Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sam Harris and the Jews

I have recently become aware of The Devil's Delusion, David Berlinski's book on the New Atheists. Berlinski has in excelsis the gift of biting invective, and to let him loose on the New Atheists is almost unfair but also highly satisfying. One might almost say that he writes like an angel, but one would immediately have to add that he writes like a cynical, secular, and very Jewish angel.

Through Berlinski's book I have become aware of something that I'm sure caused a flap in the blogosphere, but as it was a flap I missed, and as some of my readers may have missed it too, I will report it here. The atheist Sam Harris has made some...striking comments apropos of the Holocaust in his book The End of Faith. Predictably enough, Harris attempts to blame anti-semitism in part on religion (Christianity and Islam, which he treats as equivalent in this regard), but Harris has an additional theory about the causes of anti-semitism that is more surprising. After documenting contemporary Muslim anti-semitism for a couple of pages, Harris proceeds (pp. 93-94) to say this:

The gravity of Jewish suffering over the ages, culminating in the Holocaust, makes it almost impossible to entertain any suggestion that Jews might have brought their troubles upon themselves. This is, however, in a rather narrow sense, the truth. Prior to the rise of the church, Jews became the objects of suspicion and occasional persecution for their refusal to assimilate, for the insularity and professed superiority of their religious culture-that is, for the content of their own unreasonable, sectarian beliefs. The dogma of a "chosen people," while at least implicit in most faiths, achieved a stridence in Judaism that was unknown in the ancient world. Among cultures that worshiped a plurality of Gods, the later monotheism of the Jews proved indigestible. And while their explicit demonization as a people required the mad work of the Christian church, the ideology of Judaism remains a lightning rod for intolerance to this day. As a system of beliefs, it appears among the least suited to survive in a theological state of nature. Christianity and Islam both acknowledge the sanctity of the Old Testament and offer easy conversion to their faiths. Islam honors Abraham, Moses, and Jesus as forerunners of Muhammad. Hinduism embraces almost anything in sight with its manifold arms (many Hindus, for instance, consider Jesus an avatar of Vishnu). Judaism alone finds itself surrounded by unmitigated errors. It seems little wonder, therefore, that it has drawn so much sectarian fire. Jews, insofar as they are religious, believe that they are bearers of a unique covenant with God. As a consequence, they have spent the last two thousand years collaborating with those who see them as different by seeing themselves as irretrievably so. Judaism is as intrinsically divisive, as ridiculous in its literalism, and as at odds with the civilizing insights of modernity as any other religion. [Emphasis added]

Berlinski on this passage is inimitable.

Having rejected the suggestion [that the Jewish people brought their troubles on themselves] as an impossibility, Harris at once proceeds to embrace it....Although Harris is officially committed to assigning the blame for intolerance on the intolerant, there is blame enough left over to assign some to the intoleree as well....To be a lightning rod for intolerance is a moral defect, the more so when the remedy--get rid of those divisive sectarian beliefs--lies close at hand. (pp. 28-29)

Berlinski on the "civilizing insights of modernity" with which Judaism is allegedly incompatible:

No doubt the civilizing insights of modernity appear considerable in Santa Barbara, where Sam Harris lives; but as travel broadens one's mind, it enlarges one's perspective, and those civilizing insights of which he writes are apt to seem a good deal less persuasive five thousand miles farther to the east, where modernity expressed itself in cattle cars rumbling from all the ancient civilized cities of Europe in order days later to deposit their famished, suffering victims at German extermination camps. (p. 30)

There's much more, including a terrific riff on Richard Dawkins's attempt to claim that atheism had nothing to do with the evil behavior of Stalin, Mao, et. al. (pp. 25-26).

I am, in point of fact, seriously considering sitting down and actually reading the entire Berlinski book, and if you knew how seldom I actually sit down nowadays and read a new book cover to cover, you would know how high a compliment that is. From what I've seen already, it's highly recommended.

As for Harris's disgusting anti-Jewish remarks I have nothing much to add to Berlinski's scathing response, except that when, just past the section I quoted, Harris manages to drag in the Evil Israeli Settlers (a principle obstacle to present peace and a cause of future wars, according to Harris), a few dots connected up for me. A certain type of secularist does find anti-Israel sentiment to be a gateway drug, as it were, for more sweeping anti-Jewish opinions.

