Saturday, December 24, 2011

Secular theocracy

The Foundations and Folly of Modern Tyranny

We live in an increasingly secularized world of massive and pervasive nation states in which traditional religion, especially Christianity, is ruled unwelcome and even a real danger on the basis of a purported history of intolerance and “religious violence.” This is found in most all “public” domains, including the institutions of education, business, government, welfare, transportation, parks and recreation, science, art, foreign affairs, economics, entertainment, and the media. A secularized public square policed by government is viewed as providing a neutral, rational, free, and safe domain that keeps the “irrational” forces of religion from creating conflict and darkness. And we are told that real progress requires expanding this domain by pushing religion ever backward into remote corners of society where it has little or no influence. In short, modern America has become a secular theocracy with a civic religion of national politics (nationalism) occupying the public realm in which government has replaced God.

For the renowned Christian scholar and writer C.S. Lewis, such a view was fatally flawed morally, intellectually, and spiritually, producing the twentieth-century rise of the total state, total war, and mega-genocides. For Lewis, Christianity provided the one true and coherent worldview that applied to all human aspirations and endeavors: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” (The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses)[1]

In his book, The Discarded Image, Lewis revealed that for Medieval Christians, there was no sacred/secular divide and that this unified, theopolitical worldview of hope, joy, liberty, justice, and purpose from the loving grace of God enabled them to discover the objective, natural-law principles of ethics, science, and theology, producing immense human flourishing. [2] Lewis described the natural law as a cohesive and interconnected objective standard of right behavior:
This thing which I have called for convenience the Tao, and which others may call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgements. If it is rejected, all values are rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained. The effort to refute it and raise a new system of value in its place is self-contradictory. There has never been, and never will be, a radically new judgement of value in the history of the world. What purport to be new systems or (as they now call them) “ideologies,” all consist of fragments from the Tao itself. Arbitrarily wrenched from their context in the whole and then swollen to madness in their isolation, yet still owing to the Tao and to it alone such validity as they possess. If my duty to my parents is a superstition, then so is my duty to posterity. If justice is a superstition, then so is my duty to my country or my race. If the pursuit of scientific knowledge is a real value, then so is conjugal fidelity. (The Abolition of Man)[3]

And in his recent book, The Victory of Reason, Rodney Stark has further shown “How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and the Success of the West.”[4] Similarly and prior to the rise of the secular nation-state in America, Alexis de Tocqueville documented in his 1835 volume, Democracy in America, the remarkable flexibility, vitality and cohesion of Christian-rooted liberty in American society with business enterprises, churches and aid societies, covenants and other private institutions and communities.[5]

In his book, The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict, William Cavanaugh similarly notes that for Augustine and the ancient world, religion was not a distinct realm separate from the secular. The origin of the term “religion” (religio) came from Ancient Rome (re-ligare, to rebind or relink) as a serious obligation for a person in the natural law (“religio for me”) not only at a shrine, but also in civic oaths and family rituals that most westerners would today consider secular. In the Middle Ages, Aquinas further viewed religio not as a set of private beliefs but instead a devotion toward moral excellence in all spheres.[6]

However in the Renaissance, religion became viewed as a “private” impulse, distinct from “secular” politics, economics, and science.[7] This “modern” view of religion began the decline of the church as the public, communal practice of the virtue of religio. And by the Enlightenment, John Locke had distinguished between the “outward force” of civil officials and the “inward persuasion” of religion. He believed that civil harmony required a strict division between the state, whose interests are “public,” and the church, whose interests are “private,” thereby clearing the public square for the purely secular. For Locke, the church is a “voluntary society of men,” but obedience to the state is mandatory.[8]

The subsequent rise of the modern state in claiming a monopoly on violence, lawmaking, and public allegiance within a given territory depended upon either absorbing the church into the state or relegating the church to a private realm. As Cavanaugh notes:
Key to this move is the contention that the church’s business is religion. Religion must appear, therefore, not as what the church is left with once it has been stripped of earthly relevance, but as the timeless and essential human endeavor to which the church’s pursuits should always have been confined…. In the wake of the Reformation, princes and kings tended to claim authority over the church in their realms, as in Luther’s Germany and Henry VIII’s England…. The new conception of religion helped to facilitate the shift to state dominance over the church by distinguishing inward religion from the bodily disciplines of the state.[9]

