Wicked people causing climate change, 1437-2015 15

From A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, by Andrew D. White, 1896, pages 350-361:

Few errors have ever cost so much shedding of innocent blood over such a wide territory and during so many generations [as the theory of] evil agency in atmospheric phenomena … the belief that certain men, women, and children may secure infernal aid to produce whirlwinds, hail, frosts, floods and the like. …

In 1437, Pope Eugene IV, by virtue of the teaching power conferred on him by the Almighty, and under the divine guarantee against any possible error in the exercise of it, issued a bull exhorting the inquisitors of heresy and witchcraft to use greater diligence against the human agents of the Prince of Darkness, and especially against those who have the power to produce bad weather. … [And] on the 7th of December, 1484, Pope Innocent VIII sent forth his bull Summis Desiderantes. Of all documents ever issued from Rome, imperial or papal, this has doubtless, first and last, cost the greatest shredding of innocent blood. … Inspired by the scriptural commandment, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” Pope Innocent exhorted the clergy of Germany to leave no means untried to detect sorcerers, and especially those who by evil weather destroy vineyards, gardens, meadows, and growing crops. … [W]itch-finding inquisitors were authorized by the Pope to scour Europe, especially Germany, and a manual was prepared for their use – the Witch-Hammer, Malleus Meleficarum … revered for centuries, both in Catholic and Protestant countries …

With the application of torture to thousands of women, in accordance with the precept laid down in the Malleus, it was not difficult to extract masses of proof for this sacred theory of meteorology. The poor creatures, writhing on the rack, anxious only for death to relieve them of their sufferings, confessed to anything and everything that would satisfy the inquisitors and judges. All that was needed was that the inquisitors should ask leading questions and suggest satisfactory answers: the prisoners, to shorten the torture, were sooner or later to give the answer required, even though they knew this would send them to the stake or scaffold. …

Pathetic, indeed, are the records; and none more so than the confessions of these poor creatures, chiefly women and children, during hundreds of years, as to their manner of raising hailstorms and tempests. Such confessions, by tens of thousands, are still to be found in the judicial records of Germany, and indeed of all Europe. …

Throughout the later Middle Ages the Dominicans had been the main agents in extorting and promulgating these revelations, but in the centuries following the Reformation the Jesuits devoted themselves with even more keenness and vigour to the same task. … It was mooted among the orthodox authorities whether the damage done by storms should not be assessed upon the property of convicted witches. The theologians inclined decidedly to the affirmative; the jurists, on the whole, to the negative.

In spite of these tortures, lightning and tempests continued, and great men arose in the Church throughout Europe in every generation to point out new cruelties for this discovery of “weather-makers”, and new methods for bringing their machinations to naught. …

But here and there, as early as the sixteenth century, we begin to see thinkers endeavouring to modify or oppose these methods. … As to argument, these efforts were met especially by Jean Bodin in his famous book, Démonomanie des Sorciers, published in 1580. It was a work of great power by a man justly considered to be the leading thinker in France, and perhaps in Europe. All the learning of the time, divine and human, he marshaled in support of the prevailing theory. With inexorable logic he showed that both the veracity of sacred Scripture and the infallibility of a long line of pope and councils of the Church were pledged to it … In the last years of the sixteenth century the persecution for witchcraft and magic were therefore especially cruel …

Protestantism fell into the superstition as fully as Catholicism. … The Reformation had, indeed, deepened the superstition; the new Church being anxious to show itself equally orthodox and zealous with the old. …

Typical as to the attitude of both Scotch and English Protestants were the theory and practice of King James I, himself the author of a book on Demonology, and nothing if not a theologian. … [H]e applied his own knowledge to investigating the causes of the tempests which beset his bride on her voyage from Denmark. Skilful use of unlimited torture soon brought these causes to light. A Dr. Fian, while his legs were crushed in the “boots”, and wedges were driven under his finger nails, confessed that several hundred witches had gone to sea in a sieve from the port of Leith, and had raised storms and tempests to drive back the princess. …

With the coming in of the Puritans the persecution was even more largely, systematically, and cruelly developed. …

Torture was used far more freely [in Scotland] than in England, both in detecting witches and in punishing them. The natural argument developed in hundreds of pulpits was this: If the All-wise God punishes his creatures with tortures infinite in cruelty and duration, who should not his ministers, as far as they can, imitate him?

From the Daily Caller, March 17, 2014:

An assistant philosophy professor at Rochester Institute of Technology wants to send people who disagree with him about global warming to jail.

The professor is Lawrence Torcello. Last week, he published a 900-word-plus essay at an academic website called The Conversation.

His main complaint is his belief that certain nefarious, unidentified individuals have organized a “campaign funding misinformation”. Such a campaign, he argues, “ought to be considered criminally negligent”.

Torcello, who has a Ph.D. from the University at Buffalo, explains that there are times when criminal negligence and “science misinformation” must be linked. The threat of climate change, he says, is one of those times.

Throughout the piece, he refers to the bizarre political aftermath of an earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy, which saw six scientists imprisoned for six years each because they failed to “clearly communicate risks to the public” about living in an earthquake zone.

“Consider cases in which science communication is intentionally undermined for political and financial gain,” the assistant professor urges.

“Imagine if in L’Aquila, scientists themselves had made every effort to communicate the risks of living in an earthquake zone,” Torcello argues, but evil “financiers” of a “denialist campaign funded and organized a campaign to discredit the consensus findings of seismology, and for that reason no preparations were made”.

“I submit that this is just what is happening with the current, well documented funding of global warming denialism,” Torcello asserts.

From the Washington Post, April 30, 2015:

[At the Vatican], the center of global Catholicism, church leaders joined with politicians, scientists and economists to draft a statement declaring not only that climate change is a “scientific reality” but also that there’s a moral and religious responsibility to do something about it. And an even more powerful statement is expected soon from Pope Francis himself, who is slated to release a major papal encyclical on the environment this summer.

All of this is enough to make environmentalists, members of a traditionally secular movement, nearly rhapsodic. After a history of being rather too technocratic and wonky, there seems to be a growing realization in green circles about the importance of an alliance with the world of faith.

This has been a long time coming. The effort to mobilize religious believers to worry about climate as part of a broader, biblically grounded “creation care” mandate has a long history (though it has traditionally focused more on evangelicals than Catholics). …

The reason … is that it makes the climate debate moral, not scientific or technocratic. And when issues are moralized, people feel before they think and refuse to compromise. It may not be what we strictly call “rational,” but it is politically powerful… The moral emotion that is probably most relevant to the environment is … what many of us would simply call compassion or empathy. Recent research suggests that this emotion drives people toward environmental causes. There seems to be a deep connection between caring about other humans and then extending that to nature.

Yup. We need to know history so we can repeat its mistakes.

The date of creation 4

For light relief today, we quote from the wonderful pair of volumes titled A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom by Andrew D. White, first published in New York in 1896.

Here is what happened when Christian theologians “exerted themselves to fix the date” when one or another or all three of the persons of the Trinity created the universe. (Whether all three persons, or only one of them and then which one, was not settled; nor whether it was accomplished in six days or in a moment.)

The general conclusion arrived at by the overwhelming majority of the most competent students of the biblical accounts was that the date of the creation was, in round numbers, four thousand years before our era; and in the seventeenth century … Dr. John Lightfoot, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, and one of the most eminent Hebrew scholars of his time, declared, as the result of his most profound and exhaustive study of the Scriptures, that “heaven and earth, centre and circumference, were created all together in the same instant, and clouds full of water,” and that “this work took place and man was created by the Trinity on October 23, 4004 B.C., at nine o’clock in the morning“.

Here was, indeed, a triumph … the result of hundreds of years of biblical study and theological thought since Bede in the eighth century, and Vincent of Beauvais in the thirteenth, had declared that creation must have taken place in the spring. Yet, alas! within two centuries after Lightfoot’s great biblical demonstration as to the exact hour of creation, it was discovered  that at that hour an exceedingly cultivated people, enjoying all the fruits of a highly developed civilization, had long been swarming in the great cities of Egypt, and that other nations hardly less advanced had at that time reached a high development in Asia.

We plan to entertain ourselves and our readers with morsels from this abundant store from time to time.

The fall of the pope of environmentalism 12

The heat that the doctrine of Anthropogenic Global Warming can generate could be felt on our Facebook pages recently. Dozens of passionate devotees of the religion hurled furious abuse at us for posting arguments against it. Of course sober commenters replied to them.

Now we have poured oil on the flames by posting the news of the railway engineer and pornographer Rajendra Pachauri’s departure from the UN’s Intercontinental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). We await more fury.

Someone rightly said that “One of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism.”

But added: “Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists.”

It is not ours.

Here’s the good news.

We take it from a somewhat disjoined account at Climate Depot, by Marc Morano:

IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri forced out at UN climate panel after sexual harassment complaint

[From] Pachauri’s resignation letter on religion: “For me the protection of Planet Earth, the survival of all species and sustainability of our ecosystems is more than a mission. It is my religion and my dharma.”

UN IPCC critic, journalist Donna Laframboise responds: “Yes, the IPCC – which we’re told to take seriously because it is a scientific body producing scientific reports – has, in fact, been led by an environmentalist on a mission. By someone for whom ‘protecting the planet’ is a religious calling.”

The IPCC is quietly popping champagne corks today. Pachauri gone can only be good news for the UN IPCC.

If Pachauri had any decency, he would have resigned in the wake of the Climategate scandal which broke in 2009. Climategate implicated the upper echelon of UN IPCC scientists in attempting to collude and craft a narrative on global warming while allowing no dissent.

Or Pachauri could have resigned when he wished skeptics would rub asbestos on their faces, or conceded that the IPCC was at the “beck and call” of governments.

There were so many opportunities [for him] to do the right thing and fade away. But it took the proceedings of the Indian court system over the allegations of sexual harassment to finally bring Pachauri down. Things can only be looking up for the UN IPCC now that it has ridded itself of this political and ethical cancer.

Michael Crichton: “One of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists.”

We repeat: not ours.

Donna Laframboise: “What’s missing from this (Pachauri’s resignation) letter is any suggestion of remorse. When a scandal-plagued leader resigns because his alleged misdeeds are nuking his organization’s reputation, that is a mark of failure. He has let everyone down. Where are his words of apology to the thousands of IPCC-linked scientists whose honor is now eternally tarnished by their association with him?”

Those scientists let themselves down. They tarnished their own honor. They have done a grave disservice to Science itself. It would be too convenient for them to heap all the blame on the lubricious railway engineer, Rajendra Pachauri.

Will the Chicken Little clamor about global warming now fade out?

We doubt it. It always was only a political ploy, a pretext for collectivists to institute world communist dictatorship.

The Examiner reports:

For years, conservatives have said that radical environmentalism is little more than a front for a move to Communist tyranny. That assertion seems to have been proven with comments made by Christiana Figueres, climate chief for the United Nations, who said Communism is the best model for fighting global warming. …

According to Figueres, China … is “doing it right”, even though it has major pollution problems of its own.

The reason, she explained, is that democracy is no good at handling something like global warming, with different parties arguing over policy. In fact, she said, political differences like those in the U.S. Congress, are “very detrimental” to solving the issue.

The Chinese Communist Party, on the other hand, can dictate policy with no debate. Those who disagree can simply be tossed into prison or suffer a worse fate.

Of course, that’s how things work in a dictatorship with one-party rule. Democrats who have clamored for Obama to rule like a dictator may like the idea of a single-party system in America where the ruling party can simply issue edicts, but the American people have made it clear they will not accept such an arrangement, nor are they likely to adopt the Communist Chinese model.

The Daily Caller is quoted as recalling some inconvenient truths:

“Communism was responsible for the deaths of about 94 million people in China, the Soviet Union, North Korea, Afghanistan and Eastern Europe in the 20th century. China alone was responsible for 65 million of those deaths under communist rule,” the Daily Caller said.

Yet this is the model the UN says the world should adopt.

The reason … is that environmentalists hail the Chinese for being a “leader” in renewable energy. …

In 2012, China received nine percent of its power from renewable resources, while the United States got 11 percent of its power from renewable resources in the same year.

Nevertheless, the UN climate chief maintains that Communism is the model the U.S. should follow.

The Daily Caller also said that both China and the former Soviet Union have deplorable records with regards to air quality.

