Sunday, January 01, 2012

Fjordman: Medieval Law — Germanic and Islamic Practices

Fjordman’s latest essay, “Medieval Law — Germanic and Islamic Practices”, has been published at Europe News. Some excerpts are below:

Professor Erik Anners, a Swedish historian of law, compares the legal profession to engineering and believes that law is the engineering of society. European legal history contains traces of both Greek and Mosaic law, which themselves carried some impressions of earlier civilizations, especially that of Mesopotamia. But European law was formed during the Middle Ages in a meeting between Roman law and other, especially Germanic, customs.

Anners comments that the rational school of law which emerged in Western Europe during the High Middle Ages differed strikingly from that found in Islamic regions, especially considering that they had both encountered the same Roman legal heritage. We have the testimony of an educated Muslim man from Spain travelling in the Crusader kingdoms in the twelfth century and noting, somewhat reluctantly, that the European infidels enjoyed a greater security of law than the contemporary Muslims did with their “corrupt qadis,” sharia judges.

Roman law — beginning with the Twelve Tables, the earliest written legislation of Roman law, traditionally dated to ca. 450 BC — dealt with matters of inheritance, obligations and contracts, property and individual persons. It forms the basis for the Civil Law codes of most countries of Continental Europe, distinguished from the Common Law of English-speaking countries.

In England, Common Law was largely Germanic law. For the Germanic peoples, the tribal assembly (mot or thing) had traditionally elected kings and declared war. However, Germanic customary law designed for non-literate societies proved inadequate to cope with complex urban commerce. Like the Roman Emperors before them, the Christian Emperor Charlemagne and his successors claimed the power to make laws for all their subjects. The Roman Catholic Church applied Canon Law in the Church courts. This was heavily influenced by Roman law.

The traditional customs of various European societies gradually blended with Roman customs. Before the coming of Christianity during the Middle Ages, Germanic peoples used to live in pre-state societies where there was no strong centralized authority that could enforce the law, but theft and violent crimes obviously took place in such societies, too, and had to be dealt with somehow. Individuals therefore depended upon their kin and clan for protection.

If a person accused of a crime agreed to pay a sum to the victim’s family and they accepted this, there was peace. This was known as wergeld or wergild (literally: “man payment”). The word were, meaning “man,” has been retained from the Germanic language known as Anglo-Saxon (Old English) and is found in the modern English werewolf. “Geld” is still the Dutch and German term for “money,” whereas the word means “debt” in the Scandinavian tongues.

Historian Julia Smith explains in Europe after Rome: A New Cultural History 500-1000 that it “expressed in monetary terms the slight done to familial pride, reputation, and integrity: the obligation to pay a wergeld imposed upon the offender and his relatives an equivalent degradation.” Moreover, “Except to the extent that the Roman juridical principle that an individual was solely and uniquely responsible for his own actions may have remained enforceable in some parts of the Mediterranean, early medieval Europe was a feuding culture.” Normally, however, “wergeld was paid in order to deflect the risk of vendetta.”

It is noteworthy that the wergeld of a woman was usually roughly equal to that of a man of the same class. This reflects the high traditional status of women in Germanic societies. Not so in Islamic societies, past or present. In 2005, a Saudi Arabian court ruled that the value of a woman’s life is equal to that of a man’s leg. Non-Muslims are often worth even less than this.

Read the rest at Europe News.


Crusader Gary Aust said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sagunto said...

In an explanatory comment following a previous instalment, Fjordman wrote the following:

"I cannot foresee how a new generation of European civilization will look like [..] A big question is whether this goal is compatible with retaining Christianity, a religion that has universalism at its very core. If that is possible then I am personally fine with retaining Christianity, but it remains to be seen whether this is possible and it should anyway be of secondary importance. The primary goal must be to preserve a large homeland overwhelmingly reserved for people of European demographic stock."

I believe this quote goes a long way in helping one to understand why, in spite of its title, this opinion-piece is not really trying to provide a historical account of Medieval Law.

I was looking forward to reading about how the first systematic body of Law in medieval Europe, canon law (i.e. Church Law) became the model for the various secular legal systems emerging in that period. How the Gregorian Reform laid the foundation for the separation between Church and State, and how in the twelfth century, the first comprehensive and systematic legal treatise in the history of the West, the Decretum Gratiani, was written by a monk called Gratian, to name but a few crucial developments in Medieval Law.

Instead what we get, apart from a measly total sum of three lines in the entire essay, is crickets..

So congrats with this Germanistic tribalization of the history of medieval law, while missing no opportunity to leave ostensibly unmentioned the way in which the medieval Latin Church built and shaped this important pillar of Western Civilization.

With the aforementioned quote in mind, I do see why it would be difficult indeed to "retain Christianity" in the envisioned "new generation" of European civilization, when the obvious goal of these renditions of history seems to be to circumvent 1000 years of Church history in this esteemed brew of Classico-Germanic paganism, template for reinventing ourselves after some neo-tribal post-national fashion, based upon "ancestral values", albeit minus the values that shaped Western and indeed Medieval Civilization for about one thousand years.

Kind regs from Amsterdam,

Chiu said...

I think that you need to read the entire article to gain a better understanding of the picture that Fjordman is presenting of the origin of various legal traditions and the fundamental differences in ideas of justice they introduced into the evolution of modern legal theory and thought. It is true that the article is still not long enough to treat all these influences in the detail they may deserve, but it is perhaps unkind to judge it a simple celebration of paganism.

