Barrel Strength

Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Barrel Strength - Over-Proof Opinion, Smoothly Aged Insight

Christianity and Islam: A comparison of axioms and effects

All religions are ultimately propositions about the nature of reality. They are axioms – unproved and unprovable assumptions – about God, man and law. From these axioms civilizations and cultures proceed and develop.

Second, people who are used to treating Islam as a “religion” and only a religion, have a great deal of trouble understanding how its axioms could be so different from ours. Their axioms are fundamentally different, and they produce the effects we see.

Hence Muslim apologists attempt to suppress discussion of the scale and scope of its differences from Christianity and modern political institutions evolved from Christian precepts. If we actually saw what it proposed, we would laugh it to scorn.

A. Love

Christianity

God loves His creation, and especially our souls, which are his direct creation.
Effects:
Ch. -Man is obliged to express the love he has been given by God with love towards all.

Islam

God is infinitely remote, all-powerful, and does not love his human subjects.
Effects:
Obedience to God’s Laws is his supreme command; human love is just another source of distraction from that obedience. Human love should never stand in the way of God’s Laws.

Life is subjected to a comprehensive and minute regulation of mechanical (behavioural) obedience to laws. Fathers and brothers may kill daughters and wives  rather than have them bring disgrace upon the family for disobedience to God’s laws. Honour is more important than love.

B. Intelligibility of the Universe

Christianity

The Universe, being created by God, is governed by laws and is intelligible to human reason. God has no power to make 2+2=5, substantially, and because he cannot deceive us, we can know accurately.
Effects:
1. Science is possible. The discovery of physical processes and laws is part of the work of man.

2. Interpretation is a legitimate activity of the human mind.

3. That error is possible or even likely, does not invalidate the capacity of human reason to try to know the truth.

Islam

The universe is held together moment to moment, by God’s will alone. God may choose to deceive us. 2+2 may well equal 5, if that is God’s will. Our only surety is a revelation once offered which is complete, unalterable, and beyond judgment.
Effects:
1. Science is impossible, and essentially a blasphemous activity.

2. There is no cause other than God’s will; intermediate causes are without significance. Absence of curiosity about cause and effect.

3. Absence of science in the Islamic world, after the last Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, and pagans were driven out.

 

C. Free Will

Christianity

The soul, that part of us most like God , is free. There is free choice to do both good and evil; to sin and err, and to repent and recover, and to discover truth even by a passage through error.

Effects:

There is a standpoint outside history by which to judge what happens in the world of human doing. There is a morality by which to judge history. Truth may speak to power. Progress in understanding is possible,and we are called upon to make it.

Islam

All that happens is God’s will. There is only one choice, to submit to God’s laws as propagated one time, in one place, in one revelation. There is no standpoint from which to judge the world because, by definition, everything that happens is God’s will.

Effects:

In practice, total absence of a moral judgment save insofar as an action conforms or not to Islamic practice. Vast amounts of historical events cannot be judged, save only as they advance Islam, or not.

If I rob a bank, and shoot the guard, then the issue for Islam may well be limited to whether I may show up to prayers sweating from the activity, not the robbing of the bank and not the shooting of the guard. If the guard shoots me, insh’allah. If I shoot the guard, insh’allah. If the car stalls and I cannot get to the robbery, insh’allah. No cause for anything but Allah.

The morality of robbing banks may or may not be relevant, unless specifically covered in the Koran and Hadiths, and may turn only on whether the bank is Islamic owned or owned by Kuffar. There is no tendency to a universal morality independent of Islam (see mechanical obedience, above).

D. The legitimacy of human institutions

Christianity

There is a division between the realm of God and the realm of Caesar.
Effects:
Ultimately, a justification for a regime of action independent of, though influenced by, beliefs. Likewise a zone of belief in which the state has no or very limited jurisdiction. God is not especially concerned with the composition of the next government, save only insofar as human arrangements conduce to godly citizens.

Islam

There is no division between the realms of Caesar and of God. In the well-run Islamic state, God acts as Caesar (a theocracy).
All political struggle is religious, and all religious struggle, political.
Establishment of any other system is a blasphemy and idolatry. Shut down parliaments and non-Islamic courts.

