Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Scalia Hypothesis: The Cross Is Not Christian

I am wondering if I should feel sorry for the Christians.

While other major religions have a symbol that uniquely identifies those who use the symbol as members of that religion, Christians, apparently, do not have such a symbol. There is no mark that one can make that identifies the person as being “Christian” in the sense of being “Not a Jew” or “Not a Muslim.”

What’s that? You say that Christianity is represented by a cross? That this is a distinctly Christian symbol?

Well, not according to Supreme Court Justice Scalia. He holds that the Cross is a generic symbol that applies to all people regardless of religious beliefs. It applies not only to Christians, but to Jews, Muslim, and even atheists. In fact, he thinks it is absolutely ridiculous to say otherwise – that no sane individual could ever come to believe that the Cross is identifies somebody as Christian.

(See: Associated Press, Sharp debate at high court over cross on US land

He made these remarks in a Supreme Court case that concerned the placement of a cross on government land as a war memorial. The objection was raised that the Cross uniquely symbolizes the Christian faith and, as such, this was a memorial only to Christian soldiers. Scalia called the claim that the Cross was a Christian symbol absurd.

I am dumbfounded at how a person can be so committed to a particular conclusion that he will follow it to the most absurd ends without the last bit of self-awareness over how absurd his statements have become. This represents a totally backwards way of thinking and a way of thinking that, frankly, a dangerous way of thinking. This type of person is not living in the real world. His mind functions in a mythical world and when mythical beliefs are attached to real-world issues, it is reasonable to expect trouble to result.

It is useful to contrast this way of thinking to the scientific way of thinking.

Scientists seek to test their hypothesis. A scientist takes his conclusion and chases it to some proposition that she can then test. She designs an experiment and, on the basis of that experiment, decides whether to accept or reject the original hypothesis.

A scientific-minded person can come up with an easy experiment to test the Scalia hypothesis on the meaning of the cross.

If Scalia is correct, then this predicts that if I go out on the street and show people various symbols, that they will have a particular set of reactions. When I show them a grave marked with a Star of David they well answer that the person buried there was Jewish. If I show them a grave marked with a star and crescent, they may answer "Muslim." In both cases, some percentage will say that they do not know or they are not sure. However, this is still different from what the Scalia Hypothesis tells us we should expect when people are shown a Cross.

According to Scalia, when we show our test subjects a Cross and ask them what religion this represents they would not answer by saying, "Christian". Instead, they would scratch their head in confusion and ask us in return, "What do you mean? That doesn't represent any religion."

Of course, we don't have to conduct the experiment to realize the absurdity to be found in the Scalia Hypothesis. The claim is absurdly false. The only reason Scalia asserted it – and, I would dare say, actually believes it – is because he must embrace this absurdity in order to get the conclusion that he has decided he must have regardless of the evidence put before him.

He is, at least in these types of issues, utterly incapable of interpreting and applying the law. He is only capable of twisting and distorting the law, writing into it the most absurd premises, in order to twist and distort it into the conclusions that he wants to reach.

This makes him a very poor . . . even an incompetent . . . judge when it comes to these types of cases. In short, he utterly lacks the capacity to judge them. He is like the judge who begins a trial with a conviction that the accused is guilty, and will accept no argument in his court that does not support that conclusion. In fact, his insistence that the accused is guilty is so firm and unshakable that if he personally saw the accused at a different place and time at the moment the crime took place, he would still dismiss that evidence and declare the accused to be guilty.

It is one thing for a judge to be biased and we may debate how much freedom from bias we can reasonably expect from a judge. It is quite another for a judge to insist on a conclusion in the face of such absurdities.

If any judge should agree with the Scalia Hypothesis (the Scalia Absurdity), they would prove in doing so that they suffer the same incompetence when it comes to judging matters of this type.


anton said...

And Scalia is on the US Supreme Court! This is yet another example of how stupid people can rise to great "heights"!

With regard to "crosses" some might like this post"

lisa marie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NAL said...

If Scalia doesn't think that the cross is a uniquely Christian symbol, then he should have no qualms with replacing the cross with another nonreligious symbol.

The very reason he and others are upset about the removal of the cross is because it does represent Christianity.

lisa marie said...

Let me start out by stating that I agree with your accusation that it is absurd to believe modern day people do not associate the cross with Christianity. I am appalled that a judge on the Supreme Court would make such an thinly veiled claim.

Although, his claim does have some merit. Christianity's unoriginal symbology is hardly an anomaly of the religion. Christianity is a set of memes collected from earlier cultures' ideologies, mythologies, and practices. I think one would be hard pressed to find one unique bit in the whole mess of that religion!

I'm writing a term paper based on the idea that Christianity has recycled and repackaged old ideas. If anyone would be so kind as to suggest some resources, it would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you, Alonzo for your continually thought provoking blog entries.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

It is possible for a religious symbol to acquire a secular meaning.

Ask people what the scales of justice represent and almost nobody will tell you that it is the religious symbol for the the Roman goddess Justitia.

Justitia herself is often represented as a blindfold woman with a sword in one hand holding scales with another. So, this common statue on government buildings represents a formerly religious diety portrayed on government property.

However, the key word 'formally'.

If the time should come that America has no or very few Christians, THEN we can consider putting Christian symbols on public buildings.

Eneasz said...

Lisa Marie - Robert Price is a treasure trove of information on that subject. His books are probably great (I've never actually read one) but if you search iTunes for "The Bible Geek" you can find his podcast, which is great listening. You can also find some of his oldest podcasts here.

Sabio Lantz said...

Alonzo wrote: "...even an incompetent . . . judge when it comes to these types of cases"

I am glad you qualified his arena of incompetence. There is ample evidence that incompetence is rarely global. And evidence that otherwise astute philosophers or scientists turn off their rational switch when matter of strong personal desire are approached. For then, the strongest desire become to protect the strongest desires.


Anonymous said...

In actual fact, he is quite mad, you know. Quite mad.

Watching him once on a debate over drugs, I was struck by the similarity of Joe McCarthy and Scalia.

Both quite sure in their madness, living in some alternate universe only they can see.

Lisa Marie: some say the symbol of the dead pharaoh, with their arms crossed, holding whip and flail, wrapped in linens, with a beard, is the origin of the cross/Chritian symbol. Osiris being the reincarnated "god", and Isis being the "Virgin" mother impregnated by the "reassembled" Osiris, sans penis.

Some say the Ankh symbolizes the cross and the head of a person on it.

Outzi, the Ice man, 5000 years old and buried under Alpine ice, had cross tattoos on his body.

Who can ever say for sure what the "true" source was in antiquity?

Personally, I have never found a more thorough source of the origins of "Judeo/Christian" beliefs than:

A-Z complete. Plan on spending hours and hours being awed.

Example: ever wonder if there was a real "Eden?" How about a map?

A "real" Ark of the Covenant?" How about a photo and link?

Amazingly, the reality is more exciting and awesome than the dogma....