Christianity has done more good than harm for humanity.
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After 2 votes and with the same amount of points on both sides...
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This debate is about Christianity's historical impact, and nothing more. We aren't here to discuss whether God exists, who Jesus claimed to be, or any other intensely exciting question that is not relevant to the Christian faith's historical influence. Though the emphasis is on the past, contemporary social ills/benefits on Christianity's part are undoubtedly appropriate.
Christianity refers to the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant denominations (those varieties of religion that agree with the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, etc.).
This is my first debate here, so let me know if I've missed anything in setting this up!
Christianity's influence is ubiquitous, and we fail to realize just how abysmal life would be if Jesus Christ had never been born, and if his followers never altered the course of history. There are two areas where Christianity's contributions to the world shine most brightly: science and liberty.
I. Impact on Science
Christianity was, of course, not the sole factor in the rise of modern science. Islam, Chinese culture, and early Greek and Roman thought played a significant role in fashioning empirical science. Nevertheless, Christianity facilitated the growth and practice of science considerably.
First, Christianity supplies a worldview that made science conceptually possible. (i) The Christian religion rejects both the idea that spirits and gods inhabit the natural world and the thesis that nature is divine. Instead, the biblical portrait is one of God distinct from His creation. This belief is a prerequisite for the concept of natural laws. The Bible records that God is the one "who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar...Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,' declares the Lord, 'will Israel ever cease being a nation before me'" (Jeremiah 31:35-36 NIV). The implication, of course, is that these original decrees will never pass away; they are natural laws that God has put in place. As one recent historian points out, "the very notion that nature is lawful, some scholars argue, was borrowed from Christian theology" (Efron 81). (ii) Christianity teaches that God made us in His image. God is, among other things, supremely rational. John's gospel opens with the proclamation that "the Word was God" (John 1:3 NIV); literally, the logos was God. Literature from the first century and onward makes clear that logos refers to the rational ordering principle of a thing - the account of something. God is perfectly logical, and we reflect that capacity for reason. However, "Christian doctrine led urgency to experiment" (81; emphasis mine) because Christians held that humanity, though created in God's image, lived in a fallen state, and therefore "lacked the grace to understand the workings of the world through cognition alone" (81). Instead, early Christian scientists developed the experimental method of science that emphasized observation as the key to knowledge, rather than a deduction from first principles. We are rational because God has fashioned us in His image, but we are fallen, so we cannot deduce all knowledge from the inside of our minds; from this belief, experimental science sprang. In these ways, the Christian religion made science possible.
Second, the major (and minor) figures in science's development were often devout Christians. Concerning astronomy, Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, and Galileo are good examples. These men pioneered modern astronomy, and all commented on the theological convictions that inspired their work. For Kepler, "he gave all honor and praise to God" at the end of his first professional publication. Copernicus is a man often cited as an example of a historical conflict between science and religion. Scholars report, however, that "[n]o historian will cover up the facts that a Lutheran prince subsidized the publication of his work, that a Lutheran theologian arranged for the printing, and that a Lutheran mathematician supervised the printing" (Elert 423). Gallileo, the poster child for the science/religion warfare thesis, wrote that "I do not feel...that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use" (Letter to the grand duchess Christina). In this way, his religious convictions inspired his scientific work. Physics, too, bears the mark of Christianity's influence. Isaac Newton, Gottfried Leibniz, Blaise Pascal, Andre Ampere, and William Kelvin, among others, were all Christian pioneers of physics (Schmidt 231-235). Many of these men not only commented on how their religious beliefs inspired their scientific work but also left a legacy on theology in its own right; many still read Pascal's Pensees for its theological and apologetic value. Chemistry features the work of Christians Robert Boyle, John Dalton, George Washington Carver, and many more. In the interest of space, I can only name these towering intellects. Still, I have said enough to illustrate the point that many of the most important, prominent, and influential figures in the development of science were Christian.
II. Impact on human rights
Let me say at the outset that the relationship between religion and human rights (and justice more broadly) is complicated. There are many examples of Christians throughout history who have destroyed others' lives in the name of religious intolerance, and I fully acknowledge and validate those peoples' experiences. However, it seems to me that when Christianity has been lived out consistently, in accord with Christ's teaching and biblical ideals, beautiful expressions of liberty and justice result. Here, I'll outline three instances of Christianity's influence on justice, liberty, and the broadening of human rights. First, the Magna Carta, the charter signed by King John "outside London" (Schmidt 251), is one of the first glimmerings of Christianity's reformative powers on justice and liberty. Its provisions stated that would be
- no taxation without representation,
- imprisonment only ensuing after a fair trial, and
- the state taking someone's property only if they offered just compensation.
