The organizers of an important Conservative conference have banned an atheist organization from attending it and setting out its stall.
The Conservative Political Action Committee, the largest and oldest gathering of conservatives, is run by the American Conservative Union and will be held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Maryland’s National Harbor from March 6 to 8. Last year, the event brought together thousands of activists to listen to dozens of Republican leaders speak about everything from economics and foreign policy to social issues. The event has long been considered a required stop for Republican presidential hopefuls.
That and what follows we quote from CNN’s “belief blog”.
Organizers for the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference will not allow American Atheists to have an exhibition booth …
The decision comes just hours after American Atheists, the outspoken organization that advocates for atheists nationwide, announced that it would have a booth at the event. David Silverman, president of American Atheists, tells CNN that a groundswell of opposition from high-ranking members of CPAC compelled the group to pull the invite.
Meghan Snyder, a spokeswoman for CPAC, said in a statement to CNN that “American Atheists misrepresented itself about their willingness to engage in positive dialogue and work together to promote limited government.”
“I’m surprised and I’m saddened,” Silverman said in response to the announcement. “I think this is a very disappointing turn of events. I was really looking forward to going … It is very obvious to me they were looking for a reason to say no,” Silverman added. “Christianity is bad for conservatism and they did not want that message out there.” …
Silverman said his group [had] planned to use the booth to bring conservative atheists “out of the closet” and said he was not worried about making the Christian right angry because “the Christian right should be threatened by us.”
Snyder said CPAC spoke to Silverman about his divisive and inappropriate language.
He pledged that he will attack the very idea that Christianity is an important element of conservatism. People of any faith tradition should not be attacked for their beliefs, especially at our conference. …
But yes, Ms Snyder, it is precisely beliefs that ought to be attacked. Continually. Forever.
The critical examination of ideas is the essential task of civilized humankind.
When [earlier] Snyder had confirmed to CNN that American Atheists would be at CPAC, she said in a statement that they were allowed to display at the confab because “conservatives have always stood for freedom of religion and freedom of expression.”
“The folks we have been working with stand for many of the same liberty-oriented policies and principles we stand for,” Snyder said. …
And so, she had thought, did American Atheists. But the decision to include them had outraged some conservatives.
Tony Perkins, president of the Christian conservative think-tank Family Research Council, expressed outrage at the decision, stating that the American Atheists did “not seek to add their voice to the chorus of freedom”. [He said] “CPAC’s mission is to be an umbrella for conservative organizations that advance liberty, traditional values and our national defense.”
Does the American Conservative Union really think the liberties and values they seek to preserve can be maintained when they partner with individuals and organizations that are undermining the understanding that our liberties come from God? Thomas Jefferson warned against such nonsense. If this is where the ACU is headed, they will have to pack up and put away the “C”‘ in CPAC!” …
The first “C” for “Conservative” we suppose is the one he meant. But why would it need to be packed away if atheists are allowed to have their say? Perhaps Perkins thinks it stands for “Christian”.
American Atheist is well known for its controversial billboards and media campaigns and is considered the in-your-face contingent in the world of atheist activists. The group’s members pride themselves as being the “Marines” of the atheist movement. …
In explaining why the group decided to join CPAC on Monday, Silverman cited a 2012 Pew Research study that found 20% of self-identified conservatives consider themselves religiously unaffiliated. While that does not mean they are atheists, Silverman believes learning more about atheism will make it more likely conservatives will choose to identify with those who believe there is no God.
Just as there are many closeted atheists in the church pews, I am extremely confident that there are many closeted atheists in the ranks of conservatives. This is really a serious outreach effort, and I am very pleased to be embarking on it.
The group has long targeted Republican lawmakers, although Silverman considers the organization nonpartisan.
In 2013, American Atheists launched a billboard campaign against three Republican politicians: former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. All three Republicans have spoken at CPAC in the past.
On one billboard, Santorum is pictured to the left of a quote attributed to him. “Our civil laws have to comport with a higher law. God’s law,” the quote reads. Underneath the graphic is a tagline: “GO GODLESS INSTEAD.”
Comment on this affair comes from National Review, by Charles C. W. Cooke: :
Yesterday, in response to one of the many brouhahas that CPAC seems always to invite, Brent Bozell issued the following statement:
The invitation extended by the ACU, Al Cardenas and CPAC to American Atheists to have a booth is more than an attack on conservative principles. It is an attack on God Himself. American Atheists is an organization devoted to the hatred of God. How on earth could CPAC, or the ACU and its board of directors, and Al Cardenas condone such an atrocity?
So Brent Bozell thinks that issuing the invitation was an attack on conservative principles. More, it was “an attack on God Himself”. As such, it was a veritable “atrocity“!
The particular merits of the American Atheists group to one side, this is a rather astounding thing for Bozell to have said. In just 63 words, he confuses disbelief in God for “hatred” for God — a mistake that not only begs the question but is inherently absurd (one cannot very well hate what one does not believe is there); he condemns an entire conference on the basis of one participant — not a good look for a struggling movement, I’m afraid; and, most alarmingly perhaps, he insinuates that one cannot simultaneously be a conservative and an atheist. I reject this idea — and with force.
If atheism and conservatism are incompatible, then I am not a conservative. And nor, I am given to understand, are George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Anthony Daniels, Walter Olson, Heather Mac Donald, James Taranto, Allahpundit, or S. E. Cupp. There is no getting around this — no splitting the difference: I don’t believe there is a God. It’s not that I’m “not sure” or that I haven’t ever bothered to think about it; it’s that I actively think there isn’t a God — much as I think there are no fairies or unicorns or elves. The degree to which I’m confident in this view works on a scale, certainly: I’m much surer, for example, that the claims of particular religions are untrue and that there is no power intervening in the affairs of man than I am that there was no prime mover of any sort.
Rrrreally, Mr Cooke?
But, when it comes down to it, I don’t believe in any of those propositions.
Am I to be excommunicated from the Right?
One of the problems we have when thinking about atheism in the modern era is that the word has been hijacked and turned into a political position when it is no such thing. The Oxford English Dictionary defines an “atheist” as someone who exhibits “disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of a god.” That’s me right there — and that really is the extent of it.
Okay, you can have a booth at any conference we ever organize.
Or have we spoken too soon? Repeat what you were mumbling, please?
No, I don’t dislike anyone who does believe that there is a God; no, with a few obvious exceptions, I am not angry at the religious; and no, I do not believe the devout to be in any way worse or less intelligent than myself. Insofar as the question inspires irritation in me at all it is largely reserved for the sneering, smarmy, and incomprehensibly self-satisfied New Atheist movement, which has turned the worthwhile writings of some extremely smart people into an organized means by which a cabal of semi-educated twentysomethings might berate the vast majority of the human population and then congratulate one another as to how clever they are.
What New Atheist movement? If it exists, we want to join it. What is incomprehensible about it? What suggests that “it” is self-satisifed? What worthwhile writings would those be? Who are these beraters? And are they not - in that they are atheists – cleverer than “the vast majority of the human population”?
Which is to say that, philosophically speaking, I couldn’t really care less … and practically speaking I am actually pretty warm toward religion — at least as it is practiced in America. True or false, American religion plays a vital and welcome role in civil society, has provided a number of indispensable insights into the human condition, acts as a remarkably effective and necessary check on the ambitions of government and central social-planners, is worthy of respect and measured inquiry on the Burkean grounds that it has endured for this long and been adopted by so many, and has been instrumental in making the United States what it is today.…
We would dispute almost every one of those propositions, especially that religion is “worthy of respect” – though of “measured inquiry”, yes, it is worthy, and should be subjected to it mercilessly.
We like most of what he goes on to say next. And he provides some interesting information:
None of this, however, excuses the manner in which conservatives often treat atheists such as myself. George H. W. Bush, who was more usually reticent on such topics, is reported to have said that he didn’t “know that atheists should be regarded as citizens, nor should they be regarded as patriotic[because] this is one nation under God”.
Whether Bush ever uttered these words or not, this sentiment has been expressed by others elsewhere. It is a significant mistake. What “this nation” is, in fact, is one nation under the Constitution — a document that precedes the “under God” reference in the Gettysburg Address by more than seven decades and the inclusion of the phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance by 165 years. (“In God We Trust,” too, was a modern addition, replacing “E Pluribus Unum” as the national motto in 1956 after 174 years.)
Indeed, given the troubled waters into which American religious liberty has of late been pushed, it strikes me that conservatives ought to be courting atheists — not shunning them. I will happily take to the barricades for religious conscience rights, not least because my own security as a heretic is bound up with that of those who differ from me, and because a truly free country seeks to leave alone as many people as possible — however eccentric I might find their views or they might find mine. In my experience at least, it is Progressivism and not conservatism that is eternally hostile to variation and to individual belief, and, while we are constantly told that the opposite is the case, it is those [leftists] who pride themselves on being secular who seem more likely and more keen to abridge my liberties than those who pride themselves on being religious. That I do not share the convictions of the religious by no means implies that I wish for the state to reach into their lives. Nevertheless, religious conservatives will find themselves without many friends if they allow figures such as Mr. Bozell to shoo away the few atheists who are sympathetic to their broader cause.
As it happens, not only do I reject the claim that the two positions are antagonistic, but I’d venture that much of what informs my atheism informs my conservatism also. I am possessed of a latent skepticism of pretty much everything, a hostility toward the notion that one should believe things because they are a nice idea, a fear of holistic philosophies, a dislike of authority and of dogma, a strong belief in the Enlightenment as interpreted and experienced by the British and not the French, and a rather tenacious refusal to join groups.
Yes, a conservative should logically be skeptical of ideology as such. And impatient with the irrational. And religions are among the most irrational of ideologies.
Occasionally, I’m asked why I “believe there is no God,” which is a reasonable question in a vacuum but which nonetheless rather seems to invert the traditional order of things. After all, that’s not typically how we make our inquiries on the right, is it? Instead, we ask what evidence there is that something is true. …
A great deal of the friction between atheists and conservatives seems to derive from a reasonable question. “If you don’t consider that human beings are entitled to ‘God given’ liberties,” I am often asked, “don’t you believe that the unalienable rights that you spend your days defending are merely the product of ancient legal accidents or of the one-time whims of transient majorities?” Well, no, not really. As far as I can see, the American settlement can thrive perfectly well within my worldview. God or no God, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence are all built upon centuries of English law, human experience, and British and European philosophy, and the natural-law case for them stands nicely on its own.
And he then turns to Thomas Jefferson, who penned the Declaration, and, far from “warning against undermining the understanding that our liberties come from God” as Tony Perkins claims …
… rejected revealed religion because revealed religion suggests a violation of the laws of nature. For revelation or any miracle to occur, the laws of nature would necessarily be broken. Jefferson did not accept this violation of natural laws. He attributed to God only such qualities as reason suggested.
Which, as the quoted passage goes on to explain, are none:
“Of the nature of this being,” Jefferson wrote to John Adams in 1817, “we know nothing.”
Logically then, not even its existence, though Jefferson is not recorded as ever having said so.
The war 5
Among the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls there is one titled The War of the Children of Light and the Children of Darkness.
It is a perpetual war: Good against Evil.
It is fought in most of the world’s mythologies, and in almost all of them Good will win in the end. (The exception is that of the Norsemen. They foresaw the triumph of Evil.)
Dennis Prager, writing at Townhall, describes how the two sides of the conflict appear to him now:
In both personal and public life, you can know a great deal about a person or a group if you know what most bothers them – and what doesn’t bother them.
A news item this past week made this point with glaring clarity. It reported a meeting that the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights had on Friday. Before revealing the subject of that meeting, let’s review for a moment what is happening in the world …
North Korea continues to be an affront to the human species. That North Korea, whether or not it had nuclear weapons, is not a central concern is an indictment of humanity.
That the West, with the noble exception of Canada under Stephen Harper, is appeasing the dictators of Iran, is an indictment of the West.
Add to this list the U.N.’s and the world’s ignoring of the Chinese government’s continuing suppression of all dissent and its decades-long violent eradication of Tibet’s unique and ancient culture.
Then add the slaughter of millions in Congo over the last decade, the 100,000-plus killed in Syria just last year, most of them civilians killed by their own government, and the blowing up, burning alive, and throat-cutting of untold numbers of innocent people by violent Islamists on a daily basis.
In other words, if what bothers you most is evil – the deliberate infliction of cruelty on people by people – North Korea, Congo, China, Syria and radical Islam will bother you more than anything else on the world scene.
So, then, what was the subject of the meeting convened Friday by the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights?
The alleged racism of the name of the National Football League’s Washington team, the Redskins.
That’s right. All these horrific evils are happening as you read this, and … the United Nations had a meeting about the name Washington Redskins.
The U.N. is not alone in paying undue attention to the Redskins’ name. The left in the United States is nearly obsessed with it. President Barack Obama has spoken out against it. The Washington Post editorial board has demanded that the team drop the name. In the herd-like way that governs media, innumerable columnists and sports writers have written passionate columns against the name, and increasing numbers of sports writers have vowed to never again write or speak the name.
This left-wing obsession with a non-evil exemplifies the left’s moral universe. That universe is preoccupied with lesser evils while nearly always ignoring the greatest evils.
Preoccupation with real evil is the greatest difference between right and left. The right was preoccupied with fighting Communism while the left … was preoccupied with fighting anti-Communists.
The right today is preoccupied with fighting Islamism; the left is preoccupied with fighting “Islamophobia.”
One way of putting it is that the right is preoccupied with fighting evil and the left is preoccupied with fighting those who fight evil.
The right is preoccupied with defending Israel against those who wish to annihilate it. The left is preoccupied with Israeli apartments on the West Bank.
This difference was made manifest last week in the address given by the one world leader to exemplify the right’s preoccupation with evil, Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper. Talking about all the condemnations of Israel, Harper said:
“Think about the twisted logic and outright malice behind that: a state, based on freedom, democracy and the rule of law, that was founded so Jews can flourish as Jews, and seek shelter from the shadow of the worst racist experiment in history, that is condemned, and that condemnation is masked in the language of anti-racism. It is nothing short of sickening.”
Yes, but the writer does not go nearly far enough. The Left is not merely preoccupied with fighting those who fight evil, it is occupied with doing evil. The Left is in alliance with Islam. Its (bewilderingly unintelligent) intelligentsia invent a fake need to “save the planet” from “climate change” as an excuse to advance their own tyrannical rule, reduce population, and impoverish and destroy civilization.
And where are our warriors of the Right to stop them? Let’s see: there’s Stephen Harper and … Well, a few more names may spring to mind. And we do have the immense power of Reason on our side.
Which side is winning, would you say?
To most people “Quaker terrorists” may seem a contradiction in terms. So we must explain.
To excuse or defend terrorism is to encourage it; to encourage it is to co-author it.
And what is terrorism? It is not an ideology. It is a method, a tactic. It is the systematic use of violence to create public fear. By the targeting of the innocent the fear is spread. Everyone in a certain place, or of a certain race or calling, or in a certain position, must be given reason by the terrorist to fear that he or she, or his or her spouse or child or parent, can be blown into pieces, or be knifed or beaten or shot to death, by complete strangers at any moment. Terrorism is morally indefensible. Arguably the most morally indefensible form of violence that can be imagined. Nothing can justify it. No cause. Nothing.
For centuries the Quakers were a widely respected sect. They were pacifists on moral grounds. Pacifism was one of their founding religious principles. Their name was synonymous with non-violence. In wars, they would serve their country as doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, stretcher-bearers … They eschewed violence even in self-defense. As a sect, they lived up to their principles. That was what they were respected for.
(For the record – in our view a pacifist upholding his principle of non-violence when the aggressors are Nazis or Communists say, while others risk their lives to save him from them, is not admirable. But our task here is to explain the Quaker view, which many hold in high esteem: that it’s wrong to use violence at all. Ever.)
But now the Quakers are terrorists. They are terrorists in that they excuse, defend, and actively encourage terrorism.
Here is the story of how the change, the reversal of their values, came about. We have taken it from the The Tower, condensing the full account given by Asaf Romirowsky and Alexander H. Joffe:
The Quakers — thus named because they tremble or “quake” before God — [is] a Protestant sect founded in England during the mid-17th century. … As part of their beliefs, Quakers oppose violence in all its forms and reject any compulsion in religion. …
The Quakers are also called The Friends. So unthreatening. So simple. So trustworthy. So good.
On April 30, 1917, the Quakers formed The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) “in response to America’s entrance into World War I”.
Challenged by public hostility and government disapproval due to their refusal to be drafted, the Quakers formed the AFSC in order to organize alternative forms of service for its members, such as providing medical aid and other non-violent participation in the war effort.
The AFSC slowly expanded over the years, and by the late 1940s it was an established Christian organization with global experience, recognized by national and international establishments as a major provider of international relief, charity, and aid. …
The dawn of the Cold War, however, proved a turning point in the history of the organization. In April 1947 …
Just thirty years after its founding …
… a faction within the AFSC’s leadership convened a meeting at which the head of the organization, Clarence Pickett, and others argued that tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union had become so intense, and the threat of atomic war so grave, that the AFSC should abandon its long-standing tradition of political neutrality.
The argument was absurd. How by taking one side against the other would they be lessening the tension and preventing atomic war?
It is true that one side of the Cold War was working through agents of influence to get the other side disarmed by public opinion. It paid its agents to organize “Peace” movements. Not because it was for peace, though it pretended to be. Far from being peaceful, it was arming, aiding and abetting proxy wars of “liberation” on five continents. That lying, hypocritical, relentlessly belligerent side was the Soviet Union. And that is the side the AFSC took.
Can there be much doubt that Clarence Pickett, whether personally paid or not, was one of its agents?
Such a stance [of neutrality], Pickett said, could no longer be an article of faith but a crime. The radical nature of this [new] stance was reflected in the words of another participant, who said, “Evolution is too slow. We need revolution in the Society of Friends.”
Hear in that the vocabulary, the phraseology of Marxism.
The organization, Pickett and his supporters felt, should actively spearhead a peace movement that would directly challenge America’s Cold War policies.
Not for a moment did they apparently consider that the American Cold War policies were a direct challenge to the Soviet Union’s hot war ambitions.
This began the AFSC’s transformation from a religious group to, as one Quaker scholar later put it, “just one more pressure group within the secular political community”.
Or in other words, it changed not only from a pacifist to a revolutionary movement, it also changed, effectively, from a Christian sect into a Communist sect.
The AFSC’s newly radical stance took aim at American policies throughout the 1950s and paid little or no heed to repression and terror in Communist countries. This hit its stride during the Vietnam War. The organization bitterly and actively opposed the war throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Its attacks on American policy in Vietnam were furious and wide-ranging, opposing everything from the escalation of military operations to all forms of aid to South Vietnam to the conduct of the war itself. In addition, the AFSC directly violated American embargoes and sent medical aid directly to North Vietnam. These actions proved to be extremely controversial. In one case, the AFSC was accused of revealing to the North Vietnamese that a prominent Buddhist activist was a CIA agent, prompting one prominent Quaker to hold a sit-in at AFSC headquarters in protest.
So some individual Quakers – many, according to the authors – were still true to their founding principles, or perhaps were American patriots.
The AFSC’s activism placed it unquestionably on the side of the American far-Left, where it remains to this day.
The Quakers’ [erstwhile] beliefs in nonviolence have not prevented them from supporting bloody despotic regimes. …
And the hypocrisy was – and remains – blatant:
While still voicing support for pacifism, the organization increasingly aligned itself with violent Left-wing governments and movements, some of which used terrorism to advance their goals.
Many rank-and-file Quakers were appalled at the AFSC’s overt support for such regimes and movements, as well as its double standards … But their protests proved fruitless. The AFSC rejected all criticism as fundamentally illegitimate “red-baiting and McCarthyism”.
“Red-baiting”. Again, the vocabulary of the Communists. Or rather of the Comintern – the Soviets’ ideological club for foreign fans of its appalling system.
… The AFSC’s policy towards Iran is [to demand] the removal of sanctions and [dismiss] concerns about Iranian nuclear weapons.
It is openly, shamelessly supportive of the most terrible regime on earth:
Today the group operates collective farms in North Korea …
And is intimately supportive of at least one of the most savage terrorist groups on earth – Hamas.
Romirowsky and Joffe trace the history of the Quakers relationship to the “Holy Land”, the Palestinians, and Zionism, giving them credit for aiding the refugees more rationally than most other organizations working among them. But …
… after the 1967 Six Day War, the AFSC began to take a more explicit and fervent pro-Palestinian stance, applying its growing radicalism and willingness to accommodate the use of violence to the Middle East conflict.
As the 1970s saw the rise of Palestinian terrorism as a major source of global violence, the AFSC began to take a disturbingly understanding approach to the issue. A 1972 AFSC pamphlet, Nonviolence: Not First For Export told its readers:
… before we deplore terrorism it is essential for us to recognize fully and clearly whose “terrorism” came first, so that we can assess what is cause and what is effect.
It was clear enough that, in regard to Israel the AFSC had no doubts about whose “terrorism” came first. The pamphlet expressed, for example, deep understanding toward the Palestinian Fedayeen — “those who sacrifice themselves” — terrorists whose main purpose was to infiltrate Israel and kill civilians. …
In 1973, the AFSC called for a U.S. embargo on arms and other aid to Israel, and in 1975 adopted “a formal decision to make the Middle East its major issue.” It quickly opened an office in Israel, installed specialized staff members at regional offices in the U.S., and began advocating for the Palestinians in Israeli and international courts. Israeli officials quickly discovered, however, that the new AFSC representative in Jerusalem was attempting to organize on behalf of the PLO. …
The AFSC has moved ever closer to the Palestinian cause since the 1970s. Today, this is expressed through fieldwork, lobbying, and activism, in particular through the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] movement [against Israel] …
In regard to Hamas’ indiscriminate use of rockets against Israeli civilians, the AFSC simply notes that “it is important to look at the firing of rockets by Palestinian armed groups in context”, since this is “intertwined” with “ongoing Israeli military actions in Gaza”. …
Military actions which are rare, targeted, and defensive only. While the rockets are constant, indiscriminate, and aggressive.
