Are American atheists crybabies? -UPDATE, part deux
Okay, that’s a deliberately provocative and insulting title – one needs to get ones hits somehow after all – and rest assured that I exempt all of my fine colleagues from the above, and probably the majority of US atheists. But it is a sad fact that in the age of the Internet, bores and blowhards tend to have their voices magnified compared with the more sensible and stoic. So, with that throat clearing out of the way, on to the subject.
I’ve had the following experience several times. Engaging in a minor point of discussion on some obscure point of US politics, I find myself lectured at plonking length that I “do not understand” what it’s like living in a nation where one party is “dominated by theocrats”. Most recently this came up in a minor exchange about that business of whether or not Catholic institutions should be compelled to pay for birth control, including sterilisation and abortion. I found myself being told that this was the dividing line, that across from this lay only the wastelands of theocracy and despotism.
This self-pitying attitude is deeply unattractive. I appreciate that the US religious right can be an immense pain in the ass, to quote the Hitch, but I promise you that I would happily trade your religious right for the one we have in Europe. I know there is a belief that the Old Continent has outgrown belief. In response, I would like you to take a look at the following page.
That is the autobiography of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, the founder of the Romanian Iron Guard, AKA The Legion of the Archangel Michael, and that is what Europeans mean by the Christian Right. If you are unfamiliar with the record of this group, well, let me phrase it like this: these are the chaps the Nazis told to lay off the Jews. Yes, you heard that right. Basically the extreme Christian Right in Europe starts at the KKK and heads right from there.
Notice further that that’s not a historical website, but one offering this stuff for sale. Take your time and poke around a bit.
Okay, but surely these are just some lousy cranks, not really worth taking seriously? I wish. This website, Arktos is pretty much the publishing arm of the Nouvelle Droit, the European fascist international. That sounds like a contradiction in terms, but it’s a very real thing. German television has produced some of the best documentaries on european fascism, and an interview with Herbert Schweiger (link is German; use google Chrome to translate), he calmly stated that, with the defeat of the Third Reich, the time had come to try something new: simultaneously growing neo-fascist movements in all nations of the continent. For those of you who can’t get the translation programme to work, here’s this man’s C.V.: former member of the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, the praetorian guard of the Third Reich.
How is his plan going? Well, I’ll point you to this article by Mark Steyn.
To promote a greater sense of Euro-harmony, the European Parliament—actually, make that the European “Parliament”—is organized into ideological blocs, ensuring that French liberals sit with Slovene liberals, and Belgian greens sit with Latvian greens, rather than hunkering down in their ethnic ghettoes. The largest bloc is the “centre-right,” the second-largest are the socialists, and the third is now the “non-inscrits,” the bloc for people who don’t want to belong to blocs. As a result of this month’s election, this Groucho Marxist grouping of “Others” tripled in size to just under a hundred seats. So, if they’re not liberals, socialists, greens, “European democrats” or the “Nordic Green Left,” what the hell are they?
Okay, here goes. The members of the non-bloc bloc include: one member of the “True Finns” party; one member of the Slovak National Party; two members of the British National Party; two members of the Austrian Freedom Party; two members of the Vlaams Belang, the “Flemish Interest” party; two members of the Civic Union, which sounds like a gay marriage in Vermont but is in fact an offshoot of the Latvian nationalist For Fatherland And Freedom Party; three members of France’s National Front; three members of Jobbik, the Hungarian nationalist party; three members of the Greater Romania Party . . .
Well, you get the picture.
Indeed. To my American readers, bother to look at the numbers that, say, the Front Nationale in France gets, and try to imagine anything similar in US politics (how much does Buchanan get?).
You may recall that grisly atrocity by Breivik. I don’t blame you if you haven’t bothered to wade through 1,500 pages of tripe, but I knew what I was looking for. And, sure enough, Breivik was directly linked to the nouvelle droite. His ideas involving mass cloning to boost european numbers, and a political union with autocratic Russia, are very much influenced by Guillaume Faye’s Archeofuturism, one of the most important works of this movement. You can read a long preview here. I can say without any undue modesty that the only two writers who got this connection, and what it portended, were your humble servant and the journalist Oyvind Strommen.
Things were pretty bad when those aforementioned documentaries were made, circa fourteen, fifteen years ago. Things have now gotten much, much worse. One religious right like this would be bad enough, but Europe now has two.
You already know where this is going. In additions to its homegrown troubles, the Old Continent has imported an Islamic far right that fully equals even the Iron Guard in its viciousness. This menace has also acted as a horrifying force-multiplier for the nouvelle droite. Sam Harris had it right:
The same failure of liberalism is evident in Western Europe, where the dogma of multiculturalism has left a secular Europe very slow to address the looming problem of religious extremism among its immigrants. The people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists.
To say that this does not bode well for liberalism is an understatement: It does not bode well for the future of civilization.
