Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Antony Flew: Christian conversion or senile dementia?


Cranmer was a little irritated to read this New York Times Magazine article on Professor Antony Flew via The Times’ Faith Central blog. The Times summarises it as the ‘former atheist and eminent philosopher… the man who after years of demolishing belief in God, signed a letter to Tony Blair asking him to allow the teaching of Intelligent Design in schools’. And the article puts his conversion down not to a ‘Damascus Road’ conversion, but to the inescapable mumblings and bumblings of senile dementia. The battle is for Professor Flew’s soul: ‘Evangelical Christians want to claim him for their own now he has admitted a form of faith, while atheists like Dawkins have written him off altogether intellectually’.

After world-famous tomes propagating the atheist cause, we now have ‘There Is a God’, which the magazine summarises as ‘an intellectual’s bildungsroman written in simple language for a mass audience’. And what is wrong with that? It seems they would have preferred some inaccessible and convoluted work of interest only to academics, for God forbid that anyone should make a simple, straightforward and intelligible case for the Christian God. He talks of the Big Bang being consistent with Genesis, of the coherence of Christian apologists, of the credibility of eminent scientists who profess the Christian faith. He is inclined towards an ‘Aristotelian God’ who (or which) does not intervene in the Universe, but scratch beneath the surface and one discovers the immanence of YHWH.

Professor Flew is the son of a Methodist minister who went on to become Oxford’s most prominent atheist, but with a humility and charm which Richard Dawkins ought to examine. Ever keenly involved in politics, he was an adviser to Margaret Thatcher, and during the Times’ magazine interview allegedly ‘spent far more time talking about the dangers of unchecked Muslim immigration and his embrace of the anti-E.U. United Kingdom Independence Party’.

And so the only conclusion must be that he is senile and demented.

Cranmer knows Antony Flew quite well; they have corresponded and conversed about life, the universe, and the EU, and Cranmer would simply like to state that this is not a man who suffers from dementia. If the Professor had converted to Roman Catholicism, it would have been hailed all over the world; if to Islam, it would have been portrayed as progressive; if to Buddhism, supreme enlightenment. But no, Antony Flew has discovered the simplicity of a faith in God and the enduring truths of the Jewish and Christian scriptures. There are no priests, no bells, no smells; just Anthony Flew and his Lord. And add to that his opposition to the EU, and his concern about the rise of Islamism...

Yes, these would indeed appear the symptoms of dementia to those who are being lost.

25 Comments:

Blogger Homophobic said...

I read a saying in the bhagavad gita: "How many lives must a man who loves god live before he reaches him? 7 lives. And how many lives must a man who hates god live before he reaches god? Just 3, because he thinks about him more."

Headline of 2018: As the partition of Paris was followed by a wave of suicide bombings, firebrand advocate of Christianity Richard Dawkins said "Christendom must be defended".

6 November 2007 at 12:07  
Anonymous the last toryboy said...

I think the 'humility and charm' thing is a bit uncalled for regarding Dawkins. He proselytises, yes. But do you not do likewise, Your Grace?

Most atheists (like myself) are of the shoulder shrugging kind, I think - most of the time, religion is simply an irrelevance. Hence why the atheist block in the US has almost no influence despite there being considerably more American atheists than there are American Jews.

Dawkins is one of the few who isn't, and who acts in the way a priest might act, ie, he preaches his faith (or anti-faith), looking for converts. I'm sure if a prominent theist publicly became an atheist then Dawkins might well mention him, too. Here you are, doing likewise. Whats the difference?

Needless to say, a lot of theists hate him for it. Having gone to an Evangelical Anglican Christian Union event only last Saturday to 'debate' Dawkins and found out it was merely 90 minutes of insult and character assassination and 0 minutes of reasoned argument, I can safely say, Dawkins has plenty more charm, grace and even argument than many of those he is opposing, at least when it comes to the charismatic bullshitters who represent Anglicanism here in Exeter.

I don't even really like the guys philosophy that much - especially how he glosses over deism - but I like hypocrisy even less.

Here is Dawkins having a polite debate, which he is eminently capable of when not being verbally assaulted by all sides like he usually is.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzZf3jdRYRw

(I don't think the Bishop of Oxford is Cranmer's sort of Anglican though. :) )

6 November 2007 at 12:10  
Anonymous the last toryboy said...

Actually if you want to see his uncut interview which is notable for the lack of snarling this link is much better as it has the whole thing in one.

Big URL though.

http://video.google.co.uk/videoplay?docid=2367986806557811071&q=dawkins+interview+uncut&total=12&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=1

6 November 2007 at 12:17  
Blogger Homophobic said...

Hey Cranmer, will you be covering the latest Apocalypse Now in Pakistan?

