Enemies

As if it happened yesterday, this gem appears on a recent Australian jurisprudence questionnaire:
 
"Some Jehovah’s Witnesses approach people in a predominantly Roman Catholic neighbourhood and play a CD, entitled ‘Enemies’, to them. The CD describes all organized religions as ‘instruments of Satan’ and then viciously attacks Catholicism in particular. Do you think that the law ought to prohibit conduct of this kind? Discuss with reference to rights and the public/private distinction."
 
So a certain blogger assumes it did happen yesterday - why would she not?  and fires off a response:
 
“Oh I really believe this scenario. It’s exactly what they’d do. Not what I ever would have done. I never had that sort of conviction. Oh how embarrassing! No wonder other churches call them ”weirdo religious strangers”. They call other churches “enemies” and “instruments of Satan” for goodness sake!”

Well, for goodness sake, it DOES seem mean-spirited, doesn't it? But it didn't happen yesterday. It happened eighty years ago. And it was a phonograph record, not a CD. Enemies was published in 1937, and was distributed for less than ten years. Someone's doing a hatchet job here, hoping to embarrass me. But the book and record was entirely appropriate for its time. In fact, given the same circumstances, I believe Jehovah's Witnesses would do it again.

In the wake of World War I, the mainline churches had proved themselves enemies of God, of Christ, and of man. They had, on both sides, stoked and cheered the conflict which would claim 16 million lives, and an additional 21 million wounded. With another world war approaching, they showed every sign of resuming that role. Yet in the interim, they presumed to slide right back into that cozy seat of representing the Prince of Peace, claiming to speak in his name. And, showing their break with the Bible was complete, after the first war - dubbed the Great War, until it was dwarfed by an even greater World War II - they abandoned all pretense of God's Kingdom and trumpeted the man-made world government substitute, the League of Nations, hailing it as the "political expression of the Kingdom of God on earth."Of course, it wasn't, and the League went down twenty years after it's birth, trampled by that second world war. Yes, the religious leaders of Christendom were the enemies that record referred to.
 
Eighty years later, it's hard to appreciate how enthusiastic church leaders were for the war, how they worked as cheerleaders for both sides. It doesn't seem believable. Surely, there must be an exaggeration. But, reflecting back, British brigadier general Frank Crozier stated: “The Christian Churches are the finest blood-lust creators which we have and of them we made free use."


A few more quotes of the day, in all cases by high-ranking clergymen, not lone renegades:
 

Bishop of London A. F. Winnington-Ingram urged the English people: “Kill Germans—do kill them; not for the sake of killing, but to save the world, to kill the good as well as the bad, to kill the young as well as the old, to kill those who have shown kindness to our wounded as well as those fiends . . . As I have said a thousand times [!], I look upon it as a war for purity, I look upon everyone who died in it as a martyr."   (Perspective (a Journal of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary), Vol. X, No. 1, Spring 1969, p. 78)
 

And from the other side? The archbishop of Cologne, Germany, said the following to German soldiers: “Beloved people of our Fatherland, God is with us in this fight for righteousness where we have been drawn in against our wish. We command you in the name of God, to fight to the last drop of your blood for the honor and glory of the country. In his wisdom and justice, God knows that we are on the side of righteousness and he will give us the victory.”   (La Dernière Heure, January 7, 1967 (Belgian newspaper)).

 
In America? An editorial in the Christian Register says it all: “As Christians, of course, we say Christ approves [of the war]. But would he fight and kill? . . . There is not an opportunity to deal death to the enemy that he would shirk from or delay in seizing! He would take bayonet and grenade and bomb and rifle and do the work of deadliness against that which is the most deadly enemy of his Father’s kingdom in a thousand years.” (The Christian Register, Vol. 97, No. 33 (Aug. 15, 1918), p. 775. (Quoted in Preachers Present Arms, Ray H Abrams, p. 68.))
 

Sure, such fighting words might come from a general. And in the midst of war fever, from a statesman, or a patriot, or a businessman, or the average citizen. But from the church, the institution claiming Christian leadership, asserting they and they alone speak for Christ? It's not a tad at odds with Christ's own words? “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) If you don't prove discipleship when it counts, during wartime, just when do you prove it? And after the war, should those clergy sweep their bloodthirsty record under the rug, and once again presume to speak in Jesus' name? Jehovah's Witnesses didn't think so. If Enemies seems mean-spirited today, it wasn't a fraction as mean-spirited as the catalyst that prompted it.
 

