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Will non-Muslims ever be permitted to debate Islam?

In his excellent book Civilization and Ethics, a penetrating analysis of the various religions and philosophies of the world, Schweitzer says this:
“In contrast to these monistic-pantheistic world-views, we find a dualistic outlook on life in the religion of Zarathustra (sixth century B.C. onwards), in that of the Jewish prophets (from the eighth century B.C. onwards), and in those of Jesus and Mohammed, this last, however, showing itself to be in all points unoriginal and decadent.”
That is a rather dismissive evaluation of Islam, so let’s test it by reference to some verses from the Koran itself.
Islam as “Unoriginal”

Before we start we should note two preliminary points.
First, what is meant by “unoriginal”? In general, a written work would be considered unoriginal if it were a copy or reproduction, in whole or in part, of another, already existing work.
Secondly, we should recall that the Koran was written during Mohammed’s lifetime (570 – 632 A.D.) – that is, many hundreds of years after the various books of the Bible; and in the case of the Torah, about two thousand years later.
In order to assess the originality of Islam, we will see what the Koran has to say about some seminal Biblical events: the Creation; the Garden of Eden; Adam and Eve; Cain and Abel; Noah; Abraham; Moses and the Ten Commandments; and of course, Jesus and the Crucifixion.
Yes, all those Biblical characters and events are referred to in the Koran, and many more – Lot, David and Goliath, Solomon, Elijah, Jonah, Joseph (of the multi-coloured robe fame), Job, John the Baptist, and the disciples, amongst others.
(References are to the English translation and commentary of the Koran by A. Yusuf Ali, by all accounts a respected and authoritative translation of, and commentary on, the Koran. For those who wish to read the verses for themselves, there are many internet sources. Please NOTE that where brackets appear in the verses quoted, that is because they are found in the original translation. They are NOT any kind of comment or interpretation on my part.)
The Creation

The Koran adopts the Genesis version of a six day creation: Sura VII: 54: “Your Guardian-Lord is God, Who created the heavens and the earth in six Days, and is firmly established on the Throne [of authority]:”
Compare Genesis 1: 1: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”
And Exodus 20:11: “For in six days the Lord made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them.” And see Exodus 31: 17.
Length of Days

According to Sura XXII: 47, “A Day in the sight of thy Lord is like a thousand years of your reckoning.”
That is not unlike 2 Peter 3: 8: “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
Events in each Day

As for what happened in each of the “six days” of creation, the account in the Koran differs from the account in Genesis which, as I demonstrate in my series of articles Perspectives on the Scriptures, is being validated year by year with new scientific discoveries and theories.
This is the Koran’s version according to Sura XLI: 9 – 12:
9. Say: Is it that ye deny Him Who created the earth in two Days? And do ye join equals with Him? He is the Lord of (all) the Worlds.
10. He set on the (earth), mountains standing firm, high above it, and bestowed blessings on the earth, and measure therein all things to give them nourishment in due proportion, in four Days, in accordance with (the needs of) those who seek (Sustenance).
11. Moreover He comprehended in His design the sky, and it had been (as) smoke: He said to it and to the earth: “Come ye together, willingly or unwillingly.” They said: “We do come (together), in willing obedience.”
12. So He completed them as seven firmaments in two Days, and He assigned to each heaven its duty and command. And We adorned the lower heaven with lights, and (provided it) with guard. Such is the Decree of (Him) the Exalted in Might, Full of Knowledge.
This account gives a total of eight days for the creation, not six days – 2 days in verse 9, 4 days in verse 10, and another 2 days in verse 12. The answer, according to the Commentary, is that the 4 days in verse 10 include the 2 days in verse 9.
The Garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve, and events in the Garden of Eden (referred to only as “the Garden”), can be found at Sura II: 30 – 39, and Sura VII: 11 – 25.
Here are verses 19 – 20 of Sura VII:
19. O Adam! dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden, and enjoy (its good things) as ye wish: but approach not this tree, or ye run into harm and transgression.
20. Then began Satan to whisper suggestions to them, bringing openly before their minds all their shame that was hidden from them [before]: he said: “Your Lord only forbade you this tree, lest ye should become angels or such beings as live for ever.”
Cain and Abel
We then find this account of Cain slaying Abel in Sura V; 30 – 34:
30. Recite to them the truth of the story of the two sons of Adam. Behold! They each presented a sacrifice (to Allah): It was accepted from one, but not from the other. Said the latter: “Be sure I will slay thee.” “Surely,” Said the former, “Allah doth accept of the sacrifice of those who are righteous.”
31. “If thou dost stretch thy hand against me, to slay me, it is not for me to stretch my hand against thee to slay thee: For I do fear Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds.”
32. “For me, I intend to let thee draw on thyself my sin as well as thine, for thou wilt be among the Companions of the Fire, and that is the reward of those who do wrong.”
33. The (selfish) soul of the other led him to the murder of his brother: He murdered him, and became (himself) one of the lost ones.
34. Then Allah sent a raven, who scratched the ground, to show him how to hide the shame of his brother. “Woe is me!” said he; “Was I not even able to be as this raven, and to hide the shame of my brother?” Then he became full of regrets.
Noah and the Ark
Noah is mentioned in several places in the Koran. Here is the account given in Sura VII: 59 – 64.
59. We sent Noah to his people. He said: “O my people! worship Allah! ye have no other god but Him. I fear for you the punishment of a dreadful day!
60. The leaders of his people said: “Ah! we see thee evidently wandering [in mind].”
61. He said: “O my people! No wandering is there in my [mind]: on the contrary I am a messenger from the Lord and Cherisher of the worlds!
62. “I but fulfil towards you the duties of my Lord’s mission: Sincere is my advice to you, and I know from Allah something that ye know not.
63. “Do ye wonder that there hath come to you a message from your Lord, through a man of your own people, to warn you,- so that ye may fear Allah and happily receive His Mercy?”
64. But they rejected him, and We delivered him, and those with him, in the Ark: but We overwhelmed in the flood those who rejected Our signs. They were indeed a blind people!
For those who may be interested, a more detailed account of Noah can be found at Sura XI: 25 – 49, and again at XXVI: 105 – 122.
Abraham
Abraham is an important figure in Islam, and Sura II tells us how Abraham adopted Islam. Here are some of the verses:
127. And remember Abraham and Isma’il raised the foundations of the House [With this prayer]: “Our Lord! Accept [this service] from us: For Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-knowing.
128. “Our Lord! make of us Muslims, bowing to Thy [Will], and of our progeny a people Muslim, bowing to Thy [will]; and show us our place for the celebration of [due] rites; and turn unto us [in Mercy]; for Thou art the Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.

132. And this was the legacy that Abraham left to his sons, and so did Jacob; “Oh my sons! Allah hath chosen the Faith for you; then die not except in the Faith of Islam.”
133. Were ye witnesses when death appeared before Jacob? Behold, he said to his sons: “What will ye worship after me?” They said: “We shall worship Thy god and the god of thy fathers, of Abraham, Isma’il and Isaac,- the one [True] Allah: To Him we bow [in Islam].
And that is followed with some advice on why Judaism and Christianity should be rejected:
134. That was a people that hath passed away. They shall reap the fruit of what they did, and ye of what ye do! Of their merits there is no question in your case!
135. They say: “Become Jews or Christians if ye would be guided [To salvation].” Say thou: “Nay! [I would rather] the Religion of Abraham the True, and he joined not gods with Allah.”
136. Say ye: “We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to [all] prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah [in Islam].”
Moses
At Sura VII we find an account of Moses and Pharaoh, according to the Koran. I have included a few verses of this account because it is rather entertaining.
103. Then after them We sent Moses with Our signs to Pharaoh and his chiefs, but they wrongfully rejected them: So see what was the end of those who made mischief.
104. Moses said: “O Pharaoh! I am a messenger from the Lord of the worlds,-
105. One for whom it is right to say nothing but truth about Allah. Now have I come unto you [people], from your Lord, with a clear [Sign]: So let the Children of Israel depart along with me.”
106. [Pharaoh] said: “If indeed thou hast come with a Sign, show it forth,- if thou tellest the truth.”
107. Then [Moses] threw his rod, and behold! it was a serpent, plain [for all to see]!
108. And he drew out his hand, and behold! it was white to all beholders!
109. Said the Chiefs of the people of Pharaoh: “This is indeed a sorcerer wellversed.
110. “His plan is to get you out of your land: then what is it ye counsel?”
111. They said: “Keep him and his brother in suspense [for a while]; and send to the cities men to collect-
112. And bring up to thee all [our] sorcerers well-versed.”
113. So there came the sorcerers to Pharaoh: They said, “of course we shall have a [suitable] reward if we win!”
114. He said: “Yea, [and more],- for ye shall in that case be [raised to posts] nearest [to my person].”
115. They said: “O Moses! wilt thou throw [first], or shall we have the [first] throw?”
116. Said Moses: “Throw ye [first].” So when they threw, they bewitched the eyes of the people, and struck terror into them: for they showed a great [feat of] magic.
117. We put it into Moses’s mind by inspiration: “Throw [now] thy rod”: and behold! it swallows up straight away all the falsehoods which they fake!
118. Thus truth was confirmed, and all that they did was made of no effect.
119. So the [great ones] were vanquished there and then, and were made to look small.
Sura V addresses the Covenant at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19: 5 – 9), but in the Koran it relates to the first three of the Five Pillars of Islam:
13. Allah did aforetime take a Covenant from the Children of Israel, and We appointed twelve captains among them. And Allah said: “I am with you: If ye (but) establish regular Prayers, practice regular Charity, believe in My apostles, honor and assist them, and loan to Allah a beautiful loan, verily I will wipe out from you your evils, and admit you to Gardens with rivers flowing beneath; but if any of you, after this, resisteth faith, he hath truly wandered
from the path of rectitude.”
Sura VII then gives this account of what happened next at Mount Sinai:
144. [Allah] said: “O Moses! I have chosen thee above [other] men, by the mission I [have given thee] and the words I [have spoken to thee]: take then the [revelation] which I give thee, and be of those who give thanks.”
145. And We ordained laws for him in the tablets in all matters, both commanding and explaining all things, [and said]: “Take and hold these with firmness, and enjoin Thy people to hold fast by the best in the precepts: soon shall I show you The homes of the wicked,- [How they lie desolate].”
And mercy will be shown to …
157. “Those who follow the messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own [scriptures],- in the law and the Gospel;- for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good [and pure] and prohibits them from what is bad [and impure]; He releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them. So it is those who believe in him, honour him, help him, and follow the light
which is sent down with him,- it is they who will prosper.”
158. Say: “O men! I am sent unto you all, as the Messenger of Allah, to Whom belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth: there is no god but He: it is He That giveth both life and death. So believe in Allah and His Messenger, the Unlettered Prophet, who believeth in Allah and His words: follow him that [so] ye may be guided.”
Jesus Proclaims Mohammed
Of course, Jesus also proclaimed the coming of Mohammed. This is from Sura LXI:
6. And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: “O Children of Israel! I am the messenger of Allah [sent] to you, confirming the Law [which came] before me, and giving Glad Tidings of a Messenger to come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad.”But when he came to them with Clear Signs, they said, “this is evident sorcery!”
But the crucifixion was an illusion …
VI: 157. That they said [in boast], “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no [certain] knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:-
And it is blasphemy to claim that Jesus is the Son of God …
V ; 19. In blasphemy indeed are those that say that Allah is Christ the son of Mary. Say “Who then hath the least power against Allah, if His Will were to destroy Christ the son of Mary, his mother, and all–every one that is on the earth? For to Allah belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between. He createth what He pleaseth. For Allah hath power over all things.”

Now reading all this, one could be forgiven for concluding that Mohammed simply plagiarized large parts of the Bible so as to portray himself as the focus of events. And that could only be construed as “unoriginal”. The Koran, on the other hand, argues that Mohammed was illiterate (“the Unlettered Prophet”) so he could not have read the Scriptures. Instead, A. Yusuf Ali’s Introduction to the Koran says this:
“C.29.-The Chosen One was in the Cave of Hiraa. For two years and more he had prayed there and adored his Creator and wondered at the mystery of man with his corruptible flesh, just growing out of a clot, and the soul in him reaching out to knowledge sublime, new and ever new, taught by the bounty of Allah, and leading to that which man himself knows not. And now, behold! A dazzling vision of beauty and light overpowered his senses, and he heard the word “Iqraa!”
“C.30.-“Iqraa!” — Which being interpreted may mean “Read!” or “Proclaim!” or “Recite!” The unlettered Apostle was puzzled; he could not read. The Angel seemed to press him to his breast in a close embrace, and the cry rang clear “Iqraa!” and so it happened three times; until the first overpowering sensation yielded to a collected grasp of the words which made clear his mission; its Author, Allah the Creator, its subject, Man, Allah’s wondrous handiwork, capable, by Grace, of rising to the heights sublime; and the instrument of that mission, the sanctified Pen, and the sanctified Book, the Gift of Allah, which men might read, or write, or study, or treasure in their souls.”
In other words, the author of the Koran is God Himself.
And that may explain why Muslims are so sensitive about any scrutiny or criticism of Mohammed. In respect of any other religion, philosophy, ideology or belief, the normal way people come to subscribe to them is by evaluating the text, then deciding whether the text justifies the claims made. But in respect of the Koran, Muslims insist that the starting point should be accepting the claims, and then reading the text in that light.
Which is why Muslims believe that the Jewish Scriptures and the Gospels got it wrong.
So how, according to the Koran, could the Jews and Christians have made such fundamental mistakes? Well, perhaps that is where the ‘decadent’ part of Schweitzer’s description comes in.
Islam as “Decadent”
According to the Koran, the Jews and Christians falsified their Scriptures.
The Jews
In respect of the Jews, we find this at Sura II:
75. Can ye (O men of Faith) entertain the hope that they will believe in you? –Seeing that a party of them heard the Word of Allah, and perverted it knowingly after they understood it.
And this in Sura V:
14. But because of their breach of their Covenant, We cursed them, and made their hearts grow hard: They change the words from their (right) places and forget a good part of the Message that was sent them, nor wilt thou cease to find them–barring a few–ever bent on (new) deceits: But forgive them, and overlook (their misdeeds): For Allah loveth those who are kind.
The Christians
In Sura V, we read this about the Christians:
15. From those, too, who call themselves Christians, We did take a Covenant, but they forgot a good part of the Message that was sent them: So We estranged them, with enmity and hatred between one and the other, to the Day of Judgment. And soon will Allah show them what it is they have done.
Then both Jews and Christians get a dressing-down for hiding the true message:
16. O People of the Book! There hath come to you our Apostle, revealing to you much that ye used to hide in the Book, and passing over much (that is now unnecessary):
17. There hath come to you from Allah a (new) light and a perspicuous Book, —

