The Real News of the Month

June 2006
Volume 13, Number 6

Editor: Joe Sobran
Publisher: Fran Griffin (Griffin Communications)
Managing Editor: Ronald N. Neff
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  -> The Sins of Organized Irreligion
  -> Publisher's Note
  -> Our Endangered Flag
The Sobran Forum
  -> Christianity and Science
"Reactionary Utopian" Columns Reprinted in This Issue


The Sins of Organized Irreligion
(pages 1, 3-4)

     Nearly every Christian, I suppose, has had the 
experience of being belabored by unbelievers about the 
putative sins of what is termed "organized religion" -- 
the Spanish Inquisition, the trial of Galileo, the Salem 
witch-hunts, and so forth. What surprises me is that 
Christians have been so slow to turn the argument around 
and point to the record of what we may call "organized 

     Since we Christians regard faith as a gift, we 
seldom resent unbelief as such. You can't very well blame 
someone for not having received a gift, but there are 
those who angrily reject gifts, or who resent the good 
fortune of those who do receive them, or who are 
otherwise something other than people who don't "happen 
to be" religious in all innocence.

     If religion can be evaluated as a social phenomenon, 
in terms of its visible effects on human behavior, so can 
unbelief. To begin with the most colossal example, the 
militant atheism of the Soviet Union has resulted in the 
murder of tens of millions of people on grounds of their 
mere membership in so-called counterrevolutionary or 
reactionary classes. Graham Greene contends that the 
Inquisition might have killed that many people, had it 
been technologically feasible to do so, but we may doubt 
this. The Inquisition executed tens of thousands of 
people over several centuries for what were at least 
treated as individual crimes. Just or unjust, these 
executions were judicial in form and were performed 
against persons, not classes. The perversions of 
Christianity are also to some extent limited by 
Christianity. The perversions of atheism recall 
Dostoyevsky's famous remark, "If God does not exist, then 
everything is permitted."

     This or that atheist may protest against 
Dostoyevsky's inference, but the fact remains that many 
atheists have made the same inference themselves. 
Enlightened atheists sometimes sneer at Christians who 
behave themselves only because they fear hellfire -- and 
it may be true that there are higher motives for good 
conduct -- but it is hardly consistent to make this 
criticism and then to assume simultaneously that such 
Christians will keep behaving themselves once they cease 
believing in the afterlife.

     I can imagine one kind of atheist -- let us call him 
"the pious atheist" -- who arrives at his unbelief 
without joy, simply as an intellectual conclusion. I 
suppose such a man would regard Christian civilization 
with the kind of affection and respect a Roman convert to 
Christianity in Augustine's day would feel for the dying 
Roman Empire, for Cicero and Virgil and Marcus Aurelius. 
He would feel that, although that world had passed away, 
it had left much of enduring value. We actually do see 
pious atheists who may regret the Inquisition but who 
also cherish Dante, Monteverdi, Spenser, Milton, Bach, 
Handel, Dr. Johnson. To cease believing in the viability 
of this Christian civilization is not necessarily either 
to condemn it or to assume an attitude of enmity toward 

     Yet there is another sort of atheist who does regard 
himself as Christendom's enemy. Far from cherishing its 
past, he condemns it and would wipe out every trace of it 
in the present. He hates and fears every sign of it: the 
Catholic Church, Moral Majority, the inscription "In God 
We Trust." He thinks that humanity is now free at last 
from dogma and superstition, and he would get on with the 
business of creating a new world on progressive and 
scientific principles. The difference between the two 
kinds of atheists is roughly the difference between 
Santayana and Sartre.

     Richard Weaver wrote that a person has no right to 
advocate any reform of the world unless he shows by some 
prior affirmation that he does indeed cherish some 
aspects of the world as it is. Our pious atheist meets 
this test. He sees the passing of the Christian order as 
a highly equivocal development, if a necessary and 
inevitable one. He knows he lives in a continuing world, 
and he has the grace and wisdom to appreciate 
Christianity as an attempt to express, however 
imperfectly, truths about that world. If he finds some 
who still believe, he is not altogether eager to correct 
them. He understands Gonzalo's rebuke to Sebastian in THE 

      My lord Sebastian,
      The truth you speak doth lack some gentleness
      And time to speak it in.

And he understands the reflection of Henry V:

      There is some soul of goodness in things evil,
      Would men observingly distill it out....

     The pious atheist, moreover, will not be so sanguine 
about what is to succeed the Christian order. For him the 
mere negation of God is, in itself, no cultural 
substitute for the Christian myths and symbols that have 
shown their power to sustain generations of human beings. 
Atheism in itself has no cohesive force. Whatever social 
cohesion it has provided so far has come more from its 
destructive hostility to the Christian civilization it 
has totally failed to improve on. Looking at the 
organized masses of his fellow atheists, the pious 
atheist may prefer erring with Augustine to being right 
with such as these.

     The godless order has brought us Communism and 
abortion clinics. It has yet to produce its Homer, 
Virgil, Shakespeare, or Dante. We can understand the man 
of no religious faith feeling that he at least prefers 
the company of the believers to that of the current pack 
of unbelievers.

     It may be that the characteristic evils of the 
twentieth century don't necessarily follow, in strict 
logic, from the denial of God's existence. The historical 
fact remains that they =have= followed. As the Marxists 
say, it is no accident. If it is fair to hold believers 
responsible for the actions of Christians as an 
identifiable historical body -- "organized religion" -- 
then it is equally fair to hold unbelievers responsible, 

     Yet we persist in treating atheism as if it were 
nothing but a private cognitive matter, of no public 
concern, eligible for the conventional protections we 
accord to, say, the varieties of Protestant belief. For 
some people it may be that, but it is time to recognize 
that atheism is also a systematic, organized, and 
socially powerful negation, driven by furious hostility 
to religious tradition. Personally, many of its votaries 
are boorish and indiscriminate in their refusal to give 
Christianity real credit for anything; they have no 
desire to assimilate anything of its heritage, even those 
parts Christianity itself assimilated from its various 
pagan heritages.

     The militant-atheist animus belongs to what I have 
elsewhere called the "alienist" animus, the willfully 
estranged attitude toward the general society typical of 
modern intellectuals and found, in various ways, among 
some so-called minority groups. The fault lines of 
alienism don't really coincide with obvious social lines 
of division. It may occur more often among, say, Jews, 
than among Mormons, it may be increasing among Catholics 
as it decreases among Jews, but its occurrence can never 
be predicted in the individual case on the basis of group 
membership. In fact, some so-called minorities, such as 
"gays," are not even minorities by inheritance.

     Some numerical minorities, like Mormons, aren't even 
thought of as minorities in the subtle special sense of 
the word now current. That word virtually embodies a 
presumption of disaffection from the general society, and 
this disaffection is itself presumed to be justified by 
what is termed the minority's victimization at the hands 
of a more or less monolithic majority. If we look more 
closely, I believe we will even find that the very idea 
of a minority in this sense is largely a rhetorical 
device for covertly attacking what remains of the 
Christian culture.

     Tension and hostility between different ethnic and 
credal groups is natural, but it is also a reciprocal 
affair: neither side is likely to be wholly innocent. 
Still, the Christian side, as it happens, is likely to 
have a certain Christian willingness to give a charitable 
benefit of doubt and to assume a share of the guilt. It 
is only natural for the non-Christian or anti-Christian 
side to accept this favor without returning it. For this 
reason Christians in the modern world have been slow to 
recognize and respond adequately to their enemies -- even 
their declared enemies.

     When an intellectual tells us that "the white race 
is the cancer of history," clearly using "the white race" 
as a surrogate for historical Christendom, we are hearing 
something other than the voice of the disinterested 
intellect. We are hearing an expression of nihilistic 
hatred. Unbelief as such does not impel this kind of 

     It is remarkable that we have been so slow to 
recognize this specific form of hatred, so much in 
evidence, as a social problem or even as a social 
phenomenon. The language abounds in words signifying the 
hatreds, fears, and suspicions of cultural insiders 
toward outsiders. We are all acquainted with "racism," 
"ethnocentrism," "xenophobia," "anti-Semitism," 
"nativism," and the like; these words have a certain 
hothouse quality about them, suggesting their recent 
invention to serve particular needs. Even older words 
such as "prejudice," "bias," "bigotry," "discrimination," 
and "hatred" itself have taken on the same 
anti-majoritarian connotations, although it is humanly 
probable that there is hostility of at least equal 
intensity in the opposite direction. We have no specific 
vocabulary at all to suggest this reciprocal possibility.

