Sunday, August 19, 2007

Anarchy and the Will of God

Peter Leeson's shocking argument at Cato Unbound, that "contrary to conventional wisdom, it is simply not true that any government is always superior to no government" meets its immediate match in the unconventional beginning of Mark Lilla's NYT article, The Politics of God, which begins by characterizing the civilizational crisis of the West in terms of a religious faith -- and insisting that both are inseparable.

The twilight of the idols has been postponed. For more than two centuries, from the American and French Revolutions to the collapse of Soviet Communism, world politics revolved around eminently political problems. War and revolution, class and social justice, race and national identity — these were the questions that divided us. Today, we have progressed to the point where our problems again resemble those of the 16th century, as we find ourselves entangled in conflicts over competing revelations, dogmatic purity and divine duty. We in the West are disturbed and confused. Though we have our own fundamentalists, we find it incomprehensible that theological ideas still stir up messianic passions, leaving societies in ruin. We had assumed this was no longer possible, that human beings had learned to separate religious questions from political ones, that fanaticism was dead. We were wrong.

What both articles have in common, apart from their startling thesis, is the request that the reader put aside any preconceived notions that European political development in the late 20th century represented anything like the highest development of civilization. Both imply that we are not at the End of History and the sooner we disabuse ourselves of that idea, the greater our chances at survival. Here's how Lilla describes the implicit conceit of late 20th century political theory:

A little more than two centuries ago we began to believe that the West was on a one-way track toward modern secular democracy and that other societies, once placed on that track, would inevitably follow. Though this has not happened, we still maintain our implicit faith in a modernizing process and blame delays on extenuating circumstances like poverty or colonialism. ... When we observe those on the opposite bank, we are puzzled, since we have only a distant memory of what it was like to think as they do. We all face the same questions of political existence, yet their way of answering them has become alien to us. On one shore, political institutions are conceived in terms of divine authority and spiritual redemption; on the other they are not. ...

And yet Lilla goes on to show that Western politics is in fact based on theological developments, broadly understood, and he attempts to describe how they have developed.

The history of political theology in the West is an instructive story, and it did not end with the birth of modern science, or the Enlightenment, or the American and French Revolutions, or any other definitive historical moment. Political theology was a presence in Western intellectual life well into the 20th century ... in the aftermath of the First World War it took an apocalyptic turn, and “new men” eager to embrace the future began generating theological justifications for the most repugnant — and godless — ideologies of the age, Nazism and Communism.

This juncture in Lilla's argument provides a good opportunity to circle around to Leeson. Leeson re-examines anarchy or "self-government" not only as an historical phenomenon whose role and function is poorly understood but also in terms of sources authority. The world of anarchy is one in which man acts without the intermediation of the State. It is a world in which "what works", where "common sense" and the natural order -- not State-sanctioned law -- are the basis for organizing and action. It is a world in which the "hidden hand" of self-interest provides the ground for self-organization. It is a world where Man is alone with God ... and other men; where the State stands in the distant periphery. Like Lilla, Leeson forces us to revisit questions of political legitimacy that were taken as settled. In his defense of the role of anarchy (or "self-government"as he puts it) Leeson reminds us that, conventional wisdom to the contrary, States are not always good; and in many cases they are demonstrably bad. And why should this surprise us, he asks? For much of human history most of daily existence actually takes place under self-government rather than State regulation.

Most of the world, for most of its history, has existed without effective governments. As noted economic historian Joel Mokyr points out, “In England,” for example, “there was not even a professional police force to protect private property” until the 19th century.

Large arenas of economic activity in the world remain anarchic, or nearly so, to this day. For example, there is no supranational sovereign with the authority to create formal international laws to regulate countries or to enforce such laws if they existed. ... In large parts of the developing world governments are too weak or dysfunctional to perform even the most basic tasks, like securing the property rights of their citizens. According to the 2007 Failed States Index, governments in 129 countries are on or nearing the brink of collapse. Somalia has no central government at all.

Leeson argues that states are not ipso facto good; their desirability depends on their actual and empirical effect. Where a State does not explicitly contribute positively to society it may often be an instrument of organized oppression. He cites Somalia to prove he point. "Somalia has no central government at all." But once it did; and Leeson devotes the next paragraphs to citing statistics showing how Somalia was better off both before and after it enjoyed the dubious benefits of a predatory socialist State under "Mohamed Siad Barre ... [which] ... looked a lot like the wealth-destroying, wildly corrupt, and highly predatory policies and behavior we observe in many other Sub-Saharan African countries today." Given a choice between a bad State and a state of nature, go with nature. And the implication of his argument is that some traditional societies have suffered by subjection to the forms of European nation-statehood which is sometimes nothing but looting by another name. States are desirably only if they work. "If state predation goes unchecked, government may not only fail to add to social welfare, but can actually reduce welfare below its level under statelessness. Such was the case with Somalia’s government, which did more harm to its citizens than good."

