Sunday, July 13, 2008

Objectivism & Religion, Part 16

Religion and the underclass. One of the most witty and clever critics of organized religion is Voltaire, the most popular intellectual of the Enlightenment. At dinner parties Voltaire and his guests would routinely scoff at religion. One day, however, Voltaire’s servants were setting the table when his guests began making derisive remarks about religion. Voltaire immediately rose to his feet and ordered the servants out of the room. He then turned to his guests and admonished them, saying, “If you let these people hear that, they will become savage as lions. It’s all very well for us to say these things among ourselves, but if these people hear us scoffing at their religion, they won’t obey a word I tell them because religion is what makes them good.”

Now while I suspect that Voltaire over-stated the case for the moral effect of religion on the “lower” classes, there is still an element of truth in what he said. In any case, whether Voltaire was right or wrong, the underclass represents a growing problem in the West that secularists have not solved. The British underclass, which, in the last half century, has become completely secularized, presents a chilling example of this, particularly as limned in Dr. Theodore Dalrymple’s series of sobering essays entitled Life at the Bottom. In an essay entitled “Tough Love,” Dalrymple describes the effects of sexual liberation on the underclass:

Today’s disastrous insouciance about so serious a matter as the relationship between the sexes is surely something new in history: even thirty years ago, people showed vastly more circumspection in the formation of liaisons than they do now. The change represents, of course, the fulfillment of the sexual revolution. The prophets of that revolution wished to empty the relationship between the sexes of all moral significance and destroy the customs and institutions that governed it…. [They] believed that if sexual relations could be liberated from artificial social inhibitions and legal restrictions, something beautiful would emerge: a life in which no desire need be frustrated, a life in which human pettiness would melt away like snow in spring…. The grounds for such petty bourgeois emotions as jealousy and envy would vanish: in a world of perfect fulfillment, each person would be as happy as the next.

The program of the sexual revolutionaries has more or less been carried out, especially in the lower reaches of society, but the results have been vastly different from those so foolishly anticipated. The revolution foundered on the rock of an unacknowledged reality: that women are more vulnerable to abuse than men by virtue of biology alone, and that the desire for the exclusive sexual possession of another has remained just as strong as ever. This desire is incompatible, of course, with the equally powerful desire—eternal in the human breast but hitherto controlled by social and legal inhibitions—for complete sexual freedom. Because of these biological and psychological realities, the harvest of the sexual revolution has not been a brave new world of human happiness but rather an enormous increase in violence between the sexes…

[T]he reality of this increase meets angry denial from those with a vested ideological interest… Still, the fact remains that a hospital such as mine has experienced in the last two decades a huge increase in the number of injuries to women, most of them the result of domestic violence…. About one in five of the women aged sixteen to fifty living in my hospital’s area attends the emergency department during the year as a result of injuries sustained during a quarrel with a boyfriend or husband… In the last two years I have treated at least two thousand men who have been violent to their wives, girlfriends, lovers, and concubines. It seems to me that violence on such a vast scale could not easily have been overlooked in the past—including by me.


Dalrymple summarizes the condition of the underclass in the following terms:

Here the whole gamut of folly, wickedness, and misery may be perused at leisure—in conditions, be it remembered, of unprecedented prosperity. Here are abortions procured by abdominal kung fu; children who have children, in numbers unknown before the advent of chemical contraception and sex education; women abandoned by the father of their child a month before or a month after delivery; insensate jealousy, the reverse of the coin of general promiscuity, that results in the most hideous oppression and violence; serial stepfatherhood that leads to sexual and physical abuse of children on a mass scale; and every kind of loosening of the distinction between the sexually permissible and the impermissible.

The connection between this loosening and the misery of my patients is so obvious that it requires considerable intellectual sophistication (and dishonesty) to be able to deny it.


What role, if any, has secularization played in the social disintegration of the British underclass? To answer this question, we turn to French historian Elie Halevy, author of an important history of England during the 19th century. Halevy wanted to explain how Britain, despite profound contradictions, was spared a violent revolution during the 19th century. Halevy maintained that the stability of the British order came about through the stabilizing influence of evangelical religion, particularly Methodism, which enabled Great Britian to establish itself as a country of freedom, “of voluntary obedience, of an organization freely initiated and freely accepted.” The key concept here is “voluntary obedience.” In every society, there exists a class of individuals incapable of governing themselves. “Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere,” warned Edmund Burke, “and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”

How, then, is society to deal with with those individuals of “intemperate mind” who cannot control their appetites. As usual, there is no perfect solution, but of the imperfect remedies at our disposal, voluntary religion of traditional, Christianized is as good as any, and may be better than most. After all, it worked a lot better in 19th Century Britain than secularism has worked in contemporary Great Britain. In 1815, despite difficult economic conditions, Great Britain managed to maintain a commendable degree of order despite lacking a police force, a welfare state, or any kind of bureaucratic government management. Social order in 1815 was maintained voluntarily. Yet, despite this voluntarism, there were far fewer crimes either against persons or property. What would happen today either in the inner cities of the United States or the United Kingdom if there were no police force and extensive judicial system, with its concomitant prisons and jails, probation officers and court psychiatrists?

