Spritzophrenia

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Archive for the ‘Judaism’ Category

Sex, God, Science and Music (Part Two)

Posted by spritzophrenia on November 18, 2010

Or, Jewish Professor Writes About Fundamentalism
In my continued quest to actually write a short blog, I split this post into four. Part One of books I’ve been reading recently talks about sex. Today,

The Story of God

“A personal journey into the world of science and religion”
This is the book of a TV series by respected science populariser Prof. Robert Winston. Writing as a believing Jew he attempts an overview of religion from prehistory to the present, with significant chapters on Islam (not intrinsically violent in his view) and his own Judaism, as well as many other points of interest. His section on groups like the “New Age” and the “Heavens Gate” cult intrigued me. If anything, his focus on science and religion, which he says are quite compatible, is not as satisfactory— there are better books on this subject. Then again, this is a popular work, and a very readable one at that.

fundamentalist atheist

He makes a few minor mistakes, but overall it’s engaging and I learned a lot in areas I’m not familiar with, such as pre-historic religion. (Essentially, we know sweet frak-all; it’s conjecture based on little evidence.)

Winston writes on many other areas including a long section on fundamentalism:

There is a tendency nowadays to think of fundamentalism as being solely a reaction to the conditions of modern life. For example, when Muslim girls in French schools campaign for the right to wear the veil, we seem them as rejecting western dress in an attempt to protect their ethic identity in the melting-pot of global society. … It has also been suggested that only Judaism, Christianity and Islam can become ‘fundamentalist’ religions, because they base themselves on ancient texts, which are viewed as sacred and unchangeable, and which therefore continually clash with current thinking.

But this sort of reasoning is faulty. For a start, many fundamentalists are far from averse to the modern word— indeed, they use the internet, television, radio and newspapers as a means of spreading their beliefs. Terrorism, whether in the name of Judaism, Islam, Sikhism or any other cause, depends on the media to make its atrocities known and felt by the maximum number of people. Second, such arguments neglect the fact that fundamentalism is as old as religion itself, and not at all restricted to the ‘big three’ of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. …

Richard Dawkins cannot be alone in feeling that ‘only the wilfully blind could fail to implicate the divisive force of religion in most, if not all, off the violent enmities of the world today’.

[Winston goes on to discuss and deplore more modern fundamentalism, violence and distress, including some of his own experiences in the field of fertility.]

Equally, there are fundamentalists pursuing science and promoting it’s ‘truth’. And they can sometimes be almost as threatening in many ways as religious fundamentalists, not least because they seem to see no limitation to their pursuits and appear to have little or no moral framework— except one that they themselves have devised.

~ pp 425, 438

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that it’s not religion per se that is the problem in the religious violence in the world, but fundamentalism. So this confirms my biases quite nicely. In other words, I think it’s possible to have a spirituality that does not turn into crack-for-crazies. Maybe I’m too optimistic though?

Respond

What do you think? Does spirituality inevitably lead to fundamentalism? Can non-religious people be fundamentalists?
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Nothing to do with this post, I just like it. The Gossip | Heavy Cross

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Posted in agnostic, Judaism | Tagged: , , | 13 Comments »

Sex, God, Science and Music (Part One)

Posted by spritzophrenia on November 11, 2010

You say, “Don’t talk about Sex, God or Politics”. I say, “Why not? Let’s face it, we’re all interested in them”. Books I’ve dipped into recently include:

Sex At Dawn

“The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality”
Authors Ryan and Jetha say humans evolved in egalitarian groups that shared food, child care and often sexual partners. Apparently this is against the mainstream scientific opinion. They use primatology, anthropology and other fields to argue that humans are not naturally monogamous and thus we should ease up a little in our sexual mores.

Despite centuries of religious and scientific propaganda, the basic illusions underpinning the supposed “naturalness” of the conventional nuclear family are clearly exhausted. … We need to seek peace with the truths of human sexuality. Maybe this means improvising new familial configurations. Perhaps it will require more community assistance for single mothers and their children. Or maybe it just means we must learn to adjust our expectations concerning sexual fidelity.
~ p 308

Bonobo monkey and friend

Bonobo monkey. Apparently we’re related. The Bonobo is the hairy one.