Second, the Declaration of Independence shows undeniable Christian influence. Alvin Schmidt presents several lines of evidence that show pretty conclusively that "[t]o argue that the Declaration of Independence is a secular document devoid of Christian influence...reveals more about those making the argument than about the Christian ideas reflected within" (256) it. (i) The Declaration speaks of "The Law of Nature and Nature's God," a phrase that traces its origin to Commentaries of the Laws of England by Sir William Blackstone, a work written "in the context of Christian theology" (256). (ii) Jesus Christ's ethical teachings influenced Thomas Jefferson, the chief writer of the Declaration (even though he was himself a deist). He wrote that there was no "more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics" than those of Jesus Christ. It is, therefore, prima facie plausible that Christ's ethical influence found its way into the Declaration. (iii) The document states that the moral truths within it are "self-evident." Facts such as these were "known intuitively, as direct revelation from God, without the need for proofs. The term presumed that man was created in the image of God, and...certain beliefs about man's rationality" (Amos 78). The Apostle Paul taught this basic idea in the book of Romans. Speaking of gentiles who do not have God's written law, he writes that "[t]hey show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them" (Romans 2:15 NIV). The precepts of the moral law are self-evident, and the Declaration of Independence reflects that insight.
Third, Christianity has always stressed the value of the individual. Theologically, "no one can obtain eternal life by virtue of belonging to a group" (Schmidt 259). We are accountable to God on an individual basis. According to Christian theology, God loves every single person immeasurably, and that love is not conditional on anything a person can do. This teaching elevates the value of the individual tremendously. John 3:16 states that "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (NIV). Salvation is available to anyone, regardless of where you come from or which group you find yourself in. In short, Christianity's emphasis on the love of God for every single person makes it prima facie plausible that it elevated the value of the individual in society throughout history.
In short, science and liberty both reveal two significant ways that Christianity's legacy has been bold and beautiful over the last two thousand years. Nevertheless, I anticipate enthusiastic debate over that contention and look forward to the rest of the discussion.
Schmidt, Alvin. How Christianity Changed the World. 2004.
Amos, Gary T. Defending the Declaration. 1989.
Elert, Werner. The Structure of Lutheranism. 1962.
Efron, Noah J. "Myth 9: That Christianity Gave Birth to Modern Science," in Galileo Goes to Jail. 2009.
In my opening statement, I argued, first, that Christianity "facilitated the rise and growth of science," and second, that Christian life and practice resulted in "beautiful expressions of liberty and justice." In my estimation, both contentions stand; Pro has not diminished the force of my points nor erected equally strong arguments against Christianity's positive reputation. However, I quickly discovered that I had underestimated how much space it would take to address these points. In this second round, I can only reply to comments related to Christianity and science. I will do my due diligence next round to round out our discussion, I promise!
II. The Scientific Revolution
I gave two arguments that Christianity underwrote the Scientific Revolution: (i) a Christian worldview is conceptually foundational for scientific discovery, and (ii) the most prominent men behind the Scientific Revolution were Christian.
Pro has little appreciation for point (i). He states that this debate is about "what was actually accomplished in the real world, rather than theoretical definitions and philosophies." I certainly agree. However, this response does not dislodge my argument. First, substantial conceptual ties between Christianity and the possibility of the scientific project make it is prima facie plausible that Christianity did foster the environment where science flourished. As I pointed out, Christianity teaches that (a) humanity is made in the image of the God that created the universe, and (b) the natural world is a creation of an orderly God, rather than the arena of capricious and chaotic gods and spirits. Both beliefs elevate the possibility of science far above what Christianity's historical religious competitors could accomplish. It would be obtuse to dismiss these connections as "purely theoretical" rather than to see the plausible link between them and the historical development of science in a dominantly Christian environment. Second, I pointed to historical documentation that shows not only theoretical but actual links between Christian beliefs and scientific principles. I quoted historian Noah Efron who explained that many historians argue that Christianity's belief in an orderly Creator God naturally led to the idea of natural laws. Moreover, I outlined how the doctrine of sin helped to dislodge the Aristotelian view that all of empirical knowledge could be derived deductively without the aid of observation. Con gave no response to these points.
