"It seems to me that to organize on the basis of feeding people or righting social injustice and all that is very valuable. But to rally people around the idea of modernism, modernity, or something is simply silly. I mean, I don't know what kind of a cause that is, to be up to date. I think it ultimately leads to fashion and snobbery and I'm against it."
Jack Levine: January 3, 1915 – November 8, 2010
When I began blogging, away back in 2006, I made my theme why the left has failed and how it could stop failing, gain office and change laws to make life better and to preserve it for us and for posterity. I knew I'd be stepping on lots of toes because the first five or six years of my being online had already shown me a lot of the problems and that people who believed themselves to constitute the left seemed most intent on reinforcing their mutual belief in ideas that had failed, utterly in the previous decades.
Many of those ideas, when they were looked at critically, never should have been on the agenda of the left because they weren't liberal ideas, they were either libertarian ideas that, if followed, would result in more inequality, more injustice and the enhanced enjoyment of the affluent, contented and self satisfied at the cost of the poor, the environment, and the others who the real left exists to help. What was promoted on the allegedly left blogs wasn't purposeful enough to constitute an agenda, which implies someone's actually going to do the hard work and making real personal sacrifice to make change, it constituted a cultural checklist, the purpose of which seemed to be to decide who was in with the in-crowd, who would get to go where the in-crowd goes. The world for them was divided into who knows what the in-crowd knows and the vast majority of the world who were all declared cooties ridden stupid-heads.
Sorry, a stupid song that was going through my head this morning.
I never expected to be writing on the massively controversial topic of religion when I began blogging, though I could see that was one of the big problems for the real left. The right had successfully tarred the left with the anti-Christian bigotry of the in-crowd who grabbed the mic in the mid-60. That was largely an opportunity stupidly provided to them by said "left" many of whom were based in universities and among the old and new elites who, increasingly, had turned against blue collar people and weren't about to really do anything about poverty. They had read Bertrand Russell, some even Ayer, and the others who had made careers in anti-Christian invective, in the case of Russell, after his careers in mathematics and philosophy hadn't worked out quite how he had hoped for. That is a career path that one after another of the professional and quasi-professional atheists seem to have taken. Since so many of them seem to do little but repeat the old bromides, maxims and aphorisms of previous atheists, to someone who is familiar with those it looks like the intellectual equivalent of setting themselves up in a nice little antiques shop. There isn't much that is strenuous about it. When one of them, such as Larry Krauss is unwise enough to go up against an opponent like William Lane Craig who, whatever his faults, has certainly mastered both his arguments AND THEIRS, the atheist savant turns into a sputtering, incoherent message machine.
I got into an argument with an atheist last night in which he brought out one of the recent examples of what goes as a clever erudite argument, the one about how I'm an atheist when it comes to Zeus and Odin but that he only goes me one better by not believing in the Jewish God. Well, he said he thought the "Christian God" was as imaginary as "pink unicorns" (they all use the same cliches), it being unfashionable to express antisemitism unless you are Jewish. Well, I said, this might come as a shock to you, but I don't believe in the God I believe in either. Of course, though I doubt he would even recognize the name, he went all Ayer on me, saying that what I said was meaningless, blah, blah, blah....
But it is true. If there is anything I believe about God it is that everything about God surpasses my ability to comprehend it. Love, knowing, goodness, wisdom, subtlety, purpose, and aspects of God which I am sure there is no human word for, not to mention the ability of us to even imagine, all of those escape my conception of God, both in extent and in actual nature. The God I can talk about is only the God I can comprehend and I can't comprehend God, I don't think anyone with a human mind, caught up in the vicissitudes of human experience and human articulation, conditioned as those inevitably are on our shared experience of the physical world and human perception and culture. All of those impose limits on what a person stuck in temporal experience can know and say about God. God is more than I can ever imagine, more than I can ever think of. The God I can imagine is not The GOD who really is. And, as I could answer when he began snarking in the ususal pop-log-pos way, the universe that science can address is also unknowable for similar reasons, there are aspects of the universe that even the most denying atheist who worships at the alter of scientism can't even imagine so the universe they believe in is not the actual universe.