Having arrived at the question of the State we can return our attentions to Lilla and the Politics of God. At one time, Lilla argues, the State was nothing but an extension of society's conception of God. The State tooks its ideal from its understanding of the Divine order. Humanity, cast into a world of unknown origin yet apparently ordered, found it easy to imagine itself in a Universe made "with some end in mind. They stretch the bow, the arrow flies; that is why they were made. So, by analogy, it is not difficult for them to assume that the cosmic order was constructed for a purpose, reflecting its maker’s will. By following this analogy, they begin to have ideas about that maker, about his intentions and therefore about his personality." Thus human governance is imitative of the divine order. Indeed human governance is initially believed to be subordinate to a Divine Plan; a smaller cog in the larger wheels of the Cosmos; and human authority in itself is insufficient to select righteous ends.

But after many centuries of attempting to interpreting the Divine plan led to unending religious wars, the West finally tried another tack. Since every attempt to authoritatively discern the Will of God seemed to multiply the sects, complicate the arguments and make societies rather less divine and more corrupt, might not the answer be to leave God out of active government?

The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes tried to find a way out of this labyrinth. Traditionally, political theology had interpreted a set of revealed divine commands and applied them to social life. In his great treatise “Leviathan” (1651), Hobbes simply ignored the substance of those commands and talked instead about how and why human beings believed God revealed them. He did the most revolutionary thing a thinker can ever do — he changed the subject, from God and his commands to man and his beliefs. If we do that, Hobbes reasoned, we can begin to understand why religious convictions so often lead to political conflicts and then perhaps find a way to contain the potential for violence. ...

Fresh from the Wars of Religion, Hobbes’s readers knew all about fear. Their lives had become, as he put it, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” And when he announced that a new political philosophy could release them from fear, they listened. ... The new political thinking would no longer concern itself with God’s politics; it would concentrate on men as believers in God and try to keep them from harming one another. It would set its sights lower than Christian political theology had, but secure what mattered most, which was peace.

The key to Hobbes' approach was to create a new Prime Directive. In place of the Will of God, Hobbes substituted the Rights of Man. The ultimate sin was no longer to transgress upon the Divine Will but to trammel the rights of man. God in general was temporarily left in place, but the specifics of His commandments were banished from the books. "This liberal-democratic order is the only one we in the West recognize as legitimate today, and we owe it primarily to Hobbes. In order to escape the destructive passions of messianic faith, political theology centered on God was replaced by political philosophy centered on man. This was the Great Separation." This Separation was to provoke another type of crisis.

By the light of Hobbes' candle Western civilization left one dungeon only to blunder into another. The essential problem is that Hobbes' candle also blazed forth a dark light; an actual shadow which as the centuries lengthened slowly grew into a malevolent form. The shadow of separation from God -- the Hobbes problem, as Lilla puts it -- haunted Rosseau who felt that while it was necessary to banish God from political life it was simultaneously necessary not to completely forget Him. For if man was left completely alone by himself then in that night what demons might come?

Among modern thinkers, Rousseau was the first to declare that there is no shame in saying that faith in God is humanly necessary. Religion has its roots in needs that are rational and moral, even noble; once we see that, we can start satisfying them rationally, morally and nobly. In the abstract, this thought did not contradict the principles of the Great Separation, which gave reasons for protecting the private exercise of religion. But it did raise doubts about whether the new political thinking could really do without reference to the nexus of God, man and world. If Rousseau was right about our moral needs, a rigid separation between political and theological principles might not be psychologically sustainable. When a question is important, we want an answer to it: as the Savoyard vicar remarks, “The mind decides in one way or another, despite itself, and prefers being mistaken to believing in nothing.” Rousseau had grave doubts about whether human beings could be happy or good if they did not understand how their actions related to something higher. Religion is simply too entwined with our moral experience ever to be disentangled from it, and morality is inseparable from politics.