In the last year, several houses in my neighborhood have been burglarized. A few months ago I forgot to lock my vehicle and several hundred dollars of stuff was immediately filched from it. According to statistics, ninety-nine percent of Americans will be victims of theft at least once in their lives. Eight-seven percent will have property stolen from them three or more times. This level of thievery did not exist 100 years ago, when this country was considerably more religious. While there are other factors involved in this massive demoralization of society other than religion, it would be naive to believe that religion has played no role in it at all. When Marx called religion the opium of the masses, he meant it as an attack. But perhaps Marx was right in a way he would have been loathe to imagine. Perhaps the drug-like qualities of religion are a necessary tool for maintaining a tolerable degree of social order among the underclass. In any case, secularists have not come up with anything better. Nor did Rand have anything to offer on this issue, besides the naive conviction that, since people have free will, everyone can be rational. Poppycock, however, grinds no flour. The fact remains: some people are not capable of being rational. Refuting Kant will not change this fact. What, then, are we to do with these people? Evading the problem will not make it go away.

38 comments:

Damien said...

greg,

Its not just Rand but all anti-theists who see no place for religion in modern society. But it appears these problems with the under class prove them wrong, doesn't it?

Its one thing to point out there is a problem; its quite another to suggested solutions.
What do you think can be done about the problems?

Jay said...

Greg,

Here is an Objectivist review of "Life at the Bottom."

Why Johnny Can't Live

A relevant passage, offering an alternate explanation for the condition of the British underclass:


One of the most fascinating observations Dalrymple offers is that it is the underclass-the most uneducated portion of society-that most consistently adopts the ideas of the intellectual elites. Dalrymple's explanation is that the intellectuals are hypocrites who do not practice the destructive ideas they preach-but who shape the school curricula and government programs that pass their ideas on to the underclass. Similarly, middle- and upper-class families may give lip service to these ideas, but do not fully accept them. Dalrymple cites the example of Steven Pinker, author of the best-selling book The Language Instinct, who claims that grammar is an arbitrary construct, but who writes with perfect grammar himself and no doubt makes his children do so, as well.

The children of Oxford professors are taught to read, write, do arithmetic, learn history, and generally receive an education that will allow them to succeed in the world. Their parents (and many other middle- and upper-class parents who spout relativism) do not treat education as an arbitrary option, but as a necessity of life. When it comes to the policy of educating underclass children, however, intellectuals are happy to see relativist ideas adopted consistently. The teachers pass illiterate students, refuse to correct spelling, grammar, pronunciation, or arithmetic, and tell underclass children that the squalid way of life they have grown up with is just as good as any other.

This is the true implementation of relativism applied to education, and it produces a whole class of illiterates who are complacent in their ignorance and have been offered no motivation to improve their lives."

Red Grant said...

___________________________________

Perhaps the drug-like qualities of religion are a necessary tool for maintaining a tolerable degree of social order among the underclass. - Greg
___________________________________







So can you apply your theory to Middle East and the tribal areas of Pakistan?


What about the racist lynch mobs in the deep South?

Were they secular or were they "religious"?



___________________________________

This level of thievery did not exist 100 years ago, when this country was considerably more religious. - Greg
___________________________________





So does this mean you believe racist lynching had something to do with religion?

Red Grant said...

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Its not just Rand but all anti-theists who see no place for religion in modern society. - damien
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Does this apply to Islam (inculding the "Radical Islam")?



___________________________________

But it appears these problems with the under class prove them wrong, doesn't it? - damien
___________________________________






Do you belong to the under class or the upper class?

Mark Plus said...

Nor did Rand have anything to offer on this issue, besides the naive conviction that, since people have free will, everyone can be rational.

I interpret Atlas Shrugged as Rand's fantasy about a Malthusian die-off of the underclass and the incompetent so that her heroes could repopulate the country with people who meet her philosophical standards. Considering how Rand's heroes don't have children, however, you have to wonder where these new generations will come from.

Michael H said...

The issue of deteriorating morality that is addressed here might be among the most tragic consequences of the incredible war of egos that defines global society in today’s world. While it is true that the rise of materialism has led to tremendous technological accomplishments, the associated rise of secular naturalism has had consequences that are far from humane, as outlined in the main post and previous comments.

Those of a religious persuasion, who long for a return to the morality of 19th century England, or a Puritan America, are deluding themselves. They also apparently don’t understand that by doing so, they are essentially impotent against the rising influence of Islam in Western Europe, and those who envision perfection as accomplished through widespread adoption of Sharia Law. The Judeo-Christian argument against the Islamic vision boils down to little more than, “my God’s better than yours”.

I recently read Manly P. Hall’s encyclopedic treatment of the ancient Mystery Schools, The Secret Teachings of All Ages. in which Hall delivers a passionate cry for a rediscovery of the lost wisdom of our past. Certain observations that he made speak directly to the topic of this thread.

First, nearly all of the ancient societies were heavily influenced by the Hermetic philosophy of ancient Egypt, the actual history of which is lost to an unknown age. What remains is but fragments and mythology, but the core understanding of Hermetic philosophy remains, dormant and forgotten, at the heart of all of the religions on earth.

The common denominator between all of the ancients was an understanding that can only be describes as pantheistic idealism. The ancient societies that Hall exhaustively researched while writing this volume clearly had a structure that far surpassed our own in many respects. This was accomplished through the understanding and acceptance of a single worldview, which was distributed throughout the populace in a certain manner.

Two observations Hall makes are particularly critical to the topic of this thread, as well as many others faced by global society today. The first has to do with the relationship between philosophy, science and religion. Hall writes:

“Among the ancients, philosophy, science, and religion were never considered as separate units: each was regarded as an integral part of the whole. Philosophy was scientific and religious; science was philosophic and religious; religion was philosophic and scientific. Perfect wisdom was considered unattainable save as the result of harmonizing all three of these expressions of mental and moral activity.”

It is abundantly clear that our world today is suffering from the failure to grasp the necessity of the integration of these three aspects of perfect wisdom. We have not only separated them, but what remains of religion and philosophy have been shattered into countless pieces. I would posit that mankind will not find solutions to it’s ills until it learns to reintegrate these three schools.

