Instigator / Pro
12
1507
rating
3
debates
50.0%
won
Topic

Christianity has done more good than harm for humanity.

Status
Finished

All stages have been completed. The voting points distribution and the result are presented below.

Arguments points
6
6
Sources points
2
2
Spelling and grammar points
2
2
Conduct points
2
2

With 2 votes and same amount of points on both sides ...

It's a tie!
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History
Time for argument
Three days
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Open voting
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Two weeks
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Four points
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15,000
Contender / Con
12
1524
rating
8
debates
56.25%
won
Description
~ 632 / 5,000

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!

Round 1
Pro
Pro and I have agreed to toss the first round and make this exchange a three-round debate!

Con
As we agreed, I will waive this first round so Pro may have more time to construct his opening argument.
Round 2
Pro
I intend to defend two contentions in this debate. First, Christianity has made significant contributions to the world throughout its 2,000-year history. Second, the gravity and scope of Christianity's detriments pale in comparison to its benefits. If I can accomplish these tasks, I will have shown that if the harm Christianity has caused was laid on one side of the cosmic scale and its aids on the other, the scales would tip in Christianity's favor. My opening statement focuses entirely on contention one, leaving it to my opponent to lay out what he sees as the chief harms of Christianity in later stages of the debate.

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
  1. no taxation without representation,
  2. imprisonment only ensuing after a fair trial, and
  3. the state taking someone's property only if they offered just compensation.  
With this document in place, kings were effectively no longer above the law. Christianity's stamp fell on this document. The charter states that its purpose was "for the honour of God and the exaltation of Holy Church and the reform of our realm, on the advice of our reverend fathers." Provision (2) above is fascinating because it has roots in Old Testament law, where Moses states that "one witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses" (Deuteronomy 19:15).

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. 

III. Conclusion

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.

IV. References

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.


Con
Thank you for your opening argument. I will now make my opening argument in favor of the proposition that the harm done by Christianity upon the human race outweighs the good. I will also be responding to several of Pro’s points along the way.

Pro is very enthusiastic about Christian influence on culture - when it ends up making a positive impact on society. He is very selective when it comes to his examples. For instance, we cannot say he gave a fully balanced picture of how Christianity impacted human rights when he did not mention the millennia-long history of Christian persecution of Jews and other religious minorities, mass killings of “heretics”, suppression of free speech if it went against fundamentalist dogma, censoring the press and the free exchange of ideas, and stifling the rights of women and homosexuals. The classic example is the Spanish Inquisition, but in reality this is only one small chapter in a long history of oppression which was accepted, praised, and even sanctified by Christians until the Enlightenment. These were no radical tertiary sects, but the behavior of mainstream Christianity up until recent history. We could go on through the Crusades, the witch-burnings, the Thirty Years’ War, the imperialist atrocities resulting from forced conversion of native peoples, the Biblical justifications for American slavery, and the human rights abuses going on this very day in modern fundamentalist states like Uganda and Zambia, but that would simply belabor the point.

There are many excuses made by modern Christian apologists to explain away these atrocities, such as the “It was a different time” defense and the “They weren’t true Christians” defense. Since Pro hinted at this second one, I will point out that whether or not Christians throughout the ages matched up to “true Christianity”, whatever that may be, is irrelevant. This debate is about the impact of the Christian religion on human history, and I see no logical argument that the persecution of non-Christians was not directly motivated by religious belief. Any attempt to rebrand Christianity as the beacon of hope and progress throughout history, while ignoring any atrocities committed in its name, is intellectually dishonest. The “different times” defense goes that these excesses of violence and oppression were standard for medieval and early modern times, and not unique to Christianity. This I actually agree with. My main thesis for this debate is that Christianity is not unique among belief systems and has little effect on human nature, but like any institution, can be and has been used as a tool of oppression. What constitutes “true” Christianity is altered based on time and location to whatever is most convenient for the people, or more realistically, for those in power. Thus, it is irrelevant.

Pro asserts that Christianity deserves credit for the improvement of science and human rights, but most historians would point to the 18th-century Enlightenment as the period when these things became truly popularized. In the page on human rights, Wikipedia states that “The true forerunner of human rights discourse was the concept of natural rights … that became prominent during the European Enlightenment.” [1] During the Enlightenment, great thinkers started the debates and conversations that would lay the foundation for democracy, equality, scientific progress, free speech, and human rights, and through the American and French Revolutions, these ideas spread from high-minded philosophers to everyday people around the world. The Enlightenment was, from its infancy, a secular movement based around a questioning of and healthy towards Biblical dogma. Plenty of the Enlightenment thinkers were religious (most countries at the time would have prosecuted anyone outwardly irreligious), but even they agreed with its key contribution: the separation of church and state. Of course, the Church fought against the Enlightenment every step of the way, but in the end, with nearly every developed Western country holding a secular government, the Enlightenment won out.

Pro points to the Magna Carta as an accomplishment of Christianity. I will freely and openly give credit when Christianity genuinely makes a good contribution to history, as it has, but I think you are overstating the Magna Carta’s impact. It was not a democratic document or treatise on human rights, but was giving rich, powerful barons greater freedom from the rich, powerful king. The protections on taxation and property were directed at the nobility, not the common people of England. [2] Rights and privileges have been granted to small, elite groups throughout history - that is nothing new. What sets apart the Enlightenment is the idea of extending these rights to all people, which is almost unheard of in history before then. I will acknowledge that the Magna Carta’s limitations on absolute monarchs were a good thing attributable to a Christian institution, and a step in the right direction, albeit a small one. But this pales in comparison to the doctrine of the “divine right of kings”, which was used to justify autocracy in Europe for centuries, and was officially defended by the Church using the Bible itself. [3]

The influence of Christianity upon the Declaration of Independence is dubious. We cannot even definitively say that a Christian wrote it, since Thomas Jefferson was famously skeptical towards religion. In a letter to John Adams in 1823, he wrote “The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.” He admired the moral teachings of Jesus, as many atheists do including myself, but says the rest of the New Testament is filled with “superstitions, fanaticisms and fabrications”. [4] Historians generally agree that Jefferson was a deist, as my opponent acknowledges, but how can he then go on to claim the Declaration for the glory of Jesus? Apparently Christians are trying to take credit for even the accomplishments of skeptics now. An admiration for Jesus’ ethics does not constitute Christianity, and if my opponent thinks it does, then we need to define our terms. Rather than trying to draw an invisible line from Jesus to Jefferson to the document, why not read the document itself and trace its influences? Jesus said nothing of all men possessing equal rights, or that government derives from the consent of the governed, or that revolution against an unjust state is justified. These are hallmarks of Enlightenment thought, mainly that of John Locke. My opponent fails to point out what exactly is explicitly Christian about the Declaration of Independence, instead relying on vague statements and questionable correlations.

I question my opponent’s statement about Christianity and individualism. I have heard hints of this idea before, and it seems to be a more recent cultural invention attempting to tie Christianity to liberalism and capitalism. Life in medieval times, when Christian faith was at its height, was all about the group. You lived and died for your church, or kingdom, or for the glory of Christ. Individual wants, needs, and personality traits had nothing to do with it. Reading up on the philosophical origins of individualism will no doubt lead to, of course, the liberal thought of the Enlightenment. But this has less to do with the historical impact of Christianity, so I will move on.

Finally, I will address the influence on science. I apologize for going in the opposite order my opponent used; it seemed to flow better this way. When trying to make a statement like “Christianity facilitated the growth and practice of science considerably”, a lot of explanation, and perhaps apologizing for past sins, is in order. My opponent does not do this, but instead chooses to cherry-pick, without so much as addressing Christianity’s long and continuing history of rabid opposition to science.

