The second video Zod has come out does not fair any better than the first. I responded to his first video here (Link). It seems to be a 22-minute argument from ignorance in an attempt to respond to my video “Does Christianity Cause Christian Nationalism?” This is the fallacy of arguing that because something has not been proven false, it is true. Zod says in his thumbnail “Christian Nationalism is Christian,” but then never presents evidence to back up this claim:
Unfortunately for Zod, this is a positive claim he has made and throughout his video, he gives no evidence to back it up. If one makes the positive claim that Christianity causes Christian Nationalism it is their job to provide evidence to support this claim. It is not my job to disprove it if they have offered no evidence to back up the claim. However, Zod gives us no reason to think Christianity causes Christian Nationalism. He also barely covered any of the research I provided in my original video, which demonstrates it is unlikely that Christian religiosity would lead to nationalistic tendencies. If Zod thinks Christianity causes Christian Nationalism (as he states in his video thumbnail), he needs to provide evidence for this. It is not my job to debunk a positive claim that has no evidence behind it. The burden is still on him to back up his claim.
To be fair, Zod seems to admit he cannot refute my original video. If that is the case I fail to see the point of his video. Like the first video, this one is hard to follow. A lot of the arguments do not seem to make sense and at times he seems to contradict himself. I’ll try to respond as best as I can, but even if I misunderstand something, it should be noted Zod has given no evidence Christianity causes Christian Nationalism. That statement alone is enough to refute his entire video.
Zod opens his video by stating:
“Now I’m not exactly going to refute his video as such, at least not in the traditional sense of responding to it point by point. The main reason for this is that he [Inspiring Philosophy] spends a lot of time focused on the findings of specific studies that indicate correlational connections between Christianity and specific positive social outcomes and I find it rather futile to try to refute the conclusions he draws from them. For one, it’s very hard to use these correlations to nail down meaningful cause and effect patterns.”
This is true. But let’s remember the aim of the first part of my original video that Zod is responding to. I am showing there is no reason to think Christianity causes nationalistic tendencies in Christians. If a Christian is a nationalist, it is likely because of other motives separate from Christianity. So I am pointing out that the claim that ‘Christianity causes Christian Nationalism,’ is riddled with problems and conjectures. The data seems to actually indicate more Christian religiosity is likely to reduce nationalistic tendencies.
If Zod believes “it’s very hard to use these correlations to nail down meaningful cause and effect patterns” then he is only shooting himself in the foot. If one could find a study with a correlation between Christianity and Christian Nationalism that wouldn’t necessarily indicate a causal relationship. Zod never demonstrates there is a causal relationship, so why claim (as he has in his thumbnail) that Christian Nationalism is Christian?
Zod then tries to elaborate by giving an example:
“Take for example a correlation between being a practicing Christian and positive mental health. When such a correlation exists is it because Christianity causes positive mental health, or does Christianity just happen to be the institution that holds the keys to a lot of our society’s community and social networks, and belonging to these networks is rewarded while withdrawing from them is met with isolation or even social retribution.”
Zod must not realize in sociology there is research that has already looked into this. Researchers often divide participants by religious orientation, intrinsic and extrinsic.
An intrinsic orientation means:
“[Persons] find their master motive in religion. Other needs… are regarded as less ultimate significance, and they are, so far as possible, brought into harmony with the religious beliefs and prescriptions. Having embraced a creed the individual endeavors to internalize it and follow it fully. It is in this sense that he lives his religion.”
An extrinsic orientation means:
“[Persons] are disposed to use religion for their own ends… Extrinsic values are always instrumental and utilitarian. Persons with this orientation may find religion useful in a variety of ways—to provide security and police, sociability and distraction, status and justification… The extrinsic type turns to God, but without turning away from the self.”
If Zod’s hypothesis was that the correlation between mental health and religiosity was because of “community and social networks” the positive correlations would align with extrinsic religiosity and not intrinsic religiosity. However, we see the opposite in research. I’ll just quote from my video, “Is Christianity Harmful?”
The study even directly says:
“…the E scale does a good job of measuring the sort of religion that gives religion a bad name… the I scale correlated positively with other measures of religious commitment, internal local of control, and purpose in life, and negatively with trait anxiety.”
A 2002 meta-analysis found that those with an intrinsic religious orientation correlate with three of five big personality traits and did not significantly correlate with the other two. However, those identified as mature in their religion correlated with 4 of the 5 personality traits and negatively correlated with neuroticism. Whereas extrinsic religiosity did correlate with neuroticism while not correlating with the other 4 personality traits one should.
A meta-analysis from 2003 found intrinsic religiosity was negatively related to depressive symptoms, but extrinsic religiosity was positively associated with depressive symptoms.
Another 2003 meta-analysis found that religion was positively associated with better mental health and that “the religiosity/mental health correlation becomes stronger as concepts (religiosity and mental health) are operationalized in an internal, identifiable manner.” In other words, intrinsic religiosity was associated with better mental health than mere extrinsic religiosity.
“…intrinsic religious motivation is associated with higher self-control” and self-regulation, whereas extrinsic religiosity was not. Also, the researchers noted they gathered research “predominantly from Christian backgrounds.”
So we do know the positive effects are more likely to come from intrinsic religiosity, not external factors like “community and social networks.”
Zod then gives another example:
“Then there are claims that Christianity established a lot of the west orphanages and universities and charities and so on. Was this because Christianity encourages generous behavior more than secularism or other religions or was it because Christianity was the accepted framework for these undertakings long woven into their infrastructure and you kind of had to call yourself a Christian to participate.”
Again, research has addressed this question as well. For one, large percentages of orphanages and charities arose out of Christian regions. We do not see this happening in the middle ages in non-Christian regions on the scale it happened in Christian regions. Robert Woodberry also ran a model and demonstrated Protestantism is tied to more charity, education, and colonial reform. This was cited in the second half of my video that Zod is responding to.
“Missionaries spread SMO forms and tactics internationally. Early Protestant missionaries tried to reform what they considered abuses in other societies (e.g., foot binding, female genital cutting, widow burning [sati], and consummating marriage before age 12; Woodberry 2004c)… Even after controls, Christians (particularly Protestants) are the most likely to volunteer and give both formally and informally (Bekkers and Schuyt 2008; Chang 2006; Ecklund and Park 2007; Kim 2003; Trinitapoli 2007; Uslaner 2002). The consistency of these findings around the world and across levels of analysis (i.e., between countries, regions, and individuals) suggests the association is causal.”
Additionally, Woodberry says:
“Both historical and statistical evidence suggest that CPs promoted democracy, although often through indirect means. In all five contexts analyzed—Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, European-settler colonies, and mission territories— Protestantism is associated with democracy. Comparative historical analyses show that CPs consistently initiated and spread factors that past research suggests promote democracy: mass printing, mass education, civil society, and colonial rule of law. In cross-national statistical analysis Protestant missions are significantly and robustly associated with higher levels of printing, education, economic development, organizational civil society, protection of private property, and rule of law and with lower levels of corruption (Woodberry 2004a; 2004c; 2006c; 2011b; 2011c; and Table 22, Online Appendix).”
Tom Holland also draws attention to a pagan Emperor Julian, who was raised as a Christian. Julian wrote to pagan temples that he was surprised they were not carrying for the needy and poor. He encouraged them to enact charitable giving. However, Holland points out Julian was operating from a Christian ethic that was alien to the pagan world.
