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Reactive racism

Dawkins’s strange bedfellow

My interest in reading Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion began at zero, and if anything decreases each time I read anything about it by mistake, becoming a large stock of negative interest, so that I find myself actively interested in reading pretty much anything else in part because it is not The God Delusion.1

Still, I read something else about The God Delusion by mistake recently,2 which in itself was interesting to a degree. It was Darwin’s Angel: An Angelic Riposte to The God Delusion, by John Cornwell. The subtitular conceit is, of course, terribly twee; and many of its arguments are merely warm and fluffy.3 Where Cornwell does score, however, is on the subject of Dawkins’s methodology. Specifically, in the devastating chapter that focuses on Dawkins’s notorious claim:

Christians seldom realize that much of the moral consideration for others which is apparently promoted by both the Old and New Testaments was originally intended to apply only to a narrowly defined in-group. “Love thy neighbour” didn’t mean what we now think it means. It meant only “Love another Jew”.

As Cornwell shows (and as you can check via Amazon’s search inside feature), Dawkins offers a single source for this and the other assertions that cluster round it: what Dawkins calls a “remarkable” paper by one John Hartung, an anaesthesiologist with a doctorate in anthropology.

Cornwell argues persuasively that Hartung’s “remarkable” paper, “Love Thy Neighbor: The evolution of in-group morality” (here) has a peculiarly selective approach to citation from the Old and New Testaments. As one open-and-shut example: Hartung’s claim that “Jesus often used the words neighbor and brother without explicitly indicating that he meant fellow Jews whom he sought to unify” is quite demolished by simple reference to the parable of the Good Samaritan, which Jesus tells exactly in answer to the question “Who is my neighbour?” The anaesthesiologist John Hartung unaccountably forgot about this rather famous story, and to this day seems oblivious to its existence, even though the website version of his “remarkable” paper explicitly solicits “corrections and updates to the text and references”.

But the Unspeak point of my post is, rather, a different article by the anaesthesiologist John Hartung — one to which Cornwell also refers. It is this review of a book about “Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy”. The review climaxes thusly:

History is replete with the consequences of that form of reactive racism which we call anti-Semitism, and MacDonald is in the vanguard of those who will broaden our understanding of its origins. The ancient Light unto the nations burned most brightly during Solomon’s reign over the entire Middle East. According to the original account, “the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred and sixty-six talents” (First Kings 10:14, RSV), or about 60,000 pounds – three times the amount that Attila was able to extort from Rome per annum before he sacked it.

Those figures are exaggerated, but the point remains, and contemporary figures need no embellishment. The modern state of Israel receives the monetary equivalent of more than 625,000 pounds of gold per year, primarily from the United States. Isaiah’s dream has come true and it rests on two pillars: (1) most of the citizens of most donor nations are Christian or Jewish, such that, the former religion being a form of the latter, to varying degrees they believe in a god who gave Palestine to the Jews, and (2) the most enormous act of reactive racism ever perpetrated, namely the Holocaust, has been presented, and so is perceived, as having been the psychotic swelling up of a form of evil that resides disproportionately in the souls of Goyim — and so they have been induced to irrationally atone for their special evil by enabling descendant and nondescendant coreligionists of the Jewish victims of the Holocaust to systematically purloin the land and property of people who were not those victims’ persecutors. MacDonald’s work will help us chip away at this second pillar, and that makes it very good work indeed.

You can imagine how fascinated I was by the phrase “reactive racism”. To call anti-Semitism a form of “reactive racism” surely means nothing other than that it’s the Jews’ fault. This is certainly what Kevin MacDonald himself appears to mean, in a paper cited at Slate:

[T]here are several important historical examples where increased levels of resource competition between Jews and gentiles have triggered reactive processes among gentiles, resulting in gentiles developing highly cohesive anti-Semitic group strategies in opposition to Judaism — what I term ‘reactive racism.’

Those “reactive processes among gentiles” — they must have been triggered by something the Jews did first, right? Right, as he writes in his 1994 book A People That Shall Dwell Alone, the book that Hartung was reviewing, as cited here:

Western anti-Jewish movements have tended to be in response to intense competition from Jews.

That’s clear enough. Clear enough, too, is the anaesthesiologist John Hartung’s description of the Holocaust as an “act of reactive racism”. It plainly means, I am afraid, that the Jews provoked it: perhaps, y’know, with their secret cabals that ran the world.

I’m not sure whether “reactive racism” holds any respectable currency in anthropology or related disciplines generally: Google finds a mere 158 usages when the search terms exclude MacDonald’s and Hartung’s names; and Google Scholar a mere 14. These are mostly in regard to historically recent examples of groups that were formerly oppressed or continue to be oppressed by whatever is considered the dominant “race”, and in turn set themselves against it. Even so, we are advised to be circumspect about the term, as by Thomas Teo in his 1999 paper “Methodologies of critical psychology: Illustrations from the field of racism“:

Yet, I want to emphasize theoretical caution here, as there might be good reasons to challenge reactive racism as a concept. Conceptual caution is required as one takes the societal power of construction and action into account. Who, within a given society, has the power to propose constructions and meanings that gain acceptance? Who has the power to evaluate these constructions? Who has the power to put these constructions into practice? Victims of racism rarely have the cultural or political power to make their constructions dominant.

Moreover, the phenomenon of reactive racism has been abused to render everyone equally a racist, so that the victims appear no better than the perpetrators. If everybody is racist, then why should there be a special effort to challenge the racism of any one group? However, this political strategy is used to maintain structural and societal forms of racism. Of course the basic error in such thought is the individualistic neglect of societal power. Yet, despite the danger that the dominant group imposes reactive racism as a concept, it seems appropriate — from a psychological point of view — to include this type of racism, while being aware of the problems associated with this concept.

Even with such cautious acceptance of the concept’s potential utility in mind, however, I regret to report that I cannot find an article by the anaesthesiologist John Hartung which offers to explain in detail just how Germans were in fact oppressed by Jews in the years leading up to the Holocaust, in order to lend credence to his claim that industrialized genocide was an act of “reactive racism”. I conclude that the phrase “reactive racism” as used here is thoroughgoing Unspeak, attempting to perform an instant mitigation of the crime and to stab the finger of original blame in the direction of the crime’s victims. And so I am led inexorably to the view that the writing of the anaesthesiologist John Hartung is anti-Semitic trash.

As Cornwell concludes his chapter, addressing Dawkins with beautiful understatement:

In view of the controversial nature of Hartung’s views, including his espousal of MacDonald [...] I find it strange that you should have been so reliant on this single source for what forms such an important charge against Judaism and Christianity in your book.

But, you know, Dawkins is flying the flag for empiricism and truth. Isn’t he?

  1. I think Dawkins is a really wonderful science writer, even though I hate memes. But I don’t give a fig what he thinks about the existence or otherwise of a god, just as I wouldn’t hasten to read a textbook on genetics by Pope Ratzinger.
  2. Well, not exactly by mistake: for my Et Cetera column forthcoming in Saturday’s Guardian, for which review I had space to make only a super-compressed version of this post’s point.
  3. Not that there is anything wrong with warmth and fluffiness per se: they can be excellent qualities in a towel.
90 comments
  1. 1  Matt  November 23, 2007, 5:48 am 

    How can it be that after masterpieces (in my view) like the Selfish Gene, Blind Watchmaker and Ancestor’s Tale – which all thoroughly demolished the idea of religion and God by basically not mentioning it – could a person of such careful deliberations, who relies on reasoning, observables and facts, have written this drivel?

    As for ‘reactive racism’, I hope this phrase never sees the light of the day again. In Australia, our current Government (about to be ousted in tomorrow’s election) has consistently ‘reacted’ by failing to acknowledge the horrors our indigenous people endured. It is correct to say that government’s often ‘propose constructions’ and puts these ‘constructions into practice’, and it is society in general who are the poorer for it.

  2. 2  fred  November 23, 2007, 6:14 am 

    Another discussion of the Good Samaritan:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LS_Uvg56U_o

  3. 3  Jesus Christ  November 23, 2007, 8:11 am 

    For the first time I have read about the Racism and its influence in the gods believers and i accept the author words that racism is not the god delusion. Thanks for sharing this valuable information in this blog.

  4. 4  Dave  November 23, 2007, 10:27 am 

    I was turned right off Dawkins within the first minute or two of The Root Of All Evil, when he proceeded to regurgitate propaganda about how, although “maybe Iraq might have something to do with it too”, terrorists were just crazy killers motivated by religion. Context can be irritating, I realise, but I expected more from a scientist of Dawkins’ calibre.

    However, the point about “neighbour” as “co-religionist” seems to agree with stuff I’ve seen elsewhere. Didn’t Jesus reject that sectarianism fairly late on, and in doing so court a fair deal of controversy? Certainly, the acts of God-sanctioned genocide and ethnic cleansing documented in the Old Testament make it sound like loving one’s non-Jewish neighbour was never all that fashionable.

    The “reactive racism” thing does seem extremely dodgy though, an offensive and dangerous apology for fascism.

  5. 5  Ken  November 23, 2007, 1:15 pm 

    Could you clarify – are you saying that you read the riposte without first reading the thing it is a riposte to?

  6. 6  Steven  November 23, 2007, 1:28 pm 

    I am happy to clarify: I read the riposte, and then I read pp253-258 of The God Delusion via Amazon to check that Dawkins does in fact say what Cornwell claims he does, and that he does rely on Hartung’s “remarkable” and even “entertaining” paper as his single source.

    My interest in reading the rest of The God Delusion was not thereby enhanced. YMMV.

    Fred: thanks for the Mitchell & Webb sketch. ;)

  7. 7  Jherad  November 23, 2007, 2:31 pm 

    Without condoning the term ‘Reactive Racism’, is it not possible to envisage a reaction to something without ‘blaming’, or casting negative light on it?

    Taking a hypothetical situation, if a political party became popular through excellent work and policies, and the opposition responded by starting a mud-slinging campaign, would that not be reactive dirty-tactics?

    I must admit complete ignorance of the works you are quoting, so I might be way off target here, but taking your line:

    –’…must have been triggered by something the Jews did first, right?’

    It could be rewritten as:

    –’… must have been triggered by something the Jews did right, first?

