Not a Prayer by Steven Hayward


Horst E. Richter: All Mighty: A Study of the God Complex in Western Man; Harvest House Publishers; Claremont, CA.


There are several ways of thinking about what has come to be called “the decline of the West.” There are the rather sweeping generalizations about secularism by evangelical theologian Francis Schaeffer. There are the more formidable authors who identify the decisive break in Western thought with one figure: Leo Strauss points the finger at Machiavelli; Richard Weaver singles out the nominalism of William of Occam; and Eric Voegelin beats up on Joachim of Flora. Then there are the gloomy historicists — redactors of Hegel, really — like Spengler and even Whittaker Chambers, who see large impersonal forces conspiring to foreclose the greatness and glory of Western civilization.



Each understanding of the “decline of the West” has its merits and demerits, but they all agree on one general point: the heart of modernity is the fatal hubris of thinking we can be our own God, that scientific progress will inevitably yield the perfection of man’s estate. At first glance, Horst Richter’s All Mighty (Gotteskomplex is the original German title) seems to affirm this understanding, stating at the outset that “the theme of this book is the disastrous belief of civilization that it is all­ powerful, omnipotent.” But before one gets very far one realizes that the book is a deception.


All Mightyis very simply an inflated apology for mass psychotherapy. The cause of our “fatal hubris” is not seen as a philosophical or moral problem; it is a psychological problem, a neurosis, due to the arrested adolescence of civilization. Richter likens the development of the Western world view to childhood development, asserting that our troubles are mostly due to not being fully grown up. Therefore, what the West needs is a good therapist. As such, the book is really a manifesto for the West German Green Party, which embraces the gnostic idea of salvation through “consciousness raising.” In the preface to the U.S. edition, Richter praises the nuclear freeze movement, the National Council of Churches, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Helen Caldicott as avatars of the new conscious­ ness. As the old 1960’s radicals might have said, this book isn’t part of the solution, it’s part of the problem.   cc


Steven Hayward is an editor of the Claremont Review.



Snake in the Garden by Arthur E. Hippler


Andrew Bard Schmooker: The Parable of the Tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Education; University of California Press; Berkeley.


In this attempt to integrate moral thought with social science, Andrew Schmooker strains at the problem of evil, which he defines as intergroup human violence resulting from differences in power. Although the pursuit of power is not part of our original human nature, once it did emerge, it was perpetuated, since aggression is rewarded through success, and peaceful behavior gets its practitioners killed. These evils are not evidence of a deficiency in man’s nature, but of the circumstances he occupies; not derived from free will, but from inappropriate social orderings.


Substituting his own “parable,” for Genesis, he once-upon-a-times that humans used to be very nice. One group, however, turned unpleasant and. used power on others. This distorted social version of the Old Testament does not square well with anthropological concepts of the continuity of dominance hierarchies among primates and the power of territoriality, but Schmooker does not take advantage of this opportunity to support the idea of human uniqueness.


Instead, he denies the existence of God while Satanizing the abstraction “power.” As a balance to this, he ap­ pears to deify the power of reason. Everything will be fine in some millenarian temporal paradise, once we have found the way to eliminate power relationships from human society.


Why does Schmooker believe that the emergence of intergroup violence is a “problem”? Why not handle the “problem” of intergroup violence, in the immortal words of Stan Jablonski, by discovering how to “do it to them before they do it to us”? The problem emerges precisely because Schmooker has immanentized good in man. Having denied original (or any other kind of) sin and having ignored free will, he must locate the problem of evil some­ where else, in a parable of social origins.


But an  inevitable objection arises. If our evil is only “structural,” while our goodness is somehow innate, why has this evil (intergroup violence) existed forever and everywhere under all forms of government and every social structure? Schmooker simply doesn’t address this and does a Kierkegaardian 2½ gainer hoping we can somehow redeem ourselves by ourselves, though he has previously provided a staggering historical indictment against the human race. Schmooker is all too representative of the secular scholars who, in their efforts to rise above mere man, end up abasing themselves before the total state. As Chesterton observed: When men stop believing in God they do riot then believe in nothing, they then believe in anything.”           cc


Arthur Hippler is associate professor of anthropology at the Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska.