About Rationally Speaking


Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The mess in the Middle East

There is no need for me to recount the facts of the current mess in Lebanon and what Israel is doing in reaction to the kidnapping of two of its soldiers by Hezbollah. Surely the readers of this blog realize that Israel's bombing of Lebanon has little to do with rescuing the soldiers, and much to do with an attempt to counter the Iran- and Syria-backed turn toward even more extreme fundamentalism that has characterized the political situation in Palestine and Lebanon during the last few months.

Given all that, the conclusion is inescapable: the Israeli-Palestinian question is irresolvable because there is an army of idiots on both sides. Let me spell it out, because I wouldn't want to be accused of offending one group more than the other.

Israel: apparently they simply don't get that military might does not solve cultural conflicts, it only exacerbates hatred and helps the other side to recruit suicide bombers. Of course, Israel isn't the only one to have made this mistake, just think of Bush's invasion of Iraq. The Israeli are so obviously deluded and lost in a parallel universe that they think that they can actually extirpate Hezbollah by simply bombing Beirut's airport and surrounding areas. Nuts. Unless their real goal is to force Iran or Syria into an open conflict, to finish what they started with the 1967 war. In which case I can only say: nuts squared!

Hebzollah: did you see the videos of these idiots marching in locked steps while stepping over the Israeli flag? This is a bunch of fanatics who do nothing to further the Palestinian cause, or for that matter to make Islam acceptable to the rest of the world. How thousands of people can so easily be talked into the idea that a few AK47s and a really ferocious looking mask would scare the shit out of Israel is beyond me. Nuts!

And speaking of nuts, let's put a couple of other players into the mix. First, Iran, who recently has been maneuvering as if it were the old Soviet Union (or the new China), pissing off the entire world because they have a “right” to produce nuclear technology. A right? Given by whom? Not the United Nations, for sure. Maybe it's their divine right, in which case, however, there seem to be gods of other people that apparently object to the move. And what on earth makes the so-called Iranian “leaders” think that their people (who allegedly they serve and guide) would be better off by “going (North) Korean,” blackmailing the rest of the world with the specter of a regional nuclear war?

Next, Palestinians. I do understand their position and the desperation that it engenders. But I never understood why people become more irrational in inverse proportion to the degree of rationality called for by their situation. After 9/11 lots of Americans turned to God – of all sources of solace -- even though it was religious fanatics that did the deed (but they were working for the wrong god, of course); equally irrationally, the Palestinians, rightly outraged by the corruption and ineffectiveness of their previous government (though decades of the same treatment by Arafat didn't seem to bother them a bit), decided to change the tune. So who do they hire as a conductor? A bunch of fanatics who have the same delusions of grandeur as their Hezbollah neighbor!

Finally, the biggest fish of them all: the US of A. I've said this before and I'll repeat it here: the US could single-handedly stop the Israeli-Palestinian conflict overnight, if they really wanted to (which means that they are morally responsible for its continuation over a period of decades). They need to do two simple things: first, disengage militarily from any middle eastern country, supporting (and I really mean supporting, with lots of money) instead a series of UN missions in the region; second, threaten Israel with cutting their funding. Israel can exist as a regional military power only because of US money and weapons. If the US were seriously hinting at the possibility of stopping the cash flow, not even the idiots who run the Israeli government would fail to see that their nation would cease existing overnight. Nothing like the prospect of sudden annihilation to turn ideological posturing into reasonable open-mindedness.

The result of all this couldn't possibly be the cessation of ethnic and religious hatred. I'm afraid we'll have to wait for genetic engineering to extirpate that from the human repertoire. But if all of the above actually were to happen (no chance in hell, of course), we would have an independent Palestinian state, Israel's withdrawal to its pre-1967 borders, elimination of illegal Jewish settlements, and Jerusalem declared an open and international city. Iran and Syria would have little left to exercise regional influence with, Hamas and Hezbollah would disappear into irrelevance, and Israelis and Palestinians could actually go about their daily business of life without fear of being blown to pieces while sipping coffee.

