White Christmas

Daniel Henninger of the L'Osservatore Romano Wall Street Journal opines on the true cause of our current economic crisis.  He writes:

Notwithstanding the cardboard Santas who seem to have arrived in stores this year near Halloween, the holiday season starts in seven days with Thanksgiving. And so it will come to pass once again that many people will spend four weeks biting on tongues lest they say "Merry Christmas" and perchance, give offense. Christmas, the holiday that dare not speak its name.

This year we celebrate the desacralized "holidays" amid what is for many unprecedented economic ruin — fortunes halved, jobs lost, homes foreclosed. People wonder, What happened? One man's theory: A nation whose people can't say "Merry Christmas" is a nation capable of ruining its own economy.

One had better explain that.

Yes indeed.  One had better explain how a newspaper with "Wall Street" in the title has published an op-ed linking the simple courtesy of not wishing non Christians a happy-holiday-they-don't-celebrate and the various and nefarious causes of the current economic meltdown.  Someone had better explain that.

Via commenter Gary and the rest of the baffled blogosphere.

12 thoughts on “White Christmas”

  1. Maybe he’s just arguing something similar to Nietzsche’s dilemma: retaining a system of values in the absence of a divine order.
    “When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one’s feet. This morality is by no means self-evident. Christianity is a system, a whole view of things thought out together. By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole. It stands or falls with faith in God”

    On the same “what were they thinking” theme

  2. Maybe he’s just arguing something similar to Nietzsche’s dilemma: retaining a system of values in the absence of a divine order.

    I don’t think Neitzsche had that dilemma at all.  In the absence of any order, divine or otherwise, we become the creators of value.  It’s not about preserving the systems of value, divorced from their foundations, but rather the slow process of learning to live beyond them, of superseding them to become creators of value.

  3. Hi BN, nice try.  But saying “Merry Christmas” to a Jew, an atheist, or a muslim or scientologist doesn’t amount to giving up the Christian faith.

    I don’t get the Obama reference.

    Finally, I remember who you are now.

  4. Besides all that, jcasey, isn’t this really just a straightforward case of a post hoc fallacy?

  5. pmayo, excellent point. There was no dilemma for Neitzsche because he did not want to retain that old system of values, he wanted a new one. But I think he’s right in that the old system of values is by no means self-evident.

    jcasey, I was thinking that wishing “Merry Christmas” is more of symptom, rather than a cause. It’s a symptom of the times we live in.  There’s a change of attitude in our culture. Chesterton said once that “the modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad”. I think that, for a long time, our culture has tried to save the old system of value without concering itself too much with the basis of it. Now, however, Nietzsche’s prophetic words are becoming a reality :“we cannot get rid of God until we get rid of grammar”  …
    I will stop here, becaue I don’t think Henninger’s argument tried to go this route.

    As for the Obama reference, I linked the wrong article. I wanted to link the NY school named for Obama article. Anyway, looking back I don’t know why I considered this to be relevant here 🙂

  6. If you erroneously suppose narrow-minded and exclusive Christianity is the only possible source of moral value, you’d have a point BN.

  7. jcasey, I think Nietzsche was right: Christianity is the only possible source for Christian morality.

  8. I know you think it’s cute; I also believe it to be true.
    Here is an interesting philosophical dialogue on the topic.

  9. Well, Christianity is not coextensive with Theism.  There are other theisms and other objective bases for morality.  And there are rather many legitimate variations on what “Christian morality.”

  10. BN,
    That article you linked is a little confused. The author (Copan) argues [my stresses]:

    What we have before us is then is a matter of theism’s greater contextual probability. Furthermore, there are certain additional facts about the world which are much more probable or make much more sense if God exists than if he does not:

    The fact of consciousness/subjectivity, intentionality, and various mental properties: Thomas Nagel writes, “Consciousness is what makes the mind-body problem really intractable.” John Searle notes that “the leading problem in the biological sciences is the problem of explaining how neurobiological processes cause conscious experiences.” Moving from purely naturalistic, unconscious processes to the existence of consciousness appears to require a much greater leap than consciousness’ deriving from an ultimate, conscious Being.
    the existence of moral beings, which is better explained by a moral and personal Being than by their emerging through non-moral processes.
    the existence of non-utilitarian beauty, which seems to be better explained by theism than by metaphysical naturalism. We could more easily expect “useless” beauty if God exists than if he does not.
    the beginning of the physical space-time universe, prior to which there was nothing physical at all. Thus there was lacking (from the naturalist’s point of view) even the potentiality for anything to come into existence from nothing. The metaphysical principle “out of nothing nothing comes” still holds.
    the delicately balanced cosmic constants in the world that make conditions “just right” for human existence (“the Goldilocks effect,” astrophysicists have called it). Freeman Dyson notes: “As we look out into the Universe and identify the many accidents of physics and astronomy that have worked together for our benefit, it almost seems as if the Universe must in some sense have known that we were coming.” [?]

    the existence of evil, which not only presupposes objective moral goodness but also entails design (i.e., evil is a departure from the way things ought to be).

    There are too many confounding points here for me to discuss them in detail. One major issue that I have with this quote is the author’s appeal to probability in arguing that Theism must be correct. It is one thing to point out the inadequacies of a theory, or a group of theories. Consciousness, as Nagel and Searle point out, is a difficult and troubling issue. However, just because these theories are inadequate does not mean that their supposed opposite position (theism) must be true.

    Another problem: If Copan wishes to appeal to “probabilities” as supporting one view over another, I would love to see his metric. Explanatory tidiness does not constitute probability of truth.

    And lastly: Evil does not entail design (without some considerable legwork).

    I would stay away from linking to papers that are just plain bad.

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