Thursday, December 31, 2020

Betrayal From Within

These comments are taken from Jonathan Pageau’s December Q&A.  The full video is here; the links below are time-stamped.

Question: What are the examples and your own thoughts on the possibility of physical violent counter-resistance response to the cancellation of the center or hierarchy itself?  Does Christianity offer an argument for a violent response or is it a case of too much mental gymnastics to constitute a courageous physical defense?

I find myself amongst Christians who assume that there is no need for a physical reaction to evil, even if it is in their communities.  They seem to take Jesus’s story and become absolute pacifists.

Pageau: I think it is possible for Christians to – in service of a higher purpose – to defend their home or their territory.  So I believe in the Christian knight who fights for a higher king, someone who is above them, fights in the name of something above him, and then in service to those who are below who can’t defend themselves.

So far, so good.

What’s happening now is different.  And what’s happening now looks way more like the story of the betrayal of Christ by Judas.  From within the West – from within the Christian story – rose up a traitor who was an antichrist who then dislodged, deconstructed, and brought about the dying of the church.

This is a very interesting take, and there is no chance I would ever have thought of the comparison. 

I don’t think in that case we should defend ourselves violently, in the same way that Christ didn’t.  There is a mystery in dying – I don’t know what to tell you – there is a mystery in dying, there is a mystery in the martyr, and there is a mystery in what’s happening right now.

And the mystery in the martyr is the same mystery that we are seeing happen.  So, as we watch Christianity wane, and as we watch it die, we have the responsibility to be seeds for the resurrection, rather than fight off…what are you going to fight off?

It’s all coming from the inside.  Its like this rot that is kind of manifesting itself from within our country, from within our churches, from within our own traditions.  And so, it’s not the same. 

Who would we fight?  Leadership of almost every institution is failing us – most importantly, as I have noted often, church leadership.

Through that, there are also attacks from the outside – which are happening, I have to admit that.  But it’s mostly this kind of strange betrayal from the inside.  So that’s how I see it.  But I also have sympathy for someone who might disagree with me; I have sympathy for that as well.

Later, from Pageau:

I want to wish you all a Happy New Year.  I know that’s strange to say with 2021 coming.

The world is changing, I think most people can feel it.  Religion is coming back; the world is going to be enchanted whether we want it or not and that’s for all the good and all the bad, the light and the dark.  We are going to see things in the next few years which are going to be unthinkable even now. 

You might think, “that’s an easy prediction, given the last ten months.”  But I recall that before 2020, Pageau knew that the year was going to be one like no other for us.

Things are going to get loopy and crazy and we are going to see things that we haven’t seen in thousands of years are going to start to manifest themselves.

I don’t know about the “thousands of years” part.  Going back to the French Revolution is frightful enough.

Hopefully we will have enough people with enough sense to start to bring things to light. …So, get ready, because none of this is over; it’s just starting. 


From Pageau:

Christ is born, so glorify Him.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Atheism of the West

Augusto del Noce (1910-89) is among the least well known of the brilliant political philosophers of the twentieth century. …Del Noce developed a series of insights into the developing culture of the West beginning in the 1960s that still have not been broadly appropriated.

Atheism: The core of modern Western culture in the thought of Augusto del Noce, by Dr. Thomas R. Rourke

Dr. Rourke examines how the West, at the same time, both won the Cold War and lost it.  He notes that by the time the Cold War ended, “the West was already riddled with a culture in a profound state of decay.”  This, combined with a spiritual malaise, would lead to irrationality on all sides and moral bankruptcy.

Surely the utter collapse of the Christian West in the matter of a generation requires a more compelling explanation than what is generally given.

And it is through Del Noce’s work that Rourke examines this.  He begins by offering that Del Noce does not abide by the simplification that Marxism won or lost in the Cold War:

If Marxism won, then why did it collapse in its central stronghold, and why is it today equally passé in its second stronghold: China. And if Marxism won, how could we possibly explain the Western economy which is far more dominated by big corporations and finance capital than the world of 1960 could have even imagined?

