Godwin's Pope

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What with that whole Hitler Youth thing, it's no surprise that Pope Ratzinger I has brought forth a torrent of Nazi references, especially from the left side of the political spectrum.

But the Right, too, has joined the fun, inspired by Ratzo's remark about the "dictatorship of relativism" (which, if you think about it for two seconds, is itself a classic example of relativism). Daniel Moloney, writing in The National Review, argues that the Pope's Hitler past will help him lead us to victory against … the new Hitler!

[T]he ills of western Europe today have the same cause, and the same solution, as during World War II. […]

[T]he consumerism and relativism of the West can be just as dangerous as the totalitarianism of the East: It's just as easy to forget about God while dancing to an iPod as while marching in a Hitler Youth rally. There's a difference, to be sure, but hardly anyone would contest the observation that in elite Western society, as in totalitarian Germany, the moral vocabulary has been purged of the idea of sin.

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  1. With all the NR references in H&R these past few days, Warren must be having an aneurysm. Someone get him a drink.

  2. “It’s just as easy to forget about God while dancing to an iPod as while marching in a Hitler Youth rally.”

    wow. what do they put in the weed over at national review?

    zee moral vocabulary vill be restored!

    moral vocabulary has never left us, and neither did sin. every time i hear one of these elbow-patching jacktards lament the decadence of the united states, i think “damn, i really wish i lived in the country they think we live in.”

  3. There’s a difference, to be sure,

    Now there’s the finest tobesure in the long, sad history of tobesures.

  4. The great sin of the 20th century, that people have stopped feeling perpetual guilt for no good reason.

  5. [T]he consumerism and relativism of the West can be just as dangerous as the totalitarianism of the East:

    What about the totalitarianism of religious institutions imposing their religious dogma on the masses?

  6. Gas the National Review.

  7. The phrase “dictatorship of relativism” is about as meaningless as “the communism of dog biscuits.” It doesn’t mean anything. Look at the monkey.

  8. Nazi Germany was NOT by any means purged of the notion of sin; they had a very strict moral code. It’s just that their moral code was what we would find repugnant.

    They were big on family values, too, provided you talk about the right families.

  9. And the notion that Catholicism was the tonic to fascism would have come as quite a surprise to Josef Tiso, among many others….

  10. Is it me, or has NRO completely gone off the theocon deep-end over the last few months? Sure, the site has a long history of posting parodic, neo-luddite screeds on social issues, what with Derbyshire, Novak, and Lopez being on the payroll, but the pace really seems to have picked up since the election. Particularly with regards to bloviations from previously-unseen hack columnists whose approach to writing columns espousing a reactionary worldview bears a large resemblance to Eric Cartman’s approach to penning Christian rock lyrics.

    Before, a casual reader might’ve found two or three columns a week from NRO that could make you simultaneously laugh and shudder. Now you’re getting enough to fill up the USS Reagan.

  11. You beat me to it, Jennifer.

    How can the religious right (and by that I mean the idiots talking on the fundamentalist radio stations) get away with the lie that the Nazis were anti-God? Wasn’t the Third Reich pro-God in the most nauseatingly cynical way?

  12. “And the notion that Catholicism was the tonic to fascism would have come as quite a surprise to Josef Tiso, among many others….”

    Including the Odessa network….

  13. Now Jennifer, you know that anyone who is pro-choice, pro-birth control, believes in evolution, doesn’t hate gays, etc. is not only a Nazi but an active persecutor of the faithful through not sharing their beliefs.

  14. Eric II, I think it was the combination of the phony polling about the “religious right mandate” from after the election (which got their hopes up), followed by the public’s overwhelming rejection of their stance on the Schiavo case. The latter was a longstanding cause celbre (Freedome Cause, for you patriots) at National Review.

    It’s like when the James Bond villian watches his rocket rise halfway out the launcher, then blow up.

  15. “…you know that anyone who is pro-choice, pro-birth control, believes in evolution, doesn’t hate gays, etc. is not only a Nazi…”

    Uh, David?

    Nevermind.

  16. Eric II,

    The National Review is not alone in sense. My local paper, always conservative-leaning, has read like a church bulletin these days. Every op-ed piece/letter to the editor is about gays, or the culture of death.

  17. It’s just as easy to forget about God while…

    I’d forgotten all about God while reading Hit & Run. Until this post reminded me. Damn.

  18. Israel Zolli, Chief Rabbi of Rome converted to Catholicism to show his profound thanks, respect, and gratitude to Pius XII for saving him, and thousands of other Jews in Italy during the dark days of Nazism.

