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Camus and Karamazov, “The Rejection of Salvation.”

A Continuing series in which I post my notes of reading this engaging book.

In The Rebel, Camus frames Metaphysical Rebellion in the words of Dostoyevsky’s Ivan Karamazov (among other ways). God is to be not denied, but refuted and condemned. The Problem of Evil on steroids, as it were.

From pgs. 56-57:

Ivan rejects the basic interdependence, introduced by Christianity, between suffering and truth. Ivan’s most profound utterance, the one which opens the deepest chasms beneath the rebel’s feet, is his even if: “I would persist in my indignation even if I were wrong.” Which means that even if God existed, even if the mystery cloaked a truth, even if the starets Zosime were right, Ivan would not admit that truth should be paid for by evil, suffering, and the death of innocents. Ivan incarnates the refusal of salvation.

In addition, Ivan is the incarnation of the refusal to be the only one saved. He throws in his lot with the damned and, for their sake, rejects eternity. If he had faith, he could, in fact, be saved, but others would be damned and suffering would continue. There is no possible salvation for the man who feels real compassion. Ivan will continue to put God in the wrong by doubly rejecting faith as he would reject injustice and privelege.

My Response: This comes to me as nothing more than a metaphysical temper tantrum: “If I cannot have existence my way, I will not have it at all.” Or more properly, “an existence that requires suffering is not ‘worth it’.”

This is empty vanity. Suffering will continue regardless of how sullenly you refuse to countenance it. What child does Ivan save from suffering? If none, then we must conclude the the intellectual solidarity with the suffering is a sham, or at any rate, a means to an end. And the end is power, moral power as a precursor to political power, the power over life and death.

The desire to be Better Than God rests on the mistaken notion that God’s mystery is a false veil, a smokescreen hiding a lie, rather than a necessary consequence of our nature. If we had infinite minds, we could be God’s equal. We do not and never will. We continually frame Him in our own tiny conceptions, and are indignant when those conceptions will not hold Him.

Existence is not yours to justify. Deal with it.

Atheist Violence

It appears that the man who gunned down three Muslim students at UNC-Chapel Hill was a Proggy Atheist.The police are now saying that the murder was over a parking dispute.

riiight

Look, that may have been the trigger, but that was not the powder, if you receive my meaning. You settle parking disputes with passive-aggressive notes and towings. You don’t shoot people.

It reminds me of Christopher Hitchens’ rebuttal to the contention that Communism counts as atheist violence. To Hitchens, Stalin created an ersatz religion in the Soviet Union, with himself as a kind of god, so all the crimes of Russian Communism were in fact, caused by religion. The people of Russia simply exchanged the Russian Orthodox Church for the Communist Party.

It’s a clever argument, but it hides a horrible weakness: if a thoroughly athest-materialist philosophy like Communism can create a religion as murderous as any theist, then what is the point of atheism? If it does not insulate us from the violence that the righteous meet out against heretics, what value does it have?

Not that anyone will answer. The current play is to keep the Tea Party meme in operation. Whatever demonizes the Other.

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Blood, Madness, and Charlie Hedbo

Back in 2011, Charlie Hedbo’s offices got firebombed by Islamists. I remember because I posted the offending cover to my old blog. I was “Je Suis Charlie” before it was hashtagged.

This attack was worse in terms of body count, but I haven’t been as attached to the issue. All the usual suspects have said all the usual things. There has been the moment of Twitter solidarity, and the massive pro free-speech rallies worldwide. And the French police have arranged for all of the suspects but one to become dead. Which is all fine. It means there’s life in the old girl yet.

But in my gloom I wonder if our elite, so painstaking in not fanning the flames of anti-muslim rage, are rather going to end up bringing it about. There’s only so many times people can be told “Yes, but understand them,” before losing all desire to understand anything but threats and the removal of same.

This is a religious war. We don’t want it to be, but it is. We don’t want it to be because we lost our taste for religious war in the West some 300 years ago, and have as yet not regained it. But if we had our wants, we wouldn’t be fighting this war at all. Most of us would be entirely content to let the Middle East and Islam buzz off and do as it liked provided it left us out of it. It’s not like we actually care about what’s going on in Yemen.

And because of that, our elites would much rather pretend that this is some failure of cultural understanding, with some regrettable law-enforcement and precision-bombing involved. They don’t want to use the weapons at their disposal, because they are far more interested in making their culture reflect their specific prejudices than in defending it as it is.

And what are these weapons? In a cultural war, attacking the premises of the offending culture, mocking its claims of sacrality, forcing it by moral suasion to accept change.  And it means answering violence with violence.

