Thursday, October 19, 2006

What Could Make a Privileged Idealist Take Up Arms?

I don't like the me I can become sometimes, the hyper-passionate, extremist, militant, scary me, the monstrous me I've shamefully let some see all too often before; yet a part of me I can't deny and sometimes even embrace; the part of me that could drive me to do those ominous things I've suggested before. This is the me who considers and investigates such things as revolutionary tactics and explores leaderless resistance movements, who entertains the very real possibility of dropping out of/getting expelled from college and becoming a militant activist/agitator/"terrorist" just like those bourgeois al-Qaida militants. Perhaps, as Gore Vidal said of that racist, indiscriminate, insane fucker Timothy McVeigh, I also need "a self-consuming cause to define" myself.

I can't deny any of this, but there is a crucial difference between me (even the me I just spoke of) and those terrorists such as al-Qaida and McVeigh, and it is imperative that anyone who knows me and is put off by my apparent militant extremism recognize and understand the difference absolutely. It has to do with motivations, outcomes and context. It is empathy and the raised moral bar before which the ends can justify the means in my eyes. I understand that riot cop could just as easily be someone like my father, or yours; that soldier could just as easily be numerous buddies of mine, or either of my grandfathers; but whatever human back-story they have ceases to exist, as does mine, the moment we associate ourselves with ideals; when we clash in an absolutely justified, valid battle of incompatible ideologies. We cease to be human first and beliefs second and become representatives of our ideologies, and when the stakes are high enough and the battle is justified enough, sometimes conflict is the only option. When all other legitimate avenues have been exhausted, when moderation and diplomacy fail AND when the cause is just, violence in socio-political affairs is justified.

I realize this could be construed as undermining my opposition of our invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. It doesn't. It could also be construed as supportive of the insurgency. You have to examine every scenario on a case-by-case basis (this is where the contextual part comes in). I would support the American Revolution. I would support the Russian Revolution. In certain situations, confronted with certain things, with certain motivations behind me, I would absolutely fight. I wouldn't murder, maim or rape innocents or children in the name of any cause, as Winston reluctantly agrees to do in Orwell's 1984 (a hypocritical betrayal of the very objective morality and humanism he wants to fight for, which eventually undermines and helps destroy him), but I would absolutely travel to Catalonia as Orwell did to take up arms against fascists in the Spanish Civil War. And, for perhaps the first time since WWII, I believe we are facing such a grave, justified cause: Pax Americana.

But with the one-party rule that's mutilated our country for the past four years looking set to collapse in a mere 19 days, maybe I shouldn't get so worked up.

Go vote, fuckers.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Where I Stand

Hello again everyone. I am back for yet another blog, this one entirely of my own thinking and not merely a commentary on another authors' writings. The issue this time is religion, specifically addressing what many atheists have been accused of by religious moderates and fundamentalists alike. This accusation, intended to put atheists on the defensive is that as an atheist, I wish religion had never existed. It is worthy to note that this charge also comes from atheists who do, in fact, agree with the charge and hold a certain contempt for atheists such as myself who disagree entirely. So this is basically a defense of my disgust for religion, hopefully a pretty in depth look at it.

Well we might as well start with the beginning right? Now I am going to make a somewhat fair assumption here that everyone knows about the story of Christianity from Jesus' birth to his death and resurrection. You're all Christian right so you should now this. If you don't feel free to go educate yourself; you will be needing it for this blog. Now then, picking up where Jesus left off, we have the time period known to many as "the gap." Jesus dies around 30-33 AD and then there is not really much record of his teachings and life and whatnot until somewhere around 70 AD at the earliest, which comes in the form of the gospels. For more information regarding that little problem, consult the documentary "The God That Wasn't There." OK so what I want to talk about is the manner through which Christianity spread. The most common conception of this is that Paul and Peter took care of the spreading of these teachings. So let's go ahead and focus on exactly who Paul was and what he preached. Paul was originally named Saul and persecuted Christians with a fiery vengeance. In fact, just to show how much he hated these bastards, on what would be his final journey or this sort, he set off towards Damascus to arrest any Christians, chain them and bring them back to be imprisoned and/or executed in Jerusalem. No wonder atheists decry Christianity as one of the most violent atrocities to come to this earth. Anyway on the way to Damascus Saul has a vision where he sees Jesus, and is converted in an instant to Paul of Tarsus. Now, I'll be nice and ignore the ridiculous improbability that a man who had devoted his life to the persecution of Christians became one over a hallucination in the desert. So anyway Paul becomes chief proselytizer of Jesus and his teachings, proclaiming faith in God as the way to go. Nothing to remarkable yet I suppose, but here is where it gets interesting. The manner in which Paul spreads these teachings is, to be honest, wholly non-Christ-like, while at the same time the very definition of Christianity. Paul instilled a fear within the uneducated with his threats of hellfire and damnation and claims of original sin. He speaks of a violent, malevolent God and denounces those skeptical of the resurrection as fools. In reading Romans and Acts and Epistels and Corinthians, etc, I can't recall a single time in which Paul acknowledges the right to independent belief and thought. Humanity as a whole is a sinful bunch and must repent to God, or else face his wrath, and by the way, this is THE way to think, as there is no other way about it. The state of Israel? Merely misguided peoples yet to understand the truth. Am I the only one who questions what the fuck was Up with Paul's decision to put Christianity at odds with every other past present and future religion and belief system? And people say that religions are mutually ass they aren't. In conclusion, Christianity didn't spread via genuine love for thy neighbor, or for an inherent belief in the good of others, or even based on any peaceful pretenses.

