Or will all British women wear the burqa? 1

Douglas Murray, a writer and thinker who is consistently intelligent and just, declares – optimistically – that Britain will not succumb to sharia law.

Posted under Britain, Commentary, Islam, jihad, Muslims, tyranny, United Kingdom, Videos by Jillian Becker on Monday, December 31, 2012

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Humiliation and waste of the US army 1

 All our training manuals have been purged of the true nature of the threat from Islam and Shariah.

We quote from an important article in the Washington Times by Retired Admiral James A. Lyons, former commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet:

The U.S. Army’s final-draft handbook … indoctrinates our military personnel heading to Afghanistan in how to be sensitive to and accept Muslim and Afghan 7th-century customs and values — or possibly be killed by our Afghan partners.

Unbelievable. This is being done to prevent the so-called “green-on-blue” attacks, which have cost 63 American lives this year.

According to the Army’s Combined Arms Center at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., it is our military’s ignorance and lack of empathy for Muslim and Afghan cultural norms that is the basic cause for our Afghan military partners to react violently and kill our troops.

For example, if our military personnel hear or witness an Afghan soldier sodomizing a young boy, the handbook tells U.S. service members to voice no objection, accept it or ignore it, or they could be killed. If an Afghan beats, rapes or kills a woman in the presence of a U.S. serviceman, they are not to interfere or stand up for women’s rights or else they might be killed.

What the Army is saying, in effect, is that if Afghan partners conduct violence against U.S. service personnel, it is the serviceman’s fault. This is mind-boggling. We know, according to former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, that nine out of 10 Afghan military personnel are illiterate and cannot be counted on in combat. Endemic corruption is embedded in Afghan culture and certainly extends to their military. They cannot be trusted.

Other cultural norms our professional U.S. military must accept without reservation by our Afghan partners is desertion, drug use, thievery, dog torture and collusion with the enemy, the Taliban. Also, U.S. military members must not discuss Islam in any form.

So the US military commanders know perfectly well that Afghans may be seen sodomizing young boys; beating, raping, killing women; deserting, taking drugs, stealing, torturing dogs, and colluding with the enemy – and they want to tolerate it. Why are American forces in Afghanistan at all? What have they been fighting for these eleven years and more? What do they risk their lives for?

All of this guidance is un-American. It is totally against our core principles and everything we stand for as Americans. It threatens to further diminish our military principles, stature and fighting spirit. …

We will be forcing our military to submit to Islam and its governing Shariah law or die — exactly the choice offered to infidels who have been vanquished by jihad. Our military’s silence and acquiescence would be the humiliating price for their existence.

This should be seen as another attempt to undercut our professional military and our warrior reputation that has guaranteed our freedom and way of life for the past 236 years.

None of this humiliating guidance should come as a surprise. The Obama administration has had a massive purge under way to remove all training manuals, lectures and instructors who link Islamic doctrine and its governing Shariah law in a factual way to Islamic terrorism. These manuals are being removed from all government agencies, including the Department of Defense and intelligence agencies. All our training manuals have been purged of the true nature of the threat from Islam and Shariah.

The degrading of our military’s fundamental principles should be viewed in a much broader perspective. We cannot overlook the fact that with or without sequestration, we are unilaterally disarming our military force. This is happening in spite of an uncertain world situation with the Mideast still in a state of turmoil and evolving threats posed by China, Russia and Iran.

Separately, we see our First Amendment rights being trashed by our secretary of state through her participation in the Istanbul Process championed by the 57-member-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The OIC is sponsoring a United Nations mandate that would make it a crime to express anything they consider blasphemous against Islam or the Prophet Muhammad. This same theme was expressed by President Obama in his September speech to the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

If these attacks on America’s exceptionalism and core principles are collectively analyzed, it appears that there is an insidious agenda at work to fundamentally change America. All of these negative factors must be challenged and defeated.

As a first step, the Army’s draft handbook should be trashed.

Second, Congress must take positive action to protect our First Amendment rights and force the Obama administration to withdraw from any further participation in the Istanbul Process.

Third, the unilateral disarmament of our military must be reversed. It’s time for members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to take a position that supports the oath they took to protect and defend our Constitution.

Challenge their pacifist commander-in-chief, who has never served in the armed forces, has an emotional attachment to Islam, and disregards his own oath to defend the US Constitution?

It would be a great thing if they would do it.

