Without God, you cannot know right from wrong. Without God, you are ipso facto guilty of sin. You might not know your sin, but because you are not guided by God, you can only be guilty of sin. Only God can tell right from wrong, and only he knows whether we are guilty or not. There is a black and white film, the title of which escapes me, in which an arrested man asks the plain clothes police officer, “Am I a suspect?” To this the officer calls him over to the window from where they have a view onto the street. He says, “You see those people down there? They're suspects. When we bring you here, you're guilty.”
I went out of my way in my book to address reasonable religious people and I test flew the draft with groups of students who were deeply religious. Indeed the first draft incurred some real anguish, and so I made adjustments and made adjustments and it didn't do any good in the end, because I still got hammered for being rude and aggressive. I came to realise that it's a no-win situation. It's a mug's game. The religions have contrived to make it impossible to disagree with them critically without being rude. They sort of play the hurt feelings card at every opportunity and you're faced with the choice of, well, am I going to be rude or am I going to articulate this criticism. I mean, am I going to articulate it or am I just going to button my lip and write.
Thus Daniel Dennett, in discussion with Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. Infallibility, the prerogative to apportion guilt and extreme reaction to the slightest hint of deviance are common to all instances of totalitarianism, be they earthly, e.g., Stalin, or supernatural, e.g., God.
Totalitarianism is not Nineteen Eighty-Four’s Winston Smith suffering under a brutal fascist dictatorship. It is not even Winston Smith being tortured by the dictatorship’s psychopathic functionaries. Il Duce expresses totalitarianism as: “Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state”. Those who describe Islam as “a complete way of life” make its totalitarian character sound benign, even beneficial. There is no choice not because the Party or God has taken it away, but because it is superfluous. There is no freedom not because the state wants to oppress you, but because freedom is unnecessary. All worries are over, all problems solved. Totalitarianism is not about one-party states or oppressive regimes, not even when Ayatollah Khomeini describes the Islamic “complete way of life” as:
Islam and divine governments …have commandments for everybody, everywhere, at any place, in any condition. If a person were to commit an immoral dirty deed right next to his house, Islamic governments have business with him. …Islam has rules for every person, even before birth, before his marriage, until his marriages, pregnancy, birth, until upbringing of the child, the education of the adult, until puberty, youth, until old age, until death, into the grave, and beyond the grave.
“This day have I perfected for you your religion,” (Qur'an 5:3). Not only is thought no longer necessary, it is a frivolous indulgence. A perfect religion equals a complete way of life. All that remains from here on forever after is to obey, just obey. When the Qur’an commands Muslims to say, “We hear and we obey,” (24:51) it captures Khomeini and Mussolini and Orwell in a nutshell. And it was up to those who wield power over the Muslim mind, the “scholars”, to transform totalitarian abstraction into totalitarian reality. No totalitarian state can be complete without the state watching everyone, everyone watching everyone else, and everyone watching himself or herself, "enjoin the good and forbid the bad". Yet comprehensive surveillance is but a symptom of totalitarian imperfection, its insurmountable struggle against that which makes us human. Perfect totalitarianism, such as they all aspire to, "a complete way of life", the Chinese social credit system, the Reich of pure blood that would endure for a thousand years; etc. Under perfect totalitarianism, no-one needs watching. The spirit is dead. Orwell knew this, hence Winston Smith at the end of Nineteen Eighty-Four. Christopher Hitchens understood this.
So, for all its evocativeness, “I have become comfortably numb,” still does not quite capture it, for numbness is a sensation experienced, and comfort is a condition sought after, even in the negative as an escape from discomfort. “Comfortably numb,” though pretty far gone, still implies something better than the alternative, a wish to maintain the status quo, negating as it might be. It implies a human being still capable of knowing what he does not want, or at the very least, a sentient being.
Sentience is what totalitarianism both needs and must destroy. It was not enough to leave the slight Winston Smith be. His will to know posed no threat at all, yet it was a will that had to be found and crushed. Power needs sentience in order to destroy it and thereby know itself. Power is not power if there is nothing to crush. The crushing is the point. This we see in God, who gives you free will and commands you to obey on pain of eternal Hellfire; either way, you are crushed. With anaesthetising regularity the Qur’an warns the Muslim that Allah knows all, Allah sees all, Allah knows your thoughts, Allah knows your heart, and so on and on. So does Google, so does Facebook, so does Twitter. Those addicted to these gods have willingly submitted and willingly placed their own lives, every detail of it, on their altar. Comfortable numbness is just the beginning.
At the opening of Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston Smith was comfortably numb, at least, he was still sentient enough to render his numbness comfortable with shots of vile gin. By the end of the book there was no numbness, comfortable or otherwise. Totalitarianism is submission working its barbs into your very being and making itself one with you. When Winston finally grasped that 4 is 5, because he is told that 4 is 5, he had become one with his submission. Submission is the sublime state of the Muslim, the very pinnacle of human achievement, contradiction suspended. It does not matter how one gets 5. "We hear and we obey."
This is how George Orwell, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, situates the phenomenon of inverted reality:
He picked up the children's history book and looked at the portrait of Big Brother… It was as though some huge force were …persuading you, almost, to deny the evidence of your senses. In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. …Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality, was tacitly denied by their philosophy. …How do we know that two and two make four? …If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable what then?
