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Christianity

The Catholic Mass in 155 A.D.

The Catholic Mass in 155 A.D.

Full disclosure: I really posted this mostly because of the music, but the history is interesting too. :>)

YouTube URL;
Video URL as posted on randomjottings.com’s Sept., 2009 directory page

September 30, 2007
Anno Domini 155…

Justin Martyr was one of the early Christian writers. He was a Greek philosopher, and argued his Christian beliefs quite openly with the other philosophers, relying on their common code of being willing to consider all points of view to protect him from official persecution. (Eventually a jealous philosopher did betray him.) He is famous for having sent a letter, The Apology, to the Emperor Antoninus Pius, who was a Stoic philosopher and the father of Marcus Aurelius. Fr. Jay Toborowsky tells how he used Justin in the classroom… [Link to rest of Fr. Toborowsky's piece.]

Read the whole thing at the Anno Domini 155.com’s archive page for Sept., 2009.

Things Nick Finds – Cheshire Edition.

There will be a Paris edition which will be more fun. But I have to post this.

But before the piccie some background. I am a Quaker warden (for my sins) and part of my responsibility is to look after a stream that runs through our grounds. Well that is disputed. A couple of years ago there was hell on over who owned what. Hell on between the Quakers and the Church of England*. Neither of course want it but according to B who is a farmer and knows about such stuff the stream is the boundary which when it floods is agro. Of course me, my wife, B and others of our meeting and the owners of the pub which has a car-park in this fight sort it out. The Church of England does the square root of fucketh all. And, they need a new roof. They have posters round the village. They need GBP200K for the roof. Now a little known fact about me is that I like taking pictures of religious buildings. I have some kick-ass ones of various cathedrals and a few mosques. So when I hear the vicar (who is clearly a woman in comfortable shoes but wouldn’t have a lesbian marriage in her parish – we want that because this is Cheshire and not Iran – the state won’t allow it even though the Quakers want it though).

Anyway, I go round the vicarage (very nice house) and I proffer my services with my Sony Alpha 55. It’s win-win. It’s a pretty church and that is fun for me and hopefully it will help the fund-raise so it’s a win for her. We make a date and time. So I show up with all my kit (inc. a tripod) at the time and date and nowt. So I trudge up home. No good deed escapes punishment does it? I try to phone. I dunno – maybe she had a critically ill parishioner but to no avail. She just said that at the time because it was easy. Same way (see *) she pissed me about over this homeless chap. I am not a Christian. I am a Godless Heathen but I’m better than the CofE at providing a bit of comfort to those who don’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of (that’s NYC Jewish BTW). I dropped that camera in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul (it was bollocked but insured to the hilt). No issues there. No imams playing Les buggeurs risible. As an aside in Paris I am allowed to take piccies (they shall follow) in Notre Dame and The Louvre but not in Sacre Coeur or the Musée d’Orsay I is not. In Sacre Coeur (I swear to God) the sign outside says no piccies. OK, disappointing but their gaff, their rules. So I’m wearing the camera round my neck. Of course I am! I’ve been taking pictures of Paris from Montematre but some officious cunt grabs me. I wasn’t going to break the rules and I had even turned the camera off but still I was grabbed – physically grabbed – and told he me to put it in the bag. Utter cunt. He then wanders round going, “Shush!!!” very loudly. Christ almighty! You give some fucker a uniform and minimum wage and you get numpties.

Anyway here is the picture. This is on the boundary.This is pagan fucking idolatry.

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Really.This is a soft toy attached to a fence by barbed wire. It is on almost the exact boundary between us and the CofE.

*I fucking hate our CofE vicar. She cast nasturtiums against me for feeding a homeless man. Every Sunday morning I buy milk – and that means seeing the stream up to our gaff and the trickle up to St Mary’s.

So fuck off. I am more a Christian than those fuckers and I ain’t even a believer. Neither are they

What’s happening?

Is this a minor issue in the UK, or is it building into some sort of fuss?

A church has been banned from using a market stall to hold its weekly outreach service following a complaint about “hate-motivated” leaflets published by the group.

The Norwich Reformed Church held a weekly outreach bookstall from the Norwich City Council-owned site on Hay Hill, but has been informed it is no longer allowed to use the stall after the council received a complaint about literature on it. The complaint prompted a review of the materials produced by Reverend Alan Clifford, pastor of the church, and the council contacted police as materials, particularly the leaflet entitled Why not Islam, were considered to be hate-motivated.

Ok, so I had a look at their site. It is told from a particular point of view, and forcefully in some places, but all statements made can be sustained with reasonable arguments.

The thing is, it questions the Religion of Peace narrative – and that is unacceptable in post Christian pretend secular Britain.

Is robust discussion truly being forbidden in the public square?

If so, do you truly believe it is in your interest?

If not, what are you doing about it?

Don’t expect someone else to act. It is your civilisation, it is your freedom of conscience, it is your freedom to speak your mind. They are all being taken from them, and you, slice, by slice, by slice.

You don’t have to support Christian theology in order to support their freedom to preach it. You don’t have to agree with their interpretation of history to defend their freedom to expound it.

Freedom, to have it for yourself you have no choice but to demand it for everyone else as well.

H/T Jihad Watch

In Praise of Islam.

After the “Joseph” post, a post on Islam.

Not in praise of Islam in today’s context (although some people may see some relevant point), but in the context of the world in which it became important and powerful.

This was not the Classical World – the world of Ancient Greece and the Roman Republic. Where people (in many places – although far from all) were either free or slaves.

Slavery certainly existed in the world in which the Muslims went forth on the path of conquest (just as it existed among the Muslims themselves) – but the world they faced was a world where the vast majority of people were semi serfs. Tied to the land, or tied to their urban occupations (tied from birth).

The first thing to go had been the right to keep and bear arms (the classical mark of a free man – in both Ancient Greece and Republican Rome, just as with the Celtic and Germanic tribes). Octavian (“Augustus”) had got rid of most private ownership of, and training in, arms. Useing the argument that he was saving Rome from the dangers of civil war (the repeated civil wars of the Imperial period – where different factions of the army backed different Emperors somehow do not count as civil wars I suppose).

So the Ancient World abandoned the central principle of that great work of classical literature “Starship Troopers” – “everyone fights” (meaning everyone who is to be considered a citizen must be prepared to fight).n And I am not being, entirely, sarcastic – after all Robert Heinlein (the author of Star Ship Troopers) got the idea from Aristotle. In the “Politics”, Aristotle explains how the idea of the armed citizen is not just Greek, how (for example) the men of Carthage are allowed to vote or stand for public office unless they have first accepted military service (of course this rule was later abandoned by Carthage – with tragic results).

Most “citizens” of the new Rome (which now meant the entire Classical world) had no military weapons and were not trained in their use.

Later more and more regulations and restrictions (and higher and higer taxes) were imposed on these “free citizens” – till, in the time of the Emperor Diocletian, they basically became cattle. Tied to the land (if they were peasants) or to their urban occupations (sometimes in state owned factories).

And it even became acceptable to keep these “free citizens” in chains (physcial chains) if it was expected they were going to run away (i.e. no longer farm the land – but run off to the barbarians, or whatever).

And, of course, flogging and all forms of torture (under the Republic only to be applied to slaves) gradually (over the years and centuries of decay) became accepted ways of relating to most ranks of “free citizens”.

Nor were things fundementally different with Rome’s great enemy – the Persians.

The Pathians seem to have tolerated the Greek and other civilizations they became overlords of. But the new (or restored – depending on one’s point of view) regime of the Persians established a new civilization.

With (yes you guessed it) hereditory castes determining a person’s fate in life from birth (much as in Hindu India – accept under the banner of Zorastrianism).

Under the Persians there was also a de facto religous monopoly (how could there not be – the Magi of Zorastrianism were also the magistrates and officials), apart from in the “land of the King” (basically Babylonia – where the King of the Persians ruled directly) where a wide measure of religious tolerance (for Jews and others) was practiced.

The Romans, after the conversion to Christianity, also moved towards a defacto religious monopoly with the persecution of all other forms of belief.

Some Christian Emperors (such as Valentarian) believed this was unChristian. But Emperors eventually adopted the position that it was their role to discriminate against nonChristians – indeed to persecute even fellow Christians over differences in theology.

Of couse in the 7th century the hatred this persecution of Christians by other Christians produced was to have fatal consequences for the Byzantines in the Holy Land – for many Christians (of persecuted types) went over to the Muslims in the middle of the key battle (the fact that these Christians were ethincally Arab was also a factor of course – but Pagan Rome, and Christian Emperors who did not practice persecution NEVER faced defection in the middle of a battle – not even to barbarians of the same ethnic group as troops on their own side).

Augustine, amongst other theologians, provided useful arguments about how using violence, including torture, in matters of religion was not really anti Christian. How did Augustine refute the Hebrew, Amoraic and Greek texts? Well he could not really read any of these languages, so he did not have to.

Ah dear Augustine – it was, of course, him who was one of the leading theologians to ridicule ancient science. And to mock the idea that people could choose to behave decently, none of this “Pelagian” free will for Augustine (that was as bad as being able to read Greek or Hebrew or Amoraic – you know the langugage that that Jesus bloke spoke, why someone interested in the Amoraic words of the Jesus bloke [or the Greek writings of the people who knew him] might be so absurd as to actually visit the land he lived in, which, of course, the wise Augustine never did ). Predestination, and human efforts are doomed, all the way – that is Augustine (he was a true father of the Dark Age).

To me it is no accident that the first theologian in England in the Middle Ages to stress the study of Greek and Hebrew, Roger Bacon, was also interested in submarines, aircraft (and so on) – contray to what is often thought there is no contradiction between a love of ancient learning and hopes for a better future. On the contrary it is the book burners (those who wish to destroy the learning of the past) who tend to be the people who strangle the future.

Of course the Western Roman Empire had collapsed by the time of the comming of Islam (although the Byzantines ruled in most of what had been Roman Africa – as well as in Sicily and other parts of Italy). However, the Germanic regimes that had taken over the rest of the Roman Empire in the West had kept the Roman sytem.

Most of the population reduced to de facto serfdom – a population where the “everyone fights” rule (of free citizens of the Classical World, or of the Germanic world itself) was ignored. Is it really any wonder that the Muslims found it fairly easy to conquer vast populations – even thought their own numbers (at first) were small?

