Bryan Fischer and Calvin Beisner Break My Hypocrisy Detector

Jun 13 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Breaking my hypocrisy detector

“The conversion of Paul was no conversion at all: it was Paul who converted the religion that has raised one man above sin and death into a religion that delivered millions of men so completely into their dominion that their own common nature became a horror to them, and the religious life became a denial of life.” – George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

Here we go with the anti-Paganism again, what in Old Testament days was anti-Gentilism. But ever since Paul decided Gentiles are the new Chosen People, the religious Other has been Pagans. In Christian thinking Paganism has always been associated with the earth and that as far as it goes is correct: Pagan is earth-centered religion. But where Christians have traditionally gotten it wrong is in thinking that Pagans worship rocks and trees, or the earth itself. We don’t worship them; we revere them. There is a difference between being sacred and being worshiped.

But because in the Christian mind those things are true, anyone who has an unreasonable level of reverence toward the earth (i.e. actually gives a shit) is a Pagan. Welcome to the club. The thing is, most environmentalists don’t actually worship the earth either. But somehow, even caring about the earth amounts to putting the earth before God and that is, in fundamentalist thinking, idolatry. Paganism = idolatry = environmentalism. Welcome to my level of metaphorical hell.

It hardly matters – it never has – that their god is not our god (speaking as a Pagan now) or that many people are agnostic, atheist, or worship other gods or even their own god in a different way (say, Jews and Muslims). Everybody – with no exceptions – must honor their god in the way they say we must. It’s been that way for 2000 years, don’t act surprised. And nobody is better at hating all these various people than Bryan Fischer of the hate group known as the American Family Association.

Bryan Fischer hates everybody. It really is next to impossible to find somebody this bigot approves of, but he does approve of Calvin Beisner of the Cornwall Alliance. Calvin is rare for a conservative in that he actually has an education – a PHD in Scottish history – which of course makes him an expert on the environment. Calvin has worked with Bryan before, notably on their “Resisting the Green Dragon” miniseries which was about – you guessed it, the evil anti-Christian environmentalists. Remember, if you’re environmentalist, you’re anti-Christian. Oh, and of course, like most anti-environment types on the conservative end of the spectrum, Calvin has ties to energy companies.

Calvin talked to Bryan the other day and the two came to some agreement about those of us who care about the planet, namely that environmentalists worship the earth (nothing new there) and that they are destroying the economy (nothing new there), that global warming is a myth (nothing new there) but entered into new territory when Bryan suggested to Calvin that the environmental movement heralded a “relapse into dark paganism.” Calvin Beisner agreed, and said that the “end-game” of environmentalism “would require the disappearance of about 95% of the human race.”

There are many things amusing and not so amusing about all this. I’ll limit myself to just a few observations, and I’ll start at the top.

  1. First of all, as observed above, environmentalists don’t worship the earth;
  2. Saving the planet does not mean destroying the economy (what they’re really upset about of course is cutting into the profits of the filthy rich;
  3. Global warming is not a myth;
  4. “Dark paganism” is itself an old anti-Pagan myth; and
  5. A group (Christianity) that has slaughtered “at least a million people per century” over the past two millennia[1] and that looks forward to an all-encompassing genocide as its own end-game hardly has a leg to stand on when it accuses others of killing anyone, true or not.  And in this case, of course, it’s untrue, since it is global warming, if unchecked, that will lead to the death of the human race.

A few words about the myth of “dark paganism” are in order here as well. For Christianity, Paganism has always been equated with immorality. There is an undercurrent of that in Fischer’s remarks here about “dark paganism,” however much he may be equating Paganism with a return to nature. He is pushing buttons for his fundamentalist audience, stoking up the fear and revulsion already ingrained in them by their churches and pastors and people like David Barton.

I feel obligated, as a Pagan, to refute this nonsense. I’ll look at the Romans, since those are the Pagan folk the originally Christian fundamentalists opposed.

The Romans embraced something known as Mos Maiorum, an unwritten code but no less binding than one carved on tablets. There are six important cornerstones:

fides – fidelity, loyalty, faith

pietas – piety, devotion, patriotism, duty

religio – religious scruple, reverence for higher power(s), strictness of observance, conscientiousness precision of conduct

disciplina – discipline, diligence

constantia – firmness, steadiness

gravitas – seriousness, dignity, authority

In the Mos Maiorum we find the things every Roman held dear. It is difficult to see how Rome could be viewed or presented as a culture without law or ethics, much less morality, simply because pagan ethics and morality do not coincide with Christian. “Mos maiorum,” notes T.D. Barnes, “was the most important source of Roman Law, and it was precisely mos maiorum in all its aspects that Christians urged men to repudiate.”[2]

The idea of philanthropia was well known by Pagan society – and long before Christianity emerged, and even the idea of loving one’s enemies is well attested in Pagan writings. Diogenes Laertius (8.23) mentions Pythagoras on this score and it is found in Seneca too (De vita beata 20.5).

John Whittaker’s findings are impossible to argue with: “We have no choice but to conclude that the pertinent conception was deeply entrenched in the popular morality of the ancient world.” Whittaker goes on to say: “We may conclude that pagan critics had not been slow to note that the Christian ideal of morality, lofty though it might be, was well anchored in the Hellenistic tradition.” Most damning of all to Fischer and Beisner’s crazy ideas, “in the Iambi ad Seleucum of Amphilochius of Iconium, friend of the Cappadocians and cousin of Gregory Nazianzen, we find the exhortation to follow the ethics of the pagans but not their theology.” This amounts to less than a damning condemnation of Pagan ethics and morality. [3]

A final point: Calvin Beisner said environmentalists want a return to a “pre-industrial” or even “pre-agricultural” society. This is an ignorant statement given that the Pagan Roman Empire was the most industrialized society on earth until the Industrial Revolution. [4] This is also rich coming from the religious right with its focus on destroying science and education. Between that and the claim by people that God plans to kill most of the human race that environmentalists want to kill most of the human race, My hypocrisy detector just broke. Bryan and Calvin killed it dead. A George Carlin quote comes to mind here:  Millions of dead people. All because they gave the wrong answer to the god Question.

And we can look forward to more of the same, if these people get in control. Hats off to you, George. You’re well rid of these people. We’ll carry on the fight.

[1] Gerd Ludemann, The Acts of the Apostles: What Really Happened in the Earliest Days of the Church (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2005), 383.

[2] T.D. Barnes, “Legislation against the Christians.” The Journal of Roman Studies 58, Parts 1 and 2 (1968), 50.

[3] John Whittaker “Christianity and Morality in the Roman Empire” Vigiliae Christianae 33 (1979) 210.

[4] Sungmin Hong; Jean-Pierre Candelone; Clair C. Patterson; Claude F. Boutron “Greenland Ice Evidence of Hemispheric Lead Pollution Two Millennia Ago by Greek and Roman Civilizations,” Science, New Series, Vol. 265, No. 5180. (Sep. 23, 1994), pp. 1841-1843; cf. idem, “History of Ancient Copper Smelting Pollution During Roman and Medieval Times Recorded in Greenland Ice,” Science, New Series, Vol. 272, No. 5259. (Apr. 12, 1996), pp. 246-249.

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