Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

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Friday, January 27, 2006
Blogger's working again! Quick, post the email from ARC. He writes:

"The Holocaust is rather an egregious example to use on his side of the argument. The Nazis who perpetrated it were gottglaubigers, i.e. they believed in a life force, but did not believe in Christianity or in a life after death. Many of them spelt this out in words of one syllable. Eichmann specifically stated he was a gottglaubiger just before his execution. Hitler, at the 1937 Hossbach conference (taken as the formal start of the conspiracy at Nuremberg), told his generals that 'after severe struggles, he had freed himself from childish religious ideas that he had continued to harbour and that "now I feel as fresh as a foal in the meadow"'; he then made plain the connection between this 'freedom' and the brutality he planned. Bormann, ordering the Gauleiters on the 'fight against the churches', ridiculed the idea that a God could be interested in the 'planetary bacilli' that were men, could respond to 'prayers, or other surprising things', etc. The full quote has something about Nazis respecting 'the force that moves the universe' or something like that. I cannot recall the exact form of words.

"Perhaps the professor's argument is something along the lines of the historical context in which the Nazis could make the Jews the centre of their ideology being an inheritance of Christendom. This has been well argued against in its own terms (I would suggest Hannah Arendt's overview of antisemitic history in 'Origins of Totalitarianism' ) but I notice rather the more basic absurdity: all modern atheism has Christendom as its historical context and the professor could also alledge religion's culpability for Stalin's holocaust if the above were his argument.

"It may be, of course, that the above is not his argument. But as he has failed to offer an argument as to why an act of self-professing atheists is the fault of religion, I may justly observe that it is his fault I must guess what it would have been.

"Religion has its holocausts. Stalin and Hitler set a high standard of evil for it to match. Burke, writing of the French revolution's murders, points out that power is needed for these acts so the perpetrators must always be those with power - kings and bishops when kings and bishops had power, revolutionaries when revolutionaries have power - using the pretexts of the time - religion when religion can move masses to kill, socialism when it can move masses to kill. He mocks those who are 'wise historically, a fool in practice' and spend their time 'filleting the tomb while their house is full of robbers'. It is a shallow understanding that confuses the excuses with the evil, the ranks with the actors.

> Accordingly it would be a bold individual who sought to claim that just as the hundreds of millions saved by (say) antibiotics can be invoked as some compensation for the (say) millions whom advanced weaponry has killed (adamantly granting that ONE person thus killed is too many), so the (say) Sistine Chapel and Joe Smith's comfort at having his bible under his pillow make the historical excesses of (say) anti-Semitism OK, to say nothing of the wholesale enslavement of mankind to falsity which religion by its nature seeks to impose, and too often succeeds.

"Of course, art works would hardly figure on my list of justification for almost anything. I like art but it is a luxury. Nor would anything _false_ - but here his argument is somewhat circular. Were Christianity untrue, it's being comforting to someone would be no more an excuse for it than for than any other comforting lie; likewise for atheism. We agree that that which is untrue is harmful. We disagree on what is true. Would the professor allow me to argue the harmfulness of atheism's false belief as one its historical crimes? I think not.

"An example of the kind of historical achievement of Christianity that I would defend in an argument of this kind is the campaign against slavery in the nineteenth century. An institution that had existed in every culture from time immemorial had a war waged on it. The campain was led by evangelical Christians who stressed their Christian motivation, and the idea that slavery was wrong all over the world was only able to be propounded because itr had already been abolished at home by a long historical process within a Christian culture. Several parts of the campaign - the undeclared war against Brazil in the 1850s for example, or the Royal Navy's countless cutting-out expeditions against slavers off the west African coast - were wholly without ulterior motives; were indeed obviously counter to the purely selfish interests of Great Britain. After becoming rare as a result of this campaign, mass slavery was reintroduced to the world in the twentieth century by militant atheists - the communists had millions enslaved by the middle thirties; the national socialists started later but soon caught up.

"Fundamentally, I stand by Burke's remark that the truth or falsity of ideas, and the urgency or otherwise of alleged dangers today, are not proved or disproved solely by the fact that they were the once the pretexts by which men gained and misused power."