The Left as Religion

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The strong affinity between subjectivism and faith, two forms of whim-worship, were illustrated for me in three stories which seem, prima facie, to be all over the map with respect to the relationship between the intellectually-bankrupt left and religionists.

First, there is this article that notes a growing acceptance of open source software (OSS) among the religious. This is not so much for the reasons I use it -- because it is more economical, reliable, and customizable -- but on "ethical grounds". Unsurprisingly, these just happen to be identical to those of open source guru Richard Stallman, an atheist, who said, of remarks that some Vatican documents concerning technology and the Internet "could have been written by" him:

People who don't really know my views might think so. Since values such as access, equality, and more equitable distribution of wealth are widely understood, while few understand the concept that freedom to redistribute and change software, people often mistakenly suppose that the Free Software movement is about the former three rather than the last. And they often tell others this. The misinformation has spread widely, but it remains erroneous. I am in favor of extending access to the Internet to everyone, provided that this is done in a way that respects their freedom (i.e., with Free Software). I am in favor of equal rights, and in distributing wealth more equitably. But the primary goal of the Free Software movement is something different and more focused: freedom in using your computer, and freedom to cooperate in a community when doing so.
Here, Stallman admits that he has an altruistic ethical system like Christians do, but stresses that his emphasis has been on giving end users the ability to alter their software as they see fit. Indeed, contrary to some rumors, it is possible for commercial software vendors to sell products that work with open source software without forfeiting proprietary information. Stallman offers an objective value -- a license that permits a user to examine and change his software -- for a mixture of good (e.g., user freedom) and bad (e.g., communal ownership of the Internet) reasons.

Nevertheless, anyone who has used much OSS will note the animus against proprietary software held by many OSS users (in various forums), and indeed by Stallman himself in his alternate name for the Gnu Public License, the "Copyleft". (See the URL. I recall this having once been within the document itself, though this appears to have changed.) And Stallman makes that animus explicit.
[I]t seems to me that a sincere Christian must condemn non-free software as satanic in spirit. If you were Satan, and you wanted to corrode the bonds of society, what could be more effective than offering individuals something attractive, profitable or fun, on condition that they refuse to share it with anyone else? ... Christians should reject proprietary software because it forbids people to express love for their neighbors.
So somehow, if you wish to make money off your software by not simply giving away, say, an algorithm you invented, your desire to profit from your own efforts is "satanic" because it is a refusal to "share". This is obviously a condemnation of the trader principle.

Insofar as he is describing the similarity of his moral views on property to those of Christians, he is correct. Consider this statement from the papal encyclical Laborem exercens.
Christian tradition has never upheld [ownership of property] as absolute and untouchable. On the contrary, it has always understood this right within the broader context of the right common to all to use the goods of the whole of creation: the right to private property is subordinated to the right to common use, to the fact that goods are meant for everyone.
As the Sojourners and the "Crunchy Conservatives" point out, it is the economic dogmas of the left, not capitalism, which are consistent with Christian morality. It appears from this story that this realization is spreading. And so, with this story, there would seem to be a strong affinity between the left and the religionists.

Indeed, this seems doubly the case with the second story, in which it is noted that many evangelicals are becoming "green". While some evangelicals seem less committed to environmentalism than others, two quotes are relevant. First, many Christians take very seriously scriptural injunctions to act as "stewards" of God's creation.
When asked for comment on that peculiar recommendation, [Jay] Richards expressed little surprise: "Perhaps many of those who signed the Evangelical Climate Initiative were primarily concerned with the issue of whether we should be stewards of God's creation, which, of course, yes, that's non-negotiable. But the specific policy position, I don't know if everyone that signed it looked carefully and thought carefully about the consequences of that."
Never made explicit is why our creative use of nature never seems to qualify as "stewardship". (A recent papal denunciation of genetic engineering indicates that, since nature constantly changes anyway, that it is actually man's use of reason that is being condemned.) Be that as it may, Richards clearly seeks only to "limit" man's use of reason beyond a certain point. Others seem to be salivating at the prospect of stopping the Industrial Revolution in its tracks.
Joel Hunter, pastor of Northland Church in Orlando, Fla., defended his signing of ECI on moral grounds: "Whether or not the other side is right, we're still doing the right thing because we're treating the earth with respect." Mr. Hunter views the science and economics surrounding the issue as secondary: "The moral command to take care of the earth in Genesis 2:15 really doesn't need to wait on scientific conclusion. We need to do this regardless of what the science of it is. We need to take care of the earth and do what we can to stop the pollution and accumulation of greenhouse gases, because it's just the right thing to do." [bold added]
Note the explicit subordination of the facts of reality to what the Reverend Hunter regards as a biblical imperative!

