She is a profoundly courageous woman, and has suffered more than I can imagine. Yet, I am compelled to say that she needs to learn a lot more about Christianity and the Greco-Roman foundation of our Civilization.
Wow, I never would have thought…
Her explanation is interesting, but disappointing.
She seems to see only two alternatives in combatting Islam - either woke ideology or Christianity. Did she, in all her years as an atheist, never read one book by Ayn Rand?
As Rand would say, she fell for a “false dichotomy”.
If she needed meaning and purpose in life, she could have found a realistic explanation for it in Objectivism. She also would have found a stronger weapon against the threats to civilization than what any religion has to offer - the use of reason based on reality, rather than superstition based on the supernatural.
I have written a critical article about this explanation of her conversion to Christianity. It will appear tomorrow (or soon, anyway) on the website, and at least a part of it here on the Forum.
Yes! I agree with you, Liz. I take longer - in the article I have yet to post - to say what you say so succinctly with your last sentence.
Her conversion surprises me.
Yes, her conversion is very surprising, and disturbing. Her criticism of atheism is shockingly sophomoric. I expected a more thoughtful piece.
Her conversion seems to be motivated more by culture-war and political concerns - along with a confused sense of where our western values and achievements actually come from - than by a spiritual hunger, though there’s some of that, too, borne of a psychological or ‘existential’ crisis of some kind. She turns 54 tomorrow. I wonder two things: what kind of denomination or church is she going to?; what does her fairly conservative atheist husband Niall Ferguson think of her new faith? They married in 2011 and have two sons.
I think some mental deterioration is sadly setting in. She had a fine intellect.
I believe her husband was, and I hope, still is, an atheist.
Yes, Niall Ferguson was raised as, and still is as far as anyone knows, an atheist, although the Wikipedia says that he sometimes attends church, and encourages his children to study religions. I think that may be a sensible strategy to inoculate them against religious indoctrination. Like, ‘don’t take it seriously, just learn’.
Extract from our Website
Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes: To me, this freedom of conscience and speech is perhaps the greatest benefit of Western civilisation. It does not come naturally to man. It is the product of centuries of debate within Jewish and Christian communities. It was these debates that advanced science and reason, diminished cruelty, suppressed superstitions, and built institutions to order and protect life, while guaranteeing freedom to as many people as possible. Unlike Islam, Christianity outgrew its dogmatic stage. It became increasingly clear that Christ’s teaching implied not only a circumscribed role for religion as something separate from politics. It also implied compassion for the sinner and humility for the believer.
I comment: No, no, no, no, and no. Freedom of conscience and speech came after centuries of no debate with Jewish and Christian “communities”. It came from thinkers of the Age of Reason. Many of whom were atheists, and all of whom were skeptics. “Free thinkers”. The idea that such freedoms ought to be allowed is the product of rational thinking. The Age of Science was born then. Not when Galileo or Giordano Bruno lived and experienced what the Catholic Church deemed to be a Christian correction – threatened torture and forced confinement for the one, the stake for the other. The Churches’ cruelty diminished because reason and freedom became the mood of a certain time. Superstition was hushed – never suppressed, unfortunately – by reasoned argument, critical examination. Institutions were built to protect freedom despite the dogmatism of the Christian churches – all of them, Catholic and Protestant. Christianity has not “outgrown”, will never “outgrow”, its “dogmatic stage”. “Christ’s teaching” can only be guessed at, and none of the known guesses suggest that it “implied … a circumscribed role for religion”. Religion was most decidedly not “separate from politics” in the Judea of the first Caesars. As for compassion and humility, Christian sages from St. Paul onward have preached one or both – St. Paul stressed humility – but the history of the religion does not demonstrate the habitual observance of either to any convincing degree.
Her diagnosis of what ails our civilization is right enough. Her prescription for curing it is a mistake. Christianity has not been a force for good in history. And what is Christian belief? That a Jewish man who lived in a province of the Roman empire during the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius was the Creator of the universe! (John 1:9,10. That [Jesus] was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.) How can that be easy, how can it be possible, for an intelligent thinker of our enlightened age to accept? Or the rest of the tale: that he was born of a virgin, performed miracles, came alive again three days after he’d died, and ascended bodily to a material heaven?
And what of Christianity’s moral message? “Resist not evil” is not helpful advice for us in our present predicament. What of the reason ascribed to his sojourn on earth as a man – to suffer and die for the salvation of mankind? How he came to die an agonizing death by crucifixion – the Roman method of legal execution for crazy daredevils convicted of organizing or attempting insurgency – has a muddled background story and incompatible Christian explanations. According to the believers, the Jews found him guilty of breaking some suddenly found and quickly forgotten law of their religion and insisted that the Romans execute him. The obliging Romans reluctantly acceded to their demand, so it is the Jews who are cursed forever as deicides. But also that he was born in order to be tortured to death, that it was his mission to sacrifice himself as the means to lift from humankind the original sin of Edenic disobedience (to himself); so he was inevitably doomed to that extremely painful and prolonged form of suffering – and a death that was not actually death – by his own decree.
Great critique! It’s still a mystery to me how she seems to have missed all of the facts you mention.
Thank you, Jillian. A superb, indeed unanswerable, critique. It is so disappointing and unnerving to see a woman of such intellectual prowess succumb to superstition.
An update on my comment where “I wonder two things” about Ayaan’s conversion her and husband’s views:
Megyn Kelly interviewed Ayaan’s husband Niall Ferguson about six months ago, and he commented on their churchgoing. This was evidently before Ayaan’s conversion. Niall says the church they found is an “Anglican” church (and it’s free of annoying, obligatory anti-Trump sermons). He didn’t say Episcopalian, and I’ve seen an “Anglican Catholic” church a few miles from where I live. It turns out there is a denomination called Anglican Catholic which is part of a larger “Continuing Anglican” movement, and which is not in communion with the Church of England, as are the Episcopal churches in America, Scotland, and Australia. The Continuing Anglican denominations are more theologically conservative than churches in the Anglican Communion (and maybe also more politically conservative).
Thank you Zerothruster
That’s a tad more than I need to know about the nuance of Christian organization.
I just thought it might be useful to know it’s not a typically liberal Anglican (i.e., Episcopalian in U.S.) church they attend. In the Kelly interview, Ferguson complained that other churches they had been to often would have the obligatory anti-Trump sermon.
Yes, thank you Zerothruster. Glad you found that and brought it to us. .
I agree with him that children should be taught about religion and religions. Huge (though I think regrettable) part of history.
I liked to hear Niall Ferguson say that he doesn’t think human beings are naturally good. I also don’t believe they are .
That’s really interesting! So it sounds like Ali’s “conversion” may be more along the lines of what he describes - not necessarily a belief in the supernatural, but a desire to ground their children in the Western moral principles and traditions taught by the Church.
His suggestion that without a spiritual aspect in ones life, there is a void that might be replaced by a secular religion such as Marxism, reflects an argument that dates back centuries, and was a hot topic during the time of the Founding.
It was argued then that without religion there could be no morality (which Christians still assert today) but was countered by the arguments of both Deists and atheists - Thomas Paine’s “The Age of Reason” being one example.
What do you think?
I agree with you, Liz. Religion is not, nor should be, the source of ethics. To assert otherwise is, as you say, to ignore centuries of deism and atheism. Indeed, the Euthyphro dilemma is, to my mind, unanswerable.
But, more than that, those who claim religion as the source of morality, need to say which religion. There are numerous religions, of course. Which one should be the basis—Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Shintoism, Native American great spirit? Not to mention the extinct religions such as that of the Greeks and Romans. If, as many in the West would, we choose Christianity to be the source of our morality, then we must ask which Christianity? Catholicism, Orthodox, Anglicanism, or one of the hundreds of Protestant sects? The whole notion of religion as the foundation of a moral system is sophomoric.
Yes, I think the only sense in which religions can be considered the “foundation” of a moral system is that most of them enshrine basic moral laws and principles, such as the Golden Rule.
(Except for, not surprisingly, Islam, which doesn’t.)
But religions didn’t invent those things (though they all claim to). The development of moral and ethical principles were part of the development of Reason - the true foundation of civilization - which was then co-opted by all religions for power and control.
The dillemma we seem to be faced with now is that, under the onslaught of the psychological warfare that Marxists have been waging on us for decades now in their “Cultural Revolution”, which is destroying our foundations (of both reason and morality), people seem to feel that reason itself is inadequate to combat it. Religion, being a long established, “venerable” institution, seems to give them a sense of refuge and strength - a fortress to retreat to.
(Except for the ones, of course, that have already been infiltrated and co-opted by the Marxists, as Ferguson mentions.)
So this is a problem.