Friday, October 25, 2019

Burn the Boats on the Beach

René Girard begins Part 5 of his CBC interviews with a comment straight out of Jordan Peterson when the latter confronts Sam Harris and other celebrity atheists:

We think we live in a secular society, but this is imaginary.  There is no society without religion, because without religion society cannot exist.  What we live in today is a form of Christianity that we do not recognize. 

The celebrity atheists and others who are trying to build a religion that is not a religion are all trying to recreate that which came from Christianity: The Golden Rule (which other traditions also recognize) and that all men are made in the image of God (which other traditions do not recognize).  They want these foundations, without the One who built the foundations.

Girard continues, offering an interesting interpretation of Matthew 10:

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person's enemies will be those of his own household.

Why would Jesus create division and discord?  Girard offers: order was created and maintained by channeling hatred toward scapegoats.  Ritual violence institutionalizes this practice.  Jesus challenges this system, announcing the innocence of all sacrificial victims.  Jesus removes the possibility of ritual sacrifice as a means of bringing peace.

But this brings the violence to the fore, into the open.  Thus, we are left with a choice: either we are going to love each other or we are going to die. 

This is how Girard sees the apocalypse.  When we no longer sacrifice and also refuse to repent, violence will grow worse.  The apocalypse (Daniel, Revelation, Jesus, etc.) is read as fire coming from Heaven – God’s judgement on man.  But what it actually foresees is the raging of human violence when it is neither checked by sacrifice or by Christian love.  The ultimate violence comes from man’s sin, not from God.  Today, the apocalypse is either ignored or blasphemously turned into a tool for Christian support of Middle East war. 

It is believed that violence comes from differences – if we just do away with borders, cultures, traditions – the purpose of borders is to keep violence inside and protect from violence from the outside.  Without borders, nothing will contain or prevent violence.

Here again Girard’s views mesh with those of Peterson, this time on the necessity of borders.

Girard returns to the self-critical nature of Christianity, the call to always examine one’s heart relative to Christian love:

Christians see themselves as guilty from a Christian point of view, and this much is true.  But they are not guilty from the point of view of many other cultures and religious traditions – who find it appropriate to spread their views by the sword or other coercive means.

Christians are blamed by non-Christians who use Christian values to blame Christians.  Calls for reparations and equal treatment are possible only through a Christian lens. 

A Roman guard would never have entertained such notions from an enslaved minority: who are you to complain, you are not a citizen.  Off to the scaffold.

We further blame our ancestors.  It is a form of scapegoating our ancestors, hence sacrificing them in order to supposedly bring peace today.  We believe that we would have done better.  We lack gratitude.  We are self-righteous. 

We mean to say that we would do better if we were in the place of God.  The Enlightenment critiques Christianity, yet wants to keep its ethics.

There follows discussion of Nietzsche and Heidegger: the death of God – we killed him; we can only be saved by god – but not the Christian God.  This continues with a discussion of Nazism and today’s political correctness and social justice – we will show Christians how to actually defend victims; a super-ethic, reducing the world to nothing but victimization, oppression and power. 

This super-ethic takes up the victims but attempts to do so without Christianity.  This is the new totalitarianism – promising to keep what is good of Christianity while getting rid of what is supposedly bad.

He speaks of the idea of indemnification for slavery – despite most Americans being descendants of those who came after the Civil War.  We have a competition of victim status.  It is this new totalitarianism that advances the revelation we are living – reflecting Girard’s view on the apocalypse.  We will either move to ever-increasing violence or Christian love.

A colleague of Girard’s tells a story:

He wants to write a book in defense of Girard’s views, a book necessary because Girard is excluded from mainstream academic thought as “too Christian.”  He starts writing, but then decides that he might make matters worse – realizing that his book will also be deemed too Christian. 

He raises this point with Girard, who replies: Well then, let’s burn our boats on the beach!

Once again, returning to something from Jordan Peterson: recognizing that there would be a tremendous cost for speaking out as he has, Peterson felt that the cost would be even higher if he didn’t speak out.


Christian love or ever-increasing violence.  Or, I guess, we can return to sacrificing innocent victims as scapegoats.  Under which scenario do you expect liberty could thrive?  Because just chanting the NAP will not end the violence.


  1. "We think we live in a secular society, but this is imaginary. There is no society without religion, because without religion society cannot exist."

    I like it! Right at the very beginning where it cannot be missed. Right out there to challenge those who proclaim and insist that they have no religion.

    Society can be thought of as the interaction between individual human beings and can be reduced to as few as two. One person is not a society, two people living together are. If Girard is correct in his assertion, then at least one of them must have a religion. The fact is--so does the other.