At first humanity's traditional habituation to God provided assurance that man would never be left wholly alone with his inner temptations. Some guideposts would surely remain. "Religion is simply too entwined with our moral experience ever to be disentangled from it, and morality is inseparable from politics." But that underrated the ambition of the ideologues. Once God had left the room the stakes went too high: and God's vacant throne glittered irresistibly before them. The natural impulse of demagogues was not, as Rousseau might have thought, to retain God as an absent, but beneficent Constitutional Monarch in whose extended absence Parliament ruled. For ambitious men the goal was to supplant the Creator altogether the better to rule on earth as gods. God's death not only became politically expedient, but necessary for the attainment of unlimited power -- the ground on which the 20th century unfolded as it did. But in the beginning this danger was imperceptible. At first liberal theologians were content to preserve the moral core of Christianity as a kind of cultural artifact, while maintaining it aloof from involvement in political questions. And for a while things worked but:

By the turn of the 20th century, the liberal house was tottering, and after the First World War it collapsed. It was not just the barbarity of trench warfare, the senseless slaughter, the sight of burned-out towns and maimed soldiers that made a theology extolling “modern civilization” contemptible. It was that so many liberal theologians had hastened the insane rush to war, confident that God’s hand was guiding history. In August 1914, Adolf von Harnack, the most respected liberal Protestant scholar of the age, helped Kaiser Wilhelm II draft an address to the nation laying out German military aims. Others signed an infamous pro-war petition defending the sacredness of German militarism. Astonishingly, even Hermann Cohen joined the chorus, writing an open letter to American Jews asking for support, on the grounds that “next to his fatherland, every Western Jew must recognize, revere and love Germany as the motherland of his modern religiosity.” Young Protestant and Jewish thinkers were outraged when they saw what their revered teachers had done, and they began to look elsewhere.

But they did not turn to Hobbes, or to Rousseau. They craved a more robust faith, based on a new revelation that would shake the foundations of the whole modern order. It was a thirst for redemption. Ever since the liberal theologians had revived the idea of biblical politics, the stage had been set for just this sort of development. When faith in redemption through bourgeois propriety and cultural accommodation withered after the Great War, the most daring thinkers of the day transformed it into hope for a messianic apocalypse — one that would again place the Jewish people, or the individual Christian believer, or the German nation, or the world proletariat in direct relation with the divine.

A Europe shattered and disillusioned by the Great War turned again to religion; but not to the Christianity they had recently rejected; but instead to the new European world-faiths of the 20th century. Nazism and Communism were the proudest creations of post-Christian Europe. They were faiths whose missionaries would proselytize everywhere and make converts as far afield as Vietnam and China. Faiths under whose banners structures greater than cathedrals would be filled with chanting adherents; faiths whose patriarchs greater than Popes would rule; pitiless religions where not thousands, but hundreds of millions would be burned at the proverbial stake. The shadows of Hobbes' candle had taken form and their names, bright with blood, were written across the pages of the Second World and Cold Wars. In the end, Europe emerged exhausted from the carnage wrought by her intellectual products; faithless, and incredulous to see Islam glaring at it from the Other Shore; full of the very certitudes they had recently forsaken. Lilla says Westerners do not understand Muslims; but only because they have forgotten what it is like to be them: to slay or be slain for one's belief. Lilla does not guess whether Islam will itself undergo its own version of a Great Separation. The question for him is where a faithless West, needing a reason to exist, must go from here:

Our challenge is different. We have made a choice that is at once simpler and harder: we have chosen to limit our politics to protecting individuals from the worst harms they can inflict on one another, to securing fundamental liberties and providing for their basic welfare, while leaving their spiritual destinies in their own hands. We have wagered that it is wiser to beware the forces unleashed by the Bible’s messianic promise than to try exploiting them for the public good. We have chosen to keep our politics unilluminated by divine revelation. All we have is our own lucidity, which we must train on a world where faith still inflames the minds of men.

But Leeson, I think, must have the last word. He reminds us that man, at least in his ordinary existence, is free to live without political theory. That man needs no State or State religion to carry out the normal functions of life. And strangely enough, Lilla almost stumbles on the same conclusion, though he doesn't realize it. Lilla finds America different though he can't explain why. He believes it is due to a simultaneous commitment to both God and the Great Separation. But maybe the real answer is because America never forced the final choice between God and Politics and both profited thereby.

As for the American experience, it is utterly exceptional: there is no other fully developed industrial society with a population so committed to its faiths (and such exotic ones), while being equally committed to the Great Separation. Our political rhetoric, which owes much to the Protestant sectarians of the 17th century, vibrates with messianic energy, and it is only thanks to a strong constitutional structure and various lucky breaks that political theology has never seriously challenged the basic legitimacy of our institutions.