My own theories about justice and natural law owe almost nothing to tradition. I am more concerned with identifying the ultimate goal of human efforts to reconcile their society and personal behavior to the demands of justice rather than with the history of how far they have strayed off the path in the past. But examining those past traditions to see how they worked (or more often, failed) is a worthwhile process in that it gives us insight into both pitfalls that must be avoided as well as options we might otherwise not have considered.

Chiu Chun-Ling.

Sagunto said...

Hi Chiu -

"I think that you need to read the entire article to gain a better understanding"

Since I see no one else around, I must assume that you're talking to me here?

FYI, I did read the entire essay, like I said, and I must admit Chiu, that I'm not especially fond of your presumptuous comment in this regard.

Chiu said...

My apologies. Your comments seemed to make more sense in the context of only addressing the initial section of the article that was posted here.

But that not being the case, I will say that I agree with Fjordman's assessment that the main effect of Christianity was to discourage aggressive recourse to formal ideas of justice. The body of jurisprudence that you assign to medieval Christian development was originally Roman and retained much of that character, only being softened by the Christian imperative of mercy rather than radically altered.

Fjordman could have done more, I feel, to bring out the essentially dispersive idea of the Germanic ideas of justice compared to the more consolidated authoritarian impulses of Mediterranean versions. This relates to what became the final breakthrough of Western Civilization on the ideals of the rule of law...that the object should be for the law to apply to everyone equally according to their actions. It is of course the Christian disapproval of resorting to strict justice in every case that makes this final breakthrough possible...if you limit the sphere of the law such that most ordinary actions are not punishable by the law, then you can begin to overcome the question of "who, whom" that is the heart of contradictions in "complete" legal theories.

But as it is, Fjordman does much to boil down the essential contributions of the major influences on the evolution of European and Mediterranean legal tradition. The primary contribution of Christianity to legal theory is essentially negative, disapproval of resorting to the pursuit of strict notions of justice in minor cases, assertion of a sphere of spiritual and human interests outside of the purview of the state. It is from the Germanic tradition that a view of the power backing the law being essentially distributed and negotiated among coeval parties rather than consolidated and mandated by a central authority appears. The complex procedural emphasis that is common in Western Civilization is a heritage of Roman protections to citizens and other special classes of subjects who were extended the ability to appeal and so forth.

To insist that all of these must be attributed to Christianity because Christianity was the most significant force in their synthesis into limited distributed procedural justice is, I think, somewhat unchristian in the sense of being a position that Christ would have declined to assert. The purely Christian view is simply that Christians should decline to submit every injury against themselves to the legal authority for resolution. It is only in combination with the Germanic view that enforcement power is naturally distributed rather than consolidated that the Christian reluctance to submit every question to adjudication by the authorities becomes an argument that most minor questions shouldn't be pursued by the law no matter who brings them.

And the procedural complexity of legal action from Roman sources has almost nothing to do with German or Christian notions. But it has contributed certain vital checks on the law which would have been supplied differently by either other source. I think that Fjordman's article, while not a complete or deep meditation on the actual process of development of Western ideas of jurisprudence, nevertheless does well enough in sketching the original sources...and the essential character of what each source contributed.

Chiu Chun-Ling.

Dymphna said...

@Chiu Chun-Ling:

When you say,

The primary contribution of Christianity to legal theory is essentially negative, I understand that you do not mean this to be pejorative. However, your summary dismissal of the very long history of Christian legal theory -- based as it was on Roman law -- fails entirely to do it justice.

Germanic law, with its collegiality ("distributed and coeval"), had greart influence in northern Europe for those who stayed behind. But the initial invasions of the Germanic tribes into "Romania's" territories, had the motive of becoming part of Rome, not replacing it. The slow integration of the "barbarians" into Roman culture included the dropping of their own languages and culture in order to become part of a much greater tradition. There are very few German words in the Romance languages because they obliterated themselves in that transition.

To claim that Christian theories of jurisprudence were essentially "negative" is to ignore the hundreds of years of Christian jurisprudence which built on the foundations of Roman "natural law" -- iirc, that goes back to Cicero.

This ius naturale was most congenial to the Christian world view re man's place in the universe.

Check out Justinian's Institutes, since everyone -- Orient and Occident, Greek and Rome -- cribbed from him.

Had only Islam not interrupted that flow...

Anonymous said...

Chiu Chun-Ling

what's your problem with history?

do you know what happened in tiananmen square?

Anonymous said...

the essentially dispersive idea of the Germanic ideas of justice compared to the more consolidated authoritarian impulses of Mediterranean versions.


there are people living in the mediterranean who are NOT mediterrenean. they are descendant of NON mediterrenean invaders.

Sagunto said...

Hi Chiu -

For the last time, and I'm sorry that you're making me do this, I have to INSIST that when you reply to my comments, you do me the basic courtesy of at least addressing me with, e.g. "hi Sag", "@Sagunto" or whatever. Got it? Clear now? Good.

You write:

"Your comments seemed to make more sense in the context of only addressing the initial section of the article"

No Chiu, my comment makes sense when one assumes - as you should have - that there might be something of value, perhaps something to learn, in someone else's informed opinion, especially if the view put forward differs from that of your own.

