What I have always felt Gaianism was, it is: degenerate Calvinism

Jonathan Franzen on the subject of the ecology and global warming confirms my view that the religion of Gaianism is a degenerate Christianity. Calvinist Christianity, to be more precise.

 

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Franzen writes:

Maybe it’s because I was raised as a Protestant and became an environmentalist, but I’ve long been struck by the spiritual kinship of environmentalism and New England Puritanism. Both belief systems are haunted by the feeling that simply to be human is to be guilty. In the case of environmentalism, the feeling is grounded in scientific fact. Whether it’s prehistoric North Americans hunting the mastodon to extinction, Maori wiping out the megafauna of New Zealand, or modern civilization deforesting the planet and emptying the oceans, human beings are universal killers of the natural world. And now climate change has given us an eschatology for reckoning with our guilt: coming soon, some hellishly overheated tomorrow, is Judgment Day. Unless we repent and mend our ways, we’ll all be sinners in the hands of an angry Earth.

I’m still susceptible to this sort of puritanism. Rarely do I board an airplane or drive to the grocery store without considering my carbon footprint and feeling guilty about it. But when I started watching birds, and worrying about their welfare, I became attracted to a countervailing strain of Christianity, inspired by St. Francis of Assisi’s example of loving what’s concrete and vulnerable and right in front of us. I gave my support to the focussed work of the American Bird Conservancy and local Audubon societies. Even the most ominously degraded landscape could make me happy if it had birds in it.

And so I came to feel miserably conflicted about climate change. I accepted its supremacy as the environmental issue of our time, but I felt bullied by its dominance. Not only did it make every grocery-store run a guilt trip; it made me feel selfish for caring more about birds in the present than about people in the future. What were the eagles and the condors killed by wind turbines compared with the impact of rising sea levels on poor nations? What were the endemic cloud-forest birds of the Andes compared with the atmospheric benefits of Andean hydroelectric projects?….

But climate change is seductive to organizations that want to be taken seriously. Besides being a ready-made meme, it’s usefully imponderable: while peer-reviewed scientific estimates put the annual American death toll of birds from collisions and from outdoor cats at more than three billion, no individual bird death can be definitively attributed to climate change (since local and short-term weather patterns have nonlinear causes). Although you could demonstrably save the lives of the birds now colliding with your windows or being killed by your cats, reducing your carbon footprint even to zero saves nothing. Declaring climate change bad for birds is therefore the opposite of controversial. To demand a ban on lead ammunition (lead poisoning is the foremost cause of California condor deaths) would alienate hunters. To take an aggressive stand against the overharvesting of horseshoe crabs (the real reason that the red knot, a shorebird, had to be put on the list of threatened U.S. species this winter) might embarrass the Obama Administration, whose director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, in announcing the listing, laid the blame for the red knot’s decline primarily on “climate change,” a politically more palatable culprit. Climate change is everyone’s fault—in other words, no one’s. We can all feel good about deploring it.

A little tragicomedy of climate activism is its shifting of goalposts. Ten years ago, we were told that we had ten years to take the kind of drastic actions needed to prevent global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius in this century. Today we hear, from some of the very same activists, that we still have ten years. In reality, our actions now would need to be even more drastic than they would have ten years ago, because further gigatons of carbon have accumulated in the atmosphere. At the rate we’re going, we’ll use up our entire emissions allowance for the century before we’re even halfway through it. Meanwhile, the actions that many governments now propose are less drastic than what they proposed ten years ago.

The article is important. It is the completest explanation and description of the mentality behind global warming catastrophism. We are ineluctably doomed. All else is window-dressing.

To answer the question, it’s important to acknowledge that drastic planetary overheating is a done deal. Even in the nations most threatened by flooding or drought, even in the countries most virtuously committed to alternative energy sources, no head of state has ever made a commitment to leaving any carbon in the ground. Without such a commitment, “alternative” merely means “additional”—postponement of human catastrophe, not prevention. The Earth as we now know it resembles a patient whose terminal cancer we can choose to treat either with disfiguring aggression or with palliation and sympathy. We can dam every river and blight every landscape with biofuel agriculture, solar farms, and wind turbines, to buy some extra years of moderated warming. Or we can settle for a shorter life of higher quality, protecting the areas where wild animals and plants are hanging on, at the cost of slightly hastening the human catastrophe. One advantage of the latter approach is that, if a miracle cure like fusion energy should come along, there might still be some intact ecosystems for it to save….

Climate change shares many attributes of the economic system that’s accelerating it. Like capitalism, it is transnational, unpredictably disruptive, self-compounding, and inescapable. It defies individual resistance, creates big winners and big losers, and tends toward global monoculture—the extinction of difference at the species level, a monoculture of agenda at the institutional level. It also meshes nicely with the tech industry, by fostering the idea that only tech, whether through the efficiencies of Uber or some masterstroke of geoengineering, can solve the problem of greenhouse-gas emissions. As a narrative, climate change is almost as simple as “Markets are efficient.” The story can be told in fewer than a hundred and forty characters: We’re taking carbon that used to be sequestered and putting it in the atmosphere, and unless we stop we’re fucked.

