Communism, cannibalism, and soul murder 0

Some of us are old enough to remember the horrors perpetrated in the Communist Russian Empire. But those born since the USSR was destroyed (chiefly by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher winning the Cold War) need to learn what happened under Lenin, Stalin, and their successors; and as they are unlikely to be taught about this in their ‘politically correct’  left-leaning history courses, they should have informative books  brought to their attention in the hope that some at least will read them. 

These extracts come from a review of Inside the Stalin Archives by Jonathan Brent, in The New Criterion

The first volume in the series, The Secret World of American Communism, caused shock waves by demonstrating that the American Communist Party was not a group of home-grown idealists, as so many apologists claimed, but, from the start, conducted espionage and took orders directly from Moscow. Despite decades of leftist mockery and vilification, the basic picture provided by Whittaker Chambers and Elizabeth Bentley of Alger Hiss and many others was correct. The Comintern, too, was from day one directed by Moscow as a tool of Russian foreign policy. And despite the desperate strategy of throwing all blame on Stalin so as to excuse Lenin, The Unknown Lenin, which reproduces a selection from some six thousand Lenin documents never before released, reveals bloodthirstiness that surprised even anti-Communists. During a famine, Lenin ordered his followers not to alleviate but to take advantage of mass starvation:

It is precisely now and only now when in the starving regions people are eating human flesh, and hundreds if not thousands of corpses are littering the roads, that we can (and therefore must) carry out the confiscation of church valuables with the most savage and merciless energy.

“can (and therefore must)”: Leninist and Soviet ideology held not just that the end justifies any means, but also that it was immoral not to use the utmost cruelty if that would help. And it was bound to help in at least one way—intimidating the population. From the beginning, terror was not just an expedient but a defining feature of Soviet Communism. In Terrorism and Communism, Trotsky was simply voicing a Bolshevik truism when he rejected “the bourgeois theory of the sanctity of human life.” In fact, Soviet ethics utterly rejected human rights, universal justice, or even basic human decency, for all concepts that apply to everyone might lead one to show mercy to a class enemy. In Bolshevism, there is no abstract justice, only “proletarian justice,” as defined by the Party. ..

Stalinism was idealist in another, even more terrifying sense: it aimed at controlling from within the very thoughts we think. In a toast delivered on November 7, 1937, at the height of the Terror, the Great Helmsman swore to destroy every enemy:

            Even if he was an old Bolshevik, we will destroy all his kin, his family. We will mercilessly destroy anyone who, by his deeds or his thoughts—yes, his thoughts—threatens the unity of the socialist state. To the complete destruction of all enemies, themselves and their kin!

        Even the worst of the tsars never thought of punishing relatives for a criminal’s acts. But what is truly remarkable about this toast is the promise to murder people and their kin for thoughts. One must live in continual fear of one’s own mind.

Brent begins his book with a memorandum written by Andrei Vishinsky, Stalin’s chief prosecutor, to Nikolai Yezhov, the secret-police chief, about what he had seen in a tour of the Gulag. There were prisoners, Vishinsky explained, who had “deteriorated to the point of losing any resemblance to human beings.” An interrogator during the doctors’ plot wrote that, after one torture session, the elderly Dr. Vasilenko “lost his entire human aspect.” Perhaps the most important lesson to come from the Stalin archives is that any ideology that does not admit the existence of human nature winds up destroying not only countless lives but also the human soul.

How much better is Russia now? The answer is – a lot, but it’s still pretty bloody awful. 

Under Putin, Russia has turned away from a fleeting opportunity to embrace legality. A sort of mafia rules without breaking the law—because there is no real law. And yet, by comparison with the Soviet period, Russia is free and humane. To be sure, any journalist or businessman who displeases the regime is likely to be imprisoned, maimed, or killed. But millions are not arrested at random.

           Solzhenitsyn once asked why the bloodthirsty Macbeth killed only a few people while Lenin and Stalin murdered millions. He answered: Macbeth had no ideology. So far as we can tell, neither does Putin. Today no one tries to remake human nature. For the time being, and however precariously, the human spirit survives.

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, March 18, 2009

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If I saw an angel or if man was made of brass 3

Jerry A Coyne, professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, reviews two books – Saving Darwinism: How to be a Christian and Believe in Evolution, by Karl W Giberson; and Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul, by Kenneth R Miller – which try to reconcile science and religion, and fail of course. 

Read the whole review in The New Republic.

