Ray Bradbury on JFK, Ronald Reagan and Sensible Economics

From Listen to the Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews by Sam Weller
(Brooklyn NY: Melville House, 2010), 170-171.

WELLER: Do you consider yourself conservative, liberal, or moderate?

BRADBURY: You mustn’t put labels on people. This is what is important: Somebody somewhere along the line had to give the taxes back to the people. Roosevelt never did it, Hoover never did it. They could have cured the Depression in 1932 when my father was out of work for ten years. My father suffered. They should have given him back his tax money. Nobody thought of that, and nobody did anything. Kennedy was the first to experiment with it. The year before he died, there were a few experiments with giving the taxes back, but there was never the chance to really experiment fully, and he died. So it was never mentioned again until Reagan came along and cut the taxes, and then we began to get jobs. When he came into office, there were millions of people unemployed. He lowered taxes all over the United States and created millions of jobs. . . . So Reagan’s experiment worked. That’s not being conservative, that’s not being anything except sensible.

WELLER: Sounds to me like fiscal conservative thinking.

BRADBURY: No, no. No labels. I don’t believe in them.

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Was Adolf Hitler a Christian?

During a recent exchange on Twitter, a number of atheists repeatedly claimed that Adolf Hitler was a Catholic Christian. Beyond the Godwinian implications of that claim, it’s clearly not true.

However, I certainly understand why atheists want it to be true.

The claim that Hitler was a Catholic Christian is lent superficial credibility by the fact that Hitler did claim in his political speeches and writings to be a Christian. One atheist on Twitter referred me to this site, containing many such quotes. I haven’t vetted these quotes from Hitler’s political writings and speeches, but I will stipulate (for the sake of discussion) that Hitler did write and say them.

Clearly, a lot of atheists are more than willing to continue falling for Hitler’s political bilge. It takes monumental gullibility (or maybe just mind-warping antireligious prejudice) to take Hitler’s politicized claims at face value. A little critical thinking is in order.

Responsible, credible historians such as John Toland, Derek Hastings, and Alan Bullock do not give Hitler’s public religious pronouncements any credence. And with good reason, as we shall see.

Hitler was raised by a nominally Catholic father and a devoutly Catholic mother. As a boy, young Adolf attended one year of Catholic education. As an adult, Hitler recalled his early rejection of the Christian faith in one of his “table talk” conversations—private conversations that were taken down verbatim by a stenographer and recorded for history. On October 24, 1941, Hitler said:

The present system of teaching in schools permits the following absurdity: at 10 a.m. the pupils attend a lesson in the catechism, at which the creation of the world is presented to them in accordance with the teachings of the Bible; and at 11 a.m. they attend a lesson in natural science, at which they are taught the theory of evolution. Yet the two doctrines are in complete contradiction. As a child, I suffered from this contradiction, and ran my head against a wall. Often I complained to one or another of my teachers against what I had been taught an hour before — and I remember I drove them to despair.

The Christian religion tries to get out of it by explaining that one must attach a symbolic value to the images of Holy Writ. Any man who made the same claim four hundred years ago would have ended his career at the stake, with an accompaniment of Hosannas.  [Adolf Hitler, Hitler’s Secret Conversations, 1941-1944 (New York: Octagon Books, 1972), 69.]

Hitler’s acquaintances from his boyhood and early adulthood said that he frequently expressed open contempt for Christianity, and some tell the story of how, as a boy, after receiving the Eucharistic host at Mass, he desecrated it by spitting it out and shoving it in his pocket.

Here are the findings of historian Alan Bullock from Hitler: A Study in Tyranny:

Hitler had been brought up as a Catholic and was impressed by the organization and power of the Church. For the Protestant clergy he felt only contempt: ‘They are insignificant little people, submissive as dogs, and they sweat with embarrassment when you talk to them. They have neither any religion they can take seriously nor a great position to defend like Rome.’ It was ‘the great position’ of the Church that he respected; towards its teaching he showed the sharpest hostility. In Hitler’s eyes, Christianity was a religion fit only for slaves; he detested its ethics in particular. Its teaching, he declared, was a rebellion against the natural law of selection by struggle and the survival of the fittest. ‘Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure.’ From political considerations he restrained his anti-clericalism, seeing clearly the dangers of strengthening the Church by persecution. Once the war was over, he promised himself, he would root out and destroy the influence of the Christian Churches, but until then he would be circumspect. [Alan Bullock, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny: (New York: HarperPerennial, 1991), 219.]

Privately, Hitler rejected and detested Christianity. Publicly, in his speeches and in Mein Kampf, he spoke glowingly and approvingly of Christianity. As a canny politician and master manipulator, he knew what he needed to say in order to achieve and maintain his power—especially in Germany, with its large population of both Catholics and Lutheran Protestants. That’s why Hitler’s public pronouncements and his privately expressed views are so completely at odds.

Historian Derek Hastings, author of Catholicism and the Roots of Naziism, says that it is conceivable that Hitler might have been a believing Catholic as late as his 1924 trial for the failed “Beer Hall Putsch” coup attempt (he wrote Mein Kampf while in prison for that crime). But Hastings goes on to say that “there is little doubt that Hitler was a staunch opponent of Christianity throughout the duration of the Third Reich.” [Derek Hastings, Catholicism and the Roots of Naziism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 181.]

I could go on but the point is already well made: Those who claim that Adolf Hitler was a devout Catholic Christian can only do so out of ignorance—or out of sheer hypocrisy, antireligious bigotry, and intellectual dishonesty.

__________________________

Addendum:

One atheist on Twitter disputes my claim that the Soviet Union committed murder in the name of atheism. Here is some support for that claim:

“Practical atheism, enforced by government action, appeared in Russia following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Inspired by the thought of Marx, the Soviet government, assisted by voluntary organizations such as the League of Militant Atheists, disestablished the Russian Orthodox Church, killed clergy and committed believers, disbanded religious organizations, and destroyed churches and religious buildings.” —Peter N. Stearns, Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World: 1750 to the Present (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 278.

C. S. Lewis on the Real Meaning of “Progress” and Being “Progressive”

“Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”
—C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Some Thoughts on Taxation and Enslavement

“All the fiery rhetoric of the Founders was directed at a ‘tyrant’ who taxed his subjects at a rate of about 3 percent. Today, we in ‘the land of the free’ are taxed at about 50 percent when you add federal, state, and local taxes. What kind of government would do this? A dictatorship would.” —Doug Newman, Christian libertarian blogger

“It would be thought a hard government that should tax its people one tenth part.” —Benjamin Franklin

“The average American family head will be forced to do twenty years’ labor to pay taxes in his or her lifetime.” —James Bovard, Lost Rights

“Taxes consume half the family budget. Medieval serfs only gave a third to the lord of the manor. Serfs were slaves; what does that make us?” —Anonymous

“Taxation of earnings from labor is on a par with forced labor. Seizing the results of someone’s labor is equivalent to seizing hours from him and directing him to carry on various activities.” —Robert Nozick, Harvard philosopher

“In levying taxes and in shearing sheep, it is well to stop when you get down to the skin.” —Austin O’Malley

“Taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed.” —Robert A. Heinlein

“The man who produces while others dispose of his product is a slave.” —Ayn Rand

Cosmic Fine-Tuning in Science Fiction

In his science fiction short story “What Continues, What Fails…,” space scientist and Hugo/Nebula-winning author David Brin delves into the deep questions surrounding the mystery of cosmic fine-tuning (the anthropic principle):

The universal rules of Isola’s home cosmos were rife with such fine-tuning. Numbers which, had they been different by even one part in a trillion, would not have allowed subtleties like planets or seas, sunsets and trees.

Some called this evidence of design. Master craftsmanship. Creativity. Creator.

Others handled the coincidence facilely. “If things were different,” they claimed, “there would be no observers to note the difference. So it’s no surprise that we, who exist, observe around us the precise conditions needed for existence!

“Besides, countless other natural constants seem to have nothing special about their values. Perhaps it’s just a matter of who is doing the calculating!”

Hand-waving, all hand-waving. Neither answer satisfied Isola when she delved into true origins. Creationists, Anthropicists, they all missed the point.

Everything has to come from somewhere. Even a creator. Even coincidence.

God Bless Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury passed away on Tuesday, June 5, 2012. I only met him once, in the spring of 2007, plus we exchanged a few letters and a phone call over the years. But his impact on my life was immense. I would probably not be a writer today if not for the influence of Ray Bradbury. I have spent countless hours, from my boyhood to the present day, reading his stories and exploring his imagination.

One of the themes of my life and my writing is that science and religion are fully compatible fields of inquiry. They are NOT (as Stephen Jay Gould has called them) “non-overlapping magisteria,” mutually exclusive domains. Science and religion should support and empower each other in the search for truth, knowledge, meaning, and an understanding of who we are, where we came from, and why we exist in this universe. Many of my favorite writers have written on this theme (from a wide variety of viewpoints), including C. S. Lewis, Walter M. Miller, Jr., James Blish, Madeleine L’Engle, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert J. Sawyer, David Brin—

And, of course, Ray Bradbury. Here’s a brief passage from my favorite Bradbury novel, The Martian Chronicles:

The captain nodded. “Tell me about [the Martian civilization],” he said, waving his hand at the mountain towns.

[Spender replied:] “They knew how to live with nature and get along with nature. They didn’t try too hard to be all men and no animal. That’s the mistake we made when Darwin showed up. We embraced him and Huxley and Freud, all smiles. And then we discovered that Darwin and our religions didn’t mix. Or at least we didn’t think they did. We were fools. We tried to budge Darwin and Huxley and Freud. They wouldn’t move very well. So, like idiots, we tried knocking down religion.

“We succeeded pretty well. We lost our faith and went around wondering what life was for. If art was no more than a frustrated outflinging of desire, if religion was no more than self-delusion, what good was life? Faith had always given us answers to all things. But it all went down the drain with Freud and Darwin. We were and still are a lost people.”