Pro also claims that "a Christian worldview by definition fiercely opposes any evidence against it," expanding later that "[t]he scientific method entails questioning everything and holding all hypotheses up to scrutiny." That method "is incompatible with 'Biblical' Christianity, which clings to the myths of Genesis despite science having debunked it for centuries."
I'm afraid I have to disagree. First, we need to distinguish between attempting to refute claims incompatible with one's worldview from being close-minded. Any Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, or hard agnostic will try to refute evidence brought against their worldview, and there is nothing wrong with that enterprise. However, to be close-minded is to go beyond that practice and to, as Con puts it, "fiercely oppose" evidence for positions contrary to one's own. There is no reason to think that a Christian is, by definition, close-minded. One must judge that conclusion on a case-by-case basis. Indeed, it is because Christians can be and often were open-minded, inquiring individuals that so many of science's earliest advocates were Christian (more on that below).
Second, Con's examples of Christian opposition to science do not center around beliefs essential to Christianity. Con writes that "[i]f one subscribes to a literalist interpretation of the Bible, as Christians have throughout most of history," one must deny evolution and the ancient age of the Earth, and affirm flood geology, and so on. Even granting the point, a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 is not essential to the Christian religion. Nor does Christian opposition to Galileo prove that claim either, because geocentrism is not crucial to Christian belief (after all, we still have the Christian religion in our heliocentric society!). Therefore, Con has failed to show that Christianity is by definition opposed to the findings of modern science. If he thinks these beliefs (i.e., in a 6,000-year-old Earth and a geocentric universe) are essential to Christianity, he owes us some argument.
Perhaps, however, Con meant only to point to historical conflicts between Christianity and science (as opposed to 'essential' conflicts), thereby undermining my general claim that Christianity fostered scientific development. But even this claim is too strong. Consider science and Genesis 1. Many Christians held to non-literal interpretations of Genesis before Darwin's time (Biologos). In the fourth century CE, Augustine affirmed that God created nature with the capacity to develop of its own accord over time, rather than creating everything "ready-made" in six days. Thomas Aquinas, the chief intellectual influence behind the Catholic Church, agreed with Augustine and argued that God created everything in a single day, but only as potentials that would unfold over time. Many early church fathers, based on 2 Peter 3:8, believed that each creation day was a thousand years (Ross 43). Lest Con claim that these men failed to influence Christianity post-Darwin, B.B. Warfield was one of the most ardent defenders of Scripture's authority, employed by Princeton Theological Seminary, and he accepted evolutionary theory. Martin Luther, one of Protestantism's "Founding Fathers," believed in biological evolution. The take-away point is this: there have always been diverse interpretations of Genesis throughout history, and the fierce opposition in the last few centuries between American Fundamentalism and evolutionary biology is not indicative of some essential conflict between science and Christianity. Nor is so-called creation science indicative of Christianity's views as a whole, either now or historically. If Con disagrees, I await his argument to the contrary.
Finally, let's discuss Galileo. As an example of Christian opposition to science, my short answer is that the Catholic Church resisted geocentrism for predominantly political reasons, rather than any inherent religious motivation. For context, forces of the Holy Roman Empire sacked Rome — Italy's capital — in 1527, the Florentine Republic fell apart in 1530, the Protestant Reformation was underway, and Spain took control over Italy shortly after that (Shea 114–115). Due to these events, Italians were in a place of desolation and insecurity. They needed a robust and guiding force to bring them together and guarantee security and prosperity.
It was in this milieu that the Catholic Church found itself pushed to oblige. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, over sixty percent of Cardinals were Italian. By the end of the century, that proportion moved to eighty percent (115). Moreover, when the Council of Trent came together to outline orthodox Christian belief in the face of the Protestant reformation, seventy percent of all bishops attending were Italian (115–116). The proportion of Italians in the Church, coupled with the deteriorating state of Italy as a nation, suggests that what stood behind the Church's actions was an unabashed political agenda: to unify Italy in the face of opposition. In this vein, challenges to Church beliefs — including geocentrism — were met with swift condemnation because at this point in history more than most, the Church needed respect for its authority, lest Italy fall away entirely.
