The Left and Sex, From ‘Free Love’ to ‘Love Free’

Hippie_Love-4562‘SJW’ has become a cartoonish stereotype. ‘Regressive Left’ is dying on the vine as a term, thanks to its overuse in certain quarters and the absolute refusal of much of what – at least – calls itself the left to pause for even a moment of self-reflection. Still, these terms – even if used in scare quotes – retain utility, even if they switch some people off from what you’re saying the moment they come up. They retain usefulness because they describe a genuine phenomenon, a recognisable stereotype, a particular group of people.

It can be hard to explain to people the problem, the feeling of absolute betrayal that many ‘old school’ lefties harbour towards this new group, Lector-like dressed up in our severed faces. Ironically they call themselves progressive, and that’s why ‘Regressive Left’ is accurate – and stings them.

There’s a particular case-in-point that I think serves as a particularly graspable instance of their behaviour and distorted thought processes. One that I think may help people to get a grasp on what the ‘Regressive Left’ really is, why it’s regressive, and why it’s a betrayal of the traditions and values of the left.

That case-in-point is sex.

The modern ‘Regressive Left’ has an attitude towards sex and sexuality more often found in the evangelical right in times past and has even allied with the repressive and authoritarian right in their mutual goal of mandating and controlling people’s sexuality.

Anti-porn campaigners take tea with Conservative Party leaders and help shape internet censorship legislation and ‘porn passes’. Something that evidence suggests will only profit a handful of porn companies and may make sexual harassment and even rape more common, not less.

SWERFs (Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminists) inflate bogus stories about sex trafficking and encourage the adoption of the Nordic Model (criminalising clients) as a way of tackling sex work. This, like anti-drug legislation against the advice and erudite entreaty of experts, including actual sex workers who choose that way of life and all but beg for decriminalisation.

A Labour Mayor, Sadiq Khan, can – without a hint of self-awareness – simultaneously hail the Trump balloon (rightly) as a symbol of British commitment to free expression while banning pictures of a woman in a bikini from the London Underground. This while left, and right are, again, united in their determination to censor and control social media and to criminalise all manner of, harmless, online behaviour.

We have radical feminists trying to prevent trans participation in Pride, to the point of laying down in the road in protest and delaying the march. At the same time, we have others trying to control and mandate speech, neither camp being the kind of people who place personal liberty and choice at the top of their agenda.

In the world of kink, something I take no small amount of interest in, there are feminists trying to claim that BDSM is inherently misogynistic and patriarchal. This seems peculiar because BDSM includes femdom (something that some give a pass) and has explicit consent, something feminists often push, built-in, voluntarily. BDSM has been becoming ever more popular as unhappy housewives try to put their 50 Shades fantasies into practice and vanilla men, feeling unable to be masculine outside the kink scene, seek someplace they can be themselves.

That’s right. Conventional, entirely vanilla masculinity now – pretty much – qualifies as a fetish.

It didn’t used to be like this. The left used to be synonymous with libertine philosophy and allowing people to let their ‘freak flag fly’. It is for this reason that the left has long been seen as the ally of the LGBT(&c) community and why the liberal left has often been decried as ‘degenerate’ by the hard right. Now the hard left has their own term they give to excuse their censorship and authoritarianism; ‘Problematic’.

It was the left that brought about the NHS, greatly helping women throughout the UK with their sexual health. It was left wing campaigners that helped push the Conservative Government of 1961 to offer the contraceptive pill on the NHS, and it was Wilson’s Labour Government that legalised abortion in 1967. It was also a Labour Government that followed through with the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

The sexual revolution, the idea of giving people choices and rights over what sex they had and with who, was firmly an ideal of the left, and one that won the arguments with the right. Sexual liberation was also women’s liberation, an end to dorms and chaperones and escorts, freedom from the threat of pregnancy and the tyranny of biology – a necessity to the full adoption of other rights and full equality. It was the left that understood and articulated that what people got up to, consensually, between one another was nobody’s business but theirs (so long as nobody got permanently hurt).

Now? Well, we’ve already been over it. Social conservatism, SWERF and TERF, and attitudes that wouldn’t be out of place in Orwell’s Junior Anti-Sex League. The way the left has become censorious and authoritarian has begun sticking its nose into peoples’ bedrooms the way the Christian Right used to is just one example of their betrayal of left-wing values. It’s just the one, I think, it might be most accessible for people to see.

Sometimes, to progress, you actually have to double-back.