That is not something the in-crowd wants to think about. It is what, I believe, set Bertrand Russell off so angrily about religion and why it seems to be the road that so many once promising scientists who realize they are not going to be another Newton turn to in lieu of something productive in their own field. It, I believe, is why so much of science, especially the softer sciences, are so focused on attacking religion. They are in denial about the limits of science as much as any scripture based fundamentalist is in denial about the limits of their idols, too. If they bothered to read them, they would see that the prophets all seem to testify to the limits of human abilities and understanding as compared to God.
This week I also got into it with another atheist who was going on and on about the long history of purportedly religious warfare among the Christians. The dope made the stupidest statement about "monotheism" being inherently violent as opposed to polytheism. I was able to ask him why he'd never heard of such gods as Tyr, Mars, Ares, Anhur and gods who were quite enthusiastic about war, such as Athena and Odin. But, oddly enough, there was no Christian god of war. Also that one of the things that got Christians in trouble with the Pagan Roman authorities was their pacifism in the early centuries. Of course the kid cut things off at that point.
It signifies, to me at least, that I happened to discover that the next day's readings for the Catholic Mass contained First Samuel chapter 4:1-11** in which the Israelites tried to use God as a war God and were disastrously routed, losing many men and the Arc of the Covenant to the Philistines. Obviously, as First Samuel rather decisively shows, they relied on their very human, very limited conception of God, the God who had made a covenant with them and charged them to be a light to humanity. That, if you will forgive me saying, is a profound thing for a religious scripture to say, I'm unaware of anything like it in any other tradition which I'm at all familiar with, I'd like to see other religious scriptures that made similar points. It leads me to think that more is happening than just fables being told that were the Hebrew people patting themselves on the back for being in the know and in with the ultimate in-crowd. It is profoundly self-critical and self-questioning, searching for understanding in a way I have never seen among atheists. Liberals who sit at their keyboards whining about why we never win could learn something from reading and thinking about First Samuel.
* I've since found out that most atheist's idea of a reference work on the same level of reliability as the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Wikipedia, has quite a long list of pagan deities of war.
** The Philistines gathered for an attack on Israel.
Israel went out to engage them in battle and camped at Ebenezer,
while the Philistines camped at Aphek.
The Philistines then drew up in battle formation against Israel.
After a fierce struggle Israel was defeated by the Philistines,
who slew about four thousand men on the battlefield.
When the troops retired to the camp, the elders of Israel said,
“Why has the LORD permitted us to be defeated today
by the Philistines?
Let us fetch the ark of the LORD from Shiloh
that it may go into battle among us
and save us from the grasp of our enemies.”
So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there
the ark of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned upon the cherubim.
The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were with the ark of God.
When the ark of the LORD arrived in the camp,
all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth resounded.
The Philistines, hearing the noise of shouting, asked,
“What can this loud shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?”
On learning that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp,
the Philistines were frightened.
They said, “Gods have come to their camp.”
They said also, “Woe to us! This has never happened before. Woe to us!
Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods?
These are the gods that struck the Egyptians
with various plagues and with pestilence.
Take courage and be manly, Philistines;
otherwise you will become slaves to the Hebrews,
as they were your slaves.
So fight manfully!”
The Philistines fought and Israel was defeated;
every man fled to his own tent.
It was a disastrous defeat,
in which Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers.
The ark of God was captured,
and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were among the dead.
Jim Hinch, at The American Scholar, has an interesting article about the reported decline of the evangelical churches from their high point of influence and power in the last 20 years. Unfortunately, it's not a quick and dirty and cut and dry and black and white report on the triumph of irreligiosity with the young so it's bound to be largely ignored in these post-literate times. Apropos of the topic of my last post, he says this about one of the Pew surveys reporting that decline.
The most recent Pew Research Center survey of the nation’s religious attitudes, taken in 2012, found that just 19 percent of Americans identified themselves as white evangelical Protestants—five years earlier, 21 percent of Americans did so. Slightly more (19.6 percent) self-identified as unaffiliated with any religion at all, the first time that group has surpassed evangelicals. (It should be noted that surveying Americans’ faith lives is notoriously difficult, since answers vary according to how questions are phrased, and respondents often exaggerate their level of religious commitment. Pew is a nonpartisan research organization with a track record of producing reliable, in-depth studies of religion. Other equally respected surveys—Gallup, the General Social Survey—have reached conclusions about Christianity’s status in present-day America that agree with Pew’s in some respects and diverge in others.)