Consequences for the Jews and Christians for perverting the Message
From Sura II:
87. We gave Moses the Book and followed him up with a succession of Apostles; We gave Jesus the son of Mary Clear (Signs) and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit. Is it that whenever there comes to you an Apostle with what ye yourselves desire not, ye are puffed up with pride? –Some ye call impostors, and others ye slay!
88. They say, “Our hearts are the wrappings (which preserve Allah’s Word: We need no more).” Nay, Allah’s curse is on them for their blasphemy: Little is it they believe.
89. And when there comes to them a Book from Allah, confirming what is with them, –although from of old they had prayed for victory against those without Faith, –when there comes to them that which they (should) have recognized, they refuse to believe in it but the curse of Allah is on those without faith.
90. Miserable is the price for which they have sold their souls, in that they deny (the revelation) which Allah has sent down, in insolent envy that Allah of his Grace should send it to any of His servants He pleases: Thus have they drawn on themselves Wrath upon Wrath. And humiliating is the punishment of those who reject Faith.
And the Commentary to those verses says this:
C.47.- (Verses 87-121)-The people of Moses and the people of Jesus were given revelations, but alas! They played false with their own lights, and, in their selfishness, made narrow Allah’s universal message. To them it seemed incredible that His light should illumine Arabia and reform the world. But His ways are wondrous, and they are clear to those who have Faith.
Made them “apes and swine”
This is from Sura V:
62: Say: “O People of the Book! Do ye disapprove of us for no other reason than that we believe in Allah, and the revelation that hath come to us and that which came before (us), and (perhaps) that most of you are rebellious and disobedient?”
63. Say: “Shall I point out to you something much worse than this, (as judged) by the treatment it received from Allah? Those who incurred the curse of Allah and His wrath, those of whom some He transformed into apes and swine, those who worshipped Evil; –these are (many times) worse in rank, and far more astray from the even Path!”
And from Sura II:
65. And well ye knew those amongst you who transgressed of the Sabbath: We said to them: “Be ye apes, despised and rejected.”
66. So We made an example to their own time and to their posterity, and a lesson to those who fear Allah.
Which the Commentary explains like this:
“The punishment would be, not for the breach of the Sabbath in itself (by the Jews), but for the contumacious defiance of the law.”
Special mention of the Jews
Again from Sura V:
65. Many of them dost thou see, racing each other in sin and rancor, and their eating of things forbidden. Evil indeed are the things that they do.
66. Why do not the Rabbis and the doctors of law forbid them from their (habit of) uttering sinful words and eating things forbidden? Evil indeed are their works.
67. The Jews say: “Allah’s hand is tied up.” Be their hands tied up and be they accursed for the (blasphemy) they utter. Nay, both His hands are widely outstretched: He giveth and spendeth (of His bounty) as He pleaseth. But the revelation that cometh to thee from Allah increaseth in most of them their obstinate rebellion and blasphemy. Amongst them We have placed enmity and hatred till the Day of Judgment. Every time they kindle the fire of war, Allah doth extinguish it; but they (ever) strive to do mischief on earth. And Allah loveth not those who do mischief.
What Jesus really said to his disciples
According to the Gospel of John, this is what Jesus said to his disciples concerning the Holy Ghost:
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” John 16:7
The Koran says otherwise. We find the ‘true’ version of what Jesus said in Sura VXI:
6. And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: “O Children of Israel! I am the apostle of Allah (sent) to you, confirming the Law (which came) before me, and giving Glad Tidings of an Apostle to come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad.” But when he came to them with Clear Signs, they said, “This is evident sorcery!”
7. Who doth greater wrong than one who invents falsehood against Allah, even as he is being invited to Islam? And Allah guides not those who do wrong.
8. Their intention is to extinguish Allah’s Light (by blowing) with their mouths: But Allah will complete (the revelation of) His Light, even though the Unbelievers may detest (it).
9. It is He Who has sent His Apostle with Guidance and and the Religion of Truth, that he may proclaim it over all religion, even though the Pagans may detest (it).
Jihad
As we have seen, Islam means “submission” or “surrender”. “Submission” to the “will
of Allah”.
And this “submission” requires observance of the Five Pillars of Islam: affirming that there is no god but Allah and that Mohammed is the Messenger of Allah (the Shahâdah); ritual prayer five times a day (Salâh); giving alms on a determined scale (Zakâh); fasting during Ramadân (Sawn); and a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime (Hajj). Jihâd, or “holy war”, is sometimes called the “sixth” pillar, although it is not generally regarded as universally obligatory as long as a “sufficient number” participate.
But Jihâd also has another implication; compelling others to accept Islam. Here is Sura IX:
29. Fight those who believe not in God [Allah] nor the Last Day, Nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden By God and His apostle, Nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth [Islam], (even if they are) of the People of the Book [Christians and Jews], Until they pay the jizya With willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
And verse 20 of Sûra IX says this:
20. Those who believe, and suffer exile and strive with might and main, in God’s cause, With their goods and their persons, Have the highest rank In the sight of God: They are the people who will achieve (salvation).
And from Sura III:
151. Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers, For that they joined companions with God, for which He had sent no authority: their abode will be the Fire: and evil is the home of the wrong-doers.
And the duty of Muslims, according to Sura VIII:
38. Say to the Unbelievers, if (now) they desist (from Unbelief), their past would be forgiven them; but if they persist, the punishment of those before them is already (a matter of warning for them).
39. And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere; but if they cease, verily Allah doth see all that they do.
And from Sura XIII:
13. See they not that We gradually reduce the land (in their control) from its outlying borders? (Where) God Commands, there is none to put back His Command.
And finally the punishment that awaits those who resist is found at Sura V:
35. On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person–unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land–it would be as if he slew the whole people: And if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our Apostles with Clear Signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.
36. The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Apostle, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: Execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: That is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter;
37. Except for those who repent before they fall into your power: In that case, know that Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Conclusion
So there we have Albert Schweitzer’s assessment of Islam, and there we have a selection of verses from the Koran which could be taken to relate to Schweitzer’s assessment.
The question is: will we ever be permitted a debate on what all this means, other than on terms dictated by Muslims themselves?

Copyright © Joseph BH McMillan 2015 All Rights Reserved

Philosophical Origins of the Modern Liberal Fundamentalist State – Part II

“Hereby it is manifest that during time when men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man.”
And then there is this: “The desires, and other passions of man, are in themselves no sin. No more are the actions that proceed from those passions till they know a law that forbids them; which till laws be made they cannot know, nor can any law be made till they have agreed upon the person that shall make it.”
That is Thomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679) in Leviathan, also known as the Matter, Form, and Authority of Government – which really says it all.
This is quite frightening stuff, but remarkably, such sentiments still represent exactly the modern Liberal Fundamentalist state.
What Hobbes is saying is that human beings are too stupid and selfish to act in their own long term interests, or to ‘know’ what is right and wrong. So, he says, we need to elect one or more of our number to tell us how to act in our own best interests, and to tell us what is right and wrong.
He doesn’t explain how a group of stupid, selfish people, electing a stupid, selfish person from their midst, suddenly endows that person with the ‘wisdom’ to know what is right and wrong, and to act in a way that does not reflect his own stupid and selfish character.
Yet that is precisely what modern day politicians claim is the effect of their ascendance to power – that somehow they gain some superior ´wisdom´, ´conscience´, and sense of ´justice´, to the rest of us.

John Locke (1632 – 1704)

