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Self, Sex, and State: The Three-Poisoned Gods of Our World

Anthony Esolen: “Self, Sex, and State” are no trinity, to be sure, but a triad. Find one, and the other two will not be far away.


  1. I have written before of the three-poisoned god of our world: Self, Sex, and State. These poisons dance about in a nice perichoresis of mutual corroboration. It is hard to tell which of the three is father or son or spirit proceeding from them both. If you look to sheer gigantic size, you might think that the first begetter was the State. If you look at the rotten hole of evil where a good heart should be, you might think it was the Self. If you look at actual begetting and a wrong approach to created order, you might think it was Sex.

Let us be as wise as serpents here, consider each possibility. Suppose the principle devil is State. Imagine it in the person of Milton’s Beelzebub, in the council of Pandemonium. He is about to recommend not open war, as Moloch advises, or hiding, as Belial advises, but a sly side-move against the new created world and man there placed:

                         With grave
Aspect he rose, and in his rising seemed
A Pillar of State; deep on his Front engraven
Deliberation sat and public care;
And Princely counsel in his face yet shone,
Majestic though in ruin.

You desire to increase your power, to grow the State at the expense of those you rule. How to do that? Satan’s plan, put in the mouth of Beelzebub, is to sever the new creatures from God, the source of their freedom and their strength. That must inevitably sever them from virtue both natural and supernatural.

To accomplish it, Satan appeals to Eve’s sense of Self, but in strange isolation, as if she were a kind of island-goddess to whom every creature must bow in homage. “Sovereign mistress,” he flatters her, begging her pardon for daring to address her, while suggesting that her beauty cannot be rightly prized by any of the creatures among which she lives, not even her loving husband Adam, bearer of the image of God:

                                           One man except,
Who sees thee? (and what is one?) who shouldst be seen
A Goddess among Gods, adored and served
By Angels numberless, thy daily Train.

Divide and conquer: so does Satan extend his realm, by every petty peacock of a king and queen self-ruled, and therefore self-enslaved.

Such enslavement in man is made manifest most clearly, the book of Genesis suggests, in sex: in what should have bound man and woman to one another, and each generation to those that came before and to those that will follow. “Be fruitful and multiply,” says God when he blesses the first human couple, but the fall turns what should have been pure blessing into a source of trouble, division, treachery, and violence.

The wisest king who ever lived did not withstand the temptation, for Solomon, Milton says, “beguiled by fair Idolatresses, fell / To idols foul.” A thousand wives had he, but his sons would fall out with one another and divide his kingdom. His kingdom – not Satan’s.

But we might begin with the idol Sex. We remove it from its natural order, and we make our children and our neighbors bear the cost of the ensuing chaos. Love is not Love, despite what the smug and silly sign on your neighbor’s yard says. “Spirits when they please,” says Milton, describing the fertility gods of the Phoenicians, “can either Sex assume, or both,” to “execute their airy purposes,/ And works of love or enmity fulfill.”

“Such love is hate,” says the poet Spenser. Sexual sin does its worst to keep children from growing up with a mother and father who have plighted their troth for life. Since man is by nature a social creature, when he sins against what binds him in wedlock and what binds the generations, he sins against society.

He calls it liberty when it is mere thoughtlessness and worship of Self. It cramps or tends to destroy altogether the liberty of his neighbors, because what strong and self-sustaining families no longer do, State must attempt. Every antisocial sin must give State leave to intrude where it does not belong, to provide a semblance of that order while families and the parishes, schools, and towns they build used to provide. He who sells wheelchairs is pleased to find cripples.

In the end, says C. S. Lewis, there are only two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “Thy will be done.” In the dead hollow of every sin, there is a false Self, a wraith, a phantasm, an idol. “I am that I am,” says God, revealing to Moses his name beyond all circumscribing names. (Ex. 3:16)

But I am a creature: I am circumscribed. I derive my being from God, and at every moment my existence is sustained only by his will. When I set myself against God, I slip back toward non-being, toward the hollow that is well suggested by the Germanic word Hell. 

But as I fall, I assert my false independence with all the greater desperation. I must be my own, exist on my own. The magnetic poles that draw me are two. If I am soft and tender, I turn to Sex as the boldest expression of Self: sex, as I will, when and how and with whom I will.

These days, swallowed up in idiotism, I may even fashion my own “identity,” turning sex in upon itself in self-abuse of any of a thousand kinds. If I am hard and ruthless, I turn to State and its accoutrements. I worship power, wealth, and prestige of my own, or I bow to State as the extension of or the realization of sheer will. State will save us, State must be our cure. It hardly matters then in what form State appears.

No trinity, to be sure, but it is a triad. Find one, and the other two will not be far away.

