Against God and Socialism (repeat) 15

This article in praise of Capitalism was first posted in 2011. We reproduce it now because our recent post Communism is secular Christianity (January 14, 2015) reminded us of it

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It is human nature to be selfish. If we weren’t selfish we wouldn’t survive. If we didn’t eat when we were hungry, warm ourselves when we were cold, seek cures for our illnesses, defend ourselves (and our children and our life-sustaining property), we’d die out pretty damn quick. Or rather, we would never have come into existence as a species at all.

We are most of us capable of sympathy with others, and we often willingly give away a thing we own to another person. Some are altruistic. A few will even give up their lives to save the lives of others. Nevertheless, we are all naturally and necessarily selfish.

Christianity and Communism require human nature to change. As it can’t, Christianity’s commandments to love our enemies and forgive those who do us harm turn many a person of good will and high aspiration into a hypocrite if not a corpse. Communist theorists have never settled the question of whether human nature must change so that the Revolution can take place, or whether the Revolution must take place in order for human nature to change. Of course it will never change, but there’s no stopping the collectivist dolts arguing about it.

Capitalism works well because it is in tune with our nature. Adam Smith called it “the natural order of liberty”. Everyone selfishly desires to provide for his needs. To pay for what he wants from others – services and goods – he has to provide something that others will pay him for. Millions do it, and the result is prosperity. Capitalism is an abstract machine most beautiful to behold in the wonder of its workings. When individuals have the incentive to achieve, acquire, and enjoy something for themselves, they’ll go to great lengths to afford it. They’ll compete with each other to provide what others want, toil to make it the better product, and set the price of it lower. The best is made available at the least cost. Everyone is both a taker and a giver, and everyone benefits. True, not everyone’s effort always succeeds, but nothing stops anyone from trying again.

Of course capitalism isn’t a remedy for every ill and discontent. But a capitalist society offers the best chance to an individual to make the best of his condition – being alive – which presents him with a tough challenge – to stay alive for a few score years, and make those years as good as his energy, cunning, and adaptability to conditions outside of his control (plus his statistically likely share of luck), can help them to be.

In a capitalist society no one has a fixed place, whether below, in the middle, or on top. A person can rise, sink, or stay. A truly capitalist society is necessarily a free society in which no one is prevented, by some ruler or ruling clique, from bettering his lot, striving, succeeding, or failing.

Capitalism is the enemy of that God of whom all the children in the British Empire used to sing at morning prayers in school assemblies before the Second World War:

All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small;

All things wise and wonderful,

The Lord God made them all. …

The rich man in his castle,

The poor man at his gate,

He made them high and lowly,

He ordered their estate.

The children were being taught to be content with everything as it was, trusting that God the ruler up there, all wise, permanent and unchallengeable had ordained how everyone had his fixed place and should stay in it, and because He had ordained it, it must be perfect. The recognition that such a God was an indefensible authoritarian, a whim-driven cosmic dictator, an unjust and arrogant tyrant, came – perhaps unconsciously – to the choosers of Anglican hymns only after a few of the earth’s dictators had been trounced in a prolonged and terrible blood-letting.

But then Socialists took over from God. They decided what was best for humanity. They established the Welfare State. No rich men in castles, no poor men at gates. The State would provide every citizen with depressing accommodation, dull food, health care if he were judged worthy of being kept alive, indoctrination in schools. Though the Socialist State is a slave society, the citizens are not called slaves but Social Security Recipients, National Health Patients, Students, Workers. The belief of their rulers is that they’ll be content because the State provides them with “everything”; they’ll be grateful for the food however poor, the unit in the tower block however depressing, the bed in the hospital however filthy, the indoctrination however boring. The great thing about it, to the collectivist mind, is they won’t have to strive to keep alive. And no one will have cause to pity or envy anyone else, since no one will have less or worse, or more or better – except of course the rulers up there, all wise, permanent and unchallengeable who ordain that everyone else has his fixed place. They reserve plenty, choice, comfort, luxury, information, and power to themselves.

The recognition that such a State is counter to the human instinct for freedom – call it “selfishness “ if you will – should have come to every sane adult the world over when the Soviet Empire crashed. The idea of Socialism should have died then. But if it did, it was only for a short time. Like the Christian God, it rose again, and lives now in the White House, an administration indefensibly authoritarian, whim-driven, unjust, and arrogant.

Selfish human nature with its instinct for liberty, its impelling desire to possess what is good for it materially and mentally, is the force that can and must defeat it.

Whistling religion down the wind? 10

Today we posted this on our Facebook page:

A message to Republicans:

We know there are thousands, and we plausibly guess there are tens of thousands, and we conjecture not unreasonably that there may be millions of atheists and secularists who would vote Republican if Christian conservatism did not exert the degree of influence on Republican policy that it does now. Many atheists have voted Democratic not because they like Obama and Pelosi and Reid and Holder and their horrible Leftist, redistributionist, and unpatriotic policies, but because they are repelled by the voices of the religious sounding so loud and often on the Right. By paying less attention to those voices, and keeping religion out of policy-making, you would not lose the votes of many Christians. They’re not likely to go over en masse to the Left. But you would gain a considerable number of new voters. Please take this message, which we advance very seriously, into consideration.

Please help us get our message to Republicans.

It just may make some difference.

Or not?

Would the Republicans ever risk losing the votes of the religious Right? Do they think of it as their base? Would they ever consider ignoring it, let alone abandoning it?

What do our readers think?

Posted under Atheism, Christianity, Commentary, United States by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, January 13, 2015

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Islam must be destroyed – by words and laughter 11

The weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo laughed at all religions. It mocked religion as such, mercilessly. It dared to mock the nastiest religion of them all, Islam, defying its vengefulness. It was doing a great job for civilization.

Because of the killing of the journalists and cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo yesterday in Paris, we repeat part of our post, Religion and the crippling of the mind – an existential threat (January 2, 2013):

Human survival depends on progress, and progress depends on the criticism of ideas.