“Behind the selfless ascetics of Julian’s fantasies there lurked an altogether less sober reality: priests whose enthusiasms had run not to charity, but to dancing, and cross-dressing, and self-castration. The gods cared nothing for the poor. To think otherwise was ‘airhead talk’.4 When Julian, writing to the high priest of Galatia, quoted Homer on the laws of hospitality, and how even beggars might appeal to them, he was merely drawing attention to the scale of his delusion. The heroes of the Iliad, favourites of the gods, golden and predatory, had scorned the weak and downtrodden. So too, for all the honour that Julian paid them, had philosophers. The starving deserved no sympathy. Beggars were best rounded up and deported. Pity risked undermining a wise man’s self-control. Only fellow citizens of good character who, through no fault of their own, had fallen on evil days might conceivably merit assistance. Certainly, there was little in the character of the gods whom Julian so adored, nor in the teachings of the philosophers whom he so admired, to justify any assumption that the poor, just by virtue of their poverty, had a right to aid. The young emperor, sincere though he was in his hatred of ‘Galilean’ teachings, and in regretting their impact upon all that he held most dear, was blind to the irony of his plan for combating them: that it was itself irredeemably Christian. ‘How apparent to everyone it is, and how shameful, that our own people lack support from us, when no Jew ever has to beg, and the impious Galileans support not only their own poor, but ours as well.’ Julian could not but be painfully aware of this. The roots of Christian charity ran deep.”
So there is evidence Christianity does directly lead to more education and charity. It is unlikely not a coincidental association. Of course, I suspect Zod would say this cannot be proven, which is true. However, we cannot prove most things, and instead, we often have to follow the evidence where it leads and infer to the most likely explanation. If a skeptic denies this link he needs to provide research that indicates opposite. Speculation that there may not be a causal link is not enough.
Zod then claims:
“We’re faced with a plain fact that Inspiring Philosophy is choosing his studies and both he and the authors of the studies are choosing the effects of Christianity they’re addressing. That muddies the whole conversation in a way that I don’t want to take the time to hash out.”
This is an odd accusation. First, there is an implication of cherry-picking. If I or Kenneth Vaughan cherry-picked studies that must be demonstrated, not thrown out as baseless speculation. Second, there are multiple studies that compare religiosity to multiple variables. I discuss a lot of those variables here (link). You can look at how religiosity compares to so many other variables. It is not like we have been limited when it comes to this type of research. Merely because I am focusing on a specific topic (i.e. Christian Nationalism) does not limit anything or muddies the conversation. What is Zod even trying to say here? His objection makes zero sense.
Zod then says:
“I’m not interested in winning as much as saying something useful and I hope I can bring up some meaningful questions about what Inspiring Philosophy actually establishes and how we as communities of believers and non-believers can digest it.”
I think this is a fair point and I respect Zod for stating this. However, if this is all he is aiming to do he should remake his video thumbnail, which contains the positive claim, “Christian Nationalism is Christian.” Zod also tweeted this out:
This is a claim it should be obvious Christian Nationalism is Christian. So it appears Zod is sending us mixed signals. In one setting he claims it is obvious Christianity is tied to Christian Nationlaism, but in his video he is not going that far. But let’s get to his questions.
Zod summarizes my video in this slide:
This is inaccurate when it comes to the first point. It should say, “Christian Nationlaism is more likely to be associated with politically right-leaning unchurched populations.” I am not saying left-leaning unchurched individuals are likely to be Christian Nationalists.
Zod then says:
“So when you consider the multiple varied iterations of Christianity seeping through society affecting people’s thinking in all different ways it becomes pretty clear that the question of whether Christianity causes Christian Nationalism is a lot more complicated than the number of, quote, people affirming Christian religiosity. And the question of what to do about it is a lot more complicated than getting fewer or more people into churches, yet this is the simplified framing Inspiring Philosophy starts with.”
This is not what my argument was. My argument was research demonstrates that Christian religiosity is not tied to an increase in Christian Nationalism. In fact, those on the political right that are the least religious are more likely to be nationalists. So an inference can be drawn that if people that were politically right were more religious and Christian we would see less nationalism. I see no reason in Zod’s video to think this inference is wrong, when the data I provided suggests this.
“This question, ‘should people be in church or not?’ sets up a discussion based more on superficial correlations and a real deep look into the complexity of what Christian ideas are affecting which people and how.”