Why Nazis Weren’t Socialist – And What Socialism Is

Panel-09There’s a persistent attempt to distance from Nazism and Fascism on the right wing of politics, by seeking to associate fascism – and particularly Nazism – with the left. Specifically Socialism. This despite the fact that in virtually every regard Fascism and particularly Nazism are diametrically opposed to everything Socialism and Communism stand for.

It’s important to start from a base of understanding what these terms mean. Many people don’t.

Socialism

Just to be difficult, Socialism has two definitions. One within the context of Marxism, one as its own ideology.

Marxian Socialism: A transitional stage between Capitalism and Communism where the means of production are taken into the control of the state as a steward for social ownership until Communism can be enacted

Standalone Socialism: A political outlook centred around the principles of equal opportunity, egalitarianism, equality before the law, equality in rights, the state in a limited role of administrator and guarantor of equality and the elimination of systems of control (such as inherited power, corporate monopoly etc).

Communism

A social and economic structure in which no particular person owns significantly more than any other and in which everything is held in the common weal. Communism eliminates the state, with everything being held in common ownership and via cooperation. From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

Fascism

Fascism is notoriously hard to categorise having common themes but no common doctrine. Features include:

  • Nationalism.
  • Hostility to democracy, egalitarianism and enlightenment values (logic, reason, evidence, free expression and enquiry).
  • The cult of the leader.
  • Strong identity and identarian symbols.
  • Tendency for violence.

Nazism

A form of fascism presented as a nationalist answer to international socialism. Nazism centred around German nationalism, racism, the definition of an Aryan elite, expansionist violence, lack of division between the state and the personal, corporatism, hostility to the labour movement in all its forms and conspiracy theories about Jews.

So, is Nazism Socialist?

Despite having the term in its name, no. Consider the traits of fascism and Nazism and compare them to the trait of socialism.

Egalitarianism? The Nazis stratified people by allegiance to the party and by Aryan bloodlines. There was no equality for slavs, Jews, Gypsies, gays or many other people with whom they found themselves at odds.

Limited state? The Nazis saw no separation between the state and the individual, or the nation. All were one. The state was unlimited and absolute and was not the guarantor of equality, but inequality and favoured parties.

Eliminating systems of control? While the Nazis did somewhat move against the old established order in Germany they set up new systems of control. Their embrace of Corporatism saw vested interests and big players controlling Germany. They brought in vicious secret police organisations and set up Aryan and Party elites.

The only respect in which the Nazis could remotely be considered Socialist was in their provision of a strong welfare state but ideologically this was because they saw the nation is one entity, not because of a sense of fairness and egalitarianism.

Anyone calling the Nazis a Socialist party, just doesn’t know what words mean, furthermore, you can also see that supposed ‘Communist’ governments were anything but.

Meditations on Cultural Libertarianism

Allum Bokhari, a liberal fellow writing for – of all places – Breitbart, has posited that we are experiencing a new cultural phenomenon, which he dubs ‘Cultural Libertarianism‘, and which has been somewhat discussed – critically – by the Centre for a Stateless Society, pointing it out as one side, or an emerging counter-revolution, in the increasingly vicious culture war.

Mr Bokhari defines this Cultural Libertarianism largely by defining what it is in opposition to, rather than what its values and positive characteristics are. He does cover, briefly, what he identifies as Cultural Libertarian values which I’ll use as the basis for this discussion.

  • Championing free expression.
  • Resisting Identity Politics and public shaming.
  • Defending and understanding humour.
  • Opposing nannying and ‘safe spaces’.
  • Defending personal freedom.
  • Facts over feelings.
  • Valuing consumers and producers over third parties.
  • Celebrating culture in all its forms.

Some of these seem redundant to me and the aspects which are oppositional to what is being called ‘progressivism’ often stem from existing values. In promoting that positive value you inevitably come into opposition with others.

If I were to identify what I thought of as the core values of this emerging phenomenon, I would identify them as such:

  • A belief in the inherent value of free expression.
  • A belief in the equality, potential and strength of human beings.
  • A belief in the power and value of personal liberty.
  • A belief in the power, utility and relevance of reason.

It is, probably, necessary to define ‘libertarianism’ (small ‘l’) before going any further. If you say ‘libertarianism’ to most people, they picture some some of Ayn Rand worshipping anarcho-capitalist with an absolute belief in the free market and no sense of fairness or life-goals beyond unbridled profit.

