What a curse on humanity religion is!
We borrowed this picture, and quote the text of the accompanying article by Faith J. H. McDonnell, from Front Page.
Christians slain in Nigeria by the Muslim terrorist organization self-nicknamed Boko Haram
(The name means: Book-learning - ie. literacy and Western culture generally – is forbidden)
(We cannot be certain that the picture shows the victims of the massacre reported here, but we are as sure as we can reasonably be that it is a picture of Christians slain by Muslims in Nigeria.)
Boko Haram’s latest attack, killing at least 42, took place on Tuesday, May 7 (2013), in the already battle-worn town of Bama, in Nigeria’s northeast Borno State. Borno, one of 12 states under Sharia, has suffered heavy losses under the Islamists. Some believe that Boko Haram has taken over northern Borno State much as Islamists took over northern Mali.
At least 277 had been killed by Boko Haram in Borno State in 2013 before this attack. … The Tuesday event involved “coordinated attacks by Islamic extremists armed with heavy machine guns” in multiple locations around Bama.
The jihadists also raided a federal prison, freeing 105 inmates. …
Boko Haram frequently attacks Nigeria’s police and military forces. In 2012 as documented by the Facts on Nigeria Violence website, there were at least 67 attacks, almost exclusively by Boko Haram, against military barracks, police stations, prisons, and other government facilities, as well as against individual soldiers, policemen, and civil servants.
But Boko Haram’s main targets are northern Nigeria’s Christians and churches.
The official name of Boko Haram, Jamā’a Ahl al-sunnah li-da’wa wa al-jihād, can be translated “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”. Its goal is to establish a pure Islamic state in northern Nigeria, removing the Christian presence – either by conversion, expulsion, or extermination. Boko Haram appears to prefer the third option.
According to the World Watch Monitor (WWM) report on global Christian persecution, Nigeria had a higher death toll from anti-Christian persecution and violence than the rest of the world combined. WWM concluded that Nigeria is “the most violent place on earth for Christians” …
That is saying much if one considers how Christians are violently persecuted in countries ruled exclusively by Muslims.
But the government of the United States cannot, will not, hold Muslims responsible for the persecution.
In the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s (USCIRF) 2013 report on Nigeria … [there] appears to have developed the same pathological impulse that afflicts the rest of the federal government, to never blame Islam. As a result, portions of the report mischaracterize certain acts of violence by both Boko Haram and other Islamists targeting Christians, and criticize northern Nigerian Christian leaders for calling the situation what it is: persecution.
USCIRF’s egregious observations and recommendations are actually State Department policy. For instance … former Asst. Sec. of State for Africa, Johnnie Carson … declared in a congressional hearing, “It is important to note that religion is not the primary driver behind extremist violence in Nigeria” and that “the Nigerian government must effectively engage communities vulnerable to extremist violence by addressing the underlying political and socio-economic problems in the North.” [And USCIRF argues that] “Boko Haram’s motivations are not religious but socio-economic.”
The State Department – which seems never to sigh the lightest sigh or shed a single tear for the savagely slaughtered Christians – would like this to be true. As Faith McDonnell says, the “Islamist apologist choir” has its choir stalls “located in the U.S. State Department, which not only refuses to designate the jihadists as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), but maligns and defames Boko Haram’s Christian victims, as well. Some of that choir’s most dreadful caterwauling today is in support of Nigeria’s yet-undesignated terrorists, Boko Haram.”
But Boko Haram are not driven by want.
Terrorists never are.
These are dedicated jihadists:
Boko Haram is well funded by outside Islamists. “Heavy machine guns” and “buses and pickup trucks mounted with machine guns” are just the latest examples to show that Boko Haram is not just a motley crew of impoverished, marginalized local Muslims. In February 2013 it was revealed that hundreds of Boko Haram members had trained for months in terrorist camps in northern Mali with the local “Ansar Dine” al Qaeda of Mali. …
Besides, Boko Haram themselves make it perfectly clear why they’re killing Christians; have plainly declared what their aims and motivation are:
In their many publicly released statements and videos, Boko Haram has never declared poverty and marginalization to be a motive for their actions. On the contrary, they state clearly that their actions are a “jihad (Holy War)”. They said that “Christians in Nigeria should accept Islam, that is true religion, or they will never have peace,” and that they “do not have any agenda” other than working to establish an Islamic Kingdom like during the time of Prophet Mohammed.”
In the Nigerian states dominated by Muslims, as wherever Muslims dominate, “Christians are regarded as inferior to Muslims and suffer ongoing, systematic and comprehensive discrimination.”
Thanks to pressure from the U.S. State Department, Nigeria’s Christian President appears more concerned with demonstrating that he is not biased in favor of his fellow Christians than seeing justice done for those who have suffered (even to the point of considering offering amnesty to Boko Haram). The State Department has pressured President Jonathan to give more federal resources and create a special ministry for “northern affairs.” … Federal resources have provided the northern [Muslim dominated] states with “millions in public funds on forced mass weddings for widows, pilgrimages to Mecca, rams for sacrifice at Islamic celebrations, and payments to terrorists’ families”. [But] there has been no compensation to the families of Christian victims. …
The State Department’s passionate wooing of Islam drives it to astonishing lengths, however often it is proved that its yearning love is not reciprocated:
In April 2012, former Asst. Secretary Carson [announced] … that the US would soon open a consulate in Kano, one of the full-Sharia northern states [of Nigeria], to join the U.S. Embassy in Abuja and the existing consulate in Lagos.
And this despite warnings that the Muslims in Kano are in a violently rebellious mood:
Three months earlier, Boko Haram had carried out numerous simultaneous attacks on the security agencies in Kano – police stations, army barracks, intelligence headquarters – leaving some 200 dead.
The writer comments aptly:
What a great place to build a new U.S. consulate. Kano is about 200 miles from Abuja. About half as far as Benghazi is from Tripoli.
For the convenience of readers who would like to read all the iconoclastic articles so far posted in our series on the beginning and early development of Christianity, here are the titles, linked to the articles.
Contrary to the fixed belief of an overwhelming majority, Christianity was not born in “the Holy Land”. It was born in St. Paul’s mind in Syria, and preached in Greek in the eastern lands of the Roman Empire. It’s extremely unlikely that there were any Pauline (Catholic) Christian communities in Judea until well into the second century. The misnamed “Jewish Christians” (Nazarenes or Ebionites) – the followers of the crucified man Paul called “Jesus” – remained in Jerusalem as long as they could, but did not believe in the divine “Son of God”. Almost everything you read in the New Testament about “Jesus”, “James”, “Peter” and “John” is Paul’s and his converts’ make-believe.
In these two stories Christians reveal their faith to be a fraud.
by Langston Hughes
I was saved from sin when I was going on thirteen. But not really saved. It happened like this. There was a big revival at my Auntie Reed’s church. Every night for weeks there had been much preaching, singing, praying, and shouting, and some very hardened sinners had been brought to Christ, and the membership of the church had grown by leaps and bounds. Then just before the revival ended, they held a special meeting for children, “to bring the young lambs to the fold.” My aunt spoke of it for days ahead. That night I was escorted to the front row and placed on the mourners’ bench with all the other young sinners, who had not yet been brought to Jesus.
My aunt told me that when you were saved you saw a light, and something happened to you inside! And Jesus came into your life! And God was with you from then on! She said you could see and hear and feel Jesus in your soul. I believed her. I had heard a great many old people say the same thing and it seemed to me they ought to know. So I sat there calmly in the hot, crowded church, waiting for Jesus to come to me.
The preacher preached a wonderful rhythmical sermon, all moans and shouts and lonely cries and dire pictures of hell, and then he sang a song about the ninety and nine safe in the fold, but one little lamb was left out in the cold. Then he said: “Won’t you come? Won’t you come to Jesus? Young lambs, won’t you come?” And he held out his arms to all us young sinners there on the mourners’ bench. And the little girls cried. And some of them jumped up and went to Jesus right away. But most of us just sat there.
A great many old people came and knelt around us and prayed, old women with jet-black faces and braided hair, old men with work-gnarled hands. And the church sang a song about the lower lights are burning, some poor sinners to be saved. And the whole building rocked with prayer and song.
Still I kept waiting to see Jesus.
Finally all the young people had gone to the altar and were saved, but one boy and me. He was a rounder’s son named Westley. Westley and I were surrounded by sisters and deacons praying. It was very hot in the church, and getting late now. Finally Westley said to me in a whisper: “God damn! I’m tired o’ sitting here. Let’s get up and be saved.” So he got up and was saved.
Then I was left all alone on the mourners’ bench. My aunt came and knelt at my knees and cried, while prayers and song swirled all around me in the little church. The whole congregation prayed for me alone, in a mighty wail of moans and voices. And I kept waiting serenely for Jesus, waiting, waiting – but he didn’t come. I wanted to see him, but nothing happened to me. Nothing! I wanted something to happen to me, but nothing happened.
I heard the songs and the minister saying: “Why don’t you come? My dear child, why don’t you come to Jesus? Jesus is waiting for you. He wants you. Why don’t you come? Sister Reed, what is this child’s name?”
“Langston,” my aunt sobbed.
“Langston, why don’t you come? Why don’t you come and be saved? Oh, Lamb of God! Why don’t you come?”
Now it was really getting late. I began to be ashamed of myself, holding everything up so long. I began to wonder what God thought about Westley, who certainly hadn’t seen Jesus either, but who was now sitting proudly on the platform, swinging his knickerbockered legs and grinning down at me, surrounded by deacons and old women on their knees praying. God had not struck Westley dead for taking his name in vain or for lying in the temple. So I decided that maybe to save further trouble, I’d better lie, too, and say that Jesus had come, and get up and be saved.
So I got up.
Suddenly the whole room broke into a sea of shouting, as they saw me rise. Waves of rejoicing swept the place. Women leaped in the air. My aunt threw her arms around me. The minister took me by the hand and led me to the platform.
When things quieted down, in a hushed silence, punctuated by a few ecstatic “Amens,” all the new young lambs were blessed in the name of God. Then joyous singing filled the room.
That night, for the first time in my life but one for I was a big boy twelve years old – I cried. I cried, in bed alone, and couldn’t stop. I buried my head under the quilts, but my aunt heard me. She woke up and told my uncle I was crying because the Holy Ghost had come into my life, and because I had seen Jesus. But I was really crying because I couldn’t bear to tell her that I had lied, that I had deceived everybody in the church, that I hadn’t seen Jesus, and that now I didn’t believe there was a Jesus anymore, since he didn’t come to help me.
In Memoriam Antony Flew
by Jillian Becker
(In part adapted from an earlier TAC post, In Memoriam: Antony Flew Philosopher of Atheism, April 18, 2010)
Antony Flew, the philosopher, atheist, and defender of freedom, died on April 8, 2010.
Obituaries on both sides of the Atlantic said that Antony Flew was the world’s most famous atheist, and that he suddenly changed his mind and declared that God exists after all.
It is true that he did say this. But he never said it when he was in his right mind. And the reasoning by which he arrived at his certainty that God does not exist was never cancelled or reversed by the sloppy arguments of his senility.
Of his many books, the one that matters most for his reputation as an atheist is God & Philosophy. It was first published in 1966. Later editions appeared at intervals, the last in 2005. To judge by the new introduction he wrote, he was as sure of his atheism then as he had been in 1966.
In 2007 a new book appeared under his name titled There is a God. The subtitle crows: How the world’s most notorious [sic] atheist changed his mind. The authorship is ascribed to Antony Flew “with Roy Abraham Varghese”. But no one who has read God & Philosophy with attention could possible believe that There is a God was a product of the same intelligence. Either the powers of Antony Flew had faded away, or some other mind engendered this work. In fact, both those things happened. It has emerged that he did not write it. He had spoken, and other hands had written. He could not even remember what was in it. And of that failure of memory and general weakening of his mental faculties, the actual writers had taken advantage.
The actual authors of There is a God are Roy Abraham Varghese who is known for his work on “the interface between science and religion”, and Pastor Bob Hostetler – two people with a big blunt axe to grind. They were desperate to find a way to prove that “God” exists. So these these two mountebanks of religion, Varghese and Hostetler, pplotted a devilish scheme. They would exploit an old philosopher afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr Richard Carrier tried to ascertain from Professor Flew himself whether he had really “found God”. Carrier’s detailed account (no longer to be found on the internet – we wonder why) of how Flew claimed he was, but then again was not, converted to belief in a creator-God when certain scientific facts were brought to his attention, makes the whole sorry story plain. Carrier records that the philosopher admitted to finding the subject “too hard” to deal with; that he failed to remember anything about There is a God; that he repeatedly contradicted himself. He tells us about the bewildered old man being awarded a prize by an Evangelical Christian University. (The Phillip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth, bestowed on him by the university of Biola at la Mirada, California – a nest of evangelicals, dedicated to proselytizing their faith.)
The prodigal son returned! Much rejoicing in Christian circles. As if the willingness of a senile man to concede – on and off – the existence of a creator-God, were all the proof they needed to shout in the face of atheists and skeptics: “There, you see? If even he can see it now, you should not have the hubris to think you know better and continue to deny it!”
Carrier writes: “It is certainly possible that Flew looked at ten drafts [of There is a God]. I see no reason to believe Flew was able to understand or even recall what he read.” Flew admitted to having “a nominal aphasia”. But it was more than “nominal”. “Flew could not even recall the arguments of the book , not just who made them or what his sources were.”
Carrier found that whenever Professor Flew himself stated his position, it was always to reaffirm his atheism. Statements to the contrary were never made by him directly, though one at least, firmly insistent that he really had changed his mind, was put out by the publisheron his behalf.
I know that at times he did think he had changed his mind. I saw him soon after the book appeared and asked him was it true he now believed in God.
“Yes,” he replied, “but not the Monster”.
I understood of course what he meant by “the Monster”. He had rejected the Christian God while still in his teens because he could not reconcile the evil in the world and hell after it with a beneficent deity. Such a deity could only be a Monster. His father, a Methodist minister, was distressed by young Antony’s rejection of his faith, but Antony said, as he was to repeat throughout his life, that he had to go “where the evidence leads”. Now he told me, only the existence of “an intelligence” can explain the nature of the universe. This intelligence, this non-monstrous god, made the laws of nature and then had nothing more to do with his creation – the theological position known as deism.
In God & Philosophy, there is a section on “Order and Design”, in which the author asks the question: “Does order in nature itself presuppose an Orderer?” Elegantly and fully he reasons over a few pages that it does not. (This is not the place to quote his reasons, but I hope to whet some appetites for seeking them in the book.) “So we conclude that order in the universe by itself provides no warrant whatsoever for trying to identify an Orderer.”
The meticulous arguments are abandoned as though they had never been made, in the later book falsely published as written by him, There is a God. The reason given there for belief in a creator God, is that the author has learnt about DNA, about its “enormous complexity”, and sees that there must have been an Orderer who made the universe! He also sets out the “fine-tuning” argument.
Both the arguments, from “irreducible complexity” and “fine-tuning” have been thoroughly refuted.
Then there is the “Stratonician presumption”, as Flew himself named it after the Greek philosopher Strato of Lampsacus, the third head of Aristotle’s Lyceum, who formulated it. The presumption is that in explaining the world you can do without entities that are not necessary for the completeness of the explanation. In God & Philosophy, Antony Flew does not find it necessary to call in God or gods.
But suddenly, in There is a God, such a supernatural being becomes essential to explain the world’s existence.
From Antony’s point of view these pressing believers had not done him a disservice. He told me that there was to be a TV documentary about him and his conversion. He was innocently surprised at the attention he was getting, and the unexpected windfall it brought with it. He was paid what seemed to him a very large sum of money. He had never been a rich man, and he was happy for his wife and daughters that they would have this fund at their disposal.
So there’s the picture. A pair (or more?) of American Christian Evangelicals (aided and abetted by a Jewish theologian and physicist, Gerald Schroeder) had worked on him rather than with him, when he had become mentally frail, to produce this cancellation of a lifetime’s thought. In his dotage, these Evangelicals battened on to him, dazzled him with science that was utterly new to him – the big bang, DNA – and rewarded him like a Pavlov’s dog when he gave the response their spin elicited. He was subjected to intellectual seduction, much as Bertrand Russell was by Communists in his senile years.
What seems to me intolerably sad and wrong is that the reputation Antony Flew ought to have, as an atheist philosopher who brilliantly defended atheism throughout his long and distinguished professional life, is now to be replaced by a phony story that he who had been a convinced atheist changed his mind. Is the man who defended atheism better than anyone since David Hume, to be remembered as a deist?
Is this to be allowed to happen – that he be remembered as a man who saw the error of his atheist ways and became persuaded that there was a God – simply because he suffered a softening of the brain in his last years? The truth is that the Antony Flew who conceded the existence of a “creator-intelligence” was not “the Flew” – as he liked to allude to himself – that he had been at the peak of his powers. His faculties were deteriorating, his memory came and went unreliably, he was confused, bewildered and – because he was in a state of decline – taken advantage of.
His handwriting became shakier. He put letters to other people in envelopes that he addressed to me. (They probably got the letters I was supposed to receive.) When I sent him the print-out of an article I had written deploring the Islamization of Britain, he sent it back to me a few weeks later as an article of his own that he would like me to comment on. When he was to meet me and a few colleagues at a certain old London club which he must have visited dozens or even hundreds of times, he couldn’t find it. A search party rescued him and brought him to the meeting. He had become unsure of himself. He did not always remember, or possibly even grasp, points put to him in a discussion.
