Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Two millennia of European antisemitism explained -- and more!

The Holocaust is such a grotesque events in human affairs that it seems to defy reasonable analysis. How to understand killing on that scale, with intent, with that hatred. How could such hatred be possible?

Reading Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's superbly argued book Hitler's Willing Executioners, he points out in a nutshell the genesis of nearly two millennia of European anti-Semitism from which that genocide sprang. Yes, that pun there is intentional: "European anti-Semitism," he points out, "is a corollary of Christianity."
From the earliest days of Christianity's consolidation of its hold over the Roman Empire, its leaders preached against Jews, employing explicit, powerfully worded, emotionally charged condemnations. The psychological and theological need impelling Christians to differentiate themselves from the bearers of the religion from which their own had broken off was born anew with each generation, because as long as Jews rejected the revelation of Jesus, they unwittingly challenged the Christians' certitude in that revelation.

If the Jews, the people of God, shunned the messiah that God had promised them, then something was awry. Either the Messiah was false, or the people had gone profoundly astray, perhaps tempted by the Devil himself. Or Christians could not countenance contemplation of the former, so they opted heart and soul for the latter: The Jews were religiously wayward in a world where religion and the moral order were conterminous, and where deviation from it was a grievous transgression. [...]

Bernard Glassman, a historian of Christian attitudes towards Jews, writes:
The clerics believed that if Christianity was indeed the true faith and its followers were were the new Israel, then Judaism had to be discredited in the eyes of the faithful. In medieval sermons, plays, and religious literature, the Jews were often portrayed as adversaries of the church who from the time of of the Crucifixion threatened good Christians.
Thus the Jews can to represent much that was antithetical to the moral order of the Christian world.
I think that's as unanswerable a point today as it was when I first read it several years ago, and indeed the point is reinforced for us by the various pronouncements throughout those two millennia by Christian thinkers such as Martin Luther, Thomas Aquinas and Peter the Venerable of Cluny, all of whom viewed anti-Semitism as an essential part of their Christian faith; the fourth century comments of John Chysostom, "a pivotal Church Father," will serve here to stand for all of them: that the Jewish faith is a direct and ongoing challenge to the Christian faith, and therefore may not be allowed to survive. Said Chrysostom,
Where Christ-killers gather, the cross is ridiculed, God blasphemed, the father unacknowledged, the son insulted, the grace of the Spirit rejected... If the Jewish rites are holy and venerable, our way of life must be false. But if our way of life is true, as indeed it is, theirs is fraudulent. I am not speaking of the Scriptures. far from it! For they lead one to Christ. I am speaking of their present impiety and madness.
Notes Goldhagen of this "early example of the Christian world's essential relationship to Jews," it illustrates that Christian hostility towards Jews is not merely one of "unflattering stereotypes and prejudices," but one irrevocably "interwoven into the constitution of the moral order of the Christian cosmos and society."

Now, this thoroughgoing almost metaphysical hatred can be seen in one other obvious place in today's modern world, and it seems to me that Goldhagen's point throws a profound light too on our present-day troubles; on a world in which Christians, Jews and atheists alike are under threat from murderous Islamic totalitarians inspired by a hatred born of a similar source.

Can't you just see the same nasty, hate-filled corollary in action over Islam's double dismissal of both Judaism (for whom both Islam and Judaism share the pre-Jesus prophets) and of what they see as the 'Christian' west (who in their minds have embraced a prophet as a messiah, and who have rejected the true, later prophet Mohammed) ? It's as insane as the hatred that impelled two millennia of anti-Semitism, and it derives from a similar source.

As Christopher Hitchens affirms in the subtitle of his new book, religion really does poison everything! Seems you either take your religious nonsense seriously and as a consequence hate everyone who has a different imaginary friend to you, or you take your religion with a grain of salt and keep your head down when the hatred starts flying -- and in two millennia it still hasn't. Or better still you can reject the whole field as the hate-filled superstitious nonsense that it is, and seek your answers here on earth.

It's what a rational man would do.

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13 Comments:

Anonymous James said...

Tsk PC....don't you know the Nazis were actually all homosexuals with a homosexual agenda?....at least according to loose unit...opps I mean Lucyna and the rest of the God squad...?

The "Pink Swastika" reveals all...;-)

6/27/2007 08:46:00 am  
Anonymous JC said...

PC,

That's OK as far as it goes. Christian treatment of Jews was appalling. But it's the Pope who has apologised for the attitudes and actions of the Church over the millenia, the Church that spoke out for the Jews in WW2 and before, Christians who defend Israel now, and Atheists and Muslims who are now the anti-Semites.

JC

6/27/2007 10:00:00 am  
Blogger Lucyna said...

Many of those killed by the Nazis were also not-Jewish. In fact, as part of their final solution, their plan was to exterminate the entire Polish race after they killed the Jews. So, blaming the Holocaust on anti-Semitism over the centuries is a long bow to draw.

