Liberation theology: the marriage of Christianity and Marxism 2

“Liberation theology” is the child of the incestuous marriage of Christianity and its secular offspring, Marxism.

Reports from the Vatican suggest that Pope Francis is warming to it – a volte-face of Papal policy towards it ever since its birth in South America in the middle of the last century. This report comes from the left-leaning Guardian:

For decades, Gustavo Gutiérrez, a Peruvian theologian and Dominican priest, was treated with suspicion and even contempt by the Vatican’s hierarchy, which saw him as a dangerous Marxist firebrand who used faith as an instrument of revolution. …

Which is exactly what he was and what he did.

But when the 86-year-old Peruvian arrives in Rome this week as a key speaker at a Vatican event, he will be welcomed as a guest, in a striking show of how Pope Francis – the first Latin American pontiff – has brought tenets of this sometimes controversial movement to the fore of his church, particularly in his pronouncements against the blight of poverty and the dangers of capitalism.

He has not noticed that only capitalism raises people by the million from poverty.

In its height in the late 1960s and 1970s, liberation theology– a distinctly Latin American movement – preached that it was not enough for the church to simply empathise and care for the poor. Instead, believers said, the church needed to be a vehicle to push for fundamental political and structural changes that would eradicate poverty, even – some believed – if it meant supporting armed struggle against oppressors.

In Nicaragua, priests inspired by liberation theology took an active part in the 1979 Sandinista revolution against Anastasio Somoza’s rightwing dictatorship. The philosophy also influenced leftist rebels in Mexico and Colombia, where one of the main guerrilla factions was led for nearly 30 years by a defrocked Spanish priest, Manuel Pérez. …

“He [the present Pope] was very critical of the liberal Marxist version of liberation theology,” said Austen Ivereigh, who has written a biography of Pope Francis. “At that time, you had leftwing movements in Latin America but in fact these were middle-class movements, which he believed used the poor as instruments. He had a phrase he used – that they were for the people but never with them.”

But since his election as pontiff in 2013, Pope Francis’s insistence that the church be “for the poor”, and his pointed criticisms of capitalism and consumerism have gone a long way to rehabilitate the liberation theology movement and incorporate it within the church. Experts point, too, to Francis’s decision to name Oscar Romero, the iconic Salvadoran archbishop who was assassinated by rightwing death squads in 1980, as a martyr as another sign of the resurgence in liberation theology…

The Vatican itself has not formally embraced liberation theology. Even xc himself has denied that his appointment as prefect by Pope Francis – which was seen in some circles as a triumph of liberation theology because of Müller’s relationship with Gutiérrez – represented the “opening of a new chapter” following the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict.

Liberation theology was invented, named, and funded by the KGB, according to one of its defecting agents. Damien Thompson reports – and comments with some skepticism which we do not share – in the (UK) Spectator:

The respected Catholic News Agency has published an interview with Ion Mihai Pacepa, a former general in Romania’s secret police who was one of the Eastern Bloc’s highest-ranking defectors in the 1970s. In it, he says that the Soviet Union – and the KGB in particular – created liberation theology, the quasi-Marxist movement that flourished in Latin America from the 1960s to the 1990s and is still a powerful influence on the Catholic Left.

The interview provides fresh evidence of the infiltration of liberation theology by Russia – a subject Catholic liberals would much rather not discuss, just as they don’t want to know about the heavy Soviet investment in CND (the British campaign for nuclear disarmament). …

I don’t believe that the KGB ‘created’ a movement as complex as liberation theology and I’m far from convinced that its name was dreamt up in the Lubyanka.

But Pacepa … makes detailed claims that the Soviets kick-started, funded and moulded liberation theology … He cites as one of his sources Aleksandr Sakharovsky, the Russian agent who set up Romania’s secret police agency. Pacepa describes him as his ‘de facto boss’ in the 1950s. Sakharovsky later became head of the First Chief Directorate of the KGB.

Here are the key quotes from the interview:

The birth of Liberation Theology was the intent of a 1960 super-secret “Party-State Dezinformatsiya Programme” approved by Aleksandr Shelepin, the chairman of the KGB, and by Politburo member Aleksey Kirichenko, who coordinated the Communist Party’s international policies. This programme demanded that the KGB take secret control of the World Council of Churches (WCC), based in Geneva, Switzerland, and use it as cover for converting Liberation Theology into a South American revolutionary tool

The KGB began by building an intermediate international religious organization called the Christian Peace Conference (CPC), which was headquartered in Prague. Its main task was to bring the KGB-created Liberation Theology into the real world.

