Beware the church militant redux! 28

A writer by the name of Enza Ferreri has written an article against Reason. She probably doesn’t see that that is what she’s done. But that is what she’s done. She writes:

It’s all very simple. We can’t fight Islam in the West without fighting the enablers of Islam in the West, namely the Leftists.

So far, so good.

And, since the Left has many different and separate aspects, we have to fight against each one of them. Secularism, environmentalism, global warming alarmism, homosexualism, militant feminism, sexual relativism, multiculturalism, anti-Christianity, Islamophilia, post-nationalism, internationalism are just as important targets to attack as Marxist economics, the expropriation of the capitalist class (or, in its modern reincarnation, redistribution of wealth), and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The words we have put in bold mark the issues we dispute with Enza Ferreri.

We don’t know what “homosexualism” is, or “sexual relativism”.

We consider sexual choices to be private matters (unless they involve children). They are certainly not dangerous threats to the survival of the West.

But while we agree with the author on her other “targets”, we emphatically disagree with her when it comes to secularism and anti-Christianity.

First, secularism:

Secularism is not the same as Leftism. Between the founding of the United States of America and the dawning in the 1960s of this Leftist age, there was a very long stretch of secularism, liberty, and prosperity.

But in those times and those countries where a church (in the widest sense) has been the ruling power, there has always been tyranny. What greater tyranny can there be than the imposition of an orthodoxy on every mind?

Communism and Nazism also impose orthodoxy, and punish dissent as cruelly as a theocracy. That is one of the reasons why we class these ideologies as religions. Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Maoist China were not secular states; they were orthodoxies, as tyrannous as the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, or the newly declared Islamic State now.  

The secular state, and only the secular state, is a free state.  Secularism is freedom. Freedom is only possible in the secular state. 

Next, anti-Christianity:

In a free, secular society, people are free to be Christians. But people are equally free to criticize Christianity.

Neglecting any of these fronts is like fighting a war leaving a battleground to the enemy, like fighting on the Western front and leaving totally undefended the Eastern one.

Secularism and atheism are certainly the first lines of important wars.

So she contends that the prime enemy in her war is freedom. That being so, she has no case to make against Islam or Marxism.

For all that she seems to be speaking for tolerance (being against Islamophilia) and reason (being against environmentalism, global warming alarmism, “militant feminism”); and against Islam (aka multiculturalism) and Marxism (redistribution etc.), she is actually speaking for her own choice of intolerant, irrational, orthodox tyranny.

A secularist West will always lose to Islam, because it will have enough compassion, tolerance and self-restraint from violence that are the remnants of its Christian heritage, but it will have lost the ideals, the passion and certainty of fighting for a just cause that were once part of Christianity and have disappeared with its erosion.

Her assumptions are arrogant to an extreme. Compassion, tolerance and self-restraint from violence are not the legacies of “a Christian heritage” but of enlightened reason.

It is pointless to try and fight one irrational belief, such as Islam or Marxism, by setting up another irrational belief, such as Christianity, in opposition to it. There is no better reason to believe in the Trinity than in Allah or the inevitability of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Two quotes here serve as epigrams. Robert Spencer wrote in his great work Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t: “People who are ashamed of their own culture will not defend it.” And Dennis Prager said during one of his radio broadcasts, “Only good religion can counter bad religion.”

We admire much that Robert Spencer and Denis Prager write. And we think Spencer makes a point here worth thinking about. But to Prager’s assertion we say, nonsense!

Some people claim that there won’t be a religious revival in Europe because we are past believing in God. That this is not true can be seen by the high – and increasing – number of Westerners who convert to Islam. Many of them give as a reason for their conversion the need for absolutes, boundaries and well-defined status. A journalist writing for The Spectator on this subject explained why she is Catholic:

But above all, I like the moral certainties. I don’t mind the dogma one bit. I would rather dogma and impossible ideals than confusion and compromise. In that sense, I do identify with those who choose Islam over the way of no faith, or a seemingly uncertain faith, like the woolly old C of E.