See? And they say that the Middle East question is impossible to solve!

41 comments:

  1. In spite of the trouble we currently see, God has kept His promise to Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac.

    But we can also see that Sarah and Abraham's lack in being faithful to God, has taken centuries of stress out on these relationships.

    "God promised Abraham:

    Then God said, "Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year." (Genesis 17)
    These twelve rulers, the twelve sons of Ishmael, were named Nebaioth, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah (See Genesis 25)

    Ishmael also had a daughter named Mahalath or Bashemath (Gen 36:3). Esau married her since he wanted to please his parents (Gen 28:9).

    [edit]
    Descendants of Ishmael
    Ishmael also appears with Isaac at the burial of Abraham at the cave at Machpelah (Genesis 25:9 NRSV).

    Each of Ishmael's sons was a tribal chief and settled everywhere from Havilah to Shur, i.e. from the Persian Gulf to the border of Egypt. From the twelve sons of Ishmael are derived the twelve tribes of the Arabians. Jerome says that in his time they called the districts of Arabia by the names of the tribes.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ismael
    Ishmael - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0117.htm
    Genesis 17 / Hebrew - English Bible / Mechon-Mamre

    cal

    ReplyDelete
  2. Cal, long time no see. Glad to know that the level of your delusion hasn't changed a bit.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What is the longest standing family feud you know of in Italy? What about Ireland?

    What we are observing here, M, is no delusion. The Bible is being truthful then for examining the absolute worst, and sometimes best, of the way people think and have acted in the past. Are we better off intellectually now? Clearly, NO.

    So you have only drawn us a picture of what the problems are. I can do that too. Tell me what the best possible solution is.

    cal

    ReplyDelete
  4. That's really a nice bunch of nutties you have gathered for this post. Though I sympathize with much you state in your post I see a hole in your brave strategy to rescue the world. As I see it, the instant the US funding of Israel stops and the Israelian military is no longer supported, Syrian and Iranian missiles will be hitting Israel. A result of a deep hate thorougly cultivated for over a century. I fear there's no easy escape. Probably we'll have to wait for some genetic engineering after all.

    ReplyDelete
  5. >> So you have only drawn us a picture of what the problems are. I can do that too. Tell me what the best possible solution is. <<

    Cal, you might want to read the whole post, before commenting. I outlined a clear solution to the problem. And please don't compare conflicts in Italy or Ireland to those in the Middle East, not even close to the right ballpark.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Fujaro, my strategy is to threaten Israel with withdrawal of US funds, not to actually do it... It's called smart diplomacy (but of course you better not tell anyone about it :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. M,

    Take away funds to force a unilateral withdrawal? Bad idea.
    I have only six million reasons why.

    Now although I didn't feel at all unsafe the last time I was in Israel, narrow down those already thin margins they have for borders, and all hell is going to rain down on the citizens of Israel! (which are by no means all Jewish, btw) There are a variety of wonderful people of different racial origins that live inside of it's borders.

    cal

    ReplyDelete
  8. M: "And please don't compare conflicts in Italy or Ireland to those in the Middle East, not even close to the right ballpark."

    Uh, why not?

    Do you honestly think that the terrorism in Ireland and the all the underhanded stuff in politics that takes place in Italy are more intellectually founded or somehow more sound-minded in their intent than what happens in the mid-east?

    I can't imagine a single way in which it would be.

    cal

    ReplyDelete
  9. Massimo,

    Do you honestly believe that a US government which threatens to cut Israeli funding would be elected by the American people?

    ReplyDelete
  10. I just looked up the figures of US AID on US AIDS webpage. Scary. Israel gets a comparable amount to all of Latin America or Sub-saharan Africa.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Cal, just because something's written in the Bible doesn't mean squat. I mean, it's not like the Bible was dictated by a divine power or anything. It's just a bunch of Bronze Age tales.

