Tag Archives: Politics

Secular vs. Religious Solutions for Europe: Tom Holland

First Things is a conservative intellectual Catholic magazine.  I read it for about a year when I worked with a very devout Catholic physician who challenged me to read it.  First Things authors, in my experience, love to show off their erudition, often at the expense of a coherent message.

I was surprised when The Browser, a nonreligious on-line article aggregator, recently recommended the First Things article “All the East is Moving“. The article is by Tom Holland  and its opening blurb it says, “No longer at war with Islam, Western Europe had less need to define itself as Christ­endom, and could favour secular values over religious ones. We have come to believe that secular values will always prevail in modern societies: Is it time to revisit that assumption?”   Later in the article, he supports his thesis saying, “We don’t have too much Islam,” as German Chancellor Angela Merkel put it, “we have too little Christianity.”

It is a long article with some interesting historical information but disappointingly little support for his main thesis.

Interestingly, I found an article in the British site, “The New Humanist” where the author, Alom Shaha, interviews Tom Holland (a historian, writer and broadcaster) saying , “Tom Holland is a Christian who – by and large – doesn’t believe in God.”

Shaha states further about Holland,

When I ask him if he actually believes in the existence of a god he replies “There’s a sort of nagging, god-shaped hole in the back of my mind and the simulacrum of a god that I use to fill it is a Christian one. I could read the account of the passion, go to church on Easter and feel this is true, feel that it is articulating truths that affect me far more profoundly than I could possibly put into words, I feel myself in communion with the vast inheritance of Christian faith, I find that moving and at moments like that, I think “is this what it’s like to believe in god?” However, he also tells me that “I have seen no evidence that would satisfy me that anything supernatural exists. I have seen no proof for god.”

Tom Holland, seems to identify with an idealized version of Christianity — and he says he does so out of gratitude for his upbringing and inheritance. Tom’s article at one moment shows he knows the problems in Christian history, at the next he blindly idealizes what Christianity has to offer.  Readers can see if they agree. 

Holland’s Christianity involves an idealized non-historical Jesus’ supposed Sermon on the Mount which can be seen when he says, “no text has done more to underpin the construction of a new and multicultural identity for the [European] continent than the Sermon on the Mount.”

But the Sermon on the Mount seems to be a mishmash of sayings (probably even prior to a supposed Jesus), some contradictory to other sayings and some just nonsense. Several authors have pointed out these problems with the Sermon on the Mount, but see this article for an example “Iron Chariots“.

Holland’s article talks about the fascinating connections between Tolkien, magic weapons and the Nazis.  So if you want to read a typical Catholic “First Things” article which shows off erudition, rambles a bit and all the while it does not show the best evidence for their thesis, read Holland’s article (a non-believer in god(s) but who embraces Christianity in his identity).  I actually enjoyed the Nazi and Tolkien stuff.

Questions for Readers:  Do any of you non-theist readers have a “ simulacrum of a god” that you use.  Holland does, and uses it to label himself a Christian.  What do you think of that move?

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Noam Chomsky & The Scottish Vote

scotland2Today is the Scottish vote — exciting history! Yet this issue will really tell us nothing more about the nation-state than so much more in our news.

At the bottom of this post is a great interview with Noam Chomsky where he uses the Scottish vote issue to discuss several of the deep, complex political phenomena feeding this vote.  Chomsky puts today’s event in perspective to the rest of the world, as is his specialty.  He is brilliant.

Noam Chomsky (wiki) has taught me much through the years. I haven’t always agreed with him, but then that means nothing. His last line from the interview was one of my favorite.  He made it after many, far-from-subtle attempts by his clearly leftist interviewer to get him to give a aphoristic nugget of socialist wisdom.

“there are no illuminating single phrases that capture the complexity of human life”

Oh I loved that. And among his many anarchist insights he also discusses:

  • the tension between regionalism & centralization
  • the inherited disaster of imperialist borders
  • how Capitalism would be an improvement over what we have today, but still inferior

Pic source: amttravel.com
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Swissatopia: does fiction harms us?