So although modern day ´philosophers´ will claim that Hobbes´ was too crude, the fact remains that his formula is precisely the model of modern day Western democratic government.
John Locke ‘refined’ Hobbes’ model. He started his ´philosophy´ of government with what is my Principle 1 – that no person has any natural authority to tell another person what to do.
He agrees that the natural state of man is “a state of perfect freedom to order their actions and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature; without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man.”
He also said that men are in “a state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another.”
So, at first sight, it seems as though Locke is heading in the right direction.
But Locke carried with him plenty of baggage. He was an academic at Oxford University, then later the personal physician and companion of a certain English nobleman called the Earl of Shaftesbury. Locke was also teacher to Shaftesbury’s children.
I always find it ironic that someone so absolutely beholden for his living to another, especially an English nobleman, should be preaching about freedom.
And this quickly comes out in his writing.
Unlike Hobbes, Locke looks to the law of nature; “for the law of nature would, as all other laws that concern men in this world, be in vain, if there were nobody that in the state of nature had a power to execute that law, and thereby preserve the innocent, and restrain offenders.”
So, within 3 numbered paragraphs of his Second Treatise, Locke is already looking for someone to govern; to enforce the “law of nature.”
Accordingly, after justifying, in his chapter “Of Property”, why the likes of Shaftesbury can legitimately ‘own’ enormous amounts of property, to the exclusion of “common possession,” Locke latches onto the concept of “the majority”, and the “perfect democracy.”
Locke claims that “no one can be put out of [his freedom, equality, and independence], and subjected to the political power of another, without his own consent.”
Phew, so far so good!
And “consent” is exactly what Locke claims men do, “for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another.”
But here is where Locke becomes bankrupt in his ´thinking´. He is unable to identify any principles to which all people would consent in order to conduct relations within their new community, so he simply claims that man “divests himself of his natural liberty, and puts on the bonds of civil society, … by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community, for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any that are not of it.”
And where do the ´rules´ to govern come from? Alarmingly, Locke says this: “ … the majority have a right to act and conclude the rest.”
So there it is – a “right” of the “majority” to dictate to the rest of us.
And done, says Locke, because “when any number of men have, by the consent of every individual, made a community, they have thereby made that community one body, with a power to act as one body, which is only the will and determination of the majority; … it is necessary the body should move that way whither the greater force carries it, which is the consent of the majority: … and so every one is bound by that consent to be concluded by the majority.”
What a devious little man! But I’m sure his noble Earl was pleased.
Locke’s ´thinking´ is a perfect example of turning logic on its head. We consent to relinquish our freedom to the majority, so that I have unwittingly ‘consented’ to be ruled by “that way whither the greater force carries it, which is the consent of the majority.”??
How can I consent to relinquish my consent to the consent of the majority, but still retain my freedom?
But this inverted logic is only the start of Locke’s ‘treatise’.
He goes on to claim that men give up their freedom “to be regulated by laws made by society.”
Locke argues that man consents to “give up the equality, liberty, and executive power [he] had in the state of nature, into the hands of the society,” because of “three defects” which make “the state of nature so unsafe and uneasy.”
Those “three defects”, he claims, are: no “established, settled, known” laws of right and wrong to settle controversies; no “known and indifferent” judges, with authority to determine disputes by reference to laws; and lastly, no “power” to execute punishment.
So, Locke argues, man consents to give up his condition of freedom (or as Locke describes it, “the equality, liberty, and executive power [he] had in the state of nature”), only “with an intention [to] better preserve himself, his liberty and property.”
Thus, says Locke, “the power of the society, or legislative constituted by them, can never be supposed to extend farther than the common good; but is obliged to secure every one’s property, by providing against those three defects above-mentioned, that made the state of nature so unsafe and uneasy.”
After briefly outlining the bounds of government, Locke sets out his idea of the “perfect democracy.”
“The majority having, as has been showed, upon men’s first uniting into society, the whole power of the community naturally in them, may employ all that power in making laws for the community from time to time, and executing those laws by officers of their own appointing; and then the form of the government is a perfect democracy.”
Locke then delineates the “bounds” of government: to govern by promulgated established laws; the laws must be “designed for no other end ultimately, but the good of the people;” government “must not raise taxes on the property of people, without the consent of the people;” and the legislator must not “transfer the power of making laws to anybody else.”
The “good of the people”? Tax, by consent of the majority? The “common good”? The majority ‘consenting’ on my behalf? “the greater force carries it, which is the consent of the majority”?
What on earth is left of my freedom?
I have sacrificed freedom to the common good, to the majority, to the “greater force” of the “consent of the majority”? I have agreed that the majority can consent to government appropriating my property under the guise of tax?
Oh Yes, I nearly forgot! If government is naughty and ventures beyond its mandate, say by imposing additional taxes, we can – wait for it – we can be “aggrieved.” And we can take our grievance to ….? Well – to the government. And if government laughs at us, what then? “The appeal lies nowhere but to Heaven.”
I’m not kidding, that’s what Locke says. The nobleman, the Earl of Shaftsbury, must have been pleased with his child-minder!
But it gets worse. “The legislative can never revert to the people whilst the government lasts; because having provided a legislative with power to continue for ever, they have given up their political power to the legislative, and cannot resume it.”
Really? Where, and when, exactly did man consent to get ‘Shafted’ by government.
But can we please perhaps vote a government out which has abused and exceeded its mandate?
Well, “if [the people] have set limits to the duration of their legislative, and made this supreme power in any person, or assembly, only temporary; or, else, when by the miscarriages of those in authority it is forfeited; upon the forfeiture, or at the determination of the time set, it reverts to the society, and the people have a right to act as supreme, and continue the legislative in themselves; or to erect a new form, or under the old form place it in new hands, as they think good.”
So here is the first big problem. If the government has abused its mandate to please the majority who, for example, want the minority to be compelled to hand over large amounts of property to the majority, how do you get rid of the government?
You can only do so if you can get the majority to relinquish its iron grip on your possessions! Remember, it’s all about the “greater force” of the “consent of the majority.” How likely is that?
The other possibility Locke envisages is the people expelling the government. But this he reserves only to the case where government uses force upon the people without authority and in breach of its mandate. Then, says Locke, “the people have the right to remove it by force.”
Fat chance!!
By this time, government has, by majority consent, usually reserved most or all force to itself. So the aggrieved have to overcome two obstacles: the majority; and if they can achieve that, the power the people have vested in government. And, of course, all governments make insurrection a criminal offence, even a treasonable offence, entitling government to suspend all ‘rights’; in the common good, and for the preservation of law and order, of course.
Locke himself describes this state as “a state of war with the people.”
Now, anyone thinking this through should quickly see that placing government in the hands of a majority, and endowing it with absolute authority to use force, makes it impossible to remove government so long as it attracts majority support, no matter how much it tramples over its original mandate. And the easiest way to maintain majority support is to take from the minority and give to the majority. But we are not talking here about some tiny proportion of the people having their freedoms trampled on. Usually it means 50% or more of the people, as any Western democratic election shows.
Even providing that “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” as in Amendment II of the United States Constitution, does not come close to curing this mechanism of oppression.
The well regulated Militia would have to be a rival army equal to, or more powerful than, the government forces, to be effective in such a circumstance. Government can also simply define what this Militia may comprise, as it does, or simply maintain that the military forces of the state are that Militia.
Most governments also simply restrict the “right of the people to keep and bear arms.”
Any half-wit should know that no government is going to allow an effective rival army to exist to act as a regulator of its affairs and power.
If we follow Locke’s ‘reasoning’ through therefore, we discover that man has consented to surrender his freedom in order to attain those basic securities necessary to remedy the defects of man’s state of nature, what I call his condition of freedom, the three rather insignificant “defects” of his freedom, only to find he will be subject to the whim of the majority, backed up by a force that he has no hope of challenging. In man’s condition of freedom, the principal threat came from those of relatively equal strength to himself; under Locke’s formula, the threat is from an immensely more powerful entity, supported by an easily manipulated majority.
Who in their right mind would consent to such an inversion of threat?
‘Nanny Boy’, Shafter’s child-minder and ‘companion’ – companion? Hmm? – reinforced his vision of tyranny in a piece of drivel called A Letter Concerning Toleration.
Nanny Boy poses himself a hypothetical question: “What if the [government] should enjoin any thing by his authority, that appears unlawful to the conscience of a private person?”
Well, Nanny Boy says this is unlikely to happen – because remember, there are such great people in government as Shafter – but if it does, we should follow our consciences and bear the consequences of the unlawful law.
But he goes even further. A private person – note, no longer a free person – should “abstain from the actions that he judges unlawful; and he is to undergo the punishment, which is not unlawful for him to bear; for the private judgment of any person concerning a law enacted in political matters, for the public good, does not take away the obligation of that law, nor deserve a dispensation.”
To compensate for the loss of freedom, Locke offers us religion. As long as we are all free to follow our own religion, we should be grateful. So our freedom has been reduced to freedom of religion. But that itself depends on government ‘tolerating’ our religion.
Nanny Boy thus distinguishes between “political society” and “the care of each man’s soul.” And the care of our souls must be “left entirely to every man’s self.”
And “political society is instituted for no other end, but only to secure every man’s possession of the things of his life.”
It is the duty of government, says Nanny Boy, to safeguard men’s lives and their property. “Therefore the [government] cannot take away these worldly things from this man, or party, and give them to that; nor change propriety amongst fellow subjects (no not even by a law), for a cause that has no relation to the end of civil government.”
Then Nanny Boy poses another hypothetical question. What if government does make laws taking away from one person and giving to another? What if government makes laws “to enrich and advance [it’s] followers .. with the spoils of others. What if the [government] believe[s] that [it] has a right to make such laws, and that they are for the public good; and [it’s] subjects believe the contrary? Who shall be judge between them?”
“I answer,” says Nanny Boy, “God alone.”
So there we are! By ‘consenting’ to relinquish only a tiny fraction of our condition of freedom, so as to have a common mechanism to protect that freedom, Nanny Boy leads us into servitude. Our only remedy is to appeal to Heaven, and to God.
This all brings me to ‘rights’. What a convenient and devious little device.
Nanny Boy refers to ‘rights’ as “civil interests.”
These “civil interests” are the governments business, says Nanny Boy, which must be distinguished from “religion”, which is not the government’s business.
Government “neither can nor ought in any manner to be extended to the salvation of souls.” This is reserved for “religious society”, the end of which “is the public worship of God, and by means thereof the acquisition of eternal life.”
But the government even has a part to play here. This is where Nanny Boy throws us the crumbs left over from our freedom. It is the “law of toleration”. The government’s “duty in the business of toleration” is “certainly very considerable.”
So, together with our “civil interests,” the “law of toleration” in respect of religion constitutes the sum total of our ‘rights’. That’s all that is left of our freedom; which is nothing!
But what exactly are these ‘rights’, this combination of our “civil interests” and “law of toleration.”
Man’s ‘rights’, says Nanny Boy, are “life, liberty, health, and indolence of body; and the possession of outward things, such as money, lands, houses, furniture and the like.”
Anyone violating these ‘rights’ is “checked by the fear of punishment.”
That punishment is deprivation of that person’s civic interests. Taking away from him in proportion to what he has taken from another.
According to Nanny Boy, government should be restricted to remedying these violations. That is the end of civil government.
So when Locke says the government cannot take property from one person and give it to another “for a cause which has no relation to the end of civil government,” this is what he means. Civil government should be restricted to restoring to one person what has been taken from him by another. It does not entitle government to take from one person and give to another because government thinks ‘justice’ requires a different distribution of wealth between people; or because government believes that everyone should be ‘entitled’ to health care; or because government thinks people should be ‘entitled’ to an income in their old age; and so on. Those things are specifically excluded, even by Locke. It is no business of government, says Locke, to take from one person and give to another because one person has provided for his health, old age, and so on, and another hasn’t.
On that I agree with Locke. Freedom includes, and necessarily implies, freedom to screw up. It does not mean freedom to screw up, and then require another to pay to sort out the mess.
But let me return to the other element of Nanny Boy’s ‘rights’. That is tolerance.
In short, Nanny Boy says we have a ‘right’ to expect the government to tolerate whatever religion we wish to pursue in order to save our souls.
But there are certain exceptions: “opinions contrary to human society, or those moral rules which are necessary to the preservation of civil society”; religions which pay allegiance to other governments; and atheists.
So it is this hodgepodge of ‘rights’ that today supposedly constitutes our freedom.
But these ‘rights’ are a dismal failure. They do not enhance our freedom, they undermine and diminish it. They are a charter for oppression and tyranny.
They constitute a tyranny of ‘rights’; the enslavement of man; the enshrinement of ignorance and oppression.
They are the enforcement of pity, sympathy, and compassion. They are charters for abuse, open to what Nietzsche called “interpretation”.
And this is all because Locke, and his imitators, started from the wrong end. They sacrificed man’s freedom for ‘rights’. Whereas they should have preserved man’s condition of freedom absolutely, subject only to those principles men freely and universally agree to adopt. Not by majority consent, but by universal consent.
So Locke took the same ‘social contract’ approach as Hobbes – that man is compelled by the State and society to act in the common good. But he also mobilizes God who, by dispensing rewards and punishments in eternity, knocks some further sense into man.
As Schweitzer says, “the essential point of distinction between them is that with Hobbes society alone plies the whip, while with Locke God and society wield it together.”
Neither could see that before we cede any authority to someone else, including government, we all need to agree on the principles to which they must adhere in exercising that authority.
Now I should give credit where credit is due. Locke did establish rudimentary procedural safeguards against abuse of power by government; he just couldn’t come up with any “ideas” when it came to finding substantive safeguards to protect individual freedom. So he gave us the booby prize – ‘rights’. And now we are showered with ‘rights’.
But we do not build a temple of freedom by stacking one right on top of another like bricks; instead, we build ourselves a prison, a prison governed by a tyranny of rights.
Thanks a bunch, Nanny Boy!
Copyright © Joseph BH McMillan 2015 All Rights Reserved

Why Government and Big Business are Intent on Destroying the Last Remnants of Marriage, Family and Faith

The last century has seen a concerted campaign by Western governments to erode the important role played by marriage, family and faith in people’s lives.

‘Controlling behavior’

The latest assault on these institutions comes from the British Government, which is to introduce a new law of “controlling behaviour” to make it a criminal offence, under threat of a 14 year prison sentence, for a husband, for example, to ‘monitor’ the activities of his wife if he suspects that he is being deceived.

According to the Daily Telegraph of London, the new law will make it “illegal for someone to exercise ‘coercive control’ over their partner. It means [that] for the first time men who control their partners through threats or by restricting their personal or financial freedom, could face prison in the same way as those who are violent towards them.” And “there will be no statutory time limit for the offences, meaning abuse dating back years can be taken into account.

But such a law will not be peculiar to Britain. According to the Telegraph, similar laws have been implemented in the United States which “led to a 50 per cent rise in the number of women coming forward to report domestic abuse.” Many other Western countries have similar laws, while yet others will no doubt follow suite in short order.

It seems most curious that governments that justify monitoring our every movement and our every word, on the basis that we ‘have nothing to fear if we have nothing to hide’, should consider it worthy of criminal penalty if a husband or wife does the same.

In the vast majority of cases, a husband or wife will have far better justification for resorting to such measures than government. So perhaps it would be more appropriate to apply an offence of “controlling behaviour” to governments and their agencies.

Reasons for the New Law

But why would Western governments be so determined to introduce laws that will quite patently serve only to further undermine marriage and family?

The most obvious reason is that the majority of people have been conditioned, mostly willingly, into believing that promiscuity and adultery are a ‘right’, and they see no reason why their ‘freedom’ to indulge that ‘right’ should be inhibited in any way by the small ‘inconvenience’ of marriage, or children.

Governments have been eager to promote that perception, and for good reason. It undermines the institution of marriage as a sanctuary in which people find refuge and strength. People derive their moral compass from the family, not from government. And when family is the centre of people’s lives, governments have less control over them.

So governments needed to drive a wedge between husbands and wives. And the best way to do that is to engender mistrust between them. That was done by promoting sexual ‘liberation’. Promiscuity before marriage has the natural effect of eroding the sanctity of marriage. Marriage becomes just another in a series of relationships (see article The Meaning, and Essential Ingredients, of Marriage). That inevitably leads to instability because, quite naturally, one or both parties will feel apprehension about the other’s previous sexual partners and practices. And apprehension leads to suspicion. When someone then becomes suspicious that they are being betrayed, they take measures to protect themselves and their security, and especially the security of their children. In fact, they have a moral duty to do so.

Yet, the consensus is that someone’s previous life is not the business of the person they marry, and with whom they have children. ‘What I did before is none of your business!’ is the usual refrain.

This mistrust between husbands and wives was further compounded when government declared that there should be no penalty for adultery. In fact, the person who does the betraying is often rewarded, which is hardly a disincentive.

Adultery has thus become commonplace. People see it all around them, every day. So it is not unnatural that they should fear that their own spouses may be doing the same, especially when patterns of behavior and routines suddenly and inexplicably change. So it should not be surprising that they would want to reassure themselves.

Having created this state of extreme distrust between the sexes, government is now intent on criminalizing the consequences. That is because government has declared that the kind of ‘controlling behavior’ such distrust engenders is ‘abusive’; it is, according to government, akin to physical violence.

There can be no doubt that once this law is introduced in Britain, there will be a concerted campaign by government and the sponsors of the law to exacerbate the distrust that already exists between husbands and wives. Even the slightest suspicion will be considered an infraction of the law and portrayed as ‘abusive’, requiring intervention by the police. The law will amount to a license for infidelity which will cause further discord in the family – hardly a conducive environment for children. But then, the object of the law is to facilitate infidelity and undermine family, not to create a harmonious environment for children.

Even where there is a strong suspicion of betrayal, voicing concern or requiring proof to the contrary will be considered abusive. That will leave spouses with only two options: To suffer the humiliation of being a victim of infidelity in silence in the hope of keeping the family intact for the sake of the children, or walking out and getting a divorce. And that will simply add to the number of children from broken homes, and thus compound the social problems already prevalent in society.

If government was even remotely interested in providing secure and stable environments for children, it would be taking steps to strengthen families, not destroy them. And the way to do that is to encourage parents to be thoroughly open with each other, not secretive and evasive. Parents should have shared bank accounts so that each can monitor the family’s finances; they should have unrestricted access to each other’s passwords for email and social media accounts; each should encourage the other to check email and social media messages as a means of reassurance; each should have mobile phone passwords for the other, and be encouraged to check calls and costs; and each should, as a matter of course, recount to the other their day’s activities.

Partners in marriage, and indeed any kind of personal relationship, especially when children are involved, have an obligation to make every effort to reassure each other. Each needs to ascertain what causes the other discomfort or apprehension and do whatever is required to allay any fears.

Parents should recognize that such actions are not concessions, and neither do they amount to submissive behavior. They are fundamental obligations parents have towards each other so as to provide the kind of harmonious environment for bringing up their children. These are the actions that create trust between people. But today, trust is something people believe they can demand as a ‘right’, not something that has to be earned.

Families are built on sharing and reassuring, not on secrecy and suspicion. A divided institution is weak, unstable and contentious.

And it is just such weak, unstable and suspicious families government wants to create. So it portrays such obligations as ‘abuse’.

The difference between marriage and work relationships

In order to fully understand governments’ intent and method to destroy marriage, family, and faith, we should briefly note the fundamental differences between marriage and work relationships.

Marriage has at its heart the aim and expectation that the relationship will result in the creation of a new human life, whereas work is a means of providing for our physical needs. Work is what we do to provide for our families. We do not have families so that we can work.

Of course, government has sought to invert the obvious commonsense of that premise by promoting the silly idea that the most important issue in life, apart from sex, is ‘career’; and many have been keen to delude themselves with that fiction.

But irrespective of that self-deception, the fact is that a relationship that has as its focus the wellbeing of a human life – and not any human life, but the human life that two people bring into this world by their own voluntary act – must necessarily attract fundamentally more onerous obligations on the parties than a relationship that involves stacking shelves, tending a check-out, treating patients, servicing clients, or pleasing shareholders. All of those things simply involve catering to the needs of others.

The elements for a strong and stable marriage and family

The obligations that attach to two human beings who create new human life form the bonds that define marriage and family. And they comprise three principal elements.

First, both parties have an obligation to ensure that the relationship is unique, exclusive and special for the benefit of the new life that is the objective of the relationship.

Secondly, it requires the autonomy of at least one of the parties. At least one of the parties must be free from the authority of other human beings; that is, not in service to a boss, patient, corporation, client, shareholder, or institution. The autonomy of at least one party to the relationship establishes the autonomy of the relationship itself. And there can be no doubt that, in the main, women have the unique strengths and qualities to secure such autonomy within a relationship.

And thirdly, the relationship requires a moral authority to bind it together, but which subjects neither party to the dictate of the other. And only mutual faith in God can provide such an impartial moral authority.

It is precisely these elements that define marriage and family, and which make it autonomous and secure, that are an impediment to government and big business exercising absolute control over people. So they have come under relentless attack.

How government seeks to undermine marriage, family and faith.

In respect of the first element, we have already seen how government, with the aid of devious marketing strategies by big business, has created the perception that uninhibited sexual indulgence is a ‘right’. That has created distrust between the sexes, thus undermining marriage and family. And those who have the autonomy, self-respect and self-discipline to resist indulging their new found sexual ‘liberties’ are made to feel “thoroughly ashamed”. Embarrassing someone into abandoning deeply held convictions is itself blatant emotional abuse, yet it is rife. But it is not only emotional abuse. Young people, and especially young girls, are pressured and ridiculed into turning their bodies into little more than pleasure-generating objects, and that is tantamount to physical abuse. And once they succumb, the consequences are irreversible.

In respect of the second element, the campaign by government and big business focused on belittling, ridiculing, and denigrating the autonomous role of mothers as the anchor of marriage and family. Mothers were portrayed as being ‘tied to the sink’, occupied in ‘baking cookies’ or knitting, and incapable of engaging in ‘intelligent conversation’ because they are focused on ‘bringing up children’. The most unpleasant aspect of this ongoing campaign is that it was, and still is, conducted mostly by women – women exhibiting the worst aspects of “masculine stupidity”. It is surprising that the women who engage in scorning those women who dedicate their lives to their children and families are unable to recognize that they are attempting to inflict emotional abuse on their fellow human beings, and indeed fellow women. Perhaps it is self-guilt that generates the kind of hostility that can only be assuaged by attempting to humiliate others.

This campaign also appealed to human vanity. Remarkably, many women easily succumbed to the peculiar notion that ‘autonomy’ was to be found in submitting to the authority of another in the workplace. They deluded themselves that being ‘chained to the bosses desk’, or punching timecards in a factory, or filling in timesheets in some office, gave them ‘freedom’. It was more ‘satisfying’ to please the boss than cater to the needs of their own children – probably because the latter is considerably more demanding than the former.

The final element of marriage and family that had to be undermined was belief in God. God provides a moral authority that transcends government, and transcends ‘career’. God provides the moral authority that determines the obligations we have, first and foremost, to our children. That requires one parent, at least, to be autonomous, which deprives big business of compliant labor. But perhaps even more concerning to business and government, God also provides a meaning to life that does not require the pointless and useless branded products produced by big businesses. And that is not good for demand. Those who have God don’t need logos to give their lives meaning.

So those who believe in God are ridiculed for the “narrowness of their intellects.”

The campaign to belittle those who believe in God has as its objective establishing government as the supreme authority, and the supreme lawmaker. Restraint in action should not be as a result of recognizing obligations that emanate from a Supreme Lawmaker, but by fear of punishment from government. God is replaced by ‘values’, which need to be imposed on children from an early age. Of course, nobody can identify the ‘authority’ for these ‘values’ other than the dictate or custom of some person or group of people. Then the only ‘moral’ prerogative is that anything goes as long as you can get away with it.

That gives government the authority to determine what is right and wrong, and compel people to obey under threat of sanction.

Belief in God directly challenges that ‘authority’. So God had to go.

The proper context and true intent in destroying marriage, family and faith

We can now go back to the issue of “controlling behavior”, and see it in its proper context and true intent.

Those very obligations and elements that are the rock on which marriage and family should be built are an impediment to government exercising unfettered authority and control over people. Neither are they conducive to a compliant and submissive workforce, and an easily manipulated market for pointless products.

The very qualities that give strength to marriage and family are the qualities government and big business want to appropriate and subvert to their own authority. And they have already achieved that for the most part. These new offences are directed at eliminating the last remnants of resistance.

A comparison between ‘abuse’ in marriage and the workplace

In order to ascertain what exactly this new law would consider to constitute ‘abuse’ in marriage, it would be informative to conclude this analysis with a comparison of the respective conditions under which parents operate in marriage, and the conditions imposed on them in the workplace.

So let’s start with that notion that pre-marital sexual practices and partners have nothing to do with the other party to a marriage; that refrain of ‘what I did before is none of your business.’

Those who invoke this ridiculous refrain in marriage should perhaps attempt to invoke it at an interview with a prospective employer. They could tell that employer that their previous education, interests, work experience, possible criminal convictions, are none of their business. They could insist that the prospective employer should simply ‘trust them’ to be the perfect person for the job.

In order to test the arguments and conclusions in this short article, I recently applied for a job as “Warehouse Operative” with a global corporation.

The job involved stacking shelves, so it seemed that my work and life history could hardly be relevant. On the contrary. But they were not looking for any higher qualifications, or even experience, in shelf-stacking, but they did require disclosure of pretty much everything else about my life, and they required the authority to conduct extensive and intrusive background checks, including police checks. That involved waiving most legal protections for personal data. And any untruthful or inaccurate information would be grounds for summary dismissal without pay, and a claim for compensation should the company suffer any damage as a consequence. Then there were the stringent confidentiality agreements, preventing disclosure of any information about the company, of whatever nature, to any other party. All for the privilege of stacking shelves.

Why would stacking shelves entitle an employer to such a detailed history of a person’s life, while creating new life gives no such entitlement?

Common sense would dictate that it should be the other way round. Parties to marriage are far more vulnerable to betrayal and deceit than a global corporation. And the consequences are considerably more damaging, especially for children.

However, if a party to a relationship contemplating marriage and children required the kind of detailed disclosure from the other party that is required for a shelf-stacking job, that would be regarded as ‘abuse’. So people contemplating marriage will just have to rely on blind trust; or better still, simply don’t get married or have children.

Yet, this kind of absolute disclosure for a job is just to get in the door.

Once in the door, things get considerably more tyrannical. In the case of the Warehouse Operative, an outline of employees’ duties was provided by a representative of the company to the mass of applicants who had been herded together like cattle at market – men and women, young and old.

Some of these duties were set out in a detailed employment contract that had been handed out to the candidates. But remarkably, the candidates were told that they need not read the contract, nor the waiver of legal protections against hours worked, because the contract was non-negotiable.

Of course, those who could take the time to read the contract, and who were in a financial position to decline the job if they were not happy with the draconian terms, could simply walk out. But what I discovered is that a large proportion of the candidates had been compelled to apply for the job because they were in receipt of state benefits. If they declined the job, or were rejected for seeking to negotiate any of the terms, they would lose their state benefits. That would leave them and their families homeless and penniless. No doubt the representatives of the company were well aware of the plight of so many of the applicants, and so able to take advantage of the situation.

In effect, people were being compelled to labor for the company under duress and threat. But worse, if they found the conditions of work intolerable and resigned, or if they were fired, they would likewise lose their right to claim state benefits. And that is nothing short of forced labor.

Quite rightly, Western governments do not condone similar duress when it comes to marriage. Forced marriage violates the most fundamental principle of morality – freedom. People must be free to decide whether or not to assume obligations, especially the onerous obligations of marriage.

However, government does not consider compelling people to labor an infringement of their freedom. The argument is that welfare benefits are a privilege, and people should be compelled to take whatever job is available, or lose their ability to sustain themselves and their families. That enables big business to capitalize on the situation by imposing intolerable working conditions on employees knowing that if they refuse they starve.

But we should also consider for a moment the argument that welfare benefits are a privilege.

Human beings, by virtue of the simple fact that they are human beings, are free to provide for their survival and security, and are therefore free to access the resources of the Earth to do so. The Earth is a resource common to all who inhabit it. Human beings are no less free to access the resources of the Earth to eat, than they are free to access the air to breathe. So when a small minority of human beings, mostly under the guise of artificial corporate entities, appropriate to themselves the vast majority of the resources of the Earth, they do not become owners of those resources to the exclusion of all other human beings; they become trustees. And trustees have onerous fiduciary duties towards the beneficiaries of the resources they hold. As the Preacher says, “the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field.” Eccl 5:9. That is a fundamental principle not only in the Christian and Jewish traditions, but all religious traditions of any worth.

To argue that superior entrepreneurial ability vests ownership in the resources of the world to the exclusion of others is exactly the same thing as claiming that superior strength does so. Economic tyranny can no more vest authority in one person over others than can any other kind of tyranny.

So the fact that giant global corporations and financial institutions have appropriate so much of the Earth’s natural resources to themselves does not deprive human beings of the freedom to provide for their survival and security, and it does not relieve those institutions of their fiduciary duties towards those deprived access to those resources. Neither does it vest in any one person, group of people, or institution howsoever constituted, an authority to subvert the life of other human beings to their control. Economic tyranny is no different to military tyranny. Against either, human beings are free to exercise their freedom to provide for their survival and security if it is denied them. And history bears testimony to that truth.

We should now address the actual conditions under which people labor, and contrast that with marriage.

In the case of the Warehouse Operative job, the representatives of the company briefly described employees’ duties. Nearly 12 hours a day alternately on day and night shifts; half an hour for lunch/midnight dinner: two 15 minute coffee breaks a day; work activities would be monitored to the minute, and recorded; toilet breaks would be timed, and a point would be deducted from employees exceeding the allotted toilet time allowed; time off sick would also lose a point; loss of three points would result in summary dismissal; no telephone calls, texting, emails, or web browsing during work hours; a security check on entering the warehouse for work; and constant CCTV monitoring of the interior and exterior of the premises.

And all this for the minimum wage.

Now, we should just imagine if a husband or wife sought to impose such conditions on one another. It would, quite rightly, be considered abuse. Yet government considers such abuse to be absolutely acceptable when inflicted by a faceless giant corporation on those who have no option but to accept such conditions if they want to survive. Government even facilitates such economic tyranny by applying the necessary duress and threats to provide corporations with the cheap labor they are finding hard to recruit in the Third World. (see article The Feudalization of Britain.)

Yet, that is precisely why government and big business are intent on destroying marriage and family. Once they do so, there is really little else in life but work. So people have been conditioned to believe that even such work is preferable to, and more ‘admirable’, than looking after children in our own homes in order to build strong marriages and strong families.

Of course, there are those who will argue that such work conditions are the exception, and that other occupations, as in the professions, are in fact ‘rewarding’ and ‘liberating’.

Well, to finish off, let’s just compare the conditions imposed in even a relatively high paying job, an accountant or solicitor for example, with the kinds of things government considers abuse in a marriage or relationship.

Strict working hours will be required, mostly nine to five. Hours worked will have to be recorded in timesheets, and reviewed by the boss or management team. Telephone calls will all be logged, and will have to be allocated to clients. Some calls will be monitored and recorded. Email and social media activities will all be monitored. Receipts for expenses incurred on work related activities will have to be submitted for approval. Lunch and coffee breaks will be time-limited. There will be regular ‘performance reviews’ to check that performance is in line with expectations, and that will include a full review of time keeping, personal use of telephones, email and social media, interpersonal interaction with other staff and clients, and so on, and so on. In other words, every single aspect of a person’s work, performance and activities will be reviewed to see whether they are making a sufficient contribution to justify their continued employment. And if the review proves negative, a warning will be followed by dismissal if the person’s performance does not show considerable improvement.

Imagine now that one spouse sought to impose such conditions on the other. Every single aspect of such ‘controlling behavior’ would be regarded as ‘abuse’ justifying police intervention, and a severe prison term, especially under Britain’s proposed new law. And that will even be the case where one spouse suspects the other of betrayal.

Imagine also an employee telling the boss that it is none of his or her business where they’ve been all morning when they should have been at work; or that it is none of the boss’s business who the employee calls, what emails they receive or send, or what they read and write on social media; or that the employee’s expenses should not be questioned; or refuse to complete timesheets on the basis that it is an unwarranted monitoring of their time.

Imagine too the consequences of an employee betraying the employee, especially if that employee happens to be a government employee with access to sensitive information.

