Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity
“Lethal Humanism” first appeared in the March 2001 issue of Touchstone.
Link Byfield on Ted Turner’s Global Religion
Sometimes it’s surprising what surprises people. There was widespread outrage last September over the killing of a newborn baby by Chinese Communists in Hubei province. Five officials invaded the parents’ home, yanked the infant from their arms, took it to a nearby rice paddy, and drowned it. Apparently finding this shocking, the Edmonton Journal, Vancouver Sun, Calgary Herald, and Ottawa Citizen all ran it on the front page.
To which I can only say, I’m shocked that they are shocked. What did they think China’s infamous one-child policy was all about? Did they imagine it was like limiting lawn-watering during a dry summer, or restricting a supermarket sale item to one-per-customer? Of course the child got killed. It was the woman’s fourth. She should be grateful they didn’t kill two more.
Since the Communists decreed their one-child edict in the 1970s to reduce population, they have forcibly aborted and sterilized countless women and seized and starved countless children. It has been credibly reported that fetuses have even been eaten as health food. Because most parents want their only child to be a boy, girls are now so rare in the more zealous one-child areas that they are routinely kidnapped and raised in captivity.
At the annual meeting of the Association for Asian Studies last year, researchers reported that in one region of China from 1971 to 1980 almost 800,000 baby girls were abandoned or killed. “Given that these numbers represent only one of a dozen regions in China and only one decade out of the past three,” wrote Steven Mosher of the Population Research Institute, “the number of little girls missing and presumed dead throughout the length and breadth of China over the past generation must number well over ten million.”
All of this, of course, is supported with dollops of money, enthusiasm, and expertise from Planned Parenthood, the transnational abortion conglomerate, and abetted by concerned globalists like Bill Gates and Ted Turner.
A Bitter Irony
It is a bitter irony that the super-rich always agree with the anti-rich that humanity’s chief problem is humanity. As G. K. Chesterton observed, most philanthropy consists of a ceaseless effort by the rich to control the poor. It’s always justified by some sort of false argument of expediency: we don’t have room; we can’t possibly feed all these people.
The reality is, of course, that China is not at all short of land. Most of its northern territories are almost empty and could produce far more food. But that would require officialdom in Beijing to adjust their thinking. It seems easier to order people to stop having children; and when people stubbornly insist upon having children anyway, officials dispatch them like unwanted kittens.
All of which should give us pause when gazillionaire humanists like Ted Turner and Maurice Strong, in a spirit of public service, invite representatives of all world religions to a meeting in New York. Mr. Turner is not seeking their wisdom; he intends to impart his own. He wants them to accept his own moral code and disseminate it across the globe.
Now if some Vatican moral theologian were to tell Messrs. Turner and Strong that they plainly misapprehend and despise humanity, both gentlemen would be genuinely offended. They would say, as Mr. Turner himself said in Edmonton a month ago, that they are “just trying to make the world a better place, both for its human inhabitants and all the other creatures that inhabit this planet with us.” I’m sure they really think this.
The gulf between them and the Christian, however, is profound. The Christian holds that each and every human—rich or poor, young or old, smart or less smart, handsome or ugly, lucky or unlucky, healthy or sick, happy or miserable, Christian or otherwise—is made “in the image of God.” This doesn’t mean that we all look like God; it means that to an extent we can think like him, distinguishing virtue from sin, beauty from ugliness, and truth from falsehood. This small apportionment of the divine is the source of all human dignity, freedom, rights, and responsibilities. Anyone who arbitrarily shortens or ruins this divine life and freedom is guilty of a terrible sin.
But the pure humanist sees life quite differently. He has no concept of the image of God; he has only an image of himself, and of his own wants and hopes. And what he wants, naturally, is comfort, convenience, knowledge, long life, and friendship. With these he has “quality of life” and he is content; without them, or at least the hope of them, he considers his own life—or anyone else’s—to be without point.
Two things should be noted about these divergent attitudes. The first is that they are both based on faith, though the humanist does not see this. They are both defended as self-evidently true, and anyone who disagrees is all too often dismissed as stupid or perverse.
The humanist is just as prone to such condemnation as the Christian; perhaps more so, because, unlike the Christian, he is rarely aware that he has a faith at all, and he has no doctrines of the fall and of grace to temper his pride. Communists see themselves as “scientific”; liberals like Mr. Turner imagine themselves to be merely “rational.” But all human understanding is ultimately based on faith.
The other noteworthy point is that our whole concept of human rights arises from our long exploration of the Christian doctrine “that man is the image of God, the imago Dei.” Derived from the creation story in Genesis, and developed by early Christians like St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Augustine, who lived among people much like Mr. Turner, it continues to this day with Pope John Paul’s insistence on the “transcendent dignity of man.”
Take away the acknowledgment of the God who has created man in his image and you remove the central agent guaranteeing human rights, the yeast that causes the bread to rise. The only way you can judge what is good to do is “quality of life”—your comfort, convenience, knowledge, long life, and friendship. Almost instantly, you start deciding whose “quality of life” is sufficient and whose isn’t. Instead of building more houses and plowing more land, you end up drowning babies in rice paddies.
Link Byfield has been editor and publisher of The Report Newsmagazine and its predecessor, Alberta Report, since 1985, and a columnist in it since 1989. The fortnightly publication brings a conservative perspective to Canadian news. Mr. Byfield is a Roman Catholic, married, and the father of four children.
“Lethal Humanism” first appeared in the March 2001 issue of Touchstone. If you enjoyed this article, you'll find more of the same in every issue.
Letters Welcome: One of the reasons Touchstone exists is to encourage conversation among Christians, so we welcome letters responding to articles or raising matters of interest to our readers. However, because the space is limited, please keep your letters under 400 words. All letters may be edited for space and clarity when necessary. email@example.com
This page and all site content © 2015 by The Fellowship of St. James. All rights reserved. Please send comments, suggestions, and bad link reports to firstname.lastname@example.org.