An extract:

The most common way to harmonize science and religion is to contend that they are different but complementary ways of understanding the world. That is, there are different "truths" offered by science and by religion that, taken together, answer every question about ourselves and the universe. Giberson explains:

 

I worry that scientific progress has bewitched us into thinking that there is nothing more to the world than what we can understand…. Science has perhaps gotten as much from the materialistic paradigm as it is going to get. Matter in motion, so elegantly described by Newton and those who followed him, may not be the best way to understand the world…. I think there are ways, though, that we can begin to look at the creation and understand that the scientific view is not all-encompassing. Science provides a partial set of insights that, though powerful, don’t answer all the questions.

 

Usually the questions said to fall outside science include those of meaning, purpose, and morality. In one of his last books, Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life, Stephen Jay Gould called this reconciliation NOMA, for "non-overlapping magisteria": "Science tries to document the factual character of the natural world, and to develop theories that coordinate and explain these facts. Religion, on the other hand, operates in the equally important, but utterly different, realm of human purposes, meanings and values–subjects that the factual domain of science might illuminate, but can never resolve." Gould offered this not as a utopian vision, but as an actual description of why the realms of science and religion do not overlap. As a solution to our perplexity, this is no good. In a spirit of pluralism it ignores the obvious conflicts between them. Gould salvaged his idea by redefining his terms–the old trick, again–writing off creationism as "improper religion" and defining secular sources of ethics, meanings and values as being "fundamentally religious."

The NOMA solution falls apart for other reasons. Despite Gould’s claims to the contrary, supernatural phenomena are not completely beyond the realm of science. All scientists can think of certain observations that would convince them of the existence of God or supernatural forces. In a letter to the American biologist Asa Gray, Darwin noted:

 

Your question what would convince me of Design is a poser. If I saw an angel come down to teach us good, and I was convinced from others seeing him that I was not mad, I should believe in design. If I could be convinced thoroughly that life and mind was in an unknown way a function of other imponderable force, I should be convinced. If man was made of brass or iron and no way connected with any other organism which had ever lived, I should perhaps be convinced. But this is childish writing.

Posted under Christianity, Commentary, Judaism by Jillian Becker on Thursday, January 29, 2009

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Review: Blind Spot 0

Blind Spot: When Journalists Don’t Get Religion edited by Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert, Roberta Green Ahmanson,  OUP  New York  220 pages

Notable for ignorance of religion are the atheist authors of several recent books (Richard Dawkins is one of the crop) who have written against it at length with less knowledge than they’d dare bring to any other topic. Their justifiable disdain for belief in the supernatural blinds them to the importance of this set of ideas that has  helped to shape history.  But a critic’s scorn is valuable only if he knows what he’s scorning.  (If you wanted advice on wines, would you consult a teetotaler?)  Atheists can make a perfectly good case for rejecting the idea of a deity without immersing themselves in theology; but if they want to criticize actual religions, they should study them.

Now comes a book by religious authors objecting, with justice, to the ignorance of journalists who fail to see the importance of religion in current world affairs. It is true that journalists don’t know enough about religion. But very few people do, actually, including the religious. Besides, most journalists don’t know much about anything, especially the stories they cover. 

One of the essays, Religion and Terrorism: Misreading al Qaeda by Paul Marshall of the Hudson Institute, concerns the essentially religious motivation of al Qaeda. It is true and clear. Every reporter and commentator on world affairs should know what it teaches.   

Very different is God is Winning by Timothy Samuel Shah and Monica Duffy Toft. It contains a message so at odds with Paul Marshall’s that I wonder why he, as one of the editors of the collection, included it.

Here we are told that religion has become increasingly influential of late in global politics. Well, yes and no. It is true of one religion only, Islam: and wherever the authors cite a true instance of what they are trying to prove, it is an example of Islamic activity. What they don’t say – or see? – is that this religious surge is a terrible aggression.

