Friday, December 14, 2007

Journalists should be history majors

David Freddoso:

To the debate over Krauthammer's piece, I'd add a Steynian note. One grave consequence of post-war Europe's loss of faith is its approaching demographic extinction. The Italians are on pace to be as dead as the Romans. The Russians are headed there even faster. Can you be free if you don't exist? Or even worse, if you end up under Islamic law?

I'd also point to pre-war Europe, whose loss of religious faith (it's not like it started in 1960 — try 1660) had ghastly ideological consequences — Communism, German National Socialism — that led to countless deaths.

I agree with Ramesh — Romney's statement isn't that absurd.

Typically shallow historical analysis by the religious. If communism were the result of a loss of faith then why did communism take root in Russia, the most highly religious and backward nation in Europe. Indeed its religiosity set it apart so much that many across the Atlantic didn't even consider it to be part of Europe, and its exclusion from the EU is a testament to this attitude's survival. Until 1917 it was ruled by a monarchy whose claims to divine right were supported by the Russian Orthodox Church and believed by many of the people who were kept in a kind of serfdom that despite 19th century reform efforts by Alexander II, was not substantially different from it medieval predecessor. And this monarchy had as much contempt for the lives of its subjects as the Communist regime that followed.

National socialism was never atheistic, there is no case to make that Hitler was an atheist, and it specifically appealed to Antisemitism cultivated by the Catholic Church and dominant Protestant sects. Enough of this. How much intellectual shabbiness is required to take two opposed ideologies that couldn't stand each other's existence, and attribute them to the same nebulous cause?

And while they bemoan the demographic decline of Europe they fail to mention that the Islamic world's population is increasing far faster than even America's yet is far poorer and lives under theocratic oppression. Shall we then take their example and reduce ourselves to poverty and religious backwardness for the sake of demographic expansion? It apparently has never dawned on Freddoso that poorer, less educated societies (and people) are consistently more religious and have higher birthrates. The Economist puts out a fact book that compiles these, often jaw-dropping, stats. Does this then confer some virtue on their poverty and ignorance? After all such widespread ignorance and poverty as seen in Africa and the Middle East is the quickest way to raise the birth rate, though at the expense of any semblance of freedom for women and the brutalization of men. "How can you be free if you are poor and ignorant?" will then be the question that replaces Freddoso's. Is it asking too much to expect that religious people will evince even a modicum of intellectual honesty and constructiveness on this point or will they be constantly blinded by heartache over the approaching nadir of their influence.

Ironically he pinpoints the loss of religious faith as having begun in 1660. This is incidentally a little more than a decade after the treaty of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years War, and established a rather delicate and short lived peace but effectively ended the period of international warfare in Europe on at least explicitly religious grounds. This war decimated the population in Germany by as much as 20 percent and claimed around 5 million lives in a Europe with less than 100 million people. This of course leaves out the countless wars rebellions and massacres that tore the continent apart for the preceding 300ish years, which he predictably does not mention.

Weirdly though he doesn't seem to notice that while pinpointing the beginning of religion's decline in 1660, he lives in a world where Europe's population has maybe quintupled (a conservative estimate) since then and has only started declining in the last 5 years though he still manages to claim the loss of faith since 1660 and more recently after World War II is the culprit. Religious people like Freddoso have the unseemly habit of making huge statements that make little sense but and need considerable unpacking, but have the advantage of sounding right to those who want to believe them.

Coda: Notice again that apologists for religion advocate for it without mention to whether or not it is actually true.


Harry said...

And this monarchy had as much contempt for the lives of its subjects as the Communist regime that followed.

If they had as much contempt, then they were less consistent in showing it, as judged by the casualty rate.

flymorgue2 said...

National socialism was never atheistic, there is no case to make that Hitler was an atheist

Three notions must be accepted upon joining the Dawkins cult: #1, accolytes can not just go their own way, be 'modern' atheists and ignore Xianists (Lord knows why); #2, as a result they must beat on the religious and ignore the faith-based notions upon which their assertions lie; finally, #3 they can not leave history alone. It is not enough to argue the merits of modern atheism, they must go back in time to either reduce the body count assembled by proto-atheists or relieve the Hitlers of te past of their atheism.

Biologists should be history majors, or better should remain biologists.

My God, Harry is here - the readership doubled!

Bill said...

Well the casualty rate might not have been as high but the monarchy didn't have the means to achieve such horrors and didn't have as much call to do it. Its beside the point. They frequently showed them selves just as willing to kill and oppress as the regime that followed. And their conduct of the first world war was just as wasteful and contemptuous of individual life as the Communists.