Eric Holder’s Gestapo raids small businesses 1

(Video from Creeping Sharia)

The wrecker wrecked? 7

Obama may be wrecking the Republican Party, but is he also, in the process, wrecking the economy and so his own legacy?

We think his legacy is already a wreck, and that he being what he is, it couldn’t possibly be anything else. But here is Charles Krauthammer’s view of Obama’s present maneuvers on the edge of the “fiscal cliff”. He thinks that Obama’s aim has long been to use the “fiscal cliff” controversy as a means to wreck the Republican Party, and that he has succeeded.

This quotation is from a transcript in the Daily Caller of an interview with the witty, well-informed, perceptive writer on Fox News.

It’s been very clear from the beginning that [Obama] had no intention to solve the fiscal issues. He’s been using this, and I must say with great skill and ruthless skill and success, to fracture and basically shatter the Republican opposition. The only …  redoubt of the opposition is the House. And his objective from the very beginning was to break the will of the Republicans in the House and to create an internal civil war, and he’s done that. How did he do it? By always insisting from day one after the election that Republicans had to raise rates. There’s no reason at all to get the revenue that he needed and that the speaker was offering him that you had to raise rates.

Obama himself … said … you can get $1.2 trillion by eliminating loopholes, which is exactly what Republicans offered him. … So why did he insist on the rates? He said that is what he will insist upon, and that was the ultimatum. He did that because he knew it would create a crisis among the Republicans, and it did. So right up until now Obama has what he wanted, which was a partisan, political success. He’s been less worried about the fiscal issue for two reasons. Number one, he does not care about debt. He hasn’t in the four years. And number two, he thinks he’s a political winner if we go over the cliff. He thinks he’s holding all the cards.

But it is only a temporary success.

I have argued from the beginning that Republicans should hold out, that they had more strength than they thought. That Obama wasn’t holding all the cards. I think he has the advantage obviously because Republicans … are the ones who will take the blame. But nonetheless, the larger issue, if you are Obama, is not who is popular and who is not, he’s won his last election. That doesn’t matter anymore. What Obama does care about — should care about and does care about is his legacy. If you go over the cliff he may get a bump temporarily and the Republicans will take a hit, but his legacy will be his second term. And if he wrecks the economy, as he would, by not being able to remedy the consequences of going over the cliff, then he’s going to have a failed second term and … history will remember him as a failed president.

Now, what he probably thinks, if he can go over the cliff, the Republicans will take a hit, he will have public opinion behind him. … And then he can undo the damage one issue at a time by getting a reduction by a return of the majority of the Bush tax rates, standing unemployment, whatever else he wants to do he can get that one piece of legislation at a time so that he won’t suffer the consequence of a second recession of nine percent unemployment. So I think that’s his calculation. But I do think that he’s putting a lot in jeopardy. If we go over the cliff, it’s going to be a very shaky response probably from Wall Street. Consumer confidence is going to be hit. He could be damaged more economically, and the country would [be more damaged], than I think he imagines. So I think he could be overplaying his hand. I think he’s been doing that in terms of the fiscal issue. …

I think the Republicans will surely have a much stronger hand, assuming we go over the cliff … because Obama then has to worry about the debt ceiling. Now with bravado he says that’s a game I won’t play. He has to play. He’s the president. He’s responsible for the full faith and credit of the United States. And he’s got Republicans in charge of the House. That’s the will of the people. That’s the result of an election, and they have a mandate as much as he does. He can’t walk away and say I’m not interested in negotiating. He’ll have to. He may not like it, but he’ll have to. That’s where the Republicans I think [have] the stronger hand. … We will really hit the wall on the debt ceiling probably the end of February, beginning of March … and that’s when I think they will have the upper hand, or at least an equal hand.

So  - unlike Humpty Dumpty – the fractured and shattered Republican Party can be put together again? How pleased should we be if it is, we wonder.

Against gun control 2

This video was first posted nearly four years ago in March 2009. But the argument against gun control remains valid. In particular, it deals with the result of gun confiscation by the Australian government.

Posted under Australia, Commentary, United States by Jillian Becker on Friday, December 28, 2012

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The Benghazi report 1

The official (“unclassified”) report of the Accountability Review Board (ARB) on the Benghazi attack is out. It is only 39 short pages, and needs to be read in full.

It is a cover-up presented as an honest objective disclosure.

