Anyone who has read this blog for some time knows I hold Aristotle in a very high degree. As such it is always great to see others also acknowledge his greatest work Nicomachean Ethics, which in my mind is the most important book every written in the history of the world. This speech at the American Enterprise Institute about the importance of Aristotle’s works I think is something we should all take the time (it’s worth the hour and a half).
Category Archives: Aristotle
A government professor of mine once stated that all governments were a balance between three different values: Equality, Order, and Liberty. No one value can be pursued without cost to the other two. The ideal society would actually be the one that keeps these three points in balance. However, as we look around modern parties and political movements, the logic of balance seems nowhere to be found.
Liberals, socialists and progressives seek equality at the cost of order and liberty finally reaching their ideal society, a Communistic state where everyone is equal but in the end utterly worthless as equality requires none be higher than others, thus all talent, all incentives, and all goals have been destroyed leaving society to collapse before the equally unimpressive slaves that it has created. In a state where all are equal there can be no order because power cannot be vested (even through law) in another thus nothing can keep law and civil society together thus at best everything is merely slave to the whim of the herd (law by the same methods created reality TV)…and there can be no liberty, as liberty leads to exceptionalism, and no one can be better than anyone else
The growing fascist movements of Greece, the tyranny of Vladimir Putin, and the vile wretchedness of Islamofascism value order above all else. But for there to be complete order there can be no liberty because if people can choose for themselves, they will sometimes choose wrong and this inevitably leads to some level of chaos, some crime, some disorder. And in the ordered state there can be no equality, as equality requires that all are subject to rules, and for the ordered state to work no one can watch the watchers because they are the final authority, otherwise there is no way to control and maintain order.
Libertarians and anarchists view liberty as the end all be all of all politics. But where there is perfect freedom there can be no equality, even before the law, because there can be no law if there is nothing but license to do whatever you want. And there can be no order in the fully liberated state as the law who would hold back those who do not recognize the rights of others cannot exist.
And finally populists don’t particularly view any of these as all that important. Yes populists want equality when someone is doing better than them, which is why businesses and businessmen are evil and need to be reined in…but they strangely don’t care about equality when they’re doing better, which is why even Ron Paul brought back millions in pork to his district. They care about liberty, for themselves…but for anyone else, eh, it’s not that important. And order is important, so long as it’s in my general vicinity, enforced by me, and I don’t care if it’s not in my line of sight. (And please understand why I have been hitting the populists posing as conservatives a lot lately, your average Democratic voter has always been a populist. Their activists and politicians maybe progressives, but the voters are populists who just care about their entitlements and what will be given to them).
Meanwhile there is the real conservative viewpoint. That these three virtues of a society must be held in careful balance. That the extreme of any one of these because a dystopian nightmare (Liberty, Order, Equality…Lord of the Flies, 1984, Harrison Bergeron…or for the less well read, Mad Max, Hunger Games, Divergent…or if you prefer history, Somalia, Nazi Germany, Revolutionary France). That a society without these three to guide them is just as bad as one where only one is followed (I’d give an example but modern politics seems to be it and the last few years of Rome seem to be the only places dumb enough to try such an abhorrent idea in practice). Only the society that balances these forces is a prosperous one.
So what is the guiding star of conservatism that makes it so different from these other ideologies? Well, not to sound like a dozen other blogs on this site but the answer is once again, Aristotle.
Aristotle, for all his flawed understanding of politics (give the man a break, there wasn’t much reliable history to work with in the 4th century B.C. and you can’t expect him to have prescience of what was to come) understood that in politics, as with ethics, it is not a question of ends or means, but a question of ends and means. Those who value equality or order only value an end of making everyone equal or making everything peaceful. Those who value liberty only value the means of liberty not the result of what such anarchy brings. Only balancing both ends and means work.
And Aristotle saw the correct end to focus on. The end to all human life is Happiness. And society, family, education must all be structured to ensure Happiness for the greatest number of people. Now because Happiness requires freedom of choice and personal growth, not everyone will reach happiness no matter what a government/family/society does, but it requires liberty and the ability to exercise free will. But because Happiness requires some ability to plan and control your own life, it requires order to some degree. And because the point is to provide Happiness (or the opportunity to pursue Happiness) for the most people as all are equally human and equally deserving at birth of achieving Happiness. None of these on their own can lead to Happiness, and all must work together.
And this is why other belief systems don’t work; they’re not aimed at Happiness.
For instance look at misnamed “social conservatives” (Progressives for Jesus might be a better way to put it). They keep saying that the point of marriage is to have children. As if having children is an end in itself. And they keep bringing this up as a reason why they opposed gay marriage. Now there are good reasons to get rid of marriage as a legal concept (and replace it with legal civil unions and let religion handle marriage without government interference) but it is not just the Progressive mentality here to have the government take control of everything. It is the missed sense of what the end of things are. They view the family as a means to creating another family. The family, society, everything in the view has no purpose but to serve itself. You have to have marriage to create children. You have to raise children so they lead lives where they get married. They get married to have children…over and over again. There is no point to the individual life (unless you want to get into some bizarre servitude to God, which views God as a master and the individual the slave…but no serious reading of any sane religion even comes close to that.) This is why social conservatives tend to be not only bad at politics but their own religion. Social conservatives should go back and read their Aquinas who makes it clear that “the principal end of matrimony, namely the good of the offspring” and that “the secondary end of matrimony, which is the mutual services which married persons render one another in household matters.” Notice how in the second point it is the betterment of each other (i.e. the individual’s happiness) that is the point of marriage. Just as every social institution is supposed to place the Happiness of the individual as a goal. Parents should be concerned with teaching their children the knowledge, ethics, and character that will allow them to be happy adults. Schools and other societal organizations should be focused on encouraging people to be the best they can be with the goal being individual Happiness. Social conservatives’ problem, like all progressives, is they think society is the end goal, it is not; the good of individual is the goal.
Then you have Libertarians who don’t even consider ends and just, like good Kantian idiots, look at means. And liberty is the only mean they care about. Oh they may say that freedom leads to individual Happiness, but they ignore that just because the exercise of free will is necessary it is not sufficient. (Just as Milton Friedman said that “History suggests only that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom. Clearly it is not a sufficient condition.”) Let’s take a look at what sometimes appears to be the only thing that libertarians think about: The War on Drugs. Okay, I will concede that the War on Drugs has been handled idiotically. I will concede that if a person should be able to use drugs in the privacy of their own home if they’re not hurting anyone. I concede that the power to prosecute the War on Drugs has led to massive costs and an intolerable level of corruption in the name of the War on Drugs. But in all this the libertarians fail to admit some very simple things. They act like the people who take drugs are all just innocent little lambs who are the victims of an unjust police power.
Let me set the record straight: They’re criminals (whether they get caught and convicted or not, they’re criminals). They have the mentality that the rules of society, their long term well-being, and how their actions may hurt others are of absolutely no concern to them so long as they get a moment of pleasure. At best that is vilely hedonistic, at worst it has a bit of a sociopath in it. Libertarians like to pretend that you have otherwise innocent drug users in one group, and in another you have real criminals. And that the fact that we have a massive prison population proves that this War on Drugs needs to end. The problem is that you don’t have two different groups; you have a Venn diagram where criminals and drug users are often one in the same. Libertarians like to point to the increasing prison population, but they always conveniently forget that as prison populations go up violent and non-violent crime go down. They ignore that often drugs are used to put dangerous criminals away when other more serious charges don’t have as much admissible evidence. So there are benefits to the War on Drugs. But not willing to admit that drops in the murder, rape, theft rates is a good thing, libertarians only care about the liberty to do drugs. They don’t advocate that we should focus more on the cartels, the gang distributors, and legalize personal home use (all things which would still probably round up the worst real criminals while not hurt the people who can actually handle personal use)…no they have to argue that we should just legalize all drugs. No concern for order, just liberty…and no Happiness for anyone.
The other difference between libertarians, Progressive for Jesus**, and real conservatives. Unlike Libertarians, conservatives understand that laws do need to be structured not just to protect rights but to encourage habits that will typically lead to a healthy society and Happiness in individuals (for instance unless we switch to a flat tax having tax credit for charity; the fact that we can’t just get rid of civil union side of marriage, and that we do need a safety net of some kind***; providing minimum standards for education to make sure all students receive a basic minimum of education) but unlike the Progressive for Jesus we must do so in a way that limits (or at least poses as few limits as possible) to the good that liberty provides (deciding what counts as a marriage and what doesn’t, when gay marriage provides the same benefits; spending money and resources checking on what people do in private that hurts no one; dictating what to include content wise in education; etc.).
