Via Ophelia I was unfortunate enough to find this piece of drivel written by British ex-PM Tony Blair, entitled Without God's Truth at its centre, no community can fulfil its potential. Really? “No community can fulfil its potential”? None? I guess the Danes and the Swedes must be pretty unfulfilled, then. Oh wait, no they’re not!
But Blair doesn’t need facts, or even a valid argument. See how he starts by invoking something he thinks we can all agree on - the recent financial crisis:
The limits to individualism are in one sense plain. We only need to contemplate the financial crisis to understand that the pursuit of maximum short-term profit, without proper regard to the communal good, is a mistake and leads to neither profit nor good.
A reasonable point to make. Arguments could be made for this point or against it, and we could certainly compare their merits and decide if the pursuit of maximum short-term profit was to blame or not. But Blair isn’t going this route. Instead, the waffle starts:
Yet, at a deeper level, the case against a purely individualistic or materialistic philosophy has to be made. Young people today have access to technology, to opportunity, to experiences good and bad on a scale my generation never knew and my father's generation would find fantastical, like something out of science fiction.
“Yet, at a deeper level…”? What does that even mean? What “level” is he talking about? Deeper than what? Measured how? Why does this case have to be made? What does modern technology have to do with it? Will Blair tell us? Of course not. His argument has no explanation (nor logic or evidence), just assertion:
The danger is clear: that pursuit of pleasure becomes an end in itself. It is here that faith can step in, can show us a proper sense of duty to others, responsibility for the world around us, and can lead us to, as the Holy Father calls it, caritas in veritate.
Of course – this is where faith can step in. Obviously. Because what we need is obviously to believe in more things that are not backed by evidence. That’s the ticket. Accepting more things without a shred of evidence, or even in the teeth of evidence, is just what we need now. After all, it worked so well in the past. Note that Blair has shown absolutely no connection between this and the financial crisis he started his article with.
After the experience of fascism, Soviet Communism or viewing life in North Korea or the cultural revolution in China, it is easier for us to grasp the dangers of a too-powerful state.
Agreed. Also, religiously controlled Iran, Saudi Arabia, The Taliban, Sudan... And don’t forget, Hitler was religiously inspired. No dangers of a too-powerful state there, no siree. Phew, good job that faith “stepped in” to prevent the dangers of a too-powerful state. Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth) my ass.
Of course, the regimes of Soviet Communism, China or North Korea were/are not exactly bastions of rationality and critical thinking either. They were/are quasi religious regimes based largely on faith (no evidence their systems worked). They just required faith in something else, not the things Tony Blair has faith in, so that was the bad faith, not the good faith, right Tony? Right.
But I would argue that even the concept of community has its limitations. We use the word in two senses: one to distinguish it from government, to emphasise civic society if you like; the other sense is just to describe the general community of public opinion. In politics, of course, especially in a democracy, "the people" are the boss; public opinion is to be courted and if not surrendered to, as (sic) least managed.
“The people" are the boss”? Funny, I didn’t think the people of Britain supported the war in Iraq. In what sense were the people “the boss” when that decision was being made? But at least Blair admits that the only thing politicians have to do is manage public opinion, not actually, you know, listen to it in any way. Otherwise known as spin.
Of course, Blair is saving up for his big finish, where faith and belief in god is the only thing that can save us:
It is here that Faith enlarges and enriches the idea of community. The recent Papal Encyclical is a remarkable document in many respects. It repays reading and re-reading. But one strand throughout it is a strong rejoinder to the notion of relativism, to the description of the human condition in society as just some amoral negotiation or set of compromises with modernity; or even just obedience to the majority opinion. Not that it is anti-technology or anti-modern; or indeed anti-democratic. But it widens and deepens the relationship between individuals and the community in which they live. It puts God's Truth at the centre of it. In one passage, it describes humanism devoid of faith as "inhuman humanism": "Without God, man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is."
Blair’s catholic church had such a strong moral compass that it allowed multiple serial pedophiles to prey on innocent children in church while protecting the predators from the law, and the rape and molestation of thousands of children in over 250 catholic schools for decades. Hey Tony, do those articles I just linked repay reading and re-reading too? Caritas in Veritate.
Faith is such a good moral guidance that one in every 33 women who attend worship services regularly has been the target of sexual advances by a religious leader. In what sense did faith enlarge and enrich the idea of community for those women? Do tell.
Of course, I see it now. The 9/11 hijackers were motivated only by “a purely individualistic or materialistic philosophy” and “pursuit of pleasure.” If only they had had some religious faith instead, all that horror could have been avoided. Yeah, what we need is more faith in the world. How could I possibly have missed this obvious conclusion?
And this twit was Prime Minister?