It will be noted that Schopenhauer's philosophy sounds a great deal like Charles Darwin's in that both insist man is, to quote one classic definition, "the result of a purposeless and materialistic process that did not have him in mind." According to Darwin and his many proponents, man was nothing other than the result of a mindless interaction of matter and energy whereby those traits best adapted to survival were passed on while those species which lacked advantageous traits were killed off by natural selection. No loving Creator was involved, just the random accident of matter and energy.
However, it will also be noted that Schopenhauer died in 1860, the year after Darwin published his Origin of Species. So Schopenhauer is not deriving his atheism from some new scientific discovery disproving the existence of a Creator God. Rather, he demonstrates he was living in an age whose elites were already ripe to hear that nature, not God, was the basic principle of our existence. Darwin simply lent (or seemed to lend) scientific credibility to that fundamentally metaphysical judgment. Darwin, more than any other thinker in the 19th century, gave force to the idea that human beings were not creatures made in the image and likeness of God, but were instead simply unusually clever pieces of meat whose brains, heart, and body and soul were as much the result of a series of accidents as the shape of a pig's nose. In the words of his disciple, Ernst Haeckel, the "modern science of evolution has shown that there never was any such creation, but that the universe is eternal and the law of substance all-ruling." Accordingly, "the myth of the conception and birth of Jesus Christ is mere fiction, and is at the same stage of superstition as a hundred other myths of other religions." For, according to Haeckel, when Darwin "shattered the dogma of anthropocentrism" by allegedly showing human beings to be as much a product of chance every other species on earth, he smashed the "boundless presumption of conceited man [that] has misled him into making himself 'the image of God,' claiming an 'eternal life' for his ephemeral personality".
Schopenhauer had a huge influence on a number of philosophers, but perhaps his greatest disciple was Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche too proclaimed the death of God. However, Nietzsche was not content with Schopenhauer's gloomy pessimism. If life was a power struggle, Nietzsche was not content to lose or call it a draw. He wanted to win! Watching a cavalry battalion march past during the Franco-Prussian War, Nietzsche had yet another of the many epiphanies that seemed to characterize 19th century thinkers:
I felt for the first time that the strongest and highest Will to Life does not find expression in a miserable struggle for existence, but in a Will to War, a Will to Power, a Will to Overpower.
Nietzsche, like Schopenhauer, never doubted for a moment that our origins were the result of chance. However, he did not want to take chances with destiny. Since God was dead, we were on our own. Therefore, may the best man win. So Nietzsche proclaimed the doctrine of the Superman who imposed his will on the world and defined good and evil, not by appeals to some mythical god, but by his own Will to Power. Naturally, he hated Christianity as a "secret instinct of destruction, a principle of calumny, a reductive agentthe beginning of the endand, for that very reason, the Supreme Danger."
Others shared Nietzsche's dream of a race of Supermen. But they sought to achieve it, not by the Will to Power, but by treating humans like livestock and improving the breed. This school of thought was not an aberration from Darwin's thought but merely an elaboration of it. Darwin himself had made clear that
At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes [that is, the ones who look the most like savages in structure]... will no doubt be exterminated. The break will then be rendered wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope... the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as at present between the Negro or Australian and the gorilla.
And so, at the conclusion of his Descent of Man, he points the way for the European race to become the Master Race or simply (once inferior races have been exterminated) the human race:
Man scans with scrupulous care the character and pedigree of his horses, cattle, and dogs before he matches them; but when he comes to his own marriage he rarely, or never, takes such care. [Therefore] both sexes ought to refrain from marriage if in any marked degree inferior in body or mind.
Darwin's cousin, Francis Galton could not have agreed more. Concurring with so many leading thinkers that we are creatures who owe our being, not to God, but to a fortuitous collision of matter and energy, Galton built on Darwin's work by founding a new science of human breeding which he called "eugenics". Galton had no truck with the mysticism of the Judeo-Christian tradition (enshrined in documents like the Declaration of Independence) that "all men are created equal":
I have no patience with the hypothesis occasionally expressed, and often implied, especially in tales written to teach children to be good, that babies are born pretty much alike, and that the sole agencies in creating differences between boy and boy, and man and man, are steady application and moral effort. It is in the most unqualified manner that I object to pretensions of natural equality.