The populations the Muslims took over had been treated as cattle for centuries – both in the East and the West, so conquest just meant a change of masters (not a loss of the freedom they did not have anyway).

And the Persians?

With them it was even worse. Insane social/religious experiments (for example trying to share out “all goods and women”) had almost destroyed the Persian Empire (torn it apart into chaos and civil war) long before the Muslims arrived.

The followers of Muhammed (a member of family of traders) might plunder the goods of other people – but they had no truck with denying the rights of private property amongst themselves.

At least where it came to goods – Islamic law as concerning LAND is more contested, which was to prove a major weakness in Islamic civilization, in comparision to that of the emerging “Feudal” law of the West. Such as the Edict of Quierzy of 877 which restated that even a King of France could not take a fief of land from the children of the person who held it, and give it to someone else – which meant that a Western King was a different sort of thing than a Roman Emperor or an Islamic ruler.

Western Kings might rob. rape and murder people – but these remained CRIMES even if the King did them (as King John was to discover), just as a Western King might have mistresses, but not a “harem” and his heir was expected to be from a marriage (not a slave girl).

A Western King might be a terrible hypocrite and criminal – but there was an objective standard to judge them by (unlike a Roman Emperor) and (again unlike a Roman Emperor) independent land holders with large numbers of armed (and trained) men, to hold them to account. “The Emperor’s will is law” would be an outrage to a mind of the Middle Ages.

And as for the powers of the “barons” themselves – a lord who overstepped the mark with free peasants might well get a longbow arrow in his face, at least in later period England (but other forms of death in other places). Remember even in England at the hight of the “Norman Yoke” only half the population were serfs (which means the other half were not). And the Kings of England (and the various lords) were desperate for armed (i.e. free) men to increase their own power, at home and overseas (that is the whole point of “bastard feudalism” – but it goes back a lot further). As early as the time of Henry the first (son of William the Bastard) the King was already desperatly reaching out to Englishmen to fight his Norman brothers (litterally his brothers) and marrying a direct decendent of Alfred the Great to bolster his claim to the throne.

So indeed “everyone fights”. And the Black Death meant the de facto end of what serfdom there was in England – whatever the demented statutes of Parliament said.

But Islam in the 7th century did not face the Kingdoms of the Middle Ages.

It faced the Persian despotism (desperatly trying to recover from its own madness), the despotism of the Byzantines (really the late Roman Empire – although after their defeat by Islam, what survived of Byzantine civilization was to change…) and the recently (well a century or so) arrived Germanic overlords of places like Spain – where the old Roman system (i.e. most people are cattle – unarmed) remained basically in force.

The Muslims were in a way a throw back to the Classical World – “everyone fights” (indeed believers had a religous duty to train and fight). And, amongst themselves, believers (at least in the early stages of Islam) had rights – they could not be treated as cattle (as the “free citizens” of the late Roman world, or of the Persian world, were).

There was even, again in the early stages, an intense Islamic interest in Classical learning and science – and scholars (Christan, Jewish and Muslim) made progress in these areas (although progress rather over stressed by BBC programmes) that was unmatched (at that time) in the Byzantine Empire or the Western Kingdoms.

For the Muslims (at least at first – and for the most part, there were nasty exceptions such as the ruler who burnt what was left of the library of Alexandria) did not know they were supposed to reject the learning of the ancient world (not build upon it), whereas too many of the Christians and too many of the Magi did reject it – because they thought it represented the civilization they had replaced.

Of course, within a few generations the Islamic world started to reject Classical learning and science more than the folk of the Western Kingdoms did.

However, the story of how that came to pass will have to wait for another time – or another person to tell it.

I do not care if Joseph had a long coat of many colours or a long sleeved coat – he was a very naughty man.

Athiests tend to regard religion as unimportant (some athiests are actually obessed with religion – but they are a weird minority of athiests), but actually it is very important.

For example Marxism has long used the Heaven-on-Earth promise (it is a lot older than Marxism – indeed it is often called “the oldest heresy”) and the left (the real hard core totalitarian left) still use this method – under such names as the “social gospel”, “liberation theology”, “collective salvation” and on and on.

“Paul you are as paranoid as Glenn Beck” oh no, I am much worse.  I have been banging on about this stuff for years – messing up the lives of innocent people by sending them e.mails full of horrors…..

Anyway dear Time magazine (sent to three million people per week) is dominated in the present issue by…..

You guessed it – the Heaven-on-Earth promise. How we must not think of Heaven as up in the sky or after death…. (none of that silly “sword and sandals religious stuff” as a trendy go-ahead vicar said on the BBC radio show “Sunday” describing his new “People’s Passion Play” – no Romans nailing Jesus to the Cross, no it is set in a factory where the noble workers….) – no Heaven is to be here on Earth and is defined as us all working for the common good under the wise guidence of…. all that we need to do is exterminate the Kulaks (sorry I am jumping the gun there – that will be for issues of Time magazine published after the November election).

Time magazine is not run by fringe types – they are well balanced, rational, cong-sons-of-bitches who certainly would not waste time on religion (which, privately, they think is a bunch of fairy stories) if they did not think it was very important.

So how should people who oppose the politics of Time magazine (and the universities and …. the rest of the insitutional left establishment) deal in relation to religion?

For an athiest it is easy – “religion is crap, and the fact the left are using religous arguements (and totally phony, distorted, religous arguments at that) shows how pathetic they are”.

Well that is O.K. for the minority of the world’s population that are athiests – but what about every one else?

Another approach it to declare everything in the Bible true and good – as if  it were the Koran which is (supposedly) all the word of God and older than the universe. Rather than the Bible – which was written by lots of different human beings, some good, some bad …. all seeking some insight into God, but comming up with very different ideas (for those who doubt that – compare the Book of Joshua with the Gospels).

Actually the “Fundementalists” started off well – even in the 19th century (before the term “fundementalist” was formally used) it was the hard liners who tended to be most opposed to slavery and the persecution of people on the basis of the color of their skin “a Bible in one hand – but a pistol in the other, and do not forget the account book in their back pocket” was the (perhaps rather cynical) sterotype of the hardcore (rather than the moderate, i.e. corporate welfare supporting) American Republican. Campainging against slavery in the South (very much a religious issue – and a war that really started in “Bleeding Kansas” long before the moderate (i.e. corporate welfare faction) Mr Lincoln was elected President.

Or walking up a dusty road in the town of Tombstone Arizonia. And do not forget the “Vengeance Ride” of Mr Earp after his brothers were shot, in different events, in the back (of course such colourful characters as “Johney Ringo” boasted that they had never had to face any person they killed, as “every man turns his back or goes to sleep sometime” – clearly Mr Ringo was not emotionally crippled by an oppressive sense of morality). Mr Earp had no doubts as to the rightness of his actions – after all this was not a matter of some family feud, for he was but the instrument of the Lord, bringing justice to the evil doers. A hero and benefactor – or Judge Dredd (depending on one’s point of view).

Although the fate of the unarmed Mr Tunstall and that of Mr McSween (who had the Bible and the account book – but no pistol) and of the lawyer who Mrs McSween hired to investigate the killing of her husband (all in the general area of Lincoln County, New Mexico – hence “Lincoln County War”) shows the fate of those who do not find a Mr Earp (and friends – including Doctor Holliday, whose status as an obviously dying man gave him a pass on some of his imoral conduct, although no unarmed man or man who refused to face him had anything to fear from Doctor Holliday, -  as Mr Earp admitted we-are-all-sinners and Wyatt certainly admitted he had conduct to repent of ) to come to their aid – although a certain “Billy the Kid” and his “Regulators” did try and even the score.

Interestingly there is a direct connection – for many of the people hired to support the Murphy-Dolan trading monopoly in Lincoln County New Mexico, just happen to turn up in Arizonia and are associated with the “Cowboys” a group of people who (if one wished to put on a positive spin on their activities) specialized in redistributing cattle from people who had too many – and liberating women from their own sexual repression (if need be by active means). All under the wise guidence of “Old Man Clanton” – a type of person that the character Judge Dredd would have no problem in recognising.

“You drifted a long way from the Fundementalists, let alone from the Bible (Joseph and so on) Paul”.

Actually I have not really drifted (this world of personal violence and clash of principles is very much a world that the people who wrote the various parts of the Bible would have recognised – pistols and rifles had just replaced swords and spears) and even the language of the time (a form of speaking even among quite ordinary people) was that of the King James Bible (or that of the Geneva Bible and Tyndale’s Bible that came before the King James Bible – although few films of the old West reflect this way of speaking), but for those who can not see that I have not really moved, I will return to a more direct telling….

The direct origin of the word “fundementalist” comes the early 20th century essays on “the fundementals” (the fundementals of the Christian faith) written in opposition to the emerging “Social Gospel” (i.e. either the code for building a wonderful new world, Heaven-on-Earth, or a genocidal lust for power using religious language as a cloak, depending on one’s point of view – and, of course, there are many other views and moderate, or mixed, versions of the Social Gospel).

The supporters of the Social Gospel were quick to point out that the person who paid the costs of producing the “Fundemantals” essays was a rich businessman (rather similar to the old attack about “Bible in one hand, pistol in the other, and do not forget the account book in the back pocket”), but the essays themselves (as opposed to their funding) are harder to dismiss.

Some aspects of them show a dark side (for example their general attitude towards the Roman Catholic Church – not popular, in those days, with traditional Americans), but they were not “anti science” (as one would now expect from the word “fundementalist”.

They did not believe that the world was created in 4004 BC and that humans were made from dust. Indeed, some of the authors of the “Fundementals” were scientists – including evolution supporting biologists.

The objective of the authors was not to take humanity back to the world view of the bronze age.
Their objective was to protect the fundementals of religion. The view of God as a BEING  ( a PERSON) – not  an abstraction, not as “society”, still less as an Earthly King or President. And the idea of INDIVIDUAL salvation (individual survival after death) rather than collective salvation – they rejected the idea that salvation was creating a wonderful new society that would exist forever. They insisted that salvation was about individual human beings living for ever.

Reject religion if you must – but do not steal religious language (and the very churches themselves) to advance an athiest political agenda – that was the message.

So how do we get from there to the “Monkey Trial” and what modern “Fundematalism” is associated with?

Partly because the cause of fundementalism was taken up by William Jennings Bryan (actually a politician of the left – although a moderate by today’s standards), but also because the mantle of science had been taken up by the Progressives – now “planning” was science, and (please do not forget) this included planning human breeding.

Hunter’s “Civic Biology” (the actual school textbook that was forbidden in the “Monkey Trial”) was full of “scientific racism” and the need to eliminate the inferior (both other races – and inferior members of one’s own race). Oddly enough Hollywood (and so on) leaves this out of the story (they leave other things out also – see Jack Cashill’s  “Hoodwinked” for the other side to this and other central stories of modern American culture).

Even in the South (not known for its high regard for blacks and so on) people were shocked that such stuff should be taught at taxpayer expense in the Public Schools – hene the “Monkey Trial”.

However, the fatal turn had already happened before the Monkey Trial – many (not all) “fundementalists” had already accepted the leftist case that a “scientific” world view meant that the state should control everything – from the economy, to human reproduction.

Science (it came to be accepted) means sending the crippled and the retarded to the gas chamber (a mainstream view in “Progressive” circles), even a moderatly “scientific” view meant the foceable sterialization of “Rednecks” (and other people the state declared “retarded”), oddly enough the Supreme Court case that upheld the power of State governments to forceably sterilize people , “Buck V Bell”, was the case that first made some fundementalists have second thoughts about their hostility to Roman Catholics – as the Catholic on the Court, Pierce Butler, was the only Justice to vote against forceable sterilisation.

Science meant the state control of every aspect of human life – the creation of Hell on Earth in the name of Heaven on Earth.

Of course science means none of these things – the physical sciences are naught to do with politics (as F.A. Hayek tried to point out some decades later).

However, if one accepts the leftist idea that science does mean all these things…. then the reaction of some “fundementalists” (then and now) is only to be expected.

Science is crap, screw science – not in these words of course (the prestige of science is too high for that), but at base.

Almost needless to say this reaction by religious people is utterly self defeating – because it gives up human reason in the name of morality (thus undermining both). It makes the religious people who take this position look utterly absurd – and it makes morality (as well as religion) look absurd.

And one can not even read the Bible with human reason asleep – no matter how religious someone may be. Unless one is content to simply declare that anything in the Bible is good by definition (the Islamic view of the Koran) – which both concedes human reason to athiesm (which means that someone can not be religious and rational at the same time) – and is also absurd in its own terms, as the various parts of the Bible present DIFFERENT opinions (obviously different opinions – unless, of course, one sends one’s reason to sleep so that one does not notice the differences between, say, the Book of Joshua and the Gospels – or even different parts of the Old Testament or different parts of the New Testament compared to each other – for example Saint Paul’s justification by faith is followed by  James, brother of Jesus, argueing for justification by works “Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead”).

“Are we finally getting on to Joesph” – yes I am, but all the above is relevant.

The story of Joesph is well known – he was a nice man who stored food of seven years of good harvests and fed the people in the seven years of bad harvests.

There are debates about Joseph – but they are over absurd things such as whether the Hebrew really means “long sleeved coat” not “coat of many colours”.

But what does the Bible actually say about Joseph?

If one reads a modern English translation of the Bible (i.e. one reads something that can be clearly understood by people used to speaking modern English – for example the Jerusalem Bible, such as the 1960s translation, edited by Alexander Jones, that I have in front of me) then a rather different picture of Joseph appears.

First of all how did Joseph get the grain that he stored? See Genesis 41.

Joseph imposed (the the power of Pharaoh) a tax of one fifth of all production in the seven years (note – even in good years a tax of 20% will absorb all of surplus a primitive farm produces – the stuff that is not needed for consumption in the present year). Could not people have stored their own food – or sold it to wholesalers who could do so?

“Oh you are just being an ideological libertarian – the government had to do the job, and the main point of the story is that Joesph gave food to the starving Egyptions”.

Sorry, but that is bullcrap.

Joesph did not “give” anyting to the Egyptions he had robbed (sorry “taxed”).

He gave food to his relatives (including those who had sold him to slavery) all of his people he invited to Egypt – to be fed (and their animals to be fed) at the expense of the Egyptions (it is hardly an act of charity to give people stuff that actually does not belong to you – that belongs to the people you have looted).

“But that is a minor matter Paul – there were not many of Joseph’s people, not in comparison to the very large numbers of Egyptions”.

Well we are not sure how many of Joesph’s people there actually were… but that still misses the main point.

See Genesis 47 (again in the Jerusalem translation – so we can actually understand what is being said).

When the Egyptions (the Egyyptions Joseph had looted, sorry taxed, by the power of Pharaoh) begged that Joseph “give us bread” Joseph did not “give” them anything.

First he took all their livestock in return for bread (their livestock  being their independence). Then (when the had eaten that bread) Joseph had them hand over all their  land to Pharaoh in return for food (their own grain – that Joseph, or rather Pharaoh’s soldiers, had looted from them). According to the Jerusalem Bible they then became “serfs” on what had been their own land, according to the King James Bible they became “servants” of Pharaoh. All the land came under Pharaoh – with the exception of the land that belonged to the Temples (the Temple priests of Egypt’s traditional Gods) who had not been taxed – and had somehow managed to store food for the bad years (I thought that only the state was able to do that?). Of course the texts actually have the people being made to beg  Joseph to take their land away and make them the toys of Pharoah (the whole thing is utterly vile – once independent people reduced to cattle).

“None of it happened anyway Paul” – not the point. Perhaps it is all a “fairy story”  (or perhaps it is not) – but the point is that Joseph (like Joshua and so many other leading characters in the Bible) is “very naughty” – or, in more blunt language,  an evil man. For it is evil to tax people to starvation and then make them beg you to take away their livestock (their wealth) and then their land, and then their freedom – in return for the food you took from them (by force) in the first place.

So how should this be dealt with?

Should we simply declare that any actions that the Bible implies are good are good – by definition (the Islamic or Calivinist view)?

Should we “interpret” away the actions – the-Bible-does-not-mean-what-it-says. For example, Joshua did not really attack towns (the people of which had done nothing to him or his folk) and murder everyone in these towns – down to the babies.

If we “interpret” away anything we do not like – then there is no stopping place before the “liberal” “Social Gospel” – with everything in religion “interpreted” to mean a political agenda (with no “sword and sandals religious stuff” as the trendy go-ahead vicar on the BBC show would put it).

There is another alternative.

That we judge the people in the Bible by the same standards we judge everyone else. Regardless of “historical stage” (as Carl Menger showed in the “Errors of Historicism” and the general “War of Method” between the Austrian School and the German “Historical School” to talk of “historical stages” is meaningless in terms of the basic principles of economics – and it is also meaningless in terms of aggression against the weak and helpless being bad, not good).

That the laws of right and wrong are not one thing among men and anther among “elves and dwarves”, and that a man should judge conduct “in the golden wood” by the same standards he would use “in his own house” (Tolkien of course).

If people in the Bible do terrible things we should say they are terrible things, and if the people who wrote those parts of the Bible say they were good things (or imply they were) – they were WRONG.

“But how can people judge these things?” – try reading all the “not relevant” stuff above again.

People do know the difference between right and wrong – and they can (with a great effort) choose to turn away from what is wrong and do what is right (or die trying).

Of course an athiest can do this, but there is nothing against religion in doing so – in using one’s reason, and making the choice to act justly. To oppose those who do evil (yes “evil doers”), to protect the weak and helpless (rather than feed on them like a wolf feeding on sheep), even at the cost of one’s own life. To repent of the bad things that one has done – and to make that repentance real by ones actions. For morality is based on choice – and a forced choice is not a “choice”, in moral terms, at all.

None of the above is “showing contempt for religion”.

On the contrary – it is ignoring or “explaining away” (it-was-a-different-time or the-author-of-this-part-of-Bible-does-not-mean-what-he-says) the wickedness of many figures in the Bible, that shows contempt for religion.

For example, if the author or authors of  (for example) Deuteronomy were capable of seeing that it was wrong to keep someone enslved for more than six years (which they were) then they were capable of seeing that it was wrong to keep someone enslaved at all. And regardless of whether the person was a Hebrew or not (for God made Hebrew and non Hebrew a like).

And if the author or authors of  Deuteronomy were capable of seeing that it was wrong to murder the population of a town that surrenders (which they were), then they were capable of seeing that it was also wrong to set the population of such a town to forced labour. And they were also capable of seeing that it makes no moral difference whatever whether the town is in area of land given to you by God – “not spareing the life of any living thing” (for fear they will teach you about their customs and way of life – however terrible these customs may be) is still a contemptable crime. Or is not the killer of women and children (down to the babies) not a coward as well as a murderer? And how strong can the faith of someone be, if he fears what a child will tell him? Indeed fears it so much that he murders the child, to prevent the child speaking to him.

The just man is someone who stands in defence of a defeated enemy – who protects the helpless from murder. Even if has to create a wall of dead bodies from his own side around the helpless.

“By the way” this is exactly the road of reasoning that that both the Jewish authors of Talmud and the Christian Scholastic theologians (and philosophers) trod. The picture of the “rightious” (the just) that emerges in their reasoning (emerges,  is NOT created by them) is very different from Joshua or Joesph (in Jewish teaching it is not rightious to take people’s food by force and then give it back to them in return for first their livestock, then their land, and their freedom itself).

Deuteronomy was not written by God – indeed as Jews and Christians have always accepted, only a tiny part of the Bible is the direct word of God. So to treat the words of the human authors of Deuteronomy, and so much else, as if they were the word of God (0r to explain them away) is showing contempt for human reason and morality itself – and for the creator of both.

And so with Joshua, and so with Joseph.

This is what matters – the ability to judge (judge justly) the conduct of people on one’s own side. In the past and in the present and in the future. To see the flaws (the crimes) even in great men (such as David and Soloman) and to refuse to ignore evil  deeds, or to explain them away, or to pretend they are good deeds.

What does not matter is whether Joseph had a coat of many colours or a long sleeved coat.

Challenging

Emma Alberici is an Australian Broadcasting Commission journalist. Being employed by the ABC she swims in a sea of intellectual conformity, never has her assumptions tested in lunchroom conversations with colleagues, and assumes her opinions are mainstream.

