Just as Louis Giglio, previously scheduled to perform the benediction at President Obama’s second inauguration, has been removed from the program as the result of previous anti-gay comments, the Obama Administration announced today that the well-known Semitic mountain deity, YAHWEH aka Jehovah aka Allah, will be voluntarily withdrawing as the object of prayers and invocations during the event.
YAHWEH is on the record as authoring the Old Testament book of Leviticus containing an explicit prohibition against “lying with mankind as with womankind.” He additionally reported first-hand, in his Book of Genesis and in the al-Koran (which he allegedly dictated to Mohammed), that he personally destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, a pair of “cities on the plain” near the Jordan River as a personal expression of His intolerance of homosexuality.
The Thracian Dionysius, famous for his personal androgyny will be stepping in as object of prayers and requests for benedictions. He is additionally reported in an account expected soon to appear in Gawker to have volunteered personally to take responsibility for the catering and to be in charge of arranging the Inaugural celebrations’ evening entertainment.
Richard Fernandez contends that our liberal friends have not given up religion, they’ve just turned to worshiping different gods.
One conclusion that might be drawn from disparate vignettes is that the fault line running through families and societies in the Western World today consists of those who think the world should save them and those who think everyone should pay their freight. Broadly speaking these two groups of people are fighting over the meaning of words and social relations.
One side sees “rights” as the ability to do anything they want and be free of the consequences. The Universal Right is the right to a free lunch which gives rise to derived rights like the right to wear any kind of pants they like and to stab any parents who may object. And if it actually comes to stabbing it will be the knife’s fault. That it should be a person’s responsibility is unthinkable. The opposite side sees a transactional universe in which everything has a cost and nobody has a reasonable expectation to a free lunch.
They are killjoys. Individual responsibility — as opposed to the duty to the deity — is an old and incredibly secular point of view. We live in a new age of Faith. Only the old gods are dead but religion itself is doing a land office business. The psychological appeal of Barack Obama and Steve Jobs lies precisely in having taken over the places formerly occupied by Jesus, Moses and the Buddha. Some teenagers seriously believe “they have made a paradise on earth right now” so that celestial place bands like Coldplay can blast out their angelic melodies on the Ipad, of course.
Religion hasn’t declined in the modern world as much as changed its business address from the traditional churches to the event stadiums. Christmas — which itself had roots in pre-Christian holidays — first became Xmas or now The Holidays. Perhaps the only reason that Mohammed still holds a place of esteem in heart of multitudes is that the Prophet had the foresight to enjoin his followers to shorten any infidel who suggested toppling him from a place of honor by a whole head. In the Muslim world, unlike the place formerly known as Christendom, knives and firearms are much sought after objects. They too have a thing problem, but in a wholly different way.
In any case the newly religious look to God to fix things whenever something breaks. In the Islamic world they turn to Allah of course and in Blue Christendom to Obama. And so with bated breath the Twitter feeds are speculating on what new gun control measure the President will propose to fix the latest school shooting. He’ll save us from ourselves, that’s for sure. And then there’ll be another button or app in the teenager shrine to Obama and Jobs.
Bookworm has news of a theological breakthrough by the hierarchy of the Episcopal Church in America.
On July 9, 2012, the Episcopalian Church officially banned discrimination against transsexuals. ...
What makes the decision to do so funny is that, as one of those who opposed the proposal pointed out, those advancing this successful viewpoint about gender identity issues were explicitly arguing that God erred:
The Rev. Canon James Lewis, Deputy from South Carolina, said that while “gender identity and expression” may have meaning for the proposers, “to be honest I would be hard pressed to explain the boundary between identity and expression.”
“No explanation of these terms or a theological explanation has been offered,” he said, adding that the arguments put forward by supporters were incoherent and contradictory. Canon Lewis said that the arguments put forward for the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life of the church was that as God had made them that way, and that God did not make mistakes, so the church should not exclude them.
However, the argument put forward by the supporters of the transgendered resolution said in effect that God had made a mistake when he made transgendered people, who by seeking surgery or other means to change their gender were correcting God’s error.
