“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme,” said Mark Twain, and that certainly seems true today. It has been noted in this column and elsewhere that the Enlightenment’s insistence on setting Reason up as a god was due in no small part to Luther’s insistence that Reason was the whore of the devil. Luther’s “faith alone” theology brought about the “reason alone” backlash that was the Enlightenment.
But, the two did agree on some things. For instance, while Luther and Voltaire fought each other bitterly, they did unite against their common enemy: the Catholic Church.
Today, we see a remarkably similar thing taking place. Where Luther insisted on faith alone, Islam insists on rote memorization and constant emulation of the Prophet Mohammed. Where Voltaire insisted on the pre-eminence of Reason, the secular humanists today insist on the pre-eminence of the self. The Marquis de Sade and his modern counterparts have been transformed from lunatics (which is how de Sade was viewed by his contemporaries) to heros. Libertinism is the order of the day.
So, where the first titanic struggle was between faith and reason, this second titanic struggle is between slavery and license. And, as in the first struggle, the common enemy is Christianity, especially Catholic Christianity.
Catholic Christianity has uniquely challenged all competing philosophies and theologies to an extent that few commentators seem willing to consider. Take, for example, the simple system of numbering the Ten Commandments. There are three ways to do it: the Hebrew method, the Protestant method and the Catholic method. Of the three, only the Catholics separate the coveting of a neighbor’s livestock from the coveting of his wife. That is, only the Catholic ordering recognizes that sins against objects differ fundamentally from sins against persons.
Similarly, Catholicism uniquely moderated other philosophies. Precisely because Judaism spent a millennium under Catholic influence, Jews no longer stone members of their community to death for fornication. Precisely because Islam lacked that Christian guidance, Muslims still do. The Christianity that wiped out Aztec human sacrifice, stopped Hindus from forcing their widows onto the funeral pyre, and destroyed the Thuggee cult of ritual murder found its moral force in a world-view that retained an understanding of the Catholic theology on personhood.
Unfortunately, as non-Catholic Christian theology loses its grip on these Catholic concepts, it has degenerated into secular licentiousness. Our culture has again begun to endorse wife-killing and ritual murder.
In this respect, Terri Schiavo is merely a prominent example of a larger trend in murder-suicides. It has already been noted that most such actions are literally triggered by men who murder their often unwilling wives before turning the gun on themselves. Similarly, embryonic stem cell research and abortion have become ritually endorsed by almost all who seek higher office, despite glaring medical evidence that both involve the murder of children.
And here is the most interesting thing about this 21st-century version of the Thirty Years’ War. The struggle between secular humanism and Islam does not just attack the Bride of Christ, it attacks women in general.
Islam views women as the source of most moral evil. According to Mohammed, hell is populated primarily by women. In the same way, secular humanism endorses a lifestyle of casual sex, casual contraception and casual abortion that disproportionately harms women.
And in that sense, it is hard to choose sides. After all, it doesn’t matter which side wins when both sides are wrong.