Galton fancied himself a hard-headed scientific thinker. So he naturally constructed what seemed to him a scientific hierarchy of "grades" by which he rated the various races of homo sapiens. It turned out that Galton rated "Negroes" very low, commenting that "mistakes the Negroes made in their matters were so childish, stupid and simpleton-like, as frequently to make me ashamed of my own species" Happily for Galton, he himself belonged to the superior race of Anglo-Saxons, with its wonderful genetic traits capable of "producing judges, statesmen, commanders, men of literature and science, poets, artists, and divines." And, Galton believed, we must make it our goal to better the race still more by selective breeding and the weeding out of the "unfit". Inferiors, he thought, should be treated "with all kindness" so long as they complied with the demand of their betters for celibacy. But if they dared to breed "such persons would be considered as enemies to the State, and to have forfeited all claims to kindness."
Others had a slightly different view of the State, though not of the human person. Herbert Spencer, for instance, had a more libertarian approach. It was Spencer, not Darwin, who coined the phrase "survival of the fittest". He founded the school of thought called "Social Darwinism" which advocated letting nature take its course (without the interference of government or religion) in eliminating the lower types of humanity in favor of the "fit". Many advocates of laissez-faire capitalism agreed with him, seeing the winners in the capitalist system as "fit" and the toiling masses in sweatshops, miserable and hazardous working conditions, and wretched poverty as the losers in nature's colorful pageant of survival. Against backward religious obscurantists who advocated sentimental ideas like "blessed are the poor", Spencer basically championed the notion articulated by an earlier Social Darwinist named Ebenezer Scrooge: "If they would rather die they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."
Highly Advanced Scientific Thought and New Religious Ideas produced a new and radical politics of race. Haeckel's gung-ho Darwinism saw the "Teutonic race" as the most highly evolved and insisted "lower races (such as the Veddahs or Australian Negroes) are psychologically nearer to the mammals (apes and dogs) than to civilized Europeans". For that reason, said Haeckel, "we must... assign a totally different value to their lives". Because of the crucial importance of preserving the purity of the breed (an importance agreed upon by Galton, Spencer, and Darwin), Haeckel believed that "the nation-state represented the unifying organic power by which the race was naturally organized" and that "the good of the individual was subsumed under the good of the race as directed by the racially defined state." Such a state had both the right and the responsibility to eliminate the possibility of inferior blood polluting the gene pool of the Master Race. Another enthusiastic student of this school of thought concurred, declaring in his book Mein Kampf that:
The folkish philosophy finds the importance of mankind in its basic racial elements. In the state it sees on principle only a means to an end and construes its end as the preservation of the racial existence of man. Thus, it by no means believes in an equality of the races, but along with their difference it recognizes their higher or lesser value and feels itself obligated, through this knowledge, to promote the victory of the better and stronger, and demand the subordination of the inferior and weaker in accordance with the eternal will that dominates this universe.
If that language about the "eternal will that dominates the universe" sounds Nietzschean, that's because it is. Hitler felt himself to embody that "eternal will" to power and to sum up in himself the German Race and therefore, by right, the German state. And since, as he believed, the German race was the highest expression of this mysterious "will" pervading nature, it was not very difficult to take the final blasphemous step once his power over the German State was consolidated:
When a Nazi journal asked readers what "the Fuhrer means to them", typical responses included:
"The Fuhrer is the visible personal expression of what in our youth was represented as God."
"I have never felt the Divine Power as near as in the greatness of our Fuhrer."
"What the Fuhrer has given me is not only a political ideology, but also a religion."
"How shall I put in words what I feel for my Fuhrer... I look up to him now as I prayed to God in my childhood..."
"[The Fuhrer] is the bread of which the soul stands in need. I would like to say openly that the high teaching of the Fuhrer is to me a religion, the German religion!"
"Adolf Hitler means the same as the word God means to a fanatical and orthodox Christian."
