The Baron kindly publishes the speech that Benno Banard would have given if he hadn’t been shouted down and intimidated into cancelling his speaking event.
The Baron: For [the Flemish magazine] Knack, Benno Barnard writes freely what he was not allowed and was unable to say on the pulpit of academic freedom. Read the essence of his speech, in which Barnard argues that the separation of church and state since the beginning was embedded in Christianity, in contrast to Islam.
Note from the author:
At the request of the editors I post here some excerpts from my aborted lecture for the “Vrijzinnige Dienst” of the University of Antwerp. The title is indeed a provocation — given that I was expecting to provoke an audience of middle-aged liberals. Meanwhile, to my mind, there is nothing in the following I have not already stated before, but repetition is the servant of the truth. Also, of course, of the lie, but you will have to look elsewhere for that, for example in De Morgen [left-wing Flemish newspaper]
Prologue (apologies to Shakespeare)
I warn you, dear audience — I have not come to praise liberalism, I have come to bury its fundamental mistake. That fallacy is that “religion” is the enemy of all intellectual independence and spiritual progression. And the premise of this fallacy is that you could interpret the legacy of Moses and Christ in a similar way to the legacy of the Prophet.
I want to demonstrate that this is dangerous nonsense, that liberalism is but precisely a logical product of the Jewish and Christian tradition; yes, that atheism also has biblical roots.
Let me first slightly position my own thinking and my own view of “religion”, so you understand who is addressing you. To begin with, I am an Anglican, just like my heroes W.H. Auden and T.S. Eliot. I belong to one of those slightly watered-down regional variants of Christianity; unlike the majority of my Christian-educated contemporaries, I have never found reason enough to distance myself from my church.
The Jewish roots of Christianity
As a connoisseur of the ancient Hebrew language and Hebrew literature, my father has raised me with the notion that Christianity in its core is a large sect of Judaism. In summary, that means the following.
The ancient Jews decided it is better to load a billy goat with all one’s sins than a human. The Lamb of God took on the role of that goat (the metaphor is somewhat in the atmosphere of a children’s farm), and in doing so allowed atheism penetrate the religion. A dead godliness! Isn’t that a paradox that twists your neck into a corkscrew? In that context, however, I dare to state that although my deeply atheist friends Wim van Rooy and Geert van Istendael have raised their children without a deity, they nevertheless did so in the best Christian manner.