    Everyone has a religion, a belief system, which they adhere to and structure their life around. It is impossible to live without this "religion" and within it is either the implicit or explicit worship of a god. No matter what form this "god" takes, it is there. It can be described as the one thing which is held in utmost esteem, above everything else, to and for which the "believer" will sacrifice his life--literally or figuratively.

    If you ask any person what they are living for and what they will die for, they will automatically, implicitly or explicitly, identify their god and what their belief system is. This IS their religion and their lifestyle, words, and actions proclaim it as such.

    It is amusing to me that those who insist they have no religion seek to discredit those who openly embrace theirs. What this really is, however, is a comparison of religions and personally held beliefs, i.e., my religion is better than all others. To which I ask the question, why? Why is your religion better than mine, which is Christian? Where is your evidence? What has it produced? What will it produce? Lay out your best arguments and let's boil it down to the bare essentials.

    You and I believe in something which serves as God which we worship through our life, our religion. It is impossible to live otherwise.

    Good work, Mosquito!

    1. But when I check the dictionary, I find that "religion" does not mean what you say it means as any of its primary definitions, nor does "god" mean what you say it does. Redefining words so that you can say something that is simply not true - that a lack of a belief is a belief seems pointless to me.

      It may amuse you that I insist that I am not religious and do not believe in god, but your amusement appears to be based on a misuse of language to form a logical contradiction.

    2. John Howard, thank you for responding.

      First things first. I never said that I was amused by people who insisted that they had no religion and no god. I said that I was amused by those very same people who sought to discredit other people because they openly embraced their own religion. Huge, huge difference!

      Next, it seems to me that you have failed to address my argument directly. Instead, you have resorted to using third party authorities (dictionaries) to make your case. Because these authorities do not define ‘religion’ as I have, according to your point of view I am wrong. Therefore, my argument is wrong and you are vindicated without ever having to raise a valid counter.

      After I read your note, I actually looked at numerous dictionary definitions and it appears to me that you are somewhat correct, but not every definition of religion is the same. Wikipedia (, for instance, goes into depth on this subject with the very first sentence of the article stating that,

      “The definition of religion is a controversial subject in religious studies with scholars failing to agree on any one definition.”

      Further down, it states that,

      “Scholars have found it difficult to develop a consistent definition, with some giving up on the possibility of a definition."

      In other words, there is no agreed-upon definition of religion. Dictionaries may come close, but they cannot shut the door on alternative explanations, which means that until my definition of religion is conclusively proven false, it may be assumed to be true. In fact, I dare say that my version is as good as anyone else’s, including yours. It is up to you to prove otherwise and, if you undertake this challenge, I expect you to make your arguments on their own merits. Cavil all you want to (, but until you raise a substantive argument, you will not be taken seriously.

      Now, you insist that you are not religious and have no god. The question remains, however, what and for whom you are living your life for and to what purpose. What do you believe in? Who is most important? What is THE ONE THING which you absolutely will not compromise, over and against everything else which you will? Identify that, if you can, and I will say you have found your ‘god’. Furthermore, your confession that this is what you believe (and believe in) will define your own religion and that will inform the way you live your life.

      I stand my ground. Everyone believes in something, everyone’s life is an affirmation of that belief, everyone’s affirmation is the practice of their religion. No matter what it is, the concept is inescapable. It’s not a matter of ‘religion vs. no religion’, but rather which religion do we follow.

      One final note. A lack of a belief is still a belief. You may not believe the same way I do, but you still believe.

      “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”--Rush, from the song “Freewill”

    3. In support of Roger's and Bionic's argument that those who think they do not have a religion still do have a religion, as in they still have plenty of things they take from others (past and present) on faith and still have a belief system about what the ultimate authority is and what form of morality it condones, I present the following brilliant argument from the venerable Mac MacDonald, renowned bouncer and co-owner of Paddy's Pub in Philadelphia (pardon the swearing).

  2. Bionic i love the blog and check it regularly, i appreciate tying liberty and christianity together as a means toward liberty. But you're getting pretty deep into the weeds with some posts. While a cultural foundation like Christianity I agree is needed to build a foundation upon which liberty can grow it is not the only seed one may grow from. While other cultures may not have a similar starting point, you surely agree individuals maybe persuaded toward liberty not by Christianity alone. Write what you'd like, but for those of us who believe in God, but see the bible as not much more than a book of proper morality or code to live by, some of these post are a bit much.

    1. Schuey,

      " surely agree individuals maybe persuaded toward liberty not by Christianity alone."

      I have never written otherwise.

      "...i love the blog and check it regularly..."

      Obviously not.

