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Decadence

Cultures of Death and of Decadence

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Rod Dreher writes: “The decadence represented by Charlie Hebdo is probably a greater threat to Western civilization than anything the Islamists can dream up, and it’s important to keep that straight even as we defend the right to free expression and a free press. It destroys everything for the sake of … what, exactly? Charlie Hebdo was straightforward about its far-left agenda of driving all religion out of society. Houellebecq, who is not a religious believer, asks: what are people supposed to live by, then? Man cannot thrive without religion, he believes — and he believes this as a matter of sociology, not theology. … I don’t know what’s coming. Nobody wants to live under hard Islamism. The Islamists have nowhere built a society capable of thriving. But at the same time, the society the West has built and is building without God or any kind of sacred values other than the Self cannot be said to be thriving either. … We are morally compelled to defend artists and journalists against those who would kill them for what they draw or say. But we should be clear that we are defending one culture of death from another one.”

Saving Leonardo

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Is secularism a positive force in the modern world? Or does it lead to fragmentation and disintegration? In Saving Leonardo, best-selling award-winning author Nancy Pearcey (Total Truth, coauthor How Now Shall We Live?) makes a compelling case that secularism is destructive and dehumanizing. Pearcey depicts the revolutionary thinkers and artists, the ideas and events, leading step by step to the unleashing of secular worldviews that undermine human dignity and liberty. She crafts a fresh approach that exposes the real-world impact of ideas in philosophy, science, art, literature, and film — voices that surround us in the classroom, in the movie theater, and in our living rooms. A former agnostic, Pearcey offers a persuasive case for historic Christianity as a holistic and humane alternative. She equips readers to counter the life-denying worldviews that are radically restructuring society and pervading our daily lives. Whether you are a devoted Christian, determined secularist, or don’t know quite where you stand, reading Saving Leonardo will unsettle established views and topple ideological idols. Includes more than 100 art reproductions and illustrations that bring the book’s themes to life.

R. R. Reno on Alan Bloom’s Diagnosis of Higher Education

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The supposed idealism of the 1960s was, in fact, a new barbarism. Whatever moral and spiritual seriousness the long tradition of American pragmatism had left intact in university life, the anti-culture of the left destroyed. ¶ The result? Higher education has become, argued [Allan] Bloom, the professional training of clever and sybaritic animals, who drink, vomit, and fornicate in the dorms by night while they posture critically and ironically by day. Bloom identified moral relativism as dogma that blessed what he called “the civilized reanimalization of man.” He saw a troubling, dangerous, and soulless apathy that pleasured itself prudently with passing satisfactions (“Always use condoms!” says the sign by the dispenser in the bathroom) but was moved by no desire to know good or evil, truth or falsehood, beauty or ugliness.

From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present

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Highly regarded here and abroad for some thirty works of cultural history and criticism, master historian Jacques Barzun has now set down in one continuous narrative the sum of his discoveries and conclusions about the whole of Western culture since 1500. In this account, Barzun describes what Western Man wrought from the Renaisance and Reformation down to the present in the double light of its own time and our pressing concerns. He introduces characters and incidents with his unusual literary style and grace, bringing to the fore those that have “Puritans as Democrats,” “The Monarch’s Revolution,” “The Artist Prophet and Jester” — show the recurrent role of great themes throughout the eras.  The triumphs and defeats of five hundred years form an inspiring saga that modifies the current impression of one long tale of oppression by white European males. Women and their deeds are prominent, and freedom (even in sexual matters) is not an invention of the last decades. And when Barzun rates the present not as a culmination but a decline, he is in no way a prophet of doom. Instead, he shows decadence as the creative novelty that will burst forth — tomorrow or the next day. Only after a lifetime of separate studies covering a broad territory could a writer create with such ease the synthesis displayed in this magnificent volume.

Tom Wolfe on Bases in the Hookup Culture

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Back in the twentieth century, American girls had used baseball terminology. “First base” referred to embracing and kissing; “second base” referred to groping and fondling and deep, or “French,” kissing, commonly known as “heavy petting”; “third base” referred to fellatio, usually known in polite conversation by the ambiguous term “oral sex”; and “home plate” meant conception-mode intercourse, known familiarly as “going all the way.” In the year 2000, in the era of hooking up, “first base” meant deep kissing (which was now known as “tonsil hockey”), and the groping, and the fondling; “second base” meant oral sex; “third base” meant going all the way; and “home plate” meant . . . learning each other’s names. Getting to home plate was relatively rare, however.

Paul Weyrich on Politics and Culture

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The reason, I think, is that politics itself has failed. And politics has failed because of the collapse of the culture. The culture is becoming an ever-wider sewer. We are caught up in a cultural collapse of historic proportions, a collapse so great that it simply overwhelms politics.

Dallas Willard on Cussing

Go Recently cultural observers have noted the overwhelming rise in the use of filthy language, especially among young people. Curiously, few have been able to find any grounds for condemning it other than personal taste. How strange! Can it be that they actually find contempt acceptable, or are unable to recognize it? Filthy language and name calling is always an expression of contempt. The current swarm of filthy language floats upon the sea of contempt in which our society is now adrift.