Being consistently conservative is difficult. It requires balancing numerous issues of the needs of individuals, the long term good of society, Liberty, Order, Equality. And it’s a constantly shifting point because what creates that balance in one era may be totally unbalanced in another. Proper government needs to be directed toward the Happiness of individuals. It needs to balance our needs for liberty, order, and equality. When it does not do these things it creates bad laws. And it is so easy to get lost in caring only about your own want (populists) or one of the political virtues at the expense of the others. Right now we need a lot more liberty, but we cannot forget that it is the balance and the good of society and the individual that is our true goal—not just liberty for the sake of liberty.
Of course none of this is really new…the people who real conservatives look toward as a guide post made it quite clear that liberty, or order (tranquility, defense), or equality (justice, general welfare) were all equal political virtues that had to be held in balance of each other…
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
*Now I know that I have heard some people have claimed that the FBI is merely shading the numbers—that they’re not counting things the same way to make things look better than they are. I’ve heard that claim from LOTS of people. But you know what I find interesting, I can’t find that claim on any think tank. None. Liberal. Conservative. Libertarian. Nobody. You would think that conservatives would have hit Clinton or Obama for skewing the data, or liberals would have hit Bush. But nobody seems to questions the FBI’s stats…nor is there any jump that you would see if you changed the criteria, it’s a slow progression. So either everybody and I mean everybody, is on a massive conspiracy to slowly skew the crime numbers, or crime really has been dropping.
**You thought I wasn’t serious, but I am. I am using that from now on.
***Libertarians, before you yell at me that we need to get rid of welfare entirely, please remember that Friedman and Hayek both said we need a safety net because having people in real poverty (the kind you see in the third world) creates people who seriously have the choice of steal or die, at which point it becomes a need for them to steal and as we all know from the example of Jean Valjean, utterly unjust to punish them.
It’s always a little sad when a publication or web site you otherwise respect and trust starts publishing drivel. Regrettably such was the case over at the RealClear websites when they published (not just linked, but published) an article preposterously entitled, “Religion didn’t kill science in the Middle East” And while I tend to just ignore most historical revisionism as something utterly not worth my time, this article not only justifies the anti-intellectual attitudes that run through the “religion of peace” but it completely dismisses historical truth.
The article does correctly point out that at a certain point in history—the article conveniently says between the 9th and 13th centuries (I’ll come back to these dates)—the Islamic world was the height of civilization in terms of science and mathematics. This was the era that saw the invention of Algebra, and advances in chemistry, medicine, and astronomy. Okay so far. Then the author goes onto to point out why Islam began falling behind: like most historical revisionists he blames the Crusades in the 11th century and Columbus in the 15th century (easy punching bags for every lightweight pseudo-intellectual hack) as things that hurt the Islamic world, it’s ability to trade (and with it the prosperity to allow a culture to indulge in scientific research). Ridiculously, Genghis Khan and the fact that you can’t put Arabic into a printing press are also blamed.
The problem with all of this – the reasons given for the decline of scientific research were was in fact in decline before a Crusader ever set foot in the Middle East. In fact if we look at Charles Murray’s book Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950 we find that there is not a single major scientific advancement to come out of the Arabic world after 1025.* In fact we not only see scientific advancement disappear from the map but even art. Literature in the Islamic world goes from a massive output of quality work that still stands the test of time, to almost nothing past 1050**. As the First Crusade started in 1096 (and all the other points the author brought up occurred after that) I find it very hard to blame any of them for the death of intellectual output in the Muslim world which seemed to happen at least 50 years before that. It also seems to be very disingenuous of the author of the article to say the scientific achievements continued until the 13th century when really they died off in the 11th…it’s as if he picked a date that allowed him to blame the Crusades, to hell if it had no relation to facts.
Also if it was only the lack of prosperity and constant conflict that was the cause of the death of science in the Middle East…Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Qatar, are all rolling in cash and have been fairly stable (by standards of the region they’re incredibly stable) yet at best we’re seeing them use the resources of Western intellect instead of breaking new ground. Something seems to ring very false. And if the argument of the article is false, is Islam and it’s core teachings to blame?
So what really killed the science in the Islamic World? Well the answer to that can be found in one simple name: Aristotle. In the 750’s the Abbasid Caliphate took control of the Islamic Empire and with them came a branch of Sunni Islam called Mu’tazilism (don’t be too shocked you haven’t ever heard of them, they’re all dead). The Mu’tazilites were the branch of Islam that actually bothered to read the works of the Ancient Greeks when the Islamic armies conquered all the cities in their new Empire. And there they found Aristotle, a man who wrote about physics, psychology, politics, ethics, biology, metaphysics…who held reason and logic as the guiding light for all of human existence. Despite the fact that Islam was never too hot on reason*** the common sense nature of Aristotle won out with Mu’tazilites who decided that reason not blind unthinking faith needed to be the guiding light. And for a couple centuries they were guiding force of culture (or at least a force in the 10th and 11th century) that you saw the major output and advances in mathematics, science, literature, and art. However in 1063 (you know around the time when everything stopped), as stated in The Closing of the Muslim Mind by Robert R. Reilly,
“Nizam al-Mulk, the power vizier to Seljuk sultan Alp-Arslan, had the curses [against the Ash’arites] stopped. According to British Islam scholar W. Montgomery Watt, al-Muk also ‘began to implement a policy of supporting and strengthening the Ash’arites against the other theological and legal schools.’”
Who are the Ash’arites? They’re pretty much the archenemies of the Mu’tazilites (you may not know the name Ash’arite, but you’re more than familiar with their attitudes). They believe in faith as the only guide and reason as merely hubris.
They believed in following the Koran without interpretation, just following what it said. Their most famous scholar al-Ghazali published a book The Incoherence of Philosophy which among other things set out to destroy the usefulness of reason at anytime in any place for any purpose. Sharia Law is a direct outgrowth of Ash’arite belief. As the Ash’areites
came into power they not only challenged the Mu’tazilites, they had them killed and their works burned. And low and behold when this belief came into power, the intellectual output of Islam just dried up over night. Amazing how when you deny reason the fruits of reason disappear. All the advancement that apologist like to talk about for the Golden Age of Islam came from the time when the Mu’tazilites, who downplayed religion, were in power.
So is religion to blame? Yes, yes it is. Because the fact is that while my sympathies will always be for the Mu’tazilites I can also admit they were terrible Muslims. A good portion of Mu’tazilite writing is trying to explain away the contradictions between reason and Koran. The Bible starts with a statement that God gave man dominion over Earth (thus it might be intelligent to know what goes on here), praises intellect, and implies that the reason and free will of God exists in the human soul. All of this matches up very well with Aristotle…which is why St. Thomas Aquinas found it so easy to graft Aristotle onto Christianity in the 1300’s (you know right before the time that science and research were coming back into style in Europe). The Mu’tazilites had to do everything but outright deny the Koran to prop up the common sense reason of Aristotle. The Koran dismisses reason, allows for no room for free will or even the laws of physics as everything occurs by the will of Allah (you roll your pen off the table, it falls, according to Ash’arties it fell not because of gravity because there is no such thing…it fell because Allah willed it to fall, the god of Ash’arism is the micro-manager to an infinite degree…things seem to fall at a constant rate of 32 feet per second per second not because of laws of physics, but because God is a creature of habit)… please go read The Closing of the Muslim Mind if you think this is just my interpretation. Right, wrong, or indifferent, religious liberty aside, Islam is a religion that at its core is dead set against the mind/reason/logic. Other religions are more ambivalent, you can find evidence supporting faith and evidence supporting reason, but no sides come out a winner, but in Islam, and especially the Ash’arite interpretation which is still in fashion, reason always loses to faith…in fact there isn’t even a contest.
And it should be noted that while other religions don’t make it as hard to work with it is the Aristotelean spirit that drives culture and science to thrive. Now it may be as the author argues in The Cave and the Light that it is the battle between Aristotle and Plato that drives civilization and that even when you have too much Aristotle things get a little stagnant…be in The Closing of the Muslim Mind, Human Accomplishment, The Cave and the Light or the recently released The History of the Renaissance World: From the rediscovery of Aristotle to the conquest of Constantinople if you are going to judge what drives civilization to improve it is Aristotle. And the RealClear article which tries to free Islam of blame by ignoring what caused the growth of the Islamic world and how it was religion that got rid of the works of Aristotle, is intellectually baseless, trying only to relieve the only religion liberalism actually likes of it’s participation in hurting the advancement of civilization.
*There is one major figure in the field of medicine from the 1200’s but I think it’s safe to say his work in medicine was due to the Crusades more than hurt by them.
**It should also be noted that until the modern era the vast majority of literature that came from the Islamic world came from Sufi writers. The charges I make against Islam later in the article almost never apply the Sufism which philosophically does little more than pay lip service to the core tenets of Islam.
