George H. Smith

Reason, Superstition, and Enthusiasm

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If you win an argument you still get to be called "punk" and what not--non-discerner of implication, petty, anti-disestablishmentarian, defenestrator, thespian.

--Brant

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Rick says I need to pay him compliments more often. Maybe I should take him out to dinner and a movie more often too.]

Who the fuck is "Rick," and why is he fishing for compliments? This is all very confusing.

rde

I need to get back on the ether.

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Rick says I need to pay him compliments more often. Maybe I should take him out to dinner and a movie more often too.]

Who the fuck is "Rick," and why is he fishing for compliments? This is all very confusing.

rde

I need to get back on the ether.

Whoops, sorry Rick... I mean Rich. ;)

Shayne

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Rick says I need to pay him compliments more often. Maybe I should take him out to dinner and a movie more often too.]

Who the fuck is "Rick," and why is he fishing for compliments? This is all very confusing.

rde

I need to get back on the ether.

Whoops, sorry Rick... I mean Rich. ;)

Shayne

Oh, you meant me. At least you didn't call me "Dick." Yet. Well, I certainly did not ask you for compliments, I never said that you started this, and I will pass on the dinner date. I was just mentioning your normal surliness. Now that we've cleared that up maybe we can let George have his thread back.

Rightio!

rde

"Feel lucky, punk?" --D. Harry

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It was Xray who dog-legged the thread.

There was no intentional 'doglegging' on my part. My #7 comments about the god principle directly referred to some of the Webster quotes (posted by Ghs in bold type in #1) about the 'deification' of reason.

My post #62 had to do with orthodox Objectivism, which again Ghs had mentionied in his root post.

I then answered to a poster who had asked me to define capitalism (I had briefly mentioned the term # 62), and it then went somewhat off the original topic (with others chiming in). I did not really want to discuss capitalism or profit here on this thread, but as a rule, always try to answer questions asked of me.

Edited by Xray

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I recently noticed that two installments of Cato's Letters -- the series of articles that had a huge influence on 18th century Americans -- are devoted to the topic of religious "enthusiasm."

Here is an excerpt from the first article on enthusiasm, written by the Scotsman Thomas Gordon, the younger of the Cato team. This expresses the common fear that religious enthusiasm will cause political fanaticism and oppression:

NO. 123. SATURDAY, APRIL 6, 1723. Inquiry concerning Madness, especially religious Madness, called Enthusiasm. (Gordon)

...Whenever the mind cannot be confined within its inclosure, but flies like Phaeton into the great abyss, and gives the full reins to imagination, it will quickly be carried out of its knowledge, and ramble about wherever fancy, desire, or vision, leads it. It will quickly rise above humanity, become proper conversation for the celestial beings; and, when once it can persuade itself into such angelical company, will certainly despise all other; and the man who is animated by it will think that he has a right to govern all. If the excess of any passion be madness, the excess of them altogether is exorbitant and outrageous madness; and whoever can get it into his head, that he has secret communications with the deity, must have all his passions at work together. The awe of a divine presence must strike him strongly with fear and reverence: The fancied indulgence and condescension shewn him, must raise the highest love, adoration, and transports of joy: So visible a partiality of the deity to him beyond other men, must create pride, and contempt towards others: Such a support and assistance must inspire the highest courage and resolution to overcome all opposition: Hatred, and revenge, to all who do not believe him, will bring up the rear. At last the jumble of all these passions, with many more, will make an accomplished reformer of mankind.

Religious enthusiasm, therefore, is a flaming conceit that we have great personal interest with the deity, and that the deity is eminently employed about us, or in us; that he warms and solaces our hearts, guides our understandings and our steps, determines our will, and sets us far above those who have less pride and more sense than our selves. The enthusiast heats his own head by extravagant imaginations, then makes the all-wise spirit of God to be the author of his hot head; and having worked up his brains into the clouds, despises and hates all that are below, and if he can, kills them, unless they submit to be as mad as himself; for, because he takes his own frenzy for inspiration, you must be guided by his frenzy; and if you are not, you are a rebel to God, and ‘tis ten to one but he has a call to put you to death....

For the full text, see:

http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=1240&chapter=64548&layout=html&Itemid=27

Here is an excerpt from the subsequent article, written by John Trenchard. This demonstrates that the condemnation of enthusiasm did not extend to all sects -- most notably Quakers, who were widely admired by libertarian types.

NO. 124. SATURDAY, APRIL 13, 1723. Further Reasonings upon Enthusiasm. (Trenchard)

...Besides the flaming enthusiasm mentioned in our last, which is there supposed to be inspired by a super-abundance of spirits, labouring for evacuation; and shaking, disordering, and sometimes bursting its tenement to get ready vent (like gun-powder in a granado or mine, or subterraneous fire enclosed in the bowels of the earth); there seems to me to be another sort of religious enthusiasm, not at all mischievous, but rather beneficial to the world; and this has shewn itself in several ages, and under several denominations. There is much to be read of it in the mystick writers in all times. Hermits seem to be inspired with it, and several sects have built their innocent superstitions upon it; as the Alumbrati in Spain, the Quietists in Italy, the French Prophets lately amongst us; and I doubt, a very great part in Europe, called Quakers, owe their rise and increase to it. Having mentioned this last sect, I think myself obliged to declare that I esteem them to be a great, industrious, modest, intelligent, and virtuous people; and to be animated with the most beneficent principles of any sect which ever yet appeared in the world. They have a comprehensive charity to the whole race of mankind, and deny the mercies of God to none. They publickly own, that an universal liberty is due to all; are against impositions of every kind, yet patiently submit to many themselves, and perhaps are the only party amongst men, whose practices, as a body, correspond with their principles....

For the entire text, see:

http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=1240&chapter=64549&layout=html&Itemid=27

Ghs

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