rejoinder to santa christ

It occurred to me in skimming through the ‘santa christ’ thread that the concept I ran across in the first book I read with philosophical content (Mortimer J. Adler’s Ten Philosophical Mistakes, 1985) remains largely unknown within Christianity today:

“In Book VI of his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle, clearly cognizant of what he himself had said about the character of descriptive truth, declared that what he called practical judgments (i.e., prescriptive or normative judgments with respect to action) had truth of a different sort. Later philosophers, except for Aristotle’s mediaeval disciples, have shown no awareness whatsoever of this brief but crucially important passage in his writings.”
I believe this concept appropriately defines why we act imperfectly generally, and more specifically why some elect to mock Christianity (or any religion). Rather than engage in endless and fruitless arguments about the reasonableness or lack thereof of the Christian paradigm, it might be useful to see how, when the distinction is made between descriptive and prescriptive truth, the spirited debate which arises from discussion of Christianity by non-theists is shaped by this practically forgotten principle.

That there exists in prescriptive truth a dynamic or power that descriptive truth lacks can be seen by imagining a man with a sledgehammer. In your mind, gauge your reaction to this man’s action as he delivers blows to

  1. a boulder
  2. a small tree
  3. a baby seal
  4. a human infant

The pressure increase felt in observation of each of these acts is what I think of as the tension and resistance between absolute moral truth and the property of falsity in human spirit/mind. It attaches to things biological to the degree they possess what for lack of an immediate better term will call “life force”. All things possess in varying ratio the properties true (that which endows perfection) or false (that which denies perfection). Matter is inert and exerts an equally inert tension [T] in the mind, as for instance when someone suggests there are three apples on the table when in fact there are four. Prescriptive truth adds resistance [R] to the mix in some unknown ratio [n]. Hence, for any given quanta of mental content or set of external circumstances in which prescriptive matters are encountered, TRn will be present.

Thus, effrontery/hautiness/hubris observed in intellectual discussion of prescriptive matters [as, for instance, in religious discussion] are a natural byproduct of the pressure of imposed on the rational process by this potent antithesis between absolute truth (perfection) and falsity (non-perfection). This principle is present in any discussion—atheist-atheist, Christian-Christian, atheist-theist, boss-employee, etc.—in which prescriptive content exists. Despite my atheist comrades’ contempt and ridicule, this principle not only possesses interesting predictive capabilities re behavior, but is also in strong agreement with the central principles of the Christian faith.

I believe this is a rational explanation for why [among other things] we fight on boards like this and in everyday life and why it’s inherently reasonable to ally oneself with the teachings of Christianity. I understand that my atheist brethren will disagree, but regardless, it seems to me we’re all on the same crappy boat together. Maybe we could put more effort into practicing honorable disagreement, something I have trouble doing when faced with the arrogance employed in terms like ‘santa christ’.

Maybe some day we can all joing hands after drinking an ice cold Coca Cola and burst into glorious melody…“I’d like to teach the world to reason in perfect harmony…”

The problem is that Santa Christ doesn’t seem at all arrogant to a non-Christian. If someone is offended by it, by immediate thought is that they need to pull the stick out of their ass. :wink: I agree we’re all in this “crappy boat” together, so why imagine & invent more fanciful things to divide us even more than we already are?

Nice tack, let’s pretend the problem’s mine. I probably used to play little games like this back in middle school, too.

Arrogance often seems otherwise to the practioner of it. Doesn’t mean it’s not arrogance–might only mean the practicioner isn’t up to admitting it.

Then whos problem is it? I am amused by the Santa Christ phrase. If it makes you squirm, I’d say it’s not only your problem but maybe holds enough truth to make you uncomfortable.

Now, continue to play at whatever “little game” you meant to play at when you posted this. :wink:

I think you make several unwarranted jumps here that I thought I’d bring up. A boulder, by any stretch of the imagination, is rather hard to “relate to”. It doesn’t bleed. It doesn’t need oxygen; it doesn’t seem to possess any qualities that we can relate to. If it is “alive” it is “alive” in some way that we cannot directly relate to. A tree is a bit of a different story. It meets some of the requirements that we can relate to. A seal moreso and of course a human infant extremely moreso. The “tension” here is simply created by mentioning things that we can increasingly relate with better because they are more LIKE us in some fundamental ways. It becomes distressing at the tree because it is KINDA like us…the seal moreso like us, and the infant because it is EXTREMELY like us.

