lundi 20 février 2012

Hitchens and Blair, what are you up to?

      1 Lent and Genesis Reading Time Approach
2 Hitchens and Blair, what are you up to?
3 Ethics of Creationist Writings
Now to this essay:
I read that article about your book in La Repubblica, it seems your debate book has had an Italian translator. Since I am not concerned with the merely rhetorical beauties of either English or Italian, and since French and Latin studies along with Topolino - Mickey Mouse in Italian - helped me to get half of a mastery of that language, I think I got the point even without reading the original. If I slightly misquote Newman, it will be because I retranslate from Italian translation.

Blair: I do not know if the right page in the middle of La Repubblica yesterday was a direct response to Hitchens'left page. If it was, it was very inadequate as a response.

Now, Hitchens may or may theoretically also not be himself deluded about the rights and wrongs of the Newman quote and the AIDS in Africa pique, but he is certainly saying what may delude others. In such a case, the duty of a debater is not just to answer him what may profit himself most in the way of lessening his ire, one must also respond to the errors in his argument. Since you did not, I will try to do so. Hitchens, you got that too?

Now, I am in for Hitchens.

You quoted as a specimen of a fanatical state of mind the famous quote from Apologia. Excuses for restating some detail inexactly in wording, do correct me if I miss any point of content, please! Here it goes:

To the Catholic Church it would be better if the sun and the moon fell down and earth perished and all men with it in the most terrible agonies than that even one soul, I do not say perishes eternally, but even commits deliberately one venial sin, says one lie, steals one mirror, without justification.

In Italian the last words were "senza giustificazione" - I did not add them myself to exonerate John Henry, Cardinal Newman.

Now, these words mean that Newman is miles from fanaticism. He can state that this and that in the abstract is worse than disaster of merely physical pains for everyone, but he adds that this is in the abstract, if there is no justification.

Or rather, the case where there is no justification is not quite just in the merely theoretical abstract, it is a case which was there in Paradise, before original sin.

Do not steal. Not even a little mirror. But lots of people do steal mirrors or other things to pay for necessities, because they are poor. Even more steal from childish curiosity, without considering it is the property of someone else, and then they do not dare return it for fear of that someone else being angry for even momentary taking the little trinket away. Adam did not have poverty to deal with before he fell in Paradise. Nor insecurity or angry people.

Do not lie, not even to yourself for a moment. But lots of people lie to others out of already named insecurity, and some do lie to themselves because they are inattentive and wish very badly for something to be true which is not true. Eve did not have those problems to deal with.

You said yourself that according to Christianity we are born with a sickness and required to get well.

Indeed so. Not an error of fabrication, but an infection that Adam and Eve earned for the rest of us, just as surely as some husbands going to gay clubs or to harlots in Africa earn AIDS for their wives and children.

Where you go wrong is to propose these children had been better off not existing if they were to exist with AIDS. That their ma and pa should have avoided making them in order to avoid marring them with AIDS.

To us all, there is a sickness called Original Sin. The primary infection, so to speak, is cured by Baptism. But there are lasting disabilities, or disabilities as hard to overcome as for asthmatics to become athletes.

If you are born as an asthmatic, you are quite justified in not breathing as well as the next guy, that does not mean you are entitled to totally stop breathing. A deliberate non-necessary sin, is as bad for us, as a smoke for an asthmatic. The smoke does not help him to breath properly, and the sin does not help us to live properly.

We are not made to steal or to lie, although we are made to understand among other things, what stealing and lying is, insofar as we may be living with liars or thieves and at least on the assumption that we might in Christian Charity be required to forgive someone stealing from us or someone lying to us.

But stealing and lying are not justified as human nature, they are, if at all, justified as weaknesses incurred through the sin of Adam, that is as not quite as fully our fault as if we had been Adam and Eve in Paradise.

We are made to perfectly honour God, which is our love for him, and to perfectly cherish our neighbour. Being born wityh Original Sin does not make us born for the opposite, but handicapped in what we are born for, as previously explained. And will is so far superior to matter in dignity that a fault in will is more dire than the direst fault in merely material things or in biological things. This is what Newman was saying. That does not mean that anyone is justified in actively imposing on innocent neighbours any fault in biological or material circumstances. Not even to test their fidelity to the dictum of Newman. And my circumstances have again and again been blasted by people doing exactly that to me, hoping to "make me see" how absurd Newman was, but really making me see how absurd they are in their vile parody.

You quoted someone as saying: "in the moral universe, the good generally tend to do their best and the bad generally tend to do their worst, but in order for good people to deliberately do cruel things, you need religion."

