Monday, April 12, 2010

JAMES VALLIANT: An Open Letter to Glenn Beck

_Valliant Guest post by James S. Valliant

Dear Mr. Glenn Beck,

As a fierce defender of the American Founding Fathers and the free market, as well as an atheist, I listened intently to your discussion of "faith" and the founding of America, April 8, 2010, on the Fox News Channel. Despite my views on religion, I have become a regular viewer because, in my estimation, the history lessons you deliver every night are enormously valuable.

However, today's discussion not only left me unpersuaded of your case, but also profoundly disturbed for the future of American Ideals. If men like you, i.e., the defenders of America's Founding Fathers, have no better an appreciation of the Founders' achievement than you displayed today, then we have a far more troubling problem than a bunch of Leftists who simply ignore the Constitution to create their vision of a socialist America.

Let me take a minute to explain why.


Politics is a field of study like any other and, like any science, it transcends race and religion. Just as there is no "pagan -Greek" physics, "Christian-English" physics or "Jewish" physics, only the contributions of Archimedes, Newton and Einstein, so the concept of individual rights is non-sectarian in this respect, as well. All human beings possess inalienable "rights"—whether they know it or not, and whether they are Christians, Jews or ancient pagans.

More than this, in order to understand and support the concept of individual rights as embodied in America's Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, one does not need to assent to any particular faith, or, indeed, to any faith whatever—i.e., one need not be a Christian or a Jew to grasp and to agree with the American Bill of Rights. Rights are a natural fact and, thus, can be discovered through observation and reason, and no aspect of distinctively Jewish or Christian belief is required to grasp their reality and importance.

John Locke, the well-known political philosopher who argued the case for natural rights that would inspire America's Founding Fathers, did argue from the Bible and from Mosaic Law in claiming that individuals have rights recognized by their Creator, to be sure, but this was not the case for which he would become internationally famous. No, in order to have had the influence he did, Locke's case had to be qualitatively superior to the claims of European kings who also claimed a divine origin for their "rights" (as tyrants).

Locke, and Thomas Jefferson after him, would have had no stronger, and certainly no more "scientific" a claim to rights had Biblical exegesis been the extent of his reasoning. But Locke also argued that the hand and mind of God could be seen in the very nature of humanity itself. Humans are—observably—creatures of reason and choice, and possessed of differing moral statures. As a species, Locke argued, we survive by "mixing" our "labor" with the "soil" to create the material goods we require to live. It is from these facts of human choice, human reason and the requirements of his existence, according to Locke, that one can see that rights are a wholly natural thing—that whether created by God or not, humans are so constituted as to require a respect for their rights: that is, if they are to survive and flourish.

It is this, the natural element in the case for natural law and natural rights, that makes Locke's argument for rights superior to previous supernatural claims of the "Divine Right of Kings." The conservatives' idea that rights "come from God" places the concept in as unscientific, as nebulous, and as arbitrary a position as Louis XIV's claim to being God's choice to rule France. (Not to mention the fact that Louis may also have had the better claim in a strictly Biblical sense.)

Yet, conservative Christians and Jews in America today, such as yourself, claim that rights can only be understood as a unique gift of Jehovah, the Judeo-Christian deity without realizing how dramatically you undermine the Founders' original case in the process. You take "rights" to be a special, mystical endowment like a coat of magical paint God happened to apply to us during creation, and not a scientifically demonstrable fact applicable to all men, and provable to any honest and rational man, regardless of his cultural origins.

Moreover yours is neither Locke's argument nor the Framers'. When they spoke of persons being "endowed by their creator" they meant, in effect, "beings of such a nature," and it is to that natural 
condition to which they referred. The belief in God which most men shared at the time was mere overlay.

Just as Newton's physics was, for Newton, a revelation into the mind of the Creator, but something that would stand or fall on its own evidentiary merits in the minds of men who did not necessarily share his religion, so it was with Locke and the Founders: the idea of rights can and must be established on purely natural grounds, they held, through observation and logic, and be provable to the heathen as well as to the Christian in just the same fashion that Newton could establish the truth of his physics to an atheist.

Let's recall the story of the great astronomer Johannes Kepler in this context. A devout if unorthodox Christian, he sought to read the mind of God by reading the stars. He believed that if the orbits of the five observable planets could be lined up with the five "regular" solids of geometry, he could prove that a divine order had set them in motion, and that Creator was a skilled mathematician who left us geometric clues to his existence. Of course, the orbits of the planets do not line up to the regular geometric solids. (As it turned out, there are even more than five planets.)

What made Kepler a hero of reason and science was his willingness to set aside his Platonic vision of an Ordered Universe in the face of evidence gained from telescopes belonging to men like Tycho Brahe. The facts, not his own dearly-held suppositions about the "mind of God," must dictate our conclusions, Kepler knew, and, in the end, he produced an accurate description of the laws of planetary motion.
Whatever "order" to the cosmos there was, he realized, it could be discovered only through observation and sound mathematics. Like the Protestants reading the text of the Bible for themselves in this new era of reason, so the Age of Science saw brave men reading the universe for themselves for the first time, as well, and to the same end: to read the mind of God not through ancient text but through observation of the natural world. For such a man, Christian though he was, the test of truth was the test of reason, and previous "authority" could hold no weight.

So it was with Locke. Christian though he was, he believed that the natural argument was essential to his case.

Yet, contemporary political conservatives in America like yourself seem determined to drain all of the natural reasoning and natural law out of the Founders' case for natural rights.

If the United States was built on distinctively Judeo-Christian principles, as you contend, then the Bill of Rights is no sounder an assertion than had been the claims of Louis XIV to rule France. But, if the science of human nature serves as our guide, then our conclusions will be ecumenically applicable and understandable.

Before mentioning rights as divine endowments, the Declaration makes reference to equality before the law as being the upshot of "the laws of nature and of nature's God." This is crucial, and often misread. According to Jefferson, the laws of nature themselves establish the vision of rights he laid out. Whether or not the laws of nature may be found in the Bible, and on this point the Declaration is silent, the concept of rights can be found in the "the laws of nature." To know God's will, in other words, one needs science, not just ancient text. Notice, too, the assumption that the laws of nature and God's laws must perfectly correspond to one another, and that observations of human nature, therefore, have greater merit than arguments like King Louis' purely Biblical case. It is observable fact, not Biblical text, upon which the Declaration builds its case, and it is not the God of the Bible, but the "God" of the natural world detailed by science, i.e., "nature's God," to which Jefferson appeals.

This is why the Bible was not used as a guide in the framing of the U. S. Constitution. In establishing a "republic," the Framers explicitly used pre-Christian models from pagan Rome as their principal inspiration. There would be no "parliament," but a "senate" and popular assembly, and two executive officers, one of whom possessed a "veto" power over legislation... and even much of the ancient, pagan nomenclature was adopted. No concept of individual liberty, no principle of "freedom of speech," much less one of "freedom of religion"(!) is to be found in the Bible at all. No limits on republican power can be found there because no concept of a "republic" is to be found in the ancient text in the first place, populated as it is with Divinely Chosen or hereditary Kings—even hereditary "messiahs."

Most of America's Founding Fathers were Christians, of course—although men like Jefferson and Franklin cannot be meaningfully described as "Christians"—and the Christian Framers saw their political views as being consistent with their religious views. However, the political philosophy upon which America was founded was based squarely on naturalistic reasoning and ancient, pagan precedents. Such reasoning and such precedents make America the distinctive and outstanding achievement of the Enlightenment and of secular, scientific reasoning—not Christianity. This same Christianity had had the better part of two thousand years to make itself felt politically with no outcome similar to the American Constitution.

You contend that the three pillars of America's foundation are "faith, hope and charity." However, all three of these "virtues" can be practiced by advocates of royal, theocratic or totalitarian governments, just as they were originally articulated by men who had absolutely no concept of limited government.
No nebulous "hope" in a better life-to-come informed the American Revolution, but a worldly demand for a better life right here and now. It was not the concept of "charity" which had been piously practiced by Christian monks throughout the Dark Ages which inspired the Founders, but the concept of worldly property rights and the pursuit of one's own earthly happiness, i.e., a form of ethical egoism, which lit their fuses. It was not "faith" but naturalistic reasoning, as we have seen, that served as the Founders' guide.

As our Islamic foes understand seemingly better than you, America has been the very symbol of worldly ambition, material success, the piling up of the "treasures" of this earth and the selfish pursuit of profit. This focus on the natural and the worldly explains why America has achieved such prosperity, just as the contrasting supernatural focus of the Christian Dark Ages characterizes its superstition and resulting misery.

The American revolutionaries ignored Christ's command to "render unto Caesar," refusing to pay even the modest tax from a king far less tyrannical than Caesar. They also ignored St. Paul's command to obey the governmental authorities placed over them. They ignored the Bible's plea for peace and the advice to "turn the other cheek" to coercive agents of the state. They were rebels akin to the Jewish zealots of Jesus's own time, the zealots of whom Christ was so critical.

No, it is not "faith, hope and charity" that uniquely distinguish even the American Christian, but reason, action and wealth-production that signal the distinctively American approach to their faith—with Reverend Ike advising his parishioners that "the best way to help the poor is not to be one of them," and Christian evangelists who argue for the "divine right to prosperity," notions so strangely out of step with the other-worldliness commended by the Sermon on the Mount.

If your purpose is to convince us that Christians have a special claim to the universal truths embodied by the American Constitution, then you are simply mistaken.

But if your goal is to persuade all Americans, not just Christians, of the virtues of the American Constitution, the free market, individual rights and individual liberty, then you must abandon the sectarian arguments which serve only to associate American liberty with mystical faith.

Sincerely,
James S. Valliant jsvalliant@cox.net

Originally posted at SOLO, where already a great debate has ensued in the comments . . 

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19 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good essay.

But unfortunately the attitudes and ideas promoted by Beck are very common amongst right wing religionists in the USA.

Check out the atrocious blogs at the First Things website as an example.

Only we know and possess the truth.

Everyone else including progressive Christians and members of other faith traditions are wrong and full of relativist delusions.

They therefore all need to be re-"educated" and converted to the "one true way".

4/12/2010 04:43:00 pm  
Anonymous Right Wing Christian said...

After an excellent post from Christian Libz, Tim Wikiriwhi here on Not PC today, James fucking Valliant pops in with a typical Christian bashing guest-post article.

Mr Valiant, what action/s have you done so far to advance Libertarianism and individual freedom? None at all. At least Tim Wikiriwhi & Glenn Beck have got out there and campaigned directly for freedom.

You're a fucking ponce James, being a strong critique of Christianity (and a basher), but have done nothing to advance libertarianism. Your argument here is fucking redundant. Get off your fucking high horse and do something like Tim Wikiriwhi or Glen Beck like campaigning to advance libertarianism freedom and stop being and arsehole.

Did you post Valiant’s article deliberately PC as to counter Tim Wikiriwhi’s earlier article not for its content but simply because of Tim's Christian belief? What a waste of Tim’s excellent article here on your blog.

4/12/2010 04:57:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glenn Beck is not some intransigent Christian fundamentalist as has been falsely claimed by various quarters within the secular-progressive establishment. In fact he's only mentioned his faith a handful of times up until the more recent faith / hope / charity themed episodes.

He even has the grace to have members of the Ayn Rand Institute on the show quite regularly - Yaron Brook for example.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9sUYXtl9k4

4/12/2010 05:00:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

@Right Wing Christian:

Yes, we can all admire your skilled debunking of James Valliant's major points.

Did you by any chance even think about this one?

" The conservatives' idea that rights "come from God" places the concept in as unscientific, as nebulous, and as arbitrary a position as Louis XIV's claim to being God's choice to rule France. (Not to mention the fact that Louis may also have had the better claim in a strictly Biblical sense.)

