Tag Archives: Judeo-Christian ethic

On Jordan Peterson, Religion, & Atheism

Dr. Jordan Peterson, a Canadian professor and clinical psychologist, hosted a YouTube series of lectures on the psychological significance of the biblical stories, where he articulated some fascinating insights; but, on some points is he wrong, or just misunderstood?

I only watched the first two, but I got a sense from these two, and other videos listed below, to know that he has made a few errors in interpretation, and/or overlooked the underlying context. Granted, he is not a biblical scholar; though, it is clear he has done a lot of homework.

Video references:

Biblical Series I (BS1): Introduction to the Idea of God, (transcript)

Biblical Series II (BS2): Genesis 1: Chaos & Order, (transcript)

Pangburn Philosophy (PP): An Evening With Matt Dillahunty & Jordan Peterson

Unbelievable (U): Jordan Peterson vs Susan Blackmore • Do we need God to make sense of life?

Jordan’s attempt to layer a current interpretation on to stories from millennia ago is perplexing given that these stories have evolved, in some cases significantly, different meanings over time. What the stories meant when they were created (irrespective of the impossibility of adequately diagnosing the psychological aspects of the author’s mindset and motivation), and how they have come to be seen over time, are vastly separate topics. Conflating these two separate issues leads to exactly the error in perspective which Jordan assigns them. Or, as it was succinctly stated in this Australian article titled, Jordan Peterson’s psycho-religious heresy:

“Ironically, Jordan is rightly critical of those who would superimpose the twentieth-century scientific method onto the Bible, but then he himself makes precisely the same error by imposing a modern psychological one.”

It is these revisionist interpretations that I will challenge, providing the historical backstory to counter Jordan’s viewpoints. Specifically, I will address why the psychological significance he assigns to biblical stories is flawed, to contest his beliefs that:

  • the Judeo-Christian ethic is what underpins the value systems of Western civilization; and,
  • atheists and “anti-religious thinkers” are abandoning this tradition to our collective peril

What I will demonstrate is that what he believes to be true, in many cases, are his personal views or that of the Christian faithful; views not necessarily held by religious scholars, or even the correct interpretations, for that matter.

What his motivations are for this series only Jordan can say. He steadfastly refuses to be pinned down and boxed in on what his beliefs are, and he has been extremely coy about affirming his Christianity: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s.” Though, in the Adam and Eve lecture, Jordan let his mask slip for a moment when he explicitly stated:

“…The greatest event in history, which was the birth of Christ and the redemption of mankind.”

Now, was he saying this in conjunction with the metaphorical deconstruction of the Fall narrative, or was he stating what he, himself, believes? Considering the Fall narrative has nothing to do with Christianity, nor could the author of the Genesis 3 story have foreseen how later Christian traditions would use this story to buttress their dogmatic beliefs in the redemption of humanity through Jesus, it is unlikely that this is what Jordan is trying to imply. The logical conclusion is that Jordan is making a statement of his own belief. A belief that: one, he maintains is the greatest in history; two, that Jesus is actually the Christ; and three, that Jesus redeemed humanity. It is no longer mere speculation of his inherent bias towards Christianity, but, indeed, this reveals the foundational basis on which he predicated the series about how the psychological truths of Judeo-Christianity will save humanity from itself.

He’s obviously also a Jungian Gnostic (part 3), and continuously hypes Dostoevsky’s Crime & Punishment (part 5), written by a committed Christian desperate to demonstrate how abandoning Christianity leads to a dark path. I wonder what Freud would say about Jordan’s evasive circumlocutions, what subconscious desire drives him to be a shill for Christianity, and this peculiar need to be covert about it?

Jordan claims there is a psychological significance to the biblical stories, as they manifest the values contained in the archetypal collective unconscious. But, if it is the stories and the humanist values they contain that are important, then:

  • why do we need to keep all the religious baggage that comes with them?
  • why is there a need to have a supernatural deity associated with the stories?

I am also curious to know exactly which people Jordan believes are reading the Bible stories for the metaphors. Experience would indicate precious few.