My opponent explains how a Christian worldview justifies scientific discovery, and in my opinion this is unnecessary. Isn’t this debate about what was actually accomplished in the real world, rather than theoretical definitions and philosophies? Besides, I would argue that, rather than encouraging the scientific method of following empirical evidence wherever it may lead, a Christian worldview by definition fiercely opposes any evidence against it. If one subscribes to a literalist interpretation of the Bible, as Christians have throughout most of history, they must believe that the Earth is six thousand years old, that all living organisms were created over the span of a few days, that a worldwide flood wiped out all life except for a boat containing two of each species, that the laws of physics can be bent with supernatural miracles. These ideas have all been thoroughly debunked by science, and when they were, Christians decried science as evil, immoral, the work of Satan. Thankfully, many modern Christians have accepted basic scientific truths, but fundamentalists have not ceased their fierce opposition to science. Even in my home state of Louisiana, there is legislation on the books that allows teachers to push creationism in public schools. [5] My opponent wants to have it both ways, but he must choose one of two positions: is Christianity supportive of science, which means it supports the scientific consensus on evolution and the Big Bang theory, or is Christianity against science, which undermines your argument?

Scientific research on evolution was only allowed to bloom once Western society became secularized. Before then, 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. How can my opponent argue that Galileo’s religion motivated his research while ignoring that his opponents persecuted him because of their religion as well? Since the Scientific Revolution began, Christianity has fought tooth and nail against biology, astronomy, geology, and archaeology, precisely because their findings contradicted Biblical dogma. 

The rest of Pro's argument is basically “a lot of scientists were Christian, so that means Christianity helped science”. To this, I ask my opponent: what would have changed about these figures if Christianity had simply never happened? I don’t see how the personal beliefs of these people were relevant unless you can prove that Christianity was the primary motivation for their work. Which is not the same as, say, a dedication to God slapped on at the end of a book. Especially considering that, were these people not outwardly Christian, they would have certainly suffered persecution in the society of their times. A smattering of scientists who happen to be Christian does not make up for Christianity’s relentless antagonism towards science. The scientific method entails questioning everything and holding all hypotheses up to scrutiny. This is incompatible with “Biblical” Christianity, which clings to the myths of Genesis despite science having debunked it for centuries. That would be all fine and good if they kept to themselves, but in the secular nation of America, evangelical politicians and lobbyists are constantly striving to force their morals and beliefs onto the American people. [6]

If Christianity is responsible for all the gains of science and equality, then may I ask, why were no such gains made in the Middle Ages, when the Christian religion was at the peak of its influence? From Constantine to the Crusades, scientific progress was minimal. Even before the Renaissance, not much advancement was taking place. But with the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press, knowledge became much easier to exchange and democratize. People were exposed to new ideas, and were given the chance to think critically about the world and its problems. With that came the birth of science, and the beginning of religion’s decline. If we follow Pro’s line of logic, that should have happened long ago, because Christianity is apparently so conducive to science. He gives no explanation as to the cause and effect of how Christianity brought about all of humanity’s accomplishments. He simply points out that some scientists happened to be Christian. That’s like arguing that Islam is inherently empowering to women because Malala Yousafzai is a Muslim. The fact that a she is a Muslim should not be surprising; she would be persecuted if she wasn’t. Just as in Christian states until the Enlightenment’s death blow to Western theocracy.

I am sure that my opponent will claim that the persecutors, crusaders, murderers, and slavers I mentioned are all “not true Christians”. This is exactly the cunning way in which Christianity defends itself in a modern world that has no need for it. It takes credit for the accomplishments of the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment, despite fighting against them as they happened, yet it denies any responsibility for the endless atrocities that have been committed in the name of Christ. This great double standard should not be forgotten in the court of history. I understand that many people gain meaning, motivation, and happiness from their Christian faith. But the idea that the institutions of Christianity have brought only peace and progress to the human race is, quite simply, a lie. In its 1500-year reign of domination over the Western world, Christianity has oppressed people based on religion, nation, sex, and sexuality, tortured and murdered so-called heretics, and stifled free thought and expression. I see no direct proof from Pro about how Christianity is responsible for all the great achievements of Western civilization, except for vague justifications that lay in the realm of theoretical reasoning, not historical reality. Next round, I hope to hear Pro address the crimes committed in the name of Christianity, and gives real evidence for why Christianity is responsible for the achievements of human ingenuity.

