Contradiction Hitchens

If there is going to be an upper class in this country, then Christopher is going to be in it”  [Yvonne Hitchens]   Hitch 22, A Memoir, Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens was a middle class Brit, but received an upper class education.  Perhaps this explains his ‘contradictions’.  A part of him would be unable to forget that everyday people want what his upper class Oxford friends take for granted: security, freedom, prosperity, and leisure.  He would know the merits of the bourgeoise.

He is a life-long Leftist, a champion of international socialism, a former Trotskyite, now a ‘conservative’ Marxist (his words), a professed agnostic.  He holds Henry Kissinger guilty of war crimes, wants the Pope brought before a grand jury, considers Bill Clinton a fraud, and supports a purge of Religion from society. He is a celebrated ‘public intellectual’.

But, . . . but, contradictions:  he has supported the forceful overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and the Iraq War of George W. Bush, a near unpardonable sin amongst his brethren.

I can identify the moment when I decided to come off the fence and to admit that I felt that I had been cheating on my dues

I thank whatever powers there may be for the power of the United states of America.  Without that reserve strength, the sheer mass of its arsenal in combination with the innovative maneuvers of its special forces, the tyrants and riffraff of the world would possess an undeserved sense of impunity.”

An engaging, entertaining wit, an erudite and humorous conversationalist with a John Lennon voice, Hitchens is an honest intellectual, following integrity. . . even when it leads to self-refutation. Christopher Lasch comes to mind.  One is just never sure how much the self-refutation is realized.

Contradictions, well stated, but held, side by side, by an incisive mind are puzzling, but also informative.  One is pushed to think deeper. Hitchens seems to have an awareness of the imperative of having convictions, of believing in something, and of being steadfast.  He has come to admire the American soldier.  He seems to realize, rare perhaps among his compatriots, how principled Leftism is utterly dependent on strongly defended civil freedoms, and that those liberties require not just legal and domestic protection, but also, in the larger world, military protection.

His friends are obsessed with the errors of colonialism, and imperialism, and inequality, but Hitchens seems able to say:  compared to what?

He owns up that his leftist friends haven’t much admired his hero George Orwell, didn’t much rally (and still do not) to the defense of his friend Salman Rushdie, that even Susan Sontag had to emphasize that communism was ‘itself a variant‘ of fascism, and that the Reader’s Digest has been a more useful guide to communist reality than the Nation. . !

Alas, with his book God is not Great he has aligned himself with prominent, avowed atheists. How can someone as thoughtful and well-read as he find that religion causes tribalism instead of vice versa? Hasn’t he read The Lord of the Flies?

Stalin’s Wife commits Suicide

Stalin, The Court of the Red Tsar, Simon Sebag Montefiore, 2003

It was November 8, 1932, the fifteenth anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.  Stalin was sealing his power.  The forced collectivization of farming in the Ukraine was well underway, and starvation was killing millions.  The Politburo was becoming a sinister band of complicit murderers.  There was dissent.  In the summer there were even peasant uprisings. The Old Bolsheviks – Martemyan Ryutin among others – had been caught on wiretap:  “Don’t tell me there is nobody in the whole country capable of removing him [Stalin]In the morning, Stalin ordered Ryutin’s arrest, and then attended the Revolution Day parade in Red Square.  Ryutin was executed in 1937.

Nadya Alliluyeva, Stalin’s wife of 14 years and mother of two of his children, was not happy.  She was listening to the critiques of the Old Bolsheviks. Like Bukharin and others, she was disturbed by the horrors of the Ukraine.  Her friends were disappearing.

The Stalin children were sent to the Zubalovo dacha for the weekend. At the evening celebratory dinner Stalin toasted the “destruction of the Enemies of the State”.  Nadya didn’t raise her glass, and then left, followed by Polina Molotova, who tried to calm her.  Nadya eventually went to her Kremlin room, which was across the hall from Stalin’s office and room, and down the hall from the servants.  Her brother Pavel had bought her a pistol as a gift.

It is ‘unclear’ if Stalin went home after the party, or went to his dacha, or to another dacha, with friends, or with another woman.  The next morning, he was sound asleep in his room.