I am reminded of John Calvin’s doctrines in all of this eco-bleating.

They are as follows:

(1) Total Depravity, more honestly called Total Inability: We are utterly unable to save ourselves. Neither turning to God nor to Gaia is sufficient. We burn fossil fuels despite ourselves.

(2) Unconditional Election.

Unconditional election is a doctrine within the reformed theology framework that in eternity past, before God created the world, he predestinated some people for salvation, the elect, and the others he left to continue in their sins and receive the just punishment, eternal damnation, for their transgressions of God’s law as outlined in the old and new Testaments of the Bible. God made these choices according to his own purposes apart from any conditions or qualities related to those persons.[1]

God has selected the ecologically aware, and though they may consider themselves unworthy, yet they are of the elect, and the fossil fuel consumers and the climate change deniers are of the damned.

(3) Limited Atonement.

Limited atonement,” also called “particular redemption” or “definite atonement”, asserts that Jesus’s substitutionary atonement was definite and certain in its purpose and in what it accomplished. This implies that only the sins of the elect were atoned for by Jesus’s death. Calvinists do not believe, however, that the atonement is limited in its value or power, but rather that the atonement is limited in the sense that it is intended for some and not all.

 

In Gaian terms, only the elect are saved, but they are unclear on the exact nature of the atonement which is called for, and there is no Christ who has made this atonement on anyone’s behalf. Plastic bags or paper ones, the fate of the earth depends on it, but we cannot be sure which one it is this week.

 

(4) “Irresistible grace,” also called “efficacious grace”, asserts that the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (that is, the elect) and overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, bringing them to a saving faith. This means that when God sovereignly purposes to save someone, that individual certainly will be saved.

As the elect of the ecological faith in the redemptive power of Gaia, they may yet err, even as they are mistaken about some particular of Gaia’s divine plan, but no error, however large, will prevent them from being among the Elect. So they could be wholly and massively wrong, even wrong about something as large as climate change, yet they will be saved.

 

(5)”Perseverance of the saints” (or perseverance of God with the saints) (the word “saints” is used to refer to all who are set apart by God, and not of those who are exceptionally holy, canonized, or in heaven) asserts that since God is sovereign and his will cannot be frustrated by humans or anything else, those whom God has called into communion with himself will continue in faith until the end. Those who apparently fall away either never had true faith to begin with (1 John 2:19), or, if they are saved but not presently walking in the Spirit, they will be divinely chastened (Hebrews 12:5–11) and will repent (1 John 3:6–9).[83]

 

More of the same. The elect of Gaia can do nothing to prevent their salvation, and if they are not part of the Elect, nothing can save them anyway.

Gaianism is not a new heresy, it is an old one. But inasmuch as it borrows the Calvinist ideology of the Elect, it is a heresy.

A more thoroughly Christian and biblical attack on Calvinism is found here, but as Calvinism is really a background factor in my attack on Gaianism, it is beside my point.

 

You are allowed to teach Christianity as if it might be true

A very welcome decision of the Supreme Court this morning in the Loyola High School  case: you are allowed to teach Catholicism in a Catholic school as if it might be true.
The case concerned the rights of a Catholic private school in Montreal, Quebec to teach a religion and ethics course without being forced to teach the view that all religions, being worthy of respect, were actually equally true.

If anything, the Minister’s decision – which was the basis of Loyola’s decision to appeal – shows that the Government of Quebec has established secular humanism as its official state religion, and that it is prepared to enforce the idea that all religions, being somehow worthy of respect, are in a sense equally unworthy of belief.

A religion need have nothing to do with a God, gods, or the metaphysical, and still be a religion. National Socialism (Naziism) and Communism were state religions, though both were anti-Christian and atheistic.  The Government of Quebec has merely transferred its state religion from an ultramontane version of Roman Catholicism to secular humanism, but it retains is collectivist and authoritarian impulses.

From the judgment:

Held: The Minister’s decision requiring that all aspects of Loyola’s proposed program be taught from a neutral perspective, including the teaching of Catholicism, limited freedom of religion more than was necessary given the statutory objectives. As a result, it did not reflect a proportionate balancing and should be set aside. The appeal is allowed and the matter remitted to the Minister for reconsideration.

 

The majority decision was written by Judge Rosalie Abella (who knew?) and for once I agree with her.

 

Freedom of religion means that no one can be forced to adhere to or refrain from a particular set of religious beliefs. This includes both the individual and collective aspects of religious belief. Religious freedom under the Charter  must therefore account for the socially embedded nature of religious belief, and the deep linkages between this belief and its manifestation through communal institutions and traditions.

