Fanaticism vs. Devotion

In a comment on my last post Michael Bolin does a good job of defending the Newman passage that I used to show that one should not be for moderation in religion, even in false religion. Nevertheless, I think Samantha Cohoe is right that the passage is not applicable to the case of St Paul before his conversion. Even after one has dismissed the bogus moderate/extreme distinction in religion one still needs to be able to distinguish between the false zeal of the pharisee and the true zeal of the saint. Jeremy Holmes provided the following distinction on Facebook (quoted with permission): Continue reading


“The poor and the despised: this is who we must defend ourselves against?”

In my Charlie Hebdo piece I tried to understand how the anti-bourgeois left will use the affair to promote it’s agenda. Obviously, I have little sympathy for the positive ideals of the heirs of Robespierre and Lenin. But their negative critique of bourgeois society, and their sense of the crying injustice done to the weakest and poorest is very powerful. There is much distortion in it, yes, much misunderstanding, a good amount of inconsistency and self-contradiction; but there is also much truth, and this is the source of the enduring allure of radical leftism. By far the most powerful and moving piece on the Charlie Hebdo murders that I have read is by Sam Kriss. Much of what he says is questionable, but much more of it is clearly true: Continue reading

Charlie Hebdo and the Secularist Long Game

place des terreaux

Ah birbone! ah dannato! ah assassino! Villain! Wretch! Murderer!’  shouted Renzo, striding up and down the room, and grasping the hilt of his dagger every so often…. He stopped suddenly in front of the weeping girl, looked at her with sad and angry tenderness, and said: ‘I’ll make sure he never does a thing like this again.’ ‘No, Renzo, no! — not that, for the love of Heaven!’ cried Lucia. ‘God is the God of the poor and oppressed; but how can you expect him to help us if we do evil?’ (Alessandro Manzoni, The Betrothed, ch. 3)

The cliché that evil begets evil is true not only in it’s obvious sense (that righteous anger and zeal for justice can quickly turn to  hatred, revenge, and unlawful violence), but also in the sense that such reaction itself provides occasion for the long term strategies of well meaning but thoroughly mischievous movements. Continue reading