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Archive for June 2012

Jun/12

24

You Say Tomato

Via Lebanon News:

A Salafist group called the Popular Egyptian Islamic Association has come under fire after sending out a warning on Facebook urging its followers not to eat tomatoes because the vegetable (or fruit) is a Christian food.

The group posted a photo on its page of a tomato – which appears to reveal the shape of a cross after being cut in half – along with the message: “Eating tomatoes is forbidden because they are Christian. [The tomato] praises the cross instead of Allah and says that Allah is three (a reference to the Trinity).

[God help us]. I implore you to spread this photo because there is a sister from Palestine who saw the prophet of Allah [Mohammad] in a vision and he was crying, warning his nation against eating them [tomatoes]. If you don’t spread this [message], know that it is the devil who stopped you.”

Parody? Apparently not…

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Jun/12

24

Hikikomori, Again

Via the Forward:

“Dear Jew: You are entering a dangerous place. Shield your eyes.”

That’s the Hebrew-language text on a huge billboard that an Orthodox group has paid to post alongside a Brooklyn highway.
The “dangerous place” is Manhattan. The danger isn’t specified, but it’s clear they’re not talking about muggings.

Presumably directed at ultra-Orthodox Jews traveling to Manhattan for work, the billboard puts a stark spin on the new study out yesterday from the UJA-Federation of New York, which raised the possibility of an impending Orthodox majority among New York Jews.

New York’s Orthodox Jews and non-Orthodox Jews exist in separate, parallel worlds. In the broadest terms, each group has its own borough. Brooklyn Jews are poor, young, and religious. Manhattan Jews are rich, old, and more secular.

While Brooklyn’s Jewish community is exploding, Manhattan’s is shrinking. And judging in part by the highway billboard, the ascendant Brooklynites have little regard for the declining Manhattanites.

Hoping to preserve its massive growth, the ultra-Orthodox community has been on a war footing in recent months, striking back against web access in its homes and yeshivas by holding a massive anti-Internet rally and promulgating new bans against web use.

The billboard, which has been up for at least a few weeks, seems to signify the opening of a new front in the same war. The billboard was sponsored by an organization called the Congregation of Yad Moshe, which appears to have ties to New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind.

There’s no explanation on the stop sign red billboard, but the message is clear: Manhattan is unkosher. Stay in Brooklyn.

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Jun/12

24

Two Religions

Rio, last week.

Jun/12

24

Smitten by God (or Something)

Here’s Sally Quinn in the Washington Post:

The mystics say you can find God anywhere. I believe many women have found him in “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

The trilogy has sold more than 10 million copies, mostly to women over 30 who can’t put the books down. Publishing rights have been sold in 37 countries and movie rights have been secured by Universal.

The books chronicle the relationship between a dominating male entrepreneur, Christian Grey, and a young female college graduate, the submissive Anastasia Steele. The series has been mulled by many writers who have debated whether or not this is a setback for women, to be attracted to a submissive relationship, or a breakthrough, to be able to openly read and discuss a book so sexually explicit that it is often referred to in the media as “mommy porn.”

…I think the “Fifty Shades” phenomenon is about religion.

Not religion in the conventional sense of the word, but in how we are redefining faith practices today as more and more people–especially women–shun man-made traditions yet continue to yearn for religious experiences….

… Grey starts out in the books intending to dominate (beat and cause pain to) Anastasia in his famous playroom dubbed “The Red Room of Pain,” and ends up loving and not wanting (or rather willing) to hurt her. One could compare him to the God of some peoples’ imagination.

Christian is at times punishing, sadistic, angry, demanding, intolerant, fickle, bewildering, withholding, omnipotent, omniscient, awesome, abusive, kind, generous, wise and — above all — loving and cherishing.

