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Sep/16

11

Fifteen Years

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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Jul/16

4

Happy Independence Day!

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds his bible while speaking at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, September 19, 2015. REUTERS/Brian C. Frank - RTS1XL2

This from Religion News Service:

The Battleground Poll has the Clinton-Trump God gap at under 15 points, with those who say they go to church at least once a week preferring Trump to Clinton by nine points and those attending less frequently preferring Clinton to Trump by less than six. That compares to a God gap in 2012 of nearly 40 points.

Since the God gap became salient in the 1990s, it’s always exceeded the gender gap. Not, evidently, this year. Between women’s support for one of their own and the misogyny of the other candidate, gender identity is trumping religion.

This parallels the seeming decline in interest in religion and the ramping up of a secularized culture war. The New World has been taking its cues from the Old World for a while now – as evidenced by the youth – and like Europe, America is implicitly agreeing that God is pretty much dead and moving on with matters more material. Oh, and this:

Roman Catholics voted for Obama over Romney by a couple of points but are now supporting Trump over Clinton 45 percent to 39 percent. Does this reflect a deep-seated Catholic proclivity for having a man at the top?

Except their man at the top has sparred with Donald Trump pretty visibly. Hm. As for Trump’s alleged misogyny, “Dilbert” creator Scott Adams makes the point that Trump is insulting to everyone, but it’s only his attacks on women that provoke people into clutching at pearls:

Donald Trump called John Kasich “disgusting” for how he eats. Trump insulted Rand Paul’s looks. He said Rubio was sweaty and little. He mocked a disabled guy (an enemy reporter) who has a bad arm. Ted Cruz turned into “lyin’ Ted” and Jeb Bush got tagged with the “low energy” kill shot.

What do you call it when a man insults his enemies who are both male and female? Democrats call it a “woman problem.”

Indeed.

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Nov/15

30

Isaiah Berlin: Half Right

Riga, Aug 09 (AS)

Isaiah Berlin:

As for the meaning of life, I do not believe that it has any: I do not at all ask what it is, for I suspect it has none, and this is a source of great comfort to me — we make of it what we can, and that is all there is about it. Those who seek for some deep, cosmic, all-embracing, teleologically arguable libretto or god are, believe me pathetically deluded.

So far as I’m concerned, Berlin is right about that meaning of life thing. It’s nothing but a relief to me that there is none, and for the reasons he gives.  On the other hand, to describe those who have found some sort of god as ‘pathetically deluded’ is too smug and so far as that ‘pathetically’ is concerned, often inaccurate. As a species we seem to be hardwired for faith. Upbringing and culture will generally dictate the form that the faith takes, sometimes disastrously so, frequently not.

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Nov/15

20

Multiculturalism, Free Speech: Choose One?

blasphemyNational Secular Society:

Labour MP Keith Vaz has expressed his support for the reintroduction of UK blasphemy laws – provided they “apply equally to everybody.”
His comments were reportedly made at an event organised by the Muslim Council of Britain to explore responses to terrorism and extremism, held in London on 12 November. During discussions on how to respond to ‘slurs’ and “grossly irresponsible” coverage of Muslim issues in the media, attendees called for Britain’s Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) to use its powers to pursue complaints of discrimination against groups of people, such as those of Muslim faith, even if no individual is specified in an offending article.

Miqdaad Versi, Assistant Secretary General of the MCB, said “Muslim communities need to be able to respond to accusations [against] Muslims, or against the Prophet, in a more effective way.”

He added: “Whether there should be legislation is something that really is a more complicated question.”

But in response to discussion on new blasphemy legislation, Vaz, who is the chairman of the influential Home Affairs Select Committee, told Al Arabiya that under certain conditions he would have “no problem” with the reintroduction of blasphemy laws in the UK.

“Religions are very special to people. And therefore I have no objection to [a blasphemy law] … but it must apply equally to everybody,” the longstanding Labour MP added.

Free speech, it seems, is not so “very special”.

Jul/15

4

Happy Independence Day!

May/15

9

From Carthage (Tennessee) to Rome

al-gorePosted earlier this week on the Corner:

Al Gore, speaking recently at Berkeley:

I think Pope Francis is quite an inspiring figure really. A phenomena. I’ve been startled with the clarity of the moral force that he embodies…

Well I’ve said publicly in the last year, I was raised in the Southern Baptist tradition, I could become a Catholic because of this Pope. He is that inspiring to me. And I know the vast majority of my Catholic friends are just thrilled to the marrow of their bones that he is inspiring this kind of spiritual leadership.

I would like to give credit to his immediate three predecessors, as Holy Father, who also had very powerful statements on Global Warming. But Pope Francis is going beyond them with this encyclical which, evidently, is expected around the middle of June, and of course there was a preliminary document which just came out yesterday, is likely to have a very powerful impact.

There are, I hear, wicked folk who like to argue that, for some, a belief in CAGW is akin to a religious faith. I cannot think where they get such ideas.

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Dec/14

24

Christmas

ChristmastruceCaptain A. D. Chater, 2nd Batallion, Gordon Highlanders, Dec 25, 1914:

I think I have seen today one of the most extraordinary sights that anyone has ever seen. About 10 o’clock this morning I was peeping over the parapet when I saw a German, waving his arms, and presently two of them got out of their trench and came towards ours.

We were just going to fire on them when we saw they had no rifles, so one of our men went to meet them and in about two minutes the ground between the two lines of trenches was swarming with men and officers of both sides, shaking hands and wishing each other a happy Christmas…

We exchanged cigarettes and autographs, and some more people took photos…I don’t know how long it will go on for – I believe it was supposed to stop yesterday, but we can hear no firing going on along the front today except a little distant shelling.

Sergeant A. Lovell, 3rd Rifle Brigade.

Then suddenly lights began to appear along the German parapet, which were evidently make-shift Christmas trees, adorned with lighted candles, which burnt steadily in the frosty air!

First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up O Come, All Ye Faithful, the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words Adeste Fideles. And I thought, well, this is a most extraordinary thing — two nations singing the same carol in the middle of a war.

And these were by no means isolated incidents.

When the high commands (on both sides) heard about these ‘Christmas truces’, they did everything they could to bring them to an end and avoid their repetition, but just for a moment…

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Mar/14

17

The trinity is incoherent

I quite like BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time. But the most recent episode was on the Trinity. You can listen to online. Most of the time the host has scholars who are there to illuminate the educated public on some fascinating topic. But in this case it seems clear that  no one has any idea what they are talking about. The problem here is not the scholars, it is that after nearly 2,000 years no one understands the Trinity well enough to speak about it coherently. This brings to mind Wittgenstein’s phrase, Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

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