Thursday, March 17, 2005


In honor of today's holiday, Doug McDaniel at "Who Was Saint Patrick?" cites the History Channel on his biography:
Although his father was a Christian deacon, it has been suggested that he probably took on the role because of tax incentives and there is no evidence that Patrick came from a particularly religious family.
Now your first thought might be that this is just the typical Marxist assumption that everyone's economic interests determine their ideology, or at least their "opiate" of choice. In other words, if the early rulers in Britain had given tax breaks to those who still considered trees sacred, then Patrick might have converted Ireland to worshipping oaks instead. This misses the real lesson of this story, which should be that fiscal policy can affect culture.

For centuries the Muslim rulers of Spain allowed Jews and Christians to practice their own religion, as long as they paid an extra tax. This presumably prompted many "conversions", just as the later Christian Inquisition produced many "conversos" who were still secretly practicing their old rites. Hypocrisy may not be the tribute vice owes to virtue, but it may be what it owes to an enlightened crusading tax policy.

Is it too late to get the interim government in Iraq to give tax breaks to endangered religions there, thus encouraging the return of all those Christians, many of them educated professionals, who fled to more Christian-friendly nations like Lebanon? Of course, this provision might be exploited by cynical jokesters, but that is a small price to pay for spreading tolerance, even if it means subsidizing Jedis.

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