I’d like to mention that in New Zealand we have pretty good welfare for single parents which has led to big social changes, and I would argue, good changes.

Sex At Dawn‘s approach also seems fairly propagandist to me, but the book finishes abruptly and the authors acknowledge they don’t offer many solutions. They do have a far-too-brief look at open marriages, swinging and similar. In my admittedly tiny sample size of people I know who’ve tried “polyamory” as it’s now called, all three couples found it too hard, and even damaging to the primary relationship. Ryan and Jetha suggest that the positive evidence of successful polyamorous couples is hidden, as we like to be private about that sort of thing.

Some of the book’s use of the evidence has been criticised too:

As a primatology/anthropology graduate student, I’m SO glad to see this review! Just reading through this book annoys me because of the vast amount of inaccuracies and flaws. The positive reviews genuinely confuse me so it’s good to see a more critical reader. ” (Sarah Soffer)

and

I’ve studied primatology, evolution, and especially evolution of sex, so this book infuriates me too.

I nearly did not buy it as it is so ‘wrong’ but seeing how so many people have been uncritically accepting all these weak arguments I felt I had to read as much as I could stomach and try to at least make people think more critically and hopefully look to the literature themselves.” (L. Saxon)

Even if they’ve over-interpreted the research, it’s still possible some of their conclusions may be true, they aren’t the first to suggest we should just loosen up and relax our ideas around sexual fidelity. But as for how to include that in my own life? That’s a hard one, and I’m not sure I want to include them. Regardless, it’s a well-written, entertaining and interesting read. What are your thoughts?

Thanks to HappyGirl for lending me great books relevant to my research, or just plain interesting. Hey! What about the science and music? Check out Part Two.

Respond

Non-monogamy. What do you think?
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Posted in agnostic, ethics, Judaism, Science | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments »

The Secret Life of a Re-Defined Jew

Posted by spritzophrenia on November 8, 2010

I think we need to talk to each other about our spiritual lives. Even though we may respectfully disagree, I believe that peaceful co-existence of all religions in the 21st century depends on this.

To this end I interview various believers and non-believers here on Spritzophrenia. Today Romy Shiller from Montreal shares about her life and beliefs. Dr Shiller earned her PhD in drama, has published several books and works as a pop culture critic and writer. Her website is http://www.romyshiller.com

Jonathan: Hi Romy. Tell me a bit about your background- did you have any kind of spiritual upbringing?

Romy: Hey, Jon. Hmmm. I went to Hebrew School from grades 2-6. Took Hebrew in CEJEP for one semester, which comes after high school in Canada. Hebrew isn’t a religion but it’s certainly a part of my Jewish-ness. I can read, speak and write in Hebrew. When I light the candles for Shabbat or holidays a prayer in Hebrew is recited. I like that I know what I’m saying.

In grade 3, I won my first book prize for a poem I wrote about the Holocaust. My grandmother used to tell me stories about how her whole family was killed by Nazis for being Jewish in the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland.

Dr Romy Shiller

Romy.

We were not spiritual (do you mean religious?) per se but we did celebrate the high holidays. We’d have a dinner and go to Shul (Synagogue). There, I always focused on good energy– not religion.

My Hebrew School was Kosher and followed all of the holidays– very different from home-life. I am vegetarian but I would never have milk with meat. That stayed from grade-school.

Jonathan: How would you describe your spiritual path now? How did you come to believe what you do?

Romy: I always say that I’m Jewish but I’m redefining what that means. As usual for me, Judaism is a base-line, and I freely extrapolate. I like my Jewish traditions and will always honour my grandparents.