  19. The morals of the Nazis (after you ignore that part about killing or enslaving a shitload of people):

    Abortion is a sin, and should be illegal.
    Women and girls shouldn’t plaster themselves with makeup and trendy clothes; that is decadent and unworthy of Our Citizens.
    The music and dancing of modern youth culture is too decadent to be allowed.
    Children should be raised by their mothers, while the fathers bring home the bacon.
    It is good to love your country; it is bad to question it.
    Hooray for Our Troops.
    There’s something especially special, almost sacred, about our homela– oops, Fatherland.

    Christ. Who does this most resemble–the iPod dancers or the National Review?

  20. “Wasn’t the Third Reich pro-God in the most nauseatingly cynical way?”

    Right down to the “God with us” belt buckles on the uniforms.

    http://secularhumanism.org/library/fi/paul_23_4.html

  21. Almost forgot to mention something else for the list: “gays are evil.”

  22. “gays are evil.”

    They’re not evil. Just folks who think about their genitals too much, don’t understand and want everyone else to do so.

  23. Joe,

    My attempts at sarcasm don’t always come off as well in print. My point was that Nazism is the standard for comparison applied anything the “faithful” don’t agree with. Faithful in quotes as there are those who believe is religion(probably a majority) who don’t share these views. The comparison is mixed with the notion that for non-believers to engage in behaviors that believers disagree with is persecution of people of faith.

  24. I remember when the world was going to Hell in a handbasket because all the kids were wearing flattop haircuts and playing Rock ‘n Roll 45 RPM phonograph records.

    Are we there yet?

  25. It was the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger who praised the Third Reich and their enlightened positions on abortion.

  26. Define batshit insane:

    Being able to put this line in your column without a hint of irony:

    the ills of western Europe today have the same cause, and the same solution, as during World War II

    I so want whatever the hell he?s smoking. I didn?t realize invading Germany, destroying their military and killing Hitler would solve Europe?s problems.

    Why does the right think they have a monopoly on belief in sin? The left does too, they?re merely different. Some sins in the eyes of left:

    Destruction of the environment
    Rape
    Corporatism that destroys the individual
    Intolerance (homophobia, racism, etc)
    Inequality
    Selfishness
    Lack of caring for the poor
    Unnecessary killing (i.e. war, death penalty, etc.)

    Note: These are over-broad generalizations that I?m using to demonstrate a point, not all of the sins or necessarily a representative sample.

    They are different than many of those defined by the right, but they don?t have the monopoly in the moralizing department.

  27. whose approach to writing columns espousing a reactionary worldview bears a large resemblance to Eric Cartman’s approach to penning Christian rock lyrics

    Thanks, Eric — that’s the best line I’ve read today.

  28. the ills of western Europe today have the same cause, and the same solution, as during World War II

    You know, when I read that phrase out of context, it sounds like something a raging anti-Semite would say.

  29. Jesse – ha! I totally see your point…

  30. I’ll give up my iPod when they pry it from my cold, dead- oh, never mind…

  31. David, it’s cool. I guess my sarcasm doesn’t come though either. I got your point, and wanted to draw attention to the fact that the Nazis opposed every single one of the “Nazi” beliefs you listed. Right down to opposing birth control.

  32. “You know, when I read that phrase out of context, it sounds like something a raging anti-Semite would say.”

    Jesse,

    Out of context? Jeez. “… forget about God while dancing to an iPod…” Take it as it is and it’s classic Islamist.

    I am convinced that the fundamentalist ‘Judeo-Christians’ are troubled not as much by the prospect of the U.S. being made a theocracy by Muslim fundamentalists but by the idea that the Muslim fundamentalists may beat them to it.

  33. [T]he consumerism and relativism of the West can be just as dangerous as the totalitarianism of the East…

    Full-stop. No.

    Have fun in the legions of the batshit insane, Mr. Moloney. Not that you’ll like the company, considering what other fringe nutjobs would cheerfully equate Western consumerism with, say, Nazism, Stalinism, and/or Maoism.

  34. “That answer is that the ills of western Europe today have the same cause, and the same solution, as during World War II…”

    …”the sin of the century is the loss of the sense of sin.

    “…the secular humanist attempt to develop a morality and way of life that makes no reference to God will also force man to lose his sense of sin.

    The religious right is getting almost no competition on the moral side of most arguments. I suspect that people who think primarily in moral terms are hearing very little of what we’re saying. When I talk to my religious friends and religious family members about drug policy, torture, the Patriot Act, etc., I try to do it in moral terms.

    …They respond well.

    “There’s a difference, to be sure, but hardly anyone would contest the observation that in elite Western society, as in totalitarian Germany, the moral vocabulary has been purged of the idea of sin.”

    If the moral vocabulary has been purged of the idea of sin, I suspect it’s a good thing; but I don’t think it’s a good thing if “elite Western society” has been purged of a moral vocabulary.

  35. I think the church has made it own bed by making so many trivialities into “sins”. Once people realize the absurdity of some things being considered “sinful”, they lose respect for the concept.