For Enlightenment figures like Jean-Jacques Rousseau who dismissed natural law, “civic religion” as in democratic regimes “is a new creation that confers sacred status on democratic institutions and symbols.”[10] And in their influential writings, Edward Gibbon and Voltaire claimed that the wars of religion in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were “the last gasp of medieval barbarism and fanaticism before the darkness was dispelled.”[11] Gibbon and Voltaire believed that after the Reformation divided Christendom along religious grounds, Protestants and Catholics began killing each other for more than a century, demonstrating the inherent danger of “public” religion. The alleged solution was the modern state, in which religious loyalties were upended and the state secured a monopoly of violence. Henceforth, religious fanaticism would be tamed, uniting all in loyalty to the secular state. However, this is an unfounded “myth of religious violence.” The link between state building and war has been well documented, as the historian Charles Tilly noted, “War made the state, and the state made war.”[12] In the actual period of European state building, the most serious cause of violence and the central factor in the growth of the state was the attempt to collect taxes from an unwilling populace with local elites resisting the state-building efforts of kings and emperors. The point is that the rise of the modern state was in no way the solution to the violence of religion. On the contrary, the absorption of church into state that began well before the Reformation was crucial to the rise of the state and the wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Nevertheless, Voltaire distinguished between “state religion” and “theological religion” of which “A state religion can never cause any turmoil. This is not true of theological religion; it is the source of all the follies and turmoils imaginable; it is the mother of fanaticism and civil discord; it is the enemy of mankind.”[13] What Rousseau proposed instead was to supplement the purely “private” religion of man with a civil or political religion intended to bind the citizen to the state: “As for that man who, having committed himself publicly to the state’s articles of faith, acts on any occasion as if he does not believe them, let his punishment be death. He has committed the greatest of all crimes: he has lied in the presence of the laws.”[14]

As a result, the Enlightenment set in motion what has become today’s secular theocracy that is authoritarian and hypocritical for not just its denial of moral condemnation of secular violence, but its exaltation of such violence as highly praiseworthy.

SOURCE. (See the original for references)

When Did Atheists Become Persnickety, Litigious Anti-Christmas Whiners?

Doug Giles

The atheists I grew up with in Texas were a tad bit pluckier than today’s lardy hagfish atheists who file lawsuits every winter when they see a child wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Yep, the anti-theists I used to hang out with in the Lone Star state were rugged individualists who were so busy milking this existence that they didn’t have time to bleat like a stuck sheep because a plastic baby Jesus statue endangered their delicate beliefs.

My other non-believing buddies who weren’t the robust Hemingway types were usually heady stoners who were into physics, Pink Floyd and Frisbee and were completely comfortable around people of faith versus today’s reflexively irate, touchy atheists who pop a blood vein in their forehead if they accidentally hear “Silent Night” playing at Macy’s.

For God’s sake atheists, übermensch up why don’t you?

Case in point: This past week Fox Business Channel’s Eric Bolling had Dan Barker, spokesman for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, on his show “Follow the Money” to discuss the group’s anti-Christian tantrums. I wonder if FFRF has ever waddled over to neighboring Hamtramck, Michigan and demanded that the city cease using its PA system for Islamic public calls to prayer? I doubt it.

Anyway, this Wisconsin-based Christophobic group was pouting about a nativity scene in Texas and was demanding that it be taken down because Jesus was an “insult to human nature” because He taught that “men were sinners” and would one day be held accountable for their sins if they didn’t repent and would be sent to a slow roast in Dante’s House of Pain.

Dan and his ilk represent the “we will sue you” nuevo atheists who go after our nation’s Christian holidays and symbolism—but not Islam’s—because it bashes their ideas. Waah. Frickety. Waah.

Yep, according to the 21st century metrosexual atheist motif, anything that offends them should now be banned. That makes me scratch my head because I thought the atheists were the tough-minded ones who could stare death in the face and mock God and His dictates, but now a silicone statue of Yeshua in diapers puts them in a tailspin. Hello, sweetie.

FYI to the spindly atheists: You’ve got your work cut out for you if you want to scrub culture of its Christian influence because we have rubber stamped this planet via the arts and human expression for many, many moons. Have you ever heard of Bach, van Eyck, Vermeer, Handel, Mendelssohn, Haydn and a writer named Billy Shakespeare? What about the artists of the early Italian Renaissance or the tens of thousands of other artists, writers and composers throughout history who were either die-hard believers or at least worked within the framework of a Christian worldview? Are you going to take a belt sander to their works because they remind you of Hey-Soos?

You know who did atheism right? The late Christopher Hitchens. He didn’t whine or sue schools for singing “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful.” What did he do? He vigorously argued his point of view, engaged the brethren without being a shrill priss and left it to the audience to decide what path they were going to take, and I dig that kind of robust character. That said, as you can tell, I have no respect for atheists who want to ban Christian symbolism because they don’t happen to buy it.

Merry Christmas.


Financial benefits of equality laws are imaginary, says British think-tank

New equality laws have no economic benefit and only a questionable effect on discrimination, a report claims. The study published by the think-tank Civitas says that the supposed economic benefits of recent human rights legislation are “imaginary” and that even their symbolic value is “debatable”.

It claims that rather than saving the country £65million a year, as Government estimates suggest, the Equality Act 2010 will actually cost at least £10m annually while tying small businesses in red tape. The claims come after another study by the think-tank suggested that up to £1billion a year is spent on “mindless” data collection as companies are forced to comply with equalities legislation.

That report found that equality laws have created a cottage industry of bureaucrats who monitor but don’t actually reduce race or gender bias.

