Communism and National Socialism (both of which are godless, or at least an explicit rejection of Christianity) wholeheartedly embraced the notion that violence, murder, and the deliberate degradation of human dignity (genocide, abolition of property rights and of the human family) are legitimate means to acheiving their ends. Nothing can be further from a Christian worldview than the assertion that "the end justifies the means." The Communists and Nazis directly responsible for murdering more than 100 million people in the 20th Century were being strictly obedient to their ideologies — they were good Communists and Nazis, embracing the notion that human life can be treated as valueless if such treatment advances the proper ends.
We have been passing through an age of secular utopianism, in which some thinkers decided that it is acceptable to sacrifice individuals for what they perceive to be the common good. Their followers have done the rest.
I never meant to assert that Europe was all happy ponies before it lost its faith. In earlier centuries, kings and princes — and yes, popes — abused Christianity for political ends with horrible consequences (note that they are viewed as bad Christians).
Freddoso and others at The Corner were discussing a recent op-ed piece by Charles Krauthammer, "An Overdose of Public Piety", in which he discusses two arguments about the role of religion in politics:
The first, which conservatives are winning, is defending the legitimacy of religion in the public square. The second, which conservatives are bound to lose, is proclaiming the privileged status of religion in political life.
A certain kind of liberal argues that having a religious underpinning for any public policy is disqualifying because it is an imposition of religion on others. Thus, if your opposition to embryonic stem cell research comes from a religious belief in the ensoulment of life at conception, you're somehow violating the separation of church and state by making other people bend to your religion.
This is absurd. Abolitionism, civil rights, temperance, opposition to the death penalty -- a host of policies, even political movements, have been rooted for many people in religious teaching or interpretation. It's ridiculous to say that therefore abolitionism, civil rights, etc., constitute an imposition of religion on others.
Imposing religion means the mandating of religious practice. It does not mean the mandating of social policy that some people may have come to support for religious reasons.
But a certain kind of conservative is not content to argue that a religious underpinning for a policy is not disqualifying. He insists that it is uniquely qualifying, indeed that it confers some special status.
Let us build on this argument for a moment. Whatever you may think of religion, the Judeo-Christian tradition has, for millenia, provided and continues to provide to those who believe in God a moral compass--an ethical foundation that is now rooted in a committment to a rational metaphysics and epistemology that states that reality exists and human beings are able to percive it.
The philosophical premises that deconstruct that tradition are only a few centuries old, but already they have managed to generate more human misery, suffering, and death from the various utopian ideologies which they unleashed than in all the centuries that preceeded. It can be argued and has been, that this catastrophe is a direct result of the "death of God" in human affairs.
You see, "good" communists, as Freddoso argues, not only don't believe in a god, they have also abandoned the rational metaphysics and epistemology that is required for an ethics that prioritizes human life as basis for what is good. In an existence where objective reality doesn't exist; and where the human mind is disconnected from it, anything goes. This is postmodernism at its finest and in its ultimate manifestation. And it is from the darkness of that manifestation that communism, socialism and fascism --and their 21st century iterations: radical Islam and radical environmentalism (see here for a more complete discussion of this)-- have erupted into history, all of them variations on the same totalitarian theme in the the postmodern philosophical songbook.
"Good" communists, socialists, and fascists thrive in an environment of oppression, death, and human misery. Indeed, that is the medium in which they grow best and consciously or unconsciously, they facilitate and nurture such a medium.
The radical Islamists, far from being an example of a "good" religion are the living, breathing examples of everything that "bad" religion could possibly be--in essence, they are an "anti-religion" religion in the same way that radical environmentalism has become the left's bad secular religion. The epidemic of "religiously" motivated murder has been taken to new extremes by the fanatics of Islam, who regularly make us aware of their lack of a good ethical Ideal (see "Union With An Evil God").
And, Mark Steyn ( "The earth is your fuhrer") demonstrates the logical extreme of today's enviromental-fascists, whose ethical "Ideal" is the indifferent physical planet whom they worship as Gaia/God in much the same way their primitive ancestors worshipped the sun or moon--they are even now planning the sacrifices necessary to placate the whim of those destructive gods:
Here's one for Jonah's Liberal Fascism files. Bigshot eco-panjandrum lays down the law:Hillman, senior fellow emeritus at the Policy Studies Institute, says carbon rationing is the only way to ensure that the world avoids the worst effects of climate change. And he says that the problems caused by burning fossil fuels are so serious that governments might have to implement rationing against the will of the people.
"When the chips are down I think democracy is a less important goal than is the protection of the planet from the death of life, the end of life on it," he says. "This has got to be imposed on people whether they like it or not." (emphasis Steyn)
When religion is rooted in human freedom, as it is in the Judeo-Christian tradition, then it is able to enhance human life and give meaning and purpose to that life. When it is perverted and used for secular political ends--by either the political left or right who want to impose or mandate some social policy or another on others, then it inevitably leads to oppression and cheapens or devalues human life.
Even on his best day, a "good" communist, socialist, fascist etc. will never be any better than a really "bad" Christian.