Which leads me to ask if there are problems with the survey questions at the widely esteemed Pew, how do they know the results are reliable? I've looked at Gallup's questions before and they are usually even less worthy of confidence. How do you really find this stuff out from varying and often either leading or far from clear questions? Especially, how do they expect to be able to measure an alleged exaggeration between reported and actual religious commitment? Religion, I'd guess especially in some evangelical traditions, such as among some Baptists, is an intensely personal and individual matter. You would never guess from the coverage that Baptists get but the movement originally and still does advocate freedom in deciding the meaning of The Bible.
I will note that Hinch did one very good thing which I have never seen the author of an article on this topic do, he notes:
Secularization alone is not to blame for this change in American religiosity. Even half of those Americans who claim no religious affiliation profess belief in God or claim some sort of spiritual orientation.
Schuller was at the height of his influence, preaching to a congregation of thousands in Orange County and reaching millions more worldwide via the Hour of Power, a weekly televised ministry program. Among the show’s annual highlights were “The Glory of Easter” and its companion production, “The Glory of Christmas,” multimillion-dollar dramatic extravaganzas staged inside the cathedral with a cast of professional actors, Hollywood-grade costumes, and live animals. The setting for the spectacles was a striking, soaring, light-filled structure justly praised by architecture critics. But it was not a cathedral. It was never consecrated by a religious denomination. The building is not even made of crystal, but rather 10,000 rectangular panes of glass. Like the much beloved, much pilloried Disneyland three miles to the northwest, the Crystal Cathedral is a monument to Americans’ inveterate ability to transform dominant cultural impulses—in this case, Christianity itself—into moneymaking enterprises that conquer the world.
They weren't turning The House of God into a place of money changers and dove peddlers, they were peddling God from corporate headquarters. The few times I saw some of his show it's "Christianity" seemed to me to be a branding operation having nothing to do with the gospel of Jesus. It was a business venture having about as little to do with the Christian religion as so many organizations with freedom and equality in their names have to do with freedom and equality. I seem to remember feeling a deep sense of dismay when the great Beverley Sills sang at the place.
Another great difference from the Xeroxed "End of Religion" themed articles is that this one notes the considerable diversity and life of what I'd feel a lot more comfortable considering religions, including Christian ones.
Other faiths, like Islam, perhaps the country’s fastest-growing religion, have had no problem attracting and maintaining worshippers. No, evangelicalism’s dilemma stems more from a change in American Christianity itself, a sense of creeping exhaustion with the popularizing, simplifying impulse evangelical luminaries such as Schuller once rode to success. ... The adjacent city of Westminster is home to the world’s largest population of Vietnamese outside Vietnam. In another neighboring city, Santa Ana, 82 percent of the families speak at home a language other than English, primarily Spanish. These mostly poor residents cram several families into tract houses, work low-wage jobs, and reliably vote Democratic (the county’s registered voters are evenly split between Democrats and Republicans; Barack Obama won in 2008, Mitt Romney in 2012). They also gravitate not to evangelical megachurches like Schuller’s but to Catholic parishes, Buddhist temples, mosques, and storefront Pentecostal churches. The Islamic Society of Orange County, which owns a mosque, school, and mortuary five miles from the Crystal Cathedral, is one of America’s largest centers of Islamic worship. The Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights, a few miles north of Orange County, is the largest Buddhist temple in the United States. Orange County’s Catholic diocese is one of the nation’s largest and fastest growing.
The description of the vitality of Christian religious communities is something as rare as reporting on liberal Protestantism in the American media.
These days, young Christians in Orange County attend very different kinds of churches, some unrecognizable as churches at all. Laundry Love, a ministry in Santa Ana, is an ad hoc community of young Christians who gather monthly at various inner-city, coin-operated laundries and wash patrons’ clothes for free. The ministry is an offshoot of Newsong Church, a mostly Asian evangelical congregation founded nearly three decades ago by a pastor named Dave Gibbons, who sought to reach people like himself, mixed-race descendants of immigrants (his parents are white and Asian) who felt out of place in mainstream American society. Newsong now has branches in Thailand, England, Mexico, and India—all of which function like self-sustaining Christian communes oriented around humanitarian relief initiatives. Gibbons has emerged as one of a growing number of in-house critics of evangelical Christianity’s wholesale adoption of corporate American values. “The church has become involved in big business,” he told me by phone. “That’s why artists and creatives don’t want anything to do with church. What’s unique about how we’re trying to do things is we focus on people who aren’t like us. We don’t have to build our own brand.”