The authors suggest that the Quaker movement now clings to its anti-Zionism as a cause to keep it alive.
It may be that a movement like the Quakers, which has seen its numbers dwindle along with other liberal Protestant denominations, sees anti-Zionism as a last resort; a movement with powerful emotional appeal on which it can draw in order to maximize its power. If so, then it has undone a great deal of the good it once did, and substituted hypocrisy and bad faith instead.
Once a byword for humanitarianism … it has now become, in effect, a brand — one on which the AFSC can trade as it exploits the putative neutrality and pacifism it stands for in order to advance hostility toward Israel and, with its promotion of the “right of return”, an end to Israel itself.
In the end, the AFSC’s story reflects the tensions between pacifism and politics, between aid work and political activism … It demonstrates that small religious movements are susceptible to hijacking by radicals, and suggests that pacifism may inevitably engender its opposite. The organization’s slide has been a long one, and at the moment it shows no sign of or interest in reversing it.
It seems tragically probable that the Left has won. Socialism – or call it statism, or collectivism – has won. All over the Western world it has won. There are no political parties in Europe or the New World that have any chance of coming to power that are not socialist. Those parties that call themselves conservative are no more likely to dismantle the welfare state that every Western nation has become than are the self-declared collectivist parties.
The Left, we repeat, has won throughout the West. And having allied itself with Islam, it is helping that savage force to replace our civilization and its outposts and defenders throughout the whole world.
It is too late to reverse the accumulating consequences of its victory. Sentiment has defeated Reason by achieving political power and using it to coerce conformity.
For all its claims to be rational, Socialism is the political expression of sentiment: the sentiment of egalitarianism, to appease the base emotion of envy.
In its claims to act in the name of compassion; in its determination to humble the more gifted and more accomplished; in its vision of a High Government as lord, father, judge, director, enforcer, provider, punisher; in its mystical doctrine of an ideal existence somewhere in the hereafter that will justify suffering and sacrifice; in its striving for total control; in all this Socialism closely resembles Christianity. Socialism can fairly be called “secular Christianity”.
Though the Enlightenment destroyed the power of the Christian Churches, and to a large extent drained Europe of religious belief, Christianity has its revenge. It has crept back through the romantic idealism of Marxism and its daughter, the welfare state, until once again popes and primates – the ideology’s elite – command obedience. The punishments they will inflict on you for not conforming are not now the rack, the wheel, or the stake. (Or not yet.) Rather, they will tax away your wealth. They will actively seek ways to incriminate and imprison you. They will surreptitiously deny you your rights under the law.
In America, agencies of oppression are now most notoriously the IRS, the EPA, the TSA (see here, here, and here.). Among the government departments which have arrogantly assumed dictatorial powers are those of Justice, Health, and Education. We have been told by a source we have no cause to doubt that law-enforcement agencies throughout the country have been instructed by the socialist administration to investigate, humiliate, accuse, and whenever possible condemn and imprison “the Rich”, and – it seems from some cases we know of – to fine them to the limit of the law. Rich or not , you will find that there’s no aspect of your life that the long fingers of despotism cannot or will not probe and re-direct.
For this calamitous system a growing majority, it seems, will cast their votes time and time again. Democracy itself has brought the one country which was founded on the idea of personal liberty to this condition.
The Left has won in America; it has won in Europe; it has won throughout the West. It prevails in the schools and academies where dissent is discouraged and even penalized. It is enthusiastically supported by the mass media. And those who should oppose it, the Republicans, far from standing for liberty, talk passionately about trivial issues, apparently seeing its mission as a holy crusade to keep people from making their own choices in matters of personal – especially sexual – relations. They would have us all conform to busy-body moral rules laid down by Christians. For in America the old Christianity still holds the minds of millions in thrall. The sacerdotal Christianity of the puritan Right will not be liberty’s champion against the secular Christianity of the tyrannous Left.
The Left thinks in terms of achieving an ideal society. It has ends and goals. The leftist government steers the nation towards a vague vision. The people must be carried on forever towards it, whether they like it or not, while every effort is made to persuade them that the end, the goal, the destination is a paradise. But history tells us that socialism leads only to impoverishment at best and unmitigated hell at worst.
Governments should not have “ends”. They should only have functions. Or rather, one function: to protect the liberty of the people. Government should serve us, not reign over us. With the only other political party likely to gain power in America too feeble to fight, is there no other force that we can look to for taking up the cause of liberty?
The answer ought to be the libertarian movement. If the libertarian movement were genuinely for liberty above all else, for defeating the Left by upholding the Constitution, shrinking government, keeping the state from interfering in the economy, and defending the nation, there would be hope for a future victory of Reason and Freedom.
But the libertarian movement is not a force bringing hope.
Derek Hunter writes at Townhall on The Problem With Libertarians:
There was a time I called myself a Libertarian. And there was a time I was a Libertarian. I just wanted to get government to leave me alone, to leave people alone and to go all crazy and limit itself to doing only that which is spelled out clearly in the Constitution. That was what a Libertarian was. But it’s not anymore.
The word no longer has any meaning, no definition or parameters, certainly no coherent philosophy to speak of. And there’s no one to blame for that except Libertarians themselves.
So what happened?
By not even loosely defining the parameters of a set of beliefs, Libertarians allowed their brand – as it was – to be hijacked by anyone willing to wear the label. They went from the movement for individual responsibility, small government and free markets to a gaggle of misfits who want pot and prostitution legalized and a total non-interventionist foreign policy. …
We have no objection to pot and prostitution being legalized. Why were they ever illegalized? But we hear libertarians defending child pornography; preaching historical revisionism; pretending liberty can dispense with the rule of law. And we object to all that. As for their non-interventionist foreign policy, they seem to think that we need not stir ourselves in our own defense unless America is invaded militarily by a hostile power. It makes us wonder if such libertarians are at all aware of what’s going on in the outer world. Do they think about what it will mean for us when Iran becomes a nuclear power – which it soon will? Have they thought what will happen to this country if there is nuclear war anywhere on the globe? We doubt it.
The great Reason magazine is a wonderful publication filled with great articles, solid journalism you won’t find elsewhere … and a voice that does little more than complain.
Reason is great at highlighting abuses by every level of government, stories ignored by other media outlets. But you won’t find much in the way of philosophy or solutions. …
I love the Cato Institute and have a lot of good friends who work there, and they do offer some good solutions. They just refuse to do anything about them. Cato has a deserved reputation for refusing to play nice with anyone else. When was the last legislative “victory” spearheaded or introduced by Cato? …
On election night 2008, I was at a Reason/America’s Future Foundation (another Libertarian group) election night party in a Chinatown bar in DC. The results of the election were a forgone conclusion, so what better way to mark the night than with a few drinks and friends. Hell, the band played as the Titanic sank, so why not imbibe a bit as the nation hit the iceberg?
It’s not like anyone was thrilled to vote for John McCain that day. But as bad as McCain was (and still is), he was better than Barack Obama. At least that’s a conclusion you’d expect anyone who supported liberty to draw.
Yet that night, as each state was declared for Obama, cheers rose from the crowd. When Obama won Ohio, you would’ve thought you were in a bar in Green Bay and the Packers had just won the Super Bowl. High-fives and laughter filled the room.
It wasn’t as though these self-described Libertarians wanted Obama to win. Well, actually, many of them did. But the majority of them wanted McCain to lose. They wanted Republicans to lose. Their victory was to let the country lose, to get that smug sense of self-satisfaction they were feeling. …
Libertarians have devolved from the pro-liberty wing of the right side of the ledger to the annoying kid who, when he doesn’t get 100 percent of what he wants, takes his ball and goes home. The team he agrees with more than half the time loses to the team he barely agrees with at all, and he cheers …
David Horowitz, writing at the National Review, argues for a united front to be formed against the Left; all factions of Republicans, libertarians, conservatives, coming together under the banner of liberty. But he does not expect the idea to win instant favor.
Naturally, the first reaction of conservatives to this advice will be to reject it. Conservatives do not want to behave like leftists, who see politics and government as a means for transforming the world and the people in it. Temperamentally, conservatives are cautious because they know that the problems the world faces are caused by human beings, not by the social institutions that progressives plan to change. …
Fortunately, the objections of conservatives are not an obstacle to getting behind a unifying idea. The conservative cause already has a moral core; it is just not currently a political theme, the way equality is for Democrats and progressives. But it can be made into one.
Conservatism … is about protecting the constitutional system created by the Founders. But the creation of this constitutional arrangement was a revolutionary act. It provided a political framework to maximize individual freedom and allow citizens to exercise their talents and enjoy the best possible lives.
What conservatism is about is freedom, and this is its natural unifying idea.
Individual freedom and ordered liberty made possible by the imposition of limits on government is the idea that unites conservatives and Republicans, and should be their rallying cry. The idea is fundamentally opposed to the “equality” that is the goal of progressives and Democrats. …
The equality proposed by progressives and Democrats is a declaration of war on individual freedom, and therefore on the American constitutional framework. The steady erosion of that freedom is the consequence of progressives’ political successes. This is the war that divides Left and Right. Conservatives must recognize that it is a war, and prosecute it as a war to defend individual freedom. That should be the unifying idea of the conservative cause. …
The very struggle that inspired the Right in the Cold War era — the battle between tyranny and freedom — is once again staring us in the face, but we are reluctant to name it. We have gone almost silent instead. The silence must end. It is time to connect the battle for individual freedom at home and the defense of our free society abroad, and to make them one. That is the way to advance the conservative message and unify the political forces on which the future of our nation depends.
If conservatives continue to ignore the fact that their opponents approach politics as a religious war, if they fail to organize their own resistance as a moral cause, they will eventually lose the war and everything that depends on it.
Eventually? We fear “eventually” is now.
Are the Christian churches doing anything about the bloody, growing, relentless persecution of Christians in Arab and other Islamic countries?
The Archbishop of Canterbury?
Some at least of the innumerable Christian denominations in America?
The primates of the Russian Orthodox Church?
Are priests and parsons at least preaching against it from their pulpits?
No report or even a rumor of any such sermon has reached our ears.
Why not, we wonder. And then we recall that Christians make a virtue out of being persecuted. But of retribution, judgment of the persecutors, stopping the evil – nothing. Maybe because their man-god, in a sermon on a mountain or a plain, reputedly enjoined them not to resist evil. Thus giving evil a completely free hand.
Surely the United States is doing something about it? At least objecting to it verbally?
