Heeding the Times from Harry Antonides' Desk

What Happens to Truth in an Age of Delusion? (Part 1)

 March 20,2013

“In a sense, God – the personal omnicompetent deity of Christendom- has been dying for centuries. His lordship over the world has been threatened by every scientist who discovered a new natural law of organic growth, by every invention of man that safeguarded him against “act of God” disaster, by every new medicine that tamed a disease and solved another mystery of life. But it is the 20th century, the age of technological miracle, that has seen the triumph of the Enlightenment and the apparent banishment of God from the universe – even, thanks to Freud, from the human soul.” (Time, December 25, 1964)

“When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.” (C.K. Chesterton)

 If you reject absolute truth absolutely, you are not only incoherent but in danger of becoming the worst kind of dogmatist.”  (“Obama and the End of Liberalism?” Interview Charles Kesler, NRO, January 16, 2013)

Western civilization is beset by an overwhelming series of seemingly insoluble problems and difficulties. All of them involve the very core of who we are as human beings. What is the purpose of our lives? How do we know how we should live? How do we discern right from wrong? Where do we find the answers to the most burning questions about nationhood in a world of turmoil, violence and warfare? What are the principles that can guide us in structuring government that secure peace and justice for all?  Furthermore, how can we distinguish between the public and private sectors of society so that all the “mediating structures” in society, such as the family, education, media, business, science and untold numbers of voluntary associations, are able to function freely in keeping with their unique character and purpose?

War and Rumors of War

Looking back over the past century, we are not encouraged to think that these questions have ready and easy answers.  In the second decade of the 20th century Europe was torn asunder by a murderous World War I that cut short the lives of an estimated 20 million  people.

In revulsion against so much pointless slaughter, people became wary of all militarism and vowed that they would never again get involved in such barbarity. The result was that a mere two decades later Europe was unprepared to stop Hitler’s military machine from conquering most of Europe. It took five years of brutal warfare that razed entire German cities, destroyed its industrial infrastructure, and resulted in the death of an estimated 60 million soldiers and civilians before Western Europe was liberated. (Other estimates of the total death toll of World War II range from 50 to 70 million.Many more millions were wounded in body and soul  in both world wars.) 

In the meantime, Eastern Europe was left to suffer nearly four more decades of Soviet tyranny.

In 1989 the Cold War came to an end with the unraveling of the Soviet Union, raising the hopes and prospects of a more peaceful world. Yet the world is still a dangerous place where new sources of conflict and war fester.

 Since World War II, radical Islam has spread its tenticles into many countries, not only in the Middle East, but also into Africa, Asia, and even into the Western countries. Osama bin Laden spoke for millions of Muslims when he declared war on the West, notably the United States, and Israel the only country in the Middle East with a vibrant culture and freedom of religion for all.

The treacherous 9/11 attack on America, and subsequent terrorist attacks in European countries, notably in Spain and the U.K. were shocking reminders that we are still living in a violent and dangerous world. These events leave no doubt that hatred of the West is deeply imbedded in the hearts of a sizeable segment of radicalized Muslim believers who are convinced that they are called to establish the caliphate all over the world by violence and stealth.

The Remaking of Europe

Since the 1950s, millions of Muslim immigrants began to stream into the Western countries, because Europe needed workers for its industries and often menial tasks. At first these immigrants were expected to serve as guest workers who would eventually return to their home countries. But instead, many decided to stay and were accorded full citizenship. Their numbers swelled quickly, while many began to form separate enclaves in the largest cities. (The total number of Muslim newcomers into Europe according to a 2010 Pew survey was estimated to be 44.1 million, projected to be 58.2 million by 2030.) 

Initially, the European countries, steeped in the ideology of multiculturalism, facilitated this development while they failed to put in place a program of integration for the newcomers. At the same time, many Muslim leaders told their followers that they must consider the West alien territory and refuse to integrate. This is in line with the Muslim doctrine that mankind is divided into a world of peace (Islamic) versus that of war (non-Islamic/infidel).  In 2008 the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a large crowd of Turkish immigrants in Germany that “assimilation is a crime against humanity.”

 This growing dissonance between the host countries and large numbers of Muslim immigrants led to severe conflicts and even riots, especially in France. Several countries experienced first-hand the violent wrath of radicalized believers in their duty to spread the rule of Allah. Holland was shaken when the outspoken politician/professor Pim Fortuyn was murdered in May 2002, to be followed in November 2004 by the murder of Theo van Gogh.

 Both of them were blunt in their criticism of Dutch immigration policies that allowed radical Islamism to freely take root in that country.  Muslim terrorists attacked Madrid in March 2004 that killed nearly 200 and wounded some 2000 victims. In July 2005, a similar attack on the London public transit system killed 56 people and wounded many more. These and other brutal killngs of defenceless people sent shockwaves through all of the free world.  Many began to have serious doubts about the growth in their midst of a separatist  Muslim culture in the name of multiculturalism.    