The new Christian Peace Conference was managed by the KGB and was subordinated to the venerable World Peace Council, another KGB creation, founded in 1949 and by then also headquartered in Prague …

During my years at the top of the Soviet bloc intelligence community I managed the Romanian operations of the World Peace Council (WPC). It was as purely KGB as it gets. Most of the WPC’s employees were undercover Soviet bloc intelligence officers … Even the money for the WPC budget came from Moscow, delivered by the KGB in the form of laundered cash dollars to hide their Soviet origin. In 1989, when the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse, the WPC publicly admitted that 90 per cent of its money came from the KGB.

And now the bit that will really wind up Catholic liberals:

I [Pacepa] was not involved in the creation of Liberation Theology per se. From Sakharovsky I learned, however, that in 1968 the KGB-created Christian Peace Conference, supported by the world-wide World Peace Council, was able to manoeuvre a group of leftist South American bishops into holding a Conference of Latin American Bishops at Medellin, Colombia. The Conference’s official task was to ameliorate poverty. Its undeclared goal was to recognise a new religious movement …

True to the chief pretense of each parent, the priests of both the South American Church and the Kremlin claimed that the intention of liberation theology was to stand with the poor and oppressed. Its theologians declared that the cause of all poverty and oppression is capitalism, and Christians must work to replace capitalism with socialism.

The man whom Pope Francis is now welcoming to the Vatican, Gustavo Gutierrez of Peru, wrote in his book A Theology of Liberation: “The goal is not only better living conditions, a radical change if structures, a social revolution; it is much more: the continuous creation, never ending, of a new way to be a man. A permanent cultural revolution.” Gutierrez struggles manfully through some 300 pages to reconcile the Christian idea of salvation of the individual soul and its reward in heavenly bliss,  with the Marxist insistence on collective salvation through revolution and the reward of an egalitarian society on this earth. He does not succeed. Whether he is aware of it or not, the Christian idea is totally overwhelmed and replaced by the Marxist idea. Liberation theology takes more after one parent than the other.

Liberation theology allowed the numerous leftist revolutionary organizations that arose in the last century in South  and Central America (Argentina, Peru, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatamala, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, Venezuela, Bolivia)*to claim religious vindication, and carried the blessings of the revolutionary priests when they – the terrorists -went about their savage business of murder.

Pope Francis’s understanding that the South American liberation movements were “middle class”, was not unfounded. Intellectuals – priests and writers – not only inspired them, but led them. Three bibles of the liberation theology movement are:

  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire
  • For the Liberation of Brazil, by Carlos Marighela
  • Love in Practice: The Gospel in Solentiname, by Ernesto Cardenal

The most enlightening descriptions of what actually happened in a central American country when terrorist insurrectionists, inspired by liberation theology, clashed with a government and its military, are to be found in Sweet Waist of America: Journeys Around Guatamala, by Anthony Daniels. Although the author is uncompromising in his condemnation of the rebels and their methods, he also indicts the government and its forces. Both sides committed atrocities.

 

*** A list of the “guerrilla movements” in these countries can be found here.

Muslim savages burning books – and people 3

We do not think the oft-repeated diagnosis of the conflict between Islam and the West as “a clash of civilizations” is true, because it is actually a clash of a dark age force with modernity; of the primitively superstitious with the enlightened; of barbarism with civilization. 

Barbarians know nothing of what we understand by the word “culture”. Their ways are called a “culture” by anthropologists and sociologists and Prince Charles, but that’s jargon.

In his book Monrovia Mon Amour, Anthony Daniels describes the library of the (only) university in Liberia, wrecked in the course of civil strife:

I walked through the three or four floors of the library. Books had been pulled from the shelves and hurled across the floor, and even the books that remained on the shelves were at strange angles, as though the destroyers had been interrupted in the work and obliged to flee in mid-vandalism. There were rooms piled five feet high in books, their subject matter promiscuously intermixed, soil science with Herodotus. The covers were bent or torn off, the pages ripped out. … They were piled as if in preparation for a bonfire, round which the illiterate and the doubtfully literate might dance for joy.

There the meaning of “Boko Haram” was illustrated. “Book-learning is forbidden” (“haram” meaning “forbidden by sharia law”).

This is from The Japan Times:

When Islamic State group militants invaded the Central Library of Mosul earlier this month, they were on a mission to destroy a familiar enemy: other people’s ideas.

Residents say the extremists smashed the locks that had protected the biggest repository of learning in the northern Iraq town, and loaded around 2,000 books — including children’s stories, poetry, philosophy and tomes on sports, health, culture and science — into six pickup trucks. They left only Islamic texts. …

Since the Islamic State group seized a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria, it has … destroyed many archaeological relics, deeming them pagan, and even Islamic sites that it considers idolatrous. …

Mosul, the biggest city in the Islamic State group’s self-declared caliphate, boasts a relatively educated, diverse population that seeks to preserve its heritage sites and libraries. In the chaos that followed the U.S.-led invasion of 2003 that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein, residents near the Central Library hid some of its centuries-old manuscripts in their own homes to prevent their theft or destruction by looters.

But this time, the Islamic State group has made the penalty for such actions death. Presumed destroyed are the Central Library’s collection of Iraqi newspapers dating to the early 20th century, maps and books from the Ottoman Empire and book collections contributed by around 100 of Mosul’s establishment families.

Days after the Central Library’s ransacking, [IS]  broke into University of Mosul’s library. They made a bonfire out of hundreds of books on science and culture, destroying them in front of students.

A University of Mosul history professor … reported particularly heavy damage to the archives of a Sunni Muslim library, the library of the 265-year-old Latin Church and Monastery of the Dominican Fathers and the Mosul Museum Library with works dating back to 5000 B.C. …

The professor said Islamic State group militants appeared determined to “change the face of this city . . . by erasing its iconic buildings and history”.  Since routing government forces and seizing Mosul last summer, the Islamic State group has destroyed dozens of historic sites …

An Iraqi lawmaker, Hakim al-Zamili, said the Islamic State group “considers culture, civilization and science as their fierce enemies”.

Al-Zamili, who leads the parliament’s Security and Defense Committee, compared the Islamic State group to raiding medieval Mongols, who in 1258 ransacked Baghdad. Libraries’ ancient collections of works on history, medicine and astronomy were dumped into the Tigris River, purportedly turning the waters black from running ink.

“The only difference is that the Mongols threw the books in the Tigris River, while now Daesh is burning them,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group. “Different method, but same mentality.”

And these extracts are from our post “Old civilizations put to the sword”, October 1, 2014:

Islam is one of the most ruinous forces in history. Giulio Meotti wrote this short account of its barbarous destruction of the world’s heritage of past civilizations.

(Note: Wherever Meotti uses the word “Islamists” we would use the word “Muslims” or “jihadis”. We do not believe there is a variety of Islam that needs a different name.)

Around the year 645 A.D., Omar Ibn Al Khattab, the second caliph and a successor of Muhammad, set fire to the library of Alexandria.  …

The world lost several centuries of knowledge and thought due to that Islamic fire.

Today another caliph, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, has issued a fatwa against the World Heritage Sites of the Middle East. The much vaunted Middle Eastern richness is shrinking to a cultural desert

For over five thousand years, many civilizations have left their mark in Mesopotamia: Assyrians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Arameans, Jews and Romans. Their ancient buried cities, palaces and temples are scattered throughout what is now northern Iraq and eastern Syria. Now most of the archaeological wealth is under the control of the Islamic State. Two days ago, Isis leveled the “green church” of Tikrit, the symbol of Assyrian Christianity in the seventh century.

Among the most important sites now under the control of Islam are four ancient cities – Nineveh, Kalhu, Dur Sharrukin and Ashur – which, at different times, were the capitals of the powerful Assyrian empire. The greatest damage has been wreaked by Islam on the Palace of Kalhu, from which the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II reigned in the ninth century B.C.

They have destroyed some of the “ziggurats”, the impressive temples that rise into the sky. The non-Islamic tradition of Mosul no longer exists. The Islamists have destroyed thirty historic sites, including the shrines of the biblical prophets [well, anyway, biblical characters – ed] Seth, Daniel and Jonah.

In Syria, the Islamic terrorists have demolished relics as part of their “purge of paganism”, destroying Assyrian statues. In a video, they unashamedly claim the duty of the mujahideen is to “remove the appearance of evil”.

Harta, the archeological site … is in IS hands and risks destruction. …

In Libya, the “treasures of Benghazi”, coins, jewelry, and small statues of antiquity have been lost since the revolution of May 2011. …

The great library of Al Saeh in Tripoli, Lebanon, was recently given over to the flames by the Islamists.

Meotti lists many more examples of such destruction.

The people doing these things are savages. As savages always do, they itch to destroy what they do not understand.

