What is conservatism? 21

A heated altercation is proceeding between two groups of American conservatives. Each group is claiming to be the true conservatives.

The one group calls itself “Alt-Right ” and “America Firsters”. All its members are white and proudly white-supremacist, convinced that the white race is superior to all others. They are also called “groypers”. What they want to conserve, they say, are what they consider to be the traditional cultural norms of the white race, laying particular stress on the Christian religion and heterosexual marriage. Their motto is “Faith, Family, Community”. They are fiercely – and at the same time facetiously – aggressive in word and deed.

The other, much bigger group in America, are the conservatives who (generally, but not invariably and not uncritically) vote Republican; are Christian, but want a separation of church and state; are nationalists and patriots, but not racists; are tolerant of homosexual marriage; and who loyally uphold the Constitution of the United States.

These two rival versions of conservatism are to be found in an article and a speech from which we select the most telling passages:

Matthew Boose defends the “Alt-Right” and attacks what he calls “Conservatism, Inc.” in an article at American Greatness. He refers to the “civil war” between representative of the two sides, and sums up the arguments as he understands them:

In the wake of the Donald Trump moment, conservatism is up for grabs: white identitarians, “Catholic integralists,” paleocons, and American nationalists all sense an opportunity for greater representation. But the bigger story is that the globalist, anti-nationalist, progressive “conservatism” that came before Trump isn’t yet quite dead, and it’s fighting for survival.

The degree to which this is true has become apparent over the past few weeks as a civil war within campus conservatism has raged on between Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA and paleoconservative activists who follow the nationalist podcaster Nicholas Fuentes.

Nicholas Fuentes is a Holocaust-denying anti-Semite.

As Kirk and his allies see it, the Fuentes fans, who call themselves “groypers,” have been trying to “hijack” campus conservatism by injecting “white nationalism” into the debate. But this so-called sabotage has been accomplished with extraordinary simplicity. The groypers have been showing up to Kirk’s events to air their grievances about the failures of mainstream conservatism and its wholesale embrace of the LGBT+ agenda and mass migration.

Rather than talk to these activists in good faith, though, the gatekeepers have decided their ideas are not worth debating. They have instead pursued a campaign of denigration and suppression. Leaving aside personalities, they have dismissed candid, important questions about demographics and the liberalization of the conservative movement as “bigoted” and “racist.” …

Kirk acknowledges that the demographic shifts … are real and that leftists are celebrating those changes. But Kirk ends up backing the leftist premise that such demographic shifts are inevitable and that the Republican Party’s only hope is to embrace this growing and diverse reality.

Kirk rejects without explanation putting a moratorium on immigration. Rather than restrict immigration to reverse the trend, Kirk [says that] … Republicans must reject “anti-immigrant” stances and instead do more to reach minority demographics. Only then can the GOP remain viable in a majority-minority future.

The premise is based on an obvious double-standard, one which is becoming more and more difficult to simply ignore. … If we’re talking about the interests of “natural Republicans” from El Salvador and “MAGA drag queens,” then Kirk and Conservatism, Inc. have no issue with appealing to demographics. But when it comes to talking about the interests of white Christians it’s a different story altogether. That’s “racist”. …

The leaders of the conservative movement must be able to answer these questions: why are white Christians, and only white Christians, prohibited from acting in their rational self-interest? Why must Republicans, given the prospect of a dim future in which it can only survive by pandering to the Left, respond by pandering to the Left now, just to win over people who hate and want to persecute them anyway?

In the end, this “strategy” is nothing more than a capitulation to the Left, the same surrender that has laid the country, and the party, so low for decades. By all means, the Republican Party must never waver in its support of the traditional family, of life, and of the Constitution. But it’s also not clear how exactly, or why, appealing to minority groups, and only minority groups, is the best way to do that.

It is disingenuous, not to say illogical, to say that the Republican Party must, for some unexplained reason, not think in terms of demographics when it comes to its most reliable voters—and join the Left in attacking any of those voters who may feel besieged by our liberal monoculture—and instead seek to recruit and celebrate other, reliably liberal groups, such as gays and Latino immigrants. With the exception of evangelicals and Cubans, Latino voters as a group are reliably Democrat, and they have been for decades. They support gun control, the welfare state, and even gay marriage by some margins. Their mythic social conservatism is not as solid as some Republicans would like to think. What does Conservatism, Inc. imagine it can do to change that in short order?

While the TPUSA controversy has focused on demographics, another core grievance of the “groypers” is the conservative movement’s inability to conserve the morals and traditions that made America great, especially traditional marriage. The conscious embrace of leftist identity politics, particularly LGBT rights, by Kirk and other Conservatism, Inc. figures justifies the impression that this is by unconscious design, if not conscious choice.

They pander to every identity group under the sun while at the same time feeling very free to attack white Americans who are troubled by the prospect of becoming a minority in their own country. Such people are denounced as “racists” just for feeling that way. It’s hard to see what’s conservative about this, or how it will help Republicans win elections in a deeply uncertain future.

It is no accident that some liberals have encouraged their Republican adversaries to embrace the “diversify” strategy Kirk advocates, as it advances the Left’s own goals and commitments. The gatekeepers in Conservatism, Inc. embrace the same ideas, the same methods, and even the same rhetoric as the Left to advance a globalist, anti-nationalist agenda. Their smears of outspoken America Firsters are indistinguishable from the Left’s familiar drive-by attacks on even the most unobjectionable conservatives.

The “conservatism” of groups like TPUSA isn’t conserving anything—nothing, that is, but liberalism itself. It does not offer young people anything they cannot already find in the ethos of consumerism and vacuous personal “liberation” so pervasive in our liberal culture and advanced relentlessly by the globalist Left.

For conservatives to embrace gay marriage is not an intuitive position by any means, but Kirk and his boosters have done exactly that, denouncing those with questions about this development as “homophobes”. Especially at a time when leftists scheme in the open about taxing churches that don’t recognize gay marriage, it’s hardly a logical position for a conservative to take.

The “conservatism” of Conservatism, Inc. isn’t conservatism, but a species of libertarianism. Like many in the libertarian camp, Kirk takes the view that matters of marriage and morals should be left to private contracts between individuals and what they do in the so-called privacy of their own lives; never mind that the Left has already invaded the public square and has made persecuting Christians and conservatives a moral mission. To the libertarians of Conservatism, Inc., moral authority appears not to rest with a higher power, but is arrogated instead to individuals. All that matters is the “free market” and securing the freedom to legitimize a deeper and deeper backslide into barbarism.

I’m not going to question Kirk’s faith, but the morality he advocates has more in common with the Left than with Christian principles. In an interview … Kirk described himself as a “conservatarian” and expresses the view that there is no contradiction between the libertarian non-aggression principle and his religious views: “you should be able to make your choices as you see fit, as long as you’re not harming someone else.”

This is the classic formulation of liberalism: the idea that society should be arranged to make people as free as possible to pursue their own adventures. But there is nothing obviously conservative about this mentality. By following it, Kirk has embraced a very recent cultural shift that repudiates centuries upon centuries of tradition on marriage and the family.

This libertarian ethos of personal liberation justifies the damage done to the social fabric by leftism, while inviting further degeneration down the road. It has no cohesive social vision beyond securing the “blessings of liberty” to invite drag queens into libraries to read stories to schoolchildren. It has neither the desire nor the conviction to resist America’s free-fall into social anomie and moral decay, and it has no plan for repairing the destruction of the past decades of experimentation. America is imagined not even to be a concrete place at all, but rather a collation of hoary abstractions coined by the Founding Fathers, who surely fought and died so that future generations of Americans would embrace state-sanctioned gender reassignment surgery for 7-year-olds.

Coupled with this moral indifference is a worship of the “free market” and its miraculous power to distribute goods, resources, and labor as efficiently as possible. It’s not by mistake that conservatives of Kirk’s stripe talk more about markets than morals. If all that matters is the free market and “doing whatever you want,” then it’s hard to justify restricting immigration or opposing gay marriage to preserve American jobs, values, and traditions.

These “conservatives” understand that the common good is most helped by inviting millions of foreign laborers to boost the GDP, that the Gospel preaches acceptance of whatever sexually permissive fashions the Left dreamed up yesterday, that America is just an idea in which all lifestyles, peoples, and cultures except those which define the historic American nation must be celebrated. …

Conservatism, Inc. can offer no assurances that Americans may expect to raise their children in a decent, moral society that cares about family, community, and faith. It does not seek to build a world where Americans may live free and prosperous lives without bearing false witness to the same idols that the Left, and the controlled opposition of Conservatism, Inc., worship. Americans are provided not the least guarantees of job security, or that America will even speak their native language in thirty years time. Neither are they provided the reprieve of knowing that they will be able to worship and raise their families in the faith of their upbringing and their ancestors without incurring ruinous financial and social consequences.

Kirk acknowledges that conservatives are besieged by a “far-left mainstream culture leading an assault on American values,” but whether he realizes it or not, Kirk and his defenders are part of enabling that mainstream. The entirety of Conservatism, Inc. is working towards the same ends as the progressive, globalist left. The irony is that they do this while styling themselves the “real conservatives” and attacking anyone with serious questions about the movement’s priorities.

Rather than answer challenging questions about the future of conservatism, the Beltway conservatives have responded with emotive attacks, threats of censorship and doxxing, and outright smears. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) has warned that questioners who venture outside the gentle sandbox of Heritage Foundation good-think will regret showing their faces on camera. Ben Shapiro dedicated a 45-minute speech to obliquely attacking the groypers, but refused to engage with them directly. Coming from the guy who coined “facts don’t care about your feelings,” that’s just rich.