COLUMN BY

Anthony Esolen

Anthony Esolen is a lecturer, translator, and writer. Among his books are Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture, and Nostalgia: Going Home in a Homeless World, and most recently The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord. He is a professor and writer in residence at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts, in Warner, New Hampshire.

EDITORS NOTE: This Catholic Thing column is republished with permission. © 2020 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info@frinstitute.org. The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

Trump: If elected, I would shut down certain U.S. mosques

The Hamas-linked terror organization CAIR, which works assiduously to silence and marginalize everyone who speaks out against jihad terror, is now pretending to support the freedom of speech: “Donald Trump’s apparent willingness to close down American mosques that he deems ‘extreme’ is totally incompatible with the Constitution and our nation’s cherished principle of religious freedom,” said CAIR Government Affairs Department Manager Robert McCaw. “The government should not be in the business of deciding what is acceptable free speech or religious belief. Donald Trump’s off-the-cuff remarks are both un-American, and un-presidential.”

The freedom of speech and the freedom of religion do not give anyone a license to plot murder or sedition. It is completely reasonable to shut down mosques in which jihad terror is preached or plotted. Our American Freedom Defense Initiative called for that in 2013. This shouldn’t be controversial at all: churches in which murder is plotted or preached should also be shut down. No institution in which murder and sedition are preached or plotted should remain in operation.

Trump doesn’t understand the war against free speech or the implications of self-censorship in the face of violent intimidation, and that is a very serious flaw; but he is right on this one, and the sinister Islamic supremacists speaking out against him — Hamas-linked CAIR, Linda Sarsour — are testimony to that.

“Donald Trump: I would shut down certain mosques in U.S. if elected,” by Adam Edelman, New York Daily News, October 21, 2015 (thanks to David):

Donald Trump on Wednesday promised to close certain mosques in the U.S. if elected President.

Trump, discussing his strategy to fight ISIS during an interview on Fox Business Network, also said he would revoke the passports of U.S. citizens who have traveled abroad to fight for ISIS.

“I would do that,” Trump said during a telephone interview after FBN host Jim Varney asked him if he would favor revoking passports and closing mosques. “Absolutely. I think it’s great.”

“If you go out, you go fight for ISIS, you can’t come back. Why can’t you do it? You can do it here,” he added.

Varney, however, then pressed the 2016 Republican front-runner, asking again: “Can you close a mosque? I mean, we do have religious freedom.”

“Well, I don’t know,” Trump responded in an apparent backpedal. “It depends on if the mosque is, you know, loaded for bear, I don’t know. You’re going to have to certainly look at it.”

The comments drew immediate rebuke from leaders within the Muslim-American community.

“It is truly outrageous that the leading Republican presidential candidate would announce openly that he would violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by closing down religious institutions,” Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based advocacy and rights organization, told The News. “I hope this finally prompts people to speak out against this off-the-rails Islamophobia that we are seeing from the right wing of the American political sector. ”

Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab-American Association of New York, called the comments “dangerous” and warned that unless other politicians publicly chastised Trump, his remarks could put people within the community at risk.

“That the Republican front-runner for president is calling for the closing down of religious institutions in the land of religious freedom is outrageous,” Sarsour told The News. “This rhetoric, if it’s allowed to continue, has real consequences for the Muslim community in the U.S.”

“It creates suspicion and stigma against an entire community,” she added. “It’s unfair and unjust.”

Even Trump’s fellow Republicans took issue with the remark, with Rep. Peter King (R-Long Island) — who himself hasn’t exactly been an ally of the U.S. Muslim community — taking the candidate to task.

“Donald Trump is talking before he knows what he’s talking about. I have been critical of people in the Muslim community, but the fact is you can’t be going around shutting down mosques,” King said on Fox

The front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination also said he would revoke the passports of U.S. citizens who have traveled abroad to fight for ISIS.

“I think we should have surveillance of mosques. I think we should be trying to find out what is going on in a mosque, find out if there’s activity in that mosque, where there’s weapons or conspiracy going on,” he added. “Then yes you can take action. But to be casually, the way Donald Trump seems, to be talking about shutting down mosques? No.”…

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Eco-Catholics, Eco-pessimism and the Decline of Confidence in Religion

Cathy Lynn Grossmann in USA Today writes:

Americans have less confidence in organized religion today than ever measured before — a sign that the church could be “losing its footing as a pillar of moral leadership in the nation’s culture,” a new Gallup survey finds.

“In the ’80s the church and organized religion were the No. 1″ in Gallup’s annual look at confidence in institutions, said Lydia Saad, author of the report released Wednesday.

