This article in praise of Capitalism was first posted in 2011. We reproduce it now because our recent post Communism is secular Christianity (January 14, 2015) reminded us of it.
It is human nature to be selfish. If we weren’t selfish we wouldn’t survive. If we didn’t eat when we were hungry, warm ourselves when we were cold, seek cures for our illnesses, defend ourselves (and our children and our life-sustaining property), we’d die out pretty damn quick. Or rather, we would never have come into existence as a species at all.
We are most of us capable of sympathy with others, and we often willingly give away a thing we own to another person. Some are altruistic. A few will even give up their lives to save the lives of others. Nevertheless, we are all naturally and necessarily selfish.
Christianity and Communism require human nature to change. As it can’t, Christianity’s commandments to love our enemies and forgive those who do us harm turn many a person of good will and high aspiration into a hypocrite if not a corpse. Communist theorists have never settled the question of whether human nature must change so that the Revolution can take place, or whether the Revolution must take place in order for human nature to change. Of course it will never change, but there’s no stopping the collectivist dolts arguing about it.
Capitalism works well because it is in tune with our nature. Adam Smith called it “the natural order of liberty”. Everyone selfishly desires to provide for his needs. To pay for what he wants from others – services and goods – he has to provide something that others will pay him for. Millions do it, and the result is prosperity. Capitalism is an abstract machine most beautiful to behold in the wonder of its workings. When individuals have the incentive to achieve, acquire, and enjoy something for themselves, they’ll go to great lengths to afford it. They’ll compete with each other to provide what others want, toil to make it the better product, and set the price of it lower. The best is made available at the least cost. Everyone is both a taker and a giver, and everyone benefits. True, not everyone’s effort always succeeds, but nothing stops anyone from trying again.
Of course capitalism isn’t a remedy for every ill and discontent. But a capitalist society offers the best chance to an individual to make the best of his condition – being alive – which presents him with a tough challenge – to stay alive for a few score years, and make those years as good as his energy, cunning, and adaptability to conditions outside of his control (plus his statistically likely share of luck), can help them to be.
In a capitalist society no one has a fixed place, whether below, in the middle, or on top. A person can rise, sink, or stay. A truly capitalist society is necessarily a free society in which no one is prevented, by some ruler or ruling clique, from bettering his lot, striving, succeeding, or failing.
Capitalism is the enemy of that God of whom all the children in the British Empire used to sing at morning prayers in school assemblies before the Second World War:
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small;
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all. …
The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
He made them high and lowly,
He ordered their estate.
The children were being taught to be content with everything as it was, trusting that God the ruler up there, all wise, permanent and unchallengeable had ordained how everyone had his fixed place and should stay in it, and because He had ordained it, it must be perfect. The recognition that such a God was an indefensible authoritarian, a whim-driven cosmic dictator, an unjust and arrogant tyrant, came – perhaps unconsciously – to the choosers of Anglican hymns only after a few of the earth’s dictators had been trounced in a prolonged and terrible blood-letting.
But then Socialists took over from God. They decided what was best for humanity. They established the Welfare State. No rich men in castles, no poor men at gates. The State would provide every citizen with depressing accommodation, dull food, health care if he were judged worthy of being kept alive, indoctrination in schools. Though the Socialist State is a slave society, the citizens are not called slaves but Social Security Recipients, National Health Patients, Students, Workers. The belief of their rulers is that they’ll be content because the State provides them with “everything”; they’ll be grateful for the food however poor, the unit in the tower block however depressing, the bed in the hospital however filthy, the indoctrination however boring. The great thing about it, to the collectivist mind, is they won’t have to strive to keep alive. And no one will have cause to pity or envy anyone else, since no one will have less or worse, or more or better – except of course the rulers up there, all wise, permanent and unchallengeable who ordain that everyone else has his fixed place. They reserve plenty, choice, comfort, luxury, information, and power to themselves.
The recognition that such a State is counter to the human instinct for freedom – call it “selfishness “ if you will – should have come to every sane adult the world over when the Soviet Empire crashed. The idea of Socialism should have died then. But if it did, it was only for a short time. Like the Christian God, it rose again, and lives now in the White House, an administration indefensibly authoritarian, whim-driven, unjust, and arrogant.
Selfish human nature with its instinct for liberty, its impelling desire to possess what is good for it materially and mentally, is the force that can and must defeat it.
Today we posted this on our Facebook page:
A message to Republicans:
We know there are thousands, and we plausibly guess there are tens of thousands, and we conjecture not unreasonably that there may be millions of atheists and secularists who would vote Republican if Christian conservatism did not exert the degree of influence on Republican policy that it does now. Many atheists have voted Democratic not because they like Obama and Pelosi and Reid and Holder and their horrible Leftist, redistributionist, and unpatriotic policies, but because they are repelled by the voices of the religious sounding so loud and often on the Right. By paying less attention to those voices, and keeping religion out of policy-making, you would not lose the votes of many Christians. They’re not likely to go over en masse to the Left. But you would gain a considerable number of new voters. Please take this message, which we advance very seriously, into consideration.
Please help us get our message to Republicans.
It just may make some difference.