But what an enthusiast he forever was for ideas! His face would light up, his voice grow urgent with excitement. A passionate intellectual who was always gentle, always courteous even in the heat of argument, Antony Flew was the epitome of a reasonable man. Or I should say that is what he had been, and that is the way he should be remembered, this great philosopher and atheist. Even those who disagree with his atheism must surely acknowledge in the name of justice and decency that his achievements, not his late and lamentable capitulations which seemed to cancel them, should be what he is remembered for.
One thing stands out from the sorry story of his exploitation. If those God-believers had to go to those unscrupulous lengths to prove there is a God, it couldn’t be more plain that they have no proof.
What those desperate con-men did to Antony Flew, the great philosopher of atheism, proves the opposite. They just don’t have the intellectual honesty, or perhaps even the intellectual capacity, to face the meaning of their fraud. With their cruel ruse they may have bluffed others, but only at the cost of bluffing themselves.
Deep in their consciousness, they know there is no God.
They have proved it.
The classicist Donald Kagan has given his last lecture at Yale, leaving it now in the hands of the pirates of education – the Left.
These are extracts from an article titled “Democracy May Have Had Its Day” by Matthew Kaminski in the Wall Street Journal:
Universities, he proposed, are failing students and hurting American democracy. …
On campus, he said, “I find a kind of cultural void, an ignorance of the past, a sense of rootlessness and aimlessness.”
Rare are “faculty with atypical views,” he charged. “Still rarer is an informed understanding of the traditions and institutions of our Western civilization and of our country and an appreciation of their special qualities and values.” He counseled schools to adopt “a common core of studies” in the history, literature and philosophy “of our culture.” By “our” he means Western.
This might once have been called incitement. In 1990, as dean of Yale College, Mr. Kagan argued for the centrality of the study of Western civilization in an “infamous” (his phrase) address to incoming freshmen. A storm followed. He was called a racist — or as the campus daily more politely editorialized, a peddler of “European cultural arrogance.”
Oh for some European cultural arrogance!
Not so now. Mr. Kagan received a long standing ovation from students and alumni in the packed auditorium. Heading into retirement, he has been feted as a beloved and popular teacher and Yale icon. The PC wars of the 1990s feel dated. Maybe, as one undergrad told me after the lecture, “the pendulum has started to swing back” toward traditional values in education.
Has it? Is political correctness outdated? Or becoming outdated? Isn’t that too good to be true?
Mr. Kagan offers another explanation [to the author of the article, in an interview]….
Actually, he’s Dr. Kagan. Or Professor Kagan (since we don’t do as the Germans do and string the titles together to make “Professor Dr.”). But for all we know Donald Kagan prefers the Mr.
“You can’t have a fight,” he says … “because you don’t have two sides. The other side won.”
He means across academia, but that is also true in his case. Mr. Kagan resigned the deanship in April 1992, lobbing a parting bomb at the faculty that bucked his administration. His plans to create a special Western Civilization course at Yale — funded with a $20 million gift from philanthropist and Yale alum Lee Bass, who was inspired by the 1990 lecture — blew up three years later amid a political backlash. “I still cry when I think about it,” says Mr. Kagan.
As he looks at his Yale colleagues today, he says, “you can’t find members of the faculty who have different opinions.” I point at him. “Not anymore!” he says and laughs. …
Democracy, wrote Mr. Kagan in “Pericles of Athens” (1991), is “one of the rarest, most delicate and fragile flowers in the jungle of human experience.” It relies on “free, autonomous and self-reliant” citizens and “extraordinary leadership” to flourish, even survive. These kinds of citizens aren’t born—they need to be educated. …
“Meaningful freedom means that you have choices to make,” Mr. Kagan says. “At the university, there must be intellectual variety. If you don’t have that, it’s not only that you are deprived of knowing some of the things you might know. It’s that you are deprived of testing the things that you do know or do think you know or believe in, so that your knowledge is superficial.”
As dean, Mr. Kagan championed hard sciences, rigorous hiring standards for faculty, and the protection of free speech. Those who see liberal education in crisis return to those ideas. “Crisis suggests it might recover,” Mr. Kagan shoots back. “Maybe it’s had its day. Democracy may have had its day. Concerns about the decline of liberty in our whole polity is what threatens all of the aspects of it, including democracy.”
Taking a grim view of the Periclean era in Athens, Plato and Aristotle believed that democracy inevitably led to tyranny. The Founding Fathers took on their criticism and strove to balance liberty with equality under the law. Mr. Kagan, who grew up a Truman Democrat, says that when he was young the U.S. needed to redress an imbalance by emphasizing equality. The elite universities after the war opened to minorities and women, not to mention Brooklyn College grads like himself—then “it was all about merit,” he says.
The 1960s brought a shift and marked his own political awakening. Teaching at Cornell, Mr. Kagan watched armed black students occupy a university building in 1969. The administration caved to their demands without asking them to give up their rifles and bandoliers. He joined Allan Bloom and other colleagues in protest. In the fall of that year, he moved to Yale. Bloom ended up at the University of Chicago and in 1987 published “The Closing of the American Mind,” his best-selling attack on the shortcomings of higher education.
In the decades since, faculties have gained “extraordinary authority” over universities, Mr. Kagan says. The changes in the universities were mirrored in the society at large. “The tendency in this century and in the previous century at least has been toward equality of result and every other kind of equality that could be claimed without much regard for liberty,” he says. “Right now the menace is certainly to liberty.”
Yes, and it is impossible to have equality of result and liberty at the same time. In other words, it is impossible to have socialism and liberty. One or the other is the choice.
His lifelong passion is Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War — the epic clash between those former allies, militaristic Sparta and democratic Athens … As Thucydides wrote, people go to war out of “honor, fear and interest.” War, he also said, “is a violent teacher.” Another enduring lesson from him, says Mr. Kagan, is “that you can expect people, whatever they may be, to seek to maximize their power” — then a slight pause — “unless they’re Europeans and have checked their brains at the door, so mortified are they, understandably, by what happened to them in the 20th century. They can’t be taken seriously.”
We would say “morbid” rather than “mortified” because of what they did to themselves in the 20th century. It’s a long slow suicide, but few Europeans heard in the public arena seem to realize it.
These days the burden of seriousness among free states falls on America, a fickle and unusual power. The Romans had no qualms about quashing their enemies, big or small. While the U.S. won two global conflicts and imposed and protected the current global order, the recent record shows failed or inconclusive engagements in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Some would argue that free societies are too soft to fight brutal wars too long. Mr. Kagan offers culture and political leadership as an explanation. “We’re a certain kind of culture which makes it hard for us to behave rationally when the rational thing is to be tough,” he says. “We can do it when we’re scared to death and there seem to be no alternatives. When it’s time to nail down something, we very often sneak away.”
Some would argue that free societies are too soft to fight brutal wars too long. Mr. Kagan offers culture and political leadership as an explanation. “We’re a certain kind of culture which makes it hard for us to behave rationally when the rational thing is to be tough,” he says. “We can do it when we’re scared to death and there seem to be no alternatives. When it’s time to nail down something, we very often sneak away.”
The protection and distance offered by two oceans gives America the idea — or delusion — of being able to stay out of the world’s problems.
Libertarians, please note.
Mr. Kagan also wonders about possible “geocultural” shifts at play. A hundred years ago, most people worked the land for themselves. Today they work for a paycheck, usually in an office. “Fundamentally we are dependent on people who pay our salaries,” says Mr. Kagan. “In the liberal era, in our lifetime, we have come more to expect it is the job of the government to provide for the needs that we can’t provide. Everything is negotiable. Everything is subject to talk.” Maybe that has weakened the American will.
Also don’t forget, says Mr. Kagan, “unsubtle Christianity” and its strong strain of pacifism. “Who else has a religion filled with the notion ‘turn the other cheek’?” he asks. … “If you’re gonna turn the other cheek, go home. Give up the ball.”
In 2000, Mr. Kagan and his younger son, Frederick, a military historian and analyst, published “While America Sleeps.” The book argued for the reversal of the Clinton Cold War peace dividend to meet unforeseen but inevitable threats to come. The timing was uncanny. A year later, 9/11 forced the Pentagon to rearm.
With the end of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the U.S. is slashing defense again. “We do it every time,” Mr. Kagan says. “Failing to understand the most elementary childish fact, which is: If you don’t want trouble with somebody else, be sure he has something to be afraid of.” …
His 1995 book, “On the Origins of War,” made a moral and strategic case to exert as much effort and money to safeguard peace as to win a war.
Thucydides identified man’s potential for folly and greatness. Mr. Kagan these days tends toward the darker view. He sees threats coming from Iran and in Asia, yet no leadership serious about taking them up. The public is too ignorant or irresponsible to care. “When you allow yourself to think of it, you don’t know whether you are going to laugh or cry,” he says.
