For some fun on a Friday and Saturday, here’s a borrowing from a website dedicated to debunking all the legends of “Jesus Christ”. It is written by Kenneth Humphreys, and is a site well worth visiting.
He quotes a story told by the Jewish philosopher and theologian, Philo of Alexandria, and suggests that one of the stories of the martyrdom of Jesus derives from it.
Philo was a contemporary of the alleged “Jesus Christ”. He was a prolific writer, closely connected with the powers in Jerusalem, and fully aware of current events in Judea. Yet he never mentions Jesus of Nazareth.
Philo says not a word about Jesus, Christianity nor any of the events described in the New Testament. In all this work, Philo makes not a single reference to his alleged contemporary “Jesus Christ”, the godman who supposedly was perambulating up and down the Levant, exorcising demons, raising the dead and causing earthquake and darkness at his death.
With Philo’s close connection to the house of Herod, one might reasonably expect that the miraculous escape from a royal prison of a gang of apostles (Acts 5.18,40), or the second, angel-assisted, flight of Peter, even though chained between soldiers and guarded by four squads of troops (Acts 12.2,7) might have occasioned the odd footnote. But not a murmur. Nothing of Agrippa “vexing certain of the church” or killing “James brother of John” with the sword (Acts 12.1,2).
Actually, these events were alleged – by St. Paul and his friend Luke – to have happened at times that came after the death of Philo in 50 C.E. But the general point holds: that nothing Jesus or his followers did was of sufficient importance or interest to attract the attention of Philo or any other writer or leader at the time.
Strange, but only if we believe Jesus and his merry men existed and that they established the church. If we recognize that the Christian fable was still at an early stage of development when Philo was pondering the relationship of god and man, there is nothing strange here at all.
Here’s the story:
|The Works of Philo Judaeus – Flaccus, VI.(36) There was a certain madman named Carabbas … this man spent all this days and nights naked in the roads, minding neither cold nor heat, the sport of idle children and wanton youths;(37) and they, driving the poor wretch as far as the public gymnasium, and setting him up there on high that he might be seen by everybody, flattened out a leaf of papyrus and put it on his head instead of a diadem, and clothed the rest of his body with a common door mat instead of a cloak and instead of a sceptre they put in his hand a small stick of the native papyrus which they found lying by the way side and gave to him;(38) and when, like actors in theatrical spectacles, he had received all the insignia of royal authority, and had been dressed and adorned like a king, the young men bearing sticks on their shoulders stood on each side of him instead of spear-bearers, in imitation of the bodyguards of the king, and then others came up, some as if to salute him, and others making as though they wished to plead their causes before him, and others pretending to wish to consult with him about the affairs of the state.(39) Then from the multitude of those who were standing around there arose a wonderful shout of men calling out Maris!; and this is the name by which it is said that they call the kings among the Syrians; for they knew that Agrippa was by birth a Syrian, and also that he was possessed of a great district of Syria of which he was the sovereign;||Matthew27:26 Then released he Barabbas unto them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.27:27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.
27:28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.
27:29 And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
“It’s time for the people of Europe to claim asylum from the European Union,” Pat Condell says at the end of this video in which he talks about the Muslim invasion of Europe.
The US secretary of state, John Kerry, blames the victims for the stabbing attacks on Israelis by Palestinians.
No surprise there.
Here’s another opinion:
It is painful to hear the phrase “lone wolves” applied to the handful – and perhaps tomorrow the dozens and then the hundreds – of killers of Jews “liked” by thousands of “friends”, followed by tens of thousands of “Tweets,” and connected to a constellation of sites (such as the Al-Aqsa Media Center and its page dedicated to “the third Jerusalem intifada”) that are orchestrating, at least in part, this bloody ballet.
So writes the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy (translated by Steven B. Kennedy).
It is equally painful to listen to the refrain about “Palestinian youth no longer subject to any control” after seeing the series of sermons opportunistically placed online by the Middle East Media Research Institute, in which preachers from Gaza, facing the camera, dagger in hand, call upon followers to take to the streets to maim as many Jews as they can, to inflict as much pain as possible, and to spill the maximum amount of blood; doubly painful to hear that refrain having heard Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas himself, at the outset of this tragic chain of events a few weeks back, describing as “heroic” the murder of the Henkins in the presence of their children and then expressing indignation at seeing the “dirty feet” of Jews “defiling” the “Esplanade of the Mosques”, and, in the same statement, declaring “pure” “each drop of blood” shed by “each martyr” who dies for Jerusalem.
Not only painful and intolerable, but also inapplicable, is the canned phrase about “political and social desperation” that is mouthed to explain – or excuse – criminal acts, when everything we know about the new terrorists, their motives and the pride their relatives take in converting, post-mortem, crime into martyrdom and infamy into sacrifice, is, alas, much closer to the portrait of the robotic jihadist who yesterday would take off for Kashmir and today turns up in Syria or Iraq.
It is highly doubtful that “intifada” is the right term to apply to acts that bear more resemblance to the latest installment of a worldwide jihad of which Israel is just one of the stages.
Doubtful that erudite disquisitions on occupation, colonization and Netanyahu-esque intransigence still explain much about a wave of violence that counts among its favored targets Jews with sidelocks – that is, those Jews who are the most conspicuously Jewish, those whom their killers must consider, I imagine, as the very image of the Jew and who, by the way, are often at odds with the Jewish state when not in open secession from it.