The context in this case is state regulation of religious schools. This raises the question of how to balance robust protection for the values underlying religious freedom with the values of a secular state. The state has a legitimate interest in ensuring that students in all schools are capable, as adults, of conducting themselves with openness and respect as they confront cultural and religious differences. A vibrant, multicultural democracy depends on the capacity of its citizens to engage in thoughtful and inclusive forms of deliberation. But a secular state does not — and cannot — interfere with the beliefs or practices of a religious group unless they conflict with or harm overriding public interests. Nor can a secular state support or prefer the practices of one group over another. The pursuit of secular values means respecting the right to hold and manifest different religious beliefs. A secular state respects religious differences, it does not seek to extinguish them.

                    Loyola is a private Catholic institution. The collective aspects of religious freedom — in this case, the collective manifestation and transmission of Catholic beliefs — are a crucial part of its claim. The Minister’s decision requires Loyola to teach Catholicism, the very faith that animates its character, from a neutral perspective. Although the state’s purpose is secular, this amounts to requiring a Catholic institution to speak about its own religion in terms defined by the state rather than by its own understanding. This demonstrably interferes with the manner in which the members of an institution formed for the purpose of transmitting Catholicism can teach and learn about the Catholic faith. It also undermines the liberty of the members of the community who have chosen to give effect to the collective dimension of their religious beliefs by participating in a denominational school.

Snippets:

In a multicultural society, it is not a breach of anyone’s freedom of religion to be required to learn (or teach) about the doctrines and ethics of other world religions in a neutral and respectful way…..

Preventing a school like Loyola from teaching and discussing Catholicism, the core of its identity, in any part of the program from its own perspective, does little to further the ERC Program’s objectives while at the same time seriously interfering with the values underlying religious freedom. The Minister’s decision is, as a result, unreasonable.

Unfortunately, Madame Justice Abella sent the case back to the Minister of Education for reconsideration, rather than granting the relief sought immediately.

Per McLachlan,C.J., Moldaver and Rothstein:

The communal character of religion means that protecting the religious freedom of individuals requires protecting the religious freedom of religious organizations, including religious educational bodies such as Loyola….

The freedom of religion protected by s. 2 (a) of the Charter  is not limited to religious belief, worship and the practice of religious customs. Rather, it extends to conduct more readily characterized as the propagation of, rather than the practice of, religion.

Indeed, presenting fundamentally incompatible religious doctrines as equally legitimate and equally credible could imply that they are both equally false.  Surely this cannot be a perspective that a religious school can be compelled to adopt.

The minority differed principally in seeking to grant Loyola the relief it sought immediately, rather than sending the decision back to the Quebec Minister of Education for reconsideration

Christianity and Islam: A comparison of axioms and effects

All religions are ultimately propositions about the nature of reality. They are axioms – unproved and unprovable assumptions – about God, man and law. From these axioms civilizations and cultures proceed and develop.

Second, people who are used to treating Islam as a “religion” and only a religion, have a great deal of trouble understanding how its axioms could be so different from ours. Their axioms are fundamentally different, and they produce the effects we see.

Hence Muslim apologists attempt to suppress discussion of the scale and scope of its differences from Christianity and modern political institutions evolved from Christian precepts. If we actually saw what it proposed, we would laugh it to scorn.

A. Love

Christianity

God loves His creation, and especially our souls, which are his direct creation.
Effects:
Ch. -Man is obliged to express the love he has been given by God with love towards all.

Islam

God is infinitely remote, all-powerful, and does not love his human subjects.
Effects:
Obedience to God’s Laws is his supreme command; human love is just another source of distraction from that obedience. Human love should never stand in the way of God’s Laws.

Life is subjected to a comprehensive and minute regulation of mechanical (behavioural) obedience to laws. Fathers and brothers may kill daughters and wives  rather than have them bring disgrace upon the family for disobedience to God’s laws. Honour is more important than love.

B. Intelligibility of the Universe

Christianity

The Universe, being created by God, is governed by laws and is intelligible to human reason. God has no power to make 2+2=5, substantially, and because he cannot deceive us, we can know accurately.
Effects:
1. Science is possible. The discovery of physical processes and laws is part of the work of man.

2. Interpretation is a legitimate activity of the human mind.

3. That error is possible or even likely, does not invalidate the capacity of human reason to try to know the truth.

Islam

The universe is held together moment to moment, by God’s will alone. God may choose to deceive us. 2+2 may well equal 5, if that is God’s will. Our only surety is a revelation once offered which is complete, unalterable, and beyond judgment.
Effects:
1. Science is impossible, and essentially a blasphemous activity.

2. There is no cause other than God’s will; intermediate causes are without significance. Absence of curiosity about cause and effect.

3. Absence of science in the Islamic world, after the last Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, and pagans were driven out.