Yet, conservative Christians and Jews in America today, such as yourself, claim that rights can only be understood as a unique gift of Jehovah, the Judeo-Christian deity without realizing how dramatically you undermine the Founders' original case in the process.
"

On that basis, i.e., by resting your case on mysticism, then no matter what else is said. by them your conservative Christian does more to undermine individual freedom than anyone else.

He essentially hands everything his opponent needs on a plate-- willingly handing reason and science over to his enemies. Something they could never have achieved on their own.

4/12/2010 05:16:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beck needs to realize that although the left may throw out much of religion's mysticism, it takes religions tribal ethics very seriously.
Tribal ethics, applied in a world that has been globalizing for several millennium, have produced nothing but bloody conflict and destruction.
Countries prosper to the degree they uphold reason, individualism, property rights, and an ethics of rational self interest. This allows a basis for dealing with anyone, as others are seen as an opportunity, not a threat.
Ethics of service and sacrifice always serve an overlord to direct them, be it "the common good", ethnic identity, nation, god, or any collective.
No doubt Beck finds higher ratings appealing to the religious right.

His legacy however will be to reinforce the collectivist tribal religious ethics on which socialism is built.
Ken

4/12/2010 06:21:00 pm  
Blogger Viking said...

I like Beck but am aware of his limitations, particularly when it comes to explaining difficult concepts - he is often unable to.

The point that there was nothing specifically Christian about the founding of the Republic is entirely valid, but it does ignore the wider issue of their emergence from the very Judaeo-Christian tradition and heritage that brought us to the Enlightenment and beyond.

Just as William Wilberforce used the Bible to argue against slavery, it is not necessary to be a Bible-believer to hate slavery and want it abolished. however, historically, if those principles ran counter to the Bible, it is hard to see how they could have been put into practice, against the grain as it were.

It is fair to say, in my view, that the dominant ideology of the Fathers was a sort of Deism, combined with Enlightenment values - both of which emerged from Reformed Christianity and perhaps even Calvinism.
There may be, as the author says, nothing specifically Christian about the American Republic, but it was Christian culture (and its fractious nature) and tradition that enabled its founding.

By the way, I am a Christian but also an outright secularist.

4/12/2010 10:32:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the Christian of informed belief, there is no perfect system by which man can govern himself without God. To the Jew, no way without the Mosaic Law and the traditions, to the Mohummedan the Koran and the interpretations of the mullahs. The Libertarian, the athiest and the communist all place their reliance on man either as an individual or as a group.
All want freedom, the question is who or what gives it? The Constitution? Westminster? The Torah? Ayn Rand? Marx?
Valiant is right in his thrust that christianity has been sidetracked. The US Constitution is not another book to be included in scripture, but without the tennets of scripture that inspire it, his argument that rights are a natural fact is feeble.
Given human nature the only naturally observable right is one achieved by dominance, gained by wealth, power and coercion. He may appeal to pagan Rome for constitutional precedence but fails to mention that the Roman Republic soon became the Roman Empire with all the tyrants it couldn't handle; the Empire dissolved and became the spoil of Germanic tribes that opposed and deposed one another for centuries; their only observable natural right was the ability to take off a neighbour's head, stampede his goats and make off with the women. To the south the Caliphs were doing the same [in more summery clothing] in the name of Allah. Meanwhile the poor old Jew was still catching it in the neck from everyone, never quite being wiped out and somehow prospering in the lulls. The whole depressing panoply is in fact a vision of the future. The USA is around three centuries old; a mere blip in time. I am grateful for the freedoms afforded by the Constitution as they have had worldwide effect, and I am grateful for those that have died to uphold and defend it. I hope the 'self evident facts' and rights survive the current assault on them by the incumbent dickhead but I do not see, however, the Bible in either old or new testament guaranteeing the USA or its Constitution. The only thing I see is the Jews looking for a Messiah, and Jesus telling his followers to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom--A realm where he returns and rules. Worldwide.
Personally speaking, that appeals. I don't expect the concept will go over big with Randists, athiests, constitutionalists, devotees, etc. But if human history is anything to go by, the alternative future is a modern version of the Hun, Allah's tooled-up mob or any coercive totalitarian theme. Western civilisation has been given no promise that other civilisations didn't have, no matter the content or the origin of their constitutions and laws.

