Materialism: A Postscript
Author's note: "Materialism (A Postscript)" first appeared on NewsWithViews.com. The "Addendum" which follows is previously unpublished.
Most of my email is positive (alas, due to time constraints I am often unable to answer most of it). When I get something critical, I spend time reading it. I am not perfect. Sometimes readers catch errors or have worthwhile suggestions. Among my favorites is an email from one Terry Hayfield, sent back in 2004 in response to my initial “The Real Matrix” series. I still have the printout. It presented itself not as a criticism but as an “offer to share research.” His results differed from mine, and he argued that my reasoning was based on a false premise. He did not launch a personal attack. He argued a rational case in a way that got my attention and led to a correspondence and mutual sharing of ideas and information that continued for several years.
I contrast this with an email from someone I’ll call RB (his initials; I’ll not use his name to save him embarrassment), received the day Part 3 of “Materialism” appeared. He labeled himself: “a secular, agnostic, non-observant liberal Jew.” This after an opening sentence not offering to share research but describing my article as “typical of NewsWithViews; utter poppycock, drivel, hogwash, bunk, tripe etc.”
Great way to win friends and influence people, dude!
But I’ve learned that debates over what is very fundamental to our thinking and our moral lives — over worldviews, that is — will sometimes invoke hostility instead of constructive dialogue. RB’s email, having begun on a bad note, went downhill from there. I wondered if he’d really read what I’d written or just scrolled up and down, saw a few words and lines he didn’t like, then took to his keyboard to bang out a long paragraph of hysterics against what he assumed I’d said.
RB “[found] it highly offensive that Christians like yourself arrogantly claim to have a monopoly on morality and virtue, and fatuously pretend that you can only be a good person if you are a believing Christian …”
Hold the bus. Did I say Christians were good people because they were Christians? Now admittedly Part 4 was still a week or so away and so unavailable, but somehow I doubt RB’s having the whole thing in front of him would have made a difference. I’d never said that Christians were “good people.” In Part 4 I was explicit about their being prone to the same weaknesses and temptations as non-Christians. Even prior to that material, I had not said we have a “monopoly on morality and virtue,” whatever that is.
My argument vis-à-vis morality was that given the failure of every secular ethical theory, Christian accounts of morality are surely no worse off!
RB then went on an extended rant about sex / sexual misconduct and promiscuity / abortion / contraceptives (which I never mentioned). The sexual revolution he called “nothing but a myth” which would astonish those who lived through it, especially parents who lost communication with their children over it. But what sketchy details RB offers about sexual peccadillos and misadventures prior to the 1960s actually lend strong support to my thesis, that we are a fallen species who cannot save ourselves. For again I’d not stated that “no one engaged in sexual misconduct and promiscuity [or that] there were no abortions or hardly any …” What I’d said was that now we had ethical theories in which these were all very much at home. RB continues: “Sexual promiscuity has existed all over the world for thousands of years and abortion has also been common all over the world for thousands of years. However, Christianity has also fostered an extremely harmful prudishness, puritanism and sexual repression for 2,000 years …”
Very Freudian sounding, Freud having been a leading “secular, agnostic, liberal Jew.” It’s the height of political incorrectness to say it, but “secular, agnostic, liberal Jews” have an obsession with sex I’ve long found puzzling. Conversations I’ve had with them (mostly academics, admittedly) tend to veer in that direction sooner or later. Since most “gentiles” do not share this fascination, at least not as a core part of their worldview, I suppose we’re “repressed.” Another feature of the “secular, agnostic, liberal Jew” is their assumption they’ve gotten inside others’ minds and psyches, divining their supposed neuroses. We’re the arrogant ones? What do they propose as the cure? A sexually “liberated” culture — which is pretty much what we have in the twenty-first century, with (e.g.) Miley Cyrus performing nearly naked, is it not?
That aside, one could just offer the obvious reductio ad absurdum that murder has “also been common all over the world for thousands of years.” Maybe we should get rid of all laws and traditions and worldviews that “repress” our hidden desires to slaughter one another in cold blood! Yeah, that’ll work!
RB’s next few lines are about poverty, perhaps unsurprisingly. As I noted — again it had to wait for Part 4 — Christians have been remiss in this area and are vulnerable to criticism. I stated specifically that Jesus did not command us to care for the poor, or offer health care, only if we can make a profit doing so.
But having conceded that much, I’d like to see what “secular, agnostic, liberal Jews” are doing about poverty. Those I’ve known tend to support the status quo, which means mindlessly supporting the leviathan banks and the bought-and-paid-for political classes whose policies bear primary responsibility for widening inequality and worsening poverty in our time. Pot, meet kettle. I wonder how many donations RB or his buddies have made, or fundraisers conducted, to alleviate poverty in places like, e.g., Haiti. (I have, incidentally.) My response: put your money where your mouth is, or shut up!
There was more to make me wonder if English is this guy’s native language: “The notion that if you are an atheist, you think there is no such thing as right and wrong and that everything should be considered permissible is abject poppycock.” Did I say atheists as a group believe there is no such thing as right and wrong? I did not. Indeed, the bulk of Part 2 takes up secular efforts to elucidate right versus wrong in a material universe — efforts which make no sense if they think there is no right or wrong. My argument is that these efforts fail, often giving breathtakingly bad advice in the process. That’s hugely different from saying those making them don’t believe in right or wrong. (Maybe RB did not read Part 2. Not my problem.)
Finally there is that now-familiar canard about a “Christian Taliban” trying to take over the U.S., an “extremely dangerous” conspiracy that “must be stopped before they get power in America” and “some of its members are contributors to News With Views” [sic.].
I am sure my fellow NewsWithViews.com contributors will be surprised to hear of their cultural influence! By the way, I often see this Taliban reference in atheist-leftist rants. Perhaps RB can point to Christians who practice some equivalent of Sharia law, kill apostates, mutilate women’s genitals, burn villages, etc. I’ve never seen them. Am I blind or is he hallucinating? I don’t think it’s the former.
There is no Christian Taliban! The idea is absurd! As I noted in my very brief private reply to RB, there are no Christian groups with the resources, even if they had the will. Most have been effectively marginalized in the present culture of materialism, hedonism, and multiculturalism. No Christian I know of has the deep pockets of, e.g., a George Soros (another “secular, agnostic, liberal Jew”) who has been bankrolling leftist causes for decades, or of those running the leviathan banks, other corporations, the political class, or the Hollywood culture where “secular, agnostic, liberal Jews” predominate whether anyone cares to admit it or not.
No doubt RB and perhaps others will interpret such remarks as “antisemitic.” This, too, has gotten to be a tiresome canard, made by some Jews in response to someone outside their orbit noting their economic and cultural power. It usually comes prior to their honoring Godwin’s Law and invoking the specter of Adolf Hitler who, in RB’s words, “was NOT an atheist and never renounced his Catholic faith.” Take that, Catholics! By the way, do Catholics or any other Christian denominations have special organizations such as B’nai B’rith or the Anti-Defamation League to function as attack dogs to destroy the reputations of their critics? The late Joe Sobran once said, “An anti-semite used to be someone who hated Jews. Now it’s someone Jews hate.”
Why bother with a “Postscript” such as this? Because it offers an interesting case study. Most of the issues raised are only indirectly related to my central claim, which is that materialism as a worldview (its premises and reasoning laid out in Part 1) does not offer a viable account of the way reality is put together, nor a moral backbone to support a large civilization. The past hundred years show this conclusively. We’ve illuminated the ties between materialism and leftism, ties going back at least 250 years. Both reject original sin and instead follow, e.g., Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1778), arguably the founding father of modern progressivist leftism, holding that our institutions are to blame for moral turpitude and modern corruption (Rousseau singled out private property, the family, and unsurprisingly, the church). Both believe that the right kind of technocratic and sexual tinkering can save us and build a global, hedonist Utopia. Responses to critics of materialism and leftism tend to be either as incompetent as RB’s, intellectually dishonest, or both. Leftists especially are threatened by the avalanche of evidence against their dearest assumptions — to the point where some of their number will set out with efficiency and enthusiasm to destroy the careers of scientists who offer detailed exemplars of said evidence. Thus perhaps it should be unsurprising that leftist keyboard commandos, Jewish or not, go into attack mode when some of us take aim at their false premises and absurd canards.
RB sent me a extended reply indicating a number of things. First, his follow-up email was refreshingly free of insults and far more constructive. I was pleased to see this. He insisted (1) I’d misunderstood him, and responded based on my misunderstandings, thus attacking a straw man; (2) secular materialism survives my criticisms of it via its effects on culture; and (3) the real dangers to Western civilization are extreme right-wing Christians, which he was careful to distinguish from “mainstream” Christians of Protestant denominations.
Let me take these up in reverse order.
First, it’s a given that Christians are not all of a single type. No one says otherwise. Some are among the most systematic of thinkers (Notre Dame philosopher of religion Alvin Plantinga comes to mind). At the other end of a long continuum you will find raving dispensationalists who think the Rapture will happen any day now, or crazies whose answer to the problem of abortion is to bomb a clinic or shoot a doctor. Any worldview has a lot of intelligent and decent people supporting it as well as a few lunatics. I take this to be RB’s view of actual Christians.
He offers a term for (I presume) one school of extremists: Dominionism (or Dominion Theology). It’s a term I’ve encountered before. The idea has a Biblical basis. In Genesis 1:28 we read, referring to Adam and Eve, “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” So the idea of there being such a group is not crazy.
As a guy with a substantial library on Christian sects, movements, cults, etc., though, I’ve not encountered such a group. To make sure I hadn’t missed anything, I Google searched the Web once again. There is no single group calling itself that. There are, however, schools of thought who believe what RB and others who use the term Dominionism or Dominion Theology say they believe. One example is the school that followed R.J. Rushdoony which calls itself Christian Reconstructionism, which is authoritarian and ultimately theocratic at least by implication. Another group is the New Apostolic Reformation movement which promotes Christians reclaiming “the seven mountains of culture”: government, religion, media, family, business, education, and arts and entertainment, and who claim among their leaders author and church-growth guru C. Peter Wagner. One might also cite folks like Pat Robertson, I suppose, or the Moral Majority founded by the late Jerry Falwell.
I do not know, of course, if any of these are who RB had in mind. This is the problem when one makes broadsides about “right wingers” which do not include supporting links or specifics. I have no evidence that any of the above is a threat to the body politic; Robertson and Falwell's group lost their influence long ago. What you see with the others are groups of bookish older men who wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to acquire power in today’s environment, even within Christian circles, for (as RB himself notes) they are well outside the main line of Christian denominations. The handful of people who have bombed abortion clinics, moreover, have not had provable ties to organized groups. Whatever noises the latter make about, e.g., “stoning adulterers” according to Old Testament law, actually doing something violent would probably not occur to them.
Now I’m as open to a good “conspiracy” claim as anyone, as I’ve written about such claims at length, but I prefer claims for which there is evidence — often in the form of admissions by the “conspirators” themselves (writings of David Rockefeller Sr., Zbigniew Brzezinski, Henry Kissinger, Carroll Quigley, and so on), especially when combined with the deep pockets and extensive networks necessary to put their plans in motion. With the secular globalists I just listed, there is abundant evidence of a long term plan to establish a world government that would service global corporations: an arrangement variously called Corporatism or technofeudalism, or sometimes just the New World Order (although that term has been sullied by overuse).
There is no credible evidence of a Dominionist conspiracy pushing something like this. RB cited just one author in support of his views: a rabbi named James Rudin, author of a book entitled The Baptizing of America (2006). He couldn’t have known that I was already aware of the book and unimpressed by it. Rudin’s views, in addition to being dated (I seem to recall, he rants on and on about the Moral Majority), have many of the same problems as RB’s, adding slipshod Biblical exegesis and a blind support for Israel that is surely as fanatical as anything ascribable to “fundamentalists.” In the interests of full disclosure, I didn’t finish the book. It seemed as hypocritical as it was silly, and I have better uses of my time.
If secular Jews want to avoid charges of hypocrisy, they will condemn the Zionist theocracy run out of Tel Aviv that has “dominion” over Israel and demand justice for Palestinians in places such as Gaza who have been driven from their land and brutalized by the ongoing Israeli occupation. That’s another essay, obviously (this report drawing from boots-on-the-ground information will do for a start, however; the author, incidentally, is an atheist, not a Christian, if that means anything).
Overall, I’m inclined to dismiss claims of a Dominionist conspiracy that threatens the American body politic as a product of left-leaning secularists’ imaginations.
A second element of RB’s response denies that secularism has failed, ethically and culturally. To my astonishment he held out Europe as an exemplar of secularist success: to quote: “The supposedly Godless, wicked, hedonistic and permissive European countries are in fact in many ways much better off than much of America. Secularism has brought prosperity, progress, equality, freedom and happiness to Europe....” Those keeping up with current events know that au contraire, Europe is disintegrating. Native populations are dropping as people do not have children; the inequality leftists once cared about has skyrocketed especially since the EU elites gained power. The various countries are being overrun by unassimilable and often violent immigrants, nearly all of them Muslims. Perhaps RB should travel to Greece or in other southern European nations who have been strongarmed into embracing “austerity,” or cities in France or Germany being colonized by Muslims whose violence and sex crimes have grown legendary. As political correctness (PC) dominates national conversations there at least as much as in the U.S., no one is supposed to raise such issues. The truth remains, however: it is not the few remaining Christians in Europe who are gang-raping women and blowing things up.
RB points out — correctly, insofar as it goes — that we are talking about “only a tiny fraction of all the world’s more than a billion Muslims.” Unfortunately, the presumed silent majority have remained silent about the atrocities of that violent few, be they the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels; or about ISIS beheading Christians and apostates among their own, or burning people alive. Muslim atrocities include mutilating women and throwing homosexuals off the tops of tall buildings.
How can anyone with a functioning brain believe these people can assimilate into Western culture?
Even evangelical atheist and hard materialist Richard Dawkins recently observed, “There are no Christians, as far as I know, blowing up buildings…. I am not aware of any Christian suicide bombers. I am not aware of any major Christian denomination that believes the penalty for apostasy is death….” He added, “I have mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity, in so far as Christianity might be a bulwark against something worse.”
I must therefore reject RB’s embrace of secular Europe and defense of the idea of a “Christian Taliban” implying a cultural equivalence between the two worldviews: Christianity and Islam, because they share opposition to abortion, homosexuality, and gender-equivalence (which becomes “women’s rights and equality for women” in PC terminology); have a desire to teach their young their own traditions (“indoctrination” is the leftist term for this, as if what leftists are doing, e.g., in universities, is different); and reject Darwinism.
Europe’s secular materialism has proven defenseless against incursions by violent Muslims who have no reason to love the West (see below). Should secular materialism become even more the reigning worldview in the U.S. than it is now, the U.S. will be equally defenseless. This is crucial to understand, given the calls among the PC elements in the U.S. including the Obama administration to “resettle” Muslims in American communities without vetting to determine who is who, and who is likely to turn violent. Add to this the insinuation that anyone who questions this ongoing set of arrangements is a “racist.” Small wonder so many Americans are supporting Donald Trump, the only presidential candidate who unequivocally rejects the open borders mindset that got Europe into this mess.
Remember San Bernardino, Calif.? If such events become monthly or weekly occurrences, just remember, PC types and secularist exponents of "diversity," you were warned!
So did I misrepresent RB’s views or didn’t I? Without my reproducing the entire email he sent (it was quite long) readers are not really able to decide, of course, and that might seem to make this conversation a bit one-sided. RB is, of course, within his rights to publish articles on a blog of his own, including criticisms of me. Let me therefore just make a few scattered concluding remarks. RB contends that “the sexual revolution … did not cause mass debauchery in society as so many right-wingers seem to make it out to have done.” Well … people aren’t having sex in the streets, of course (although you’ll likely see some lurid sights in college bars following football victories). North Carolina, however, is presently under fire for a state law refusing “transgendered” (i.e., sexually confused and/or PC-addled) males access to women’s bathrooms. Christian businesses have been slammed with fines of such severity for refusing to bake wedding cakes for gay couples that it is clear that the intent is destruction of livelihood. People are being deprived of employment and income, moreover, for preaching against homosexuality and gay marriage. Pastors are being threatened with arrest and fines for refusing to perform same-sex marriages.
Should we believe nothing is amiss with secularism when, to enforce PC, the legal system openly sets out to destroy Christian businesses and ruin the lives of Christians exercising what used to be First Amendment rights (which included the right to practice their religion openly)? Should we lose sleep over claims of a Christian “right wing conspiracy” when pastors lose control over their own churches?
You be the judge.
RB tells me, “There are far worse things in America than Miley Cyrus performing nearly naked, and no one is being forced to watch her do this….” Following is a brief dissertation on the “beauty” of nudity. It can be beautiful, as in art, or lurid and degrading, as with someone spreading her legs on stage. It’s a matter of intent, and of context. RB does not appear to grasp this.
Nor did Alfred C. Kinsey (1894 – 1956), whose Kinsey Reports, studies of both male and female sexuality published in 1948 and 1953 respectively, did much to unleash the sexual revolution. Kinsey’s Institute for Sex Research, based at Indiana University and funded through the Rockefeller Foundation’s deep pockets, purposefully set out to destroy the ties between sexuality and morality. Kinsey and his team also manipulated statistics on the supposed variety of sexual practices by interviewing imprisoned pedophiles and not disclosing this to readers, as well as very likely engaging in criminal sexual conduct with children. Judith Reisman argued in her Kinsey: Crimes and Consequences (1998) that data on alleged child sexuality made public for the first time by Kinsey’s team could not have been obtained any other way.
The hard-left Southern Poverty Law Center labeled Reisman a “conspiracy theorist.” So it goes.
Kinsey was a materialist, of course, and he knew who was buttering his bread. There are good reasons for thinking the sexual revolution was not a mere accident or cultural misstep. The issue is not specific persons or political figures pushing “Communist” agendas. For the Corporatist world government mentioned above to ascend over the West, both the Christian worldview and Constitutionally limited government have to be discredited among intellectuals and in the political-economic centers. This worldview values, in addition to sexual responsibility, the family unit, a work ethic, acceptance of the fact that actions have consequences, a balance between self-reliance and community involvement, a disdain for laziness, respect for the rule of law as something more than what politicians decree or what judges and bureaucrats hand down, and the idea that concentrations of power are dangerous. It rejects Utopianism. It recognizes that traditions, Christian or otherwise, are not simply arbitrary intellectual products, able to be changed at will, but organic entities shaped by generations of effective practice. They reflect who we are as human beings, and what renders our communities stable, if imperfect. These are the only things that make a mostly free society with Constitutional controls on government possible.
But again, this is another, lengthier essay.
In sum, one can agree, there are worse things than public near-nudity and displays of debauchery. But it dawns on me that with the global reach of today’s technology, especially the Internet now easily accessible via hand-held devices, there is absolutely nothing to prevent Muslim children from accessing Miley Cyrus’s (or other Western celebrities’) performances. Or the children of Hindus or Buddhists or other faiths.
No one is “being forced to watch,” some will say. True, and irrelevant. Not every “free choice” is a good one. There are reasons Anglo-European culture is distrusted elsewhere in the world. Some go beyond U.S. militarism and control in the name of extracting other nations’ natural resources, although those have been sufficient to make us enemies (Iran is an example). Perhaps the wiser of other faiths sense the destructive potential of materialism and secularism to unleash a pleasure-über-Alles mindset. Do parents or other adults in non-Western, non-secular cultures have a right to protect their children from this if that is their choice, or do they not? If not, then who makes that choice for them? Western secularists? By what standard, and on whose authority?