Sunday, May 13, 2012
The World Turned Upside Down by Melanie Phillips
In The World Turned Upside Down, Melanie Phillips self-describes as a non-ideological, agnostic, although traditionally-minded Jew who cares deeply for the survival of Western Civilization. From this somewhat disinterested position, she began noticing that, “Society seems to be in the grip of a mass derangement.” As she saw more and more members of the intelligentsia sharply departing from reality, she sought some kind of connection between the obviously conflicting beliefs held by those in powerful positions. On a first reading, issues such as the war in Iraq, opposition to Israel, manmade global warming, Darwinism, and a host of other “isms” appear to have no commonality, yet Melanie Phillips wrote this book specifically to discover what drives these irrational ideologies.
Her basic thesis is thus: The post-religious Western world is struggling to adjust to a profound loss of moral and philosophical moorings. A consequence of this radical discombobulation is widespread moral, emotional and intellectual chaos, resulting in shattered and lonely lives, emotional incontinence and gullibility to fraud and charlatanry.
She begins by looking in depth at some of these disturbing, disconnected from reality, beliefs, starting with the theory of manmade global warming. After documenting case after case of simply made up “evidence” based on nothing more than wishful thinking, Melanie demonstrates that the theory has now become dogma. The true believers will never be deterred by facts. In fact, the quasi-religious belief system has been sustained only through intimidation and abuse of authority.
She turn next to the opposition to the war in Iraq. What rightfully started with a discussion of legitimate views on the wisdom of invading Iraq devolved quickly into a “Bush lied; people died” inversion of reality. The lie that the Western allies entered into a battle based solely upon the existence of WMD which then failed to materialize in any way, has led to mass hysteria and hatred of those in power. Yet not only did we NOT enter into war for that reason, which Phillips demonstrates time and again with actual facts and quotes, but the components of and the facilities to manufacture WMD were most certainly found. Time and again, the evidence of Saddam’s ability to manufacture and intentions to use WMD made no dent in the irrational belief system.
The next widespread irrational belief involves the history of Israel. Despite it’s historic and continued existence in the land, the conviction that Israel stole the land and has no right to it continues. Not only is the Arab claim to the land of Palestine false, but so is the contention that the Palestinians were expelled. Only when told of the upcoming war against Israel did the Palestinians voluntarily leave. Yet the defeated surrounding nations have kept the people in refugee camps to use a political props rather then incorporate them into their native societies. Israel has subsequently been accused of committing the very crimes of which they, themselves, are the victim. Once again, irrational propaganda flying in the face of facts.
Finally, she looks at the myth of scientific triumphalism, specifically the belief in a universe created, not by a Creator, but by random chance and spontaneous generation. Despite the overwhelming improbability of random chance, or rather because of it, desperate theories like “multi-verses” have been developed in order to avoid a conclusion which includes a metaphysical source. She sums up the irrationality in a quote from George Wald in 1954, “When it comes to the origin of life there are only two possibilities: creation or spontaneous generation There is no third way. Spontaneous generation was disproved on hundred years ago, but that leads us to only one other conclusion, that of supernatural creation. We cannot accept that on philosophical grounds; therefore, we choose to believe the impossible: that life arose spontaneously by chance!”
As more and more faith-based, but God-denying, ideas enter society, Western liberals are forces to engage in a secular inquisition towards any dissenters. They do this through social and professional ostracism and legal discrimination. In fact, “progressives on the left believe that their secular, materialistic, individualistic, and utilitarian values represent not a point of view but virtue itself. No decent person can therefore oppose them.” This explains why those on the left do not argue from a position of facts, but rather engage in name-calling.
In the vilification of Israel, Phillips starts to see a common thread. The same people that demonize and ostracize dissenters in the areas of global warming or Darwinism save their most vehement anger for supporters of Israel. “The fact that they were thus allying themselves with Arabs and Muslims who were committed to religious hatred, ethnic cleansing and genocide, and whose whole position rested on demonstrable fabrications and distortions, was dismissed or denied.” All this focus on suppressing dissent or disagreement, Phillips chalks up to psychological projection. When unpleasant realities about oneself exist, they are often projected onto others. For example, real terrorists are never referred to as “terrorists,” that label is reserved for George W. Bush. Projection. Obviously the truth is intolerable and would destroy their whole moral and intellectual identity, thus the mind-bending phenomenon of accusing the victim of the crime.
Phillips then traces the Islamic jihad against Western freedom. These are the people our so-called enlightened ally themselves with. Astonishingly, these are the people, who when called violent terrorists, respond with violence! “Say one more time that I’m violent and I’ll kill you.” Israel is accused of genocide and ethnic cleansing, yet it is demonstrably true that the Muslims engage in these crimes. The Islamists have stated time and again their desire to murder every last Jew, not over land or other pedantic squabbles, but because the very existence of the Jews is an affront to Islam.
