Monday, December 17, 2007

Hitchens, Chanukah and Imperialism

Christopher Hitchens recently produced a vulgar screed against Chanukah with his Slate article entitled "Bah, Hanukkah." The general impetus which stimulates, for Hitchens, attacks such as this, is the frightful imperialist dogmatism of secular tribalism. The aggressive imperialist attitude that the West should invade the near-East due to the perceived or real fact that the West is more secular, more advanced and simply better is, outside of being objectively ethnocentric and possibly racist, clearly dangerous; it is precisely what Stalin argued for.

This tribal attitude appears to be the underlying motivation for Hitchens’ scurrilous historical screed against Chanukah. Hitchens makes manifest the vulgar tribal tendency through the failure to make the fundamental distinction between historical religious content and the content of the religion’s adherent’s beliefs and practices. The vast majority of modern Jews, virtually all of them so far as I can tell, do not view Chanukah as a celebration of Jewish fundamentalism, as Hitchens erroneously claims in his screed, but rather, Jews view Chanukah – a holiday of far less religious significance than Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Passover and Shavu’ot, in fact, Chanukah is not even mentioned within Jewish scripture – as progressive Christians view Christmas; as a time to share with family and community, to give and receive gifts, share love and fraternity and celebrate life, which is why the rituals are family-based and communal.

Hitchens then castigates Michael Lerner for observing that “Hellenism was ‘imperialistic,’” which, in the case of the Seceucid Empire, it clearly and without controversy was. I know little about the relevant history, but, is it not the case that the Maccabean Revolt was, in fact, a revolt against the imperial invasion perpetrated by the Seceucid Empire? The answer seems clear enough to me. This being the case, clearly the Maccabees had the right to defend themselves against the invading forces, regardless of the alleged archaic, cruel and fundamentalist nature of the form of faith they practiced and believed in. A culture’s alleged general irrationality and backwardness is neither a justification for nor an argument in favor of its invasion and oppression.

This really is the heart of the matter. Hitchens is of the Stalinist opinion that secular betters not only have the right, but even further, the actual obligation to invade, convert or destroy the culture and society of those whose faith is found to be wanting. This is nothing more than the militant tribal atheism as preached by Stalin, finding direct parallel with the pronouncements of Mohammad as dictated in the Hadith, incidentally, the founder of the religion Hitchens could not see destroyed soon enough.

Norman Finkelstein has observed that Hitchens lacks principle and that this lack of principle accounts for the opportunist outbursts that Hitchens is well known for, his recent screed against Chanukah being only the most recent example, his opposition to abortion being another. Finkelstein pointed out that “two altogether opposed political stances can each draw an audience’s attention. One is to be politically consistent, but nonetheless original in one’s insights; the other, an inchoate form of apostasy, is to bank on the shock value of an occasional, wildly inconsistent outburst.” Finkelstein’s point being that Hitchens lacks principle and relies upon the shock value of wild outbursts in order to get the audience’s attention, for reasons which seem clear enough.

I believe that this is roughly accurate – as is evident in the debate about the Iraq war between Hitchens and George Galloway, wherein Hitchens mocks those in the crowed who oppose imperialism[1] - but, even more relevant still is Noam Chomsky’s observation that Bolshevism – which Trotskyism is a variant of, the tendency which Hitchens self-professed for some time – and bourgeois market-society, corporate state-capitalism, share many similarities, such as central management and a vanguard of revolutionary conscious, intellectual betters[2], the ranks of which Hitchens would clearly count himself among.

Chomsky observes that “similar considerations may explain in part the appeal of [Bolshevik] doctrines to certain segments of the Western intelligentsia, as well as the ease with which many of the same people switch to the more typical stance of the intelligentsia: service to their own state, either in a managerial or ideological capacity. The doctrine of state worship has not dramatically changed, though it is shaped by a different assessment of how one can gain privilege and a degree of power.”

I believe that this background sheds light on and helps better understand Hitchens’ apparent lack of principle and undeniable abandonment of the socialist left. It’s not so much that Hitchens lacked leftist principles, it’s that he shared the principles of the kitsch-left, of Bolshevism, and that these principles were and became ever more indistinguishable for him from the principles of the bourgeois intelligentsia emanating from within the corporate ruling class of market-society.

[1] Imperialism being, as it is, an integral and central concern of the left, this was one of the early and unambiguous pieces of evidence that Hitchens had become a political apostate. His scurrilous attack on Chomsky – the very same ad hominem attack the right has been churning out to fit the varying circumstances since the sixties, the one which can be read in its laughably crude and ignorant form in The End of Faith by Sam Harris – being yet another.
As Finkelstein correctly points out, attacking Chomsky is something a bit too much like a political coming of age ritual, every far-right hack and left-apostate has engaged in this orgy of propaganda, from Hitchens to Kaplan, Harris to Horowitz.

[2] Mikhail Bakunin critiqued this conception of a ruling intelligentsia as being "a new class, a new hierarchy of real and counterfeit scientists and scholars,” who will seek to create “the reign of scientific intelligence, the most aristocratic, despotic, arrogant and elitist of all regimes.” Bakunin’s critique anticipated Antonio Gramsci’s exposition of the “organic intellectuals,” the “thinking and organizing element of a particular fundamental-social class. These organic intellectuals are distinguished less by their profession…than by their function in directing the ideas and aspirations of the class to which they organically belong.”

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Terrorism

"Everybody’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s a really easy way: stop participating in it.” – Noam Chomsky.


At this point in time many atheists and non-believers revere Sam Harris as one of the preeminent “new atheists.” My blog post entitled “Secular Tribalism” was in part a response to this phenomenon of “new atheism;” which is nothing new, the term is misleading for several reasons, it’s simply extremist, narrow-minded and tribal atheism.

The entire phenomenon of new atheism has emerged mostly from the smoldering rubble of the twin towers. It is more of an emotionally hysterical response to 9-11 than it is of scientific inquiry; thus accounts for the sudden concern for “Islamic terrorism” when, in fact, such terrorism had been occurring for years.

Sam Harris is one of the leading figures of the assault on religion, from violent to benign, and argues that terrorism as it is emanating from the Arab world is produced within and through the paradigm of Islam. Were it not for the metaphysical beliefs in the principles of martyrdom, argues Harris, the Arab world would not be producing suicide terrorism. However, Harris relies upon neither empirical evidence nor any sort of scientific data set; he simply propagates anecdotal stories and intuitive hearsay.

Scott Atran, the world's leading specialist on the subject of terrorism and also, if it is of any interest, an atheist, points out that, through studying every case of terrorism recorded in modern history, there is found an inverse correlation between suicidal terrorism and such things as Mosque attendance, knowledge of the Qur’an and involvement with Islam. Suicide terrorism is motivated by moral outrage stemming from desperate situations and small, tight groups which form strong familial bonds. The moral outrage being stimulated by, for instance, the ongoing military occupations of the West Bank, Gaza and Iraq and all of the evil which then necessarily follows.

