we look at the specific points we have observed in the ‘Content' part
A Defence Needed. There
is an odd start to this chapter where the author seems to concede
that he cannot definitively prove a list of things, some of which
(one wonders) is because he is ill-informed and jumps to wrong conclusions
anyway, e.g. “transparent fables”, “man-made
imposition”, “enemy of science and inquiry” etc. He concludes,
“I can most certainly claim that religion is
now fully aware of these criticisms”. Er, yes, we were before
you came along!
he moves on to acknowledge that there may be a case to defend, that
says atheistic regimes have been worse even that religion-based ones.
Before he moves in to give an answer he says that religious people
now say they are no worse than Nazis or Stalinists. Wherever did he
get that from? Please don't put me or traditional, Bible-based Christianity
anyway near the same bracket as Nazis or Stalinists! To speak of loving,
caring, truth filled Christians in the same bracket is seeking to
besmirch by association but I have to tell you that there is NO association.
In what will follow he will show how religious institutions have sought
appeasement with totalitarian states, but that is a far cry from individual
Christians with deep concerns about the wrongs of those regimes.
He defines totalitarian states
as those “which demand that citizens become
wholly subjects and surrender their private lives and personalities
entirely to the state, or to the supreme leader”. He then goes
on to suggest that historically such states have been bound up with
religion. This is definitely guilt by association! But note that it
isn't states motivated by religion but states or despots using
religion. So this is a very far cry from traditional Biblical
Christianity that I referred to above. This is using superstition
as a political weapon. This first section here is actually a condemnation
of despots, not of religion. To consider the difference between totalitarian
regimes and totalitarian religion, please CLICK
HERE and go to Appendix 4
moves from totalitarian states that were despot led, to more modern
states that were dogma led.
Appealing to Orwell.
George Orwell is well known for his deriding totalitarian states and
so he quotes him as saying that “A totalitarian
state is in effect a theocracy.” Now a theocracy is usually
defined as a state governed by God or by God through His priests.
Orwell uses it to mean a state where the leaders are seen like gods.
Thus Stalin or Mao were virtually worshipped. The author sets up a
totalitarian state as one that subjugates its people, and then he
goes on to say that's what early religion did. However he doesn't
give any examples, so I think it is a highly questionable premise.
If he has Israel in mind here, a careful examination of the practices
and life of Israel, compared with surrounding nations, will reveal
a tremendous freedom in Israel in comparison with those others.
at School: He
moves on to the state controlling even your thoughts and he refers
to Orwell being forced to learn that you are guilty even if you don't
know it. He refers to a school Orwell went to run by “Christian
sadists”. Now this is a reference to Orwell's essay entitled
Such, Such were the Joys, about his experience of bed wetting
at a public school, in which he comments, “It was possible, therefore,
to commit a sin without knowing that you committed it, without wanting
to commit it, and without being able to avoid it.” Although religion
played a part in the lives of many such people of that time leading
public schools, it was a very different thing from what we know of
as Christianity today. To portray these people as ‘Christian sadists'
is to write off, in the eyes of the author at least, every head master
who used the cane. That this man may have been a sadist is debatable
and lacks understanding of the public ['private' in the USA] school
system (of which I am not an admirer). If he was a sadist, a better
description of him might have been, “a sadist with religious leanings”
and that order reveals the reality.
Calvin. He brands John
Calvin as a totalitarian leader after having declared,
“it is not possible, in the religious totalitarian vision, to escape
this world of original sin and guilt and pain. An infinity of punishment
awaits you even after you die.” His target, that soon follows
is that of “election” which he clearly does not understand. Generally,
as he carries on, he implies that all religion is totalitarian. To
again see a useful distinction, please go to Appendix 4 CLICK
doctrine of election:
We need to pick this up in passing. This is the doctrine that says
every person who becomes a Christian is ‘elected' by God. For instance:
he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and
blameless in his sight”
(Eph 1:4). The apostle Peter explained it as follows: “who
have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.”
(1 Pet 1:2). Some have taken the subject of election to mean
that God chose who He fancied and they and only they can become Christians.
Yet the texts we have just quoted suggest that God looked into the
future and knew who would respond to the news about Jesus and thus
knew who would follow Him. These are the ones, He knew, would become
Christians. In this sense He chose them on the basis of their response.
author describes John Calvin as “a sadist and
torturer and killer who burned Servetus.” In an interesting
Internet article, J. Steven Wilkins in Calvin vs. Servetus points
Servetus was the only person put to death in Calvin's lifetime and
that Calvin's role in his death was purely as an expert witness
at his trial for heresy,
Servetus was given the chance to leave Geneva and refused it,
it was the authorities who decided to burn the heretic and
Calvin appealed for his death to be the more humane beheading but
his appeal was refused.
a different picture than the one painted by the author!
the author's revulsion at Calvin presumably because of, though not
explicitly stated, his teaching on election, the author moves on to
decry others who teach similar things which he puts under the umbrella
234,235 Sleight of Hand – The God that Failed.