    ReplyDelete
  12. These are tough negotiations, like some labor negotiations. Each side is prepared to be reasonable at the end, but wants to improve its bargaining position first. And a wildcat strike is never out of the question.

    ReplyDelete
  13. K "Cal, just because something's written in the Bible doesn't mean squat. I mean, it's not like the Bible was dictated by a divine power or anything. It's just a bunch of Bronze Age tales."

    Depends entirely on who you've allowed to interpret that matter for you. Secular scholarship isn't necessarily the most objective on matters that revolve around 'truth'.

    Secular scholars tend to:

    1. Elevate secular scholarship over Scripture. The authors analyze the Bible through sociological and economic (perhaps Marxist) eyes (p. 39). They see the Bible as historical literature without a common voice of the Holy Spirit behind the individual authors. On p. 99, they quote as positive Herman-Emiel Mertens’ comments on the Bible:

    "’Images of Christ and conceptions of salvation bear the marks of the prevailing cultural consciousness and are only temporarily relevant. They do not remain always and everywhere equally useful. Some “age” quicker than others.'”[3] [bold added]

    2. Divide Scripture. They divide Scripture in order to dismiss what does not agree with their thesis. For example, they play Luke's writing against Paul's because Luke does not have major portions that deal with the atonement. This is an old trick of liberal scholars. (The same argument is used by pro-homosexual "Bible scholars" to justify accepting homosexual acts as good e.g. "Jesus never mentions homosexuality. It’s just Paul, the uptight Pharisee who condemns it.”)

    3. Dismiss New Testament authors. Though they don't say it obviously, the authors assume that some of the books of the New Testament were not written by the apostolic author claimed in each book but by a later imitator (on John, p. 77; on Paul, p. 101).

    4. Dismiss parts of the New Testament. When parts of the New Testament disagree with their thesis, they say that these are later additions.

    5. Attack the value of the blood atonement. Under the guise of objectivity, they claim that several views of the atonement have value. However, in contradiction, they especially attack the blood atonement, claiming that it is not biblical and is harmful and useless for the "modern world."


    6. Claim objectivity. They imply that their own method of sociological analysis is not culture bound and that it enables them to judge both the Bible and church history in some objective fashion. This ties in with the post-modernist ideology that is current within our ever-expanding New Age culture.

    7. They greatly downplay or dismiss the role of law in the Old and New Testaments. They claim that the “Biblical image” of God as judge is passé and irrelevant to modern culture or to the spread of the Gospel, and that the concept of God as judge only works in “guilt-based” cultures.[4](p. 32).

    excerpt from:
    http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/04/scandal-cross.htm

    as is this:
    II. The Early 1900s: Liberalism's Triumph in America Among Evangelicals


    In the early 1900s, a double tidal wave assailed believers. Both Darwinian evolutionary philosophy and German skeptical Biblical criticism (also known as “Higher Criticism”) inundated many mainline Evangelical churches in the United States (Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopal, and so forth). They became intimidated about the authority and infallibility of Scripture and the classic Evangelical doctrines that were derived from Scripture. This spawned a movement, especially among clergy and seminary professors, called Modernism (or Liberalism).

    These people sought to rescue Evangelicalism from its attachment to what they viewed as "archaic" doctrines (such as the concept of a literal Adam and Eve and a literal resurrection). In the process, they changed fundamental doctrines to conform to liberal assumptions. The conservative sections of these denominations resisted with a series of books called The Fundamentals. Written by Evangelical scholars, these pillars of Evangelical Christianity represented the basic Protestant doctrines since the Reformation (from 1517 on): the Trinity, the incarnation, the two natures of Christ (man and God), the virgin birth, the physical resurrection, the blood atonement, the infallibility of the Bible, and so forth.

