Who Is the Enemy?

Embarkation_of_the_Pilgrims

For about forty years, the public high school in my home town did not have a basketball court.  They finally supplied the lack when they and two towns got together into the fourteenth plague of Egypt, the Consolidated School District, and built an enormous complex in no man’s land, inaccessible by foot to all but a handful of the district’s fifteen thousand people.

But that didn’t mean that the school lacked for a basketball team.  They had one.  They simply had to use someone else’s court.  In my town, the someone else was the Catholic parish.

An iron-willed old priest, Father Comerford, had determined to build a parish hall, largely with funds from his own relations.  The hall had three stories.  On the first two were meeting rooms, a billiard room, a library, and a place where you could enjoy mild refreshments.  The third floor was a basketball court, with bleachers along one side, and a large stage at one end, so that the court could also be used as a dance floor or as an auditorium for concerts and plays.

Some years later, an order of nuns petitioned the pastor to come to our town and to turn the first two stories into a Catholic grade school.  They did so, and the school, Saint Thomas Aquinas, persisted until about twenty years ago, when declining enrollments compelled them to merge with the Catholic school in the next borough.  It was the school I attended as a child.  At its peak, it served four hundred children, about fifty in each of the eight classrooms, for grades one through eight.  It was located cater-corner to the public high school.  A few lots to the left of both schools were the rectory, Saint Thomas Aquinas Church, and the convent.

That proximity was more than happenstance.  There was a strong sense that, with some differences, what went on in one school was what went on in the other, with the similarities going in both directions.  There were real bonds between them; certainly, at the least, a bond of genuine good will.  As I’ve said, the public school’s basketball team made free use of our court.  When my mother attended that high school, the teachers would make sure, once a week, that the Catholic students trooped on across the street for religious instruction.  It was taken for granted that religion was a personal and a public good.  Had there been a Hebrew school across the street, and had there been Jewish children in my town, they would have trooped them on over for their instruction too.

None of this was controversial.  Why should it have been?  The textbooks in use all across the country still bore the strong imprint of a religious culture.  You didn’t have to go to a religious school to read the twenty-third psalm, or Milton, or any of the dozens of other writers our language has produced, who spoke about God and man.  When Christmas came around, they too sang carols.  Nobody would have thought it offensive in a valedictorian to give public thanks to God.  Why should they have?  Why should such a thing be treated as worse than an obscenity?  For obscenity now lays claim to greater protection than piety can.

I experienced some of this friendship myself, for a few months, when I attended the public grade school after we moved back to our hometown in the middle of a school year.  Mrs. McAndrew sometimes sat at the piano—we had a piano in our classroom—and played the hymn, Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.  An excellent Protestant hymn it is, which any believer in God can sing, because it doesn’t refer to Jesus.  Nobody thought that that was strange.

And of course, for two centuries in American life, it wasn’t strange.  Why should it have been?  If you look at one of the nation’s founding laws, the Northwest Ordinance, you see the lawmakers providing for public education in the new territories, precisely on the grounds that religion and piety are to be promoted.  To believe that the same men who wrote that law wanted what Richard Neuhaus called “the naked public square,” scoured blank, empty of any common devotion to God, or even of any timid reference to Him in such public settings as a school or a court, is not to believe that they were merely inconsistent or inattentive.  It is to believe that they were quite insane, all of them.  And it is to believe that Americans for generation upon generation did not understand the most fundamental law of their own country, the Constitution.

That strains credulity.  The more obvious conclusion to draw is that in America, as opposed to the atheistic salons of revolutionary Paris, there never was a felt conflict between religious faith and the common good.  Rather, the common good was unattainable without religion; and we can find statesmen of varying degrees of piety, and in various words, saying as much: Washington, Adams, and Madison, for example.  The first amendment’s only clause, grammatically, is simply “Congress shall make no law,” and what follows is meant to tie the hands of Congress, not the hands of the people in their localities, with their devotions and their customs.  It is a veto on one kind of legal action, and a franchise for ordinary local and cultural action.

Well, from that time until this, much juridical water has gone under the manholes, so that we must now defend in national courts the right of some high school football players to stitch a cross to their uniforms in memory of a deceased teammate.  Madness—but where has it come from?

The Founders did not want Congress to establish a particular denomination as a national church, like the Church of England; though they allowed the individual states to keep such establishments if they had them.  That was attributable to their memory of the English civil war and the so-called religious wars in Europe in the early seventeenth century.  (I write “so-called,” because religion was usually a mere pretext for what were wars of nationalism; and that explains why Catholic France fought alongside the Protestants and not the Catholics.)  But where is that strife now?

It’s been more than two centuries since Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, and our more or less peace-loving country has fought many wars, including the extraordinarily pointless World War I, and the extraordinarily bloody and destructive World War II.  In which of these wars was strife between Christian denominations of any moment at all?  Or think of what the whole world has been through.  With the important and perennial exception of Islam, all of the world’s wars have had to do with the usual things that men fight for—land, wealth, glory, power, vengeance, fear, and bloodlust.

And maybe there is one more exception: doctrinaire secularism.  The “faith” of no faith moved Stalin to murder his millions in the Ukraine, and Mao to murder his tens of millions throughout the vast rural territories of China.  Secularism is a bloody business, because, without God, man is affixed to the terrible adverb “only,” and there is very little you cannot do to someone who is “only” a counter in an economic tally, or a pawn in a vast historical battlefield, or an organic machine consuming food and water, or whatever.

Yet, for all that, our elites, our culture-stranglers, somehow still behave as if the next war is going to break out between southern Baptists and Roman Catholics; and this, when Christian denominations are friendlier to one another than ever, and people of all faiths except one practice tolerance to a fault.

What is the explanation?  Don’t they see that only God can really unite people, and only religion can really teach the difficult virtues?

Perhaps they do see that.  I’m now persuaded that secularists fear and despise religion, and want all traces of it obliterated from public life, not because they believe that religion teaches vice, but because they know that it can teach virtue.  They throw the word “theocrat” around very freely, because they sense that the least return to sanity will put their monopoly of power in jeopardy.  They are the theocrats, and see all things accordingly.  He that is giddy thinks the world goes round.

Editor’s note: The image above titled “Embarkation of the Pilgrims” was painted by Robert Walter Weir and commissioned by Congress in 1837. The painting of this religious scene has hung in the U.S. Capital rotunda since 1844.

Anthony Esolen

By

Professor Esolen teaches Renaissance English Literature and the Development of Western Civilization at Providence College. He is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine and the author of many books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Books, 2010) and Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013). His most recent books are Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching (Sophia Institute Press, 2014); Defending Marriage (Tan Books, 2014); and Life Under Compulsion (ISI Books, 2015).