And while I do value your comments - apart from the omission that hopefully I've now addressed for the last time - with regard to both you and Fjordman, whose articles I hold in high esteem, in spite of sometimes fundamental differences of opinion, I take the liberty of recommending one essential scholarly work on the history of Medieval Law, by Prof. Harold Berman, called "Law and Revolution: the Formation of the Western Legal Tradition" (1983).

Kind regs from Amsterdam,

Chiu said...

Since I am no longer addressing a single individual (nor did I initially, I intended to exhort everyone to read the entire article and try to understand it for what it was), I hope I can dispense with listing everyone who should read this. I can say, if you are only scanning for comments that I intend for you as an individual, you will find none here.

The idea that evolution of Roman legal tradition was essentially Christian simply because most of the persons engaged in it were committed believers in Christianity does not change the fact that the procedural emphasis was an essentially Roman contribution that is actually significantly at odds with Christian attitudes towards the law. That Christianity heavily influenced the development and ultimate objectives of that legal evolution is not in question, nor did I mean to question it.

I do not wish to be too confrontational or adversarial in saying what I am forced to conclude about the medieval evolution of European is not very Christian. It is Roman law which has been influenced by Germanic pragmatic realities and Christian values. But Fjordman is essentially correct in identifying the central Christian attitude towards the law as being dismissive rather than containing any clearly discernible positive concept of what it should be.

Christ's assertion that He has come to fulfill the requirements of the law must be understood in the context of His claim to have thus freed His disciples from it. I cannot dispute this claim, as one that embraces the laws I must acknowledge that Christ has the power to suspend its application to those that truly follow Him, for it was fully satisfied in Christ's sacrifice. It is hard to see why any serious Christian would even want to claim having had much influence in developing the is not an essentially Christian activity.

A fully Christian society wouldn't need laws at all...every one of the great Christian legal theorists (beginning with the New Testament) has emphasized this point. Every law is an admission of the unchristianity of society. I may have been too blunt in saying that Christianity made an essentially negative contribution to the development of Western jurisprudence, limiting and reducing its reach and scope rather than directly advancing it. But the reverse is true as well, the evolution of the law is only necessary or possible because of the lack of perfect Christianity in the West.

Chiu Chun-Ling.

Sagunto said...

Hi Chiu -

There might be some misunderstanding here, or a disconnect at the very least.

You see, I've been over here at GoV for several years now, engaging actual persons in online discussion. Along with it comes a certain personal style that may or may not be always appreciated by each party, but always accompanied by a mutual understanding of reciprocity as expressed in discourse.
You, otoh, seem determined to act as if you rather were a non-person, distributing opinions to a more abstract audience of non-persons. Fair enough.
All I can say in conclusion then, is that I don't particularly like your style, while I do value some of the opinions you deliver. So no hard feelings eh?

Kind regs from Amsterdam,

Chiu said...

It isn't so much that I am determined to act like a non-person...I just don't have some of the emotional characteristics that most humans would deem necessary in a "person". From what I have been able to learn of these more specifically human characteristics, I consider myself better off without them. Most of those who know me well tend to agree...though they might simply be trying to protect aspects of "my" personal ego I don't actually have.

You New said...

Hey, Sag!

Medieval Law, by Prof. Harold Berman, called "Law and Revolution: the Formation of the Western Legal Tradition" (1983).

I was wondering if you were going to tell me where you got your law info. Thanks, I'm going to try to get a copy!

I enjoy your posts very much. Just a tiny bit too far in the anti-collective direction for my taste but you have good points and have definitely taught me a few things.

Don't forget that man is the most social of mammals. Our creators gave us the longest of gestations and childhoods, for good or bad.

"Social" does not have to have an "ist" or an "ism" stuck on the end of it.

Regarding polite comment behavior: Who would preach the doctrine of individualism yet refuse to address an individual?

a. Mr. Spock
b. John Travolta
c. Clyde Crashcup
d. duh?

Sagunto said...

Hi You New -

I think we'd be able to agree on the issue of collectivism as a political philosophy/praxis (no biology or psychology involved here) pretty quickly, perhaps after just a few rounds of semantic cleansing ;)

For sure, in my book collectivism has nothing to do whatsoever with our innate need for social relations, bonding and all kinds of social exchanges. We're made for that.
What I'm contrasting here is, among other things, the coercive nature of collectivism, which is a philosophy of power, with the voluntarism of the Christian notion of free will, of natural rights and a free society. It is free individuals who form genuine social bonds, not subjects of some arbitrary collectivist body. The "solidarity", for instance, enforced by collectivism is really an oxymoron, since genuine solidarity worthy of our deepest respect is of a free and spontaneous nature, or it is no solidarity at all.

Glad you intend to pick up a copy of Berman's book. It's good.

Take care,

Chiu said...

As the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States tends to highlight, the ability to associate freely with other like-minded individuals is among the most cherished individual rights. Indeed, the individual need for social expression is the main reason that government must exist at all (an argument that I've had with many a Randian Objectivist or anarchist).

It is true that I personally see individualism as a means to an end...that end being maintenance of the distinction between conceptually positive good and the absence of it. But I also maintain that for humans generally it should be a foundational value because it is felicitous to human nature (and supernature, if one wants to make a distinction) and thus the most effective way to secure it as a means (to the differentiation between good and evil that is necessary to the existence of good) is to allow it as an end in itself.