And yet, by a staggering inversion of logic, submitting to such ‘controlling behavior’ in pursuit of a career is regarded as ‘liberating’, while anything remotely similar in marriage is considered to be ‘abuse’. And betrayal of spouse and children in marriage is considered almost a duty if someone does not feel totally satisfied, or feels that their ‘liberty’ is being even remotely inhibited.

But that is precisely the outcome sought by government and big business: a total erosion of the obligations we have towards our families and children, and absolute submission to government and big business.

Human beings have been institutionalized in the corporate image, leaving children to be groomed by government as tomorrow’s productive economic units, or more properly, economic serfs of the new financial lords of the world.

Joseph BH McMillan

Copyright © Joseph BH McMillan 2014 All Rights Reserved

The Feudalisation of Britain

Although this article addresses the feudalisation of Britain, it is a plague that infects the West as a whole.

The economic cause of this new feudalisation is that giant global corporations are running out of cheap labour in the Third World to sustain their profitability and the disproportionate remuneration packages for their executives.

At the same time, the dishonesty and incompetence of the Western financial industry has plunged Western economies into the worst recession in a century, which has left millions of unemployed and low-paid workers requiring government assistance in order to meet the basic necessities of life.

The West’s financial and corporate elite thus saw an opportunity. The unemployed in the West could be compelled to replace the loss of cheap Third World labour under threat of losing their government assistance. Governments called this scheme ‘austerity’.

A stark admission of this policy came from Britain’s Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, in an interview on Britain’s Channel 4 Dispatches programme, ‘How the Rich get Richer’, presented by Fraser Nelson of the Spectator magazine (17 November, 2014).

When it was explained to him that people working even 10 hours a day were unable to support themselves and their families, and were less well-off than they would be on welfare, Duncan Smith’s answer was that the Government’s welfare reforms would ensure that people would always be better off working than claiming benefits.

But since the Government does not propose to ensure that global corporations and financial institutions be compelled to pay a living wage, Duncan Smith clearly means that the already inadequate welfare support will be cut to such a level that people will be forced to work under any conditions and for any wage under threat of sanction.

The unemployed are to be harvested as a cash crop under threat of starvation and homelessness.

And while the Government relentlessly presses ahead with its feudalisation reforms, forcing many British people, the unemployed and workers alike, to resort to food banks to feed their children, and charity shops to clothe them, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer has been pre-occupied with challenging an EU directive from Brussels to cap bankers’ bonuses.

Yet, bankers’ bonuses are only possible because the Government has pumped billions of pounds into the hands of the incompetent and corrupt financial institutions that brought about this economic catastrophe in the first place. The greatest welfare cheque in history was written out to the greatest economic villains in history.

But to deflect criticism from the villains in the story, the Government, supported by a compliant media itself in the power of the new ‘economic royalists’, or beholden to the Government for its funds, set about demonising the victims by portraying them as welfare ‘scroungers’ crippling the economy, and living off ‘hard-working’ taxpayers.

This demonization of the poor, the vulnerable, and the oppressed, has instilled in even otherwise decent people a sense of contempt which has conditioned them to accept that their fellow human beings ‘deserve’  to suffer indignity, abuse, and hardship at the hands of a morally ambiguous Government, and morally vacuous corporations.

But this is not the first time in recent history that free people have faced the threat of the malevolent aspirations of economic tyrants. It is, however, the first time that they have faced them without a leader of vision up to the challenge.

The last time free people faced such a challenge, the American people, at least, had a leader ready and willing to confront the menace. He was Franklin D Roosevelt.

He faced down ‘the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power.’

He condemned the ‘small group [that] had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people’s property, other people’s money, other people’s labor — other people’s lives.’

And he recognized that ‘against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen could appeal only to the organized power of government.’

But today, the organized power of government is in the service of the ‘economic dynasties’. It is imposing on its own people an economic tyranny for the benefit of ‘the privileged princes’.

Government is rendering itself the enemy of the people. And when people are forced into serfdom, then they become free to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure their own survival, and regain their dignity and freedom.

Freedom is that one thing that ‘no man gives up but with life itself.’

So it is not surprising that when Duncan Smith was asked whether the government’s policies towards the poor and oppressed might lead to revolution, he was silent.

However, the fear of revolution may just explain the extensive and intrusive surveillance programmes of Western governments. And it may also explain the multitude of ‘threats’ we are told we need to fear; some real, like Islamic terror, for which our own governments are largely responsible; others contrived, like the idea of an expansionist Russia intent on invading Europe.

As long as the people have enough to fear, then Government and the new economic royalty have less to fear – or so they hope.

Joseph BH McMillan

Philosophical Origins of the Modern Liberal Fundamentalist State – Part I

Like everything else in life, all philosophy can be reduced to simple analogy.

I shall demonstrate this by reference to those philosophers who have had the most dramatic impact on the way we think and behave today.

Jeremy Bentham (1784 – 1832)

Few people outside of academia will have heard of Bentham, never mind understand how much influence his ‘thinking’ has had on their lives.

Bentham traveled back in time to the Garden of Eden, there to dig up the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and plant in its place the tree of pleasure and pain. And it is of this tree that Adam and Eve ate, claims Bentham.

“Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure.” Pain and pleasure, claims Bentham, determine what we ought to do, what is right and wrong, what we say, and how we behave. He acknowledges that he cannot prove this, but claims that is because “that which is used to prove everything else, cannot itself be proved.” Convenient!

So Bentham claimed that he had discovered the philosophical calculator, or what he called “felicific calculus” – happy arithmetic. Punch in the data, and out pops the answer. This is Bentham’s “principle of utility” – every action is determined by “the tendency it appears to have to augment or diminish the happiness of the party whose interest is in question,” and that is done by adding to “the sum total of his pleasure,” and diminishing the “sum total of his pains.”

Now if Bentham were true to his thesis, even pain should be capable of producing pleasure. Some people sacrifice and endure pain because it relieves their consciences; others because they derive a kind of pleasure from starving themselves of pleasure for what they consider some higher calling, or for the benefit others may derive from their sacrifice; others will even sacrifice their own lives for the benefit of others, or simply because they cannot face another day of their high pleasure diet. In short, Bentham could simply have said that all actions are selfish.

But he couldn’t do that. If he did, his “felicific” calculator would not work: punch in 2 and up pops 4; punch in 4 and up pops 3. Suddenly we have a hall of mirrors. So Bentham simply declares that any principle which differs from his “principle of utility” must “necessarily be a wrong one.”

He identifies two wrong ones: “asceticism” and “sympathy and antipathy.” The former are religious people who court pain as a matter of “merit and duty” because of the “narrowness of their intellect,” and those who want to cleanse themselves from “the sordes of their impure original.” The latter are those who approve or disapprove of actions because of their own prejudices.

Bentham didn’t seem to recognize the irony in identifying these ‘exceptions’ to his principle. If there are people who do not always seek to maximize pleasure, and some who even court pain, then mankind cannot be under the “governance” of pleasure and pain as Bentham defines it.

But that does not deter Bentham. Instead of re-evaluating his “principle of utility,” he simply says that those who do not respect it “must always be regulated” to prevent them “doing mischief.” And they must be regulated by his “principle of utility.”

And this ‘regulation’ must be done by government: “the business of government is to promote the happiness of society, by punishing and rewarding.”

So Bentham hands government two electrodes: one to infuse pleasure; the other to inflict pain. Thus government compels everyone to be happy. Use of the electrodes is determined by the “effect” actions have on others pursuing their pleasure. Sometimes it is necessary to modify behavior by applying the pleasure electrode to infuse a “disposition” for the kind of pleasure that has a “tendency” to be less harmful to the pleasure of other, while the pain electrode should be applied to those who seriously malfunction – those who simply cannot get enough pleasure, irrespective of the “consequences” to others.

If Bentham’s analysis were purely academic, it could be almost entertaining. Unfortunately, it is the model of the modern democratic state. The right to “the pursuit of happiness” is even enshrined in the United States Declaration of Independence. And Western government and society are slaves to the pursuit of pleasure – as long as it does not harm others, of course.

The ‘harm principle’ which has emerged from the “principle of utility” dictates virtually every aspect of modern life, and has defined modern ‘morality’. ‘Morality’ is a function of pleasure; everything and anything which enhances pleasure is good, as long as it does not “harm” others; and everything and anything which inhibits the indulgence of pleasure is bad. Bentham’s contempt for ‘morality’ is the staple of today’s society: “we see the emptiness of all those rhapsodies of commonplace morality, which consist in the taking of such names as lust, cruelty, and avarice, and branding them with marks of reprobation.”

Thus, for decades, we have been showered with “studies” and “research” which ‘prove’ that this or that action, or this or that indulgence, does not cause “harm”. Or “studies” which show that inhibiting certain indulgences does cause “harm” to those who want to engage in them. To put it crudely, ‘morality’ today means doing whatever gives you a kick, as long as it does not ‘hurt’ someone else.

Now on the face of it, who could object to that? The problem is that we know little, if anything, of the consequences of defining human beings as nothing more than creatures in search of pleasure. What we do know is that modern Western society is plagued by a myriad of ailments. Divorce is soaring; juvenile delinquency is out of control; crime is commonplace; drug and alcohol abuse is rampant; teenage single mothers are a dime a dozen; venereal disease is as common as the common cold; and so we could go on. Yet, we do not question whether the ‘philosophy’ of modern society may be the problem; a ‘philosophy’ which has it origins in Bentham’s “principle of utility.” Instead, we call on government to wield the electrodes more, especially the pain electrode, in the hope that government can “regulate” us out of the mess. So humans are being reduced to a species lower than Pavlov’s dogs, except government does not wield a bell to make us salivate, it wields Bentham’s electrodes.

Bentham’s claim that man is governed by pleasure and pain, and must therefore always seek to maximize pleasure, is the same thing as saying that because a car consumes fuel, its sole purpose and use is to consume as much fuel as possible. He cannot conceive that a car may have a purpose other than the consumption of fuel.

Neither can he conceive that this relentless consumption of fuel may release harmful emissions into the atmosphere which may, in the end, see the demise of the car entirely, and the destruction of the environment as we know it.

But at least in respect of carbon emissions we have started questioning the true effects; we haven’t even started questioning the true effects of the relentless pursuit of pleasure.

John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873)

Bentham’s “principle of utility” has been ‘refined’ by others. Mill, for example, argued that intellectual and aesthetic pleasures should be accorded more weight than purely sensual pleasures. That’s like arguing that a car consuming high-octane fuel is preferable to a car consuming regular fuel.

Philo (20B.C. – 40A.D.)

Bentham was not original in claiming that man is governed by pleasure and pain. Philo had the pleasure advocates in his day, and predicted others, such as Bentham.

Now when I talk about Philo, I don’t mean the character played by Clint Eastwood in the film Every Which Way But Loose. I mean Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, Egypt, who lived at about the same time as Christ, although there is no evidence that they ever met each other.

It is appropriate here to bring in Philo because he specifically talks about the Garden of Eden, which is where I started with Bentham.

In explaining the significance of Adam and Eve eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Philo says this about the serpent that tempted Eve. “And the serpent is said to have spoken in a human voice, because pleasure employs innumerable champions and defenders who take care to advocate its interests, and who dare to assert that the power over everything, both small and great, does of right belong to it without any exception whatever.”

Now what I find particularly interesting about Philo is his explanation about the origins of pleasure. He says that animals “pursue pleasure only in taste and in the acts of generation,” that is, for reproduction. So it was with man, he says, until he succumbed to the serpent.

Philo explains it this way. “Now, the first approaches of the male to the female have a pleasure in them which brings on other pleasures also, and it is through this pleasure that the formation and generation of children is carried on. And what is generated by [pleasure] appears to be attached to nothing rather than to it[self], since they rejoice in pleasure, and are impatient at pain, which is its contrary.”

Philo is saying that man was once exactly like an animal, reproducing to ensure the survival of the species. Generally, animals instinctively reproduce at predetermined times and even places. Man, on the other hand, can and does reproduce at any time. But most importantly, man has the ability to reflect on the reasons for reproducing, the consequences, and the obligations that attach to, and arise from, the act of reproduction. Man has the ability to weigh in the balance the instinctive drive to reproduce, and the pleasure to be derived from it, against the consequences of the act. Humans can ask themselves whether they should engage in the act with this person, or at this time of their lives. They can ask themselves whether they should engage in the act of reproduction with only one person, or should they simply satisfy their desire for the pleasure derived from the act, irrespective of the number of people involved. And it is the ability to reflect on these questions which gives rise to what we call ‘obligations’, and what we call ‘morality’.

That is the fundamental distinction between Bentham and Philo. For Bentham, mankind is simply driven on by the pursuit of pleasure like a paper bag in a hurricane.

Philo sees this enhanced perception as an opportunity for man to rise above pleasure which, he says, if pursued for no purpose other than itself, is “more miserable than death.”

Philo warns that “those who have previously become the slaves of pleasure immediately receive the wages of this miserable and incurable passion.”

It is this ability to harness pleasure, and the ability it brings to designate acts as good or bad, that defines man, and differentiates him from beasts.

So Philo would have seen that a car does have a purpose other than the consumption of fuel. He would even have noticed that the consumption of fuel for no other purpose than the consumption of fuel would cause harm to the environment. Philo had the benefit of witnessing the unrestrained pursuit of pleasure by the Romans of his day; a passion for pleasure which ultimately led to their downfall.

Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804)

Kant can be summed up like this: he would have noticed that cars do not simply consume fuel for the sake of consuming fuel; sometimes they slow down, and even stop, consuming less fuel; he would have noticed that there are signs which seem to have this effect on cars, and that these signs are mostly obeyed because of fear of the police.