  8. 8  Steven  November 23, 2007, 2:36 pm 

    “In reaction to the excellent work of the government, the opposition started a smear campaign.”

    Seems weird to me.

  9. 9  Jherad  November 23, 2007, 2:40 pm 

    A purely hypothetical argument – and of course we’re talking about racism instead, which need not be entirely rational.

    People can feel threatened by a successful movement, if they themselves do not identify with it. That doesn’t mean that the movement is to blame.

  10. 10  abb1  November 23, 2007, 2:41 pm 

    Hmm, I thought including the gentiles as equal was mostly St.Paul’s accomplishment.

    Mark 7:

    Now the woman was a Gentile, of the Syrophoenician race. And she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter.

    And He was saying to her, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

  11. 11  Steven  November 23, 2007, 2:45 pm 

    Jherad: yes, I see your point, but I’m not sure that using “reactive” to describe that sort of thing doesn’t always carry some exculpatory sense.

    And of course, in the particular context, there is a very fine or perhaps rather nonexistent line between saying that Jews in 1930s Germany were “a successful movement”, or saying that they were vermin sucking the lifeblood out of the Fatherland, etc.

  12. 12  abb1  November 23, 2007, 3:06 pm 

    “Reactive racism” is, of course, an analysis made in racist terms, as if a group defined in racial terms could behave as one, as a unified force.

    A political party or movement does act as a unified force, but a ‘race’ doesn’t. Being born Norwegian or Jewish doesn’t bestow you with any political platform or ideology.

  13. 13  Jherad  November 23, 2007, 3:10 pm 

    Completely agree abb1 – perceptions can be different though.

    You or I may not view a religion or race as a movement, but I suspect a lot of people do.

  14. 14  Steven  November 23, 2007, 3:11 pm 

    Well put, abb1.

  15. 15  Steven  November 23, 2007, 3:13 pm 

    You or I may not view a religion or race as a movement, but I suspect a lot of people do.

    And if they do, shall we describe their murderous actions as “reactive”, even though what they are supposedly “reacting” to doesn’t in fact exist?

  16. 16  abb1  November 23, 2007, 3:26 pm 

    You or I may not view a religion or race as a movement, but I suspect a lot of people do.

    It’s certainly a good explanation in many cases, like, say, targeting of the Korean-owned businesses during the 1992 riot in LA. In other cases animosity is created simply by propaganda.

  17. 17  Jherad  November 23, 2007, 3:35 pm 

    I’d agree that the language is dangerous.

    It is still possible, I think, to describe reactions against ‘perceived’ movements/actions as reactive though. Even if both the movement, and the actions ‘reacted’ against are both non-existent in reality.

    Bill thinks I’ve formed a partnership with Jane, and am working with her to build up a business (which he perceives might threaten his). I’m not, we’re both independently successful, but he ‘reacts’ nonetheless by sending the goons round to give me a kicking.

    Without clarification though, ‘Reactive Racism’ is a pretty dangerous term – I’m convinced :)

  18. 18  Steven  November 23, 2007, 3:49 pm 

    It is still possible, I think, to describe reactions against ‘perceived’ movements/actions as reactive though.

    But if we allow racist delusions in the “reactors”‘ own minds to be the kind of thing against which it is possible to “react”, then all racism is “reactive racism”, isn’t it?

    In which case one may still be highly suspicious as to why anti-Semitism is singled out as “reactive”. I propose, for the sake of economy as well as moral justice, that we call it “racism”, with no qualifying epithet.

  19. 19  Jherad  November 23, 2007, 4:53 pm 

    Well, when I think about ‘reaction’, I think of action as a result of action. Obviously racism based soley on a perception of superiority doesn’t fall into this category…

    Perception does muddy the waters (especially on a national level, eg. as a result of propaganda). Point well taken about moral justice and economy.

  20. 20  Peter  November 24, 2007, 4:18 am 

    Steven,

    Although I am in agreement that “reactive racism” is a wholly undesirable term, and that Dawkins’s labeling of the article as “remarkable” was unfortunate, I don’t think you are forming a fair appraisal of The God Delusion by just reading Cornwell’s response.

    Here’s Dawkins’s response to Cornwell’s response (er… to Darwin’s Angel that is) titled ‘Honest Mistakes or Willful Mendacity’. Although it doesn’t address the issue above, it makes a strong case for Cornwell not being enitirely honest in his critique of The God Delusion.

    You say “My interest in reading the rest of The God Delusion was not thereby enhanced”, and fair enough too, but perhaps Cornwell’s numerous mistakes (to label them charitably) might have an inverse effect?

  21. 21  Peter  November 24, 2007, 5:00 am 

    Sorry for the double post, but your footnote caught my eye:

    I think Dawkins is a really wonderful science writer . . . But I don’t give a fig what he thinks about the existence or otherwise of a god, just as I wouldn’t hasten to read a textbook on genetics by Pope Ratzinger.

    Well yes, but I wouldn’t hasten to read anything Poper Ratzinger writes about existence or otherwise of a god either! ;) I don’t think you were implying that you would give a fig about Pope Ratzinger’s opinion, but that’s what it sounded like.

    Yours is a perfectly good reason for not wanting to read Dawkins’s book, but it makes me wonder who exactly is qualified to write on the subject?

    Personally I think it is an intellectual question, unlike genetics, and therefore anyone, no matter what their profession, is ‘qualified’ to have a valid opinion. It’s just a matter of who has the best arguments.

    Of course not giving a fig about anyone’s opinion on the subject is ok too! :)

  22. 22  Steven  November 24, 2007, 1:57 pm 

    Thanks for the link, Peter. I certainly don’t think I’ve formed a “fair appraisal” of The God Delusion as a whole, nor have I offered any kind of appraisal of it. ;)

  23. 23  judith weingarten  November 24, 2007, 6:01 pm 

    I haven’t read either book (though Iither’ve read reviews of both) so, clearly, I don’t give a fig e. However, I was struck by your saying, once, “John Hartung, an anaesthesiologist with a doctorate in anthropology”and multiple times, the “anaesthesiologist John Hartung”. A wee bit ad hominem?

    Judith

    Visit Zenobia’s blog, Empress of the East

  24. 24  gregor  November 24, 2007, 7:10 pm 

    You say that you wouldn’t hasten to read a textbook on genetics by Pope Ratzinger.

    Presumably, you wouldn’t have have read the textbook on genetics by Monk Mendel…

  25. 25  Steven  November 24, 2007, 7:24 pm 

    Oh no, I’m a big fan of Brother Mendel, as well as of Father LeMaître, et al. But perhaps I am being too dismissive of Pope Ratzinger. What is his area of scientific enquiry, exactly?

    Judith: what is ad hominem about referring to John Hartung’s area of professional expertise?

  26. 26  judith weingarten  November 24, 2007, 8:19 pm 

    I would think that a doctorate in anthropology trumps his earlier work as an anaesthesiologist. Hence, referring to him again and again as ‘the anaesthesiologist’ casts doubt on his credentials to speak about (Oh I don’t know…) god and things.

    Point made? Or have I missed something in that description?

    Judith

  27. 27  Steven  November 24, 2007, 9:15 pm 

    I recommend you navigate to his website and check out his own job description.

  28. 28  Martin Trollope  November 26, 2007, 1:50 pm 

    Are you not over-emoting at the expression “reactive racism” ? I don’t read the “it must be the victim’s fault” interpretation into it at all… There are a number of instances in history (the Biafran War, Rwanda, etc.) in which petty jealousy of the success of “the other” has lead to genocide. Interpreting “reactive racism” as an attempt to say that “the victims were asking for trouble” is misrepresentation of intent. I understand it to mean one of two things: 1) it is virulent envy of the apparent success of another group, or 2) it is a mechanism for “scapegoating” or blaming one’s own misfortunes on another group.

    Both of these interpretations are an indictment of the perpetrators, not the victim.

  29. 29  Stuart A  November 26, 2007, 4:36 pm 

    What does it mean to say you read a book “not exactly by mistake” for your Guardian column? Are you saying the Guardian foisted Cornwell’s tract on you? Or did you, in fact, choose to read it? If the choice was yours, why did you make it? Ah, because this work, entirely devoted to attacking Dawkins’s uninteresting book, was “in itself interesting to a degree”… somehow.

    While you say you have not “offered any kind of appraisal of” Dawkins’s book, you do reveal that you “find [yourself] actively interested in reading pretty much anything else in part because it is not The God Delusion“. I would call that a “kind of appraisal” of a strongly negative kind. But no doubt you are operating with a more convenient definition of “appraisal” that, even when mutated by “kind of”, still excludes expression of “negative interest” accompanied by stream of other negative remarks (e.g. Cornwell “scor[ing]… on the subject of Dawkins’s methodology” — as if a single point like this has obvious general methodological import).

    Still in non-appraisal mode, you announce that Cornwell’s chapter on Dawkins’s “notorious claim” is “devastating”, on the strength of your investigations with Amazon’s search inside facility, where you read six pages of Dawkins’s book. No doubt the devastation wrought by Cornwell’s response is confined to those six pages, since you haven’t read the rest. I would be interested, though, to hear how you came to know Dawkins’s claim was “notorious”, given your thoroughgoing lack of interest in TGD. In the absence of further information I’ll assume it means you’ve read Christian attacks on TGD other than Cornwell’s, meanwhile ignoring their target.

    In summary, you apparently chose to read at least one entire book about, and express a strongly negative opinion on, a work in which you have no interest and on which you have no opinion. And then you top it off by apparently implying that anyone who isn’t a professional Christian like Ratzinger isn’t worth reading on “the existence or otherwise of a god”. (You don’t specify whether the numerous other aspects of religion covered in TGD fall into the ambit of those who aren’t Pope. But then you presumably have a hazy idea of what these are.) By extension, then, Cornwell isn’t worth reading on religion, or Dawkins, or evolution, because he’s a historian by trade. And you aren’t worth reading on language because you are a newspaper reviewer and not a linguist.

    I happen to believe that last statement isn’t true. But I certainly “don’t give a fig” what you think about a book you haven’t read, particularly when you express your view in such a disingenuous fashion.