I'm tempted to argue, without much textual justification, that the same balancing act between anarchy and State power, which is the political counterpart of the uneasy theological coexistence of the Creator within the Declaration of Independence and the framework of the Republic, accounts for America's strange stability. As Europe desired a final showdown with idols so did America understand that it is sometimes better to live with God; not against Him or in place of Him. America has wisely learned that some debates are better left unresolved; that imperfection is sometimes a virtue; and that all faith is dangerous unless accompanied by a large bucket of fried chicken and six-pack of beer; and the tabloid the necessary antidote to the intellectual political journal.

One of the great founding principles of America was that nobody had the answers; that a frontier was needful as a place where you could hide both from the busybodies in town and from the idea of God Himself; because too perfect an order was a dangerous thing: a touch of anarchy as the Will of God because it is freedom by another name.


Blogger Stephen Renico said...

Today, we have progressed to the point where our problems again resemble those of the 16th century, as we find ourselves entangled in conflicts over competing revelations, dogmatic purity and divine duty. We in the West are disturbed and confused.

Hmmm... So, we have another Thirty Years' War right around the corner, but no western imperialism assuage the hurt of it.

8/20/2007 03:33:00 AM  
Blogger Tony Maher said...

Somalia was never an anarchy - it was warlordism or fundamentalist theocracy. Liberty played no part in it's chaos

8/20/2007 03:50:00 AM  
Blogger BrianFH said...

tony's point goes quite a distance. Even in the mythic "state of nature" tribes/clans tend to have pretty firm control over members' activities.

Eric Gans' Generative Anthropology theories about the "originary" scenario posit religion and divine sacrifice as a way of channeling social violence onto ritual objects and persons, and "The Denial of Death" by Becker suggests that we idolize leaders and then destroy them in an unending cycle of scapegoating our own failure to handle the fear of the Great Void to Come.

IOW, state-building and "ruling" seems to be a pretty endemic activity. After all, what else is there to do?

8/20/2007 04:12:00 AM  
Blogger BrianFH said...

Dija hear about the insomniac dyslexic agnostic? Lay abed every night, wide awake worrying about the existence of Dog!

8/20/2007 04:16:00 AM  
Blogger Red River said...

America ( USA ) is unique as well because civilization was born anew. There was no State nor King so men and women were free to be - to form a more perfect union.

In Hervey Allen and James Fenimore Coooper we see this theme repeated over and over again.

Vernor Vinge touches upon this as well in most of his works, most notably in the novella, "The Ungoverned".

8/20/2007 07:14:00 AM  
Blogger Evan said...

Given a choice between a bad State and a state of nature, go with nature.

It is a very dismal argument. It is certainly true that a government - in the sense of an entity that trades on the global arms markets, has armed cover for the enforcement of its will in its military and police forces, its officials recognized with embassies and certain privileges in international law, etc. - can be inferior to anarchy. But such an anarchy is not a place I would want to live.

One of the unavoidable paradoxes of libertarian thought, to which I generally subscribe, is that government is seen as the enemy even as some government is necessary for the things libertarian ideology promotes - self-ownership, the pursuit of happiness, etc. No government may be better than bad government, but good government is immeasurably better than both. Therein lies the problem, as good government is much more easily designed than achieved. One of libertarianism's (sometime) greatest flaws, which it shares with other Edenic ideologies, is its assuming away of human frailty and its ignorance of the importance of belief in and cultural commitment to personal freedom among the citizenry as a precondition for a free society to work.

8/20/2007 07:18:00 AM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

The God of Israel is the God of Israel. He is ethereal, abstract, and is one. He doesn't care for territorial expansion, and He doesn't care to be the God of any other nation but the Nation of Israel in the Land of Israel.

Why the great intellectuals of the world cannot reconcile themselves to this political model of God is beyond me.

8/20/2007 07:18:00 AM  
Blogger Aristides said...

Humans are in a state of nature now. What we see today -- our civilizations, our tools -- is what happens when natural human behaviors exist in a state of ecological release over an extended period of time. The development of agriculture began the autocatalysis, and here we are.

Ideally, government is necessary for just two things:

1) Maintain the integrity of the system vis-a-vis external forces.

2) Error correct deleterious instantiations and harmful patterns of human behavior. This is necessary because humans, as primary components of the system called society, have evolved natural centrifugal tendencies as well as centripetal (covalent) ones. Without the active intercession of an outside force, our centrifugal tendencies can and usually do fall into positive feedback chutes and bring the whole system to criticality.