Taking a more historical view of this one can go all the way back to what is referred to as the “Golden Age of Islam,” which spanned from approximately the eighth century to the fourteenth or fifteenth. During this time Arab culture did very well with the presence of Islam. The Andalusian philosophers usually debated within the confines of Islam. On can take a look at the work of Ibn Rushd, for example, a semi-materialist, and find serious philosophy which incorporated Aristotle’s work. During the so-called “golden age” there was a lively and diverse Islamic intelligentsia ranging form the orthodox to the utter heretical.

Extremists such as Harris either have to ignore or distort this period. Some go so far as to argue that the end of the golden age was the result of Islam itself. Scott Atran points to the “golden age” and the fact that “all of a sudden it disappeared” and then asks “what happened, was there a flip-flop of an essence?” His response, as is mine, is of course not. As he continues, there “were massive waves of Mongols and other Asian hordes and then the colonials completely sundered the Arab heartland.” The devastation of the Arab world not being the inevitable product of Islam, but rather, Western colonial-imperialism and its nefarious consequences.

Atran points out that only now is the Arab world being reconstituted, very slowly, and that the “jihadis see themselves as the vanguard of a massive, transnational, media driven political awakening of which the Arabian mythos…is the motive to reconquer dignity.”

The usual and predictable response of the extremist to this history is to charge the individual who is presenting it with offering apologetics for Islam, for calling for “understanding” of terrorism as if to justify it.

This is, of course, standard propaganda. No one is arguing for the understanding of terrorism in order to justify it or excuse it. Serious people, such as Scott Atran and Noam Chomsky, are calling for understanding in order to better understand the sources and motivations for terrorism in the full range of complexity in the socio-political and historical contexts from which they arise to therefore be more equipped to eradicate terrorism.

In the Arab world there are very serious grievances felt by the populations and from these grievances terrorist groups organize and use as a pretext said grievances so as to appear as a vanguard of the oppressed and impoverished. If anyone is at all serious about eradicating terrorism, one would not only combat the terrorist groups, an entirely valid tactic, but, they would also address the very real and serious grievances of the populations, in order that terrorist bands no longer be able to present themselves as a vanguard of the so aggrieved.

Unfortunately, powerful states such as the United States, Israel and Russia are not concerning themselves with said grievances. They are instead occupying Middle Eastern territory, carrying out collective punishment – which only serves, as security analysts have for a long time pointed out, to further radicalize the populations and embolden the terrorist elements – and, in fact, organizing, supporting and arming various terrorist groups. It must not be forgotten that the mujahadin, which later became al-Qaeda, was organized, armed and trained by the CIA in order that they might be used in the proxy war with the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

To solve the problem of “Islamic terrorism” requires a deeper and more serious analysis of the situation from which it emerges. The reactionary and blind response that is the claim that terrorism is motivated solely by the principles of Islam is just plain ignorant. Another very serious factor which must be either ignored or dismissed by the extremists such as Harris is that the extremists are viewing, in the words of Neil deGrasse Tyson - a well known astrophysicist and, like both Atran and Chomsky, also an atheist – “suicide bombings as some kind of intrinsically noble exercise within the paradigm [of Islam] and abhorrent from the outside, but, would there be suicide bombings if the Islamic community had their own air force and tanks? I don’t think so. They would be invoking the military machines that the rest of the West has available to itself.” Atran responds by saying that the jihadis he interviews “say so quite specifically”; which accounts for the fact that when attempted suicide bombers are interviewed and asked what their motivations were they rarely if ever invoke Islamic metaphysics, instead referring to the plight of their benighted brothers and sisters in the Occupied Territories, the moral outrage Atran speaks of.

The real threat of “Islamic terrorism” is not a threat of the religion of Islam, for Americans and the West generally, the real religious threat comes from Christian extremists, not radical Muslims, it is a threat of Western Imperialism and the blowback which it quite understandably and predictably instigates. The religious threat in the United States, again, comes from Christian extremism rather than radical Islam. The United States is one of the success cases of Muslim integration. The only problem, and it is a real problem, stems from anti-Arab racism and anti-Muslim bigotry. However, this is not to imply that criticism of Islam or of Islamic practices is parallel to bigotry. The point is that the hysterical claims that Arabs and Muslims, by virtue of being either Arabs or Muslims, are lesser than other people or are more dangerous and savage, are claims manifesting the most archaic form of bigotry that should at least have the decency to present itself from under a white hood, in order that there be no confusion.

This sort of conflated anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry Edward Said referred to as “Orientalism” in his book of the same title. Said argues that “Orientalism is fundamentally a political doctrine willed over the Orient because the Orient was weaker than the West, which elided the Orient’s difference with its weakness. . . . As a cultural apparatus Orientalism is all aggression, activity, judgment, will-to-truth, and knowledge…My whole point about this system is not that it is a misrepresentation of some Oriental essence — in which I do not for a moment believe — but that it operates as representations usually do, for a purpose, according to a tendency, in a specific historical, intellectual, and even economic setting…I doubt if it is controversial, for example, to say that an Englishman in India or Egypt in the later nineteenth century took an interest in those countries which was never far from their status in his mind as British colonies. To say this may seem quite different from saying that all academic knowledge about India and Egypt is somehow tinged and impressed with, violated by, the gross political fact – and yet that is what I am saying in this study of Orientalism.”

So-called Islamic terrorism is not only largely the product of colonial-imperialism, but, furthermore, it is then incorporated within the intelligentsia as propaganda to help further the imperial ambitions of the state power to which the intelligentsia is subservient. Such is the case of the conjured al-Qaeda hysteria. As Scott Atran points out, al-Qaeda is no longer a going threat and the mujahadin do not constitute an existential threat at all, they never have. Orientalism and this conjured al-Qaeda hysteria – Islamic terrorism – is nothing more than the new paradigm of imperial propaganda; it has now effectively replaced the anti-Communist cult which stoked the fires of the Cold War mythology.

Harris plays his atheist part in perpetuating this imperial propaganda by incorporating the ultra-right screeds produced by the neoconservative likes of Samuel P. Huntington, Bernard Lewis and Alan Dershowitz and then regurgitating their theses in his books, articles and speeches.

Ultimately, to solve the problem of terrorism, keeping to just the terrorism of others, does not include the eradication of the religion of Islam, it requires a solution to the socioeconomic and political conflicts which readily give rise to general discontent and moral outrage which are then used as pretexts by terrorists so as to fashion themselves as a vanguard of the people.

In this sense, Northern Ireland is a perfect example. Though some people, such as Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, pretend that the conflict was solely motivated by religion, it was clearly a political conflict. The solution of the conflict was not to eradicate religion. As Chomsky points out “The right approach [to solving the problem of terrorism] is not only well known, but has been carried out with success…IRA terror was quite a serious matter. For a long time, Britain responded with violence, escalating the terror. Finally, Britain (with US support) began taking seriously the real grievances of the Catholic population. Terror reduced, terrorists were isolated. Northern Ireland is not utopia, but the improvement in the past decade is remarkable.”

