THE REST OF THE BOOK
The remainder of this commentary will touch on a few issues in the remainder of the book. I had
collected sufficient notes for a detailed review of each chapter, but these were lost when my
computer died forever, before I finished with chapter 7 (though I have a few hand-scribbled notes
left). This sounds like a lame excuse for being non-rigorous, doesn't it? Well, for one thing, I feel I
have given a sufficiently rigorous, detailed, and honest commentary on previous chapters to give
you a good idea about the intellectual value of Why I Believe; more of the same would only belabor
the point. Furthermore, as I approach the end of the book I find less and less material to argue
about, for it relies more and more on Biblical interpretation (and more rhetorical fallacies) than
rational argument. Lastly, I am tired. This project was a formidable effort for me, albeit enjoyable
(learning new things is always enjoyable).
Chapter 8 - Christ.
Dr. Kennedy spends much of this chapter on the question of the existence of Jesus. For me, this is
a non-issue. I do not deny that Jesus existed. I believe he did. Even if he didn't, he might as well
have, given the profound influence he has had on Western civilization!
This chapter contains some distortions of fact also. Dr. Kennedy claims that Christianity is the
world's largest religion. Perhaps in 1980 when the book was published, yes. Recently I heard from
a Christian professor of religion that Islam has caught up, if not surpassed, Christianity in its number
of followers. This is impressive given that Islam got started centuries after Christianity. Islam is one
of the world's fastest growing religions.
Dr. Kennedy also makes heavy use of the argumentum ad numerum fallacy in suggesting that the
validity of a concept is related to the number of people who believe it (remember, millions of people
once believed the Earth was flat), and he makes numerous appeals to authority by quoting the
opinions of famous people, in effect saying "I believe this because so-and-so does." Why does he
think this means anything?
Why I Believe hardly touches on the Messianic prophecies concerning Jesus. The chapter 1
Appendix dealt with Messianic prophecy. The efforts in the New Testament to demonstrate that
Jesus Christ was indeed the Messiah rely on a number of Old Testament quotes, quotes that are
typically out of context. For example, Matthew's quote of Isaiah 7:14-16 ignores the fact that Isaiah
was referring to some would-be contemporary king. And Micah 5:2, which describes the origin of
the Davidic dynasty in Bethlehem, is quoted out of context to sound like a messianic prophecy. In
reference to Herod's massacre of baby boys, Matthew quotes a lament in Jeremiah as a prophecy;
the original had referred to the exile of Israelites by a conquering king. And Hosea 11:1 was used
to demonstrate that Jesus Christ would be taken to Egypt and back, even though it was really a
complaint about worshipping other gods rather than the one who aided the Jews in their exodus
Finally, I must mention something about the idea that Jesus is God, an idea considered blasphemous
by Muslims, who also believe in Jesus. As explained in one of the arguments in the chapter 3
commentary, Jesus never actually claims this. Our records show that he was given God-status
decades after his crucifixion and the deaths of his apostles. In fact, the records were actually
altered! From 325 to 381 AD, the Council of Nicea was hard at work on the Bible, tampering and
filtering, partly to give the rule of Constantine (Rome's first Christian-convert emperor) the
authority of divine will, but mostly to define the tenets of Christianity as we know it today. In
particular, the Nicene Council defined the Trinity - the relation between the Father, Son, and Holy
However, the Council of Nicea probably didn't go so far as to turn Jesus into God. That was
finalized in 451 AD by the Council of Chalcedon. The most significant product of this council was
the formulation of the two natures of Christ; the relationship between his humanity and deity. My
Last Appendix is an interesting parable on this subject of Christ's deity.
Chapter 9 - Resurrection.
