The war 5

Among the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls there is one titled The War of the Children of Light  and the Children of Darkness.

It is a perpetual war: Good against Evil.

It is fought in most of the world’s mythologies, and in almost all of them Good will win in the end. (The exception is that of the Norsemen. They foresaw the triumph of Evil.)

Dennis Prager, writing at Townhall, describes how the two sides of the conflict appear to him now:

In both personal and public life, you can know a great deal about a person or a group if you know what most bothers them – and what doesn’t bother them.

A news item this past week made this point with glaring clarity. It reported a meeting that the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights had on Friday. Before revealing the subject of that meeting, let’s review for a moment what is happening in the world …

North Korea continues to be an affront to the human species. That North Korea, whether or not it had nuclear weapons, is not a central concern is an indictment of humanity.

That the West, with the noble exception of Canada under Stephen Harper, is appeasing the dictators of Iran, is an indictment of the West.

Add to this list the U.N.’s and the world’s ignoring of the Chinese government’s continuing suppression of all dissent and its decades-long violent eradication of Tibet’s unique and ancient culture.

Then add the slaughter of millions in Congo over the last decade, the 100,000-plus killed in Syria just last year, most of them civilians killed by their own government, and the blowing up, burning alive, and throat-cutting of untold numbers of innocent people by violent Islamists on a daily basis.

In other words, if what bothers you most is evil – the deliberate infliction of cruelty on people by people – North Korea, Congo, China, Syria and radical Islam will bother you more than anything else on the world scene.

So, then, what was the subject of the meeting convened Friday by the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights?

The alleged racism of the name of the National Football League’s Washington team, the Redskins.

That’s right. All these horrific evils are happening as you read this, and … the United Nations had a meeting about the name Washington Redskins.

The U.N. is not alone in paying undue attention to the Redskins’ name. The left in the United States is nearly obsessed with it. President Barack Obama has spoken out against it. The Washington Post editorial board has demanded that the team drop the name. In the herd-like way that governs media, innumerable columnists and sports writers have written passionate columns against the name, and increasing numbers of sports writers have vowed to never again write or speak the name.

This left-wing obsession with a non-evil exemplifies the left’s moral universe. That universe is preoccupied with lesser evils while nearly always ignoring the greatest evils.

Preoccupation with real evil is the greatest difference between right and left. The right was preoccupied with fighting Communism while the left … was preoccupied with fighting anti-Communists.

The right today is preoccupied with fighting Islamism; the left is preoccupied with fighting “Islamophobia.”

One way of putting it is that the right is preoccupied with fighting evil and the left is preoccupied with fighting those who fight evil.

The right is preoccupied with defending Israel against those who wish to annihilate it. The left is preoccupied with Israeli apartments on the West Bank.

This difference was made manifest last week in the address given by the one world leader to exemplify the right’s preoccupation with evil, Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper. Talking about all the condemnations of Israel, Harper said:

“Think about the twisted logic and outright malice behind that: a state, based on freedom, democracy and the rule of law, that was founded so Jews can flourish as Jews, and seek shelter from the shadow of the worst racist experiment in history, that is condemned, and that condemnation is masked in the language of anti-racism. It is nothing short of sickening.”

Yes, but the writer does not go nearly far enough. The Left is not merely preoccupied with fighting those who fight evil, it is occupied with doing evil. The Left  is in alliance with Islam. Its (bewilderingly unintelligent) intelligentsia invent a fake need to “save the planet” from “climate change” as an excuse to advance their own tyrannical rule, reduce population, and impoverish and destroy civilization.

And where are our warriors of the Right to stop them? Let’s see: there’s Stephen Harper and … Well, a few more names may spring to mind. And we do have the immense power of Reason on our side.

Which side is winning, would you say?

Why not be cruel? 8

Why do believers ache to argue with atheists? Why does it bother them that others do not believe what they believe? Especially if they have radio shows and can propound their beliefs to their hearts’ content.

Although Dennis Prager is religious (an observing Jew), there was a time when we considered him intelligent – which is a way of saying, he agreed by and large with our political views. Not so lately. And today he has produced an article which has us laughing aloud.

He calls it a response  to Richard Dawkins, to statements the scientist made in an interview with CNN. He also intends to make a general answer to atheism. His theme is that “God” is necessary to humankind, because without belief in such a being we would not know good from bad.

We greatly respect Richard Dawkins as a proponent of atheism who is listened to by millions. He has probably convinced many believers that they were wrong. We enormously enjoy his highly readable books on evolution. We do, however, have our reservations about him. We disagree with his ill-thought-out political views – fuzzy leftist notions. We excuse these to some extent on the grounds that he is concentrating on science and so hasn’t bothered to inform himself adequately about political issues. Whether that’s true or not, of course we don’t know. We also think he is under-informed on the religions he has written about. But that doesn’t much matter. (We review his book The God Delusion here.)

Prager complains that Dawkins will not debate with him. Since what follows is Prager’s argument, we can see why. Prager makes no good case to answer. But we will comment on what he says to show what’s wrong with it.

This past Friday CNN conducted an interview with Richard Dawkins, the British biologist most widely known for his polemics against religion and on behalf of atheism.

Asked “whether an absence of religion would leave us without a moral compass,” Dawkins responded: “The very idea that we get a moral compass from religion is horrible.”

This is the crux of the issue for Dawkins and other anti-religion activists – that not only do we not need religion or God for morality, but we would have a considerably more moral world without them.

This argument is so wrong – both rationally and empirically – that its appeal can only be explained by a) a desire to believe it and b) an ignorance of history.

That’s when we started laughing. Prager the believer, accusing atheists of believing what they do or do not only because they want to believe it!

But on we go:

First, the rational argument.

