MT: The book’s cover illustration, by artist and FrontPage contributor Bosch Fawstin, is a sobering sketch of three posts planted upright before a wall — posts to which the condemned are tied to face the firing squad. The reference is to Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky’s own experience, which you relate in the book, of being hauled in front of a firing squad for a mock execution. Why choose this image for your cover?
DH: Because it is an encounter with death followed by a resurrection that changes Dostoevsky’s perspective about everything. Before this event, Dostoevsky was a political radical, a socialist. Afterwards, he understood that radicals are atheists who think of themselves as gods. Everything we suffered from progressive totalitarians in the 20th century, Dostoevsky foresaw. And nobody listened. For me Dostoevsky is an emblematic figure of the prison we cannot escape.
MT: Your father was an atheist who believed fervently in the progressive vision of an earthly utopia. This vision requires “mortals, fallible and corrupt, to assume powers that are god-like.” But as you write in A Point in Time, “a God who becomes human and suffers in the flesh to redeem human sins is one thing; ordinary human beings acting as gods to purge others of their sins is quite another.” Explain how “the quest for an earthly redemption has led to the greatest crimes” and becomes “not the kingdom of freedom but the totalitarian state.”
DH: If you think of yourself as a missionary whose goal is to create an earthly paradise — to end oppression, racism poverty and war — what lie will you not tell then and what crime will you not commit? If your goal is to transform the world, which was made by corrupt and fallible human beings, how can you accomplish this without the power to force them to be something other than they are, and therefore to control every aspect of their lives?
MT: You mention that in President Obama’s Oval Office there is a rug with this progressive testament woven into it: “The arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice.” Your response is, “The arc of the moral universe is indeed bent, but there is no one and no way to unbend it.” What do you mean by that?
DH: Just that. That it is bent but not towards justice. Who could possibly argue that the world is more just, safer, more morally decent today than it was fifty or five hundred years ago? There have been dramatic changes but they are scientific and technological, not moral. Scientific advance is the only true progress. But in the hands of human beings, technology makes life worse as well as better. In the entire history of mankind, there is no century bloodier than the 20th. And who would bet that the 21st will not surpass it?