Thirst: a story of religious injustice 4

A poor, illiterate woman named Aasiya Noreen* worked in the fields to help support her family of five children, two of them her own and three of them her husband’s from a former marriage.

Aasiya was a Christian. A Catholic. Her  family were the only Christians in the small village where she lived some thirty miles outside Lahore, the capital of the Punjab in the Islamic state of Pakistan. The Christians of the region were an underclass, traditionally assigned to menial jobs.

One hot summer’s day in June, 2009, Aasiya was harvesting berries along with some Muslim women. They all became thirsty. The Muslim women sent Aasiya to fetch water from a well. Aasiya found a battered tin cup abandoned near the well, and had a drink from it  before refilling it and carrying it to her fellow workers. One of them accused her of drinking from the cup and so making it unclean. Christian lips should not contaminate a cup that Muslims drink from. All the Muslim women agreed on that.  

A dispute arose. Which was the one true religion? The Muslim women knew that Islam was the truth. Aasiya knew that Christianity was the truth. She dared to say (according to her own account), “Jesus Christ died on the cross for the sins of mankind. What did your Prophet Muhammed ever do to save mankind?”

The Muslim women were deeply offended. They went to their imam and told him that the Christian woman Aasiya Noreen had insulted the Prophet Muhammad.

The imam took action. He gathered together a number of good Muslims willing to defend the Prophet and the true faith of Islam, and led them to the house where Aasiya and her family lived. They set upon her and her husband and her children with righteous blows. The police arrived in time to save the Christian family from being beaten to death. The avenging mob agreed to spare them on condition that the police laid a charge of blasphemy against the woman. The police duly arrested her and put her in jail, where she languished for more than a year before she was brought to trial in November, 2012.

Aasiya told the court that the woman who accused her of blasphemy had a grudge against her, resulting from an old quarrel, and the accusation was made out of a desire for revenge. The judge did not accept her story as a defense. He also chose to overlook inconsistencies in the testimony of the witnesses against her. He decided that she was guilty of blasphemy and sentenced her to death. She was to be hanged for blaspheming against the Prophet Muhammad whose name is never mentioned by a Muslim without having peace wished upon him.

She was the first woman ever to be condemned to death in Pakistan for blasphemy – her crime being considered so heinous that even death was not sufficient punishment. She was also to pay a fine equivalent to $1,100. She and her family had never in all their lives possessed a sum approaching $1,100. Nor did they know of any way they could raise it.

When the verdict was pronounced, the crowd in the court rose to its feet, applauding and shouting “Yes, kill her! Kill her! Allahu Akbar!”. And yet more enthusiasts for justice, more celebrants of the glory of God, broke down the doors to swarm into the court, their furious, triumphant shouts swelling the chorus of “Allahu Akbar!”  The greatness of their merciful God could hardly have been more passionately attested.

Assiya’s husband, Ashiq Masih, appealed the verdict. He and Aasiya hoped that the High Court would at least suspend the sentence.

There was a man in a high position who was deeply moved by the fate of Aasiya and determined to do all he could for her. He was Salmaan Taseer, the governor of the Punjab. He persuaded the president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, to come to her rescue. In December 2012, Taseer publicly announced that if the High Court did not suspend her sentence, the president would pardon her. And Zardari would have done so, but the Lahore High Court hastened to issue a stay order against a presidential pardon.

So Aasiya remained in prison in Lahore, in solitary confinement in an 8 by 10 foot windowless cell.

At first the governor would visit her, with his wife and daughter. But then the court ruled that only her husband and lawyer could see her.

On January 4, 2011, Salmaan Taseer was assassinated by one Mumtaz Qadri who resented the governor’s concern for the blasphemer. (He was hanged for the crime in February 2016.) 

The Minister of Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti – himself a Christian, and the only Christian member of the cabinet – was so disturbed by the case that he set about doing all he could to get the laws of blasphemy changed. He announced that he was prepared to die fighting for Aasiya Noreen’s release. He received many death threats, and on March 2,  2011, he was shot dead in his car near his home.

Many times Aasiya’s appeal was postponed. In October 2014, the High Court finally heard her case – and upheld her death sentence. Her husband then appealed to the President. But he was restrained from issuing a pardon, so her lawyers appealed to Pakistan’s Supreme Court. In July, 2015, the Supreme Court suspended her  death sentence “for the duration of the appeals process”.

Hundreds of Pakistanis have publicly protested against her being still alive. An imam offered $10,000 reward to anyone who would kill her, and apparently some 10 million citizens declared themselves ready and willing to do the noble deed. Assiya’s family have gone into hiding, and they fear for her safety and survival if she were to be released.

That is how the matter stands at present.

Aasiya Noreen is under sentence of death for taking a drink of water from an old cup on a hot day, and saying something she had been taught to believe, to some other women who had been taught that it was something that should not be believed and should not be said.

For a drink of water, for fantastic rumors about “Jesus” and “Muhammad”, lives ruined and lost.   

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Assiya Noreen

*Aasiya Noreen is usually called “Asia Bibi” in press reports. “Bibi” simply means “woman”.

St. Paul and Muhammad 1

Sunday being their day of rest, it is probably the best day of the week to talk to our numerous Christian readers about their religion.

Today we talk about the man who named himself (quite late in his life) Paul, and is known to history as Saint Paul.