And this is why I doubt this article will get as much traction as the next "end of religion" article. This doesn't look like the end of religion but the restoration of something closer to the point than the Schuller Show and Christianity as feel good self-esteem.
* I think the building is probably going to turn out to be a disaster. Its 10,000 large panes of glass are going to need constant maintenance. In fact that's one of the things the priest in charge of the conversion mentioned. The description of the excessive vulgarity of the physical plant - the Catholics are removing lots of the kitsch - is in keeping with the vulgarity of Schuller's show. If I were surveyed as to its being a manifestation of religion I'd have had to say I didn't consider it religious.
On a recent tour of the cathedral, Father Christopher Smith, the Catholic priest charged with supervising transformation of the complex into a Catholic worship space, did his best, but frequently failed, to be diplomatic about Schuller’s design sensibilities. “It was a beautiful campus,” he said. “It’s still beautiful. But it’s tired.” He pointed up toward the cathedral’s sloping glass roof. “We recaulked 1,500 panes of glass. We’re really trying to fix the leaks.” In its final years, Schuller’s cash-strapped ministry skimped on building maintenance. Outside, on the plaza, the priest stopped beside a statue of children surrounding a beneficent Jesus. “Some of these are awful,” he remarked. Most, he said, would be removed during the diocese’s $53 million renovation. The diocese, taking its inspiration from the historic cathedrals of Europe, envisions the structure as something wholly different from Schuller’s ministerial showplace. “Traditionally, cathedrals are centers of art and culture,” Smith said. “We want it to be that.” He spoke of touring symphony orchestras playing in the sanctuary, academic and theological conferences in the Welcoming Center’s exquisitely spare meeting spaces, ecumenical worship services, art exhibits, the bustling cultural activity of a civic gathering place—something Orange County, built over decades with little central planning in car-mad Southern California, simply doesn’t have.
A civic gathering center seems to me to be a move in the right direction, going from a show centered on a single character to a community and the wider community. The churches around here, especially the United Church of Christ church the next town over, are only as vital as they are open to community activities, especially those which are in line with feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, the stranger and those imprisoned, in and outside of prison and in addiction and despair.
I don't have the time to go into depth, but one of Alternet's atheists, CJ Werleman has yet another distortion of a Pew study up today. He begins very badly by using the widely discredited claims by Steve Pinker that the modern world is becoming decreasingly violent. That alone would discredit the author of an article, for me. The article goes on to claim the Pew study supports the neo-atheist line on religion.
Religiosity, however, continues to play its part in promoting in-group out-group thinking, which casts the difference between people in terms of eternal rewards and punishments. Sam Harris, author of Letter to a Christian Nation, observes, “Faith inspires violence in two ways. First, people often kill other human beings because they believe the creator of the universe wants them to do it…Second, far greater numbers of people fall into conflict with one another because they define their moral community on the basis of their religious affiliation: Muslims side with Muslims, Protestants with Protestants, Catholics with Catholics.”
That would be Sam Harris, the advocate for the illegal invasion of Iraq, one of the most violent of acts in the new millennium, which unleashed enormous sectarian violence by overturning the secular dictator, who was far from violence free. Oh, and the same Sam Harris who advocated both that it might be justified to kill people for what they think and that it might be a good idea to nuke tens of millions of Muslims in a single day as a preemptive strike against the possibility of them getting the bomb.*
Anyway, as always seems to be the case with the Alternet atheists, Werleman doesn't seem to have read what the Pew survey was about, which largely dealt with majority religious governments making laws and policies that suppressed the rights of minority religious groups. And if you counted atheism as a religion, in the case of North Korea, which they admit is responsible for some of the most severe oppression, it has to rank right up there in violence.
Finally, it is very likely that more restrictions exist than are reported by the 18 primary sources. But taken together, the sources are sufficiently comprehensive to provide a good estimate of the levels of restrictions in almost all countries. The one major exception is North Korea. The sources clearly indicate that North Korea’s government is among the most repressive in the world with respect to religion as well as other civil and political liberties. (The U.S. State Department’s 2012 Report on International Religious Freedom, for example, says that “Genuine freedom of religion does not exist” in North Korea.) But because North Korean society is effectively closed to outsiders and independent observers lack regular access to the country, the sources were unable to provide the kind of specific, timely information that Pew Research categorized and counted (“coded,” in social science parlance) for this quantitative study. Therefore, the report does not include scores for North Korea.
