Is Christianity Good for Mankind?
"In the begining was LOGOS
and LOGOS was with GOD
and LOGOS was GOD"
What is Logos?
The opening of John's Gospel was not addressed by conservative Christian Dinesh D’Souza and objectivist atheist Andrew Bernstein in their debate Friday evening Feb. 8 at the University of Texas. But I think it should have been.
The University of Texas Objectivism Society put on a fine show at the Hogg Auditorium featuring two very capable advocates for their positions. Andrew Bernstein argued that Christianity is bad because, as with all religions, it replaces an individual's use of reason with subservience to faith. Zealous followers that commit atrocities justify their acts in the name of religion. Dinesh D’Souza argued that while religions admittedly have been a source for some atrocities they pale in comparison to those committed by atheists such as Pol Pot and Stalin. He stated that instead of replacing reason, Christianity is one of the roots of the reason that Western civilization inherits from the enlightenment.
For those that attended in person or online through a live stream, the debate covered a lot of ground and probed deeply into the origins of reason. D’Souza claimed that the enlightenment of the 18th century, which established principles of individual rights, has its roots in Athens and Jerusalem. The combination of Greek philosophy and democracy with the unique principle of Christian forgiveness created the environment for the likes of John Locke, Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson to give birth to government based on liberty. Bernstein argued that reason did not have any connection to religion; reason has always existed and did not begin with Christianity.
The core dispute between D’Souza and Bernstein is that you either believe in God or in reason. I ask not only whether it is possible to believe in both. I argue that God is reason. Reason is God.
John’s use of the Greek word “Logos” has been the subject of much research and debate itself. In my study, it appears to me that John is stating that reason (logic, truth, good) has always existed. So too, evil and error exist. We can claim that an entity called God created reason, or that reason has a persona that we call God. If you ascribe to the thinking of Spinoza, this is not a new concept.
Do you believe truth exists? I propose that if you do, you can believe in God. You don’t have to believe in a puppeteer with a white beard up in the clouds. You believe that there is reason/logic and truth is found by applying it. You can also put the name Satan to evil and error without believing a red devil roams the universe with a pitchfork.
Of course any belief system can have followers that misapply reason/logic and commit atrocities, while fully believing they are justified. During the Spanish inquisition, Christians following the teachings of Jesus are accountable for an estimated 6,000 deaths over 500 years. In Red China, atheist Mao Zedong is credited with the deaths of as many as 78 million while preaching that “religion is poison” from the teachings of Marx. Is it impossible to think the Objectivists following the teachings of Ayn Rand are capable of misapplying their belief system in a zealous manner to justify acts that someday could be regarded as atrocious?
In order to argue Christianity is bad, Bernstein needs to prove that it is a belief system that is worse than the alternatives. Is it better for people to have no belief system? Don’t Objectivists adopt “reason” as their belief system in the same way as any religion, and are followers of Objectivism not also subject to the same subjugation of individuality that is attributed to religion?
My understanding of Ayn Rand is that she was not the least bit tolerant of anyone that challenged her belief system. She would cast out members of her inner circle if they dared disagree. If Christianity is at fault for shunning Galileo, are Objectivists guilty of the same behavior? Does this treatment not threaten the individuality of followers?
If D’Souza and Bernstein debate again, I recommend attending. I also recommend reading John’s Gospel in advance. It may be that Bernstein and D’Souza both worship “Logos”. I claim that is good.