We compare St. Paul, whose followers are now estimated at 2.2 billion – making his invention, Christianity, the biggest religion in the world – with Muhammad, whose followers are now estimated at 1.6 billion – making his invention, Islam, the second biggest religion in the world.

There are close similarities between St. Paul and Muhammad:

Both invented a god and claimed a unique relationship with him.

To each of them this god expounded exclusive information; in St. Paul’s case directly, in Muhammad’s through an intermediary.

Both claimed that his god gave him unique authority to expound his truth to the world.

Both declared that his god demanded mankind’s submission to the divine will.

Both desired his faith to become the single religion of the entire world. Though this dream has not been realized in either case, each launched an ideological movement that became enormously successful. In this they are peers, and no other individual comes near to matching their achievement in terms not only of numbers of followers but of endurance through time. (Christianity has lasted some 2,000 years, Islam about 1,500.)

Both preached the subjugation of women.

Both preached the obedience of slaves.

Both anathematized homosexuality.

Both preached predestination.

Both taught martyrdom as a model way to die.

Each held himself up as a model of the perfect man.

Each took the idea of monotheism from the Jews; laid claim to their mythology and historical legends; picked some of their commandments and rules, and adapted all of it to his special needs.

Each hoped to convert the Jews and when he failed, stuck it to them.

Differences between the two persons and their respective ministries:

Muhammad was illiterate, St. Paul was literate.

Muhammad spread his religion by the sword, St. Paul by the word. (Later Christians and Muslims used both.)

Allah and Christ – the tethered and the free-range gods:

Muhammad attached his god to himself so tightly that there could be no Allah without Muhammad. It cannot be said that St. Paul cut Christ loose, but he did give him quite a lot of slack.

A theocracy versus separation of powers:  

No secular authority can share power with Islam. There’s no part or detail of life, no action, no speech, no custom, no thought that is not regulated by Sharia, the law of Islam. The Christian churches share authority with secular powers, though there is almost always a line drawn between their respective provinces.

The main difference between the moral teachings of the two religions:

St. Paul’s Christianity teaches its adherents to be pacific, altruistic, forgiving and self-sacrificing. Muhammad’s Islam teaches its adherents to be bellicose, acquisitive, unforgiving and merciless.

To what extent are these contrasting doctrines obeyed by Christians on the one side and Muslims on the other? The Muhammad doctrine has been more faithfully followed through the history of Islam than the St. Paul doctrine through the history of Christianity. Europe, the first Christian continent, is more secular than religious now, but Christian doctrine has so soaked the culture that pacifism, altruism, and self-sacrifice is moving the Europeans to submit to the hordes of Muslims pouring onto their continent, carrying out rapine and slaughter, and demanding dominion. Islam – whose very name means “submission” – submits only to Allah.

So which side will win and which side lose looks like a foregone conclusion.

Posted under Christianity, Islam by Jillian Becker on Sunday, May 8, 2016

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Turkey’s massacre of the Armenians 1

Yesterday, April 24, 2015 was the 100th anniversary of the day the (Muslim) Turks started to massacre the (Christian) Armenians.

This is from History.com:

Most sources agree that there were about 2 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire at the time of the [start of the] massacre. …

On April 24, 1915, the Armenian genocide began. That day, the Turkish government arrested and executed several hundred Armenian intellectuals. After that, ordinary Armenians were turned out of their homes and sent on death marches through the Mesopotamian desert without food or water. Frequently, the marchers were stripped naked and forced to walk under the scorching sun until they dropped dead. People who stopped to rest were shot.

At the same time, the Young Turks created a “Special Organization”, which in turn organized “killing squads” or “butcher battalions” to carry out, as one officer put it, “the liquidation of the Christian elements”. These killing squads were often made up of murderers and other ex-convicts. They drowned people in rivers, threw them off cliffs, crucified them and burned them alive. In short order, the Turkish countryside was littered with Armenian corpses.

Records show that during this “Turkification” campaign government squads also kidnapped children, converted them to Islam and gave them to Turkish families. In some places, they raped women and forced them to join Turkish “harems” or serve as slaves. Muslim families moved into the homes of deported Armenians and seized their property.

In 1922, when the genocide was over, there were just 388,000 Armenians remaining in the Ottoman Empire.

That is to say the territory that had been the Ottoman Empire – defeated by the allies in the FirstWorld War, and subsequently broken up and terminated. 106

 

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.”

We quote the words  of Aurora Mardiganian.  The documentary film Auction of Souls (1919), from which this still is taken, was partly based on her memoir, Ravished Armenia. She described being raped and thrown into a harem (which agrees with Islam’s rules of war). She managed to escape. In the city of Malatia, she saw 16 Christian girls crucified. 

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Starving Armenian children being teased with a piece of bread by a Turkish official during the Armenian genocide, 1915

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circa 1915: The bodies of Armenian children who were massacred in Turkey during the First World War. (Photo by Armin T. Wegner/Getty Images)

circa 1915: The bodies of Armenian children who were massacred in Turkey during the First World War. (Photo by Armin T. Wegner/Getty Images)

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Posted under Armenians, Christianity, genocide, Islam, Muslims, Turkey by Jillian Becker on Monday, April 25, 2016

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Atheism for brunch 4

The much respected magazine, National Geographic, carries in its latest issue an article on atheism. It is titled: The World’s Newest Major Religion: No Religion.

