Charles Moore's Mailbag

The Free Speech Letters

Charles Moore - 2002.11.04 - Tip Jar

The following emails were received primarily in response to last week's Speech Is Either Free or It Isn't. Some are also responding to Serial Sniper a Product of Postmodern Moral Anarchy and The Beltway Sniper, Moral Anarchy Letters. A few also reference Dan Knight's Hatemail.

LEM Writings

From Jason:

Well said! I 100% agree with what you have said.

Don't let 'em get to you.

Kindest regards,

Jason

Hi Jason,

Thanks muchly for the thumbs-up.

Charles

Amazing!

From Jon L. Gardner:

My hat is off to you, sir. I appreciate you taking the slings and arrows for the sake of the Truth. I never cease to be amazed by the leftist mindset that allows people to believe the craziest stuff . . . and get away with it! Taking guns away from law-abiding citizens will cause criminals to spontaneously reform. Killing unborn children is laudable, but killing rapists and murderers is deplorable.

There is no absolute truth whatsoever, and I'm absolutely sure you're hateful and evil. There are many paths to God, and yours is wrong. Christianity is bunk because of the Inquisition, and Islam is wonderful in spite of Osama bin Laden. That beltway wacko is an evil terrorist, and don't you dare put "You shall not murder" out in public anywhere. "Safe smoking" is a deplorable myth, and "safe sex" is great for kindergartners (have a condom, kid!).

Good heavens, Charles, it makes me shake my head in wonderment on a daily basis. It's so difficult to come up with a coherent response when one is left speechless by the oxymoronic idiocy of it all, but you have done a good job of it. Keep up the great work!

Jon

Thanks, Jon,

I'll try my best.

Charles

In Support of Your Most Recent Columns

From Stephen Landon:

Charles,

I did not finish reading either of your two columns as of yet, but I agree with the sentiments that I have seen so far. I reserve my future judgment, but I am happy to read good philosophical/political writings in such a striking venue.

A little story. I recently took a class on eastern world geography, and for my final project did a 30 minute presentation on the history of Turkey. What struck me was how a civilization could be in existence for hundreds of years, and then collapse and be no more. There were somewhere around 10 civilizations that existed between 1700 BC and 2000 AD, some lasting 600 years, others lasting a mere generation. Initially, I looked at the United States and our worldwide power and our short 228 year existence, and I realized that there is a catalyst at some point in each civilization's history where they either began to fade or reestablished themselves. I feel that we are at or near that crux, not only as a country, but as a global civilization.

I will comment more as I read your article. You definitely gave me something substantial to chew on tonight. I hope you read this email and get back to me with some thoughts.

Thanks for your time,

Steve Landon

Thanks for your comments Stephen.

I agree with you that Western civilization is at a crisis point. I'm not terribly optimistic that we can turn things around, but would be happy to be proved wrong.

Charles

Free Speech

From Thomas M Barclay:

Charles, I agree with you that "free" means "free." The best expression of this, to my mind, remains Voltaire's: "I may not agree with a word that you say, but I will defend to the death your right to do so."

And there's the crux of the issue. We've been seduced by the Dark Side, by the myth of Total Victory.

What we need is a "Myth Of How To Get Along With People Who Are Different Without Insisting They Be Just Like Us, And Without Being Doormats Ourselves."

Possibly something like good manners and respect would come into play . . . but this would be a hard sell in Hollywood - or on Election Day.

You folks in the Commonwealth are troubled by one species of Thought Police, the Offend No One variety. Down here in the States, we've got another kind - the We Don't Like Your Kind Around Here And If You're Smart You and Your (fill in the ad hominem attack of choice) Friends Will Be Out Of Town Before Dark subspecies. Our kind tends toward a thuggish and unlettered insistence that they've been swindled by "those people." Your kind tends toward disdain, from what I've seen, and then legislative action.

At least, upon occasion, your kind will willingly read a book, and can do so without moving their lips.

Fascism is fascism, be it Socialist or National Socialist or Christianist or Islamist or any other kind of MyWayOrElse-ist, so I must disagree with you in part when you say, "Free-speech is under siege seemingly everywhere these days, most insidiously under the pretext of anti 'hate speech' and anti-discrimination legislation."

My take is that the most insidious assault upon free speech is that of the Tribalists, who insist on dividing all populations into "us" and "them." "Hate speech" goes a step further, telling us that "they" deserve to die, that "they" are subhuman vermin who are not like "us" but want to steal what we have and perhaps destroy "us" in the process. From that insistence on difference have come the worst crimes of our (mostly unread) history and the social ills that resulted. The only cure, so far as I know, is The Golden Rule and what a Christian might call The Law of Love.

According to people of both faith and humility, walking that walk seems to be our duty.

I haven't seen many with the courage to take the daily hike, and I'm not feeling too brave, lately, myself. I do hear some mightily loud and insistent ranting voices of many beliefs and with many agendas. There's an awful lot of "I-Me-Mine" in the noise and not much of the sound of the sharing of abundance.

There's a difference between strength and power, and though this may seem like a switch in topic, it isn't. Strength, I think, comes to us from the Creator Spirit, and gives us the grace and ability to meet the demands of this life in a fair, productive way and with a clear conscience. More and more, I'm coming to think that power, i.e. the ability and urge to change the world to suit us, is somehow sourced from The Opposition.

So while I abominate hate speech and will call it what I think it is, I will not oppose it by force. I may try, by word and example, to persuade the speaker that "an eye for an eye" leaves us all blind.

While I may work for justice, I am not Justice myself. But I will go get into the dialog.

I applaud your courage - and Dan's - for attempting this difficult topic. People of good will have been hanging back lately, and it's time to step forward again, with civility and with our diverse viewpoints.

Maybe we can all work something out, together. Veni, creator spiritus!

Tom Barclay

Hi Tom,

Thanks for the thoughtful dialogue. Voltaire's dictum sums the operative principle up nicely.

Politeness and civility - Yes!

Genuine benevolence toward others - Yes!

However, none of those things exclude the obligation to challenge, civilly and in good faith, ideas we believe are mistaken, dangerous, and destructive.

Charles

A Modest Proposal...

From Katherine Keller:

Hi Guys,

First off, I really disagree with a lot of your politics. Charles, you would've gotten a really long letter about your sniper article were I not heading down a deadline. And I've got several things I'd love to say about your free speech and political correctness articles. Again, the deadline spares you the dreaded strike of my "Wand of Sarcasm"™. ;)

On the other hand, I would like to suggest a way you could cheaply and easily set up a "site" to espouse your political and religious views. Have you not considered a UBB Bulletin board or a Delphi forum?

http://www.comicon.com/pulse/index2.shtml

When you click in any of the links, it takes you to an article posted in a UBB forum

Such as:

And I'm linking you to that specific article for a reason.

Micah Wright also has his own Delphi Forum.

http://forums.delphiforums.com/micahwright/

A lot of political commentary is linked or written there, with subsequent discussion.

You probably won't like Micah's politics, but the format may appeal to you.

Toodle Pip!

-Katherine-

Hi Katherine,

I live in socialist Canada (and write a lot of newspaper columns on political/religious/cultural topics), so I'm used to people disagreeing with my politics. ;-)

As Dan noted in his article, he is working on the sort of website concept you're proposing. Articles will still be linked from LEM, however.

If you get a breather from your workload and a spare moment to comment, bring it on. I'd be interested in hearing your views.

Charles

Charles W. Moore wrote:

"I live in socialist Canada (and write a lot of newspaper columns on political/religious/cultural topics), so I'm used to people disagreeing with my politics. ;-)"

Politically, I'm just slightly to the right of Michael Moore.