Confidence, she said, “is a value judgment on how the institution is perceived, a mark of the amount of respect it is due.”

Why has respect for the moral leadership of the Church declined?

Perhaps religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular, under the leadership of Pope Francis, are to blame?

Mitchell C. Hescox in the National Catholic Reporter wrote:

Pope Francis’ increasingly powerful statements on global warming highlight that climate action is becoming a growing moral imperative for all people of faith. Why? Because climate action is about saving people.

[ … ]

Every child, born and yet-to-be born, deserves the promise and holy covenant of clean air and a healthy climate. What’s more, every child deserves to reach the fullness of his or her God-given intellectual abilities. If we continue to rely on toxic mercury-emitting, coal-burning power plants, we risk harming our children’s achievements.

[ … ]

Action to slow warming will protect future generations’ mental development and potential, by assuring that human development is healthy and sustainable as we move from dangerous, polluting and highly subsidized fossil fuels to clean, affordable renewable energy. This transition will turn energy poverty into energy prosperity.

The Catholic Church, aligning itself politically with the Obama administration, has declared war on coal, oil and natural gas. But will eliminating coal, oil and natural gas as energy sources truly help children “reach the fullness of his or her God-given intellectual abilities”? Will the move away from fossil fuels “turn energy poverty into energy prosperity”?

The short answer is no.

Julian Simon nailed his theses to the door of the eco-pessimist church by publishing his famous article in Science magazine: “Resources, Population, Environment: An Oversupply of False Bad News.” Thirty five-years ago Simon recognized the dangers of eco-pessimism. In his article he wrote:

False bad news about population growth, natural resources, and the environment is published widely in the face of contradictory evidence. For example, the world supply of arable land has actually been increasing, the scarcity of natural resources including food and energy has been decreasing, and basic measures of U.S. environmental quality show positive trends.

The aggregate data show no longrun negative effect of population growth upon the standard of living. Models that embody forces omitted in the past, especially the influence of population size upon productivity increase, suggest a long-run positive effect of additional people.

Prosperity is based on the availability of cheap reliable power. There are no such things as wind and solar power. There is wind-fossil fuel power and solar-fossil fuel power. This is because wind and solar are costly and unreliable sources of energy and require backup power generation, e.g. when the wind stops blowing and the sun sets.

In his column “The Poor Need Affordable Energy” Iain Murray writes:

Affordable energy is fundamental to what economist Deirdre McCloskey calls the “Great Fact” of the explosion of human welfare. It remains central to the reduction of absolute poverty. Yet, some Western governments are working to increase energy costs, purportedly to combat global warming.

What they are really combating is prosperity.

This is perverse and regressive. In America and Europe, energy takes up a much larger share of poor households’ budgets compared to other income brackets. For instance, a household with an annual income between $10,000 and $25,000 spends well over 10 percent of its budget on energy, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And a January 2014 study for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity found that “households earning $50,000 or less spend more on energy than on food, spend twice as much on energy as on health care, and spend more than twice as much on energy as on clothing.”

Increasing the cost of energy also harms people’s health. That’s because energy use is so fundamental to modern life that it can take precedence over other household expenses — including health care. The National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association found that an increase in energy costs led 30 percent of poor households to reduce purchases of food, 40 percent to go without medical care, and 33 percent to not fill a prescription.

As Erick Erickson notes in his column “Ecology Theology“:

[T]he Bible does have an ecology theology in it.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Gen. 1:28 (ESV)

There are five imperatives in Genesis 1:28

(1) Be fruitful and (2) multiply and (3) fill the earth and (4) subdue it, and (5) have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.

  1. Procreation. Man is told to be fruitful and multiply again after the flood.
  2. Colonization. There is a frontier mentality. Don’t simply stay in paradise or within sight of it, but go to every corner of the earth. There is a civilization component.
  3. Fill the earth.
  4. Work and keep the earth.
  5. Subdue and have dominion. This is a royal figure of speech “to have dominion, to subdue, and to rule.” Man is a representative of God. This is a world and life directive including culture and spiritual realms. Man is to be the earthly overseer.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. Gen. 2:15 (ESV)

The great danger is when the church and state become one and the same. When the Church mimics the policies of the state confidence in both organizations declines.

If the Catholic Church wants to truly reduce poverty, then it will support efforts to provide cheap and reliable energy to every child. That means using more, not less, fossil fuels.

RELATE VIDEO: The moral case for fossil fuels.

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Leaving the Church of Environmentalism

In March 2009 while the Environmental Protection Agency was rushing to fulfill a presidential campaign pledge to document that carbon dioxide (CO2) and five other greenhouse gases endangered public health and the environment, a longtime employee, Alan Carlin, put out a 93-page report challenging the science being cited and the drift of the agency from its initial role to one captured by fanatical activists and alarmists, treating environmentalism more as a religion than based in science.