Confusion and compromise is inescapable. How can dogma – which is to say being incurably wrong –  and “impossible ideals” be better than admitting the truth of scio nescio: I know that I do not know? It is as if the culture on which such persons as the quoted Catholic and the author of the article have been raised was never affected by Socratean doubt, the Enlightenment, the assumption of ignorance upon which all true science proceeds.

William Kilpatrick, in Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West – a book I thoroughly recommend reading -, writes: Brian Young’s friends said he was troubled by the decadence of Western society. David Courtrailler’s lawyer said, “For David, Islam ordered his life.” These are the sorts of reasons ordinary converts to Islam give. A common refrain from converts is that Islam provides a complete plan for life in contrast to the ruleless and clueless life offered by secular society. As Mary Fallot, a young French convert, explains, “Islam demands a closeness to God. Islam is simpler, more rigorous, and it’s easier because it is explicit. I was looking for a framework; man needs rules and behavior to follow. Christianity did not give me the same reference points.” If you look at the convert testimonials on Muslim websites, they echo this refrain: Islam brings “peace”, “order”, “discipline”, and a way of life that Christianity and other religions fail to offer.

Islam brings peace!  He – and she – can say that with a straight face? While IS (ISIS, ISIL) is rampaging through Syria and Iraq mass-slaughtering, impaling, crucifying, decapitating, raping, enslaving; while Hamas is firing thousands of rockets into Israel; while civil war rages in Syria; while Yezidis, Kurds, Baha’is, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, other Muslims are being daily killed and constantly persecuted by Muslims?

Astonishing that some women crave the “order” and “discipline” of subjugation; when the “discipline” is exerted by enslavement, beatings, whippings, stonings, legal discrimination.

Human beings will never be past the need for believing in something bigger than themselves, because that need is part of the human mind.

Where are there human beings who do not know that natural forces are “bigger than themselves”? Who among us does not know that we are mortal?

She continues in the same vein. We’ll not irritate our readers with all of it. She is a true believer. And what she believes is that Christianity is good and true.

We will skip to what she quotes as wisdom from a Catholic primate:

A clear direction was given by Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, Archbishop of Bologna, Italy. As early as 30 September 2000, before 9/11, when very few in the West even thought of worrying about Islam, he delivered a very forward-looking speech, which included this premonition:

… Either Europe will become Christian again or it will become Muslim. What I see without future is the “culture of nothing”, of freedom without limits and without content, of skepticism boasted as intellectual achievement, which seems to be the attitude largely dominant among European peoples, all more or less rich of means and poor of truths. This “culture of nothingness” (sustained by hedonism and libertarian insatiability) will not be able to withstand the ideological onslaught of Islam, which will not be missing: only the rediscovery of the Christian event as the only salvation for man – and therefore only a strong resurrection of the ancient soul of Europe – will offer a different outcome to this inevitable confrontation.

The culture of reason is not a “culture of nothing”. It is a culture of rational humility; of admitting ignorance and trying to find the truth, even if one can never be certain one has found it. Skepticism is the only engine of discovery.

“Freedom without limits”? Freedom of action always has a limit. In a free society, everyone’s freedom is limited by everyone else’s under the rule of law. But indeed the freedom of the mind has no limits, nor should it have any.

Notice the snide swipe at riches and “hedonism”. Do you think that he, as a cardinal, pigs it in some hovel?

By “truths” he means the  patent absurdities of Christian theological belief.

“Libertarian insatiability”. What the heck does that mean?

If the Western culture of reason, secularism, liberty, skepticism, science, cannot withstand the onslaught of Islam, it will be because that culture has been abandoned by people like Enza Ferreri.

She goes on to blame shrinking birthrates on secularism.  Then she ends with this:

Militant atheists à la Richard Dawkins have not really given enough thought to the long-term consequences of their ideas, which we are beginning to see.

