On the Middle East

As I’ve said before, I prefer for the two rival monotheisms to be at each others’ throats rather than united against Christianity.

Islam and Judaism are closer to each other than either is to Christianity, so it’s silly to think that we have to pick one or the other to favor.  I often hear from fellow conservatives that the Muslim God isn’t really God because Muslims reject the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation.  This is never said about the Jewish God.

I know this is kind of perverse, but don’t you kind of feel jealous of Islam that so many young men are ready to kill and die on its behalf?  I can’t imagine what it must be like for masses of young people to be inspired enough by Christianity to make any sacrifice at all for it.  We imagine that we’re doing pretty well if we can keep our children from defecting to the Left.  How the heck do those Mohommedans, with their false revelation, do it?

I appreciate a good neocon-bashing round as much as the next man, but at some point doesn’t what happens in Iraq become the responsibility of the Iraqis?  When do we get to that point?  To me, the instant association of “misfortune in Iraq” with “Bush” is starting to smack of American parochialism.

How to explain America’s overwhelming partiality toward Israel?  The Palestinian leadership is a nasty piece of work, but no worse than many “freedom fighters” we’ve supported in the recent past.  If Israel were the weaker party, I could understand supporting it as a move to weaken and destabilize the Muslim world, but Israel is certainly not weak.  Why not wash our hands of the whole damn mess?  Some blame Christian fundamentalists and their kooky End Times theology, but this is a group that is obviously powerless to affect policy on any other issue, so I doubt they would be all-powerful on this one.  Others say that the Jews are bribing or blackmailing the US government to do Israel’s bidding.  This explanation at least names a genuinely powerful interest group, but my impression is that American Jews are not as uncritically Zionist as many other groups.  To me, it is clear that American Zionism is a side-effect of Americans’ strong conditioning to regard any criticism of Jews as unacceptable.  It’s been drilled into all of our heads that only a bigot would say bad things about Jews or the way they use their influence.  (One may, of course, criticize individuals who “happen to be Jewish”, but not recognizably Jewish communities as such.)  Certainly, groups of Jews were heavily involved in setting up this conditioning process.  However, like all ideological weapons, it is no longer under the control of its creators.  If the American public comes to regard something as Jewish, then even the protest of all American Jewry will not keep it from enjoying immunity from criticism.

What do you mean “educated”?

Vox Day is right.

It is apparent that the cunning plan of Western liberals to destroy the Dar al-Islam  by pushing secularized Western education on Islamic women has been comprehended by the strategists of the global Caliphate…Now liberals like Kristof are aghast at the fact that the very young women they intentionally turned into cultural weapons on behalf of their secular ideals are being targeted for enslavement and destruction. But what else did they expect? It would appear they were misled by the widespread failure of the Christians of the West to respond to the successful capture of their daughters by the secular establishment into thinking that the Muslims of the South and East would be similarly complacent.

Continue reading

Ways of knowing God

The title deliberately evokes Danielou’s classic God and the Ways of Knowing, but I wanted to change the title a little, so that people don’t come in expecting a book review.

How do people relate to God?

  1. The sense of the sacred.  This is the most “democratic” of ways in that most people in societies more advanced than the pygmies seem to experience it.  It is, in fact, the only socially relevant religious sense, and societies have been built around it.  It involves a sense that the world is divided into sacred and profane realms which must be kept separate, and a sense of one’s own ontological poverty before the sacred.  Ours is, I believe, the only advanced society to lose this sense.
  2. Personal, affective devotion; love of God as one person loves another.  This kind of devotion is especially marked in religions like Christianity and Hinduism, in which the god becomes human and can be related to as such.  This is the highest level of religious sense that most people are capable of, and perhaps it is only in Incarnational religions that a majority is capable of it.  It is not spontaneous, but can be developed through frequent Bible reading and meditation on the life of our Savior, and the like.  It can, in times of great enthusiasm, become a social force.  More importantly, it can transform individual souls.
  3. Mysticism, a direct, superconceptual apprehension of God.  This is generally agreed to be the highest religious sense, but it is reserved for a small spiritual elite, an Ibn Arabi or a Pseudo-Dionysius.  It is socially irrelevant, because it is given to so few and is by its nature incommunicable.  Nor does it save many souls, but it does contribute treasures to a religious tradition for those few able to profit by them.