Would the Republicans ever risk losing the votes of the religious Right? Do they think of it as their base? Would they ever consider ignoring it, let alone abandoning it?
What do our readers think?
If it sears the mind of a decent person merely to imagine the suffering of Raif Badawi as he is subjected to his punishment of 1000 lashes, administered 50 at a time once a week for 20 weeks, knowing what the punishment is being inflicted for could make his blood boil.
First, here’s a short description of the first day of Raif’s lashings from a site we’ve never visited before named 360NoBS:
A Saudi blogger declared guilty of insulting Islam was brought after Friday prayers to a public square in the port city of Jeddah and flogged 50 times before hundreds of spectators.
Reports further stated that he would receive 50 lashes once a week for 20 weeks. …
Despite international pleas for his release, Badawi, a father of three, was brought from prison by bus to the public square on Friday and flogged on the back in front of a crowd that had just finished midday prayers at a nearby mosque.
His face was visible and, throughout the flogging, he clenched his eyes and remained silent, said the witness.
The witness, who also has close knowledge of the case, said the lashing lasted about 15 minutes.
Badawi has been held since mid-2012 after he founded the Free Saudi Liberals blog. … He used it to criticise the kingdom’s influential clerics …
He was originally sentenced in 2013 to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in relation to the charges, but after an appeal the judge stiffened the punishment.
Following his arrest, his wife and children left the kingdom for Canada.
Rights groups argue that the case against Badawi is part of a wider crackdown on freedom of speech and dissent in Saudi Arabia since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. Criticism of clerics is seen as a red line because of their prestige in the kingdom, as well as their influential role in supporting government policies.
The man shackled to a whipping post in this picture from 360NoBS may or may not be Raif Badawi,
but in any case it serves to illustrate Islam’s infliction of agony, humiliation, misery, and despair .
Denis MacEoin writes at Gatestone:
[Raif Badaw’s] first 50 lashes were administered Friday. After the noon prayers, outside the mosque, Saudi writer and blogger Raif Badawi, 30, received a sentence perhaps worse than death. Accused of “insulting Islam,” he is to receive 1000 lashes: 50 per week for 20 weeks — nearly half a year. “The lashing order says Raif should ‘be lashed very severely,'” a twitter notice read. “If they lash him again next week we do not know if he is going to survive. He has no medical assistance,” another notice said.
After that, he is to spend ten years in prison and pay a fine of $266,000. If he ever leaves prison, his life will have been destroyed…
His wife and three children have been given asylum in Canada. Her family has filed for divorce on the grounds of his supposed apostasy. …
Badawi had written, “My commitment is… to reject any repression in the name of religion… a goal that we will reach in a peaceful, law-abiding way.”
He is alleged to have criticized the Wahhabi clergy who run his country hand in hand with the royal family. Muslims seem not to be able to handle questions, reasoned criticism or satire. …
Nadeem Malik, the UK Director of the Bahu Trust, a Sufi Muslim charity that “espouses the virtues of tolerance, peaceful co-existence and equality” said: “Our Prophet would have been absolutely crystal clear and unequivocal in condemning any such action. That’s not in the name of Islam at all, and Muslims are sick of having their faith hijacked in this manner.”
I do not doubt Mr. Malik’s sincerity, and I respect the Islamic tradition (Barelwi) from which he comes as one more in keeping with a non-violent interpretation.
We are sick of hearing that this or that group of violent Muslims have “hijacked” the religion of Islam. Islam enjoins violence.
It is a myth that Sufis are against violence. The Muslim murderers of some 385 people, including 186 small children, at a school in Beslan, Russia, in September 2004, were Sufis.
But his statement sharply points out why there is a problem. He was – quite innocently, I am sure – completely wrong.
The writer shouldn’t be sure. We unhesitatingly doubt his innocence. Either he knows he is lying, or he is unable to understand the words of the Koran, the Sunna, and the Hadith, and knows nothing of Islam’s own tales of Muhammad.
There is an inspiration for attacks like those on writers, cartoonists, and film-makers: France’s Charlie Hebdo journalists; Amsterdam’s Theo van Gogh; Denmark’s Kurt Westergaard, Carsten Juste, and Flemming Rose, and Sweden’s Lars Vilks – as well as the assassination attempt on the Nobel Prize winning Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz and the fatwa for the murder of the British writer Salman Rushdie. The inspiration for this behavior is not that the Prophet Muhammad was lampooned or criticized or mocked. The inspiration for this behavior is that Muhammad himself would have ordered or approved such attacks as revenge for assaults on his honour.
Shortly after his move from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE, for instance, when he became the effective ruler of the town, opponents emerged in the Jewish and wider communities. Poets wrote lampoons and disrespectful verses. Muhammad had them killed. Not just poets, but almost anyone who disagreed with him and his “revelations.”
In 624, for example, a Jewish poet named Ka’b ibn al-Ashraf wrote verses condemning the killing of notables from Mecca. He later became a one-man Charlie Hebdo, writing obscene and erotic verses about the Muslim women. Muhammad took offense and instructed one of his companions, Muhammad ibn Maslama, to assassinate Ka’b. When Ibn Maslama expressed doubts about having to lie to Ka’b in order to trick him into going with him, Muhammad told him lying was permissible for such purposes. Ibn Maslama and some other Muslims went out with Ka’b under false pretenses and murdered him.