This isn’t necessarily an unfair assessment of many economic Libertarians (big ‘l’) but libertarianism is not so specific an idea. The toxic and specific definition is so pernicious it has even begun to infiltrate dictionaries. Scruton’s Dictionary of Political Thought includes the extreme laissez-faire economic perspective, but also describes more classical libertarianism as a form of liberalism which…

…believes in freeing people not merely from the constraints of traditional political institutions, but also from the inner constraints imposed by their mistaken attribution of power to ineffectual things. The active libertarian is engaged in a process of liberation and wages war on all institutions through which a man’s vision of the world is narrowed… …among them the institutions of religion, the family and the customs of social – especially sexual – conformity.

This doesn’t quite describe what we’re talking about here either, though you can see the spirit of it within it. You can see echoes of what we’re talking about in both economic and social libertarianism though. An economic libertarian advocates minimal – or no – societal (governmental) interference in the conduct of business, a social libertarian advocates minimal – or no – societal (governmental) interference in social conduct and, then, a cultural libertarian would advocate minimal – or no – societal (or governmental) interference in cultural conduct.

  • An economic libertarian might argue against business regulation.
  • A social libertarian might advocate for the legalisation of sex work and recreational drugs.
  • A cultural libertarian might advocate against any and all constrictions of free expression.

To me, much of this seems to be what I have often longed for in the past five years, a reassertion of Enlightenment values and of classical liberalism.

All of western society which, love it or loathe it, has been powerfully successful, derives in its modern form from Enlightenment values of reason, empiricism, skepticism, independence, individualism and, you might say, an attempt to bring about the maturity of society by separating it from political and religious tyranny.

Classical liberalism, to finish contextualising cultural libertarianism, has the asserted values of:

  • Belief in the supreme value of the individual, their freedom and rights.
  • Belief in natural rights, inherent and independent to society and government.
  • Recognition of the supreme importance and value of freedom, with the view that interference should be limited and minimal and only justifiable to the extent that it maximises freedom.
  • A humanistic view of human affairs, rather than a theological view.
  • Universalism, that rights and duties transcend place and time and that the human condition is our common experience.
  • Advocacy of tolerance in morality and religion.

I believe we can see a common thread, then, running from the explorations of the Enlightenment, through classical liberalism (and democratic socialism, much as that may shock and horrify some cultural libertarians) through to today’s new cultural libertarians.

That’s a noble tradition.

Of course, there are points of confusion where the values from this heritage also seem to be held by cultural libertarianism’s opposition, or where it seems to run at odds to some of the other values of people who might be dubbed cultural libertarians. I don’t want to dwell too much on the negative – as I stated at the start – but some aspects are worth pointing out.

It confuses many how people of such opposing values on other scores can find themselves in common cultural cause. I, for example, have little I agree with – say – Adam Baldwin or Katie Hopkins on, but however obnoxious I find them or they find me, I think we all would agree on one thing. That we each have the right to our opinions and the right to express them. Supporting a person’s right to free expression does not entail agreeing with their economic or social positions. People are so quick to slap an identity on someone – friend or foe alike – that nuanced discussion becomes impossible because you’ve been written off as a ‘conservative’ or a ‘misogynist’ or whatever else.

People are more than their identity tags.

Another point of contention might be the nature of freedom and of rights. There’s always a tension between ‘freedom from’ and ‘freedom to’ and between a person’s right to do something and another person’s right to be free of something. ‘The right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose’, so to speak, but how much nasal protection is in order?

Cultural libertarians will tend to favour ‘freedom to’ and JS Mill’s formulation of the Harm Principle would seem to offer a good guide to where intervention is morally and ethically justified.

“The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

‘Harm’, of course, is the centre of much of the modern debate, what constitutes actual harm, whether it includes emotional harm, whether it includes taking offence and whether it’s acceptable to take offence on behalf of someone else. I would argue that cultural libertarians mean genuine and actual harm – such as direct advocacy of violence – and not insult or offence.

Tolerance is the last arena I shall briefly touch on, where confusion might arise. Tolerance, in common parlance, has come to mean ‘strenuously not offending or upsetting anyone’, whereas tolerance in this sense – and more properly if I’m any judge – means putting up with and coping with running into contradictory views and being able to cope with their existence. Ironically the opposite of what ‘tolerance’ has come to mean.

These are some initial thoughts on a phenomenon and proposed ‘new’ social movement that I find fascinating and I shall probably continue to discuss and attempt to identify what it means as time goes on.

A ‘Talkorigins’ for #Gamergate

(This is a model for an ongoing post, if you have examples of claims against Gamergate, or want to make one that’s missing from here, I’ll work on adding it. Your own complete posts are also welcome to be added, follow the same format).

