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Old 04-28-2001, 12:12 AM   #111
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Nomad:
The main point made by Robson that I found most interesting and true (at least so far as my experience with many sceptics I have met on discussion boards goes) is that most people don't really know very much about history, nor do they even know that they do not know very much about history.</font>
Wow, how generous. You ventured into this discussion forum just to inform us that most of us don't know shit about history. I must say, this strikes me as more than a little arrogant. Feel free to prove me wrong, of course.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">This particular thread became especially instructive for me, as we descended deeper and deeper into the sureal, until a couple of the regular sceptics on these boards asserted that Christians worshipped Satan, or at least thought of him as the supreme being.</font>
Satan is another supernatural entity in the Christian mythos. He is "supreme" when compared to us ordinary mortals -- immortal, immensely powerful, and even has his own domain over which he rules.

If he is not some kind of god, what is he? Help me out here. How do you classify Satan?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">At this point I recognized that these individuals were not interested in a serious discussion. The fact that they refused to withdraw their ridiculous assertions told me that it was time "bail" as Michael put it.</font>
Gee Nomad, all I saw from your end was a pronouncement that such a claim was "ridiculous! LOL!" Hardly what I would call a scholarly rebuttal. You did not provide any explanation as to why Christianity could not be considered polytheistic; only your pal Layman attempted to do so.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">For the record, I certainly never claimed that Christianity's success was supernatually inspired. I did say that it was historically unique, and wanted to help the sceptics better understand the unique nature of its success.</font>
How is it "historically unique"? I bet I could find fact supporting the "historical uniqueness" of every major world religion. That is, of course Christianity is unique in that it is has (some) precepts that differ from other religions, came to power under different circumstances and in different locations, and had a different leader. All of these make it unique; then again, Buddhism's precepts, place/circumstances of birth, and leader make it unique as well.

In other words, I still don't see the point of this assertion. It strikes me as something of a truism.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">As usual, with those that post here, none gave an inch, and having dug in, tended to dig in very deep indeed. In the meantime, for those that are less committed than these individuals to their specific faith, and especially their man-the -ramparts-and-never-conceed-an-inch mentality, that they saw Robson's point demonstrated very clearly.</font>
Which was? As far as I can tell, Robson was making odd sweeping claims, like:

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">But I will insist on the historical fact that it put a quick, final end to polytheism.</font>
He's never heard of Hinduism?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">And to god-kings; no ruler has advanced a new claim of divinity since Jesus.</font>
He's never heard of Japanese emperors? Or the concept of the Chakravartin king?

Point being, some of Robson's assertions are patently false. There's more to "history" than what went on in the Western world. As Mr. Turton has pointed out this article suffers from severe Eurocentrism. Until Robson can expand his horizons a little, I am simply not inclined to take him seriously. That is all.
 
Old 04-30-2001, 10:09 AM   #112
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Monkeybot:

Wow, how generous. You ventured into this discussion forum just to inform us that most of us don't know shit about history. I must say, this strikes me as more than a little arrogant. Feel free to prove me wrong, of course.</font>
I understand that a few of the sceptics here were somewhat offended by my dismissiveness, but you have to admit, when someone is calling Christians Satan worshippers, things have slid pretty far down hill intelligence wise. At the same time, Michael appeared to be very interested in offering links that did not say what he thought they had said, and after I pointed this out to him, he remained unmoved. How would you suggest that I make the point clearer to him?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: This particular thread became especially instructive for me, as we descended deeper and deeper into the sureal, until a couple of the regular sceptics on these boards asserted that Christians worshipped Satan, or at least thought of him as the supreme being.

MB: Satan is another supernatural entity in the Christian mythos.</font>
Of course he is. He is also in the Jewish and Islamic belief systems, yet none of them worship him, nor do they consider him a supreme being.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> He is "supreme" when compared to us ordinary mortals -- immortal, immensely powerful, and even has his own domain over which he rules.</font>
None of this makes him a "supreme being". Christianity, Islam and Judaism have only one of those, and we call that being God.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">If he is not some kind of god, what is he? Help me out here. How do you classify Satan? </font>
He is an angel.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: At this point I recognized that these individuals were not interested in a serious discussion. The fact that they refused to withdraw their ridiculous assertions told me that it was time "bail" as Michael put it.