The attack of 9/11 was a profoundly religious act. It was perpetrated in the name of Islam, the religion that is steadily, determinedly, and all too successfully advancing through the world with the intention of dominating it. This dark threat by one of the old established ‘revealed’ religions  (which is the sort of religion the authors are talking about rather than the new kind such as Socialism or Global-Warmism) is a force that needs to be confronted and defeated. What makes it formidable is that it’s engaged in a victory-or-death struggle for survival. It is itself under existential threat because its time has long since ended. The plain truth is that this is not an age of religion. Religion is not a fertile field any more, nor has been for a long time.  The last ‘new’ idea in religion that affected the course of events on any significant scale was eighteenth-century Methodism, which was a revivalist movement rather than a real innovation. Religion now is sterile.  What characterizes our time chiefly, and in terms of its achievements uniquely, is scientific enquiry. This is the Age of Science. It makes no difference how many people believe in a god or gods, worship in temples, perform rites and ceremonies, or declare their faith to be important to them; or that certain creeds are gaining converts; the fact remains that religion is no longer a fertile field.  In such a time as this a set of irrational beliefs claiming to encapsulate all truth and knowledge, conceived in the Dark Ages, which is what Islam is, cannot but be engaged in an existential struggle; and unless it is totally victorious, so that it can impose its darkness on the whole earth, stop Science in its tracks, destroy all that Science has achieved along with the technologies it has fathered, and utterly expunge scientific discovery from memory and record (as the Catholic Church once tried to do), Islam is doomed to be a fossil in the museum of  archaic ideas.  

To the authors of God is Winning, religion is evergreen and intrinsically good: and any religion is better than none. This can only mean that they would rather Islam predominated over the whole globe than a religion-free secularism. Yet they do not declare themselves to be against freedom and democracy – which a triumphant Islam would certainly snuff out – but insist that ‘as the world has become more free, more enlightened, and more prosperous, it has also become more religious’; that ‘democracy and democratization have empowered religion’; that ‘believers in a “march by history” toward some secular end-state are headed for more disappointment than most’; and that ‘modernization, democratization, and globalization have made [God] stronger’. Yet the only examples of world-affecting religious acts that they refer to are Islamic, and to the danger of Islam they seem as blind as any journalist.

How informed are they in general about the world we live in? Has it become more free? It’s hard to see that it has. Most Africans are not free. The North Koreans cannot be described as free; nor the majority of nations under Islamic rule; nor China, the biggest nation, where the religious are persecuted. And as for Europe, it blatantly disproves the authors’ thesis, though they do not seem to understand this. They note that as Europeans have become increasingly enlightened and prosperous they have become not more but less religious. They also notice that Europe’s native populations are shrinking, which brings them to declare (with a touch of Schadenfreude?) that ‘secularization is its own gravedigger’. But their observation of the fact that a lethal secularism arose from freedom and democracy, not a fresh bloom of religious belief, does not negate, alter, or even qualify their wistful conviction.

Among the Western, educated, prosperous nations, the United States of America is an exception that the authors happily cite. Most people here (we are told authoritatively by pollsters and statisticians) are and always have been religious to some degree at least, and here – perhaps as a result – the birthrate is stable (so it’s not digging its own grave). Yet not even the US proves the author’s case: for the US, though shaped by the influence of Christian values, remains a secular state. Its past and present can be said to demonstrate that free people may continue to be religious in the Age of Science, but not that religion naturally arises out of freedom, democracy, enlightenment and prosperity. Archaisms, like antiques, can be enjoyed. They can be freshened up and displayed as ‘neo-orthodoxies’, to use an oxymoronic expression of Shah’s and Toft’s. What they cannot do is reverse the arrow of time.    

Shah and Toft repeatedly speak of  ‘vitality’ in contemporary religion, and claim that it has given rise to a ‘resurgence in prophetic politics’. What they mean by ‘prophetic politics’, it emerges, is any political movement with a moral cause, or a jumble of causes, some of them familiar as pretexts for left-wing activism. Certain nationalist movements are counted as ‘prophetic politics’ if the people concerned share a religion. ‘Hindu nationalism’ is mentioned. (Mentioning is deemed sufficient, discursive argument is lacking.)  They are probably referring to the territorial dispute over Kashmir that mainly-Hindu India, growing in wealth and power, has with its Muslim neighbor Pakistan. This dispute is certainly national, with origins in old and persistent religious conflict, but no new religious fervor is driving it.  ‘Jewish Zionism’ (is there any other kind?) is also thrown in. But Zionism has nothing to do with religion. It was conceived as, and continues to be, an entirely secular movement, concerned with the recovery of the ancestral homeland of the Jews as a people, albeit a people uniquely defined by a specific religion.

Even localized revolutionary movements that notoriously claim to be Christian but are actually Marxist, are adduced by Shah and Toft as proof of religious resurgence. Indeed many terrorist organizations, particularly in South America, have been encouraged and even led by priests and pastors, who sanctify their incitement to murder by calling their ideology ‘liberation theology’ (if they’re Catholic) or ‘liberal theology’ (if they’re Protestant). The authors of God is Winning imply, whether they mean to or not, that this is fine with them because anything done in the name of religion is a good thing. Logically then – contrary to Paul Marshall’s judgment – al Qaeda is a good thing! But no: it is part of the worst political evil of our time. A nod to God is not worth any price.