The second point that Hall makes has to do with how the ancient societies accomplished the integration of their ideals throughout the whole of their social and intellectual structure. After acknowledging that there are different levels of mental acuity among men, and addressing the issue of adherence to a moral standard, Hall writes:

“Those of immature mentality, on the other hand, when similarly confronted, are overwhelmed. While the former [the elite] may be qualified to solve the riddle of their own destiny, the latter must be led like a flock of sheep and taught in simple language. They depend almost entirely upon the ministrations of the shepherd. The Apostle Paul said that these little ones must be fed with milk, but that meat is the food of strong men. Thoughtlessness is almost synonymous with childishness, while thoughtfulness is symbolic of maturity.

“There are, however, but few mature minds in the world; and thus it was that the philosophic-religious doctrines of the pagans were divided to meet the needs of these two fundamental groups of human intellect--one philosophic, the other incapable of appreciating the deeper mysteries of life. To the discerning few were revealed the esoteric, or spiritual, teachings, while the unqualified many received only the literal, or exoteric, interpretations.”

He expands on this in his introduction to Kabbalah, the mystical branch of Judaism that has been embraced by Jews and Christians alike:

“Hebrew theology was divided into three distinct parts. The first was the law, the second was the soul of the law, and the third was the soul of the soul of the law. The law was taught to all the children of Israel; the Mishna, or the soul of the law, was revealed to the Rabbins and teachers; but the Qabbalah, the soul of the soul of the law, was cunningly concealed, and only the highest initiates among the Jews were instructed in its secret principles.”

As I see it, the only choice that remains to the world today is to return to an understanding of reality that was known to the ancients, and the coherent distribution of that understanding to the masses. Efforts are underway, and people are beginning to wake up. On the level of the intellectual elite, the Greek scholar Peter Kingsley has written extensively about the loss of the mystical tradition at the heart of Western society. The success of writers like Eckhart Tolle are due to a longing for wholeness felt by many intelligent individuals of all faiths. There are professionals working in prevention in disadvantaged communities as well prison populations to disseminate the understanding of psychology known as Health Realization, which is based on the insights of Sydney Banks. The findings of neuroscience are causing many to revisit reductionist assumptions regarding the mind/matter problem, as addressed in a recent New York Times by David Brooks. The astronaut Edgar Mitchell’s efforts in establishing The Institute of Noetic Sciences are the result of a momentary glimpse of truth, and the recent media coverage of Jill Bolte Taylor’s transformation following her stroke, also profiled in the Times, are but a few examples.

I am certain that we are on the cusp of a paradigm change of significant proportions, though I do wonder if it will arrive without catastrophic consequences resulting from mankind’s appalling arrogance of the last 2500 years.

If it does, the masses will be fed new milk, to paraphrase St. Paul. The common understanding disseminated will be that everyone and everything on earth and is but an aspect of the divine source of existence. The elite of the society will know this as absolute fact and fully embody it. The priests, scientists and philosophers will all likely have moments of profound direct realization themselves, and the consequences of their direct understanding will ripple through all fields, leading to the reintegration of the three disciplines, and discoveries that are entirely inconceivable from our current perspective. Even the masses will be taught to develop their intuitive sense, leading to a deepening respect for themselves and others, and the disappearance of the horrible problems faced by the underclass.

That’s the future, if there is one, and it may take centuries. It may also require tremendous pain before it arrives.

Damien said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Damien said...

Red Grant,

I don't partially like Islam. Of all the faiths its adherents tend to be the most violent and most fanatical. That said, not all Muslims except violence or hate non Muslims. But the Koran is very obsessed with telling its followers to forcibly convert the world at any cost and Muslims tend to be more literalistic than people belonging to a lot of other religions.

That said, if what Greg is saying is correct, than it proves that there is still a place for religion in society. However, I never said all religions are equal, some are worse and some are better than others.

Does it really matter what socioeconomic class I belong too? I'm not saying that poor people are stupid.

Red Grant said...

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But the Koran is very obsessed with telling its followers to forcibly convert the world at any cost... - damien
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How did the "Christians" convert the pagans to "Christianity" in Europe?




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But the Koran is very obsessed with telling its followers to convert the world at any cost and Muslims tend to be more literalistic than people belonging to a lot of other religions. - damien

That said, not all Muslims except violence or hate non-Muslims. - damien
___________________________________




Does this mean then you believe people who claim to be "Muslims" and accept violence and hate non-Muslims because they follow the Koran more literalistically than peoples who claim to belong to a lot of other religions
are true "Muslims" or false "Muslims"?

Are the "Muslims" who do not accept violence and do not hate non-Muslims false "Muslims" or true "Muslims"?



___________________________________

That said, if what Greg is saying is correct, than it proves that there is still a place for religion in society. - damien
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Even for "Radical Islam"?



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However, I never said all religions are equal, some are worse and some are better than others. - damien
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Which religions are "better" than Islam?



___________________________________


Does it really matter what socioeconomic class I belong too? - damien
-----------------------------------

But it appears these problems with the under class prove them wrong, doesn't it? - damien
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It does as far as the utility of religions for you is concerned.


So do you belong to the upper class or the lower class?


___________________________________


I'm not saying that poor people are stupid. - damien
-----------------------------------

But it appears these problems with the under class prove them wrong, doesn't it? - damien
___________________________________




If you believe that the poor people are not stupid, then why do you agree with Greg that the under class have these problems?

Damien said...