Doubtful that the very question of the state, the question of the two states, and thus the question of a negotiated partition of the land – which is, for moderates on both sides, the only question worth posing – has anything at all to do with a conflagration in which politics has given way to fanaticism and to theories of vast conspiracy, one in which some decide to stab random others as they pass by because of a vague rumor reporting a secret [and utterly false -ed] plot to deny Muslims access to Islam’s third-most-holy site.
We do not agree that there should be yet another Arab state. 80% of “Palestine”, as the territory was called under the British mandate, was given by the British, in defiance of their own Balfour Declaration, to one of their Hashemite allies, to establish the Emirate of Transjordan (later the Kingdom of Jordan). So there is already an Arab state of Palestine. All Palestinian Arabs ought to be able to become citizens of it without question. The rest of the territory, from the Jordan to the Med, should be one state, the State of Israel. It is on King Andullah of Jordan that the pressure of the geat powers should be brought to solve the “Palestinian problem”.
But we do agree that the “bloody ballet” is jihad, not an expression of Palestinian “frustration”, as John Kerry has claimed.
Doubtful, in other words, that the Palestinian cause is being helped in any way by the extremist turn. On the other hand, it is absolutely certain that the cause has everything to lose by it, that the reasonable heads within the movement will be the ones who wind up flattened by the wave, and that the last proponents of compromise, along with what remains of the peace camp in Israel, will pay dearly for the reckless condemnations of the imams of Rafah and Khan Younis.
Intolerable and inapplicable, too, is the cliché of the “cycle” or “spiral” of violence, which, by putting the kamikaze killers and their victims on the same footing, sows confusion and amounts to an incitement to further action.
Intolerable, for the same reason, are the rhetorical appeals “for restraint” and disingenuous pleas “not to inflame the street”, which, as with the “spiral of violence”, reverse the order of causality by implying that a soldier, police officer, or civilian acting in self-defense has committed a wrong equal to that of someone who chooses to die after spreading as much terror as he possibly can.
Strange indeed, the tepid condemnations of the stabbings of innocent passers-by, the rammings of bus stops, condemnations that I have to think would be less half-hearted if the acts had occurred on the streets of Washington, Paris, or London.
More than strange – disturbing – is the difference in tone between the equivocal reaction to the recent killings and the unanimous and unambiguous international outpouring of emotion and solidarity elicited by the fatal hatchet attack on a soldier on a London street on May 22, 2013, a scenario that was not very different from those unfolding today in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Intolerable, again, that most of the major media have paid the grieving Israeli families only a fraction of the attention they have paid the families of the perpetrators.
Intolerable, finally, the minor mythology growing up around this story of daggers: The weapon of the poor? Really? The weapon one uses because it is within reach and one has no other? When I see those blades I think of the one used to execute Daniel Pearl; I think of the beheadings of Hervé Gourdel, James Foley and David Haines; I think that the Islamic State’s videos have clearly gained a following and that we stand on the threshold of a form of barbarity that must be unconditionally denounced if we do not want to see its methods exported everywhere.
And I mean everywhere.
Donald Trump repeated several times, a few days ago, that he was Presbyterian. His tone suggested he was proud of it. “That’s down the middle of the road,” he said.
The Presbyterian church is Calvinist.
When Jehan Calvin was dictator of Geneva, Calvinism was at least as fanatically and cruelly enforced as any religion has ever been.
Today, October 27, is the 462nd anniversary of the day on which Calvin had Miguel Servetus burned slowly to death chained to a stake, for disagreeing with him on a point of Christian doctrine.
We very much doubt that Trump knows anything about it. But he ought to.
Here’s the story as Jillian Becker has told it before on this website, quoting the famous book by Stefan Zweig, The Right to Heresy:
Beyond a certain point it is hardly possible to discern degrees of evil or degrees of cruelty. And yet I think it may be said of Jehan Calvin, dictator of Geneva in the sixteenth century, that he was more appallingly cruel and more intensely, intrinsically, through-and-through evil than other great persecutors, dictators and mass murderers of history. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Torquemada are the very names of evil, so what was it about Calvin that can distinguish him as specially terrible in his own nature than even any of these?
He oppressed the subjects of his dictatorship unremittingly and mercilessly; but so, you say, did the others. Not content with killing his enemies, he prescribed extreme tortures for them while they survived to suffer them; and yes, so did the others. But – and here we come to the nub of the case – Calvin was different in that he (often, if not always) personally specified the torments for the particular victim. He gave thought to the minutiae of their sufferings. All the others, even Catholic Inquisitors like Torquemada, issued general orders for terrorizing, torturing, killing. Calvin gave a personal service, tailoring his cruelty to his individual prey.
And that’s not all that distinguishes him among human monsters. Consider this: he was squeamish. He could not stand the sight of blood. He was afraid of pain. He felt horror at the thought of physical suffering – so he made thinking about it into a spiritual exercise, to strengthen by self-inflicted agony, as a monk does with a hairshirt, his resolve to do what was hardest for him in the service of his God. He ordered the infliction of agony, then meditated on the process, imagining it as fully as he could. He nourished his spirit on visions of torture.
This he did in private. The spiritual discipline he forced himself to undergo did not impel him to the prison and the public square to witness the torments and killings that he prescribed. He never attended a racking, a flogging, a breaking on the wheel, a burning to death. That far in the service of his God he would not push himself.
This grooming of his soul by inflicting suffering on others, did not replace general orders of oppression. He gave those too. He instituted a totalitarian reign of terror. He was as convinced a collectivist as Hitler, Stalin, Mao and the rest. He would allow “no liberty, no freedom of the will, for [a] man could only misuse such privileges. … [He, Calvin] must frighten him … until he unresistingly accepts his position in the pious and obedient herd, until he has merged in that herd all that is individual within him, so that the individual, the extraordinary, vanishes without leaving a trace.”