     Yet disaffection from the society one inhabits is 
always an available attitude. A glance at Shakespeare 
confirms this. His plays offer a gallery of characters 
who, for one reason or another, have chosen an attitude 
of antagonism toward their societies. Some, like Shylock, 
are not without provocation; some, like Iago, indulge the 
universal temptation to envy, with no real excuse. 
Shylock gives his angry reasons; Iago can't explain 
himself except to himself -- and he is struck dumb when, 
his full villainy exposed, his society confronts him.

     For our present purposes, Edmund in KING LEAR may be 
the most interesting example. Presumably Shakespeare 
doesn't believe in the gods Lear believes in, but he 
clearly doesn't care for Edmund's cavalier attitude 
toward them. The pious characters -- Lear, Cordelia, 
Kent, Edgar -- are all shown as Edmund's moral superiors, 
whatever their other defects. We know little about 
Shakespeare's own religious beliefs, but he patently 
respects a society's right to its sense of the sacred, to 
the shared symbols of holiness held in common by 
unreflective people -- which is to say, by most people in 
their unreflective moments.

     Almost without exception, Shakespeare's "alienated" 
characters are villains -- enemies of social peace and 
order. They are recognizably human, and they sometimes 
appeal powerfully to our sympathies, but there is no 
doubt of their villainy in action. Their villainy 
consists precisely in their active enmity toward the 
society around them. The apostate is also a social 

     The assumptions embodied in the very structure of 
these plays are directly opposed to the assumption that 
hatred and hostility are always to be imputed to society. 
This imputation itself expresses hostility, and we do 
well to raise our guard against those who make it. 
Whatever atheism may mean abstractly, in our own world it 
often means a specific and militant hatred of 
Christianity, a hatred as particularist as anti-Semitism, 
and as deadly.

This essay originally appeared in CENTER JOURNAL (Spring 
1985) of Notre Dame University, Notre Dame, Indiana.

Publisher's Note
(page 2)

Dear Friend of SOBRAN'S,

     There is a lot of news at the international 
headquarters of SOBRAN'S these days. As announced last 
month, our newest booklet of excerpts from SOBRAN'S -- 
REACTIONARY UTOPIAN -- is now off the press. If you are 
one of our hundreds of new subscribers, welcome aboard. I 
hope you are enjoying the booklet. If you are planning to 
renew, we are offering it as our gift for your loyalty.

     Joe has just signed a contract with a major 
publishing firm in New York to write part of a textbook 
on Shakespearean plays. He is writing commentaries on 
five plays: one comedy and four tragedies. I'll provide 
more details as they are available.

     As you probably know, Joe is a scholar of 
Shakespeare and wrote a book on the authorship question 
MYSTERY OF ALL TIME (The Free Press, New York, 1997). In 
that book, he argues that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl 
of Oxford, is the true author of the plays and sonnets 
attributed to William Shakespeare. It is out of print, 
but it can be found by surfing the Internet.

     In our "Sobran Forum" section (on pages 5-6), please 
see "Christianity and Science," an article by Otto Scott, 
a historian and eloquent author who died in May (see his 
obit in our April-May 2006 issue). An award-winning 
writer and author of ten books, Mr. Scott's articles 
appeared in numerous journals over his 50+ years as a 
journalist. He was a favorite of Joe's.

     The subjects of Otto Scott's books range from the 
high Renaissance of Elizabeth I and James I to the French 
Revolution of the late eighteenth century, to 
nineteenth-century America and the evil lunacy of John 
Brown. We plan to feature more of his articles.

     One more news flash: Joe is now writing occasional 
pieces for the website of Taki Theodoracopulous. You can 
read them at

     Keeping a newsletter afloat is a tough, competitive 
business -- but we're all survivors here and we have even 
started to expand the influence and ideas of all things 
Sobran. We continue because of your generosity. May God 
bless you for your loyalty and support of SOBRAN'S!


Fran Griffin

P.S. If you enjoyed the photos in the last issue, you can 
view them in color at our website, beginning at

P.P.S. Wait! Take a look at those enclosures before they 
hit the recycle bin.

Our Endangered Flag
(pages 4, 6)

     What do liberal Hillary Clinton and the conservative 
American Legion have in common? Both endorse the most 
imbecilic measure to be proposed in the last generation: 
a constitutional amendment to ban flag-burning.