Red Grant,

Part of the reason the Under class need religion more could have to do with the fact that they tend to see their lives as much more hopeless than people who are better off. Plus they tend to be less sophisticated due to the fact that they live in poverty. I think there some truth in what Greg is saying.

As for Islam, from what I have read, and it is a lot. If I believed in and took the Koran Literally, I would have a hard time not thinking that I should kill or forcibly convert all non Muslims. The Muslims who reject violence and hatred, don't take their holy text in a literal manner. The Koran specifically tells people over and over again, to either kill unbelievers, or make them submit.

There is violence and hatred in the bible, but it is not obsessed with forcing everyone into the religion in anyway like the Koran is. Today, your average Christian fundamentalist rejects the idea that it is okay to kill non Christians for rejecting Jesus.

If you don't believe me, check out these sites

Jihad_Watch

Religion_Of_Peace.

Infidel_Bloggers_Allaince

The last one, I have posted a lot of comments on if you are interested.

Red Grant said...

___________________________________

Part of the reason the Under class need religion more could have to do with the fact that they tend to see their lives as much more hopeless than people who are better off. - damien
___________________________________





Does this mean then you believe the Under class would be better off with religion, any religion, including "Radical Islam", than without religion?




___________________________________

Plus they tend to be less sophisticated due to the fact that they live in poverty. - damien
___________________________________





So do you belong to the Under class or the Upper class?




___________________________________

The Muslims who reject violence and hatred, don't take their holy text in a literal manner. - damien
-----------------------------------

The Koran specifically tells people over and over again, to either kill unbelievers, or make them submit. - damien
___________________________________




So which "Muslims" are true "Muslims" and false "Muslims"?




___________________________________


However, I never said all religions are equal, some are better and some are worse than others. - damien
___________________________________






Which religions are "better" than Islam?

Red Grant said...

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How, then, is society to deal with those individuals of "intemperate" mind who cannot control their appetites? As usual, there is no perfect solution, but of imperfect remedies at our disposal, voluntary religion of traditional, Christianized is as good as any, and maybe better than most. - Greg
___________________________________





Greg, you forgot to include penal colonies in Australia.

http://www.cultureandrecreatin.gov.au/articles/convicts

Red Grant said...

___________________________________

Today's disastrous insouciance about so serious a matter as the relationship between the sexes is surely something new in history: even thirty years ago people showed vastly more circumspection in the formation of liaisons than they do now. - Greg
___________________________________





In the Victorian England, and in 1815, when the Under class was supposedly more "religious" according to Greg, the age of consent was 12.

It was later raised to 13, and subsequently to 16, due to secular feminists groups pressure to save young girls from being sold to brothels.


Http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ages_of_consent_in_Europe

gregnyquist said...

Red Grant: "Greg, you forgot to include penal colonies in Australia."

Unfortunately, I don't think that would work any more. If we started shipping off all our undesirable elements to Australia, I think the Australian would object quite vociferously (besides the usual constitutional difficulties). Furthermore, I think it is naive that there is a government-based, judicial solution to this problem. It has to come from some volutary force that emerges in society.

I would also add that, to the extent that religion could be part of a solution to the problem of the underclass, it would all depend on whether that religion was voluntary. An state established religion, like the Catholic church wherever it is too powerful, or a religion like Islam that will not tolerate other religions, would be an unmitigated disaster. The positive influences that religion had in England in America on the middle and lower classes stemmed from the fact that there existed competition between various denominations of Christian religion. This competition is extremely critical. It forces religions to seek to have a positive influence on the lives of its adherents. If it does not have a positive influence, it loses its adherents either to secularism or to other religions. When a religion has a monopoly in a given society, there exists no check on the worst elements of that religion, and we get what we find in the Islamic world: a religion that has a preponderately bad influence on its adherents and on society as a whole.

gregnyquist said...

Jay,

I regard Dalrymple's explanation of the degeneration of the British underclass (which dovetails nicely with Objectivist) as highly problematic. It gives leftist intellectuals too much credit. While the left has definitely given the underclass convenient rationalizations for their behavior, what they haven't given them (and this is the keypoint) is the motivation. Where does this motivation come from? And how do you motivate these people to behave in ways that are more in their interests and in the interests of society at large? Can you do it by preaching rationality to them? Expose them to philosophical refutations of determinism, moral subjectivism, and Immanuel Kant? Or if (per impossible) you could persuade all intellectuals stop preaching demoralizing left-wing ideas, would this change the underclass? I don't think it would have that much affect.

What the underclass really needs is discipline. If it were up to me, I send all the male children of the underclass to military schools. Religion could be part of the instruction as long as it was not fanatical or denominational and as long as it did not conflict with a basic scientific education. Indeed, some of the more rational ideas in religion, such as having piety toward the source of one's existence (whether conceived as God or Nature, it hardly matters) would be an important part of any instruction.

Damien said...

Red Grant,

No I think that the poor might be better off with a moderate peaceful religion.

If you really want to know, a lot of religions are better than Islam, because most religions are not anywhere near as obsessed as Islam is with converting every single person on earth by what ever means necessary. Few if any other religion preach as much hatred toward unbelievers as Islam. One example of a religion that is somewhat better is Christianity. It is many ways a better religion than Islam (Despite the evil done in Jesus' name)

The worst of Christian behavior is largely in the past. Today very few Christians, (including Conservative Christians) support things like stoning homosexuals.

As for how Christianity was spread. For the first few hundred years it was by completely peaceful means. Virtually all the violence around Christianity in its early years, was Romans persecuting Christians. Jesus' follows only turned to violence after Christianity become the dominate religion of the Roman empire. That was a few centuries after Jesus' death.

