Surprise! Christians think everyone should be Christian

| Comments (4) | Misc
Like Matthew Yglesias, I'm not particularly bothered by Ann Coulter expressing the opinion that the world would be better if Jews (and presumably everyone else) converted to Christianity:
COULTER: The head of Iran is not a Christian.

DEUTSCH: No, but in fact, "Let's wipe Israel" --

COULTER: I don't know if you've been paying attention.

DEUTSCH: "Let's wipe Israel off the earth." I mean, what, no Jews?

COULTER: No, we think -- we just want Jews to be perfected, as they say.

DEUTSCH: Wow, you didn't really say that, did you?

COULTER: Yes. That is what Christianity is. We believe the Old Testament, but ours is more like Federal Express. You have to obey laws. We know we're all sinners --

...

DEUTSCH: Welcome back to The Big Idea. During the break, Ann said she wanted to explain her last comment. So I'm going to give her a chance. So you don't think that was offensive?

COULTER: No. I'm sorry. It is not intended to be. I don't think you should take it that way, but that is what Christians consider themselves: perfected Jews. We believe the Old Testament. As you know from the Old Testament, God was constantly getting fed up with humans for not being able to, you know, live up to all the laws. What Christians believe -- this is just a statement of what the New Testament is -- is that that's why Christ came and died for our sins. Christians believe the Old Testament. You don't believe our testament.

I realize it's not considered polite to say this sort of thing in public, but let's recap the argument:

  1. We're all sinners (Rom 3:23).
  2. When sinners die, pretty bad stuff happens to them, even if it's just weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt 25:30).
  3. Subscribing to Christianity is only way to escape this nasty fate. (John 3:16).

You don't exactly have to be Jack Chick to believe this stuff—it's pretty much the mainline Christian value proposition. And if you do, it seems like you might think it was pretty much a good thing if your fellow man subscribed to it as well, thereby avoiding an eternity of everlasting torment.

I do realize that phrasing this as there being no Jews is pretty offensive sounding—and of course Coulter specializes in that—but I don't think she's saying you can't eat latkes, just that you'd be expected to believe in Jesus, etc. Now, this isn't exactly a value proposition I'm particularly interested in either, but I don't see that it's really any worse than wishing everyone were a Republican, which I imagine Coulter does as well.

It should be relatively obvious that if you're a member of religion X, you probably think that the beliefs of religion Y are silly/wrong for any Y != X (and as Dawkins points out, atheists just think this for all religions). As a matter of civic politeness, people generally refrain from pointing this out, but that's just politeness, a collective version of refraining from pointing out that someone is wearing a really bad toupee.

4 Comments

As a matter of civic politeness, people generally refrain from pointing this out
Indeed. And the thing is, in my youth, people really did generally refrain from that. In fact, they generally refrained from stuffing their religion in your face altogether. People went to their churches or synagogues or whatever, or didn't, and for the most part, aside from the occasional evangelical types who knocked on doors, it was a private thing.

That's all changed, and it's not for the better. Sigh.

It should be relatively obvious that if you're a member of religion X, you probably think that the beliefs of religion Y are silly/wrong for any Y != X (and as Dawkins points out, atheists just think this for all religions).
Well, first, that's not true. Some religions are philosophically OK with other religion, some even accept combining various faiths. Some religions see other religions as just _different_, as manifestations of other identities (see, for example, various paganisms).

Second, the "it's just what's written in a the Bible" explanation is laughable. "It's written in the Bible" doesn't settle Creationism/Evolution question, does it? If a Muslim says "Koran tells me to kill all the infidels", you don't just say "well, alright, kill me".
If you compare Christianity's and Islam's historical records for the practical Antisemitism, Islam comes out almost saintly. The fact that Coulter embraces one of the most vile and shameful traditions in history cannot be justified by "it's just what the holy book says". There are many things in the holy books that you can't take literally and pretend to be a human fit for living in the 21th century at the same time.
Coulter advocates "bringing God back to schools" etc. She also advocates converting Jews to Christianity. Thus, she is, literally, a voice for institutionalized Antisemitism in a most direct way. This calls for some kind of Turkish approach, where military is called by constitution to step in whenever politicians become too Islamic.

Leave "I'm just reading from the holy book" defense to Osama bin Laden.

Well, first, that's not true. Some religions are philosophically OK with other religion, some even accept combining various faiths. Some religions see other religions as just _different_, as manifestations of other identities (see, for example, various paganisms).

I'm not sure what "philosophically OK" means. Most religions make certain factual claims. Those claims are either write or wrong. I'm "philosophically OK" with people who disagree with me on a bunch of factual issues, but I still think they're wrong and would be better off agreeing with me. So, I don't think this is a real objection to what I was saying. Yes, it's true that some religions are syncretic or otherwise think of all religions as basically the same,but that's not true for any of the major Western religions and I don't believe it's true for Hindus or mainline Buddhists either, so I think "probably " stands up pretty well here.

Second, the "it's just what's written in a the Bible" explanation is laughable. "It's written in the Bible" doesn't settle Creationism/Evolution question, does it? If a Muslim says "Koran tells me to kill all the infidels", you don't just say "well, alright, kill me".

I wasn't saying any such thing. Again, I'm not citing the bible as evidence of empirical fact (I'm not Christian, remember), but as an indicator of what Christians believe. And yes, I understand that most Christians aren't textual literalists, but these aren't somehow obscure passages. They're the heart of mainline Christianity. Are you actually intending to argue that Christians generally *don't* believe the propositions I listed?

Again, I'm not claiming that people *should* do anything because it says so in the Bible/Koran/whatever. I'm saying that what Coulter said in this specific instance (not an many other instances where she said things I consider insane) is something that most Christians believe but are polite enough not to say--though of course this politeness is a relatively recent innovation.

A lot of religions are "philosophically OK" with the Christian faith; both are even taught in parallel to children, and you can practice both (at least from the POV of the "other" religion; formally, Christanity seeks to overcome it, but never quite succeeds).

Leave a comment