• J.P. Holding Responds (Poorly…Again)


    For those of you who may have missed the last few posts about my review of J.P. Holding’s latest book, titled Hitler’s Christianity, Holding posted a response to his blog shortly after my review went live on Skeptic Ink. I’ve written my own response to Holding’s reply and went on to demonstrate the factual and logical errors not only in Holding’s book, but in his reply. Holding’s latest response is not much better than his first. In fact, I believe it is probably worse.

    In neither of Holding’s responses did he respond to my main argument and in his first reply he employed personal attacks throughout. I replied to his blog, kindly asking him to grow up. Unfortunately, my request was not heeded and some of his statements are rather nasty. In this post I will reply to each of Holding’s arguments, point by point.

    Holding begins,

    AA is at it again, and the fact that he is falling for the “Turkel trap” (oblivious to the fact that that has been an obsolete reference since July 2007, and making him more than 6 years out of date) tells us well enough how poorly what follows from him turns out to be.

    I’m not sure what to make of his comment about the “Turkel trap.” I’ve never heard of this before. I’m assuming he is referring to a comment I made in my reply. I wrote:

    I also see why he got his nickname: Robert “No Links” Turkel, because he didn’t bother to link to my review where people can see what I actually say, rather than his sometimes inaccurate interpretations.

    At the website I found this nickname, it has a lot of damning stuff about J.P. Holding. How much of it is true, I’m not sure, but I only commented on the fact that Holding failed to link to my review and this website alleges that he has a habit of doing this.

    Holding continues,

    He starts by denying that the material in other chapters of HC was over his head, using the excuse that he was tackling my “main arguments, which I felt were best represented in the chapters [he] responded to.” I am well aware he said this. I also maintain it is nevertheless the case that it is all over his head.

    My “main arguments” are in all of the chapters, not just those he carefully selected in order to do a substandard evaluation that would please the gullible and easily satisfied who have already made up their minds.

    After giving his book a careful reading, I made a judgment call and I stand by my decision. My goal was to refute Holding’s main arguments – which I did – and his chapters describing Positive Christianity and the religious beliefs of the Nazis were less important because those chapters only described the religion of Positive Christianity and various religious beliefs of the Nazis, which seemed fairly accurate as far as I could tell. As I said in my last response, I thought that many of Holding’s facts appeared to be accurate, he simply dismisses the Nazis as real Christians, and my goal in my response was to dispute that claim.

    Holding writes,

    I noted that by his logic, Christianity is actually Judaism, and Judaism deserves blame for the Holocaust. His response is that this “is about as logical as blaming the Model-T Ford for modern day car accidents.” Precisely my point. What I offered is a reduction ad absurdum of his own logic, in which he tries to blame Christianity for the evils of the Holocaust. As first century Judaism has no bearing on the Holocaust, neither does Christianity as founded in the first century have any bearing on Positive Christianity. First century Christianity, as HC showed in great detail, was not the same as the ideology “that was most prevalent and cited by those committing the atrocities” in Nazi Germany. So either way, he again undermines his own contention, though he is too insensate to realize this.

    Holding has so confused my argument and this piece of the discussion it looks like I need to begin from the beginning. Originally, Holding argued that the term cult is defined as “any religious group that is a deviation, or offshoot, from some other religious group, and which holds to a new or unusual belief or practice that either rejects, or openly contradicts, the beliefs of the parent group.” (L:133)

    To this, I responded with the very relevant fact that, according to this definition, any and all religions would fall under this category since every single religion is a branch of an earlier one. Given the work of Bart Ehrman and the vast numbers of “Christianities” that flourished within the first hundred years of Christianity, I could say the say the same thing about the so-called “orthodox” position.

    Holding responded with the following:

    Well, guess what…he’s right. That’s the point. As one of his oblivious commenters notes, Christianity started as a cult of Judaism, which is why it was rejected, ultimately, as not being Judaism, by Jews. The Jews did consider Christianity false, and in their view, it would have fit our definition of cult. So by his own retort, Jews of the era, as well as eventually the Romans, were committing a “No True Scotsman” fallacy by designating Christianity to not be Judaism. The end result as well is that AA has just given us the result that Christianity is indeed still Judaism, and so Judaism is responsible for the horrors of the Holocaust. Isn’t poorly applied logic wonderful?

    I responded with the following:

    Holding’s argument that we should blame the Holocaust on Judaism is about as logical as blaming the Model-T Ford for modern day car accidents. Just as Christianity is a descendant of Judaism, the modern automobile is a direct descendant of the Model-T Ford, but we would not blame the Model-T Ford for modern day accidents. It’s an entirely different car, just as Christianity is different from its Jewish beginnings. We must place the blame on the modern day makers of cars, just as we must blame the ideology that was most prevalent and cited by those committing the atrocities.

    Before getting to my main point with this analogy, I’ll just say this about Holding’s argument. Looking at the argument a second time, it is clear how Holding completely evades the point of my argument. The point was to demonstrate that Holding’s own definition of cult would also apply to his own religious beliefs. He ignores this and goes on some rant about how Judaism is the same as Christianity, attempting to take the blame of the Holocaust off of Christianity and placing it on Judaism. However, this twisted and illogical argument gets him nowhere, because if Christianity is still Judaism as he claims, then he is practicing Judaism, and therefore, he is still a practitioner of a religion that murdered millions. Of course, this very premise of Holding’s is ridiculous.

    In his most recent response Holding counters:

    I noted that by his logic, Christianity is actually Judaism, and Judaism deserves blame for the Holocaust. His response is that this “is about as logical as blaming the Model-T Ford for modern day car accidents.” Precisely my point. What I offered is a reduction ad absurdum of his own logic, in which he tries to blame Christianity for the evils of the Holocaust. As first century Judaism has no bearing on the Holocaust, neither does Christianity as founded in the first century have any bearing on Positive Christianity. First century Christianity, as HC showed in great detail, was not the same as the ideology “that was most prevalent and cited by those committing the atrocities” in Nazi Germany. So either way, he again undermines his own contention, though he is too insensate to realize this.

    No, that wasn’t my point at all. In fact, I made the opposite point. The changes that occurred to Jews as a result of their newfound belief that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament and his resurrection, essentially created hostility between newly converted Christians (those who believed Jesus rose again after death) and the original Jews, who scoffed at such beliefs. This hostility from then on resulted in violence against Jews and anti-Semitism, even during the time the New Testament was written. This was my point. How could Judaism possibly be the cause of the Holocaust when the necessary changes did not occur until after Jews became Christians? By way of analogy, I tried to show how modern day cars have changed so much that Model-T Fords and their original manufacturers could not be held liable for modern day accidents because the inner workings of modern day cars are vastly different than the original Model-T. While there are many similarities between the two religions, Christianity’s core beliefs changed drastically from its Jewish roots, mainly by the belief of Christians that Jesus was resurrected and they reject the whole of the New Testament. That was my ultimate point, which I tried to illustrate with my analogy of modern day Fords and the Model-T, but it appears to have flown way over Holding’s head.

    Denominations_As_Branches1To put another way, let’s talk evolution. I will equate Judaism with primates and I will equate Christianity with modern day humans. Both are related, however, just as humans and primates began to evolve separately, so too did Judaism and Christianity. While both humans and primates are related and have a lot in common, no one could argue that primates are humans. Similarly, no one could argue that Judaism is Christianity and vice versa. Since Christianity’s split with Judaism, Christianity has also further evolved and splintered into different groups, and just as there are different ethnicities of humans, no one would ever argue that the people that make up these various ethnicities are not human, just as it would be wrong to claim that because Christianity has branched into different types, does not mean other branches are not a form of Christianity. This is why Holding’s argument is nonsensical. Positive Christianity is simply one branch on the tree of religions that are called Christianity. Judaism makes up another branch, and evolved separately, and while they are related, are not the same religion. However, Positive Christianity clearly sits just off of one of the sub-branches of Protestantism, which has its roots in First Century Christianity.

    Now that I’ve sorted out that mess, it is time to respond to his second point, that Positive Christianity was vastly different than First Century Christianity. First we must properly define what we’re discussing here. How does one define Christianity? Merriam-Webster defines it as a “religion derived from Jesus Christ, based on the Bible as sacred scripture, and professed by Eastern, Roman Catholic, and Protestant bodies.” This does not describe Judaism by a long shot. However, Positive Christianity did contain each of these elements to some degree, therefore, it is still a branch of Christianity. Positive Christianity believed in Jesus, his teachings, and the New Testament, which are all features of Christianity. If Holding wants to talk of being “objective” these are core Christian beliefs that are accepted by all forms of Christianity. Just because Positive Christianity does not agree with Holding’s particular version of Christianity does not make Positive Christianity non-Christian.

    Let us see what poor argumentation Holding will use next:

    AA dismisses my review of Ehrman’s LC because he “didn’t see anything of value,” but as usual, this is a flaw in his own scholarship (rather, lack thereof), not a reflection of the quality of the review. Like Ehrman, he simply throws up his hands claiming we cannot know what orthodoxy is, and whines that I did not cite a source for the claim that “pre-NT Jewish Wisdom theology” […] backs up the Niceans.” Like I said, AA…you just need to do your homework, especially on matters I have written on in depth. You’re behind as usual.

    More idiotic dismissals…. but at least he provided a link this time. The reader can view my previous reply about this part of the discussion. Holding objected to Bart Ehrman’s discussion about the various beliefs of early Christians and the Trinity. He claims that it is possible to determine the “true” beliefs about this, and cited “pre-NT Jewish Wisdom theology that backs up the Niceans” that supported a particular view of the Trinity. First of all, this is purely a side issue and this would hardly solve the problem of which Christianity was true, which was the subject under discussion. When reading Holding’s review of Ehrman’s book I was mistaken and believed he had found a way to determine which form of Christianity was true, not one small aspect of doctrine (which was the discussion to which Holding objected). Even assuming it’s true (which I highly doubt) this would not solve Holding’s problem of determining which Christianity is true. Christianity is much more than beliefs about the Trinity. I’d much rather stick to the topic at hand and not get bogged down by side issues.

    Holding continues,

    I did not at all miss AA’s point regarding alleged “many contradictory passages supposedly spoken by Jesus.” Rather, I pointed out that I have already done the necessary work refuting such contentions. Significantly, AA commits the same slapdash effort in analyzing my material on Lataster, saying “[m] any of Holding’s claims are answered in the book itself, “ but failing to give a single example – no doubt knowing that if he tries to do so, he will again prove himself lacking in the intellectual arguments department.

    On the contrary, Holding didn’t present any arguments whatsoever for how we can determine Jesus’ true statements or teachings since we have no first hand accounts and no way to verify the secondary accounts. He simply appealed to his book again, dismissing these facts, writing, “AA also tries to confuse the issue by making very silly claims about how hard it allegedly is to decide what Jesus actually taught, but these are all issues I cover in other places, like Trusting the New Testament and varied articles I have written over the years, so to put the matter mildly, he is wasting the time of all but the most misinformed reader.” I’m sorry to have to inform him, but an objective look at the evidence tells us that we cannot be sure what Jesus taught for the reasons previously mentioned in this reply and as stated in my review of Hitler’s Christianity.

    I went through Holding’s review line by line and looked up the corresponding sections of Lataster’s book, so yes I know what I’m talking about. Even more than that, Holding only addressed a single argument in the book, that about the reference to Tacitus. I’m hard pressed to see how – even if Lataster were wrong on that point, which I do not think he is – this one mistake would take apart his entire case. Once again, rather than get bogged down on side issues, I will continue. All Holding is doing is avoiding the key issues, such as what “objective criteria” can he fall back on to determine his branch of Christianity isn’t a “true” form of Christianity.