And of which we are reminded whenever, for example, we read in the news of doctors and missionaries who die of Ebola while assisting affected patients for Christian charities. Not many atheist charities are involved in that work.

How many cures for diseases have been found by scientists among whom atheists are in a huge majority? The medical researchers who eliminated smallpox; those who found how to detect the beginnings of cancer and treat it before it becomes lethal, and how to restore wholeness to lepers and replace a faulty heart or kidney …. the list could run on for hours … cure more people than all the martyrdom-seeking self-righteous preachy Christians out to save their imaginary souls by “assisting affected patients” have ever done or could do in a thousand years.

As a reminder to readers who have a strong stomach of what happened when the Christian Churches provided “order” and “discipline” to Europe and wherever else they could reach, we recommend The Grand Inquisitor’s Manual by Jonathan Kirsch, and our own post Calvin: a chapter in the terrible history of Christianity by Jillian Becker, April 25, 2010. (Put the title in our search slot.)

Nothing IS (ISIS, ISIL) is doing now in the name of Islam is worse in type or degree than what those Christians did in the name of Christianity.

The world needs saving from religion.

Calvin: a chapter in the terrible history of Christianity 7

Beyond a certain point it is hardly possible to discern degrees of evil or degrees of cruelty. And yet I think it may be said of Jehan Calvin, dictator of Geneva in the sixteenth century, that he was more appallingly cruel and more intensely, intrinsically, through-and-through evil than other great persecutors, dictators and mass murderers of history. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Torquemada are the very names of evil, so what was it about Calvin that can distinguish him as specially terrible in his own nature than even any of these?

He oppressed the subjects of his dictatorship unremittingly and mercilessly; but so, you say, did the others. Not content with killing his enemies, he prescribed extreme tortures for them while they survived to suffer them; and yes, so did the others. But – and here we come to the nub of the case – Calvin was different in that he (often, if not always) personally specified the torments for the particular victim. He gave thought to the minutiae of their sufferings. All the others, even Catholic Inquisitors like Torquemada, issued general orders for terrorizing, torturing, killing. Calvin gave a personal service, tailoring his cruelty to his individual prey.

And that’s not all that distinguishes him among human monsters. Consider this: he was squeamish. He could not stand the sight of blood. He was afraid of pain. He felt horror at the thought of physical suffering – so he made thinking about it into a spiritual exercise, to strengthen by self-inflicted agony, as a monk does with a hairshirt, his resolve to do what was hardest for him in the service of his God. He ordered the infliction of agony, then meditated on the process, imagining it as fully as he could. He nourished his spirit on visions of torture.

This he did in private. The spiritual discipline he forced himself to undergo did not impel him to the prison and the public square to witness the torments and killings that he prescribed. He never attended a racking, a flogging, a breaking on the wheel, a burning to death. That far in the service of his God he would not push himself.

This grooming of his soul by inflicting suffering on others, did not replace general orders of oppression. He gave those too. He instituted a totalitarian reign of terror. He was as convinced a collectivist as Hitler, Stalin, Mao and the rest. He would allow “no liberty, no freedom of the will, for [a] man could only misuse such privileges. … [He, Calvin] must frighten him … until he unresistingly accepts his position in the pious and obedient herd, until he has merged in that herd all that is individual within him, so that the individual, the extraordinary, vanishes without leaving a trace.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spying became universal. Almost everyone, in fear of being thought heretical in the least degree, and to prove himself clean and upright, spied on everyone else.

Whenever a State inaugurates a reign of terror, the poisonous plant of voluntary denunciation flourishes like a loathsome weed … otherwise decent folk are driven by fear to play the part of informer. … After some years, the Consistory was able to abolish official supervision, since all the citizens had become voluntary controllers.”

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

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

“Everything was forbidden which might have relieved the grey monotony of existence; and forbidden, of course, was any trace of mental freedom in the matter of the printed or spoken word.”