The author is Gabe Bullard. He writes:

There have long been predictions that religion would fade from relevancy as the world modernizes, but all the recent surveys are finding that it’s happening startlingly fast. France will have a majority secular population soon. So will the Netherlands and New Zealand. The United Kingdom and Australia will soon lose Christian majorities. Religion is rapidly becoming less important than it’s ever been, even to people who live in countries where faith has affected everything from rulers to borders to architecture.

But nones [those who are affiliated with none of the religions] aren’t inheriting the Earth just yet. In many parts of the world — sub-Saharan Africa in particular — religion is growing so fast that nones’ share of the global population will actually shrink in 25 years as the world turns into what one researcher has described as “the secularizing West and the rapidly growing rest.” (The other highly secular part of the world is China, where the Cultural Revolution tamped down religion for decades, while in some former Communist countries, religion is on the increase.)

Yes. And devout Muslims are pouring into Europe by the million: an extraordinary event that will entirely change the character of Europe, but which Gabe Bullard does not seem to have noticed.

And even in the secularizing West, the rash of “religious freedom bills” — which essentially decriminalize discrimination — are the latest front in a faith-tinged culture war in the United States that shows no signs of abetting anytime soon.

Within the ranks of the unaffiliated, divisions run deep. Some are avowed atheists. Others are agnostic. And many more simply don’t care to state a preference. Organized around skepticism toward organizations and united by a common belief that they do not believe, nones as a group are just as internally complex as many religions. And as with religions, these internal contradictions could keep new followers away.

These are not “divisions”. There never was a solid phalanx of non-believers that could split apart. These are different opinions. That is all.

“Keep followers away”? “Followers” who want a cut-and-dried non-believing ideology that they can accept holus-bolus as the religious accept the doctrines of their faiths? Absurd!

If the world is at a religious precipice, then we’ve been moving slowly toward it for decades. Fifty years ago, Time [magazine] asked in a famous headline, “Is God Dead?” The magazine wondered whether religion was relevant to modern life in the post-atomic age when communism was spreading and science was explaining more about our natural world than ever before.

We’re still asking the same question. But the response isn’t limited to yes or no. A chunk of the population born after the article was printed may respond to the provocative question with, “God who?” In Europe and North America, the unaffiliated tend to be several years younger than the population average. And 11 percent of Americans born after 1970 were raised in secular homes.

Scientific advancement isn’t just making people question God, it’s also connecting those who question. It’s easy to find atheist and agnostic discussion groups online, even if you come from a religious family or community. And anyone who wants the companionship that might otherwise come from church can attend a secular Sunday Assembly or one of a plethora of Meetups for humanists, atheists, agnostics, or skeptics.

The groups behind the web forums and meetings do more than give skeptics witty rejoinders for religious relatives who pressure them to go to church — they let budding agnostics know they aren’t alone.

But it’s not easy to unite people around not believing in something.

It’s also totally unnecessary.

“Organizing atheists is like herding cats,” says Stephanie Guttormson, the operations director of the Richard Dawkins Foundation, which is merging with the Center for Inquiry. “But lots of cats have found their way into the ‘meowry’.”

Guttormson says the goal of her group is to organize itself out of existence. They want to normalize atheism to a point where it’s so common that atheists no longer need a group to tell them it’s okay not to believe, or to defend their morals in the face of religious lawmakers.

But it’s not there yet.

Why does anyone need a group to tell them that it’s okay not to believe in something they don’t believe in? But we accept that there are such people, and so agree that the group should “organize itself out of existence”.

The article then goes on to discuss who the atheists are in terms of race (fewer blacks than whites, it says), the sexes (fewer women than men, and the predominance of white men a manifestation of “privilege”).

Of course no one can possibly count the atheists of the world. We get Third World commenters on our Facebook page who tell us that they have to keep their atheism secret for fear of persecution and even death.

Gabe Bullard calls the distribution he alleges a “problem” of “diversity”.  His article is right up to date with its fashionable lingo.

To do him justice, he does quote one atheist – Mandisa Thomas, a black woman – saying that “the demographics of nones don’t accurately reflect the number and diversity of nonbelievers; it just shows who is comfortable enough to say they don’t believe out loud.” And:  “There are many more people of color, there are many more women who identify as atheist.” And: “There are many people who attend church who are still atheists.”

The cheeriest part of his article is this:

Compared to past campaign seasons, religion is taking a backseat in this year’s U.S. presidential election. Donald Trump is not outwardly religious (and his attraction of evangelical voters has raised questions about the longevity and the motives of the religious right).

But then he goes on:

Hillary Clinton has said “advertising about faith doesn’t come naturally to me”. And Bernie Sanders is “not actively involved” in a religion. … Aside from Ted Cruz, the leading candidates just aren’t up for talking about religion.

Apparently he does not recognize that Leftism is a religion. It is THE secular religion. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are both devotees of it. Bernie Sanders could be fairly called a high priest of it. They are as piously Leftist as Ted Cruz is Dominionist.

Bullard ends on a jocular note:

For all the work secular groups do to promote acceptance of nonbelievers, perhaps nothing will be as effective as apathy plus time. As the secular millennials grow up and have children of their own, the only Sunday morning tradition they may pass down is one everyone in the world can agree on: brunch.

We hope so.

What have atheists said about the article?

Atheist Jerry Coyne writes at his website:

National Geographic publishes article on atheism and secularism, but descends into Authoritarian Leftism and slanders against Harris and Dawkins

Well, it’s time to cancel your subscription to National Geographic — if you still have one. For a while it’s been turning into a religiously-infused tabloid rather than the educational nature/anthropology magazine that I loved of yore. In several posts I’ve documented its increasing tendency to coddle religion … and it’s only going to get worse since the magazine was taken over by Rupert Murdoch.

