Just days after Notre Dame was nearly incinerated, wealthy French families pledged close to a billion dollars to restore that magnificent monument to European Christianity — several times the anticipated cost of the restoration.
French secularists who’ve been at war against religion since at least Voltaire were furious. First, the yellow-vested thugs protested that the money would be better spent on them, er, I mean on social justice. And anyway, how dare wealthy families be wealthy, and how dare they remind us of it by parting with some of their wealth, and how dare they do so voluntarily?
Then, even worse, the establishment weighed in. French President Emmanuel Macron declared that the historic Catholic church should be rebuilt “consistent with our modern, diverse nation.”
Architects — a profession devoted to foisting buildings that constitute a form onto a public that wishes their form would honestly follow their function — knew what Macron meant. They promptly suggested adding an Islamic minaret.
Presumably this political correctness will also dictate elements of Protestantism (which, as a Protestant, I suppose I should welcome but don’t), Judaism, Hinduism, paganism and — why not? — Satan worship.
This isn’t because the establishment likes Protestantism, Judaism, Hinduism, paganism or Satan, mind you. It’s because they hate Catholicism. And their hatred of Catholicism isn’t on doctrinal grounds, so don’t take it personally. Someday, if Satan worship wins out over Catholicism, they’ll hate Satan too (though ironically it will then be too late to do them any good).
No, their hatred of Catholicism is simply because they hate real religion and, despite some shortcomings, Catholicism is a real religion. The reason they hate real religion is that it threatens their personal religion of secular socialism.
It’s the same reason that all socialists from Lenin to Pol Pot have hated real religion. In the end, they believe, there can be only one religion. They aim to make it theirs and they intend to be the high priests. They don’t intend to share their authority with God.
So religion has to go. There’s no better way to destroy it than to require believers to acknowledge that their belief is no better or worse than competing beliefs. In other words, demand apostasy.
Surrendering one’s belief is surrendering one’s faith. Religion is thereby reduced to a civic club like the Elks, which frees up room for the religion of secular socialism.
Appropriating the symbols of a faith as a way of defeating it has a long history. Ancient Christians appropriated the pagan Pantheon — one of the remarkable engineering feats of Rome — and made it into the peculiar church it is today.
Christians later built their own remarkable structure, the Haglia Sophia of Constantinople. Perhaps in a case of poetic justice, the Muslims who conquered that city and renamed it Istanbul converted it into a weird mosque.
Both conversions were obscene desecrations. But of course, that was the idea. Just as that is the idea in forcing Catholics to share Notre Dame.
People have monuments to their faith, from the Western Wall to the Taj Mahal. We people of faith may all look the same to secular socialists — like superstitious fools who are blind to the demonstrated, or I should say soon to be demonstrated, glories of Godless socialism — but actually we’re all different.
As always, secular socialists want to make us all the same and equal in the eyes of our overlords. They want to make us all zero.
(Published May 5, 2015 in the Aspen Times at https://www.aspentimes.com/opinion/should-notre-dame-include-a-mosque/)
As a secular, fiscally conservative, social moderate, I think that every organization ought to pay for the government services that it receives, whether it is a religious organization, a labor union, a corporation, a “political” organization like the NRA or Black Lives Matter, or a social organization like, say, an Elks Club.
I don’t know whether some branch of the Catholic Church paid taxes on the Notre Dame cathedral, but the response of the Paris fire department underscored the value of the services that government stood ready to provide and did so. Without that heroic response, there would have been nothing left of the cathedral.
As far as the reconstruction is concerned, the governing principle should be that those who pay for it should be the ones to pretty much determine how it is rebuilt, and whom is allowed to use it. I say “pretty much,” because the reconstruction should be done according to building codes (including fire codes) that are impartially applied by government to all such major structures. And if the owners want to charge admission to people and exclude people like me who appreciate their ability to build impressive buildings but don’t share their belief in supernatural forces as a rational for doing so, then that should be their right. That principle should also apply to Muslims or whomever the Catholic owners might wish to exclude, for whatever reason.
I see the issue of taxation of non-profit organizations as one more example of the need to balance rights with responsibilities. These organizations are voluntary associations of people who should have the right to believe and say whatever they want (other than incitement to imminent violence) and also to contribute money and effort to political causes that they support. But along with that should go the responsibility to pay taxes for the government services that enable them to physically function in reasonable safety, and thereby to exercise their rights of belief and free speech free of fear of physical harm.
Ted, I generally agree that organizations including churches should not be tax exempt. I don’t like the IRS making the decision whether an organization is within its exempt charter. It’s a travesty that the Clinton Foundation, for example, is tax exempt (and I’m sure there are bad examples on the right as well)
My comments about non-profit organizations paying taxes are intended mainly to apply to paying property taxes to local governments on real properties that they own, to pay for services such as police, fire protection, and street maintenance that are provided by local governments to their direct benefit. Whether or not they should pay taxes for other services such as local public schools is another issue!
When it comes to paying income taxes on “profits,” it is a gray area to distinguish between the “profits” of a “profit-making” corporation and those of many “non-profit” organizations such as, say, Valley View Hospital. Having said that, I am sufficiently “conservative” on economic issues (and knowledgeable of the real “incidence” of taxes) that I oppose high taxes on the “profits” of any sort of organization, but not on taxes on the income of the people who are paid from the income of those organizations (sometimes exorbitantly).
I also wish to refute the misconception of the most extreme religious conservatives that anybody who is “secular” in their non-belief in supernatural forces is thereby a “socialist”, and one whose agenda includes a “war against religion” (other than through discussion protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — which is deliberately neutral on matters of religious belief).
It is my experience that “secular humanists” do indeed tend to much farther to the left than I am — and in many cases ought to be recognized as the Marxists that they are. But people who are really as politically sophisticated as they fancy themselves to be should not assume that all of us “secular humanists” are extreme leftists in the many areas of economics, sociology, environmental policy, international relations, federal/state/local governmental policies, etc., that you (Glenn) intelligently address in your weekly column.
Keep it up!
I agree re “secular socialists.” That’s not a redundant term.
I assume you are aware that employees of tax exempt organizations do in fact pay income taxes on their salaries.
Thanks for the thoughtful comments. Glenn
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