Now, you make the jump then to say that you think of it as the tension between moral truth and falsity. I suppose you could think of it that way if you want, although I have to say that’s a pretty far stretch for me personally. Supposing an absolute truth is tricky business, and evidently fellow Christians disagree on things that ought to be immutable about so called “absolute truth”. I’d say they don’t seem to suffer from this “tension” problem you mention anymore than any other Christian. They simply define a slightly different set of “absolute truths”.

So, I guess I’d say your model doesn’t hold water for me personally as the mechanism by which it works is quite a bit simpler and fundamentally easier to understand than what is meant by “absolute truth” and “falsity”.

Hello shinton,

Actually, in the equation TR, I think tension is simply falsity/imperfection applied in intellect in its inert sense. The much more vigorous R describes moral or prescriptive energy. A simple example of T would be an old house crumbing into disrepair. From the viewpoint of of the the reason for which the house was created–to safely and comfortably house human beings–tension exists in the mind in regard to this purpose because falsity in the form of decay has rendered the house uninhabitable…but this tension has no moral connection.

Resistance is the moral dynamic. You actually noted the same path of moral resistance I referred to in stating, “A boulder, by any stretch of the imagination, is rather hard to “relate to”. It doesn’t bleed. It doesn’t need oxygen; it doesn’t seem to possess any qualities that we can relate to.” This was exactly my point…Hume’s no ought from is proven true here, moral resistance doesn’t emerge in the mind in breaking apart a boulder. There may well be inert tension if, in the mind of the observer, the boulder was aesthetically pleasing, in which case the man with the sledge could be perceived as falsifying that beauty…but prescript doesn’t enter the picture.

The point is, the path of increasing moral resistance is typically so well blended with the inert nature of act itself in material existence that it has to be traced inferentially in examples like that in the OP. But given these examples, prescriptive truth can be seen as inherent in nature, as Aristotle suggested.

This view also has predictive capability. It predicts IMO with equal or better clarity why people act in certain ways in response to suggestions that they “ought” or “ought not” behave in a certain ways. I believe it offers a reasonable explanation for simple behavioral observations common to everyone, as in disbelief upon hearing one’s spouse has been cheating (he/she’s in denial). Denial in this sense is a natural response to the pressure created by falsity [refusing to see evidence of cheating] mounted in resistance to truth [he/she is cheating].

Christ Himself showed us the power of prescriptive truth in noting that we humans hate [prescriptive or absolute] truth and love its antithesis, darkness (Jn 3:19) or falsity, which relates to the mockery involved in expressions like ‘santa christ’ and other forms of religious ridicule.

The properties true and false applied to complex entities seems to provide a foundation for explaining a number of interesting ‘side effects’ in cognition and behavior. One such comparison speaks to your observation that "fellow Christians disagree on things that ought to be immutable about so called “absolute truth”. Imagine truth and falsity represented by simple opposites: black and white. Under the metaphysical microscope, black and white (good/evil) exist together in the same entity. Draw back and they blend together into shades of gray, as re newpaper print. This plays out in cognition by falsity’s effect of ‘graying’ or dulling the white (truth). The seemingly subjective differences you note between Christians–which also exist among all folks–is a byproduct of falsity re this ‘gray effect’. The perfection falsity corrupts in this sense is in blurring the purity of perception/conceptualization. I don’t think that the fact we struggle to understand the underlying structure of prescriptive truth denies its existence, it only speaks to a defect in apprehending it properly.

But the term “different absolute truths” is a contradiction in terms, isn’t it? If the nature of perfection of truth is unity, how would “different absolute truths” exist? Look at the dicussion on theology boards. Arminians and Calvinists club each other to death over the details of their disagreements. I’m a universalist, and the TR brought out in arguments over eternal hell and universal salvaiton are equally fierce. Not all possess the same degree of truth…the n component in TRn is different in every person, which accounts for different views from different people about the same subject. In the arguments above, according to Aristotle’s distinction, it’s actually some real content of prescriptive truth in the arguments of each which rouses moral resistance in the falsity inherent in the others. Falsity is what humans are cleasned of in the salvaiton equation because simple falsity as an inert ingredient in experience translates to/emerges as sin in the dynamic of intellectual operation, and this is where R is produced in response to absolute truth.