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Direct Democracy: Mob Rule

This tired argument, that direct democracy is tantamount to “mob rule,” is nothing more than archaic bourgeois propaganda. The arguments which, after little support if any at all is provided, conclude that “those who own the country ought to govern it,” as John Jay opined, or that the system should “protect the minority of the opulent against the majority” rabble masses, to quote James Madison, the main framer of the United States constitution, are clearly exploitive, authoritarian and vulgar apologetics for elite, highly concentrated centers of power and wealth, whereby said centers of wealth and power are protected over and against the “rabble masses,” who are “too stupid to govern.”


The arguments, besides serving as vulgar propaganda for unjustified hierarchy and domination, are rather degenerate and reveal such a lack of faith in the common person so as to make one wonder about the psychological constitution of those waging the argument. Furthermore, direct democracy, a society governed by the people who reside within it, simply does not constitute a “mob.” It is, to the contrary, highly concentrated centers of wealth and power, as has been amply demonstrated time and time again throughout the course of history, which tends to more thoroughly debase and corrupt decent human capacities and behavior.


Where direct democracy has existed and been implemented, successfully, such as in the pre-Israel Kibbutzim, common people having been freed from the arbitrary and coercive institutions of concentrated power and wealth and the hierarchy, domination and oppression inherent therein, actually exhibited exemplary moral behavior. I am certain that it will be unnecessary for me to run through the verbose index of people and parties who became so violently debased and corrupted through centers of highly concentrated power and wealth that they began to behave as though they were literally evil incarnate. The common saying “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely” being apropos.


It is my firm belief that only when such unjustified, arbitrary and coercive institutions of highly concentrated power and wealth, characterized by hierarchy, domination and oppression, whose primary function is to defend the existing edifice of power relations, class domination and the interests of the elite wealthy few, are abolished, will human society then truly begin to flourish. Only with the dismantling of authoritarian institutions, which inevitably repress decent innate human capacities, while stimulating the more base of human capacities and behavior, being replaced by open, voluntary and participatory institutions, will human social and economic structures serve the community, rather than the profit-driven, wealthy, elite few.


With decent literacy and educational levels - which shall surely rise parallel to the abolishment of the drive to privatize education and the dismantling of an educational system which stresses competition and testing over and against cooperation, smaller class sizes and better conditions – and the harnessing of the high-tech industry in order to make the process of direct democracy more fluid, efficient and faster – such as communication networks, the internet for instance – makes the prospects of direct democracy even more feasible and coherent than it has ever before been.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Process Theism

It strikes me as manifestly obvious that the position of theism has been by the ever mounting critique of skepticism reduced to such a significant extent that what is now left is hardly anything more than a faint wisp of belief.

That is, essentially, the history. Of the once overwhelming, omnipotent, omniscient deity – or deities depending on the culture – so portrayed, there now exists, due to the ever expanding library of human knowledge, only the vague, vestigial conception of a deity surrendered to the last boundaries of as yet unattained human knowledge.

So, for example, restricting myself to the religion of Christianity, god was once and in fact continues to be seen by vast populations as an invisible-super-intelligence capable of, among other things, intentionally physically altering the nature of the universe on a large scale – possibly wiping up a hurricane in response to an increased acceptance of homosexuality or dissolving a tumor residing in a child’s brain, while at the same time allowing thousands more to be born with painful deformities and dying of vicious diseases – whereas now, in articulate circles, the conception has been reduced to a god limited in power and ability; as process theology says: “Not even divine power can guarantee that accidents will never happen or that tragedies will never occur.”

It appears to me that process theism is something a bit like an amalgamation of neo-Hegelian pantheism, where god resides within or is the entirety of the ever expanding and unfolding universe and reality. However, there remains no serious or definitive explanation of the nature of god outside of the claim that god is “a cosmically all-inclusive being-in-becoming” whose attributes include being “supreme in power, knowledge, and goodness,” while also embodying “other-relatedness” and “dual transcendence.” With such vague descriptions of the invisible and conscious entity-force we are to accept as god, process theism appears to have reduced the concept to a thin specter of virtual nothingness; although, to be fair, it is as coherent a definition of god as any. Furthermore, the evidence of such a god is effectively nonexistent while the logic, as Hartshorne concedes, does not prove such a god exists.

The fundamental flaw in process theology, in the final analysis, is that it strives “to frame a coherent, logical, necessary system of ideas in terms of which every element of our experience can be interpreted,” claims Whitehead. Process theology must necessarily accept that human nature is as such that it will be possible for humans to accurately and completely interpret “every element of our experience;” a position for which I can find neither an historical precedent nor any indication that the future shall prove to be different.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Our goals and theirs

Those of us who argue for a fundamental transformation of existing society, consisting of an expansion of both the spheres of democracy and freedom, are inevitably faced with the reactionary condemnations of those who represent and defend the existing social structure. Hurled at us are charges of “utopianism” and “idealism,” claims that our arguments, criticisms and alternatives are “unrealistic,” and “unattainable.”

The argument that our socialist-humanist goals are utopian, unattainable and thus unworthy of pursuit is nothing more than a transparent and empty reactionary defense waged, predominately by those who have a vested interest in the current organization of society, in order to protect the existing edifice of power relations and class structure.

The socio-political landscape is carved by the conflicts and arguments arising from within it and from without it. Society makes progress through conflict and in conscious life by argument and disputation. In this sense society evolves dialectically through socio-political conflict. There are many instances, even keeping only to the history of the United States, where were it not for the “extremists,” “fanatics,” and “utopists” who regarded compromise as disgrace and morally unacceptable – for instance, fanatic abolitionists such as John Brown – progress may very well have not been achieved, certainly not as soon as it did; and with regards to such monumentally important questions as slavery and freedom, immediacy is very much of the essence.

It is our immediate task to not only argue and struggle for what is plausibly attainable immediately, but, even more so, what is ultimately just and ethically right; regardless of whether or not it is in the short term likely to be achieved. We refuse to subvert ethical principle, justice and freedom for shrewd and opportunist short-term gain which is in the end fundamentally inadequate and indefensible.

It is the goal of those who have a vested interest in the existing order to condemn as outrageous and unrealistic our goals. It is our goal to falsify their reactionary condemnations by way of action.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Socialism

The mere utterance of “socialism” is today likely to illicit gasps and conjure up images of dictatorship and mass murder. As Erich Fromm points out “one can understand the reaction only if one appreciates the degree to which words can assume a magical function, and if one takes into account the decrease in reasonable thought, that is to say, objectivity, which is so characteristic or our age. The irrational response which is evoked by the words Socialism and Marxism is furthered by an astounding ignorance on the part of most of those who become hysterical when they hear these words.” That the term is today so loaded, rational discussion about the substantive content thereof then becomes in many instances utterly impossible; especially within the United States where the violent historical residues of the “red scare” are still today percolating.

Socialism is in reality a vast and widely diverse tendency which ranges from anti-state, anarcho-syndicalist conceptions of social organization – constituted by workers’ councils, service collectives and community cooperatives – to state-socialist, Marxist-Leninist conceptions based upon the “dictatorship of the proletariat” which may manifest itself through a new ruling elite or “vanguard,” around which a new exploitive class inevitably emerges. When I discuss socialism, I mean by the term only the first briefly sketched tendency.

