Atheism and freedom 25

The right theory of individual freedom came from an understanding of the spontaneous evolution of civil institutions and traditions. A free society no more needed an intelligent designer than did the human species.  

The similarity of process in the development of social and biological life is brilliantly explained by one of the great defenders of freedom:

Though freedom is not a state of nature but an artifact of civilization, it did not arise from design. …

[The] development of a theory of liberty took place mainly in the eighteenth century. It began in two countries, England and Fance. The first of these knew liberty, the second did not. As a result, we have had to the present day two different traditions in the theory of liberty … the first based on an interpretation of traditions and institutions which had spontaneously grown up … the second aiming at the construction of a utopia, which has often been tried but never successfully. …

What we have called the “British tradition” was made explicit mainly by a group of Scottish moral philosophers led by David Hume, Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson, seconded by their English contemporaries Josiah Tucker, Edmund Burke, and William Paley … drawing largely on a tradition rooted in the jurisprudence of the common law. Opposed to them was the tradition of the French Enlightenment … : the Encyclopedists and Rousseau, the Physiocrats and Condorcet, are their best known representatives. …

[T]here is hardly a greater contrast imaginable between their respective conceptions of the evolution and functioning of a social order and the role played in it by liberty. …

[T]he British philosophers laid the foundations of a profound and essentially valid theory, while the [French] school was simply and completely wrong. …

Those British philosophers have given us an interpretation of of the growth of civilization that is still the indispensable foundation of the argument for liberty. They find the origin of institutions, not in contrivance or design, but in the survival of the successful. …

This demonstration … represented in some ways an even greater challenge to all design theories than even the later theory of biological evolution. For the first time it was shown that that an evident order which was not the product of a designing human intelligence need not therefore be ascribed to the design of a higher, supernatural intelligence, but that there was a third possibility – the emergence of order as the result of adaptive evolution.

-From The Constitution of Liberty by F. A. Hayek , Chapter Four: Freedom, Reason, and Tradition.

An encomium for us 7

We have been strongly complimented by a comment on our Facebook page by Fidd Chewley.

(Visit his website Atheist Nexus, “The World’s Largest Coalition of Nontheists and Nontheist Communities” here.*)

We like it so much that we are reproducing it here on the front page of our website.

Where’s the button I click to automatically “like” all your future posts?

I follow a handful of conservative atheist pages, and you stand out from the rest as one who posts much more often about the conservative viewpoint than general atheism. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the posts others make regarding atheism, they don’t do much to distinguish themselves from each other. I also enjoy your no-BS, condensed presentation, cutting to the chase, unapologetic, and always sharp. Your posts always hit hard without resorting to cheap kookery. There are no “glancing blows”, and your precision and consistency are metronomic. A+, 10/10!!

This is the type of page that could foster the recognition of atheism into the greater conservative movement, which has been ostensively claimed by theists. There is a great potential for synergy between politically-like theists and atheists demonstrated here that could actually help end the notion that belief in a god is a staple of American patriotism. This is the cutting-edge of the future of the movement in an increasingly atheistic America.

Thank you, Fidd!

 

*We would point out – perhaps unnecessarily –  that we do not share Fidd’s opinions on all issues, but we’re in full agreement with him that we’re doing a good job.

Posted under Atheism, Commentary, Conservatism by Jillian Becker on Sunday, March 30, 2014

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Atheists and conservatives stir up a brouhaha 4

The organizers of an important Conservative conference have banned an atheist organization from attending it and setting out its stall.

The Conservative Political Action Committee, the largest and oldest gathering of conservatives, is run by the American Conservative Union and will be held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Maryland’s National Harbor from March 6 to 8. Last year, the event brought together thousands of activists to listen to dozens of Republican leaders speak about everything from economics and foreign policy to social issues. The event has long been considered a required stop for Republican presidential hopefuls.

That and what follows we quote from CNN’s “belief blog”.

Organizers for the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference will not allow American Atheists to have an exhibition booth …

The decision comes just hours after American Atheists, the outspoken organization that advocates for atheists nationwide, announced that it would have a booth at the event. David Silverman, president of American Atheists, tells CNN that a groundswell of opposition from high-ranking members of CPAC compelled the group to pull the invite.

Meghan Snyder, a spokeswoman for CPAC, said in a statement to CNN that “American Atheists misrepresented itself about their willingness to engage in positive dialogue and work together to promote limited government.”

“I’m surprised and I’m saddened,” Silverman said in response to the announcement. “I think this is a very disappointing turn of events. I was really looking forward to going … It is very obvious to me they were looking for a reason to say no,” Silverman added. “Christianity is bad for conservatism and they did not want that message out there.” …

Silverman said his group [had] planned to use the booth to bring conservative atheists “out of the closet” and said he was not worried about making the Christian right angry because “the Christian right should be threatened by us.”

Snyder said CPAC spoke to Silverman about his divisive and inappropriate language.

He pledged that he will attack the very idea that Christianity is an important element of conservatism. People of any faith tradition should not be attacked for their beliefs, especially at our conference. …

But yes, Ms Snyder, it is precisely beliefs that ought to be attacked. Continually. Forever.

The critical examination of ideas is the essential task of civilized humankind. 

When [earlier] Snyder had confirmed to CNN that American Atheists would be at CPAC, she said in a statement that they were allowed to display at the confab because “conservatives have always stood for freedom of religion and freedom of expression.”

“The folks we have been working with stand for many of the same liberty-oriented policies and principles we stand for,” Snyder said. …

And so, she had thought, did American Atheists. But the decision to include them had outraged some conservatives.