Nadya was found on the floor of her room, next to her bed, in a pool of blood, cold, her pistol beside her.  In great fear, her servants summoned Yenukidze, Nadya’s last dancing partner the evening before, the “politician in charge of the Kremlin”.  He alone witnessed the scene.  Found with her was an angry letter to Stalin and a copy of the anti-Stalin “platform” statement of the Old Bolsheviks.  “During those days in the country at large, the mere possession of this document warranted arrest.” Yenukidze was executed in 1937.

Stalin was awakened.  Doctors arrived.  “There were bruises on her face”  and a “five millimeter hole over the heart“.  Stalin picked up the pistol.  “It was a toy”, he told Molotov, adding strangely, “It was only fired once a year.

Stalin gave a powerful show of grief, anguish, remorse, self pity. “I’d never seen Stalin cry before,” said Molotov, “but as he stood there beside the coffin, the tears ran down his cheeks.”  His daughter Svetlana has said that he wanted to resign from the Politburo, but they objected.

As Bukharin offered condolences, Stalin insisted. . . without being asked. . . that he had been at the dacha, not at the apartment.  Bukharin was executed in 1938. Bukharin’s plea for clemency was still in Stalin’s desk at the time of Stalin’s death in 1953.

He swiftly recovered the Messianic confidence in his mission:  the war against the peasants and his enemies within the Party.”

The German Russian War

In the United States, mass production produced consumer products.  In Hitler’s Germany it produced military power.  Hitler hid this build-up brilliantly, with a pervasive dual use strategy, and he successfully used anti-communism to camouflage to the British establishment his intentions in Europe. In a short six years time, the United States had cars, and Hitler had tanks.  Hitler had built the Wehrmacht, a monstrous, world conquering war machine.

He lost no time putting it to use.  He made a deal with Russia and they split Poland, and then he took western Europe almost without a fight.  His mechanized divisions took territory with menacing speed. Blitzkrieg.

After France fell, Hitler paused.  What to do about Britain?  Hitler had not thought that Churchill would return to power.  He had expected Britain to acknowledge his hold on Europe.  Churchill of course did not oblige.  Only the United States or Russia could possibly amass the power to unseat him in Europe. A neutralized Britain, depriving the United States of a base from which to retake Europe, would neutralize the United States, at least for awhile.  But an alliance of the United States with Russia was also a real threat. Conquering Russia would remove that threat, and make Britain a side concern, and give Germany lebensraum.  Hitler made his fateful choice.

Four out of every five Germans killed in action in World War II died on the Eastern Front.”  Max Hastings, A Very Chilly Victory, New York Review of Books, August 13, 2009.

World War II was largely a German Russian War.  The United States lost  300,000 lives, Britain 400,000 lives, Germany 6 million, and Russia . . . . 27 million. In the battle for Stalingrad alone, the Russians lost 500,000, the Germans, 200,000.  In the largest conventional battle ever fought, the battle of Kursk, a battlefield as large as Belgium, the Russians lost 300,000.  In this battle, there were three times the number of tanks facing off as there were in the great Allied/German tank battle of El Alamein.  In the Battle for Berlin, with victory all but certain, Russia still lost 80,000 lives, 25,000 within the city limits.

The United States and Britain faced 30 German divisions on D-Day, the Russians . . . . . . 160.

It is frightening what it took to defeat the German war machine.  Victory over Soviet Russia would have made Germany invincible in Europe for a very long time. Hitler ordered complete ruthlessness. The Wehrmacht took 3 million prisoners in the first 7 months of the war with Russia, and deliberately starved them to death. Only a Stalin, a cold, evil leader with iron clad control, a leader willing to sacrifice any number of his own people, shoot any number of his own soldiers, enslave, deport, or murder anyone in his way could triumph over the vicious Wehrmacht.  Under pressure, Hitler was impetuous, prone to snap judgment and blind arrogance. He proved no match for the careful, methodic, detail analyzing Stalin.  The stress of war made Hitler blunder, it made Stalin competent.

Even when the US Army was fully mobilized in 1944-1945, it never became large enough to face the full weight of the Wehrmacht”.

Nietzsche Madness

Acknowledgement of the death of God is a bomb that blows up many things, not just oppressive traditionalism, but also values like compassion and the equality of human dignity on which support for a tolerant liberal political order is based. This then is the Nietzschean dead end from which Western philosophy has still not emerged.”   Francis Fukayama, New York Times Review of Books, April 11, 2010.

Friedrich Nietzsche was a savant intellectual, a genius learner, a tenured Classics professor by age 24, a prodigy of learning what is already known.

