The Watchtowers of Atlantis Tremble

What if Hitler had been happy?

What if he had told a few jokes and smiled a few smiles? The world would have let him kill far more than he killed, and to this day we would be using some less judgmental word than ‘genocide’ to describe the horror.

We are accustomed to viewing evil, the pure, desperate, hellish evil that kills countless innocents and corrupts whatever it touches, as something angry and vile and violent. An angry man is easy to spot.

But most evil is more subtle, more seductive, and comes along as gentle as a sheep.

I had occasion to hear speak in public a writer whom I admire if not adore. The man is witty and wise, genial and gentle, and has the knack to raise a laugh. And what a charming accent! With merely a word or a lift of his eyebrow, he can raise a smile from an audience, or a robust laugh, or bring a tear to the eye. I have never met anyone more likable.

And he is a man without God, who takes a very practical view of euthanasia.

The admirable writer has lent his considerable publicity and charm and all the goodwill all his years of hard work to advance the cause of murder and suicide. Through documentary and public speaking, he leads his considerable mass of loving and loyal fans to regard as normal the horror of asking doctors to slay their patients, and to regard as abnormal the respect for human life Western civilization once nourished.

In a pagan world, suicide is regarded as admirable: Cato of Utica in the Roman world, of the Forty-Seven Ronin in Japan, are celebrated as heroes for their noble acts of self-destruction, for they did not flinch from the pain and despair of murdering one’s self.

In the postchristian world the act is the same but the motive is opposite. It is for the sake of comfort, to avoid the pain and humiliation of an incurable disease, or the expense, that the sick are cajoled to destroy the divine gift of life within them, and physicians to contravene their oaths.

The postchristians are not at the level of the pagans, but below them. Hippocrates would not dare have offended the gods by betraying what he had sworn. He would not work harm who had vowed by gods of sea and underworld and sky firstly to do no harm, and poured red wine into the winedark sea to solemnize the oath. Cato died to defy Caesar, and the Samurai who commits seppuku dies for the honor of his lord or his clan.

Postchristians die to satisfy themselves, to seek their comfort, or, at least, to escape from pain. The postchristian would have offered hemlock to the Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane, to allow the son of man to avoid the distress, insult, trauma and torture of trial and execution, passion and crucifixion.

Pity is the approach and the appeal used by the culture of death to spread their venomous doctrine of having doctors dispense venom. You feel sorry for a horse with a broken leg? Or a man with a debilitating and incurable condition like Stephen Hawkings? A blind man like Ray Charles? If they wanted to kill themselves, surely it is cruelty for you, in the soft comfort of your easy life, to dare to call it wrong?

The other approach is very pragmatic and commercial, as befit a pragmatic and commercial people. The argument there is that a man owns his own life in fee simple, and as master of his own property, he may use it as he sees fit: and suicide no more wrong than sending on old car to the junkyard to be destroyed for scrap, once it no longer pleases its owner, or burning an old suit of clothes.

We are told what medical costs it will save the family who loves the victim or will save the coffers of the nation-state and its panels of bureaucrats who perhaps love him not so much. And what is the life of a sickly or senile stranger worth to you, especially if the owner wants to throw it away like rubbish? Has not science proved that man is merely a hairless ape with an accidental brain-mistake or neotenous genetic glitch that stumbled him into self-awareness? If man is not the image of God, it is no sacrilege to demolish it. And the money saved can be spent elsewhere, such as, for example, on you!

And so in the name of pity or of pragmatism, we are soon convinced to slaughter all the weak and infirm—with their consent, of course, consent won with all the tricks of modern advertising and peer pressure and subtle public propaganda.

These arguments have no appeal and win no purchase on the Christian mind, which regards life as the gift from God the Creator, and which rests in hope that all hopeless lives are rewarded with abundance beyond hope, life beyond life, if only we have the courage to endure to the end. No one has the courage of fortitude without the virtue of hope, hope larger than worlds, hope that cannot be expressed nor explained.

To destroy oneself, even to escape from hopeless pain, or senility, or the imprisoning flesh of some loathsome disease, Christian regard with passionate horror, the way soldiers regard a deserter and patriots a traitor. It is not for nothing that in days of old the suicide was buried at the crossroad with a stake in his heart, and was not permitted to rest his remains in hallowed ground.

Euthanasia is the sickly elder sister of Aborticide: once it seems unabominable and unremarkable to murder the young on the grounds that they are killed at an age too young to be properly called alive, it must logically seem unabominable and unremarkable to murder the old on the grounds that they are too old and too weak to properly be called alive, or too sick to live.

This genial and lovely writer, a man gifted with the grace of laughter, told how he had filmed a documentary showing the medical murder of a wealthy, charming, but sickly man. He mentioned how they had been exchanging jests to the end, and how the body rattled and wheezed after the death, and how the police were called, but made no issue of the matter. The wife of the victim had been disturbed that the Swiss physicians committing the homicide had German accents. She was old enough to remember the Second World War, the Death Camps, and the last time the Culture of Death made a bold attempt to suborn the world into its great shadow. And so she asked the genial and lovely writer to accompany her into the tastefully appointed death chamber for moral support. And he offered her his elbow and offered her his moral support.

Technically, of course, what he was and is, is an accomplice, since anyone who supports a crime, even by such imponderables as words or acts that encourage its commission, falls under the same penalty as the perpetrator. Or such is the rule in Anglo-American law. Divine law may be harsher, and many things exposed in the brilliant and unblinking light of the Last Judgment which this current world of darkness and sin keeps hidden. Accomplices may indeed be punished harsher than perpetrators if He That Searcheth Hearts discovers the darker evil or more unrepentant there.

The genial writer did not bother to defend his deed. He did not think it necessary. He acted as if his evil were unremarkable or perhaps mildly admirable, and the audience merely nodded, lulled by his voice, led by their love for him and his works to give him the benefit of the doubt. Or, being prone to pity or open to pragmatic considerations, perhaps they did not think the question worthy of dispute. It would have been rude to disagree, a sour note in the choir of self-congratulation.

The genial writer did not bother to defend his deed. He merely told a joke or two instead, and the crowd laughed and applauded, and their hearts were moved toward him, and they nodded.

He did not call it suicide, of course. That would have been politically inconvenient and incorrect, which is another way of saying, it would have been honest.

He said we should use a different word. I forget what foolish Orwellian euphemism he used. The point is to make the nature of the deed less obvious, and to aid the already titanic human capacity for self-deception to reach super-titanic magnitude.

Not all evils are obvious. Not all sins seem sinister. Some rest on appeals to pity, or practicality, or are defended not with a syllogism but with a witticism.

And the genial writer talked a man into suicide, and opened the gate of hell which opens when a man abandons all hope, and talked an audience into approving of the deed. Nor did he ever raise his voice, or rant, or rave, or express any dark or negative emotion, other than a mild contempt for health and safety regulations which would not let an executioner, one of those who helped the act of suicide be painless and convenient, smoke a pipe inside the killing chamber. Such a silver tongue he had; such smooth words he spoke.

He talked a soul into Hell. And the room gave him a standing ovation.

Not all civilizations are created equal. Civilization is not made of wheels and gears and tricks of technology, or the cunning of roads and coined money and elegance in art. Civilization is spirit. The spirit of the West respects and reveres human life, and our laws are designed to respect the rights of those lives because we respect those lives. The Culture of Death has no respect for life, none for man, none for the individual. The weak baby in the womb or the suffering crone in the wheelchair they seek efficiently to expunge from life, even while seeking to remove from the public view that cross of the God who protects the weak and infirm, and gives the hopeless hope to live, both now and in eternity to come.

Civilization is Christianity. Christianity is civilization.

Examine carefully, O zealous agnostic, what you are throwing on the smoldering ashheap when you tell yourself all you are casting away is the hypocrisy and judgmentalism and intolerance of the Christian superstition. Some things are nailed to the crucifix which you must and will trample when you trample the crucifix underfoot to prove to the great Sultan of the underworld your loyalty to his creed of correctness, non-judgment, and toleration of abomination.

In addition to abstractions like democracy and scientific progress, very concrete things like legal protection of your rights and your right to life are nailed to the Cross of God, and came into the history of the West, and the history of the World, because of that Cross and they grew like seeds from the life-giving blood shed there.

Or are you relying on merely pity or merely pragmatism to protect a wretch like you? Do you think your rights are sacrosanct? How shall this be, in a world where nothing is sacred? If you are not make in the image and likeness of God, why will the high and great in this world, the rich and the mighty, pause to respect your littleness?

Do you think a remorseless commercial society will protect your interests against the wealthy, the very men the market place rewards for their industriousness and commerce? They are more loved of the world than you, for the world loves gold.

Do you think a sentimental and bleeding-heart society will protect your interests against the demagogue, the very men the multitudes worship and adore, and the ballot box rewards for his ability to stir up sentiment? He has the iron rod of worldly power on his side, lawyers and bureaucrats and publicists and pollsters and speechwriters, and everyone who business it is to see that this iron rod does not pass from his hands. He is more loved of the world than you, for the world loves power.

Plato tells of a great island called Atlantis, where in the midmost of their mightiest and fairest city two pillars of brass were inscribed with the laws written by the gods. And when those pillars were cast down, and the laws trampled underfoot, at the nod of Jove, the pillars fixing the island to its foundations were also broken. The sea rose and the earth collapsed, and in a single day the great island was swallowed by the salt wave. I wonder if, near the dawn of that morning, some lone watchman in a tower of white overlooking the sea felt the land beneath him tremble like a nervous filly and slip downward only an inch.

So I felt, listening to the sweet applause my fellow men gave to a vile crime, adoring it: and they saluted suicide and called it a civil right, and called brave the procurer pimping for the cause of suicide.

On the day I heard the genial writer speak, and urge the earth toward euthanasia, and heard the room applaud, on that day I felt the world slide downward an inch toward the eager fires below. One more inch.

148 Comments

  1. Comment by Sith Master Sean:

    Well sir I’ve been all over this planet, including many non-Christian lands, and I have to say that your claim that “Civilization is Christianity. Christianity is civilization” fails the reality test quite miserably. In fact, I found the level of civilization in many of these lands considerably higher than here, in the supposed seat of same. If you study the matter honestly, you will discover that civilization has in fact been the work of those you might call Disciples of the Adversary much more than by your own kind. For what distinguishes civilization from a hundred thousand years of life in ancestral tribes, if not the Satanic virtues: hierarchy, innovation, separation from nature and the will to power? When Christendom embraced Satanic values it built global empires; now that it takes more seriously the Christian virtues of weakness, meekness and equality, it has fallen far and won’t recover.

    Putting that aside, if I had to give you one piece of advice it would be this: stop filtering reality through your righteous ideology for a while, break your addiction to indignation and experience the world directly while there’s still time. The fact that you are unable to live mentally in a Christless universe doesn’t mean the rest of us are; it just makes you some kind of mutant who is perhaps mentally unfit for existence in an infernal world. If so, don’t despair; the sweet oblivion of death comes soon enough.

    • Comment by The OFloinn:

      Of course, it comes down to how one measures the “level” of civilization. What is the metric? By what instrument is it realized?

      Perhaps the great civilization is the one whose people so feared the endless cycles ending in catastrophe, the successive catastrophe of the jaguars, of the water, of the air, that it would atop their gleaming pyramids rip the hearts out of living bodies just to put the catastrophe of fire off a little bit longer.

      Or perhaps it would be the great civilization that so succumbed to the endless repetitions as to desire above all else to be melded into them, to become as one with them. Or, as their heretics proclaimed, to escape them entirely. All this to the neglect of history and science.

      Or perhaps it would be the great civilization that sought to master the endless repetitions and whose sages devoted their lives to determining at what point on the cycles matters yet stood, and so never developed such notions as “causation” or “laws of nature.”

      Or perhaps it would be the great civilization that sought in the close observation of the endless cycles to foretell the fates of kings and kingdoms through painstaking calculations of oppositions and eclipses.

      But maybe it was the one that denied that there were endless repetitions, that Socrates would live again and again and be condemned again and again; but which held rather that Socrates lived but once and time had a beginning and a direction and an end, and effects had causes; and which after a time found ways to apply these causes artificially to the well-being of their fellow man. The one that developed orphanages and hospitals and care for the poor.

      Could be. But it is hard to say, since you have provided no empirical evidence to back your claim.

      • Comment by Gian:

        Chesterton in Everlasting Man writes that Carthage was more civilized than Rome.

        Not all pagans admire suicides. It is a great sin among the Hindus. However, the Hindus make exception for certain self-sacrificing types of suicides such as samadhi taken up by enlightened souls.

        I would even say that even Romans would not have accepted everyday suicides but only exceptional self-sacrificing suicides such as Cato.

        • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

          ‘Chesterton in Everlasting Man writes that Carthage was more civilized than Rome.
          Not all pagans admire suicides.’ Are you meaning that Carthage was more civilized than Rome because they did not admire suicide and Rome did, or is it an accidental juxtaposition? What Chesterton noted about Carthage being more civilized than Rome is that they had more refinements and luxuries. As for the morals, what is remembered of them is that they burned their children alive in a furnace representing Moloch. I did not find a text stating the reasons why Cato always said that Carthage should be destroyed but I suppose it was the main one.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      At the risk of sounding condescending, let ask: is there no one who will challenge my bold assertion that Christianity is civilization, and civilization is Christianity? I meant it to be controversial.

      But I cannot answer argument that civilization is strong, therefore satanic, therefore good. Even to insult such an argument would do it too much honor.

      “The fact that you are unable to live mentally in a Christless universe …”

      I was an atheist for 35 years, fool.

      Find out who the hell you are talking to before you start your pseudopsychoanalysis. No one will believe you know what is buried in his basement (known to you but unknown to him) if you cannot even get the street address of his house right, or the county, or the hemisphere.

      I have commenter here — oddly enough, one and all on the political Left — who cannot resist “debunking” opponents by pseudopsychoanalysis. This is my term for the technique of inventing evil hidden motives or evil hidden personality flaws in perfect strangers order to dismiss their argument without going to the brainwork of reading the argument or inventing a counterargument. It is a sign of intellectual bankruptcy and sloth: If you have ammo, why shoot blanks?