It seems to me that an official resolution that is predicated on God messing up sort of negates the whole God thing. It’s one thing to revisit what He’s said and reinterpret it in different ways (making the Bible the religious equivalent of a Living Constitution), but doesn’t it take things to a whole new level to go out to ones congregants and say that God is as fallible as anybody else, and that it’s up to the Church to take proactive steps to shield individuals from the consequences of God’s errors?
What the Episcopal Church obviously has done is simply correct the old medieval notions of Ontological hierarchy, preeminence, and omniscience.
In the bad old days, people believed that God was perfect, the supreme ruler of the universe, and omniscient. We now know that the elite community of fashion possesses superior insight and moral understanding and consequently outranks God.
Greek Orthodox monks built 20 monasteries atop rock pillars at Meteora overlooking the Thessalian Plain, from the 10th to the 16th century, in order to get away from Byzantine politics and raiding Turks.
Access to the monasteries was originally (and deliberately) difficult, requiring either long ladders lashed together or large nets used to haul up both goods and people. This required quite a leap of faith – the ropes were replaced, so the story goes, only “when the Lord let them break”. In the words of UNESCO, “The net in which intrepid pilgrims were hoisted up vertically alongside the 373 metres (1,224 ft) cliff where the Varlaam monastery dominates the valley symbolizes the fragility of a traditional way of life that is threatened with extinction.” In the 1920s there was an improvement in the arrangements. Steps were cut into the rock, making the complex accessible via a bridge from the nearby plateau. During World War II the site was bombed. Many art treasures were stolen.
Until the 17th century, the primary means of conveying goods and people from these eyries was by means of baskets and ropes.
Six of the monasteries remain today. Of these six, four were inhabited by men, and two by women. Each monastery has fewer than 10 inhabitants. The monasteries are now tourist attractions.
Michael Yon (mercifully) takes a break from his recent role of crusading journalist telling truth to power and exposing the errors and inadequacies of the US military’s Afghanistan chain of command to share some information on one of India’s most exotic sects (and one of its American converts descended from a famous author).
The fundamentals of Aghor—perhaps the most extreme religion in the world—are fantastically simple, though nonetheless repugnant to most. Repugnance, or rather the quest to overcome it, is in fact a central tenet of this belief system. Aghor is an extreme sect of Hinduism. Its adherents principally worship Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction. Aghoris live by a simple creed: 1. The gods are perfect. 2. The gods create everything: Every thought, every action, every bird and diamond, every birth and every death. 3. Since the gods are perfect, and everything is made by the gods, everything—everything—is perfect.
Since everything is perfect, being repulsed by anything or forbidding any behavior as taboo is tantamount to rejecting the gods. While this accounts for the willingness of more moderate Aghoris to work with lepers and other so-called untouchables, it also explains why some ardent Aghoris aim to overcome some of the more gruesome targets of revulsion. In my travels I’ve met Aghoris who would just as soon pluck an eyeball from a rotten human corpse and pop it into their mouths as eat chicken. He or she might carry a rotting dead dog over their shoulder for a week, or have sex with a dead cow (holy to other Hindus) or with a rotting human corpse. One Aghori in northern India ate part of the rotting penis of a bloated, vivisected corpse on the banks of the Ganges, engaging in this “sacred ritual” in full view of onlooking police.
Ross Douthat, in an argument with William Saletan, makes the point that Liberalism, aka Leftism, is merely the same Christianity we are all familiar with, modified into a materialist heresy with the scientific state at the center of the cosmos instead of Jehovah, no afterlife, and all the traditional teachings regarding celibacy and sex reversed.
[W]hen I look at your secular liberalism, I see a system of thought that looks rather like a Christian heresy, and not necessarily a particularly coherent one at that. In [his recent book] Bad Religion, I describe heresy as a form of belief that tends to emphasize certain elements of the Christian synthesis while downgrading or dismissing other aspects of that whole. And it isn’t surprising that liberalism, which after all developed in a Christian civilization, does exactly that, drawing implicitly on the Christian intellectual inheritance to ground its liberty-equality-fraternity ideals.
Indeed, it’s completely obvious that absent the Christian faith, there would be no liberalism at all. No ideal of universal human rights without Jesus’ radical upending of social hierarchies (including his death alongside common criminals on the cross). No separation of church and state without the gospels’ “render unto Caesar” and St. Augustine’s two cities. No liberal confidence about the march of historical progress without the Judeo-Christian interpretation of history as an unfolding story rather than an endlessly repeating wheel.