     As a threat to public peace and order, setting fire 
to the American flag ranks with such anarchic practices 
as the campus panty raid, goldfish-swallowing, and -- let 
us not shun the closest analogy here -- bra-burning. If 
your city councilman proposed a local ordinance against 
it, you'd think he was daft, and you'd be right. 
Thankfully, the era of the reefer-crazed hippie is behind 
us, contained by the brave men and women of the last 
generation. There is no need to fight that battle again.

     I'm not really surprised that the blood of the 
Legion's patriotic octogenarians still boils at the very 
idea of igniting Old Glory -- after all, a principle is 
at stake here -- but I'm a little disappointed at Senator 
Clinton, whose motives, frankly, I suspect. Her stand 
appears to me a purely demagogic attempt to position 
herself as a centrist before 2008.

     Does anyone think she is acting from sincere 
conviction? Really, now. Can you imagine her -- let alone 
her draft-dodging husband -- raising a finger to defend 
the Stars and Stripes from physical desecration? It just 
doesn't go with socialized medicine somehow. Such 
transparent cynicism! How she and her radical lesbian 
friends must be snickering.

     A more benign explanation can't be ruled out: that 
Senator Clinton wants to show that she won't be bullied 
by the ACLU. She is old enough to have heard of what 
happened to Helen Gahagan Douglas in 1950, when Richard 
Nixon dubbed her "the pink lady." And it's not too early 
to anticipate future stratagems of Karl Rove.

     But, to consider the issue on its merits, I can't 
remember the last time a flag-burning incident was 
reported. In 1967, perhaps? True, there is no way of 
knowing how many such incidents go unreported, though the 
Legion seems to believe they are far more common than the 
general public is aware.

     Let's suppose, then, that the real figure is in the 
thousands. Even at that, can we say that the material 
harm done, or that the danger posed by the absence of 
safeguards against an outbreak of many more such 
incidents, warrants altering the fundamental law of the 
land? I can't see it, myself -- especially when the U.S. 
Government isn't visibly inhibited by its Constitution 


Christianity and Science
by Otto Scott
(pages 5-6)

     We live in peculiar times. Times when the heirs of 
Christendom are not taught that Christianity created our 
civilization, nor what that meant and means. They are 
guided into an admiration of science, without being 
taught that the emergence of the scientific method is 
precisely what distinguishes the Christian civilization 
from all others.

     Nor can it be said that Science is a recent 
Christian undertaking. Science did not begin even in the 
Reformation, though certainly the Reformers gave it great 

     But Christendom was noted for its innovations and 
advances long before the sixteenth century. Fr. Robert D. 
Smith, writing in THE WANDERER, noted that "in other 
cultures, in the East and in the New World, the native 
music was that of single melodies, a single man playing a 
sitar [but] polyphony, a central development in Western 
music, the idea that different concurrent melodies can be 
harmonized into one whole piece of music, the idea behind 
a band, a choir (in the Western sense), an orchestra, 
came from developments that started in Church music."

     Medicine was another great area of Christian 
innovation. Sickness was regarded as a condition ordained 
by Fate in the Hindu and Buddhist religions: the sick 
were not to be disturbed. The Muslims thought that a sick 
man was impure and should not be touched. In primitive 
areas, witch doctors wore devil masks, shook rattles, and 
danced. Sometimes they achieved cures with roots and 
herbs; sometimes (as today) they provided poisons to 
unhappy wives or to ambitious rivals. Death and life were 
alike to witch doctors.

     Only in the Christian cultures, during the ages of 
faith, did dedicated individuals devote themselves to 
tending the sick. Hospitals are a Christian invention; 
they did not exist before Christianity. Their very name 
is Christian in origin. The dedication of Christians to 
the sick laid the foundations of modern medicine, 
benefited everyone in the world, and are seldom, if ever, 
mentioned in histories or schools. All that is held aloft 
are errors from the Medieval period, misconceptions that 
in many instances were only corrected in very recent 
times, at enormous expense and with great difficulty. Yet 
a deliberate impression has been created that 
Christianity is against the flesh.

     Because Christians believed that the universe is 
ordered, they created tools by which to measure Time and 
Space. Clocks, navigational aids, measures, optical 
advances, watermills and windmills, advances in boat 
building, in architecture -- who can overlook the 
cathedrals? -- were all contributions of Christianity.

