Missing the Point on Atheism and Mass Murder

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Pat Buchanan

Pat Buchanan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Former Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee, speak...

Former Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee, speaking to a gathering at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Atheists have reacted with outrage to Mike Huckabee‘s statements (http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151207029493634) as well as Pat Buchanan‘s column (http://buchanan.org/blog/the-dead-soul-of-adam-lanza-5428) on the role that atheism might play in such tragedies as the school murders in Connecticut. Some comments I have read suggest that atheists believe that Mr. Huckabee and Mr. Buchanan are attacking them personally or saying that atheism directly led to the school shooting. A more careful reading of Huckabee and Buchanan, however, reveals that their claims are more nuanced. The point they make, and I think they are right, is that a godless society is more likely to put the primary focus on the self and its desires. Now I am aware of James Q. Wilson‘s work on sociobiology and altruism, but more people are likely to have heard of Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene. Most “lay atheists,” even highly educated or intelligent atheists, may not be aware of either work, but one motive for atheism among some (though not all) atheists is the desire to be free of divine judgment in order to fulfill the desires of the self. Kant was a theist of sorts, at least most of his life, and the remains of Lutheran divine command theory kept his principle of autonomy from degenerating into subjectivism–the identical moral law, Kant believed, was given to each individual by that individual self. With the remains of Christianity removed from autonomy, autonomy becomes the right to do whatever the self desires. Now that often comes with the caveat that one can do what one desires “as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else,” but without a divine judgment it is only internal conscience developed by habituation that prevents evil personal desires from being expressed. Ted Bundy made it clear to one of his victims that without a God to judge him, he believed that he should fulfill his personal desires to murder his victims and sexually violate their dead bodies. Without a sense that one’s actions can have consequences beyond this life, including negative consequences, it is easier for disturbed people such as Adam Lanza to act on their evil desires. Now he may have acted anyway–we cannot know for sure–but the point is that with one less barrier to fulfilling personal desires, it is easier for an evil or severely disturbed person to “go over the top” and act on his twisted desires. This does not imply that all mass murderers are atheists, nor does it deny that many atheists have moral lives that put some Christians to shame. In a way, the atheist who seeks only fulfillment of the self is acting more consistently than the one who affirms a larger social responsibility to the group. I am aware that evolution recognizes the nature of humans as social beings, and that a lack of all concern for others would prevent human genes from being carried on to the next generation. Yet there is no transcendent meaning to life in atheism, and as Bertrand Russell recognized, all human achievements would be lost in the final ruin of the universe. In such a meaningless world, hedonism may seem like the best option, as with Russell, but with less stable people egoism may be the course they take. Thus the point made is a general one: a society that eliminates any deity is more likely to produce more people like Mr. Lanza that one that accepts ethical monotheism.

President Obama and Small Businesses

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English: View of the east end of the Ithaca Co...

At http://washingtonexaminer.com/55-percent-of-small-business-owners-would-not-start-company-today-blame-obama/article/2509069#.UGNK8q4yfCZ is a story revealing that 55% of small business owners would not start a business today, and that they blame President Obama for that. Democrats love to claim that “We are for the little guy,” but the small business owners with whom I have talked agree with the 55% in the poll. One owner of a flower shop told me that his business prospered best when Mr. Reagan was president, and that he is barely holding on under the Obama administration. The main reason is the poor economy–and this is something that cannot be wholly blamed on Mr. Bush, although he shares part of the blame. Mr. Obama has been in office for three years, and his massive spending of federal money has done no more good than did Mr. Bush’s massive spending. The “economic stimulus package” may have helped some businesses and educational institutions, but much of the money did not go to “shovel-ready projects,” as Mr. Obama claimed.

What is needed for small business to prosper is (1) a lessening of the regulatory load the federal government imposes on business, (2) a reasonable tax rate that does not overburden small businesses, (3) an end to the corporate welfare that favors large corporations over small businesses in a given community, and (4) higher tariffs and other ways to lessen the trade deficit and to stop outsourcing of American jobs. The Republicans agree with the first three factors–they need to follow Pat Buchanan and agree with the fourth. Still, three out of four is better than the Democrats’ zero percentage.

If the Obama Administration were only an enemy of large multinational corporations I could stomach that. They hold an unfair advantage over small businesses and often out-compete mom and pop operations by city, county, and/or state officials giving them large tax breaks. But the Administration has revealed its hostility to small businesses as well through heavy regulatory and burdensome tax policies. The massive spending of federal funds that has blown the federal budget deficit out to astronomical proportions helps keep investors nervous and helps keep the economy in a chronic recession. If a Republican were president, much of the media would be telling the truth which is that the United States is in a depression. The true unemployment rate that includes those who have given up trying to find the job approaches 15%. In some counties unemployment approaches 30%. The poor economy means that people have less money, and their lack of funds means that they spend less money–and small businesses, which are often more expensiveĀ  than large corporations, suffer first as customers seek cheaper products. The combination of poor sales and increasing capital resources to pay taxes and for renovations required by the government smothers small businesses. The economic ramifications of a second Obama term would most likely result in the ruin of many other small businesses.

Leftist Pressure Groups and Freedom of Expression

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Pat Buchanan

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In the past it was often the far right that opposed freedom of expression. There was once a movement in one state to ban the book, The Wizard of Oz because it has as one of the characters “a good witch.” I have personally experienced the dogmatic closed-mindedness of extreme Christian Fundamentalists, and I believe I can recognize that mindset in other groups, both right and left.