And what’s more, to me, contemporary liberals’ obsession with the supposed backwardness of Christian sexual ethics—an obsession that far outstrips sex’s actual role in the preaching and practice of Christian faith—reflects a subconscious liberal knowledge that Christianity is their theological mother, and they’re its half-rebellious child. You can see in it the child’s characteristic desire to finally overthrow the last bastion of parental authority, joined to a continued desire for the parent’s approval for their choices and beliefs. ...
[T]he more purely secular liberalism has become, the more it has spent down its Christian inheritance—the more its ideals seem to hang from what Christopher Hitchens’ Calvinist sparring partner Douglas Wilson has called intellectual “skyhooks,” suspended halfway between our earth and the heaven on which many liberals have long since given up. Say what you will about the prosperity gospel and the cult of the God Within and the other theologies I criticize in Bad Religion, but at least they have a metaphysically coherent picture of the universe to justify their claims. Whereas much of today’s liberalism expects me to respect its moral fervor even as it denies the revelation that once justified that fervor in the first place. It insists that it is a purely secular and scientific enterprise even as it grounds its politics in metaphysical claims. (You will not find the principle of absolute human equality in evolutionary theory, or universal human rights anywhere in physics.) It complains that Christian teachings on homosexuality do violence to gay people’s equal dignity—but if the world is just matter in motion, whence comes this dignity? What justifies and sustains it? Why should I grant it such intense, almost supernatural respect?
He’s perfectly right. What is modern environmentalism, after all, other than a particularly infuriating recrudescence of Dualism?
David Gibson, in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, shared some facts about life in today’s America which caused my jaw to drop.
Nearly 10% of Protestant churches will be closed on Christmas Sunday this year, according to LifeWay Research, and most pastors who are opening up say they expect far fewer people than on other Sundays. Other reports suggest that churches across the board are scaling down their services in anticipation of fewer worshipers.
“We have to face the reality of families who don’t want to struggle to get kids dressed and come to church,” Brad Jernberg of Dallas’s Cliff Temple Baptist Church told the Associated Baptist Press. Similarly, Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va., is planning a short service featuring bluegrass riffs on Christmas music. “I’ll do a brief sermon, and then we’re going home,” said Pastor Mike Parnell.
Even in denominations organized around the liturgical calendar and sacramental worship, like the Catholic, Episcopal and Orthodox churches, kid-friendly Christmas Eve services (actually held in the late afternoon) are proliferating—the “Jingle Bell Mass,” one Catholic priest dubbed them—while “Midnight Mass” is often a term of art, ending rather than starting at the stroke of midnight.
Strange and bizarre as this sounds, USA Today reports the same story.
Among the nation’s top 20 largest Protestant churches — as ranked by Outreach Magazine — three will be closed on Christmas, and 10 will be having only one service, The Tennessean reports.
LifeChurch.tv, an Oklahoma-based megachurch with 14 locations in five states, says it will be closed on Christmas, but it plans to hold Christmas Eve services.
In Atlanta, First Baptist Church will hold morning services on Christmas Eve but close on Sunday.
Life Research, based in Nashville, says its national survey of Protestant churches found that 91% would hold at least one service Christmas morning, while about 9% will not worship on Sunday at all. Some plan Christmas Eve services instead.
Wow! I would say myself that there is something seriously wrong with the perspective and priorities of churches and denominations adopting this particular policy.
The goofballs running the Air Force Academy spent $80,000 to construct an outdoor circle of boulders around a propane-fueled fire pit to accommodate the spiritual needs of infinitesimally small numbers of cadets self-described as “pagans, Wiccans, druids, witches and followers of Native American faiths.”
What exactly people who like extinct religions and imaginary religions have in common is unclear, but the Air Force classifies all of the former schools of metaphysical opinion as “Earth-based,” whatever that means.
If one were a Grecian pagan worshipping Zeus or a Nordic pagan worshipping Odin, wouldn’t that make one’s religion “Sky-based?”