Religions are the most dangerous sets of ideas because they are the most dogmatic. Dogma chains and cripples the mind. It denies knowledge and prevents discovery and innovation. The only possible form of argument between opposing dogmas is violence. Religions must be questioned.

Any idea that requires a law to protect it from criticism is ipso facto a bad idea.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation [formerly the Organization of the Islamic Conference], the United Nations, and the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are actively engaged in trying to silence criticism of Islam. If their campaign succeeds it will greatly advance Islam’s jihad, its war to impose universal Islamic rule.

The victory of Islam would put humanity under a death sentence.  

And this is also a good time to repeat an even earlier post, The need to knock Islam (September 3, 2011):

The greatness of the West began with doubting. The idea that every belief, every assumption, should be critically examined started the might of Europe. When those old Greek thinkers who founded our civilization learnt and taught that no one has a monopoly of truth or ever will have, they launched the intellectual adventure that has carried the human race – not without a long interval in the doldrums – literally to the skies.

Socrates taught the utility of suspicion. He is reputed to have said, “The highest form of human excellence is to question oneself and others.” He was not, however, the first to use doubt for discovery. Thales of Miletos, who was born 155 years before Socrates, dared to doubt that religion’s explanatory tales about how the world came to be as it is were to be trusted, and he began exploring natural phenomena in a way that we recognize as scientific. He is often called the Father of Science. With him and his contemporary, Anaximander, who argued with him by advancing alternative ideas, came the notion – for the first time as far as we know – that reason could fathom and describe how the universe worked.

Science is one of the main achievements of the West, but it is not the only product of constructive doubt that made for its greatness. Doubt as a habit of mind or tradition of thinking meant that new, foreign, even counter-intuitive ideas were not dismissed. Europe, before and after it stagnated in the doldrums of the long Catholic Christian night (and even to some extent during those dark centuries), was hospitable to ideas wherever they came from.

Totally opposed to this intellectual openness were the churches with their dogma. Those who claim that the achievements of our civilization are to be credited to Christianity (or in the currently fashionable phrase to “the Judeo-Christian tradition”) have a hard case to make. It was the rediscovery of the Greek legacy in the Renaissance in the teeth of Christian dogmatism, and the new freedom from religious persecution exploited by the philosophers of the Enlightenment that re-launched the West on its intellectual progress, to become the world’s nursery of innovation and its chief factory of ideas.

Our civilization cannot survive without this openness. Critical examination is the breath that keeps it alive. But it is in danger of suffocation. It is more threatened now than it has been for the last four hundred years by dogmatisms: Marxism, environmentalism, religion – above all Islam which absolutely forbids criticism.

The Founding Fathers of the United States perfectly understood the necessity for an open market of ideas. Every citizen of the republic, they laid down, must be free to declare his beliefs, to argue his case, to speak his mind, to examine ideas as publicly as he chose without fear of being silenced.

Islam is now the major threat to the West. Its ideas are the very opposite of those on which the USA was founded. It is an ideology of intolerance and cruelty. It forbids the free expression of thought. By its very nature, even if it were not now on a mission of world conquest (which it is), it is the enemy of the West.

The best way to defeat it is by criticizing it, constantly and persistently, in speech and writing, on the big screen and the small screen, in the schools and academies, in all the media of information and comment, in national and international assemblies.

If the weapon of words is forbidden, the only alternative will be guns. 

The dismal and terrifying puritanism of Islam and Christendom 4

Islam is as puritanical as it is cruel. A pernickety fastidiousness over minor “moral” infractions lives in the primitive minds of IS [ISIS/ISIL] alongside an insatiable appetite for inflicting pain, terror, and atrocious murder.

This report comes from the International Business Times:

In a grotesque twist of the saying “live by the sword, die by the sword“, an Islamic State executioner in Syria who carried out beheadings for the jihadist group has been found with his head cut off.

The body of the Egyptian man, known to be the deputy emir of the feared al-Hesbah (or Hisbah) force in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor, was recovered near a power plant in al-Mayadeen city, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The corpse showed signs of torture and carried the message “This is evil, you Sheikh” written on it. The severed head had a cigarette in its mouth. … The message was obvious.

Islamic State’s ban on cigarettes is one of its signature polices.It has imposed a strict set of Sharia laws barring the use of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes in the territories it has conquered across a swathe of Iraq and Syria.

IS has declared smoking “slow suicide” and demands that “every smoker should be aware that with every cigarette he smokes in a state of trance and vanity is disobeying God”.

We didn’t know God was a non-smoker. After all, he’s smoked a lot of people in his time. (We did know that he isn’t a vegetarian.)

Hisbah is IS’s religious police who perform the role of enforcing the group’s twisted version of sharia in the self-styled caliphate.

“Twisted version of sharia”? What is the “untwisted” version, we wonder.

Last year, Vice News released a documentary on what life is like under Hisbah in Raqqa during Ramadan. The footage shows how the religious police check on shops and scrutinise produce, while at the same time ensuring their strict rules on women’s appearances are adhered to.

And the Express reports:

“Songs and music are forbidden in Islam as they prevent one from the remembrance of god and the koran and are a temptation and corruption of the heart,” according to a statement issued by Isis.

This state of affairs is just like that of Geneva when Jehan Calvin (1509-1564) was its dictator.

We quote from our own post, Calvin: a chapter in the terrible history of Christianity, April 10, 2010:

“[Calvin] instituted a totalitarian reign of terror. He was as convinced a collectivist as Hitler, Stalin, Mao and the rest. He would allow “no liberty, no freedom of the will, for [a] man could only misuse such privileges. … [He, Calvin] must frighten him … until he unresistingly accepts his position in the pious and obedient herd, until he has merged in that herd all that is individual within him, so that the individual, the extraordinary, vanishes without leaving a trace.”

