’s character shows when he learned that Jimmy Carter wouldn’t be attending the inauguration. If it had happened to Trump, he’d have ranted about the missing predecessor. Biden, by contrast, thanked Carter for his years of service.

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  12. JohnMcC says:

    What a wonderful essay. Thank you. That’s America to me.

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  13. Michael Bailey says:

    @flat earth luddite: Thank you!

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  14. Michael Bailey says:

    Thank you readers for all the kind comments. And thank you to Steven Taylor for his patience in working with the most Luditte-y of Ludittes imaginable to post the dang thing.

    @Gustopher: That’s a terrific nitpick as far as nitpicking goes. You’re right. I’ve never heard him use that word. To be honest I was thinking of overcoming in more of a Nietzschean sense of overcoming impediments for the sake of venting the will. Regardless, it was out of place and a poor word choice.

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  15. Jim Brown 32 says:

    Maybe, just maybe, Biden is a man for the times. Some people are late, bloomers, some people are gamers, and some people are simply ahead of their season.

    I have a feeling there is a high probability Biden is all 3.

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  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jim Brown 32: A thumbs up for insight.

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  17. JohnMcC says:

    Having had a couple hours for reflection, two thoughts: 1/ Thanks for pointing out that Christianity does not belong exclusively to the Trumpist evangelicals and 2/ please come back often, Dr Bailey.

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  18. Jay L Gischer says:

    A friend told me about this yesterday. It mirrors my own thoughts, and expands on them in a way that I couldn’t. We are falling on our face because we are jumping high

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  19. Chip Daniels says:

    @Hal_10000:

    My feeling as well, that whatever his policy choices might be, Joe Biden is a fundamentally decent man with a sincere sense of national service.

    We often underestimate the importance of this, but the past 4 years have shown how dangerous a man without character or temperament can be for the republic.

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  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    I didn’t want to harsh the mellow yesterday, but there is of course nothing remotely democratic about Christianity. For its first 1500 years it was decidedly authoritarian, mostly under a single regime, the papacy, regularly employing threats, torture and slaughter to impose its will. The Reformation created competing authoritarian power centers. Post Reformation Christians continued to have very little reluctance to behave like absolute bastards, invading, subjugating and enslaving.

    Biden takes inspiration from an actual religion, Christianity. He borrows St. Augustine’s exquisite description of a people as “a multitude defined by the common objects of their love.” Biden goes on to list these objects of our love: “Opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honor and, yes, the truth.”

    There is nothing uniquely Christian about opportunity, security, liberty etc… Christianity is built on threats: the threat of death if you fail to submit, the threat of eternal torture if you fail to believe. Nor are these common objects of love by Americans. The US is 3.8 million square miles, and every single square mile of that involved a Christian taking by force what did not belong to them. And keeping it. There is damn little love in American history and a whole lot of hate and greed.

    If you look at a map of the world and consider the nations that are most free, what you find is that freedom often tracks the rejection of religion by nominally Christian countries. Western Europe is free and post-Christian. Russia is not free, and indeed the authoritarian state is hand-in-glove with Russian Orthodoxy.

    Christians often conflate their religion with American civic virtue. In fact, it is American civic virtue that largely replaced the Christian world view. Christianity is not about liberty, Americanism is. The Founders were more often Deists than Christian, and they were inspired far more by secular philosophy than by Christianity. It’s right there is the Constitution: We the people. That was an explicit assertion that God no longer decided who ruled, a rejection of religions’ role in government. A just government could not be based on interpretations of divine will, but on the actual choices made by people of all faiths, and none.

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  21. BC says:

    Thank you for this Dr. Bailey! Great work. I’m here if you ever need me to lend a hand 🙂

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  22. Joe says:

    Michael hates religion. tl;dr, Mellow safe.

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  23. Andy says:

    Yours is definitely the best piece of content I read yesterday about the speech and inauguration. It makes me want to go back and watch the whole thing since I only caught part of it. I hope you consider posting more often here as this kind of post is a welcome departure from the usual fare.

    One of the ironies of a Biden administration is that he is probably the most genuinely religious President since Jimmy Carter. It’s ironic because Biden likely captured the vast majority of voters who are openly anti-religious bigots or atheists.

