The Least You Should Know to Be Not a ‘Protestant Donkey’

“O Mínimo Que Você Precisa Saber Para Não Ser Um Idiota” (The Least You Should Know to Be Not an Idiot) is a book written by Brazilian immigrant Olavo de Carvalho, published by the Brazilian publisher Record in 2013. ‘Protestant donkey’ is a term he uses against Protestants.


His book removes (or censors) the vital role of the U.S. Protestantism in capitalism and ascribes it exclusively to the Catholic Church, perhaps because he relied on an Italian communist writer. In the Chapter 5 “Capitalists X Revolutionaries,” in the section “Capitalism and Christianity,” Carvalho said: “to the supreme guru Antonio Gramsci, the number one enemy of the proletarian revolution was: the Catholic Church.”

Carvalho seems to ignore that communists lie and they are not intelligent, even when they seem to be.

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If Carvalho read the classical book “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism,” written by German economist Max Weber and published in English in 1930, he did not understand anything or he understood only what pleased him. Or he is so opposed to Protestantism that he prefers communists’ word as Gramsci’s. Does he prefer to put his faith in each word of Gramsci and doubt Weber and everyone recognizing that capitalism greatly prospered only under Protestant values?

The only hindrance Gramsci saw for the Marxist advance was the Catholic Church, because he lived in Italy, where Catholic Church and State had a promiscuous relationship.

There was no other influent church in Italy. Only the Catholic Church. From this limited experience Gramsci deduced that Catholicism is the only influence.

It was not only communists who faced hindrances to advance. Evangelicals did too. Nothing opposing the Catholic Church’s interests could advance in Italy. The Catholic Church gave no freedom to anyone.

The reach of Gramsci’s vision then was not different from the vision reach of a poor farmer in the Brazilian countryside in 1944 who would see local threats as more important than Nazism in the broad World War 2. The farmer’s vision only reached his immediate reality, disregarding, by ignorance and a lack of access to media, the larger far-away international reality.

If Gramsci lived in the U.S., his “rustic” vision would be enlarged and prevailed by the reality that the U.S., with its overwhelming Protestant majority and Protestant values, was by far the greatest hindrance to communism.

Yet, in Gramsci’s limited Italian universe, there was only the Catholic Church’s political power. He completely ignored the U.S. Protestantism’s political power, including that the most prominent opponent of Marxist esoteric Margaret Sanger was a Protestant called Anthony Comstock, the first pro-life activist in the modern history.

Sanger, from Catholic Irish extraction, founded IPPF, the largest abortion, contraception and sex education organization in the world.

So to believe in Gramsci’s naïve and rustic vision is to be too much idiot.

Carvalho has no excuse to have such naïve and rustic vision. He lives as a self-exiled immigrant in the U.S., the largest Protestant nation in the world, because he recognizes in this nation the characteristic of resistance to Marxism that ultra-Catholic Brazil or Gramsci’s Italy never demonstrated.

Yet, Carvalho’s book seeks to make a fool of the readers when it dissociates U.S. Protestant values from capitalism. It is no coincidence that the largest Protestant nation in the world is also the most capitalist nation in the world. By far, the worst kind of anti-Americanism is the one denying that the fundamental values of the U.S. society are Protestant values.

Carvalho’s book is replete with omissions, which can be called censorship, about the role of the U.S. Protestantism in capitalism. The only closest reference between capitalism and Protestantism in his book was entirely negative, where he said:

“Therefore, the financial (and even, by contamination, the industrial) capital, if it had some Christian element, continued to suffer a false guilty conscience. It could find relief from it only by adhering to the cunning Protestant ideology of ‘ascetism from the world.’”

In contrast, there are abundant positive mentions of the Catholic Church. The less idiotic reader will notice the inconsistency in his intents when he presents the Catholic Church as the enemy of capitalism in the U.S. and England. He said:

“The [Catholic] Church seeks even today to see a solution against the supposed evils of capitalism, which where it came to existence — England and the United States —, never harmed it and only helped it, including in the dark times of persecution and martyrdom it suffered from communist and other nationalizing progressives, as the revolutionaries in Mexico who began in the American continent an open season against priests.”

By saying “even today,” he recognized the persistent opposition, in the past and today, from the Catholic Church to the U.S. capitalism — a stance that clearly fits in anti-Americanism. So his attitude of censoring the essentially Protestant capitalism and clinging to Gramsci’s naïve and rustic vision was an essentially idiotic and anti-American attitude.

To deny the Protestant soul in the U.S. capitalism is akin to denying the Jewish soul of Israel’s land. This anti-American denial is abundant in “O Mínimo Que Você Precisa Saber Para Não Ser Um Idiota” (The Least You Should Know to Be Not an Idiot).

To those who praise the U.S. capitalism, the omission, or censorship, of its Protestant soul is dishonest.

As Max Weber showed in his classical book, capitalism, defined as mercantile operations, always existed in several forms in Babylon, ancient Egypt, China, India and medieval Catholic Europe. But he highlighted that only in the West, where there was the Protestant ethic, especially Netherlands, England and the United States, capitalism prospered freely their societies.

Not satisfied in dissociating the U.S. capitalism from Protestantism, in his article “Herança de confusões” (Legacy of Confusions), Carvalho said,

“One of the favorite myths of the American culture is that the Protestant Reformation was one of the main sources of religious freedom, individual rights and protections against abuses from a central government. Add to it the Weberian (or semi-Weberian) false belief that the ‘Protestant ethic’ created capitalism, and the only possible conclusion is that today’s citizen is indebted to Luther and Calvin, after all, for virtually all the legal, political and economic benefits of living in a modern democracy. But all of this is propaganda, not History.”

Carvalho’s accusation of Protestantism as a source of religious freedom in America being a “myth” is as preposterous as his vice of calling the Inquisition a “myth.” He has no degree in history and related matters.

There are several American authors who have specific books dispelling such accusation, including:

* William J. Federer, America’s God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations (Fame Publishing, Inc., 1996).

* Michael Farris, History of Religious Liberty: From Tyndale to Madison (Master Books, 2015).

* Jerry Newcombe, The Book That Made America: How the Bible Formed Our Nation (Nordskog Publishing, Inc., 2009).

Newcombe’s book shows how the Bible, which had absolute primacy in the Protestant Reformation and in the early America, which was 98 percent Protestant, molded everything in America, including religious freedom.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

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