A sort of coalition of the very unwilling 2

President Obama does not want to take action agains the Islamic State. But opinion polls have forced him to utter some platitudes about keeping America safe and the Islamic State being a bad thing (though “not Islamic”, he says), and to make a military gesture or two by sending a few American personnel to Iraq and having the US Air Force bomb a few IS sites. But you mustn’t call it aggressive war, what he’s doing. If it must be called “war” at all, then it must be something the whole world wants to do so the US has no choice but to go along with the wish of so overwhelming a community.

He has sent that great negotiator John Kerry. who has a record of success in his diplomatic ventures (being sarcastic here), to form a coalition.

And it looks as if Kerry will be as successful as ever he was. He has not managed to form a coalition. Not with Arab states. Not with Islamic states. Not with European states.

Iraq might say it will join, but it has only a diminished and intimidated army.

Egypt and Jordan have refused to join.

Turkey has not only refused, but has denied airbases on its territory for US or any other airstrikes against IS.

Britain and Germany will send arms to the Kurdish peshmerga forces to fight IS, but will not take part directly in the fighting.

France … Ah, France! President Francois Hollande is as eager to lead the chimerical coalition as President Obama is reluctant to do it. Last Friday he personally accompanied a vast amount of materiel to Baghdad. He plans to host the occasion in Paris on Monday when – if – a coalition will  be formed. And he has invited Iran to participate.

Our information comes largely from DebkaFile, from which we quote the following:

Friday, Obama appointed Gen. John R. Allen, former commander in Afghanistan and western Iraq, to lead the coalition forces in the war on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levan.

It is hard to see what combat forces he will lead, in view of the mixed international responses so far to Washington’s appeals for a global coalition to combat terror.

In the years 2006-2008, Gen. Allen commanded the US II Marine Expeditionary Force, which successfully fought Al Qaeda under Musab Zarqawi’s leadership in western Iraq’s Anbar province. He led what was then dubbed the “Awakening” project, which rallied the region’s Sunni tribes to the fight.

President Obama appears to be hinging his campaign against the new Islamist scourge on Gen. Allen repeating that success. …

The prospects of this happening in 2014 are fairly slim, because the circumstances are so different:

1. To support the Sunni Awakening venture, President George W. Bush authorized the famous “surge” which placed an additional 70,000 US troops on the Iraqi battlefield. However, Obama has vowed not to send US combat troops back to Iraq in significant numbers, and has approved no more than a few hundred American military personnel.

2.  In 2006, Iraqi Sunnis trusted American pledges. They agreed to turn around and fight fellow Sunni Al Qaeda after being assured by Washington that they would not lose their status and rights in Baghdad, and that the US would give them weapons and salaries. In 2009, they realized that the Obama administration would not stand by the Bush administration’s assurances. Their disillusion with America and the rise of a Shiite-dominated regime in Baghdad pushed them into the arms of ISIS.

3. Since then Iraq’s Sunni leaders have learned not to trust anyone. Today, they are hedging their bets, their tribal leaders split into two opposing camps between Saudi Arabia, on the one hand, and the Islamic State, on the other. For the first time since the US invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein 11 years ago, Iraq’s Sunni leaders feel they are in the saddle and in a position to set a high price for their support.

All this leaves President Obama and Gen. Allen on the threshold of a war on Islamist terrorists, which everyone agrees needs to be fought without delay, but without enough political leverage for going forward or much chance of mustering the right troops to lead – even into the first battle.

US-Iran-Syria – the newest military alliance 2

Here is our Facebook condensation of a report by DebkaFile of events that are unlikely to be so much as mentioned by the US media.

They reveal an astonishing  degree of co-operation between the Iranian, Syrian and US governments. (But it’s possible Obama doesn’t know; he’ll only find out about it by “watching the news”.)

At least 18 foreign ISIS fighters including Americans and Europeans were killed Thursday, Sept. 4, in a Syrian air raid of the Al Qaeda-ISIS northern Syrian headquarters in the Gharbiya district of Raqqa. The raid caught a number of high Al Qaeda commanders and a large group of foreign adherents assembled at the facility.

A second group of high ISIS officers were killed or injured in another Syrian air raid over their base in Abu Kamal near the Iraqi border. Top men of the Islamist terrorist group were holding meetings at both places Thursday to coordinate IS strike plans in Syria and Iraq.

For Syria, these plans center on the Deir a-Zor and Al Qaim areas, while in Iraq, they focus on targets in the east and center of the country.

They must be credited to top-quality US aerial surveillance over Syria and Iraq, but were undoubtedly made possible by the Obama administration’s deepening military and intelligence ties with Iran.

Many of the allies present at the two-day NATO Summit outside the Welsh town of Newport will not welcome these tidings - Britain, Germany and Australia, in particular. They deeply resent being displaced as America’s senior strategic partners by the Revolutionary Republic of Iran, after their long partnership with the US in fighting terror in Afghanistan and Iraq. But they will find it hard to argue with success.

On Aug. 31 US and Iranian special forces fighting together, broke the 100-day IS siege of the eastern Iraqi town of Amerli, 100 km from the Iranian border, to score a major victory in their first joint military ground action. Then, Wednesday, Sept. 3, US jets struck an IS base in the northern Iraqi town of Tal Afar, killing its commander, Abu Hajar Al-Sufi, and two lieutenants of the IS chief Abu Baker Al-Baghdadi.

While President Obama has denied having a strategy for fighting ISIS, a working mechanism appears to have been put in place to support a trilateral military offensive against al Qaeda’s Islamist State. The successful attacks in the last 24 hours were apparently made possible by this mechanism: Iranian intelligence collected US surveillance data from the Americans and passed it on to Syria for action.

The world order is changing continually like patterns in a rapidly-turned kaleidoscope. 

More chaos than order.

No difference between Islam and Islamism 3

… a Turkish atheist from a Muslim background writes in an article denouncing Islam.

We have taken it from Jihad Watch. The writer is Serkan Engin, who has asked for it to be published although it endangers him in Turkey. (He is a socialist, but is not advocating socialism in this article.)

Why Islam is Worse than Nazism

I am an atheist author and poet, who had lived as a Sunni Muslim for 23 years from birth, and I am still living in a Muslim country, Turkey. Also, my parents and all of my relatives are still Muslim. So, my critics about Islam can be easily consider this an inside view.

I know that the title of this essay seems assertive, but I will explain the rightness of this title step-by-step in this essay.

First of all, you have to learn about Islam that if you are an “outsider”, a non-Muslim, for example, a Christian, an atheist, a Buddhist, a Jew or whatever else, all Muslims have the “right” of killing and raping you, grabbing all your properties, your country, land, money and anything else. They take this “right” from the book of their belief, the Quran. In other words, they take this “right” from their belief’s core, the theology of Islam.

Here are some examples of this in verses from Quran.

This verse of Quran is about “all non-Muslims”, all “heretics”! — Christians, Buddhists, atheists, Jews, etc. — describing them “who wage war against Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad)”

Surat Al-Ma’idah (5.33):

Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land. That is for them a disgrace in this world; and for them in the Hereafter is a great punishment.

And this verse of the Quran is about the order to kill the humans who left Islam, the apostates:

Surat An-Nisa’ (4.89):

They wish you would disbelieve as they disbelieved so you would be alike. So do not take from among them allies until they emigrate for the cause of Allah. But if they turn away, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them and take not from among them any ally or helper..

… You have heard many times that “Islam is a tolerant religion”. That is the biggest lie that you can hear all over the World, and this lie is used as a mask to hide the terrible face of Islam. There is NO difference between Islam and Islamism. This is the main error that the modern world make about Islam. There are not different forms as Islam and Islamism, they are the same thing, and they have the same content. This separation is just only an illusion, and it is used by Muslims to hide the brutal, hateful, oppressive,murderous, genocidal face of Islam.

Islamic theology is based on the verses of the Quran and Hadith. Hadiths are the words and actions of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and all Muslims must follow these words and actions in addition to the orders of Quran. For example, you have to defecate as Muhammad did, and you have to clean yourself as he did, or you can rape and enslave a “heretic” woman in a war as a sex slave as Muhammad did, or you can torture your enemy in a war to learn the place of his hidden money, as Muhammad did.

You “must” cut the hand of a thief as Muhammad did, not give him any prison sentence as do the modern laws.

You must stone a woman to death as Muhammad did, because she had sex outside of the rules of Islam (but you must only whip her partner a hundred times). If you are a Muslim, you can never set them free while considering that their sexual actions are about their own personal relations and freedom, in accord with modern laws. You must definitely apply the punishments of Muhammad such as stoning the woman to the death and whipping her partner a hundred times if you want to be a good Muslim.

You must kill the man who left the belief of Islam, as Muhammad did. You can’t say “This is his own choice and he has the freedom of thought and belief”, because it is an order of the Quran that you “must” kill the persons who were Muslim before and then left the Islamic religion.

You must kill all homosexuals according to the orders of Islam. No Muslims can say according to Islam that their sexual orientation is their own natural right, in accord with the human rights norms of our age.

You have the “right” to marry a little girl at 9 years old, as Muhammad did. In other words, you can rape a little child legally in Islam and make her a sex slave, and also a domestic slave till the end of her life.

You can lie alongside of your dead wife for 6 hours, as Muhammad did. In other words, you can rape the dead body of your wife for 6 hours after her death.

Here is Islam … Here is the “tolerant religion” … Here is the right way to the heaven … Here are the orders of Allah … Here are the actions of Muhammad…

You can easily see how civilized the Muslim countries of the world are because of Islam, such as Afghanistan, Nigeria, Turkey, Iran, Sudan and the others. You can see how much they have contributed to the history of philosophy, the history of art, and the history of science of the whole world. You can see how respectful they are to human rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, the freedom of expression and thought, the freedom of the press, the freedom of belief, etc.

The first genocide wave of 20th century, the Armenian Genocide, the Assyrian Genocide and the Pontic Greek Genocide, was perpetrated by Turkish and Kurdish people of the Ottoman Empire and the new Turkish Republic, getting motivation from the “rights” that they had because of Islam: the “rights” of killing and raping the non-Muslims, enslaving their women and little girls as sex slaves and also domestic slaves, and grabbing their money, houses and lands. However, “The Committee of Union and Progress”  … was based on Turkish nationalism; they used Turkish and Kurdish people easily for these genocides because of the Islamic religion’s content about non-Muslims. All the Turkish and Kurdish Muslims believed that they would go to the heaven if they killed more non-Muslims, as do today’s Islamist terrorists.

The owners of the second genocide wave of 20th century were Nazis, as you know. They took the genocides of the Turks as a sample. It is know that Adolf Hitler said to his military commanders, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?,” while they were talking about the reaction of the world about the genocides that they were planning to perpetrate.

Nazism was considered a legal and respectable ideology at the beginning of the 1930s, and then the world saw how dangerous Nazism was. Millions of people died because of Nazism, and today it is illegal to support Nazism in any civilized country. You can never make propaganda about Nazism legally. Today, Nazism is not considered as a genuine thought alternative, and it is not included in the freedom of thought and expression.

Serkan Engin is wrong there. Western countries do not (and rightly do not) forbid the promotion of Nazism. Plenty of praise for it can be found in the “social media”. Neo-Nazi groups are proliferating and enlarging in many European countries. It is still, however, generally abhorred in the court of public opinion. As the ideology of Islam should be.

In Europe, you are more likely to be punished under the law for telling the truth about Islam, even in private, than for spreading Nazi or Islamic race hatred – and hatred of free speech!

As I have detailed above, Islam is against the human rights norms of our age, and it has more dangerous content than Nazism. Islam is not a belief alternative, it is just a crime against humanity, and any crime shouldn’t have freedom in our modern world. So, Islam must be declared illegal all over the world, as is Nazism, because of its vandal content and commands that are against human rights. All actions about Islam must be forbidden and the propagandists of Islam must be judged because of instigating to the crimes of murder, rape, [property] grab and crimes against humanity. Otherwise, the world will meet with a big tragedy when the Islamists will get more power, as the world suffered because of Nazism.

If the article doesn’t demonstrate that Islam is worse than Nazism, it confirms that it’s quite as evil.