***The problem is this. In Islam there is no story that God made man in his own image, in fact the Koran states that nothing can be compared to Allah (112:1-4) and if we lack in the image (usually interpreted to be will and intellect) in common what good are those things in us, and unlike the Bible which in the old Testament praises Solomon for his intellect and the Gospel of John states “In the beginning was Reason, and Reason was with God and Reason was God.” (yes, that’s a more correct translation than what you’re used to reading)…there are no such lines praising reason and logic in the Koran, only faith. Blind, unthinking, unquestioning faith.
“We ought not to listen to those who exhort us, because we are human, to think of human things.…We ought rather to take on immortality as much as possible, and do all that we can to live in accordance with the highest element within us; for even if its bulk is small, in its power and value it far exceeds everything.” — Aristotle
Knowledge of Three things are necessary for the salvation of man: to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do. – St. Thomas Aquinas, Two Precepts of Charity.
So I have been looking for the core of conservative belief lately. What is conservative, what isn’t.
Why is this even an important question? Well because the conservative movement is overly obsessed with the idea of what a true conservative is (it doesn’t help when your main opposition is a bunch of blind followers in the Democrat party who will kneel before anyone who promises them more shit, and libertarians* who will promise them pot). Paeloconservatives. Neoconservatives. Fiscal conservatives. Social Conservatives. Compassionate Conservatives. (Hint I consider only two of these terms not be contradictions). It’s a wide range.
And there is no big help when looking to intellectuals. Sure there is Russell Kirk’s famous list of highly dense academic speak, I even used it in Republicans and Reincarnation, but over the course of his career he kept changing the last few points, making it more and more isolationist, and it’s so complicated as to be useless.
Meanwhile, while I love Goodkind’s eleven wizard’s rules, and think them an excellent companion to Aristotelian philosophy, they’re not all that specific.
Then of course you could name certain policies…but that doesn’t work because what is conservative today isn’t conservative tomorrow. Facts of reality change, priorities get shifted…for instance every conservative needs to be a fiscal conservative, however one can still be a conservative and willing to make a deal to that would raise deficit spending when a more important goal is present, say, toppling an evil empire. And real conservatives, love the nature of America to take pieces of every culture and incorporate them into the melting pot of this nation…but right now reality and sanity dictate we need to concentrate on border control and being a little more picky about who gets in.
So the problem I’ve had for nearly a year is to find something that is accessible, adaptable, and always accurate in describing the core beliefs of conservatism. And I just realized it was so bluntly obvious that I didn’t see it (but then again I haven’t seen anyone else talk about it all this time either)..I’ve even stated it, it’s just always been implied.
What are the core values of conservatism that remain the core values at any time any place any situation? The thing that binds Aristotle to Cicero to Aquinas to Locke to Burke to Smith to Adams to Goldwater to Reagan?
The Four Cardinal Virtues and the Three Theological Virtues.
The first four come from Aristotle, the last three from Paul (although I would argue they are implicit in Aristotle if you read all of his works) and they are the basis for the most perfect system of ethics ever created.
Think about it. Liberals only care about results, damn what rights or means you have to violate to create your Utopia (and that’s even before you consider they lack the follow through to do anything); the crazier members of the Libertarian party only care about means and an absolutist idea of right, to hell if you need some minor infringement to make a society properly function or to secure the vast majority of your rights. Only the virtue based ethics of Aristotle deal in the reality of needing to consider ends and means. And this refusal to look at only ends or means is one of the first reasons why the virtue ethics are inherently conservative—conservatives by nature see the whole.
Now let’s look at the virtues themselves.
Yes, Aristotle listed a lot of other virtues,
Sense of Shame
But all of these are natural extensions of the other seven. So let’s go over them and show why they are at the heart of conservatism.
In the order which most highlights the political aspects.
Justice. Conservatives believe in the concept of Justice, that people should be rewarded and/or punished by what they deserve. Merit. Earning. The basis of meritocracy of free market capitalism. This is of course opposed to the liberal obsession with fair. It’s not fair. Things should be fair. Life’s not fair. And of course whereas Justice requires the equality of opportunity and equality before the law, liberals want the equality of fairness where everyone has equal results.
Prudence. While a highly complex concept that the word prudence doesn’t quite convey the complexity for the classical concept, it might be best defined as the knowledge of what should be valued. With Prudence comes the understanding that the only truly valuable thing is Happiness (again I’m using the classical definition of a life lived well) and to value all the subordinate good that are required for Happiness. This includes liberty, because Happiness cannot be achieved without free will, actual achievement. Liberalism values material things and sees no higher point to life other than living, social conservatives only value society and some perverted view of God and not the individual or their happiness
Temperance. Often mistaken for moderation, Temperance is taking the knowledge of what to value from Prudence, and deciding how much you should value it, at what time, in what place and in what manner. In very simple terms this is the pragmatism of what works so clearly Keynesian economic and the libertarian desire to wipe everything out in one fell swoop without letting society adjust are right out.
Fortitude. Again often misunderstood to just be courage, it is more tied into the previous three virtues as the will to do what you know to be right. This throws out RINOs who stand for nothing, and worst of all the politically apathetic who seem to feel that there is no value in anything and nothing worth fighting for.
For purposes here, I am going to take Faith and Hope together because this is the primary difference between paleo and neoconservatives. Paleoconservatives with their isolationist ways at their core are only looking out for themselves (clearly also lacking in that last virtue) but this is also because they do not have any faith in humanity or hope in the inevitability that republicanism and capitalism will spread to everyone.
Love, the last of the theological virtues and what must be required for all stable society. It is the belief that other humans have value and worth, and must be respected and helped when possible. This is actually the basis for capitalism, democratic-republics, friendship and all progress. The belief that human beings are worth it (it’s a belief you don’t find in many political beliefs).
I have no doubt that I will come back to this theme over and over…but it has become clear to me that one or all of these virtues is missing in every political philosophy other than true conservatism.
(This will be the first post in an ongoing series on these virtues.)
*Not that all libertarians are this bad, but you have to admit there is a disturbing high number of single issue voters in your party…and their single issue is one that is really dumb. Of course Republicans have social conservatives who are just as stupid.
**I’m just going to gloss over these for now, don’t worry I’ll eventually have numerous blogs dedicated to this now that I’ve figured this out.
So there appears to be some brouhaha over the newest trailer for Man of Steel. I have seen complaints about this on no less than 3 different political web sites, which seems a bit much for a trailer, but since they want to make a federal case over it, it should be pointed out that their case is baseless. Namely the problem seems to be with the following lines:
Lois Lane: What’s the “S” stand for?
Superman: It’s not an “S.” On my world it means “hope.”
Now the first complaint is that this is changing the story, where it has always stood for Superman. This is a silly claim, especially for a comic book movie, which is based on comic books that have been restarted so many times with so many variations D.C. comics actually had to come up with a storyline about multiple universes just to keep all the versions straight (still didn’t help). When you’re translating a story from one medium to another it’s pure insanity to think everything can remain the same. Further, yes you might be justifiably angry at those changes…but only if those changes make the story worse. The new Star Trek stripped all the good out of the original series and created a cheap sci-fi film that would never have gone anywhere without banking on the greatness of the original…so there bitching about the changes is justified. Conversely, Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy took the Batman story from a more simplistic action/detective comic and created one of the deepest most meaningful films ever made. Those changes made the story better, and so whining about purity of the original story is just bunk. Rewriting stories is a part of literature dating back to when Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides rewrote the works of Homer for stage, nobody in their right mind claims they ruined the stories. Now it may be that whatever changes Nolan and Snyder have made to the Superman myth in this film may make it better or worse, we’ll have to see, but change is not necessarily good or bad on its own.
The other reason this is silly (and keep in mind I’ve never read a Superman comic in my life, and even I could find this out easily) is that in terms of the meaning of the “S” they haven’t really changed anything. In the original film starring Christopher Reeve, the symbol stood for the House of El, the Kryptonian family that Superman is a part of. But what about the “Hope” thing? Apparently some on the Right are having knee-jerk reactions to the word and thinking that this is intended to be a reference to Obama. It’s not. This actually is taken directly from the 2004 comic Superman: Birthright written by Mark Waid (Obama had only come onto the national scene at the 2004 Democratic convention in July, the comic came out in September which means it was probably written well before July). I will shortly come back to why using Waid’s work as a basis for this movie is a very, very good thing.
Finally there are of course the constant complaints still going on about the line from the last movie “Find out if he still stands for Truth, Justice, all that stuff” and how the writers shoved away the phrase “the American Way” and the worry that this will still continue in this film (this of course ignores that the line came from Perry White, the most cynical character in the Superman universe who probably would find the phrase silly).