What about diplomats and churchmen in the countries where the persecution is happening?
Never! No Western diplomat would risk being caught criticizing anything Muslims do. And Middle Eastern churchmen, who cannot help noticing the dwindling numbers of their flocks and even hear cries in the endless night of their consciences, have found ingenious ways to blame Israel – ie the Jews. It’s an old tradition that they’re comfortable with.
Try Googling the subject. Dig hard and you’ll find some crumbs.
You’ll find Pakistani Christians have protested recently over the massacre of some 85 of their number, killed coming out of church by a couple of Muslim suicide bombers. Some of the protestors have since been beaten up by their Muslim neighbors for daring to complain.
And you can, if you search, find reports of thousands of Nigerian Christians being killed by Muslims in regular weekend raids – and on some week days too. The Muslims – who are passionately against literacy – cut up their victims with machetes and throw small children on to fires. (See also our posts: Christians murdered by Muslims, March 9, 2010; Muhammad’s command, March 30, 2010; Suffering children, May 11, 2011; Victims of religion, October 16, 2011; Acts of religion in Nigeria revisited, October 16, 2011; Christians slaughtered by Muslims in Nigeria, October 17, 2011; Boko Haram, the Muslim terrorists of Nigeria, November 10, 2011; More acts of religion in Nigeria, January 19, 2012; More Christians burnt to death by Muslims, July 11, 2013.)
What about those great humanitarians, the Communists, who fill Western universities and run a few countries? After all, the professed essence of their creed is concern for the underdog. But no, the butchery, the torture, the abduction of children – none of it bothers them. To their way of thinking, Christians can never be authentic underdogs. But all Muslims are, however rich and powerful many of them may be.
What about the media? At least the Christian media surely …?
Here’s a fine example from a Christian website. It starts off promisingly, but soon gets round to denying that the persecutions are due only to religious intolerance and explaining that the police who should protect Christians are unfortunately otherwise engaged; then seems to criticize Western Churches for find a Christian bright side to look on – the mistaken idea that converts can be won from among observers of the tortures and killings – but drops suddenly into pious reflections of its own.
I have been surprised that the media has actually covered many of the church burnings that have taken place. The reason that I am surprised is because in most of the uprisings and protests that have taken place throughout the Middle East, church burning and persecution of Christians has taken place without the media reporting on it. In Egypt’s case, the Muslim Brotherhood has used the crackdown on the protests as an opportunity to loot and burn churches and Christian businesses. The Daily Star, Lebanon’s English language newspaper said attacks on churches coincided with assaults on police stations, leaving most police “pinned down to defend their stations or reinforcing others rather than rushing to the rescue of Christians under attack”.
The reality is that the persecution in Egypt is just the most popular of a long list of these things happening currently all over the world. Statistics show that this year alone 163,000 people will die because of their faith. It is estimated that by 2025 that number could rise to 210,000 per year.
So they’re expecting a further increase in the productivity of this appalling industry? Is this an example of pessimism or optimism?
There is any number of reasons for persecution, and it is not just because of religious differences, although that usually plays a major role. Other reasons include politics, finances, anti-Western bias, and racism. Many times all of these issues are rolled up into one that supports the persecution taking place. There is also a disturbing myth among Western Christians that persecution causes the church to grow. In fact, since persecution in the country of Turkey began the percentage of Christians has dropped from 32% to 0.2%. Syria has seen a drop from 40% to 10%. Iran saw a drop of 15% to 2%. Persecution is something that will always be with the church and will even ramp up as the Great Commission comes to completion, but it is not good. Persecution is the result of a fallen world and a real enemy that must be fought against. This enemy is not flesh and blood, though, so our fight must take place in the heavenly realm through prayer.
Yeah, good idea. That always helps.
The atrocities that we are seeing on television should prompt us to fight the spiritual battle. We must first pray that God would be glorified. God is not surprised by what is taking place in Egypt. We need to pray that the believers and Christian workers there would have faith and use this as an opportunity to share the love of Christ with others. We also need to use this as motivation for ourselves individually to get better informed and learn about the persecuted church so that we would know how to pray. Lastly, I would challenge you to consider going to these places. There is nothing quite like a real, physical hug to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ. It could be your visit and encouraging words that gives strength to the church to continue fighting the good fight.
So if prayer fails, a hug may do it.
There are a few honorable exceptions among journalists. Raymond Ibrahim, the Front Page Magazine columnist, and himself a Copt from Egypt, is keeping the record and writing regularly and fully about the subject. His articles are well worth reading.
And an atheist, Nat Hentoff, writes:
Largely absent from nearly all our sources of news and commentary is deep, continuing coverage, if any, of the horrifying massacres of Christians in Egypt and especially Syria and the burning down of their churches.
The world’s most prominent Christian, Pope Francis, has denounced the violence, but our media has mostly ignored him [on this subject] …
One of the few penetrating protesters of this violence is Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review:
For the first time in 1,600 years, they didn’t pray this past Sunday at the Virgin Mary and Anba Abraam monastery in a village in southern Egypt. Islamists firebombed and looted the monastery, which dates back to the fifth century. For good measure, they destroyed a church inside. They then announced that they would be converting the monastery into a mosque. (Egypt’s Anti-Christian Pogrom, Lowry, National Review, Aug. 20).
… And as for our president: “In his remarks after the bloodshed began in Egypt, President Barack Obama relegated his concern over the anti-Christian attacks to a three-word dependent clause at the end of one sentence.”
As for daily life in Egypt, Morning Star News reported that earlier this month, “a Coptic Christian girl walking home from a Bible class at her church was shot and killed … in Cairo by an unidentified gunman, human rights activists said.” The girl’s uncle, a church pastor, said “he didn’t know for sure if the shooting was religiously motivated but quickly added that violence against Christians ‘seems to be normal’ in Egypt now” (Coptic Christian Girl Shot Dead in Egypt, Morning Star News, Aug. 9).
Meanwhile in Syria, “the nation’s 2 million-plus Christians are caught in the middle of a Muslim war. Jihadist rebels threaten and kidnap them while coercing others to become Muslims. Government troops loyal to President Bashar Assad order them to fight the opposition or face death” (Christians are in the crosshairs of bloody Muslim wars in Mideast, Rowan Scarborough, the Washington Times, Aug. 1).
But in spite of all this, says John Hayward of Human Events, “the international community never seems terribly exercised about the persecution of Christian minorities. … The same advanced democracies that had agonized internal discussions about whether freedom of speech should be curtailed, in order to avoid offending Muslims, don’t seem particularly angry about the destruction of Coptic churches, and other Christian property. Egyptian mobs are targeting Christian property for destruction by writing Islamist graffiti on the walls.”
But, thankfully, there are still those who are angry and vocal about this violence toward Christians. One of these media commentators who persistently denounce the absence of sustained American outrage at this merciless pogrom is Michael Savage, host of the Cumulus Radio program “The Savage Nation”.
Meanwhile, in this democratic country, will our Congress’s cold indifference continue? And will the nation’s religious leaders and activists – not just Christians – be confronted by those they lead? Will they say something and try to save what’s left of those Christian minorities in Egypt and Syria? …
As for the rest of us, are there any street demonstrations coming in front of the United Nations? Or does the very idea of insistent involvement from the U.N. – its reason for being – provoke anything but sardonic laughter at the prospect that its members will do anything lasting at all?
This is from Bruce Bawer’s column at Front Page on 9/11/2013, the twelfth anniversary of the Muslim terrorist attacks on America that killed close on 3,000 people. The writer deplores the lies that have been officially disseminated about the name and nature of the enemy, which was and is Islam with its jihadist ideology. He expresses the indignation that too few others have expressed.
… 9/11 was a moment of utter moral clarity that has been succeeded by twelve years of moral chaos. Twelve years of duplicity, flim-flam, double-dealing, humbug. Twelve years of timorousness, incompetence, impotence.
Thousands of lives have been sacrificed in vain; inconceivable amounts of money have gone to waste. America’s financial security and its international standing have been imperiled. And all for one simple reason: because, from the very beginning, the powers that be, in both political parties, chose to lie about the nature of the enemy we were up against.
In the years before World War II began, Winston Churchill spoke up again and again in the House of Commons about the danger that the Nazis represented. His colleagues responded to his eloquent, passionate warnings with ridicule. He was considered a bore, a nag. Some of his fellow Tories viewed his preoccupation with Hitler as an embarrassment. But he didn’t waver. He knew whereof he spoke, he saw what was coming, and he did what he saw as his duty. …
In his TV address immediately after the attacks …
Bush asked everyone to join him in a moment of silence. But it was not a time to bow one’s head in silence. It was a time to be enraged, to speak the facts firmly and clearly, and to plan appropriate retributive action. It was time for a moment of truth.
But nobody wanted to speak the truth.
Three days later, Bush was at the National Cathedral for an “interfaith service of prayer and remembrance” that had been jointly planned by the Cathedral and the White House. An account of the service at the Cathedral’s website recalls that the participants … “stood side by side — Jew, Muslim, Christian”. … Muzammil H. Siddiqi of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) said a prayer. “Today,” pronounced Bush, in his comments at the service, “we feel what Franklin Roosevelt called the warm courage of national unity. This is a unity of every faith, and every background.”
And there, in that service, just a few days after 9/11, you can see it all – the seeds of everything that has been so terribly, tragically wrong about the last twelve years. I remember watching Siddiqi pray on TV that day and thinking: “OK, who is this guy?” The Investigative Project on Terrorism has since answered that question at length. Siddiqi’s group, the ISNA, is tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, and his mosque hosted a lecture by Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the man behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. In a 2000 speech, Siddiqi said that “America has to learn that because if you remain on the side of injustice, the wrath of God will come.” In 1996, he told followers that “Allah’s rules have to be established in all lands, and all our efforts should lead to that direction.” He’s also praised jihad as “the path” to “honor” and expressed support for the death penalty for gays in Muslim countries.
And yet there he was, in that pulpit, at that service. His presence there was an obscenity; to invite his participation was an act of either utter ignorance or sheer dhimmitude. But it was only the first of many such acts. It was the template for the post-9/11 era, the new American order, during which we were told by everyone, from our president on down, that the 9/11 terrorists had hijacked not only airplanes but their religion as well, which, of course, was a religion of peace. That, we were told, was what Islam means: peace. Those of us who knew better and who dared to say so were vilified as bigots, even as the likes of Saddaqi were celebrated as noble bridge builders.
Before too long, the all-important goal of seeking out and destroying the people who had carried out the 9/11 attacks – and sending a lesson to any others who might be tempted to mount similar operations – morphed into a dubious effort to democratize the Muslim world. For a time, Osama bin Laden himself got lost in the shuffle. In the immediate wake of 9/11, Bush committed the U.S. to capturing him “dead or alive”; just a year later he said offhandedly that getting bin Laden really wasn’t a priority.