The Wall Street Journal reported [January 14, 2014]  that about “1.2 million people died prematurely in China in 2010 as a result of air pollution”.

The pollution of human minds that Communism causes is far worse than any pollution of the air, land, and sea in the communist states.

And the UN is the filthy engine pumping it out.

The UN must be destroyed.

Communism is secular Christianity 18

The idea that compassion is the essence of morality, entered history – to become in time a significant ethical philosophy – with the teachings of St Paul.

St. Paul, the author of Christianity, preached to his converts that they must “love all”.[1] How to do this was explained by the writers of the gospels. Forgive them if they harm you. Turn the other cheek. Love the sinner though you hate the sin. It was an ethos that preferred love to justice (in contradiction to Judaism which held justice to be the highest value).

St. Paul went to extreme lengths in explaining how a follower of “Christ Jesus” must conduct himself in relation to other people.

He must humble himself until he was no more in his own eyes than “the filth of the world, the scum, the muck that is scoured from things.”[2] He must live for others, sacrifice himself for others, the only use of his life being for others. Not only every other individual, but the collective of mankind was of more value than the Christian’s own life. The plight of others is what matters, never your own predicament. Your only legitimate happiness must be a product of your giving and yielding to others.

So fanatically against self-consideration was St. Paul that his  ideal Christian society was one in which there was no private property. Share all you have, he told his followers. And the reason he gave for this is particularly pertinent: So that you’ll all be equal in worldly possessions.[3]  

Disdain for private property, and the idealizing of equality also entered history with Christianity.  

St. Paul went even further. You must be prepared to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice.”[4] You must not be privileged above others. As a Christian you must renounce your  individual wants, talents, aspirations to serve the collective. That way, you are buying the approval of “Christ Jesus”, by whose grace – and only by whose grace – you may be “saved” to live eternally with him. Yet all your efforts to be good according to Pauline precepts might not after all, however painstakingly pursued, buy you that ticket to heaven. And since God is all-knowing, your fate is pre-determined.

To the Christian, this life was only a time of preparation for eternity. What mattered for the Christian was what happened to his “soul” after his bodily death. Naturally, it became a cult of martyrdom. Christians took up their crosses to follow their Lord; joyfully sought crucifixion for themselves, or death in the lion’s mouth in the Roman arena. Some wore hairshirts. Some sat on the top of tall pillars for years. Some died for “Christ Jesus” in battle with followers of other faiths, or with rival claimants to the certain knowledge of Christian “truth”.

And while human life continues, the Church will be the only power on earth. Both the Catholic and Protestant churches became totalitarian tyrannies whose spies tirelessly sniffed out heretics to be tried, imprisoned, tortured and killed.

When would the eternal life of bliss – or agonizing punishment – begin? Immediately upon your own death, or at the end of time when “Christ Jesus”  will judge the quick and the dead? The answer remains unsettled. But there will be an Apocalypse, a cataclysmic event which will change everything, marking the end of days, and then – if not before – the chosen will live happily ever after in the perfect state of  heaven, ruled over by the all-powerful government of the Triune God; while the rejected burn in hell.

Thus Christianity.

What other ideology claims the moral high ground by justifying its every deed by claiming it to be in the service of the weak, the exploited, the injured, the underdog? Or to put it another way, Justification by Compassion?

What other dogma has it that the plight of the collective matters above all? What other teaches that it is it the duty of the individual to sacrifice himself, his personal wants, talents, aspirations to the greater good of the collective?[6]

In what other ideal society is private property abolished – “so that all will be equal in worldly possessions”? Who decries “privilege”? Who holds equality as the highest ideal? 

In the name of what political orthodoxy were totalitarian tyrannies established whose spies ceaselessly sniffed out heretics to be tried, imprisoned, tortured and killed?

Where do we find revered texts predicting a cataclysmic event that will change everything, after which the chosen will live happily ever after in a perfect state, under the rule of an all-powerful government, while the rejected will be excluded, condemned, punished, and destroyed?

The answer is Communism, learnt from the unquestionable authority of Karl Marx.

Marxist Communism insists that the only power must be the Communist Party.

It predicts an inevitable Revolution as its all-transforming Apocalypse. After the Revolution the faithful – those whom the Communist Party spares – will live happily ever after in a perfect Communist state.

While Communism posits no divinities, it declares that something superior to man’s will determines what must inevitably happen – an hypostasis named History.

It rejects the notions of a supernatural authority and a non-material existence. But the rest of Marxist Communism’s essential doctrine is derived from only one source – Christianity. Though neither Marx nor any of his apostles seem to have been aware of it.

The current head of the Pauline Christian Catholic Church, Pope Francis, has tackled this subject.

AP reports (January 11, 2015):

Pope Francis is insisting that his concern for the poor and critique of the global economic system isn’t some novel, communist-inspired ideology but rather the original and core “touchstone” of the Christian faith.

He is right about that. Communism is inspired by Christianity, not Christianity by Communism.

Some U.S. conservatives have branded the first Latin American pope a Marxist for his frequent critiques of consumerism and focus on a church “that is poor and for the poor”.  But in an interview contained in a new book, Francis explains that his message is rooted in the Gospel and has been echoed by church fathers since Christianity’s first centuries.

Again, he is right.

“The Gospel does not condemn the wealthy, but the idolatry of wealth, the idolatry that makes people indifferent to the call of the poor,” Francis says in This Economy Kills, a study of the pope’s economic and social teachings. …

Wrong. Early Christianity did condemn the wealthy. The Gospel of Luke, for instance, tells a story to make that very point.[7]

Specifically, Francis summarized a verse from the Gospel of Matthew which is the essential mission statement of his papacy: “I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was in prison, I was sick, I was naked and you helped me, clothed me, visited me, took care of me.”

And overlooked the question why “I” was in prison.

“Caring for our neighbor, for those who are poor, who suffer in body and soul, for those who are in need: this is the touchstone. Is it pauperism? No. It is the Gospel.”

Right.

He cites church fathers dating to St. Ambrose and St. John Chrysostom as expressing the same concerns, and noted somewhat wryly that if he had said the same “some would accuse me of giving a Marxist homily”.