“And these Martians are a found people?” inquired the captain.

“Yes. They knew how to combine science and religion so the two worked side by side, neither denying the other, each enriching the other.”

Beautiful thoughts, profound insight. I agree with Ray’s Martians, of course. Here’s something else Ray Bradbury once said—and though I don’t know that he intended this particular interpretation, I take these words as Ray’s intuitive affirmation of the fine-tuning (anthropic) argument for the existence of God:

“We are an impossibility in an impossible universe.”

Yes we are. We live our impossible lives inside a universe that defies explanation. Every human life is a miracle of rare device—and Ray’s life was more miraculous than most. It’s going to be a lot harder living on this planet now that Ray Bradbury is no longer on it. A lot harder.

Thank you, Ray, and God bless you.

C. S. Lewis on the Tyranny of the Nanny State

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. ”

C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock
(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1972), 292.

Wisdom about Wealth, Poverty, and Freedom

“We have no right to judge the rich. We do not believe in class struggle but class encounter where the rich save the poor and the poor save the rich.”
—Mother Teresa

“Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.”
—Milton Friedman

“The care of every man’s soul belongs to himself. But what if he neglect the care of it? Well what if he neglect the care of his health or his estate, which would more nearly relate to the state. Will the magistrate make a law that he not be poor or sick? Laws provide against injury from others; but not from ourselves. God himself will not save men against their wills.”
—Thomas Jefferson

“Tariffs, quotas and other import restrictions protect the business of the rich at the expense of high cost of living for the poor. Their intent is to deprive you of the right to choose, and to force you to buy the high-priced inferior products of politically favored companies.”
—Alan Burris

“The more laws and restrictions there are, the poorer the people become.”
—Lao Tsu

“The higher entry standards imposed by licensing laws reduce the supply of professional services … The poor are the net losers, because the availability of low-cost service has been reduced. In essence, the poor subsidize the information research costs of the rich.”
S. David Young

“Liberals believe government should take people’s earnings to give to poor people. Conservatives disagree. They think government should confiscate people’s earnings and give them to farmers and insolvent banks. The compelling issue to both conservatives and liberals is not whether it is legitimate for government to confiscate one’s property to give to another, the debate is over the disposition of the pillage.”
Walter Williams

“Politics is the art of obtaining money from the rich and votes from the poor on the pretext of protecting each from the other.”
—Anonymous

“Somehow, the fact that more poor people are on welfare, receiving more generous payments, does not seem to have made this country a nice place to live – not even for the poor on welfare, whose condition seems not noticeably better than when they were poor and off welfare. Something appears to have gone wrong; a liberal and compassionate social policy has bred all sorts of unanticipated and perverse consequences.”
Irving Kristol

“You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”
John Henry Boetker

“When democratic governments create economic calamity, free markets get the blame.”
—Jack Kemp

“The historical debate is over. The answer is free-market capitalism.”
—Thomas Friedman

“If there are still honest-smart men and women within those old and noble traditions, they should think carefully, observe and diagnose the illness. They should face the contradiction. Discuss the conflation. And then do as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates and many others have done. Choose the miracle of creative competition over an idolatry of cash.”
—David Brin

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
C. S. Lewis

“Government cannot make man richer, but it can make him poorer.”
—Ludwig von Mises

“May Your Chains Sit Lightly Upon You…”

“Contemplate the mangled bodies of your countrymen, and then say ‘what should be the reward of such sacrifices?’ Bid us and our posterity bow the knee, supplicate the friendship and plough, and sow, and reap, to glut the avarice of the men who have let loose on us the dogs of war to riot in our blood and hunt us from the face of the earth?

“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom — go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen.”

Samuel Adams
Speech before the State House of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, August 1, 1776.

Is American Decline Inevitable?

The New Reagan Revolution

“Congressman Mike Pence told an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), ‘You know, I am told that officials in [the Obama] administration will actually admit in private that they see their job as “managing American decline.” So let me say from my heart, the job of the American president is not to manage American decline. The job of the American president is to reverse it.’

“Charles Krauthammer, in his Wriston Lecture at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, October 5, 2009, said, ‘The question of whether America is in decline cannot be answered yes or no. There is no yes or no. Both answers are wrong, because the assumption that somehow there exists some predetermined inevitable trajectory . . . is wrong. Nothing is inevitable. Nothing is written. For America today, decline is not a condition. Decline is a choice.’

“If America fails, a new Dark Age awaits. So the failure of our ‘City on a Hill’ is not an option. No matter how this dangerous world threatens, no matter how cravenly our leaders respond to those threats, we who truly love America and cherish freedom do not have to accept decline. We choose faith, hope, and love of liberty. We choose optimism. We choose to ignite a revolution to restore America—a New Reagan Revolution.

“As Krauthammer said, ‘Decline—or continued ascendancy—is in our hands.'”

—Michael Reagan, The New Reagan Revolution: How Ronald Reagan’s Principle Can Restore America’s Greatness Today.