Joe Cannon: 20th-century secularization: War and the sexual revolution

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  • Mike
    June 16, 2009 6:24 p.m.

    Dogmas kill. The stronger the dogmatic belief, the more insulated it becomes from the scientific method and actual evidence and hence, the more dangerous it becomes. It matters not whether the dogma is religious or "secular" (ie. Communism, Nazism). Now, was that so hard kids?? If the author did his homework (aka - eschewed his own dogmas and sought out actual evidence) he would have realized Hitchens himself makes this point...that unsubstantiated dogmas are the culprit. BTW - atheism is inherently non-dogmatic since dogmas require belief not un-belief. For example, saying "Due to a lack of evidence for the existence of your sky-god, I do not believe in your sky-god" is an entirely non-dogmatic statement.

  • Thomas
    June 16, 2009 4:27 p.m.

    Lumping the exploration and explanation of the physical world by Darwin with the value based ideologies of Marx or even with the pseudo-science of Freud, shows the misunderstanding that many defensive religious intellectuals have about the structure of scientific thinking. Surely the blame for the violent atrocities of human history, religious or secular, rests on the ability of human beings to deceive themselves into extreme reactionary thinking. To blame secular thinking, or religious thinking, is to remove this universal human tendency from the equation. Humans have and will continue to react violently to perceived threats out of self-interest. The only change has been the banner under which people choose to react. Whether a Cross, or a Swastika, the reaction and fear based hatred is the same. I would argue that the cultural leaders that take captive the scientific ideas of Darwin and mold them into ideas of Social-Darwinism or the belief in a superior race, do so in the same way that the religious argue the leaders of violent brands of the religious idea have done. Once again the distinction between scientific progress and the world views created around it by cultural leaders is missed.

  • clarifying up all the posts
    June 15, 2009 5:24 p.m.

    NO!!! *My* belief system is Better!!!

  • RE: Kevin
    June 15, 2009 5:03 p.m.

    Th Nazis need a RICH Enemy for people to hate on and blame for their problems,

    Today its CEOS and BIG corporations,

    before that it was the rich, the educated, the anyone didn;t go along with them in vietnam, cambodia, cuba, etc,

    befoere that it was the Rich Jews and other undesirables who must be blamed and their wealth taken in europe,

    before that it was the RICH An the Elite and Czars, Then the educated then the farmers, in Russia,

    before that it was the RICH and elite and noble classes in france.

    Things never change with socialist/marxists, and communists,

    do you see the pattern?

    Today in america they are going after the CEOS, the big corporations, the conservative and the religious.

    Who will be next?

    THis is why remembering and knowing history is SO important.

  • Kevin
    June 15, 2009 12:35 p.m.


    Though Nazism ultimately treated Jewishness as race, it was founded on anti-Semitism that was founded on religion that prevailed throughout Europe over the centuries.

    Regarding my comment about "religious-like." Friends, I'm talking about the same mentality as religion. I'm faulting the very mode of thinking, which includes unsubstantiated beliefs, mob mentality, and mob boss rule.

    You all allow yourselves to believe outrageous things, and you follow. The Germans were so desperate, they turned off their nonsense detectors. So have people of faith.

  • RE: Kevin | 7:47 a.m
    June 14, 2009 6:15 p.m.

    Your ignorance is showing.

    Nazi-ism is based on eugenics and darwinism and evolution and creating the superior race,

    The same philosohy that also gave birth to Progressivesm in the US,

    and such liberal democrat luminaries like:

    Pres. Woodrwo Wilson:

    RE-segregated the miltary,
    jailed over hundred and fifty thousand for political crimes,
    shutdown hundreds of newpapers for poltical crimes,


    interned the japanese
    attempted to stack the court,

    The founder of planned parrenthood:

    you can suppose your own reason for her creating abortion clinics for the poor and minorities

  • @Roland Kayser
    June 14, 2009 5:53 p.m.

    ..."all ought to refrain from marriage who cannot avoid abject poverty for their children; for poverty is not only a great evil, but tends to its own increase by leading to recklessness in marriage....if the prudent avoid marriage, whilst the reckless marry, the inferior members tend to supplant the better members of society..... the most able should not be prevented by laws and customs from succeeding best and rearing the largest number of offspring."

    Charles Darwin: The Descent of Man. Chapter XXI
    "General Summary"

  • Hadley V. Baxendale
    June 14, 2009 5:19 p.m.

    The human mammal is the finest fighting and killing machine ever created; discussions of whether the idea of "God" (religion) coming first, or the idea of "war" and "killing" coming first, are simply distractions vis-a-vis the core nature of humans. Humans commit atrocities regardless of the nature of their "-isms".

    The US Supreme Court has ruled, in pertinent part, that Secular Humanism is a religion. Jainism is a religion that rejects the idea of "god," but focuses on doing good, among other things. Arguably all humans ascribe to a "religion."

    The cause of war is mankind; not religion and not "God."

  • re Joe Moe | 4:28 p.m. June 14,
    June 14, 2009 5:16 p.m.

    One has only to look at the history of the Popes to see that religion itself can be bad, not just outside people putting on the cloak of religion.

    They still haven't improved. They did little until they were sued to stop what was happening to children, and they refuse to fix the root cause, of making thier clergy so lonely. People need love of an other human being, we simply aren't satisfied with Gods love when it comes to this need.

  • RE: Kevin
    June 14, 2009 5:15 p.m.

    Your comment shows a complete ignorance of what Nazi-ism was and it's roots,

    Nazis-ism is based on eugenics and creating a master race,

    which is founded upon and has it's roots in darwinism and evolution,

    the scary thing is this same philosophy spawned progressivism in the US,

    and such liberal democrat luminaries like Pres. Woodrow wilson (RE-segregated th miliatry jailed shutdown newpapers and jailed thousanda for political crimes), and the founder of planned parenthood Stanger, FDR (attempted to stack the supreme court, interned the japanese), etc.

  • Joe Moe
    June 14, 2009 4:28 p.m.

    @Kevin (7:47)

    You keep using the word "religious-like." You apparently wish to connect these movements (e.g., Nazis, fascists, Marxists, etc.) with religion in order to denigrate religion, but in your own language you are obligated to admit that they are not RELIGIOUS but RELIGIOUS-LIKE. In other words, there is no substantial connection. You should have stopped at that point, because this undercuts your whole argument. We are not discussing "religious-like" movements. We are discussing religion and secularism, and their historical impacts.

  • Joe Moe
    June 14, 2009 4:21 p.m.

    @Roland Keyser (2:09)

    "The author seems to support the proposition that it is a legitimate prerogative of government to prohibit the sale of contraceptives."

    How did you get that? He stated no opinion on the legality of banning birth control. He simply connected the dots between the court decision and current cultural thinking at the time (he emphasized that he believed the court was following, not leading, on this issue). Actually, whether Cannon "supports" this proposition or not is irrelevant to the whole theme, and one wonders why you felt compelled to reach on this point.

    Regarding your second paragraph, I again fail to see any relevance to your statement. Why does it matter if Darwin used those words or if the phrase was invented by "conservatives"?

    I wonder if you might benefit by re-reading the piece and thinking about the actual topic on hand.

  • CB
    June 14, 2009 2:18 p.m.

    Adolf might have thanked heaven, but too soon he thought he was god.
    Appreciate your article J. Cannon. I'm grateful for my faith. It answers to the sun rising every morning and the stars at night, the coming and going of the seasons, the beauty of the forest and the magnificence of a newborn.

  • Anonymous
    June 14, 2009 12:26 p.m.

    "Even today I am not ashamed to say that, overpowered by stormy enthusiasm, I fell down on my knees and thanked Heaven from an overflowing heart for granting me the good fortune of being permitted to live at this time."

    - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Vol. 1 Chapter 5

  • How ironic
    June 14, 2009 12:13 p.m.

    that JoeC selected from his online thesaurus the term "screed" in his opening paragraph to describe Christopher Hitchens' work.

    Because we all know that screed also means: "a ranting piece of writing."

    Spot on, Joe. Spot on. Please enlighten us with more of your own screed, Mr. Editor.

  • When did I miss..........
    June 14, 2009 12:04 p.m.

    When did I miss the part when it became the role of the newspaper editor to play quad-roaming philosophy prof, or better yet, quasi-intellectual Sunday School teacher?

    C'mon, Mr. Cannon, how about giving us a secular opinion. About anything. Or are you attempting to leave some published spirit'ual legacy of faux-fawned and ripped academic footnotes because you're not really a newsman? Or statesman?

  • Brain
    June 14, 2009 10:30 a.m.

    Right on Joe. As usual the far left is whining about your conclusions.

  • God Good, Religion Bad
    June 14, 2009 10:26 a.m.

    I believe in God, that God has inspired many of the great discoveries we now know about and enjoy.

    However religion does not deserve the same credit. Religion is a drag on society and on the individual. Too many superstitions, non sensical rules, and making people grow up in straight jackets.

  • What is Cannon getting at?
    June 14, 2009 10:23 a.m.

    Religion is about rules, do this, don't do that, not that rules don't help in certain situations, but how do rules such as don't drink green tea or don't use birth control help?

    Science is about free thinking, its hard to be a free thinker when one grew up their entire life being given a multitude of nonsensical rules and being told that these rules really make some difference in being a good person or not.