Yet it is not only the Muslim world which engages in irrational hatred of Israel and the Jews, rabid anti-semitism can be found openly in Western societies. High ranking officials and intellectuals on the left routinely blame Israel for its woes. In the epitome of incoherency, Israelis have been called “Nazis” and therefore dismissed as pure evil and all of their actions as deriving from this evil foundation.
What can explain the pure projection and illogical thinking on the part of those who pride themselves on rational thinking?
Here Phillips thinks she has found a link. “There is yet another factor linking these various ideologies of Islamism, environmentalism, Darwinism, anti-capitalism and anti-Zionism. In their very different ways and in very different contexts, they are all attempts to address a spiritual emptiness in the human condition -- and that give them a further common characteristic that moves them away from the sphere of reason altogether, into the province of belief.”
The left is looking for redemption. They believe we live a millennial age wherein the perfectibility of mankind and life on earth is achievable. Only the left-wing intelligentsia possess the secret knowledge that will purge humanity of its sins and so redeem the planet from capitalism, consumerism the West, science, technology, and mankind itself. As they pursue utopia, they believe themselves to be incontrovertibly good and virtuous. As “the good guys” they are inherently incapable of doing anything but good. In contrast, those that oppose their utopian vision are not wrong, but definitionally, bad. The totalitarianism of the left is therefore actually salvation. As true believers in this godless ideology, they nevertheless require a “devil.” Any opposition to the left serves in this role very nicely.
Interesting that they abrogate the language of Christianity - sin, guilt, redemption. Perhaps the truth is indeed written on the hearts of humanity.
We can go back to the Enlightenment and the different paths it took to see the roots of the rejection of God. In France, reason and religion opposed each other and so the French Revolution killed God. In America and even in Britain, religion begat reason and so was inextricably linked. Yet when reason failed in the civilized Europe of the 20th century resulting in mass killings and war, the intelligentsia needed a new god. Reason was abandoned and faith mutated into belief in the state or a myriad other false beliefs.
The rejection of reason and God has led to widespread confusion threatening Western Civilization at its very core. In our tolerance and relativism, we cannot even know what it is we are supposed to be defending! We must accept our own obliteration. In addition, the rejection of God has led to a rejection of all moral authority. As Richard Dawkins put on 800 busses in England, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” The fact that those who adhere to Biblical precepts are in fact the ones more likely to be enjoying life, holds no relevance to Dawkins. Of course, these “soft-core” atheists will not admit that the rejection of God necessitates the rejection of moral precepts. They’ll keep the morals they like, abandon the ones they don’t and live off the moral capital bequeathed by Christianity and the Bible.
We come then to the heart of it. “At the very root of all the disparate secular ideologies under discussion throughout this book lies an attack on religion.”
Yet it is the Biblical worldview that places reason and therefore rationality at its center. Atheism holds that the world materialized from completely random forces an is therefore the product of an irrational source. The believer posits that a rational God with a rational mind created a rational world. It is the atheist that is therefore hostile to reason. Reason and rationality cannot exist in what is essentially a random and irrational universe.
Only the Bible provides the foundation for modern science. “Science could proceed only on the basis that the universe was rational and coherent and thus nature behaved in accordance with unchanging laws [and not] to the whims and caprices of the spirit world [found in other, non-Biblically based religions]. A universe devoid of the purpose given by a Creator makes progress meaningless. Yet great Christian thinkers have always held that reason and logic are God’s gifts to us in order that we may understand Him, the universe and scripture. Judaism, which has always asserted an orderly universe “can lay claim to being the most rational of all religions.” Thus the biggest target.
Countries like Britain are at the forefront of the attack on Western values, values deeply imbedded in and twisted up with the fate of the Jews. Unlike America, Britain created an official Church. As such, the government and the church have become inextricably linked, leading to a fragile church unsure of its bedrock beliefs. The Church of England has increasingly rejected its supernatural foundational teaching, favoring instead the more material and therefore acceptable beliefs. Environmentalism, feminism, pantheism, New Age philosophy replaced the core tenets of the Church and turned it into a sacred “free-for-all.”
Finally the bottom line of this book, “Those who believe that Israel is the historic victim of the Arabs.. typically have a rational, nonideological approach to the world, arriving at conclusions on the basis of evidence. Those who believe that Israel is the regional bully hell-bent on oppressing the Palestinians, and who equate it with Nazism or apartheid, are generally moral and cultural relativists who invert truth and lies, right and wrong over a wide range of issues, and are incapable of seeing that their beliefs do not accord with reality.” Liberal Christians fall into the anti-semitism trap as well. Wanting to deny their own guilt when it comes to the holocaust and other atrocities visited on the Jewish people leads to the same kind of projection the atheists engage in. European and liberal Christians will blame the Jews for their own troubles to avoid having to admit the sins that stain their own souls.
She ends the book quite pessimistic about the West’s ability to survive its own destruction. It may in fact be too late to return to rationality. Our only hope is a return to Biblical principles and the embracing of the Jewish people who introduced us to the eminently rational God.