Just when Anastasia has had it and is about to give up on Christian for doing something absolutely appalling, just when she no longer believes in him, he redeems himself by doing something so outrageously wonderful that she cannot abandon him and is pulled back into the fold. Just when he is withholding his love from her and she is weeping and can no longer bear it, he embraces her with an overwhelming totality. Just when she is doubting herself for her submission, he turns the tables and offers himself to her.

Sound familiar? These are some of the same emotional conflicts that I believe could be attributed to Mother Teresa and her lifetime struggle in her relationship with God.

Okey Dokey.

But read the whole thing: it’s interesting as an example of a certain type of vaguely “spiritual” mush passed off as thinking….

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Jun/12

24

Libertarians and religious liberty

Tim Carney, the influential columnist at the D.C. Examiner, writes as if libertarians have been AWOL or worse when it comes to defending religious liberty from the incursions of the modern liberal-bureaucratic state. I try to set him straight in a new post at Cato at Liberty. More: Carney responds; Jordan Bloom, The American Conservative, Rick Esenberg. [cross-posted from Overlawyered]

Of course religious liberty should be a two-way (multi-way?) street. Just as unbelievers should be committed to upholding the religious liberty of the Catholic Church, so, as Andrew Stuttaford reminds us, it would be nice to feel confident that the Catholic Church was equally committed to upholding ours.

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Jun/12

23

“Religious Freedom”

Burned at the stake by a defender of freedom?

From The New York Times:

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan on Friday helped kick off a national campaign opposing President Obama’s health care mandates and other government policies that Roman Catholic leaders say threaten their religious freedom…

The bishops timed the two-week campaign of prayer, fasting and letter-writing to begin on a feast day commemorating two 16th-century Catholic saints executed for their religious beliefs — SS. John Fisher and Thomas More. The campaign will conclude on the Fourth of July.

Well, so long as Dolan is clear that what he is doing is fighting for the religious freedom of Roman Catholic leaders (to use the NYT‘s probably unintentionally accurate phraseology), fair enough. For neither More nor Fisher were in favor of religious freedom for those with whom they disagreed. Fisher (then the Archbishop of Canterbury) saw to the burning of Thomas Hitton, the man widely seen as England’s first protestant martyr. As for the proto-totalitarian More, he was when England’s Lord Chancellor, as I noted here, a savage ideological enforcer, quite pleased, for example, to support the burning alive (“the short fyre…[prior to] ye fyre eurlasting”, as he so charmingly put it) of heretics.

The following (I’ve linked to it before) is an extract from the largely sympathetic biography of More by the British writer (and Roman Catholic) Peter Ackroyd:

[More] epitomized, in modern terms, the apparatus of the state using its power to crush those attempting to subvert it. His opponents were genuinely following their consciences, while More considered them the harbinger of the devil’s reign on earth. How could there be moderation in any confrontation between them? He was, in large part, successful; he managed to check the more open expression of heretical opinion and thereby prevented it from being accepted piece by piece or gradually condoned. He also disrupted the community of ‘newe men’ in Antwerp and helped to diminish the flow of banned books into England.

By linking his current campaign to men like More and Fisher, Dolan reveals more than he perhaps might like about what he understands by the word ‘freedom’.

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Jun/12

23

“A European Church”

Iain Martin, writing in the Daily Telegraph:

The Church of England’s Archbishops’ Council, headed by Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, has made a submission on Europe to the Foreign Affairs select committee.

It urges the Government to be more constructive and positive in its attitude to the EU, and warns that David Cameron’s “veto” last December cost the UK credibility. Leaving the EU would be a “travesty”, they claim. Quite a lot of Britons now disagree and think that leaving would be rather a good idea. But the Archbishops explain that they are speaking out because the C of E is “by virtue of its history a European Church”.

Good grief. If the Church of England doesn’t even understand the circumstances of its birth, then how can it expect anyone else to care about what it says?

Quite.

The British politician, Enoch Powell, a British politician who took the role of the Church of England (if not necessarily either its beliefs or its clergy) very seriously, would have been unsurprised by the invincible ignorance of these archbishops.