This is a subject I really have no opinion about (although not counting chapter 4, it was oddly one
for which I had collected the most notes - see "The Historicity of the Resurrection: The Debate
Between Christians and Skeptics" by Jeff Lowder for a much more detailed treatment). However,
I can, as before, make some comments about what Kennedy writes on the subject. In particular, he
offers as evidence a stream of non sequiturs, such as the Easter holiday, Christian art, and hymnals,
to show why he believes Christ was resurrected. Kennedy shows us a good example of
argumentum ad antiquitatem; that is, arguing that something must be right because it is
established by ancient tradition.
The evidence is based on myth. People want to believe some amazing things. For example, I recall
an experiment where a magician performed in front of a classroom of college students. The
performance was designed to give the magician the appearance of a person with occult abilities,
who could talk to spirits and demons and read minds. Most of the class, when surveyed, fearfully
believed his occult abilities were legitimate. Another class was shown the same performance, and
then shown how each trick was done, and still most of the students reported in their questionnaires
that they believed the performer had occult abilities, in spite of being shown that the performance
was nothing more than simple tricks! Many people will believe what they want to believe, and their
convictions will not be changed by facts. Similarly, I suspect that nothing could possibly sway Dr.
Kennedy from his preconceptions.
Similar to C. S. Lewis's "trifurcation" argument described in the chapter 3 commentary, Dr.
Kennedy gives us another one concerning the resurrection. He says there are only three
alternatives to choose from: the apostles lied, they were deceived, or Jesus did rise from the dead. I
have already described a fourth likely possibility: that reports of the resurrection were after-the-fact
changes to Scripture. Add to that the fact that all four gospels contain contradictions of the events
of the resurrection (see the contradictions in the chapter 1 commentary), and one finds that Dr.
Kennedy's belief rests on quite a shaky foundation indeed.
Chapter 10 - Christianity.
This is the book's second weakest chapter, next to the one on creationism. I say this because, while
the chapter contains some truth, Dr. Kennedy has to lie to support his thesis. Specifically, he
asserts that Christianity has had only positive influences throughout history, and is responsible for
women's rights, the end of slavery, and scientific progress! He also lies about the religions of Islam
and Buddhism. Let's examine these issues.
Kennedy dismisses the Inquisition by claiming that the perpetrators were "not true Christians." I
think he's probably right, although this is known as the "no true Scotsmen" fallacy. Using it makes
one's argument totally unassailable (and uninteresting). For centuries, people claiming to be true
Christians have been using their religion to justify all manner of atrocities. As mentioned in the
chapter 3 commentary, Hitler had similar justifications to those employed by perpetrators of the
Inquisition: "Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty
Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord." (from Mein
Kampf). And he certainly believed he was a Christian! Pulitzer Prize winner John Toland wrote in
The Fuhrer made it known to those entrusted with the Final Solution that the killings should be done
as humanely as possible. This was in line with his conviction that he was observing God's injunction to
cleanse the world of vermin. Still a member in good standing of the Church of Rome despite detestation
of its hierarchy ("I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so" [quoting Hitler]), he carried
within him its teaching that the Jew was the killer of God. The extermination, therefore, could be done
without a twinge of conscience since he was merely acting as the avenging hand of God - so long as it
was done impersonally, without cruelty.
Even today, people who consider themselves true Christians continue to use their beliefs to
rationalize any act, for God's will must be moral and right! Examples today are given by religious
fundamentalists wanting to pass laws proscribing private consensual behavior, or murder doctors
who perform abortions. An outsider like myself looks at all this, and, seeing both the Good and the
Evil affects of Christianity, observes that anything can be justified within the bounds of its ethical
system, and I must conclude that Christianity cannot possibly be the wonderful entity that Dr.
Kennedy claims it is.
Kennedy credits Christianity with the abolition of slavery. In the Bible, God found slavery
acceptable, and indeed, the whole Bible takes slavery for granted as part of human civilization. Dr.
Kennedy forgets that the same Civil-War-era Southern Christianity, in which Kennedy's own
denomination has its roots, was the glue that bound together the whole culture of the South, in
which slavery was an integral part. It's a good thing our country grew out of it, although the religion
from that dark time still persists in the various forms of fundamentalism.
