Our Children Are The Guarantors

Defending Zionism from its detractors. Anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism. Let the other side apologize for a change.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Heirs of Voltaire?

On September 19th, a commenter going by the handle Voltaire had the following to say on a Dhimmi Watch post:

And that’s why I’m glad I’m not a christian.

I’m sorry if I offend anyone, but not only do I see Islam as a religious version of Nazism, I also see christianity as being equivalent to Mussolini’s fascist party.

Christianity will always want to hold hands with Islam, because they see a commanality (sic) with them. This is what we have to understand. Sure there are individual christians who speak out against Islam, but most christians don’t get it because they themselves believe in a “revealed” religion, just as Islam is supposedly a “revealed” religion.

Christians hate pagans more than they will ever hate Islam.

To christians, paganism is the very incarnation of evil, and yet how many people have pagans killed recently?

This is why I say that christianity is not going to save us. Turn your back on the whole lot, and start believing in humanity.

To which I replied, specifically to the last sentence:

Sounds swell in theory. In practice, secular humanism has a majority of Leftist, Islam-appeasing, West-blaming dhimmis.

As I always say to atheists and pagans whose heads on this war are screwed on right: you’re welcome to join with open arms, but don’t overlook the fact that most of your peers are still on the other side.

Some commenters after me attacked atheism and secular humanism, but I think that’s going off a tangent. My reply was not driven by the offense caused by Voltaire’s implication that humanity is on one side and religion is on the other, but by the wish to point out that in this war for freedom from Islamofascism, and any other kind of fascism, pitting one’s worldview against the other in this big tent is counterproductive.

This is the alliance of the wakeful and freedom-loving: wakeful to the danger to the world, and believing earnestly in the right of every man and woman to freedom, freedom of speech, freedom to change religion or leave it altogether—not for us the politically-correct racism that says some people are not entitled to our civil liberties, under the excuse that such would be “imposing our cultural values upon them”. We are opposed to totalitarianism in all its guises.

It is evident from the fact of such a big tent that the members may have conflicting worldviews. I’m already at odds with a lot of my allies in disbelieving Jesus is the Messiah, and a Hindu reader of my writings will no doubt take issue with my monotheistic viewpoint (that’s why those of my posts that are heavily oriented toward the Orthodox Jewish worldview don’t appear on the Infidel Bloggers Alliance). Of course, since political correctness is a tool in the hands of the enemy, members of this alliance cannot be expected to censor themselves just to avoid hurting feelings. But there are some beliefs that can be kept within each member’s inner circle—Christian talk among Christians, atheist talk among atheists, and so on—because the cause of fighting Islamofascism is not well served by touting one’s ideology above all the rest. It’s OK for an atheist to believe that secularizing the Muslims is the best way, but when he rejects the idea of Christianizing them as an alternative method, the big tent starts getting holes punched in it.

Back to Voltaire, both the commenter and his namesake. The problem with the commenter’s writing on Jihad Watch was, as I said, not the offense, but the myopia. I was not surprised at reading a thought that was probably true to his namesake, but if you take that name as your handle, and champion Voltaire’s struggle for the Enlightenment as something worthy for our time, then you ought to go the whole unkosher mammhog in embracing his life’s work—to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

The secularist narrative with regard to Voltaire goes as follows: When he flourished, at the beginning of the 18th century, Christian Europe was as bad as today’s Islamic world in many respects, with critics of Christianity and apostates accorded similar treatment, such as imprisonment, torture at the hands of the Inquisition or execution, with the backing of the state. Voltaire was the Salman Rushdie and Danish cartoonist of his day, bravely sniping at the oppressive religion until, by his efforts, it became acceptable to criticize religion and to leave it, and the tyranny of the oneness of church and state was broken. We owe, they say, the West’s freedom to Voltaire’s heroic struggle.