    The same could be said of stupid laws, although the immediate penalties for ignoring those can be stiffer.

  36. Jennifer,

    The morals of the Nazis (after you ignore that part about killing or enslaving a shitload of people):

    Ah, isn’t that like listing the beliefs of a libertarian, ignoring the part about personal and economic freedom? But I’ll play along…

    Abortion is a sin, and should be illegal.

    Unless the fetus in question is non-Aryan, that is. If the Nazis’ attitude towards abortion resembles either side in the current debate, it is the one which believes we have the right to decide which fetuses live and which ones die.

  37. crimethink,

    I think that’s a false comparison. The “we” implies that someone who’s pro-choice sees government setting forth guidelines to exterminate babies of certain race, class, or creed rather than letting a person choose whether or not she will endure a pregnancy.

    In truth, it all depends on how you see the fetus, as little human from fertilization, or as a cluster of cells.

  38. Every time I read this hell in a hand basket rhetoric I have a really hard time squaring it with the fact that my life is pretty good, and I enjoy the entertainment our society provides. I have a wife and two kids, and so far none of us has killed anybody.

    Clearly my relativistic view of the world has gotten way out of hand. I should hate myself.

  39. Crimethink-
    The forced abortion of non-Aryan fetuses was pretty much included in the “kill and enslave everyone else” bit. The point is, when it came to the society the Nazis wanted to make, there was a LOT more to it than “let’s get rid of the Jews and other ‘undesirables’;” those who were ‘Aryan’ enough to be considered human were expected to accept a code of values which many members of the National Review staff would find not merely acceptable, but right.

  40. … hardly anyone would contest the observation that in elite Western society, as in totalitarian Germany, the moral vocabulary has been purged of the idea of sin.

    What? “Hardly anyone”? Well, I for one would contest that observation. Anyone else? Good grief, try flipping through the goddamned am radio, or listening to a republican member of Congress screaming about whatever… without hearing “sin sin sin sin sin….”

    Does he know what “purged” means? Hell, he’s not even talking about the word “sin”; he’s actually being broader than that: he says the “idea” of it — the very concept — is gone (from elite western moral vocabulary, which if pressed, i suppose he’d just define in such a way as to just exclude anyone who actually does talk about sin). Thus he’s left with: all the people who don’t have a concept of sin don’t have a concept of sin in their moral vocaubularies. Brilliant!

    I guess his other fallback is that he thinks of “sin” as a religious concept only, and so any notion of “wrong” that isn’t tied directly to religion fails to reference the idea of “sin”; and that moral vocabulary consists of NOTHING but these non-sin, non-religious concepts of “sin” and so therefore….. we’re all turning into Nazis.

  41. Look, I’ll just post a bit I posted on Catallarchy. To reenforce (that looks bad, no?) my ideas, I’ll just say that this Pope doesn’t matter.

    Since you can?t satisfy both factions within the RCC, I think appointing a conservative Pope is the only way to go. Remember that both progressive and conservative members of the RCC are against the idea of moral relativity. The may disagree on exactly what the absolute Truth is, and therefore the direction of the Church, but moral continuity is very important. Following such a dramatic and long-lived Pope with anyone that was significantly more progressive would have been a repudiation of JP2 and the principles he stood for. Also, to move in an opposite direction would reveal the purely political machinations behind the RCC, which can alienate the faithful and only serve to undermine authority. While the Church must change eventually, it is imperative that it change slowly. A Vatican 3 type situation could really destroy the Church, even though what remained would probably be a product better adapted to the 21st century.

    Keep in mind that B16 is really old and it is extremely unlikely that he will have even a fraction of the effect the JP2 did. I think he?s basically a placeholder, elected to maintain moral integrity and validate the ideals of JP2. Next time around it will be much, much easier to elect a more progressive Pope should that be desired.

  42. Independent Worm,

    I think your last paragraph hit the nail on the head, but when he’s talking about “elite Western society”, I think he’s talking about liberals.

    We have to learn to read in code. You and I would call them “liberals”, for instance, but where we see college educated people who lean to the left, he and his faithful readers see latte swilling gay Hollywood types with pony tails who, at all costs, must be stopped.

  43. “It’s just as easy to forget about God while dancing to an iPod…”

    As a matter of fact, one of the reasons I bought my iPod was as a means of drowning out “The 700 Club” that is on the TV in the break room when I take my lunch with my fundie co-worker.

    I seem to remember a line from a P.J. O’Rourke piece about the fall fo the Berlin Wall how “[S]eventy-two years of communist indoctrination and propaganda was drowned out by a three-once Sony Walkman.” Apperently, the theo-cons are begining to realize that as long as people have the option not to listen to their mythological bullshit, organized religion will end up where it belongs: One the ash heap of history, next to Marxism.