In a perfect world, where falsity no longer exists and the unity and coherence of pure truth is actualized, TR vanishes and unity with the absolute in the form of universal perfection is reestablished. This is the message and hope of Christianity, exemplified in 1Cor 15, referred figuratively as ‘white robes’ in Rev 7:9, 13 and I believe it to be a rational and reasonable proposition.

The application of these principles should begin to make apparent Phaedrus’ techniques (don’t mean to pick on you, P, but you’re providing the fodder, so may as well use it…) re the way falsity works in prescriptive matters. One advantage intelligent people have over the naive is that they bring to the table of epxerience the propensity for sophistication and its accompanying subtleties for either the propriety of truth or the evil of falsity. I’m sure all are aware of the degrees of nuance in the posing of simple statements designed to heckle. Followed out logically, it’s not hard to see from whence such techniques arise

Assuming even the content of simple prescriptive beliefs held in the intellect are a multiplicity of elements drawn from experience similar to the way the judgment “guilty” is drawn from a variety of facts in a court of law, it’s not hard to imagine that the structure of each contributing element is itself comprised of an admixture of the properties true and false. Each “cell” in the structure contributes its own potential, for perfection of unity or the degradation of that unity.

As pointed out above, it’s often difficult to separate the distinction between inert tension and dynamic resistance because the two blend together and present themselves as a whole in experience. Assuming T and R as working principles, discordance in belief systems about prescriptive matters (God exists/God does not exist; Christianity is true/Chrsitianity=figment, etc.) is raised when truth and falsity are forced into interaction, as they are in both the Arminian/Calvinist and theist/atheist debates. Our tendency to avoid the confrontations associated with these discussions seems to me to find a reasonable fit as pressure exerted by these antithetical properties. We know that the nature of these discussions make them subject to an increase in R to the extent that the falsification of emotion (acrimony and associated impurities exerted by falsity’s pathological presence) and the rational process often combine to produce antagonistic responses.

I find the principles of Christianity to be quite in line with experience and reason.

Sorry, it took me awhile to get back to you, Justly. I was turning over very carefully what it is that I meant to say concerning your points.

I’m not sure that there is tension in the house crumbling into disrepair. In your example, the “tension” is a byproduct of expectation–namely that the house was built to house people. Of course, from a wider angle, the house is built so that it will eventually fall down. Neither of these perspectives are particularly more “correct” than the other as far as I can tell, and really I don’t know why one would have a preference for asserting one is “the more correct” of the two. It all depends on the situation…

But see, the thing is that the boulder isn’t necessarily “inert”. It just isn’t similar. It’s perfectally beautiful, for a boulder. Maybe if I were a boulder I’d be swept off of my feet by it. The only reason that clubbing a seal is more bothersome is because of the kinship we feel with the seal in having similar characteristics that we think lead to being sentient. I don’t think this is necessarily a “moral” kind of resistance in this particular thing. What I think is that we imagine what it must be like for the seal, and we feel uneasy about it. We feel uneasy about it because we can empahize with the seal, and not the boulder. Empathy MAY be the precursor to morals, but that’s a different ball game.

You are examining the situation here based on “falsity” but I think particularly in the cheating situation it is better examined through the lens of “pain”. Pain is not necessarily born of falsity, although it can be. If you fall off a ledge and break your leg, you might not feel it for a bit. It is not the “falsity of the cliff”. It surely is there. It’s the pain. I think the same can be said in part for the seal and infant. The pain becomes “realer”. It becomes less alien. I suppose my gripe with you is one of semantics moreso. I think the concept of “pain” better fits these descriptions and explains them more simply.

You are supposing that “Christ” here, is an absolute truth and not the falsity. It could be the other way around and the falsity of “Christ” is why you are responding so strongly to the truth in “santa christ”. Such is the problem with dualistic absolute truth models.

