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Friday, November 30, 2012

The Coming Rise of Christianity



The Christian World

I think there is a general sentiment among the clerisy (the intellectuals) of the West that Christianity has had its day, and is on the decline. The New Atheists have become strident about it. As a social ideology, it has been supplanted by Liberal Democracy and Scientism. It is medieval. It is opposed to human rights and human progress. It will soon be chucked down the memory hole.

I doubt this is possible, first because Liberal Democracy and Scientism are lacking in the essentials of a viable religious faith. They function well on the social level, but they lack the mystical element. This is dehumanizing. One way to see the Sixties was as a popular uprising against the lack of a mystical element in the ruling ideology. Sadly, on the social level, that rebellion failed. Leaving the problem unresolved, and getting worse.

Second, there is the issue that, on the deeper philosophical level, both science and liberal democracy depend on specifically Christian doctrines. To the extent that either seek to supplant Christianity, therefore, they are only sawing off the branch on which they sit. They cannot supplant their tree. Liberal Democracy's concept of separation of powers, of human equality, and of separation of church and state are all fundamentally Christian. Science's faith in the meaningfulness and comprehensibility of the physical universe and the value of sharing new knowledge widely are also fundamentally Christian. Chuck Christianity, and they fall into self-contradiction.

Scientism may or may not have parted ways with Christianity with Darwin, but certainly did so with Freud. Liberal democracy has parted ways with feminism, abortion, and homosexual rights, if not before. Because their foundations are fundamentally Christian, this will in the end destroy scientism and liberal democracy, rather than Christianity, if the clerisy do not pull up short before that cliff. The doctrines become incoherent—as, indeed, we have already seen in “postmodernism.”

And such logical inconsistencies do matter, vitally, because for a social ideology to stand or fall, it must hold the sincere allegiance of the clerisy, of the intellectual class, who must in turn be genuinely the best and brightest, for a culture to do well.

In the meantime, history itself seems to be taking a turn against scientism and liberal democracy. It now looks as though the net result of the Arab Spring is going to be the clearer rise of “Islamism” as a social ideology in direct rivalry to liberal democracy and scientism, checking what had looked, through the UN and its ilk, like its inevitable worldwide dominance after the fall of Marxism. Islamism now rules Egypt, the largest Arab state, along with Iran, possibly soon Syria, Tunisia, and Libya, technically Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. It appears that free and fair elections in the Arab world lead to Islamism, not liberal democracy.

This might have two effects in the West. First, it looks like a failure of liberal democracy and scientism, forcing it to reexamine its claims of universal supremacy. It contradicts some of its fundamental assumptions: free elections are supposed to lead to liberal democracy. Second, it tends to remind other cultures of their own religious heritage. Islamism has, for example, apparently sparked a tendency towards political Hinduism in India. These become further challenges to liberal-scientistic hegemony. It may well similarly, as it grows, spark an awareness in Westerners of the fundamentally Christian nature of Europe and the New World. It may spark a tendency there to examine political Christianity as an alternative to both Islamism and secular scientism.

Meanwhile, in defiance of the current perceptions of the Western clerisy, Christianity is actually growing and thriving worldwide.

In China and the Far East, they understand the importance of a coherent ruling ideology, and have tried many—Confucianism, Legalism, Taoism, Buddhism, Marxism. They have a history of putting on and pulling off such heavenly mandates. It can happen again. Christianity is now eliciting a lot of interest among Chinese intellectuals, and might well replace Marxism in this role. In fact, it looks like the leading candidate, assuming Marxism is on the way out. If China goes Christian, there will be ripples as well in Vietnam and Korea—Korea is already in the process of going Christian in any case. How much further might those ripples go, given China's concurrent rise to world dominance?

Africa is also going Christian, rapidly, and looks as though it is rapidly on the rise economically and politically—I suspect largely as a result. Won't this also raise the profile and prestige of Christianity elsewhere?

It seems to me likely that a combination of these factors actually points to an ascendancy of Christianity worldwide, not just as an individual faith, but as a social ideology.