Chiu Chun-Ling.

You New said...


Thanks a lot for the clarification. My point then is, if we want a strong argument for individual creativity/responsibility and against collectivist power-grabbing mentalities, we need to explain that man's social and individual needs are best met with a minimum of social engineering. I hope you agree that we look foolish if we think of ourselves as mere individuals. That's a bad agrument and we will lose for sure that way. We all must return to being individually AND socially responsible. This is the winning argument and a place to begin to attack the collectivists.

Lao Tsu explained a proper society briefly yet more thoroughly than anyone. He said in a wise society that there was no need for laws, since of course people would have integrity both individually and on a group level. The less wisdom the people have, the more you have to have rules, law and order. Lao Tsu says we need some laws and rules, because people aren't wise enough to do without. But only the minimum amount necessary to help! He's emphatic about that last point.

I submit that only twenty per cent of government regulation is helpful or necessary. We have not done well explaining the reason why government should be kept to the minimum needed, especially how it detracts from a natural moral social order. I think we specificaly need to create political parties that have minimal government as their main purpose and as their name, like Small Government Party, etc. But not an anti-government party! This would be a big step forward in publicly clarifying the problem.

"Governing should be performed in much the same way as one would cook a small fish."

Again, Thanks, YN

Sagunto said...

"I hope you agree that we look foolish if we think of ourselves as mere individuals. That's a bad argument."

For what it's worth: agreed. I don't really mind looking foolish when I refer to Natural Law and I don't mind how others might look. I care for exploring the different philosophical positions on the human condition here at GoV.
And BTW, why the need to agree on a truism, as if anyone over here ever claimed that human beings were mere individuals? I haven't read that in any comment over here at GoV, and I sure have read many by now ;)

And forgive me if I sound somewhat repetitive, but I'm talking about individual natural rights here, I'm not seeking to exchange views and opinions on "individualism". So natural rights in the Western tradition of Natural Law, which simply states that we have individual rights that transcend the political order of the day, because we're human beings, the "natural" qualitate qua.
These rights are not based on group membership (as progressivists would have it), or "identity" and what have you, nor would they miraculously come into being because they were granted by some political body, chosen or not. This is the great Western idea that underpins the principle of self-ownership. Of course the natural rights tradition will be misinterpreted by people likening it to "individualism" (whatever that may mean), "egoism", and perhaps even "greed", for those eager to come up with psycho-biological explanations for the ongoing economic crisis.

"We all must return to being individually AND socially responsible. This is the winning argument and a place to begin to attack the collectivists."

The interesting part would be your ideas about how people must become more socially responsible. How, would you suggest, is this to be effected by the people themselves?

Now, as for government. I don't care for small, actually, I care about the nature of government, its specific powers and the amount of centralization. I don't want government to be small "an sich", that's the "left" vs "right" progressivist infighting over the size and "efficiency" of the welfare state.
A small but efficient government could still pose a formidable threat to our liberties.

So i.m.o. the fundamental question to be asked first and foremost, is what the role of government should be. And it is with regard to this all important question that I thank you for providing the wisdom of Lao Tsu:

"The less wisdom the people have, the more you have to have rules, law and order. Lao Tsu says we need some laws and rules, because people aren't wise enough to do without."

There's so much that could be said about this little gem of Taoism. For me it almost perfectly resembles all that I am thoroughly opposed to as a Westerner. My short answer would be that, no, we don't need to have rules because the people (ordinary folk, I suppose) are more or less "unwise" (who is going to determine that?). That's no fundamental answer, in my opinion, and besides that, I don't like the thin veiled elitism that simmers through. It just doesn't "feel" right for me.

I'd say that the rules we can tolerate at the level of the national state, are those that explicitly bind govt to the sole principle and purpose of protecting our individual, natural rights, i.e. the right to our life, our liberty and property, which obviously includes the fruits of our labour. The amount of "wisdom" among the people is of no fundamental concern here, though it sure would be nice if people would be so wise as not to sell their inalienable rights for the promise of stability, "ordered" by wise men, whether these be Lao Tsu philosophers or scientifically brilliant specialists and social engineers.

Kind regs from Amsterdam,

Sagunto said...

Hi You New -


Two quotes from Lao-tzu about the state, taken from "Economic Thought Before Adam Smith, Vol I":

"The more artificial taboos and restrictions there are in the world, the more the people are impoverished…. The more that laws and regulations are given prominence, the more thieves and robbers there will be."

"Therefore the Sage says: I take no action yet the people transform themselves, I favor quiescence and the people right themselves, I take no action and the people enrich themselves…."

And here's Chuang-tzu, two centuries after Lao-tzu:

"There has been such a thing as letting mankind alone; there has never been such a thing as governing mankind [with success]."

"A petty thief is put in jail. A great brigand becomes a ruler of a State."

Now THAT's more like it!


Chiu said...

As regards to "-isms" generally, the suffix designates a system of thought which places the concept expressed by the unmodified term as a central value. Hence "individualism" does not assert that there exists nothing beyond the individual just as "capitalism" does not assert that capital investment is the only possible expenditure of wealth. Both terms merely designate a system of theory in which central importance attaches to the concept designated.