In addition to this general consideration, several facts support the thesis of political intentions as opposed to religious motivations. First, the residing Pope over Galileo's trial — Pope Urban VIII — confessed that he did not think that Copernicanism was heretical, but "merely rash" (Hannam 326), a direct repudiation of the theological justification position. Second, Urban VIII allowed Tommaso Campenella, a little-known crackpot philosopher, to teach his incredibly heretical views because the latter had convinced the Pope that impending doom awaiting him, from which Campenella then 'saved' him (Germana). What mattered to the Pope and the Catholic Church was respect for its right to rule. Campenella was not a threat to the Church; Galileo, however, was practically a celebrity in Europe by 1632. The Church had to meet his disagreement with orthodoxy with severity lest Italians and Catholics throughout Europe think that undermining of Church authority would be tolerated. For these political reasons, then, the Inquisition put Galileo on trial while Campenella was free to teach his heretical beliefs.
The example of Galileo highlights a crucial point that Con has not given enough weight to: the Catholic Church throughout the Middle Ages, in addition to being a religious authority, was a political institution as well. That fact gives the lie to any simplistic argument of the form, "The Catholic Church did wrong action x*, the Church was a Christian institution; therefore, Christianity was responsible for x*." What's missing here is the further claim that Christianity itself led the Church to become a political entity, and I see very little historical or theological evidence for that radical claim. But absent it, merely gesturing towards some evil action on the Church's part does not establish that Christianity motivated, warranted, or caused that action.
For the time being, then, let us move on to argument (ii): historically, Christians were the engineers behind the Scientific Revolution. Con objects that he does not "see how the personal beliefs of these people were relevant unless you can prove that Christianity was the primary motivation for their work." Let me say two things in response. First, this objection fails to see the interlocking structure of my arguments. Christianity is a worldview that is conducive to scientific exploration - my first argument. When we then arrive at historical Christians who pioneered science, that general consideration makes it likely that Christianity was a contributing factor in their motivations. We can know that wholly apart from specific documentation.
Second, there is plenty of documented evidence for early scientists' religious motivations. For example, "Lutheran ideas about providence may have been one of Johannes Kepler's primary motives for insisting that God created a cosmos that exhibits geometrical order and arithmetic harmony" (Osler 94). The idea of order and harmony continues into the present day, where physicists search fervently for a Theory of Everything that would unify the four fundamental forces of nature under one heading. Or again, many early scientific theorists appealed to the metaphor of God's two books in their work: "the book of God's word...and the book of God's work" (96), the Bible and creation, respectively. Galileo himself wrote that "the holy Bible and the phenomena of nature proceed alike from the divine Word, the former as the dictate of the Holy Ghost and the latter as the observant [executor] of God's commands" (Letter to the Grand Dutchess). Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, and John Ray, in particular, all thought that "the study of the natural world provides knowledge of the wisdom and intelligence of the Creator" (96). At some point, we have to admit that, like it or not, the engineers of the Scientific Revolution were Christian, and thought not only of their work as consistent with Christianity but as an outgrowth of it.
All that remains is to answer Con's question, "If Christianity is responsible for all the gains of science and equality, then...why were no such gains made in the Middle Ages, when the Christian religion was at the peak of its influence?" The answer is that there were many gains made during that time! Historian James Hannam, author of The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution, writes that "[p]opular opinion, journalistic cliche, and misinformed historians notwithstanding, recent research has shown that the Middle Ages was a period of enormous advances in science, technology, and culture" (xvii). He points to "[t]he compass, paper, printing, stirrups, and gunpowder" along with "spectacles, the mechanical clock, the windmill, and the blast furnace" (xvii), and so much else besides (Gutenburg's printing press arose during the Middle Ages, let us not forget!). So yes, one would expect such a thing, Con, and indeed, such is what we find. The Scientific Revolution built on the foundations laid by the Christian Middle Ages. Viewing science's birth as the "the beginning of religion's decline" is simply anachronistic and is far more reflective of modern prejudice than anything early scientists themselves would have believed.
III. A Partial Conclusion
I take it as evident, then, that Christianity provided much to the Scientific Revolution, and insofar as we value science in our modern world, we ought to value Christianity accordingly. Moreover, as I will outline in the final round, Christianity's impact on justice, equality, and human dignity is equally positive and transformative.
IV. Works Cited
Shea, William R. "Galileo and the Church." God and Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity and Science (1986).
Hannam, James. The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution. (2011)
Ernst, Germana. "Tommaso Campanella." Stanford University. <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/campanella/>.
Galilei, Galileo. Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany. 1615. Internet Modern History Sourcebook. <http://www.thatmarcusfamily.org/philosophy/Course_Websites/Readings/Galileo%20-%20Letter.pdf>.
Schmidt, Alvin. How Christianity Changed the World. 2004.
Ross, Hugh. A Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Day Controversy (2004).