Well recognized! Though I cannot resist mentioning in passing that the two saints, Ambrose and John Chrysostom, whom he cites as being especially zealous about caring for the suffering, did not extend their compassion to everyone, they being among the most vicious preachers against the Jews in all history.[8]

How interesting it is that the Pope felt moved to say, not that Marxism and Christianity are different, but merely that of the two similar ideologies, Christianity came first.

To be compassionate is not of course morally wrong. But as a cause so high that in its name human lives may be sacrificed, moral superiority hypocritically claimed, a monopoly of power be instituted, and the unique possession of Truth asserted, it is hideous.

And hideous is the history of both Christianity and its daughter Communism.

 *

Afterword on Charity:

The “first” letter of St. Paul “to the Corinthians”, chapter 13, is a rather good poem declaring love, or charity, to be the highest virtue. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. … And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” Whether the poet meant “love” or “charity” has been a bone of contention in Christendom. William Tyndale was sentenced to be burnt at the stake by the Church of Infinite Compassion for translating it with the one word rather than the other.

As an aside, I don’t believe that St Paul was the author of the chapter. It is far too well written to be from the pen of such a clumsy writer as he was. For an example of his poor writing, see his authenticated letter to the Romans.[9]

But what of charity – regarded by Christians as love in practice? Though I am not against it, I do not see it as a great virtue. It is no solution for poverty – just prolongs it.

I do think charity is preferable to Communism/Socialism as a means of redistributing money from those who have earned it to those who have not, private enterprise always being preferable to government control.

But still it is unjust.

To give it is very satisfying to the ego. And contrary to Christian dogma, there’s nothing wrong with self-indulgence.

But as self-advertisement it is repulsive.

Ideally, charity would be practiced only by consenting adults in private.

 

Jillian Becker    January 14, 2015

NOTES

1. Love one another, love all. 1 Thess.4:9 , Rom.13:8, 1 Cor 13. All quotation is from the King James Version of the New Testament.

2. 1 Cor.4:13

3. 2 Cor 8:14

4. Rom.12:12

5. Become the lowest of the low. Phili.2:3; Let us abase ourselves; be fools; 1 Cor.4:10; Be humble, and associate with the lowly. Rom.12:16; Do only the most menial work for a living. 1 Thess.4:11,1 Cor.4:12; Bear affliction –  persecution, injustice – with patience. Rom.12:12-14,  even with joy. 1 Thess.5:16,18

6. It is well documented that numerous loyal members of the the Communist Party, in the USSR and its satellite states, were persuaded by the Party to let it kill them for the sake of the Party. An interesting account in English of how the Communist Party thus devoured its own is Under a Cruel Star by Heda Margolius Kovály, whose husband Rudolf Margolius was a martyr to the greater, humaner, compassionate cause in Communist Czechoslovakia.

7. Luke 16:19-31

8. 379 A.D.  Vicious writing by St. John Chrysostom and St. Ambrose in Milan who said: “The Jews are the most worthless of all men. They are lecherous, greedy, rapacious. They are perfidious murderers of Christ. They worship the Devil. Their religion is a sickness. The Jews are the odious assassins of Christ and for killing God there is no expiation possible, no indulgence or pardon. Christians may never cease vengeance, and the Jew must live in servitude forever. God always hated the Jews. It is essential that all Christians hate them.” He was called the Bishop with the Golden Tongue. St. Ambrose, Bishop of the Church offered to burn the synagogue himself. St. John Chrysostom’s Homilies against the Jews may be found here.

9. eg. of St. Paul’s confused thinking and poor writing, Rom. 5:12-18: “12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: 13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. 15 But not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. 16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses unto justification. 17 For if by one man’s offense death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) 18 Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.”

The dismal and terrifying puritanism of Islam and Christendom 4

Islam is as puritanical as it is cruel. A pernickety fastidiousness over minor “moral” infractions lives in the primitive minds of IS [ISIS/ISIL] alongside an insatiable appetite for inflicting pain, terror, and atrocious murder.

This report comes from the International Business Times:

In a grotesque twist of the saying “live by the sword, die by the sword“, an Islamic State executioner in Syria who carried out beheadings for the jihadist group has been found with his head cut off.

The body of the Egyptian man, known to be the deputy emir of the feared al-Hesbah (or Hisbah) force in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor, was recovered near a power plant in al-Mayadeen city, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The corpse showed signs of torture and carried the message “This is evil, you Sheikh” written on it. The severed head had a cigarette in its mouth. … The message was obvious.

Islamic State’s ban on cigarettes is one of its signature polices.It has imposed a strict set of Sharia laws barring the use of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes in the territories it has conquered across a swathe of Iraq and Syria.

IS has declared smoking “slow suicide” and demands that “every smoker should be aware that with every cigarette he smokes in a state of trance and vanity is disobeying God”.

We didn’t know God was a non-smoker. After all, he’s smoked a lot of people in his time. (We did know that he isn’t a vegetarian.)

Hisbah is IS’s religious police who perform the role of enforcing the group’s twisted version of sharia in the self-styled caliphate.

“Twisted version of sharia”? What is the “untwisted” version, we wonder.

Last year, Vice News released a documentary on what life is like under Hisbah in Raqqa during Ramadan. The footage shows how the religious police check on shops and scrutinise produce, while at the same time ensuring their strict rules on women’s appearances are adhered to.

And the Express reports:

“Songs and music are forbidden in Islam as they prevent one from the remembrance of god and the koran and are a temptation and corruption of the heart,” according to a statement issued by Isis.

This state of affairs is just like that of Geneva when Jehan Calvin (1509-1564) was its dictator.

We quote from our own post, Calvin: a chapter in the terrible history of Christianity, April 10, 2010:

“[Calvin] instituted a totalitarian reign of terror. He was as convinced a collectivist as Hitler, Stalin, Mao and the rest. He would allow “no liberty, no freedom of the will, for [a] man could only misuse such privileges. … [He, Calvin] must frighten him … until he unresistingly accepts his position in the pious and obedient herd, until he has merged in that herd all that is individual within him, so that the individual, the extraordinary, vanishes without leaving a trace.”