The Prophet speaks! Reason and Revelation, State and Faith

After some digging, I have come across a picture of the Prophet Mohammad, whose visage is haram, lest it be worshiped, but which is familiar to us, and I hope by what you will read below that what I portray Him as, is an accurate description, in terms of political theology.

Adolf Hitler

 Demoralize the enemy from within by surprise, terror, sabotage, assassination. This is the war of the future.

- The Prophet

You may recall our Saviour said:

“Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things which are God’s” – Jesus of Nazareth

Few people seem to realize how much our civilization has been shaped by that division and injunction. In fact it shapes everything about us, even if it took 1500 years since Christ’s time to figure out the practical implications of the distinction.

Once you abolish the Christian distinction between the realms of Caesar and of God, you proclaim either their indivisibility, or the dominance of one over the other.

In Islam, God is Caesar – a theocracy. All things are religious, and all politics is theological. No distinction is made between issues of state and issues of faith, or between religion and, for that matter, pubic sanitation.

If God and Caesar are equal and coordinate, then you get western Civilization: Church is distinct from State.

If God is Caesar’s junior partner, then you have Russian Orthodox civilization.

If Caesar is God, then you have Sinic civilization.

Thus, Islam is not compatible with western civilization because the answers it proposes to the relationship of revelation to reason, and of State to Faith, are utterly different.

Faith and State constitute a different division of the world than reason and revelation. The faith can be informed by reason and the state can be informed by faith. But operationally the organizations have different well-springs of authority.

Here is Peter and upon this rock will I build my Church – Jesus of Nazareth

which if we translated, Jesus was saying here is ‘Rock’ and upon this rock will I build my Church. Even our Lord could not pass up an inevitable Greek pun. Note that He did not found his Church on the nearest Roman Legion commander. That would come four centuries later with the Emperor Constantine, for reasons of state. Disentangling State from Church took western civilization another thousand years to achieve, and was still being fought over between Pope and Holy Roman Emperor in the 1000s. See Canossa, for example.

Thus when I or Geert Wilders refers to Islam as a totalitarian political ideology, I am not being inaccurate. I am using a term of art.

It is time we stopped giving to Islam the status of a religion as we understand the term. It is no more a religion that National Socialism, and no less. It just talks about the Prophet in the way a dedicated Nazi speaks of the Fuhrer, and about Allah the way a National Socialist envisages the Force of History.

We need to get clear on the concept of what Islam is.

 

The Jesuit Relations and other accounts

The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents: Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in North America (1690-1791)  is a marvelous collection of letters written by the Jesuit missionaries in New France to their patrons and religious superiors in France. The writing is clear, vivid and simple.

One is entranced by the absolute gulf in comprehension between the European Catholic intellectuals and their would be converts, who are called Savages, Hurons, Iroquois, Abenaki, and so forth, but never as Indians.

The Hurons tell them of their idea of sun and moon and comets, to the sly amusement of the know-it all European. They tell the Jesuits of their idea of the afterlife, where the souls of the hunters hunt and trap the souls of the elk, deer and beavers in the happy hunting grounds. “What happens to the souls of the dead animals,” asks the Jesuit, “do they go to a further heaven.?” The Indian has no answer for this and like questions. He has never thought about it. The Indian has never thought about it because systematic inquiry into nature is not what he does or can do. If Father Sun and Mother Moon beget a child, which is dark, there is no contradiction between the luminous nature of the parents and the and the darkness of the child. It just is. Everything is a “just so” story (rather like evolution – but nevermind).

The depictions of Indian warfare and cruelty never vary: they are in constant warfare, and their behaviour is cruel in the extreme. Here is a short story from 1649. A war band of Tobacco Indians had left a village around Chambly, Quebec to seek out a war party of Iroquois, who were thought to be outnumbered and on the run. Consequently their own village was defenceless.