It is instructive to note that, epistemologically, the environmentalist left and the "green right" are on the same page. The leftists -- including many in science -- selectively ignore or suppress evidence against man-made global warming, while dressing their propaganda up to sound scientific. The religionists simply scrap science outright. Both want to believe that agendas predicated on "global warming" are moral and worthy of implementation. In other words, both the subjectivist and dogmatists "sides" scorn objectivity in favor of whim, as noted in a recent article about the "mysterious" conversion of yet another Western youth to Islam.
It is only on the surface, however, that the dogmatist is opposed to the subjectivist; at root, the two share a fundamental similarity. In denying that there are any objective standards by which to choose how to think or act, the subjectivist makes clear that his choices are ruled by blind feelings. This is precisely also the basic policy of the religious dogmatist.

There are an infinite number of opposing religious sects. How does the religionist decide which faith to embrace, which revelations to follow and which authority to obey? Does he scientifically gather the evidence, carefully weigh it, and then adopt the conclusion to which reason and logic point? Obviously not. He feels it. He feels that Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, astrology or [the environmentalist agenda], is the right faith for him.
It should, finally, come as no surprise that religionists, no strangers to staking major claims on feelings, should begin to realize that this is precisely what the left has come to -- and hope to cash in on it. As I have blogged before, the science is strongly (and increasingly undeservingly) associated with the left. It thus was really just a matter of time before someone like Ann Coulter would come along and attack (HT: Adrian Hester) science itself -- on the grounds that it is a false religion! Consider this glowing review of her latest book in Human Events.
Coulter reveals that the so-called "gaps" in the theory of evolution are all there is -- Darwinism is nothing but a gap. After 150 years of dedicated searching into the fossil record, evolution's proponents have failed utterly to substantiate its claims. And a long line of supposed evidence, from the infamous Piltdown Man to the "evolving" peppered moths of England, has been exposed as hoaxes. Still, liberals treat those who question evolution as religious heretics and prohibit students from hearing about real science when it contradicts Darwinism. And these are the people who say they want to keep faith out of the classrooms?

Liberals' absolute devotion to Darwinism, Coulter shows, has nothing to do with evolution's scientific validity and everything to do with its refusal to admit the possibility of God as a guiding force. They will brook no challenges to the official religion. [bold added]
And so we see yet more evidence of the total collapse of the supposedly rational left as an intellectual opponent of religion. In our first two examples, the left and the religionists seemed to fit hand-in-glove as religionists openly adopted elements of leftism. Here, the religionists nominally oppose the leftists -- but actually show their greatest similarity of the three stories! They share the same epistemological method. The religionists merely like their own creation myth more than that of the leftists, in whose hands evolution has effectively become a myth (link below).

The leftist's desire for a free lunch trumps the need to discover what about man requires him to have a moral code and what that moral code should be. And so the religionists, knowing that altruism also means that people may be commanded to give out these free lunches, egg on people like Richard Stallman. The desire to throttle capitalism makes any shred of pseudoscientific evidence in favor of "global warming" a cudgel by which the left can whip the public into a froth of panic -- during which legislation to ruin the economy can be passed. The religionists, seeing the opportunity to shackle independent minds everywhere, jump on the global warming bandwagon and even try to drive it themselves. The left preaches that objectivity is not really possible to man in any field, including science. The religionists take them at their word, call them heretics, and act as if they alone ever marshal facts and evidence for their beliefs.

The left, in abandoning reason, has made the choice between itself and religion into a choice between two religions, and has sold reason down the river in the process. It will be up to others to ensure that reason is offered again in the marketplace of ideas.

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

Hmm. So Objectivists don't consider OSS to be "code collectivism"?

Gus Van Horn said...


Assuming you mean that I am supposed to take OSS as an example of collectivism, it depends on something that leftists are very good at dropping -- because they do it all the time -- context.

All OSS is, is software copyrighted under terms that allow end users to see the source code and/or modify it as they see fit. As long as a software writer does not commit a sacrifice by releasing his code under such a license, and is not forced to do so against his will, then the answer is "No."

There are many circumstances in which someone can (and people do) offer software under this license. To name a few, off the top of my head: (1) He is an unknown and has a very good idea that will get him a reputation and perhaps a job. Giving the code away for free actually earns him the value of free publicity. (2) Said individual might be paid to release code under such a license. (3) Said individual is a hobbyist and has no other way to see his code get used. (And the idea of having his code be useful to other computer enthusiasts gives him pleasure.) Model railroaders do things requiring comparable effort free of monetary compensation, too.

Hope that helps.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your explanation.

But what if the developers claim, as a Firefox developer did recently on his blog (sorry, can't find his post at the moment), that he, and the other Firefox developers, want to put the "common good" over "personal gain"? He said that he was happy to see at least someone doing that.

Gus Van Horn said...


And what if an American soldier (or even most soldiers) calls his decision to join the military to protect his freedom a "sacrifice"? Does that categorically make military service immoral? No. The term "sacrifice" is constantly misused in that context, not to mention that it is possible for someone to join the military for the wrong reasons, which could make such service into a sacrifice. But choosing death over a life in slavery in not a sacrifice.

There can be moral and immoral reasons for military service or choosing the terms under which to work. Your Firefox developer is confused at best and sacrificing himself at worst.