    • Comment by lotdw:

      So the dude who sees himself as a character from a fictional tale is advising people to stop filtering reality and see the world AS IT REALLY IS?

      I love your posts SO MUCH, dude. Don’t ever stop.

      • Comment by Boggy Man:

        Is it wrong that I picture Sean as the incontinent petulant pantless Palaptine clone from Red Letter Media?

        • Comment by Sean Michael:

          Let me hasten to implore Boggy Man and all other commenters NOT to confuse me with “Sith Master Sean.” I do not agree with “Sith Master’s” repulsive views even one IOTA!

          Sean M. Brooks

      • Comment by John C Wright:

        Now, be fair. The Sith master who sees himself as a man from a fictional tale is telling a Houyhnhnm who sees himself as a horse from a fictional tale to get back to reality.

        Of course, the Sith Master is not improving the opinion my race of superior dispassionately logical equine beings has of the yahoos.

        Any day now, we shall storm from our tiny island of perfect reason to conquer and, as reason dictates, exterminate the inferior and illogical race of yahoos. What chance will Europe, or even the Galactic Empire with its planet-smashing Starfleet, stand against us?

        Yes, it is true we have neither weapons nor a military organization. But with our prudence, unanimity, unacquaintedness with fear, and our love of country, we would amply supply all defects in the military art! Imagine twenty thousand of us breaking into the midst of an European army, confounding the ranks, overturning the carriages, battering the warriors’ faces into mummy by terrible yerks from our hinder hoofs!

        Okay, I will stop now. Swift was kidding.

        • Comment by lotdw:

          How many hooves do you have?

          • Comment by John C Wright:

            As many as Swift’s friends. The last line is straight from the book, spelling and all.

            • Comment by lotdw:

              Oh, sorry, that wasn’t meant to be a spelling correction. I was just wondering if you also think you have horsey parts, because I’m pretty sure Sith Master Sean thinks he can shoot Force Lightning out of his hands. Sarcasm doesn’t do well on the internet.

              • Comment by John C Wright:

                The joke is that if I call myself a Houyhnhnm, I can hardly criticize some wight who calls himself a Sith. The one is as imaginary as the other.

                The Houyhnhnms are a race of fictional ultra-rational horses from Jonathon Swift’s GULLIVER’S TRAVELS, the book where the sarcasm is laid on thicker and heavier than in the earlier books of that most honest of traveler’s reports. To this day, some yahoos think Swift was suggesting that running a polity by pitiless pure logic along Spartan lines was more admirable than the Irish Catholicism of his native land.

                Since the Houyhnhnms are as humorless and inhuman as the Yahoos, somehow I doubt that Swift shares Gulliver’s unabashed admiration for the equine philosophes.

                • Comment by lotdw:

                  Right, I got that. I just think that there’s a certain order of difference between the way you call yourself a Houyhnhnm and the way he calls himself a Sith. For one thing, you recognize that the irony inherent in your adoption of the name. For another, you don’t mention Gulliver’s Travels in every single post ever (perhaps because, unlike SMS, you have more than one thing to say).

                  I’m not sure how positive Swift was about Catholicism. He was at least a partial opponent, as an official in the Anglican Church, though he fought some common enemies such as the Dissenters. I do know his “An Argument against Abolishing Christianity” mentions that abolishing Anglicanism would lead to the worse situation of encouraging Catholicism. Of course, he was still concerned about Irish Catholics, as “A Modest Proposal” shows.

                  In any case, no criticism of you was implied by either of my posts.

                • Comment by joetexx:

                  A critic I forget wrote:

                  “Beware when Swift’s hero expresses admiration; his name does not begin with ‘gull’ for nothing.”

    • Comment by Patrick:

      “If so, don’t despair; the sweet oblivion of death comes soon enough.”

      What a geeky thing to tell somebody.

    • Comment by SFAN:

      Two words: Eternal Return

    • Comment by robertjwizard:

      You have seen Return of the Jedi, right? The bad guys lose.

      And judging by your website(s) you seem to gravitate to the losing side. Hitler, lost. Stalin, went mad. Communism failed. Palpatine, lost. And in the case of Satanism, you do realize that, by necessity, it is the losing side, right?

      • Comment by SFAN:

        What do you make of the frequent claim that the Light Side
        only won because it “used” the stronger Dark Side (Vader)?
        (Not unlike LOTHR,in a way.It was Gollum,not Sam,who saved the day.
        The scene also reminds me of Foundation,but that’s another matter)

        I agree with you,that’s just something that has always nagged me.

        • Comment by robertjwizard:

          Thank you for the opprotunity to flex my geek muscle!

          I think that would be a prequel-included view. I believe the prequels contradict the meaning of the originals (in many ways, but this one bugs me). In the original Star Wars when Obi-Wan is fighting Darth Vader, Obi-Wan warns Vader if he cuts him down he will become more powerful than he can possibly imagine. Cut to a few minutes later and Luke steps out onto the docking bay and sees the two dueling. Obi-Wan sees him and turns to Vader with a wise, calm and knowing look, closes his eyes, and lets Vader take him.

          I always took from that that Obi-Wan was unleashing a force against Vader that would defeat him, one that Vader could not fathom – his love for his son. That was exactly how it played out. Although I suspect that Lucas may not have known that at the time of the scene I mention because certain other scenes seem to contradict it.

          I always took Star Wars as a fairytale love story of father and son. So, no, I do not think there is any water to the argument that the light used the stronger dark side to acheive their ends.. What won was the weapon of love.

          If you toss in the prequels with all their prophecy and midichlorians (however you spell that) then I have no idea what Star Wars is about. They aren’t even the same story. And to think of all the effort Lucas says he went through for continuity!

          • Comment by SFAN:

            I had the impression that Vader being Father was more of a Leigh Brackett thing,
            but if Lucas followed Campbell’s monomyth,that would likely be there in some form.

            Anyway,that’s a good point I hadn’t really thought about: that Obi-wan refused to
            fight and kill Vader to give Luke the opportunity to redeem him. One of the lines
            I most often remember from RotJ is “I am a Jedi,like my father before me!” =D
            But the point would still stand that it was the “power” of Vader what was able to
            kill the Emperor (falling in a station of his own making,though),be it the Dark Side
            (was he hating the Emperor for harming Luke?) or even any Empire cyborg enhancements.

            Unless of course it was the power of the real Jedi Knight he should have become
            and we were able to see -in the original,at least- within the Force at the end. ^^
            Is the dark side stronger?” “No…no…no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.”

            By the way,the difference between the classic trilogy and the prequels could perhaps
            be compared with the Mule scenes in Foundation and Empire vs Second Foundation…
            (the first one was all about compassion,the second one was more of a psionic thing)

            • Comment by SFAN:

              (so it’s not so much that the Dark Side was stronger as that Luke wasn’t
              a true -or at least as well-trained- Jedi Knight* (or even an adult) yet
              …although the relative “blood” strength of the gift could have a part
              -maybe it had more to do with love bonds’ resonance than midichlorians?-)

              But yeah,I guess all these SF/RPG “explanations” kind of miss the point…

              *Another favorite,Han Solo’s line about “delusions of grandeur” XD
              On the other hand,Yoda,even with less time,was better than Obi-Wan.

            • Comment by robertjwizard:

              Well, we are probably over analyzing this as I have a suspicion Lucas made it all up as he went along. Then again it does stand as a finished product (sans his eternal screwing with it) therefore it reads a certain way regardless of the author’s intention.

              I would say my argument still defeats the using dark side argument. If it is true, in that universe, that once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny (wait! I think I’ve seen this movie a few times!) then conversely if one is able to turn from it, it must also be complete. SW is black and white in that way – you are either good or you are not. You cannot, by the rules Lucas set up, be on the dark path and use it to defeat evil.

              Now one could say this is exactly what Luke did to defeat Vader. But it was just that act that gave him pause from the brink with that whole staring at his father’s severed mechanical hand and his own hand. The point being that you cannot use it without becoming it.

              Star Wars is a basic redemption story. When Vader acts for a personal value, when he acts to save his son, he is redeemed. There was no dark magic used by Vader to defeat the Emperor. He merely picked up a distracted, withered old man with his robotic arms and chucked him down the shaft. I could do that. He also died for his efforts because the lightning killed him. You could say he redeemed himself through sacrifice.

        • Comment by Photios:

          I have always thought that Tolkien’s point, if indeed he had one, was that it was because of the mercy of Frodo, Gandalf, et al. towards Gollum that not only allowed Frodo and Sam to get as far as they did but that without their mercy Gollum would not have been around to inadvertently destroy the ring at the end. Good triumphed because of mercy and not judgment. I feel like I have made a similar point from Luke recently so maybe I just like that verse.

          • Comment by SFAN:

            Sure,in both cases compassion was the key (“using” would be just the Dark Side’s view of that
            as manipulation),but there was this notion that it only worked because evil made the redeemed creature stronger in the first place. Mr Mitchell has already shown that that is not the case
            in Star Wars*,and you could say Gollum wasn’t using particularly mad evil skillz when guiding
            Frodo and Sam through Mordor,but knocking Sam and then biting the One Ring out of Frodo’s hand
            sounded evil -although I usually like when two evil characters lose because they fight each other-
            (one could also said rather cynically that Gollum was evil but conveniently just weak and clumsy
            enough not only to catch Frodo by surprise -was that being treacherous? the same misdirection as
            sending Frodo to Mordor?- but be easily disposed of by falling into the pit (in his selfish joy?))
            (I have even found this article now that interprets that as an eample of the One Ring’s evil power http://valarguild.org/varda/Tolkien/encyc/articles/f/Frodo/FrodoSuccess.htm ,although it also
            mentions that Frodo’s moral resilience was what made it possible to take the Ring to that point)

            I guess I’m just overthinking it (and probably showing too many scruples about what is justifiable)

            * He made another good point:Vader doesn’t resist the lightning better than Luke but dies for him.
            (although Luke refused as a Jedi to kill the Emperor himself,so Vader did the “dirty job” for him.
            Did he just intend to die as a (pacifist?) martyr if he couldn’t convince Vader to follow him back? -the Alliance was sure fighting the Empire- Too much analysis,again,even for “conscience-fiction”?)

            • Comment by Photios:

              I’m not certain that I am directly answering or perhaps echoing you but I would say in LOTR Gollum is not stronger or somehow more powerful than Frodo or Gandalf. In fact I would argue that he is one of the overall weakest characters in the books. His most significant help early on in the quest to destroy the ring was that he was familiar with the terrain as he’d (I think) snuck into Mordor and snuck out of Mordor previously and that he had long ago learned to survive in hostile environments.

              What I meant by mercy being what actually destroyed the ring (and what seemed to be a theme of LOTR when I read the books as a ‘generic’ Christian versus when I read it as an atheist) is that the ring can’t be destroyed by might as it will seemingly corrupt such people faster so a hobbit untrained in war or magic, and who possess no particular deep learning is the ring bearer and there are many opportunities to kill Gollum or have him killed yet Frodo and Gandalf argue against them all (and there are several, Sam being a prominent example, who argue for Gollum’s death as being just and deserved). In the end, Frodo is corrupted just as Gollum and Isildur had been yet the ring is finally destroyed not because evil (in the person of Gollum) is stronger than good, but because Frodo and Gandalf chose to be merciful. It was because that they chose to be good by being humble and merciful that the ring was destroyed, even though Sauron was the most powerful being in Middle Earth and though Gollum was physically stronger than Frodo and Sam. Might in the end was overcome by Right.

              • Comment by SFAN:

                I basically agree,it’s just
                that compassion could have
                moved Gollum to help or even
                sacrifice himself for Frodo
                in the pit instead… ^^
                (longer rant deleted XD)

                Anyway,it’s a great example
                of “Ethic Fantasy” ^_^

                • Comment by Photios:

                  I actually think that it works brilliantly because mercy didn’t change Gollum — permanently at least. If you read LOTR as an atheist, Gollum’s attack of Frodo and fall into Mount Doom is sort of anti-climactic and forced feeling. Frodo falls to corruption and Sauron’s ring is destroyed by accident. If you read it as a Christian though then it is weakness and mercy (the very things that Sean the Sith detests) that destroy both Sauron and his ring. Not because of a magical transformation of a murderer who has embraced evil for centuries, but because being merciful is the right thing to do and the rewards of doing the right thing are not always obvious and direct. A Christian reading shows you that Sam was wrong and Frodo was right.

                  • Comment by John C Wright:

                    It is a Christian sentiment. “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty…”

                    But, in all fairness, I never met an atheist who thought that this ending was forced or weak, even if one might expect their worldview should call for it. Atheists are not so inhuman that they root for the Galactic Empire rather than the ragtag rebels with their comedy relief robots. Even Hercules or Superman is only an interesting character if he is facing a monster stronger than himself, or a problem mere strength cannot solve. No one cheers for Giant the Jack-killer and everyone cheers for Jack the Giant-killer.

                    As with most things, the Christian worldview can give a rational account for this odd sentiment which cherishes weakness, and can explain why we instinctively recoil from Nazis — and if persons who worship Darwin were right, and if this were were nothing but matter in motion, and we were nothing but meat robots programmed to pass along selfish genes, not only would we not hate Nazis, we could not even imagine on what ground they could be hated.

                    The fact that our friendly neighborhood Sith nut is a nut, and does not even talk like a sane man, is by itself evidence that there is more to the world than the mechanical, Darwinian, nihilist world view.

                    Atheists can cheer for good guys, and admire self sacrifice, and feel sentimental for the weak and downtrodden, and do all the other things civilized men by rights should do; they merely cannot give an account for why they should.

                    • Comment by Foxfier:

                      But, in all fairness, I never met an atheist who thought that this ending was forced or weak, even if one might expect their worldview should call for it. Atheists are not so inhuman that they root for the Galactic Empire rather than the ragtag rebels with their comedy relief robots.

                      To be somewhat less fair, I’m pretty sure most of the atheists around are from Christian cultures, and I seem to remember that, historically, hating the weak that are part of your own group isn’t healthy for a culture.