    @Jim Brown 32:

    Maybe, just maybe, Biden is a man for the times. Some people are late, bloomers, some people are gamers, and some people are simply ahead of their season.

    I sure hope you are right. I want you to be right. But it’s difficult for me to believe.

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  24. Jay L Gischer says:

    Christianity has an authoritarian streak all right. As do human beings. The first 1500 years or so of Christendom showed this pretty clearly.

    AND, we had the Protestant Reformation, wherein it was proposed that people get to read the Bible and decide for themselves what it meant, and gather together in groups of like-minded people. This happened long before anyone ever conceived of America as a nation.

    It’s quite so that many of the powers of the time adopted it as a way to enhance their own position and power. But the principles outlasted them and overpowered them. I think there’s a direct line from Martin Luther to John Locke to Thomas Jefferson.

    The thing I have long noted is that Christianity is often something of a projective test, an ink blot. There are some threads that seem very widely acknowledged and there is a lot of other stuff that people differ wildly about.

    For instance, the Abolitionists took their inspiration from Scripture (and from the Declaration of Independence, too), but the Slave Power also had its justification in texts and teaching from the Bible. To me, this reflect the notion that slavery was not a thing addressed primarily or directly by either the prophets or the Gospel writers. To them, it was a condition of existence.

    Biden is Catholic, and the Catholic church is still nominally pretty authoritarian. And yet, so many American Catholics are quite independently minded – “We’re pretty Protestant in our thinking” one Catholic couple told me once.

    I very strongly support religious freedom, and yet I am happy to see people worshipping and practicing faith in various communities.

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  25. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Jay L Gischer: OR, practicing no faith at all. I’m ok with that, too.

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  26. Michael Bailey says:

    @Michael Reynolds: One could quibble here and there with what you write, but to my lights your argument falls within a common and respectable line of intellectual thought that’s supported by impressive evidence. Rather than challenge any particular claim of yours I’d instead stress that Christianity is as Christianity does, and what it does is pretty complicated. It seems to me that perhaps you’re operating from a somewhat reductionist view of what Christianity is and therefore a reductionist view of how it necessarily shapes (i.e. poisons) human thought and behavior. I agree that liberty and security and the like are squarely liberal ideals, and regardless of how these ideas developed in some areas of the world lots of folks have made strong cases that these values, as well as liberalism itself, stand alone and apart from any religious assumptions or scaffolding. I’m fine with that and am inclined to believe it, actually. But that’s not to say that ideas cannot mingle, illuminate one another, draw certain parallels into relief, be transformed over time, and so on. And what I’m saying about Biden’s Christianity isn’t that the liberty and security and the like emerge exclusively from Christianity, but rather that these liberal values are understood by Biden as working best in the American context when informed by other values such as neighborly love, care for the least among us, and acknowledgment of the mysterious working of fate in shaping our destinies. Humility isn’t an exclusively Christian virtue or value, but there’s no good reason to think it hasn’t been an important part of the Christian intellectual heritage, even if has been shockingly unrealized in practice. And when push comes to shove, all I mean in calling Biden’s thinking Christian is its acknowledgment of the crucial role of humility in securing our dignity.

    Is that fair? Reasonable? Or am I still missing something crucial?

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  27. JohnMcC says:

    @Michael Reynolds: As much as I share lots of your thoughts, there is a large content you’re missing. The difference between Christianity before and after Constantine would be one. The conflation of what every decent human being (of whatever or no religion) feels with ‘what Christians feel’ because of the dominance of Christianity in most American’s lives would be another. The role that the Bible has played in historical expansion of literacy would be another.

    Not making a defense of the religion. To my way of thinking it’s an entirely human enterprise with all the startlingly good and bad things that implies. But even in a comment to a blog there would have to be quite a few colors drawn from the palate before painting Christianity (or I suppose any religion) with any accuracy or justice.

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  28. @Michael Bailey: @JohnMcC:

    My basic beef with Christianity is the same beef many Christians have with Christianity: Christians not behaving like Christians. I admire Christians who behave like Christians. If Christians behaved like Christians I can’t say I’d sign up, but I’d have nothing bad to say about them.