It was on the seventh day of the month of last December, in the year 1649, toward three o’clock in the afternoon, that this band of Iroquois appeared at the gates of the village, spreading immediate dismay, and striking terror into the poor people, – bereft of their strength and finding themselves vanquished; when they thought themselves to be conquerors. Some took to flight; others were slain on the spot. To many, the flames, which were already consuming their cabins, gave the first intelligence of the disaster. Many were taken prisoner, but the victorious enemy, fearing the return of the warriors who had gone to meet them, hastened their retreat so precipitately, that they put to death all the old men and children, and all whom they deemed unable to keep up with them in their flight.

It was a scene of incredible cruelty. The enemy snatched from a Mother her infants, that they might be thrown into the fire; other children  beheld their Mothers beaten to death at their feet, or groaning in the flames, – permission in either case denied them to show the least compassion. It was a crime to shed a tear, these barbarians demanding that their prisoners go into capacity as if they were marching to their triumph. A poor Christian Mother, who wept for the death of her infant, was killed on the spot, because she still loved, and could not stifle soon enough her Natural feelings”.

-Father Paul Ragueneau

You can talk all you like about European settlement of North America, its depredations upon the native people both deliberate and inadvertent, such as smallpox and other “childhood” diseases which reduced their numbers by 95%. It was a catastrophic disaster for them, and they still have not recovered. But would any rational person hold that the endemic, cruel and mutual exterminations – and the psychological damage it did to both perpetrators and victims alike – constitute a model for how a society should be run?

In Christianity, only one person was crucified, in order that cruelty be abolished. The religion founded on the crucifixion of its founder has not completely triumphed, as we all observe. Can anyone doubt, however,  that Christianity marks a permanent and irreversible improvement in human behaviour, when compared to the universal and compulsory group savagery of what came before?

“Love is the only engine of survival” – Leonard Cohen

Male unemployment, and what it means

The New York Times discusses male unemployment in the United States.
I am glad they have noticed, finally.

After decades of celebrating “diversity” and affirmative action [code for anti-white discrimination], deploring the glass ceiling and favouring female empowerment [code for anti-male discrimination], mass immigration of low paid Central American peasants and off-shoring [producing downward pressure on working class wages], the elites may be waking up to the crisis they have engendered. I accuse the Republicans as much as the Democrats for fostering many of these conditions.

Working, in America, is in decline. The share of prime-age men — those 25 to 54 years old — who are not working has more than tripled since the late 1960s, to 16 percent. More recently, since the turn of the century, the share of women without paying jobs has been rising, too. The United States, which had one of the highest employment rates among developed nations as recently as 2000, has fallen toward the bottom of the list….

Many men, in particular, have decided that low-wage work will not improve their lives, in part because deep changes in American society have made it easier for them to live without working. These changes include the availability of federal disability benefits; the decline of marriage, which means fewer men provide for children; and the rise of the Internet, which has reduced the isolation of unemployment.

 

It seems that the people in the New York Times may have read Charles Murray’s Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 (2012). They are describing what Murray has been worried about for decades.

Murray’s thesis is both simple and well demonstrated. Society is becoming increasingly stratified around intelligence. The more intelligent are marrying and breeding within their cognitive class. The zip codes of the elites are home to the top half of the ninety-ninth centile of wealth. Geographic separation of the cognitive elites is well developed.

In chapter 4 of his book, called “How thick is your bubble?”, he tests the reader to a number of different questions, whose difficulty you will have in answering, will disabuse you of the notion that you do not live among, and are a member of, the cognitive elite.

For most of the rest of the chapters, Murray details the decline in family formation, industriousness, honesty and religiosity of the American working class.

Murray tells us why this matters.

The deterioration of social capital in the lower-class white America strips the people who live there of one of the main resources through which Americans have pursue happiness. The same may be said of the deterioration in marriage, industriousness, honesty and religiosity. These are not aspects of life that may or may not be important, depending on personal preferences.Together, they make up the stuff of life. (p.253)

The New York Times article points out the centrality of work to self-respect.

A study published in October by scholars at the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Family Studies estimated that 37 percent of the decline in male employment since 1979 could be explained by this retreat from marriage and fatherhood.

“When the legal, entry-level economy isn’t providing a wage that allows someone a convincing and realistic option to become an adult — to go out and get married and form a household — it demoralizes them and shunts them into illegal economies,” said Philippe Bourgeois, an anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania who has studied the lives of young men in urban areas. “It’s not a choice that has made them happy. They would much rather be adults in a respectful job that pays them and promises them benefits.”

[When the New York Times cites the conservative  American Enterprise Institute, you know something important is happening.]

The decline we observe comes back to simple moral elements of society that we have done our best to disparage, to consider optional, to treat as way more mutable than they really are, or can be: work, faith, family, children, morality. Yes there are issues of production, taxation, and technology, as there ever were. But when and if the history of this time is written, it will be described as the Great Darkness, a decadent time,  from which men and women arose, and not the high tide of human existence, which some people feel it is, on grounds of our material abundance. Measuring civilization by the number of countries that contribute produce to our wine cellars is a deceptive indicator.

 

American Thanksgiving and Puritan Geopolitics in the Americas

 

Puritan Settlement

The painting “Desembarco de los Puritanos en America,” or “The Arrival of the Pilgrims in America,” by Antonio Gisbert shows Puritans landing in America in 1620. By Antonio Gisbert (1834-1902) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Summary

The first winter took many of the English at Plymouth. By fall 1621, only 53 remained of the 132 who had arrived on the Mayflower. But those who had survived brought in a harvest. And so, in keeping with tradition, the governor called the living 53 together for a three-day harvest feast, joined by more than 90 locals from the Wampanoag tribe. The meal was a moment to recognize the English plantation’s small step toward stability and, hopefully, profit. This was no small thing. A first, deadly year was common. Getting through it was an accomplishment. England’s successful colony of Virginia had had a massive death toll — of the 8,000 arrivals between 1607 and 1625, only 15 percent lived.

But still the English came to North America and still government and business leaders supported them. This was not without reason. In the 17th century, Europe was in upheaval and England’s place in it unsure. Moreover, England was going through a period of internal instability that would culminate in the unthinkable — civil war in 1642 and regicide in 1649. England’s colonies were born from this situation, and the colonies of Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay and the little-known colony of Providence Island in the Caribbean were part of a broader Puritan geopolitical strategy to solve England’s problems.

Analysis

Throughout the first half of the 17th century, England was wracked by internal divisions that would lead to civil war in 1642. Religion was a huge part of this. The dispute was over the direction of the Church of England. Some factions favored “high” church practices that involved elaborate ritual. The Puritans, by contrast, wanted to clear the national religion of what they considered Catholic traces. This religious crisis compounded a political crisis at the highest levels of government, pitting Parliament against the monarchy.

By the beginning of the 17th century, England had undergone centralizing reforms that gave the king and his Parliament unrestricted power to make laws. Balance was needed. The king had the power to call Parliament into session and dismiss it. Parliament had the power to grant him vital funds needed for war or to pay down debt. However, Parliament had powerful Puritan factions that sought not only to advance their sectarian cause but also to advance the power of Parliament beyond its constraints. Kings James I and his son Charles I, for their part, sought to gain an unrestrained hold on power that would enable them to make decisive strategic choices abroad. They relied, internally and externally, on Catholics, crypto-Catholics and high church advocates — exacerbating the displeasure of Parliament.

Both kings continually fought with Parliament over funding for the monarchy’s debt and for new ventures. Both dissolved Parliament several times; Charles ultimately did so for a full 11 years beginning in 1629.

 

 

europe_circa_1600 (1)

Europe in 1600

Spain was England’s major strategic problem on the Continent. Protestant England saw itself as under constant threat from the Catholic powers in Europe. This led to problems when the people came to see their leaders, James I and his son Charles, as insufficiently hostile to Spain and insufficiently committed to the Protestant cause on the Continent. In order to stop mounting debt, shortly after taking power James made the unpopular move of ending a war with Spain that England had been waging alongside the Netherlands since 1585. In 1618, the Thirty Years’ War broke out in the German states — a war that, in part, pitted Protestants against Catholics and spread throughout Central Europe. James did not wish to become involved in the war. In 1620, the Catholic Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II, a relative of Spain’s King Philip III, pushed Frederick V, the Protestant son-in-law of England’s King James, out of his lands in Bohemia, and Spain attacked Frederick in his other lands in the Rhineland. The English monarchy called for a defense of Frederick but was unwilling to commit to significant military action to aid him.