Libertarian-socialism and anarcho-syndicalism both represent the socialist tendency which understands that for a new socialist-humanist society to be brought about - a classless society free of exploitation, division and oppression - the workers and people must themselves be the ultimate force of transition; by way of trade unions, syndicates and the people organizing themselves generally, through such actions as the general strike, protest and resistance.

A common criticism of socialism is that such a fundamental social reorganization is unnecessary, that “representative democracy” and parliamentary politics can and are the machines through which a free and egalitarian society are to be achieved and that any attempt to dismantle the current capitalist, state-structure is inevitably bound to lead, apparently by the iron laws of theory and ignoring counter examples, to despotism.

The criticism is so much propaganda. Today modern democracy - having now achieved universal suffrage, not by the grace of a benevolent state-power, but, by the courageous, sustained activism of workers and people – has after hundreds of years definitively demonstrated that it is nothing more than an apparatus which vigorously defends the possessing classes and the status quo.

As Rudolf Rocker points out: “Political rights do not originate in parliaments, they are, rather, forced upon them from without. And even their enactment into law has for a long time been no guarantee of their security. Just as the employers try to nullify every concession they had made to labour as soon as opportunity offered, as soon as any signs of weakness were observable in the workers' organizations, so governments are always inclined to restrict or to abrogate completely rights and freedoms that have been achieved if they imagine that the people will put up no resistance…Political rights do not exist because they have been legally set down on a piece of paper, but only when they have become the ingrown habit of a people, and when any attempt to impair them will meet with the violent resistance of the populace."

He goes on to say: "Participation in the politics of the bourgeois states has not brought the labour movement a hair’s-breadth closer to Socialism, but, thanks to this method, Socialism has almost been completely crushed and condemned to insignificance. The ancient proverb: "Who eats of the pope, dies of him," has held true in this content also; who eats of the state is ruined by it. Participation in parliamentary politics has affected the Socialist labour movement like an insidious poison. It destroyed the belief in the necessity of constructive Socialist activity and, worst of all, the impulse to self-help, by inoculating people with the ruinous delusion that salvation always comes from above.”

That “representative democracy” does not now nor ever has concerned itself with the will of the people is a truism with historical and contemporary examples existing in abundance. That an overwhelming majority of the population agrees that space should not be militarized, that weapons of mass destruction should not be proliferated, that Social Security should not be destroyed, that there should be increased federal funding for social programs such as education and health, and that the Kyoto protocol should be signed, while government policy is diametrically opposed, is illustrative of this fact. Even more illustrative, the majority of American citizens, over seventy percent in fact, believe that the United States should follow the standards of the United Nations Charter and many other “quaint” products of civilization – to quote Alberto Gonzales - which the United States government views with contempt.

This wide disparity between the public’s will and the policy of “representatives” both breeds alienation and apathy among the people and demonstrates rather conclusively that democracy in the United States is only in the business of furthering the interests of the “opulent minority” – as James Madison phrased it – or, in other words, the privileged, property owning business sector.

Corporate domination of the democratic process has given birth to so slight a difference between the only two viable political parties that any significant difference is either illusory or negligible. American democracy has always, as evidenced by the Madison quote, been a plutocracy, but it is now virtually a single party system, the business party, within which there are two slightly different factions.

As Paul Kurtz points out: “Lobbyists subvert the integrity of the Congress and of state legislatures throughout the land by buying influences and votes. Big oil, media, pharmaceutical, tobacco, gambling, insurance, and financial companies thus dominate the legislative process. For example, the banks and credit card companies charge usurious rates and use deceptive marketing practices, fleecing millions of unwary consumers and forcing them into bankruptcy, yet effective legislation to protect consumers was blocked in Congress by the banking industry. Surreptitiously, large companies are now reducing retirement benefits with nary any political opposition. Corporations today-such as General Electric and Exxon-Mobil-are earning huge profits.”

In order for a true democracy to exist and flourish the state apparatus which only serves to defend the interests of the powerful and wealthy must be, along with private ownership of the means and modes of production, dismantled. In its place should be a “society that is organized on the basis of organic units and communities,” organized through “the workplace and the neighborhood, and from those two basic units there could derive through federal arrangements a highly integrated kind of social organization, which might be national or even international in scope…the decisions could be made over a substantial range, but by delegates who are always part of the organic community from which they come, to which they return and in which, in fact, they live.” In essence, a “federated, decentralized system of free associations incorporating economic as well as social institutions,” as Noam Chomsky so succinctly put it.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Homophobia: Institutionalized Bigotry, Cultural Phenomenon

There is no longer rational argument regarding whether homosexuals choose to live a “gay lifestyle” or whether being homosexual is the inevitable product of ones biological nature. All the relevant organizations are in agreement – the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of School Psychologists, etcetera– homosexuality and bisexuality are just as much natural manifestations of human sexuality as is heterosexuality. While it is true that there is no conclusive empirical evidence that homosexuality is genetic, it is also equally true that there is no conclusive empirical evidence that heterosexuality is genetic; what is evident from the relevant scientific studies is that homosexuality is no more a conscious choice than is heterosexuality. The most obvious and easy to understand study concerns homosexual and heterosexual reactions to male and female pheromones. The studies findings illustrate that homosexual men and heterosexual women are attracted to male pheromones, unconsciously, which supports the hypothesis that sexual orientation is ruled, not by free-choice, but rather, by ones biological constitution.

That aside, there remains a significant percentage of the population, certainly in the United States, who are convinced that not only is homosexuality a choice, but, it is an immoral choice that leads to moral depravity. Thus large segments of society are motivated to seek political means of disenfranchising the rights and humanity of homosexuals. The violent animus with which homosexuality is subjected to in America is, in large part, animated by the resurgence of religious fundamentalism and the synthesis of this extreme religiosity with radical conservative politics. However, religious and political extremism alone do not fully account for the sweeping homophobia manifested in American culture.

There has always been and is now a resurgence of what is referred to as the “cult of masculinity” in American culture; this phenomenon being most explicitly manifested within the religious right. This cult, much like the woman-hating “cult of domesticity,” begins by indoctrinating the young. Young boys are bombarded with hyper-accentuated and unrealistic views of what “being a man” consists of and how to go about becoming a man; they are indoctrinated with unnatural and unhealthy definitions of “manhood.”

Current research demonstrates that males, during the course of a week, experience a wider range of emotion, typically, than do females, and young boys demonstrate conclusively that males are just as subject to feeling and expressing emotion as any female. Yet, through the cult of masculinity, young boys are taught early in their development that to experience certain emotions and, even further, to express certain emotions which are viewed as being effeminate and thus weak - the cult of masculinity being as it is a residue of the nefarious ideology which viewed, and still in large part continues to view, women as inferior, weaker, less intelligent and ultimately subservient is why emotions and behavior associated with feminine attributes are automatically deemed “unmanly” and “weak” – is wrong, unnatural and unmanly. Thus for a young boy to cry is unacceptable, the boy must be chastised for “acting like a girl” for “not being a man,” the boy should just “suck it up like a man” and pretend as though he were an unemotional and static organism without feeling.