MB: Gee Nomad, all I saw from your end was a pronouncement that such a claim was "ridiculous! LOL!" Hardly what I would call a scholarly rebuttal.</font>
When someone tells me that they think that Christians are Satan worshippers, this is all of the response that they deserve. To argue the point is to dignify it as being worthy of a reply.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> You did not provide any explanation as to why Christianity could not be considered polytheistic; only your pal Layman attempted to do so.</font>
This was not the point of the discussion. The assertion was that Christians worship Satan and consider him to be a supreme being. Debating such a topic is ridiculous, and the foolishness of those making the assertions needed to be highlighted, but not debated.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: For the record, I certainly never claimed that Christianity's success was supernatually inspired. I did say that it was historically unique, and wanted to help the sceptics better understand the unique nature of its success.

MB: How is it "historically unique"? I bet I could find fact supporting the "historical uniqueness" of every major world religion.</font>
The success of Christianity in the ancient Roman Empire is an unprecidented achievement. Religions that had existed for thousands of years were accomodated within that Empire, and flourished alongside one another. Those that were not tolerated were destroyed, the singular exception being Christianity. Not only did Christianity continue to exist within an empire that had made it illegal, and even persecuted its members rather severely, it actually took over that empire. And within an extremely short period of time all competing faiths were wiped out. From an historical standpoint this is a remarkable achievement.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> That is, of course Christianity is unique in that it is has (some) precepts that differ from other religions, came to power under different circumstances and in different locations, and had a different leader. All of these make it unique; then again, Buddhism's precepts, place/circumstances of birth, and leader make it unique as well.</font>
The thing about Buddhism is that it does not require you to give up your existing gods. It is extremely easy to integrate its belief system into any other. Christianity, like Judaism and Islam, does not tolerate competing religions and gods. And unlike Judaism, it took over an empire within which it was persecuted, and unlike Islam, it did so without the benefit of military conquest.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Which was? As far as I can tell, Robson was making odd sweeping claims, like:

But I will insist on the historical fact that it put a quick, final end to polytheism.

He's never heard of Hinduism?</font>
I think that you misunderstood Robson's point. I believe that he was talking about Christianity's achievements within those parts of the world that it came to dominate. Perhaps he should have qualified his statement, but I thought that within the context of the article, and certainly within the context of the thread, this was understood.

[i]
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">And to god-kings; no ruler has advanced a new claim of divinity since Jesus.[/i/

He's never heard of Japanese emperors? Or the concept of the Chakravartin king?</font>
Same point. BTW, Buddhism never required any god-king to give up his claim. Only Christianity does this, and once it has established itself, god-kings ceased to be worshipped.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">There's more to "history" than what went on in the Western world. As Mr. Turton has pointed out this article suffers from severe Eurocentrism. Until Robson can expand his horizons a little, I am simply not inclined to take him seriously. That is all.</font>
Robson is writing to a Western readership, and his statements hold true in the context of Christian dominated parts of the world. The fact that some of the sceptics here remain unwilling to grant the unique achievements of Christianity on any level is interesting however, and no doubt helped to inspire Robson to write the column. This thread has helped to demonstrate his point quite significantly I believe.

Thanks for the discussion.

Nomad
 
Old 04-30-2001, 10:48 AM   #113
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So the arguments become...

1. Christianity is "unique" therefore its likely to be truthful in what it claims.

or perhaps...

2. The spread of Christianity is "remarkable" therefore its likely to be truthful in what it claims.

Perhaps this would be more compelling if a particular religion could be discussed that was not "unique" or "remarkable" in some manner.

As for Islam spreading solely through the method of military conquest, this is obviously incorrect. It would be rather difficult to acheive conquest without a very sizable number of followers to begin with. What is the evidence that Islam obtained converts mainly through military conquest? Did all Muslims convert others this way or just a few?

In any case I find it remarkable that a poor, orphan desert boy should rise to found such a large faith with so many followers.


 
Old 04-30-2001, 01:54 PM   #114
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The fact that some of the sceptics here remain unwilling to grant the unique achievements of Christianity on any level is interesting however, and no doubt helped to inspire Robson to write the column.

Poor Nomad, still suffering from that reading problem, I see…..

Here's what I wrote a couple of pages ago on this thread:

"Do you actually have a serious argument from history that says that there is something special (i.e. not trivially unique…."

"Trivially unique," is in fact, some level of uniqueness….certainly it was unique, in the way that all historical events are unique, but there is nothing that really stands out about it, compared to the spread of other religions. As I have said. So in fact I DO accord it some level of uniqueness. After all, we could construct similar "gee whiz!" cases for a host of religions. The spread of religions is a normal event in history. Few regions of the world lack examples of the ebb and flow of a major religion or three.

Also, Nomad, I doubt very much Robson was inspired by anyone here at the Secular Web when he wrote that ethnocentric collection of errors you began this thread with.