Those wishing to know God should start low and build up.  Each stage of ascent must be tested against those below.  There is a false devotion to Christ, an easy “Jesus is my boyfriend” familiarity that can be known as false because it offends against our sense of the sacred.  The higher forms should never contradict the lower.  There is a false mysticism, that of charlatans like Joseph Campbell, that attacks all distinctions between good and evil, between holiness and profanity, and which attacks the (tri)personal God of Christians and Muslims.  A heretic may have a mystic vision and blasphemously proclaim his own divinity, while a sounder mystic like al-Ghazali will find in devotion to Allah a fresh zeal for obeying a holiness law.

The tragedy of our age


Self-immolation of endangered peoples is sadly common. Stone-age cultures often disintegrate upon contact with the outside world. Their culture breaks down, and suicides skyrocket. An Australian researcher writes about “suicide contagion or cluster deaths – the phenomenon of indigenous people, particularly men from the same community taking their own lives at an alarming rate”. [3] Canada’s Aboriginal Health Foundation reports, “The overall suicide rate among First Nation communities is about twice that of the total Canadian population; the rate among Inuit is still higher – 6 to 11 times higher than the general population.” [4] Suicide is epidemic among Amazon tribes. The London Telegraph reported on November 19, 2000,

The largest tribe of Amazonian Indians, the 27,000-strong Guarani, are being devastated by a wave of suicides among their children, triggered by their coming into contact with the modern world. Once unheard of among Amazonian Indians, suicide is ravaging the Guarani, who live in the southwest of Brazil, an area that now has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. More than 280 Guarani have taken their own lives in the past 10 years, including 26 children under the age of 14 who have poisoned or hanged themselves. Alcoholism has become widespread, as has the desire to own radios, television sets and denim jeans, bringing an awareness of their poverty. Community structures and family unity have broken down and sacred rituals come to a halt.

Of the more than 6,000 languages now spoken on the planet, two become extinct each week, and by most estimates half will fall silent by the end of the century. [5] A United Nations report claims that nine-tenths of the languages now spoken will become extinct in the next hundred years. [6] Most endangered languages have a very small number of speakers. Perhaps a thousand distinct languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea, many by tribes of only a few hundred members. Several are disappearing tribal languages spoken in the Amazon rainforest, the Andes Mountains, or the Siberian taiga. Eighteen languages have only one surviving speaker. It is painful to imagine how the world must look to these individuals. They are orphaned in eternity, wiped clean of memory, their existence reduced to the exigency of the moment.

But are these dying remnants of primitive societies really so different from the rest of us? Mortality stalks most of the peoples of the world – not this year or next, but within the horizon of human reckoning. A good deal of the world seems to have lost the taste for life. Fertility has fallen so far in parts of the industrial world that languages such as Ukrainian and Estonian will be endangered within a century and German, Japanese, and Italian within two. The repudiation of life among advanced countries living in prosperity and peace has no historical precedent, except perhaps in the anomie of Greece in its post-Alexandrian decline and Rome during the first centuries of the Common Era. But Greece fell to Rome, and Rome to the barbarians. In the past, nations that foresaw their own demise fell to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War, Plague, Famine, and Death. Riding point for the old quartet in today’s more civilized world is a Fifth Horseman: loss of faith. Today’s cultures are dying of apathy, not by the swords of their enemies.

Nor is the Muslim world immune:

But Islamic society is even more fragile. As Muslim fertility shrinks at a rate demographers have never seen before, it is converging on Europe’s catastrophically low fertility as if in time-lapse photography. The average 30-year-old Iranian woman comes from a family of six children, but she will bear only one or two children during her lifetime. Turkey and Algeria are just behind Iran on the way down, and most of the other Muslim countries are catching up quickly. By the middle of this century, the belt of Muslim countries from Morocco to Iran will become as gray as depopulating Europe. The Islamic world will have the same proportion of dependent elderly as the industrial countries – but one-tenth the productivity. A time bomb that cannot be defused is ticking in the Muslim world.

Facing the death of one’s culture and religion is the characteristic anguish of our time.  How odd that this great human drama will be largely overlooked by our artists and storytellers because their own individualistic, universalist prejudices keep them from seeing it.

H/T:  E. Feser

Pope Benedict and the virtuocratic world government strategy

Everybody knows that His Holiness reads my blog.  First, he endorsed the Adam Webb/Bonald Christian-Muslim antiliberal alliance strategy.  Now, the Vatican seems to be following through on the next aspect of Webb’s plan.  Webb thinks victory depends on the virtuocratic elites from each civilization coming together and establishing an international order.  Christians, Muslims, Confucians, and Hindus must create a world order based on our shared vision of man as having a transcendent horizon, before the liberals form a world order based on an individualist, materialist vision of man.  Such an order, Webb assures the demots, will respect the particularities of regional culture far better than a liberal order would.

Why, everybody wonders, is the supposedly ultra-conservative Vatican so hot for world government?  Don’t they realize they’re just empowering their persecutors?  Well, one must remember that empires have not always been bad for the Church.  She was not happy to see the Roman Empire fall.  Even in times of schism she was concerned enough for Byzantium to raise crusades on its behalf.  In the West, the Holy Roman Empire was, if not created by the Church, at least supported enthusiastically by her.  The breaking up of Spain’s American empire into nations led in short order to the rule of freemasons, the plundering of Church property, and the persecution of the faithful.

Also realize that there’s a strong dose of the Hegel-con in the Vatican’s conservatism.  Society must not only be just, it must be seen to be just; there must be an intelligibility to it for man to feel at home in it.  In the world of nation-states, each nation imposes what Hegel called ethical life (meaning intelligible order) inside its borders.  Between states, though, is the law of the jungle.  An overarching authority would give a sense of order to the relations between nations.  Could this authority be abused?  Sure, but conservatives generally don’t limit authority according to what they don’t want their enemies to be able to do.

On the other hand, conservatives do think about having authority limited in this way when its possession of the enemy is a near certainty.  Here one can reasonably say that the Church has blundered.  The virtuocratic world authority can only come into existence when there is an elite ready to man it.  This elite is supposed to be forged by the elites of each civilization who in dialogue realize that they share a common understanding of the good life.  Now, I know that Pope Benedict has been spending some time talking to Muslims, but I’d hardly say the process has gone so far that we form a unified force.  If the only elite in existence is the liberal elite, then there’s simply no doubt that they will control any government one designs, and they will rule it according to their principles.  The one-world rule thing should have been kept under wraps a little longer.


What’s wrong with saying Islam isn’t a religion?

DanPhillips explains it:

What the “Islam is not a religion” crowd is doing, whether they realize it or not (and most don’t), is imposing on the definition of religion a philosophical concept that is relatively novel (historically speaking) and that potentially binds theology beforehand. Per their reasoning, in order to be a religion a religion must embrace modernist liberalism. This would have been news to anyone—Christians included—who lived, say, more than 300 years ago, give or take. One commenter I was debating with said that Islam is not a religion because it doesn’t embrace separation of church and state. Really? Are we that historically myopic? Neither did the whole of Christendom until a couple of centuries ago.

By their definition of religion, the Judaism of the Old Testament was not a religion. Was not the Judaism of the Old Testament an all-encompassing system that mixed church and state, had religion-based laws, had a social order dictated by the religion, frowned on pluralism, etc.? The Catholic Church, especially before Vatican II, is not a religion by this definition. Arguably, and it would be hard to argue otherwise, the Protestantism of Luther and Calvin wasn’t a religion either. Was Calvin’s Geneva a bastion of modernist liberalism? The Puritans certainly were not. One would have to look back no further than the Radical Reformation to find widespread Christian denominations that would meet the exacting liberal standards of the “Islam is not a religion” proponents. (And even some of the products of the Radical Reformation, such as the Mennonites, were quite illiberal in many ways internally.)

I hope you see the problem here. I would argue that liberalism is a modern philosophical concept that most modern Christians have read into the pages of the Bible (addressing this idea fully would require a separate essay). I do not think this liberalism is a theological concept that flows from a natural reading of Scripture. The Bible insinuates, if it doesn’t outright dictate, Christian particularism. Christianity should be the broadly encompassing worldview that Islam is accused of being (in type, not in detail of course) and it represents a failure of the modern Church that it is not.

This idea that Islam is incompatible with America and the West (what used to be called Christendom) because it is illiberal, implies that what truly distinguishes the West from the rest is its liberalism not its Christianity. This may be true and would go a long way toward explaining the sorry state of modern Christianity, but it is to be bemoaned if it is, not celebrated.

Pope Benedict endorses my Muslim strategy

Wow, this blog must be getting influential.  The Thinking Housewife quotes the following from the successor of Saint Peter:

Dear friends, on the basis of what I have outlined here, it seems to me that there can be fruitful collaboration between Christians and Muslims. In the process, we help to build a society that differs in many respects from what we brought with us from the past. As believers, setting out from our respective convictions, we can offer an important witness in many key areas of life in society. I am thinking, for example, of the protection of the family based on marriage, respect for life in every phase of its natural course or the promotion of greater social justice.  I got this idea from the magnificent blogger “Bonald” at “Throne and Altar”.

Okay, I made up that last sentence.  Still, you’ll recall how we tossed around this very idea on this blog a while ago.  You’ll also recall that Bonifacius called me a heretic for even considering the idea.  My interlocutors eventually convinced me that the strategy probably wouldn’t work, not because it’s a bad idea for either party, but because the Muslims almost certainly wouldn’t go for it.

Laura Wood and Larry Auster are outraged.  They think the idea is not only impractical, but wicked and cowardly.  They seem to embrace the idea, which I’ve combatted here and here, that Muslims worship a false god, rather than worshipping the true God falsely.  Mrs. Wood takes it farther, denying any common ground between Catholics and Muslims, saying that the marriage covanant, fetal rights, and social justice defended by Muslims has nothing to do with that defended by Catholics.

Readers will know how greatly I admire both Mrs. Wood and Mr. Auster.  Indeed, I look on them as leaders of our movement, and I’ve benefitted greatly from both of them.  Here, though, my must defend Pope Benedict–not because he is my spiritual father, although that would be reason enough–but because these attacks are more extreme than reason will allow.  They say that we may never ally ourselves with Muslims against a common, and vastly more dangerous, liberal foe, because the Mohammadans deny the divinity of Christ.  It is true, to the great sorrow of the world and especially to the souls of Muslims, that they do deny this truth.  But so do the liberals and so do the Jews.  Elsewhere, Mrs. Wood has stated that she would rather the western world commit suicide by multiculturalism than that we cease to be accomodating to the Jews.  Now, I agree that that the Jews are an admirable people, and it would impoverish us if we could not appreciate their many admirable traits.  I also would not want to see the Jews expelled from the West–despite their long history of hostility to Christendom and the certainty of their continued hostility–because a Jew who’s lived in the West his whole life has as much right to his home as I have.  I have no doubt that those few Jews who do believe in God believe in and worship the one true God.  However, we must conclude then that denying the divinity of Christ doesn’t automatically set one beyond the pale for any of us.  Indeed, while Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet, many of the Jews think Him a false prophet now boiling in excrement in Hell.  The Jews do not support any kind of heteronormative marriage or any restrictions on abortion, and they and their pet organizations have done far more to secularize America than the Muslims have.  To be consistent, we must admit that a Muslim who’s lived in the West his whole life has rights we must respect.  Muslim civilization, too, is brilliant in many ways, and we should give it its due.  Of course, though we should admire the Muslims and the Jews, we should remember that they do not reciprocate our esteem.  They mean harm to our culture (although they don’t see it as harm; they sincerely believe that marginalizing our faith is for our own good), and we must respond to that prudently but proportionately.

A Christian-Muslim alliance against liberalism would be much less corrupting than a Christian-liberal alliance against Islam.  If the former marginalizes belief in the Incarnation, the latter marginalizes belief in God Himself.  I no longer recommend either coalition:  the latter because it is too monstrous to contemplate, the former because it wouldn’t work.  The fact of the matter is that we have a Muslim-liberal coalition, and it’s pretty stable.  Both sides see Christianity as the greatest evil, and both sides are contented enough that they’re gaining from their alliance.  It seems almost impossible to peel away either to our side.

