Thursday, January 30, 2014

Where have all the flowers gone?

No, don't think I've gone all soft. I'm no peacenick, and I have no illusions about Seeger. I have always loved Peter, Paul and Mary-- Paul is a devout Christian whose masterpiece-- Wedding Song-- is a classic of Christian music.

Where have all the flowers gone? is a beautiful haunting song. It seems to tell the truth about us in an essential way-- about our humanity and fragility and our murderous foolishness.

The 100th anniversary of WWI is coming up this summer. The Great War was the epochal cataclysm of modern times, exceeded in importance only by the French Revolution, which was its antecedent and its real cause. I don't count WWII as a separate conflict, because I consider it the resumption and denouement of the Great War, interrupted as it was by a low dishonest truce.

The carnage of The Great War was unspeakable. A generation of young French and English and German and Austrian and Russian and Turkish men perished. It was madness and hubris and an unraveling. The Bolsheviks and the Nazis and the Italian fascists germinated in it, and arose from it. In our country, Wilson began the expansion of government power and committed some of the most repressive acts that our nation has ever used against its citizens.

I hope there is much reflection this summer on The Great War, on its causes and its consequences. It is the story of modernity, played out in a charnel house. It is, I believe, a manifestation of the rise of secularism, of mass movements and of practical (and at times explicit) atheism. Nietzsche saw it coming, with more clarity than practically anyone.

In August of 2014, we should reflect on the death of God in much of our culture, to honor the millions who perished because of it.

NB: If you want to understand much of the immediate lead-up to The Great War, Barbara Tuchman's The Guns of August is a masterpiece. She recounts the summer of 1914, explaining the beginning of the war with poetic insight. Popular history at its finest. 


  1. No. Must you continue to display your ignorance of history? The Great War was started by Christian leaders of Christian countries for reasons of nationalism. It had nothing to do with the French Revolution.

    Lenin and the Bolsheviks managed to take power in Russia because the Christian leaders of Germany contrived to facilitate the passage of Lenin and his revolutionaries in a sealed train across German territory to Petrograd.

    You might be surprised to learn that the British aren't just the 'English'. A generation of the Irish, Scots and Welsh were also killed.

    And also, you've neglected the Serbs, who lost 16% of its population.

    Barbara Tuchman's book was very good. But it's dated. There's almost a plethora of books discussing the causes of the Great War published last year.

    1. Everything is the Christians' fault, isn't it? You really are a broken record.

      The causes of the war are rather opaque, having a lot to do with interlocking alliances.


    2. bach:

      [The Great War was started by Christian leaders of Christian countries for reasons of nationalism. It had nothing to do with the French Revolution.]

      Nationalism is the consequence of the French Revolution. The waning of the unitive power of the Church facilitated the break up of Europe into warring nations and tribes. Masses of people now declared their allegiance to their nation (and its local religion) rather than to Christendom as it had in the Middle Ages.

      Nationalism was indeed a prime cause of The Great War, and secularism was the cause of nationalism, and the French Revolution was the first explosion of secularism.

      Thanks, atheism.

    3. Egnor,

      Thanks for your persisting ignorance of history. Europe was remarkably peaceful for most of the century after the defeat of Napoleon. The Great War, if it had a single cause, was a result of German nationalism with German unification following the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71.

      The Great War was started by the actions of Christian leaders of Christian countries in mobilising their million strong armies in July 1914, in particular Austro-Hungary, Russia and Germany.

      Atheism had nothing to do with the outbreak of the war.

    4. Few people relish the idea of living under the heel of the church, so yes, a heartfelt thanks to atheism.


    5. [Europe was remarkably peaceful for most of the century after the defeat of Napoleon.]

      Heh. The Napoleonic wars-- slaughter on a massive scale, all obviously the direct consequence of the secularism/atheism of Revolutionary France. The insurrections of 1848. The Greek war of independence 1821 and a host of bloody uprisings. Colonialism and colonial wars. Crimean War. Austro-Prussian War, Italian wars of independence, Franco-Prussian war, Russo-Turkish war.

