By: R.J. Moeller
One of the most popular podcasts on the inter-web today is hosted by a far-Left comedian (and former Air America host) named Marc Maron. The “WTF Podcast” is a wildly entertaining, stream-of-consciousness interview show where Mr. Maron sits in the garage of his L.A.-area home and chats with various entertainers, comedians, and actors. The most downloaded episode of Maron’s show thus far has been a two-part interview he conducted with his long-time friend, and comedy juggernaut Louis CK.
In the midst of reminiscing about old times, and while searching for a metaphor to describe the way that some friends hold on to memories for you that you might have forgotten, the celebrated funny-man (Louis C.K.) landed on this analogy:
“There was a library that Alexander the Great built in Egypt, and it had all the great Greek works of literature and philosophy and art and everything. And then when we became a Christian…West…world, they burned, you know, the Christians burned everything. They burned that library down. I don’t know…I may be wrong about that. I could be wrong.
But we still have a little bit of Plato and Socrates…because the Muslims kept it. Because when the Muslims took…took their run of conquering the world, they kept stuff. They didn’t burn other peoples’ work. They would integrate and save it. So we have all the, uh, Greek literature and wisdom and all of that stuff because the Muslims held on to it. While we were going through the Dark Ages, and forgetting everything and letting this Jesus-ey sh$% ruin everything, when we came out of that haze the Muslims were still there saving it for us.”
There, in one winding diatribe, Louis C.K. re-capped nearly all of the most disappointing talking points in modern, progressive, liberal thought. This is Noam Chomsky meets Charlie Sheen meets the angst-ridden loner kid in your high school Civics class who has some “interesting YouTube’s” he wants to show you about what temperature the steel in Tower 2 should have melted at.
Christianity – apart from the brand Jeremiah Wright teaches to future presidents – is loathed and blamed for the “backwardness” of anything the progressive Left doesn’t like. Our Western, Judeo-Christian culture is always the thing the world had to overcome to become enlightened, never the thing that propelled us toward such concepts as individual liberty, free markets, and a sustainable version of representative democracy.
In Louis C.K.’s universe, and like the renegade teenagers from the town in Foot Loose, the Muslims of the 7th century apparently knew better than to conform to the book-burning ways of the “old townspeople” living back on the Jesus-ey Shore in Christian Europe.
The reason for this all-to0-typical desperate grasp to praise anything but anything relating to Judeo-Christian values and ideals in the past is easy to explain: If their narrative is correct, than anything dark, close-minded, or repressive in the history of the world can conveniently be blamed on Jerry Falwell, Michelle Bachmann, etc. etc. If the roots of what they dislike can be sullied, then their current attacks and stereotypes won't need any modern intellectual backing or evidence. Look (to the) past, young man!
If traditional, religious Americans today can be lured into having to deal with the largely fabricated Redwood timber in their eyes, then the (by comparison) measly plank in the eye of a morally relativistic liberal won’t seem as protruding as it actually is.
But in this specific case of the Muslims courageously saving books (that millions of them apparently still have yet to read), let’s put aside inconvenient truths like that Muslims burned, plundered, and pillaged everything in the Mediterranean they could get their right hands on during their “run of conquering the world.” Let’s even forget that the first and most devastating attack on the library at Alexandria was by the pagan Romans 50 years before the “Christ” in “Christian” had even been born.
The question here is this: Are Louis C.K.’s general and sweeping claims regarding the backwardness of Christianity accurate? What, if any, positive impact did Christianity have on the development of Western ideas, ideals, and values?
Author Rodney Stark, in his book The Victory of Reason, has a very different story to tell.
Soon after the fall of Rome, Christianity encouraged an era of extraordinary invention and innovation. To appreciate this remarkable achievement it is necessary to confront an incredible lie that long disfigured our knowledge of history. For the past two or three centuries, every educated person has known that from the fall of Rome until about the fifteenth century Europe was submerged in the "Dark Ages" – centuries of ignorance, superstition, and misery – from which it was suddenly, almost miraculously rescued, first by the Renaissance and then by the Enlightenment.
Bur it didn't happen that way. Instead, during the so called Dark Ages, European technology and science overtook and surpassed the rest of the world!
The idea that Europe fell into the Dark Ages is a hoax originated by antireligious, and bitterly anti-Catholic, eighteenth-century intellectuals who were determined to assert the cultural superiority of their own time and who boosted their claim by denigrating previous centuries as – in the words of Voltaire – a time when "barbarism, superstition, [and] ignorance covered the face of the world."
Views such as these were repeated so often and so unanimously that, until very recently, even dictionaries and encyclopedias accepted the Dark Ages as an historical fact. Some writers even seemed to suggest that people living in, say, the ninth century described their own time as one of backwardness and superstition. Fortunately, in the past few years these views have been so completely discredited that even some dictionaries and encyclopedias have begun to refer to the notion of Dark Ages as mythical.
Unfortunately, the myth has so deeply penetrated our culture that even most scholars continue to take it for granted that-in the words of Edward Gibbon- after Rome fell came the "triumph of barbarism and religion."
In part this is because no one has provided an adequate summary of what really took place.
Okay, stick with me here. We’re almost done, and how this all ties together is fairly simple.
Either Louis C.K. is right, or Rodney Stark is. They can’t both be. And if you’ll be so kind as to remember Mr C.K.’s own words: “I may be wrong about this”.
Think about what is at stake here, and what the implications of the answer to “Who is right about this?” are? Think of the countless lives that have been steered away from religion because they have accepted this interpretation of history and culture?
If Louis C.K. (and the weight of modern Academia that his views represent) is right, then we should all just keep cruising along in terms of how young people are educated about such matters.
Par for the course.
But if Rodney Stark is even just “more right” than Louis C.K., then millions – and I mean millions – of students have been taught intellectually dishonest rubbish for the past 40 years (or more). If Stark is right, there are, in my humble estimation, only two explanations for how higher (and by default, public school) education could get something so important and pertinent, so wrong.
1)Contemporary educators are simply regurgitating what they learned from the “smart” people who taught them in college and graduate school.
2)A certain demographic of contemporary educators hold religion –Christianity in particular – in utter contempt and relish the chance to embellish its flaws.
Dennis Prager often says, “First tell the truth; then give your opinion.” I couldn’t agree more. But “truth” is a relative term these days. We’ve never had more access to more information in human history, and yet more of us seem to know less than ever before.
I’m speaking here directly to you God-fearing, Center-Right people out there. We’ve let the other side – whether we’re talking politics or faith – set the terms of the debate for far too long. And it feels like this is the case simply because we think the other side knows more. And why do we think such a thing? Well, typically because we know that we don’t know what we should. We don’t know the things that would enable us to enter the public square and market of ideas boldly.
We don’t know our history. We don’t know much about economics and the free market. Everything from theology to an appropriate analysis of pop-culture is jumbled together in bits-and-pieces in our earnest, well-intentioned, cable news-addled minds.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. Spiritual and moral revival can feed, but can also be fed by, intellectual revival. A revival of our minds. A revival in our minds.
Louis CK is a very funny man. Truly, he is. But he’s also a very confused, very sad individual. The best way to ensure that your kids, and your kids’ kids, never grow up to be/think like him is to start equipping yourself today with the knowledge, insight, and wisdom that built the West, advanced liberty, and invented iPhones.
Read more. Read a lot more. Discuss what you’ve read. Seek truth. Love thy neighbor.