    I asked for an evaluation of how much of the canon must be rejected before AA decides someone is not a Christian. Not surprisingly, I don’t get an actual answer, just a babbling complaint that his point was that “even other sects of Christianity removed most portions of the bible…” Yes, we got that. Now I want to know, again: How much of the Bible must a sect remove before AA decides they are not Christian after all? I’ll ask it again and again until he decides to answer it with something quantitative. If he does not, I will assume he has no answer, and has no answer because he knows that if he does answer, he will have to admit that the Positive Christians must be excluded from Christianity proper.

    Earlier I cited the definition of Christianity and there is no “cut off limit” so to speak for how much of the bible a Christian must accept to be a “Christian.” Besides, even this very argument is arbitrary. I could just as well argue that Holding doesn’t accept the Gnostic Gospels, and therefore he isn’t a “true” Christian. Holding has not outlined an objective criteria for determining what counts as authentic Christianity. His only measure is his own beliefs! That’s not particularly “objective.” This is why I ignored his question. It’s pointless.

    The madness continues,

    On works and salvation, AA ignores my link to material on Semitic Totality, which is not surprising, since that too is over his head. He complains that I do not deal with the verses he quoted like 2 Peter 1:5-11 and James 2:26. If he had read and understood the material on Semitic Totality, he would have known how to interpret those verses properly, in terms of those works as the natural product of faith (pistis, or loyalty), and thereby realized that it is foolish to speak of them in terms of saying, “works are just as important as right belief when it comes to salvation.” As Semitic Totality makes clear, works and belief simply were not separable in that fashion. It is like saying an effect is just as important as the cause when it comes to a total experience. At the same time, AA falls for the idea that “salvation” in the Bible means the modern sense of a moment of decision; whereas, as scholars rightly detect, the word has a broader meaning in terms of the entire Christian life of covenant entrance and rewards. Again, though, I expect such complex ideas are simply over AA’s head, as his “scholarship” on this side comes from sources like Josh McDowell and televangelists, not from serious Biblical scholars.

    More silly dismissals. I’m not going to refute every website posting he has put up. Particularly when he continually misses my point. He continually argues for his own Christian views, and rejects everyone else’s, including Positive Christianity. But he has not provided any objective criteria for such claims. This is why I rightfully ignored this argument.

    Moving on…

    I noted that AA missed what I said about the difference between matters of action and matters of doctrine, and that the Sermon on the Mount has no doctrine, so of course Goebbels could readily accept it as a Positive Christian. AA wisely ignores my point about Gandhi as a believer in the SoM, and claims not to have missed the main point about the SoM because he responded. He obviously now misses that a perfunctory response, that misses the point, isn’t a response. Clearly AA is either in over his head again, or else pretending to be. In any event he still misses the point: Whether the SoM “does contain many central teachings of Jesus” doesn’t erase the fact that not one of those teachings has anything to do with doctrine. Therefore Goebbels as a Positive Christian could accept it and still be considered part of a pseudo-Christian cult.

    Holding defines Christianity as a religion that “would be in accord with the teachings of the historic Jesus within his first century historical context.” But all of a sudden, Jesus’ teachings don’t matter. Holding is tying himself up in knots trying to defend his book. He is also guilty of “moving the goal post;” another fallacy. How many fallacies has Holding committed in both his book and his subsequent replies? I lost count.

    This was also the point I made, but Holding completely ignores it. In my reply I wrote:

    Holding’s definition of Christianity is a religion that “would be in accord with the teachings of the historic Jesus within his first century historical context.” Therefore, if I can show that we cannot even determine what Jesus’ true teachings are about morality and other issues, then how can we determine what the “true” form of Christianity is, based upon Jesus’ teachings, as Holding defines Christianity? This was not an attempt to “confuse” the issue. It was an attempt to shed light on it and demonstrate Holding’s flawed methodology.

    Regarding Gandhi, he obviously was not a Christian, even by Holding’s standards, since he did not accept the inspiration of scripture, did not believe in the Christian god, nor did he believe that Jesus’ teachings were unique, nor superior to his own religion’s teachings. In his autobiography he wrote: “Once [some Christian friends and I] began to compare the life of Jesus with that of Buddha. ‘Look at Gautama’s compassion!’ said I. ‘It was not confined to mankind, it was extended to all living beings. Does not one’s heart overflow with love to think of the lamb joyously perched on his shoulders? One fails to notice this love for all living beings in the life of Jesus.’ The comparison pained the good lady.” [1] This does not sound anything like the beliefs of a Christian. On the other hand, Goebbels accepted the teachings of Jesus, the bible, and believed in the Christian god, so he can rightfully be called a Christian.

    This was such an asinine argument I rightly ignored it the first time, but for the sake of being thorough I addressed here.


    My extended point on the burden of proof regarding the beliefs of everyday Germans is ignored. AA does not even try to fulfill his burden and merely once again resorts to the easy and lazy way out of bleating, “No True Scotsman!” Yet in order for him to show this fallacy to be in action in my work, he needs to fulfill the very burden I describe and show that the deviations of the church in Nazi Germany did not break it off from authentic Christianity. In other words, just claiming there is a fallacy at work doesn’t work unless the data is shown to be in accord with that claim. He says he “see[s] no point in speculation” – which amounts to an admission that he is unable to make as thorough an argument as I did, no doubt because such would require more than the slapdash effort of a Google search which is what he is accustomed to doing as a form of depth research.

    This is ridiculous. In his reply to me he wrote, “As I said, it is not possible to compose spiritual profiles for millions of individual Germans at this date. So in the end, both sides of this debate cannot fulfill any burden of absolute proof.”

