February 14, 2005

HOW'D THAT REVOLUTION WORK OUT? (via Robert Schwartz):

Health of men in Russia is rapidly declining (MARK MCDONALD, 2/10/05, Knight Ridder Newspapers)

[T]he average Russian man isn't expected to see his 59th birthday. Men in Bangladesh live longer.

"Normally only during wartime do we see the kind of decreases in men's longevity that we've seen recently in Russia," said Vladimir I. Simanenkov, the head of the department of internal diseases at the St. Petersburg Medical Academy and a senior official with the city's Public Health Committee.

Government statistics show that the average Russian man lives 58.6 years, compared with 73 years for the average Russian woman. In 1990, life expectancy for men was 63.4 years.

The reasons sound simple: Russian men drink too much, smoke too much, live with too much stress and go to the doctor too rarely.

The consequences are anything but simple, however. Russia's erupting men's health crisis could trigger major social or political unrest in a nation with huge stockpiles of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

Russia one day could even become incapable of patrolling its borders or policing vast expanses of rural emptiness, creating new havens for smugglers, terrorists and others. Military leaders already complain that most new draftees are so unfit, drug-addled or psychologically damaged that only about 10 percent are capable of withstanding boot camp.

Death rates are soaring for stroke, lung cancer, stomach cancer, TB and heart disease, the nation's No. 1 killer with a rate double that of American men.

Murray Feshbach, an expert on Russian health and demographics at the Smithsonian Institution's Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, says the situation will grow worse.

He said the country's HIV/AIDS infection rates rival those of southern Africa, and that Russia is undercounting deaths from the disease by attributing many of them to secondary infections such as tuberculosis. By 2020, he said in a telephone interview, HIV/AIDS alone is projected to kill 250,000 to 648,000 Russians a year.

Hepatitis C, mostly caused by intravenous drug use, also is poised to explode, Feshbach said.

In the next 20 years, according to Goskomstat, the state statistics agency, the Russian National Security Council and the United Nations Population Division, Russia's population of 144 million could drop by a third.


It's an open question whether a society can ever recover from secularization.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 14, 2005 4:58 PM
Comments

And what about from secularization by starvation?

Posted by: Paul Cella at February 14, 2005 5:17 PM

I would think that Russia's ill come more from having to show how bad Socialism and other Leftists ideas can be in practice.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at February 14, 2005 5:26 PM

Russia, beguiled and coerced, danced with the culture of death and is now a vision of lingering rot. Amazing that France, Germany, Spain, etc. are not in a panic. "Me today, you tomorrow."

Posted by: Luciferous at February 14, 2005 6:15 PM

Socialism truly makes me believe in Satan.

Posted by: Andrew X at February 14, 2005 6:45 PM

If a society provides its people with no opportunity and a threshhold level of consumer products designed to keep them quiescent, this is what happens.

Posted by: Bart at February 14, 2005 6:52 PM

It might be, except secularization isn't what happened to Russia.

Communism is every bit as much of a religion as Christianity.

That its deities weren't supernatural is merely a distinction without difference.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 14, 2005 7:18 PM

I'm pretty sure David has already put forth the argument that Secularism is a religion. Communism, I imagine, is a sect thereof.

The important difference between the two religions is that Christianity doesn't destroy cultures, it saves them.

Posted by: Timothy at February 14, 2005 7:22 PM

Tell us, Jeff, is there any evil in all of history to which you feel even remotely linked through your ideals and beliefs or do yours leave you bathing in a pure white light of goodness?

Posted by: Peter B at February 14, 2005 7:40 PM

Jeff:

Yes, it's one of the three major secular replacement religions--along with Darwinism and Freudianism. Freud may have done the most social damage but has the least blood on its hands.

Posted by: oj at February 14, 2005 8:02 PM

Ah, yes, Lenin and Stalin weren't "true Scotsmen." Next.

Posted by: Captain Curmudgeonly at February 14, 2005 8:17 PM

Peter:

Tell us, Jeff, is there any evil in all of history to which you feel even remotely linked through your ideals and beliefs or do yours leave you bathing in a pure white light of goodness?

How about listing the characteristics of an organized religion, then comparing them with Communism.

Many historians view both both Communism and Nazism as religions. (For one example, "The Triumph of Western Civilization.")

Timothy:

I missed that argument. But unless one can identify the sacred text, priesthood, deified entity, and the do-it-our-way-or-else clause, then just which characteristics does secularism share with organized religion?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 14, 2005 9:11 PM

Jeff:

More precisely, Marxism, Darwinism and Freudianism are considered to have obvious parallels to revealed religions.

Posted by: oj at February 14, 2005 9:18 PM

The Soviet Union was not secular, they were athiest. Secularism at least sort of accepts the existence of a god, but a god who knows his place (out of sight).