Unfortunately, Zod does not really give any data to indicate that Christian ideas affect people in negative ways, let alone lead to nationalistic tendencies. So we see no deep look into this complexity he speaks of. If Zod thinks there is some Christian idea that affects Christians and leads to nationalistic tendencies (or any other negative quality) then the burden is on him to show a causal link. I fail to see how what he is stating here is meaningful. Of course, we need to look at how Christian ideas affect people, so let’s do that. Why is Zod stating the obvious but not following through on this?
I bring this up because this is exactly the point I was making in my debate with Holy Koolaid that Zod was responding to in his first reply. He spent a whole video rejecting this process, but now in this video, he seems to be in agreement that to show Christianity is dangerous one needs to show how a Christian idea affects individuals. How is this different from the point I originally made? Zod appears to be contradicting himself.
“Even assuming this is entirely true the fact that Christian Nationalism drives the young church more than the church or is motivated mostly by politics does not absolve Christianity of being at the root of the problem.”
Again, as I said earlier, the burden is on Zod to back this claim up. If he thinks Christianity is at the root of the problem then he needs evidence to back up that claim. He has given none, and the research I provided indicates the opposite is true. Merely speculating that it could be is not evidence it is. As Christopher Hitchens said, “what can be asserted without evidence, can be denied without evidence.” Zod has given no evidence Christian Nationalism is a version of Christianity or caused by Christianity.
After this, most of the claims Zod makes are speculative. From here on out I am not going to address anything Zod asserts without evidence. I don’t care if he thinks Christianity can lead to Christian Nationalism. The burden is on him to provide evidence this is the case and he has not.
Zod does bring up a good point though. He says:
“Let’s also be leery of this statement that the form of extremism seems to thrive with secularism. Assuming this is true, it’s not an indictment of secular society.”
This is true, and I never made such a claim. My claim was that if you have a politically right-leaning population that was religiously Christian and deconverts, yet remains politically right, you get Christian symbols reinterpreted in political and nationalistic ways. This results in a rise in nationalism and the preservation of Christian symbols in ways they were never intended to be. I am not saying the mere existence of a secular society means you get more nationalism. There is a specific process that needs to take over, which involves a decrease in religiosity. I also wish Zod would apply this reasoning to Christianity. Let’s also be leery of this statement that extremism seems to thrive with Christianity. Assuming this is true, it’s not an indictment of Christianity.
Zod then seems to attempt an odd attack on me personally. He says:
“Despite the fact that he doesn’t link any of his studies in the video’s description, which is weird…”
It is not weird because all the sources are cited in the video under each claim that is made. It is easy to look them up as Zod proceeded to do. Why is it weird that I find it redundant to put the links in the video description when they are in the video?
Zod then begins to discuss the first paper I cited indicating that Christian Nationalism is more likely to be found among unchurched Christians. However, Zod proceeds to misrepresent it. He quotes from the introduction of the study and says:
“It cites literature showing how ‘religious ideas and practices spill out of religious spaces and into everyday life losing much of their complexity but retaining their power to draw group boundaries,’ something that seems to validate my point about Christianity being at least a causal spark behind christian nationalism even if the extremism it fosters don’t currently display high levels of religiosity.”
This is not what the study indicates at all. Zod is quote-mining. There is nothing in the study that would remotely demonstrate “Christianity being at least a causal spark behind Christian Nationalism.”
In fact, just after this quote, the authors state:
“In showing how Christian nationalism works differently among nonchurchgoers compared to churchgoers, we provide a clear empirical example of this phenomenon. Our findings thus highlight a gap between religion, as it is practiced in local religious communities, and “lived religion” existing beyond the bounds of religious communities (Ammerman 2014). We argue that congregational embeddedness nurtures religious concerns, social conservatism, and partisanship (Bean 2014), whereas nationalist religio-political sentiments disconnected from churches can become secularized, populist, and a powerful electoral draw for individuals who are detached from religious communities (Asad 2003).”
In other words, their findings indicate there is a gap between Christian religiosity as found in churches and how Christianity is utilized in political contexts divorced from churches and the teachings of Christianity. As they conclude:
“…we find no evidence that Christian nationalism mobilized church-based support in the election. This is demonstrated by the fact that in our results Christian nationalism is only strongly associated with Trump support for voters who do not attend religious services. Among religious attenders, the effect of Christian nationalism on Trump voting is not only weak, it is also not statistically different from zero.”