George

4/13/2010 01:31:00 am  
Anonymous Robert Winefield said...

Anonymous wrote:

"All want freedom, the question is who or what gives it?"

Did you miss this bit?

"Rights are a natural fact and, thus, can be discovered through observation and reason..."

In other words because the main means by which humans survive by the products of their thought (as opposed to lightning speed, large teeth, wings etc.) they need rights to guard against those products being taken by other humans.

These are the observable facts that James is alluding to.

Now whether you believe that humans got that way by evolution or by the hand of god the observable fact remains.

You don't need to invoke the supernatural in defense of the Right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. You need only to identify what exists in THIS world.

Invoke the supernatural all you want in your own life. But using it to justify the existence and foundation of a nation is dangerous. For one thing, it allows Pellosi et al to argue that if rights come from God, how could anyone argue that God would deny someone free healthcare...

Do you folks get it now?

4/13/2010 03:35:00 am  
Anonymous LGM said...

Lots of hatred and villification directed at James V over his letter. Not much of substance.

The trouble with religious conservatives is that ultimately their ideology originates from from a blind faith in the existence of the arbitrary. Their faith is not available to be analysed or proved. It is not open to reason and is placed beyond debate. As soon as it is challenged the religionist retreats to unsupportable statements of faith (with which one is not allowed to argue OR ELSE). Worse are the expressions of hatred for the person making challenge on tehir faith. Such behaviour is irrational, illogical and anti-reason.

In committing the error of mysticism the religionist renders himself helpless in the face of reasoned critique. What he claims he stands for is completely nullified as it is unsupportable and unreasonable.

Some religionists claim to be in favour of liberty (of course they are not, in reality what they want is people to be "free" to follow the diktats of a particular brand of faith based fairy story). The collectivist challenges the religionist notion of liberty. The collectivist seeks central planning "for the greater good", "for the next generation, "for the planet" etc. The religionists disagree with this. Why? Asks the collectivist. In the end the relionists rely on some such nonsense as "God says so" and "God gives us freedom of choice, so it is wrong for you (the collectivist) to restrict it". Beyond that they can not venture a serious validation for their position. There is no justification other than "my God tells me so."

Of course, all the collectivist need say is either:

1/. God is a figment of your imagination, or

2/. my God says different.

In practice the debate between religious conservatives and collectivists devolves into a cat fight between competing brands of the same thing. That is, on the left there is a band of collectivists and on the right there is a band of collectivists. Both lust for the power to control others. Both say they know best how other people should be allowed to live their lives. Neither is right. Both are wrong and both lead to destruction of freedom.

James Valliant's concerns are reasonable.

LGM

4/13/2010 07:42:00 am  
Blogger Mark said...

@ Right Wing Christian: Funnily enough, your comments actually demonstrate James’s point.

Tim’s article stands on its own. It doesn’t invoke the supernatural. Therefore an atheist like myself can read it and agree, and see Tim as an ally, regardless of his Christianity.

You on the other hand, can’t seem to separate politics from your religious beliefs. Tim is a Christian, therefore any criticism of Christianity “counters” Tim’s previous article in your mind - even when Tim’s article has no religious content!

Your belief system is like like a crumbling edifice; remove one brick (eg: criticize another Christian) , and your whole defence for liberty comes crashing down , and Tim’s article is “wasted”.

Not a very sound basis for advancing liberty.

4/14/2010 09:12:00 am  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

I think that Viking has pointed out the most obvious point which has been missing in this debate.

Viking said...
The point that there was nothing specifically Christian about the founding of the Republic is entirely valid, but it does ignore the wider issue of their emergence from the very Judaeo-Christian tradition and heritage that brought us to the Enlightenment and beyond.