Islam on the on the other hand was different. It gained dominance of the middle east almost entirely through violence. Mohammad was a fanatical holy warrior, Jesus was a pacifist. Plus contrary to the politically correct myth, the Christian Crusades started largely as a defense, against Muslim aggression. Muslim Jihadists had been conquering Christian lands long before the Crusades started.

Sir Synoptic Dogoody said...

You know, I've always said that discrediting religion was the worst thing we could have ever done for the lower orders.

There's nothing those savages could understand but an imaginary cosmic bogeyman ready to give them a good spanking whenever they do something naughty.

Jay said...

If it were up to me, I send all the male children of the underclass to military schools.

Objectivism puts a lot of emphasis on discipline, but also on the importance of a more positive outlook.

It seems to me the underclass needs both of these things. People who expect more out of life will not allow themselves to wallow in filth forever. They need discipline to shock them out of their sloth, true, but they also need a compelling reason to stay disciplined.

Wells said...

You guys do know that the past was not a Utopia in any way shape or form, right?

On Crime in the Western Civilization

If you follow the link Here and scroll down to page 18, you will find a table with homicide rates since the 13th century. As you can see, they have declined. It's not like people in the 16th century had no experience with sexual misadventure either, Here is a review of a book entitled Sex in Middlesex: Popular Mores in a Massachusetts County, 1649-1699. Red Giant's post on 7/15/2008 01:42:00 AM should also be read again, he discusses the age of consent in Victorian England, who lobbied to change it, and why it was changed.
Here is also a table showing the religious affiliation of prison inmates in the United State's Federal Bureau of Prisons in 1997. Feel free to test theories about the religious affiliation of the 'underclass' against the first table on that particular website.

On the wisdom of the ancients

During the Peloponnesian War The Athenians (The home of Greek Philosophy) were not above committing atrocities in order to get their way. They voted to have every male citizen of Mytilene put to death after a rebellion against the Delian League on Lesbos. They reconsidered the next day and decided against it.
They DID have every male citizen put to death on Melos, and then they sold the women and children into slavery, and sent colonists from Athens to settle the land.
Where were the philosophers? I couldn't figure out where Plato was. Socrates was in the battles of Potidaea, Amphipolis, and Delium.
As for the Egyptians. If they had any occult ancient wisdom, they did not show it. They did show this sculpture of people who had been executed in a rebellion around 2600 B.C.

Was civilization Better then then it is now? Is civilization going to hell in a handbasket?

No, it was not. and No, it is not.

Red Grant said...

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Greg, youn forgot to inculde penal colonies in Austrailia. - Red Grant
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Unfortunately, I don't think that would work anymore. - Greg
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I made the referrence to penal colonies, because sending the undesirables to the penal colonies was one of most important reasons that England in the 1800's remained stable, not due the influence of religion in England as you argued.

If it had been the religion that made the difference, then it would have been unnecessary for England to send her undesirables to the penal colonies, wouldn't it?

The very fact England had to resort to send her undesirables to the penal colonies is the proof that the religion didn't work in "taming" the Under class as you argued.

Or

Are you missing something?



___________________________________

I would also add that, to the extent that religion could be part of a solution to the problem of the underclass, it would all depend on whether that religion was

voluntary. - Greg

-----------------------------------
Halevy maintained that the stability of British order came about through the stabilizing influence of evangelical religion, particularly Methodism, which enabled Great Britain to establish itself, as a country of freedom, "voluntary obediance, of an organization freely initated and freely accepted." - Greg
___________________________________




Now, you're contradicting yourself, if Great Britain was indeed a country of freedom, "voluntary obediance, an organization of freely initiated and freely accepted", then:


why the need for penal colonies?




___________________________________

I would also add that, to the extent religion could be part of a solution to the problem of underclass, it would all depend on
whether that religion was

voluntary. - Greg
-----------------------------------

What the underclass really needs is

discipline.

If it were up to me, I send all the male children of the underclass to military schools.

Religion

could be part of instruction as long as it was not fanatical or denominational.... - Greg
___________________________________





Does this mean then you believe a solution to the problems of underclass is to discipline the underclass and send the male children to military school and subject them involuntary religious education?

...even though you yourself had said that for religion to be useful for the problem of underclass, it would have to be

voluntary?




___________________________________

What the underclass really needs is discipline. If it were up to me, I send all the male children of the underclass to military school. Religion could be part of the instruction as long as it was not fanatical or denominational... - Greg
-----------------------------------
Furthermore, I think it is naive that there is a government-based judicial solution to this problem[of underclass].

It has to come from some volutary force that emerges in society. - Greg
___________________________________





You stated that if it were up to you, you would send all the male children of the underclass to military school and force them to religious instruction.

How would you go about it without government-based, judiciary authority?

or

Are you being naive?





___________________________________

The positive influences that religion had in England and America on the middle and lower classes stemmed from the fact that
there existed competition between various denominations of Christian religion.

It [competition] forces religions to seek to have a positive influence on the lives of its adherents.

If it does not have a positive influence it loses its adherents to

secularism and other religions. - Greg
-----------------------------------
What role, if any, has secularization played in the social disintegration of the British underclass? - Greg
___________________________________




Does this mean then you believe "Christianity" has lost its adherents to secularism because "Christianity" didn't produce positive influences for its adherents in England and America?

Even though you claimed earlier that "Christianity" had positive roles for the under and middle classes of England and America?


or

are you contradicting yourself?



