Religion

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.

spanish_inquisition4

We Do Not Understand the Middle East

That’s a pretty obvious statement, but Michael Totten’s article about the End of Hezbollah (his lips to God’s ears) underlines it wonderfully:

Part of Hezbollah’s support used to come from the fact that they were perceived as not being corrupt, but that’s over now, too.

“Even my family members who are big Hezbollah supporters are talking about the corruption,” she said. “One of my relatives told me she hates them now. And she has always been a huge resistance supporter.”

A large number of Lebanon’s Shia may not like Hezbollah so much anymore, but the support is still there because they feel like they don’t have any choice. They are afraid. Every sect felt this way during the civil war, when even people who are natural cosmopolitan pacifists supported one of “their own” sectarian militias because they were afraid of the others. It would happen to you, too, if you lived in an environment with a weak and dysfunctional state that can’t provide security while your neighbors are trying to kill you.

We discuss the Middle East in simple, monochrome terms, because drawing a distinction between radical Muslims seems like angels-on-pinheads territory. They all want to kill us, so what’s the difference?

But the Middle East is rife with faultlines and divisions: Shia, Sunni, Salafist, Alawite:

The Alawites—Bashar al-Assad’s minority sect—are not actually Shias, not really. Washington thinks they are, but that’s because back in the 1970s the Lebanese cleric Musa Sadr issued a fatwa declaring them Shias. For a thousand years before that, no one thought of the Alawites as Shias or even Muslims. What they are is a secretive and closed heterodox minority that fuses Christianity, Gnosticism, and Twelver Shia Islam together into something else entirely. Muslims have always considered them infidels.

I consider myself reasonably well-versed on the subject of basic Islam, and I’ve never heard of these people. I’d always assumed Assad was a Sunni Muslim, because I always figured the Tigris-Euphrates was the faultline between Sunni and Shia.

Until we learn these things institutionally — until the State and Defense Departments, the CIA etc. develop policy that exploits the complexities of the Middle East — we will make no headway.

Fortunately, it’s going to be a Long War.

Kermit Gosnell and the Holy of Holies

Abortion is not new. It did not spring fully-formed from the head of the Supreme Court in 1973. It is as old as civilization itself, and the controversy surrounding it is just as old:

“Why sow where the ground makes it its care to destroy the fruit? Where there are many efforts at abortion? Where there is murder before the birth? For even the harlot thou dost not let continue a mere harlot, but makest her a murderess also. You see how drunkenness leads to whoredom, whoredom to adultery, adultery to murder; or rather to a something even worse than murder. For I have no name to give it, since it does not take off the thing born, but prevent its being born. Why then dost thou abuse the gift of God, and fight with His laws, and follow after what is a curse as if a blessing, and make the chamber of procreation a chamber for murder, and arm the woman that was given for childbearing unto slaughter?”

That’s St. John Chrysostom, one of the Doctors of the Church, writing in the 4th century AD, damning men for seducing women and abandoning them, forcing abortion upon them (just in case you thought that those old unmarried men had no idea what made babies happen). This argument has been going on for a very long time, and it’s going to keep going on. Nothing that has happened recently is going to change that.

It’s safe to say that the dam is bursting on the Kermit Gosnell story, as it inevitably must have. Nothing as lurid and horrifying as the prosecution alleges could have truly failed to escape the public consciousness, no matter how much certain circles would have preferred it.

I am late to this story, not because I didn’t know about it, and not because I haven’t been reading up on it (Stacy McCain in particular has been all over it from the beginning). I haven’t wanted to write about this for the same reason Megan McArdle didn’t: sheer revulsion and horror. What this bland, grandfatherly-looking man of 72 – a poster-boy for “the banality of evil” if ever one existed – created in his Philadelphia clinic amounts to an infant-sized Auschwitz, a crime against humanity. And even generically pro-life people like myself dont’ want to realize that it exists, for to do so would be to violate a polite taboo.

In ancient Israel, the sanctorum at the center of the Temple in Jerusalem was called the Holy of Holies. As the home of the Ark of the Covenant, it made incarnate the presence of God in Israel. Only one man – the High Priest – on only one day – Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement – could ever enter the Holy of Holies. Anyone else (such as the sons of Aaron in Leviticus 10) who entered died. The presence of God was not for the unworthy to look upon.

If modern feminism’s obsession with “reproductive freedom” has something of a religious character (and there are those that say so), then the birth control pill is its Eucharist, and abortion its Holy of Holies. It is Between a Woman and Her Doctor: mere mortals are not supposed to know what goes on. When anti-abortion activists take to the streets with pictures of mutilated fetuses, we are angry at the makers of the pictures, not the makers of the content. This is true even of pro-life people, such as myself. We don’t want to see this. We don’t want to know. Witness Roger Simon:

The trial of Dr. Gosnell is a potential time bomb exploding in the conventional liberal narrative on abortion itself.  This is about the A-word.