Now the magazine has hit its lowest point yet, polevaulting the shark in a new piece by journalist Gabe Bullard, The World’s Newest Religion: No Religion. While starting off as a decent bit of reportage about the rise of nonbelief and secularism, it suddenly descends into slander and clickbait, highlighting the “privilege” of nonbelief, the dominance of atheism by white males, and accusations that the “leaders” of atheism (whom they name) are misogynists.

And there is a comment made at Patheos which we like, although we very seldom agree with its Leftist atheists on anything except atheism itself.

The comment is made by Terry Firma. (He goes on, however, to say what he likes about the National Geographic article.)

He writes:

I wonder if any serious major publication would refer to people who don’t play sports as athletes, but that is essentially what NatGeo is doing here. Atheism is no more a religion than off is a TV channel, than being bald is a hairstyle, and than not-collecting-stamps is a hobby. People who assert that atheism is a religion either haven’t given it much thought or are trying to get a rise out of atheists.

Nicely said.

Bernie and Francis, co-religionists 1

Bernie Sanders, whether he likes it or not, is a Jew. And as he is a man of the Left, he doesn’t like it.

The Jews – UNIQUELY – are both a nation and a religion. Yet it is not only possible but common for Jews to be one OR the other. Converts to Judaism are obviously of the religion but not of the nation. Many Jews – probably a majority of Western Jews – who are of the nation by birth, are not religious.

Perhaps it would be better to speak of the Jews being “a people” rather than a nation, as a Jew’s legal nationality might be American, or British, or French etcetera.

Bernie Sanders is of the Jewish people. And for two millennia his people were despised, humiliated, robbed, tortured, murdered individually and en masse by the Christian powers – longest and most atrociously by the Catholic Church. (Except in America.)

For a while, between the early 19th century and the mid-to-late twentieth century, many of the educated Jews of Europe and Russia put their hopes for relief from persecution in the new religion of Communism, in which (its theorists claimed) there would be neither Jew nor Gentile, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female, neither rich nor poor: for all would be one in the utopia of the Communist state.

But where Communist utopias were established in the twentieth century, Jews found they were not welcome. That should have told them that Communism would not save them. But many Jews who realized that the Lenins and Stalins of the Communist faith could not be relied on to treat them much better than had the Christians, were yet unwilling to give up the utopian Communist dream. Some Jews had realized this early on, so tried forming their own Communist party – the Bund. But as a separate group what could it achieve? A society in which there would be neither regrettably-still-sort-of -Jewish Jew nor absolutely-no-longer-Jewish Jew, neither bond Jew nor free Jew, neither male Jew nor female Jew, neither rich Jew nor poor Jew: for all would be one in the utopia of a Jewish Communist … What? Where?

Other Jews,  who could think better, decided to work to regain the ancient Jewish homeland in the Eastern Mediterranean region of the Ottoman Empire, and establish an actual state on real territory. They were the Zionists. In 1948 they achieved their state, their safe haven at last, on real territory that had been part of their ancient homeland.

Those Jews who, despite being unwanted, remained faithful to the Communism imposed on Russia and Eastern Europe, stuck to their abjuration of their Jewishness, the peoplehood as well as the religion. So did – and do – most of the Communists of Jewish descent everywhere in the free world.

As Communists often object to being called Communists since the Leninist-Stalinist utopias of Russia and Eastern Europe collapsed in poverty and criminality, we will call them Leftists for the rest of this article. Bernie Sanders is a Leftist.

Meanwhile, the Jews’ ancient persecutor, the Catholic Church, has selected a leader, Pope Francis, who is also a Leftist. He has found it possible to join the new religion without leaving his old one. He owes this achievement to his fellow Latin American priests, who spun the antithetical dogmas of secular Communism and Triune-God-worshiping Catholicism together in such a whirl of words that they came out of the Synthesizer as one substance, inseparable. And the stuff, the thing, was named “Liberation Theology”.

It is Leftism. The Pope is a Leftist, like Bernie Sanders.

For Leftists, their Leftism trumps all. No appeal to loyalty, history, precedent, reason, logic, decency, or common sense can move them. They want there to be neither black man nor white man, neither civilized nor savage, neither citizen nor illegal alien, neither CEO nor minimum-wage-earner, neither one sex nor any of the others, but all to be one in the global Communist mystic egalitarian low-carbon-emission utopia ruled by themselves.

To acknowledge and strengthen their brotherhood in the Kingdom of Means-Justifying-Ends, Bernie Sanders and Pope Francis shook hands on April 16, 2016.

Dirty laughter 4

Another Sunday, another cheerful laugh at religion.

From Evil Bible:

Top Ten Signs You’re a Fundamentalist Christian

10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.

9 – You feel insulted and “dehumanized” when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

– You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.

7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the “atrocities” attributed to Allah, but you don’t even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in “Exodus” and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in “Joshua” including women and children, and trees!

6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.

4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs — though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering.  And yet consider your religion the most “tolerant” and “loving”.

3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in “tongues” may be all the evidence you need to “prove” Christianity.

2 – You define 0.01% as a “high success rate” when it comes to answered prayers.  You consider that to be evidence that prayer works.  And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.

1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history – but still call yourself a Christian.