What I think the modern moral anarchy boils down to is that in America most people overwhelmingly see examples of violence taught as ways to solve problems. When in doubt, send the Marines!

Moreover, people are not taught to think in the US. Despite all the trappings of rugged individualism, the reality is anti intellectualism and herd mentality.

So when people see the unbridled (unpunished) greed on Wall Street, the corruption of the churches, and the truth about those in power . . . when their tiny little minds are shattered by the largeness of the world outside it's catastrophic.

Morality does not come from having some church or politician say "do this." That's blind, unthinking obedience. Morality comes as a result of thinking.

Why is it wrong to kill? "God says not to." Ennnt! wrong answer, thank you for playing, please try again.

Why is it wrong to kill? "Because it's the ultimate violation to another's rights, causes extreme pain and anguish to others, and is disruptive to society. If you are religious, then it means that you are also 'playing God'." If you know why something is right/wrong, if you have pondered the big questions in life then you are much more likely to have something to fall back on when the storms of life blow in.

I think that is more people were really, truly taught to think for themselves and not just knee jerk react, the US and the world would be a better place.

I know Atheists who are a lot more giving, compassionate, and truly moral than the church twice a week "if you're not like us, you'll burn in hell" Baptists that lived down the street from me when I grew up. I've also known Atheists that were just as immoral and willfully ignorant as the aforementioned Baptists.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and far far too many people complete their formal education with just that, and no tools for how to acquire more.

"As Dan noted in his article, he is working on the sort of website concept you're proposing. Articles will still be linked from LEM, however."

Totally. I was just suggesting a format which would make it possible with a minimum of fuss on both of your behalves.

Talk to you later,

Katherine (Who thanks the Catholic Church for having taught her how to think . . . though it ultimately led to her walking out the door, having determined for herself that it was better to not go than to attend and pay hypocritical lip service.)

Hi Katherine,

We're probably not as far apart in our views as you might imagine, but if people are to be "taught to think," who is to do the teaching and on what basis of authority?

"We live in a thought-world," wrote Saul Bellow in his forward to Allan Bloom's The Closing Of The American Mind,

"and the thinking has gotten very bad indeed." Too true.

I'm not against analytical thinking or intellectualism. Perish the thought. However, thinking alone does not guarantee that the conclusions reached will be constructive. I believe that we need a ground of objective authority, and that God's revelation of His law and His will in Scripture is it.

"I think I think, therefore I think I am," observed Ambrose Bierce.

"It is hard labour to think," wrote E.J. Carnell, "if you make people think they think, they will love you, but if you actually make them think, they will not love you."

Søren Kierkegaard said he wrote "to make life more difficult for people " - not out of mean-spiritedness, but because he recognized that the worthwhile things in life are often not the easy ones. They require thinking. Kierkegaard wasn't thanked for his trouble - at least not in his own lifetime.

"Few people think more than two or three times a year." observed George Bernard Shaw, "I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week." Bertrand Russell concurred, saying that: "Most people would die sooner than think; in fact they do so."

The problem. :-(

Charles

Brilliant

From Jae:

Thanks for your column - world class, so not surprising that I heard about it from a guy in Japan.

Brought tears to my eyes. The Christian haters are legion, eh?

Jae

It has ever been thus.

Charles

Excellent Work Mr. Moore!

From Pat

Mr. Moore,

First, you should know that I have the utmost respect and admiration for you and Mr. Knight. The only author on LEM that I find valueless is that Chris Atkins. His material offends me because it is utterly useless. I don't find him funny or informative or helpful so guess what I do? - I don't read his articles. It's a pretty simple solution and is very effective.

On a deeper note, regarding Mr. Bauer, I can only offer this caution:

We humans are creatures of hope and invention - both of which belie the idea that things cannot be changed. However, we are also prone to error.

People like Mr. Bauer inadvertently bring enough hate and intolerance into the world making inevitable the things they so often seek to avoid.

I don't agree with everything Dennis Miller of HBO has to say, but he does get a few things right, and he is smart enough to close every opinion piece with "That's just my opinion - I could be wrong." Which is a damn sight better than Mr. Bauer's philosophy of "This is my opinion and anyone who doesn't share my political alignment, beliefs and attitude will be destroyed!" neo-nazi bullshit.

I'll keep a good thought and light a candle for you and Mr. Knight - and in the hope that things can be changed.

Pat

Thanks Pat.

I hope things can be changed too.

Charles

Hate mail

From Terryn, Tom

Hi Dan (and Charles)

I just want to congratulate you on your article about hate-mail and religious intolerance towards LEM. The person you mention in your article went way across the line. It's one thing voicing your opinion (which is the right of every man and woman in a democracy); it's something totally different to start blackmailing people into accepting your ideas. Good thing for voicing your concern about this.

I have to admit that I, too, sometimes found Charles' writings appearing on LEM a bit -let's say- "unfitting." Don't get me wrong. Unlike many people I hear on this debate, I'm glad that a Mac site is talking about other stuff - politics, religion, the economy - and refuses to stick its head in the sand. (And I told as much to Charles when mailing him at Applelinks). It's just that with Charles' view getting most of the air-time-it was a bit one-sided. Strangely enough, I tend to have less issues with Charles writings on Applelinks. Maybe it's because I regard that thing as more of a personal thing for Charles and John Farr. Maybe it's because there's always a healthy discussion in the letter pages on the issues Charles discusses. I guess it's a bit of both.

I have always found Charles to be a very open-minded, friendly man (although we differ day and night in our political and religious views), and I hope this issue will not deter him from writing further articles like the ones on the Beltway sniper. Let me know when you guys put up the "political" site. I'll be glad to join the discussion.

Tom Terryn
"Left-liberal semi-agnostic" :)
Belgium

Hi Tom,

I try to be open-minded and friendly, and you can rest assured that I'll continue commenting on issues as I see them. I've been engaged in these debates for some 35 years. I'm not likely to stop now. ;-)

I should note that both of my recently controversial columns on LEM were written for newspaper syndication here in Canada, but Dan thought they merited posting to LEM, and I had no objection to that.

We have published a lot of contrary-minded feedback commentary as well.

I always enjoy your comments.

Charles

Free Speech

From dxtr:

Hi Charles,

Just read your article about free speech. I heard this in a movie called The American President.

"You want free speech? Let's see you acknowledge a man who's words make your blood boil, and who's standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours."

Kind of stuck with me.

seeya
dxtr

Hi dxtr,

Michael Douglas, right?

I remember that one too. Good flick; good speech. ;-)

Or Voltaire's famous dictum: "I detest what you say; but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."

Charles

Hi Charles,

Michael Douglas is correct, I wish it was one of our real Presidents! A couple of them did pretty good though.

"Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear." - Harry S. Truman, message to Congress, August 8, 1950

"We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people." - John F. Kennedy. Remarks made on the 20th anniversary of the Voice of America at H.E.W. Auditorium, February 26, 1962

seeya
dxtr

Free Speech

From J. Scott Francken:

Bravo Charles!

Very eloquently put. I have been thinking this same thing about the PC crowd for some time. It is much the same argument as the whole "tolerance" issue. I find it ironic that the far left preaches tolerance of everyone and everything - then they turn around and proclaim that, for instance, Christianity is intolerant of other belief systems (it is, by definition, but so what), and therefore they will not tolerate Christianity to exist.

Doesn't anyone beside me see the irony of saying they are tolerant of every belief system, but then being specifically intolerant of one?

If you are going to be tolerant of all, you may have to tolerate something you don't agree with. If you are going to support free speech, you may have to allow some speech that is abhorrent to you. I will defend the right of even someone like the white supremacists to say what they want. That being said, I believe that you have the right to say what you want. You don't necessarily have the right to be heard.

