Most of the time when I am surfing the web I read some really ignorant self-serving crap. The saying “if it sounds ridiculous it is ridiculous” is never more true than when reading most web writings.
Sometimes I read something that is so shocking and disgusting that I have to comment on it.
Opposites Attract by Steve Kellmeyer on the RenewAmerica website is the kind of ignorant trash that passes for discourse in these days of Red vs. Blue states.
Kellmeyer pieces together historical items to conclude that Secular Humanism and Islam abuses women.
He makes a classic argument of guilt by association when in fact it is a straw man for Kellmeyer to knock down. Equating Secular Humanism and Islam is bad enough (because they aren’t even in the same neighborhood) but then Kellmeyer warps history to prove his “point”.
It has been noted in this column and elsewhere that the Enlightenment’s insistence on setting Reason up as a god was due in no small part to Luther’s insistence that Reason was the whore of the devil. Luther’s “faith alone” theology brought about the “reason alone” backlash that was the Enlightenment.
But, the two did agree on some things. For instance, while Luther and Voltaire fought each other bitterly, they did unite against their common enemy: the Catholic Church.
Kellmeyer is wrong. Martin Luther wasn’t just about “faith alone” theology. He wanted to reform the Catholic church. During his time the Church was corrupt including selling indulgences. Luther wanted the Church to go back to what he believed it should be – based on the teachings of the Bible. His actions challenged the authority of the Pope. Luther was a victim of politics – not religion.
The Enlightenment was a backlash against Luther AND the Church – it was a backlash against the long period of doubtful tradition, full of irrationality, superstition, and tyranny.
Immanuel Kant defined the Enlightenment as follows:
Enlightenment is man’s leaving his self-caused immaturity. Immaturity is the incapacity to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another. Such immaturity is self-caused if its cause is not lack of intelligence, but by lack of determination and courage to use one’s intelligence without being guided by another. The motto of enlightenment is therefore: Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own intelligence!
Next Kellmeyer writes:
Today, we see a remarkably similar thing taking place. Where Luther insisted on faith alone, Islam insists on rote memorization and constant emulation of the Prophet Mohammed. Where Voltaire insisted on the pre-eminence of Reason, the secular humanists today insist on the pre-eminence of the self. The Marquis de Sade and his modern counterparts have been transformed from lunatics (which is how de Sade was viewed by his contemporaries) to heros. Libertinism is the order of the day.
First of all, how the Marquis de Sade is relevant to his argument is a mystery to me. It is probably a variation of the Hitler argument or when arguing against Atheists religious conservatives trot out Stalin. Basically you give an example of the worst person in history and then try to pin the idea you’re against to their dead carcass.
Second Kellmeyer makes his first error about Secular Humanism. Sechums don’t “insist on the pre-eminence of the self”. We aren’t selfish nor do we advocate that. We do believe that reason is the best tool to explain our world just like thinkers like Voltaire. We also believe that human problems require human solutions.
Next we come to the jaw dropping part of the essay:
Similarly, Catholicism uniquely moderated other philosophies. Precisely because Judaism spent a millennium under Catholic influence, Jews no longer stone members of their community to death for fornication. Precisely because Islam lacked that Christian guidance, Muslims still do. The Christianity that wiped out Aztec human sacrifice, stopped Hindus from forcing their widows onto the funeral pyre, and destroyed the Thuggee cult of ritual murder found its moral force in a world-view that retained an understanding of the Catholic theology on personhood.
Any casual reading of history will refute Kellmeyer’s idea here. Catholics persecute and have persecuted Jews through out history. They didn’t call it the Spanish and Mexican Inquisitions for nothing, not to mention the recent Church apologies for past persecutions and looking the other way during the Holocaust.
Yes, Christianity wiped out Aztec human sacrifice because they wiped out the Aztecs as well as other native Americans in Mexico and South America. First they slaughtered the religious leaders then forced the people to convert to Christianity by use of force – including wholesale killing. You also had the mass deaths caused by diseases brought over from Europe.
It was common for Christian missionaries to destroy native religion and culture in an effort to convert the “savages”. The Catholic theology on personhood only applied to Catholics – obviously.
Kellmeyer’s argument so far is meant to pander to conservative Catholics. Conservative Christian and conservative Catholics are one nasty coalition as we have seen in recent years.
Finally we come to Kellmeyer’s “point” where is paints Sechums as supporting wife killing. He does this by pulling out Terri Schiavo and her plight to use an anvil against Islam and Secular Humanism:
And here is the most interesting thing about this 21st-century version of the Thirty Years’ War. The struggle between secular humanism and Islam does not just attack the Bride of Christ, it attacks women in general.
Islam views women as the source of most moral evil. According to Mohammed, hell is populated primarily by women. In the same way, secular humanism endorses a lifestyle of casual sex, casual contraception and casual abortion that disproportionately harms women.
While it is true that Islam doesn’t see women as equal (much in the same way the Bible and Christianity doesn’t), Kellmeyer makes another error about Secular Humanism.
Secular Humanism doesn’t endorse “a lifestyle of casual sex, casual contraception and casual abortion”. We do endorse personal liberty for everyone. People should be able to decide for themselves to have sex, use contraception, or have an abortion. If their religious beliefs cause them to NOT do those things then fine but they shouldn’t force what they want on the rest of us. In Secular Humanism, women are equal and should have the same freedom of choices males enjoy. That is no where near how women are treated in traditional Islamic culture or practice.
Kellmeyer ignores the fact that if it wasn’t for the move to reason there wouldn’t have been a United States. The American Revolution was the product of the Enlightenment and the pre-eminence of reason. The Enlightenment is all over the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.
If I had to choose I would choose the Enlightenment over the “Catholic theology on personhood” every time and most women would too.