Thursday, November 12, 2009

Christian Nation

I try to keep up with as many of the local blogs as possible. One I check out pretty regularly is called Mark In Spokane. Mark and I are politically very much at opposite ends. I do have to admit though that I really like the fact that he’s a history buff. I love everything history, I can never get enough books or documentaries. He seems to stick to right-wing topics and religion. pretty much can boil it down to “Obama sucks, GO GOD!” (IN FAIRNESS TO MARK, THIS WAS MY ATTEMPT AT A BAD JOKE, CHECK OUT HIS SITE), really there's more than that, but it seemed funny to write. Here’s a topic in particular that I have a problem with:

“An interesting observation, built upon the expression of the idea that while America is a secular polity, that polity is built upon the bedrock of an essentially Christian culture:

America is a Christian nation; this is a matter of fact, not of opinion. Whether America will remain a Christian nation is matter for argument, perhaps: the creation of special rights for pathics, for instance, indicates that Christian morals are going by the board; and the prevalence of abortion, the deliberate destruction of one's offspring, is another suggestion that both Christian belief and Christian morals have begun to succumb to total religious indifference, if not yet to atheism. But if Christian faith and morals will be generally rejected by the coming of the twenty-first century, then probably the whole culture will disintegrate, the material culture as well as the intellectual and moral culture; and human existence here will become poor, nasty, brutish, and short: unless some quite new culture, which as yet nobody can imagine, should rise up. Any such unnameable innovative culture, to endure, would require some transcendent sanction, perhaps some theophanic event -- something more enduring than mere Marxist ideology, which was a violent attempt at a new faith and a new culture.

- Russell Kirk, Renewing a Shaken Culture (1992).”

Let’s go down this piece by piece. I have to admit that I had to look up what a pathic is, it’s basically a guy who takes it up the butt from another guy. I’d like to know what special rights homosexual men have received. The only thing I can figure is that by special rights he meant we no longer beat them to death in abandoned fields late at night. Of course if he wants a return to Christian morals, he may want a return to executing gays, along with atheists, adulterers, and people who don’t observe the Sabbath. Jesus did have a couple of good (but not original) moral ideas, love they neighbor, do unto others…, etc. But do we really need a 2,000 year old glorified book of Aesop's Fables to tell us how to live our lives?

He then suggests that everything will probably go downhill without a Christian or some other type of theist culture. He (Russell Kirk) thinks multiculturalism (the fraud as he says), the endeavor of militant secular humanists and the (again as Kirk says) heresy of democracy, or assuming that one man is equal to another will lead to this great calamity. I don’t understand his problem with multiculturalism, being as we were formed by different races in a country stolen from another people. I think people tend to forget that black people have been here almost as long as we have and that American Indians were originally here. So if we really want to be faithful to the American culture we should revert to the Indians culture. His problem with those dangerous, militant secular humanists comes back to atheism which I’ll get to. Then he has a problem with democracy and everyone being considered equal. I’ll give it to him that not everyone is equal. But who would decide everyone’s worth? There would be no practical way because everyone will have a different idea of how to decide someone’s worth. So it’s an impractical idea and therefore not worth bitching about.

I’m not sure why atheism is such a horrible thing. Mr. Kirk prattles on about how we need God (he seems to favor the Christian God, Zeus apparently won’t cut it) to be good and secularism leads to all types of naughty activities. Mark may know his history, but Mr. Kirk obviously skipped that class as a kid. He must have at least missed the part about witch burnings, crusades, executing homosexuals, imprisoning Galileo and other thinkers and all the other fun stuff that went along with Christianity. Of course, after only having read a little about Russell Kirk, I think he might have favored torture and killing, as long as the Bible says it’s okay. Mr. Kirk never really seems to get around to giving specific reasons or data that proves atheism leads to depravity. He alludes to Stanlinist Russia. The thing I’d point out here is that the Russian commies believed in complete, unquestioning faith in communism and their leader and basically turned it into a religion or personality cult. One thing most atheists will agree on (there’s not much) is that we all dislike unquestioning faith, regardless of where the faith is being placed.

I had to show you this brilliant line in crazy Kirk’s lecture.

“Religion restrains the passions and the appetites: and sensate natures flout restraints.”

I think it’s possible that Mr. Kirk occasionally got doped out of his mind before writing. In what ways does religion restrain the passions. If fondling little boys, blowing up oneself in large crowds and murdering doctors is them showing restraint I think we might need to buy an island for atheists where we can escape when they really lose it. Now I’m no Christopher Hitchens to say that religion has never done any good, which it has and does, but come on, the list of religions misdeeds would fill up a library.

To sum it up, Russell Kirk seems to have been a teensie bit racist, Bible thumper. Of course that’s not a good reason to dismiss his ideas, but I think his lack of evidence gives us the reason we need. I haven’t read a lot of Kirk, so if anyone does know of any evidence he gives for his atheism=bad equation please email me. Unlike theists, I place importance in data and evidence.


  1. First, interesting blog. I'm glad I found it.

    Second, my blog is a little bit more than right-wing ranting about Obama. I'm no fan of the current president or the Democrats in Congress, but I've got lots on my blog other than stuff about that. And if you check my blog-rolls, you'll see lots of links to Democrat, Libertarian and liberal sites. C'mon -- I'll take my lumps when I deserve them, but I think your characterization of my blog isn't really accurate.

    Third, you need to do a little more reading about Kirk before you try to characterize him. Kirk is a Burkean -- he isn't really somebody that can be labeled by modern political categories. He was a conservative, but not an ideologue. And not a racist. He opened him home to refugees from all over the world -- Africa, Asia, Latin America.

    Fourth: Kirk was no biblical literalist! He expressly denied that fundamentalism could be the basis of any kind of cultural or social renewal. He knew that the world was far more complex than the picture painted by any kind of fundamentalism (including secular fundamentalism).

    Fifth: While Kirk was a believer, he began his intellectual life as an atheist. He was quite familiar with unbelief.

    Read some Kirk!

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  3. The "Obama Sucks, Go GOD!" comment was my lame attempt at a bad joke.

    My problem with Kirk is not so much his ideas, it's the lack of evidence. He seems to say that we need theism to be a good and productive society, but, and I may be taking his article further than he intended, the opposite of this is that atheists are incapable of forming a moral and productive society. This may be true, but he doesn't provide evidence. Also, as evidence to the opposite I would look at Norway. Arguably one of the most secular places on Earth that enjoys a very high quality of life.

    The other thing is that he makes a statment but doesn't provide evidence, and I know I'm guilty of this, but it should be pointed out when it happens. For instance he says that gays receive special rights, but doesn't say what those rights are and I find myself ignorant of any rights they have that I would consider "special".

    Thanks for commenting. I make no great claim to intelligence and appreciate you pointing out my mistakes.

  4. Well, Kirk does argue from evidence -- but it is evidence from custom and tradition. Remember when I said that Kirk was a Burkean? To Edmund Burke, the most important facts about any given society were its customs and traditions. So, if you read Kirk with that in mind, you'll see that he is referencing lots of data. Just not social science data or other types of emperical data.

    As for Kirk's squishness when it comes to defining some of his terms, you're right about that -- but most of the stuff he is squishy about isn't the real focus of his presentation. Kirk didn't get all that upset about particulars -- he was concerned with trends and with the deeper roots of culture.

    Finally, thanks for letting me know about the joke. I didn't get it. Don't let that stop you from using humor, though. I sometimes use humor in ways that others don't quite "get." Better to be a little risky on this point than to shut down and not try to interject some humor into your blog!