They are burning books because they cannot understand them, and out of envy of those who do.

Much worse – atrociously – they are burning living people.

Today we hear that the Islamic State savages have burnt alive a captured Jordanian pilot, Muath al-Rasasbeh. They’ve issued a video of him standing in a cage as the flames consume him.

Your tiny home is frozen 1

Believe it! There really is such a thing – and has been for nigh on 20 years – called the Commission on Global Governance. It is of course a bureau within the headquarters of evil, the United Nations.

This is from Canada Free Press, by Dr. Ileana Johnson Paugh, an authority on the UN’s baleful Agenda 21:

The UN Commission on Global Governance reported in 1995, “The concept of national sovereignty has been immutable, indeed a sacred principle of international relations. It is a principle which will yield slowly and reluctantly to the new imperatives of global environmental cooperation.” (United Nations, Our Global Neighborhood, The Commission on Global Governance, 1995, Oxford University Press).

It seems that our national sovereignty is yielding quite fast on the southern border without Congressional input, under the guise of a socially engineered humanitarian crisis. They could not erase national sovereignty fast enough in the name of “environmental cooperation”.

The progressives’ social engineering projects implemented around the world are not limited to just destroying national sovereignty, language, and cultural identity. Those who grew up under communism are familiar with the Soviet style, mass movement of entire villages to high density urban areas.

Social engineers had decided that land was better used in co-operative farms owned by the communist government. Private homes located on farm land were bulldozed and people were moved into densely populated cities with grey concrete apartments of 400-500 square feet, mushrooming practically overnight. They could not build them fast enough. Often it necessitated moving two families into a 600 square feet apartment, sharing the kitchen and the bathroom. …

In this country, city planners who oppose urban sprawl and begrudge the average 2,300 square foot homes as environmental destroyers of the planet, have designed and built living units of 140-200 square feet, called aPodments in Sammamish, Washington. Resident Judy Green “shares the kitchen with seven other tenants on the second floor.” To get to her loft cubicle, she must climb six flights of stairs. Because of non-existent global warming, cars and elevators are not allowed. The “micro-units” are smaller than a hotel room and rent for $600-900 per month. I checked with my favorite hotel chain – their average hotel room is 375 square feet. The average jail cell is 6 feet by 8 feet.

The “eco-progressives” use local government zoning to impose their ideas of “sustainable urbanism”, “sustainable communities”, and “equitable communities”, by changing the counties’ desired low density character and scale to high-density crime-ridden slums.

In Fairfax County, Virginia, the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission are crafting a plan to place Lilliputian slum dwellings in every area of the county. The Residential Studio Units (RSUs) will have a total surface of 220-320 square feet. Each high-rise will contain 75 such units and one parking space per unit. Locals object to the plan because it will reduce property values, change neighborhoods, increase population density, exacerbate the existing traffic congestion, and increase crime under the guise of “affordable housing” for the poor, low wage workers, and “diversity.” …

Reality television is now indoctrinating Americans into accepting the idea of micro-dwellings with the July 2014 debut of “Tiny House Nation” on the FYI channel. According to their website,  “renovation experts and hosts, John Weisbarth and Zack Giffin, travel across America to show off ingenious small spaces and the inventive people who live in them, as well as help new families design and construct their own mini-dream home in a space no larger than 500 square feet. From a micro-apartment in New York City to a caboose car turned home in Montana to a micro-sized mobile home for road tripping – this is a series that celebrates the exploding movement of tiny homes”.  

Perhaps “extreme downsizing” is the dream of retired people or the reality of young Americans who live with several roommates or in the basement of their parents because they cannot afford to buy a normal home on low wages driven by a mismanaged economy. What I do know for sure, this not an “exploding movement of tiny homes” and it has nothing to do with “financial independence”. Most Americans have never heard of such tiny dwellings, love their spacious homes, and are not remotely aware that they are an intricate part of a larger plan of social engineering [to take] people off the land, out of suburbia, and into inner cities.

It is certainly not the new American dream; it is the new forced reality as envisioned and carefully planned by the elite’s UN Agenda 21.

A book titled Utopias Elsewhere (in America, The Wilder Shores of Marx in Britain), by the wise and witty writer Anthony Daniels, chronicles his travels in five communist countries shortly before the Iron Curtain came down in 1991 – the year the book was published. One chapter is about Romania, the land of Dr. Ileana Johnson Paugh’s birth, where she lived under totalitarian oppression. It is a book which should be read by anyone who doubts that life under communism is unimaginably poor and miserable. We guarantee it as a cure for those afflicted with leftist ideology. A decent education in the West would include it as a permanently prescribed text.

