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The Anti-Islamist Manifesto

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Perhaps some of you have seen the document titled, “Manifesto: Together Facing a New Totalitarianism,” which is being disseminated widely on the Web. Originally published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, of Mohammed cartoon fame, it’s a vow to resist Islamism signed by 12 individuals hailed as “brave intellectuals.” I read it, and while I have no idea whether or not the signatories are brave, their musings certainly illustrate why modern intellectuals are sorely lacking in intellectualism.

The proclamation’s primary flaw is evident in the first two sentences:

“After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism. We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.” [emphasis mine]

Our first move should not be to judge their values, but to ask what they are. After all, the ideologies they implicitly condemn involve secular values. (It’s interesting to note that while they mention both Naziism and fascism, they would cite only Stalinism, not communism. Is it because they believe it has not been overcome? Or is there another reason?) As for Stalinism, the decidedly more Christian United States condemned it as godless. Yet, I don’t know of anyone at the time who proclaimed the goal to be one of religious values for all.

Nor would I have supported such an aim.

My point is not that religious values are necessarily bad, that secular values are necessarily bad, or even that they’re necessarily different. It is that “secular” and “religious” are not creeds but categories. As such, they tell us nothing about quality, only type.

It’s much like announcing that you want drugs for all; drugs can be legal or illegal, can cure or corrupt. Thus, if no specificity is forthcoming, I’ll have to do some profiling to discern what is being peddled. Is the purveyor Pfizer or the Cali Cartel?

As far as these brave intellectuals go, they’re more Pablo Escobar than Pablo Alvaro. They have not only imbibed the Kool-Aid of the West’s secular academy but also mixed it, making me wonder. Of what secular values do they speak? Are they the ones whose ascendancy seems nigh? After all, to wax Churchillian, from Saskatchewan to Stockholm, an iron curtain has been dropped across the tongue, with hate speech laws muzzling mouths like burkas cover women. Increasingly in the West, people are being punished – and sometimes even imprisoned – by secular authorities for criticizing homosexuality, using politically incorrect terms, engaging in frank discussion about legitimate group differences, or even just expressing pro-life or creationist beliefs. So since these brave intellectuals also vowed to fight “totalitarianism” and “obscurantism” (the resistance to the increase and spread of knowledge) and said that “we must assure universal rights to oppressed or discriminated people,” I wonder if they will oppose the secular values that contravene these very goals?

If you think my stridency a bit disproportionate, understand that the manifesto and its authors represent the very philosophy that imperiled us in the first place, the one that even now is tearing down the walls of western civilization. They state:

“We reject cultural relativism, which consists in accepting that men and women of Muslim culture should be deprived of the right to equality, freedom and secular values in the name of respect for cultures and traditions.”

The above sentence contains a serious philosophical contradiction. The “cultural relativism” the writers bemoan is a corollary of “moral relativism,” and both are corollaries of the secularism they extol.

Let’s start from the top. Secularism involves the idea that there is no God and, therefore, no moral Truth (something above man that determines right and wrong). This makes man the author of morality, reducing it to a reflection of consensus opinion, which makes morals relative (for a more comprehensive explanation, read my piece The Nature of Right and Wrong). Now, if values are a product of opinion, it cannot rightly be said that some are better than others; the most we can say is some find favor with us while others don’t. If this is the case, it follows that the different values espoused by different cultures cannot render one superior to another, just different in terms of “tastes.” And this position, my friends, is cultural relativism.

The secularism of these “intellectuals” is a philosophy that collapses upon itself. Its adherents would use it as a rallying cry to fight jihad, seemingly oblivious to the fact that its relativism draws a moral equivalence between militants and missionaries. It is the very spiritual disease that has made us see everything as shades of gray, blinding us to darkness and light so that we neither defend the latter nor fight the former. How likely is it that you’ll recognize evil after embracing a philosophy stating it doesn’t exist? And why would you fight what you don’t recognize?

Moreover, secularism’s relativism has blinded scores of millions of westerners to the superiority of their own culture and to the threat posed by the introduction of incongruous and hostile cultural elements. At the same time, motivated by its antipathy for the West’s formative faith, Christianity, it has demonized the West to a point where many consider it the bane of man. And why would you take pains to preserve that which you think worthless if not destructive?

To anyone protesting my indictment of secularism, I will point out that it isn’t authentic Christians who created the “Hey, hey, ho, ho, western culture’s gotta go” mentality. No, that’s the handiwork of secularists in colleges, the media, popular culture and leftist organizations.

Make no mistake, this manifesto is as ideologically and philosophically chauvinistic as any jihadist screed. And if you took the document and replaced “secular” and “secularism” with “Christian” and “Christianity,” something similar is exactly what you’d be accused of.

Lest I be misunderstood, I wouldn’t shrink from condemning the Dark Faith, but I also don’t relish the prospect of helping one dragon swallow another and grow bigger and more menacing through digestion.