If it lost, who undid the Christian West, with the almost complete negation of metaphysics and religion in the academy?  The answers will not be found in a superficial framework of liberalism vs. conservatism.

This corresponds with my view that the situation in the west today is not described in the traditional left-right framework.  A look at the conversation will find many on both the left and right in search for a metaphysical understanding, while, at the same time, there are many others on both the left and right who despise such thoughts.

Del Noce underlines that the bourgeoisie historically had two enemies to cope with: one was Marxism, but the other was the Catholic Church, which insisted on an immutable morality.

And here, it starts to get interesting.  The bourgeoisie in the West didn’t want Marx’s Marxism; they wanted to amass their wealth and increase control throughout.  But the Catholic Church (and I will add, more broadly, all Christian institutions that stood on a transcendent morality) stood in the way of their progress.  It is much easier to amass wealth and control if you are at the same time the one who gets to decide the rules.

So, what we ended up with was a Marxist victory, having unleashed relativism and materialism, combined with a Marxist defeat of leaving the bourgeoise intact.  More precisely, it was a victory of one kind of atheism in the West over a different kind of atheism in the East.  Del Noce offers that the Western atheism was a combination of a sexual revolution and ever-advancing consumer products and technology.

What emerged in the West was not the victory of liberty or democracy (as interpreted ad nauseum by contemporary media), but rather a “new totalitarianism,” along with a new atheism, in a sense more pernicious than those served up by the older atheistic totalitarianism in the East.

Big deal…we get to vote (well, we see what that’s worth).  Del Noce wouldn’t define totalitarianism via the presence or absence of a ballot box, but in the curtailing of rationality and the ultimate denial of reason.

If there is no transcendent, immutable truth that our reason has access to, then there is no immutable ethics determined by reason, and political authority is in a position to define for itself the right and the wrong. Ethics and culture become subsumed by politics.

This is Nietzsche’s superman, who gets to determine ethics given that man killed God.  On what basis do we challenge this superman, if we do not have the transcendent ethic to which we can appeal?  Del Noce sees this same problem:

Under this regime, anyone who attempts to formulate an argument against the state cannot do on any recognizably rational basis.

This is Murray Rothbard writ large.  From Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty, he writes:

…only forms of natural or higher law theory can provide a radical base outside of the existing system from which to challenge the status quo.

In For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, he would add:

…the natural law provides the only sure ground for a continuing critique of governmental laws and decrees.

Returning to Rourke’s essay: without this natural law ethic, every criticism will be interpreted along the lines of class, race, and gender.  The state need not even get involved, as the academy has gladly taken this lead (of course, given the state funding via the state directly and government guaranteed student loans indirectly, the state is plenty involved).

Del Noce saw the post-sixties culture in the West as grounded in three pillars: eroticism, positivism, and secularization. These three are all aspects of the same underlying reality, which is atheism.

Regarding eroticism:

The purpose [of the sexual revolution] is to destroy Christian moral tradition and the family altogether. [Wilhelm] Reich understood that Christian morality was passed on principally through the family and that no real revolution could occur so long as the institution of the family survived intact.

Marx’s thought was incomplete because it did not systematically address this reality.  It would be necessary to overthrow the family if one is to overthrow Christian civilization.

In this, I find Antonio Gramsci.  I have to believe, given that Del Noce was also Italian and came after Gramsci, that somewhere along the line Del Noce would have become familiar with Gramsci’s work.  It isn’t mentioned in this essay, and it is not terribly important other than noting that two Italian philosophers saw this same path forward – one as a blessing, the other as a curse.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Too Smart By Two-and-a-Half

To be "too smart by half" (also common is "too clever by half") is to be too smart for one's own good, meant either literally or ironically. As an idiom, it is usually sarcastic. The phrase has a wide range of potential uses; for instance, it can mean:

1.) Something so complex that it's self-obfuscating.

2.) A seemingly clever action that is in fact foolish.

3.) Logically accepting something as necessary that isn't.

4.) Over analysis.

