Sunday, July 01, 2007

Blog Update Links

No central thread to today's links, other than that they touch on topics previously discussed.

That's all for now!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

What was the university like before the 1960s?

The recent post at Unqualified Reservations, "The ultracalvinist hypothesis: In perspective" has been a spash at Econolog, gnxp, and here. The "ultravalcinist hypothesis" holds that contemporary American atheism is actually a variant of Mainline Protestantism. One Unqualified Reservations post, found by PurpleSlog via Econolog, argued that even the leftist political correctness that comes out of academia is merely a continuation of the same religious clap-trap that's been going on for centuries:

You may or may not buy this story. But I hope you can agree that the Harvard faculty in 2007 by and large believes in human equality, social justice, world peace and community leadership, that the faculty of the same institution held much the same beliefs in 1957, 1907, 1857 and 1807, and that in any of these years they would have described these views as the absolute cynosure of Christianity. Perhaps I am just naturally suspicious, but it strains my credulity slightly to believe that sometime in 1969, the very same beliefs were rederived from pure reason and universal ethics, whose concurrence with the New Testament is remarkable to say the least.

All well and good. However, I previously featured the Weekly Standard's claims that American academia used to be liberal, as opposed to leftist:

It is plain in retrospect that the American university changed as fundamentally in the decade or so after 1965 as it did in those formative years between 1870 and 1910. The political and cultural upheavals of the period, spurred by the civil rights movement and opposition to the war in Vietnam, combined with the demographic explosion, brought about a second revolution in higher education, and created an institution (speaking generally) that was more egalitarian, more ideological, and more politicized, but less academic and less rigorous, in its preoccupations than was the case in the preceding era. It was in this period, from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, that the left university emerged in place of the liberal university.

So which is it?

Did the 1960s see the collapse of liberal academia and the raise of leftist orthodoxy? Or did Mainline Protestantism reign throughout the period, only changing which denominations (Episcopalian? Atheist?) the professoriate claimed as their own?

The answer's beyond my knowledge, but perhaps some historians who read this blog might answer...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Christian Intellectual Death Squads

As a Catholic, I view the Protestant churches as essentially loyalty militias, forces that by-and-large assist the Christian correlation-of-forces but nonetheless escape any accountability from the earthly hierarchy. Thus, the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) is to the Holy See as the Badr Brigades are to the Republic of Iraq.

However, in this model there should be another category -- death squads -- of those who might be classified as loyalty militia except that the blowback from them is roughly as bad as the good they do. Death squads differ from other actors in that they are ideologically motivated and focus on the same concepts as the larger insurgency.


The Seen and the Unseen

The most visible Christian ideological death squad is Islam, for obvious reasons. However, evangelical secularism or Ultracavlisnism, may form a Christian intellectual death-squad as well. Unqualified Reservations has more, courtesy of gnxp:

The "ultracalvinist hypothesis" is the proposition that the present-day belief system commonly called "progressive," "multiculturalist," "universalist," "liberal," "politically correct," etc, is actually best considered as a sect of Christianity.

Specifically, ultracalvinism (which I have also described here and here) is the primary surviving descendant of the American mainline Protestant tradition, which has been the dominant belief system of the United States since its founding. It should be no surprise that it continues in this role, or that since the US's victory in the last planetary war it has spread worldwide.


In fact, they are so unusual that most people don't see ultracalvinism as Christian at all. For example, on the theological side, ultracalvinism is best known as Unitarian Universalism. (It's an interesting exercise to try to find any conflicts between UUism and "political correctness.") Ultracalvinists are perfectly free to be atheists, or believe in any God or gods - as long as they don't adhere to any revealed tradition, which would make them "fundamentalists." In general, ultracalvinists oppose revelation and consider their beliefs to be pure products of reason. And perhaps they are right in this - but I feel the claim should at least be investigated.


And when we look at the real-world beliefs of ultracalvinists, we see that ultracalvinism is anything but content-free. By my count, the ultracalvinist creed has four main points:

First, ultracalvinists believe in the universal brotherhood of man. As an Ideal (an undefined universal) this might be called Equality. ("All men and women are born equal.") If we wanted to attach an "ism" to this, we could call it fraternalism.

Second, ultracalvinists believe in the futility of violence. The corresponding ideal is of course Peace. ("Violence only causes more violence.") This is well-known as pacifism.

Third, ultracalvinists believe in the fair distribution of goods. The ideal is Social Justice, which is a fine name as long as we remember that it has nothing to do with justice in the dictionary sense of the word, that is, the accurate application of the law. ("From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.") To avoid hot-button words, we will ride on a name and call this belief Rawlsianism.

Fourth, ultracalvinists believe in the managed society. The ideal is Community, and a community by definition is led by benevolent experts, or public servants. ("Public servants should be professional and socially responsible.") After their counterparts east of the Himalaya, we can call this belief mandarism.


In fact, the four points are very common and easily recognizable tenets of Protestant Christianity, specifically in its Calvinist or Puritan strain. You can find them all over the place in the New Testament, and any subject of Oliver Cromwell's saintly republic would have recognized them instantly. Rawlsianism is definitely the last of the four to develop, but even it is very common in the 17th century, when its adherents were known as Diggers - a name that, not surprisingly, was later reused. Ultracalvinism fits quite neatly in the English Dissenter and low church tradition. (Note the blatant POV of the latter page, with loaded words like "reform," a good indication that Wikipedians incline to ultracalvinism.)


Ultracalvinism's camouflage mechanism is easy to understand. If you are an ultracalvinist, you must dispute the claim that the four points are actually Christian, because you believe in them, and you believe they are justified by reason rather than faith. Therefore they are universal and no one can doubt them, whether Christian, Muslim or Jew.


What are the adaptive advantages of crypto-Christianity? Why did those Unitarians, or even "scientific socialists," who downplayed their Christian roots, outcompete their peers?

Well, I think it's pretty obvious, really. The combination of electoral democracy and "separation of church and state" is an almost perfect recipe for crypto-Christianity.

As I've said before, separation of church and state is a narrow-spectrum antibiotic. What you really need is separation of information and security. If you have a rule that says the state cannot be taken over by a church, a constant danger in any democracy for obvious reasons, the obvious mutation to circumvent this defense is for the church to find some plausible way of denying that it's a church. Dropping theology is a no-brainer. Game over, you lose, and it serves you right for vaccinating against a nonfunctional surface protein.

Several intellegent and well spoken atheists, including Adam of The Metropolis Times, frequent this blog. I would love to hear their opinion

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year, Same Old Mainstream Media

Finkelstein, M. (2007). ABC's 'sic' choice suggests belief in afterlife an error. NewsBusters. January 1, 2007. Available online:

"Sic" ("thus") is a writing device used to distance the writer from an error. It is often used rhetorically to embarrass or ridicule the source of a quote. For instance, if I would say something stupid while misspelling a word, someone else might quote what I say, while writing sic, to focus attention on my poor writing ability. More technically, sic can be used when there is a fear that the reader will mistake a strange usage of the quoted person with that of the editor.

Which makes this disgusting. And sick.

"You were one of my best friends and I will never forget you. All my love and prayers go to your family and I'll see you again." (sic)

There is no grammatical error with the quotation -- it is composed of two well-formed compound sentences. What the ABC News videographer appears to be distancing himself from -- holding up to ridicule -- is the belief that a friend will see his own friend -- a soldier who died in Iraq -- again.

This Richard Dawkins style of atheism -- rude and socially inept -- is an embarrassment.