Individualism is thus not a rejection of society, merely an assertion that society exists to serve the needs of individuals rather than individuals existing to serve the needs to society. A Taoist perspective would be that, since humans are naturally individuals, to attempt to guide their actions according to any other theory would be fighting against nature, and thus an endeavor doomed to failure.

That individual humans have need of social interaction for their happiness, growth, and successful development doesn't change that the system that provides these things can be geared towards meeting the needs of the individuals involved rather than trying to gear the individuals involved to serve the needs of the system of social interaction. It does, as has been noted, mean that there does need to be a system of social interaction.

The point about limited government being a means to produce a social system which allows the individual to dictate their own interactions rather than an end to which one might reasonably sacrifice the freedom of individuals is astute. It would indeed be possible to create a very small, but efficient and powerful government while absolutely abandoning the primacy of individuals. In a prison we see a large population controlled by a small number of heavily armed could imagine (one does not need to imagine, if one has sufficient knowledge of history and the less pleasant parts of the world today) a society where a great mass of people are controlled by a very small but brutally efficient government.

It is thus worth contemplating the idea which is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States as "the militia". Frequently mentioned, and explicitly distinct from a national Army or troops kept by the states, the term refers to that part of the citizenry which is armed and organized to be able to support the enforcement of the law (and implicitly to prevent unconstitutional impositions). Considered as a part of the government (which the Constitution explicitly makes it), this would be an enormous government, feasibly comparable to the number of persons eligible to vote, own land, or exercise other rights of citizenship.

Of course, that raises the question of whether the militia could be considered any more a part of the government than are voters, land-owners, or other general groups of citizenry exercising their rights.

It also sparks the question of whether the theoretical model that was adopted by the American Revolutionaries in designing their national system of government is really fully applicable to European efforts to preserve their Western heritage of rule of law, personal responsibility, and individual freedom. My own perspective is that the Constitution represents a kind of apotheosis of the Enlightenment's ethical effort to fully implement a framework of resolving the tensions implicit in the individual needs for society, liberty, personal and property rights, and mutual defense against potential aggression. But we must face the plain fact that it was never fully implemented even in America, and the design may be considered too radical a shift for European nations to rapidly or successfully adopt.

Chiu Chun-Ling.

You New said...

Howdy Sag,

Thanks for the reply. It would be inappropriate for me to leave a full explanation here, so please get my email address from B and D if you feel like more detail.

I certainly didn't explain myself well in my last post to you. You really don't overdo the "rugged individualist" thing too much IMO and the way I wrote you did imply that. Sorry. However, others do, like Randians, and I see it across the internet and it seemed you were moving that direction.

Your selection from Lao Tsu doesn't explain his governmental theory fully. Please allow me to show you Lao Tsu in a nutshell. Also I'll use it to answer your question.

The Concise points of Lao Tsu:
(Tao Teh Ching)

There is a way that things actually are and it is "good." (similar to Genesis) Yippee!

If you're not sure it's going to help, just skip it. In general, don't meddle.

All beings have a natural underlying wisdom, whether it's available to the individual or not is another story

:He said, "Don't screw this up" but then he said....."Too late, you screwed it up. Now you must return, return to this lost wisdom now!

Then on government: Gov should be small and behind the scenes, not showy or pompous, but just serving the people. The lowest is really the highest, think about how great water is and it's strength, action (low) and longevity.

Gentleness is overall superior to forcefulness.

People have lost the Tao. They are corrupted, obscured of their innate wisdom. So we need rules, but only just enough rules to handle things. He said there were different amounts of rules needed from zero to moderate amount, depending on wisdom of the people. Always use the minimum amount needed. Always the smallest government as needed, no more.

end of the teachings of Lao Tsu

So he teaches things are screwed up, we have gone against our wiser nature, and now we wonder why things are that way? Sag? You would need to float the theory that there are really wiser beings as opposed to mere technological intelligence?

So Sag, to succeed we need to return to philisophical/religious integrity, which Lao say we have innately yet buried, what Lao Tsu calls the way of the Tao!

I think we need to rediscover the goodness in us, which is called God or the Holy Spirit by the Christian. What we are seeing is the failure of religion to be practiced correctly.

We have ignored and misinterpreted the meta-genuises like Lao Tsu, Christ and Buddha. If you learn what they really said I believe you would agree.

Instead look up to ordinary geniuses who only give us descriptive and technological knowledge but don't help us much with understanding our real problems, like the very destructive sense of meaninglessness that is pervading.

But how is that going to help governmental problem we have here, you say?

There were three realeases of meta-genius knowledge which were later followed and resulted in the three great civilizations: Indian, China, European. Someday when we return to wisdom a fourth great civilization will begin. In the mean time anyone can return to the Tao right now if they are so inclined, alone. Few do.

Our civilization is ending now, just as India's and China's did as they lost connection to the basis of their original success.

BTW, Sag, I know you are agnostic which means nothing to me. I have no intention in converting you since I know that beliefs are only beliefs. Truth matters, and the freedom achieved by coherence in it.

In conclusion, there are simple truths that mankind has utterly lost and may be reassumed at any time, individually and socially. Whether or not anyone else does it, you can. Individually!

Egghead said...

Sagunto: I fully agree with your initial comment. :)

You New: What a lovely recent comment to Sagunto! :)

Chiu: As always, I appreciate your input for its content and range that enables me to clarify my own thoughts.