 

C. Free Will

Christianity

The soul, that part of us most like God , is free. There is free choice to do both good and evil; to sin and err, and to repent and recover, and to discover truth even by a passage through error.

Effects:

There is a standpoint outside history by which to judge what happens in the world of human doing. There is a morality by which to judge history. Truth may speak to power. Progress in understanding is possible,and we are called upon to make it.

Islam

All that happens is God’s will. There is only one choice, to submit to God’s laws as propagated one time, in one place, in one revelation. There is no standpoint from which to judge the world because, by definition, everything that happens is God’s will.

Effects:

In practice, total absence of a moral judgment save insofar as an action conforms or not to Islamic practice. Vast amounts of historical events cannot be judged, save only as they advance Islam, or not.

If I rob a bank, and shoot the guard, then the issue for Islam may well be limited to whether I may show up to prayers sweating from the activity, not the robbing of the bank and not the shooting of the guard. If the guard shoots me, insh’allah. If I shoot the guard, insh’allah. If the car stalls and I cannot get to the robbery, insh’allah. No cause for anything but Allah.

The morality of robbing banks may or may not be relevant, unless specifically covered in the Koran and Hadiths, and may turn only on whether the bank is Islamic owned or owned by Kuffar. There is no tendency to a universal morality independent of Islam (see mechanical obedience, above).

D. The legitimacy of human institutions

Christianity

There is a division between the realm of God and the realm of Caesar.
Effects:
Ultimately, a justification for a regime of action independent of, though influenced by, beliefs. Likewise a zone of belief in which the state has no or very limited jurisdiction. God is not especially concerned with the composition of the next government, save only insofar as human arrangements conduce to godly citizens.

Islam

There is no division between the realms of Caesar and of God. In the well-run Islamic state, God acts as Caesar (a theocracy).
All political struggle is religious, and all religious struggle, political.
Establishment of any other system is a blasphemy and idolatry. Shut down parliaments and non-Islamic courts.

Dalwhinnie’s guide to New Year’s resolutions

1. Do not make them

2. If you do, make them positive. For example:

  • I will drink better beer this year
  • I will have champagne  more frequently
  • I will go salmon fishing
  • I will visit Reykjavik, Iceland and drink vodka with vikings
  • I will take walks in summer around dawn
  • I will grow tomatoes in my garden
  • I will get to Burning Man
  • I will listen to the frogs in spring for as long as I can

Stop trying for self-improvement. If you are reading this, it is likely you are over fifty years old and need to keep the joy in your life. You are likely a crusty old grump and are actually quite content with your life anyway. Improvement lies along the path of where you want to go, not along the path of denial. Otherwise you end up like Sally Forth and her dweeb husband, caught between unwanted self-improvement and living your life according to myths invented by Hollywood.

 

sallyforthnewyears.php

Since it is illegible, go to http://seattletimes.com/cgi-bin/comics/archive.pl and click on the Sally Forth of December 28th. The closing speech bubble says “Why do most of your resolutions start with “we”? I don’t remember signing up for any of these.”

Exactly.

Think more of this below – if that is your idea of a good time.

 

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The reprobates and holders of deplorable opinions at Barrelstrength wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year. May the grace of God go with you, in all your undertakings. Joy defeats bolshevism, Islam, despair, neurosis, and holding one’s opinions too seriously at the expense of other desiderata. Go with joy.

The Jesuit Relations and other accounts

The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents: Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in North America (1690-1791)  is a marvelous collection of letters written by the Jesuit missionaries in New France to their patrons and religious superiors in France. The writing is clear, vivid and simple.

One is entranced by the absolute gulf in comprehension between the European Catholic intellectuals and their would be converts, who are called Savages, Hurons, Iroquois, Abenaki, and so forth, but never as Indians.

The Hurons tell them of their idea of sun and moon and comets, to the sly amusement of the know-it all European. They tell the Jesuits of their idea of the afterlife, where the souls of the hunters hunt and trap the souls of the elk, deer and beavers in the happy hunting grounds. “What happens to the souls of the dead animals,” asks the Jesuit, “do they go to a further heaven.?” The Indian has no answer for this and like questions. He has never thought about it. The Indian has never thought about it because systematic inquiry into nature is not what he does or can do. If Father Sun and Mother Moon beget a child, which is dark, there is no contradiction between the luminous nature of the parents and the and the darkness of the child. It just is. Everything is a “just so” story (rather like evolution – but nevermind).

The depictions of Indian warfare and cruelty never vary: they are in constant warfare, and their behaviour is cruel in the extreme. Here is a short story from 1649. A war band of Tobacco Indians had left a village around Chambly, Quebec to seek out a war party of Iroquois, who were thought to be outnumbered and on the run. Consequently their own village was defenceless.