When the correction becomes systematic, as it must to be successful in the long run, the result is Law.

Leeson needs to read some current anthropology books. His argument is so very beside the point.

8/20/2007 07:25:00 AM  
Blogger Aristides said...

re: centrifugal tendencies.

This term is more rigorously isomorphic to reality than Freud's todestrieb (death drive), but the overall concept is the same.

8/20/2007 07:30:00 AM  
Blogger TJ said...

America's difference lies in its foundation upon 'free church' principles. The Revolutionary War phrase 'We have no King but Jesus' encapsulates the ideas that allowed those people to hold to God's Universal dominion without having to shed blood for it. After all, Jesus said to Pilate during His trial, "My kingdom is not of this world."

8/20/2007 07:37:00 AM  
Blogger Evanston2 said...

2 points: (1) The rules of "civilization" embedded in the UN charter have actually allowed failed states to continue without any hope of respite for their citizens. In the "bad old days" when weakness invited invasion, a stronger state would pick off part or all of a weak neighbor. That is, competition among societies culled out the weak ones. But now we're stuck propping up kleptocracies that use their armies to steal from their citizens and do not fear invasion because they are protected by "liberal" values inculcated in "international law."
(2) The Politics of God discussion ignores the separation of church and state established by Christ. Though pontiffs, preachers and politicians tried to tie church to state through the centuries, the true success of the West lies in the Biblical arms-length distance between church and state. Between the extremes of communist atheism and state churches, there is a middle ground that America has occupied (uneasily, but successfully) since its founding. To study Europe and the Middle East and ignore the American model is to focus on the failures instead of the most successful culture (for all its faults) in the history of mankind.

8/20/2007 07:45:00 AM  
Blogger Aristides said...

Jesus also said, "Depart from me all ye lawless."

Which brings up a good point, one that tracks the idea that only a moral people can retain their freedom. Jesus advocated constraints on behavior that spring from the individual, constraints that, correctly calibrated and universalized, would enable humans to live together in peace.

Only when those constraints fail -- prescriptively or actively -- does an outside regulatory force (government) become necessary (a necessary evil). Problem is, at a big enough scale (i.e. more than about 150 individuals), these elected constraints always fail. Always.

8/20/2007 07:51:00 AM  
Blogger David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 08/20/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

8/20/2007 07:57:00 AM  
Blogger BigLeeH said...

The exceptional success of the American nation stems largely from the happy accident that, at the time when the theories were formulated on which one could base a limited, secular government, we had several hundred years of experience living in one. Our European governors had been operating at a considerable remove from their home countries and those countries were generally too busy fighting and intriguing among themselves to provide their royal governors with the resources needed to govern the colonies effectively. The practical result of this was that by the time of the revolution the populace of the colonies had several generations of experience dealing with their own problems directly -- since petitioning the royal governor was pretty much a waste of time.

Many of our most cherished freedoms arrived first as practical limitations of enforcement and arrived as theory only after the fact. Long before the notions of religious freedom were codified there was the undisputed fact that His Majesties Governor simply did not have the men needed to effectively repress the Catholics in the colonies despite any official concern that their loyalties might lie more with Rome than with the King. The same argument can be made for Freedom of Assembly, etc.. When the theory arrived its adoption was reasonably painless because it fit nicely with long practice. It is this happy accident that explains the success of the American revolution as compared to the French which went rather badly despite the fact that their theory was pretty much the same as ours. This is not to dispute those who claim that American exceptionalism arises from a superior character but simply to observe that that character was forged in hundreds of years of self-reliance under the titular "rule" of a distant and ineffective King.

Many of my libertarian friends like to claim that the American revolution was more radical than is commonly believed. I think they are wrong. The revolution was reactionary, if anything. The revolution occurred when the European powers started to see returns from their investments in the colonies and sought to consolidate their control to protect those investments. The colonists, accustomed to living in a state of near-anarchy, threw over their royal governors and grabbed some trendy theories, using them to cobble together a limited, ineffectual government of their own that would provide the same level of non-government to which they were accustomed.

People like to complain about the incompetence of the government but that incompetence is arguably our great national treasure.

8/20/2007 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger lgude said...

A lot of the ground covered by the NY Times article seem to be very similar to Lee Harris' Suicide of Reason which I am currently reading. I agree with those who argue that Somalia has been governed by warlords - not a an anarchy. On the other hand the Zimbabwe government has driven a quarter of its people over the borders and is starving most of the rest. To be completely tangential I would wonder if the Najaf school of Shia Islam with its very own non Hobbsean degree of distance between church and state offers any hope for the future of Iraq. I think it does but I don't have any certainly in the matter.