Tony Perkins, president of the Christian conservative think-tank Family Research Council, expressed outrage at the decision, stating that the American Atheists did “not seek to add their voice to the chorus of freedom”. [He said] “CPAC’s mission is to be an umbrella for conservative organizations that advance liberty, traditional values and our national defense.” 

But -

Does the American Conservative Union really think the liberties and values they seek to preserve can be maintained when they partner with individuals and organizations that are undermining the understanding that our liberties come from God? Thomas Jefferson warned against such nonsense. If this is where the ACU is headed, they will have to pack up and put away the “C”‘ in CPAC!” …

The first “C” for “Conservative” we suppose is the one he meant. But why would it need to be packed away if atheists are allowed to have their say? Perhaps Perkins thinks it stands for “Christian”.

American Atheist is well known for its controversial billboards and media campaigns and is considered the in-your-face contingent in the world of atheist activists. The group’s members pride themselves as being the “Marines” of the atheist movement. …

In explaining why the group decided to join CPAC on Monday, Silverman cited a 2012 Pew Research study that found 20% of self-identified conservatives consider themselves religiously unaffiliated. While that does not mean they are atheists, Silverman believes learning more about atheism will make it more likely conservatives will choose to identify with those who believe there is no God.

Just as there are many closeted atheists in the church pews, I am extremely confident that there are many closeted atheists in the ranks of conservatives. This is really a serious outreach effort, and I am very pleased to be embarking on it.

The group has long targeted Republican lawmakers, although Silverman considers the organization nonpartisan.

In 2013, American Atheists launched a billboard campaign against three Republican politicians: former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. All three Republicans have spoken at CPAC in the past.

On one billboard, Santorum is pictured to the left of a quote attributed to him. “Our civil laws have to comport with a higher law. God’s law,” the quote reads. Underneath the graphic is a tagline: “GO GODLESS INSTEAD.”

Comment on this affair comes from National Review, by Charles C. W. Cooke: :

Yesterday, in response to one of the many brouhahas that CPAC seems always to invite, Brent Bozell issued the following statement:

The invitation extended by the ACU, Al Cardenas and CPAC to American Atheists to have a booth is more than an attack on conservative principles. It is an attack on God Himself. American Atheists is an organization devoted to the hatred of God. How on earth could CPAC, or the ACU and its board of directors, and Al Cardenas condone such an atrocity?

So Brent Bozell thinks that issuing the invitation was an attack on conservative principles. More, it was “an attack on God Himself”.  As such, it was a veritable “atrocity“!

The particular merits of the American Atheists group to one side, this is a rather astounding thing for Bozell to have said. In just 63 words, he confuses disbelief in God for “hatred” for God — a mistake that not only begs the question but is inherently absurd (one cannot very well hate what one does not believe is there); he condemns an entire conference on the basis of one participant — not a good look for a struggling movement, I’m afraid; and, most alarmingly perhaps, he insinuates that one cannot simultaneously be a conservative and an atheist. I reject this idea — and with force.

If atheism and conservatism are incompatible, then I am not a conservative. And nor, I am given to understand, are George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Anthony Daniels, Walter Olson, Heather Mac Donald, James Taranto, Allahpundit, or S. E. Cupp. There is no getting around this — no splitting the difference: I don’t believe there is a God. It’s not that I’m “not sure” or that I haven’t ever bothered to think about it; it’s that I actively think there isn’t a God — much as I think there are no fairies or unicorns or elves. The degree to which I’m confident in this view works on a scale, certainly: I’m much surer, for example, that the claims of particular religions are untrue and that there is no power intervening in the affairs of man than I am that there was no prime mover of any sort.

Rrrreally, Mr Cooke?

But, when it comes down to it, I don’t believe in any of those propositions.

Tha-at’s better!

Am I to be excommunicated from the Right?

One of the problems we have when thinking about atheism in the modern era is that the word has been hijacked and turned into a political position when it is no such thing. The Oxford English Dictionary defines an “atheist” as someone who exhibits “disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of a god.” That’s me right there — and that really is the extent of it.

Okay, you can have a booth at any conference we ever organize.

Or have we spoken too soon? Repeat what you were mumbling, please?

No, I don’t dislike anyone who does believe that there is a God; no, with a few obvious exceptions, I am not angry at the religious; and no, I do not believe the devout to be in any way worse or less intelligent than myself. Insofar as the question inspires irritation in me at all it is largely reserved for the sneering, smarmy, and incomprehensibly self-satisfied New Atheist movement, which has turned the worthwhile writings of some extremely smart people into an organized means by which a cabal of semi-educated twentysomethings might berate the vast majority of the human population and then congratulate one another as to how clever they are.

What New Atheist movement? If it exists, we want to join it. What is incomprehensible about it? What suggests that “it” is self-satisifed? What worthwhile writings would those be? Who are these beraters? And are they not - in that they are atheists – cleverer than “the vast majority of the human population”?

Which is to say that, philosophically speaking,  I couldn’t really care less … and practically speaking I am actually pretty warm toward religion — at least as it is practiced in America. True or false, American religion plays a vital and welcome role in civil society, has provided a number of indispensable insights into the human condition, acts as a remarkably effective and necessary check on the ambitions of government and central social-planners, is worthy of respect and measured inquiry on the Burkean grounds that it has endured for this long and been adopted by so many, and has been instrumental in making the United States what it is today.

We would dispute almost every one of those propositions, especially that religion is “worthy of respect” – though of “measured inquiry”, yes, it is worthy, and should be subjected to it mercilessly.