                    • Comment by John C Wright:

                      To be fair again, stories supporting the little man against the bully, the spider against the tiger, and so on, are popular and universal to all mankind, Christian or not. I agree the notion of charity to the poor has particular emphasis in Christian lands, but it is the emphasis of something know to all men.

                    • Comment by Photios:

                      I didn’t say that atheists never enjoy seeing the weak win. Most people like an underdog, but typically they want the underdog to win by skill, wit, or strength — not simple luck. But anyhow, my point was that the Ring’s destruction appears accidental or lucky but it is not. It comes about directly because of mercy — a Christian ideal. This is hard to see if you are an atheist. As an atheist, and maybe even as a pagan, the destruction of the ring appears to be a deus ex machina.

                  • Comment by SFAN:

                    Aha,I had actually written some comments
                    touching on those points in your replies,
                    but -after a storm- I’d better move on from
                    Mt Doom’s fiery pit to A Fire Upon the Deep :)

  2. Comment by Sean Michael:

    A horrifying, fascinating essay, Mr. Wright! I too share your anger, disgust, and dismay. I fully agree that “euthanasia” is nothing but the horrifying crime and sin of suicide when done of full and free will by the perpetrator. And nothing but murder when inflicted on the victim when he is found too bothersome and inconvenient to be allowed to continue living.

    Whoever this writer you wrote about was, I hope never to read his books. Not if he supports the Culture of Death and is a servant of Morgoth!

    Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

    • Comment by Tyrrell McAllister:

      I was assuming that the author is Terry Prachet.

      • Comment by Tyrrell McAllister:

        Gah. Sorry for mangling the name Terry Pratchett.

      • Comment by John C Wright:

        It is not the author who appalled me, it was the audience, including myself.

        I sat and listened to pure evil being uttered in charming accents accentuated by droll witticism, and I did not stand up, and I did not strike the old man who uttered them across the mouth: and when he departed, everyone stood and gave him an ovation, even though he had done nothing in his life aside from entertain their idle afternoons. Only I did not stand, being too sick at heart. I did nothing, I said nothing. Was this Christian humility on my part, or merely the cowardice of the silence good men which allows evil men to triumph?

        Had he never said a word, that audience would have been the same: a plowed and fertile topsoil ready to receive any seed, so long as the herb it grows mounts and becomes the tree of death, and the juice of its fruit ferment to venom.

        • Comment by Boggy Man:

          Geesh, one of my favorite authors too.
          Hate the sin love the sinner I suppose.

        • Comment by joetexx:

          ‘It is not the author who appalled me, it was the audience, including myself.’

          I wanted to ask if anyone called the SOB* (I use the abbreviation deliberately) on his monstrous
          speech. I dont point fingers; I doubt I’d have had the courage myself. But someday we must grow
          back the spine to point out in public, calmly and dispassionately, how vile these sentiments and
          actions are. The term ‘nazi’ is useful and apropriate; we must not fear Goodwin’s laws, since facts
          and figures about the fueher’s campaigns of sterilization and euthanasia speak for themselves.

          *In the ’70’s when the ink was still fresh on Roe vs Wade, the gentle and courteous Rusell Kirk called a Republican delegate a son-of-a-bitch at a convention in Michigan. The fellow was a distinguished physician, an official of the state AMA, and a prominent abortion advocate. I remember the thrill of respect I felt when I read about that, and at the time I was a leftist and ‘pro-choicer’ myself.

          • Comment by Photios:

            My understanding is that Mr. Pratchett has terminal Alzheimer’s so he wants to change the law so that suicide will be a legal option available to him when/should he eventually choose it. While his is a misguided desire I am not certain why anyone would believe that calling him an SOB or comparing him to a Nazi would change either his mind or those that are prone to listen to him. Instead it would seem to me that this type of act would steel him and his audience in their belief.

            Rather than supporting the popular meme of the Angry Christian it would be better to strive to be Christlike and win over people by providing an example that lives and works among them.

            • Comment by The OFloinn:

              a) There is no such thing as a “meme.”

              b) But we are not sure what reaction there should be to someone who is advocating a great evil. Even among the angry Christians of a bygone era, it was not enough to be a heretic, one had to advocate heresy — for others. It is one thing, to take a different example, to be a greedy man – e.g., a Wall Street high-flyer or a punk who really really wants your running shoes – but quite a different thing to advocate greed as right and true and good for others. “The strong take what they can, and the weak suffer what they must.” One might pity someone who suffers from greed, acknowledging a deprived childhood, let’s say, but not the one who tells others that Greed is Good.

              • Comment by Photios:

                Before my browser crashed, I’d originally wrote “I hesitate to write meme” to head off just such a response as yours. I did not mean meme in the biological Dawkinian sense, but rather as an idea that spreads from person to person. In this instance the popular but inaccurate belief that Christianity is an angry reproving faith that is more concerned with condemning others than in helping them.

                As to your second point, I am not certain if it directly engages what I wrote or was intended as additional commentary. I did not write that Christians should avoid engaging society at large or even shirk from speaking the truth. That is quite different however from comparing a popular SF author who has Alzheimer’s to a Nazi or calling him an SOB. Aside from James 2:13 and its admonition that mercy should trump judgment I think that we should be careful when we consign men to Hell for their acts as we are not God and it really isn’t our place to do so. We should instead focus on the sin and speak to why it is wrong. This message is better presented by a meek and merciful Christian than it is by Jonathan Edwards and his angry God. You can’t have people who keep “catching fire for Jesus” unless that fire keeps going out.

                Once you move beyond all of the scientific posturing of most atheists you find that they are atheists (or perhaps it is better to say they became susceptible to atheism) because they don’t like God or Christians. It does not require a great deal of scratching at the surface of the atheists that regularly post here and self identify themselves as atheists to see that they believe God to be evil and that they believe Christians follow suit. This is an uninformed caricature (one that is given life by innumerable heresies which distort Christianity) but one that we should seriously consider when we seek to counter relativism and other evils.

                I sincerely believe that if you try to live a Christlike life and present a good model for others that you are more apt to change those around you than if you shout at and demean them. Rather than demean Mr. Pratchett in front of his fans it would be better for Mr. Wright or Mr. Gene Wolfe or Mr. Orson Scott Card or Mr. Michael F. Flynn to have a similar dinner where they spoke about the sanctity of life and why suicide is wrong and why Christianity is right. Maybe these authors would be roundly booed rather than cheered, but their words, dignity, and courage would plant a seed that would grow in their listeners — especially when other Christians acted in the same way.

                • Comment by momofthree:

                  “I sincerely believe that if you try to live a Christlike life and present a good model for others that you are more apt to change those around you than if you shout at and demean them”

                  I wholeheartedly agree.

                • Comment by Foxfier:

                  Once you move beyond all of the scientific posturing of most atheists you find that they are atheists (or perhaps it is better to say they became susceptible to atheism) because they don’t like God or Christians. It does not require a great deal of scratching at the surface of the atheists that regularly post here and self identify themselves as atheists to see that they believe God to be evil and that they believe Christians follow suit.

                  Can’t say I’ve seen that, and I am married to a guy who was an atheist when I met him.

                  It generally boils down to ‘you can’t tell me what to do,’ and folks giving orders they can’t rationally back up. (Being a geek, many of my friends were ‘raised Catholic’ with relatives who claimed D&D was inherently evil. Claim stupid blank, drive folks away from Christ. Bonus, the gal who drove my husband away from the Catholic Church isn’t even Catholic anymore!)

          • Comment by John C Wright:

            Since this was quite possibly the author’s last appearance in public in American before an incurable disease slowly destroys his life, it would have been heartless to denounce him in public before his adoring fans, myself included. A public debate at a convention is a different setting.

            • Comment by joetexx:

              Mr Wright,

              I may say here that at the time I posted my comment I did not know that you referred to Pratchett. Then I googled ‘Terry Pratchett euthanasia’.

              Your forbearance is understandable, though I believe a denunciation, however heartless, would have been entirely defensible even under the circumstances of a public tribute to Mr Prattchett; perhaps especially there. I will post my reasons in a forthcoming reply to Photios, after I fulfill certain of my responsibilities later today.

              I too once counted myself among Pratchett’s adoring fans, in a previous incarnation that ended abruptly last night.

              • Comment by robertjwizard:

                I too once counted myself among Pratchett’s adoring fans, in a previous incarnation that ended abruptly last night.

                Really? So before you became a Pratchett fan you researched him to make sure his views were in line with yours, and that made his stories good. Now you find that his views conflict with yours so his work is no longer good or worth reading?

                Of course this is easy for you to do, now. If you were an adoring fan before, you have probably read all his stuff already. Now that a devastating disease is going to snuff him out prematurely there will probably be no more (now bad) books forthcoming. So it is pretty pointless on your part.

                You are either a fan of a writer for the writing itself, or you are not a fan at all. Sure, you can say, “I love this guy’s writing, but his views suck (or he’s a complete ass or whatever).”

                If I had to judge writers by their explicit real world views, I wouldn’t be reading much of anything at all. What principle are you acting under? Is it a matter of degree? Would you unadore (like unfriending) a writer if he turned out to be an anti-semite? How about communist, materialist, pro-abortionist (better get ready to clear many a bookshelf if that’s a red flag for ya) gay, xenophobic, drug abuser, alcoholic?

                One of my favorite present day science fiction authors is a “lunatic mystic who worships a bronze-age sky father”. Some of his views peeve me off, he makes gross caricatures of my philosophy, and I am pretty sure I would not find his vision of earthly utopia to be at all enjoyable. He has expressed a desire to run over Thomas Jefferson with his car and spit in his face. But, come his next book, I will be reading it the same day it comes out. And greedily too.

                • Comment by John C Wright:

                  It’s a matter of degree. I read authors with whom I disagree (including myself) and enjoy them perfectly well, knowing that the muse they serve does not necessarily support the philosophy or party they promote. But there is a time when an author becomes so appalling (and there is no dearth of perfectly honest folk who feel this way about yours truly, and I do not fault them) that one’s own enjoyment of his work of art is marred.

                  For myself, I doubt the author we are discussing rises to that level. I suspect his reason was overthrown by the prospect of a degenerative disease he himself is suffering, and whose reason would not be overthrown by such fear in such a case, save only a saint? The Stoics of the pagan days regarded suicide as honorable, and these were men as admirable as any pagan civilization can produce.

                  Even those who wish not to support an author whose ideas appall could in good conscience patronize his earlier works, before he fell into this temptation of the abomination of despair.

                  There are artists and writers whom I think beyond the pale of what a civilized man should patronize or acknowledge. This man, in my opinion, is not one of them. But it breaks my heart to see a man I so admired and adored fall so deeply and so gullibly into the lies of the culture of death that he now must lend his considerable talent and wit to luring others to the destruction of their mortal lives the peril of their immortal souls. It is a triumph for the princes of the netherworld; the fallen archangels who burn in miserable gloom would laugh with the joy of their victory, if they were capable of laughter or joy.

                  Let any man who deems himself wise reflect on how easily the witty men of the world are duped.

                  (Nor do I exclude myself from that warning — not long ago, I was a Stoic, and stoicism does not disapprove of suicide).

                  • Comment by robertjwizard:

                    I have seen that disease, and that particular form of it, I would forgive Mr. Pratchett near anything – I’d rather end up in Jeffrey Dahmer’s freezer. I don’t usually inquiry about the authors I read. Sometimes if I am blown away, I’ll be curious enough. Or if it is especially loathsome, I’ll bet myself I can predict exactly what this person is, “I’ll bet he’s a communist,” for example.

                    I don’t think one’s opinion of an author’s work should change retrospectively because of the author – I do not think that fair.

                    • Comment by John C Wright:

                      I certainly fear and loathe such a disease. Of course, I also think that once one’s Earthly life ends, even if it ends in disease and pain, that there is a sequel. Ironically, even if my belief should turn out to be false, the mere presence of the belief will prevent me from calculating moral choices only in terms of short-term cost versus benefit. If the soul is immortal, then there is always a longer term to consider. In such a case what is right and good to do in the abstract just so happens to be what will benefit us in the long term — a nice harmony of interests.

                  • Comment by Foxfier:

                    I suspect his reason was overthrown by the prospect of a degenerative disease he himself is suffering, and whose reason would not be overthrown by such fear in such a case, save only a saint?

                    That’s my reasoning.

                    Oddly, the more recent his writing, the more Catholic his thinking. Just finished a second-third reading of Unseen Academicals and ended up marching down stairs in tears to search out his daughter.

                    He’s a freakin’ genius. Of course a mental degenerative disease terrifies him.

                • Comment by The OFloinn:

                  “lunatic mystic who worships a bronze-age sky father”

                  Fr. Robert Barron, on the second episode of the PBS series Catholicism, said, “I’m with the atheists on this one. I don’t believe in that god, either.” So if the writer to whom you refer is an orthodox Roman Catholic, the comment does not apply.

  3. Comment by lotdw:

    ^ If it’s the writer I think he’s talking about, you probably already have.

    Re: “nothing is sacred”: this was the excuse PZ Myers gave for his desecration of the Eucharist. I remember thinking after I read it, “What about the lives of those you (or I) love? Are they sacred?” The man is a Mengele in infancy, restrained only by the accumulated norms of America, now almost entirely lacking their metaphysical foundations.

  4. Comment by Tyrrell McAllister:

    > the Swiss physicians committing the homicide had German accidents

    Are you making an essence/accidents distinction, or did you mean “German accents” :)?

  5. Comment by Sandy Petersen:

    First, I would say that, using the common definition of civilization, there have absolutely been non-Christian civilizations (and are, to this day). I would never claim that pagan Rome or Japan or China or India were not civilized. For that matter there have been savages and barbarians who were Christian, though I believe their savagery and barbarism were tempered by their knowledge, and they were soon brought to true civilization.

    I also say that there are times when suicide, or at least, a preference of death, is acceptable even for the most ardent Christian. I heard a Catholic priest say in what appeared to be a definitive statement that the people who leapt to their deaths on 9-11 rather than roast in the flames did not count as suicides in the pejorative sense, and this sounds reasonable to me. Those soldiers in the 7th Cavalry who shot themselves upon realizing that they had no escape from the Sioux were perhaps taking a step further towards “true” suicide, but once more I think they could argue at the pleasing bar of God that death was sure for him in any sense, and undergoing the torments of an inventive Lakota mind too much to expect for a non-saint.

