Darkness looms over us 1

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In the picture above, an IS member unsheathes his sword as he prepares to behead an ancient Babylonian statue.  His sheath is the Koran and the sword is covered with verses from the Koran. The caption states: “With this sword is civilization and humanity slaughtered.”

We quote Raymond Ibrahim, above and below:

The Daily Mail reports:

Islamic State thugs have destroyed a collection of priceless statues and sculptures in Iraq dating back thousands of years.

Extremists used sledgehammers and power drills to smash ancient artwork as they rampaged through a museum in the northern city of Mosul.

Video footage shows a group of bearded men in the Nineveh Museum using tools to wreck 3,000-year-old statues after pushing them over.

Extremists used sledgehammers and power drills to smash ancient artifacts at a museum in the northern city of Mosul 

Extremists used sledgehammers and power drills to smash ancient artifacts at a museum in the northern city of Mosul

Militant uses a power tool to destroy a winged-bull Assyrian protective deity at the Ninevah Museum in Mosul, Iraq. The statue dates back to the 9th century B.C.

Militant uses a power tool to destroy a winged-bull Assyrian protective deity at the Ninevah Museum in Mosul, Iraq. The statue dates back to the 9th century B.C.

A man shown in the video said the items were being destroyed because they promoted idolatry.

“The Prophet ordered us to get rid of statues and relics, and his companions did the same when they conquered countries after him,” the unidentified man said.

The articles destroyed appeared to come from an antiquities museum in the northern city of Mosul, which was overrun by Islamic State last June, a former employee at the museum told Reuters.

The extremist group has destroyed a number of shrines – including Muslim holy sites – in a bid to eliminate what it views as heresy.

Militants are also believed to have sold ancient artwork on the black market in order to finance their bloody campaign across the region.

ISIS destroy artifacts with sledgehammers at Mosul museum

A man shown in the video said the items were being destroyed because they promoted idolatry

 

Yesterday it was revealed how terrorists had blown up the Mosul Public Library, sending 10,000 books and more than 700 rare manuscripts up in flames.

Leading members of Mosul society reportedly tried to stop the fanatics destroying the building, but failed.

The director of the library, Ghanim al-Ta’an, said that the extremists used homemade bombs in the attack, which took place on Sunday.

He told Middle Eastern website Geran: “ISIS militants bombed the Mosul Public Library. They used improvised explosive devices.”

Presumed destroyed are the Central Library’s collection of Iraqi newspapers dating to the early 20th century, maps and books from the Ottoman Empire and book collections contributed by around 100 of Mosul’s establishment families.

Large segments of the priceless winged-bull Assyrian protective deity are hurled to the ground as militants smash it to pieces

Large segments of the priceless winged-bull Assyrian protective deity are hurled to the ground as militants smash it to pieces

Isis first invaded the Central Library in January. Residents say the extremists smashed the locks that had protected the biggest repository of learning in the northern Iraq town, and loaded around 2,000 books – including children’s stories, poetry, philosophy and tomes on sports, health, culture and science – into six pickup trucks. They left only Islamic texts.

“These books promote infidelity and call for disobeying Allah. So they will be burned,” a bearded militant in traditional Afghani two-piece clothing told residents, according to one man living nearby who spoke to The Associated Press.

The enlightened West is doing nothing to stop them.

“Our evening is over us; our night whelms, whelms and will end us.”

- Gerard Manley Hopkins: Spelt from Sibyl’s Leaves. ( He was a Jesuit. But even so, a very good poet.)

Christopher Hitchens: a missionary against religion 6

One doesn’t have to like everything Christopher Hitchens says in this medley of his arguments to enjoy it.

The nice thing is that he speaks well for atheism, and puts down his religious opponents, on every point they raise, briskly and thoroughly.

Posted under Atheism, Christianity, Judaism, Religion general, Videos by Jillian Becker on Sunday, February 22, 2015

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A man who wouldn’t want to go to heaven 6

Stephen Fry (fellow atheist) is urged by Gay Byrne to entertain the idea of an omnipotent, good, creator God, and speak to him at the gates of heaven.

So he tells the imaginary being, in blistering terms, that he is a monster of evil.

 

(Hat-tip to our reader and commenter Frank)

 

 

Posted under Religion general, Theology, Videos by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, February 17, 2015

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The perpetual church bizarre 4

The Left has long wanted government to act as a nanny or better still a parent to the people it governs.

Millions, perhaps billions, of people want to be kept like children by governments: housed, fed, taught, nursed, cared for, from the cradle to the grave. For this supreme benefit – having all their needs supplied by the Grown-Ups in the Castle – they are willing to give up their freedom; to do as they’re told; to keep their heads down, their hands out. Oh, and more. Much more. They will love Big Father and Big Mother.

Their bodies will be tended. Even their minds will be fed – just adequately, enough to keep them obedient.

Could glorification of government be taken any further?

Why, yes! It could. It is.

Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) goes much further. He  wants government to be the people’s god.

CNS news reports that Cummings, addressing the Legislative Conference of the National Treasury Employees Union on February 4, said:  

So many people come to government knowing that they are not going to make the kind of money they would make in the private sector but they come to government to feed their souls.

There’s a gap in his message. He must be meaning to say:

So many people come to government knowing that they are not going to make the kind of money they would make in the private sector but it is not just money they want, not just the means to feed their bodies. They are not gross materialists! They are not greedy like bankers, conservatives, rich people, big donors to the Republican Party, entrepreneurs, businessmen, capitalists, free marketeers, and people who voted for Bush. No: they come to government to feed their souls.

His assertion on behalf of “so many people” frankly confirms our contention that Leftism is a religion.

Debunking the “fine-tuning” argument for the existence of a creator god 5

Fun to watch.

Posted under Religion general, Science, Videos by Jillian Becker on Sunday, February 8, 2015

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Islam must be criticized 2

Muslims dread criticism of Islam, whether as mockery, reasoned argument, or distaste however expressed.

Some Muslims who spoke against the recent murder, by Muslims, of French satirists who mocked Muhammad, are – it appears, to no one’s surprise –  far more earnestly against free speech.

They spoke at a conference convened by a Muslim organization to examine ideas: Are there limits to freedom of speech? Is it immoral to mock a religion? Should it be made criminal to mock or in any way criticize a religion (especially Islam)?

Andrew Harrod writes at Front Page:

“Freedom of speech is not total,” proclaimed the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy’s (CSID) William Lawrence at its January 22 panel on the Muslim Response to Charlie Hebdo:  Understanding the Root Causes of Radicalization. Lawrence’s caveat disturbingly introduced false justifications for non-violently achieving the very sharia censorship sought by Charlie Hebdo’s jihadist murderers before a National Press Club audience of about fifty. …

Lawrence’s opening condemnation of the globally infamous January 7 Paris massacre as a “complete aberration” of “Islamic teachings” quickly gave way to criticism of the satire magazine’s victims. Their murders were “orgies of violence unleashed on . . . purveyors” of “bigoted provocations,” making Charlie Hebdo’s satire not just irreverent, but immoral in Lawrence’s estimation. “When did bigotry get so needy” that it sheltered behind free speech claims, Lawrence later asked while quoting an article criticizing cartoon racism, as if criticizing Islamic ideas equaled individual prejudice. Accordingly, Lawrence cited the legally discredited phrase from American Supreme Court history that “you can’t shout fire in a crowded theater,” a universal talking point of censors.

One’s race is not a choice. A race is not a set of ideas. A race cannot be “wrong”.

Ideas can be wrong. To determine how wrong an idea is, it obviously needs to be criticially examined.

Religious ideas are apodictic – established beyond all doubt –  to their believers. They brook no contradiction. Each religion believes it has the monopoly of “truth”, though none agrees with any other.

And in the name of this or that religious “truth”, uncountable millions have been persecuted, tormented, and killed.

Islamist and sharia apologist Dalia Mogahed [picked by Obama for the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships – ed], continued Lawrence’s use of the Muslim “race” card implicitly blaming the Charlie Hebdo victims and focused on Europe’s “limits and boundaries of tolerance”. “Certain things will not be said” in the United States, “not because it’s illegal, but because it’s immoral,” she noted without defining Charlie Hebdo’s immorality.

It is immoral (though not necessarily always bad) to lie. It is immoral to make false accusation. It is immoral not to examine ideas. 

The lady goes on to confuse ideology with race:

Historic “offensive cartoons” of African-Americans make modern Americans “rightly cringe”.  Mogahed’s equivalence between racists and Charlie Hebdo entailed that the French should “hurry up and get enlightened” about satirists. Yet Mogahed bemoaned how many instead sought merely to “reassert our right to offend”.

If someone feels offended when reasonable fault is found with an idea of his, he has no one to blame but himself. If he cannot find cogent argument to support his contention, he stands corrected whether he likes it or not.

CSID President Radwan Masmoudi, like his fellow panelists, wrongly equated religious ideas with individuals as worthy of protection. He emphasized that “every freedom also has limits” and excluded a “right to transgress on others” during audience questioning.

Should freedom have limits? We say in our Articles of Reason: My liberty should be limited by nothing but everyone else’s liberty. 

 Masmoudi described a “big debate” over whether free speech includes a right to “insult others” or “religion”. …

Asked about speech restrictions in Muslim-majority countries … Masmoudi referenced a supposed “right not to be insulted’. “It is dangerous to insult people based upon their race or . . . religion,” Masmoudi elaborated with once again a race/religion conflation. Such offenses are “not . . . conducive to peace or a democratic society” …

A statement, that, in which a threat is only very lightly veiled.

Such is the analysis of CSID, described by Lawrence as the world’s “preeminent NGO” for the “study of democratic and Islamic thought” and their “modern synthesis”. Not free speech under murderous assault, but offense to Muslim religious sensibilities, falsely equated with prejudices like racism, formed the panel’s main concern demanding, where possible, legal restrictions.

*

Every idea needs to be tested by critical examination. It is the only way to arrive at the truth. Truth is elusive, and absolute certainty (outside of abstract systems such as mathematics and logic) impossible. But the pursuit of truth is the most important mission of mankind.

It is because absolute certainty is impossible that every idea needs to be subjected to critical examination.

Ideas that are propounded with the most certainty are the ones that most certainly need to be criticized.

Religious ideas are propounded with the most certainty, so religious ideas most need to be criticized.

Yet it is widely considered specially wrong to criticize a religion. To do so is called disrespectful at the very least. At worst it is called “blasphemy” and in some societies the “blasphemer” is severely punished, even executed.

The West has grown powerful, prosperous, and ever more inventive by criticizing ideas. Doubt is the cause, the secret, the trick of its power, prosperity and inventiveness.

Science is the most fruitful application of doubt. A scientist tries continually to prove his ideas wrong. If he fails in that, he succeeds in establishing a truth. Philosophically that truth may remain forever provisional, but it will serve us well. The blood does circulate. The earth does go round the sun.

At present there is a clamor swelling in the forums – physical or electronic – where religious and political panjandrums meet, to demand protection of religion from criticism. The loudest demand comes from Islamic leaders. Though they say religion as such should be protected, they mean only one religion, their own. They want the world to agree that to criticize Islam is a criminal offense. They want laws laid down in every country to make criticism of Islam a crime. Why? Because they recognize that criticism is the most lethal weapon that could be used against them. Words can destroy Islam.

As we say in our Articles of Reason: Many a belief can survive persecution but not critical examination.

Lamentably, powerful Western politicians on the sinister side of Western thought, the political Left, are helping the Muslims achieve their aim. Already most Western European countries have laws sheltering Islam from any criticism, and critics of Islam have been prosecuted and convicted. (Go here to read an ex-Muslim’s condemnation of these prosecutions.)

A counter-clamor is needed: millions of Western voices raised, daily, hourly, continually, against the ideas that constitute the religion of Islam.

Against God and Socialism (repeat) 15

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

  *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small;

All things wise and wonderful,

The Lord God made them all. …

The rich man in his castle,

The poor man at his gate,

He made them high and lowly,

He ordered their estate.

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

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

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

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

Lashings of Allah 8

Horrible news from Gatestone by Valentina Colombo:

Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger, has been sentenced to 1000 lashes, ten years in jail and a fine of $270,000 for a blog regarded by Saudi Arabia’s regime as insulting Islam.

The lashing was due to be carried out today, so we are assuming that it was, at least in part. So many lashes have been ordered, the torturer will probably need several sessions to complete his assignment. After which, of course, Reason itself will have learnt its lesson and never dare utter a word in Saudi Arabia again.

Badawi was condemned, according to Amnesty International, for having co-founded a website, “Saudi Arabian Liberals,” and for having written and published on it … as well as on Facebook and Twitter …

He criticized and made fun of Saudi institutions such as the Commission for the Promotion of Goodness and the Prohibition of Vice (also known as “the religious police”), the Saudi Grand Mufti, other Saudi ulema [religious scholars].

The long sentence of the Criminal Court of the district of Jeddah stated that he had undermined the “public order”.

In an interview published in August 2007 by the liberal website Afaaq, Badawi stated that “liberals in Saudi Arabia live between the anvil of State and the hammer of the religious police”.

He also said this:

My commitment is to the advancement of civil society in my country, to reject any repression in the name of religion, to promote liberal* enlightened Saudis whose primary objective is being active in civil society, a goal that we will reach in a peaceful and law-abiding way.


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Saudi blogger Raif Badawi (left) and his lawyer Walid Abu al-Khayr

We can only hope that this intelligent and brave young man, a secularist and probably an atheist, survives his appalling ordeal, and his ten years in a notoriously hellish Arab prison.

It would be going too far to hope that his fate will persuade the political leaders of the Western world that Islam is a primitive savage cruel ideology rather than the “beautiful religion” they insistently tell us it is.

* We think and hope he means “liberal” in the true sense of the word: favoring freedom. Not in the contemporary American sense: not favoring freedom.

Islam must be destroyed – by words and laughter 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dismal and terrifying puritanism of Islam and Christendom 4

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

This report comes from the International Business Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the Express reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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