Starship_SwitzerlandSoon, every Swiss citizen will be able to sit on their ass and do nothing and still receive $33,000 per year if a new referendum gets passed. Europeans and even Americans are watching with bated breath.  Will it work?  Only time will tell.

Tim Harford, “The Undercover Economist”, a columnist for the economically conservative “The Financial Times” wonders if “a universal income is not such a silly idea.” But I won’t go into the pros and cons here — tis’ not the point of this post.  Instead, I want to point out the last sentence in Tim’s article:

Star_Trek_Income

Maybe Tim meant that as a joke, but I am not sure because I wonder if the brains of lots of nerdy white boys of my generation, raised on Star Trek, did not subconsciously absorb Gene Roddenberry’s idealistic fictional world into their heads and thus think, “See, it really can work like that — we should push for that.” Just as many people reading much of the nonsense in their fictional holy scriptures absorb its nonsense and then display it in bad decisions and actions.

The human brain has a very hard time separating fact from fiction. This fact is what makes movies and novels so fun, but it is also what can make economists, gamers and religious folks so dangerous.

Notes

  • I posted on the same issue here: “Is Fiction Bad for You?” and   “Star Trek and Disney
  • This post is not to discuss politics or economics.  But go ahead and make those sorts of comments if you are compelled by the Spirit (that is, one of the many voices in your head).

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Politics in My Childhood

Demographics can really help us understand folks — even if it is only a temporary beginning. (see my Share Thyself chart)

My father was a generic industrialist Republican American: he owned a small plastics factory with 20-30 some employees and fought to keep unions out.  Indeed a union would have destroyed his small business — a business I was being trained to run.

I worked in my father’s factory from a very young age doing every job imaginable — I was the eldest son and was being groomed to take over the business.  But my father and I fought often, I argued that the work was unsafe for the employees and that the company’s environmental practices were questionable.   That said, I still feel a union would have destroyed us.

When arguing with my father that perhaps employees should be able to wear air filters to keep particles out of their lungs, my father said, “We all have to die sometime.”  When I told him I thought dumping 55-gallon leaky barrels full of lead paste pigments, ketone and more into land fills were not good for the environment, he told me, “Look, if it was bad, they wouldn’t let us do it.”  Nowadays, thanx to unions, all those things are illegal.

My dad hated government regulations but supported any thing his government did overseas — well, unless a Democratic president did it.

My mother was an elementary school teacher and a democrat — having none of the bigotry of my father.  But she was also a “scab” — walking picket-lines believing that union strikes only hurt the students.  So anti-union thinking filled my mind, but I wondered how to protect workers and our environment.

My parents never discussed politics and the only instruction I heard on it was listening to my father curse at the TV sometimes. Politics, like sex and religion, were considered impolite conversation at our house.

I was a Boy Scout who became an Eagle Scout, earned the “God and Country” award, had two silver palms and was eventually the Troop Leader.   All to say, I was a proper, do-what-you’re-suppose-to kid.

During my senior year in High School, after a year of stiff competition, I was appointed to the United States Air Force Academy.  My father was incredibly proud, but the Vietnam War took its toll on my inherited conservative views.  My don’t-question mind evaporated and I became very anti-USA.  I still remember the car ride where I told my father I was turning down my appointment to the Air Force Academy and with it my dreams of becoming an astronaut.  I decided not to go to college and was ready to start protesting the Vietnam war. My father was shocked. But due to my academic record, Cornell University asked me to apply and my father begged me to go.  So off to college, but just before going, I converted to Christianity after finding my childhood friend dead (see here).

OK, that is enough for this post.  More politics to come.

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Confessions of a Marxist & a Libertarian

This is an index of my posts on Marxism and Libertarianism.

I have embraced and then rejected many belief systems in my life. I am clearly an unstable character.  See my Confession Tales series.

Are libertarianism and marxism also such belief system of mine? Well, read the series and find out!

Four years ago, in this post, I called myself a “libertarian” and spoke of Michael Sherman.  In September 24th’s Scientific American, Shermer says he is turning in his “libertarian” label.  Well, that article inspired be to start this series.