But then he writes about a 1950's book, The God that Failed,
describing it as “the great anti-totalitarian
anthology of the twentieth century”. Another reviewer described
it so: “The God That Failed
is a classic work and crucial document of the Cold War that brings
together essays by six of the most important writers of the twentieth
century on their conversion to and subsequent disillusionment with
communism.” The ‘God' that is referred to in the title is thus Communism
which was uncritically worshipped by many until they came to see its
some bizarre twist of logic the author exalts Bertrand Russell for
forecasting its downfall before even these disillusioned 1950's writers,
and chastises Christian socialists and others who hailed communism
as something great. You can call them what you like but 'Christian'
was not the first thing that comes to mind. The early part of the
twentieth century was not known for strength of faith. In an incredible
sleight of hand the author whisks our attention away from the folly
of atheistic totalitarianism to the folly of some religious people
(and they are no more than that, which means little) who in a confused
bout of well-meaning pandering, couldn't see through it all.
The Vatican & Hitler. In
the pages that follow there is, I presume, an accurate description
of the part played by the Vatican throughout the 30's and 40's of
last century in respect of Hitler. I think what took place then is
analogous to the foreign policy stance of the USA, that you side with
the lesser of two evils, even if that is a less than perfect dictator!
In the eyes of many of us that is less than righteous. It is human
leadership struggling with the presence of evil and seeking, often
wrongly, to take a path of appeasement in order to try to find a path
What we noted in the general comments above, we need to repeat here.
Many of us who are Christians are deeply disturbed at the turning
of faith and local churches into an institution, whether that be the
Catholic Church or world-wide protestant denominations. These institutions
take on a form that is akin to the structures found outside the church
to many of us, these
are forms which hinder the work and expression of God and portray
a form of Christianity that is far from that found in the Bible.
of Faith: I think
it is also worth noting that the spiritual quality of faith or church
life has varied throughout the past two thousand years. The first
half of last century was not, for example, a time when faith was strong
and the Bible adhered to firmly. When there have been those times,
then the life and example of the church has been a light to the rest
of the world. When it is not like that, then the church gets known
for accommodation and appeasement, neither of which can be defended.
The best that can be said is that even though the Institution may
have been strong – and wrong – there were always those, who the author
acknowledges, who stood firm for righteousness and suffered for their
stand. Similarly even in times of weakness of life in the church,
there have always been some voices raised for righteousness, even
if they were disregarded by the majority. To consider this further
in Appendix 2 - Church & Histroy - please CLICK
There is a brief chiding of churches
for not denouncing of the cult of god-king, and all that came about
in the last World War at Japan's hands. Crazy it may appear to the
rest of us in the world, but then there are crazy beliefs (religious
and otherwise) in the West today. I suspect the churches remained
silent because they believed that saying anything wouldn't do any
good. Diplomacy is not known for purposely upsetting other national
leaders! A bit is a silly section really.
minor debate follows about Einstein's intentions but as they were
never totally clear I am not joining in the discussion. A page filling
Stalinism. As part of
his ‘sharing the blame' approach, the author quietly nails the Greek
Orthodox Church in passing, for supporting the Czar. I'm not sure
how real that was, but if it were true it's just another example of
imperfect men struggling to cope in the face of terrifying power.
The churches in China are linked to Western influences according to
the author, yet my reading of Hudson Taylor says that was often only
a tenuous link. What I do know is that the real church in China today
is largely underground because the atheistic Communist State only
allows token religion in public.
passages that follow speak of State manipulation and puppet churches,
with the State often trying to replace religion with political worship.
I think a point that is missed in such discussions is that although
such religious leaders struggled to cope with such totalitarian power
arrayed against them, the truth was that they did have a belief system
and sought to uphold it, even if sometimes they didn't do it in a
good way. References to Liberation Theology remind us that theologians
have struggled to apply the basics and take them on to meet the needs
of the world. They may have been confused and they may have been wrong,
but they were nevertheless struggling to find truth and a way through
the evils of this world.
& North Korea.
With the passing reference to Albania comes a recognition that most
of the world does have a tendency to worship something. North Korea
is cited as a supreme example of a terrible situation based on the
oppressive regime of a god-head of state. Following a brief reference
to the Unification Church there is a sideways swipe that suggests
that “faith must to some extent be blind”.
This is the limit of the author's knowledge. So he has come across
unthinking Christians but that doesn't mean that faith has to be blind,
for many of us who are sincere, thinking, intelligent Christians have
given considerable thought to all the alternatives and found them
wanting. For further comments on his ongoing comments about subjection
to God, please see Appendix 4.CLICK
Anti-Semitism, Apartheid and Zionism.
I think nothing in these passages requires further comment than we
have made above.