Category: Culture

More on gravity…

 The point I tried to make was this:  I think the death-spiral of humans towards exclusivity is as innate as taking the next breath.  Many religions take advantage of that human characteristic, but not just religions.  Political parties, advertisers, specialists of all kinds (scientific, academic, skill-based, etc.), frat-brats and sorority chicks — more often than not, they tend to stick together with others like them and exclude others that are different.  The rarity is the occasional religion or philosophy or “social evolution” (never say “social Darwinism” on this list unless you are wearing asbestos underwear) that reverses that trend without exacting the terrible price of restricting most personal liberties.

In my experience, proselytizing is hardly limited to evangelical religionists.  But it does seem that our national dialogue on just about any subject these days has taken on the impassioned vitriol of the most dogmatic zealot.  I wasn’t trying to defend Christianity even though it works well for me as a way to understand the things I need to understand.  For others, I am quite certain it is always going to be regarded as complete foolishness.  Christians who cannot deal with that reality are miserable creatures indeed.  I suspect many who have crossed your path were sincere but frustrated to the point of anger with their inability to convert you to “their” side.  So be it.  That’s their problem, not yours.

You seem to have a high regard for logic, but I’m pretty gloomy about the prospects of humans being able to figure their own way out of the mess we’re in.  Seems like all we’ve gotten really good at is figuring out how to kill lots of folks real fast, and how to build really expensive toys for the ones who do most of the killing.  I hope you’re right about scientists being able to use their understanding of the human genome in ways that benefit everyone and everything on the planet, and not just the stockholders in some soulless corporation.  But at this point, I’d settle for someone figuring out how to make people use their turn signals…

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Gravitation toward exlusiveness

 Arthur C. Clarke came to mind when reading your post.  Whether or not this has anything to do with your thesis is probably open to debate, but I think you will find Clarke’s comments entertaining if not enlightening…

The quote that made me think of Sir Clarke:  “Sometimes I think we’re alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we’re not. In either case the idea is quite staggering.”

Of UFOs:  “They tell us absolutely nothing about intelligence elsewhere in the universe, but they do prove how rare it is on Earth.”

Clarke once attempted to write a six word story as part of a Wired Magazine article but wrote ten words instead:  “God said, ‘Cancel Program GENESIS.’ The universe ceased to exist.”
That last bit is a reminder that random web-surfing will take you on strange journeys.  That 10-word story comes from and includes these jewels of brevity:

Computer, did we bring batteries? Computer?  (Eileen Gunn)

We went solar; sun went nova.  (Ken MacLeod)

TIME MACHINE REACHES FUTURE!!! … nobody there …  (Harry Harrison)

Weeping, Bush misheard Cheney’s deathbed advice.  (Gregory Maguire)

Parallel universe. Bush, destitute, joins army.  (Steven Meretzky)

Anyway, back to your notion that religion gravitates towards exclusivity…  I’d suggest that at least some religions mitigate a natural human tendency to continuously break apart societies into smaller and smaller units for any number of non-religious reasons:  geography, skin color, language, clan or familial bonds, and affinity to others based on perceived similarities of beauty, athleticism, disease, affluence, etc.

During its first two centuries, the rapid spread of Christianity through every racial, ethnic, economic and social strata of the Roman Empire, from Persia to the British Isles, is an example of a religion that defied a society institutionally fractured into any number of highly exclusive factions:  citizen vs. non-citizen, free vs. slave, rich vs. poor, occupier vs. occupied, royalty vs. commoner, priest vs. layman, etc., etc.  Two thousand years later, clouded by the hubris of thinking we’re now a lot smarter than people used to be, we tend to forget how remarkable that first explosive growth was before it, too, became a behemoth institutional hierarchy.  There may be other examples, such as Islam and Communism and Televised Pop Culture, that tend to meld disparate folk into one society, but probably none as revolutionary as Christianity’s early years.

It’s easy to blame religion for everything that’s wrong with the world today, but that’s a bit like fixating on a knight’s shiny suit of armor and forgetting that there’s a man inside who animates it, or like focusing on a screen door and not seeing the landscape beyond.  In my opinion, when there’s something wrong with a religion, the problem lies more with its devotees than with the object of their devotion, but before this post ventures too far into the metaphysical, let me conclude with one last quote from Arthur C. Clarke.  I like its sentiment, but would have to add atheists, agnostics, and passionately anti-religion scientists to Clarke’s pantheon of friends:

“Finally, I would like to assure my many Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim friends that I am sincerely happy that the religion which Chance has given you has contributed to your peace of mind (and often, as Western medical science now reluctantly admits, to your physical well-being). Perhaps it is better to be un-sane and happy, than sane and un-happy. But it is the best of all to be sane and happy. Whether our descendants can achieve that goal will be the greatest challenge of the future. Indeed, it may well decide whether we have any future.”