  30. 30  Steven  November 26, 2007, 5:01 pm 

    No, it’s you who are confused about the meaning of the word “appraisal”. To say, as I did, that I have less than zero interest in reading Dawkins’s book is not to offer an appraisal of it. I did not offer an appraisal of it, and don’t intend to, because I don’t intend to read it.

    Still in non-appraisal mode, you announce that Cornwell’s chapter on Dawkins’s “notorious claim” is “devastating”, on the strength of your investigations with Amazon’s search inside facility, where you read six pages of Dawkins’s book. No doubt the devastation wrought by Cornwell’s response is confined to those six pages, since you haven’t read the rest.

    No, no, here I am in appraisal mode, appraising Cornwell’s chapter as devastating, since Cornwell does indeed spend an entire (short) chapter on the claims that Dawkins makes in those pages which I read. As you do not deny, Dawkins has indeed based those pages on a single source from a writer of anti-Semitic trash.

    as if a single point like this has obvious general methodological import

    I think if Dawkins did the same in a scientific paper, he would expect his methodology to be harshly criticized, and people would not try to defend is as being merely a “single point”. But you’re right: it’s entirely possible that the methodology of the rest of TGD is impeccable. I don’t care.

    I would be interested, though, to hear how you came to know Dawkins’s claim was “notorious”, given your thoroughgoing lack of interest in TGD. In the absence of further information I’ll assume it means you’ve read Christian attacks on TGD other than Cornwell’s, meanwhile ignoring their target.

    It’s an interesting assumption you make, that the only people interested in attacking TGD are Christians. For what it’s worth, I remember hearing about it on the radio and reading about it somewhere various times. I’m afraid I cannot remember whether the speakers and writers in question were Christians or not. I suppose it’s quite probable that some of them were Jewish. Others, perhaps, professors of no faith.

    And then you top it off by apparently implying that anyone who isn’t a professional Christian like Ratzinger isn’t worth reading on “the existence or otherwise of a god”.

    For what it’s worth, I really don’t give two hoots what anyone thinks about the existence or otherwise of a god.

  31. 31  Stuart A  November 26, 2007, 7:43 pm 

    No, it’s you who are confused about the meaning of the word “appraisal”.

    Chambers defines an appraisal as an “evaluation” or “estimation of quality”. I maintain that what you are doing here is strongly implying, at the least, that you estimate TGD‘s quality to be low — that is, offering “a kind of appraisal”.

    No, no, here I am in appraisal mode, appraising Cornwell’s chapter as devastating, since Cornwell does indeed spend an entire (short) chapter on the claims that Dawkins makes in those pages which I read.

    So you are, in fact, offering an explicit appraisal, but only of six pages of the book. Or possibly, if I adopt a more restricted if nonsensical reading, you are only offering an appraisal of Cornwell’s appraisal of six pages of the book, not an appraisal of what he’s appraising. Yet this mini-appraisal is not, even when combined with your other negative commentary, and an unfavourable comparison with Cornwell’s book, part of anything that might be termed a “kind of appraisal” of TGD. I find this hard to swallow, particularly when you conclude with a sarcastic comment about Dawkins “flying the flag for empiricism and truth”.

    I think if Dawkins did the same in a scientific paper, he would expect his methodology to be harshly criticized, and people would not try to defend is as being merely a “single point”.

    But TGD isn’t a paper, and it isn’t about science, so why not evaluate it according to the standards you apply to comparable books — Cornwell’s for instance? (And if you insist on questioning the term “single point”, while maintaining that said point has no necessary ramifications for the rest of the book, then do at least supply an explanation rather than just scare quotes.)

    But you’re right: it’s entirely possible that the methodology of the rest of TGD is impeccable. I don’t care.

    So you thought it worth mentioning that Dawkins relied, for one point, on a dubious source, but you “don’t care” if this has any implications for the rest of the book. Presumably, then, concerns about Dawkins’s methodology do not inform your “negative interest” in reading the book, and your framing paragraph has little to no relation with what follows it. It is, in fact, somewhat misleading about your highly nuanced stance regarding “appraising” TGD.

    As you do not deny, Dawkins has indeed based those pages on a single source from a writer of anti-Semitic trash.

    For all I know, you’re entirely right about Hartung’s unsavoury views. And to borrow your words, I don’t care (at least very much). Dawkins does not solely rely, as you imply, on the say-so of Hartung. The case is made with reference to the Bible itself, Maimonides, and a psychological experiment with Jewish believers. He does not simply appeal to the authority of Hartung. But even if this were not so, TGD is about a great deal more than the definition of “neighbour”; and what concerns me is that you are seeking to dismiss it in its entirety on the strength of not very much, while maintaining a pretence of neutrality.

    It’s an interesting assumption you make, that the only people interested in attacking TGD are Christians.

    No, that isn’t the assumption I made. I made the assumption that this specific point, regarding Hartung, came from Christian apologists because I have only come across it in the context of McGrath and Cornwell. In any event, you have not really justified your description of Dawkins’s single-sourced claim, however discreditable, as “notorious”. It seems a strong word for something you heard on the radio and read about “somewhere”.

    For what it’s worth, I really don’t give two hoots what anyone thinks about the existence or otherwise of a god.

    This generalised insouciance would be a more convincing get-out if you hadn’t chosen to specify Dawkins for your fingers-in-ears performance, and hadn’t contrasted him with the former Prefect of the former Inquisition [1], whom you implied would be better qualified on this count.

    [1] Seeing as we’re opting for the polemically most useful titles here.

  32. 32  Steven  November 26, 2007, 8:01 pm 

    I maintain that what you are doing here is strongly implying, at the least, that you estimate TGD’s quality to be low — that is, offering “a kind of appraisal”.

    Nope. In saying I have no interest in reading it, I am not saying anything about its quality in general. There may be brilliant books on garden gnomes, but I have no interest in reading them either. In saying so, I do not impugn their brilliance.

    So you are, in fact, offering an explicit appraisal, but only of six pages of the book. Or possibly, if I adopt a more restricted if nonsensical reading, you are only offering an appraisal of Cornwell’s appraisal of six pages of the book, not an appraisal of what he’s appraising.

    Well, I am reporting that Cornwell’s claim about Dawkins’s pages is, in fact, accurate. That is a matter of fact, not of anyone’s “appraisal” of Dawkins. My saying that Cornwell’s argument is “devastating” is perhaps, as you say, an appraisal of those specific pages of Dawkins. I do indeed think that those pages of Dawkins are atrocious. But that is not an appraisal of the whole book.

    But TGD isn’t a paper, and it isn’t about science, so why not evaluate it according to the standards you apply to comparable books

    Because I haven’t read it, and so haven’t offered an evaluation of it. My evaluation of the section I have read stands.

    Dawkins does not solely rely, as you imply, on the say-so of Hartung. The case is made with reference to the Bible itself, Maimonides, and a psychological experiment with Jewish believers. He does not simply appeal to the authority of Hartung.

    Um, he gets all that from Hartung, as he admits!

    TGD is about a great deal more than the definition of “neighbour”; and what concerns me is that you are seeking to dismiss it in its entirety

    I’m not dismissing it; I’m saying I have no interest in reading it. Do you really not see the difference? One can’t read everything in one’s life.

    In any event, you have not really justified your description of Dawkins’s single-sourced claim, however discreditable, as “notorious”. It seems a strong word for something you heard on the radio and read about “somewhere”.

    Try google: you might be surprised. Eg from the Telegraph, and the Jewish Chronicle, and so on. (Edit: the Telegraph link is another review of Cornwell, but there are still plenty of complaints about the Dawkins/Hartung claim elsewhere.)

    the former Prefect of the former Inquisition [1], whom you implied would be better qualified on this count.

    I do in fact think that the PotfI (nice description!) would be better qualified in the field of scriptural commentary, as would any number of other scholars, given Dawkins’s lamentable performance in relying on an odious secondary source in those pages I have read.

  33. 33  Steven  November 26, 2007, 9:26 pm 

    By the way, if we are arguing about appropriate usage of the word “notorious” and its cognates, we might in fairness want to think about Dawkins’s claim in the book that Jews are “notoriously one of the most effective political lobbies in the United States” (p12, as cited in the Jewish Chronicle link above); and, in case you missed that, as I now find via Amazon, a reprise of the statement, that “the Jewish lobby is notoriously one of the most formidably influential in Washington”, on page 50. What is the word “notoriously” adding in these constructions?

  34. 34  Stuart A  November 27, 2007, 3:29 pm 

    There may be brilliant books on garden gnomes, but I have no interest in reading them either. In saying so, I do not impugn their brilliance.

    Well, that isn’t quite all you said about Dawkins’s book, but I don’t think there’s much point in continuing this particular line. I seem to have interpreted your words differently from how you intended them.

    Because I haven’t read it, and so haven’t offered an evaluation of it. My evaluation of the section I have read stands.

    We were talking there specifically about the section you have read. So in response to my question about the standards to apply to that section, you assert that your evaluation “stands”. I maintain, however, that a critique of the form “If he had been writing x, he’d have been criticised…”, where x is a scholarly monograph/party invitation/billboard poster/whatever else, is not particularly relevant. The fact is he was writing a popular book, not a scientific paper. While I’m not saying that exculpates him in this case, I am saying you should judge it on the standards you normally apply to that form of writing.

    Um, he gets all that from Hartung, as he admits!

    He makes reference to Bible quotations, Maimonides, the Sanhedrin, and Tamarin’s experiment. These presumably do come via Hartung (I haven’t read Hartung’s paper), but that does not in itself invalidate, for instance, his comments on Tamarin’s experiment.

    I do in fact think that the PotfI … would be better qualified in the field of scriptural commentary, as would any number of other scholars

    That might be a sensible position. But you implied superior expertise on “the existence or otherwise of a god”, not scriptural commentary — unless you’d like to defend a link between the two?

    What is the word “notoriously” adding in these constructions?

    If his main point is about religious versus atheist political influence then I suppose “famously” would have done just as well, and would probably have provoked less offence. He should, I suppose, have explained his objection to alleged Jewish Lobby influence, rather than just stating it. Or are you saying there’s a hint that he doesn’t need to explain the negative consequences, for dark reasons? I’m not sure I buy that: he surely used the word because it’s helpful to his case to paint religious influence as negative.