Nietzsche, who once said "Better to be God!", would be proud. Prouder still was the fallen angel who once said, "You will be like god, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:5). For few men have ever served him better than Hitler, who not only launched a race war costing 50,000,000 lives, but deliberately murdered 11,000,000 peoplesix million of them Jews, two million of them Poles, as well as various othersfor the crime of belonging to "inferior stock".
Hitler was not alone in his mania of murdering for the sake of the race, nationality, or ethnicity. Lots of different people are capable of exalting their own particular bloodline over God as the object of worship and examples can be multiplied forever: Iraqi over Kurd, Turk over Armenian, Hutu over Tutsi. And let no one think that mere membership in some religious groupeven the Catholic Churchautomatically immunizes people from the corrupting effects of "blood worship". During World War II, for instance, Croatian Catholics slaughtered Serbs in death camps like Jasenovac. One of the inmates was a Croatian named Vladko Macek, who witnessed the massacres:
In his memoirs, Macek writes that there was a Catholic chapel in the death camp where priests heard confession. On seeing one Ustasha torturer emerge from confessing his sins, Macek asked him if he was not afraid of the judgment of God. "Don't talk to me about that," he was told. "I am perfectly aware of what is in store for me. For my past, present and future sins I will burn in hell. But at least I will burn for Croatia."
The Philosophies of Pride, whether exalting race or class above Christ, have proved inviting enough to man's fallen nature that they could distort the history of nations and even supplant the Gospel in the minds of many.
The United States was not immune, either. Similar notions found a home right here, not merely among organizations like the Ku Klux Klan, but among the educated elites. The Eugenics movement, for instance, found a warm welcome in the United States and programs to forcibly sterilize roughly 60,000 of the Unfit were enacted. In one famous case (Buck v. Bell, 1927), the forcible sterilization of a mentally disabled black woman was upheld by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.himself a student of eugenicswith the brutally clear words:
It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes. Three generations of imbeciles are enough.
Between 1932 and 1972, the U.S. government conducted a medical experiment on a group of poor and uneducated Americans. They were black men suffering from syphilis, a deadly sexually transmitted disease, who had sought medical assistance. The nature of their illness was kept secret; they were told they had "bad blood." The government and its doctors pretended to help the men, but in reality they just studied the fatal progress of the disease. By 1972, 29 of the men had died horribly of syphilis, 100 had died of related complications, 40 of the men's wives had contracted the disease, and 19 of the men's children had been born with congenital syphilis. "Thus," as Hitler would have said, the United States government ably demonstrated that it by no means believed in "an equality of the races, but along with their difference" recognized "their higher or lesser value" and felt "obligated, through this knowledge, to promote the victory of the better and stronger, and demand the subordination of the inferior and weaker in accordance with the eternal will that dominates this universe."
Like-minded eugenicists in Germany took even more terrible steps to deal with what they deemed to be "lives unworthy of life." This resulted, as we know, in millions of outright deaths. And as the Master Race needed medical research, it also became thinkable, not simply to kill unworthy lives, but to subject them to medical experimentation for the sake of the Worthy. At Dachau, for instance, Reich physicians, eager to find a prevention for hypothermia and reduce the number of pilots who died when they were forced to bail out over the English Channel, immersed prisoners in vats of freezing water till they diedand then dissected them. Other Unfit humans suffered mass sterilization. And, of course, millions were simply gassed and cremated.
All this was, of course, made widely known after the war and so the word "eugenics" (which had previously had a wonderful ring of Hard-Headed Scientific Realism Against Religious Yokelism) suddenly fell on hard times.
Here in the United States, one unfortunate woman suffered terrible setbacks as a result of this public relations catastrophe. Her name was Margaret Sanger, and she had spent years warning against the growth of "human weeds", speaking to Ku Klux Klan rallies, opining that the "aboriginal Australian" was "the lowest known species of the human family, just a step higher than the chimpanzee in brain development", and warning the New York legislature that
The Jewish people and Italian families who are filling the insane asylums, who are filling our feeble-minded institutions, these are the ones the tax payers have to pay for the upkeep of, and they are increasing the budget of the State, the enormous expense of the State is increasing because of the multiplication of the unfit in this country and in the State.