6 November 2007 at 14:35  
Blogger El Draque said...

I recall a famous conversion, one Malcolm Muggeridge. A media figure and determined atheist, he eventually was baptised into the Roman Catholic church, when fairly advanced in years. I don't recall comment that he was senile though - perhaps in that earlier time the culture wars allowed a change of mind.

6 November 2007 at 14:50  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Hey Cranmer, will you be covering the latest Apocalypse Now in Pakistan?

Mr Homophobic,

His Grace covers what he wants, but thinks you ought to re-read the Revelation of Jesus Christ to St John. Events in Pakistan hardly compare.

6 November 2007 at 15:42  
Anonymous nedsherry said...

Cranmer was a little irritated to read this New York Times Magazine article on Professor Antony Flew via The Times’ Faith Central blog.

Faith shmaith, Central shmentral, blog shmlog. If Libby Purves and Ruth Gledhill aren't sponsored by al-Qaeda, which seems a distinct possibility, they really ought to be.

6 November 2007 at 15:45  
Blogger Greg said...

I'm sure I'm misquoting someone but it seems that, If you cannot fault what is being said, then attack the individual instead.

Whenever I see personal attacks, I feel that someone has hit a right note somewhere.

6 November 2007 at 16:07  
Anonymous the recusant said...

What confuses me about atheists of Dawkins Ilk is this, I don't believe in fairies, not he kind with wings anyway and consequently don't spend fruitless hours trying to persuade fairy believers that they are deluded. Surely to do so would be inconsistent with my beliefs and if not hypocritical (because I secretly did believe but hated them), then a clear waste of my time, in which case it would be legitimate to question my sanity.

So why do it and why with the fervour of a zealot that Dawkins exhibits? I believe the answer is simple, Money, he is solely in it for the cash,, doesn't believe it, likes the fame and adulation from His followers and cynically exploits them because they are the one that buy his books. I can see no other reason to spend all your time arguing the non-existence of something that doesn't exist.(He's stuffed if it does though)

6 November 2007 at 16:46  
Blogger Savage44 said...

Or perhaps he sees the strength of faith, senses the call of God, and feels threatened by it? In which case, he may be closer to God than we think, and Mr Homophobic's imaginary headline of 2018 might come a bit sooner.

6 November 2007 at 18:31  
Anonymous the last toryboy said...

Dawkins thinks the world would be better off without religion in it, thats why he does what he does. Just as any priest presumably thinks the world would be better off if everybody worshipped their God. You theists all welcome conversion after all, I'm sure.

Once again I am puzzled by how Dawkins gets one standard and clergymen get another. After all, he's only doing the exact same thing. The idea that an atheist is somehow barred from the special place of playing up their belief is the most ludicrous thing I've heard for some time.

In the Recusant's case, I am greatly amused, given that his accusation is hardly one that would be out of place levelled at a Catholic clergyman. I'm actually puzzled why priests do the same thing sometimes. I often wonder if the Pope really, truly believes, or if he's just in it for the wealth and the power. Certainly if one looks at history one can't help but think that belief has been second string to wealth and power plenty of times in the past... One also can't help but think that the more corrupt Popes were a complete waste of oxygen, and that the human race would have been better off if they were never around. At least Dawkins has done good work in the field of evolutionary biology, which is more than certain historical religious figures will ever be able to claim.

small kettle, huge teapot? A /Catholic/ talking about preachers being in it for the cash? That is rich, excuse the pun. :D

6 November 2007 at 19:03  
Blogger Homophobic said...

I meant Apocalypse Now as a film reference.

It's strange that Musharraf is employing violent, anti-democratic, extreme measures, to prevent the formation of democracy in Pakistan. Democracy has to be prevented so that the Islamists cannot take power through democratic means.

For someone (Rice and Bush) who believes that democracy is the solution to all the worlds problems (Islamic fanaticism), this is crippling.

They have to be as uncivilised as the people they are trying to civilise.

"Horror and moral terror are your friends"

6 November 2007 at 19:12  
Blogger Dymphna said...

Cranmer--

I was alerted to this by one of the Baron's faithful translators.

It made me think of
The Maverick Philosopher...

The MP has written about Flew before... I'll see if I can rouse him from his desert cave to add his wisdom and light here...

My problem --dementia, no doubt, is that I've forgotten my log in to his comments...I shall have to revert to email and hope he can read it by candlelight...

6 November 2007 at 23:15  
Anonymous the recusant said...

Mr Last Tory Boy,


Dawkins doesn’t believe in religion or God, so, logically he is on a crusade to rid the world of something that he doesn’t believe exists, how bizarre is that?

As for your other points, I’ll cut to the chase, the RCC has bad priests, it has 400,000 more good ones worldwide, it has had corrupt men in the Petrine Ministry, about 8 Popes that are considered controversial, Stephen VI (896-897), John XII (937-964), Benedict VIII (1012-1024), Benedict IX (1032-1044,1045,1047-1048), Urban VI (1378-1389), Alexander VI (1492-1503), Leo X (1513-1521), Clement VII (1523-1534), That leaves 254 Popes that are above reproach. As for welcoming conversions well yes but its not that easy as you might think The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) takes on average 1 year to complete, you don’t turn around three times and say I’m a Christian.

Money again, I’ve dealt with this in the past but here goes. Looking at JPII, his LW&T stated how to dispose of his very few personal possessions.

"I leave no property behind me of which it is necessary to dispose," John Paul wrote.

"Regarding those items of daily use of which I made use, I ask that they be distributed as may appear opportune. My personal notes are to be burned. ...

It amounted to his watch, some cuff links, a few coins a comb and his ring which was destroyed as is the tradition. That’s it, some wealth!

Despite having no balance of trade figures, the Holy See registers a gross domestic product (GDP), which was US$21 (£10.5) million for 1999. In 1997, the CIA World Fact book recorded revenues of US$209.6 (£105) million, against expenditures (including capital outlays) of US$198.5 (£99) million, the first time ever the Vatican has had a GDP recorded in the Black of US$11.1 (£5) million. Is this the massive wealth you envisaged, five million quid in profit?

You say Dawkins has done good work in the field of evolutionary biology and cast doubt on the Church history in this area well here are just a taste our ignoramuses’

Augustinian abbot Gregor Mendel (pioneer in the study of genetics), Roger Bacon (a Franciscan monk who was one of the early advocates of the scientific method), and Belgian priest Georges Lemaître (the first to propose the Big Bang theory). Even more numerous are Catholic laity involved in science: Henri Becquerel who discovered radioactivity; Galvani, Volta, Ampere, Marconi, pioneers in electricity and telecommunications; Lavoisier, "father of modern chemistry"; Vesalius, founder of modern human anatomy; Cauchy one of the mathematicians who laid the rigorous foundations of calculus. Not forgetting the priest Nicolaus Copernicus who proposed the heliocentric universe. Now in response you will bring up Galileo no doubt. Galileo who was placed under house arrest, not tortured, not dragged away in the middle of the night by some atheistic totalitarian state, he died in his bed with his daughter at his side, Oh the big bad inquisition.

Now add to the above the contributions, and in many cases inventions Christianity specifically has made in the fields of art, literature, music, architecture, medicine, schools, social services, economic development, Law, Social justice, care-giving, and the hospital system and your insinuation that Christianity is somehow a reactionary force looks a bit silly.

After this let’s look a bit closer at Dawkins, He obtained a second class BA degree in zoology in 1962, followed by MA and DPhil degrees in 1966 in the scientifically rigorous field of ethology, the biological study of behaviour (The what? You can get a doctorate in that?).

Points to note: A second class BA degree, not a first, not with honours and not a BSc, and he claims to be a scientist. He then got an MA and a DPhil, Arts once again and Philosophy, notice a lack of traditional scientific subjects here? And what I hear you ask did he do his doctorate in; the biological study of behaviour. What on earth is that about really?
Well excuse my incredulity but what qualifies someone with very unexceptional Arts faculty credentials to preach science. Perhaps that is why he has chosen the less rigorous subject of shooting his mouth off about, religion, not surprising another subject he is unqualified for, after all would you listen to your plumber for advice on your investments? At least I would credit him with some integrity had he a degree in Theology but alas no.
And now he is in a made up Mickey Mouse post of Oxford’s Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science founded in 1995 and spends his time ranting on religion. Does his saying it do anything at all to increase the public understanding of science? Or does it perhaps put people off science and scientists?

Personally I am not particularly troubled by this greying academic, nurtured within a Christian culture and benefited from it--even though he denies it. To see if this atheistic philosophy is valid look at what it has produced. Has forty years of secular, humanistic education produced a generation of enlightened, selfless, ascendant human beings? Has secular, humanistic education produced leaders in the arts and sciences and humanities? Has it produced a culture that values life, love, learning and all the noble aspirations of humanity? Has it produced a breed of people who aspire to higher things and exist together in a society of manners, wit, courtesy and nobility? Unfortunately it has not; history shows us that atheists kill Christians. That's what they do. History shows us that Christians forgive atheists. That's what they do.

Finally as for priests being in it for the cash, I can tell you My Parish priest does not have a personal bank account, he has no pension savings nor does he own a house or have a mortgage, he gets no state pension (over 65) and lives on a stipend of less than £6k a year, that’s £500 a month. Is that your definition of a cash rich priest? If you’re putting that kettle on mines a tea, milk no sugar.Ta.

6 November 2007 at 23:25  
Anonymous the last toryboy said...

Such a long rant clearly means a nerve has been touched.