What Kant claimed to have discovered is a moral faculty in man. He claimed that man is conscious of a “moral law” through reason, and that the ‘impulse’ to conform to this “moral law” is not through some “intervening feeling of pleasure and pain,” or even “intuition,” but through “the concept of freedom.”

This is how Kant sums it up: “these laws are only possible in relation to freedom of the will; but freedom being supposed, they are necessary; or conversely freedom is necessary because those laws are necessary, being practical postulates. It cannot be further explained how this consciousness of the moral law, or, what is the same thing, of freedom, is possible.” Perhaps Kant should have called his book on the subject A Critique of Pure Impractical Reason.

Kant’s “moral law” can be explained like this: the “law” part = freedom = freedom to choose; the “moral” part = good and evil. So the “moral law” means we are free to choose between good and evil. Using the motor car analogy, Kant is saying that there are signs (laws) which, if obeyed, make a good driver, but that we are free to obey them or not, and face the consequences. This is what he says: “There is something so singular in the unbounded esteem for the pure moral law [the road signs], apart from all advantage, as it is presented for our obedience by practical reason [freedom], the voice of which makes even the boldest sinner tremble [the police], and compels him to hide himself from it ..”

Obeying the signs defines a “person himself as a good or evil man.”

Now Kant does not advocate renouncing pleasure altogether, but only that when “duty [to obey the moral law] is in question we should take no account of happiness.” Using the car analogy again, all Kant is saying is that consuming as much fuel as possible is good, except when we come across a sign; then we should obey the sign, even if that means we don’t consume any fuel.

And that, thought Kant, is the purpose of a car – consume as much fuel as possible, except when obeying a sign means we should slow down, or stop: a kind of Utilitarian Buddhism.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900)

Nietzsche believed that only one kind of car mattered: the powerful, fast and glitzy sports car. All other cars are “common” – “similar, ordinary, average, herdlike.” They are all “mediocre.” Or at least that is the general consensus.

That is Nietzsche’s “will to power.” He despaired at the trend toward universal similarity; the creation of a dull world – “this degeneration and diminution of man into the perfect herd animal … into the dwarf animal of equal rights and claims.” Nietzsche did not want a world where everyone drives around in a Trabant, scrupulously obeying the signs, terrified that they may have an accident. He hated the “imperative of herd timidity: [that] we want that some day there should be nothing more to be afraid of!”

At least Nietzsche acknowledges that he has no idea of a car’s purpose. But since we have them, he says, we might as well have the most powerful, the fastest, and the most aesthetically pleasing, not one of those ordinary cars without style, with plastic seats, chugging along on a puny diesel engine.

And Nietzsche doesn’t care about carbon emissions.

Yet Nietzsche would be the first to acknowledge that his “will to power” is only his “interpretation.” The genius of Nietzsche is his observation that everything is “interpretation, not text,” especially when it comes to philosophy. In that he agrees with the Preacher in Ecclesiastes: “[God] hath set the world in [man’s] heart, so that no man can find the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end” [Eccl 3:11], and “though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it” [Eccl 8:17].

Because we cannot, or have not yet, identified a discernible purpose for mankind being on this earth, says Nietzsche, we simply make up the rules as we go along. But sooner or later someone will come along to throw all these rules out the window, and impose his own tyrannical rules. Nietzsche says this: “It is interpretation, not text; and somebody might come along who, with opposite intentions and modes of interpretation, could read out of the same ‘nature’, and with regard to the same phenomena, rather the tyrannical inconsiderate and relentless enforcement of claims of power – an interpreter who would picture the unexceptional and unconditional aspects of ‘will to power’ so vividly that almost every word, even the word ‘tyranny’ itself, would eventually seem unsuitable, or a weakening and attenuating metaphor – being too human – but he might, nevertheless, end by asserting the same about this world as you do, namely, that it has a ‘necessary’ and ‘calculable’ course, not because laws obtain in it, but because they are lacking, and every power draws its ultimate consequences at every moment. Supposing that this also is only interpretation – and you will be eager enough to make this objection? – well, so much the better.”

Nietzsche was right, of course! We’ve had Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and now the likes of Al Qaeda. And there will be more. Ironically, though, the greatest danger stems from our so-called democratic institutions. The prospect of such a tyrannical “interpreter” gives government license to wield Bentham’s electrodes with ever greater enthusiasm and urgency. So we see a proliferation of laws to “regulate” us into discarding our ‘prejudices’ so that some day we shall have “nothing more to be afraid of!” – except, perhaps, our own ‘tyrannical’ governments?

But government has to protect us, we are told, not just from the tyrannical “interpreter”, but also from our own predilection for causing ourselves harm; especially through carbon emissions. And that brings me to Albert Schweitzer.

Albert Schweitzer (1875 – 1965)

Before I have every ‘philosopher’ screaming at me that Schweitzer is not a philosopher, let me acknowledge that. His existential tendencies, it seems, banished him from that exclusive club.

He said this: “In this world we can discover nothing of any purposive evolution in which our actions can acquire meaning.” So he agrees with Nietzsche and the Preacher on that.

But he claims that our “will to live” comes to the rescue. “As in my own will-to-live there is a longing for wider life and for the mysterious exaltation of the will-to-live which we call pleasure, with dread of annihilation and of the mysterious depreciation of the will-to-live which we call pain; so is it also in the will-to-live all around me, whether it can express itself before me, or remains dumb.

“Ethics consists, therefore, in my experiencing the compulsion to show all will-to-live the same reverence as I do to my own. There we have given us that basic principle of the moral which is a necessity of thought. It is good to maintain and encourage life; it is bad to destroy life or obstruct it.”

This is how Schweitzer describes “reverence for life” man: “Life as such is sacred to him. He tears no leaf from a tree, plucks no flower, and takes care to crush no insect.”

So Schweitzer wants us to fill our cars with unleaded fuel, take care not to splatter insects on the windscreen, and not drive over grass.

That, for Schweitzer, is the purpose of a car because, he says, we can never discover any other purpose.

So Schweitzer, even if he isn’t a ‘philosopher’, rounds off the ‘thinking’ that influences us today – consciously or unconsciously. An inspiration for the environmentalists, the greens, and even the animal rights brigade.

Conclusion

These ‘philosophers’, together with those who have ‘refined’ and expanded on their ‘thinking’, have thus defined modern Western ‘morality’. A ‘morality’ that is an amalgam of the pursuit of pleasure tempered by the ‘harm principle’, environmentalism, banishment of prejudice (for which read – those who do not subscribe to the accepted norms of political ideology), and the quest for safety, all held together by Bentham’s electrodes.

Yet this amalgam doesn’t identify the purpose of a car – it describes dodgem cars at a fair ground. And it has created the modern Liberal Fundamentalist state!

Furthermore, it has also created modern Logo Man – Nietzsche’s herd man with a brand. Life only has meaning in proportion to the accumulation of Logo’s: more Logos, more happiness.

And since we labor under the fiction that we agree to be governed by the majority, the majority is easily manipulated, by appealing to their ‘will-to-vanity’, into believing that the pursuit of Logos is the pinnacle of civilization – and ‘studies’ prove that!

That we ‘consent’ to be governed by the majority is again, not surprisingly, another philosophical ‘waste product’.

Copyright © Joseph BH McMillan 2007 All Rights Reserved

 

Humanitarian Intervention: International Law or International Vigilantism?

Although this article was originally written in response to moves by Western Governments to find ‘justification’ to overthrow the Assad government in Syria under the guise of ‘humanitarian intervention’, the general arguments set out in the article apply to the concept of Humanitarian Intervention in general.

The ‘doctrine (or duty, or responsibility) of Humanitarian Intervention’, as construed by Western powers, notably the United States, Britain and France, as justification for military intervention in Syria, is a most curious doctrine indeed.

An analogy in Domestic (National) Law would be this: If I take a grievance to court, and I lose my case because the court doesn’t believe my ‘evidence’, then I acquire a sort of secondary legal right to take the law into my own hands. And that right extends to me gathering a group of friends to assist me exact the ‘justice’ I believe I was denied by the court.

That is nothing more than vigilantism. It is peculiar that countries which proclaim their belief in ‘law and order’ should be advocating anarchy.

The countries most vocal in proclaiming this curious doctrine also appear to do so for slightly different reasons. The United States claims that a breach of an international treaty gives it the right. The British claim that it is a breach of humanitarian law, even though some 100,000 civilians are said to have died before they discovered that they had this ‘right’. And the French – well, who knows?

In support of this right, these countries also claim that not resorting to this kind of international vigilantism threatens their ‘national interests’. It seems that Western powers today have difficulty distinguishing between their ‘interests’, and what they are interested in. If any country has national interests at stake in Syria, it is clearly Russia, not the West.

But worse, the doctrine the West is advocating can only threaten their national interests. If the rest of the world adopted the same approach to resolving disputes where the Security Council could not agree, International Law would amount to nothing more than International Vigilantism.

So, for example, if a country sought a Security Council resolution requiring Israel to return to its pre-1967 borders, and the United States or Britain vetoed the resolution, other countries would acquire a right to attack Israel to drive it out of the occupied lands.

The same case could be made for almost every dispute between countries, of which there are many. Even if the doctrine were strictly applied to humanitarian issues, it would not be hard to invoke it in a great number of instances around the world.

If this is the kind of International Law the West considers is in its interests, then it would be considerably preferable, and much cheaper, to scrap the United Nations, and revert to the age-old practice of simply requiring a country to declare war on another country in order to give its actions, even its aggressions, some kind of legitimacy.

Should the United States, along with France and such other compliant ‘allies’ America can muster, resort to this kind of International Vigilantism, in the face of overwhelming opposition from the international community and their own people, Obama’s legacy to the world will be an ugly International Tyranny under which the weak will be subverted to the will of the strong. And International Tyranny will inevitably lead to national tyranny in Western countries as the people are told that they have to sacrifice what freedoms and privacy they have left, so that their governments can protect them from the inevitable blowback caused by imposing tyranny on the rest of the world through sheer aggression.

By Joseph BH McMillan

Copyright © Joseph BH McMillan All Rights Reserved

A Convergence of Christianity and Judaism?

In his book Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI joins debate with Rabbi Jacob Neusner on what is dubbed “the Jewish-Christian dialogue.”

Neusner initiated the debate with his provocative book A Rabbi Talks to Jesus.

Rather than attempt to identify the points of difference between these ‘protagonists’, let me quote Neusner’s own assessment of where the debate rests.

Neusner says this in an article for the Jewish Forward titled The Pope and I: A Debate With Jesus Is Joined By Benedict XVI : “Where Jesus diverges from the revelation by God to Moses at Mount Sinai that is the Torah, he is wrong, and Moses is right. In setting forth the grounds to this unapologetic dissent, I meant to foster religious dialogue among believers, Christian and Jewish alike. For a long time, Jews have disingenuously praised Jesus as a rabbi, a Jew like us really; but to Christian faith in Jesus Christ, that affirmation is monumentally irrelevant. And for their part, Christians have praised Judaism as the religion from which Jesus came, and to us, that is hardly a vivid compliment.

“Jews and Christians have avoided meeting head-on the points of substantial difference between us, not only in response to the person and claims of Jesus, but especially in addressing his teachings. He claimed to reform and to improve, “You have heard it said… but I say….” We maintain that the Torah was and is perfect and beyond improvement, and that Judaism — built upon the Torah and the prophets and writings, and the originally oral parts of the Torah written down in the Mishnah, Talmuds and Midrash — was and remains God’s will for humanity.

“By that criterion I set forth a Jewish dissent to some important teachings of Jesus. It is a gesture of respect for Christians and of honor for their faith.”

Now, what I find remarkable about Neusner’s assessment (and I shall revert to the Pope in a moment), is his statement that “the Torah was and is perfect and beyond improvement, and that Judaism — built upon the Torah and the prophets and writings, and the originally oral parts of the Torah written down in the Mishnah, Talmuds and Midrash — was and remains God’s will for humanity.”

I find this remarkable for several reasons.

First, it does not appear to recognize the primacy of the Ten Commandments, or the distinction between the Ten Commandments and the laws Moses derived from the Ten Commandments.

Even if we are to assume that the Torah is “perfect and beyond improvement”, surely we still need to address the distinction between that which God is said to have deemed of such fundamental importance that He saw fit to write it down personally, and in His own hand, and that which He saw sufficient to relay through His messengers.

The great Jewish philosopher, Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, who lived at about the same time as Christ, makes this distinction central to the understanding of the Torah. He says this: “For it was suitable to [God’s] own nature to promulgate in His own Person the HEADS and PRINCIPLES of all particular laws, but to send forth the particular and special laws by the most perfect of the prophets … to be the interpreter of His holy oracles.” [my emphasis]

Deuteronomy 5:22 reinforces Philo’s point: “These words [the Ten Commandments] the Lord spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: AND HE ADDED NO MORE. And HE wrote them in two tables of stone.” [my emphasis]

Whether we regard the events at Mount Sinai as literal or symbolic, the effect is the same. Certain Principles were given added weight by being said to have emanated from God Himself, in His own hand.

Ignoring that distinction, or elevating the other Mosaic laws to equal status as those said to have been delivered in God’s own hand, diminished the point of the distinction, and leads to some very curious results, which brings me to the second point.

If the Torah is “perfect and beyond improvement”, and reflects what “was and remains God’s will for humanity”, then it must rest with Neusner to explain why so many of the laws expounded in the Torah are simply ignored by Jews today, including him, I expect.

Let me give just a few examples.

Immediately after Exodus 20 (the Ten Commandments), we find certain laws and ordinances expounded. Exodus 21:1 – 11 deal with buying and selling human beings. Although the KJV refers to these human beings as “servants”, they are for all intents and purposes slaves. Verse 4 says this: “If his [the slave’s] master has given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he [the slave being freed after 7 years service] shall go out himself.”