Well what is the American Way?
Contrary to what many believe, it has nothing to do with land, or resources, or economic success, or military prowess, or scientific achievement. America is America because of our ideals. The ideals of liberty, of meritocracy, that anyone can achieve by their own will. Or as I have stated before:
We’re the nation that fought to create a republic where the haves and have-nots gave equal measure. We’re the nation that fought our own citizens to free slaves. We’re the nation that pioneered capitalism and law that gave liberty and opportunity and progress to more people than any other country in history. We’re the place where “tired, the poor, the huddled masses” come to be energetic, successful and stand on their own feet. We’re the country that conquers whole nations so that others may be free then tries to rebuild them and then leaves without tribute or power. If you don’t think we’re the “shining city on the hill” you don’t know history, philosophy or human nature. We’re not perfect, we’re not always right, but we are consistently the nation that calls for the best in humanity to put down the worst.
The American way isn’t a habit, or a land, or a race, or even the citizens of this particular country, it is an ideal that believes the best in humanity can always rise above the worst in humanity, that the individual left to their own devices will rise to the pinnacle of achievement and not sink to the depth of depravity.
And just in this trailer alone, we see that way, that ideal.
We see it in Jor-El’s statement
What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society had intended? What if a child aspired to something greater?
Are you going to tell me a line about how a single individual can rise above the shackles of whatever society throws on them, and achieve because of their own will and merit isn’t at the very heart of America?
Or perhaps Jonathan Kent’s:
I have to believe that you were sent here for a reason. And even if it takes the rest of your life, you owe it to yourself to find out what that reason is.
The belief that life has a purpose. It has been seen in philosophy since Aristotle, but it has never been realized until America. And this quest to find meaning is a personal one, “you owe it to yourself,” not one laden down with obligations to family, or clan, or religion, or state, or culture, or history or whatever other un-American claptrap other nations have followed.
Or perhaps we should go to first trailer, with another line from Jor-El
You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you. They will stumble. They will fall. But in time they will join you in the sun—In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.
Shining city on the hill anyone? The beacon of hope and light that America is supposed to be.
Oh I said “beacon of hope” which brings us back to the symbol and them taking that point from Mark Waid. This is important that they are drawing form Waid’s version. Why? I would direct you to an essay written by Waid in the book Superheroes and Philosophy entitled “The Real Truth About Superman and the Rest of Us, Too.” (It’s an excellent essay which you may want to read.)
The essay covers the thought process Waid went through when the head of D.C. asked him a simple question: “Why does Superman do what he does? Why doesn’t absolute power absolutely corrupt in his case?” He quickly found the stock answer of, because he’s Superman, to be unsatisfying to the employer who was hiring him to revitalize the franchise.
What follows is an argument that references two of my favorite philosophical beliefs.
The first is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Waid starts from the premise that even though an alien, he has the same needs in the same order as any human. Physical needs then Safety needs then Emotional Needs then Achievement needs then finally the need for Self Actualization. (You’ll find that the American beliefs in liberty and capitalism parallel this order of needs quite well). Now for Superman, the first two, physical and safety need, aren’t an issue at all. So that leaves emotional, achievement and self actualization needs. Now he might gain some emotional connections by just being mild mannered Clark Kent, but certainly not achievement or self actualization. Which then comes to a question of how much does he need to achieve…and this is where Waid turns to another idea, a quote in fact (which I’m hoping against hope will make it into the movie):
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” [Italics on the last part added]
It is the realization that Superman is who he is because to do anything less would not lead to his Happiness, and that a central theme of the story has always been that we should all strive to the edge our abilities, as Kal-El does, not just to help others achieve their goals (You will help them accomplish wonders) but to also achieve our own Happiness (you owe it to yourself).
So this is why I’m happy they are pulling from Waid, with the concept of Superman being a symbol of hope, the city on the Hill, because it places the whole story in a very strong and correct footing of spiritual values and Aristotelian virtue based ethics.
Now while Waid, or Marianne Williamson who first wrote this in her book A Return to Love: Reflections on A Course in Miracles, don’t make the connection, it is only through the American Way of personal liberty and personal achievement that we achieve the heights of shining our brightest. So I feel the need to again point out, that the American Way is being championed in this movie already, whether they say the words or not.
Now, no one has seen this film yet, so it could either suck or make the Dark Knight Rises look like an F film student’s half-hearted attempt…or anything in between. I am merely pointing out that the complaints based only on this trailer are completely unfounded. This movie appears to appeal to the best in this story, the core ideals that have let it rise above whatever flaws have plagued the various incarnations over the years.
Okay so several times I have asked what the phrase “Judeo-Christian Values” means and how it is different from the values of other beliefs and religions. I haven’t received many good answers. Yes there are certainly differences between them in the nature of God or in the rituals and the structure of the community…but in terms of values there is little difference…everyone regards the soul as divine in some way* and proper understanding of any of these religions lends one to a virtue based ethics in line with the Classical Realism of Aristotle and Plato. In fact, when you look at most religions there are some pretty strong parallels in all the virtues—some may be more detailed than others in some areas and less in others, but they seem to focus on the same general virtues.
So the term Judeo-Christian values, which supposedly would mean the virtues and ethics this group holds to be good and right and true is just the same as the virtues of every other religion, then it’s not that meaningful a phrase. Yes there are differences between Judeo-Christian beliefs and other religions, but none of these differences have anything to do with the political context of how the phrase “Judeo-Christian values” is used.
The phrase is meant to draw a contrast between spiritual/religious values and those of the secular, progressive, fascist, fanatical sections of society that actually don’t share either a belief in virtue based ethics or have some very radically different values.
So why is this an important point to bring up?
Well because it makes a pretty clear distinction between those who follow Judeo-Christianity and everyone else. Including people of lots of different faiths who were not intended to be alienated. Is this relevant?
Well first off I think it’s a fair statement that the term Judeo-Christian values is primarily used by conservatives. Second I would assume we want to win. We lost the last election by 3.9% points. A 3% shift of the vote would have given Romney the popular and Electoral College vote and about 6 Senate seats (i.e., complete Republican control). So it then becomes a question, is there 3% of the electorate who is religious and spiritual, not already voting Republican, that is not in the Judeo-Christian bracket?
Let’s look at the polls.
So of the “other” religion we have 6% of the nation and of the “nothing in particular” group we have 13.9% of the population. Together they make 19.9% of the population. Common sense alone says that if you have 20% of the country, two-thirds of whom are voting against your party, then maybe if you stopped alienating them with an us vs. them term (or at least picked a new term) you could pick up a few…maybe?
So let’s look at the 19.9% a little more closely. Okay so we can discount about 1% of the “other” group as they are the “religion of peace” and their fairly fascist beliefs are moderately antithetical to conservative principles and the values/ethics being promoted. So we’re down to 18.9% up for grabs.
Now the let’s look at how the remaining 5% of the “Other” and the 13.9% of “nothing in particular.” Now a flaw of this report is that they lump the ““nothing in particular” in with Atheists and Agnostics under the heading of Unaffiliated (but for the purpose of this let’s just assume the numbers are about the same throughout all the unaffiliated, it doesn’t make a terribly large difference anyway). From the data we can see that only about 57% of the Other group and 69% of the unaffiliated are voting for Democrats (trust me the math works). So give or take (you know there are some independents we’re not taking into account) that’s about 12%. 12% that probably share the values of the Christian voters who lean toward voting Republican, but for some reason aren’t voting Republican. Do you think that term “Judeo-Christianity” might have something, even a small part, to do with it?
Isn’t this just a call for political correctness? No. The idiocy of political correctness is saying you have to watch everything you say because it might hurt someone’s feelings. And it is for all levels of life, from the public and political to the personal. I am not saying you have to adjust your personal language or beliefs. This is merely a political reality. We as conservatives have certain values and policies we know will work and better the lives of everyone. Politics is as much about emotion and perception as it is about facts and plans, probably more so. Political Correctness has nothing to do with practical ends, which is why it has to be enforced by the left so viciously else reason would drive most people to that end anyway; what I am talking about is something very different than being PC, I’m talking about selling an idea with very real consequences. A term like “Judeo-Christian values” is loaded from the get go, it creates an us vs. them mentality, at a time when we need more of the people in the “them” category to vote for us. If we switched to using the term “spiritual value” or “God centered” more often, it would mean the exact same thing in terms of everything relevant to politics and ethics, and it wouldn’t emotionally alienate those we are trying to win over. You can still use “Judeo-Christian” if you really feel strongly about it, but do it knowing you’re hurting the chance to actually see your goals accomplished.