In the chapter on Romania, Anthony Daniels notes that in villages that were “systematized” (ie where the villagers had been evicted from their houses and the houses swept away) –

Uniform blocks of apartments – of the same design throughout the country – had been built, in earnest of the Ceausescu dream of a nation living in bugged, ill-lit, cold, waterless yet damp cells, in total dependence on the state for everything they consumed.

As the UN’s Agenda 21 dream for the world continues to be realized, the cells in America will not be quite as bad as that. Though they will be bugged, and not very well-lit or well-heated, they will almost certainly have some (rationed) water and they might not be damp.

But if the dream agenda is fully implemented, the tenants will be dependent on the World Government for everything they consume.   

Atheists and conservatives stir up a brouhaha 4

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.” 

But –

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.

Tha-at’s better!

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.

Ayn Rand: recruiting sergeant 5

Of extraordinary interest, we think, is an essay by Anthony Daniels in The New Criterion, titled Ayn Rand: engineer of souls. (We cannot link to it, but it’s easy to find.)

We are admirers of Ayn Rand, but not uncritically. We believe, as she does, that capitalism is the only creator and sustainer of prosperity. We despise religion as she does. Like her we value reason. Her enormous novels Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead have probably won more believers in capitalism and devotees of personal liberty than any other book in any language, even surpassing Hayek’s essential text The Road to Serfdom; and for that she deserves lasting honor.

But her vision of humanity has a comic-book hyperbole about it which keeps her out of the rank of great writers. Her heroes are too big, too superior to us and everyone we’ll ever meet, to be likable. They inspire awe but not affection. We can be sure they’d look down on us if they knew us. We cannot emulate them, we can only wonder at them. They are like gods. They are intensely romantic, and romanticism is the enemy of reason.

Anthony Daniels lists her virtues and vices:

Rand’s virtues were as follows: she was highly intelligent; she was brave and uncompromising in defense of her ideas; she had a kind of iron integrity; and, though a fierce defender of capitalism, she was by no means avid for money herself. The propagation of truth as she saw it was far more important to her than her own material ease. Her vices, of course, were the mirror-image of her virtues, but, in my opinion, the mirror was a magnifying one. Her intelligence was narrow rather than broad. Though in theory a defender of freedom of thought and action, she was dogmatic, inflexible, and intolerant, not only in opinion but in behavior, and it led her to personal cruelty. In the name of her ideas, she was prepared to be deeply unpleasant. She hardened her ideas into ideology. Her integrity led to a lack of self-criticism; she frequently wrote twenty thousand words where one would do. …

A passionate hater of religion, Rand founded a cult around her own person, complete with rituals of excommunication; a passionate believer in rationality and logic, she was incapable of seeing the contradictions in her own work. She was a rationalist who was not entirely rational …

He goes on to paragraphs of stronger condemnation. He finds “horrible” cruelty in her. He perceives that though she was fanatically anti-collectivist, and though she had fled from Soviet Russia to the freedom of America, Stalin’s Russia remained within her.

Her unequivocal admiration bordering on worship of industrialization and the size of human construction as a mark of progress is profoundly Stalinist. Where Stalinist iconography would plant a giant chimney belching black smoke, Randian iconography would plant a skyscraper. (At the end of The Fountainhead, Roark receives a commission to build the tallest skyscraper in New York, its height being the guarantor of its moral grandeur. According to this scale of values, the Burj Dubai would be man’s crowning achievement so far.) Industrialists are to Rand what Stakhanovites were to Stalin: Both saw nature as an enemy, something to be beaten into submission. One doesn’t have to be an adherent of the Gaia hypothesis to know where this hatred of nature led.

Finally, Rand’s treasured theory of literature, what she called Romantic Realism, is virtually indistinguishable from Socialist Realism …

Rand’s heroes are not American but Soviet. The fact that they supposedly embody capitalist values makes no difference. Rand fulfilled Stalin’s criterion for the ideal writer: she tried to be an engineer of souls.

The analysis is not unjust.

But the recruiting sergeant to the Army of Light does not have to be the best exponent of the cause for which it fights.

While acknowledging and regretting all her faults, we keep, for her success as a dedicated recruiting sergeant, an abstract monument to Ayn Rand in our personal Hall of the Defenders of Individual Freedom.

Jillian Becker   June 19, 2010