Below I list my political experiences in chronological order

  • Before Marxism:  ooops, like the second post, minus the unions
  • Politics of my Childhood: Unions, Business, Teachers, Vietnam
  • Mao’s Little Red Book: My India Trip
  • Kibbutz Ambitions
  • Co-op Training
  • Marxist Coffee Shop
  • Marxist Professor
  • Marxist Disillusion
  • Labeled a “Libertarian”
  • Identifying as a “Libertarian”
  • Chairman of Libertarian Chapter
  • My Libertarian Disillusion

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Personality: WeiQi & Blogging styles

We are usually blind to how our personality traits influence our politics, our religion and our philosophies.  We convince ourselves that our choices are rational and reasonable while all along our minds dutifully construct those ideas to safely tuck our quirky personalities into our lives’ snuggly niches.

WeiQi_Playing_StylesOne of WeiQi’s many beauties is that you can glimpse a player’s personality by the way they play their stones.  High-ranking, professional WeiQi players often describe this phenomena. For your perusal, here is a fun list of the playing styles of some top professionals as described by other professionals.

To the right I have taken the terms from that list and playfully grouped them into five boxes which I feel share have significant shared qualities.  Then I put those five boxes into two columns — columns which share qualities too.  Perhaps you’d categorize them differently — heck, my boxes probably reveal something of my personality too! 🙂

I play WeiQi on-line — I chat a lot with other players (usually after the game). Over the years many of these players have taken the liberty to tell me exactly how they read my personality from the way I play my stones.  Almost consistently, I have been told that I have several traits from the two boxes on the right — I will let you guess which ones.  But I have never been told that I have any of the traits on the left.  And to think, WeiQi is just a silly game.

Questions for readers:

  • Have you seen your mind’s personality constructing a snuggly philosophy for you?  Or are you deluded to think you are in control? (ooops, was that a biased question?)
  • Do you feel you can see my quirky personality in blogging style — in the way I lay out words, diagrams and ideas?  I give you permission to speculate on my personality, but more importantly, try speculating on how you feel my personality molds my philosophy.

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Choosing a Tack: Politics & Religion

My wonderful commentors have helped me realize that my previous sailing metaphor was a bit confusing.   So this post is to clarify by illustrating the sailing principles I had in the back of my head when I wrote those posts.

Concerning Sailboats

Physics of sailingI use to sail boat for several years both small boats and large team boats.  Sailing is a fun challenge — I remember sitting through classes on sailing to improve my skills.  And like many things, after learning about it, we forget that the knowledge is not common sense.  In fact, the reason you have to discipline yourself to study sailing is that (like math, statistics and much of science) it has principles that are counter-intuitive here are two:

    • A sailboat can sail against the wind
    • Sailboats can actually go faster than the wind

To understand these you need a little physics but I will leave that to these youtube videos if your aren’t familiar.  If you don’t understand the technical use of the word “tack” as related to sailing, please consider watching at least the first video:

    • Here is a video showing how sailboats can sail both INTO the wind and FASTER than the wind.
    • Here is video evaluating vectors of true and apparent wind — and teaching how to adjust the mainsail appropriately.

OK, now that you understand the word “tack” and how a sail boat can sail into the wind using tack, let me show you some sailing metaphors which I should have offered prior to my other posts.

Let’s start with politics — far less controversial than beliefs! 😉

Tacking through the Political Seas

Political_tacksInstead of the hackneyed “left vs right” or “liberal vs conservative” dichotomous way of thinking about political policies I usually us at least four perspectives: (1) economic prosperity, (2) personal freedom, (3) social well-being (this includes welfare of the poor and violence issues etc) and (4) international security. And as I discussed before, much of my “thinking” is done using overlapping metaphors — especially visual models. But a 4-dimensional map to illustrate my points would not only be impossible but confusing.  So for simplicity, I have made have chosen only two perspectives for a two-dimensional map: I am choosing only economic prosperity and individual freedom.

For the purpose of exploring the metaphor, consider that there is some “Perfect Harbor” where a society can have both economic prosperity AND individual freedom to the possible maximums.  Again, ignore the other factors for now.  And let’s say we agreed that heading to that goal is desirable. But let’s say there is a strong wind coming off the harbor at all times.  So if you were navigating the pink boat, which tack would you take, tack A or tack B?  Choosing tack “A” will sacrifice prosperity for freedom to begin its journey while choosing tack “B” will do the opposite. Both tacks get to the perfect harbor eventually, but the consequences will be different.  And imagine that whatever path you take, you may get stuck in midcourse with the compromises that entails.

Tacking through Religious Beliefs

Belief tacksNow let’s return to “beliefs”. Imagine a similar scenario where there is a “Perfect Harbor” where we have not only maximized the accuracy of our beliefs, but we have also maximized their usefulness.  So, to get to the Perfect Harbor, would you first sacrifice the accuracy of your beliefs or the usefulness of your beliefs. Of course you don’t always have to sacrifice accuracy for usefulness unless the wind is in your face!

Concerning the Wind

In my mind, I envision the winds to be the vagaries of our environment — always changing and always demanding us to change tack to accommodate.  The winds of chance cause us to compromise our ideal directions.

Question to Readers:

(1) Which tack strategies you’d use in the examples above?

(2) Did my explanation today make my previous metaphors more clear?  Please say “yes”!  😉

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Bible view on Women & Politics

Click to see Steve's book!

Click to see Steve’s book!

Of the believers I know and run into, the vast majority have not read their Bibles to any extent. But then, their religion is far less about belief or about a book than many Atheists would like to fantasize. Yet if you get believers reading their Bibles, they may wake up to the silliness behind the banner to which they pledge allegiance.

Likewise, most American’s who claim to be patriotic don’t mean they support everything America ever did. In fact, most have no idea of what their government has done. When a “self-declared patriot” learns about the evils done by their sacred governments, they may either stop calling themselves a patriot or redefine “patriot” or some other move to massage their cognitive dissonance.  You see the religious parallels, I’m sure.

Today I’d like to share Bible readings which I recommend you share with believers to show them what is behind their religious banner. Yesterday, Steve Wells (author of “Drunk with Blood”), did a fantastic post quoting Bible passages to show the the various Bible views on marriage. Get one of your Christian friends to read it and maybe you’ll see their banner fade a bit.

This “banner therapy” can work in many realms.  Try to find some accurate history books for your patriot friends to read — hint, they are tough to find in the government public schools.  Then watch what they do with their banners — I am watching that happen with my son this last month.

The banners we fly often are fueled on biased information.  Even without banners, people can do good but this is hard for folks to understand when their banners largely serve the function of supplying identity and security.

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Voting Bigotry: Gallop

I just read this 2012 Gallop Poll of Voting Bigotry in the USA and decided to plot the data because it is very revealing.  The poll asked people a hypothetical question that *if* their party chose a well-qualified candidate would they automatically vote “NO” if they were Black, Female, Jewish, Atheist …. The first graph only includes the 2012 data so that you can clearly see the present biases in the USA.  Remember, this is people confessing their bigotry.

Atheist_Votes

Above you can see the huge clear bias against Atheists.  This is not surprising because studies already show that Atheists are viewed with disgust by theists.  Besides the persistent bigotry against Atheists, I am equally concerned about the persistent hatred of Homosexuals. My graph below shows the same data in a historical context revealing the important advances of both Homosexuals, Blacks, Jews, and Women.  Atheists have made some advances too, but not nearly as much as those other groups.

Voting_Bigotry_2012

I will put my thoughts on this data in the first comment. And I will use this data as support in my coming post: “The Priming Bias & Progressive Christians”. So please stay tuned.

Question to readers:  Please share your thoughts on this data.

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Get Your Politics & Religion Right !

CertitudeI wonder how many religious and atheist bloggers are as certain about their political opinions as they are about their opinions on religion?

My guess: most!

Indeed, one of the first things I noticed when started visiting atheist blogs in 2009 was the clear “Democrat” bias. To the majority of blogging atheists, the natural outcome of a rational mind is both atheism and liberalism.

John Gray’s book, “The Silence of Animals“, opens with stories and insights into how we establish our opinionated worldviews where he exposes both Meliorism and Political Meanderings of famous opinionated political writers.

Meliorism: a secular humanist religion

 Do some atheists hold unfounded, irrational worldview-forming beliefs as potentially destructive as those proffered by religions?  Gray feels the answer is “yes” and I agree.  The belief in the unstoppable march of progress is one such view, and another is the overconfidence in reason and logic — especially one’s own.  Because the assumptions (articles of faith) are prevalent in Secular Humanism, I could never align with most secular humanist.  I often see Secular Humanism as a religion of its own sort, minus ghosts, spirits and demons.

Political Meandering

What really inspired me to write this post however was not the obvious religion-like assumptions of Secular Humanism, but the vicissitudes of human ideology. In post after post I expose my own silly vicissitudes here on Triangulations: my drifting into various type of religions, into various medical ideologies and into various political worldviews.  I do this to embrace the silliness that informs all of humanity and my own.

During the his first 60 pages, Gray exposes the political meanderings several early 20th Century writers.  I list them at the end of this post including the writer’s dates, one of his famous books and a tantalizing quote from that section of Gray’s book to show how he touches on both meliorism and political meandering.

For each author, Gray tells us of how their political and philosophical opinions varied widely over their careers.  So, are the late view of an author his wise and truly informed, reasonable views or are they merely similarly vulnerable rationalizations for the vagaries of conditions at the end of their lives, and no more objective than their younger year utopianisms?

By reading this review of Gray’s book in National Interest, I learned how over the years Gray, while remaining characteristically opinionated and devastatingly discerning, Gray himself has held contrary political views:   With this is mind, why are we to trust his present views?

Question to readers:  With these observations in mind, how important is it to get our opinions right about politics or even about religion?

_____________________________

 Appendix:  To give you a taste of Gray, here are the writers explored in the opening of “Silence of Animals”:

Joseph Conrad 1857-1924 “Heart of Darkness” (1899)

” ‘Humanity’ is a fiction composed from billions of individuals for each of whom life is singular and final. ”
[see my post “The Myth of Culture“]

Stefan Zweig 1881-1942  “The World of Yesterday (1942)

Ideals and values were irreconcilably opposed. In these circumstances gradual improvement was just another utopian dream. Progress in civilzation seems possible only in interludes when history is idling.”

Joseph Roth 1894-1939 “The Emperor’s Tomb” (1938)

“Starting as a progressive who looked eagerly to the future, Roth ended as a reactionary who looked back fondly on the empire of Franz Joseph.”

Eugene Lyons 1898 -1984 “Assignment in Utopia” (1937)

“Contrary to generations of western progressives, it was not Russian backwardness or mistakes in applying Marxian theory that produced the society that Lyons observed. Similar regimes came into being wherever the communist project was attempted. Lenin’s Russsia, Mao’s China, Ceausescu’s Romania and many more were variants of a single dictatorial model. From being a movement aiming for universal freedom, communism turned into a system of universal despotism. That is the logic of utopia.”

Curzio Malaparte 1898-1957 “The Voga Rises in Europe (1943)

“There are not two kinds of human being, savage and civilize.  There is only the human animal, forever at war with itself.”

Arthur Koestler 1905-1983 “Scum of the Earth” (1941)

Observing at close quarters the fall of France, Koestler abandoned the beliefs that had guided his life until then.  He had imagined that humankind longs for freedom.  Now he came to think that humans were incurably irrational: ‘Perhaps Hitler’s genius was not demagogy, not lying, but the fundamentally irrational approach to the masses, the appeal to the pre-logical, totemistic mentality.’ [

Norman Lewis 1908 – 2003 “I came I saw” (1985)

“Until now I had clung to the comforting belief that human beings eventually come to terms with pain and sorrow. No I understood I was wrong, and like Paul I suffered a conversion — but to pessimism … I knew that, condemned to everlasting darkness, hunger and loss, they would weep incessantly.”

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