    I have had two beloved uncles die slowly of painful stomach cancer, who maintained a cheerful outward countenance to the end, and who even went on family trips while dying, yet never ever asked or seemingly considered euthanasia. My grandfather was blind, emphysemic, and cancerous, yet he kept a sense of humor and never asked for more painkiller than was offered. With men like these as my example, I feel that when my time comes, if (as I hope it is not) I am faced with a slow death, I will try to man up to the task as did the pagan Romans, the pagan Japanese, and the Christian martyrs. To do otherwise is to betray my ancestors, and also my descendents, who have me as a primary example.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Excellent point. There are three counter arguments (1) to ask what is the definition of civilization (2) to ask what is the status of pagan civilization (3) to ask whether pagan civilization and Christendom are linked?

      The common definition of civilization is any peoples who live in walled cities. This includes those things logically or historically necessary for such life, or the finer things such life brings into view: literacy, law, public order, craftsmanship, worship, art.

      But we also use the civilized like the word “gentleman” not merely in the common sense, but in the sense of a compliment, or an ideal: not law, but justice. The Chinese Mandarins were civilized to the point of overrefinement, and the Chinese tortures are famous to this day for their cruelty. Law they had in abundance; justice, not so much.

      Likewise, order is civilized, and Brahmans lording it over underlings and untouchables were very orderly, a social order upheld by the worse impulses of passivity and superstition. By contrast, no Christian ever thought the king was sinless or thought the squire his spiritual superior, not since Saint Ambrose made Emperor Theodosius the Great walk barefoot to his penance.

      Likewise again we children of the modern age think of civilization not as a static thing, but as a progress: so it is not just the arts and crafts practiced in the traditional ways that we called ‘civilized’ — we use the word for the ideal of progress and development; not craftsmanship, but technology.

      It then merely becomes a question of asking where and for what reason the ideals of civilization came to the light of day. India and China are not the source of the industrial revolution nor the source of the notions of Liberty and Equality nor the abolition of slavery nor the upholding of a standard that torture is uncivilized and utterly unacceptable. Where did these notions arise? From which continent, or, rather, which civilization?

      As popular as multiculturalism is these days, it is nearly impossible to regard arguments that the American Enlightenment came from the Iroquois rather than the British as sober, nor that the Islamics drove the scientific revolutions of Copernicus and Galileo and Newton. So much for point one.

      Point two is again a matter of historical fact: does England have a Tennyo, or does Japan have a parliament? Is India ruled by Anglo-American principles, or Europe by Hindu? The dominant philosophy in China that rules there today is Marxism, invented by a German Jew in exile in London; and Capitalism, ideas born in France and England. The other dominant idea in China, one that flies in the face of all the Confucian teachings of the sanctity of the family and respect for ancestors, if Malthusianism, invented, more or less, by Malthus, but made a popular matter of popular hysteria in the West in the 1960’s. No matter how great an ancient these civilizations born without Christian roots once were, now they been so grafted with European ideals and ideas that to call China non-Western while technically true, would be like calling Buddhism non-Chinese.

      Finally, whatever the status of the past, in the present the only intellectual force of any power opposing Christian civilization is not an alternative civilization but an anticivilization: Socialism, Nihilism, Modernism, or whatever you want to call the informal and inchoate collaboration of powers bent on restoring primal barbarism. If they are successful, the neobarbarians will not spare Plato or Buddha or Confucius any more than they will spare Christ, and when all Bibles are burned in the spiritual fires of scorn, the Kojiki of Shinto will not be spared.

      Only Christian men preserve and study pagan things: barbarians and pagans have no interest in each other’s works. If Christian civilization goes down, pagan civilization will not Phoenixlike rise from the ashes.

      “I also say that there are times when suicide, or at least, a preference of death, is acceptable even for the most ardent Christian.”

      The Church, and all Christian teaching, Orthodox and Occidental, Catholic and Protestant disagrees. I am not willing to argue the point: look it up.

  6. Comment by CPE Gaebler:

    I posted a link, and a friend of mine submitted a comment:

    “Yet again, I find myself wondering why you continue to link to this individual. First, last I checked it is God, not John C. Wright, who separates the saved from the damned. We do, however, know that God’s mercy and justice is infinite, and it is certainly not clear that the suicide is necessarily excluded from it. Second, it is extraordinarily unkind, uncharitable, and unChristian of Mr. Wright to tell grieving family members that their beloved is burning in hell. Common decency rebels against such cruelty.

    Third, it is dismaying that Mr. Wright does not even remotely understand the concept of mortal sin. To wit, for an action to be a formal sin, one for which God will call the perpetrator to account, it must be freely committed, despite knowing (or even merely believing) that the action is wrong. The charming writer whom Mr. Wright describes presumably convinced his interlocutors to commit suicide by convincing them that it was not wrong to do so, and indeed presumably believes so himself. As such, their suicides could not be mortal sins, and would not place their salvation at jeopardy.”

    It appears he was rather struck by your comments regarding this excellent writer “talking someone into Hell.” I myself, when I read the article, was slightly puzzled by how you put that, but passed it over as relatively unimportant – apparently my friend was unwilling to let it slide, and brought it to my attention. Can you elucidate on this point?

    • Comment by Captain Peabody:

      A mortal sin does indeed require consent, grave matter, and knowledge that what they are doing is wrong; but what that means for any given person is not so clear-cut as your friend would have it. These people no doubt have consciences, and indeed they almost certainly have been inculcated into the Christian moral code and its dictates in the matter of suicide; and in practice, suicide of this kind is almost always justified using mainly selfish and utilitarian methods (that regardless of what anyone, even God, says, “I won’t suffer through that!”). Given these circumstances, it is not at ALL so clear-cut that we are able to say, “Well, I guess they can off themselves; they don’t know better, so it won’t hurt them!” The fact is that someone who commits suicide is placing their soul in grave, grave danger, especially in this context; certainly, we are not equipped to judge that someone is damned, but nor are we at equipped to canonize them either. If Mr. Wright is guilty of erring too far in one direction, then your friend seems to me to be guilty of erring far more in the other.

      And in any event, even if the sin is merely venial, it is still grave matter, an objectively action directly responsible for the sufferings of Christ. It should not be minimized in the least.

      I say this as someone who has experienced the effects of suicide in a fairly close circle; and frankly, it is just as insulting to me and to the memory of such people to say “It doesn’t really matter, they’re alright!” than to unilaterally condemn them to Hell. Such people need our prayers, not the airy justifications we come up with to make us feel better about ourselves.

      So, basically, we come to what Mr. Wright said, which is that someone who encourages others to commit the grave sin of suicide is in fact directly placing souls in grave, grave danger, and leading them to commit horrific crimes against both themselves and against God. Whether or not these souls in fact survive their crime, it is still a grave evil, and something which must be spoken against and fought against with the utmost honesty, lest souls fall into the trap laid for them.

    • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

      Hello, Mr. Gaebler. I am confused by your friend. Why did he respond to Mr. Wright’s post and so put a human soul into peril? According to your friend, Mr. Wright did not commit a mortal sin until he was told he had done wrong? This path would seem to end with the destruction of every Bible, and record of every Saint, so that Mortal Sin could no longer be committed. Have I got that right?

      • Comment by Pierce O.:

        While it is true that knowledge is required for the sin to be mortal, the act is still damaging to the person and to society. Hence, it is considered better to educate the person than leave them in ignorance. Do we leave a man to smash things with hammers or teach him how to use a hammer? If we leave him he will blithely continue to destroy things but will not sin. If we educate him, he may turn into a skilled craftsman, but he may also become a skilled hammer murderer. Which do you think is better?

        • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

          Given the stakes, how is that even a question? Eternal Damnation is, by definition, the worst thing possible. I should want someone to court damnation because otherwise he might cause me some temporary harm?

          • Comment by CPE Gaebler:

            I don’t think awareness retroactively goes back and turns things into mortal sins, does it?

            • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

              Perhaps not. But awareness does not stop people from sinning does it? And now, according to your friend, they are committing Moral Sins, courting Damnation when they were ignorant, and safe, before the Church made them aware. Making the Church the worst thing to happen to Mankind, if I understand him correctly. Which I don’t think I do, insofar as he also says that Mr. Wright was acting in an UnChristian fashion, which should be a good thing, according to your friend, right?

    • Comment by Mary:

      The term “affected ignorance” is quite possibly applicable here.

      Only invicible ignorance excuses. Vincible ignorance excuses only insofar as the effort was sincere. Affected or studied ignorance may in fact increase the guilt, because of the hardness of heart shown in keeping yourself ignorant.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      The paragraph before the line in question reads “And the genial writer talked a man into suicide, and opened the gate of hell which opens when a man abandons all hope…” or, in other words, what I am doing is expressing disapproval of despair, not condemning a soul to hell in my capacity as judge. As your friend points out, I don’t have that authority.

      I thought I was clear enough — I am condemning the accomplice for his complicity, not the perpetrator. The genial author by his applause and verbal support abetted a suicide into stepping off a brink overlooking a lake of eternal fire. If perhaps (as your friend fondly pretends) a Hand from the cloud snatched the perpetrator to safety before the fall was complete, the perpetrator would be not guilty, his crime having been thwarted despite his intent. But for abettor, his crime is complete the moment he materially aides the attempt, even if the crime itself is never completed. The genial author talked a man into Hell, even if the man escaped Hell.

      I admit my wording is ambiguous. If I say “Hinckley shot Reagen” it might sound like I am saying “Hinckley killed Reagen” rather than “Hinckley wounded Reagen” because the word “shot” can either mean that the action was complete or that the action was taken but not completed. Likewise here.

      Your friend then launches into a technical discussion of a theological point that would indeed mitigate the penalty attached to the sin in question. His discussion makes a hypothetical assumption about the state of mind of a man unknown to him, in reference to a story told to me whose details I did not pass on, including the detail of whether that assumption about the state of mind was correct or not. Granting his assumptions, I have no objection to his theory of the case, but it is irrelevant, and assumes facts not in evidence.

      From his tone, I assume he objects to the Christian condemnation of suicide, or the Christian doctrine of Hell. That would be a separate discussion.

      If he is self-righteously condemning me for being self-righteously condemnatory, I can but smile at the irony. Which is the greater sin, to promote euthanasia, which calls a pitch-black sin virtuous, or to condemn euthanasia, which calls a sin sinful? If to abjure sin is sin, what is virtue but another word for sloth?

      My belief on the matter is precisely what the Catholic Church teaches. Please assume that if anything I said in the original post seems to contradicts what the Church teaches, the seeming contradiction is based on a misreading.

      Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us.

      It is not ours to dispose of.

      Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations.

      Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.

      If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law. Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

      We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance.

      The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.

  7. Comment by Montecristo:

    The Pagan Hippocrates made his oath in order to distinguish himself and his followers in a world where people were able to purchase poison and advice for abortion and euthanasia with no legal obstacles. The Oath taker foreswore both of these practices. Hippocrates wanted his patients to know that he was unambiguously a Healer, not someone who would use medical knowledge to cause harm. Imagine that. What a funny phenomeon to invoke in John’s World, where the collective society molds the individual at the direction of Great Men, instead of individuals molding society according to the exercise of their individual conscience. Hippocrates was free to do right where certain human freedoms were not abridged. In a world where Ceasar controls medicine, it is all or nothing, and surprise, the sinners outnumber the saints. Now everyone must tolerate euthanasia and abortion. Eventually, doctors will be required to perform both, as condition for practicing their art. In a world where individual sovereignty is respected, people are free to treat life with all of the sanctity that their conscience may dictate to them. In an unfree world, the State will dictate according to the whims of those able to wrest control of it. How’s that working out for us? You have presented the answer to that question quite well here, in your essay. It speaks for itself.

    Your trouble comes from using pious language to defend the Conservative lust for domination. You would defend your neighbor from himself even from his own free will, God-given to hear the claims that come out of your mouth. Such hubris. Such libido dominandi, Conservative. Your actions belie both your words, and more importantly, your faith. You would empower Caesar to act as God’s Own Agent On Earth and you wonder why the culture coarsens and the Bad Guys, whom your own Good Book warns outnumber you, have gotten hold of Caesar’s ear and have turned him against you, now that you have empowered him to the point where his power is worth the Herculean efforts of people to sieze it. Your true faith is in Ceasar’s Sword, not the cross when you presume to dictate to the individual’s conscience.

    What will you offer the potential suicide? Will you offer him an inspiring sermon, words of persuasion? Will you offer him God’s salvation, which he is encoraged freely to accept, or will you threaten him with empty legal sanction, while your laws demonstrate your contempt for the individual’s sovereignty and conscience? Your admittedly eloquent essay does not say precisely where you stand on the legal issue of suicide, but I suspect you believe your Church commands you to empower your government to make it illegal. Why not say that, or perhaps deny it, if I have read your words in error? From where I stand, it looks as if you imply that you wish the “Christian Caesar” to have the power to legislate against Man’s free will, to override the individual’s conscience, whenever an individual uses that free will in ways of which you disapprove. What will your policeman offer the potential suicide, once you have got your way? Death is the ultimate sanction the law can invoke, but that is what you think you’re preventing! Will you burn the village in order to save it? There are some places where the law cannot intervene, by nature. The Conservative forgets those limits in his lack of humility and self-righteousness. And what a death you are preventing. It is not God’s decree of life you are enforcing but your own decree of how someone shall die, disguised as a pretense of being the spokesman for God’s Will in your neighbor’s soul. Arrogance, anyone? Are you not arrogating to yourself the perrogatives you say belong to God?