Cheers for a great article.
Scott Francken

Hi Scott,

Thanks for the affirmative response.

It takes a special (although increasingly common, alas) sort of addledness to be able to say with a straight face: "I will not tolerate intolerance."

One point of disagreement: Christianity is not inherently intolerant of other belief systems. It insists that they are mistaken and that Christ (as He affirmed of Himself) is the unique Way to eternal salvation, but there is nothing in essential Christian doctrine that endorses either coercion or intolerance of contrary views in our social interaction in this world. Disagreement is not intolerance.

I think it is demonstrative that freedom of religion exists, with very few exceptions, mainly in Christian and post-Christian societies.

Charles

No disagreement at all. That was, in fact, what I meant to say. I guess I was still in the mode of thinking how the other side thinks. The PC crowd calls it intolerance of every other religion. I agree with you that there is a difference between intolerance and merely believing they are wrong. Funny how people who have grown up in the cocoon of American liberties completely ignore that they can be tolerant of everything because they are in a Judeo-Christian country.

So many of the other countries that have one dominant religion tend to be very intolerant of other religions. I have known a lot of missionaries who went to places like Egypt or central Africa or China, and they had to be very careful about talking about their faith. In some cases, just mentioning to the wrong person that they were Christians would land them in prison or dead. Even recently, witness the mass killings of Christians in Indonesia and other places, which are largely Muslim countries.

Anyway, good article. I also read some of the stuff people have been sending to your editor about this. It's crazy. I don't understand how people think that they have a right to try to shut someone down just because he doesn't publish what they want to see. Give me a break. It is his web site, for crying out loud! Just because he calls it Low End Mac doesn't mean that that is the only thing he can put on it. He could call it "Bob's House of Macs" and then proceed to post only recipes for Vietnamese food. Because it's his site. Sheesh. What a crazy world we live in.

I sent a note to him to point out that I actually respect the site for posting stuff "off-topic." I have a lot more respect for your writing because I have seen that you can think about other things. You aren't just a one-trick pony. So keep writing about Macs and whatever else you feel like. Here's one reader who appreciates it.

Cheers,
Scott

Source for your PJ quote?

From Eric Richardson

What's the source for the PJ quote:

"Liberals aren't very interested in . . . real and material freedoms. They have a more innocent - not to say toddler-like - idea of freedom. Liberals want the freedom to put anything into their mouths, to say bad words and to expose their private parts in art museums . . . Liberals have invented whole college majors - psychology, sociology, women's studies - to prove that nothing is anybody's fault. . . . Consider how much you'd have to hate free will to come up with a political platform that advocates killing unborn babies but not convicted murderers. A callous pragmatist might favour abortion and capital punishment. A devout Christian would sanction neither. But it takes years of therapy to arrive at the liberal point of view."

BTW, I differ with you on this point: Humans are not inherently evil and sinful. In fact they are inherently created good. Fallen nature is engrafted on later, after human creation. We inherit that, but we must have faith that it is temporary. This is the goal of God's providence of salvation, to remove the Fallen Nature. That which is salvaged completely is restored to its original condition.

Jesus' divinity is in reality meaningless unless we also affirm his humanity. Otherwise our desire to be Christlike would be meaningless and the endless source of frustration for humanity for all time. Jesus was not being facetious when he commanded that you must be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect, and he affirmed the divinity of humanity and Adam, when he affirmed the Old Testament passage that humans are the Children of God and told those who called him a blasphemer that the scriptures themselves said they are little gods (though he also affirmed the dichotomous nature of humanity when he reminded them who their false father is).

God created humanity with a purpose, and that will shall be fulfilled with the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth, as it is in Heaven. Jesus told you to pray for that. The fulfillment of that Kingdom should remain your hope, and not the writing off of humanity as something inherently different from their True Father.

Blessings on you. Your faith is an honor and inspiration to see.

Some other notes: The term "chicken hawk" was common in my father's youth in the 20s. He tells the story of beating and driving from the neighborhood of a man who was trying to entice one of my father's childhood friends with extravagant gifts, so child porn and exploitation are not new (and that is why it is very offensive to me that liberals label the president and many in his cabinet "chicken hawks." I am sure that this is intentional, and they try to redefine the word with full knowledge of its other meaning and the additional disrespect that they are showing). Child prostitution is not new, either, and the white slavery laws were set up precisely because very young children were being kidnapped and forced into prostitution in other cities. At the time, the second killer of young married women were STDs brought home by husbands that frequented prostitutes (the first still being childbirth; the two are related of course). Finally, my father mentioned before his death 8 years ago, after one of these school shootings, that it couldn't be the guns. Every boy he knew when he was growing up owned and shot guns.

Hi Eric,

We're not in disagreement at all about human nature. The sinful nature was of course introduced with the rebellion and fall from Grace. The state of Grace is restored through Christ's atoning Sacrifice, but will only be fully realized when we join the Heavenly company.

And Jesus was fully God and fully man (yet without sin). viz: the Creed of Athanasian.

Moving along, I was given my first rifle when I was 12. Almost very other kid in our community had a gun, too. None of us ever shot anyone or committed any sort of gun crime. Most homes in this rural county have multiple guns. In the past 35+ years, to the best of my recollection, there has been one murder in this municipality - in a domestic dispute involving alcohol.

The PJ O'Rourke quote is from "Give War A Chance: Eyewitness Accounts of Mankind's Struggle Against Tyranny, Injustice, and Alcohol-free Beer" 1992. Atlantic Monthly Press. p. xxi

The book is highly recommended.

Charles

Christianity and Atheism

From Barry Oke:

Here is what I believe.

Tell me a wrong or selfish word that Jesus said in reference to a better more loving and caring world which everyone is ultimately desiring whether they admit it or not. This teaching alone tells me that, Christian or not, your best interest is to have a world united under Christ. What man on earth has a better ideal world in mind than Jesus himself. You don't have to believe in Jesus but common sense and the history of man will tell you that the more man tries to fix the world the more he messes it up.

"War for peace?"

That's like using fire to cool something off.

The truth will be known soon, and all will be put in their respective places.

I'm glad to say that mine will be under the best man that ever or will ever live. If you live not for a higher meaning then you live only for self gratification and advancement. If you have the capacity to understand history and the vainness of all human based endeavors then you would have no choice but to believe in a higher government than man.

What a track record.

Indeed. There will never be any perfect human system. Original sin precludes it.

Charles

Free Speech

From Mark

Free speech is very dangerous; it can make the speaker irrelevant.

I've enjoyed your writings on PowerBook esoterica; I own a WallStreet G3/233 myself. Sorry yours died. I never found out if you fixed it.

I feel compelled to write you about your increasingly defensive scribblings about . . . whatever. This latest one about free speech is a hoot, but it does not address certain burning issues, such as PowerBooks. Did you get a little tired of writing about those boring old Macs? Heck, if I was in your place and had built up a following of Mac fans by writing about Macs, maybe I too would feel the need to just piss it away by broadcasting the central facet of my life, even though it a) resonates like a brick to others and b) cannot possibly be communicated in any case, as true faith is as loud as a desert. You waste your time with nonbelievers. Language fails, always, when the stakes are highest.

But have fun storming the decadent castle of "secular" humanism anyway.

Best wishes,
Mark

Hi Mark,

Actually, I've been a journalistic commentator on religion/culture/politics for a lot longer than I've been writing about Macs - indeed since long before I owned any computer. As I've noted, the columns that raised the brouhaha were syndicated newspaper columns of mine that Dan chose to publish here.

Charles

Political Correctness - What Can We Do?

From J. R. Spencer:

Dear Mr. Moore

Your writings are wonderful! I have a sense that many of your readers agree with most of what you write.