      Aside from that, the first century of secularism/atheism was a pacifist's paradise.

    6. Egnor,

      The 19th century was remarkably peaceful - compared to what had happened in previous centuries, including the Seven Years War, which was the first world war, and which resulted in around one million deaths.

      Again, a war started by Christian leaders of Christian countries. Although, it did have one positive - it gave the world Voltaire's 'Candide'.

  2. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyJanuary 30, 2014 at 8:04 AM

    I, too, like "Where Have All the Flowers Gone". Used to play it on acoustic guitar.

    But, in my opinion, the very best latter 20th Century song about the Great War is David Olney's "1917". It's covered here by Emmylou Harris and Governor Moonbeam's ex, Linda Ronstadt. Moving...

    They die in the trenches and they die in the air
    In Belgium and France the dead are everywhere
    They die so fast there's no time to prepare
    A decent grave to surround them

  3. Proud to be a jesuitJanuary 30, 2014 at 9:19 AM

    Adolf Hitler, son of the Catholic Church, died while defending Christianity. It is therefore understandable that words cannot be found to lament over his death, when so many were found to exalt his life. Over his mortal remains stands his victorious moral figure. With the palm of the martyr, God gives Hitler the laurels of Victory.

    - -Spanish dictator (Francisco Franco, Knight of the Order of Christ) published on the 3rd of May 1945, the day of Hitler's death.

    1. Hmmm.. the provenance of that quote seems to be anti-Catholic hate sites of a conspiracy mongering sort.


      Best I can deduce (reading between the lines of the demented website) is that it was at most an obituary published in Reforme, a Spanish newspaper. The website "Vatican Nazis" claims that the quote actually came from the Holy See via the Spanish press.

      Nazi Popes are eeeeverywhere.....

    2. It is rather well known that Hitler loathed Franco. He said he would rather have teeth pulled than have to deal with him. So your 'quote' is and sounds totally bogus.

    3. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyJanuary 30, 2014 at 2:36 PM

      The quote you read above was ginned up by Jack Chick. He also accuses Catholicism of starting Islam, Mormonism, and Jehovah's Witnesses, being responsible for Holocaust, founding Communism, Nazism, and the Ku Klux Klan, starting both World Wars, engineering the Bolshevik Revolution, causing Great Depression and the assassinating two U.S. Presidents: Lincoln and Kennedy.

      Jack Chick is Troi's guardian angel and KW's foster father.

    4. 'The quote you read above was ginned up by Jack Chick. He also accuses Catholicism of....'

      ....of ruining a potentially valuable and interesting debate by dallying to educate unpleasant atheists?
      Unpleasant atheists with no intention of learning anything?

      That's The Church again, right?


    5. JR:
      Yea. Sometimes I wonder why I bother interacting with these types. I doubt there's any chance of enlightening them, but perhaps some reasonable people reading the blog may understand things a bit better because of the dialogue.

      Just knowing that there are haters out there like this is an education.

    6. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyJanuary 30, 2014 at 5:10 PM

      JR: "ruining a potentially valuable and interesting debate"

      JR, the truth is, you can't have a valuable and interesting debate on unmoderated boards. There are just too many anonymous trolls (nothing wrong with anonymity per se, but trolling requires it for reasons to be discussed below). This has been a fact since USENET kicked off in 1980. "Ignore the trolls" has been a watchword for decades, and has never worked because no one ever does.

      In my view, there are two solutions...

      (1) Moderation - Moderating a board does not have to be the task it once was, but it is a PITA. The only serious discussion boards that thrive as discussion boards are moderated.

