Imagine Undoing Racism

Thanks, @NY_G_PA2.

Clearly, you’ve missed the fact I don’t trade in implications.


Re: Bob Newhart

Love it. I remember seeing the original segment. Thanks.

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But you clearly don’t trade in facts, either, as there is only circumstantial evidence to suggest that Jesus was anything other than a literary construct, just as one can believe but never prove that there is any coherency in his double edged, “good new/bad news” ministry.

(E.g., did Jesus preach peace, love and understanding or was he on a mission to create an army of Christian soldiers?)

Either way, you have more than enough time.

Put in the last word.

You’re welcome. Thank you for the question.


Thanks, @NY_G_PA2.

Again, your arguments seem to be coming from books one buys from ads in the back of Rolling Stone or High Times.

The argument Christ was a “literary construct” — and not an actual, historical figure — was tossed about by 19th century German philosophers before it was crushed and disposed of by modern, critical historical theory.

In other words, it is nearly 200 years out of date. No serious historian of antiquity talks like this, today.

If you really want to propose this notion, or debate on the basis of it, I suggest you first load up on phlogiston.

I’ll quote Christ: “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” (Luke 10:26 NIV)



One more point, @Sirje:

In this response, you said:

I consider my statement…

…analogous to yours, in some manner.


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In imagining a world without racism, Nathan, you are in good company. The Apostle John foresaw a truly international reach of God, with redemption and judgement for every nation. Before him, Paul saw the end of racism as a key outcome of the gospel – as the dividing wall between races was broken down and Christians identified as citizens of heaven rather than their birth nation. Paul was proceeded in applying the gospel against race by Peter (with Cornelius) and Philip (with the Ethiopian).

Jesus didn’t so much preach against racism as demonstrate respect and compassion towards people who weren’t Jews. Yet, even Jesus’ claim to be the light of the world was drawn from Isaiah’s prophecies of God being accessible to all nations.

Even before then, Ruth was remembered as a faithful non-Jew who made Jewish history richer. When Miriam criticised Moses for his inter-racial marriage to Zipporah, she was punished by God. The ancient family lines of Genesis provide the foundation for Paul’s much later assertion that we all share one blood.

Notwithstanding the many examples of Christians and Jews being racist, the scriptures on which these religions are built stand as a testimony against racism. There are other Bible texts which have been and are used to reinforce racial violence, but the gospel is unequivocal: in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek.

Will we ever be free of racism? Of course not, no more than we will eradicate domestic violence, homophobia, or oppression of the poor. We are called to peace, most prefer violence, yet we are called to peace

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The problem is viewing “undoing racism” as “changing hearts and minds”. Listen to James Baldwin saying (rough paraphrase) "I don’t know if the banker hates me. But I know he won’t give me a mortgage. " Rosa Parks wasn’t trying to get the people on the bus to like her–she just didn’t want to be forced to ride in the back any more. James Meridith wasn’t trying to earn love from the profs at Ole Miss–he wanted a college education. Confronting racism means making our world one in which people of color are treated fairly and move freely–it doesn’t depend on the love of white people or changed hearts and minds. We CAN have voting rights and fair treatment by institutions like banks and hospitals and businesses. Changing systemic racism is TOTALLY within our reach. The hearts and minds will come along. No one is asking for your love. They are claiming the right to live a full human life, like you do. That is within our power, and we should be embarrassed as a society when we fail.


I have no allusions about changing hearts and minds. At this point in time, racism is a political football. All that needs to be done is govern, in good faith, according to the laws already on the books, called the US Constitution.

Also, @thenerdwithin, your distillation…

… is incorrect.

In her post, @Sirje doesn’t say she will not imagine undoing racism, as you state.

She says she cannot; i.e., she doesn’t, in her mind, see it as feasible.

What you wrote as “No” should, instead, be, “I can’t.” In fact, those were her exact words: “I can’t imagine undoing racism this side of the apocalypse.”

Based on her words, you can charge her with a failure of imagination. But you cannot charge her with merely refusing the request.


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Thanks, @Sirje.

This is a common statement, with which many agree. But it is almost certainly wrong.

It presupposes all that is necessary to eliminate racism is to apply existing constitutional laws justly.

However, there is no credible reason why anyone should believe such a thing is true.

This is because:

a) There’s no reason to believe constitutional laws, codified under conditions dominated by white supremacy, will be just.

b) There’s no reason to believe, under conditions dominated by white supremacy, the racists will administer constitutional laws justly, or those who are not racists will overpower them, should they not do so.

c) There’s no reason to believe the existing constitutional laws, “justly applied,” have the ability to prevent non-white people from being mistreated, nor do they assure non-white people who need help the most will get the most help.