I should be interested to know how many Jews would consider such an arrangement acceptable today, or whether Neusner thinks such a state of affairs is acceptable?

Let us take another. “And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.” [Exodus 21:17]

Or the laws set out in Deuteronomy, for example.

A woman not found to be a virgin on her wedding night shall be brought “to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die.” [Deuteronomy 22:21]

Then we have the man committing adultery with a married woman: “Then they shall both of them die.” [Deuteronomy 22:22]

And, of course, there are the laws dealing with homosexuals: “And if a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death.” [Leviticus 20:13] Now, even if one finds homosexuality abhorrent, how many today would advocate such punishment?

Such laws are far more reflective of strict Sharia Law which so many in the West find so distasteful. Are such laws really “perfect and beyond improvement”? And do they really reflect “God’s will for humanity”?

Or should we distinguish between such laws, and the “heads and principles” of all laws, the Ten Commandments, as Philo noted?

In fact, the “writings” which Neusner references, which I take to include Proverbs, specifically refers to the question of ‘interpretation’. “To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: To understand a proverb, and the INTERPRETATION; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.” [Proverbs 1:4 – 6]

The plain fact is that in practice Jews, or at least the vast majority of Jews, do not subscribe to the letter of many, if not the majority, of the laws prescribed by, or ascribed to, Moses, as distinct from the spirit of the Principles annunciated in the Ten Commandments. And no matter how “dialogue on theological truth”, as Neusner describes it, attempts to finesse the issue, the ‘truth’ is that it is the Ten Commandments which are “perfect and beyond improvement” and reflect “God’s will for humanity”, and only the Ten Commandments.

And, as I have argued in previous articles [The Law: Salvation, the State, and the Kingdom of God, and Are We Genetically Programmed by, and with, the Ten Commandments?, and in my books], science is now beginning to suggest that we human beings have a “morality module” in our brains, a module, I argue, which is modeled on the Principles underlying the Ten Commandments.

Such discoveries by science tend to support, therefore, those verses in the Scriptures which say precisely that: Genesis 1: 27 (man in the image of God); Deuteronomy 30:14 (the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart); and, on the Christian side, Luke 17:21 (the Kingdom of God is within you).

Which brings me to the Christian side of the ‘debate’.

“Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work.” No, not Christ, but Proverbs 24:29.

But Christ did say this: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” [Matthew 5:38 & 39]

What we see here is Christ taking further a movement away from the strict Mosaic law already under way in Proverbs.

But Christ is at pains to stress that He is not seeking to change the underlying Principles of The Law, only the interpretation.

He affirms the immutability of The Law, by which He clearly means the Ten Commandments. He says this: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, ‘Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, ‘till all be fulfilled.” [Matthew 5:17 & 18]

Now, I appreciate that Neusner’s point is that Christ could not ‘interpret’ the Law because only God, according to Neusner – if I read him right, can do so, and the Jews do not recognize Jesus as the son of God, or the Messiah.

But that misses the point!

It seems to me that Christ was making precisely the point made by the Jewish philosopher Philo. Christ was distinguishing between the Principles of the Ten Commandments, and the interpretation of those Principles.

Thomas Aquinas said the same thing as Philo: “The precepts of the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments) differ from the other precepts of the Law, in the fact that God Himself is said to have given the precepts of the Decalogue; whereas He gave the other precepts to the people through Moses.” [ST II, Q 100, Art 3]

So if we take, for example, the adulteress who was brought before Christ for a stoning. Christ doesn’t say there is nothing wrong with adultery, he brings the issue of the punishment into question. After those eager to cast the stones disperse, Christ tells her to go and “sin no more”.

The Seventh Commandment does not dictate a punishment. Moses determined the punishment. Christ re-interpreted the Commandment to lighten the punishment while affirming the Principle.

But the important point to note is that few Jews and Christians today would regard a good stoning appropriate for any crime, let alone adultery. Yet both, I expect, would still regard adultery as a sin, even a crime. So, in practice, both Christians and Jews are constantly ‘reinterpreting’ the Principles underlying the Ten Commandments. It is a simple fact – and I believe it is a simple fact because human beings are ‘programmed’ with the Principles underlying the Ten Commandments and are constantly trying to come to terms with them – unconsciously, I suspect.

Yet, like the Jews, in practice, many, or most, Christians do not follow strictly Christ’s teachings, or interpretation of the Principles underlying the Ten Commandments. For example, few Christians would ‘turn the other cheek’ if a family member were under threat or attacked. Few Christians (although I know there are some) would argue that we should have done nothing after 9/11. Few Christians would argue that we should not have a military to defend the country. All these things appear to contradict Christ’s teachings, so we find justification by reverting to the Old Testament.

In other words, what we are doing is trying to synthesize the various interpretations of the Ten Commandments from the Torah, the Prophets, the writings (like Proverbs and Ecclesiastes – “a time to kill, and a time to heal”), the Gospels, and the other books of the New Testament. We often hear the Old Testament quoted more in certain churches than the New when ‘turn the other cheek’ does not seem appropriate for the circumstance.

Even the issue of Salvation is not that different between the Jewish and Christian versions. Both seek to regain the ‘right to life’ lost by ‘original sin’. So we see the New Testament end in the last Chapter with this: “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life.” [Revelations 22:14]

And Christ’s Commandments, the Law, are the same as the Commandments handed down on Mount Sinai (Matthew 5:17 & 18 quoted above).

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” [Matthew 7:21]

And our Father in heaven made His will abundantly clear – He descended down to earth to write it on two tables of stone. And Christ stated emphatically that not “one jot or one tittle” shall pass from God’s revealed will until all be fulfilled – that is, until His will is established as the Principles which govern human behavior and human government – until the Kingdom of God is established on earth.

So, what all this tells us is that once we move beyond the ‘theological’, and if I may say so, infantile, ‘no he can’t – yes he can’ arguments that encumber this ‘new debate’, we find that both Moses and Christ recognized as the immutable Word of God the Ten Commandments, and in particular, the Principles which underlie those Commandments. And in practice today, both Christianity and Judaism converge in the practical interpretation of those Principles, and their application.

We may not be doing a very good job of interpretation at present, but that is because no one has really ever brought up the issue.

If we do, then the other ‘differences’ may well converge as well. After all, we both recognize the same God, and we both recognize that He revealed His will when he descended to earth to deliver it.

By Joseph BH McMillan

Copyright © Joseph BH McMillan 2014 All Rights Reserved

The Meaning, and Essential Ingredients, of Marriage

Across the Western world today the entire concept of marriage has become so diluted that it is now almost meaningless.

‘Family’ has become the preferred term to describe ‘relationships’, with marriage being just one form of ‘family’ and, moreover, one of no special significance. So marriage is no different to any other kind of relationship, however casual or temporary it may be.

Furthermore, the drive to grant the status of marriage to same-sex relationships has gained an unstoppable momentum in most Western countries. Even in previously staunchly Catholic countries in Europe, like Spain and France, same-sex couples can get married. The same is now the case in Britain.

So it is not surprising that many feel that the institution of marriage is on the brink of disintegration. And that raises the question of what exactly does constitute marriage, and does that set it aside from other kinds of relationships.

I should emphasize, however, that what follows is not intended to denigrate other kinds of relationships. People should be free to choose what type of relationships they wish to enter, and with whom. But they should not be free to seek to denigrate and destroy what other people hold dear in the process.

Definition of Marriage

The most common definition of marriage is that it is a union between a man and a woman. But that doesn’t really tell us anything. Calling marriage a union between two people, even restricting it to a man and a woman, is really just a statement that marriage is a joint venture. But a joint venture requires an objective, or purpose. It is rather pointless to say that the purpose of a joint venture is a joint venture.

So it is precisely the purpose of marriage that the debate should be focused on. Because identifying the purpose gives us the content.

And to identify the purpose we need only ask: what is the natural consequence of a man and a woman joining together in a physical act? And the answer is the creation of a new human life.

But each human life is in itself unique, exclusive and special.

It is unique in that it has its own unique DNA which is a fusion of the DNA of the man, and the DNA of the woman, who engaged in the physical act which gave life to that individual. It is simply a biological fact.

Each individual is also exclusive to the man and the woman who engaged in the physical act that created that unique human being, because it’s DNA is exclusive to the DNA of the parents.

That each human being is special should stand to reason. Each human being is special because every human being deserves respect for the very reason that it is a human life. But each human life is also special in the sense that it is unique in itself, it is unique to the two individuals who created it, and that it is exclusive to the man and the woman who engaged in the physical act which gave that human being life.

Now, given that what could otherwise be regarded as a crude physical act produces a unique, exclusive and special human life, the question must necessarily arise as to whether any obligations should attach to the two human beings who engage in the act which creates that life.

There are probably very few, if any, sane people who would seriously claim that absolutely no obligations should attach to the two individuals who create a human life. So given that we all recognise that obligations attach to the creation of a human life, we have to ask why those obligations should not be determined by the nature of the life the physical act creates. Most of us recognise that the quality of outcome in any other human endeavour is entirely dependent on the quality of the people and process involved. Yet, when it comes to the most profound of all human endeavours, the creation of human life, we think we can have a quality outcome without observing the basic principles.

So if we apply the simple logic that obligations which attach to an action should reflect the nature of the consequences of that action, we come up with these obligations in respect of the creation of human life.

Since every human being is a ‘unique, exclusive, and special individual’, every human being deserves to be conceived in a ‘unique, exclusive and special act’, and raised in a ‘unique, exclusive and special relationship’.

If we then put that simple logic into the context of marriage, we come up with a definition of marriage as being a commitment by a man and a woman to join together for life in a unique, exclusive and special relationship, for the purpose of creating a unique, exclusive and special human being, in a unique, exclusive and special act.

Anything less must necessarily be a betrayal of the human being two free people bring into this world by their own voluntary act.

At this stage, liberals would argue that such a definition of marriage, if we leave out the ‘for life’ part, makes it no different to reproduction in slugs, rats or apes, because they also share their parents’ DNA. And that would not be a surprising response from liberals who like scratching around in zoology textbooks to justify primitive carnal behaviour in humans by citing similar behaviour in animals. The liberal ‘mind’ specialises in ‘reasoning’ itself back into our primitive ‘ancestral’ past – and resents the thought that perhaps human beings can elevate otherwise primitive animal instincts into higher, more noble, and more civilized behaviour.

Kant astutely noted this tendency in the mentally challenged to apply ‘reason’ to justify their own primitive behaviour by citing similar behaviour in animals: ‘But [man] is not so completely an animal as to be indifferent to what reason says on its own account, and use it merely as an instrument for the satisfaction of his wants as a sensible [sensual] being. For the possession of reason would not raise his worth above that of the brutes, if it is to serve him only for the same purpose that instinct serves in them.’

The simple fact, and even writing this piece is evidence of that fact, is that human beings, or at least some human beings, do have the ability to classify behaviour in such a way as to identify the beneficial elements of that behaviour, and promoting those elements, while also identifying the destructive elements of that same behaviour, and discouraging them. Call it a ‘knowledge of good and evil’, if you like – that anathema to the liberal ‘mind’!

It is a sad reflection of the state of the human condition today that so many look back into our primitive ancestral past to justify what is in essence primitive animal-like behaviour, rather than recognising that human beings can, and must, transform otherwise instinctive animal behaviour into something more noble and sacred. That is what gives the human species some ‘worth above that of the brutes’.

Obligations attaching to Marriage

Now that definition of marriage gives rise to a multitude of obligations on the parties who enter into it. Among those are fundamentally important pre-conditions, or obligations, that each party must fulfil. And the most important pre-condition is the obligation to abstain from sex before marriage, even sexual acts short of intercourse – the sort of things the likes of Bill Clinton claimed do not amount to ‘sexual relations’, like mutual masturbation and oral sex.

Apart from those committed to one or other faith that prohibits or discourages pre-marital sex, there are very few today who have the intelligence to recognise the importance of sexual abstinence before marriage, and the courage to resist the temptations and pressures to indulge their primitive carnal urges before marriage. Nietzsche once predicted that a time would come when ‘a woman who had turned out well – and such women are always prudent [virgins] – would have to be thoroughly ashamed.’ Regrettably, that time came several decades ago, so women today who have ‘turned out well’ are made to feel ‘thoroughly ashamed’ through scorn and ridicule. But those who resist and hold to their convictions are to be utterly admired, and held in the highest esteem.

So apart from those few, the general consensus today, and few question it, is that pre-marital sex is somehow an important ingredient necessary for a stable and secure marriage.

Arguments for Pre-Marital Sex

The arguments for this view are not seriously sustainable. They are really just feeble excuses to avoid the obligations that attach to those who create new human life, and a ‘license’ for people to indulge their primitive carnal instincts.

These arguments fall into two broad categories.

First, there are those who suggest that pre-marital sex, as long as it is limited to the intended marriage partner, is important to ensure sexual compatibility in the marriage. That is fallacious on several counts. First, it puts sexual gratification at the centre of the marriage. That relegates children to a sort of by-product of sexual gratification. It also implies that if one or both parties feel sexually ‘unfulfilled’, they can look elsewhere for a more sexually ‘compatible’ partner. They then end up with the more promiscuous version of pre-marital sex. This version of the argument also puts ‘self-fulfilment’ of the parents as the purpose and object of marriage, not children.

The second argument is that pre-marital sexual ‘experimentation’ with several partners brings sexual ‘experience’ to a marriage which, in this view, acts as a sort of ‘bonding agent’ increasing the chances of a sexually ‘fulfilling’ and stable marriage. This argument is flawed on too many counts to enumerate, so I shall identify only a few of the more common ones.

First, those who have ‘experimented’ with sex with other partners prior to marriage bring expectations and demands to the relationship based on previous sexual encounters. And they are impatient for instant gratification of the sort experienced in their previous sexual encounters. They expect the other party to the marriage to be a kind of surrogate for previous partners.

