The Deadly Paris Terror Attack and the Myth of Religion

SellwynThumbby Selwyn Duke   1/13/15
“Another attack in the name of religion,” I heard someone say after the vicious and vile Wednesday assault on the offices of French magazine Charlie Hebdo. And there is a huge problem with “religion.” But it’s not what you think.

Question: when the Nazis, Stalinists, Khmer Rouge, the Shining Path or the Weathermen committed violence, did we lament, “Another attack in the name of ideology”? Did we hear “Ideology is the problem”? That would be about as helpful as going to a doctor with a dreadful illness and, upon asking him what the problem is, his responding “Your state of health.”

Like ideology, religion is a category, not a creed. As with states of health, which occupy a continuum from excellent to awful, they both contain the good, the bad and the ugly. But modern man, not wanting to place an onus on a faith or seem a “religious” chauvinist, is a bad physician who refuses to name the disease or the cure. So depending on how he is emotionally disposed, we may hear utterances such as “Children need some religion” or “Religion breeds violence.” Ancient Aztec children had “religion,” and they learned well how to sacrifice thousands of innocents a year to Quetzalcoatl on bloody altars. And Amish children have “religion,” and peace and charity define them.

Conservatives exhibit this problem as well. So many will say “Islam is not a religion; it’s a destructive all-encompassing ideology,” or some variation thereof. They treat “religion,” that broad category, as if it’s good by definition. Not that this isn’t understandable. Raised in a relativistic and pluralistic (and these two qualities have a bearing on one another) society, they want to get along with their neighbors; so they tacitly accept an unwritten agreement stating “I won’t say my religion is better than yours if you don’t say yours is better than mine. We’ll just be even-steven!” The trouble is that this solves nothing — and its implications are more dangerous than jihad.

Starting out simply, note that most of the “religions” man has known were more in the nature of the Aztecs’ bloody faith than what we generally embrace today. But many will assert that this is the point: can’t we say all our mainstream faiths are “good,” practically speaking? Can’t we just omit from their category any “religion” not considered good? Well, we can say and do many things, but ideas have consequences. And a civilization with a corrupted philosophical foundation will not long stand.

Consider another question: what makes some ideologies better than others? It’s that they espouse different values. But what of “religions”?

They also espouse different values.

(And not all values are virtues.)

Thus, not all “religions” can be morally equal unless all values are so. This is important to understand. Every time we treat “religions” as if they are all morally equal, every time we spread that idea explicitly or implicitly — no matter how good our intentions — we’re transmitting the notion that all values are equal. And consider what follows from this: if all values are equal, how can peace be better than jihad?

How could respect for life be better than disdain for it?

How could Western law be better than Sharia law?

How could the Sisters of Charity be better than ISIS?

Of course, this means all ideologies would have to be equal as well, from Nazism to Marxism to conservatism to liberalism to libertarianism. Upon embracing relativism, you have no sound intellectual foundation from which to critique or combat anything (though you can certainly fake one without blinking, as relativism deems deception no worse than sincerity).

Why does this matter? Because this relativism has robbed us of an intellectual argument for defending Western civilization (“How could it be better than any other?” asks Professor Larebil). It is the philosophical fifth column that has opened the door to destructive, unassimilable foreign elements via multiculturalism. As to this, multiculturalism states that all cultures are morally equal. But it’s as with “religion” and ideology: since different cultures espouse different values, not all cultures could be morally equal unless all values were so. It is pure and utter nonsense, a phenomenon of modern times, but, of course, moderns in the main believe it. In fact, the Barna Group research company reported in 2002 in “Americans Are Most Likely to Base Truth on Feelings” that only six percent of teenagers believe “moral truth is absolute.” But it’s an apple that has fallen not far from the burning tree and just a little closer to Perdition — only 22 percent of adults believe in moral absolutes, Barna found, and I think that figure is generous. And this baby philosophy of relativism, my friends, as I’ve been telling you for years and years and years, is why we’re collapsing.

Now let’s return to something mentioned earlier: the criticism of Islam for not being a “religion” but a whole system for living. This misses the point that your “religion,” if true, is supposed to be a whole system for living. And this also brings me to why I have religiously placed “religion” in quotation marks.

This distinction between “religious” and “secular” is largely a false one.

There is only one distinction that truly matters: the true and the untrue.

“Secular” and “religious,” especially in the sense we use them, are relatively modern terms. There was a time when beliefs were not “secular” or “religious” — or even liberal or conservative, or right or left — but simply true or untrue.

And this is the only perspective that makes sense. Think about it: if God exists, is it significant that we call recognition of this reality “religious” or that it’s true? If communism is essentially false, is it significant that we call recognition of that reality “secular” or that it’s untrue? There is only Truth and everything else — and everything else, no matter how you dress it up linguistically, is nothing at all.

In a way, pusillanimous moderns are much like pious Muslims. Muslim theology entertains the curious notion of “dual truth,” the idea that what may be true “religiously” may not be true in nature. This silliness was rejected by Western thinkers in the Middle Ages; now, however, something smacking of it has been embraced by their descendants, who may say things such as “A little ‘religion’ is okay, as long as you don’t go overboard.” Or they may compartmentalize faith, thinking it must be left outside the government-building door or even relegate it to one hour a week of “worship services,” as if it’s mere recreation or an unhealthful indulgence only to be taken in moderation. But if your faith is the Truth — if it reflects the will of the Creator of the Universe — you have an obligation to govern yourself, and infuse your every institution, with it. And if it be a lie, it belongs nowhere but the bowels of Hell.