      (2) Enjoy the trolls - Trolls can be fun and entertaining. But iff one understands that the essential element - the point - of trolling is provoking emotional reactions. A secondary, but important, element of trolling is the creation of a fictional online "persona" (e.g., ex-Navy SEAL, CEO, college professor, former minister, etc), backed up with some basic Google skills. The fictional persona is intended to give intellectual heft to emotional provocations; i.e., it's not just a pimply basement masturbator calling you stupid and ridiculing your faith, it's a serious intellectual with gravitas. :-)

      Obviously, this is not a moderated board and I am not suggesting that it should be. What it does do is give those readers-for-blog-content who lurk but never comment some insights into the personalities who troll. That's valuable, IMNSHO.

      As a conservative, Christian, Catholic blog, "Egnorance" has particular appeal to the militant atheist, hard left, gay troll. It's what you see a lot of here. These are the people who, if you were simply praying on the street in front of an abortion clinic, would spit in your face just to provoke a response and have a reason to play the martyr.

      I love to deal with these people. Frankly, it's a hobby I've had for well over a decade. Animal rights trolls used to be my specialty, but since I converted to Catholicism I've discovered that the militantly atheist, hard left, gay troll is much more venomous and interesting than your vanilla animal rights loon.

      I'm sure Egnor knows he could ask me to leave at any time and I would go search for other fertile fields. I'm delighted he hasn't done so yet. I enjoy his posts very much, agree with most of them, occasionally offer up a serious comment, and enjoy the fauna. Good content, and troll hunts too? What's not to love?

    7. I understand that view and regardless; it's your blinking blog.

      Still, it's a fine line I suppose.

      'Just knowing that there are haters out there like this is an education.'

      Indeed, they even reveal their true nature by their persistent presence on your blog.
      I enjoy coming home from work to read what might have appeared since last I visited.
      It would appear that they actually show up here to lie, insult and rage against values that they can never destroy nor disturb.

      They have a spiritual 'stone in their shoe' and cannot get it out.

      In respect of the issues discussed here; I think that they know themselves to be inferior in every relevant way. They know it but cannot admit it nor face it. Hence the hatred.

      Big deal.
      The point is that in seeing all this, our spiritual pride could be nurtured. Mine at any rate and that's unhealthy.
      Hence; it's a fine line.


    8. Hello Admiral,

      I've just read your comments. My above 5:17 being a reply to our host...anyway.

      Yes, I suppose, to all you've said.

      Though feeding trolls is not a weakness of mine I do know people who practice that dark art.
      An old and close friend recalls driving along in his car, pulling up by the side of the road and writing down a 'telling retort' to some troll he was in an ongoing battle with.....
      He knew then that he 'had issues', and the story is so funny (to me) it's almost worth the mild mental illness.

      Seriously though; back to me.

      This subject (the European war 1914-45 and the serious wounds suffered by Christianity) is something I've contemplated just about all my life.
      So I read our host's opening thoughts and begin to try and compose something worth typing as a contribution.
      However, by the time I've read the comments below I'm more in a intellectually confrontational mode (& a little tired after work) so I gave up on my original train of thought and wrote what I did in more in exasperation.

      I'm sure you're correct and apart from anything I need to be more careful with what I read if it's going to knock me off balance.
      Trolls are inevitable and you make a good point when you say,

      'As a conservative, Christian, Catholic blog, "Egnorance" has particular appeal to the militant atheist, hard left, gay troll....'

      Hard not to like THOSE trolls.

      Regards Admiral!

    9. Nice appeal to the irrelevant.

      Leaders sometimes shroud their wars in God, that's true. But it wouldn't have made any sense for Churchill to call the struggle against Nazism a fight for the survival of the Christian West if people at the time perceived Nazis as the religious fanatics you paint them to be.

      I notice you didn't use the same logic when discussing the Franco quote. Maybe he was simply appealing to God for political reasons and it meant nothing to him. Yes, it's true that he wasn't a politician because he wasn't elected, but all sorts of leaders, elected and unelected, make appeals to the Almighty. Some are sincere and some aren't.

      You assume that Franco meant what he was saying but leave open the possibility that Churchill was just mouthing words. Confirmation bias.

