Monday, October 6, 2014

Ben Affleck and Anti-Clericalism in America

Ben Affleck argument with Bill Maher and Sam Harris is a becoming a hot potato meme.  I've been pretty vocal about my disgust with the so-called 'New Atheist' movement and its alleged new contribution to the intellectual history of Free-thought, the notion of 'anti-theism'.  This cultural development is not only un-intellectual, it's not even original.  'Anti-theism' has been around for quite a long time, but in the past it was called 'anti-clericalism'.  However, in the wake of anti-religious political movements, such as the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War or the Bolshevik program in Soviet Russia, calling oneself anti-clerical is akin to proudly claiming the label of 'anti-Semite'.
Anti-clerical poster in 1933 Barcelona. 
Spanish Republicans firing rifles at a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Anti-clericalism originally developed as a element of the Jacobin period of the French Revolution.  Enlightenment thinkers had formulated the philosophy for some years beforehand, but it was not until the Reign of Terror that the world saw it manifest as a policy.  Interestingly enough, despite the fact the Founding Fathers all subscribed to Enlightenment thinking, it was George Washington's friendship with Bishop John Carroll of Baltimore that is said to have tempered and helped develop the American notion of Church-State separation simultaneous with religious tolerance, a point that becomes more noteworthy when one realizes the First President's membership in the Freemasons, one of the most vocal anti-clerical groups of the day.
Sam Harris is, in my mind, either deeply disturbed or merely a sado-masochist.  His bigotry against Islam is the most anti-intellectual sort of notions that has developed in this young century.  Here's the great rebuttal by Reza Aslan:

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