If there is no God, the labels “good” and “evil” are merely opinions. They are substitutes for “I like it” and “I don’t like it.” They are not objective realities.

That’s the rational argument? It implies that at some point  in history – or perhaps at many points – a god has issued definitions of good and evil. Or launched them as forces among us, so they are “objective realities” outside of the human mind.

The religious claim that Jehovah dictated laws, in words, to Moses; that God the Father, through Jesus, gave instructions on moral behavior; that Allah told Muhammad through the Archangel Gabriel all that has been recorded as his will and law in the Koran. What sane adult can believe that such events actually happened? The plain fact must be that, since we have the written laws of Judaism, the records of Jesus Christ’s sayings,  and the Koran, at some points in time human beings formulated those statements of morals and law, and wrote them down. To believe otherwise is laughable.

Laws against murder, theft, the breaking of oaths, adultery, defaulting on contract were common around the eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor long before the period of Moses. The Hammurabi Code predated the Hebrews’ putative law-giver by at least five hundred years, and while it chiefly deals with punishments for crimes and how disputes should be settled, it assumes the existence of laws on the same moral principles as underlie the laws of Moses. And they were not issued as the commandments of a god. Not to know that is ignorance of history.

Prager persists:

Every atheist philosopher I have debated has acknowledged this. For example, at Oxford University I debated Professor Jonathan Glover, the British philosopher and ethicist, who said: “Dennis started by saying that I hadn’t denied his central contention that if there isn’t a God, there is only subjective morality. And that’s absolutely true.”

The ethicist should get out more. If he hasn’t yet become aware of the power of social conventions, cultural pressures, public opinion –  all in addition to enlightened self-interest, which very much needs to take account of how other people react to one’s self-will –  he has spent too much time closeted in his ivory tower.

And the eminent Princeton philosopher Richard Rorty admitted that for secular liberals such as himself, “there is no answer to the question, ‘Why not be cruel?‘”

Because you may be punched on the nose, Richard.  And if someone is cruel to you, you may understand why cruelty is so widely abhorred as to be kept in most societies as punishment for crime or treatment for enemies.

And why do eminent philosophers choose to forget the moral philosophies that owe nothing to religion? The Stoics. The Epicureans. True, some of them were religious, but few were adherents of a moral religion, and their ethics were not ascribed to a revelation from a god. The religion of ancient Greece was not a moral religion. Nor was that of Rome until the 4th century. Marcus Aurelius (121-180 C.E.) was not a Christian. He was a Stoic. Yet Christians admire him as a good man and a good emperor.

Hear Prager again:

Atheists like Dawkins who refuse to acknowledge that without God there are only opinions about good and evil are not being intellectually honest.

None of this means that only believers in God can be good or that atheists cannot be good. There are bad believers and there are good atheists. But this fact is irrelevant to whether good and evil are real.

To put this as clearly as possible: If there is no God who says, “Do not murder,” murder is not wrong. Many people or societies may agree that it is wrong. But so what? Morality does not derive from the opinion of the masses. If it did, then apartheid was right; murdering Jews in Nazi Germany was right; the history of slavery throughout the world was right; and clitoridectomies and honor killings are right in various Muslims societies.

The Afrikaner nationalists who imposed apartheid on South Africa, justified themselves with reference to their bible. “The sons of Ham must be the hewers of wood and the drawers of water.” They were most of them devout members of one or another of the Calvinist churches.

The Germans who carried out the will of the Hitlerian regime were almost to a man and woman raised in the faith of either Protestant or Catholic Christianity.

The slave traders and slave owners of Europe and America were Christians. The present slave traders and owners in North Africa and Asia are almost all Muslims, as are honor killers everywhere.

So, then, without God, why is murder wrong?

Is it, as Dawkins argues, because reason says so?

My reason says murder is wrong, just as Dawkins’s reason does. But, again, so what? The pre-Christian Germanic tribes of Europe regarded the Church’s teaching that murder was wrong as preposterous. They reasoned that killing innocent people was acceptable and normal because the strong should do whatever they wanted.

Just as Islamic terrorists do now, shouting “Allahu Akbar!”

And those old tribes were not without their gods. Most gods in those bad old days required human sacrifices.

In addition, reason alone without God is pretty weak in leading to moral behavior. When self-interest and reason collide, reason usually loses. That’s why we have the word “rationalize” — to use reason to argue for what is wrong.

What would reason argue to a non-Jew asked by Jews to hide them when the penalty for hiding a Jew was death? It would argue not to hide those Jews.

In that regard, let’s go to the empirical argument.

Years ago, I interviewed Pearl and Sam Oliner, two professors of sociology at California State University at Humboldt and the authors of one of the most highly-regarded works on altruism, The Altruistic Personality. The book was the product of the Oliners’ lifetime of study of non-Jewish rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust.

The Oliners, it should be noted, are secular, not religious, Jews; they had no religious agenda.

I asked Samuel Oliner, “Knowing all you now know about who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, if you had to return as a Jew to Poland and you could knock on the door of only one person in the hope that they would rescue you, would you knock on the door of a Polish lawyer, a Polish doctor, a Polish artist or a Polish priest?”

Without hesitation, he said, “a Polish priest.” And his wife immediately added, “I would prefer a Polish nun.”

That alone should be enough to negate the pernicious nonsense that God is not only unnecessary for a moral world, but is detrimental to one.

At this point one might smile, for the irony of it – but it is no joke. Yes, among the Poles who sheltered Jews during the Nazi occupation there were priests and nuns. But has Prager forgotten that for 2ooo years Christianity has been persecuting Jews? That Poland was a land of pogroms? Does he imagine that priests and monks took no part in them? Is this just forgetfulness or – yet again – ignorance of history?