Meanwhile much of the political left, driven not by a reasoned critique of the administration’s arguments for war but by a fierce partisan animus that in some cases seemed to border on psychosis, made fools like Cindy Sheehan their spokespeople and equated Bush with Saddam Hussein himself.
The brief interlude of national unity on 9/11 soon became a distant memory. When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad spoke at Columbia University in 2007, the audience of PC students and professors cheered him, a bloodthirsty tyrant – partly to prove that they weren’t Islamophobes, and partly because he was the enemy of their enemy, Bush, and thus, presumably, their friend. Many antiwar groups were little more than fronts for jihadist organizations.
In the name of wartime security, a massive national surveillance apparatus was put in place, and airports were staffed with TSA screeners whose solemn task it was to make sure we weren’t carrying fingernail clippers or overly large tubes of toothpaste. Yet while these clowns were busy patting down wheelchair-bound octogenarians from rural Vermont and babies in diapers, Army officials were issuing commendations to a major at Fort Hood who’d made clear his jihadist sympathies and who, in 2009, ended up slaughtering 13 people in a clear-cut act of Islamic terrorism. Major Hasan explicitly affirmed that he was a jihadist – but his superiors, the media, politicians, and ultimately the judge and lawyers at his trial refused to treat him as one, insisting instead on characterizing his massacre as workplace violence. …
The antiwar movement was ardent, vehement, cutthroat – and evaporated almost instantly the moment Obama succeeded Bush.
The level of disinformation about Islam intensified. Bush, while seeking to strengthen America’s ties to its allies, had massaged the Muslim world with insipid rhetoric about our shared heritage as “people of faith”.
Very bad. But far worse was to come:
Obama, while kicking our allies in the teeth, spun outrageous fantasies about Islam, transforming, in his famous 2009 Cairo speech, fourteen centuries of primitive brutality into a glittering parade of moral, cultural, intellectual, and spiritual triumphs.
From that moment on, everyone should have known that the newly-elected president of the United States was emotionally and consciously on the side of Islam. If the American Left knew it as a body and didn’t care, or positively approved, it covered itself in lasting ignominy, whether it understands that to be the case or not.
As the years after 9/11 went by, other major acts of jihadist terrorism occurred around the world. Each time, the mantra from on high was the same: these crimes had nothing to do with Islam. Government officials, military leaders, authors, filmmakers, journalists, teachers, professors – all played their part in obscuring the truth about Islam. …
Most disgraceful of all is the fact that even American servicemen and women were lied to. Many of those who were sent to Afghanistan and Iraq thought they were going there to protect good Muslims, who embodied the innate peacefulness of Islam, from bad Muslims, who had betrayed the faith of their fathers by claiming to kill in Allah’s name. These soldiers thought they were going to bring freedom, equality, and secular government to people who truly wanted those things and who would be grateful for them. These soldiers went into harm’s way unaware of the vast gulf between their own Western mental world and the Islamic mental world … That was the greatest crime of all: keeping the soldiers on the ground in the dark about the true nature of the enemy. …
Too many Americans today, alas, … are driven by a concept of morality that isn’t about making tough decisions in the name of what’s right but is, rather, about doing whatever makes them feel non-racist, non-judgmental, non-prejudiced. It’s all about image – the way they appear to others, and the way they appear to themselves.
9/11 was a day of heroes and of villains, of stark contrasts between good and evil. Yet how quickly the politicians, journalists, and others in positions of power managed to make a muddle of it all. Instead of witnessing a democratization of the Middle East, we experienced a steady Islamization of the West. Instead of seeing freedom bloom in the Islamic world, we saw a rise in Western censorship and self-censorship on the subject of Islam. Some high-profile figures in the West have been put on trial for speaking the truth about Islam, while others have made sophisticated arguments for limiting freedom of expression and for introducing sharia law into Western courts. …
The last twelve years have underscored the vital importance of real leadership. It’s impossible not to compare the leaders we have had during these years to Churchill – and impossible not to dream of what might have been. Even now, Americans in positions of authority are still telling lies about Islam. As a result, millions of Americans still don’t understand the meaning of what happened that day. For many of them, a mere ten-minute lesson in the basics would make a huge difference. But they’ve never had that ten-minute lesson. Instead they’ve been inundated with untold thousands of hours of disinformation. It doesn’t just hamper their understanding of 9/11; it renders them incapable of fully comprehending, and intelligently addressing, every new challenge that comes along in the Muslim world, such as the question of whether the U.S. should bomb Syrian government installations – thus effectively allying itself with some of the very people who attacked us on 9/11 – or should, rather, focus its energies on trying to protect what is left of the free West from the ever-spreading toxin of Islamic rage.
The Darkness of This World
Our Gnostic Age
New Age religion is – according to taste and judgment – a rich diversity of “spiritualities”, or a junk-heap of irrationalities.
It arose in the West as an unplanned rejection movement against reason, science, capitalism, Western political institutions and cultural norms, often to the point of antinomianism. It started as a counter-culture, but many of its beliefs and practices have come to be accepted as normal. Most obviously it impacts the lives of almost everyone in developed countries through Environmentalism, one of the most successful of its superstitions.
New Age includes mythical, mystical, and simply fantastical cult ingredients. Its theorists draw on the occult and witchcraft; on religions of the Far East ; on the modern mystic faith of psycho-analysis (in particular the theories of C. G. Jung); on Richard Wagner’s mythology and mysticism ; on UFO legends; on “alternative” Western religious cults and systems – Scientology, Mormonism, Hare Krishna, Shamanism, pop-Kabala, Environmentalism. Among its assorted mysticisms and occultisms are: astrology ; fortune telling by tarot cards, I Ching, Ouija boards; spirit guides; processes of faith healing or imaginary empowerment through the use of crystals and pyramids; chanting, dancing, meditation, Yoga exercises. It was partly inspired by the hundred-plus years old, Orient-derived, Theosophy of Madame Blavatsky, and its offshoots, including the Anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner with their theories of education, art, agriculture, and health.
As a religion rather than a life-style movement – which it has primarily become – New Age is loosely likened to the Gnostic sects of the 2nd century and the Middle Ages because it is mystical, esoteric, and challenging to the “revealed” religions. There are also specific similarities.
First, like the Gnostics of old, New Age acolytes revile the “God of the bible” (whatever they conceive him to be – Jehovah, “God the Father”, or the Trinity), and they “know” the “true God” by innate knowledge.
Second, as in the Gnostic cults, there is a hierarchy of classes in New Age doctrine. The divisions are according to “spiritual” ability. The highest class is that of the adepts, the Masters, who have attained “cosmic consciousness”. They know they possess the innate knowledge (gnosis) of the real God. Below them are Disciples, whose minds are open to New Age teaching but have yet to master it. At the bottom are the rest, “animal men”, unenlightened by the faith.
Third, those who have the gift – the Masters – can release, or bring to consciousness, or make effective, or bring into being (all of those effects are stated or implied at different times), the “divinity” they “know” is within them by achieving a state of ecstasy. And like the Gnostics of old, they do this by taking drugs and indulging in sexual libertinism. Each New Age participant’s “divine blood” asserts itself as the right guide to human thought and action. In a New Age orgy, “group-consciousness” reveals itself and exerts its will.
Fourth, in New Age as in old Gnosticism, believers rebel against ethical norms by reversing conventional values: what is generally accepted as good is held to be bad, and vice versa.
But in one important respect there is a difference between old Gnosticism and New Age. To almost all the old Gnostics, this earth and everything on it (except their inner spark of Knowledge) was evil, the creation of an evil God, so they were defying evil by doing what the ignorant masses called sinning; defiling their bodies to express scorn for the dirt they were made of . But New Age holds the earth sacred, and sensual experience is a sacrament in itself, often the supreme sacrament.
The old Gnostics, to defy the Creator God, would destroy his earth to save man – or at least themselves. The new Gnostics claim to be God, at least potentially, and would destroy man – or at least a lot of other people – to save the earth .
Being a hotch-potch of beliefs – belief in almost anything that reason rejects – New Age religion inevitably contains contradictions. For instance, while some of its authoritative theorists hold that the divine dwells within the human species (even in the “animal men”, the general theory implies) , the earth is an external and separate goddess, “Mother Earth”, identical to her whom the ancient Greeks called Gaia. She has suffered “ecological wounds” through human industrial activity (thus the specie-sin of “anthropogenic global warming”), and she needs to be “healed”.
These different attitudes to nature between the ancient and the new cults entail different attitudes to sex. To the ancient Gnostics, everything material, including the human body, was evil, so they indulged in sacramental orgies of conventionally forbidden sex in order to defy the Creator God of this world and his commandments. But New Age orgies – similarly considered to be sacraments – are performed as acts of Earth worship. They celebrate the physical, not scorn it.  Sensual pleasure is a good in itself. The performance of communal rituals – chanting, dancing, sado-masochistic sex, all-gender-inclusive sex (with male homosexuality particularly stressed by Matthew Fox ) – advances the coming into being of a new synthesized God: “I” become God; “we” become God; Man, God, and Nature become One, and the one is the universal God, the “Cosmic Christ”.
New Age writing is full of vapid declarations expressed with stirring passion rather than semantic sense. It is verbal impressionism. Matthew Fox, for instance – one of the most widely read New Age writers, blends “the Cosmic Christ” with “Mother Earth”. The Cosmic Christ is an eternal Being who became incarnate in Jesus – so far in tune with at least some long-established Christianities – but is also (if not exactly “incarnate” by the actual meaning of the word, “made flesh”), one with Mother Earth. She is crucified like Jesus; and as such she is a symbol of the incarnated Cosmic Christ, or of the Cosmic Christ as Jesus crucified; or Jesus crucified is a symbol of Mother Earth crucified:
The appropriate symbol of the Cosmic Christ who became incarnate in Jesus is that of Jesus as Mother Earth crucified yet rising daily … like Jesus, she rises from her tomb every day [so not quite like Jesus] … wounded, yet rising, Mother Earth blesses us each day. 
New Age has had an effect on conventional religious institutions. Some of the established churches, Catholic and Protestant, have picked out bits from New Age to add flavor to their own offerings  – which may indicate how weary, stale, flat and washed out they must feel their own faiths to be. As for social and political effects, New Age cults contribute cumulatively to the character of the times, but most of them have had little or no effect on major events.
There are two exceptions. One is Liberation Theology (an emulsion of two opiates of the people, Marxism and Catholicism), which has had an historical effect in South America as an ideological cause of the rise of terrorist organizations.
Marxism comes into our purview. New Age harmonizes with Marxism easily, both being collectivist ideologies. In almost all its manifestations, New Age requires group practice. Its ultimate vision is of a single shared human consciousness (rather like the imaginary alien species called the Borg in Star Trek, whose every individual is one with the “hive mind”). The Catholic writer Teilhard de Chardin had a strong influence on New Age theory. In his book The Future of Man, he foresees “the end of a ‘thinking species’; not disintegration and death, but a new breakthrough and a rebirth, this time outside Time and Space. Man would at some future time ‘form a single consciousness’.”  ). New Age goes further yet: humanity will share its communal consciousness with the Earth. 