They also bring to the relationship assumptions as to the expectations of the other party to the relationship. They impute the sexual preferences of one or more previous partners into all other members of the same sex. That is, a woman, for example, may assume that what gave one or more of her previous male partners pleasure and enjoyment, must necessarily give all men the same pleasure and enjoyment, including the other party to the marriage.

Even more destructive to a relationship is one of the parties feeling compelled to describe how previous partners gave them sexual gratification, and implicitly, or even expressly, suggesting that the other party to the marriage re-enact such previous experiences. Rather than ‘motivating’ the other party to adopt the same sexual practices, it is more likely, or even guaranteed, that the other party will avoid similar practices for the obvious reason that he, or she, will feel that they are simply being used as an animated mannequin to re-live sexual experiences with  previous partners. It causes resentment, frustration, and even anger.

Further, once sex has been ‘experienced’, and ‘experimented with’, prior to marriage, it leaves nothing between the parties which can be used to build a special relationship of which sex is an integral element.

One of the more ridiculous implications of the argument for promiscuous pre-marital sex  is that sexual ‘experimentation’ somehow can’t take place with the other party to a marriage, within the marriage, whereas that is precisely what is required for a stable, secure, loving and special relationship to develop.

And these objections don’t even touch on the more obvious objections to pre-marital sex. There is always the danger that one of the partners has unknowingly contracted a sexually transmitted disease from a previous partner which infects the other party to the marriage, or a child. There is also the hideous possibility of a child to a marriage not being the biological child of the ‘father’. With the advent of DNA testing, this is being revealed as far more common than was imagined. The fact that one party to a marriage could so callously deceive the other party, and her own child, is a product of the casual attitude to sex that accompanies sexual promiscuity.

But before men start banging on the table about the immorality of women today, they should remember that such children are not the result of ‘immaculate conception.’ For every child born into a marriage who is not the biological offspring of the man to that marriage, another man was complicit in that deception – often a good ‘friend’, neighbour or work colleague of the family. And often such men are themselves married with children who they in turn have deceived. It is a sordid business, and too common to be comfortable.

So it should be patently obvious that previous ‘sexual experience’ is most likely to undermine, if not doom, a marriage from the start. To save a marriage inflicted with such a disability requires herculean effort that few can muster, because all their sexual energies, and most even of their other energies,  have been exhausted in their quest for ‘sexual experience’ – in the delusional belief that previous sexual ‘experience’ can be some kind of blueprint for a sexually ‘fulfilling’ marriage.

It is simply a fact of human nature that each human being feels, or at least would like to feel, that they are special, and not just an inadequate stand-in, or substitute, for someone else. Therefore, if for that reason alone, each party to a marriage has an obligation to make the other party feel special, especially in respect to their sexual relationship. And that requires that the sexual relationship in a marriage must be unique and exclusive to the parties to the marriage. That is an essential element for a stable and secure relationship into which they bring a new human life. Previous sexual encounters and relationships are entirely incompatible with that obligation.

But this is not a question of personal preferences or choices. It is a fundamental part of human nature which manifests itself in just about every other aspect of life. People want their own home, a refuge from the world – somewhere exclusive to them, and special. They want to have their own reserve of money, if they can, which is exclusively theirs. It gives them a sense of security. Human beings need a core sanctuary where they feel special, which is unique, and exclusively theirs. And there is nothing that can fill that need better than a unique, exclusive and special relationship with another human being. Bricks, mortar and money are a pale substitute for a special relationship with another human being. And a relationship is simply incapable of being special when at its core is a sexual relationship which is nothing more than a ‘recreational’ activity shared with a multitude of previous sexual partners.

But there are two caveats to the obligation of sexual abstinence before marriage.

First, it does not mean that the parties to a marriage should not derive any enjoyment from their sexual relationship. On the contrary, each party has an obligation to make every effort to ensure that the other party derives maximum enjoyment from their physical relationship, because that creates a more contented and harmonious environment for the life they create.

Secondly, it cannot preclude the use of contraception during marriage. The reason is simple. The parties have an important obligation to the life they create to provide it with a secure home, and financial stability. If they need to delay creating a life to do so, contraception is a sensible way to achieve that. The same applies if they want to delay the creation of a life to establish a more sexually enjoyable and secure relationship before the child is born. Likewise, there can be no objection to the use of contraception during marriage where the parents consider that further children would put pressure on the resources of the marriage, which would be detrimental to already existing children. Such matters are entirely for the parties to the marriage.

However, those with liberal inclinations claim that there is a way round all this – liberals always have some hair-brain scheme which they think can act as a kind of anti-gravity device to neutralise the law of cause and effect. They advocate a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy to get around the effects of promiscuous sexual behaviour before marriage. But, of course, it is of no effect. It simply amounts to pretending that none of these things is going on under the surface. But, more often than not, actions speak louder than words, and sexual actions more than most. So it is inevitable that actions will speak for themselves, and the result will be the same. Essentially, it simply advocates living a lie. Not the best way to start any kind of venture.

Another liberal argument is that children themselves make a marriage ‘special’. That is a grotesque argument, because it shifts the obligation to make a marriage special from the parents onto the children. The children become sacrificial lambs for the sins of the parents. Furthermore, a child cannot, in any way whatsoever, transform what is in reality just another in a series of routine sexual relationships into a unique, exclusive and special relationship.

But there is another utterly unfathomable stupidity in the argument that children themselves make a marriage ‘special’.  Any woman can give a man children, and any man can give a woman children. So why bother spending any time finding the ‘right’ person if children have this magical formula for making marriage special? But the facts fly in the face of such nonsense. If children did have some magical power to make marriage ‘special’, why is there such a high divorce rate? I suppose we should blame the children? The fact is the divorce rate is so high because of the casual, recreational attitude to sex which infests Western society. People sleep around, then decide to ‘settle down’ and have children, expecting children to create some blissful ‘marriage’. Instead they discover that they have nothing with which to build anything even remotely special, and the whole sorry mess ends in utter disaster. And the children are left to pay the price.

And this casual, recreational attitude to sex is a product of the liberal/feminist movement who have for far too long peddled the ridiculous fiction that ‘men prefer sexually experienced women’. As Nietzsche said, ‘there is a stupidity in this movement, an almost masculine stupidity,’ which would suggest that even if a man could afford it, he would prefer a used, second-hand car, to a new, unused car. Only a clown would rather risk a used, second-hand car which is likely to break down and cause untold problems, to a new car with a guarantee. If that is true for such an insignificant, inanimate machine whose only purpose is getting us from A to B, why should it not apply to another human being who is going to bear your children, and share your life, home and finances? There are plenty of men, however, who will happily exploit such female stupidity by feigning support for such nonsense, and of course most women are happy to be deceived by such men. As the Preacher said, ‘vanity of vanity, all is vanity’.

All these arguments also reveal a fundamental displacement of the purpose and obligations of marriage. They put the ‘self-fulfilment’ of the parents at the centre of the marriage, with the primary obligation of the parents being the satisfaction of their own wants and ‘needs’. In short, children are perceived as being there to serve the parents, not the other way round. And so children grow up with the perception that their only ‘obligation’ in life is also to serve their own wants and ‘needs’, irrespective of the effect on others. We see this mentality underlying the economic crisis, political and financial corruption and scandals, and the fact that today deception, betrayal and dishonesty are worn as ‘badges of honour’, not symbols of shame.

But the most compelling evidence of the destructive effect pre-marital sex has on marriage is to be seen all around us – children living without fathers, juvenile delinquency and crime, drug abuse, casual violence, the high divorce rate, and the rise of what someone once called ‘blended families’.

The Marriage Ceremony (Wedding)

Before concluding, it would be instructive to consider the nature of the marriage ceremony itself.

The ceremony should be a public statement that the two parties satisfy the conditions that attach to the union of a man and a woman who join together for the purpose of creating a new human life. Those conditions include the important pre-condition that neither party has had sexual relations with any other person, or each other, before making the commitment. It is also a public statement that they will meet the other obligations which attach to the creation of human life. And those obligations relate to both the life they intend to create together, and to the other party to the union. It is also a statement that each party has and will make such sacrifices that such a commitment requires.

It is also a public statement that each party is satisfied that the other party meets the essential conditions and obligations such a commitment demands. And that relates to the pre-marriage relationship between the parties. The reason that pre-marital sex is not conducive to a unique, exclusive and special relationship is that the parties to the intended union have an obligation to satisfy themselves that the other party is someone who understands the obligations such a union requires, and that they have and will make the sacrifices necessary to make the relationship unique, exclusive and special. All this requires time for the parties to fully get to know each other without being diverted by sexual passions. If both parties are satisfied that they are compatible in every other respect, and share the same vision of a future together, the sexual aspects of the relationship will fall into place. Most importantly, it ensures that love is not confused with sexual gratification.

Now what is curious is that the vast majority of weddings do display elements of precisely such public statements, but are mostly a sad charade. Apart from a few ‘celebrities’ seeking publicity for themselves, most women insist on wearing white for their weddings, even if they have had previous sexual relationships with other people. Of course, everyone knows that white signifies purity, meaning virginity. So one wonders who exactly such women are trying to deceive. As often as not, there will even be previous sexual partners among the guests – known or unbeknown to the other party. Then there is the symbolism of the ring, and the honeymoon which should signify the start of the couple’s sexual relationship – the final element of the union between the parties. In short, such ridiculous charades are used as rather pathetic substitutes for the obligations the parties are unable to fulfil. They are a ritual pretence that the parties are something other than what they actually are. The parties delude themselves that the symbolism of the union being unique, exclusive and special can somehow make up for the fact that it is just another in a series of casual, routine and recreational sexual relationships that is as far from a unique, exclusive and special relationship as is possible to get. And it cannot bode well for any type of enterprise that it starts with a deception, even if it is a self-deception – because, most likely, everyone witnessing the charade will know better.

And since most of these charades are played out in a church, it is worthwhile considering one very important aspect of the Christian religion precisely in respect to the creation of life – and it matters not whether the events are understood literally or figuratively. It relates to the Virgin Mary.

The Scriptures portray God as being all knowing and all powerful. However, even with such reputed power to render clean that which is unclean, He still required a virgin to conceive and carry His son Jesus. If that is not a powerful statement of the importance of purity for the creation of human life, then I don’t what is.

Then there is also the birth of Jesus. Like the wedding charade being used as a device to give a marriage something it does not have, we find the same with the birth of a child. The parents want the best new clothes, cots and prams they can possibly afford for their new arrival. No second-hand sheets and pillows. The parents will even spend vast sums of money making baby’s new room ‘special’. But is it not odd that where baby is going to sleep once born has to be so ‘special’, whereas where baby is conceived is unimportant? Again, it is simply another rather pathetic indulgence in self-delusion.

Contrast that to the Biblical account of the conception and birth of Jesus. Where Jesus was conceived was of the utmost importance, it had to be a virgin. But a trough (manger) for a bed was fine once He was born. The symbolism is that a woman’s womb is the ‘Temple of God’, and the ‘Cradle of Life’. Because, as the great Jewish philosopher, Philo Judaeus, said, ‘The nature of one’s parents appears to be something on the confines between immortal and mortal essences. Of mortal essence, on account of their relationship to men and also to other animals, and likewise of the perishable nature of the body. And of immortal essence, by reason of the similarity of the act of generation to God the Father of the universe.’

It is irrelevant whether one believes in a God or not. The fact is, when a man a woman join together in a physical act the natural consequence of which is the creation of a new life, they are acting in a god-like capacity. They create a new unique human being. And in that sense they are acting in an ‘immortal’ capacity by perpetuating human life – human life, moreover, that is in their own image.

And there is another rather ugly element to those marriage ceremonies that take place in Christian churches where the parties are faking ‘purity’. A majority want a reading from I Corinthians 13. So they distort and abuse those exhortations about love not being ‘jealous’; that it ‘suffereth long’, and ‘beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things’ and, of course, ‘thinketh no evil’. It is like a sort of statement of intention by one of the parties to the marriage that the other party is going to be deceived, but that they should not get ‘jealous’, and should simply ‘believe’ everything they are told and ‘hope’ it is true, ‘endure’ and ‘suffer long’ any and all indiscretions, and ‘think no evil’ is going on’. In short, ‘trust me and don’t ask too many questions about what I’ve been up to’. And, of course, all this believing and trusting stuff should apply retrospectively.

So the marriage ceremony itself should be a reflection of the conditions and sacrifices necessary to make a marriage unique, exclusive and special. It should be what it is held out to be, and not a ridiculous charade pandering to the vanity of those taking part in it.

Conclusion

Until the true meaning, and essential ingredients, of marriage are recognised and promoted, we should not expect any change to the relentless disintegration of society, with the attendant social and financial consequences.

Fortunately, there is a glimmer of hope out there. Some judges in a few states of America have started linking marriage to ‘procreation’. That is a welcome development. If state legislatures followed suite, that would be a further positive development. But there should be a note of caution here: government should not seek to oversee the minutia of human relationships. A change in the way marriage is perceived has to come from a reflective awakening among people themselves. As a strong advocate of individual freedom, I believe that human beings are also free to make a mess of their lives by modelling their behaviour on the primitive carnal behaviour of ‘brutes’ – but that freedom does not extend to demanding that someone else pay to clean up the mess.

As a final note, I should make clear that I do not write this as one committed to one or other of the faiths which prohibit pre-marital sex. Neither do I write as one who had the intelligence to recognise the fundamental importance of sexual abstinence before marriage, or the courage to resist the temptations and pressures of primitive instincts. I write it in regret. You could say – ‘not everyone who writes about virtue is virtuous; some of us write about virtue because we have not been virtuous.’

Joseph BH McMillan

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