Quotulatiousness

November 26, 2017

Rowan Atkinson in ‘We are most amused’

Filed under: Britain, Humour, Religion — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Kevin
Published on 3 Dec 2008

Rowan Atkinson tells the Gospel of John in ‘We are most amused’, broadcast on ITV on November 15th marking Prince Charles’s 60th birthday.

November 24, 2017

QotD: Religion in the Classical world

Filed under: History, Quotations, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Jewish law perfectly preserves what any right-thinking Israelite in 1000 BC would have considered obvious, natural, and not-even-needing-justification (much as any right-thinking American today considers not eating insects obvious). By the time the Bible was being written this was no longer true – foreign customs and inevitable social change were making the old law seem less and less relevant, and I think modern scholarship thinks the Bible was written by a conservative faction of priests making their case for adherence to the old ways. The act of writing it down in a book, declaring this book the sort of thing that people might doubt but shouldn’t, and then passing that book to their children – that made it a modern religion, in the sense of something potentially separable from culture that required justification. I think that emphasizing the role of God and the gods provided that justification.

The Hebrew Bible never says other gods don’t exist; indeed, it often says the opposite. It constantly praises God as stronger and better than other gods. God proves his superiority over the gods of the Egyptians when the serpent he sends Moses eats the serpents the Egyptian gods send Pharaoh’s sorcerers. The Israelites are constantly warned against worshipping other gods, not because those gods don’t exist but because God is better and also jealous. This is not the worldview of somebody who has very strong ideas about the nature of reality and how supernatural beings fit into that nature. It’s the worldview of people who want to say “Our culture is better than your culture”. The Bible uses “worshipping foreign gods” as synonymous with “turning to foreign ways”. But God has a covenant with Israel, therefore both are forbidden.

This seems to match religion in the classical world – I’m especially thinking of Augustus’ conception here, but he wasn’t drawing it out of a vacuum. Performing the proper rites to the Roman gods was how you showed you were on board with Roman culture was how you showed you were loyal to Rome. The Roman view of religion seems pretty ridiculous to us – constant influx of new gods and mystery cults that were believed kind of indiscriminately, plus occasional deification of leading political figures followed by their undeification once they fell from power. But throughout it all, this idea that following the rites as Romulus prescribed them showed loyalty, but doing otherwise would result in decadence and defeat, stuck around.

Scott Alexander, “A Theory About Religion”, Slate Star Codex, 2016-04-07.

November 14, 2017

Paradise, the Fall, and the Second Coming … Marxist style

Filed under: Politics, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the latest Libertarian Enterprise, Sarah Hoyt draws a few parallels between traditional Christian beliefs and modern-day progressive ones:

First, I’m going to say that this is to an extent the result of self-selection that has nothing to do with politics.

The left has a narrative that is a just so story. It is, as was pointed out here, in the comments, a Christian heresy, but one that caters to fake “rationalism.” What I mean is that the narrative of the leftist/communist/socialist story includes all the comforting high points of Christianity but avoids the opprobrium of “superstition” cast by enlightenment onto traditional Christianity.

Leftism, whatever they call it, has its roots in Marxism, and Marxism offers a comforting view of paradise (primitive times, when property was communal and blah blah blah. If the flavor is feminist, it was communal property and ruling matriarchs) fall (we discovered something that changed us. These days it’s fashionable in academic circles to blame agriculture, which apparently was no good, very bad, terrible for us, even though, you know, it allowed us to colonize the Earth and have a vast and varied population. In the seventies it was war. There are as many candidates for the liberal sin that caused human fall, as there is for the Christian sin, and honestly, none of them make a heck of a lot of sense) and redemption (here it’s different from Christian redemption, where each individual redeems himself, but the species can’t be redeemed till the second coming. Um… scratch that. Perhaps not that different. It is assumed that the evils of the human species are because we are not designed to live in “capitalism” which these dodos seem to think is any kind of trade or hierarchy. They actually do call monarchies “capitalist” even absolute monarchies. And because we are distorted and made “evil” by this structure, when the communist state withers away into a perfect classless, communal society, we’ll be redeemed, as surely as by the second coming. Frankly, at least the second coming is more plausible from a scientific point of view. At least it doesn’t require a bloated, totalitarian state to behave in ways that no totalitarian, bloated state ever behaved. And while our species might have no experience of the Son of the Creator returning again in full glory this time to rule over us, we do have endless experience of totalitarian states.)