Of course the Catholic Church is but a shadow of its former self, at least in Europe (though I dunno, read some stories about Catholicism in Spain in the 20th century - its not really a nice story, and they had plenty of wealth to donate to Franco). Are you really denying that the Catholic Church in much of its history has been about the exercise of wealth and power? Between the fall of Rome and the Reformation much of Europe was essentially a Catholic dictatorship, sometimes benign, sometimes not so benign.

A second class degree in zoology, an MA, an MPhil and a DPhil sounds fine to me. He's been active at Oxford University since the 70s, clearly they didn't think he was an idiot - whether you like it or not, he has done good work. He did create a field of study, not many can lay claim to that.

Obviously if you draw from every Catholic who ever lived you can find plenty of good work there too - irrelevant. My point is Dawkins has contributed plenty and does nothing more than any of your Catholic priests do. He is in essence a clergyman of a different religion, and a non-Abrahamic one at that, which I consider to be the root of your hostility towards him. In a sense you could be living proof that Dawkins is right and that the world would be better off without religion in it, given your reflexive intolerance of someone outside of your own in group (something he has apparently studied in some detail, probably informed his views).

Getting sniffy over his choice of subject, well, I refrained from getting sniffy over the value of theology as a subject at all. I see you stooped lower than I though!

7 November 2007 at 00:59  
Blogger AethelBald, King of Wessex said...

The Last Toryboy, you have nailed it good. My only contribution is to caution that Dawkins' discipline indicates that religiosity may be a heritable trait that may express in any litany, theistic or atheistic. Dawkins' zeal may be the expression of a religious genotype, a possibility that Dawkins is no doubt aware of. Actually, I suspect many here are carriers and that Homophobic's bhagavad gita comment cuts both ways.

7 November 2007 at 08:42  
Anonymous the recusant said...

Mr LT-Boy,

Am I ranting again, I'll try to give you sweeping answers in future that contain little substance and no verifiable facts, just hear say, inventive and what a bloke told me down the pub, Or not.

As you raise the Spanish Civil War, so popular with left-wingers (strange for a Tory Boy) and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and his republican party, you may not be aware, or even care that 498 Spanish martyrs were celebrated in Rome just last week. All killed by the republicanos, in the last of several Spanish civil wars and revolts between Marxism and Capitalism. To simplify the issue the church, by which I mean ordinary Christians, Catholics and Protestants, naturally sided with the nationalists because communism is de-facto atheistic. Atrocities can be credited to by both armies but the RCC did not kill anyone, au contraire they were specifically the target of the soviet communist advisers (The latter NKVD) to the republicans who's favourite practice after raping women was to hammer crucifixes down their throats to kill them. This practice was carried out particularly on the mothers of clergy and Nuns, now if they were combatants it would still be barbaric but on religious defenceless women it defies taxonomy.

Also look at the related treatment of the Church in Mexico in the 20s and 30's, the Spanish Civil and Mexican Cristero wars were closely related, both in part reactions to secular governments imposing fiercely anti-Christian and anti-clerical laws. Read for example about Fr. Andrés Solá, Father Miguel Agustin or Fr. Miguel Pro Juarez.

You ask 'Why is the Catholic Church a shadow of its former self? It has more members now than it ever has had in its history, it is the fastest growing denomination worldwide (the are localised exceptions to this rule) in Christianity and contrary also to popular myth is growing faster than Islam, I am sorry I do not recognise you're description.

'Do I deny that the RCC is about the exercise of wealth and power', you bet I do and what's more I challenge you to provide one shred of evidence to the contrary, one verifiable fact that, and this is important, before spreading the Gospel, before establishing Christ's church on earth and spreading the Good News any document, bull, interdict, encyclical that establishes and pronounces the raison d'être of the RCC was about gaining power and/or gathering wealth for its own sake. Now make no mistake, as I had to provide the list of bad popes, I expect you have not even heard of most of them or know why they are condemned outside the Borgias, I do not accept as proof (how convenient I hear you say) the actions of individuals acting in concert or alone where these actions are contrary to cannon Law, like the Gunpowder plot, and this includes the scandal of the sale of indulgence in the 16cent.

You say that before the Reformation much of Europe was essentially a Catholic dictatorship. I'm sorry there is nor enough space to pick apart this post modern fallacy and critique it here, it just has too may presuppositions in it to be deconstructed now. Read the history of the Holy Roman Empire the Great Schism, the monastic revolution, the creation of the Papal states the part played at Ravenna, I guarantee you will start to question this particular slander.

