The mawkishness that shows Britain no longer knows what its heroes are dying for
They were words one hardly expected to hear from one of our most distinguished military figures — especially in the week of Remembrance Sunday. However, that only makes the comments at the weekend of Lieutenant-General Sir Robert Fry, former commander of British forces in Iraq, all the more disturbing.
He said the British people had developed a dangerously ‘mawkish’ attitude towards the Armed Forces. ‘I think that the British people hold the Armed Forces in a state of excessive reverence at the present time. It is a greater infatuation than at any other stage of recent military history that I can recall,’ he said.
With these comments, he has put his finger on a subtle, but crucial and potentially catastrophic shift in our national psyche.
So what’s wrong with ‘reverence’, you may ask. Well, General Fry is making a brutal and, indeed, shocking observation - that the British hold dead soldiers in deep esteem while despising the causes for which they are currently laying down their lives.
This is because fundamental assumptions about this nation and the wars fought on its behalf have been shattered. For most of the past two centuries, he observed, there had been an unspoken agreement that any war fought by Britain would be based on acknowledged rules; this country would most likely win that war; and the outcome would be largely beneficial. That consensus, however, was broken with the war in Iraq — and may never be repaired.
The result has been that the public now mourn excessively the soldiers who have fallen in battle — who are seen increasingly as the victims, not of the enemies of this country but of its government that commits Britain to fight wars its people no longer support.
That is an utterly devastating observation. Devastating because it is true — and because of its implications. For Britain is a fighting nation. It is a land of historic and classic warrior heroes. Military power is part of its DNA.
For centuries, it has successfully used that power to advance its national interests abroad and defend them at home. From the Armada to Trafalgar to the Battle of Britain, military prowess has been synonymous with British greatness and is etched deep into the nation’s cultural memory.
Understanding the fact that wars to defend the nation inescapably entail sacrifice, the British once bore such losses stoically. Until now — when public displays of emotion over fallen soldiers have reached such a pitch that Michael Clarke, director of the Royal United Services Institute, has described them as ‘recreational grief’ in memory of soldiers sent by useless governments to fight pointless wars.
Such erosion of the consensus about military power arguably started long before Iraq. The widespread use of British soldiers in ‘peace-keeping forces’ stretched the patience of the public, who often found it hard to understand why it was necessary to police the world in this way, let alone see what good it did.
It is rooted further back still, in the last century’s two world wars which, although Britain won them, exacted a terrible toll of casualties and provoked as a result a near-terminal revulsion against war itself.
There is surely a more profound reason still. The acceptance that soldiers fight and die for the good of the nation is based on belief in something beyond the self. But with the erosion of religious faith and the corresponding conviction that there is nothing beyond this world, the idea of dying for any cause becomes less and less persuasive.
Virtues such as heroism, altruism and self-sacrifice have thus been displaced by the culture of instant gratification, while true feeling for others has been replaced by false emotion or mawkish sentimentality.
Throughout this dismaying process of cultural decline, the Armed Forces have remained virtually the last redoubt of Britain’s vanishing virtues such as courage, orderliness, stoicism and an unshakeable belief in the greater good.
But all around, the rest of British society has been losing its belief in the nation — and its willingness to fight and die to defend it. And if the public no longer supports the aims for which the Armed Forces wage war, these suffer a catastrophic slump in morale. As Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir David Richards has ominously warned about the premature withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan: ‘If we lose this war, it will be in the homes of this country, as people tire of it.’
Rightly or wrongly, the war in Iraq shattered public trust in the political and defence establishment ever to tell the truth about why a war is necessary in the national interest. Now Britain is mired in Afghanistan, many think that, too, is a war we should not be fighting.
Personally, I happened to support both wars, and still do. But catastrophic mistakes have been made in explaining precisely why these were so necessary. In particular, there has been an almost total failure to convince people that we are living in a very different world with a very different kind of warfare that doesn’t fit the old assumptions.
