The Liberal Ratchet & the Insatiable Maw of Moloch

The sacrificial victim consecrated to the god of any cult must always be pure, clean, unblemished, the first, best fruits of the harvest. Nothing less will do; anything less would be unworthy, an insult. This is why the firstborn was sacrificed, or the king, or children, or virgins, or captured enemy soldiers who, like an innocent animal, were not sullied by any of the sins of their captors.

In ancient Judah, two goats were needed for the most important sacrifice of the year, on the Day of Atonement, because one of them had to take all the sins of the people to itself and be driven out of the City – this was the scapegoat – to cleanse the City and her people in preparation for the rite, so as to prevent any pollution of the sacrifice of the other pure and unblemished goat. As the goat sacrificed to YHWH had to be ritually clean, so did all the ministers of the sacrifice: the people themselves, the priests, and the High Priest. So before the sacrifice of the goat to YHWH, the sins of the people had to be laid upon the scapegoat, and he driven beyond the firmament of the City’s pale to the desert waste where demons had sway over chaos and desolation. In practice, the scapegoat was driven over a cliff of Mount Azazel, the high place in the Judean desert that was the house and temple of the demon Azazel and his coterie (as Olympos was the mountain house of Zeus, and Zion the mountain house of Melchizedek, the Mighty Righteous – YHWH).[1]

The scapegoat was a sacrifice “for Azazel.” If the scapegoat had not assumed the sins of the people, then they themselves would have been “for Azazel” – for, no man can serve two masters. The ritually impure are doomed to be given to Azazel at the Last Judgement. These are they who have not by then been washed of their sins in the blood of the Lamb.

The Atonement and Eucharist assimilate both goats to Christ. Only if the victim of the sacrifice is himself God can this assimilation be possible. Under the Law of Compensation, a creaturely scapegoat can stand in for another in the negotiation of his debt of sin. But the debt of the sin is not thereby redeemed and settled, is not removed as a causal factor of history – for as among creatures in their mutual transactions, the Law of Conservation of Value cannot be broken. Rather, the debt of sin is merely shifted to the scapegoat. He runs off, is driven out of the City, taking her sins with him, along with their debt. But they remain within the system of the world, as an increase of its chaos, and thus of the pressure bearing down always upon the walls of the City from her Adversary.

But Christ takes the sins of the world altogether away from her, removing them from history completely as causal factors thereof (to the extent, that is, that they are laid upon him via the true repentance of creatures who have accepted the ontological sway and complete efficacy of his Atoning Sacrifice – who have, i.e., accepted that he is indeed LORD). As God, and infinitely capable, he is capable of absorbing all the sins of the world, completely. When all creatures have acknowledged him as LORD, then will he be all in all, and at that point there will be no more sin left in the world. The world will then no longer be saddled, as she now is, with the inheritance of sin. Sin will then have no more power to pull anyone down (Hebrews 2:14), and death will have no more dominion over creation (Romans 6:14).

In this capacity to take away all the sins of the world by taking them upon himself, the LORD is unique among beings. So, for him as for no other actor in the history of the world, there is no need for a separate scapegoat to relieve him of the ritual taint of the sins he has taken, in order to cleanse and purify him and make him fit for the sacrifice. In God, sin and its death are swallowed up in victory. So, no victim other than the Lamb of God is needed for the sacrifice at Calvary.[2]

The unshriven Fallen sin eo ipso, and know it; so this dynamic of sin, ritual purification, and fitness for the liturgy of redemption cannot ever disappear from history for any but those who have been washed perfectly clean in the blood of the Lamb (i.e., the saints). Thus wherever Christian belief is weak, or errant, or partial, or poorly understood – almost everywhere – or a fortiori where it is explicitly rejected, the dynamic appears and operates. It is seen in the phenomenon of the witch hunt, which is a search for expiatory scapegoats. Where there are no witches to be found, any Other will do: the deformed, the mad, the stranger, the Jew, the schismatic, the odd, the eccentric. Where the use of such Others is forbidden, scapegoats must be obtained on other terms from among the people. The modern witch hunt is perfectly exemplified in the ritual persecution and demolition of Gerald Amirault, a child care provider who with his mother was a chosen scapegoat of parents guilty about putting their kids in day care.

PC is a continuous witch hunt. The politically incorrect are ritually unclean. They cannot be touched, as ancient Hebrews could not touch lepers. They must be shunned, excommunicated, driven out, their lives and livelihoods destroyed, so as to purge the community of their taint.

If by some great and wonderful miracle leftism were to be eradicated, but not replaced with Christian orthodoxy – if, that is, the libertarian or monarchist fantasies of the secular right were perfectly realized – people would be in the same position as they now are under the secular Left: as lacking belief in the LORD, ipso facto lacking an all-sufficient expiation for the sins of the whole world. Their burden of guilt would then, as now, be intolerable, and incurable. They would therefore never be able to cease from engagement in some sort of witch hunt or other. The maw of Moloch is insatiable, for no sin-offering of a mere creature can hope to shift the debt of sin off the shoulders of the sinner for more than a moment.

As impotent to any durable expiation – sin being, for those not wholly washed in the blood of the Lamb, still an inner tyrant, the Lord of this world – the periodic reiteration of the witch hunt is both necessary and vain. A constant supply of scapegoats is needed. With no enemy soldiers to meet the supply these days, it must be met from the ranks of the people: the ritually impure among them must be discovered, and driven out – repudiated, excommunicated, turned into strangers, “otherized” – so that their sacrifice is not itself sinful, and thus a source of further guilt. It is not wicked to destroy the irredeemably wicked. But the people are almost entirely domesticated to the civic cult of PC. Ritual impurities are difficult to find.

This accounts for the proliferation of rococo accretions to the laws of PC ritual purity. Discrimination in word against coloreds is eliminated, if only by forbidding the use of that term, and its replacement by “negro.” But as soon as no one uses the term “colored” any more, the supply of scapegoats on that score drops off unacceptably. The system requires a constant stream of scapegoats. So “negro” is made a sign of ritual impurity by the cognoscenti, who replace it among themselves with “black.” But then in due course the use of “black,” likewise, as everywhere prevalent, becomes almost overnight a sign of ritual impurity, and the ritually pure use “African-American;” meanwhile the high priesthood of the avant-garde use “people of color” (but *never* the appalling “colored folk”) which we may be sure will in a few years become the new standard of vernacular propriety.

In similar fashion, the success of the civil rights movement has generated a need for some other tests of ritual purity, so that those who succeed in avoiding outward notice of other races must now also avoid outward notice of differences in religion, nationality, ethny, sex, sexuality, age, marital status, dress, customs, manners, ability (intentional or not), intelligence, comeliness, health, fitness, stature, and so forth. Eventually we may run out of things to overlook in our fellows; and at that point, ideological purity, which knows no limit, will have to take over. Global warming, food scares, alarums about chemicals (not birth control pills, SSRIs or tattoo ink – those are A-OK), improper personal practices such as homeschooling, outward piety, or chastity – all are grist for that mill. Do you disbelieve in nominalism, of any sort? Do you disbelieve that we ought never to notice any sort of Other? You shall find yourself numbered among the Other.

One way or another, the unshriven need a steady supply of scapegoats, and will somehow find them. In the limit, the only uncleanness left will be in those who reject this system of merely creaturely expiation root and branch, relying as they do upon the omnipotent and absolute Atonement provided by the sacrifice of an ultimate Other: the Christians.


[1] The Jewish Encyclopedia’s article on Azazel is worth a look.

[2] Another, alternative victim was indeed present in Jerusalem on Good Friday: Jesus bar Abbas, Jesus Son of the Father, the Zealot revolutionary. But his death was not needful. Rather than being driven out of the City and over a cliff, he was released to mingle freely within the polis.

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90 thoughts on “The Liberal Ratchet & the Insatiable Maw of Moloch

  1. It is an eerie thought, to be sure. Something you wrote over at VFR a couple years back seems related:

    And somewhere along that hallway is a door, already unlocked and standing ajar, that leads to an agora where traditionalists, conservatives, and orthodox Christians and Jews are on account of their rejection of the liberal order categorized as not quite fully human, and persecuted. Listen, and you can hear already from that agora the sharpening of knives.

    Of course, this comment came from the epic discussion between Lydia McGrew, Matt, and the late Lawrence Auster, on the correctness of discussing the imago dei–specifically the question of whether it could be lost if a person was sufficiently wicked. I thought at the time, and still think, that your comment was spectacularly apropos.

    What an irony that liberalism, which trumpets “human rights” and “freedom” with such wanton disregard, ends in the de facto abolition of the only kind of freedom that matters–the freedom to worship. There is a blindness in the modern liberal.