    By Richard Nathan, M.A.


    cal

    ReplyDelete
  14. Cal:

    Because you approach the Bible as a believer first, you naturally view any criticism of the Bible, or scholarship that may undermine its claim to divine truth, as illegitimate.

    Perhaps you can explain to me - a man who studies history as a personal interest and as a profession - why I should examine the Christian Bible differently than I would study the works of Homer, or the tales of Gilgamesh, or the Popol Vu.

    A true Biblical scholar acknowledges that his studies may lead him to discover facts that contradict what the Bible claims to be true. At the risk of sounding rude, I think it is ridiculous to believe in the story of Noah, or even in the tale of the Exodus (for which there is no convincing archaeological or historical evidence). The Bible must be read as stories to be interpreted, because a literal reading would reduce its significance to that of a collection of fairy stories.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Robert: "I think it is ridiculous to believe in the story of Noah, or even in the tale of the Exodus (for which there is no convincing archaeological or historical evidence)."

    Interestingly enough, LAST NIGHT the National Geographical was examining evidence for the Exodus (in the sea near Egypt, Mediterranean?)

    But the Egyptian Gov. was being particular about disturbing of the coral in that sea, which made the excavation difficult. I do think artifacts have been tuned up tho. I only watched this for a few minutes (short att. span :) now I wish I had watched more.

    I bet we can find the segment on the NG online.

    Some of the most compelling evidence is around the Dead sea. I know of some people who have been to these achi. sites, and continue to go. Evidence points very strongly to the fact that Sodom and Gomorrah were hit by something like a meteorite. There is so much highly interesting stuff to see around the Dead Sea, I’d recommend going there to anyone, whether they think they buy into the idea of the Bible’s historical accuracy or not!

    keep searching!
    cal

    ReplyDelete
  16. Cal:

    I think that the Exodus example is a perfect illustration of my point. The Exodus is one of the events in the Bible that most likely could have happened, but all of my reading on the subject casts great doubt on it. If the Exodus story isn't true, then it only stands to reason that the more exotic stories - divine Creation, the Flood, the assorted miracles - may not be true, either.

    As far as the National Geographic special, I have seen any number of television programs with purported "scientific explanations" for the Exodus story, including the plagues. I listen carefully to the wording of the narration and the methodology of the research, and all too often, the researchers start off from a position of being certain of the results of their research, and then use a lot of "coulds", "may haves", "possiblies", and so forth, to make the data match their predetermined conclusions. Whether or not that happened in the program you referenced, I can't say. But experience has taught me to be skeptical (in all sorts of things)!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I think your solution is a bit too optimistic. Even if Israel pulls back to its 1967 borders (with or without our coercion), there are still fanatical elements that will continue to push to "eliminate Israel from the face of the Earth". Likewise, there are fanatical Jews that will continue to push for settlement to fulfill their belief that the land was given to them by God.

    The original Hamas kidnapping in Gaza (where Israel already abandoned their settlements) was thought to be carried out by extremist elements in order to derail the fact that Fatah with the encouragement of Mahmoud Abbas were on the verge of historically implicitly recognizing Israel.

    Every time progress appears to be made in the I/P situation an extremist element (either Jewish or Arab) intentionally uses violence to derail it. If only the majority of moderates on both sides could ignore the extremists -- but in the chicken and egg game of blame there is always an inevitable counter response and escalation begins anew.

    And I agree that Israel is trying to make Lebanon rethink its entrenchment with Hezbollah, but as you say, it will only serve to garner Hezbollah more support.

    As previously commented on, we eagerly await genetic modification.....

    ReplyDelete
  18. Recently there was an item on the History Channel about the Delphic Oracle. It seems she was usually seated above the intersection of two fault lines, which could have permitted an influx of intoxicating gas in those historical times, although this is now not the case. Apparently this discovery gives new life to ideas that had previously been discounted by historians. The same situation exists as a possibility for any ancient legend, including Biblical legends.

    But it should be noted that none of this makes the delphic Oracle a real oracle.

    Similarly if Sodom & Gomorrah were struck by a meteorite, that only means that they were struck by a meteorite. It would not be contrary to human nature to attribute this disaster to punishment for alleged wickedness.
    But it ain't necessarily so.

    So with the rainbow after the Flood. I really don't believe that raindrops only began refracting light in certain ways at that point in time.

    Stories can be lovely but they are stories. In the Margaree Valley in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia there is a tale told about an Indian maid who is constantly searching for a lost lover. When I passed through that beautiful valley years ago, I noticed the constant rustling of the leaves of the poplars and other trees that were so numerous, and I easily envisaged the old legend.

    But as Amy Tan said in one of her novels, referring to her own ancient traditions, "It's just for fun."

    ReplyDelete
  19. The problem with believers (Cal numbers as only one among millions perhaps billions) is that they can't accept the myths of the Bible as just stories. They insist on attaching importance and veracity that far exceeds any rational thought.

    The myths of the Bible are nothing more than rehashes of myths that have exixted for as long as humans have been able to communicate.

    There's hardly a better source for this explanation than the late Joseph Campbell. His series of lectures on myth was aired on NPR over twenty years ago, and I think it has since been published in book form. Good reads.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Alan, of course my proposed solution is optimistic, I'm an incurable optimist!

    But seriously, the point is that even though there will always be fanatics around, their traction is far less when the majority of the population sees objective improvements in their lives. Most people don't really look forward to a life of uncertainty and violence.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Mr. Massimo Pigliucci,

    Posting the solution as the U.S. government blackmailing Israel into submission of a solution they don't desire is as optimistic as proposing of a solution which insists that both sides should stop fighting. Good luck trying to get a government into the White House which would ever dare do that.

    The sad reality of power politics is exactly that the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.

    Flemming

    ReplyDelete
  22. Flemming,

    >> Posting the solution as the U.S. government blackmailing Israel into submission of a solution they don't desire is as optimistic as proposing of a solution which insists that both sides should stop fighting. <<

    Not exactly. What I proposed is a perfectly logical, rational solution. The fact that this White House (or most conceivable others) will not do it points to the limitations in political will, which is a different issue. My suggestion shows that there _are_ solutions, but that people are unwilling to pursue them.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I don't think we disagree, it is a solution, and it might work, but we will never know. Why, not just because of the political will (that a President wouldn't want to do it), but also more because (hence the Thucydides quote) a President can't do it.

    Collective pacifism would also work, but the prospects look bleak. The world needs a new Ghandi.

    P.S. I suggest using caution as to speaking of what "people" will/want. More than 70% of Americans want the U.S. to sign the Kyoto protocol. How is that looking? Politicians don't have to abide by the will of the people, in fact, it can often be detrimental to their power ambitions. People want peace, but they won't get it.

    ReplyDelete
  24. A "bit" naive I think. Hamas and Hezbollah have both committed to the total destruction of Israel. Iran has a leader who denies the Holocaust occurred and has publicly stated he too is for the total destruction of Israel - and is finding/training Hezbollah. How exactly does Israel deal this? The problem is NOT political. It is religious/cultural. I fail to see how the US withdrawing support from Israel will do anything more than lead to Israel's total destruction.

    Best,
    Richard

    ReplyDelete
  25. While I do think that Massimo's proferred solution is eminently reasonable and logical, I don't share his optimism that it would work. Why? Because of the fervent religious convictions held by both sides of the conflict. Everyone over there is insanely insistent that their version of god granted them sole license to the land over there. (Although if any deity were passing out real estate and dubbing it "holy land" I could think of more pleasant places to deem "holy"--the south of France, or Fiji, perhaps.)

    In my deepest fantasies of rationality, I think that one of the best blessing of accomplishing U.S. energy independence would be our ability to withdraw all interests from the middle east, and then leave them to their bloody holy wars until they eventually, hopefully, eradicated themselves and their death-centric religious fundamentalist fanaticism.
    gld

    ReplyDelete
  26. F: The sad reality of power politics is exactly that the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must."