Pat Buchanan was recently fired as a commentator on MSNBC. I have found his books to be well-argued, and Mr. Buchanan has a vast knowledge of history that is sadly lacking in most Americans. I agree with his view that immigration should be limited so that those who move into the United States have sufficient time to assimilate to the culture, especially if they come from nations without a tradition of democracy. His position against free trade and in favor of tariffs on incoming Chinese goods is also a good suggestion, a first step in bringing back some of the American manufacturing lost through outsourcing. The same follows for his suggestion that the United States revoke NAFTA. As a traditional Anglican Catholic, I agree with most of Mr. Buchanan’s views on theology and ethics. I also believe that the 1947 partition of Palestine has been a disaster, and although Israel has a right to exist and advocate for her national interests, the United States should not provide support for Israel no matter what she does. Too many people confuse antisemitism and anti-Zionism–they are not the same thing. Many Jewish people are anti-Zionist.

Mr. Buchanan’s book, The Suicide of the West, is what got him into trouble with MSNBC. Under pressure from radical leftist groups who claimed the book was racist and “homophobic,” MSNBC’s (already radicalized) staff decided to fire Mr. Buchanan. I have read The Suicide of the West and find it to be a convincing indictment of the Enlightenment attempt to deny that humans are embodied by denying that embodied properties, even accidental properties, have a great deal to do with an individual’s perceived self-identity. While Americans of European descent do not usually have a specific sense of identity, both African-Americans and Hispanics tend to have a strong sense of identity. Pat Buchanan never says that there is anything wrong with that–he states that it is a part of human nature. Unless there is a consensus civilization to unify various ethnic, religious, and cultural groups, a multicultural society cannot work in practice and leads inevitably to violence (as is the case in California, especially in the prisons, today). For many people in the world, their self-professed identity includes race. Mr. Buchanan does not condemn them, but suggests that such self-identity resists being placed in a “melting pot.” Ethnic and tribal strife in the former Yugoslavia, the former Soviet Union, in Somalia, Uganda and other African nations that were artificially divided across tribal lines by European colonialists, are examples, as are some Asian countries. The United States may believe it is beyond such strife, but in the end, the human propensity to divide into self-contained groups will win out over multiculturalism (or “multi-civilizationalism” as one commentator in Chronicles Magazine once noted).

Mr. Buchanan has also affirmed traditional Roman Catholic moral positions on sexual ethics. This has resulted in a hostile reaction from groups that hate Roman Catholic restrictions on sexual behavior. But as Mr. Buchanan says, “Since when did it become a crime to express traditional Catholic moral positions?” Apparently it is a crime today.

A libertarian might argue that as a private company, MSNBC has every right to fire or hire employees. From a legal point of view it does. But from a moral point of view, it is interesting that a network that claims to value pluralism caved into to radical pressure groups that do not accept freedom of expression. There is hypocrisy there. Left wing political correctness is out of control, just as Fundamentalist political correctness was rampant among some people around whom I was reared.

Someone will probably attack my view, stating that the “progressive” position on issues is the only correct stance to take. Such a claim requires argumentation to justify, not bullying.

Arrogance and Hypocrisy in U.S. Foreign Policy

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Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States...

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President Obama has chosen to lecture Egyptian President Mubarak on the issue of human rights. This is another instance of American arrogance and hypocrisy, as traditional conservatives such as Pat Buchanan and libertarians such as Ron Paul, as well as some on the left, have pointed out. The U.S. has a shameful history of violation of rights and, regarding the American Indians, genocide. The U.S. Army engaged in brutal tactics during the Philippine War in the early twentieth century. In World War II, the U.S. forced thousands of Japanese-American citizens into what de facto were concentration camps–the fact that they were not as brutal as the German camps does not make what the United States did morally right. The U.S. engaged in saturation bombing of Tokyo in March 1945, killing over 100,000 people with the firestorm created from gasoline-laden bombs. The U.S. is the only country to have used nuclear weapons in combat. The U.S. and its allies, violating centuries of just war theory, demanded unconditional surrender of the Axis Powers in World War II. In Vietnam there were multiple instances of abuse by U.S. Army personnel against the Vietnamese people; Lt. Calley’s unit was not the only one to engage in rape or kill civilians. In Iraq and Afghanistan, torture was the official practice of U.S. military intelligence personnel as well as regular army personnel. The U.S. has not eschewed the first use of nuclear weapons in a conflict–not even with President Obama in power. And domestically, neither the FBI nor the ATF have clean human rights records, as FBI surveillance of American citizens and the ATF disasters at Ruby Ridge and Waco show. Now many countries engage in similar behaviors or worse–it may be the case, as blind patriots claim, that the U.S. has a better record on human rights than most other countries. But this does not justify our actions, nor does it justify the arrogance of President Obama in telling Mr. Mubarak how to run his country, especially since democracy in the Middle East tends to lead to radical Islamists coming into power. Perhaps Mr. Obama (and Mrs. Clinton) would prefer the Muslim Brotherhood to gain power in Egypt. If that happens, the powerkeg that is the Near East may explode.

In addition, U.S. policy holds that democracy is the best form of government for all nations. But as Aristotle recognized in his Politics, the best form of government for any state is going to depend on its history and traditions. But the U.S. continues to follow the neo-Puritanism of Woodrow Wilson’s foreign policy and try to export “democracy” to the world–at the same time democracy is dying a slow death in the U.S. The rest of the world sees U.S. hypocrisy and hates us for it. The U.S. can do better than this–it can clean up its own house and avoid sticking its nose into every other country’s business. I hope such reform happens–but the secularist Puritan strand in American foreign policy is ingrained that I am pessimistic. We need more Ron Pauls, more Pat Buchanans, more true liberals such as Nat Hentoff, to join together in an effort to both stop U.S. abuses of human rights and also to encourage a “more humble” (as President G. W. Bush said in his pre-911 days) U.S. foreign policy.