Now what can we do about these things that threaten our freedoms? I believe that much of the apathy that exists in our society stems from the helplessness or perceived inability to change things. Even on rather in-depth news programs such as PBS' Newshour with Jim Lehrer - you have pro or con - never a third or fourth opinion. Never a suggestion that we might be able to effect change. Just "talking heads" and pundits (mostly the same people week after week).

Please consider what we might do to have our opinions heard where it matters. I have contacted my congresspersons and local officials to no avail. When you are not a wealthy campaign supporter and contributor, your opinion does not matter nor is it valued. Every member of our family is a registered voter. We all exercise this privilege in every general election or primary. Keep up the good work.

J.R. Spencer

Hi J.R.,

Good points.

Charles

Re: Lost Again

From Johannes Stripple:

Hi, thanks for you reply.

Yes, I am in agreement with you in the need to pose questions about the constitutive practices of modern politics; in particular with the practices of sovereign authorization of both politics and knowledge. Hobbes has been regarded as an unreflected starting point instead of as one particular kind of expression of that essential problem.

Hobbes articulated modern politics against theocracy and empire, and you are not the first one who argues that his grounds are anything but certain. However, the problem that you also share with, say, the Frankfurt school, some feminist orientations, and many neoliberal economists is that you try to (re)discover a firm foundation in something, be that theology, ethics, economics-in-the-last-instance, or any other extra political realm. But those grounds are anything but certain and not more certain that Hobbes attempt that you want to criticize.

I think it is actually quite bad philosophy to go about and rabble-rouse on postmodernity and relativism, nihilism or even anti-ethics from any presumed position of theology, rationality, or modernity. Importantly, grounds for critique must be immanent rather than transcendent.

I know you like irony . . .

I see three ironies in your writings. In reading your stuff, it seems as you want to return to the cosmological, cultural, and political codes of the "Great Chain of Being," which is, of course, totally implausible. Descartes, Hobbes, and the rest constructed the possibility of individual subjectivity on the ruins of empire, feudalism, and Thomas Aquinas' synthesis of faith/reason. This platform is (the first irony) also the platform (conceptually, ideologically and politically) that you use and build upon in your writings.

Both the Hobbesian ground, as well as the Great Chain of Being, are fragile grounds, and instead a more appropriate attitude is to be much more modest overall and recognize the difficulties involved in making such claims in general. That kind of attitude can not be shrugged off with simple loose talk about "relativism" or, worse, "evilness."

An second irony is the similarity between your thomassian epistemology and early Islam's close connections between faith and reason. Fundamentalism is around the corner.

A third irony is that your are, in fact, much more modern than you think you are. Your approach to the concept of culture builds on a particular way of writing difference, on a distinctively modern dualistic conceptualization of particularity, creating both a "them" and a "we", building on distinctions such as self/other, subject/object and here/there.

As far as epistemology goes, I am in gentle disagreement with you although I recognize that we share a wish to problematize a specific modern version of authorizing authority. However, when you use that ground to construct flawed stories about homogenous separated mega-subjects of history/politics called civilizations with an inherent "logic of dueling" then it is not fun anymore; neither from an empirical, conceptual or normative ground.

best regards
Johannes

Hi Johannes,

I'm no trained philosopher, although I have several mentor friends who are.

My position is based in (catholic) theology, and I'm not a thoroughgoing Thomist, although I have an appreciation of his approach, including the fact that he leaned heavily on the work of Islamic scholars Avicenna and Averroes, as well as, of course, Aristotle, whom he referred to as "the old pagan."

Me modern? Probably so. I actually have a love/hate relationship with liberalism. I aspire to be premodern.

Fundamentalist? I'll cop to that, too, in the following context. Alarmed by the wave of theological liberalism sweeping over North America during this century's first two decades, several conservative American and British scholars published a twelve-volume defense of doctrinal orthodoxy entitled The Fundamentals.

Dr. J. Gresham Machen, professor of New Testament Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, followed up with his book Christianity and Liberalism in 1923, in which he correctly argued that "liberal Christianity", so-called, is not Christianity at all but a new religion.


The fundamentals of the Christian faith, as defined by Machen, et al., can be distilled into five essential truths:

  1. the inspiration and inerrancy of Biblical Scripture
  2. the deity of Christ and His virgin birth
  3. the substitutionary atonement of Christ's death
  4. the literal resurrection of Christ from the dead
  5. the literal return of Christ.

If affirmation of these five points makes one a fundamentalist, I am one.

Charles

Re: McMurtry's morality

From J. P. Medina

Mr. Moore:

Thank you for your reply. I concur; Lonesome Dove is a great novel, and the others that followed were lesser lights.

A colleague of mine, a Seventh Day Adventist, claims she reads it at least once a year to "reset her compass."

Best wishes, and hope to read your continuing columns,

JPM

Free Speech/Hate Mail

From Mike Schienle

Hi Dan and Charles -

I have to admit I didn't read the article that got Rick Bauer's skivvies in a bunch, but I certainly intend to spend more time on your site now that I have a better idea what your viewpoints are. I certainly appreciate your views and especially enjoy seeing a liberal ass-wipe being exposed for his ill-conceived efforts. I'll keep it short and just want you to know that you've gained a closer following from this reader.

Best regards,
Mike Schienle

Thanks Mike.

Charles

Your Thoughts on Moral Relativism

From John Buhrman:

I guess it's a known truth that when someone posts something the least bit controversial, you are going to get a lot more negative responses than positive ones. I would like to maybe tip the skills a little more to the hopefully silent majority. I would like to commend you for having the courage to write this piece when many who share your beliefs fear the resulting backlash that you have weathered so well.

When I was in my early teens, I rejected the Christianity I was exposed to as a child. At the early age, I had this intellectual snottiness that I knew better than the believers around me. Then as I got older I saw more and more disbelievers, and I saw that this attitude was untenable in the long run. I started to see that the world around me could not continue without Christian morality and Christian faith. I began to see that it made more sense for Christianity to be valid than not.

Now I am a college student and see many of my peers tend toward moral relativism. It does not surprise me that there are high levels of hostility and depression on this campus. I hope these rebellious teenagers will see what they give up with moral relativism.

Best,
John

Hi John,

Psychiatrist and best selling author M. Scott Peck sees that there are four distinct levels of spiritual development. Here are some excerpts about the two higher ones:

Peck's Stage 3 are the Skeptic/Individuals - "principled, self-governing human beings who no longer depend on institutions for governance," who, Peck says, "Include most doubters, agnostics, and atheists."

Stage 3 includes most liberals and ecology-oriented people, says Peck. They are usually committed and loving parents, often scientists and truth-seekers, and if they seek truth deeply enough and widely enough, "they do begin to find what they are looking for, and get to fit enough pieces of truth to catch glimpses of the big picture and see that it is not only very beautiful, but that it strangely resembles many of those primitive myths and superstitions their Stage 2 parents and grandparents believed in." At which point they begin to metamorphose into Stage 4,

Peck says that many teenagers are Stage 3 people, and that while this stage isn't especially threatened by Stage 1s or Stage 2s whom they summarily write off as "superstitious idiots," Stage 4' tend to rattle them, being apparently scientific-minded, "and know how to write good footnotes, yet still somehow believe in this crazy God business."

Peck calls his Stage 4 "Mystical/Communal," inhabited by people who grasp the cohesion and wholeness beneath surface appearances, who are comfortable with paradox and who embrace the ambiguities of mystery that make matter-of-fact Stage 2s suspicious and uncomfortable, and skeptical Stage 3s wary and contemptuous. Stage 4s have a faith that passes understanding and a love that embraces everything.