Then she interviews Melvyn Bragg……

Melvyn is a bit of a lefty isn’t he? How about bowling him a couple of softball questions so he can agree with her opinions about Murdoch and Christianity?

This is one of the few occasions in her life she will have the privilege of dealing with a real honest to God intellectual.

Truly, it’s like watching a fluffy bunny confronting a kind, thoughtful and thoroughly rational Rottweiler.

“Conservative” philosophy.

“Reason is, and ought to be, the slave of the passions”.

David Hume.

“Reason is the slave of the passions” might be interpreted as a cry of despair – a position that human beings could not control themselves, and are the slaves of urges (either instinctive from our biological evolution, or from environmental experiences – the pointless “nature v nurture” debate,  pointless because there is no room for real human choices, for humans to actually be “beings”, either way). Just because something is a cry of despair does not mean it is not true – human agency (free will) might be an “illusion” (although who is having the illusion if there are no agents, no beings, no “reasoning I”, no MINDS to have the illusion?).

But reason OUGHT to be the slave of the passions?

So if, for example, a man has a passion to rape and murder women (before there is a comeback – I fully accept that David Hume was personally the mildest of men), not only will he be unable to resist this passion, but that he OUGHT not to resist it? That the thing he OUGHT to do is to use his reason (reason defined as no more than a problem solving ability – no different from a computer) to work out the best way to rape and murder women without getting caught.

Why OUGHT?

“Because it is inevitable Paul – because reason is the slave of the passions…..”.

But is that not an “ought from an is” – of which David Hume is not supposed to approve?

Whatever this Humeian doctrine is, it is not “conservative”, it does not represent either the mainstream of Judiao-Christian tradition or the tradition of the mainstream classical world (including the athiest parts of that tradition that are athiest – such as the philosphy of Epicurus).

Yet David Hume is often called a “conservative” inspite of the intense radicalism of the above. This would have astonished even friends of his – such as Edmund Burke (an example of how two people can be friends without either one accepting the other’s philosophy).

The conservative position in philosophy was (then as now) represented by Artistotelianism (please not “Aristotelianism” does not mean “everything Aristotle said”) – although also by the “Scottish” or “Common Sense” School.

What was that?

Well it was the following positions…

That the material universe is real – that it exists independently of our mind’s perception of it.

That the mind also exists, that is not an “illusion” (who is having the illusion if the mind does not exist?).

And that right and wrong, good and evil (I am not going to go into the technical differences between “the right” and “the good” here) exist – they are not just whatever we want them to be. NOT just “boo and cheer words” as the “Logical Positivists” (great admirers of David Hume) were later to put it.

Sound familar at all?

It should – because these three things are also the foundations of Aristelianism (in all its forms – from Thomistic Christian to Randian athiest). It could be argued that the “Scottish School” simply stripped these concepts of Scholastic language (and thus with associations with the Roman Catholic Church).

However, strict Calivinists were quick to claim that the Common Sense school “sat man in judgment of God” so that if (for example) God ordered people to rape, rob and murder this was NOT automatically right just because God ordered it (like mainstream Islam, strict Calvinism DEFINES good and evil by what God orders and forbids – there is no room for reason in fundemental judgement).

Be that as it may, the Common Sense “Scottish Philosophy” School (basically Artistotelianism presented in a Protestant form) contiuned in the United States till very late 19th century (with such people as Noah Porter of Yale and especially James McCosh of Princeton) then the “Pragmatists” (more on them later) and others took over.

Under different names the essential position of both Artistotelianism and the Common Sense school continued. For example, in England with the “Oxford Realists” – Cook Wilson, Harold Prichard (a favourate of mine) and Sir William David Ross (it is no accident that Ross was also a leading scholar of Aristotle – and there were many other students of Aristotelianism at Oxford in the period).

Such people had no great need of the Scottish School – after all they could look back to the Aristotelian tradition of Oxford itself (thanks to the Church of England never falling fully into the hand of strict Calivinists). Or, if they wished, the independent (but fundementally akin) philosophy of Ralph Cudworth of Cambridge (the great foe of Thomas Hobbes).

Cudworth being the chaplin of Parliament during the Civil War. A man who rather confuses historians (a problem they get round by ignoring him) by being chaplin to the side that often claimed to be “The Elect” (a term meaning the saved, the people who have been chosen by God to go to heaven – the term has a strong Calvinist-Augustinian implication that they were chosen before they were born, indeed at the begining of time) whilst also being the strongest FOE of the doctrine of predestination (the doctrine that people are chosen to go to be saved before they were born – and it is naught to do with that they CHOOSE to do) in the 17th century English speaking world. Of course some people of a Presbyterian (Church of Scotland – not Cumberland Presbyterian) background deny that predestination, even so called “double predestination”, implies determinism (the denial of human agency – i.e. that humans are “beings”), indeed James McCosh denied it (to do otherwise would have meant he had to break with the Presbyterian Church). But I have no intention of examining such a position – for the brutal reason that I hold it is not worth examining.

Anyway…. Certainly even in the 18th century English thinkers such as Josiah Tucker (Dean of Gloucester) did not need to run up to Scotland to find out what to think about theology, philosophy, or even economics (for true economics must be based upon the concept of the reasoning, the choosing, “I” – this Tucker understood just as Ludwig Von Mises understood it). They were perfectly capable of working these things out from first principles that are common to human mind – regardless of nationality, “race”, “class” or “historical period”. Kant (greatly influnenced by Hume of course) may have been wrong about many things – but he was not wrong about the universal nature of the human mind (as Ernst Cassirer showed in the 20th century – even a modern German philosopher does not have to submit to irationalism and absurdity, not if he CHOOSES not do so).

Of course there are pressures upon human beings. Biological pressures (for example it is difficult to think clearly if one is in terrible pain – or if one is born with brain damage) and environmental pressures.

For example, it would be difficult for a German philsopher (in certain periods) to come to nonabsurd conculsions – when their education carefully excluded nonabsurd writers (neither the various schools of Aritstotelianism or the “Scottish” Philosophy of Common Sense were much taught in Protestant Germany) – difficult but NOT impossible, as the already mentioned example of Ernst Cassirer shows. Cassirer was given the same education in Kantian philosophy as Shopenhauer or Nietzsche, but did not come to the same conclusions. Of course Nietzsche may be a tragedy – as, it is CLAIMED, we will never know how much the physical damage to his brain impared his thinking, much the same excuse is given to explain the rantings of Martin Luther in old age, his physical illness, it is claimed, may have disordered his mind.

EFFORTLESS agency is not given to human beings. We must make an effort (sometimes a very great effort) to overcome both our bilogical passions and environmental conditioning (even if it is not formal brainwashing – which in the case of much modern “education” it actually is). And sometimes, the effort is simply too great, but that does not mean it always is – that humans are always just flesh robots (not beings) with no choice in what they do and, therefore, no moral responsbility for what they do. The human mind (the reasoning “I”) does exist (contrary to Shopenhauer – our very self awareness PROVES it exists) – and we can free ourselves (to some extent) so that we can think and work out alternatives – and choose between them.

Now the “Pragmatists”.

William James was not the first of this school (that was Charles Pierce) nor was he the longest lived of its major figures (that was John Dewey – warning on him, he lived long and changed his opinions a lot), but William James was in his time the most influential Pragmatist.

And William James is often cited as a “conservative” philosopher – after all he “saved religion”, he was the most cited modern thinker in American pulpits (other than both Catholic and “fundementalist” Protestant pulpits -by the way the first “Fundementalists” did NOT reject biological evolution, it was only later when natural science became fused, in culture,  with false theology and philosophy, that many “fundementalists” made the tragic error of rejecting BOTH false philosphy/theology AND rejecting natural science).

But errrr…. .how did William James “save religion”?

When one cuts away all the double talk and evasion he “saved” relgion by denying the existance of objective truth.

If there is no such thing as objective true and false, then religion can not be objectively wrong (because nothing is), or (a slightly different dodge) there may be objectively right and wrong things in some matters (such as natural science), but not in matters of opinion (this is the position of the Logical Positivists – see above for them, or see CEM Joad “A Critique of Logical Positivism”, 1950, for why the doctrines of A.J. Ayer and co do not make sense – even in terms of natural science). This sort of thinking leads such modern philosphers such as John Gray (not a logical positivist, in case you are getting confused at the back there – or are you too busy looking out the window…) to mock the very idea that religion is about “truth claims” – how silly says this BBC “A Point of View” thinker – as William James showed……

Wiliam James neither believed in objective truth or objective right – as he put it “the right is just the expendient in our way of thinking”. So if people WANTED to believe in religion – that was fine.

Better, a thousand times better, honest athiesm than this sort of dishonest (and utterly vile) “defence” of religion.

The honest athiest tries to refute religion. But the William Jamesite (or the Logical Positivist for that matter) does not even take its claims seriously (no more than Shopenhauer did – or his “enemies” the Hegelians did).

How “simple minded” to treat a religion as making truth (objective truth) claims. As “intellectuals” we do not bother with such sillyness…. If religion is “true” it is “true” in a different sense……

A pox on all of this.

Anyway this way of thinking is treat religion (and athiest philosophical truth claims also) as “myths” – things to live by, but which have no objective truth.

This is to be seen in Sorel (directly influenced by William James) who invented “myths” in order to justify violence – as his belief (which is as valid, according to this way of thinking, as any other belief) was that violence was the only way that people could live worthwhile lives – so myths had to be invented to justify violence.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Mussolini loved the work of Sorel (as well as aspects of Nietzsche – and of Karl Marx when the bearded one responded to vast amounts of logical argument and empirical evidence against his theories, by attacking the very CONCEPTS of BOTH logical reasoning and empirical evidence).

What mattered was to give people a reason to live – and to expand and take POWER. It did not matter if the reason was true or not – because nothing was really true.

But it is not “just” the above.

Those useless “Christian theologians” (in America as much as Germany) who so disgusted Dietrich Bonhoeffer (leading him to use savage language against “the Church” – langague which is gleefully used by the very “modernists” who were, in fact, the target of it).

These people did not care that the National Socialists told lies about the Jews, because they (the “theologians”) no longer believed in objective truth anyway (and where there is no truth – there can be no lies). Besides the “religion” of the “theologians” (and the great bulk of people who followed them) had become (following Hegel and others) just philosophy – and false and empty philosophy at that. They no longer believed they were making objective truth claims – claims that were nothing to do with “race” or “class” or “historical period”.

Who is going to be prepared to die for the truth – if they do not believe there is any such thing as (real) “truth” anyway?

Risking one’s life was for suckers – people who believed the various “myths” created for them. Most of the ministers of religion in Germany would not even risk their incomes (for their pay came from the state) let alone their lives – and nothing in the “philosophy” or the “theology” they were taught told them they were doing anything wrong.

Of course there were the “saving remnant” who managed to free their minds from what they had been taught, and worked out (from first principles) what was right and what was wrong – how they must stand with the truth. But a small minority of good people (no matter how brave – even smashing into the heart of the enemy like Paladins of old) are unlikely to defeat a great majority of the wicked, or the INDIFFERENT. That is why education is important – not because it invents truth and right (it does neither), but because good education can help people (at least some people) stand with what is true and right, and false education can corrupt people (no apology for the use of the word “corrupt”).

This is not to say that the wicked are not responsible for their actions. Even some of the most wicked had moments when they understood what they doing (for example when a helpess child appealed for mercy just before they murdered the child), but they hardened their hearts with the aid of what they had been taught (false philosphy and relativist “myths”) and continued.

“This is all old news Paul”.

Is it?

The favourate philosopher of the Oslo mass murderer (I will not use his name – because he wished for his name to be famous) was William James, and for good reason.

If there is no objective truth than his claim that he was fighting a war (not killing the unarmed and helpless) can not be a false (because nothing is objectively true or false).

Also what he did can not be wrong (because there is no objective right and wrong) – so if it floats his boat, it is both “true” and “right” in the terms that William James and the Pragmatists (and so many others).

And, if David Hume is correct, then not only could the Oslo mass murderer not have done other than he did (because “reason is the slave of the passions” and he had a passion to kill people), but he OUGHT not to have done as he did – because reason OUGHT to be the slave of the passions.

If one has a passion to kill people the only role for reason (as with a computer rather than a human BEING) is to work out the best way to kill as many people as possible. And this is exactly what the Oslo mass murderer did.

Thus, from the point of view of modern philosophy (that revolt against Aristotelianism – against Common Sense) the Oslo murderer is on solid ground. No real point against him can be made.

However, if this revolt against old the traditions of human (of human agency) thought is what passes for “conservatism” then I want nothing to do with “conservatism”.

Just as if William James style religion is religion – then BUGGER RELIGION, better it perish from the Earth than be “defended” in such a vile way.

Human affairs are subject to certain laws – laws that do not deny human freedom (agency), but in fact include it.

Humans can not do anything they want to – we are constrained by the laws of the objective physical universe (if you deny this – try jumping to Mars, right now, just with the use of your physical body not with the aid of tools).

However, neither are humans just flesh robots whose every action is determined by genetics and/or environment. We do NOT have effortless agency (we are not Gods – we are subject to both biological and environmental pressures), but we do (to some extent) have agency (if we make the effort – sometimes a very great effort, and even with a very great effort we may still fail) – we are agents (beings), with some capacity to reason (truly reason) and to CHOOSE. Thus such words as “right and wrong” and “moral responsbility for your actions” are NOT empty and meaningless. Nor just a matter of “race”, “class” or “historical stage”.

Lastly…..

My friend Antony Flew (sadly no longer with us) is often talked of in terms of religion – his opposition to it most of his life, and his move towards it in his last years.

However, this misses the point. The Antony Flew when he was an athiest was the same man as when he accepted God.

Antony Flew understood that the physical world was real – independent of our perceptions of it.

Antony Flew understood that our minds are real also – that the reasoning “I” actually exists (that agency is not an “illusion” – for, if the mind does not exist, who is having the “illusion”).

And Antony Flew understood that there really are such things as right and wrong, good and evil (again I am not going to get in a techical account of the differences between the right and the good – so if you demand such a technical account, please jump into the nearest lake).

Antony Flew is an example of how LITTLE difference religion makes in these three (fundementally connected) matters.

Religion, in the sense of Christianity, is a series of truth claims (notebly about the existance of God and who Jesus was – “but John G. says….” you know what you can do with that tosspot) it does NOT determine our response to the above.

Rowan Williams – moral heart of the nation or beardie twat?

Dr Rowan Williams has requested a meeting with the Zimbabwean president when he travels to Harare as part of a tour of the south of the continent, according to his spokeswoman.

Dr Williams, who will become the first prominent British representative to visit Zimbabwe’s capital in a decade, is making the journey in an attempt to ”show solidarity” with Anglicans in the region, she added.

In recent months priests are said to have been beaten and arrested by police, staff evicted from church buildings and property seized, while some Anglicans have allegedly been arrested and murdered.

So he’s taking a team of the SAS, the Marines, the Paras, the Girls Brigade?

Some have questioned whether Dr Williams would make the trip due to the violent regime, but Lambeth Palace said there had never been any debate over the matter.

Really? You know if I were to meet a genocidal maniac I’d have a chat with folk first – mainly those who know subtle ways of killing. If I want to buy a Coke – fine but meeting Africa’s foremost dictator (now Muammar is on the back foot) is not buying a Coke.

The Archbishop’s spokeswoman, who confirmed he will also visit Malawi and Zambia during the trip, said the recent persecution is ”more of a reason to go because people need more pastoral care”.

If you ask me they need the heavily armed “technicals” which God hopes will soon be surplus in Libya but Dr Williams didn’t ask me. He never does.

She said: ”The aim of the trip as a whole is a pastoral visit and it’s to show solidarity with Anglicans there, that’s really the aim of the trip.”

So, Dr Williams you’re going to pray with a woman who was raped by Mugabe’s thugs and her husband “disappeared”. That might be an awkward TV opportunity. I appreciate as a Christian (allegedly) you’re more New Testament but in the case of Mugabe might I suggest some smiting might be in order. Just a side order of it.

Because of the 100 trillion dollar notes that were not worth the paper it was printed on.

Because of the “beautification schemes” that destroyed people’s homes. Homes with phone lines and electricity.

Because of this guy…

Who couldn’t buy a Coke even with that. And that is before it went into dazzling levels of mathematics.

Because Mugabe wrecked a prosperous country and reduced it to penury.

Because he said it would be better off with fewer people. Where have we heard that before?

Because of the theft of farms and the resultant starvation in some of the richest agricultural land in Africa.

Because of the torture, the rape, the killings, the Hitler ‘tache.

Because of Grace Mugabe’s shopping trips to Paris which were genuine “Marie-Antoinette moments”. The original never said anything about cake. Mrs Mugabe took a Boeing. For herself entire.

Because Dr Williams you are going to meet a man who kills your flock. And you requested this meeting. Do you think the Chief Rabbi supplicated himself to Hitler in ’39? I know I’m Godwining myself but…

Dr Chad Gandiya, the Bishop of Harare, told The Times he hoped the visit would bring respite to the Zimbabwean Church.

Oh, Hell!

Referring to Dr Williams’ visit he added: ”He is visiting the province. He is going to Malawi and from there he is coming to Zimbabwe. It is a pastoral visit, it is not a political visit.

Dr Gandiya either has a boot on his neck or he is as mad as Dr Williams.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, cut up his clerical dog collar in 2007 in protest at the regime of President Mugabe, saying he would not wear it again until the president had left office.

Now that is a man you can believe in.

The Pragmatist philosopher William James and the Oslo murderer.

According to the Oslo muderer his favourate philosopher was William James.

Of course the ravings of a mass murderer may not be very reliable – but this favouring of William James seems to have gone back quite some time.

Well who was William James?

William James was an American philosopher known (along with Charles Pierce and John Dewey) as a founder of the “Pragmatist” school of philosophy.

This school of thought set itself up in opposition to both Artistotelianism and to the “Scottish Philosophy” favoured by such philosophers as Noah Porter and James McCosh (see the latter’s “The Scottish Philosophy”).

The central point of Pramatism is that (contrary to both Aristoteliamism and the “Scottish” Philosophy) no such thing as objective truth – as William James put it “the right is just the expedient in our way of thinking”.

William James was an influential writer in “Progressive” religious circles – indeed he was cited more than any other philosopher of the early 20th century. As, in opposition, to the “Fundementalists” he held one did not need to hold any particular doctrine (or set of doctrines) to be objectively true in order to hold a post in a Church (which was very useful for ministers, bishops, academics and so on – who wanted to hold such positions of authority, but did not believe the traditional creeds were objectively true).

Almost needless to say this follower of William James (the arch enemy of American “fundementalists”) was described as a “Christian fundementalist” by the Oslo police (the same people who took over an hour to reach victims begging for help on their mobile phones – victims who were a few minutes helecopter time from the H.Q. of the police in Norway). The moron “mainstream media” followed suit. Even ignoring the murderer’s favourable talk  about “Christian athieism” (I am not going to go into that).

However, the Oslo murderer was not the first person William James had influenced.

For example Sorel (the sickly “apostle of violence”) based his belief that a doctrine did not actually need to be true for it to be worth killing for on the work of William James – true a “myth” was not objectively true, but then nothing was objectively true. So it was O.K. that a myth was not objectively true.

One could make the philosophical attack that if nothing is objectively true how can Pragmatism be objectively true…… but I do not want to be accused of nit picking.

Evidence was piling up against Marxism by the early 1900s – for example about a century of rising wages (when the theory of Marxism predicted that wages would fall over time – hence Karl Marx’s deliberate distortion of what Gladstone said, Gladstone said that wages were rising and Karl Marx dishonestly cites him as saying that wages are falling). Some Marxists react to the ever increasing pile of evidence against Marxism (on this and other matters) by trying to think of rational ways out.

For example, “Lenin” takes the idea of the radical “liberal” Hobson that the reason wages are going up is because overseas colonies are being plundered – this leads to the “Imperialism” theory of Marxism, still (as “neo colonialism”) popular in academic (and other) circles to this day.

However, other leading Marxists choose to just give up the idea of objective truth all together – if nothing was really true (if “truth” is just whatever one desires to be true) then one can “justify” anything.

Mussolini took this course – giving up classical Marxism (he had been the leading Marxist in Italy – and senior to Lenin in international Marxist ranks) for his own subjective socialism based on his desires (and the desires of others) this bacame known as “Fascism”.

It is worth remembering what Aristotelianism and the “Scottish” school have in common – what they both share with such philosphers Ralph Cudworth (in 17th century England) and Harold Prichard, Sir William David Ross (and the rest of the “Oxford Realists” – argueably going up to Antony Flew).

The universe objectively exists independent of my (or your) mind – if a tree fell in a forest and we were not there it would still make a noise (there would still be an air pressure curve).

One exists – I exist (and so do you). The mind (agency – “free will”, the ability to choose) is not just an “illusion” (if the mind does not exist who is having this “illusion”). We are not just objects we are also subjects – human BEINGS (people).

Other minds (other people) also exist. They are not just thoughts in my (or your) own mind, and they are not just inanimate objects (with no moral moral importance than bits of clockwork).

The universe exists – it is not an illusion. One exists also (the mind is not an “illusion”). Other people (other minds) exist, and one can choose what one does or does not do to them. These actions are REAL (not a dream – because the universe is real), are a matter of CHOICE (because the mind exists), and, therefore, one has moral responsiblity for them – for one is a moral agent (a reasoning mind) and other humans are  BEINGS (moral agents – people) also.

Now William James did not go around murdering people – but as his philosophy denies the truth (the objective truth) of all of the above points (holding that “truth” is whatever one wants it to be), it is a perfect philosophy for someone who is going to go out and either support, or commit, mass murder.

For example, does one have to prove any specific crime against people before killing them?

According to Pragmatism – the whole concept of objective truth is wrong, so NO (one does not).

So perfect for Sorel, perfect for Mussolini, and perfect for the Oslo murderer.

“Paul the idea was designed to allow people who did not believe in the objective truth of Christian doctrines to stay Ministers and Bishops – how dare you associate it with mass murder on an island near Oslo”.

Once you discard the notion of truth (or “redefine truth” in a way that makes it without objective meaning) you open the door to horror.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer tried desperatly to explain this (both in Germany and in the United States) in the 1930s, but the “Progressives” choose to ignore his warnings.

Better (a thousand times better) an athiest who believes in objective truth than a “religious” person who does not.

As for claimed links (in thought) between the Pragmatists and David Hume (more than a century before) and the Pragmatists and the Logical Positivists (of their own time and after) – I am not going to go into all that here.

Other than to say that, my opinion is that David Hume asks QUESTIONS (he is a sceptic) he does not make the claim that objective truth (whether in relation to one’s own existance, the existance of the objective universe, and the objective existance of other reasoning and choosing minds – other PEOPLE) does not exist.

However,  I have not studied Hume enough to make a stand – even on this.

The Vatican/The Roman Catholic Church – free enterprise, socialism, or something else?

A little while ago it was anounced that the budgets of the Vatican State and the Papacy (they are counted as two different budgets) were back in balance (after some years of deficits). And this got me thinking about what this institution is – in terms of political economy. And this led to other thoughts about other matters.

In some countries there is still a church tax – although (as with Germany) one can normally choose what church it goes to and (just by filling out a form declarling that one has no religious beliefs) one need not pay the tax at all. So whether it can really be understood as a “tax” (in the normal sense – other than a tax in the time and effort it would take an athiest to fill out the form) is a difficult question.

However, the Vatican (and the Papacy) are not supported by taxation. The Vatican state supports itself by selling stamps and by charging admission to its museums (and so on), but no one has to go to the Vatican – and there is no charge for just entering the Vatican State (or leaving it). So is it the ultimate example of free enterprise (A. Herbert style taxless voluntary state) or is it socialism (as the state owns everything) or is it something else? And do we make a mistake trying to put everything in the world of human interactions into neat little boxes with labels on?

And there is the Roman Catholic Church itself…… the international Church.

Ask a Western “liberal” about the Catholic Church and their first words are likely to be “child abuse”. However,  sex crimes are hardly the full story – although there may well have been increase in them with the laxity of oversight that came with the changes to the Church brought by Vatican II. In that while there were, doubtless, always terrible sex (and other) crimes going on (as with any institutions made up of human beings – sinners) the removal of any real attempt at oversight and discipline from Rome (in the name of “humanizing” the Church and “local autonomy” – i.e. letting local Bishops and so on sort things out, or cover things up, without anyone checking on them) may well have increased these crimes.

Even leftist Hollywood has entertained this possibility – as the film “Doubt” makes clear, the destruction of old systems of checks and balances (in the name of reform) may have done evil as well as good. It may well be that people who were disturbed by Vatican II on political grounds (the opening it,  unintentionally, gave to the Marxism of “Liberation Theology”) should have also been concerned with the opening it gave to non political perversions.

However, even in its darkest days and in its darkest places the Roman Catholic Church was about vastly more than the sins of some its priests. A huge network of schools, hospitals, homes for the old (and so on and so on) were and are maintained by the Church – without (in most nations) any form of taxation, just the voluntary gifts (of money – and time) of believers and the profits from Church investments.

The libertarian writer (and leading Von Mises Institute man) Thomas Woods often tells the story of how he spent his youth looking for an alternative to the state – something that was interested in learning and culture, and in the poor and the sick, in education and in health. And also was on a sufficient scale to actually make a difference in these areas.

And then one day he suddenly understood that what he had been looking for (a nonstatist alternative for people who could not pay for their own education, health, old age….) was staring him in the face all along. The Catholic Church.

Now I am not saying that Thomas Woods was or is correct – but he is no fool (as his writings show) so what he says needs to be taken seriously – even by athiests who hate Christian theology in general and the Roman Catholic Church in general.

Of course there is also a special American factor here. Originally Protestant “fundementalists” were not antiscience – indeed some of the authors of the orginal early 1900′s essays on the “fundementals” of Christiainity (from which we get the word “fundementalist”) were leading natural scientists – including evolutionary biologists (hardly the buck toothed morons of Hollywood depictions of “fundementalists”). Their foe was not science – it was the disguised socialist collectivism of the “Social Gospel” (with its “theological” message that the collective is God – and its practical result of tyranny).

The Fundementalists simply listed the fundemental beliefs of Christians – the virgin birth, the physical resurrection of Jesus… and so on. And asked if the Social Gospel supporters believed in these things – and demanded straight replies (not the mists of words that the Social Gospelists tended to give people).

The Fundementalists also (by stating the core, fundemental, beliefs of Christians) also (by implication) stated what were NOT the fundemental beliefs of Christians – “Social Justice” (i.e. plunder and tyranny – I know the term “Social Justice” can have other definitions, but the implications of the collectivist use of the term are clear), the extermination of all dissent from the self appointed representatives of the collective……and so on.

Now the Fundementalists were not Roman Catholics (far from it – America had no need for some professional virgin in Rome, as they might have put it – if politeness had not forbidden it), but they were learned men, they were devoted to science and learning, and they were politically (as well as theologically) basically sound.

However, over time things have changed (indeed, famously, even by the 1920s things had changed).

Now (according to David Barton the Texas educater and Conservative Protestant) about half of all American Conservative Protestants do not believe in basic science – for example in evolution.

I must be plain in what I am saying – I am not saying that they claim that God picked evolution as the method of creating human beings. I am saying (following Barton and others) that half of American Conservative Protestants do not believe in evolution at all.

Turn on any of the “religion” stations on your television service (if you have one) and look at the output of the Protestant American stations.

The passion is there certainly, the faith is there. But is there any learning? Outside the narrow learning of the text of the Bible itself?

I am not saying anything bad about the study of the text of the Bible – but I am saying it is not enough to study the text of the Bible. It will not tell you about biology, or physics or any other science – and those who claim it does are just flat wrong.

Now compare this output on the Protestant American stations with the output of EWTN (the American Catholic station), the coverage of such things as physics is of the highest quality – without any feeling that their are hidden athiests (Liberation Theology types) at work. Learning is respected – and not just biblical learning.

Now I am not a Roman Catholic many things such as the authority of the Pope and the demanded celibacy of the ordinary parish clergy (as opposed to the Regular clergy – the monks and nuns, who are quite differnet in Christian tradition) hold me back from that. But there is a clear difference between the quality (the very atmosphere) of the Catholic conservatives (in the sense of anti sociaists) and many Protestant ones (in the sense of Protestant ministers broadcasting) – at least in the American context.

An understanding that one can reject the philosophy, (and theology), economics and politics taught by the secular education system (and media) without rejecting learning in general, including scientific learning.

No conclusions – just things to think about.

However, even as a non Roman Catholic I am convinced that the victory of anti socialist (or “anti liberal” as Americans would say) forces over socialist ones within the Roman Catholic church is vital for the survival of Western Civilization – both theologically and spiritually, and in terms of practical political economy.

For Thomas Woods is right about the following – the Church is, overwhelmingly, the most important non state insitution that exists. Without it (should it be destroyed or corrupted from within) hope fades for the West.

The principle of “anti discrimination” – in practice.

Are you a Christian?

If so you will not be allowed to foster children in Britain – as the courts hold Christianity to be “homophobic” in that it holds homosexual acts to be wrong and Christians (at least if they actually believe in Christainity) will not promote such a “lifestyle” to children. And, of course, the courts are quite correct in their statements – if not in their conclusions.

Indeed one wonders how the British state can leave even their own children to Christians – surely if it is wrong for them to pass on their “homophobia” to foster children, it is also………

Although I rather doubt that the British state would persecute Muslims in this way – for example persecute Muslim owners of a guesthouse for not offering a homosexual couple a joint room.

“I do not care – I am not a Christain”.

Very well, are you are women?

In which case you can no longer get cheaper car insurance in Britain (or elsewhere in the European Union) because the “European Court of Justice” has ruled that the basic principle of insurance (actuarial calculations) “discriminates” – and, of course, IT DOES (that is the point of it).

Are you a man?

In which case you will no longer be able to get cheaper insurance for your old age – even though you do not live as long (on average) as a women.

The courts have ruled that this is “discrimination” also – and, of course, they are CORRECT to declare that it is discrimination.

There is a choice of PRINCIPLES.

Either one has freedom – the right to CHOOSE, to DISCRIMINATE (for that is what “choosing” is – it is an “act of discrimination” ) – or one has “anti discrimination”.

One can have both – one must CHOOSE between freedom and antidiscrimination.

Sadly many people try and have things both ways – they want “anti discrimination” but “not the Politically Correct madness”. But the “Polititically Correct madness” is exactly what “anti discrimination” is (and has been ever since it was invented, as a political agitprop tactic, by the Frankfurt School of Marxism way back in the 1920s), as the practical examples above show.