This is how I see it myself. It was the environment that the US founding fathers were immersed in or brought up in that influenced them. Had the same founding fathers were brought up in say, the Middle East (assumed that they weren't colonized by the west at the time) with same ideologies, they wouldn't never succeed in establishing a republic like that of the US? Why? It is quite obvious. Not because of the excellent thoughts that were inside the heads of such intellectuals but because of their own environments (i.e., Muslim culture) that would have opposed them fiercely, if they tried (i.e., consensus of the majority would be the dominant force).

We still do witness such oppositions today to imposing or adopting western style democracy in most Muslim countries. Since at the time of the founding of the US and its independence, the Judaeo-Christian traditions were the norms (i.e., the culture), so it was natural for the citizens not to oppose the ideas proposed by the founding fathers. What the founding fathers were proposing was already inline with their way of life (which I would say, the Judaeo-Christian culture).

Now, there have been arguments from the Libz on what the founding fathers said according to the history books, which those historical facts were undeniable, but this arguments is what I call, text book argument, i.e., to say, that this or that fact from the history book says that the founding fathers weren't Christians themselves, therefore the US wasn't found on Christian values or influenced by Christian traditions.

It is not what the founding fathers had said that were ended up written into history books for us later generations to read about, but the wider interpretations of why there were no oppositions from the citizens to the ideas they proposed?

Well to me, IMO, I take the environment & the culture as main factors in shaping the thoughts of the founding fathers, irrelevant if the founders were atheist or religious themselves. I presumed that they knew pretty well that if they had proposed some system of government that wasn’t inline with the culture/tradition, they wouldn’t have succeeded at all.

Now, I have stated my opinion here, I want to hear the Libzs’ & Objectivists (counter)argument.

PS : I am not denying the history books which have documented in detail that the US founding fathers separated church & state, i.e., it wasn’t found on Christian principles/values, but what I would argue here, is, that it was influenced by Judeo-Christian values/traditions. Imagine the founding fathers trying to establish something similar in the Middle East at the same time.

4/14/2010 03:41:00 pm  
Blogger Mark said...

@ Falafulu:

You make some good points. In the 1700's, Christianity certainly permitted the ideas of the founding fathers. You're correct that other religions wouldn't, so in that respect, Christianity does deserve some credit.

However the issue is whether Christianity was the *source* of those ideas or not.

I would argue not, and that fundamentally, they were still in opposition. By the 1700's, Christianity has been under attack from 2 centuries of secular elightenment ideals. By that stage, what we had was an uneasy truce between the two.

I liken it to the current situation in China. Limited free market capitalism, under a Communist regime. Doesn't mean that communism is the source of the capitalism. Fundamentally, they are still in conflict, and in the long run, the contradiction will have to resolve itself - one is going to win at the expense of the other.

4/14/2010 04:43:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

@Mark & Falufulu Fisi:

Mark is exactly right. Christianity was not the source of the ideas of the Founding Fathers--the source was the ideas of the Enlightenment

Christianity had more than 1500 years to prooduce the idea of individual rights--of rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of property and hapiness--that empowered the Revolution, and it signally failed. That's 1500 years, including two centuries of JUdean misery and a millennia of crosses and graves and darkness across Europe in which it never even came close.

On the other hand, in just two-hundred years of reason, the Enlightenment was born and the United States with it--an Enlightenment that was in profound disagreement with the philosophical outlook of the Puritans.

For a full answer, I recommend the chapter 'The Nation of the Enlightenment' in Leonard Peikoff's book 'Ominous Parallels.' There's a brief discussion of it here.

4/14/2010 05:11:00 pm  
Anonymous Falafulu Fisi said...

PC said...
Christianity was not the source of the ideas of the Founding Fathers--the source was the ideas of the Enlightenment

I wasn't saying that the sole source of the founding fathers ideas only came from Christianity. It meant that I wasn't arguing about the source of their ideas. I argued that the environment that those ideas were brought into, in which they flourished was Christianity traditions, i.e., the equivalent of a Petri dish. Without the Petri dish (Judaeo-Christian culture), the founding fathers ideas wouldn't have been accepted by the citizens, i.e., failed to establish what they wanted to do. Even if the founding fathers got the source of their ideas from enlightenment and not from Christianity, it was destine to flourish because of Christian traditions.