The first thought,” Stefan Zweig declares, “of any one of dictatorial temperament, is to suppress or gag opinions different from his own.”

One man who dared to argue with Calvin was a Spaniard named Miguel Servetus. A child of the Reformation, he innocently thought he could express his own boldly Protestant opinions. He thought Calvin was the very man to hear him expound his personal interpretations of Holy Writ. He could not have been more mistaken. For having the effrontery to send them to him, Calvin had the man thrown into prison. “For weeks … he was kept like a condemned murderer in a cold and damp cell, with irons on his hands and feet. His clothes hung in rags upon his freezing body; he was not provided with a change of linen. The most primitive demands of hygiene were disregarded. No one might tender him the slightest assistance.”

Finally, for daring to disagree with Calvin, Servetus was condemned to death by the dictator’s order. The death Calvin chose for him was “roasting with a slow fire”.

‘The prisoner was brought out of prison in his befouled rags. … His beard tangled, his visage dirty and wasted, his chains rattling, he tottered as he walked. … In front of the steps of the Town Hall, the officers of the law … thrust him to his knees. The doomed man’s teeth chattered with cold … In his extremity, he crawled on his knees nearer to the municipal authorities assembled on the steps, and implored that by their grace he might be decapitated before he was burned, ‘lest the agony should drive me to repudiate the convictions of a lifetime’. This boon was denied him. Relentlessly, ‘the procession moved on towards the place of execution. … The wood was piled round the stake to which the clanking chains had been nailed. The executioner bound the victim’s hands. … The chains attached to the stake were wound four or five times around it and around the poor wretch’s wasted body. Between this and the chains, the executioner’s assistants then inserted the book and the manuscript which Servetus had sent to Calvin under seal to ask Calvin’s fraternal opinion upon it. Finally, in scorn, there was pressed upon the martyr’s brow a crown of leaves impregnated with sulphur. … The executioner kindled the faggots and the murder began.

“When the flames rose around him, Servetus uttered so dreadful a cry that many of the onlookers turned their eyes away from the pitiful sight. Soon the smoke interposed a veil in front of the writhing body, but the yells of agony grew louder and louder, until at length came an imploring scream: ‘Jesus, Son of the everlasting God, have pity on me!’”

Needless to say, neither Jesus nor an everlasting God did anything to relieve the roasting man.

‘The struggle with death lasted half an hour. Then the flames abated, the smoke dispersed, and attached to the blackened stake there remained, above the glowing embers, a black, sickening, charred mass, a loathsome jelly, which had lost human semblance. …

“But where was Calvin in this fearful hour? … He was in his study, windows closed. … He who had really willed and commanded this ‘pious murder’, kept discreetly aloof. Next Sunday, however, clad in his black cassock, he entered the pulpit to boast of the deed before a silent congregation, declaring it to have been a great deed and a just one, although he had not dared to watch the pitiful spectacle.”

To this day, Jehan Calvin is regarded as a great Christian whose teaching continues to shape the lives of millions of citizens in the Western world through the Presbyterian and various “Reformed” churches. People are no longer burnt to death for disagreeing with the master. But dictatorship, in the name of similarly dogmatic collectivist faiths, is not absent from the modern world, not even from America now, in 2010. A much vaster community has fallen under an organizer of dictatorial temperament. His consistory has made it plain that they wish to control what you eat, how you live in your homes, and what you say. Children are being urged to impress the leader’s messages on their parents. The names of those who disagree with him are blackened, and the silencing of broadcast dissent is openly advocated.

What should be done about it? There are conservative voices maintaining that the way to resist incipient totalitarianism is to “return to Christian values”.

Our hope is that this reminder of how Christian values affected life in the past may serve not only as a cautionary tale against collectivism and dictatorship, but also as a rebuttal of the idea that Christianity can be a counterforce against them.

Jillian Becker   April 25, 2010