I say that I’d be burnt in the ovens or stake as a witch no matter what I believe. As a matter of fact, just doing this interview is dangerous (But EXTREMELY important). Anti-Semitism is rampant. If you don’t hear from me in the future it’s your fault. 😉

On Twitter, someone using a Hitler icon recently threatened me. I will not give this person power by responding. I live with the danger of being a Jew every day.

So, no regular God for me. I have done psychic readings and Tarot cards, I have many different Tarot decks. One is Kabalistic and uses Hebrew letters. I believe in entities and one God. I believe in reincarnation. I have no friggin’ idea why I believe what I do. I have a blog on my metaphysical journey

Jonathan: What’s your day to day life like? Do you pray or keep Sabbath?

Romy: My day to day life has nothing to do with spirituality except that on the weekend I do Tarot. This to me is like a big fortune-cookie that I believe. My praying is more like thanking the powers that be. I am always grateful for ANY guidance. I kind of feel blessed.

I do not do Shabbat any more every Friday night but once in awhile. Again, it’s not religion for me, it is tradition. Lighting candles is like magic or meditation to me.

I just want to say something. At one time you talked with me about being Jewish not only as a religion but an ethnicity. If one buys into an idea of a straight, white, Christian, male as a ‘norm’ than I am ethnic. I have NEVER felt ethnic in any way. Even though there might be an impulse to label me as ‘exotic’ and although I might like that label, I am not that either. I am not an ethnic/exotic ‘other’.

Jonathan: When I said Judaism was an ethnicity as well as a religion, I meant no disrespect. ALL people have an ethnicity, including my own white New Zealand culture. It seems to me that Jewishness is a mixture of a “nation”, or “tribe” if you like, and a religion. Other religions, like Buddhism, seem to be uninterested in which tribe one comes from. Yet Judaism seems, to this outsider, very linked to a particular group. Any thoughts?

Romy: No offense taken? Jon. I don’t think that most people regard white, Christian, New Zealanders as ethnic. I don’t think anyone cares about my ‘tribe.’

I’m going to be very ‘in your face’ now. Nazis had this notion of ‘ethnic cleansing’ and moved towards a concept of an ‘Aryan Race.’ It brought that up for me.

Jonathan: You seem to have what might be called a “liberal” Jewish faith. (I don’t want to label you, so please forgive me if that doesn’t describe you.) How do you think about or relate to Orthodox or Hasidic Jews? In your point of view, is there any such thing as a “true” Jew these days, religiously?

Romy: Call me what you want but I may seep out of your definitions. Frustrating, eh?

I know a Christian, Filipino woman who works for Orthodox Jews. She will often remind me that it’s such-and-such Jewish holiday. I tell her that she’s a better Jew than me. *smile*

Orthodox and Hasidic Jews are extremely strict and play by the official Jew rules. They definitely embody qualities pertaining to being a “true” Jew. Nothing is ‘authentic’ but there are closer proximities than others.

Jonathan: I’m saddened that in modern Canada you still feel cautious about expressing your Jewishness. How do you think persecution has helped define you? (Persecution of your ancestors or in your own life?)

Romy: Yeah, it’s sad but not surprising. When I lived in Toronto, I brought in my grandparents to be interviewed about their Holocaust experience for the Shoah project by Steven Spielberg. There are Holocaust deniers and I thought that having a testimonial was important. [The Nazi Holocaust 1938-1945. Estimated Death Toll: 6 million Jews, 5 million others including 500,000 Gypsies, 6 million Poles, 5,000 to 15,000 homosexuals]

I was called a 3rd wave feminist in a book by the head of woman’s studies at South Carolina University. I researched what it meant to be a 3rd wave feminist. I found out that it’s aligned with a survivor mentality. I align myself with my grandparents whom I consider survivors. Persecution enabled this definition.

Jonathan: You seem to make a strong distinction between “religion” and “spirituality”. Can you tell me more about that?

Romy: Oh, yes I do make a huge distinction. Religion is paradigmatic. I consider it man-made, story-ridden and obviously ideological and prescriptive.

I am very spiritual. My spirituality is about connecting to unseen energies. It has nothing to do with prescriptions for being.

