Thursday, September 6, 2007


Civis at Politics, Sex and Religion asks some important questions about worldviews and their philosophical implications. Check out his site and join the conversation.


From Iraq

Ralph Peters has been to Iraq several times and has given us some good insights into the situation there. His latest column is a must-read piece for anyone who wishes to be informed on both the difficulties and the successes that we are experiencing. He looks down the road at what the problems will be several months hence and also at the current state of the war against the insurgency. He tells us, for instance of one officer's rather startling assessment of the military conflict:

One blade-sharp officer, Lt. Col. Doug Ollivant, the 1st Cavalry Division's G-5 Plans officer, even proposes that "our counterinsurgency fight is largely won," with the fading of the Sunni insurgency and the gutting of al Qaeda in Iraq.

Peters goes on to say that:

I've listed the key problems that may lie ahead, but this visit to Iraq further convinced me that we're on a promising track, security-wise:

  • Al Qaeda, America's enemy, has suffered a catastrophic strategic defeat and a humiliation - rejected by its own kind - that will resound in the Muslim world.
  • That hotbed of insurgency, Anbar Province, has largely come over to our side.
  • The surge strategy is bringing peaceful conditions to ever more Iraqi neighborhoods - and street-level Iraqis are grateful. They don't want us to leave.
  • Despite Iran's growing involvement, we've limited Tehran's effectiveness - thus far.

Meanwhile, Fox News recently ran an article in which they mentioned a comment by a Lt. Col. Kenneth Adgie. Adgie said he received a report last Monday that Al Qaeda in Iraq beheaded a 12-year-old boy in the middle of the street because his father was cooperating with the Americans. "That's the level of evil we're dealing with here," he said.

Think of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have cooperated with Americans. What would be their fate and that of their children if we were to pull out before Iraq was safe from these cretins?

Those who advocate withdrawal respond with something like, "Well, we don't really know that these people would be massacred when we get out." That response is as stupid as it is pusillanamous. The rational course is to assume that the future will resemble the past, that the people who behead 12 year-old children to get revenge on the parents and who booby trap children's bodies so as to also kill their grieving parents, aren't going to renounce their savagery just because the Americans leave.

What is far more likely is that the horror inflicted upon that 12-year-old boy and his family will be repeated tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of times. It is that expectation, that liklihood, which should inform our policy, not the wishful thinking embraced by those who rely on the desperate hope that our withdrawal will miraculously assuage the hatreds and change the hearts of these most evil of men.


Atheist Manifesto

TotheSource has an interview with Alister McGrath, author of The Dawkins Delusion, a book written in response to atheist Richard Dawkins' God Delusion. In the interview it's pointed out that Dawkins' arguments are so bad that even fellow atheists like Michael Ruse are saying that they cause him to be embarrassed to be an atheist.

This comment by Ruse is equally appropriate to another atheist book, a big seller in Europe but less well-known in the United States, by French philosopher Michael Onfray. Onfray has composed a work which he titles, Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam about which there are several things which might be said:

First, anyone expecting an argument for an atheistic view of the world should go elsewhere. Onfray nowhere in the book actually provides an argument for atheism or, for that matter, against theism. The entire book is instead a screed against the three major monotheistic religions.

Moreover, even if everything the author says about the failings and crimes of the adherents of these religions is true, none of it gives anyone any reason to abandon belief in God. The book can be distilled to a single sentence: Religious people in each of the three major traditions have done many awful things, terrible things, therefore these religions are all false. It's not much of an argument, of course, but there you have it.

So, if the book is not an argument for the truth of atheism and doesn't really demonstrate that the world's major religions are false, then what is Onfray's point? He seems to be intent on showing that Christians (and Jews and Muslims) are generally evil people. Of course, to make this case he has to be very selective in the evidence he cites, and he has to put the worst possible construction on much evidence that admits of more than one interpretation.

This passage, taken from among the many which could serve, will afford the reader a sense of Onfray's style: (p.67)

The religion of the one God .... seeks to promote self-hatred to the detriment of the body, to discredit the intelligence, to despise the flesh, and to despise everything that stands in the way of a gratified subjectivity. Launched against others, it foments contempt, wickedness, the forms of intolerance that produce racism, xenophobia, colonialism, wars, social injustice .... the three monotheisms share a series of identical forms of aversion: hatred of reason and intelligence; hatred of of freedom; hatred of all books [other than their scriptures]; hatred of sexuality, women, pleasure, hatred of the feminine; hatred of the body, of desires, of drives ....

This description sounds a great deal like the state atheisms of the twentieth century, and perhaps Islam, but Christians, at least, will have a hard time recognizing in the indictment anything resembling the faith to which they cling.

It might help Onfray if he would provide some support for at least some of his claims, but there's not a footnote nor a literature citation anywhere in the book (not even an index!). The reader is left to trust him on those matters upon which the reader feels incompetent to judge, but Mr. Onfray's accuracy in those matters upon which the reader does have a little knowledge fails to inspire confidence in his overall veracity.

To take but one example, the author claims that Adolph Hitler, so far from being an atheist, was a Christian sympathetic to the Catholic Church (p.187). This is simply false. Hitler was at most a deist or pantheist who in fact despised Christianity (See here). Onfray's book is rife with similar examples of historical distortions.

There is one thing about it, however, which redeems it from total uselessness. Onfray's catalogue of horrors perpetrated by religious people throughout history contains more than a few which actually happened. Reading these should open the eyes of theists everywhere to the evil latent within every human heart and should make Christians, especially, more resolved than ever to fulfill their obligation as representatives of the Christ whose own heart breaks when such crimes are committed in His name.