Of course, if, like most Americans, we believe everything is relative, then none of this matters. Then tolerance and intolerance, multiculturalism and cultural chauvinism, charity and barbarity, the “religious” and the “secular” are all equal. And then those darkly clad men with AK-47s in Paris on Wednesday couldn’t really have been “wrong.” They just had a different perspective.

If we don’t really believe this, then it’s time to grow up. It’s time to understand that if everything is relative, then what we say is relative, too, and thus meaningless. So let’s talk about what is meaningful. We can start by accepting that culture isn’t bad, but there are better and worse cultures. “Religion” isn’t bad, but there is bad “religion.” And tolerance, correctly defined as the abiding of perceived negatives, isn’t bad — except when those perceived negatives are objectively negative and, instead of just being tolerated, could actually be wiped out. Willful tolerance of evil is evil itself.

The Muslims have bad “religion.” We have bad philosophy. Both our civilizations believe in things that are untrue. It’s the “tolerant” meeting the intolerable, a match made in Hell — and poised to create exactly that on Earth.

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8 Responses to The Deadly Paris Terror Attack and the Myth of Religion

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I believe the Aztecs sacrificed their prisoners to Huitzilopochtli (the war god; I think I have the transliteration about right), not Quetzalcoatl. And I would consider Islam (i.e., Submission) an ideology combined with a religion, much like modern liberalism. Interestingly, Richard Dawkins (for once) handled the questions well. He noted that some religions never really were violent, others outgrew their violence, and only one remains actively violent (and virulent) today.

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Excellent piece. Relativism is a weapon in the hands of nihilists, particularly the Left. It makes too many people stupid. It gives license to the narcissist and corrupts the dim. excusing everyone from the obligation to think.

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    This is an interesting piece in today’s NRO. I do not think much of Lopez, but she was smart to make such an interview. The man does not beat around the bush when it comes to Islam and our Western leaders.

    Furthermore, he does not let pope Francis off the hook, and clearly yearns for the old days of Benedict who was a clear and honest thinker.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      This part of his first answer was excellent. It should be studied by all conservatives…and the pretend-Pope:

      But in the case of the pope’s particular remarks — which, as is evident from the transcript, aren’t the most precise — much pivots on his use of the word “offend.” In much of the West today, we increasingly live in societies in which even expressing a view, religious or otherwise, on any number of subjects is considered “offensive” because it (a) might question something that someone else believes to be true and/or (2) it may raise questions about the morality of others’ actions or the manner in which they live their life. In short, “offending someone” — or even the potential to offend someone — is becoming a basis for shutting down free speech and the free exchange of views. If, for instance, we can’t have an open conversation about the respective truth claims of, say, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or atheism because such a conversation might offend someone, then “offending someone” becomes a basis for terminating important discourse about some rather fundamental questions. We need very, very robust protections of freedom of speech, precisely because free speech enables us to engage and pursue questions of truth: theological truth, philosophical truth, moral truth, and economic truth. The possibility that you might offend someone, to my mind, isn’t a very strong basis for inhibiting free speech about all of these subjects and more. A side effect is that we all have to put up with views and opinions that we consider stupid, ill informed, or even offensive. That, however, is inevitable if we value free speech and the good of truth-seeking on which it is based — the very same free speech that, by the way, allows me to inform people who say something stupid why I think what they have said is erroneous.

      • miriam says:

        Who is the pretend-pope? Pope Francis? How is he not the pope?

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Miriam, see this article for further info. Also, Dennis Prager has a very good article on the subject. Let me pull a relevant quote from that article:

          Unfortunately, however, being a wonderful person doesn’t mean you will be a wonderful pope. Any Catholic who tweets, “Inequality is the root of social evil,” as Pope Francis did last March, should be a socialist prime minister, not a Christian leader. The moral message of every Bible-based religion is that the root of evil is caused by poor character and poor moral choices, not by economics. The pope’s tweet is from Marx, not Moses.

          Of course, if miter makes right, so to speak, then the ideas behind what the Pope said don’t matter. He’s the pope, and that’s that. We basically are left then to worship an idol. But the central tenet of Christianity (at least in the moral sphere) is, as Prager says, that evil is caused by poor character and poor moral choices, not by economics. That Pope Francis framed the question the way he did shows that he’s more Marxist than Catholic.

  4. Timothy Lane says:

    I don’t know if it was at Regensburg, but Pope Benedict came under fire once for pointing out that Islam had expanded largely by force rather than persuasion. Of course, the critics included liberals as well as Muslims, and one of them was the top Episcopalian bishop, who interestingly referred to Christians as “them” rather than “us”.

    I will also note that this is another example of the current pope’s talent for phrasing his pronouncements in a fashion that conveniently suits liberalism. As Goldfinger once observed to James Bond, “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, and three times is enemy action.” I think the pope has slipped up more than 3 times by now.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Apparently those things he said weren’t real. It’s all just a Leftist plot according to Gene Van Son in his article at American Thinker.

      Again we see denial instead of facing the facts. And denial is certainly understandable because denial is something that is plastic while reality itself is not so easily changed. So let’s just all pretend that the pope hasn’t said what he really said.

      The Pope reminds me of the typical libertarian. I’m sure what Pope Francis said back in the New World surrounded by a general Marxist meme was typically greeted as profound. But if one is inside a somewhat insular community of one-note thinkers, when one takes this same message out to the world at large, one is exposed for the junior high school pseudo-philosopher that one is.

      One can, of course, find partial truths in the things the Pope is saying. But that is completely different from skimming these things off the surface and pretending the much greater context of them does not exist.

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