Conservatism, Inc. isn’t a movement but a corporate enterprise. Its self-styled “dissent” is all part of a shallow brand of rebellion that begins and ends with “triggering” blue-haired gender studies majors. Beyond these shallow displays of edginess, Conservatism, Inc. promotes the same agenda of social liberalism and open borders as the Left. They wear a mask of intellectualism and “free thought,” but the moment anyone questions the dogma, the gatekeepers fall back on exactly the kind of emotive attacks that they project onto the “triggered” Left.

Kirk says that the Right must resist “excommunicating” those with different opinions on important issues, but that is exactly what Kirk and his allies are trying to do to the America Firsters. He complains of being subjected to an ideological “purity test” by the America First crowd while simultaneously, and arbitrarily labeling them “fake conservatives,” “white nationalists” and “anti-Semites.” This is nonsense.

What Kirk calls a fake purity test is conservatives who are concerned about the direction of the Trump movement making sure that it actually remains committed to its priorities. Their concerns are legitimate. It doesn’t matter when and whether Kirk became a Trump supporter if his ideas don’t align with the agenda that propelled Trump to office.

The truth is that the groypers, however weird the “groyper” brand might be, are closer to the mainstream of how the American Right actually feels than the Beltway types who wear the conservative label while behaving exactly like leftists. They should be applauded for challenging Conservatism, Inc. and its bankrupt ideology. Their “trolling” is more effective activism than the totality of the establishment’s pathetic kowtowing to the gods of Diversity and Progress. …

Why don’t establishment conservatives like Kirk, who have also been smeared by the Left, ally with the conservative “trolls” who actually want to conserve something instead of pandering to the people who hate them? That they do not raises  two possibilities: that they are not sincere, or that they are sincere liberals.

Whatever they are, it isn’t “conservative”.

Ours is a conservative establishment that does nothing, and has done nothing, to conserve the traditions that made America great. This fact cries out for an accounting, and it is becoming impossible to ignore. If Conservatism, Inc. refuses to engage candidly with serious, legitimate questions about its priorities, then it deserves to be called out for its hypocrisy and emptiness.

It is an intensely emotional argument. It shows real fear that America is undergoing a demographic transformation that will make the whites a minority.

Ben Shapiro (who was not at first a supporter of President Trump, but seems to be now) defended the more common views of American conservatives and attacked the ‘”Alt-Right” in a speech he made at Stanford University (November 7, 2019):

I want to talk about the dangerous game being played by two particular nasty groups who feed off one another: I am speaking about the radical Left and the Alt-Right. …

The radical Left and the Alt-Right need each other. And they’re playing a game, in which the radical Left seeks to delegitimize anyone who isn’t radically Left by lumping them in with the despicable Alt-Right — and in which the Alt-Right seeks to make common cause with anyone “cancelled” by the radical Left, specifically with the supporters of President Trump who have been maligned falsely as evil by the radical Left, in order to artificially boost their numbers.

These two goals are mutually reinforcing. Here’s how this garbage works… Let’s say, for example, that you believe that ‘white civilization’ — a nonsensical term, since civilization is not defined by color but by history, culture, and philosophy — is under attack from multiracial hordes. Let’s say that you’re antipathetic toward Jews and enraged by the liberties guaranteed and protected by the Constitution of the United States. Let’s say you spend your days ranting about how American conservatives and traditional classical liberals — the sole protective force against the radical Left — haven’t “conserved” anything. You say America is not a propositional or creedal nation, even though the nation’s founding literally begins with the words, ‘We hold these truths to be self- evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights… Let’s say you cite Christianity as the basis of your values, but you’re more likely to quote Nietzsche than Christ. …

First, you declare your allegiance to President Trump, and declare that you aren’t really Alt-Right, even though you obviously are. You show up to lectures wearing a MAGA hat in order to get the media to cover it – and in order to demonstrate that you’re truly a representative of the 63 million Americans who voted for Trump. You call yourself “America First”, hijacking Trump’s slogan, but twisting it to mean “white Americans first”.  The media will eat it up, because the media love nothing better than suggesting that Trump is a white supremacist, despite the fact that he has repeatedly condemned white supremacism. …

You do so by simply lying about mainstream conservatives. You suggest that mainstream conservatives are insufficiently committed to social conservatism. You do this by asking questions like, “How does anal sex help us win the culture war?” [a reference to an Alt-Right heckler’s question at a TPUSA event]. “The purpose is to simultaneously pose as edgy and also preserve your ability to say you were just joking. …

What helps America win the culture war is freedom: freedom against a government encroaching on your activities that don’t harm anyone else. … As Edmund Burke put it, “Whatever each man can separately do, without trespassing upon others, he has a right to do for himself.” You know what else helps win the culture war? Engaging with your community, involving yourself in the social fabric. Not creating Pepe memes online and then jabbering about anal sex.

In fact, there’s great irony in watching alt-righters claim that they should use the commanding heights of government to cram down their viewpoints on others – while complaining that the Left uses the commanding heights of government to cram down their viewpoint on others. You can’t really whine about other people shutting down your viewpoint and activity that harms no one else while planning to shut down everybody else’s viewpoints.

The Left everywhere in the Western world likes to condemn all conservatives as “far-Right white-supremacists, Nazis, fascists, racists, sexists, homophobes, xenophobes”. Shapiro stressed how the Left does this in America:

[The Left] will label anyone on the right Alt-Right, even if we say vocally and in no uncertain terms that the Alt-Right is pure, unbridled, vile garbage — even if members of the Alt-Right target those on the mainstream right. Even if Donald Trump condemns the worldview. …

So the Boston Globe will call my website, The Daily Wire, an “Alt-Right outpost” (we forced them to recant); the Economist will call me “the Alt-Right sage without the rage” (we’ll force them to recant). Students at Boston University are festooning my posters with a Hitler mustache. Students at this university will mob those trying to put up posters for this lecture …

The media will suggest that Trump is in league with the Alt-Right, even at this late date – they’ll neglect all Trump has done to purge his administration to those who were remotely friendly with the Alt-Right  and his forcible disavowal of white supremacism. They’ll simply overlook that Trump isn’t a white supremacist, and declare that the MAGA hat is equivalent to a Nazi swastika – and they’ll say that, by extension, anyone who wears a MAGA hat or votes for Trump is a secret Brownshirt.

[But] if someone believes that all men are created equal, … that every American should have equality before the law, in free market capitalism, in small government, in equal opportunity for all people of all races, that person is not on the Alt-Right. In fact, they despise the Alt-Right, and the Alt-Right despises them. But people on the Left know this, they just prefer the lie. Why? Because their goal is to delegitimize the entire Right.

“The only difference between the radical Left and the Alt-Right,” he pointed out, “is they reverse the victim hierarchy.”

Despite Boose’s protests, it is obvious that the “groypers”, the “America Firsters”, are homophobic, anti-Semitic, white-supremacist racists.

We are none of those things.

We have a lot in common with the conservatives who are defended by Shapiro – and who are not “globalist”, “anti-nationalist”, or “progressive”. But we do not share all their principles, values and views. We quote neither Nietzsche nor Christ to support our opinion.

So why do we call ourselves conservatives? What is it that we think needs to be conserved?

Christopher Roach, writing in the same issue of American Greatness Conservatism to defend Nicholas Fientes and Matthew Boose’s notion of conservatism, says, “Conservatism is not a checklist of particular positions, an ‘established dogma’ or set of ‘doctrine’. It is a disposition, a love of what already is, and is in danger of being lost.”

Certainly it is not a set of doctrines. But it is a set of values.

Our motto, inscribed on our Facebook page, declares those values to be “Freedom, Justice, Reason”We were endowed with them by the Enlightenment. They are interdependent, and essential to our civilization. They need to be conserved if our civilization is to survive.

Freedom is our highest value. We want personal freedom. All our other wants flow from that one; wants of systems, policies and institutions. (This, as Matthew Boose observes, is libertarian – but we share little else with Libertarians.)

Freedom needs the protection of the rule of law, a system of impartial justice which treats all sane adults equally, and which the nation state – and only the nation state – can administer. (Something which libertarians we have read and listened to seem not to be convinced of.)

As we are so fortunate as to live in such a nation state, we are patriotic nationalists. We are uninterested in the race, color, ethnic background of our fellow patriotic nationalists.

We want a strong military to defend us from foreign invasion (but not to force outcomes in other countries).

We want our government to be no more powerful than it needs to be to do its essential job of protecting freedom; never to become so big and strong as to be our master. (It is here that we are furthest from the Left.)

Capitalism is essential to prosperity, and prosperity sustains freedom. The free market is inseparable from a free society. The Alt-Right’s contempt for business, trade and profit is as stupid as it is hypocritical, arising from the absurd value placed on poverty by Christianity (and endorsed by socialism).

We part company with the majority of American conservatives over the issue of “faith”. We accept no “truths” that cannot survive critical examination in the bright light of reason.

Nothing else is essential to our conservatism.

We do, however, have preferences which we do not expect all atheist conservatives to share.

We are against the killing of people except as condign punishment for those who kill, so we are against the killing of unborn living children unless for compelling reasons. We are unconcerned about individual adults’ sexual choices as long as they do not involve the exploitation or corruption of children, although we continue to understand the meaning of “marriage” to be a solemn (not “sacred”) contract between a man and a woman primarily (not imperatively) for the begetting of children.