“But he could not quite abandon the Christianity of his youth, and so Peterson spends a lot of time in this book purporting to tell us what Scripture really says, and does so with all the exegetical and hermeneutical skill of Ayn Rand. While Rand’s scorn for theology and Christianity was well known, warning most believers off her, Peterson’s presentation, given the lack of theological literacy of our time, contains just enough jargon and scriptural references to fool a lot of people into thinking he knows what he’s talking about. He does not. If his psychology is suspect, his theology is absolutely insidious.”

The Catholic World Report, Jordan Peterson’s Jungian best-seller is banal, superficial, and insidious

In the following series of articles, I detail in-depth where Jordan has made blatant mistakes, either through presenting evolved Christian interpretations which ignore the original contexts, or simply because he has deliberately chosen to spout Christian propaganda.

Part 2: The Serpent-Satan Synthesis

Part 3: The Logos-Trinity Ideation

Part 4: The Deuteronomistic Paradigm

Part 5: The Dostoevsky Distraction

Part 6: The Moral Atheist Mystification

In summary, Jordan makes a series of assertions that the Judeo-Christian ethic is all that stands between Western civilization and nihilistic oblivion at the hands of the increasingly irreligious:

BS1: “…there’s something at the bottom of this amazing civilization that we’ve managed to construct, that I think is in peril for a variety of reasons. And maybe if we understand it a little bit better we won’t be so prone just to throw the damn thing away. Which I think would be a big mistake. And to throw it away because of resentment and hatred and bitterness and historical ignorance and jealously and desire for destruction, and all of that.”

PP: “We’d lose the metaphoric substrate of our ethos and we’d be lost.”

PP: “Oh, you lose art, and poetry, and drama, and narratives.”

A fellow psychologist takes him to task over this perspective:

“Peterson seems to assume that the only alternatives to religious morality are totalitarian atrocities or despondent nihilism.”

Yet it appears contradictory, to me anyway, that if the values contained within the Judeo-Christian tradition preceded the tradition (part 4), then why should Jordan be worried if people are simply abandoning the vehicle which, successfully, conveyed the values? The values are the important factor, the ones that emerged from the unconscious, not the transmission mechanism. “Adamant anti-religious thinkers” are not advocating that we abandon morality, or “our immersement in the underlying dream,” so the values themselves will remain intact. Another Canadian psychologist, Steven Pinker, makes this point in Enlightenment Now:

“If the positive contributions of religious institutions come from their role as humanistic associations in civil society, then we would expect those benefits not to be tied to theistic belief, and that is indeed the case.”

Steven, as the subtitle of the book alludes, made “The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress,” that society is not in any danger—contrary to Jordan’s dire warnings—from increasing secularization:

“Evolution helps explain another foundation of secular morality: our capacity for sympathy (or, as the Enlightenment writers variously referred to it, benevolence, pity, imagination, or commiseration). Even if a rational agent deduces that it’s in everyone’s long-term interests to be moral, it’s hard to imagine him sticking his neck out to make a sacrifice for another’s benefit unless something gives him a nudge. The nudge needn’t come from an angel on one shoulder; evolutionary psychology explains how it comes from the emotions that make us social animals…Evolution thus selects for the moral sentiments: sympathy, trust, gratitude, guilt, shame, forgiveness, and righteous anger. With sympathy installed in our psychological makeup, it can be expanded by reason and experience to encompass all sentient beings…

A viable moral philosophy for a cosmopolitan world cannot be constructed from layers of intricate argumentation or rest on deep metaphysical or religious convictions. It must draw on simple, transparent principles that everyone can understand and agree upon. The ideal of human flourishing—that it’s good for people to lead long, healthy, happy, rich, and stimulating lives—is just such a principle, since it’s based on nothing more (and nothing less) than our common humanity.

History confirms the when diverse cultures have to find common ground, they converge toward humanism.”

Jordan also overlooked the very contribution Enlightenment thinking had on modern moral standards, hell-bent as he was to demonize the secular shift away from religion that was spawned by these ideals in his attempt to glorify the Judeo-Christian ethic as the sole provider of Western values:

Today, of course, enlightened believers cherry-pick the human injunctions while allegorizing, spin-doctoring, or ignoring the vicious ones, and that’s just the point: they read the Bible through the lens of Enlightenment humanism.