One thinks of Joseph Knecht, the character who plays the Glass Bead Game in the Hermann Hesse sci-fi novel about academia: Magister Ludi. In this book, a game is played by special minds in which all forms of art and knowledge are codified into a form of a musical/logical/lexical informatic with which the players competitively uncover new syntheses of insight.  Hesse may have had Nietzsche in mind. Nietzsche was an academic philosopher, his entire life was reading, writing and thinking. He never married or had children. He came to believe that humans should be ruled by . . . . academic philosophers. For Nietzsche, an individual’s philosophical journey was to be his and everyone’s God. He wrote theatrically, with anger, condemnation, and provocation, if not hysteria.

Nietzsche scorned utilitarian and bourgeois morality. He saw human nature as Darwinian. He loved to describe the ‘will to power’ hidden in the actions of history, a motivation he found to be greater than survival. Thinking Men take us to something greater, he says, do not resist this. The strong should triumph. Exceptional people (like him) should flourish. Good versus evil is the rationalization of the weak. The notion of universal objective truth will be found wrong, and man will come to name his own truth. God is dead, and the Ubermensch, the Superman, will arise.

Nietzsche himself was continually sickly, and suffered increasing mental imbalance. His final breakdown is reported to have occurred after he witnessed the whipping of a horse.  He supposedly then ran to the horse to try to protect it, throwing his arms around its neck, and then collapsed into incoherence.

Mania with psychosis is strongly suggested. His writing and thought is megalomaniacal, racing, and grandiose. He came to see inorganic matter as having ‘motivation’. Thinking has magical power, intuition is supernatural.

In Nietzschean thought there are the inklings of Freudianism, fascism, communism, post modernism, and evolutionary psychology. He provides flamboyant cover for academic chauvinism and condescension, for intellectual elitism, for the cult of the Great Leader.

Academics love him to this day. For Cornel West, and many others, Neitzsche’s works are the most treasured. For those that gravitate to deconstruction, always parsing to uncover and reject what is wrong, Nietzsche invites them along, into tangles of creativity and corruption, idealism and nihilism. We have Francis Fukayama’s dead end.

The Strange Case of Elian Gonzalez

It has been ten years since the strange episode of Elian Gonzalez. His mother risked and lost her life bringing him to the U.S. on a small boat from Cuba. Castro demanded his return and President Clinton complied. The boy was ‘repatriated’ at the gun point of US Marshals. “The boy should be with his father”, Clinton said. Now, Elian is 16 years, old, a member of the Young Communist Union of Cuba. He attends military school. A museum about him in his home town has his statue with a raised, clenched fist. His birthday has been celebrated personally with Fidel, and his father has become a member of the Cuban National Assembly. The Cuban State Security set up a ‘monitoring station’ next door to his home.

Certain facts have emerged. Elians’ father called relatives in Miami to tell them that Elian and his mother were on their way. Janet Reno suppressed aspects of a report by court-appointed US judges who presided over the hearings in which Elian’s american relatives opposed his return. Elian’s grandmothers from Cuba covertly signaled to the Judge panel that they were under scrutiny by the Castro government and unable to speak candidly. Elian’s father was allowed to visit the US, his other children were not. He was under constant Cuban escort while in the United States.

And so a sitting President of the United States assisted an anti-american dictator in the forced repatriation of an escapee from a communist dictatorship to the United States. The President did this with force of arms, delivering not only the boy, but also a giant PR coup for the dictator, a leader who regularly proclaims himself an enemy of the United States. The President, with this action, essentially declared to the world his view that a nation without civil liberties, without independent judiciary, without freedom of speech or association, without democratic elections, a nation ruled by a secret police, is as good a place to raise a young boy as is the United States, a young boy whose mother gave her life to bring him here.

We are asked to believe that the father truly wanted his son in Cuba rather than in the United States. We are asked to ignore the mother’s heroic efforts to get him here. We are asked to assume there was no coercion from the Castro government.”

As Scott was a slave when taken into the state of Illinois by his owner, and was there held as such, and brought back in that character, his status, as free or slave, depended on the laws of Missouri, and not of Illinois.”  Supreme Court Case: Dred Scott vs. John F. A Sanford, March 6, 1857.

Did Elian Gonzalez determine the results of the 2000 presidential election?  Al Gore was running a close race for the Presidency. Florida would be crucial. How would a Gore victory affect Hillary Clinton’s political future?  The Florida Cuban community was enraged by Clinton’s actions. Gore, over a barrel, at first approved the decision to return Elian, but then disavowed it. He lost Florida by an extremely narrow margin, and then the election, despite winning the popular vote.

Hayek’s Information

The economy has number. The term “economy” is singular, but its properties emerge from a collection of things which are numerous and diverse.  And it is important that the definition is always tied to its disparate components. When we create statistical aggregates to describe the economy, we lose information, we change the concept into something that is not real.  The economy is not singular.  It is a group, a set, of people, transactions, and ideas.  And the individual distinctness of its components, though unseen by the analyzing scholar, is precisely the quality that matters.

This is Friedrich Hayek’s insight in his famous essay, The Use of Knowledge in Society.

There are two kinds of “knowledge”.  There is the scientist’s knowledge, which seeks to understand the economy comprehensively, and the knowledge of the individual agent, who is uniquely aware of his own circumstances.  The individual’s knowledge is the disparate element, and the scientist’s knowledge is the conjectural, theoretic attempt to understand a complex system as a singular object.

As Hayek explains:

The sort of knowledge with which I have been concerned is knowledge of the kind which by its nature cannot enter into statistics and therefore cannot be conveyed to any central authority in statistical form.  The statistics which such a central authority would have to use would have to be arrived at precisely by abstracting from minor differences between the things, by lumping together, as resources of one kind, items which differ as regards location, quality, and other particulars, in a way which may never be very significant for the specific decision.

When Hayek uses the word “knowledge”, in today’s vernacular he means “information”.  We know that useful information is condensed, coded, and patterned.  The problem of economic coordination is the problem of transforming information for exchange.  And it is the system of price setting, by the natural mechanism of supply and demand, that achieves this end.

It is more than a metaphor to describe the price system as…a system of telecommunications which enables individual producers to watch merely the movement of a few pointers, as an engineer might watch the hands of a few dials, in order to adjust to changes of which they may never know more than is reflected in the price movement.

Thus, the interactions of numerous, disparate, autonomous individuals create economies by responding to supply and demand, communicating with price.  Information is exchanged, but the diverse elements of the economic system are preserved.

Recall that Margaret Thatcher famously said:  “there is no such thing as society”.  Hayek tells us why.  She was concerned that being oriented to  “society” can lead to ignoring citizens.

Hayek’s reasoning shows how aggregated information (the knowledge of the societal planner) doesn’t have relevance to any individual citizen.  The prudent policy maker doesn’t work on “society”, but on the liberty, safety, and opportunity of the individual.


His was a low-slung, smallish figure, neither markedly stout nor thin, inclining, if anything, to the latter. The square-cut tunic seemed always a bit too large for him: one sensed an effort to compensate for the slightness of stature. Yet there was also a composed, collected strength, and a certain rough handsomeness, in his features. The teeth were discolored, the mustache scrawny, coarse, and streaked. This, together with the pocked face and yellow eyes, gave him the aspect of an old battle-scarred tiger. In manner – with us simple, quiet, unassuming. There was no striving for effect. His words were few. They generally sounded reasonable and sensible: indeed they often were. An unforewarned visitor would never have guessed what depths of calculation, ambition, love of power, jealousy, cruelty, and sly vindictiveness lurked behind this unpretentious facade.” George Kennan

Imagine Hitler ruling for 30 years, that was Stalin. An intellectual psychopath, Stalin recognized Leninism/Bolshevism for what it was, intellectual justification for brutality, theft, repression, and power. Promoting the destruction of all the social institutions that served to keep the people precariously bound in some element of civil reciprocity was cat nip to the bank robber he was, and the murderer he became.

His feral cunning, callousness, and Machiavellian malevolence brought him from poverty in Georgia to absolute ruler of the largest victorious army in history, and the conquest of much of the Eurasian continent.

