Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Clouds of Bulldust Over Dunedin

Kevin Clements
Not so long ago a forum - it certainly wasn't a debate - was held at the University of Otago in Dunedin, with the "fair and balanced" title "Holy Wars and Holy Peacemaking: The Dangerous Myth of Religious Violence." It's available to view online, and I decided to give it a go, partly because one of the contributors was Murray Rae, who I remember vividly - if not appreciatively - through a couple of his ethics papers which I took while pursuing my degree there.

The title was a fair indication of much of the content. A very nice Muslim Palestinian woman, Mai Tamimi, who made some valid points, but often seemed to be in the wrong discussion; another guy who had nothing particularly worthwhile to say; Rae, and Kevin Clements all performing under the benevolent Buddha-like smile of moderator Andrew Bradstock. Each of these worthies is a bearer of the professorial office at Otago.

Thank You-Know-Who that Clements was there to rescue the whole enterprise from becoming a waffle-laden celebration of denial. The task seemed to be to muddy the waters sufficiently so that the whole nasty issue could be set aside as a delusion of those wicked New Atheists. A couple of very brief quotes:
"Christianity is defined by the life and teaching of Jesus." (Murray Rae)
[My comment: since when? Which of the teachings of Jesus are referred to in the Nicene Creed, for example?]
"Given the clarity of Jesus' teachings..." (Andrew Bradstock)
[My comment: clarity? The only clarity is that which is imposed from the outside, which is why different people stress different texts, most of which most certainly do not come from the historical Jesus to begin with.]
In my view Clements, who hails from a Quaker background, was the only one to make much sense (too bad he wasn't the one teaching those ethics papers). Rae however came close to descending into apologetics, proof-texting, and cherry-picking his way through Christian history, even stooping to use the perverse Psalm 137 defence (you know, the passage about smashing babies' heads against rocks) which attempts to re-contextualise it into an enlightened initiative!

Recommended only for the hardy few.


  1. I like the way the Catholics washed their hands of 'punitive-supersessionism' at Vatican 2, 20 years after the Holocaust.

    But did not the Jews' religion originally stress their own unique divine election? Wow, that delusion backfired on them!

  2. I think I like the old Jesus of 100 years before this Jesus. After all, he proved to the religious authorities that praying to a brick did just as much good as praying to Yahweh. Of course, he was crucified...well, not exactly, but he was hanged on a tree, which more closely agrees with some "scripture" I can think of.