    I don’t like the idea of medical practicioners dispensing euthanasia either. I beleive it puts us on a slippery slope to nowhere good, even though I don’t share your belief in an eternal divine condemnation for it. One’s life is one’s own and one has no duty whatsoever to die at the pleasure of the Collective, provided such a Hobbesian Hobgoblin even existed, or at the pleasure of family or anyone else, for that matter. When I was younger, my family doctor was an old Catholic ex-army doctor who posted the Oath of Hippocrates on his waiting room wall. I respected that, the power of his conviction, not the edict of the State. It is only when the individual’s conscience and sovereignty are respected in law that the good are free to do good. A real belief, an actual faith, if you will, in a divinely ordered universe, would encourage you to consider that people are only unhampered in doing good when their conscience is respected. You might actually believe that many would choose the good, if they were free to practice it. The Oath of Hippocrates was burried by the law, when formerly it had been upheld by the convictions of the individual people who took their honor seriously. Honor has value to the extent that the individual’s sovereignty and conscience are respected.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      You same argument could be used to excuse any crime, any sin, any enormity, on the grounds that the perpetrator choice to commit it, and his choice is sacred.

      This is an incorrect and self-contradictory idea of freedom of the will. Human beings are complex creatures, torn between reason, passion, appetite, desires both selfish and selfless, and we are prone to addition both physical and mental, to substances like drugs and to ideas or obsessions which cloud the judgment and darken the intellect. Hence, any choice that diminishes one’s ability to choose again is suspect: I can freely chose my first free sample of cocaine, but after that, the mechanism of choice is itself prone to increasing corruption.

      A short way of saying this is to say that true freedom consists of the fulfillment of one’s nature. For a human being, that means human nature. Treating other humans like objects is slavery, and even the slaveowner is corrupted by the institution. Treating oneself like an object is destructive of human nature directly. Suicide is self-destruction more rapid than any addition, and destroys self and nature at once.

      Therefore, even questions of eternal peril to the soul to one side, any philosophy which promotes self-destruction in the name of self-fulfillment is a philosophy of despair. But whether one approves of despair or not, such a philosophy is not logically self-consistent.

      Oddly enough, it was Granny Weatherwax who said in a book by Terry Pratchett that to treat people like things was the source of sin.

      “Honor has value to the extent that the individual’s sovereignty and conscience are respected.”

      I beg to differ. Honor is not a thing like a taste in clothing or a preference in pastry, where if you like cake and I like pie, we have nothing to dispute. For example, when a soldier in wartime deserts his post for fear of wounds or death, that is cowardice and should be held up to scorn as dishonorable, not praised as being respectable, even if his choice was free.

    • Comment by The OFloinn:

      One’s life is one’s own

      Unsubstantiated. It ignores the fact that no one gives himself life and that one’s life is afterward intertwined with others in a community. The “rugged individualist” does not exist in fact and is premised on a world having no children. The principle of absolute monarchy that has informed the Modern Ages not only gave us the “Divine Right” monarchs and the Total Bureaucratic State, but also the Nietzschean/libertarian, who claims to be absolute monarch of a very small kingdom.

      The idea that “my life” is a sort of property, like “my computer,” suffers on two grounds. First, that something be “mine” does not entail that I can do anything I want with it. Quoting Ed Feser:

      Perhaps the rhetoric of property led Rothbard astray here. In some contexts, saying “It’s my property” does indeed crisply settle the question of whether one may carry out a certain course of action. But not in all contexts. In everyday life, we are all well aware that the fact that you own your back yard (say) does not entail that you have no obligation in justice to allow the fire brigade access to it in order to get to the burning building behind it, or to avoid using it to engage in dangerous scientific experiments. Conversely, we are well aware that the fact that you have these various obligations does not entail that you don’t “really” own your back yard after all. In everyday contexts, that is to say, we are well aware that to say “X is my property” simply does not entail “I can do absolutely anything I want with X provided doing so violates no one else’s property rights.”

      Naturally, some commentator at a site calling itself the Mises Institute affirmed that he kept a rifle handing in case vile fire-fighters tried to cross his property to save a house that he had no property interest in. Nice guy.

      The second difficulty is logical. If I say “it’s my life,” who is the “my” and in what way is the “life” something other that can be “owned”? “Life” is, to use the old term, the anima or “soul.” To consider it as a sort of property like my computer or (pace Feser) my back yard is a form of chattel slavery. It treats a rational animal (a human) as an object, a thing, to be used as one uses any other slave, and to be disposed of when it is no longer economically useful.

      a) Rational animals possess intellect and volition. The end of thinking is to understand why things are as they are; and the end of willing is to achieve the good. For theists, this can only be attained by “knowing God.” Others may perhaps be satisfied with lesser attainment.
      b) Rational animals have various secondary ends, like “food, shelter, marriage and children, etc.” which, while they might be sacrificed for the higher rational goods, are necessary/conducive for our “flourishing.”
      c) Rights are fundamental safeguards to our ability to realize our natural ends as rational animals.
      d) The realization of these ends comprises what is the “good” for us.
      e) Hence we have a “natural right” to pursue all these things [cf. “the pursuit of happiness”] But to do any of it, we must first be alive [anima, soul] and be at liberty to do so. Hence the foundational aspect of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as found in Wm of Ockham, Opus nonaginta dierum.
      f) Hence, we cannot justly be put under someone else’s authority to such an extent that he may legitimately prevent us from realizing these ends.
      g) Hence chattel slavery is forbidden.
      h) But so is that radical sense of self-ownership which implies an authority to such an extent that we may legitimately prevent ourselves from realizing these ends. This amounts to chattel slavery of oneself.
      i) A fundamental, natural right cannot be surrendered, because it inheres in human nature itself and is not the grant of any sovereign or State.
      j) Suicide, in particular, interferes drastically with one’s natural right to life, as well as to liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

      For additional comments, see:
      Rothbard as a philosopher
      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/08/rothbard-as-philosopher.html
      and
      Is self-ownership axiomatic?
      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/08/is-self-ownership-axiomatic.html

  8. Comment by Sandy Petersen:

    Suicide is horrible. I don’t deny it. But in dire situations (notably wartime), I hold to the belief that taking actions that lead to one’s own certain death can be heroic. Piloting the plane down in flames so that your crew can bail out safely. Is this wrongful suicide? Throwing oneself on a grenade to save your trenchmates?

  9. Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

    ‘Is there no one who will challenge my bold assertion that Christianity is civilization, and civilization is Christianity?’ I doubt there are really good arguments to challenge a truth so obvious. Even agnostics when they know history and are serious thinkers acknowledge it. Since the fall of the Roman Empire, there is no civilization in the world which is not dead or terminally ill apart from Christianity where it is still alive.
    The civilizations before Christianity, or outside of it, had one essential characteristic in common: their people were united by a religion. When this religion decayed or was demonstrated an idolatry by Christianity, the attached civilization faded along.
    So I’m wondering if civilization is not most of all a passion for truth? Because a civilization in which people do not want to live by truth, or pretend that truth does not exist, or is unknowable, or is what we make it, is going to its ruin.

    • Comment by joetexx:

      Ms Rosseau,

      Civilization is a by-product of a religious vision, and the religion is always primary, and more important than the civilization. The men and women who made Christian or Confucian or Hindu or Aztec or Muslim civilization were just trying to be Confucians or muslims or whatever, and the civilization followed. This is why you can’t build a civilization from scratch or defend it without understanding its religious roots.

      You are right about the passion for truth, and civilzatioon is in a way an attempt to embody that passion in social form. Some attempts, like that of the aztecs, are of course horribly distorted.

  10. Comment by momofthree:

    “Has not science proved that man is merely a hairless ape with an accidental brain-mistake or neotenous genetic glitch that stumbled him into self-awareness?” Just….wow….how well said!

  11. Comment by basx:

    John:

    When you state that civilization is Christanity and Christanity is civilization, I would concour with you on the following grounds:

    1) In China and India there’s still a lethal disdain for girls. We know that the male/female ratio is China is unsustainable it’s about 130/100 in favour of the males. India is close 120/100. The Ancient world killed itself via the abortion and infanticide of girls. Mike Aquilina at his blog posted some time ago that archaeologists in the various sewers in Rome and surrounding areas found skletons of babies that were girls. Christanity has been very empowering to girls and women. There’s no other civilization where girls and women were educated as well as entire orders founded on education them. This is contra an article at the Asia Times

    2) Although not exclusive to China nor India, the Yueyue incident. I find it telling that despite 5000 years of civilization and a highly civilized culture until the wrong side won the civil war, the concept of the good Samaritan is entirely absent. It’s astounding and makes me understand that if revelation is absent or ignored, we stumble very badly when we act.

    The fact that many Western columnists have advocated a good Samaritan law to shield from civil pursuit when doing a good underscores the power of a Christian idea.

    Finally, I laugh when I read that the unmooring of the Chinese moral order started in 1979; it didn’t it started 30 years before when the communists showed their contempt of their compatriots through the Great leap forward that provoked the worst famine in history climaxed by the Cultural revolution when Mao and the party was going Pol Pot on the population.

    xavier

    • Comment by Gian:

      Abortion is legal upto birth in the most Christian nation of USA.
      Same-sex marriage is only found in the Christian lands.
      Contraception was accepted in Christian lands before it was hoisted onto non-Christian lands.

      Infanticide or abortion is in fact a sin under Hinduism. That many modern Hindus do not follow it is no more reflection of Hinduism than the perhaps greater moral dereliction of modern Christians reflects upon Christianity.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      The Chinese abortion policy looks to me like it is copied directly from the West: to see the sons of Confucius destroying the family appalls me more deeply than seeing some peoples who did not make familial piety a core of their culture. So, while I agree in general, there are aspects of that specific example which look to me like they are impersonating Western evils, carrying out daydreams of Western intellectuals.

      • Comment by Sean Michael:

        Indeed, the Chinese Maoist policy of compulsory abortion is a logical extension of Mao and his succesors attack on Confucianism and the norms it taught. Epecially the stress placed on the family. If parents are forced to destroy their own children how then can they be revered by any children who do escape the slaughter?

        The Maoist regime is a totally unnatural and perverse government from the point of view of historic Chinese culture.

        Sean M. Brooks

      • Comment by joetexx:

        ‘The poison was brewed in these West lands but it has spat itself everywhere by now. However far you went you would find the machines, the crowded cities, the empty thrones, the false writings… cut off from Earth their mother and from the Father in Heaven….'”

        Lewis, That Hideous Strength

  12. Comment by Tim:

    “My belief on the matter is precisely what the Catholic Church teaches. Please assume that if anything I said in the original post seems to contradicts what the Church teaches, the seeming contradiction is based on a misreading.

    Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us.

    It is not ours to dispose of.

    Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations.

    Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.

    If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law. Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

    We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance.

    The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.”

    Mr. Wright,

    I was once suicidal and have known several suicides and suicide attempts in my own sphere of family, friends, and co-workers. I have been a life long Catholic and have struggled to find consolation in the Church’s teachings. I have never seen them condensed in such a clear, precise, and concise manner. This was very comforting, thank you.

  13. Comment by Holly_Lisle:

    At the risk of sounding condescending, let ask: is there no one who will challenge my bold assertion that Christianity is civilization, and civilization is Christianity? I meant it to be controversial.

    Why would anyone with any sense debate you? You didn’t support your statement.

    If someone ran out into the street, red-faced and frothing at the mouth, screaming “All cows are purple, all cows are purple, LISTEN TO ME, DAMMIT, ALL COWS ARE PURPLE!” no reasonable person would stop to say, “No they’re not.”

    You have done exactly the same thing. A “bold assertion” backed up by nothing is simply another case of “All cows are purple.”

    Take the time to support your statement with proof, and all sorts of people will be willing to debate you.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      “Why would anyone with any sense debate you? You didn’t support your statement.”

      There are two assumptions here: First, you assume that, in a controversy, the obvious needs to be supported by evidence before it is challenged. Not knowing, and not being able to anticipate which of numerous attacks might be made on the statement, it is sounder strategy to wait to see what sort of attack is actually made before defending: otherwise one wastes time and effort defending against nonexistent objections. Such parrying where there is no thrust given opens one up to mockery, since one ends up frantically fighting no one.

      Second, you assume the burden of proof is on me, the man who states the obvious in a controversial way, not on you, who contradicts the obvious with a weak metaphor.

      To say that Christianity is civilization is like saying cows are purple? Really?

      Let us list a few qualities we think of as necessary for civilization: cities, agriculture, literacy, social organization, law. No matter what the other virtues of nomadic or tribal peoples, or confederations of villages, if they lack laws and letters and civic life, they are not what can be called civilized.

      Does merely living in a walled city under written laws render one civilized? Technically yes, but let us use the word in its more ordinary meaning. We rightly dismiss the genocides of the Nazis and Communists as barbaric, even though obvious these men live in industrialized towns and cities. The word there refers to a particular cruelty that holds human life and liberty in contempt, a delight in war and sadism, a callous indifference to aliens and underlings, or hatred; and also to a lack for formality in law (we correctly call execution without trial barbaric) and crudeness in the arts and sciences.

      So let us next list qualities we think of as civilized (1) rule of law rather than rule by the will of the stronger (2) monogamy (3) scientific progress (4) equality (5) respect for human life. Then let us list qualities we think of as barbaric (1) rule by force, or by caste (2) polygamy or concubinage (3) stagnation (4) slavery (5) xenophobia (6) human sacrifice. Now let us list some candidate civilizations. The Chinese, the Hindu, the Aztec. Of these, the Chinese had certain degree of skill in craft but no organized scientific institutions, a very high degree of literacy, but were a stagnant slaveholding society of rigidly organized hierarchy, perhaps the most xenophobic in history, and practiced both concubinage, and exposing unwanted infants. The civilization on the Indian subcontinent likewise was highly literate, but lacked scientific institutions, and was a caste system even more rigid and exacting than the Chinese (who, at least, allow Mandarins to rise to positions of power based on examination) and more cruelly oppressive to the underlings and untouchables; and concubinage and slavery. The Aztec were among the most lurid practitioners of human sacrifice in history, not to mention cannibalism.

      Now I think you can see why I don’t think the burden is on me to lure “persons of sense” to the debate by expounding a defense before the accusation is read. Perhaps you might object that polygamy is wise and kind, and keeping women as chattel and slaves is good for them, or that monogamy is either worse than polygamy, or indifferently equal. This would require a considerable discussion of the role of women and the institution of marriage, which, if this is not a point in dispute, would be a terrific waste of words. Likewise again, you might believe that Christians kept more slaves or kept them in poorer conditions than, say, Muslims, or you might believe that the Muslims during the Middle Ages had a higher level of scholarship and science than did the Byzantines or Franks or Spaniards — well and good, we might have a debate on the point, but this is a mere historical error (or, rather a ‘narrative’) which would require a considerable number of paragraphs even to discuss, much less correct. Likewise again, you might regard the toleration of one religion for the next to be a prime quality of civilization, in which case all pagan civilization, lacking a formal church structure, must of necessity have in advance above all European nations who have Established or National churches, or who provide the Catholic church a role in the government of their kingdom or republic. Well and good again, but this would require an additional host of arguments marshaled by the score to explore or answer.