Now, you gotta admit, it would take GUTS to distribute that book and play that record. Nowadays, every wussy milquetoast of an atheist takes swipes at religion on his anonymous blog, but Jehovah's Witnesses went eyeball to eyeball with those enemies, in person, and what's more, they went to members of their flocks. Introducing Enemies to a convention audience in Columbus Ohio, Watchtower President Rutherford declared: “You will notice that its cover is tan, and we will tan the old lady’s hide with it!” So I don't want to hear Sam Harris the Atheist whining about how moderate "good" churches don't condemn their more belligerent brethren - and how they refuse to "call a spade a spade." We did it before he was in diapers, and did it with a courage that he could never match.
 

From the 1975 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses:

 
 

The phonograph work was not carried on without opposition. Ernest Jansma tells us: “There were cases of some having their phonographs literally and viciously smashed right before their eyes. Others had them ruthlessly thrown off porches. One brother in the Middle West stood by and watched an angry farmer blow his machine into oblivion with a shotgun, then heard pellets whine past his auto as he left the scene. They were vicious and religiously fanatical in those days.” Amelia and Elizabeth Losch tell of an occasion when the recording “Enemies” was played for a crowd on the porch of a certain home. After the talk ended, one woman took the record off the machine and broke it, saying, “You can’t talk about my pope like that!”
 
Today, the influence of the clergy is insignificant compared to what it was then.  I mean, they're respected so long as they stay in their place, but their place is much reduced from what it once was. In the days of Enemies, their place was anywhere they wanted. They kept a stranglehold upon popular thought. Catholics, in particular, as you may have heard your great-grandparents say, were not allowed to read the Bible. That's what the priest was for, and he would explain it as he saw fit, in accordance with church doctrine. In town after town, Jehovah's Witnesses would place literature with interested persons, and clergy would follow and demand it back. Such was the command they enjoyed, that they often got it.
 
Frankly, if Christendom's influence is a ghost of what it once was, Jehovah's Witnesses get the credit, in my view. The Enemies campaign was but one of many back in those days. See again that previous post for another. Look, Wilbur and Orville Wright are credited with inventing the airplane. That doesn't mean we wouldn't have planes had they never been born. Someone else would have invented them. But they were the first. They had the foresight and guts to persevere with a notion everyone else thought was rubbish.
 
Some, taking the opposite view of the blogger quoted in the third paragraph, grouse that Jehovah's Witnesses have become too cordial with other religions, that they have made their peace, that they have wimped out. But there's no point in kicking the 'old lady' while she's down. We kicked her while she was up. Nowadays, everybody kicks her. So why should we? Whatever account she must render is with God, not us. All we ever wanted to do was loosen her hold on people, so they would not be afraid to listen to new ideas. That was accomplished decades ago.

.........................

More early history here.

*************************

Tom Irregardless and Me        No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Atheists....the Next Generation!

Is there a trend hotter today then atheism? When Christopher Hitchens penned "God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything," his publishers thought 40,000 copies was more than enough. That's how many they printed. Since then they're printed 256,000 to keep up with demand. And a rival publisher has engaged the same author for a follow-up: 'The Portable Atheist.' Sam Harris, who City! gushed over for his 'Letter to a Christian Nation,' is now an also-ran. Only Richard Dawkins, the grand old man of atheism, sits on top, with 500,000 copies of 'The God Delusion.' "This is atheism's moment," says publisher David Steinberger. [WSJ 6/23/07]

It had to happen. Religion has acted too outrageously for too long. Isn't that really why, starting a generation or two ago, people started defecting for the mystical individual faiths, where you could be "one with the universe?" But now people have gone further still. Now they're willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater, dumping, not just religious structure, but even God.

These new atheists are fierce. They are in-your-face. They are almost evangelistic. They have pride. No longer will they lay low. Now they assert themselves, and thus they join the universal trend of self-assertion. They join the proud nationalists, proud racial groups, proud ethnic groups, proud disabled groups, proud sexual orientation groups, proud transgendered groups. Isn't there a modest person left on the planet?