    Now, he changes his mind all of a sudden, and accuses me of failing to do my research by not looking up data that even he says doesn’t exist! Holding is making himself look more and more foolish here. Therefore, yes it is a fallacy. One doesn’t need extra data to show something is a fallacy. Either someone employs logical arguments or they don’t, and Holding has failed in this endeavorer in spades. His arguments are so bad, he’s begun in this reply to contradict his earlier positions.

    He denies that we ought to be agnostic about the Nazi leaders’ beliefs because the “Nazis left historians more than enough information to assess their religious beliefs.” As a matter of fact, so did the everyday Germans as a whole. That’s my point. And now it is AA’s unfulfilled burden to show that that is not the case.

    Once again, he’s contradicting himself because he admitted that it would not be “possible to compose spiritual profiles for millions of individual Germans at this date.” I wait with bated breath seeing how Holding is going to come up with an answer to how I could possibly go about finding information that even he says doesn’t exist.

    On race and the Bible, I first referred to prejudice based on race not being found in the Bible and referred to classical scholar Frank Snowden’s book Before Color Prejudice. AA professes to be “dumbfounded” that I thought he was referring simply to race, which is indeed pretty dumb to be found, since that is not what I said in the least. Snowden’s idea is indeed that there was no prejudice based on race. The fact that AA sees a need to now clarify his words and say that he was referring to “prejudice-based racism” shows that he bungled the job beforehand.

    Holding’s idiotic accusations are pretty silly, seeing as how I correctly noted the subject in my review. If only Holding had a reading comprehension level above grade school, he would have noticed that all I did was shorten the description of what I was discussing. Instead of “prejudice-based racism,” I shortened it to “racism,” since it had already been established exactly what I was discussing.

    Holding continues,

    In any event, apparently in an effort to displace Snowden, AA claims to find such racism in the Bible, but as usual, he is traipsing through another culture in bigoted ignorance. The refusal of Abraham to allow Isaac to marry a Canaanite, and the refusals associated with Nehemiah, had specifically to do with their observance of religious beliefs contrary to Judaism, not their race or national origin. It might be added that in the social world of the Bible, it was taken for granted that if you were a member of X ethnic group, you were also a devotee of the gods of that group. In the same way, missionaries in Japan have encountered the difficulty of witnessing to Japanese who say that because they are Japanese, they are also Shinto. This has nothing to do with prejudice-based racism.

    As usual, Holding presents no evidence for his assertion. In addition, he completely ignores the context of Nehemiah. It says quite clearly: “We will not give our daughters in marriage to the foreign population or take their daughters for our sons.” (Nehemiah 10:30, NEB) If you look at the Revised Standard Version this passage makes it even more explicit: “We will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons.” This passage says nothing about religion, but says that it is their place of origin that is at issue.

    This is obviously a prejudiced form of racism, and contradicts Holding claims that the passage refers to religious prejudice.

    In my last reply I wrote,

    Aside from the need to maintain genealogical purity in the bible, one can also find examples of discrimination based upon certain physical characteristics, which is surely a form of racism. For example, in 2 Samuel 8-2 we read: “David also defeated the Moabites. He made them lie down on the ground and measured them off with a length of cord. Every two lengths of them were put to death, and the third length was allowed to live. So the Moabites became subject to David and brought him tribute.” Susan Niditch, author of War in the Hebrew Bible: A Study in the Ethics of Violence, remarks about this passage, that it seems “as if David were employing genetic selection to weaken Moabite stock.”

    These passages demonstrate that one can easily find in the bible examples of individuals and groups depicting others as inferior based upon physical attributes, which is the underlying feature of racism.

    My main rationale for citing these passages I’ve placed in bold. All of these are based upon a view that is based on racism. Next, Holding takes up an issue with the above citation of Niditch’s and disputes she was referring to an example of genocide in the bible. He writes,

    AA also employs Niditch’s observations concerning David’s killing of two out of every three Moabites, such that he was allegedly “employing genetic selection to weaken Moabite stock.” One fails to see how this qualifies as racism Perhaps AA does not know the difference between racism and eugenics. In any event, AA should have been more careful and not simply trusted Avalos’ quotation of Niditch. Niditch actually says, “Some have explained this passage by suggesting that David kills the tallest and ablest men, allowing the runts to live as if David were employing genetic selection to weaken Moabite stock. In fact, David is pictured to be coldly more arbitrary, claiming for himself the godly power of life and death.” So Niditch actually denies the “eugenics” explanation – and would, of course, since David would have no idea how eugenics worked.

    This argument by Holding is just as poorly thought out as all of his other arguments. He does, however, quote Niditch correctly, but this hardly refutes the notion that David is not attempting to “weaken Moabite stock.” Eugenics is defined as the “science that deals with the improvement (as by control of human mating) of hereditary qualities of a race or breed.” Given the sterilization that has occurred to certain groups of people in history, I think this definition should also include attempts to either wipe out, weaken, or greatly reduce the population size of groups that certain societies have considered inconsequential. [2] Holding’s argument that “David would have no idea how eugenics worked” is moronic, since the term hadn’t even been invented yet. What matters is the act itself. Is it in accordance with how we define eugenics? Yes. In a similar vein, ancient peoples did not have a definition of racism either, but there were racist attitudes in antiquity, as I will get to shortly. Similarly, the Ancient Greeks killed babies who “appeared defective” by throwing them off of a cliff after “being brought before a state council of inspectors.” [3] I doubt they knew what eugenics was either, yet this demonstrates that this practice was not unknown in antiquity.

    Personal interpretations aside, the question we must ask ourselves is: “Does the passage accurately describe the thing in question?” In this case, this would be eugenics, and it does appear that way on the face of it. David is taking stock of the physical characteristics of the Moabites he conquered in war and proceeds to use those measurements to determine who will live and who will die. Due to the ambiguity of the passage, the reader is left wondering what David’s actual motivations were, but his actions are clear. He engaged in acts that we would easily call eugenics today.