Here’s what he had to say back in 1972:

The relevant fact about the history of the British Isles and above all of England is its separateness in a political sense from the history of continental Europe…When Henry VIII declared that ‘this realm of England is an empire (imperium) of itself’, he was making not a new claim but a very old one; but he was making it at a very significant point of time. He meant—as Edward I had meant, when he said the same over two hundred years before—that there is an imperium on the continent, but that England is another imperium outside its orbit and is endowed with the plenitude of its own sovereignty. The moment at which Henry VIII repeated this assertion was that of what is misleadingly called ‘the reformation’—misleadingly, because it was, and is, essentially a political and not a religious event.

That’s true, if one considers that Powell was writing in an English context: Henry went to his deathbed considering himself a good Catholic. His dispute with Rome was not over theology, but power. Henry wanted more of the latter (and Anne Boleyn too) but the underlying (and ultimately more important) question was whether England should be governed by English laws or those of some alien authority. Henry VIII, quite correctly, if for self-interested reasons, said that the law begins at home.

Back to Powell…

The whole subsequent history of Britain and the political character of the British people have taken their colour and trace their unique quality from that moment and that assertion. It was the final decision that no authority, no law, no court outside the realm would be recognized within the realm. When Cardinal Wolsey fell, the last attempt had failed to bring or keep the English nation within the ambit of any external jurisdiction or political power: since then no law has been for England outside England, and no taxation has been levied in England by or for an authority outside England—or not at least until the proposition that Britain should accede to the Common Market [the future EU].

That was not something that Thomas Becket (not so surprisingly a traitor in the view of both Henry VIII and Charles I—the last Anglican saint) would have understood or appreciated, so good riddance to him. But Becket was at least Archbishop of Canterbury nearly four centuries before Henry VIII declared England’s independence.He has an excuse, of sorts. The current Archbishop, Rowan Williams, does not. The explanation for what he has said about Europe rests, as it has done so often throughout his disreputable and unpleasant career, in his willingness to put ill-thought, but fiercely-believed, dogma (usually of a leftish variety) before honesty. His upcoming resignation cannot come soon enough.

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Jun/12

22

Twins

From a WSJ review of a new book chronicling the Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart:

The Minnesota study’s IQ results hit a nerve years before their publication in 1990, overshadowing other controversies that might have been. Many of its findings are bipartisan shockers. Take religion, which almost everyone attributes to “socialization.” Separated-twin data show that religiosity has a strong genetic component, especially in the long run: “Parents had less influence than they thought over their children’s religious activities and interests as they approached adolescence and adulthood.” The key caveat: While genes have a big effect on how religious you are, upbringing has a big effect on the brand of religion you accept. Identical separated sisters Debbie and Sharon “both liked the rituals and formality of religious services and holidays,” even though Debbie was a Jew and Sharon was a Christian.

Just another example of the ‘God Gene’ at work, I suppose, and, as such, just another reminder that there is little or no prospect of ever weaning mankind off religion (Professor Dawkins, please note).

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Jun/12

16

“Offensive”

Via Detroit News:

Lansing – House Republicans prohibited state Rep. Lisa Brown from speaking on the floor Thursday after she ended a speech Wednesday against a bill restricting abortions by referencing her female anatomy.

Brown, a West Bloomfield Democrat and mother of three, said a package of abortion regulation bills would violate her Jewish religious beliefs and that abortions be allowed in cases where it is required to save the life of the mother.

“Finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no,’” Brown said Wednesday.

Brown’s comment prompted a rebuke Thursday by House Republicans, who wouldn’t allow her to voice her opinion on a school employee retirement bill.

“What she said was offensive,” said Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville. “It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.”

It rarely fails does it? The moment that some public figure starts jabbering on about something that he or she finds “offensive”, an attack on free speech is never far behind.

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Jun/12

2

A Life Worth Ending?