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Secular Islam

 Randi Rhodes keeps harping on the idea that there’s a warped misogynistic, sado-masochistic, repressed-homosexuality theme running through a lot of what’s going on today in the Republican party and in our military fiasco in Iraq — phone sex with congressional pages, torture at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and black prisons, and of course, the wild popularity of shows like “24.”

Sent: Tuesday, March 27, 2007 11:49 AM
Subject: Re: Secular Islam

The brief declaration of these secular “Islamists” is reasonable, but it is what they don’t say that tells the
most. For example, they mention Glenn Beck’s support of their movement, and he had a whole program praising them. But Glenn Beck is a raging Islamophobe. The secularists question the existence of Islamophobia, putting quotation marks around the word. But Beck the other day (on his CNN Headline News hour long program) mentioned “the dirt bags in the Middle East who sell us oil.” A while back Beck suggested that Iran was going to nuke Israel on a certain day, motivated by whacky millennial religious prophesies. Of course it never happened. His take on the Iraq war is “we should kill them before they kill us.” So in Beck’s view there is a lot of killing to do – and that is the necessary final solution to put a stop to what these dirt bags are up to. He is a prime example of an opportunist who has discovered that 100% support of Israeli expansionism is a key to success in the US media (he himself is Mormon). How any self-respecting Muslim could sit down with him without challenging his crude racism and advocacy of violence against Muslims is most perplexing, unless we get into the question of the financing of this group.

I suppose these secularists will have nothing to say about Christian Zionism. There will not be a single word of criticism of televangelist John Hagee, who in his recent big selling book “Countdown to Jerusalem” presents a map of Israel, as he says God will have it. It includes all of Lebanon, Jordan and Kuwait, and most of Syria and Iraq. It is a huge swath, including vast oil reserves, going eastward to the Euphrates river. Hagee, in his widely broadcast daily TV program, recently said there were 10 Al Qaeda sleeper cells in the US that planned to nuke American cities all on a certain day. This may have been inspired by the popular TV program “24”, which features Keither Sutherland torturing Arab prisoners until they reveal such plans. Many right wingers in the US are turned on by these torture scenes, and recently the US military expressed concern about the bad influence of “24” on cadets at West Point.  Hagee, in the tradition of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, claims a reality for all this. Yet these secular Islamists put quotation marks around the word Islamophobia!     Daniel

 Help!  There was an article in our paper a few days ago, lauding the efforts of “secular Muslims” (is that anything like religious Episcopalians?) at a recent summit in St. Petersburg, Florida.  The gist of it was that no one in the Western press gave it the attention it deserved since it was all about taking back Islam from the fundamentalists.

I checked out their website ( and was immediately suspicious that it is yet another traveling show of “I once was a Muslim wretch” Faux News and 700 Club darlings.  Anytime a group says that the Washington Times loves them but the Washington Post doesn’t, I get suspicious.  On top of that, there’s a cross-link to Arabs For Israel ( on the website and one of the speakers had just written a book titled “Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism.”

 So, are my suspicions justified?  Is this another misinformation/propaganda front to keep us all scared to death of those hordes of Jesus-hating darkies arrayed against us (and even amongst us)?  Or is this in fact an honest effort by moderate intellectuals hell-bent (apologies all, but that is self-amusing, given the context) on reforming their Islamic faith?  Who funds this group?  Any information short of telling me to report myself to the nearest JDL center is appreciated.

PS — if you go to the .com version of the above .org site, you will be redirected to a site that is thoroughly pro-Islam.  Today’s verse is: The blame is only against those who oppress men and wrong-doing and insolently transgress beyond bounds through the land, defying right and justice: for such there will be a penalty grievous. al-Qur’an 42:42

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Faux news

 You’re taking the Washington Times to task for helping smear Valerie Plame?  That’s like chastising the New York Post for helping Israel attack Jimmy Carter, or Faux News for helping keep George Bush’s insanity hidden from his shrinking pool of doting admirers.  In the interest of triangulating the truth from multiple “news” sources, you have to occasionally sip the poison cool-aid that these propagandists dispense, but their “signal” is at best vague and distorted by static.  Honing in on the real story behind their “reporting” is a bit like a blind man trying to calculate what a distant shooter was aiming at after he’s been stung by a single pellet of widely-scattered buckshot…