It is full of facts, but many vital facts are omitted. You will find no mention, for instance, of the fact made public by the father of one of the dead Americans, Tyrone Woods, that he and Glenn Doherty – praised in the report for what they did without being named – were twice told (by whom?) to stand down and not go to the aid of the ambassador, so when they did go it was against orders. And the report claims that there was not sufficient time to get effective military reinforcements to the mission, but there was. And it makes no comment on the fact that the two surveillance aircraft chosen to hover over the scene of carnage, arson, looting and murder were unarmed.

There is much to criticize, much to stir indignation in this wretched report. This above all provokes us to comment:

[Ambassador] Stevens’ mission was to serve as the liaison with the TNC [Transitional National Council, the temporary Libyan government) in preparation for a post-Qaddafi democratic government in Libya. By all accounts, he was extremely effective, earned the admiration of countless numbers of Libyans, and personified the U.S.  government commitment to a free and democratic Libya.

There you see it: the Big Fantasy, the substitute-reality, which Obama’s administration – in particular his State Department – fashioned out of thin air to fit his Arab dream.

We don’t doubt that some Libyans liked Mr Stevens. As the numbers cannot be counted, conjecture can run to there being very many, as the ARB report chooses to imply, or comparatively few, which the events described in the report strongly suggest. What really happened was an atrocity carried out for no reason but hatred of America and Americans. The Board has its eyes firmly shut against that obvious fact, and no motive whatsoever for the attack is ascribed to the attackers.

The attack was carried out by a mob of Libyans with the pre-knowledge and assistance of other Libyans who were paid to guard the mission, but left a gate unlocked for the mob and melted away as the attack began. The unlocked gate and the departure of the paid guards are recorded in the report. But the gate may have been unlocked by oversight, it implies. As to the stupidity of employing known Arab terrorists as guards, whose reason for existence is to kill Americans and American allies -  not a word. That they could have been better trained by their British employers is acknowledged. That they might have been more effective if they had been armed is dubiously implied.

If they had been armed. The report admits that the paid Libyan guards were not armed. Obama’s people,  wanting the Libyans to love them and be grateful to them for helping to overthrow Qaddafi, trusted a motley bunch of terrorists affiliated to various murderous groups to protect their ambassador and diplomatic staff. But they did not let them carry arms. Why not? Was it because they wouldn’t have it seem that they distrusted anyone in Libya, or suspected for a moment that some Libyans might attack the mission? In the fantasy, nice Mr Stevens had won their hearts, so they must not give the least sign of distrust? Or did they quietly fear that the guards might turn their arms on the Americans they were employed to protect? We are left to wonder about that. Without the Libyans knowing it, the Ambassador had been asking for months for more effective protection and it had been refused. That also the report records. Reality, after all, is reality, and Stevens himself was too close to it to ignore it entirely. But Obama’s people clung to the dream, and would hear no appeals. The report finds the refusal reprehensible, but lays some blame on Ambassador Stevens himself for not insisting more on getting better protection.

The paragraph we quote above ends with the only mention in the report of  U.S. government policy. There is otherwise no suggestion that a policy may have something to do with what happened to Americans in Benghazi; no glance upwards in the direction of someone whose decrees may have contributed to the disaster it is inquiring into.

But Ambassador Stevens is dead. He died a horrible death. One of the two men with him survived and was able to describe how it felt to have his lungs full of choking smoke, how he struggled to breathe clean air, how he vomited, how he fainted. The less robust Chris Stevens helplessly choked to death on the foul fumes. So if he “personified the U.S. Government commitment to a free and democratic Libya” as the report says, then that commitment is dead – or ought to be, if logic could touch the dream.

The reality that Libyans murdered Stevens should kill the dream. But we doubt it will. The report insists that nobody on the heights of government is to blame. The lesser beings in the hierarchy – “senior officials within two bureaus” – who, it concedes, should have done better, did not do so badly in the Board’s opinion that they deserve to be “disciplined”.

Nor have they been. Contrary to a new delusion created by the administration, no one has lost his or her job as punishment for losing the battle of Benghazi, for allowing America to be beaten and  humiliated. And after all, what did they do wrong? They were obeying their government, whether or not they were given orders directly on that night of terror – as they should have been, though the report does not tell us that they were.

The most vital fact is that the policy prepared the atrocity and the defeat. And no inquiry initiated by the administration itself will confess that truth.