  2. This reminds me a bit of the president of the Barilla pasta company. He voiced support for true marriage and just as the rest of us were getting happy to hear of a stand-up guy in the corporate world, the PC thugs got to him and he caved like a spelunker and apologized and said he had a lot to learn about the “evolution of the family.” It was like watching the Soviet show-trial “confessions”. At the Barilla facebook page, I was reading that even though he apologized, people still were going to boycott him and thus, he learned one of the most central features of progressives that anyone who has spent any time with them knows: for all their talk of compassion they are pathologically incapable of forgiveness. Barilla showed they lacked the signs of election and that’s the final word.

    • I wonder what kind of man he really is? He probably does feel it to be wrong, probably feels that he’s saving his company and avoiding trouble by just recanting for his blasphemy publicly.

      But it certainly suggests that Kristor is quite right when he said that ideological purity knows no bounds.

      So the president of Barilla pasta may have just confessed, may have toted his new-found “evolution.” But as you suggest above, it is not enough that he is in line now. The evil-which-must-not-be-tolerated, for the liberals, is the fact that he ever disagreed at all.

      To quote O’Brien from George Orwell’s 1984:

      It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be. Even in the instant of death we cannot permit any deviation. In the old days the heretic walked to the stake still a heretic, proclaiming his heresy, exulting in it. Even the victim of the Russian purges could carry rebellion locked up in his skull as he walked down the passage waiting for the bullet. But we make the brain perfect before we blow it out. The command of the old despotisms was “Thou shalt not”. The command of the totalitarians was “Thou shalt”. Our command is “Thou art”. No one whom we bring to this place ever stands out against us. Everyone is washed clean.

  3. The Right is hardly innocent. Typically, a person to the right of a given person is called Fascist by the latter. Thus, while there is no enemy to the left (for a leftist), to a person on the right, he alone is correct, all to the right of him are fascists and worse than a die-hard communist.

    Thus, the Right agrees and participates in the liberal ratchet, with the consequences that all see.

    • Bedarz: Absolutely correct. Great point. That’s why orthogony to the standard political spectrum is so crucial to social hygiene. If your basic orientation to worldly life, and a fortiori political life, is not orthogonal thereto, why then you are sooner or later going to get sucked into the moral maelstrom of the Lord of the Air.

    • The left and the right as labels become useless in that hypothetical perfect monarchist theocracy/libertarian theonomy. There is no right or left in that proposed place, only Christ; all the rest blissfully long forgotten.

      Today, Christians refusing to make scapegoats are viewed as weak. Indeed they are, as Christ made himself weak, despite the host of angels at his command. Christians may talk a tough game of reforming and recontructing society, but when their first daughter comes along pregnant out of wedlock, they cave and seek an escape from hard consequences. When their first son comes along with birth defects they run to social safety nets and tax exemptions to seek relief. What kind of perfected society turns from those in need of forgiveness, right?

  4. There are regular or calendar-based immolations and there are occasional immolations. For the regular or calendar-based events, the “pure” victim, as Kristor describes him in an impressive intuition, is required, or anyway preferred. For occasional immolations, “purity” is not a necessary criterion; it might even be an impediment. Consider a typical modern example. When a public figure speaks common sense and is then reviled out of his livelihood (a recent instance is Paula Dean of the Food Channel and a previous one is Larry Summers of Harvard), the function of the expulsion is purification and the lynch-mob justifies its action on the argument that its target is impure and toxic. Similarly, in the pogroms of the Middle Ages, the Jews bore the accusation, not that they were pure, but that they were toxic – poisoners of wells, spreaders of the plague, or besmirchers of shrines and chapels.

    When the Left celebrates a victim, whether it is the “sinless” homosexual Matthew Sheppard or the “sinless” teenager Trayvon Martin, it endows purity on him in retrospect, but it attributes the immolation to impure others, who, in the playing out of the ritual, fill the role of the actual victims. So again the victim, the real victim, is impure. George Zimmerman is a particularly fine example of “impurity” – a “white Hispanic” with Jewish ancestry.

    Who is Azazel, whom the Greeks called Dionysus, or sometimes Artemis or the Great Mother? Azazel is the orgiastic, shared pleasure of the immolators in their achievement of ritual purity through immolation. The character of this pleasure, experienced as the presence and approval of the demon, is well-articulated by Joseph de Maistre’s successor Charles Baudelaire in the two concluding tercets of his sonnet “Correspondences”:

    II est des parfums frais comme des chairs d’enfants,
    Doux comme les hautbois, verts comme les prairies,
    — Et d’autres, corrompus, riches et triomphants,

    Ayant l’expansion des choses infinies,
    Comme l’ambre, le musc, le benjoin et l’encens,
    Qui chantent les transports de l’esprit et des sens.

    There are perfumes as cool as the flesh of children,
    Sweet as oboes, green as meadows
    — And others are corrupt, and rich, triumphant,

    With power to expand into infinity,
    Like amber and incense, musk, benzoin,
    That sing the ecstasy of the soul and senses.

    Sacrifice is the response of the mob to the sense that social order is breaking down and that the cause of the breakdown must be an identifiable, personal agent. Such an agent is almost by definition an impure presence in the otherwise pure environment. His candidacy for immolation will be guaranteed largely by his vulnerability – for example, by his perceived inability or unwillingness to resist. The Left has been grooming conservatives to fill this role for many decades.

    Rene Girard sometimes refers to sacrifice as “unanimity minus one.”

    • Tom, I’ve been chewing on this comment since you posted it, feeling there was something it had triggered in me, that I couldn’t quite articulate. Now I think I have it.

      If you believe in a god or God, then you need the scapegoat to get ritually clean *so that* you can then make a worthy sacrifice to the deity without polluting the sacred precincts of the Temple. In traditional societies, then, scapegoating is somewhat compensated by piety.

      If you don’t believe in any deities, then you don’t need to make sacrifices to a deity anymore. But you still feel guilty as ever, at bottom, and so you still need scapegoats. So it is that we arrive at that novel aspect of modernity: lots and lots of rootless and therefore utterly bootless scapegoating, no reverence for anything. The only way that moderns can parse social relations then, or morality, is in terms of scapegoating on the basis of protocols of ritual purity that, in the final analysis, are merely adventitious, as not arising from any absolute transcendent ground.

      And scapegoating alone is not sufficient to provide a moment’s real relief from the guilt. To get that relief, you have to make sacrifice to the deity. Secular moderns never sacrifice. Sure, they give money to Greenpeace, but it isn’t the same, because Greenpeace is just some guys, who have no power to remit sin. Sending a check to Greenpeace or running a marathon for aids can make you feel better, but not “whole and sound, and innocent of a great offense.”

      You cannot by such merely creaturely motions get right with God. To get right with God, you must confess your sinfulness, repent of your sins, get rid of them by putting them to the scapegoat, and then yourself approach the altar to make a real and costly sacrifice to the deity. Omit any one of these motions, and there will be no relief from the guilt.

      A corollary: the modern scapegoats, but never himself repents.

      • Liberal modernity, like Islam, is in a ceaseless “sacrificial crisis” because the liberal modern, like the Muslim, is in a ceaseless acute panic over his purity. One of the behavioral oddities that I am “privileged” to witness in the halls of academe, or rather in the mess halls of academe, is what I call the spontaneous liberal profession. This happens at the lunch table when someone without any conversational context blurts out some liberal piety whereupon everyone else nods assent and repeats the shibboleth viva voce. The only motive I can find for these weird outbursts is a perpetual fear of being seen by one’s peers as insufficiently correct or insufficiently enthusiastic.

        Currently, liberals practice, as you say, immolation-by-protocol although this is by no means strictly symbolic and can result for the victim in loss of livelihood with other severe consequences. But we should keep the ceaseless, desperate character of these immolations-by-protocol in mind. They point to acute anxiety, which must be propitiated daily everywhere. The likelihood that immolation-by-protocol might tip into something even uglier is not small, I believe. What is the role of abortion, for example, in a “sacrificial analysis” of the contemporary social and cultural situation in Europe and North America? What is the role of “flash-mobs” or what is the role of the rash of aggravated, racially tendentious assaults that the Left pretends not to notice?

  5. I remember in Zurich the annual burning of a snowman effigy called the Böögg on Sächsilüüte in April. While there is no direct link between this tradition and human sacrifice, I wondered at what point in time Europeans practiced burning actual people rather than effigies. Scientists debate how widespread such a practice might have been anciently. The roots of Sächsilüüte go back at least to medieval times.