But you’re right, the article was intentionally obfuscating and overtly sexist.  To describe Ms. Plame as a “petite bleached blonde, clad in a low-cut white blouse, beige herringbone jacket and snug brown slacks” is outrageous and, if you actually watched any of the hearing on C-Span, deliberately misleading.  From what I’ve read in the Washington Times over the years, I seriously doubt that they pride themselves in their journalistic integrity.  I think they know exactly what they’re doing…

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Flying spittle

 I can imagine that in Mr. Greenberg’s mind, any modern comparison to the Holocaust is tantamount to its diminution/dilution and therefore an insult to the Jews’ well-documented suffering.  Also well-documented is the rage provoked by exposing the hypocrisy of Jewish nationalists.  Just ask Jesus…

If Greenberg didn’t like your comments, I’m sure he’s thrilled with fellow Jew Norman Finkelstein, who equates the Holocaust with an “industry” designed to rake in billions of dollars in perpetuity.  Arabs are supposed to get over what Israel did to them 60 years ago (and continue to do to them) but woe unto anyone who dares suggest it’s time to move on from the admittedly horrific events of just a few years earlier.

I suppose that what really made the spittle fly was that the comments re. Israel’s Nazi-like and apartheid-like rape and pillage of Palestine and her neighbors came on the heels of a visit to that holy-of-holies for the Holocaust industry, Yad Vashem.  By Germans.  And not just any Germans, but German Catholics with their ancient enmity toward European Jewry.  German Catholics who shut up and went along, at first anyway, with whatever dear old Adolph wanted (and then paid dearly for that complicity by being walled away from the rest of the world for the next half-century).  All of which makes their criticism now even more poignant and newsworthy.

There are new reports from Hebron which I will forward.  They are very depressing.  I’m sure Mr. Greenberg will especially like the graffiti on a Palestinian house, painted by a saintly Jewish settler, that reads “Arabs to the Gas Chambers.”  I spoke with Ray Close this week.  Mr. Close was a CIA officer, now retired, engaged in various efforts during the 50s, 60s, and 70s to destabilize and even overthrow regimes from Beirut to Baghdad.  He is likewise depressed with the morass we find ourselves in.  He said there are only two viable solutions left to the people caught up in this violence without end:  leave now or stockpile arms and ammunition and wait.  In his words, “keep your powder dry and wait for ‘The Night of the Long Knives.'”  Again the Nazi connection…

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 Yesterday, Monroe asked me:

Aren’t there people in the USA who call themselves Christians who truly want a Theocracy here – somewhat like the Taliban described below?

Absolutely. The scariest of the bunch (in my opinion) are the ones who follow and expand upon the teachings of Rousas John Rushdoony (1916 – 2001). He was educated in your backyard (Berkeley) and wrote the highly influential “Institutes of Biblical Law” which argues that Old Testament law should be applied to modern society and that there should be a Christian theonomy. According to Wikipedia, Rushdoony’s work has been used by Dominion Theology advocates who attempt to implement a Christian theocracy.

I don’t know if Rushdoony himself was a bad guy, any more than Karl Marx was, but some very dangerous characters have taken his ideas and run with them. I’ve known one person (also from California) who met Rushdoony and was, for a while back in the 70s or 80s, a disciple. Rushdoony was practically the messiah for some of these guys, lecturing small groups of followers in his home every week. More recently, I have encountered others who still dream of an eventual theocracy based (at least partly) on Rushdoony’s ideas, discussing their visions of grandeur as casually as you or I might discuss upcoming sports events or political elections. I can tell you from experience that they are very dismissive of the once-orthodox Baptistic principle that government meddling in religious affairs (and vice versa) is something to be eschewed rather than embraced.

These aren’t your garden-variety white supremacists or skinheads or “Left Behind” apocalypse hunters.  These are very smart people who have thought long and hard about how to make their ideas a reality.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find some sort of convergence between Rushdoony’s people and the neocons who advise our present prince.  How far they have gotten, or how strong they still are, I’m not sure…

See for more re. Rousas John Rushdoony.

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War’s price tag

 Pretend for a moment the war is occurring in a vacuum and we’re not even considering the cost to Iraq and its neighbors.  According to an article published today in New Statesman, the cost for the war and for caring for our wounded and for the tangential impacts, such as the cost of oil, will eventually cost the United States $2.5 trillion!  That’s a lot of cheeseburgers.  The article goes on to suggest that the numbers of wounded flowing through the VA are being “recalibrated” to match Pentagon figures.  Well worth reading:

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