 

Posted under Arab States, Commentary, Islam, jihad, Libya, Muslims, United States, War by Jillian Becker on Thursday, December 27, 2012

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For love or money? 0

Christmas in America brings out saccharine movies on TV. It’s a Wonderful Life. The Wizard of Oz. A Christmas Carol – this year the version with the great Patrick Stewart in the role of the haunted miser Ebenezer Scrooge.

In general we don’t like parsimony because we like abundance. But back in 2004, Steven E. Landsburg wrote an essay in praise of Scrooge, making the case that the parsimonious help to create abundance, and we see his point.

He wrote (in part):

Here’s what I like about Ebenezer Scrooge: His meager lodgings were dark because darkness is cheap, and barely heated because coal is not free. His dinner was gruel, which he prepared himself. Scrooge paid no man to wait on him.

Scrooge has been called ungenerous. I say that’s a bum rap. What could be more generous than keeping your lamps unlit and your plate unfilled, leaving more fuel for others to burn and more food for others to eat? Who is a more benevolent neighbor than the man who employs no servants, freeing them to wait on someone else?

Oh, it might be slightly more complicated than that. Maybe when Scrooge demands less coal for his fire, less coal ends up being mined. But that’s fine, too. Instead of digging coal for Scrooge, some would-be miner is now free to perform some other service for himself or someone else. …

In this whole world, there is nobody more generous than the miser — the man who could deplete the world’s resources but chooses not to. The only difference between miserliness and philanthropy is that the philanthropist serves a favored few while the miser spreads his largess far and wide.

If you build a house and refuse to buy a house, the rest of the world is one house richer. If you earn a dollar and refuse to spend a dollar, the rest of the world is one dollar richer—because you produced a dollar’s worth of goods and didn’t consume them.

Who exactly gets those goods? That depends on how you save. Put a dollar in the bank and you’ll bid down the interest rate by just enough so someone somewhere can afford an extra dollar’s worth of vacation or home improvement. Put a dollar in your mattress and (by effectively reducing the money supply) you’ll drive down prices by just enough so someone somewhere can have an extra dollar’s worth of coffee with his dinner. Scrooge, no doubt a canny investor, lent his money at interest. His less conventional namesake Scrooge McDuck filled a vault with dollar bills to roll around in. No matter. Ebenezer Scrooge lowered interest rates. Scrooge McDuck lowered prices. Each Scrooge enriched his neighbors as much as any Lord Mayor who invited the town in for a Christmas meal.

Saving is philanthropy, and — because this is both the Christmas season and the season of tax reform — it’s worth mentioning that the tax system should recognize as much. If there’s a tax deduction for charitable giving, there should be a tax deduction for saving. What you earn and don’t spend is your contribution to the world, and it’s equally a contribution whether you give it away or squirrel it away.

Of course, there’s always the threat that some meddling ghosts will come along and convince you to deplete your savings, at which point it makes sense (insofar as the taxation of income ever makes sense) to start taxing you. Which is exactly what individual retirement accounts are all about: They shield your earnings from taxation for as long as you save (that is, for as long as you let others enjoy the fruits of your labor), but no longer.

Great artists are sometimes unaware of the deepest meanings in their own creations. Though Dickens might not have recognized it, the primary moral of A Christmas Carol is that there should be no limit on IRA contributions. This is quite independent of all the other reasons why the tax system should encourage saving (e.g., the salutary effects on economic growth).

If Christmas is the season of selflessness, then surely one of the great symbols of Christmas should be Ebenezer Scrooge — the old Scrooge, not the reformed one. It’s taxes, not misers, that need reforming.

We see another moral in the story too.

Enormously as we enjoy all the other works of Charles Dickens, we dislike A Christmas Carol. What we particularly dislike about it, in addition to its mawkishness, is this.

Scrooge has a single employee in his investment business, a clerk named Bob Cratchit whom he prudently pays as low a wage as – presumably – the labor market allows.

This Bob Cratchit – whom Dickens makes out to be something of a hero – has six children, at least one of whom suffers, not surprisingly, from rickets or some such poverty-induced disease.

What could this man have been thinking? He earns barely enough to keep himself but he takes a wife and then has six children. Driven by lust, he brings people into the world who must suffer as a result of his fleshly urges and low-earning skill-level. He’s lucky to have found an employer who finds his contribution to the business worth something, however little.