We are up against an enemy we can’t identify easily because it doesn’t wear the uniform of a country’s army, and it often chooses to operate under the false flags of one geographical conflict after another.
This is what General Richards was getting at this weekend when he said that Al Qaeda and Islamic extremism could never be defeated. What he meant was that there could be no clear-cut victory, where British troops would march into the capital of a country it had vanquished or liberated.
As for Islamic extremism, an idea, however dangerous, cannot be defeated through military means. But as the general said, it can certainly be contained so that people are protected from it. But that means an open-ended military commitment. And that depends crucially on popular support. Without that support, Britain and the West will lose — to an enemy that is fighting on many fronts to bring down the West.
General Richards says: ‘Don’t give up, folks.’ But many are doing precisely that. Not just over Afghanistan or Iraq, but over the very idea that this country’s political and military commanders can be trusted never to put its soldiers in harm’s way unless it really is in the national interest to do so.
A country that no longer understands what it is fighting against — or even more crucially, what it is fighting for — will not, in the long term, survive.
This is all so desperately tragic. This is Britain we are talking about — that land of the lion-hearted that lit the lamp of liberty for the world and whose greatest nobility lay in ensuring that its light was never extinguished. Yet now that mighty heart is all but broken. Almost the last place in which it still continues to beat on is in our Armed Forces.
Yes, we must, of course, mourn our fallen soldiers. But in order to respect their ultimate sacrifice, we must recognise and support the cause — our national cause — for which they continue to lay down their lives.
Literary bigotry and Islam
Until I was published, I had not experienced that phenomenon known as ‘the literary festival’ or the ‘science fiction convention’ or the ‘[insert favoured genre here] convention’. They are–for one who hasn’t encountered them before–strange beasts, not entirely to be trusted. Like all large, loosely organised events, they are prone to ideological capture, something I soon learnt to my cost (viz, ‘help, I’m the only non-leftie in the room!’).
Seldom, however, do they descend to the level of ideological cant evinced by the Wiscon Science Fiction Convention in its treatment of leading science fiction author Elizabeth Moon. Here is Russell Blackford’s account of events:
Here is the thoughtful, rather temperately-worded blog piece by Elizabeth Moon that led to her being disinvited as a guest of honour at the feminist science fiction convention, Wiscon 35 (to be held in May next year in Madison, Wisconsin). Moon is actually much less temperate about people like me, i.e. baby boomers, than she is about Muslims (I have no idea what her opening sentences are all about, but do read on). However, her remarks on Muslims in America were apparently considered so inflammatory that she was no longer a viable guest of honour for a relatively small convention held in a relatively small American city.
Like Russell, I agree that Moon’s piece is temperate and thoughtful. I disagree with much of what she says, but that’s because she’s coming from a position that I’d describe as ‘liberal left’. I think, for example, that she mischaracterizes libertarians, although I do concede that there is some terrible hypocrisy in the Tea Party movement, especially over welfare (en brief, many conservative Tea Partiers think they should be paid welfare for their large families, and that single mothers should not). One thing I do find extraordinary: the criticism of her for closing the thread and deleting comments after she was subjected to abuse. Believe me, anyone who does that here will get me doing my ‘libertarian property dance’ and will be SOONED into submission. Our blog, our rules.
However, not only was she disinvited by Wiscon:
Her post was, apparently, “an anti-Muslim rant”. No, actually, it wasn’t; as anyone who reads it—and whose cognition is not stuck somewhere within their own posterior—can tell for themselves.
Moon’s piece promulgates a mild form of assimilation policy, one that would be familiar to many Australians (and Americans). She is intelligently critical of Islam from an explicitly feminist perspective. Lorenzo (who I quoted above) makes the following observation:
[S]he moves on to the point that creating a nation of immigrants means that immigrants have some responsibility to fit in. Living in a country with a considerably higher proportion of foreign-born citizens than the US (25% of Australian residents are foreign-born compared to 14% of US residents), I take her point, one that is expressed moderately sensibly.