Origins

Claim GO001 – Gamergate Originated with the Harassment of Zoe Quinn

Abuse

Claim GA001 – Gamergate Published an Ebook fictionalising the Rape of Zoe Quinn
Claim GA002 – Gamergate is a Misogynistic Harassment Movement
Claim GA003 – Gamergate has Targeted Women for Harassment (Sarkeesian, Quinn, Wu)

Origins

GG001 – Gamergate Originated with the Harassment of Zoe Quinn
While ‘The Zoe Post'[1] by Eron Gjoni about his ex girlfriend Zoe Quinn uncovered some of the conflicts of interest and potential corruption which sparked off Gamergate, Gamergate itself didn’t come about until much later – sparked by Adam Baldwin’s use of it as a hashtag[2]. Gamergate, then, originated as a move away from ‘TheQuinnspiracy’ and ‘FiveGuys’ which were salacious, borderline abusive and prurient, while Gamergate fixated upon the ethics issue. Ironically for those who keep saying ‘change the tag’, Gamergate itself was a ‘change the tag’, though it made no difference to the smear tactics.

Quite apart from being untrue as the origin of Gamergate, this would – in any case – be a ‘genetic fallacy’ [3], rendering it invalid as an argument. One need only look at all the change Gamergate has managed to enact[4] and the problems it has catalogued[5] to see that.

TL;DR: ‘Quinnspiracy’ and ‘FiveGuys’ were – arguably – harassing of Quinn, or at least laughing at her expense. Gamergate came later and was explicitly concerned with issues of ethics and censorship.

[1] The Zoe Post
[2] Baldwin Tweet
[3] Genetic fallacy
[4] Gamergate Achievements
[5] Deepfreeze

Abuse

Claim GA001 – Gamergate Published an Ebook fictionalising the Rape of Zoe Quinn
No, it didn’t and – in fact – led the charge to get it taken down. As it happened the author came on to Kotaku in Action and explained at length why they did it, that it wasn’t a rape book and that they were nothing to do with Gamergate.

TL;DR – Nothing to do with Gamergate, according to the author, not a rape book either according to the author. Gamergate helped get it taken down [2].

[1] The author talking.
[2] Story admits Gamergate worked to remove it.

Claim GA002 – Gamergate is a Misogynistic Harassment Movement
While Gamergate has taken issue with corrupt women, it has also taken issue with corrupt men. While it has taken issue with poorly researched studies of games by women, it has also taken issue with poorly researched studies of games by men. The claims of misogyny require one to ignore all the men whose wrongdoings have been uncovered and catalogued by Gamergate[1]. Claims of misogyny and harassment have been a handy deflection, but the truth of the matter is that Gamergate cares about what people have done, not their genitals. It also seems unlikely that a misogynistic harassment movement would contain so many women[2] including feminists[3]. It also seems unlikely that a misogynistic harassment movement would give so much money to help women get into games development[4]. A feminist group helping Twitter support deal with harassment did a survey at one of the heights of Gamergate and found that only 0.66% of a very loosely defined Gamergate sample had anything to do with harassment. This is not statistically significant and much of this was down to trolls or multiple reports on single accounts[5].

TL;DR: Gamergate cares about what you do, not what genitals you have. It has supported women in gaming and is supported by leading, dissenting feminists. It contains many women. All very strange things if this accusation is true.

[1] Deepfreeze
[2] NotYourShield
[3] Christina Hoff Sommers
[4] The Fine Young Capitalists
[5] WAM report clears Gamergate

Claim GA003 – Gamergate has Targeted Women for Harassment (Sarkeesian, Quinn, Wu)
Sarkeesian and Quinn had been being trolled for some time prior to Gamergate[1]. As outspoken feminists who gratifyingly reacted to their critics, they were always favourite targets for trolls who are always looking for that reaction. Again, as you can see from the problem people listed on Deepfreeze[2] the people who have been causing problems, and thus have been targeted by Gamergate, are of both (all?) genders.

These figures have certainly been disagreed with and argued with, but not harassed – at least not any harassment with any link to Gamergate. For example, Sarkeesian’s ‘Week of Harassment’ story contained obvious trolls, things which weren’t harassment (disagreement, argument, objections) and virtually nothing had any link to Gamergate and that which did seemed to mostly be one-off use of the tag, coat-tailing.

TL;DR: Gamergate targets problematic people, regardless of genitals. These figures are perfect trolling targets but all sides have been targeted by trolls[4].