      Here's what I'm saying. I kind of doubt the authenticity of the quote given the source. It's possible that he said it but I am not taking it on the authority of some angel fire site called Vatican Nazis. So as far as I'm concerned, there is no comparison between the real Churchill quote and the dubious Franco one.

      Furthermore, I was simply trying to demonstrate that it's easy to lift quotes from history to buttress a preconceived notion. It's a favorite trick of ideologues everywhere. Just as it's easy to find a quote from one European leader suggesting that Hitler was a champion of Christianity, so too is it easy to find another quote from a European leader suggesting that the war against the Nazis is a struggle for the survival of Christianity.

      Yes, there are various Christian sects, some of which are so absurdly un-Biblical, and so hostile to basic tenets of Christianity, that they really shouldn't be called Christians. The Nazis had their own church, supposedly Christian, that rejected Jesus as a filthy Jew. In his place was Hitler.

      Christianity without Christ. Sorry, there is no such thing.


    10. Adm:

      [I'm sure Egnor knows he could ask me to leave at any time and I would go search for other fertile fields. I'm delighted he hasn't done so yet. I enjoy his posts very much, agree with most of them, occasionally offer up a serious comment, and enjoy the fauna. Good content, and troll hunts too? What's not to love?]

      Thank you for your kind words. I deeply appreciate your contributions, and would never ask you to leave. I learn a lot from you and my other friends here.

      And I am referring to all contributors as "friends", because I really do value everyone's input. Sometimes I get a bit cross, sometimes snarky (rarely of course), but freewheeling discussion like this is great.

      Thanks all.

  4. Bachfiend, whatever the religious persuasion of the leaders of the first world war, they were incidental to the war the waged. The Great War wasn't a crusade for Christianity or any denomination.


    1. JQ,

      Agreed. But Egnor is claiming that the Great War was due to the atheism/secularism unleashed by the French Revolution over a hundred years earlier.

      Care to defend that claim?

    2. I don't see a connection between the two and I wish Egnor had provided more supporting evidence of the claim so I could evaluate it for myself. It wasn't a crusade for atheism either.


    3. JQ,

      I never claimed that the Great War was started to advance Christianity. I just noted that it was started by Christian leaders of Christian nations, which immediately falsifies Egnor's claim that it was caused by atheism/secularism due to the French Revolution.

      He claims that Christianity provided a 'glue' uniting Europeans and preventing war before the French Revolution 'dissolved' it, unleashing nationalism.

      Europeans didn't need an excuse for war, as shown by the Seven Years' War, the first world war, and which resulted in around a million deaths (not bad for the 1750s).

    4. bach and JQ:

      The French Revolution finally broke down the system of Catholic hegemony in Europe that was already crumbling because of the Reformation. I see the FR as the logical denouement of the Reformation-- once the underpinnings of the intricate web of the Holy See and Kings and local rulers that was the Middle Ages began to fray, atheism and secularism was inevitable, even though that certainly wasn't the intent of the Protestant reformers (even Luther was horrified at the end of his life at the violence and hate that was being unleashed).

      Without loyalty to Rome, individual ethnic groups and territories developed other loyalties, mostly to blood and soil. Nationalism rose, exemplified by the Napoleonic wars immediately after the French Revolution.

      In the 19th century Europe recoiled, and everything simmered, but the die was cast.

      Nationalism broke out in 1914 again, the denouement of the secularism of the French Revolution, which itself was the denouement of the Reformation.

      Hammering those theses on that church door, regardless of any theological justification, had consequences Luther couldn't even imagine.

  5. Adm. G Boggs, Glenbeckistan NavyJanuary 30, 2014 at 6:03 PM

    Off-topic, but an opportunity...

    Dinesh D'Souza is going to debate Bill Ayers at Dartmouth at 7:30 PM EST tonight.

    Direct your browser to to watch.

  6. No one has attempted to defend Egnor's idiosyncratic (and idiotic) claim that the Great War was the result of atheism/secularism unleashed by the French Revolution over a hundred years earlier.