Is this stupid? Yeah. It’s silly and ridiculous to think we should have to be this nitpicky about our language and terms to win people to our side. But, the last time I checked we already had reason, logic, facts, truth, plans, and vision on our side. Didn’t notice that doing us any good. Oh, wait this is politics. Stupid thing like word choice do matter. Is it stupid? Yeah, but it’s something you have to do.
But should we end our discussion of this group of “nothing in particular” with just this term? Well that might work towards making in-roads with maybe 1% of those 12%, in-roads that would allow the rest of our arguments to make a difference, and that 1% we get to follow reason would be a third of the way we need to go, but it’s still not enough.
Let’s take a look at some of the actual beliefs of this group. Namely that 25% of them believe in reincarnation (If you assume that all the atheists and agnostics do not believe in reincarnation then it’s actually about 35% of the “nothing in particular” group…or about 4% of the general public.) Further while there is nothing in this year’s report, previous year’s reports showed that a belief in reincarnation was more popular with women, minorities, the young, Democrats, liberals, moderates, independents, and Christians who attend church less often (i.e., the people we need to win over).
So it is safe to assume that most of those in that 4% are not voting Republican.
But they should.
A belief in reincarnation by its very nature lends to long term thinking—the policies I put in place today won’t just affect my children and grandchildren, they’ll affect me over and over and over again. Thus anyone who believes in reincarnation has to believe in plans that aren’t as concerned with momentary problems, but with building long term systems that self-perpetuate and offer prosperity to the most people for the longest time with most chance of growth…that would be the capitalism and republicanism officered by real conservative belief. This is an argument I’ve made before, extensively in Republicans & Reincarnation, and one that we should all make to anyone who holds this article of faith in reincarnation. If you actually approach them on their own terms, and showed that the logical consequence of their beliefs is conservatism, we could get another 1% of that group…which means of the 49% left we only have to convince another 1% and given the abysmal failure of a second Obama term, that should be easy.
You don’t have to agree with people on faith. But you’re not going to convince them on politics if your stance is mine is the only religion worth following by using terms like “Judeo-Christian value.” Say “spiritual values” instead, it means the same thing, it still separates you from the secular liberal base you are trying to show a contrast with, and it may pick up a few votes. And if you’re arguing with someone who doesn’t agree with your religion or your politics, you’ll never convince them to give up a faith because of reason, it just doesn’t work (even if you do show contradictions and put them on the path to agreeing with you spiritually, it will initially only dig in their heels more on every other topic against you)…but if you approach them on their terms spiritually and show them how their beliefs do dictate a conservative point of view, then you at least get something.
*The only two exceptions to this are followers of the religion of peace (Sufis excluded) and atheists.
For some reason atheists piss me off more than any other religion. Maybe it’s because, as a group, they are the most arrogant bunch of idiots who scream that their idiotic beliefs are the only true way to view things without even the dignity to admit that what they’re screaming is unsubstantiated faith.
Or maybe it’s because it’s because they give such terrible arguments. Really terrible arguments. They’re like most liberals–they can give 5 or 6 memorized talking points and they never deviate.
In a recent article I published on the utter stupidity of atheism I got several stock point arguments in response on several forums, so rather than waste my time and respond to them individually, I thought best to deal with them all at once.
So I’m going to respond to their repetitive talking points, and not only am I going to use quotes, and jokes, and parables, but unlike atheists I’m going to back my quips and stories up with real argument.
(Also let me point out, if you’re just an atheist, because that works for you, I don’t really care about you or your beliefs, you are free to have them and I’m not attacking you. I’m attacking the rabid section of Atheism that feels that their belief is so superior to everyone else’s that they must attack everyone else’s beliefs. It is their arguments I’m hitting, if you just have your beliefs and aren’t proselytizing, I’m not out to attack you.).
Stock Atheist Argument 1: We may not be able to prove our point but you can’t prove yours.
I’d like to begin this section with a classic joke whose usefulness will be relevant by the end of this piece.
A well-known scientist once gave a public lecture on astronomy and the Big Bang. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy which in turn all came out of the initial explosion. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.” The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, “What is the tortoise standing on?” “You’re very clever, young man, very clever,” said the old lady. “But it’s turtles all the way down!”
Now in this joke we’re supposed to see that the scientist is intelligent and the old woman is really an idiot for such a silly idea as turtles all the way down. I’ve even seen an atheist use this joke to make fun of religious people and how ignorant they are in not accepting science. That spiritual people are stupid to not understand that we can trace the origins of everything to physics and the Big Bang.
Let me clarify what I mean by this. The most perfect argument for the existence of God.
There’s just one problem with that whole model. What caused the Big Bang? And atheists have to answer to that. The first is “Well, it’s just a series of Big Bangs and Big Crunches over and over again” which is called an infinite series. Or you can go even more complex with some description of a quantum mechanics/holographic universe within a universe. But that too leads to an infinite series. Because of the fact that everything has to be caused by something else otherwise it would just sit there and never. do anything (see the 1st Law of Newtonian Physics), everything in physics is subject to this need for cause, no matter how complex that makes the universe everything is still subject to causation. Which leads you to only one of two possibilities. Either you have an infinite series of causes going back for an infinite period of time…or you have something that doesn’t need a cause, an uncaused cause, an unmoved mover (as Aristotle would say). This first cause that needs no other thing to cause it we call God.
But why can’t we have an infinite series? Because that also violates the rules of physics and logic. Because even if you go back all the way an infinite way, there has to be something that causes that movement. But rather than believe that there must be some cause that needs nothing to cause it, Atheists are arguing we should believe in the infinite series of causes, that we should be believe, “It’s turtles all the way down.” That’s what arguing for not having a God is arguing for, the stupidity of turtles all the way down.
Logic dictates that there has to be some cause outside of the rules of causation, because an infinite regression is just idiotic. That’s a logical fact. That God exists is a fact dictated by logic. Now, intelligent philosophers will admit that a lot of the qualities that we often apply to God (intelligence, goodness, motive) we do not have as strong a case for, and thus faith is required in part to a have a fuller sense of what God is. We only have arguments that only suggest but do not completely prove these qualities beyond the shadow of a doubt. But the existence of a first cause is a logical necessity, and this we call God.
You may have issues with the qualities we attribute to God and you may attack them, but just because you attack the arguments for those qualities does not negate the fact that for existence to be, you logically must have God, the first cause.
“But, but,” I can hear atheists sputtering, “Hume and Kant and Dawkins disproved the argument by cause.” No they didn’t. Let me explain what are all the arguments made by Hume and Kant and such against the argument by cause. Every version goes something like this…lots of words that intentionally get you lost in the argument, complain about all the traits added after existence, complain all you did was look for proof in what you already believe* thus you really didn’t prove anything, and thus the argument by cause is wrong. QED. If that sounds kind of dumb, it is. Some might complain that I’ve just put up a straw man version of the argument against the argument by cause. I haven’t. Every long winded version boils down to, uh, I don’t want to buy your proof, so I don’t have to actually disprove your points I just have to say your logic is bad (not that I’m going to show where) and so there, I win. It’s actually a lot like most atheist arguments arrogance and idiocy working hand in hand. But don’t believe me go read Kant and Hume and whoever, try and follow their points…and don’t get upset if you feel you can’t follow them, they’re designed to be impossible to follow the logic of making you think if you can’t understand it and thus making you feel inferior and thus it must be right. But it’s not you that isn’t understanding the argument. There isn’t a well reasoned argument to understand.
The reason Atheists really, really hate the argument by cause and will deny it to their last dying and lying breath is that is gets them out of their central point: “Rules of argument state you have to prove God exists.” This is kind of dumb on its face, when you’re in the minority and trying to prove to the majority that you’re right, even if you are right (which atheists aren’t) the burden of proof is on you. But since they bizarrely think that life should be governed by the same rules as a scientific lab without a shred of common sense. So they say the burden of proof is on believers and not them, so they have a vested interest in putting their hands over their ears and going “LALALALALALA” in the face of the fact that logic requires that there is a God.
*By the way this would mean that every criminal prosecution is wrong.
Stock Atheist Argument 2: If there is a God, why isn’t there evidence of God’s existence?
Someone asked [Bertrand] Russell at some meeting: ‘Lord Russell, what will you say when you die and are brought face to face with your Maker?’ He replied without hesitation: ‘God,’ I shall say, ‘God, why did you make the evidence for your existence so insufficient?’ – A. J. Ayer
Again let me start off with a classic joke:
A terrible flood hit a small town, sending the rescue units out.
It just so happened that a devoutly religious woman lived in this town when the flood hit, and she sat down to wait for God to save her.
When the first rescue boat came in the worker called for her to come out but she just shook her head and said “Thank you, but my God will save me. ” Shaking his head the rescue worker moved on.