But, most of all:

d) White supremacy is a global system. “Constitutional laws” are not.

So, “constitutional laws” do not address the myriad lethal outcomes of “South African apartheid,” the continued theft and battery of Original lands and people in so-called “Terra Nullis,” or the grotesque indignities of Zwarte Piet.


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Is that anything like the mysterious substance some people believe blots out their sins?

(I know. I said I’d let you have the last word but some stuff just writes itself.)

And okay you’re right.

I can’t prove that Jesus was just a literary construct created by early “Christians” for use in their evangelistic efforts just as it is impossible to conclusively establish that there is no such place as Hogwarts.

But what’s equally impossible for anyone to establish is that he’s successfully “gotten into the head” of another to the level that he can say with absolute certainty that he understands the consciousness of that person-whether real or imagined-so thoroughly that he can speak for him.

Thus, what constitutes “real” Christianity has been, and most probably always will be, an open question.

But okay.

I know.

(Or I should say I suspect.)

You think I should take the advice of a pretend TV shrink and just !!!STOP IT!!!


Will we know when racism has been eradicated? How? That’s like saying you believe in world peace. Let me know when that happens.

Thanks, @NY_G_PA2.

That depends on whether or not God exists.

If God does exist, then, no: “Phlogiston” is not at all like the substance Christians believe, by faith, wipes away their sins.

What wipes away their sins is Christ’s agreement to accept the blame for human foibles. God accepts this transfer, much the way the law might hold you guilty for the misdeeds of your minor child; the child commits the action, but the penalty is assessed of you, and the law accepts this transfer as real.

If God does not exist, then, yes: Phlogiston is exactly like said substance.

Nothing “writes itself,” Bruce.

I don’t mind reasonable exchanges with you. :grinning:

There is historical and other evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ.

Your counter-proposal — “Jesus was just a literary construct created by early ‘Christians’ for use in their evangelistic efforts” — is not taken seriously by anyone who works, day in and day out, on these questions at a high level.

There is not historical and other evidence for the existence of Hogwarts. To begin, the person who first revealed the existence of Hogwarts to the world — J.K. Rowling — has often said the world of Harry Potter and his environs are fictional.

Your analogy is, respectfully, both inane and nonsensical. :slightly_smiling_face:

Christians consider the notion, I think, you are satirizing — that God can communicate His will to believers via the Holy Spirit — as, what philosophers call, properly basic; an idea that cannot be explained by some other idea, but that, to the believer, seems self-evident.

For example, you can’t prove the entire universe wasn’t made 5 seconds ago, including all of your memories of your existence. Yet, it is properly basic for you to believe this is not the case, even though you cannot prove it. To you, it seems self-evident.

Real Christianity is defined, obviously, by Christ’s life, example, and the teachings of His apostles. This, much the way real Buddhism is defined by the life and ideas of the Buddha, or Confucianism by the life and ideas of Confucius, Marxism by Karl Marx, or “The Apple Way” by Steve Jobs.

It is not complicated.

No, Bruce.

I would like you, having read what I’ve written, and, perhaps, having some insight into how I may think, to make truly challenging proposals and counter-arguments.

As I said to @Timo once, pertaining to my written positions on racism, what I most want are interlocutors who can challenge my expressed beliefs, and, ideally, shatter them; people who can rip them to pieces.

I would like the same from you.


I don’t know.

I’m not sure, @Sirje.

Within the system of justice for which I speak, one set of criteria is:

a) No one is mistreated, and

b) The people who need help the most get the most help.

But even desirable as such a set of affairs may be, how would one certify it?

I don’t know.


x) It may be reasonable to suspect those who are smart enough to get to that state of affairs would also be smart enough to validate it.

y) Unless one is a racist, I think most people would say such a state of affairs, or even just working toward it, is better than white supremacy.

What is “like saying you believe in world peace”?

I’m not clear what you mean by this statement.

When you say, “like saying you believe in world peace,” do you mean:

a) Like saying you believe world peace should exist?


b) Like saying you believe world peace is feasible?

I ask because, whether one says a) and/or b):

i) such statements are better than statements affirming world war, or world conflict, and

ii) given the nature of human beings, working toward world peace, however elusive or unreachable it may be, seems better than, and the best way to avoid, world war, or world conflict.


