The pope performs a miracle 3

… or two.

The Washington Post reports:

On an official trip to this ancient city [Naples] in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, Pope Francis entered the local cathedral to pray to Januarius, the patron saint of Naples. Januarius’s 1,700-year-old dried blood is known to “spontaneously liquefy”, a phenomenon seen by true believers as a miraculous sign from above. Those gathered anxiously watched as Francis prayed before, then kissed, the ornate silver and glass reliquary containing the coagulated clot.

And lo and behold, the dark stain dissolved.

The cardinal of Naples, standing beside Francis, joyously heralded the sacred melting, bringing a round of gasps and applause. Then Francis himself acknowledged the mystery, in which the blood had only half liquefied. “It means the saint loves us halfway,” Francis said, according to accounts of those present that day five months ago. “We must all spread the word of God more, so that he loves us even more.” …

For some Neapolitans, the blood-melting made the recent papal visit all the more magical. Rita Santoro, a 69-year-old who sells prayer cards on the steps of the cathedral, was waiting just outside during Francis’s March visit. He touched her head as he left, “and after that, the stomach problems I had been having just disappeared”. …  “For me, the blood liquefaction for the pope was a miracle,” she said. …

Far more than his predecessor, Francis has thrust himself into the contentious world of so-called popular devotions — including the mystical celebration of holy relics, such as the blood, bones and clothing of saints, as well as the adoration of the Virgin Mary through processions and other rites. By doing so, Vatican watchers say the pope is effectively endorsing a more ardent and mysterious brand of Catholicism that is popularly practiced — especially among the poor — in his native Latin America.

Critics, however, say the pope may be flirting with superstition.

May be? Otherwise there is nothing about religious belief in the supernatural which can be called superstitious?

Also citing his frequent mention of the devil and explicit backing of exorcisms, some say he risks undercutting his image as a 21st century moral leader in tune with the times. “The danger is that popular devotion becomes all too important, that we seek to elevate ourselves by touching a body part or a cloth touched by a saint,” said Vito Mancuso, a theologian and author based in Bologna, Italy. “We would be moving backwards, almost to idolatry.”

Almost? Worshiping a painted plaster “Virgin Mary” is not idolatry?

The incident in Naples, where Francis caused a stir with the blood of Saint Januarius, marked only one in a long list of recent papal devotions to relics and other mysterious artifacts. In June, for instance, the pope “venerated” the Shroud of Turin, praying before the cloth believed by some to be the burial garment of Jesus Christ despite disputed tests that have carbon-dated it to centuries after the crucifixion.

The pope made no official claim about the shroud’s authenticity. But his personal charity has sent at least two busloads of homeless Romans to visit the shroud, and the pope additionally taped a special video message celebrating it.

“Let us listen to what it wants to silently tell us, across death itself,” the pope says in the message. “The sole and ultimate word of God reaches us through the sacred shroud.”

And to millions and millions of sane people, that makes perfect sense?

The pope has recently requested that the remains of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, widely known in Italy simply as Padre Pio, be publicly exhibited in St. Peter’s Basilica next year. Six months after Francis became pope, the Vatican for the first time publicly displayed bone fragments said to belong to Saint Peter despite lingering doubts about their true origins.

What, we wonder, would ever make those doubts stop lingering and go away?

American Catholics anticipate a visit soon by the superstitious pope and a corpse.

Coinciding with the pope’s U.S. visit, the body of Saint Maria Goretti — an 11-year-old Italian girl stabbed to death in 1902 by a family friend — will also travel to the United States on a multi-city tour. In Nettuno, Italy, her sanctuary is filled with mementos of gratitude — wedding dresses, rosaries and statues — from those who claim to have been cured of ailments after praying to her.

But here too doubts are lingering:

Even among those who support the pope, his actions have raised red flags. Citing Francis’s affinity for popular devotion, the Catholic blogger and US-based author Taylor Marshall, for instance, wrote that he feared what “sophisticated non-Catholics” might make of the pope’s actions.

Such a person, Marshall wrote, “shakes his head and thinks to himself, ‘This Pope doesn’t get it. This isn’t the Gospel of Jesus Christ! This is shanty town syncretism at best, or ignorant magic at worst’.”

And the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not about “ignorant magic”?

Posted under Christianity, Religion general, Theology by Jillian Becker on Saturday, August 29, 2015

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Allah: a particularly nasty and silly invention 1

In this 2010 video, Christopher Hitchens, with measured scorn, dismisses Islam:

 

Posted under Islam, jihad, Muslims, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Thursday, August 27, 2015

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Religion is immoral and absurd 4

In this 2011 video, Christopher Hitchens talks aboout the immorality of Christianity, and the absurdity of religion in general.

Posted under Christianity, Judaism, Religion general, Videos by Jillian Becker on Monday, August 17, 2015

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The darkness of this world (14) 5

Today we have posted essay number 14, Mystic Communism: Georg Lukács, in the series by Jillian Becker titled The Darkness of This World (Part Two). (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.

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Mystic Communism

Georg Lukács (1885-1971)

Georg Lukács was the quintessential revolutionary romantic of the twentieth century, longing to avenge his inner desolation on the civilization that nurtured him. And as an active participant in two revolutions and two despotic regimes, that is what he did.

With this essay we come to the nub of the whole series. Like all the other self-absorbed intellectuals we have talked about, fictitious and real, Georg Lukács advocated the doing of evil as the necessary means to a higher good. But unlike the others, he found himself actually in possession of the power to harm and destroy other lives, and he used it with passion and pride.

He was born in Budapest in 1885. The son of a banker ennobled by the Emperor of Austro-Hungary, he was nurtured in luxury. In his late teens he started writing professionally, reviewing plays for a small circulation periodical. He promoted the staging of avant-garde drama. He also tried to write plays, but without success. He realized and accepted that he “would never be a producer” and regretted that he “was no writer” – by which he probably meant a writer of plays, novels or poetry.

In fact he wrote prolifically. His first book, Soul and Form, appeared in 1910; a collection of essays mostly in literary criticism. Their dominant themes are art, Romanticism, longing, God, love, death, and bourgeois life. The volume was greeted with critical acclaim. No less a judge of literary merit than Thomas Mann – who was later to be the most insightful and devastating critic of Lukács’s character – praised the work as “beautiful and profound”.

One of the essays is about some German and Swiss writers who, Lukács allows, created admirable works despite being bourgeois. “The bourgeois way of life signifies only a denial of everything that is beautiful, everything the life-instinct longs for”, he states with conviction.

This was not the disdain of the aristocrat for a class beneath him. (The von Lukács family, for all its wealth and title, would in any case have been classed as haut bourgeois rather than true nobility.) Nor was it (yet) a revolutionary’s contempt for the established order. It was the romantic artist’s repudiation of the average and ordinary. Lukács deemed himself an artist because, he wrote, “the essay is an art form”, and essays such as his could be “intellectual poems”.

He concedes that a degree of genius is to be found in the works of those ordinary bourgeois men who were nevertheless writers. “This bourgeois way of life,” he wrote, “has no value whatsoever, in itself. For only the works which it brings forth confer value upon a life lived within such a framework and within such a form.”

What makes a life bourgeois, Lukács explains, is “first and foremost by the exercise of a bourgeois profession”. (One of the writers he examines earns his living as a judge, another as a clergyman, another as a government clerk. Lukács himself had no need to earn a living.) “A bourgeois profession,” he goes on, “as a form of life signifies, in the first place, the primacy of ethics in life”. These ethical men “do their duty”. The characters in the stories of one of them are “incapable of evil”; there is “no real sin” in their world. But that, to Lukács, far from being a fine thing, is a fault. The artistic achievement of these merely ethical men is, he declares, “great after its own fashion”. But he himself valued the aesthetic far above the ethical. The highest art could not be achieved by a person who binds himself to duty, but only by one who is capable of sin, intimate with beauty, and whose life-spirit longs for … the unreachable. For years his life-spirit burned with longing, seeking what it could not find; the search, and its frustration, being the tragic fate of such a soul as his.

This longing is more than just something waiting for fulfillment, it is a fact of the soul with a value and existence of its own; an original and deep-rooted attitude towards the whole of life, a final, irreducible category of possibilities of experience,” he wrote. Such a soul “will always long for something he can never reach”.

In 1911, Lukács wrote a story titled On Poverty of Spirit. It is told in the form of a letter from a woman to the father of a young man who has killed himself. She recounts a conversation they had two days before his death, about the suicide of her sister, who had been the young man’s lover. He talks at length about his ideas and feelings, for the most part philosophically, but he does state plainly that he is guilty of her death “in the eyes of God”, in that he failed to “help” or “save” her. One can discern through the thicket of beautiful profundities, that he had refused to marry her because he wanted to dedicate himself wholly to his work as a writer. Furthermore, “she had to die so that my work could be completed – so that nothing remains in the world for me except my work.” But after all the argument about it and about, Lukacs wants us to understand that the young man did the right thing when he shot himself, because of his guilt and for other sound, if rather obscure and certainly long-winded, philosophical reasons.

On Poverty of Spirit was written after – and about – the suicide of his own lover, Irma Seidler, whom he had not married, being dedicated to his work as a writer. She had married someone else, had not been happy, and had drowned herself. The story he wrote was a confession of his guilt. But he himself did not do the right thing. It was enough that his alter ego did it in the story: the brilliant young man tragically performing an extreme act of penance in fiction rendered it unnecessary for Lukács himself to perform it. Besides, what he, the author, did was something better, higher: he gave the episode a “form” as a work of art. When Lukács spoke of “form” he meant art – always expecting the word to resonate in the minds of his cultured readers with Plato’s theory of “Forms” or “Ideals”. To him, a work of art was a revelation, or representative, or reminder of the “noumenal” reality that – so Plato and Kant have convinced Middle European intellectuals – lies behind, beyond, above this “phenomenal” world in which we live.

When he wrote Soul and Form, Lukács believed that the two worlds were irreconcilable; that a soul belonged to one or the other. (He does not say, but almost certainly knew, that in the creeds of the old Gnostic cults, the souls of the “Perfects” or “Pneumatics” belonged to a transcendent world, while the souls of the common “Hylics” were bound to the earth). His own soul – he knew – belonged to the higher, better, mystical world, the world of “essences”; the unreachable world. Here in this world, “abandoned by God”, he felt he was a stranger, an alien on earth; that humankind did not belong here; and that there was “an antagonism between the soul and the world”. That is what he meant when he asked rhetorically- cried out, so to speak, in his writing – “How can one bring essence into life? How can life become essential?” For years he searched for an answer. Morbidly pre-occupied with death, tragedy, and the condition of the human soul – above all his own – he wrote: “Man is abandoned to immanent meaninglessness.” He longed for “an extinction of selfhood” through “complete absorption of the ego into a higher being”.

Often he conjectured that the only answer was in death, and he brooded on suicide.  He declares in Soul and Form: “Life is without value, without significance, and we [presumably he and all those who suffer the same spiritual anguish] would be ready to consecrate it every moment to death.”

His was an intensely religious temperament, but he was drawn neither emotionally nor intellectually to any organized religion; not to the Judaism of his ancestors, nor to Christianity – though his parents had him baptized in the Lutheran church in 1897 so that he could attend a good Lutheran school.

Karl Jaspers – later a famous philosopher – met Lukács in Heidelberg in 1913 and had no difficulty recognizing the nature of his contemporary’s mystical beliefs. He records: “Many came to Heidelberg [University] who were men of letters and potential candidates for Habilitation. Among them was Georg von Lukács from Budapest and Ernst Bloch from Mannheim. … At that time, they were Gnostics who shared their theosophical fantasies in their social circles.” It is probable that Lukács simply announced to Jaspers and all the company that he was a Gnostic. He was calling himself a “gnostic activist” in his writings years before he became in any way active in public life.

By “gnostic” he meant possessed of that intuitive knowledge which is a special gift to the specially gifted. What he intuitively knew which the ordinary (bourgeois) person could not know in the same way, was that there was a higher better world, the “intelligible” world: the “essential” world; the “noumenal” world. What he meant by “activist” is less clear. He seems to have meant that he not only thought philosophically that there is a higher better world, but that he also felt it. The activity was not muscular but emotional. It was not worked out by the intellect but immediately known by “intellectual intuition”, through which one might become “good”.

Become good? But had he not rejected ethical behavior? Certainly he had – and by “goodness” he did not mean anything so bourgeois as ethical behavior. He expounds his idea of what goodness is in Poverty of Spirit:

Prince Myshkin [hero of Dostoyevsky’s novel The Idiot] and Alyosha [hero of Dostoyevsky”s The Brothers Karamazov] are good; what does that mean? … [T]heir knowledge [gnosis] became realized in deed, their thinking left the purely conceptual realm of knowledge, their view of mankind became an intellectual intuition: they are Gnostics of the deed.” … “Goodness is the miracle, the grace, and the salvation. The descent of the heavenly realm to the earth. … It is an abandonment of ethic. Goodness is not an ethical category; you’ll find it in no consistent ethical system. And with good reason. Ethics is general, binding, and far removed from men; it is the first – the most primitive – exaltation of mankind over the chaos of everyday life; it is man’s moving away from himself, and from his empirical condition. Goodness, however, is the return to real life, man’s true discovery of his home.” … “Goodness is madness, it is not mild, not refined, and not quietistic; it is wild, terrible, blind, and adventurous. The soul of the good one has become empty of all psychological content, of grounds and consequences; it has become a pure white slate upon which destiny inscribes its absurd command to be followed blindly, recklessly, cruelly to the end.”

In the First World War, Lukács was conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian armed forces; but he dodged the draft with the help of a certificate from Karl Jaspers (who was a qualified doctor and psychiatrist), and through the use of his father’s connections – the calling in of a favor owed to the banker by a personage close to the royal and imperial government. Duly declared unfit for active service, Lukács did his patriotic duty as a letter censor in Budapest for a few months in 1915.

It was after the war, when his country was in the abjection and disorder of defeat, that he found the answer to his spiritual search, a solution to his loneliness, despair and longing. He recognized that the “higher being” into which his “ego” might be “absorbed” was the International Communist movement. In December 1918 he joined the newly formed Hungarian Communist Party.

The commitment of his soul to the Party was no less religious for being political. He saw Communism as a cure not only for his own discontent – his despair, or loneliness, or Faust-like boredom with the contemplative life – but for everyone else’s too. He assumed that everyone suffered from the same malaise as he did. As a general social phenomenon he called it “alienation”, and declared it to be the result of capitalism and the bourgeois order. Communism, he believed, was the salvation of all mankind, provided only that each soul had faith enough and submitted utterly to its church. …

 

Jillian Becker   July 19, 2015

The puritan Church of Sustainability 5

In  higher education today, sustainability is an ideology — not a proposition to be discussed, but a baseline assumption to be taken on authority. Dissent is harshly suppressed. Scientists who question climate change, for example, are branded 21st-century heretics. In the classroom, this doctrinaire approach undermines open inquiry and rational debate — the heart of liberal education’s mission.

We quote from an important article by Katherine Kersten at the Center of American Experiment. (We found it via PowerLine, where it is reproduced in full by Scott Johnson.)

Campus Sustainability: Going Green is Just Part of the Plot

It’s the new religion, and it’s the new home of the entire liberal agenda.

Sustainability now permeates campuses from the classroom to the dorm, dining hall, faculty lounge, physical plant and alumni office. …

Sustainability, it turns out, is the new battle cry in an old war. It’s a wraparound concept that links the old, familiar liberal causes of environmental activism, animosity toward free markets, and a progressive take on “social justice”.

But it repackages them and lends them urgency by maintaining that embrace of its ideological agenda is imperative to avoid a looming ecological and social catastrophe.

The campus sustainability movement’s mission is to transform our fundamental social, economic and political institutions, and to do so by manipulating, cajoling and browbeating a generation of college students into accepting the movement’s worldview and cultural norms. …

Sustainability is not an academic discipline but an ideological “lens” through which to view all of life, as the report makes clear. Today, 475 colleges in 65 states or Canadian provinces offer a total of 1,436 degree or certificate programs in sustainability, according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. In addition, there are countless elective classes. Cornell University offers more than 400, ranging from “The Ethics of Eating” (“defend” or change your eating habits) to “Magnifying Small Spaces Studio,” where students learn to make do living in tiny spaces.

Beyond the classroom, students are pressured — often by paid student “eco-reps” — to conform the smallest details of their daily lives to the movement’s norms. This can mean tray-less cafeteria dining; shorter showers; “Meatless Mondays”; lectures on fossil fuel divestment; and films like “Food, Inc.” or “The Story of Bottled Water”, which depict the American economy as a tool of greedy, ruthless capitalists.

How is the sustainability movement playing out on Minnesota campuses? St. John’s University in Collegeville offers an example. SJU is committed to “incorporating the goals of sustainability into every aspect of life” and focusing students’ attention on the “triple bottom line: equity, economy and the environment.”

The university — which boasts of becoming “carbon-neutral” by 2035 by conserving, changing energy sources, and investing in alternative energy and carbon offsets — offers courses like “Food, Gender and Environment”; has two “eco-houses” for student living; distributes the “SJU Green Guide,” and employs 10 full-time equivalents for diversity and equity coordination.

SJU’s sustainability push begins at freshman orientation, where students use “corn utensils and recyclable plates” during meals. All freshmen and seniors take a Sustainability Literacy Assessment, so the school can measure how effectively its saturation campaign is changing students’ beliefs and attitudes.

The University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus also bombards students with preachy exhortations on the gospel of sustainability. These include politically correct invocations about biking, transit, recycling and composting, and a “Welcome Week” during which every student has “the chance to engage with … hands-on learning activities and … to win prizes all while learning about sustainability.”

The U earns special “points” from a national sustainability rating organization because it provides “gender neutral housing” for “transgender and transitioning students” … as well as single-race housing for black men, Hmong students and other minorities.

The university’s Sustainability Studies office emphasizes the “heavy intersection” between “the issues of race relations and sustainability”. During last year’s riots in Ferguson, Mo., the office posted online resources demonstrating how “white folk can show support against police brutality,” and encouraged students to donate to “The Organization for Black Struggle” — fighting “the racist police state in Ferguson” — to help protesters with “basic needs, including food, water, gas masks and school supplies.” …

“Sustainability” is a doctrine – apodictic, unquestionable, like the doctrines of all religions:

In teaching and scientific research, it “shuts out certain questions and locks in certain answers”, as the NAS puts it. In decisionmaking about energy use and physical plant, it discourages honest analysis of costs and benefits.

In at least one university, devotees have to swear allegiance to the church and its teaching:

The movement’s “salute-and-shut-up” mind-set is reflected in the sustainability oath that students and employees at the University of Virginia are asked to take on matriculation and at graduation:

“I pledge to consider the social, economic and environmental impacts of my habits and to explore ways to foster a sustainable environment during my time here at U.Va. and beyond.”

The authoritarian impulse is also evident in the movement’s public-policy agenda. Its leaders call for vastly increasing state control over people and resources, and conferring power on government planners to distribute wealth and opportunity on the basis of skin color and socioeconomic status.

This sacrifice of individual economic, political and intellectual liberty is regarded as “the price that must be paid now to ensure the welfare of future generations”, as the NAS [National Association of Scholars] observes.

Why are students attracted to the sustainability movement?

Answer: Romanticism: the fear of reality that sustains religious faith and all utopian dreams of transforming the world nearer to the dreamer’s desire:

Its appeal springs, in large measure, from its quasi-religious nature and message. In our increasingly secular age, a focus on transcendent meaning has largely vanished from campus. Sustainability can fill the resulting vacuum by offering young people a sense of purpose and meaning.

“Like its predecessor movements that excited student passions,” sustainability “invokes moralistic duties to repair and restructure the Earth”,  explains the NAS. It “rewards its followers with a sense of belonging to a community of the enlightened few, and endows the smallest actions with meaning and significance”. Recycling a plastic cup, for example, becomes “a noble sacrifice rewarded with laurels” that “contributes inexorably” toward saving the planet.

The Church of Sustainability derives many of its major themes from Judeo-Christianity. It teaches that the Earth — once a pristine Eden — is now fallen and polluted because of human sinfulness, and that an apocalyptic Judgment Day looms unless mankind repents. Absolution and salvation are possible if humans heed the enlightened saints and prophets who warn us of impending doom.

It is a fast growing religion:

As sustainability spreads beyond the campus, we increasingly see it touted in coffee shops, celebrated by major corporations and embraced by urban planners. For example, it’s the ideology driving “Thrive MSP 2040″, the Metropolitan Council’s new 30-year plan for development in the Twin Cities region, with its pervasive themes of top-down planning and rule by “experts”.

“Experts” are the new priesthood.

It’s ironic that college campuses are home base for the sustainability movement. For higher education is among the least sustainable of our contemporary institutions. Colleges and universities are caught in a death spiral of rising costs and declining benefits. Nevertheless, they obsess about recyclable napkins, solar panels and fossil-fuel divestment, and pour $3.2 billion annually — frequently without assessing effectiveness — into achieving their dreams of sustainability, according to the NAS.

Today, colleges and universities are charging students huge, unsustainable sums — often upward of $50,000 a year — for the privilege of (among other things) living out an elite, politically correct fad. Many emerge with a crushing load of debt, at a time when, as the NAS points out, more than 50 percent of recent graduates are either unemployed or underemployed.

For these young people, there’s no better guarantee of an unsustainable future.

The Left against science (1) 1

Rogue scientists going along with the Anthropogenic Global Warming hoax have brought science itself into disrepute. However, good science persists – however much the Left fears it and tries to hamper it with laws snd regulations.

Here’s an article from Townhall, by John Stossel – a libertarian we often but not always agree with. We agree with this:

This year is the 10th anniversary of a book called The Republican War on Science. I could just as easily write a book called The Democratic War on Science.

The conflict conservatives have with science is mostly caused by religion. Some religious conservatives reject evolution, and some oppose stem cell research.

But neither belief has a big impact on our day-to-day lives. Species continue to evolve regardless of what [religious] conservatives believe, and if [they] ban government funding of stem cell research, private investors will continue the work.

By contrast, the left’s bad ideas about science do more harm.

Many on the left – including a few of my fellow libertarians – are paranoid about genetically modified organisms. These are crops that have DNA altered to make them grow faster or be more pest-resistant. The left calls that “playing with nature” and worries that eating GMO food will cause infertility, premature aging and a host of other problems.

The fear makes little scientific sense. There is no reason to think that precise changes in a plant’s genes are more dangerous than, say, the cross-breeding of corn done by American Indians centuries ago or a new type of tomato arising in someone’s organic garden. Nature makes wilder and more unpredictable changes in plant DNA all the time.

Yet the left’s fear of GMOs led activists to destroy fields of experimental crops in Europe and, most tragically, bans on GMO foods that might help prevent hunger and malnutrition in African and Asian nations.

Leftists often claim to be defenders of progress, but they sound more like religious conservatives when they oppose “tampering with nature”. 

The new movie Jurassic World, in which scientists tamper with DNA to create a super-dinosaur that gets out of control, doesn’t just recycle ideas from the original Jurassic Park. It recycles the same fears that inspired the novel Frankenstein 200 years ago – the idea that if humans alter nature’s perfect design, we’ll pay a terrible price.

But it’s nature that is terrible. We should alter it. “Living with nature” means fighting for food, freezing in the cold and dying young.

The left’s anti-science fears also prevent us from building new nuclear reactors …

Humans thrive by improving technology, not abandoning it.

Lately, some people think they’re “erring on the safe side” by avoiding vaccinations. The result is outbreaks of diseases like mumps and measles that we thought were all but eliminated. …

The left also objects to science that contradicts their egalitarian beliefs. A few years ago, I interviewed scientists who had discovered ways in which male and female brains differ from birth. The scientists told me that they wanted to continue such research, but political pressure against it was too intense. Men and women clearly have different aptitudes, but today leftists demand that government punish any company that treats genders differently.

Few scientists today would even study relative IQs of different ethnic groups. They know they’d be de-funded if they discovered the “wrong” facts.

I say, follow the truth wherever science leads.

So do we.

The Left is the side of the emotions. But science is the child of reason. The two are as antithetical as science and religion.

In fact, Leftism is a religion. 

The faith is dead long live the faith 13

Here are facts and figures from a Pew survey conducted between June and September of 2014, reported by the Washington Post:

Christianity is on the decline in America, not just among younger generations or in certain regions of the country but across race, gender, education and geographic barriers.

The percentage of adults who describe themselves as Christians dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years to about 71 percent, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. …

That’s still a lot of Christians. Nearly three-quarters of the nation.

At the same time, the share of those who are not affiliated with a religion has jumped from 16 percent to about 23 percent in the same time period. The trend follows a pattern found earlier in the American Religious Identification Survey, which found that in 1990, 86 percent of American adults identified as Christians, compared with 76 percent in 2008. Here are three key takeaways from Pew’s new survey.

  1. Millennials are growing even less affiliated with religion as they get older 

The older generation of millennials (those who were born from 1981 to 1989) are becoming even less affiliated with religion than they were about a decade ago, the survey suggests. In 2007, when the Pew Research Center did their last Religious Landscape Survey and these adults were just entering adulthood, 25 percent of them did not affiliate with a religion, but this grew to 34 percent in the latest survey.

The trends among the aging millennials is especially significant, said Greg Smith, associate director of research at the Pew Research Center. In 2010, 13 percent of baby boomers were religiously unaffiliated as they were entering retirement, the same percentage in 1972. “Some have asked, ‘Might they become more religiously affiliated as they get older?’ There’s nothing in this data to suggest that’s what’s happening,” he said. Millennials get married later than older generations, but they are not necessarily more likely to become religiously affiliated, he said.

  1. There are more religiously unaffiliated Americans than Catholic Americans or mainline Protestant Americans

The numbers of Catholics and Protestants have each shrunk between three and five percentage points since 2007. The evangelical share of the American population has dropped by one percentage point since 2007.

There are more religiously unaffiliated Americans (23 percent) than Catholics (21 percent) and mainline Protestants (15 percent). …

That’s 36% of Christians accounted for. What sort of Christians are the remaining 35% if neither Catholic nor Protestant? Are they all Mormons?

The groups experience their losses through what’s called “religious switching,” when someone switches from one faith to another. Thirteen percent of Americans were raised Catholic but are no longer Catholic, compared with just 2 percent of Americans who are converts to Catholicism. “That means that there are more than six former Catholics for every convert to Catholicism,” Smith said. “There’s no other group in the survey that has that ratio of loss due to religious switching.” There are 3 million fewer Catholics today than there were in 2007. While the percentage of Catholics in the United States has remained relatively steady, Smith said we might be observing the beginning of the decline of the Catholic share of the population.

Pew estimates there are about 5 million fewer mainline Protestants than there were in 2007. About 10 percent of the U.S. population say they were raised in the mainline Protestant tradition, while 6 percent have converted to mainline Protestantism.

Evangelical Protestants have experienced less decline, due to their net  positive retention rate. For every person who has left evangelical Protestantism after growing up, 1.2 have switched to join an evangelical denomination.

Then comes apparently good news.

  1. Those who are unaffiliated are becoming more secular

The “nones,” or religiously unaffiliated, include atheists, agnostics and those  who say they believe in “nothing in particular”. Of those who are unaffiliated, 31 percent describe themselves as atheists or agnostics, up six points from 2007.

“What we’re seeing now is that the share of people who say religion is important to them is declining,” Smith said. “The religiously unaffiliated are not just growing, but as they grow, they are becoming more secular.”

And people in older generations are increasingly disavowing organized religion. Among baby boomers, 17 percent identify as a religious “none,” up from 14 percent in 2007.

“There’s a continuing religious disaffiliation among older cohorts. That is really striking,” Smith said. “I continue to be struck by the pace at which the unaffiliated are growing.”

White Americans (24 percent) are more likely to say they have no religion, compared with 20 percent of Hispanic Americans and 18 percent of black Americans. The retention rates of the “nones” who say they were raised as religiously affiliated has grown by seven points since 2007 to 53 percent.

The religions are such musty old things. Relics from the pre-science age – or the ages between Greek enlightenment and the West European Enlightenment. Dark and awful. Christianity and Islam in particular are calculated to cause profound anxiety with their terrible doctrines of hell.

Trouble is, many who turn away from those old religions, embrace Leftism. And that’s a religion too.

In his excellent book Thinkers of the New Left, Professor Roger Scruton writes of the devout Marxist, Louis Althusser:

[Althusser says that] you can understand [Marx’s book] Capital only if you already believe it. That is the criterion of religious faith, which is locked inviolably within the single thought of its own validity – the thought that “I understand because I believe”. For the scientific mind, belief is the consequence and not the cause of understanding. But it is precisely the scientific failure of Marxism which necessitates Althusser’s enterprise – that of the sacralisation of Marx’s texts and the transformation of their content into revealed dogma. … When Althusser turns to the text of Capital, it is partly in order to give vent to religious awe, but also to extract a phrase or a paragraph, which he encases in metaphysical nonsense, like a drunken mystic commenting on the gospels.

The minds of most people living in the last two thousand years have been darkened by the mystic fantasies of three individuals:

  • the confector of Christianity, St. Paul;
  • the concocter of Islam, Muhammad;
  • the inflictor of Communism, Karl Marx.

The date of creation 4

For light relief today, we quote from the wonderful pair of volumes titled A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom by Andrew D. White, first published in New York in 1896.

Here is what happened when Christian theologians “exerted themselves to fix the date” when one or another or all three of the persons of the Trinity created the universe. (Whether all three persons, or only one of them and then which one, was not settled; nor whether it was accomplished in six days or in a moment.)

The general conclusion arrived at by the overwhelming majority of the most competent students of the biblical accounts was that the date of the creation was, in round numbers, four thousand years before our era; and in the seventeenth century … Dr. John Lightfoot, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, and one of the most eminent Hebrew scholars of his time, declared, as the result of his most profound and exhaustive study of the Scriptures, that “heaven and earth, centre and circumference, were created all together in the same instant, and clouds full of water,” and that “this work took place and man was created by the Trinity on October 23, 4004 B.C., at nine o’clock in the morning“.

Here was, indeed, a triumph … the result of hundreds of years of biblical study and theological thought since Bede in the eighth century, and Vincent of Beauvais in the thirteenth, had declared that creation must have taken place in the spring. Yet, alas! within two centuries after Lightfoot’s great biblical demonstration as to the exact hour of creation, it was discovered  that at that hour an exceedingly cultivated people, enjoying all the fruits of a highly developed civilization, had long been swarming in the great cities of Egypt, and that other nations hardly less advanced had at that time reached a high development in Asia.

We plan to entertain ourselves and our readers with morsels from this abundant store from time to time.

Anti-Zionism is racism 4

Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. Jew-hatred is not a result of the existence of Israel or of anything Israel does. The cause and result go the other way round. Israel is hated because Jews are hated.

We are not talking about the religion of Judaism. Strange to say, it’s very rare to hear even the most rabid anti-Semite attack the Jewish religion. (We ourselves do, in a rational way, because we attack religion as such, but we are not anti-Semites.) We are talking about hatred of the Jews as a people.

The root of anti-Semitism is, however, in religion.

First, the author of the Christian religion, St. Paul, spread his weird belief that the Jewish god had been born as a man. He picked an actual person, a Jew born in the time of Augustus Caesar; a religious fanatic who tried to lead a little insurgent band against Roman rule and was consequently executed. St. Paul claimed that the man lived on after his death as a co-divine being, and that the failure of the Jews to acknowledge this “truth” excluded them from the redemption from sin that belief in the god-man alone provided. His converts told a whopper in their novels (called the gospels) about the god-man – that the Jews had begged to be held guilty forever for killing him.

Next, some three hundred years later, the Romans, having themselves crucified the man as was their wont with insurrectionists, decided that he was indeed a god, the God that the Jews had first invented – or at least part of the God in some mystical way or other – and insisted on the wildly improbable story that blamed the crucifixion on the actual man’s fellow Jews.

For two thousand years Christianity (though not all Christians) held the Jews to be bad. Not their religion, which Christianity came round to adopting as the pre-history of the god-man, but the nation, the people, who were dispersed from their own land and scattered among other nations when their general mutiny against Roman rule failed. They were cast in the role of handy scapegoats for every ill that afflicted the peoples they lived among.

With the rise of Islam, the Jews who lived in the lands that Muslims conquered were maltreated for a different badness: they, like the Christians, would not accept the “truth” of Muhammad’s religion, so must suffer the consequences of their obstinacy and pay to stay alive, or die. When, in 1948, the Jews in their recovered homeland mustered an army which actually defeated six invading Arab armies, the Arabs felt deeply humiliated. Something had gone very wrong. Allah simply could not allow such a thing to happen. Islam had conquered that once-Jewish territory centuries earlier, and no one else was allowed to own it.

The Jews were allowed to re-establish a Jewish state in 1948 by the consent of the great powers which had taken custody of the region after they defeated the Islamic Ottoman empire in the war of 1914-1918. First some 80% of the ancient Jewish homeland had been allocated to an Arab emir for a new state called Transjordan (one of 21 Arab despotisms, some of them newly created at that time). Then they divided the remaining 20% between  the Jews and some other Arabs. The Jewish people – what remained of it after six of its fifteen million had been systematically killed in Christian Europe – unhesitatingly took its portion. The Arabs wanted all of the 20% or nothing. So they got nothing. Hundreds of thousands of Jews, survivors of the attempted genocide, went home to Zion. Their patriotism is called Zionism. It is not more or less legitimate than the patriotism of any other people.

But it is the only patriotism that is reviled. The Jewish state is the only state whose legitimacy is continually called into question in forums of the Christian and Islamic worlds.

Dennis Prager, with whom we almost always agree on political issues though never on religion, writes at Townhall:

Whenever I have received a call from a listener to my radio show challenging Israel’s legitimacy, I have asked these people if they ever called a radio show to challenge any other country’s legitimacy. In particular, I ask, have they ever questioned the legitimacy of Pakistan?

The answer, of course, is always “no.” In fact, no caller ever understood why I even mentioned Pakistan.

There are two reasons for this.

First, of all the 200-plus countries in the world, only Israel’s legitimacy is challenged. So mentioning any other country seems strange to a caller. Second, almost no one outside of India and Pakistan knows anything about the founding of Pakistan.

Only months before the U.N. adopted a proposal to partition Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state in 1947, India was partitioned into a Muslim and a Hindu state. The Hindu state was, of course, India. And the Muslim state became known as Pakistan. It comprises 310,000 square miles, about 40,000 square miles larger than Texas.

In both cases, the declaration of an independent state resulted in violence. As soon as the newly established state of Israel was declared in May 1948, it was invaded by six Arab armies. And the partition of India led to a terrible violence between Muslims and Hindus.

According to the final report of the United Nations Conciliation Commission from Dec. 28, 1949, the 1948 war of Israel’s independence created 726,000 Arabs refugees. Many sources put the figure at about 200,000 less. A roughly equal number of Jewish refugees — approximately 700,000 — were created when they were forcibly expelled from the Arab countries where they had lived for countless generations. In addition, approximately 10,000 Arabs were killed in the fighting that ensued after the Arab invasion of Israel.

Now let’s turn to the creation of Pakistan. According to the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, the creation of Pakistan resulted in 14 million refugees — Hindus fleeing Pakistan and Muslims fleeing India. Assuming a 50-50 split, the creation of Pakistan produced about seven million Hindu refugees — at least 10 times the number of Arab refugees that resulted from the war surrounding Israel’s creation. And the Mideast war, it should be recalled, was started by the Arab nations surrounding Israel. Were it not for the Arab rejection of Israel’s creation (and existence within any borders) and the subsequent Arab invasion, there would have been no Arab refugees.

And regarding deaths, the highest estimate of Arab deaths during the 1948 war following the partition of Palestine is 10,000. The number of deaths that resulted from the creation of Pakistan is around one million.

In addition, according to the Indian government, at least 86,000 women were raped. Most historians believe the number to be far higher. The number of women raped when Israel was established is close to zero. From all evidence I could find, the highest estimate was 12.

Given the spectacularly larger number of refugees and deaths caused by the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan, why does no one ever question the legitimacy of Pakistan’s existence?

This question is particularly valid given another fact: Never before in history was there a Pakistan. It was a completely new nation. Moreover, its creation was made possible solely because of Muslim invasion. It was Muslims who invaded India, and killed about 60 million Hindus during the thousand-year Muslim rule of India. The area now known as Pakistan was Hindu until the Muslims invaded it in A.D. 711.

On the other and, modern Israel is the third Jewish state in the geographic area known as Palestine. The first was destroyed in 586 B.C., the second in A.D. 70. And there was never a non-Jewish sovereign state in Palestine.

So, given all these facts, why is Israel’s legitimacy challenged, while the legitimacy of Pakistan, a state that had never before existed and whose creation resulted in the largest mass migration in recorded history, is never challenged?

The answer is so obvious that only those who graduated from college, and especially from graduate school, need to be told: Israel is the one Jewish state in the world. So, while there are 49 Muslim-majority countries and 22 Arab states, much of the world questions or outright only rejects the right of the one Jewish state, the size of New Jersey, to exist.

If you are a member of the Presbyterian Church, send these facts to the leaders of the Presbyterian Church USA who voted to boycott Israel. If you are a student in Middle Eastern Studies — or for that matter, almost any other humanities department — and your professor is anti-Israel, ask your professor why Pakistan is legitimate and Israel isn’t.

They won’t have a good answer. Their opposition to Israel isn’t based on moral considerations.

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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