To Dawkins, you're right perhaps a mediocre 2:1 is ok for a old Polytechnic now calling itself a university if that's all he could manage, but for Oxford, surely not? Can you deny this centre of excellence is making do with second-rate academics if it takes this level of qualification into the faculty? I know they have to dumb down the entrance exams to give the less capable students a chance but for heavens sake that this policy of mediocrity is applied to the Dons as well is frankly humiliating for our leading University. The best surely should have 'The Best'. Dawkins coined the term `meme' within his memetic theory, a theoretical, and get this, unit of cultural information, a building block of cultural evolution or diffusion that propagates from one mind to another. Now come on! If that's not gold plated psychobabble I don't know what is, and atheists complain theists believe in nonsense. And then later he developed this pseudo-knowledge with multiple memes that propagate as cooperative groups called memeplexes, where will it end, township memes living in memeshire, memeland. Aside from being protected by a sympathetic financial sponsor at Oxford to author his books on atheism, in what way has he contributed to the advancement of human knowledge and the betterment of mankind?

I don't have hostility to Dawkins, I really don't but if it weren't for his notoriety in his militant atheism he would be ignored by the scientific community, considered very lucky to be where he is on the fringe or at best inconsequential. He isn't a Clergyman and he does not lead a religion, non-Abrahamic or otherwise, I think even he would chafe at that description.

I am not reflexively intolerant (is that the phrase) nor a zealot, fanatic, hostile etc to your arguments, It's just that I have not heard one that is more cogent, rational and that describe the human condition better than Christianity professes, and I have looked at a few beside atheism. If you know of one then I am open to argument convince me, again thanks for the debate.

7 November 2007 at 12:10  
Anonymous the last toryboy said...

I raise the Spanish Civil War because I've actually read about it, and believe in talking about things I know about, rather than blowing smoke.

For the exercise of power, look no further than Cardinal Segura of Spain. He was one of the earliest supporters of Franco, indeed, he was encouraging insurrection against the Republic pretty much as soon as the Republic was formed, on monarchist grounds, and so might be considered one of those who started the civil war in the first place. This relic apparently believed in the divine right of kings and the Inquisition, and he was a very powerful man, who exercised that power, IMHO, with entirely retrograde effect. If the Catholic Church in Spain didn't agitate against the Republic the war may not even have began.

This link gives you an idea on what His Eminence was like, for starters.

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,816207,00.html

Charges of communism are irrelevant because the Spanish Communist Party in 1935 had a membership of just a few thousand. The war drove the Republic into the arms of the communists, that doesn't mean the Republic was communist before the war began.

Regarding the worth of atheism over Catholicism, I personally don't care if you're a catholic or not. I believe in freedom of conscience and unlike Dawkins I do not especially preach my 'faith'. Unlike Dawkins I do believe that atheism requires a kernel of faith, so I don't consider myself to be a superior being by being an atheist or any such thing.
If I was particularly intolerant of the religious I wouldn't be on ths blog, I find the religious viewpoint on things to be quite fascinating and enlightening. This is where I part company with Dawkins. On the other hand, I can see that Dawkins says nothing more offensive than the typical theistic priest, so I think being snotty about him is out of order hypocrisy, hence why I weighed in with this thread.

That said I dislike overly pushy and preachy faiths - who doesn't, when they are faiths you don't share? - but right now in the UK Christianity is not one of those.

7 November 2007 at 13:49  
Anonymous the recusant said...

Mr LT-Boy,

This stuff is addictive; I have to contest your figures.

Communist Party of Spain (Partido Comunista de España or PCE) was founded in 1921 through an act of merger of Partido Comunista Español and Partido Comunista Obrero Español. In its early days, PCE suffered severely from the repression of the dictatorship of general Miguel Primo de Rivera (1923–1930) however after some inner party fighting, pro-Moscow direction emerged as victorious and began to determine the party line.

The PCE was in a very debilitated state when the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed in 1931 but it began to grow due to the victory of the Popular Front (of which the Communists had been a constituent part) and in February 1936 at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War it unified with the Juventudes Socialistas de España (JSE) - the Spanish Socialist party. The JSE had a membership of 12,000 at the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic April 14, 1931, this figure rose to 21.000 in 1934, I hope you will agree neither of these membership figures are trivial.

This merger has to be seen in context, the Juventudes Socialistas Unificadas (JSU) - Unified Socialist Youth was a Youth organization formed in the spring of 1936 in Spain through the amalgamation of the Socialist Party and Communist Party youth groups. Its leader, Santiago Carrillo, came from the Socialist youth, but had secretly joined the Communist youth prior to the merger, and the group was soon dominated by the PCE. So we can see that the Spanish communist party had its adherants in all the socialist parties and the fruits of this was they were taken over.

These are translations from Historia del Partido Comunista de España Éditions Sociales, París 1960 (History of the Communist Party of Spain Éditions Social, Paris 1960)

This details other activities of the PCE in the run up to the Civil War

Si de febrero a abril de 1930, el número de huelguistas había sido de 50.000, en septiembre ascendió ya a 200.000, en octubre, a 250.000, en noviembre, a 600.000.