Scrooge’s barren existence is certainly unappealing. Depressing. Okay, positively repulsive. Still, he’s harming nobody by it, and according to Steven Landsburg is actually doing good to others.

Whereas Cratchit, through his fecklessness, condemns others to want and sickness, and in our book that makes him the villain of the story.

 

Posted under Capitalism, Commentary, Economics, Ethics by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, December 26, 2012

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Christian theology: “The Word made flesh” 3

For those readers who are interested in how Christianity (regarding it as we do with fascinated distaste) arose and spread, and who shake their bemused heads (as we do) at  what it claims to be “the truth”, here is another in our series on its history. (See our posts: A man named Jesus or something like that, September 23, 2011; The invention of Christianity, October 28, 2011; Tread on me: the making of Christian morality, December 22, 2011; St.Paul: portrait of a sick genius, January 7, 2012; Pauline Christianity: a mystical salad, February 26, 2012; The fictitious life of Jesus Christ, April 7, 2012.)

*

Theology is the study of – nothing. Of a figment, a rumor, a superstition. “God-study”.

For hundreds of years it has preoccupied studious persons, and still does. Through most of the last two millennia, brilliant men of the sort that in our time are scientists and inventors, concentrated on the intricate vapidities of Christian theology.

Most medieval universities had four faculties: Arts, which all students entered, and three of “higher learning”, Theology, Law, Medicine. Until the Enlightenment, Theology was the most esteemed. This was the case whether the university was under the authority of the Catholic Church (as at Paris), or of the students themselves (as at Bologna), or of the state (as was Oxford). Philosophy came under Theology. Christian theology, of course.

And yet Christian theology had sprouted out of philosophy. Greek philosophy. Not out of the unsophisticated polytheistic religion of the Greeks; and not out of rabbinic Judaism. No, Christian theologians had to take the fuzzy idea launched by St Paul – that a man he called “Jesus Christ” was the divine “Son of God” – and try to make sense of it. They found a paradigm in Greek metaphysics, the “science of the immaterial”. [1]

Among the first converts to Pauline Christianity, and among those who received the first three gospels, there must have been some who found questions arising inevitably out of Paul’s idea. Even the odd intelligent slave might ask some of the more obvious ones, such as: if Jesus was God how come he didn’t save himself from his agonizing death on the cross? And: if he was God he didn’t really ever die, did he, so he couldn’t have actually died for our sins, could he? And: come to think of it, if he died for our sins how come we can still be punished for them in hell? And: if being all-knowing God he knew everything in advance, he must have known he was going to be crucified, he must even have planned it, so why is everyone who played a part in carrying it out blamed for it?

And again, if he was God, then from the time he was born (or conceived) were there two Gods, one above the earth and one on it, and if so why do you say there’s only one God? Some might even have gone so far as to ponder the question: if God has always existed, and if Jesus Christ is God, where was he before he was born? Which is to say, when and how did he come to be God, and how and why did he come to be a man?

These last questions seriously bothered the intellectuals of the age. They were the very questions that set Christian theology going; the ones that sent great minds searching in Greek philosophy. [2] Although there were many versions of Christianity in the first few centuries after Paul’s idea began to catch on, all the various theorists – Paulinists, Gnostics, Marcionites … the list is long – stumbled over the same questions and found their answers in the same shop. They adapted them variously to suit their individual theologies, with wild fantasy and astonishing dramatic flair. [3]

The Catholic Church’s answer to how the Son came into existence is stated in the opening verse of the gospel according to John: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And it goes on to say that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” This is the big point of Christian theology: “The Word was made flesh”.

Now what would your average Christian converts – for the most part probably slaves, women, illiterates – have made of that? They would no doubt have accepted it as a mystery that they couldn’t understand but their betters could; like the mystery of how God was simultaneously up above and down here; how he’s immortal yet he died; how he died but didn’t stay dead; how bread and wine, ritually blessed, became the body and blood of Jesus when it got inside them (another of St Paul’s strange ideas, but one which theologians have not overstrained their brains to explain).

“The Word made flesh”. What can we make of it?  It makes no sense. And even when we‘ve found where the idea comes from, it will still make no sense. But we’ll look for its source anyway.