Where do we stand on immigration, the future demographic composition of the United States? That seems to be the biggest issue in the argument between the Alt-Right and the mainstream conservatives.

Matthew Boose writes:

The elephant in the room is demographics. Not even progressives any longer pretend that mass migration won’t, at the rate we’re going, transform America into a majority-minority nation within our lifetimes. The implications for the nation and the Republican Party because of this shift are profound, and any conservative movement that is not willing to engage with it seriously cannot be taken seriously.

The Alt-Right wants America to be a nation of European-descended, heterosexual, English-speaking, Christian whites.

Do we agree with them?

To the only official language being English, yes. To the bearing and raising of children by husband and wife as a general custom, yes.

To worshiping Jesus Christ, no.

And we are not against immigration. While we see the influx of large numbers of people from less civilized countries, bringing customs and systems of law which we abominate, to be bad for the economy and the quality of life, we do want immigrants bringing inventiveness, expertise, wealth, ability, talent to enrich the nation.

Keeping the country white? Why? European culture, above all Anglophone culture, owes its greatness partly to being eclectic, taking what it likes from other cultures.

We took the zero from brown-skinned India. We took our numerals from India too (though they are wrongly called Arabic).

Did not your Christian god come from the Jews? More beneficially in our view, mobile phones did too.

Western civilization and Christian values 25

It is often claimed that Western civilization owes its success to Christian values.

Does it? Is our civilization a product of Christian morality?

What are Christian values?

Wikipedia tells us and I summarize:

Love of God and unconditional love of all people, including enemies; fidelity in marriage; renunciation of worldly goods; forgiveness of sins and offenses, renunciation of vengeance.

We don’t know how many Western Europeans, during the last two millennia, loved the Christian god, nor can we assess to what extent such a love inspired great deeds. Perhaps that particular value has contributed significantly to the triumph of the West. 

But it would be hard to argue that any of the others are features of Western history.  

Christians have been warring with other Christians since even before Rome itself became Christian. Mutual violent hatred, relentless intolerance, unquenchable thirst for revenge in the parched souls of multitudes who bore the Cross into battle – these are the recurring themes of the ages dominated by the Church of Rome. So much for universal love, love of enemies, and renunciation of vengeance.

Was there ever a single anno domini, even a single hour in a single year in a Christian land, when the vows of marriage were not being broken by a multitude of impious wretches? Is there not divorce in our time? Are the civil courts not kept busy by the unforgiving?

Do we not gather worldly goods?

Ladies and gentlemen and transgenders of the jury, I ask you to find Western civilization not guilty of ever implementing Christian values.

 

Jillian Becker   October 20, 2019

Posted under Articles, Christianity, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Sunday, October 20, 2019

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A good man with a bad idea 32

The US Attorney General, William Barr, gave a formal talk at (Roman Catholic) Notre Dame Law School last week (Friday, October 11, 2019) which has come to our notice.

We respect Attorney General Barr for declaring, to questioners at a congressional hearing, that the admitted surveillance of President Trump by US intelligent agents was indeed spying. A statement that shocked the Democrats. Not because it wasn’t true, but because they didn’t want the truth to be spoken, and hated it to be spoken so bluntly.

We expect the Attorney General to shock them much more deeply and permanently by bringing all their criminal machinations to overthrow the duly elected president into open scrutiny, and charging all the guilty with their crimes. Our expectation and hope extend to seeing them jailed.

So we are reluctant to criticize Mr. Barr.

But his speech at the Law School raises an issue of importance to us.

Terry Jeffrey, editor in chief of CNSnews.com, reports the speech and comments on it at Townhall:

Barr simply explained what President John Adams meant by a statement he made in 1798 letter. He then showed the significance of that statement to American life today.

“We have no Government armed with Power which is capable of contending with human Passions unbridled by … morality and religion,” Barr quoted from Adams’s letter. “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”

Within this context, Barr accurately described the cultural war raging in America today.

“The challenge we face is precisely what the founding fathers foresaw would be the supreme test of a free society,” Barr told the Notre Dame law students.

“They never thought that the main danger to the republic would come from an external foe,” he said. “The question was whether the citizens in such a free society could maintain the moral discipline and virtue necessary for the survival of free institutions.”

“And this is really what they meant by self-government,” said Barr. “It did not mean primarily the mechanics by which we select a representative legislature. It referred to the capacity of each individual to restrain and govern themselves.”

A notion with which we have no quarrel.

Mr. Barr went on to say:

But what was the source of this internal controlling power? In a free republic, those restraints could not be handed down from above by philosopher kings. Instead, social order must flow up from the people themselves freely obeying the dictates of inwardly possessed and commonly shared moral values.

Certainly they must.

But then he said:

And to control willful human beings with an infinite capacity to rationalize, those moral values must rest on an authority independent of men’s wills. They must flow from the transcendent Supreme Being. In short, in the framers’ view, free government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people, a people who recognized that there was a transcendent moral order antecedent to both the state and to manmade laws and had the discipline to control themselves according to those enduring principles.

Why must they, how could they, “flow” from a “transcendent Supreme Being”? How is such a “transcendent moral order” made known to human beings? By the “Supreme Being” implanting the knowledge as instinct? Or through ancient assertions by ignorant men?

We state apodictically that no superhuman being ever spoke to a human being. Though both St. Paul and Muhammad say they were spoken to by “Jesus” and “the Archangel Gabriel” respectively.

We laugh off all such claims. Can we then accept that it is by instinct the religious have knowledge of a “transcendent moral order”? Moral knowledge planted deep in their souls?

But which “transcendent moral order”? Not only did Jesus and Gabriel give quite different moral commandments according to the human conduits of their messages, but instinct too has conveyed a variety of convictions as to what is morally right and wrong. They often contradict one another. While (for instance) some religions teach that a woman who commits adultery must be stoned to death by a crowd of righteously outraged citizens, another maintains that only one who is without sin may cast the first stone, and insists that all mortals are tainted with the sin of their first ancestors, so no one may start stoning.

We atheists want – as we thought the Founding Fathers all wanted – a state that has nothing to do with religion; steers clear of making any laws “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. But William Barr, and Terry Jeffrey  insist – and remind us John Adams insisted – that “our constitution was made only for a moral and religious People”. And they tell us the Constitution, and America itself as the free country founded on the Constitution, are chiefly under threat not – as we observe – from Congressional socialists, revolutionaries in the schools and universities, violent anarchists in the streets, but from “secularists”.

Barr argued that “secularists” are now attacking the moral order that is the foundation of our liberty and threatening religious freedom in pursuit of their cause.

First is the force, fervor and comprehensiveness of the assault on organized religion we are experiencing today. This is not decay. This is organized destruction. Secularists and their allies have marshaled all the forces of mass communication, popular culture, the entertainment industry and academia, in an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values.

The threat is not that the government will establish a state religion; the threat is that the state will attack people for conscientiously practicing their own.

“The problem is not that religion is being forced on others,” Barr said. “The problem is that irreligion is being forced; secular values are being forced on people of faith.

What secular values? What secularists are fervently and comprehensively assaulting organized religion?

It may be that secularists and atheists on the Left are doing so. But are they doing it to force secularist values, or Leftist values which are secular?

We atheist conservatives are doing nothing like that. And we don’t know any secularists or atheists on the political Right who are actively trying to stop people worshiping this or that god or sets of gods. Most of us just think it is absurd to do so. (And we certainly don’t want a theocracy. If we saw any danger of that coming up we would attempt, fervently and comprehensively, to stop it.)

Mr. Barr cites an example which is typical of the intolerance of the Left. Not of atheists and secularists generally – though it affected a religious organization – but essentially of the Left:

One example he cites is the crusade the Obama administration fought all the way to the Supreme Court to force Americans – including the Little Sisters of the Poor – to act against their conscience by mandating that they buy insurance coverage for contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs and devices.

But Barr recognizes that the ultimate battle is for the hearts and minds of America’s children.

“Ground zero for these attacks on religion are the schools,” he said.

He cited as one example an opinion issued by the Orange County Board of Education in California that said, “Parents who disagree with the instructional materials related to gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation may not excuse their children from this instruction.”

In other words, if you cannot afford to liberate your child from the government school, you must allow that government agency to teach your child that a boy can become a girl.

We share his indignation. That is not an atheist or a secularist reaction. It is common sense to repudiate such nonsense.

But the excellent Mr. Barr thinks that only Christian teaching – not science – can make the conclusive argument against the proposition that there are or can be more than two sexes.

Education is not vocational training. It is leading our children to the recognition that there is truth and helping them develop the facilities to discern and love the truth and the discipline to live by it.

Sounds good, but by “truth” he means the Christian religion.

We cannot have a moral renaissance unless we succeed in passing to the next generation our faith and values in full vigor.

“Our values” certainly.

“Our faith”? No. The less religion is taught to new generations, decidedly the better!

Wherever wars are being fought or threatened now, this month, this year, anywhere in our world, the cause in almost every case arises, burning hot and lethal, out of one or another religion’s “truth”.

Posted under Christianity, Ethics, Leftism, Religion general, United States, US Constitution by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, October 16, 2019

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The pursuit of happiness 57

Gentlefolk in the 18th. century thought that to try to live happily was a reasonable aim, to judge by the statement of the great authors of the US Declaration of Independence. To them it appeared “self-evident” that every person had a “right” (“endowed by their Creator”, or, in other words, a natural right) to his life and his choice how to live it, which surely meant that he would live it as nearly to his heart’s desire as he could.

Horny handed sons of toil, even if as free under the law, were not expected, either by themselves or their betters, to achieve the same forms of happiness. Enough for them if they could earn their daily bread. For that they lived and strove. Their life was the striving. It occupied their hours, their days, their years, their bodies and their thoughts. Success was survival. Survival was for most of them the only reasonable attainable happiness. If some strove for more – excess, property, leisure – and attained it, then happiness abounded. (Happiness, that is to say, as contentment. Other forms of gratification – thrills, excitement, delights of the senses, scoring triumphs – are not our subject. They are experienced episodically and enjoyed to the degree the individual is capable of.)

The welfare state relieved the workers of the need to strive for survival. Now all could be philosophers. The joy of exploring the limitless sphere of the mind was open to all. Universal happiness would reign.

But doesn’t.

The reasons why people commit suicide are many and various, but what they all have in common is that they find life unbearable. So suicide rates might be taken as a gauge of happiness and the lack of it in a population.

The figures for those rates from the last few years (according to Wikipedia – and perhaps not entirely trustworthy) provide some surprises. (Worth noticing in passing – far more males kill themselves than do females everywhere.)

Highest suicide rate in the world: Greenland. Average 82.8 per 100,000 per annum. It is a welfare state.

Google reveals:

As part of Denmark, Greenlanders have access to one of the most extensive social welfare systems in Europe, including universal, nationalized medical care and free state education, including college.

(President Trump has asked Denmark if it would sell Greenland to the USA. Rhetorical question: Would life in Greenland be better, more bearable, happier if it became the 51st. state of the USA, which provides much less welfare? USA suicide average per 100,000 per annum, 14.5.)

Big drop to the next highest. Guyana 30.2, Lithuania 28.27, South Korea 26.6

The average for most European countries is between 12.57 (Germany) and 17 (Belgium).

Britain? Only 7.23!

China? 9.8

Iran 4.8   The state does most of the killing there.

Venezuela 3.2  Nature does it there, because the people are starving and have no medicines. Venezuela is – way beyond a welfare state – a socialist state.

Syria 0.1  Constant civil war rages there.

Pakistan 1.1   People are happy in Pakistan?

Haiti  – a truly miserable place of hunger and disease. Average suicide?  0.0

But back to the pursuit of happiness in the civilized West.

What went wrong? Is it possible that the strivers enjoyed the striving and its meager rewards?

Or did philosophizing bring the newly leisured to ask, “What is it all for anyway?“. And find no answer?

There are thousands of counselors – even millions, we would guess – telling unhappy people how to be happy. There are hundreds of thousands of books giving readers rules for living –  from obedience to which, happiness might be expected.

And there is religion. Religion is supposed to “give meaning to life”.

Does it answer the question “what is it all for anyway?”

Let’s look at an individual case of unhappiness. In America.

At the American Conservative, we found this letter, reproduced by Rod Dreher, to whom it was sent as if to an agony aunt:

Mr. Dreher,

The things you have been writing lately about alienated young men and mass shootings prompt me to reach out to you. I am not a young man anymore, but I am dealing with things that I did not imagine I would be when I was young and newly married. Back then, everything made sense. I feel like I need to tell my story.

My background is that I am a successful businessman (a kind of consultant) living in a well-to-do suburb of a Southern city. My wife and I married relatively early, and had two kids. The boys are in good colleges in other states. They are getting ready to head back to school next week. It has been a real pleasure having them here this summer. Our house becomes a tomb when they are not around.

Four years ago, my wife told me that she didn’t want to be married to me anymore. After almost 30 years, she had had enough. I did not see that coming. We almost never fought. We used to go to dinner together, take family vacations, do things together, etc etc. She just said that she thought she had hitched herself to a man too young, and now that the boys were older and out of the house, she was reconsidering her life. I asked her if there was another man. She said no, and eventually I believed her. I asked her if she wanted a divorce. She said probably so, but she wanted to wait until the boys got out of school. She is a reasonable person with a finance background, and knows that a divorce would cost us a lot at a time when we are supporting two kids in college.

She has a job she loves. I work from a home office. I was so glad when my company gave me the chance to do this. I miss the friendships in the office, but when you talk on your blog about wokeness in the workplace, I always find myself nodding along. A few years back, my company started getting engaged with “diversity and inclusivity” in the workplace. I noticed that every time they would run us all through one of those seminars, we would all come out of it more suspicious of each other. It was crazy. It was as if our bosses were trying to poison the office environment. I got to the point where as a white male, I saw my co-workers as potentially the people who would try to get me fired if I said one wrong thing by mistake. They might have seen me that way too. It was crazy. The more management pushed “diversity and inclusivity”, the more anxious things felt in the office. When the company was restructuring and offered people in my division the chance to work at home, I jumped at it, just to get out of that tense environment.

It was a blessing at first, but nowadays I wonder if that was the right thing to do. The idea of working from home seems great, until you realize that you don’t see people at all. I have a nice home office where I put in my 9 to 5, which is really more like 8 to 7, but everybody does that. If I’m being truthful, I stay in my office longer than I have to on most days, because there is nothing for me outside of it. My wife used to be my best friend. Now we just share a house and a bed. She has friends from her office, and goes out with them a lot. When all this started, I honestly thought she was seeing some guy. I’m not going into the details, but I’m truly convinced that she’s not. She’s just hanging out with other middle-aged women who are sick of their husbands too.

I used to think only men behaved like that. Mother and Daddy have both passed away, but they had a good marriage. Some of their friends got divorced when I was a kid, and it was always the man leaving his wife for a younger woman. They were very judgmental of them, but in a way I still think was right. They were Southern people (I think you know what I mean, Mr. Dreher), and that meant that they thought it was dishonorable for a man to do his wife like that. I internalized that honor code, and have always lived by it, and my Catholic faith. If my wife demands a divorce, I will give it to her, but I won’t marry again. How could I go through an annulment? I can’t say truthfully that this was not really a marriage. I meant it when I said my vows, and I believe my wife did too. I am not going to make bastards of my sons because my wife abandoned me and I want to be married again. Besides, there would be no marrying again for me anyway. I look at myself in the mirror — mid to late 50s, half-bald, pot belly, etc etc. What woman would want me even if I was free to marry her?

I was an only child, so I have no close family to speak of. We are Catholics. My faith is just about the only thing that keeps me going through all this, but it’s thin. My wife refuses to see a marriage counselor. I made the first steps to getting an appointment to talk to our priest, but I gave up because that was hopeless. I feel bad for our priest. He’s managing a big suburban parish all on his own. It would have taken forever to get an appointment, and there was no way he was going to be able to give us the time it would take to save our marriage, especially given that my wife doesn’t want to save it. Besides, there is nothing I’ve ever heard our priest say that tells me he is a man who could help us. He talks like one of those life coaches our company used to bring in for team building exercises, a guy who gets all his ideas from Hallmark cards.

She still goes to mass with me, but just out of habit. When I stand there listening to Fr give his cheerful but empty homilies, I think about what’s keeping me from going home and blowing my brains out. I’m not going to do this because I’m scared of pain and I’m scared of going to Hell. Also, I don’t want to hurt the boys, and make them feel like they did something to cause it or give them something to be ashamed of. However, I think a lot about how little I have to live for anymore. I am not even sure that the boys think of me much, except as “Good Old Dad”…

Nobody can see it. I stand there in church, wearing my coat and tie, and people probably think I have it all together. We drive nice cars, we live in a nice house in a good neighborhood, etc, etc. I am grateful to have a good job that has allowed me to provide for my family. By all the world’s standards, I’m doing well. I have “white privilege”. 

What a joke. When I first started working in my home office, I would dress up in a coat, no tie, and dress pants to go to “work.” It felt right to hang on to that habit. Since my marriage fell apart, I notice that some days I don’t even get out of my pajamas. I sit there at my nice desk doing all my work on my laptop, and go right back to bed at the end of the day without even taking a shower. I know this is pathetic, and if the boys were still at home, I would know to keep up appearances. This is my life.

When the boys graduate and don’t have to depend on us, I guess that will mean Decision Time. I will probably move out, though to all rights we ought to sell the house. I remember the day we bought it, and talking with my wife about that big dining room, and how we looked forward to the kids coming home with their wives and children for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Oh, we sure had big plans for that dining room. We bought a house with a fireplace because we dreamed about sitting around it with the grandchildren. All that is over now, and not because I wanted it to be. I feel so powerless. Maybe I would stay here if either one of the boys moved back, but given the fields they have chosen, I don’t look for that to happen, and even if it did, we would just be keeping up appearances for their sake. Southern people are real good at that, as you know.

What prompted me to write to you is your writings about the loneliness crisis. I am not some white trash 22 y.o. living in a trailer somewhere, playing video games, and living off his Mama, but I am completely isolated in my life. My “video game” is Excel spreadsheets. The friends I had back in the happier days were all “couples friends” through my wife. When she said she didn’t want to be married to me, we stopped having people over, and stopped accepting invitations to other people’s houses. After a few years, those invitations stopped coming. I tried to keep up these friendships with the husbands, but it was awkward. I told a couple of the guys I was closest to about the mess in my marriage, and they seemed sympathetic, but there wasn’t a lot they could do. They all had kids, and their couples friends. Two or three times I went to their dinner parties by myself, but you talk about awkward! I was embarrassed by it all, and just quit going. I miss those guys, and I even miss their wives. We used to be happy all together.

If this is “white privilege”, screw it. I stopped by the shoe repair shop a couple of weeks ago, and there were some black guys my age sitting around talking and laughing with each other. I envied them. I probably make 10 or 15 times more than them, but they are probably rich in ways that I used to be before I went “bankrupt”. I would trade all this so-called “white privilege” for a happy marriage, a strong family, and good friends. Mother and Daddy didn’t have a lot of money, but at least they had that. They also had a small-town church where they felt at home. How can anybody feel at home in a big parish like mine? I was taught to be charitable, especially to the clergy, and I do feel bad for our priest, who is carrying a heavy load. But this ain’t church. I’ve gotten to the point where I sit there during mass and I wonder how many of those men in the pews are just like me: barely holding it together, wondering what the hell we’re living for, ignored by our wives, and starving for friendship. God feels so far away. I have never doubted His existence, but these days, He feels like the Pope — a nice man who lives far away and who doesn’t see us.

I know I sound like I’m feeling sorry for myself. I guess I am. But damn it, I didn’t think things were going to work out like this. I did everything I was supposed to do, and it all fell to pieces anyway. I’m racking my brains trying to figure out how I can fix this, but my wife doesn’t want it to be fixed. She just wants out. I recognize that I am privileged economically and socially, but I’m here to tell you that if you were a working man who drove by my house, and saw me out front mowing our big lawn, you would think I had it made. In fact, you would be looking at a dead man, at a man who secretly hopes he falls over from a heart attack so he doesn’t have to keep carrying this weight of loneliness. At this point, my only purpose in life is to do what I have to do so my sons can have a good life or think they have a good life, until they get to my age and it falls to shit, and they end up doing just what their Good Old Dad is doing.

The thought just occurred to me as I’m writing this that the only real reason we will have to keep our household together after our sons graduate is if one of them can’t find a job, and has to live with us. That’s a sorry state to be in, knowing that the only thing that would keep you and your wife together is an unemployed grown-up child.

I appreciate the opportunity to get this off of my chest. I like reading your blog because even though it’s depressing sometimes, I feel like you talk about the real world, which is more than I get from my priest. I would just ask your readers to keep in mind that when they see people at church, in the store, and at other places, that those people might be suffering in ways that are not obvious. You think folks have it made, but they don’t. You see me getting out of my [luxury car brand] at church, with my wife, and we’re all dressed up and smiling, but from my very jaded perspective, we’re dead people who have no future. At least my wife has the girls from the office.

I’ve thought about asking my manager if I can come back to the office, but I know that’s not a solution. I’m the Great White Male, the source of all evil in the world. Given my run of luck, it would be about right for somebody to falsely accuse me of something, and end up taking away the last I have left from what started out as an American dream. I’d end up jobless and poor, and then the gun to the head might not seem so scary after all.

Sorry. Thanks for listening.

One thing we find particularly interesting about this “confession” is how little the man’s faith does for him. Fear of hell keeps him from suicide. That’s about all.

If he were not a believing Catholic, he might have developed some curiosity about the world he lives in. It has not occurred to him to go exploring in the infinite realm of the mind.

He was happier when his children lived with him. If he had grandchildren living near by he might be happy again. For a while, anyway. Until they grew up. But young men are not quick to marry now and raise a family.

Readers, your comments are needed.

Religion versus morality 50

We constantly hear the claim of religious believers that all our societal woes, the rise in crime, the careless conception of unwanted children, the disrespect and incivility that characterizes interpersonal relations, derives from the circumstance that the West has become irreligious, has abandoned what is misleadingly called the “Judeo-Christian” tradition. (See for instance here.)

I contend to the contrary that  not only is religion as such fundamentally immoral in that it teaches falsehood as truth; but, in addition, religious dogma is too weak to support values and principles necessary to the survival of our civilization. 

When the Christian nations of Europe taught their morals to the peoples they colonized, they did so in the context of religion. So when, in the course of time, religion was abandoned by many individual members of the proselytized nations – because it is untrue –  the moral teaching went with it. 

Had the Europeans conveyed the lessons of the Enlightenment, had they taught moral behavior on grounds of reason rather than faith, the principles – such as that of ‘enlightened self-interest’ requiring mutual esteem, reciprocated tolerance and honesty – would have continued to make sufficient sense in themselves to remain unaffected by the rise and fall, the popularity and unpopularity, of other ideas.

 

 

Jillian Becker   August 26, 2019

 

Posted under Christianity, Ethics, Europe, Judaism, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Monday, August 26, 2019

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Is religion a force for good? 30

One of our highly valued contributing readers, Jeanne, writes in a comment:

We may not like the form of “stabilization” that comes from Islam, but it worked to set up the type of community and family life that Mohammed desired. We may not like the “stabilizing” influence of Christianity from a thousand years ago, but it did the same. We may not like the Christianity of today that came from the Reformation, but it was a stabilizing factor of the beginning of our nation and forms the backbone of many communities by supporting the family, the individual and charities, which benefit them each. Judeo-Christian beliefs and values aided by the Enlightenment (or vice-versa) set the tone for the moral populace that was so important to our Constitutional Republic when it was making its mark and requiring such principled and responsible individuals to form a United States loosely held together by the laws of men and not divine-rule royalty or theocratic forces of Rome.

If we did not have such an organized Communist movement that worked on our nation for a century, helping to secularize the populace, we might have found that those who left the Judeo-Christian religion behind were still moral/ethical and responsible individuals disciplined enough to make a Constitutionalist proud, but that is not how it worked out. Instead we have no consequences for unethical behavior, because there is a deplorable lack of guidance for proper parental behavior, no reason to be ashamed of bearing out-of-wedlock children, no stigma to a man abandoning all his fatherly duties, no desire to be responsible, no desire to have allegiance to one’s community or country or to obey the nation’s laws and respect its heritage. And that has not so much come about as people left their church, but because of Progressive influence that has been very well done. Most people need religion to maintain a discipline of responsibility and morality.

We think it is a comment that deserves attention.

This is our review of it:

On Islam and the family: Muslim men can marry as many wives as they can afford to keep. The wives are totally subjected to the will of the husband. He is commanded by the Koran to beat her if he judges her to be disobedient or insubordinate in any way. There is no such thing as rape within marriage – a husband can rape his wife. A husband can divorce a wife by saying three times that he divorces her. For her, divorce is difficult to the point of being almost impossible. She cannot have custody of children past their infancy. A daughter can inherit only half as much as a son. If a woman is raped and four male witnesses did not witness actual penetration, she is not only considered uninjured, she is accused of illicit sexual intercourse which is a capital offense. Execution is by stoning. There is no lower limit to the age at which girls can be married. Little girls can be married to elderly men. Girls as young as five can be and often are raped by their lawful husbands literally to death. That was indeed the type of family life that Muhammad was said to desire. But if that is “stabilization”, then stability is no virtue.

On “Judeo-Christian”: This is a favorite hyphenation in the West of late. But it makes no more sense than would “Christio-Muslim”. (Islam derived some ideas from Christianity but it is a very different creed.) Christianity was a revolution against Judaism. The essential moral point of Jewish religious teaching was the idea of justice. (What those ancient men thought was just doesn’t match in every particular with what we may think is just, and the Jewish God is more a god of revenge than of justice, but the thrust of the doctrine was that guilt must be punished and innocence protected.) Christianity substituted love for justice. The guilty must be forgiven. The sin can be condemned but not the sinner. St. Paul, who is the author of the Christian religion (see the essay listed in our margin under Pages, The Birth and Early History of Christianity) wanted to abandon the Jewish Law altogether, insisting that it had been superseded by the “sacrifice” of “the Christ”. But the Church fathers could not organize an antinomian church so retrieved the entire Jewish bible as a prologue to their own “Testament” for the sake of preserving the moral law – which is to say, the “ten commandments”. They also needed the Jewish Bible for the prophesies of the Messiah, since they held Jesus to be the fulfillment of them. They changed the meaning of “Messiah” from ”King” to “God”, and declared that God was not One – the central tenet of Jewish theology – but Three. So little more than  a few laws, common to all the law codes of the Middle East and probably everywhere, remained of Judaism in Christianity. Christianity with its extreme intolerance even of slight doctrinal differences came down as a long night on Western Europe for a thousand years. Terrible religious wars between Christian factions, and between Christians and Gnostics such as the Cathars, took untold numbers of lives, century after century. What happened to families and the stability of communities while the Papal Inquisition was at work? Or in the civil wars fought over doctrinal differences? Or to the families and communities of the Jews persecuted throughout Christendom? It’s a blood-soaked history. When the Reformation came, the Protestant churches were as intolerant as the Roman Catholic church. The darkness was lifted at last only by the Enlightenment.

The Enlightenment was a revolution against all the orthodoxies of all the churches, and broke their power. Western greatness dates from the Enlightenment. Doubt, valued by pre-Christian Greece and Rome, came back from long suppression to challenge the churches’ insistence on unquestioning conformity. The two greatest products of the Enlightenment were Science and the Constitution of the United States of America.

In a nation that made no laws respecting religion, the history of Western religion changed. Old historical religious conflicts were put to rest. In America, millions live peacefully with neighbors of different faiths and none. (But new ideologies have arisen, secular religions, stirring up antagonisms as intense and bitter as did the old.)