This probably does not mean throwing science or liberalism down the memory hole in turn—certainly I hope not. The danger is that, by picking fights with Christianity and looking like its opponent, as they have done with Islam, the partisans of science and liberalism may discredit themselves. It may be hard for them to regain the prestige to which they are legitimately entitled as a result.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How Can There Be a Hell?



The Circles of Hell
The Christian duty of forgiveness is, sadly a club many non-Christians like to use against believers. “You are obliged to forgive your brother seventy times seven times, right? So what right have you to complain of any injustice? You hypocrite!”

This charge misses an essential element in the equation. The most relevant passage is:

3 Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” -Luke 17:3-4

Dante's Hell
Did you catch the missing element? The transgressor must repent. If he does, sincerely, we indeed have a duty of forgiveness. If he does not, “forgiveness” is just moral cowardice. Which is no doubt what the non-believers wish to believe of Christianity in any case. It is denying the difference between right and wrong, a profound sin in itself.

Don't fall for that trap, believers.

An Angel Leading a Soul to Hell--School of Bosch.


This is the reason for the Sacrament of Confession (Reconciliation) as well. We must honestly admit our own shortcomings in order to be able to expect forgiveness. If we do not, forgiveness would be a moral lapse on God's part, and that is not going to happen.

And this is the reason why there must be a hell.

A friend recently expressed the view, common these days, that heaven might be real, but surely not hell. After all, God is all-merciful, isn't he? How could he ever choose to commit one of his children to eternal torment? Hell is some primitive, vengeful conception we need to grow out of.

A Romanesque View of Hell.


Not. If God is going to give us free will, we are going to be able to sin. If we sin and do not repent, God can do nothing for us, without violating his own nature, which is good. If we persist in our refusal into eternity, or if our choice is somehow irrevocable, our sojourn in hell must be eternal.

God had nothing to do with it. We did it to ourselves, despite his best efforts.

Hindu Hell.


An honest repentance for our sins also implies an honest desire to do restitution for them in any way possible. Hence the need for purgatory as well.

And this is how God's perfect justice conforms with his perfect mercy.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

More on the Arab Spring and the Holy Roman Empire




I had hoped the Arab Spring would lead to Western-style democracy, and I am indeed concerned with Mohammed Morsi’s grab for dictatorial powers in Egypt.

On the other hand, here is one Arab perspective, courtesy of my office mate: the problem is corruption. People hope that the Muslim Brotherhood, because of their religious underpinnings, will introduce a more honest government.

Of course, they may be wrong. The same appeal once brought the Communists and the Nazis to power; in power, they proved over time as corrupt as a government could ever be.

It is well to remember, though, that the point is not democracy. The point is honest, competent government, and democracy is of value only to the extent that it produces this result. In fact, a good argument can be made for monarchy as a promising alternative. Consider the monarchies of the Middle East: they are consistently less corrupt than the supposed Republics.

There is a reason for this, of course. If you have one person in power, he has every incentive to rob the state blind before he loses the ability to do so. But then too, if you have one party in power, they have the same incentive, and so do the individuals within it. They may be inclined to take what they can while they can. If, on the other hand, the government is not a personal, but a family, possession, the current ruler has a good incentive to preserve and foster the prosperity of the state, without looting it. After all, it is a family heirloom, and he will naturally want to leave it to his children in as good a condition as possible, if he only has normal parental instincts.



Lacking, then, a sophisticated electorate, monarchy may be the best choice. And, of course, monarchy is perfectly compatible with the highest form of democracy as well, as England, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, and many others demonstrate. Arguably a more stable and secure democracy than a republic can muster.

I think the common people are also perfectly right, as well, to hold corruption to be the main issue here. And they do—I can vouch for it personally from many conversations with taxi drivers throughout the region. In fact, corruption is by far the main reason poor countries are poor. Ruling classes try to obscure the truth with talk about colonialism, overpopulation, alcoholism and a lazy populace, or exploitative multinational corporations. The alibis seem to work well enough with elites elsewhere, who share in the end a common interest. But they often do not confuse the common people.

It also makes sense that a strong unifying ideology with a strong moral component is an obvious antidote to official corruption. Good government almost requires a code of chivalry, a high moral code to which the ruling elite sincerely subscribes. Cultures rise and fall on the strength of such ruling ideologies.