Incredibly, Kennedy also claims "Christianity has brought to the world liberty and freedom." Does
he know nothing of history? Let's take a brief look at the freedom of men and women from the
beginnings of Western civilization onward:
Maximum| m = men
Freedom| w = women
| mmm wm
| mmmmm mm w w
+mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm m m ww w
|wwwwwwwwwwwwwww wwww m m w w
| w w w mm mmmm m w
| wwwwwwwww w m m m m w
| ww m m wwww mm w
Maximum| w mmmmmmmmmm w w w
Oppression| wwwwwwwwwwww ww
| | | | | | | |
1300 1000 500 0 500 1000 1500 2000
BC --d-- AD
Periods: -------a------- ----b---- ---c--- -----e------ --f-- -g- -h- ijklmn
Description of each period:
a. 1300 - 450 BC
Ancient Greece. Women are relatively free and exercise influence over men, but are subject to
legal and sexual double standards.
b. 450 - 27 BC:
Enlightened Greece. Courtesans hold the highest positions of individual rights available to
women. High-class prostitutes are held superior to wives, who are considered as housekeepers
with few rights.
c. 27 BC - 385 AD:
Roman Empire. Increased economic freedom and a drive for individual freedom brings new
rights and respect for women. Double standards are diminished with a drive for women's
liberation and equality.
d. 200 - 385 AD:
Christianity established. As Rome surrenders to this new religion, it plunges into altruism and
asceticism, causing massive destruction and suffering. The high standard of living enjoyed by
the Romans gets wiped out. Women lose almost all rights as Christianity rises in power,
subjecting them to new, heavy oppression. Ominous parallels are developing today with rising
fundamentalist, born-again, and anti-abortion movements.
e. 385 - 1000 AD:
Dark Ages (the unhappiest period in history). The rise of Christian power increases emphasis
on self-torture and denial. Marriage comes under Church domination. Christians become more
preoccupied with sex than ever as they struggle against lust (for example, by burning off fingers
to resist temptation).
386: St. Augustine converts to Christianity; promotes guilt through books like Confessions
(criticizing his youth), and The City of God, his major work which states we are born between
feces and urine, speculates how babies might be born from women "uncankered by lust and
sex," and generally displays passionate hatred for human life.
By 585, Christians argue that women do not have souls and debate if women are even human
beings. Sex is reduced to an unromantic and ugly act with penance granted easily to men
whenever required. Women become pieces of disposable property.
By the 9th century, Christianity dominates everyone's lives. Women are considered the property
of men. The Church sanctions wife-beating. Men are merely fined for killing women. Noblemen
have a "natural right" to rape any peasant woman and deflower the brides of their vassals. Sex
without values (rape, prostitution, sadistic sex) is not a serious offense, but sex with values (with
love) is sinful: St. Jerome states that he who ardently loves his wife is an adulterer. However,
the major Christian sin is not sex, but pleasure.
f. 1000 - 1300:
Pre-Renaissance. Courtly love challenges Christianity, elevating women to more equal partners
with men, and generally reflecting happiness and countering religion's malevolence. The Church
fears and fights courtly love; for example, St. Thomas declares it a mortal sin to kiss and touch
a woman with delight, without the thought of fornication. The primary struggle is between
oppressive religion and Renaissance free-thinking.
g. 1300 - 1500:
Renaissance. Truth and Renaissance weaken Christianity. Growing enlightenment with
spreading economic freedoms begin liberating human minds and reason from the dark, brutal
mysticism of Christian theology. The Church develops an ominous interest in witchcraft and
exorcism, and fights back the Renaissance with witch trials, killing, torturing, and burning
women to death.
By 1450, the Catholic church, losing its power, establishes the dogma that all physically desirable
women are evil witches as a means to fight the rediscovery of human joyfulness brought on by
the emerging Renaissance.