Marxism and magic (and pacifism and feminism), came together in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), starting in Britain in 1958 and continuing through the next three decades. Most of the CND protestors did not know that their leaders received funding from the USSR; they were simply the “useful idiots” of Lenin’s famous phrase. In the early 1980s a Women’s Peace Camp was set up on Greenham Common in Berkshire to protest against NATO cruise missiles being deployed at the RAF base situated there. The women would hold up mirrors to “reflect the evil” of the weapons back over the fence.
The other exception is Environmentalism, which has entranced half the population of the First World and pesters the whole human race.
Other than these, New Age cults, though numerous, are for the most part comparatively harmless and few will be mentioned in these essays. Most New Age leaders and followers don’t think of themselves as doing evil, only redefining what good is. Homosexuality was bad until the 1960s; so to New Age devotees it was super-good. Alternative medical practices were bad; so to New Age devotees they were super-good. One of the most egregious examples of New Age success, of how it has penetrated even some institutions that by their nature should be impregnable to cults of unreason, is that practitioners of “alternative medicine” are working alongside physicians and surgeons in Western hospitals. They may do harm, but they probably do not intend to.
What these essays are concerned with is the deliberate choosing of evil. They are not about common crime, nor the immoral things everybody does from time to time. They are about evil intended as such, and the intended evil is the willful harming of human beings. The doing of it is advocated by a self-elected elite – intellectuals who claim to have a vision beyond the understanding of the rest of us – with verbal violence to scandalize the conventional. They often rationalize it with sophisticated philosophical excuses, arguing for instance that it is necessary for the attainment of a “higher good” for the whole human race, including the uncomprehending masses. The “higher good” is different now, the excuses more sophisticated, more subtle and complicated than they were for the Gnostics of old. The sins are less ingenuous, the evil more profound and more extensive. In sum, the new Gnostics are far more dangerous and destructive than the old.
Not only is evil preached, simulated in theatre or performance art, solemnly celebrated in religious or quasi-religious ceremonies, it is also done in reality. While most of its priests and shamans confine themselves to gestures and make-believe, others do it.
Jillian Becker September 5, 2013
1. The re-interpreted oriental religions are chiefly Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, and Hinduism, and in particular the doctrine of reincarnation. The re-interpretations were brought to the West by Indian gurus (such the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, popularized by The Beatles). Some Westerners took themselves to the East to garner its wisdoms and returned home with a new name and guru status (such as Richard Alpert, a Bostonian psychologist who journeyed to India and returned as Guru Ram Dass – see Understanding the New Age by Russell Chandler, Word Inc., Dallas, Texas, 1988, p 63).
2. Wagner’s myths – Lohengrin, Siegfried, Parsifal – were superficially Christian and his heroes Christ-like redeemers. But he dilates at length in his massive prose writings on what is wrong with Christianity and Judaism, especially Judaism and even more especially Jews. He was of the opinion that Jews could only be redeemed by annihilating themselves. The Germans, he declared, needed to be “emancipated from the Jews”; “redeemed” from them by a real-life Parsifal. He praised pre-Christian polytheism. He praised the ancient Greeks for being “intuitive” – which means he loved the savage rites of their Dionysus worship, but ignored their fertile use of reason, their invention of logic and science. Reason, he opined, was a Jewish thing. He drew mostly on Nordic legends, which he considered quintessentially German. Among the ideas he passionately promoted were these: German heroes act out of feeling, not reason, being moved by “the god within”; the only god dwells within us and within nature; there is a “world spirit”, the quintessence of Being, which is within both Man (Germans, that is) and nature; “We are God” and “to become God we need only instinctive Knowledge of the Self” – the indwelling divinity; the taking of hashish releases the feeling of being divine. As poet-priest and prophet, he looked to the coming of a German leader – a Führer – who would mount a “destructive revolution to destroy our civilization”, a civilization which he despised as weak, unheroic, built by Jews. He died before his prophesied Führer was born, but Hitler was intensely inspired by Wagner’s operas from the age of twelve, when he saw one for the first time. It was Lohengrin. And there is a portrait of Hitler as Lohengrin, not (disappointingly) mounted ludicrously on a swan as the knight is in the opera, but on a black horse, in white Medieval armor, carrying the Nazi flag, his head in profile, scowling, unmistakable with his little brushy mustache.) The echoes of Wagner’s ideas in New Age are loud and clear. To hear a full discussion of them, go to a YouTube video titled: Wagner’s Musical Religion: Art, Politics, Genocide, in which two authorities on Wagner, Margaret Brearley and Robert Wistrich, lecture on his life and works and quote his words.
3. Astrology and the signs of the zodiac feature large among New Age superstitions. The New Age is also called “The Age of Aquarius”.
4. One exception among the old Gnostics was Epiphanes. He contradicted the usual Gnostic belief that this world is evil. All creation, he taught, belongs to all mankind. In his rituals, sexual intercourse was performed publicly as a sacred rite and called a love-feast. Drugs, especially aphrodisiacs, were routinely used. When he died at the age of 17, the islanders of Cephalonia, where his mother came from, built a temple to him and proclaimed him a god. His memory was also honored there with a museum which housed the many books he had found time to write in his short life. We have been protected from them by the Christian Church; but the Church Father, Clement of Alexandria, who was allowed to read them before they were destroyed, has left us brief summaries of their contents. Clement’s account shows Epiphanes to have been full of “back to nature” idealism; a lover of animals; an aesthete moved by the beauty of the earth and the starry skies, rather than one who condemned this world as a place of darkness. God lets the light of the sun and the stars, Epiphanes said, fall equally on all human beings. Even the beasts are blessed by the light. Each man and beast takes his enjoyment of it without depleting it for any other. The sun causes the earth to be fruitful and the fruits of the earth are for all. Beasts are exemplars of communitarian life, and being so they are righteous. Together they graze, equal, harmonious, and innocent. And so would we be had not the Law made transgression possible. The Law “nibbled away” the fellowship of nature. Righteousness lies in fellowship and equality, in sharing and caring, which is to say in mutual and general love. Into every male God put vigorous and impetuous desire for the sake of the continuance of the human race. No law can take that away. It is right and good for a man to enjoy sexually every woman he desires. That a law should say ‘Thou shalt not covet’ is laughable. And the very idea of marriage is absurd since all women naturally belong to all men. (For more see Erotic religion, The Atheist Conservative, January 24 2010.)
5. The anti-human campaign among Environmentalists will be the subject of a later essay.
6. In some texts it is “within everything”.
7. “All worship leaders need to be instructed … in body awareness and awakening’.” The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance by Matthew Fox, Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1988, pp 216f – quoted in Matthew Fox and the Cosmic Christ, an essay by Margaret Brearley in Anvil, Vol. 9, No 1, 1992, p 44. I have relied on Dr Brearley’s meticulous scholarship, and with her permission taken my examples from her papers on New Age – and Matthew Fox in particular – so avoiding the punitive labor of reading more than a very few New Age texts myself. Most of the words and phrases marked as quotations come from this source.
8. “In practice Fox demands: worship in circles, ‘preferably on the soil of Mother Earth’ (Fox p 217); the centrality of Eros; and the breaking of divisions between body and mind using ‘rituals of the native peoples’. These would include sweat lodges in every church and synagogue, Sun dances with drumming, moon rituals, drinking the ‘blood of the cosmos’ and radically replacing the existing liturgical calendar. Fox seriously suggests, for example, that each Sunday could be devoted to celebrating a different organ of the body.” (Brearley, p 46]. “Fox cites the Hindu god Shiva, the creator and destroyer [as saying]: ‘The phallos is identical with me …. The phallos is … the symbol of the god’, and adds: ‘This is Cosmic Christ language …. There alone will men recover active respect and reverence for their own amazing powers’ (p 176). Fox teaches that one must ‘recover the sense of sacred phallos … by way of drumming, dancing and entering into the irrational processes … puberty rites … celebrating one’s chthonic wholeness in the company of male adults’ (p 177). ‘Love beds are altars’ (p 177) and the sense of lust should be recovered as power and therefore as virtue: ‘it takes courage to be lustful.’ (p 178) Mystical sexuality is an ‘important base for cultural renewal and personal spiritual grounding’ (p 179). … ‘[G]ay people need to lead straight people.’” (Brearley p 45)
9. Fox p 145 (Brearley p 44)
10. Although Matthew Fox writes such predictions as this: “Christianity as we know it now will not survive …. The issue is the survival … of Mother Earth” (Fox p 149) [Brearley 54], New Age doctrine has made “inroads into the Protestant and Catholic Church worldwide” and “creation liturgies inspired by creation spirituality are increasingly being used in cathedrals and churches”. (Brearley p 53)
11. Teilhard de Chardin, trs. N. Denny, The Future of Man, Collins, London 1969 p 302 (Brearley p 46).
12. Another leading New Age writer and spirit medium, David Spangler, also visualizes a “planetary spirituality” which “will be holistic, affirming interconnectedness and Gaia; it will be androgynous, mystical, global – with ‘world communion’ -, and will seek synthesis of person and planet. Above all, the New Age is a spirit, a ‘presence made up of the collective spirit of humanity, and the spirit of our world, of Gaia’.” [D. Spangler, Reflections on the Christ, Findhorn Publications, Findhorn 1981, p.84. [Brearley p 52]
Continuing our series on contemporary Gnosticism, here is the second essay under the title The Darkness of This World. The first can be found here.
The Darkness of This World
Our Gnostic Age
The Gnostic in ancient, medieval, and modern times, rejects “this world”.
To the Gnostic of the early centuries C.E., “this world” was the physical earth and everything on it, all created by an inferior god. He knew that somewhere, elsewhere, there was something immeasurably better, purely good, because he had a minute spark within him – gifted to him by a higher source of existence who was Goodness itself – which informed him through his intuition that it was so. This inner spark was his Gnosis (Knowledge). Having it, he was on to the scam that nature and the ignorant mass of mankind tried to put over on him. So he fought against the world, a saintly warrior for the Good. He fought against nature by defying it – refusing to beget children; and against civilization by reversing its values – declaring everything commonly believed good to be evil, and everything commonly believed evil to be good. His reward lay beyond and above this world. 
To the Gnostic of the Middle Ages, “this world” was not only this earth but also the Catholic (Universal) Church. Informed by that same Gnosis which guided the Gnostic of antiquity from within, he fought against Catholic doctrine and practice with the same refusals and reversals. To him everything the Church believed and did was evil; its priests were the servants of Hell. The Church would sniff him out, hunt him down, destroy his body with fire, but he would rise after death to the realm of the Good. 
To the Gnostic of our era, “this world” is the political-economic system of the Western nation-state. As a warrior for a never-yet-realized reign of the Good on this earth, he fights against the established order in theory and practice. He holds the values honored by custom and defended by law to be evil; the values they abhor to be good. He does not want to reform or improve the system; he wants it wholly overthrown. He is a revolutionary. He feels passionately that “this world” needs to be transformed.