  35. 35  Steven  November 27, 2007, 8:32 pm 

    I maintain, however, that a critique of the form “If he had been writing x, he’d have been criticised…”, where x is a scholarly monograph/party invitation/billboard poster/whatever else, is not particularly relevant. The fact is he was writing a popular book, not a scientific paper. While I’m not saying that exculpates him in this case, I am saying you should judge it on the standards you normally apply to that form of writing.

    Well now, I do think that even a popular book that is loudly concerned (or so I understand; as we know, I haven’t read it) with contrasting what it pictures as a sort of pandemic virus of evidence-free and harmful superstition (ie religion, and correct me if this isn’t Dawkins’s view of it) with the spectacular achievements of evidence-based science, should indeed be quite careful about its own use of evidence. Possibly even more careful than most.

    But you implied superior expertise on “the existence or otherwise of a god”, not scriptural commentary — unless you’d like to defend a link between the two?

    The link exists for a great many people. It’s not really my cup of tea, but for a great many people whose cup of tea it is, Ratty just is more of an authority than Dawkins. I accept that, given my own apathy, I oughtn’t implicitly to have endorsed his authority, though. I wasn’t much enamoured of the spectacle of Terry Eagleton trying to give Dawkins a theology lesson, either.

    he surely used the word because it’s helpful to his case to paint religious influence as negative.

    I wonder if he discusses to what extent the alleged lobby’s influence is in fact based on religion, per se? Mearsheimer and Walt call it the “Israel Lobby”. Why, I wonder, does Dawkins casually refer to it instead as “the Jewish lobby”?

  36. 36  Peter  November 27, 2007, 11:12 pm 

    The link exists for a great many people. It’s not really my cup of tea, but for a great many people whose cup of tea it is, Ratty just is more of an authority than Dawkins.

    Well yes, but the footnote was giving your reason for not reading TGD, by your own admission a book about the existence or non-existence of God. And that question Dawkins makes clear isn’t a religious one, and certainly isn’t enlightened by study of scripture. Your reasoning made it sound as if Ratzinger was a preferable choice on the question of God’s existence (in the same way Dawkins is a better choice for science) and it’s that reasoning I find specious.

    “notoriously one of the most effective political lobbies in the United States” . . . “the Jewish lobby is notoriously one of the most formidably influential in Washington” . . . What is the word “notoriously” adding in these constructions?

    Because the Jewish lobby is hugely influential disproportionate to its size, and this is widely known. “Notoriously” is simply putting a negative slant on “famously”, and I think that’s fair enough – the Jewish lobby is a minority yet is able to heavily influence American foreign policy. In other words it is notorious for having a disproportionate monopoly in that area.

  37. 37  Peter  November 27, 2007, 11:50 pm 

    My previous comment was caught by the spam filter (no idea why?) but I feel I must express myself here.

    I wonder if he discusses to what extent the alleged lobby’s influence is in fact based on religion, per se? Mearsheimer and Walt call it the “Israel Lobby”. Why, I wonder, does Dawkins casually refer to it instead as “the Jewish lobby”?

    Steven, this is the benefit of actually reading the book you trawl for quotes to pick apart. First quote:

    notoriously one of the most effective political lobbies in the United States

    Let me finish that quote (I have the book here):

    …and unlike evangelical Christians, who wield even greater political power, atheists and agnostics are not organized and therefore exert almost zero influence.

    Bolds mine. Do you see? He is comparing the atheist minority to the Jewish minority and pointing out the difference in influence. His point is that there is no reason atheists shouldn’t have political clout. That’s all. “Israel Lobby” has no meaning in this context.

    Again:

    the Jewish lobby is notoriously one of the most formidably influential in Washington

    In context:

    As I said in the Preface, American atheists far outnumber religious Jews, yet [above quote]. What might American atheists achieve if they organized themselves properly?

    Let me make this very clear. Dawkins uses the term Jewish lobby because he is making a point: that a distinct minority, American Jews, have managed to gain huge influence in American politics, and that the atheist minority would do well if they could emulate this.

    From Dawkins in an interview with the Guardian:

    When you think about how fantastically successful the Jewish lobby has been, though, in fact, they are less numerous I am told – religious Jews anyway – than atheists and [yet they] more or less monopolise American foreign policy as far as many people can see. So if atheists could achieve a small fraction of that influence, the world would be a better place.

    By all means never read The God Delusion. But if you insist on pursuing unfounded criticism based on quotes taken entirely out of context, with quite repulsive implications I might add, don’t expect to be taken seriously.

    But, you know, Dawkins is flying the flag for empiricism and truth. Isn’t he?

    Since rhetorical questions seem to be popular, what flag are you flying Steven?

  38. 38  Steven  November 28, 2007, 12:13 am 

    I am flying a flag of convenience, thank you for asking.

    I’m afraid the context you supply, which I had read when I checked the quotes, doesn’t really address my question. I am still left puzzled by the (perhaps wilful) inexactness of the phrase “the Jewish lobby”, as though political supporters of Israel in the US are making religious demands per se. It is not as though there is a huge conspiracy to make all Americans study the Torah on Saturdays. And of course, on the other hand, not all political supporters of Israel in the US are Jewish.

    Naturally, though, it would make sense to translate “Israel lobby” into “Jewish lobby” if all you were interested in doing was rapidly adding to your collection of examples of the great evil that religious people do, without much bothering to look into things too carefully.

    Still, the idea of a great mass of organized atheists is a fine one. What exactly would they do?

  39. 39  Steven  November 28, 2007, 12:59 am 

    I rescued your previous comment (#36) from spam. The idea it contains, that what you follow Dawkins in calling the “Jewish lobby” has a “monopoly” of influence on American foreign policy, is fatuous to say the very least.

  40. 40  Peter  November 28, 2007, 12:59 am 

    …as though political supporters of Israel in the US are making religious demands per se. It is not as though there is a huge conspiracy to make all Americans study the Torah on Saturdays. And of course, on the other hand, not all political supporters of Israel in the US are Jewish.

    I think you are missing the point entirely. The only reason Dawkins mentioned the Jewish lobby was to illustrate the political clout minorities can wield. The goals of the Jewish lobby are irrelevant, and Dawkins makes no mention or implication of them.

    Of course not all supporters of Israel in the US are Jewish. That’s why Dawkins didn’t use the term Israel Lobby. The Israel lobby isn’t a distinct minority, and would have been pointless to mention in the context. I think you are reading into this far more than is necessary.

    Naturally, though, it would make sense to translate “Israel lobby” into “Jewish lobby” if all you were interested in doing was rapidly adding to your collection of examples of the great evil that religious people do, without much bothering to look into things too carefully.

    Again, completely unfounded. Dawkins is not using the Jewish lobby as an example of religious wrongdoing at all. That’s entirely your interpretation – an interpretation you have no evidence to support.

    Still, the idea of a great mass of organized atheists is a fine one. What exactly would they do?

    If you had read the book (and saying this is becoming tiresome) you would have your answer. As such the question lacks imagination. Evangelical Christians have a frightening degree of power in America and nearly half of American voters wouldn’t vote for an atheist.

    If organized atheists could lobby with a fraction of the success of the Jewish lobby, perhaps religion wouldn’t have such a lamentable degree of political influence.

  41. 41  Steven  November 28, 2007, 1:04 am 

    The Israel lobby isn’t a distinct minority, and would have been pointless to mention in the context.

    Erm, that’s rather my point. Given that you agree it’s senseless to mention political supporters of Israel in this context for the reasons I outlined, what exactly is this alternative “Jewish lobby” of which you and Dawkins speak? For what exactly does it agitate?

    Dawkins is not using the Jewish lobby as an example of religious wrongdoing at all.

    “Notoriously”.

  42. 42  Peter  November 28, 2007, 1:11 am 

    I rescued your previous comment (#36) from spam. The idea it contains, that what you follow Dawkins in calling the “Jewish lobby” has a “monopoly” of influence on American foreign policy, is fatuous to say the very least.

    On reflection that was a very poor choice of word, and I apologise. I was grasping for something other than “disproportionate influence” and chose remarkably badly. It is indeed fatuous.

    However I am not “following Dawkins” in using the term Jewish lobby. It is, rightly or wrongly, used extensively; characterising the term as uniquely Dawkins’ doesn’t further your argument. I have gone to great lengths to explain why it is entirely appropriate in the context.

  43. 43  Peter  November 28, 2007, 1:48 am 

    Erm, that’s rather my point. Given that you agree it’s senseless to mention political supporters of Israel in this context for the reasons I outlined, what exactly is this alternative “Jewish lobby” of which you and Dawkins speak?

    The American Jews who lobby in support of Israel. Yes, it is senseless to mention political supporters of Israel, but Dawkins didn’t do that – he mentioned the American Jews and their political influence. That they also happen to be political supporters of Israel means nothing.

    That the pro-Israel lobby doesn’t just consist of Jews also means nothing. Dawkins is only referring to the Jews who have so successfully oraganised.

    For what exactly does it agitate?

    And this is where you fail to understand. It doesn’t matter what they agitate for, only that they do agitate and are successful. It goes like this:

    Jews = minority. Jews organise = siginificant political influence

    It’s Jewish significant political influence being discussed, hence “Jewish lobby”. Dawkins draws the comparison:

    Atheists = minority. Atheists organise = siginificant political influence?

    “Notoriously”

    I don’t see how you managed to link “notoriously one of the most effective political lobbies” to a criticism of religion. “Notoriously” means the lobby is widely and infamously known for its political influence. Whether you agree with that or not, it isn’t a poke at religion.

    Perhaps you make the connection because it is in a book highly critical of religion? Well that’s entirely subjective and I can’t prove you wrong, but I hold there’s no reason to believe so.

  44. 44  Steven  November 28, 2007, 2:06 am 

    He’s carefully defining a subset of political supporters of Israel by reference to their religious identification, and then contrasting them with atheists. Obviously religion is part of his argument here. He goes on to mention Christian evangelicals too.

    If he really wanted to make a point solely about minorities having large influence, he could easily have found another example. Such as: “Hey, rich white people have disproportionate influence, why not atheists?”

  45. 45  Peter  November 28, 2007, 4:08 am 

    He’s carefully defining a subset of political supporters of Israel by reference to their religious identification, and then contrasting them with atheists. Obviously religion is part of his argument here. He goes on to mention Christian evangelicals too.