In the 15th century, Renaissance nobleman equate beauty to good, the Renaissance
enlightenment makes sex seem not so sinful, and the middle class begins to associate sex with
love. The Church counters this trend by releasing heretofore unknown malefactors, the
inquisitors, backed by papal pronouncements and bulls, leading to horrible tortures, primarily
against innocent women.
h. 1500 - 1700:
The Puritans. This is a mixed period of Reformation, combining the enlightened Renaissance
with the malevolent Christian position that continued to burn women as witches. On one hand,
Martin Luther fights Rome, claiming that marriage is a civil matter, not a sacrament, that sexual
impulses are natural and irrepressible. John Calvin, however, sets up a brutally strict theocracy
in Geneva, even stringently regulating legitimate love.
By the 16th century Puritans fuse the ideals of romantic love with the normality of sex in
marriage. Women's status improves, as do property rights and inheritance laws. Marriage
becomes a civil contract.
i. 1700 - 1800:
Age of Reason. Rationalists of this new age reject Christianity's gloom, abandoning the portrait
of women as evil. Although men respect women for their minds, women are often considered
as toys or ornaments, and the status of women declines slightly as sex becomes reduced to
sensuality and pleasurable sport (probably as a backlash to past suppression). However, the rise
of suppressive religious Victorianism results in increases of flagellation, pornography, and
j. 1800 - 1850:
Victorianism. Freedom of women declines further as Victorianism gains strength. Men seek
shy, virginal women. Women are glorified and idealized, but this is only a new pretext for their
continued subjugation. Many doctors consider sexual desire in women to be pathological.
Women begin revolting against their "pure" and "glorious" status.
k. 1850 - 1900:
Decline of Religion and Victorianism via the Rise of Capitalism and the Emancipation of
Women. The rise of capitalism accelerates the dissolution of medieval religious ties along with
their unjust social customs and racism, crippling the influence of the Church, and creating the
atmosphere and pressure for female suffrage, individual rights, divorce reform, and equal legal
and economic rights. Capitalism breaks the stifling, unjust religious/feudal class patterns.
Women gain significant economic rights for the first time since the anti-Christian, pagan Roman
Empire. Religious Victorians try to fight the inevitable changes brought on by the new industrial
civilization, via religious coercion, government force, and police activities.
l. 1900 - 1960:
Rise of Romantic Love and women's rights are still opposed by Christianity; for example,
Catholic elements arrest and jail Margaret Sanger after she claims that a woman's body belongs
to her alone, publishes birth control information, and opens clinics. Women increasingly become
equal to men in romantic relationships. A product of capitalism, the modern sexual revolution
demolishes most of the Christian-Victorian patterns of anti-sexual, patriarchal oppressiveness.
m. 1960 - 1980:
The sexual revolution toward openness and honesty cause Christianity's malevolent influence
over sexuality to wane.
n. 1980 - present:
An ominous rise in fundamentalist religions, spread via electronic media, signal a turn back
toward the malevolent views of life, love, sex, and individual rights.
Kennedy believes, correctly I think, that the Inquisition consisted of persecution of true Christians
by others who followed a perverted form of Christianity. The efforts of Martin Luther, resulting in
Protestantism, accomplished much in the way of assisting Western civilization's escape from the
clutches of an organized religion that had grown too powerful. However, as you can see from
history, the Inquisition was but a small black mark in a much longer history of oppression.
How can a non-Christian know who is, or who is not, a true Christian? Dr. Kennedy obviously
believes he is, but in his book Why I Believe, he is not only passes judgments on both honest
Christians and non-Christians (see chapter 4), but he employs many dishonest tactics throughout the
book to support his convictions. Is this the work of a true Christian? And if not, why should we trust
anything he says about Christianity?
Kennedy writes, "Freedom is one of the gifts of Christianity." History shows this to be mostly false.