  44. Akira, the only prolem is that some religious teachings are very near equivalent to logical teachings. For instance the “Golden Rule”, which if you bring up from a Socratic standpoint is okay, but if you mention Jesus is somehow a violation of the first amendment.

  45. Ken Shultz –
    Are you still in Los Angeles that you know what “latte swilling gay Hollywood types with pony tails” are like? God forbid we allow such people. NIMBY?

  46. For instance the “Golden Rule”, which if you bring up from a Socratic standpoint is okay, but if you mention Jesus is somehow a violation of the first amendment.

    There’s no question that there is a segment of people out there who reflexively hear God or Jesus and yell “First amendment violation.”

    But notice too how we have here the same thing, in reverse, with Moloney. To his way of thinking, if it doesn’t reference God or Jesus, then it can’t be a moral claim.

    Each concept is equally ridiculous, and i cringe whenever I see either of them. Personally i don’t care about Nativity scenes on the courthouse lawn, or kids in public school making Christmas cards, and I find it idiotic that there’s a lawsuit every year about this stuff. To me that’s allowable expression, as long as nobody’s forced to do it, and every religion has the equal opportunity to do the same.

    But by the same token, this rhetoric that there’s a Nazi-esque lack of morality a-brewin’ (because of the absence of the word “sin”, apparently) is poisonous and has no place in proper political – or any other – discourse.

    (By the way, I think Mo’s post — setting out what the Left generally considers “wrong” — illustrates this point perfectly. The left is certainly not lacking in moral vocabulary, despite all the I-pods; it’s just Moloney’s preference for the terminology of “sin” that keeps him from recognizing it (or more accurately, the paychecks he gets from whoever puts him up to this nonsense provide him with sufficient incentive to pretend that he doesn’t see it)

  47. “… hardly anyone would contest the observation that in elite Western society, as in totalitarian Germany, the moral vocabulary has been purged of the idea of sin.”

    I’m with Independent Worm. Talk about your straw men…

  48. “It’s just as easy to forget about God while dancing to an iPod as while marching in a Hitler Youth rally.”

    But your iPod can also get you to thinking about God, if you’re listening to Christian rock (personal reaction: ugh), or gospel music, or “Song of the Sibyls” by Dead Can Dance, or the other churchy-type music that DCD does, like “The Host of Seraphim” or even “Wilderness.”

    —————

    “Moral relativism” is mostly used by the Left to undermine the traditional catalogue of sins, but — as Mo said — the contemporary Left has a full catalogue of offenses that it regards as secular sins, and is quite inflexible about that.

  49. one of the reasons I bought my iPod was as a means of drowning out “The 700 Club”

    Sounds like “consumerism” to me. Obviously a dangerous heathen. I’ve got the stake if anyone has some matches.

  50. OK, who the heck is the POPE, the Bishop of Rome, the guy who spends all day talking to Cardinals and heads of state, to be referring to other people as “elite Western society?”

  51. David said: I think the church has made it own bed by making so many trivialities into “sins”. Once people realize the absurdity of some things being considered “sinful”, they lose respect for the concept.

    The same could be said of stupid laws, although the immediate penalties for ignoring those can be stiffer.

    I think that’s a pretty good point and an insightful comparison.

    I’ve previously mentioned The Sovereign Individual: How to Survive and Thrive During the Collapse of the Welfare State, by James Dale Davidson and Lord William Rees-Mogg, as a “flawed but interesting book.” The chapter comparing the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages with the modern nanny state is practically worth the price of the book alone.

    The medieval Church created a lot of “religious regulations.” Lots of feast days were declared in honor of saints — days on which no work could be done. (You couldn’t have sex on those feast days, either, and I think Sundays too; the authors say at one point it would have been a sin to have sex with your spouse on all but 50 days of the year.) Every such-and-such Tuesday of the month was set aside to honor something-or-other, on which no commerce could be done.

    Basically, it was almost impossible to live, or make a living, without committing a “sin” of this sort from time to time. But the medieval Church also sold indulgences — basically, you buy off the effect of the sin on your soul by giving the Church some money.

    Similarly, today, it’s harder and harder to live, or make a living, without breaking one of our proliferating laws or regulations. But you can buy a kind of pre-emptive indulgence, if you have money and influence. You can get the attention of lawmakers through big contributions, and you can lobby to have laws and regulations written so they aren’t an undue burden on you.

    Only the Church’s way was more democratic — I think access was easier, and the prices lower (lower prices, higher volume). Today you need to be a pretty big cheese to have laws written to suit you.

    By the way, I hope no one takes either excessive offense or comfort when I point out how corrupt the Church can be. I’m a member myself, but it’s dumb and self-defeating to ignore how corrupt human officials in any organization can be, especially one that’s entangled with the State.

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