    God is not a Marxist or a relativist. Thus each person is 100% responsisible for the evil in their own life or heart, even the powerless, oppressed and poor in each nation.

    "Good luck trying to get a government into the White House which would ever dare do that."

    Israel is God's time piece.

    Scripture states that one day *all* the nations of the earth will turn their back on her. We're just not at that point in time yet, you see. But if some insist on the world as a whole rejecting Israel's right to exist at all, they are just effectively pushing that short hand forward and fulfilling prophecy.

    cal

    ReplyDelete
  27. Cal,

    >> God is not a Marxist or a relativist. Thus each person is 100% responsisible for the evil in their own life or heart, even the powerless, oppressed and poor in each nation. <<

    God is neither a Marxist nor a relativist because he doesn't exist, at least not the kind you are thinking of, which is clearly the result of human imagination.

    As for 100% personal responsibility, it doesn't follow from your own premises (an omnipotent god has made us, so in what sense are we responsible?), and it is a really nasty way to blame the victims. A classic Christian conservative strategy, to be sure.

    ReplyDelete
  28. M: "As for 100% personal responsibility, it doesn't follow from your own premises (an omnipotent god has made us, so in what sense are we responsible?), and it is a really nasty way to blame the victims. A classic Christian conservative strategy, to be sure."

    What is also classic, is that a lot of people, from virtually every walk of life, want to distance themselves from who they are and what they have done in the past. I point specifically to the cases of child and human slavery across the world.(mainly asian counties/india)

    These are not affluent societies, nor are they much influenced by western ideals. So on the victimization of women and children in specifically non-Christian counties, who ought to carry the blame on that one?

    Humanism?
    cal

    ReplyDelete
  29. "I point specifically to the cases of child and human slavery across the world.(mainly asian counties/india"

    Bah! That is not looking at things very closely, the tragedy of sex slaves in these regions (especially Bangkok and Tokyo)is a supply to the demand of rich western "good Christians" who exploit these people's circumstances. And don't think it doesn't happen in the US, over a 1000 slaves have been identified in the US (only God knows how many have not been identified).

    Flemming

    ReplyDelete
  30. F: "Bah! That is not looking at things very closely, the tragedy of sex slaves in these regions (especially Bangkok and Tokyo)is a supply to the demand of rich western "good Christians" "

    Don't let the way you WANT to see this issue stop you. The burden of proof is on you to show that any of those westerners are in fact professing Christians.

    I have observed / studied the slave trade in India. In the undercover docus., most all the clients are Indian, Muslim, Hindu.

    And for the sake of six, seven, eight year old children, let's be honest! The worship of pagan gods in these countries inevitably does lead to an end result that defiles and destorys the innocent.

    cal

    ReplyDelete
  31. Cal:

    I must take issue with your last post. Many religious traditions have a history of sanctioned violence, and few sects have a more bloodthirsty history than Christianity. Glass houses, and all.

    And please do NOT take refuge behind the "well, the perpetrators of those heinous acts are not REAL Christians." Christianity, like any other humanly-created doctrine or ideology, is mutable and changes with the times. What is right and proper behavior for a Christian in 1000 C.E. is not necessarily right and proper behavior for a Christian in 2006.

    Were I a Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim (cited as people who worship "pagan gods"), I might point out to you that the Christian god of the New Testament is the SAME god of the Old - and a more bloodthirsty slaughterer of innocents, allower of slavery and bigamy, and giver of cruel dictates you will likely never find.

    That beam in your eye demands attention!

    ReplyDelete
  32. R: "What is right and proper behavior for a Christian in 1000 C.E. is not necessarily right and proper behavior for a Christian in 2006."

    We don't think so.

