Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Religion and theology
Theology is an attempt by religious people to construct a version of their faith that they can intellectually assent to. There are many oddities in Christianity (such as the paradox of evil) and not everybody can simply ignore them.
I notice that with Rudolf Bultmann (1884 – 1976), a noted Lutheran theologian. He is something of a villain to traditional Christians because of his dismissal of Bible stories as essentially fairy stories. Yet if you read of his life and works you can see that he was a deeply religious man. He was not aiming so much to attack Christianity as to make it something that he could believe in.
I think that I am an instinctively religious person too. I was certainly religious in my now-distant teens. But in the end I cannot do as Bultmann did. I cannot construct a version of Christianity in which I can have faith. So I remain a sympathizer with Christianity but not a Christian myself. I sometimes wish it were otherwise but rationality intervenes and I remain an atheist.
I am reminded in that connection of a relative of mine who in his youth was an Assembly of God minister. But you don't have to have much in the way of qualifications to be an AOG minister. You just have to have the spirit. For those who don't know it, the AOG is a very fundamentalist group.
After a while however he decided that he needed to study theology. So I said to him: "Don't or you will lose the faith". But he did and he did. He is a very knowledgeable academic now.
Israel as an example to a decadent West
In his thought-provoking book The Lucifer Principle , Harold Bloom, relying on years of zoological research, points out how “a strange thing happens when humans and other animals are cornered by the uncontrollable. Their perceptions shut down, their thoughts grow more clouded, and they have a harder time generating new solutions to their problems.” This kind of syncope can manifest itself in a number of different ways: a feigned lack of interest when presented with a threat, as when a once-dominant ape pretends to focus on a banana peel rather than respond to the challenge mounted by a formidable claimant to his throne, or when a rat frustrated by its powerlessness before an intimidating rival will attack a lesser member of the pack.
This description, then, of animal and primate behavior has profound implications for the trajectories of entire societies, cultures and civilizations, that is, “superorganisms.” As they rise to the top of the international or global “pecking order,” they experience a “testosterone surge” of power, confidence and exploratory vitality, which impacts the very psychology of its constituent “cells” or members—individual human beings. They do not feel the need to apologize for their triumphs, expanding economies and higher standards of living. They move into the future with flexed assurance and a proud conviction of their civilizing mission and justified ascendance.
However, when these larger groupings intuit that they are slipping from their privileged position above the common ruck and are beginning to slide inexorably down the scale of power and preference, they proceed to espouse various delusionary measures to evade the shock of recognition. Rather than struggle to preserve or regain their pre-eminence, they concentrate on the banana peel, as it were, pretending that no challenge is being posed to their fading hegemony.
Or they turn upon their own, whether individuals, groups or nations, whom they blame for their evident discomfiture and, indeed, for their unadmitted but darkly sensed weakness. They may even begin shilling for the enemy, whom they profess to see as an equal, a potential benefactor, a friend in the making or a collaborator in some noble cultural initiative. As Bloom reminds us, “In a world where some cultures elevate violence to a virtue, the dream of peace can be fatal.” Moreover, so ignominious a surrender tends, ironically, to strut under the banner of “peace, freedom and justice.”
And this, I fear, is precisely what is happening in the contemporary West. “Peace” means that we are no longer willing to fight for the principles and traditions that have raised us to the top of the dominance hierarchy and that we are ready or eager to submit to a clear ideological foe. “Freedom” means that we have accepted the growing likelihood of defeat and comparative servitude. And “justice” means the acknowledgment of the “rights” of our adversaries to game the social, political and legal systems of their host countries to their advantage, in other words, to insinuate their norms of conduct and cultural presuppositions into a way of life we have long taken for granted and are now prepared to surrender piecemeal to the claims of the “other.”
The symptoms of capitulation are unmistakable... As Bat Ye’or has shown , the dhimmification of Europe is well under way and is probably irreversible. And now the pathology of appeasement and submission has begun to infect the collective psyche of America itself, especially its current leadership, the left-liberal media, the majority of public intellectuals who have come to act like cheerleaders for the other team, and far too many of our academics who inhabit the dank mausoleum of the modern university.
