Judeo-Christian?
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09-11-2011, 11:20 PM
Judeo-Christian?
I have a real problem with the term Judeo-Christian. Like the phrase "one nation under god" it was introduced to characterize the hand in hand relationship that allegedly exists between religion and American ideals. Both are more recent additions to the cultural lexicon than many realize. Unlike the Pledge of Allegiance graft however, "Judeo-Christian" is a concept that has been extended well beyond the characterization of American culture, such that it is often asserted as the defining influence that brought about modern civilization.

I recently found an example of how this concept can be used to hijack in the name of religion accomplishments and values that don't belong to it. In a running debate with Sam Harris that ran in the e-publication Jewcy, applogist Dennis Prager tries to make the connection between all the good that civilization has wrought and his characterization of the culture upon which civilization is founded (essentially European/American) as "Judeo-Christian". This is the basis on which he makes statements such as "people and societies who reject the God of Judeo-Christian religions are more likely to become morally confused and foolish than believing Jews and Christians are." Laying aside the cultural and historical ignorance he betrays by dismissing the contributions of non-Euro/American cultures, we see what Prager is doing here. By asserting the progress lead by Euro/American culture, then substituting the term "Judeo-Christian", he can claim all of the glory in the name of religion. It is by this means that he states all the world really needs is the moral clarity that brought us the Inquisition. Never mind that European civilization lagged behind the rest of the world, morally and technologically, precisely when the influence religion was at it's strongest.

But what is "Judeo-Christian" anyway? As a set of related religions there is no justification for excluding Islam here. The three together form a proper family of the three major religions "of the book". Historically, Islam can rightly be viewed as distinct on the basis of culture, but then we don't really have any justification for leaving out Paganism. Yes Paganism is considered a dead religion (though it's not really a single religion) but it's influence to this day is profound. That most treasured of all American ideals, Democracy, is a product of pre-Christian Pagan culture. The idea of Pagan-Judeo-Christian culture is actually nothing new, it's just easier to call it Western Civilization.

In the end the last refuge for the idea of Judeo-Christianity is in it's more limited original use to characterize religion's influence on the founding ideals of the American state. Even here it is an attempt to perpetuate a fiction. The founding fathers were a far more irreligious lot than most apologists would allow themselves to believe. At the time of its foundation the United States certainly did not consider itself a Judeo-Christian nation - the term didn't make it's appearance until the 1940's - about the time "one nation under god" was added to the Pledge of Allegiance. In either case the purpose was to retrofit a religious ethos onto the American myth.

-Joe
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10-11-2011, 12:02 AM
RE: Judeo-Christian?
Ah, those sneaky little subtractions and additions: branding.
The entire classical period conveniently disappears; the Islamic empire never existed; the role of the Jews, whose contribution is one execution and a few books of legend and local history - both of dubious authenticity - suddenly grow significant upon repatriation to that influential bit of real estate.
Put an evocative label on something and it just... blossoms!... into something quite else.

If you pray to anything, you're prey to anything.
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10-11-2011, 01:37 PM
RE: Judeo-Christian?
Peterkin is not in error.

It is Westernization of god of Abraham, where Islam is more of an Eastern mindset. A rather meaningless term. Wink

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10-11-2011, 04:17 PM
RE: Judeo-Christian?
Don baker addressed this in ep667 of The Atheist Experience.

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use." - Galileo

"Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do." - Voltaire
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