[1] Article on Sarkeesian and trolls from 2012, before Gamergate.
[2] Deepfreeze
[3] Anita’s Week of Abuse
[4] Gamergate Harassment

#WhiteGenocide is Utter Bullshit

rainbow_puke_hitler_by_naigora49-d31znyiOf late I’ve been wrangling with a few white supremacist loons on Twitter from the nonsense-hashtag #Whitegenocide, all thanks to my friend there @Seculawyer who seems to have been sparring with them for a while. Supposedly, according to these lunatics, we’re currently in the middle of some sort of ‘white genocide’. I mean, just take a look at their absurd website HERE.

In a moment of delicious irony they kept trying to guess my race, as a means to dismiss me based on pure racial stereotype, but couldn’t get it right. For the record, I’m Caucasian, at least as much as any mongrel Brit can claim to be anything.

Now, personally, I’m not aware of any Caucasian targeting death camps anywhere and somehow the wholesale slaughter of white people has escaped global attention in a world of satellite imagery, drone strikes and where – while challenged – western, white-dominated countries that would take exception to such mass slaughter still exist.

Oh, but that’s not the definition of ‘genocide’ that they mean. Never mind that the OED confirms that genocide is:

“The deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular nation or ethnic group.”

No, they use a fallacy of redefinition, transparently using ‘genocide’ to yank on people’s emotions and fears, and instead what they mean is a legalistic definition, found in one of their ‘memes’, here:

CK1qIwcUYAAS3pm

As I say, the reason for doing this is transparent and obvious. They’re cashing in on the emotional appear and fearmongering effect of the word ‘genocide’ and then using this as a backtrack from that obvious hyperbole, despite it no longer meaning actual genocide.

Still, let’s play along.

Even if we go along with their shenanigans, none of this is happening either. All of these points are subsidiary to the destruction of a nation or ethnicity.

  • Is there any targeted killing of white people that would destroy them? No.
  • Is there any targeted bodily or mental harm that would destroy them? No.
  • Is anyone inflicting on white people conditions (famine, lack of medical care for example) that would destroy them? No.
  • Is anyone deliberately sterilising or separating white men and women, forcing abortions on whites only? No.
  • Is anyone taking away white children and giving them to people of other ethnicities to eradicate ‘whiteness’? No.

The one place you might have a case in the modern world might be the current despotism in Zimbabwe and the ethnic cleansing – not genocide – of white farmers there. Even then, this is more a result of propaganda and blaming, stirring up the mob, than explicit policy. It’s still bad and doesn’t get enough international attention, but genocide it ain’t.

So what does their ridiculous site offer up as examples of ‘white genocide’?

Well you can go and look for yourself, but this is where it all gets a bit more complicated and interesting.

While nothing they show is indicative of ‘white genocide’, much of it does come down to levels of hypocrisy over racism going on in the world and provocative and nonsensical statements around race and other issues of inequality. The febrile atmosphere around racial issues – most especially in the US – is feeding dangerously into these people’s delusions and their sense of being persecuted and wronged.

There is racism against whites, albeit not that powerful or widespread, and every time someone (like Bahar Mustapha) claims that they ‘can’t be racist against white people’ it fuels the paranoia of these nutters.

Every time special consideration is given to Islam within the school or legal systems, these idiots see justification for their racism (never mind that Islam isn’t a race).

When ‘diversity quotas’ and positive discrimination, both of which are indeed horribly racist, are excused or gain traction, genuine white supremacists feel validated.

It doesn’t matter that these people are fringe loons, they’ve reached a sort of parasitic alliance with their counterpart lunatics on the other side. When a social justice warrior does something insane related to race, genuine white supremacists get validation and feel vindicated. When white supremacists say or do something equally insane on their side, the SJW element can point at them as ‘part of the problem’ and to justify their own extremism.

It’s an arms race of lunacy and it’s no good for anyone. It also serves as a great example of why identity politics creates huge problems in a way genuine egalitarianism and secular, fair culture does not.

There’s likely more genetic difference between me and another Caucasian than there is between me and a member of another race on the basis of race, racial differences are minuscule and insignificant. It only has the power to create divisions where you regard it as important, and that is the dangerous area in white neo-nazi lunatics and Social Justice Warriors meet.

The Last Honest Politician

BennTony Benn died today after a long life of service to the people of his country (rather than his country itself) as, perhaps, the definitive figure of the Labour party’s left. More iconic than Labour leader in recent memory. He was the antithesis of the ‘interchangeable suits’ that now rule the entire Western World.