5.) Elitism (see ivory tower).

--"Those Harvard scholars are too smart by half."

--"What a dumb idea; I tell you, that guy is too smart by half."

Too clever by half: Shrewd but flawed by overthinking or excessive complexity, with a resulting tendency to be unreliable or unsuccessful.

Too clever by half: To be too contrived or arrogant in one's cleverness or intelligence, to the point of being irritating to others.

Let’s get at some of the key words from above:

-          Self-obfuscating

-          Foolish

-          Over analysis

-          Flawed overthinking

-          Excessive complexity

-          Contrived

-          Arrogant

-          Being irritating to others

And this describes those who are too smart by merely half!  Imagine the adjectives necessary to get this increased by a factor of five – of being too smart by two-and-a-half.

My journey of diving deep into libertarianism and liberty began at this blog by addressing many left-libertarian ideas, few of which had anything to do with the non-aggression principle and few of which offered anything that would contribute to my liberty.  I was able to handle these with little emotion, but with much aggression.  In hindsight, I would probably take some of that aggression back.

Then I came across a seemingly well-respected libertarian thinker who advocated killing a child for picking an apple.  Technically, he advocated that the property owner was the only individual entitled to decide the punishment for a violation of his property.  As one of my readers pointed out, this, therefore, could also include the demand of sex with the minor as punishment.

In this case, I reacted both quite emotionally and aggressively.  I wish I reacted only slightly less emotionally.  Only slightly.  The aggression?  No amount was too much.  Equating liberty with evil?  This deserves damnation in hell.

Then there is the stretching of the theory to the point of absurdity – frankly, to the point of making it a punch line.  Open borders, even if it means a million commies come to your town?  Sure.  Martian invaders demand that you murder someone in order to save the world?  Yes, a subject worth addressing. 

Recently I have read of the theoretical possibility under the non-aggression principle of forcing individuals to be vaccinated against their will.  Boy, I went in with a knife on that one – and not just one wound, but several.  I stabbed it with my steely knives…

…but I just couldn’t kill the beast, apparently.  Because now comes masks: yes, there is a libertarian case (believe it or not) for forced mask-wearing as well.  Keep in mind – both the topic of forced vaccinations and this topic of forced mask-wearing have been raised in the context of our last nine months.  Both are addressed in the most esoteric and theoretical manner, yet the context in which these are read is in the reality of today.

Ideologies always present a danger.  On the surface, many sound good.  Taken to the extreme, none have proven efficacious toward the stated ends.  Given that here I am speaking of the ideology of libertarianism, this ideology – taken to an extreme – will not produce liberty; given the examples offered above, it should be obvious that it destroys liberty.

Even if one grants that libertarianism supports forced vaccines or forced mask wearing (I do not, but bear with me), where is the liberty in this?  I, as the property owner, no longer have rights as to what goes into my body?  I, as the property owner, no longer have rights in what is done in my restaurant or church?  Even if one grants that these are compatible with libertarianism (again, it isn’t, but bear with me), it isn’t compatible with my liberty.

This is the problem with ideologies and their ideologues: they focus on one thing while ignoring all else.  There is a complexity in human social relations that is never addressed by ideology; historically, this complexity has been addressed by religion – maybe not all religions, but certainly by Christianity (and I don’t purposely exclude others; I am just not as knowledgeable on others nor are these relevant to life in the West).

Which leads me to examining the relationship of law and ideology.  From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Friday, December 25, 2020

Sufficient for the Day

Luke 2: 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Thursday, December 24, 2020


Trump gave a statement on election fraud.  You know the details: leading going into the night; several swing states stop counting; losing by morning.  Hundreds, if not thousands, of sworn affidavits; video evidence; vote dumps at ninety-percent or higher for Biden.

It’s about a thirteen-minute statement.  He lays out his accusations in great detail, as if making the opening statement in a court trial.  Why give it now, when he has lost in every contested state, virtually every court case, etc.?  What’s the point?

Likely, there is no point.  Just one more example of him saying something while doing nothing.