Jillian Becker  December 2008

Posted under Uncategorized by Jillian Becker on Monday, December 8, 2008

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Moment of decision 3

 The moment of decision has arrived.

Crunch time.

Is the economic crisis to be solved by a capitalist free-market solution, or made worse by a socialist ‘solution’?

Make no mistake about it – it was caused by socialism: by political correctness, by multiculturalism, by government interference in the market.

It was NOT caused by the Bush administration, by the Republican Party, by capitalism, as the Democrats who did cause it are now alleging to cover their guilt.

Among the most guilty men are Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, Harry Reid.   

Jimmy Carter.  1977. The Community Reinvestment Act. Banks must make loans to high-risk borrowers.  Opened door for ACORN (see earlier posts) to force banks to make sub-prime loans to uncreditworthy borrowers.

Barack Obama.  Trained staff for Madeline Talbott, ‘key pioneer of ACORN’s subprime racket’ as Stanley Kurtz calls her, to run her ‘subprime-loan shakedown racket’.  ACORN employed him as its lawyer. And he funded it through the Woods Fund and indirectly through the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. In three years in the Senate, Obama received more contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than anyone else save Dodd, who got his contributions from them over eleven years.   He appointed two Fannie Mae CEOs as advisors to his campaign.  

Bill Clinton, devotee of multiculturalismpressed for more home-ownership by those who could not afford it, minorities and in effect even illegal immigrants, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac responded, buying up hundreds of billions of dollars of the bad loans and sellng them on the world markets. 

Harry Reid. In 2005 when John McCain sponsored a Fannie-Freddie reform bill,  he led the  Democrats in crushing it.  Fannie and Freddie were created by Democrats and Democrats are most responsible for their failure.

Barney Frank and Chris Dodd who ran Congress’s banking panels, vigorously and persistently opposed Republican Party efforts to regulate Fannie and Freddie.

McCain has repeatedly called for reforming Fannie and Freddie. President Bush – whose administration is being blamed for the crisis by Frank, Dodd, Reid etc – urged their reform 17  times this year. The irony of Bush and the Republicans being blamed now for the catastrophe the Democrats’  so insistently brought about!   

The cure now is not more socialism, not more government control of the market, not the election of the most socialist-minded candidate for the presidency ever – Barack Obama

If America elects Obama, it will be choosing socialism, and socialism has failed wherever it has been tried.

America needs to choose capitalism at this moment in history, to save itself and to give hope to the wider world. Otherwise this crisis will be turned into an American and world-wide disaster from which there may be no foreseeable return. 

Reviews: Beyond Opinion and God’s Undertaker 1

 Beyond Opinion: Living The Faith We Defend   by Ravi Zacharias   Thames Nelson 2007  360 pages

God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?  By John Lennox    Lion Hudson 2007 192 pages

 

The Christians whose essays make up the collection in Beyond Opinion maintain that they are in possession of truth. The mystical triune God of Christianity is true. The (patched-together and internally contradictory) New Testament is true. The intention of their ‘apologetics’ in this volume is to explain how best to proselytize – or evangelize, as they prefer to call it – among certain specified non-Christians. In particular they frame arguments to be used in persuading ‘postmodernists’ (using their opaque jargon) , atheists, ‘youth’, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and devotees of the New Age Movement (which is to say, neo-Marxists). The evangelists insist, not surprisingly, that arguments should be tailored to fit the target group, and provide the arguments they think will do the trick in each case. But nothing they say proves the truth of their own belief.

Repeatedly they allege that people who oppose them do so in anger.  Atheists in particular are described as angry. The implication is that the Christian message is rejected because of some emotional block rather than for good reason.  Any arguments that non-believers are quoted as uttering are neatly and conclusively countered, but in the case of atheism the swiftly demolished arguments are not of a sort that an intelligent atheist would actually put forward.  They are straw men – easily, as straw men always are, blown down.  They speak of atheism as ‘a movement’ and ‘a belief system’; descriptions that indicate how little they understand it.

The case for atheism can be simply made.  If A tells B that something exists which is not manifest, A must prove it. It is not for B to prove that the something does not exist. Has God been proved to exist? No. Without that proof, God remains an opinion, and an opinion is not a truth however many people hold it, and however passionately it is held. 

The only essay interesting to me is Challenges from Science by John Lennox. It is a précis of his book, God’s Undertaker, which contains the arguments some scientists make for ‘intelligent design’ – aka God.