So wrote Stefan Zweig in his devastating dissection of Calvin and Calvinism, The Right to Heresy. He goes on:
“To achieve this draconian suppression of personality, to achieve this vandal expropriation of the individual in favour of the community, Calvin had a method all his own, the famous Church ‘discipline’. A harsher curb upon human impulses and desires has hardly been devised by and imposed upon man down to our own days [pre-Second World War]. From the first hour of his dictatorship, this brilliant organizer herded his flock … within a barbed-wire entanglement of … prohibitions, the so-called ‘Ordinances’; simultaneously creating a special department to supervise the working of terrorist morality … called the Consistory [which was] expressly instructed to keep watch upon the private life of every one in Geneva. … Private life could hardly be said to exist any longer … From moment to moment, by day and by night, there might come a knocking at the entry, and a number of ‘spiritual police’ announce a ‘visitation’ without the citizen concerned being able to offer resistance. Once a month, rich and poor, the powerful and the weak, had to submit to the questioning of these professional ‘police des moeurs’. “
The moral police poked into every corner, examined every part of every house, and even the bodies of those who lived in it. Their clothes and shoes, the hair on their heads, was inspected. Clothes must be dark and plain; hair must not be artificially curled.
“From the bedroom they passed on to the kitchen table, to ascertain whether the prescribed diet was not being exceeded by a soup or a course of meat, or whether sweets and jams were hidden away somewhere.”
They pried into bookshelves – only books approved by the Consistory were permitted.
“The servants were asked about the behaviour of their masters, and the children were cross-questioned as to the doings of their parents.”
Visitors to the city had their baggage examined. Every letter, in and out, was opened. Citizens could not write letters to anyone outside the city, and any Genevan permitted to travel abroad was watched in foreign lands by Calvin’s spies.
Spying became universal. Almost everyone, in fear of being thought heretical in the least degree, and to prove himself clean and upright, spied on everyone else.
“Whenever a State inaugurates a reign of terror, the poisonous plant of voluntary denunciation flourishes like a loathsome weed … otherwise decent folk are driven by fear to play the part of informer. … After some years, the Consistory was able to abolish official supervision, since all the citizens had become voluntary controllers.”
As far as he could, Calvin put an end to pleasure. Music – except for what Calvin deemed to be sacred – was forbidden. So was dancing, skating and sport. Theaters and all other public amusements including popular festivals, were prohibited. Wheeled carriages were not allowed. People had to walk to wherever they needed to go. Guests at family celebrations, even weddings and baptisms, were limited in number to twenty. (The names parents could give their children had to be from an approved list.) The red wine of the district could be drunk in small quantities, but no other alcohol. Innkeepers were not allowed to serve their guests until they had seen them saying their prayers, and had to spy on them throughout their stay and report on them to the authorities.
Punishments included imprisonment in irons, hanging, decapitation, burning to death.
“Everything was forbidden which might have relieved the grey monotony of existence; and forbidden, of course, was any trace of mental freedom in the matter of the printed or spoken word.”
“The first thought,” Stefan Zweig declares, “of any one of dictatorial temperament, is to suppress or gag opinions different from his own.”
One man who dared to argue with Calvin was a Spaniard named Miguel Servetus. A child of the Reformation, he innocently thought he could express his own boldly Protestant opinions. He thought Calvin was the very man to hear him expound his personal interpretations of Holy Writ. He could not have been more mistaken. For having the effrontery to send them to him, Calvin had the man thrown into prison. “For weeks … he was kept like a condemned murderer in a cold and damp cell, with irons on his hands and feet. His clothes hung in rags upon his freezing body; he was not provided with a change of linen. The most primitive demands of hygiene were disregarded. No one might tender him the slightest assistance.”
Finally, for daring to disagree with Calvin, Servetus was condemned to death by the dictator’s order. The death Calvin chose for him was “roasting with a slow fire”.
‘The prisoner was brought out of prison in his befouled rags. … His beard tangled, his visage dirty and wasted, his chains rattling, he tottered as he walked. … In front of the steps of the Town Hall, the officers of the law … thrust him to his knees. The doomed man’s teeth chattered with cold … In his extremity, he crawled on his knees nearer to the municipal authorities assembled on the steps, and implored that by their grace he might be decapitated before he was burned, ‘lest the agony should drive me to repudiate the convictions of a lifetime’. This boon was denied him. Relentlessly, ‘the procession moved on towards the place of execution. … The wood was piled round the stake to which the clanking chains had been nailed. The executioner bound the victim’s hands. … The chains attached to the stake were wound four or five times around it and around the poor wretch’s wasted body. Between this and the chains, the executioner’s assistants then inserted the book and the manuscript which Servetus had sent to Calvin under seal to ask Calvin’s fraternal opinion upon it. Finally, in scorn, there was pressed upon the martyr’s brow a crown of leaves impregnated with sulphur. … The executioner kindled the faggots and the murder began.
“When the flames rose around him, Servetus uttered so dreadful a cry that many of the onlookers turned their eyes away from the pitiful sight. Soon the smoke interposed a veil in front of the writhing body, but the yells of agony grew louder and louder, until at length came an imploring scream: ‘Jesus, Son of the everlasting God, have pity on me!’”
Needless to say, neither Jesus nor an everlasting God did anything to relieve the roasting man.
‘The struggle with death lasted half an hour. Then the flames abated, the smoke dispersed, and attached to the blackened stake there remained, above the glowing embers, a black, sickening, charred mass, a loathsome jelly, which had lost human semblance. …
“But where was Calvin in this fearful hour? … He was in his study, windows closed. … He who had really willed and commanded this ‘pious murder’, kept discreetly aloof. Next Sunday, however, clad in his black cassock, he entered the pulpit to boast of the deed before a silent congregation, declaring it to have been a great deed and a just one, although he had not dared to watch the pitiful spectacle.”
To this day, Jehan Calvin is regarded as a great Christian whose teaching continues to shape the lives of millions of citizens in the Western world through the Presbyterian and various “Reformed” churches. People are no longer burnt to death for disagreeing with the master. But dictatorship, in the name of similarly dogmatic collectivist faiths, is not absent from the modern world, not even from America now, in 2010. A much vaster community has fallen under an organizer of dictatorial temperament. His consistory has made it plain that they wish to control what you eat, how you live in your homes, and what you say. Children are being urged to impress the leader’s messages on their parents. The names of those who disagree with him are blackened, and the silencing of broadcast dissent is openly advocated.
What should be done about it? There are conservative voices maintaining that the way to resist incipient totalitarianism is to “return to Christian values”.
Our hope is that this reminder of how Christian values affected life in the past may serve not only as a cautionary tale against collectivism and dictatorship, but also as a rebuttal of the idea that Christianity can be a counterforce against them.
A Muslim preaches his religion’s message of peace:
Islam is invading Europe and will conquer it without firing a shot.
European political leaders not only refuse to resist the Islamization of their countries, increasingly they positively encourage it. Add to this a high Muslim fertility rate and a very low rate among indigenous Europeans, and you may be certain Muslims will become a majority on the continent in this century unless something – civil war, perhaps – interrupts the processes already set in motion.
From Gatestone, by Guy Millière:
The flow of illegal migrants does not stop. They land on the Greek islands along the Turkish coast. They still try to get into Hungary, despite a razor wire fence and mobilized army. Their destination is Germany or Scandinavia, sometimes France or the UK. Some of them still arrive from Libya. Since the beginning of January, more than 620,000 have arrived by sea alone. There will undoubtedly be many more: a leaked secret document estimates that by the end of December, there might be 1.5 million.
Journalists in Western Europe continue to depict them as “refugees” fleeing war in Syria. The description is false. According to statistics released by the European Union, only twenty-five percent of them come from Syria; the true number is probably lower. The Syrian government sells passports and birth certificates at affordable prices. The vast majority of migrants come from other countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Eritrea, Somalia, and Nigeria.
Many do not seem to have left in a hurry. Many bring new high-end smartphones and large sums of cash, ten or twenty thousand euros, sometimes more. Many have no passports, no ID, and refuse to give fingerprints.
Whenever people flee to survive, the men come with whole families: women, children, elders. Here, instead, more than 75% of those who arrive are men under 50; few are women, children or elders.
As Christians are now the main targets of Islamists (the Jews fled or were forced out decades ago), the people escaping the war in Syria should be largely composed of Christians. But Christians are a small minority among those who arrive, and they often hide that they are Christians.
Those who enter Europe are almost all Muslims, and behave as some Muslims often do in the Muslim world: they harass Christians and attack women. In reception centers, harassing Christians and attacking women are workaday incidents. European women and girls who live near reception centers are advised to take care and cover up. Rapes, assaults, stabbings and other crimes are on the rise.
Western European political leaders could tell the truth and act accordingly. They do not. They talk of “solidarity”, “humanitarian duty”, “compassion”. From the beginning, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said that illegal migrants were welcome: she seemed to change her mind for a moment, but quickly slid back. In France, President François Hollande says the same things as Angela Merkel.
After the heartbreaking image of a dead child being carried on a Turkish beach was published, thousands of Germans and French initially spoke the same way as their leaders. Their enthusiasm seems to have faded fast.
The people of Central Europe were not enthusiastic from the beginning. Their leaders seem to share the feelings of their populations. None spoke as explicitly as Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister of Hungary. He said out loud what many of his countrymen seemed to think.
Orbán decribed the “massive and brutal” entry of the migrants into his country as an “invasion”, and said that “a country has the right to decide who is allowed to enter its territory, and to guard its borders”. He also dared to point out that the invaders are from a “different culture”, and that Islamic values “might not be compatible” with European values.
To which Western European leaders reacted with predictable (and surely irrational or even insane) fury.
Western European political leaders harshly condemned his remarks and the attitude of Central Europe in general. They decided to take a hard line approach, including: forcing recalcitrant countries to welcome immigrants, setting up mandatory quotas that define how many immigrants each EU country must receive, and threatening those countries that declined to obey. Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, said that Europe was built in a spirit of “burden sharing”, and that EU breakup was a risk that could not be excluded.
An acute division, in fact, is emerging between the leaders of Western Europe and the leaders of Central Europe. Another division is growing between the populations of Western Europe and their leaders. …
Any criticism of Islam in Europe is treated as a form of racism, and “Islamophobia” is considered a crime or a sign of mental illness.
Islam … is creating increasingly distressing problems that are almost never brought to light. Muslim criminality across Europe is high. Consequently, the percentage of Muslims in prisons in Europe is high. In France, which has the largest Muslim population in Europe, the prison population is 70% Muslim. Many European prisons have become recruitment centers for future jihadis.
Muslim riots may occur for any reason: police upholding the law, a Soccer League celebration, or in support of a cause.
Populations of Western Europe increasingly think that … their leaders speak and act as if they have no awareness of what is happening.
Central European leaders and their people, who have directly experienced authoritarian rule, seem to be thinking that entering the European Union was a huge mistake. When the Soviet Union collapsed, they became members of the EU to join what was called then the “free world”. They do not seem willing to be subjected again to coercive decisions made by outsiders.
After living under the Soviet yoke, they preserved their desire for freedom and self-government, and evidently will not now agree to give them up. They know what submission to Islam could mean. Bulgaria and Romania were occupied by the Ottoman Empire until 1878. Hungary was under the boot of Ottoman rule for more than a hundred and fifty years (1541-1699).
Polls show that a majority of Muslims living in Europe want the application of sharia law and clearly reject any idea of assimilation.
Hundreds of thousands of Muslims living in Europe have joined fundamentalist Islamic organizations. Thousands have joined jihadist movements and are now fighting in Syria or Yemen. Many have returned and are ready to act against Europe.
Illegal Muslim migrants are likely to join the Muslims already living in Europe; and they will remain Muslim. They will live on social benefits until the bankruptcy of welfare states. They will reside in the “no-go zones,” and the “no-go zones” will continue to grow. Their occupants come from countries where Christians and women are mistreated; in Europe, they are already mistreating Christians and women.
They come from countries where Western civilization is despised and where hatred of Jews is inescapable — and this remains so among Muslims already living in Europe. For more than two decades, almost all assaults against Jews in Europe were committed by Muslims. …
A project to overwhelm Europe by a huge wave of migration was described by the Islamic State in documents discovered this February. It is hard to rule out that the Islamic State plays a role in what is happening. Turkish authorities are ignoring the massive departures taking place from their coast. If they really wanted the current process to stop, they could stop it. That is clearly not what they do. The Islamic State could not survive without Turkish help. Daily flights on Turkish Airlines bring illegal migrants to Istanbul; they continue unhindered to Europe. …
In all 28 countries of the European Union, birth rates are low and the population is aging. People under thirty account for only 16% of the population, or 80 million people. In the 22 Arab countries, plus Turkey and Iran, people under thirty account for 70% of the population, or 350 million people.
Jews are fleeing Europe in increasing numbers. “Native” Europeans are starting to flee as well.
In 1972, in his book The Camp of the Saints, French writer Jean Raspail described flooding Europe with Muslim migrants crossing the Mediterranean. At the time, the book was a work of fiction. Today, it is reality.
CNN interviews Patricia Smith, the mother of Sean Smith who was killed in Benghazi on 9/11/12.
She cries out passionately that Hillary Clinton lied to her.
Any idea that needs a law to protect it from criticism is ipso facto a bad idea.
That is our own maxim. We repeat it often. It cannot be repeated often enough.
There used to be laws, in Western secular states, protecting religious ideas; usually the ideas of a particular religion favored by the state. The crime was called “blasphemy”.
Such a crime, carrying severe punishment, including the death sentence, still exists in Islamic countries.
And the crime still exists in Communist countries. As Communists do not acknowledge their ideology to be a religion, they do not call it blasphemy. It is called an offense against the state, or “dissidence”. It was often treated as a mental illness in the Soviet Union. It was also often punished by execution, not only in Russia but wherever the iron fist of the Soviet regime was the law.
In America the First Amendment to the Constituion, as everybody knows, enshrined freedom of belief and freedom of speech. Yet there lingers in the mores of the American people, generation after generation, the notion that religious beliefs should not be publicly criticized. Such criticism is felt to be a discourtesy at best, and at worst an actual defiance of the First Amendment itself!
Even some scientists respect this social taboo.
We quote a good article on the subject from the New Yorker, by Lawrence M. Krauss:
As a physicist, I do a lot of writing and public speaking about the remarkable nature of our cosmos, primarily because I think science is a key part of our cultural heritage and needs to be shared more broadly. Sometimes, I refer to the fact that religion and science are often in conflict; from time to time, I ridicule religious dogma. When I do, I sometimes get accused in public of being a “militant atheist”. Even a surprising number of my colleagues politely ask if it wouldn’t be better to avoid alienating religious people. Shouldn’t we respect religious sensibilities, masking potential conflicts and building common ground with religious groups so as to create a better, more equitable world?
I found myself thinking about those questions this week as I followed the story of Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who directly disobeyed a federal judge’s order to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, and, as a result, was jailed for contempt of court. Davis’s supporters, including the Kentucky senator and Presidential candidate Rand Paul, are protesting what they believe to be an affront to her religious freedom. It is “absurd to put someone in jail for exercising their religious liberties”, Paul said, on CNN.
The Kim Davis story raises a basic question: To what extent should we allow people to break the law if their religious views are in conflict with it? It’s possible to take that question to an extreme that even Senator Paul might find absurd: imagine, for example, a jihadist whose interpretation of the Koran suggested that he should be allowed to behead infidels and apostates. Should he be allowed to break the law? Or — to consider a less extreme case — imagine an Islamic-fundamentalist county clerk who would not let unmarried men and women enter the courthouse together, or grant marriage licenses to unveiled women. For Rand Paul, what separates these cases from Kim Davis’s? The biggest difference, I suspect, is that Senator Paul agrees with Kim Davis’s religious views but disagrees with those of the hypothetical Islamic fundamentalist.
The problem, obviously, is that what is sacred to one person can be meaningless (or repugnant) to another. That’s one of the reasons why a modern secular society generally legislates against actions, not ideas. No idea or belief should be illegal; conversely, no idea should be so sacred that it legally justifies actions that would otherwise be illegal. Davis is free to believe whatever she wants, just as the jihadist is free to believe whatever he wants; in both cases, the law constrains not what they believe but what they do.
In recent years, this territory has grown murkier. Under the banner of religious freedom, individuals, states, and even — in the case of Hobby Lobby — corporations have been arguing that they should be exempt from the law on religious grounds. (The laws from which they wish to claim exemption do not focus on religion; instead, they have to do with social issues, such as abortion and gay marriage.) The government has a compelling interest in insuring that all citizens are treated equally. But “religious freedom” advocates argue that religious ideals should be elevated above all others as a rationale for action. In a secular society, this is inappropriate.
The Kim Davis controversy exists because, as a culture, we have elevated respect for religious sensibilities to an inappropriate level that makes society less free, not more. Religious liberty should mean that no set of religious ideals are treated differently from other ideals. Laws should not be enacted whose sole purpose is to denigrate them, but, by the same token, the law shouldn’t elevate them, either.
In science, of course, the very word “sacred” is profane. No ideas, religious or otherwise, get a free pass. The notion that some idea or concept is beyond question or attack is anathema to the entire scientific undertaking. This commitment to open questioning is deeply tied to the fact that science is an atheistic enterprise. “My practice as a scientist is atheistic,” the biologist J.B.S. Haldane wrote, in 1934. “That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel, or devil is going to interfere with its course and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career.” It’s ironic, really, that so many people are fixated on the relationship between science and religion: basically, there isn’t one. In my more than thirty years as a practicing physicist, I have never heard the word “God” mentioned in a scientific meeting. Belief or nonbelief in God is irrelevant to our understanding of the workings of nature—just as it’s irrelevant to the question of whether or not citizens are obligated to follow the law.
Because science holds that no idea is sacred, it’s inevitable that it draws people away from religion. The more we learn about the workings of the universe, the more purposeless it seems. Scientists have an obligation not to lie about the natural world. Even so, to avoid offense, they sometimes misleadingly imply that today’s discoveries exist in easy harmony with preëxisting religious doctrines, or remain silent rather than pointing out contradictions between science and religious doctrine. It’s a strange inconsistency, since scientists often happily disagree with other kinds of beliefs. Astronomers have no problem ridiculing the claims of astrologists, even though a significant fraction of the public believes these claims. Doctors have no problem condemning the actions of anti-vaccine activists who endanger children. And yet, for reasons of decorum, many scientists worry that ridiculing certain religious claims alienates the public from science. When they do so, they are being condescending at best and hypocritical at worst.
Ultimately, when we hesitate to openly question beliefs because we don’t want to risk offense, questioning itself becomes taboo. It is here that the imperative for scientists to speak out seems to me to be most urgent. As a result of speaking out on issues of science and religion, I have heard from many young people about the shame and ostracism they experience after merely questioning their family’s faith. Sometimes, they find themselves denied rights and privileges because their actions confront the faith of others. Scientists need to be prepared to demonstrate by example that questioning perceived truth, especially “sacred truth”, is an essential part of living in a free country.
I see a direct link, in short, between the ethics that guide science and those that guide civic life. Cosmology, my specialty, may appear to be far removed from Kim Davis’s refusal to grant marriage licenses to gay couples, but in fact the same values apply in both realms. Whenever scientific claims are presented as unquestionable, they undermine science. Similarly, when religious actions or claims about sanctity can be made with impunity in our society, we undermine the very basis of modern secular democracy. We owe it to ourselves and to our children not to give a free pass to governments — totalitarian, theocratic, or democratic — that endorse, encourage, enforce, or otherwise legitimize the suppression of open questioning in order to protect ideas that are considered “sacred”. Five hundred years of science have liberated humanity from the shackles of enforced ignorance. We should celebrate this openly and enthusiastically, regardless of whom it may offend.
If that is what causes someone to be called a militant atheist, then no scientist should be ashamed of the label.
We have said it is a good article. And what we have quoted, we heartily agree with.
But we left out one paragraph (where the dots are).
Here it is:
This reticence can have significant consequences. Consider the example of Planned Parenthood. Lawmakers are calling for a government shutdown unless federal funds for Planned Parenthood are stripped from spending bills for the fiscal year starting October 1st. Why? Because Planned Parenthood provides fetal tissue samples from abortions to scientific researchers hoping to cure diseases, from Alzheimer’s to cancer. (Storing and safeguarding that tissue requires resources, and Planned Parenthood charges researchers for the costs.) It’s clear that many of the people protesting Planned Parenthood are opposed to abortion on religious grounds and are, to varying degrees, anti-science. Should this cause scientists to clam up at the risk of further offending or alienating them? Or should we speak out loudly to point out that, independent of one’s beliefs about what is sacred, this tissue would otherwise be thrown away, even though it could help improve and save lives?
Either the author did not watch the videos that recorded Planned Parnethood personnel talking about their trade in the body parts of aborted fetuses, or he did not hear, or chose to forget, some statements they made. The videos make it perfecty clear that the organization was not just selling the parts in order to cover costs, but carryng on the trade for profit.
Now we have nothing against trade for profit. On the contrary, we think the making of profit is the morally best and most socially useful reason for selling anything and providing any service.
But it happens that the selling of the body parts of aborted fetuses for profit is against the law. So exactly the same objection that Lawrence Krauss makes to Kim Davis’s action – that she broke the law – applies to Planned Parenthood’s action.
What seems to cloud his judgment in the case of Planned Parenthood – if he did watch the videos and take in what was said – is the fact that the body parts went to scientists for the great cause (and we do think it is a great cause) of scientific research.
But however good the cause that the illegal trade was serving, it was still illegal.
In fact, what emerges from those videos is criminal action more morally outrageous than just selling the parts of aborted fetuses. (Note, please, that we are calling them fetuses, not “babies”, in order not to use controversial language.) It is revealed, in an interview with an employee of a firm that bought the body parts, that Planned Parenthood was urging pregnant women to have an abortion – even when they were uncertain that they wanted one, and even in one case when the woman was inclined NOT to have one – so that Planned Parenthood could sell the fetus’s body parts and so make a profit.
That is iniquity.
Now scientists like Lawrence Krauss might argue persuasively that there should not be a law forbidding the selling of fetuses, whole or in parts, for profit. Just as Kim Davis might argue that there should not be a law that compels her to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. But there are such laws. And if it is wrong for Kim Davis to break the law on the grounds that it does a disservice to her idea of a higher good, so it is wrong for Planned Parenthood to break the law even if by doing so it is serving the genuinely higher good of science.
We have said that Lawrence Krauss’s judgment may be clouded by his belief in the supreme goodness of scientific research. We will not go so far as to say that he holds that end to be “sacred”, because we agree with him that the word has no place in the vocabulary of atheism. So we toss the accusation aside.
It could be said that our moral judgment of Planned Parenthood – accurate though our allegation is that the organization broke the law – may be clouded by our extreme distaste for their abortion services. (Note that we call them “services”, firmly resisting the temptation to call them “abuses”.) It is true that we have an arguably irrational prejudice in favor of human life. We very much dislike abortion – while acknowledging that there are reasonable grounds for it in certain cases, and on no account arguing for it to be made wholly illegal. But obviously our objection to it is not on religious grounds. We do not believe that it frustrates “God’s purposes”. We are against it because we are against the deliberate destruction of human life – unless the human in question has forfeited his or her life by taking someone else’s.
Those who are for abortion on demand accuse those of us who are against it of being inconsistent when we call ourselves “pro-life”, because many of us are for the death penalty. By the same token, we can accuse them of inconsistency when they are for the destruction of life in the womb, but against putting convicted murderers to death. We are for saving the innocent and punishing the guilty, while they are for destroying the innocent and saving the guilty.
(Hat-tip for the article to our reader, Stephen)
Hillary Clinton did no good and a lot of harm when she was Secretary of State. The chaos that is Libya is her most notorious “achievement”.
But she did manage to use her position to make a great deal of money.
Now we have nothing against money. On the contrary, unpopular though it apparently is among the moralists of Hollywood and Silicon Valley, global warming “scientists”, and Democratic candidates for high office, we like it.
So it is not the riches of the Clintons we are against. It is how they acquired them.
The Romans used to say, “Pecunia non olet” – money doesn’t stink.
But the Clintons’ money actually does. It stinks of corruption.
The Clintons used the State Department as their own private team of enablers for their artful dodging.
The Washington Times reports:
Back when they occupied the White House, Bill and Hillary Clinton boasted that Americans “got two for the price of one”. The folks in Ireland have a good sense now what that actually costs.
As Irish businesses were arranging for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to make one of her last official visits to Ireland in December 2012, her husband, Bill, suddenly landed a half-million speaking gig for his foundation on the Emerald Island, according to newly released emails from the conservative group Citizens United that show the business of State and the business of Bill were often intertwined.
A review of Mrs. Clinton’s official travel and the former president’s for-pay speechmaking, in fact, found several instances like Ireland in which the couple passed through the same foreign country — one for government business, the other for profit or charity — within a few short weeks of each other.
We looked into the Clintons’ “charity”. How much of the Clinton Foundation’s revenue goes to charity? And what charities? For answers, put these titles into our search slot: Touched by the Clintons; What needs to be known about the Clintons’ charities; Floating up now from a sewer called Clinton; The great good works and wonky dilemmas of William J. Clinton.
For example, Mr. Clinton gave a speech to a prestigious nonprofit in Sweden for $425,000 in May 2012, and Mrs. Clinton visited the country less than a month later to promote a Clean Air convention. On the same trip, Mr. Clinton made a stop in Denmark to give a paid speech to World Management Limited. Mrs. Clinton visited Denmark the following month for a Green Partnership for Growth event.
In June 2012, Mr. Clinton gave a $450,000 speech to YPY Holdings in France. Less than a month later, Mrs. Clinton was in the country for official business. In August of that year, Mr. Clinton made a trip to Brazil and pocketed $850,000 for two days’ work at two different venues. Mrs. Clinton was in the country two months earlier for a United Nations conference on sustainable development.
The amount Mr. Clinton commanded for speeches seemed to rise after Mrs. Clinton became America’s top diplomat.
Of the 13 speeches for which Mr. Clinton personally collected $500,000 or more each, 11 were while Mrs. Clinton served as secretary of state, according to federal disclosure records. Others, such as the donation Mr. Clinton scored while in Ireland, went directly to the Clinton Foundation.
State officials on government time also spent a significant amount of time vetting Mr. Clinton’s private activities, raising a question of what benefit taxpayers received in return.
Mrs. Clinton’s inner circle at State, including Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills and Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin, often were involved in the discussions, emails show.
For instance, Mr. Clinton scheduled a trip to Africa several weeks prior to Mrs. Clinton, on official business to promote the foundation’s charitable works there. The trip was cleared through the State Department, which had to check with its embassies to ensure there would not be any problems.
“Cheryl: our embassies in both Kampala and Pretoria have informed me that they see no/no problems (with their host governments or otherwise) with President Clinton’s visit to Uganda and South Africa two/three weeks before the Secretary,” Johnnie Carson, a State official, wrote to Ms. Mills.
Ms. Mills forwarded the email to Amitabh Desai, a Clinton Foundation official, who replied: “Thanks. I also think we need a talking point for the media who ask about the timing of their trips.”
For paid speeches that presented bad optics, Mr. Clinton would ask the State Department whether the money could be donated to his charity rather than taking it personally.
In June 2012, Mr. Desai wrote an email to Ms. Mills and Ms. Abedin, along with other top State Department officials asking whether Mr. Clinton could give a speech in Congo — which included a photo line with past dictators — for $650,000.
“This did not clear our internal vet, but [Mr. Clinton] wants to know what state thinks of it if he took 100% for the foundation,” Mr. Desai wrote.
That same month, Mr. Desai wrote the same group at State a similar email, concerned that a group that invited the former president to give a speech for $200,000, the Luca International Group on behalf of the U.S. China Energy Summit, didn’t check out.
“Would [the State Department] have any concerns about [Mr. Clinton] taking this and directing the proceeds to the Clinton Foundation?” Mr. Desai asked. “Don Walker is concerned about the host and agrees with us it’s strange we can’t get any more information on this host and they have no track records of prior events.”
Mr. Clinton never made those speeches, but it serves as an example of ways Mr. Clinton thought of skirting State Department ethics determinations for foundation gains. The foundation also asked in May whether the State Department would have any concerns about an invitation he received on behalf of North Korea.
“Decline it,” Ms. Mills abruptly wrote to Mr. Desai. But that didn’t stop a follow-up question.
“This came via Tony Rodham [Mrs. Clinton’s brother]. So we would be grateful for any specific concerns that we could share, beyond just saying it would be concerning for [the State Department],” Mr. Desai wrote.
“If he needs more, let him know his wife knows and I am happy to call him secure when he is near a secure line,” Ms. Mills wrote back.
The Ireland trips included a fascinating web of private and public interests.
In 2012, Mrs. Clinton’s final year in office, Irish racing executive JP McManus was looking for a high-profile keynote speaker to help him hand out the All-Ireland Scholarships his charity donates annually at Limerick University. He considered Mr. Clinton to be the perfect choice.
Mr. McManus secured Mr. Clinton’s interest “with the help of friends”. “I got a friend of mine to make an inquiry,” he told the Limerick Leader in an article published Nov. 20, 2012, a few days after Mr. Clinton’s arrival. Mr. McManus’ charity also donated as much as $1 million to the Clinton Foundation, to secure the endeavor, records show.
One of Mr. McManus’ friends is Kieran McLoughlin, CEO of the Ireland Funds, who was set to host Mrs. Clinton as a keynote speaker at one of its events the following month in Belfast. It was Mrs. Clinton’s last trip to a foreign country as secretary of state.
Not only did Mr. McLoughlin attend Mr. Clinton’s speech in Limerick, according to press reports, but in the months prior, Mr. McLoughlin and Mr. McManus also celebrated in Chicago to kick off the Ryder Cup, and in Morocco, where Mr. McManus was honored by the Ireland Funds for his charitable work.
Request for comment from Mr. McManus’ charity went unreturned. A spokeswoman for the Ireland Funds said Mr. McLoughlin attended the Limerick University speech as a guest and had no involvement whatsoever in the organization of the event. The charity did give Mr. McManus a $100,000 grant in 2011 to support the work of the Limerick Enterprise Development Partnership, of which the McManus Foundation is a lead supporter. None of the funding given to Mr. McManus was used to help attract Mr. Clinton to the Limerick event, the spokeswoman said.
(Our emphasis.) So the $1 mllion that Mr. McManus’s charity donated to the Clinton Foundation (ostensibly to go through it to some other charity which the McManus charity could easily have donated to directly) came from a different compartment of Mr. McManus’s charity’s cash box? Money not after all being fungible? So no one is lying?
At the same time Mr. Clinton’s speaking engagement in Ireland was being arranged, Irish interests were pursuing Mrs. Clinton for two other opportunities: an official state visit in December 2012 and a women’s forum in 2014, after she left government.
The web of connections between the Clintons’ public and private interests was complicated throughout the Ireland conversations.
For instance, Ms. Abedin, Mrs. Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, was arranging the December 2012 trip for the secretary to speak before the Ireland Fund on behalf of the State Department as part of an official trip. At the same time, though, she also was working for a private firm, Teneo Group, that was involved in the event, emails show.
The Women in Business in Northern Ireland group, seeking to get Mrs. Clinton to speak at a forum in 2014, was simultaneously talking with President Clinton’s foundation about getting more involved in its charitable work.
During those conversations, executives of the women’s business lobby asked a top official of Mr. Clinton’s foundation whether they could arrange to be invited to Mrs. Clinton’s December 2012 trip so they could “share our ambitions” with the secretary.
“Just wondering if you had any more information on the Clintons trip to Ireland,” one executive wrote the foundation. “We would really like to get involved at some level so your help here, if possible, would be great.”
The foundation’s solution? They forwarded the women’s group’s request to Ms. Abedin at the State Department.
The circular chain linked together the State Department, Mr. Clinton’s private charity and Mrs. Clinton’s future private speaking engagement.
Kent Cooper, a former federal election regulator and respected political ethics analyst, said the blurred lines between State and the foundation in the Clinton world validated the axiom that “there are many pockets in a politician’s coat to line”.
“There are the official pockets, the political pockets, in this case the foundation’s pockets and then their own private pocketbooks, and you can see how special interests subtly work all of them with invitations, pressure and money to try to get what they want,” he said.
“There seem to have been no ethical boundaries or double checks on conflicts of interest between the activities of the secretary of state as a government official, the fundraising of a private foundation, the fees of a private consultant, and the personal income of a former government official, that being the former president.”