And that’s the point. I write this for those in my camp, my traditional brethren who share my concern for our civilization. Know that these people are not our friends. Sure, we may use them when possible to fight the Dark Faith, as warfare makes even stranger bedfellows than politics. After all, anyone who remembers WWII knows it wouldn’t be the first time we allied ourselves with leftists to fight a common enemy. But never forget that while they may puff up their chests at times and mouth some fashionable platitudes about combating tyranny, they are still Islam’s fifth column in our midst. Their Dark Philosophy has more in common with the Dark Faith than with anything we hold dear; for instance, both endeavor to destroy Christianity and the West. Of course, one difference is that the secularists suicidal tendencies aren’t as rational as the Islamists’, as they don’t believe in an afterlife, and, even if they did, it’s virtually impossible to find 72 virgins among secular women.

Another commonality they share is that both stifle dissent contradicting their world view in nations under their dominion, punishing those who speak against their dogma. Another difference is that the Islamists don’t yet have us under their dominion; the secularists do. They are the ones stilling our tongues.

In case you’re still unconvinced about the secularists’ tyrannical nature and facilitation of Islamism, I’ll make one more point. When Canadian Mark Harding (and there have been other such victims) was punished for criticizing Islam, how could his plight have been best characterized?

It was secular authorities punishing Christian dissent in deference to Islamist sensitivities.

Need I say more?

It’s ironic that while the manifesto’s writers ask that a “critical spirit” be “exercised” against all “dogmas,” they also make that call for “secular values for all.” My response is to quote G.K. Chesterton:

“In truth, there are only two kinds of people, those who accept dogmas and know it, and those who accept dogmas and don’t know it.”

I have no interest in secular dogmas. I will never expend one solitary drop of blood, sweat or ink, at home or abroad, to make the world safe for them. My battles concern two things secularists fancy antiquated notions. That is, I fight for good and against evil, nothing more, nothing less.

You know, after suffering the vacuous musings of this deficient dozen, I know why Jesus didn’t choose twelve scholars. No, only the fools of modernity elevate intellectuals above wise men.

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About Selwyn Duke

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    I find your comments most interesting, and amusing to a degree. The comments I make here have been inspired by Dr. Eugene Narrett, who explains these concepts far better and far more cogently than I.

    Christian theology has always been attempt to meld the ideas of the Greeks with those of the Hebrews, while denying the Hebrews patrimony or credit, except in the most back-handed of ways, by saying that the “old testament” has been surpassed by the “new” and the actual Israel has been replaced by the spiritual Israel.

    So Christian civilization has always been an exercise in cutting itself from its roots of monotheism and Torah. This basic religious concept has set itself up as a “dugmá,” an example, a model, for later philosophies stemming from Christian civilization that follow in its wake. Each successive philosophy cuts itself off from its roots, just as Christianity has cut itself from its Hebrew roots.

    Jew-hatred, the act of condemning and persecuting Jews (who are the representatives of the Hebrew roots that Christianity seeks to sever itself from) is the mere act stemming from the thought. So that we are absolutely clear here, this is not a whine about Christian Jew-hatred. Jews have whined enough. This is about what comes before the Jew-hatred – the philosophical act of cutting oneself off from the roots of monotheism and Torah. The intellectuals you complain of in your article all suckled at the teat of Christian civilization, Selwyn, and are intellectually its children as much as you are. They may look like intellectual bastards to you, but they are your brothers under the skin whether you will recognize them or not, products of the same civilization.

    The act of cutting oneself off from the Hebrew roots of monotheism, from the one Living G-d through its embrace of multitheism under the guise of a trinity, ands its embrace of Greek philosophical values has condemned Christianity to failure. And now we are seeing it fail and collapse in its erstwhile home, Europe, and certainly we are seeing its decay in America as well. More and more, Europeans and Americans have embraced either an atheism (just read all the atheistic screeds here at Blogcritics for a taste) or a neo-paganism and also have embraced the Greek roots of Christianity, particularly the goddess Venus – witness the pornography stretching through Europe and America. And you are reaping the fruit, the children of Venus, Deimos and Phobos – Fear and Terror. That is what the Wahhabi terrorists are, Selwyn…

    Nothing is lost in the eyes of G-d…

    A tree that cuts itself off from its roots will not survive. This is what Christianity has done. You are seeing the final results…


  • Secularism involves the idea that there is no God and, therefore, no moral Truth (something above man that determines right and wrong).

    No, it doesn’t.

    Secularism involves the idea that whether or not there is a God is fundamentally irrelevant to the existence and function of specific institutions, generally public or governmental ones.

    There is little need to “protest your indictment of secularism” when you show such ignorance of what secularism is.

  • Leslie Bohn

    Faithists love the idea that there is no morality without gods. It makes one wonder what the Isrealites were up to before Moses got those commandments. Presumably killing and stealing, as they would have no way to dsitinguish whether these actions were right or wrong. Old Mo himself probably coveted all kinds of crap left and right as he strode through the old desert dishonoring his mom and dad and lying like a politician.

    How would he have known not to?

  • You write as if “Christianity” is a monolith of unified faith, practice and dogma, which is an historical inaccuracy.

    Christians have fought each other more than they have battled other faiths or secularism.

    First, you need to define ‘Christian’. Is it the pope’s view–his is the only true church? Is it Mormonism, Methodism, or Moravian? Is it fundamentalist or can it be more modern?