___________________________________

When a religion has a monopoly in a given society, there exists no checks on the worst elements of that religion, and we get what we find in Islamic world: a religion that has a preponderately bad influence on its adherents on society as a whole. - Greg
-----------------------------------
If it[a religion] does not have a positive influence, it loses its adherents to secularism and other religions. - Greg
___________________________________





If Islam has had bad influence on its adherents as you claimed above, then it should have lost its adherents to secularism and other religions, shouldn't it? (according to your theory)


If "Christianity" had had positive influences for its adherents as you claimed, then it shouldn't have lost its adherents to secularism and other religions, shouldn't it? (according to your theory)


or


are you a little confused?

Red Grant said...

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Jesus was a pacifist. - damien
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Indeed.



So Christians shouldn't use violence against another humans no matter what?




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...the Chritian Crusades started largely as a defense, against Muslim aggressions. - damien
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Jesus was a pacifist. - damien
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Do Christians kill? (as opposed to "Christians", the frauds either deluding themselves to be or posing as Christians)





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Muslim jihadists had been conquering Christian lands long before the Crusades started. - damien
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Should Christians care who rules the land he/she lives?

Didn't Jesus say His Kingdom was not of this world?

If Muslims kill a Christian, then what's going to happen to his[the Christian's] soul?

Does it make any difference to a Christian who rules this temporal, worldly realm?

Why should a person want to be a Christian?

For wealth, and prosperity in this world?

or

is it something else?



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Plus they tend to be less sophisticated due to the fact that they live in poverty. - damien
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Do you belong to the underclass or upperclass?

Michael Prescott said...

There's an old hypothetical question that bears on this issue.

Suppose you're walking down the street in a bad neighborhood, and you realize that a group of teenage males is following you.

Would it make any difference to you if you knew they were returning from choir practice?

Jay said...

I actually would feel safer knowing they were coming from choir practice.

However, this to me is not a convincing case for the value of religion. I'd also feel safer around a paralyzed person, or someone in the late stages of lung or brain cancer. Just because religion pacifies some of the worst people doesn't mean it's worthwhile.

Michael H said...

Would it make any difference to you if you knew they were returning from choir practice?

Would it indeed, Michael?

Although Wells is right in suggesting that there are some utopian visions proposed in this thread, including mine (hey, I'm an idealist!), there is one approach that is beginning to make inroads in disadvantaged communities and prison populations right now.

The Health Realization approach requires no adherence to any particular ideology, concentrating exclusively on teaching individuals how the role of thought influences choices, and has had some significant success in community applications. From the linked page:

"The Health Realization ("HR") model has been applied in a variety of challenging settings.[37][38] An early project, which garnered national publicity under the leadership of Roger Mills, introduced HR to residents of a pair of low-income housing developments in Miami known as Modello and Homestead Gardens. After three years, there were major documented reductions in crime, drug dealing, teenage pregnancy, child abuse, child neglect, school absenteeism, unemployment, and families on public assistance.[39] Jack Pransky has chronicled the transformation that unfolded there, in his book Modello, A Story of Hope for the Inner City and Beyond.[40]

"Later projects in some of the most severely violence-ridden housing developments in New York, Minnesota, and California and in other communities in California, Hawaii, and Colorado built upon the early experience in the Modello/Homestead work.[41][42] The Coliseum Gardens housing complex in Oakland, California, for example, had previously had the fourth highest homicide rate of such a complex in the US, but after HR classes were launched, the homicide rate began to decline. Gang warfare and ethnic clashes between Cambodian and African-American youth ceased. In 1997, Sargeant Jerry Williams was awarded the California Wellness Foundation Peace Prize on behalf of the Health Realization Community Empowerment Project at Coliseum Gardens.[43][44][45][46] By the year 2006, there had been no homicides in the Complex for nine straight years.[47]

"The HR model has also found application in police departments,[48] prisons,[49][50] mental health clinics,[51] community health clinics and nursing,[52] drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs,[53] services for the homeless,[54] schools,[55][56][57] and a variety of state and local government programs. The County of Santa Clara, California, for example, has established a Health Realization Services Division which provides HR training to County employees and the public. The Services Division "seeks to enhance the life of the individual by teaching the understanding of the psychological principles of Mind, Thought and Consciousness, and how these principles function to create our life experience," and to "enable them to live healthier and more productive lives so that the community becomes a model of health and wellness."[58] The Department of Alcohol and Drug Services introduced HR in Santa Clara County in 1994.[59] The Health Realization Services Division has an approved budget of over $800,000 (gross expenditure) for FY 2008, a 41% increase over 2007, at a time when a number of programs within the Alcohol and Drug Services Department have sustained budget cuts.[60]"

If anyone reading this blog is involved in working to impact the issues faced by the underclass and the consequences of the current situation on society as a whole, or knows someone who is, it might be worth investigating this approach. To my knowledge, there are HR professionals working to disseminate this understanding in the United States, Western Europe and Australia at this time. More information can be found at the West Virginia Institute for Innate Health.

Michael H said...

The first link is messed up:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_realization

Red Grant said...

___________________________________

There's an old hypothetical question that bears on this issue.

Suppose you're walking down the street in a bad neighborhood, and you realize that a group of teenage males is following you.

Would it make any difference to you if you knew they were returning from choir practice. - Michael Prescott
___________________________________




Suppose you had a daughter, and she's dating a young man who lives in a bad neighborhood, and has been a habitual violent criminal all his life. (Domestic abuse, check forgery, armed robbery, multiple rapes, he already commited many of these crimes when he was only a minor, so he didn't get lengthy sentences that would have made him not so young man)

Your daughter wants to marry him.

Would you be proud be his father-in-law if he goes to choir practice so that he can get on the good side of the parol officer, even though he commited many of these crimes after he claimed to have found "God"?