The End of Multiculturalism?

The former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have publicly stated that they no longer believe that multiculturalism can lead to peaceful coexistence.  Sarkozy, speaking after the killing of seven people in Toulouse by an Al Qaeda-trained Muslim on March 23, 2012, said that there are “too many foreigners on our territory.” (Toronto  Star, March 24, 2012.) 

 Chancellor Merkel expressed her opinion far more directly, leaving no doubt about her views, presumably shared by many Germans. She understands that the problem is not at the surface but reaches down to a people’s deepest convictions. Last year she stated that Germany’s roots are Judeo-Christian. She said: “Now we obviously have Muslims in Germany. But it is important in regard to Islam that the values represented by Islam must correspond to our constitution.  What applies here is the constitution, not Sharia law.”

 At a meeting   of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party in October 2011, the Chancellor said that at the beginning of the 1960s Germany welcomed Muslim guest workers, expecting that they eventually would return to their home countries.  But that did not happen, so for a while it was believed that Muslims and other Germans could live side by side in harmony with each other. But this turned out be a multicultural pipe dream, or as Merkel said, this approach has “failed utterly.”     

 At another CDU meeting she said that the debate about immigration, “especially by those of the Muslim faith” was an opportunity for her party to stand up for its convictions. She explained: “We do not have too much Islam, we have too little Christianity. We have too few discussions about the Christian view of mankind…. We feel bound to the Christian image of humanity – that’s what defines us. Those who do not accept this are in the wrong place here.” ( Soeren Kern, “Islam in Germany: ‘Germany  Does Away with Itself,’” June 16, 2012)

With that, the Chancellor threw wide open a discussion that till now is mostly avoided in public, especially among the political leadership. Their attitude is one of deference mixed with fear of offending Muslim supremacists who are adept at using the freedom in the West to advance their cause.  They have managed to infiltrate and influence every major institution such as the media, the universities and the government to advance their cause, while being quick to intimidate and silence anyone who dares to raise a critical voice.

Think of Salman Rushdie, and the case against Maclean’s, Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant in Canada a few years ago. Such cases send a chill among public figures who will think twice before they write and speak about what they really think .Right now the Obama administration is in negotiations with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to make any criticism of Islam a criminal offence. The recently retired Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has played a major role in these discussions.

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A Twofold Challenge

As anyone who follows the daily news reportage knows, we are living in a violent and chaotic world. Most of the Western economies are in trouble, some very seriously so;  politically,  most governments are struggling to keep the extensive welfare states from collapsing;  militarily,  many countries in the Middle East and Africa are at war or are fearing  the outbreak of war. This is especially acute because of Iran’s determination to obtain nuclear weapons and to destroy Israel. What are we to do? What should Christians do?   

In summary, we face two serious threats as citizens of the Western nations. The first one is internal, that is the radical secularization of life, so well expressed in the three quotations at the beginning of this article. To be sure, the West was never totally Christian in the sense that it was completely unified as one religious community. But it was Christian in the sense that it was profoundly influenced by the Christian faith. This meant that there was a largely shared belief in God as the Creator of the world, the source of goodness and truth, and of the moral law that enables us to distinguish between right and wrong.

Such shared belief is now gone, and the consequences of that are not trivial but go to the core of human existence. Most importantly, it means that we are in the dark about what is truth; we can no longer distinguish between good and evil, true or false. In other words, we live in a world of delusion – as expressed in the title of this series.

The second threat comes from the outside, and is directly related to the first. It concerns the large stream of Muslim immigrants into the West. Among them are many moderates who are happy to escape the Islam-ruled countries mired in poverty and tyranny.  The problem lies with those Muslim immigrants in the West whose minds are shaped by leaders who preach a supremacist version of Islam, and who are adept at using the freedom they enjoy in the West to expand their Islamic ideology. They have been very successful in intimidating anyone who criticizes Islam.

The result is silence or denial about what has rightly been called the creeping Islamization of the West. This is the second major problem we must understand and confront, which is made more difficult because it comes at a time when the West is spiritually disarmed.  In other words, the openness yet spiritual emptiness of the West makes it vulnerable to the inroads of a radicalized Islam that wants to spread its influence all over the world.

 You might say that the secularism of the West is providing an open door for the jihadists – and they know it. This brings to mind Jesus’s words in Matthew 12 where he tells the story about a house that is cleared of one evil spirit, but the empty space is then taken over by seven even more evil spirits.

Much, much more to be said in future instalments.

Harry Antonides

hantonides@sympatico.ca  

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