Charles

Allowable Speech

From Dean Arthur:

Prez Nixon's cabinet came up with a doozy in Senate Bill No. One: any talk about acts which if performed would merit imprisonment upon conviction of said acts, will merit one-half imprisonment time for discussion of said acts. Talk about political correctness! And who says the Constitution is still in full force? Bankruptees have no Constitution. All US citizens have been bankrupt since 1965 as LBJ chortled upon signing a particular bill into law, "When I append my signature to this bill, no American will be able to pay his debts."

Your Article

From Russ Coffman:

We are all brought up differently. I was brought up believing that if you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all. Behavior separates the lowlife you want to avoid being seen with from the good people. In some circles, insulting some you never even met - illogical and thus indicative of low reasoning power - is not considered an embarrassing social blunder. Some even think it's cool. But then, some people have no moral compass and are totally devoid of traditional American values. They do not take personal responsibility for their mean-spirited actions and blame everyone but themselves for their real or imagined problems. They see nothing wrong with their behavior due to their lack of that moral compass most of us have, much as the sociopath thief sees nothing wrong with stealing. That's what you article seems to be saying - "It's OK to be boorish, rude, tactless, and insulting." Well, maybe in your circle of friends it's OK. Birds of a feather . . .

"PC" is what used to be called "manners" and "politeness" before Reagan and his uncivil ilk popularized rudeness. Some people simply don't have 'em, and in a way it's good that today they expose their lack of breeding, values, and character for all to see, so I say let 'em talk. What if someone saw you associating with these low-rent dregs of society? How embarrassing that would be. Better that they self-identify so they can be avoided and you can take your business to those whose behavior demonstrates character and class. There will always be those who simply can't function in a society, so the best one can hope, perhaps, is to avoid them and avoid guilt by even accidental association.

Funny you slant your article to condemn only the left. On the right, you have those who want to ban flag burning, which is free speech and hurts no one. Why should the extreme right get a pass? And they say anyone who disagrees with that illiterate drunk in the White House "must really hate America" in an attempt to stifle free speech. What's next, concentration camps for those simply practicing democracy? If the wimps can't take criticism, they should move to Iran where it's acceptable and legal to stifle dissent. Maybe they'd be happier there amongst the like-minded.

I just don't see what the uncivil hope to accomplish with hateful talk. How does such antisocial behavior make America a better place? Where are the pluses in being a low-rent misfit no decent person would give the time of day? Does the glee infantile name-calling brings to those on the right more than offset the misery it brings to everyone else, resulting in a net gain for good in the world? Is win-lose behavior superior to win-win? I like to ask myself "What did I do today to make the world a better place?" What do those people ask themselves, "Whose life did I try to make miserable today by being rude?"

Last night I went to the local premiere of a documentary on the song "Strange Fruit," originally sung by Billie Holliday to protest lynching by Southern conservatives. I wish every person who enjoys and even promotes hateful talk could see it to see where such behavior eventually leads: murder. Actions have consequences. Lots of footage of every Republican's favorite poster boy Strom Thurmond spewin' his venomous hate. It'll be on PBS next Spring. I learned that conservatives filibustered anti-lynching laws in Congress in the 1930s and 1940s. What nice folks they are - the kind of people you hope your daughter brings home to dinner. (The reason a federal law was sought was because no one was ever convicted of murder by lynching at the state level - never. If you voted guilty, those conservatives of questionable character would lynch you.)

I take it you're not a Christian. Jesus said in Timothy-something that "As a man speaks from his mouth, so does he feel in his heart. Those who speak ill of others will be held accountable on Judgment Day." I think it's great they'll get theirs. While those of us with manners, class, tact, and grace are sitting on clouds, I like to think the rest will spend an extra million years or so in Purgatory for trying to make the world worse than it already is.

Jonathan Rauch sounds like a model citizen with a lot of upbringing and class, someone who lives to make the world a better place for all. Must follow Jesus' word to the letter. A real role model for our kids, huh?

If you're offended by any of the above, "Too bad, but you'll live." I criticize only behavior, which can be changed, not the person. You are what you say, as Jesus said.

Have fun in Hell with your conservative buddies,

Russ Coffman

Hi Russ,

What a charming sign off! And you have the audacity to accuse others of being mean spirited. Does this you mean you believe there actually is a hell? There may be hope for you yet.

Political correctness is only "polite" when others agree with politically correct dogma. Contradict the politically correct, and you are guaranteed of getting a snootfull of distinctly impolite responses. Political correctness is based in an emotionally sentimental view of the world, and, as Carl Jung sagely observed, "Sentimentality is a thin veneer covering brutality."

There are certainly some nasty conservatives, but in my experience most conservatives, because of their relatively modest expectations regarding human potential, tend to be more charitable and forgiving with respect to their liberal adversaries' motives than obtains in the reciprocal.

Thomas Sowell's insightful book, A Conflict of Visions, examines what he calls "the unconstrained vision" (leftism/liberalism) versus "the constrained vision" (rightism/conservatism). Mr. Sowell writes:

"Each must regard the other as mistaken, but the perceived reasons for the 'mistake' are different.

"For the unconstrained vision, the presence of highly educated and intelligent people diametrically opposed to policies and theories aimed at advancing what the unconstrained see as the unequivocal common good amounts to an intellectual puzzle, a moral outrage, or both. Implications of bad faith, venality, and intellectual deficiencies are much more common in the unconstrained critique of the constrained vision than vice versa. They consider the constrained to be moral lepers."

"For the constrained," Sowell continues, "with their much more modest expectations of human potential, failure is expected, so there is considerably less necessity to regard the 'mistaken' adversary as morally or intellectually deficient. The constrained tend to categorize their polar adversaries as well-meaning but mistaken to unrealistic in their conceptions, and seldom suggest that they are deliberately opposing the common good or are too stupid to recognize it. They consider opponents to be single-minded idealists."

I am actually enthusiastic advocate of politeness and kindly spiritedness. My defense of free speech does not imply approval of mean and hateful expression - only that once you start arbitrarily selecting what sort of speech is allowable and what isn't, free speech ceases to exist.

As for your implication that Christians have no legitimacy delivering negative critique, Christ is not always a "polite" guy in the sense that the politically correct define "polite." Jesus said, "Think not that I am come to send peace: I came not to send peace but a sword." He called the Pharisees a "brood of vipers" "and "whitewashed grave sites," and he physically attacked Temple money changers with a whip He made with His own hands. He promised that he would send angels to gather up those who do iniquity and "cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth."

Jonathan Rauch, by the way, is Jewish and a self-avowed homosexual, and I'm sure he would describe himself as a liberal, albeit an old-school, non politically correct one.

Commenting on the rise of political correctness totalitarianism American social Rauch notes that "the central regulation of debate and inquiry is returning to respectability - this time in humanitarian disguise & the old principle of the Inquisition is being revived: people who hold wrong and hurtful opinions should be punished for the good of society....

"Harsh, even vicious criticism spurs just the sort of debate which turns the heat of conflict into the light of knowledge. And so silencing strong criticism does not 'balance' an argument; it eviscerates it."

Words to live by.

Charles

Re: Free Speech

From Andrew Yaeger:

I just finished reading your column "Speech Is Free or It Isn't" on Low End Mac. I like your viewpoints, as they are always thought-provoking. I've always wondered why you place articles about issues not related to the Mac or the computing industry, but that is not the purpose of my letter.

First, I want to say that I agree with your statement. In order to have free speech, it must also ensure the freedom to say things that may be disagreeable to many or most of the people to whom this freedom is allowed. Just because one is in the minority does not mean they should be silenced.

I have always known that in order to have truly free speech, as distasteful as it is, we must allow hate groups to also have that same right.