Another scientific study demonstrated that homophobic men, being shown gay pornography, inordinately become aroused. It is also an objective fact that an overwhelming preponderance of anti-gay bigots who spend considerable energy combating human rights are, in fact, themselves gay. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Queen Gertrude, in response to a character in a play repeatedly professing loyalty to and love of her husband, says “the lady doth protest too much, methinks.” This is equally true of a majority of the most persistent and vitriolic anti-gay bigots, such as the now notorious Ted Haggard. When the anti-gay bigots expend such an inordinate amount of time and energy railing against homosexuality and homosexuals I say, “they doth protest too much, methinks.”

In order to resolve the violent anti-gay bigotry festering in the American culture we must not only oppose the Jim Crow-like laws which disenfranchise gays - treating them as unequal, less deserving of fundamental human rights and without dignity - we must not only oppose anti-gay bigotry being both cynically and sincerely implemented, malevolently, as a political policy used to stir up and rally those whose primary concern is eviscerating gay-rights and, no need to be confused, gays themselves; but, we must go further, we must also actively and persistently combat the nefarious “cult of masculinity,” which is poisoning our societies children at this very moment. We must teach our children, most conspicuously young boys, that to be emotional and to show emotion, even to others of the same sex, is only human, it is our nature. We must teach our children that to seek deep and sustained emotional and sexual relationships is a defining characteristic of the human species and that the seeking of such relationships is natural and healthy, regardless of the sex of those in the relationship.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Globalization

Those who are accused of being anti-globalization - a position which, by implication, is taken to be archaic, isolationist and selfish – are, in fact, the exact opposite.

The overwhelming majority, if not all, of those who are accused of being anti-globalization are actually in favor of globalization. People such as me, who are so accused, are, despite the propaganda, in favor of a highly integrated world system; a system whereby national boundaries gradually dissolve into the global community as a whole.

It is not that I or anyone else accused of being anti-globalization are actually against globalization, it is that I and many others are opposed to a specific from of globalization, corporate globalization. A globalization focused upon and centered around the furtherance of the neo-liberal, capitalist market-economy. The globalization of massive privatization of such requisites for survival as water, the globalization of development projects and “labor” reforms which push people off of their lands and out of their jobs; in short, the globalization of only money, goods, patents, and services, or, the “free-market,” and all of the inhuman injustice which it necessarily produces.

I fully support and, in fact, dream for another form of globalization, in direct contrast to corporate globalization. I hope for and support social globalization; the globalization of human rights and solidarity, the globalization of universal suffrage, of the free movement of people, of free associations, of women’s rights, of gay rights, of religious, political and economic freedom, complete and unfettered; in short, the globalization of human rights, solidarity and justice.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Fascism: The Roberts Supreme Court

In light of a few of the most recent Supreme Court decisions, namely the upholding of a ban on late-term abortions and the now only few days old ruling against affirmative action, it is clear that the highest court in the United States both cares nothing for precedent – an illusion many abortion rights advocates held on to for dear life – and cares nothing for either women’s or minority’s rights in general.

Many attempted to placate those worried by the appointment of radical conservatives to the Supreme Court – social conservative, Catholic extremists – with sweet talk about the respect Roberts and Alito allegedly had for precedent, a nefarious lie now laying exposed after only a few rulings.
Affirmative action has been a cornerstone of American judicial law for forty five years, and rightly so; there is a reason why Colin Powell, by no means a liberal, and the military wrote an amicas curia in support of affirmative action, without affirmative action we wouldn’t even know Colin Powell’s name.
The affirmative action ruling has served as daunting testament to the irrelevance of precedent in the views of the radical Catholic Judges. There is now no rational reason whatsoever to believe that the Judges will care anything for precedent when they review Roe v. Wade.

The latest vicious attacks on minority’s rights are but a prelude of what is to come in the later decades of the now, on balance, fascist court.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Secular Tribalism

The startling tendency of the unsophisticated atheist to conjure up illusory amalgam groups, totally homogenized and undifferentiated, in order to entirely separate the faithful from the skeptics and unbelievers - the latter being, by definition, good and the former being, by definition and regardless of the content of belief, evil – is fanatic secular tribalism, pure and simple.
The atheist who closes ones eyes in the face of the staggering diversity of religious groups and sects and instead simply pounds ones fists and shrieks aloud that all adherents of religion are raving lunatics and savage terrorists is practicing a from of infantile and narrow-minded thinking that most closely resembles religious extremism. Rather than putting forth the minor effort required to adequately discern the various distinctions which are to be found among immense groups, especially religious, the unsophisticated atheist instead conjures up and believes in a viciously dichotomized world.
In such a worldview there simply is no room for the modern and liberal Muslim who prays five times a day yet defends as strongly as any atheist the principle of free expression. It must be denied that there exist Christians who regularly attend Church services, may contemplate the possibility of an afterlife, yet who view the bible as the fallible product of human endeavor and even question the very divinity of Jesus. It is taken as a matter of course that there is no such thing as the observant Jew who questions even the very existence of a supernatural entity. Instead, every Muslim is understood to be violently hostile to modernity, free expression, women’s rights and so forth; never mind reality. Every Christian is understood to be a bible pounding, anti-gay, anti-science demagogue and every Jew is seen as a torah waving, devout and viciously tribal religious maniac.
There is a startling, even hateful, Stalinist character to this sort of puerile, demagogic tendency. In fact, it is also strikingly biblical, either you are in “our” tribe or you are in the “evil” tribe and “our” tribe – by virtue of being the “chosen” tribe in possession of the infallible “truth” – may do as it so pleases to the so deemed “evil” tribes.
This tendency of secular tribalism must be exposed and combated wherever it is to be found, it is an actual danger.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Reaction to Rushdie's knighthood is beneath contempt

That Salman Rushdie’s “knighthood” should evoke from Islamic extremists violent reaction and “offense” is itself offensive. Free-speech is a principle upon which I shall not waver. If Islamic extremists, religious lunatics and fanatics, feel that the mere writing of a book – which the most extreme and reactionary Islamists have not read and most likely could not – justifies calls for murder and suicide bombing, I have to say that their violent opinion is beneath contempt. Their extreme, bigoted and violent views simply serve no practical role in either the judging of the literary worth of works of fiction or the rewarding of those who produce exemplary literature, such as Salman Rushdie.
It is the decision of the British who they knight - for reasons which they so choose, in this case, very good reasons indeed - and the reaction of crazed Mullahs in Tehran and in Pakistan are simply irrelevant and beneath contempt. Freedom of speech simply cannot be denigrated on account of violent religious hysteria.
As for the so-called “moderates” and “liberals” who advocate the taking of said violent views as justly put and further, worst of all, sympathize with the small factions of Islamic extremists who claim “offense” and who advocate murder, suicide bombing and violence in general, I wonder if they realize that by so doing they are legitimizing as the true voice of Muslims world over the violent extremist fringe which, in reality, a majority of Muslims reject as blasphemers and apostate lunatics. They are, in effect, legitimizing as representative of all Muslims the very extremists who put to death moderate and liberal Muslims, shame on them.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Jesus Camp

After keeping my distance for some time I finally broke down and decided to watch Jesus Camp and in so doing my apprehensive suspicions regarding the films contents were not only confirmed, but, furthered immensely. Jesus Camp is the most effective horror film of the year, never mind the fact that it is a documentary and there are scenes of hysterical, albeit unintended, irony and humor.