    It was in Constance on July 6, 1415 that Jan Hus was burnt wearing a crown with the inscription “This is a heresiarch.” It was clearly a ritual execution.

    The period of classical witch-hunts is roughly from 1480 to 1750 with an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 executions.

    • Rodney Stark points out that the areas where the witch hunts – and later the pogroms – were most virulent were those that had been most recently converted, beyond the old limes of the Empire, where the Gospel was weakest.

      In California the hippies and New Agers burn a giant wooden man each year.

      • I’d bet good money that a majority of the people at Burning Man are Californians. It is definitely interesting that the most raw expression of liberalism in Amerian culture evolved from Hendrix and Woodstock in the ’60’s, where rock stars hoped to and sometimes actually did die before they got old, to sacrificially burning a giant wooden man in the Nevada desert in the oughts.

        I don’t know what it means; but it is freakishly interesting.

      • The majority of the Burning Man folks are from the SF Bay Area, I’d bet. But that culture has salients all over the West.

        I have often thought that it might be interesting, and even important, to analyze Burning Man as a cultural phenomenon, but it is on the one hand so amorphous and hard to pin down, and on the other so dreadfully banal, that I hardly know where to get started. Plus to analyze it I’d have to attend it, which would be both dull and irritating. The whole thing gives me a headache.

        Amorphous and banal: smells like … brimstone!

      • My father in law went there for years, and has stopped going. He is ok with public nudity, but says it has gone too far. It has become both satanic and authoritarian. I guess he thought it was originally anarchistic and libertarian, which he enjoys. I have never gone but have read about it, since there are many articles about it, and many pictures on Google Images. It is everything you fear and I do not recommend looking into it unless you are the type that could evangelize at a porn convention in Vegas.

    • Leo, Jan Hus was burnt too late. Six years of preaching heresies under protection of king himself caused 20 years of bloody rebellion and destruction that ruined prosperous country for generations. Also Constance Council had much more important work to do than burn heretics but Hus insisted on his errors. He wasn’t a scapegoat. Perhaps he wanted to be a martyr. The fire was there to purify him and not his jugdes who were not eager tu burn him.
      Perhaps Inquisition wasn’t as bad as is the modern image of it.

  6. The Holy Roman Empire (Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Lorraine, Austria and Czech lands) produced by far the most witch burnings. Parts of Southern Germany (a center of witch burnings) had been Christianized as early as late antiquity. By the High Middle Ages the area of the Holy Roman Empire was thoroughly Christianized. In other words the heyday of witch burnings came hundreds of years after the spread of Christianity to those lands. Evidently hundreds of years of Christianity are not sufficient for a people or their leaders to understand it.

    In 1288, the first mass burning of Jews on the stake took place in France. In Spain more than 13,000 Conversos were put on trial during the first 12 years of the Spanish Inquisition. In Seville more than 700 Conversos were burned at the stake. Thousands, however, repented, thus mercifully reducing the death toll. The Jews and the Moors were expelled from Spain in 1492, doubtless also greatly reducing the number of deaths. It was, I suppose, a great mercy, but the Jews and the Moors did not appreciate being expelled from Spain. Evidently the Church did not consider its doctrines sufficiently convincing for conversion without the threat of lethal force. That is certainly one way to maintain an unchallengeable orthodoxy. See also the example of Jan Hus.

    Burning Man in modern California and later Nevada is tame and innocent by comparison, as is Sächsilüüte.

    • Leo, I sometimes think that the only thing I might write that you would not dispute is, “Leo, you are right about everything, and what you have said is the complete and exhaustive Truth about everything; I have nothing to add.”

      My comment was not in dispute of yours, but just adding some more information to the conversation.

      If you are interested in the subject of witch hunts, pogroms, and the Inquisition in Iberia, you might want to check out Stark’s work. I’m not going to dispute the facts you adduce, but he has done a fair bit of digging into the history of these events, and let’s just say that there is a different and more accurate way to understand them than what we all learned in public school (“bad, evil Christians are bad and evil”).

      You say, “Evidently hundreds of years of Christianity are not sufficient for a people or their leaders to understand it.” Truer words were never spoke!

      • Well, no. Upon reflection, it would be more accurate to say that hundreds of years of Christianity are not sufficient for a people to practice it well or consistently, however well they may understand the faith and its moral requirements. Lucifer is a tough adversary.

      • Kristor, we are in agreement on many things here, and Stark is an author I admire. And your carefully researched and thought out posts on the Orthosphere are keeping me on my toes intellectually. No hostility is intended, and I often go for a considerable time without posting. Once you chided me for being shy.

        Paraphrasing Lord Acton, and following Williams’ treatment of the period, it cannot be held that so many centuries after Christ men did not know that torture and murder were wrong or that such acts were being carried out without the knowledge of the authorities. Such measures were undoubtedly considered holy, an act of faith, literally an auto-da-fé, sanctioned even by the Papacy. Something clearly had gone wrong with Christianity.

        To quote Williams directly again, “The anxious guard kept against the Devil was doing its ancient work; it was bringing the devil back with power. All through the fifteenth century the speed of his return quickened. The witch-hunts began to open; the Malleus Maleficarum was published in 1486; the imposition of belief grew more wild and more ingenious and more cruel.”

        A tough adversary as you say.

      • Where a lynching occurs, whether it is burning a witch or a heretic, or forcing a Kulak to kneel and take the bullet, or slitting the throat of one’s Coptic neighbor — some god other than the Christian god is motivating the perpetrators. It is Azazel at work or Dionysus — or, I daresay nowadays, the Great Mother. When the righteous men asked rabbinical permission from the Son of God to stone to death the woman taken in adultery, Jesus disarmed them with his word and to the woman he said, go thou forth and sin no more. The action of the Holy Spirit is not consummated today and it will not be consummated ever, except in the City of God. But if it were not for the action of the Holy Spirit in the form of the ever-disseminated Gospel, history would no doubt be nothing but the stoning of women, the burning of heretics, the mass murder of Kulaks, and the throat-slicing of one’s Coptic neighbor.

  7. I highly recommend Elizabeth Scalia’s “Strange Gods: The Unmasking of Everyday Idols” for those interested in this important topic.

  8. Commentator RT’s enthusiastic endorsement of the burning of Jan Hus, and his bloodthirsty statement that it merely happened “too late,” are the kind of thing that gives Christianity, and esp. reactionary Christianity, a bad name. Fortunately, it’s obvious that not everybody here agrees with him, but if we’d rather Leo didn’t keep going on about Christian tortures and burnings at the stake it probably behooves us Christians to speak up directly in response to RT and say that we consider his view on the subject to be entirely wrong, yea, even, despicable. After all, there really are apparently still people around who think burning Protestants at the stake is a great thing, especially if the Protestants are leaders and preachers.

    Oh, and the attempted sympathy-garnering for those who sentenced him on the grounds that they didn’t “want” to execute him is about as helpful as pointing out (which as far as it goes is true) that Pontius Pilate didn’t “want” to have Jesus of Nazareth crucified. There’s want and want. Ultimately, if you’re willing to sentence a man to be killed by torturous means, whether because it is demanded by a mob using political slogans (Pilate) or because the man won’t recant what you consider to be his heresies (those who sentenced Hus), you _are_ willing to do it. It’s just a question of what it takes to get you to do it. And that’s a bad thing. Blaming the victim of stake-burning for not recanting is…distasteful in the extreme.

    • It is especially awful since Jan Hus went willingly to the council that burned him as sign of obedience to his ecclesiastical superiors and the revolution mentioned was only after and in response to his execution.

    • In response to Lydia’s comment above (October 13, 2013 at 7:50 pm):

      1) I appreciate his punishment but not the burning. He could have been imprisoned, exiled or perhaps beheaded and I would have written that. I regret it was “too late” to avoid not only what followed on (hussite’s wars) but what was happening while he was still active (mob killing clericals – one thing he was accused of in Constance). The same applies for his recanting. However, it was failure of the king in the first place.

      2) Regarding his judges I can imagine that they were in politically awkward situation. There were many circumstances they had to take into consideration. I don’t know if some of them opposed burning at stake as form of punishment (probably not because this form of punishment was rarely opposed at those times and Hus himself called for it in case of his opponents). To discuss Wycliff’s teachings with university colleagues is one thing and preaching it to street mob is quite another. Exemplary punishment was perhaps appropriate but it could also encourage his followers by giving them a martyr as it finally happened.