    And do you really think that only Christians in the West have regard for their culture, a sense of values, morality, and anything of worth to contribute to civilization?

    That goes against the way I understand the great faith of Chesterton you’re extolling, excludes rather than welcomes, seeks to dominate, and is in conflict with the spirit of our First amendment.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    While there are different varieties of Christians, there is only ONE Christian civilization. And that is really the point. Selwyn is writing from what he views as the appropriate point of view of that Christian civilization.

    That this Christian civilization is collapsing in front of his face is another issue, one that I dealt with…

  • zingzing

    “Moreover, secularism’s relativism has blinded scores of millions of westerners to the superiority of their own culture and to the threat posed by the introduction of incongruous and hostile cultural elements.”

    how is our culture superior to, say, japan’s? (or anyone’s, really?)

    i think these so-called intellectuals call for “secular values” because they don’t leave anyone out in the cold because of their religion. they aren’t saying you can’t be religious. they’re saying that a system of values should be created that includes ALL religions, not just YOURS.

    i don’t want to live in a christian society. my semi-buddhist girlfriend doesn’t either. and since this society is AS MUCH MINE AS IT IS YOURS, doesn’t a society that makes christianity irrelevant to the running of itself (leave christianity for sundays) make a bit more sense?

    as usual, you are just overreacting to a word. you find whatever meaning in it that you want.

    and what’s this “dark faith” bullshit? is this star wars or something? you’re a weirdo.

  • Baronius

    Selwyn, you sure keep this site interesting. That’s a great pickup on “Stalinism”, by the way.

  • Lumpy

    My ‘dark faith’ is cthulhuism. +hat’s yours?

  • moonraven

    This is the goofiest,most unreadable piece yet on blogcritics.


    Secularism and laicism are esentially the saame–and they decribe countries in which religious interference in government affairs is not allowed.

    This is a hot topic right now here in Mexico, as the right wing radically catholic elements are in power and the catholic church is presenting its own proposed constitutional reform (to 3 articles of the constitution) which would allow religious instruction in public schools and political rabble-rousing by ministers and priests.

    In themid-nineteenth century Benito Juarez promulgated the ReformLaws, which led to the church’s lands (the were among the largest landholders) becoming part of the state’s holdings, and the clergy were prohibited from voting and from political activity in general.

    Along came Carlos Salinas and the massive election fraud of 1988–when the “system” counting the votes “crashed”–and to get in good with the church hierarchy and help legitimize his presidency (very much the same situation that we have now) he promulgated an ammendment to the consitution that allowed the church rats to come out of their nests and raise hell again.

    With the rise of the right wing in the Western countries, we can expect to see more of the attempts at religious interference in government affairs–moving towards the elimination of the separation of church and state.

    Clearly, democracy is not possible with the church–of any denomination–running the show, given that it trumps your vote with God’s.

    This should bemuch more of a concern than “islamism”.

    And the “author” of the ridiculous piece that started this thread should have tolearn English before he makes another post.

  • #5:
    Ruvy, I can’t agree that there is only one Christian civilization except, maybe, as a theological theory.

    In practice, the differences between the various beliefs and believers is just too great to be called a meaningful unity of any kind. Throughout history, Christianity has been as factional and divided within nations, cultures, denominations and sects as the Muslims are today.

    Try incorporating Alabama Baptists with the “one” Christian civilization of Catholic Rome, or merge the Greek Orthodox of Athens with the Mormons of Utah. Or, even blend the Protestants and Catholics of Northern Ireland.

    Certainly none of these would agree that all the others are equal partners with them in one Christian civilization.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    the “author” of the ridiculous piece that started this thread should have to learn English before he makes another post.


    If you’re going to criticize this guy on his English, at least get your own straight…

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem


    You sound like one of the trees IN the forest. I have the perspective a bird on top of a bush looking at the forest from the outside. There’s lots of different trees in that forest – but it is all one forest from my little roost on top of the “burning bush”.

  • moonraven


    I will match my use of the subjunctive against yours–in several languages–any time you feel ready.

  • Clavos


    You broke the streak. We’ve successfully ignored the troll/crone for a couple of days, now.

  • moonraven

    Clavos would shrivel up and die–just like the underutilized part of him–if I did not post on this site.

    Maybe it’s time for me to stop for awhile….Hah!

  • troll

    one nice thing about being a troll is that it makes no difference to us if our pearls are ‘ignored’ by the swine

  • moonraven


    We are just here to bite their butts–like horseflies.

  • Clavos

    “one nice thing about being a troll is that it makes no difference to us if our pearls are ‘ignored’ by the swine”

    We all know you’re a troll in name only.

    Now, get back under that bridge…

  • troll

    yeah…it’s been so long since I’ve thoroughly insulted anyone that I feel like a sheep in wolves’s clothing

    thinking of changing my name to zozobra to match my mood…we are fucking doomed after all

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    I will match my use of the subjunctive against yours–in several languages–any time you feel ready.

