The Race to Save Our Century: Five Core Principles to Promote Peace, Freedom, and a Culture Of Life

The Race to Save Our Century: Five Core Principles to Promote Peace, Freedom, and a Culture Of Life

by Jason Jones, John Zmirak

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Overview

All the wars and cruelties of the twentieth century could happen again in the twenty-first, unless we wake up and recommit to fundamental moral truths that safeguard human rights and the common good - "whole life" principles for liberty, justice and peace.

What would you think if we told you that: All the horrors that marked the twentieth century were going to happen all over again. . This time the cruelties and casualties will be even greater, thanks to more advanced technologies. . The next mass atrocities will face less resistance, and generate fewer "rescuers," because the West is even less hobbled by religious scruples about killing the innocent than it was in 1939. . The twenty-first century will be remembered not for Twitter, iTunes, expanding democracy, and the final dismantling of prejudice - but for total warfare, biological weapons, and the virtual disappearance of human rights as a concept.

That might be the ugly future, warn the authors of The Race to Save Our Century, unless modern man wakes up and recommits to fundamental moral truths that safeguard human rights and the common good.

In The Race to Save Our Century, human rights activist Jason Jones and political/economic scholar John Zmirak, combine to issue a stark warning to the West, and to call on readers to embrace and promote five core principles of a Culture of Life: . The innate dignity of every human person, regardless of race, age, or handicap. . The existence of a transcendent moral order, by which we judge the justice of all laws and policies. The need for a humane economy that embraces freedom in a context of social responsibility. . The crucial importance of decentralized, responsive government that preserves civil society and freedom. . The need for solidarity, for a sense of fellow feeling and common obligation toward each and every member of the human race.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780824520199
Publisher: Crossroad Publishing Company
Publication date: 09/15/2014
Pages: 192
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Jason Scott Jones is a filmmaker and human rights activist. His film projects include The Stoning of Soraya M., Bella, and Crescendo. He works directly to aid the homeless, peoples facing genocide, and women with crisis pregnancies. He is president of Movie to Movement and the Human Rights Education Organization (H.E.R.O.). He lives in Hawaii. This is his first book. 
 
John Zmirak is an editor, college teacher, screenwriter, and political columnist. He is author of the popular Bad Catholic's Guides, Wilhelm Röpke, and The Grand Inquisitor (graphic novel). He is a former editor at Investor's Business Daily. His work has appeared in Aleteia.org, The Blaze, National Review, The Weekly Standard, First Things, The American Spectator, USA Today, Commonweal, The American Conservative, and The National Catholic Register; and he has contributed to The Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought and American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia. He has been a commentator on Fox News and the Christian Broadcasting Network. He edited a number of popular guides to higher education, and served as press secretary to Louisiana Governor Mike Foster. His columns are archived at www.badcatholics.com.

Read an Excerpt

The Race to Save Our Century

Five Core Principles to Promote Peace, Freedom, and a Culture of Life


By Jason Scott Jones, John Zmirak

The Crossroad Publishing Company

Copyright © 2014 Jason S. Jones and John Zmirak
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8245-2019-9



CHAPTER 1

Subhumanism: Modern Man's Suicide Note

It is rare for a single book to make a difference. And many books that do have an impact change the world for the worse. Some of the "Great Books" that appear on college curricula became famous not for challenging reigning myths, but for undermining old truths and replacing them with sleek, efficient half-truths or outright errors. Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince rejected the heritage of some two thousand years, during which political philosophers felt constrained to seek the Good. Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan helped raze the last bulwarks against authoritarian government. Thomas Malthus's Essay on the Principle of Population was cited to justify British inaction during the Irish Potato Famine. It also inspired many later initiatives around the world aimed at forcing the poor to bear fewer children, as part of what Edwin Black called "the war against the weak." There are many more examples of books that had toxic side effects.

But sometimes a book can act as a vaccine. Great examples include Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World. Considering the near-collapse of marriage forces us to add Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae, which warned in plain language where the sexual revolution was leading — to the hookup culture we live in today, in which barely half of children grow up in intact families, and unwed mothers are mired in multigenerational poverty.

This book aims to warn us of the false theories of human life that pervade our culture. Put bluntly: Most Western men and women, including many who consider themselves conventionally religious, think of human beings as less than truly human. They accept without reflection theories of human life that reduce mankind to brainy animals or that let us play at being gods. These modern ideologies render suffering meaningless and urge us to live like cowards; they teach us to scorn the weak but train us in habits of avoidance; they speak about progress but encourage the lowest of human instincts; they claim to have surpassed Judeo-Christian ethics, but really they have slumped below the standards of ancient paganism. The picture of man they present is distinctly unheroic and has no claim to ultimate meaning — a far cry from the noble Renaissance man. The only proper term for this view of mankind is "subhumanism."

This view of man distrusts the bold reason that inspired the Enlightenment and has shrugged off the dreams of transcendence that beguiled the Romantics. When we speak of humanity now, too often we think in terms of ecological damage, excessive numbers, and intractable hatreds; ecologists have even taught us to see ourselves as a plague on the planet, with our generation's task to limit the damage we do to the biosphere. And yet, somehow and from somewhere, we are said to possess a set of things called "human rights" — which can be expansive enough to include the right to plastic surgery funded by our neighbors, yet simultaneously so narrow as to restrict the right of terminal patients to food and water.

Subhumanism simultaneously asserts a noble, high-minded view of human dignity that calls for a deep respect for human rights — which, in fact, exaggerates them and even makes up additional rights — and a deeply cynical, disillusioned view of man as just another mammal.

Subhumanism is not a coherent worldview with clear assertions that we can subject to the strict test of logic, much less to double-blind testing in the laboratory. It is not a single ideology that we could picture as a cypress tree and imagine cutting down. It is much more like the swamp, where plants of a thousand species grow. It is the mother of ideologies. But we can test the toxic chemicals in the soil and figure out why the trees that grow there all look so ... ghostly.

The subhumanist simultaneously claims that each human being is endowed with inalienable rights, which begin with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but continue through infinite, tortuous emanations to include freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom of choice, then extend to things like a living wage, health care, housing, educational opportunities, racial and gender equality, and handicapped-accessible restrooms — while also holding that human beings are the accidental result of billions of years of random cosmic and planetary accidents, followed by millions of years of undirected genetic mutations; that our brains are organic computers that generate all our thoughts for us and leave us no free will; and that our altruistic instincts are really only our DNA striving to replicate itself; that the most successful human being in history must have been Genghis Khan, who left behind several million direct descendants; that the biggest failure had to be Jesus Christ, who lived without sex or money, and died without having children.

We really cannot believe both things at once about ourselves or about the whole human family. Such perfect examples of what George Orwell called "doublethink" are not possible for the sane. But still we pick and choose, as if from a takeout menu, items from Column A (Western liberal humanism) and Column B (post-Darwinian scientific pessimism). Or we pick certain groups of people (starting with ourselves) to whom we will serve up the respect and esteem from Column A, and other groups who have to make do with the scorn from Column B. Of course, such choices are arbitrary, but life is "complex," we tell ourselves, and we have to pick our battles. Of course, when the chips are down, what we really think life means wins out in the end. But in the meantime, we get through life without thinking very hard about what we're doing, and even while esteeming ourselves as highly moral people — even though we are, perhaps unwittingly, cherry-picking which human beings deserve to be treated with respect and which ones we can kick to the curb. A right-wing subhumanist will probably offer treats from Column A to people based on race, religion, nationality, or economic success. A left-wing subhumanist is more likely to pick winners based on age, good health, or their capacity for creativity and enjoyment. Either way, we will ultimately pick people based on how closely they conform to our image of God — that is, how much they remind us of ... ourselves.

How did we get here? Put simply and starkly, Western man tried to pursue a humanist project of understanding and uplifting human life, and in the process he identified God as an obstacle, even an enemy. So we tried to root him out. We tried to create consistent systems that preserved all the good things we take for granted in Western society, while denying God. That is, we tried to build the steeple on the church of humanity with steel ripped from its foundations. Predictably, the whole tower collapsed in the killing fields of the twentieth century. It is clear to honest thinkers that you cannot keep on believing in human dignity without a transcendent reference point. We cannot pull ourselves up out of the animal kingdom by our bootstraps any more than an alcoholic can claw his way back to sobriety without a "higher power." We cannot teach ourselves to see other people as ends rather than means unless we accept some ultimate meaning that is more important than figuring out "what feels good," then doing it. The source of our dignity must lie in God.