The U.S. is a religious country flirting with secularism, while Europe is a secular continent fast becoming athiestic.

The problem is athiesm, and secularism is dangerous because it is a degree closer to athiesm.

In Europe, and in our own bluer areas, people believe in nothing--they do not even believe that life is worth living. This explains their belief in abortion, euthanasia, and is the primary reason they don't have children. It is not merely that some lives aren't worth living, but that life in general has no value, not even their own.

Posted by: Ben Lange at February 14, 2005 10:30 PM

Jeff: It is a way of imposing order on the world, explains creation and purports to answer questions that cannot be answered rationally.

Posted by: David Cohen at February 14, 2005 11:49 PM

Or, to put it another way: There is no explanation but Science, and Occam is His razor.

Posted by: David Cohen at February 14, 2005 11:51 PM

Short as their lives are today, Russian men live longer than they did before Bolshevism.

How do you explain that?

Why didn't Orthodoxy save the Russian society, Timothy?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at February 15, 2005 12:03 AM

Harry:

Technology.

Posted by: oj at February 15, 2005 12:07 AM

Military leaders already complain that most new draftees are so unfit, drug-addled or psychologically damaged that only about 10 percent are capable of withstanding boot camp.

What do they expect? From what I've read, Russian military boot camp is pretty much a human rights violation in itself.

Posted by: PapayaSF at February 15, 2005 1:42 AM

Of course Marxism is a "religion'. As is atheism. They just happen to be the wrong religions, from a fitness standpoint.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at February 15, 2005 7:05 AM

The behavior of the adherents of Communism or Nazism for that matter resembles that of religious zealots of other stripes far more than it resembles that of mere political advocates. The Soviet Union illegalized the teaching of Hebrew, had closed all Jewish seminaries in the country by 1935, and had made all other religious groupings in the state be essentially subordinate to the intelligence services. The militantly secular French Jacobins did no such thing.

Religious zealotry is religious zealotry even if the State is substituted for the Divine.

Posted by: Bart at February 15, 2005 7:23 AM

Bart=

Robespierre vandalized Notre Dame and instituted the goddess of reason as the focus of worship. Reason was the state religion. Catholic clergy were murdered and humiliated as a result of official policy. The numbers would have been much greater had the state possesed the means.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at February 15, 2005 7:31 AM

Catholic clergy, who failed to swear allegiance to the state(non-juring clergy), were persecuted, others were not. Comparing it to the predations of the Soviets, the Khmer Rouge, Hoxha, Kim, etc is just laughable. It isn't even in the same league as how the PRC treats the unofficial Catholic Church, much less Falun Gong.

There were certainly people among the Jacobins who were loony enough to go all the way but they never held enough sway. Had they remained in power for a decade or so, perhaps they would have.

Posted by: Bart at February 15, 2005 8:06 AM

Bart:

There's no meaningful difference between the French Revolution and its successors except that it got easier to annihilate folks as institutions were destroyed over the centuries. Put the French Revolutionaries in a modern European nbation, where the Church and aristocracy are gone already and the state supreme and they'd boost their murder totals accordingly. Put Hitler in 18th Century Germany and his would go down.

Posted by: oj at February 15, 2005 8:18 AM

Well, it's nice to see that Nazism is no longer "Christianity". That's real progress.

The fact is that the "state" cannot tolerate competition if it doesn't acknowledge that its power comes from God. A "state" that cannot tolerate competition is forever suspicious of its citizens and is effectively their enemy.

All "statists" therefore are at least suspicious of (and most hate) the family, private property, capitalism and, above all, God.

Communism is only the end of such thinking; atheism is the beginning.

Posted by: Randall Voth at February 15, 2005 8:23 AM

I think the Vendee shows how the Jacobins were like the modern tyrannies. Anytime you have a group who wants to remake humanity, as opposes to simply seizing political power, you get trouble.

Secularization is simply the removal of the sacred from society. In the typical "soft" version, this is simply an excise of religion from government. In the "hard" version, totalitarians attempt to eliminate religion from society. Thus Communist Russia went beyond secularization.

That Communism duplicated many aspects of religion does not make it one though. Ultimately it was about replacing the transcendent, from which people can retire to and gain purpose, with the material world whether it be Lenin, Stalin, or simply the promises it made about material prosperity and equality.

But whereas true religion makes claims on the transcendent that rely on faith, Communism could very easily be judged on whether it achieved its promises, and thus was totally discredited. As such, it offers nothing of consolation to a lost people, which is what the Russians are.

Historically, people in misery and without a sense of purpose turn to religions for renewal and guidance. It does not matter whether this is Buddhism, Christianity, or the mystery cults of Isis, Serapis, Mithras and Dionysus.