So wrote Stefan Zweig in his devastating dissection of Calvin and Calvinism, The Right to Heresy. He goes on:

“To achieve this draconian suppression of personality, to achieve this vandal expropriation of the individual in favour of the community, Calvin had a method all his own, the famous Church ‘discipline’. A harsher curb upon human impulses and desires has hardly been devised by and imposed upon man down to our own days [pre-Second World War]. From the first hour of his dictatorship, this brilliant organizer herded his flock … within a barbed-wire entanglement of … prohibitions, the so-called ‘Ordinances’; simultaneously creating a special department to supervise the working of terrorist morality … called the Consistory [which was] expressly instructed to keep watch upon the private life of every one in Geneva. … Private life could hardly be said to exist any longer … From moment to moment, by day and by night, there might come a knocking at the entry, and a number of ‘spiritual police’ announce a ‘visitation’ without the citizen concerned being able to offer resistance. Once a month, rich and poor, the powerful and the weak, had to submit to the questioning of these professional ‘police des moeurs’. “

The moral police poked into every corner, examined every part of every house, and even the bodies of those who lived in it. Their clothes and shoes, the hair on their heads, was inspected. Clothes must be dark and plain; hair must not be artificially curled.

“From the bedroom they passed on to the kitchen table, to ascertain whether the prescribed diet was not being exceeded by a soup or a course of meat, or whether sweets and jams were hidden away somewhere.”

They pried into bookshelves – only books approved by the Consistory were permitted.

“The servants were asked about the behaviour of their masters, and the children were cross-questioned as to the doings of their parents.”

Visitors to the city had their baggage examined. Every letter, in and out, was opened. Citizens could not write letters to anyone outside the city, and any Genevan permitted to travel abroad was watched in foreign lands by Calvin’s spies. …

As far as he could, Calvin put an end to pleasure. Music – except for what Calvin deemed to be sacred – was forbidden. So was dancing, skating and sport. Theaters and all other public amusements including popular festivals, were prohibited. Wheeled carriages were not allowed. People had to walk to wherever they needed to go. Guests at family celebrations, even weddings and baptisms, were limited in number to twenty. (The names parents could give their children had to be from an approved list.) The red wine of the district could be drunk in small quantities, but no other alcohol. Innkeepers were not allowed to serve their guests until they had seen them saying their prayers, and had to spy on them throughout their stay and report on them to the authorities.

Punishments included imprisonment in irons, hanging, decapitation, burning to death.

If ever the expression “soul-mates” applied to any two people, it surely applies – regardless of the distance of time between them – to Jehan Calvin and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of IS/ISIS/ISIL.

A taste of Robert Ingersoll 15

To say one is “agnostic” is to say one does not know – eg. whether a god exists or not.

If one does not know that a god exists, one cannot be in a state of belief that he does. A person who says “I am an agnostic” is, at that moment, an atheist. He might be leaving open the possibility that one day he will know for sure whether or not there is a god, but he does not know it now. For now, he is without belief in a god. For now he is an atheist.

To call oneself “an agnostic” is, we think, an attempt to make a statement of unbelief softer, less challenging; to put a little powder on the bare face of atheism.

Robert G. Ingersoll called himself an agnostic. Although we would argue over the implications of that self-description, we like much of what he wrote and said.

Here is the conclusion of Ingersoll’s lectureWhy I am an Agnostic (1896):

One Sunday I went with my brother to hear a Free Will Baptist preacher. He was a large man, dressed like a farmer, but he was an orator. He could paint a picture with words.

He took for his text the parable of “the rich man and Lazarus”. He described Dives, the rich man – his manner of life, the excesses in which he indulged, his extravagance, his riotous nights, his purple and fine linen, his feasts, his wines, and his beautiful women.

Then he described Lazarus, his poverty, his rags and wretchedness, his poor body eaten by disease, the crusts and crumbs he devoured, the dogs that pitied him. He pictured his lonely life, his friendless death.

Then, changing his tone of pity to one of triumph – leaping from tears to the heights of exultation – from defeat to victory – he described the glorious company of angels, who with white and outspread wings carried the soul of the despised pauper to Paradise – to the bosom of Abraham.

Then, changing his voice to one of scorn and loathing, he told of the rich man’s death. He was in his palace, on his costly couch, the air heavy with perfume, the room filled with servants and physicians. His gold was worthless then. He could not buy another breath. He died, and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment.

Then, assuming a dramatic attitude, putting his right hand to his ear, he whispered, “Hark! I hear the rich man’s voice. What does he say? Hark! ‘Father Abraham! Father Abraham! I pray thee send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my parched tongue, for I am tormented in this flame’.”

“Oh, my hearers, he has been making that request for more than eighteen hundred years. And millions of ages hence that wail will cross the gulf that lies between the saved and lost and still will be heard the cry: ‘Father Abraham! Father Abraham! I pray thee send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my parched tongue, for I am tormented in this flame’.”

For the first time I understood the dogma of eternal pain – appreciated “the glad tidings of great joy”. For the first time my imagination grasped the height and depth of the Christian horror. Then I said: “It is a lie, and I hate your religion. If it is true, I hate your God.”

From that day I have had no fear, no doubt. For me, on that day, the flames of hell were quenched. From that day I have passionately hated every orthodox creed. That Sermon did some good.

We cannot understand how Christians can believe that their god loves every human being but will condemn anyone who offends him to everlasting torment.

But then, we fail to understand how anyone can believe anything that Christianity teaches, from the triune god all the way down.

Posted under Atheism, Christianity, Commentary, Religion general, Theology by Jillian Becker on Saturday, December 27, 2014

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The French pandemonium (two) 1

Today we post under Pages (listed at the top of our margin), essay number 12 in Part Two of the series titled The Darkness of This World, by Jillian Becker.

It continues the discussion of French writers whose works are concerned with Evil, praise it, and argue passionately that it should be done.