Even though the prevalence of Christianity has been highly correlated in history with human misery,
Kennedy is correct in saying that Christianity has been greatly beneficial to many people and
cultures. Indeed, many people need it. I recall a survey in a Christian discussion group on the
internet, in which participants were asked how they would react if they lost their religion. By a 2 to
1 margin, respondents said they would abandon all pretense of morality. Christianity, and religion in
general, does serve a useful function in instructing people how to get along with one another. Not
all of us need a religion for this purpose, however.
Dr. Kennedy's most outrageous lies concern other religions. He claims that science could not have
originated in the Muslim culture because of its belief in fatalism. This is ridiculous on two counts.
First, Islam is no more based in fatalism than Christianity; Muslims believe in free will. Second,
much of our science has roots in Muslim culture, especially medicine and astronomy. We use an
Arabic number system, and many terms (like algebra) have Arabic roots. Furthermore, in chapter
1, Dr. Kennedy lies about the Qu'ran not containing specific examples of fulfilled prophecy.
Muslims will tell you that the Qu'ran is not a book of prophecy (they have other books for that), but
nevertheless they can point out specific examples, just as Kennedy can with the Bible. I was
appalled to read his lies about Islam. To cure his inexcusable ignorance, all he had to do was ask a
Muslim! It's so simple. He didn't have to invent falsehoods.
He also lies about Buddhists and Hindus in stating that they believe that "the physical world is not
real, that nothing exists but God and all this is merely imagination." There are no gods in Buddhism -
it is an atheist religion! And the Hindu concept of God is obviously beyond Kennedy's capacity to
contemplate. To learn the truth, all he had to do was ask a follower of any of these religions. Dr.
Kennedy, however, has no choice but to lie if he wants to make Christianity look like the sole
source of scientific achievement.
Finally, he lies in saying that only through Christianity could education come to the world. This is
true in some countries, but false in others, such as Asian countries like Japan, where Christianity
has little, if any, influence, where the level of education is among the highest in the world. It is
interesting that in the absence of Christianity, Japan also does not have many of the civil problems
that plague Christian countries in Europe, North America, and South America.
Chapters 11 - 13: Second Birth, Holy Spirit, Return
These chapters describe more "what" than "why," so I will not comment at length.
I find myself in agreement with Kennedy's exhortation to be born again, but not in the sense he
means. I have met several born-again atheists, who became happier people by shedding the chains
of religion from their lives. If becoming a born-again Christian brings a person happiness and
fulfillment, I am all for it. Likewise for being born again into Buddhism, Islam, Shinto, Taoism, New
Age thought, or anything else that brings fulfillment and growth. Anything that brings spiritual and
intellectual stagnation, however, must be rejected. Unfortunately, it seems that many Christians
succumb to this stagnation after being born again. Why I Believe, which does more to demonstrate
Kennedy's ignorance than to provide a rationale for a belief system, is evidence of that.
The chapter on the Holy Spirit was, to me, one of the most interesting, because it dealt with a
concept difficult for Christians and non-Christians alike. This chapter is more of a theological
discussion than an answer to challenges from nonbelievers.
The only thing I can say about the chapter on the return of Christ is "we shall see." Ever since
Revelations declared that the events described would happen "shortly," Christians throughout
history have been trying to fit the situations of their day to Biblical prophecy in an effort to convince
others that the Apocalypse is at hand, and Dr. Kennedy is no exception.
Information on the Councils of Nicea and Chalcedon came from handwritten notes taken from a
book about Christianity and its origins, which, I am embarrassed to say, I cannot definitely identify.
Possibly it was Volume 1 of The Gifford Lectures, edited by Ian G. Barbour (Harper Collins,
The description of historical human/women oppression vis-a-vis Christianity was summarized from
different sections of The Neo-Tech Discovery by Frank R. Wallace (I & O Publishing, 1986).
Facts about Islam and other faiths came from conversations with followers of those faiths.
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