    The only language you have in common with me that you are as proficient in as I am is English. I wouldn’t want to wipe the floor with you using Hebrew or Yiddish, and I suspect that your Spanish is a whole lot better than mine, along with the Arabic…

    But we all know just how “suggestive” you can be, Marthe. Instead, why don’t you look at my comment on Selwyn’s little screed, comment #1, and express your thoughts…

    Who knows? They might rise above the level of unstudied insult… In the meantime, I have an article to write and a writer who needs help, so I’ll see y’all later.

  • A Concerned Citizen

    Of course, one difference is that the secularists suicidal tendencies aren’t as rational as the Islamists’, as they don’t believe in an afterlife, and, even if they did, it’s virtually impossible to find 72 virgins among secular women.

    LOL. That was pretty good.

  • Despite the cries of oppression by certain Christians, it seems to me that these militant secularists… who tend to be intellectual reactionaries, in certain ways… are a profound exception within the academic institution, and within the American public in general. Very few secularists (gasp! atheists!) or leftists or even Christians are interested in dissolving and destroying (other) religions. Most of us have friends who are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Shinto, Neo-pagan, and myriad other faiths.

    What the left rejects is any government bias in favor of one particular religion, or any adoption of a moral principle without extensive debate and consensus.

    Of course, you wouldn’t get that by reading manifestos and opinion pieces, because the only ones that get any press are the radical ones. That’s how radicalization of politics comes about… by the words of a dozen manifestos like this, manifestos dedicated to establishing an epic ideological conflict between two (or three) opposing abstractions. Each of them tries to muster the muscle of classical Western culture on their side, and then tries to attribute all “evil” and “oppression” and “violence” to the other side.

    And thus, whether they’re collectivist or libertarian or secular or traditionalist, whether they condemn the communists or the “Islamists” or the secularists or the libertarians or the Christians or the “Dark Faith” (WTF? Didn’t Manichaeism go out of style in, like, 1550?), they’re all the same: absurd and ultimately irrelevant.

  • moonraven

    How is it possible to be a MILITANT SECULARIST?

    I would like you to try to explain such a blatantly absurd concept!

  • zingzing

    moonraven: “How is it possible to be a MILITANT SECULARIST?”

    it’s possible to be a militant secularist… as possible as anything else is possible. i guess you could say stalin was militant in his secularism, in that he dismantled the church and imprisoned some of its leaders. of course, he later changed his mind, but i think that showed more political prudence than religious conversion.

  • moonraven

    Stalin was not a militant secularist. He was an ex-seminarian, in fact.

    Read his biography sometime.

    Militant secularist is an OXYMORON.

    Look it up.

  • Um, I think that I’m a militant secularist. I think that religion should have no role in any aspect of public life and should be kept entirely private. It should not be recognized or participated in by government or any public institution. I see it as a direct threat to freedom and social justice.

    Does that make me a militant secularist?


  • zingzing

    moonraven, stalin was quite militant in his secularism for a time. he shut down the churches because of their power over the people. he executed church leaders. i don’t know how you are defining “militant” or “secular” if you think they are automatically in opposition. you can be “militant” about just about anything, including secularism.

    and what does the fact that he once went to seminary have to do with the fact that he later shut down churches? he also later reopened them.

    does the fact that he was once religious mean it is impossible that he was at another time very anti-religion (at least for his political purposes)?

    i don’t think so.

  • moonraven

    Boy, you sure took the bait on that one, didn’t you, zing?

    And somehow you made it into a ball of yarn that makes absolutely no sense.

    If you are a secularist, that means that you are tolerant of all faiths but support none of them driving governmental decisions. It doesn’t mean that you are anti-religion. And it does not imply atheism, either.

    Now explain to me, smartass, how you can be militantly tolerant….

  • zingzing

    um, moonraven, secularism means “a system of political or social philosophy that rejects all forms of religious faith and worship.”

    it doesn’t mean you have to be tolerant of anything.

    as for being “militantly tolerant,” well, i guess that fits into my “just about” phrase, now doesn’t it?

    you’re the one not making sense, old girl.

  • zingzing

    go ahead, twist it around so that you are right in your own mind. can’t wait to see it.

  • moonraven

    I am always right.

  • moonraven

    And knock off the ageist/misogynist bullshit.

  • zingzing

    i only do the ageist/misogynist bs for you, dearie.

    but, really, is noting your female nature really misogynistic? is the truth an insult in your eyes?

    and no, you are not always right. you just never admit it when you are wrong.

    ride away.

  • moonraven

    I don’t ride–I fly.

    Calling someone old girl is doubly misogynistic–there are no girls over 1 years old.

    And since you did not put the source of your spurious definition–thought you could get by with making it up and putting quotes marks around it, huh?–I will indicate now that the following is from wikipedia:

    “Secularism is generally the assertion or belief that certain practices or institutions should exist separately from religion or religious belief. Alternatively, it is a principle of promoting secular ideas or values in either public or private settings. It may also be a synonym for “secularist movement”.

    In one sense, secularism may assert the freedom of religion, and freedom from the government imposition of religion upon the people, within a state that is neutral on matters of belief, and gives no state privileges or subsidies to religions. (See also Separation of church and state and Laïcité.) In another sense, it refers to a belief that human activities and decisions, especially political ones, should be based on evidence and fact rather than religious influence.[1] (See also public reason.)