The net effect of these moral and intellectual errors is to degrade our common life and make us prone to utter callousness.

Having largely (and sometimes brutally) conquered nature, we face today the much graver and more complex task of controlling ourselves, of using the technological and economic power unleashed by modern science in responsible ways, of preserving the deeper moral truths that come to us through our traditions, in the face of temptations that have never faced man before. Given the mighty technologies we wield, if we fail in our task, we may very well render human beings an endangered species.

The twentieth century for the first time gave us the technological power to exterminate whole ethnic groups, and then the means to wipe out all human life on earth. In recent decades, biotechnology has given us more subtle and targeted ways to work our will. In the United States, doctors and parents acting together have almost wiped out Down syndrome — by aborting more than 90 percent (according to some estimates) of the children diagnosed with it in the womb. Scientists at Harvard and other elite institutions still hope to harness embryos "discarded" from fertility clinics for the medical treatment of adults. Genetic engineering advances by the year toward its consumer-driven goal of "designer" children, whose very DNA will encode the narcissism of one generation in the next and make the dream of eugenicists a living reality. Meanwhile, the U.S. military has developed unmanned drones that are aimed at murderous terrorists but themselves claim hundreds of innocent civilian lives each year. Biological and nuclear weapons are, for the moment, still kept from the hands of terrorists, but at some point they will get hold of them — and use them to slaughter innocents, and avenge any number of grievances, including the "collateral" victims of our drones.

Even as our technological power to kill, harm, or dominate our fellow man increases, our ethics have grown more primitive. If you think of the moral development of a child, you will see the point: We start as absolute solipsists in the cradle, then slowly come to realize that our mothers are separate human beings. Through patient discipline, we overcome the primal selfishness that marks every two-year-old and come to recognize the humanity and the rights of our parents and siblings. The next lesson in altruism comes in the classroom, when we are forced to extend this recognition to strangers in our little tribe of schoolmates. As we mature and expand our experiences, we encounter people who look and act quite alien, and must learn to respect them as well — even (this is the last and highest stage of humanism) to feel solidarity with human beings as human beings, though they live in foreign countries and hold opposing views.

The gradual expansion of our human "circle of concern" is one of the great achievements of any civilization — and it is a fragile thing, as we see in every resurgence of nationalism and at the outbreak of every war. The same fragility holds in our moments of personal crisis, when our own most treasured desires are opposed by some intimate obstacle: an inconvenient fetus, a parent who has lingered too long and clings to life, or a stubbornly unresponsive reproductive system. Likewise in political life, when our fellow citizens act in ways we find frustrating or expensive, we are tempted to wish away our common humanity and subject them to treatment we'd consider outrageous if it were applied to us. We stockpile offenders in prisons with cruel conditions and wink at the prevalence of prison rape and violence. We shrug at the many injustices in the application of the death penalty. In economic life, we seek the best product at the lowest price, without regard for the well-being of the people who produced it. That is none of our business. The "invisible hand," we believe, will blindly produce rough justice. Or not. It is someone else's problem.

If we hope to be civilized, at every stage and level of life each one of us must fight against the force of gravity that draws our ethics downward, that drops our standards ever closer to the lowest common denominator of narcissism. But even as we gain greater power to harm each other, our religious creeds — the mightiest forces that have traditionally countered rank selfishness — have begun to go slack and sickly. Dogmatic religions have in large part lost their nerve and trimmed their ethics to suit the prevailing winds. Many churches that still cling to traditional biblical tenets underplay the sacrificial aspects of Christianity in favor of a gospel of self-help or success. As if to compensate, other churches despair of mobilizing souls to aid the needy and instead turn to the mechanism of the government, replacing the Works of Mercy with soulless bureaucracies and "entitlements" that lock the poor into poverty and dependency. It is much easier, and cleaner, to hand a homeless person an EBT card than to buy him a meal and hear his story — much less find him a job.