The first scene which offers to us the main documentary character, Pastor Becky Fischer, displays Fischer working herself, and subsequently the crowd which is mainly comprised of young children, into a hysterical frenzy wherein she proclaims, in part, that “We got too many Christian grown ups who are fat and lazy. They don’t want to give up their evening meal, they don’t want to fast for a three day fast or a forty day fast,” which may be the most ironic statement in the entire movie - excluding for now the ringer of hypocrisy Ted Haggard - for Pastor Becky is grotesquely obese and seems to not only refuse to give up her evening meal, but, seems as though when off camera she does nothing other than gorge her repugnantly fat and hippopotamus-like face. After ranting and raving like Joseph Goebbels at the Weimer rally, Pastor Fischer claims that “President Bush brought some real credibility to the Christian faith” after which I was forced to pause the movie in lieu of my inability to cease laughing uncontrollably. If the Christian faith must resort to President Bush for “some real credibility” then it is clearly but a short time until the Christian faith collapses in on itself for lacking anything which can even be remotely considered anything of the same species as credibility.

Apart from the laughable insanity, of which I have just provided a few examples, the movie contains, what must be considered by conscionable human beings concerned for the communal well being of children, moral abominations and a fundamental example of an ethical crisis. For example, the documentary follows a little ten year old girl whose passion is dancing, she clearly loves to dance, but, due to being so grossly warped by her parents maniacal Christian faith, this little ten year old girl says “When I dance I really have to make sure that’s god, because people will notice when I’m just dancing for the flesh and I do that sometimes, I must admit that and I really need to get over that.” After she said that I was in utter shock and had to rewind the scene and watch it again in order to regain myself, it honestly made me nauseous. There is absolutely no reason, no reason whatsoever, that any parent should indoctrinate their children with such poisonous dogma, such nefarious self-degradation and guilt. This girl is a prepubescent ten year old and her parents have no business of indoctrinating her with such overt sexual repression and guilt before she is even sexually developed; such thoughts, quite simply, have no business running through her mind. To instill in children such loathsome sexual repression, before they have even begun to reach sexual maturity, is far beyond depraved and immoral, it is tantamount to psychological terrorism.

While I am on the subject of psychological terrorism I must mention some of Pastor Fischer’s evil comments. While pacing back and forth in front of an auditorium full of young children like a tiger with mad cow disease, Fischer, while discussing the subject of sin, yells “while I’m on the subject let me say something about Harry Potter. Warlocks are enemies of god…had it been in the old testament Harry Potter would have been put to death!” While this is no doubt true, the Pentateuch is essentially a verbose index of death sentences, it is of the most reprehensible actions to indoctrinate young children with such life-negating, violent and hostile fear-mongering, it is, again, a fundamental example of psychological terrorism. Preaching vengefulness, hatred and murder are not subjects for which young children should ever have to be subjected to, shame on this crypto-Nazi of a Pastor.

Fischer, her insatiable appetite for terrorizing the youth not yet satisfied, goes on to tell the young children “you’re one thing when you’re at church and another thing when you’re at school with your friends. You’re a phony and a hypocrite,” after which a number of the children begin to cry, a little boy actually collapses to the floor curling up into the fetal position shaking with convulsive tears. This is child abuse to an unfathomable level and should not go unpunished.

As a rather explicit illustration of the exclusionary, superiority and neo-fascist dogmas instilled within these children a boy explains in one scene “Whenever I run into a non-Christian there’s something that always doesn’t seem right, there’s always something that makes my spirit fell yucky.” Of course he is wrong to ascribe his feeling of unease to his “spirit,” for the source of his unease is surely the fear-mongering indoctrination which he has been gratuitously fed by his parents and elders who teach him that all non-Christians are evil, sinful, on their way to hell and some – such as the literary character of Harry Potter, for instance – are so evil that their murder is warranted; yet another example of the child abuse and psychologically inflicted trauma which is on display all throughout the film.

There is another scene wherein the lunatic Pentecostals amass a substantial group of young children only to teach them that abortion is murder and that they, being “god’s righteous judges,” must put an end to abortion. They then work the children into such a hysteria that some have tears running down their face as they shake, tremble and speak in tongues; speaking in tongues being a recurring phenomena in this film, which, the first time I saw it, made me laugh so hard I was forced to pause the movie. Near the end of the, I don’t even know what to call it, (rally?) the children pump their fists in the air and chant “Righteous judges!” over and over again. I can only imagine that this is what it must have been like to attend the Nuremberg Rallies.

The portion of the film which covers Ted Haggard – “Big Gay Ted” as gay columnist Dan Savage refers to him - may be the most vertigo inducing experience in all of film, Haggard being the former leader of the National Association of Evangelicals and the former Pastor of the mega-church New Life Church who resigned his duties after the scandal wherein it was exposed that he paid a homosexual prostitute for methamphetamine and sexual favors. In part of his sermon he claims that he has “…a ten year rule about dating. If you married someone thirty years older than you, I hope he dies so you can get his money,” after which he began to cackle like a warlock himself, it sent chills down my spinal column. Then, the climax, which is perfect, shows Ted Haggard being interviewed and saying, in true Jack McFarland effeminate form, “It’s a fabulous life!”

There is a scene wherein Pastor Fischer is sitting in her home salivating over the footage that had thus far been obtained and she then begins to foam at the mouth, saying “Some extreme liberals, they have to see this and start shaking in their boots…the intensity that you see in these kids, there’s no doubt they have got be watching this and going ‘oh my goodness’” I hate to disappoint, but, I was not shaking in my boots over the extreme and sick indoctrination of these children with exclusionary and hostile dogmas, I am merely concerned that the repugnant treatment of the children is going to lead to serious neurosis and trauma, I worry about their futures and their psychological well being. These crazed Pentecostals are raising a generation of psychological cripples, of guilt ridden, anxiety riddled, delusion driven, fantasy intoxicated cripples. These children are going to face serious psychological pathologies, traumas and abnormalities when confronted with the real world later on in life and I fear for them; I cannot even imagine what it must be like to be a five or six year old forced to the brink of emotional collapse – in almost every scene the children are brought to tears - by ones parents and elders all in the name of a false mythology.

In summation, the only right way to end this review, is to quote the crazed comments of a little girl who says “My dad says that when the missionaries are about to go somewhere dangerous they jump around yelling Martyr, Martyr, Martyr! It’s cool.” Obviously, in the heart of America, pathological parents and fascist Pastors are raising a generation of children who will subsequently become either psychologically disturbed and emotionally broken or the Christian equivalent of Al Qaeda militants.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Being Muslim is not a crime

There is one issue upon which liberals and conservatives alike appear to be in general consensus, the vilification of Muslims. In a U.S.A Today/Gallup Poll thirty nine percent of Americans admit to “feeling some prejudice against Muslims.” A similar percentage of Americans agreed with requiring Muslims, which would include U.S. citizens, to carry a special ID “as a means of preventing terrorist attacks in the United States.” Twenty two percent stated that they would not feel comfortable with Muslims living in their neighborhood while both liberal and conservative periodicals, such as The Progressive and The FrontPage Magazine, have propagated rhetoric which both agrees with and encourages such views.

I really should not have to point out that these sentiments are strikingly reminiscent of Nazi Germany, the “special ID” being a virtual parallel between the Star of David which Jews were forced to wear. Singling out an entire religious and ethnic group of human beings only by virtue of their belonging to the group is wrong, by definition. The fact that many Americans are openly doing so in modern times is only further evidence that human civilization is yet but a yearling in evolutionary maturation; modern, first world, industrialized society appears to still fervently cling to the religious practice of fashioning a scapegoat upon which to cast its every sin and fear to then be ritually sacrificed thus, as religious theory goes, purging the sins and fears of the society and therefore serving as an act of purification. It seems fairly evident that Muslims have now become the scapegoat of choice for a significant percentage of Americans.

The vilification of Muslims is as transparent as it is both fallacious and wicked being the product of ignorance, bigotry and fear-mongering. There are 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide; I shouldn’t have to point out that they are not all terrorists, just as I should not have to point out that not all Christians are abortion doctor murderers. While it is certainly true that there are radical Muslims practicing a nefarious form of Islam, an Islam which celebrates the metaphysical principles of martyrdom for example, it cannot be legitimately argued that all Muslims accept such forms of Islam. Furthermore, and this is my main argument, by so grossly generalizing, castigating and vilifying the entirety of the Muslim population one is effectively alienating the most crucial asset of a serious enlightenment and reformation movement within Islam, the liberal and moderate Muslims.

When bigoted fear-mongers construct and argue for a stark dichotomy, “either you are for terrorism or you are for freedom,” they are, in effect, not only conflating reality, but also further exacerbating the fundamental problem. Many Muslims reject as strongly as anyone else the terrorism being condoned and propagated by the extremists within their religious ranks, but, when the only alternative offered them is the western accusatory and bigoted caricature of “pluralism” and “freedom” it is not at all too difficult to understand why some may find the choice unappealing.

When political officials publicly declare a “war on Islam” the moderate Islamic impulses which are an absolute necessity in the reformation of radical Islam are by default alienated and estranged, pushed away by the generalization that is conceptualizing Islam as an amalgam of violent terrorists, suicide-bombers, fascists and savages. Human civilization is no more at war with Islam as it has been as still is at war with Christianity; civilization is at war with dogmatic, exclusionary and violent extremism and only an idiot or a sociopath – or, more appropriately, a political criminal - would alienate and deny the moderate impulses which are an absolute necessity in the remediation thereof.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Nefarious Cult of Scientology

Scientology is a cult whose primary concerns are money and power, power inasmuch as it advances monetary income. I have long despised Scientology after having read Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’s views on psychology and psychiatry and after having become acquainted with the entire demagogic aspect of the pseudo-psychological and space-age religious cult.

There are several theories which attempt to explain Hubbard’s and thus Scientology’s irrational and vitriolic campaign against psychiatry. One theory posits that after Hubbard had been diagnosed as psychologically unsound by Naval psychiatrists and thus discharged from the Navy he nurtured a desire for revenge. Another conceives that Hubbard developed a dislike of psychiatry after the APA rejected his book Dianetics essentially calling it a hoax and a potentially dangerous fraud; the Scientific American review being a perfect example.
Both of these events actually occurred, however, it remains unknown whether either are the cause for Hubbard’s latter vilification of psychiatry. I will not now go into the debates surrounding these theories.

What is important is that, like all religions, Scientology has conjured up it’s own illusory scapegoat upon which to cast it’s “sins of all humanity” and around which to organize a demagogic assembly of religious fanatics, Tom Cruise being an illustrative case in point.

Throughout the entirety of human history religions have incorporated scapegoat’s, in ancient Greece – as elsewhere and even before – a shamanistic priestly class protected the ancient society from plagues, famines and virtually anything that would serve detriment to the society by performing certain religious ceremonies, chiefly among them, human or animal sacrifice or the expelling of a pharmakos, which translates to scapegoat. Such a ceremonial ritual has been part and parcel of religions over the centuries and is still firmly established in modernity, fundamentalist Christians demonizing homosexuals and abortion doctors, Muslim extremists vilifying Jews and Scientologists fashioning psychiatry and psychiatrists as their own personal pharmakos.

It is informative to read the pamphlets and, essentially, the screeds Scientology offers regarding their views on psychiatry. It is most remarkable in light of the fact that it is indisputable, and generally conceded by any serious Scientologist that Hubbard was, at the very least, influenced by the psychiatry of his day, Freudian psychoanalysis. In my analysis Hubbard was not merely influenced by Freud, in fact, he completely usurped an elementary conception of the Freudian theory of the mind; the elementary conception being a testament to the general ignorance of Hubbard, a science fiction author by trade. I will not go into great detail regarding Hubbard’s expropriation of Freudian theory, although I could further elucidate the general points which follow.

Hubbard writes that “the mind has three major divisions,” which are the analytical, the reactive and the somatic mind. Without going into great detail this conception is in effect a spurious conception of the Freudian theory of the mental apparatus which is composed of what is unconscious, preconscious and conscious, otherwise know as the Id, Super-ego and Ego. The Scientology somatic mind is a poor counterfeit of the Freudian id, they both consist of basic impulses, the basis of the psyche and the lowest manifestation of the mind. Dianetics, Hubbard’s book which laid the foundation for the cult, is essentially pseudo-psychology based on a tenuous understanding of Freudian theory and occult, science fiction voodoo (the latter being Hubbard’s area of expertise).

After Dianetics had been rejected from all respectable psychiatric and medical associations Hubbard began to write negatively about psychiatry. In his short book Scientology The Fundamentals of Thought Hubbard begins the book by attacking psychology, in particular Wilhelm Wundt, on the second page of the first chapter. Hubbard writes: “This man conceived that man was an animal without soul and based all of this work on the principle that there is no psyche.” He then writes of Wundtian psychology by saying: “It taught that man was an animal. It taught that man could not be bettered.” Hubbard is correct on one ground, that Wundt and Wundtian psychology views “man” – the human species – as an animal; specifically, as a highly cognitively developed and socially evolved animal, and correctly so.

It may or may not be true that Wundt himself objected to the supernatural notion of souls, although, if he did he did so with logical validity and parsimony. However, it is certainly true that, while psychology may not outright reject the conception of a soul, the field of psychology does not even consider the soul and, again, rightly so. Psychology is a science and science is guided by scientific naturalism, the supernatural has no place within a legitimate scientific field. However, Hubbard’s claim that Wundtian psychology “taught that man could not be bettered” is simply diametrically opposed to reality. One need only open a psychology text book or visit with any psychologist to know this is a blatant and nefarious lie, demonstrably so. One of the major components of psychology, clinical psychology, is literally built upon the premise that “man” can be “bettered.” Clinical psychology’s explicit intent and pursuit is the remediation of psychological disorders; that is why it exists.