Another officially atheist country, China, was included and the news there wasn't great. It figured in a list of most populous countries where they found increased strife.
Among the 25 most populous countries, Turkey was the only one in which the level of government restrictions increased by one full point or more, and Japan and Nigeria were the only two in which the level of government restrictions decreased by one point or more. The level of religious hostilities increased by one point or more in nine countries: Mexico, Turkey, China, Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, France, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Italy. Ethiopia was the only country among the 25 most populous where the level of religious hostilities decreased by one or more points during the same time period. **
You might want to read the Pew report and compare it to Werleman's article and see that the Alternet atheist has entirely misrepresented what the study was supposed to be about and its claims.
Having, in my frequent blog brawls on these issues, had the example of certain alleged atheist paradises held up for comparison to my own, allegedly benighted and God-ridden country, especially by Brit-atheists, I was amused to read Appendix 3. Appendix 3 gives Pews "Social Hostilities Index".
The following table shows all 198 countries and territories in descending order of their scores on the Pew Research Center’s index of social hostilities involving religion as of the end of 2012.
The "Very High" index is no surprise, all of the countries on it are in the news for stories featuring violent struggles, sometimes excused on the basis of religion.
The United States, often presented by atheists as a slough of religious intolerance and bigotry comes in quite low, way way down on the "Moderate" column, two places lower in strife than Denmark, which has been cited to me as an atheist paradise. At the same time the two countries most often named as ideal atheist societies to me in online brawls, The UK and Sweden, both come in on the list of "High" religious strife. The UK comes in between Georgia and Nepal, Sweden between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Ukraine. I've got to say that the evidence that they present would seem to show that atheists aren't too good at reading these kinds of reports.
While I find the Pew methodology rather bizarre and I am entirely skeptical of this kind of analysis, doubting it means anything, I am not the one who cited it, along with Pinker and Harris to come up with a post today. I can only claim to have read what the Alternet hack has only pretended to.
* I'd still think it would be a far better idea to demand that the governments in those places kill all of the physicists and chemists who might be in the position to make and sustain bombs. It would certainly avoid murdering tens of millions of entirely innocent people.
** You might want to contrast this list to see how weird the citation of this Pew study as a measure of societal violence is.
Brazil, the Philippines, Japan, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have the least restrictions and hostilities.
That would be The Democratic Republic of the Congo, of which Human Rights Watch says:
Widespread human rights abuses by all parties to the conflict in eastern Congo continued in 2013, despite renewed regional and international initiatives to end the violence. The M23 rebel group, which has received significant military support from Rwanda since its inception in April 2012, has committed serious abuses in Rutshuru and Nyiragongo territories, including summary executions, rapes, and forced recruitment of children. Other parts of eastern Congo have seen a rise in inter-ethnic violence as the Congolese government and army, which were focused on trying to defeat the M23, left a security vacuum that other abusive militia groups sought to fill. These groups, including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), the Raia Mutomboki, and Nyatura, have killed hundreds of civilians and burned scores of villages since early 2012. In Katanga province, in southeastern Congo, Mai Mai fighters have carried out brutal attacks, killing, raping, and mutilating dozens of civilians. The Congolese army has also been responsible for killings, rapes and ill-treatment of detainees, and few efforts have been made to bring senior-level perpetrators to account. Congolese security forces have carried out politically motivated arrests and other abuses against members of opposition parties, journalists, and human rights activists. Judicial authorities have failed to appropriately investigate and prosecute those responsible for violence during the flawed 2011 elections. In a positive step to end impunity for serious abuses, M23 commander Bosco Ntaganda surrendered to the United States embassy in Rwanda in March 2013, and was transferred to The Hague where he awaits trial by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
I'd heard of this remarkable young student at The Berklee College but hadn't looked her up until now. She is remarkable, very clever use of the different voices. Going from an F to a C instrument and back like she does in this piece must take a bit of getting used to.
"It was, of course, what we would call a radical movement, because the Gospels are radical."
