Saturday, July 12, 2014

Historical blindness

Here's something to consider.

The 20th century saw tens of millions of people dead at the hands of government. Largely leftist, socialist government. And we're not talking mere 'mistakes were made' deaths in large part, not accidental deaths, but out and out planned 'let's kill all these innocent people' deaths.

But religion gets tagged as the big existential threat by person after person.

Communism saw the rise of Lysenkoism, and suppressed research across the board in the name of ideological purity, complete with scientists being sent to gulags.

People don't know about this. But they damn well know about Galileo being harassed several centuries ago, and say religion is anti-science.

Religious people were murdered by socialists throughout the 20th century - churches destroyed, clergy threatened, faithful sent to re-education camps or just plain killed.

But atheists are the ones who have been historically bullied.

What amazes me about the above is not the facts themselves, but how so much of this data has been systematically wiped out of our common cultural memory. An amazing trick, and I wonder how it happened.

6 comments:

Mr. Green said...

But they damn well know about Galileo being harassed several centuries ago, and say religion is anti-science.

Not even that much... you'd be appalled at how many people will tell you with a straight face that the Church burned Galileo at the stake.

What amazes me about the above is not the facts themselves, but how so much of this data has been systematically wiped out of our common cultural memory. An amazing trick, and I wonder how it happened.

Sounds like my cue to blame the media. After all, what's our "common cultural memory" other than what we absorb from TV?

Jakeithus said...

It really is an amazing trick; although I think by now it should be fairly obvious that the population at large is horribly inept when it comes to separating historical reality from the popular narrative.

People aren't interested in facts; what they're interested in is stories. Too many of the stories from the last century have been told from an anti-theistic perspective by people who have no problem lying to further their goals.

lotharlorraine said...



Dear Crude, I think that BOTH Christians and atheists should stop their black-and-white thinking and cease believing in guilt by association.

There are lots of socialists, communists and religious folks utterly rejecting violence and they should be judged according to their OWN ideas and not by those of the majority of people one associates with them.


Otherwise I just wrote a post about John Shore which should raise your interest :-)


Cheers.

Crude said...

Lothar,

There are lots of socialists, communists and religious folks utterly rejecting violence and they should be judged according to their OWN ideas and not by those of the majority of people one associates with them.

I do not think it is quite that simple.

GoldRush Apple said...

One thing that I've observed, at least in the modernist mindset, that "not caring" (but in select cases) - whether one knows the facts or not - is pretty much needed to drudge through the day. Yet I'm suppose to care about things like "equality" and other so-called progressive causes.

Luke said...

I keep posting these because they keep being relevant; from famous sociologist Peter Berger's Facing Up to Modernity:

Even if it were true that socialism is the only rational conclusion, this would not explain its dissemination among specific social groups. Modern science, for example, may also be described as the only rational conclusion for certain questions about nature—and yet it took millennia before it came to be established in specific groups in a specific corner of the world. Ideas neither triumph nor fail in history because of their intrinsic truth or falsity. Furthermore, the affinity between intellectuals and socialism is clearly more than a matter of rational arguments. It is suffused with values, with moral passion, in many cases with profoundly religious hope—in sum, with precisely those characteristics which permit speaking of a socialist myth (in a descriptive, nonpejorative sense.)" (58)

The socialist myth promises the fulfillment of both the rational dreams of the Enlightenment and the manifold aspirations of those to whom the Enlightenment has been an alienating experience. Such a promise inevitably grates against its imperfect realization in empirical reality, frustrating and often enraging its believers. This is nothing new in the long history of eschatologies, which is inevitably a history of the psychology of disappointment. (62–63)

Given that Berger is talking about dyed-in-the-wool intellectuals, of which the vast, vast majority are atheists (this is why the secularization thesis was believed: it was true of intellectuals), we can see that either (A) 'religion' is not the problem, or (B) 'religion' needs no supernatural sentience to be 'religion'. Both of these are utterly anathema to the scapegoating of religion which has gone on, despite the fact that scholars now reject the conflict thesis. From Berger's A Far Glory:

Another exaggeration may have been the conventional view of the reach of scientific rationality. One does not have to look at religion only in order to find this thought plausible. It is amazing what people educated to the highest levels of scientific rationality are prepared to believe by way of irrational prejudices; one only has to look at the political and social beliefs of the most educated classes of Western societies to gain an appreciation of this. Just one case: What Western intellectuals over the last decades have managed to believe about the character of Communist societies is alone sufficient to cast serious doubt on the proposition that rationality is enhanced as a result of scientifically sophisticated education or of living in a modern technological society. (30)

So when David Hume said "reason is a slave to the passions", he got something right. Christianity's focus on the flesh vs. the spirit might not be so insane after all; perhaps the only real question is whether rebirth can actually happen; is all thinking only fleshly, or is there a spiritual version? I end by agreeing with Jakeithus, above:

People aren't interested in facts; what they're interested in is stories.