    The purposes and arguments in support of secularism vary widely. In European laicism, it has been argued that secularism is a movement toward modernization, and away from traditional religious values. This type of secularism, on a social or philosophical level, has often occurred while maintaining an official state church or other state support of religion. In the United States, some argue that state secularism has served to a greater extent to protect religion from governmental interference, while secularism on a social level is less prevalent.[2][3] Within countries as well, however, differing political movements support secularism for equally varying reasons.[4]”

    Hmmm–looks very much more like what I originally posted on this thread in Number 9 than what you just posted….

    But then you have no stake whatsoever in this–unlike this poster who is watching the debate at close range here in Mexico–you just want to see your moniker listed and to argue with someone whois your better in all ways–including that of gender.

  • moonraven

    Should be no girls over 12 years old.

  • zingzing

    i went to dictionary.com, as it was the first to pop up in google, and took the very first definition. there are more there, and not one of them espouses any tolerance of religion as being necessary to the definition of “secularism.”

    most secularists, including me, are going to be tolerant of religion, i grant you that. but some, as in the case of stalin (remember him?), are not.

    i guess you must not be defining stalin’s government as “secular.” i see secular and religious as opposites, as that is what “secular” is generally used to describe.

    you can define “secular” or “secularism” in many different ways, (as noted in your wikipedia quote,) as it has been used in many different ways. one of those ways is simply to define a political system that rejects religion, like that of the soviet union.

    so, how exactly am i wrong? would you not describe stalin as “militant” in his actions and beliefs? i mean, he did destroy churches, imprison and execute their leaders and make outlaws of catholics. and would you not describe his philosophy and government as “secular?”

    he was both “militant” and “secular.” therefore…

  • zingzing

    as for your “Calling someone old girl is doubly misogynistic,” all i can say is, no it’s not. “old” has nothing to do with the fact that you are a female, and “girl” is not an automatically misogynitic term, even when applied to someone as old as yourself. you just read into it, and decide i must hate you because you are female.

    i don’t hate you because you are female. fair enough?

  • I love this semantic Venn Diagram argument. Moonie, you cited a range of definitions in your quote (Wikipedia isn’t exactly known for its technical precision, anyway), some of which basically disprove your own claim.

    Wikipedia offers at least three definitions, right in that first paragraph:

    1) “the assertion or belief that certain practices or institutions should exist separately from religion or religious belief” (yes, this sounds like your definition from #9, and it’s difficult to be militant about this idea)

    2) “a principle of promoting secular ideas or values in either public or private settings”

    3) “In another sense, it refers to a belief that human activities and decisions, especially political ones, should be based on evidence and fact rather than religious influence.”

    It’s perfectly possible to be militant about numbers two or three, both of which define secularism as partly concerned with private individual behavior… and both of which imply an ethical priority given to non-religious thought. In fact, the whole last two paragraphs of the definition you cite could easily lead to anti-religious militancy.

    You never explain why you privilege definition #1, complete with the attendant “tolerance,” as the only valid definition of secularism.

  • moonraven

    I don’t.

    I just do not accept zing’s.

  • zingzing

    my definition is just one possible definition. and it’s a perfectly valid definition. and one i did not write, only relayed to you (and others). all it says is that secularism is a social or political philosophy that rejects religion. you can read what you want into the word “rejects,” but it’s not necessarily violent. i can reject a hamburger, but it doesn’t mean i’m going to squash it underfoot. it just means i don’t want it.

  • moonraven

    Why not let it go?

    You tried to pull a fast one and I busted you.

  • zingzing

    you didn’t bust me on anything.

    you are wrong.

    a person can be militant and a secularist at the same time. it’s fucking obvious. and that’s just the way it is.

    i think you know it, too. but, you’re just too stubborn to admit it.

  • troll

    humbug – zing merely responded without understanding to the claim that militant secularist is an oxymoron – which it is under at least one definition of the term

    his mistake is to think that moonraven is unaware of alternative meanings and to argue a non point with her

  • moonraven

    ONE of his mistakes, you mean.

  • Nah, troll, zing wasn’t here to tell MR what “militant secularist” means… he was just defending my use of the term.

    And MR doesn’t get to define a term I used FOR ME and then tell me it’s an oxymoron. If she wants to know what I mean by it, she can just ask, instead of shouting it back to me in all caps and then telling me it’s an oxymoron. It’s not.

    Militant secularist – Christopher Hitchins and Richard Dawkins, both of whom wrote vehement anti-religious books that characterize religion as inherently destructive. Stalin, who persecuted people for being religious.

    So if I ever use the phrase “militant secularist” again, read it as follows:

    “One who treats religion as an abstract entity and condemns it on a broad basis; one who is intolerant of religious people and ideas under the pretense of secular humanism.”

    I used it, so I get to define it. Next time, feel free to ask nicely.

  • Just to cover my ass, I don’t think these authors didn’t write damn good books, nor do I feel that secularism, even at its most militant, is necessarily illegitimate. I’m an agnostic and a secularist myself… I’m just moderate about it, seeing as I don’t disapprove of a public religious commitment. It just doesn’t deserve a place in policy or government.

    And I think Dave, who actually characterizes himself as a “militant secularist,” has even more of a claim on the term, and a right to give it a working definition, than I do.

  • moonraven

    Jesse, You protest so much it’s quite clear you do not have a clue about anything–much less YOUR supposed topic.

    And NO, just because you use a term you do NOT get to define it (more to the point, you did NOT, in fact, define it).

    Language is a tacit agreement that, for example, green is not red. You are arguing–and poorly, too–for the existence of a private language.

    In the 50s, Wittgenstein showed why there is no such thing as a private language. Google him. I started teaching from his Philosophical Investigations in 1969–and I continue to do so.

    In the 60s, a group by then called Ordinary Language Philosophers (check wikipedia for a brief rundown on some of them) such as John Searle (also available on wikipedia)–who was teaching at UC Berkely in 1964 when I was able to get him for a seminar at Univ. of Washington because of the Free Speech Strike–wrote extensively on the reasons why a private language could not exist (and also why trying to create one was undesirable).

    You can tell me that red is actually green all day long, but neither I nor the traffic cop who gives you the ticket for running the stoplight nor the little old lady (in this case, not me) that you ran over in the crosswalk and smeared all over the pavement is in any humor to buy it.

    Better luck pulling somebody else’s wing.

  • Wittgenstein also noted, in the same work, that language is defined by the context of its use. It’s a tool whose usage is always fluctuating, and there is no monolithic, overriding definition.

    Saying that “red” is “green” is a far cry from saying that someone can be militant about their secularism. Your problem is that you define secularism as inherently tolerant and/or pluralist, which, as far as I’ve seen, none of the definitions offered specify.

    Oh, and if you’re arguing that language is dependent on socially constructed usage (which I would agree with), and that this democratic determination rules out the term “militant secularist,” let’s take a survey… so far, Dave, zing, and I all have a workable understanding of the term. troll supports your point, but he accepts other definitions, as well, so I wouldn’t put him squarely in your camp, either. That means out of the five people directly involved in this conversation, three-and-a-half of us are able to use the term “militant secularist” and understand it as having a meaning.

    This private language tangent is interesting, but irrelevant. We’ve got a public language here, and it’s fairly futile to reject it out of hand.

  • moonraven

    Wrong again.

    And you have not read the PI, you just googled and put down the first line of the entry on Wittgenstein–WITHOUT citing your source–violating one of my 5 basic writing criteria.

    If a dozen ignorant people all agree that red is green, that doesn’t make it true. One of the aims of the Ordinary Language Philosophers was to define truth.

    Your claim was that if you wrote the piece, you get to define the words.

    Sorry, Benito…er George The Decider…er, Jesse. It just doesn’t play that way.

    I suggest that you write a piece on Miliant Secularism, and see what kind of group would be willing to publish it.

    Wittgenstein also said: If a lion could talk, we wouldn’t understand him.

    Apparently, he could have applied that to a raven, as well.

  • moonraven

    PS: Dogpacking has never been a logical proof of anything. (It’s simply trying to bully by saying “everybody else says….”, and I couldn’t give a fuck what a pack of semiliterate boobs claims to know about the use of language.)

    And sometimes you get found out doing it–like Nalle when he invented the cheering section Vox Populi….

  • My goodness, Moon, you’re an angry troll! My source is Rom Harre, an Oxford professor, from whom I took a course called “Wittgenstein’s Later Work.” I’ve only ever read sections of the Investigations and the Tractatus, so you’re right… late modern philosophers aren’t my primary specialty. Sorry. Didn’t cite the little old man from England.

    You’re right, I made a lovely philosophical blunder when I tried to claim authority over the definition of “militant secularist.” The point, however, was to show that any word has a meaning when used in a functional way.

    Your objections are still breaking down on that point. A word is not a fact, and the word’s claim to a meaning is not the same as a fact’s claim to truth. A word has a meaning whenever a group can use it meaningfully in a discourse. Mention “militant secularism” in this thread and at least two people know what I’m talking about. Type it into Google, contained in quotes, and 13,600 people have used it in one form or another.

    Your absolute-truth argument doesn’t hold in a discussion of language. Facts are not democratic, because they correspond to the physical world. Meanings, however, are 100% democratic, because they’re only constructed within the space of public discourse.

  • moonraven

    I am never angry. Just having a bit of fun with you because you take the bait.

    Ordinary Language Philosophy WAS my undergraduate specialty (BA degree in English and Philosophy 1966), and I can tell you that although Wittgenstein claimed that he retracted a lot of his early work (closely associated with Russel) he did not retract what he wrote in the Tractatus about the world being what it seemed to be–composed only of facts, as he repeated that very strongly in the PI. (I wrote two essays about just that in the 60s.)

    Your error was claiming ownership of something–a fact, in fact–that is in the public domain.

    And meanings are not democratic either. Those of us who speak and read and write in Spanish, for example, have had to struggle with that reality because the arbiter is the Spanish Royal Academy–which does periodically update its dictionary and its handbook of grammar as the language (slowly) evolves, but it does so only when a usage becomes obsolete or when a word from another language enters the language or when a regionalism takes on wider usage.

