Archives for category: religion
The zodiacal ages since the Ice Age ended.

We have abortion, the ancients had child sacrifice.

We are profane, they were pious.

That was my first takeaway, anyway, from “Ancient Carthaginians really did sacrifice their children,” an article from the University of Oxford.

Next, try to understand the idea of sacrifice. The religious fixation on the rite of sacrifice is fascinating. For years I’ve pushed the notion of the practice as important in establishing a moral universe with an integral cost concept. Without a sense of cost, morality is impossible. Sacrifice is crude but perhaps effective in this task.

I think I have heard Jordan Peterson pushing something like that.

Anyway, the ancient Egyptians sacrificed bulls. But that was in the Age of Taurus. Upper Egypt kept the Apis Bull Worship going even after the Age of Aries began. In Lower Egypt, the folks living next to the Giza pyramids knew better, that the Ram had replaced the Bull. This became a central concept in the development of Mediterranean (“Middle Earth!”) and Mesopotamian religion. Genesis and Exodus both encode that transition. And the BC/AD divide marks the beginning of the Age of Pisces, of the Fisher Kings — the sign of the fish and all that.

Could the Carthaginians have engaged in holdover rites from the Age of Gemini, when twins were the religious fixation? I know not. Seems a stretch.

We are still a ways away from the Age of Aquarius. Or already in it. Depends on who you ask. I am unsure of why this would be of prime importance for philosophy — but the ancients were obsessed with the Great Year. Still reeling from the catastrophes of the Ice Age, they were understandably obsessed. And putting the idea of cyclical regularity into the major religions was, for them, a natural notion. And interweaving it into our collective unconscious with sacrifice? I guess that seemed vitally important.

twv

When philosophically-minded people say the world is “meaningless,” as they sometimes do, I usually balk. They have misdiagnosed the problem. The world — like their heads — is over-full of meaning.

But our own mindscapes encounter an even greater welter of meanings. The cup of meaning runneth over.

Indeed, that realm of meaning has always struck me as self-evident. As a lover of the fantastic in literature, I understand that our imaginations extend far beyond the realm of the actual, the factual, into fiction.

Which is why Anselm’s ontological argument has always struck me as bizarre.

And I am not alone in such thoughts. My bent of mind was preceded by a great philosopher, George Santayana. And in my possession I have a paperback study of his thought that I highly recommend, by Willard E. Arnett.

Late in the book Arnett confronts Santayana’s approach to God. Which is tricky in the Santayana oeuvre, since the Spanish-American philosopher wrote much about religion as fiction, as “poetry.” But not much about the facticity of theological claims.

Arnett hones right in on the core issue, meaning, or “essence.”

And it is a fascinating and elegant doctrine, best stated in The Realm of Essence: Book First of Realms of Being (1927). But Arnett’s discussion is helpful:

If thought has no existential implications as such, then an imagined perfect Being can be just that, imagined. There is no warrant that the imagined must be existent.

So you can see why people tend to chafe at the vast realm of essences: the world doesn’t conform to the essences they prefer. Other essences map the world better. And that subset itself is vast, but not the “right Vastness,” so they imagine the world meaningless without God, their preferred essence. It is a non sequitur, it is an imposition upon the world of a standard that doesn’t fit, but which they think should.

This basic attitude I call the Ought/Is Hegemony. Or perhaps a different orthography is in order: Ought>Is Hegemony.

I find this alien to my thinking. I may contemplate some wild essence or another without having to assume that it matches the world of everyday existence.

I believe this puts me in Santayana’s camp.

twv

The analytic mindset is geared towards monocausal explanations. Duo-causal and multi-causal explanations offend against the rule of thumb known as Occam’s razor. Even theories that technically incorporate many causes are usually framed as mono-causal. Example? The Austrian Theory of the Business Cycle.

And it is fun to watch the schoolmen fight it out, so to speak, to see who can toe their chosen line with the most singular ferocity.

This is a huge problem for the UFO issue. Of the persistently unexplained aerial phenomena, I suspect that Deep State players are trying like heck to keep people thinking of One Explanation, and away from Many.

Some UFOs are no doubt poorly understood plasma phenomena; others are man-made craft of an “experimental” nature; still others are perhaps developed from wrecks from extraterrestrial civilizations’ excursions; others could be incursions from extraterrestrial elsewheres; there could be time-travelers and other interdimensionals (I place my bets heavily on this latter, alas); and crypto-terrestrial breakaway and remnant civilizations are I suppose possible.

The common lurch towards ET hypothesis is interesting. We should wonder to what extent our opinions on such matters have been sculpted not merely by science fiction, but by psy-ops behind sf, especially sf TV and movies.

Meanwhile, the debunkers’ “UFOs Are All Illusions” Theory seems untenable. I wish it were true, though. All of the possible explanations (listed causes), above, are uber-creepy.

As would be the religious folks’ go-to theory: “Angels and Demons.”

twv on Gab

The reason the analytic mindset exhibits a prejudice for mono-causal explanations should be obvious, but will nevertheless be explained at greater length in a future entry here, no doubt.

Do you think Jesus was libertarian?