This malaise in Russia will not last. The Russians, unlike the western Europeans, do not have the luxury of accumulated wealth to prolong it. There will be a religious revival there within 10-15 years, but who knows what form it will take?

Posted by: Chris Durnell at February 15, 2005 11:11 AM

Longer life through Bolshevism!

There's a winning proposition.

Posted by: jim hamlen at February 15, 2005 11:22 AM

Chris-

Marxism, like Darwinism or Freudianism, requires a surrender of intellect in accepting the metaphysical conclusions as well as a submission to the faith in order to put the faith in practice since it must be "believed' to be right. It is a materialistic faith dealing only with the world so physical coercion on a mass scale is easily justified. It has little in common with what you describe as traditional religion although it is a belief system like tradional religion. Religion is a belief in powers that control human destiny, as is Marxism and the others.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at February 15, 2005 12:26 PM

Tom C:

Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby.

Any religion requires surrendering intellect to the faith. This is where Marxism is a religion, and Darwinism and Freudianism are not. (Quick test--where is the do-it-our-way-or-else clause in the latter two?)

Chris:

That Communism duplicated many aspects of religion does not make it one though.

Why? Religions share certain characteristics; whether their supreme being is transcendant simply isn't one of them. In the NORK version of communism, their Dear Departed Great Leader is alleged to be transcendant. That isn't the quality that makes NORK communism a religion, and it isn't the absence of that quality that makes other versions of communism not religions.

My only point--and it is quite limited--is that calling secularism a religion empties the term of all meaning.

And failing to call Communism or Nazism religions simply because their deities are not transcendant, despite sharing all the other characteristics, is to miss the point: wedding state power to religion, any religion, is a recipe for very bad things.

You are very correct, though, in noting that Communism made its utopian claims in the here and now. Unlike transcendant religions, failure to deliver was out there in front of whatever your God happens to be, and every one else, to see.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 15, 2005 4:23 PM

Jeff:

Your need to believe that you uniquely haven't surrendered your intellect to the faith is why we keep you and Harry and company around. You're comic relief.

Posted by: oj at February 15, 2005 4:40 PM

Jeff-

In other words you are absolutely certain that there is no God? How do you know? You don't, you believe.

The fossil record does not support the original theory of Darwin regarding the origin of species, it is conjecture. Freud is almost pure faith and explains little. Epistomologically speaking. Atheism was a basis for Marx, naturalism for Darwin and social constructionsim/ moral relatavism for Freud. Underlying them all is the BELIEF that God does not exist.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at February 15, 2005 4:41 PM

Tom:

Wherever did you get that idea?

I have never said it, didn't imply it, and Evolution absolutely does not require it.

As I noted above, organized religions share certain characteristics, and the notion of a transcendant being isn't one. Marxism & Communism share them all with the transcendant religions.

Secularism, Darwinism, and Freudianism do not, regardless of your impression of their veracity, or their opinions of God.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 15, 2005 5:44 PM

Jeff-

I don't follow. You didn't imply what, exactly? I am not speaking about what Darwinism requires, only the assumptions underlying the theory. Obviously, the harshness of nature and 19th century scientism were Darwin's motivations. ( See the controversy regarding the lobster's perception of pain, above) Why does atheism not qualify as a belief system which settles metaphysical questions for it's adherents?The absence of God, or history or science qualify as a deity as much as your or Harry's 'big spook'. Let's be consistent.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at February 15, 2005 6:16 PM

Jeff:

Darwinism simply makes Nature a divinity.

Posted by: oj at February 15, 2005 6:26 PM

Tom:

Here is what I originally said:

It might be, except secularization isn't what happened to Russia.

Communism is every bit as much of a religion as Christianity.

That its deities weren't supernatural is merely a distinction without difference.

Which had nought to do with Darwin, and everything to do with sloppily calling secularism (or atheism, for that matter) a religion.

Further, I never said atheism doesn't qualify as a belief system, only that it doesn't qualify as a religion. All religions contain belief systems. Not all belief systems are have corresponding religions.

Deism is a very minimalist theistic belief system, but last I heard, no one was accusing it of being a religion.

Oh, and for the record, I am no more certain there isn't a God, than that there is one. I'm a card carrying Dunnoist.

A belief system, but Google though you might, it sure isn't a religion.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 15, 2005 7:33 PM

Google up metaphysics or religion. If we can agree on the definitions the conversation can advance.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at February 15, 2005 7:51 PM

Jeff:

Marxism, Darwinism and Freudianism are secular religions.

Posted by: oj at February 15, 2005 8:16 PM

Tom:

Religions have sacred texts, priesthoods, do-it-our-way-or-else clauses, and some sort of deity, be it supernatural or cult of personality. Many, but not all, also provide some salvationist or utopian end state.