The waters rose and she climbed to the second story of her home to wait for God.
A second boat came by and the worker called out “Listen lady we’ve got to get you out of here!” Once again she thanked him profusely and said “My God will save me.”
The waters rose a third time forcing her to her roof.
The water was just closing around her ankles when a third boat came by. ” Lady, I’m the last boat out if you don’t come now you’re going to die. ” She just smiled “My God will save me” she said quietly. Frustrated the worker moved on. The waters rose once again leaving her standing on her chimney. She heard a huge ruckus above her head and when she looked up she saw an emergency helicopter. ” This is it lady, you have to come now or we won’t be able to save you. ” Still she refused to go. The waters rose a final time dragging her under and she was drowned. When she got to heaven, the Lord asked her if she had any questions, and in a timid voice she replied. “You said if I followed you, you would always save me. Why didn’t you save me from that flood?” God looked at her in shocked disbelief and said: “My child I sent three boats and a helicopter for you… What else did you want?”
For Atheists who ask for proof of God you have to look at them like the woman who didn’t recognize the three boats and the helicopter for what they were.
Probability states there should have been a fairly equal amount of matter and antimatter created at the Big Bang. There wasn’t. It was actually incredibly disproportioned. But it was also just enough anti-matter to spread out the universe, but not enough to push everything too far from each other so that nothing forms. Boy, that was lucky.
And let’s just ignore how this planet is set up rather well for life and just assume life can develop in lots of situations, let’s look at the odds of life starting. Now most of what gets chalked up as Intelligent Design is kind of stupid, but not when it comes to the creation of life and the creation of sentience. The most basic cell requires over 200 processes, each controlled by several dozen protein chains, each controlled by several lines of code on a strand of DNA. Ignoring that there would have to be something to start the process, the odds of a DNA chain that can do all of that without error and in the proper order…I could give you a number but think of it this way, you have better odds of winning the Powerball every Wednesday and Saturday for a year (probably getting hit by lightning several times during that year). Yes, I’m sure that just happened by chance.
And then there was that time when evolved chimps suddenly became self aware. I can’t quite tell you the odds on that because there are no odds on that. It can’t happen just by itself. Sentience and free will defy everything we know about physics and biology. They’re not things that can just happen because certain chemicals line up in a certain way or because the brain becomes complex enough.
Then of course there are all those miracles that can’t be disproven. A bulk of evidence in the realm studies into near death experience, past life memories and the fields of parapsychology, no doubt some or most of which is not relevant, but which can’t be dismissed because it just doesn’t fit your argument.
There are piles and piles of evidence. Just because you don’t want to look at them as evidence doesn’t stop their existence.
Stock Atheist Argument 3: Fairies and the Teapots don’t exist so neither does God.
There may be fairies at the bottom of the garden. There is no evidence for it, but you can’t prove that there aren’t any, so shouldn’t we be agnostic with respect to fairies?—Richard Dawkins
Also see the pretentious and stupid “Russell’s Teapot” thought experiment which Atheists are so fond of quoting.
There is an old Buddhist parable used to justify Buddhism agnosticism about questions of God and the creation of the universe.
“If one day you were walking along the road and are shot with an arrow do you stop to ask, ‘From what village was the shooter from?’ ‘What kind of wood was used to make the arrow?’ ‘What bird are the feathers on this arrow from?’ ‘How long ago was the arrow made?’ ‘Did the shooter eat a full breakfast this morning?’ No you will pull out the arrow and treat the wound.”
Buddhists use this parable to justify their intentional agnosticism about metaphysical questions that religion often addresses. For a Buddhist the most important thing is to end the cycle of rebirth and suffering, the rest can wait until that is stopped, and wasting time on these questions is like asking what village the shooter was from when you still have an arrow and bleeding wound in you. Deal with the pressing problem at hand. **
The parable understands there is a difference between questions that are relevant and questions that are not. Dawkins and Russell may think that teapots and fairies are relevant, but they’re not…and to compare them to what must be the cause of all existence is clearly not understanding the nature of what you’re talking about. Fairies and teapots in space don’t have to exist, nor is there anything to necessarily suggest they do. God has to exist for there to be existence and oddly enough existence is the evidence. Feel free to be agonistic, hell even atheistic, about fairies and tea pots. But don’t dare suggest that your silly little quip is on the same lines as dismissing what logically has to be for there to be anything.
**Now I have some issues with this parable because I think you can’t fully know where you’re going and how to get there unless you actually know where you’re going and how to get there. I think if you’re shot with an arrow and one village in the area uses poison and one doesn’t then yes the question about which village a person is from becomes relevant. I think understanding God is like that question, in some cases it may be helpful, in other cases perhaps not.
Stock Atheist Argument 4: You don’t believe in other Gods either, so your God is wrong.
We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further. – Richard Dawkins
I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.–Stephen F. Roberts.
This one atheists love, as you can see from the ease at which I found a multitude of quotes. It’s more fun when you get into it with non-public figures because then they’ll start using names and specifics. “Well why don’t you believe in Zeus? Or Odin? Or Shiva?” And this tendency comes from the fact that most Atheists are actually just immature and rebelling against mommy and daddy’s beliefs which often in the West is Christianity.
And again I turn to a parable.
A number of blind men came to an elephant. Somebody told them that it was an elephant. The blind men asked, ‘What is the elephant like?’ and they began to touch its body. One of them said: ‘It is like a pillar.’ This blind man had only touched its leg. Another man said, ‘The elephant is like a husking basket.’ This person had only touched its ears. Similarly, he who touched its trunk or its belly talked of it differently. In the same way, he who has seen the Lord in a particular way limits the Lord to that alone and thinks that He is nothing else.– Ramakrishna Paramhamsa
If a culture misunderstands what God is but puts a name to their understanding (Zeus, Odin, Brahma, Dagda, El), does that mean the thing they’re trying to understand doesn’t exist. The blind men were wrong about their understanding of an elephant, does that mean elephants don’t exist? Newton was wrong about the nature of gravity; Einstein proved that, it doesn’t mean there is no such thing as gravity. People don’t understand what God fully is, thus all the masks we put on God to understand him are imperfect. But just because you can show flaws with each mask it does not dictate that what is behind the mask is wrong. You can disprove every religion, that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist. And just because some people don’t believe in the interpretations of others doesn’t make the other person wrong or that first person right. God exists independent of people’s perceptions about him.
I believe in God. Now what my understanding of him is may be imperfect, that does not mean the thing I’m trying to understand doesn’t exist. But that’s the game Atheists like to play. They attack an understanding of the thing and use it to say that the thing itself doesn’t exist. But there is a problem with this argument, an elephant in the room you might say is that elephants exist, and that is that there is a difference between the imperfect conceptions of God and the existence of God.
Stock Atheist Argument 5: Atheism isn’t a religion.
Calling Atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color.” –Don Hirschberg
Until someone claims to see Christopher Hitchens’ face in a tree stump, idiots must stop claiming that atheism is a religion. There’s one little difference: Religion is defined as the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, and atheism is — precisely not that. Got it? Atheism is a religion like abstinence is a sex position.—Bill Maher
Those are such cute lines. It’s just that even the slightest amount of logic tears them apart. If you want a quote here I’ll respond with the popular “Contradictions do not exist if you think you’ve found a contradiction, recheck your premises. One of them is wrong.” Or if you prefer “2+2=4”
Let’s take a look at that quote again “Religion is defined as the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power” and I’ve seen numerous Atheists in personal arguments respond in the same way.
I respond by doing this wacky thing like quoting the dictionary. From Webster’s: “Religion: 7. A cause, principle, system of tenets held with ardor, devotion, conscientiousness, and faith.” Now under my definition Atheism is a religion because they hold a belief (That there is no God) based on absolutely no evidence (a process otherwise known as faith, thus meeting the requirements of the definition).
So who’s right? Well let’s test out the Atheist’s definition whose key point is believing in a divine being. By this definition is Christianity a religion? Yes. Judaism? Yes. Hinduism? Yes. So far so good. Buddhism and Taosim? No. Most strains of Buddhism (as I pointed out above) and several strains of Taoism don’t believe in a supreme being. So by the definition Atheists are trying to use would say that Buddhism and Taoism aren’t religions. And that would be preposterous on its face. No you can either try to continue arguing this, or can admit that the definition used by Atheists while practical in most cases in the West, is not a solid definition.
The criteria of faith is a much more comprehensive definition. And by that definition Atheism is a religious belief.
It is based on faith and no evidence.
And all the negatives that come with religion are there as well. Like many religions, its followers proselytize, they are emotionally invested in protecting their beliefs, their zealots are violent to those who don’t follow their religion.
Of course Atheism has none of the positives that come with other religions, but hey that applies to several religions.
Atheists quips are clever, but without substance. And sadly that’s all they have.
The term “Judeo-Christian Values” is bandied about a lot in public discourse. Yes it dropped off a little after Rick “I want to use the government to institute a theocracy” Santorum dropped out* last year but it seems to be making a comeback.
So I have to ask, again, what are Judeo-Christian values? How are they important to politics? And how do they differ from other religions?
Now maybe it’s just as a non-Christian I’m not getting something that you understand as someone who practices this religion.
Now it’s not that I don’t understand the obvious differences between Christianity or Judaism and other religions. But I don’t see how the differences I do know about have any effect on government. The truth and virtue of capitalism and democratic-Republics are just as true whether you believe in the Trinity/Yaweh, or Braham and Shiva. The saving power of grace in most of Christianity has little to do with politics, as far as I can see it. And just because one tribe of people has a very particular contract with God, it doesn’t negate the importance of the rule of law for everyone else. The differences I can think of don’t have any effect on politics. And I see the hand of Providence in the creation of this nation, but the hand of Providence can be seen in event that aren’t specifically Judeo-Christian in nature, so that doesn’t necessarily give precedence to only that belief system. What am I missing?
And the values that do have an effect on politics—the value of the human soul, which leads to the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness; the condemnation of violence, hatred, envy, hypocrisy; the praising of personal charity, honesty, compassion, hard work and a connection with something greater than yourself—are not the specific territory of Judeo-Christianity. You find them Hinduism, in Zoroasterism, in Taoism, in Buddhism, in ancient Pagan beliefs, in Baha’i and Sikh beliefs, and in modern day New Age beliefs. The values, which then become the backbone of our legal systems are in all religions. So why just Judeo-Christianity? I understand that each of these belief systems place a different ordering on the priority of these virtues and values, but there are so many variations just within the scheme of Judeo-Christianity itself to make that an issue.
Heck even when Paul Ryan refers to Judeo-Christianity he does something very interesting:
It’s a dangerous path, it’s a path that grows government, restricts freedom and liberty, and compromises those values, those Judeo-Christian, Western-civilization values that made us such a great and exceptional nation in the first place.
He pairs Judeo-Christianity with Western-civilization, with the idea that is unique to the west of the democratic-Republic (a pagan creation by the pagan populations of Athens and Rome) that demands:
Our rights come from nature and God, not government.
(And while these ideas first thrived under predominantly Christian nations of the West, Ryan seems to be acknowledging the pagan Athenian/Roman importance by pairing the two.)
And it seems a little sweeping since while all the Founding Fathers would admit that the Bible contained what they saw as the best expression of ethics they could find, Adams, Jefferson and Franklin denied the divinity of Christ, and Freemason Washington’s beliefs on religion are probably a little more complex than just saying “Judeo-Christian values.”
Now I get that using this phrase may be to separate themselves it’s not the Religion of Peace (which very clearly endorses theocratic fascism) or atheism (both of which deny the divinity of human life)…oh sure atheists say they value human life under their philosophy of secular humanism, but atheism denies any metaphysical reason for human life to have value…so basically it’s them telling me I should just take it on “faith” that human life has value…which rings a little hollow. But as I pointed out before the phrase also separates you from a lot of religions that do share these ethical values.
So which values am I missing that has an effect on our political structures, rules, and laws that separate Judeo-Christianity from the values of most the other religions on Earth? I’m not denying the importance of the relationship a person has with God, or that spiritual beliefs were important in the founding of this nation and is continuance today. I just want to know if there is a value you think exists in the Judeo-Christian tradition that is necessary for the continuance of this nation that is specific only to the the Judeo-Christian tradition.
And I ask all of this, not because I just want to insult people, but because I have a second argument about this term and how it may be hurting us politically, but I first need to know if there is something about this term that I don’t understand coming from an outsider’s perspective.
*And don’t you dare to try and defend that man as a conservative. If you look at his record he never met a tax, a regulation, or bribe he didn’t like.
“A true friend is one soul in two bodies”–Aristotle
One of the biggest problems with the ego in its continuing battle to keep you from reaching enlightenment is that it separates you from others. It works to make us see the flaws in others and drive them away, or makes us look at those we like as special or extraordinary (as opposed to the truth that we are all holy and all capable of anything).
Now I know that second part about seeing everyone as perfect can be hard. It’s hard enough seeing yourself as a part of the divine and completely perfect, let alone that dimwitted troll who spouts nonsense and is utterly impervious to reason. It’s difficult and sometimes the saintly thinking of the parables of Jesus or Buddha or words of A Course in Miracles might be beyond us at this or that moment. But that doesn’t mean we can’t move in the right direction.
So for this week I want you to take 10 to 15 minutes every day and run through the list of everyone you know, everyone you encounter, every person you pass and know who they are and wish them the best, pray for them, send them as much light and energy as you can.
Start with your loved ones, family and closest friends. Move onto good friends and acquaintances. Co-workers. People you knew in college but haven’t talked to. The barista whom you recognize but don’t know her name. Keep expanding it further and further out. Wish everyone the best, send them love and compassion in your mind. Make as much of a mental and psychic connection as you can with them. See the divine in them.
As you run through this list you’ll run across people you can’t immediately feel good towards. The violent uncle. The useless coworker. The idiot client. Don’t dwell. Just skip them. Yes if you can bring yourself to see the divine in them and love that, great…but better to move on than force a feeling you don’t actually believe in at this moment.
As you do this many of the barriers we put up around each other and around others will fall and you’ll probably find that you’re able to see the divine in more people at the end of the week than you did at the beginning. And as you do this you will hopefully begin to see how your soul is connected to the souls of others.
Remember that applies to everyone else as well.
“Without friends, no one would choose to live, though they had all other goods.”-Aristotle
Sorry for no meditation last week, spending time with a friend took precedent. As it always should. Which in fact is what this weeks meditation is about. Spend some time with your friends.
The eventual purpose of all meditation, all spiritual enlightenment and evolution is, in the New Ager view, to once again rejoin our single consciousness as the Son of God. We are all parts of the same being and trying to remember that there is no line between you and I is one of the chief goals of our spiritual journey. And friends are one of those moments in life where it easiest to feel those walls between egos break down.
So this week I want you to spend time with a friend. In person is best, but if calling is all you can manage then do that (I understand, a lot of my friends live in other states than the one I live in). Have no purpose other to enjoy the time you spend with them…
…and maybe when, and only when, it’s over reflect on how good that time was and why it felt so wonderful. Believe it or not this will bring you closer to God and your true self. Time with a true friend is more spiritually productive than any amount of chakra meditations.
And don’t worry if you don’t have a lot of friends…often just one is enough.
I was compiling a list of numerous topics (SOPA, Economy, Defense, etc.) and listing what I could find as the most representative statements from both Romney and Santorum. I was doing this as my research indicates that Romney is more conservative (fiscally, constitutionally) than Santorum. But as I became more aware that it would be impossible for anyone to logically/rationally say that Santorum (or Gingrich for that matter) was more conservative than Romney (or conservative at all) a light bulb went off in my head. This is not an issue of just putting facts in front of people it is a problem with word definition. My son and I often have long debates over what is meant or interpreted by a phrase or word.
The actual definition will not help explain my beliefs so I am presenting my political party platform (would prefer if the Republicans adopted something like this) so when I say conservative you know exactly where I stand.
Below is what I would like to see as a conservative platform that I believe that most groups can get behind. I would encourage an open rational discussion from others.
There is so much more but I think I make my point – social issues belong in the social market not the government. Freedom is paramount as long as you hurt no one – or your rights extend to where they touch mine but not beyond. Personal responsibility is the guide for all laws and regulations.
I think that any reasonable person would see that Romney would have no issues with agreeing on most of these points (if not all) and Santorum would have issues with most of them. To me that clarifies the issue as to whom is conservative and whom is not. Gingrich would also have issues as it would not allow him as President to have those BIG IDEAS as they have nothing to do with the Federal Government.
And while I am rambling I have a point to make regarding the Moon site that Gingrich and his followers want – am I the only person to remember that there is an international treaty that states that no country can do anything proprietary on the Moon?
So any of you who want to join and support my platform, add to it or clarify it let me know and those who have issues with it – let’s discuss it rationally.
Before I put the quote up, let me say that yes I know this is a gaffe–I know what he’s trying to say, I know he’s saying we should always have system of meritocracy where people have the ability to rise and fall based on their effort, achievement and will. He says as much himself if you follow the link there is a nice video with his whole statement. I agree that going to some kind of socialist state where everyone would be the death knell for this nation.
However, if Romney had said this it would be the top story on every news outlet on Earth. And this is further proof that the media is working to make sure that Santorum is the candidate, because unlike Romney, he can easily be destroyed in the general election.
Okay, here’s the quote
Rick, please, stop trying to defend capitalism. You’re no good at it. Probably because capitalism requires a belief in individual freedom and individual happiness which we all know you’re opposed to. You’re just not qualified to talk about a philosophy that is at odds with your core values of collectivism and subservience/submission to a higher power.
But let’s talk about the truly stupid part of that statement is. “Hopefully[,] there always will be [income inequality].” Uh….No. Hopefully there will always be capitalism, free trade and meritocracy. But if by some miracle of miracles we had a whole generation of Teslsas, Da Vincis, Lorenzo D’Medicis, J.P. Morgans, Vanderbilts, Rockerfellers, Carnegies, and Jobses that would be awesome! Think of it a whole world of exceptional people, each exceptional in their own way, but a whole collective society of makers, doers, and thinkers. F!@#ing Awesome! Ayn Rand’s Galt’s Gulch on a global scale! There wouldn’t be much income inequality because everyone would have earned everything they wanted! And I’m not the first one to think about that…
Let me quote to you from the first book of Aristotle’s Politics, where right after he comes off a discussion of the greatest income inequality in the ancient world (the difference between masters and slaves) he envision the possibility that everyone could be essentially equal in terms of wealth, everyone their own master…he states:
“For if every instrument could accomplish its own work, obeying or anticipating the will of others, like the statues of Daedalus, or the tripods of Hephaestus, which says the poet, “of their own accord entered the assembly of the Gods;” if, in like manner, the shuttle would weave and the plectrum touch the lyre, chief workmen not want servants, nor masters slaves.” (1253a34)
Over 2,000 years ago Aristotle could imagine the idea that technology reach a level were all the necessities of life could be automated and everyone by nature make equal and their own master. So, while I understand what he was trying to say and agree with Rick that capitalism should always continue, I would, like Aristotle, love to see a world where everyone has earned equality of wealth. I’m not quite delusional enough to think it’s going to happen, I know I will never live to see it, but it’s a nice little hope that one day humanity could evolve to that level.
But again the main purpose of this is the fact that I doubt you will see all the major outlets for news rip Santorum a new one over this.
Around 400 BCE Aristotle in his Politics, went over the numerous kinds of government systems. (I’ll spare you a lot of Aristotle’s words because, as much as I love the man’s philosophy, what is left of his works has a style dryer than a stale cracker in the middle of the Gobi desert at noon…that and I’m planning a whole series of blogs on his Nicomachean Ethics to start in a month or so, so don’t think you’re getting out of this). The long and short of it is that he dislikes extremes. Rule by only the rich leads to corruption and misery. Rule by only the poor leads to stealing the wealth of the rich and anarchy. Rule by one person leads to tyranny and suffering. Rule by letting everyone vote (even if they’re criminals or non-citizens…I wonder who would be dumb enough to support something that insane?) leads to chaos and anarchy. Aristotle liked middle ground.* He liked the idea of a constitutional government, of a government of what he called aristocracy (we would call it a republic or representative government) and democracy, of where the law was higher than the whim of the ruling body (a set Constitution that is higher than the will of the mob) but not set in stone where it can never be changed (the process of amending that constitution). But of the things he goes over a lot is his distrust of the very rich and the very poor. He points out that whenever the concerns of either of these groups takes precedent it is the middle classes that suffer first followed by the entire government collapsing under the weight of corruption and chaos.
Over a century ago it was recognized by Alexander Fraser Tytler (although often misattributed to de Tocqueville because it mirrors the idea of Democracy in America):
“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.” [Italics added]
Again, like Aristotle, de Tocqueville and Tytler seemed to recognize that when one group of people get a hold of the government they vote themselves and their government into oblivion. Cronyism (which has NOTHING to do with capitalism, really it’s closer to socialism in form, so the term crony capitalism is just stupid) has shown us how this is true in one case, the bankrupting of every state and the federal government has shown the other extreme to also be true. (I don’t think even Aristotle or de Tocqueville could have imagined such a hideous hydra as one where the very rich and very poor conspire together to bleed the middle class dry). But the fact of the matter is that we haven’t had a president or Congress that hasn’t played to one if not both of these since Coolidge. So what do we need now, we need a leader who is going to tell both groups, which are hell-bent on destroying our civilization, to go to hell.
What would such a leader sound like? What would they say? I think they would say something like my focus isn’t on the concerns of the very rich or the very poor…maybe something like:
ROMNEY: I’m in the race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of the America. The 90, 95% of Americans who right now are struggling. I’ll continue to take that message across the nation.
HOST: […] You just said, ‘I’m not concerned about the very poor because they have a safety net.’ And I think there are a lot of very poor Americans who are struggling who would say, that sounds odd. Can you explain that?
ROMNEY: Well you have to finish the sentence. I said I’m not concerned with the very poor who have a safety net and if it has holes in it I will repair them. The challenge right now — we will hear from the Democrat party the plight of the poor. And there’s no question it’s not good being poor. And we have a safety net to help those that are very poor, but my campaign is focused is on middle-income Americans. My campaign — you can choose where to focus. You can focus on the rich, that’s not my focus. You can focus on the very poor, that’s not my focus. My focus is on middle income Americans—retirees living on Social Security, people who can’t find work, folks that have kids getting ready for college—these are the people most badly hurt by the Obama years.
Oh, but what happens when you say you won’t cater to the needs of the very rich (like say Obama caters to Soros, Buffett, GE, GM, Hollywood) you get ignored by the media because that would point out how their golden boy is the worst supporter of this evil since LBJ (a man who when he had brought his party down had the class to not run again).
And what happens when you say your concern isn’t for the truly poor, the lowest 2.5-5% of the nation, you’re called callous. Which is odd because he said we have a safety net for those people, which we do. We have public housing, and welfare, and Medicaid, food stamps (one thing that Newt is right about is that food stamp use has grown drastically under Obama), and a myriad of other federal, state and county programs. Not to mention the fact that we have free K-12 education for anyone under the age of 21. And as it is education that is the single greatest determining factor for personal success, it’s hard to say that we haven’t given the very poor the tools they need to not be very poor.
We shouldn’t care about the very poor. We shouldn’t care about the 1% that claims they are “the 99%,” we shouldn’t bankrupt ourselves for the 1% that has major medical problems (1% account for 22% of all medical costs…might be because most of life isn’t a constant disaster as liberals would have you believe …and half of all medical costs are paid out on 5% of the populace) our primary concern shouldn’t be about giving handouts to those who don’t have because we already have systems in place for them…and as Romney says very clearly “If it [the safety net] needs repair, I’ll fix it.” He has no intention of abandoning those who have the least, but he is not going make it his driving passion to give them more of what they have not earned.
Where did he say his concern was? With the middle class. With those who do work. With those who want to work but can’t find a job right now. He wants to create a larger middle class rather than pit one class against another (unlike Obama and Newt). He seems concerned with creating a culture that will help social mobility and advancement, that will allow growth and prosperity that will create an economy that will naturally have a much lower unemployment rate (as opposed to $500,000 to “create” a single job). Heaven forbid. The heartless fiend. Trying to create a system where the middle class thrives and the poor are taken care of (but not pampered)…I can’t see why anyone would support this monstrous Scrooge.
The fact is that to critique Romney over what he said, to take his quote out of context, to say it is wrong to say that making the prosperity of the middle class your primary concern is the worst and most villainous type of populism (Newt) and socialism (Barry), and behavior totally unworthy the head of any state.
And is it just me that Romney’s “gaffes” all seem to revolve around statements being taken out of context where he is expressing ideas that have a complexity that can’t be reduced to simple sentences and sound bites. Oh, heaven forbid, he thinks Americans are competent to grasp whole paragraphs of thought, that they can understand those thoughts and not just meaningless phrases and words like “hope” and “change.” Maybe I support him because I’m just tired of every other politician treating me like a moron too stupid to understand anything, whereas Romney seems to think America is bright enough to understand the problem and the solution.
*Oh, before someone tries to come back and point out Aristotle hated capitalism, let me start off by saying, you’re an idiot. Yes, he hated the rich in his day, he hated money lending, he hated trade. Probably because all of that was based on slave labor and very little was the fruit of man’s mind. There was nothing of modern capitalism (innovation, creation, hard work, personal responsibility) in the wider economy of the ancient world. There was stagnation and slave labor…I’m just shocked that an intelligent human could find making money off that system morally repugnant. Trust me, if you run post-Wealth of Nations capitalism through the values of Aristotle you find they match up perfectly.