Brendan said...

Greg: “If it were up to me, I send all the male children of the underclass to military schools.”

A semi-Spartan solution? And I guess the girls could go to reform school to learn embroidery and domestic service.

Apart from the fact that this solution flies in the face of a free society, a major practical problem is deciding who belongs to the underclass. Is it defined by income, educational level, crime, table manners?

The ‘underclass’, however defined, has always been with us. In modern times, it grew in numbers with the growth of cities and industrialisation. The problem is systemic, and compulsory solutions will inevitably change the nature of the system towards authoritarianism.

Brendan said...

Michael Prescott: “Would it make any difference to you if you knew they were returning from choir practice?”

Depends. If you were a Jew in pre-war Eastern Europe on Good Friday, you might prefer to give the choir boys a wide berth.

One could run the same argument using a group of boys returning from a night class/apprenticeship course. The difference between ‘good’ groups and ‘bad’ groups is their purpose. Religion can certainly achieve good ends. But so can other institutions.

gregnyquist said...

Wells: "you will find a table with homicide rates since the 13th century. As you can see, they have declined."

Yes, homicide rates have indeed declined since the Middle Ages, because of the rise of a centralized state and, later on, the development of bureaucratic police forces; but both homicide and crime in general rose quite dramatically between 1960 and 1990 in the United States. Violent crimes rose in that period by more than 550% (population rose about 41% in the same period). So I think there is reason to be concerned.

Wells: "Red Giant's post on 7/15/2008 01:42:00 AM should also be read again, he discusses the age of consent in Victorian England, who lobbied to change it, and why it was changed.
Here is also a table showing the religious affiliation of prison inmates in the United State's Federal Bureau of Prisons in 1997."

Since bad stuff happened in all ages, we're no worse off than anybody else! I don't believe that is a very discriminating argument, because it fails to address the worsening trends in the last three to five decades on "moral" issues: increases in crime, out of wedlock births, sons without fathers, divorce, teen suicide, increase in psychological disorders, etc. etc. So as society is becoming more secular, some of these other problems are getting worse. This, despite the fact that things are obviously improving in terms of wealth and technology. This suggests that, at the very least, secularization is symptomatic of a kind of demoralization that is going on; and we have to be open to the possibility that religion is, to some degree (even if only a small degree) causative of this demoralization.

gregnyquist said...

Brendan: "Apart from the fact that this solution [i.e., military school for underclass] flies in the face of a free society, a major practical problem is deciding who belongs to the underclass. Is it defined by income, educational level, crime, table manners? "

Actually, there is a quite easy way around "freedom" objections: simply send those children who have serious displinary problems to these military-like schools. Would that infringe upon their rights? Why would it? Underage people do not have the same rights as the rest of it. In any case, Burke's dictum about passions forging fetters remains in place: people of "intemperate mind" (i.e., who can't control themsevles) cannot be free. There's no getting around that. There's been a rebellion against discipline in this country (particularly in the education system) and now we're paying the price for it. Instead of disciplining children nowadays, we use television, computer games, and drugs to pacify them.

gregnyquist said...

Jay: "Objectivism puts a lot of emphasis on discipline, but also on the importance of a more positive outlook. "

Whatever emphasis Objectivism puts on discipline is misplaced. Discipline is important because its from discipline that people learn self-control. Now Objectivism regards the whole issue of free will and self-control as coming down to the issue of whether the individual focuses his mind. I believe this is completely the wrong way to look at it. What is called "free will" is something that, in many people, exists in small measure and has to be, like so many other human talents, cultivated and developed. That is where discipline comes in: learning how to say no to raw appetite.

As for the issue of positive outlook, that may be all fine and good for those people who have good prospects in life, but what about those people who don't really have much to look forward to beyond fulfilling their obligations to their spouses and children? Objectivism really doesn't offer much to those who must find satisfaction in merely doing their "duty."

Michael H said...

"So as society is becoming more secular, some of these other problems are getting worse. This, despite the fact that things are obviously improving in terms of wealth and technology. This suggests that, at the very least, secularization is symptomatic of a kind of demoralization that is going on; and we have to be open to the possibility that religion is, to some degree (even if only a small degree) causative of this demoralization."

This is essentially the same point Martin Seligman makes in addressing the depression epidemic. He writes:

"We found out in the course of assessing how much mental illness existed, that depression was 10 times as common as it was 50 years ago. That was the first thing that happened.

"The second was that, 50 years ago, the mean age for the first incidence of depression was 29.5 years old. It was essentially a disorder of middle-aged housewives. Now the mean age is 14.5 years old. It has become much younger. This is not only a paradox, but also the only tenfold increase of anything in the area of psychology.

"We often think of depression as being about bad lives. But every statistic we have that should give us insight into the well-being of young Americans and American children is positive: the hands on the nuclear clock are farther away from midnight than every before, there are fewer soldiers dying on the battlefield than any time since the Boer War 100 years ago; there is more purchasing power, more education, more music. But at the same time, as every objective statistic is going north, every statistic we have on the morale of our youth is going south."

Seligman goes on to discuss how this manifests as low productivity, absenteeism and poor achievement, but doesn’t directly address the even more severe consequences of rampant alcohol and drug abuse, teen pregnancy, contempt for education and how all of these relate to rising crime rates. No respect for self translates to no respect for others.

The issues faced by society are psychological in nature, and lasting solutions will only come about via new approaches to human psychology. What needs to be addressed is the source of the problem, rather than the manifestations. If solutions existed within the confines of current thinking on these issues, the issues would not exist.