I now turn it over to Pro.

Sources:
1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights
2. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/04/20/the-rule-of-history
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divine_right_of_kings#Catholic_justified_permission
4. https://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/2020/04/2000-years-of-disbelief-thomas-jefferson/
5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louisiana_Science_Education_Act

Round 3
Pro
I. Overview

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


Con
I thank Pro for his counter-argument. It is a shame that he has not yet addressed the atrocities committed by Christianity, since I see that as one of the most essential components of this debate, deserving of more discussion. For lack of space, he has chosen to only respond to my points about science, so I will respond to the points he made.

First of all, I will make a general observation about my opponent’s style of argument. He has been using the phrase “prima facie” a lot, which many of us will know means “until proven otherwise”. I find that he has been using this phrase in place of providing actual proof or evidence for the claims he is making, instead challenging me to disprove it. I contend that the burden of proof rests with Pro to provide evidence for the claims he is making, such as that Christianity is inherently beneficial to science or that the Declaration of Independence must contain Christian influence, rather than forcing me to argue with points that haven’t even been said.

I will make another point that I somewhat hinted at during my opening argument, but never quite made explicit. The theoretical idea of what defines a Christian worldview has little impact on how adherents of the religion behave in the real world. Religion adapts to the time and place it’s practiced in, not the other way around. Even a highly Christian society will still have violence, adultery, drunkenness, homosexuality, and other things considered sinful by scripture. Human nature prevails. But the question is: does that make them “not Christian”? I would argue no, they are still Christian. Anyone who practices a religion inspired by the teachings of Jesus is a Christian by definition. They may not perfectly follow the teachings of Jesus, but then, who does? If all human beings are sinful, as mainstream doctrine goes, where does one draw the line between “real Christians” and “fake Christians”? I would argue that this is a matter of personal belief and cannot be measured objectively. For my purposes, anyone who sincerely claims to be Christian is a Christian.

Pro’s argument that Christianity is inherently conducive to science does not hold water, since he failed to connect the theoretical to the actual. What is the real-world evidence for his claim that the belief in a God who created the world in an orderly fashion encourages science, while belief in animism and spirits does not? He has given no evidence to back up this claim, and again falls back on prima facie. He doesn’t have to prove it right, but I have to prove him wrong. While it’s not my responsibility to prove him wrong, as the BoP lies on Pro for this claim, I must point out that I checked out his source, the passage by Noah Efron, and found that Efron is actually arguing against the idea that Christianity created modern science. The book is a collection of “myths” about science and religion, and this is myth number 9, as listed in Pro’s sources. About Christians who try to make that claim, he says this: “About science, they are saying that it comes in only one variety, with a single history, and that centuries of inquiries into nature in China, India, Africa, the ancient Mediterranean, and so on have no part in that history.” and adds that “This anything-your-religion-does-mine-can-do-better attitude jiggers one part condescension with two parts self-congratulation, and one wonders why some find it appealing.” [1] Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Before I move on, you say you made a point about Aristotelianism and sin that I didn’t respond to, yet I cannot find this point anywhere in your argument. Could you clarify what you meant, if you feel it’s important?