Ka’b ibn al-Ahraf was not Muhammad’s only victim. … There is a list in WikiIslam of 43 people – as well as all the men from the Jewish tribe of the Banu Qurayza – who were killed on Muhammad’s orders or whose murders were sanctioned by him.
Today the lashes of Raif Badawi stand with the slaughter at Charlie Hebdo as further symbols of the determination of many extremists to reject the norms of reason, tolerance, pluralism, equality, the Universal Declaration human rights and the value that begins every chapter but one of the Qur’an: mercy.
This cannot be said often or emphatically enough: It is not a case of Islamic “extremists” rejecting reason, but of Islam itself being an ideology totally in opposition to reason.
All “faiths” reject reason by definition. Islam punishes it.
To say one is “agnostic” is to say one does not know – eg. whether a god exists or not.
If one does not know that a god exists, one cannot be in a state of belief that he does. A person who says “I am an agnostic” is, at that moment, an atheist. He might be leaving open the possibility that one day he will know for sure whether or not there is a god, but he does not know it now. For now, he is without belief in a god. For now he is an atheist.
To call oneself “an agnostic” is, we think, an attempt to make a statement of unbelief softer, less challenging; to put a little powder on the bare face of atheism.
Robert G. Ingersoll called himself an agnostic. Although we would argue over the implications of that self-description, we like much of what he wrote and said.
Here is the conclusion of Ingersoll’s lecture, Why I am an Agnostic (1896):
One Sunday I went with my brother to hear a Free Will Baptist preacher. He was a large man, dressed like a farmer, but he was an orator. He could paint a picture with words.
He took for his text the parable of “the rich man and Lazarus”. He described Dives, the rich man – his manner of life, the excesses in which he indulged, his extravagance, his riotous nights, his purple and fine linen, his feasts, his wines, and his beautiful women.
Then he described Lazarus, his poverty, his rags and wretchedness, his poor body eaten by disease, the crusts and crumbs he devoured, the dogs that pitied him. He pictured his lonely life, his friendless death.
Then, changing his tone of pity to one of triumph – leaping from tears to the heights of exultation – from defeat to victory – he described the glorious company of angels, who with white and outspread wings carried the soul of the despised pauper to Paradise – to the bosom of Abraham.
Then, changing his voice to one of scorn and loathing, he told of the rich man’s death. He was in his palace, on his costly couch, the air heavy with perfume, the room filled with servants and physicians. His gold was worthless then. He could not buy another breath. He died, and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment.
Then, assuming a dramatic attitude, putting his right hand to his ear, he whispered, “Hark! I hear the rich man’s voice. What does he say? Hark! ‘Father Abraham! Father Abraham! I pray thee send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my parched tongue, for I am tormented in this flame’.”
“Oh, my hearers, he has been making that request for more than eighteen hundred years. And millions of ages hence that wail will cross the gulf that lies between the saved and lost and still will be heard the cry: ‘Father Abraham! Father Abraham! I pray thee send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my parched tongue, for I am tormented in this flame’.”
For the first time I understood the dogma of eternal pain – appreciated “the glad tidings of great joy”. For the first time my imagination grasped the height and depth of the Christian horror. Then I said: “It is a lie, and I hate your religion. If it is true, I hate your God.”
From that day I have had no fear, no doubt. For me, on that day, the flames of hell were quenched. From that day I have passionately hated every orthodox creed. That Sermon did some good.
We cannot understand how Christians can believe that their god loves every human being but will condemn anyone who offends him to everlasting torment.
But then, we fail to understand how anyone can believe anything that Christianity teaches, from the triune god all the way down.
Here’s one of the most important reasons why The Atheist Conservative needs to exist. Why what we have to say is important. Why we must make ourselves heard.
From Fox News comes this story of an atheist of the left. In everything except his atheism, he couldn’t be more wrong.
If you sign up for Denver college professor Charles Angeletti’s American Civilization class, be forewarned that you’re going to have to recite his invective-filled “New Pledge” – and according to some of his students, also be ready to swallow a big helping of his politics.
Angeletti, who teaches at Metropolitan State University of Denver, has students learn an anti-American spoof of the Pledge of Allegiance that denounces the U.S. as a Republican-controlled bastion of injustice, all while spewing his own far-left brand of politics, according to current and former students.
The professor hands out this “pledge” on a flier to his students and demands that they repeat it.
I pledge allegiance to and wrap myself in the flag of the United States Against Anything Un-American. And to the Republicans for which it stands, two nations, under Jesus, rich against poor, with curtailed liberty and justice for all except blacks, homosexuals, women who want abortions, Communists, welfare queens, treehuggers, feminazis, illegal immigrants, children of illegal immigrants, and you, if you don’t watch your step.
The anti-U.S. recitation, first reported by higher education blog Campus Reform, was a satirical pledge aimed at getting students to question their nation’s leadership, Angeletti said. The self-proclaimed atheist and socialist told the site that he has been distributing the pledge in his classes for nearly 20 years as part of his lesson plan.
