The Dark Ages

by Luke Muehlhauser on June 20, 2010 in Quotes

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

noen June 20, 2010 at 8:11 pm

There once was a country that was ruled by the principles of Atheistic Materialism and Marxist socialism. All freedom was crushed and 50 million people were exterminated in their genocidal pogroms. This country was called the U.S.S.R. It was a time of the complete hegemony of atheist ideology.

Gosh that’s easy!

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lukeprog June 20, 2010 at 8:31 pm

noen,

I’m certainly not advocating a society ruled by dogmatic atheism or Marxist socialism…

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Bill Maher June 20, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Noen,

sweet red herring buddy.

Lately you and CL are taking turns making butt-hurt comments.

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Bradm June 20, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Dark Ages: “… most modern scholars who study the era tend to avoid the term altogether for its negative connotations, finding it misleading and inaccurate for any part of the Middle Ages.”

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Justfinethanks June 20, 2010 at 9:37 pm

sweet red herring buddy.

It certainly is a red herring, but I think the fallacy noen commits could be more precisely identified as a tu quoque. It also matches the tu quoque he employed in the previous thread:

It seems that theists don’t have the market on authoritarian reactionary politics cornered. Atheists are doing just fine in that regard.

I really fail to understand to see how “Atheists do X” is at all a meaningful response to the complaint that “Theists do Y.”

Furthermore, his response to this thread is doubly odd in light of the fact that he has said this:

I think that Christian Dominionists are very bad.

If that is true, then noen agrees with the basic sentiment of the above quote. That is, Christian theocracy is a bad idea. But if that is so, why does he respond to a sentiment he essentially agrees with by making an irrelevant point about atheists?

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Gil S. June 20, 2010 at 10:38 pm

If he was a historian then I’d take this claim more seriously. But it’s merely a rhetorical jab at Christianity that makes use of the negative connotations associated with the term “dark ages”. Neon committed no fallacy. I think people here have simply failed to recognize satire for what it is. Unlike a tu quogue, he does not seem to suggest that atheism is also guilty of P and that therefore P is dismissed as a wrongdoing. Rather, it’s a satirical attempt at saying “Okay, so what? Has atheism been anymore superior?”

And if you can respond with “Well, there’s no atheistic creed” or “No, I don’t agree with U.S.S.R’s atheistic methodologies” then so can the theist.

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Lorkas June 20, 2010 at 10:56 pm

The opposite of theocracy isn’t atheocracy, it’s secularism. Ruling a country with the principle that you have to be an atheist or you’ll be killed is no better than ruling a country with the principle that you have to be a Christian or you’ll be killed.

I’ve never actually met an atheist who thought things would be better if the government imposed atheism on our citizenry. The stance I’ve normally encountered is that government should be entirely separated from religion. I have no problem with condemning the practices of the USSR government or the practices of the church-government(s) of the dark ages.

In that sense, noen is just making the case even more strongly that things go bad when the government starts trying to make religious decisions for people. Secularism FTW.

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Ex Hypothesi June 21, 2010 at 12:06 am

What ignorance. The term “Dark Ages” has come to refer to less and less of the “Middle Ages” than it once did, since we now know that the academic standards of much of the “Dark Ages” was much higher than it is today. True, not too many people had the opportunity of an education in the Middle Ages, but just because our “enlightenment” [sic] egalitarianism increased the quantity of the “educated class”, we shouldn’t thereby infer that its quality is anything comparable to its Medieval counterpart. The upshot: your average educated person in the “Dark Ages” is more worthy of such a title than your average “educated” person today. The ignorance of Lederer’s comment is a case in point.

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Bill Maher June 21, 2010 at 1:25 am

Ex,

the amount of Greek learning lost and Europe’s population decline were definitely not good things. that era was rather awful.

I am also incredulous to your claim that the quality of education of the average person. For most of the era, even a great deal of monks were illiterate. It took a large initiative by Charlemagne to get literacy back on track.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the era is fascinating to study. I in particularly find the emergence of proto-capitalism in its later part to be cool stuff.

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Ex Hypothesi June 21, 2010 at 1:55 am

“I am also incredulous to your claim that the quality of education of the average person.”

Average educated person.

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Beelzebub June 21, 2010 at 3:21 am

I’m kind of skeptical of the modern revisionary tendency to portray the “dark ages” as some kind of halcyon age of scholarship. I’m more inclined to believe Monty Python: it was a time when you could tell who was king by who was not covered in shit.

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Hermes June 21, 2010 at 5:04 am

While Beelzebub’s reference is to scene 2, scene 3 really does a good job as well;

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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Scott June 21, 2010 at 5:42 am

As much as I laughed at this, the phrase “Dark Ages” really only accurately refers to the Early Middle Ages – between the fall of Rome and Charlemagne’s rise, when barbarians dominated most of Europe. I think the only reason much literacy survived in Europe was because of the few monks who had holed themselves away around Britain. Then Charlemagne took back France and instituted his titular renaissance.

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noen June 21, 2010 at 6:34 am

Justfinethanks
It certainly is a red herring, but I think the fallacy noen commits could be more precisely identified as a tu quoque.

You’re correct, that is a tu quoque fallacy but then I am not arguing with you, I am mocking you. Besides, it is a common atheist claim to point to crimes that theism has supposedly committed as a way of declaring their moral superiority. I’m just reminding you that you are no better.