8/20/2007 09:08:00 AM  
Blogger Alexis said...

I think the Great Separation is happening within Islam, and largely for the same social reasons that it happened in the West. Mental gymnastics aside, the root cause for the Great Separation is that temporal rulers equate their own personal ambitions with the will of the national deity. The ideal of divine right of rulers is the principal reason why God is dethroned from a social system.

From my point of view, the "Najaf School" is the least westernized branch of Islam. Its separation of power between clerics and rulers comes not out of contempt for religion but out of contempt for politics. It is a system of government where the mosque holds the keys to legitimacy and the state holds the keys to temporal power, and where the legitimacy of the state depends upon its service to the will of Allah. It is a different form of separation of powers than exists in the United States, yet it is highly traditional within Islamic society.

The ideologies of Khomeiniism and the Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas/al-Qaeda seek to establish a world empire and each faction equates its own opinions with the opinion of Allah -- they are essentially replacing Allah with their own petty egos. This is in strong contrast between those who seek their deity's guidance for their politics and the ostentatiously humble. The key difference is one between humility and presumption.

Remember the Wizard of Oz. Remember the Emperor's New Clothes. There's a problem with equating one's deity with a presumed avatar -- people have flaws. It's difficult to hold a deity in awe when you can see his scars and hemorrhoids. So long as tyrants claim to be deities in their own right, they will feed the inclination to separate church and state. In this sense, the development of disestablishment in the United States of America should be seen as a reaction against the theological basis for the rule of King George III.

8/20/2007 01:02:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Hmmm... So, we have another Thirty Years' War right around the corner, but no western imperialism assuage the hurt of it.
that's another 100 years off. he's talking about the early 1500's not the early 1600's.

8/20/2007 02:58:00 PM  
Blogger mds said...

One commenter mentioned Lee Harris' new book, "Suicide of Reason." It definitely does cover some of this ground, and cover it well. (I was so startled by Harris' book that I turned around and read it through again.) But I wonder if we don't have to be a little careful of Lilla. Today's (8/20) piece by Spengler in the Asia Times is not cutting him much slack, for example.

8/20/2007 03:13:00 PM  
Blogger gumshoe said...

"But that underrated the ambition of the ideologues. Once God had left the room the stakes went too high: and God's vacant throne glittered irresistibly before them. The natural impulse of demagogues was not, as Rousseau might have thought, to retain God as an absent, but beneficent Constitutional Monarch in whose extended absence Parliament ruled. For ambitious men the goal was to supplant the Creator altogether the better to rule on earth as gods. God's death not only became politically expedient, but necessary for the attainment of unlimited power -- the ground on which the 20th century unfolded as it did." - wretchard

this article from the 1950's by Father Seraphim Rose...

NIHILISM - The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age
by Eugene (Fr. Seraphim) Rose
___________________________________ directly on target for the arc of historical trends and topics wretchard's thread is addressing.
fairly long and sobering,but a very well written and valuable read.

the source Nietzsche's thrashing about (or Camus',or Sarte, or Lenin's)
was never presented so clearly to me before reading the article.

8/20/2007 08:33:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

There are lots of ways in which our world maps over pretty well onto the early 1500s

Then as now changes in theology coincide with great paradigm shifts in science and technology.

Then a now a great age of exploration had begun.

Then as now new techonolgy had not quite taken root. rather the rot of old empire gave islam the opportunity to advance.

also then as now new technology brought new players into the political game.

then as now the weather was changing. only then it was getting colder whereas now its getting warmer

8/20/2007 09:22:00 PM  
Blogger Manny C said...


Brilliant post. Will have to read it another couple of times to properly digest your point.

8/21/2007 04:14:00 AM  
Blogger Beyond The Rim... said...

Really great job. This post should be a primer for all poly-sci 101 students.

8/21/2007 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger Gerard said...

Or, as we learn from the Holy Book of Janis:

" Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose
Nothin' don't mean nothin' hon' if it ain't free, no no...."

8/21/2007 11:27:00 AM  
Blogger USpace said...

Excellent job, well stated and laid out. The smarty pants suggesting outlawing religions have it all backwards...

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
appease angry religions

someday there will be just one
let the conversions begin

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
change religious history

blasphemize the Christians
they will not murder you

8/22/2007 10:49:00 PM  

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