Comments and Moderation

Dear Reader:

Thanks for reading.  Here are a few basic guidelines for those wanting to leave a comment on New Oxonian.

All responses are welcome and will be reviewed in the order in which they are received.

The standard for this site is civil discourse, using Kenneth Gergen’s standard now widely used in colleges and universities.  The national crisis in civil discourse is created, not least, by the speed and ease of communication, which create opportunities for the abuse of language, ideas and persons.  Civil discourse is therefore: “The language of dispassionate objectivity [which] requires respect of the other participants, such as the reader. It neither diminishes the other’s moral worth, nor questions their good judgment; it avoids hostility, direct antagonism, or excessive persuasion; it requires modesty and an appreciation for the other participant’s experiences.”

Underlying this principle is that while the ideas and the actions of individuals are always subject to scrutiny and correction, attempts to discredit ideas through personal insult are never appropriate.

The site is moderated: no posts that do not meet the following editorial criteria will be published:

1. Posts that are merely abusive, personal, or just terribly dull will be trashed.

2. Posts that are tangential to the topic, oratorical, overly pedantic, or just plain strange will be trashed. (If you want to be pedantic, get your own blog).
3. Posts that, given a fair response from me but devolve into the argumentative (not to be confused with argument which is highly valued), will be trashed.
4. Theoretically I will not post a comment that I can’t reasonably respond to, or don’t have time to respond to, but there are exceptions–if, for instance, I hope to be able to respond, or if the respondent has a dialogue going with another commentator (as long as it meets other criteria).
5. Occasionally, but not without asking, I like to make a respondent’s views the jumping off point for another blog and quote from your response.
6. Because I do not have time to whittle overly long comments down to size, I ask you to try to keep comments under 500 words, and preferably shorter.
7. Comments will be closed on most posts after 10 days. Old news is old news.

8.  If you think one of your comments has been unfairly judged and that you were really just trying to help the conversation along, let me know about it.

24 thoughts on “Comments and Moderation

  1. I made a comment this morning to the post on Religion, and the comment has disappeared in moderation.

    As far as I can see, the comment does not violate any of the rules stated above.

      • It’s often recommended to drink in moderation, but disappear in moderation? I’m just imagining a disappearance without too much disappearing at once. Like cake.

    • “Christianity began with Easter, or rather with belief in the resurrection: that’s why it is so central. The whole liturgical calendar vibrates to a forty-day preparation called Lent and a fifty day post-Easter period called Eastertide between Easter Sunday and the feast of Pentecost–which nobody pays much attention to outside the Catholic and Orthodox traditions.”

      Just picking up on this paragraph, as I stumbled across your blog when looking for the Incredulity of Saint Thomas painting for my sermon on Sunday! Just wanted to say that we had a fantastic “Pentecost Party in the Park” down here in sunny East Devon on Sunday, a gift from the Christians in our lovely town to the local people, it was packed, about 700 people came out and enjoyed the afternoon. This was the third year that we have hosted such a party at our local skate park and I know that we are not the only town to do this either, so I was wondering if you fancied redoing your last line of the above paragraph?!! “Celebrating the Feast of Pentecost is on the increase as hundreds of churches across the nation take to streets, parks and public spaces to celebrate the birth of the world-wide New Testament Church.”

      Minister In Training
      Sunny Seaton, East Devon

  2. “…It answers a deep need in man. It is neither a metaphysic, nor a morality.”

    Very well spoken by Friedrich Schleiermacher. Religion need be explained no further, although it is useful to pick through the ashes.

    We can never be humanists until we account for, describe, embrace what it might be that springs eternal in the human breast…There is work to be done then when the atheists have been sprayed with OFF.

  3. Joe

    Not for publication

    So, Have I caught your attention?

    You may not be hugely surprised to learn that I spent some time at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford, and possibly not much more surprised to discover that the theories which arrived, by the ream, in our postboxes every day made vampires and werewolves seem positively plausible by comparison.

    On the other hand, if one is going to be lumbered with those reams I can imagine no more idyllic a setting than Mason Croft in which to write the invariably courteous and scholarly rebuttals of the latest lunacies, particularly since as a mere researcher I could usually simply pass it up the chain and get somebody else to write them. Apart, that is, from when it impinged on my own work which involved, inter alia, Edward Alleyn, so if you have detected a certain froideur in my comments thereon I can claim some small justification.

    Should you ever find a good enough excuse, sorry, reason to attend the Birthday Celebrations, perhaps involving the pressing need to consult the libraries, then I think you should grab it with both hands.

    Actually, and perfectly seriously, I do genuinely feel that Marlowe’s Faust would repay attention from someone with your skillset. I know the fact that you might win the annual Hoffman prize will not weigh with you overmuch since $15,000 is not exactly riches beyond the dreams of avarice, but it may serve as an addition to my view that this is something which you could do, do very well, and should do.

