Totalitarianism: we have become comfortably numb - Part 4

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.

Totalitarianism: we have become comfortably numb - Part 4
The Four Horsemen

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

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.