I repeat – you must CHOOSE.

Which is more important to you – freedom or anti discrimination?

You can not have both.

This kind of thing

One of the problems I’ve found in coming up with stuff to post here is that whenever I read something that I think would be worth linking to or commenting on, I realise that it’s on Samizdata, or EURef, or somewhere else that I know most of this blog’s readers will be familiar with themselves. Combine that with the frustration of persuading the cats in the server to do anything at all, and I usually don’t bother.

But (although you all should) I don’t know how many Kitty Kounters read the Libertarian Alliance blog regularly, so this article, “Where Calvin meets Mao” is probably worth pointing out. It reminded me of IanB’s idea that Political Correctness is just the modern manifestation of Calvinism, methodism, and other forms of hair-shirt Christianity. I’ve always had a bit of a problem with that because I was brought up in the Church of Scotland, which unquestionably has its origins, via Knox, in Calvin’s thinking, and I’ve found most Kirk folk to be pretty down-to-earth and strongly un-PC (certainly there is a more direct link with methodism). Although Scotland is even more plagued with the modern political scourge than most places, it’s not, in general, coming from those people. It really isn’t. On the other hand, there can be no question that PC is strongest in historically protestant countries and you can even see that phenomenon within the United Kingdom, with, as I say, the Scottish political class being more enthusiastic about it than in other parts of Britain.

So this lit a little bulb above my head:

I actually grew up in part as a Calvinist fundamentalist myself during the 1970s … During the late 1980s and early 1990s I was a left-wing Chomskyite and it was during this time that I first began to personally encounter PC. Observing the psychology of PC and its behavioral manifestations up close and in an unadulterated form gave me a sense of déjà vu: “Where I have seen this kind of thing before?”

“This kind of thing”. PC isn’t Calvinism, but it’s the same kind of thing. The phenomenon in its present form undoubtedly stems from the Frankfurt School, and Marxism is about as far from Christianity as you can get, but – and this is the important bit – there seems to be a way of thinking, a mindset, common in Northern European countries that’s conducive to “this kind of thing”. The Jock PC-wallahs aren’t (necessarily) the same people as the Kirk-goers, but 500 years ago they would have been in the front pew lapping up Knox’s sermons (and I imagine today’s Kirk folk would be as dismissive of pure, raw, early Calvinism as they are of PC, since they clearly don’t think that way – in fact I’m sure of it: otherwise they’d join the Free Presbyterians).

In a sense, it’s another example of people who cease to believe in God believing in anything: that controlling, self-hating instinct has to find an outlet, and once the Kirk lost its power it manifested itself in politics. Ironically, for the Politically Correct, it should also be a lesson in the imperfectibility of Man. We have to play the hand we’re dealt, and shuffling the cards won’t change it: get rid of a powerful, oppressive, controlling church, and people who like power, oppressing and controlling others, will simply find another way to do it. And they have.

The Keys of Hildenborough

This story is a few days old but that isn’t a reason not to comment on it.

Eighty year old Muriel Clark of Hildenborough has caused quite a stir writing for her local church magazine, Hildenborough Keys. Here is what she wrote:

Islamisation

by Mrs. Muriel Clark

In view of the worldwide media interest in the fate of Mrs. Ashtiani in Iran, I am concerned about the ever increasing Islamisation of our own country, and think we should take a stand against:

a) uncontrolled immigration of Muslims whose birth rate exceeds that of other groups.

b) allowing Turkey to enter the EU with the inevitable consequence of the increase in our Muslim population.

c) establishment of non-integrated Islamic communities, including no-go areas to so-called infidels in our cities.

d) imposition of sharia laws, taking precedence over our legal and banking systems.

e) halal meat and dairy products stealthily introduced into our prisons, schools and shops.

f) the sometimes intense, and often subtle promotion of Islam in many primary schools in order to influence impressionable young minds.

If we are honest, we know about the oppression of Islamic regimes in Muslim lands, where infidels are not tolerated. Is that what we in Britain really want?

Despite the seeming lack of faith in our Christian heritage, even in sections of the Church nowadays, I am convinced that by far the majority do not welcome these undoubted pressures to bring our country into submission to Islam.

All fair comment.  This lady has voiced what many people are thinking and was supported by the magazine’s editor, Nick Hawkins and the Reverend John Chandler.  She is right to voice her concerns, after all we live in a country that values free speech.

Oh wait…

No, clearly I was wrong.  Mrs. Clark is a bigot who needs slapping down with the full force of the law.  Well at least according to gutless dhimmi wannabe local politician Steve Dawe of Tonbridge’s Green Party that is.

I hope those responsible indicate this was a mistake, and will never occur again. If not, then this is clearly a matter for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, who may wish to bring a case on the grounds of incitement to religious hatred.

Bet that’ll shut the demented old biddy up, eh?  Can’t have her opening up a debate on Islamification in case people start looking more deeply and discover she has a valid point.  After all, religious hatred is a horrid thing and Mrs Clark pointing out the bloody obvious is far more dangerous than any run-of-the-mill, religiously motivated incitement to commit mass murder.

Naturally, another local politician had to weigh in with his two happ’orth.  Here’s what Southborough Conservative Councillor and member of the West Kent Muslim Association Nasir Jamil had to say:

Islamisation is a very sensitive issue.

Quite.  Anyone who dares raise the subject and asks searching questions gets gagged by threats of prosecution or is branded a racist or a hatemonger.  Why is that?

Her views are a bit extremist and it’s a bit out of the blue. It really hurts us.

Bollocks!  This is what extremism out of the blue looks like and it not only hurts, it kills.

How can they publish it, especially to a small community?

It’s called freedom of expression and is protected by Article 10(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998.  The size of the community has bugger all to do with anything.

It creates a bad impression that Muslims are extremists.

Oh really?  An eighty year old pensioner expressing her concerns frightens you that much?  Then what the fuck do you call this, Councillor?

Muriel’s words scared the cunt councillor so much he bent the ear of made a formal complaint to Kent Police.  The police subsequently paid a visit to Yasser Balesaria, Imam of Tunbridge Wells mosque.  Hopefully to take a statement rather than advice.  But the councillor didn’t let the subject rest there.

We’ve launched a formal complaint to the Equality and Human Rights Commission on the basis that this article incites religious hate.

That’s very civic minded of you, councillor.  But let’s not stop there.  Mrs. Clark didn’t say anything that hasn’t already appeared in the secular national newpapers so how come you aren’t reporting them too?  I mean, the nationals have a circulation of millions whereas the Hildenborough Keys has a readership of around a hundred, if they’re lucky? Is your blinkered focus an oversight perhaps?  I hope so otherwise people might begin to think that the persecution of Muriel the Anglican is relgiously motivated.  But you’re not religiously motivated are you, councillor?  A fair minded pillar of the community like you wouldn’t be dumb enough or religiously motivated enough to extend the witch hunt to demanding the resignation of an Anglican priest and his magazine editor, would you?  Oh…

…called for the editor of the St John’s Church-produced magazine, Nick Hawkins, and the Rev John Chandler, to resign from their posts.

If it waddles like a witch hunt and it quacks like a witch hunt…

Local Muslims have been encouraged to petition Tunbridge Wells MP, Greg Clark (no apparent relation).  Let’s hope their evidence of religious hatred is more substantial than Muriel being of the Christian persuasion and telling it like it is in the spirit of Fitna.  If a singular eighty year old lady can make them cack their trollies so profoundly just think what an army of Muriels could achieve.

I’d like to know why Kent and Sussex Courier journalist, Shams Al-Shakarchi, felt it necessary to print Muriel’s address in his rag. 

The story can be found here and here.

Mimimal State or Limited State: Mainly the Scottish Example.

I am a minimal state libertarian (indeed someone with “Tory Anarchist” tendencies – i.e. that in a ideal world, the world is not ideal, I would not like to see a total end to the use of aggressive force stealing the property of people and ordering them about with threats), and like many liberatarians (minimal state “minarchist” or anarchist “anarchocapitalist”) I am used to sneering at limited state folk.

“Contrary to F.A. Hayek it is the limited state, not the minimal state, that can not be clearly defined – limited to WHAT EXACTLY?”

“The minimal state (whether possible or not in practice) is at least a clear principle – only use state violence to counter other violence. What is the clear principle of the limited state?”

“Once you have accepted that the state is more than a sword (i.e. can do nice things for people – not just be force) then you open the door to ever more government – look at the history of the modern world…..”

And on and on – with philosophical (to use force other than to counter force is evil), economic (government interventions have higher, even if hidden, costs than benefits) and political/historic (once you get away from a clear principle of what the state must be confined to you open the door to ever bigger government) arguments.

Thus the limited state position is shown to be utterly absurd – surely only fools could be limited state people (rather than minimal state or no state folk).

However, in history very many pro liberty people were limited state people – and they were not fools. Indeed, for example, the great figures of the later part of the Scottish Enlightenment (not just Adam Smith – but also, for example, Dugald Stewart, the great teacher of so many liberty supporting British public figures) were limited state, not minimal state people.

Indeed a large faction of the American Republican party has been fundementally misunderstood by libertarians – people like Thomas Dewey (the once famous Governor of New York) regarded themselves as frugal and in favour of sound finance (they were not corrupt RINO types) yet they believed in active (although limited) government based on “scientific principles” (i.e. not the corrupt unlimited government of the New Dealers or of statist Republicans such as Nelson Rockefeller – but NOT libertarians either, and thus hard for us to understand). In this they follow, for example, the Scottish tradition (of Adam Smith, Dugald Stewart and so on) not the minimal state libertarian tradition (a tradition that sees the state, sometimes, as a useful tool for constructive progress, not the tradition of “Old Whig” Edmund Burke and so on that sees the state as a sword – and regards the idea of constructive moral, for it was Dugald Stewart not Edmund Burke who was not wildly hostile to such things as government attacks on drug use – a moderate in his theology, but the active view of the moral role of the State remained in the Church of Scotland just as the democratic ideals it partly put into practice in the 16th century to a great extent remained, or physical improvements comming from the state as absurd – the Burkeian view of both state and church being different).