Hubbard writes far more disturbing falsifications and ad hominems regarding psychiatry and psychiatrists, in fact, Scientology has an entire website and magazine dedicated to the sole purpose of fashioning psychiatry as its pharmakos. Hubbard, when he later incorporated into the self-help, pseudo-psychological voodoo that is Dianetics the space-age religious aspect, he fashioned into his dogma - among other tenets which include intergalactic space aliens (Xenu, not to be confused with Xena), UFO’s, volcanoes wired with thetans (souls) and nuclear bombs, etcetera - intergalactic psychiatrists who were themselves the source of great evil and mischief, essentially, the Christian equivalent of Satan or the Norse equivalent of Loki.

Scientology can be criticized on a plethora of grounds, some more compelling and more demanding of direct action than their views and castigation of psychiatry. However, this particular subject has long been for me a source of exasperation. Clearly Scientology is a demagogic assembly of religious fanatics propagating a campaign of distortion and vindictiveness. Scientology is a cult of aggressive greed and avarice and belligerent, even violent, psychological terrorism.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Religious Right: Campaign of Immorality

The new radical right, or religious right as it is often called, is hysterical over alleged moral and social issues. They claim to be offended and disgusted with the social environment and the moral degradation thereof. In their view nothing currently demands more immediate and serious attention than the social moral decay of America.

This extremist minority has become, since the late seventies, one of the more proficiently mobilized political factions in the U.S., demanding that their agenda be taken seriously and dealt with accordingly.

It is first worth noting that this faction, while referring to themselves with such titles as “the moral majority,” are neither moral nor in the majority. It is further worth noting that while they maintain their immediate concern is the moral crisis of society they not only fail to acknowledge serious moral crisis – such as civil rights of the past and present - they sometimes even hold real crisis in contempt. Their primary concern is political in nature rather than moral. For if their concern were merely moral they could simply live their lives according to their own moral standards while others lived their lives to their own moral standards, but they wish to legislate their pernicious ideologies making their movement explicitly political.

They spend vast amounts of energy deriding vulgar language and depictions of sexuality claiming that such things are indicative of the decay that is our culture all the while opposing abortion and thus women’s rights, same-sex marriage and thus gay rights, welfare programs and thus ignoring the plight of the impoverished, etc. They not only oppose abortion rights, but, they also predominately oppose all aspects of women’s rights won by the feminist movement which is exemplified, to provide one example, in their accusations of working women having neglected their children’s needs.

In light of the real social crisis in America, such as the stagnation and increasing poverty of the lower class, the abysmal nature of both the medical and educational programs (for example: the attempt to destroy social security or the teaching of maniacal propaganda to children, i.e. creationism and abstinence only sex education), the absolute disregard for fundamental aspects of a free and civil society (as in the disregard for habeus corpus and the barbaric support of torture), the vilification of Hispanic immigrants, the disastrous effects of the drug prohibition (such as the ever increasing evolution towards a police state and the disregard or blatant contempt for the fourth amendment), the fascist program of legislating hate and bigotry (such as constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage), the overt hostility towards progressive goals long since won by the social movements (such as the hostility towards the success of the feminist and civil rights movements, i.e. the anti-abortion pro-submissive-housewife and the anti-affirmative action ideologies), etc. I believe these all serve as far more pressing issues than the utterance of “fuck” or the depiction of a breast.

While the fanatical religious right clamors on in their intolerant and exclusionary neo-fascist political campaign which seeks to undermine four decades of social progress and insure no more is made, there are serious and dire social and political crisis which demand attention. As is so often the case with the religious, those making so much noise about their moral principles are, in theory and in practice, the most perverse pariahs of morality; for it is worse than immoral to neglect the real injustices and depravities of society, it is to be complicit with them.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Distinction Within Religious Criticism

Intelligent, discerning human beings are able to distinguish between the criticism of religion in general as opposed to the criticism of the behavior of the particular religions adherents. It is further obvious to anyone willing to do some reading that all three Abrahamic religions contain a disturbing amount of incitements to violence and conflict. A large portion of the Pentateuch is essentially a long index of death sentences while the Gospels generally reaffirm, uphold or approach the commandments ambiguously and throughout the Qur’an are found similar edicts.
For an individual to claim that one religion is “better” than another based upon the adherents’ behavior is to fundamentally miss the point.
For an adherent of a religion with such genocidal commandments to behave in accordance with modernity, the adherent is embracing information, logic and ethical principles outside of the specific religious worldviews fundamental commandments – commandments which have not been erased from the religions canon - and ignoring certain passages found within the text upon which the religion is based, thus ignoring specific aspects of the particular religion. Furthermore such an adherent is very clearly ignoring explicit commandments which incite violence and aggressive conflict, while doing absolutely nothing in the way of extricating such incitements from the religions scripture. This is dangerous, for as Sam Harris adeptly illustrates, such moderation as exemplified in the ignoring of nefarious aspects of a religious text – which explicit commandments seem to object to – is simply that, a neglect of the incitements. This offers no bulwark against the persisting violence and savage aspects of the religion in general. It allows the possibility for any number of adherents to later embrace such barbarism.
So long as the religions proclaim that their books are holy, sacred, or worthy of our consideration whatsoever, while not outright expunging the nefarious aspects, they are necessarily allowing, at least implicitly, the incitements to violence and conflict to remain a part of the religion. Only when such incitements are completely abolished, until they are entirely extricated from the religious scriptures, are the religions then free of being charged of association with such views and incitements.
It is an elementary truism that what is ignored today yet allowed to persist may tomorrow be once again embraced. To argue that Islam as a religion is any more intolerant or violent than either Christianity or Judaism is to fail to understand the nature of religious criticism and to fail to make the most rudimentary of distinctions. There is no dispute that currently Islam as it is being practiced by its adherents is more violent and nefarious than either Christianity or Judaism, by way of statistics. However, the religions all share an almost entirely equal amount of culpability so far as the contents of their religious texts are concerned; while such commandments remain in the religious texts, so to do they remain a part of the overall religion in general, irregardless of whether or not they are currently being acted upon.
Islam is, statistically, currently motivating the most violent and aggressive adherents; however, there was a period in history when Islamic adherents were the more peaceful and tolerant. Christianity and Judaism both share past histories of the violent and aggressive nature inherent in their scriptures being acted out through their adherents as commanded by the corresponding religious texts. So long as such commandments remain a part of the scriptures, and thus a part of the religions, so to remains the possibility that the adherents of these religions may once again adopt an affirmative view of the violent and aggressive commandments.
It is an objective fact that the three religions which have been mentioned all share an equal amount of culpability for the incitements to violence and conflict which exist in the religious texts upon which the religions are founded; and unless or until such savage and genocidal filth is eradicated from the texts this will remain a truism. No one religion is superior to the others in this fundamental sense.