Now I'm not too biased, so I will go ahead and express my volition of Islam. So as far as the history of Islam goes, I am not going to explain the resident beliefs on it's origins in detail. You should already know that, and if you don't, go educate yourself then come back. What you really need to know is Muhammad, the last in the line of prophets of God, at the age of around forty staring receiving visions from the angel Gabriel in a cave on a mountain outside Mecca known as Hira. Gabriel tells him to "recite!" and so he does and what he recites over the many years this occurs becomes what we all know as the Qur'an. Anyway, the manner in which Muhammad spread this word of God was in an almost identical manner which Paul had used half a century earlier; with proclamations about the Day of Judgement, strict monotheism and condescending attitudes on his belief to perfect the flawed systems of belief that were Judaism and Christianity.but Meccans didn't take too kindly to this asshole telling them they are fools, so they exiled his ass to Medina. Then they got really mad and attacked Medina, but strangely enough Muhammad and his Muslim followers were able to fend them off, eventually marching on Mecca and conquering that city, supposedly in a bloodless battle. Anyway the Muslims remove the idols from the Kabba in Mecca and thus Islam becomes an established ideology in the history of the world...through subjugation of powers; awesome. So here we have the Muslim religion expanding in much the same way as Christianity, though with arguably more war and bloodshed.

Now getting back to my point of this blog, how is it possible that as an atheist I don't despise the creation of religion, even after the condescending remarks I have made in the previous paragraphs? Simple. Religion was a bounty of scientific knowledge. Yeah I said it. Do a double take, laugh, cry, whatever you need to do after reading that....OK so now we're back and it's time for me to justify that. Let me be the first to say that religion as we know it today is one of the most tremendous abominations in opposition to science that exists. But is religion as we know it today the same as in the past? Let's compare some proponents of religion from each time period. Present day, we have Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, Christian fundamentalists that most people will agree are bat-shit crazy. They hate gays, they hate atheists, they hate liberals, they hate terrorists, they hate abortion, they hate most things other than that which brings humanity closer to the Day of judgment, which means nuclear holocaust. In short they take the Bible in its most literal sense. But what about philosophers of early Christian theology, like Origen. he was essentially a Platonistic idealist, who advocated seeing the scriptures in a symbolic and metaphorical way. Sure he still believed in God and such, and never said much without adding a scriptural sub note, but did he think in any way like Robertson and Falwell? Not even in the slightest. Yet Origen wasn't the only Christian theologian to think in this manner. His predecessor Clement believed in a similar manner; Justin Martyr held a view largely influenced by Pagan ideas. There were of course those that believed somewhat in the way Robertson surely does, such as Tertullian, but the number who believed along his lines were scarce.

Let's examine Islam in this same manner shall we? It's often stated that Muslim's brought a vast amount of knowledge and advancement to society in its early days. And that's largely true. Take, for instance, Avicenna, or often known as Ibn Sina. He wrote of philosophy, alchemy, mathematics, physiology, physics, ethics, theology, etc. However his greatest achievements were in the field of medicine. He was centuries ahead of his time in his physical and psychological analysis of the human senses, which he classified as the Human Soul. he used organization and classification methods similar to that of Aristotle, primarily because he, like many other Islamic philosophers, writers and theologians, agreed largely in the necessity of free will and knowldege/reason, much as ancient Greek philosophy had emphasized. Even though this often went against the teachings of the Qur'an, many of them reconciled their persistence with either claims to allegorical interpretation of the Qur'an, or as in the case of Averroes, tried their best to justify the Qur'an as encouraging free will, stating that none of this which I have mentioned was at all contradictory to the Qur'an. Again, there were those that denounced them as well as their admiration of Greek philosophy, such as Al-Ghazali. But as with Christian philosophy, the majority lay on the side of loose interpretation.