So wrote Stefan Zweig in his devastating dissection of Calvin and Calvinism, The Right to Heresy. He goes on:

“To achieve this draconian suppression of personality, to achieve this vandal expropriation of the individual in favour of the community, Calvin had a method all his own, the famous Church ‘discipline’. A harsher curb upon human impulses and desires has hardly been devised by and imposed upon man down to our own days [pre-Second World War]. From the first hour of his dictatorship, this brilliant organizer herded his flock … within a barbed-wire entanglement of … prohibitions, the so-called ‘Ordinances’; simultaneously creating a special department to supervise the working of terrorist morality … called the Consistory [which was] expressly instructed to keep watch upon the private life of every one in Geneva. … Private life could hardly be said to exist any longer … From moment to moment, by day and by night, there might come a knocking at the entry, and a number of ‘spiritual police’ announce a ‘visitation’ without the citizen concerned being able to offer resistance. Once a month, rich and poor, the powerful and the weak, had to submit to the questioning of these professional ‘police des moeurs’. “

The moral police poked into every corner, examined every part of every house, and even the bodies of those who lived in it. Their clothes and shoes, the hair on their heads, was inspected. Clothes must be dark and plain; hair must not be artificially curled.

“From the bedroom they passed on to the kitchen table, to ascertain whether the prescribed diet was not being exceeded by a soup or a course of meat, or whether sweets and jams were hidden away somewhere.”

They pried into bookshelves – only books approved by the Consistory were permitted.

“The servants were asked about the behaviour of their masters, and the children were cross-questioned as to the doings of their parents.”

Visitors to the city had their baggage examined. Every letter, in and out, was opened. Citizens could not write letters to anyone outside the city, and any Genevan permitted to travel abroad was watched in foreign lands by Calvin’s spies. …

As far as he could, Calvin put an end to pleasure. Music – except for what Calvin deemed to be sacred – was forbidden. So was dancing, skating and sport. Theaters and all other public amusements including popular festivals, were prohibited. Wheeled carriages were not allowed. People had to walk to wherever they needed to go. Guests at family celebrations, even weddings and baptisms, were limited in number to twenty. (The names parents could give their children had to be from an approved list.) The red wine of the district could be drunk in small quantities, but no other alcohol. Innkeepers were not allowed to serve their guests until they had seen them saying their prayers, and had to spy on them throughout their stay and report on them to the authorities.

Punishments included imprisonment in irons, hanging, decapitation, burning to death.

If ever the expression “soul-mates” applied to any two people, it surely applies – regardless of the distance of time between them – to Jehan Calvin and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of IS/ISIS/ISIL.

Truth and Lies, Allah and Rage 3

Why are Western leaders reluctant to face the truth about Islam? Why are they “in denial” that Islam is the greatest threat to civilization in the world today?

Why are they anxious to pretend that the Islamic State (IS/ISIS/ISIL) “has nothing to do with Islam”?

Robert Spencer writes at PJ Media:

Last Tuesday, Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) declared that the State Department “ought to hire one or two experts in Islamic jurisprudence,” so as to refute the ideology of the Islamic State. “One must be able to turn to the Quran, to turn to the Hadith and show how ISIS is making a mockery of a great world religion,” he said.

The Congressman could  try reading the Koran and the hadith himself. He doesn’t seem to have thought of that.

This followed just days after Pope Francis characterized moderate Muslim spokesmen as saying, “They (Muslims) say: ‘No, we are not this [i.e., jihad terrorists], the Koran is a book of peace, it is a prophetic book of peace.’”

Same goes for him.

The “prophetic book of peace” has been in the news recently, but not always in ways that show “how ISIS is making a mockery of a great world religion”. In fact, it has been quite the contrary:

1. Islamic State: Qur’an-waving gunmen murder 39 Indian workers

IndiaToday reported that in Mosul last summer, gunmen of the Islamic State murdered thirty-nine workers from India, after first inquiring to make sure they were not Muslims. All the while, in a vision rivaling the wildest leftist fantasies about “Bible-thumpers,” the gunmen were clutching copies of the Qur’an.

Somehow these gunmen got the crazy, Islamophobic idea that their actions were in accord with the teachings of the book they were holding. Yet Barack Obama and John Kerry and David Cameron and Theresa May and a host of others assure us that the actions of such people have nothing whatsoever to do with Islam. Who could be right? How to tell? It’s a conundrum!

Suggestion: how about read the Qur’an and see what it says? “Slay the pagans wherever you find them” (9:5) — ah, but only “Islamophobes” quote such verses. It’s a “prophetic book of peace”,  and no doubt these Qur’an-thumping gunmen were making a mockery of its teachings, right?

2. Boko Haram leader: “We follow the Qur’an … in the land of Allah”

Well, maybe not – or at least it can be said that all too many Muslims seem not to have gotten the “prophetic book of peace” memo.

After recent reports that he had been killed, Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Nigerian jihad group Boko Haram, roared back defiantly in a new video. “Here I am, alive,” he proclaimed, “I will only die the day Allah takes my breath.” Shekau added: “We are running our caliphate, our Islamic caliphate. We follow the Qur’an … in the land of Allah.”

He follows the Qur’an? After massacring Christians, torching churches, and taking hundreds of non-Muslim girls as sex slaves, he claims to be following the Qur’an? Brad Sherman, as well as Obama, Pope Francis, and the rest, better hope that he is wrong about that, but unfortunately, he has many Muslims on his side, agreeing with him.

  1. Jihad group quotes Qur’an to justify massacre of Christians

One of them is the al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage. Last Tuesday, al-Shabaab jihadis raided a quarry inside Kenya, separated the Muslims from the Christians, and murdered thirty-six Christians.

In a statement justifying these murders, Rage exulted:

“We are uncompromising in our beliefs, relentless in our pursuit, ruthless against the disbelievers and we will do whatever necessary to defend our Muslim brethren suffering from Kenya’s aggression.”

“Ruthless against the disbelievers” is from the Qur’an. The full passage is: “Muhammad is Allah’s apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless against the disbelievers but merciful to one another” (48:29).

But perhaps Rage is blinded by his namesake vice – so blinded as to think that a command to be “ruthless against the disbelievers” means to be ruthless against the disbelievers, rather than to treat them to hummus and pita at outreach meetings. Yet unfortunately, others have read Rage’s guiding book, missed the “book of peace” passages, and come to similar conclusions.

