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 Remus the cat died yesterday, in a very unusual way for a cat. He was pelted to death by hail.
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Never before today did I hear of Thomas Aikenhead. But he was executed in Scotland in 1696 on this charge:

That ... the prisoner had repeatedly maintained, in conversation, that theology was a rhapsody of ill-invented nonsense, patched up partly of the moral doctrines of philosophers, and partly of poetical fictions and extravagant chimeras: That he ridiculed the holy scriptures, calling the Old Testament Ezra's fables, in profane allusion to Esop's Fables; That he railed on Christ, saying, he had learned magick in Egypt, which enabled him to perform those pranks which were called miracles: That he called the New Testament the history of the imposter Christ; That he said Moses was the better artist and the better politician; and he preferred Mahomet to Christ: That the Holy Scriptures were stuffed with such madness, nonsense, and contradictions, that he admired the stupidity of the world in being so long deluded by them: That he rejected the mystery of the Trinity as unworthy of refutation; and scoffed at the incarnation of Christ.

I had two reactions to this. First that the regular modern theory is that the Pentateuch and the two historical sequences cannot date before the time of Ezra (and now ever later dates are being defended), but I don't know much about the history of the idea. Had it been proposed in the seventeenth century or did Aikenhead come up with it independently? Originally?

The second made me wonder about the extend of the persecution of atheists in Nazi Germany. The ridiculous story circulates all over the web now that Hitler was an Atheist. But in every outward form he was a Catholic, and the idea that one can make out of his personal beliefs from Speer's memoirs and the Table Talk is that he had a Stoacizing belief in his own destiny, which for him was divine guidance--exactly the same religious belief as George Washington, in other words. I could find out that he suppressed atheist organizations and had known for a long time that atheism was at the top of his list of charges against Communists and against people like Freud (because he knew the word atheism would make many Christians hate them), but I was not quickly able to find out if anyone was condemned to the caps strictly for atheism.

What I did find find was the story of Maximillian Kolbe. Its an inspiring story and might well be true (again, the press of work and infant prevents me making more definite inquiries), but the essayist who writes about him there has it all wrong. He claims that Kolbe acted that way because he was a Catholic, and that no Atheist would have done so. That's not true at all. Kolbe acted that way because of his own natures and virtues. He became a Catholic and a monk because at the time that seemed the best way for him to express and support his nearly superhuman virtue. He acted as he did because it was natural for him to so, in despite of being Catholic. The Catholic response to Hitler was to give masses of thanksgiving whenever an assassination plot was foiled, and to join the Hitler Youth and then fight in the Luftwaffe, as Joseph Ratzinger did. Catholicism did not inspire the Archbishops who presided over the masses or young Ratzinger to resist tyranny, Pius XII to excommunicate the tyrant. That is an action everyone comes to by himself.

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