“We’re very racist, we’re very repressive, we’re very Christian oriented, we don’t tolerate other kinds of thinking in this country,” Angeletti told Campus Reform. “I could go on and on – and do, in my classes, for hours about things that we need to do to make this a better country.”
Could anything be further from the truth?
Consider that a majority of voters twice elected a black man (though he was completely unqualified for high office) to the presidency, many of them just to prove they were not racist. But see how America has again become over race-conscious as a result. President Obama and his attorney-general Eric Holder are race-hustlers, working with others of their kidney; most prominently Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Malik Zulu Shabazz (head of the New Black Panther Party). Racism is now mostly expressed by black politicians, black trade union bosses, black politicians and “community organizers”.
The voices calling loudly for repression in the US are those of politically-correct lefties.
We too dislike Christianity, and we exist to prove that one can be conservative, a defender of the Constitution, a free marketeer, an advocate for states’ rights, and a patriot without believing in the supernatural, or bible literalism, or creationism, or that “Jesus” is a god or a part of a god, or in that rump of a godthing they call “intelligent design”. Our existence alone disproves his caricature of conservative thought.
And equally that one can be an atheist without being – yes – “Communists, welfare queens, treehuggers, feminazis”; or politically-correct progressives, Alinskyite community organizers, whitewashers of Islam, collectivists, redistributionists and America-hating racists.
As for “not tolerating other kinds of thinking”, the US is the one country in the world which really does protect freedom of speech. The Left of course would change that if it could.
Academia is dominated by lefties like this professor, and – what is more and worse – his comrades are at present occupying the commanding heights of power.
A student from Angeletti’s class told Campus Reform that the flier was handed out to the entire class and all students were required to recite it.
“This was an attempt to propagandize an entire classroom of young adults,” Steven Farr, a freshman majoring in meteorology, told the blog site.
Officials at Metropolitan State University of Denver did not immediately return requests for comment. The 24,000-student school has the second-highest undergraduate enrollment in the state and has several notable Division II sports programs. It also bills itself as a top choice for active-duty military and veterans to pursue higher education, and has several notable Division II sports programs.
We wonder what the active-duty soldiers and the vets think of Professor Charles Angeletti’s ravings.
Ah! – Fox tells us:
“This is typical elite, progressive, post-modernist garbage,” said Pete Hegseth, a Fox News contributor and CEO of Concerned Veterans for America. “I hope and believe that vets in his class will challenge this professor. We have seen this time and time again. Lessons like this stack the deck against veterans and basically tell them, you fought for nothing,” Hegseth added. “You fought for a lie.”
(Hat-tip to our Facebook reader and commenter, Joe Compton. He rightly believes that to counter the lies of ill-informed, malicious, anti-America atheists like this, is why The Atheist Conservative exists.)
A chat about atheism, religion, and science. Recorded December 14, 2010.
Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens.
We are often more provoked by atheists on the Left than by believers on the conservative Right.
Leftism is a religion. And it is promoting the worst religion of all – Islam.
Douglas Murray writes at Gatestone:
Who has the “right” to talk about Islam? The question arose thanks to the response of a Muslim student society at an American university.
Last week saw the latest in the apparently interminable efforts to make the Somali-born human-rights activist and author Ayaan Hirsi Ali into some kind of pariah. Readers will recall the atrocious treatment of Hirsi Ali by Brandeis University earlier this year, when the “liberal arts university” invited Hirsi Ali to speak and then withdrew the invitation at the behest of certain Muslim students and anti-free-speech activists among the university’s faculty staff. As said at the time, the university’s dropping of Hirsi Ali was a classic case of dropping a firefighter in order to appease arsonists.
The latest round has already kicked off. The William F Buckley Jr Program at Yale University actually asking Hirsi Ali to speak and did not rescind the invitation. On this occasion, an American university managed to hold firm and not bar Hirsi Ali, but the reactions of two types of students were especially intriguing.
First – and of most interest to the press covering this kind of dust-up – was that among the usual criticisms of Hirsi Ali, this time the attacks also came from members of the Yale Atheists, Humanists and Agnostics society. Ahead of the event, those students posted on Facebook that:
“We do not believe Ayaan Hirsi Ali represents the totality of the ex-Muslim experience … Although we acknowledge the value of her story, we do not endorse her blanket statements on all Muslims and Islam.”
What kind of atheists are these who can tolerate any aspect of Islam? Islam is doctrinally intolerant, and intolerance is not to be tolerated.
The very fact that the pro-Islam factions at Yale want to silence a critic proves Islamic intolerance – if proof were needed in a world assailed by jihad.
It is hard to know which of these witless statements to unpick first. The statement as a whole constitutes a motorway pileup of moral confusion. Just take the first point – the possibility that Hirsi Ali does not represent the “totality of the ex-Muslim experience.” That is true. It is also something that Hirsi Ali would probably be the first to admit to. But it is also true of absolutely everybody. Nobody represents the “totality” of any experience. Yale Atheists, Humanists and Agnostics might some day realize that not even they represent the “totality of the atheist, humanist and agnostic experience.” Not even among students. In the Yale area.