    Yes, absolutely, but I don’t see the problem here?

    Jews are (usually) religious, evangelical Christians are religious – but the point he’s making isn’t directed at religion. It’s actually directed at atheists. At most he’s pointing out that religious groups have a lot of influence in American politics; so what?

    If he really wanted to make a point solely about minorities having large influence, he could easily have found another example. Such as: “Hey, rich white people have disproportionate influence, why not atheists?”

    Well he could have said that if he wanted to be facetious. In fact he does cite other examples, homosexuals with the Gay Pride movement in particular.

  46. 46  Peter  November 28, 2007, 4:10 am 

    Er… That’s not to say homosexuals have disproportionate influence, just that they organised very effectively.

  47. 47  Steven  November 28, 2007, 10:53 am 

    At most he’s pointing out that religious groups have a lot of influence in American politics; so what?

    Well, we circle back to what I argued in #38 and #41. What Mearsheimer and Walt call the “Israel lobby” is not a religious group per se; and of course many American Jews are not part of it. So in order for Dawkins to shoehorn it into his argument anyway, he decides to talk instead about a specifically “Jewish lobby”, by which I assume he means (as you say in #43): only those political supporters of Israel in the US who are Jewish.

    I contend that this is an artificial grouping: what Dawkins means by the “Jewish lobby” is just the “Israel lobby” with the many members of the latter who don’t fit into his polemical scheme hastily airbrushed out, and the focus turned erroneously to religion.

  48. 48  Peter  November 29, 2007, 6:56 am 

    I contend that this is an artificial grouping: what Dawkins means by the “Jewish lobby” is just the “Israel lobby” with the many members of the latter who don’t fit into his polemical scheme hastily airbrushed out…

    Well, okay.

    Personally I disagree with seeing anything sinister in the term “Jewish lobby”. To me it’s merely a practical description of the American Jews who have organised into a lobby, a lobby that (to the best of my knowledge) originated in the Jewish community and is predominantly Jewish. That the lobby is not exclusively Jewish does not, in my opinion, make the term offensive, but I can appreciate that you see otherwise.

    …and the focus turned erroneously to religion.

    This, I think, is really the core of where we differ. If it is an attempt to turn the focus onto religion, in my opinion it is not a malicious one, or even an inappropriate one. It is simply pointing out a group of people – American Jews who have organised effectively – as an example to atheists.

    I just don’t see how, even if we are to take “notorious” and “Jewish lobby” as malicious, this is supposed to further Dawkins’s “polemical scheme”, or even to make a point at all, given the context (comment #37).

    But again, I can appreciate that you see otherwise.

  49. 49  Hey Zeus  November 30, 2007, 12:36 pm 

    Steven, Peter, what’s all this bickering? Peter, you appear to be arguing with yourself and Steven, your time might be better employed penning a sequel to the notorious book that brought me to this website, or at least updating “trigger happy”.

    have you written your column for the paper yet? no, didn’t think so. now stop baiting peter and write me a book. and tidy your room.

    shalom

  50. 50  Steven  November 30, 2007, 2:02 pm 

    I am writing a book, goddammit.

  51. 51  Alex Higgins  December 1, 2007, 12:14 pm 

    You’re writing a new book? Oh, what’s it about?

    Tell me!

  52. 52  Steven  December 1, 2007, 1:10 pm 

    I’m afraid I cannot reveal that at this time. But stay tuned!

  53. 53  John Hartung  December 2, 2007, 7:52 pm 

    Hi Steve,

    Samaritans were and remain Jews. They became a subset of Jews by staying in Israel while the vast majority of Jews were exiled to Babylon. Although the Samaritans of Jesus’ time were disdained by main-stream Jews, genetic analysis indicates that of all of the world’s widely diverse Jewish groups, Samaritans have the highest frequencies of genes (alleles) that are distinctly high among Jews, such that Samaritans are genetically closest to the Jews of ancient Israel (see “Samaritans” at Wikipedia for details and references, especially reference 12).

    Jesus’ mission was to be his people’s Messiah … to re-unite them for the purpose of reconstituting the Kingdom of David, i.e., Israel’s glory days. The story of The Good Samaritan indicates that this reunification was even to include Good Samaritans – i.e., Samaritans who would join the effort to throw off the Romans and re-establish Israel as the regional power.

    Although Jesus made exceptions for Good Samaritans, he retained mainstream Judaism’s general disdain for Samaritans. He stated this disdain repeatedly, instructing his disciples to avoid Samaritans when taking his message to in-group members (e.g., Matthew 10:5-6; RSV): “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Jesus was very concerned that his messaniac plan not become apparent to out-group members, so again he instructed his disciples (Matthew 7:6; RSV): “Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine.” In this case “dogs” referred to left-over Canaanites and Samaritans (e.g., Matthew 15:21-28) and “swine” referred to people who eat pork — that is, gentiles. Pearls were the pearls of wisdom about how to treat in-group members (fellow Jews with a general exception of Samaritans). As such, Matthew 7:6 was the 1st century equivalent of saying in America today “Go tell the plan to the White people, but what ever you do, don’t tell the niggers and the spics.” Ugly language indeed, but it is commonly sold and bought among Christians as some kind of poetry.

    For an understanding of my understanding in this regard (highly recommended prior to offering criticism), please read “Love Thy Neighbor: the evolution of in-group morality” – available at http://www.strugglesforexistence.com

    Best regards,

    John Hartung

  54. 54  abb1  December 3, 2007, 5:19 pm 

    Hey John, I liked your essay, but I wouldn’t frame this as a group-strategy, rather as an elite-strategy. Genghis Khan, for example, employed the opposite approach, inviting and accepting pretty much everyone into the group as equal, and that worked fine too.

    Linking events of modern history (like the six-day war) to ancient methods of manipulation and control is a stretch; c’mon. Zionists are bastards, but not because they read the bible; most of them probably don’t anyway. It’s mostly a secular movement.

    I thought the guy who said that religions evolve along with the society did have a point (though the rest of this comment is bullshit). The analogy with the US Constitution is not so much about the amendments, but rather the way it’s interpreted today compare to 200 years ago; interpretation changes all the time.

  55. 55  Steven  December 3, 2007, 5:43 pm 

    Hi Joh,

    Samaritans were and remain Jews.

    To be precise: modern DNA evidence is thought to indicate that Samaritans are descended from the same group of ancient Israelites from whom the Jewish people are descended. To argue that this means Samaritans “were and remain Jews” is inexact. Jewish identity, I should hardly need to add, is not located solely in the genome.

    More unfortunately for your argument, though, the issue actually at hand is whether the Jewish people themselves, at the time of the events alleged to have taken place in the Old and New Testaments, considered Samaritans to be Jews. As you know, they did not. From the Wikipedia article to which you appeal:

    Jewish tradition does not regard the Samaritans as Jews, but as “gere arayot” (גרי אריות).

    Therefore to claim that Jesus intended “Love thy neighbour” to mean only “Love another Jew” is, as Cornwell rightly points out, inconsistent with the Samaritan parable.

    As a side note, I am intrigued to see that, after you posted your comment, you searched Google for the terms:

    steven poole jew

    By some marvellous internet magic, you were led back here, to my first article on “Melanie Phillips“. Happy reading!

  56. 56  abb1  December 3, 2007, 7:47 pm 

    The Good Samaritan story is really just a putdown of the scribes and pharisees. They are so wicked, they are even worse than loathsome Samaritans.

  57. 57  Alex Higgins  December 4, 2007, 12:17 am 

    Since we are getting all biblical…

    After Matthew 7, from which Mr. Hartung quotes, there is Matthew 8, of which this is an extract (King James):

    “And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, and saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.…”

    The point being, of course, that the centurion was a Roman.

    The claim that Jesus wished to conceal his teachings from non-Jews seems inconsistent with the fact that the exact opposite thing happened, btw.

    On another subject, I hope you don’t mind, Steven, that I now fully intend to leave your site, go to Google and search for “Steven Poole Jew”. Or perhaps, ‘The Jew Steven Poole’.

  58. 58  Steven  December 4, 2007, 1:54 am 

    Hey, it’s a free internets. (And, while we’re at it, hot sexxx christopher hitchens.)

  59. 59  Stuart A  December 4, 2007, 7:27 pm 

    The claim that Jesus wished to conceal his teachings from non-Jews seems inconsistent with the fact that the exact opposite thing happened, btw.

    It’s well known that there were disputes among (proto-)Christians about how and whether to promote the message among Gentiles. There is evidence of this in the Bible, in particular in Acts 15. It is clear from this (and other evidence of intra-Christian dispute) that Jesus’s views on basic questions about proselytising to non-Jews were either not known or not deemed relevant by some of his earliest disciples. So I don’t see this as a very convincing point.

    The idea in general of Christianity’s subsequent development being wished for, or planned, by Jesus is, I have to say, highly questionable.

  60. 60  richard  December 4, 2007, 9:28 pm 

    the centurion was a Roman.

    I don’t really know my Bible, or my Life-of-Christ period Roman history, so I’d be delighted if someone would see fit to explain the terms “Roman” and “Jew” in this context. I’m far from clear, regarding our contemporary situation, whether the term Jew is an ethnic, a religious or some other kind of designation – it seems to me just the kind of weird mixture that makes one question the basis of such categories (considering the Ethiopian Jews, for instance). Might the designation have been similarly ambiguous 2000 years ago? It also seems improbable to me that all centurions around the Roman Empire would have hailed from central Italy – especially given the continuing rapid increase in the Empire’s extent, up to about 150AD or somewhere thereabouts. Is it inconceivable that there might have been a centurion around who could also satisfy whatever criteria for Jewishness were then current? As a side-note, I wonder what the total population of centurions was, ca 40AD.

    Note: I’m not trying to invent consistency in the text where it does not exist, merely wondering if our current situation of contested or illusory categories might not be restricted to post-enlightenment modernity, or whatever we call our contemporary world these days.

  61. 61  Alex Higgins  December 4, 2007, 9:57 pm 

    “And, while we’re at it, hot sexxx christopher hitchens.”

    Is that where Hartung went after searching to see if you were secretly Jewish?