  1. Kenya: Muslims murder 28 non-Muslims who couldn’t recite Qur’an verses

In fact, only a few days before their quarry murders, al-Shabaab did the same thing on a bus in northern Kenya. A passenger on the bus, Ahmed Mahat, recalled that the jihadis ordered the passengers to get off the bus. “When we got down, passengers were separated according to Somali and non-Somalis. The non-Somalis were ordered to read some verses of the holy Qur’an, and those who failed to read were ordered to lie down. One by one they were shot in the head at point blank range.”

That kind of action can make a mockery of a great religion in a hurry, and for it to happen twice in a week only underscores the cognitive dissonance between Western leaders’ view of the Qur’an and what it really is.

But surely things must be better in the West, no? No:

  1. UK: Qur’an-quoting Muslim plotted to murder Tony Blair

A young Muslim named Erol Incedal recently plotted to murder former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife.

When Tony Blair was Prime Minitser, he once stated in public that he had “read the Qur’an  twice”, and still was of the opinion that it taught peace. Lying always came easily to Mr Blair. On that occasion, either he was lying about having read the (ill-written, boring, thoroughly unpleasant) book, or he had read it and was lying about what he found in it.

When searching Incedal’s home, investigators found a notebook that included this:

“Oh you the believers, fight those of the infidel who are near to you. Why do you not fight in Allah’s cause for those oppressed men, women and children who cry out: ‘Rescue us from this town.’”

Ironically, in light of Blair’s fulsome praise for the Qur’an, Incedal’s note is an amalgamation of these Qur’an passages (not that this has anything to do with Islam):

“O ye who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty (unto Him)” (9:123) …

These Qur’an passages are truly inspirational, but what they inspire is not exactly what Pope Francis, Barack Obama, Brad Sherman and the rest hope for or expect. Yet these five are by no means singular in their view of the Qur’an, and as long as the West persists in refusing to recognize the nature and magnitude of the jihad threat, there are only going to be more of them.

We know why Obama will see, hear, speak no truth about Islam. He loves Islam.

But why do the others cling to their illusion that Islam is “a religion of peace” against overwhelming and terrifying evidence to the contrary?

Your theories are invited.

Speaking of atheism 0

A chat about atheism, religion, and science. Recorded December 14, 2010.

Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens.

The vanishing god 18

His only existence was in the superstitions of human beings.

Now even that dim identity is fading away.

We have watched the religious retreating until their backs are to the wall.

Once firm beliefs – in the name of which believers would put disbelievers to torture and death – have quietly been abandoned within the stretch of living memory.

It’s not long since Christians believed in a physical Heaven and Hell. After all, a bodily resurrected Jesus Christ has to have a physical dwelling place. The Virgin Mother of Jesus Christ was physically hauled up into  Heaven – the hauling job by angels is called her Assumption – so there had to be some solid ground to put her on once they got her up there. And if sinners were to suffer in hell, they needed nerves and a brain to suffer pain from being burnt with actual fire.

What theologians speak of that now – or of the Trinity? Only simpletons do. Many among the laity do go on believing in an old bearded man named God, somewhere in the sky, dressed in a kind of nightshirt, with his son, a pretty young man – golden curly hair, blue eyes, also in nightwear – seated beside him on something-or-other, among billowing clouds in a rosy dawn. But that’s all for the commonalty in this twenty-first century since the chosen birthdate of the putative Savior Christ; not the great thinkers.

Science has done what it was bound to do: show up religious accounts of how the universe came into being, and how mankind arose, to be nonsense. Highly imaginative  nonsense. In some aspects, highly ingenious nonsense. But nonsense all the same.

Theological defense of the existence of “God” has steadily dwindled. It came all the way down to the dogma of “intelligent design”. And that’s also manifest nonsense. Whom does it deceive (not counting the gulls and simpletons)? Our universe is so obviously not designed. A design is for a purpose, and the propounders of the idea can point to no purpose. And where is the evidence of intelligence, when life forms fail, hideous deformities occur, animal survives by devouring animal …. the list of natural events that are easily explained by evolution but not by the idea of intelligent design could be very long.

Proponents of “intelligent design” at least had the sense to drop the notion that the supernatural Designer was benevolent. It must finally come home to even a dull mind that the Designer, or god, who made (for example) Ebola, is not a source of unqualified benefit to humankind.

The defense is worn down to the wire. The result is utter confusion.

The Catholic Church cannot allow the “intelligent designer” to take God’s place; cannot have God reduced to an architect who could shout “Hey presto!” at his drawing board and have his design spring into existence. Or don a robe decorated with moons and stars and meteors, and a tall pointed hat, and take a wand in his hand, and wave it about in some medium of ultra-space and so fill an infinite void with galaxies – and prepare Jesus Christ to be born from the womb of a virgin on the little planet Earth.

But how then can it cope with the challenge of science?

To see its best effort, witness this crap, this stew of anachronistic notions thrown into the pot with gobs of scientific truth. It shows how Roman Catholicism does not know what to say, and can only dither vague denials and assertions that add up to nothing – like these, gabbled just the other day by Pope Francis, head of that once powerful and terrible, tyrannical and cruel institution, the Catholic Church (a relic of the darkest centuries of human history):

Delivering an address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope Francis continued his habit of making provocative, seemingly progressive statements. The pontiff appeared to endorse the theory of the Big Bang and told the gathering at the Vatican that there was no contradiction between believing in God as well as the prevailing scientific theories regarding the expansion of our universe.

He said:

When we read about creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so. He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment.

The pope avoids gesturing at the thorny issue (at least for some Christians) of whether humans descended from apes. Atheists argue, moreover, that understanding the Big Bang and what emerged from that cosmic moment obviates a need to believe in a deity. On that count, Francis obviously disagrees. He repeated the idea of God not being a “magician,” an entity that conjured all into being.

“God is not a divine being or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life,” Francis said. “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”

In other words … God is more a clockmaker than a conjurer of miracles.

Could anything be less like a clock designed to work in a fixed unchanging manner for a particular purpose than this universe of ever-changing matter?*

Such thinking is not new for the Catholic Church, which for six decades — since the reforms of Pope Pius XII — has espoused belief in theistic evolution. That hinges, of course, on the fundamental acceptance of a higher power.