And why exactly do these nonconformist cadets need boulders and propane? Couldn’t they sit even more comfortably on ordinary teakwood lawn furniture? Is the Academy planning to supply pious pagan undergraduates with chickens, sheep, and the occasional ox to be sacrificed on major holy days? Will worshippers of Baal or Quetzalcoatl be immunized from the common law and permitted to sacrifice unwanted children or enemy combatants to their bloodthirsty divinities? Will the usual Academy prohibitions on sexual fraternization be suspended for Wiccans to conduct Black Masses? It’s not easy to see how the officials in Colorado Springs think they can conveniently draw the line once they’ve committed themselves to honoring diversity of opinion on such a scale.
Princeton Professor Russell H. Nieli offers a serious critique of the establishment of AGW as orthodoxy on American university campuses and in the MSM. His list of issues is quite good, and so is his conclusion.
MIT’s Richard Lindzen, a long-time skeptic of the Gore-Hansen Model of global warming, has explained how the serious challenge to American scientific and military dominance posed by the Soviet launching of the Sputnik satellite in the 1950s sent a clear message to the American scientific community that has stuck with it ever since. After Sputnik, says Lindzen, it became clear that the way to gain status, prestige, and, above all, government funding for one’s scientific research, was through the medium of public fear and crisis creation. A similar dynamic was at work earlier, he says, in the creation of the Manhattan Project, which was originally established as a counterweight to what was believed to be an advanced Nazi atom bomb project. The threats and crises for which the government will shell out big money may be entirely real, of course, and not in need of any exaggeration or hype. But they may also be bogus or grossly inflated, a condition that Lindzen thinks accurately describes current global-warming concerns of the Gore-Hansen variety.
The New York Times science editor John Tierney offers a similar take on the global warming issue, stressing both the self-interest of scientists involved in crisis mongering and the more general, herd-like conformism that afflicts scientists along with everyone else. “I’ve long thought that the biggest danger in climate research,” Tierney writes, “is the temptation for scientists to lose their skepticism and go along with the ‘consensus’ about global warming. That’s partly because it’s easy for everyone to get caught up in ‘informational cascades,’ and partly because there are so many psychic and financial rewards for working on a problem that seems to be a crisis. We all like to think that our work is vitally useful in solving a major social problem—and the more major the problem seems, the more money society is liable to spend on it. … Given the huge stakes in this debate—the trillions of dollars that might be spent to reduce greenhouse emissions—it’s important to keep taking skeptical looks at the data. How open do you think climate scientists are to skeptical views, and to letting outsiders double-check their data and calculations?” (John Tierney).
The last sentence was an oblique reference to attempts by many climate scientists to suppress skeptical voices, which was so clearly in evidence in the scandalous Climategate emails. A commentator on Tierney’s blog adds the following valuable insight: “To survive, most workers in scientific fields must follow the grant money. If all the grants this year are for work on the crisis du jour, then that’s the work which gets done. The annoying fact is that somebody pays for science. The ‘somebody’ may be an Evil Oil Company, the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, or anyone else with bags of money. We shouldn’t be too amazed when we find that the ‘somebody’ tends to get the science he or it wants to see.”
That money, power, vanity, and prestige may influence a scientific debate—or non-debate in the case of global warming—should not be very surprising. As I have said, scientists and scholars are human beings and prone to all the foibles and distortions of the human condition. This was the great insight of the mid-20th century “sociologists of knowledge,” and before them of most Calvinists and other discerning Christians (including most notably James Madison in Federalist No. 10).
But I think there is an additional element here that is less talked about but probably as important as the kinds of issues Lindzen and Tierney bring up. This is the attraction of global-warming orthodoxy not as a falsifiable scientific theory or source of research funding but as a substitute religion that engages all the energies and capacities to enhance meaning in life that an earlier generation of secular scholars and scientists often found in various brands of socialism or psychoanalysis. With the general decline and discrediting of both Marxism and Freudianism over the past thirty years radical environmentalism in various forms has taken their place in the lives of many secular intellectuals as a source of existential meaning and purpose. The insular, defensive, cult-like behavior displayed by so many global warming advocates when they are confronted with the concerns of informed skeptics reinforces such an interpretation and explains their refusal to debate dissenters. True believers have no converse with heretics. And such cult-like behavior reinforces one final suspicion: like socialism and Freudianism, global-warming alarmism may prove in time to be a God that failed.