Benn was a principled politician, though – of course – not infallible. Someone who knew the value of science and technology, was consistently one of Britain’s most popular politicians (confounding the idea that we’re naturally conservative), and was strongly involved in protest movements including the anti-war protests over Iraq and Afghanistan.

Benn gave up his privileged, hereditary peerage to remain an MP, a case of ‘putting your money where your mouth is’ that changed the law and proved him a principled man above ideological suspicion.

A feminist and social justice advocate from when both those terms had clear and useful meaning, he was a career politician when that wasn’t an insult, genuinely dedicated to reform and progress.

He was a politician I didn’t hate. That’s the best accolade I can think of.

No Atheists in Foxholes?

There’s two rather common claims that Christians like to make. For sake of this post I’ll be taking them both at face value:

1. Communism (or what they imagine Communism to be) and atheism are somehow interchangeable.

2. There are ‘no atheists in foxholes.’

This is the Battle of Stalingrad from World War II.

Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-W0506-316,_Russland,_Kampf_um_Stalingrad,_Siegesflagge

 

Stalingrad cost the Soviet Union half a million men, killed and missing (presumed dead). The fighting in Stalingrad was some of the most vicious in World War II. It was representative of the clash between two monstrous and insane egos, Hitler’s and Stalin’s, with neither able to admit defeat.

Stalingrad was reduced to rubble until it became little more than one, giant foxhole. The fighting was close-quarters, hand to hand, bayonet to bayonet. Men starved, resorted to eating rats, cats, dogs, insects and some say cannibalism. In many ways this battle was as close to hell on Earth as has ever existed save – perhaps – the trenches of World War I.

The Russian resolve against the Nazis, the Eastern Front, is not taught so much in the revisionist American view of World War II but without the Russians the outcome of the war would have been far from certain.

Either atheism and Communism are not interrelated, or you have a lot of apologising to do.

(Im)Proving God(arguments)

 

I got screencapped on a blog by Jennifer Fulwiler raising some questions and objections to her – alleged – conversion from atheism to Christianity. I have my suspicions about anyone who claims that, and Mrs Fulwiler’s claim seems to be based on an argument that amounts to: “Look how cute my baby is. Therefore, god.”

The blog post goes into a bit more detail, but ultimately it kills itself off before it even gets going.

But since religion cannot be proven in any kind of verifiable way, a person cannot both subscribe to an evidence-based way of evaluating the world and be a believer. One or the other has to go. Right?

Right. End of blog post then yeah?

No?

It started with a conversation with my grandfather, an engineer who worked his way through college by shoveling coal during the Great Depression, and went on to build complicated refineries all over Mexico and South America. He’s not overtly religious, and I always assumed that with his keen intelligence and careful, analytical way of thinking, he must be an atheist. So when it came out that he believes in God, it piqued my interest.

It figures that he would be an engineer. Engineers are notably more conservative and religious. Quite why this is isn’t particularly known but when it comes to creationism I suspect it is to do with being predisposed to ‘making things’ and thinking that this is the only way that things can come about.

I began to consider that many of the pioneers of science believed in God — Newton, Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus, Boyle, and Mendel, to name just a few. Almost all the great Greek and Roman thinkers of antiquity believed that supernatural forces were at work in the world. In fact, among people considered to be the greatest minds of history, only a small percentage were atheists.

This is an argument from authority and, therefore fallacious. Further, while these men may have been believers their work was not on god and did not prove gods existence. In the case of many of them their work has done quite the opposite (perhaps most notably Galileo and Copernicus) and this put them in opposition to the Christian religion.

To pick out a favourite example, Newton, as well as being a theist Newton was a ritual magician and an alchemist. Are we, then, to also believe that demons and spirits can be controlled with magic words and circles scribed on the ground? Should we abandon science and take up pursuit of the philosopher’s stone? Hopefully Mrs Fulwiler wouldn’t want anyone to take up those pursuits. So why make the exception for this singular, particular line of unproven nonsense?

Was I really ready to say that I was a more analytical thinker than my engineer grandfather? Was I seriously going to claim that the monk Gregor Mendel, the father of modern genetics, did not require evidence before believing a theory to be true? Did I honestly think that it never occurred to Galileo to question assumptions?