    Holding continues,

    AA also rather naively suggests that I read Isaac’s The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity though we can be quite sure he never read it himself, other than scattered quotes from Google searches. I would recommend that AA take notice of a scholarly review of that work found here, which shows that Isaac isn’t as helpful to his case as he thinks:

    The provocative title itself whets the appetite for something iconoclastic, since most of us in Classics have been raised in the belief that racism, as we usually conceive it, was absent from the Greco-Roman world. So it is almost disappointing to see, even before one has finished the text of the front-cover dust-jacket, that the eye-catching word “racism” has been softened to “proto-racism,” in essence, racism without its modern pseudo-scientific component, and the identification of elements of proto-racism becomes the principal goal of the work from that point forward. Even so, the author’s vast documentation of the less edifying aspects of Greek and Roman attitudes and behavior toward other peoples near and far has a powerful and sobering cumulative effect…

    If one is looking for “racism” or “proto-racism” in antiquity, one has to define the terms with some care. Isaac has an extended statement on “racism”: “An attitude towards individuals and groups of peoples which posits a direct and linear connection between physical and mental qualities. It therefore attributes to those individuals and groups of peoples collective traits, physical, mental, and moral, which are constant and unalterable by human will, because they are caused by hereditary factors or external influences, such as climate or geography. The essence of racism is that it regards individuals as superior or inferior because they are believed to share imagined physical, mental, and moral attributes with the group to which they are deemed to belong, and it is assumed that they cannot change these traits individually” (23). The fall-back expression “proto-racism” is subsequently defined more simply: “The term proto-racism, then, may be used when Greek and Latin sources attribute to groups of people common characteristics considered to be unalterable because they are determined by external factors or heredity” (38).

    In both these definitions, one misses what might have been thought an essential element in “racism,” namely, the irrational and usually violent hostility directed at individuals or groups, who typically become victims of the dominant group in ways that go well beyond the realm of “attitude.” The only hint of this aspect of “racism” comes in the phrase “regards individuals as superior or inferior,” a curiously anodyne expression which hardly seems adequate to sum up what racists have said and done in the last century, to mention no others.

    This soft-focus approach has consequences that emerge in the quoted definition of “proto-racism,” where even the element of superiority vs. inferiority has been removed, leaving the word’s meaning shorn of the one powerful quality that would justify the linkage (and baggage) which the word “racism” itself automatically carries. Thus defined, “proto-racism” might without contradiction encompass positive feelings about a group to which common (admirable) characteristics might be attributed and considered unalterable by reason of hereditary or other determinism. That would surely be an unexpected and undesirable result.

    So, nice try, AA, but next time, you’d better do a little more research. What you quote from Hippocrates isn’t “racism.” It’s stereotyping, which was done by ancient peoples based on things like national origin and religion – and it was also done to one’s own group. (“All Cretans are liars.” – a Cretan) None of this was based on race, which means it isn’t racism – which is precisely why Isaac was forced to qualify. Maybe you’d better do some legwork in the social sciences before spouting off again.

    The irony here is too much to bare. First, Holding tells me that I better do some “legwork” but has the audacity to cite a book review, rather than cite any actual arguments for why Isaac’s thesis is flawed. Making matters even worse, because Holding hasn’t even read the book in question, he badly misunderstood what the reviewer was saying. The reviewer was not critical of the book’s thesis. In fact, the reviewer cites other luminaries in the field who praised the book, and even the reviewer himself wrote, “In sum, then, in spite of the various cautionary remarks made in this review, the book deserves high praise and a warm welcome; it will henceforth be an indispensable starting-point for any future discussion of the difficult and perennially important issue of racism.”

    What Holding lacks is precisely what he wrongly criticizes me for: knowledge of the social sciences. This is more than apparent because had he been aware that scholars define racism in various ways, he would have easily noticed that the reviewer’s disagreement is not with Isaac’s thesis; he believes his definition ought to include acts of violence resulting from racial bigotry. Scholars oftentimes add or subtract certain aspects of racism from a particular definition. In this case, actions brought about by racial attitudes. For instance, Kamala Visweswaran defines racism as “a concept which signifies and symbolizes social conflicts and interests by referring to different types of human bodies.” Matt Cartmill defines it as “geographically delimited conspecific populations characterized by regional phenotypes.” [4] Finally, Albert Memmi defines racism is “the valuation, generalized and definitive, of differences, real or imaginary, to the advantage of the accuser and the disadvantage of his victim, in order to justify his privileges or aggression.” [5] This does not then imply that the subject of Isaac’s book was poorly researched; rather, as the reviewer said, the book “deserves high praise.”

    On the contrary, Isaac’s book was not about “the actual treatment” (or actions brought about by racial attitudes) of others viewed as inferior, but instead, delves into the “bigotry and social hatred in antiquity.” [6] Therefore, Isaac did not bother with highlighting acts of violence due to racial attitudes; only ideas about race. He did this because such definitions are too narrow. [7] This distinction is crucial, a distinction Holding does not even seem to be aware of because of his lack of familiarity with the subject.

    Holding’s last argument is simply inane. Racism is a form of stereotyping. Stereotyping is defined as the act of “unfairly” believing that “all people or things with a particular characteristic are the same.” Racism is defined as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” Hippocrates’ quote used race as a defining characteristic, and because of that race, he deemed another group of people inferior. That is racism. And Holding has the gall to accuse me of not doing my homework? Holding can’t even bother to crack open a dictionary, let alone do any real research.