     Yet more than one modern historian goes to 
extraordinary lengths to glide past the contributions of 
Christianity to hold aloft the innovations of Asia, 
especially China. Hugh Thomas, in his HISTORY OF THE 
WORLD, excessively praised by the critics, incessantly 
praises Asiatic peoples for their innovations and 
describes Western inventions as "belated." Not once does 
he refer to the odious tyrannies of Asia, the boundless 
executions, the frozen and static nature of virtually all 
Asian cultures before the advent of Christian 
missionaries and merchants.

     Much the same practice is followed in our government 
schools: students are reminded again and again that the 
Chinese discovered printing and gunpowder. Little is said 
of what they did with printing, which remained static 
until a Christian craftsman (not a scholar, not an 
aristocrat, but the proprietor of a printing shop) 
developed after experimentation movable type. Nor did 
gunpowder provide the Chinese with anything more than the 
material for firecrackers until the West developed it 
into uses in both war and peace. Hardly ever are students 
told that local self-government, in the form of 
parliaments, was a product of the Middle Ages and not of 
modernity; that scientific research into the properties 
of metals, that the development of corporations (a mental 
construct), that agricultural advances in Europe were 
pursued more energetically and carried farther than in 
any other region on earth. The individualism that rose in 
the West was unknown to all other cultures, and held 
repugnant in the ancient world.

     Our students are not told that orthodox Muslims in 
the twelfth century (then in the vast majority) decided 
that all scientific research was heretical and 
blasphemous and had it discontinued. Nor are students 
told inventions in other parts of the world, in 
non-Christian civilizations, were sporadic and virtually 
useless, since there was no infrastructure, no societal 
acceptance, by which they could be incorporated and 

     Schools do not teach that before the European 
nations could send their ships, merchants, and 
missionaries around the world to explore the oceans and 
map the islands and continents, Christianity had a 
thousand years of development. Instead, students are told 
about voyages of discovery (certainly discoveries to 
Europe) as though these were in some way an offense 
against civilizations too indolent, too inbred, too 
incurious, too self-centered to be curious about other 
inhabitants in the globe. They are even told that efforts 
to write the histories of these non-Christian nations 
constituted an injury to them, because European biases 
were thus imposed upon other cultures.

     Yet no barriers existed against explorations by 
other civilizations; no fences prevented their historians 
from writing about the West from an observational 
vantage. The fact is that no neutral observer can deny 
that it was Christianity which broke the narrow bounds of 
separate civilizations and forced the entire globe and 
all its peoples into the advances and inventions, the 
discoveries and wisdom of the accumulated Christian 

     The great spurt forward in scientific discoveries 
attendant upon the Reformation are described without 
reference to the Christianity that promoted and 
buttressed them. Scientific historians are aware of, but 
seldom dwell upon, the deeply Christian nature of the 
early scientific societies and associations. And even 
today, that the great majority of scientists are 
Christian remains a secret from the general public and 
students in our universities.

Otto Scott was a journalist, and author of ten books; he 
was also the editor of OTTO SCOTT'S COMPASS 
( This piece was originally 
published in CHALCEDON REPORT, and reprinted in CREATION 
number 2 (Winter 1986), by Creation Social Science and 
Humanities Society, Inc. Reprinted with permission of the 
Otto Scott estate.


LEST WE FORGET: Even under Stalin, the Soviet Union had a 
constitution that guaranteed all sorts of rights, 
including, as Franklin Roosevelt enthusiastically noted, 
religious freedom. Of course, as with Roosevelt's Supreme 
Court, such rights were qualified: they meant what the 
government wanted them to mean. In short -- a living 
document! (page 8)
                     -- from REGIME CHANGE BEGINS AT HOME

Well, if conservatism can assimilate Lincoln, maybe it 
can also incorporate Roosevelt. In the real world, it 
keeps changing its mind about what it wants to conserve, 
as well as what it's willing to discard. (page 11)
                     -- from REGIME CHANGE BEGINS AT HOME 

REPRINTED COLUMNS ("The Reactionary Utopian")
(pages 7-12)

* Tolerance Strikes Again (June 15, 2006)

* Our Dreams Came True (June 13, 2006)

* The Cheap Pathos of Civil Rights (June 8, 2006)

* A Vibrant Democracy (May 25, 2006)

* The Commandments of Men (May 23, 2006)

* The Case for Popular Poetry (May 16, 2006)


All articles are written by Joe Sobran, except where
explicitly noted.

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