Ministers have also been criticised by a backbench Tory MP, Dominic Raab, for implementing costly and bureaucratic elements of Labour’s flagship Equality Act rather than scrapping them after taking office.

The law, which gained Royal Assent just before the election, aimed to improve fairness by banning discrimination against “protected groups” such as ethnic minorities, women, disabled people and homosexuals. It streamlined existing legislation and aimed to improve equal opportunities in the workplace.

The impact assessment published by the Government Equalities Office suggested the law would cost up to £283m to implement in its first year, but the costs would soon be recouped. It was claimed that society would benefit by as much as £62m a year from greater equality.

But in a new Civitas paper called Assessing the Damage, Nigel Williams, a statistician, claims that the costs of implementing the law are far higher while the savings are “largely imaginary”. He said that the official figures are based on the assumption that people will give up some of their prosperity in return for greater equality: “The value is ideological, nothing more.”

It also assumes that combating discrimination does not “harm growth” by dissuading small businesses from recruiting because of the “weight of regulations” and the “threat of an employment tribunal”.

A further £9m in annual savings is expected from the simplification of existing laws, but Mr Williams says this could be bettered by the mere “removal of the offending regulations”.

Meanwhile the prediction of another £4m annual benefit is based on the assumption that changes to the equal pay regime will lead to fewer employment tribunals. But Mr Williams claims the new law may lead to more legal claims against employers and will require even the smallest of firms to digest 800 pages of guidance.

He concludes: “Even if the changes are introduced with extraordinary efficiency by all concerned and the budgeted £200 million proves ample, the annual consequences of this legislation will serve not to pay back the costs, but to add to them. “The ideological benefits of the Equality Act are debatable at best. The financial benefits simply do not exist.”

A Home Office spokesman said: "The Equality Act replaced nine different laws and allowed us to scrap more than a hundred burdensome regulations. We are protecting individuals from unfair treatment without creating unnecessary red tape and simplifying the system to make it fairer for employers and employees. "We do not accept the Civitas assessment.”


At last, British couples to be freed from 'slow and unnecessarily bureaucratic' system that blocks adoption

The red tape used by social workers to prevent couples from adopting children will finally be swept away by common sense reforms, ministers said today. They condemned the current system as ‘slow and unnecessarily bureaucratic’ and for leaving thousands of children abandoned in state care.

Would-be parents have frequently been prevented from adopting children because they were the wrong race, overweight, or because in the past they had smoked. Couples who have looked to adopt have complained they were insulted and abused during the assessment process.

Children’s Minister Tim Loughton announced the overhaul which will see a panel of experts devise a new system for choosing adoptive parents. He said: ‘Children are waiting too long because we are losing many potentially suitable adoptive parents to a system which doesn’t welcome them and often turns them away at the door.’ He added: ‘The assessment process for people wanting to adopt is painfully slow, repetitive and ineffective.’

The reform pledge follows months of deepening anger among Tory ministers at the failure of social workers to put their own house in order, despite overwhelming evidence that a high proportion of children in care have been wrongly denied the chance of a better life with a new family.

In September official figures showed that the number of adoptions of children from care had fallen so low that only 60 babies were found new families in the course of a year. In October, David Cameron ordered a name and shame campaign against councils where social workers delay or derail adoptions.

There have never been any published figures on the numbers of couples turned away for spurious reasons or because of the apartheid-style rules social workers use to decide which families are racially fit to adopt.

But this week adoption agencies reported a surge in applications after a BBC Panorama programme told the stories of six children desperate to find new homes.

In the 1970s around 20,000 children a year, many born to single mothers, were adopted by new families. Numbers plunged in the 1980s alongside improved benefits and free housing for young single mothers, and the development of an anti-adoption mentality among social workers.

Social work chiefs decided that they ‘no longer want to see babies farmed out to middle class mothers’.

Race rules were taken up which said a child could not go to a new family unless they were a close ethnic match. But little independent evidence supports the contention that people cannot bring up a child from a different racial background.

In September this year a devastating set of figures showed numbers of children in care had passed 65,000. Those growing up in state care – children’s homes or temporary foster care – suffer a high risk of leaving school without qualifications and going on to lives of joblessness and crime.

But over a 12-month period to March this year only 3,050 children were adopted from the care system, 5 per cent down on 2010 and 8 per cent down since 2007.

The new panel of experts will include representatives of organisations which have been deeply involved in sustaining the old, discredited process. However it will work under the guidance of Martin Narey, the Government’s adoption adviser, who has been among the strongest critics of the social worker bias against adoption.

Mr Narey said: ‘The more I have visited local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies over the last few months, the more exercised I have become about a parental assessment process which is not fit for purpose. 'It meanders along, it is failing to keep pace with the number of children cleared for adoption, and it drives many outstanding couples to adopt from abroad.’

The panel will consider a recruitment process which will not see couples coming forward being ‘lost to the system’. It will be asked to speed bureaucracy and stop ‘over-prescription regarding information collected about prospective adopters’.



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 Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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