Ostler, Margaret J. "Myth 10: That the Scientific Revolution Liberated Science from Religion," in Galileo Goes to Jail.
Biologos, "How was the Genesis account of creation interpreted before Darwin?" https://biologos.org/common-questions/how-was-the-genesis-account-of-creation-interpreted-before-darwin
I. General comments
Let me make two general remarks. First, Con misunderstands the import of a prima facie argument. The phrase is Latin for 'at first sight,' and the Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School defines prima facie evidence as "sufficient to establish a fact or raise a presumption unless disproved or rebutted."  For example, when you walk down the street and see a red hexagon at the edge of the sidewalk, you are prima facie justified in believing that there is a stop sign ahead of you. That evidence is subject to refutation, of course (as sense perceptions often deceive us), but the burden of proof belongs to the one who would argue that there is not a stop sign in the distance. It is not, as Con claims, a "phrase [I've used] in place of providing actual proof or evidence," but is instead a perfectly valid form of reasoning in philosophy and law, and Con need not disparage it.
Second, we need to clarify what criteria qualify holding Christianity responsible for an atrocity on the one hand or a positive contribution on the other. I propose the following: when a historical event x* comes about from an individual or institution, we are justified in holding Christianity responsible for x* when (i) that individual or institution claims to represent Christianity, and (ii) Christian beliefs feature into the motivations that brought x* about. While admittedly verbose, those criteria do justice to the intuition that correlation alone is not sufficient for inferring causation - a point Con himself made. About clause (ii), I have done my part to connect Christian beliefs to scientific flourishing and the expansion of justice and human rights. By contrast, it is not enough for Con to gesture towards Galileo and proclaim the harmful effects of Christianity upon science. Moreover, we will see below that Con is guilty of similar maneuvers concerning Christianity and human rights abuses.
I, too, am "judging how the actions of the Christian faith have played out in history," but to identify which actions are those of the Christian faith, and which ones are simply those done by Christians, one must use the criteria I have outlined. The requirement is not to "extend [a specific] condemnation to every other Christian in history," but to connect it to an underlying religious justification. Otherwise, the theology of a sinner or saint is purely epiphenomenal and irrelevant. If Con wants to disavow criterion (ii), he can do that, but what remains is a less substantive and far less interesting interpretation of the question under debate.
II. Christianity and the practice of science
I gave two arguments that tie together Christianity and the historical emergence of science: (1) a Christianity worldview provides the conceptual bedrock for scientific investigation into the world, and (2) the crafters of the Scientific Revolution were Christians inspired by their religious beliefs.
1. Christianity as a science-supportive worldview - Con charges that this consideration "does not hold water, since [I] failed to connect the theoretical to the actual" - what matters is not what Christianity rationally ought to lead to, but the actual historical outcomes. I gave two responses. (i) ''Substantial conceptual ties between Christianity and the possibility of the scientific project make it is prima facie plausible that Christianity did foster the environment." (ii) ''Historical documentation that shows not only theoretical but actual links between Christian beliefs and scientific principles.''
Con gave no response to (i), except for his blanket dismissal of prima facie-style reasoning.
Con's response to (ii) is to disparage my use of sources. Now, in issuing this criticism, Con misrepresents my position. I have never argued for "the idea that Christianity created modern science." Instead, I was meticulous in phrasing the strength of my contention proportionally to the evidence. My thesis - quoted accurately - was that "Christianity was...not the sole factor in the rise of modern science. Islam, Chinese culture, and early Greek and Roman thought played a significant role in fashioning empirical science. Nevertheless, Christianity facilitated the growth and practice of science considerably." Indeed, I chose that contention precisely because I took Noah Efron's essay into account.
Efron's paper indicates two things: (a) a tight connection between an orderly God and laws of nature, and (b) a link between belief in human rationality and the empirical, scientific method.
2. Christianity as inspiration for the people behind the Scientific Revolution - I wrote here that both (a) the interlocking structure of my arguments and (b) specific documentation support my thesis. Con said nothing in response to (a) and had very little to say in reply to (b) except that "[t]he only specific historical evidence cited by Pro...was a secondary source" about Kelper and Lutheran inspiration. This remark is false, as a glance at the relevant section last round reveals.
3. Opposing considerations - On the other side of the scale, Con points to "Christianity's opposition to heliocentrism, evolution, and the Big Bang theory."