It was on the seventh day of the month of last December, in the year 1649, toward three o’clock in the afternoon, that this band of Iroquois appeared at the gates of the village, spreading immediate dismay, and striking terror into the poor people, – bereft of their strength and finding themselves vanquished; when they thought themselves to be conquerors. Some took to flight; others were slain on the spot. To many, the flames, which were already consuming their cabins, gave the first intelligence of the disaster. Many were taken prisoner, but the victorious enemy, fearing the return of the warriors who had gone to meet them, hastened their retreat so precipitately, that they put to death all the old men and children, and all whom they deemed unable to keep up with them in their flight.

It was a scene of incredible cruelty. The enemy snatched from a Mother her infants, that they might be thrown into the fire; other children  beheld their Mothers beaten to death at their feet, or groaning in the flames, – permission in either case denied them to show the least compassion. It was a crime to shed a tear, these barbarians demanding that their prisoners go into capacity as if they were marching to their triumph. A poor Christian Mother, who wept for the death of her infant, was killed on the spot, because she still loved, and could not stifle soon enough her Natural feelings”.

-Father Paul Ragueneau

You can talk all you like about European settlement of North America, its depredations upon the native people both deliberate and inadvertent, such as smallpox and other “childhood” diseases which reduced their numbers by 95%. It was a catastrophic disaster for them, and they still have not recovered. But would any rational person hold that the endemic, cruel and mutual exterminations – and the psychological damage it did to both perpetrators and victims alike – constitute a model for how a society should be run?

In Christianity, only one person was crucified, in order that cruelty be abolished. The religion founded on the crucifixion of its founder has not completely triumphed, as we all observe. Can anyone doubt, however,  that Christianity marks a permanent and irreversible improvement in human behaviour, when compared to the universal and compulsory group savagery of what came before?

“Love is the only engine of survival” – Leonard Cohen

Being brought up short

Those not familiar with the English language might wonder about what “being brought up short” means: having one’s moral failings being called to one’s attention. It is a painful and humiliating experience, for those with a conscience. For those without a conscience, it is just an attempt at shaming, if that.

In two different places this week, I observed institutions “brought up short”. One was Matt Ridley’s column in the Times, in which he describes three different instances in the same month of science playing fast and loose with facts to achieve political ends: attempts to ban nicotinoid-based insecticides, faking evidence for global warming, and official blathering about extreme weather. Each one of these instances either concerned faked evidence, or where no evidence existed and the institution had spoken as if it existed.

The second was the blast in the National Post this morning about the CBC, the people’s broadcaster, whose views represent the Volvo-driving classes to the exclusion of all others.

Someone recently observed that the CBC is not about Canadian programming but programming Canadians to its enlightened view of how the world should work.

Nothing in this morning’s NatPost rant is different from anything conservative bloggers have been saying for years. The only novelty is that the view was expressed in a large national newspaper. When such views leave the Financial Post editorial section for the regular editorial section, I shall be even more impressed. If such views ever show up on the Globe and Mail’s editorial pages, I shall swoon in a transport of shock.

This brings me around to an opinion I saw yesterday in Ricochet which seems to encapsulate the views of our unelected governors in the mainstream media:

Many reporters and editors loathe how aware people have become of the journalistic process. They can barely conceal their anger at having the public (largely conservatives) challenge what, when, and how they cover the news. Their sins of commission have been understood for decades, with a heavy thumb on the left side of the scale for either cultural, institutional, or ideological reasons. Lately though, the media’s sins of omission are more deadly to their reputation and future — and being called on them has the press in a white-hot fury.

When the media was a kind of hermetic priesthood, they controlled what Americans read and saw. If the Washington Post or the New York Times didn’t cover a story, you could bet it wasn’t going to be on the evening news. If they didn’t cover a story real people were interested in, they could put it down to news judgment. There was no effective recourse and nowhere else to get to the story. They know their business model is under existential threat, but they’ve practically declared war on the majority of their potential customers.

….The legacy media largely produces a product they and their friends want. “Another gushing Hillary article? Can’t WAIT!” “Gosh, what Americans really need is another story on how we’re destroying the Earth and how global warming will kill our kids.” “Is Obama a great President, or the greatest President?” Legacy reporters and editors desperately miss that power to mediate the national dialogue.

Putting it all together, I observe a decline of the values which sustain the institutions on which we depend for science, news, and justice. We are concerned about the decline of science, and we are concerned about the decline of guardian institutions generally, but we are more concerned about the decline of culture which infuses all these institutions with vain, shallow, narcissistic, amoral, atheistic  people who think they are no better than meat machines, and behave as they believe they are. This kind of decline in people makes me think Christianity has a valid point.

As Saint Leonard Cohen said

When they said: repent, repent,
I wondered what they meant.

American Thanksgiving and Puritan Geopolitics in the Americas

 

Puritan Settlement

The painting “Desembarco de los Puritanos en America,” or “The Arrival of the Pilgrims in America,” by Antonio Gisbert shows Puritans landing in America in 1620. By Antonio Gisbert (1834-1902) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Summary

The first winter took many of the English at Plymouth. By fall 1621, only 53 remained of the 132 who had arrived on the Mayflower. But those who had survived brought in a harvest. And so, in keeping with tradition, the governor called the living 53 together for a three-day harvest feast, joined by more than 90 locals from the Wampanoag tribe. The meal was a moment to recognize the English plantation’s small step toward stability and, hopefully, profit. This was no small thing. A first, deadly year was common. Getting through it was an accomplishment. England’s successful colony of Virginia had had a massive death toll — of the 8,000 arrivals between 1607 and 1625, only 15 percent lived.

But still the English came to North America and still government and business leaders supported them. This was not without reason. In the 17th century, Europe was in upheaval and England’s place in it unsure. Moreover, England was going through a period of internal instability that would culminate in the unthinkable — civil war in 1642 and regicide in 1649. England’s colonies were born from this situation, and the colonies of Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay and the little-known colony of Providence Island in the Caribbean were part of a broader Puritan geopolitical strategy to solve England’s problems.

Analysis

Throughout the first half of the 17th century, England was wracked by internal divisions that would lead to civil war in 1642. Religion was a huge part of this. The dispute was over the direction of the Church of England. Some factions favored “high” church practices that involved elaborate ritual. The Puritans, by contrast, wanted to clear the national religion of what they considered Catholic traces. This religious crisis compounded a political crisis at the highest levels of government, pitting Parliament against the monarchy.

By the beginning of the 17th century, England had undergone centralizing reforms that gave the king and his Parliament unrestricted power to make laws. Balance was needed. The king had the power to call Parliament into session and dismiss it. Parliament had the power to grant him vital funds needed for war or to pay down debt. However, Parliament had powerful Puritan factions that sought not only to advance their sectarian cause but also to advance the power of Parliament beyond its constraints. Kings James I and his son Charles I, for their part, sought to gain an unrestrained hold on power that would enable them to make decisive strategic choices abroad. They relied, internally and externally, on Catholics, crypto-Catholics and high church advocates — exacerbating the displeasure of Parliament.

Both kings continually fought with Parliament over funding for the monarchy’s debt and for new ventures. Both dissolved Parliament several times; Charles ultimately did so for a full 11 years beginning in 1629.

 

 

europe_circa_1600 (1)

Europe in 1600

Spain was England’s major strategic problem on the Continent. Protestant England saw itself as under constant threat from the Catholic powers in Europe. This led to problems when the people came to see their leaders, James I and his son Charles, as insufficiently hostile to Spain and insufficiently committed to the Protestant cause on the Continent. In order to stop mounting debt, shortly after taking power James made the unpopular move of ending a war with Spain that England had been waging alongside the Netherlands since 1585. In 1618, the Thirty Years’ War broke out in the German states — a war that, in part, pitted Protestants against Catholics and spread throughout Central Europe. James did not wish to become involved in the war. In 1620, the Catholic Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II, a relative of Spain’s King Philip III, pushed Frederick V, the Protestant son-in-law of England’s King James, out of his lands in Bohemia, and Spain attacked Frederick in his other lands in the Rhineland. The English monarchy called for a defense of Frederick but was unwilling to commit to significant military action to aid him.

Puritan factions in Parliament, however, wanted England to strike at Spain directly by attacking Spanish shipments from the Americas, which could have paid for itself in captured goods. To make matters worse, from 1614 to 1623, James I pursued an unpopular plan to marry his son Charles to the Catholic daughter of Philip III of Spain — a plan called the “Spanish Match.” Instead, Charles I ended up marrying the Catholic daughter of the king of France in 1625. This contributed to the impression that James and Charles were too friendly with Spain and Catholicism, or even were secret Catholics. Many Puritans and other zealous promoters of the Protestant cause began to feel that they had to look outside of the English government to further their cause.

Amid this complex constellation of Continental powers and England’s own internal incoherence, a group of Puritan leaders in Parliament, who would later play a pivotal role in the English Civil War, focused on the geopolitical factors that were troubling England. Issues of finance and Spanish power were at the core. A group of them struck on the idea of establishing a set of Puritan colonial ventures in the Americas that would simultaneously serve to unseat Spain from her colonial empire and enrich England, tipping the geopolitical balance. In this they were continuing Elizabeth I’s strategy of 1585, when she started a privateer war in the Atlantic and Caribbean to capture Spanish treasure ships bound from the Americas. Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay were part of this early vision, but they were both far too remote to challenge the Spanish, and the group believed that the area’s climate precluded it from being a source of vast wealth from cash crops. New England, however, was safe from Spanish aggression and could serve as a suitable starting point for a colonial push into the heart of Spanish territory.

The Effects of Spanish Colonization

Spain’s 1492 voyage to the Americas and subsequent colonization had changed Europe indelibly by the 17th century. It had complicated each nation’s efforts to achieve a favorable balance of power. As the vanguard of settlement in the New World, Spain and Portugal were the clear winners. From their mines, especially the Spanish silver mine in Potosi, American precious metals began to flow into their government coffers in significant amounts beginning in 1520, with a major uptick after 1550. Traditionally a resource-poor and fragmented nation, Spain now had a reliable revenue source to pursue its global ambitions.

 

spanish-colonies
Spanish Colonies in the Carribbean

This new economic power added to Spain’s already advantageous position. At a time when England, France and the Netherlands were internally divided between opposing sectarian groups, Spain was solidly Catholic. As a result of its unity, Spain’s elites generally pursued a more coherent foreign policy. Moreover, Spain had ties across the Continent. Charles V was both king of Spain and Holy Roman emperor, making him the most powerful man of his era. He abdicated in 1556, two years before his death, and divided his territories among his heirs. His son, Philip II of Spain, and Charles’ brother, Ferdinand I, inherited the divided dominions and retained their ties to each other, giving them power throughout the Continent and territory surrounding France.

Despite having no successful colonies until the beginning of the 17th century, England did see some major benefits from the discovery of the Americas. The addition of the Western Atlantic to Europe’s map and the influx of trade goods from that direction fundamentally altered trade routes in Europe, shifting them from their previous intense focus on the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean to encompass an ocean on which England held a unique strategic position. The nearby Netherlands — recently free from Spain — enjoyed a similar position and, along with England, took a major new role in shipping. By the middle of the 17th century, the Dutch had a merchant fleet as large as all others combined in Europe and were competing for lands in the New World. Sweden, another major European naval power, also held a few possessions in North America and the Caribbean. (This led to curious events such as “New Sweden,” a colony located along the Delaware River, falling under Dutch control in the 1650s and becoming part of the “New Netherlands.”)

England’s Drive Into the New World

In spite of its gains in maritime commerce, England was still far behind Spain and Portugal in the Americas. The Iberian nations had established a strong hold on South America, Central America and the southern portions of North America, including the Caribbean. Much of North America, however, remained relatively untouched. It did not possess the proven mineral wealth of the south but it had a wealth of natural capital — fisheries, timber, furs and expanses of fertile soil.

However, much of the population of the Americas was in a band in central Mexico, meaning that the vast pools of labor available to the Spanish and Portuguese were not present elsewhere in North America. Instead, England and other colonial powers would need to bring their own labor. They were at a demographic advantage in this regard. Since the 16th century, the Continent’s population had exploded. The British Isles and Northwest Europe grew the most, with England expanding from 2.6 million in 1500 to around 5.6 million by 1650. By contrast, the eastern woodlands of North America in 1600 had around 200,000 inhabitants — the population of London. Recent catastrophic epidemics brought by seasonal European fishermen and traders further decimated the population, especially that of New England. The disaster directly benefited Plymouth, which was built on the site of the deserted town of Patuxet and used native cleared and cultivated land.

After its founding in 1620, Plymouth was alone in New England for a decade and struggled to become profitable. It was the first foothold, however, for a great Puritan push into the region. In time, this push would subsume the tiny separatist colony within the larger sphere of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. This new colony’s numbers were much higher: The first wave in 1630 brought 700 English settlers to Salem, and by 1640 there were 11,000 living in the region.

Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay were different from nearby Virginia. Virginia was initially solely a business venture, and its colonists provided the manpower. New England, by contrast, was a settler society of families from the start. Both Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay were started by English Puritans — Christian sectarians critical of the state-run Church of England. Plymouth’s settlers were Puritan separatists who wanted no connection to England. Massachusetts Bay’s colonists were non-separatist Puritans who believed in reforming the church. For both, creating polities in North America furthered their sectarian political goals. The pilgrims wanted to establish a separate godly society to escape persecution; the Puritans of Salem wanted to establish a beacon that would serve to change England by example. Less known, however, is that the financial backers of the New England colonies had a more ambitious goal of which New England was only the initial phase.

In this plan, Massachusetts was to provide profit to its investors, but it was also to serve as a way station from which they could then send settlers to a small colony they simultaneously founded on Providence Island off the Miskito Coast of modern Nicaragua. This island, now part of Colombia, was in the heart of the Spanish Caribbean and was meant to alter the geopolitics of Central America and bring it under English control. It was in this way that they hoped to solve England’s geostrategic problems on the Continent and advance their own political agenda.

Providence was an uninhabited island in an area where the Spanish had not established deep roots. The island was a natural fortress, with a coral reef that made approach difficult and high, craggy rocks that helped in defense. It also had sheltered harbors and pockets of fertile land that could be used for production of food and cash crops.