And then there is the other group who, rather more predictably, complained about Hirsi Ali speaking at all. The Yale Muslim Students Association wrote to the “Yale community” as well as the Buckley program heads and staff in particular to say that:
“Our concern is that Ms. Hirsi Ali is being invited to speak as an authority on Islam despite the fact that she does not hold the credentials to do so. In the past, under such authority, she has overlooked the complexity of sociopolitical issues in Muslim-majority countries and has purported that Islam promotes a number of violent and inhumane practices.”
It is important to recognize what is true here before getting on to what is false. It is true that Hirsi Ali has, in the past, pointed to teachings and practices that are violent and inhumane in many Muslim-majority countries. Rather than being part of some intolerable smear-campaign, there may of course be a reason for this: which is that there are a vast number of practices that are indeed violent and inhumane in Muslim-majority countries. …
Islam is violent and inhumane.
How about the laws in multiple Muslim-majority countries which punish homosexuals with death by hanging, among other means? What about the laws in many Muslim-majority countries which – if exercised at Yale – would see the execution or imprisonment of members of the university’s Atheists, Humanists and Agnostics society?
But, as with the other petition, the question is posed as one of authority. Hirsi Ali is not meant to speak about Islam because “she does not hold the credentials to do so.” It is an interesting, sly way in which to frame a censor’s argument.
It is also untrue. … Even were it not the case that Hirsi Ali has actually lived the Muslim life, with the personal story she has to tell as a result, any independent person would surely recognize that, if anything, she is somewhat over-credentialed. Hirsi Ali has authored multiple books and written hundreds of original and important articles on Islam. She has been published in every major newspaper in the Western world. She has a university degree from one of the oldest and most distinguished universities in the Netherlands. She has held positions at some of the most important universities and think-tanks in the world. As an extraordinary immigration success story, she was elected to Parliament in the Netherlands in her early thirties and one of the most important figures in the debate on integration in Europe as well as America.
If she is not qualified to speak about this subject, then who is? … There is a reason why she continually draws – even in America – this type of pushback. It is because anti-reformist Muslims everywhere …
Are there Muslim reformists? Into what could Islam be “reformed”? What would be left of Islam if the violence, intolerance, cruelty and lies were taken out of it?
… realize that she presents to their literalist faith a type of poison for which they have absolutely no antidote. Her criticisms are often raw because they are true. Able to do nothing about the truth, they try to silence the truth-teller.
One grows to expect this from Muslim associations. But the atheists? If these students truly believe in education and enlightenment, I would suggest they organize a trip around North Africa and the Middle East. Their experiences may never represent the “totality” of anything. But, especially if they wear their society’s logo on T-shirts, it might give them a personal insight into one of the many points Hirsi Ali has brought to the world’s attention – a point they might one day see is worth their attention, too.
Douglas Murray is reminding atheists that in most of not all Islamic countries, known atheists are punished with imprisonment, or flogging, or execution – often all three.
But few Leftist intellectuals of the Western world ever subject themselves to the regimes they theoretically support or endorse. As everyone knows, some who have actually ventured to put themselves at the mercy of Islam have recently had their heads sawn off.
[Request to readers: if anyone finds a transcript of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s speech at Yale, please bring it to us.]
We dearly love an article we can enjoy examining critically. Best of all we like an opinion that we partly agree with and partly do not.
This article is by Star Parker, whose columns at Townhall on political issues we generally like. And here again we have no quarrel with her political views. It is her conviction that religion is necessary and good that sparks our opposition.
A new Pew Research Center survey of opinion about the importance of religion in American life shows an interesting picture.
Over the last 12 years, the percentage of Americans that think religion is losing influence in American life has increased dramatically. In 2002, 52 percent of those surveyed said religion is losing influence. In 2014, 72 percent of Americans said religion is losing influence.
To us, of course, that’s good news.
However, while increasing numbers of Americans feel religion is losing influence, most feel this is a bad thing.
Fifty-six percent say that the waning influence of religion is a bad thing compared to 12 percent that say it is a good thing.
In a survey done by Pew in 2012, 58 percent of Americans said religion is “very important” and only 18 percent said it is not “too important” or “not important at all”.
This raises some interesting questions.
One clear one is why, when Americans think religion is very important, has the percentage of Americans who think religion is losing influence in American life increased almost 40 percent over the last 14 years?
Another one is what are the political implications? Certainly, in the Republican Party, there is an increasingly vocal libertarian leaning faction that sees religion as costly political baggage.
Yes – and that is one of the libertarian views with which we are in strong sympathy.
I attribute why almost three fourths of Americans feel that religion is losing influence in American life, while most feel this is a bad thing, to the law of unintended consequences.
She goes on to describe the disaster of welfare policies. We too think they have been – and continue to be – disastrous.
Many Americans have been unwittingly supporting policies for more than a half-century that they thought were good ideas and consistent with their values which have been neither. Now more Americans are beginning to appreciate the damage that has been done and how far the nation has strayed from their own sense of right and wrong.
Take the example of welfare.
