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Archive for August 2016

Say what you want to say about Donald J Trump, but even if he doesn’t win the election in November, there is no doubt in my mind that he has helped transform the Republican Party, and by extension, the conservative movement.

And, no, I am not talking here about immigration, trade and foreign policies. In fact, I have a feeling that notwithstanding his bombastic election campaign rhetoric about building walls, imposing huge tariffs on Chinese imports, deporting illegals and ending NATO, the Republican presidential nominee isn’t as “nativist,” “protectionist” and “isolationist,” as he is portrayed to be.

My guess is that a President Trump would prove to be a policy clone of President Richard Nixon when it comes to these issues, less of a libertarian on trade and immigration and less of a neocon on foreign policy than most members of the current GOP establishment. And from an historical perspective, that’s not really a Big Deal: More a return to normalcy than a transformative Republican president.

But there is one thing I am quite sure about: If elected or not elected, the Donald would probably be recalled as the one of the most libertine presidential nominees ever. And that includes Warren Harding and Bill Clinton.

Let’s face it. Trump was elected the presidential nominee by a political party that is allegedly being controlled by the Christian Right and accused by liberal critics of being intolerant, anti-women, and anti-gay, you know, the caricature of the American Taliban that would outlaw abortion, revoke the right of same-sex marriages, and basically return the country to the pre-Enlightenment era.

A lot of cognitive dissonance to get around here, if you consider that the Donald is a thrice married man, with his latest wife being a former fashion model who had appeared on nude photos, who has spent his entire personal and professional life in the most liberal American city when it comes to social-cultural issues, with only San Francisco being even more secular and sinful. Recall those “New York Values?” Trump probably respects them more than he does some of the Ten Commandments.

Trump had probably spent more time partying in Studio 54 than attending services at the Marble Collegiate Church (Trump was never an “active member,” according to a church statement). And the business types and entertainers from Manhattan, Hollywood and Las Vegas, that are on his list of friends, include a larger number of non-believers and immoral characters, like the late Roy Cohn, that would probably end up in Hell than many the of the true believers that are supposed to be part of the GOP electoral base who would be heading to Heaven.

Just compare Trump to the last Republican president and those who were running for the party’s presidential nomination, or for that matter to the current Democratic presidential nominee, a devout Methodist, and Trump who has been backed by gay Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel and the trans woman celebrity Caitlyn Jenner, clearly stands out as an irreligionist public figure, even more than President Barack Obama (who probably is a closet atheist).

And while other daughters of famous politicians, Carolyn Kennedy and Chelsea Clinton who had married Jewish men but refused to convert to Judaism (Kennedy’s kids are being raised as Catholics), Trump has welcomed the conversion of his daughter Ivanka to Judaism before she married a modern orthodox Jewish man. So at least we have one Trump who is practicing a religion (even if perhaps it’s not the right religion).

So from the perspective of those who regarded the GOP as the political party that embodies traditional Christian values as opposed to the liberal secular Democrats, Trump running as the Republican presidential nominee could prove to be transformative. It not only opens the party’s doors to the likes of Thiel and Jenner but could also create the conditions for its social-cultural evolution from a pseudo-theocratic political movement to an openly secular one in which membership requirements doesn’t include adherence to religious dogmas. Or at least that’s what I hope: From my laptop to God!

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Aug/16

4

ISIS, God and The Devil

ISISAusten Ivereigh’s defense of Pope Francis’ response to ISIS appears to be, well, evolving.

Just the other day, he was arguing this:

[ISIS] is a wholly modernistic creation, a vehicle of power, the “technocratic paradigm” of domination and exploitation, applied to an ancient faith. ISIS militants are engineers, IT experts, lawyers and literalists; they are utterly Western, utterly modern, utterly unreligious.

Now:

First, the Islamic State might recruit mentally-ill teenagers from the banlieus, but it is far from being a bunch of psychopaths. Islamism is a violent ideology drawn from a purist Islamic fundamentalism. It is a version of Islam which radically differs from, and is rejected by, most of the Muslim world.

Second, a war with Christianity is key to its worldview. The Islamic State awaits the army of “Rome,” whose defeat at Dabiq, Syria, will initiate the countdown to the apocalypse

Of course ISIS recruits far more than “mentally-ill” teenagers, but Ivereigh’s recognition that it is a religious movement (however repellent) is a welcome acceptance  of reality.

Ivereigh goes on to explain that Francis has a “six-fold strategy in response to the Islamic State provocation”. Apparently it’s “well thought out, and it is effective”. I’ll leave you to read the full piece and judge for yourselves, but this, well:

For the radicals, violence is sacred, sacrificial, divinely-sanctioned – it is precipitating Armaggedon and the celestial triumph of Islam.

So when Francis declares that its violence is, as well as being evil and abhorrent, “senseless,” as he described the Nice massacre, or “absurd” as he said of the violence that slayed Hamel, he is dealing Islamic State a significant blow: the world’s leading religious authority has denied them the legitimacy of a religious justification.

This is a strategy, but it is, also, genuinely, demonstrating what true religion is.

Well no. The idea that ISIS or, for that matter, many of the people inclined, however remotely, to sympathize with them will pay the slightest attention to the opinion of a “religious authority” for whom they have no respect is, to put it at its kindest, naïve.

As to what a  “true religion” is, well, let’s just to say that religion takes  many forms, not all of them benign.

And then:

As a longtime discerner of spirits, Francis has a keen awareness of the workings of the diabolos, the great divider, and the subtle ways evil can persuade ‘good’ people to set themselves over and against ‘bad’ people.

Did Ivereigh felt the need for a little Greek, with its suggestion of erudition, to conceal the primitive beliefs that it describes: The Devil. No less.

Superstition, wishful thinking and denial do not a good “strategy” make.

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Aug/16

1

The Avoidance of Uncomfortable Reality

ISIS ChurchCross-posted on the Corner.

Crux:

Pope Francis on Sunday defended his avoidance of the term “Islamic violence” by suggesting the potential for violence lies in every religion, including Catholicism.

“I don’t like to talk about Islamic violence, because every day, when I read the newspaper, I see violence,” Francis said, when asked about why he never speaks of Islamic terrorism or fundamentalism when condemning attacks such as the murder of a French priest last week, who had his throat slit by an Islamic terrorist as he was celebrating Mass.

The pope said that when he reads the newspaper, he reads about an Italian who kills his fiancé or his mother in law.

“They are baptized Catholics. They are violent Catholics,” Francis said, adding that if he speaks of “Islamic violence,” then he has to speak of “Catholic violence” too.

Well, no, there’s a difference between a murder committed by people who happen to be of a certain religion, and murder committed in the name of a religion.

Francis is no fool.

He must know this, but still he says what he says.

And then:

 Although clarifying that he didn’t know if he should say it because “it’s dangerous,” the pope then admitted that terrorism grows when “there’s no other option.”

“As long as the god of money is at the center of the global economy and not the human person, man and woman, this is the first terrorism,” he said, defining it as a “terrorism at the bases,” against the whole of humanity.

No, money is not the “first terrorism”. Perhaps it’s worth mentioning that a good number of the more notorious Islamic terrorists have come from relatively comfortable backgrounds. They had alternatives—many alternatives—but they were drawn to violence by their understanding of God, as many have been before them, and many will be in the future.

Again, the Pope must know this, but he prefers, once again, to change the subject, talking, once again, about the wickedness of “money”, cheap, stale demagoguery with the stench of conspiracism about it.

It’s not really for me to say so, but I would think that Francis’ church has the right to expect rather more from him.

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