Recently commentators have been writing about traditional Western values being inverted.
We live in a backwards world in which the decent are regarded as indecent, defenders of western institutions are considered as terrorists, correct naming is derogated and often prosecuted as slander and “hate speech”, violence is justified if committed by our enemies, unseasonable cold weather is interpreted as an infallible sign of global warming … It is a world in which Iran chairs the UN Conference on Disarmament; and Syria  was recently a member of the United Nations Human Rights Committee. … We have, for the most part, colluded in an agreement that upside-down down is right-side-up, backwards is forwards, and madness is sanity … 
In the essay quoted, David Solway cites a book by Melanie Phillips (whom I much admire for her courageous and percipient defense of many a just cause). It is titled The World Turned Upside Down.  She believes that the topsy-turviness – which she deplores – results from a loss of faith in “God” and detachment from the West’s “Judeo-Christian roots”. I have no doubt that Europe is becoming less religious. But I do not think Christianity (which is what is generally meant by “Judeo-Christian roots”) was good for the West, or its values ideal. Nor are they the values that are being inverted. The values that the Gnostic revolutionary scorns are those of the Enlightenment.
Enlightenment thinking was rational, skeptical, and humane. Gnostic ideology is emotional, dogmatic, and cruel.
Daniel Greenfield – the editor and writer chiefly responsible for the sustained excellence of Front Page Magazine – comments on a Time Magazine article typical of topsy-turvy thinking among media pundits:
News coverage has nothing to do with reality. Instead it is a deliberate inversion of reality in which the murderers are the heroes and the greatest threat comes from their victims. The bad guys are the good guys. The good guys are the bad guys. The slavery of Islam is freedom. The freedom of America and Israel is slavery because it has to be defended against the slavery of Islam. 
Such defiance of civilized values arose as a significant historical factor with the Romantic movement around the middle of the 18th century. The Romantics hated the Industrial Revolution, its “dark satanic mills”, its noise and ugliness. They did not care if it made life better for most people – which it did, however ugly and squalid living conditions were at first for the workers in the industrial cities. The Romantic movement was a backlash against the Enlightenment, against scientific and technological advance, against capitalism, against reality. Romantics dreamt of utopias: beautiful societies consisting of ideal human beings who would live for the happiness of their fellow creatures and share all material goods. And all they had to do to win such a world was, they believed, to destroy the world they lived in. Merciless brutality to living people would be justified by the creation of a heaven on earth inhabited by imaginary angelic beings.
Socialism, Communism, Nazism, Alinskyism, Environmentalism … all revolutionary ideologies spawned by the Romantic rebellion against the Enlightenment.
How do the revolutionaries know that after vast destruction their beautiful new world will be born? They know it. They are the Gnostics of the modern age.
They made revolutions in the twentieth century, whether by constitutional process or by violence. They took the reins of power and set about creating their new worlds, which lasted for years here and decades there; and wherever their utopias were, and in the name of whichever ideology they were governed, they stand out as exceptionally marked by terror, pain, cruelty, despair and death.
But the idealists learnt no lesson from the failure of their terrible experiments. The dreamers did not lose their faith. Instead of fading away, withered by disgust and contempt, the faith spread, and is becoming so prevalent that some observers – I among them – see it now as characterizing the West.
The Gnostics who dream on of destroying our civilization should not be ignored. What have they said and done? What are they saying now? We must pay attention. They mean it.
Jillian Becker July 14, 2013
1.These are the essays on ancient Gnostic sects in the The Atheist Conservative: How a rich shipowner affected Christianity, January 2, 2010 (on Marcion); Erotic religion, January 24, 2010 (on Carpocrates and Epiphanes); The father of all heresy, February 23, 2010 (on Simon Magus and Menander); Mani and Manicheism, May 9, 2010; Valentinus, February 14, 2011; Holy snakes, March 24, 2013 (on the Ophites); The sinning Jesus, the laughing Christ, and the Big Bang of Basilides, April 6, 2013. See also Gnosticism: what is it?, March 3, 2013.
2. These are the essays on Gnosticism in the Middle Ages: Hot in the land of Hum, October 14, 2010 (on the Bugomils); The heretics of Languedoc, May 1, 2011 (on the Cathars). In the Bugomils’ case, their resistance was maintained against both the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.
3. Iran is working to become a nuclear-armed power, and has threatened Israel with total destruction.
4. The Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, like his father before him, is notorious for the oppression, torture, and mass killing of tens of thousands of his own people.
5. David Solway, Living in a Backwards World, frontpagemag.com, July 2, 2013.
6. The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle Over God, Truth and Power, by Melanie Phillips, Encounter Books, New York, 2010.
7. Daniel Greenfield, Time Mag: Muslim Terror No, Buddhist Terror Yes, in The Point, frontpagemag.com, July 11, 2013.
Many people had begun queuing up for free tickets to Hawking’s 8:00 p.m lecture, titled “The Origin of the Universe,” 12 hours earlier. By 6:00 p.m. local time, the line was about a quarter-mile long.
People want to know How All That Is Came To Be. They burn to know – and always have. Needing a theory, and knowing nothing, they invented creator gods.
NBC News reports:
Our universe didn’t need any divine help to burst into being … Stephen Hawking told a packed house … at the California Institute of Technology [April 16, 2013]. …
A second auditorium and a Jumbotron*-equipped lawn, which itself was jammed with an estimated 1,000 viewers, were needed to handle the crowd. At least one person was observed offering $1,000 for a ticket, with no success.
Stephen Hawking [said] that many people still seek a divine solution to counter the theories of curious physicists, and at one point, he quipped, “What was God doing before the divine creation? Was he preparing hell for people who asked such questions?”
… Hawking gave a quick review of [several] scientific cosmological explanations, including Fred Hoyle and Thomas Gold’s steady-state theory. This idea hypothesizes that there is no beginning and no end and that galaxies continue to form from spontaneously created matter.
Hawking said this theory and several other ideas don’t hold up, citing recent observations by space telescopes and other instruments.
This report is very much for the non-scientist. But many of us non-scientists could stand a little more science.** What observations? How did they demolish the steady-state theory? Hawking must have said how, but either NBC couldn’t follow the explanation or thinks its audience couldn’t.
The NBC report of the lecture continues:
After giving a brief historical background on relativistic physics and cosmology, Hawking discussed the idea of a repeating Big Bang. He noted that in the 1980s, he and physicist Roger Penrose proved the universe could not “bounce” when it contracted, as had been theorized.
Therefore, time began at the moment of singularity, and this has likely occurred only once, Hawking said. The age of the universe — now believed to be about 13.8 billion years — fits that model, as the number and maturity of observed galaxies seem to fit in the general scheme. …
Hawking noted that in the 1980s, around the time he released a paper discussing the moment the universe was born, Pope John Paul II admonished the scientific establishment against studying the moment of creation, as it was holy.
“I was glad not to be thrown into an inquisition,” Hawking joked.
He closed by outlining “M-theory,” which is based partly on ideas put forward years ago by another famed physicist, Caltech’s Richard Feynman. Hawking sees that theory as the only big idea that really explains what he has observed.
M-theory posits that multiple universes are created out of nothing, Hawking explained, with many possible histories and many possible states of existence. In only a few of these states would life be possible, and in fewer still could something like humanity exist.
(There seems to be a contradiction between “M-theory” and the “moment of singularity” which “likely occurred only once”, in both of which Hawking is said to believe. This is probably a result of poor reporting. And the word “created” must be a mistake.)
Hawking mentioned that he felt fortunate to be living in this state of existence.
And that is a remarkable statement, considering how hard his life has been, afflicted for 50 years by a motor neurone disease which keeps him confined to a wheel-chair and has deprived him of the ability to speak so that he communicates through a speech-generating machine. It prompts us to add a footnote to this post:
There’s a one and one only chance of coming into existence for each human being. So we think it deplorable that in the US, since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, some 56,000,ooo conceived individuals have been aborted. We are not wholly against abortion, but we think it should be rare, performed early in the period of gestation – preferably before 16 weeks – and only for good reason, such as: the pregnancy is the result of rape; the mother’s life is in danger because of the pregnancy and the baby cannot be saved; the child will undoubtedly be born to incurable suffering. And that “undoubtedly” sets an almost insuperable barrier to judgment, in the light of Stephen Hawking’s case.
*From Wikipedia: A Jumbotron (sometimes called “Jumbovision”) is a large-screen television using technology developed by Sony, typically used in sports stadiums and concert venues to show close up shots of the event.
** A little more science is to be found in a 2010 NBC report, discussing Hawking’s book The Grand Design, here. The reporter seems unimpressed and unconvinced. We suspect him of being a believer in the supernatural.
This essay continues our series on obscure and lost religions, Gnostic cults in particular. It follows on these: Thus, more or less, spake Zarathustra, May 26, 2009 (on Zoroastrianism); How a rich shipowner affected Christianity, January 2, 2010 (on Marcion); Erotic religion, January 24, 2010 (on Carpocrates and Epiphanes); The father of all heresy, February 23, 2010 (on Simon Magus, and Menander); Yezidis and Mandeans, April 4, 2010; Mani and Manicheism, May 9, 2010; Hot in the land of Hum, October 14, 2010 (on the Bugomils); Valentinus, February 14, 2011; The heretics of Languedoc, May 1, 2011 (on the Cathars); Gnosticism: what is it?, March 3, 2013; Holy snakes, March 24, 2013 (on the Ophites).
Chronologically and ideologically, Basilides and his son Isadorus followed Simon Magus – whom the Catholic Church Fathers called “the father of all heresy” – and Simon’s disciple and successor Menander. Our short account of Menander and his sect was added recently to the post titled “The father of all heresy”.
Basilides and Isadorus
Simon Magus, his disciple Menander, and their respective sects came to their ends. But the Gnosis of Simon Magus survived and developed as the 2nd century CE wore on. Menander was succeeded by his disciple Basilides, who, in his turn, improved the mystic vision of his master into something richer and stranger, and with it won a large and enthusiastic following in North Africa, Spain, and even – it has been contended – in Britain. It is probable that he was the first thinker to propound a theory of the Big Bang – though he did not call it that. He might also have been the first to propound a theory of the causes of what nowadays is called “anti-Semitism”. And, uniquely, he proposed that Jesus sinned.
Basilides was born in Antioch (Syria) and began teaching in 117 CE. Jewish by birth, he was won over by the Gnosis of Menander. When he was ready to lead a following of his own, he went abroad – perhaps because it is always hard to be a prophet in one’s own land. He established his name as a Gnostic leader in Alexandria.