Puritan factions in Parliament, however, wanted England to strike at Spain directly by attacking Spanish shipments from the Americas, which could have paid for itself in captured goods. To make matters worse, from 1614 to 1623, James I pursued an unpopular plan to marry his son Charles to the Catholic daughter of Philip III of Spain — a plan called the “Spanish Match.” Instead, Charles I ended up marrying the Catholic daughter of the king of France in 1625. This contributed to the impression that James and Charles were too friendly with Spain and Catholicism, or even were secret Catholics. Many Puritans and other zealous promoters of the Protestant cause began to feel that they had to look outside of the English government to further their cause.

Amid this complex constellation of Continental powers and England’s own internal incoherence, a group of Puritan leaders in Parliament, who would later play a pivotal role in the English Civil War, focused on the geopolitical factors that were troubling England. Issues of finance and Spanish power were at the core. A group of them struck on the idea of establishing a set of Puritan colonial ventures in the Americas that would simultaneously serve to unseat Spain from her colonial empire and enrich England, tipping the geopolitical balance. In this they were continuing Elizabeth I’s strategy of 1585, when she started a privateer war in the Atlantic and Caribbean to capture Spanish treasure ships bound from the Americas. Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay were part of this early vision, but they were both far too remote to challenge the Spanish, and the group believed that the area’s climate precluded it from being a source of vast wealth from cash crops. New England, however, was safe from Spanish aggression and could serve as a suitable starting point for a colonial push into the heart of Spanish territory.

The Effects of Spanish Colonization

Spain’s 1492 voyage to the Americas and subsequent colonization had changed Europe indelibly by the 17th century. It had complicated each nation’s efforts to achieve a favorable balance of power. As the vanguard of settlement in the New World, Spain and Portugal were the clear winners. From their mines, especially the Spanish silver mine in Potosi, American precious metals began to flow into their government coffers in significant amounts beginning in 1520, with a major uptick after 1550. Traditionally a resource-poor and fragmented nation, Spain now had a reliable revenue source to pursue its global ambitions.

 

spanish-colonies
Spanish Colonies in the Carribbean

This new economic power added to Spain’s already advantageous position. At a time when England, France and the Netherlands were internally divided between opposing sectarian groups, Spain was solidly Catholic. As a result of its unity, Spain’s elites generally pursued a more coherent foreign policy. Moreover, Spain had ties across the Continent. Charles V was both king of Spain and Holy Roman emperor, making him the most powerful man of his era. He abdicated in 1556, two years before his death, and divided his territories among his heirs. His son, Philip II of Spain, and Charles’ brother, Ferdinand I, inherited the divided dominions and retained their ties to each other, giving them power throughout the Continent and territory surrounding France.

Despite having no successful colonies until the beginning of the 17th century, England did see some major benefits from the discovery of the Americas. The addition of the Western Atlantic to Europe’s map and the influx of trade goods from that direction fundamentally altered trade routes in Europe, shifting them from their previous intense focus on the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean to encompass an ocean on which England held a unique strategic position. The nearby Netherlands — recently free from Spain — enjoyed a similar position and, along with England, took a major new role in shipping. By the middle of the 17th century, the Dutch had a merchant fleet as large as all others combined in Europe and were competing for lands in the New World. Sweden, another major European naval power, also held a few possessions in North America and the Caribbean. (This led to curious events such as “New Sweden,” a colony located along the Delaware River, falling under Dutch control in the 1650s and becoming part of the “New Netherlands.”)

England’s Drive Into the New World

In spite of its gains in maritime commerce, England was still far behind Spain and Portugal in the Americas. The Iberian nations had established a strong hold on South America, Central America and the southern portions of North America, including the Caribbean. Much of North America, however, remained relatively untouched. It did not possess the proven mineral wealth of the south but it had a wealth of natural capital — fisheries, timber, furs and expanses of fertile soil.

However, much of the population of the Americas was in a band in central Mexico, meaning that the vast pools of labor available to the Spanish and Portuguese were not present elsewhere in North America. Instead, England and other colonial powers would need to bring their own labor. They were at a demographic advantage in this regard. Since the 16th century, the Continent’s population had exploded. The British Isles and Northwest Europe grew the most, with England expanding from 2.6 million in 1500 to around 5.6 million by 1650. By contrast, the eastern woodlands of North America in 1600 had around 200,000 inhabitants — the population of London. Recent catastrophic epidemics brought by seasonal European fishermen and traders further decimated the population, especially that of New England. The disaster directly benefited Plymouth, which was built on the site of the deserted town of Patuxet and used native cleared and cultivated land.

After its founding in 1620, Plymouth was alone in New England for a decade and struggled to become profitable. It was the first foothold, however, for a great Puritan push into the region. In time, this push would subsume the tiny separatist colony within the larger sphere of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. This new colony’s numbers were much higher: The first wave in 1630 brought 700 English settlers to Salem, and by 1640 there were 11,000 living in the region.

Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay were different from nearby Virginia. Virginia was initially solely a business venture, and its colonists provided the manpower. New England, by contrast, was a settler society of families from the start. Both Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay were started by English Puritans — Christian sectarians critical of the state-run Church of England. Plymouth’s settlers were Puritan separatists who wanted no connection to England. Massachusetts Bay’s colonists were non-separatist Puritans who believed in reforming the church. For both, creating polities in North America furthered their sectarian political goals. The pilgrims wanted to establish a separate godly society to escape persecution; the Puritans of Salem wanted to establish a beacon that would serve to change England by example. Less known, however, is that the financial backers of the New England colonies had a more ambitious goal of which New England was only the initial phase.

In this plan, Massachusetts was to provide profit to its investors, but it was also to serve as a way station from which they could then send settlers to a small colony they simultaneously founded on Providence Island off the Miskito Coast of modern Nicaragua. This island, now part of Colombia, was in the heart of the Spanish Caribbean and was meant to alter the geopolitics of Central America and bring it under English control. It was in this way that they hoped to solve England’s geostrategic problems on the Continent and advance their own political agenda.

Providence was an uninhabited island in an area where the Spanish had not established deep roots. The island was a natural fortress, with a coral reef that made approach difficult and high, craggy rocks that helped in defense. It also had sheltered harbors and pockets of fertile land that could be used for production of food and cash crops.

It would serve, in their mind, as the perfect first foothold for England in the lucrative tropical regions of the Americas, from which it could trade with nearby native polities. In the short run, Providence was a base of operations, but in the long run it was to be a launchpad for an ambitious project to unseat Spain in the Americas and take Central America for England. In keeping with Puritan ideals, Providence was to be the same sort of “godly” society as Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth, just a more profitable one. Providence Island would enable the English to harry Spanish ships, bring in profit to end disputes with the crown and bolster the Protestant position in the Thirty Years’ War.

 

plymouth_colony

But while Massachusetts Bay would succeed, Providence would fail utterly. Both Massachusetts Bay and Providence Island received their first shipment of Puritan settlers in 1630. Providence was expected to yield immense profits, while Massachusetts was expected to be a tougher venture. Both were difficult, but Providence’s constraints proved fatal. The island did not establish a cash crop economy and its attempts to trade with native groups on the mainland were not fruitful.

The island’s geopolitical position in Spanish military territory meant that it needed to obsessively focus on security. This proved its downfall. After numerous attacks and several successful raids on Spanish trade on the coast, the investors decided in 1641 to initiate plans to move colonists down from Massachusetts Bay to Providence. Spanish forces received intelligence of this plan and took the island with a massive force, ending England’s control.

Puritan Legacies

The 1641 invasion ended English settlement on the island, which subsequently became a Spanish military depot. The Puritans left little legacy there. New England, however, flourished. It became, in time, the nearest replica of English political life outside of the British Isles and a key regional component of the Thirteen Colonies and, later, the United States. It was the center of an agricultural order based on individual farmers and families and later of the United States’ early manufacturing power. England sorted out its internal turmoil not by altering its geopolitical position externally — a project that faced serious resource and geographical constraints — but through massive internal upheaval during the English Civil War.