How truthful is that narrative? Not having researched it thoroughly, I don’t really know. The fact that Benedict de Spinoza, in 17th-century Holland, did not find himself in mortal danger for his very unorthodox writings, either from the Christians or from his Jewish community (which excommunicated him, yes, but that is a far cry from the treatment accorded to apostates from Islam), makes me suspicious. But this debate is irrelevant for the focus of the post. The focus is, as the title says, how much the secularists of today can regard themselves heirs of Voltaire. Taking the narrative at face value, realizing at least its value as founding mythos for non-theists today, the question I wish to ask is: in the face of today’s greatest peril, namely the loss of Western freedom to Islamic shariah law, how well do the modern Voltaires bring their heritage to the breach?

My answer to the commenter Voltaire on Dhimmi Watch is the condensed form. Most of the Voltaires of today are still fighting Voltaire’s enemies, even though Voltaire, if he were alive today, would be far busier on the real battlefield of today.

The secularists say Voltaire succeeded in liberating Europe from the tyranny of Christianity. All right. But if so, then why are they still fighting Christianity? I expect to hear something along the lines of, “Look at the USA, the Talibaptists are chipping away at our freedoms, and soon the Christapo will be set up, bringing back the bad old days of the Inquisition!” To which I feel like saying, “Puh-lease!” I mean, you read the reports on the ACLU website, and they’re about displays of the Ten Commandments in public buildings, reciting the Pledge with the word “G-d” in it, prayer in schools and all that—things which secularists may be justified in paying attention to, but hardly the stuff of 18th-century theocracy that Voltaire had to contend with. In the meantime, the Muslim Lobby (that was for you, Walt and Mearsheimer), headed by the Council of American–Islamic Relations, moves to bring charges of “hate crime” against anything that might offend Muslim sensibilities, and those of their brethren who wear explosive vests instead of tuxedos give people briefing in cultural sensitivity in less diplomatic ways.

There’s the whole point: the modern Voltaires carry on with art, commercials and shows that put down every religion except Islam. They pat themselves on their backs for being so shocking, so brave, so taboo-breaking, so contending for freedom of thought and expression with their pictures of Jesus dipped in urine, with their models photographically manipulated to be shown with multiple arms like those Hindu sculptures, and so on, but when it comes to Islam… no voltage.

If Voltaire really was responsible for the current freedom of expression in the Christian world, then this means that most secularists are living off of his legacy, but doing nothing to emulate it, really emulate it. I said the story of absolute, Islamic-like religious repression in Voltaire’s Europe was debatable; but it’s not debatable that the Muslim world today is marked by religious repression. The Muslim world is in need of its Voltaires. In as much as blasphemous pictures of Jesus can be displayed today with no more than strong protest in reaction, Voltaire’s quest for the Christian world has run its course; while, as the Rushdie, Jyllands-Posten, Pope Benedict XVI, Idomeneo and Robert Redeker affairs show, Voltaire’s mission in the Muslim world has hardly even begun. That is to the shame of the professing Voltaires of today.

If religious tyranny reigned supreme in Voltaire’s time, then it follows that Voltaire did what he did at great risk, including mortal danger. Those who can easily bring themselves to publish satire on the level of The Life of Brian should stop a moment to imagine themselves making a similar feature on the founder of Islam. I can promise you the very thought would move their hearts away from the former enthusiasm and into beats of dread. That is perfectly rational. But then comes the next question to self: do you keep talking the talk against “the evils of all religion”, or do you start walking the walk of not making that single exception to them all? You can say, “Sorry, I don’t have the stomach for it”. But then you’re not being true to the heritage of Voltaire you so admire. Or you can go for being as fearless as Voltaire was, with the good chance that, a few centuries from now, people from Pakistan to Algeria will remember you as one who fought for their freedom.

After 9/11, quite a few secular humanists wrote articles critical of Islam. Most of these had to be critical against religion in general, therefore offensive not just to Muslims, but I say: no matter—at least they didn’t make an exception for one particular religion, and at least they didn’t exempt Islamic terrorism from charges of religious motivation altogether, blaming it instead on “Western oppression” or “US foreign policy”. But the initial self-confidence in the face of trauma has long worn off, and now, ironically, most of the Voltaires to be found are religious people, including many Evangelical Christians, with secularist Voltaires being so few, such as Ibn Warraq, the late and lamented Oriana Fallaci, and Andrew Bostom. For most of those who love to talk about how the values of the Enlightenment triumphed against the tyranny of religion, it seems that the one religion that hasn’t been touched by Enlightenment values is off limits. They’re much more likely to be up in the arms by expressions of President Bush like “This crusade…” and “Islamic fascists” than by cartoons of Mohammad or a medieval quote by the Pope taken out of context, to which their reaction would be to rebuke the cartoonists or the Pope for their “irresponsibility” in inflaming those who are expected to be inflamed, and understood for that, instead of seen as needing the same Enlightenment values that Voltaire is praised for spreading.

You can start with Voltaire’s idea, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. If you believe in that idea, and work toward the goal of having all people, including Muslims, accept it, then and only then can you truly call yourself an heir of Voltaire.

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5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are right that we were talking about different things. There is much you say in this post that is true. It is deeply embarrassing to me why atheist and secular humanist bare their throat for slaughter by the muslims. It is also an issue of ongoing investigation for me. I think I have some ideas and you seem to be the kind of person who can provide worthy feedback--which is one of the highest compliments that I give.

I had several random unorganized thought that I want to share.

I stand by my critique of your last paragraph. I consider myself an heir of Voltaire, but I don’t believe that Voltaire would be willing to defend to death an imperialist religion like Islam. Voltaire would have the sense to reevaluate his options rather than blindly sticking to any one sentence precept. Voltaire hardly represents the ossified “thinking” that one finds in NGOs these days. Your encouraging many modern secularists to do the impossible like producing a reasonable Islam is not a good idea. They have such a poor grasp on reality that they may take you seriously. By the way, I doubt that most of the people who label themselves secularists have a clue who Voltaire is, though apparently your interlocutor had a least heard of him

I wish to advocate another villain that is causing the blindness of many atheists and secularists towards Islam: liberal Christianity. Liberal Christians, Reformed Jews, and “secularists” have formed some sort of political coalition and the tended to modify their own ideas for the sake of the coalition. Thus, they tend to vote the same way in the United States elections. I would go so far as to say that these groups are converging, but as Liberal Christianity has most of the power, they are converging on it . This is not a new idea on my behalf. Nietzsche criticized the English atheist for have morals more Christian than the Christians.

I also propose the idea that liberal Christianity is more delusional and fantasy based than fundamentalist Christianity or many more traditional religions—which you appear to be in no position to disagree with me on this thesis. If I’m right, than the heirs of Voltaire need to be ridiculing it. I’m the type of atheist that will spend more time mocking Unitarians than the Southern Baptists. I always wish to propose some of the worst ideas of liberal Christianity come out of Catholicism.

You quoted yourself in response to my last critique "The secularist narrative with regard to Voltaire goes as follows: When he flourished, at the beginning of the 18th century, Christian Europe was as bad as today's Islamic world in many respects." The secular narrative has some truth. There was awful torture of freethinkers in Europe up to the time of Voltaire and even after. I think what is overlooked in that narrative is that Christianity has become more generous about not torturing and killing its opponents, and its Holy Book doesn't actually promote torture of people who think differently, while the holy book of Islam does. That should make a difference to any reasonable person.

Spinoza, who died 17 years before Voltaire was born, is the much cooler figure. Unless people know Spinoza they clearly have not coherent idea of the intellectual history of secularism in Europe. And, of course, Spinoza was not enough of a genius to think up secularism whole cloth. It's an idea that goes back to the ancient Greeks.

October 06, 2006 5:55 AM  
Blogger ZionistYoungster said...

Hi Demosthenes, glad you came here.

You said: "It is deeply embarrassing to me why atheist and secular humanist bare their throat for slaughter by the muslims."

That really is the focus of my post. It's their position that runs contrary to everything they claim to believe in, as well as the inconsistency of bashing "religion in general" but making exemptions for a particular one of them.

You said: "I stand by my critique of your last paragraph."

I don't see how, as my last paragraph isn't about openness of the West toward Islamic imperialistic idea--that's the status quo that needs to change, surely not something I'd want to stay as it is. The last paragraph is about the need to bring openness to the Muslims toward other ideas, particularly Western ideas. As the punctuated rioting of theirs shows, they certainly don't believe in Voltaire's precept.

You said: "[...] but I don't believe that Voltaire would be willing to defend to death an imperialist religion like Islam."

Neither do I. I suspect, had he been asked about that, he'd have said secularism isn't a suicide pact--in sharp contrast to the secularists of today.

You said: "Your encouraging many modern secularists to do the impossible like producing a reasonable Islam is not a good idea."

I don't think you can write off producing a reasonable Islam as "impossible", seeing as next to no steps have ever been taken in that direction. Mayhap a steady flow of criticism and ridicule will finally jolt the Muslims out of their fixation, just as Voltaire did to Christianity? Though, one valid objection, voiced by Fjordman in his latest essay, may be that we don't have enough time for that. I both agree and disagree: we don't have time to wait until Islam reforms for the better while its unreformed immigrants flood infidel lands; yet, when we do get to take care of that problem, I think it is delusional to suppose that the world will ever be safe if Islam is left unreformed.

I agree 100% on the useful-idiocy of liberal religion. It is, to use the terminology of Baron Bodissey and Dymphna of the Gates of Vienna, part of the "demonic convergence of nihilism" that's pitted against us. In fact, that tallies with the focus of my post: less problematic, in my opinion, are atheists that truly believe in their stuff, that claim atheism on the grounds of intellectual inquiry, than those who belong to the postmodern, nihilistic "we can't ever know anything" camp. These are the useful idiots of the Muslims.

You said: "I think what is overlooked in that narrative is that Christianity has become more generous about not torturing and killing its opponents, and its Holy Book doesn't actually promote torture of people who think differently, while the holy book of Islam does. That should make a difference to any reasonable person."

This is an echo of Pope Benedict XVI, in a discussion on the reformability of Islam, years ago (that is, when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger, long before the Muslim riots on his Manuel II Paleologos quote). I don't agree with it much. There's a statement in the New Testament says, "His blood be upon us and our children", by the Jews of Jesus' time, which Christians through the generations, up to Mel Gibson, have used as proof that the Jews killed Jesus and must bear the guilt for it to all generations. On the face of it, it looks unreformable. In reality, I think only the Eastern Orthodox church hasn't made a statement absolving Jews. Ironically, while liberal Christianity is, as you said, a toxic influence in our world today, liberal Islam would be desirable. I repeat, I agree we may not have time to seek reform of Islam right now, but we will have to face that issue later, otherwise we may have a redux of current events in just 200 years from now. As for my post, like most of the others, it's addressed not to the Muslims (as I share your opinion that they are, currently, not amenable to reasoning) but to the non-Muslims, with the purpose of instilling self-confidence and belief in the rightness of our way and the wrongness of theirs.

Thanks.

October 06, 2006 11:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Sounds swell in theory. In practice, secular humanism has a majority of Leftist, Islam-appeasing, West-blaming dhimmis."

Just want to say that you're absolutely right about that.

October 09, 2006 5:07 AM  
Blogger ZionistYoungster said...

EliasAlucard,

I realize they see Judaism and Christianity as "cut from the same cloth" as Islam, but why can't they at least make the pragmatic choice of "choosing the lesser of two evils"? With such a choice, opposing Islam is a no-brainer. They raise a hue and cry about the danger of a Christian theocracy, but they aid and abet the far more real and near danger of an Islamic one.

October 09, 2006 9:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ZionistYoungster,

I guess it has to do with the fact that leftist are idiots (more or less anyway). They have this ridiculous anti judeo-christian mentality for some reason, and they look at it from "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" perspective.

Or something like that, I don't know.

October 20, 2006 8:55 PM  

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