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Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Building the Wall

“Religion and politics makes a volatile mix,” or so many are in the habit of saying. That is, after all, the basic justification for Thomas Jefferson’s famed “wall of separation between Church and state,” a wall that was out of date almost from the New Year’s day in 1801 when it was proposed. To see why, let us consider our present situation.

Communism and socialism are the purest of economic theory, completely unencumbered by any hint of Christian fundamentalism. Yet, together, the rulers of communist and socialist nations have imprisoned, maimed and slaughtered more people than the last two world wars combined. According to the UN Genocide convention, Stalin alone killed 62 million people, slaughtering more Ukranians then his nearest mustache-laden rival.

Likewise, Mao tse Tung produced 3 million body bags, all opponents of his economic policies, in his first five years in power. The number who died in subsequent years, especially during Mao’s Great Leap Forward, the economic policy that drove huge sections of the countryside to starvation and cannibalism, will probably never be known.

Pol Pot only killed a million, but he did as well on a per capita basis as either of his more well-known rivals. And, of course, we can’t leave out the most well-known economist of all, the national socialist Adolf Hitler. Though he started well, he was relatively ineffective, killing only 12 million in death camps during the war and several hundred thousand in the years leading to it.

It is, of course, unfair to limit ourselves to the 20th century. Essentially every European war since the mid-1700’s has been driven in whole or part by the science of economics. The French Revolution guillotined tens of thousands, millions more died during the Napoleonic wars that subsequently swept the whole of Europe. The American Civil War tested the economic viability of slavery. England killed tens of thousands of Chinese in the Opium Wars, a kind of reverse drug war. In that episode, the British trade imbalance with China was solved by forcing China to become a nation of opium addicts – the British controlled the opium trade, you see.

Clearly, we cannot be too careful. There should be a wall of separation between economics and the public sphere. After all, economics and politics are a volatile mix, as two centuries of decaying corpses illustrate. But wait. There’s more.

What about biology? Ignore the dissected frogs and newts, concentrate solely on severed human heads. Darwin published Origin of the Species in 1859 and The Descent of Man in 1871, just a year after the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war. Most people don’t realize just how strongly Darwin’s work influenced European intelligentsia. In the dozen years between 1859 and 1871, the ruling class of Europe embraced the “survival of the fittest.” They spoke of the “French race”, the “British race”, and the “German race.” The Franco-Prussian war was seen on all sides as an expression of scientific principles, a necessary Darwinian struggle. Of course, that war led directly to World War I which itself led directly to World War II. Indeed, many historians refer to this three-fold slaughterhouse as the modern Thirty Years’ War, our hymn of praise to the science of biology.

John Dwyer, in his remarkable work War Without Mercy, demonstrates that World War II was just as much about race as the Franco-Prussian war. The Japanese saw the Chinese as inferior, Americans saw the Japanese as inferior, and Germans saw Jews and Slavs as inferiors. The rationale that allowed Auschwitz also allowed the US to build Japanese internment camps for West-Coast citizens and prompted FDR to suggest that the entire German people should be sterilized; separated by a wall of impotence from the rest of human kind.

Obviously, biology and politics are a volatile mix. Federal grants for biological research, like tuition vouchers, violate this much-needed wall of separation. The wars of biology have built a much higher pile of corpses than all the wars of religion combined, while the internal and external wars of economics dwarf them both. If religion is banned from the public sphere, can anyone really assert that the others can safely stay?

Why did Jefferson think this wall of separation was needed? Because the American Revolution happened two hundred years too soon. Thomas Jefferson, was a well-read man, but he was completely ignorant of evolutionary theory. How could he be otherwise? It wouldn’t be invented for another fifty years. He knew Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, but knew not a thing of what Marx would write twenty years after Jefferson died. Besides, Jefferson was the man who re-wrote the Gospels by taking out all references to miracles. He didn’t believe in them, you see. He thought Jesus was a nice moral teacher, but not God. C.S. Lewis was not yet a gleam in his father’s eye, so Jefferson was unaware of the Liar, Lunatic, Lord argument, and he wasn’t smart enough to figure it out for himself.

Because economics was just barely becoming a science, Jefferson could not fully appreciate to what extent it contributed to the widespread carnage it wreaked even in his own day. Similarly, biology was not yet on a scientific footing, and its potential to promote slaughter was not appreciated.

Jefferson and his associates wanted a wall between religion and politics because religion was the only known cause of war. Take away religion and you take away reasons for conflict. They didn’t realize that religion was the language of war for the simple reason that it was the only mature system of thought Europeans possessed, the only language articulate enough to speak. No other system of thought had been sufficiently developed. Thus, when someone wanted to justify a war, a pillage, any sort of carnage at all, they used the only words available – religious words.

But here’s the interesting thing. As other systems of thought were developed, people had a choice: they could use religious rhetoric or they could use scientific rhetoric. As even a simple study of armed conflict since the Enlightenment shows, the ruling class has consistently used the language of science to justify their aggression, not the language of Christian faith. The reason is simple: Christian faith does not really lend itself to war. As soon as other languages were sufficiently strong to bear the burden, “Christian rationales” dropped away.

We should be clear. For whatever reason, the words of religious faith are still the preferred language for war in many parts of the world, but it is worthwhile to note that these rationales almost never employ words of Christian faith. Hitler invoked Wotan, jihadists invoke Islam, Indians invoke Hinduism, and the West uses the priests of science, but progressives who seek a firmer road towards mass murder have abandoned Christianity. For them, Jesus Christ is not the door. He is a wall that blocks their road.

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