Zod has the audacity to speculate I cherry-picked studies earlier, and then quote-mines from the only study he cites to back up his claim. This is quite a dishonest move on his part. But Zod does not stop there. Then he says:
“Is it even saying Christian nationalism is more prevalent outside churches than inside churches? Not at all. All it’s saying is that it’s more closely correlated to Trump’s support outside churches than inside churches as indicated by this graph from page 13. Now I’m not a statistician so I may be prone to some error here, but the reason for the correlation seems to be that if you don’t go to church you’re very unlikely to vote for Trump unless you lean toward Christian nationalism. Whereas church attenders were just more likely to vote for him across the board regardless of their level of nationalist sentiment.”
This is missing the point of the study. The study authors note nationalistic tendencies were not affected by Christianity or church attendance. The reason Christian individuals voted for who they preferred had nothing to do with Christianity and likely was the result of other motivating factors. As Zod even admitted earlier, “it’s very hard to use these correlations to nail down meaningful cause and effect patterns.” The study authors, however, argued Christianity and church attendance was not affecting voting preferences or support for nationalism. Thus, there is no evidence of a causal link. The whole point as to why I cited this study was to show Christianity is not directly tied to any promotion of nationalism (as part of my overall case), which is what the study authors indicated.
Zod does not seem to understand this, as he quotes the study and says:
“So does the article address that? Oh yeah, it does, right here on page 16, where it says Christian nationalist beliefs are more prevalent among observant Christians.”
However, right after this the study also says:
“…though the current study does not find robust evidence that these beliefs directly translate into increased support for Trump among churchgoers (who had a variety of other reasons for voting for Trump in 2016). Never fully contained within religious institutions, Christian-America narratives were cultivated by anti-New Deal business elites in a different era (in concert with religious leaders) (Kruse 2015), and in recent years a spillover of Christian-America rhetoric has taken on a life of its own within American political life outside of religious institutions (e.g., the Tea Party) (Braunstein and Taylor 2017). In one sense, the salience of such unchurched religio-nationalist sentiment appears odd. However, researchers have long noted that lack of institutional religious participation does not equate to religious antipathy and secularization may not necessarily augur a more liberal or less nationalist politics. It may do the opposite (Gorski 2020). Simply put, we find that a lack of churchgoing does not necessarily mean that a person does not ascribe to religiously rooted boundaries of national identity and belonging; indeed, our results suggest that some nonchurchgoers may be more strongly motivated by such boundaries compared to regular churchgoers.”
In other words, it is not Christianity that is causing right-wing voting preferences or nationalistic tendencies. Why is Zod bringing this up when already he admitted, “it’s very hard to use these correlations to nail down meaningful cause and effect patterns”? Zod seems to, once again, be contradicting himself. Just because “nationalist beliefs are most prevalent among observant Christians” it does not mean Christianity is mediating this. In fact, the conclusions of the study indicate it likely is not, which was my point in bringing it up. Zod seems to be walking back on his point that correlations are not necessarily meaningful.
Zod then argues:
“When he [Inspiring Philosophy] alludes to people straying from core doctrines while maintaining vestigial signs of Christian identity he basically gives himself a free pass to claim anybody who looks like a Christian, smells like a Christian, and indeed a vows Christianity, isn’t a true Christian.”
This should not be complicated, because Christianity is defined by its doctrines. If you reject the core doctrines of Christianity you are not a Christian. It is like someone claiming to be a vegan but eats cheese on the weekends. They are not a vegan just because they claim to be. The Jacobins during the French Revolution claimed to be humanists, even though they instituted the Great Terror. One is not really a humanist if they institute such a policy like this. What if someone claimed to be a progressive, but was pro-life, voted for Trump, anti-gun control, and was a card-carrying republican and agreed with republicans on every issue? Can he claim the title of “progressive,” yet reject the core teachings of what it is to be a progressive? Zod doesn’t get to reject this logic only when it comes to religion. If someone claims to be a Christian, but rejects the core doctrines of Christianity, and only utilizes Christian symbols for political means, they are not actually a Christian.