In the world today, there are really only three such plausible ruling ideologies still standing: liberal democracy, as found for example in the US Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence; Christianity; and Islam. Marxism is dead outside the academy, and can no longer check corruption in China. Buddhism lacks an obvious political message, and Confucianism, Judaism, and Hinduism are culture-specific.

That the USA seems to currently be the leading proponent of two of these three ideologies, liberal democracy and political Christianity, makes me think it is the likely dominant world power for some time to come.

However, I could also see some other jurisdiction picking up the idea of political Christianity, based in part on the model of Islamism, and running with it. Hence, conceivably, with a breakup of the EU, we might, might, might, see something like a resurrected Holy Roman Empire; or something equivalent in South America; or in Eastern Europe, on the foundation of Orthodoxy.

Student Debt Bubble Popping?

A scary chart. Thanks to Instapundit.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Dr. Helen » Female Teachers give Boys Lower Marks

Dr. Helen » Female Teachers give Boys Lower Marks:



This study hints at a larger point. Male teachers mark students on the basis of their performance; female teachers mark students on whether they like them or not. Constitutionally, women have been shaped by God or blind evolution to be fiercely partisan protectors of their young. They remain fiercely partisan by nature. This makes them ill-equipped to make objective, fair minded judgments. If they decide they like you, you can do no wrong. If they decide they do not like you, you can do no right.

This of course is the obvious explanation why women have not traditionally, in any known human society up to the present, been put in positions of authority over others.

Even feminists—especially feminists—now admit that men and women are not interchangeable but for the dangly bits. Women are better at some things, and men are better at some things.

Women are better at looking after children, because of their fiercely partisan instincts. This would also make them good nurses, for example, or, say, receptionists. They will protect their charge, even beyond what is reasonable. Men are better at leadership roles, because of their lack of partisan instincts. They will be fair, and, if necessary, judicious with scarce resources.

Beginning, then, actually, with leadership of the family. It follows immediately from this that the man is the natural choice in that role. Not to mention roles like judge, teacher, manager, police officer, and so forth. Individual women may excel here, but as a group, it is only to be expected that men will usually be better choices. If we have rough equality, let alone feminine dominance of such fields, we have a serious distortion, and probably a serious problem.

You may think it is demeaning to women to say they are best suited to the role of motherhood and looking after the children.

No; rather, to think that is demeaning to children. That is like saying only the present matters, not the future.

Cheating Teachers in the US South



So—teachers are required to pass a test that is reportedly not difficult for a high school graduate. If they fail, they can keep trying. And yet some prospective teachers are actually cheating on the test by hiring stand-ins, at some obvious risk to their futures.

It isn’t fair to blame all teachers for the conduct of what may be a very small number of cheaters. However, surely it is significant that these test-sitters are all recent graduate of ed schools. It means that you can graduate from ed school while still knowing a lot less about your subject than the average student you are then employed to teach. What does that say about ed school?

But I suspect it’s worse than that. I suspect this kind of thing—cheating on your qualifications-- is actually encouraged by teachers’ college and the current professional regime.

The problem is that it is itself so obviously a fraud from the beginning. Everyone engaged in the exercise knows that you get passed in any education course no matter what; nobody fails, unless for political reasons. Everyone engaged in the exercise knows that the common practice of teacher evaluation by classroom evaluation is a fraud; it has nothing to do with whether you can teach, and everything to do with your personal relationship with the principal. Again, nobody fails, unless for political reasons. Probably some, if not most know that the typical form of "research" in education is a fraud, and has no scientific validity.

This sets a certain example—a culture of cheating. Anyone with a serious moral objection to teaching would feel morally obliged to leave ed school after a semester, if they were so naïve as to sign up without knowing all this in the first place. Accordingly, among other problems, the present system is systematically excluding from the trade those of high moral character.

This is especially troublesome, because the most valuable thing a teacher can do is to set an example to his or her students of good moral conduct. In the era immediately prior to the current “scientific” “profession” of teaching, and for millennia before, a good moral character was always considered the first consideration in hiring a teacher.