We like most of what he goes on to say next. And he provides some interesting information:

None of this, however, excuses the manner in which conservatives often treat atheists such as myself. George H. W. Bush, who was more usually reticent on such topics, is reported to have said that he didn’t “know that atheists should be regarded as citizens, nor should they be regarded as patriotic[because] this is one nation under God”.

Whether Bush ever uttered these words or not, this sentiment has been expressed by others elsewhere. It is a significant mistake. What “this nation” is, in fact, is one nation under the Constitution — a document that precedes the “under God” reference in the Gettysburg Address by more than seven decades and the inclusion of the phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance by 165 years. (“In God We Trust,” too, was a modern addition, replacing “E Pluribus Unum” as the national motto in 1956 after 174 years.)

Indeed, given the troubled waters into which American religious liberty has of late been pushed, it strikes me that conservatives ought to be courting atheists — not shunning them. I will happily take to the barricades for religious conscience rights, not least because my own security as a heretic is bound up with that of those who differ from me, and because a truly free country seeks to leave alone as many people as possible — however eccentric I might find their views or they might find mine. In my experience at least, it is Progressivism and not conservatism that is eternally hostile to variation and to individual belief, and, while we are constantly told that the opposite is the case, it is those [leftists] who pride themselves on being secular who seem more likely and more keen to abridge my liberties than those who pride themselves on being religious. That I do not share the convictions of the religious by no means implies that I wish for the state to reach into their lives. Nevertheless, religious conservatives will find themselves without many friends if they allow figures such as Mr. Bozell to shoo away the few atheists who are sympathetic to their broader cause.

As it happens, not only do I reject the claim that the two positions are antagonistic, but I’d venture that much of what informs my atheism informs my conservatism also. I am possessed of a latent skepticism of pretty much everything, a hostility toward the notion that one should believe things because they are a nice idea, a fear of holistic philosophies, a dislike of authority and of dogma, a strong belief in the Enlightenment as interpreted and experienced by the British and not the French, and a rather tenacious refusal to join groups.

Yes, a conservative should logically be skeptical of ideology as such. And impatient with the irrational. And religions are among the most irrational of ideologies.

Occasionally, I’m asked why I “believe there is no God,” which is a reasonable question in a vacuum but which nonetheless rather seems to invert the traditional order of things. After all, that’s not typically how we make our inquiries on the right, is it? Instead, we ask what evidence there is that something is true. …

A great deal of the friction between atheists and conservatives seems to derive from a reasonable question. “If you don’t consider that human beings are entitled to ‘God given’ liberties,” I am often asked, “don’t you believe that the unalienable rights that you spend your days defending are merely the product of ancient legal accidents or of the one-time whims of transient majorities?” Well, no, not really. As far as I can see, the American settlement can thrive perfectly well within my worldview. God or no God, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence are all built upon centuries of English law, human experience, and British and European philosophy, and the natural-law case for them stands nicely on its own.

And he then turns to Thomas Jefferson, who penned the Declaration, and, far from “warning against undermining the understanding that our liberties come from God” as Tony Perkins claims …

… rejected revealed religion because revealed religion suggests a violation of the laws of nature. For revelation or any miracle to occur, the laws of nature would necessarily be broken. Jefferson did not accept this violation of natural laws. He attributed to God only such qualities as reason suggested.

Which, as the quoted passage goes on to explain, are none:

“Of the nature of this being,” Jefferson wrote to John Adams in 1817, “we know nothing.”

Logically then, not even its existence, though Jefferson is not recorded as ever having said so.

Yes, there are atheist politicians 3

… but they fear to confess their atheism.

This is from the State Journal-Register:

Many lawmakers feel a sense of pride when asked to give the invocation to open a House session, but state Rep. Juan Mendez of Arizona was gripped by a different emotion.

“I came in with a little bit of fear — not wanting to let myself be known,” said Mendez, a freshman Democrat from Tempe.

“Known,” that is, as an atheist.

Even as Americans become less religious and their tolerance for atheism is growing, there are still very few politicians who are openly nonreligious. They have to walk the thin line between their personal feelings and public image.

“There is such a stigma attached to being a nonbeliever,” said Lauren Youngblood, spokeswoman for the Secular Coalition for America.

This despite the fact that the fastest-growing religious group in the U.S. from 2007 to 2012 was religiously unaffiliated — or “nones” — according to a 2012 Pew Research report. It said the percentage of religiously unaffiliated U.S. adults grew from 15.3 to 19.6 percent in that time.

Nonreligious includes everything from atheists and agnostics to people who simply do not affiliate with any particular religion. But Pew said atheists and agnostics made up 5.7 percent of the adult population in 2012, accounting for about 13 million people.

But there is only one member of Congress who has gone on record as nonreligious: Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., was the only one to answer “none” when a 2013 Pew Research poll asked members of Congress about their religion. …

“When she first got elected, everybody in our movement was very enthusiastic,” said Bishop McNeill, coordinator for a new secular political action committee. “But unfortunately … she has gotten some advice to stray away from that label.”

Bishop is Mr McNeill’s first name, not his title. Unsuitable for a secularist, of course, but we rather relish the irony.

Experts say such reticence is understandable given the often-negative perception of atheists in this country and the long history of religion and politics….

Ever since George Washington talked in his first inaugural address about “fervent supplication to that almighty being,” …  presidents and other politicians have felt inclined to talk about religious faith.

Even though the Constitution bans a religious test for elected office, … a de facto test is whether or not a candidate openly speaks to his or her beliefs.