How does one win a two-front war?  Generally speaking, one doesn’t.  It looks, though, like that’s what we’re stuck fighting.  Pope Benedict is right to be looking for ways to postpone hostilities with our less-dangerous enemy.  If it doesn’t work (and I expect it won’t), we’re none the worse off for trying.  Even if he doesn’t succeed in building an Adam Webb-style virtuocratic alliance, if he can at least create some friction between our two enemies, if he can put the thought into their heads that their interests might not be identical, this could really pay off.

Why my Christian-Muslim alliance won’t work

Objections to my proposed Muslim-Christian European anti-liberal alliance have continued to come in from Marcio Silva, Alan Roebuck, and many others.  Cumulatively, the case they make against the idea is pretty devastating.  I had based the idea on three observations

  1. European Islam has the philosophical and sociological resources to mount a powerful defense/offensive against liberalism if it were to decide to do so.  It has a credible alternate worldview and (unlike European Christianity) the serious loyalty of millions. Liberals would have a far harder time defending themselves against an attack led by the “religion of peace” than one led by the successfully-demonized Christian minority.
  2.  Liberalism, being ultimately subversive of all religions, represents a long-term threat to European Islam, far more so than the pitiful remnant of Christianity on the continent.  Therefore, they have a motive to join with us.
  3. If, in any case, our only choice is what will replace Christianity in Europe, Leftist atheism or Islam, the latter is by far the lesser of two evils.
Against this, several objections were raised.
  1. First, it would mean ceding large areas of Europe to the Muslim Umma, effectively surrendering them forever.  However, I claim this has happened already, so my plan would just mean ceding to the Muslims things we have irretrievably lost already in order to preserve what we can still hope to preserve, namely small autonomous regions for the Christian minority.
  2. Second, it was pointed out that Muslims would likely not not respect the autonomy of Christian areas; once they had sufficient force, they would surely move to complete their conquest.  This is very likely true–history gives us little reason to hope Islam’s lust for conquest can ever be sated–but what it suggests is that my plan might still work as long as a balance of power could be maintained and Muslim areas could be sufficiently deterred.
  3. Third, some worried that an alliance with Muslims would inevitably corrupt us, since it would basically mean that we don’t regard the divinity of Jesus Christ as all that important.  I admitted that this is a valid worry, but there may come a time when this is still the lesser of two dangers.  I note that many of the people who categorically reject a Christian-Muslim alliance think that Christian-Jewish cooperation against Islam is okay.
  4. Finally, some said that all the above is mute, because Muslims would never accept such an alliance anyway.  This, I believe, is the objection on which my plan really does run aground.  Michael, Reggie, and Marcio all reminded me how seriously corrupted (well, I suppose Reggie wouldn’t use that word, but this is a reactionary blog) by liberalism and feminism Islam has become.  The intelligentsia and spokesmen of their communities largely praise liberal principles and make their entire case for special treatment on egalitarianism, anti-communitarianism, anti-colonialism, and the alleged greater liberalism of their religion (history of tolerance, etc) compared to Christianity.  As Marcio points out, there must be already a serious spiritual sickness with a religion that would ally itself so readily with communism so often during the Cold War and with the far-Left ever since.  Muslims are as reliable communist/social-democratic voters as Jews.  In country after country, Catholics and evangelicals have been forced to fight the homosexual agenda with no help at all from the followers of Muhammed.  The Muslim community in Europe is an interest group; it pursues its own power and material well-being, and nothing else.  The fact is that we will never be able to entice Muslims away from the Left by giving them a sweeter material offer.  The European elite has already granted Muslim regions de facto autonomy; they’ve already outlawed criticism of Muslims; they already support culturally suicidal levels of immigration; they already turn a blind eye as the native population is preyed upon by Muslim murderers and rapists.  How can we beat that?
So it would seem that my proposed alliance isn’t going to happen in Europe right now, even if every Christian on the continent were to get on board with the idea.  What the hell are we going to do then?  I don’t know.  Europe may really be beyond all hope.
The reality in Europe may someday change, though.  We shouldn’t imagine that the Leftist-Muslim alliance is a law of nature.  There may someday come an opportunity to drive a wedge between our two enemies.  Nothing would serve Christianity better than to have liberals and Muslims at each others throats (which is where, given their divergent world views, they really belong anyway).  For the time being, the real danger is that Christians will compromise their faith in an overzealous drive for a Christian-Liberal alliance:  declaring gay rights to be a fundamental Christian principle, or other monstrosities like that.  At the intellectual level, where the seeds of the future are planted, a dialogue between Christian and Muslim traditionalists could be fruitful even now–a beginning of the world “virtuocrat” alliance–and I would be pleased to be a part of it.  Surely there are some Muslims who are not pleased with the path their people are taking and the company they’re keeping. We should be looking for these people.
A final note:  I protest against Bonifacius calling me a heretic for entertaining this idea.  It’s just stupid to say that Christendom should be locked into a single strategy for all time.  It’s the duty of Christians to serve the defense of our civilization with our intellect as well as our will.  We should consider all options that don’t violate some established principle of faith or morals.  Nor is it heretical to admire the genuinely admirable aspects of Muslim civilization, and there are many.  A catholic mind should praise the good wherever he finds it.