      So, I would say that a person of sense would not simply assume the modern multiculti bigotry which hold Christendom to be barbaric, and only the Democrat Party to be civilized, or which holds Christendom to be equal or worse than that other nations and races and cultures who never developed the rule of law, individual rights, or institutionalized scientific research, or the industrial system, or the discipline of economics or the abolition of slavery or the pointed arch or an accurate calendar or the Dewey Decimal system or the periodic table of elements or votes for women or the heliocentric theory, or, for that matter, the toys of civilization such as the pipe-organ or notation to write down music or perspective in drawing or rigorous geometry established by axiom and proof, and so on and so on.

      Such an assumption is fantastic, and is made all the more fantastic by being an unquestioned assumption, one which you here imply should be an unquestionable assumption — to question it is absurd (your example) as to call cows purple.

      A person of sense would not simply sneer with the scorn of an ignoramus at someone who notes the difference between all these things, all of which spring from Christendom and from nowhere else, and the relatively modest accomplishments or less developed cultural traditions, such as the Aztecs.

      Let us play a game. I will name three historical Christian abolitionists. You name three Islamic ones, or Chinese, or Indian, by which I mean men who were not promoting the abolition of slavery as part of the process of Westernization, and not in impersonation of a foreign idea. Ready?

      Bishop Beilby Porteus, John Wesley, John Brown, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Booker T. Washington, Levi Coffin, Frederick Douglass, William Wilberforce, Pope Paul III.

      I realize this is more than three, and I don’t have room to write down the name of every Quaker who ever lived.

      I mean, to call the abolition of slavery civilized is as absurd as saying all cows are purple, right? No one in his right mind would ever see the need to defend the proposition that slavery is civilized, right?

      Let us move on to suffragettes. Name the Chinese and Buddhist partisans of equality for women who were not impersonating Western ideals. Semiramas does not count. Or if equality is too abrupt a social change for the misogynist nations, name the pagans who supported the idea that man may not and cannot divorce their wives at will, or take on additional wives as please him? Unless you think it is another zany purple cow claim to claim that women should not be treated as helpless possessions?

      Name the pagan opponents of infanticide, abortion, or exposing infants. This should be easier: surely you will find some Jain or Buddhist whose principle of ahimsa condemns the practice, or some Hellenic philosopher or playwright?

  14. Comment by Holly_Lisle:

    There are two assumptions here: First, you assume that, in a controversy, the obvious needs to be supported by evidence before it is challenged.

    AND…

    At the risk of sounding condescending, let ask: is there no one who will challenge my bold assertion that Christianity is civilization, and civilization is Christianity? I meant it to be controversial.

    If you meant it to be controversial, then you acknowledge it isn’t obvious. Something that truly is obvious, for example, That all cows are NOT purple, doesn’t require a proof. But you posit “A=B: B=A” without ever defining what you mean by either A or B.

    That isn’t controversial OR obvious. It’s simply sloppy.

    Obvious, simple examples of A=B: B=A:

    Cows are Pigs: Pigs are Cows.

    Men are Buildings: Buildings are Men.

    These are clearly wrong because the terms simply don’t require deep definition.

    Both Christianity and Civilization do require definition, and both have multiple, contradictory definitions set forth by adherents. Christianity to a Quaker is different than Christianity to a Southern Baptist, or a Pentecostal, or a Catholic, or a Methodist, or a Jew, or a Muslim, or an agnostic, or an atheist.

    Baptists say anyone who isn’t baptized (and who isn’t a member of the Baptist sect) is going to Hell, Quakers don’t baptize and consider the existence of literal Heaven and Hell as a matter for individual conscience. Revelations claims that only 144,000 people will serve in Heaven at all.

    There is no unified, monolithic Christianity. Therefore, until you define exactly what terms you mean when you say “Christianity,” you have no argument.

    I will, on my background of having been both a Baptist and a Quaker, as well as a missionary kid, give you MY definition of Christianity:

    A religion based on mysticism that demands faith against reason; that requires the acceptance of the credo of impossibilities before you can be a member (an all-seeing divinity created heaven and earth in seven days, impregnated a virgin with a mystical spirit who gave birth to a god-man who was murdered, buried, arose three days after his death and ascended into heaven); that promises all rewards and punishments after death, and uses the force of God’s gun against the head of man to require belief (For the invisible man in the sky so loved the collective that he murdered his individual son, so that all those who believe he did this and that he had good reasons for human sacrifice before he did this can now accept that a human sacrifice has been made for them, and that they are bound to accept this as both a good thing, and as blackmail to force them to worship the guy who did it. John 3:16)

    That equates love with force, and legitimizes force to gain converts, for if you don’t believe in the religion, you are told you will be tortured for eternity, and the god that supposedly loves you is okay with that.

    By my definition, Christianity is simply one more agent for destruction in the world, one more philosophy that demands to be followed, uses the Really Big Gun of Hell as its weapon of force, and requires that its adherents not think or question. The must simply believe, and do as they’re told. It demands the sacrifice of this life for the unproven and unprovable promise of “something better after you’re dead” and as with other methods of mystical thinking, encourages people to accept their state in life as “God’s will,” and refutes the provable (the earth wasn’t created in seven days, guys who are dead in the ground for three days don’t get up and walk again: guys who DO get up and walk again weren’t dead, virgins don’t get pregnant—there are plenty of girls floating around with intact hymens and a bun in the oven, but in all cases, there was a penis involve, and even if the penis didn’t make it through the underwear, the sperm did.

    Christianity in Central America supports the oppression of the poor (You’ll get your reward in heaven). Christianity in the Dark Ages supported the burning of women so their property could be acquired for the Church. Christianity has been its own cause of suffering and horror, and from wars and slaughter to individual pain and suffering, this has been a clear and inarguable part of its legacy.

    Nor was the bringing of peace, joy, and civilization ever the intent of the religion. The Bible states clearly that strife is in fact the religion’s goal:

    “I come not to bring peace, but a sword, For I am come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” Matthew 10: 34-36

    On to Civilization. I would posit all human rights derive from the individual, that we have them by virtue of being born and not through any grant of government or religion, and that civilization is the ascent of government to a state where individual freedom and individual choice are ACKNOWLEDGED as the legal norm, where no individual can use force against another individual except in self defense, and where the government, directed by the people and for the people, exists only to protect these individual rights.

    By my definition, all humans are equal under the law. So right at the moment, I assert that there may be pockets of civilization, but there is no monolithic Civilization, in the US or elsewhere.

    Finally, you have tossed up an entire army of straw men to throw against me, suggesting out of ignorance that if I don’t support Christianity, I must be in favor of slavery, or cannibalism, or abortion.

    My own philosophy, free of Christianity, abhors all of these things because they are the abrogation of the individual rights that I cherish—the right of the individual to be free from force acted upon him by any other human being.

    Genuine civilization doesn’t require God. It requires reason.

    Learn to debate. That straw men bit is as repugnant as presenting unsupported statements.

    • Comment by lotdw:

      What is your proof that reason supports “the right of the individual to be free from force acted upon him by any other human being”? How is “all human rights derive from the individual” anything other than a purely faith-based position? Indeed, how can an individual thing by itself give rise to something absolute and universal?

      There is an odd bit of cherry-picking going on as well (although I think there is in Wright’s posts too). You quote the sword passage, but ignore all the passages where the New Testament does talk about peace, and there are a lot more of those. You note that there are different forms of Christianity, then assert that your Christianity (in which you don’t believe) means believing the earth was literally created in seven days and focuses on hell to a more extreme degree than most Christians sects do (including, as you say yourself, the Quakers). While these are not straw men exactly – as there are people who do follow the type of Christianity you set out – it is still fallacious to stay that this is what Christianity is.

      And at least one thing is flat-out wrong – “he [God] had good reasons for human sacrifice before he did this [the Crucifixion].” Human sacrifice was outlawed in the Old Testament, and that is in fact the point of the Abraham & Isaac passage. This is in stark contradistinction to many of the nearby pagan religions which did have human sacrifice. I think even an honest despiser of the Bible can admit that the worship of Jehovah was, in this respect, preferable to the worship of Moloch. But somehow the most extreme atheists (Sam Harris is another) have it in their heads that the Jews regularly practiced human sacrifice. Perhaps that is not what you meant, but otherwise your statement doesn’t make sense to me.

    • Comment by Photios:

      And here is the fruit of heresy. Take heretical Baptist (17th century), Quaker (17th century), and Jehovah’s Witness (19th century) beliefs mix them together and decry that Christianity is anti-reason and satanic with a gushing hatred that is staggering to witness.

      The two traditions with the soundest historical basis (Catholicism and Orthodoxy) as the Church founded by Jesus are not anti-reason. In fact, for the Orthodox the Catholics may be too pro-reason.

    • Comment by rlbell:

      I must point out a major nitpick:

      The expression “twelve times twelve times a thousand” is not meant to be explicitly 144,000. It is a hebrew expression that meant “every last one”. If Carl Sagan was known of at the time Revelations was written, it would read “billions, and billions”.

      Your thoughts on human rights arising from the individual seem odd, to me. To my eyes, human rights arise from the christian doctrine of the dignity of the human person, as human rights are very thin on the ground where christianity has not taken firm root.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      “If you meant it to be controversial, then you acknowledge it isn’t obvious.”

      Please forgive me, but the last one hundred and fifty years or so, the intellectual life of the West has been preoccupied with controversies which consist of denying what is patently obvious and self-evident in the tone of the most pompous and prideful scorn on the one hand, and on the other with the most meek and hesitating denials of the self-evidently self-contradictory. I will list a dozen off the top of my head: Solipsism, Marxism, Behaviorism, Materialism, Utopianism, Totalitarianism, Deconstructionism, Nihilism, Logical Positivism, Absurdism, Moral Relativism, Multiculturalism.

      The zeal with which the moderns and postmoderns rush to deny the obvious, or, rather, rush to act as if the obvious has been proven false and the argument is over when in fact no argument is given at all, makes your protestation that controversies only adhere to matters where reasonable doubt exists on both sides problematical.

      I expected to be controverted on any topic where Christianity is praised or supported, regardless of the merit of the case, because the modern mind abhors Christianity and abhors the Western Civilization to its roots, even while enjoying (and taking for granted) the fruits those roots nourish.

      But that is an argument for another day.

      On to the merits of your case:

      You are correct to call for a definition of Christendom, which you do not do, but instead call for a definition of Christianity. Christendom is that civilization from Mediterranean lands once ruled by the Roman Empire and still influenced, or influenced heavily, by Roman ideas, principles, and legal institutions. If you have a specific land or peoples where the definition sits ambiguously (I include the English-speaking and German-speaking world, for example, or Spain but not Islamic Spain) I would be happy to refine the definition.

      You, on the other hand, point out minor differences in denominations among various heresies, and from this conclude that I have no argument. This is something of a leap in logic on your part. I don’t see the connection you are drawing. It would be as if I argued that primates have hair, and you triumphantly were to point out that since apes are not monkeys and not baboons, no argument about primates is possible.

      You are the one who introduced the terminology of “unified, monolithic” Christianity, and attributed to me that I had made a comment about this entity. This is what we call a strawman argument. Since you don’t define your terms, I do not know in what sense you mean unified, whether political, denominational, sacramental, cultural, linguist or what, I am afraid I am at a loss to say whether I agree or not that there is such a thing.

      Your argument seems to be to define Christianity to mean “that which, because it is not unified, does not exist” and to conclude that Christianity does not exist. I hope I am misunderstanding your point, because if that is your argument, it is circular.

      You then pour out some of your personal hatred against Christianity, none of which, whether true or false, justified or not, says anything about whether Christendom is the seat and fountainhead of civilization or not. It is all emotional expressions, no matter how deeply felt, which are irrelevant to your point.

      The quote from Matthew is an argument so poor that I am too embarrassed for you to contradict it. Forgive me if I cannot bring myself to correct you. There are plenty of sources which will tell you the meaning of that passage, or you could simply read it again. It is not a call for jihad nor a condemnation of civilization.

      You then give a perfectly reasonable account of the source and justification of human rights, during which you praise the liberty of the individual, and NOT ONCE do you pause to notice whence those ideas and ideals, historically speaking, spring.

      You then write “By my definition, all humans are equal under the law. So right at the moment, I assert that there may be pockets of civilization, but there is no monolithic Civilization in the US or elsewhere.”

      Again with the monolithic. This seems to be a poor definition, if you are saying that civilization is equality under law and nothing but, but are also saying that civilization not being ‘monolithic’ does not exist at all. Do the other factors I mentioned, such as literacy, agriculture, industrial progress, count merely as extraneous?

      What about hygiene? Does nothing else have anything else to do with civilization, aside from this one legal notion, political equality?

      You fail to address argument proper, by making the accusation that I am throwing up a smokescreen of strawmen.

      It seems you do not understand what the strawman fallacy is. It is when one debater mis-states of mis-characterizes the other debater’s argument, and makes the argument have a weakness it did not have in the original, and then, by pointing out the flaw in that weakness, pretends to have answered the argument.
      Since I did not hear your argument, and did not refer to you, obviously I could not have been using this rhetorical technique, and cannot be guilty of it. You, however, by falsely accusing me of making a strawman argument, are guilty of making a strawman argument.

      Nowhere do I make the suggestion that if you do not support Christianity, you are in favor of slavery or cannibalism.

      I am not talking about you at all, Narcissus.

      I was talking about the historical role that Christian civilization had in abolishing these otherwise universal institutions, and I make a rather dramatic challenge that you could easily refute, if you cared to do so, by showing me the pagan writers who, when limited to ideas and ideals from their own non-Western culture only, opposed these otherwise universal evils of man.