    Certainly Biden is a Christian and more than most seems to take that seriously. Any belief system that induces people to be kind has my support. I’m not quite sure why we need the whole God thing to get to the point of not being assholes – I don’t believe in God yet it’s been weeks since I murdered anyone. But hey, if it works… when it works…

    I was raised in the Lutheran Church though I’m ethnically Jewish. The Jew thing weighs on one’s interpretation of history. On the one hand, the people who sheltered Anne Frank were Christians. OTOH, so were the people who dragged her off to Bergen-Belsen. On the one hand a level of morality and heroism beyond anything I think I could muster. On the other hand a level of brutality I do not believe I would sink to. It’s like the same sauce is delicious but also likely to give you food poisoning. I have to ask myself why we don’t just make a nice beurre blanc.

    My other complaint about religion applies to all superstitions, all the things people believe in the absence of any supporting evidence. I think programming that lack of rigor and intellectual discipline into people essentially installs a back door. If you can believe that the same being who snapped his fingers and created a universe 93 billion lightyears across, also obsesses over whether you masturbate, you’re capable of believing anything. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Venn diagram of Trumpies and Q-bots overlaps hugely with evangelical Christianity, itself the least intellectual, least disciplined iteration of Christianity.

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  29. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Would it be fair to say that, like Gandhi, you like Christ, but you do not like Christians, because they are so unlike Christ?

    Yuval Noah Harari points out, I think in “Sapiens,” that few adherents to any religion actually practice the tenets they claim to believe in, regardless of hos religious they claim to be. Christians are no different.

    @JohnMcC: has a good point about Christianity before and after Constantine. At that time, religion was integral to politics. I think it was Cicero who claimed the success of Rome on the world stage was due to the fact that Roman worshiped the gods better than their rivals.

    Constantine did not make Christianity the state religion, but he paved the way for it. His heirs, after all, were Christian. besides, he had to do something about the office of Pontifex Maximus, the priest in chief as it were, that came along with the post of emperor.

    Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, decreeing toleration of all religions. About the first thing that Christians did now that they were free of persecution, was to persecute such Christians as they deemed heretics. Monophysites, Nestorians, those who renounced Christianity during the persecutions to preserve their lives and property and now wanted back in, etc. It got so bad, Constantine had to call the first church council to settle matters (ha!)

    I maintain that rather than Rome becoming Christian, Christianity became Roman. It adopted the Roman sense of superiority, the sense of entitlement to rule over others, the sense that it could impose its will as needed or desired, etc.

    There’s a great dela more to consider from the early days, like the Church Fathers picking and choosing gospels, and books of the Old Testament, and waiving older laws and strictures to gain new converts, etc.

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  30. JohnMcC says:

    @Kathy: Thanks for the more detailed explication of the effect on the Church that having political power had. I would have had to snuff around the interwebs for quite a while to explain it as well. (Assuming I COULD explain it as well.)

    @Michael Reynolds: I agree completely with the corrosive effect that believing in magic and supernatural beings has on one’s judgement. And would mention that anyone moving from belief to non-belief incurs costs and difficulties that are orders of magnitude above simply changing your mind in any other field. So much ‘belief’ is simply concurrence with “what we believe”.

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  31. Joe says:

    @Kathy:
    I hated those Nestorians and all their nasty-ass Nestea. And don’t even get me started on the Monophysites! I was have always been strictly polyphysitic, as was my father before me!

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  32. Kathy says:

    @JohnMcC:

    I was pretty much just regurgitating Mike Duncan’s podcast episodes on Constantine, plus a bit of additional reading.

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  33. OzarkHillbilly says:

    “If there was no god, humans would invent one.” Railing against other peoples belief in a god is as useless as complaining about the color of the sky. Everybody wants to believe there is a purpose to this existence. God is where most of them reach. Myself, I read a long time ago that the purpose of life is a life of purpose. That sounded pretty good to me.

    It doesn’t matter if others cannot see my purpose or think that my purpose is lacking. It’s good enough for me and in a world where 99.999999% of people’s lives are forgotten soon after they are gone, what else matters?

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