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I can’t help you there given that this request demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the rules of logic, one of which says that the burden of substantiating any assertion or opinion always rests with the claimant.

Thanks, @NY_G_PA2.

My request, above, is not for proof from an interlocutor. It’s for a denial of the same.

This violates no burden-of-proof requirement or statute, should there be one.

Said another way: It’s perfectly logical to coherently refute any ill-formed idea from one’s opposition, and certainly any illogical one. :thinking:



Maybe I’ve missed the point or don’t understand the role of an interlocutor so I’ll try to be more clear by starting here:

You claim the Bible is the word of god.

But there are those who don’t believe that there is any evidence that the god of the Bible exists, much less that he ever spoke to anyone.

So those people are going to reject anything you say, no matter how well stated or biblically-based, on the grounds that you haven’t proved either of your initial assumptions.

Further, those people may feel have no more burden to set you straight-act as interlocutor?-or prove you wrong anymore than you may feel the slightest compulsion to point out the flaws in the thinking of Flat Earthers.

IOW, those people are under no obligation to shatter any of your claims so you probably won’t hear from any of them, as they’ll say that task is pointless or was completed years before either of us was born.

(Again, the way I understand it, the role of interlocutor is an neutral position whose primary goal is to further the discussion and he doesn’t try to rebut or shatter either argument. So perhaps @Sirje could be persuaded to interlocute-if that’s a word?!?!-and mediate the conversation ?!?!:wink:)


I know my maker is real and I have no issue with the belief that Jesus was a real, factual person.

But what can be stated for certain about either of them based on two thousand year old hearsay is for me an open question and your claim that the answers are simple and uncomplicated seems to be refuted by the fact that people have been arguing, going to war and even dying over these issues throughout the course of those two millennia.

In fact-and to bring this back to the initial topic-there are those who claim they can prove that racism, tribalism and even slavery are not only “just okay” but are actually encouraged by our creator. And they arrive at this philosophy using the old “copy and paste” method.

I don’t know about you but I’m not impressed by this theology. However, I also don’t believe that me preaching my version of the gospel to people who are convinced they’re on the side of the angels will change their minds anymore than I think could disabuse you, and probably a majority of Christians, of the belief that Jesus was the son of god.

I happen to think he was a son of god but I also suspect that this choice between two little words would be a major sticking point in any further discussions between us.

Most importantly, the fact that there are texts which can be read either way, or that Arianism was declared a heresy by The Council of Trent some three centuries after Jesus left the scene, do nothing to resolve just one of the issues which are, in fact, as old and as complicated as Christianity itself.

In other words, Bob Newhart and Nancy Reagan were probably both right. I should STOP IT!

And just say no.

Or nothing.


Yeah, leave me out of this. I can’t be neutral - nobody can . :innocent:

Pssst - just one day left to wind this up!

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An interlocutor is “a person who takes part in a dialogue or conversation.”

So, in the exchange we are having right now, I am your interlocutor and you are mine.

@Sirje is also yours, even though, below, she has asked to be left “out of this.” She could have merely not responded. But, by not doing so, she became your interlocutor.

I claim the Bible is the Word of God, but I do this by faith.

I don’t have any “proof” the Bible is the Word of God, in the sense of a mathematical proof, scientific proof, or even a deductive argument.

I do this in a properly basic way, to use the term I did previously.


Those people may do. But them doing so depends on the argument.

If you, Bruce, say, “I wouldn’t be moved by any person who claims to be Christ,” and I say, “According to the Bible, during the 2nd Coming, you will probably be moved,” I haven’t proved you will be moved, nor have I proved a 2nd Coming.

I’ve merely said, “In the context of this narrative, what you’re saying is not factual.”

I’ve not disproved your statement. I’ve put an asterisk on it, so to speak; I’ve said, “This should be reconsidered at a future time,” just like any statement about the future should be…including my own.

So, yes, such people are free to reject such a statement, by me, as unproven, if they want. They can’t reject it as falsified. But they can say it’s conjectural. I’d accept that.

That’s correct.

While I’m not equating biblical statements about the apocalypse with Flat Earth statements — Flat Earth-supportive statements are falsifiable, while statements about the biblical apocalypse are not — I agree: A person in conversation with me is totally free to not address, or respond to statements about, the apocalypse when I bring it up…as long as they don’t bring it up, either.


Susan Sontag once said, “The only interesting answers are those which destroy the questions.”