Lennox is a fellow in the philosophy of science at Green College, Oxford, and a Cambridge-qualified mathematician. Some of his arguments are indeed challenging, especially the one – very detailed in the book – about the complexity of DNA. I’ll not try to summarize it, nor to answer it.  A very good answer may be found at www.talkorigins.org.

All I will say about it here is that once again, as a proof of the existence of God, it fails.  But even if for some it succeeds, the only God it  ‘proves’ is a Mind that started up the world, made it out of nothing, and with the most complicated ‘design’ imaginable, launched life on this planet.  This sort of belief in a God who started everything and then did nothing more about it is called ‘deism’. But John Lennox is not a deist. He is a Christian and accepts wholeheartedly the theology of Christianity.  For this he requires no scientific proof. One cannot but suspect that John Lennox finds the hand of God in DNA because he looked at it through the eyes of one who already believed in the Christian Deity.

Essentially Lennox’s argument for maintaining that science fits better with theism than with atheism, is that the universe has been rationally constructed, so a rational being must have constructed it. 

There was a time, hundreds of years long, when the philosophers of the ancient world had a real secret to keep. Pythagoras is thought by some to be the first discoverer of the secret, but there may have been others before him who knew it.  He knew it for sure, and kept it. Plato knew it and kept it, and so did all the other wise men. We all know it now. It’s the simple fact that the square root of 2 is an irrational number. The ancient philosophers feared that if ordinary men, who surely believed that the world was rationally made, found this out, they would go mad.  Of course we know perfectly well that ordinary men wouldn’t have stirred a hair if that terrible truth had been revealed to them. It was only the brave philosophers themselves who were disturbed by it. They were the ones who wanted to believe that the universe is rational.  But they knew that it isn’t.   

Posted under Uncategorized by Jillian Becker on Thursday, July 3, 2008

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Richard Dawkins The God Delusion Review 0

Our latest review, by C. Gee, on The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, is up.

Read it at www.theatheistconservative.com/pages/god-delusion-review

Posted under Uncategorized by on Tuesday, May 20, 2008

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Ann Coulter Godless Review 0

We have posted our review of Ann Coulter’s book Godless. It can be found at www.theatheistconservative.com/pages/ann-coulter-godless-review.

Posted under Uncategorized by Jillian Becker on Sunday, May 11, 2008

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Liberal Fascism 0

A book we strongly recommend is "Liberal Fascism" by Jonah Goldberg.

Goldberg states firmly and truly: "Fascism, properly understood, is not a phenomenon of the right … it is, and always has been a phenomenon of the left. This fact – an inconvenient truth if ever there was one – is obscured in our time by the equally mistaken belief that fascism and communism are opposites.. In reality… in terms of their theory and practice, the differences are minimal."

And if that comes as a surprise to some readers, this further truth will probably surprise them even more: "American Progressivism – the moralistic social crusade from which modern liberals proudly claim descent – is in some respects the major source of the fascist ideas applied in Europe by Hitler and Mussolini." And: "Modern liberalism is the offspring of twentieth-century progressivism, which in turn shares intellectual roots with European fascism."

The book is crammed with evidence for these contentions.

Goldberg draws the right distinction between  classical liberalism (free-market liberalism, individualism) and statist liberalism, the would-be totalitarianism that "views  everything as political and holds that any action by the state is justified to achieve the common good [and] takes responsibility for all aspects of life, including our health and well-being, and seeks to impose uniformity of thought and action."  This is the liberalism of political correctness, of bans on drinking and smoking, of prescribing what and how much we should eat. It is the liberalism, or more accurately the fascism of Al Gore and the other Man-Made Global Warming fanatics who would change our way of life to something austere and miserable in the name of a higher good; and of "Hillary Clinton and her friends – the leading proponents and exemplars of liberal fascism in our time", to whom an entire chapter is devoted, and whose universal health-care proposal is a perfect example of tyranny in the name of the general good. 

Of course American liberalism, he concedes, is not intended to be a brutal but a "nice" totalitarianism, "nannying, not bullying".  But it is "definitely totalitarian in that liberalism today sees no realm of human life that is beyond political significance."

The author rightly traces all modern totalitarian regimes back to Rousseau and the French Revolution. But totalitarianism did not begin there. He stresses that statism is often presented and welcomed as an alternative religion. What he neglects to mention is that the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages was as cruelly totalitarian as it could get, and so were branches of Protestantism where and when they had the power to be so.

Posted under Uncategorized by Jillian Becker on Thursday, May 8, 2008

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