Expecting The Inquisition

by Rebecca Bynum (July 2008)


One who, as non-specialist observes contemporary philosophical trends, may discern two opposite and contending views of reality which chiefly concern the location and genesis of evil. One the one hand, is the traditional Judeo-Christian view, but which may also encompass, broadly speaking, Oriental traditions such as Confucianism, Taoism and to some extent, Buddhism, which locate the origin of evil internally, that is, within the selfish human heart. In this view, man is born with the potential for good and for evil within himself. It is the task of the mind to distinguish and then choose between these contending tendencies or principles through contact with the outer world, and by making decisions within that reality, to move toward the good and eliminate the evil internally. In this way character is developed and the soul made more solid and real. On the other hand, is the viewpoint that man is born in innocence and essential goodness and that it is outside forces which primarily engender evil and cause internal discord. In this view, the human decision-making process mainly concerns distinguishing good from evil in exterior reality, and thus the intention and effort to do good in the world is the primary factor determining righteousness and well-being. On this side, Islam rests squarely along with material secularism but, there is a marked tendency in many Christian churches and Jewish synagogues toward this viewpoint as well. A good summary of the first viewpoint is found in John Milton’s Areopagitica:


“Assuredly we bring not innocence into the world, we bring impurity much rather: that which purifies us is trial, and trial is by what is contrary. That virtue therefore which is but a youngling in the contemplation of evil and knows not the utmost that vice promises her followers, and rejects it, is but a blank virtue, not pure; her whiteness but an excremental [superficial] whiteness…Since therefore the knowledge and survey of vice is in this world so necessary to the constituting of human virtue, and the scanning of error to the confirmation of truth, how can we more safely and with less danger scout into the regions of sin and falsity than by reading all manner of tractates and hearing all manner of reason? And this is the benefit which may be had of books promiscuously read.”[1]

 

The concept of “purity” in Islam is almost entirely material. It concerns strict material conformity to Islamic ritual and strictures (thought to be the embodiment of God’s will), but largely leaves the interior world, which is such a focus of Eastern and Judeo-Christian thought, alone. Morality and conformity are one and the same in Islam. And the source of impurity is thought not to lie in the human heart, especially not the Muslim heart (only Muslims are thought to be born in innocence while non-Muslims are born in guilt), but in forces outside; thus the focus on female virginity and the fear touching “unclean things” (pork, dogs, urine, feces, dead bodies, non-Muslims, etc.). The thinking is these material contacts affect the soul and its destiny.

By contrast, in the Western tradition of opposing superstition, “There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.”[2] In other words, according to Jesus, it isn’t what goes into a man’s mouth, but rather what comes out, that makes him unclean. He was ever concerned with the inner man, not with ritual (this remark came in response to criticism of his failure to observe ritual washing) or outward displays of piety and it is this emphasis on personal inner purity and morality, or rather on the effort made toward inner purity, that has characterized the Western moral tradition ever since.

For those who drift along with the prevailing modern tendency to locate the source of evil in the outer world, many feel a strong social responsibility to stamp out corruption wherever it may be found so that it may not spread iniquity among the populace. (This concept is especially strong in Islam.) Those people, like the bureaucrats making up the various Human Rights Commissions, now sprouting all over the Western world, think of themselves as fighting evil and protecting society, even if by doing so they reduce grown men to the status of children. Who can forget the interrogation of Ezra Levant before the Alberta Human Rights Commission and how he refused to assume the position of a child, instead insisting on his freedom as a publisher and as a man to examine the news of the Muslim riots over the Muhammad cartoons (and to publish the source of that controversy - the cartoons) as he, a newspaperman, saw fit?[3]  

The Alberta Human Rights Commission (and several others, notably the British Columbia Human Rights Commission which is just finished hearing the case of Mclean’s magazine and Mark Steyn) seeks to impose a middle ground between two diametrically opposed systems of thought in the interest of social harmony. They do so using the excuse that the act of publishing these mild cartoons, which were the cause of world-wide violence and threats of further violence by Muslims, or that of pointing out, with alarm, the current demographic trends in Europe, would directly cause prejudice against Muslims in Canada. In short they seek the suppression of speech and the press in order to promote social harmony and create in society the virtue of temperance. As Milton writes,


“How great a virtue is temperance, how much of moment through the whole life of man! Yet God commits the managing so great a trust, without particular law or prescription, wholly to the demeanor of every grown man…God uses not to captivate under a perpetual childhood of prescription but trusts him with the gift of reason to be his own chooser.”[4]

Islam is emphatically opposite: God does give law to man to make him temperate and to create a perfect utopian society; and the fact is, material secularism provides no basis with which to argue that virtue should not be encouraged or even prescribed by law. At the same time, “human rights” are imagined to be some kind of absolute and yet an absolute without any logical grounding in transcendent absolute. They just “are” in the way that the catagories of haram and halal just “are” in Islam - a basis of morality, and yet, when two “human rights” contend, as in this case, where the right to freedom of the press and freedom of speech come up against the right not to be offended which is almost, at least according to the HRCs concerned, indistinguishable from the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of religion, then, if the goal is to make both rights compatible, one or the other must bend. Thus, human rights are not absolute at all and can easily be erased “at the drop of a law.”[5]

Another problem with the effort to modify a fundamental human right like freedom of the press and freedom of speech is there is no practical stopping place of restraint between complete freedom and total suppression, as explained by Alexis de Tocqueville:


“If anyone could point out an intermediate and yet a tenable position between the complete independence and the entire servitude of opinion, I should perhaps be inclined to adopt it, but the difficulty is to discover this intermediate position. Intending to correct the licentiousness of the press and to restore the use of orderly language, you first try the offender by a jury; but if the jury acquits him, the opinion which was that of a single individual becomes the opinion of the whole country. Too much and too little has therefore been done; go farther, then. You bring the delinquent before permanent magistrates; but even here the cause must be heard before it can be decided; and the very principles which no book would have ventured to avow are blazoned forth in the pleadings, and what was obscurely hinted at in a single composition is thus repeated in a multitude of other publications. The language is only the expression, and if I may so speak, the body of the thought, but it is not the thought itself. Tribunals may condemn the body, but the sense, the spirit of the work is too subtle for their authority. Too much has still been done to recede, too little to attain your end; you must go still farther. Establish a censorship of the press. But the tongue of the public speaker will still make itself heard, and your purpose is not yet accomplished; you have only increased the mischief. Thought is not, like physical strength, dependant on the number of its agents; nor can authors be counted like the troops that compose an army. On the contrary, the authority of a principle is often increased by the small number of men by whom it is expressed. The words of one strong-minded man addressed to the passions of a listening assembly have more power than the vociferations of a thousand orators; and if it be allowed is the same as if free speaking was allowed in very village. The liberty of speech must therefore be destroyed as well as the liberty of the press. And now you have succeeded, everybody is reduced to silence. But your object was to repress the abuses of liberty, and you are brought to the feet of a despot. You have been led from the extreme of independence to the extreme of servitude without finding a single tenable position on the way at which you could stop.

(…)

“In this question, therefore, there is no medium between servitude and license; in order to enjoy the inestimable benefits that the liberty of the press ensures, it is necessary to submit to the inevitable evils it creates. To expect to acquire the former and escape the latter is to cherish one of those illusions which commonly mislead nations in their times of sickness when, tired with faction and exhausted by effort, they attempt to make hostile opinions and contrary principles coexist upon the same soil.”[6]

 

Certainly, when we Americans gaze across the Atlantic, we see many nations “in their times of sickness” which seems to have lost their way, are confused, and forgetful of their own origins and identities. They have been uprooted from their Christian past and material secularism provides no ultimate defense against parasitic Islam. Secularists claim to be able to find the answer in human rights, but as we have seen, if these rights are not grounded in transcendent value, they are meaningless. Milton argues that freedom of expression is given by God and can therefore not be removed without transgressing the divine mandate. Freedom of expression is freedom of thought and thought and imagination are the only means mortal man has to escape crushing material reality. Freedom of thought is where real freedom lies.  But, even if the authority of Christ is removed, there are still more arguments to make in favor of freedom of speech and the press that can be derived from common sense knowledge of human beings.


“[I]f it be true that a wise man like a good refiner can gather gold out of the drossiest volume, and that a fool will be a fool with the best book, yea without a book, there is no reason that we should deprive the wise man of any advantage to his wisdom, while we seek to restrain from a fool that which being restrained will be no hindrance to his folly”[7]

(…)

“If therefore ye be loath to dishearten and utterly discontent, not the mercenary crew of false pretenders to learning, but the free and ingenious sort of such as evidently were born to study and love learning for itself, not for lucre or any other end but the service of God and of truth, and perhaps that lasting fame and perpetuity of praise which God and good men have consented shall be the reward of those whose published labors advance the good of mankind, then know, that so far to distrust the judgment and honesty of one who hath but a common repute in learning, and never yet offended, as not to count him fit to print his mind without a tutor and examiner, lest he should drop a schism or something of corruption, is the greatest displeasure and indignity to a free and knowing spirit that can be put upon him.”[8]

 

There will be those who argue that to regulate speech for the common good is but an inconvenience for the few who would bring disharmony and agitation to the masses and that the majority of people will be blissfully unaffected but, such turns out not to be the case. Freedom of expression, which is simply the "clothing" of freedom of thought, is the cornerstone and basis of all real freedom and it is exactly that freedom which is targeted by Islam, which, as is widely known, prohibits any criticism of itself by prescribing death for blasphemy (criticism of Islam or Muhammad) and for apostasy (leaving Islam). Thus, if Muslims can succeed in disallowing criticism of Islam in the West through the use of hate speech legislation, they will have effectively bound the Western world philosophically and imprisoned the Western genius, so Islam’s ultimate ascendancy will simply be a matter of time. Thus, the line must be drawn at freedom of speech and the press or it cannot be drawn anywhere.

A key strategy for Muslims and their sympathizers is to seek to elevate “freedom of religion” to a level of transcendence over the more fundamental freedom of thought and speech. Of course, the full and free exercise of the Islamic religion, would carry with it the supremacy of Islamic law over Infidel law and over Infidel territory, a situation the American Founders could not possibly have contemplated. Freedom of thought, and thus freedom itself, would be rendered null and void. When contemplating freedom of religion it is relevant to remember we do not allow many abhorrent practices that have been committed at one time or another during the course of human history in the name of religion. If we go so far as to proscribe certain sacraments, which we do, such as the use of peyote in American Indian rituals, we can certainly proscribe certain doctrines especially one that divides the world and all its souls into mutually hostile camps and advocates hatred and violence on the part of one side against the other. Furthermore, it is important to remember we do not allow the full and free practice of Islam now. To do so would require the exchange of our civilization for theirs.

Nevertheless, the overwhelming tendency in the Western world today is toward the restriction of speech (see Ezra Levant, Mark Steyn, Oriana Fallaci, Brigitte Bardot and all those in the future who will undoubtedly come under official censure for speaking their minds about Islam) and just as the ultimate symbol of the previous Dark Age was the Inquisition (even though those Inquisitions actually occured later), we may fully expect a new Dark Age to be ushered in by a new Inquisition which, just like the previous one, will be conducted for our own good.



[1] John Milton “Areopagitica” in The Complete Poetry and Essential Prose of John Milton (Edited by William Kerrigan, John Rumrich and Stephen M. Fallon, Modern Library, New York, 2007) page 939

[2] King James Bible, Mark 7:15

[3] See http://ezralevant.com/

[4] John Milton “Areopagitica” in The Complete Poetry and Essential Prose of John Milton (Edited by William Kerrigan, John Rumrich and Stephen M. Fallon, Modern Library, New York, 2007) pg. 938

[5] See Dalrymple, Theodore, “Who Cares?” New English Review (August 2006)

[6] Alexis de Tocqueville Democracy In America Vol. 1 (Henry Reeve text as revised by Francis Bowen, Phillips Bradley editor; Vintage Books, New York, 1945) pgs. 188-9 and 192

[7] John Milton “Areopagitica” in The Complete Poetry and Essential Prose of John Milton (Edited by William Kerrigan, John Rumrich and Stephen M. Fallon, Modern Library, New York, 2007) pg. 943

[8] ibid pgs. 946-7

 


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