This is refreshing, and quite accurate, as I recall things. I hadn't associated the coup in Brazil with Vatican II, but that certainly makes sense. As you review the history of the Kennedy administration, of its activities in Latin America and central Africa, its not looking much like a great flowering of liberalism. If Noam Chomsky has noticed that the Gospels are radical, that certainly makes it safe to point that out in blog brawls, doesn't it? I'd point out that large swaths of even Leviticus are quite radical as compared to the would-be radicalism of, say, the Fabians and even lots of "Marxist" groups.
I'm getting tired of people who tell me I'm not on the left when they're far more to the right than I am. It's often on the basis of being a political realist, knowing that passing better laws to make the lives of real people really better, of protecting the biosphere on which we all depend is infinitely better than striking what is taken by superficial people as a striking pose, gaining their esteem for the one who shows he's the most left in the room. Or, in these paranoid, isolated, lazy, dysfunctional times, on the comment thread.
Let's put my leftist bona fides to the test:
Support the right of workers to the ownership of the means of production? Yes. Support their right to be able to pay off, once and for all, all investments with a reasonable rate of interest AND THAT LENDING MONEY GIVES NO LEGITIMATE RIGHT OF OWNERSHIP OF THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION? Yes. Support a universal living wage? Yes. Support a limit on the upper end of income? Yes. Support the right to organize by all workers? Yes. Support full rights to paid absence for birth (two years) to care for loved ones, etc. Yes. Support the right of people to be protected against discrimination and sexual harassment on the job and outside of it? Yes. Support single-payer universal healthcare? Yes. Including dental, eye care, and all parts of the body? Yes. Support the right to excellent universal public education up to and including university level? Yes. Support the right of self-determination of all adults in so far as their own body is concerned? Yes' Support the legalization of marijuana and other low-risk drugs? Yes. Support affirmative action and its extension to LGBT folks? Yes. Support the right of women to choose whether to terminate a pregnancy? Yes. Support the right to full and accurate contraceptive information and methods? Yes. Support the proposition that all partners in sex have a moral obligation to prevent pregnancy and disease? Yes.
This could go on and on. But notice that last one, it carries another reason that the charge is made against people on the real left. Being a real liberal, being a real leftist goes far, far beyond merely putting requirements on government to provide for the common good, IT ALSO ACKNOWLEDGES AN OBLIGATION FOR INDIVIDUALS TO DO THE SAME. That personal obligation part is what is generally missing from pseudo-liberalism, so many are not so big on that part of it. But it is essential, most of what happens to people, to other sentient beings, to the environment isn't done to them by governments, it's done to them by individuals and groups of people. People who don't accept that obligation will not produce any kind of left that will make life better, they will produce a moral atrocity that discredits the left. They will produce a dismal, nasty result as certainly as the right will.
When Bill Clinton told the assembled and glittering crowd at one of his fundraisers that he wanted Hollywood to help him create the new American culture I cringed. There is probably no worse group to turn to if creating an American culture is going to be democratic, decent and sustainable. Lots of Hollywood hacks, directors, producers and actors have what are taken a liberal stands, most of them actually libertarian. But just look at the cynical dystopian view of life that they promote when they have those liberties to produce what they choose to. Just as an aside, the cheap imitation of profundity that cynicism has been sold as, an ongoing thing since the later decades of the 19th century, has gotten old. Only it began decayed so no one ever noticed. There is no surer sign of a hack without anything to say and limited abilities to say it than cynicism. Cynics are the crappiest leftists. They don't want to believe things can get better because that might mean some work has to be done.
Only it's not on the radio, the left being rarer on the radio than plate spinners on prime time TV, it's online. The left is almost as rare on the radio and the real left, the one with any prospects of gaining office and changing laws is entirely black listed.
After being alerted by the always alert RMJ to yet another anti-religious, OK, let's stop mincing words, it was an anti-Christian diatribe on Salon, I decided it's well past time to go after this all too common phenomenon. Just as you can count on the Phelps tribe to show up to get them some TV face time when a funeral is announced, you can count on the atheist haters to show up and spew on these cooky-cutter anti-religious posts on blogs and what pathetically passes for magazines online. That, as the always alert RMJ pointed out, they are known as "click bait" guaranteed to run up the hit count on blogs and magazines that carry advertising and so boost income, is not, credibly, a coincidence. Jeffry Tayler's screed asserts to be a list of 15 ways atheists can promote rationality. As Tayler is something of a self-appointed champion of the late Christopher Hitchens and he plasters a photo of Hitchens over his list, anyone who was familiar with his work and valued truth and rationality would at least get a good laugh out of that. The list is as obvious a lazy-assed, deadline filed style knockout that you can see in some of the NYT's more absurd columnists filed after a hard night of bar hopping. Only it's so bad that even Dowd has seldom managed one this bad.
