Charles Moore's Mailbag

More Thoughts on Free Speech, End of Religion Controversy on Low End Mac

Charles Moore - 2002.12.11 - Tip Jar

Publisher's note: This brings the discussion of Islam vs. the West, moral anarchy, and other religious issues to an end on Low End Mac. Much as we've enjoyed the discussion in this forum and appreciate the feedback from Mac users on these issues, the amount of controversy surrounding the publication of such diverse viewpoints had been counterproductive.

Free speech, real issues on a Mac site, and flame mail

From Mark

I have some feedback for your recent articles on flame mail, free speech, Islam and the west, etc.

Although I do not agree with many of your opinions, I do agree with you on the issue of free speech. Unrestricted free speech is important. Even on a Mac news site. Whether people agree with your opinions or not, you have the right to express them wherever someone will publish them. Keep up the good fight no matter what people (even me) say about your opinions.

P.S. Yes, I am the same person who previously flamed both of you for a) your (CWM) opinions on the pledge of allegiance ordeal, and b) (DAN) putting that article on LEM. What can I say, I saw the light. At least on issue b.

-mark
My other computer is a 4000 node beowulf cluster

Thanks Mark,

You get the point.

Charles

The Free Speech Letters

From Howard Fox

Charles,

Please add me to the host of people that are saying I agree with you and keep going! I always look forward to reading your articles. Also, I do not agree with those who say that you should only write about Mac articles. I find your viewpoint refreshing on the different subjects you choose to write about. I am a Christian and look for these viewpoints.

I have read your current articles on Applelinks and LEM. Also, I read Dan Knight's Hatemail Musings column on LEM. I sent Dan what I hope was an encouraging email, and hopefully you will find this one encouraging also.

I hope this upcoming holiday season finds you and your family in good health.

Thank you again for your articles,

Respectfully,
Howard L. Fox Jr

Thanks Howard,

Merry Christmas to you, too.

Charles

Moral anarchy

From Anddrew Fowler

Dear Mr. Moore:

I'm disappointed that anyone would challenge your (or your editor's) right to express your opinions, however controversial, on a web site that is free-of-charge. You choose what to publish, and I choose what to read.

At the same time, while I object to his threatening tone, the complainant has the right to express his views to your advertisers, who will, in turn, make their choice.

My own view is that if a Macintosh news site is going to feature overt political commentary, it should present opposing views, but that's just my personal preference - it has no obligation to do so.

As for your original editorial, it's unlikely that I can say anything that hasn't been said already, but one can't be sure, so I'll add my 2 cents and try to be brief about it.

You say, among other things: "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."

This is the sort of panicked, alarmist rhetoric that I remember hearing in the 1960s and '70s, except at that time it usually came from the left. Since the 1980s, cultural pessimism has mostly been the province of the right. Either way, I'm reminded of something my old man said when we would pass picketers holding "The End Is Near" signs: "There have always been people who think the sky is falling, and there always will be." And as far as I can tell, he was right. They just seem change their stripes.

[My old man was not as learned or poetic as Neitzche or Jung, but plain-speaking has its merits.]

You're probably correct that some bad behaviors are more common now than they might have been in the past, but that's to be expected as populations and technologies change. To suggest that the likes of mentally-deranged murderers, drug culture, child prostitution, or "home invasion robbery" are anything new, much less worse than in other eras, is naive, in my opinion. Read up on earlier eras in most any large Western city - New York, London - and I think you'll find that, even with our problems, we live in genteel times by comparison. And to forget some of the evils - slavery, Jim Crow, fascism, child labor, etc. - that our "morally anarchic" culture has overcome (thanks partly to the efforts of that highly-feared species known as "liberals"), and to ignore its accomplishments, is shortsighted in my opinion. We face problems - as far as I know human societies always have - but the sky is not falling, and the "good old days" exist mostly in the memories and/or imaginations of the small percentage of the world's population that had it especially good 50-60 years ago (I was partly one such person, but I'm also acutely aware of the shortcomings of that era). I would urge you to take a longer, larger view.