No feeling human being can read this story or watch it on TV without being confronted with the obvious conclusion — like it or not — that abortion is murder.

It may be murder with extenuating circumstances (rape, survival of the mother, etc.) but it is murder nonetheless.  Dr. Gosnell — monster though he is — has accidentally shoved that uncomfortable truth in our faces.

Pushing this case front and center in the media would change the national narrative on this subject.  (The current stats are here, via Rasmussen.)

I can give you two guinea pigs to prove this point — my wife Sheryl and me.  We were in the kitchen last night, preparing dinner, when we saw a short report of this story on the countertop TV.

Both lifelong “pro-choice” people, after watching only seconds, we embarked in an immediate discussion of whether it was time to reconsider that view.  (Didn’t human life really begin at the moment of conception?  What other time?) Neither of us was comfortable as a “pro-choice” advocate in the face of these horrifying revelations.  How could we be?

Yes, Dr. Gosnell was exceptional (thank God for that!), but a dead fetus was a dead fetus, even if incinerated in some supposedly humane fashion rather than left crying out in blind agony on the operating room floor, as was reportedly the case with one of Gosnell’s victims. I say blind because this second-trimester fetus did not yet have fully formed eyes. (Think about that one.)

So I don’t think I’m “pro-choice” anymore, but I’m not really “pro-life” either.  I would feel like a hypocrite. I don’t want to pretend to ideals I have serious doubts I would be able to uphold in a real-world situation.  If a woman in my family, or a close friend, were (Heaven forbid) impregnated through rape, I would undoubtedly support her right to abortion.  I might even advocate it.  I also have no idea how I would react if confronted by having to make a choice between the life of a fetus and his/her mother.  Just the thought makes my head spin.

And there it is. We are compromised. We see murder and we pretend not to. We call it something else. We treat it as magic, as though a first-trimester abortion mystically removes the unwanted-abstraction-which-is-not-alive-shut-up, transubstantiates the woman from “pregnant” to “not pregnant” and sends her heroically on her way. The death, the blood, the humanity-reduced-to-laboratory-specimens (I have seen them), we doublethink these messy realities away. And we tell our young (and ourselves, truth be told) that they may fornicate freely, without consequence, because “protection” exists, and if “protection” fails (or they fail “protection”) we have this Serious And Important Issue to Pontificate and Philosophize About, which will unmake the the consequence.

We call this “Love”. We call it “Modern.” We call it “Necessary.” We call it “Woman Retaking her Power from the Patriarchy.” We call it “Free of Medieval Moralizing.” We call it “Rational”. We don’t call it “Infant Girl Decapitated With Scissors.

We don’t want to see it. We don’t want to know.

Self-Hating Honkies and the War on Easter

Apparently referring to Easter by name is an offense to those who are not Christian. I should like to find a logic to this that is not racist at root. But I can’t:

  1. If even the mention of Easter is offensive, then non-christians must be kept in a protective bubble from any knowledge that anything called “Easter” exists and is celebrated by Christians. Because they cannot be expected to tolerate such a thing, because . . . they don’t have to.
  2. “Diversity” is an essential component of a pluralistic society, and we must strive to respect the traditions of everyone. Except the traditions of the dominant culture, because they are objectively evil, because, white people.

Elizabeth Price Foley, writing at Instapundit:

Funny how those who cry the loudest about preserving and loudly celebrating various cultures– in the name of “diversity”– are always the first to condemn mention of all things Christian, Western, or (gasp) white.

They’ve been honkified by the fanatic disciples of egalitarianism, who are busy in other areas as well.

Rocking the Links

A few things to read that other people wrote:

Finally, this guy worked very hard to reverse the gender roles of Donkey Kong so his daughter could play as Pauline (and if you knew that the girl in Donkey Kong was called Pauline, you know way more than I did about Donkey Kong)

Mid-Way on Our Life’s Journey…

…I found myself overladen with Things to Do. You know the story. Blogging will be light for the forseeable. Right now, enjoy some Dante:

I found myself in dark woods, the right road lost. To tell
about those woods is hard – so tangled and so rough

And savage that thinking of it now, I feel
the old fear stirring: death is hardly more bitter.
And yet, to treat the good I found there as well,

I’ll tell what I saw, though how I came to enter
I cannot well say, being so full of sleep
Whatever moment it was I began to blunder

Off the true path.

The only way out is through…