However, all of this mystical belief is dressed up in “science.” History is taught with the idea that it has an arrow and the arrow leads inevitably to collectivism, and because they only teach select portions of history, the poor kids are convinced of it.

This is partly what I meant by self-selected. The people who tend to gravitate left, PARTICULARLY those older than say 25, are the GOOD kids. This is something that is rarely appreciated, and poor things, they view themselves as daring rebels. It’s sort of pathetic, actually. (Having grown up in a village, I’ve had a great chance to observe human nature, and one of the inevitable funny twists of the human mind is that the most flexible of humans like to think themselves steadfast and inflexible. The kindest flatter themselves they’re cruel. Meek women think they’re termagants. I’m not sure why, really. It just seems to be an invariable part of the human “package.”)

They’re the people who went to school and listened really well, and answered what the teachers wanted to hear. They’re the ones who internalized lessons, and explanations, and the ones who want to have a system in which to integrate everything they learn. Everything has to “fit” in their world view.

I kind of understand that because I too like “grand unified theories.” It’s just that after the age of fourteen, I started discovery too many things that didn’t fit anything they’d taught me.

Why the Vikings Disappeared

Filed under: Europe, History, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

KnowledgeHub
Published on 17 Feb 2017

The Vikings were infamous in the Middle Ages for their raids against the coasts of Northern Europe. Their age however was quite brief in the span of time, only 300 years. What caused the end of the Vikings?

October 28, 2017

Loved by outsiders, hated by insiders … differing views of the Pope

Filed under: Religion — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the Guardian, Andrew Brown reports on just how some insiders are eager for the Pope to be promoted out of office:

Pope Francis is one of the most hated men in the world today. Those who hate him most are not atheists, or protestants, or Muslims, but some of his own followers. Outside the church he is hugely popular as a figure of almost ostentatious modesty and humility. From the moment that Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio became pope in 2013, his gestures caught the world’s imagination: the new pope drove a Fiat, carried his own bags and settled his own bills in hotels; he asked, of gay people, “Who am I to judge?” and washed the feet of Muslim women refugees.

But within the church, Francis has provoked a ferocious backlash from conservatives who fear that this spirit will divide the church, and could even shatter it. This summer, one prominent English priest said to me: “We can’t wait for him to die. It’s unprintable what we say in private. Whenever two priests meet, they talk about how awful Bergoglio is … he’s like Caligula: if he had a horse, he’d make him cardinal.” Of course, after 10 minutes of fluent complaint, he added: “You mustn’t print any of this, or I’ll be sacked.”

This mixture of hatred and fear is common among the pope’s adversaries. Francis, the first non-European pope in modern times, and the first ever Jesuit pope, was elected as an outsider to the Vatican establishment, and expected to make enemies. But no one foresaw just how many he would make. From his swift renunciation of the pomp of the Vatican, which served notice to the church’s 3,000-strong civil service that he meant to be its master, to his support for migrants, his attacks on global capitalism and, most of all, his moves to re-examine the church’s teachings about sex, he has scandalised reactionaries and conservatives. To judge by the voting figures at the last worldwide meeting of bishops, almost a quarter of the college of Cardinals – the most senior clergy in the church – believe that the pope is flirting with heresy.

The crunch point has come in a fight over his views on divorce. Breaking with centuries, if not millennia, of Catholic theory, Pope Francis has tried to encourage Catholic priests to give communion to some divorced and remarried couples, or to families where unmarried parents are cohabiting. His enemies are trying to force him to abandon and renounce this effort.

Since he won’t, and has quietly persevered in the face of mounting discontent, they are now preparing for battle. Last year, one cardinal, backed by a few retired colleagues, raised the possibility of a formal declaration of heresy – the wilful rejection of an established doctrine of the church, a sin punishable by excommunication. Last month, 62 disaffected Catholics, including one retired bishop and a former head of the Vatican bank, published an open letter that accused Francis of seven specific counts of heretical teaching.

To accuse a sitting pope of heresy is the nuclear option in Catholic arguments. Doctrine holds that the pope cannot be wrong when he speaks on the central questions of the faith; so if he is wrong, he can’t be pope. On the other hand, if this pope is right, all his predecessors must have been wrong.

It might be worth noting that the doctrine of Papal Infallibility was only formally accepted in the late 19th century … long after the Pope was able to exercise secular power of any note.

H/T to Colby Cosh for the link.

September 23, 2017

Roger Scruton – On ‘Harry Potter’

Filed under: Books, Britain, Media, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Conservatism Archive
Published on Sep 4, 2017

September 13, 2017

The Thirty Years War

Filed under: Europe, France, Germany, History, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 10 Nov 2014

http://www.tomrichey.net

The Thirty Years’ War was fought from 1618-1648 (Thirty Years!) in the Holy Roman Empire. It began as a conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Bohemia, but grew to involve Denmark, Sweden, and France. After the French began helping Gustavus Adolphus, the Protestant king of Sweden, the lines became blurry and the war became more about the balance of power in Europe than about religion. The Peace of Westphalia paved the way for France to become the dominant power in Western Europe and for the permanent decline of the Holy Roman Empire as a political institution.

If you like this lecture, check out my other lectures for AP European History and Western Civilization!

August 19, 2017

Baldwin IV – The Leper King of Jerusalem – IT’S HISTORY

Filed under: History, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 27 Jul 2017

On today’s episode on It’s History we take a brief look at Baldwin IV – the 12th century ruler of Jerusalem bound with an incurable disease. Suffering from leprosy Baldwin was known to charge into battle with his right hand paralyzed and yet managed to achieve victory. Learn more about this truly astounding figure!

August 14, 2017

QotD: Millenarianism, left and right

Filed under: Media, Politics, Quotations, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Secularists and leftists enjoy sneering at conservative Christians who believe in the Rapture and other flavors of millenarianism. Reasonably so: it takes either a drooling idiot or somebody who has deliberately shut off most of his brain, reducing himself to an idiotically low level of critical thinking, to believe such things. The draw, of couse, is that each individual fundamentalist implicitly believes he will be among the saved — privileged to honk a great big I TOLD YOU SO! at all those sinners writhing in the lake of fire.

It is therefore more than a little amusing to notice how prone these ‘sophisticated’ critics are to their own forms of idiotic millenarianism.

Anybody remember Paul “Population Bomb” Ehrlich? This is the guy who predicted that megadeaths from global famine would be the defining feature of the 1970s. Or Jeremy Rifkin, the guy who told us all in 1986 that the Frostban bacterium engineered to protect plants against cold snaps would mess up the Earth’s climate? Or the brigade of self-panickers (Carl Sagan was briefly one of them) who warned us all back around 1980 that an impending Ice Age was about to destroy civilization? Or, hey — how about the ozone hole; remember when we were all going to die of UV-B-induced skin cancer?

It’s easy to laugh at those particular doom-mongers now; there has been plenty of time for their predictions to fail. But we have plenty of apocalypse merchants peddling equally silly scenarios, on equally thin evidence and bogus reasoning, today. And the same ‘sophisticated’ secularists who lapped up Paul Ehrlich’s nonsense are swaying to the Gospel shout of global warming and “peak oil” — just as self-hypnotized, and just as stone-stupid, as an Ozark Mountains cracker at a tent-revival meeting.

Rather than getting to gloat over sinners writhing in a lake of fire, the draw is getting to feel superior to capitalists and Republicans and Americans; they will all surely Get Theirs and starve in their SUVs when the Collapse Comes, while virtuous tree-hugging Birkenstock-wearers, being in a state of grace with Gaia, will retire to renewable-energy-powered communes and build scale models of Swedish socialism out of macrame supplies or something.

The hilarious part is how self-congratulatory the secularist millennarians are about their own superiority over the religious ones, when in fact the secondary gain from these two kinds of delusional system is identical.

Eric S. Raymond, “Peak Oil — A Wish-Fulfillment Fantasy for Secular Idiots”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-11-13.

August 3, 2017

Not the Nine O’Clock News – Monty Python worshipers

Filed under: Britain, Humour, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 21 Jan 2009

A sketch from the british series Not the nine o’clock news commenting on the controversy created by the Monty Python’s film – Life of Brian.

July 31, 2017

Byzantine religion – not a joking matter

Filed under: Europe, History, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

When Tamara Keel isn’t talking about guns, she apparently relaxes by talking about Byzantine history:

Court of Emperor Justinian with (right) archbishop Maximian and (left) court officials and Praetorian Guards; Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. The dark-haired bearded man to Justinian’s right is believed to be Belisarius. (via Wikimedia)

So, this Maximus dude was a bureaucrat in the Byzantine Empire who apparently had religion as a hobby, as did everybody in Constantinople back then. All the Byzantines did was watch chariot races, debate arcane theological matters, and riot and/or kill each other over differences of opinion on chariot races or arcane theological matters. (Oh, and they engaged in so much intra-governmental intrigue that they went in the dictionary for it.)