To remind everyone the core doctrines of Christianity are:
- Belief in one God who is a Trinity of Father, Son. and Holy Spirit.
- There was a literal fall of humanity.
- Jesus was born of a virgin.
- Jesus died and atoned for our sins and is Lord over all.
- Three days later is physically rose from the grave.
- The 66 books of the Bible are the inspiring word of God.
- Jesus will physically return in the future.
Now one may argue that this is simple and can include many people, which is true. However, let’s remember the main point, which is that Christianity doesn’t cause nationalistic tendencies. If someone is a Christian and a nationalist, their nationalistic beliefs likely result from some other factor, not Christianity. In fact, the more devoted to Christ and their religion they become, the more likely it is nationalistic tendencies will be diminished, as the collection of research I cited indicates.
Zod then responds to this quote from Phillip S. Gorski:
“So like, Christianity is supposed to have mornings holding it in a specific place? That sure is weird considering how absolutely all over the place the religion has been across its history.”
Zod is confusing denominational differences and essential doctrines. Christians can disagree on non-essential issues, just like political progressives can disagree over issues and still be classified as progressives. One could say that progressives can be “all over the place,” but it doesn’t mean there are essentials of what makes one a progressive. In terms of essential doctrines, Christianity has not been all over the place.
Philip Gorski is actually speaking on how Christian symbols often get reworked in political ways that have been entirely detached from their religious meaning. When one begins to pervert how Christian symbols were meant to be used and reworked in political ways one is no longer operating within Christianity. Christian Nationalism is specifically defined as a political ideology, not a religious one. So Zod cannot claim it is Christian unless he gives evidence (which he still has not done). The research I relied on even backs up my point that it is not a result of Christianity, but something else entirely.
Zod then wraps up his video by asserting I have not given evidence on how to prevent nationalistic tendencies or find the right church. First of all, the main aim of my video was to show there is a disconnection between Christianity and Christian nationalism. I never said I would show how to beat nationalism, and that is because it probably is a multi-facet approach. However, if the research indicates the more religious a politically right individual is, the more likely it is for nationalistic tendencies to decrease, then I did provide some guidance on how to diminish nationalism in at least one way. Getting politically right individuals in church and getting them to be more religious will likely decrease nationalism. But I find it odd that Zod expects me to cover issues I never claim to address in the video. I never said it was a video on how to find the right church, it was a survey of the sociological and historical data that indicates Christianity is not tied to nationalism.
Zod then makes an accusation. He claims Christianity puts “a bunch of arbitrary ideas in people’s head and telling them to accept them based on dictate, and other things aside from sound judgment, it can’t exactly throw its hands in the air and act appalled because some of those people start believing weird horrific things it never intended them to.”
I already dealt with odd reasoning in my first reply to Zod. But once again, Zod has given no evidence Christianity actually causes this mentality. He, once again, assumes this without evidence. Why does Zod get to believe such a baseless claim about Christianity, but demand such a high level of evidence to show Christianity does not cause Christian Nationalism? There seems to be a double standard present. Nor is there reason to think that Christianity put arbitrary ideas in people’s heads, and this leads to them accepting things like nationalism. The leaps in Zod’s logic are astounding, and yet he claims I have not given enough evidence for my claim Christianity does not cause nationalism. Again, this appears to be a double standard.
Zod just goes on after this point making baseless claim after baseless claim about what he thinks Christianity teaches or causes. Never once does he even consider citing evidence to support these claims. Instead, he just assumes Christianity teaches people to accept teachings without thinking or reasoning. No sociological data indicates this. So as I said, we can just dismiss these claims because they are based on his own personal biases and not on evidence or sound reasoning.
At this point, I suspect part 3 will be a lot of the same reasoning. Zod will presuppose his caricature of Christianity, and therefore, it leads to harmful effects. But we shall see.