The title of this essay is The French Pandemonium (Two). Its subjects are the twentieth century writers Georges Bataille, and –  to a lesser extent – André Breton

Here is part of the essay:

Of all the cultivators of Evil in twentieth century France, none was so devout, so persistent, or plunged so deep into moral and material muck as Georges Bataille. He hungered and lusted for Evil. He was a coprophiliac, and a necrophiliac – committing, by his own confession or boast, an incestuous sexual act, in a state of “arousal to the limit”, upon his mother’s corpse in the moments after her death.

Bataille wrote that human beings, as a species, should move towards “an ever more shameless awareness of the erotic bond that links them to death, to cadavers, and to horrible physical pain.”

He was fascinated by the filthy, the stinking; by secretions, excretions, exudations; by things discarded, damaged, abandoned. “Bataille,” wrote one of his appreciators, “displayed a quasi-religious veneration toward objects and acts that, according to the mores of bourgeois convention, were targets of opprobrium … During the ‘30s, Bataille’s ‘literary’ activities centered on developing a theory of ‘base matter’, items and effluvia that remained impervious to assimilation by the all-consuming maw of bourgeois cultural respectability: feces, menstrual blood, cadavers, the baboon’s brightly colored anus, and so forth.”

But Bataille’s veneration of the disgusting was not just “quasi-religious” – it was intensely religious. It was Gnostic . This the admiring writer goes on to demonstrate, though without referring to the Gnostic precedent. He writes: “Herein lie the affinities between Bataille’s world view and the discourse of ‘negative theology’ or redemption through sin. … The duality between the ‘sacred’ and the ‘profane’ obsessed him, but the habitual signs were reversed. He elevated acts of profanation or desecration to epiphanies: singular mystical moments of Oneness with the All. … For Bataille … the act of willfully violating taboos offered privileged access to the holy.”

Raised in a non-believing family, young Georges converted to Catholicism when he was seventeen, and even spent a year in a seminary studying to be a priest. When he became a priest of blasphemy, or holy sinner, he retained all the self-flagellating passion, all the pious devotion and aura of sanctity of the Catholic ecclesiastic. He remained throughout his adult life shut mentally in the box of religion with its atmosphere of incense and sulfur, its fixation on blood, pain, death and sin.

He contended that what was missing in ordinary modern life, what society lacked for full satisfaction, was the “expression of savage needs” that “subsist only at the limits of horror”. And what were the “limits of horror” in Bataille’s dream? Nothing less than ritual human sacrifice. The combination of agony, death, and religious rite was very much to his taste. He wrote: “Human sacrifice is loftier than any other – not in the sense that it is crueler than any other, but because it is close to the only sacrifice without trickery, which can only be the ecstatic loss of oneself.”

His best of all horrors was “ecstatic loss of the self” by choice: voluntary human sacrifice. He wrote: “The movement that pushes a man to give himself (in other words, to destroy himself) completely, so that a bloody death ensues, can only be compared, in its irresistible and hideous nature, to the blinding flashes of lightning that transform the most withering storm into transports of joy.” Oh, the intense joy of dying in excruciating pain! He and others in his circle formed a secret society which was to launch itself with a beheading. Every member was willing to be the sacrificial victim and have his head sawn off – but none would consent to be the executioner.

The external movement that he would have push him to transports of joy was Communism. …

You can find all of it here.

Fifty female suicide bombers and Hillary Clinton 2

This picture of Christians slaughtered by the Nigerian Muslim terrorist organization Boko Haram was published here in August 2014:

nigeria-muslims-slaughter-christians-2

It’s remarkable that not even two years ago senior State Department officials were denying before Congress that there was any religious dimension to Boko Haram’s reign of terror. 

Why did Hillary Clinton, as secretary of state, adamantly refuse to designate Boko Haram a terrorist organization? The explanations given by her State Department were, in our judgment, unpersuasive excuses.

So what was the reason? Could the answer have something to do with the Obama administration’s reluctance to acknowledge that Islam is the enemy of America and civilization?

We quote Patrick Poole who writes at PJ Media:

For much of its five-year long insurgency in Nigeria costing thousands of lives, Boko Haram enjoyed no sanction by the U.S. government. That changed just over a year ago when they were finally designated a terrorist organization by the State Department.

That notwithstanding, Boko Haram continues to expand its terror campaign across the north of the country, now controlling an area the size of Maryland. …

The strategic stakes involved for the U.S. are extraordinary, but you would never be able to gauge that from the absence of any alarm from the Obama administration or from either side of the aisle in Congress. Not only does Nigeria have the continent’s largest population at 173 million and the largest economy in Africa, it also is the 10th largest oil producer in the world.

With a failed Libyan state (thanks in no small part to the Obama administration), Egypt — the world’s largest Arab country — fighting its own counterinsurgency in the Sinai, and Islamist insurgencies inflamed from Nigeria to Kenya, the loss of Nigeria to jihadists could be the tipping point to lose the whole of Africa. …

What Boko Haram does:

Within just the past few months, more than 1,000 churches have been ransacked and burned, and hundreds of thousands of Christians are being driven from their homes. …

Neighboring Cameroon … is struggling to accommodate nearly 50,000 Nigerian refugees and another 250,000 from the Central African Republic with extremely scarce resources. Another 100,000 refugees have fled to Niger, with 30,000 arriving just in the past two months. [But] there’s no guarantee of safety in taking refuge in neighboring countries, as Boko Haram has staged cross-border attacks. Inside Nigeria, it was reported that 400,000 refugees are in the Yolo area, severely taxing the city’s resources.

Overall, 1.5 million Nigerians have been displaced by the violence, with 650,000 in the northeast alone. …

Conditions in the [refugee] camps are universally reported to be unsanitary and breeding grounds for cholera and measles. Because resources are stretched so thin, most refugees are left to fend for themselves for shelter, food, and water. As winter begins to set in, observers on the ground … warn of possible mass starvation in the months ahead. …

When nearly 300 school girls were abducted from Chibok in April, it grabbed the world’s attention. …  When Boko Haram stormed the town of Lassa on December 3, they carried away 20 more girls.