The celebration of the fruits of the Plymouth Colony’s brutal first year is the byproduct of England’s struggle against Spain on the Continent and in the New World. Thus, the most celebrated meal in America comes with a side of geopolitics.

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Allah is Dead: Rebecca Bynum on Islam

Rebecca Bynum is the author of a slim volume called “Allah is Dead: Why Islam is not a religion.” Every person concerned with what this thing is, ought to read it. Bynum characterizes Islam as something which is not essentially a religion, though it talks a lot about God, but as a totalitarian and essentially  immoral system of social organization which abolishes religion and morality, as we have understood those terms. The only thing left is material and outward obedience to a system, but which is deadly to all conceptions of an inner spiritual life.

Her point is that religion, properly conceived,  is taking a bad rap because many people conflate Islam with all religions and fail to understand why all religion leaves doors open that Islam declares to be shut forever. She calls it a “duck-billed platypus” of a religion, one so different from all others that its true nature is confusing to those brought up in any other, including secular humanism

I have spoken about this before. Robert Reilly’s The Closing of the Muslim Mind demonstrates the baneful effects of Islam’s conjecture that God is holding  together the entire universe at every instance and in every molecule. Everything, I mean everything, is God’s will. If I win the battle, if I lose the battle, if I torture you to death, or you torture me to death: it is all God’s will. Thus morality does not stand apart from history and judges it; morality is revealed in history, and whatever wins, is God’s will. Reilly demonstrates how Islam committed intellectual suicide a long time ago; Bynum shows how modern western society is so defenceless against Islam’s claims.

The most dangerous aspect of Islam is that it strikes western societies at the time when they have largely abandoned the Christianity that gave them the confidence to pursue science, and to assert human rights.

Our behaviour and our culture are shaped by our conception of the Deity. If God is in some sense knowable, and if he has established laws or regularities that govern the physical properties of the universe, then two things are open to us: theology and science. It is a fact that science as we understand it is the unique property of Christian civilization, precisely because priests and scientists alike believe in the rational intelligibility of nature. [Space does not permit arguing this truth at greater length. To those who do not believe it, I suggest they read more about the history of science]. To the extent that God is knowable, we can model ourselves on the loving, orderly, creative God who lets us find out for ourselves what the right path should be. Freedom to sin and freedom to find the truth are at the core of Christianity. We are not automatons.

These two doors onto the universe and what lies beyond it have been slammed shut by Islam. God is essentially unknowable in any sense,  he does not love us, and his rule is caprice. As we form ourselves on the idea of the good, and hence of the ultimate good, God, so we form our behaviour and culture. If Islamic rule at the patriarchal familial and political level is capricious, immoral, violent, and frenzied, it is merely the reflection of their idea of God.

In Bynum’s opening chapter there is a line about the Western reaction to these unpleasant truths:

As the light of truth shines upon reality and defines the outlines of evil, it is inevitable that some should mistake the bearers of this truth as the source of their fear, the fear of the necessity for a decision, and lash out at those defining the conflict as evil dividers of humanity. For as secularists and Muslims themselves learn about the truth about Islam’s bloody doctrine and history, they must each individually make a moral decision and this they wish to avoid at all costs ….In the absence of truth, there is no necessity for division; therefore, truth itself becomes the enemy and secularists and some religionists unwittingly become emotional defenders of lies.

Allah is Dead is a far better book than I can tell you about here. I recommend it for its clear and deep analysis of how much trouble we are in. The fault, in short, lies not in the stars, but in ourselves, and Islam is merely the opportunistic pathogen striking the body of western civilization, weakened as it is by a failure of belief.

 

 

The Nationalization of the Family

Your meme for today is the phrase Mark Steyn is touting as the catch-all explanation for Western cultural decline: the nationalization of the family.

My problem with Steyn is a complete inability to think of any better explanation when I read him.

The lure of cosmic cultural pessimism is strong, and the 20th and 21st centuries offer much confirmation that Western civilization is in the tank.

But for every Spengler, or David Bentley Hart, life offers rational optimists, like Matt Ridley. And to tell you the truth, I do not know where I sit between these uncomfortable prophets of doom and the dwellers in the sunny uplands of improvement.