And what of the Papal and Spanish Inquisitions? Has he forgotten that in exactly the same way “God” tells men anything, he told the Inquisitors that burning people at the stake was good? 

But if that isn’t enough, how about the record of the godless 20th century, the cruelest, bloodiest, most murderous century on record? [?] Every genocide of the last century — except for the Turkish mass murder of the Armenians and the Pakistani mass murder of Hindus in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was committed by a secular anti-Jewish and anti-Christian regime. And as the two exceptions were Muslim, they are not relevant to my argument. I am arguing for the God and Bible of Judeo-Christian religions.

Only now he tells us that he discounts Islam. Though why he believes the words of Allah are necessarily less true than the words of Jehovah or Jesus he does not say. Nor does he seem aware that much of the moral law putatively taught by Jehovah was discounted or even contradicted by the Christians’ triune God.  

And we repeat: the Third Reich was not anti-Christian. And Hitler himself was raised a Catholic. As for Stalin, he was thoroughly instructed in the morality of Christianity when he attended a Russian Orthodox seminary.

Perhaps the most powerful proof of the moral decay that follows the death of God is the Western university and its secular intellectuals. Their moral record has been loathsome. Nowhere were Stalin and Mao as venerated as they were at the most anti-religious and secular institutions in Western society, the universities. Nowhere in the West today is anti-Americanism and Israel-hatred as widespread as it is at universities. And Princeton University awarded its first tenured professorship in bioethics to Peter Singer, an atheist who has argued, among other things, that that “the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog or a chimpanzee” and that bestiality is not immoral.

At last we can agree with Prager! Western universities have become moral cesspools. Not because they are secular, but because they teach socialism, collectivism, egalitarianism, political correctness, environmentalism; and because they deliberately misapply the principle of diversity to race and gender and not to ideas.

Dawkins and his supporters have a right to their atheism. They do not have a right to intellectual dishonesty about atheism.

No charge of intellectual dishonesty has been proved against Dawkins with these shallow arguments.

I have debated the best known atheists, including the late Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Lawrence Krauss (“A Universe from Nothing”) and Daniel Dennett. Only Richard Dawkins has refused to come on my radio show.

If four smart atheists were unable to reason you out of your irrational beliefs, Dennis, why should another have a go? We don’t expect that you would be persuaded by our arguments even if you read them, which you probably will not. But we want to share our amusement with fellow non-believers.

Chief Inspector Remorse 10

Should the US be the world’s policeman?

Can the US be the world’s policeman?

Does the US want to be the world’s policeman?

This is Dennis Prager’s opinion (in part – read it all here):

In his speech to the nation on Syria last week, the president twice emphasized that America is not the “world’s policeman.” According to polls, most Americans agree.

Unfortunately, however, relinquishing this role assures catastrophe, both for the world and for America.

This is easy to demonstrate. Imagine that because of the great financial and human price the mayors and city councils of some major American cities decide that they no longer want to police their cities. Individuals simply have to protect themselves.

We all know what would happen: The worst human beings would terrorize these cities, and the loss of life would be far greater than before. But chaos would not long reign. The strongest thugs and their organizations would take over the cities.

That is what will happen to the world if the United States decides — because of the financial expense and the loss of American troops — not to be the “world’s policeman.” (I put the term in quotes because America never policed the whole world, nor is it feasible to do so. But America’s strength and willingness to use it has been the greatest force in history for liberty and world stability.)

This will be followed by the violent death of more and more innocent people around the world, economic disruption and social chaos. Eventually the strongest — meaning the most vile individuals and groups — will dominate within countries and over entire regions.

There are two reasons why this would happen.

First, the world needs a policeman. The world in no way differs from cities needing police. Those who oppose America being the world’s policeman need at least to acknowledge that the world needs one.

Which leads to the second reason: If that policeman is not the United States, who or what will be?

At the present moment, these are the only possible alternatives to the United States:

a) No one

b) Russia

c) China

d) Iran

e) The United Nations

The first alternative would lead, as noted, to what having no police in an American city would lead to. Since at this time no country can do what America has done in policing the world, the world would likely divide into regions controlled in each case by tyrannical regimes or groups. China would dominate Asia; Russia would re-dominate the countries that were part of the former Soviet Union and the East European countries; Russia and a nuclear Iran would dominate the Middle East; and anti-American dictators would take over many Latin American countries.

In other words, a) would lead to b), c) and d).

Would that disturb those Americans — from the left to the libertarian right — who want America to stop being the “world’s policeman”? …

It is difficult to imagine anyone arguing that the United Nations would or could substitute for the United States in maintaining peace or liberty anywhere. The U.N. is only what the General Assembly, which is dominated by the Islamic nations, and the Security Council, which is morally paralyzed by Chinese and Russian vetoes, want it to be. …

Americans are retreating into isolationism largely because of what they perceive as wasted American lives and treasure in Iraq and Afghanistan. But this conclusion is unwarranted.

It is leaving - not fighting in – Iraq and Afghanistan that will lead to failures in those countries.

American troops around the globe are the greatest preservers of liberty and peace in the world. …

We have no choice but to be the world’s policeman. And we will eventually realize this – but only after we, and the world, pay a terrible price.

In the meantime, the American defeat by Russia, Syria and Iran last week means that the country that has been, for one hundred years, the greatest force for good, is perilously close to abandoning that role.

What is a police force? It is the strong arm of government.

Government by impersonal law is the best system. Only under the rule of law is individual freedom possible. The protection of freedom is not just the first but the only proper duty of an elected government.

A government requires an army to protect the nation as a whole from foreign attack, and police to protect individuals within its jurisdiction.   

For the US to police the world, it would need to be the world’s government.  

Who would argue for that?

How would an American global government be elected? It could hardly be by democratic means – every adult in the world having a vote and the right to stand as a candidate for representational office. It would no longer be American.