When Aid to Families with Dependent Children program was dramatically expanded in the 1960s, it seemed morally correct for government to get more aggressive in the lives of the poor, particularly poor black women. … Massive increases of government in the lives of low-income black families were accompanied by a tripling of single parent households and out-of wedlock births, laying the groundwork for intergenerational poverty.
Right. Those have been and are the causes of “intergenerational poverty”.
But we omitted a sentence. It was this:
Who appreciated that the program would undermine the very religious, traditional values that keep families intact, essential for the work ethic that leads people out poverty?
It may well have been the case that Church-taught values contributed to a belief that children should be born to married parents. Many held that belief also because it is plainly best for children to be raised by a mother and a father. The principle is good whether endorsed or not by a religion.
We contend that it is because the state took over the responsibility of providing for children that men could so easily opt out of the traditional role of bread-winner to their families. It was government incursion into private life that did the damage to believers and non-believers alike. Their religion or lack of it had nothing to do with the “unintended consequences” of welfarism.
Now it’s happening in the whole country. As we’ve gotten more government telling Americans how to save for retirement, how to deal with their health care, how to educate their children – American families have been damaged and out-of-wedlock births have increased six-fold from 1960 to 42 percent today. Government has displaced family.
Some say today we have competing views about the role of government.
Conservatives and progressives do have different views about the role of government. That is not a matter of opinion, but a fact.
I would say we have competing views about what life is about.
Yes. We think life can be “about” anything that free individuals want to make it. Star Parker thinks that life was created, and the creator had a purpose, and that purpose, though impossible to define, is somehow helped along by this or that set of religious doctrines. About which set of doctrines in particular, there are “competing views” among the multitude of religions, each of which claims to teach “the truth”.
One view – a decidedly secular, materialistic view – sees no mystery in life.
We have a decidedly secular view – materialistic too in that we see the need to sustain our physical existence as well and as pleasantly as we possibly can. But we do not think there is no mystery. On the contrary, we are aware that humankind knows very little. To learn more, to explore what we do not know about our universe and ourselves is the most exciting adventure of our conscious lives, and discovery is the engine of all progress.
Pretending to know that there is a purpose to life known only to a supernatural being who created it but chooses to keep his purpose secret, is to opt out of the great adventure.
The left wing version, which dominates the Democratic Party, says government can solve all of life’s problems.
Or most of them. And it’s a wrong and dangerous belief.
The hard-core libertarian version, found among some Republicans — says just leave everybody alone — you don’t bother me and I won’t bother you — and everything will work out for the best.
That is an absurd encapsulation of the libertarian view. No intelligent libertarian thinks that if people are left to make their own choices, if they are self-reliant, “everything will work out for the best”. Every individual will make his own successes and failures – and take responsibility for them. He knows that government cannot solve “all life’s problems” – and, what’s more, does a pretty poor job of solving the one problem it exists to solve: how best to protect liberty.
The other view maintains that you can’t have a free society that is not also a virtuous society.
A free society starts off with the virtue of being a free society. Freedom needs to be protected by law, and, if it is, crime will be punished, foreign enemies will be kept away, and the people can prosper. How good they are in their private lives remains forever dependent on individual character and choice.
It was what George Washington meant when he said in his farewell address that “of all the dispensations and habits that lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports”.
We are sorry we can only partially agree with George Washington on this. Morality, yes. Religion? What religion has a history that can withstand moral criticism? Some – Christianity and Islam in particular – have a history of carnage and cruelty. That Christianity preaches against both make its actual record all the worse.
It is my sense that more Americans are beginning to wake up to the unintended, damaging consequences of the often well-intended government policies they have been supporting for many years.
More Americans are beginning to appreciate that we can’t separate our fiscal and economic problems from our moral problems and that if we want to recapture our freedom and prosperity, we must recapture our virtue.
Certainly. But we won’t do that by returning into the mental darkness of religion. We can do it by limiting the powers of government and recovering the idea of liberty as the highest value. That is political and moral virtue.
This is from Truth Revolt, September 11, 2014:
Muslim Students Association at Yale University has written a letter expressing concern that the William F. Buckley, Jr. Program on campus is hosting women’s rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali to speak about Islam.
The Somali-born Hirsi Ali is an outspoken critic of organized religion, specifically Islam, which was used as justification for genital mutilation and attempting forced marriage.
In an email obtained exclusively by TruthRevolt, Abrar Omeish, an MSA board member, asks for campus organizations to stand against Hirsi Ali’s proposed talk.
Hirsi Ali (they say) is:
… a speaker who is very well known for her hateful comments towards marginalized groups, especially the Muslim community. It is making many Muslims on campus feel unwelcome and uncomfortable … We would like to point out though that her main source of fame – or, rather, infamy – has been her inflammatory comments about Islam and its followers. Not only are these comments hateful, but they are also very hurtful to the Muslim community, particularly to Muslim students at Yale.
Through its efforts, the MSA managed to recruit 35 other campus groups and student organizations to stand against Hirsi Ali’s talk because she “is being invited to speak as an authority on Islam despite the fact that she does not hold the credentials to do so.”
Hirsi Ali is scheduled to to give a lecture titled “Clash of Civilizations: Islam and the West” on Monday September 15th.