    My use of secularism is in no way obsolete. And you would have the chance of a snowball in hell having a body such as the Royal Academy accept your usage–especially if your argument was that YOU are The Definer of the words you use.

    Now, just to throw another topic into the mix–why not stop beating this VERY dead horse and amuse yourself with this question:

    Is secular humanism a religion?

    (Some say yes.)

  • Visitor

    I see what’s being debated here, and you should know something. The Spanish may have an academy. The French have an academy. There is NO academy in English. Word usage is determined by convention, nothing more. This makes it completely democratic.

  • Clavos

    Actually, there IS a standard in English; the Oxford English Dictionary is the authority on English language usage.

  • STM

    Zing writes: “a person can be militant and a secularist”.

    That’s absolutely true Zing. As evidence, I’d point to both the IRA and the UVF and their offshoots in Northern Ireland: all (murderous) militant secularists.

    True because they promoted secular violence, while less radical elements on both sides of the Catholic/Protestant divide regarded them as militants with extreme views.

  • I do believe that Wittgenstein would have gracefully understood that modern use of “baad” is as a synonym for “good”.

  • STM

    Dear Visitor, Clav is right: the Oxford English Dictionary is the authority on English usage.

    It may operate like a democracy to a certain extent because of the now many branches of the English language and its regional variations, but what it decides is final in terms of what is right and wrong.

    And since they’re in England, it’s hard to argue the toss with the people who invented the bloody thing in the first place.

  • troll

    challenged I blew the dust off the old ’37 edition of the OED…sorry moonraven but I found no part of the definition that implies your tolerance idea…in fact ‘secularism’ has a strikingly intolerant sense about it

  • Saying the OED is the authority on what’s “right” and “wrong” in English is like saying the Pope is the authority on what is and isn’t Christian. It may have authority over the technical standards of any institution that happens to buy into it, but a “language” is more than a record of words and grammatical rules kept in a book somewheres.

    Dude #1 says, “I love cat macros.” Dude #2 says, “There’s no such thing as a cat macro. After all, it’s not in the OED.” Dude #1 says, “Oh, sorry, then I’ve been speaking gibberish for months! So what does the OED call those things?”

  • PS: I love tangents! Let’s keep kicking the horse.

  • moonraven

    Thanks for quoting what the OED actually SAID.

    Guess you were not interested in a response from me?


  • Clavos

    “So what does the OED call those things?”

    Slang. Or jargon.

    Neither of which are Standard English.

  • moonraven

    You are going to have to kick that horse’s ass–er, skelton without me.

    I have better things to do.

  • This is becoming quite the authoritarian thread! When faced with the question of, “where does language come from?” everybody in this thread falls back on the Oxford English Dictionary.

    It kind of feels like Bolshevik Communism’s approach to leadership. The revolutionaries created a power vacuum (much like the power vacuum created when we interrogate the authorities of language), but once that vacuum is created, everybody gets insecure, so they’re eager to fill it with a monolithic presence, like a Soviet elite. Or, when you’re talking about a vacuum in language, it’s the Oxford English Dictionary.

    And Moonie, do you really have THAT much better to do? Yesterday you posted, by my count, 18 comments, all between noon and 6 PM. I may have missed some, though… I just did a five-minute check. But either way, surely you can spare a few more for an argument on the nature of language, since you majored in it as an undergraduate?

    For instance, you say Wittgenstein emphatically stated, in the PI, that he believed the world consisted of “facts,” but I haven’t been able to find that claim so far. Can you cite it?

    And can you connect that with your implicit claim that secularism entails tolerance “as point of fact”? Is the technical definition of a word the same thing as a “fact” (i.e. an “atomic fact”) of reality and/or nature?

    Curious, especially, because your use of the OED as an “authority” on language actually more or less contradicts my understanding of Wittgenstein’s work. Thanks in advance.

  • Oooh, oooh, wait, got it!

    From the OED (Compact Edition):

    militant – adjective – favouring confrontational methods in support of a cause.

    secular – adjective – 1 not religious, sacred, or spiritual

    -ism – 3 denoting a system, principle, or ideological movement

    So “militant secularism”: favouring (LOVE the English spelling!) confrontational methods in support of an ideological movement against the religious, sacred, or spiritual.

    THAT’S what I was referring to in comment #22. Kind of like Christopher Hitchins, as I mentioned before.

  • troll

    from the ’37 OED:

    A. adj. I. Of or pertaining to the world.1. Eccl. Of members of the clergy: Living ‘in the world’, and not subject to a religious rule: dist. from ‘regular’ and ‘religious’. b. Of or pertaining to secular clergy 1570. 2. Belonging to the world and its affairs as dist. from the church and religion ; civil, lay, temporal. Chiefly as a neg. term, with the meaning non-ecclesiastical, non-religious, or non-sacred.ME. +b.transf. Of or belonging to the ‘common’ or ‘unlearned’ people – 1629. c. Of literature, history. art (esp. music), hence of writers, artists: Not concerned with or devoted to the service of religion ; not sacred ; profane. Also of buildings, etc.: Not dedicated to religious uses. 1450. d. Of education, instruction: Relating to non-religious subjects. Of a school: That gives secular education. 1526 3. Of or pertaining to the present or visible world ; temporal, worldly 1597. b. Unspiritual (rare) late ME.
    II. Of or belonging to an age or long period. 1. Occurring or celebrated once in an age, century, or very long period 1599. 2. Living or lasting for an age or ages. Also (of trees, etc., after F. seculaire), centuries old. 1629. 3. In scientific use, of processes of change : Having a period of enormous length ; continuing through long ages 1801.
    B. sb. 1. One of the secular clergy, as dist. from a ‘regular’ or monk ME. +2. One who is engaged in the affairs of the world as dist. from the church ; a layman -1829.