Political correctness was taken to such an extreme that it became wrong to call people fat, short, or mentally retarded - they are now the weight challenged, height challenged, and the developmentally disabled.

I will always defend people's right to say whatever they want. No one has to listen or agree. I worked for a humor magazine once, and I know how humor can raise people's ire and make them think that is an attack on them or their viewpoint when it is simply satire.

That brings me to my question: Phoenix "shock" disc jockey Beau Duran called the widow of St. Louis Cardinal's pitcher Darryl Kile and asked her if she had a date to the game. See this article in CNN for the complete story: http://www.cnn.com/2002/SHOWBIZ/Music/10/12/shock.jocks.ap/

Do you think it was at all a violation of her rights?

This was not even three months after he had died. I had an argument with a friend about this. He thinks the DJ should not have been fired or even disciplined. He felt the wife of a celebrity should be able to stand up to this. I actually found myself disagreeing. I understand that he had to the right to say what he said but considering that he was calling a widow at home, I felt like it was an invasion of her rights. I said if they thought that was such a funny joke they could have made an impersonation and let the audience to believe that conversation was real. (I've heard this done many times on these shows.)

This way they wouldn't be intentionally hurting the feelings of an individual for the sake of entertainment. I realize after reading your article and giving the topic much thought, that my friend may have been right. While the joke may have been in the worst taste possible, it may not be something he should have been fired for. His job is to entertain, and perhaps his audience finds this sort of humor entertaining. Those who feel that it isn't funny just wrong can turn it off or turn the dial.

One more thought: Is there any limit? Can radio personnel make jokes like "Let's go kill the ___s (fill in any ethnic group)?" (I have heard Howard Stern and others seemingly perpetuate racial and ethnic hatred through an obvious mockery of prejudice that some callers are too stupid to realize is a mockery).

Please share your thoughts with me on this.

Thank you,
Andrew

Hi Andrew,

It is specific cases like this that make unqualified free speech advocacy tough. I utterly revile the repugnant behavior of Beau Duran in the incident you cite. It was gratuitous and inexcusable. However, I would object to him being prosecuted under the law for doing it.

On the other hand, I don't think that his firing from the radio station is really a free speech issue. I would say that his employer had a legitimate right to set minimum standards of behavior for its employees in the workplace. I'm doubtful that a radio station that employs "shock jock" on air personalities occupies any moral high ground, but firing Mr. Duran for his stupid and disgusting prank did not infringe on his right of free speech.

Charles

Well, You've Got a Replacement

From Kevin S. Willis

Charles,

In regards to the email from David Jackson responding to your article on the sniper, where he says:

"This article did accomplish one positive thing. It pretty much convinced me that Low End Mac isn't where I need to be going for my Macintosh information."

Well, I've got to tell you the reverse - a friend referred me to this article, and it convinced me that Low End Mac is were I need to be going for my Macintosh information.

As a former secular humanist and atheist, I feel ashamed reading the sort of self-righteous, self-sufficient, I've-got-all-the-answers fire-and-brimstone from the secular pulpit that I myself engaged in far too much for far too long before coming to Christ about three months ago. While a political and social conservative for years, I still resisted surrendering to the foundation of what I could see what was morally, ethically, fiscally and socially sound. Recent difficulties (which I shortly realized to be gifts from God, such as being obligated to depart an environment almost entirely populated with atheists and self-justifying, self-centered secular humanist principles) finally opened my eyes to the truth about Jesus Christ.

Having come from the secular world so recently, I came with a broken spirit and an open heart to the Gospels and the words of Jesus Christ. And the goodness, the very rightness has been overwhelming.

When David Jackson says to you: "Had it continued a few more paragraphs I would certainly have expected an 'AIDS is God's punishment' implication in there somewhere," I can either assume he has not read or does not understand the Gospels, and, quite frankly, wasn't paying much attention to you.

Jesus ministered to the afflicted. The Pharisees might say a disease or illness was punishment. From what I can tell, and I've got a long way to go as a Christian, Jesus showed mercy to the afflicted and to the sinner. Jesus called his disciples to know Him, in part, by ministering to the afflicted, not by punishing them or exalting themselves.

While it is true that, even today, there are those who are Christians who condemn others and exalt themselves, who call themselves Christian but behave more like the Pharisees, my experience as a longtime atheist in going to church, truly listening to Christian radio, reading Christian books, finding sermons on the Web, and so on is that those who proclaim themselves Christians do not sit in judgment. They acknowledge they are sinners. They pray for the grace of God so that they can do His will.

My church is involved in numerous ministries and the pastor wants to do much more - to feed the hungry, to help the poor, to spread the Good News. Since I have been attending church after coming to Christ, I haven't heard a sermon condemning anybody. All I've heard is good will and prayer and about the mercy and love - and also the will and the high moral standards - of Jesus Christ.

When I listen to the local Christian radio station, there are often challenging questions and provoking insights for the listener, but not judgment, and certainly not self-righteousness (that I've heard, anyway). There is an abiding love of and faith in God. There are clear moral standards. But it's amazing - the Christian music station has the most positive music you can hear on the radio, period, about anything. The Christian talk station is, again, one of the most positive stations I can listen to. And I've yet to hear anyone acclaim themselves, or hold themselves up as examples of piety - they lavish praise on their friends and colleagues for their hard work, and then give the glory to God.

The point being, the Christians presented by your numerous secular respondents often seem to be either very narrow/slanted portraits, or outright parodies. Certainly, I've known more than one secular humanists to point with righteous indignation to Fred Phelps: http://www.godhatesfags.com/

But, well . . . I don't know, but I think he's missed the Good News of the Gospels. Rather than look to people like Phelps or even Jerry Falwell or the evils done in the name of the church, I tend to urge people to pick up the Book and read the Gospels themselves. It's been a big part of my becoming a Christian: getting past the hype, and actually going back and reading with an open heart and a broken spirit what Jesus Christ had to say to all of us.

Keep up the good work. From what I've seen, most Christians are a lot more like you than the parodies of Christians presented by most of your secular readers.

All the best,
Kevin S. Willis

Thanks for the endorsement and support, Kevin, and welcome to the Church, If I can presume to say that as someone who has been a Christian for 30 + years. You seem to have an excellent grasp of the principles of the Gospel.

Charles

Free Speech

From Craig Cox:

Charles,

A few quotes:

The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable. - H. L. Mencken

Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves. - Henry David Thoreau

They that give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety. - Benjamin Franklin

During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. - George Orwell

If you do not say a thing in an irritating way you may as well not say it at all, because people will not trouble themselves about anything that does not trouble them. - George Bernard Shaw

Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth. By simply not mentioning certain subjects&totalitarian propagandists have influenced {public} opinion much more effectively than they could have done by the most eloquent denunciations. - Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

The arts of power and its minions are the same in all countries and in all ages. It marks its victim; denounces it; and excites the public odium and the public hatred, to conceal its own abuses and encroachments. - Henry Clay, 1834

Terrorism is escalating to the point that Americans soon may have to choose between civil liberties and more intrusive means of protection. - William S. Cohen, Secretary of Defense under President William J. Clinton, reported in Army Times, 10/27/98

How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don't think. - Adolf Hitler

The one means that wins the easiest victory over reason: fear and force. - Adolph Hitler, 1924

If you give me six lines written by the most honest man, I will find something in them to hang him. - Cardinal Richelieu

In other words, keep up the work defending the right to speak as one sees fit. Free speech is free speech, period.

Regards,
Craig Cox

Nice collection of thoughts, Craig.

Charles

Re: The Beltway Sniper, Moral Anarchy Letters

From Clint:

Charles,

Thanks for your work for the Kingdom.