  • What is Cannon thinking?
    June 14, 2009 10:14 a.m.

    Why when religion ceases to be a great power did civilization start thriving? It seems the enlightenment went hand in hand with throwing off the shackles of religion.

    Its hard to get ahead when scientifically when one knows you are at risk for being burned at the stake for certain discoveries.

    The moslem culture is backward, what has religion done to help fix their situation?

    What overly religious culture is advanced? Not us when we were and not one today that is.

  • gordon detweiller
    June 14, 2009 9:29 a.m.

    God is good, but we need checks and balances because unrestrained faith can do whatever it wants with no justification. We see this in utah all the time.

  • rusby
    June 14, 2009 9:21 a.m.

    The problem with all these arguments, is that they are pretexts for the authors preformed conclusion.
    If you apply physical laws of science, like the second law of thermodynamics, and inertia, and some concepts of probability and treat societies like bodies of mass. You actually can see the importance of God in a society. Without a God, our society will irreversibly deteriorate in to a state not unlike the animals.
    As time progresses and societies are not connecting any more, society will develop a dual nature. The aligning of society to two different ideals, proves that there are two external influences in society, these will be the religious and the secular. Those who ascribe to God's influence, and those who don't.

    Also, those who use religious texts to encourage murder are not going to God for help. They found a support in religious texts for their secular ideal. Those who ascribe to God and are truly listening to Him act without self-interest with love to all men. They preserve the society that we enjoy.

  • Ultra Bob
    June 14, 2009 8:26 a.m.

    Religion is/was the easiest, cheapest, most dependably reliable way to enslave the minds of men and women. I preys upon the most basic fear of all life, that of survival. All you need to do is come up with a good story about life after death and how to get it.

    Wars are fought for economic reasons between nations which are all Capitalistic in their relations. No matter what internal government a nation may have, externally they operate and behave like ordinary Capitalist. Since there are very few rules of conduct in this big world market, and those are mostly unenforceable, nations use military force to gain or protect their economic wealth.

    All wars are not religious wars, but all religious wars are economic wars. Churches are simply capitalist entities operation in the sale and distribution of Hope.

    In todays world people need religion, it provides a necessary crutch to help us get through a very tough life. Someday, as our minds grow and our knowledge of the world increases, we may not need religion, But until we find something better, God is good.

  • Kevin
    June 14, 2009 7:47 a.m.

    Nazism was an entirely Christian creation. I think the point many of the authors of secular "screeds" is that many of the murderous dictators have risen to power because of people's religious-like gullibility and worship.

    People of faith have their brains switched off when it comes to following certain leaders. Examples abound. Just look at all the cults around world lead by so-called profits. But also Hitler, Stalin, and others Mr. Cannon points out. They came to power in their own religious-like movements, and people were bamboozled as people of faith are.

    Hitchens and others argue that it is taking too much on faith that leads to man's demise, not man's critical rational thinking. Any thinking can be wrong, but religion is neither self-criticizing nor rational.

    You rant about secularism, and site examples of things gone bad, but do not consider the dangers from switching off brains to accommodate silly, far-fetched religion.

  • glendenb
    June 14, 2009 7:46 a.m.

    The historical horrors of the 20th century did not grow from a lack of faith in God, from secularism or from materialism (the term Cannon is using rather than the more accurate scientific naturalism). The totalitarian states of the last 100 years could hardly be described as rational - they are a perfect example of what happens when a society embraces blind belief. The common thread uniting those regimes is hostility to open debate, science and the liberal traditions of the west. The rational, honest thinking that led Darwin to his conclusions are the polar opposite of the actions of the regimes Cannon rightly deplores.

    The murderous impulses of religious authorities flow DIRECTLY from various holy texts. "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" gave license to centuries of officially sanctioned mob violence against "aussenseiters" of various stripes. The Biblical text clearly approves the practices of slavery and genocide. Theocrats of all kinds approvingly and accurately quote holy writ while brutalizing people in the name of God and faith.

    Our problem as a species is too much belief with too little evidence.

  • Roland Kayser
    June 14, 2009 2:09 a.m.

    The author seems to support the proposition that it is a legitimate prerogative of government to prohibit the sale of contraceptives. I would disagree.

    Another point: The phrase "survival of the fittest" appears nowhere in Darwin's work. It was coined by conservatives to give a scientific sounding rationale for denying aid to the poor. After all the poor were obviously less fit than the rich. If the poor became extinct, it was simply natural law at work.

  • rusby
    June 14, 2009 1:12 a.m.

    Spot on Joe,

    This article nails our social maladies on the head.

    No matter whether you believe in God or not, we need him, in our marriages, families, neighborhoods and countries.
    Our society is entering a foxhole, and there are no atheists in foxholes.