But while girls are targeted for abduction, boys are targeted for killing. Just last month, dozens of young men were killed when a suicide bomber dressed as a student bombed a morning assembly. This targeting of school-age boys is a pattern for Boko Haram, such as when they attacked a boarding school in Yobe state back in February where boys were shot, had their throats slit, or were burned alive when their dorms were set on fire.

Last Wednesday, two young girls in hijabs conducted a dual suicide bombing in a high-traffic textile market in Kano city, the largest city in the north. Another 13-year-old girl was found wearing an explosive vest just hours later.

Boko Haram is using young female suicide bombers at an increasing and disturbing rate, though this tactic is not isolated to their operations in Nigeria and has been endorsed elsewhere by preeminent Islamic scholars like Yusuf al-Qaradawi. The use of female suicide bombers requires security forces to target women as well as men, and then the terror group is able to use the “abuse” of women being searched as a propaganda ploy.

What is especially troubling is a VICE News report last week that indicated that Boko Haram has dispatched 50 female suicide bombers in the hopes of inflicting 100,000 casualties.

Boko Haram jail breaks … freed 2,251 prisoners [who] launched an attack on a French cement plant and recovered a large cache of dynamite that could be used for future jail breaks. With thousands of Boko Haram operatives and supporters presently in jails, along with hardened criminals conditioned to violence, targeting more jails will continue to swell their ranks. …

More people are being killed by Muslims terrorist attacks in Nigeria than in Syria or Afghanistan.

Boko Haram was responsible for 801 deaths last month alone …

Boko Haram’s violence is now on par with ISIS in Iraq, which is why in 2013 Nigeria climbed to fourth in the Global Terrorism Index, up from seventh in 2012 and twelfth in 2011. According to the Council on Foreign Relations tracker, the violence in Nigeria from May 2011 (when President Jonathan came into office) to November 2014 has claimed more than 26,000 lives. …

But you would never know how desperate the situation is in Nigeria in light of the absence of any urgency or alarm from the Obama administration or from Congress.

It’s worth repeating: Congress had to drag a reluctant Clinton State Department kicking and screaming to get Boko Haram designated [a terrorist group] in November 2013.

Members of Congress also discovered earlier this year that the Clinton State Department intentionally lied and downplayed the threat from Boko Haram, and worked to kill bills in both the House and the Senate calling for their designation in 2012.

There are considerable national security and other strategic interests for the United States in Nigeria. … [And] the risks of inattention and inaction in Nigeria threaten to jeopardize the whole of Africa.

This video is dated October, 2012.

The world desperately needs a global campaign by all decent sane adults to eradicate religion from every culture of every nation, tribe and clan on earth.

No need to stop the quaint celebrations of old superstitions and myths. Feast days can still be feasted on. The good stories and the fine poetry of the Jewish bible can still be read. There can still be Christmas trees and ecstatic singing in halls on Sundays. Shia Muslims can still whip their bodies with razorblades if they want to. Environmentalists can still sort their garbage into special containers for recycling if they enjoy it. Leftists can still claim that socialism would have worked if only it had been properly tried. It just needs to be acknowledged that no religion is true

We know that, saying this, we are crying in the wilderness. But still we say it. Who knows but that one day the cry will be taken up by millions, and the long and terrible age of religion will at long last be over? 

What the Taliban did, and the Nigels of England engender 1

Today Taliban terrorists entered a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, wearing army uniforms, and massacred more then 140 people, mostly children between the ages of six and sixteen.

They poured gasoline over one of the teachers and burnt him to death in front of his class.

They cut off the heads of some of the children.

Meanwhile, this is what is happening in Britain, where the reigning monarch is head of the Church of England: –

We quote from an article by Hal G. P. Colebatch at the American Spectator:

Christians are being killed in tens of thousands in the Islamic World and Africa. A Christian woman in Pakistan is sentenced to be hanged for drinking from a Muslim cup. An official who tries to save her is murdered by his own bodyguard, who becomes a popular hero, and Jewish babies are murdered by more Islamic heroes in Jerusalem.

The Church of England, meanwhile, devotes its energies to attacking the British Education Secretary for plans to teach “British values” in schools, calling them potentially “dangerous, divisive and undemocratic”.  …

The government guidelines were drawn up after it was found schools had been infiltrated by Muslim extremists. [But] the church said it had major concerns about the use of inspectors to police instances of promoting the values that diverged from the politically correct ideas of equality and diversity. …

In October a small Christian school in Berkshire was failed by inspectors for lacking sufficient political correctness, and failing “to prepare pupils for life in modern Britain”. … The school was punished by officialdom for being too British.

The headmistress was questioned by government officials as to why she had not brought in a Muslim Imam to lead assemblies …

There was, of course, no suggestion of reciprocity — that Christian chaplains lead assemblies in Muslim schools … to prepare their pupils for life in modern Britain by teaching tolerance, diversity, and respect for other religions, for instance.

It is not hard to imagine how such a proposal would be received, though the recent revelations of the sexual abuse of 1,400 British children in the small city of Rotherham alone by “Asian” [ie Muslim] grooming gangs suggests there may be a need for wider education in such values. Surveys show that a large part of Britain’s younger Muslim population subscribes to extremist propositions, and has provided a large number of recruits for ISIS.

One wonders what would be the response if the Imam [who should be “brought in to lead assemblies”] advocated death for female adultery, child marriage, and judicial amputation for theft, female genital mutilation, stoning to death for homosexuals and the annihilation of Israel? …

Further, if Imams must lead assemblies, why should cults like the orange people or transcendental meditationists not get a look in, to say nothing of the rather larger religions Buddhism or Hinduism? Furthermore, the whole complex paradox of extending tolerance and pluralism to an absolutely intolerant and uncompromising creed is simply denied or ignored.

