From an article in today's Dose on President Bush's visit to China.
The devoutly Christian Bush and his wife, Laura, visited one of the few recognized Christian churches in Beijing yesterday morning as a statement of support of religious tolerance.
Isn't it funny how this is framed by the media. Bush is a good guy, he's saying how great it is that Christianity can have a place in China. Well, fuck, it's funny how Bush couldn't give two shits about Islam or any other religion in the US. It's funny how the US is supposed to be secular but clearly is still "one nation under [the Christian] God" and that all his decisions are based without any regard or tolerance for any other religion's (or atheistic) values. But it's fuckin great that China has a couple of Christian churches now, no doubt Bush believes this is a step in the right direction.2)
In my political and social thought class today, the professor was interpresing St. Augustine's view of God by qualifying what slavery meant in the City of God. He argued that, given the traditional view of slavery as forfeiting the right to live, in many ways, that this could be looked at in terms of Augustine's writings. Augustine believed that we were in fact not really living until death, and that life itself was in fact a type of pilgrimmage to God. Of course, many religion concepts such as judgement in the afterlife also stem from these writings, which is contrary to the older Hellenistic view that we are not conscious in the afterlife.
The professor further argued that, based on these assumptions, that we are seen to be in a position of slavery to God and that, given traditional master/slave relationships, it is not considered to be immoral for a master to select the outcome of slaves. This was used at the time as a sort of justification for this whole heaven/hell concept (aka. the human good or lack thereof).
Augustine also said that, as we are slaves of God, and that we naturally do not do the good, that we are only at home after death, when we are with God. We are alienated in the current world from our true nature and our souls in fact belong to God. He must intervene in everyday life through the church and the concept of grace in order to guide us along the right path (since we can't do it ourselves, obviously).
Funny thing about this, notwithstanding my personal beliefs that this is a fucking ridiculous argument considering we're supposed to be moulded in God's image and that God created this place in his image so why would he make it so flawed, but it's that people are almost offended in hearing this concept of God as a master of slaves. We are essentially evil at heart and must prove our worth to God in order to not be burned in eternal hell. What a fucking pleasant and contradictory view of the world this is. Augustine never specifically stated anything about this master/slave relationship, but my professor was implying that you could certainly make these assumptions based on his writings.
Now, what amazed me is that instantly after saying this, about 10 hands went up in class of people who were seemingly offended by this. Now, it's interesting to see how rats like these students will not listen to what is an educated opinion based on a Catholic authoriative figure's writings. This specific professor is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met in my life. He has read every single word written by every single significant philosopher, many of it in its original language (latin/greek/italian, whatever, he speaks those languages) and so his interpretations are often far more to the point than a translation could ever be. The man has an extremely complex understanding of historical factors surrounding philosophy as well as current research in the field. He is also the author of many books and papers, some of them in german, greek, or other languages.
Of course, when you're going to challenge his opinions on something, you'd better make sure you're not spewing shit, obviously. So this is when it got interesting. A few people started screaming about freewill and all this shit, which the teacher basically struck down very simply by referring back to specific points in the texts and whatnot. The problem with religious people in an argument is that they don't really listen. Those who were offended by these comments and trying to back up their personal distorted visions of the truth would not listen whatsoever to the corrections the teacher was making to their statements. While it was great to see him demolish their ridiculous opinions so easily, I think it illustrates a greater problem with debate.
Religious people are so indoctrinated in believing that this is the only way it can be, that they will spew such garbage in order to protect their sacred beliefs. If you question them on it or criticize their values, you will be shouted at for being intolerant, wrong, or that their beliefs are "personal". The fact is, I have never had a debate with a religious person where I was unable to completely destroy every argument through polemics. Only by using simple logic, the arguments of religious people can almost always be revealed to be completely contradictory and not based on facts but rather strange word-of-mouth stories and concepts that have been passed down through generations. If you are a good listener, you can basically take all these arguments and twist them 360 degrees in order to defeat religious concepts. Try it sometime.