Mr. Hitchens, as part of his book promo, challenged a panel that included an Orthodox Jew and a Buddhist nun. "I now wish I hadn't participated," say Nathan Katz, a professor of religious studies at Florida International University. "he was utterly abusive. It had the intellectual level of the Jerry Springer Show" [ibid WSJ] Actually, I got that impression myself when I "took on" a web atheist called Ebonmuse. (the abusive part, that is, not the Springer part)

These are "Atheists - the Next Generation." The first generation had a decidedly different tone. They came in the wake of Darwin's theory, and the floodgates really opened wide following the bloodbath of WWI, in which clergy on both sides eagerly urged their parishioners to maim and kill each other. Thus was founded atheism's initial surge, but it was a "sad" surge. It was mournful. Atheists then despaired of God's existence. They weren't happy with their conclusion. They knew they were giving up on the hopes and dreams of mankind from time immortal, that this life, so fraught with hardship and suffering, wasn't all there is. And, they realized, the death of faith had a deleterious effect even on this life.

For example, H.G. Wells, who turned atheist over time, observed: “The Darwinian movement took formal Christianity unawares, suddenly. . . . The new biological science was bringing nothing constructive as yet to replace the old moral stand-bys. A real de-moralization ensued.” Then, connecting that attitude with an increased appetite for war, he continued: “Prevalent peoples at the close of the nineteenth century believed that they prevailed by virtue of the Struggle for Existence, in which the strong and cunning get the better of the weak and confiding. . . . Man, they decided, is a social animal like the Indian hunting dog . . . so it seemed right to them that the big dogs of the human pack should bully and subdue.” [Outline of History]

They concluded God was dead. They didn't disagree with their own conclusion, but they were saddened by it. They knew they had lost a lot.

Not so atheist's Next Generation! They gleefully saw off the branch upon which they sit, in return for the ecstasy of no one telling them what to do! Our 70-80 years, with nothingness looming beyond, seems to them a great bargain. No matter if it ends in the nursing home with someone changing our Depends three times a day! In his time, Ronald Reagan was, arguably, the world's most influential person. Ten years later he didn't know who he was. Does this faze the "next generation?" Not a bit! For the first time in human history, relative comfort and ease is possible for most of us, provided we play our cards right and aren't terribly unlucky, and live in privileged nations. We can have fine homes, fine cars, cool technology. And that's good enough for them! What could God possibly add to that?

It's sad to see. But it had to happen.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

The wicked one according to his superciliousness makes no search;
All his ideas are: “There is no God."      Psalm 10:4

*****************************

Tom Irregardless and Me      No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Richard Dawkins and the Lineage of Jesus

Richard Dawkins is the grand old man of atheism. He's been around forever and he's articulate. His book "The God Delusion" sells heartily. Even Sam Harris (I think) emulates Mr. Dawkins and hopes to grow up just like him. But I am not happy with Mr. Dawkins. I almost lost a spiritual brother to him, not for any noble reason, but because he tried to pass off as a chocolate covered caramel what was really a small turd.

The "turd" is his observation that Jesus' lineage is different in Matthew chapter 1 and Luke chapter 3. It's a glaring contradiction! He's amazed everyone doesn't see it and abandon Christianity on that account. Just count the names, for crying out loud, and see that there's 28 in Matthew but 41 in Luke!

Outraged that I'd been lied to for so long by the slippery mind-control Watchtower, I almost fired off my own letter of independence to them, but then I read how the "almost-lost" brother had "hit the books" and what he'd found. Yes, Luke lists 41 names to Matthew's 28. That's because Luke goes back to Adam, the first man, and Matthew only to Abraham! And yes, the two geneologies differ after David (King David). That's because Matthew traces Jesus through his mother's line and Luke through his father's. The Messiah, says prophesy, is supposed to be descended from David. Either way, the two gospels establish, whether through mama or papa, Jesus fills the bill.

C'mon Richard! This is Bible 101. This is straightforward. Sure, it could easily escape the attention of a youngster or someone not specifically looking for it, but how old are you? And this, you claim, is your area of expertise?! Look, I'm sure your book contains some hard-hitting challenges to those in the "God" camp. Such challenges can be made. But this is not one of them. This is schlock, and you ought to be ashamed of yourself for making such strong assertions on something you know so little about!

I learned all this, by the way, through fellow blogger Tom Weedsandwheat. He came across, by sheer accident, some Witness youngster (everyone's a youngster to Weedsandwheat, who's half an ice-age older than even me) who'd decided that the God camp was wrong and the atheists were right. Atheists, for God's sake! (um... for unGod's sake) So he decided he'd better tell the Watchtower off. He had his letter of disassociation posted right there on the internet, building up courage to actually submit it to the brothers. The letter contained six blatant Watchtower "errors." He was worried about the consequences of his letter, but brave enough to face them. Disassociation would mean that few (or no) Witnesses would speak to him afterwards. And he was not sure exactly how matters would unfold.