Jonathan: How does traditional Judaism think about spirituality outside the faith, eg Tarot? If the opinion is negative, does this bother you?

Romy: To be honest, Judaism in general doesn’t reflect upon Tarot and I don’t care what anyone thinks about my spirituality. I never did. I say, “bring it on.”

Jonathan: You said “no regular God for me” but also that you “believe in entities and one God”. What are these entities and God like for you?

Romy: Entities are like people who have passed on. Non-material beings that I can connect with. I find material physicality contentious.

I think of God as a quantum physics wave (or particle) in space. I am very comfortable with dualities. I don’t try to make things ‘fit.’ Ever.

The God thing is complex, eh? I absolutely do not believe that God created the Universe and even the idea of a ‘mind’ is problematic. My God doesn’t approximate human identity.

Jonathan: (This is the question I ask everyone.) Is truth important to you? If so, how do you know what you believe is true?

Truth is very important to me but I’m talking about honesty. In most of my books I use this example: Data and historical events do not shift but meaning does. The way we interpret data or historical events can change. For example, History. Things happened on certain dates. The way we regard these events might change. Data: Pluto is not considered a planet anymore. Alteration and flux are truth.

We are limited in what we can know given our senses. I know that any perspective I have is skewed. I am limited by my physicality– ironic because I am disabled.

A fish in a fishbowl only knows what a fish in a fishbowl knows.

Jonathan: Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed, Romy 🙂

Romy: A great pleasure Jon.

Respond

What questions would you ask Romy? If we’re lucky, she might respond.

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You can find other interviews here.

Posted in Judaism, Sociology, spirituality | Tagged: , , , , , | 14 Comments »

Will You Take The Pain I Give To You?

Posted by spritzophrenia on October 4, 2010

Yesterday we looked at pain in Genesis, and discussed the Christian idea of the distortion of the world, the breaking-down which theologians call “the Fall”. Remember, I’m agnostic, but I’m wearing my Christian hat today.

Matthew Fox is one modern heretic who focuses on Original Blessing rather than original sin, as do Jewish theologies, but I see this as the other side of the paradox. Humanity, and all of nature are full of good, as well as broken-ness. We can hold this alongside the belief that pain came into the world very early on.

“Fall” has a nice Autumnal feel about it don’t you think? The leaves are no longer green, they retain their structure but are beginning to die.

Literalists claim there was no death before the fall. Conceptually, it’s rather hard to see how Eden could have been anything like the forests of today without leaves dying and rotting to provide mulch and minerals, to give one small example.

leaves

Can theistic evolution cope with the pain inherent in an evolutionary view?

The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.

~ Richard Dawkins, “God’s Utility Function,” published in Scientific American (November, 1995) p. 85, via Iain at Phrenic Philosophy)

Does Dawkins paint his story rather too thickly? My suggestion at this point is to hope that perhaps less “conscious” beings than humans don’t truly “suffer”, in the way that we do? A purely materialist universe, as Dawkins says, is pitiless, indifferent and cruel.

The problem of pain and evil is not an easy one for theists either. It’s something I’ve pondered for many years, even as an agnostic. Philosophy is not a static field and I understand, contrary to popular belief, that the weight of argument is in theists’ favour at present. Check out contributions by Swinburne, Plantinga, contributors to God and the Philosophers and others. Ergo the problem of evil is not a proof against God, it’s at best a probability. More on this another time.

However, when considering the horrors of suffering, the recent floods in Pakistan for example, I always keep in mind two approaches: One can cope with suffering via the intellectual path or the emotional path. (Most likely a mixture of the two.) Even if I present a watertight case defeating the argument from evil, this won’t satisfy someone whose friends have recently died of disease, or remain permanently disabled. Knowing the arguments didn’t satisfy me, after all, when I merely experienced betrayal and a broken heart some years ago. It was this which caused me to walk away from God.