Harari - Humanism

Tufts University philosophy professor, Dan Dennett, echoed the same sentiments:

“Secularists don’t have to “build” anything; we can choose moral philosophies from what’s already well tested. If religious people think that their “faith” excuses them from evaluating the duties and taboos handed down to them, they are morally obtuse…

We secularists have no need for love of any imaginary being, since there is a bounty of real things in the world to love, and to motivate us: peace, justice, freedom, learning, music, art, science, nature, love and health, for instance.”

Dan further expounded on secular morality, stating:

“The idea that you can’t be moral without religion is just a complete falsehood.”

British philosopher, A.C. Grayling, also discussed the benefits of humanism:

“Humanism is a general outlook based on two allied premises, which allow considerable latitude to what follows from them. The premises are, first, that there are no supernatural entities or agencies in the universe, and second, that our individual and social ethics must be drawn from, and responsive to, facts about the nature and circumstances of human beings…

Humanism, though, is not even a philosophy, for it has no teachings beyond its two minimal premises, and obliges us to do nothing other than think for ourselves.”

As the early needs for tribal cohesion led to greater demands for social community, which gave rise to religious and political identities, group values have emerged, changed, and advanced through time. As Deuteronomy codified civil rights, and Christianity built on them, so too will universal human ideals leave behind the unhelpful dogmas, and take what Matt Dillahunty pointed out are “true and good and useful,” and build on and expand from the corpse. Relax, Jordan. Stop being such a pessimist. Everything is in good hands.

“Courtesy, generosity, honesty, persistence, and kindness. If you are courteous, you will not be disrespected; if you are generous, you will gain everything. If you are honest, people will rely on you. If you are persistent you will get results. If you are kind, you can employ people.”

Confucius, Analects 17.5

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On Jordan Peterson, Religion, & Atheism – Part 3, The Logos-Trinity Ideation

The Logos-Trinity Ideation

<< Previous, Part 2 – The Serpent-Satan Synthesis

In BS1, Jordan stated:

“There’s an idea in Christianity of the image of God as a Trinity. There’s the element of the Father, there’s the element of the Son, and there’s the element of the Holy Spirit. It’s something like the spirit of tradition, human beings as the living incarnation of that tradition, and the spirit in people that makes relationship with the spirit and individuals possible…

There’s a fatherly aspect, so here’s what God as a father is like. You can enter into a covenant with it, so you can make a bargain with it…

The son-like aspect. It speaks chaos into order. It slays dragons and feeds people with the remains…

The spirit-like aspect. It’s akin to the human soul. It’s the prophetic voice. It’s the still, small voice of conscience. It’s the spoken truth…

That’s a very well-developed set of poetic metaphors. These are all…what would you say…glimpses of the transcendent ideal…

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth.” We know it’s associated with the logos in this sequence of stories. We know it’s associated with the word, and with consciousness; and we know that it’s associated with whatever God is. And then I laid out the metaphorical landscape that, at least in part, describes God.”

In BS2, Jordan stated:

“What is God like? From the Christian perspective, there’s three elements. One seems to have something to do with tradition, and so that’s God the Father. That’s partly the embodiment, I would say, of the human being. That’s an ancient, ancient thing. It’s also, partly, the embodiment of the tradition of human beings, which is also a very ancient thing, and that’s the structure. As I said, it’s the structure that consciousness emerges from that enables us to grapple with the unknown as such. And then there’s the intermediary between that and Christ—that’s the Holy Spirit, the bird. That’s the spirit in a more abstracted sense. I would say that’s probably as close Christianity ever got to the notion of disembodied consciousness, something like that…

Part of the notion of Christ—and this is something that I’ve puzzled over for a long time, and I learned a lot of this from Jung—is that there’s an idea in Christianity that there’s consciousness, which, in some sense, is eternal. It stretches from the beginning of time to the end of time. It’s this abstracted notion, but it lacks a certain kind of reality because it’s not instantiated in a specific time and place in history. And so the idea of the Son, the third part of the Trinity—or one of the three parts of the Trinity—is the notion that tradition and consciousness also has to be embedded in history, in a particular time and place.”