The moribund walk to their second extinction. As James Lewis remarks , “American liberals and European socialists…happily collude in their own subjection and degradation.” A recent book by Wells Earl Draughon, While America Sleeps , meticulously corroborates the peril we face and reads like a death sentence we have little time to repeal. Its message might awaken us from our dogmatic slumber, alerting us to the avoidance syndrome that guarantees our eventual eclipse.
This is where a wide-awake Israel comes into the geopolitical equation. It is no secret that Israel is the only legitimate democracy in the Middle East, that it is a loyal compatriot of the United States, that its structural roots are planted in European soil, that it is a vigorous, advanced and technological and scientific leader among the nations, and that it is surrounded by bellicose and regressive Islamic states that wish to erase it from “the page of time ,” to cite Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. These are the same Islamic states that have embarked on a virulent offensive against the democratic West through the exercise of terror or the prosecution of “stealth jihad,” or both.
And yet, unable or unwilling to grasp that Israel is perched on the frontier of a world-historical conflict, exemplifying the values and usages of the West and coming under almost daily attack from a common enemy, so-called “freedom loving” nations have turned against the Jewish state, defamed it in the corridors of power, vilified it in the media, acquiesced to the corrupt and slanderous assaults on its moral and physical integrity via the offices of the United Nations, pursued boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns, winked at Israel Apartheid Weeks suppurating on our campuses, imposed coercive measures to restrict building projects and the establishment of secure borders, and both subsidized and glorified the terror-sponsoring cartels that go by the name of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas-ruled Gaza. It is as if Western-oriented Israel and not extremist, Western-hating Islam has come aberrantly to be perceived as the West’s nemesis and scourge.
There is no sensible way to explain such counter-intuitive and destructive behavior unless a potent, subliminal motive is at work, which is not particularly hard to detect. Israel stands as a perpetual rebuke to the craven and obsequious West that strives to accommodate and even to ingratiate itself with the forces marshaled against it. (Of course, there is a fiscal component as well; Western nations have succumbed to what we might call a condition of petrofaction.)
Israel, on the contrary, has stood its ground, defending itself with martial courage and refusing to concede to an alien imperium. As such, it represents a searing condemnation of Western compliance and servility before a determined assailant, a J’accuse which Europe in general and influential elements in the United States cannot honorably answer or evade.
The treatment meted out to Israel is the most obvious specimen of standard biohistorical practice. The “superorganismic” West, sensing that it is canyoneering down the global “pecking order” and incapable of summoning the resources to reassert its erstwhile paramountcy, has fallen back on the classic maneuver of all faltering collectives, namely, abusing a smaller member of the parietal community as the ostensible cause of its embarrassment.
In the case of Israel, however, the smaller constituent is not only a convenient target for social and political shame and frustration but, even more intolerably, it is at the same time the most resolute, meritorious and valiant part of the greater collective. The stigma of disgrace is thus compounded and results in even harsher treatment of the presumed but innocent malefactor.
In sum, the West, like the ape and the rat, has adopted its own “endorphin strategy” to meet the predicament that confronts it. It engages in “perceptual shutdown,” denying that it is under attack and directing its attention elsewhere, say, the banana peel of multicultural “outreach” and ethnic harmony with its more ominous immigrant communities.
The choice facing the Jewish state is, for all its palpable difficulty, paradoxically a very simple one. It is, in fact, an inescapable binary. Israel can accede to near-universal opprobrium and to its own left-wing fifth column and go down with the West before a triumphant Islam. In so doing, it raises the white flag of “peace, freedom and justice,” which in Orwellian fashion translates for its bearers as persecution, bondage and iniquity.
Or it can remain stalwart and impenitent, rejecting the condition of dhimmitude that the liberal West is “progressively” and feverishly embracing. In so doing, it raises not the rag of surrender but the torch of both dignity and survival.
Top Muslims Condemn Ground Zero Mosque as a ‘Zionist Conspiracy’!: "In a recent PJM article, I argued that the Ground Zero mosque is counterproductive to Islam. The following day, on August 5, the Egyptian newspaper Al Masry Al Youm reported that none other than Al Azhar — one of Sunni Islam’s most authoritative institutions — agrees, as shown by the following translated excerpt: "A number of Al Azhar ulema expressed their opposition to building a mosque near [where] the events of September 11 [occurred], convinced that it is “a conspiracy to confirm a clear connection between the strikes of September  and Islam.”