The Kagan thesis is bleak but not fatalistic. The fight to shape free citizens in schools, through the media and in the public square goes on. “There is no hope for anything if you don’t have a population that buys into a strong and free society,” he says. “That can only be taught. It doesn’t come in nature.”
So does Donald Kagan have hope that “the pendulum is swinging back”? Towards variety of ideas and traditional standards in higher education? Towards liberty and an understanding of the value of liberty? Towards strong democracy?
If so, we wish we could share that hope, but see nothing to encourage it. He has switched off his light at Yale. Is there another?
We need to engage the argument raised by Mark Tapson in a review article titled Christianity, Islam, Atheism. It is also the title of a book he is reviewing. We have not read the book, and we trust him to be giving a fair representation of what the author says in it. We examine the ideas as Mark Tapson presents them to us:
Now that the Boston bombers have turned out, contrary to the fervent hope of the left, to be not Tea Partiers but Muslims, the media are spinning the terrorists’ motive away from jihad and shrugging, helplessly mystified, about the “senseless” attacks. And so our willful blindness about Islam continues. Nearly a dozen years after the 9/11 attacks, too many Americans still cling to militant denial about the clear and present danger of an Islamic fundamentalism surging against an anemic Western culture. What will it take to educate them? And once awakened, what steps can we take to reverse the tide?
The vicious Boston attack makes these questions and William “Kirk” Kilpatrick’s new book Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West all the more timely. [The book is] intended not only as a wake-up call to the West about Islam, but also as a practical guide, especially for Christians, to push back against its spread and to countering Islam’s Western apologists.
Christianity, Islam, and Atheism opens with a section titled “The Islamic Threat,” in which Kilpatrick describes the rise of supremacist Islam and our correspondingly tepid defense of Western values.
It is true that supremacist Islam is rising, and that the West is defending its values only tepidly.
Our collapse in the face of Islam, he says, is due in large part to our abandonment of Christianity, which has led to “a population vacuum and a spiritual vacuum” that Islam has rushed to fill.
None of that is true. The West has not yet “collapsed in the face of Islam”, it has just ceded too much ground. By “population vacuum” we suppose he means the shrinking populations of the European countries, which are importing population (the wrong – Muslim – population) to compensate for a shortage of workers, but whose socialist economies cannot provide enough jobs for the immigrants once they’re there.
As for “a spiritual vacuum”, it exists only in the eyes of these Christians who notice that once-Christian Europe has become largely non-religious. Europeans who still want to believe in a skylord have not shown a new fascination with Allah; most of them have stuck to Jesus or the Trinity.
It seems that a lot of prisoners convert to Islam. Some say that’s because they get better food and other privileges that the European authorities have been intimidated into conceding to Muslims. It may be, of course, that the cruel and blood-thirsty god Allah* exerts an irresistible pull on villainous men, but it’s a bit of a stretch to call that “filling a spiritual vacuum”.
“A secular society… can’t fight a spiritual war,” Kilpatrick writes. Contrary to the multiculturalist fantasy dominant in the West today, “cultures aren’t the same because religions aren’t the same. Some religions are more rational, more compassionate, more forgiving, and more peaceful than others.” …
That depends on what historical era you are looking at. Today most Christian sects are usually peaceful. But that hasn’t always been the case, and may not be the case in the future.
As for Christianity being more compassionate, sure it is in theory but again has not always been in practice. And whether compassion is as desirable a value as Christianity insists it is, remains philosophically open to question.
The same can be said of forgiveness. In our view forgiveness is not a very good idea. First, it makes no difference to what has been done. Second, and more important, it is contrary to justice.
As for some religions being more rational than others, all religions depend on faith, not reason. It is impossible to argue that one irrationality is superior to another.
Kilpatrick notes that Christians today have lost all cultural confidence and are suffering a “crisis of masculinity,” thanks to the feminizing influences of multiculturalism and feminism. He devotes significant space to encouraging Christians to, well, grow a pair, to put it indelicately, in order to confront Islam, the “most hypermasculine religion in history”:
“On the one hand, you have a growing population of Muslim believers brimming with masculine self-confidence and assertiveness about their faith, and on the other hand, you have a dwindling population of Christians who are long on nurturance and sensitivity but short on manpower. Who seems more likely to prevail?”
We take his point. We would be happy to see well armed muscular Christian men marching to war – literally, not figuratively – against Islam.
Kilpatrick devotes a chapter to “The Comparison” between Islam and Christianity, in which he points out that Christians who buy into the concept of interfaith unity with Muslims would do well to look more closely at our irreconcilable differences instead of our limited common ground; he demonstrates, for example, that the imitation of Christ and the imitation of Muhammad lead a believer in radically different directions.
Again, not always. Leaving aside the question of whether Christians killing other Christians and non-Christians believed they were acting as their Christ would have acted in the same circumstances, there were centuries during which multitudes of Christians “imitated Christ” by rejecting this world and deliberately seeking hideous martyrdoms. Some still do. As Muslims do.
In “The Culture War and the Terror War” section, Kilpatrick notes that Christianity is on the losing side of the many fronts of our own culture war, and this doesn’t bode well for the West’s clash with a resurgent Islam. An obsession with the shallow, ephemeral distractions of pop culture isn’t helping to shore up our cultural foundations. “Our survival,” he writes, “hinges not on generating a succession of momentary sensations, but on finding narratives that tell us who we are, where we have come from, and where we are going”:
“Our ability to resist aggression – whether cultural or military – depends on the conviction that we have something worth defending: something that ought to be preserved not only for our own sake but also for the sake of those who attack us.”
Yes. But that something doesn’t have to be the irrational beliefs and moral sentimentalities of Christianity. It could, for instance, be one’s country. And for Americans that could mean the high values that America was founded to embody, above all individual freedom under the law.
In the section “Islam’s Enablers,” Kilpatrick addresses the multiculturalists, secularists, atheists, and Christian apologists for Islam whose intellectual influences have contributed to the moral decline and Islamization of the West. In a chapter with the great title “Multiculturalists: Why Johnny Can’t Read the Writing on the Wall,” Kilpatrick comments on the indoctrinating impact of multicultural educators and their whitewashing of Islam and denigration of our own culture:
“[O]ur students would have been better served if they had spent less time studying the Battle of Wounded Knee and more time studying the Battle of Lepanto, less time understanding the beauty of diversity and more time understanding the misery of dhimmitude.”
We wholly agree with this statement. We too see multiculturalism as as an evil. We see Christian apologists for Islam as fools. But how are secularists and atheists – as such – contributing to the moral decline of the West? Mark Tapson does not tell us, and we wonder if the book does.
Finally, in “The Cold War with Islam,” Kilpatrick is pessimistic of our desire to win the hearts and minds of “moderate Muslims.” He examines at length just what that label actually means, and then notes that such a strategy isn’t an especially helpful one:
The promotion of the moderate myth is counterproductive because it misleads the West into thinking that its problem is only with a small slice of Islam and because it strengthens the hand of traditional Islam, which is the source of radicalism, not the solution to it.
Again,we secularists-and-atheists agree.
Then comes this:
What are his recommendations for mounting a defense of our values against the aggressive spread of Islamic ones?
Reviving the commitment to our own Judeo-Christian values for starters, and then, “instead of a constant yielding to Islamic sensitivities, it may be time for some containment. Sharia… should not be allowed to spread through Western societies.” He touches on immigration, noting that it’s a problematic issue but suggesting that it’s reasonable to question the motives and agendas of immigrant groups. The message we must send? “Islam will not prevail. The West will not yield. You must accommodate to our values and way of life if you choose to live among us.”
As for going on the offensive, “instead of making excuses for Islam… we should be devoting our energies to exposing its hollowness,” relentlessly sowing the seeds of doubt among Muslims and encouraging them to abandon the faith.
In all of which we heartily concur except “reviving the commitment to our own Judeo-Christian values”. To which we will return.
Finally, there is this:
Taking that to the next level, Kilpatrick urges Christians to undertake the daunting task of mounting a widespread evangelizing of Muslims, luring them to Christianity with the liberating message of the Gospel. He concedes that this is a long-term strategy and we have no time to lose, but “both Islam and the left stand on very shaky ideological ground… Christians should take courage from knowing that in this war of ideas, all the best ideas are on their side.”
Yes, Islam and the left do stand on very shaky ideological ground. But so does Christianity. Its theology to start with is so super-absurd that it’s a wonder the early Christians managed to sell such a bill of goods even to ignorant slaves and women in the declining years of the Roman Empire.
But what are the moral-philosophical ideas of Christianity? Let’s look at a few of them, the ones that contemporary Christians commonly say they hold.
To love all mankind? Impossible. An encouragement to hypocrisy.
Forgiving wrongdoing? Unjust. Kindness to the guilty is cruelty to the righteous.
Loving the sinner while hating the sin? A refusal to hold individuals responsible for their actions.
Acting humble? Self-abasement is an act of pride, not humility. Pride is not bad, but dissimulation is.
Teaching Christian theology and mythology as “the Truth”? Not only wrong but self-defeating, as doctrines were never even settled, disputes over them being the cause of wars and persecution throughout Christian history.
Omitted from the discussion in the review article is the fact that multitudes of Christians are also devout leftists. While it is true that the left is coddling and kow-towing to Islam, it is also true that Christian churches are teaching Marxism, often under the name of “liberation theology”.
To speak of a “Judeo-Christian” tradition is to ignore the hideous fact that Christendom has been actively persecuting the Jews from the time its gospels were written. What is meant is that Christianity, after some initial hesitation, accepted part of the Jewish moral code. But citing a “Judeo-Christian tradition” ignores the fact that Christianity was a revolt against Judaism, and owes more to Greek mysticism and cosmogony, Greek other-worldliness, and Greek religious rites – the unrespectable side of classical culture – than it does to Judaism. It also ignores the thousand years of darkness that Christianity brought down on Europe. Europe owed its greatness not to a “Judeo-Christian” tradition, but to the classical enlightenment Christianity eclipsed, and its eventual rebirth.
We too would like the West to be true to the values and practices of its highly evolved civilization, which we would name not as compassion, forgiveness, charity, love, but as freedom, democratically elected government, law and order, tolerance, reason, the pursuit of science, and an endless striving to make human existence happy, long, informed, exploratory, and innovative.
Its passed time that those old bug-a-boo superstitions, shrouded in the cobwebs of the ages, were swept away.
Enough of Jehovah, the sometimes over-vengeful, sometimes just, tribal-chief type of tyrant.
He was dropped by the Christians, though they might pretend that he somehow weakened and mutated into their God the Father or dissolved into the whole of their mystical Greek-style Triune Godhead. As God the Father he’s been so inconspicuous as to be best pictured dozing if not comatose these last two thousand years. Enough of him.
Jesus the Christ, whether as plump European baby, or as golden-curled Caucasian male model in a full-length white nightgown, or as a tortured body executed for sedition by the Romans on a wooden cross, or as well-nourished judge seated on a stump with a cloud for a footstool condemning multitudes to Hell, has nothing of interest to offer enquiring minds. Enough of him.
As for Allah with his side-kick Muhammad – the savage bully and his mouthpiece – he could be dispelled with more certainty and speed if the West would give up religion, and all respect for religion as such.
The downfall of the gods began quite some time ago and is overdue. (No nod to Nazism-inspiring Wagner should be inferred.) They – the gods – should all have disappeared in the Enlightenment. But they’ve been allowed to hang about far too long. Away with them.
Let the West defend itself with confidence in its intellectual, secular-moral, economic, and military superiority; with guns, drones, Specter bombers, and nuclear war capability; with science, technology, intelligence, and the Constitution of the United States; and always above all with unrelenting critical analysis of all ideas.
* Quotation from the linked source: “There are 493 passages that either endorse violence or talk about the hatred of Allah for the infidels, meaning all non-Muslims. The Quran is a book mainly concerned with how Muslims are to think and act towards those outside of Islam; that is, either kill them or force them to live as second-class citizens and pay [special punitive] taxes (Jizya).” It explicitly commands Muslims to “kill the infidel” (eg. Koran 9:5). It prescribes atrocious punishments for such “crimes” as adultery, homosexuality and apostasy. It is a manual of instruction in barbaric aggression.
“Each girl had been nailed alive upon her cross, spikes through her feet and hands, only their hair blown by the wind, covered their bodies.” *
The information and quotations that follow come from an article by Raymond Ibrahim:
The Armenian genocide took place under Turkey’s Islamic Ottoman Empire, during and after WWI.
Out of an approximate population of two million, some 1.5 million Armenians died.
One of the primary causes for it — perhaps the fundamental cause — is completely unacknowledged: religion.
It is an excellent and important article, but we would argue that religion was not “one of the primary causes” of the massacre of the Christian Armenians by the Muslim Turks, that it was not “perhaps the fundamental cause” – it was the cause. The only cause.
* The quoted words in the caption are those of Aurora Mardiganian. The documentary film Auction of Souls (1919), from which this still is taken, was partly based on her memoir.
In her memoir, Ravished Armenia, Aurora Mardiganian described being raped and thrown into a harem (which agrees with Islam’s rules of war). Unlike thousands of other Armenian girls who were discarded after being defiled, she managed to escape. In the city of Malatia, she saw 16 Christian girls crucified: “Each girl had been nailed alive upon her cross, spikes through her feet and hands, only their hair blown by the wind, covered their bodies.”
This essay continues our series on obscure and lost religions, Gnostic cults in particular. It follows on these: Thus, more or less, spake Zarathustra, May 26, 2009 (on Zoroastrianism); How a rich shipowner affected Christianity, January 2, 2010 (on Marcion); Erotic religion, January 24, 2010 (on Carpocrates and Epiphanes); The father of all heresy, February 23, 2010 (on Simon Magus, and Menander); Yezidis and Mandeans, April 4, 2010; Mani and Manicheism, May 9, 2010; Hot in the land of Hum, October 14, 2010 (on the Bugomils); Valentinus, February 14, 2011; The heretics of Languedoc, May 1, 2011 (on the Cathars); Gnosticism: what is it?, March 3, 2013; Holy snakes, March 24, 2013 (on the Ophites).
Chronologically and ideologically, Basilides and his son Isadorus followed Simon Magus – whom the Catholic Church Fathers called “the father of all heresy” – and Simon’s disciple and successor Menander. Our short account of Menander and his sect was added recently to the post titled “The father of all heresy”.
Basilides and Isadorus
Simon Magus, his disciple Menander, and their respective sects came to their ends. But the Gnosis of Simon Magus survived and developed as the 2nd century CE wore on. Menander was succeeded by his disciple Basilides, who, in his turn, improved the mystic vision of his master into something richer and stranger, and with it won a large and enthusiastic following in North Africa, Spain, and even – it has been contended – in Britain. It is probable that he was the first thinker to propound a theory of the Big Bang – though he did not call it that. He might also have been the first to propound a theory of the causes of what nowadays is called “anti-Semitism”. And, uniquely, he proposed that Jesus sinned.
Basilides was born in Antioch (Syria) and began teaching in 117 CE. Jewish by birth, he was won over by the Gnosis of Menander. When he was ready to lead a following of his own, he went abroad – perhaps because it is always hard to be a prophet in one’s own land. He established his name as a Gnostic leader in Alexandria.
There are many and various scandalous stories about the beliefs and practices of Basilides recorded by the Church Fathers – Origen and Clement of Alexandria among others – and for the most part they are not consistent with each other. They broadly agree, however, on the Gnostic type of the Basilidean teachings, and they are all startling, elaborate, fantastic (in the true meaning of the word), and preposterous. We cannot know which of them is accurately attributed, for not one of Basilides’s own books has survived. There were many of them, including 24 volumes of commentaries on the four canonical gospels – although in public he deplored book-learning, and preached the value of being without it. Practicing in secret what he outspokenly preached against, he wrote under a number of pseudonyms, among them Cham, Barcabbas, Barcoph and Parchor. A certain treatise was attributed to him titled On the Additional Soul. Christian critics who read it before they had it destroyed, say that it expounded the idea that men have, in addition to a First Soul that is the gift of the supreme Father, another with which they have been cursed by a lower power. The second soul is manifest in the passions which drag men down into sin.
By some accounts, Basilides was himself a man of high moral principle, and it was his followers who turned, against his teaching, to libertinism. Some stated that libertinism was permitted or even enjoined by Basilides for those who attained perfection, because a Perfect (or Pneumatic) cannot sin no matter what he does. They say his sect was not exclusive. All men and women were welcome to join it, even those who came from the cloddish majority called the Hylics. An initiate had to prove his seriousness of intent by not uttering a word for five years (a practice derived perhaps from the school of Pythagoras). A successful candidate might then, by striving to find and strengthen the spark of gnosis within him, particularly by participating in the sacramental rites, or orgies, for which uninhibited sexual self-indulgence was prescribed, rise to join the Psychics, in whom the light of Gnosis was kindled if yet but dimly; and a Psychic, with luck and spiritual labour, conscientious ritual defiance of all common sexual taboos, and presumably some manifest conviction that the Gnosis was strong within him, rise to be accepted among the Pneumatics, who alone were the true Gnostics. Basilides spoke of the “faith” of the Psychics, the “gnosis” of the Pneumatics. He also used the word Noesis – derived from Nous – to explain what the Gnosis was: an intuitive certainty of understanding. All who did not achieve or were not gifted with the experience of Gnosis were tied to the earth by their passions, literally their “attachments”, and each was destined to be reborn again and again (an idea which might have come, by many a winding path, from India), until in some eventual incarnation the true light of Gnosis broke within him.
Others say Basilides was himself a libertine and charlatan in the style of Simon Magus: that he practised the magic arts, used drugs to assist his promiscuous seductions, and prescribed sexual licentiousness. He was adept at Numerology – finding magical significance in words and names according to numbers held to be the equivalent of letters. Far from welcoming all who would join him, he was an extreme elitist, regarding only those gifted with the Gnosis as “true human beings”; the rest of humankind as “of no more worth than pigs or dogs”. This version of his nature is improbable, if he really did acquire the vast following that many historians grant him.
By all accounts Basilides propounded an elaborate and voluminous theogony, but there are differing accounts of it. Broadly speaking, it was along these lines: At the top was the First Principle, the Source, who was God the Father and the Ultimate Truth. He had another, secret name, imparted only to the Pneumatics, who alone were enlightened enough by the inner spark of Gnosis to recognise the truth and endure the implication of so terrible a revelation: for this secret name of God was – Nothing.
Something comes out of nothing: the most insubstantial of things, but something. A thought, the archetype of a thought, Thought itself. It emanated from Nothing. Nothing was a thought-emanator by its nature, though it was a negative, a not-nature. So Nous was the First Emanation – or (according to other early researchers) the Logos. Volumes have been written about the meaning of Nous and Logos in Greek philosophy. In the New Testament, the Logos is translated as “the Word”. Nous or Logos, either will do for our outline if they’re both taken to mean “the Intellectual Principle”.
Then comes the Second Emanation. Not from Nothing, but from the First Emanation. Thus, Nous or Logos emanated Phronesis (Prudence). And Phronesis emanated two beings, Sophia (Wisdom) and Dynamis (Power). Sophia was the feminine, passive, conceiving principle; Dynamis the masculine, active, effecting principle. Sophia and Dynamis generated lesser Powers, Principalities, and Angels – the hosts of heaven collectively called the Aeons – who themselves made the First Heaven and generated more Aeons, who made the Second Heaven and generated yet more Aeons, who made the Third Heaven … and so on through 365 heavens, and then a last generation of Aeons made this world and created mankind.
By some accounts, not only Sophia and Dynamis, but every Aeon had its anti-type, as male and female are anti-types. As in many other Gnostic theogonies, Aeon and anti-Aeon descend from their begetters in pairs which are called szyzygies.
To the mystics who described such visions of the beginning of things, there was an important difference between emanating – explained by the analogy of the sun giving out its light, which light was not the same thing as the sun though inseparable from it – and generating, by which immaterial offspring were spiritually begotten as separate beings. Creating was different again, it being the means by which the first human pair were made. The lowest Aeons could create material things, including human bodies, but the human spirit had to come from much higher in the hierarchy of spiritual beings. In the Basilidean scheme – some say – it came directly from God the Father himself. Others assert that Basilides abhorred the idea that God emanated anything, preferring rather to say “God spoke and it was”.
An alternative account of the Basilidean creation myth starts the same way but introduces a new idea. Before time began there was Nothing, which was absolutely nothing, nothing whatsoever. Even to call it nothing is to assert something about it that is too positive. It was an absence. It was God Non-Existent. It was God Non-Existent, without thought, without impulse, without desire. Yet because we must tell with words what words are inadequate to tell, we must say that this Nothing had or ‘spoke’ a thought without willing to do so, and the thought was to make a world. What was made in that first instant was a world-seed (analogous to the infinitesimally small, infinitely dense something which, in the “Big Bang” theory, expanded to become the universe). Thus the Non-Existent God made a Not-Yet-Existing-World from non-existence, by bringing into being a single seed which contained all of which the universe consists: not only this material World and everything in it, but also the heavens and the Divine.
The implication of this account is that matter, having the same origin as the Divine, is not evil in the theory of Basilides as it is in most other Gnostic theories. Basilides and his son Isadorus were both reputed to “love nature”, unlike the Gnostic teachers in whose schemata nature is the creation of an evil god. And as Basilides had a son, and as he did not consider all things material including human flesh to be evil, it would be reasonable to suppose that he was not ideologically against marriage, reproductive copulation, and the begetting of children as were other Gnostics.
Evil does exist in the Basilidean schema, however, in the lower heavens. Among the Aeons there are two Lesser Rulers of the spheres of the fixed stars and the 7 planets, but neither of them made or rules this world (which came into existence when the world-seed expanded). The Higher Ruler (not to be identified with the highest god Nothing) abides in an upper heaven, the Ogdoad (meaning “the eightfold”); the Lower Ruler beneath him in the Hebdomad (“the sevenfold”). The Lower Ruler is a Bad Angel. He has the power to inflict suffering on mankind, and this he does.
In time this World became peopled, and the peoples divided into nations. Then each of the lowest Aeons chose a nation for his own. The chief Aeon among them, the Lower Ruler, Lord of the Hebdoad, chose the Jews, and wished to subject all other nations to them, but the other Aeons opposed him, so all nations are opposed to his nation: all are opposed to the Jews.
International strife was only one of the afflictions visited on mankind by this Lord. It was he who sent the Law to the Jews through Moses. All the prophets before the Christ believed – mistakenly, as did Moses himself – that the Law came from God the Father. The Law was a heavy burden on suffering mankind (the whole of which at this point becomes oddly identified with the Jews, the bad nation who alone were subject to the Law of Moses). After long ages the true God took pity on the human race, and to salve the sufferings of all mankind sent down the First Aeon, Nous, or the Logos, or the Christ, who for a certain time was united with the person of a man, Jesus of Nazareth. The Christ did not suffer crucifixion in the person of Jesus. Some say this was because the Christ parted from Jesus before the crucifixion; others because the man Jesus himself was not crucified. The latter taught that Simon of Cyrene, who carried the cross for him, died on it in his stead, and Jesus with the Christ still in him took the form of this Simon and laughed at the Christians for believing that it was he who had died on the Cross. For this reason Basilides taught that the Crucified must not be worshipped, nor the Cross held holy.
Whether from the body of Jesus or the body of Simon of Cyrene, the Christ rose again to the highest heaven. Yet it seems that he returned home without having fulfilled his mission on earth. Mankind was not saved by the Christ from the misfortunes visited upon it by the Lord of the Lower Heavens. Now only the Gnosis can save them.
A wonderful variation of this story propounds that when the Divine issued from the world-seed, it released a threefold ‘Sonship’, a Sonship of light which reaches God the Father immediately; a less pure Sonship which needs the aid of the Holy Spirit to reach the Father, and a coarse Sonship. The first two Sons are the Lords of the Highest and Middle Heavens, the third, Lord of the Lower Heavens. Also from the Divine issued the Gospel, not at once to be bestowed upon earth, but whole and ready in the highest sphere. Each of the two higher Lords has a son who “surpasses his father in wisdom and beauty”. These glorious sons “catch” the Gospel “as naphta catches fire from a great distance”, and they declare it to their fathers. It fills the High Lords (all of them, even the highest) with terror and they “repent” – though of what is not disclosed, or the disclosure is lost.
The Lord of the Lower Heavens knew nothing of the Gospel until the coming of the Christ to earth. Then in our world it enlightened Jesus the son of Mary (so the Gospel came before Jesus was of an age to be enlightened), and (yet) everything happened as is related in the (canonical) gospels. According to Clement of Alexandria, the Basilideans taught that when Jesus died (whether on the cross or later in the body of Simon of Cyrene) he was the first man to “have his parts saved in three ways according to the three Sonships, the impure, the coarse, and the fine-pure”. He was Hylic, Psychic, and Pneumatic all in one. “His sufferings befell his impure bodily parts, his mind returned to the (psychic) Sphere of the Seven, a coarse sphere only in comparison to the highest sphere, to which his soul departed and was saved”. Clement infers from this complicated doctrine that Basilides said that Jesus had sinned, since he needed refining and saving.
Basilides’s son Isadorus wrote a number of volumes, among them one titled On the Grown Soul. It argued against his father’s thesis of the two souls. It is a dangerous idea, he pointed out, to propose that the soul is not one; that by another force, the attachments or passions, it is tempted to do evil things, because it gives the evil man an excuse for doing evil, allowing him to claim that it is “not I, my own soul, that sinned”, but that “I was forced against my will to do it” by another power within me that was not sent by God.
This gives substance to reports that Isadorus upheld the virtues of responsibility, self-control and sexual continence. He seems also to have been gifted with some wisdom, recommending that his followers “pray not that you may do right, but that you may do no wrong”. A high ethical tenor was attributed to his books. This might suggest that the view of his father, Basilides, as an estimable man of upright character had some truth in it, since presumably the father was the teacher of the son. Indeed, old commentaries assert that Isadorus’s beliefs were similar to those of his father, including the sinning Jesus and the laughing Christ. So we must assume that there was this other, less admirable, matter in Isadorus’s books, for otherwise the good Church Fathers would surely have allowed them to survive – wouldn’t they?
Jillian Becker April 7, 2013
Here’s a splendid piece of stupidity. A collector’s item:
Boys and girls at an Alabama elementary school will still get to hunt for eggs – but they can’t call them “Easter Eggs” because the principal banished the word for the sake of religious diversity.
“We had in the past a parent to question us about some of the things we do here at school,” said Heritage Elementary School principal Lydia Davenport. “So we’re just trying to make sure we respect and honor everybody’s differences.”
Television station WHNT reported that teachers were informed that no activities related to or centered around any religious holiday would be allowed – in the interest of religious diversity.
“Kids love the bunny and we just make sure we don’t say ‘the Easter Bunny’ so that we don’t infringe on the rights of others because people relate the Easter bunny to religion,” she told the television station.
After the laughter, let’s consider: what do we know about Easter – the word and its associations?
From bill casselman’s words of the world:
All Hail, Eostre!
Eostre was a Germanic goddess. In all the lovingly museumed depictions of ancient British, Celtic and European deities, we have no surviving image of Eostre and she is mentioned only once in ancient literature, in the writings of the always pious Venerable Bede. But Eostre’s name tells us she was a Teutonic goddess of dawn. Her name originated in Old Teutonic, from austrôn- dawn. Austrôn can evolve into Eostre. What we know with certainty is that the Christian Easter celebration took its name from Eostur-monath, the Anglo-Saxon word for the month of April, literally Eostre-month.
Who then was this fair goddess Eostre? A coy and modest damsel tiptoeing in divinely sequined velvet slippers through vernal dells, all the while sprinkling with dew yon awakening posies? Probably not. She was more likely The Wanton Slut of the Spring Rut, a lubricious deity who smiled upon and encouraged the potent surge of returning fertility. The Anglo-Saxons celebrated her lustful advent at the spring solstice, the vernal equinox, as part of the worship of a pagan deity who brought teeming uberousness back to the land and to the groin after a morose winter of vegetal and bodily moping. …
The name Easter may have been adopted during a time when Christians were attempting to convert new followers by highlighting the similarities between Christianity and pagan religions. The story of Christ’s resurrection, the focal point of the Easter holiday, has much in common with the rebirth stories of pagan tradition.
The most sober and linguistically compelling root word of Easter is however probably a source based on Germanic forms of East, forms like Ost, Osten, the Germanic Easter word Oster and Old High German ostarun which means literally “easterly celebration times”. The sun rises in the East. In many languages the word for dawn, daybreak, even daylight stems from a word meaning “east”. The sun returned in glory during the spring. What better time of year then to celebrate “eastern springy stuff”.
A Proto-Germanic root for east is cognate with many other east/dawn words in other Indo-European languages. For example, all the PIE dawn words like Latin aurora (think of aurora borealis, literal meaning “northern dawn”), Epic Greek ἠώς and Attic ἔως eos “dawn”. Think of English scientific words like palaeozoology’s name for the earliest horse, eohippus “‘dawn-horse”, or the Eocene era. Sanskrit for “dawn” is usas and Avestan is usah. …
What of the word paschal? It was -
… borrowed directly from the Hebrew word for Passover, pesach. Consider Greek pascha, Latin pascha, French Pâques, Italian Pasqua, Spanish Pascua and Dutch pask. English has a technical adjective from theology, paschal [meaning] “of Easter”.
A delightful Old English term named the paschal lamb, ostarfrisking.
This questing etymologist looks at the classical Greek word oistros, not for an origin, but for a cognate, that is, a word born from the same Indo-European root as Eostre then Easter.
Oistros was a large European horsefly whose painful bite drew blood and caused cattle to run wild, even stampede. The insect’s Victorian zoological name was Tabanus bovinus, where tabanus is the Latin word for horsefly or gadfly. Today Oestrus is the genus name of the common botfly, a similarly nasty little insect whose larvae are parasites in mammal tissues and body cavities, mammals such as humans, horses, and cows.
English-speakers know the ancient Greek word in more familiar dress as oestrus or estrus, its Latin forms. In modern physiology, estrus is the female equivalent of the word rut. When a female animal is “in heat” it is in estrus. In Classical Greek oistros meant “frenzy”, “sexual rage”, “ravening, slavering female lust”. It described, for example, the scary maenads, drunken women running wild over the Greek mountains, spring-moon-mad in their ecstatic worship of Dionysus, futtering [?] the night away in unholy orgies of forbidden lust, catching a male “chase animal”, ripping his body apart, and devouring his oozing gobbets of flesh. …
The Greeks thought you could catch such sexual ardor from being bitten by a gadfly. Oistros meant “gadfly” too. More to the point, Herodotus (Histories ch.93.1) uses oistros to describe the desire of fish to spawn. So its root meaning is probably “rage” with a later semantic overlay of “raging, powerful sexual urge”.
That’s something pagan peoples celebrated every spring, the upsurge of sap in tree and plant and human. The Anglo-Saxons’ Eosturmonath was Sex Surge Month, not as dainty as April perhaps, but much more to the pagan point.
Here are two stories of asylum-seeking in Europe.
News story one:
Abu Qatada could be here for life: Judges admit he’s very dangerous but won’t kick him out… as HIS human rights come first
See our posts The tale of a Muslim terrorist parasite, January 18, 2012, and Human rights are wrongs in Europe, January 6, 2013, for the long drawn out and infuriating history of Abu Qatada in Britain.
The judges said that while Qatada’s deportation was “long overdue”, his risk to the public was not “a relevant consideration” under human rights laws.
Q: What about the “human rights” of his reluctant host population?
A: In Europe, Muslim rights always take precedence.
The verdict drew a furious response from the Tories and sparked new demands for the Government to ignore the courts and simply throw him out of the country.
The Appeal Court yesterday upheld an earlier verdict that sending the hate preacher to face a terror trial in Jordan would not be fair.
Being “fair” is a traditional British – and now apparently European – value. The idea of being “fair” to a terrorist is a lunacy – unless one understands it as first putting him or her in the hands of those inventive US soldiers at Abu Ghraib and then executing him.
Home Secretary Theresa May will now lodge a last-ditch appeal to the Supreme Court. If that fails, it would raise the prospect of Qatada … Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe – never being deported. He could apply to be freed within days.
He is in Belmarsh high-security jail for breaching his immigration bail conditions. He “has been linked to a long list of international terrorists [and] featured in hate sermons found on videos in the flat of one of the September 11 bombers.”
Qatada … has now defied the wishes of six Labour and Tory home secretaries over eight years.
Yesterday Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: “Labour and the Liberal Democrats’ refusal to contemplate big changes to human rights law is inexplicable given problems like this. I am bitterly unhappy that we have to wait until the next general election to sort this out.” …
Ministers have been trying for a decade to send Qatada to Jordan, where he is accused of plotting a terrorist atrocity …
His removal was originally approved by the British courts, only to be halted by the European Court of Human Rights last year. Judges in Strasbourg said he would not get a fair trial because some of the evidence used against him may have been obtained by torture. Controversially, Mrs May opted not to appeal against this verdict. …
Instead, she and her ministers secured personal promises from the Jordanian authorities there would be no use of torture evidence, and began the deportation process again in the UK legal system.
But last November, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission said it was not satisfied with the assurances, and halted Qatada’s removal. The court said it must reflect the Strasbourg ruling. …
Tory MPs have repeatedly urged Mrs May to ignore the courts and throw Qatada out.
But that would mean taking the unprecedented step of defying judges in both Europe and Britain.
Last night, there was growing unrest among Tories at the failure to get rid of the cleric.
Backbencher Dominic Raab said: “The Government made a strategic mistake in the way it argued this case. There is nothing in the European Convention or UK law that says we have to guarantee fair trials at the other end when we deport foreign criminals or terrorists. If we had made clear that we rejected Strasbourg’s ruling – and meddling – on principle at the outset, the UK Border Agency could have deported Qatada without the UK courts stopping them.”
He will probably be freed, and if he is -
Qatada would go back under round-the-clock surveillance estimated to cost £100,000 a week, or £5million a year.
News Story Two:
Iranian Christians Denied Asylum Even Though Arrest, Torture and Death Await Back in Iran
Iranian Christian applying for asylum in Sweden have been denied their request for asylum even though authorities know these Christians face arrest, torture and death if they were to be forced to return. …
A number of Iranian Christians facing persecution for their faith back home have reportedly been denied asylum in Sweden, despite authorities being aware of the hardships awaiting them if they are returned to their homeland. …
Sweden … has been described as one of the most progressive countries in the world. However [or should that be "Therefore", since Progressives are on the side of Islam? - ed], the Swedish Immigration Board is rejecting their request despite knowing that the converts face arrest, torture and even death back home. …
The Immigration Board has apparently questioned the validity of the converts’ Christian faith, accusing them of trying to scheme their way to asylum. But the senior pastor of the Iranian church in Stockholm has testified that the believers have served on the worship team at the church and contributed to Iranian Christian TV networks and websites. …
“We have told our families in Iran that we are Christian now, and they have disowned us. So we don’t have a family to return to. Our blood is now halal – it is holy for Muslims to kill us,” said Ali Roshan and Mahtab Shafadi, who were denied asylum to Sweden with their young daughter.
So back they must go. Unless … we wonder …. what if they applied to Britain for asylum?
Naa! Obviously, Europe prefers Muslims.
Note well: All this grief comes from religion.
Sunday being the Christian sabbath, still a “holy” or at least non-working day in some countries where the Christian – mostly Protestant – tradition still weighs heavily with the people (even where most of them are no longer religious), it’s a day on which we are tempted to talk about religion.
Most of the obscure or extinct religions we have discussed are either Gnostic or relevant to the emergence of the Gnostic cults in the Christian era. Put these titles into our search slot to see the posts: Thus, more or less, spake Zarathustra, May 26, 2009 (on Zoroastrianism); How a rich shipowner affected Christianity, January 2, 2010 (on Marcion); Erotic religion, January 24, 2010 (on Carpocrates and Epiphanes); The father of all heresy, February 23, 2010 (on Simon Magus); Yezidis and Mandeans, April 4, 2010; Mani and Manicheism, May 9, 2010; Hot in the land of Hum, October 14, 2010 (on the Bugomils);Valentinus, February 14, 2011; The heretics of Languedoc, May 1, 2011 (on the Cathars); Gnosticism: what is it?, March 3, 2013. We will have more to say about Gnosticism in general when the set of essays on a selection of individual sects is complete.
Today the topic is the Ophites, snake-worshippers of the second century CE . (Some sources maintain that Ophitic cults existed before the Christian era, but it is the snake-cults that include “Christ” that are of interest to us.)
What must it have been like for a child forced to take part in Gnostic worship? Pretty horrible, I should think. I can imagine small people screaming with terror when told that it was time for church, so to speak. It’s a consolation to remember that there weren’t many children in the early Gnostic communities. Almost all the sects were doctrinally against having children, though there were obviously some who slipped – we know of Gnostic sons following in their fathers’ footsteps.
A group of sects that practiced one of the most chilling rites were the Ophites. Ophis is the Greek for snake. A similar (or the same?) group of sects were the Naassenes, from the Greek naas, derived from the Hebrew nahash, serpent. To see why they held the snake holy we must look at their mythology of creation. From various scholarly accounts (colourful and dramatic, but not necessarily accurate), I’ve pieced together a fairly coherent picture.
This is the Ophite cosmogony (or an Ophite cosmogony):
The First Source, the Pro-Father, or the Abyss, or the Lowest Depth (in Greek, Bythos), emanated his First Idea, and as consort to the First Idea, Thought (Ennoia). From this first pair descended another pair, Truth and the Word (Logos), and from them another pair, and so on in a long series, the whole of which was called the Pleroma, or Fullness, the region of light.
The last pair were Spirit (Pneuma) and Wisdom (Sophia), and they dwelt immediately above Chaos. Now the elements of Chaos were Matter, Water, Darkness; and Sophia desired to create order out of them, but as she was purely spiritual and entirely of the light, she could not handle them. So she and her consort, Spirit, emanated another pair or szyzygy: one perfect, the Christ (Christos), and one imperfect, Wisdom Unformed (Sophia-Achamoth).
With the help of Sophia, Christos created the Idea of the Church (Ecclesia). Sophia-Achamoth wanted to create Man, and conceived a heavenly model for him called Adam-Kadmon, but she had first to have the world shaped out of Chaos, and for this task she needed to produce a Demiurge (Demiurgos, the Greek for a craftsman). In her efforts to realise her desires, she became entangled with Matter, and all that she could manage to bring forth in that predicament was a Being baser than she had intended, a power polluted by the material, a Demiurge certainly, but a wrong one. His name was Ialdabaoth, also called ‘The Son of Darkness’. When she saw that Ialdabaoth was proud and ambitious, she dreaded the outcome of what she had begun. She managed to free herself from Matter and rose again to the sphere between the spiritual and material worlds whence she had come. She could rise no higher, never having belonged to the spiritual world, but tried to build a barrier to keep the material world in its place.
Meanwhile, Ialdabaoth, knowing nothing of worlds above him or the First Source, produced his own subordinate emanations. Among the first six pairs were Iao and Sabaoth, Adonai and Eloi, Ouraios and Astaphaios – the first four being mystic names of the God of the Jews, the last two Fire and Water. He and the six pairs were the Archons of the Seven Worlds (including Sun and Moon), each inhabiting his own region. Next he created numerous other Archangels, Angels, and Powers, and after that, with the aid of his first six emanations, he took matter and fashioned the earth and Man.
But this was not Man as we know him. It was a thing; a huge, soulless monstrosity, formed in the hideous image of Ialdabaoth, lying helpless in the mud. The six Archons lifted it and carried it to Ialdabaoth to be animated with a spark of spirit. Ialdabaoth could do this because he himself had a spark of the divine light, handed down from his mother Sophia-Achamoth, as she had it from her own begetters. But Sophia-Achamoth, hating what she perceived Ialdabaoth’s nature to be, grudged him this power, and determined to punish him for his arrogant enterprise. However, she took pity on Man, and augmented the spark of divine spirit in him, until he resembled Adam-Kadmon rather than Ialdabaoth. And thus Adam came to be.
When Ialdabaoth saw that Man looked better than he did himself, he was filled with envy and rage. His face, made uglier yet by these evil passions, were reflected in the waters of the lower world, and the image took on a life of its own and crawled on to the land as Ophiomorphos, the Serpent-Form, a creature made of base matter plus hate, envy, and cunning.
Then Ialdabaoth made the Three Kingdoms of nature, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, with all the defects that we know them to possess. He set Adam and the female consort made from one of his ribs, in the Garden of Eden, and to keep them from knowing more than he would have them know, forbade them to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge – the Gnosis of Good and Evil.
But the Gnosis was already in Adam and his wife Eve, for it had come to them with the spirit, derived and descended from the unknown Pro-Father, through Sophia-Achamoth. And to strengthen their Gnostic instincts, Sophia-Achamoth (or, by some accounts, Sophia herself) sent Ophis, a serpent opposed to Ophiomorphos, to call them to the Tree and persuade them to eat the forbidden fruit. They did, and the fruit awoke in them an awareness of their corporeal condition with all its defects, and of their divine spirit imprisoned in their bodies. And though their disobedience doomed them to death, they were consoled by the knowledge that, as the body was mortal, the spirit would eventually be set free to return to its heavenly source. So to the Ophites the Fall of Man was not a loss but a gain; not a doom but a liberation.
Ialdabaoth did all he could to make the sons of Adam forget what the spirit told them. He sent Ophiomorphos to corrupt Cain, and Cain killed Abel. But then Adam and Eve begat Seth, who did not forget and was not corrupted. Seth’s descendants are the Gnostics, scattered among men, each bearing within him his spark of divine light. They bless the counsel given to their first forebears by Ophis, the Serpent in the Tree, the form on earth of heavenly Wisdom.
As only the children of Seth remembered what the spirit told them, for them alone, after long ages, Christos descended through the Seven Spheres of the Seven Planets into the world, sent by Bythos at the behest of Sophia, yielding in her turn to the prayers of Sophia-Achamoth. And Jesus, the son of Mary, received Christos into himself when he was baptized.
Christos, for as long as he was on earth, was filled by Sophia with perfect knowledge, the true Gnosis, and he taught it to those of his apostles who were fit to receive it. When Jesus was about to be crucified, Christos left him and rose to the lower heaven and sat at the right hand of Ialdabaoth, unperceived by the Demiurge, there to catch and save every soul – or “spark” – purified in its lifetime.
When all the scattered sparks of divine light have been gathered up by Christ from Ialdabaoth’s creation, the work of redemption will be accomplished, and the world will come to an end. All will then be reabsorbed into the Pleroma.
While condemned to live this life, the Ophites worshipped Sophia, Sophia-Achamoth, Ophis, and Christ.
A congregation paid its gratitude ritually to the Snake of Eden whenever the Eucharist – Holy Thanksgiving – was celebrated. A snake was released to crawl over loaves of bread spread on the altar before the celebrants devoured them, drank wine and menstrual blood, and in defiance of laws imposed on mankind by Ialdabaoth, stripped themselves naked to perform systematically every forbidden act of sexual copulation and self-gratification. Nobody knows whether the snake had a further part to play in the love-feast, but every imagination is free to surmise its worst.
Jillian Becker March 24, 2013