By the time of the Roman Caesars, starting with Augustus in 1 BCE in whose reign Jesus was born, Greek philosophical ideas about the origin of existence – ontology – had become very elaborate. Faithful though the Greek and Roman sages were in their daily lives to the many gods and goddesses of their culture, when they set themselves the task of explaining how What Is came to be, these polytheists were philosophical monotheists – of a sort. Their ontological narrative had to start with a single source of the universe, a God who was One.

Why? Because of what Plato had propounded. Plato said that the things of this base world, so many and various, are not “real”, but the mere reflections of existences in a higher reality, an immaterial heavenly sphere. We everyday folk say that what we can touch, hold, see, eat is real, while what we imagine is unreal.  Plato said, Oh no, it’s the other way about: the things of this world are unreal, mere illusions, shadows of the things in the really real world which is somewhere else and which we can only know in our thoughts. [4] In Plato’s real world there was The Perfect Form of everything. In our unreal world, he said, things of a particular kind – let’s take stones and fish – are manifestations of a single essence – an essential stone-ness or fish-ness – the Perfect Form of which exists in the immaterial sphere where nothing perishes. Just one perfect form for each sort of thing we see on earth furnishes that heaven. Why only one? Because there can only be one stone-ness, one fish-ness. There can be only one essence of anything. Only one essence of ideas, the Idea of ideas. Only one essence of existence itself. And the essence of existence is God.

So God is singular. He is everlasting. Those attributes are implicit in the concept of him. But other than that we can know nothing about him. So we can say nothing about him. He is “ineffable”.

Yet billions of words have been poured out, and continue to be poured out about this ineffable concept.

Platonists of the early centuries of our common era held that the One is simple and unmoving. Which means that he does nothing. He does not act. He does not create. How then, out of such a one, have many come? How can one, doing nothing, be the source of all things that exist?

Ah, now it gets canny. His existence emanates existence, as a lamp emanates light, as a fire emanates heat. He thinks, and thinking, he emanates a First Thought. That Thought is a second being, an hypostasis.  [5] In some schemes (or cosmogonies) the One emanates a pair (“syzygy”) of beings: First Thought (Ennoia in Greek), and Mind (Nous). And there, lo!, is a Triune Godhead.

From the first pair may descend more hypostases in syzygies, for instance, Truth (Alithea) and Word (Logos). Disputes over which scheme was true were many and often bitter, and by their nature of course totally incapable of resolution. Did they all agree at least that everything came from the One Simple Source? Well, no. Some say not everything. Not  – surprisingly? –  matter. Generally in Greek philosophy matter was already there. Matter was eternal. It had no beginning and would have no end. It was always there, just as the One was always there. What then happened to matter so that it became the material things we know? It was worked by an agent in the heavenly hierarchy. Just where this agent was placed in a hierarchy varied from scheme to scheme. But wherever he stood, he was called the Demiurge: the craftsman; the big holy smith. He took matter and shaped it into the things we know: our base world and all that’s in it; our base material bodies; the whole “unreality” which we imagine to be real. [6] In John’s scheme, there is no agent who makes the Word flesh. The One emanates the Logos, and the Logos is made flesh as Jesus Christ in the passive voice.

Perhaps with the appearance of John’s gospel there was silence among intellectual Christians for a quarter of an hour or so as they digested the information that Jesus Christ was the Word made flesh.

And then a clamor of argument broke out which was to last for hundreds of years, and has still not ended though it has become more muted. Not one argument but a babble of arguments, of arguments within arguments. And so passionately did the arguers feel that they often killed those who would not agree with them. Those who had the power to order the killing of dissenters from their own point of view did so with all the zeal of righteousness. Those who could claim to be orthodox according to one or another ruling at one or another congress on a point at issue, accused the rest of heresy. War broke out between factions defending what might seem to us teeny-weeny points of difference that could affect nothing in actuality. And all, remember, about entirely imaginary existences and processes; nothing that could be ascertained by going to the thing itself and testing it, experimenting with it, analyzing it, since it – the divinity – wasn’t there.

For example: a controversy arose because, in the Christian scheme, God the Father emanates his Son the Logos and the Holy Ghost, the three together composing the Triune Godhead of Christianity.

But does the Holy Ghost proceed from the Father only, or also from the Son? Can two beings emanate a third being simultaneously? It was considered an immensely important question: Is the Holy Ghost an emanation of the Father only, or of the Father and the Son?  The Latin for  “and [by or from] the son” is “filioque”, so this rancorous disagreement is known as the filioque question. It was one of the disputes over which Christians mercilessly persecuted other Christians.

