Bad Ideas Have Consequences

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Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor who endured the horrors of Auschwitz, astutely commented on the way that modern European thought had helped prepare the way for Nazi atrocities (and his own misery). He stated, “If we present a man with a concept of man which is not true, we may well corrupt him. When we present man as an automaton of reflexes, as a mind-machine, as a bundle of instincts, as a pawn of drives and reactions, as a mere product of instinct, heredity, and environment, we feed the nihilism to which modern man is, in any case, prone. I became acquainted,” Frankl continued, “with the last stage of that corruption in my second concentration camp, Auschwitz. The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment—or, as the Nazi liked to say, of ‘Blood and Soil.’ I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some Ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in the lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers.”[1]

–Richard Weikart
The Dehumanizing Impact of Modern Thought
Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, and Their Followers
http://www.independent.org/publications/article.asp?id=2274

[1] Viktor E. Frankl, The Doctor and the Soul: From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy (New York: Vintage Books, 1986), xxvii.

When Self-Sacrifice is Stupidity

kolbe-2One need only consider the highest Christian ethic of “Greater love hath no man” and thereafter ask oneself what conceivable secular rationale could justify the death of St. Kolbe [a Polish Franciscan friar, who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the German death camp of Auschwitz]. True, such tales of self-sacrifice cannot but impose themselves on the sensitive human heart. But if there is truth to the secular doctrine that the ephemeral life — this eye-blink in the history of the universe that we call Self — is the only thing that any living being will ever possess, then the ultimate act of love really turns out to be the ultimate act of stupidity. And since one can just as easily be desensitized to love, we can hardly rely with any confidence on the sensitive human heart.

From the Christian perspective, self-sacrifice is of course an act of love in the sense that it is an act of faith, which also happens to be the theological justification for the very virtue of faith, namely that if the existence of God and the full consequence of any act (both finite and eternal) were obvious to us, it would render altruism impossible. But any act from which the Self cannot possibly profit simply has no rational justification in the secular, even in the sense of one’s deeds reverberating through the future of humanity, which at any rate is just as doomed to die as the Self (and these days possibly not long afterward). I may therefore assume with confidence that if we are indeed living in the secular world, the only thing of ultimate importance is incontrovertibly the precious thing that is me — my thoughts, my feelings, my determinations — my experience of reality… It would be quite superfluous . . . to demonstrate that the secularist is inclined to egotism, though it is quite demonstrable that it would be quite illogical for her to be inclined to anything else, so long as she is unable to afford sufficient reason for placing ultimate value elsewhere…

–Bo Jinn, 
Utopia, The Secular Delusion