So what are we to conclude from all of this? The fact is that ancient religion was a manner far different from what we call religion in present times. Now, am I suggesting reverting to that ancient style of religious interpretation? Still, the answer is no. Religion was a handy tool that sparked human curiosity and ingenuity. Religion was, in a sense, the base argument of civilization, both literally (religious theocracy) as well as figuratively (ideological study and examination). But its grown useless. The reason I say this is because in early AD, much of the world was undiscovered. There were few proven theories and laws which concerned themselves with the nature of our world. So today, in a world where evolution has extensively been shown to be biological fact, why must we feign ignorance and say God had a hand in it all by studying the pseudoscience known as Intelligent Design? Why is it necessary to say God was the first cause when physicists have gone to great lengths in their study of Big Bang Theory to show it as factual information? As a society we are not in the dark. We have examined issues of science and mathematics which ancient theologians themselves examined and we have found solutions to them.

The world is indeed "shades of gray" in many respects; however, that said, there are those things which are indeed set fact, and we can prove that. Religion today is a hindrance to our humanity. With reactionary, ignorant bullshit, for instance the disinformation campaign on AIDS pursued by the Catholic church, it is no wonder so many people are starting to move to the "moderate" stance of religion. People are waking up to the reality that is the irrationality of faith. They want to pick and choose from their respective religious text what they believe in and create some wonderful personal thing. As great as that may be, the problem lies in the fact that there are radicals who still follow the violent, bigoted, racist doctrines located within these same texts. So the situation becomes this; I, being a rational, reasonable person, decide to call bullshit on the Religious Right ass hats in America. The most effective way to do this is tear from them what little ground they have to stand on, in this case, the Bible. So I verbally assault the Bible, but now here it comes; I will be receiving a backlash of shit from those damned moderates who still love portions of the Bible. They claim it's wrong for me to paint them with the same brush and to harp on their beliefs. Thus making it impossible for someone such as myself to mount a credible offense against radical religious faith. And the truly horrifying aspect of this is the unnecessary need for the biblical "positives" people selectively cling to. Generally those in this position agree with the moral ideology perpetuated in the bible. For example, they applaud the love thy neighbor, don't murder, etc. However, is love for the rest of humanity really something you need to be told to do? Were we to be without these religious texts, would society devolve into an anarchistic state, following tribal methods of social interaction? Granted, some really do believe we would devolve into this state (Thomas Aquinas and any others who believe in original sin and the inherent evil of man, I am looking in all your directions). However, the brute fact here is that there are societies throughout the world which are for the most part godless. Japan, for instance, is around 65% atheist/agnostic/nonbeliever in God, has one of the most advanced technological markets in he world. Literacy is 99% and infrastructure is well established. Japan has about 1.3 robberies per 100,000 people, as well as only 1.1 murders per 100,000 people. Now if you don't see that as low, compare it to the United States pathetic figures, 233 robberies per 100,000 people and 8.7 murders per 100,000 people. Now I spent little time finding and researching this, but the numbers can't be too far off. Basically we see low crime, and a solid economy in so called "godless" countries such as Japan. Again I ask then, where does this leave us? The argument that without religion civilization crumbles into anarchy and loses all basic moral structure is flat out false and data can prove it.

So that, good people, is why I don't think organized religion should never have existed. It was a fountain of progress for the first thousand years or so, however today that fountain has dried up. It's time to rid ourselves as a people of faith-based ignorance. We are humanity; no need to be ashamed of it.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

My Good Friend Liberalism, Where Have You Gone?

It's been a while since my last blog that was worthwhile, so I'll try to make this one good. The issue at hand is religion mixed with a little bit of political perspective. I received the inspiration for this blog after having read one of Sam Harris's latest articles. Oh and one last thing, I'll most likely be following up this blog with another which will regard religion from a historical perspective and some distinctions within atheist belief. Anyway let's get down to business on Sam Harris.