    Richard, your points are all valid, and many of the military administrators of the Empire would not have been from Italy or even Latin-speakers. But I think the clear implication of the last verses quoted is that the centurion was not Jewish, and I think this is actually the main point of the passage.

    Stuart A’s riposte to mine is good and I need to backtrack a little to make my point there, but regret I may not have the time to thrash out the NT or other evidence here…

  62. 62  Steven  December 5, 2007, 12:36 am 

    “And, while we’re at it, hot sexxx christopher hitchens.”

    Is that where Hartung went after searching to see if you were secretly Jewish?

    In a way, everyone always ends up at hot sexxx christopher hitchens, but I was referring to this old thread, in which the use of the phrase instantly installed unspeak.net as the primary hit for that oft-searched-for phrase.

    With regard to Richard’s comment: it indeed seems useful, not uniquely on the subject of centurions, to interrogate what folks like Mr Hartung take for granted.

  63. 63  Alex Higgins  December 6, 2007, 1:01 am 

    “kamm terrorism”! Ha, ha!

  64. 64  dsquared  December 7, 2007, 9:01 am 

    As far as I can see, the atheists do in fact have a pretty powerful lobby, as evidenced by the fact that despite something like 40-50% of Americans believing in creationism, it is not taught anywhere in the public school system. They are also very good at stopping high school children from singing hymns before American football games. It’s quite a powerful lobby, albeit one with a set of priorities that looks rather odd to an outsider.

  65. 65  Stuart A  December 7, 2007, 7:01 pm 

    As far as I can see, the atheists do in fact have a pretty powerful lobby, as evidenced by the fact that despite something like 40-50% of Americans believing in creationism, it is not taught anywhere in the public school system.

    I’m evidently not grasping the higher irony here. It’s “odd” to prioritise campaigning against religious pseudo-science being taught in public schools? The achievement of this end is evidence of a “pretty powerful lobby”, even though it derives from the First Amendment? Which pious loon are you spoofing here?

  66. 66  Alex Higgins  December 7, 2007, 7:19 pm 

    Promoting secularism in the public sphere is not the same thing as atheism – indeed it used to be the position of many Christian fundamentalists, which is why separation of Church and State was one of John Kennedy’s key pledges to evangelical voters back in the day.

    The teaching of pseudo-science in science lessons for religious reasons, and the imposition of a religious doctrine or practice on schoolchildren, aside from being unconstitutional, is opposed by both liberal Christians and members of minority religions. Me among the former, for instance.

  67. 67  Stephen  December 7, 2007, 11:20 pm 

    I think that there are quite a lot of Christians and Jews (not to mention other religious groups) who oppose the teaching of creationism in biology lessons. Indeed, in the Arkansas case in the early 1980s the complainants against the State of Arkansas was pretty much a “Who’s Who” of mainstream American religion.

    It’s one of those odd things. The US is a deeply religious society who would never elect an atheist as president and a deeply secular society – in the sense of not being confessional – at the same time. Which is why both militant atheists and devout Christians complain that the system is rigged against them. And both have a point.

  68. 68  Stuart A  December 7, 2007, 11:50 pm 

    Which is why both militant atheists and devout Christians complain that the system is rigged against them. And both have a point.

    I’d be interested to see where “militant atheists” have complained that “the system is rigged against them”. I’m not saying they haven’t — I just can’t think of an instance.

  69. 69  Steven  December 8, 2007, 2:45 am 

    Why do we often see the phrase “militant atheists” and not so often “militant Christians”, I idly wonder. Who is more militant, Richard Dawkins or George W. Bush?

    I think we need, by the way, a typographic convention for the cases when we say someone is “Christian” by self-proclamation but wish also to point out that he takes none of Jesus’s dicta seriously. Would Christian do?

  70. 70  Gavin  December 8, 2007, 10:19 am 

    Steven,

    I am currently reading, and enjoying ‘Unspeak’. Thanks.

    However, if you are just sitting there idly wondering that, one cannot help but think that your time might be better spent reading something that might chime rather nicely with that particular thought.

    Have you read ‘The G…..[click]

  71. 71  Stephen  December 8, 2007, 4:14 pm 

    I’d be interested to see where “militant atheists” have complained that “the system is rigged against them”. I’m not saying they haven’t — I just can’t think of an instance.

    I was thinking of the passages in TGD where Richard Dawkins complains (AFAIK, with some justification) that US society discriminates against atheists.

    Steven – What’s wrong with being militant? The word may have fallen on hard times with the rise of Militant and, indeed, Millie Tant but at one time it just meant an active and committed left wing person, which personally I don’t think is a bad thing. According to the Book of Common Prayer all Christians are militant by dint of their membership of “the Church, militant here in earth”. The appropriate adjective for President Bush, I would have thought is bellicose. This, I think, differentiates him from Dawkins who is active and committed but hasn’t, as far as I know, started any wars.

    If active and committed atheists dislike being described as militant then I am more than happy to use another adjective but surely we need some term to distinguish those who think it is important to convince others of the truth of atheism and those who are less concerned about other peoples beliefs about the Great Perhaps.

  72. 72  John Hartung  December 8, 2007, 6:28 pm 

    Steven –

    I googled your name and “Jew” because, as you guessed, I wanted to find out whether you are Jewish (“Jew” brings up “Jewish,” etc.). My purpose was to guess whether you have an opinion on the Who-Is-A-Jew question. In my experience, the vast majority of non-Jews are barely aware of the Who-Is-A-Jew question, but the vast majority of Jews are aware of the question and most are aware of it in some detail and have an opinion in that regard. I side with Lenni Brenner (Jews in America Today) … that people who say that they are Jewish should be counted as Jewish … this allows for some miss-count of wannabe Jews, but that is probably offset by people who are recognized as Jews by the majority of Jews but who do not want to be counted as Jewish. I did not have an ulterior motive in that regard … I just wanted a better sense of whether you would be likely to have an opinion on Samaritans.

    BTW, how does one discover what words another person has searched? (I’m not sharp about such things … perhaps because I am 60 years old and just trying to keep up with technology as distinct from mastering it … so perhaps I should ask my 11 y.o. daughter … but your website is so masterful in its facility of discussion that I would rather learn from you).

    About Samaritans, when followers of the Israelites’ dominant sect … Judaism as developed in the tribe of Judah (‘Judaism’ is how ‘Judahism’ has been transliterated) … returned from Babylon under Cyrus, they found the Samaritans who had remained in Israel. The Samaritans were and remain the most ancestral of all Jewish populations (point of the genetic analysis … I do realize that being Jewish is not genetic … all of the alleles that are disproportionately high among Jews exist in other populations, sometimes at higher rates … this is just a way of using genetic analysis to trace ancestral history … can be done in reference to any population, whether genetically or culturally defined, or both … could be done for American Republicans … and they would be found to have some alleles at higher frequencies than American Democrats … but this would not be taken by me to indicate that being Republican is ‘genetic’). Anyway, the Samaritans revere only the Torah and the book of Joshua as the word-of-god Bible (first 6 books of THE Bible) … rejecting the Bible as developed during exile in Babylon (vast bulk of the Jewish Bible). They also rejected the Babylonian Talmud (THE Talmud). Making matters worse, while in Babylon, except for ritual sacrifice of chickens, Jews abandoned animal sacrifice as demanded in the Torah (practice not well received in Babylon), but Samaritans still practiced animal sacrifice.

    To this day, the Samaritan practice of using mammals in animal sacrifice is a major issue between other Orthodox/Hassidic Jewish groups and Samaritans … just as chicken sacrifice is an issue between mainstream American Judaism and American Orthodox Jews (for some notion of current chicken-sacrifice practices, check http://www.associatedcontent.c.....itual.html
    For Samaritan animal sacrifice, check http://www.the-samaritans.com/.....0sheep.jpg also visit http://www.the-samaritans.com

    From before Jesus’ time to today, it is/was believed by most Jews that the Samaritans were non-Jews who developed their own religion by borrowing from post-exhilic Judaism. The genetic evidence sets that story straight … the Samaritans were Jews/Israelites prior to Babylonian exile of non-Samaritan Jews … and although Jesus did not see it that way, there certainly are passages in the Bible which show that at times Jesus was willing to accept support from a Good Samaritan (a Samaritan who believed in his powers) … and even a good Roman Centurion. In that latter story, as it appears in Luke (most Gospel stories are told 3 or 4 times) the locals had to convince Jesus to help the Centurion by telling him that “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he built us our synagogue.” Jesus was clearly amazed by the Centurion’s faith, but he was willing to make exceptions for exceptional out-group members who supported the cause of reconstituting the Kingdom of David.

    My point is that to understand Jesus, we need to understand the rule as well as its exceptions. Unfortunately, the old saw that one can defend any argument with quotes from the Bible is close to true … but that does not mean that the Bible is an incoherent mish-mash of verses. It has a central theme that permeates throughout … and understanding the “New” Testament requires understanding the original testament … the Bible of Jesus’ time and the god that Jesus prayed to (for the best … to my knowledge … books on understanding Jesus, see the works of the highly respected Jewish scholar Geza Vermes).

    Understanding the Rule requires reading the Bible straight through … like any other book … preferably slowly and carefully (I recommend the Revised Standard Version in that regard). Also unfortunate, the argument that Jesus’ mission was for his people and not for Gentiles and Samaritans (with exceptions for outstanding individuals) and not for other Jewish subsets not in favor with Jesus (Jews who collected taxes for Rome, Scribes & Pharisees, non-believers, etc.) … is a preponderance-of-the-evidence argument … unlike the argument that “Thou shalt not kill” meant ‘thou shalt not kill thy fellow in-group member’ … which is a matter of clarifying what words meant (per my essay “Love thy neighbor” and the clarity brought to that argument in The Talmud … and even by Maimonides). Perhaps the best single expression of the Rule occurs in Matthew 18:15-18, in which Jesus explained to his disciples that Jews who sin against fellow Jews and cannot be made to see the error of their ways should be considered like non-exceptional Gentiles and Samaritans and tax collectors … all of whom were going to be rejected from heaven (see also Matthew 5:47; 6:7; 6:32; 10:16-21):

    “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

    Best regards,

    John

  73. 73  Stuart A  December 8, 2007, 8:37 pm 

    I was thinking of the passages in TGD where Richard Dawkins complains (AFAIK, with some justification) that US society discriminates against atheists.