On the Trinity

First off, I agree with Jordan’s assessment of what the Trinity represents. The father-figure motif is representative in many religions as the image of God; Jesus is portrayed as order, as discussed below; and I particularly like the description of the Holy Spirit as the still, small voice of conscience. I disagree with what he claims the Trinity is.

Holy Trinity

Jordan retroactively assigns a deep psychological meaning to the Trinity that avoids discussing why the concept evolved in the first place: a theological coping mechanism to rationalize the problem of the growing (but disputed) belief that took hold among some Christian sects about the deistic nature of Jesus juxtaposed against the core monotheistic principle of a single God.

Ehrman - Lost Christianities

On the Deification of Jesus

Beliefs in the divinity of Jesus were neither original to the tradition, nor universally accepted; even today Mormons and Unitarians reject the Trinity doctrine.

“Proto-orthodox scribes of the second and third centuries occasionally modified their texts of Scripture in order to make them coincide more closely with the christological views embraced by the party that would seal its victory at Nicaea and Chalcedon… The proto-orthodox Christology…was distinguished by the paradoxes of its pedigree: Jesus Christ was both God and man, one indivisible being, eternal yet born of the virgin Mary, an immortal who died for the sins of the world.”

~ Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture

Forged

All the Gospels were written in Greek, and it was in the Greek half of the empire where the Trinity became officially sanctioned orthodox canon—but not until the Ecumenical Councils of the fourth and fifth centuries. Pauline Christianity took hold in the Greek-speaking communities of the Roman Empire, and it was here that the notions of the divinity of Jesus arose as a result of the corruption of the Jewish title Son of God being filtered through the lens of Greek mythology.

“In the decades following Jesus’ death and resurrection Christians would give Jesus both titles (Messiah and Son of God) and interpret them in ways that some Jews considered blasphemous. ‘Son of God’ in particular would come to mean that Jesus was not a mere mortal.”

~ Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus

Jordan often cites (BS1, BS2) John 1, “In the beginning was the Word,” as the logos, which, coincidentally, is also a Greek concept. Additionally, John is the outlier among the four Gospels, as it’s completely different in tone, hyping the Christology of Jesus.

“John’s narrative is more fiction than history when it is compared with the Synoptics. It is enough to look at his invented lengthy speeches, which are totally incompatible with the style and content of the preaching of Jesus preserved in the first three Gospels.”

~ Vermes, The Authentic Gospel of Jesus

Further, the Gospels show a marked tendency in their messages of declining apocalypticism (Kingdom narrative) and rising Christology, from Mark through John:

Mark 9:1 – “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

Matthew 3:2 – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Luke 17:21 – “The kingdom of God is within you.”

Here in Luke, we can see echoes of Jordan’s claim below; but,

“Unfortunately for this view, the verse is found only in Luke, a Gospel as we have seen, that went some way to tone down the apocalyptic dimensions of our earlier sources…

You can see the same tendency in the Gospel of John, the last of our canonical accounts to be written.  In this account, rather than speaking about the Kingdom that is soon to come, Jesus talks about eternal life that is available here and now for the believer. The kingdom is not future, it is available in the present for all how have faith in Jesus.”

~ Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium

The logos concept is firmly planted in Greek philosophy, with a minor link to the Hebrew tradition:

“The Logos idea does find very close parallels with other biblical texts – in particular with texts that speak of the Wisdom (Greek: Sophia) of God. Sophia and Logos are related ideas; both have to do in some respect with “reason.” Sophia is reason that is internal to a person; Logos is that reason that gets expressed verbally…

Logos ties the poem {John 1} more closely to the book of Genesis than Wisdom, since in Genesis chapter one God creates the universe by speaking a word (And God said…)”

~ EhrmanBlog: John’s Logos & Jewish Wisdom

On Gnosticism

Expounding on his beliefs on the logos, Jordan said something which immediately set off my inner red flags, something that would have gotten him burned at the stake for heresy in more unenlightened times. Jordan stated in U:

“… if we each contain a spark of divinity.”