We hope to lay out here the core principles of a true humanism, one that cuts across political lines and speaks to believers and skeptics alike, offering a set of fundamental insights about the human person and how people live together that can be broadly agreed upon. They reflect the "natural law" that thinkers as widely disparate as Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Jefferson, and Martin Luther King Jr. have appealed to as the criterion by which we must judge any law, policy, or day-to-day decision. With the explosion of human power over other human beings, we need more than ever a common standard of reference, a bare minimum of respect for our fellow mortals, below which we will not go — whatever the personal cost. We are not attempting here to promote a particular creed. We are simply asking for people to raise their moral standards to something worthy of human dignity, to account for the rights and infinite value of every single person — even (and especially) those we find the most inconvenient. In ethics, it is the hard cases that make the best law.


It's a tragic irony that the very part of the world where "human rights" was invented as a concept, where freedom, limited government, and the dignity of the person became fighting creeds — with the power to dethrone tyrants, free slaves, empower workers, offer women equal education and opportunities — has become a place where life is not seen as sacred. Where having large families is seen as an irresponsible act, while euthanasia is viewed as a courageous mission of mercy. You need not be a culture critic, or a Christian, to wonder what went wrong.

How is it that the cultural turn toward humanism that began with the Renaissance's embrace of man's inherent capacity for greatness ended up in the concentration camps and killing fields — and now in the empty cradles of the postmodern, dying West?

Our slide from the godlike glory of Renaissance man to the banality of evil was slow, but it was far from simple. There were many intellectual turnings along the road that carried us from Michelangelo's Florence to Stalin's gulag. But the path we took is clear: By trying to glorify man and free him, we stripped away the reasons to regard human life as sacred and the rules that kept us from mistreating people who got in our way. We learned to dehumanize whole groups of people when it suited us, but as a consequence we were degrading ourselves.

Why we would do such a thing? Don't the most aggressive atheists claim that their reason for rejecting religious faith is that it does not promote "human flourishing"? People who consider themselves "secular" will typically follow that word with "humanist," to underscore that they fight for the claims of man against divine encroachment. We even use the word "humane" to evoke kindness to animals. Why would people who have toppled all the gods for the sake of humanism then go on and shatter the image of man?

Because the old idea of man is demanding, exhausting, and constricting.

Humanism demands that we live up to standards that are difficult. But the long list of virtues specified by classical humanism, which Aristotle catalogued and Aquinas gratefully cribbed, is irrelevant to hapless, featherless bipeds in quest of protein, warmth, entertainment, and pleasure. And that degraded image of man as just another, brainier animal is increasingly popular in our culture — and for a reason. It's an all-purpose excuse for giving up the fight to do what is right, and instead following our instincts and appetites wherever they lead us.

Humanism exhausts our empathy. It insists that we try to feel some solidarity with strangers halfway across the world whose village was swamped by a mudslide, or that we concern ourselves with the physical well-being of the teenaged Asians who sewed our sneakers. If we grant that we ourselves, and every other human being on earth, have an exalted status and the rights that come along with it, we will have to worry about an unending series of other people's problems, when we can barely wrap our heads around our own.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Race to Save Our Century by Jason Scott Jones, John Zmirak. Copyright © 2014 Jason S. Jones and John Zmirak. Excerpted by permission of The Crossroad Publishing Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Introduction: It's Always August 1914,
PART ONE: Modern Ideologies of Evil,
Chapter One: Subhumanism: Modern Man's Suicide Note,
Chapter Two: Total War,
Chapter Three: Racism and Nationalism,
Chapter Four: Utopian Collectivism,
Chapter Five: Radical Individualism,
Chapter Six: Utilitarian Hedonism,
PART TWO: Whole-Life Principles,
Chapter Seven: Personalism: The Unique and Absolute Value of Every Human Being,
Chapter Eight: The Existence of a Transcendent Moral Order,
Chapter Nine: Subsidiarity: The Duty of Governments to Defend Civil Society,
Chapter Ten: Solidarity: The Moral Unity of the Human Family,
Chapter Eleven: A Humane Economy,
Chapter Twelve: The Road to Subhumanism: How We Got Here,
Epilogue: The Great Campaign,
Acknowledgments,
About the Authors,

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