By Selwyn Duke
Perhaps some of you have seen the document titled, “Manifesto: Together facing a new totalitarianism,” which is being disseminated widely on the Web. Originally published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, of Mohammed cartoon fame, it’s a vow to resist Islamism signed by 12 individuals hailed as “brave intellectuals.” I read it, and while I have no idea whether or not the signatories are brave, their musings certainly illustrate why modern intellectuals are sorely lacking in intellectualism.
The proclamation’s primary flaw is evident in the first two sentences:
“After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism. We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all [emphasis mine].”
Our first move should not be to judge their values, but to ask what they are. After all, the ideologies they implicitly condemn involve secular values. (It’s interesting to note that while they mention both Naziism and fascism, they would cite only Stalinism, not communism. Is it because they believe it has not been overcome? Or is there another reason?) As for Stalinism, the decidedly more Christian United States condemned it as godless. Yet, I don’t know of anyone at the time who proclaimed the goal to be one of religious values for all.
Nor would I have supported such an aim.
My point is not that religious values are necessarily bad, that secular values are necessarily bad, or even that they’re necessarily different. It is that “secular” and “religious” are not creeds but categories. As such, they tell us nothing about quality, only type.
It’s much like announcing that you want drugs for all; drugs can be legal or illegal, can cure or corrupt. Thus, if no specificity is forthcoming, I’ll have to do some profiling to discern what is being peddled. Is the purveyor Pfizer or the Cali Cartel?
As far as these brave intellectuals go, they’re more Pablo Escobar than Pablo Alvaro. They have not only imbibed the Kool-Aid of the West’s secular academy but also mixed it, making me wonder. Of what secular values do they speak? Are they the ones whose ascendancy seems nigh? After all, to wax Churchillian, from Saskatchewan to Stockholm, an iron curtain has been dropped across the tongue, with hate speech laws muzzling mouths like burkas cover women. Increasingly in the West, people are being punished – and sometimes even imprisoned – by secular authorities for criticizing homosexuality, using politically incorrect terms, engaging in frank discussion about legitimate group differences, or even just expressing pro-life or creationist beliefs. So since these brave intellectuals also vowed to fight “totalitarianism” and “obscurantism” (the resistance to the increase and spread of knowledge) and said that “we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people,” I wonder if they will oppose the secular values that contravene these very goals.
If you think my stridency a bit disproportionate, understand that the manifesto and its authors represent the very philosophy that imperiled us in the first place, the one that even now is tearing down the walls of western civilization. They state,
“We reject cultural relativism, which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions.”
The above sentence contains a serious philosophical contradiction. The “cultural relativism” the writers bemoan is a corollary of “moral relativism,” and both are corollaries of the secularism they extol.
Let’s start from the top. Secularism involves the idea that there is no God and, therefore, no moral Truth (something above man that determines right and wrong). This makes man the author of morality, reducing it to a reflection of consensus opinion, which makes morals relative (for a more comprehensive explanation, read my piece The Nature of Right and Wrong). Now, if values are a product of opinion, it cannot rightly be said that some are better than others; the most we can say is some find favor with us while others don’t. If this is the case, it follows that the different values espoused by different cultures cannot render one superior to another, just different in terms of “tastes.” And this position, my friends, is cultural relativism.
The secularism of these “intellectuals” is a philosophy that collapses upon itself. Its adherents would use it as a rallying cry to fight jihad, seemingly oblivious to the fact that its relativism draws a moral equivalence between militants and missionaries. It is the very spiritual disease that has made us see everything as shades of gray, blinding us to darkness and light so that we neither defend the latter nor fight the former. How likely is it that you’ll recognize evil after embracing a philosophy stating it doesn’t exist? And why would you fight what you don’t recognize?
Moreover, secularism’s relativism has blinded scores of millions of westerners to the superiority of their own culture and to the threat posed by the introduction of incongruous and hostile cultural elements. At the same time, motivated by its antipathy for the West’s formative faith, Christianity, it has demonized the West to a point where many consider it the bane of man. And why would you take pains to preserve that which you think worthless if not destructive?
To anyone protesting my indictment of secularism, I will point out that it isn’t authentic Christians who created the “Hey, hey, ho, ho, western culture’s gotta go” mentality. No, that’s the handiwork of secularists in colleges, the media, popular culture and leftist organizations.
Make no mistake, this manifesto is as ideologically and philosophically chauvinistic as any jihadist screed. And if you took the document and replaced “secular” and “secularism” with “Christian” and “Christianity,” something similar is exactly what you’d be accused of.
Lest I be misunderstood, I wouldn’t shrink from condemning the Dark Faith, but I also don’t relish the prospect of helping one dragon swallow another and grow bigger and more menacing through digestion.
And that’s the point. I write this for those in my camp, my traditional brethren who share my concern for our civilization. Know that these people are not our friends. Sure, we may use them when possible to fight the Dark Faith, as warfare makes even stranger bedfellows than politics. After all, anyone who remembers WWII knows it wouldn’t be the first time we allied ourselves with leftists to fight a common enemy. But never forget that while they may puff up their chests at times and mouth some fashionable platitudes about combating tyranny, they are still Islam’s fifth column in our midst. Their Dark Philosophy has more in common with the Dark Faith than with anything we hold dear; for instance, both endeavor to destroy Christianity and the West. Of course, one difference is that the secularists' suicidal tendencies aren’t as rational as the Islamists’, as they don’t believe in an afterlife, and, even if they did, among secular women it’s virtually impossible to find 72 virgins.
Another commonality they share is that both stifle dissent contradicting their world view in nations under their dominion, punishing those who speak against their dogma. Another difference is that the Islamists don’t yet have us under their dominion; the secularists do. They are the ones stilling our tongues.
In case you’re still unconvinced about the secularists’ tyrannical nature and facilitation of Islamism, I’ll make one more point. When Canadian Mark Harding (and there have been other such victims) was punished for criticizing Islam, how could his plight have been best characterized?
It was secular authorities punishing Christian dissent in deference to Islamist sensitivities.
Need I say more?
It’s ironic that while the manifesto’s writers ask that a “critical spirit” be “exercised” against all “dogmas,” they also make that call for “secular values for all.” My response is to quote G.K. Chesterton:
“In truth, there are only two kinds of people, those who accept dogmas and know it, and those who accept dogmas and don’t know it.”
I have no interest in secular dogmas. I will never expend one solitary drop of blood, sweat or ink, at home or abroad, to make the world safe for them. My battles concern two things secularists fancy antiquated notions. That is, I fight for good and against evil, nothing more, nothing less.
You know, after suffering the vacuous musings of this deficient dozen, I know why Jesus didn’t choose twelve scholars. No, only the fools of modernity elevate intellectuals above wise men.