Hirsi Ali, a best-selling author, drew national attention when Brandeis University infamously rescinded a previously-extended offer of an honorary degree this past April.
Omeish also privately noted that a “ number of prominent groups and publications on campus especially those of faith, have joined, and as brothers and sisters in faith we would particularly appreciate solidarity with you against hatred that we both believe God does not teach us to promote. The Muslim community and its allies are disappointed that our own fellow Yalies would invite such a speaker knowingly and that she would have such a platform in our home”.
Co-signers to the letter include: Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), J Street U, The Arab Students Association (ASA), Women’s Leadership Initative (WLI), The Women’s Center, Asian American Student Alliance (AASA), Black Church at Yale (BCAY), The Slifka Center, Council on Middle Eastern Studies (CMES), and the Yale Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics (AHA).
The last six words intensely provoke us! Why would the Yale Atheists turn against a fellow atheist? Join “brothers and sisters in faith” acting in a way they think “God” would not approve? Against an extraordinarily brave and brilliant woman – and great thinker and writer – who knows as much as anyone can possibly know about the suffering of women under Islam, being herself a survivor of its cruel tyranny?
William S. Buckley, after whom the Program is named that she was invited to honor with her presence, would have held her in the highest esteem.
We’re glad to say Ayaan Hirsi Ali did deliver her address at Yale University as scheduled.
We’ll post a video or transcript of it if and when we can.
Here, for now, is how she ended it:
A writer by the name of Enza Ferreri has written an article against Reason. She probably doesn’t see that that is what she’s done. But that is what she’s done. She writes:
It’s all very simple. We can’t fight Islam in the West without fighting the enablers of Islam in the West, namely the Leftists.
So far, so good.
And, since the Left has many different and separate aspects, we have to fight against each one of them. Secularism, environmentalism, global warming alarmism, homosexualism, militant feminism, sexual relativism, multiculturalism, anti-Christianity, Islamophilia, post-nationalism, internationalism are just as important targets to attack as Marxist economics, the expropriation of the capitalist class (or, in its modern reincarnation, redistribution of wealth), and the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The words we have put in bold mark the issues we dispute with Enza Ferreri.
We don’t know what “homosexualism” is, or “sexual relativism”.
We consider sexual choices to be private matters (unless they involve children). They are certainly not dangerous threats to the survival of the West.
But while we agree with the author on her other “targets”, we emphatically disagree with her when it comes to secularism and anti-Christianity.
Secularism is not the same as Leftism. Between the founding of the United States of America and the dawning in the 1960s of this Leftist age, there was a very long stretch of secularism, liberty, and prosperity.
But in those times and those countries where a church (in the widest sense) has been the ruling power, there has always been tyranny. What greater tyranny can there be than the imposition of an orthodoxy on every mind?
Communism and Nazism also impose orthodoxy, and punish dissent as cruelly as a theocracy. That is one of the reasons why we class these ideologies as religions. Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Maoist China were not secular states; they were orthodoxies, as tyrannous as the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, or the newly declared Islamic State now.
The secular state, and only the secular state, is a free state. Secularism is freedom. Freedom is only possible in the secular state.
In a free, secular society, people are free to be Christians. But people are equally free to criticize Christianity.
Neglecting any of these fronts is like fighting a war leaving a battleground to the enemy, like fighting on the Western front and leaving totally undefended the Eastern one.
Secularism and atheism are certainly the first lines of important wars.
So she contends that the prime enemy in her war is freedom. That being so, she has no case to make against Islam or Marxism.
For all that she seems to be speaking for tolerance (being against Islamophilia) and reason (being against environmentalism, global warming alarmism, “militant feminism”); and against Islam (aka multiculturalism) and Marxism (redistribution etc.), she is actually speaking for her own choice of intolerant, irrational, orthodox tyranny.
A secularist West will always lose to Islam, because it will have enough compassion, tolerance and self-restraint from violence that are the remnants of its Christian heritage, but it will have lost the ideals, the passion and certainty of fighting for a just cause that were once part of Christianity and have disappeared with its erosion.
Her assumptions are arrogant to an extreme. Compassion, tolerance and self-restraint from violence are not the legacies of “a Christian heritage” but of enlightened reason.
It is pointless to try and fight one irrational belief, such as Islam or Marxism, by setting up another irrational belief, such as Christianity, in opposition to it. There is no better reason to believe in the Trinity than in Allah or the inevitability of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Two quotes here serve as epigrams. Robert Spencer wrote in his great work Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t: “People who are ashamed of their own culture will not defend it.” And Dennis Prager said during one of his radio broadcasts, “Only good religion can counter bad religion.”
We admire much that Robert Spencer and Denis Prager write. And we think Spencer makes a point here worth thinking about. But to Prager’s assertion we say, nonsense!
Some people claim that there won’t be a religious revival in Europe because we are past believing in God. That this is not true can be seen by the high – and increasing – number of Westerners who convert to Islam. Many of them give as a reason for their conversion the need for absolutes, boundaries and well-defined status. A journalist writing for The Spectator on this subject explained why she is Catholic:
But above all, I like the moral certainties. I don’t mind the dogma one bit. I would rather dogma and impossible ideals than confusion and compromise. In that sense, I do identify with those who choose Islam over the way of no faith, or a seemingly uncertain faith, like the woolly old C of E.
