Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Jan/09

30

Devout spies, cont’d

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In your post about the Nicholsons, Heather, I hope you didn’t forget the case of Robert Hanssen, sometimes deemed the very worst Soviet mole ever, who was deep into ultraconservative Catholicism. (Wikipedia: “The Opus Dei priest who heard Robert’s confession told him to give the money to charity as an act of penance. Hanssen told his wife that he gave the money to Mother Teresa, but it is unknown if he actually did so.”) I’ll be the first to admit that none of these cases amount to much as an affirmative argument — there’s no reason to think that of the next 100 enthusiasts for Opus Dei you meet, even one is at risk of becoming a Hanssen-style Kremlin spy — just that the oft-mooted prophylactic effect of religious enthusiasm against world-league personal misbehavior doesn’t seem to work very well.

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3 comments

  • Polichinello · January 30, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    The “very worst mole” ever? Not even close. Alger Hiss, Lauchlin Currie, the Rosenbergs, Harry Dexter White are all far, far worse. Under them you literally have scores of Hannsen-sized traitors in the OSS, the WPB and other similar insitutions.

    Consider how many of these reds orbited Henry Wallace, too. The man very well could have succeeded an ailing FDR anytime between 1940 and 1944.

    Hannsen is the “very worst mole” only in the sense that the usual suspects can harsh on a putative conservative instead of one their own.

  • Author comment by David Hume · January 30, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    just that the oft-mooted prophylactic effect of religious enthusiasm against world-league personal misbehavior doesn’t seem to work very well.

    That’s a relative term I think…religion’s power is as an amplifier of social conformity. But sometimes religion also is a source to go against social norms and become convinced what others might find objectionable is actually right (consider the Roman Christian rejection of respect given to the gods of their neighbors, an act of blasphemy to pagans but one of righteousness for Christians).

  • mnuez · January 31, 2009 at 4:26 am

    To amplify David’s point, your happy-go-lucky knee-jerk consideration of sharing select American secrets with the Soviets as “personal misbehavior” seems to imply that you believe in some sort of absolute morality AND that would include not betraying the US in the manner that Hanson did AND that Hanson would agree with those points.

    Of course it’s possible that Hanson WAS untrue to his own principles, but to claim that he himself believed at the time that what he was doing was not just more wrong than right but rather that BY HIS OWN STANDARDS it was “world-league personal misbehavior” is to make QUITE an assumption.

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