The obvious point is that the physical circumstances of life are improving for all, and the cultural milieu in which we live is largely the wasteland of post-Christianity. And some react to the wasteland by going for the black and white certainties of Islam.

Multicultiuralism and anti-whitism have left us defenceless before the Ebola of religions.

Neurotwaddle

An important funding source for neuro-imaging via MRIs will no longer fund studies concerned with showing which parts of the brain light up when certain activities are engaged. The funding source is the James S. McDonnell Foundation.  The reason why it will not longer do so was given thus:

“Proposals proposing to use functional imaging to identify the ‘neural correlates’ of cognitive or behavioral tasks (for example, mapping the parts of the brain that ‘light up’ when different groups of subjects play chess, solve physics problems, or choose apples over oranges) are not funded through this program. In general, JSMF and its expert advisors have taken an unfavorable view of .  .  . functional imaging studies using poorly characterized tasks as proxies for complex behavioral issues involving empathy, moral judgments, or social decision-making.”

The heartland of neuroimaging has decided that areas of the brain lighting up tell us nothing about empathy, judgments, and decision-making. Bravo! Another blow against neurotwaddle.

The most significant critic of neurotwaddle, a man who is himself a physician and an atheist, is Raymond Tallis. Tallis has written several important critiques of materialist reductionism – the “we are nothing but a bunch of neurons” school, in which  Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Crick and their useful idiot Hitchens are to be found.

I found an article of Tallis’ on the same subject in the New Humanist magazine of January 2010. It is worth reading. Tallis finds all talk of neuroimaging techniques identifying “God-spots” in the brain as utter rubbish.

At first sight, it might seem that a humanist atheist like me should welcome the reduction of religious belief to tingles in parts of the brain. It will be evident now why I do not. The idea of God is the greatest, though possibly the most destructive, idea that mankind has ever entertained. The notion that all there is originated from and is controlled by a Maker is a profound and distinctively human response to the amazing fact that the world makes sense. This response is more, not less, extraordinary for the fact that it has no foundation in truth and, indeed, God is a logically impossible object.

How mighty are the works of man and how much more impressive when they are founded on an idea to which nothing corresponds! Cutting this idea down to size, by neurologising and Darwinising it, is to deal not only religion but also humanity a terrible blow. It undermines our uniqueness and denies our ability, shared by no other creature, to distance ourselves from nature. In defending religious belief against neuro-evolutionary reductionism, atheist humanists and theists have a common cause, and in reductive naturalism, a common adversary.

Readers will know I am not an atheist; I find greater truth in belief, and I find works like David Bentley Hart’s The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness  Bliss more persuasive than Tallis’ non-materialist humanism. For me, Tallis is on a narrow ledge between materialist reductionsim, which he rightly rejects, and belief in a supernatural ordering Creator, in whom we move and have our being. But that is possibly a matter of taste, and is certainly not a matter for compulsion. His attacks on neurotwaddle are more welcome because he is an atheist.

Here is David Bentley Hart on the issue of reductionism – the school of thought that asserts “we are nothing but _________ neurons, genes, dancing atoms (pick one)”.

 Once more, the physicalist reduction of any phenomenon to purely material forces explains nothing if one cannot then reconstruct the phenomenon from its material basis without invoking any higher causes; but this no computation picture of human thought can ever do. Symbols exist only from above, as it were, in the consciousness looking downward along that path of descent, acting always as a higher cause upon material reality. Looking up from the opposite direction, from below to above, one finds only an intraversible abyss, separating the intentional nullity of matter from the intentional plenitude of mind. It is an absolute error to imagine that the electrical activity in a computer is itself a computation….All computation is ontologically dependent on consciousness.” (p.223)

Ontologically” means “having to do with being itself”, an idea more easily rendered in Greek than English.

A parting shot from Hart:

The mechanical picture of reality, which is the metaphysical frame within which we pursue or conquest of nature, is one that forecloses, arbitrarily and peremptorily , a great number of questions that a rational culture should leave open”.

There are vast questions that should be left open. Raise a ragged cheer for a rational culture!