Confusion and compromise is inescapable. How can dogma – which is to say being incurably wrong – and “impossible ideals” be better than admitting the truth of scio nescio: I know that I do not know? It is as if the culture on which such persons as the quoted Catholic and the author of the article have been raised was never affected by Socratean doubt, the Enlightenment, the assumption of ignorance upon which all true science proceeds.
William Kilpatrick, in Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West – a book I thoroughly recommend reading -, writes: Brian Young’s friends said he was troubled by the decadence of Western society. David Courtrailler’s lawyer said, “For David, Islam ordered his life.” These are the sorts of reasons ordinary converts to Islam give. A common refrain from converts is that Islam provides a complete plan for life in contrast to the ruleless and clueless life offered by secular society. As Mary Fallot, a young French convert, explains, “Islam demands a closeness to God. Islam is simpler, more rigorous, and it’s easier because it is explicit. I was looking for a framework; man needs rules and behavior to follow. Christianity did not give me the same reference points.” If you look at the convert testimonials on Muslim websites, they echo this refrain: Islam brings “peace”, “order”, “discipline”, and a way of life that Christianity and other religions fail to offer.
Islam brings peace! He – and she – can say that with a straight face? While IS (ISIS, ISIL) is rampaging through Syria and Iraq mass-slaughtering, impaling, crucifying, decapitating, raping, enslaving; while Hamas is firing thousands of rockets into Israel; while civil war rages in Syria; while Yezidis, Kurds, Baha’is, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, other Muslims are being daily killed and constantly persecuted by Muslims?
Astonishing that some women crave the “order” and “discipline” of subjugation; when the “discipline” is exerted by enslavement, beatings, whippings, stonings, legal discrimination.
Human beings will never be past the need for believing in something bigger than themselves, because that need is part of the human mind.
Where are there human beings who do not know that natural forces are “bigger than themselves”? Who among us does not know that we are mortal?
She continues in the same vein. We’ll not irritate our readers with all of it. She is a true believer. And what she believes is that Christianity is good and true.
We will skip to what she quotes as wisdom from a Catholic primate:
A clear direction was given by Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, Archbishop of Bologna, Italy. As early as 30 September 2000, before 9/11, when very few in the West even thought of worrying about Islam, he delivered a very forward-looking speech, which included this premonition:
… Either Europe will become Christian again or it will become Muslim. What I see without future is the “culture of nothing”, of freedom without limits and without content, of skepticism boasted as intellectual achievement, which seems to be the attitude largely dominant among European peoples, all more or less rich of means and poor of truths. This “culture of nothingness” (sustained by hedonism and libertarian insatiability) will not be able to withstand the ideological onslaught of Islam, which will not be missing: only the rediscovery of the Christian event as the only salvation for man – and therefore only a strong resurrection of the ancient soul of Europe – will offer a different outcome to this inevitable confrontation.
The culture of reason is not a “culture of nothing”. It is a culture of rational humility; of admitting ignorance and trying to find the truth, even if one can never be certain one has found it. Skepticism is the only engine of discovery.
“Freedom without limits”? Freedom of action always has a limit. In a free society, everyone’s freedom is limited by everyone else’s under the rule of law. But indeed the freedom of the mind has no limits, nor should it have any.
Notice the snide swipe at riches and “hedonism”. Do you think that he, as a cardinal, pigs it in some hovel?
By “truths” he means the patent absurdities of Christian theological belief.
“Libertarian insatiability”. What the heck does that mean?
If the Western culture of reason, secularism, liberty, skepticism, science, cannot withstand the onslaught of Islam, it will be because that culture has been abandoned by people like Enza Ferreri.
She goes on to blame shrinking birthrates on secularism. Then she ends with this:
Militant atheists à la Richard Dawkins have not really given enough thought to the long-term consequences of their ideas, which we are beginning to see.
And of which we are reminded whenever, for example, we read in the news of doctors and missionaries who die of Ebola while assisting affected patients for Christian charities. Not many atheist charities are involved in that work.
How many cures for diseases have been found by scientists among whom atheists are in a huge majority? The medical researchers who eliminated smallpox; those who found how to detect the beginnings of cancer and treat it before it becomes lethal, and how to restore wholeness to lepers and replace a faulty heart or kidney …. the list could run on for hours … cure more people than all the martyrdom-seeking self-righteous preachy Christians out to save their imaginary souls by “assisting affected patients” have ever done or could do in a thousand years.
As a reminder to readers who have a strong stomach of what happened when the Christian Churches provided “order” and “discipline” to Europe and wherever else they could reach, we recommend The Grand Inquisitor’s Manual by Jonathan Kirsch, and our own post Calvin: a chapter in the terrible history of Christianity by Jillian Becker, April 25, 2010. (Put the title in our search slot.)
Nothing IS (ISIS, ISIL) is doing now in the name of Islam is worse in type or degree than what those Christians did in the name of Christianity.
The world needs saving from religion.