Public schooling was viewed as a way to educate immigrant children into the existing American culture–to break down their “native” culture and avoid the kind of culture clashes (between religions and national origins) people brought with them from the old country. Refusal to send children to public schools was once considered a refusal of the duties of citizenship (this changed in the ’60s/’70s, with the white flight from public schools as an attempt was made to create racial balance.) English-language-only instruction was one method used–there was to be one language all citizens understood, so that anyone from any background could communicate with anyone else…to avoid the tight little enclaves that people naturally retreat to because it’s more comfortable. Was this ideal? No, but in a couple of generations, nearly all immigrants’ grandchildren were able to speak English, even if their kids dropped out of school.
There is nothing particularly out there in this argument. Here is the classical liberal F.A. Hayek on the same issue (from The Constitution of Liberty, p 377):
There is a need for certain common standards of values, and, although too great emphasis on this need may lead to very illiberal consequences, peaceful co-existence would be clearly impossible without any such standards. If in long-settled communities with a predominantly indigenous population, this is not likely to be a serious problem, there are instances, such as in the United States during the period of large immigration, where it may well be one.
And–just to make sure all sides of politics are covered–here is the social democratic Joseph Raz (from The Morality of Freedom, p 423):
One particular troubling problem concerns the treatment of communities whose culture does not support autonomy. These may be immigrant communities, or indigenous peoples, or they may be religious sects. It is arguable that even the harm principle will not defend them from the ‘cultural imperialism’ of some liberal theories. Since they insist on bringing up their children in their own ways they are – in the eyes of liberals like myself – harming them. Therefore can coercion be used to break up their communities, which is the inevitable by-product of the destruction of their separate schools, etc?
I should point out that Raz is considerably to the left of the US Democratic Party. He is not, however, weighed down by ridiculous notions that people should somehow be able to live their lives free from offence, or that their religious beliefs are immune from criticism.
As regulars on this blog would know, I am not fond of religious believers insulating themselves from criticism behind thinly veiled threats or some sort of misguided belief that being poor, oppressed or a victim means that one’s beliefs are somehow more worthy of respect or that one’s lived experience is somehow impossible for people unlike oneself to replicate. As George S Clason once noted, ‘experience often wastes her lessons on dead men’. It is possible to have experienced very little and to be very young and to ‘trump’ a professor (or another very experienced person, in whatever field). Mathematicians do this all the time, as do linguists. When Michael Ventris deciphered Linear B, he was working as an architect and not affiliated with any university. Similarly, empathetic understanding of people unlike oneself is a writer’s stock-in-trade; it’s something I routinely engage in myself and is not particularly difficult. Empathy–unless you have some sort of psychological disorder–comes with the biological hardware.
The desire to wrap oneself in the ‘I’m offended’ mantra or the ‘I’m poor and brown and a victim’ mantra is nowhere more prevalent than when it comes to criticisms of Islam, and it is this that has brought Elizabeth Moon undone. Unfortunately, atheists are often anxious to avoid offence (they too have bought into the post-colonial piffle that I would like to see driven headlong from the universities), and tend (too much) to stick to their knitting. Russell Blackford notes:
Forthright atheists are often accused of being prepared to speak out against the wrongs of Roman Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism, but not those of Islam. To a large extent, those accusations are false: we could find many examples where leading atheists do criticise Islam, and particularly political Islam. Still, many of us concentrate on what we know best, which is often Christianity. Furthermore, there’s an intimidation factor: let’s acknowledge it, radical Islamists have done a good job of muting the critique of Islam simply by demonstrating a propensity to extreme violence – think of what happened to Theo van Gogh and the current situation of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who must be heavily guarded wherever she goes. The intimidation factor is raised to an even higher level if it’s reaching the point where comments such as those of Elizabeth Moon can make you unwanted by convention organisers in Madison, Wisconsin. To borrow a phrase, Wiscon is not helping.
In other words, antique tribal drivel remains antique tribal drivel, regardless of the colour and relative wealth of its promulgator.
To add to the risks outspoken ex-Muslims experience, there is a mass of very misleading information about the religion of Islam floating around the internet, most of it promulgated by Muslims themselves, who know next to nothing about their own religion. Some Western scholars and critics of Islam know a little more, but their advantage is relatively minor: we remain almost completely in the dark about Islam because it has never been rigorously studied. One of the reasons why Christianity and Judaism have lost much of their grip on Westerners is because they have been picked apart by classicists and theologians and linguists. This has not happened to Islam, in large part because it is simply too dangerous to do so.
As an atheist who was educated (very thoroughly, I might add) by Lutherans (who are probably equal to the Jesuits in their skill at casuistry and are also rightly proud of the Tübingen school), there are a few things about Islam that you ought to know. Here they are, seriatim.
1. The Qu’ran and Hadiths have never been subjected to what we now know as ‘The Higher Criticism‘ (textual analysis designed to establish authorship and date), so when you read well-meaning Islamic websites assuring you that the Qu’ran and the Hadiths were handed down orally, then written out hundreds of years after Muhammad’s death with a high degree of accuracy, you are being sold the theological equivalent of the notion that it is possible to pick Tattslotto numbers in advance.
2. When Muslims tell you that the pagan civilisation that preceded Islam in Arabia was revoltingly sexist and that Islam represented an advance for women, then you need to avail yourself of a pantechnicon of salt. No research has been done into the pagan civilisation that predated Islam; we only have Muslims’ say-so about it. The reason no research has been conducted into the earlier civilisation is because it is located in Saudi Arabia. It is incredibly difficult to research early Islam, let alone pre-Islamic paganism, thanks to the destructive tendencies of the Saudi government. I am no fan of Islam or Muhammad and think that humanity would have been vastly better off without him or his religion, but news that the Saudi government routinely destroys ancient monuments (including property that once belonged to Muhammad’s family) makes my ‘English Heritage’ heart break: how are we to learn about the past without access to historical or archaeological records?
3. When Muslims make excuses for Muhammad because he married a six year old and bonked her at nine, understand that they are making excuses, and that when modern people criticise him, we are not only criticising him from a position of liberal modernity. The nearest great civilisation (Byzantium) established the age of consent for slaves, concubines and non-citizen girls at 12 (Digest, 30.1; ‘nisi minor annis duodecim sit’). Sure, this ruling goes back to the Roman Empire’s pagan period, when the status of women was considerably higher, but the fact that the Christian Emperors preserved it (while dispensing with the pagans’ liberal divorce laws, dowry laws and property rights for women) suggests they still took it seriously. In other words, what Muhammad did to Ai’sha would have squicked a Byzantine Greek and double-squicked a pagan Roman. The latter would almost certainly have used the ‘p’ word.
4. The same truckload of salt needs to be applied to claims for just about everything else about Islam, even in later periods, something carefully and thoughtfully documented by the likes of Ibn Warraq and Mark Durie.
I’ll leave the final word to Lorenzo, partly because I agree with it and partly because it needs to be said:
I am sure the posterior-interior cerebration on display in the dis-inviting of Elizabeth Moon, and in describing her meditation on citizenship as an “anti-Muslim rant”, is warm and cosy. Reassuring even. It is just not, in any sense, useful. Not for understanding the world, nor changing it for the better. Elizabeth Moon’s feisty, competent heroines are much more useful for the latter.
If you want to understand why the left side of American politics just got an almighty electoral shellacking, the sort of sneering, intolerant, intellectually incompetent, not-talking-to-you (but will shout-at-you) self-delusion that Elizabeth Moon has experienced is part of the story.
Addressing Our Homegrown Enemies -- in Israel and elsewhere
This week we learned that Nazareth is an al-Qaida hub. Sheikh Nazem Abu Salim Sahfe, the Israeli imam of the Shihab al-Din mosque in the city, was indicted on Sunday for promoting and recruiting for global jihad and calling on his followers to harm non-Muslims.
Among the other plots born of Sahfe's sermons was the murder of cab driver Yefim Weinstein last November. Sahfe's followers also plotted to assassinate Pope Benedict XVI during his trip to Israel last year. They torched Christian tour buses. They abducted and stabbed a pizza delivery man. Two of his disciples were arrested in Kenya en route to joining al-Qaida forces in Somalia.
With his indictment, Sahfe joins a growing list of jihadists born and bred in Israel and in free societies around the world who have rejected their societies and embraced the cause of Islamic global domination. The most prominent member of this group today is the American-born al-Qaida leader Anwar al-Awlaki.
US authorities describe Awlaki as the world's most dangerous man. His jihadist track record is staggering. It seems that there has been no major attack in the US or Britain - including the September 11 attacks and the July 7 attacks in London - in which Awlaki has not played a role.
Sahfe and Awlaki, like nearly all the prominent jihadists in the West, are men of privilege. Their personal histories are a refutation of the popular Western tale that jihad is born of frustration, poverty and ignorance. Both men, like almost every prominent Western jihadist, are university graduates.
So, too, their stories belie the Western fantasy that adherence to the cause of jihad is spawned by poverty. These men and their colleagues are the sons of wealthy or comfortable middle class families. They have never known privation.
Armed with their material comforts, university degrees and native knowledge of the ways of democracy and the habits of freedom, these men chose to become jihadists. They chose submission to Islam over liberal democratic rights because that is what they prefer. They are idealists.
This means that all the standard Western pabulums about the need to expand welfare benefits for Muslims or abstain from enforcing the laws against their communities, or give mosques immunity from surveillance and closure, or seek to co-opt jihadist leaders by treating them like credible Muslim voices, are wrong and counterproductive. These programs do not neutralize their supremacist intentions or actions. They embolden the Western Islamic supremacists by signaling to them that they are winning. Their Western societies are no match for them.
In recent weeks we have seen a number of statements by establishment political leaders in Europe indicating that they are willing to consider abandoning these politically correct bromides. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's statement last month that "multiculturalism has utterly failed," for instance, is widely perceived as a watershed event.
And in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal on Monday, former British prime minister Tony Blair acknowledged that there is a problem with unassimilated Muslims in Britain. As he put it, anti-immigration sentiment is not general but particular. It relates, Blair admitted, to "the failure of one part of the Muslim community to resolve and create an identity that is both British and Muslim."
Blair acknowledged that it is due to the European establishment's refusal to recongnize the problem of growing Islamic supremacism in Europe that so many millions of Europeans are today ditching the establishment and its politically correct orthodoxies and voting for anti-establishment politicians who are willing to address the problem. He called for a continent-wide approach to immigration whose goal would be to prevent jihadists from exploiting the system to overthrow it.
Statements like Merkel's and Blair's are insufficient. But the very fact that enough Europeans are willing to break the PC barrier to force these leaders to acknowledge and perhaps address the challenges of unassimilated, supremacist Muslim minorities means that Europe is taking the first steps towards addressing the challenges that jihadist Islam poses to its security, culture and civilization.
Perhaps most emblematic of this change was the Merkel government's recent move to finally close the mosque in Hamburg where the September 11 plotters met and planned their acts of war against the US.
Disturbingly, the establishments in the two countries most actively targeted by global jihad - the US and Israel - remain in deep denial about the challenges of homegrown jihadist fifth columnists. The US remains in denial even though the majority of recent jihadist attacks and attempted attacks against the US were carried out by American citizens.
The US's denial of the nature of the jihadist threat was demonstrated in all of its politically correct glory this week with President Barack Obama's address to Indian students at St. Xavier University in Mumbai. In response to a student's query about his view of jihad and jihadists, Obama praised Islam as "one of the world's great religions." He went on to claim that the overwhelming majority of Muslims view Islam as a religion of "peace, justice, fairness and tolerance."