This is really the key to your whole argument in my opinion. I think there is a mistake though. In a given situation, what was right in another situation is no longer right in this situation. This implies that the “Black and whiteness” isn’t universal…it is contextual. Furthermore, even contextually what is black and what is white depends on the sorts of input you consider in the situation. Therefore, an absolutist model fails. There are things that we might hold to be “generally true”, but when we hold them to be absolutely true, we’ve made an error.

No offense, Justly, but I would expect you to if you valued reason and experience along with Christianity. I’m not finding your argument compelling personally, but it’s only because the lens it looks through is defined on certain premises that I think are questionable. Is your view logically consistent? Sure. Lots of things are logically consistent. However, when we begin to look out into the world things that are often logically consistent don’t fare so well when it comes to being applicable.


You have to realize what a classic refrain that is for assholes the world over, right? “If you’re offended by something I say, I certainly can’t help it- it must be because you’re weak, and even better, it must be because I’m right!!” I know you aren’t an ass, but don’t slip into that juvenile mode, we’re all above it.

Besides, case in point,

I bet there’s several non-Christians here who would find that sort of expression arrogant. Just because you aren’t a member of religion X, doesn’t obligate you to thinking that the tenets of religion X are no more credible than things like Santa or the Easter Bunny. That doesn’t follow at all. A claim that strong is either on the skeptic to demonstrate, or if they can’t demonstrate it, it’s simple an unreasonable reaction of theirs, and then it is very much their own problem and not the problem of the believer.

The biggest problem with that term is that it was intended to insult. This board is not only an exchange of ideas, it is a community. We fight, yes. But there is a difference between what is said in a heated moment and what is meant as a premeditated insult in an original post. You can hide behind “philosophy”, “reasoned discourse”, “intellectual integrity” or any other principle you wish. There is also the principle of not insulting our intelligence, collectively, with deliberately meanspirited rhetoric.

For that is all it is - rhetoric.

Since this thread has turned into a debate about the phrase “santa christ”, I suppose I may as well comment on it.

I agree with Faust that this is a community. I’m not particularly impressed with Phaedrus’s justification. On the other hand, I don’t see anything intrinsically offensive in the phrase “santa christ”. To me, it’s about as offensive as saying “unicorn”.

It’s all in the context of course. Maybe Phaedrus was being deliberately insulting, I don’t know. What I do know is that nobody can “insult you” unless you let yourself become insulted. A simple “Hey, that was in poor taste” is pretty adequate in such matters.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the person is going to change their way of being based on what you’ve said. It may mean you don’t read that person anymore. Regardless, outrage is pretty pointless. If you don’t like it, don’t read it or interact with it.

Well, Phaedrus is not the author of that term. And sure, one can igonore anything on a message board. That’s one of the nice things about a message board. But if everyone chose to be entirely oblivious to the group dynamics of the board, it would be a pretty dull board.

While I find the term “Santa Christ” offensive, how is it less offensive than equating homosexuality to zoophiles?

They are both glossing two different things together based on arbitrary similarities.

Why label one as rude and the other as acceptable?

While I would not equate homosexuals with zoophiles, that was presented in an argument, while the term Santa Christ was not argued for.

Of course, anyone can claim that it was indeed an argument, but, well…that’s a stretch.

My view is not that an idea is a bad one because it is offensive, however, but only if offensive is all that it is.

For the record, I didn’t find the term offensive, just childish.

Yes and no. The primary argument for glossing homosexuality and zoophilia is “the bible told me so”. Likewise, Jenny argued that her rationality told her that Jesus/God is as real as Santa Claus – hence her statement.

Each are dropped in place in a sort of deus-ex-machina in their arguments as a ‘shut-up’ to one’s opponents. Jenny picked her fight, but the homosexuality fight has been equally picked.


Maybe it’s just a personal preference of mine. Put rationalism and religion side by side and you’ll find that the religious have some shot at honesty, at least. I have never met a rationalist that even had that shot.

An appeal to authority makes more sense than an appeal to nothing in particular.

Call me prejudiced.

Santa Christ is a word usage designed to offend. That is the intent behind it. Anyone who doesn’t see that isn’t looking at it, and it makes no difference atheist or diest. The offense was the intent to offend, not the words themselves.

The hellion is fair in calling its oppressor Santa Christ. Tell me I’m going to hell and don’t expect me to be offended, but expect you to be offended when I blaspheme it?