    Following Christ's example is still relevant. And I think that the importance of this way of thinking doesn't change a bit. If I claim to like “the idea” of the christian ideal, but don't follow the pattern of Christ, whose problem is that and what does it make me?

    Such a person is a humanist, btw, not a christian. By default, anyone who lives life on "his own terms" is a humanist.

    cal

    ReplyDelete
  33. Cal:

    Who is "we"? Certainly you don't mean you and other Christians, because I guarantee that you don't follow the rules of Christian society as dictated by the Pope in Rome, the Patriarch of Byzantium, or any other Christian authorities of 1000 CE. Wait another thousand years, and, if Christianity still exists, I guarantee its adherents will be practicing it in a different way than you are, now.

    And just what is "following the pattern of Christ"? This is open to many interpretations. For instance, the way I read the Gospels, Jesus had no particular love for the wealth or the material things they covet. Yet I don't see too many self-professed Christians living a life of poverty.

    (I would argue that if you want to live a life similar to that of Jesus, you should depend more on Q than Paul.)

    Like it or not, we ALL live our lives on our own terms, as long as we are capable of making decisions for ourselves. A good person (Christian, Muslim, humanist) does good things because they CHOOSE to, not because something MAKES them. Likewise, what it means to you to be a Christian has never been the universally accepted idea of what it means to be a Christian in the past, and likely won't be in the future. So don't be too quick to cast aspersions on the behavior of "pagans". It wasn't that long ago when slavery and murder were perfectly in tune with the beliefs of all of Christendom. Don't think such evils can't come into fashion again.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Cal,

    You can't really be serious. You say that the Westerners who come and pray on sex slaves in Bangkok, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Cape Town etc. aren't "real" Christians. Fair enough, silly me who thought Christians weren't supposed to judge other people, but I guess things are malleable. Anyway, sure, they are not "proper" Christians. That's fine. But how can you then say the Hindus, Muslims, etc. are "real" Muslims? The hypocrasy is screaming to the air.

    Look to the State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report 2006. Look to Shard Hoped International or the American Ambassador John R. Miller to the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. I happened to speak with him when he was in Georgetown a couple of weeks ago, and what do you know, Atlanta Georgia in the bible belt is the hotspot for sexslaves together with Nevada.

    Flemming

    ReplyDelete
  35. "Certainly you don't mean you and other Christians, because I guarantee that you don't follow the rules of Christian society as dictated by the Pope in Rome, the Patriarch of Byzantium, or any other Christian authorities of 1000 CE."

    Original Christians (and church) were definitely Jewish not Catholic. And what Christian society did, is not the point. If we do what whatever society does, we're no better off than situational ethicists.

    "For instance, the way I read the Gospels, Jesus had no particular love for the wealth or the material things they covet. Yet I don't see too many self-professed Christians living a life of poverty."

    Well, the emphasis of Christ's life was not directly non-materialism, it was (if you take the old testament and new in it's totality) redemption and reconciliation with God. However if I am reconciled to God, it's likely that "stuff" doesn't rate too highly with me, because this world is just not what I live for. Difference being between the “why” we reject materialism and “how” we got to the point of doing so, I guess.

    "A good person (Christian, Muslim, humanist) does good things because they CHOOSE to, not because something MAKES them."

    Not entirely true. Sometimes we're made to do certain things (especially when we're immature) and it's truly good for us, whether we like it or not. For instance, my mother would not tolerate fights, anger or bitterness between myself or my siblings. And I MEAN, would not tolerate!! And to this day, none of the five of us ever fight or have any bad feelings between any of us. (even if we have stimulating conversations) You see, someone had to care enough to set a standard and draw boundaries for what was acceptable behavior in our house, and I'm REAL glad that she did!

    Now, if only my mother was alive and well to tell the mid-east nations what to do about their problems. :)

    The Bible claims that all wars begin in the heart. Where do you think that they start?
    cal

    ReplyDelete
  36. Cal:

    The original Christians were indeed a sect of Judaism. However, since I very much doubt that modern Christians respect Jewish dietary and social customs as practiced by Jesus and his followers, I daresay that NO modern Christian adheres to Jesus' social vision.