At some point, Maximus dropped out of government service and took up religion as a full-time occupation, leaving the city of Constantinople for a monastery in Anatolia. Skipping town ahead of the invading Persians, he landed in Carthage, in Eastern Roman hands for the nonce, thanks to Justinian and Belisarius’s ruinously expensive Mediterranean campaigns.

The big argument in the Church (there was just the one, back then) at the time was between guys who thought Jesus had two natures, human and divine, but only one divine will, and other guys who thought that Jesus had not only two natures, but also a human will and a divine will. Seriously. This was a very big deal and dudes were killing each other over it.

Well, the first view, Monothelitism, was the official view at the time, but Maximus was a believer in the second, or Dyothelitism. And he and the new Pope, Martin I, called a religious council in Rome to debate on the matter without bothering to ask the Emperor. When the council turned out a Dyotheletic verdict, Emperor Constans II (a Monotheletist) had both Pope Martin I and Maximus arrested.

The Pope got de-Poped and banished to the Crimea, where he died. Maximus was tried and sentenced to exile. However, he would not shut up about Dyothelitism and wound up having a great big show trial a few years later, following which he got his tongue cut out and his right hand cut off so he couldn’t tell people that Jesus had two wills anymore or even write it very legibly. Then he got banished to Georgia. (The one on the Black Sea, not the one you drive through on the way to Florida.)

He died in exile there in 662 AD. Nineteen years later, at the Third Council of Constantinople, the Church (still just the one) decided that maybe Jesus did have two wills after all. Maximus received a posthumous pardon, sort of a more official version of “Whoops! Hey, sorry about the tongue and the hand and the whole exile-and-dying-in-prison thing. No hard feelings, okay? Here, have a feast day.”

I told you they took their religion seriously in Constantinople, didn’t I?

July 28, 2017

QotD: Soviet agitprop still echoes today

Filed under: History, Media, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Stalinist agitprop created Western suicidalism by successfully building on the Christian idea that self-sacrifice (and even self-loathing) are the primary indicators of virtue. In this way of thinking, when we surrender our well-being to others we store up grace in Heaven that is far more important than the momentary discomfort of submitting to criminals, predatory governments, and terrorists.

The Communist atheists of Department V understood that Christian self-abnegation tends to inculcate a cult of self-sacrifice even among Westerners who are themselves agnostics or atheists. All the propagandists had to do was make the case that the value of self-abnegation applies to culture as well as individuals. By doing so, they were able to entrench the idea that suicidalists are morally superior to non-suicidalists.

They did this so successfully that at least one major form of Western self-abnegation seems to have developed as a secondary phenomenon: “deep environmentalism”. I can’t find any sign that this traces back to the usual Stalinist suspects, but it is rather obviously a result of generalizing suicidalism not just to culture but to species.

I think it’s important to understand that, although suicidalism builds on some pre-existing pathologies of Western culture, it is not a native or natural development. It is an infection that evildoers and their dupes created and then spread as part of a war against the West; their goal was totalitarian control, and part of their method was to talk the West into slitting its own throat.

Eric S. Raymond, “Suicidalism”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-09-13.

July 25, 2017

The Greatest Scientist of the 20th Century You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Filed under: History, Religion, Science, Space — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 13 Jul 2017

There’s a perception that religion and science go together about as well as mayonnaise and marshmallows. In some instances, this is, perhaps, true. But on a typically warm Southern California January in 1933 at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California (the same place and same time that Jack Parsons of rocket science fame was doing his experiments — history intersecting!), religion and science proved that these two ideals didn’t have to be enemies.

Want the text version?: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2014/02/georges-lemaitre-greatest-scientist-youve-never-heard/

July 18, 2017

Signs of the libertarian revolution

Filed under: Britain, Liberty, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

L. Neil Smith explains how some clearly libertarian trends are being misinterpreted in the latest Libertarian Enterprise:

… primarily as a result of the Internet turning human communications completely sideways, depriving those who have falsely believed they own us of their lofty perches, the 10,000-year-old Age of Authority is ending. Communication between human beings is now lateral, egalitarian, even Tweets from the President, and it doesn’t matter at all how much governments stomp their jackbooted feet or scream and shout. Their kind of social structure is doomed as humanity enters a new era.

One set of consequences of this change is examined, if a bit superficially, in a June article on Breitbart.com by one Liam Deacon, who informs us that a new study finds that “Traditional Views on Same Sex Marriage, Abortion, Pornography [and sex before marriage] in Britain [are] Rapidly Diminishing”. These are trends of the last four years, and to the extent they’ve also occurred long since in America — add in the legalization of marijuana and the increased tendency of individuals to arm themselves against crime and terrorism — it means that most academic and official analyses of socio-political events from, perhaps, the Tea Party Uprising of 2009. through the election of Donald Trump to the triumph of Brexit are dead wrong. We are not undergoing any merely conservative or populist (whatever that means) swing of the pendulum, but an all-out libertarian revolution. I think I know one when I see one: I’ve been doing my best to arrange one for my entire adult life.

According to the study, conducted in 2016, the latest edition of the “British Social Attitudes” survey, resistance from organized Christianity, even the Roman Catholic Church, which used to form a bulwark against social changes like this, is now crumbling, with 64 percent in favor of gay marriage, and 75 percent favoring pre-marital sex. Seventy percent of Catholics believe that abortion is within a woman’s rights. Pornography, too, is now approved by a majority.

Researchers somehow, irrationally, believe that these changes are in opposition to other events, such as “Brexit, Trump, and Le Pen” but they’re wrong. The object in all cases, is self-determination, which is the very heart of libertarianism. Increasingly, people — of all ages, the article observed with a note of amazement — are unwilling to accept dictation from once-respected leaders and traditional social, political, and economic structures. I’d like to believe this is because of the conspicuous failures of authority over the past century or so, but, entirely without condescending — most people are just too busy earning a living and living their lives for theories — I’m not certain that the average person’s thinking is that informed or organized.

More likely, the soap-opera of everyday living has taught them far better than the pompous pronouncements of the fat-heads in power. And for those of us who never believed in Authority, that’s very good news.

July 15, 2017

The Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tennessee

Filed under: History, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

As a long-time admirer of H.L. Mencken (since discovering Prejudices: A Selection in a used book store on Queen Street in the mid-1980s), I’ve always had an interest in the skullduggery around the “Scopes Monkey Trial” … and apparently so has Colby Cosh:

H.L Mencken celebrates the repeal of Prohibition, December 1933.

In a merely procedural sense, the Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee, ended on July 21, 1925 with the conviction of biology teacher John T. Scopes on the charge of instructing students that “man has descended from a lower order of animals.” But of course the real Monkey Trial is eternal, winding its way anew through American life, decade after decade. The carefully staged publicity stunt in Tennessee was merely one occasion in a longer struggle over the nature of man and the limits of his knowledge. I know this is an old-fashioned romantic ACLU-liberal view of the matter, but I hold to it.

As I write this column, county officials in Dayton are unveiling a statute of Clarence Darrow, the garrulous, crooked lawyer who represented Team Enlightenment in the original 1925 contest between Darwinian evolution and the Scriptures. In 2005, the citizens of Dayton, where Monkey Trial tourism is now a crucial industry, erected a statue of William Jennings Bryan on the grounds of the immortal Rhea County courthouse. Bryan had been the chosen hero of evangelical Christianity in the trial, dying less than a week after its conclusion, and is the namesake of a local bible college, which paid for the statue.

[…]

I became a serious student of the Scopes Trial as an undergraduate. Like anybody else, I had seen the 1960 Hollywood rendering of the play about the trial, Inherit The Wind, which represents Bryan as an ignorant windbag, Darrow as a tired, patient figure of ostentatious nobility, and a thinly disguised H.L. Mencken as a cruel nihilist newspaperman. Today, I suppose I would regard Mencken as the real hero of the show. He was privy to the ACLU’s engineering of the trial as a publicity stunt, but he also always said that Tennessee was within its constitutional rights to forbid the teaching of evolution — to be, in his view, just as backward as its people wished.

Inherit The Wind makes its pseudo-Mencken a heartless guttersnipe mostly as a device for elevating a sympathetic Darrow even further. This is part of the movie’s major liberty with the events of the trial: it has Bryan drop dead in mid-rant at the moment of its culmination, instead of waiting a few days. What I discovered as a student was that, aside from this excusable concession to theatrical unity, the film probably deserves some kind of prize for general fidelity to historical events.

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