    Finally, had Holding read The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity he would know that in the ancient world (which influenced later writers, such as Immanuel Kant [8]) there existed an “environmental theory” of racism which sought to show that climate had physical effects on appearance, and thus certain people from certain locales were seen as superior/inferior, which is the reason for such references to locale in the racist quote I cited from Hippocrates’ On Airs, Waters, and Places. [9] Here is the passage again:

    Those who live in a region which is mountainous, rough, high, and well-watered, where the changes of the seasons show marked differences, are likely to be tall, well suited for endurance and courage, and such natures are likely to possess quite a lot of wilderness and ferocity. Those who inhabit low-lying regions, that are grassy, marshy, and have more hot than cool winds, and where there is hot water, those will be neither tall nor well-shaped, but tend to be stocky, fleshy, and dark-haired; they themselves are dark rather than blonde, more susceptible to phlegm than to bile. Similarly, courage and endurance are not by nature part of their character, but the imposition of law may produce them artificially. [10]

    To reiterate, had Holding read this book as I recommended, he would understand this and I wouldn’t be making him look the fool right about now. I think I am more than justified to hurl this statement right back at Holding: “Maybe you’d better do some legwork in the social sciences before spouting off again.”

    Holding continues,

    I asked about whether AA thought the readings of von Liebenfels were valid exegeses of the Biblical text. He deftly ignores the question as though it were merely a vase of “disparaging” von Liebenfels. It is no answer to say he “had a lot of knowledge about the bible…” I asked, and I’ll ask again: Are his interpretations of those Bible passages valid, or not? Quoting back a passage from the Quran (!) doesn’t answer this question. Nor does it do to say there are “parallels” (a rather vague retort; there are also “parallels” between a Yugo and a Ferrari, but I am sure AA would not want to cruise NASCAR in the former on that basis). I am asking if AA is actually so ignorant as to think that von Liebenfels’ exegesis of the texts is accurate. If it is, then I expect AA to demonstrate this by showing that reputable Biblical scholarship provides the same or similar interpretations; e.g., that they agree that describing Esau as “hairy” is somehow making him animalistic. Likewise, just because Hitler alluded to Lev. 17:11-14 does not mean he came up with a correct contextual interpretation. Surely AA can show us that some scholarly source agrees with Hitler’s interpretation. Well, no, actually, he can’t; he is so insensate to his burden f proof that he thinks that the mere recitation of such an interpretation makes it valid.

    First of all, I noted in my previous reply that Hitler did not cite Leviticus. I simply showed parallels between Hitler’s views and the bible. Leviticus 17:11-14 clearly depicts similar views about how the essence of a person lies in the blood. It does not take a biblical scholar to understand this. However, the biblical scholar who saw such a similarity is Hector Avalos. [11]

    Regarding Lanz, I will repeat what I said in my last reply, because Holding distorted my response. I wrote: “Merely disparaging someone is not a very impressive counter-argument, particularly when some of their views are based on fact, which is my point about ‘others’ in the ancient world being demeaned by inferring that a group of people have animalistic traits. Lanz clearly had a lot of knowledge about the bible, and despite the fact that many of his views are… well, just plain weird, this demonstrates the religiously-based ideology of the Nazis, which is why I cited it. Besides, had Holding done more reading himself, he would have known that Lanz’s views are not without precedent. It is common knowledge that in Islam there is a ‘tradition that God turned the Jews into apes because of idolatry. This idea can be found in Sura 2:65: ‘Those amongst you who transgressed in the manner of the Sabbath; We said to them ‘Be ye apes’.’”

    I acknowledged that his views on the bible were not typical, hence the “just plain weird” comment, however, my point – which Holding left out – was to demonstrate a clear precedent in the bible and in ancient times that certain groups of people who were seen as inferior were depicted in animalistic terms. Even Benjamin Isaac writes how “Attempts to dehumanize foreigners, by claiming they are like animals, or are in fact, animals, are a familiar feature of racist hatred.” [12] Isaac discusses several other examples throughout history of this tendency to depict others as animals, besides the example from the Koran I cited. One example is in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics where he writes that a “bestial character is rare among human beings; it is found most frequently among barbarians, and some cases also occur (among Greeks) as a result of disease or arrested development.” Of this passage Isaac writes, “The reference to disease and arrested development and the remark about the special use of the term clearly is intended to explain the phenomenon when it occurs among Greeks. It also implies that, when applied to non-Greeks, the term is meant literally and not as a metaphor.” [13] My point should be clear. This form of racism can be found in the bible and there are many examples of these kinds of views throughout history. That was my point, but Holding completely glosses over it, and misses it entirely.

    AA denies his epic failure regarding the rivalry of geography, and “Judeans” vs Galileeans and Samaritans, not Romans and Greeks. He quotes a passage from HC supposedly to opposite effect, but notably, it says the very thing I said – that the issue is geography, and versus Galilee and Samaria, not Greece and Rome:

    The Jews”. Another broad case of perceived anti-Semitism is found particularly in the Gospel of John and his designation of opponents of Jesus as “the Jews” (John 5:16, 7:1, 10:31). Critics assume that it is justified to append these references with a contemptuous sneer, as might have been done by an agent of the Gestapo. Literally, however, the word used by John, and throughout the New Testament, is not “Jews” but rather, Judeans – meaning, someone who is native to the land of Judaea, the Roman province at the time of Jesus. In John especially, this word should be understood in contrast to references to persons from Galilee and Samaria (cf. 4:39, 4:45), who, from a religious perspective, also considered themselves to be religiously Jewish. When John refers to Jesus confronting “the Judeeans,” this reflects a rivalry of geography, not religion.

    This quite obviously does not suit AA’s purposes, so he evades the issue by claiming it is my burden (!) to show that religious dislike was not intended! This first of all evades his error of confusing Greece and Rome with Galilee and Samaria, in my arguments. Second, it can obviously not be a religious issue because they were no religions called “Galileeanism” or “Samaritanism.” There were, however, provinces named Galilee and Samaria. All of those there were considered Jews. So perhaps AA can explain how Jews were “anti-Semitic.” AA is clearly the one lacking attention – to say nothing of serious scholarship.