Nicaragua: Return of the contras?: "Hidden somewhere in the rugged mountains of Esteli, in northern Nicaragua, a former contra commando with CIA training says he’s organizing an armed rebellion against President Daniel Ortega. Jose Gabriel Garmendia, a former counterrevolutionary special forces commander known by the codename ‘Comandante Jahob,’ is reportedly leading a group of rearmed contras that promise to ‘remove Ortega from office with bullets’ if the president tries to sidestep the constitution to get himself reelected next year. US-backed counterrevolutionary forces, or ‘contras,’ battled the left-wing Sandinista government in decade-long civil war in the 1980s, which claimed more than 36,000 lives. When Mr. Ortega and the Sandinistas were voted out of office in 1990, tens of thousands of contras — including Jahob — handed in their weapons and tried to return to civilian life.”
Support builds for boycotts against Israel: "In May, rock legend Elvis Costello canceled his gig in Israel. Then, in June, a group of unionized dock workers in San Francisco refused to unload an Israeli ship. In August, a food co-op in Washington state removed Israeli products from its shelves. The so-called ‘boycott, divestment and sanctions’ movement aimed at pressuring Israel to withdraw from land claimed by Palestinians has long been considered a fringe effort inside the United States, with no hope of garnering mainstream support enjoyed by the anti-apartheid campaign against South Africa of the 1980s. But in recent months, particularly after an Israeli raid on a flotilla delivering supplies to Palestinians, organizers are pointing to evidence that the movement has picked up momentum, even as Israelis and Palestinians are moving toward a new round of peace talks.”
God not needed for natural rights: "Let me start with the first point Mr. Silver raises, namely, that human rights used to be dubbed natural rights and were as such thought to be God-given. Yet, as the term ‘natural’ clearly suggests, these rights were believed — for example by John Locke — to be based on an understanding of human nature. Human beings may have been regarded by some natural rights theorists as God-created but their basic rights were alleged to be derivable from their nature as free and independent moral agents. That is how John Locke saw it, rightly or wrongly. So what matters here is whether there are human beings as a class of living entities in the world and whether they have attributes that imply that they have certain rights once they find themselves in human communities.”
DEA seeks Ebonics experts to help with cases: "Federal agents are seeking to hire Ebonics translators to help interpret wiretapped conversations involving targets of undercover drug investigations. The Drug Enforcement Administration recently sent memos asking companies that provide translation services to help it find nine translators in the Southeast who are fluent in Ebonics, Special Agent Michael Sanders said Monday.”
Philadelphia wants to tax bloggers: "If you’re a blogger in the city of Philadelphia, get out your checkbook. Just like everyone else, Philadelphia is struggling to get through the tough economy, and city officials want bloggers to do their fair share and pay up. There’s no specific blogger tax, as some media outlets reported today. But the cit[y] does have a business tax that covers any Philadelphia-based bloggers who are now making any money from their online efforts. Maura Kennedy, a spokesperson for the city, told Computerworld that officials want money-making bloggers to register their business and start paying the tax.”
Occupational licensing: "There really isn’t a more accurate example of democratic failure than occupational licensing. It is public choice economics at its most concise. A small group of people stand to gain financially from a very narrow policy action, and passionately advocate for it. A large group of people stand to be harmed very marginally from that same issue and so don’t care about it enough to spend time and effort becoming informed and fighting back. Politicians measure the gains for them to be made from satisfying the small group (campaign contributions, union support, etc.) versus the fallout from harming the larger group (there’s generally no fallout), and — voila! — an entire industry becomes regulated with a few votes and the stroke of a pen, while the only person who shows up to complain about it is some jerk like me.”
Scrap the minimum wage: "It’s time to abolish the minimum wage. Yes, I want to see pay and conditions improve for the lowest-paid workers just as much as anyone else. But it is now obvious that the minimum wage is keeping out of work those — like younger people, unskilled workers, women and ethnic minorities — who need job opportunities the most. Of course, there is an economic downturn going on, so jobs are harder to get and unemployment is higher. But where is it highest? Yes, precisely among these groups.”
My Twitter.com identity: jonjayray. My Facebook page is also accessible as jonjayray (In full: http://www.facebook.com/jonjayray). For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, GUN WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, EYE ON BRITAIN and Paralipomena
List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)
The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)
Posted by JR at 11:36 PM