      3) I did not talk about burning witches or protestants. I had only Hus in mind as he’s one of my own folk. Perhaps Kristor is right in the original post but I think the case of Hus is about something else. I admit I am not neutral about him. He was glorified by communists and even today we celebrate the day of his execution to remember his courage in fight for “truth” which is quite paradoxical because right the next day (July 6) we celebrate as day of st. Cyril and st. Methodius, less controversial and more admirable men. Also Hus had rather unfortunate influence on our history. This, of course, is not his fault but it adds something more to our thinking about his case.

      4) Then there is more general question of limits of free speech and what to do with those who break them. I am no philosopher but our historical experience tells me that demagogues are more dangerous than shooters in schools. So some sort of defence is appropriate. I don’t say that we should return to mediaeval practice of burning. On the other hand, I would not apply our measures to people of the past so strictly. They were different, probably more savage and violent so hard punishments might have been proportional.

      5) Question of pain as part of punishment is also interesting. Can we refuse it easily? I don’t know but I was surprised to find out even some libertarians (Kinsella) are ok with corporal punishments. His arguments make some sense to me.

  9. Leo, I would say that your comments about persecution and ritual stake-burnings in a Christian society can be made compatible with the main post in this way: It could be argued that it’s a necessary condition for avoiding faux ceremonies of expiation that a culture is Christian. But that doesn’t make it a sufficient condition. There often have been, and still are, men who name the name of Christ yet believe that it’s a good thing, even a thing approved of by God, to purge the community by killing sacrificial victims. They are wrong, and their confusion is a result of the Fall, which darkened men’s minds as well as making them prone to sin. Christians, alas, are not in this world free of all of the effects of the Fall, which means that even Christians can do terrible things. But in the absence of the truth about sin and expiation taught in Christianity, man is not freed of his need to expiate, so he makes up silly (at best) and sometimes far worse than silly “secular” or pagan ceremonies of purification.

    • Lest that comment was unclear, I don’t mean by that comment to condemn in general the use of capital punishment. By “killing sacrificial victims” I meant to refer to things like burning people at the stake for heresy.

  10. Earl, you can be a jerk if it makes you feel better. Both Tom Bertonneau and Kristor rejected burning people at the stake before I said a word. However, previously no one had directly addressed the fact that RT (and now, apparently, you as well) actually lauds stake-burning on this very thread. Now, there’s also a commentator named Leo (I haven’t read enough of his comments yet to figure out if he’s a Christian, but I gather he’s a gadfly of one sort or another) who was bringing up Christian stake-burning apparently as some kind of objection to Kristor’s post. It was an interesting point on Leo’s part, and once an actual commentator here had endorsed stake-burning, thus falsifying any claim that Christians now have realized that stake-burning is bad, it was a good idea to address that point directly. Why, if Christianity gives us the true story of sin and expiation, have Christian societies still gone through horrifying ritual killings of heretics?

    My comment about the Fall does that, and my point about the necessary and sufficient condition addresses what I take to have been Leo’s argument against the main post from Christian heinous acts–acts still, unfortunately, endorsed by some, as we see even here.

    However, Earl, I realize that these logical points may pass you by. A cloud of snark has a way of clouding the mind. Come to think of it, a desire to endorse burning people at the stake probably has that same tendency.

    • Why, if Christianity gives us the true story of sin and expiation, have Christian societies still gone through horrifying ritual killings of heretics?

      Well, they said they were doing it pour encourager les autres. Should we doubt this?

      RT’s enthusiastic endorsement of the burning of Jan Hus, and his bloodthirsty statement that it merely happened “too late,” are the kind of thing that gives Christianity, and esp. reactionary Christianity, a bad name.

      Yes, one often hears that not being liberals gives reactionaries a bad name. That one hears it a lot doesn’t make it right or even coherent, though. Surely, from the liberal point of view, our lack of liberalism gives us a bad content, not merely a bad name.

      In your view, how may society punish thought criminals justly, or if not justly, at least, without being all “despicable?”

      • And the leftists also punish those they deem heretics “pour encourager les autres.” In the main post this was characterized as a false ritual of sin, purification, sacrifice of a victim, and consequent redemption. That is an interesting analysis with some prima facie merit. But if so, what are we to say of those who have the _true_ sin and redemption story, for whose sake one Perfect Victim was sacrificed (and who know that), who nonetheless engage in such rituals as burning at the stake and hanging, drawing, and quartering in order to coerce obedience in thought? In a sense, it’s even less excusable than when non-Christians do it.

        If “thought criminals” is construed broadly enough, of course it could apply to pretty much anything. One could call a person who actively conspires with others to blow up a bomb at a public event a “thought criminal.” I prefer not to play that type of game. If, on the other hand, one really means by “thought criminals” something extremely narrow, such as being a Catholic rather than a Protestant or vice versa, or being inclined to socialism in economic theory, or any of an infinite number of other variations of political and religious thought on which people might simply disagree, then I don’t think people should be directly _punished_, at least not by the state, for such variations at all., In private employment, it would be a perfectly legitimate thing if people were allowed free association so that Christians could have a business that employs largely Christians, and so forth. What we have now is the worst of both worlds, because non-discrimination laws are applied selectively and with a blatant bias–active anti-Christian discrimination is not only permitted but encouraged, while Christians who wish to employ the like-minded are punished.

        As for the term “despicable,” I would probably reserve that for extreme punishments such as killing people for such things as truly mere religious disagreement, and even more so for killing them in torturous ways.

      • And the leftists also punish those they deem heretics “pour encourager les autres.”

        Yes, they do. These actions liberals and reactionaries alike condemn, the one because they claim punishing heresy is a moral wrong and the other because they claim punishing truth is a moral wrong.

        In the main post this was characterized as a false ritual of sin, purification, sacrifice of a victim, and consequent redemption [which, done by Christians, is] even less excusable than when non-Christians do it.

        Exactly. An analysis which leads so directly to liberal conclusions seems, well, in need of a lot of explication.

      • In the main post this was characterized as a false ritual of sin, purification, sacrifice of a victim, and consequent redemption [which, done by Christians, is] even less excusable than when non-Christians do it.

        Exactly. An analysis which leads so directly to liberal conclusions seems, well, in need of a lot of explication.

        Directly? The leading looks pretty attenuated to me. I can’t see that “Modern secular nominalism demands a steady supply of sacrificial victims, just like the cult of Moloch” – the main argument of the post – entails that “if you deplore torture and murder of sacrificial victims, you’re a liberal.” If one has no moral difficulty with the notion of human sacrifice, then the Liberal Moloch should not be at all troubling. If the repudiation of human sacrifice is open only to liberals, then the Church of the 300s was a liberal institution, because when it got to power in the Empire, it eliminated the last remnant of human sacrifice that the pagan Latins had left in place, the gladiatorial games.

        Come to think of it, if the repudiation of bloody sacrifices is open only to liberals, then God is a liberal (Psalm 40:6; Psalm 51:16; Isaiah 1:11; Hebrews 10:6; 1 Samuel 15:22; and so forth).

        It’s tricky, but important, to remember that liberalism’s disapproval of x doesn’t make x morally correct, and its approval of y doesn’t make y wrong. Likewise, that z was long the tradition of the West does not make it just or wise. Liberalism itself is, after all, by now a tradition of the West.

      • So, it’s only torturous killing itself? That one particular thing? Not inflicted suffering more generally? Not torturous non-killing or lethal injection?

        It wasn’t especially hard to elicit a full-bore endorsement of liberalism from Lydia, who, at the same time, kept referencing the context of the OP.

      • So, it’s only torturous killing itself? That one particular thing? Not inflicted suffering more generally? Not torturous non-killing or lethal injection?

        No. Like I just said: “If one has no moral difficulty with the notion of human sacrifice, then the Liberal Moloch should not be at all troubling.” I personally do have moral difficulty with the notion of human sacrifice, *and* I have moral difficulties with the Liberal Moloch. If I *didn’t* have problems with human sacrifice, the post as written would never have occurred to me.

        It wasn’t especially hard to elicit a full-bore endorsement of liberalism from Lydia, who, at the same time, kept referencing the context of the OP.

        Well, I’ve still not heard Lydia say anything about human sacrifice that *logically entails* that she is a full-bore liberal like Al Gore or Woodrow Wilson. Nor have I yet read any argument on this thread that warrants the conclusion that doubts about the righteousness of human sacrifice are knock-down proofs of deep-seated, thorough-going liberalism.

        Neither have I yet read any argument on this thread that defeats my statement that, “liberalism’s disapproval of x doesn’t make x morally correct, and its approval of y doesn’t make y wrong;” so that it is *possible* for some of the things liberals typically say (e.g., “It is wrong to punish people for their thoughts”) to be true. If absolutely every liberal doctrine was obviously false, no one would ever have credited it for a moment. Like all sturdy ideologies, it is built upon and expresses some truths, and that’s the only way it is able to gain any traction at all in the minds of men.