(If of February to April of 1930, the number of strikers had been of 50,000, in September it ascended already to 200,000, in October, to 250,000, in November, to 600.000.)

The parliamentary elections of November of 1933 showed the growth of the influence of the [Communist] Party between the masses. If in those of July of 1931 our candidates had obtained 60,000 votes, this time they reunited 400,000 already, despite the electoral frauds of the rights and the majority law that favoured exclusively to the great electoral blocks.

Do you still hold the Communist influence was irrelevant?

7 November 2007 at 21:44  
Anonymous the recusant said...

Mr LT-Boy,

As for Cardinal Segura, he was an ardent monarchist by all accounts, so is Cranmer and myself for that matter, and he was expelled by the republican military by force and at night, in secret, for openly criticizing the republican Govt and drawing attention to their anti-clerical law making. Do you hold to the idea that clerics should be silent in the face of oppression? This exert is from Religion and Politics in Comparative Perspective: The One, The Few, and The Many By Ted G. Jelen, Clyde Wilcox
The Spanish Second Republic and the church (1931-6)
The same general patter between church and state existed in Spain in the early portion of the 20 Cent. Although the First Spanish Republic (1891-1932) had managed to coexist with the Catholic Church, the second republic (1931-36) was overtly hostile to it (Callahan 1984). Anticlericalism became a pronounce feature in the 1930’s when some of the most drastic anticlerical laws in Spanish history were adopter (Payne 1984)
Your links are interesting but Time Magazine did support the republican cause in the 1930’s so the bias is not surprising.
I indicated earlier how Mexico at this time followed an almost identical line in anticlericalism.
Strange times breed strange events, the republican Govt introduced suffrage for women in Spain in 1931 and this is what Spain's Minister of Prisons, British-blooded Senorita Victoria Kent, leading Spanish feminist said, opposing the law:
"Spanish women are not prepared for the ballot yet!"
Can you imagine that happening today either?

7 November 2007 at 22:36  
Anonymous the last toryboy said...

Alright - 21,000 for the PCE. Now I got my book out again it actually says 30,000 PCE members at the outbreak of the civil war. However, this is against 1.5 million members of the more conventionally socialist UGT trade union, which supported the PSOE party. The Republican Popular Front in the 1936 election had well over 200 seats in the Cortes, of which the communists had 14. Sure, the PCE were about, it did have influence, and not very nice they were too, but the PCE was not the government and its simply false to say it was.
It was a PSOE dominated government, which is the same guys they got in charge there right now. Zapatero is indeed a twonk, but I wouldn't be preaching armed revolution there just yet.

It is absolutely true that the communists practically took over the Republican zone in the end (the May Days of Barcelona and all that) but thats more due to the leverage they had due to the Soviet Union being their sole arms supplier during the war. There is no indication whatsoever that they would have succeeded without the civil war as a backdrop, and as it turns out, the Republicans chafed under communist control and ended up kicking them out at the end. So even the Soviet Union's imposition didn't held the likes of La Pasionaria cling to Spanish power in the end.

It is true that the Second Republic was anticlerical. Church and state were separated, to much wailing and gnashing of teeth on the part of Catholics and the Pope. It is hardly surprising that when the Spanish people actually got the vote finally they turned out to have an anticlerical streak because the Catholic Church was back in the Middle Ages as far as religion was concerned. It was detested by many Spaniards because the Church wittered on about accepting the poverty that most of them were in while amassing lots of cash. There were a good few church burnings in the early 30s, that wasn't anything to do with the government (the government was run by conservatives for much of it!). That was to do with a big chunk of Spanish society hating the church so much that extremists were bred. If the Republic's anticlericalism requires explanation to a Catholic, I think a mirror should suffice.

As for Segura - well, /I/ am an ardent monarchist in a sense. Monarchist can mean lots of things. I'm certainly not a republican and support the constitutional monarchy we have in Britain. Monarchist Spain, however, was not a constitutional monarchy, but a corrupt throwback to an absolutist age, and I wouldn't put my seal of approval next to that. Some of Seguras' views were practically paleolithic, and I hesitate to even call him civilised. He was certainly utterly opposed to anything approaching freedom of conscience - I believe one quote from him is "Spain is Catholic or it is nothing at all.".

Back to the exercise of power, I read this :-

"In return Spanish Catholicism gained many advantages. Every Spaniard was decreed a Catholic, divorce and civil marriage was instantly abolished. Orphans of Republicans killed in the purges were forcibly baptised and given new names. The church was represented on every civil committee, where few members dared disagree with a clergyman. Every prospective employee was required to have a certificate of spiritual cleanliness from his local priest. It was unwise not to go to mass or confession, as a denunciation by a priest was tantamount to an accusation of treason."

etc.etc. No exercise of power there then!

Of course it is true to say that many priests risked their lives doing good work under the dictatorship of Franco. But its also true to say that Franco had the full support of the Pope, and if people like Segura complained - he did at some points - it was because Franco wasn't Catholic enough.

We've digressed (and how!) but I think anybody reading anything about the history of Catholic Spain can read plenty of examples of Catholics revelling in power and money. I think in the shining example of that most Catholic of countries, Spain, Richard Dawkins can happily be defended from charges of being in it just for the cash and therefore somehow below the Catholic clergy.

7 November 2007 at 23:57  
Anonymous the recusant said...

I think the communist influence had a major influence on daily the operations of the republican government of '36. After all it was the communists in the popular front Gov't that negotiated and moved all the Spanish Gold Reserves to Moscow in '38, ostensibly to buy arms but as it turns out Stalin fleeced them and ended up stealing most of it. Had the republicans won in '39 I have no doubt that in the aftermath (or perhaps before) the end of WWII Spain would have gone the final step and joined the Soviet Bloc and ultimately the Warsaw Pact, Western European history would have been significantly different than it is.

These descriptions of life in Spain were taken just prior to years of the Second Republic:

(1) Charlotte Haldane visited Spain with John Haldane in 1933. Charlotte later wrote about their experiences in her autobiography, Truth Will Out (1949)

The poverty was tragic. It was bad in Cordoba, worse in Granada, almost universal in Seville. Everywhere was economic, mental and physical depression. There was a lot of local opposition to the Republic, led and organized by the Church. The Government's natural idealistic incompetence was encouraged by systematic sabotage of every project attempted. The male working population was almost unanimously anarchist. The CNT and particularly the FAI were the strongest revolutionary parties. Socialism and Communism, or rather the Trotskyist deviation from that political creed, were in the minority. But almost the entire female population was firmly attached to Church politics, under the spiritual and political domination of the priesthood. Underneath all the beauty and glamour of the landscape, the architecture, the tradition, the romance, was rumblings of the political earthquake to come.


(2) Roy Campbell, Light on a Dark Horse (1951)

One noticed, during the restless period that preceded the 1936 elections, that the working class was divided in two.
The bootblacks, an enormous class to themselves in Spain, the waiters, and most of the mechanics, along with the miners and factory workers, were either anarchists or Reds. It was expected that the anarchists would abstain from voting: or might even vote for the Right, with whom, in their liking for liberty, they have more in common than with the Communists. Amongst the anarchists were to be found some of the most generous idealistic people, at the same time as the real "phonys" - like the ones that dug up the cemetery in Huesca, held parades of naked nuns, and out-babooned in atrocity anything I had ever read of before. But they were warm-blooded - unlike their ice-cold compéres, the "commies", who were less human. You could beg your life from an anarchist. It was not long before most of the anarchists wished they had gone Right for they were unmercifully massacred by their Red Comrades.


Hostilities broke out between Anarchists and other Republicans simultaneously with their persecution of Christians, Royalists, and Nationalists. That was one of the typical paradoxes of Spanish history during the last twenty years. It was because I saw this fission, so often, at first-hand, on the spot, that I knew and said, repeatedly, and without ever hypocritically turning in my tracks, that the mutual loathing of the various factions of "republicans" would eventually preponderate over their hostility to the common adversary, and the so called "loyalists" would collapse on account of mutual disloyalty.

When the elections had come and I had been hauled into a lorry on the road to Getafe with a dead man's ticket and a shot gun at my kidneys, to vote Red, I took it as a joke: but shortly after, I began to see red, too. Except under compulsion, I had never voted in my life, and now I have twice seen a majority of Red members get in on a minority vote - I have lost all faith in that sort of thing. Voting has become obsolete since (as in England) the minority usually wins most seats. I had been persuading my wife and kids to leave Toledo, but it seemed the civil war would never reach us from Madrid, in spite of a Red Mayor, since the Province was loyal to Spain, in spite of unpunished murders. The wicked are always the first to act and the good are slow.


They don't say too much about the Church but they speak volumes about the communist and their modus operandi. I didn't know that you needed a certificate from a priest before you got a job; I wonder how widespread the practice was? Still it could have been worse, at least they were not burning them.

'Anybody reading anything about the history of Catholic Spain can read plenty of examples of Catholics revelling in power and money' I am guessing you mean Catholic Clergy as opposed to Lay, but yes of course you can, there are plenty of books attacking the Church, its so big and slow it is an easy target. But that is not the same as saying the Church exists to exercise power and wealth, not the same at all, let's face it if it did, it hasn't done a very good job.

8 November 2007 at 12:56  
Blogger Greg said...

As someone recently said, where would you rather bring your children up?

1) In A Catholic Country
2) In a non-Christian Country
3) In a country built on biblical principles

To me, 3) wins hands down. 'nuf said?