Even the Constitution of the United States does NOT confine the Federal government (let alone State and local governments) to just using force to counter force. Certainly the vast majority of things that the Federal government now does are unconstitutional (the Constitution has been subverted by a corrupt academic, media and political class), but NOT all of them.

For example, the post office and post roads are clearly powers that the Congress has – if it wishes to use them. These powers are plainly in the text – and not by some oversite.

Nor were the Founding Fathers odd in this respect – I repeat that very many other pro liberty people (sincere pro liberty people – folk who would have died for liberty, and liberty as we understand it) were limited state people – not libertarians, not minarchists or anarchocapitalists.

Why?

The subject is a vast one – so I will confine myself mainly (but not totally) to the Scottish example.

The Scottish example:

In many ways Scotland in the late 18th century (and the early 19th century) was close to being a “minimal state”. For example, most parishes (even in the big city of Glasgow) did not levy a compulsory Poor Rate – relying instead on voluntary contributions. Also the much talked about Scottish education system was not as the simple books present it – by the late 18th century compulsion (i.e. forcing parents to send their children to go to school – even if they did not want to) had broken down in many areas (just as it had done in New England, even Massachusetts did not really have compulsion, until H. Mann brought it back in the mid 19th century – and then in new secular, rather than theocratic, form) and education was not “free” (although there was much help for some poor people) – and the universities were a matter of students often directly paying (or not paying) to hear certain lecturers on the basis of whether they thought they were any good or not.

So why did this wonderful state of affairs end? Why did Scotland move from (almost) a minimal state in the late 18th century, to a limited state by the mid 19th century?

Well firstly we must remember that taxes did not go up (not overall) – just as in England taxes (all taxes as a proportion of total economic activity) were lower in the late 19th century than had been in the early 19th century (the low tax/spend point for England, at least in areas that did not at once establish an Education Board after the Act of 1870 – is the year 1874, but taxes remained low for decades after this).

Why? Two reasons.

Firstly current war – the wars of the 18th and early 19th century (especially the French Revolutionary wars) took a vastly greater share of resources than the wars of the mid to late 19th century. Partly because they were simply bigger wars – but also because of the industrial revolution transforming just how big the British economy was (the bigger the economy the smaller the share of resources may be needed to win a war). The military function is a function of both minimal states and limited states – so if war is less common (or war takes a smaller share of the economy) a limited state may actually be smaller than a minimal state.

However, also the way that war was financed in the 18th century must be noted. Unlike the mid to late 19th century war was largely funded by DEBT in the 18th century.

Borrowed money has to be paid back – with INTEREST. And eventually fully HALF of all national government spending (Scotland and England having the same national government and national debt) was spent on the debt.

Due to a policy of balancing the budget (when possible) the share of government spending devoted to paying interest on the national debt was only a tiny fraction of government spending by the end of the Victorian period – thus meaning there was room for government spending on other things (i.e. a move from a minimal state to a limited state) whilst government as a whole actually got SMALLER as a proportion of civil society.

However, none of the above deals with the question of WHY people wanted to move from a minimal state (or close to it) to a limited state – why they wanted government to do various things, and (and this is very important) why they thought government had been SUCCESSFUL in doing various things.

Living in the world we do (a world of endless and obvious government failures in just about everything) the limited state attitude, that government can achieve XYZ, seems absurd – but this was not the world of 19th century Scotland.

The historian Norman Stone (no leftist) described 19th century Scotland as the ultimate “Protestant society” and he was not really talking about a belief in predestination or even the priesthood of all believers (although perhaps, in a way, he is pointing at the latter). What Norman Stone means is a society based on work and honesty and the belief that one “means what one says – and does what one says one will do”. It seems a bit harsh to a High Church person like me to call hard work and honesty “Protestant” (implying that Catholics are not honest and hard working), but let that pass.

Stone often talks of a single town clerk running a vast local authority – and running it well, making sure that the steets were cleaned , the rubbish collected (and so on) and all for the lowest possible cost to the local rate payers.

To many English people this would have sounded dubious even in the 19th century – for example the liberals (including the famous free traders Richard Cobden and John Bright) promised “lower rates” would result from sweeping away the old Tory dominated Manchester Corporation and replacing it with a modern elected council under the Act of 1835.

Rates (property taxes) of course went UP. No surprise to Tory folk busy fighting “reform” in much of England (including in my home town of Kettering – where the fight went on till the Act of 1891 forced a local education board on a town that had rejected it after 1870).

However, English local government does seem to have got things done in the 19th century. True it was not always government that led the way – the basic utilities that the Liberals of Manchester thought that government “must” provide (the word “must” I take from J.S. Mill’s works – even in “On Liberty” we are told, casually and in passing, that “everyone” agrees that X,Y, Z, “must” be provided by the state) were mostly (not all) provided by private enterprise in Newcastle – and provided at least as well.

However, only it would be wrong to deny that Manchester (and so on) achieved dramatic things. To someone who lived through the transformation of Manchester from the terrible place it was (Fred Engels was not making it all up) to the decent city it became, talk of “the improvments would have happened another way – as economic growth proceeded” might have sounded hollow.

Even though I regard the methods used as terrible (not just taking money by force but, for example, taking whole areas of the county of Chesire against the will the of the people who lived there – and using the land for the needs of Manchester) I can not deny that the results were impressive (even if I admit this through gritted teeth).

And no one but a fool would call 19th Manchester “socialist” – it was dominated by private enterprise (as were all British cities) and it was part of the “workshop of the world” not a dependent dump that only produces demands for more subsidies. The arguments we libertarians use against modern statism can not just be applied in a lazy way to the much smaller statism of the 19th century.

But it was Scotland that offered the best case for the limited state point of view. Glasgow had perhaps the worst poverty in the country – with people living short lives in terrible conditions. Yet (for example) clean water was brought to Glasgow in perhaps the most impressive public works scheme since the Roman Empire – water delivered many miles through solid (and incredibly hard) rock. Could voluntary finance (charitable or commercial) really have achieved such things? We might say “yes” – but many people at the time said “no” and came to the conculsion that the alternative to state action was for people to continue to drink brown filth (and die of it).

It was the same with poor relief. Libertarians (including myself) point at the problems of government poor relief – but there seemed to be no such problems with the Scottish Poor Law of 1845. No one was FORCED into a Workhouse – but nor were large numbers of able bodied people on out relief either. And nor did either Poor Rate or POVERTY grow over time – indeed poverty shrank. The condition of the population (whilst still poor by modern standards, due to the inferior technological economic base of the time) was vastly better in (say) 1905 than it had been in 1845 – the government system seemed to work.

In education also the Scottish state education system (far more than the English state system – which, as E.G. West pointed out long ago did NOT increase the speed of the spread of literacy, and even at the time was understood to let children down in such things as the teaching of science) was considered a wonder of the world – producing generations of clear thinking people on whose inventions the modern world still depends.

Think back a century. To go to Scotland a century ago and say “government poor relief leads to a vast ever growing underclass” or “government education does not work” or “local government schemes inevitably become corrupt white elephants” (and on and on) would just have attracted laughter (as the evidence around people a century ago would seem to contradict such statements).

So, however much we may disagree with the limited government people of the past – they were not fools. They had much evidence to back their beliefs and we should not claim they did not.

A Right Bugger’s Muddle

In a book to be published this week, Benedict XVI said there could be “justified individual cases” in which condoms could be used, softening Rome’s blanket ban on contraception, one of the most controversial issues facing the Church.

“In certain cases, where the intention is to reduce the risk of infection, it can nevertheless be a first step on the way to another, more humane sexuality,” the head of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics said, giving as an example a male prostitute having sex with a client.

But he gave no guidance on the long-standing moral and religious question of whether it would be permissible for a married couple, in which one partner is HIV positive, to use condoms in order to prevent the other partner from becoming infected.

Oddly enough I can see where the Pope is er… coming from here. It’s sort of the reason that soldiers have been issued with johnnies in various wars. It’s got nothing to do with preventing the pitter-patter of tiny feet but preventing the army literally getting “clapped-out” (which is where that phrase comes from). Different countries have had different policies as to the children of soldiers fathered in foreign lands. The British (perhaps due to a long era of colonialism) have tended to be more humane but the USA hasn’t. A great many children fathered by GIs in ‘nam had to suffer terribly after the USA withdrew in the ’70s* because they were denied entry** to the USA despite their persecution by the Viet Coms.

So, it’s a right dilly of a pickle. Artificial contraception is wrong by Catholic mores but if it’s two geezers doing it then contraception clearly isn’t an issue so… Yet it just feels wrong doesn’t it? A rent boy can insist on the use of condoms but a practising Catholic heterosexual couple can’t even if the reason one of them is HIV+ is infected “innocently”*** (dodgy blood transfusion or whatever).

Intellectually and theologically, if you accept orthodox Catholic doctrine, this bizarre ruling almost makes sense though morally and emotionally it does not.

Essentially this demonstrates the eternal conflict between the letter and the spirit of the law. Whilst this ruling is unimpeachable in terms of deductive logic from the basic axioms of Catholicism it’s result is ludicrous. It is a reductio ad absurdam that demonstrates that the axioms themselves are wrong.

It was ever thus that the tree of knowledge is not that of life. All the great religious traditions have (at times) fostered philosophical inquiry partially because of their legalistic nature and the subsequent debates have sharpened the wits of those involved but essentially this is a debate about angels dancing on the head of a pin with the ghastly cowled figure of AIDS lurking and sharpening his scythe****.

Ultimately it is a stark demonstration that whilst the Catholic church has enriched civilization in so many ways it’s sexual mores are built on sand. It goes like this. If you take an axiom set and deduce results from that set and those results don’t have any relationship to reality then either your working is wrong or the axioms are. In this case I thing it is clear the axioms are at fault.

And no, I’m not arguing we can’t help ourselves from “the sins of the flesh” either. That is a different issue from attempting to discern what they are by the over-use of reasoning above sense.

*In some cases nowhere near quickly enough.
**Nick, behave!
***Please make no mistake here. I am not moralising – that’s the Pope’s job – nice bloke, gets a bit preachy at times, mind. I’m trying to present it from the official Catholic viewpoint. I’m not saying there is “good” AIDS or “bad” AIDS or anything like that because I regard such thinking as morally vile.
****If only it was sharp. It isn’t, it’s a horrible way to go. I choose “misadventure”.

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