A 2006 article in the Vatican’s main newspaper also distanced the Catholic Church from the idea of “intelligent design,” which it said should not be taught in schools as science. …

What the church does insist upon is that the emergence of the human supposes a willful act of God, and that man cannot be seen as only the product of evolutionary processes, it said. The spiritual element of man is not something that could have developed from natural selection but required an “ontological leap”.

Francis’s more conservative predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, espoused this view and found the American debate between creationists and those who backed evolution “absurd’. He asked in 2007 why “those who believe in the Creator would not be able to conceive of evolution, and those who instead support evolution would have to exclude God”. And then went on:

This antithesis is absurd because, on the one hand, there are so many scientific proofs in favor of evolution which appears to be a reality we can see and which enriches our knowledge of life and being as such. But on the other, the doctrine of evolution does not answer every query, especially the great philosophical question: where does everything come from? And how did everything start which ultimately led to man? I believe this is of the utmost importance.

Skeptics and atheists, though, may agree with the importance of those questions. But they’re still looking for very different answers.

We sure are, bro!

The intellectually beleaguered theologians of the Catholic Church saw that some interpretation, some clarification of this garbage was needed. So they’ve come up with this, from the Catholic News Service, by John Thavis:

Intelligent design not science, says Vatican newspaper article

Intelligent design is not science and should not be taught as a scientific theory in schools alongside Darwinian evolution, an article in the Vatican newspaper said.

The article said that in pushing intelligent design some groups were improperly seeking miraculous explanations in a way that creates confusion between religious and scientific fields.

At the same time, scientists should recognize that evolutionary theory does not exclude an overall purpose in creation – a “superior design” that may be realized through secondary causes like natural selection, it said.

What overall purpose?

The article, published in the Jan. 17 edition of L’Osservatore Romano, was written by Fiorenzo Facchini, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Bologna in Italy.

The article noted that the debate over intelligent design – the idea that certain features of life and the universe are best explained by an intelligent designer rather than adaptive evolution – has spread from the United States to Europe.

The problem with intelligent design is that it turns to a “superior cause” – understood though not necessarily named as God – to explain supposed shortcomings of evolutionary science. But that’s not how science should work, the article said.

If the model proposed by Darwin is held to be inadequate, one should look for another model. But it is not correct methodology to stray from the field of science pretending to do science.

The article said a Pennsylvania judge had acted properly when he ruled in December that intelligent design could not be taught as science in schools. [The judge said:]

Intelligent design does not belong to science and there is no justification for the pretext that it be taught as a scientific theory alongside the Darwinian explanation.

From the church’s point of view, Catholic teaching says God created all things from nothing, but doesn’t say how, the article said. That leaves open the possibilities of evolutionary mechanisms like random mutation and natural selection.

God’s project of creation can be carried out through secondary causes in the natural course of events, without having to think of miraculous interventions that point in this or that direction.

What the church does insist upon is that the emergence of the human supposes a willful act of God, and that man cannot be seen as only the product of evolutionary processes .. The spiritual element of man is not something that could have developed from natural selection but required an “ontological leap’ … 

The article said that, unfortunately, what has helped fuel the intelligent design debate is a tendency among some Darwinian scientists to view evolution in absolute and ideological terms, as if everything — including first causes — can be attributed to chance.

Science as such, with its methods, can neither demonstrate nor exclude that a superior design has been carried out.

From a religious viewpoint, it said, there is no doubt that the human story “has a sense and a direction that is marked by a superior design”.

What direction? Going where? Why?

So if God may not be boiled down to an “intelligent designer”, then what is he? What is this new orthodoxy of the Catholic Church? He’s still “the creator of all things from nothing”. But he didn’t create things exactly as we know them at this passing moment. He launched evolution. By a special “willful” act he had humankind “emerge”. (Whether from earlier ape-like Hominoidea or not is left an open question.) Man’s unique “spiritual element” could not have developed through evolution. So it must have been put in him by God. Man’s spiritual element, it may be inferred, proves the existence of God.

God is a launcher of evolution, into which process he uniquely intervened to create humankind, to which he gave something new in the universe, a “spiritual element”.

This new Catholic God is not very different from the old Catholic God, but he seems to have shed his son and the Holy Ghost. At least neither the Professor of evolutionary biology nor the befuddled Pope says what’s happened to them.

So even the “intelligent designer” fades out. The old Creator is glimpsed as the launcher of a process through billions of years which finally did not result in the creation of humankind. That was a special new creation. For what purpose is still not said.

He is very frail, that being. Very thin, transparent, ghost-like. Going, going … almost gone.

 

* We do, however, accept Karl Popper’s splendidly explicated thesis that “all clouds are clocks and all clocks are clouds” in his lecture “Of Clouds and Clocks”. In his sense only, having nothing to do with theological “intelligent design”, organic things may be said to be clock-like. You can find the lecture here, or in the collection of Popper’s essays titled Objective Knowledge.

Freedom from religion 12

Can you call yourself free if restrictions are put on your freedom?

We of The Atheist Conservative say that a person’s freedom should be limited by nothing but everyone else’s freedom.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia seems to have a different idea of what freedom means.

He grants that with the first amendment the Constitution enshrines the principal of freedom of religion, but according to reports (see below) insists that “freedom of religion” does not include a right to “freedom from religion”.

So you are free to worship something or other, but not free to worship nothing.

How many ways can the idea be expressed? You are not free not to worship anything at all. You are not free not to worship. You have to worship something. It can be anything at all, but you must worship it. Hold it sacred. The thing. Or the person. Or any number of things or persons. You are Constitutionally obliged to consider it or him or her or them divine.

You are perfectly free to decide which it or him or her or them you consider divine. But you are not free to consider that nothing is divine.

You may choose (for instance) an abstraction, a dead Jew, a rock, a wooden or plaster or cloth or straw or polystyrene object, a devil, an ancestor. Or any number of the same. Or even  a mixed bag of all of them – a Deity Allsorts.

That is right and proper and permitted by the Constitution of the United States. But you cannot deny that something or someone is, or a bunch of persons real or imaginary are, or at least that a state of mind can be achieved in which you understand that absolutely everything is, divine.

Not, anyway, according to the Constitution.

Which logically means that the Constitution forbids you to refrain from worshiping something. If you do, you may be in breach of Constitutional Law. 