Concerning creation science and a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-2, I have two points. First, "[i]t was...not until the second half of the 20th century that Young Earth Creationism became a mainstream view within the evangelical community,"  stemming from the 1961 publication of The Genesis Flood. As proof, we need to look no further than the series of essays entitled The Fundamentals - the very texts that define modern Fundamentalism. Those texts "put no emphasis on Noah's flood as an explanation of geological data and the contributors accepted an old earth."  Second, young-earth creationism is a minority viewpoint among Christians. 70% of the U.S. population identifies as Christian,  while only 33% of the population denies evolutionary theory.  Moreover, when we realize that the Catholic Church - the most extensive tradition of Christians worldwide - accepts evolutionary theory as its official position, it plausible that in the entire world, young-earth creationism is a minority view in the Christian camp. In short, I agree that creation science is a mark against Christianity's influence on science, but considering these two points, it is an insignificant one.
What of Galileo? Con dismisses my detailed analysis of the Church/Galileo encounter as irrelevant. He is content to assert that the "Christian religion was used by the medieval Church for oppressive means," clarifying that "we’re not discussing Christianity in theory, we’re discussing Christianity in practice." Yes. But if we are to have a substantive discussion, surely our analysis must be more in-depth than a gesture towards the Medieval Church's resistance to Galileo. I gave compelling reasons to think that political concerns predominated in the unfortunate circumstances of Galileo, and Con did not refute that evidence. Instead, he dismisses it as irrelevant. That evidence, however, is pertinent because it shows why the Church's resistance to heliocentrism did not stem from religious motivations whatsoever.
Finally, what of science during the Middle Ages? Con objects that my cited inventions "originated in China." True, but the salient point is that while "these inventions originated in the Far East...Europeans developed them to a far higher degree than had been the case elsewhere" . The point is not to claim racial or religious superiority but to underline the scientific and technological ingenuity of Europeans in the Middle Ages. While Con complains that said-progress tends to center around the High Middle Ages, Hannam writes that "[t]he popular impression that the early Middle Ages represents a hiatus in progress is the opposite of the truth"  both in terms of agricultural, technological, and architectural developments. As for why there wasn't more progress during the Early Middle Ages, we have a good explanation: the fall of the Roman Empire. It took hundreds of years to reconstruct and rebuild institutional structures, so it is no surprise that progress in less required practices like science would lag.
III. Christianity, justice, equality, and human rights
I have already laid much of the bedrock for my response to Con above, as we shall see.
ii. The Declaration of Independence - Con charges that my argument here is "dubious," but he passes over entirely the specific lines of evidence I delineated on its behalf. He merely attacked point (ii): Jesus' ethical teaching influenced Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration. Mine is a cumulative case for Christian influence, but Con treats that point as if I meant it to carry the full weight of argument. Rather than repeat myself, I extend my other two cases, seeing as Con gave no response to them.
iii. Christianity and individualism - Christianity's affirmation of God's universal love for every person, whether slave, free, man, woman, Jew, or Gentile, had a liberalizing effect on the world. I grant that "[l]ife in medieval times...was all about the group," but that does not undermine the claim that foundational Christian principles eventually wove their way into ideas of liberalism through the Protestant Reformation. Philosopher Keith Ward writes that "Protestant Christians...held that faith is a matter of personal commitment, not of birth or some external ceremony like infant baptism....so in Protestantism there is an inherent drive to full liberty of conscience" . Moreover, "democratic participation in government has deep roots in the Christian belief that all are equal in the sight of God" , a point that ties together the influence of Christianity on science as well as liberty.
Con, however, sees these principles as rooted in the Enlightenment. Let me give two responses. First, the period of history following the Enlightenment was one of the most bloody, brutal, and savage episodes in the human drama yet. As Ward points out, "[t]t was not an age in which bloody conflicts based on outmoded superstitions were superseded by the calm...deliberations of rational discourse" . Instead, it was an age of "increasingly aggressive nationalism ending in two world wars, repeated revolutionary conflicts, imperial expansion, the expansion of human slavery to...global proportions, and violent political radicalism." The basic facts of history unravel the picture Con paints of European Enlightenment thinking representing some phase shift from barbaric religiosity to enlightened rationality. Indeed, "[w]here religion was restricted...or even abolished, as it was in revolutionary France and Russia, what superseded it was cruel and inhumane to an unprecedented degree" .