All: I know that I am late to this party but I wanted to float the idea that the Middle Eastern religions of Judaism and Islam seem to be very determined to use 'religious' law to fully control every aspect of human life.

God is interested in individual free will - free will which is contravened by excessive man-made (but God-attributed) 'religious' laws.

God gave the ten commandments which definitely hit the high points of the law, and I wonder at Fjordman's failure to mention them as THE core tenets of Western law.

Just the prohibition against coveting another man's wife gains infinite relevance in the modern world now that modern non-Muslims understand for the first time that Muslims plan to murder non-Muslim men - and assign their wives and children to be Muslim sex slaves.

Christ gave a 'positive' golden rule which he reinterpreted from an earlier 'negative' Jewish version of such.

From The Golden Rule:

"The Sage Hillel formulated a negative form of the golden rule. When asked to sum up the entire Torah concisely, he answered:[57]

"That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn."

—Talmud, Shabbat 31a, the "Great Principle"

"Jesus' teaching, however, goes beyond the negative formulation of not doing what one would not like done to themselves, to the positive formulation of actively doing good to another that, if the situations were reversed, one would desire that the other would do for them."

Here, I quote the New Testament only to show Christ's embrace of God's Law.

Luke 6:31

31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

"A similar passage, a parallel to the Great Commandment, is Luke 10:25-28

25 And one day an authority on the law stood up to put Jesus to the test. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to receive eternal life?”

26 What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you understand it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your strength and with all your mind.’(Deuteronomy 6:5) And, ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ ”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do that, and you will live.”.

Chiu said...

It seems that the Taoist perspective of embracing the universe as it is has a certain similarity to Christ's path of loving God and His Creation (embodied in one's neighbor). Perhaps the greatest similarity is the difficulty of reducing either to formulaic prescriptions for behavior in every enumerable case. Often what is "right" in a Christian (or Taoist) sense depends on factors that are not so easily defined.

It is worth noting that it is primarily Christianity which has led to the six "religious" commandments being de-emphasized in Western legal tradition. Strictly enforced legal prohibitions of divergent religions, blasphemy, idolatry, violation of holidays, coveting, or unfilial behavior are markedly rarer in Christian nations than in most other traditional societies. That the Christian versions of these commandments are the obvious candidates for possible enforcement is a positive contribution of the Christian roots of the West (one that now being threatened by Islam and PC MC). But that these are rarely considered an appropriate area for the state to intervene is the other contribution of Christianity, and the one that I think must be forcefully defended.

The secular commandments against theft, murder, perjury, and adultery are generally understood to be necessary to an ordered society, and are not particularly original. But the other commandments have a character that makes them particular to the specific religion. Obviously state enforcement of the commandment to worship a particular deity above all others is simply incompatible with religious freedom. And the nature of blasphemy is similarly particular to a given religious tradition, though forbidding blasphemy against one religion does not necessarily imply permitting it against any other (except where a sect defines expressions of respect for any other religion as blasphemous).

Holy days (and days of observance that may be cultural or national rather than religious in character) differ from religion to religion, and given that there are a limited number of days in the year it is a real burden on those of other religions to have certain activities forbidden to them on days that they would otherwise use freely. And idolatry is so difficult to clearly define and avoid in a technologically dynamic society that Western culture almost completely abandoned the concept. It appears now in Christian circles mostly as an admonition to avoid actually worshiping material possessions.

The intricacies of the commandments to honor one's parents and avoid coveting are perhaps too involved to cover quickly. But the difficulties of enforcing either in a society that is economically dynamic and does not permit the criminalization of mental attitudes should be apparent.

A consideration of these essential values of Christianity (by no means an exhaustive list of its contributions to Western culture) should convince any defender of Western Civilization that the Christian contributions merit a firm cultural defense against attrition or overthrow by other moralities. But I am also convinced that the negative contribution of Christianity, the attitude that regards these matters as being inappropriate to regulation by the government, is a vital component of a free society which hopes to remain technologically or economically dynamic (regardless of whether one draws this limitation of the proper sphere of state authority from Christianity or not). The defense of this principle cannot be simply with words or by example, it must be upheld with all the means available to each nation.

Chiu Chun-Ling.

Egghead said...

Chiu: Interesting. I plan to add more later, but here are a couple of quick points:

We are discussing the contribution of the Ten Commandments to Western law - and mores that determine the law going forward.

For right many years, European governments in concert with the Catholic Church enforced the Ten Commandments - and yet European countries thrived with technology and remained economically vibrant - especially as compared to their non-Christian counterparts.

Moreover, the values that underlie the Ten Commandments became a part of the very fabric of Western man.

Two quick examples from the Ten Commandments:

1. 'Honor thy mother and father' shows that God intends for men to value women - in an age where many women died in childbirth, the law valued de facto mothers or women who mothered men - women like aunts and stepmothers - the law valued women with whom men had NO sexual relationship - the law valued older women.

2. 'Do not commit adultery' shows that God intends for men men to value young women related by marriage rather than blood - and for men to have one spouse at a time.

Two quick examples from Sharia Law:

1. 'Women need four male witnesses to the act of rape to prove rape' shows that Allah (Satan) values rape as a means whereby men may devalue women of all ages. In fact, Allah exhorts Muslims to violently murder rape victims in order to achieve family honor.