It seems like such a failure at the intergenerational transfer of morals (let alone knowledge) is a remarkably efficient way to destroy a nation, a culture, or a civilization.

Cheating Teachers in the US South



So—teachers are required to pass a test that is reportedly not difficult for a high school graduate. If they fail, they can keep trying. And yet some prospective teachers are actually cheating on the test by hiring stand-ins, at some obvious risk to their futures.

It isn’t fair to blame all teachers for the conduct of what may be a very small number of cheaters. However, surely it is significant that these test-sitters are all recent graduate of ed schools. It means that you can graduate from ed school while still knowing a lot less about your subject than the average student you are then employed to teach. What does that say about ed school?

But I suspect it’s worse than that. I suspect this kind of thing—cheating on your qualifications-- is actually encouraged by teachers’ college and the current professional regime.

The problem is that it is itself so obviously a fraud from the beginning. Everyone engaged in the exercise knows that you get passed in any education course no matter what; nobody fails, unless for political reasons. Everybody engaged in the exercise knows that the common practice of teacher evaluation by classroom evaluation is a fraud; it has nothing to do with whether you can teach, and everything to do with your personal relationship with the principal. Again, nobody fails, unless for political reasons.

This sets a certain example—a culture of cheating. Anyone with a serious moral objection to teaching would feel morally obliged to leave ed school after a semester, if they were so naïve as to sign up without knowing all this in the first place. Accordingly, among other problems, the present system is systematically excluding from the trade those of high moral character.

This is especially troublesome, because the most valuable thing a teacher can do is to set an example to his or her students of good moral conduct. In the era immediately prior to the current “scientific” “profession” of teaching, and for millennia before, a good moral character was always considered the first consideration in hiring a teacher.

It seems like such a failure at the intergenerational transfer of morals (let alone knowledge) is a remarkably efficient way to destroy a nation, a culture, or a civilization.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

No Demographic Doom

Isn't this what I've been saying? The Canadian Conservatives can be a model for the American Republicans. There is no reason for the right to fear the immigrant vote.

In other news, someone has pointed out that the Republicans are actually doing better nationwide in state legislatures than at any time since the 1920s. So much for demographic doom.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Credentialism on the Left


Saw this photo posted on Facebook:





To my mind, evidence that the creeping cancer of credentialism has gone further on the left than on the right. Although, for the sake of balance, the creator might have noted that Bill O’Reilly has two Master’s degrees, one of them from Harvard.

Going to university is as much a class thing as an intelligence thing. The poor cannot afford to go, and the lower classes may see no value in going. That does not make them dumb. University also works best for the mediocrities. If the very dumb cannot hack it, the very bright will often be held back and frustrated by it.

Shakespeare had only a grammar school education. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were both college dropouts. Edison managed grade three. Einstein completed a teaching degree, but was an indifferent student. Henry Ford never went. Lincoln had no formal education. Washington had only grammar school. A generation or two ago, no journalists went to university, because it was considered irrelevant. And frankly, our newspapers and magazines were much better then.

But it is also a complete falsehood to suggest that education does not matter to the right. Remember, George H.W. Bush wanted to be remembered as “the education president,” and George W. Bush’s first major legislative accomplishment was “No Child Left Behind.” Milton Friedman argued that college education in the Humanities should be free. The modern right is extremely concerned with education, and this follows naturally from their concern for equality of opportunity.

What they are not concerned with is credentialism, which is to say, with honouring class distinctions.

Roll On John






John Lennon died December 8, 1980. I remember it well; I was in graduate school. I’m now about to turn 60.

Why is Bob Dylan releasing a memorial song to John Lennon this much later—over thirty years?

Because Dylan will now soon go where Lennon is; in the natural order of things, the eternal footman is nigh.

Lennon becomes the paradigm of the artist at the point of death.

Dylan imagines Lennon’s life journey, strikingly, as a passage on a slave ship:

Sailing through the tradewinds
Bound for the sun
Rags on your back just like any other slave
They tied your hands and they clamped your mouth
Wasn’t no way out of that deep dark cave

Striking, because in worldly terms Lennon seemed to have it all: wealth and fame. And despite the fact that he made his fortune with his hands and his voice, Dylan sees his hands tied and his mouth clamped shut.

