Shouting at the Radio

David Carlin: Our contemporary liberal progressives may be unaware of their kinship with Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and other mass murderers. Nonetheless the kinship exists.

The only time I listen to the radio nowadays is when I’m in my car; and, since being retired, I’m not often in my car, it turns out that I don’t often hear the radio.  When I do, I like to listen to one or two National Public Radio stations that I can get.  NPR of course has a politically liberal orientation, and I, despite strongly disliking Donald Trump, am a political conservative.  As a result, NPR often grates on me.  So what?  I like to hear what the other side is saying.

In any event, the other day I had to make a visit to the supermarket, and while driving there and driving home I was listening to a talk show on the Boston NPR station.  A man phoned in and said that he deplored extremists, both left and right.  He seemed to think that the two were equally bad.

The host, an archetypal Boston-Cambridge liberal, agreed with the caller that political extremism is bad, but he informed the caller that he was badly mistaken when he equated left and right extremism.  Right extremism, which by supporting such a wicked man as Donald Trump, is a profound threat to American democracy.  By contrast, left extremism – if there is such a thing – is no more than a minor nuisance.

My late father, despite residing only 40 or 50 miles from Fenway Park, was a devoted New York Yankees fan.  He acquired this addiction when, as a teenager in the 1920s (the heyday of Babe Ruth), he spent a summer in New York with his father, a bricklayer who found work in the city during its pre-Depression construction boom.  So strong was my father’s lifelong attachment to the Yankees that he was greatly irritated whenever anybody suggested that Ted Williams should be considered the equal of Babe Ruth as a hitter.  Williams, my father held, was not worthy to lace the Babe’s baseball shoes.

Decades later, when Casey Stengel managed the Yankees, my father always relished a chance to see the Yankees on TV, a chance that didn’t come along very often in the pre-cable TV days.  He watched with a critical eye.  And when Stengel made a managerial bad decision, my father would sometimes shout at the TV, “Fire Stengel!”  He never asked the TV to fire Mickey or Whitey or Yogi.  It was always Casey.

Well, I was strongly tempted to mimic my father the other day and shout at the radio when I heard the Boston-Cambridge liberal tell us that the grand extremism of the right is a thousand times worse than the petty extremism of the left.  I didn’t shout, but if I had, it would have been along these lines.  “Wrong!  The extremism of the left is far, far worse than the extremism of the right, and that’s why I prefer associating with the nitwits of the right than with the far more dangerous nitwits of the left.”

As I see things, the American left, including the self-satisfied liberals of Boston and Cambridge, are out to destroy the ancient moral-intellectual basis of our Western civilization, a basis that has in large measure been religious (more specifically, Christian or Judeo-Christian), and replace it with a post-Christian basis; more specifically, an atheistic basis.

In the course of human history, many civilizations have risen, flourished for a while, and then fallen.  Arnold Toynbee’s A Study of History, which gives accounts of many of these fallen civilizations, is no longer fashionable, as it was 70 or 80 years ago, but it is still well worth reading.  And so I suppose we have to expect that our Christian civilization was bound to fall eventually – even though Toynbee himself thought there was some chance of its lasting indefinitely.

You cannot be blamed if, like the liberals of Boston, Cambridge, Hollywood, San Francisco, New York, Austin, and many other places, you want to destroy an old civilization and replace it with a new – provided the old is bad and the new is good, or at least clearly better than the old.

But that raises a double question: Is our old Judeo-Christian civilization that bad, and will our proposed new atheistic civilization be an improvement?

The old Christian civilization, which took two great historic forms, one Catholic and the other Protestant, was not only a great thing in itself, but it was the “mother” of almost every good idea and institution that marks the modern world – science, technology, education, law, government, human rights, etc.  This older civilization even gave birth to its great modern enemy, which may be called secular (or atheistic) humanism.

Our American world at the moment – I mean the first half of the 21st century – is an incoherent mix of Christianity and atheism.  My estimate is that the mix is still predominantly Christian; I’d say two-thirds Christian and one-third atheistic.  But the atheistic element is growing rapidly while the Christian element is shrinking.  Atheistic humanism is dynamic, Christianity mostly inert.  My expectation is that America will be a predominantly atheistic society well before the end of the current century.

In the first half of the last century, atheistic humanism made a great attempt to conquer the world in the form of Communism. It seized control of Russia, China, and many other nations.  This attempt has largely (but not entirely) failed.  Today atheistic humanism is making another great attempt, this time in America.  But not in the form of Communism, but in a form that likes to call itself “progressivism.”  Some progressives prefer the softer word “liberalism.”

I don’t say that the liberals/progressives of Boston and Cambridge understand their kinship with Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and other mass murderers.  Nonetheless, the kinship exists. They don’t even understand that they are champions of mass murder (aka abortion).  Most of all, they don’t understand what Dostoyevsky said, “If God doesn’t exist, everything is permitted.”

You may also enjoy:

Michael Pakaluk’s Simple, Binding Gifts

Elizabeth A. Mitchell’s “So You Can Remember”


David Carlin

David Carlin is a retired professor of sociology and philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island, and the author of The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in AmericaThree Sexual Revolutions: Catholic, Protestant, Atheist, and most recently Atheistic Humanism, the Democratic Party, and the Catholic Church.

EDITORS NOTE: This Catholic Thing column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. © 2023 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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