    2. I normally post as Dave Schuman, i have your blog on my bookmarks. I read regularly, i just have felt the blog has gone in a very religous direction and it has put me off a little. Being rude and dismissive is neither polite nor instructive.

      Faithful and regular reader,

      Dave Schuman

    3. Please point to where I have written that the only path one might be persuaded to liberty is through Christianity.

  3. "Under which scenario do you expect liberty could thrive? Because just chanting the NAP will not end the violence."

    Indeed that is the question. And the NAP will not stop the violence just as you say. The Golden Rule as a cultural norm is a must.

    Another great essay. Thanks for all you do.

  4. Girard has also said that the State can't exist without religion. Or the State is form of religion. Following that, the State becomes THE religion of a society when it tries to be secular.

    I see that everywhere around me.

    1. Wouldn't it be better said that WORSHIP of the State is a form of religion and that worship of the State becomes THE religion when men no longer believe in (a)God which is higher than the State? When men believe that the State takes precedence in all things, then they will worship the State AS God.

      Nature abhors a vacuum. Something must fill the space if God is displaced. That something is Man, collective Man, known today as the State. The world worships it and the world is going to pay the price.

    2. You would have to listen to the Tom Woods interview. They guy explains the claim better. Basically, the state is inaugurated by violence/human sacrifice, which was religious ritual. Then he defines religion broadly as community action. So there is an implicit thing becoming an explicit thing when the state itself is worshipped. But you have to listen to it yourself to determine if he is right or wrong.

    3. At all times and in all places, the state appropriates religion to its own ends - it either uses an existing religion or the state becomes the religion. In what other way could you convince millions to sacrifice themselves in senseless war to the state's benefit?

  5. Also, Christians can't be afraid of sounding too Christian. Salvation only comes from the gospel. Salvation ranges from the personal relationship with God, to relationship with others, to the structure and operation of society as whole: ethics, politics, economy.

    To do away with the Christian gospel is to do away with salvation, in every aspect.

  6. Live by Christian rules and die by Christian rules. jews and Muslims think your stupid. Non-Christians do too.

    1. That would be "you're," not "your." Do better when calling others stupid.

  7. One thing I think that is very interesting as it relates to Girard's work is the concept of the scapegoat or victim, how he is viewed by society, and how the prevailing narrative surrounding him effects the concentration of power in the state. A lot of what follows was inspired by your work Bionic.

    The scapegoat used to be persecuted in order to grow the power of the state. All the evils of society are placed on one individual or group, they are cast out or destroyed by the state and society is now unified and 'cleansed'. Because the state is seen as the savior of society for purging the scapegoat, it can afford itself more power and authority. We saw a re-emergence of this with the Nazis and Communists.

    But Christ broke the mold, demonstrating how the whole scapegoating process is unrighteous and unhealthy for society. We can now look upon the scapegoat with compassion and rebuke the mob for persecuting him, because our own Lord and Savior was once in that position. Notice how this denies the old machinery of the consolidation of power in the state. Now, when the state persecutes a minority group, we find compassion for them and exert pressure on the state to change its behavior, to diminish its power.

    So how does one grow the state in this sort of environment?

    This is the story of the modern left. You invent a million different ways people are being victimized, and then you weaponize Christian compassion (or its ghost) for the victim by funneling it through the state to again make the state the savior rather than Christ. It works best if you choose 'victims' whose 'oppressors' are specifically those most ardently opposing the consolidation of power in the state (specifically Christians).

    I think it's another, if not the supreme, instance of "corruptio optimi pessima" or the corruption of the best is the worst.

    Perhaps the completion of this cycle is when all the various expanding victim groups consolidate power and use the state to scapegoat the now minority 'oppressive class'. Then we're back to the old formula. A complete inversion of Christ, as if He never interrupted the cycle.

    1. ATL, I think this is right. I think it ends when all of the victim groups consume each other for the rank of the biggest victim. They are going to eat each other alive (unfortunately along with a few of the so-called privileged as well).

    2. Yup. One obvious (and hilarious) battle of the victims coming to the fore is feminism vs transgenderism in sports. How are feminists going to argue against males competing in female sports as 'women' (and obviously dominating) when they are supposed to believe we're exactly the same? Time to reexamine your beliefs.

      When the 'eat each other' moment happens, hopefully those of us serious about liberty can find the courage and the numbers necessary to break away from the chaos and carve out our own political order.

    3. ATL, I also laugh out loud whenever one such story pops up. This will be one of the flashpoints, it seems to me. I notice that woke sports TV (e.g. ESPN, etc.) never touches such stories - even thought they promote most other topics of wokeness in sports (they are trying so hard to make women's professional soccer a major sport, for example).

