Monday, April 5, 2010

The War On Religion

I remain within, and love, the Catholic Church because it is a church that has lived and wrestled within the mystery of the shadow lands ever since an innocent man was arrested, sentenced and crucified, while the keeper of "the keys" denied him, and his first priests ran away. Through 2,000 imperfect — sometimes glorious, sometimes heinous — years, the church has contemplated and manifested the truth that dark and light, innocence and guilt, justice and injustice all share a kinship, one that waves back and forth like wind-stirred wheat in a field, churning toward something — as yet — unknowable. . . .

Elizabeth Scalia, Here's Why I Remain Catholic, NPR, 2 April 2010

Ms. Scalia, known to many of us as The Anchoress, is an eloquent defender of the Catholic faith. She puts into perspective the scandals racking the Catholic Church today, recognizing and condemning the handful of priests who have betrayed their Church, their God and their flock while not letting that overwhelm the infinitely larger message of hope, love and good will at the core of the Church. But for many on the left, the recent scandals regarding acts of pedophilia by priests is an opportunity to attack the Church - not in order to bring about reform, but in order to marginalize it.

Several of my fellow Watcher's Council members have also weighed in on these recent events. Greg, a teacher who blogs at Rhymes With Right, looks at the pedophilia scandal from the unique perspective of a one time seminarian. He makes some important points - the accusation of pedophile priests is about the same percentage wise as to accusations against teachers generally; not all of the accusations are true; nor has Greg seen the Church react inappropriately to allegations of "inappropriate conduct"

A priest who abuses children is an abomination and should be accorded zero tolerance. All such charges should be investigated fully and guilty priests defrocked and accorded the very stiffest of punishments. But that said, it is equally true that reports of pedophilia or bare allegations in the news hardly tell the whole story. As Greg makes clear anecdotaly, mere claims of abuse in the distant past - standing alone and without investigation - are not proof that any of the specific acts occurred. Nor in any event is it proof of rot at the core of Christianity or Catholicism. But for those who would attack Christianity generally, it is enough. As Bookworm Room notes:

The media is making hay of the pedophilia scandal involving the Catholic Church. I think that Leftists see this issue as the single brick, down at the bottom of the wall, that, if pulled at hard enough, will bring the whole edifice tumbling down.

Just as Jews are persecuted because they symbolize justice (whether or not individual Jews can always attain those standards) so too is the modern Catholic church vigorously attacked because it symbolizes morality (again, regardless of individual failures). A Leftist society cannot tolerate either of those symbols, both of which might give people the idea that a totalitarian government is neither just nor moral.

This is a very old war. Christianity and Judaism are the fundamental pillars of Western civilization. Socialism is a philosophy that seeks to deconstruct traditional society and put in its place a new order overseen by an omnipotent government that would redistribute wealth and use its police powers to create social equality. To this end, socialists have warred against Christianity and Judaism for over two centuries. Indeed, when socialism was born in the crucible of the French Revolution, one of the first acts of the Revolutionary government was to initiate a systematic and brutal war on the Catholic Church and its clergy. As recounted at the American Spectator:

The secularists of the French Revolution regarded the Roman Catholic Church as the last obstacle to atheism's final triumph. Blurting this out, the French dilettante Denis Diderot proposed to his fellow revolutionaries that they strangle the last priest with the "guts of the last king."

The left has waged this war against Christianity and Judaism ever since. Karl Marx, socialism's greatest philosopher, famously wrote in his Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right that religion is the "opium of the people" and that "[t]he abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness." The British socialist party wrote in their 1911 manifesto that "it is a profound truth that Socialism is the natural enemy of religion." In America, the socialist left has used activist Courts as an a means of removing all aspects of Christianity from the public square. In 2002, the Supreme Court actually held that Christian morality is not, standing alone, a "rational basis" for upholding our nation's laws. In Britain, the Labour Party is demoting Christianity and deconstructing the Anglican Church. Thus the sensationalism and bias with which the left is treating the priest scandal today is merely one more battle in an ongoing war. And on that thought, let me recommend this article by Patrick O'Hannigan, taking the NYT to task for sensationalizing the scandal and disregarding any concerns with accuracy or balance in their reporting.