I think that you misunderstood Robson's point. I believe that he was talking about Christianity's achievements within those parts of the world that it came to dominate. Perhaps he should have qualified his statement, but I thought that within the context of the article, and certainly within the context of the thread, this was understood.

I think YOU misunderstood Robson's point. You think WE did. All we have to go by is the text, unless you want to ask Mr. Robson what he meant. Not that it matters. What counts is what he wrote, and what he wrote was completely wrong. You could have just said "Whoops! He sure did screw that up!," laughed, and went off in search of a better piece to back your points up. Instead, you kept trying to claim we were all idiots because we couldn't read Mr. Robson's mind. I have no idea why he wrote a bunch of ethnocentric crap that five minutes in history 101 would dispel. But I can only go by what he wrote.

See, your point was during this thread that we are a bunch of historical illiterates who were so obtuse that we wouldn't even view Christianity as especially unique, more so than other religions. But of course, it was you who began this patronizing argumentative strategy by posting a heap of ethnocentric garbage, and then tried to back away from it by claiming that it really only referred to one part of the world. You can't label a whole class of people idiots with an opening salvo like that.

The opposite point hasn't yet occurred: that the reason we find your claims absurd is (as we have demonstrated throughout the thread) that we know more about this than you, and are thus in a position to make some determination about the validity of your claim that Christianity has some special achievements no other religion has ever had. Actually, parallels can be found in the spread of many religions, as we have seen.

And unlike Judaism, it took over an empire which it was persecuted

Buddhism met tremendous initial resistance from the aristocracy in Korean Silla. Yet, by 535, it was the state religion of Silla, by order of the King.

To quote you, Nomad, isn't this at least a little odd to the average theist out there? I mean, ten years to wipe out all competing religions, that's much faster than Christianity. See? We can play this silly game of turning complex events into caricatures just as well as you can.

As the quote I referenced above shows, you weren't just restricting your case to "unique." You badly wanted to show that there was something really amazing about it.

But you couldn't. And still can't.

Let's look at it another way. Let's imagine all the ways religions can spread, by force, introduction by missionaries, by marriage, by introduction by merchants, and so forth, and all the things that could possibly happen, like taking over a hostile empire, to total rejection by the locals who blithely ignored it. Now, doesn't it make sense that, of the twenty or thirty major religions, there would be some aspects which for any particular religion are relatively and trivially unique? For example, the spread of Buddhism and Hinduism by merchants is not really widely replicated in the spread of Christianity through the Roman Empire and Europe. Am I doing rhetorical handstands claiming something amazing for those two religions? When you look at that totality of all historical events, Christianity's takeover of Europe (a long process whose speed and effect you have overstated) does not really stand out from among other religions. You could even claim that Buddhism was more amazing, since it was mostly welcomed wherever it went, unlike Christianity. Isn't that amazing? And suggestive?

In short, Christianity's spread was unique. Buddhism's was unique. Islam's was unique. Hinduism's in SE Asia was unique. They are all unique, but none is "more unique" or "especially unique" than any other.

Michael
 
Old 04-30-2001, 03:20 PM   #115
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by madmax2976:

So the arguments become...

1. Christianity is "unique" therefore its likely to be truthful in what it claims.

or perhaps...

2. The spread of Christianity is "remarkable" therefore its likely to be truthful in what it claims.</font>
I make neither of these claims, nor does Robson. Do not try to read into our arguments please.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Perhaps this would be more compelling if a particular religion could be discussed that was not "unique" or "remarkable" in some manner.</font>
Would you not agree that there are gradations of uniqueness though? For example, Christianity is not the first monotheistic religion, but it was far more interested and successful in converting others. Thus, for example, since Christianity began as a Jewish religion, and all of its first converts and leaders were Jews, what changed? I don't care if you ascribe this to supernatural interention (obviously you don't), but I would like to know what you think happened, and how it was achieved.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">As for Islam spreading solely through the method of military conquest, this is obviously incorrect. It would be rather difficult to acheive conquest without a very sizable number of followers to begin with.</font>
Actually, given the tribal nature of the culture in which Mohammed lived, and the fact that others had done the same thing as he had before him, as well as after him (huge conquests under the leadership of a charismatic military genius), the unique thing here was more the fact that he was doing it to spread a religious faith, rather than to just get rich.

His army started very small, but grew due to his own personal force, personality, and each success leading to more and more tribes willing to join him. He faced little organized opposition in the beginning, so none of this should come as a surprise, and by the time the opposition did get their act together he had built up a very powerful military force.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> What is the evidence that Islam obtained converts mainly through military conquest? Did all Muslims convert others this way or just a few? </font>
Not all were converted through conquest, but in the beginning this was the principle means of winning new converts. This was true during Mohammed's lifetime, as well as those of his successors.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">In any case I find it remarkable that a poor, orphan desert boy should rise to found such a large faith with so many followers. </font>
Very true. So do I.

