I’m Knitting a Guillotine

Well, I tried to preserve the anti-secularist’s anonymity, but I was not permitted. So very well. Now that that’s not an option, I’ll just go ahead and take a look at some more over-the-top religious rhetoric. Barn door me no barn doors, this sort of thing is both interesting and important, so I will not machine-gun it (despite being Mme. Defarge) but I will question it.

Cite me, if you will, Mr. Halasz, the secular leftists in the French Revolution who fought its excesses. Cite me, if you will, the secular leftists in Stalin’s Soviet who did not support it or look the other way when churches were razed. Cite me, if you will, all the secular leftists, in Mao’s China, who fought for the right of traditional religion there.

That part is interesting as an example of – what, self-deception, confirmation bias, careless reading? Something like that. Because of course the problem is that in the original comment our anti-secularist forgot the word ‘leftists’. A key omission – and one that he apparently didn’t even notice. Obviously, there is a large difference between saying ‘the same cannot be said of the secularists. They were all on the side of the outrages committed in the French Revolution, in Stalin’s Soviet, and Mao’s China’ and saying what I quote above. Simply as a factual matter (and that’s all I was talking about) it’s just absurd to say that all secularists were ‘on the side of’ anything whatsoever about Stalin’s Soviet Union or Mao’s China. Does the name Ayn Rand ring any bells for example? Or, as I said, Bertrand Russell, who had no use at all for the Soviet version of Communism. Or any number of other secularists, right-wing, left-wing, apolitical, you name it. Not all secularists were fans of Stalin, that’s all there is to it.

But it gets livelier.

Ophelia Benson’s Bertram Russell is no evidence against what I said. The infidelity of the secular left is a huge embarrassment, of course. It is both unfaithfulness toward G_d and unfaithfulness with its religious allies. Our friend, OB, is simply Madam DeFarge at the keyboard, instead of fiddling with her knitting needles.

Well of course Bertrand (not Bertram, obviously) Russell is indeed evidence against what he said, if not what he now wishes he’d said. But that’s by the way. It’s the next bit that’s really fascinating. The ‘infidelity’ of the secular left? Infidelity according to whom? And a huge embarrassment? Meaning secular leftists are supposed to be hugely embarrassed by leftist atheism? Well, I’m not, I can tell you that much. What I’m embarrassed by is woolly-mindedness in people who ought to know better. And then I have to wonder, how can one be ‘unfaithful’ toward a being that doesn’t exist? Yes I know, now all the defenders of wool will get indignant with me for making such a flat assertion. But if the theists get to say that it does exist, why don’t we get to say that it doesn’t? (It’s a rhetorical trick, you know, that business of assuming god exists as opposed to arguing it or leaving it tentative.) But if you prefer, how can one be ‘unfaithful’ toward a being that one has no good reason to believe exists? How can one be ‘unfaithful’ to someone or something one has never made the slightest promise or commitment to of any kind whatever? Eh? One might as well go up to a perfect stranger in the street and shout ‘You bastard, you’ve been unfaithful to me!’ And then unfaithfulness with its religious allies. Ah. Perhaps now we can begin to understand why people like me don’t want religious allies in the first place. It’s because we don’t want to risk having to listen to this kind of thing. Because we don’t want ‘allies’ who expect us to be ‘faithful’ to some non-existent figment of their imaginations, and actually feel entitled to reproach us if we’re not, that’s why. And of course because they get so worked up about the whole thing that they end up calling us names. Our ‘friend’ forsooth. I suppose Mme. Defarge is the only murderous ruthless secular woman he could think of on short notice. If I’d been a man perhaps he would have called me Josef Stalin, at the keyboard instead of fiddling with the Gulag. So believers demonstrate what polite, civil, calm, reasonable people they are. But actually that’s not fair. I know perfectly well that not all believers are as out of control as this particular one. He’s in a class by himself.

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