I feel that your view of history is narrow, but to suggest that all or most of our ills would be cured by more fervent allegiance to Christian doctrine is worse, in my opinion. Here we are under attack by Islamic absolutists, in the name of their mythical God, and you would have us (and presumably them) submit to another form of absolutism in the name of your mythical God. If I'm misreading you, I apologize, but if I'm not misreading you, I want no part of it, thank you.

You refer to the dangerousness of well-meaning liberals. I submit that their dangerousness is exceeded only by that of well-meaning religious zealots. History bears this out rather spectacularly. To say that this merely reflects a lack of adherence to real Christian values is, in my opinion, to engage in wishful thinking and ignore what history has already taught us about the potential negative effects of religious zealotry, on both a macro and micro level.

Not that individuality and humanism don't carry their own risks. There are risks associated with living in an open, secular, democratic society, and you've identified some of them. But we decided a long time ago that it was better to bear those risks than to submit collectively to a single, unanswerable authority, be it a king or a mythical god. Despite our problems, I think it was the right decision, and people in the rest of the world, many of whom are still under the thumb of oppressive religious doctrine, are striving to emulate it, and for good reason.

I'm not here to merely bash Christianity. I believe that religious faith can play a meaningful, positive role in people's emotional and social lives, and in the culture as a whole. I admire the basic teachings of Jesus even if I'm not Christian (I admire the teachings of a lot of people). But the suggestion that all of our most pressing problems are primarily the fault of secular humanists and liberals and so forth is nonsense, just as it would be nonsense for me to assert that they are primarily the fault of religion and conservatives. They are simply an aspect of human nature, and they ebb and flow over time, depending on a multitude of factors.

Nor am I here to endorse some of the cherished beliefs of "humanism", such as it is. I don't regard humans as the be-all and end-all (a conceit that I believe humanists share with Christians, who project the conceit onto a "God", who supposedly makes them in his image and puts them here for a "higher purpose") - I believe that humans are just one species among many. I share much of your disdain for modern social science and "engineering" - I believe that bad, unpredictable behavior is, to a large degree, an ineffable part of the human experience (although, unlike Christians, I ascribe it to natural forces and chance rather than the more intangible "evil").

In sum, it's not Christian morality per se that I object to - I suppose that, in theory, it's a fine thing. What worries me most is the oft-proven danger of giving our collective minds over to any unmediated authority, be it religious or political. I'd rather take my chances with plain old human intellect and judgment, flawed as it may be.

Thank you for your consideration.
Andrew Fowler

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for sharing your perspectives.

Just a couple of points of clarification. While I believe that it would be a much better world if everyone had faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, I'm not expecting that to happen, and I'm certainly not advocating any sort of coercive program towards it.

Real Christian faith cannot be coerced, and no one with a functional understanding of Christian doctrine would suggest that it could. That is a massive distinction between evangelical Christianity and fundamentalist Islam. Christianity is predicated on free will. My hope is that the free will choice can be an informed choice for as many as possible.

As for accepting moral authority, I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and in the authority of the Holy Tradition of the Church. I am an Anglican Catholic and accept the teachings of the historic Church on matters of faith, doctrine, and morality. This is a difficult concept for many in the postmodern West, indeed many Western Catholics, who have been so thoroughly conditioned by the reflexive assumptions of Enlightenment liberalism, that Orthodox/Catholic certitude on moral issues (or anything else) becomes extremely difficult to accept. It seems like an abdication of intellect and reason, although it should be carefully noted that it is only after a Catholic has accepted by reason the concept of an infallible Church that he surrenders private judgment to the judgment of the Church, and then only on points where the Church speaks with the voice of God. On all other points, private judgment for Catholics remains unimpaired.

However, Catholicism and affirmation of infallible Church authority (on matters of doctrine and morality) are identical. A "Catholic" who considers himself free to believe as he chooses is a contradiction in terms. For Catholics, reason and truth are objective - not what each individual chooses to make them.

And as we approach the height of the Christmas season, it is timely to affirm that the Christmas message is not some sentiment about ""peace, love, and the universal brotherhood of humanity" (not that those things are to be disparaged, but they are not the central point here). The Christmas message, in the words of a couple of old carols, is: "That Jesus the Saviour is come for to die," "to save us all from Satan's power when we have gone astray."

This is serious stuff - at least it should be for anyone who wants to legitimately claim to be Christian. We believe that the eternal estate of human souls hangs in the balance. Jesus' own Great Commission to His disciples is: "Go into all the world can preach the Gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved: But he who has disbelieved shall be condemned." That is as much a part of the Christmas message as stars and mangers and wise men bearing gifts.

However, if some choose not to believe, we respect their free will choice.

Charles

Free speech

From Martin Sørensen

Hi Charles;

I know your writing offends a lot of people, and I also suspect it does not worry you the least.

On your latest article, I fully agree. Speech is free or not, and only libel laws should limit it. If someone writes that I am a serial fraud, I would like to have the matter clarified.

I often find myself disagreeing with your views (e.g., the sniper article), but that is only to expect as I have some fairly "liberal" viewpoints (e.g., on drugs and death penalty). But I still read your articles, because only by challenging one's own views they develop. You do some of the better written and more considered challenging. Please continue.

BTW, I largely agree on your analysis of Islam, as would probably the late Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn.

Best regards

Martin Sørensen

Switzerland and guns and faith

From Martin Sørensen

Hi again, Charles;

A lot has been written about Switzerland and it's particular sort of defense. Truth is that Switzerland has a relatively high (gun) murder rate for Western Europe, and that the number is thought to be underreported for political reasons. That is obviously hard to prove... In Denmark we have a similar, voluntary, system with around 60,000 members of which the majority have their rifles and ammo at home. With the lock stored away from the rest. There are very few shootings, as they are quite good at rejecting the maniacs from entering.

In Denmark, a (quite secular) country of 5.2 million we have around 80 murders each year. I seem to remember that roughly 60-65 are "crimes of passion", where the victim knew the murderer. This does not seem to support the theory of secularism being the cause of serial killings.

Rifles and shotguns are available with a permit, and I think a hunting certificate. Handguns are somewhat harder to obtain legally. The difference to the US is, of course, that there is not the huge number of guns in circulation already, which is why very few thieves are armed; they don't expect to be shot at, and they know the risk of being caught as well as the punishment is harder if they are armed. In the US I think it is too late.

On faith: I do not know where to place myself. Kierkegaard, who certainly was religious, wrote that faith fundamentally is a feeling; you either feel God is there or you don't. Where does that leave the choice?

At the other hand, I know very well that my feeling may be wrong (as in mislead). I guess I am a wavering atheist :-)

The Bible puzzles me. It is a great guidance for a lot of people, but at the same time it seems rather conflicting. How does "an eye for en eye" go with "tuning the other cheek"? And Jesus seemed to treat men and women on relatively equal terms, where Paulus' attitude differed in the Corinthian letter (I am sure you know the place I refer to)

That churches during the centuries have built an edifice and power-structure to which there is no reference in the Bible is another matter; and to figure out that the Pope is infallible seems a bit pompous, to say the least. How were they so sure?

Hope this did not get too private,

best regards
Martin Sørensen

Hi Martin,

Culture and community obviously play a role in social order, as does national temperament. Canada has a fairly high rate of gun ownership but a much lower gun homicide rate than the U.S. In the county where I live, I would guess that about 3/4 of the homes have guns, but violent crime is extremely rare here. In the past 35 years, I can recall only two gun murders here.

Kierkegaard had much to say that is worth pondering, but I am not an existentialist. The will to faith is a free will choice. Faith itself is a gift from God that is beyond reason and conviction, but IMHO not unreasonable. One of the many paradoxes of Christianity.

An exegesis of the Bible is well beyond the scope of this reply. Many {at least apparent) paradoxes there too. Jesus did appear to contradict the Old Testament at times, viz.:

"Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also."

On the other hand, He also said:

"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."

Jesus treated women with revolutionary consideration and respect in the context of the time, as persons of equal value in the eyes of God, but not necessarily in terms of no distinctions as to roles. All of the Apostles he chose were male. I don't think Paul's teachings are contradictory of Christ's.

Re: the Church's authority Jesus said: "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

An episcopal structure is certainly outlined in the Book of Acts, and referenced in, for example, 1 Timothy 3.

In Roman Catholic belief, the Petrine See is the sacrament of the Church's unity. Peter is the vicar of Christ, and Christ is the head of the Church. The First Vatican Council (1869-70) further enhanced the role of the papacy by declaring that the church's infallibility (or inability to err on central issues of the Christian faith) can be exercised personally by the Pope. Papal infallibility has been invoked only in extraordinary circumstances, and the notion that Catholics believe it applies to every word that proceeds from the pontiff's mouth, is utterly without foundation.

To be deemed infallible, a statement of the Pope must satisfy all of the following criteria:

(1) he must be speaking ex cathedra as Pope;
(2) the utterance must define a doctrine concerning faith and morals;
(3) he must be defining a doctrine to be affirmed by the whole Church.

Unless all three conditions obtain, the Pope is not speaking infallibly. For example, the Pope may err when expressing his personal theological views, and not ex cathedra, as, for example, when a pope condemned Galileo.

It is also inaccurate to assume that the Pope could produce an infallible ex cathedra pronouncement at any time and on any subject connected with faith and morals. Any explicit ex cathedra utterance is based on intensive research and study by both the Pope himself and his episcopal advisors.

Hope this helps, and Merry Christmas,
Charles

Free speech article...

From Jimmy James Champlin

Charles,

I agree wholeheartedly with your views. It seems to me that because of the entire "political correctness" movement, people have become inflammably intolerant. Say something that they don't quite like, and they'll sic the damned lawyers on you because it's "hate speech". Well, I don't like to say it, but, yeah, there's things in this world I hate. I don't like hating, but what else can one do when they see evil around them that's beyond their power to stop? Hate focused against evil can be a powerful weapon to stop the wrong.

People, especially here in the States, are becoming more and more fractured. There's those of us that lean more toward the lifestyle of an artist, and those that lean toward the suit-and-tie businessman. And that's where the U.S. is going. It's business vs. the individuals. PC is driven by big business that doesn't like people criticizing them. Then, the splinter groups chime in and holler about hate speech. Think of all the stories of people being sued and made to pay damages to a giant corporation because they expressed their dissatisfaction with said uberconglomerate.

Thanks to the childish cretins in Hollywood, we're becoming a capitalistic totalitarian state. Capitalism in of itself isn't a bad thing, but this new breed of capitalist that now exist in our world have to be stopped. The world does not exist simply for their profit. People are not "consumers" and "consumers" are not the enemy, but this is exactly the mantra they live by. Everything is boiled down to the lowest common denominator, packaged, and traded as a commodity. They're doing the same thing with human rights. The DMCA and other related laws are just instances where some big industry has bought a politician and gotten them to ramrod a law through Congress that does nothing more than limit the options and rights of the public so that they can make more profit.

Is it just me, or does the U.S. seem overdue for a revolution of some sort?

Jimmy James Champlin

P.S. Thanks to Low End Mac, Dan Knight, and Cobweb for being there to bring me your article. Rick Bauer can take his place with the RIAA, Bill Gates, Enron, and Senator Fritz Hollings as the New Axis of Evil.

Hi Jimmy,

The revolution I would like to see is a Christian revival, but see my comments to Andrew above.

Charles

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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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