So Weedsandwheat contacted his blog and told him. And suggested how to better submit the letter. Shorten it. Delete the six points. That way you have the option of discussing them or not at any subsequent meeting with elders. Look, it wasn't a good decision, Weedsandwheat opined, but if you're going to do it, you might as well do it right. Furthermore, Weedsandwheat challenged two of the points. Not vigorously, not snottily (indeed, the specific facts were not wrong, even as the specific facts of Dawkins' geneology rant are not wrong) but just....here's another light in which you might view the facts.

Next thing you know, this youngster has "hit the books," uncovered Dawkins' geneology ruse, (which he emailed to Weedsandwheat) torn up his letter, and deleted his blog! Trust me, Weedsandwheat had no idea such a thing would happen. In fact, he was even a little bummed about it, since he looked forward to posting a few times on this blog. Alas, Weedsandwheat likes to hear himself talk. One of the blog's commenters absolutely nailed it when he observed that Weedsandwheat reminded him of one "of the "too clever" witnesses that were in love with themselves." Right! He is that way. None of us can stand him. And I'm not worried about putting him down publicly this way. He never reads stuff he himself doesn't write.

********************************

Tom Irregardless and Me      No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Unit 731 and the Angel of Death

That Sam Harris keeps coming around, either he or his buddies, preaching that all would be ecstasy if only we could ban religion and devote the world to atheists and science. I'm not buying it and neither should you. The vilest deeds in human history have been carried out by atheists and scientists.

Admittedly, it's a challenge to rank vile deeds. There are many excellent contenders, for example Iraq, Darfor, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Malawi,  and northern  Ireland. But in our task or ranking bloodbaths we must keep in mind several contributing factors, and how their presence or absence can aid us in our ranking task. It is just as homicides can be ranked for vileness....premeditated at the top and manslaughter at the bottom.... the latter partly determined by permanent or temporary insanity, depression, post traumatic stress, medication side effects, etc, etc. And so with most slaughters worldwide we may allow for mob action hot tempers, civil war, desperation from poverty, miscommunication, ignorance, reaction to oppression, and so forth. Doesn't excuse the mayhem, of course, but it does help explain it.

There have been genocidal campaigns in which none of these softening factors are present, thus taking evil to a higher level. You might argue that the Pol Pot Cambodian [atheists] slaughter is in that camp. Certainly the German Holocaust of World War II, and its even more hideous escalation, the "medical" experiments of Dr. Josef Mengele (the Angel of Death) and associates. These are sickening to read of. Google the topic if you must.

A parallel WWII Japanese program existed, experiments with the added aim of  develping biological weapons, under the depraved oversight of Dr. Shiro Ishii. Known as Unit 731, the program was based in Mongolia. Ethnic Chinese were the primary victims, but also Koreans, Russians, ethnic Japanese and even some American POWs. In the quest for weapons, bubonic plague, typhoid, anthrax and cholera was cultivated and released on the populace, and it is thought that hundreds of thousands perished from such exposure. Hundreds more suffered unspeakably from dehydration, starvation, frostbite, air pressure, animal blood transfusion, and amputation experiments, similar to Mengele's medical experiments. Enthusiasts billed it as "science untethered to morality."

Such campaigns take barbarity to a new level. Poverty plays no part, nor miscommunication, nor emotions boiling over from civil war. There is no mob action. To be sure, World War plays a part, yet these crimes take place far from the front. Quiet moments abound, during which one might stop, reflect, and turn back. Instead, with calm deliberation, perpetrators pushed ahead to commit the most ghastly deeds of all time.

Everyone knows about Nazi atrocities, but few know of the parallel Japanese deeds.  There is a reason. At the end of the war, Japanese scientists offered their knowledge and data to American victors in return for complete immunity. Americans thought it a good deal, lest such data fall into the hands of the Russians, supposedly eager to compensate for not yet having the bomb. Remember, the cold war was just beginning. While many of the German doctors were brought to justice, (excluding Mengele himself) Japanese counterparts were not. Many went on to prosperous and prestigious careers.

Daniel Barenblatt may be the world's foremost expert on Unit 731. His 2003 work A plague Upon Humanity: The Hidden History of Japan's Biological Warfare Program, published by HarperCollins, offers an unflinching account of that evil time, exhaustive yet never sensational. Reading the book requires a strong stomach. Imagine researching and writing it. Mr. Barenblatt devoted himself to doing so when he realized that, some 70 years after the war, the sordid history was still largely unknown, a result of the immunity deal. He describes himself as an extremely sensitive person who thinks something is fundamentally wrong with the world. He says ferreting out the truth put him in non-stop emotional pain.

