Friday, September 17, 2010

The intellectual grotesquery of Benedict XVI

It is easy to be outraged when the Pope blames Nazism on atheists but I think it's important to also understand the basis for his wrong-headedness.

I do not believe the author of a series of encyclicals that is essentially a Catholic/ Existentialist death-match (next, Pope Benedict and Jean Paul Sartre!) has not thought this through.

Benedict's experience of growing up in Nazi Germany may mean he associates God-lessness specifically with a world in which Man's power was unleashed in a perversion of Nietzsche's conception of the "Superman". So, perhaps also projecting a certain amount of guilt for not having done more to resist, he may possess a particular dread of the God-less state, and associate it automatically with Nazism.

But he is wrong to conclude atheists "created" the Nazis - atheism may have been a characteristic (and not much of one at that - witness Himmler's attempts to re-imagine Nazism as a Pagan cult) but Christianity was arguably its genesis.

In Straw Dogs John Gray demonstrates how despite having "murdered" God, the post-Enlightenment West and its ideological off-spring remain culturally Christian, particularly in a tendency to promise Heaven here upon the Earth - Utopianism.

It's a destructive fallacy we cannot shake off - from the Jacobite Terror, through Stalin and Hitler, to Neo-Conservatism. Unlike the Greeks and Romans Nietzsche admired (and whose age he wished to recreate, free from the shackles of "slave" religion), all have peddled the idea of a "promised land" - and led their followers to destruction.

For a man so supposedly endowed with intellect to ignore this is a considerable flaw. To enlist the Jews, for whom 2000 years of Christian persecution culminated in genocide, to make his point, is simply grotesque.


Yewtree said...

Just to point out that the Nazis also persecuted Odinists and other Pagan types who didn't subscribe to Nazism. The numbers involved were very small, but we can't blame Nazism on pagan ideas either. (I don't think you were doing that, but I mention it just in case anyone else tries to jump on that particular bandwagon.)

Unitalian said...

Indeed! Didn't mean to smear the pagans!

Bill Baar said...

....the Jacobite Terror, through Stalin and Hitler, to Neo-Conservatism.

Seems a little extreme to me to make Neo-Conservativsm as the culmination here...

...about as extreme as attributing National Socialism to Atheism.

Unitalian said...

Bill, fair point. What I'm referring specifically to is Iraq and the ideologically-driven belief that this would somehow automatically lead to Western-style democracy.

Up to a million people died as a result, yet we are still awaiting Utopia.

I would therefore argue that while Neo Conservatism is not the culmination, it is a manifestation of the same tendency.

Robin Edgar said...

"witness Himmler's attempts to re-imagine Nazism as a Pagan cult"

If you want to witness alleged former SS officer's, including alleged convicted war criminals, allegedly quite *successful* attempts to reimagine post-WWII German Unitarianism as an alleged neo-Nazi cult just Google -

"Deutsche Unitarier Religionsgemeinschaft" Nazi