The failure of religion is part of the problem, but the bulk of the responsibility is squarely on the shoulders of those who advocate and promote a naturalist view of humanity. If you teach people that they are nothing but sophisticated animals, you shouldn’t bitch when their behavior reflects plenty of animal, yet little sophistication.

Red Grant said...

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Since bad stuff happened in all ages, we're no worse off than anybody else! - Greg
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Can you say the same thing about today?

...that we, today, are no worse off than anybody else, both in time and space?




___________________________________

...because it fails to address the worsening trends in the last three to five decades on "moral" issues: - Greg
-----------------------------------
Since bad stuff happened in all ages, we're no worse off than anybody else! - Greg
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Indeed, ponder for a moment...your own argument that we're no worse off than anybody else.




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So as society is getting more secular, some of these other problems are getting worse. - Greg
-----------------------------------
If it[a religion] does not have a positive influence, it loses its adherents to secularism and other religiions. - Greg
-----------------------------------
I don't believe that it is a very discriminating argument,... - Greg
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So does this mean then you believe "Christianity" has lost many of its adherents to secularim because it hasn't had positive influence on its adherents?



...and if so, then why had you said earlier than Christianity had a positive influence in England?


Do you think your argument above is very discriminating?

Wells said...

Okay, let's try this again.

I found a summary of the book The First Measured Century, an Illustrated Guide to Trends in America 1900-2000. Which appears to be exactly what it says it is, a guide to trends in the United States from 1900 to 2000, taking advantage of the fact that the twentieth century is the first century for which all kinds of demographic information exists. I'll share two paragraphs.

Religion
Americans’ membership in religious organizations increased from 41 percent in 1900 to 70 percent in 2000 (see chart below). But weekly church attendance remained almost level (43 percent in 1939 and 40 percent in 1999). And the percentage of Americans who said they believe in God (more than 95 percent) remained quite stable from 1940 to 2000.
However, the mix of religions changed
between 1900 and 1998. The Catholic
proportion of the population increased from 13 percent to 23 percent. Eastern Orthodox, Latter-day Saints, Islam, and Judaism all registered large increases. Evangelical Protestant denominations also grew significantly during this period, while mainline Protestant denominations declined.

Crime
The homicide rate was very low in 1900 (1.2 per 100,000 population). An eightfold surge in murders led to a peak in 1933. Then the homicide rate fell sharply until the mid-1960s, when it began to climb just as sharply to nearly 10 per 100,000 population by the mid-1970s. In the 1990s, the homicide rate suddenly began to decline, falling to 5.8 per 100,000 population in 1999. The robbery rate also rose from a very low level (39 per 100,000 population in 1957) to highs exceeding 250 per 100,000 population during the 1980s and early 1990s. Then the robbery rate began to decline, however, falling to 152 per 100,000 population by 1999. Like expenditures for health care and higher education, spending on police protection rose sharply from $13 per capita in 1900 to $207 per capita in 1996.
The incarceration rate fluctuated until 1980, when it suddenly tripled from 139 prisoners per 100,000 population to 462 prisoners per 100,000 population in 1999. Contrary to conventional thinking, the juvenile share of arrests for property crimes declined after 1968, and the juvenile share of arrests for violent crimes declined after 1978.

Wells said...

To Greg Nyquest, who should be careful what he wishes for.

Greg says "I send all the male children of the underclass to military school."

You do know that a military school teaches subjects the way they do for a reason right? The reason is not to instill discipline, that's a secondary effect. Military schools teach subjects the way they do in order to teach students to be able to cooperate with some people in order to coerce other people to do stuff.
That skill would come in handy in any street gang on earth, especially in gangs that run protection rackets.
You should be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.

Jay said...

but what about those people who don't really have much to look forward to beyond fulfilling their obligations to their spouses and children?

I don't believe that's all anyone has to look forward to. If it is, it's because they have chosen to pursue nothing but the betterment of their family. It's never too late to take another look at your life and pursue a new hobby, goal, career path, etc.

Personally, I'd feel pretty unhappy if my wife and kids were all I lived for.

Simon_Lote said...

As I understand it Victorians were very concerned about the urban underclass in the 19th century, they were also concerned that most of the underclass didn't go to Churh. Christianity was central to the identity of the middle class.

It should be noted however that Christians in the 19th century beleived that poverty was not caused by society at large but by individual vices. Charity workers were very discriminate in their giving helping the deserving poor, and assiting the moral regeneration of the undeserving poor. It is this attitude that is missing by our anti-poverty crusaders today who think solving poverty has more to do with lobbying government to demand a redistribution of wealth.

Today in our egalitarian everybody is equal and so if there are unequal outcomes it can only be due to corrupting effects of society. Many christians today beleive this to, their mission is not in moral regeneration of the individual but in 'just helping people.' Indeed I remember vividly a conversation I had with a born again christian who's faith compelled him to work in Africa. Naturally he regarded Africa's impoverished state all to do with western exploitation.

Brendan said...

Greg: “…simply send those children who have serious displinary problems to these military-like schools.”

You’ve both narrowed and broadened the criteria from “all the male children of the underclass” to children who have serious disciplinary problems, and this presumably includes all children, not just those of the underclass.

If by “disciplinary problems” you mean chronic criminal or near-criminal behaviour, your solution might have legs, although challenging, adventure-type camps might be as equally effective as military-style schools.

And since discipline is the issue, I can’t see where religion necessarily comes into it. The problem is ethical or moral, not religious. Attempts to instil religious precepts are problematic and potentially sectarian, especially in a pluralist society, whereas people can broadly agree that certain types of behaviour are desirable or undesirable.