    Mainly, because it wasn't. Once the Napoleonic wars were over, Europe returned to a normal state. Europe largely managed to avoid major conflicts owing to the Congress of Europe which defused crises by discussion amongst the great powers.

    It failed during the crisis created by the assassination of Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914. The British might have done more to prevent the outbreak of war, but the Asquith government was distracted throughout most of July by the Irish Home Rule issue.

    Anyway. The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars were very important for American power. King Lous XVI (if he'd survived) wouldn't have sold America the Louisiana territory at a bargain price, as Napoleon did, disgusted as he was with the mortality rate amongst his troops on Haiti due to yellow fever. And thinking that Louisina was equally unhealthy.

  7. Barbara Tuchman yuck for many reasons.
    War is by men and best studied by men.
    I recently saw a lot of youtube stuff on WW1. Great stuff. Wiki has good stuff on its origins.
    In the end it simply was that Gods order against murder was rejected. Men everywhere were willing to kill for reasons other then physical self defence or judicial punishment.
    only some men/nations were innocent.
    They all killed and can't complain about being killed.
    In fact after the war most were not fed up with it but saw it as a adventure with a cause.
    It was started by Austrias wicked invasion of Serbia under pretext for the Arch Duke murder. Germany backed up Austria and Russis vacked serbia and the rest of the idiots joined in.
    I remeber Peter, Paul, Mary supported the marsist killers in el salavador against a elected government.
    I think their left wing causes trumped anti war stuff.
    Nothing wrong with war if its just.

    1. Robert-- I tend to agree with your sentiments, but I loved Guns of August. I read it again a few years after I first read it, and loved it again. I begged my kids to read it-- I don't think any of them have yet (3 of the 4 are at or above college age).

      I'd make my students read it if I were a high school history teacher (which my oldest son is!)

    2. Egnor,

      I agree with you - 'the Guns of August' is very good, but it's dated. I'd recommend Margaret MacMillan's 'The War that Ended Peace', Christopher Clarke's 'the Sleepwalkers' or Paul Ham's '1914: the Year the World Ended' all published last year, and with the benefit of a further 50 years of research, including access to Russian archives.

  8. Ever read the Wikipedia page on Hitler and his religious beliefs? Interesting stuff. I'll leave you with the first paragraph. Take it or leave it.

    >>Adolf Hitler was raised by an anticlerical, sceptic father and a devout Catholic mother. Baptized and confirmed as a child in Austria, he ceased to participate in the sacraments after childhood. In adulthood, he became disdainful of Christianity, but in power was prepared to delay clashes with the churches out of political considerations.[1][2][3][4][5] It is generally believed by historians that Hitler's long term aim was the eradication of Christianity in Germany.[6][7] He did not believe in the Judeo-Christian notion of God, though various scholars consider his final religious position may have been a form of deism. Others consider him "atheist". The question of atheism is debated. Hitler's architect Albert Speer believed he had "no real attachment" to Catholicism, but wrote that he had not formally left the Church prior to his suicide. The biographer John Toland noted Hitler's anticlericalism, but considered that he was still in "good standing" with that Church in 1941, while historians Ian Kershaw, Joachim Fest and Alan Bullock agree that Hitler was anti-Christian - a view evidenced by sources such as the Goebbels Diaries, the memoirs of Speer, and the transcripts edited by Martin Bormann contained within Hitler's Table Talk.[8] Goebbels wrote in 1941 that Hitler "hates Christianity, because it has crippled all that is noble in humanity."[9]
    Hitler repeatedly stated that Nazism was a secular ideology founded on science.[10] In his semi-autobiographical Mein Kampf, he makes religious allusions, but declares himself neutral in sectarian matters and supportive of the separation between church and state, while criticising political Catholicism. <<

  9. I never heard of this Seeger guy before. Lets send him away with a Funeral Song. Good luck to him with Saint Peter.