I agree with your assessment of modern society and the Truth of the Gospels. It is interesting to me that most of the people who responded said they were moral. Makes me wonder (not really) why they don't accept Christ and inherit the promises of God. I also wonder (really) if they would respect the sniper's beliefs if he believes he isn't doing anything immoral? (of course they wouldn't, but they wouldn't be able to justify their condemnation of the shootings either)

As I was reading some of the responses in The Beltway Sniper, Moral Anarchy Letters, I couldn't help but think that those people who believe in Universal Salvation haven't read some of these letters. Especially the one where the writer called God a myth . . . won't he be surprised. It does, however, bring up the question of how we are to reach these people for Christ. Not an easy task. I'm glad you are doing your part.

Keep fighting the good fight.

Clint.

Thanks, Clint.

Charles

Re: Serial Sniper a Product of Postmodern Moral Anarchy

From Jay Austin:

Hi Charles,

Unless you believe - and most Christians I know do not - that it's possible to create utopia here on earth, then each society is going to produce its own brand of bogeymen.... That's still a far cry from saying that everything is relative, because even from our different perspectives, we probably can converge on something closely resembling "thou shalt not kill." We might even agree that society is best off steering a middle course somewhere between overzealous theocrats and antisocial psychopaths, and that fighting both kinds of evil is not mutually exclusive. Where we likely differ is in the solutions to these problems, but those differences can be worked out at the ballot box, in our interactions with like- and opposite-minded citizens, and in exchanges like this one. And I'm still failing to see the role of revealed truth or a sacred text - unless you count the Constitution.

The sniper case raises a whole host of issues, not just moral ones. You're right that such incidents are becoming more commonplace, but it's also true that they still seem to be a primarily, though not uniquely, American phenomenon. It's the question that Michael Moore (no relation, right? ;-) ) asks in his new movie: how can such an otherwise friendly, even God-fearing, country have such a hideous affliction of gun violence?

Is it lax gun laws and ready access to weapons? Maybe, but Canada apparently has twice as many guns per capita or per household, and nothing like the same problem. Is it our fascination with ultra-violent movies, TV, video games, etc.? Maybe, but the US exports that stuff everywhere in the world, without the same results (at least not yet).

Is it the decline of Christian values, as you suggest? Maybe, but I'll bet that a map of gun incidents in the US would correlate pretty strongly with our "Bible Belt"; in contrast, Western Europe, which arguably has become far more secular, doesn't know from guns.

How about rampant militarism? It looks like this sniper had considerable exposure to US Army "culture"; but that (like the four separate cases at Fort Bragg of soldiers returning from Afghanistan and murdering their wives) isn't something our government is too anxious to talk about.

As messy and unsatisfying as it sounds, I'm left thinking that both societal trends and individual cases result from a whole host of factors, and can only be countered with reference to the same institutions that may have helped create them - including the criminal justice system that you dismiss. These may be "compost" to you, but I still find them preferable to most attempts to date to replant the Garden of Eden.

By the way, I agree completely when you put Nietzsche in a pivotal place in modern intellectual history. But even Nietzsche didn't claim that his attempt to expose Christian morality as man-made meant that it was worthless or unfounded. At the very least, he thought that it had evolved from a set of useful customs that helped preserve the species (in so arguing, he opened the door for much of modern sociology and anthropology). But he no longer found this to be a worthwhile goal, and so had no patience for modern refinements like constitutional democracy, civic religion, or "the greatest good for the greatest number." He denounced these as mere "herd morality," or the ethics of "the last men," in the same way that some Christians speak derisively of mere "social engineering." They denounce modern society because they think we're trying to usurp God's role; Nietzsche denounces it because he thinks we're not going far enough in usurping God's role!

What I find problematic in Nietzsche is not his secularism, but his radical individualism - "self-creation" seems fine for artists and actors, less so for snipers - and I'd just as soon dispense with the comparisons to God altogether.

Anyway, thanks for providing some interesting food for thought.

Regards,
Jay

(Im)moral Sniper?

From Peter Wall:

Charles,

You said,

I'm confident that the sniper's victims and their families wouldn't give a shit whether the SOB was a better person for it or not. Just thankful that staunch Christian morality deterred him from his depraved rampage.

I'm sure you're right about the sniper's victims and their families and how they would feel. But that doesn't justify Christian morality in every case, or as the kind of social guidance by consensus you advocate.

If all potential acts of depravity were deterred by Christian morality, the ability of the individual to rationalize its own social ethics would be lost, or at least masked, to borrow Jung's terminology.

While I'm sure we could jump from case to case, and say that "Here, strict Christian morality would have fixed the problem," or "There, a good wallop of Christian morality would set things straight," we would still make no case for Christianity as a compulsory moral system to guide our society.

In the mean time, compulsory morality makes for a decent set of ethical "training wheels" for social learners (like children) and those who may not have the capability to reason out their own ethics (like the mentally retarded). As for everyone else, especially all the adult Christians who ought to grow up and think for themselves, it's a wholly unhealthy way to live.

Peter Wall

Hi Peter,

Who said anything about "compulsory morality?" Not me. The very essence of Christian teaching is free will.

I'm talking about community standards, which used to be based on Christian morality - and still partly are by default, but to a much lesser degree than they used to be, which I believe is related to the decline in public morality and civility in our culture.

The issue that you haven't addressed is where do moral standards come from? I don't believe that they just materialize out of thin air, but then that is the crux of the dissonance between the liberal humanist and Christian worldviews.

Charles

Gun Education, Not Gun Restriction

From Chris Manley:

Hi Charles,

I just wanted to say a little in regards to your article about the sniper(s) and moral anarchy.

Something I have been thinking about for the last few years due to the level of gun violence in America is that it seems the best solution, or at least a good first step, should be to teach gun safety in our schools. We teach sex in our schools; hell, we are even teaching homosexuality in some schools apparently.

Instead of banning guns, why don't we put gun use into a perspective that is unknown in places like New York or any inner city, I suppose. I am from the South. Down here we have had a tradition, at least up until the late 80s, I would say, of passing down guns through the family and also passing down some degree of responsibility of proper gun use. I remember in 1980 when my grandfather bought me my first BB gun. It came with a warning not to point the gun at people, that it is wrong and dangerous, that this is a weapon, you don't shoot people.

Also, I should say that this has been my experience with toy guns as well. Upon pretending to shoot people with my various toy guns, people were always telling me not to point even a toy gun at other people.

My grandfather had a shot gun and .22 caliber rifle on his wall. I respected those as weapons partly because I knew their danger and partly because they were heirlooms. This tradition continued when I went into the Marine Corps. We learned the four rules of engagement, among them "do not point a weapon at anything you do not intend to kill." I saw plenty of guys from New York and the like who had not grown up with the values of proper gun use that I had received. After rifle week they were thoroughly immersed in proper respect for their rifles. They understood the context of using a gun.

Kids growing up in the inner city or parts of the country that do not have a tradition of guns and proper gun use and the respect that goes with it tend to first experience guns in the form of hand guns that some other kid bought at a pawn shop. This situation is totally devoid of a history, kinship, or guidance.

These liberals need to stop jerking their knees and get responsible. Yes, there are people who live in the South and use guns and are not responsible. But this is all the more reason to teach proper respect for guns and weapons in general in a public place that our kids are already required to attend - school.

Ignorance is always going to lead to irresponsibility, no matter what one is dealing with. Taking guns away from responsible adults is not going to keep kids from getting injured when confronted with a gun or anything else that can harm, nor is it going prevent weirdoes with bad households, lack of guidance, or a chip on their shoulder from deliberately walking into public and opening fire.

Maybe, though, a number of kids would be prevented from using guns violently if they get the teaching they would not get from their parents.

