Tuesday, December 16, 2008

One Nation Under God

via Martin Kelly I learned the story of George M Docherty, the Glaswegian pastor of Abraham Lincoln's local Washington church, whose 1954 sermon to a congregation including Dwight D Eisenhower resulted in the words 'under God' being added to the Pledge of Allegiance.

In his sermon, Docherty anticipated the theme of Gregory Isaacs - that "Men without religion Just can't keep in a righteous man's position" :

"Philosophically speaking, an atheistic American is a contradiction in terms. Now don't misunderstand me. This age has thrown up a new type of man - we call him 'secular'; he does not believe in God; not because he is a wicked man but because he is dialectically honest (? LT) . He would rather walk with the unbelievers than sit hypocritically with people of the faith. These men, and many I have known, are fine in character; and in their obligations as citizens and good neigbours, quite excellent.

But they really are 'spiritual parasites'. And I mean no term of abuse in this. I'm simply classifying them. A parasite is an organism that lives upon the life force of another organism without contributing to the life of the other. These excellent ethical seculars are living upon the accumulated spiritual capital of Judeao-Christian civilisation, and at the same time (they) deny the God who revealed the divine principles upon which the ethics of this country grow."
That's exactly right. And we in Britain are, in the main, parasites living upon the accumulated spiritual capital of nearly 1700 years of Christianity, just as the Britons of the fourth century were warmed by the declining glow of Rome's glory - until the barbarian war-bands came.


Martin said...


Certainly some among us are 'spiritual parasites'; but many others, I think yourself included, are still trying to live the dream.

However, revisiting Rev. Docherty's analysis after 54 years does make one wonder whether, in the interim, the spiritual capital of many has been exhausted and they're now living on the overdraft instead. Yet there is always hope - don't forget that Gramsci died a Catholic.

As for the barbarian war-bands (HT - AJT, pbuh), well what were the 7/7 bombers but a BWB? Or ethnic crime gangs like The Kingzhold Boyz and The Shadwell Massive? The war bands are among us. Pity that too many people now read the wrong Toynbee.

Anonymous said...

"don't forget that Gramsci died a Catholic."

Did he? I really hope that is true, but haven't heard it before. More than Marx, it is the ideas he espoused that have brought us to our present pass.

But, yes, the Rev. Docherty's neat summation is absolutely spot on.

Anonymous said...


I HATE this point of view.

Do you really think that it's not possible to be a good person without inventing a big old guy up the sky with a white beard who tells everybody how to behave?


Are you only nice to your kids because some God-botherer tells you so?

Christ on a bike. (yes, aware of ironic use of pseudo-religious exclamation. So sue me.)

paul ilc said...

Martin - You may be wrong on Gramsci, as Wikipedia states:

"Italian State documents on his death show that no religious official was sent for or received by Gramsci. Other witness accounts of his death also do not mention any conversion to Catholicism or renouncement by Gramsci of his socialist ideals."

But you are right about the barbarians. And they are no longer at the gates, they are in the corridors of power, as Gramsci intended.

Anon, 1205: You miss the point. Yes, you can live ethically without belief in God. But you only have to compare the moral attitudes and behaviour of atheists from Islamic and Christian cultures to see how much the religious framework influences the moral outlook of secularists. 'Christian' atheists, for example, often indirectly draw on the Christian ideals of self-sacrificial love and of forgiveness.

paul ilc said...

And, Anon 1205, I forgot to mention that one could say that Western liberalism is only a selective and degenerate form of turn-the-other-cheek Christianity.

Martin said...


The Times, 25 November 25 2008 - byline, Richard Owen, Rome -

"The Vatican has revealed that Antonio Gramsci, the founder of Italian Communism and an icon of the Left, reverted to Roman Catholicism on his deathbed.

Archbishop Luigi De Magistris, former head of the Apostolic Penitentiary of the Holy See, which deals with confessions, indulgences and the forgiveness of sins, said Gramsci had "died taking the Sacraments". He had asked the nuns attending him in hospital to let him kiss an image of the infant Jesus, Monsignor De Magistris said.

He said rumours that Gramsci had reverted had never until now been confirmed, and the Italian Left had also remained silent on the issue. "But that is how it was" he told Vatican Radio. "Gramsci returned to the faith of his infancy".

I'll take the word of Archbishop de Magistris over any state document.

Deogolwulf said...

"a big old guy up the sky with a white beard who tells everybody how to behave"

If that is the limit of your conception, then atheism is the best option for you. It requires no brains at all.

paul ilc said...

Thank you, Martin: very interesting. I would like it to be true.

However, the source is not impartial. Roman Catholic priests have a track record of being closeted with people on their deathbeds, and then reporting that the deceased repented. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to tell the difference between genuine cases, cases of self deception by the priests, and outright deceit.

In this case, the dying Gramsci might easily have 'kissed' a religious image and 'taken' the Sacraments because he thought medicine was being administered to him.

As for your remark that "I'll take the word of Archbishop de Magistris over any state document", I beg to differ. The Archbishop was not an eye-witness, and, in any case, his statement about what the Vatican records say is not in dispute (by me, at least). The point is that, apparently, we have two sets of contemporary records - the Vatican's and the State's. The former were made by an interested party; the latter are from a relatively unbiased source. I fear the balance of probability is, then, that Gramsci did not repent on his deathbed - much though I would like it to be so!

Anonymous said...

I fear the balance of probability is, then, that Gramsci did not repent on his deathbed - much though I would like it to be so!

Id kind of like to believe it too. But lets look on the bright side, if he didnt repent then he certainly went to hell. Hot enough for ya Ant?!