    Ah, well I think we had different conceptions of “system”. I was thinking about the legal/constitutional framework in the US, which more commonly seems to provoke fundamentalist (or militant, if you like) Christians into complaint — e.g. Alabaman Chief Justice Roy Moore and his followers.

  74. 74  abb1  December 9, 2007, 10:41 pm 

    John, I don’t get why this is such a big deal. That Judaism is an exceptionalist religion is not a secret. That the Jesus guy from the gospels was trying to reform Judaism is also known, I’ve heard it before, many times. But St. Paul changed that, he made the doctrine universal; it is firmly universal now and has been for a very long time. Why are you so hung up on the exceptionalism of the original thing? I don’t understand.

  75. 75  Steven  December 10, 2007, 12:42 am 

    at times Jesus was willing to accept support from a Good Samaritan (a Samaritan who believed in his powers)

    For pity’s sake. The Samaritan of the parable is not good because he believes in Jesus’s powers or because he supports “the cause of reconstituting the Kingdom of David”; he is the robbed and wounded man’s neighbour simply because he does the right thing. This much is obvious to a child, and even, indeed, to the lawyer hearing the story.

    By the way, as I’m sure you know, the phrase “Good Samaritan” itself, into which you seem peculiarly insistent on reading an intended contrast by Jesus with the majority of Bad Samaritans, does not actually occur in KJV or earlier texts but is just a later interpolated subheading, a shorthand way of referring to the parable.

  76. 76  Alex Higgins  December 10, 2007, 2:03 pm 

    “… and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

    Again, the Gospels contain rather specific examples of Jesus making a point of befriending tax-collectors and parables to show they are not beyond redemption.
    _________________________________________________

    And then there was this:

    “I googled your name and “Jew” because, as you guessed, I wanted to find out whether you are Jewish (“Jew” brings up “Jewish,” etc.).”

    This isn’t going to get better, is it?

    “My purpose was to guess whether you have an opinion on the Who-Is-A-Jew question.”

    The plan is to “guess” – not read – Steven’s opinion on the basis of his ethnicity.

    This is hilariously self-condemnatory.

    “I did not have an ulterior motive in that regard…”

    Apparently not.

    “… I just wanted a better sense of whether you would be likely to have an opinion on Samaritans.”

    On the basis apparently, of “whether you are Jewish.”

    Still it works. I looked up ‘Steven Poole’ and ‘Jew’ on Google and from there worked out his opinion on super-casinos, Northern Ireland, nuclear power, preferred jelly ban flavour and the writers’ strike.

    And that’s nothing compared to what I could get if I googled ‘Steven Poole’ and ‘French’.

  77. 77  richard  December 10, 2007, 3:22 pm 

    Now I’m feeling bad about picking this up, because I don’t want to pile on John, who has been unfailingly polite in this forum. However, it seems to me that there’s some doublethink here:
    I side with Lenni Brenner (Jews in America Today) … that people who say that they are Jewish should be counted as Jewish … this allows for some miss-count of wannabe Jews, but that is probably offset by people who are recognized as Jews by the majority of Jews but who do not want to be counted as Jewish.

    Using the stated criterion (the speaker is the authority on his own identity), the categories “wannabe Jews” and “Jews… who do not want to be counted” should disappear, no? Or is there some other standard of immanent or socially sanctioned Jewishness creeping in beside the self-recognition?

  78. 78  Steven  December 10, 2007, 5:39 pm 

    And that’s nothing compared to what I could get if I googled ‘Steven Poole’ and ‘French’.

    Don’t do it!

    Belatedly to Stephen at #71: basically I agree; I think “militant” has exclusively negative connotations these days. Perhaps we could instead speak of “evangelical atheists”.

    Gavin at #70: you’re welcome! And thanks. Fortunately my idle moment was short-lived and other pressing things appeared on my reading list…

  79. 79  John Hartung  December 11, 2007, 8:54 pm 

    Stephen -

    Sorry, I meant to write “believed in his message” … not “believed in his powers.” My fault.

    By Jesus’ message, I mean per previous posts, the message that Jews should unite … cooperate with each other … to throw off Roman rule and recreate the Kingdom of David … instead of remaining a highly polarized, almost caste-system society that would never reach their messianic objective. As such, he argued that a Priest (top in-group status) who does not help a fellow Jew he discovers wounded by a road, is no better than a tax-collector, while a Samaritan (bottom in-group member) would be worthy of heaven if he did help the same man wounded by a road.

    With regard to helping out-group members (heathens and gentiles who, unlike the Centurion, do not help further the objective), even at the end of the 11th Century, Maimonides’ Codes (codes of conduct for Diaspora Jews) made the following clarification [Codes of Maimonides, Book of Torts. 5:11]:

    “One may not procure the death of a heathen against whom we are not at war, or of similar people. It is, however, forbidden to save them from dying – for example, if any of them falls into the sea, one may not rescue him – for Scripture says, Thou shalt not stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor (Lev. 19:16), and none of these is thy neighbor.”

    Best regards,

    John Hartung

    Abb1 –

    Big deal because of powerful residual effects. For example, Israeli psychologist George Tamarin measured the strength of residual in-group morality. He presented Joshua 6:20-21 to 1,066 school children, ages 8-14, in order to test “the effect of uncritical teaching of the Bible on the propensity for forming prejudices (particularly the notion of the ‘chosen people,’ the superiority of the monotheistic religion, and the study of acts of genocide by biblical heroes)” (in reference to Jericho, RSV):

    “They utterly destroyed all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and asses, with the edge of the sword … And they burned the city with fire, and all within it; only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD.”

    The children’s answers to the question “Do you think Joshua and the Israelites acted rightly or not?” were categorized as follows: ” ‘A’ means total approval, ‘B’ means partial approval or disapproval, and ‘C’ means total disapproval.” Across a broad spectrum of Israeli social and economic classes, 66% of responses were “A,” 8% “B,” and 26% “C.” The “A” answers tended to be as straightforward as they were numerous (Tamarin, 1966):

    • In my opinion Joshua and the Sons of Israel acted well and here are the reasons: God promised them this land and gave them permission to conquer. If they would not have acted in this manner or killed anyone, then there would be the danger that the Sons of Israel would have assimilated among the “Goyim.”6

    • In my opinion Joshua was right when he did it, one reason being that God commanded him to exterminate the people so that the tribes of Israel will not be able to assimilate amongst them and learn their bad ways.

    • Joshua did good because the people who inhabited the land were of a different religion, and when Joshua killed them he wiped their religion from the earth.

    Tamarin (1973) noted that:

    “C” classification [total disapproval] was accorded to all answers formally rejecting genocide, either on ethical or utilitarian grounds. This does not mean that all “C” responses revealed non-discriminatory attitudes. For example, one girl criticized Joshua’s act, stating that “the Sons of Israel learned many bad things from the Goyim.” … Another extremely racist response is that of a 10-year-old girl disapproving the act, stating, “I think it is not good, since the Arabs are impure and if one enters an impure land one will also become impure and share their curse.”

    Other “C” misgivings included (1966):

    • I think Joshua did not act well as they could have spared the animals for themselves.

    • I think Joshua did not act well as he should have left the property of Jericho; if he had not destroyed the property it would have belonged to the Israelites.

    In contrast to the established difference between boys and girls in propensity toward violence and approval of violence in general, with regard to biblically commanded genocide Tamarin found that “Contrary to our expectation, there was no difference concerning this most cruel form of prejudice, between male and female examinees” (1973). Less surprising, but more alarming, nearly half of the children who gave “total approval” to Joshua’s behavior also gave “A” responses to the hypothetical question: “Suppose that the Israeli Army conquers an Arab village in battle. Do you think it would be good or bad to act towards the inhabitants as Joshua did towards the people of Jericho?” Tamarin (1966) received such responses as these:

    • In my opinion this behavior was necessary, as the Arabs are our enemies always, and the Jews did not have a country, and it was necessary to behave like that towards the Arabs.

    • It would have been good to treat the Arabs as Joshua and his soldiers did, as they are Arabs; they hate and retaliate against us all the time, and if we exterminate them as Joshua did, they won’t be able to show themselves as greater heroes than we.

    • I think it was good because we want our enemies to be conquered, and to widen our frontiers, and we would kill the Arabs as Joshua and the Israelites did.

    Some respondents disapproved of Joshua’s campaign (answer “C”), but approved of similar acts if committed by Israeli soldiers. One girl disapproved of Joshua “because it is written in the Bible, ‘don’t kill’,” but she approved of the conjectured Israeli Army action, stating “I think it would be good, as we want our enemies to fall into our hands, enlarge our frontiers, and kill the Arabs as Joshua did.”

    As a control group, Tamarin tested 168 children who were read Joshua 6:20-21 with “General Lin” substituted for Joshua and a “Chinese Kingdom 3000 years ago” substituted for Israel. General Lin got a 7% approval rating, with 18% giving partial approval or disapproval, and 75% disapproving totally.

    We withhold judgment on the moral blindness of children because they are in a formative stage, but we should not withhold judgment of adults, especially influential adults, for the moral blindness that they inflict upon others. In that regard, consider Ellie Wiesel’s portrait of Joshua (1981), which ends, “Poor Joshua, glorious Joshua. He was forced to win so many battles — with no one around to say thank you. Except God.”

    Best regards,

    John Hartung

  80. 80  Steven  December 11, 2007, 9:20 pm 

    I meant to write “believed in his message” … not “believed in his powers.”

    Eh? The Samaritan in the parable is a made-up character, and as such is unlikely ever to have heard of the person who made him up, ie Jesus. Therefore he can’t really believe in anything about Jesus, whether that be his powers or his message or the fine cut of his sandals. Nonetheless he is said to be the beaten man’s neighbour.

    a Samaritan (bottom in-group member)

    Er, I thought we’d been over this. The Jewish people at the time did not consider Samaritans to be Jews. Therefore to them a Samaritan was not what you call an “in-group member”. Which you yourself accepted at comment #72.

    What Maimonides’s commentary on Leviticus is supposed to have to do with the intended meaning of Jesus’s Samaritan parable, I cannot tell.