It’s only fair that candidates share their religious beliefs [opined Brent Walker, the executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty], so voters can know where politicians stand morally. …

- Which is just the sort of statement that gives believers away as  non-thinkers. Why would knowing someone’s religion tell you what their morals are? A religious person is far more likely to be intolerant than a secularist, just to start with.

In 2007, then-Rep. Fortney “Pete” Stark, D-Calif., became the first member of Congress to declare his atheism.

Stark won two more elections as an atheist, but was beat in a 2012 primary race … 

Youngblood claims that 32 members of the current Congress have told her or others in the Secular Coalition for America that they are atheist but cannot admit it for fear of political backlash. …[She] said the coalition is encouraging atheists [in politics] to “come out” — much as gays and lesbians did in the past. …

Chances for non-believing politicians are better [than they were] — but still not good.

A 2012 Gallup poll found that 54 percent of voters would vote for an atheist in a presidential election, well above the 18 percent who said in 1958 that they would vote for an atheist.

But the same 2012 Gallup poll said 95 percent would vote for a woman, 94 percent for a Catholic, 80 percent for a Mormon and 68 would vote for [a] homosexual. Atheist was the least-popular option.

[Rep. Juan] Mendez said he does not shy away from the word atheist — but he did not want to be labeled the atheist lawmaker, either.

When [Mendez] was called to offer the prayer in May, he first tried to get a secular lobbying group to give the invocation in his place, but that fell through. So he gave an invocation that started by asking all present at the Arizona House of Representatives not to bow their heads, but to look around at the others in the room.

“Let us cherish and celebrate our shared humanness,” Mendez said, “our shared ability for reason and compassion, our shared love for the people of our state, for our constitution and for our democracy.” 

The next day, Arizona state Rep. Steve Smith, a Republican, asked House members to join him in prayer for “repentance of yesterday”.

A Republican did that. A Republican believer. There hisses intolerance!

But Mendez said that was the only thing “that made it feel like I was doing something that I wasn’t supposed to be doing”. Otherwise, he said, he got positive emails and phone calls, and was stopped on the street by people thanking him for his prayer and message.

No prayer. Message only.

But we need atheist conservatives in Congress. And that may not happen for a long time yet, we reckon.

 

(Hat-tip our Facebook commenter, Pat Sisson-Kelley)

An atheist saved from religious persecution 3

For a change, some cheerful news from Britain:

This is from the Telegraph:

A young Afghan man who became an atheist after coming to Britain has been granted asylum on the grounds that the threat to his life for having no faith would amount to “religious” persecution.

In what is thought to be the first case of its kind in the UK, the Home Office accepted that sending the man back to his country of birth could put him in danger specifically because of his lack of religious beliefs.

The man, who is not being named for safety reasons, was born a Muslim but abandoned his faith after coming to the UK as a teenager around five years ago. …

In the latest case the man’s lawyers argued that as someone of no religious faith he could face even greater danger in Afghanistan than a member of a minority religion such as Christianity.

It comes just weeks after Supreme Court effectively recognised Scientology as a religion in a landmark judgment which established that it is not necessary to worship a god or gods to constitute a religion.

Of course atheism is not a religion; but if Britain is going to recognize that an ideology does not have to include a god to be a religion, then at last it may be accepted in some official quarters that Communism is a religion.

In the asylum case lawyers did not have to establish atheism as a “religion” because it was clear that any risk he faced would be of a religious nature.

But his solicitor, Sheona York, said it nonetheless underlined the significance of atheism as a distinct “philosophical position”.

The man’s case to the Home Office was prepared by Claire Splawn, a second year law student at the University of Kent, under the supervision of Ms York, through the Kent Law Clinic, a partnership between students, academics and solicitors and local lawyers.

She said: “We argued that an atheist should be entitled to protection from persecution on the grounds of their belief in the same way as a religious person is protected. … We believe that this is the first time that a person has been granted asylum in this country on the basis of their atheism. The decision represents an important recognition that a lack of religious belief is in itself a thoughtful and seriously-held philosophical position.”

In the submission they explained that having lived in Britain for several years and adopted western customs and dress, the young man feared that even were he to disguise his atheism in Afghanistan it would quickly be discovered.

It says that the application was made on the basis that: “As an atheist, if returned to Afghanistan, he will face persecution for a Convention reason, namely (lack of) religion; or alternatively that he faces a substantial risk of serious harm on account of his lack of religious belief. … Afghanistan is a Muslim dominated country where religion underpins every aspect of everyday life. Furthermore, in Afghanistan, and even in Kabul, life is lived in such a way that everyone is connected with everyone else. There is no sense of privacy and his lack of beliefs would become very quickly known. It is clear hat the applicant fears for his life in Afghanistan where he is not only non-Muslim but does not in fact believe in any religion.”

It goes on to explain how the man had recently made a visit to another predominantly Muslim country, to visit friends, and had been “shocked” by how his lack of belief made him stand out.

“He was shocked by how everyone talked as if life meant nothing to them,” it says.

“People said ‘this is not the only world’ and that you have to believe. People said ‘you cannot sit and eat with people who are not Muslim’.

“He noticed that to the people he met, this life meant nothing to them and all their expectations were focused on the other world, life after death.”

Let them read John Locke 4

… and David Hume, and Baruch Spinoza, and the US Constitution …

(We specially mention Hume and Spinoza because they were philosophers of atheism. But all the thinkers of the Age of Reason should be prescribed reading in all schools everywhere.)

THEY – the Muslims – are investing billions in trying to convince us that their ideas are good – though they aren’t. But we are doing nothing at all to persuade them that our ideas are good – which they are.

Ed West puts forward a very good plan. We quote from his Spectator (UK) article:

The persecution of Christians, the greatest story never told in the Western media, is finally building momentum as a story, after a year which has seen villagers massacred in Syria, dozens of churches burned down in Egypt’s worst religious violence for centuries, and the Peshawar atrocity in which the suicide-bombing of a church killed more than 80 people.

Earlier this week several MPs discussed the issue in Parliament, Fiona Bruce saying that ‘We should be crying out with the same abhorrence and horror that we feel about the atrocities towards Jews on Kristallnacht.’ And Baroness Warsi …

… a token Muslim woman on display in the House of Lords …

… will say in a speech in Washington today that: ‘A mass exodus is taking place, on a Biblical scale. In some places, there is a real danger that Christianity will become extinct.’

Warsi made the same point on the [BBC's] Today programme this morning, and I applaud her, but an aspect rather missing from the coverage was the fact that the vast majority of serious anti-Christian violence is carried out in the name of Islam. It would be like discussing anti-Semitic pogroms of the medieval period without mentioning Christianity, its theology, history and practice.

No surprise there.

That is telling, since one of the reasons for the media’s voluntary blackout on this issue is our fear of appearing to be inciting hatred against Muslims. This allows the persecutors to get away with it, which is ironic since most violence carried out against Muslims is also done in the name of Islam. 

The simple fact is that Islamic law as it is applied in Egypt (where apostasy is extremely difficult and dangerous, and family law was based on Sharia even before the revolution), Iraq and the Gulf States is incompatible with religious liberty. There is no way around that. In Iraq, most bizarrely, the US government presided over a constitution that introduced elements of Sharia.

Such are the vicissitudes of world management. When the British illegally gave three-quarters of the land in their Palestine mandate to the Emir of Transjordan, they found themselves in charge of a polity that allowed and practiced slavery. British law forbade this to happen, but it happened, and they didn’t do a thing about it while they had the power to do anything they chose. And now  Britain deliberately allows sharia law to run parallel with British law inside the United Kingdom itself. That too should never have happened, but it has.

The issue therefore is not just that Christians are being punished because of anger at the West. It is the specific application of Islamic law, and most centrally [anger at the West's] ideas about freedom of religion [which include] freedom of un-religion and the freedom to deviate from the rulers’ particular interpretation.

He mentions also the intolerance by each Muslim sect of all other Muslim sects, in particular “the horror inflicted on the unorthodox Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan”.

Much of the intolerance in Pakistan stems from the influence of the Saudis, who are trying to reshape Islam in their image, and are helped by Westerners because of their vast reserves of money. Shamefully the British Museum put on an exhibition on Mecca funded by the Saudis, even while those iconoclasts were vandalising the city; I can’t think of anything so contrary to the spirit of that fine institution. 

But they’re not the only ones – universities and organisations all over the West take Saudi money, and they should be publicly shamed … Likewise countries that do not allow freedom of religion should be made pariahs …

At the heart of the problem is that we’re too scared of even admitting that the problem is within Islam, perfectly illustrated by the BBC’s coverage of events.

Then he proposes his brilliant idea:

This is perverse, because our belief in equal rights before the law stems from the liberal tradition, yet while the Saudis spend millions promoting their beliefs abroad, we don’t. According to human-rights lawyer and advocate for Christian religious freedom Nina Shea, many of the classical liberal western works, such as John Locke, have no modern Arabic translations. Why isn’t one of the west’s many liberal billionaires paying for translations, to be made available free on Kindle? 

“Many” have not been translated? How many have been? And who reads them? Are they in the university libraries of the Muslim countries? Are there objective lecturers in Western Thought? Why don’t some of the wealthy who endow subversive academies like Harvard, Yale, Princeton wake up and instead endow chairs, or whole faculties, or even entire universities in the Islamic world dedicated to the teaching of Western Philosophy, Politics, History, Ethics, Economics, Literature, Law, and Science? (Not Religion – there’s no sense in opposing one irrationality with another.) They should be taught not as they are seen through Marxist distorting lenses in most American universities, but the way John Locke himself, and Benjamin Franklin would do it.      

Oh, of course. No Islamic country would allow it. Still, we should try every way we can think of to get our ideas into as many Muslim heads as we possibly can.

Ed West concludes:

Time may be running out, for one of the many tragic results of Christian persecution is that a vital bridge between the Middle East and Europe is being wrecked. Of the 60 scholars who translated the ancient Greek classics into Arabic during the [falsely so-called] Islamic Golden Age, according to scholar Dr Suha Rassam, 58 were Syriac Christians (and of the others, one was Jewish and the other a Sabian), since generally only Syriacs could speak both Arabic and Greek.

Not one of them was a Muslim.

Without these 60 men the Renaissance would never have happened, and the very ideas that gave us liberalism would never have emerged.

Classical liberalism that is – the belief in tolerance and individual freedom.

 

Jay Z, Barry O, and the counter-culture becomes the culture 10

Hours after the Arab terrorist attack on the US mission in Benghazi, when four Americans were killed including the Ambassador to Libya, the president managed to conquer his grief and fly off to party with the entertainer Jay Z.

We haven’t taken much notice of Jay Z before now. Who is he, that the president of the United States will hurry away from the seat of government when his country has just suffered an humiliating defeat, to seek his company? What is his compelling message that powerful men will travel far to listen to him in person?

We found some answers in an article titled Jay Z’s American Fascism by David P. Goldman at PJ Media:

Who would have believed that a performing genre (it is a stretch to call it “music”) dominated by convicted and confessed criminals, brutally misogynistic, preaching and practicing violence, would come to dominate American popular culture?

Jay Z, who brags of dealing drugs and shooting an older brother in his youth, and pleaded guilty to stabbing a record producer, could “help shape attitudes in a real (sic) positive way,” according to President Obama.

Jay Z texts regularly with the president and is a regular White House visitor after opening Obama campaign rallies.

Goldman gives this example of Jay Z’s rap message:

We formed a new religion

No sins as long as there’s permission

And deception is the only felony

So never fuck nobody without telling me

Sunglasses and Advil, last night was mad real.

To us this is incoherent nonsense. Some words are obviously put in only because they semi-rhyme with some other word, as is common in  rap songs. But from these lines Goldman concludes that Jay Z believes himself to be “the prophet of a new religion“. And Goldman may be right.

Jay Z’s message, Goldman says, is that “violence is not only a legitimate form of expression: it is the only manly form of expression.” And he quotes:

This might offend my political connects

My raps don’t have melodies

This should make niggas wan’ go and commit felonies

Get your chain tooken

I may do it myself, I’m so Brooklyn!

I know we facing a recession

But the music y’all making gon’ make it the Great Depression

All y’all lack aggression

Put your skirt back down, grow a set man

Nigga this shit violent

The explicit call to violence (including chain-snatching as a form of political expression) is a playful challenge to his “political connects”, namely the president.

Playful? Not to be taken seriously then?

Goldman finds an excuse for Obama’s friendship with such a man. It is, however, an excuse that condemns a large section of the population.

One should not conclude from this that Obama favors criminal violence, but rather that the popular response to Jay Z’s evocation of felonious rage is so great that Obama finds it convenient to exploit it.

The call to violence is, Goldman reminds his readers, “nothing new”:

There is nothing at all new in any of this: we heard it before from Nietzsche in his evocation of the “blond beast’s” life-affirming violence, from George Sorel, from Mussolini’s call for “creative violence”.

We could add to his list many more preachers of the virtue of violence, among them, most prominently: Robespierre, Hegel, Richard Wagner, and of course – as Goldman says – Hitler. 

Jay Z appeals to the same kind of rage that Hitler and Mussolini exploited during the interwar years.

He ascribes the rage, and the consequent readiness to respond with intense enthusiasm to Jay Z’s message, to youth unemployment, for which he gives alarming figures;  and to a falling away from conventional religion by the public in general, in support of which he quotes from an article by a Catholic journalist :

The Catholic Church is besieged by secularism and suffering from the self-inflicted injury of the sex abuse scandals. The resignation of Benedict XVI, one of its great theologians and doctrinal leaders, left its leadership uncertain. Not only Catholicism but the American Evangelical movement … is caught by the receding tide. In an Aug. 16 interview with The Wall Street Journal, Russell Moore, the leader of the Southern Baptist Convention’s political arm, announced, “The Bible Belt is collapsing.” Moore added, “We are no longer the moral majority. …” The Evangelicals have not retained their young people. The Pew survey reported in 2007 that 32% of Americans aged 50 to 64 are white Evangelicals, against only 13% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29. The public tide has turned against religion.

To us that is good news.

Now of course if people are at work they are not at rage-rousing rallies, so we accept that unemployment may be a cause of the popular enthusiasm for a message of violent rebellion.

But as for traditional religion being an antidote to rage and rebellion, has it not rather been the paramount cause of insurrections, riots, wars, massacres, persecutions, conquests, genocides?

It doesn’t surprise us that Jay Z’s “new religion” of inarticulate violence is gathering a large and passionate following. It only confirms our pessimism.

But if the president of the United States has joined that following, then the counter-culture with all its moral filth has won. Obama endorsed it when he expressed support for the Occupy Movement. If now he accepts, or chooses to exploit, the Nazi message of Jay Z, the counter-culture has become the culture. And our pessimism may turn into despair.

Why not be cruel? 8

Why do believers ache to argue with atheists? Why does it bother them that others do not believe what they believe? Especially if they have radio shows and can propound their beliefs to their hearts’ content.

Although Dennis Prager is religious (an observing Jew), there was a time when we considered him intelligent – which is a way of saying, he agreed by and large with our political views. Not so lately. And today he has produced an article which has us laughing aloud.

He calls it a response  to Richard Dawkins, to statements the scientist made in an interview with CNN. He also intends to make a general answer to atheism. His theme is that “God” is necessary to humankind, because without belief in such a being we would not know good from bad.

We greatly respect Richard Dawkins as a proponent of atheism who is listened to by millions. He has probably convinced many believers that they were wrong. We enormously enjoy his highly readable books on evolution. We do, however, have our reservations about him. We disagree with his ill-thought-out political views – fuzzy leftist notions. We excuse these to some extent on the grounds that he is concentrating on science and so hasn’t bothered to inform himself adequately about political issues. Whether that’s true or not, of course we don’t know. We also think he is under-informed on the religions he has written about. But that doesn’t much matter. (We review his book The God Delusion here.)

Prager complains that Dawkins will not debate with him. Since what follows is Prager’s argument, we can see why. Prager makes no good case to answer. But we will comment on what he says to show what’s wrong with it.

This past Friday CNN conducted an interview with Richard Dawkins, the British biologist most widely known for his polemics against religion and on behalf of atheism.

Asked “whether an absence of religion would leave us without a moral compass,” Dawkins responded: “The very idea that we get a moral compass from religion is horrible.”

This is the crux of the issue for Dawkins and other anti-religion activists – that not only do we not need religion or God for morality, but we would have a considerably more moral world without them.

This argument is so wrong – both rationally and empirically – that its appeal can only be explained by a) a desire to believe it and b) an ignorance of history.

That’s when we started laughing. Prager the believer, accusing atheists of believing what they do or do not only because they want to believe it!

But on we go:

First, the rational argument.

If there is no God, the labels “good” and “evil” are merely opinions. They are substitutes for “I like it” and “I don’t like it.” They are not objective realities.

That’s the rational argument? It implies that at some point  in history – or perhaps at many points – a god has issued definitions of good and evil. Or launched them as forces among us, so they are “objective realities” outside of the human mind.

The religious claim that Jehovah dictated laws, in words, to Moses; that God the Father, through Jesus, gave instructions on moral behavior; that Allah told Muhammad through the Archangel Gabriel all that has been recorded as his will and law in the Koran. What sane adult can believe that such events actually happened? The plain fact must be that, since we have the written laws of Judaism, the records of Jesus Christ’s sayings,  and the Koran, at some points in time human beings formulated those statements of morals and law, and wrote them down. To believe otherwise is laughable.

Laws against murder, theft, the breaking of oaths, adultery, defaulting on contract were common around the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor long before the period of Moses. The Hammurabi Code predated the Hebrews’ putative law-giver by at least five hundred years, and while it chiefly deals with punishments for crimes and how disputes should be settled, it assumes the existence of laws on the same moral principles as underlie the laws of Moses. And they were not issued as the commandments of a god. Not to know that is ignorance of history.

Prager persists:

Every atheist philosopher I have debated has acknowledged this. For example, at Oxford University I debated Professor Jonathan Glover, the British philosopher and ethicist, who said: “Dennis started by saying that I hadn’t denied his central contention that if there isn’t a God, there is only subjective morality. And that’s absolutely true.”

The ethicist should get out more. If he hasn’t yet become aware of the power of social conventions, cultural pressures, public opinion –  all in addition to enlightened self-interest, which very much needs to take account of how other people react to one’s self-will –  he has spent too much time closeted in his ivory tower.

And the eminent Princeton philosopher Richard Rorty admitted that for secular liberals such as himself, “there is no answer to the question, ‘Why not be cruel?‘”

Because you may be punched on the nose, Richard.  And if someone is cruel to you, you may understand why cruelty is so widely abhorred as to be kept in most societies as punishment for crime or treatment for enemies.

And why do eminent philosophers choose to forget the moral philosophies that owe nothing to religion? The Stoics. The Epicureans. True, some of them were religious, but few were adherents of a moral religion, and their ethics were not ascribed to a revelation from a god. The religion of ancient Greece was not a moral religion. Nor was that of Rome until the 4th century. Marcus Aurelius (121-180 C.E.) was not a Christian. He was a Stoic. Yet Christians admire him as a good man and a good emperor.

Hear Prager again:

Atheists like Dawkins who refuse to acknowledge that without God there are only opinions about good and evil are not being intellectually honest.

None of this means that only believers in God can be good or that atheists cannot be good. There are bad believers and there are good atheists. But this fact is irrelevant to whether good and evil are real.

To put this as clearly as possible: If there is no God who says, “Do not murder,” murder is not wrong. Many people or societies may agree that it is wrong. But so what? Morality does not derive from the opinion of the masses. If it did, then apartheid was right; murdering Jews in Nazi Germany was right; the history of slavery throughout the world was right; and clitoridectomies and honor killings are right in various Muslims societies.

The Afrikaner nationalists who imposed apartheid on South Africa, justified themselves with reference to their bible. “The sons of Ham must be the hewers of wood and the drawers of water.” They were most of them devout members of one or another of the Calvinist churches.

The Germans who carried out the will of the Hitlerian regime were almost to a man and woman raised in the faith of either Protestant or Catholic Christianity.

The slave traders and slave owners of Europe and America were Christians. The present slave traders and owners in North Africa and Asia are almost all Muslims, as are honor killers everywhere.

So, then, without God, why is murder wrong?

Is it, as Dawkins argues, because reason says so?

My reason says murder is wrong, just as Dawkins’s reason does. But, again, so what? The pre-Christian Germanic tribes of Europe regarded the Church’s teaching that murder was wrong as preposterous. They reasoned that killing innocent people was acceptable and normal because the strong should do whatever they wanted.

Just as Islamic terrorists do now, shouting “Allahu Akbar!”

And those old tribes were not without their gods. Most gods in those bad old days required human sacrifices.

In addition, reason alone without God is pretty weak in leading to moral behavior. When self-interest and reason collide, reason usually loses. That’s why we have the word “rationalize” — to use reason to argue for what is wrong.

What would reason argue to a non-Jew asked by Jews to hide them when the penalty for hiding a Jew was death? It would argue not to hide those Jews.

In that regard, let’s go to the empirical argument.

Years ago, I interviewed Pearl and Sam Oliner, two professors of sociology at California State University at Humboldt and the authors of one of the most highly-regarded works on altruism, The Altruistic Personality. The book was the product of the Oliners’ lifetime of study of non-Jewish rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust.

The Oliners, it should be noted, are secular, not religious, Jews; they had no religious agenda.

I asked Samuel Oliner, “Knowing all you now know about who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, if you had to return as a Jew to Poland and you could knock on the door of only one person in the hope that they would rescue you, would you knock on the door of a Polish lawyer, a Polish doctor, a Polish artist or a Polish priest?”

Without hesitation, he said, “a Polish priest.” And his wife immediately added, “I would prefer a Polish nun.”

That alone should be enough to negate the pernicious nonsense that God is not only unnecessary for a moral world, but is detrimental to one.

At this point one might smile, for the irony of it – but it is no joke. Yes, among the Poles who sheltered Jews during the Nazi occupation there were priests and nuns. But has Prager forgotten that for 2ooo years Christianity has been persecuting Jews? That Poland was a land of pogroms? Does he imagine that priests and monks took no part in them? Is this just forgetfulness or – yet again – ignorance of history?

And what of the Papal and Spanish Inquisitions? Has he forgotten that in exactly the same way “God” tells men anything, he told the Inquisitors that burning people at the stake was good? 

But if that isn’t enough, how about the record of the godless 20th century, the cruelest, bloodiest, most murderous century on record? [?] Every genocide of the last century — except for the Turkish mass murder of the Armenians and the Pakistani mass murder of Hindus in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was committed by a secular anti-Jewish and anti-Christian regime. And as the two exceptions were Muslim, they are not relevant to my argument. I am arguing for the God and Bible of Judeo-Christian religions.

Only now he tells us that he discounts Islam. Though why he believes the words of Allah are necessarily less true than the words of Jehovah or Jesus he does not say. Nor does he seem aware that much of the moral law putatively taught by Jehovah was discounted or even contradicted by the Christians’ triune God.  

And we repeat: the Third Reich was not anti-Christian. And Hitler himself was raised a Catholic. As for Stalin, he was thoroughly instructed in the morality of Christianity when he attended a Russian Orthodox seminary.

Perhaps the most powerful proof of the moral decay that follows the death of God is the Western university and its secular intellectuals. Their moral record has been loathsome. Nowhere were Stalin and Mao as venerated as they were at the most anti-religious and secular institutions in Western society, the universities. Nowhere in the West today is anti-Americanism and Israel-hatred as widespread as it is at universities. And Princeton University awarded its first tenured professorship in bioethics to Peter Singer, an atheist who has argued, among other things, that that “the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog or a chimpanzee” and that bestiality is not immoral.

At last we can agree with Prager! Western universities have become moral cesspools. Not because they are secular, but because they teach socialism, collectivism, egalitarianism, political correctness, environmentalism; and because they deliberately misapply the principle of diversity to race and gender and not to ideas.

Dawkins and his supporters have a right to their atheism. They do not have a right to intellectual dishonesty about atheism.

No charge of intellectual dishonesty has been proved against Dawkins with these shallow arguments.

I have debated the best known atheists, including the late Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Lawrence Krauss (“A Universe from Nothing”) and Daniel Dennett. Only Richard Dawkins has refused to come on my radio show.

If four smart atheists were unable to reason you out of your irrational beliefs, Dennis, why should another have a go? We don’t expect that you would be persuaded by our arguments even if you read them, which you probably will not. But we want to share our amusement with fellow non-believers.

A benchmark for atheists 10

This is from the Washington Post:

A group of atheists unveiled a monument to their non-belief in God … to sit alongside a granite slab that lists the Ten Commandments in front of the Bradford County [Florida] courthouse.

As a small group of protesters blasted Christian country music and waved “Honk for Jesus” signs, the atheists celebrated what they believe is the first atheist monument allowed on government property in the United States. …

American Atheists sued to try to have the stone slab with the Ten Commandments removed from the courthouse lawn in this rural, conservative town in northern Florida. Their demand was not met, but they were told they could erect their own monument in “what is described as a free–speech zone”.

It ‘s not just a monument, however:

“When you look at this monument, the first thing you will notice is that it has a function. . . we selected to place this monument in the form of a bench,” said David Silverman, president of American Atheists. …

The event – on Saturday June 29, 3013 – made a small stir:

About 200 people attended the unveiling. Most were supportive, although there were protesters, including a group from the Florida League of the South that had signs that said, “Yankees Go Home.” …

After the 1,500-pound granite bench was unveiled, people rushed to have their pictures taken on it. The bench bears quotes from Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the founder of American Atheists. It also has a list of Old Testament punishments for violating the Ten Commandments, including death and stoning.

The event did not pass entirely without drama. A Christian “jumped atop the peak of the monument and shouted his thanks to the atheists for giving him a platform to declare that Jesus is real.” [He isn't - ed.] But “atheists shouted at him, and he stepped down after about a minute”. …

The atheists said they expected protesters.

“There always are,” said Rick Wingrove, director of a Washington, D.C., area office of American Atheists. “We protest their events, they protests our events. As long as everybody’s cordial and let people speak. This is our day, not theirs. We’re fine with them being here.”

Could we now have a monument to non-belief in socialism in the grounds of the White House?  

Where dwell the wise? 6


This map, via the Washington Post, shows the distribution of the world’s atheists in 40 countries.

A 2012 poll by WIN/Gallup International – an international polling firm that is not associated with the D.C.-based Gallup group — asked more than 50,000 people in 40 countries whether they considered themselves “religious,” “not religious” or “convinced atheist.” Overall, the poll concluded that roughly 13 percent of global respondents identified as atheists, more than double the percentage in the U.S.

The most atheist nation is China, with 47 percent of  respondents self-described as atheist. Next comes Japan with 31%, and the Czech Republic about the same. France falls into the 20%-29% category; Germany and Australia 10%-19%; the US, Canada, Russia  - and Saudi Arabia [!] 5%-9%; India, Pakistan, South Africa, Nigeria, Peru under 5%.

WIN/Gallup notes that religiosity is highest among the poor and the less educated.

So chances are, the better off you are and the better informed you are, the more likely you’ll be to slough off religion.

Though not so much in the United States.

No surprise there.

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