I’m not going to comment (well, overmuch anyway) on this moving, thought-provoking and beautifully-written piece by Michael Wolff, described by New York magazine in these terms:

The era of medical miracles has created a new phase of aging, as far from living as it is from dying. A son’s plea to let his mother go.

It is a must-read but it should not be used to give any support to the rather disgusting opinions of the likes of “bio-ethicists” such as Leon Kass:

For Kass, to argue that life is better without death is to argue “that human life would be better being something other than human.”

In numerous presentations and papers throughout the years, Kass has argued for what he calls the “virtues of mortality.” First among them is the effect mortality has on our interest in and engagement with life. To number our days, Kass contends, “is the condition for making them count and for treasuring and appreciating all that life brings.”

Kass also believes that the process of aging itself is important because it helps us make sense of our lives.

A 2003 staff working paper drawn up by the U.S. President’s Council of Bioethics — then headed by Kass — states: “The very experience of spending a life, and of becoming spent in doing so, contributes to our sense of accomplishment and commitment, and to our sense of the meaningfulness of the passage of time, and of our passage through it.”

Technology that retards aging, the report argues, would “sever age from the moorings of nature, time and maturity.

Do note, incidentally, that this death-cultist was given the job of running a taxpayer-funded boondoggle (the US President’s Council of Bioethics indeed) by George W. Bush, President “Compassionate” himself.

Obviously (yes, obviously), the further we are able to extend life, the better. The key, however, is extending the quality of life, and there technology, tragically, moves at an uneven pace. At the core of Mr. Wollf’s piece is the fact that our ability to stretch out the life of the body appears at the moment to be running ahead of our ability to preserve the life of the mind, a mismatch that can cause terrible suffering. But the crucial words are “at the moment”. Stories like these are no reason to slow the science down.

Anyway, check out the piece, and see what you think. It’s sometimes painful reading, but it’s worth the time.

Wolff concludes like this:

Anyway, after due consideration, I decided on my own that I plainly would never want what LTC insurance buys, and, too, that this would be a bad deal. My bet is that, even in America, even as screwed up as our health care is, we baby-boomers watching our parents’ long and agonizing deaths won’t do this to ourselves. We will surely, we must surely, find a better, cheaper, quicker, kinder way out.

Meanwhile, since, like my mother, I can’t count on someone putting a pillow over my head, I’ll be trying to work out the timing and details of a do-it-yourself exit strategy. As should we all.

Bradlaugh agrees:

In Brave New World, as I recall, everyone lives into their early sixties, then swiftly declines and dies. That seems to me ideal if the necessary genomic tinkering can be done.

Until it is, sauve qui peut. I have a good selection of guns and have made up my mind that if it comes to diapers, I shall see myself out with a gun. I will not wear diapers—that’s the end point for me, the milestone I am determined not to pass.

I promise not to make too much of a mess. Heart, not head—like Flory in Burmese Days—and outdoors if I can make it: ideally a nice hillside in the Poconos, watching the sun go down, with a good cigar and some decent bourbon for company. But I will not wear diapers.

John, I’ll pass on the (negative) genomic tinkering, thank you very much (but I’ll take any good genomic tinkering, I have always wanted to score a century, at least). That said, I agree with you and Wolff that, in the absence of intervening catastrophe, planning one’s own exit is the way to go, and, I might add, as selflessly as possible. If you’re able to do it yourself, don’t drag others into your decision-making. That’ll only hurt them. Do all the paperwork. Leave everything in order. And then, I think, an overdose of something soothing. I’m no Bradlaugh or Gunther Sachs. I’m not tough enough to pull that trigger. The Poconos? No. Too much of a shock for an unwary hitchiker,and too much of a treat for passing wildlife.Sky-burial is not for me. A hotel room in a favorite place (somewhere in the southwest, perhaps), would do nicely. There would be a large donation on the side-table for the unfortunate who discovered my corpse.

But would I ever be able to decide that now was the time “not to be”? Now that is the question.

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