Mrs Fulwiler has misidentified the problem. It isn’t so much the degree of genius or analytical thinking but whether that analytical thinking is applied to the question of god or not. People are fully capable of holding contradictory ideas or cordoning off certain sets of ideas from critical analysis. Skepticism and critical thinkings are ways of addressing and overcoming this tendency and the result is atheism. Not that atheists aren’t also capable of abandoning skepticism and critical thinking when it comes to their own pet causes.

One must also consider the historical context. For a great many years not being a believer (or being the wrong kind of believer) was a death sentence and if it wasn’t a death sentence it was a social death sentence. An obscenely wealthy church also held a lot of purse strings. Still, despite this science did advance – usually when religion retreated. The two biggest leaps in scientific knowledge before the present day came with The Renaissance and The Enlightenment, both associated with a weakening of religion.

I set out on a search for truth about the spiritual realm, which pretty quickly led me to the only lasting world religion whose founder claimed to be God. I came to see that there was a strong case that a person named Jesus of Nazareth did exist. I thought it was interesting that Christianity spread like wildfire through the ancient world, despite the fact that becoming a Christian often meant persecution or even death.

The term ‘spiritual’ might as well be a noise. It is so loosely defined as to be useless.

The grandiosity of a claim doesn’t make it more likely to be true. It does increase the amount of evidence required. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

There is no historical evidence for Jesus, whatsoever. This is an unpopular opinion to be sure, but one easily refuted by the producing of even a single piece of evidence. To call the case ‘strong’ is so wrong as to be laughable.

Many religions have spread fast. This is an argument from popularity. Put it this way, in current times Islam is growing faster and, in the west, atheism and neopaganism are growing faster than both (or were a couple of a years ago). Put another way, more people in the world don’t believe in any particular religion than do. People are also willing to die for a great many causes, religions and ideologies. It doesn’t lend them any credibility that people will die for them.

I didn’t know where to turn, so I decided to do an experiment: something rang true about Augustine’s famous statement that you must believe so that you might understand, and so I began to live my life as if God did exist. I prayed, even though I felt like I was talking to myself; I followed the Christian moral code; I read the Bible and honestly tried to understand what it might be trying to teach me.

This is an open invitation to confirmation bias. This ‘experiment’ is, in essence, brainwashing. Except you’re doing it to yourself. An analytical approach is one where you try to prove an idea wrong at least as much as you try to show it to be right. Further, I rather doubt that Ms Fulwiler has stoned any adulterers to death lately. She’s probably eaten shellfish and I’m fairly sure she’s wearing mixed fabrics in some of those photos on her blog. She’s been applying an independent moral filter to Christian morality which only goes to show that morality doesn’t derive from or conform to the Bible.

The more I went through the motions of believing in God, the more the world made sense to me; the more human history made sense to me; the more I started to make sense to me. The picture of human life that I’d formed based on science alone now seemed incomplete. I still believed everything I’d learned through the lens of science, but I now saw a whole other dimension to the world around me.

And people feel the same way about the teachings of any and every guru, self-help book and bagload of nonsense you care to mention. It doesn’t make a single one of them any more credible.

When I considered this experience in light of the evidence for Jesus of Nazareth, the improbable spread of early Christianity, and the seamless and perfectly internally consistent traditional Christian moral code that has stood strong for two thousand years…

What can you say to that but ‘lol’. I mean… really.

I can show you lots of evidence, and, if you’re willing to consider it with an open mind, I think I can make the case that this belief system is at least worth a second look. But I cannot prove its truth to you in the way I can prove that the earth revolves around the sun. The human soul is a necessary component of the God experiment, and the laboratory in which it takes place is the individual human heart. Yes, there is compelling, verifiable evidence for the truths of this belief system, but an analysis of evidence will not — cannot — get you all the way there.

So no. You can’t show anyone any evidence. An open mind is not an uncritical mind. I don’t think you can make this case and if you can’t show it in that way, then you’ve nothing to show. There’s no reason to think there’s a soul either so making that a requirement is like saying you can’t find Nessie without the help of Bigfoot. As with any believer, you’re invited to present this supposed evidence and see if it stands up to scrutiny, but I doubt that it will.

I still doubt Mrs Fulwiler was ever an atheist beyond simply apathetically not believing. She called evolution ‘random’ and doesn’t seem to be knowledgeable of many of the contradictions and issues of Christianity. It just doesn’t sit right.

I began to consider that many of the pioneers of science believed in God — Newton, Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus, Boyle, and Mendel, to name just a few. Almost all the great Greek and Roman thinkers of antiquity believed that supernatural forces were at work in the world. In fact, among people considered to be the greatest minds of history, only a small percentage were atheists. – See more at: http://www.conversiondiary.com/2013/09/on-proving-god.html#sthash.d05RpBM6.dpuf

Was Timothy McVeigh an Atheist?

