Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My new favorite quote

"Live free or die. Death is not the worst of evils." -- Gen. John Stark, 1809

I've always been proud of the motto of the state I grew up in. "Live free or die" is far and away the best state motto; it isn't even close. Only now did I realize where it came from. And the second half of the quote is almost as good as the first. I can't think of a sentiment that more directly contradicts the materialist view at the heart of modern society (and at the heart of nearly all Liberals as well, alas, as most Conservatives today) than one which affirms that there are worse things than death.

It used to be that only cowards acknowledged believing that death was the greatest evil. Now most politicians, nearly all economists, and most political and religious activists openly acknowledge this. The idea, for example, that material poverty is a terrible thing and must be avoided at all cost -- the idea that underlies nearly all US anti-poverty policies -- can't exist without the unstated belief that death is the greatest evil (and, therefore, that the imposition of any suffering through depriving people of material wealth is bad and wrong, because there is no joy to be found beyond this life).

Don't get me wrong -- I don't think anyone really likes (or should like) material poverty. I recognize, however, that those who suffer in this life may very well be rewarded in the next one. This is a profoundly Christian belief, actually, and anyone who thinks that it exists to salve people's consciences for not serving the less fortunate plainly suffers from ignorance. The most effective servants of the poor throughout Church history have been those most convinced of this belief. And the greatest horrors of modern times have grown out of the denial of this belief.

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