    This entire section is just one large, confused mess. Holding completely distorts my argument, thus failing to respond to it. In my previous reply I wrote, “On the contrary I did understand Holding’s argument. He was trying to show that the book of John, rather than disparaging Jews based upon their religion (which would be anti-Semitic, which he wants to deny in the bible) he claims the Jews are hated because of their geography, or where they are from. Here is the quote in full from Hitler’s Christianity so I can demonstrate Holding’s disingenuous ploy to play the ‘strawman’ card when I did no such thing.” [The quote I present is the one cited by Holding above.] In my review of Hitler’s Christianity I expose this false claim. The issue was not geography but religion. I demonstrated this by citing Roman citizens who hailed from Judea. In my first response I wrote, “I countered by arguing that Holding’s argument about geography being a factor in hating Jews is suspect because Jews hail from Judaea and, as I demonstrated, other people also hailed from Judaea, such as various Greeks or Romans, but they were not despised. Therefore, there must be another reason, other than their place of origin, in this case, Judaea, why the Jews are hated. This reason is obviously their religion, thus an example of anti-Semitism. Had he spent more time paying closer attention, and a lot less time trying to come up with insults and put-downs, perhaps he might have understood this the first time and I could have avoided having to spell it out yet again.”

    Unfortunately, it appears Holding has once again avoided my argument. I am well aware that Holding is not discussing Romans, however, my counter-argument demonstrates how Romans who hailed from Judea were not disliked. But the Jews, who were from Judea, were disliked. Why the discrepancy? The Jewish religion. It had nothing to do with geography as Holding claimed. It really is not that hard to understand… Either Holding is being obtuse, or he is simply trying to avoid having to respond to this fact.

    Moving on…

    Regarding the synagogue of Satan reference, AA claims that what I said “bares no relationship” to what is in HC. Um, yes, it does. I said in HC that it referred to a local group. In the reply I said that “issue that ONLY the people of Smyrna and Philadelphia are aware of.” That means “local”. I also didn’t say AA distorted my argument, I indicated that he failed to refute it. Beyond that, he can’t seem to grasp (again) that internecene language between two people of the same race or ethnic group cannot be “anti-“ that group. Just as African-Americans can use the “n word” amongst themselves, and not have it be taken as racist, so likewise Jews among themselves can be insulting and not be anti-Semitic. John was a Jew. Is this really so hard for AA to grasp? (He also rather embarrassingly admits that the great John scholar Raymond Brown agrees that the references were local, but professes not to understand how this makes it less “anti-Jewish.” Clue: How does an African American using the “n word” less racist than a Caucasian using it?)

    I already responded to this and conceded that I believe I was incorrect in my interpretation of the passage. It was likely referring to local Jews. Of course, despite conceding this aspect of my original argument, this passage is still anti-Semitic since Christians are converted Jews, who believe those Jews who do not accept Jesus are of the devil as this passage makes clear. Holding forgets that Christians might culturally be Jews, but once their beliefs changed they began to discriminate against orthodox Jews and sowed the seeds for the Holocaust. Holding must remember that anti-Semitism is defined as “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.” Anti-Semitism is not just about culture, it is also about religion.

    Moving on…

    AA denies the inadequacy of his treatment of 1 Thes. 2:14-16, and continues to fail to address critical details, notably, that Paul himself was Jewish, and that the language he uses mirrors Old Testament condemnation language. So is the OT anti-Semitic? He also cannot seem to engage my point re original sin, as it is over his head; as usual, he thinks it sufficient to throw his hands in the air and whine that we can’t know who is correct. Well, yes….I imagine it is beyond him to decide who is correct on any difference of view, even what we ought to have for lunch. I gave my arguments in the article linked. His only reply is that he thinks it makes no sense. That’s a fine statement of his intellectual inadequacies, but it isn’t an answer. It’s also not much of a summary of my article to boil it down to, “Holding objects to the doctrine of original sin because it is ‘unfair’.” Somehow that’s all AA’s limited mental horsepower can distill from critical scholarship.

    Once again Holding completely glosses over my argument and fails to address it. And, given his lack of clear, fact-based counter-arguments throughout this debate, I think Holding’s personal attack about my alleged “intellectual inadequacies” could more accurately describe Holding himself. I will repeat myself one more time. In my previous response I wrote, “What more is there to say? Rather than try to demonstrate that this passage is not anti-Semitic, he says that Paul is merely angry at the Jews over some transgression and that Paul has used such language in the past to show disapproval. This argument is silly since Paul is clearly blaming Jews for the death of Jesus when he writes, “You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone [.]” This is a clear anti-Semitic statement, one that has been used to spread the seeds of hatred of Jews for centuries, but Holding ignores it. Holding is forgetting that Jews converted into Christians, and later began discriminating against Jews, because it was believed that Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death. Simply because someone may be a cultural Jew, does not mean that they hold the same religious beliefs and will discriminate against those who fails to believe as they do. This also another example of how Holding has once again distorted my counter-argument and did not represent it accurately, to say the least. He doesn’t even mention I said this!

    Finally, Holding wrote, also quoting me:

    It’s also not much of a summary of my article to boil it down to, “Holding objects to the doctrine of original sin because it is ‘unfair’.”  Somehow that’s all AA’s limited mental horsepower can distill from critical scholarship.

    Holding’s argument against original sin is another side issue I’d rather not get bogged down with, but I summarized his arguments and I quoted him accurately. Taking away all of his legal and theological mumbo-jumbo, that’s what his argument amounts to. If he doesn’t like someone stripping his arguments bare, showing how baseless they are, perhaps he might think about coming up with better arguments. As an aside, I got a kick out of his calling that nonsense about original sin “critical scholarship!”

    Re Matt, 27:23, AA claims I excluded part of his response, but the part of his response excluded was more than covered by what I said. AA was denying that both uses of the “blood” remark could mean innocence because they were different situations. I classified that retort as a non sequitur. His response is to merely re-affirm that the “blood” statement in Matthew in an admission of guilt – in other words, the very claim my original argument refutes. It might be nice if AA actually tried to advance the argument a step rather than going backwards five.