      The argument was not that Christians had never done evil, nor was the argument that the Christian religion was true or not. We are arguing a historical point about from which quarter of the world and in which eras of time the dominant ideas of Western civilization (which have, by now, in part, by conquest, trade or imitation, spread to civilizations in Asia).

      You end by sneering that civilization does not require God but does require reason.

      I suggest that the Chinese civilization of antiquity was more devoted to reason than the West, and had neither established church nor much interest in religion, and yet, while maintaining the order and hierarchy we associate with civilization, indulged, for very logical reasons, in torture and slavery and mass conscription and gyno-infanticide we associate with barbarism.

      When you speak of “reason” here, I humbly suggest that you do not mean reason in the abstract; you mean the unique cultural artifact of the West, that thing called Right Reason, the belief that all men innately know the divine laws of the moral order of the universe. That belief is used by you, since you are of the Christian cultural heritage, but you are perhaps unaware of its meaning and parentage. It does not exist in Islam, in Buddhism, or in any national or tribal pagan faiths.

      Be that as it may, we were not arguing whether if God did not exist no civilization could exist. Even if the Christian doctrines are all utterly false, it is still a matter of fact that no pagan abolitionists existed in history before the introduction of Christian ideas, either in Europe or after European ideas spread to other continents, nor pagans supporting the other ideas I am inviting you to consider to be the essentials of civilization: including the one you mentioned, equality.

      I will repeat my challenge and limit it to the one term, equality, you name as the sine qua non of civilized life. Name the Hindu, Chinese, or Aztec sage or philosopher or shaman who preached the equality of the sexes, or of the races, or of master and slave, aside from those inspired of Christian missionary ideas? Name him.

      If you come to the conclusion that ‘pockets’ of civilization exist in English, Spanish, and French-speaking nations, or among the Copts or Greek Orthodox, and furthermore conclude that no pockets of civilization exist elsewhere, then this in effect agrees with my contention. Well? Do any of your pockets of civilized equality exist in lands not culturally and historically Christian?

      If you at some point want to discuss anything related to the claim I made, that Christendom is Civilization, I would be happy to oblige.

      PS: Your own debate skill should perhaps learn a little more polish before you give advice on the art.

      You would also do well to understand what the common fallacies of logic are, so that you know when your opponent is making them: Please see http://nobeliefs.com/fallacies.htm or http://www.theskepticsguide.org/logicalfallacies.asp

      These websites also contain arguments and information supporting the atheist/skepical/freethinker argument, and I direct them to your attention if you are interested in strengthening your ability to present your case.

      • Comment by The OFloinn:

        I suggest that the Chinese civilization of antiquity was more devoted to reason than the West

        Actually, no. They had never invented logic or syllogisms or reasoning from premise to conclusion. When the Jesuit Adam Schall von Bell was condemned to death for predicting eclipses more accurately than traditional Chinese mathematicians, his sentence was commuted at the last minute because an earthquake convinced the judges that the gods were angry with the verdict. When he read the first volume of Euclid, the Chinese convert “Dr. Paul” was astonished: nothing of the sort had ever been imagined in China. (It was the science of the Christians that moved him to conversion.)

    • Comment by The OFloinn:

      Christianity in the Dark Ages supported the burning of women so their property could be acquired for the Church.

      I thought it was the religious folks who were supposed to believe in fantasies on no evidence.

      http://www.amazon.com/Women-Days-Cathedrals-R%C3%A9gine-Pernoud/dp/0898706424

    • Comment by The OFloinn:

      Addendum
      Christianity to a Quaker is different than Christianity to a Southern Baptist, or a Pentecostal, or a Catholic, or a Methodist, or a Jew, or a Muslim, or an agnostic, or an atheist.

      As if these were all equally empowered to define Christianity. The Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church (which always seems to get overlooked) are the two largest bodies of Christendom and together comprise roughly two-thirds of all Christians. Furthermore, they have been in continued organizational existence for nearly 2000 years and their foundational documents: the Epistles, the Gospels, the writings of Basil, Gregory, John C., Clement, Polycarp, Ignatius, Irenaeus, Justin, Augustine, et al. hammered out the details. The inventions of johnny-come-lately sects like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Bible Shack simply do not stack up. IOW, there are historical grounds for saying what Christianity has been for the vast majority of believers over the past two millennia.

      The suppositions of those outside are no more meaningful than the suppositions of most Americans regarding Islam.

  15. Comment by Holly Lisle:

    I’d hoped you’d be able to support your arguments. Instead you prove yourself incapable of doing so, and thus not a worthy partner for debate.

    I actually happen to agree with you on Pratchett’s appalling embrace of euthanasia, but you’ve done a horrible job of defending the value of human life, and have dragged in all sorts of garbage that has nothing to do with the value of human life to do it.

    So I’ll wish you luck with your current approach, and leave.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      First, I am pleased we can agree on the abominable nature of Euthanasia, and I accept your wishes of good luck with thanks. Farewell.

      Second, this is as predictable as it is possible for a human reaction to be.

      I wrote the words following the asterisks below earlier today in the sure foreknowledge that my honorable opponent would dishonorably retreat rather than correct, or restate more rigorously, the formal and informal errors discovered in the argument.

      It is not that I am an old hand at this (I am). It is instead that the rational atheists are rational and approach the matter dispassionately, and this is clear from the outset in their tone; the irrational ones (whom I will call freethinkers, because their thought is free of logic) approach blowing horns and boasting and slinging insults, and the difference in approach and tone could not be more clear. I had Holly Lisle pegged as a freethinker rather than as a rational atheist from the get-go, and wrote the following in anticipation of the shameful retreat.

      * * *

      The delusion of the freethinker, the neurotic atheist, is that he is the rational atheist, and that he alone is wise and rational in a world of violent and thickheaded superstitious barbarians.

      This delusion is not only false to facts, it requires considerable energy and attention to maintain, because so much evidence must be dismissed and disregarded, and so many persons so obviously cleverer than one’s self must be repainted as lumpkins and fools.

      Periodically, more as a symbolic gesture than anything else, the self-deluded individual must go through the motions of pretending he is debating a theist, and that his scattered eructation of verbiage not only has a point, but is in fact rigorous and pellucid arguments.

      Thus, one will behold the odd spectacle of an amateurish rhetorician making a series of profoundly unserious arguments while strutting and preening as if he had put forth something of Euclidean rigor.

      Even when the argument contains a formal or informal logical error easy to amend, rather than admit fault and making the amendment, or adding the connecting link needed to draw an irrelevant comment back to the topic, the freethinker prefers to pretend all errors in the argument rest with the other party, and any disagreement is due to the mental inferiority, or willful stubbornness, and merely the loathsome nature of the other party.

      This is usually followed by quick and craven retreat while proclaiming victory.

      In this case, the showing is particularly pathetic, because the argument I was defending was not ironclad. It would be very easy to overturn the statement the Civilization is one and the same with Christianity merely by defining civilization to embrace only the basics all civilizations have in common: civic life, literacy, law, etc.

      It would be a little harder to overturn the statement that the things we prize as higher civilization (that is, equality or eschewing torture or the progress of the arts and sciences, prospective in drawing, multiple voices in music, heliocentric astronomy, monogamy, etc.) had an uniquely European origin.

      But one could have adopted to the multiculti position that all judgments of better or worse in sanitation and legal process were arbitrary, or pointed to the real and lasting accomplishments of classical and Eastern thinkers, and so on. One could attempt to attribute the advances in Christendom to pre-christian or unchristian elements in the culture, and all retardations to the Church. There was an argument to be made for the other side.

      My opposition made a tactical mistake by defining civilization as a single normative concept found rarely outside Christendom, or not at all: that of the equality of men. Equality has no more obvious corollary than the abolition of slavery.

      Three and four times I asked for the name of the non-Christian abolitionist or egalitarian. My opponent did not even dare to admit the question, which was central to the issue discussed, had even been asked at all. One could have found at least some quote from Buddha about the equal sufferings of man, or some cosmopolitan statement from the Roman Stoic writers, Marcus Aurelius.

      Instead, we see the expected retreat under the expected covering fire of ad hominem. No debate can take place because, since I am John C. Wright, fool and knave, and lack the necessary skill (fool) or willingness (knave) to arrange my argument in a logical order.

      Of course, one if left to wonder whether if a more skilled or more forthright debater than I had helmed the debate, whether the idea under discussion would be found persuasive?

      Unfortunately, all an ad hominem attack does, even when taken in the best possible light, is show that I, John C Wright, am a fool or a knave, not that the idea under discussion (which has not been questioned, nor addressed, nor investigated, nor examined, nor refuted) is a knavish or foolish idea.

      Argumentum Ad Hominem is of course an informal logical fallacy. (One could have clicked through the useful links I provided to read up on what the term means.)

      I have said on many occasions that ad hominem is not the main argument of the moderns, it is their only argument, and they use it on every topic.

      I have long since ceased to ask my freethinker interlocutors to halt the insults and stick to the topic.

      For them, the insult IS the topic. It is the only reason they come, the only reason they open their mouth in debate.

      The debate is not about an exchange of ideas, or a clash of ideas, or a quest for truth via trial-by-combat in words.

      It is about the vainglory. The topic is that they need to prove to themselves that they are smarter than the rest of us. The debate around which the psychodrama of self-esteem seeking is wrapped could be about any topic, or no topic.

      For them, it is always about them.

      The ability to separate oneself from one’s own pride in one’s believe is the essence of being dispassionate and objective.

      Without that, all you have is a pie fight.

      (Honesty moment: I wish I were dignified enough not to throw the pie back. It is a personality flaw of mine I learned while an atheist I am hoping a little Christian humility will allow me to overcome.)

      • Comment by The OFloinn:

        I think you do Holly something of a disservice. She correctly recognizes that

        …all human rights derive from the individual, that we have them by virtue of being born and not through any grant of government or religion, and that civilization is the ascent of government to a state where individual freedom and individual choice are ACKNOWLEDGED as the legal norm…

        even if she does not recognize the origin of these ideas in the writings of Frs. Vittorio, deSoto, of Thomas Aquinas, and their predecessors all the way back to Paul of Tarsus in Romans 2 regarding natural law. She recognizes elsewhere that Roe v. Wade is something that a person must “survive” to have a life at all. And if she likewise accepts credulously the myths and fables of the Modern Ages, that is something that can be addressed with education.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          Disservice? I complimented and agreed with that sentiment.

          As a point of agreement, it would have formed an interesting starting point for our conversation, so we could explore the nature and extent of our disagreement, and perhaps find a cause.

          I would have been curious to discover the historical cause or logical foundation to justify her belief in individuality, or from whence the mystical and counter-factual doctrine that the choices of the unwise, unlettered, inexperienced or foolish merit such careful sanctity.

          But before we reached at starting point, she retreated in unseemly haste and alacrity, all the while announcing my blood was too lowborn to stain her knightly sword.

          • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

            ‘But before we reached at starting point, she retreated in unseemly haste and alacrity, all the while announcing my blood was too lowborn to stain her knightly sword.’
            LOL. First laugh of the day, almost of the week. Thank you, it is refreshing.

  16. Comment by robertjwizard:

    Want me just to send you my electronic copy on the sly? I trust your honor as an objectivist to go out and buy one if it gives value for value.

    What? And spoil the reward at the end of the waiting? Thank you for the trust even if in jest. Besides Vernor Vinge just released his long awaited sequel to A Fire Upon the Deep. Very good – so far – btw. To speak nothing of the dozens of other books that I have in perma-queue.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      You would think I would be abreast of the latest developments, but I had not heard that Vinge wrote a sequel to FIRE UPON THE DEEP. It has been a long time between good reads for me.

      No, I wasn’t jesting. Finding a reader who likes one’s work is every writer’s dream. I am flattered and honored.

      The only thing I’ve read recently I liked was UP JIM RIVER. I am now reading an advanced reader’s copy of IN THE LION’S MOUTH by the great Mike Flynn. I hope to write up a review sometime next week. The short version is: good books and must-buys.

      • Comment by robertjwizard:

        Well then I am honored by the offer, but I have to wait. By honesty I must no matter if I purchased it later or not. Delayed gratification has in itself a reward despite the modern view to the contrary. Besides, it will be in the past before I know it, but thank you very much. That, and TOR covers are worth their weight in gold IMHO.

        Vinge has written a sequel to A Fire Upon the Deep called Children of the Sky, it came out last week. It almost entirely deals with the ten or so years after the Blight on the Tines world. It is not getting good reviews because it deals with the Tines world development and not much about the Blight, which is still a threat. However, it seems Fire Upon the Deep is part of a series now as the end of the book has to have another story.

        I would read a recipe book if Vinge wrote it. I remember reading Fire and then I read A Deepness in the Sky. At one point in the latter the head bad guy wails, “who am I dealing with here?!”, Vinge had me so hooked, I actually stood and said. “you’re dealing with Pham Nuwen &**&%%$!” That and he had me cry at the death of a seaweed hooked up to wheels and a microchip – his name was Blueshell if I remember correctly. Vinge deserves a shrine in my office somewhere…

        I have heard the name Mike Flynn somewhere before, can you recommend a good starting point?

        • Comment by lotdw:

          You’ve heard of him because he posts here as The OFloinn. I liked his novel Eifelheim, about aliens who crashland in medieval Europe. I haven’t read his most recent books, however.

          A Fire Upon the Deep is an amazing book. I need to reread it.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          “Delayed gratification has in itself a reward despite the modern view to the contrary.”

          Hear, hear. Spoken like a man.

          “I have heard the name Mike Flynn somewhere before, can you recommend a good starting point?”

          FIRESTAR
          FALLEN ANGELS
          IN THE COUNTRY OF THE BLIND

          • Comment by The OFloinn:

            The first and third may be hard to find these days, and the second may be filed under Niven.

            Still in print is EIFELHEIM, THE JANUARY DANCER, and UP JIM RIVER. IN THE LION’S MOUTH comes out in January. THE WRECK OF THE RIVER OF STARS may still be findable; as is the collection THE FOREST OF TIME & OTHER STORIES.