Second, while Enlightenment principles of freedom of inquiry, separation of Church and state, and liberty are sound, these principles did not originate in a vacuum. The complicated movement arose out of the Protestant Reformation in three ways. (i) The Reformation safeguarded a right to dissent, seeing as it was a break from the authority of the Catholic Church. (ii) It moved nations towards democratic governments because it rejected the ecclesiastical hierarchy. (iii) It reinvigorated ideas of equality, as it emphasized that everyone has a personal relationship with God, should read the Bible themselves, and worship together.  We have, then, a secure link between Protestant/Christian ideals and Enlightenment thinking. Far from being a break from religion and a move toward secularism, religion founded the Enlightenment.
What do we make, then, of all the atrocities carried out in the name of Christ down through history? Three points. First, concerning religious wars, we must see those considerations in context. The fact is, most wars down through history have not been religious wars. World War I and II had no religious bases. Second, it is wildly simplistic to blame religion even for wars that had a spiritual component. Take the Thirty Years War between Protestants and Catholics: "religion played a part, but wider factors of nationalism and political authority were more widespread and important" . Third, we must differentiate the use from the abuse of Christianity. Yes, slaveholders appealed to the Bible to justify slavery. Still, nothing therein actually supports slavery (Paul tells Philemon to receive his slave back as a brother, and Old Testament institutions do not even remotely resemble modern institutions of slavery). Christianity was simply their excuse. We must see the Crusades in the same light. The evils of the Inquisition have been drastically overblown.  Return to my central point: unless Con can connect an evil to Christian theology/ideology as a motivation, then he has failed to show a true harm resulting from Christianity.
 Hannam, James. The Genesis of Science (2011).
 Lynn White, Medieval Religion and Technology (1978).
 Ward, Keith. Is Religion Dangerous?
>Reported Vote: Jeff_Goldblum // Mod action: [Not Removed]
>Points Awarded: 1 point Pro
>Reason for Decision: See comments
>Reason for Mod Action: The voter justifies his sources point pursuant to the Voting Policy.
Ironically enough. Christianity is to be like and follow christ. Jesus never killed or hurt anyone but told us to love our neighbor as ourself. So if christianity causes problems and harm, then its not christianity, but a perversion thereof.
Insightful analysis. I appreciate the feedback.
S&G and CONDUCT: Tie
You both write well and there were no conduct violations. At times I felt Con's tone was more combative than Pro's, but nothing so extreme as to be labeled a conduct problem.
2 OF 2
Pro made a decent opening argument with the one-two punch (i.e. Christianity in theory should promote science and we have some evidence that it did). These arguments were supported by sources, as well. Con countered with some nice points about Christianity being toxic to the cause of rationality and science over the years, but these points were largely asserted and not sourced, thus weakening their strength. I also think Pro hit back with decent sources in defense, so on balance, this one-two punch argument leaned toward Pro’s favor.
On the subjects of the Enlightenment and Middle Age scientific advancements, a similar story played out. Pro started with decent arguments that were supported by sources, Con came back with some incisive and intuitive counters that largely failed to use sources for support. For example, the following statement by Con could’ve been a stronger counterpoint if a source had been cited to support it: “During the Early Middle Ages, or 500 to 1000 CE, scientific progress truly was stagnant in Europe, yet the Christian faith was practiced with devotion almost unrivalled in world history.” So, once again, I lean in favor of Pro on this subject.
Lastly, we have what I have mentally labeled the Atrocities Category. I was not super impressed with either side’s arguments here. Again, Con put forth some incisive, intuitive, but ultimately insufficiently supported claims about Christianity’s misdeeds. Another example: “the Church stifled, censored, and persecuted any scientist who dared publish any findings that went against Christian dogma. The height of persecution lasted from the late 16th to the early 18th century - before that, during the Renaissance, the Church was more lax, which is why Copernicus went unpersecuted. But by Galileo’s time, the Counter-Reformation had set in, and the Church took a more staunch fundamentalist attitude. Thus, they put him on trial for arguing that the Earth moves around the Sun, the opposite seen as Biblical doctrine at the time.” Now, as an atheist, I enjoy reading about how the Church was bad for censoring free thought. This one should go down easy. But Con doesn’t provide any sourcing, and for historical claims such as this, sourcing is important for the strength of the point. But as I said, I wasn’t impressed with either side’s performance in this category. I was displeased with Pro because he often resorted to the “that’s not true Christianity” defense. A real whopper was at the end of his R4 when he claimed Christianity doesn’t support slavery. Whether his definition of true Christianity supports slavery is irrelevant, per my assessment framework mentioned previously.