Another high-achieving primary school, this time in Lincolnshire, has been attacked and denied its “outstanding” rating by government quango Ofsted because the pupils are “too English and too white”. How can it be expected to have non-white pupils if none live in the area? …

The church’s criticism came from its chief education officer, Nigel Genders, who warned against allowing a government definition of “Britishness”.  The Church also published a submission to the government warning against such an allegedly “negative” and “divisive” approach.

A government spokesman defending what should not have needed defense, said: “The fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual respect and tolerance were set out by the Government four years ago and have been commonly used since.”

Four years ago? Funny, we thought they were British values for much longer than that: the rule of law from the signing of the Magna Carta by King John in 1215, and democracy of a kind since the Glorious Revolution of 1689 when William and Mary became the first constitutional monarchs, and individual respect and tolerance since the days of King Arthur and his Round Table.

[The government spokesman] continued, wetly, “We believe that all young people should develop an appreciation of these values as this will help them to contribute to and succeed in modern Britain.” …

A senior Anglican Bishop, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, a former Bishop of Oxford, said Prince Charles’s future coronation service should be opened with a reading from the Koran.

The gesture would, he claimed, be a “creative act of accommodation” to make Muslims feel “embraced” by the nation.

Hal Colebatch expresses the irritation and disgust we also feel at the Bishop’s “patronizing arrogance combined with cultural shame and masochism”.

He told peers that the Church of England should take the lead in “exercising its historic position in a hospitable way”.

He claimed further that at a civic service in Bristol Cathedral last year authorities had agreed to a reading of the opening passage of the Koran before the beginning of the Christian ritual. This, he said, “was a brilliant creative act of accommodation that made the Muslim high sheriff feel, as she said …

Pause there a moment to notice that the Muslim high sheriff is a she! Also that the opening passage of the Koran is the Shahada – the declaration of faith, the words that are said by a convert to Islam to turn him/her instantly into a Muslim. Did the congregation repeat the words? If so – gosh, Nigel! – do you realize that the entire congregation in the cathedral that day has now become Muslim?

… warmly embraced but did not alienate the core congregation”.

No - the poor ingenuous dears were totally unaware of what was happening to them.

“That principle of hospitality can and should be reflected in many public ceremonies, including the next coronation service.”

Perhaps, to make the embracing even more complete and ultimate, the two Muslims who showed their appreciation of the principle of British hospitality by beheading one of Prince Charles’s soldiers, Lee Rigby, in a London street, could place the crown on the new King Charles’s head. Or should ISIS’s chief headsman be flown in to do the job?

What of Omar Bakri Muhammad, the extremist preacher who is said to have played role in radicalizing the murderers of Lee Rigby and who has attempted to justify the killing of those fighting against ISIS jihadis, using Facebook to say that it is sometimes necessary to kill women and children sheltering in schools and hospitals? What could be more inclusive and multicultural than a place for him at the Coronation with the ISIS executioners?

Or they could invited the Taliban beheaders of children to enhance the inclusiveness of that historic occasion.

Just a suggestion.

Untitled

Conservatism: what is it? 1

Russell Kirk is a Catholic conservative. We were sent the link to an essay of his titled Ten Conservative Principles by a friendly Catholic commenter on our Facebook page.

As (we reasonably suppose) the essay was drawn to our attention to challenge our view of conservatism as atheists, here is our response.

Kirk declares – rightly – that conservatism is not an ideology. In fact, he says, “conservatism is the negation of ideology: it is a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order”.

So far as it is possible to determine what conservatives believe, the first principles of the conservative persuasion are derived from what leading conservative writers and public men have professed during the past two centuries. …

We would look back further than two centuries – to the great new morning of European culture, the Enlightenment. Otherwise, we’ll accept what he has said so far without argument.

It is almost true that a conservative may be defined as a person who thinks himself such. The conservative movement or body of opinion can accommodate a considerable diversity of views on a good many subjects …

[While] it is not possible to draw up a neat catalogue of conservatives’ convictions … I offer you, summarily, ten general principles; it seems safe to say that most conservatives would subscribe to most of these maxims. …

The following articles of belief reflect the emphases of conservatives in America nowadays.

First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order.

Here we start contending with him. While our view of what moral behavior should be is probably the same in many practical instances as Kirk’s, our understanding of why we should behave in these ways, and how we know we should behave in these ways, is different.

Kirk says:

That order is made for man, and man is made for it: human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent.

We agree with Kirk that human nature can be said to be constant in that it is not transformable as Marxists think it is and should be; and that what is moral and immoral in principle is not altered by time. But only a believer in a god – a benevolent one who concerns himself with human behavior – can state that there is a “moral order” that was “made for man”, and that “man was made for” a moral order.

He goes on to state this Christian view even more plainly:

This word order signifies harmony. There are two aspects or types of order: the inner order of the soul, and the outer order of the commonwealth. Twenty-five centuries ago, Plato taught this doctrine, but even the educated nowadays find it difficult to understand. … Our twentieth-century world has experienced the hideous consequences of the collapse of belief in a moral order.

We think Plato queered philosophy for all time with his conjecture that there are two worlds: this material one where we live our mortal lives, and another one, abstract, ideal, higher, that we knew before we were born, and will know again after we have died. This one, solid as it seems, Plato taught is not real; it is a world of shadows. The other one, the ideal world, is real.  To reiterate: What we experience as real is not real; what Plato imagined is real. How did Plato ever sell that notion to his own elite audience? And how come it has survived through the ages? It is the source of the Christian belief that life in this world (the only world we know for sure exists) is a sojourn in a place of testing, a place of sorrows, and has little value: while heaven is the world that matters, a place of eternal bliss. Plato and Christians believe that people’s “souls” go to the higher world when they die if they’ve been good.

While we concede that there is much immorality in our time – as there always has been and always will be – we do not see that there has ever been a “moral order”. The Christian churches did their utmost to force people –  with extreme intolerance and appalling cruelty –  to conform to their own moral code of mandated love, forgiveness, gentleness, humility and self-sacrifice. (Self-sacrifice because life in this solid world is not important, and martyrdom will win you a place in that rumored heaven.)

… It has been said by liberal intellectuals that the conservative believes all social questions, at heart, to be questions of private morality. Properly understood, this statement is quite true. A society in which men and women are governed by belief in an enduring moral order, by a strong sense of right and wrong, by personal convictions about justice and honor, will be a good society – whatever political machinery it may utilize; while a society in which men and women are morally adrift, ignorant of norms, and intent chiefly upon gratification of appetites, will be a bad society – no matter how many people vote and no matter how liberal its formal constitution may be.

We have no argument with most of that if by “the inner order of the soul” he means the convictions, values, standards people hold. A society composed of individuals who live by high moral standards will be a good society. (Only we see nothing wrong with “gratifying appetites” as long as it is not at the expense of others. The asceticism of Pauline Christianity enters Kirk’s portrait of the conservative here.)

Second, the conservative adheres to custom, convention, and continuity.

Adherence to custom and convention are not necessarily a bad thing, but should never be an excuse for refusing to change when change is called for. Continuity of social institutions that have been time-tested and found to be useful to human life and happiness is obviously a good thing. But they should not be resistant to necessary change: a matter of evolution rather than decreed reform. Kirk is right in saying here that  “Change … ought to be gradual and discriminatory, never unfixing old interests at once.” It is a point he returns to when he comes to his tenth principle.

He suggests that the “body social is a kind of spiritual corporation, comparable to the church; it may even be called a community of souls”. We prefer to speak of common interests, of co-operation for mutual benefit, and of patriotism.

Apart from that, we don’t think his discussion of this “second principle” is worth much examination.

Third, conservatives believe in what may be called the principle of prescription.

Conservatives sense that modern people are dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, able to see farther than their ancestors only because of the great stature of those who have preceded us in time. Therefore conservatives very often emphasize the importance of prescription – that is, of things established by immemorial usage … Our morals are prescriptive in great part. Conservatives argue that we are unlikely, we moderns, to make any brave new discoveries in morals or politics or taste.

To put it another way: relying on the wisdom of the ages, continuing with what has been found to work, is often sensible. But again, tradition should not become bondage. As times change, new difficulties arise that need new solutions.

It is perilous to weigh every passing issue on the basis of private judgment and private rationality. The individual is foolish, but the species is wise, Burke declared. In politics we do well to abide by precedent and precept and even prejudice, for the great mysterious incorporation of the human race has acquired a prescriptive wisdom far greater than any man’s petty private rationality.

We do not think private rationality is petty. We cannot avoid making our own judgments. On whose judgment can we rely if not our own? Even if we decide to rely on the judgment of our ancestors, or our parents, or our teachers, or our political leaders, we ourselves judge it right to do so.

Fourth, conservatives are guided by their principle of prudence. Burke agrees with Plato that in the statesman, prudence is chief among virtues. Any public measure ought to be judged by its probable long-run consequences, not merely by temporary advantage or popularity. Liberals and radicals, the conservative says, are imprudent: for they dash at their objectives without giving much heed to the risk of new abuses worse than the evils they hope to sweep away. … Providence [God] moves slowly, but the devil always hurries. Human society being complex, remedies cannot be simple if they are to be efficacious. The conservative declares that he acts only after sufficient reflection, having weighed the consequences. …

We agree with that as a general principle – overlooking Providence and the devil. But life in civilized lands is no longer leisurely. Travel is fast. Communication is fast. Catastrophe can come fast upon us. “Conservative” cannot be allowed to become a synonym for “obsolete”.     

Fifth, conservatives pay attention to the principle of variety. They feel affection for the proliferating intricacy of long-established social institutions and modes of life, as distinguished from the narrowing uniformity and deadening egalitarianism of radical systems. For the preservation of a healthy diversity in any civilization, there must survive orders and classes, differences in material condition, and many sorts of inequality. The only true forms of equality are equality at the Last Judgment and equality before a just court of law; all other attempts at levelling must lead, at best, to social stagnation. Society requires honest and able leadership; and if natural and institutional differences are destroyed, presently some tyrant or host of squalid oligarchs will create new forms of inequality.

Except for his notion that there will be a Last Judgment, we agree with that too.

Sixth, conservatives are chastened by their principle of Imperfectability. Human nature suffers irremediably from certain grave faults, the conservatives know. Man being imperfect, no perfect social order ever can be created. Because of human restlessness, mankind would grow rebellious under any utopian domination, and would break out once more in violent discontent—or else expire of boredom. To seek for utopia is to end in disaster, the conservative says: we are not made for perfect things. All that we reasonably can expect is a tolerably ordered, just, and free society, in which some evils, maladjustments, and suffering will continue to lurk. By proper attention to prudent reform, we may preserve and improve this tolerable order. But if the old institutional and moral safeguards of a nation are neglected, then the anarchic impulse in humankind breaks loose: “the ceremony of innocence is drowned.” The ideologues who promise the perfection of man and society have converted a great part of the twentieth-century world into a terrestrial hell.

There too, we largely agree. We would not say, however, that human beings are “imperfect”, since we know of no standard of “perfection” against which they can be measured. Christians of course believe in the Fall, in original sin, the inherited guilt of all mankind because of a first man and woman’s disobedience to a creator god. We find that idea repulsive and ridiculous. We reckon that to live is to suffer; that we are all capable of doing wrong, and there are habitual criminals and sadists among us, which is why we need the rule of law; that each one of us in his pursuit of happiness will find other individuals in his way; that rational self-interest is an enormously useful guide to living successfully with others and treating each other well.

Seventh, conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked.  … Upon the foundation of private property, great civilizations are built. The more widespread is the possession of private property, the more stable and productive is a commonwealth. Economic levelling, conservatives maintain, is not economic progress. … [A] sound economic basis for the person, the family, and the commonwealth is much to be desired. …

We strongly concur. And at last he mentions freedom – but only in passing, in connection with private property. We would put freedom as the highest value.

He pays more attention to “the community” than the individual.

Eighth, conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism. Although Americans have been attached strongly to privacy and private rights, they also have been a people conspicuous for a successful spirit of community. … It is the performance of our duties in community that teaches us prudence and efficiency and charity.

We have cut out most of this section of Kirk’s essay. Of course we are for co-operation with our neighbors to provide for our shared needs and desires, from street lighting to street parties. And while charity is certainly a better means of redistribution than socialism, neither charity nor socialism is a solution for poverty. Self-reliance in a free economy is the best solution.

Ninth, the conservative perceives the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions. … In the name of liberty, the French and Russian revolutionaries abolished the old restraints upon power; but power cannot be abolished; it always finds its way into someone’s hands. That power which the revolutionaries had thought oppressive in the hands of the old regime became many times as tyrannical in the hands of the radical new masters of the state.

Knowing human nature for a mixture of good and evil, the conservative does not put his trust in mere benevolence. Constitutional restrictions, political checks and balances, adequate enforcement of the laws, the old intricate web of restraints upon will and appetite – these the conservative approves as instruments of freedom and order. A just government maintains a healthy tension between the claims of authority and the claims of liberty.

There is more to this section, but that is enough to convey his point. We agree with it well enough. Only, we would express our view on liberty and restraint differently. We say that the duty of government is to protect the liberty of the nation as a whole and of everybody in it; and that individual freedom should be restrained by nothing but the freedom of everybody else.

Tenth, the thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society. The conservative is not opposed to social improvement, although he doubts whether there is any such force as a mystical Progress, with a Roman P, at work in the world. When a society is progressing in some respects, usually it is declining in other respects. The conservative knows that any healthy society is influenced by two forces … its Permanence and its Progression. The Permanence of a society is formed by those enduring interests and convictions that gives us stability and continuity; without that Permanence, the fountains of the great deep are broken up, society slipping into anarchy. The Progression in a society is that spirit and that body of talents which urge us on to prudent reform and improvement; without that Progression, a people stagnate. … The conservative … favors reasoned and temperate progress; he is opposed to the cult of Progress, whose votaries believe that everything new necessarily is superior to everything old.

Change is essential to the body social … The conservative takes care that nothing in a society should ever be wholly old, and that nothing should ever be wholly new. This is the means of the conservation of a nation, quite as it is the means of conservation of a living organism. Just how much change a society requires, and what sort of change, depend upon the circumstances of an age and a nation.

We agree with him about the forces of Permanence and Progression, and the need for judicious change.

But then again with his final paragraph we take issue. He harks back to Plato, back to the two worlds, back to the Christian illusion that there is a “moral order in the universe”.

The great line of demarcation in modern politics … is not a division between liberals on one side and totalitarians on the other. No, on one side of that line are all those men and women who fancy that the temporal order is the only order

As we most emphatically do …

…  and that material needs are their only needs …

As nobody does!

… and that they may do as they like with the human patrimony. On the other side of that line are all those people who recognize an enduring moral order in the universe, a constant human nature, and high duties toward the order spiritual and the order temporal.

We find no “enduring moral order in the universe”, no “order spiritual”. But we share quite a lot of ideas with Kirk’s conservative – enough to make it obvious that you do not have to be a Christian to be a conservative, even in America.

But we find Kirk’s description incomplete. He has left out an idea that we hold indispensable to Western conservatism. (We stress “Western” conservatism because elsewhere the word has other meanings. In Russia, for example, since 1991, the conservatives are those who want Communism back.)

The missing principle is what Adam Smith called “the natural order of liberty”. We call it the free market. (Karl Marx, who hated it, called it Capitalism.)

When Kirk stresses the importance of private property, the missing principle is hovering there behind his sentences; but though he expatiates on the virtue and necessity of owning property, he does not declare an opinion on a right and wrong way of acquiring it.

Ideally, we would like to be able to go about our daily business without thinking about government, without being aware of government; confident that we are protected by the law, and by our nation’s military might; free to do what we please, always remembering that “the freedom of my fist ends where your nose begins”.  That for us is conservatism.

And here is our portrait of an atheist conservative: a free, self-reliant, rational person; realistically suspicious of human nature; who knows that to prosper he must have something to sell – a good, a skill, a service, an invention – that others will pay him for; who behaves towards others with rational self-restraint, keeping social interaction pleasant with the customs of civility, but being always ready to defend himself with lethal weapons if he has to. He holds justice in high esteem, knowing it is hard to be just but that the effort must never be abandoned. He honors the legacy of freedom and political order that his forebears have won for him. He knows the value of what he inherits, and will preserve it and bequeath it; but he’ll also adapt to changing circumstances, and is not a slave to convention. He knows and fulfills his responsibilities. He expects his fellow-countrymen to tolerate his differences from them as he tolerates theirs from him. He will not want power over others, and not tolerate them having power over him except within limits he consents to. He seeks success and happiness in this world, not expecting to be rewarded or compensated in some rumored “afterlife” on the other side of physical death or political revolution. He does not abase others by pitying them. He does not kneel to anyone, literally or figuratively. He moves at ease in his own country. He says what he wants to say. He tolerates no encroachment on his property. He keeps what he earns (as much as legally possible from government), and spends it as he chooses.

 

 

(Hat-tip for the Russell Kirk essay to our Facebook commenter Robert Wilkins)

Posted under America, Christianity, Commentary, Conservatism, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Saturday, December 13, 2014

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Speaking of atheism 0

A chat about atheism, religion, and science. Recorded December 14, 2010.

Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens.

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