Liberals fully support these commercials on TV that say to talk to your parents about drugs or sex. Why not do this for guns?

Thank You
Chris Manley

Good idea. I remember reading somewhere about just such a program in one of the large Texas cities with inner-city kids. The outcomes were very favorable, as I recall.

Charles

Moral decay.

From Ed Hurtley

I'm not going to comment on the whole article, just the beginning:

"Consider some terms virtually unknown 50-60 years ago or describing phenomena that, if explained, would have bewildered and horrified most people then or disgusted them with euphemistic dishonesty: school shootings, serial killer, drive by shooting, drug culture, child pornography, child prostitution, home invasion robbery, road rage, etc., ad nauseam."

They (almost) all existed 50-60 years ago, we just didn't have catchy titles for them. Yes, each is happening more often now, but the population is significantly greater as well.

There were shootings at schools, albeit fewer due to less readily accessible weapons. In fact, a study a couple years ago (unfortunately, I cannot find it now) showed that even taking into account the deaths at all the recent school shootings, murders at schools has gone down in the last 50 years, consistently.)

There were serial killers, they just make the news every time now. (The fact that many serial killers do so "in the name of God" is an even more despicable joke.)

Drive by shootings were uncommon simply because cars weren't "universal." Look at Al Capone and the mob for examples of drive by shootings.

Drug culture? There has always been "drug culture," it's just the criminalization of drugs that causes drug users to turn to crime.

Child pornography is a problem that has been around since before the word pornography was invented. Again, it's technology that has caused its rise, not moral decay. (i.e. The same people would be pornographers, with or without technology. They just are more obvious now, and, I might add, easier to catch because of it.)

Child prostitution is equally old. As long as there have been prostitutes, there have been children forced into that line of work. (The ancient Greek culture especially so.)

"Home Invasion Robbery" is just a new name on the same old crime.

I will agree that morality as a whole has been loosening recently, but I do not blame it on "de-Christian-ing," but rather on moral laziness of all, including Christians. The answer isn't trying to force people to behave the way one single faith wants you to behave, because that will cause greater rifts. It is to find the commonality in morality of all faiths, and embrace the commonality.

Personally? I am "roughly Christian." I do not follow the beliefs of any of the structured Christian churches that I have seen; I follow, much more closely, the teachings of Jesus. I believe in the free will of man; that kindness is the answer, not force or hostility; and that Jesus is the final arbiter of the fate of an individual. Trying to force one to believe will do nothing. Presenting the facts, and letting someone decide on their own is best. And I see Jews and Muslims as believers in the same faith. Islam is much closer to Christianity than most realize. They believe that Mohammed came later and clarified Jesus' teachings. (Yes, that's a simplification, but it is basically the truth.)

Ed Hurtley

Hi Ed,

I have to respectfully disagree. I have been a news junkie since I could read, and I lived through the 1950s and 1960s. This kind of stuff simply did not go on then to any major degree.

Your universalist theology is unfortunately not unusual these days, but it is utterly contradictory of the Christian Gospel and of what Jesus said of himself: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; No one comes to the Father but by me."

Charles

Guns etc.

From Stephen Landon:

Well, I still haven't made it through your whole series, but I thought I might offer you the fruits of some of my research (even though you do seem very researched on your own) as well as the finished research paper when it is done.

Scroll to the bottom after the dashed for something you might find interesting.

My thesis is (not final wording):

The Second Amendment to the Bill Of Rights is as written wholly inadequate in protecting the lives and liberties of the citizens of our country, and should be amended.

What I plan on establishing is that the "Well organized Militia" is not the national guard, but is, as the federal and states constitution claim, all males from the ages of 18-55 years old. That taking away the right of any segment of the population to defend itself either from a common threat (Beltway sniper) and a personal threat should not be allowed.

A stronger amendment should be proposed that insures the public:

A: its right to defend itself (indeed its responsibility) from both danger personal and public B: The establishment of a structured militia system. They don't need to be armed and don't need to be compulsory.... The things that the militia would be rising up against should be enough motivation. C: Maybe more.... Still working on it.

Can you imagine how much easier it would have been to catch these evil individuals if private citizens were activated to stand watch with cellphones and video cameras at logical targets? The militias should be allowed to be armed, but you don't even need an armed militia to deal with most situations.

You might already know this, but the Israelis are a great example of a well armed God fearing society. Each Israeli citizen serves in the military and keeps a fully automatic assault rifle in their house. I don't have the numbers, but the crime rates per capita in Israel are almost nonexistent (not counting suicide bombers). Heck, even the suicide bombers casualties per capita makes Israel a pretty safe place to be.

Taking away the means to do evil never works. Evil finds a way. Taking away the intent is the true battle.

Steve

Hi again Steve,

Good luck with the amendment amendment.

Another example of a safe and low-crime society where many homes have automatic weapons is Switzerland, where all able-bodied males between late teens and middle age are required to be members of the militia. A concept not unlike what you're proposing, except it is compulsory.

Charles

Moral Anarchy

From Anonymous by request:

I've been debating over the past week or so whether to send you this letter regarding your article Serial Sniper a Product of Postmodern Moral Anarchy; I finally figured that I'd add those comments while I have a moment at my computer (and anyway, after a couple weeks you've probably become a little bit less swamped with letters, I certainly know how much time it takes to read them all!).

First of all, I've been enjoying your articles for the past several years; they always seem to be well written and worthwhile to read.

Both are true of your latest, as well, even though I do not agree with it. Reading along, I came to this statement: "Such moral monsters are a product of our morally adrift culture, not the Catholic culture of Mexico and Latino Texas a century ago." Makes me wonder - weren't murderers around 100 years ago? I mean, killing other people isn't exactly a new idea, and I don't believe that an increase in this type of thing is linked to a decrease in Christians. Sure, Christianity teaches that killing is wrong, and so do most other religions. I'd consider myself an atheist, and I also don't condone killing, and I think just about any other atheist that you ask will say the same thing. I would say that people have many different moral values, but I don't believe this is necessarily a bad thing (as it seems like you imply in the first part of that sentence - correct me if I'm wrong).

These murderers don't kill because they have no values; they kill because they have mental issues, a distorted sense of logic that somehow tells them that killing (whomever the victim) will somehow solve one of their problems. This is nothing that any religion can repair, and it can be caused by many things - usually some sort of actual defect that can be brought to light by a lack of love, care, and attention when they were young.

I also don't believe that if Christianity no longer existed, society would fall apart (I firmly believe in total separation of church and state, I'd go as far to say even more so than we currently have in the US). For the most part, I follow my own moral code, doing what I believe is right as opposed to what people want me to believe is right (150+ years ago, they "wanted" you to believe that slavery was right.... With few people questioning that, look how long it took for us to abandon this terrible custom "not 'till 1865, and some of the world still does it today").

However, I consider myself a "good"' person, always willing to help someone else when they need it, always offering encouragement to someone struggling with tough times. You might say that some of my ideas about morality are the same as Christian ones - and I see no problem with that. Christian moral ideas, for the most part, exist because of many people coming together to agree on them based on what they believe is right (of course there are many others who just blindly except them all, without questioning, but I won't go there today). You don't have to be a Christian to "borrow" some of them, and you don't have to completely disregard them if you aren't a Christian.

As I stated above, murderers don't kill because they have no moral values or because they may not be Christian (or other religion), but because they can't make rational decisions about what is right or wrong due to the way their brain functions. It doesn't matter what type of society you live in, archistic, anarchistic, etc., as long as there are people born with mental defects (maybe there will be a way to look for this in the future, who knows), there will unfortunately always be people willing to murder others.

Again, thanks for the article. Even though I can't say that I agree, I like to be open-minded and read alternative viewpoints once in a while.

Anon.

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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