        The arguments may indeed be present in this thread, but I have not encountered them yet; there’s been a lot of activity on the thread since I last checked in.

        What I do see is a lot of leaping to completely unwarranted and unsupported conclusions. That this is *easy* to do does not mean that it is warranted. Jerks of the knee, too, are easy to do. Screwing up is almost always easier than getting it right.

    • I take it then, DrBill, that you intend the last part of your last comment as a criticism of the main post rather than of something I have said?

      I myself completely disagree that *the entirety* of what is wrong with leftist persecution is that it is punishing truth. That’s *part* of what is wrong, and the reason that is part of it is that the leftists themselves have access to the truth. It’s not a black box. There is a very real sense in which they “ought to know better.” But, yes, I do also embrace the so-called “liberal” conclusion (your word) which is apparently held as well by a couple of other people here (Kristor and Prof. Bertonneau) that *nobody* should be tortured or burned at the stake, not even for holding to and teaching error rather than truth.

      • Where’s my “full-bore endorsement of liberalism.” I must have missed it. Is it really a full-bore endorsement of liberalism to say that the state should not punish thought crimes (a phrase originally used here by Dr. Bill, I believe) where the notion of a thought crime is very narrowly construed? Wow, you have low standards for what it takes to make a full-bore liberal if that’s enough!

  11. Let me hasten to add that this is by no means a Catholic vs. Protestant thing. We Protestants have persecuted Catholics heinously. It was in Protestant England that the real Test Acts existed. As Scott W. has pointed out elsewhere, contemporary leftist requirements that one endorse the homosexual agenda bear an eerie similarity to the Test Acts.

    Priests, of course, were tortured, then hanged, drawn, and quartered in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, apparently on mere suspicion of being terrorists or abettors of terrorists.

    As an analytic-ish type, I admit that I’m a little nervous about the entire project of analyzing persecution of dissenters in terms of a cultural sin and purification ritual. But *if* such an analysis is accurate as far as it goes, then it should apply both to Catholic and to Protestant persecutions of ideological opponents, including of each other.

  12. I am surprised that in a discussion of the modern manifestations of ritual sacrifice abortion is not mentioned. Talk about a spectacular example of the return of Moloch (cursed be his name for all eternity) worship. Not to mention the general sell out of most American Christians on this issue. If there wasn’t a more dire time to arrest the moral degradation of this country it was in the early 1970s. I was also not surprised to learn that Mormons apparently agree in part with Bill Clinton at least when it comes to the “rare” part. Then again we are all Americans right?

    In fact there was some militancy early on and it was mostly Catholic. Brent Bozell – a true reactionary-wearing a red Carlist beret stormed one of the first hospitals in DC offering abortions. He knew that if this evil were to be stopped militancy was required a militancy far beyond what respectable American liberalism would permit. The result? Bozell was beaten and arrested and instead of sparking a movement on the Right his action fizzled largely thanks in no small part to his onetime friend Bill Buckley. Buckley the voice of respectable conservatism undermined Bozell by branding him “un-American.” The spectacle of a bunch of right-wing Catholics rioting over abortion is just too old-world- this is America not Spain!

    I have to admit this episode came to mind reading some of the comments here who are essentially defending American style liberalism against the supposed barbarism of Medieval Europe. This is a familiar albeit simplistic narrative Americans indulge in. American’s messianic mission to free all of humanity from the old world mentality is a perennial American theme. Make no mistake American Christians share this impious attitude with their secular counterparts and it is largely for this reason that Christians continue to lose the culture war because they already largely assume the liberal narrative.

    This ties into some of the themes that Kristor has spoken of. Some may very well be shocked to discover that many of America’s problems are endemic to its liberal foundation. This is the great con job of liberalism. That this supposedly forward thinking ideology has now rebounded into mass human sacrifice (freely chosen and not government mandated) and a stifling PC culture would not surprise someone like Bozell who understood the nature of the beast.

    • Well, the post couldn’t cover *everything* relating to sacrifice vis-a-vis liberalism and remain only a (longish) blogpost. I have discussed abortion here before, making particular reference to the penetrating insights of Joseph of Arimathea (look for him on our blogroll) on the suggestion that abortion is the central and culminating sacramental rite of post-modern liberalism.

  13. Another example of Moloch and human sacrifice would be embryonic stem-cell research.There is a very strong idea among those who push ESCR that the whatever-they-ares (the embryos whom they don’t want to admit are human beings) must be sacrificed in the laboratory on the altar of research to bring health to the community.

    Euthanasia will fit in here as well. Wesley J. Smith has just drawn attention to an editorial in a major newspaper arguing that elderly people should be bribed to have themselves euthanized, because this is allegedly for the greater good. The bribe would be that some preset sum deemed to be what otherwise would be spent on their care in old age would be given to a charity of their choice (presumably from some approved list). About as direct an example of immolating oneself for the “good of another” as one could wish. Being suggested in all seriousness. You can’t make this stuff up.

  14. “I have to admit this episode came to mind reading some of the comments here who are essentially defending American style liberalism against the supposed barbarism of Medieval Europe. This is a familiar albeit simplistic narrative Americans indulge in. American’s messianic mission to free all of humanity from the old world mentality is a perennial American theme. Make no mistake American Christians share this impious attitude with their secular counterparts and it is largely for this reason that Christians continue to lose the culture war because they already largely assume the liberal narrative.”

    If condemning burning heretics at the stake (which, y’know, they did do in Medieval Europe) means that one “largely assumes the liberal narrative” and that one is “impious,” then I’m in good company, including the company of the author of the main post!

      • I’m unclear. How has Lydia adopted the liberal narrative? I thought she had been saying only that human sacrifice is wicked. Didn’t see her espousing any sort of triumph of the will or moral nominalism or nihilism or any of the other liberal tropes.

      • Perhaps Ita Scripta thinks he can read my mind, or perhaps he’s alluding to something I’ve said elsewhere that he believes does “adopt the liberal narrative.” Certainly on this thread, as far as I know, I’ve been chiefly condemning burning people at the stake as well as hanging, drawing, and quartering them. It’s true that I’ve condemned them in rather strong terms.

        Or perhaps Ita Scripta is alluding to one comment on this thread in which I said that if one construes “thought crimes” really narrowly (e.g., teaching Catholicism rather than Protestantism or vice versa), I do not believe that the state should punish thought crimes thus narrowly defined. Perhaps it’s that which means that I’m “adopting the liberal narrative.”

      • Lydia,

        Here is a choice quote from this thread:

        “or any of an infinite number of other variations of political and religious thought on which people might simply disagree, then I don’t think people should be directly _punished_, at least not by the state, for such variations at all., In private employment, it would be a perfectly legitimate thing if people were allowed free association so that Christians could have a business that employs largely Christians, and so forth.”

        As to your statement it grossly misunderstands the true nature of the state and I think it is pretty clear from the vocabulary you assume a liberal view of society and the state. Worst of all you like most of conservative compatriots you fail to realize how the current regime this is a logical working out of these principals. One could oppose the excessive and brutal punishments (which were much less than the American state has and continues to engage in) the same way say Pope St. Nicholas did. But not you and not Leo above. Instead you paint with an exceedingly broad brush that goes far beyond the bounds of what needed to be said and instead validates liberalism’s claims. This is just another example of the all around intellectual incompetence of American conservatives in fighting liberalism.

        By the way to be disingenuous about your views wastes my time and insults my intelligence.

      • Ita, if you have no problem with burning people for their philosophical peccadillos, how do you found any argument that your political interlocutors would be wrong to shoot you on account of your belief in, say, the healthfulness of broccoli? On your construction of the proper rights of a ruler, how could it be wrong for Obama to round up all the Christians and slaughter us? Or Stalin?

        If you think it is A-OK for sovereigns to wipe out the politically incorrect, doesn’t that put you in the same camp as our current PC overlords? When they came to take you away, what could you say but, “Oh, well, guess I had it coming”?

        I’m sure that I must be misconstruing you here, but based on how you’ve said what you’ve said, I’m struggling to come up with any other interpretation.

      • You are asking the wrong question and reversing the burden of proof, Kristor. Arresting people for promoting broccoli would be just fine if it were the case that broccoli generally or the broccoli in question were full of ricin. It would remain OK if the promoters did not put the ricin there and did not believe that the ricin was there (so long as they refused to be convinced to stop promoting it). The idea that thought poison is off in some special category, the spreading of which the government may not punish is just that: an idea. Specifically, a liberal idea.