He comes from an interesting family... one with a conscience. His father, Lloyd Barenblatt, is known to legal historians from the McCarthy era. Barenblatt v United States, (1959) argued before the Supreme Court, tested the powers of Congressional investigation in the light of the First Amendment.  By standing his ground and upholding his conscience, he substantially derailed his academic career.

Others of the family are Jehovah's Witnesses. It is through them that I first learned of the Barenblatt book, and of Unit 731.

Should these inhuman deeds be used as an indictment of science? Obviously, they should not. Science was merely the venue in this history, just as politics and religion are in others. Still, I will keep these examples up my sleeve for the next time that smug Sam Harris comes around. The most vicious offences in history have been in the name of science.

******************************


Religion is a Snare and a Racket

Atheist Sam Harris came to town and City! newspaper welcomed him as a born-again would welcome the rapture. His visit was cover story and he apparently did not fail to promote his book. At any rate, a coworker rushed out to buy it and told me all about it the next morning, very impressed.   

Yeah, Tom, you should read what he says about religion! This guy doesn’t pull any punches! He just lays out the facts! All the wars and the hatred and the prejudice….there’s always religion behind it. Terrorists and Crusades and kamikazes….it can’t happen except for religion. You think someone would strap himself to a bomb if they didn’t tell him he would go straight to paradise? He just lays out the facts, Tom. I’m telling, you, religion is dangerous! It’s the biggest force for bloodshed that’s ever been!

Of course, this nettles me, because Jehovah’s Witnesses have said all this for years, only to elicit yawns from this same character so enamored over Sam the atheist. There’s nothing Mr. Harris says about religion that JWs weren’t saying before he was born.

Starting in 1938, the slogan Religion is a Snare and a Racket become synonymous with Jehovah’s Witnesses. The words first appeared on sandwich board signs, paraded by 1000 Witnesses through London streets as part of a campaign to advertise a public address at the Royal Albert Hall. The words captured attention, much of it hostile. It’s almost trendy to badmouth religion today, and many do it, but it required real courage back then.

Yet the words were timely, and proof would come just one year later with the outbreak of World War II. The greatest slaughter in history, it was fought predominantly between nations claiming to be Christian. Religious claims proved no match for national interests. The German population, overwhelmingly Lutheran or Catholic, readily embraced Hitler’s Gestapo and Holocaust. Belt buckles of German soldiers bore the standard inscription “God is With Us.” Religion was indeed, a snare and a racket.

Since some who saw that 1938 procession took Witness marchers for atheists or communists, subsequent processions featured alternating signs bearing the words Serve Christ the King and Live. For many years, it was routine for Jehovah’s Witnesses to advertise conventions in this way.

This message against religion precedes Mr Harris by 70 years, and has the added advantage of not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Is it God’s fault that religions do not represent Him faithfully? Especially when He foretold that development?

Religion that is faithful to God can be likened to a faithful wife. Religion unfaithful is likened to an adulterous wife. Religion really unfaithful, religion which ignores God’s Kingdom interests so as to curry favor with human governments, is likened to a harlot, a whore. The book of Revelation (chapter 17 and 18) describes such a woman, and Jehovah’s Witnesses have long identified it with the world empire of false religion….religion that claims faithfulness to God, yet belies that claim through it‘s conduct. Instead, that “woman” embraces every political, social, and apostate fad to come along, at the expense of the Bible’s unchanging message.

Those two chapters of Revelation also foretell that political elements, in time, will turn upon religious elements, bringing them to ruin. So the tract that JWs are right now [Oct, Nov 2006]  giving worldwide distribution, The End of False Religion is Near, is timely.

[Edit: 10/22/11 see also Enemies]

……………………………….........................

As war fever gripped WWII Germany, not everyone joined in.

“I've always admired [ninth comment] the conviction of Jehovah's Witnesses. They, virtually alone, chose to be persecuted under Hitler when simply pledging allegiance to the Third Reich offered an escape from persecution.”

If more people practiced versions of what the Jehovah’s Witnesses preach and practice, the Holocoust could have been prevented and genocide would scourge the world no more.            Holocaust Politics     John K Roth   (a Jewish survivor of the holocaust)

*************************

Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash