Of doubting, guessing, and testing 11

Religion is apodictic. It permits no questioning of its dogma. It is a brake on all thinking, all progress.

It was doubt that made the greatness of the West. Socratean doubt – lost and forgotten for the thousand years of darkness brought down on Europe by Christianity, but revived in the Enlightenment. Doubt is the motor of experimental science.

Here is a minute or so of illumination from the great Richard Feynman. ( A clip from an old video, re-issued this month.)

Posted under Commentary, Religion general, Science by Jillian Becker on Friday, April 17, 2015

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America decaying 21

We usually agree with Dennis Prager on political issues.

We never agree with him about religion.

Today he writes at Townhall:

As one who loves America – not only because I am American, but even more so because I know (not believe, know) that the American experiment in forming a decent society has been the most successful in history – I write the following words in sadness: With few exceptions, every aspect of American life is in decline.

“Decay” is the word.

He writes of the “decline of the family”, with figures to prove it; and the “decline of education”, with a short list of examples of poor education that could be extended to a great length.

He goes on  to assert that –

Most universities have become seminaries for the dissemination of Leftism. Moreover, aside from indoctrination, students usually learn little. One can earn a BA in English at UCLA, for example, without having read a single Shakespeare play.

Yes. Oh, but we have misquoted him in order to say yes, he is right.

What he actually writes is –

Most universities have become secular seminaries for the dissemination of Leftism. …

Why did he put in the word “secular”? Most of the universities of the West are powerhouses pumping out Leftists who will do all they can to destroy the civilization that sustains them. Their fault is not that they are “secular” but that they are Leftist, statist, collectivist. Their being secular, and not teaching some system of dogma that may not be questioned, would be the one thing about them that is good, were it not for the fact that Leftism too is a system of dogma that may not be questioned.

He continues in indignation – which we share – to deplore what the academies teach:

To the extent that American history is taught, beginning in high school and often earlier, American history is presented as the history of an immoral nation characterized by slavery, racism, colonialism, imperialism, economic exploitation, and militarism — not of a country that, more than any other, has been the beacon of freedom to mankind, and the country that has spent more treasure and spilled more blood to liberate other peoples than any other nation.

The End of Male and Female: Whatever one’s position on same-sex marriage, one must acknowledge that at the core of the argument for this redefinition of marriage is that gender doesn’t matter. Marriage is marriage, and gender means nothing, the argument goes. So, too, whether children are raised by mother and father or two mothers or two fathers doesn’t matter. A father has nothing unique to offer a child that a mother can’t provide and vice versa.

Why? Because – for the first time in recorded history – gender is regarded as meaningless. Indeed, increasingly gender doesn’t even exist; it’s merely a social construct imposed on children by parents and society based on the biological happenstance of their genitalia. When signing up for Facebook, one is offered nearly 60 options under “gender.” In various high schools across the country, boys are elected homecoming queen. A woman was recently kicked out of Planet Fitness for objecting to a man in the women’s locker room. She was accused of intolerance because the man said he felt that he was a woman.

Then he comes to –

The End of Right and Wrong: At least two generations of American young people have been taught that moral categories are nothing more than personal (or societal) preferences. Recently, an incredulous professor of philosophy wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times titled “Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts.” In it he noted, “Without fail, every value claim is labeled an opinion” (italics in original). This extends to assessing the most glaring of evils.

And he gives Nazism as an example of “glaring evil” – which it was and is.

And that brings him to his dogma:

The End of Religion: There are no moral truths because there is no longer a religious basis for morality.

What is “a religious basis for morality”?

Christian love? Love everyone regardless of what they do? Hate the sin but reward the sinner with love and do not hold him responsible for his sin? ? Forgive everything and anything? “Resist not evil” (as Jesus Christ is reported to have said in his “Sermon on the Mount”)? And – through many centuries – a religion that burnt people to death who questioned the dogma?

Judaism’s expectation of divine vengeance? “For I the Lord thy God am a jealous god, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me”? That as part of the revered “Ten Commandments” of the moral law in a religion that holds justice to be its highest value? And – for many centuries – a religion that punished people with pain and even death if they disobeyed the commandments in the dogma?

Islam’s “Kill the Infidel”? Keep women subjugated to the will of men? Burn people, stone them, amputate their limbs, and enslave them? And – to this very day – kill people who question the dogma?

Is it necessary to remind those who think religion is necessary to a moral life that there are – to this day – faiths which command that people’s lives be sacrificed to propitiate imaginary beings?