Declaring an ideology illegal will not eliminate it. But Islam could be anathematized by public opinion if the Western governments, the media, and the schools and academies were to tell the truth about it continuously and consistently.

There’s no sign that that’s likely to happen. Which is why articles like this need to be widely circulated.

This is what world opinion now passionately supports 11

Call it Islam, call it Hamas, call it ISIS, call it the Muslim Brotherhood, call it BokoHaram; call it the Palestinians; call it the United Nations; call it by the name of any Islamic state; call it the interfaith movement, call it the Left, call it the religion of peace; demonstrate for it in the streets of the capitals of Europe; parade for it in New York and Chicago and Los Angeles; this is the thing itself:

We found the video at christianpost.com. We quote part of the text:

A Christian man in Syria recently had his head brutally hacked off by Islamic militants after being forced to deny his faith and salute Mohammed as “the messenger of God”.

So by Muslim rules he became a Muslim. Islam forbids Muslims to kill Muslims.

The perpetrators themselves filmed the atrocity “for the world to see and broadcast as a warning to ‘everyone like him’.”

In the video that was posted to YouTube with translated captions, the helpless Christian man is surrounded by armed militants wearing masks and he is heard reciting as instructed: “There is no God but God and I testify that Mohammed is the messenger of God.”

The victim did not say “God” but “Allah”. The Christian reporter chooses, like many Christians, to claim that the god of Islam and the god of Christianity are one and the same.

An apparent leader in the group of militants is then heard instructing the group: “No one will shoot him now, do you understand? He will not be killed by shooting because it is merciful for him.”

By which the savage seems to mean that death by shooting would be too merciful for him. He goes on:

“He will be beheaded because he is Kaffir, non-Muslim, sided [with] the government and was not praying at all. Everyone like him will have the same end, beheading,” said the militant.

Then they cut his head off as the Muslim murderers cry ‘Allahu Akbar’.

One hundred years ago today World War One began 1

Today is the centennial anniversary of the start of the First World War. On 28 July, 1914, the Austro-Hungarian army fired the first shots, to crush rebellious Serbia. What happened then, and why, is traced in this video. 

Blame is laid on the growth of nationalism, and even more on imperialism – the acquisition of colonies by the powers of Europe on other continents, in fierce competition with each other, Britain being far and away the  winner. The fact that at least some empires, chiefly the British, brought incalculable benefits to the lands they conquered, colonized and ruled, is touched on briefly; in our view, too briefly.

We think it is an overview worth watching, though there are points where we would place a different emphasis.

We agree with the presenters that the day World War One broke out was the day Europe began its terminal decline.

 

Libertarian conservatism 4

From time to time visitors to this website or our Facebook page query the idea – even the possibility – of there being such a thing as atheist conservatism. They are – almost always, as far as we can make out – Americans whose understanding is that the word “conservative” denotes Christian conservatism. To them, therefore, to speak of  “atheist conservatism” is to commit a contradiction in terms. Some have called it an oxymoron.

In Europe too, conservatism has a Christian coloration. Conservative political parties usually declare themselves to be Christian –  for example, the Christian Democratic Party (CDU) of Germany. But their support does not come only from Christians. And in Britain the established Church of England has been called “the Conservative Party at prayer”, but the party does not exclude members of other Christian denominations or other religions, or the non-religious.

Yet it is an American conservatism that we embrace. It is faithfulness to the Constitution, to the essential idea that the United States was intended to embody as a nation: the idea of individual liberty protected by the rule of law.

The shortest answer we give to those who accuse us of being self-contradictory is to tell them what our prime principles are:

  • individual freedom
  • a free market economy
  • small government
  • low taxes
  • strong defense

And we point out that those are core principles of American conservatism. The Constitution – southern state critics please be reminded – does not require citizens to be Christian, or religious at all.

Just as often, perhaps even more often, we are told that we cannot be both conservative and libertarian: that the two traditions are separate and even inimical to each other, to the point of being mutually exclusive. Even if that were  true (and we don’t think it is), we consider it unnecessary to take tradition into account. The issue needs to be looked at philosophically, not historically. Our conservatism, holding the firmly conservative principles we have listed, is manifestly a conservatism of liberty.

And we think it is now, more than ever before, that the libertarian view should direct the political agenda of conservatism. A heavy counterweight is needed to bring America back from its tipping over into collectivism by the Left. Individual freedom urgently needs to be saved.

What is stopping conservatives from accepting libertarianism as its future? The libertarians themselves. Frequently, their public statements reveal them to be inexcusably ignorant of world affairs. They often advocate naive isolationism. They seem to lack a sense of what matters. The legalization of drugs could be wise and necessary, but it is not worth making a hullabaloo about  when jihad is being waged against us. A person should arguably be able to marry any other person or persons – or things – that they choose, but it is much more important that America should remain the world’s sole superpower.

John Hinderaker also thinks that this should be “the libertarian moment”. And he too reproaches libertarians with an underdeveloped sense of what matters to the existence, liberty, safety, and prosperity of the nation. 

He writes at PowerLine:

Every major strand of American conservatism includes a strong libertarian streak, because the value of liberty is fundamental to just about all conservative thought. But today, especially, is said to be the libertarians’ moment. What once was a fringe movement, politically speaking, has moved front and center in our political life.

And yet, in my view, libertarians of both the capital L and small l varieties punch below their weight. They have not contributed as much as they should to the conservative movement. This is partly because libertarians tend to founder on foreign policy, where many are merely modern-day isolationists. But it is also because they have tended to focus on secondary, or tertiary, issues of domestic policy.

A couple of years ago I was invited to a gathering on behalf of Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico who then was a libertarian candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. I was well disposed toward him, but when he started talking, his first subject was legalization of drugs. Now he is the CEO of a marijuana company. Rand Paul is probably the leading libertarian at the moment; he purports to take seriously the threat that someone drinking coffee in an American cafe will be struck by a drone-fired missile.

American liberty is indeed under attack, and a libertarian movement is needed more than ever. But the threat to freedom is not drug laws or drone attacks.

The principal threat is the administrative state, which increasingly hems in everything we do and depends hardly at all on the will of voters. …

Calvin Coolidge, who knew the Progressives well and understood how antithetical their vision of government is to America’s founding principles [said]:

It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning cannot be applied to this great charter [the Constitution]. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

Today we labor under an administrative state that has metastasized far beyond anything Coolidge could have imagined. It constrains our freedoms, it lays waste to our economy, it has largely rendered Congress irrelevant, and it threatens to make just about anyone a criminal, since no one can possibly keep track of all of the myriad regulations with which we are encumbered. And let’s not forget that the administrative state is run by liberals, for liberals.

Despite the fact that it is antithetical to the Constitution and to American traditions, there is little opposition to the administrative state as such. Conventional politicians suggest that regulations can be made less irrational and less burdensome – a good idea, certainly – but hardly anyone questions the fundamental concept of Congress delegating its powers to unelected and mostly unaccountable agencies that are charged with managing just about every aspect of our lives. Nearly everyone considers the administrative state, as such, to be inevitable.

Why don’t libertarians stake out a “radical” position on domestic policy? Why not argue, not just for a moderation in the inevitable drift toward a more and more powerful administrative state, but for a return to the Constitution’s central principle – the very first words of Article I – that “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States…”, a Congress that is accountable to the people.

A battle is being fought for the liberties of the American people and, frankly, it isn’t going well. The fight has little or nothing to do with drugs and drones. If libertarians are serious about preserving and expanding liberty, they should join the fight that matters. A libertarian movement that focuses on a rollback of the administrative state would be “radical,” but it also would put libertarians in the vanguard, not on the fringe, of American conservatism.

Moments in the lives of dictators 3

 

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Obama in Denver

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Obama in Berlin

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Hitler at Nuremberg

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Hitler’s Nuremberg Rally

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Mussolini in Rome

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Banners of Mao in Beijing

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Banners of Stalin and Lenin in Moscow

The darkness of this world (9) 1

Today we have posted essay number 9, Faust (Two), in the series titled The Darkness of This World. (Find it under Pages in our margin.)

Here is part of it. We hope you won’t neglect the footnotes (not added here). They are laden with information –  colored by the authors’ personal judgments and prejudices.

Faust (Two)

To understand what happened in Europe in the twentieth century, the wars, the barbaric cruelty, the murder of tens of millions in cold blood; to diagnose the sickness that beset every country on the mainland of the continent, Germany most severely; to know why European man is dying a long slow death on his own heath, it is helpful to read the great German writer Thomas Mann.

In his novel Doctor Faustus, first published in 1947, the Faust figure is a German musician named Adrian Leverkühn. On leaving school in the early 20th century, young Adrian enrolls at the University of Halle as a theology student, but soon abandons his studies to devote himself to composing music.

Fearing that he is not gifted enough to fulfill his ambition, he conceives a terrible plan. He deliberately catches syphilis by insisting on having intercourse with a prostitute who has the disease, in the hope and faith that he will catch it and so become insane – because he believes madness is necessary to genius. This is his conscious bargain with evil, the selling of his soul to the Devil, in exchange for power to compose great music. When in due course the disease does reach his brain, he imagines he has a conversation with the Devil by which the contract is confirmed. The Devil will grant him twenty-four years from the day of their dialogue, years of “great time, mad time”, to create the astonishing works he can produce now that his faculty of reason has become deranged. He will know “the heights and the depths” of life, and so be filled with knowledge of the truth – the “truth” of subjective experience.

Thought and reason, the Devil explains, are impediments to the creation of great Art. Leverkühn’s art will be intuitive, “Dionysian”; springing from the instincts, from feeling, from the heart, not from the rational mind. The Devil assures him that all genius is demonic. “There is no ingenium that has nothing to do with hell,” he says. What makes Art great is “enthusiasm unparalysed by thought or reason”.[5] Art is “made genuine by disease”, and “creative, genius-giving disease [is] a thousand times dearer to life than plodding healthiness”. Art, instinctive art – so the Devil instructs the mind he is corrupting – is anti-bourgeois, anti-civilization. It is a religion – a demonic religion. (What used to be religion, the Prince of Darkness says, “is over except for the Devil. The bourgeoisie dispenses with it.” And elsewhere the fictional narrator of the story – a Catholic – observes: ‘Theology, confronted with that spirit of the philosophy of life which is irrationalism, is in danger, by its very nature, of becoming demonology.”)

So art is a disease of the artist, and of civilization. As both it is highly valuable, this dark force many times declares or insinuates, speaking either as himself when he chats with the brain-sick Leverkühn, or through the mouths of certain persons among the composer’s teachers, friends and acquaintances. These persons, more devilish than Adrian Leverkühn himself ever becomes, are weak men, erudite sensitive aesthetes, sickly or deformed, one of them “slightly” consumptive. They consciously “elevate culture as a substitute for religion”. Most of them are admirers of Leverkühn’s works – and also of National Socialism, with which they soon become passionately enamored. What they call “the blood and beauty” of brutal mass murder excites them intensely. A poet among them praises “obedience, violence, blood, and world-plunder”. To listen to them is to understand how Hitler’s Reich was made possible and why it quite easily became a reality.  …

Posted under Articles, Ethics, Germany, Gnosticism, History, Literature, Philosophy, Religion general, Theology by Jillian Becker on Sunday, April 27, 2014

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The darkness of this world (8) 1

Today we have posted essay number 8, Faust (One), in the series titled The Darkness of This World. (Find it under Pages in our margin.)

Here are some extracts from it:

Post-Enlightenment Romanticism was an escape from the reality of “this world”, and a belief that there could be a better world realized in Art, or in a future brought about by political action. …

The Romantic Movement was seeded in France with the revolutionary idealism of Rousseau, and flowered first in England as resistance to the iron reality of the Industrial Revolution, but found its natural home in Germany. There God died, but the Devil lived on.

The death of God was announced by the German philosopher Nietzsche in 1882, but when had it occurred? God was still alive, tussling with the Devil for the souls of men when the first part of Goethe’s play Faust was published in 1808, so the event must have come about, quietly, sometime in the intervening seventy-four years.

The legend of Faust and his pact with the Devil had arisen in Germany soon after the Reformation began there [in 1517], and about two hundred years before the Enlightenment seriously weakened the power of the Churches. …

The legendary Faust is a man who chooses to sell his soul to the Devil in exchange for power, honor, wealth, fame; delight of the senses and satisfaction of the appetites, especially lust; and knowledge (of both the scientific and the intuitive sorts), for the duration of his life on earth, usually twenty-four years from the day of the compact. As his splendid life goes on, he wonders at moments if he could repent and be saved. He is exhorted by well-wishers to turn to God for mercy. But he chooses to renew his fatal pact. When he dies he goes to hell …

There was a real historical Dr Faust, “magician, necromancer, sodomist, astrologer and palm reader”, living in Germany in the early sixteenth century, and it was on his character, skills and escapades that the legend was based.

His birth name was Georgius Sabellicus. In 1505 he was helped by a certain Franz von Sickengen – who interested himself in mysticism and the magic arts – to obtain the post of schoolmaster in the Rhineland-Palatinate town of Kreuznach. Exposed as having forced boys of his classroom to perform “acts of lewdness”, Sabellicus disappeared from the school and the town. Two years later, as “Johannes Faust”, he was granted the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Theology by the University of Heidelberg. He came top of his class of fifteen, so either he was a brainy fellow, or he had already sold his soul to the Devil.

The graduate called himself “the Second Magus”, signaling that he was the successor to Simon Magus, the 1st century Gnostic teacher of St Paul’s day, written about scornfully in the New Testament and condemned by the Catholic Church as “the father of all heresies”.  (See our post, The father of all heresies, February 21, 2010.)

He stayed in Heidelberg for some years and acquired a dubious reputation as a man of extraordinary powers.

While most commentary on him both in his lifetime and for a few years after his death (which was probably in or about 1540) portrayed him as no more than a braggart, a fraud, and a petty thief, some took him more seriously. An agreement made between himself and the Devil soon became an essential ingredient of his legend. It was related in tones of thrilled horror that he had referred to Satan as his “Schwäger”, his brother-in-law. A demon spirit who takes the form of Helen of Troy occurs in almost all the versions of the story. (She had been Simon Magus’s consort. Though he had found her in a brothel in Tyre, he taught that she had been incarnated in one of her lives as Helen, “the most beautiful woman in the world”, and had descended again from the highest heaven to help him with his mission of redeeming mankind.)

The idea that supernatural powers could be bestowed on a man by the Devil, but had to be paid for with the man’s soul, probably arose from the anathematizing accounts by the Catholic church fathers of the Gnostic cults. Because the Gnostics did not worship the Creator God of the bible but another god whom they “knew” by the gift of intuitive knowledge (the Gnosis); because many of them declared the Creator God to be evil; and because the worship of their god took the form of drugged orgies, perverted sex (anal and oral in order to avoid conception), and the deliberate flouting of biblical commandments, they were considered by Catholics to be devil-worshippers, and their rites Satanic. Their doctrines and practices were deplored in the pulpits of Christendom, embellished with fearful details and scary myths, not only to condemn them and warn the awestruck laity against them, but because the clergy was genuinely full of superstitious terror of the Devil. For centuries Gnostic ritual was considered by Christian theologians to be devil-worship. The Catholic Church succeeded in wiping out Gnosticism in the Middle Ages, using the instrument of the Inquisition. (See our post The heretics of Languedoc, May 1, 2011.)

When the centuries of Church power were brought to an end by the Enlightenment, and Christianity itself took a beating, Faust and the Devil not only survived but flourished.

The Industrial Revolution made it possible as never before for individuals not born to riches and power to acquire them. To those who understood economics it was not an inexplicable phenomenon. But to those who wanted as little to do with the racket and dirt of industry as possible, who were nostalgic for the past, and who continued to believe in the supernatural though the priests had been shouted down by Reason, it was uncanny, magical; and ever-present envy had no trouble diagnosing the cause as demonic. So with the Devil living on in the psyche of Christian Europe long after God had died, Dr. Faust had a new lease of life. …

Posted under Articles, Christianity, education, Ethics, Europe, Germany, Gnosticism, History, Literature, Religion general, Theology by Jillian Becker on Sunday, April 20, 2014

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Obama’s shattering success 3

In just five years, Barack Obama has succeeded in crippling the American economy and shattering the world order under the Pax Americana.

Americans feel the grave economic effects of his domestic policies more immediately and urgently, but it is the shattering of the world order that will ultimately change their lives for the worse.

President Vladimir Putin found that “he could  annex Crimea without firing a single bullet”. He has good reason to think that “he will later be able to do the same with the rest of Ukraine”. But he will probably “wait until the situation worsens and the impotence of the United States and Europe becomes even more obvious”.

That is part of the picture of the crumbling world order, described here by Professor Guy Millière (of the University of Paris), at Gatestone.

[Putin] apparently considers that he has in front of him a weak and declining America. And the general demeanor of the present U.S. administration tends to prove him right. The United States seem in full retreat. U.S. military budgets continue to fall. For the last five years, Barack Obama spoke of “ending” the wars in which the U.S. was involved, and he depends on Russia’s cooperation for further negotiations with Iran, for dismantling chemical weapons in Syria, and for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Putin doubtless thinks that Obama will not enter into an open conflict with Russia. Sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States are insignificant, and Putin has every reason to think they will not increase. …

[He] evidently considers Europe even weaker than America. The way European leaders speak and act shows that he is not wrong. For decades, Western European countries relied on the U.S. defense umbrella; none of them today has an army capable of doing more than extremely limited operations. Their foreign policy positions converge with the Obama administration positions. They all have deep economic and financial links with Russia and cannot break these links. The UK needs the Russian capital invested in the City of London. France cannot cancel its Russian warship contract without having to close its shipyards in Saint Nazaire, and without being confronted with major social conflicts. Germany could not survive long without Russian oil and natural gas. Overall, Russia provides thirty percent of the natural gas consumed in Western Europe. Putin apparently thinks that Europe will not enter into an open conflict with Russia. …

Either the West will stand up to Putin, and it will have to do it fast, or Putin will win. Obviously, Europe will not stand up. Polls indicate that Americans are turning sharply toward isolationism.

Showing his view of the situation, Obama recently said that Russia is nothing but a “regional power”, acting “out of weakness”.

What is Russia’s “region”?

Russia covers ten time zones and has borders with Europe, the Muslim Middle East, China, North Korea, and Alaska.

Yes, Russia has a common border with the United States. The US is in its region.  

If massing troops on the borders of Ukraine and annexing Crimea are signs of “weakness,” by its evident impotence, America appears even weaker.

Will Putin be content with annexing Crimea, or even the whole of Ukraine?

Several plebiscites have been held since 2006 in Transnistria, a strip of land between Ukraine and Moldova, and each of them has indicated a willingness to join Russia. Estonia includes a large Russian minority, and Russian leaders in Moscow speak of the need to “protect” the Russian population of Estonia.

Estonia is a member of NATO. If Russia were to attack it, NATO, according to Article 5 of its charter, should defend it with prompt military action. But would it?  NATO’s military power is America’s military power. Under Obama,what chance is there that America would go to war in Europe?

The world order built after the Second World War was shaped by America. For almost five decades, its goal was to contain Soviet expansion. In the late 1980s, the Soviet empire collapsed, and another phase began: an arrangement in which America would keep the peace and assure the survival of liberty.

America has apparently abrogated that responsibility.

And if Russia is not deterred, other powers will be encouraged to advance their interests abroad by force.

Rogue leaders around the world are watching and drawing their own conclusions.

[The Iranian Ayatollah] Khamenei sees no reason to stop saying that America is the “Great Satan” and that Israel has to be wiped off the map. China sees no reason to hide its intention to occupy the Senkaku/Diyaoyu Islands. Last week, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un fired six missiles into the sea of Japan. [President] Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela reaffirmed its alliance with Russia and positioned Russian missiles in Caracas.

Guy Millière predicts that the chaos will increase and speed up. He sees disaster coming fast.

If we do not see the Ukraine as a warning signal, we could quickly discover that life could now easily enter the state of nature in Hobbes’s Leviathan: [solitary, poor,] nasty, brutish and short.

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