With the left's partial success in their war on Christianity has come an interesting phenomena - the search for something to replace Christianity among the newly secularized. It would seem that we humans are hard wired to look for what amounts to a religion to give ourselves a moral mooring and a greater purpose in life. Socialist governments recognized this. Indeed, the first socialists in France substituted government sponsored cult movements in place of the Catholic Church. In Communist countries, where raw police power was used - not wholly successfully - to crush Christianity and Judaism, socialism itself was raised to the level of a religion complete with a sainthood - the quasi-deification of communist leaders as part of a cult of personality. Catholics had the Shroud of Turin; Soviets had the mummy of Lenin.

On an individual level, the same search for a substitute is happening in the West. Many of the secular left today embrace environmentalism as a religion - and indeed, it was but a few months ago that UNEP explicitly called for the global warming movement to be pushed as a religious alternative to Christianity. Still others embrace the airy spiritualism of New Age thought.

All of this has existential ramifications for Western society. For the better part of two millennium, the Judeo-Christian ethic has provided a rock solid framework for morality at the heart of Western society - one that puts maximum value on each individual human life and one that provides moral clarity in such things as Christianity's Golden Rule and Judaism's "Great Commandment." Take that mooring away from the ancient expressions of our deity and all morality then becomes dependant on what any particular person or government defines as the greater good.

When governments and individuals can define by their whim what is moral or immoral, what is desirable and what is punishable, human life is almost inevitably devalued. Certainly Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Castro, and Pol Pot, between them responsible for the murder of well over a hundred million people in the 20th century, held to socialist belief systems that devalued human life and elevated in its stead political ideology. Many in the green movement argue that man is a parasite on the world and call for strictly limiting his impact using authoritarian means - including population control, forced sterilization and other such methods. Far less destructive but no less insidious are the new age religions - for but one example, mystic beliefs based on the book and movie The Secret, where one only needs to really believe - and maybe click their heels three times - and then the "universe will provide." It certainly saves one the trouble of actually dealing with real world problems, at least until they come to crisis proportions. Or the neo-Druidism one can see in practice among the many robed figures gathered at Stonehenge each Equinox. Hopefully these modern day animists will not also seek to resurrect the Druidic custom of human sacrifice.

The bottom line is, regardless whether one believes in Judaism or Christianity, we will pay a very heavy price indeed for jettisoning them as the bedrock of Western society. Yet that is precisely what the left has sought for over two centuries, promising in their stead a secular heaven on earth. Ironically, should they fully succeed, history teaches us that their promised earthly heaven will be far more likely to resemble biblical hell.

Updated: The Obama administration has truly taken up the banner of the secular left in the war against religion in America. There was the recent case where the administration sought to impose a very narrow definition on the "ministerial exception" granted religious organization to hire and fire, outside of the discrimination laws, those they deemed crucial to their religious mission. Had the administration won that fight, it would have dealt a deep blow indeed to religious institutions, and put them on the same playing field with all other employers, where matters of conscience and belief must bow to secular law. As it was, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously against the government.

Most recently, the Obama Administration has ruled that Catholic religious institutions and related organization will have to "provide health insurance to their employees which includes subsidized contraception, sterilization and coverage for abortion-inducing drugs. This is at complete odds with the teachings of the Church and would drive the Catholic Church out of the realm of aid and charity to all that has been at the center of its mission for two millennia. This is a direct assault on religious liberty, and it has the entire Catholic hierarchy, from the Pope to the U.S. Bishops, rising up in opposition and calling for civil disobedience.


Anonymous said...

Yet the Left is enamoured of totalitarian Islam.

Unknown said...

Because they over-apply the notion that their enemy's enemy is their friend.
They fail to take into account that Islam is even more hostile to their ideals than Judaism or Christianity.