If we know the intellectual reasons I believe this may help, in the big picture. However, when in pain, we don’t want sophistry, we want comfort and strength. On that note I recommend Philip Yancey’s modern classic Where Is God When It Hurts?. It’s a profound book and I rate it highly.

Buddhism takes the reality of suffering as one of its foundational starting points. Alternately, I believe if there is some kind of pure Being there, who knows us intimately, then this g0d somehow shares in our suffering, and the suffering in nature.

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What Do You Think?

How do you think about suffering and spirituality? Does a higher power disgust you, or help you when you think about these things? This is part three of a series, starting with part one.

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Pleasure constricts us
That is the way
Empty perversion
Crippled by fate
(I believe in pain! In disease, cruelty and infidelity.)
Front Line Assembly | Final Impact, Bio-Mechanic

Posted in agnostic, atheism, Biology, Christianity, Emergent, ethics, god, Judaism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

There Is No Pain, You Are Receding

Posted by spritzophrenia on October 1, 2010

This is not a post about going bald. It’s part two of a short series on suffering and spirituality. Here I mention a common Christian “literalist” objection to theistic evolution:

Doesn’t Genesis teach there was no pain and suffering until the fall, and therefore evolution cannot have been the mechanism?

Christians, Jews and to a lesser extent Muslims, all take their origin story from Genesis. At a particular point in the tale the human race is flourishing and then everything goes wrong. Humans make Promethean choices that separate them from God, and like all choices there are consequences, much like choosing to jump from a cliff. Christians call this “the fall”.

If you’re not familiar, here’s the whole passage. Among other things, in verse 16,

To the woman God said,
I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;
with pain you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.

~ Gen 3:16

woman, man, pain

In a literal interpretation— the approach anti-evolutionists normally favour— this clearly implies pain before the fall. Note the phrase “greatly increase”. In other words, there was pain before the human representatives made their choice, it just wasn’t so bad. On a literal interpretation, pain was around even in Eden.

And that’s really the only point I want to make today.

By the way, according to Galileo Goes to Jail, and Other Myths about Science and Religion from my public library, the church did NOT oppose anesthesia in childbirth based on passages like these. I also noticed that male domination (the husband ruling over the woman) only came in AFTER the fall. Take that, “women must submit to men” theology. Gee, maybe literalist interpretations of the Torah aren’t so bad after all? (Noting my post suggesting this whole section, like much of early Genesis, appears to be poetic in form, and reading those sections ‘literally’ is probably a mistake.)

There are some people who rather enjoy a bit of pain (see below).
More on the problem of pain tomorrow 🙂
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What Do You Think?

Depeche Mode sing Strange Love:
I give in, to sin…
Will you take the pain… I give to you?
Pain, will you return it?

Also check out the great
Pain and Suffering remix (Replicant tribute)

Anyone like to guess the where the title of today’s post comes from? 😉
How do you think about physical pain and the meaning of life?

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Posted in agnostic, Christianity, god, hardship, Judaism, Meaning of Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

I Used To Believe

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 6, 2010

The public image of contemporary philosophers is that their personal stories are all stories of losing faith or of never having had it. The stories in this volume shatter the image. …

… They are stories by contemporary philosophers— many of them world-renowned— of coming to faith or returning, or of enduring in faith. The spiritual journeys narrated were never easy, there’s a lot of suffering and desperation here, and perplexity.”

~ Nicholas Wolterstorff, Yale

Man before Buddha

God and the Philosophers: The Reconciliation of Faith and Reason, features Christian and Jewish theists. One of the longer pieces is Peter van Inwagen’s Quam Dilecta, which tells the story of his rejection of teenage spirituality, twenty years of atheism and his long slow turn to Christianity. He writes with an urbane cynicism that I find amusing:

My attachment to Unitarianism (and its three pillars: the Fatherhood of God, the Brotherhood of Man, and the Neighbourhood of Boston) did not survive my going away to college. That sort of thing is, of course, a familiar story in every denomination, but it’s an easier passage for Unitarians, since it does not involve giving up any beliefs. My wife, who is one of my most useful critics, tells me that this is an unkind remark and ought to be omitted. It seems to me to be an important thing to say, however. I did not experience the crisis of conscience so common among Evangelical or Roman Catholic university students who leave the church. … It is, however, simply a fact that a Unitarian can sever his connection with Unitarianism without changing any of his beliefs.