Speaking of heaven and hell, how do Christians explain that souls in heaven are blissfully happy while other souls are in endless unrelenting torment in hell?

If they claim that the Saved feel Christian pity and compassion for the Damned, that would qualify the bliss, surely – bringing it well short of perfection.

So are the Saved Souls in an eternal state of Schadenfreude as they watch or imagine the Damned writhing in perpetual agony?

 

(Hat-tip for the link to Stephen Sterne)

Posted under Atheism, Christianity, Commentary, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Sunday, April 10, 2016

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Atheism: a private conclusion 1

Here is a Christian conservative‘s statement about atheists:

It’s often remarked that atheism is simply religion by another name (as the officially atheist, now deceased Soviet Union demonstrated). Else why would atheists be so adamant and aggressive about their beliefs? Not only do they choose not to believe in God, or even a god, but they demand that their fellow citizens submit to their ideology and purge all evidence of the (Christian) religion from the public square.

The passage comes from The Devil’s Pleasure Palace by Michael Walsh.*

Commentary:

It may be “often remarked that atheism is simply religion by another name”, but the frequency with which the remark is passed doesn’t make it either true or intelligent. NOT believing is not believing-in-another-way, any more than NOT smoking is smoking-in-another-way.

We would agree that Communism is a kind of religion. We would also agree that the dogma of Communism often excludes belief in a divine being.(Not always.”Liberation theology” is Communism taught by Christian priests who have married St. Paul to Karl Marx.) But it does NOT follow that the non-belief is identical with the Communist faith, or is the essence of it, the vital active ingredient that generated all that was wrong with the Soviet Union.

Though all atheists might be “adamant” about their non-belief  (just as all believers are adamant about their belief), very few are aggressive about it. Of the millions of non-believers in the free world, how many “demand that their fellow citizens submit to their ideology”? I’ve never met or heard of one who does. And “submit” to what “ideology”? There are some in America who demand that public displays of Christianity be removed from the public square. And a very silly demand it is too. A small number of silly atheists in America insist that if crosses or Christmas “nativity” scenes are placed on public sites, they should have the right to put some atheist symbol or tableau beside them. A symbol or tableau is then hastily invented, having meaning only for the inventors, none whatever to other atheists.

Because: Atheism is NOT a religion, or an ideology, or a system, or a tradition. It has no symbols or rituals. It has no orthodoxy or heterodoxy.

Atheism is a decision, made by individuals. A private conclusion they draw from thought. It’s a denial of dogmatic claims that they find have never been proved, seem to them unprovable, absurd on their face, and ever more absurd the more they test them against observation, experience, learning, coherence, intuition, taste, and common sense.

 

*Encounter Books, New York, 2015. Our quotation comes from page 136.

Religion is the problem 5

… not the solution.

As if the world were not being rocked by a war of religion, Dennis Prager writes at Townhall that there is not enough religion in America:

The most profound thinkers in America are conservative. There are, of course, bright liberal and leftist thinkers, but I can’t think of one who approaches the depth and wisdom of the best conservative writers and thinkers. What liberal historian, for example, approaches the understanding of life and history that author Paul Johnson has exhibited in his many works of history? Who on the left matches psychiatrist/writer Theodore Dalrymple’s insight into the underclass? What left-wing columnists understand human nature, the state of mankind, or contemporary America as do George Will, Charles Krauthammer and Thomas Sowell, or many of the leading columnists at publications such as National Review, City Journal, Commentary Magazine or the Wall Street Journal?

I write this to make it clear that my admiration for the leading conservative writers, columnists and thinkers is deep and abiding.

Ours too. We have no quarrel with anything he has said so far (though we admire the Catholic writer, Paul Johnson, with a little less enthusiasm than he does).

There is, however, a “but.”

The vast majority of leading conservative writers, just like their liberal colleagues, have a secular outlook on life. With few exceptions, the conservative political and intellectual worlds are oblivious to the consequences of secularism. They are unaware of the disaster that godlessness in the West has led to.

Maybe because it is not “godlessness” that has led us to disaster, but godfulness – most obviously the godfulness of Islam.

Most leading Republicans and most of the wealthy donors to the Republican Party — in addition to virtually all libertarian politicians and think tank scholars — are either uninterested in the death of Judeo-Christian religions and values in America and the West, or they’re OK with it. They think that America can survive the death of God and religion, that fiscal and other forms of conservatism without social conservatism can preserve America.

First, to use the hyphenated term “Judeo-Christian” is to link two things together that are opposed to each other; an ideology of justice and an ideology of anti-justice.

Judaism’s highest value is justice, usually called “righteousness” in its bible. Unfortunately, many an instance of what the pious men of old considered to be “righteous” or “just”, is not easy to reconcile with the idea of justice that we, the heirs of the Enlightenment, understand it to be. But as an ideal it could not be bettered, or even matched – except by the ideal of freedom.

Christianity was a revolt against Judaism. It substituted love for justice as the highest ideal. It commanded “Resist not evil”. It preached forgiveness, self-sacrifice, self-abasement. It condemned “the sin” but “not the sinner” – absolving him of responsibility and rewarding him with love and forgiveness. Anti-justice. Anti-Judaism.

Our ideals – freedom, reason, justice – were bequeathed to us by the Enlightenment; that brilliant dawn that dispelled the terrifying intolerant rule of religion. Why do Christians pretend that Christianity does not have a cruel and bloody past?

Dennis Prager seems to think of those old religions as really nice, sensible, polite, well-dressed, well-spoken, well-washed, well-exercised, clean-cut, all-American, common-sensical codes of morals. They are not, and they never were.

It shows how effective the secular indoctrination in our schools and media has been, that even the majority of conservative thinkers are not only secular themselves, but seem to have no idea how much of the American civilization rests on religious foundations.

We wish we could believe him that “the majority of conservative thinkers are secular”. Maybe the majority of the best of them are, but there are dozens of opinion writers in the conservative ranks who write continually about God. This Christian Conservative website, Townhall, provides endless examples. (We read it every day and find sound conservative views in it too.)

They don’t seem to understand that the only solution to many – perhaps most – of the social problems ailing America and the West is some expression of Judeo-Christian faith.

Which expression would that be?

He finds one.

Do the inner-city kids who study the Bible and go to church each week lead wasted lives, join gangs, bear children out of wedlock or commit murder? …

Probably not most of them. Which is good, of course. But the implication that there is no way other than by religious instruction they they could be raised to live their lives well, is not defensible.

And why do secular conservatives think so many affluent and well-educated Americans have adopted left-wing dogmas, such as feminism, socialism, environmentalism and egalitarianism as their religions? Because people want to – have to – believe in something. And if it’s not God and Christianity or Judaism, it’s going to be some form of Leftism. Why are evangelical Protestants, theologically conservative Catholics, Orthodox Jews and practicing Mormons almost all conservative? Because they already have a religion and therefore don’t need the alternate gods of leftist faiths, and also because Judeo-Christian religions have different values than leftist religions.

We agree that “feminism, socialism, environmentalism and egalitarianism” are religions. But not that “if it’s not God and Christianity or Judaism, it’s going to be some form of Leftism”.

It doesn’t have to be. We are living proof that one can be an atheist and believe in all the values of conservatism: individual freedom, the rule of law, small government, a free market economy, strong defense, and the political wisdom of the Constitution. But freedom to us means freedom from the tyranny of any orthodoxy – which excludes every church. And we add reason to our high values – and that excludes every religion.   

When these conservatives – people who revere the Founding Fathers and the Declaration of Independence – read the founders’ assertion that all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights”, do they believe what the founders wrote? Or were they just echoing the irrational religious beliefs of their time, as people on the left believe?

Although on this point we might be in agreement with something the left believes, yes, we do think they were “just echoing the irrational religious beliefs of their time”. Well, not exactly echoing them – more modifying them. They were (at least some of them) skeptical men, men of the Enlightenment, who thought that though a god must have created the universe, he thereafter declined to have anything more to do with it (which is what “deism” means – and they described themselves as “deists”).

When these conservatives see the components of what I call the American Trinity – the words “liberty,” “In God We Trust” and “e pluribus unum” inscribed on every American coin – do they regard “In God We Trust” as no longer necessary?

Yes.

President John Adams warned: “Because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion … our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Do secular conservatives think he was right or wrong?

Partly right, partly wrong. Moral, yes. Religious, not necessarily at all.

The problem is not that most leading conservative thinkers are secular; it is that they don’t seem to understand that a godless and Judeo-Christian-free America means the end of America, just as a godless and Judeo-Christian-free Europe has meant the end of Europe.

If Europe had not been marinaded in the self-destructive morality of Christianity for two millennia, would it now be letting in hordes of its worst enemies in the name of “compassion”? Would it be accepting the prospect of its subjugation by Islam without resistance? Would it let its young girls be turned into sex slaves by Muslim criminals without objecting for fear of hurting the Muslim criminals’ feelings? Would it be abandoning freedom of speech (an Enlightenment value) out of deference to a dogmatic, intolerant, savage religion?

No. Europe is dying of Religion, not of Reason.

And yes, America could too.

Posted under Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Religion general, United States by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, April 5, 2016

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Jesus just another sun god? 1

For a little Sunday fun, here’s a video demonstrating that Jesus Christ was one of the ancient sun-gods.

Though it was published in 2008, we found it only recently.

We cannot vouch for every “fact” asserted in it being true, but we enjoyed watching it.

(For our own view of “Jesus Christ” see the essay by Jillian Becker, The Birth and Early History of Christianity, listed under Pages in our margin.)

Posted under Christianity, Religion general, Theology, Videos by Jillian Becker on Sunday, April 3, 2016

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The Western tragedy 1

In an article on the suicide of Europe, containing much we agree with, the excellent and erudite Victor Davis Hanson writes at the National Review:

Like atheism, childlessness reflects the assumption that ego-driven rationalism and satisfaction of the appetites are all there is and all that there ever will be.

And it is that point in particular that we want to discuss.

But first – the important points he makes:

Because of what Europe has become, it now has few viable choices in dealing with radical Islamic terrorism. Its dilemma is a warning to Americans that we should turn away from a similar path of national suicide. 

After suffering serial terrorist attacks from foreign nationals and immigrants, a normal nation-state would be expected to make extraordinary efforts to close its borders and redefine its foreign policy in order to protect its national interests.

But a France or a Belgium is not quite a sovereign nation any more, and thus does not have complete control over its national destiny or foreign relations. As part of the European Union, France and Belgium have, for all practical purposes, placed their own security in the hands of an obdurate Angela Merkel’s Germany, which is hellbent on allowing without audit millions of disenchanted young Middle Eastern males into its territory, with subsequent rights of passage into any other member of the European Union that they wish. The 21st-century “German problem” is apparently not that of an economic powerhouse and military brute warring on its neighbors, but that of an economic powerhouse that uses its wealth and arrogant sense of social superiority to bully its neighbors into accepting its bankrupt immigration policies and green ideology.

The immigration policies of France and Belgium are unfortunately also de facto those of Greece. And a petulant and poor Greece, licking its wounds over its European Union brawl with northern-European banks, either cannot or will not control entrance into its territory — Europe’s window on the Middle East. No European country can take the security measures necessary for its own national needs, without either violating or ignoring EU mandates. That the latest terrorist murders struck near the very heart of the EU in Brussels is emblematic of the Union’s dilemma.

As far as America is concerned, a fossilized EU should remind us of our original and vanishing system of federalism, in which states were once given some constitutional room to craft laws and protocols to reflect regional needs — and to ensure regional and democratic input with checks and balances on statism through their representatives in Congress. Yet the ever-growing federal government — with its increasingly anti-democratic, politically correct, and mostly unaccountable bureaucracies — threatens to do to Americans exactly what the EU has done to Europeans. We already see how the capricious erosion of federal immigration law has brought chaos to the borderlands of the American Southwest. It is a scary thing for a federal power arbitrarily to render its own inviolable laws null and void — and then watch the concrete consequences of such lawlessness fall on others, who have been deprived of recourse to constitutional protections of their own existential interests.

Europe’s immigration policy is a disaster … Europeans — for a variety of 20th-century historical and cultural reasons — often are either ignorant of who they are or terrified about expressing their identities in any concrete and positive fashion. The result is that Europe cannot impose on a would-be newcomer any notion that consensual government is superior to the anarchy and theocracy of the Middle East, that having individual rights trumps being subjects of a dictator, that personal freedom is a better choice than statist tyranny, that protection of private property is a key to economic growth whereas law by fiat is not, and that independent judiciaries do not run like Sharia courts. It most certainly cannot ask of immigrants upon arrival that they either follow the laws of a society that originally made Europe attractive to them, or return home to live under a system that they apparently rejected.

All good so far. Then:

I omit for obvious reasons that few present-day Europeans believe that Christianity is much different from Islam, and apparently thus assume that terrorists might just as well be Christians.

But he hasn’t omitted it, has he? A bitter regret has stepped quietly into the article and lingers by the door – a regret that Europe has (broadly speaking) abandoned its religion.

He goes on, cogently again:

… In Europe, immigrants are political tools of the Left. The rapid influx of vast numbers of unassimilated, uneducated, poor, and often illegal newcomers may violate every rule of successful immigration policy. Yet the onrush does serve the purposes of the statist, who demagogues for an instantaneous equality of result. Bloc voters, constituents of bigger government, needy recipients of state largesse, and perennial whiners about inequality are all fodder for European multicultural leftists, who always seek arguments for more of themselves.

Which is the case in America too. As he says:

The same phenomenon is with us in the United States … [where] importing the poor and the uneducated expands the Democratic constituency. …

The Western therapeutic mindset, which maintains that impoverished immigrants should instantly have what their hosts have always had, trumps the tragic view: that it is risky, dangerous, and sometimes unwise to leave one’s home for a completely alien world, in which sacrifice and self-reliance alone can make the gamble worthwhile — usually for a second generation not yet born.

Demography is Europe’s bane. One engine of unchecked immigration has been the need for more bodies to do the sorts of tasks that Europeans feel are no longer becoming of Europeans. …

Again that is also true of America.

But more curious is the reason why Europe is shrinking — the classic and primary symptom of a civilization in rapid decline.

Europeans are not having children for lots of reasons. A static and fossilized economy without much growth gives little hope to a 20-something European that he or she can get a good job, buy a home, have three children, and provide for those offspring lives with unlimited choices. Instead, the young European bides his time, satisfying his appetites, as a perpetual adolescent who lives in his parents’ flat, seeks to milk the system, and waits for someone to die at the tribal government bureau. After a lost decade, one hopes to hook up with some like soul in her or his late thirties.

And –

The last eight years in the U.S. have seen an acceleration of the Europeanization of America’s youth.

Socialism … insidiously takes responsibility away from the individual and transfers it to the anonymous, but well-funded, state. … Why seek children and the honor of raising and protecting them when the state can provide all without the bother and direct expense? Why have a family or invest for the future, when the state promises a pleasant and politically correct old-age home?

Without a Second Amendment or much of a defense budget, Europeans not only divert capital to enervating social programs, but also have sacrificed any confidence in muscular self-protection, individual or collective.

Even postmodern nations remain collections of individuals. A state that will not or cannot protect its own interests is simply a reflection of millions of dead souls that do not believe in risking anything to ensure that they are safe — including their own persons and those of their family. Finally, Europe is Petronius’s Croton. It does not believe in any transcendence as reified by children or religion. If there is nothing but the here and now, then why invest one’s energy in children who live on after one dies? Like atheism, childlessness reflects the assumption that ego-driven rationalism and satisfaction of the appetites are all there is and all that there ever will be.

Europe’s perfect storm is upon us. A shrinking, statist, and agnostic society that does not believe in transcendence, either familial or religious, is now in a war with near neighbors of a very different sort. In the Middle East, the fundamentalists are growing in numbers, and they most certainly do believe that their own lives are nothing in comparison to the Phoenix-like resurrection of their Caliphate and the sensual pleasures in the hereafter that will reward their martial sacrifices in the here and now. Of all the many reasons why immigrants to Europe so often dislike their generous hosts, the simplest may be because they so easily can.

… It would take another St. Jerome (“All were born in captivity and siege, and do not desire the liberty they never knew. Who could believe this?”) to chronicle the Western tragedy.

As a general rule, whatever Europe is now doing, we should do the opposite — for our very survival in an increasingly scary world.

So, an article saying much that needs to be said.

But we come back to this: Europe “does not believe in any transcendence as reified by children or religion. If there is nothing but the here and now, then why invest one’s energy in children who live on after one dies? Like atheism, childlessness reflects the assumption that ego-driven rationalism and satisfaction of the appetites are all there is and all that there ever will be.” And: ” A shrinking, statist, and agnostic society that does not believe in transcendence, either familial or religious, is now in a war with near neighbors of a very different sort.”

His argument is that Europeans now do not think, or feel, or believe that there is any larger purpose to be served than the achievement of their own private personal ambitions and pleasures; no goals beyond their own individual lives worth putting their energies into. Previous generations believed they had a posterity in their children, the continuation of their families; and/or in the immortality of their nation; and/or in a spiritual afterlife.

And that is true. They did.

Then their nations were taken away from them, blended into a monstrous political entity called the European Union. What Frenchman, or Italian, or Englishman will ever say: “Breathes there a man with soul so dead/ Who never to himself has said/ This is mine own, my native … European Union”?

And what of their losing the desire for descendants? That’s harder to explain. In addition to the fading away of marriage, the dread of the expense of children, the shrinking from the emotional risk of entering into the responsibilities of relationships, there is a much larger source of discouragement; what one might call a cosmic despair: our knowledge of global doom. By “global doom” I don’t mean “global warming”, but the certainty that this world in which we exist and act, will one day itself cease to exist. It may be only in about 3 billion years that the final doom will come upon it, but go it will, for sure.

Whether or not those explanations are the right ones – perhaps among many others  – it is a fact that Europeans are not having enough children to ensure the survival of their nations, even if they were to take back national sovereignty from the bureaucratic dictatorship of the EU.

This means they are discarding the future, as individuals and as a bridging generation between their nation’s yesterday and tomorrow. And because they have no future to work or build for – what have they to defend? So when another culture, a savage culture that arose and remains in the ignorant Dark Ages and knows nothing of the physical destiny of this planet, invades their continent, and increases with many children, and believes that making war ensures their endless and dominant continuation on earth and immortal happiness after death, there is nothing effective standing in its way. No one to bar the gates. No one to fight back. The imaginary spokesman of the dying European culture with no stake in the future says, “Come in, if you want to. Take what you want. Do as you will. I won’t be around much longer to know or care what happens here.” (“A shrinking, statist, and agnostic society that does not believe in transcendence, either familial or religious, is now in a war with near neighbors of a very different sort.”)

Hanson suggests that the Europeans’ discarding of the future, and consequent abandonment of the greatest civilization the human race has ever attained, is not only tragic – which it is – but also immoral. He implies this by adding to the causes – familial, national – that kept European Man going for centuries, the cause of religion. He plainly considers it a highly desirable thing that human beings should believe that their time on earth is not the whole of their existence. He believes in an afterlife as formulated in Christian doctrine. The quality of that afterlife for each individual may depend on how the individual Christian behaves in his earthly life. Hoping for heaven, he will be good according to the precepts of his faith. (Now that is true of Catholics, whose church allows that good works as well as “the grace of God” can bring one to heaven. But many Protestant sects, most notably Calvinists and Lutherans, teach that only God decides your eternal destination, and he does that even before you are born, so what you do can make not a jot of difference to the iron ruling. The only encouragement such churches offer the faithful is that if you live dutifully, obedient to the commandments of your God, you will be perceived as a person destined for heaven, and thus perceived, you may live in hope.)

One way or another, Christianity – Hanson seems to assume – helped Europeans be strong in defense of their inheritance, prolific in procreation to ensure their posterity, and above all continent in their appetites for the hope of heaven.

And that may very well have been true. But we deny that lack of religious belief now is a cause of the self-inflicted doom of Europe. It seems plain to us that lack of interest in this life  – beyond personal attainment and pleasure – is at work.

Atheism does not assume that “ego-driven rationalism and satisfaction of the appetites are all there is and all that there ever will be”. Some atheists might assume it, but there is nothing about atheism that logically involves any such assumption.

Atheists are more likely to strive harder in this life to know, to achieve, to build, to love and hate, defend and attack, as well as to think and enjoy, than those who believe that their final, greater, and possibly happier destiny is in another world. Atheists who learn and build are very likely to want descendants to continue their discoveries, further their achievements, and add to their works, since only those they beget and what they bequeath will survive their death.

By that reasoning, atheism could have been the salvation of Europe. We might propose that far from the loss of Christianity dooming the European nations, it is the legacy of Christianity as self-abasement, non-resistance to evil, the choice of self-sacrifice, and the love of martyrdom that has primed Europeans through their inherited moral culture to let this death happen to them. And if that is so, what we are seeing is the logical end of Christian history in the age of science.

But as the Christian religion peters out in disbelief, its acolytes perish unresisting at the hands of other – passionate – believers. 

Now if only Muslims could be persuaded to abandon their faith, their belief that they must conquer and subdue all others and gain an afterlife in paradise …  what then? Europeans might still be dying out, but at least not in agony and  terror.

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