Pro argues that my criticism of fundamentalist Christianity’s opposition to modern science doesn’t count, because it does not center around “beliefs essential to Christianity”. First, may I ask, what exactly are the “beliefs essential to Christianity” in your view? From an outsider’s perspective, it seems like they change depending on who you ask. Some say that Catholics are the only true Christians, others say Protestants, some say you must take the Bible literally or you go to Hell, others say those who take the Bible literally will go to Hell. Any objective definition of Christianity is a controversial topic, to say the least. Second, are you telling me that my criticisms of Christianity don’t count unless they include the actions of every single Christian on the planet, based on connection by “essential beliefs”? I never claimed that all Christians are fundamentalists opposed to evolution, but a significant portion of them are, because of the beliefs of their particular denomination. As you stated in the beginning, we are talking about every denomination that falls under the umbrella of Christianity. Brushing the ones you don’t like off to the side is going against the motion you set out in this debate.

I am not arguing that Christianity is “by definition” opposed to modern science, nor am I making any comment of what does or doesn’t count as “essential Christian beliefs”. I am simply judging how the actions of the Christian faith have played out in history, as this debate was purportedly supposed to be about. Not “all” Christians, as you’d be hard-pressed to find any example of all Christians committing the same action except breathing, but a significant enough portion to leave a mark on history. Pro has not been looking honestly at Christianity’s historical record, but has been attempting to redefine the terms and move the goalposts.

My points about Christianity’s opposition to heliocentrism, evolution, and the Big Bang theory still stand. The only specific historical evidence cited by Pro to support his point that Christianity helps science was a secondary source that Kepler’s research might have been partially inspired by Lutheran ideas. The author words it pretty tentatively, and this is of course the personal judgment of one historian, so it isn’t the strongest. I contend that my opponent has not adequately explained his proposition that Christianity supports science, nor has he adequately responded to me on the subject.

I’m uncertain why you went on a digression about the Catholic Church’s role in the Middle Ages. I am well aware that it was a political institution, but that does not change the fact that it was still religious in nature, as even you admit. It accomplished its ends through inarguably religious means, such as indulgences, tithes, holy wars, and papal bulls. The medieval Catholic Church was one of the many forms the Christian religion took throughout history, and this debate ostensibly covers all of these forms. It’s odd that my opponent did not use his “non-essential beliefs” defense again, since medieval Catholics certainly held beliefs that are not essential for all Christians.

Pro contends that I need to prove Christianity was responsible for the Church becoming a political entity, calling this a “radical claim”. How so? Were it not for the Christian religion, the Catholic Church would obviously not exist at all. Christianity was the foremost concern of the medieval mind, so it’s not surprising that the organization representing it in the West grew to such power and influence. Was this ordained by a verse coming from the Bible itself? No, but we’re not discussing Christianity in theory, we’re discussing Christianity in practice. I have stated my position on this in the first round: “Christianity is not unique among belief systems and has little effect on human nature, but like any institution, can be and has been used as a tool of oppression”. The Christian religion was used by the medieval Church for oppressive means. I don’t extend this condemnation to every other Christian in history, as Pro tries to frame my position, but they were a part of the Christian story. Just as Pro’s religious scientists are a part of the Christian story as well.

It is true that scientific gains were made during the Middle Ages. I was more trying to say that these gains were minimal compared to the Scientific Revolution, but I will admit that I misspoke, and was wrong on that point. However, Pro is very quick to ascribe all the medieval scientific successes to Christianity, rather than the more likely answer: a variety of factors. I will point out that all the inventions listed by Pro came to Europe during the High and Late Middle Ages, or approximately the years 1000 to 1500 CE. 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. If Christian is the beacon of scientific progress, as Pro contends, then why did it take so long to get started? Without a satisfactory answer to this question, the connection between Christianity and science is one of correlation, not causation. Also, the compass, paper, printing, and gunpowder, as listed by Pro, all originated in China [2], which along with India and the Middle East was ahead of Europe technologically at the time. Again, if Christianity is the beacon of science, then why were these practicioners of Islam, Buddhism, and Confucianism so far ahead of them until at least the 16th century?