    This comes from taking both Old and New Testaments together, as you suggest. What is Leviticus, if not a guideline for how to live in the physical world of Earth? And Jesus spoke not only to the inner spiritual relationship with God, but also to how we behave towards others, and what we should regard as important in the physical realm. It seems to me that many self-professed Christians would rather pick and choose which Biblical guidelines they wish to follow - which is a practical application of those self-same situational ethics that you decry.

    (I have heard for a Christian to not be a hypocritical "cafeteria Christian", he/she would have to be a fundamentalist. In that case, I think I can confidently say that NO Christian in America actually lives his beliefs - unless you have recently seen teenagers being killed at the city gates, or witches being killed, and so on and so forth. We are ALL situational ethicists.)

    I'll stick by my statement about a good person. A person who does good because he is FORCED to may or may not be a good person. Bad people can be forced to do good, wouldn't you agree? But given the choice between two offers of help - one from the person who chooses freely to help, one who is forced to provide help against his will - I think I know which person is the more dependable, and would choose accordingly.

    Now, as far as wars: wars are waged for MANY different reasons. In this case, the very reason for the conflict in the Middle East can be traced back to that very self-same book - the Bible. (More accurately, those who claim to believe in its dictates.) Remove the religious element from the equation, and this conflict would never have arisen in the first place.

    ReplyDelete
  37. R: In this case, the very reason for the conflict in the Middle East can be traced back to that very self-same book - the Bible. (More accurately, those who claim to believe in its dictates.) Remove the religious element from the equation, and this conflict would never have arisen in the first place."

    Even if one were able to remove the religious element from society, people are still emotional creatures. There will still be hate where there is no religion. And not only is there hate, there is death. I know this because several of my elder relatives thought that communism was going to be the happening thing, years ago. Then they visited Russia.

    And the fact that some people think that the Bible does reveal important truth about us as human beings, does not make the Bible the cause of the conflict(s). (many historical and scientific documents explain events, but are not judged thusly)

    Such a view (that biblical views alone create conflict) would effectively esponge the parties who believe that Israel has no right to exist from their responsibilities.

    cal

    ReplyDelete
  38. R: It seems to me that many self-professed Christians would rather pick and choose which Biblical guidelines they wish to follow - which is a practical application of those self-same situational ethics that you decry."

    You know more of the Bible than I do. Have you ever belonged to a religion?

    Sure, sometimes Christians can tend to act poorly and non-believers wonderfully. But I think only God knows are hearts to the end of our lives. As long as we live on the earth, we will struggle with what we want vs what God wants.

    cal

    ReplyDelete
  39. Cal:

    I would disagree in your seeming to equate the Bible with scientific and historical documentation (and presumably research). The Bible, and other religiously oriented tracts of spiritual guidance, are (in my opinion) less an account of past events than they are a guidebook for living. In that aspect, one can say that the Bible can, indeed, shoulder far more blame for earthly evils than the scientific explanation of how RNA works, or the historic study of what went into the writing of the Gettysburg Address.

    I do agree that hate is not the product of religion. Much good has been done in the name of the various religions. However, I take issue with your example of the Soviet Union, because Communism, as practiced in Russia, WAS a religion - a Religion of the communal State, much as Nazism was a religion.

    That aside, I have stepped through several cathedrals in Europe, and was awed by what faith can inspire. (Note, however, that it took SCIENCE to actually build the things.) : )

    ReplyDelete
  40. Glad to read a blog and comments that either concur with my feelings or re-fuse my interest in this ancient loction.
    Yes, after this and that and a few historical mistakes (World War 1 and 2) the Middle East Mess seems empowered by 21st century financial corprations
    (especially those connected with military-industrial profits)
    and 4000 years of Biblical lore.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.