    If you have any interest in this then I would be happy to provide you with an introduction to some members of the staff; in particular, Martin Wiggins who won the Hoffman prize himself in 2006 with his paper on the dating of Dido.


  4. I am very glad to have stumbled onto your Blog searching for critical reviews of Chris Hedges, “I don’t believe in atheists.” You gave me a jolt by being a reasonable atheist who agrees with Hedges. I think I did, too, but didn’t know how to express it without seeming to be dis-loyal to my new “new atheist” friends. I look forward to exploring your extensive writing more fully. I was also surprised to see that you are heading yet another search for the historical Jesus. Lots of luck! I am a former Presbyterian minister turned social worker and in retirement still searching for truth or wisdom. I also look forward to reading your comments on James Luther Adams, since I m currently exploring UU “theology.” I am wondering if you know Ralph Potter. He was a class mate and close friend in the late 50’s. I thought your paths might have crossed. Thank you very much for your erudition, balance, fairness and provocations. Oh, yes, I am involved in The Clergy Project of the Freedom from Religion Foundation and find their closed website helpful and challenging.

    • Earl, thank you. I knew JLA slightly, he was still going strong in my day, and Ralph was an ethics teacher of mine–a very solid and generous man. Still searching for wisdom? Aren’t we all. I lament that the new atheists don’t seem to be.

  5. @David: Tell me if you feel you have had a comment of substance “disappeared”; I would have thought that posting the comments would have made your query redundant, and I am trying to prevent comments from going orphan. There have certainly been a few abusive comments (not from you) that do not meet moderation standards for the site.

  6. I’m writing to enquire about a youtube video that was attached to your last post “Secularism isn’t Atheism” and had a minor heading “Videos from this email”.
    The video is titled “3 Surviving Seduction : Remaining Orthodox in a Secular World : A Sermon by Frank Shaeffer”.
    I’m wondering if the attachment was intentional on your part? I suspect it wasn’t.

      • I shouldn’t have used the word “attachment”. It was a direct link to the video I mentioned and appeared after “Thanks for flying with WordPress” message that is normally appended to the email I receive from your blog. I believe the problem is on my end. Google or Youtube appears to be adding viewing suggestions on it’s own. I’ll update once I understand why Gmail included the link. Thanks for your time and sorry for bothering you over a minor issue.

  7. Where is any bit of actual factual information about historicity of Jesus. All is philosophy. I heard much better arguments before, one of the best is. There are so many mistakes in describing life of Jesus that if he was not real, why would the writers go through so many troubles?

    • It isn’t true that “all is philosophy.” But not all is fact, either. Shakespeare wrote a play called Julius Caesar. Do you know which bits are real? Do you think that Julius Caesar was not real because Shakespeare wrote a play called Julius Ceasar, or do you think Julius Caesar was real because writers 1500 years before Shakespeare were better historians. To do history, you have to understand the sources you’re working on. Some demand a rasp, some a chisel, some a shovel–but very few approaches advocate sledgehammmers as a way of getting at the facts.

      • “Do you know which bits are real?”
        Interesting question. I am not aware of any historian that turns to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar as a reliable source. Is there a methodological justification for using historical fiction as a source for doing historical research? I suppose, maybe, in Arthurian studies or the like? So who are the reliable historians on the life of Jesus from Nazareth prior to the emergence of the mythical Gospels?

        I have been considering your hypothesis, which you state as a fact “beyond a reasonable doubt,” that in Galatians 4:4 Paul is making a masked reference to illegitimacy of Jesus’ birth. I realize that thread is old, cold, and dead. Having spend a little spare time doing a lit review on this question, I am wondering if this is still a position you defend? I think there are deficiencies in the thesis that lower its conclusivity to somewhere below “a reasonable doubt” (to say the least).

        I have several observations that need to be clarified in order to accept your provocative proposal:

        It seems that Paul is transposing the story of Hagar and Sarah, whereby the Jews are now those born as slaves, the descendents of Hagar. He says explicitly: “Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children.”

        If Paul had “Hagar and Sarah in mind” when he wrote Galatians 4:4, then it seems the Son of God corresponds to the children of the slave woman. Paul also says “the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now.” So the “comfy fit” you envision here has the Son of God, born under the law, born according to the flesh, persecuting the son born by the power of the Spirit. Are there two sons referenced in Galatians 4:1-7?

        He concludes with this: “the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son. Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.”

        This seems to be a direct contradiction if we are to assume that in Galatians 4:4 the Son of God is the slave woman’s son, born under the law.” Isn’t it? Maybe I am mistaken.