I already raised in my previous post about the possibility, that had the founding fathers tried to spread their ideas to other places in the Middle East, say by travelling there, then it would have been guaranteed to fail. WHY? It was (still is) a completely different Petri dish over there, which the ideas could never be cultured in those environments. Can you put forward a counter argument about that conjecture? If you believed that

Now that a portion of the population of China today have learnt about Enlightenment, wouldn’t it be correct to say that they do want to establish a constitution like the US by now? If not then why not? I suspect that the main reason is the environment in China (Petri dish of some sorts), is hostile to culture those ideas to grow. There is no doubt that Christianity was very receptive to the ideas of the founding fathers, because one could see that Enlightenment only took place to start with countries where Judeo-Christian traditions dominated.

4/14/2010 09:54:00 pm  
Anonymous LGM said...

FF

Intersting what you write.

Regarding China, that one is a wait and see. It is a big place and things are changing there very quickly. There may be some pleasant suprises to emerge.

LGM

4/15/2010 06:51:00 am  
Blogger Mark said...

Falafulu Fisi said:

"I already raised in my previous post about the possibility, that had the founding fathers tried to spread their ideas to other places in the Middle East, say by travelling there, then it would have been guaranteed to fail. WHY? It was (still is) a completely different Petri dish over there, which the ideas could never be cultured in those environments. Can you put forward a counter argument about that conjecture?"

I thought I'd addressed that. It could only happen in Christian countries, because Christianity was the only religion that had been moderated by 200 years of Enlightenment ideals. Other religions such as Muslim hadn't.

Or to use your terminology, the Christian petri dish had already started to change, 200 years earlier. But pre-Enlightenment, both petri dishes (Christianity or Muslim) were fundamentally the same - equally hostile to the ideals of individual liberty.


Now if you're positing that the *Enlightenment* could only happen in Christian countries circa 1500, that's another matter. I'm open to that possibility, but I haven't seen much evidence to support that. A more likely reason is Europe's geographical proximity to the better examples left by Greece and Rome in earlier times.

Come to think of it, wasn't it Arabic scholars who first uncovered the old Greek and Roman texts, that kick-started the Elightenment? On that basis, couldn't you equally credit Islam for providing the right petri-dish that brought us out of the dark ages?

Reality is though, circa 1500, all religions, both Islam and Christianity were hostile to individual liberty.

But for whatever reason, the Enlightenment took off in Europe, not the Middle East, and Europe just so happened to have a Christian religion. Therefore Christianity was moderated, but other religions weren't. This is why the Founding fathers could establish their republic in a Christian country 200 years later.

4/15/2010 09:00:00 am  
Anonymous LGM said...

Mark

What is your opinion on what is occurring in China (never a Christian country) or India (not Christian either)

LGM

4/15/2010 09:20:00 am  
Blogger Mark said...

@ LGM:

A similar thing to what happened in Christian countries centuries earlier - their dominant religion is under attack from secular/rational ideas that originated in the Enlightenment. It started in Europe, and now it's finally reaching those outposts.

Only problem is, those ideas aren't as clear and consistent now as they were centuries earlier. What they're getting is a watered-down version of the Enlightenment.

Hence the results will be more mixed, and the outcome less predictable.

On the other hand, they know better what real poverty is like, so have a greater motivation to pull themselves out of it (by adopting the right ideas). By contrast, most in the West have become complacent, and have no idea what's needed to support the comfortable lives they lead.

I'd rate India as a better chance of suceeding than China, because of the 'head start' they got with British colonisation.

4/15/2010 09:55:00 am  
Anonymous LGM said...

Mark

Thanks for explaining.

BTW you wrote, "... most in the West have become complacent, and have no idea what's needed to support the comfortable lives they lead."

How true. Many are about to be experiencing the truth of that statement the hard way.

LGM

4/15/2010 12:12:00 pm  

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