It would serve, in their mind, as the perfect first foothold for England in the lucrative tropical regions of the Americas, from which it could trade with nearby native polities. In the short run, Providence was a base of operations, but in the long run it was to be a launchpad for an ambitious project to unseat Spain in the Americas and take Central America for England. In keeping with Puritan ideals, Providence was to be the same sort of “godly” society as Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth, just a more profitable one. Providence Island would enable the English to harry Spanish ships, bring in profit to end disputes with the crown and bolster the Protestant position in the Thirty Years’ War.

 

plymouth_colony

But while Massachusetts Bay would succeed, Providence would fail utterly. Both Massachusetts Bay and Providence Island received their first shipment of Puritan settlers in 1630. Providence was expected to yield immense profits, while Massachusetts was expected to be a tougher venture. Both were difficult, but Providence’s constraints proved fatal. The island did not establish a cash crop economy and its attempts to trade with native groups on the mainland were not fruitful.

The island’s geopolitical position in Spanish military territory meant that it needed to obsessively focus on security. This proved its downfall. After numerous attacks and several successful raids on Spanish trade on the coast, the investors decided in 1641 to initiate plans to move colonists down from Massachusetts Bay to Providence. Spanish forces received intelligence of this plan and took the island with a massive force, ending England’s control.

Puritan Legacies

The 1641 invasion ended English settlement on the island, which subsequently became a Spanish military depot. The Puritans left little legacy there. New England, however, flourished. It became, in time, the nearest replica of English political life outside of the British Isles and a key regional component of the Thirteen Colonies and, later, the United States. It was the center of an agricultural order based on individual farmers and families and later of the United States’ early manufacturing power. England sorted out its internal turmoil not by altering its geopolitical position externally — a project that faced serious resource and geographical constraints — but through massive internal upheaval during the English Civil War.

The celebration of the fruits of the Plymouth Colony’s brutal first year is the byproduct of England’s struggle against Spain on the Continent and in the New World. Thus, the most celebrated meal in America comes with a side of geopolitics.

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Allah is dead #2

Rebecca Bynum’s “Allah is Dead: Why Islam is not  a Religion” is dense with exact head-shots at Islam. She makes the points as a theologian and philosopher, those two professions which are superfluous in the Religion of Peace.

A few quotes to stir your interest:

Real faith is in fact the great emancipator, for faith properly defined is the actual living connection between the individual believer and his divine source of light and love….Faith is the mechanism that allows man to search for God, which is to say, to search for reality. Islam, on the other hand, is the destroyer of faith and the bestower of delusion, creating nothing but the most profound unhappiness, born of absolute denial, among its adherents. The idea that God would actually desire human happiness is utterly foreign to Islam, for according to its doctrine, Allah does not value the individual except for his contribution to the collective….

So what the Islamic system has done is usurped the place of God in the lives of its believers. It has made a spiritual God unnecessary. The Islamic system is all one needs to know and obey. (pp 48-49)

Muslims are always accusing every other religion and idea of social organization of idolatry: worshipping man-made law (by obeying secular governments) , worshipping the Trinity, believing in the chosenness of the tribes of Israel. Yet the ultimate idolatry they commit, in Bynum’s view, is the idolatry of Islam, the rendering superfluous of God for the system which is Islam.

Note also that for Islam, religion and social organization are identical concepts.

Bynum’s essential insight. in my view, is that the definition of God goes to the very core of this struggle with Islam, for it in turn defines the nature of civilization, and one’s understanding of reality.

In Christian thought God has created an intelligible universe, in which we have a place. Hence science is possible. He has also created  creatures who have the autonomy to disobey Him; hence the prayer line from Jesus “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven” recognizes that God’s will is not done on earth all that often. Autonomy, love, capacity to commit wrong: these are the basic features of the human condition, according to our view, but the first two are denied in Islam, and the third is defined in terms of robotic obedience to outward standards of conformity. Islam wants us to belong to a hive mind.

The Christan God loves us, and asks that we grow in love, towards our Creator and towards other people in consequence. Hence the two essential commandments uttered by Christ Himself.

Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the Prophets.” (Book of Common Prayer, p.70)

Bynum again:

We fought both World War 2 and the Cold War in large part to bring the enemy to his senses….Man’s relation to the state was actually a secondary consideration.

Now we find ourselves fighting a war in order to answer the question, what is God and what is man’s relation to him? We might also state the question this way: what is reality and what is man’s relation to it?…

The struggle between the two different answers… will likely determine the future course of human existence. It certainly is a contest that has not stopped for over 1,300 years and there is no natural end to it, given that the belief system of Islam is unlikely to change. (pp-55-56)

By contrast with Christianity,

In Islam, man (in abstract) is not the measure of all things; one specific man is [Mohammed]. Islam puts man in place of God, the material in place of the spiritual, and the group in place of the individual; and for certain we see its fruits.” (p34)

Bynum’s book is available at your bookseller. I found mine at Amazon. Read it.