        The PC police are wicked because they promote evil. Making the movie Footloose, shunning homophobes, arresting Kristor: same wickedness, same reason. Making movies, shunning people, and arresting people are not, per se, problematic.

      • Ironically, my reference to free association was actually an attempt to display a category where people might well be, in a sense, “punished” for their heretical views but which, if it were allowed to go on quite broadly, I would have no objection to. That is to say, if all non-discrimination laws for private employers were repealed tomorrow and if *both atheists and Christians* could punish those with what they deem heretical views by denying them a livelihood, or even denying them services (!), I think this could be a preferable situation to our present one. Doubtless this situation would have something in it for traditionalists, who would then be free to construct businesses and communities in which we employ likeminded individuals and “run out of town” inharmonious elements by the purely non-violent means of refusing to employ them. Catholics could make Catholic towns by refusing to rent to non-Catholics, and so forth. More realistically, and more importantly, Christians could refuse to rent to unmarried couples living together, to homosexual couples, and the like. On the other hand, this would also remove a mechanism for Christians to use to sue secularist employers who fire them purely for their Christian beliefs.

        As the rest of my comment implied, however, in the world we presently live in I do support lawsuits from Christians for blatant religious discrimination, as in a recent case where a Fox sports announcer (so much for the myth that Fox is “conservative”) was fired merely for his support of real marriage, a support he had voiced previous to his employment and entirely separately from his position as a sports announcer. If Christians do not avail themselves of such laws, we will continue to get what I referred to as “the worst of both worlds,” in which Christians must employ virulent secularists who deride their faith, homosexuals who flaunt their behavior, and so forth, but secularist companies can run Christians out of a livelihood.

        But in my opinion it would be more ideal if societal “punishments” of a private association sort could be worked both ways. This is an _endorsement_ of one _kind_ of “punishment” for “thought crime,” and actually a rather effective one. I imagine that anyone who had really thoroughly adopted a “liberal narrative” would be uncomfortable with that endorsement and would really prefer a world in which to some degree non-discrimination was the law of the land for private associations.

    • My comment was not directed at the issue of torture (which I oppose) per se but to the larger narrative. This simplistic narrative of America/modernity = good Christendom/Tradition = bad. It is one I typically focus on quite a bit.

      • Ah. Well, whatever you may have gathered from a paragraph or two of the millions of words she has written online, Lydia doesn’t subscribe to that narrative. She believes that some things are absolutely wrong for anyone to do. And she considers modern America among the most wicked societies that has ever existed, for its millions upon millions of murders of the helpless and innocent.

      • I certainly do not think that American modernity = good, for the reasons Kristor has stated and of course many others. No doubt,however, if Ita knew all of my views we would have many disagreements, and some of those would have to do with whether it would be a good idea to go back to the culture of medieval Europe. It’s funny, though, that he makes such sweeping statements about what my views are based apparently on my saying that the state shouldn’t punish people for being Catholics or Protestants or holding and teaching some particular economic view–that is, for “thought crimes” very narrowly construed. It was indeed that one paragraph that he seized upon to make his sweeping generalizations. In this sort of thing, however, Ita is rather typical of a type of traditionalist I have run into before, and his approval isn’t terribly important to me. I _infer_ from his comments that he would consider actually burning heretics at the stake to be excessive but thinks that, I dunno, imprisoning them for life? killing them more humanely?, would probably be a good idea. Or at least imprisoning them for long terms to discourage their heresy. And anyone who disagrees is embracing a triumphalist American narrative. This is tired stuff.

        I would submit to you, Ita, that the world of other human beings is a little more complex than that and that you will probably run into many people who have a mix of views that don’t fit into the categories you’ve constructed.

    • First to everyone let me apologize for my poorly worded and choppy comments.
      Lydia,
      Your recent comment far from refuting me only bolsters my original contention. Now I admit I have not read everything you have ever written but I do not think it an unfair “generalization” to describe your views as typically approximating as libertarnish right-liberal perspective and now there are two comments on this thread that validate that.

      • I certainly do not think that American modernity = good

        You are misrepresenting what I said. I said America/modernity. The slash mark typically indicates “or” I did not use it as an adjective. So you completely missed the point.

        It was indeed that one paragraph that he seized upon to make his sweeping generalizations. In this sort of thing

        Incorrect again. I do not need to go through an exhaustive listing of your positions when you make them quite clear here and they are substantially on point. To characterize you as a right libertarian is not at all unfair or a sweeping generalization. As noted above you more or less confirm yourself as one.

        , Ita is rather typical of a type of traditionalist I have run into before, and his approval isn’t terribly important to me

        My original comment was not even really directed at you. You were not even named in it. You assumed it was and hijacked yet another thread throwing out not terribly impressive arguments (to borrow a phrase of yours).

        What gets awfully tiring are right liberals such as yourself coming in and trying to pass yourself off as some kind of traditionalist particularly given the abysmal failure of libertarian/right liberal “political action” this is further demonstrated by your cartoonish free society argument above.

        I would submit to you, Ita, that the world of other human beings is a little more complex than that and that you will probably run into many people who have a mix of views that don’t fit into the categories you’ve constructed.

        I agree many people are a “complex” but we are in luck because you and your ideas are not terribly complex.

        Also where did I ever say I “wanted to go back to Medieval Europe?”

      • Whatever, if labeling me makes you feel-so-good. But your categories are overly simplistic, nonetheless. For example, the libertarians would never let me carry a card for many-a reason. Here are just a few of those reasons: I believe in outlawing pornography, prostitution, euthanasia, and abortion. I do not believe that one can possibly build a society in which the only laws are those against force and fraud. I have no problem with local statutes against public indecency and cussing. I’m therefore not a free-speech absolutist. I defend one-man-one-woman marriage (the libertarian party was proud of its defense of homosexual “marriage” in this most recent election).

        But the fact is that unless one is a reactionary of your particular stripe, Ita, one is going to get labeled as “adopting the liberal narrative.” This started with my saying that people shouldn’t be burned at the stake for their religious views! At the same time, you don’t want to insult your blog hosts here, so you try to pretend that all of the contributors here are on-board with your particular brand of reactionary policies, even though that’s also pretty clearly not true. What you would like is to label me as the sole “liberal” and alien element, but because things are more complex than that, you can’t fit it all into your grid.

        Here’s just another example: A person who had really adopted the liberal narrative would be _extremely_ uncomfortable with allowing freedom of association to result in shunning. This fact does put the modern semi-liberal at odds with the die-hard libertarian. Because I would support permitting shunning if it were allowed even-handedly, you find it convenient to label me “libertarian-ish right-liberal,” but in fact the libertarians and the right-liberals don’t even agree on everything among themselves, and both of them would disagree with me on many, many things! You should really just give it up.

      • Oh I do not doubt for one second that there are a great number distinctions and disputes within the broader right liberal context. I have observed that while philosophically impoverished, many of these disagreements often times reveal glaring inconsistencies for example Fredrick Hayek’s support for the brutal Fascist dictator Pinochet. To me it demonstrates how many libertarians and right liberals are all around muddled thinkers or in some cases at worst intellectual frauds. Given your previous thoughts regarding free association and your most subsequent policy statements above I can only conclude that’s yours suffers from many of these same inconsistencies. Clearly your definition of liberal is much narrower than mine.
        At the same time, you don’t want to insult your blog hosts here, so you try to pretend that all of the contributors here are on-board with your particular brand of reactionary policies, even though that’s also pretty clearly not true.
        Could please point out where I have said or done this? I do not appreciate wild accusations.
        I would not at all classify myself as a “reactionary” since being a reactionary around this part of web entails being a combination of a cad, scientific racist and a devotee of Hans Herman Hoppe. No thank you.

      • What was my “cartoonish free society argument”? Was it the one where I supported permitting shunning? Heck, talk about not being able to win! There are a heck of a lot of liberals out there who would freak out over the traditionalism of such a suggestion! They would, indeed, take any such discrimination to be an example of the punishment of contrary views or even possibly the kind of “human sacrifice” referenced in the main post!

      • Let me add, Ita, that I would *much rather* discuss the main post than myself and my views. It is you who have insisted on a side discussion on the latter topic.

        Here are a couple of things one cd. discuss re. the main post:

        1) Is it in fact true to say that, when society (including leftist society) punishes dissenters this is a kind of ritual purification? Are there counterexamples that don’t fit that description?

        2) What ever happened to Leo? He had a particular attempted tu quoque in response to the main post? I attempted to answer that by saying that Christianity may be a necessary but not a sufficient condition for preventing persecution of dissenters as a false ritual of purification. Was that answer sufficient to his challenge?

      • Again I have to say in my defense my original comment was directly mainly at Leo and the main post-not at you. I shouldn’t have to spell that out every time.

  15. God’s punishment of the damned by eternal hellfire seems pretty extreme. A stake burning, in the right situation, could save some souls from damnation.

    • Yeah, but that end is not enough to justify the means. After all, if you had a bunch of people who were about to repudiate their salvation by falling away from the faith, you could save them from doing so, and from everlasting damnation, by just dousing them all with gasoline and setting them afire. Cheap, efficient. In the limit, if you killed everyone alive, you’d save millions of souls from the mortal sins they might otherwise have committed.

      Better to counter false preaching with true, wickedness with righteousness.

    • This argument is actually used by Catholics to justify death penalty. That the immediate prospect of death could lead one to repentance.

      But the argument is not sufficient. The death penalty is a matter of temporal justice and the State.

      It would be unjust to sentence a person to death in order to save his soul.
      This is the way to the Grand Inquisitor.

      • It’s a side benefit. It I were to be executed, I think it would be good for it to be public and frightening, to scare the hell into people who otherwise are sleep walking through life and will end up in hell.

  16. It occurs to me that liberalism has generated a professional calling, that of the “community organizer,” whose purpose is to foment a mob and goad it into an immolation. Having been a “community organizer” was the much-touted virtue of a certain public figure when he emerged into national politics more or less recently.

    That a community requires organization implies that its current state is some kind or degree of dis-organization. That is, it is in crisis.

    Returning to Kristor’s powerful insight that the modern requirement for scapegoats continuously accelerates – we might think again also of the lines that I quoted from Baudelaire’s sonnet, the ones indicative of the bliss experienced by the lynch mob on completion of its errand. As in any other species of inebriation, the inebriate will require ever stronger doses of the stimulant in order to achieve the same level of emotional-physiological discharge. Sacrifice is addictive. Its adherents are addicts.

  17. Bill Buckley was precisely right to label Brent Bozell ‘Anti-American” since America is defined by liberal principles.
    However, the Reaction, if it means something at all, can not accept the conservative interpretation of the 1st Amendment. There can be no unlimited freedom of expression. Political stability can not coexist with absolute freedom. You can not preach communism in a libertarian state and vice-versa.
    The great error of the conservatives, and which they do not acknowledge, has been their fanatic and dogmatic adherence to an absolute interpretation of 1st Amendment by which they handed over the nation to all sort of progressives and ideological adventurers and madmen.

    As Reaction, we must reject
    (A) Political Equality
    (B) 1st Amendment absolutism.

  18. Kristor,

    You err in reducing the nation to the ruler.

    A nation is an irreducible element of human organization that has a natural right to self-preservation. That includes its customs, laws, its ways etc etc.

    You further err in neglecting the rationality of those that seek to conserve the nation. You ignore the rational element and thus see only arbitrariness. That Stalin period was of arbitrary decrees and punishments is very well-known. Read any page of Gulag Archipelago.

    If rounding up of Christians were to serve the common good of any nation, it would be just. Certain nations are in fact justified in suppressing the political rights of troublesome minorities if the national ethos so demands.

    But no nation is justified in suppressing the natural rights of any minority.

    • So it’s perfectly OK for the American PC police to come round me up, and you, and Ita Sripta Est, and Lydia, and take us out into the countryside and shoot us. Because we are a troublesome minority. Right? Ditto for the Nazis rounding up the priests, or the Bulgarians. When the Muslims firebomb Coptic churches, or Anglican churches in Pakistan, that’s just the nation exercising its right to self-preservation. No problem.

      And when the Aztecs sacrificed thousands of their captives every day, that was just peachy. Is that what you are saying?

      I didn’t reduce the nation to the ruler. That’s an unjustified inference. The ruler is the sovereign of the whole people as the embodiment thereof, the leader and head and chief. When he acts in his official capacity, the people act. That’s the theory, anyway; that’s the way a just ruler ought to rule.

      You write:

      Certain nations are in fact justified in suppressing the political rights of troublesome minorities if the national ethos so demands.

      And then immediately you write:

      But no nation is justified in suppressing the natural rights of any minority.

      Is it not clear to you that – at least as you have expressed them – these two propositions contradict each other immaculately? The right to exist in a polis is political right; the right to live is a natural right that is also a political right. It is a political right *because* it is a natural right.

      • A nation could justly deny political equality to certain groups. Once all nations did so.

        But they did not go around killing and looting members of these groups.
        This is the difference between “political rights” and “natural rights” that you do not seem able to distinguish.

        “The right to exist in a polis is political right”

        NO. It is the right to exist as a citizen in the polis, that is a political right.

        If a nation, after rational deliberation as to the common good, acts without violating natural rights, it is one thing.
        It is quite another thing if a nation or a govt -more likely–acts arbitrarily-l that is, with no consideration to natural rights and common good.

        This is the difference between Internment of Japanese and Stalinist resettlement of nations.

        American discourse operates under 1st Amendment –absolutist interpretation. Thus it would be unjust in American law to prosecute the reaction. But it is not unjust per se to prosecute a seditious group. Dostoevsky was sentenced to death for disseminating liberal literature. Did he ever say that it was unjust?

    • “When the Muslims firebomb Coptic churches, or Anglican churches in Pakistan, that’s just the nation exercising its right to self-preservation”

      It is true to a certain extent. What you are describing is warfare between nations.

    • What is the point of being a Reaction if we have to accept the liberal/conservative positions?
      I submit that a Reactionary interpretation of the 1st Amendment is concerned with
      A) Political talk within the mainstream, either broadly or narrowly, depending upon the circumstance. That is, a citizen can criticize political figures but may not argue for communism or restoration of monarchy
      B) Religious talk within the Western tradition.

      • Vishmehr, I think I see what you are getting at, and I think you are making some important points. But I confess I’ve been a little confused by your comments. You are covering a lot of ground, but only touching it here and there; so I am working hard to follow you in your leaps! But, I may not be following quite well enough. Allow me then to respond as best I can, and please feel free to correct me if I have misunderstood you.

        The basic problem, I think, is that you are rolling up into the category of scapegoating a number of quite different sorts of political operations: of justice, national or cultural self-defense, maintenance of religious order, and so forth. You are not alone in this – I joined in it, and much of the rest of the discussion in this thread has done likewise. And this is not really surprising, for any of these procedures can, and often do, elide over into scapegoating. Humans are prone to fall into scaping goats at any time, and any proceeding in which society must cope with an Other of some sort is prone to such a fall.

        My responses to what you have said in this thread have been colored by my first reactions thereto. I heard you saying scapegoating is *just fine.* It is, to be sure, quite natural to our fallen condition, so that most human cultures have indulged themselves in the practice one way or another. But thanks to the Gospel, we can know that it is not natural to our proper condition, so that Christian civilization has more or less succeeded in abjuring it. Or tried to, anyway.

        At any rate, as I read over your comments, I realize that you are not in fact saying any such thing as that persecution or scapegoating are A-OK. You are saying, rather – if I am reading you correctly – that it is perfectly OK for a culture to defend itself against an Other, provided that it does so justly, as e.g. under just war theory, or under the discipline of due process of law – provided, i.e., that it is *not scapegoating.* Thus, e.g., the Inquisition’s prosecutions in late medieval Iberia would not qualify as scapegoating, because they were undertaken with the most scrupulous care to judicial propriety, as it was then understood (with the effect, it must be said, that the overwhelming majority of accusations of heresy were dismissed peremptorily, as utterly groundless). Nor, even, would the executions of Joan of Arc, Thomas More or Jan Hus (albeit that these trials seem to have been radically defective, under the procedural standards of their days). With this I would agree. If Rodney Stark’s research findings are to be credited, the general effect of the Church’s lawyers and their jurisprudential scruples on the Inquisition, the pogroms, and the witch hunts was to meliorate what would otherwise have been a bloodbath.

        No society can coordinate its activities efficiently unless almost all its members agree more or less completely to its basic operating assumptions. This is one reason why mimesis is so crucial to social order, to harmony and agreement. If everyone agrees on the proper way to go about things, given their shared notions about the way the world works, then they have a much better shot at cooperating preconsciously, and without having to work through irritating and costly negotiations at every step of the social game. Social life is then characterized by smooth and pleasant flow, rather than a constant series of tense encounters (as is so often the case with the cosmopolitan life of our modern cities). It is then right and proper that a society should eject from its midst those who radically disagree with its basic presuppositions. In this sense, it is altogether fitting and proper that modern America should spew forth such as Zippy, you, Lydia, or me; for we all reject its most basic presuppositions.

        But – and this is your great point, as I have taken what you’ve said – such spewing can be just only provided that it is the outcome of a due process of law. Now this can vary widely from time to time, but what it boils down to, in practice, is simply that so long as mob rule is avoided, justice has a shot at being done. And this is tantamount to saying, that so long as mob rule is avoided, the polis has a shot at defending itself from its true adversaries, and neutralizing its true threats. Due process of law is, after all, at bottom just a set of procedural protocols aimed at providing a reliable way of discovering the truth, and responding appropriately thereto. Or else, it is nothing at all.

        The problem is that mob rule is seldom altogether avoided. Mobs have a way of influencing judicial proceedings, if only by such pressure of mimesis as prompted John Roberts to find *some way or other* to approve of Obamacare. So the spectre of the mob, and the threat to its potential scapegoats, is ever present, ever operative. Except under a government of saints, or as Plato called them, philosopher kings, most of the operations of government are going to be somewhat tainted by mob rule, and by the ubiquitous urge to obtain catharsis and relief from sin, by pinning it onto a scapegoat. In such circumstances, any slightest eccentricity of thought, word or deed could prove the doom of an unfortunate oddball.

        And – what is most important of this whole analysis – the exile or ostracism of such an oddball is, under the tender ministrations of mob rule, likely to provide only the most fleeting relief from the social and personal anxiety generated by a conviction of moral defect. Indeed, the persecution of the scapegoat cannot but generate in the people a marginal increase in their conviction of their own sinfulness; for, however strong the gratification that accompanies the renewed social cohesion that follows the expulsion of the scapegoat, most people are not moral idiots, and therefore understand that in persecuting the scapegoat they have perpetrated upon the polis, and upon the cosmos, and upon the body of God, yet another injustice, for which they must inevitably pay. The persecution of a given scapegoat, then, is perfectly analogous to a given fix of heroin: sure, it sates the craving for a time, but it also trains the whole system to crave. Thus, the insatiability of the Maw of Moloch. That addiction can deform and deprave all the operations of social justice. So doing, it ruins society.

        And that is why it is so easy to fall into the error of conflating every punishment with scapegoating. Such conflations are often accurate – which is to say, that they often happen in practice, as well as in thought; but, categorically, scapegoating is *not at all the same* as the operations of justice.

        Where does all this leave us, with respect to the persecution of us, the politically incorrect, by the powers that be? Is our persecution just, and right, and so (by our own lights) to be welcomed? Is the coming persecution of Christians nothing more than the perfectly normal, and indeed laudable, attempt of a cultus to defend its own existence?

        No. For in addition to everything that I have so far said, in which I think I have agreed with you, there is also the point that Tom Bertonneau has adduced: to wit, some societies or cultures – the Aztecs come prominently to mind – are objectively evil, and ought to be wiped out. It comes down finally to the Good. Cultures must be aimed at discovering and serving the Good, in their operations of due process as in everything else, or they are just wicked. In that event, the due process of law is just Satan the Prosecutor having his way with us, with no word allowed entry to the Court from our Paraclete and Advocate, our attorney and champion.

        It is one thing, a thing right and good, for a culture to eject from its midst such adversarial salients as threaten its existence. But what we face today is a culture aimed at demolishing the very principles that gave it life in the first place, and that sustain that life. The West is repudiating the factors of the West. Such are the operations of political correctness, in our day. This is what happens when a culture loses its cultus – when, in our case, it loses both its chthonic paganism and the Christian synthesis and transcendence of any merely mundane life, which that paganism engendered, and which enfolded and translated its pagan matrix into a higher synthesis. The inward urge to catharsis does not vanish with the repudiation of its moral basis in the order of being. On the contrary, it must and will be served.

        So, bottom line: absent a Great Awakening, we are basically screwed.

      • Kristor,

        I agree with you and I would only add that
        “Is our persecution just, and right, and so (by our own lights) to be welcomed? Is the coming persecution of Christians nothing more than the perfectly normal, and indeed laudable, attempt of a cultus to defend its own existence?”
        I do not maintain that our persecution is just. It would be very strange for me to say so. Only that it is to be expected. But there is nothing laudable (from our perspective).

        That is, if the culture A has right to assert itself, so does the culture B. Indeed, “right” is not the operating word. It is either a culture or a nation asserts and fights or it does not, and submits.

      • Kristor, do I take you correctly to be saying

        a) that you define the concept of scapegoating in such a way that it is incompatible with a scrupulous application of a purely procedural rule of law,

        and

        b) that punishments that do follow such a procedural rule may nevertheless be wrong, even terribly wrong, even if they do not count as scapegoating?

        So, for example: Imagine a society in which believing in UFO’s is considered particularly pernicious for some reason. In this imaginary society, people who believe in UFO’s and who let this belief be known are convicted of so believing and so teaching by a scrupulous procedural application of the rule of law and, pursuant to the written laws, are upon conviction taken out and executed–say, by lethal injection or by being shot in the base of the brain. Is the idea that this isn’t scapegoating? Can we then still say that it’s definitely wrong?

      • Yes to B, no to A. Thanks to prosecutorial discretion, the whims of jurists and juries, and so forth, a process of law that is carried out with immaculate formal propriety may become an instrument of scapegoating.

        I should say also that mobs are not always unjust. Vigilante justice is not an oxymoron. But it is more prone than are formal procedures to descend into cathartic violence against an innocent; which is why it is generally discouraged by duly constituted authority.

        WRT your UFO example: no, such punishments would not in themselves be scapegoating, but could nevertheless be evil.

      • Many unjust things are nevertheless not scapegoating. For example, the Stalinist terror, in general, was not scapegoating, it was terrorizing the population, pure and simple.
        While the trials of “wreckers” were classically scapegoating.

        The essence of scapegoating, in my opinion, is building up of a national consensus through imputing blame on an innocent. So, there must be an intention of building a consensus.

      • “scrupulous application of a purely procedural rule of law,”
        It would be better if the procedure partakes of a degree of rationality. A mumbo-jumbo kind of rule of law–Aztec could well be example here-could be procedural but they would fail the rationality criterion.

      • ” believing in UFO’s is considered particularly pernicious for some reason.”
        Is this reason valid or arbitrary?
        people who believe in UFO’s and who let this belief be known are convicted ”
        Do they merely disbelieve or actively preach their disbelief and incite others to disobey and subvert the State?

      • “No society can coordinate its activities efficiently unless almost all its members agree more or less completely to its basic operating assumptions”

        And the reason they agree is that they have actually been formed by the said society.
        The society precedes its members.
        However, the social contract is correct too-any society proceeds through the consent of its members. Since any member could refuse to give consent and loyalty at any time. That is, a person could outlaw himself.

    • Vishmehr errs in confusing the empirical with the moral or the metaphysical. (An error of which Lydia, by the way, is entirely innocent.) It is certainly in the nature of nations, just as it is in the nature of individuals, to arrange for to their own survival – and that is what they are inclined to do. Immoral nations, like the Aztec Empire or Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge Republic, have, however, no moral or metaphysical right to their own survival even when, on the empirical scene, they manage to survive. This is because morality is objective and singular; it is not a subjective fiction, and therefore poly-logical, as it pretends to be in Marxist and multicultural discourse. On the contrary, morally speaking, immoral nations, like the Aztec Empire or Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge Republic, richly deserve to perish.

      • CS Lewis has written somewhere that when we talk about Hell, it is our possible damnation that we should keep foremost in mind, not our enemy’s and neither our friend’s.

        Immoral nation?. Which nation is not?

  19. ironically, we see here the liberal ratchet in action. A judicial action of the Church, through a trial in which the human dignity was preserved, an international council that exercised rational deliberation maybe imperfectly, with repentance offered, compared with Aztec mass human sacrifices, Nazi massacres and Stalinist trials.

    There is no appreciation of legality and due deliberation. It is as if we say the Troika of GPU sentences to death and so does the bench of Supreme Court of USA. And this next step on the liberal ratchet is employed by liberals, of course.

  20. It is unobjectionable to call the trial of Jan Hus a miscarriage of justice. But note what this means–that the Church was seeking justice.

    Justice, and not a scapegoat or sacrificial victim.

    And certainly, Aztecs or Nazis or Stalin were not intent on any thing close to Justice.

    To regard religious differences as unworthy of court trials and prosecution is to take a liberal view of religion as a private hobby.

    But Christendom was defined by religion. And we know how important the dogmas were, even in purely secular life.

    The failure to contain the Protestants did cost half of the population of Germany. So the Church and the Empire were correct in taking heretics seriously

  21. Pingback: Dark Brightness | Against the eleventh commandment.

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