How is passionately believed religion helping the peoples of Africa? In Uganda, South Sudan, and the Congo where the fanatically Christian “Lord’s Resistance Army” feeds the earth with human blood? The Central African Republic where Muslims in the North recently slaughtered untold numbers of Christians, and now Christians from the South are slaughtering as many Muslims as they can? In Somalia, where aid workers trying to bring medicine and food to masses of sick and starving people are imprisoned and killed by devout Muslims? In Libya, where al-Qaeda is killing and maiming in the name of Allah? Under the Islamic State (IS/ISIS/ISIL) in Syria and Iraq? In Iran ruled by pious old men? That list too could be continued to become very long.

More than the Enlightenment, it was the Bible – especially the Hebrew Bible (which was one reason America’s Christians were different from most European Christians) that guided the Founders’ and other Americans’ values. Not anymore …

No. Our firm understanding is that the Enlightenment gave birth to the United States of America. If some of the Founders cited the bible (whether the Jewish bible as Prager likes to believe, or the Christian which came round tentatively to tacking the Jewish bible on to its own canon), that in no way changes the historical fact that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are supremely documents of the Enightenment; which is to say of reason. Reason, all on its own, without anyone claiming to have heard a god speaking the idea to someone long ago, established a state on the foundation of individual freedom of both thought and action.

Prager concludes:

If you acknowledge that American society is in decay, it is your obligation to fight to undo it. If you can’t acknowledge that American society is in decay, you are providing proof that it is.

America is in decay. Leftism, the secular form of Christianity, is the name of the rot that is destroying it.

Posted under Christianity, Commentary, education, Islam, Judaism, Leftism, Religion general, United States, US Constitution by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, April 7, 2015

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali speaks for us 5

This is from an interview by the Daily Beast with the greatest living woman – no, the greatest living person of our time, Ayaan Hirsi Ali:

Q: You’re giving the keynote speech at the American Atheists National Convention [on April 3]. Are you going to talk about Islam primarily?

A: I am. And I think I have the same message as I have for feminists and for other groups who are addressing various issues in the world we live in today. For atheists, it’s: You address the issues of organized religion and atrocities committed in the name of organized religion. And I want them to focus on Islam today, because it’s in the name of Islam that most lives are taken, that most subjection, most intolerance is spread around the world. So for my fellow atheists, it’s a matter of: Listen, it’s one thing to protest about Christmas trees on December 25, but it’s quite another to witness fellow human beings in cages and burned alive, and women taken as slaves, again, in the names of this religion. So it’s very much a matter of organizing our priorities.

There’s a view in the United States that atheists can be overly intolerant toward nonviolent expressions of religion in public life — Christmas crèches and other religious displays on public property. Do you think atheists can be too aggressive on these issues?

This is so unfair. For centuries — centuries — quite honestly, it’s in the name of religion that people’s rights are violated, and atheists are finally getting together and reacting to that. If we just look at facts, I don’t think we need to fear atheist intolerance. The biggest threat to human rights is religious intolerance, not atheist intolerance.

Do you think there is prejudice against atheists in the United States? You see surveys, for instance, in which most people would not vote for a politician who is not religious.

There is that kind of intolerance. But as an atheist, I don’t fear that I’m going to be killed in the U.S. by believers who can’t tolerate my atheism. Whereas in my own family, my own religion, the community I was born into, when I said, “You know, I really don’t think I believe in life after death, and this Mohammed guy, I don’t believe in everything he said,” it was like, “Death unto you.” There is a massive difference. Same thing with the feminists. Listen, if you’re not allowed into a golf club, that doesn’t sit well with me, but if I were to prioritize, I would say: This girl, she’s just been denied her right to school, she’s just been forced into marriage, she’s just been genitally mutilated. That’s the sort of thing that we need to be, as women, signing up against — and as atheists. And by the way, the LGBT community — I think it’s awesome, and it’s taken some great steps. But in the name of Islam, gay men, or men who are accused of being gay, are put on the roofs of buildings and thrown down by a mob shouting “Allahu akbar!” doing this in the name of their faith. And it’s time that the gay community stood up to this. HIV is no longer the biggest killer of the gay community; it’s violence in the name of Islam, and no one’s talking about it.

Posted under Atheism, Islam, jihad, Muslims, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Sunday, April 5, 2015

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The French pandemonium (three) 3

Today we post under Pages (listed at the top of our margin), essay number 13 in Part Two of the series titled The Darkness of This World, by Jillian Becker.

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

The title of this essay is The French Pandemonium (Three). Its subjects are the twentieth century writers Michel Foucault and –  to a lesser extent – Jean Genet 

Here is part of the essay:

When the Second World War was over in Europe in 1945, and the enormities perpetrated by the Nazis had been fully revealed à tout le monde, Evil did not lose any of its popularity among the anti-bourgeois intelligentsia of France. If those who had survived war and occupation, deprivation and terror, and in some cases confinement, had a sense of being supped full with horrors, it seems to have been short-lived. Their appetite for blood, for torture, and even for mass murder, soon revived.

Most of the novels and plays of Jean Genet – works in which he “explored the potentialities of evil” – were published or performed after the war. He wrote fascinatingly about criminals. His play Haute Surveillance, first performed in 1949, is about a prisoner who, sentenced for committing only small crimes, murders a fellow convict in order to be recognized as someone capable of doing far worse. The bourgeois audiences found it shocking, but not the intellectual elite. In 1952 Jean-Paul Sartre published an essay about him titled Saint Genet. What made Genet a saint in Sartre’s eyes was his criminality. He was a saint because he was a thief. And – even more glamorously romantic – he was a homosexual prostitute in the days when that too could land a man in jail.

All convicted prisoners were victims of the bourgeois and his civilization, in the opinion of Michel Foucault, another of our demons. He declared: “Delinquency, solidified by a penal system centered upon the prison, thus represents a diversion of illegality for the illicit circuits of profit and power of the dominant class.” …

Foucault, the French demon par excellence, was a disciple of Georges Bataille. Their tastes were the same. Foucault endorsed the master’s praise for “erotic transgression”, rhapsodized over “the joy of torture”, and longed to assist his hero in carrying out human sacrifice as a holy act and a thrilling work of art. Together they schemed – but did not institute – a “theatre of cruelty” (as had the clinically mad Antonin Artaud before them), in which actual murder would be performed for an audience. They saw a profound moral value in murder – if the murderer gets a buzz out of it.

Some ideas emerge from Foucault’s writings distinctly enough to be examined. Among them, that the law-abiding bourgeois should be punished with violent oppression; mass reprisals are preferable to individual trials; and cruelty should be a normal way of life. Yet he is praised for being “always ready to protest the fate of the wretched and powerless”.

Even if some of his works can be interpreted as “protesting the fate” of the criminal, the lunatic and the sadist, “always” is going much too far. The mass of his oeuvres proclaims his enthusiasm for rendering anybody and everybody wretched and powerless, preferably maimed, and best of all dead.  

He did not except himself. To “redeem existence” from “unbearable banality”, he hankered to be caught up in what he called “limit experiences” of pain, terror, madness, and fatal illness: “the overwhelming, the unspeakable, the creepy, the stupefying, the ecstatic”, embracing “a pure violence, a wordless gesture”. All this he sought for himself, and – though an intensely self-obsessed man – generously desired for others too; and if others did not want it, well, they should be forced to endure it. And even if the victims could not raise their consciousness so as to be overjoyed, the inflictions would not be wasted, because Foucault could wring for himself from their suffering, the last drop of excruciating pleasure.

And this pleasure should not – he fantasized – be only an occasional treat. A demon such as he should not have to perform acts of torture and life-endangerment only for a rare thrill, but such experience should be continually on tap. He believed, like Bataille, that cruelty should be a way of life – the only way of life, a constant part of everybody’s everyday life. “We can and must,” he wrote, “make of man a negative experience, lived in the form of hate and aggression.” …

Foucault sought pleasure in the pain of both body and mind. He mutilated his body and terrified his mind. As nothing was more terrible than death, he desired it most passionately. “Complete, total pleasure,” he declared, “is related to death.” He contemplated suicide, thought of it often through the greater part of his life, and claimed to have “attempted” it many times. He expected and intended that suicide would be the way he’d die. He made “lifelong preparation for it”. It would be “a simple pleasure”, a “suffering pleasure”. It would be a way of “exploring experience in its negativity”.

To take his death into his own hands would not only hasten that crowning moment of “complete, total pleasure”, it might also bring about, at last, the release of his other Self. The “other” Michel Foucault would be emancipated in his own death-throes, to experience “moment of free existence in suicide”.

He fantasized about participating in a “suicide orgy”, and eventually, in full consistency, that was the way he chose. He went, equipped with instruments – or “toys” – of torture, to orgies of sex, drugs, pain, cruelty, and terror, knowing that they were a way to his death, and intending that that’s what they should be. He endured and wallowed in them in the bathhouses of San Francisco where homosexual men congregated, many of them infected with the HIV virus. And when he knew he had AIDS – incurable at that time – he returned to the bathhouses deliberately to infect as many other men as he could. It was slow suicide and slow murder; according to his philosophy, the transcendent “limit experience”. How much he really enjoyed the prolonged period of slow physical disintegration to which he condemned himself no one of course can know. But he did not try to cut it short by some swifter means to death in order to achieve that moment of exquisite agony in which he expected to feel himself – or his hidden Self – liberated by death. …

Absurdly hyperbolic praise has been heaped upon him. Paul Veyne, professor of History at Vincennes, said of Foucault that he was “the most important event in the thought of this [20th] century”. Yet far from contributing to the advancement of mankind, his example was atavistic: to live by the dictates of the instincts, the appetites, and the emotions – in other words to be savage. …

The immense popularity of Bataille and Foucault, the rapturous reception accorded their demonic works, could only mean that France itself was turning away – continuing to turn away – from reason and civilized values.

On the European battlefields of literature, philosophy, and politics, Romanticism has won an overwhelming victory. The “horrible workers” predicted by Rimbaud, have been elevated by public (bourgeois!) taste into the intellectual giants of contemporary thought. And they have influenced taste everywhere in the pan-European world. Now, in the early twenty-first century, in most of the faculties of the humanities, in most of the academies of the West, the French cult of Evil is virtually an orthodoxy – even in America.

You can find all of it here.

Posted under Commentary, communism, Ethics, Europe, France, Germany, Gnosticism, History, Leftism, Literature, Marxism, nazism, Philosophy, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Sunday, March 8, 2015

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What’s the Republican Party for? 19

We’re not just wondering what the Republican Party stands for. We’re also wondering why it exists at all.

An entirely different conservative party is badly needed to oppose the evil Left. (It would be splendid if a conservative party came to power that would exclude religion from its political thinking, but to wish for that – we fully realize – is to be far too unrealistic.)

John Hinderaker at Powerline writes:

It is almost unbelievable how badly Congressional Republicans have botched their opposition to President Obama’s illegal executive amnesty and the funding of the Department of Homeland Security. The House, under John Boehner’s direction, did the right thing: it passed a bill that fully funded DHS, but barred spending to implement the amnesty that has now been declared illegal by a federal court. The action then moved to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried repeatedly to bring the House measure to the floor for a vote. Four times, the Democrats filibustered the DHS funding bill.

As a result of the Democrats’ filibuster, DHS was in danger of running out of money. That put Republicans in a strong position. All they had to do was … nothing. If they didn’t blink, pressure on the Democrats to fund DHS would prove irresistible. It’s not for nothing the voters gave the GOP a majority, right?

Instead, Mitch McConnell backed off. He gave in to Harry Reid’s demands, even though Reid was surely bluffing, and the Senate passed a “clean” DHS funding bill that did nothing to block the illegal amnesty. That put the House in an untenable position. With the clock ticking down to the last hours before DHS ran out of money, it was now Republicans–not Democrats–who were standing in the way of funding the Department.

Having been sold out by the Senate, House Republicans bowed to the inevitable. John Boehner tried to pass a three-week funding extension, but didn’t have the votes. At the last possible moment, the House fell back to a seven-day extension, with Democrats providing the needed margin of support. The seven-day extension can have no possible purpose other than to give Republicans an opportunity to beat an orderly retreat.

If the Republicans wanted to arm their enemies, they couldn’t have done a better job. This is the New York Times triumphant account:

Republicans vowing to govern effectively as a congressional majority failed a fundamental test Friday, when House leaders managed to narrowly pass only a seven-day funding extension to avert a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security just hours before money was to run out.

That’s a news story, not an opinion column. But it’s hard to blame the Democrats for exulting. They were in a corner; they had no cards to play; the voters have ejected them from the majority in both chambers; their objective was to keep alive a patently illegal program that had already been declared so by a federal judge. And the Republicans still couldn’t manage to pull out a victory.

Politics is like anything else: if you want to succeed, you have to be good at it. As best I can tell, Washington Republicans aren’t.

We need new leadership, and we need it now.

Posted under Christianity, Conservatism, Religion general, United States by Jillian Becker on Sunday, March 1, 2015

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Darkness looms over us 3

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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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