Step into any madrassa and see children's minds being readied for hearing and obeying. In his 1943 essay, Looking Back on the Spanish War, Orwell notes:
It is [the] implication that human beings are all one species…, that totalitarianism destroys. Nazi theory indeed specifically denies that …‘the truth’ exists. There is, for instance, no such thing as ‘Science’. There is only ‘German Science’, ‘Jewish Science’, etc. The implied objective of this line of thought is [that] the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past. If the Leader says…, ‘It never happened’ — well, it never happened. If he says that two and two are five — well, two and two are five.
In today's parlance, there is no such thing as universal; there is only multiculturalism, only 'communities', laying the basis for 'oppressor communities' and 'oppressed communities', such as "white people" with their condemned "white males" and their lowest-of-the-low "straight white males", and once tarnished with the original sin of being inherently racist, ready to be accused of "white supremacist patriarchy" and pedlars of lies, such as that 2+2=4. The only unity, and hence the only redemption, lies in everyone thinking the same, in lock step with the ruling orthodoxy. Dr Joseph Goebbels, whose official role was Reichsminister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, proclaimed, “If the Führer wants it, two and two make five!” It should come as no surprise that a Brooklyn College maths professor, one Laurie Rubel, tweeted on 3 August 2020:
‘of course math is neutral because 2+2=4.’ Rely on that supposed axiom to then target ppl (& especially women) for coordinated ridicule/harassment. …reeks of white supremacist patriarchy. i'd rather think on nurturing people & protecting the planet.
And again, George Orwell:
…Against that …world in which black may be white tomorrow, …there are in reality only two safeguards. One is that however much you deny the truth, the truth goes on existing, as it were, behind your back, and you consequently can’t violate it… The other is that so long as some parts of the earth remain unconquered, the liberal tradition can be kept alive. Let Fascism, or possibly even a combination of several Fascisms, conquer the whole world, and those two conditions no longer exist.
At times like these, when the world faces, “a combination of several Fascisms,” and 2+2=4 has become a “supposed axiom” that should not be relied on, we are in the totalitarian world of "we hear and we obey" (Qur'an 24:51). It is not a world amenable to reason, on the contrary, it is affronted by reason. Reason “reeks of white supremacist patriarchy”. The foresight of those who had guaranteed the right of citizens to bear arms comes into sharp relief. Here I am not talking about totalitarian expediencies such as the Hitler-Stalin Pact, the EU-OIC Alliance of Civilisations, or the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, but rather several totalitarianisms simultaneously and independently assailing democracy in its heartlands, undoing reality and dismantling the autonomous individual. The totalitarianisms attacking democracy at the same time may not share a common agenda, and their actions are not necessarily coordinated. They might be rivals who are by nature suspicious of one another, but their aims and modus operandi coincide enough to create general conditions that favour them all. Such conditions exist today: 2+2=5. Reason is dead.
Today, the ascending ideology denies objective reality and so holds that all cultures are equal. By that sleight of hand, objective truth “reeks of white supremacist patriarchy,” and “my truth” escapes scrutiny. An easy way to assess how Orwell “speak[s] to us in our own time with great urgency and topicality,” is by looking at the way we regard Islam, and to discern whether the decay of thought and the negation of being that Orwell sees in the civilisational breakdown we call fascism, is present in us. Confronted by the marauding fascism of Islam, we see a complete abdication of thought, when even the most puerile of intellects can make it into Harvard so long as they are Muslim, and a complete negation of being, when white people support Black Lives Matter and feel virtuous for doing so. This is not to suggest that it is not racist for black people to support Black Lives Matter, only that any supporter of its racist ideology who is not black negates himself. Before a flight from freedom, there must first be a flight from reason. Multiculturalism and political correctness dogma frame Max Fawcett’s response to Orwell, as it does that of Will Self and Adam Gopnik. Here is Hitchens on the matter:
You must always think about thinkers and writers in the context in which they had to operate. Most of the people with whom Orwell had to circulate, coexist, at least half-believed some of that about Soviet Russia. And it's for this reason that he always had a hard time getting his articles published, his speeches heard, or even his books in print. And so I think I would nominate of his great achievements the novels, …Nineteen Eighty-Four and its partner novel, Animal Farm.
In these two novels, both of which Orwell thought of as total failures, which he wrote when he was very ill — Nineteen Eighty-Four he wrote when he was dying of tuberculosis — he exposed once and for all time the idea of the Stalinist utopia, of the idea that the citizen, if he will give up his freedom, or her freedom, for security, if you'll give to the state his right to decide, or her right to decide, if you'll give them all that and grant them power, then they will take care of his other needs.
This bargain is fatal. You will end up with neither freedom, nor security. You will end up with neither freedom, nor food; neither freedom, nor bread. You'll end up being starved and bullied and told you're being well fed and you will not dare to point out the discrepancy between reality and the promise, because the party says the promise is the reality and don't you dare go saying that you've confused the two. It's more than your life is worth.
It is designed to foreclose hope entirely. At the end of the book there is nothing left to live for. The citizen is so much the property of the state that they're disposable, they're smashed, their personality is emptied, their emotions and fears, even their sex lives, are considered open, available and contemptible, by a party that runs everything.