Christianity is offensive beyond justification. I don’t think a little name calling from the name called does enough damage.

There is a context issue here. I think the “How is belief in Jesus different than Belief in Santa?” thing is a valid issue to be raised and discussed. Ideally, this sort of issue would be addressed and resolved long before a person was experienced enough to call themselves a philosopher, but there you go. I’m not sure if I’d be offended at a comparison between Jesus and Santa or not, it would depend on how it was presented- and no, I’m not about to go read stuff that JennyHeart writes.
What I came in to respond to is the issue that if something is offensive to a party, it must be because ‘there’s some truth in it’ or because the offended party needs a little more backbone. If we must bring up homosexuality in yet another thread that has nothing to do with it by nature, then I’ll say that even if I compare homosexuality to bestiality, someone being offended by that doesn’t mean I ‘must be on to something’. Similarly, if someone says “people who are against homosexuality are closet homosexuals themselves”, and I become offended, I’m not offended because the accusation is true.

Hello shinton,

Thanks for responding.

Yes, I could see from your first post that we’re coming from different perspectives.

Even if houses were part of the general trend toward planned obsolescence, falsity can be seen to play a part all the way through. Remember, falsity in this sense is the denial of a perfection. As such, whether the builder intended longevity or not is irrelevant. I think it’s safe to say that houses are built to safely and comfortably house human beings. [The fact is, there are a great number of codes and construction techniques and guidelines in place to assure this very idea.] That one might build a house for reasons less than this ideal initiates arguments as to why this would be so…and would most likely lead to falsity in prescriptive matters–re, for instance, whether one ought or ought not purposefully introduce falsity to a home for reasons of personal gain, etc.

The standard line of thinking in Chrsitian circles is whether the degree to which a thing possesses life force or spirit is quantitative or qualitative, as re tracing the nature of awareness, consciousness, intelligence, etc in organic life. This distinction is not new, science, though uninterested in the theological issue, nonetheless recognizes and accepts distinctions like these. I don’t think you can reasonably maintain any sort of sameness between the inert and dynamic here, shinton. The organic/inorganic classification is pretty much a given.

I wonder if you’re giving sufficient consideration to what perfection would be like. From the standpoint of perfection, pain is nothing more or less than a falsity in itself. Falsity doesn’t exist in the cliff, it exists in the lack of balance or bad eyesight or impaired judgment in the one who fell. These are only a few of the incalculable possibilities of how the pathology of falsity corrupts the true.


I’m not sure if you meant this in the way you stated it. To me, the reality of the Christian paradigm is confirmed in part by the reasonableness of the predictive qualities afforded by the idea of a perfect universe infected with the pathology of falsity. By suggesting a reversal, you seem to also be affirming the veracity of these same principles you argue against.

On the other hand, it seems possible that these principles might also hold true in a reality in which Christ as God and Savior was false, in which case you’d be correct…falsity in my own essence/thinking would be reacting to the truth of the falsehood of Christianity. The prinicples are universal, they hold for me as much as anyone else.

Actually, I think the notion of all reality, spirit, mind (or soul) and matter existing in a simultaneous true/false ratio illustrates the illusion of relativism in absolute reality. Saying good/evil is contextual seems to be saying they exist together. But a metaphysical reduction of descriptive and prescriptive realitiesin both substance and essence holds the same black/white structure as the newspaper print example.

Example: cancer denies Joe’s body the perfection of health. Using the relativist point of view, Joe is both sick and healthy at the same time. Though he has cancer, which corrupts his health in a number of ways, he also possesses at least enough healthy traits to sustain life and hence is also healthy. But go beyond the holistic view–reduce Joe’s components–and the stark reality is that the good/evil dualism holds up. Focus in beyond the gray, the morally relative melts and is expressed in absolute terms. Context in prescriptive matters is an illusion produced by the property of falsity.

I don’t follow you here. Seems to me positivism introduced into legal thinking in the 20th century was in general terms a falsity which created lots of problems when it transferred power from the spirit of the law to the letter of it.

It seems to me that your arguments are more sophist in nature than rational, shinton. Don’t mean to offend, but you seem more geared toward disproving in order to maintain an orientation than investigating in order to determine authentication or lack thereof. All the same, you’re an honorable correspondent and I salute you for that.