    What a surprise. Holding ignored my argument. Again. His original argument did not counter my original one because there is nothing in the passage that Holding can point to that implies that the Jews don’t really mean what they say when they told Pilate to kill Jesus. View my previous reply for a fuller response. Holding is the one making the claim that this passage is meant to convey the same message as in another Jewish text, but the burden of proof is on him. He has not satisfied that burden.

    It is claimed I ignored other anti-Semitic passages, but really, what needs to be ignored is AA’s highly imaginative attempts to find anti-Semitism where none exists. Acts 3:12-19 is a forensic description of what happened in the Gospels. What is “anti-Semitic” about that? So likewise the other passages in Acts — and again, all of these things are said by Jews, to Jews. So how can there be any anti-Semitism? N word analogy, anyone?

    This is a very poor argument. Holding is once again forgetting that Jews converted into Christians, and later began discriminating against Jews, because it was believed that Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death. This is likely why Paul and others made such anti-Semitic remarks.

    I am finally to the end of Holding’s response. He writes,

    For the final round, I demanded that AA provide some objective criteria to justify the inclusion of Positive Christians under Christianity. Needless to say, no such answer comes forward. I gave my arguments in the text of HC. AA provided nothing of substance in negation, as we have seen. He will never lay out objective criteria, such as how much of the canon one must reject for AA to disqualify them as a Christian, because if he does so, he will be forced to provide an evaluation that can be critiqued and analyzed – and that’s the last thing he wants.

    As noted, AA thinks that Josh McDowell (!!) is the best to be found on the issue of the canon. You would never know that many serious scholars like Metzger, MacDonald, and others have treated these issues in much greater depth. That’s because AA is a hack, content to “research” using whatever he finds by way of a Google search, plus the limited number of books in his personal library, all by persons who say what he wants to hear.

    I’ll ask again: How much of the canon must a person reject before AA no longer considers them a Christian?

    Watch him dance.

    Yes, watch me dance. I’m break-dancing because I’m finally through with this monstrosity Holding mistakes for reasoned argument and debate. I responded to Holding’s question earlier in this reply about how much of the bible can a Christian accept and still be Christian.

    It’s funny how Holding insists I provide some form of “criteria” to show that Positive Christianity is a form of Christianity. The reason is because Holding has yet to even prove his own claim that Positive Christianity isn’t a form of Christianity. All he’s done is attack McDowell on this point, providing not one reason why his criteria are flawed. It is for this reason that Holding has the burden of proof, but he has failed to respond to this lack of “objective” criteria.

    Holding’s statement about my allegedly being “content to ‘research’ using whatever he finds by way of a Google search” is about as hypocritical as one could get (the same goes for his ridiculous “hack” comment). Holding has not offered a single, fact-based response to nearly any of my arguments. I do concede that Holding appears to be correct that the synagogue of Satan statement in Revelation 3:9 is referring to local Jews. However, assuming this is accurate, this does nothing to my argument since there are many other anti-Semitic passages that Holding has not accounted for, including Revelation 3:9.

    Holding has continuously refused to respond to the facts I offered, demonstrating the lack of objective criteria in the creation of orthodoxy, thus destroying his entire argument as laid out in Hitler’s Christianity. After being given two chances, Holding has yet to respond in any meaningful way. For a second time, my original review of Hitler’s Christianity has come away almost entirely unscathed by Holding’s confused and inaccurate counter-attacks.


    Holding has completely failed to respond in a satisfactory manner to any of my arguments (the Revelation 3:9 passage not withstanding) and continues to employ childish insults, cheap evasions, strawmen, and other fallacies. Here are several examples why Holding has lost this debate:

    1. Ad hominem; Holding has employed personal attacks against myself and McDowell.

    2. Strawman Fallacy; Holding has continuously failed to address key aspects of my arguments and often fails to even cite my arguments in their entirety, providing to his readers a skewed perception of my case.

    3. Shifting the Burden of Proof Fallacy; Holding has continually failed to address my main argument about his lack of “objective criteria” in his determination that Positive Christianity is not a legit form of Christianity. Rather than providing any reasons why the criteria cited is invalid, Holding tries to shift the burden to me, and insists I provide reasons why Positive Christianity is a legit form of Christianity (which I did in fact attempt in this reply).

    4. Holding, rather than rely on actual research, instead uses ad hoc argumentation (another fallacy) to justify many of his interpretations of scripture, and to dismiss many of my arguments, such as Hippocrates’ racist remarks in On Airs, Waters, and Places.

    5. Moving the Goal Post Fallacy; Earlier in this reply, I demonstrated how Holding in his book argued that one criteria of a person being Christian is adhering to the teachings of Jesus. When I demonstrated that the Nazis did this, Holding claims that adherence to Jesus’ teachings is irrelevant.

    6. Finally, Holding’s main argument relies on the No True Scotsman Fallacy, and he has failed to address this critical flaw, which destroys his entire case at its foundation.

    In sum, Holding’s arguments in his book Hitler’s Christianity, along with his attempts at a countering my arguments, are completely unconvincing and he has failed to provide any logical or fact-based reasons for his views.

    1. Gandhi: An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Beacon Press, 1993; 160

    2. War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race, by Edwin Black, Four Walls Eight Windows Press, 2003

    3. The Story of Civilization: The Life of Greece, by Will Durant, Simon & Schuster, 1966; 81

    4. Definitions of various scholars cited in Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence, by Hector Avalos, Prometheus Books, 2005; 306

    5. The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity, by Benjamin Isaac, Princeton University Press, 2004; 19-20

    6. Ibid.; 2

    7. See Isaac’s discussion about definitions and race in Ibid.; 17-23

    8. Ibid.; 11

    9. Ibid.; 10-12

    10. Ibid.; 65

    11. Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence, by Hector Avalos, Prometheus Books, 2005; 314

    12. The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity; 47

    13. Ibid.; 199

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    Article by: Arizona Atheist