    Secularism 1. The doctrine that morality should be based solely on regard to the well-being of mankind in the present life, to the exclusion of all considerations drawn from belief in God or in a future state. 2. The view that national education should be purely secular 1872.

    Secularist 1. An adherent of secularism. 2. An advocate of exclusively secular education 1872.

    and that’s all folks

  • STM

    Jesse writes: “favouring (LOVE the English spelling!)”

    The CORRECT spelling Jesse. As you quite rightly point out, it’s the English spelling and the language is English, remember, not American 🙂

    And Troll old boy, I suggest you grab yourself a nice 2007 copy of the OED. Keep the ’37 number though – it could be worth a few bob in years to come.

  • troll

    now now youngster…I’ve got me one of them new fangled OEDs too with the magnifying glass and all but prefer to start with the older one…

    did you know that in ’37 ‘fascist’ meant nothing more to the dons than:

    Fascist. One of a body of Italian nationalists organized in 1919 under Benito Mussolini to oppose Bolshevism. Hence Fascism, their principles and organization.

  • Clavos

    “Fascist. One of a body of Italian nationalists organized in 1919 under Benito Mussolini to oppose Bolshevism. Hence Fascism, their principles and organization.”

    But it doesn’t mention that the trains ran on time???

  • moonraven

    Maybe because he DIDN’T make the trains run on time.

    Just another myth, as all the major work on the railroad system was done before he came to power in 1922.

  • Clavos

    “Just another myth, as all the major work on the railroad system was done before he came to power in 1922.”

    Shoemaker, stick to your last…

    I spent thirty years in the transportation business, mr. The best infrastructure in the world does NOT guarantee the trains (or planes) will run on time. That’s a continuous and ongoing 24/7 task, which doesn’t even BEGIN until AFTER everything else is in place.

    In any case, my comment was ironic, but irony is wasted on someone who is humorless.

  • moonraven

    No, it was not an ironic comment, given your fascist political affiliation.

    Don’t try to cover your butt by saying that it was funny–your level of humor is moron jokes.

    Bill Cosby did not say that I was the funniest person he had ever met…ironically.

  • Clavos

    It was my comment, and I say it WAS ironic; your opinion on whether or not it was ironic counts zero.

  • zingzing

    “Bill Cosby did not say that I was the funniest person he had ever met…ironically.”

    ok. this is getting silly. as far as clavos’ “trains” comment, of course that is meant to be funny. it’s not very successful, but that was the attempt.

    but, moonie, you claim so many areas of expertise and you claim to know so many famous people. it’s just getting ridiculous. bill cosby called you the “funniest person he had ever met?” and it wasn’t ironic? either you just missed it, or you never met the man. who else was it? chuck jones was a personal friend?

    shit… for all i know, maybe it’s all true. but, even if it is, the name-dropping is rather puerile. saying bill cosby called you funny doesn’t make you funny. say something funny.

  • Clavos

    Tough room.

    But still, thanks zingzing…

    Agreed on the name dropping.

  • moonraven

    Bill Cosby is a very funny guy. I feel for his humor when I saw him on the Tonight Show in 1963.

    He and I did two standup comedy shows together later that year at the Magic Inn night club in Seattle. My boyfriend at the time was working there doing standup and we happened to take Bill, who was in town opening for the Kingston Trio. The boyfriend–who was never all that funny–lost his voice after the first show of the night and Bill convinced me–by pouring a lot of gin tonics down me–to do the two shows with him.

    It’s a good thing that one of us was sober.

    Later, we both turned up in Amherst, Massachusetts, where we got our doctorates from UMass.

    Chuck Jones moved to Santa Fe, NM, when he retired. I lived there for 10 years and for 5 years of that time was the film critic for the Albuquerque Journal. We became friends–oddly enough because we have similar senses of humor.

    You sods on this site are the most humorless group of palefaces I have ever dealt with. BAR NONE.

  • Clavos

    “You sods on this site are the most humorless group of palefaces I have ever dealt with. BAR NONE.”

    And yet, you keep coming back…

    Aren’t we lucky!

  • Zedd


    Come on she’s funny. Its just that she does it at all our expense.

  • zingzing

    “Come on she’s funny. Its just that she does it at all our expense.”

    that’s not the point. it’s the name-dropping. all of it may or may not be true, but it is ultimately meaningless.

  • REMF

    I always loved Cosby’s routine on the girlfriend who was so smart, she’d walk around asking questions like, Why is there air? And her IQ was 200…thousand!! 200,000!!!!
    – MCH