At the time Carlin was a 72-year-old analyst and economist who, as The New York Times put it, “had labored in obscurity in a little-known office at the Environmental Protection Agency since the Nixon administration.” His EPA career would span 38 years.

Cover - Environmentalism Gone MadThe website for his new book, “Environmentalism Gone Mad” says, “Dr. Alan Carlin is an economist and physical scientist with degrees from Caltech and MIT and publications in both economics and climate/energy, who became actively involved in the Sierra Club in the 1960s as an activist and Chapter Chairman. This led to a career as a manager and senior analyst at the Environmental Protection Agency.”

As he says in the preface “The purpose of this book is to explain why I changed from my lifelong support of the environmental movement to extreme skepticism concern their current primary objective of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide.”

“Although I and the many other climate skeptics are now referred to as ‘deniers’ by the climate alarmists, that does not change the science—and there is no valid scientific basis for the alarmists’ catastrophic climate predictions—or justify their fantastically expensive and useless ‘solution.’”

Carlin went from being a dedicated environmentalist, based on its initial philosophy of conservation, to an observer of the movement that was taken over and distorted to advocate falsehoods about global warming and a transition from fossil-fuels to “clean energy” meaning wind, solar and bio-fuels. As an economist he understood how absurd it was to suggest rejecting fossil-fuels, the key element of modern industry and society.

“The climate alarmists,” says Carlin, “have now been making their apocalyptic predictions for almost thirty years and it is now possible to compare their predictions with actual physical observations.” Suffice to say all the predictions of a significantly higher temperature—the warming—have been wrong.

In fact, the Earth has been in a natural cooling cycle since 1998 and shows no indication of warming

Predictions about the North and South Poles melting, a major rise in ocean levels, increased hurricanes and other climate events have been wrong along with countless other climate-related apocalyptic predictions.

Having observed how the EPA has functioned for more than three decades, Carlin warns that its current “environmental policy has been hijacked by radicals intent on imposing their ideology by government fiat on the rest of us whether we like it or not…If environmental policy is based on government fiat or ‘green’ policy prescriptions the results have been and are very likely to continue to be disastrous.”

At 625 pages, Carlin’s book takes the reader from his early days as a Sierra Club activist and chapter leader to being an EPA outcast, denounced for telling the truth about the false claims of global warming, climate change, and what is now being called extreme weather.

As an economist, Carlin is particularly upset that “the Obama Administration’s climate/energy policy is wasting very large sums on non-solutions to minor or non-problems.” The book has come along as President Obama has been flogging “climate change” as the greatest threat to the nation and the world.

“It has been long recognized that weather is chaotic,” says Carlin. While we operate within the four seasons, the weather that occurs can only be predicted in the most general terms. Suggesting that humans actually have any effect on the weather is absurd.

That is why the predictions made by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and all the others based on computer models are, by definition, worthless. Computer models cannot predict anything about the vast chaotic global climate system. Even today, meteorologists are mystified by the actions of clouds which can form and disappear in minutes.

It’s useful to keep in mind that climate is measured in centuries, while the weather is reported as what is occurring today and forecast, at best, for no more than a week. Weather records are maintained for purposes of comparison and within the larger context of determining the Earth’s climate cycles. Like those in the past, the present cooling cycle is based on a comparable one of the Sun that is producing lower levels of radiation. You don’t need a Ph.D. in meteorology to understand this.

Carlin does not hesitate to excoriate the blather put forth by the alarmists; particularly their claims that the weather is affected in any significant fashion by human activity and development in particular. “There is simply no evidence thus far that the normal activities of man have or will result in catastrophic outcomes for either man or nature.”

The actions the alarmists call for do nothing to enhance and benefit our lives. They drive up the cost of energy and food. They ignore how dependent modern life is on the use of fossil fuels.

“Despite all the lavish funding by liberal foundations and the federal government on their global warming doctrine-inspired programs, the radical environmental movement has long since gone so far beyond rationality that it is counter-productive in achieving its own ends.”

So long as it remains heavily funded and backed by the federal government, we must, like Carlin, speak out against environmental extremism. We must elect new people to govern in a more realistic, science-based fashion. We must urge our current legislators to rein in the rogue Environmental Protection Agency.

© Alan Caruba, 2015

EDITORS NOTE: Earlier this month, the Media Research Center released a report exposing the media’s cover-up of Hollywood’s hypocrisy revolving around one of the Left’s favorite pet causes: climate change. If you haven’t seen this report yet, you can download your free copy here. The featured image is by Kate Bunker.