The now humiliated mainstream media first tried to pin the attack by Jared Loughner on conservatives and the Tea Party only to discover that very few of Loughner’s views resembled conservative values at all. (As of this writing, I don’t think we do know what his motivations were even yet.) Conservatives defended themselves with effect, but there was one portion of that defense that I wish to take issue with.
Conservatives have taken the tact of protecting themselves from the very charge they are fending off, bending over backwards to insist that not only did conservative values not influence Loughner, neither did ‘liberal’ values: the guy was just nuts.
Loughner clearly is nuts. It doesn’t follow, however, that his beliefs had nothing to do with him becoming nuts, or remaining nuts.
We know from Loughner’s Internet activities that he was a nihilist and atheist. He listed some of his favorite readings the Communist Manifesto and Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
A couple of months ago, James Jay Lee assaulted the HQ of the Discovery channel. His views on the Internet were also known, detailed in this manifesto. He too was insane.
Is this because of a mental defect on their part? If so, which came first? Did the things they believe lead to the defect or was it already there and was fueled by the beliefs? For the purpose of this post, it is largely irrelevant (but see G. K. Chesterton’s musings on madness). Instead what I wish to point out was that both gentlemen more or less acted consistently with their views. They had the courage of their convictions.
You see, there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people who believe much, if not sometimes all, of what Loughner and Lee believe. I have been documenting this for one of the presentations I give on the ‘culture of death.’ The views of these two men exist today and they existed in the past. The last time people seriously accepted the what these men believe(d), hundreds of millions of people died in concentration camps, gulags, famines, and worse. To put it another way, there was a time when people with precisely these sorts of views had the courage of their convictions, and acted on it.
We live in a curious time. Good people who are otherwise sane entertain the notions that Lee and Loughner embraced and acted on. Over against those notions they have some memory of the bloodsport of the 20th century and are keen to avoid it a second go around. What they don’t ask is: “Maybe it isn’t just one particular application of these beliefs that ought to be discredited… maybe the beliefs themselves should be chucked?”
Let us imagine that someone believed that all people with red hair should be killed because they aren’t really people. You talk to him. He’s a perfectly pleasant fellow. Very sane. “So, you aren’t going to actually kill any red haired people or advocate that others do?” you ask him. “Of course not,” he says. That’s a relief, of course. “Why believe it if you won’t carry it out?” you persist. “That would be horrible. I would feel terrible,” he says. “Hmmm,” you might say, “Perhaps the fact that you are deeply uncomfortable with wiping out those with red hair is because even though you say they aren’t people, in fact, you think they are. Why not then dispense with your belief that they aren’t really people?”
Something very much like this is at the root of much thinking among secular humanists. They don’t really believe what they’re saying. If they did, we’d all be in a lot of trouble and they’d probably go a little nuts.
A case in point of this sort of dancing with dangerous lunacy is the conclusions put forward by philosopher Joel Marks a couple of months ago. Joel Marks has concluded that there is no such thing as right and wrong. Just as Darwinism showed that design is an illusion, it also shows that morality is an illusion. However, Mr. Marks knows that someone could act genocidal on that basis. His recourse is to appeal to their ‘heartstrings.’ Which, of course, is all he can appeal to. He doesn’t think vivisection is wrong. He just doesn’t like it. [Marks is answered pretty well, here]
A three year old child could perceive that if someone believes as Mr. Marks does that all hell will break loose. It is as simple to understand as that. Three year old children are being raised with such thinking, immersed in it even if it isn’t delivered to them as dogma, and people who believe that way have the audacity to be shocked when someone acts on it. They, quite stupidly, figure that such a person is driven by ‘conservative’ thinking when it is simple to see it is just an extension of their thinking. Conservatism, especially that of Christians, contains within it several significant checks on such madness, not the least of which is the belief that people are created in the image of God and their value comes from God’s determination, not Man’s.
We live in a society where God has been taken out of the picture and those who have made that happen, or are happy that that it has happened, act surprised when people who believe likewise go a little nuts. The insanity of Nietzsche was our first clue. The bloodletting of the communists and nazis should have been the next clue. At some point, the at present sane liberal/secular humanist/atheist may just wish to consider that maybe it is the beliefs themselves that are wrong, and not just the application of them. This seems especially pertinent since many of these same (ie, Marks above) have determined that one cannot even say the application of them is wrong. And yet, no doubt they would repudiate the actions of those like Mr. Lee and Mr. Loughner. Because they didn’t like them, I suppose.
I should be clear here that I am not saying that there are not people with genuine mental problems. I am also not saying that everyone who believes in such things are insane or on their way. Nor am I saying that an atheist belief logically leads to genocide. Indeed, to the question, “What does atheism become?” my answer is not, “genocide” but rather, “Whatever the hell it wants.” Genocide just being one of many possible outcomes. What we would call insanity being another- sanity being as relative as morality, you see.
Atheism, by its nature and its logical implications, strips away all the checks and balances that stand in the way of lunacy and murder and worse. If one particular atheist wishes to carry out the logical consequences of Darwinism (a la, Mr. Lee), there is no moral reason to protest. If another particular atheist believes that America suffers from such poor grammar we deserve death (ala Mr. Loughner) there is nothing his fellows can say to him. The mind, after all, reduces to matter. That is to say, you may say that mayhem is not the logical consequence of Darwinism, but what is ‘logic’ to people who believe the mind is just brain-stuff? Saying that something is irrational is like saying that two rocks laid out next to each other are irrational. The mind reduces to nothing more than that: a multitude of the tiniest pebbles in one particular configuration rather than another. [More G. K. Chesterton for you: The Suicide of Thought]
People believe this, and don’t go nuts and don’t start killing people. To be surprised when people who believe this do, however, is just silly. Maybe… just maybe… its time to wonder if it’s the beliefs themselves that are the problem.
(If you would like to see an atheist debate this, arguing that atheism does NOT lead to Mark’s conclusions after believing them himself at one time, go here.)