A cry from Europe 0

A document titled The Paris Statement: A Europe We Can Believe In has recently been published that calls for the preservation, or restoration, of Europe. Its authors recognize that Europeans are losing their European home.

We agree that is the case. And we agree with some of the analysis of what is killing it.

But there is much in the Statement that we do not agree with.

The signatories are three French authors (a preponderance which, with the title, suggests that the initiative came from one of them), and seven others, respectively Czech, Hungarian, Polish, British, German, Dutch, and Belgian.

The Statement as a whole has a sentimental, romantic quality which expresses the continental spirit rather than a rational Anglo-Saxon one, despite the co-authorship of one Englishman.

The whole thing may be read here.

THE PARIS STATEMENT

Europe belongs to us, and we belong to Europe.These lands are our home; we have no other. The reasons we hold Europe dear exceed our ability to explain or justify our loyalty. It is a matter of shared histories, hopes and loves. It is a matter of accustomed ways, of moments of pathos and pain. It is a matter of inspiring experiences of reconciliation and the promise of a shared future. Ordinary landscapes and events are charged with special meaning — for us, but not for others. Home is a place where things are familiar, and where we are recognized, however far we have wandered. This is the real Europe, our precious and irreplaceable civilization.

Europe is our home. Europe, in all its richness and greatness, is threatened by a false understanding of itself. This false Europe imagines itself as a fulfilment of our civilization, but in truth it will confiscate our home. It appeals to exaggerations and distortions of Europe’s authentic virtues while remaining blind to its own vices. Complacently trading in one-sided caricatures of our history, this false Europe is invincibly prejudiced against the past. Its proponents are orphans by choice, and they presume that to be an orphan — to be homeless — is a noble achievement. In this way, the false Europe praises itself as the forerunner of a universal community that is neither universal nor a community.

One fact lies in all that fluff, in part of the last sentence. It could be worded for clearer communication, as: the globalist rulers of Europe see the EU as a model for a world union under world government. 

Those flesh-and-blood traitors are turned into an abstraction as “the false Europe”.

The Statement goes on to elaborate on the “false Europe” – the Europe led by those globalist rulers who are letting millions of Muslims into their countries; not demanding that they assimilate, or adapt to the customs of the host countries, or obey their laws, or even learn the indigenous languages. In its high-flown style, it does not plainly state that the Islamic invasion is killing Europe, but continues to complain about the wrong attitude of the “false Europe” to the invaders.

And they believe that “the true sources of the humane decencies” that they think characterized pre-Islamic  (or “post-national. post cultural”) Europe comes from its “Christian roots”. We have argued, in many articles on this site, against that thesis, but will not make more of our disagreement here than merely to note it.

The patrons of the false Europe are bewitched by superstitions of inevitable progress. They believe that History is on their side, and this faith makes them haughty and disdainful, unable to acknowledge the defects in the post-national, post-cultural world they are constructing. Moreover, they are ignorant of the true sources of the humane decencies they themselves hold dear — as do we. They ignore, even repudiate the Christian roots of Europe. At the same time they take great care not to offend Muslims, who they imagine will cheerfully adopt their secular, multicultural outlook. Sunk in prejudice, superstition and ignorance, and blinded by vain, self-congratulating visions of a utopian future, the false Europe reflexively stifles dissent. This is done, of course, in the name of freedom and tolerance.

The words in bold say something with which we emphatically concur. The stifling of dissent is a plain and horrid fact.

Then comes a flat denial that “the  greatest threat” to Europe is the Muslim invasion. It continues shadow-boxing the “false Europe”, as if, were those globalists who believe (with Karl Marx) that “History is on their side” to be defeated in argument, the facts on the ground – the Islamification of Europe – would disappear.

We are reaching a dead-end. The greatest threat to the future of Europe is neither Russian adventurism nor Muslim immigration. The true Europe is at risk because of the suffocating grip that the false Europe has over our imaginations. Our nations and shared culture are being hollowed out by illusions and self-deceptions about what Europe is and should be. We pledge to resist this threat to our future. We will defend, sustain and champion the real Europe, the Europe to which we all in truth belong.

Next it describes the Europe that has been lost, the Europe the authors take pride in. It is a rosy picture of “open political systems” born out of “love for the homelands”. It misses the main point, that because the Enlightenment broke the near-totalitarian power of the Christian churches, European greatness grew with rational thought, the doubt which drives science, and the freedom that allowed European man to innovate and explore. 

The next two paragraphs continue the description of the virtues of theEuropean system as the authors perceive them. So does part the following one, which, however,  ends with the assertion of an important fact:

[The] nation-state …  became the hallmark of European civilization.

But that is followed with a passage that includes this:

… In the aftermath of the terrible bloodshed of the world wars in the first half of the twentieth century, we emerged with an even greater resolve to honor our shared heritage.

Which is simply not true. It was in the aftermath of the Second World War that many – even most? –  Europeans began to lose confidence in their cultural heritage. Birth rates began to fall and have fallen drastically. Fear that the welfare states would not have enough people to maintain them contributed to the disastrous acceptance of the hordes of Muslims who are changing the character of Europe. The Muslim newcomers have many children. That is the process of Europe’s Islamization, which is insufficiently dealt with in this document.    

The next few paragraphs praise Christianity as a “spiritual empire” that was better than “political empire”, in that it brought “cultural unity” to the continent. (Yes, but it was a cultural unity of illiteracy and terror.) It also ascribes the growth of secular order to Christianity’s separation of the divine and mundane powers. It lists the “gentle virtues” of Christianity: “fairness, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, peace-making, charity”, those ideals more honored in the breach than the observance throughout the history of Europe in our common era.

It goes on to praise marriage and the raising of children, and on that we can again agree.

We also like its acknowledgment of the “inspiration” modern Europe drew “from the Classical tradition”; and its declaration that “men and women of Europe” crafted “musical and artistic works of unsurpassed beauty” and achieved “extraordinary breakthroughs in science and technology”.

“We are losing our home”, the authors cry. 

The false Europe … sells itself as liberation from all restraints: sexual freedom, freedom of self-expression …

But not of speech,

The Generation of ’68 regards these freedoms as precious victories over a once almighty and oppressive cultural regime. They see themselves as great liberators, and their transgressions are acclaimed as noble moral achievements, for which the whole world should be grateful. … [In fact] the Generation of ’68 destroyed but did not build. They created a vacuum now filled by social media, cheap tourism and pornography.

There’s truth in that.

But most wrongly, the authors condemn the ’68 generation – which is to say, the New Left – for promoting individualism!

Our societies seem to be falling into individualism …

Good grief! They were Marxists, Maoists, collectivists through and through. Individualism was the very thing they most abominated.

The again comes truth:

European life is more and more comprehensively regulated. Rules — often confected by faceless technocrats in league with powerful interests — govern our work relationships, our business decisions, our educational qualifications, our news and entertainment media. And Europe now seeks to tighten existing regulations on freedom of speech, an aboriginal European freedom — freedom of conscience made manifest. … Europe’s governing classes wish to restrict manifestly political speech. Political leaders who give voice to inconvenient truths about Islam and immigration are hauled before judges. Political correctness enforces strong taboos that deem challenges to the status quo beyond the pale.

Right.

And they come to a direct denunciation of multiculturalism, and at last touch on the damage done by “Muslim newcomers”:

The false Europe also boasts of an unprecedented commitment to equality. It claims to promote non-discrimination and the inclusion of all races, religions and identities. Here, genuine progress has been made, but a utopian detachment from reality has taken hold. Over the past generation, Europe has pursued a grand project of multiculturalism. To demand or even promote the assimilation of Muslim newcomers to our manners and mores, much less to our religion, has been thought a gross injustice. A commitment to equality, we have been told, demands that we abjure any hint that we believe our culture superior. … Europe’s multicultural enterprise … trades on the Christian ideal of universal charity in an exaggerated and unsustainable form. It requires from the European peoples a saintly degree of self-abnegation. We are to affirm the very colonization of our homelands and the demise of our culture as Europe’s great twenty-first century glory — a collective act of self-sacrifice for the sake of some new global community of peace and prosperity that is being born.

But they have not apparently noticed the mind-set of those European “multiculturalists” who long for total capitulation; the self-contempt; the positive preference for the primitive, woman-enslaving, enlightenment-suppressing ideology of Islam, the longing for it to replace the culture of Europe – expressed most explicitly by a former prime Minister of Sweden that his country does not belong to native-born Swedes but to the [Muslim] immigrants.

Most in our governing classes doubtless presume the superiority of European culture — which must not be affirmed in public in ways that might offend immigrants. Given that superiority, they think that assimilation will happen naturally, and quickly … that, somehow, by the laws of nature or of history, ‘they’ will necessarily become like ‘us’ — and it is inconceivable that the reverse might be true.

No, no.  Those “governing classes” do not “presume the superiority of European culture”. They urge their citizens to adapt to the ways of the immigrants.

Next the authors speak of  “globalization”:

There is more bad faith at work, of a darker kind. Over the last generation, a larger and larger segment of our governing class has decided that its own self-interest lies in accelerated globalization. They wish to build supranational institutions that they are able to control without the inconveniences of popular sovereignty. It is increasingly clear that the “democratic deficit” in the European Union is not a mere technical problem to be remedied by technical means. Rather, this deficit is a fundamental commitment, and it is zealously defended. Whether legitimated by supposed economic necessities or autonomously developing international human rights law, the supra-national mandarins of the EU institutions confiscate the political life of Europe … This is the soft but increasingly real tyranny we face.

Right again.

And this is right too:

European societies are fraying badly. If we but open our eyes, we see an ever-greater use of government power, social management and educational indoctrination. It is not just Islamic terror that brings heavily armed soldiers into our streets. Riot police are now necessary to quell violent anti-establishment protests

They then throw in a complaint about “drunken crowds of football fans”, and try to make it relevant by adding: “The fanaticism of our football loyalties is a desperate sign of the deeply human need for solidarity, a need that otherwise goes unfulfilled in the false Europe.”

How does the violence of rival football fans become a sign of a need for solidarity? That’s plain nonsense.

Deploring what has become of the universities is on the mark:

Europe’s intellectual classes are, alas, among the chief ideological partisans of the conceits of the false Europe. Without doubt, our universities are one of the glories of European civilization. But where once they sought to transmit to each new generation the wisdom of past ages, today most within the universities equate critical thinking with a simpleminded repudiation of the past. A lodestar of the European spirit has been the rigorous discipline of intellectual honesty and objectivity. But over the past two generations, this noble ideal has been transformed. The asceticism that once sought to free the mind of the tyranny of dominant opinion has become an often complacent and unreflective animus against everything that is our own. This stance of cultural repudiation functions as a cheap and easy way of being “critical”. Over the last generation, it has been rehearsed in the lecture halls, becoming a doctrine, a dogma. … As a consequence, our universities are now active agents of ongoing cultural destruction.

Our governing classes are advancing human rights. They are at work fighting climate change. They are engineering a more globally integrated market economy and harmonizing tax policies. They are monitoring progress toward gender equality. They are doing so much for us! What does it matter by what mechanisms they inhabit their offices? What does it matter if the European peoples grow more skeptical of their ministrations?

They imply scorn for a market economy, and again misrepresent the globalists, who want global trade, yes; but they are children of the New Left and favor socialism – ideally world socialist government.

We hope they are right that “the European people are growing skeptical of  their [the globalists’] ministrations”.

That growing scepticism is fully justified. Today, Europe is dominated by an aimless materialism that seems unable to motivate men and women to have children and form families. A culture of repudiation deprives the next generation of a sense of identity. Some of our countries have regions in which Muslims live with an informal autonomy from local laws, as if they were colonialists rather than fellow members of our nations. … Globalization transforms the life prospects of millions. When challenged, our governing classes say that they are merely working to accommodate the inevitable, adjusting to implacable necessities. No other course is possible, and it is irrational to resist. Things cannot be otherwise. Those who object are said to suffer nostalgia — for which they deserve moral condemnation as racists or fascists. As social divisions and civic distrust become more apparent, European public life grows angrier, more rancorous, and no one can say where it will end. We must not continue down this path. We need to throw off the tyranny of the false Europe.

How might that be done?

They propose that European public life be “re-secularized”. Which means they rightly see the globalist Leftist movement which despairs of Europe and promotes the Third World as a new religion – which it is.

Some well thought-out paragraphs follow which we suspect are of Anglo-Saxon authorship:

The work of renewal begins with theological self-knowledgeThe universalist and universalizing pretensions of the false Europe reveal it to be an ersatz religious enterprise, complete with strong creedal commitments — and anathemas. This is the potent opiate that paralyzes Europe as a political body. We must insist that religious aspirations are properly the province of religion, not politics, much less bureaucratic administration. In order to recover our political and historical agency, it is imperative that we re-secularize European public life.

This will require us to renounce the mendacious language that evades responsibility and fosters ideological manipulation. Talk of diversity, inclusion and multiculturalism is empty. Often, such language is deployed as a way to characterize our failures as accomplishments: The unravelling of social solidarity is “actually” a sign of welcome, tolerance, and inclusion. This is marketing language, a language meant to obscure reality rather than illuminate. We must recover an abiding respect for reality. Language is a delicate instrument, and it is debased when used as a bludgeon. We should be patrons of linguistic decency. Recourse to denunciation is a sign of the decadence of our present moment. We must not tolerate verbal intimidation, much less mortal threats. We need to protect those who speak reasonably, even if we think their views mistaken. The future of Europe must be liberal in the best sense, which means committed to robust public debate free from all threats of violence and coercion.

Breaking the spell of the false Europe and its utopian, pseudo-religious crusade for a borderless world means fostering a new kind of statesmanship and a new kind of statesman. A good political leader stewards the commonweal of a particular people. A good statesman views our shared European inheritance and our particular national traditions as magnificent and life-giving, but also fragile gifts. He does not reject that inheritance, nor does he chance losing it all for utopian dreams. Such leaders covet the honors bestowed upon them by their people; they do not lust for the approbation of the “international community”, which is in fact the public relations apparatus of an oligarchy.

Recognizing the particular character of the European nations … we need not be perplexed before the spurious claims of the multiculturalists. Immigration without assimilation is colonization, and this must be rejected. We rightly expect that those who migrate to our lands will incorporate themselves into our nations and adopt our ways. This expectation needs to be supported by sound policy.

Yes. But then the Statement goes off the rails again:

The language of multiculturalism has been imported from America.

It has not. The United States have encouraged and proved the value of multi-ethnicity, not multiculturalism; many ethnicities, one culture – and that an open, hospitable one that integrates anything from any other culture that is useful to it. (An enriching eclecticism now condemned by the Left as “cultural appropriation”.)

At least one of the authors then got it right:

But America’s great age of immigration came at the turn of the twentieth century, a period of remarkably rapid economic growth, in a country with virtually no welfare state, and with a very strong sense of national identity to which immigrants were expected to assimilate. … That experience tells us that …  a generous welfare system can impede assimilation … We must not allow a multicultural ideology to deform our political judgments about how best to serve the common good, which requires national communities with sufficient unity and solidarity to see their good as common.

“Demographic change” is called by its name at last:

After World War II, Western Europe cultivated vital democracies. After the collapse of the Soviet Empire, Central European nations restored their civic vitality. These are among Europe’s most precious achievements. But they will be lost if we do not address immigration and demographic change in our nations. Only empires can be multicultural, which is what the European Union will become if we fail to make renewed solidarity and civic unity the criteria by which to assess immigration policies and strategies for assimilation.

The Statement then drifts off again into high-falutin sentiment about “spiritual greatness” needing to be restored to “counter the growing power of mere wealth”, and the need for “the populace” to be “guided toward a virtuous life”. And this:

While we recognize the positive aspects of free-market economics, we must resist ideologies that seek to totalize the logic of the market. …  Economic growth, while beneficial, is not the highest good. Markets need to be oriented toward social ends.

No, they do not. They need to be left alone.

After going on a bit about the arts needing to be about “the sublime and the beautiful”, and stressing that “marriage and family are essential”, they come to weigh the merits of “populism” – the movement begun in America by Donald Trump (and spreading rapidly and effectively, we hope, in Europe). They see it as a source of “anxiety”, but acknowledge that it may be a salutary correction to the “globalist” trend.

There is great anxiety in Europe today because of the rise of what is called “populism” — though the meaning of the term seems never to be defined, and it is used mostly as invective. We have our reservations. Europe needs to draw upon the deep wisdom of her traditions rather than relying on simplistic slogans and divisive emotional appeals. Still, we acknowledge that much in this new political phenomenon can represent a healthy rebellion against the tyranny of the false Europe, which labels as “anti-democratic’” any threat to its monopoly on moral legitimacy. The so-called “populism” challenges the dictatorship of the status quo … and rightly so. It is a sign that even in the midst of our degraded and impoverished political culture, the historical agency of the European peoples can be reborn. …

In this moment, we ask all Europeans to join us in rejecting the utopian fantasy of a multicultural world without borders. We rightly love our homelands, and we seek to hand on to our children every noble thing that we have ourselves received as our patrimony. As Europeans, we also share a common heritage, and this heritage asks us to live together in peace as a Europe of nations. Let us renew national sovereignty, and recover the dignity of a shared political responsibility for Europe’s future.

We must take responsibility.

Phillipe Bénéton (France)

Rémi Brague (France)

Chantal Delsol (France)

Roman Joch (Česko)

Lánczi András (Magyarország)

Ryszard Legutko (Polska)

Roger Scruton (United Kingdom)

Robert Spaemann (Deutschland)

Bart Jan Spruyt (Nederland)

Matthias Storme (België)

The moral messages of religious myths (3) 1

Do biblical myths convey a “higher”, “transcendant” morality? Do all, some, or any of them possess a validity for all human beings for as long as the human race exists?

In our post The moral messages of religious myths (1), (June 29, 2017), we discussed the story of Adam and Eve, and in the next of the series, The moral messages of religious myths (2), (July 21, 2017), Cain and Abel.

Now we come to the story of Abraham not sacrificing his son Isaac.  

Here is the story (taking the text of the King James Version of the Bible):

Ninety year old Abraham and his barren old wife Sarah suddenly, miraculously, have a son, to their surprise. They name him Isaac. They’re delighted with him. Then God orders Abraham to kill him as a sacrifice.

And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.

And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.

Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.

And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.

And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.

And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?

And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.

And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.

And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.

And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.

And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

This is the most important myth in Judaism. It is told as a story of obedience; the obedience of the founder of monotheism to his one god. So it is reasonable that it is almost always interpreted as a story of obedience. The obedience is rewarded.

The willingness to sacrifice the beloved son is rewarded. The willingness being there, the deed need not be performed: :

And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,

And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:

That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;

And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

So the story has a greater significance: that the god of the Hebrews does not require human sacrifice – only the willingness of men to sacrifice their children. 

Many if not all ancient gods required human sacrifice. But Abraham – or Abram, as he was called at the beginning of his story – led his family or tribe away from the land of the Chaldeans where “The recovery of about 2,000 burials attested to the practice of human sacrifice on a large scale“.

Abram’s tribe removed themselves from a cult of human sacrifice. Abram’s god would not be like the other gods of Mesopotamia. For their One God, animal sacrifice was substituted for human sacrifice  

… until a Greek who had come from Tarsus to Jerusalem, tried to re-introduce human sacrifice into the Jewish religion about two thousand years later. He probably converted to Judaism and gave himself the Hebrew name Saul, which he later changed to the Roman name Paul. He heard that a certain pious Jew, a teacher and preacher with a small but devout following, had been killed by the Romans; nailed to a wooden pole and cross-beam – the usual method of execution they used for rebels. But then, he was told, a miracle had occurred. Although the Jew had certainly died and been put in a tomb, he came to life again three days later, walked about and was recognized by some who knew him. So his followers related. After that, they said, he had gone up to heaven, but would descend again to Judea, and on his second coming lead an insurrection that would succeed in overthrowing Roman rule and make the Jews as prosperous and powerful as they had been in the days of King David and King Solomon.

Paul was so taken with the story of the resurrection that, finding the Jews obstinately refusing to accept his interpretation of it, he built a new religion on it. His version of the story was that the Jew, whom he named with the Greek name Jesus, had sacrificed himself to redeem mankind from the sin that all human beings were stained with because Adam and Eve had tasted the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Jesus, Paul taught, was the divine son of God, who had been born on earth as a man in order to redeem mankind from that original sin by sacrificing himself; by God the Son sacrificing himself to God the Father.

(For more on Paul and his authorship of the Christian religion, go here.)

The Jews could not accept Paul’s version of the story. The essence of their religion was that there was only one god who did not require human sacrifice.

The myth that encapsulates this idea is important to Judaism; and it has a wider significance historically if it is true that the Abrahamic tribe separated itself from the Chaldeans in order to move away from child sacrifice.

In any case, it marks a moral advance in the history of the human race.

Does it have any more meaning or importance than that? Some enduring lesson for all time?

We cannot see that it does.

Posted under Christianity, Judaism, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Sunday, September 24, 2017

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Believing the unbelievable 9

Theodore Dalrymple, a psychiatrist as well as a writer by profession, writes in his book Out Into The Beautiful World*:

Freud was no scientist; he was instead an unscrupulous charlatan, oscillating between wishful thinking and outright lying, a psychopathic manipulator who owed his success not to the truth but to the emptiness of his theories, the founder of a religious sect rather than of a scientific discipline, a man avid for fame and fortune only too aware that he might not achieve them by more conventional means, and an incestuous adulterer to boot. Moreover, his technique, if something as nebulous as psychoanalysis can be called a technique, was of no greater therapeutic value than exorcism, although much more expensive and a great deal less fun – except for those who desired to talk endlessly about themselves and were willing to pay someone else to listen to them or at least pretend to listen to them. …

The question is why theories so arcane, so preposterously speculative, so lacking in evidence in their favor and even in the possibility of there being any such evidence, should for a number of decades have conquered the most scientifically-advanced regions of the world.

This last sentence reminds us of another religion: Christianity.

Let’s  review the story.

As Saul, later Paul, of Tarsus told it, a Jewish man named Jesus in Greek, who was executed by the Roman authorities in the province of Judea, came back to life and rose bodily to the highest heaven where he reigns over the world along with God, his father. They are both God, father and son. Yet although they are two Persons, they are not two gods but the same One God. Paul learnt by intuition that Jesus, knowing he was about to suffer death by crucifixion, had told his twelve close followers at the last meal they had together in Jerusalem, that bread was his body and wine was his blood. Bread and wine, blessed by priests of Paul’s new religion, were to be ritually consumed by his acolytes, thus taking the body and blood of Jesus into their own bodies.

The story was elaborated by others, and while varying in details came broadly to be this:

Jesus was born of a virgin mother. In his maturity (early thirties or late forties) he gathered twelve close followers, preached to multitudes how to be good by being humble, loving and forgiving, bearing no grudges, and returning kindness for unkindness. He performed miracles of healing, brought a dead man back to life, catered miraculously at a wedding (turning water into wine) and at an outdoor religious convention (making a few loaves and fishes stretch to feed five thousand), walked on water, calmed a storm with a command. He was killed by the Romans for leading a seditious conspiracy, but only because the Jews demanded his death (for no crime or sin known to Jewish law or tradition). After three days hanging on a cross (crucifixion being the common Roman punishment for sedition), his dead body was taken down, wrapped in cerements, and entombed in a cave, its entrance being sealed with a boulder. (This despite the usual way the Romans had of disposing of crucified corpses by throwing them on waste ground to be consumed by the vultures.) After another three days, the heavy boulder was found rolled away from the entrance to the tomb, the cerements intact, not unwound nor cut open, but with no corpse in them. An angel was hovering near by. For a short time Jesus was seen walking about in Judea, appearing in the flesh fully clad to many and various witnesses –  though some who had known him well did not at first recognize him. Then he rose bodily to heaven. He was expected to come back to earth again quite soon (which he did not). His virgin mother also after a time rose bodily to heaven, not under her own steam like her son, but lifted there by angels. There is only one God, but he consists (not of two, but) of three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Among the many disagreements between sects that worship this triune god, one is over the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit or “Holy Ghost”: was he emanated by the Father only, or by both the Father and the Son? Another disagreement, wrangled over from the fourth century to the present day, is about whether the Son is of the same divine substance as the Father, or whether their divine substances are only similar. Multitudes have died for strenuously defending the one or the other position.

Once a man who lived at a certain time in human history was believed to be God, awkward questions were bound to arise. Why did the all-powerful lord of the universe let himself suffer on a cross? How could the immortal God die? Why did Jesus on the cross cry out “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (quoting Psalm 22:1). The answer to these questions, provided by the arbiters of orthodoxy and considered by them to be perfectly satisfactory, is that Jesus was “both fully divine and fully human”. While to non-believers this may seem to beg the question rather than answer it, believers are satisfied with it.

Besides which, as the son of God, Jesus – according to St. Paul – had to suffer and die on the cross as a human sacrifice to save human beings from their sins; in particular the “original sin” of Adam and Eve who, in disobedience to God’s orders, tasted the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden, and so tainted the whole human race which descended from them.

Despite the sacrifice of Jesus to save human beings, they are still not saved from sin and punishment. Christianity invented Hell to which sinners go. Christian authorities resolve this apparent contradiction by saying that Jesus, by sacrificing himself (to Himself), gave human beings the hope of being forgiven for their sins and living eternally in Heaven if they followed his teaching and were good. Yet most mainstream Christian sects maintain that being good won’t cut it; that only the grace of God will get you into Heaven. Catholic Christianity taught this at first, but eventialy came round to conceding that by doing good works you may buy yourself a place up there. Calvinism and Lutheranism make no such concession (your posthumous destiny being decided before you are even born). St. Augustine – one of the most illustrious of Christian saints – believed that most people would be damned to Hell. And St. Thomas Aquinas thought that one of the joys of being in Heaven would be contemplating the suffering of those in Hell.

Why did a creed so arcane, so preposterously unlikely, so confused and frightening, so lacking in evidence in its favor and even the possibility of there being any such evidence, conquer the European mind for twenty centuries?

 

*Out Into The Beautiful World by Theodore Dalrymple, New English Review Press, 2015, Chapter 14.

Posted under Christianity, Judaism, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

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Great days of the glorious crusades 2

From Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore, a description of what the Crusaders of the First Crusade did when they reached Jerusalem in 1099:

The fighting raged there for hours; the Franks went berserk, and killed anyone they encountered in the streets and alleyways. They cut off not only heads but hands and feet, glorying in the spurting fountains of cleansing infidel blood. Although carrying out a massacre in a stormed city was not unprecedented, the sanctimonious pride with which the perpetrators recorded it possibly was. “Wonderful sights were to be seen,” enthused one eyewitness, Raymond of Aguilers, the Count of Toulouse’s chaplain: “Our men cut off the heads of their enemies, others shot them with arrows so that they fell from the towers, others tortured them longer by casting them into the flames. Piles of heads, hands and feet were to be seen on the streets. It was necessary to pick one’s way over the bodies of men and horses.”

Babies were seized from their mothers, their heads dashed against the walls. As the barbarity escalated, “Saracens, Arabs and Ethiopians” — meaning the black Sudanese troops of the Fatimid army — took refuge on the roofs of the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa. But, as they fought their way towards the Dome, the knights hacked a path across the crowded esplanade, killing and dicing through human flesh until “in the Temple [of Solomon, as the Crusaders called al-Aqsa], they rode in blood up to their bridles. Indeed it was a just and splendid judgment of God that this place should be filled with the blood of unbelievers”.

The Jews sought refuge in their synagogues, but the Crusaders set them on fire. The Jews were burned alive, almost a climactic burnt offering in Christ’s name. Godfrey of Bouillon took off his sword and with a small entourage circled the city and prayed, before making his way to the Holy Sepulchre.

A ghoulish delight was taken in the dismemberment of the victims, which was treated almost as a sacrament. “Everywhere lay fragments of human bodies, headless bodies and mutilated limbs, strewn in all directions.” There was something even more dreadful in the wild-eyed, gore-spattered Crusaders themselves, “dripping with blood from head to foot, an ominous sight that brought terror to all who met them.” They searched the streets of the bazaars, dragging out more victims to be “slain like sheep”. Each Crusader had been promised possession of any house marked by his “shield and arms”: consequently the pilgrims searched the city most carefully and boldly killed the citizens, culling “wives, children, whole households”, many of them “dashed headlong to the ground” from high windows.

On the 17th [July], the pilgrims (as these slaughterers called themselves) were finally sated with butchery and “refreshed themselves with the rest and food they greatly needed”.

The princes and priests made their way to the Holy Sepulchre where they sang in praise of Christ, clapping joyously and bathing the altar in tears of joy, before parading through the streets to the Temple of the Lord (the Dome of the Rock) and the Temple of Solomon. Those streets were strewn with body parts, decaying in the summer heat.

The Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade, Venetians and Franks, attacked the Christian capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, Constantinople, in April, 1204. Here’s a brief description of what happened from A Short History of Byzantium by John Julius Norwich:

Once the walls were breached the carnage was dreadful. … Not for nothing had the Franks waited so long outside the world’s richest capital. Now that the customary three days’ looting was was allowed them, they fell on it like locusts. Never since the barbarian invasions had Europe witnessed such an orgy of brutality and vandalism; never in history had so much beauty, so much superb craftsmanship, been wantonly destroyed in so short a space of time. Among the witnesses was Nicetas Choniates:

They smashed the holy images and hurled the sacred relics of the Martyrs into places I am ashamed t mention, scattering everywhere the body and blood of the Saviour … As for their profanation of the Great Church, they destroyed the high altar and shared out the pieces among themselves … And they brought horses and mules into the Church, the better to carry off the holy vessels, and the pulpit, and the doors, and the furniture wherever it was to be found; and when some of these beasts slipped and fell, they ran through them with their swords, fouling the Church with their blood and ordure.

A common harlot was enthroned in the Patriarch’s chair, to hurl insults at Jesus Christ; and she sang bawdy songs, and danced immodestly in the holy place … nor was their mercy shown to virtuous matrons, innocent maids or even virgins consecrated to God …

“And these men,” he continues, “carried the Cross on their shoulders, the Cross upon which they had sworn to abstain from the pleasures of the flesh until their holy task was done.”

It was Constantinople’s darkest hour – even darker, perhaps, than that which was to see the city’s final fall to the Ottoman Sultan. But not all its treasures perished. While the Franks abandoned themselves to a frenzy of destruction, the Venetians kept their heads. They too looted – but they did not destroy. They knew beauty when they saw it. All that they could lay their hands on they sent back to Venice – beginning with the four great bronze horses which, from their high platform above the main door of St. Mark’s, were to dominate the Piazza for the next eight centuries. …

The Fourth Crusade … surpassed even its predecessors in faithlessness and duplicity, in brutality and greed. By the sack of Constantinople, Western civilization suffered a loss greater than the sack of Rome in the fifth century or the burning of the library of Alexandria on the seventh – perhaps the most catastrophic loss in all history, Politically, too, the damage was incalculable. Byzantium never recovered any considerable part of its lost dominion. Instead, the Empire was left powerless to defend itself against the Ottoman tide. There are few greater ironies in history than the fact that the fate of Eastern Christendom should have bean sealed by men who fought under the banner of the Cross.

 

(Hat-tip to Cogito for the Montefiore quotation)

Posted under Christianity, History, War by Jillian Becker on Saturday, August 5, 2017

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The moral messages of religious myths (2) 6

In our post No problem for atheists (June 28, 2017), we include a video clip of Professor Jordan Peterson (whom we much admire and usually agree with on political issues) in which he talked about myths of religion.

We quote from that post:

[Professor Jordan Peterson] thinks that atheists such as Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins do not realize that the ethics they take for granted are predicated on a long tradition of moral principles encapsulated in the myths of religion. The myths convey, down through the ages, the “higher”, the “transcendent” morality – which, he says, “can be personified in the idea of God”.  Those moral principles, he suggests, are not just divinely revealed, they can be said to define and constitute the Divine itself.

The implication is that at certain moments in ancient history, revelations of some “transcendent” moral truths were imparted to certain men. If not by a god at least from some source of divine wisdom. And because these come from that “higher” source, they are the right guides for human behavior.

So they possess, in Professor Peterson’s opinion – as in the opinion of his fellow believers – a validity for all human beings for as long as the human race exists.

Subsequently we critically examined the myth of “the Fall”, the story of Adam and Eve, in our post The moral messages of religious myths (1), (June 29, 2017).

Here now are some observations on the story of Cain and Abel.

First, here is the story as told in Chapter 4 of the Book of Genesis, verses 1-17, in the King James Version of the Hebrew bible:

 And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord.  And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.  And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.  And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering:  But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.  And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?  If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.  And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.  And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?  And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.  And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand;  When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.  And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear.  Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.  And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.  And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.

What are we told?

The first man and woman had two sons. [No mention is made of daughters.]

One son, Abel, raised sheep. The other son, Cain, cultivated the land for plant food.

Abel took some of his mutton and made a [burnt] offering of it to God. Cain did the same with some of his vegetables.

God in some way not told indicated that he accepted the offering of Abel and rejected the offering of Cain.

Cain, apparently out of jealousy, killed Abel.

God punished Cain. He told him he’d have a much harder time in future raising food, and he would henceforth be a fugitive and vagabond.

Cain complained that “every one” who found him as fugitive and vagabond would kill him.

To save him from this, God put a mark on him. [We are not told what the mark looked like, where on him it was put, or how it signaled to those who would kill him that God forbade them to do so – or who these people are who have suddenly appeared upon the earth.]

Cain left the vicinity of Eden (from which his father and mother had been exiled)  and moved east to a land called Nod (when and by whom is not told). There he and his wife – presumably a sister of his – have a son called Enoch.

There follows, in the next few verses (not quoted), a list of Enoch’s descendants. His sons and grandsons all have wives. A female descendant is mentioned.

What messages can we extract from the story?

Our common ancestor was a murderer. A fratricide.

God likes meat (fatty meat), not vegetables.

Can anything in the story provide a message of eternal validity for all people at all times?

That killing is wrong?

That fratricide is wrong? 

That it is wrong not to be our brothers’  keepers?

That we are all brothers and it is wrong to kill each other?

(Certainly not that it is wrong for a man to marry his sister.)

Whatever the wrong is, it  is not to be punished by death but by hardship.

What moral message of eternal validity does Professor Peterson extract from the story?

He lays stress on the “sacrifice”.  

Here is a link to a YouTube video in which he talks about it at some length (starting on the subject of Cain and Abel and their sacrifices at about the 8.50 mark).

He asks, ‘Why do people make sacrifices to God?” He observes that some of his students, or their families, may have made sacrifices in order to pay for them to go to university, his implication being that we can all understand the idea of sacrifice. We give up something in the hope that by doing so we gain something else that we desire.

He says that “before the invention of electricity or even fire” [?], people looked up at the lights in the night sky. They saw the infinite (“the fact of the infinite”, he says), and thought that “God resides there”.  That, he says, is not a primitive idea, it is “an intelligent and creative hypothesis”.

Having hypothesized that God resides up there, “You burn something  and the smoke rises” and “God gets a crack at determining the quality of your offering”.  

We cannot see that sacrificing something to God in the hope of getting something else – traditionally in many religions that something else being prosperity, progeny, good health, long life, ultimately heaven – is anything more than superstition.

He might say we belittle the story. We think he magnifies its significance as an eternally valid moral lesson about sacrifice.

We might agree more if the chief message of the story is that it is wrong to kill, and that we have a moral duty to each other, at least of restraint. To us that is a rational assumption in the interest of self-preservation, while to him it is a principle taught to us by this religious myth.   

We rely on our readers to correct us if we have overlooked something in the story that makes it convey, down through the ages, the “higher, transcendent morality”.

Posted under Christianity, Judaism, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Friday, July 21, 2017

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Islam wins because it is a religion of hate and cruelty 2

For centuries in Europe the Christian idea that everyone should love everyone else, forgive any and all offense, was honored more in the breach than the observance. The doctrine of pity, mercy, humility and self-denial was taught by the Catholic and Protestant churches, while they oppressed, imprisoned, tortured, and burnt to death countless men, women and children. For a thousand years and more Europe practiced blatant, official, Christian hypocrisy.

Now, according to recent (April 2017) research by The Telegraph, fourteen of the 23 least religious countries in the world are European. Poland “stands out against the rest of Europe, with 86 per cent answering ‘yes’ to the question “do you feel religious?” Only “around three in 10 Britons feel religious” (while “56 per cent of Americans” do).

But now, when Europe no longer preaches the doctrine, it is at last officially practicing it.

Almost the entire continent is martyring itself.

Giulio Meotti writes at Gatestone:

September 2015. Thousands of Syrian migrants crossing the Balkan route were heading toward Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel was on the phone with Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, talking about a number of measures to protect the borders, where thousands of policemen were secretly located along with buses and helicopters. De Maizière turned for advice to Dieter Romann, then head of the police. “Can we live with the images that will come out?” de Mazière asked. “What happens if 500 refugees with children in their arms run toward the border guards?”

De Maiziére was told that the appropriate use of the measures to be taken would have be decided by the police on the field. When de Maizière relayed Romann’s response to the Chancellor, Merkel reversed her original commitment. And the borders were opened for 180 days.

“For historical reasons, the Chancellor feared images of armed German police confronting civilians on our borders,” writes Robin Alexander, Die Welt’s leading journalist, who revealed these details in a new book, Die Getriebenen (“The Driven Ones”). Alexander reveals the real reason that pushed Merkel to open the door to a million and a half migrants in a few weeks: “In the end, Merkel refused to take responsibility, governing through the polls.” This is how the famous Merkel’s motto “Wir schaffen das” was born: “We can do it.”

According to Die Zeit:

Merkel and her people are convinced that the marchers could only be stopped with the help of violence: with water cannons, truncheons and pepper spray. It would be chaotic and the images would be horrific. Merkel is extremely wary of such images and of their political impact, and she is convinced that Germany wouldn’t tolerate them. Merkel once said that Germany wouldn’t be able to stand the images from the dismal conditions in the refugee camp at Calais for more than three days. But how much more devastating would images be of refugees being beaten as they try to get to Austria or Germany?

Merkel’s refugee policy was not a masterpiece of humanitarian politics; it was dictated by the fear of television images spread all over the world. In so many key moments, it is the photograph that dictates our behavior: the image that dishonors us, that makes us cringe in horror.

Now, the main German sentiment that seems to be driving public opinion and politics is a dramatic sense of guilt. It is a “secular sin”, according to a new book by German sociologist Rolf Peter Sieferle that is topping the German bestseller list, “Finis Germania“.

The behavior of Germans during the current migrant crisis, however, is symbolic of a more general Western condition. On April 30, 1975, the fall of Saigon was part of a war fought and lost by the United States as much on television as in the Vietnamese forests and rice paddies. It ended with the the escape of helicopters from the rooftop of the US embassy.

In 1991, the imagery of the “highway of death” of Saddam Hussein’s bombed army of thugs fleeing a plundered Kuwait also shocked the public in the West, and led to calls for an immediate cessation of the fighting in Iraq and Kuwait. The result was that Saddam Hussein’s air force and Republican Guard divisions were spared; during the “peace” that followed, it was these troops who butchered Kurds and Shiites.

The photograph of a dead American soldier dragged through the streets of Mogadishu after the “Black Hawk Down” incident pushed President Bill Clinton to order a shameful retreat from Somalia. That photograph also led the US Administration to rethink and cancel plans to use US troops for United Nations peace operations in Bosnia, Haiti and other strategic points. General David Petraeus would describe America’s engagement in Afghanistan as a “war of perception”.

Even the suffering of our enemies disturbs us, in the humanitarian culture of the West. We are therefore increasingly amenable to policies of appeasement, censorship and retreat, in order not to have to face the possibility of such horribleness and actually having to fight it.

That is why radical Islam has been able to horrify the West into submission. We have paralysed ourselves. We censor the cartoons, the graphic photos of the terrorists’ victims and even the faces and names of the jihadists. The Islamic terrorists, on the other hand, are not publicity-seekers; they are soldiers ready to die and kill in the name of what they care about.

This week, the German media was shocked by the revelation that the German air force will probably come under fire during its Syrian mission. “Endangering German soldiers!” — with an exclamation point – wrote Bild, the largest-selling newspaper in Germany. The statement exposed the anxiety of what John Vinocur of the Wall Street Journal called a “country where the army and air force basically do not fight”. A pacifist Germany is now a source of trouble also for its own neighbors, such as Poland. “For centuries, our main worry in Poland was a very strong German army”, said former Polish Defense Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz. “Today, we’re seriously worried about German armed forces that are too weak.”

The Western establishment censors images of our enemies’ crimes while giving prominence to our “guilt”. The French government censored the “gruesome torture” of the victims at the Bataclan Theater, who were castrated, disemboweled and had their eyes gouged out by the Islamist terrorists. It was a mistake: it was in the public interest to know exactly what enemy we are facing.

The FBI and Department of Justice released a transcript of the Orlando jihadist’s 911 call, but omitted all reference to the terror group ISIS and to Islam. These authorities did not want the public to know that Omar Mateen identified himself as an “Islamic soldier”.

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance then told the British press it should not report when terrorists are Muslim.

The CEO of Twitter, Dick Costolo, suspended accounts that showed photographs of the beheading of John Foley, along with other Islamist beheadings and savagery. But Twitter did not mind being flooded by images of a little dead boy, Alan (Aylan) Kurdi on a beach.

The mainstream media in the US fought hard to lift the photo ban on military coffins during the war in Iraq. Its goal, apparently, was to humiliate and intimidate the public, to lower the support for the war.

Images, as in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, are published only if they amplify the West’s sense of guilt and turn the “war on terror” into something even more dangerous than the jihad causing the war.

Amnesty International’s Secretary General, Irene Khan – referring to concentration camps in the Soviet Union, where millions of people perished – infamously called Guantanamo “the Gulag of our time”. The result is to erase our enemy from our imagination. This is how the “war on terror” has become synonymous with lawlessness throughout the West.

Ten years ago, after the brave surge in Iraq, US soldiers discovered Al Qaeda’s torture chambers. No one – not ABC, not CBS, not the New York Times – published one photo of them; they just filled our eyes with naked bodies at Abu Ghraib.

We are utopian technophiles and, contrary to the traditional Western view that we are flawed human beings in a tragic world. We now believe in Mark Zuckerberg’s brave new world where no one should ever suffer and everyone should be happy and peaceful all the time. That is an exorbitant dream. For a short time we can afford it, as with Angela Merkel and Europe’s migrant crisis. Unfortunately, that fantasy will not last. The conflicts at our gates, together with our aversion to making hard choices, will exact a far higher price.

The moral messages of religious myths (1) 12

[Continued from the post immediately below.]

Dr. Peterson says that it is the body of religious myths that carry the “transcendent values” that provide us with eternal guidance to moral rectitude.

So from time to time we will look at the myths themselves.

Today, the myth of the first Man and Woman in the Garden of Eden and their Sin, aka the myth of the Fall of Man.

The message of the myth of Eden presents itself as this: by becoming aware of good and evil, humankind lost its innocence. In a state of innocence, human beings could have lived forever; but  getting to know good and evil made them guilty. Their getting to know good and evil was their Sin. Because they were guilty of Sin, they had to die. Sin made them mortal.

Their discovery of morality made them mortal? Once they could tell right from wrong they deserved to die?  

Yes.

How did they discover morality?

They ate of the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. They did this despite being ordered by God their Maker not to eat the Fruit of that Tree. Why did they disregard God’s order ? Because they were  tempted to. The First Woman was tempted to eat the fruit by a Serpent who dwelt in the Tree. She succumbed to temptation. The First Man was tempted to eat the Fruit by the Woman who had already done so. He succumbed to temptation. Hence their Fall from Grace, their Loss of Innocence, their expulsion from the easy life of the fruitful Garden, their eventual Deaths.

It could be observed that the real Tempter was God who put the Tree there in the first place. (Also the snake.) No tree, no temptation, no fall.  So why did he put it there?

Religion does not encourage the asking of why. But it is asked, and the usual answer is that God put it there to test them. He gave them the capacity to choose – aka Free Will – and they chose wrong. Point is, they came to know Good and Evil. That’s how humanity came to know Good and Evil, and because our species came to know Good and Evil our lives must come to an end.

So the “transcendent value”, the precept, the moral in the myth by which everyone, consciously or unconsciously, is living by  – or failing to live by – today is … what?

Hard to see. Sure, the myth gives an explanation, if a rather puzzling one, to those who wonder why we must all die; why the God they are told is all-good, all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful, condemns us all to death.

Our remote ancestors did something very wicked: they disobeyed God and ate something they shouldn’t have, so  that’s why?

Yes.

Okay, but is there an actual, useful, moral precept in all that? A do or a don’t for us to follow? After all, the Fruit cannot be un-eaten. No action can be taken by you or me now that will undo what the First Man and Woman did, make us immortal again, put us back in the ever-fruitful Garden, wipe  the knowledge of right and wrong clean out of our brains …

And come to think of it, why is it a sin to know the difference between right and wrong?

Sorry. Don’t know. That why does not seem to have been answered, even reluctantly, by interpreters of the myth!

Okay, well how about this for the moral message?: You must not disobey God. Obeying him now won’t save you from death, but it might keep you from getting him angry and condemning you to some awful punishment.

Mm-hmm. So how will I know what God wants me to do and not do?

We can learn that from the myths of the Bible.

Can we?

We’ll try to find out by exploring more of them in the near future.

Posted under Atheism, Christianity, Judaism, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Thursday, June 29, 2017

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The evil of religion 1

Sam Harris on the inferiority of Islam, the superiority of the West. And the evil of religion.

The School of Athens

Part of a mural by Raphael (1403-1520) in the  Apostolic Palace of the Vatican, Rome.

The evil creator god 3

Irish police are now “investigating” Stephen Fry [“Jeeves”] for blasphemy.

Here’s a video of the television interview that caused offense: Stephen Fry on RTE, the partly state-owned Irish national public broadcaster, in February 2015.

From Wikipedia:

In Ireland, blasphemy against Christianity is prohibited by the constitution and carries a maximum fine of €25,000; however the offense of blasphemous libel, last prosecuted in 1855, was ruled in 1999 to be incompatible with the Constitution’s guarantee of religious equality. A controversial law was passed on 9 July 2009 and went into effect on 1 January 2010. The law prohibits publishing or uttering “matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion”.

No charges have been brought under that law until possibly now.

Stephen Fry is being “investigated”  – after all this time – but how likely is he to be prosecuted?

The complainant who set the wheels of justice turning in the case accused Fry not of blasphemy but of “defamation”. Blasphemy comes under the heading of Defamation in the Act, and is a crime.

Usually, defamation is a matter for civil action. But can someone sue someone for defaming someone else? Especially when the someone else is of dubious existence and no fixed address, so he cannot be subpoenaed to testify.

Hmm. But it would be delightful to hear Fry’s accusations repeated in court. And as long as his accusers insist that “God” is real, and really did create everything, how will they answer the defense that Fry’s accusations of his evil-doing are true and that by their own claims he is responsible for them?

It’s a fascinating encounter between moral indignation (Fry’s) and moral hypocrisy (his accusers’).

*

Update May 10, 2017:

Gardaí [the Irish police] have decided not to proceed with a blasphemy investigation against Stephen Fry after they failed to find a large group of people outraged by comments he made on an RTÉ show. …

Under the controversial legislation, introduced by then Justice Minister Dermot Ahern in 2009, it is illegal to publish or utter a matter that is “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters sacred by any religion, thereby intentionally causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of that religion”.

How many make “a substantial number”?

That the gardaí are not revealing.

Posted under Christianity, Judaism, Theology by Jillian Becker on Sunday, May 7, 2017

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Civilization’s fulcrum moment 13

This is a fulcrum moment in the history of civilized man. (Yes, MAN – the correct generic term for the human race.) What is happening to the Western world now is equivalent to the fall of the Roman Empire.

If most of Europe becomes Islamized, as it is fast becoming by the will and action of the Left – and all the governments of Western Europe are on the Left even those that call themselves Conservative – then where and how, if at all, will our civilization survive?

If most of Europe becomes Islamized, what will remain of European civilization in its homelands?

Imagine a map of Europe showing the thousands of square miles of vineyards. Think of the grapes, and the harvests, and the process of wine-making – the generations of practice and discovery that have perfected it. Do you enjoy drinking wine? Well, there will be no more for you to enjoy. Not from Europe. It will go. All those vineyards will be laid to waste. Islam forbids the drinking of alcohol.

So also beer, ale, whisky … the industries and the pleasure will all be gone. Your cosy village pub? Gone. Your  cocktail hour? Gone. Allah does not permit them to exist.

Now think of the art galleries of Europe. The pictures, the sculpture. Islam forbids the making of images of human beings and animals. Nudes in particular are haram. What will be done with Leonardo, Michelangelo, Velazquez, Rembrandt, Bernini? Their works will be destroyed. The pictures will be burnt. The sculptures will be hammered into dust.

Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne

What will be done with the libraries? They contain millions of books that are blasphemous in the judgment of Islam. They will all be destroyed.

What will be done with the schools and universities? What will they be allowed to teach? What will scientists be allowed to do? We know the answers to those questions.

Do you love music? You will not hear the great works of the European composers performed any more. Not in Europe. The concert halls will probably be turned into mosques.

What will be the position of women in Islamic Europe? We all know the answer to that. If Western women were “liberated” in the twentieth century, come the late twenty-first century their brief age of liberty will be over.

What will happen to homosexuals under Islamic rule? Islamic law decrees that they must be put to death.

If you are a Christian or a Jew, and insist on remaining a Christian or a Jew rather than joining Islam, you may be allowed to live if you pay protection money to your Islamic overlords. But don’t count on it. Muslim powers have not shown themselves to be in a merciful mood lately. Christians are being slaughtered even in comparatively tolerant Islamic countries such as Egypt; and in what used to be Iraq and Syria they are being mass-murdered, tortured and enslaved by the caliphate of the Islamic State. And Jews? How likely are they to be allowed to exist under any circumstances? As for atheists – they will have to pretend to believe in Allah-and-his-Prophet, or die.

There will be no more fair trials. In Britain, the adversarial system with its safeguards for the innocent of guaranteed defense, cross-examination of witnesses, rules of evidence, juries, will be abolished. On the continent the inquisitorial system – examination by magistrates “to find the truth” – will also be abolished. Sharia law will replace the old systems and codes. An example of sharia justice? If a woman claims she has been raped and cannot prove it by producing four male witnesses who will swear to having seen penetration, she is held to be guilty of adultery; her punishment for adultery is death. The method of her execution? She is buried tightly up to her shoulders in a hole in a public place, and rocks are hurled at her head until she dies.

None of this is fantasy. Europe has in fact invited mass Muslim immigration. The Muslim fertility rate far exceeds that of the indigenous Europeans. Islam will predominate and rule.

It is probably too late to stop this happening. Just possibly a strong British government that grasps the horror of the impending doom, might – with Brexit accomplished and the nation being once again in a position to make its own policies – stop the Muslim influx, reduce the Muslim population, and preserve British culture, law, and freedom. Some Eastern European countries are refusing to let the Muslim “refugees” in, so there European traditions and culture might be preserved for a while.

There was some hope for the Netherlands had the voters, in their recent elections, empowered the party and the leader who would have saved them from Islamization. But they did not.

The last chance for Europe comes in a few days from now, on May 7, 2017, when two candidates for the presidency compete in a run-off election in France. If the voters choose Marine Le Pen, who does grasp the horror of the impending doom, France may be saved; and since she would probably take the country out of the European Union  and so break up that corrupt undemocratic pro-Islamic entity, Europe may be saved. Europe’s viticulture may continue. Citizens of Western countries may be able to drink French, German, Italian and Spanish wines. The art galleries may remain filled with pictures and sculpture. Music may be played in the concert halls. Scientists may be allowed to pursue science. Freedom, tolerance, justice, reason, may prevail at least to the extent that they have prevailed since the Enlightenment. The nation states of Europe may continue to exist and govern themselves.

But if a majority of the French vote for the only other candidate, Emmanuel Macron, who wants more Muslim immigration and the continuing existence of the European Union, the doom will be ensured.

 

Jillian Becker    April 24, 2017

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