Another conflict of even greater importance in Christian history was – and is – over the question of just how divine Jesus Christ was when he lived as a man among men on earth. When he was a mewling puking baby, a toddler, a boy, an adolescent, a young man, a mature man, one who ate and digested and sweated, hiccupped and sneezed, got headache and toothache, clipped his nails and combed his hair, was he God? Were those nail clippings and hairs and feces and drops of sweat dropped by Jesus on the soil of the Galilee bits of God? When he was crucified, and cried out to ask his God why he had deserted him, was he himself then not God?

There was no escaping the questions. Once declare a man to be the ineffable unknowable invisible God made manifest, and you’re inevitably stirring up a hornet’s nest of logical difficulties. [7] They groped for answers.

Perhaps his human nature was illusory, his real nature always and only divine? Or did he become divine at a certain moment, when he was baptized, or when he “died”, or when he “rose again”? Or could he have been simultaneously wholly human and wholly divine?

The answers to these conjectures depended, the theologians said, on whether his “substance”, or nature, was the same as the Father’s or only similar to the Father’s. In Greek terms: were God the Father and God the Son homoousios or homoiousios?

That “i” in the middle of homoiousios –  the iota from which we derive our word “jot” meaning a very little -  made the most enormous difference to Christian theologians. Great councils were held to ponder that iota. Should it be there?  Same or similar? It was one of the biggest bones of contention in Christian history. Wars were fought over it. Countless men and women and little children died because of it.  But over what, in sober judgment? Two versions of a fiction, a figment, a rumor, a superstition.

 

Jillian Becker     December 24, 2012

NOTES

1. If, however, one looks back far enough, Greek philosophy – as in Pythagoreanism – was inseparable from religion.

2. All respectable intellectuals of the time had to take account of Greek philosophy, to endorse it or to argue with it. The Jewish philosopher Philo was a contemporary of the crucified Jew on whose life and death “Jesus Christ” was based, though the philosopher gives no indication of ever having heard of him. Philo believed neither in the Messianic promise, nor in the bodily resurrection of the dead. He lived in the important and thoroughly Greek city of Alexandria in Egypt, where many famous schools of philosophy flourished for centuries. He tried to show how some Greek philosophical ideas could be compatible with Jewish teaching. He said, for instance, that the Logos was the first-born son of God, Wisdom being the Mother; and that the Divine Logos had two natures, human and divine. He understood Logos to be the capacity of reason, so human beings possessed logoi, and “the Divine Logos” was the essence of human reason.

3. See for example our post Valentinus, February 14, 2011.

4. With this invention of higher and lower worlds, the one divine the other profane, the one pure the other impure, Plato imposed a pattern on Western thought from which neither the Enlightenment nor modern science has yet been able to set it entirely free.

5.  Its first-ness does not mean it came first in time. None of this happens in time. Nous, or Logos, or whatever is named as “the first -born of God”, is first in the hierarchy of divine hypostases.

6. In some schemes (of Platonists, Middle Platonists, and Neo-Platonists), Nous or Logos directly emanates the Demiurge as the third being or hypostasis. The Gnostics  put him much lower down, and identified him with the Creator God of the Jews, some regarding him as evil, some as “merely just”.

7.  Though for pagans, god-men or man-gods were not problematic. Caligula, one of the Roman emperors in St Paul’s lifetime, blithely declared himself  “Zeus made manifest”. As Zeus he knew he could change his mind and on a whim take some other form, human, animal, vegetable, or vental (becoming a wind). He was a bright satirical young man and in claiming to be a god incarnate he was doing nothing out of the ordinary, as his family counted several deified emperors among their close ancestors.

Posted under Christianity, Commentary, Philosophy by Jillian Becker on Monday, December 24, 2012

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Spaghettification 2

Neil DeGrasse Tyson is apparently highly popular with our readers. We enjoy his talks too. So here he is again.

Hat-tip Steve M Cardon.

Posted under Science by Jillian Becker on Sunday, December 23, 2012

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Thought for the day: biblical morality 2

“BAD” 

King Herod the mass child-killer

Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.

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“GOOD”

Jews on their way to captivity in Babylon dream of mass child-killing

O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

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“GOOD” 

God the mass child-killer

Thus saith the Lord, “About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt:  And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first born of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts. And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more.”

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Massacre of the Innocents by Peter Paul Rubens

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