Obama's message was not only deceptive and off point, it was deeply insensitive to his audience. Two years ago this month, Mumbai was the site of a massive jihadist commando attack against targets throughout the city, and Mumbai's residents are still grappling with the wounds of that attack.
Obama's statement also ignored the US's contribution to that attack. The suspected mastermind of the Mumbai massacres was a US citizen named David Coleman Headley from Obama's hometown of Chicago. Moreover, Headley (formerly Daood Sayed Gilani) served for many years as a double agent. A convicted drug dealer, he was sent to Pakistan as a Drug Enforcement Agency agent. While there, he trained at Lashkar-e-Taibe jihadist training camps.
Obama failed to note that perhaps due to his work at the DEA, US law enforcement officials ignored testimonies from two of Headley's former wives in 2005 and 2007 that he was a member of Lashkar-e-Taibe, the India-focused Pakistani al-Qaida affiliate run by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
Rather than address these issues, or the fact that the US has refused Indian extradition requests for Headley, Obama vacuously told students that it is the job of young people from all religions to reject extremism and violence.
Headley, of course, is just one of many American jihadists who has enjoined the fruits of America's politically correct denial of the homegrown Islamic threat. In the months following the September 11 attacks, the US Department of the Army actively courted Awlaki as part of its Muslim outreach program. Awlaki, then George Washington University's Muslim chaplain, was wooed despite his documented links to three of the September 11 hijackers.
As Israelis wake up to the reality of al-Qaida in Nazareth, our leftist establishment remains in denial about its role in enabling this reality. Sahfe's Shihab al-Din mosque was established as a triumphalist mosque adjacent to the Church of the Annunciation in the lead up to the millennium. At the time, the Vatican launched a vocal protest against its construction.
In the hopes of winning over the likes of Sahfe, then-prime minister Ehud Barak and then-foreign minister and public security minister Shlomo Ben-Ami rejected the Vatican's objections. They even donated the land for the mosque from the Israel Lands Authority.
Safhe returned the favor by interrupting Pope John Paul II's homily at the Church of the Annunciation during his March 2000 visit with a call to prayer. Months later, the Shihab al-Din mosque was one of the focal points for inciting the anti-Jewish riots in the Arab sector in October 2000.
Today, leftist judges together with leftist politicians and opinion makers block all efforts by politicians and the public to acknowledge and address the growing lawlessness and jihadist bent of Israel's Muslim minority. Fear of the politically correct Supreme Court has deterred authorities from outlawing the Islamic Movement. Efforts to contend with illegal land seizures and building have been blocked by the leftist media, pressure groups largely sponsored by the New Israel Fund and the courts. Even symbolic measures like the government's recent bid to require non-Jewish immigrants to pledge loyalty to the state have been viciously attacked by Israel's leftist establishment as fascist and racist.
But as Europe is belatedly acknowledging, these politically correct commissars must be sidelined if the free world is to withstand the growing threat of homegrown jihad.
What this means for Israel is that the political and legal space has to be found to speedily embark on the law enforcement equivalent of a counterinsurgency operation. Israel must enforce its laws with as much zeal and commitment in the Muslim sector as it does in the Jewish sector. This means that Shihab al-Din and other jihadist mosques have to be closed.
It means that jihadist groups like the Islamic Movement have to be outlawed and its leaders have to be tried for treason and other relevant offenses. The same is true for all Arab leaders, political groupings and social organizations that promote the destruction of Israel.
Building and zoning laws must be enforced. State lands that have been seized must be taken back, if necessary by force, including with the involvement of the IDF.
So, too, Jewish rights have to be protected. Like Muslims, Jews have the right to buy land and homes throughout the country. Jews who wish to live in Muslim-majority communities must enjoy the protection of the law just as Muslims who live in Tel Aviv and Upper Nazareth do.
By the same token, the government must embark on a campaign to win back the loyalty of its Muslim citizens. It must empower leaders who embrace their identity as Israelis and seek the integration of Israeli Muslims into the wider society. Authorities must ensure that Israeli Muslims who wish to integrate are not discriminated against by Jews or intimidated by other Muslims.
Over the past couple of weeks, IDF commanders have spoken at length about the nature of the war to come. Their remarks have concentrated on what is already largely recognized - that Israel's home front will be targeted by long-range missiles.
Disappointingly, they ignored the most significant new threat facing the home front today: The likelihood that Israel's external foes will receive active assistance from its Muslim citizens.
Nearly a decade after the September 11 attacks, global jihad remains the central threat to the West, and not because of its popularity in western Pakistan. It remains the central threat to the free world because of its popularity among the Muslims in the free world.
To remain free, free societies must shed our politically correct shackles and address this growing menace to everything we hold dear.
Created by God to be good
IT HAS BECOME an annual tradition: The days grow shorter, the holidays approach, and the American Humanist Association rolls out an ad campaign promoting atheism and disparaging religion.
Last year, the organization placed ads reading "No god? No problem!" on hundreds of billboards and buses in more than a dozen cities. Its theme in 2008 was: "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake."
This year, the association is taking a more combative tone. It is spending $200,000 to "directly challenge biblical morality" in advertisements appearing on network and cable TV, as well as in newspapers, magazines, and on public transit. The ads juxtapose violent or otherwise unpleasant passages from the Bible (or the Koran) with "humanist" quotations from prominent atheists. For example, a dreadful prophecy from the Hebrew prophet Hosea -- "The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open" -- is contrasted with Albert Einstein's comment that he "cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation."
Of course anyone can cherry-pick quotes to make a point. And of course it is true, as the humanist group's executive director Roy Speckhardt maintains, that there are "religious texts" that "advocate fear, intolerance, hate, and ignorance." Religion has often been put to evil purposes or invoked to justify shocking cruelty; the same is true of every area of human endeavor, from medicine to journalism to philosophy to the law.
But it will take more than a few grim verses plucked out of context to substantiate the core message of the American Humanist Association's ad campaign: that God and the Judeo-Christian tradition are not necessary for the preservation of moral values and that human reason is a better guide to goodness than Bible-based religion.
Can people be decent and moral without believing in a God who commands us to be good? Sure. There have always been kind and ethical nonbelievers. But how many of them reason their way to kindness and ethics, and how many simply reflect the moral expectations of the society in which they were raised?
In our culture, even the most passionate atheist cannot help having been influenced by the Judeo-Christian worldview that shaped Western civilization. "We know that you can be good without God," Speckhardt tells CNN. He can be confident of that only because he lives in a society so steeped in Judeo-Christian values that he takes those values for granted. But a society bereft of that religious heritage is a society not even Speckhardt would want to live in.
For in a world without God, there is no obvious difference between good and evil. There is no way to prove that even murder is wrong if there is no Creator who decrees "Thou shalt not murder." It certainly cannot be proved wrong by reason alone. One might reason instead -- as Lenin and Stalin and Mao reasoned -- that there is nothing wrong with murdering human beings by the millions if doing so advances the Marxist cause. Or one might reason from observing nature that the way of the world is for the strong to devour the weak -- and that natural selection favors the survival of the fittest by any means necessary, including the killing of the less fit.
To us today, believers and nonbelievers alike, it may seem obvious that human life is precious and that the weakest among us deserve special protection. But would we think so absent a moral tradition stretching back to Sinai? It seemed obvious in classical antiquity that sickly babies should be killed. "We drown even children who at birth are weakly and abnormal," wrote the Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger 2,000 years ago, stressing that "it is not anger but reason" that justifies the murder of handicapped babies.
No, reason alone is not enough to keep human beings humane. Only if there is a God who forbids murder is murder definitively evil. Otherwise its wrongfulness is no more than a matter of opinion. Mao and Seneca approved of murder; we disapprove. Who are we to say they were wrong?
The God who created us, created us to be good. Atheists may believe -- and spend a small fortune advertising -- that we can all be "good without God." Human history tells a very different story.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.