But Lennon apparently felt the same way: as Dylan begins the song by suggesting, his psyche was only tenuously held together by drink and drugs. And Dylan quotes the Lennon line “I heard the news today, oh boy,” which refers to a “lucky man who made the grade” who “blew his mind out in a car.”

Life for even the luckiest among us, in other words, is a passage on a slave ship, bound and gagged. Dylan ends by referring to Lennon’s situation in life as a “deep dark cave.” Looks like a clear reference to Plato’s Cave. The world of the senses, in other words, is a dark prison; the true light of the spirit is off behind us in an unexpected direction, unperceived.

Dylan reinforces this reference, surely, by describing Lennon’s life direction as “Bound for the sun.”

As Plato explains, if any individual chained in the cave manages somehow to break free and see the real world by the light of the real sun, be will be dazed and confused for some time. If he then returns to the dark cave, he will of course not be believed, but will seem to his colleagues to be mad.

A portrait of the artist.

Incidentally, Dylan depicts Lennon’s death, continuing the conceit, as his ship being wrecked in a storm—a reference to the album title which identifies the album’s real theme, in turn, as death.

Dylan makes clear in several ways that the song is not just about John Lennon, the individual, but about the artist at all times, and even more broadly about the human condition.

To begin with, the title is generic: “Roll On John” is also the title of an old folk song, one Dylan himself has recorded. This by itself suggests that the song is not about any one particular John; and “John,” of course, is traditionally considered a perfectly generic name.

Note too that the title and refrain is given in the present tense; and Dylan gives this “John” advice for the future: particularly striking since the supposed subject of the song is dead so long. I mean, even if you believe in the Catholic purgatory, this is a soul which has surely one way or the other come to its final rest…

So the advice is for listeners in general, and probably not least for Dylan himself.

Tyger, tiger, burning bright,
I pray the lord my soul to keep
In the forests of the night.
He is praying about his own death: “Now I lay me down to sleep/I pray the Lord my would to keep;/If I should die before I wake/I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

He is also, perhaps, working out the reference to the Blake poem, speaking of this present existence like Blake did as a night of sleep and a realm of evil, from which we will eventually waken.

His advice, simply put, is to travel; mentally, presumably, not just physically. (Another Blake image: “The Mental Traveller”). Not to accept the truths we are handed, but to set off to explore. This is the only way to find that passage upwards into the sun.

Pull out your bags and get ‘em packed.
Leave right now you won’t be far from wrong
The sooner you go, the quicker you’ll be back
You’ve been cooped up on an island far too long

This is clearly not a recipe for happiness: “they’ll trap you in an ambush before you know.” It alienates you, as Plato knew, from those around you, who see only the shadows of marionettes on the distant wall. They may decide you are mad; they may even want to kill you.

They’ll trap you in an ambush before you know
Too late now to sail back home

But this is still the best way to go, the right-hand road. This is the human condition. You can’t get to heaven following the crowd.

Enter through the narrow gate.
For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. 
(Matthew 7:13-4).

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Alexandra Leaving





Still one of Cohen's finest songs. He writes best when he collaborates with a woman--perhaps it is the muse effect, the Beatrice effect.

Besides being perhaps the most euphonious two-word combination in the English language, "Alexandra Leaving" says it all. Alexandra is the feminine form of Alexander. She is Alexander's consort. Alexander is the paradigmatic cosmocrator, world ruler. His consort, then, is the world--the physical world and the social or political world, fitly symbolized as a desirable woman.

It's a Buddhist song, a song of renunciation of the world.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Most Marriages Break Up in Disputes over Household Chores?


This study says “Most marriages break down over mundane household chores.” “Seven in ten marriages fall apart because couples fail to reach an agreement on decisions relating to the home.”

This is a good, though only partial, measure of the harm feminism has done to marriage, and to uncountable individual lives. For these disputes would simply not arise, or if they did would be easily resolved, so long as roles within marriage were clearly defined going in. Proper job descriptions make all the difference.

Feminism has systematically burned all the job descriptions. That was the first thing it did.