We aren’t prepared to do that yet. Not fully, not without shame, not without assuring ourselves that we really don’t want to. This is a pride of ours, that we consider very little in this world worth killing for. And it’s better than the alternative. But it will not give our enemies pause.

When we reach the end of the road, and we find ourselves faced with our enemies’ demand “Submit or die,” we may yet find the determination to find the third choice. This will be ugly. It will be messy. It will not assure us of our evolved natures. But it will decide things quite clearly.

Despite what we say, we are not all Charlie. Yet.

On the Cake-Baking Front of the Culture Wars…

Should Christian Bakers have to make cakes for Gay Weddings?

If you think they should, then should Gay Bakers have to bake cakes with messages in support of traditional marriages?

Because Gay Bakers seem to think they don’t.

This raises more questions. Should Jewish Bakers have to make cakes with Swastikas? Should Muslim Bakers have to make rum cakes?

Why Do Europeans Hate Jews? Who Cares?

Spengler hits his usual note about the dullness of European civilization, post-nationalism: the tribes of Europe had their folly baked into the cake of their culture during the dark ages. In his view, Isidore of Seville and Gregory of Tours are the “Bialistock and Bloom” of Europe, inflating these upjumped Germanics with the desire to be the elect of God, which they cannot be. Anti-Semitism and World War One ensue.

Whatever the merits of this position, I find myself wondering why any Jew gives a damn. Europe has not been a welcoming place for Jews: in the 1877 years between one set of Europeans smashing the Second Temple and another set anxiously permitting Zionism to happen, Europe was a kind of Babylon for Jews, a place of silence punctuated by violence.

Can any Englishman alive today recall which King it was who expelled the Jews from his realm? Or how long it was before they were allowed back in? Europe tolerated the Jews when they felt like it, and scapegoated them when their blood was up. The Third Reich merely applied insdustrial techniques and bureaucratic focus to an existing undercurrent of hate. It’s always been there, and always will be.

Thus, I cannot imagine anyone in the Knesset noticing what the Europeans do. Israel has learned not to rely on the goodwill of gentiles. So long as they have their army and the strategic heights of Palestine, they will do what they must, and the rest of the world can go hang.

Because in 1000 years, there will not be an England, or a France, or a Germany, or an Italy. There probably won’t be a United States of America. But there will still be Jews.

Yes, Secularism is a Religion, and Here are its Witch Trials

David P. Goldman, whose magisterial good sense is to be found all over his “Spengler” column, analyzes secular progressivism as a post-Protestant religion, aimed less at promulgating sound public policy than at creating a means of saving America from its sins:

Joseph Bottum, by contrast, examines post-Protestant secular religion with empathy, and contends that it gained force and staying power by recasting the old Mainline Protestantism in the form of catechistic worldly categories: anti-racism, anti-gender discrimination, anti-inequality, and so forth. What sustains the heirs of the now-defunct Protestant consensus, he concludes, is a sense of the sacred, but one that seeks the security of personal salvation through assuming the right stance on social and political issues. Precisely because the new secular religion permeates into the pores of everyday life, it sustains the certitude of salvation and a self-perpetuating spiritual aura. Secularism has succeeded on religious terms.

The right opinions and the right votes thereby become a means of redemption for whatever personal errors of racism, sexism, etc. Suddenly the enormous hypocrisy of say, feminists continuing to support Bill Clinton or Ted Kennedy, makes a perverse kind of sense.

But belief in a good carries with it a beleif in an evil, and when the devil will not manifest himself openly, one needs must go hunting for him. Thus, the witchcraft trials of earlier centuries, and thus, the secular inquisition over things like “white privelege,” “heteronormativity,” and “rape culture”:

Anyone who follows the contemporary media closely is doubtless familiar with the suddenly ubiquitous phrase “rape culture.” In the context of higher education, the phrase implies two interlocking beliefs. First: despite crime statistics showing sexual assault (as well as all violent crimes) to be very uncommon on campus, colleges and universities are, in fact, hotbeds of rape (but not, it appears, of all other violent crimes). Second: despite the fact that most college faculties and nearly all administrations are extraordinarily sympathetic to the activists’ position on gender issues, the campus culture over which these figures preside nonetheless–somehow–actually encourages the prevalence of rape at college.

That little, if any, evidence exists to sustain either of these beliefs has not deterred the “rape culture” believers; if anything, the lack of evidence for their claims appears to have emboldened them.

This is standard procedure. To deny that you are a counterrevolutionary, to deny that counterrevolution is a grave threat, is prima facie evidence that you are a counterrevolutionary. Confess and you shall be forgiven; dissent and you shall be purged.

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