Timothy Mcveigh - BRESCOLAFor you young ‘uns, Timothy McVeigh was the Oklahoma City bomber. Prior to 9/11 this (and the Waco siege) dominated discussions about terrorism, conspiracy theory and so forth in the United States. If you want to know what happened you can read up here. The short version is that a very disturbed, right-wing, nutcase detonated a huge bomb next to a federal building as a sort of ‘first blow’ in a war on ‘socialism’ and the government. Keep in mind that the rhetoric surrounding Obama has been much worse and yet nothing similar seems to have happened, yet.

These kinds of things go in cycles and, of late, much seems to be being made of Timothy McVeigh’s supposed atheism. When you bring up religious bombings, incidents and acts of terror someone inevitably points to McVeigh as an example of atheist terror. Even if one were to accept this characterisation, having to go all the way back to 1995 would show that ‘atheist’ murders and acts of terror occur with a great deal less frequency than religious ones. Still, we don’t have to accept this.

First and foremost, atheism is not a religion, an ideology, a philosophy, a system of belief or anything similar. It is the singular lack of belief in god/s. That is atheism in its entirety. If someone who happens to be an atheist commits some travesty it cannot be atheism that motivates them because atheism provides no motivation, no excuse, no impetus to commit such acts. Religious and ideological texts on the other hand, may very well have such exhortations to violence. The Abrahamic religious texts are replete with examples of this.

Secondly, McVeigh was not an atheist. At least not at the time of the bombings.

McVeigh was raised a Roman Catholic Christian and was confirmed in 1985. He was a registered republican, a member of the NRA and voted Libertarian. The bombings took place in 1995 and prior to the bombing his ‘goodbye’ letter to his childhood friend contained the following line:

I know in my heart that I am right in my struggle, Steve. I have come to peace with myself, my God and my cause. Blood will flow in the streets, Steve. Good vs. Evil. Free Men vs. Socialist Wannabe Slaves. Pray it is not your blood, my friend.

In 1996, after the bombing, when he was interviewed and asked about his religious position he said that he still believed in god, though he had lost touch with his Catholicism. He said he still maintained core Catholic, Christian beliefs.

By 2001 he proclaimed that he did not believe in hell and that ‘Science is my god’.

This is the line that people quote but it is one that is attributed to him a full six years after the bombing. It is unusual that he seems to have had a deconversion in prison. Many people claim religious conversion, especially in American prisons, because it gets them better treatment and increases their chances of parole. Being on death row perhaps McVeigh was feeling more fatalistic or didn’t see the need to claim a faith as it would make no difference. He did resist a great deal of urging to become a Muslim during this time.

When it came time for him to be executed McVeigh seems to have rediscovered his religion. A day before he wrote to a paper describing himself as agnostic. On the day of his execution he took the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and read the poem Invictus, which contains references to god and souls.

We’ll likely never really know what he thought or felt or believed, because he is dead. This is part of the waste and uselessness of the death penalty, it eliminates our capacity to learn and to understand. Nonetheless he seems to have been raised and died a Christian and to have been one when the bombing took place.

The truly perverse thing is that, having taken the Sacrament and ‘returned to the bosom of the lord’, by Christian doctrine, this mass murderer and right-wing terrorist would be in heaven, if such a place existed.

 

The Iron ‘Lady’

MargaretThatcher[1]Apparently it was on last night. I didn’t watch it, I lived through her tyrannical slash-and-burn of British society and that was enough. Living through a second band of it is no barrel of laughs either. My comments to this effect on Twitter appeared to attract some BNP-Lite reactions but I do have to wonder, a great deal, about anyone who remembers the Thatcher regime fondly.

The best, most succinct, yet complete description of Thatcher I have ever seen appears in Warren Ellis’ ‘Planetary’:

“Jack always said it was difficult for us Americans to understand what it was really like here in the darkest parts of the eighties. We had a doddery old president who talked about the end of the world a little too often and was being run by the wrong people. But they had a Prime Minister who was genuinely mad. You know there were even feminists and women’s studies theorists who denied she was even really a woman any more, she was so far out of her tree? She wanted concentration camps for AIDS victims, wanted to eradicate homosexuality even as an abstract concept, made poor people choose between eating and keeping their vote, ran the most shameless vote-grabbing artificial war scam in fifty years. England was a scary place, no wonder it produced a scary culture.”