As I said about Alternet a few months back, anti religious hate talk sells for these people. Only the quality of the hate on the pseudo-left isn't any higher than the hate on the real right. It is as superficially motivated and sustained, as geared to as low a caliber of discourse. They are a discourse of unreason posing as enlightenment. Only it's not enlightened, no matter how Bright the atheist ditto heads tell each other they are.
The pseudo-left that has developed online stinks as an intellectual entity. Conceited, bigoted and anti-democratic, it stinks even more as a political movement. You would think that the complete and utter failure of elite based would-be leftists for the past two centuries to capture the hearts and minds of the majority of the natural constituency of a real left, the poor, the destitute, the afflicted, ... that these people who love to believe they are intelligent would look at the history of that political failure and learn from it. Only they haven't and the evidence is that they never will. The revolution will not come from some brilliant atheist who is a big name in the Left Forum, it will come from The People and on the matter of atheism and what it has for them The People have voted with their feet and their votes. Atheism, certainly in the form being promoted by Salon and Alternet and dozens and hundreds of other peudo-leftist sites, is ballot box poison for the real left.
Another interesting program, this one about Vodou, from Krista Tippett's On Being this morning. I'm having a lot of trouble with my arm so I'll keep my commentary to a minimum. Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, a Vodou priest and scholar gave a much more interesting look into the religion than you usually get. His explanation of the series of deities and spirits and their relationship to God was especially interesting, a refutation of the idea that African religion is polytheistic.
Dr. Bellegarde-Smith: African religions have always been monotheistic, always. This is not true of ancient Greece. This is not true of ancient Rome. But this is certainly true of African systems. Tippett: Hmm. Dr. Bellegarde-Smith: And so they are monotheistic. However, god is immaterial in every sense of the word. God is an it. It's pure spirit that is so far removed from normal, from people in general, that one does not pray to It. In fact, in the African traditions, there are no prayers addressed to the supreme entity. No prayers. Tippett: OK. What is your word for the supreme entity? What's your word for god? Dr. Bellegarde-Smith: In Haitian, in Haitian Creole, we have adopted the French vocable, and that would be "Bon Dieu." Good god. "Bon Dieu." Tippett: Ah, that's Bon Dieu. Because it looks on the page like, B-O-N D-I-E. I see. Dr. Bellegarde-Smith: Yes. Tippett: That goes — OK. Dr. Bellegarde-Smith: Usually pronounced Bon Dieu if you're from the countryside. Tippett: I see. Dr. Bellegarde-Smith: There is another word for Him as well. Gran Met, the great master, the great architect. But there are no prayers addressed to Gran Met or to Bon Dieu. Tippett: OK. Dr. Bellegarde-Smith: What we do is to address our prayers to a number of spirits in the spirit world that are called lwa, L-W-A. And these are deities, but they are not God. They are deities and they have stories as fascinating as those gods in Greece or in Rome and elsewhere.
Which is interesting, as someone whohas read the faddish, pop-Pagan-neo-atheist disdain of "monotheism". This explanation would seem to make Vodou less related to the classical European religions than the quasi-Christian assertions of the Freemasons and the Catholic parctice of asking the saints to intercede with God on our behalf.
Vodon's music has always appealed to me, there is something quite compelling about it on a musical but also on a deeper, dare I say, spiritual level. I don't know the extent to which animal sacrifice really plays in the religion but I am entirely opposed to killing animals so that part, not so much. A vegetarian's stand. But I do respect the people who have endured centuries of slavery and then the active and intentional and undermining of their aspirations to self-government by American racists, something that began and is recorded in Thomas Jefferson's own words during his time on office.
Anyway, the program is well worth listening to and the transcript worth reading. It's especially interesting to find out that the Vodou doll, as so much of the middle-brow would-be erudition is an invention of Hollywood. There's a long series of blog posts that could be written about what educated people believe is reliable knowledge is based on the scribbling of third rate Hollywood and Broadway hacks. Maybe when I'm not typing one-handed.