Ron Unz is an interesting man. From his public writings you would think him an idiosyncratic liberal. His most famous essays have argued that Mexican immigration does not exacerbate crime and that attempts to explain racial differences in cognitive performance cannot be explained by genetics. Nonetheless, he loves alternative and scandalous opinions. His website, Unz.com, is introduced as “A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media”. Some of its contributors, like Razib Khan, James Thompson, Paul Gottfried and Steve Sailer are interesting. Others appear to have been offered a platform only because they are hostile to the mainstream media, US foreign policy or, especially, Israel.
Take this essay by Kevin Barrett, an Islamologist who gained some notoreity for arguing that 9/11 was an inside job. It is a review of a book by David Ray Griffin, a theologian best known for making similar arguments about 9/11. The book is both a defence of the existence of God and a critique of popular conceptions of the Almighty. There is no level on which this essay is not embarrassing.
It fails as philosophy, suggesting that the best argument for the existence is God is the argument from the “fine-tuning” of the universe. Even William Lane Craig, who defends this argument, would not claim as much. Barrett claims that the “only recourse” of nonbelievers, confronted with this argument, is to embrace the multiple-universes hypothesis. In fact, atheists from Elliot Sober to William H. Jeffereys to Bradley Monton have critiqued “fine tuning” arguments without appealing to it.
Griffin argues, according to Barrett, that while God exists the problem of evil proves that “an all-good all-powerful” God does not. Barrett denies this but for absurd, obnoxious reasons. “Our emotional reactions to evil and suffering,” he writes, “Especially when we become obsessed with it, may blind us to the larger picture, or even create perverse attachments to the very evils that plague us.”
Consider the case of the Nazi holocaust. This event, more than any other, has been used to disparage “Gawd”: How, many ask, could an all-good all-powerful deity allow such an atrocity? And to His chosen people?! Obviously such a deity cannot exist; therefore we must worship in His place an idol called “Israel,” a symbol of Jewish strength that vaunts its ability to protect the lives of the chosen over other lives by its systematic murder of Palestinian children, its Samson Option policy of threatening the world with nuclear holocaust, and so on.
Needless to say, believing that the Holocaust took place need not mean one supports still less “worships” Israel or the policies Barrett caricatures. (If israel sought the “systematic murder” of Palestinian children, for example, it would be remarkably inefficient given how few it kills.)
The Nazi holocaust would seem to be the perfect example of an event that “all things considered” the world would have been better off without. Yet Zionists, and with them the West they dominate, cling so tenaciously to their “world in which the holocaust happened” that any historian who questions some of the central tenets of the Nazi holocaust narrative…is likely to be imprisoned, suffer physical attack, and have their career and reputation ruined…
One would think that any historian who claimed to have arguments and evidence that the Nazi holocaust, while terrible, wasn’t as incomparably horrible as it has been made out to be, would get a positive, enthusiastic reaction….Who wouldn’t want to live in that better world, at least if the evidence and arguments were reasonably convincing?
Imagine that a loved one has been raped. If someone claimed that they had not been raped you would not greet them with a “positive, enthusiastic” reaction because they would be claiming that your loved one is a liar. They would be arguing that their rapist should be acquitted. It would take severe emotional dysfunction to fail to appreciate this.
Note also the sneaky implication that the arguments of Holocaust revisionists are “convincing”. If you feel obliged to be among their company at least own up to it. Don’t tap dance gracelessly around the fact.
The bottom line here is: What do we really know from evil? It seems to me that anyone who thinks they can distinguish prima facie evil from genuine evil lacks a certain humility. We are likely to see “evil experienced as such by us” (ourselves, our family, our tribe, our nation) as genuine, whereas the evil we commit — such as the holocaust of the Germans perpetrated by the Allies, discussed in such books as Goodrich’s Hellstorm, M.S. King’s The Bad War, and Bradberry’s The Myth of German Villainy — as virtually invisible, and, if considered at all, excusable in light of the supposedly good things we imagine emerged from that evil.
Predictably, Barrett cites three obscure works of Hitler apologetics. If these were the only places one could find the facts of the bombing and rape of German civilians that might be more excusable but one need only turn to Anthony Beevor’s widely read, widely acclaimed The Fall of Berlin to find them, without, as I recall, a trace of rationalisation. We might underemphasise anti-German atrocities but they are acknowledged and rarely excused. Barrett is not just making a lame case for the existence of a subjective element to evil, he is making it as a trojan horse for Holocaust revisionism and Hitler apologetics.
Barrett closes by remembering the book at hand and making a preposterously hyperbolic claim for its importance.
Griffin is simply carrying out the task he has inherited as a contemporary philosopher and theologian. And he carries it out well — so well that his attempt to “write the best book on the existence of God ever written” has, to the best of my knowledge, succeeded.
Better than Monologian? Better than Summa Theologica? Better than The Existence of God, The Experience of God or Reasonable Faith? Griffin’s book might have all kinds of merits but I trust he would not make such claims for it.
If I have a point it is that something can be controversial without being important, interesting or worthy of inclusion in public discourse. This essay is politically and morally repugnant, as well as intellectually flaccid. Anyone hoping to elevate alternative perspectives should maintain editorial standards or mire them in worthless, nasty rubbish.