      To your last paragraph, I think the first alliance might be among those who are rational - there are many on all sides of the spectrum (political, religious, etc.) who look at this insanity and desire its end - instead wanting a place that recognizes the fundamental nature of man and his place in the world.

      Wait...I should say man and woman...and gay man and lesbian woman...and minority gay man and...oh they have me doing it!


    4. My instincts are to accept everyone. I've only come to be hesitant in this regard after being confronted with the reality of the situation regarding race, sexuality, gender, etc.

      Just because someone is black doesn't make them a Democrat, and I'd stand next to a black conservative brother in arms for Christ any day before a liberal white progressive.

      Now if someone has two or more victim group identities, such as black and gay, or Jewish and trans, you can pretty much write them off. Lol

  8. "... excluded from mainstream academic thought as “too Christian.” He starts writing, but then decides that he might make matters worse – realizing that his book will also be deemed too Christian ..."

    Bionic, are you not also in danger of being deemed "too Christian" by the Libertarian community? You have pointed out in several posts (I forget which, I'll have to hunt them down if you don't remember) that the best example of a free, libertarian society was during the Christian middle ages, especially around what is now Germany and that the admixture of Christianity with German culture had a lot to do with that. Just mentioning that Christianity plays a part in creating a free society is sure to put many libertarian panties in a wad!

    Apparently, you too, will be burning your boats whether you like it or not!

    1. Woody, I have lost at least one very close online friend because of this. Occasionally you will find some comments along the lines of this criticism here at this blog.

      I have no doubt that - to the extent I am known to them - I am a pariah to the mainstream libertarian they are to me.

      They are enemies of liberty.

    2. Bionic, to tell you the truth, I don't really understand why libertarians are so stuck on rejecting Christianity out-of-hand. Why can't we entertain the idea that perhaps Christianity was not established to be a tool of the state, as it became a couple of centuries after Christ and the apostles were taken away. Why, the very essence of Christianity is liberty! Didn't Jesus suffer to make repentance accessible to all, thus FREEing us from the eternal consequences of offences against God and man? Didn't Jesus die so that all could be FREE from death? Didn't He teach that the truth will make you FREE?

      Are we looking for liberty or only liberty as we understand it? Are we really so arrogant to assert that everything we think is true? I mean, come on people!

    3. Woody,

      I agree that having a humble heart is key not just for liberty's sake but also for our soul's; a prideful heart is not going to be too willing to believe in Christ's miracles or to pledge fealty to Him as King.

      I think you and I would agree that there are some things we can know to be true and that we must know to be true in order to repair our sense of justice, our civilization and our relationship with God.

      Of course there are still many mysteries out there, and we should recognize them as such. God did not create a dull universe.

    4. Woody, Christianity is rejected by many libertarians because "I want to be in charge; I am sovereign."

      This is chanted so often that the reality of the exact opposite escapes them: never has the sovereign individual manifested itself as the primary form of governance. To the extent an individual is in charge, it is never the individual chanting "I am sovereign."

      Someone or something will always be in charge, and unless you are among the worst tyrants in the world, it can never be you (meaning the chanting libertarian "sovereign").

      Christianity insists that you are not in charge - this cannot be accepted by many (most) libertarians, just as it cannot be accepted by the intellectual atheists / modernists.

    5. B'Skeeter wrote: "...never has the sovereign individual manifested itself as the primary form of governance..."

      That would be because of the axiom: 2 > 1. Can 2 people do more than 1? How much more can 20 people working together do, compared to 1 person? While there are situations where this idea doesn't hold true, those situations are the special exceptions.

      The "I am sovereign" individuals understand this, at least unconsciously - do they not congregate in groups of like-minded people in order to better assert their "sovereignty" - and do not such groups have a leader of some sort? Those libertarians who scream "I am sovereign" and yet group together like that are complete hypocrites. Like the communists who believe that the state will "wither away" once the perfect communist utopia is created, these people would have you believe that, at some point, their organization will "wither away" once the perfect libertarian utopia is created.


      There will always be power-hungry sociopaths in the world, silver-tongued devils who sway the masses. And there will always be the need for liberty-minded individuals to stand shoulder-to-shoulder to resist and overcome them.

      BTW: I stumbled on a video that's pertinent to this conversation and, at the same time, is easy to understand. This is a broadcast, written and delivered (originally) by C. S. Lewis in 1942 - it has been converted into a "Doodle-mentary" by the BBC. The broadcast itself is based on "Mere Christianity, Book 2, Chapter 3:


      PS: ATL, are you agreeing with the heretic? I am shocked! Come to the dark side (we have cookies!) :-)

    6. What can I say? I'm a hallway kinda guy (in the C.S. Lewis sense)!