6/27/2007 10:56:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

JC,

1) To the extent that religion is taken seriously, the fundamental reasons for that mistreatment still exist. (The use of the word "fundamental" is intentional.)

2) I'd be very careful about invoking the Church's or the Pope's role during WW2. There's nothing to be proud of there. Goldhagen again: "Throughout the period of Nazi rule, as the government and people of Germany were subjecting the Jews of Germany and those of the conquered countries to an increasingly severe persecution that culminated in their physical annhilation, the German Protestant and Catholic churches, their governing bodies, their bishopes, and most of their theologians watched the suffering that Germans inflicted on the Jews in silence...

"Moreover, in the ranks of the clergy at all levels, numerous voices could be heard vilifying the Jews in Nazi-like terms ... acclaiming their persecution at the hand's of their country's government. No serious historian would dispute the anti-Nazi theologian Karl Barth's verdict contained in his parting letter before leaving Germany in 1935: 'For the millions that suffer unjustly, the Confessing Church does not have a heart. To which it could be added, 'and would not havd a heart during the entire Nazi era'."
[Goldhagen's references here are Wolfgang Gerlach, 'Als Die Zeugen schweigen: Bekkunde Kirche und die Juden,' and Guenter Lewy, 'The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany.']

And Pius XII's own actions during the Holocaust are well enough known, and far from admirable.

3) Just to restate the point that prompted this post: Muslims are not just anti-semite they're anti-west, for reasons that are almost identical to the reasons for two millennia of Christina-based anti-semitism. This helps provide part of the explanation for both their hatred of the west, and for their extra-special treatment of Israel.

6/27/2007 11:16:00 am  
Blogger PC said...

Lucyna, You need to look more carefully at the history of Nazism, at what I'm claiming, and at Goldhagen's argument.

And you need to rethink your view fairly seriously if you think anti-semitism played no part in the destruction of six million Jews.

Let's look again at the argument in this context. What Goldhagen argues and what I wrote is that "the genesis of nearly two millennia of European anti-Semitism from which that genocide sprang" was a "corollary of Christianity."

As I said, the word "genesis" is intentional. Those two millennia provided the fertile ground for genocide, which at the end of the Nineteenth Century saw Germany and most Germans enmired in anti-semitism. "To be German is to be anti-semitic," was a statement that characterised the time.

That's the point really at which my post was directed, at the movement which was the genesis for what became the Holocaust.

To this fertile ground for which they felt themselves the natural inheritors, the Nazis then added another ingredient that helps explain your other point about the planned destruction of the Poles, and the Gypsies, and the Russians, and also homosexuals -- an ingredient, indeed several, that actually made those two millennia of fundamental hatred become even more virulent.

Stephen Hicks explains this point in his superb 'Nietzsche and the Nazis' (I highly recommend this DVD presentation if this area is of interest). The Nazis were inheritors of the ideas of Hegel and of Marx -- the young Hegelian.

From Hegel, whose influence in late nineteenth century Germany cannot be overstated, they imbibed the idea that the individual was literally nothing - that the collective, the State, is "a truer reflection of reality, a higher manifestation of the Absolute." [ref: Leonard Peikoff, 'Ominous Parallels.']

They imbibed too Hegel's notion of the World Spirit ("Weltgeist") which they were convinced was guiding them in a sacred mission; that this "mission" was the culmination of some sort of historical necessity. It was their mission, they thought, to bring a solution to this two-thousand-year old "Jewish Problem."

To this they added Marx's idea of the fundamental conflict of collectives, but -- under the influence of Nietzsche, and of their own primitive psychologies -- in their mind the collectives in fundamental metaphysical conflict were not those of class, as they were for Marx and Engels and Lenin, but of race.

The Nazis literally and in fundamentally philosophical terms were convinced they were the master race, that they were on a mission inspired by the Weltgeist, that this race would save the world from the evils that overwhelmed it (Bolshevism, Judaism) and that they would (and should) conquer, kill and enslave the sub-human races that neighboured them in order to find 'Lebensraum' and their own place in the sun.

Thus was born a brew as evil as it was powerful. A philosophical toxin that inspired the Holocaust, a brew just as toxic as the gas, the bullets and the starvation by which the actual killing was done.

6/27/2007 11:59:00 am  
Anonymous JC said...

PC,

The "fundamental" reasons for anti-Catholicism among Atheists and the Left also still exist. They include a fixation on history (like Muslims) to support their positions. That includes making up the odd myth like the flat earth and distorting the Galileo story.