Clearly, God has a far different idea in the command to honor thy mother and father than Satan has in the command to 'honor' murder raped women (who might very well be mothers, by the way).

2. 'Men may marry up to four wives as long as men treat their wives equally' shows that Satan values polygamy as another means whereby men may devalue women - and girls - of all ages.

Clearly, God has a far different idea in the command 'do not commit adultery' than Satan has in his 'permission' to marry four wives.


The assumptions that underlie the religious laws affect the psyche of the entire population whether or not the laws are enforced by the government.

This is WHY Egyptians immersed in Sharia Law for centuries quickly RUSHED to adopt Sharia Law when given the chance. Sharia Law is an integral part of their Muslim psyche. 'Religious' Sharia Law is the chicken that laid the egg of formalized 'secular' Sharia Law.

In the same way, Christianity and its Ten commandments have shaped the mores of Western society in modern times - without being overtly enforced by a government.

Unfortunately, and I mean this description to be as neutral as possible, the introduction of multiple forms of Protestantism seems to have introduced confusion and doubt into Christianity that has both affected - and afflicted - Western mores - with a divided and decentralized Christianity being spiritually meek and weak when confronted by overt atheist and Muslim foes.

The point that I am trying to make is that, if Christians cannot even convince each other and agree on fundamental Christian doctrine, then how would you convince others to respect your religion(s).

Muslims have NO such issue because Islam is Islam is Islam - and any Protestant Muslims meet the end of a sharp sword in short time.

Chiu said...

From a historical perspective, it seems evident that the commandment against adultery did not forbid being married to more than one woman, but only having sexual relations outside of marriage. It is very clearly stated in the scriptural account of King David's adultery that his relationships to the multiple wives he had married were permitted but that his relationship with the wife of Uriah was forbidden because she was not David's wife. Whether or not one accepts the historicity of this account, it was accepted for hundreds of years as being a definitive expression of the meaning and importance of the commandment forbidding adultery.

Thus while it is clearly true that the good order of any society depends upon the restriction of sexual relationships to marriage (of some form) and may well be true that monogamy is the most beneficial form of marriage, it is not totally clear that Christianity made an essential contribution to either the legal status of marriage or monogamy (Paul does mention monogamy approvingly, but does not undertake to clearly forbid polygamous relationships).

Chiu Chun-Ling.

Egghead said...

Ah, Chiu: Look into your heart and you will discover, as every reasonable and moral person, that polygamy is an immoral practice that is an supreme insult to and offense against God.

A person unable to see or unwilling to admit the utter destructiveness of polygamy to the sacred bonds of family and the fabric of civil society would be unconvinced by any argument.

Where polygamy exists, polygamy ALWAYS devolves into legalized child molestation, rape, and physical abuse via forced marriages of minor girls.

Whatever the religion, polygamy causes the same bad result for women and children. The fruits of polygamy are extremely poisonous.

Church forefathers were human, and humans sin. Polygamy is a sin.

"The Roman Catholic Church teaches in its Catechism that

'polygamy is not in accord with the moral law. [Conjugal] communion is radically contradicted by polygamy; this, in fact, directly negates the plan of God which was revealed from the beginning, because it is contrary to the equal personal dignity of men and women who in matrimony give themselves with a love that is total and therefore unique and exclusive.'[37]"

The prohibition of adultery IS a prohibition of polygamy because, at the moment of marriage, God unites one man with one woman in a sacred bond that 'What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.' Any consequent man-made 'marriages' are a grave sin against God - and adultery against the one - and only - true wife of the man.

God is much smarter than we humans!

To God, marriage is a sacrament intended for the spiritual benefit and growth of humans closer to God.

To Allah (Satan), polygamy is a conscious perversion of marriage that legalizes all manner of human sin via the pretense that marriage is a merely human contract for the benefit of older men.

Polygamous Muslims view marriage as a man-made contract. Muslims believe that Muslims are human whereas non-Muslims are non-human.

Would a human allow one dog to contract marriage to another dog? No. Using the same reasoning, Muslims invalidate non-Muslim marriages. Non-human non-Muslims literally cannot be married in the dar el Islam.

Would a human enter marriage with a non-human dog? No. Using the same reasoning, Muslims assign non-Muslims as sexual slaves or concubines. In order to marry a non-Muslim, the Muslim requires the non-Muslim to convert to Islam.

The wikipedia site has interesting information about the history and various views of polygamy, but the fact is that polygamy contravenes God's will.

We all know it - and that is WHY many people have tried to justify polygamy - because it is wrong but people STILL want to do it and get 'credit' for being right - when they are absolutely wrong.


Chiu said...

My heart (speaking of my personal center of moral reflection) may not be the best source of information about what is or is not a supreme offense against God. As evidence of this, I cite merely that simple moral reflection does not fill me with any confidence that polygamy is necessarily an offense against God, let alone a supreme one. Insofar as you believe it is, you must admit that my heart is probably defective as an instrument of discovering such ultimate moral truths.