Nomad
 
Old 04-30-2001, 04:06 PM   #116
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Nomad:
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Would you not agree that there are gradations of uniqueness though?
</font>
Is this any pretense at a coherent argument? No, there are no gradations of uniqueness. Read your dictionary. Unique = one of a kind. You cannot be uniquer or most unique.

Nomad, you're just digging yourself deeper into a hole. You keep trying to imply that there was something significant about the spread of Christianity, but you can't or won't tell us what, or why it is important.
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Old 04-30-2001, 06:44 PM   #117
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Toto:

Nomad: Is this any pretense at a coherent argument? No, there are no gradations of uniqueness. Read your dictionary. Unique = one of a kind. You cannot be uniquer or most unique.

Nomad, you're just digging yourself deeper into a hole. You keep trying to imply that there was something significant about the spread of Christianity, but you can't or won't tell us what, or why it is important.</font>
Thanks for your thoughts Toto. It was interesting. Now that I realize that you cannot understand the significance of various unique events (note how even Michael admist to the term of "trivially unique" in his posts, and you failed to challenge him) I see that you do not wish to seriously discuss the matter. This makes sense, given that you will reject the evidence for the existence of a man simply because some people made extraordinary claims about him and his life.

How sad. At the same time, it does show how difficult it is for some to take history seriously.

Peace,

Nomad
 
Old 04-30-2001, 07:05 PM   #118
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I make neither of these claims, nor does Robson. Do not try to read into our arguments please.

Woah there fella. I'm just trying to understand is all. If this is not where the argument leads then I don't understand where it's trying to go. (I don't know who this Robson fellow is.) Perhaps you could explain what it is that uniqueness does for Christianity.

Would you not agree that there are gradations of uniqueness though?

Perhaps. But I might be at a loss on how to make an objective standard to determine what is more unique than something else. Your idea of "more unique" could easily be different than mine.

For example, Christianity is not the first monotheistic religion, but it was far more interested and successful in converting others.

Well lets assume thats true for a moment. (I don't really know that it is but thats okay) What would this mean other than Christianity was simply more evangelistic than other faiths? I'm trying not to read into your arguments but are you trying to say that a greater evangelistic mindset means that Christian claims are more likely to be true? (Don't go ballistic on me now, I'm just trying to understand. )

Thus, for example, since Christianity began as a Jewish religion, and all of its first converts and leaders were Jews, what changed? I don't care if you ascribe this to supernatural interention (obviously you don't), but I would like to know what you think happened, and how it was achieved.

Well I had this conversation before and I tried to pin down exactly what it is that I was supposed to give an opinion on. I could make a guess that people heard a religious message, liked what they heard, the times were ripe for change, and so they converted. Of course I don't know how many converted but still that sounds reasonable.

Actually, given the tribal nature of the culture in which Mohammed lived, and the fact that others had done the same thing as he had before him, as well as after him (huge conquests under the leadership of a charismatic military genius), the unique thing here was more the fact that he was doing it to spread a religious faith, rather than to just get rich.

Thats possible. Christianity spread through a good amount of intimidation and social pressure. I'm sure it wasn't all just an effort to gain power and wealth either.

Not all were converted through conquest, but in the beginning this was the principle means of winning new converts. This was true during Mohammed's lifetime, as well as those of his successors.

Interesting. I'd be curious to know what evidence exists to support this as the "principle" means they had for winning new converts. Perhaps a great many people heard a religious message they liked, the times were ripe for the message, and so they converted.

 
Old 04-30-2001, 07:21 PM   #119
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Nomad:
I understand that a few of the sceptics here were somewhat offended by my dismissiveness, but you have to admit, when someone is calling Christians Satan worshippers, things have slid pretty far down hill intelligence wise.</font>
The claim was that Christianity is monotheistic.

The rebuttal was that Satan is a divine entity in addition to God.

Since these are two deities (regardless of which one is supreme), Christianity is not monotheistic.

This is the argument, put as simply as it can be. Frankly, I don't care if Christianity worships 1 god or 100 myself, but it's not as baseless a claim as you might think.

The only claim you have going for you is a rebuttal of "Christians worship Satan." If this was how it was put, fine, reword it. I would have said it as "Christians BELIEVE IN more than one deity," but what do I know.