The only way America could be the world’s government is by imperial might. The US would have to acquire the rest of the world as its empire.

For all that America was mockingly euphemized as “imperialism”  by its Communist enemies, the historical fact is that the United States resisted acquiring an empire even when it would have been much in its own interests to do so – and an improvement in Dennis Prager’s terms of liberty and peace for the populations that would have come under its rule. (We’ll leave the little anomaly of Guam out of this discussion.) If it had used military might to regain American-owned oil fields in the Middle East in the 1970s when they were stolen (“nationalized”)  by the ruling despots, and had thereafter governed the territories from Washington, D.C, it would not only have been good for Americans but also for the tyrannized peoples of the several states.

America would not do that. What would it do? Expend blood and treasure to keep oppression or Communist imperialism at bay in Korea, in Vietnam, in Yugoslavia, in Iraq, in Afghanistan  - do Americans now think those wars were worth it? Isn’t there considerable remorse over ever having fought them at all?

And is it really the duty of Americans to wipe away the tears of nations?

Of the 196 self-governing countries in the world, how many do not have oppressed minorities, or subjugate women, or kill homosexuals, or keep slaves, or experience famine? How many whose populations are not chronically afflicted with malaria, AIDS, ebola, cholera …? The world is full of misery. Will America transform it all to happiness like Disney fairies with sparkling wands?

Will America free the Chinese and the Cubans from Communism? Turn that vast concentration camp North Korea into a second Texas?

No. The US government (under Obama) wouldn’t even support the Iranians when they rose against the tyrannical mullahs.

In the 19th century it was Britain who tried to fulfill the role of the world’s policeman. Remember how Kipling put it in (shudder now) The White Man’s Burden? Here’s part of it:

Take up the White Man’s burden–

The savage wars of peace–

Fill full the mouth of Famine

And bid the sickness cease;

And when your goal is nearest

The end for others sought,

Watch sloth and heathen Folly

Bring all your hopes to nought.

 

Take up the White Man’s burden–

No tawdry rule of kings,

But toil of serf and sweeper–

The tale of common things.

The ports ye shall not enter,

The roads ye shall not tread,

Go mark them with your living,

And mark them with your dead.

 

Take up the White Man’s burden–

And reap his old reward:

The blame of those ye better,

The hate of those ye guard–

The cry of hosts ye humour

(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:–

“Why brought he us from bondage,

Our loved Egyptian night?”

Does Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, who wants America to be bound by the Responsibility to Protect Resolution of the UN (for which was not she the inspiring muse?), realize that that is what she is asking her country to do? A politically correct Leftess like her? If she doesn’t, it’s time she did.

Does Dennis Prager (who is usually more enlightened than Samantha) realize it?  Seems not. But we hope he will.

Consolation in lies? 5

We cannot let Dennis Prager’s column at Townhall today go unanswered.

He writes:

Last week the New York Times published an opinion piece that offered atheism’s response to the evil/tragedy in which 20 children and six adults were murdered at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut.

What prompted Susan Jacoby to write her piece was a colleague telling her that atheism “has nothing to offer when people are suffering.”

She wrote the piece, “The Blessings of Atheism” (“It is Here and It is Now!” screams the subhead) to prove her colleague wrong by offering a consoling atheist alternative to religion’s consoling belief in an afterlife. Atheists cannot believe that there is any existence other than this life. But, Jacoby insists, atheists can still offer consolation to people who lose loved ones, such as the parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook.

It is meant as no disrespect to this well regarded writer that her piece provides one of the finest illustrations of the intellectual and emotional emptiness at the heart of atheism. Jacoby’s piece actually confirms her colleague’s assessment.

Jacoby offers a quote from Robert Green Ingersoll, who died in 1899. He “was one of the most famous orators of his generation, [and] personified this combination of passion and rationality. Called ‘The Great Agnostic ‘… he also frequently delivered secular eulogies at funerals and offered consolation that he clearly considered an important part of his mission. In 1882, at the graveside of a friend’s child, he declared: “They who stand with breaking hearts around this little grave, need have no fear. The larger and the nobler faith in all that is, and is to be, tells us that death, even at its worst, is only perfect rest … The dead do not suffer.”

I read this quote at least a half dozen times, convinced that I had somehow missed its consoling message. But, alas, there was no consoling message.

“The dead do not suffer” is atheism’s consolation to the parents of murdered children? This sentiment can provide some consolation — though still nothing comparable to the affirmation of an afterlife — to those who lose a loved one who had been suffering from a debilitating disease. But it not only offers the parents of Sandy Hook no consolation, it actually (unintentionally) insults them: Were these children suffering before their lives were taken? Would they have suffered if they had lived on?

At this point we start our exegesis.

Yes, those children were suffering. Not greatly perhaps, not constantly, but yes they were suffering. Every living person from the start of life to its end, suffers – and inflicts suffering. To live is to suffer. The longer we live the more we suffer, and the more we inflict suffering. Robert Ingersoll’s declaration is the consolation, the only consolation of our mortality – that suffering ceases when we die. Everything ceases when we die. As Ayn Rand said, “when I die the world ends”. True, happiness ends too. That is why we need consolation. Most of us would say we would rather have a long life, with all the suffering it contains, than a short one. And certainly for our children we wish long life, for their sakes and for our own. There can be consolation for ourselves in the painlessness of oblivion, but that thought will not console us for the loss of those we love, especially children. For the parents of the murdered children there is no consolation.

Dennis Prager goes on:

Moreover, it is the parents who are suffering, so the fact that their child isn’t suffering while decomposing in the grave is of no relevance. And, most germane to our subject, this atheist message offers no consolation at all when compared to the religious message that we humans are not just matter but possess eternal souls.