~ p32

Have you given up a belief? (Perhaps one belief out of many, a scientific belief or belief in humanity, if not a spiritual one.)

Is it possible to have a spiritual life without beliefs? Perhaps we could say that Buddhism is also a practice that requires no intellectual assent. But is this, in fact, the case?

Respond

? What do you think?

“In yourself, believe. It’s alright”, sing the phenomenal King‘s X. There’s a live version here, with an inspiring message— recommended. Or, you can listen to

King’s X – Believe. Belief Lyrics.

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Posted in agnostic, Christianity, Emergent, Judaism, music, Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments »

Jewish Buddhist Music?

Posted by spritzophrenia on June 30, 2010

Music Week continues and I don’t want it to be forced into fixed categories, particularly with this poet. The first song is arguably nihilist, and contains Christian references. Leonard Cohen left music and spent about 10 years as a Buddhist monk before returning.

Leonard Cohen | The Future

Leonard Cohen | Anthem “There is a crack in everything. It’s how the light gets in.”

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Does Society Need Religion?

Posted by spritzophrenia on February 28, 2010

It’s about time we had a Jewish voice on this site, so I’m pleased to welcome a guest post by the UK’s chief rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. Well, he didn’t actually agree to write for me, I just pinched his opinion piece in the times.

Why the Ancient Greeks were wrong about morality
Do you have to be religious to be moral? Was Dostoevsky right when he said that if God does not exist, all is permitted? Clearly the answer is “no”. You don’t have to be religious to fight for justice, practise compassion, care about the poor and homeless or jump into the sea to save a drowning child. My doctoral supervisor, the late Sir Bernard Williams, was a committed atheist. He was also one of the most reflective writers on morality in our time.

Yet there were great minds who were less sure. Voltaire did not believe in God but he wanted his butler to do so because he thought he would then be robbed less. Rousseau, hardly a saint, thought that a nation needed a religion if it was to accept laws and policies directed at the long-term future. Without it, people would insist on immediate gain, to their eventual cost. George Washington, in his farewell address, said: “Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion . . . Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Were they wrong? Yes in one sense, no in another. Individuals don’t need to believe in God to be moral. But morality is more than individual choices. Like language it is the result of social practice, honed and refined over many centuries. The West was shaped by what today we call the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Lose that and we will not cease to be moral, but we will be moral in a different way.

Consider what moves people today: the environment, hunger and disease in Third World countries, and the growing gap between rich and poor. These are noble causes: nothing should be allowed to detract from that. They speak to our altruism. They move us to make sacrifices for the sake of others. That is one of the distinguishing features of our age. Our moral horizons have widened. Our conscience has gone global. All this is worthy of admiration and respect.

But they have in common the fact that they are political. They are the kind of issues that can only ultimately be solved by governments and international agreements. They have little to do with the kind of behaviour that was once the primary concern of morality: the way we relate to others, how we form bonds of loyalty and love, how we consecrate marriage and the family, and how we fulfil our responsibilities as parents, employees, neighbours and citizens. Morality was about private life. It said that without personal virtue, we cannot create a society of grace.

Nowadays the very concept of personal ethics has become problematic in one domain after another. Why shouldn’t a businessman or banker pay himself the highest salary he can get away with? Why shouldn’t teenagers treat sex as a game so long as they take proper precautions? Why shouldn’t the media be sensationalist if that sells papers, programmes and films? Why should we treat life as sacred if abortion and euthanasia are what people want? Even Bernard Williams came to call morality a “peculiar institution”. Things that once made sense — duty, obligation, self-restraint, the distinction between what we desire to do and what we ought to do — to many people now make no sense at all.