There are many and various scandalous stories about the beliefs and practices of Basilides recorded by the Church Fathers – Origen and Clement of Alexandria among others – and for the most part they are not consistent with each other. They broadly agree, however, on the Gnostic type of the Basilidean teachings, and they are all startling, elaborate, fantastic (in the true meaning of the word), and preposterous. We cannot know which of them is accurately attributed, for not one of Basilides’s own books has survived. There were many of them, including 24 volumes of commentaries on the four canonical gospels – although in public he deplored book-learning, and preached the value of being without it. Practicing in secret what he outspokenly preached against, he wrote under a number of pseudonyms, among them Cham, Barcabbas, Barcoph and Parchor. A certain treatise was attributed to him titled On the Additional Soul. Christian critics who read it before they had it destroyed, say that it expounded the idea that men have, in addition to a First Soul that is the gift of the supreme Father, another with which they have been cursed by a lower power. The second soul is manifest in the passions which drag men down into sin.
By some accounts, Basilides was himself a man of high moral principle, and it was his followers who turned, against his teaching, to libertinism. Some stated that libertinism was permitted or even enjoined by Basilides for those who attained perfection, because a Perfect (or Pneumatic) cannot sin no matter what he does. They say his sect was not exclusive. All men and women were welcome to join it, even those who came from the cloddish majority called the Hylics. An initiate had to prove his seriousness of intent by not uttering a word for five years (a practice derived perhaps from the school of Pythagoras). A successful candidate might then, by striving to find and strengthen the spark of gnosis within him, particularly by participating in the sacramental rites, or orgies, for which uninhibited sexual self-indulgence was prescribed, rise to join the Psychics, in whom the light of Gnosis was kindled if yet but dimly; and a Psychic, with luck and spiritual labour, conscientious ritual defiance of all common sexual taboos, and presumably some manifest conviction that the Gnosis was strong within him, rise to be accepted among the Pneumatics, who alone were the true Gnostics. Basilides spoke of the “faith” of the Psychics, the “gnosis” of the Pneumatics. He also used the word Noesis – derived from Nous – to explain what the Gnosis was: an intuitive certainty of understanding. All who did not achieve or were not gifted with the experience of Gnosis were tied to the earth by their passions, literally their “attachments”, and each was destined to be reborn again and again (an idea which might have come, by many a winding path, from India), until in some eventual incarnation the true light of Gnosis broke within him.
Others say Basilides was himself a libertine and charlatan in the style of Simon Magus: that he practised the magic arts, used drugs to assist his promiscuous seductions, and prescribed sexual licentiousness. He was adept at Numerology – finding magical significance in words and names according to numbers held to be the equivalent of letters. Far from welcoming all who would join him, he was an extreme elitist, regarding only those gifted with the Gnosis as “true human beings”; the rest of humankind as “of no more worth than pigs or dogs”. This version of his nature is improbable, if he really did acquire the vast following that many historians grant him.
By all accounts Basilides propounded an elaborate and voluminous theogony, but there are differing accounts of it. Broadly speaking, it was along these lines: At the top was the First Principle, the Source, who was God the Father and the Ultimate Truth. He had another, secret name, imparted only to the Pneumatics, who alone were enlightened enough by the inner spark of Gnosis to recognise the truth and endure the implication of so terrible a revelation: for this secret name of God was – Nothing.
Something comes out of nothing: the most insubstantial of things, but something. A thought, the archetype of a thought, Thought itself. It emanated from Nothing. Nothing was a thought-emanator by its nature, though it was a negative, a not-nature. So Nous was the First Emanation – or (according to other early researchers) the Logos. Volumes have been written about the meaning of Nous and Logos in Greek philosophy. In the New Testament, the Logos is translated as “the Word”. Nous or Logos, either will do for our outline if they’re both taken to mean “the Intellectual Principle”.
Then comes the Second Emanation. Not from Nothing, but from the First Emanation. Thus, Nous or Logos emanated Phronesis (Prudence). And Phronesis emanated two beings, Sophia (Wisdom) and Dynamis (Power). Sophia was the feminine, passive, conceiving principle; Dynamis the masculine, active, effecting principle. Sophia and Dynamis generated lesser Powers, Principalities, and Angels – the hosts of heaven collectively called the Aeons – who themselves made the First Heaven and generated more Aeons, who made the Second Heaven and generated yet more Aeons, who made the Third Heaven … and so on through 365 heavens, and then a last generation of Aeons made this world and created mankind.
By some accounts, not only Sophia and Dynamis, but every Aeon had its anti-type, as male and female are anti-types. As in many other Gnostic theogonies, Aeon and anti-Aeon descend from their begetters in pairs which are called szyzygies.
To the mystics who described such visions of the beginning of things, there was an important difference between emanating – explained by the analogy of the sun giving out its light, which light was not the same thing as the sun though inseparable from it – and generating, by which immaterial offspring were spiritually begotten as separate beings. Creating was different again, it being the means by which the first human pair were made. The lowest Aeons could create material things, including human bodies, but the human spirit had to come from much higher in the hierarchy of spiritual beings. In the Basilidean scheme – some say – it came directly from God the Father himself. Others assert that Basilides abhorred the idea that God emanated anything, preferring rather to say “God spoke and it was”.
An alternative account of the Basilidean creation myth starts the same way but introduces a new idea. Before time began there was Nothing, which was absolutely nothing, nothing whatsoever. Even to call it nothing is to assert something about it that is too positive. It was an absence. It was God Non-Existent. It was God Non-Existent, without thought, without impulse, without desire. Yet because we must tell with words what words are inadequate to tell, we must say that this Nothing had or ‘spoke’ a thought without willing to do so, and the thought was to make a world. What was made in that first instant was a world-seed (analogous to the infinitesimally small, infinitely dense something which, in the “Big Bang” theory, expanded to become the universe). Thus the Non-Existent God made a Not-Yet-Existing-World from non-existence, by bringing into being a single seed which contained all of which the universe consists: not only this material World and everything in it, but also the heavens and the Divine.
The implication of this account is that matter, having the same origin as the Divine, is not evil in the theory of Basilides as it is in most other Gnostic theories. Basilides and his son Isadorus were both reputed to “love nature”, unlike the Gnostic teachers in whose schemata nature is the creation of an evil god. And as Basilides had a son, and as he did not consider all things material including human flesh to be evil, it would be reasonable to suppose that he was not ideologically against marriage, reproductive copulation, and the begetting of children as were other Gnostics.
Evil does exist in the Basilidean schema, however, in the lower heavens. Among the Aeons there are two Lesser Rulers of the spheres of the fixed stars and the 7 planets, but neither of them made or rules this world (which came into existence when the world-seed expanded). The Higher Ruler (not to be identified with the highest god Nothing) abides in an upper heaven, the Ogdoad (meaning “the eightfold”); the Lower Ruler beneath him in the Hebdomad (“the sevenfold”). The Lower Ruler is a Bad Angel. He has the power to inflict suffering on mankind, and this he does.
In time this World became peopled, and the peoples divided into nations. Then each of the lowest Aeons chose a nation for his own. The chief Aeon among them, the Lower Ruler, Lord of the Hebdoad, chose the Jews, and wished to subject all other nations to them, but the other Aeons opposed him, so all nations are opposed to his nation: all are opposed to the Jews.
International strife was only one of the afflictions visited on mankind by this Lord. It was he who sent the Law to the Jews through Moses. All the prophets before the Christ believed – mistakenly, as did Moses himself – that the Law came from God the Father. The Law was a heavy burden on suffering mankind (the whole of which at this point becomes oddly identified with the Jews, the bad nation who alone were subject to the Law of Moses). After long ages the true God took pity on the human race, and to salve the sufferings of all mankind sent down the First Aeon, Nous, or the Logos, or the Christ, who for a certain time was united with the person of a man, Jesus of Nazareth. The Christ did not suffer crucifixion in the person of Jesus. Some say this was because the Christ parted from Jesus before the crucifixion; others because the man Jesus himself was not crucified. The latter taught that Simon of Cyrene, who carried the cross for him, died on it in his stead, and Jesus with the Christ still in him took the form of this Simon and laughed at the Christians for believing that it was he who had died on the Cross. For this reason Basilides taught that the Crucified must not be worshipped, nor the Cross held holy.
Whether from the body of Jesus or the body of Simon of Cyrene, the Christ rose again to the highest heaven. Yet it seems that he returned home without having fulfilled his mission on earth. Mankind was not saved by the Christ from the misfortunes visited upon it by the Lord of the Lower Heavens. Now only the Gnosis can save them.
A wonderful variation of this story propounds that when the Divine issued from the world-seed, it released a threefold ‘Sonship’, a Sonship of light which reaches God the Father immediately; a less pure Sonship which needs the aid of the Holy Spirit to reach the Father, and a coarse Sonship. The first two Sons are the Lords of the Highest and Middle Heavens, the third, Lord of the Lower Heavens. Also from the Divine issued the Gospel, not at once to be bestowed upon earth, but whole and ready in the highest sphere. Each of the two higher Lords has a son who “surpasses his father in wisdom and beauty”. These glorious sons “catch” the Gospel “as naphta catches fire from a great distance”, and they declare it to their fathers. It fills the High Lords (all of them, even the highest) with terror and they “repent” – though of what is not disclosed, or the disclosure is lost.
The Lord of the Lower Heavens knew nothing of the Gospel until the coming of the Christ to earth. Then in our world it enlightened Jesus the son of Mary (so the Gospel came before Jesus was of an age to be enlightened), and (yet) everything happened as is related in the (canonical) gospels. According to Clement of Alexandria, the Basilideans taught that when Jesus died (whether on the cross or later in the body of Simon of Cyrene) he was the first man to “have his parts saved in three ways according to the three Sonships, the impure, the coarse, and the fine-pure”. He was Hylic, Psychic, and Pneumatic all in one. “His sufferings befell his impure bodily parts, his mind returned to the (psychic) Sphere of the Seven, a coarse sphere only in comparison to the highest sphere, to which his soul departed and was saved”. Clement infers from this complicated doctrine that Basilides said that Jesus had sinned, since he needed refining and saving.
Basilides’s son Isadorus wrote a number of volumes, among them one titled On the Grown Soul. It argued against his father’s thesis of the two souls. It is a dangerous idea, he pointed out, to propose that the soul is not one; that by another force, the attachments or passions, it is tempted to do evil things, because it gives the evil man an excuse for doing evil, allowing him to claim that it is “not I, my own soul, that sinned”, but that “I was forced against my will to do it” by another power within me that was not sent by God.
This gives substance to reports that Isadorus upheld the virtues of responsibility, self-control and sexual continence. He seems also to have been gifted with some wisdom, recommending that his followers “pray not that you may do right, but that you may do no wrong”. A high ethical tenor was attributed to his books. This might suggest that the view of his father, Basilides, as an estimable man of upright character had some truth in it, since presumably the father was the teacher of the son. Indeed, old commentaries assert that Isadorus’s beliefs were similar to those of his father, including the sinning Jesus and the laughing Christ. So we must assume that there was this other, less admirable, matter in Isadorus’s books, for otherwise the good Church Fathers would surely have allowed them to survive – wouldn’t they?
Jillian Becker April 7, 2013