Though I am intellectually convinced that only an Intelligence (i.e., God) could have created intelligence, I understand atheism. Anyone observing the terrible amount of unjust human suffering understands the atheist. But even atheists — indeed, especially atheists, since they claim that, unlike believers, they are guided solely by reason and intellect — have to be intellectually honest. They would have to acknowledge that, in terms of consolation, there is no comparison between “The dead do not suffer” and “Your child lives on, and you will be reunited with her.”

No comparison between the truth and a lie? The parents of dead children will never be “reunited” with their children. To say that the  murdered child is “in heaven’ and “looking down at you” and “you will be together again ” in “an afterlife” is a tale you can tell a child, but what sane adult can really believe such utter nonsense?

What we have here is an intellectual unwillingness or a psychological inability on the part of Susan Jacoby and just about all atheist activists (including the New York Times, which featured, not just published, her column) to confront the consequences of their atheism.

If they did, they would have to say something like this to the parents of the murdered children of Sandy Hook:

“As atheists, we truly feel awful for you. And we promise to work for more gun control. …

We atheists promise no such thing. Government control of gun-ownership will do nothing to stop evil people killing other people.

… But the truth is we don’t have a single consoling thing to say to you because we atheists recognize that the human being is nothing more than matter, no different from all other matter in the universe except for having self-consciousness.

Having self-consciousness is the huge difference. We are matter plus intelligence. And intelligence evolved, occurring at this end of evolution, not before it all started.

Therefore, when we die, that’s it. Moreover, within a tiny speck of time in terms of the universe’s history, nearly every one of us, including your child, will be completely forgotten, as if we never even existed. Life is a random crapshoot. Our birth and existence are flukes. And you will never see your child again.”

That is what must be accepted by grieving parents – not said to them.

An atheist with the courage of her convictions would have written that. But the New York Times would not have published it.

We are seldom on the same side as the New York Times, but we approve its publication of Susan Jacoby’s piece.

All this column did for me was reconfirm this insight of the Bible: “Wisdom begins with reverence for God.”

No God, no wisdom  … And certainly no consolation.

Wisdom begins with believing the unbelievable?

It is manifestly absurd to believe in a “life after death”. A thing is alive if it can die. Life and death define each other. Only the non-living cannot die. Which is why we call ourselves mortals.

It is strengthening to face the truth. How can mystic fantasies and vague notions of souls finding each other in some unknown and indescribable life-after-life console any sane, rational adult? If some find consolation in bluffing themselves that something of them will survive death, it can only be by abandonment of reason and sanity.

There is no consolation for the loss of those we love. There is no consolation for our mortality but the knowledge, as Ingersoll said, that death ends suffering. For each one of us it ends everything.

Posted under Atheism, Christianity, Commentary, Mysticism, Religion general, United States by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, January 15, 2013

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All changed, changed utterly 5

Why did Chief Justice Roberts betray the hope that a majority of Americans had placed in him to preserve such freedom as they still possessed?

Was it moral cowardice and personal vanity?

Some believe it was. This is from an IBD editorial:

According to a report by CBS News, Roberts switched his position at the same time the White House, the Democratic Senate and their henchmen in the media made a full frontal assault on him.

In an unseemly move that smacked of intimidation, President Obama warned the court it would be “an unprecedented extraordinary step” for the court to overturn his signature health law. The head of the Senate Judiciary Committee singled out Roberts himself. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., mau-maued him to uphold ObamaCare and maintain “the proper role of the judicial branch.”

The Washington media piled on by demonizing Roberts as partisan. The orchestrated campaign to save ObamaCare included reports warning of damage to the court and to Roberts’  reputation if they voided the law.

Unlike many justices, Roberts “pays attention to media coverage,” CBS says, and he’s highly “sensitive” to how he and the court are perceived by the public.

The last thing Roberts wanted was the Congressional Black Caucus branding him racist for denying the first black president his signature achievement.

Suddenly Roberts, sold by the Bush White House as a solid constitutional conservative, went “wobbly.” Anthony Scalia and other conservatives on the bench spent a full month trying to bring him back to his original position.

But Roberts held firm. And conservatives told him he was on his own. They wrote a highly unusual dissent that deliberately ignored his decision. …

He played politics, which is beyond outrageous. Roberts … expanded government power by giving Congress license to impose taxes to regulate behavior.

If Roberts wanted to make the court look politically neutral, he failed miserably. Nothing could be more political than the head of the bench rewriting bad law to avoid appearing political. If Roberts hoped to burnish the court’s reputation, he succeeding only in staining it.

Roberts could have stopped one of the most glaringly unconstitutional laws ever written, and did not.

This is his legacy.

If it is true that he upheld Obama’s socialist health care law for fear of being hated and accused by the Left, and as a result is now hated and accused by the Right, what  has he gained?

His feelings should not have been a factor in his judgment. To be reviled by vile people is a compliment and an honor.

The fear of being hated and reviled is seen by Dennis Prager as so widespread as to account for the success of the Left. He portrays the Left as a cohort of bullies, and the Right as consisting all too largely of cowards.

He writes:

Given how many more Americans define themselves as conservative rather than as liberal, let alone than as left, how does one explain the success of left-wing policies?

One answer is the appeal of entitlements and a desire to be taken care of. It takes a strong-willed citizen to vote against receiving free benefits. But an even greater explanation is the saturation of Western society by left-wing hate directed at the right. The left’s demonization, personal vilification, and mockery of its opponents have been the most powerful tools in the left-wing arsenal for a century.

The Left has labeled its ideological opponents evil. And when you control nearly all of the news media and schools, that labeling works. …

What matters to most of those who speak for the left is not truth. It is destroying the good name of its opponents. That is the modus operandi of the left. …

To protect himself from vilification by the Left was “the overwhelmingly likely motivation of Chief Justice John Roberts to declare the ObamaCare individual mandate constitutional despite his ruling that, as passed, the mandate was in fact unconstitutional.”

[He] and his conservative colleagues on the Supreme Court have been the targets of media and academia vitriol and personal invective for years, and in some cases, decades. But while his conservative colleagues don’t care, Justice Roberts does.

As reported by CBS News:

“Some of the conservatives, such as Justice Clarence Thomas, deliberately avoid news articles on the Court when issues are pending . . . . They’ve explained that they don’t want to be influenced by outside opinion or feel pressure from outlets that are perceived as liberal.

“But Roberts pays attention to media coverage. As Chief Justice, he is keenly aware of his leadership role on the Court, and he also is sensitive to how the Court is perceived by the public. ["The public" means liberal media and academics.]

“There were countless news articles in May warning of damage to the Court – and to Roberts’ reputation – if the Court were to strike down the mandate.

“Some even suggested that if Roberts struck down the mandate, it would prove he had been deceitful during his confirmation hearings, when he explained a philosophy of judicial restraint.”

[His] change reassure[s] progressives that ridicule, demonization, and character assassination work. With the stakes so high in the forthcoming election, expect it to only increase.

Thomas Sowell does not deny that motives of cowardice and vanity moved Roberts, but thinks the question of motive is “ultimately irrelevant”. What he accuses Roberts of is dereliction of duty.

Roberts was wrong in assessing where his duty lay.

Sowell writes:

Betrayal is hard to take, whether in our personal lives or in the political life of the nation. …

Chief Justice John Roberts need fear no such fate because he has lifetime tenure on the Supreme Court. But conscience can be a more implacable and inescapable punisher — and should be. …

The Chief Justice probably made as good a case as could be made for upholding the constitutionality of ObamaCare by defining one of its key features as a “tax.”

The legislation didn’t call it a tax and Chief Justice Roberts admitted that this might not be the most “natural” reading of the law. But he fell back on the long-standing principle of judicial interpretation that the courts should not declare a law unconstitutional if it can be reasonably read in a way that would make it constitutional, out of “deference” to the legislative branch of government.

But this question, like so many questions in life, is a matter of degree. How far do you bend over backwards to avoid the obvious, that ObamaCare was an unprecedented extension of federal power over the lives of 300 million Americans today and of generations yet unborn? 

These are the people that Chief Justice Roberts betrayed when he declared constitutional something that is nowhere authorized in the Constitution of the United States.

John Roberts is no doubt a brainy man, and that seems to carry a lot of weight among the intelligentsia — despite glaring lessons from history, showing very brainy men creating everything from absurdities to catastrophes. Few of the great tragedies of history were created by the village idiot, and many by the village genius.

This Supreme Court ruling that the conservative Chief Justice Roberts shockingly swung to uphold the socialist health care law, consummates the tragic story of  ”the decline of individual freedom in America, and the wrecking of the best medical care in the world”.

And instead of confirming the Constitution, controverts it.

There are many speculations as to why Chief Justice Roberts did what he did, some attributing noble and far-sighted reasons, and others attributing petty and short-sighted reasons, including personal vanity. But all of that is ultimately irrelevant.

What he did was betray his oath to be faithful to the Constitution of the United States.

Who he betrayed were the hundreds of millions of Americans — past, present and future — whole generations in the past who have fought and died for a freedom that he has put in jeopardy, in a moment of intellectual inspiration and moral forgetfulness, 300 million Americans today whose lives are to be regimented by Washington bureaucrats, and generations yet unborn who may never know the individual freedoms that their ancestors took for granted.

Some claim that Chief Justice Roberts did what he did to save the Supreme Court as an institution from the wrath – and retaliation – of those in Congress who have been railing against Justices who invalidate the laws they have passed. Many in the media and in academia have joined the shrill chorus of those who claim that the Supreme Court does not show proper “deference” to the legislative branch of government.

But what does the Bill of Rights seek to protect the ordinary citizen from? The government! To defer to those who expand government power beyond its constitutional limits is to betray those whose freedom depends on the Bill of Rights.

John Roberts has betrayed the people who looked to him to preserve the freedom the Bill of Rights granted them. He has validated a law that changes everything the United States of America was founded on and for.

On this Independence Day, that is the tragic fact Americans have to face, assimilate, and adjust to. They have been changed into a different kind of nation.

Is Islam delivering a final blow to religion? 10

If Dennis Prager is right in the article we quote here, Islam is defeating itself. And not only is it curing some Muslims of their own religion, it’s helping to turn people off all religion.

Religion has been withering since the Enlightenment, and it took an all-but-mortal blow from Darwin. Now, over the last few decades, Islam is revealing so hideous a face that it is perhaps administering the coup de grâce.

Dennis Prager deplores the possible development. We applaud it.

Nothing produces atheists like despicable religious people. They do far more harm to religious faith than all the atheist writers and activists in the world put together.

Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaida, the Muslim Brotherhood, the ayatollahs, Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan, the Taliban and all the other Islamist organizations actually decrease the number of believers in the world.

Over the course of time, people do not judge religions by their theology. Yes, some people convert to a religion thanks to its convincing theology. And many remain in a religion because of family ties, cultural norms and sheer inertia. But over time, religion – and faith in God itself – is judged by its fruit. Which is how it should be.

And the best known fruit of Islam today – countries calling themselves Muslim, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Taliban Afghanistan, not to mention Islamist groups – is so ugly that many millions of people are increasingly repelled by religion and by God. …

When the best-known actions of some of the most religious people in the world are kidnappings, slaughter, torture, mass murder of innocents, suicide bombings, beheadings and treatment of women unknown in recorded history, religion and faith in God suffer everywhere.

So there is an upside to the extra-nasty religion of Islam pursuing its atrocious jihad after all – a widespread disillusionment at last with religion in general?

Seems too good to be true. But we hope Prager is right.

Posted under Islam, jihad, Muslims, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, March 6, 2012

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Atheism and morality 16

The soundly conservative but dogmatically religious Dennis Prager writes here about atheism and morality.

We quote:

If moral standards are not rooted in God, they do not objectively exist. Good and evil are no more real than “yummy” and “yucky.” They are simply a matter of personal preference. One of the foremost liberal philosophers, Richard Rorty, an atheist, acknowledged that for the secular liberal, “There is no answer to the question, ‘Why not be cruel?’”

Richard Rorty must be a dumb sort of atheist, and that’s almost a paradox. Most atheists are atheists because they can think and do think. But then this one is also a liberal, which means he is on the side of the emotions, not of reason.

Why can’t these god-botherers get it through their superstition-stuffed heads that all moral rules, codes, precepts  - ALL are the product of human beings. No god ever said a word to anyone.

Human beings don’t want to live in a world where there is more suffering than there has to be, so they repudiate cruelty. On the whole. There are those who don’t. They are cruel whether or not they believe in divine instruction. The Catholic Church has a history of extreme cruelty stretching over hundreds of years, and the Protestant Christians were no better. Christianity is a cult of suffering. And Islam is a system of relentless sadism.

All gods are cruel. Believers use the phrase “act of God” for events such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, avalanches, tsunamis, which inflict anguish on every kind of living body that is threaded with nerves. If, as they believe, their God made everything, he made bacteria and viruses, all the diseases, all deformities, all the torments of the flesh.

The Left – which is to say the liberals in America – have been preaching for half a century at least that no one should be “judgmental”. Generations have been raised to believe that they should not make moral judgments. As if it is possible to live without doing so. Even to decide to be “non-judgmental” is to make a judgment. Not to judge between right and wrong is to permit wrong.

Prager ends by asking rhetorically:

Without God and Judeo-Christian religions, what else is there?

Everything, Mr Prager, everything.

And if religions were utterly abandoned, a major cause of human suffering would be gone. Moral values would stay exactly the same.

Indecent 7

We often agree with Dennis Prager. We disagree with him when he talks about religion. (As we do with most conservative columnists and commentators, candidates and Congressmen.)

We wonder continually at the strangeness of the fact that millions of highly intelligent, educated, sane adults living in this age of science believe in the supernatural.

How poor their arguments are when they talk about it. How blindly they insist that religion is the sole source and guarantee of moral behavior.

Dennis Prager, writing in Townhall on the fairly trivial subject of an airline allowing a man dressed only  in women’s underwear to fly, mixes sense and nonsense in a manner typical of religious conservatives:

On June 9, a man boarded a US Airways flight from Fort Lauderdale to Phoenix, dressed in women’s panties, a bra and thigh-high stockings.

No US Airways employee at the Fort Lauderdale airport asked him to cover himself. Nor did any flight attendant ask him to do so. And obviously, no one demanded that he get off the plane.

US Airways spokeswoman Valerie Wunder was asked how the airline allowed a nearly naked cross-dresser to board a plane … She said employees had been correct not to ask the man to cover himself. ‘We don’t have a dress code policy. Obviously, if their private parts are exposed, that’s not appropriate. … So if they’re not exposing their private parts, they’re allowed to fly.’

The decline of American civilization since the 1960s has been so fast and so dramatic that it takes one’s breath away.

That a woman speaking on behalf of a major airline can say with a straight face that her airline allows anyone dressed or undressed to fly on its airplanes so long as they do not expose their genitals perfectly encapsulates this decline.

The only question is: How did we get here?

For one thing, the concept of decency is dying. I suspect that if an adult were to say to a group of randomly chosen American college students that this man indecently exposed himself and should not have been allowed to fly, that adult would be a) not understood — what does “indecent” mean? — and/or b) roundly condemned for intolerance and bigotry.

To judge this man as acting indecently, not to mention to bar him from flying, is to engage in violating the only values a generation of Americans has been taught: not to judge, not to discriminate, to welcome diversity and to fully accept those who are different, especially in the sexual arena.

That is why I think it is very difficult to have a dialogue on this matter. For those who believe in public “decency,” the matter is as clear as a bell — this was profoundly indecent — and for those who do not believe in such a concept, the matter is equally clear — “decency” is an anachronism.

So far, good enough. We agree that the man was not decently covered. It’s possible that some people on the flight found the exposure of most of his body shocking. What he did was not polite. Politeness, which respects the dignity of other people, is necessary to human relations: far more necessary than a saccharine pretense of generalized indiscriminate love.

But then Prager goes on to argue that a “reason for the death of the concept of ‘public decency’” is “the age of secularism in which we live”.

In a more religious America, the human being was regarded as created in God’s image, a being that ideally aspires to a level of holiness. As secularism proceeds with the increasing force of an avalanche, however, man is increasingly regarded as just another animal. One way in which higher civilizations have demonstrated the human-animal difference has been the wearing of clothing. Animals are naked in public; humans are clothed. But secularism eats away at such religious ideals. Thus religion-based concepts such as holiness and decency die out.

God’s image with clothes on?

The argument in Judaism is that man was made in God’s “moral image”, but  Christians say God was incarnated as Jesus of Nazareth. In Christian art, both “God the Father” and Jesus are usually depicted with clothes on – often a sort of woman’s nightgown or a toga-like garment – but not always. Michelangelo’s God on the Sistine Chapel roof is nude. Where but half-awakened Adam / Can disturb globe-trotting madam/ Till her bowels are in a heat, wrote W.B.Yeats.

Of course, though many a madam will trot or fly over half the globe to view that naked God and Adam, she might not enjoy having an almost naked man sitting next to her on her journey. We think Dennis Prager is right that she shouldn’t have to.

But no, Mr Prager, secularism does not destroy decency or politeness. Most secularists wear clothes and are polite. What they don’t do in the name of secularism is sniff out heretical views, punish apostasy, blow up infidels, hang homosexuals, stone adulterers, incarcerate critics, or torture and burn the nerve-threaded bodies of the living.

Such acts are done, have been done millions of times, in the name of religion. We think they are rather worse than indecent.

The two gods of academe 2

Dennis Prager recently visited Vietnam and was understandably stirred to anger.

He writes a bitter reminder that communism is the worst of all the terrible ideologies ever inflicted on long-suffering humanity.

His essay is also a stinging condemnation of the “moral idiots” in America who made a hero of Ho Chi Minh and handed over the Vietnamese people to the communists.

Communists still rule the country. Yet, Vietnam today has embraced the only way that exists to escape poverty, let alone to produce prosperity: capitalism and the free market. So what exactly did the 2 million Vietnamese who died in the Vietnam War die for? I would like to ask one of the communist bosses who run Vietnam that question. “Comrade, you have disowned everything your Communist party stood for: communal property, collectivized agriculture, central planning and militarism, among other things. Looking back, then, for what precisely did your beloved Ho Chi Minh and your party sacrifice millions of your fellow Vietnamese?”

There is no good answer. There are only a lie and a truth, and the truth is not good.

The lie is the response offered by the Vietnamese communists and which was repeated, like virtually all communist lies, by the world’s non-communist left. It was (and continues to be) taught in virtually every Western university and was and continues to be spread by virtually every news medium on the planet: The Vietnam communists, i.e., the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong, were merely fighting for national independence against foreign control of their country. First, they fought the French, then the Japanese and then the Americans. American baby boomers will remember being told over and over that Ho Chi Minh was Vietnam’s George Washington, that he loved the American Constitution, after which he modeled his own, and wanted nothing more than Vietnamese independence.

Here is the truth: Every communist dictator in the world has been a megalomaniacal, cult of personality, power hungry, bloodthirsty thug. Ho Chi Minh was no different. He murdered his opponents, tortured only God knows how many innocent Vietnamese, threatened millions into fighting for him — yes, for him and his blood soaked Vietnamese Communist Party, backed by the greatest murderer of all time, Mao Zedong. But the moral idiots in America chanted “Ho, ho, Ho Chi Minh” at antiwar rallies, and they depicted America as the real murderers of Vietnamese — “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”

The Vietnamese communists were not fighting America for Vietnamese independence. America was never interested in controlling the Vietnamese people, and there is a perfect parallel to prove this: the Korean War. Did America fight the Korean communists in order to control Korea? Or did 37,000 Americans die in Korea so that Koreans could be free? Who was (and remains) a freer human being — a Korean living under Korean communist rule in North Korea or a Korean living in that part of Korea where America defeated the Korean communists?

And who was a freer human being in Vietnam — those who lived in non-communist South Vietnam (with all its flaws) or those who lived under Ho, ho, Ho Chi Minh’s communists in North Vietnam?

America fights to liberate countries, not to rule over them.

True, and though sometimes – as in Kosovo and Bosnia – well-meaning America has made the wrong judgment as to just who is on the side of freedom, in Vietnam the issue was clear enough:

It was the Vietnamese Communist Party, not America, that was interested in controlling the Vietnamese people. But the lie was spread so widely and so effectively that most of the world — except American supporters of the war and the Vietnamese boat people and other Vietnamese who yearned for liberty — believed that America was fighting for tin, tungsten and the wholly fictitious “American empire” while the Vietnamese communists were fighting for Vietnamese freedom.

I went to the “Vietnam War Remnants Museum” — not a word about those who risked their lives to escape by boat, preferring to risk dying by drowning, being eaten by sharks or being tortured or gang-raped by pirates, rather than to live under the communists who “liberated” South Vietnam.

I hope I live to see the day when the people of Vietnam, freed from the communist lies that still permeate their daily lives, understand that every Vietnamese death in the war against America was a wasted life, one more of the 140 million human sacrifices on the altar of the most bloodthirsty false god in history: communism.

The Vietnamese war is now an old story. Those who remember it with bitterness hardly speak of it, the memories being too painful and the young being uninterested. But it should not be forgotten. The truth about it should be taught to new generations so that the right lessons may be learnt from it.

The most important lesson is that collectivist ideologies are inescapably cruel and destructive, and it is a lesson that should be applied to the collectivist ideology most threatening to the free world right now: Islam.

Yet again the moral idiots are are on the wrong side; the side of  misery, oppression, and death. The communists, the socialists, the “progressives” are in alliance with the jihadists.

The right lessons about the histories of Russia, China, Cambodia, Cuba, Vietnam, have not been learnt, most probably because they have not been taught. As Dennis Prager mourns:

There is little difference between the history of the Vietnam War as told by the Communist Party of Vietnam and what just about any college student will be told in just about any college by just about any professor in America, Europe, Asia or Latin America.

When Soviet Russia perished and Mao Zedong died;  when Russia, China, and Vietnam relented to “the natural order of liberty” (as Adam Smith called capitalism) because they’d learnt the hard way that Marxist economics do not work; the “bloodthirsty god”, communism, found asylum in the academies. In almost every university the monster reigns unchallenged, and has recently taken on a consort: Islam.

For the moral idiots of the left – many of whom have Ph.Ds – there are now two gods, communism and Allah, and Obama is their prophet.

The simple truth 7

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Dennis Prager give a very good, short, simple, accurate account of why there is an Arab-Israeli conflict.

Posted under Arab States, History, Islam, Israel by Jillian Becker on Sunday, January 2, 2011

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