This does not mean that people are less ethical than they were, but it does mean that we have adopted an entirely different ethical system from the one people used to have. What we have today is not the religious ethic of Judaism and Christianity but the civic ethic of the Ancient Greeks. For the Greeks, the political was all. What you did in your private life was up to you. Sexual life was the pursuit of desire. Abortion and euthanasia were freely practised. The Greeks produced much of the greatest art and architecture, philosophy and drama, the world has ever known. What they did not produce was a society capable of surviving.

The Athens of Socrates and Plato was glorious, but extraordinarily short-lived. By now, by contrast, Christianity has survived for two millennia, Judaism for four. The Judaeo-Christian ethic is not the only way of being moral; but it is the only system that has endured. If we lose the Judaeo-Christian ethic, we will lose the greatest system ever devised for building a society on personal virtue and covenantal responsibility, on righteousness and humility, forgiveness and love.

So far, the Times only has two comments, one from the kind of christian who argues poorly and dogmatically. *sigh*. There are some more useful comments here. I shall add my comment below, but I want to know what YOU think: Is the chief rabbi right? Please comment.

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Some atheists imply or state outright that to be a believer one must be stupid. It’s simply not true, there are some immensely intelligent and educated religious people out there including many who teach in secular universities. I haven’t trawled in depth, but here’s Intelligent Christian, a website by mensa-level IQ christians.

Today’s Fun Unrelated Link: Odd and strangely satisfying video – exploding banana face

Posted in agnostic, atheism, Judaism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Satan Replies

Posted by spritzophrenia on January 16, 2010

For those who aren’t aware, US TV evangelist and one-time presidential candidate Pat Robertson stated that in the recent tragic earthquake Haiti got punished for a pact with the devil. Here’s the devil’s response:

Dear Pat Robertson,

I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I’m all over that action.

But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I’m no welcher. The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished.

Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth — glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake. Haven’t you seen “Crossroads”? Or “Damn Yankees”?

If I had a thing going with Haiti, there’d be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox — that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it — I’m just saying: Not how I roll.

You’re doing great work, Pat, and I don’t want to clip your wings — just, come on, you’re making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad. Keep blaming God. That’s working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract.

Best, Satan

(actually Lilly Coyle from Minneapolis)

'Satan' by Øyvind Haagensen, Norway
‘Satan’ by Øyvind Haagensen, Norway. I blog more about Satan here and here.

Mr Robertson is a prize doofus. He’s forgotten the words of his own saviour:

There were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?

It’s pretty clear that Jesus wasn’t into blaming disaster on the sins of the people. Shame his followers can’t be as gracious.

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Posted in agnostic, atheism, Christianity, Judaism | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Let There Be Light Relief

Posted by spritzophrenia on December 28, 2009

After the heavy going of the last couple of posts I thought we could do with a break. Settle back and prepare to laugh; at least if you have a somewhat cynical sense of humour. Starting with a funny and critical look at a passage from the Jewish scriptures (Christian First Testament).

(Christians and Jews don’t ignore these difficult passages – at least the educated ones don’t – but I’m keeping this post light.)

I love webcomics, and from time to time I look at religion in comics. This time, a favourite of mine – Bigger Than Cheeses by Desmond Seah – an Australian, no less. I like my cousins across the ditch 🙂 Des toons about much more than religion, it’s the subject of only a minority of his comics. For example:

One of my favourite BTC characters is Jesus Man. Here’s some more samples. Note this is some of his older work.


And
http://www.biggercheese.com/index.php?comic=451
http://www.biggercheese.com/index.php?comic=3
http://www.biggercheese.com/index.php?comic=4
http://www.biggercheese.com/index.php?comic=49

Go take a look, and tell Des I sent ya. Also, check out my new blog pal Jacob at www.rowdycreator.com, he’s got interesting stuff to say. Please subscribe to my RSS feed! (at right) 🙂

Seeya next time. 🙂

listening to Front Line Assembly | Vigilante

Posted in agnostic, atheism, Christianity, humor, humour, Judaism, music | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »