From: email@example.com (Russell Turpin)
Subject: Re: Religion as barbarism
Summary: Look to the beam in your own eye!
Date: 24 Aug 90 16:38:27 GMT
Follow-ups to talk.religion.misc.
William December Starr writes:
>> The closest I've been able to come to solving the problem -- that
>> is, to allowing competition and freedom while avoiding "economic
>> slavery" -- is to posit that people have certain rights (or
>> "entitlement") _to_ some concrete benefits in addition to their
>> abstract rights; that people have a right to the minimum
>> necessities of life (food, shelter, clothing, etc.), and that
>> other people have an obligation to contribute labor (usually in
>> the all-purpose generic form of money) to provide these
>> benefits... PROVIDED that the recipient is unable to earn them
>> himself. ...
In article <13665@smoke.BRL.MIL>, matt@smoke.BRL.MIL (Matthew Rosenblatt) writes:
> Well, well, well. All of a sudden, some people have an "obligation"
> to do something other than enjoy themselves and keep from harming
> others. Who could have put that idea into William December Starr's
> Could it be that the Libertarian squeaks of tiny men [sic] like John
> Stuart Mill and Ayn Rand and Robert Nozick grow silent as the great voice
> of Yeshayahu HaNavi (that's "Isaiah the Prophet" in the English-speaking
> world) thunders at them across the centuries ...
The answer to this question is no. Despite Mr Rosenblatt's
declaiming that Judeo-Christian scriptures are the source for
ideas about humane government, it just isn't so. The idea that
certain material benefits are a *political* right does not derive
from the Bible. The right-wing fundamentalists who hold all
forms of government welfare as a secular evil have as much
legitimate hold on the ancient texts as do the liberation
In answer to the question "where *do* we get these ideas", a
better explanation is the 19th century socialists, such as
Fourier, and their liberal predecessors. These reformers had to
constantly fight the idea that only private charity should make
up for the vagaries of life visited on individuals by Divine
Providence, an idea that then as now, is often backed by
scriptural reference. At least libertarians, when arguing
against government welfare, argue about efficiency, undesired side
effects, and violating people's rights, not from inspired visions
of the divine order.
After quoting Isaiah, Mr Rosenblatt comments:
> None of this is obvious or self-evident to Conan the Barbarian,
> nor to the self-indulgent hippies of the 'Sixties. ...
Nor is it particularly relevant to Mr Starr's ideas.
> ... Western society ... is, like it or not, permeated through and
> through with the Biblical heritage of giants like Yeshayahu HaNavi.
> Abandon this heritage, and we revert to barbarism. What happens when
> a technologically advanced Western nation discards the Bible and replaces
> the moral, ethical, and religious values of the Law and the Prophets
> with logical, "reasoned" principles like Hegel's "rational utility"?
> [Quote about Weimar Germany omitted.]
> Nazi Germany? No, Dr. Koop is not talking about Nazi Germany. He is
> talking about Weimar Germany, *before* Hitler. ...
I find it ironic that religious believers think of Nazi Germany
as a horror that lies uniquely outside their own tradition. The
oldest precedent for genocide is recorded in the Pentateuch,
committed by the Israelites as they come into the promised land.
People after people are slaughtered. In Numbers 31, the
Israelite god orders Moses to avenge themselves on the Midianites
and kill them all, except the virgin girls. The Israelite
soldiers proved too squeamish to execute this barbarity, and
instead took prisoners of war after they were victorious in
battle. This upset their god, who commanded them through Moses
to kill the prisoners in cold blood, including women and
children, excepting only virgin girls. This they did. Modern
preachers are fond of painting as the ultimate human evil the
Nazi soldier who throws children into the gas chamber. An equal
example is the Israelite soldier who obeys his god's command to
put his blade through a young boy's belly.
Except for a few allusions to its darker philosophers such as
Hegel, Nietzsche, and Stirner, Naziism had few ties to western
liberalism. Western liberals then as now viewed Hitler as a
monster. But how do those steeped in the Judeo-Christian
tradition view Moses? As a genocidal monster? No, as a "giant"
prophet of their religion. And how do they view the barbaric war
god who ordered such genocide? As an old-fashioned myth whose
history they have surmounted? Some do, but there are no end of
believers today who will defend every act the Old Testament
records of the Israelite god.
It is interesting to note the justifications offered for the
genocide of the Midianites. First, they were the wrong race --
the ancient Israelites were a chosen race with special rights
over all others who stood in their way. Second, the Israelites
needed the Midianite land, which was their right as a specially
chosen race. (Remember Lebensraum?) Third, the Midianites
believed the wrong things. Fourth, the Midianites were filthy
hedonists who tempted the Israelites into illicit pleasures.
(Readers of talk.religion.misc will recognize all of these as
excuses that were found in the scripture by some who recently
tried to justify this carnage.) It would seem that the excuses
offered for genocide have not changed much in the last four
In political philosophy, the prophets of the ancient Israelite
have little to offer the west anymore. These "giants" rarely
escaped the shadow of the ancient and jealous war god whose myth
they believed. Their best thought resulted when they felt the
constraints of this myth, in for example the books of Job and
In politics, we are better off sticking with our own giants. If
we fight a Mideast war, better to realize that it is for oil
rather than to destroy the infidel. Religious wars are ugly
ones, and the superpowers of the modern world are best off acting
for secular reasons. Religion in politics is a tradition we best