Some say that Hitler had difficulty murdering those he had known well. Not so Stalin.  He had the cherished wife of his personal valet of some many years, Poskrebyshev, taken and executed. They had a young son, who Stalin would sit on his lap, like a grandpa. The loved wife of Foreign Minister Vaicheslav Molotov, one of the signers of the death sentence for 21,000 Polish officers held at Katyn forest, and Stalin’s closest comrade in rule for thirty years, was imprisoned for ‘disloyalty’. (Molotov ‘abstained’ on the vote in the Politburo about her arrest, and then later apologized to Stalin about his ‘error’ in judgment and never again raised the issue of her case) Mrs. Molotov was eventually released – four years later – after Stalin’s death. Molotov never acknowledged that Stalin may have intended her harm. Anastos Mikoyan, another lifelong comrade, (also a signer of the Katyn death sentence), the USSR representative at JFK’s funeral, saw his two sons imprisoned, also only released after Stalin’s death. Genrikh Iagoda, Stalin’s early NKVD secret police chief, was ‘tried’ and then shot, as were his wife, and his sister. Another sister, and both parents, perished in the Gulag.

Stalin’s chief rivals for power, Zinoviev, Kamenov, Bukharin, and Trotsky were all executed for false crimes confessed under torture. Many of their wives, children, and parents were also executed, including a teenage son of Kamenov.  For many Bolshevik comrades, their real crime, a monstrous crime against humanity, a crime indeed justifiably punishable by death, was their failure, themselves, to bring to trial and to execute Joseph Stalin.

Revolution Misremembered

Oh posterity, you will never know how much it cost us to preserve your freedom.  I hope that you will make a good use of it.  It you do not, I will repent in heaven that I took half the pains to preserve it.

So speaks John Adams in the last line of the HBO mini-series inspired by David McCullough’s biography.  Adams knew that our American revolution was precarious, and that its principles were vulnerable to misinterpretation.

The mini-series juxtaposes Adams and Jefferson. We see Adams as a prudent, calculating revolutionary.  For the cause of independence, he leads the Continental Congress with the temperament of a radical.  His revolutionary convictions were shrewd, and genuine.  But as a President he was conservative. Once the revolution was achieved, he was solely determined to preserve the government.  Meanwhile, Jefferson envisioned a perennial revolution, with each generation overthrowing the institutions of the last.

McCullough shows that Adams was uniquely aware of the fragility of the new government and the principles it affirmed.  As he transformed from a revolutionary to a conservative, his reputation faltered.  His efforts in office to protect the delicate union, his preoccupation with its infant weaknesses, lead many in his time to question his true commitment to the revolution—as though revolution, itself, was always virtuous.  He lost the legacy battle to Jefferson, and witnessed firsthand the cold unfairness of history.

Though mocked and unpopular, Adams commented before vacating the Presidency, “Mr. Jefferson is fortunate that I have left him a county at all over which to preside.

It is probably true that part of Adams’ pessimism was partly due to offended disgruntlement.  He clearly resented Jefferson’s popularity.  But there was also something worrying to Adams about the way history embraced Jefferson.  Adams believed completely in the principles of the revolution, and the institutions of the new government, and he knew of their profound importance to the world.  To him, the revolution was real, necessary, and genuine.  To Jefferson, and to many Americans of the time, it was abstract and romantic.  Adams seemed to know that there would be something lost if the realness of the American principles was not appreciated.

In a later scene, the mini-series shows an old, ornery Adams surveying John Trumbull’s painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  Adams tells Trumbull:

Do not let our posterity be diluted with fictions under the guise of poetical or graphical licenses…It is a very common observation in Europe that nothing is so false as modern history.  Well I would hasten to add that nothing is so false as modern European history, except modern American history.  In plain English, I consider the true history of the American Revolution to be lost…forever.

Beltway Nationalism

“Lobbyists need something to buy, and legislators need something to sell.” Milton Friedman

Lobbyists have clients who pay them to purchase advantage from legislators who are writing laws that affect them.  Legislators have lobbyists who pay them – in campaign contributions – to create laws that favor specific individuals and businesses that are represented by lobbyists.  Utilizing taxpayer money, both legislators and lobbyists prosper.  And so, Beltway D.C. neighborhoods have become the wealthiest in our nation, and the average Beltway income is directly correlated with the continually increasing number of pages in the federal tax code.   The business value of H.R. Block, the company people pay to figure out their taxes, also correlates with the continually increasing number of pages in the federal tax code.

The Beltway must create, but also hide, the myriad favors and exceptions to special interests that are placed into our federal laws.  And it does.  Congress has become not unlike the Catholic church before the reformation, it sells indulgences –  special exemptions –  from its taxes and laws.  And our politics is transformed. Freedom becomes not freedom from government, but support from government. Opposing taxation becomes suspect.  Special groups are selectively excluded from taxation, while of course still able to vote – we have growing “representation without taxation”.