Pro’s defense of Christianity’s contribution to science has been inadequate. He has not offered much in the way of tangible historical evidence for this except for the fact that many scientists happened to be Christian, which should not be surprising in a society that persecuted non-Christians. He has obscured the debate with a hazy and inconsistent definition of what counts as “true Christianity” and what does not. Pro is all too eager to give the entire Christian religion credit for the successes of Copernicus and Newton, but has an endless list of excuses for why the actions of anti-evolution evangelicals or the medieval Catholic Church don’t reflect at all upon Christianity. Pro gives credit to Christianity when it is convenient for his argument, and dodges when it is not.

For the next and final round, we will be giving our closing arguments, which as Pro stated, will relate more to Christianity’s impact on human rights. 

Sources:
1. Efron, Noah J. "Myth 9: That Christianity Gave Birth to Modern Science," in Galileo Goes to Jail. 2009.

Round 4
Pro
Thank you, Con, for your dynamic interaction with my arguments. Honestly, I appreciate it and have enjoyed this debate.

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." [1] 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," [2] 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." [3] Second, young-earth creationism is a minority viewpoint among Christians. 70% of the U.S. population identifies as Christian, [4] while only 33% of the population denies evolutionary theory. [5] 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" [6]. 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" [8] 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.

i. The significance of Magna Carta - Con grants that Christian theology influenced this document, but attempts to undermine its importance. This correction is fair, and I will take it into account moving forward. The essay cited by Pro, "The Rule of History" by professor Jill Lepore, is fascinating and deserves careful reflection. However, while prof. Lepore rightly criticizes the mythology in America surrounding Magna Carta, nevertheless, this document was vital in setting the stage for more productive attempts to secure the idea of human rights. Con is wrong that the purpose of the charter "was [about] giving rich, powerful barons greater freedom from the rich, powerful king," as opposed to every person. Lepore recounts how over ten years, the final form of Magna Carta "granted liberties not to free men but to everyone, free and unfree" adding that "the charter enshrines not liberties granted by the King to certain noblemen but liberties granted to all men by nature" [9]. She recounts how American colonists rallied around the document and used it as a source of inspiration for declaring independence from England.

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" [9]. Moreover, "democratic participation in government has deep roots in the Christian belief that all are equal in the sight of God" [10], 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" [11]. 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" [12]. 

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. [13] 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" [14]. 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. [14] 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.


Notes

[1] https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/prima_facie
[2] https://biologos.org/common-questions/how-have-christians-responded-to-darwins-origin-of-species
[3] Ibid.
[4] https://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/
[5] https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/10/30/5-facts-about-evolution-and-religion/
[6] Hannam, James. The Genesis of Science (2011).
[7] Lynn White, Medieval Religion and Technology (1978).
[8] Hannam.
[9] Ward, Keith. Is Religion Dangerous?
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid.
[14] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Inquisition

Con
Thank you for a spirited debate, Pro. I will now give my final argument.

First off, Pro defended his use of prima facie reasoning. I was not attacking the term itself, per se, but your use of it. You have been using it not to connect obvious logical dots that anyone would agree on, like your example of seeing a red octagon on the street and concluding that it’s probably a stop sign, but as a crutch for your arguments in place of evidence. Not that you supplied no evidence at all in this debate, but there were several occasions in which you didn’t. For example, you say that Christianity’s influence on the Declaration of Independence can be taken at prima facie face value, despite the fact that the author wasn’t even Christian. Pro has attempted multiple times to shift the burden of proof onto me for arguments he had not even provided evidence for. But in the end, I suppose it’s for the voters to decide.

There has also been some trouble regarding what question we are even talking about. What is meant by “Christianity” in the motion? The actions of everyone who defines themselves as Christian? Only those actions which can be tied to religious motivation? Or are there false branches of Christian motivation, and we must focus on true Christian doctrine, whatever that may be in Pro’s point of view? Pro has defined his criteria for holding Christianity responsible, which perhaps should have been done at the debate's beginning, but I agree to those terms. In my mind I have been abiding by something like them, that any action which was committed by Christians, and motivated by their religious beliefs, can be counted as a way in which the Christian faith has impacted the world. It is worth pointing out, though, that Christian beliefs are as wide as the spectrum of human culture itself, and does not always match with our modern liberal outlook that values things like science and human rights.

In this last round, I will admit that after much thinking on the subject, I must moderate my position on Christianity and science. When examining history in greater detail, the idea of an eternal conflict between science and religion does not hold water. Science and Christianity are sometimes allies, sometimes enemies, and sometimes simply coexist. The medieval Catholic Church did provide a framework for ideas and scholarship to be exchanged. Even Pro’s assertion about the Christian worldview leading to early modern science seems to be taken seriously by historians on the subject. I will grant that these claims are not far-fetched.

However, there are still many issues with the way Pro has presented them. He resides in the realm of theology when making this argument, assuming that if he can prove the Christian worldview works this way, it’s taken for granted that the worldview trickles down into the actions of the believers. That is not necessarily the case. There are plenty of idealistic worldviews that do not necessarily translate well into the real world. Marxism, for example, makes it prima facie plausible that a socialist society can give the means of production to the workers, and live together in harmony. Obviously, Marxism did not play out that way in the real world. And just as modern-day Marxists try to brush off the horrors of communist regimes, Pro brushes off the evils committed by Christians in the name of their religion, while attributing to it all the major achievements of mankind.

Pro has not contradicted my claim that when scientific findings happen to contradict Christianity, Christianity fights back. He belittles creationists as just a small fringe Christian sect of no significance, but he forgets that it was the most common Christian view of the world for over a millennium, barring some non-literalists here and there, until the advance of science forced Christianity to adapt. I will grant that Young-Earth Creationism, as a unified movement, did start in the twentieth century. However, the existence of a major movement like this, and the prevalence of its ideas (33% of Americans denying evolution is still a huge portion), sheds doubt on Con’s assertions that 1) The Christian worldview is inherently conducive to science and 2) This worldview has a direct effect on the way Christians act in reality. When arguing that Christianity has helped science, Pro has kept his focus on the Early Modern period, never venturing into the nineteenth century, let alone the present. What is Christian belief doing for science now? Either nothing, or actively doing harm. I repeat my example of the Louisiana legislation that allows public school teachers to foist creationism upon their students. [1] As for the early Scientific Revolution, I would be open to the idea that Christian beliefs may have factored into it in some ways, but Pro simply has not provided adequate evidence, and the claim itself seems unfalsifiable.

I have already admitted that the Magna Carta has made a small positive impact on history. Pro, despite listing a few of its perks, does not seem to be making a case that it is some kind of radical world-changing event, so I will move on. On the Declaration of Independence, Pro complains that I have “passed over specific lines of evidence” given by him. What lines of evidence? Pro did not even quote the Declaration itself. In any case, Pro has retroactively nullified this argument, since his first requirement was that the individual in question must “claim to represent Christianity”, which Jefferson did not, so let us move on again. Pro claims that “Christianity's affirmation of God's universal love for every person...had a liberalizing effect on the world.” If that were true, that would be wonderful, but it is not. The world a thousand years before Christianity and a thousand years after it are very different places, but one is not necessarily more humane than the other, and periods of stronger Christian faith are not necessarily more peaceful. In fact, the opposite is often true.

It is interesting how Pro will make such sweeping generalizations as the one just quoted, but will endlessly try to shift the blame elsewhere when Christianity is caught misbehaving. The Thirty Years’ War was largely due to political factors, so that means the religious factors have no significance at all, according to Pro, despite the fact that those who fought in it saw it as a war between Protestantism and Catholicism. Anyone who’s serious about studying history knows better than to argue that one factor is the only cause of anything. I am arguing that Christianity played a part in the Thirty Years’ War, the Crusades, imperialism, and other atrocities, just as you are arguing that Christianity played a part in early modern science. Pro also tries to differentiate between the “use” and “abuse” of Christianity, but who gets to decide which is which? The average modern Christian is hardly an impartial judge, working from a post-Enlightenment Western liberal democratic framework. Pro asks me to connect the evils committed by Christianity to theology. Why? Theology has always been the domain of scholars, and does not represent the wide swath of believers. That being said, Thomas Aquinas, perhaps the most famous theologian of all time, openly advocated for the extermination of heretics. [2]