Now, it could be claimed he is speaking in the metaphorical sense; that, we are made in God’s image, or that we are filled with the Holy Spirit.

God's image

However, given that Jordan is a Jungian, and it’s well-documented that Jung had Gnostic beliefs about Christianity, a strong case can be made that he is, in fact, making a direct Gnostic claim: each person has a spark of the divine within. Indeed, he is directly parroting Jung in the above quoted segment from BS2:

“In “A Psychological Approach to the Doctrine of the Trinity”, again by tenet #1 Jung interprets the Father as the self, the source of energy within the psyche; the Son as an emergent structure of consciousness that replaces the self-alienated ego; and the Holy Spirit as a mediating structure between the ego and the self.”

While I am reluctant to cite a Catholic source due to their inherent tautological bias, this article demonstrates that others have also picked up on Jordan’s Gnostic leanings, and it makes some relevant points about the history of this type of analysis:

“What I found in all three are attempts at theologizing in a Jungian fashion. And none has done that more than Peterson, whose many Christian fans seem blithely unaware that what Peterson advocates today is merely third-rate recycled Gnostic paganism rejected by the Church in the fourth century.”

Next, Part 4 – The Deuteronomistic Paradigm >>

Video References:

Biblical Series I (BS1): Introduction to the Idea of God, (transcript)

Biblical Series II (BS2): Genesis 1: Chaos & Order, (transcript)

Pangburn Philosophy (PP): An Evening With Matt Dillahunty & Jordan Peterson

Unbelievable (U): Jordan Peterson vs Susan Blackmore • Do we need God to make sense of life?

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On Jordan Peterson, Religion, & Atheism – Part 4, The Deuteronomistic Paradigm

The Deuteronomistic Paradigm

<< Previous, Part 3 – The Logos-Trinity Ideation

In BS1, Jordan stated:

On the basis of law:

“…you get some sense of the principles that bring peace. One day it blasts into your consciousness, like a revelation: ‘here’s the rules that we’re already acting out…’

The body of law is something that you act out. That’s why it’s a body of law. That’s why, if you’re a good citizen, you act out the body of law. The body of law has principles…

We’re trying to figure out what the guiding principle is. We’re trying to extract out the core of the guiding principles, and we turn that into a representation of a pattern of being. That’s God. It’s an abstracted ideal, and it manifests itself in personified form. ” (Gnostic!)

On Deuteronomy:

“The final one is the Deuteronomist Code. It contains the bulk of the law…”

On the basis of the Judeo-Christian Ethic

Once again, Jordan made a passing reference to an extremely critical piece of the puzzle, but then skipped over its relevance to the topic of discussion; and he does not make any statement on the importance of Deuteronomy in other lectures, as far as my text searches of the transcripts have revealed. How and why Deuteronomy was so important deserves its own explanation here, and the documentary, The Bible Unearthed, explains it in detail. In this segment, note how Deuteronomy was purposefully aligned to fit the political agenda of King Josiah, and how it just happened to be discovered by his priests as a lost book of Moses:

“The book of Deuteronomy perpetrates one of the great reformations in history…

Deuteronomy was hugely important for Western civilization because for the first time the individual was singled out from the crowd as the focus of moral responsibility and duties

That is the mindset, the self-conscious mindset, on which science, and monotheism, and Western civilization have been found.”

Deuteronomy is the foundation of the Judeo-Christian ethic that Jordan warns: “Man, I tell you, we dispense with that idea at our serious peril.” Yet, as he has done in several other places of his talks, he failed to point us to the origin of this precious ethic; which, he fears, will doom us to a totalitarian dystopia if we forget. Freud might, once again, wonder why Jordan does not connect the dots to the Jewish keystone, especially given the dire consequences that await societies which abandon Christian values… I digress.