So, let’s go back to my 2nd Coming example: I would want someone interacting with me to say, “Even if the Bible is true, I will not be afraid, for these reasons,” and give them…


…to say, “Yes: If the Bible is true, I would be terrified beyond belief. But I don’t believe the Bible is true.”

That’s a conversation. Anything else, someone has dropped the ball.

Again. Spectrum is a forum for conversation; “Community Through Conversation” is the motto. That implies we’re not here for harangues, manifestos, or ultimatums.

The way Spectrum works best is via the protocol for which it is designed and maintained; that’s the presumption, and it’s reasonable. Even more so, it’s reasonable to believe that is why everyone is here.

So, it’s equitable, if I make a point, for you to refute it, and to do so to the best of your ability. That’s what I mean when I say I want someone to tear my arguments to pieces.

To just merely ignore the point I’ve made because you don’t agree with the premise is counter-conversational. Why not, instead, say why you disagree with the premise?

People who are here, merely to make their points are, really, in the wrong place. They are neither giving others the benefit of their presence, nor are they getting the benefit of being here with other minds.

I’ve said it, and will again: I’ve written a lot here, mostly, about racism. I’ve mostly disagreed, sometimes bitterly, with my interlocutors; rarely have our exchanges been agreeable.

However, when I think back, it was in exchanges with the people I disagreed the most from which I also learned the most, and/or had the biggest insights. Iron sharpens iron.

"Interlocutor" doesn’t assume neutrality. That may be the error which is giving you your difficulty re: my statement.

By “my maker,” do you mean God? Or do you mean something else?

It’s not clear what you mean by the word “hearsay.”

The Gospels are written testimonies by persons who either knew Christ (Matthew, John) or who talked to people who did (Mark, Luke). They are done in the style of ANE biography, and are consistent with the format.

One could not make legally-binding statements about Christ’s words and actions, based on these documents. That is true. If one attempted to do so, that would be “hearsay.”

But it’s unclear why one would need legally-binding documents in order to coherently generate and ground a faith, or a philosophy, particularly about purportedly divine matters. Even the suggestion raises strange questions; e.g., how does one certify divine statements beyond a reasonable doubt?

The answers are simple and uncomplicated to me because I have familiarity with the material, see its logic, and am not moved to go to war over differences about it.

One of my interlocutors, here, once said the Ten Commandments didn’t cover a host of subjects. When I asked her which ones, she raised the following:

I then focused on each behavior, and showed how each Commandment forbade each of these behaviors.

I could do this because I have familiarity with the material, see its logic, and am not moved to go to war over differences about it.

If I asked you to explain Einstein’s general theory of relativity…and to do so in French, you’d likely be flummoxed.

Meanwhile, the request would little move Françoise Combes. That’s because he has familiarity with the material, sees its logic, and is not moved to go to war over differences about it.

When I say “the answers are simple and uncomplicated,” I mean this in that way. I mean the answers form reasonable propositions, and reasonable people can disagree about their meanings or implications.

I would say:

a) There are such people

b) The propriety of the method is falsifiable, not just the conclusions it generates. I say this because it clearly generates false positives in the form of contradictions.

I am not, either.

You could disabuse me of the notion with a biblical argument.

In other words, the argument that Christ is THE Son of God comes from a certain reading of the Bible.

So, the counter-argument — He is NOT THE Son of God — would have to come from the Bible, OR from a more credible source than the Bible.

I don’t know what a more credible source on the question of Christ’s nature would be than the Bible, or from where it would come. But this is what would be needed.

In other words, a person could say, “The Koran tells us that Allah has no ‘son,’ and that Jesus is a prophet; a highly-regarded and blessed prophet, but, still, a prophet; not God.”

To which I would respond, “I agree with you. But I don’t believe in the Koran.”

That’s fine. We would have had a conversation, and it was coherent.

Not to me.

The first thing I’m going to do is ask you, “What do you mean by ‘a’ son of God?”

I’m fairly certain any answer you give is going to generate more questions, which I will then ask.

So, it might be a “sticking point,” because we’d have to keep coming back to it.

But, at the same time, I believe I have evidence Christ is not ‘a’ son of God, but THE Son of God, and that my evidence is better than yours. So, I would proceed on that basis, and our conversation would orbit our disagreements.

I don’t think the Bible, like the Library of Babel, says everything. I don’t think every meaning ascribed to it is coherent.

On that basis, I’m confident I can press for the understanding I believe makes sense, because I believe the Bible is a meaningful document.

That others disagree does not give me pause. I don’t have a problem with people disagreeing with me. I often don’t even have a problem disagreeing with myself.


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