I think that Harris's remarks should be more widely known and should call down upon him a due measure of opprobrium from non-Christians as well as Christians. But they probably won't. When I was seeking the electronic text of the Harris passage for easy copying into this entry (and, yes, I did also find it in its context in Harris's book on Google books), it was interesting to find one atheist blogger seeking help to answer criticisms of Harris based on the remarks--anti-atheist propaganda, as he called it.

That tells one a lot about the way a "rational skeptic" thinks. At least, it should.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Clueless in Iowa

You can't make this stuff up. Black wilding gangs openly hold a "beat whitey night" at the Iowa State Fair ("Our state fair is a great state fair..." sorry, Rodgers and Hammerstein), and the police merely find it "very possible" that the attacks had "racial overtones."

And you thought the British were the masters of understatement.


The Obama administration's "special policy"

On tax exempt applications from pro-Israel groups. See the lawsuit here. An IRS agent got a little too talkative. (It was a woman, in case that's relevant.) Apparently applications from groups whose educational activities concern Israel are sent to a special unit to see if the group's policies contradict those of the present administration. That's, um, problematic from a legal perspective. It doesn't surprise me at all, though. What does surprise me is that the agent blabbed about it. I hope the lawsuit is successful and embarrassing for Obama. Not that we're hearing about this elsewhere in the news, of course.

HT: Carl in Jerusalem

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ayn Rand was a prophet

Rand once said that she had seen someone claiming that people had a right to, shall we say delicately, sexual satisfaction.

Well, look here. It's true. Britain is paying for the disabled to go to Holland and visit prostitutes. It would be a violation of "human rights" not to do so.


I apologize for not moderating comments in a timely fashion. I had thought that blogger would be sending me e-mail notifications when they were awaiting moderation, but evidently not. I've now entered the e-mail address in a second place on settings, and we'll see if that works as planned.

Apologies again.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Comments moderation enabled

Dear friends,

I'm sorry to have to do this, but I am getting sufficiently fed up with the steady trickle of spam (and nothing but spam) and have enabled comments moderation. Those of you who do post substantive comments, please do not be put off by this. I will be quite quick at moderating.


Sunday, August 08, 2010

Get up in Jesus' name

If you didn't listen to the song in the previous post, go listen to it now. I'll wait here.

Okay, great. That song ("Wake up Dancin'") is beautiful and should be widely known.

This next one is completely different, though it's also sung by Gordon Mote. In fact, this one is not the kind of song I would usually post. It's not very melodic, and it's a bit too rocky for my taste, though I don't see how anyone could fail to appreciate the fun, wonder, and glory of Gordon's jazz piano playing, which you didn't get to see much of in the previous song. The harmonica and electric guitar here are also pretty cool, and the complicated rhythm with the Gaither Vocal Band backup is fascinating.

The reason I'm posting this is because of the Prop. 8 decision. Yeah, I know, leave it to me to politicize a great song. But wait until you hear the second verse, and you'll know what I mean. It talks about how the church seems discouraged and fearful, the world full of evil, and about how we need to get up in the name of Jesus and be His soldiers.

So now you see why I made the connection. Get up, Christians. Get up, church. Don't listen to those who would tell you to give in. Resist. Get up, in Jesus' name.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Songs to Die For: "Wake Up Dancin'"

Just encountered this wonderful country song (not even gospel, just country) yesterday, courtesy of Eldest Daughter.

The artist is Gordon Mote, the blind pianist for the Gaither Vocal Band, but as you can see, a singer in his own right.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

But of course, there could be no "rational basis" for...

...a state to restrict marriage to one man and one woman.

See here. In case you're wondering why you should read it, it's called "Open Monogamy" and is about how some social scientists think it's just ducky that homosexual "marriage" will lead to a redefinition of "monogamy" to'm not sure. I think it means that you can have sex with anybody you want to and still call yourself "monogamous" as long as you are emotionally unattached to all the sexual partners other than the partner with whom you are said to be in a "committed relationship."

I'm waiting for the apologies from all the people who said, "How could this possibly hurt straight marriages?" in 3...2...1. Oh. Guess I shouldn't bother waiting.