To satisfy this ‘market’, Congress must continually expand its role.  More and more social issues and inequalities must be conjured and legislated.  And they are.   In this way the nation’s original federalism gives way to a nationalism, a Beltway nationalism. The original Federalists advocated for a national bank, a national currency, a strong chief executive in time of war, and regulation of interstate commerce, but not much more.  They believed in the sovereign power of the states over their local affairs.  The original antifederalists, confusingly named Republicans originally, (and later called Democrats), believed the federalists wanted too much power. They sought to limit federal power, and not just to protect slavery – many of them were against slavery – but their knowledge of european history made them wary of government power.

Today, beltway nationalists, who mostly call themselves Democrats, seek more than a strong central power for defense and commerce, they seek national power in local affairs, too.  They have grown from the Progressive movement, the New Deal, and the Great Society.  Confusingly, today’s federalists – neofederalists? – who mostly call themselves Republicans, are more like the original anti-federalists. They seek to limit national power in local affairs and the economy.  The nationalists have been the most successful.  They have essentially nationalized transportation, public education, food production, medical care, and college education, with the recent nationalization of all college loans.

The Federal Register, the compendium of all federal, bureaucratic rules and regulations, is 20,000 pages long. . . . weekly, and it keeps getting longer.

Old World government, centralized bureaucratic government, has come to the United States.

History of Christianity

Jon Meacham, the editor of Newsweek,  and author of American Lion, Andrew Jackson in the White House, reviews Christianity, the First Three Thousand Years, by Diamond MacCulloch, in the New York Times Book Review, April 4, 2010.

Meacham tells us he is officially sympathetic to christianity.  ” I am an episcopalian who takes the faith of my fathers seriously“,  but then, with qualification: “if unemotionally“.   He notes, too, that MacCulloch is also sympathetic to christianity, but also with qualification:   “I would now describe myself as a candid friend of christianity. I still appreciate the seriousness which a religious mentality brings to the mystery and misery of human experience and I appreciate the solemnity of religious liturgy as a way of confronting these problems” . . yet, “I live with the puzzle of wondering how something so crazy can be so captivating to millions of other members of my species.”

So, Religion is OK, but only unemotionally, and don’t forget it is crazy.

Meacham seems to accept that religious faith is necessarily dogmatic, rigid, opposed to critical thinking, and intolerant.  He doesn’t seem to know that what makes religious faith, faith, is that it is a decision held knowingly in the face of known doubt and uncertainty.  And contrary to his concerns, the history of christianity is full of debate and philosophy and disagreement.

Meacham seems also to equate having religious faith with being ‘literalist’ –  taking the words of the Bible as only factual, without metaphor.  In this thinking, one is all or none – the Bible is all factual truth or all metaphor.   Yet he very likely would not deny that the Bible is great literature, written over thousands of years by numerous authors mostly unknown to each other, truly an authentic compilation of human literary effort.  And he would without doubt affirm that there is great truth in literature.  Not one element of profound literary theme or structure is missing from the Bible.

To the religious, the question of the literal truth of the Bible is not a meaningful, or even valid question.  It seems intended to diminish the sophistication of faith, and deserves no answer.  Is not all knowing, all conceptualization, ultimately metaphorical?  Is not story a powerful way to communicate profound truth?

Meacham approves of MacCulloch’s accusation that the Apostle Paul justified slavery.  But this is a weak point.  Paul wisely advised the very fragile early church to avoid radical opposition to the “existing social distinctions.”  This included slavery, which was, in those times, the ubiquitous norm of all civilizations. Meacham seems unaware of the powerlessness of the early christians, despite having read this history.  Their swift demise would have quickly followed any political stance against Roman power.  This, after all, is precisely what happened to Jesus.  A surviving movement was better than no movement at all.

Meacham also notes, approvingly, another MacCulloch opinion:  “For most of its existence, christianity has been the most intolerant of world faiths, doing its best to eliminate all competition, with Judaism a qualified exception”. Huh?  Christianity has had its corruptions, and has been an instrument of political power, but what religion has built more hospitals, schools, and universities?  What religion has most fostered the independence of learning and the pluralistic societies of our day?