Or…maybe…he is making his opening statement in his defense of his oath.  The one he took when entering office.  The one every meaningful official takes.  An oath to defend the Constitution. 


As I noted before, nothing will happen unless Trump believes he will have meaningful support – primarily from the military.  Does he now know that he has this?

Or is there no there there?

Monday, December 21, 2020

Indulge Me

 Fatal Discord: Erasmus, Luther, and the Fight for the Western Mind, by Michael Massing.

I know that I said I was not planning to write on this book the last time I wrote on this book…but some parts are too important to pass up.  Luther’s Reformation is one of the most important events in the history of the West and in Christendom.  A brief examination of his views at the time – along with a look at what Erasmus was writing at the same time – is worthwhile, if for no other reason than the history.

In the summer of 1516, while Luther was lecturing on the Epistle to the Romans, Luther received a copy of Erasmus’s Novem Instrumentum: New Instrument, or New Testament.  Reading Erasmus’s unfavorable notes on the practices of the clergy when compared with the exhortations of the Apostle Paul, Luther’s own notes would become ever more stinging.

He would bring special attention to the sale of indulgences.  In this, he was criticizing not only the pope, but also Frederick, his protector.  Regarding the pope, if had the power to deliver souls from purgatory, why does he not deliver them all?  Why base it on a payment?

In 1517, a new indulgence would be offered, preached by the Dominican friar, Johann Tetzel on behalf of the pope.  Tetzel was an expert at this practice, sending an advance crew weeks before his arrival to prepare the people for this opportunity.  Songs, flags, candles – it was a big show.  He was expert at preying on the guilt of his audience:

Don’t you hear the voices of your wailing dead parents and others who say, “Have mercy upon me, have mercy upon me, because we are in severe punishment and pain.  From this you could redeem us with a small alms and yet you do not want to do so…. You let us lie in flames so that we only slowly come to the promised glory.”

And with this, coins would clink into the box; Tetzel would hand out the certificate, proof of salvation from this torment.  Luther would preach against this practice on February 24, 1517.  He closed his sermon:

Oh, the dangers of our time!  Oh, you snoring priests!  Oh, darkness deeper than Egyptian!  How secure we are in the midst of all our evils!

A nice close, but his sermon had little effect.  What did have effect: when his parishioners refused to refrain from adultery, usury, and other vices, they would just show Luther their indulgence letters.  Luther refused to honor these, sending the parishioners back to Tetzel to complain. 

This indulgence had an additional complication behind it: the funds were to be used to continue the construction of the new St. Peter’s in Rome.  The German nobles had little desire to continue sending such significant treasure to Rome.  Yes, it was offered by the people, but it was still wealth transferred out of the region.

Julius II, the prime mover of the project, died in 1513.  His successor, Leo X, did not have the same commitment to the project.  One could say that he was not the ideal pope for the project or for the time.  This son of Lorenzo de’ Medici inherited his father’s taste and cultivation without the drive.

He was made a priest at the age of seven, an abbot at eleven, and a cardinal at thirteen.  He was thirty-seven when elected pope.  In this, he could easily serve his self-indulgent nature: “Let us enjoy the papacy, since God has given it to us.”  Perhaps apocryphal, but certainly capturing the spirit.

Examples of this enjoyment were easy to find: his inaugural procession was the most splendid since the time of the Roman emperors; he would lose eight-thousand ducats a month at cards; he would distribute bags of gold to those who would sing with him; he kept a menagerie of the most exotic animals; under him, the papal household grew from 200 to over 700 people.

He would spend a month every summer to hunt – but not really to hunt, as he couldn’t see very well.  When a boar was snared in a net, he would go in with a spear and a magnifying glass for the kill.  Dinners were most elaborate:

Leo loved vulgarity.  He also enjoyed theatrical pieces, the more indecent and farcical the better.

Meanwhile, the chief architect for St. Peter’s died.  A well-known artist with no architectural skills was named to replace him.  Costs skyrocketed, designs changed, controls were lacking, money was squandered.