It may well be the case now that American church-going families are in general happier and more successful than others. It may well be that the abandonment of traditional religion contributed of late to delinquency, fatherlessness, and disregard of familial, patriotic, and civic responsibility.

But does that mean most people need religion to live responsibly and morally?

Did most people behave more morally and responsibly when they feared divine retribution? Was there in fact less theft, rape, and murder when, through the long Christian centuries,  everybody went to church? And if so, was it a good bargain to have more security for one’s possessions and one’s person at the price of living one’s entire life in terror of eternal hellfire?

In the past, in the long perspective, has religion proved itself to be a force for good?

Is it good now for a civilized educated nation to teach children to believe that a person rules over the universe, continually watching their every thought and deed so as to reward or punish them?

Is it good if the citizens of a free republic believe that a Lord, a King, an invisible Sovereign rules over them?

Is it good to kneel to, worship, suffer for, pray to, an omnipotent, omniscient, unknowable, immortal Tyrant?

Posted under Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Religion general, United States by Jillian Becker on Friday, May 24, 2019

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The new tribalism 4

Certain Western politicians of all ages and in all walks of life who feel called upon by nature to organize society are keen to return it to tribalism.

The trouble with tribes is that they conflict with one another.

As they are doing now. 

The new tribes are designated according to sex, race, and religion, and in all categories there is increasing friction.

Conflict between the sex tribes 

Athletes in the sex tribe of  Women are in conflict with athletes in the sex tribe of Transgenders-into-Women.

Girl students in the sex tribe of Women complain against rules that allow students in the sex tribe of Transgenders-into-Women to share their locker rooms.  

Conflict between the race tribes

Members of the race tribes of Browns and Blacks despise and insult members of the race tribe of Whites – with particular ferocity in the case of Whites who also belong to the sex tribe of Men. (See here and here.)

Members of Brown and Black race tribes who sit on University Admissions boards, along with their White collaborators, discriminate against members of the race tribe of Asians.   

Conflict between the religion tribes

In African and Asian countries, members of the old established religion tribe of Islam are enslaving, torturing and killing members of other old established religion tribes, in great numbers in the Arab lands of Africa and the Middle East. With the mass migration of Muslims from Africa and Asia into Europe, this time-honored custom is augmenting the tribalist movement in the West.  

The religion tribe of Leftists presides over the process of re-tribalization in the West. In alliance with Islam, the Left has created a movement within which its designated sex, race and religion tribes observe a doctrine called “intersectionality”. It is ostensibly ecumenical, but it is also hierarchical, and as some tribes are held to be superior to others, conflict is not avoided. Also, it is not all-inclusive. The movement reluctantly admits White Men on condition of their self-abasement. And it excludes the religion tribe of Jews.   

Why this atavism in our advanced CyberAge? What is the motive of the Left? Does conflict serve its ends? If so, how? What are its ends?  

Posted under Leftism, Race, Religion general, Sex by Jillian Becker on Monday, March 25, 2019

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The great good movement to destroy humanity 10

 

A bunch of eminent professors and kindly persons who love nature want the human race to be extinguished. Wiped off the earth. Never to arise again.

“Would human extinction be a tragedy? ” asks Professor Todd May in the New York Times.

“Our species possesses inherent value, but we are devastating the earth and causing unimaginable animal suffering.” he says.

Todd May is a professor of philosophy at Clemson University.

He does not speak of those animal species that depend absolutely on humans for their existence. Or those whose lives have been much improved by human care. Or the suffering that animals cause other animals. Nor does he notice that natural forces cause animals to suffer. Humans are cruel to animals. Human existence causes animals to suffer. Ergo humankind must go.

There is good news for him from an academic colleague.

Eminent Australian scientist Professor Frank Fenner, who helped to wipe out smallpox, predicts that humans will probably be extinct within 100 years, because of overpopulation, environmental destruction and climate change.

Fenner, who is emeritus professor of microbiology at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, said homo sapiens will not be able to survive the population explosion and “unbridled consumption”, and will become extinct, perhaps within a century, along with many other species.

Fenner told The Australian he tries not to express his pessimism because people are trying to do something, but keep putting it off. He said he believes the situation is irreversible, and it is too late because the effects we have had on Earth since industrialization (a period now known to scientists unofficially as the Anthropocene) rivals any effects of ice ages or comet impacts.

If the burning up of the earth because of human beings’ dirty ways does not destroy the human race, perhaps through starvation, our species can be wiped out by disease. Professor Eric Pianka of the University of Texas has picked the best disease for the purpose: ebola.

“The Texas Distinguished Scientist of 2006, University of Texas ecologist Eric Pianka told a meeting of the Texas Academy of Science that 90 percent of his fellow human beings must die in order to save the planet. A very disturbed Forrest M. Mims III — Chairman of the Environmental Science Section of the Texas Academy of Science, writing at The Citizen Scientist — reported”:

Professor Pianka said the Earth as we know it will not survive without drastic measures. Then, and without presenting any data to justify this number, he asserted that the only feasible solution to saving the Earth is to reduce the population to 10 percent of the present number.

He then showed solutions for reducing the world’s population in the form of a slide depicting the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. War and famine would not do, he explained. Instead, disease offered the most efficient and fastest way to kill the billions that must soon die if the population crisis is to be solved.

Pianka then displayed a slide showing rows of human skulls, one of which had red lights flashing from its eye sockets.

AIDS is not an efficient killer, he explained, because it is too slow. His favorite candidate for eliminating 90 percent of the world’s population is airborne Ebola (Ebola Reston), because it is both highly lethal and it kills in days, instead of years. However, Professor Pianka did not mention that Ebola victims die a slow and torturous death as the virus initiates a cascade of biological calamities inside the victim that eventually liquefy the internal organs.

After praising the Ebola virus for its efficiency at killing, Pianka paused, leaned over the lectern, looked at us and carefully said, “We’ve got airborne 90 percent mortality in humans. Killing humans. Think about that.”

“An Oxford philosophy professor who has studied existential threats ranging from nuclear war to superbugs says the biggest danger of all may be superintelligence.”

Superintelligence is any intellect that outperforms human intellect in every field, and Nick Bostrom thinks its most likely form will be a machine — artificial intelligence.

There are two ways artificial intelligence could go, Bostrom argues. It could greatly improve our lives and solve the world’s problems, such as disease, hunger and even pain. Or, it could take over and possibly kill all or many humans. As it stands, the catastrophic scenario is more likely, according to Bostrom, who has a background in physics, computational neuroscience and mathematical logic.

“Superintelligence could become extremely powerful and be able to shape the future according to its preferences,” Bostrom told me. “If humanity was sane and had our act together globally, the sensible course of action would be to postpone development of superintelligence until we figure out how to do so safely.”

Bostrom, the founding director of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, lays out his concerns in his new book, Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. His book makes a harrowing comparison between the fate of horses and humans:

Horses were initially complemented by carriages and ploughs, which greatly increased the horse’s productivity. Later, horses were substituted for by automobiles and tractors. When horses became obsolete as a source of labor, many were sold off to meatpackers to be processed into dog food, bone meal, leather, and glue. In the United States, there were about 26 million horses in 1915. By the early 1950s, 2 million remained.

The same dark outcome, Bostrom said, could happen to humans once AI makes our labor and intelligence obsolete.

“It sounds like a science fiction flick, but recent moves in the tech world may suggest otherwise. Earlier this year, Google acquired artificial intelligence company DeepMind and created an AI safety and ethics review board to ensure the technology is developed safely. Facebook created an artificial intelligence lab this year and is working on creating an artificial brain. Technology called “deep learning,” a form of artificial intelligence meant to closely mimic the human brain, has quickly spread from Google to Microsoft, Baidu and Twitter. …

“There are maybe six people working full time on this AI control problem. We need to add more brilliant brains to this technical work. I’m hoping my book will do something to encourage that. How to control superintelligent AI is really the most important task of our time — yet, it is almost completely ignored.”

Those who look forward to the extinction of the human race can join like-thinkers in a group called The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT). According to Wikipedia it is “an environmental movement that calls for all people to abstain from reproduction to cause the gradual voluntary extinction of humankind”.

So the question confronts us. How valuable is human life?

Valuable to whom?

It is an unanswerable question.

You cannot measure the value of human life. Human life is itself the measure. It’s like trying to measure the saltiness of salt or the wetness of water.

Without human life, human consciousness, there is no such thing as “value”. There is no “clean” and “dirty”, no “right” and “wrong”.

It can even be said that there is no “planet earth”, no “universe”.  Sure there are things out there, energy in innumerable multifarious forms. There are even forms of consciousness, but as far as we know there is nothing other than the human mind that names anything, nothing that ascribes value to anything.

Oh wait! Yes, many believe there is a human-type MIND presiding over this universe. They believe it created matter out of nothing. In that human-imagined MIND the value of human beings can be measured. Is measured. Weighed and found wanting. Our good, our bad, how well we fulfill our purpose (which is to worship the Creator MIND), is alleged to be under its constant surveillance. But they who believe all this believe without reason.

How afraid should we be? Will the earth destroy us with the heat we ourselves obstinately go on generating? Will we all starve to death? Will ebola be deliberately spread among us? Will intelligent machines ruthlessly kill us? Is voluntary abstention from reproduction likely to become so general that those living now are the last generations?

We hope not. But we do see something at work that really could destroy us all. It is not global warming. It is not starvation. It is not disease. It is not robots. It is not chastity – the most unlikely of all.

It is stupidity.