        Before I started considering this question, I naively believed that Paul did refer to Jesus as being “born of woman, born under the law.” I was not convinced that Paul had any recent knowledge of the Son of God on earth, but I did think Paul did have in mind a Jesus that at some point in past history was a real human being. Upon some reflection, though, the words “born under the law” conflict so violently with Paul’s thesis here in Galatians 4, it forces one to consider interpolation in this case. There is no “comfy fit,” that I can find here. Take out “born under the law” and Paul’s argument makes much more sense: God sent, in the fullness of time (or at the end of time), the Spirit of his Son to redeem those born into slavery and open the gates of the Jerusalem that is above. Paul says explicitly that the “slave woman’s son will not share in the inheritance…” Yet, it seems your thesis relies on the acceptance that Paul has in mind the slave woman’s son being the Son of God, born of a woman, born under the law, in Galatians 4.

        In order to accept your hypothesis, we would have to accept that Paul’s argument here is hopelessly convoluted.

        Maybe you could make sense of this? Have you submitted this thesis for peer review?

        Is this a topic you are willing to discuss or is it best allowed to fade into a quiet, forgotten death?

        In scientific inquiry statements like “beyond a reasonable doubt” are used very selectively and in rare cases when inquiry has reached an endpoint. We can say that “beyond a reasonable doubt” the ether hypothesis was wrong. It is a huge overreach to use a term like that to describe what appears to be a very marginal position. Was it hyperbole?

      • “Grog”–your statements are so interwoven with confusions that it is impossible to unstring them,. But here is just one: “Is there a methodological justification for using historical fiction as a source for doing historical research? I suppose, maybe, in Arthurian studies or the like? So who are the reliable historians on the life of Jesus from Nazareth prior to the emergence of the mythical Gospels?” The answer to your question is that there could be no justification for using fiction written on historical models as a basis for establishing the historicity of those models. Thus we could not use “Quo Vadis” or “Last temptation of Christ” to bolster the factuality of gospels. You then go on to compare the story of Jesus to Julius Caesar and the Arthurian legend. What is your ‘methodological justification’ for that comparison? Are you quite sure the gospels writers were creating their story in the same way SS created the dramatic figure of Julius Caesar. That seems preposterous at several levels. You seem to like argument more than historical reasoning, so you must recognize that you can’t go very far with false analogy and onus probandi: If you assume that it has been proved that the gospels are a species of fiction writing concocted from a plausible historical figure as Caesar was by Shakespeare, you would have to grant the historicity of the figure. But you do not assume that, so have plunged us, not surprisingly back into the darkness.

  8. Dear Dr. R. Joseph Hoffmann,
    I read with great interest your article ” Just War and Jihad: Positioning the Question of Religious Violence”.
    I suppose than when you say “attempts to hierarchize religious violence are naïve” you mean: among Abrahamic religions, which share “the same general cast of characters”. I would like your critic and advice on following ideas :
    – Abrahamic religions are the only religions to have developed the idea of a jealous god, ordered to destroy others’ gods, used force to replace others’ gods by their own one, developed the concept of idolatry
    – replacing others’ gods by one’s own represents a motivation for violence that humanity had not met before
    – I’m not an historian, but I tried to look at religious violence in Europe and Asia. It seems to me that the Abrahamic world has experienced systematic and long lasting religious persecutions and religious wars, whereas they have been more occasional in the non-Abrahamic world. Moreover, to my knowledge, no other civilization has ever deliberately destroyed by force the religion of the peoples its conquered to replace it by its own one
    – Therefore it seems to me there is a specific monotheist violence, characterized by its motivation to destroy and replace others’ gods, attested by fifteen centuries of “idolatry extirpation”
    – This specificity of monotheist violence is of course strongly denied by most theologians, with a wide array of arguments, such as “the inherentism of religious violence”, “the ubiquity of human violence”, the fact that a text cannot be held for responsible for violence, etc.
    – In my view it’s the exclusivism and the sacred status of the holy texts which are at the core of monotheist violence. Idolatry is a perverse concept which should be “deconstructed”
    I would be very thankful if you would criticize these views, and perhaps help me in developing them
    Best regards
    Jean-Pierre Castel
    PS: I’ve written some articles on these matters, published a book, the Denial of Monotheist Violence, a new one will come in September about Science and Abrahamic religions  unfortunately all in French. As vice-president I organize conferences for the Cercle Ernest Renan in Paris :

  9. Hello,
    I am a French Art Historian doing research on an Italian artist named Cristoforo Mantegazza.
    While looking up for images I came upon one on your website.
    Could you please be kind to tell me in which museum it is exhibited ?
    It’s a marble relief depecting a religious scene.
    Best regards,
    Gabriela Sismann

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