This is an improvement, at least you admit that the soviets were atheists. When I’ve brought it up in the past, not here, they categorically denied they were at all. That was quite the howler.

I really fail to understand to see how “Atheists do X” is at all a meaningful response to the complaint that “Theists do Y.”

I fail to see how “A thousand years ago some people did X” has any relevance to today at all.

If that is true, then noen agrees with the basic sentiment of the above quote. That is, Christian theocracy is a bad idea. But if that is so, why does he respond to a sentiment he essentially agrees with by making an irrelevant point about atheists?

Yes, a Christian theocracy would be very bad. Atheist domination would also be very bad. Look… this is the first time that atheists have even admitted to me that the former USSR was atheistic. So I’m seeing some improvement.

Here… I’ll even help you out.

“Joel’s Army” and omnicide in the name of God

That’s contemporary and relevant to today and scares the living crap out of me. (Not quite, I’m not totally convinced they’re a serious threat.)

Here is the link to dogemperor’s diary page but you’ll have to page back to his early diaries. Here is a link to a search for Joel’s Army on DailyKos but I don’t know if that will survive Luke’s filters here. If not, just use the search feature but go back the full seven years or plug this into teh Google “Joel’s Army site:dailykos.com” If all else fails you could probably e-mail dogemperor or look up some of the links in his sidebar. He doesn’t post at DailyKos any more, can’t say as I blame him. The place is currently overrun with trolls.

That should give you tons and tons of good reasons not to let fundamentalist Christians have any power. I don’t disagree a bit though I’m not quite convinced they really represent a serious threat.

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Justfinethanks June 21, 2010 at 7:45 am

You’re correct, that is a tu quoque fallacy but then I am not arguing with you, I am mocking you.

I understand. Mocking can be very fun. I certainly do it myself.

Does this mean that you think that people who are interested primarily in arguments shouldn’t take your posts seriously or ignore them altogether?

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Martin June 21, 2010 at 8:17 am

I tend to think this is a really bad criticism against Christianity. Christians can just retort that the Dark Ages were a result of the chaos from the collapse of the western half of the Roman Empire and the lawlessness that followed, and that the only centers of literacy and learning were the monasteries.

And I don’t think they’d be wide of the mark if they said that.

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Hermes June 21, 2010 at 8:25 am

True, though the timing of the two is uncanny.

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Bill Maher June 21, 2010 at 9:21 am

Ex,

the average education during the middle ages was awful….

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Bill Maher June 21, 2010 at 9:28 am

Martin,

It is definitely true that Christianity did not cause the dark ages, it most definitely helped perpetuate it and was responsible for a ton of philosophical and scientific works being lost.

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Martin June 21, 2010 at 9:42 am

Bill Maher,

it most definitely helped perpetuate it and was responsible for a ton of philosophical and scientific works being lost.

Hmmm. I don’t know enough about it to have an opinion. I do know that Christians claim that the monasteries were responsible for saving a lot of the knowledge of the time. I don’t know if that’s true or not.

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Rob June 21, 2010 at 9:58 am
Bill Maher June 21, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Martin,

The Christian emperors routed out all of the pagan learning in the empire. One of the most notable examples was Justinian closing Plato’s Academy.

Monks were also notorious for taking ancient works of philosophy and science and writing over them to make bibles. The Archimedes Codex is such a work.

http://www.amazon.com/Archimedes-Codex-Revealing-Antiquitys-Scientist/dp/0306817373/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1277150748&sr=8-1

It was not until the combination of the Medicis and other royal families commissioning non-religious works and the flood of Greek scholars into Italy that the renaissance happened.

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Sputnik June 21, 2010 at 12:39 pm

noen wrote: “There once was a country that was ruled by the principles of Atheistic Materialism and Marxist socialism. All freedom was crushed and 50 million people were exterminated in their genocidal pogroms. This country was called the U.S.S.R. It was a time of the complete hegemony of atheist ideology.”

I’d like to just point out that much that statement can be applied to Stalin’s (and to a lesser extent Lenin’s) regime but not to the government that followed for nearly five decades. Further, even counting the deaths resulting from the famines along with the deportations, estimates range from a few million to as high as ten million. Those numbers are still extremely high, so I’m not trying to excuse Stalin or his regime as he was certainly a ruthless tyrant, but there’s just no reason to make things up.

Lastly, from my family’s experience (I was born and raised in the U.S.S.R before its collapse), not “all freedoms” were crushed and life was not as bad (certainly not for all) as the propaganda suggested. Anecdotally, many, if not most people openly believed in god and religion without persecution. The government was mostly concerned with anyone that was vocal against the regime and it didn’t matter if you were an atheist or a believer.

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Martin June 21, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Bill Maher,

I still don’t have an opinion. But note a cursory glance at Wikipedia’s article on the Dark Ages seems to concur with what I said:

“… literacy and learning decreased in the West. Education became the preserve of monasteries and cathedrals.”

“Most of the leading scholars that we know of in the early centuries were clergymen for whom the study of nature was a small part of their interest.”

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Bill Maher June 21, 2010 at 4:57 pm

Martin,

they preserved selected knowledge, I am not disagreeing with that. :)

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Lucian December 23, 2010 at 2:10 pm

No, actually “this time” has been called “human history”: the Middle Ages have only been an infinitesimal part of that.

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