Pro performed better overall, though not well enough to meet his burden of proof. I was not convinced that had Christianity not existed (or at least been significantly less influential) the world would be a worse place. There are two reasons for my lack of conviction on this point. First, when extolling the scientific and enlightenment values of Christianity, Pro’s arguments never surpassed the plausibility threshold. Sure, we can identify some ways Christianity in theory would promote science. And sure, Christian scientists gave glory to god in the forewords of their books and whatnot, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Christianity was the primary causal factor behind the growth of science. Without a precise and definitive account of the various factors at play in the growth of science and other benefits, I’m not confident Pro has met his burden. Second, as I stated, I was unimpressed with Pro’s defense against Christian atrocities by appeals to “not a true Christian.” Of course, Con’s arguments were not very strong due to a lack of sourcing, but this is still overall not good for Pro, considering they carry the burden of proof.
I’ll conclude by saying this was a robust, complicated debate, and I think other intelligent and well-meaning voters could come to a different conclusion. In fact, I think it’s possible someone could offer a better analysis than I have.
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In my view, for Pro to uphold the claim that Christianity has done more good than harm, he needed to demonstrate a counterfactual. Namely, that had Christianity not existed (or at least not been as influential as it was), the world would be a worse place. I have reason to believe Pro should accept this assessment framework of mine, given that he essentially asserts this counterfactual at the beginning of his opening argument.
I prefer this framework over the two-point standard Pro and Con agreed to in R4, as the second point (actions must originate from Christian beliefs) is too susceptible to the “that’s not real Christianity” defense/excuse for my taste. Furthermore, I think the counterfactual standard is a good way to identify whether Christianity as a phenomenon was a primary causal mechanism behind various good and bad historical developments.
That said, here is my assessment of the clash.
I’ll divide my assessment here into two categories: Use in Debate and Source Quality.
Starting with the second, I had concerns with both sides' sources from the start. Con was referencing Wikipedia a lot and other blogs (one of which was an atheist blog about Thomas Jefferson - oof!). Wikipedia is ok, but we could do better. Superficially, it looked like Pro was citing a nice academic library of supporting literature, but I was concerned the library might have actually just been an assortment of pseudo-academic Christian historical revisionist garbage (excuse my bluntness).
After reviewing a few of Pro’s sources, I found a mixed bag. Two sources, Schmidt and Amos, looked like they might be closer to the pseudo-academic Christian garbage end of the spectrum than the objective, secular scholarship end. I cannot be sure, however, because I haven’t read them. My suspicion was generated by the book publishers, descriptions, and opening sentences (also the background of the authors wasn’t super encouraging, though I admit I didn’t do a deep background check on them or anything like that). However, Pro’s Efron source was clearly high quality. Written by objective authors (half of them claim to be agnostic/atheist) who just want to set the historical record straight and published by Harvard University Press, I trust this source. Pro and Con had a bit of spat over what the source’s true implications were. When I reviewed it, I found it to be about dispelling myths about science and religion. Most of these myths would have benefited Con, but as Con pointed out, the “Myth 9” chapter had some things to say that weren’t really in Pro’s favor. With that being said, I’m not going to read Myth 9 and try to parse out to what extent Pro and/or Con were selectively quoting. So, when it comes to quality of sources, it’s kind of a draw. I don’t care for Con’s reliance on Wikipedia and blogs, and I have concerns about the integrity of some of Pro’s sources as well.
When it comes to Use in Debate, I think it’s clear that I thought Con did not support his claims with sources frequently enough. Pro’s argument was written like a well-researched college essay, meaning he made claims and then turned to the literature for support.
Given that Quality is a rough draw and Use in Debate goes to Pro, points for Sources go to Pro.
I plan to vote on this.
When I point out that European science was stagnant in the Early Middle Ages, I am excluding the Byzantine Empire. The point still stands, since Western Europe was highly Christian, and should have advanced scientifically if Pro's argument were correct.
I can't believe I am even saying this right now, but this guy is no normal guy. He "rose from the dead" because he is moral by the old standards.
Does? well not "does". More like "did".
There is morality iv virtually every other known civilization, some more so than others. Just because you believe a guy was crucified and rose from the dead, and he may come back does not make you moral. Christianity does not bring morality.
My position is that Christianity had done well for humanity because it is a faith that is moral. However under science Christianity is just a road block.
Hello! I'm not quite as bellicose as Dawkins on this subject, as I will admit that Christianity has done some good for humanity. However, I will be arguing that it's far outweighed by the harm. I look forward to debating with you.