  81. 81  abb1  December 12, 2007, 9:32 am 

    I read the Tamarin story. I disagree that it’s a residual effect; rather it’s predictable effect of a garden variety nationalist propaganda that has absolutely nothing to do with the bible. As recently as the 1950s you could probably ask a group of white American children about any massacre during the Indian wars and get the same result. But not anymore, not today, the narrative has changed and it only took a couple of decades.

    Indoctrination. Every generation is indoctrinated anew; a historical event your father thought was the greatest example of heroism you might consider a terrible crime. And vice versa. As you noted yourself, what was originally described as a massacre is now interpreted as a battle. It’s all very fluid.

  82. 82  Gavin  December 12, 2007, 11:32 pm 

    It’s all just stories.

    That’s one thing that Dawkins does prove rather well.

  83. 83  Steven  December 12, 2007, 11:57 pm 

    It’s all just stories.
    That’s one thing that Dawkins does prove rather well.

    He proves that “it’s all just stories”? What is “it”? The entirety of human culture including religion, science, fringe theatre festivals etc? If so, he is arguably right to say that it’s all just stories, but hardly the first to do so.

    And arguably, the interpretation of stories is quite important.

  84. 84  Steven  December 13, 2007, 1:53 am 

    Re the “Jewish lobby”: Glenn Greenwald here reports on a new poll showing that most American Jews are in fact opposed to the policies of the AIPAC/neocon nexus.

  85. 85  Steven  December 13, 2007, 1:59 pm 

    Update re “Jewish lobby”: I see belatedly that dsquared said all this already in October. I agree: I don’t think for a moment that Dawkins is in fact a ranting Jewish-conspiracy-theorist, or indeed the kind of person who would try to check whether someone is Jewish before engaging with his arguments; but I do think the term “the Jewish lobby” is sloppy and inaccurate, and Dawkins obviously simply hasn’t thought enough about what he is saying.

  86. 86  Gavin  December 13, 2007, 3:52 pm 

    I think that what he is trying to say is that anyone that identifies themselves as a group member, based upon religion is opening themselves up to ridicule.

    I don’t think you understand The God Delusion at all.

    Dawkins is anti religion. For him they are all as bad as each other, they hold up books as being sources of ultimate truth. Arguing about them is even worse, it’s like giving them an importance they don’t merit.

    If groups believe in one of these books they have beliefs that are illogical, and they are usually not examined closely. Look at them closely and you’ll see, they’re based on superstition, lies and (ssh don’t say it) racism. Since to be one religion your are clearly not the other.

    I am talking here of the religion as a group identity, individuals are not helpful here.

  87. 87  Steven  December 13, 2007, 8:31 pm 

    I don’t think you understand The God Delusion at all.

    Of course I don’t; I haven’t read it.

  88. 88  Gavin  December 13, 2007, 11:00 pm 

    Ah.

    I’ve never read the Bible. He dies at the end though, doesn’t he?

  89. 89  Steven  December 15, 2007, 3:23 pm 

    Sort of, I think. It’s like The Matrix Revolutions.

  90. 90  John Hartung  January 28, 2008, 4:08 pm 

    Steven –

    Having been unable to participate in this discussion for some time, while reviewing it, I came to realize that you probably addressed me a “Joh” early on because I had addressed you as “Steve” in my first message. I probably did that because I had been emailing a colleague earlier that day whose name is Steven but who goes by Steve. I hope we can get past that level of antagonism.

    Our disagreement about The Good Samaritan is, I think, just that. My view is that Jesus used the invention to say to fellow Jews that even the lowliest of Jews (or Jew-pretenders … as many contemporary Orthodox Jews consider Reformed Jews to be) … is better than a Levite or a Priest if he, like the conjectured Good Samaritan, enacts a high level of concern for all Jews (again, Samaritans have identified themselves as Jews for longer than any other Jewish group … so although they might have been in the ‘pretender’ class in Jesus’ view, they were not in the class of stray Canaanites, per Matthew 15:21-28). My view is based on a preponderance-of-the-evidence argument presented in “Love Thy Neighbor: the evolution of in-group morality” (published in 1995 and available at: http://strugglesforexistence.com). As I understand it, your position is that the hypothetical Good Samaritan in the story was Jesus’ way of saying that even a lowly non-Jew will go to heaven if he shows a sufficient level of concern for and cooperation for his fellow human beings … while even the highest Jew will not if he does not … such that Jesus’ mission was directed at non-Jews as well as Jews. So we disagree.

    About the issue that sparked your antagonism toward me … my review of MacDonald’s “A People That Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy” in which I used the term “reactive racism” … that review was invited by the Book Review Editor of the journal in which it was published, it was reviewed by the journal’s Editor-in-Chief, the Book Review Editor, and two additional consultants. It’s publication drew such acrimony that the Editor-in-Chief asked me to submit a fuller explanation regarding some of my points. I wrote the requested explanation and it was submitted and accepted by several consultants (reviewers) who had by then become involved. However, when that “Addendum” to was sent to press, the publisher (Elsevier) refused to publish it. The Editor-in-Chief tried to find out who had made that decision and why, but after weeks of being stonewalled, he resigned in protest and the journal discontinued publication (or eventually continued with a new name and a new Editor-in-Chief … all of which was covered as a news item in SCIENCE [273, 12 July, 1996, p 177]). So my Addendum has not been published … but given your possible interest and perhaps that of some readers, I will try to past it here … along with the book review to which it refers (review first).

    I hope that, going forward, we can agree or disagree with each other without having disregard for each other.

    Best regards,

    John

    [deleted repost of JH's review, already linked here and available at his website - SP]

    [unpublished Addendum]

    Fax page 1 of 5
    To: Michael McGuire, M.D.
    From: John Hartung

    Dear Dr. McGuire,

    Please consider the following, “Addendum to Review of MacDonald’s A People That Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary,” for publication in Ethology and Sociobiology. Per our telephone conversation of 11/11/95, some of your suggestions were incorporated and some were not. Thank you for both.

    Best regards,

    John Hartung

    CC: Randolf Nesse (by email)
    Martin Daly and Margo Wilson (by fax)

    Addendum to Review of MacDonald’s A People That Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary

    Reaction to my review of Kevin MacDonald’s A People That Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy has prompted me to recognize several inadequacies in the expression of my opinions (Hartung 1995a, MacDonald 1994). I thank the editors of Ethology and Sociobiology for this opportunity to explain my point of view in a different way.
    Regarding the Holocaust, clarification might be added by imagining that we can look at earth through a lens which causes people of different ethnic groups (or in-groups) to glow with an identifying color, such that if the Dutch were green, for example, Holland would be intensely green and there would be a fading green glow around its boarders — a glow that would disperse into isolated specks of green as distance from Amsterdam increases.
    Using this lens to view Europe and Western Russia in 1940, there would be two unique colors — those of Jews and Gypsies. These groups would be different in the pattern of their dispersal, with the absence of a central location that is proportionate to their overall size, and the presence of many small glowing circles scattered far and wide. My contention is that if we knew a war would soon break out near the center of Europe — a war that would kill about 60 million people — an understanding of human nature and the nature of human ethnocentricity would enable us to predict which in-groups would suffer most simply on the basis of the intensity of their light and its pattern of dispersion. To put a point on that, armed with knowledge of the destructive power of ethnocentrism, it would be clear that the largest concentrations of killing would occur at the Japan/mainland Asia interface (25 million+) and at the German/Russian interface (20 million+). It would also be clear that Jews and Gypsies would suffer most relative to their size.
    The question might then arise, “how did these two decentralized groups come to have such vulnerable dispersal patterns?” I think the dispersal pattern itself is not unique. Instead, I think that the maintenance of the diffuse pattern is unique. That is, many groups have been shattered and dispersed, but nearly all of them lost their smaller circles of light through processes of extinction at the hands of, and assimilation into, surrounding groups. So how did Jews manage to maintain a widely dispersed pattern for two millennia? This is the central subject of Kevin MacDonald’s book. He documents the cycles of success followed by victimization and recurrent reactive racism which account for both Jewish survival and resistance to assimilation.
    Reactive racism is the spiral by which contiguous groups increase their in-group ethos in reaction to other groups’ in-group ethos (more centrally the subject of MacDonald’s second book, Separation and Its Discontents: Toward an evolutionary theory of anti-Semitism; in press; see also Shahak 1994). Such spirals usually cause smaller groups to be extinguished/assimilated. MacDonald reviews how the Jews have managed to hang on. In short (too short, sorry), they have done it the old fashioned way — through much hard work directed toward that end, with a particular emphasis on education and intellectual prowess. That is the HOW. The WHY goes back to one of the world’s 4 or 5 most powerful memes — the ideology of the Bible. MacDonald details some of this in his book, and I added some specifics in my review (see also Hartung, 1995b).
    As to the charge of anti-Semitism that has been leveled against me,1 if anti-Semitism is defined as prejudice against people who are Jewish, I am not anti-Semitic by any stretch of the imagination. One can have respect for people of a religious persuasion while questioning the persuasions of their religion. However, if one’s definition of anti-Semitism applies to those who make critical inquiry into fundamental tenets of Judaism, I could be labeled anti-Semitic. What matters to me, in this regard, is that the facts I put forth be true and that conclusions drawn follow from those facts. These concerns are irrelevant to persons for whom religion is sacrosanct. Of such persons I ask only that they not go away with the impression that I am anti-Semitic, by their definition, without being concomitantly anti-Christian (Hartung, 1995b).
    To readers who think of religions as sets of ideas, and to whom all ideas are subject to challenge, I apologize for, and deeply regret, shortcomings in my presentation which have caused offense.

    1. This charge was leveled directly and forthrightly by E. Lanier on HBES-L (twice on 11/3/95 and once on 11/4), and reports of additional expressions of alarm have been relayed to me by Martin Daly, Margo Wilson and Randolph Nesse.

    Hartung, J. Review of A people That Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy (see MacDonald, below). Ethology and Sociobiology 16:335-342, 1995a.

    Hartung, J. Love thy neighbor: the evolution of in-group morality. Skeptic 3:4:86-99, 1995b.

    MacDonald, K. A People That Shall Dwell Alone: Judaism as a Group Evolutionary Strategy , Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1994.

    Shahak, I. Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years, London: Pluto Press, 1994.



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