Fifteen years ago there was a basic safeguard in place against anti-immigrant windbags. The direct experience of just about everyone was that immigrants and their descendants were just trying to muddle along as best they can, same as the rest of us. You could always say, “Where, exactly, is this threat you’re on about?” Unfortunately, that now has an answer. When you have mobs calling for the next holocaust, Arabic versions of Mein Kampf being sold with rave reviews, and mainstream mosques calling for the deaths of jews and hindus, that question starts sounding a little silly.
As Bruce Bawer observes:
“The main reason I’d been glad to leave America was Protestant fundamentalism. But Europe, I eventually saw, was falling prey to an even more alarming fundamentalism whose leaders made their American Protestant counterparts look like amateurs. Falwell was an unsavory creep, but he didn’t issue fatwas. James Dobson’s parenting advice was appalling, but he wasn’t telling people to murder their daughters. American liberals had been fighting the Religious Right for decades; Western Europeans had yet to even acknowledge that they had a Religious Right. How could they ignore it? Certainly as a gay man, I couldn’t close my eyes to this grim reality. Pat Robertson just wanted to deny me marriage; the imams wanted to drop a wall on me. I wasn’t fond of the hypocritical conservative-Christian line about hating the sin and loving the sinner, but it was preferable to the forthright fundamentalist Muslim view that homosexuals merited death.”
I’ve mentioned “anti-immigrant” here, because that is such a central part of the paranoid worldview of these psychos, but resistance to the menace of Jihad is not an “immigrant” issue. Some of the nastiest members of the Islamic far right are converts (ironically enough from fascist and Nazi backgrounds, like David Myatt). Meanwhile, some of the fiercest radicals against this menace are immigrants. That doesn’t stop these two problems being locked in a symbiotic spiral.
So, this is what it means to be in europe and talk about the Religious Right. Yet it continues to puzzle me just how many people, including those who should know better, can go along with this nonsense of putting the highly irritating members of the US christian right on a par with genuine theocrats.
UPDATE: I must be on some kind of a roll. I write this thing, and the next thing I know I find the following in the library. “Strong Religion: The Rise of Fundamentalisms Around the World”, by Gabriel A. Almond (professeor emeritus of political science at Stanford), R. Scott Appleby (professor of history at the University of Notre Dame), and Emmanuel Sivan (professor of history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem).
From the back cover:
The authors of this study analyze the various social structures, cultural contexts, and political environments in which fundamentalist movements have emerged around the world, from the Islamic Hamas and Hizbullah to the Roman Catholic and Proestant paramilitaries of Northern Ireland, from the Moral Majority and Christian Coalition of the United States to the Sikh radicals and Hundu nationalists of India.
That’s not even an apples-and-pears list. That’s apples and active grenades.
SECOND UPDATE – this is because I and Disqus are not on speaking terms at the moment. I’m going to use this to quickly reply to my colleague at No Cross, No Crescent. To make it quick:
1. I specifically said that I was trying to be provocative, and exempted my colleague here.
2 . It’s an easy mistake to believe that the fascist parties are not as bad, but you don’t understand how difficult it is to stand up to them. Let me phrase it like this: when was the last time someone railing against the Christian Coalition or the Republicans needed the witness protection program? Not many stories like that? But there are stories like that about the German NPD. Like their equivalents in the Islamic far right, they are not that big on elections. They are more about taking territory and digging in. Once a neighbourhood is under their control, it can be next to impossible to dig them out, because speaking up means a visit from thugs in jackboots. And if they are arrested, their fellows are still on the loose.
3. The idea that LePen is only a problem for the Muslims misses the point that fascism is a problem for everyone. The Islamic far right kill more Muslims than anyone, and Breivik killed his ‘own’ people. Worse still, there is an actual, real danger of civil war between these two factions.
4. I’m sorry, but that study does not impress me. I’ll quote the bolded section, “the marginalizing aspects of being an atheist in the United States, including the perceived absence of some of the important social, cultural, and organizational resources which their religious counterparts enjoy, is a clear source of stress for some atheists.” You’ve just described my entire life. So what? The philosophes risked their lives every day in the struggle; the least we can weather is a little bit of ‘perceived absence’ if we are going to live up that tradition. If you think that this is rough, you should try speaking to some of my comrades in the Council of Ex Muslims. Yet they seem positively cheerful and upbeat in their fight, which is much rougher.
I’m going to expand on this, because I think it’s quite important. I think what you suffer is not important compared with what you can contribute. What you can do. Yes, I imagine there is a lot of pig-ignorant stuff about atheists out there, but studies like that – fundamentally subjective and unverifiable – are a waste of time. The question is what you can do to change that? What can you achieve? Every group in history that has succeeded in winning respect has done so by achievement, not by complaining. There used to be a stereotype of lazy Asians in this country; try saying that these days and people will just think you are nuts.