Flirting with evil 17

In Judaism and Christianity, Satan is the personification of evil. And “evil” is understood to imply “a cause of suffering”.

But to tens of thousands of healthy, schooled, well heeled persons in the Western world the name means something entirely different. Joined together in cults, they worship a good Satan – good in ways that are conventionally understood to be good.

The Daily Mail reports on one such cult, The Satanic Temple.

Since TST’s founding in 2012 [by Lucien Greaves and Malcolm Jarry], the organization has increased from a handful of members to tens of thousands, with chapters all over the US and the globe, from Stockholm to London and Los Angeles to Texas. And their “pranksterism” … has given way to a well-conceived ethos, forming an organized “religion” for a “group of contrarians” opposed to any organization at all. …

“Contrarians”? Doing shocking, but not illegal, things – the way teenagers do or say something defiant to challenge their parents, or Communists to “spite the bourgeois”?

They say they are against “tyrannical authority”.

A member of the cult explained it to Sheila Flynn, the Daily Mail reporter:

“Modern Satanism is a non-theistic religious practice that uses the literary symbol of Satan as a kind of symbol against tyrannical authority.”

In fact, as Satanists – they will have it known – they do really good things:

“In reality, what’s going on here is nice people gathering in their communities who organize charity events …”

Their stated doctrine hardly defies convention:

The seven tenets of The Satanic Temple [are]:  

One should strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason

The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions

One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone 

The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one’s own

Beliefs should conform to one’s best scientific understanding of the world. One should never distort scientific facts to fit one’s beliefs 

People are fallible. If one makes a mistake, one should do one’s best to rectify it and resolve any harm that might have been caused

Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word

So these “Satanists” are for nobility in action and thought: compassion; empathy; wisdom; justice; rectifying harm; reason; pursuing truth through science; respecting freedom and the inviolability of the person.

Occasion for defiance of convention is suggested by their principle that the pursuit of justice should “prevail over laws and institutions”. No objective determination of what is just, then? Rather a matter of what you feel to be just? A preference for subjective justice? If so, reason – though declared to be the guide of “compassion and empathy” – is demoted here.

To hold that the body should be inviolable is a fine idea, a noble thought; but violators abound, not only human but bacterial, viral, animal, and inanimate, and defending the body from violation is the business of law and institutions as well as science.

Reason is reinstated in the statement that belief must depend on scientific understanding. The only trouble about that is that there are different understandings of what science proves – differences that at present make for passionate controversy.

Is there anything that links them to more recognizably Satanic cults?

Well, they adhere to the known symbolism:

The Satanic Temple … is not afraid to take legal action when it feels that representations of Baphomet and other Satanic icons are not accurate reflections of its ethos and organization.  When Netflix released its new Chilling Adventures of Sabrina series last autumn, for example, the show featured a goat-headed statue of Baphomet – very similar to a sculpture commissioned by TST – which the Temple contended was portrayed as evil. The Satanic Temple sued Warner Brothers and Netflix – and in November announced that it had ‘amicably settled’ the lawsuit …

So they are for Baphomet, as they are for Satan, but against evil.

What of their rites and rituals? The Daily Mail shows pictures from a video in which a black mass is being performed in one of their temples.

But, “They’re as likely to run charity blood drives or collect sanitation products for homeless women as they are to take part in any sort of dark ritual.”

Do its acolytes consider it to be a religion?

“The Satanic Temple,’ [says] religious studies professor R. Andrew Chesnut, “actually present themselves as atheistic and really see Satan more as a metaphor.”

More than what? A god?   

“They’ve actually been criticized by other old-school Satanist groups – how on earth can you say you’re Satanists, but at the same time claim to be atheistic? Because if you believe in Satan, Satan is a supernatural figure. So they’re really kind of a new generation of Satanists, and I think more than actual veneration of Satan, this is really about much more kind of politicized.” 

He [Professor Chesnut] adds: “They don’t really seem engaged in the kind of organized rituals and worship that the older-school Satanist groups do.”

And one member, Jex Blackmore, confirms the professor’s understanding that the TST is primarily a political movement. She says:

“If you’re godless , free-thinking and are a rebel, then you are a Satanist in the eyes of many in our community and society and, certainly, by people in your government, whether you like it or not. … Before I decided I was a Satanist, it was really the Bible that said, ‘This is what a Satanist was like.’ The story of Adam and Eve is a story of Eve’s original sin. Eve was very curious, as her nature was as a woman. The devil appeared in the form of a snake and offers the fruit of enlightenment. We are taught to fear that, but at the same time, it seems the most liberating – because if we did not have that opportunity, we would have to be in total servitude, without free choice. Ultimate servitude is slavery; reframing it in the light of salvation is probably one of the greatest tricks ever played on humankind. Satanism is about embracing that Satanic status, rather than being controlled by it. … The devil directly challenged God, so – as a Satanist – I believe that directly confronting injustice and corrupt authority is an expression of one’s Satanic faith – and I believe activism is a Satanic practice. Traditionally, Satanists practice very privately, closed doors, black candles, black metal music, but with the Satanic philosophy being where Satanism represents rebellion against arbitrary authority, we believe it requires a level of political participation. I think that we need to go into the public sphere and announce ourselves without shame.”

That’s exactly what the temple has done over the past nearly six years. It’s fought for a statue of Baphomet … to be displayed on government grounds alongside the Ten Commandments to demonstrate the pluralism and religious diversity of the United States.

It planned a Black Mass on the Harvard campus in Boston – one of the most Catholic cities in America – to directly contravene the teachings and traditions of one of the world’s largest religions (though it was postponed and moved to a Chinese restaurant/comedy club when the Boston Archdiocese staged a massive counter march).

To act out against the Westboro Baptist Church – perhaps one of the most reviled religious factions in America, which protests soldier funerals, denounces gays and basically thinks that everyone is going to hell except members – the Satanic Temple held an unholy ceremony at the grave of [Westboro Baptist Church’s] founder Fred Phelps’s mother.

Penny Lane is the maker of the film about the TST titled Hail Satan! She says:

“There’s a growing, rapid disenchantment with the institutional religions. I think that we live in an era which is increasingly secular, especially amongst younger people. People do research from here to here; there are more and more younger people who are separating themselves from that kind of religious tradition of religious institutions. And there’s something really lost with that. You lose a lot.

“Religion provides a way of healing, meaning, and organization and narrative, coherent and community and ethical kind of standards or ways we consider difficult problems of how to live your life. That’s heavy stuff. So when you lose religion, you get a whole lot of people like myself who find themselves casting about for that kind of organizing principle.

“In The Satanic Temple kind of reincarnation of Satanism, they set up a kind of answer to that problem that resonates for a lot of people. It’s not for everyone; it’ll never be popular, per se. If it was, it would obviate the need for its own existence. I mean, they’re supposed to be the outsider; they’re supposed to be the outsider. They’re supposed to be the kind of minority.

“They’re not going to take over the world or anything, but there’s obviously people who see themselves as being part of that marginalized outsider status [who] still want to be able to engage society and find brethren and organize themselves. That’s what they do, and they’ve really hit upon something that really does resonate for a lot more people than maybe I thought at the beginning.”

Professor Chesnut says:

“In many ways [the TST Satanists] are more Christian than a lot of parts of the Bible – and so what a lot of us would think about Satanism is definitely not reflected there. And advocating social justice and compassion and nobody has the right to tell you what to do with your body and everything – and I would say, also, putting it into a larger context, we’ve seen the proliferation in general of paganism and Wiccanism, witchcraft and stuff. … I think this also is part of this kind of burgeoning interest in alternative pagan religions, particularly among millennials and Generation Z and stuff. The most important trend on the American religious landscape is the very rapid rise of the religious “nones” – those who have no formal religious institutional affiliation – which is now 25 percent of the American population, which is now more than Catholics.”

While looking wicked, they are – by their own lights – doing good.

And apart from everything else, the Satanists have a lot of fun.

In John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, Satan says: “Evil be thou my Good!” The TST Satanists’ slogan could be: “Good be thou my Evil!”

If their name, rites and symbols shock the churches, no harm done.

We have yet to discover on which side of the great political divide they stand. Their stated respect for freedom and reason, justice and science, suggests they may be on our side.

But one of their two founders, Lucien Greaves, says in the documentary film about them: “This is the infancy of The Satanic Temple. In our own humble little way, we are changing the world.” Which suggests they are unaware what evil really is, that it is a constant of the human condition – or else that they are heedless of the danger of flirting with it.

Posted under Ethics, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Thursday, January 24, 2019

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Aasiya Noreen, blasphemy, and the quality of mercy 1

As the word “humane” means to be merciful, it implies that human beings are by nature merciful beings.

Is human nature innately merciful, kind, compassionate? We know it is not. People are not only commonly unmoved by suffering; people deliberately hurt other people.

Perhaps the fact that cruelty often requires an excuse – a claim that the cruel act was committed to serve a higher virtue – suggests an intuitive recognition that it is wrong to be cruel?

What are such higher virtues?

They lie in those fantasies of fulfilled desires: religions.

To do this or that for a god, on the command of a god, in the name of a god; to help realize the great promises a god has made for all mankind – to abolish all suffering forever, to put an end to death, to lay a path to eternal bliss … that is the higher calling, such ends are the higher ends, the goodness that serves those purposes of that god, is the higher – the highest – virtue, says religion.

But don’t religions teach that to be good to other people is the highest service their acolytes can render to divinity?

