“Turning back to God,” through art [update 2]
Glenn Beck says America should “try the old turning back to God thing.” So I thought I’d try the old turning back to a time when the western world was all overrun by folk who were all over God—and for some reason (God knows why) it was a time (around twelve centuries of time) when those God-bothers were bothering any poor sap who didn’t worship their God the same way they did.
God, it was a great time to be alive. If you could manage it…
It was a time of enormous ingenuity…
Here’s some artistic depictions of the “glorious” days gone by of a whole theology based on torture.
An artist's depiction of a Torture chamber of the Inquisition, ca. 1736. Burning of the Heretics (Auto-da-fé) - Pedro Berruguete Burning of Giordano Bruno – Andre Durand The Supplication of the Heretics in 1210 - Jean Fouquet Scene From an Inquisition – Francisco Goya Galileo facing the Roman Inquisition - Cristiano Banti, 1857
Yep. These sure are the sort of grand old times we’d all like to see again. What could possibly be wrong in turning back to religious zealotry? Hell, it worked so well the first time.
UPDATE 1: It’s always strikes me as bizarre that Christians can make themselves feel better about the barbaric past of the faith they worship by pointing to the equally barbaric crimes of Hitler, Mao and Pol Pot—as if this somehow excuses their own faith of culpability for two millennia of bloodshed and butchery.
First, the crimes of of Hitler, Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot in the twentieth century in no way wipe out the barbarities of the christian church in centuries past—which was as bad, if not worse, than the barbarities of Islamists today. Own up to your history, religionists.
Second, the crimes of of Hitler, Mao and Pol Pot are a testament not to the evil of atheism (which says only what one does not believe in) but to the evil of the ideas these bastards did hold: i.e., the collectivist wet dream of making out of humanity one neck for one noose. Their evils, and the fact they took so many along with them in support, is a testament to the power of ideas to move the world for good or ill—they’re a warning that we must understand the misbegotten notions that lead to totalitarianism,and not to let these bad ideas grow.
Third, the crimes of those bloodstained collectivists were carried out on the ethical principle of sacrifice—the sacrifice of individuals to the collective—an ethic, you might recall, that was brought into the world and championed by the founders of the christian church—an ethic that still urgently needs to be wiped out. (Not, I hasten to add, with an ethic that requires the sacrifice of the collective to the individual, but one that requires no sacrifices whatsoever!)
Fourth, religionists appear blithely unaware of the religious histories of those they decry as atheists.
Stalin attended an Orthodox seminary in Georgia before seeing his opportunity for greater victories with the Bolsheviks. And Hitler was a Catholic who was “convinced the people need and require this [Catholic] faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement.” Who as Paul points out, believed he was “acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord [emphasis in the original]"— And why wouldn’t he believe that, since the Christian church itself had a two-millennia history of attacking Jews as Christ-killers.
And Karl Marx, who inspired the murders of Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot, was the son of a rabbinical line and a follower of the philosopher Hegel. Hegel talked about a “World Spirit” who moved history; Marx talked about religion as being “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world…the vale of woe, the halo of which is religion.” Rather than denying religious belief, he understood it and brought it down to earth—observing that the “mystics of spirit” offer a reward that never arrives called heaven, an ill-defined realm existing (somewhere) beyond this dimension and to which all today’s sacrifices are offered); he offered instead an equally illusory realm that will never arrive called “the future,” a realm of ill-defined communist nirvana towards which all of his followers’ blood sacrifices were offered, a never-arriving “somewhen” that denies the present and exists only as the goal of some never-to-be achieved struggle.
Fifth, faith and force are not opposites: they are ineluctable bedfellows. The Bible itself is a blueprint of barbarity; the method by which one is supposed to “know” the Bible’s revelations is the very means by which knowledge is rendered impossible, honest disagreement is rendered impossible, and human bloodshed is the inevitable result. When one holds reason as the standard by which knowledge is acquired and held, then rational persuasion is the coin of the realm for disagreement; but if one’s ideas are held by reason’s opposite, i.e., by“Faith,” i.e., by “blind acceptance of a certain ideational content, acceptance induced by feeling in the absence of evidence or proof,” then there is no peaceful way to resolve these conflicts. Sam Harris explains the virus:
The danger of religious faith is that it allows otherwise normal human beings to reap the fruits of madness and consider them holy. Because each new generation of children is taught that religious propositions need not be justified in the way that all others must, civilization is still besieged by the armies of the preposterous. We are, even now, killing ourselves over ancient literature. Who would have thought something so tragically absurd could be possible.
Faith and force are the destroyers of the modern world—just as they were of the pre-modern. And the greatest destroyer of these two …. is faith, because it makes the other necessary.
UPDATE 2: Paul Hsieh at Noodle Food asks “Which is the Greater Danger: Islamic or Christian Dictatorship?”:
If dictatorship ever comes to America, it won't be an Islamist one. Instead, it will more likely be a Christian one, but one which would arise as a direct result of our current weak approach to the real and immediate Islamist threats. Furthermore, such a Christianist regime could gain traction here in a way that an Islamist regime never could because the Christianist regime would have a superficially "pro-American" veneer.