Sanger even dreamed of establishing a vast American concentration camp for "morons, mental defectives, epileptics... illiterates, paupers, unemployables, criminals, prostitutes, [and] dope-fiends". In all, she wanted to forcibly imprison about one-seventh of the entire American population. Needless to say, she was an enthusiastic supporter of the pioneering eugenics done by doctors of the Third Reich. For years, her slogan summed up a philosophy warmly received by her colleagues in Hitler's scientific elite: "Birth Control: To Create a Race of Thoroughbreds!"
The problem for Margaret Sanger was that all this became a tough sell in the post-war years, what with pictures of Dachau and Auschwitz circulating in classrooms and history books. So the organization she had founded changed its marketing strategy. Instead of encouraging Americans to worship racial purity, Planned Parenthood instead seized on the much more salable notion (pioneered by Freud) that we should throw off the shackles of guilt and responsibility and worship sex. This was sold as "Birth Control" but the practical outcome was, as Chesterton famously remarked, "No birth and no control."
The outcome of this story is a catalogue of human misery: Massive STD rates, a contraceptive culture in which love and fruitfulness are damned as hindrances to sexual pleasure, the ever-increasing sexualization of childhood, and 1.5 million abortions in the United States alone each year. And so, as Pope John Paul II said, "The cemetery of the victims of human cruelty in our century is extended to include yet another vast cemetery, that of the unborn."
During his eight days as a part-time high school biology teacher, Kris Helphinstine included Biblical references in material he provided to students and gave a PowerPoint presentation that made links between evolution, Nazi Germany and Planned Parenthood.
I'm very sympathetic to the man, and obviously there would be no serious action at all if a liberal teacher did something similar on his side of the political line.
However, teachers in public schools who want to get students thinking outside the liberal box need to be VERY CAREFUL. If they go about this frontally, without subtlety and "plausible deniability," they're screwed -- and so are the students who they won't get to teach.
Sounds like she got fired for trying to inject political science into a biology class lesson.
Modern atheists like those of the classical world are also pious. But the worship they offer is not to the gods of Rome but to the gods of the modern state. Political correctness is nothing more than the piety of the infidel.
Funny to think of Sanger and other Nazis in the same light as AKC showdogs so imbred they can't be taught to crap outdoors...but man they look pretty.
That's a good post.
At lest regarding the Nazis (I'm no expert on Planned Parenthood) that claim is extremely overblown, and can only be made in the most superficial fashion.
The were pre-Nazi figures who incorporated evolution into a system of "scientific" racism (e.g. Ernst Haeckel) but the Nazis had no sustained and systematic interest in Darwin or evolution. Sure, they mentioned it and occasionally appealed to it in a kind of naive "survival of the fittest" form, but it is all but absent from explicit expositions of their racial theories.
In fact the Nazis were creationists, albeit of a "mystical" sort that wouldn't be attractive to most modern fundamentalists. They believed in a kind of "racial soul" that was carried "in the blood". Hitler held this view at least in a general sense. It's most literal form of can be found in the most complete and authoritative exposition of Nazi race theory: Alfred Rosenberg's The Myth of the Twentieth Century.
The Creator made each race separately with their distinctive "racial souls" which gave them different characters and destinies. (The Aryans' destiny, of course, was to conquer and rule over other, lesser races.)
The purity of these race souls and been sullied since the creation by race mixing. The Nazis' aim then was precisely to REVERSE evolution. They wanted to purify "the blood" and thereby restore the primeval purity of the racial soul as it was originally created.
"What the Fuhrer has given me is not only a political ideology, but also a religion."
Eerily similar to the mindset of the MoveOn fanatics...
If the teacher used his remarks as a stimulus to discussion and viewpoints, rather than indoctrination, it would not seem unusual or improper.
Not surprising in Communist Oregon. Another atheist "protecting" his young! Wish we had that teacher's email address so we could show support for him.