The Sam Harris article I read was entitled "Head-in-the-Sand Liberals," which is basically his critique of liberalism specifically in America going astray when it comes to dealing with terrorism and the future of our world. Now, considering that I consider myself a liberal, just as I consider Mr. Harris a liberal, I was to say the least taken aback by such an article. In a way, I was exactly the kind of liberal Harris was addressing. After stewing over the article an examining some of it's finer points I've come to realize that Harris is, for the most part, speaking truth. He condemns liberals for their lack of understanding the "war on terror" as really being a war with extremist Muslims. This is in fact an accurate if not precise description of what our supposed "war on terror" really is. I take this not as an attack of Arab peoples, but as an attack on the religious culture, which is exactly what it is. What exactly are we fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and perhaps soon to be Iran. Are we fighting these countries because of their ethnicity? Of course we aren't considering there is nothing inherently violent or "bad" based upon race; to say otherwise is ridiculous. Are we fighting in order to instill democratic rule and thereby bring peace these people? If we were all about democratic rule we would have allowed Hamas to stay in power after they were elected democratically, rather than refusing to acknowledge them. Speaking of violence and peace in the Middle East, why does it even exist? Perhaps because of a political disagreement? I've seen no evidence to support that, though if you have evidence to prove me wrong let me know. No, it's not over some political ideology; it's over their fucking religions. The "insurgents," for the most part serve under radical clerics and other tribal religious extremists. So yes, this is in fact a war on radical Islam.

The next point Harris raises is where this Muslim extremism is coming from. The traditional stance of liberals is that it's from lack of both economic opportunity and education. I staunchly disagreed with this until I started looking into it; examining studies regarding it. The fact is that many of the Muslim terrorists are young, enthusiastic, upwardly mobile, with a science and engineering background, as well as cohesive families, this according to a 1980 study on Islamists in Egyptian jails. However, on that same note I understand that there has been a sudden surge in radical Islam, which can't really be explained without some factor other than the Qur'an. As Robert Scheer mentioned in a recent interview, these people didn't all of a sudden start reading their Qur'an and deicide Jihad was the proper way to go about things. But if that isn't the case, there must be something else. Perhaps in our current day, poverty does play a larger role. Maybe American militarism is part of the problem. For me, I don't really know for sure and to Sam Harris's discredit he offers absolutely no insight on this matter. However, while I think this is an important issue that should be further examined, after all, getting at the root of the problem is perhaps the best way to go about solving it, at the same time I feel this is moot. The fact that these "terrorists" ride under the banner of religious extremism is enough for me to condemn the religion in its entirety. Those Muslim's not associated with the Islamist factions attain no benefit which is unattainable otherwise, without religion as a crutch.

Moving on, the real and only issue Harris raises that I flat out disagree with has got to be this topic of morality, which he examines based on a nation to nation basis. In his article, Sam brings to light the issue of Palestinian organization's use of human shields, willingness to kill non combatants and genocidal dialogue regarding their political discourse, eventually stating that, "Given these distinctions, there is no question that the Israelis now hold the moral high ground in their conflict with Hamas and Hezbollah." All of the United States and Israeli political bullying, de facto murder of noncombatant's, failure of precision missiles to strike their proper targets, use of torture, use of cluster bombs indiscriminately in Lebanese neighborhoods, all of it justified upon the supposed moral high ground according to Harris. I'm not going to get into throwing appraise, much of which is deserved, onto Hezbollah and Hamas simply because there is no moral high ground here. I acknowledge that suicide bombing is hardly morally superior to any of the things which I mentioned regarding the US and Israel, but I refuse to get into a battle of better of two evils. As far as I'm concerned, there is no moral high ground on this issue, so don't even try to use it to justify anything you say, Mr. Harris. There is ample ground for you to stand on and still make your case without using morality in a war that has, to say the least, blurred morality.

So the basic concept of what Harris is getting at still stands. Liberalism has gone awry, meandering straight down the middle of the road, trying its best not to piss off anyone in particular, while at the same time offering little in response to the grievances aimed at the current state of affairs in Washington.

So concludes my second blog on anything of importance. I would appreciate any comments you have not only in regard to the ideas presented here, but also, perhaps as a side note, your evaluation of the structure, mechanics, etc of this blog. Hopefully that will let me prepare a better blog when I do my next one on religion within the next week. Admittedly, I was less pleased with this blog than I had hoped to be, but I hope you still enjoyed it.