And while, as a Taoist, I find it unreasonable to refute the clear evidence that Christ was indeed the incarnation of divinity, bringing about atonement between God and humanity despite the wretched spiritual condition of the latter, I do not find any really persuasive historical evidence to suggest that the Catholic Church has an authoritative claim to infallibility about God's will and plan for humankind. That limits somewhat the utility of appealing to Catholic writings on the subject. This does not amount to a refutation of anything that Catholicism declares, but does mean that such declarations must be supported by some other authority I would reasonably accept.

That monogamy is a strong element of Western culture is certainly the case, but I find it better supported in the Germanic traditions than in the original Christian sources. I also am cognizant that accepting any ratio of men to women in marriage far different from 1:1 raises some significant difficulties with maintaining the good order of society. This means that it is impractical to ever permit (let alone require) polygamy as a general practice, and the ideas of egalitarian standing implicit in equality before the law suggests that monogamy is a reasonable institutional stricture on marriage.

For me, the point is that, just because Western culture's embrace of monogamy as a rule for legally acceptable marriage is not based entirely on religious claims, it can and should be defended with the full force of law. If the claims for monogamy were entirely religious, then I would have to reject their legal force.

Chiu Chun-Ling.

Egghead said...

Chiu: I understand your position, and I enjoy corresponding with you.

My point in referring to Catholic writings was threefold:

1. Somebody agrees with me! Whoo hoo! :)

2. You referenced the historical perspective of polygamy which I have attempted to show was an Old Testament practice of Jews rather than a New Testament practice of Christians. Christ refined Old Testament Judaism. Polygamy was either abandoned or rejected by Christians. The wikipedia article on polygamy mentioned that Romans were monogamous. It seems to me that the transition of the Roman empire to Christianity may have influenced the morally correct rejection of polygamy even more than pagan Germanic influences? :)

3. We were originally discussing the influence of religious law on secular law. This context makes my reference to Catholic catechism perfectly valid. Only Catholicism defined Christianity for the bulk of Christian history. Protestants provided a new and internally and externally contradictory addition to Christian theology. Protestant sects which fail to agree with the theology of the Catholic Church or each other or each other's pastors today, let alone in the past, must inspire even less confidence than the Catholic Church which has spent over 2,000 years refining consistent moral theology. :)

And yet, here is an absolutely wonderful EVANGELICAL explanation of how the main of the Biblical world was MONOGAMOUS. Remember polygamous Islam came much later.

"So, polygamy was present only in a particular subset of Palestinian Judaism (NOT in Roman society, Greek society, Diaspora Jewish communities, the Hillel-school, or Dead Sea Sect), and generally confined to the aristocracy."

See, even back then, polygamous Palestinians acted like Muslims! ARGH!

[LACK OF] Polygamy in the New Testament Period - A MUST READ!

Chiu said...

Polygamy (and other arrangements that make women unavailable for marriage, such as concubinage) must always be fairly restricted, since the good order of society cannot permit too many males with no reasonable prospect of marriage (availability of "public" concubines--i.e. prostitutes--does not have the civilizing influence of marriage).

This means that even a society allowing polygamy would need to keep the practice fairly tightly restricted rather than encouraging it too generally. In the time of Christ this was certainly true, with a very small number of high-ranking persons having more than one wife (the Romans were more tolerant of prostitution instead). That Christianity did not initially penetrate this social class deeply is perhaps not entirely unrelated to Christian attitudes towards polygamy, but in the formal teachings of Christ and His immediate disciples there is little evidence for any condemnation of polygamy as long as it was marital rather than extra-marital.

I do have to regard the Catholic tradition as being more an effort to reconcile Christianity to Roman influences than the reverse. I would not suggest that everything about Catholicism of which I approve must be Christian in origin and everything I disapprove must be Roman...but that is mainly because I'm not a very good person, I frankly approve of many things that I know perfectly well are evil. But in regards to deciding whether something comes from the Roman or Christian roots of Catholicism, there is usually recourse to the pre-Constantine versions of each.

Original Christianity regarded prostitution as morally unacceptable, while Roman law permitted/encouraged it. That being the case, I find the Catholic tradition's relative ranking of marital polygamy and prostitution to be strong evidence that this is a Roman influence rather than a Christian one. Of course, the Roman legal tradition is quite as foundational to Western Civilization as Christianity is, though I believe that the moral underpinnings of Western ascendancy come more from Christian than Roman influences.

I personally would rather that a society a)not engage in any form of anti-female medical interventions to reduce the natural tendency for human females of reproductive age to outnumber males of the same age category, b)permit all woman to enjoy the full benefits of marriage (including permanence of the marriage) and c)not encourage any form of concubinage for women (whether public or private).

Given the above, the logical answer for most demographically natural populations will be to permit restricted polygamy (the morality of this can be fairly debated). Second marriages of older men to much younger women may suffice for populations with certain favorable demographic profiles (though the morality of divorcing women once no longer of child-bearing age may also be debated). Excluding a certain percentage of women from ever enjoying any benefits of marriage is also a possible solution, and I would not readily undertake to argue that this is unfair to those women if they raised no objections (though they generally do eventually).

It may be fairly observed that, of the above solutions, the third is the least prone to abuse even if it is not regarded as necessarily the least innately morally offensive. I would at least agree that it is less morally offensive than making divorce of women past their child-bearing years a commonplace, and while I do not see any absolute moral objection to restricted polygamy I am cognizant that the potential for abuse may simply exceed any plausible mechanism for preventing it.

Chiu Chun-Ling.