No. Very few teach “humaneness” as a principle.

One religion that does not, is the religion with the second-largest following in the world: Islam.

Oh, it implies that “mercy” is highly valued by calling Allah, its god, “the Merciful” (“Bismillah al Rahman al Rahim” – “In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful”.) But it commands Muslims to be merciless to non-Muslims. A multitude of surahs in the Koran order Muslims to do violence against “unbelievers”. (“Fight those of the unbelievers who are near you and let them find ruthlessness in you.” 9:1123. “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah and those with him are ruthless against the unbelievers and merciful among themselves.” 48:29. “Enmity and hate shall reign between us until you believe in Allah alone.” 60:4.)

Islam is plainly a great horror afflicting the human race. But it was a late-comer among the world’s religions. It lit its flame from Christianity and Judaism, both of which did actually order that kindness be shown to both neighbor and stranger as a principle, but prescribed mercilessly cruel punishments for disobediance of their laws. Judaism commanded stoning to death for blasphemy; and blasphemy was an unforgivable sin in Christianity, punishable by an eternity in Hell. (“And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death.” Leviticus 24: 6. “But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.” Mark 3:29.)

Believers must fear the criticism they call blasphemy. Criticism threatens the very existence of their religion.

The Enlightenment woke the West out of the nightmare of religion, and led slowly to the abolition, in the 20th century, of blasphemy as a crime in most Western countries. Notable exceptions still being, in 2017: Spain, Italy, Greece, Austria, Germany, Canada, and Ireland (which is holding a referendum this month, October 2018, on whether its blasphemy laws should be repealed).

No one in any of those countries or anywhere in Western Europe has been put to death by the state for blasphemy since 1765, when – to quote RealClear Politics:

A young man named François-Jean de la Barre … became the last person executed for blasphemy in Europe. … For a long time, this tragic tale was a distant chapter in the story of Western civilization’s road to a secular, pluralistic society; the issues it raised had long been settled in favor of freedom of speech. … [But] twelve people — artists and journalists from the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo — [were] killed in the heart of Paris for perceived blasphemy against Islam [on January 7, 2015].

Islam, yes. In Islamic states blasphemers can still be sentenced to death.

In our post Thirst: a story of religious injustice, May 10, 2016, we told the story of Aasiya Noreen, brought to trial in Pakistan for blasphemy.

We tell it here again, with some changes and additions to bring the story up to date:

Aasiya Noreen is called “Asia Bibi” in the court and the press. That means “Asia Woman” – the common way women are named and titled in the Islamic culture which systematically demeans women.

Aasiya Noreen (aka “Asia Bibi”)

She was a poor, illiterate woman who worked in the fields to help support her family of five children, two of them her own and three of them her husband’s from a former marriage.

She was a Christian. A Catholic. Her  family were the only Christians in the small village where she lived some thirty miles outside Lahore, the capital of the Punjab in the Islamic state of Pakistan. The Christians of the region were an underclass, traditionally assigned to menial jobs.

One hot summer’s day in June, 2009, Aasiya was harvesting berries along with some Muslim women. They all became thirsty. The Muslim women sent Aasiya to fetch water from a well. Aasiya found a battered tin cup abandoned near the well, and had a drink from it  before refilling it and carrying it to her fellow workers. One of them accused her of drinking from the cup and so making it unclean. Christian lips should not contaminate a cup that Muslims drink from. All the Muslim women agreed on that.  

A dispute arose. Which was the one true religion? The Muslim women knew that Islam was the truth. Aasiya knew that Christianity was the truth. She dared to say (according to her own account), “Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Muhammed ever do to save mankind?”

The Muslim women were deeply offended. They went to their imam and told him that the Christian woman Aasiya Noreen had insulted the Prophet Muhammad.

The imam took action. He gathered together a number of good Muslims willing to defend the Prophet and the true faith of Islam, and led them to the house where Aasiya and her family lived. They set upon her and her husband and her children with righteous blows. The police arrived in time to save the Christian family from being beaten to death. The avenging mob agreed to spare them on condition that the police laid a charge of blasphemy against the woman. The police duly arrested her and put her in jail, where she waited until November, 2012 to be brought to trial.

Aasiya told the court that the woman who accused her of blasphemy had a grudge against her, resulting from an old quarrel, and the accusation was made out of a desire for revenge. The judge did not accept her story as a defense. He also chose to overlook inconsistencies in the testimony of the witnesses against her. He decided that she was guilty of blasphemy and sentenced her to death.

The description in Pakistani law of the crime she was fund guilty of, is: “Use of derogatory remarks, spoken, written, directly or indirectly, … defiles the name of Muhammad 1986.” The prescribed penalty is: “Mandatory Death and fine (Feb. 1990).” And the law stipulates that the judge must be a Muslim.

She was to be hanged for blaspheming against the Prophet Muhammad. 

She was the first woman ever to be condemned to death in Pakistan for blasphemy – her crime being considered so heinous that even death was not sufficient punishment. She was also to pay a fine equivalent to $1,100. She and her family had never in all their lives possessed a sum approaching $1,100. Nor did they know of any way they could raise it.

When the verdict was pronounced, the crowd in the court rose to its feet, applauding and shouting “Yes, kill her! Kill her! Allahu Akbar!”. And yet more enthusiasts for justice, more celebrants of the glory of God, broke down the doors to swarm into the court, their furious, triumphant shouts swelling the chorus of “Allahu Akbar!”  The greatness of their merciful God could hardly have been more passionately attested.

Aasiya’s husband, Ashiq Masih, appealed the verdict. He and Aasiya hoped that the High Court would at least suspend the sentence.

There were humane men in authority; men who felt compassion, cared about justice, and wanted mercy for Aasiya Noreen.

There was a man in a high position who was deeply moved by the fate of Aasiya and determined to do all he could for her. He was Salmaan Taseer, the governor of the Punjab. He persuaded the president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, to come to her rescue. In December 2012, Taseer publicly announced that if the High Court did not suspend her sentence, the president would pardon her. And Zardari would have done so, but the Lahore High Court hastened to issue a stay order against a presidential pardon.

So Aasiya remained in prison in Lahore, in solitary confinement in an 8 by 10 foot dark windowless cell, for another six years.

At first the governor would visit her, with his wife and daughter. But then the court ruled that only her husband and lawyer (not her children) could see her.

On January 4, 2011, Salmaan Taseer was assassinated by one Mumtaz Qadri who resented the governor’s concern for the blasphemer. (He was hanged for the crime in February 2016.) 

The Minister of Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti – himself a Christian, and the only Christian member of the cabinet – was so disturbed by the case that he set about doing all he could to get the laws of blasphemy changed. He announced that he was prepared to die fighting for Aasiya Noreen’s release. He received many death threats, and on March 2, 2011, he was shot dead in his car near his home.

Many times Aasiya’s appeal was postponed. In October 2014, the High Court finally heard her case – and upheld her death sentence. Her husband then appealed to the President. But he was restrained from issuing a pardon, so her lawyers appealed to Pakistan’s Supreme Court. In July, 2015, the Supreme Court suspended her death sentence “for the duration of the appeals process”.

On Monday October 8 this year, 2018, the Supreme Court, after long delay, heard her last appeal and said it had reached a judgment, but has not yet announced what it is.

The judges have reason to fear for their lives if they do not sentence her to death. Will that fact ensure her execution?

And after men in high places have been killed for sympathizing with her, what chance would she herself have of surviving the killers’ indignation if she were to be acquitted? Her family have gone into hiding, and they fear for her safety and survival if she were to be released.

Hundreds of Pakistanis have publicly protested against her being still alive. An imam offered $10,000 reward to anyone who would kill her, and apparently some 10 million citizens declared themselves ready and willing to do the noble deed. 

And, Reuters reports:

The ultra-religious Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party, which makes punishing blasphemy its main campaign rallying cry and lionizes the bodyguard who killed Taseer, warned the court against any “concession or softness” for Bibi.

“If there is any attempt to hand her over to a foreign country, there will be terrible consequences,” TLP said in a statement.

Are Christians doing anything to help save Aasiya Noreen?

The British Pakistan Christian Association reported on the eve of the appeal hearing: 

BPCA Outreach Officer Leighton Medley, who is in Pakistan on his 6 monthly mission has told us that many churches in Lahore, particularly in Bahar Colony, have declared a day of fasting and prayer as Christian communities seek justice for Asia Bibi. He tells us that many were praying throughout the churches, asking for the final release of this innocent woman and the end of this sordid chapter in Pakistan’s history. … Leighton spends time encouraging Christians to respond peacefully, and take to take in acting in a peaceful way, proclaiming non-violence the way that Jesus Christ did. [He says:]

We must have faith that God can intervene in this situation and this mountain will be removed. It is very much like going into the lion’s den.

For nine years, prayers for Aasiya Noreen have been prayed: by herself, by her family, by quite a lot of fellow Christians, for her acquittal and release. The praying has not resulted in her acquittal and release. So why not go on doing it?

One way or another, this long-suffering woman, Aasiya Noreen, is most likely to be killed soon.

She is under sentence of death for taking a drink of water from a cup that was afterwards used to quench the thirst of other working women on a hot day, and for saying something she had been taught to believe to the other women who had been taught that it was something that should not be believed and should not be said.

Because of fantastic rumors about a man called “Jesus” and a man called “Muhammad”, who lived (if at all) many hundreds of years ago; because of religion, lives are ruined, lives are lost. Cruelty and injustice reign. Again. 

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