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    The Constitutional prohibition on religious tests for public office only makes sense on the supposition that private beliefs do not affect the discharge of public duties. It presupposes that the religious beliefs of such office-bearers will not intervene in, or have any impact on, their official conduct and the relations between them and private citizens.

    It is here in Article VI, and not in the First Amendment, that one find the principle of the separation of Church and State. It signifies an absence of political intervention in religious matters and an absence of religious sway over political authority. In Europe, this is known as laïcité.

    It astonishes me that American Catholics appear oblivious of this.

    • fredx2

      II think you have misinterpreted the “no religious test” clause. It does not separate church and state at all, nor does it have anything to do with keeping religion out of the public sphere.The purpose of the provision was to insure that the government could not keep people of any particular religious belief from holding office. In other words, public offices may be held by people of any religion. The purpose was to allow all religions to hold office, not to separate the church from the state, (Which was never an intent of the framers anyway)

      • Glenn M. Ricketts

        Exactly. It no doubt was in reaction to the 1673 Test Act, whereby Parliament required all public officeholders, commissioned officers in the military and other officials to receive Holy Communion at least once a year to indicate that they were members in good standing of the C of E Michael’s comment, I think, confuses this with French secularism, which is something quite different.

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          Yes, but the reason membership of the C of E was required was because non-conformity was deemed incompatible with a fundamental constitutional principle, namely, that the Crown is “over all persons and in all causes, as well ecclesiastical as temporal, throughout his dominions supreme.”

          In France, too, to deny religion was to deny the authority of the Most Christian King, ruling by the grace of God.

          • Glenn M. Ricketts

            That need not have excluded other faiths. But at the time – with the English civil war of very recent memory and the Popish Plot in the near future, the Test Act reflected popular sentiments that Papists were likely traitors and Calvinists radical anti-monarchists. The latter, at least, carried more than a grain of truth.

            • Michael Paterson-Seymour

              The Covenanters in Scotland, who were staunch Calvinists, were outright opponents of the Royal Supremacy, which they saw as conflicting with their favorite maxim of the “Crown Rights of Christ”

              As for Catholics, in 1673, James, Duke of York was heir presumptive and an avowed Catholic and not a few people suspected his brother Charles II of being a secret one. After all, they had a French Catholic mother and had taken refuge in that country during the Civil War and the Commonwealth and Protestants feared they would appoint Catholics to infuential positions, if they could (in which they were probably right)

              • Charles Ryder

                Whenever the subject of King James II arises, I am time and again reduced to laughter by the slenderness of the evidence his critics, from Macaulay and Trevelyan downward, have dredged up to use against him. When a monarch’s most tyrannical act of state was foisting an unworthy president on Magdalen College, Oxford, I must say that the unsympathetic historian’s supply of rhetorical ammunition must be desperately low.

                • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                  Here in the West of Scotland, James VII & II is remembered as the man who wanted to subject the nation, not only to “popery and slavery,” but, perhaps more importantly, to “wooden shoes and brass money.”

                  One recalls the poem

                  “The scarlet woman will be here to sit within oor ha’,
                  For when ye see a Bishop, John, the Paip’s no far awa’.
                  They’ll soon be here to tithe ye—they’ll tithe both stot and stirk;
                  O! waes me for the Covenant, and waes me for the Kirk! ”

                  James’s name is always linked to “Bludie Clavers,” aka “Bonny Dundee” and “the gloryof the Grahams.”

                  • Glenn M. Ricketts

                    Michael, that certainly is a specimen of the impassioned hyperbole of that era, but how much of is historically accurate?

                    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                      Not at all accurate, but I find the blend of spiritual and economic concerns rather amusing.

                      In Britain, the ruling class of landed gentry were great impropriators of former Church lands (and they knew it). In France, too, Bossuet shrewdly observed that Calvin and Beza appealed to the bourgeoisie, because they were the first theologians in history to sanction usury

                  • Charles Ryder

                    Yes, the refusal toleration to Covenanters still in arms against their lawfully appointed sovereign really is the mark of the Antichrist. 😉

                    • slainte

                      What caused the Covenanters who relocated from Scotland to the north of Ireland to develop such a profound love of and loyalty to monarchy?

                    • Charles Ryder

                      The fact that Dutch William the usurper allowed them to ride roughshod over the native population. Remind me, how well were the terms of the Treaty of Limerick honored by the Protestant oligarchy?

                    • slainte

                      The injustices perpetrated by the English Crown and the Calvinists (English Puritans and Scots Covenanters) against the native Irish are so overwhelming that the scope of their cruelty is almost impossible to fathom.

                      An article dated January 27, 2013 by John Martin, “The Irish Slave Trade – The Forgotten “White” Slaves” details the enslavement and deportation of the native Irish to Jamaica, the U.S, and Monserrat beginning with K. James I, then Oliver Cromwell and continuing well into the Hanoverian period. http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-irish-slave-trade-the-forgotten-white-slaves/31076

                      Cromwell, that pious Calvinist jackal, personally enslaved and deported exclusively Irish children.

                      All of the foregoing occurred before the genocide of the Famine in 1845-1852.

                      I cannot assign any virtue or goodness to the English Crown or those Calvinists Puritans and Covenanters who participated in such treachery.The blood of the innocents is on their hands.

                      William of Orange was just another protestant prince willing to steal a throne with the complicity of an English Princess Mary who, like her husband, placed greater importance on the acquisition of power than on honoring her father and brother. William and Mary killed innocents to satisfy their own ambition. Curiously, the history books record this aberration as a Glorious Revolution. Their royal legacy, since God denied them children, is the Troubles in the north of Ireland which never seem to ebb away; a fitting reminder of their perfidy.

                    • Kilo4/11

                      Emotion eloquently expressed in the service of truth. And insight into the mystery (for non-Irish) of the Troubles. Thank you.

                • Glenn M. Ricketts

                  Given what I’ve seen in college presidents in my own career, I’d say that is a crime of the utmost monstrosity.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        “the government could not keep people of any particular religious belief from holding office”

        But if Jains and Sikhs, equally with Hindus and Muslims are eligable for public office, this implies that their personal beliefs will make no difference to the proper dischargeof those duties.

        • Glenn M. Ricketts

          As a political matter, they would no doubt deem it prudent to give assurances to that effect, as JFK did in 1960 when he spoke to an assembly of protestant ministers in Houston Texas. Henry Kissinger made similar remarks about his Judaism when he became secretary of state. But I can’t see where it is something required by the US Constitution.

          • Michael Paterson-Seymour

            Of course that would be prudent, but to make it a legal requirement would flatly contradict the prohibition on religious tests.

            • Glenn M. Ricketts

              Yes it would. I guess I misunderstood your previous comment.

              • slainte

                What the “no religious test” accomplishes among public officials, “pluralism” accomplishes among the general public,,,both shut down the active practice of the faith by the faithful. They neutralize God’s command to share the Good News with the world.

                Both cause religion to be “privatized” and removed from the public square. Most people don’t even realize that they are being indirectly controlled. Quite fascinating really.

                • Glenn M. Ricketts

                  But Slainte, wouldn’t you say that’s a relatively recent development of the last half century of activist jurisprudence by the Supreme Court? I can’t imagine that the Framers of the Constitution or their successors for a long time envisioned the circumstances under discussion here. I guess things aren’t totally gone yet, since our family still says grace when we eat out, and we haven’t been arrested or charged with public hate, etc. As I said though: not yet.

                  • slainte

                    But I wonder could your children recite grace in a public school cafeteria or ask their friends to join with them without running afoul of school policies against mentioning God?

                    We need to return God and religion to our society. A religious people are usually a moral people…and as our Founders have reminded us, we need a moral people to effectively manage a society founded on Liberty and self governance.

                    Children raised in a religious household usually make the sort of moral citizens needed to restore America.

                    • Glenn M. Ricketts

                      No they could not – things are not what they were. My own children couldn’t pray publicly in that manner but my grandchildren do it for every meal since they’re home-schooled. On the other hand, I’ve heard tell of a public community college in the mid-west that does provide a chapel for Muslim students to pray in – no constitutional barriers there, eh? It’s a matter of “culture,” say the college’s authorities.

        • Peregrinus

          Non sequitur, Michael. The implication is that personal religious beliefs will not provoke a person to act treacherously against the Republic, and not that those beliefs will have no effect at all. The framers of the Constitution certainly allowed their own personal religious beliefs to inform their actions; and they would not have anticipated that their successors in the government would have done otherwise.

    • Augustus

      Article Vi does not contradict what Dr. Esolen argued in his piece. If the First Amendment is meant to prohibit religious favoritism on the part of the federal government, then it necessarily follows that all citizens be allowed to participate in civic life regardless of their religious beliefs. This does not mean that religious belief should not inform the decisions of public officials. It does mean that public officials should represent the interests of their constituents who are often religiously diverse. Thus when the federal government does take a position vis-a-vis public morality or religious expression, it is reflective of the religious sentiment of the country. Jefferson’s famous 1802 letter to the Connecticut Baptists did not call for the removal of religion from public life in the states, only that the federal government would not favor one denomination over another–that is, he promised to uphold the First Amendment. Ironically, this “wall of separation between Church and State” avoided the complaint of the Baptists who were objecting to religious favoritism in Connecticut which Jefferson refused to condemn. His letter thus confirms Dr. Esolen’s interpretation of our Constitutional order regarding the role of religion in public life. Therefore, while there is no religious prohibition on who can hold public office, the public is free to vote for officials who reflect their religious preferences. That’s how religious liberty works in the United States–or should work.

    • DE-173

      It astonishes me how you have the arrogance to lecture Americans from Scotland.

      • Glenn M. Ricketts

        O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
        To see oursels as ithers see us!

        • Rob B.

          I read that Burns’ poem in high school. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Glenn! 🙂

          • Glenn M. Ricketts

            It’s like many others no longer read – a real shame, since there’s such wit and wisdom there.

      • slainte

        Maybe because he is brilliant and oftentimes humble. : )

    • slainte

      MPS writes: “It signifies an absence of political intervention in religious matters and an absence of religious sway over political authority…”

      Article VI of the U.S Constitution provides, in part:

      “…The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States…”

      While it is clear that the effects of the “no religious Test” have caused a privitization of religion among office holders and thus an “absence of religious sway over political authority”, not unlike what pluralism has accomplished in American society in general, it is not clear to me why you view Article VI as causing “an absence of political intervention in religious matters”. Article VI is silent on the latter issue.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        The absence of a religious test only makes sense, if the duties of office-bearers do not include the regulation of ecclesiastical affairs or the exercise of Church patronage, but in which the state observes a kind of neutrality

        In other words, it presupposes the sort of system described by Lord Acton, “the right of religious communities to the practice of their own duties, the enjoyment of their own constitution, and the protection of the law, which equally secures to all the possession of their own independence.”

        It assumes a separation, not between religion and politics, which is plainly impossible, but a separation between the state and its administration on the one hand and civil society on the other, civil society being the domain, not only of individuals but of groups and associations (and thus of churches and religious communities).

        • Glenn M. Ricketts

          Here in the United States, at least, that depends on contexts and circumstances. The New York Times, for example, that bastion of enlightened liberal secularism applauded then governor of NY Mario Cuomo when he assured us that , although he as a Catholic was – are you ready? – “personally opposed to abortion,” he would not seek to impose his private religious views on others or fail to adhere to the secular laws by which he was bound. But later, the Times also lionized Cuomo when, on grounds of his religiously-based opposition to the death penalty, he refused to sign extradition papers for an escapee from death row in Oklahoma. There you are, said the Times, we need more public witnesses for faith like governor Cuomo. It all depends, you see.

          • Michael Paterson-Seymour

            Neither case involves “the regulation of ecclesiastical affairs or the exercise of Church patronage” Examples would be the British sovereign appointing a bishop or giving the royal assent to a measure of the General Synod or the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council hearing appeals from the church courts

            • Glenn M. Ricketts

              But that wasn’t my point. I was referring to the supposed need for keeping private religious views and motivations out of the Public Square, except when the NY TImes and other secularists think it’s acceptable.

            • slainte

              What the federal government cannot do directly it accomplishes indirectly through the taxing power, the commerce clause, or refusing to grant exemptions to broad based legislation whose ancillary effects necessarily impede on ecclesiastical institutions. (ie.,Obamacare mandate to provide contraceptive and abortion services is sustained by the U.S Supreme Court as a legitimate measure under the taxing power).

              On the state level, the Connecticut Judiciary committee in 2009 proposed a bill to strip Roman Catholic bishops of their authority to govern fiscal and administrative diocesan affairs.

              http://www.cga.ct.gov/2009/TOB/S/2009SB-01098-R00-SB.htm

              http://www.tldm.org/News12/ConnecticutLegislatureMovesToRegulateCatholicChurch.htm

              The neutral state, if it ever existed, is no longer neutral in its treatment of religious institutions and individual freedom of conscience.

          • slainte

            The ability for a public official to exercise his/her faith in public office comes full stop at the altar of those liberties deemed sacred by the church of the secular elite…among the most sacred of their liberties is the golden calf of Abortion against which no limitation may be imposed.
            .
            On matters of lesser importance which do not encroach the sacred liberties, political discretion…even faith based discretion…is permitted but not encouraged.

            • DE-173

              The “church of the secular elite”. I love it.

            • Glenn M. Ricketts

              Right. And since Catholics are the largest single group seeking throw the golden calf into the fire …… well, that does it, i suppose.

      • Kilo4/11

        In fact, an argument could be made that the “no religious test” clause is in itself a “political intervention in religious matters”. It prevents any assemblage of co-religionists from forming local governments based on the majority’s will that theirs should be a community of – pick your religion. What would have been the harm, for example, in Maryland being allowed to have a religious test favoring Catholics, or Pennsylvania doing likewise for Quakers?

    • Nick_from_Detroit

      I fail to see how Article VI’s prohibition of a religious test for “any Office or public Trust” in the U.S. protects a confession or creed from “political intervention”? Would you please elaborate?
      Also, one does not need to go as far back as the English Civil War to find the impetus for the “no religious Test” language in Article VI. The Framers lived with the anti-Catholic bigotry which still persisted from that period. Most of the colonies had anti-Catholic laws still on the books up to the Revolutionary era. Catholics were prohibited, by statute, from holding office and voting in New England & Maryland. New York’s 1777 constitution allowed for religious toleration, but, Catholics were denied full citizenship until 1806.

      The Church, historically, has always needed protection from State encroachment. The State? Not so much. Most of the Founding Fathers understood the fact that separating morality & religion from society & government always leads to ruin.
      Office holders do not lose their rights to conscience and free speech just because they get a paycheck from the taxpayers. And, high-school students don’t lose their right to religious expression at sporting & graduation events because they are provided by public schools.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        “The Church, historically, has always needed protection from State encroachment”

        And never more so than from rulers anxious to preserve her unity, from Frederic II in the 12th century in Germany to Louis XIV in the 17th century in France.

        Religious tests only make sense in a confessional state and their absence presupposes a government that confines itself to temporal affairs.

        • Nick_from_Detroit

          Wrong, on both counts.
          Rulers & governments, historically, have tried to interfere with the subjects and roles that are proper only for the Catholic Church. Things like theology, doctrine, care for the poor & the sick. Government is not competent to address these societal concerns. The Church, as part of Her societal role, has always had the right to comment and make judgments on policy. In societies that elect their rulers, She has the duty to address the problems occurring them.

          The fact that religious tests were not absent at the time of the Founding is precisely why they had to be prohibited in the Constitution. So, your assertion is false. Religious tests to hold office were NOT absent, they were banned.
          And, banning them did not protect a church body or religious creed from government interference. The First Article of Amendment did. So, my original question stands.

  • elarga

    I thought there were 10 plagues.

    • Geraldine Duddleston Young

      It’s hyperbole. Apparently the Consolidated School District is akin to a plague.

  • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

    “I’m now persuaded that secularists fear and despise religion, and want all traces of it obliterated from public life, not because they believe that religion teaches vice, but because they know that it can teach virtue.” Pursuing this line of thought further, it seems to me that, as they know it can teach virtue, they oppose that completely and want the dominance of vice. They want the license to be able to do whatever they want to do, whenever they want to do it, for whatever reason they want to do it. In other words, rather contradictorally, they want ordered chaos and anarchy, i.e. chaos and anarchy that allow them to pursue their pleasures. Those pleasures and behaviors, if allowed to go unfettered, will ultimately lead to chaos, but at the same time they want the state to remain stable so they have the time to pursue those pleasures. So they use the state to tell others to “tolerate” their sinful and destructive behaviors and use the state to try and maintain the peaceful order necessary for them to do their wanton behavior at night and still wake up in the morning to go to work. But if their way completely takes over, our entire society will lose any semblance of order and we will descend to outright anarchy.

    • Tamsin

      There is a strong element of free-riding on “the breeders”, the as-yet-sexually reproducing proletariat.

      • Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

        Indeed. And free-loading off of women in particular: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2014/10/13867/

        • DE-173

          I remain convinced that the establishment, expansion and maintenance of socially disordered ideas that find no quarter in how people naturally arrange their lives, must be accomplished through campaigns that are ferocious and inhuman.

    • D.T. McCameron

      They want the license to be able to do whatever they want to do, whenever they want to do it, for whatever reason they want to do it.

      Caesar give us license; only God grants us liberty.

      “But if their way completely takes over, our entire society will lose any semblance of order and we will descend to outright anarchy”

      Anarchy is just a phase, really: the birth cries of a tyranny that’ll fill the void with comforting, comforting order.

      But never peace.

  • Fred

    Sometimes when I wonder in amazement at the mess that is our modern secular, humanist centered society I think back on the brats in the Willy Wonka movie. Unfortunately, in the movie at least crass behavior was met with swift rebuke but in life it seems the insanity spirals ever downward. It seems to me that those that don’t have a foundation in the truth of Christ end up making it up as they go along, ever changing, ever searching, ever frustrated, never satisfied. Some, kind of like me, eventually open their hearts which is why we should never give up hope in the business of saving lost souls. However, nor should we be naive to the dangers that those who hate Christ can inflict either.

  • Vinnie

    “…the common good was unattainable without religion;” It seems, like the alcoholic, we will have to hit our bottom before we realize this again.

  • mary moore

    For an organization as powerful as the Catholic church to play the persecuted victim is ridiculous.
    Over-the-top hate speech about “secularitsts” doesn’t help, either.
    Maybe a new perspective is in order, exemplified by a new motto: “Let’s keep the Christ in Christianity.”

    • Daniel P

      Where is the “hate speech” in this essay? I must be blind, cause I didn’t see it.

      • Vinnie

        I found it. “Secularism is a bloody business,…” Though what Tony said is true; it’s whatever she doesn’t want to hear.

      • mary moore

        Re-read the last paragraph. It’s pretty nasty.

        • DE-173

          You’ve confused accurate with nasty.

        • Rob B.

          Only to people who advocate the attitude Dr. Esolen is criticizing. Of course, it seems like every secularist has a very thin skin regarding criticism…

    • Tony

      “Hate speech” is an effeminate term meant to shut down debate. All it means is, “You should not be passionate in your condemnation of something that I like.” It is a plain fact that secular ideologies have drenched the world in blood. The article, though, recalls a time when there was an ordinary and pleasant relationship between civic life and the virtue of piety.

      • mary moore

        UNSUBSCRIBE!

        • Dick Prudlo

          Mary, please do. You don’t add anything to the discussion but your ignorance.

          • mary moore

            Why can’t you stand to read any comments that disagree with your point of view? is your faith in your beliefs really that shaky?

            • Dick Prudlo

              Mary, it was your idea, not mine. I don’t disagree with your unsubscribe, I celebrate it, dear.

              • mary moore

                That message didn’t come from me. I have no intention of unsubscribing.

                • Dick Prudlo

                  ok

                  • mary moore

                    I think it was posted inadvertently by someone at Crisis magazine. They’re probably going to block me from posting. Again. And they won’t succeed. Again. Where else can I be accused of being an effeminate female who flounces her shoulders?
                    Peace!

                    • Dick Prudlo

                      And to you.

                    • DE-173

                      Funny that when you click on “Vinny”, “Mary Moore” appears.
                      Apparently, we have a new disruption technique.

                    • Tony

                      I choose my words precisely. I was explaining the use of the word “effeminate,” comparing it to its counterpart, “mannish.” I never said that YOU flounced your shoulders; and then, gosh, you proceeded to do just that. The point is, when men argue with one another, they understand that it is out of bounds to call attention to the supposedly bad emotions of the opponent. Did Aristophanes indulge in “hate speech” when he regularly eviscerated Cleon on stage? Did anybody say that Cicero was just too mean when he inveighed against Catiline?

                      There are times in public life when words had better not be minced. But we are fast approaching a state in which it will be quite impossible for anybody to say anything that might irritate the touchiest among us, or those who pretend to be so. Just when we need people like Swift and Dryden, too.

            • Tony

              “Effeminate” is to “feminine” as “mannish” is to “manly.” There are virtues that come more easily to one sex than to another, although none of the virtues is really easy; and there are vices that one sex is more prone to than the other. The woman who takes criticism of her point of view as a personal affront, who flounces her shoulders or starts to sniffle, is to her sex what the bullish, boorish, swaggering man-boy is to his. Men and women have always known these things, but for a long time now it has been impossible even to suggest that women are prone to any vices at all.

              Men, left to their own devices, would never invent so absurd a thing as “hate speech,” because it diverts attention from the truth of what is said to the supposed psychology of the person who says it. But that psychology is irrelevant. It also suggests that there are things that shouldn’t be hated. But we are instructed to hate sin. Not sinners, but sin. If John hates the sinner rather than the sin, that is a problem for John and his confessor, and not for me if I am to judge impartially whether what he hates is really evil or not. His motives don’t enter into it.

              • mary moore

                “Flounces her shoulders or starts to sniffle”? You’re digging yourself in even deeper.

                • GG

                  You’re digging yourself in even deeper.

                • M

                  Mary, I’m sorry about the repugnant and patronizing treatment you are receiving here. Please know there are better Catholic sites where people are more Christian in their behavior. I think Catholicism as a movement is moving to a better place ( just maybe not here.)

                  • ForChristAlone

                    I suspect that you and Mary will hold hands and just mosey along to those others sites. How bloody juvenile.

                    • DE-173

                      I think “M” and “mary moore” are the same troll. Notice neither is a DIQUS ID.

                  • slainte

                    Catholicism is not a “movement”.

                    • DE-173

                      Dagnabbit slainte, don’t bother M with facts. Never let facts get in the way of a good rant.

                    • JefZeph

                      But “M” and Mary may be.

                  • DE-173

                    And the expert speaks:

                    “I don’t think you know much about this. Ignorance blows up a smoke screen of ad hominems. There are better minds than yours working on the science and the ethics of climate change. Until you show some humility by studying both, it’s a waste of time trying to talk to you.”

                    Of couse not knowing not much about this is disagreeing with M, who I can guarantee you has no background in science or any other hard discipline.

                    • M

                      DE-173 has no background in science or any other hard discipline. He is a boorish troll with too much time on his hands and nothing to offer by way of scientific information. This is why he is unable to engage in scientific discussion and must resort to flinging insults. He bores me.

                    • DE-173

                      Reflecting what you see in the mirror?

                • JefZeph

                  Your foolishness has been completely upended and trounced by Tony, but he’s digging himself in deeper?

                  Wow.

                • Kilo4/11

                  No, he’s getting better and better.

            • slainte

              Are you a practicing Catholic?

            • cestusdei

              Mary, it is your side that seeks to silence others.

      • mary moore

        I’m a woman, so is it okay for me to use “effeminate” terms? Seriously, using that term as an insult is sexist.

        • DE-173

          “I’m a woman, so is it okay for me to use “effeminate” terms? Seriously, using that term as an insult is sexist.”

          You should learn the difference between feminine and effiminate, if you are able to extract your self from the tryranny of the vacant cliches that guide you based on your four comments.

          • Vinny

            DE that is definitely hate speech. You can’t tell anyone that they should “learn” something. Also, using the words “tyranny” and “vacant” show that you’re not tolerant!

            • DE-173

              Bummer!

              • slainte

                Well said! and so eloquently too…. : )

        • GG

          Effeminacy is a vice in a male or a female.

        • cestusdei

          Sexist is another buzz word intended to silence any opposition without having to use logic or reason.

        • GG

          No, again, effeminacy is a vice.

    • JP

      “For an organization as powerful as the Catholic church to play the persecuted victim is ridiculous.”

      To paraphrase Stalin, “How many divisions does the Pope have?”

      Your view of the Roman Catholic Church is juvenile. It reminds me of the RCC of Mario Puzo novels. It’s an all powerful institution that uses button men like Luca Brasi and Consiglieres like Thomas Hagan to do its bidding.

    • Rob B.

      Wasn’t Christ a “persecuted victim?” Also, I’d like to know what your “version” of Christ is…

    • Fred

      Your middle name wouldn’t be “Tyler” would it? It was just too tempting, I had to ask.

  • With the important and perennial exception of Islam, all of the world’s
    wars have had to do with the usual things that men fight for—land,
    wealth, glory, power, vengeance, fear, and bloodlust.

    This is what Islam is really all about: land, wealth, glory, power, vengeance, fear, and bloodlust.

  • Peter Arnone

    Thank you Mr. Esolen. You reminded me again of the great agent of evil, Karl Marx: “My goal in life is to dethrone God and destroy capitalism.” What is left? The God-less, morally bankrupt religion of the state: politically-correct secular humanism.

    • AnnieOfArc

      Which has led to massive urban poverty, destruction of our resources so we can have as much fun as possible in the present (which is all there is), viewing our bodies as mere machines to exchange with strangers for pleasure, or to drug with chemicals. And, ironically, it’s supporters fail to acknowledge that perhaps the subjective, disordered way of thinking which got us into this catastrophe is probably not the way to get us out of it. It was the pseudo-Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution which led us here, not faith. And so I think faith in God, in a transcendent ultimate reality, objective truth, and our own sin are the only things which can begin to make amends for the living hell we’ve created on earth.

  • Thomas Banks

    Very good as always, Sir.

  • s;vbkr0boc,klos;

    Life without God is a kind of dissolving bath, a nihilistic acid that breaks down society, and each human being till every soul is lonely and adrift from every other soul.

    • Rob B.

      But like most baths, it feels so darn good…

    • Catholic pilgrim

      Amen. Humans weren’t meant to be caged up in secular prisons where God is forbidden & must never (under any circumstance) be mentioned- for fear of “offending” others. Such was the public school district I attended, as a millennial; it gave my soul aches. Humans were liberated from sin & death & the evil one’s power by our glorious Savior Christ Jesus (born a babe). Why should we be silent about it? We should be rejoicing everywhere & everyday! We should be “giving thanks” (Eucharist in Greek, I love that word) to God who is our Creator & Redeemer. Why must we silence public school children from giving praise & thanks? I hate today’s militant secularism.

    • The Truth

      With God there is heaven, without God there is hell.

    • Tomacz Tesla

      The word “acedia” shares its root with “acid.” Acedia, called sometimes the eigth capital sin, or the high-noon demon. The kind of indifference to God’s love and truth that made the devil envy the happiness of God and His creatures. That envy was planted in Eve’s heart who desired to be in God’s place… that awful sin was untied by Our Blessed Mother who in Calvary desired the Cross for herself thus compensating for the damage done by Eve in Eden, C. S. Lewis quotes British mystic George MacDonald as saying: “The one principle of Hell is ‘I am my own.'” That is indeed acedia: a dissolving, nihilistic, bath for the damned.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    I find it odd that Dr Esolen (whom I greatly admire) should describe World War I as “extraordinarily pointless”

    I can think of few wars more vitally necessary for almost all the parties to it.

    1. Ever since the Congress of Berlin in 1878, Austria and Germany had been determined to prevent Russian expansion in the Balkans.

    2. Austria knew that, if she allowed herself to be humiliated by Serbia, she could not keep control of her minorities.

    3. Germany saw war with Russia as inevitable and wanted it before Russia completed her rail network and gained the ability to mobilise her vast reserves quickly.

    4. With her prestige already damaged by her defeat in the Russo-Japanese War, Russia knew if she allowed her ally, Serbia, to be humiliated, she could well face revolt in her Western provinces, particularly Poland and the Baltic states, from which she drew the bulk of her tax revenue.

    5. With her stagnant birth-rate and Germany’s growing one, France knew she could not wait another generation, if she were ever to recover the lost provinces of Alsace and Lorraine and avenge the defeat of 1870.

    6. Italy wanted to incorporate Austria’s Italian provinces (Italia Irredenta).

    7. Tirpitz’s naval expansion and the consequent arms race with Germany was ruinously expensive for Britain and, ultimately, unsustainable.

    • DE-173

      Well then, if a few tens of millions need to die in order to move before the railroads are complete, stagnant birthrates prevent the successful prosecution of the war and MOST importantly, tax revenues be protected; Bring on the trench warfare and mustard gas; let’s really get ready to party when returning soldiers bring strange new pathogens home.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        With the benefit of hindsight, Germany’s mistake was not to declacre war on France during the Morocco Crisis of 1905. She would probably have defeated France as quickly as she had in 1870 and would have been free to turn her full attention East, where the gentlest push would have toppled the Romanovs.

        In 1905, Britain had not joined the Franco-Russian alliance, the Naval arms race had not gathered pace and she would probably have remained neutral. In fact, Britain’s greatest fear had long been a Russian fleet at Constantinople, threatening her route to India through the Suez Canal. Russia was always the enemy, not Germany.

        What nothing could have prevented was the collapse of the Ottoman power that everyone except Russia had been trying to shore up for 50 years

        • DE-173

          Wow. You really missed the point and you are awful casual about declarations of war.

          • slainte

            Wars are the crises that advance historical progress. They are always very intentional.

            • DE-173

              War is also diplomacy by other means. They still spill a lot of blood.

    • Paul

      WW1 was pointless as it brought down the European empires and did nothing more than caused resentment amongst the defeated Germans and precipitated WW2.
      Moreover, the unintentional consequence of the end of the European empires (which none of the European nations wanted) allowed the USA to assume itself as the new superpower.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        WWI & WWII were really two rounds of the same fight – Europe’s second Thirty Years War, if you will.

        Its achievement would appear to be that it ended (West of the Danube, at least) the sort of aggressive military expansionism exemplified by Frederick the Great’s seizure of Silesia, the Partitions of Poland, Bismark’s seizure of two provinces from Denmark and two provinces from France – That is now simply unthinkabe. It also secured the right of self-determination to some nationailites at least.

        It is, perhaps, no accident that the architects of the EU were all Catholics from marginal German-speaking areas: West German Chancellor Adenauer (Rhineland), French Prime Minister Robert Schumann (born in Luxembourg of parents from Lorraine) and Italian Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi (Trentino Alto Adige). De Gasperi actually sat in the Vienna parliament pre-1914

        The collapse of the Ottoman power freed the Arabs from Tukish rule and Turkey from Arabic cultural dominance and it made possible the establishment of a “Jewish homeland in Palestine” (to quote the Balfour Declaration)

        • Kilo4/11

          I find it hard to believe anyone could use the word “achievement” in connection with World War Two. And by what ungodly dispensation do you presume to leave out all of Europe east of the Danube? It somehow doesn’t count that great swathes of Austrian, Ukrainian, Czech, Hungarian, Romanian, Bulgarian and Polish territory were “expanded” into as a direct result of WW II? Europe would have been lucky to continue experiencing only the minor seizures of Fredrick’s and Bismark’s Christian armies, compared to the horrors of the Red Army. And your use of the term “unthinkable” to describe the situation vis a vis expansion today, in light of Russia’s recent actions, is flat out bizarre.

          As for what “made possible the establishment of a ‘Jewish homeland in Palestine'”, you seem unaware of the behind the scenes Jewish machinations which were the real force behind Balfour and American entry into the war (e.g.,Brandeis, Schiff). Are you also unaware that American entry was the sine qua non for the defeat of the Triple Alliance?

      • DE-173

        “allowed the USA to assume itself as the new superpower.”
        Well, weren’t the Europeans lucky that happened.

    • Kilo4/11

      Michael Paterson-Seymour,

      Nice summary of the secondary and tertiary causes of the Great War. But still no basis for calling it necessary. It all comes down to the immoral, unjustifiable Russian desire to project power far afield, when they already had the largest contiguous territory on earth under their control. Rather like they’re doing today. Read this description of Russian Foreign Minister Sasanov’s frantic, duplicitous, and horrendously, tragically, successful psych job on his peace-loving but weak tsar, getting him to reverse his decision to stand down the Imperial Army. If that order had been left in place, Austria and Serbia would have been on their own, without great power interference. And the world would have turned out to be ineffably better off.

      http://www.forgottenbooks.com/readbook_text/Nicholas_II_1000131655/227

  • DE-173

    Tony, you have spoken of Father Comerford before; I imagine he must have been a contemporary of my childhood Pastor, Father Nolan. From what you have written, they seem to have been of a similar mind, although Father Nolan was an ex-Chaplain and built his Parish from military suplus. I still remember hearing TP-50 trucks being used to plow the parking lot.
    I also tend to think that they must have run into each other at sometime when summoned to Wyoming Avenue, I would have liked to hear their discourse on bilding or expanding a Parish on a wing and a prayer.

    • Tony

      DE: Father Comerford was the pastor in Archbald for many years. I think he passed away some time in the 1930’s. I don’t know if there’s still a Comerford Theater in downtown Scranton, but that was one of the properties that the family owned. Everybody seemed to know Father Comerford; he was called the last living example of a benevolent despot in the West. Some years ago, when Crisis was still in print, they published an article of mine which featured a photo of Father Comerford leading the town’s parade in November 1918, to celebrate the armistice and the homecoming of the boys. So if Father Nolan was a priest when Father Comerford was still alive, there’s no question that they knew one another. Yup, theirs would be a conversation I’d like to have heard.

      • DE-173

        Oh, I think he was before Father Nolan’s time.

        I think all the downtown theaters are gone, including the multiplex that was attached to the Steamtown Mall. (Too easy to go to Montage).

        There was a Comerford in Wilkes Barre until the flood. I think it was one of two on “Public square” and I think the better one. As a real small kid I won a radio prize to see a movie that featured biplanes; I think my parents took me to the Comerford.

  • M

    “The Founders did not want Congress to establish a particular denomination as a national church, like the Church of England”

    Or a particular religion, like Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, or Christianity.

    • DE-173

      You forgot the most pernicious of religions, atheism.

      • M

        ‘Also not established as a state religion.

        • DE-173

          It certainly was in numerous countries, and it’s well on it’s way here through through incrementalism of hostile school environments, administrative fiats and judicial edicts that make freedom OF religion, freedom FROM religion.

          • M

            That is really stretching. We are all free to follow our faith. We’re just not allowed to proselytize on the public dime.

            • Nick_from_Detroit

              You’re not very well informed, I’m afraid.
              Students have been stopped from saying Grace at lunch by their principals. The ACLU wages war against small towns across America that have crosses on display, or, as part of their insignia. And, valedictorians/sports teams have been forbidden by judges, federal judges, from mentioning God and Christ, or saying a prayer. One judge in Texas threatened jail time for those who violated his ban of prayer at a graduation ceremony.
              None of these involved proselytizing.

            • Trazymarch

              Everybody is allowed and encouraged to proselytize “Consumptionism” which is sort of religion of the West.

            • Tony

              We argue for things on the public dime constantly. What the absurd and irrational fear or loathing of religion has done is to rule out certain objects of argument and certain means of argument. Out the window goes Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. Out the window goes most of English literature written before 1900. Out the window goes almost every English textbook in use in the schools before 1960….

            • slainte

              How do you reconcile your position with God’s command:

              “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Gospel of Mark 16:15.

              Whose law takes precedence…God’s or man’s?

            • DE-173

              Do have something factual to support your counterclaim or are you just going to stammer with the visceral indignation?

  • cestusdei

    As you said in your recent excellent book on marriage: “The State is a jealous god.”

  • mollysdad

    These secularists will eagerly embrace Islam when the time comes, for Islam is a religion which advocates sexual immorality as something God approves of.

  • faithandfamilyfirst

    It all comes down to power. You are correct. The elite do not want their thrones of power compromised in the least. They have killed to keep it. They will kill again.

  • Nick_from_Detroit

    “Nobody would have thought it offensive in a valedictorian to give public thanks to God. Why should they have? Why should such a thing be treated as worse than an obscenity? For obscenity now lays claim to greater protection than piety can.

    I’ve argued pretty much the same thing for some years, now. Why should anyone, valedictorian, public school teacher, I.R.S. worker, etc., lose their free speech rights, if that speech happens to be religious or about God? Just because you work for some part of the government, you don’t lose your right to religious expression, or to freedom of speech. How can two prohibitions in the same Article of Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America contradict each other?
    Was James Madison a moron? I think not.

    • Tony

      Absolutely correct. You can cite Oprah Winfrey but not Isaiah. You can cite Ann Coulter but not Saint Matthew. You can cite Maya Angelou but not Milton. You can blather about your feelings but not about the faith you have inherited from your forefathers. I wonder how many public speeches delivered by America’s great orators would now be considered “unconstitutional” if delivered word for word by a school teacher. We are near to deciding that ordinary life is unconstitutional …

      • Nick_from_Detroit

        Thank you, Mr. Esolen. I consider that high praise, coming from someone of your intellect. I’ve learned much, reading your articles of the past, since I found you, last year. Thanks for that, too.
        The ACLU, et al, are cowards, really. They go after the weak, individual schools with little to no resources in which to fight back. They don’t go after Congress for hiring chaplains or opening with a prayer.
        Like you, I would love to see a public history teacher read FDR’s D-Day prayer to his class. God Bless!

  • JayRobThom

    The religious education & public piety prescribed in the NJ Ordinance, though, we’re very specifically opposed to Holy Church. It was a public education designed to eradicate Catholic faith among children – ‘superstition’ and ‘ fanaticism’ being equated with ‘Romanism’. It was that distinctly anti-Catholic effort that obliged the Church to build her own schools. For the last generation of students who sang Christmas carols in public schools, religious faith was not as meaningful as a generic civic faith; there was no doctrine in it at all other than ‘God bless America- and don’t start on about creeds or confessions.’

  • NormChouinard

    “They (secularists) are the theocrats”! Yep.

  • Hal Bowman

    Please don’t let the atheists steal the word “secular.” Call them atheists. That’s what they are.

  • Antonja Cermak

    I think you fail to understand many secularists. First of all, only a small minority of secularists are Atheists. A great many of them are Christians, who simply don’t want their religion to have any power in the greater society, as they’ve seen how historically that kind of power corrupts the religion, or minority religion adherents who simply don’t want Christianity to drown out their religious faith.

    And not all secularists are “empty square” enthusiasts. I, myself, am a crowded square enthusiast. I don’t care if a creche or a cross is put up as long as a collection of other religions are represented (Jainism, Judaism, Buddhism, Wicca, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, etc. In this way, the decorations becomes a celebration of the diversity of the peoples of the area and not a Christianity über alles display..

    • GG

      The Christians you describe are not that Christian at all. They sound like mere relativists influenced by post modern relativism.

    • Tony

      I have lived my whole life among secularists; I am a conservative Catholic in academe. I know the breed quite well.

      Since I believe that God wants all men to come to Him, and since that can only happen through love, I accept what my Church teaches about the need to respect the consciences of those who do not believe. I also accept what my Church teaches about the legitimate sphere of political action, and that Caesar should not be confused with, and should not be under the control of, the Church.

      But that is a LONG way from saying that the faith should not “have any power in the greater society.” If you said such a thing to anybody in the United States in the nineteenth century, they’d have looked at you as if you had two heads. You would be misusing the word “faith.” If the faith does not go forth, if we are not called to reestablish all things in Christ, then what the hell is left — a pleasant hobby?

      And that’s what you have reduced religion to. The people of Anytown may put up a Christmas crèche on the town square, ONLY on condition that they trivialize it, robbing it of all significance. If the people of Anytown include plenty of Jews, I would be delighted to see them place displays on the town square to commemorate any of their holy days. But it is strange that anybody should dictate to the people of Anytown from far away. If the holiday means a lot to the people, let them celebrate it. They shouldn’t have to dig up a Zoroastrian somewhere to please the politically correct.

      Again I note the breathtaking failure to notice what is in front of our faces. Do we REALLY BELIEVE that a Christian China would have been worse than the China of doctrinaire atheism? That it was a lucky thing that Hitler and Stalin ditched the faith of their boyhoods? My goodness — the Soviet Union was horrible — but at least it wasn’t Christian!

    • RufusChoate

      My head exploded from laughter at your absurd observation of “Secularist” Christians. I have never met a committed secularist who wasn’t a systematic or operational atheist.

      Your “empty square” filled with every faith is little more than pantheism pretending to tolerance.

  • publiusnj

    Where we are today is just bizarre. Did the boys on Normandy Beach fight for the FREEDOM to make love to (and, be still my fluttering heart, even marry) the boy in the next foxhole? Or so their opposite sex acquaintances (wives, girlfriends or casual sex partners) could have the FREEDOM to kill the product of any conception that had invaded their wombs? Is that why we fought?

    • slainte

      The U.S is a country founded on the principle of Liberty. The founders knew that Liberty had to be ordered by Morality or there would be tyranny and chaos. Since Morality was understood to be derived from Religion, the latter was tolerated by the state because it caused men to restrain their base desires and anti-social inclinations. The Founders knew that men were not angels.

      But Liberty, at its essence, seeks to throw off restraints and views authority as anathema; and Religion is the ultimate Authority. The natural evolution of Liberty will thus cause it to clash with the very thing that orders it…Religion and Morality.

      While there are those who will argue that Morality can be derived from philosophies or enlightened self interest or Lockean bargains sans God and Religion, these non-religious approaches have proven to be less than effective in causing people to exercise self restraint. As we have become a less religious society, we have also become less moral and more anti-social, unruly, and violent.

      So it makes sense that all of the seeming non-sequitors you reference, publiusnj, have come to pass.

      With the help of our Courts, Liberty has evolved and has thrown off its traditional restraints…God, Religion, and Morality. We are now reaping the consequences.

      If the founders were correct, and I think they were, Liberty without morality (religion) to order it has led us to tyranny and chaos.

  • littleeif

    My memories or experiences diverge from yours to this extent. In undergraduate History studies at a Catholic University in the ’70s a book entitled “Bigotry” was assigned reading and the block of instruction regarded the history of anti-Catholic bigotry by Protestants in the U.S.. It seems to me the push toward a restrictive definition of the separation of Church and State began as a Protestant movement designed to attack Catholic education. It was aimed at preventing such activities as the sharing of school buses, classrooms and expenses in the hope of starving the Catholic schools or punishing parents financially who sent their children to them.

    In my view, the Protestants were hoisted on their own petard when Secularists used the constitutional weapons Protestants had crafted to cast their brand of worship from the Public Schools.

  • John200

    Tony,
    Thank you for the immortal (or should be immortal) “culture-stranglers” which I aim to propagate as my own.

    Ditto the admirably concise, “secularists fear and despise religion, …because they know that it can teach virtue.” Secularists don’t fear paganism even though it teaches pagan virtues. It is precisely Catholic faith, and the specter of muscular Christianity, that spoils their day.

  • Minaya

    Rather than a theocracy, the West is degenerating into an “atheocracy”.

  • bdlaacmm

    “and this, when Christian denominations are friendlier to one another than ever, and people of all faiths except one practice tolerance to a fault.”

    That is correct. Nothing frightens atheists more than real unity amongst believers. Case in point: one atheist blogger recently changed the name of his website to be more inclusively-insulting. Hilariously, he had to change it back less than a month later, once again making Christianity the target of his venom, because his “hit” total had dropped to near zero.

    (I refuse to identify the hate site, because I don’t wish to advertise it.)

    • GG

      I am sure he is familiar with relativism and nihilism and scientism. What is new about those?

      • Tony

        Yes, drearily familiar with them all. Aut Deus, aut nihil, or as Dostoyevsky put it, without God all things are permissible. Indeed, without God the very idea of a virtuous man becomes hazy, even faintly ridiculous.

        Yes, drearily familiar with scientism, and the collapse of Aristotle’s four causes into two, the efficient and the material. Familiar with what I call the “constitutive fallacy,” mistaking what a thing is with what stuff it is made up of. Familiar with the refusal to consider the ontological status of physical laws, which, because they are laws, are not material objects, and, again because they are laws, govern the objects rather than the objects governing them. Familiar with Pyrrhonism going back before Pyrrho, with materialism going all the way back to Democritus; hell, I am the Modern Library translator and editor of Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura.

        Drearily familiar with every silly attack on Christianity, so much so that even in my own lifetime I’ve experienced what Chesterton experienced, the attacks that cancel one another out…

        And what does the other side offer? Free sex, cheap food, tall ugly buildings, and a totalitarian state to manage the chaos. Not even a decent vision of manhood. O Nietzsche, Nietzsche, why are you not alive at this day!

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