I was also careful to say only that the Church spoke out against anti-Semitism, as I'm aware of the controversies. However, you cannot argue with Einstein's comments and those of the NYT of the early 40s that prove my point.

http://tinyurl.com/2lemxf

Also, the vicious Muslim anti-Semitism of today wasn't that much of a feature ealier as Jews were treated with more amused contempt than hatred. Yes, the Koran is bloodthirsty about them, but many Jews held good positions in the various Muslim hierarchies. Today's breed of anti-Semitism was introduced from the West (after the Enlightenment), from Nazism, formation of Israel and probably from general Muslim frustration of their lowered status as the West forged ahead.

I can see more reason for modern Muslim anti-Semitism and anti-Westernism in this frustration, and wounded pride that the former dhimmis are now the superior cultures than in other reasons.

JC

6/27/2007 12:57:00 pm  
Anonymous George said...

This is about as long a bow to draw as the Muslim/Taleban/whatever claim that the injustices against the palestinian people are what makes their righteously outraged dimwits set fuzes on bombs in public places in Bali and London.

Its bullshit. One of the first signs of people going troppo is hearing voices and then getting their clothes off; one of the first signs a despot or demagogue is becoming a loose unit is he starts to rail on about the four-by-two's and how they are the source of all the evil in the world. The next step is to have a go at anyone who disagrees, normally the christian church.

If you want to have crack at Christians, go for your life, join the queue. They have been taking it on the chin for two milleniums.
Just to make it clear, form the queue under a banner that says "anti-Christ, [a jew]"

Don't blame christians for the holocaust, there's far too many of them buried under crosses all over Europe that gave all they could to bring that evil to an end. Sheet it home to those that had no god but themselves.

6/27/2007 06:00:00 pm  
Anonymous barry said...

Of the track a bit perhaps, but there is ample evidence that the Vatican gave material assistance to fleeing Nazis escape from Germany to South America.

Is this relevant to this particular discussion?

6/27/2007 09:12:00 pm  
Blogger Greg Bourke said...

Is there nothing the rotund Trotskyite Chris Hitchens isn't an expert on?
------------
I'd like to point out that objectivists, a group that profess to treasure and respect individual liberty, seem to be very quick to stereotype millions of people, Christians in this case, or power-bill defaulting South Auckland polynesians a couple of weeks back, as the collective monolith of irrational undermen.

That would point to a 'humanism' with a mineral heart of concrete and steel, which isn't paricularly human at all.
-------------

Frankly, it's jejune to point out Christian animus towards Judaism as a contributor to the Holocaust. It 's obvious.

Also obvious is the Allied armies that defeated Nazism were Christian (at least as Christian as the facists)... where does that fit in the calculation?

Could it be more, what's the word, 'complicated'?

By the by, I wonder how many Jews, Christians, and dissidents died under atheist Communism.
Don't worry, people don't read books on that topic they just name trendy bars after the perpetrators and tote red-stars.

6/27/2007 10:41:00 pm  
Blogger Greg Bourke said...

Also, what about Japan in Asia during WW2?
Tojo et al. weren't Christian but they still found motivation to slaughter with grim enthusiasism.
------------
Nazis - included good Protestant and Catholic boys. Killed millions.

Imperial Japan - included no Christians at all. Still killed millions.

Allied armies - included good
Protestant and Catholic boys. Defeated Nazis and Japanese.
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Looking at the religions of the Nazis, Allies, and Japanese, a logically inclined person might conclude religion may contribute fuel but it is not the prime mover in warfare. The prime movers across history always been fear, deprivation, ego and greed.

Ah, sweet ego inspired by voracious greed. There's your bloody thread between tyrants.

6/28/2007 10:50:00 am  
Anonymous Sus said...

"a logically inclined person might conclude religion may contribute fuel but it is not the prime mover in warfare."

I've always thought so. I believe wars have always been fought for two reasons: land and resources. Religion has invariably been the *emotive* excuse used by the hierarchy to incite the masses in order to achieve those two goals. And my, how it worked.

But does this apply to the current Islamists? Personally, I believe the hard-liners are first and foremost fighting a holy war like the crusades of old. Ultimately, convert or else ...

(Though I guess the spoils of war would be an added bonus!)

6/28/2007 11:50:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got an email about Blog Against Theocracy on 4th July, the theme is separation of church and state:

Red State Rabble thinks separation of church and state is not only essential to our democracy, but that it also reflects the original intent of the framers of the Constitution. In short, it's patriotic. RSR will be participating, and we hope readers who have blogs of their own will too. Details are here:
http://www.au.org/site/MessageViewer?em_id=23201.0&dlv_id=12741&JServSessionIdr011=jsi95s76g4.app13a

6/30/2007 10:05:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Religion as disguise for the main idea of determining which group: jews, christians, or muslims dominate for the world's wealth is how all logical and sane people should view their conflict in any nation on earth.

Who dominates whom is the only topic of merit, and the real issue.

Otherwise, who cares?

4/16/2008 04:32:00 am  

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