What is the salvationist/utopian end state for Secularism, Freudianism or Darwinism?

How about their do-it-our-way-or-else clauses?

Do any have sacred (meaning argument solely from authority) texts?

In contrast, there is Das Kapital, the Communist Party, Marx/Engles/Lenin, and utopia on earth, or the gulag.

Or you can have the Bible, Priesthood, and The Holy Trinity, and heaven or hell.

I absolutely do not mean to imply Communism is anything like on a moral par with Christianity. But the structural similarities are what make them both religions.

Another thing common to religions: bloody internecine strife. Sunni v. Shiite. Catholic v. Protestant. Trotskyites v. Stalinites v. Maoists

You will have to look long and hard to find paleontologists of whatever stripe slaughtering each other.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 15, 2005 9:56 PM

Darwin, Marx, and Freud are the bearded porophets each with their sacred texts. Each posits a a super-human force that guides History to an End. Darwin speaks at times of man no longer being subject to Natural Selection, regretfully, and at others of how Natural Selection will "perfect" Man.

Applied Darwinism sterilized anmd killed millions, first the handicapped and the like and then "sub-human" races.

Posted by: oj at February 16, 2005 7:15 AM

Jeff-

The end state is heaven on earth, free of religious superstition where men of reason and good intentions will wisely rule by engineering society according to scientific principles. The general will, democratically determined, shall be transmitted to the ruling class and they shall make the laws free of religous based moral superstition.(you're being serious, right?)

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at February 16, 2005 1:43 PM

Well, if teleology is the same as non-teleology, then I suppose you could call Darwinism a religion.

But then you couldn't call it Darwinism.

When you find yourself having to give words special definitions in order to defend your hypotheses, you should start wondering about the hypotheses.

As for technology, why did the Bolshevists have it but the Orthodox had it not?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at February 17, 2005 1:42 AM

The fact is that the "state" cannot tolerate competition if it doesn't acknowledge that its power comes from God. A "state" that cannot tolerate competition is forever suspicious of its citizens and is effectively their enemy.

This is laughable. The absolutist state was born out of the idea that the King was either a god himself or derived his power directly from god. Are you trying to say that people who believe in god are incapable of establishing or submitting to an absolute state?

All "statists" therefore are at least suspicious of (and most hate) the family, private property, capitalism and, above all, God.

Statists have been using God to justify their power for millenia. The statists you are talking about are only a recent slice of the history of statism. Tell me how much the Ayatollahs of Iran hate God. God is their club, not their enemy.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at February 17, 2005 4:21 AM

Robert;

That's simply untrue. Kingdoms were never particularly absolutist. The most powerful king had little power compared to a modern secular/rationalist state.

Posted by: oj at February 17, 2005 7:01 AM

Darwinism is teleological though. It ends with Man who he thinks will be perfected over time.

Posted by: oj at February 17, 2005 7:07 AM

Tom:

I'm being totally serious.

I presume you are talking about the utopian end state Communism promised, based upon a sacred text argued from authority, with orthodoxy defined by the Communist party, using Marx & Lenin as deities.

Secularism simply has no equivalents.

And the Theory of Evolution, being meritocratic, has no argument from authority, nor an identifiable party passing judgment on orthodoxy to that argument, nor a deity held up as the justification for that argument.

Should you want to prove me wrong, then the first task is to specifically cite any part of Evolutionary theory that is an argument from authority.

Religions share characteristics. Secularism, Darwinism and Freudianism (whatever the heck that is) simply do not share any of them.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 17, 2005 8:20 AM

Jeff:

It's all argument from authority. Darwin said it so you believe it. There's no scientific basis for the "concept," "philosophy," or "historical narrative" as it is variously called.

The same holds for Freudianism and the like.

That which is accepted on faith is faith.

Posted by: oj at February 17, 2005 8:35 AM

... then the first task is to specifically cite any part of Evolutionary theory that is an argument from authority.

Even a superficial reading would completely distinguish that from my particular reasons for putting credence in Evolution which, in any event, you have completely mistaken.

Argument and belief are not interchangable terms.

Well, I suppose that is true only for those who are not bulls****ers

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 17, 2005 12:00 PM

Robert-

Kingdoms developed over time through feudal alliances. The characteristics they share with the modern state are minimal. Generally, the touble starts when kingdoms and the organic institutions surrounding them are overthrown in the name of 'reason'. Statism is an outgrowth of an exclusive faith in 'reason'.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at February 17, 2005 12:01 PM

Jeff:

There is no evidence for your faith. You hold it for psychological/emotional reasons. Your confusion arises because you think that dimishes it. Faith in Darwinism is as firmly based as Christianity. Only the outcomes differ.

Posted by: oj at February 17, 2005 12:44 PM
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