The thing about the atrocities I mentioned in the first round is that they all meet the criteria set out by Pro at the start of the final round. The Crusades were started on a direct papal order to take back the Holy Land where Jesus was crucified, the witch-hunts were inspired directly by Exodus 22:18, the Reformation and resulting wars of religion arose from competing interpretations of Christian dogma, the treatment of women and homosexuals comes directly from the Old and New Testaments, the rights of autocratic kings were defended by the Church with Biblical evidence, and the persecution and censoring of heresy stemmed from a worldview which saw un-Christian ideas as inherently evil and dangerous. Sure, there likely were political or other cultural motivations mixed in as well, but Pro is attempting to force me to argue that they were all 100% motivated by religion, which as I pointed out, is not only impossible but not what we are debating about in the first place. It is self-evident that these atrocities were motivated by Christian beliefs. Partial or not, Christianity still contributed to evil forces in history, which is the question being discussed. Pro has sidestepped altogether the question of Christian discrimination against people of certain religions, genders, races, and sexualities, and has only addressed Christian wrongdoings at all with a few dismissive comments about the Thirty Years’ War and slavery slapped on at the end. We cannot sing the praises of the Christian worldview for supposedly liberalizing the world, and then meekly try to explain away the negative consequences of this same worldview with other factors.

The Reformation did indeed help to bring about the Enlightenment, but this was because the hegemony of Catholic thought over Europe was broken, and a greater emphasis on thinking for one’s self and forming independent ideas was brought about. The Reformation fractured Christianity, and while in the short term it was a more devout, intolerant, and bloody period than what came before, in the long term it spelled out the decline of Christianity’s influence on the Western world. It demonstrated the horrors of a government controlled by religion, and wars fought out of zealotry, so the Enlightenment thinkers had an example of what the world needed to be freed from. The Enlightenment was not perfect, nor was the period after it. Periods of great change in history often come with violence and chaos, as with the Reformation and the World Wars, but like those periods, humanity came out on the other side of the Enlightenment better fed, more prosperous, healthier, happier, and more free. Like Christianity, Enlightenment liberalism’s principles often went unpracticed by those who professed them. But unlike Christianity, the Enlightenment’s ideals of reason, science, democracy, and humanism can be directly linked to radical improvements in the human condition. [3] And the idea that this movement, which largely involved questioning of and freedom from Christianity, and had its origins in the fracturing and infighting of Christianity, owes anything to Christianity, is not prima facie at all.

For my final summing up, I will keep it brief. I have consistently argued that Christians have committed many reprehensible acts throughout history, and these acts are directly attributable to their Christian faith. Pro has consistently sidestepped this argument and has tried to redefine terms, backtrack, and retroactively alter the motion of the debate. His argument that Christianity has aided science and human rights resides almost solely in the realm of a theoretical Christian worldview, not the real actions of Christians throughout history. Pro seems unwilling or unable to accept that anything bad can be done in the name of the Christian faith. He has consistently applied a double standard to all examples, citing positive actions of any Christian (or even non-Christians like Jefferson) as evidence of Christianity’s superiority, but whenever a negative example is brought up, he doubts, demurs, and tries to shift the blame onto any other factor except Christianity, assuming he acknowledges the example at all. I would ask the voters to take all this into consideration.

I again thank Pro for this debate, and wish him good luck.

Sources:
1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louisiana_Science_Education_Act
2. https://www.newadvent.org/summa/3011.htm#article3
3. https://www.historyhit.com/enlightenment-ideas-that-changed-the-world/