Frankly I think that "Christianity is polytheistic" has been done to death on these boards, so I'm happy to let this topic die.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The success of Christianity in the ancient Roman Empire is an unprecidented achievement. Religions that had existed for thousands of years were accomodated within that Empire, and flourished alongside one another. Those that were not tolerated were destroyed, the singular exception being Christianity. Not only did Christianity continue to exist within an empire that had made it illegal, and even persecuted its members rather severely, it actually took over that empire. And within an extremely short period of time all competing faiths were wiped out. From an historical standpoint this is a remarkable achievement.</font>
Sure. Like Mr. Turton I too will grant that Christianity is unique. That in no way makes it correct.

IOW: Exactly what aspect of the rise of Christianity amazes you to the point where you no longer accept a natural explanation for it?

I mean, I think the rise of the Beatles was fairly amazing, but I don't think they were supernaturally aided.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The thing about Buddhism is that it does not require you to give up your existing gods. It is extremely easy to integrate its belief system into any other.</font>
Not really. Buddhism does not threaten one with Hell in the same sense that Christianity does; however, a belief in Christian tenets would probably represent a mental attachment. This attachment would be a burden, an obstacle on the path to enlightenment.

So yeah, you probably wouldn't have to give up your other gods if you were a nominal Buddhist, but a more serious follower might have a bone to pick with your second statement.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Christianity, like Judaism and Islam, does not tolerate competing religions and gods. And unlike Judaism, it took over an empire within which it was persecuted, and unlike Islam, it did so without the benefit of military conquest.</font>
OK. But how does any of this indicate supernatural influence? I'm not trying to obfuscate here, but incredulity does not mean that something could never have happened.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I think that you misunderstood Robson's point.</font>
As Mr. Turton pointed out, I'm not a mind-reader. He should have said something like "It put a quick final end to polytheism in Europe" or something like that. Otherwise he just comes off sounding like a Eurocentric ass. Doesn't he have a fact checker? Hell, a copy editor should have caught something like that.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I believe that he was talking about Christianity's achievements within those parts of the world that it came to dominate.</font>
That it came to dominate?? Of course it had successes and achievements in the areas it came to dominate! Of course it put a quick final end to polytheism in the parts of the world it came to dominate, because as you yourself noted it does not tolerate any other gods or goddesses.

How obvious can you get?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Perhaps he should have qualified his statement, but I thought that within the context of the article, and certainly within the context of the thread, this was understood.</font>
Yes, he should have qualified that statement. No, it was not understood, because if you take a good Chinese history class you'll see how often Westerners take for granted that only European history matters.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Same point. BTW, Buddhism never required any god-king to give up his claim. Only Christianity does this, and once it has established itself, god-kings ceased to be worshipped.</font>
The Chakravartin king is a Buddhist concept, one which claims that the king of X state is a Bodhisattva. Since Bodhisattvas are sort of "saints on earth" -- people who have reached Nirvana, but will not enter until everyone else has attained entry -- the Buddhist subjects of X state will (at least in theory) be exceedingly loyal to their ruler. Point being, this is a divine king which did not vanish after Jesus.

Remember, the original claim was: no ruler has advanced a new claim of divinity since Jesus.

Besides, are you sure Christianity didn't simply co-opt the idea of a godly king? I mean, what else was the Divine Right of Kings?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Robson is writing to a Western readership, and his statements hold true in the context of Christian dominated parts of the world.</font>
So... Robson should ignore all other history except that in the West? Shizeesh, now who's not taking history seriously?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The fact that some of the sceptics here remain unwilling to grant the unique achievements of Christianity on any level is interesting however, and no doubt helped to inspire Robson to write the column. This thread has helped to demonstrate his point quite significantly I believe.</font>
Both Mr. Turton and myself have granted that Christianity is unique. We have not granted that its uniqueness was due to its correctness or supernatural influences. There's a big difference -- and you are the one who must show that they are connected.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Thanks for the discussion.</font>
Thanks, you too.

Peace.




[This message has been edited by Monkeybot (edited April 30, 2001).]
 
Old 04-30-2001, 07:40 PM   #120
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Nomad:
Thanks for your thoughts Toto. It was interesting. Now that I realize that you cannot understand the significance of various unique events (note how even Michael admist to the term of "trivially unique" in his posts, and you failed to challenge him) I see that you do not wish to seriously discuss the matter. This makes sense, given that you will reject the evidence for the existence of a man simply because some people made extraordinary claims about him and his life.

How sad. At the same time, it does show how difficult it is for some to take history seriously.

Peace,

Nomad
</font>

120 posts, and still no answer to the question of why we should believe the spread of Christianity is unique in a way that the spread of other religions is not.

Now that I realize that you cannot understand the significance of various events, I see that you do not wish to seriously discuss the matter.

Michael

 
 

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