Idle Thoughts, Some Bellyaching, and a hurrah for El Cid

Here is a link to an article about one Corrine Maier, who wrote a book where she explains to the world why she doesn’t love her children and wishes they didn’t exist. It is a paean to selfishness and folly.

She is not a Mom. She is merely a muhtha.

THIS is a Mom:

On a different, but tenuously related, topic

John Derbyshire asks

Why would a Christian want to improve the world? Take William Wilberforce, for example — who, after a conversion experience, led the campaign to end the slave trade. Would Christ actually have approved? Might not He have said that the slaves, by virtue of their awful suffering, were extraordinarily well placed for entry to the Kingdom of Heaven?

Let me say at the outset that I have no intention of rising to Derbyshire’s bait. I have answered this question at length in other writings, and authors wiser than I.

Let us not address the question here, but merely take it for granted, and ask, if Christianity has been seriously addressing the problems of human suffering for two thousand years, and Christian civilization done more—by orders of magnitude more—than any other to alleviate it—for who else can boast of abolishing slavery and equalizing women, securing liberty and prosperity, and making the progress of science a worldwide phenomenon, aside from Christendom—why now question whether Christian theology is right to insist on the betterment of man on Earth? Why bring the question up?

He is not asking a serious question, and he knows it—or if he does not, he has wished himself into willful ignorance.

I am reminded of folks who take one quote at random out of context from scripture, and think they can prove false and foolish two thousand years of Christian thought and history.

Mr. Derbyshire, were he serious, can read Wilberforce’s own writings, or simply recall his Sunday School teachings, to discover the connections between Greek and Jewish notions of law and justice, equality and humanity, which were adopted into Christian philosophy, refined, and drawn out to logical conclusions for thousands of years, supported with blood and sweat for as long, and used for the betterment of mankind very much against its will. Cannon law outlawed slavery of Christians from the earliest period of cannon law: Popes in the Sixteenth Century excommunicated Spanish slaveholders in the New World almost as soon as that abominable practice was developed. The Church has a long, well-known, and consistent history of championing the poor and oppressed.

Schoolboy questions about why, if the poor are blessed, we should relieve the poor, or why, if those who suffer will be comforted, we should sooth the suffering, have been answered hundreds of times in print and thousands and tens of thousands of times in by word of mouth, both by respected theologians and doctors of the church, and by humble Sunday School teachers. Christianity is not now and never has been a Quietist religion like Buddhism. The Church does not preach resignation to the evils of the world. She never has. What she preaches is realistic expectations to the outcome of your efforts. The poor will be with you always.

The real question is why a normally serious thinker like Mr. Derbyshire suddenly, now that he has lost his religion, is unable to ask a serious question about it?

It seems to me a mysterious principle of psychology (if not a diabolic influence) that otherwise perfectly reasonable fellows, immediately upon losing their religion, lose their memory of history, their notions of how mankind works, and a good deal of common sense.

In the final analysis, it is the astonishing, teeth-aching lack of common sense that condemns the secular humanist world view.

This is why political discourse on public morals in the modern age consists mostly of explaining and re-explaining the blatantly obviously to the willfully ignorant. This is why political-economic discourse consists entirely of explaining and re-explaining the basics of economics to those defending exploded theories and fatuous popular errors. This is why philosophy is general does not talk any more about truth and justice and virtue, but instead asks what it means when we play word games of no meaning.

Now, there is many a conservative who is not a religious man: these are people who, by and large, retain their common sense despite that they have no metaphysical or rational foundation to justify it. A skeptical inquiry into their axioms soon turns up a blank: they believe certain common sense notions because their fathers and peers believe it, and that is good enough for them.

Their fathers and peers believe common sense notions because of their old-time religion, of course. These fathers and peers do not turn up a blank when you dig to their roots: the can wax as philosophical or theological as he need, and approach the mysteries at the deepest foundations of reasoning that even savants despair of explaining. Nonetheless, as with all systems of thought, there is a mystery at the core of religion: like every other subject (except, perhaps, pure math) it is a subject that cannot be reduced to an apodeictic certainty.

The difference between religion and other world views is that the religion acknowledges and celebrates the mystery at the heart of things, the sees the limits of human reason. A secular humanist, even if he cannot explain wave-particle duality, or reconcile quantum mechanics and general relativity, much less reconcile free will and necessity, nonetheless insists his world view has no mysteries and no paradoxes, and that human reason has unlimited utility.

The secular humanist, on the other hand, comes in two variations: credulous fools and skeptical fools. The credulous fool is a leftist because the world-view flatters him, sounds nice, makes no particular demands on him, and allows him to see himself as both superior morally and mentally to people who are, in truth, on the whole, wiser and more virtuous than he. The skeptical fool is one who looks, perhaps earnestly at first, into philosophy, and finds no answers he takes to be objectively convincing and certain covering all aspects of human life. His choice then is between wrath and despair. The wrathful take one idea and apply it to all circumstances: for the libertarians, the idea is liberty; for the Marxists, the idea is looting the rich; for the liberal in general, the idea is to shift blame. The despairing retreat into subjectivism and multiculturalism, and their intellectual life dies.

The problem is one of selection bias. A philosophy that a priori rejects the idea of God leaves out of its calculations the core of life and the explanation of history. This would be akin to attempting to put forth a theory of physics that left out gravitation. Leaving aside the core of life and attempting from that unsound foundation to deduce how best to live or how best to think about life leads quickly to erroneous or unsatisfying results. Either one ends up as one sort or another of materialist, that philosophy which cannot explain how philosophers exist, or as a Stoic, that moral code too harsh for real humans to live by, or as a Quietist, a Cynic, a Pantheist, or some other abortive theory. You find yourself with a simple explanation that doesn’t really explain anything: or you dismiss the effort of trying to find answers.

So, here. John Derbyshire is coasting along on what remains of his common sense, and so he is still a conservative, albeit he grows ever more eccentric and further from the mainstream of conservative thought. He calls himself a “mysteran”, that is, someone who thinks certain basic questions about the nature of the human condition cannot be answered. He is drifting closer and closer into materialism: he things genetics explains everything, or soon will. If he does not change course, no doubt soon he will be saying the genetic basis of the nervous system is the complete and final explanation for the content of human consciousness. The logic of the Darwinian world-view soon leads one into the odd and uncouth territory of racism and eugenics: which is why Derbyshire, when he slips into eugenic-ish remarks about the superiority of one race over another, smirks and says polite people don’t speak of it.

Nothing wrong with a conservative being old-fashioned, of course. We’re known for it and we’re proud of it. But must we revisit theories that were explained and exploded back in Victoria’s Reign?

So Derb cannot think, for the life of him, why Wilberforce, as a Christian, held it to be a Christian duty to free slaves, persons made in the Image of God no less than any Englishman.

Well, why in the world view of a eugenicist-materialist “mysterian” should one see a duty to free slaves?

You may wonder, “But Mr. Wright, if Derb is so bone headed about religion and history, and if he is drifted ever closer to a Brave New World view of dehumanized humanity, why do you still read his columns?”

Because, by thunder, when he is right, he is so very right:

(Describing the Turner prize for a superior work of art, awarded at London’s Tate Gallery, carrying a cash award of twenty thousand pounds. Martin Creed won it in 2001 with his “conceptual art” exhibit titled “Work No. 227: The Lights Going On and Off.”)

The work is just that: 67 track lights illuminating an empty room, switching on and off at five-second intervals. What do I think about all this? Well, first I think that the directors of the Tate Gallery, which receives funding from general taxation, should be locked up in prison and made to do hard labor scraping the rust off bolts for twenty years or so with nothing to eat but cold oatmeal porridge. Then I think Mr Creed should be stripped naked, sprayed all over with bright blue paint, and made to run round and round Piccadilly Circus until he drops from exhaustion, after which he should be killed by some not-very-humane method. Then the Tate Gallery should be reduced to rubble by aerial bombardment, the rubble carted away to be used as landfill, and the ground sown with salt. Then the fools who pay good money to look at this “art” should be packed into boxcars and tipped off the white cliffs of Dover, and their mangled corpses left to be feasted on by dogs, crows and crabs.

He goes on to comment:

When you think of how long the bad blood between Christians and Muslims has been going on — we’re well into the 14th century of it — it’s surprising there haven’t been more whack-Muslim movies. Nobody ever seems to have made a movie of the battle of Tours, for example, nor of Lepanto, from which G.K. Chesterton got a very fine poem. I can’t even recall a decent crusader movie, though there surely must have been some. There are whack-Muslim subthemes in a few movies — The Vikings, if memory serves, and True Lies — but the only real all-out whack-Muslims movie I could recall when asked was El Cid.

Friends, anyone who likes El Cid, no matter what his other flaws, cannot be all bad.