Russell - Virtuous Men

Considering that Jordan repeatedly stresses throughout the whole series just how important it is that these values became enshrined in the biblical texts, it is strange that he does not acknowledge the social changes that led up to their codification in Deuteronomy. Though, perhaps it is this very inconvenient truth which prompted him to skip over the significance of this book, to avoid going into precisely this contextual basis. There is that pesky Freud popping up, again. As noted in The Bible Unearthed:

“Many elements of the reform actually precede the reform… Effectively what you see in the 7th century BC is the development of individuality. These social changes were reflected in radical new laws in Deuteronomy, an ideological change of great enduring consequence…

What it testifies to is a new consciousness at the end of the seventh century… The power of the governor was subject to some greater laws, some greater morality, and it’s here on this broken piece of pottery, as archaeological evidence from the time of Josiah, that what we now still believe as biblical tradition and biblical morality, was born among the people.”

Supporting Jordan’s claims that core humanist values developed over tens of thousands of years, emerging into consciousness as the collective way for civilizations to act, we can see that this idea of individual sovereignty was formulated by a group of henotheistic field workers in the era before the Josianic monotheistic reforms. Inquiring minds, then, might wonder why we need “religious” values at all, if said values emerge entirely separately from religion; and, in this case, were only codified into the state religion as a tool of political convenience?

Voltaire

On Individual Sovereignty

Jordan stated…

BS1: “… ‘never confuse the specific sovereign with the principle of sovereignty itself.’ It’s brilliant. You can see how difficult it is to come up with an idea like that, so that even the person who has the power is actually subordinate to a divine principle, for lack of a better word. Even the king himself is subordinate to the principle…

Whatever the body of law, there’s a principle inside that even the leader is subordinate to… You’re supposed to be subordinate to God. What does that mean? We’re going to tear that idea apart, but partly what that means is that you’re subordinate—even if you’re sovereign—to the principles of sovereignty itself.”

BS2: “… if you confuse the notion of sovereignty with the current sovereign, then your culture immediately degenerates into a totalitarian state and turns to stone… The thing was going to collapse…as soon as the ruler became the concrete incarnation of the ideal, there was no distinction between the man and the divine notion of the ideal. Then the society was doomed… When the ruler becomes the ideal, the state turns into…archetypal tyranny.”

For three-quarters of the past two thousand years, Christian Europe—the one supposedly existing harmoniously under this Judeo-Christian ethic of respect for individual human rights—was dominated by popes and kings who operated far and above the law. It is very Freudian (damn it, that keeps happening!) that Jordan ignores a wide swathe of evidence that points away from his wishful thinking of kings being subordinate to a higher power. This is especially troubling, given his penchant for repeatedly citing the common theist delusion about Stalin’s atheism, or his abandonment of a Judeo-Christian ethic, which led to his atrocities, while simultaneously overlooking the vast number of historic examples of sickening bloodshed done by noble Christian rulers.

Russell - Christian History

A casual glance at a history book reveals a number of shining examples of (not) Christian decency, which refute Jordan’s staggeringly blinded assertion of “not confusing the notion of sovereignty with the current sovereign”: the Inquisition, Henry VIII’s disregard for the yearning of his subjects to keep their heads attached to their necks, and a number of popes who used the office to line their pockets. It has only been the last quarter of Christian history, since the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment, that monarchs who believed in the Divine Right of Kings have been kept in check by the rule of law, starting with the execution of Charles I of England.

That the Enlightenment established the premise of separation of church and state, which has led to the proliferation of secular humanist values, and consequently given the West—but, only in modern times—a foundation of individual sovereignty with rulers held to account, seems lost on Jordan. As to the collapse of Judeo-Christian morality in the West and our forthcoming slide into an existential nightmare, in a webcast with fellow Canadian psychologist, Steven Pinker, Jordan, contradicting his own doomsday predictions, stated:

“I started to read extremely widely, and I found that on measure after measure, with some notable exceptions, like ocean oceanic over-fishing, we have been doing so staggeringly much better in the last 150 years that you can’t believe it on almost every measure you can imagine.”

Further, Steven refuted Jordan’s pessimistic claims in Enlightenment Now:

“Whatever the reasons, the history and geography of secularization belie the fear that in the absence of religion, societies are doomed to anomie, nihilism, and a “total eclipse of all values.”…

As for the lamentation among editorialists that the Enlightenment is a “brief interlude,” that epitaph is likelier to mark the resting place of neo-fascism, neo-reaction, and related backlashes of the early 21st century.”