One might add: "in order for bad people to deliberately try to be good again, you need religion." But if we stick with the quote, in that case Atheism is a religion, and one of the worse. Not atheism as in any position denying the existence of a personal God - some outgrow such positions quickly enough, like if they are atheists for half an hour as I was Calvinist for half an hour in my life (before I was Christian, I was not Calvinist, and since I was Christian I have had from Wesley via William Booth even before I had from the Catholic Church a sane horror for the position that God basically forces some to sin and to get lost). And some are atheists for jsut as short a spell and do not have time to get deliberately cruel to Christian friends and family.

Endorsing condoms is which you are acting cruelly. It is cruel to young people to discourage them from parenthood. It is especially cruel now that we see that children are in the general way not as dispensable for the old age social security as has been thought for some decades (hear that Tony Blair?!), in a time when Swedish government has privatised and French government is postponing by some years the retirement from professional activities to old age pensions.

The system worked well for the old while each old person corresponded to four professionally active ones, at least if women were gotten out into activity, some of which activities were more pleasant than caring for old parents or in law parents. Then this was maintained through condoms and pills and abortions. Now the system is breaking down for the old, because they as a generation, made fewer babies than they should.

This could have been avoided if Christians had remained Christians, if mothers had preferred giving birth again, in pangs close to agony and some dying in childbed to even once using a pill or asking the man to get on a condom. And if youth had not been encouraged to use as a mere toy rather than as an investment of themselves for a life in family their sexuality. It is like a man preferring to breath Nitrous Oxide to air: if he gets his wish consistently, he will die. Just as surely as a family whose young consistently use condoms will die from lack of children. And your attack on Christianity as an "obsession with purity" is precisely what did that to our lands.

Blair - how come you were so anxious to justify to an atheist promoting condoms that yes, some religious people do evil things, but at least not all of them?

I mean, you had a perfect case, if not to Hitchens as an individual at least to the collective of organised atheism that he represents, "is the pot calling the kettle black?"

One more thing, Blair: Altruism is not a virtue. Almsgiving is.

There are people who refuse to give alms for egoistic reasons, as I am in a position to know, having lived on the streets for long, that does not bother me. What bothers me is when the refusal has an altruistic motive as in giving me a valuable lesson. Among other things because, excepting cases of insecurity, such refusal may be more unpleasant. Among other things because they may be organising refusals among others too.

And I am quite as satisfied with alms given for motives which highbrows might analyse as egoistic ("buying a stairway to Heaven", "doing it to get luck", "being nice in an obvious but not longreaching way", "not offending", "not wanting to listen to a depressive sob-story" - which I was not offering to tell in any case) as with alms given for the "highest" altruistic motive.

I happen to think God is as satisfied with them too. Not because I were God, but because, as a Christian, I know God wants us to please the poor with our alms - when we think we have an opportunity. Like having a few more cents than we need. Or doing something with the last cents which we cannot use but which to the other guy may add up to some use.

Not denying known or presumable Buddhists are able to give alms, for some of them that may be the "redeeming virtue", the hook on which the heavenly fisherman pulls them up to among the birds. I e grants them salvation.

I had yesterday the pleasure to taste two Chinese dishes not previously known to me. Xiang Piao Piao and Wa Ha ha (if that is the name of the dish rather than the trade mark, anyway, it was the only thing written in characters I can read). I suppose Xiang Piao Piao is Salangan Nests, since, a) its taste reminds me of a description, and b) the Chinese character repeated as the Piao looks like a house. Wa Ha Ha (if that is the name of the dish) contains wheat or barley and beans.

Not at all very like China food at takeaways or eaten at restaurant tables where soy sauce is as important as mustard, salt and pepper on the Occidental ones. At least as for my experience with them.

This does not mean I happen to prefer begging to working: I happen to prefer the work of writing, and of writing on these matters among others. And while we are at it, another thing, Blair, that you did not defend against Hitchens (you maybe did not want to defend it?):

Not only my articles on this blog, but also on my creationist one* are there for any publisher, professional or amateur, Church, State, School, even atheists who think I inadvertently satirise myself, since, I am confident if they did print my writings that would help spreading a valid refutation of their position, in the end.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Nanterre, University Library
20-II-2012, Monday before
Ash Wednesday

*Ethics of Creationist Writings ...
... for instance mine.

4 commentaires:

  1. Which Adam and Eve earned from the rest of us ... or actually primarily Adam.

    1. Just saw Hitchens is no more among us.

      Well, it is not on earth that he would be reading this. Whereever he is, he would presumably already know I am right in what I write here.

  2. And the signs I mistook for Xiang Piao Piao are those given for Wa Ha Ha (laughing child), which is a food concern.


    Admit the doubled sign looks like a house!