A lack of charity

At mass yesterday, we were all asked to pray for “our Muslim brothers as they enter the season of Ramadan, that they may gain patience and virtue…” or something like that.  I whispered loudly enough that a couple of pews could hear me “and that they may convert to the true faith” before saying “Lord, hear our prayer.”

I think it’s wrong for us to fail to include a prayer for conversion when we publicly pray for infidels.  It betrays a lack of charity, that we should wish them secondary goods while failing to wish them the greatest good.  Interestingly enough, these intercessory prayers followed a homily on grace, the one good no false religion can provide.  I’ve said plenty of appreciative things about Muslims on this blog.  At its best, it fashions a man into a slave of God, which is the freest and most dignified thing a man can be through his own powers.  It can’t do what only Christianity can do, though:  make that man into a son of God through and in the Son.  Between even the highest virtue (which, to be fair, Muslims don’t reach any more than Christians do) and the indwelling of the Triune God within one’s soul, there is an infinite distance.

Suppose it were a matter of canon law:  Catholics may not pray for non-Christians during Mass without including a prayer for their conversion.  One can pray for earthquake and tsunami victims all one wants–the more the better–but one can’t refrain from wishing them the greatest spiritual as well as material goods.  I suspect if there were such a law, our Vatican II priests would just get rid of these intercessory prayers altogether.  Maybe that’s why it’s not on the books.

An important objection to the Muslim strategy

Bonifacius has made me realize a serious danger in my Christian-Muslim alliance strategy:

Now, when certain subjects are discussed, to propose reasons is to entertain the notion that a particular idea is actually a matter of reasonable debate. Sometimes the only way to really convey the sense of censure that a particular idea merits is “bullying,” shunning, etc., as you, Bonald, have noted elsewhere on this blog (see your defense of bullying). It seems, Bonald, that you have simply, and sadly, lost the visceral repugnance that men of the West should have for the Islamic alien worldview and population entering Europe. Rehashing the arguments (like the fact that Mohammedans see Sharia as having universal applicability and therefore are extremely unlikely to respect Christian autonomous areas except when forced to do so by the sword, etc.) is probably futile at this point…

Anyone with a proper love of orthodoxy should feel a corresponding abhorrence of heresy, and of false religions all the more.  It should, as Bonifacius indicates, be an automatic, visceral response, one preceding–indeed precluding–argument.  Has my horror of irreligion caused me to lose a proper horror of false religion?  Perhaps, but if so that’s only a matter of my own soul.  More importantly, though, one could argue that my strategy would expose all Christians who partake in it to this temptation.  If Muslims become our allies, won’t we be tempted to start feeling that the divinity of Christ really isn’t such a big deal after all?  (From the Muslim point of view, it would expose them to the temptation of losing their proper horror of Christian “idolatry” and “tritheism”, but I speak as a Christian.)  Yes, I think this is a real danger.  It may be–although I’m still not sure–a necessary danger; it’s certainly not as spiritually corrosive as any Christian-Liberal alliance against Islam would surely be.  Orthodox Christians have in the past admired non-Christians without spiritual harm (think of St. Thomas and Aristotle and Ibn Sina, or Dante and Virgil) but always from a safe distance in space and time.  We must be sure that my grand anti-liberal alliance doesn’t end up sneaking in liberal “tolerance” through the back door.