Next, Part 5 – The Dostoevsky Distraction >>

Video References:

Biblical Series I (BS1): Introduction to the Idea of God, (transcript)

Biblical Series II (BS2): Genesis 1: Chaos & Order, (transcript)

Pangburn Philosophy (PP): An Evening With Matt Dillahunty & Jordan Peterson

Unbelievable (U): Jordan Peterson vs Susan Blackmore • Do we need God to make sense of life?

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On Jordan Peterson, Religion, & Atheism – Part 5, The Dostoevsky Distraction

The Dostoevsky Distraction

<< Previous, Part 4 – The Deuteronomistic Paradigm

On Fictional Proof

For some reason known only to Jordan, he has a passion for Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, which he cites repeatedly in several of his talks. For Jordan, the fictional world of the main character serves as a stark warning on the dangers of abandoning Christian values.

“Read Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. That’s the best investigation into that tactic that’s ever been produced.

What happens in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment is that the main character, whose name is Raskolnikov, decides that there’s no intrinsic value to other people and that, as a consequence, he can do whatever he wants… Well, then why can’t I do exactly what I want, when I want? Which is the psychopath’s viewpoint…

Crime and Punishment is the best investigation, I know, of what happens if you take the notion that there’s nothing divine about the individual seriously. Most of the people I know who are deeply atheistic—and I understand why they’re deeply atheistic—haven’t contended with people like Dostoevsky. Not as far as I can tell, because I don’t see logical flaws in Crime and Punishment.”

Or, as fellow psychologist, Susan Blackmore, refuted:

“That doesn’t have to be true, that’s a character in a novel, I don’t think that that’s so.”

Lumberg

On Atheism

As a “deeply atheistic” person, it might be considered impolite, if not downright unchristian of me, to point out to Jordan that:

  • atheists merely have a lack of belief in the existence of divine entities;
  • we don’t advocate (as far as I know) that others have no intrinsic value; or,
  • that people can do whatever they want, whenever they want

As Jordan—a trained clinical psychologist who should know!—points out, believing that other people have no value is the psychopath’s viewpoint. It is begging the question, is he seriously equating psychopathy with atheism? Considering that atheists, by and large, tend to be vocal advocates against religious privilege and for universal secular human rights, how does he conflate atheists with psychopaths? Oh wait, because it says so in that fictional book he loves so much, and because he equates communist oppression with atheism (part 4); therefore, atheists equal amoral totalitarian psychopaths. Riiiiight…

Dr. Evil

On the Bait and Switch

On the list of logical fallacies, where does appeal to a fictional character fall? This is right up there with the evangelical appeal to The Flintstones in refuting evolution.

Given that:

it seems rather disingenuous of Jordan to hype this book while burying the lede that it is precisely the Christian propaganda that it was clearly written to be. That Dostoevsky plumbed profound psychological depths, years before Freud, is not in question, but citing his thinking as an example of a legitimate case of what happens when “religious values” are abandoned hardly rises to the level of intellectual integrity one would expect of someone with Jordan’s educational/experiential pedigree. Paging Dr. Freud, Dr. Freud to the stage please.

Frasier - Jungian

It is exactly the point that Raskolnikov is a psychopath that makes him discount human life and commit murder, not that he was an atheist. For Jordan to overlook the deep neuroses of the character, and fail to attribute the behaviour to the underlying psychological issues rather than to atheism, is troubling; but it makes sense from the perspective that it does not serve Jordan’s {apparent} agenda-driven motivation to promote, like Dostoevsky, the merits of Christian values.

Next, Part 6 – The Moral Atheist Mystification >>

Video References:

Biblical Series I (BS1): Introduction to the Idea of God, (transcript)

Biblical Series II (BS2): Genesis 1: Chaos & Order, (transcript)

Pangburn Philosophy (PP): An Evening With Matt Dillahunty & Jordan Peterson

Unbelievable (U): Jordan Peterson vs Susan Blackmore • Do we need God to make sense of life?

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