And it may follow that the thing you must worship must also be honored with the performance of rites.  Simply believing it to be divine may not be enough. To be religious you must follow some ritual of worship. Otherwise you could just claim to worship your Aunt Sally and never do a thing about it. Even your Aunt Sally herself, if she’s alive on this earth and not moved on, or over, or through, or up to another (imaginary but Constitutionally-acknowledged) world, might not believe you are really sincere.

And this from a judge we have held in high esteem? Did he really say something that implied all that? What in fact did he actually say?

The Washington Times reports only these words of his:

I think the main fight is to dissuade Americans from what the secularists are trying to persuade them to be true: that the separation of church and state means that the government cannot favor religion over nonreligion.

And MSN interprets his words like this:

Defending his strict adherence to the plain text of the Constitution, Scalia knocked secular qualms over the role of religion in the public sphere as “utterly absurd,” arguing that the Constitution is only obligated to protect freedom of religion – not freedom from it.

He probably meant nothing more, after all, than that religious groups may put up their shrines and symbols in public places, and publicly display mottoes with religious references, and that atheist protestors have no grounds in law for objecting.

Austin Cline, who is an atheist, agrees with this view in an essay titled What is Freedom From Religion? But he discusses much more than that issue.

He writes:

Freedom of Religion Requires Freedom From Religion

Conservatives insist that the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion, and argue against strict separation of church and state. Too often, though, conservatives seem to have a flawed understanding of what freedom from religion really entails and fail to realize that freedom from religion is crucial to religious liberty in general.

It is evident that a person misunderstands the concept of freedom from religion when they say that promotion of the idea is part of an effort to eliminate religion from the public square, to secularize America, or to deny religious believers a voice in politics. None of this follows from a belief that people have a right to be free from religion.

What Freedom From Religion is Not

Freedom from religion is not a demand that one never encounter religion, religious believers, or religious ideas at all. Freedom from religion is not freedom from seeing churches, encountering people handing out religious tracts on the street corner, seeing preachers on television, or listening to people discuss religion at work. Freedom from religion is not a demand that religious beliefs never be expressed, that religious believers never voice an opinion, or that religiously-inspired values never have any impact on laws, customs, or public policies.

Freedom from religion is thus not a social right to never encounter religion in public spaces. Freedom from religion has two relevant aspects: personal and political. On the personal level, a right to be free from religion means that a person has the freedom not to belong to any religion or religious organization. The right to be religious and to join religious organizations would be meaningless if there did not exist a parallel right not to join any at all. Religious liberty must simultaneously protect both the right to be religious and the right not to be religious at all - it cannot protect a right to be religious, just so long as you pick some religion.

What Freedom From Religion Is

When it comes to politics, the freedom from religion means being “free from” any government imposition of religion. Freedom from religion does not mean being free from seeing churches, but it does mean being free from churches getting governing financing; it doesn’t mean being free from encountering people handing out religious tracts on a street corner, but it does mean being free from government-sponsored religious tracts; it doesn’t mean being free from hearing religious discussions at work, but it does mean being free from religion being a condition of employment, hiring, firing, or one’s status in the political community.

Freedom from religion isn’t a demand that religious beliefs never be expressed, but rather that they not be endorsed by the government; it’s not a demand that religious believers never voice an opinion, but rather that they not have a privileged status in public debates; it’s not a demand that religious values never have any public impact, but rather that no laws be based on religious doctrines without the existence of a secular purpose and basis.

The political and the personal are closely related. A person cannot be “free from” religion in the personal sense of not having to belong to any religion if religion is made a factor in one’s status in the political community. Government agencies should not endorse, promote, or encourage religion in any way. Doing so suggests that those who accept the religious beliefs favored by the government will, by extension, be favored by the government – and thus a person’s political status becomes conditioned on their personal religious commitments.

What Religious Liberty Is

The claim that the Constitution only protects “freedom of religion” and not “freedom from religion” thus misses an important point. Religious liberty, if it is to mean anything, cannot merely mean that the state won’t use the police to stop or harass adherents of certain religious ideas. It must also mean that the state won’t use more subtle powers, like those of the pocketbook and the bully pulpit, to favor some religions over others, to endorse certain religious doctrines rather than others, or to take sides in theological disputes.

It would be wrong for the police to close synagogues; it is also wrong for police officers to tell Jewish drivers during a traffic stop that they should convert to Christianity. It would be wrong for politicians to pass a law banning Hinduism; it is also wrong for them to pass a law proclaiming that monotheism is preferable to polytheism. It would be wrong for a president to say that Catholicism is a cult and not really Christian; it is also wrong for a president to endorse theism and religion generally.

This is why freedom of religion and freedom from religion are two sides of the same coin. Attacks on one ultimately serve to undermine the other. The preservation of religious liberty requires that we ensure that the government not be handed any authority over religious matters.

Cline also sets out this for our enlightenment:

Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom

In 1779 as a member of the General Assembly, James Madison supported Thomas Jefferson’s historic Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom; after Jefferson left for diplomatic duties in Europe in 1784, Madison became the bill’s prime sponsor. Enactment failed every year from June 1779 until it was finally adopted in January, 1786.

The Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom was an important milestone in establishing religious liberty in America and disestablishing official churches.

The Act has questionable opening lines – but read beyond them.

The Virginia Act For Establishing Religious Freedom.

Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind free;

that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do;

that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time;

that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical;

that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporal rewards, which proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labors for the instruction of mankind;

that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, more than our opinions in physics or geometry;

that, therefore, the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to the offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow citizens he has a natural right;

that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honors and emoluments, those who will externally profess and conform to it;

that though indeed these are criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way;

that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles, on the supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency, will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own;

that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government, for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order;

and finally, that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.

Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in nowise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

And though we well know this Assembly, elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no powers equal to our own and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable would be of no effect in law, yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.

“Errors cease to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.”

“No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship … but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions on matters of religion.”

Could freedom of speech be more plainly or strongly supported than by those statements?

They mean that we must be free not only to hold any opinions whatsoever on religion, but also to express them publicly whenever and however we choose.

The time may not be far off when humankind as a whole will be free from religion; when people will learn about the irrational beliefs their close ancestors held with passionate conviction and be amazed that in an age of science they could have swallowed such nonsense.

 

(Hat-tip Don L)

Leaving religion for good 6

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.

Right.

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.

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