8 November 2007 at 14:23  
Anonymous the last toryboy said...

re. Greg, I'd like to live in a country based on secular humanist principles. Fortunately I'm in one. You could argue that those come from the Bible - maybe they did (Locke was very religious after all), but really, where they came from is irrelevant, they are here now. Question is whether we want uppity theists of any stripe running the show or not. No, we don't. Again, fortunately I'm in a country where they do not. But if religion were unchallenged then maybe I would be, I don't trust Christianity any more than any other faith to keep their urge to control in check.

re. the Recusant.
Well, no, the Bible does not say anything about setting up a controlling theocracy. But a church and its leadership is made up of fallible human beings, so what the Bible says may be rather different from reality.

Back to Spain! By 1938 the communists were in control in Spain. Sending their gold to Moscow was stupid in the extreme and yes, done under communist influence. Yes, /if/ they had won they would've been a communist country. A huge if, though. They only would have won with Soviet support. To get that support the communists would have had to have been in charge. The communists were a minority, the anarchists and socialists ended up fighting them. Its a sad tale of how you should never accept a communist as an ally, but this still doesn't say that the Republican government at the time of the coup - which is whats important - was communist. It wasn't. The stresses of war and the reality of the dependence on the Republic on Soviet military aid forced them that way, though not without bloodshed. Largo Caballero and Azana, the guys in charge in 36, were not communists.

And I know about the grinding poverty that led to the war. The most unequal society in Europe probably, they were literally back in the middle ages. And who is to blame for that? a couple of years of Republican government, or centuries of a retrograde Church and its teachings? They only got beyond the divine right of kings in the 20s, and no thanks to Cardinal Segura and his ilk. The problem - was people like him, not people like Azana.

I don't want to live in a country where people like Segura with his views have serious amounts of influence, and, importantly, you arent even allowed to argue with these people because they have God allegedly on their side. Thats tyranny, backed by threat of Hell. Thats what Catholicism used to be all about. If not for Protestantism and later, secularism, we'd still be in that unhappy state today.

So, no insults to Dawkins on the subject of power or money!

8 November 2007 at 20:38  
Anonymous The recusant said...

Mr LT-Boy,

This must be a first, a good old Tory boy waiving the red flag for a died in the wool socialist, the world is turned upside down.

It’s an easy and attractive claim to make from a secularist point of view that Spain was ‘kept in the middle ages’ and, again from the same stamp that the RCC was to blame for the widespread poverty and indeed it would have some authenticity except for the condition of other European countries at the same time.

Spain was poor, Portugal poorer (always was), Greece was poor, Italy richer under Mussolini, whilst Germany was rearming and coming out of recession where just a few years earlier people starved to death on the streets. The UK, France, Belgium Holland and the USA (where people also starved to death) still had massive poverty and unemployment in excess of that in Spain, as far as I am aware at least this didn’t happen in Spain – they just slaughtered each other a few years later but on full bellies.

Right up to ‘39 in the UK there was no social security and if you couldn’t get the dole, only married men over 21 with families were entitled and then the time was limited, many were not entitled to it, you either got charity or you starved, I know personally of some who experienced this in a scarce job market where it was not uncommon for signs to say Catholics and Irish need not apply. People changed their names to get jobs (Sean Catholic, Shawn?).

So this appalling level of poverty was common throughout Europe and the US, and in fact more common in north west European countries where, if established, the church was not Rome and had equal impact on countries where the Church was not joined to the state - France, USA, Germany -33.

If the poverty was a direct result of a reactionary and historically oppressive RCC why did it not continue under Franco where, as you have indicated the Church got all its ancient rights back and probably more? Franco may have been a dictator but under him Spain, and the Church flourished, why did they not remain medieval fiefdoms if this was what the church has always done?

I think it may even be fair to argue that the great depression and its aftermath had less impact on the economies of southern agrarian and arable countries which coincidently were aligned to Rome than others not so attached. When you say ‘the most unequal society in Europe probably’ do you mean wealth, political or between urban and metropolis, it is too wide a statement to guess at.

Blaming Cardinal Segura for highlighting the faults of the republic and drawing the conclusion that consequently he propelled the country to war is like blaming Churchill for WWII because he said Hitler was a lying, double dealing bully out for trouble. It is wild and cannot be substantiated.

Spain had been descending into violence and mini war since Napoleon left, Spanish Civil War 1820-1823, 1898 the Spanish-American War, Military coup in 1923 to name but a few. Again it is a wild accusation to say the somehow the RCC was responsible for this. And yes a couple of years of bad government can plunge a country into desperate poverty, we only have to look at Robert Mugabe today to get an up to date lesson on that.

I think I have said all that is needed on Dawkins, who will remember him in 100 years, but let me leave you with this from GK Chesterton

It is absurd for the Evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into anything.

8 November 2007 at 23:58  

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