    • Comment by SFAN:

      I’ve got a copy of A Fire Upon the Deep,but although it sounded like a great book
      (I had enjoyed Across Realtime and this one was more of a space-opera) I never got
      around reading it,partly because I prefer to read complete series* -I guess Count to
      a Trillion will be the exception!** 8) – and there was a prequel, and now a sequel
      … But if you both recommend it I will move it closer to the top of the pile… =)

      * Would that be a problem with delayed gratification or waiting would prove the opposite?

      ** Will that add to the sense of vast expanses of time? They seem to take that into account 8)

      • Comment by robertjwizard:

        First, there is no prequel to A Fire Upon the Deep; people say that it is, but it merely happened in time before it, but it is totally unrelated. A Deepness in the Sky is not a prequel to a Fire Upon the Deep – I don’t care what anybody would argue – it is not. They happen within the same fictional universe, and there is one recurring character that is not the same character but merely a simulation of the earlier character and no reference is given to either in either book.

        But, the order I read it, by accident, is the way to go. Read Fire Upon the Deep first, Then A Deepness in the Sky. Not for any logical of chronological continuity, but for emotional impact. I don’t know if was by author intention, and if not, what muses he must have!

        Whenever someone asks me for science fiction recommendations, this is always in the top category.

        • Comment by robertjwizard:

          Just as I hit submit it dawned on me what Vinge’s big surprise will be at the end. I know the identity of the Power. I may be the only to whom that will make any sense.

        • Comment by SFAN:

          (Spoiler?)
          Pham Nuwen?

          • Comment by robertjwizard:

            Pham Nuwen?

            Shhh! Yes and no. (I have certainly not spoiled anything for your reading) It is not a spoiler because he hasn’t written it yet – but it is certainly what I would do. It is a little obvious, but sometimes the most obvious builds the best tension. But if he did it correctly, it would be spectacular. Problem is Nuwen’s backstory, the one that makes him a significant character, is in A Deepness in the Sky which is not related to the current tale. He would have to retell it somehow.

            • Comment by SFAN:

              Finished 8) If as you say this is becoming a series,
              I can leave it at that and re-read it if necessary
              once the rest is complete or at least more advanced
              (I’ve just read on Wikipedia that Joan D Vinge
              is penning a Pham Nuwen novel herself and all XD)

  17. Comment by Nostreculsus:

    So let us next list qualities we think of as civilized (1) rule of law rather than rule by the will of the stronger (2) monogamy (3) scientific progress (4) equality (5) respect for human life.

    Equality? Surely specialization and stratification are more characteristic of civilized life than of primitives. Tribal societies may have no formal rule of law but custom and the kinship system takes its place, not domination by the strong. The village elders rule by consensus, not by raw power. There is little stratification in such tribes and little division of labour, except between the roles of men and women.

    Primitive tribes, the Nuer, bushmen, Australian aborigines, lack a class of professional warriors, so that, while there are certainly raids to seize cattle or land, there is no capacity to subjugate another tribe and force it to work for the conqueror. Religion is mainly shamanism and magic, not a code of good and evil, administered by a priestly caste.

    Contrast this with the archaic civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, India, Mexico and Peru. Such complex societies require non-kinship forms of social cohesion and control. Absolute monarchs arise and terrify their subjects, by their power to inflict arbitrary punishment. Displays of human slaughter are crucial to maintain control. Such monarchs have many wives, to ensure their lineage, far beyond the casual or serial polygamy or polyandry of a small kinship group.

    And what of scientific progress? This alone of your list may fit with civilization, rather than with primitive society, but this is mainly because such societies permit inequality. Only a leisured or priestly caste can begin to develop an overall theory of how the universe functions. But tribal groups also have a science: they pass on a body of very practical observations of the natural world, and of certain technologies of tool-making.

    You seem to be taking the word “civilized” in its sense of “well-behaved” or “gracious” and ignoring the very real problems that developed when human societies began to order themselves by methods beyond tradition and kinship ties. Perhaps, it would be better to claim that Christianity is the antidote to “civilization and its discontents”.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      “Equality? Surely specialization and stratification are more characteristic of civilized life than of primitives.”

      That depends on which definition of the word you are using. I was speaking of the difference between a Christian king and serf versus the difference between a Brahman and untouchable. The Christian idea is that this king is to be brought naked to the Judgment Day, stripped of earthly rank and outward garb to a judge who is no respecter of persons; the Hindu idea is that the high-caste enjoys his high position due to spiritual merit in former lives, and that Karma and the cosmic law of the gods assures him of his rank and outward garb.

      In non-religious life, the (Western) idea that the king is bound by the law versus the (Eastern) idea that the law is the will of the king (or godking or pharaoh) is the analogy to this religious idea of divinely mandated inequality.

      The definition you are using, which speaks of specialization of labor, I would agree without hesitation is a sign of civilization. One is tempted to say that is the main sign of such civilization: what some economists call ‘the extended order’. It your sense of the word, it is a sign of inequality; in my sense of the word, an extended order cannot emerge without at least some recognition of the general equality of legal right — that a king will be punished for stealing a vineyard as severely as a beggar for stealing a loaf — because without persons being secure in their property and sure of the enforcement of their contracts and covenants, specialization of labor is hindered or discouraged.

      You and I are talking about two different concepts, and in English there is only one word (Equality) to cover both.

      “You seem to be taking the word “civilized” in its sense of “well-behaved” or “gracious” and ignoring the very real problems that developed when human societies began to order themselves by methods beyond tradition and kinship ties.”

      I am indeed ignoring those problems, as I should be, because that is not part of this discussion. Whether civilization is better or worse than barbarism is a difference question from whether civilization was more rapidly developed around the Mediterranean basin than in the other locations: the India, the Far East, Central America.

      Whether civilization is a good thing or a bad thing has no bearing on in which spot of the globe and in which era of man the scientific revolution happened, or women got the right to vote.

      • Comment by Nostreculsus:

        I am not inclined to dispute the superior qualities of Western civilization: I merely want to inquire whether “equality” is the main feature responsible for this superiority. You have made it clear that by equality you mean “equality before the law”. Thus, you allow Christendom to permit inequality of rank or of wealth or of power, but you maintain that ,alone of all other, lesser civilizations, law is supreme. Christianity permits no “benefit of clergy” or “protected classes” with special judicial rights, special courts, special preferences in seeking education or jobs or mortgages. Hmmm.

        Unfortunately, there is a failed civilization, Islam, that also has a supreme judiciary, and a radical equality (although restricted to believing men). Classic sharia law is immutable, since it is the direct decree of God, as interpreted by legal scholars. Rulers within the House of Islam were constrained by these rules, even if they despised the jurists. Islam, submission to Allah, makes all equally slaves of the unknowable Allah.

        V.S.Naipaul tells how India became “a wounded civilization”. He recaps the Chachnama, a history of the stunned reaction of caste-ridden India to the equality and discipline of the Arab invaders.

        It is in the district of Siwistan that the people get to understand the nature of the invader. A spy from the Chanas tribe sees the Arabs at prayer in their camp: the whole army standing up, a picture of equality, unity, and union, the general leading his men in prayer, but at one with them. The effect on the Chanas people is immediate. They go in a body to the Arabs – who are now having supper – and surrender.

        Equality? Let us look elsewhere for the unique features of Christendom. Let us look for the source of “the extended order”. In a primitive clan, people largely follow the unwritten rules, because of kinship bonds, custom, and because everyone knows everyone else’s behaviour and reacts accordingly. The mechanism used in every archaic civilization, from Egypt to Mesopotamia, to China, to India is initially fear – fear of the power of the absolute despot, the god-king, surrounded by wives and wealth and beauty, who punishes and kills his enemies en masse. Islam blasphemously proclaims that this despot is God and we are all equally slaves of God. But Christianity proclaims that we are children of God, loved by God. It thus, restores the kinship ties, broken by the invention of civilization, and does so in a larger, extended order. This is “the secret of the Three”.

        It seems that Confucianism attempts, with less success, a similar transformation of China, turning it from the despotism of Qin Shi Huang to a system where government and business relations are modeled on kinship ties.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          But I am not the one who argued that legal equality was the main, or even one of the main, features distinguishing civility from barbarism. That was my honorable opponent, who fled the field after declaring preemptive victory. I listed legal equality as one of several properties of civilization, but I tucked beneath a greater principle of rule of law, progress in the useful arts and sciences, politeness, specialization of labor, peaceful trade, et cetera.

          If the argument is that other factors made the West predominant in the world, I have no counterargument. If, for example, you want to say that belief in the Last Judgment and a single life for each man gave and immediacy and momentum to the human spirit conspicuously lacking in the passive and fatalistic doctrines of despair that form the East and Far East, I would not disagree.

          The position of Islam is difficult: it has much of the vitality, equality, virtue and strength endemic to monotheistic religion, but it has always been an enemy of Christendom, a destroyer, with nothing to put in the place of what it destroys. Their devotion to law is at least equal to the Jews, if not greater. The notion of Brahmanism, that a caste system supports some men as spiritually superior to others, is absent.

          My admiration for Confucius increases each time I learn more of him. My studies have been almost exclusively in Western philosophy, alas, so I have nothing to add to your comment.

  18. Comment by Joel Andaya (@joelandaya):

    RT @Waynelittlewood: The more I read about these religious cretins the less agnostic, the more atheistic I become. Who are THEY to judge? http://t.co/RQgXjGR9

  19. Comment by Foxfier:

    Without reading the responses of others, I ask:
    Please pray for my Elf.
    He was borderline atheist when I met him, solidly agnostic when I dated him, and is generically, rationally, lazily, protestaningly, Christian at this stage. (His description, not mine.)

  20. Comment by Baillie Jones (@BaillieJones):

    Beautifully written and captivating in the horror of its truth: http://t.co/fICOSXwt

  21. Comment by Rabbi B:

    @ John Wright

    I read the article … a few thoughts for your consideration.

    The essay makes it appear that, although you criticized the man after the fact, you sat through the speech without voicing dissent. So if Hitler (y’mach sh’mei) had been making a speech before he ever came to power before a meeting of his adoring fans, not yet possessing the eventual power over life and death which would be given to him, would it have been acceptable to sit quietly with the rest of the audience listening to his views on the slaughter of innocents, silently observing while others laughed and gave him a standing ovation… rather than to stand up from his chair and loudly decry those murderous concepts, making enemies for certain, but making the division about the issue that much clearer?

    A man who possesses moral clarity on a life and death issue and is guaranteed the freedom of speech to express his views as eloquently as you did in your written essay also has a moral responsibility to get involved during the commission of the crime. Such a man needs to rise to his feet in horror, open mouthed in disbelief, indicting this “man whom [he] admires, if not adores” with complicity in murder, and indicting his fellow audience members for being willing accomplices by agreeing and applauding, shocking that audience with his chutzpah.

    It is true that he might be the lone voice in the audience which is raised in objection, and that he might be derided and mocked, perhaps ejected from the building or detained by the authorities. However, it is equally possible that a few others might have been similarly disgusted, and become emboldened with him and joined their voices with his.

    Can he expect G-d to call upon him to do less, when the heroes of Christianity even went to their deaths to stand against evil? Evil was present in that auditorium, and it would appear that no one squared off against that evil or raised an objection to the reasonable, pragmatic voice of murder. Your moment came and left, and it appears that you may have allowed everyone in that crowd to believe that you, like them, had no real objection to it.

    To write against the speech after the fact, while important and laudable, perhaps forfeits a weightier opportunity. The time to speak is when error is being proclaimed, especially if no other objection is being raised.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      I regret not having spoken up at the time more than anything else in my life, thank you very much for rubbing salt in my wounds.

      • Comment by Rabbi B:

        I retracted my comment from VP, and was unable to do so here, as my time expired. Upon reflection, I thought better of posting what I did. More benefit of the doubt and a more inquiring tone was certainly warranted.

        My intention was not to call you out, embarrass you or attack you personally, and from reading your other various posts, the regret you expressed in your reply does not surprise me.

        I realized that I do not know you and expressing public criticism of what I thought you should have done was a bit presumptuous on my part. Please forgive me for not being more respectful and discreet, and thank you for your candid and gracious reply. All my best to you.

        Rabbi B

  22. Comment by Rabbi B:

    By the way …I would be very grateful if you would delete my original post from here. Thanks.

    Rabbi B

  23. Comment by Rabbi B:

    They say the wounds of a friend are faithful … but the wounds of a stranger? The point was made, but it was a point that could just as well have been expressed in a private email and with a little more thoughtfulness. All the same, it’s your blog and whether the post remains is, of course, your decision.

    In my experience I have found that many of the missed opportunities which we later regret, whether large or small, often present themselves again in similar contexts, graciously affording us the opportunity to boldly discharge our duty in a situation where we may have previously shrunk back. Where would any of us be without our mistakes and failings and the opportunity to grow and learn from those failings? It seems to me that this is what redemption is all about.

    We are grateful that we will be standing before the Judge of all the earth on the merits of Someone else’s record, and yet at the same time we are also grateful for the opportunities we are afforded by His grace and power in this life to improve our own records in the light of His redemptive work.

    No one can travel back in time and correct every misstep, but we are assured of a future filled with opportunities to shine our light before men and stand up for righteousness. I am confident that your future will continue to be filled with such opportunities.

    There is someone else who understands what we have all experienced at one time or another and he offers this encouragement:

    Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:12-14).

    Many blessings to you, and thank you for fighting the good fight.

    Yours,

    Rabbi B

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      I spend a disproportionate amount of time on the Internet passing out what little wisdom I have, but rarely if ever had I said anything truly wise. You have done that in your letter here, because of the balanced judgment shown, the courage to state the truth, the understand to know human sorrow and regret, and the faith to know that no suffering is vain or endless or pointless while God is with us.

      Who are you? What do you do for a living? I think you should write a book. Have you? I’ll buy one if you have.

  24. Comment by Rabbi B:

    Thank you for the kind words. I have been raising ten children with my beautiful wife of 22 years, while serving as a rabbi of a small congregation over the last twenty years or so. I recently received my master’s degree in accounting from Liberty University, VA and I am currently working on acquiring my CPA license. I have not authored any books, but I will take your compliment and encouragement under advisement.

    Yours,

    Rabbi B

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