…as answered on Quora….

The man whom Christians call Jesus Christ, whom Muslims call Isa, and for whom skeptical historians have been scouring ancient histories and the dust of the archeological record to get an objective fix upon, is a puzzling figure. Many contradictory things are imputed to him. Is he the Prince of Peace — or did he come not to bring peace but a sword? Arguments abound.

I was raised a Christian, but soon after I ceased believing in Christian dogma I found myself distancing myself from America’s statist dogmas, too — indeed, within three years of my apostasy I became a libertarian. Which is a kind of political apostasy, really. And, since that time, over forty years ago, I have witnessed religion and politics echoing each others’ concerns, myths, methods and madness.

But was Jesus a libertarian? No. Another Quoran answered this simply: he was a monarchist. Libertarian ideas may have been percolating in the background of political life and philosophy, but they had not boiled over yet, certainly not into the teachings of Jesus and St. Paul or elsewhere during the first century of the current era.

We could end the discussion there, but…

I have recently come to be more than half-convinced by Ralph Ellis, author of many books, including King Jesus and Jesus, King of Edessa — convinced of something relevant to the question: the Historical Jesus whose discovery has eluded our academic scholars is not really so elusive after all. He can be found in the pages of Josephus’s histories, identified by various names, “Jesus of Gamala” being the most prominent.

The parallels between the dramatis personae of the Jewish revolt that Josephus wrote about in The Jewish Wars and the cast of characters of the New Testament are astounding, and after carefully sorting through the peculiar pesher techniques of the rabbis who wrote the Talmud, and some obscure references in the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient documents, Mr. Ellis has uncovered what he believes is the historical man behind the myths: King Manu VI of Edessa, known as “Izates” and “Izas” (hence our “Jesus”): this was a real, world-historic figure, descended from Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and Parthian royalty, leader of the “fourth sect of Judaism” (the Nazarenes/Nazarites), and instigator of a tax revolt with the uber-ambitious, ultimate aim of becoming emperor of Rome.

Josephus, argues Ellis, secretly wrote the gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts to obscure the real history and thereby cook up a version of Judaism (Christianity, what Ellis calls “Simple Judaism”) that would allow the counter-revolutionaries Vespasian and Titus to rule somewhat peaceably.

Slyly jiggering with Jesus of Gamala’s revolutionary statements (particularly about taxes), Josephus — whom Ellis describes as the Flavians’ paid propagandist — made Jesus seem peaceful and almost Rome-friendly. Jesus of Gamala was not, of course. He was ultra-political, a king who was trying to become what Vespasian became, perhaps more. But the Jesus of the Gospels was depicted as less threatening to imperial power: “render unto Caesar” and all.

The key to Josephus’s psy-op was placing his characters back in time two score years, with the grand denouement in the short epoch of Pontius Pilate’s procutorship.

But what about liberty? What Josephus writes of the Nazarenes/Nazarites in the eighteenth book of The Antiquities of the Jews is interesting:

These men agree in all other things with the Pharisaic notions; but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty, and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord. They also do not value dying any kinds of death, nor indeed do they heed the deaths of their relations and friends, nor can any such fear make them call any man lord. And since this immovable resolution of theirs is well known to a great many, I shall speak no further about that matter; nor am I afraid that any thing I have said of them should be disbelieved, but rather fear, that what I have said is beneath the resolution they show when they undergo pain. And it was in Gessius Florus’s time that the nation began to grow mad with this distemper, who was our procurator, and who occasioned the Jews to go wild with it by the abuse of his authority, and to make them revolt from the Romans.

While Josephus’s “Jesus of Gamala” was hardly a libertarian, we individualists might wish to learn something from the cult, what with its resistance to established authority and its “inviolable attachment to liberty.”

twv

…as reviewed on Goodreads & LibraryThing….

I may, some day, write a full review of this book, and of Ralph Ellis’s major contentions. This is not that review, not that day.

A hint to the reader, though: Ellis’s books are inquiries.

Sure, Ellis offers radical revisions of historical understanding, but he does not write histories using the standard narrative technique, or historical treatises plying what has been called the “rhetoric of conclusions.” Ellis’s approach often runs in an unfamiliar manner to many readers’ expectations, demonstrating a “rhetoric of inquiry.” We follow the author, in his many pages, from one problem to the next, with many offered solutions. He offers numerous conjectures, and ably backs them up. But his techniques are often unorthodox, usually resting on unraveling many layers of wordplay.

Now, this is dangerous stuff, in that one might easily abuse language in the course of unraveling past abuses — too easily mistake a homonym or mere phonetic echo for a pun for a past fact — but Ellis’s method may be characterized, at least in part, as an archeology of nomenclature. And his archeological sense is not dominated by fantasies of creation, at least not in the books of his I’ve read.

But there is no avoiding an archeology of names. In written records, especially of a religious nature, that is mostly what we have to work with.

Ellis is trying to make sense of the history of Judaism and Christianity and related religions. All religions engage in word magic, marshaling artful puns and the like. This is especially involved in Jewish writings, where we see some astounding evasions using such methods, such as the pesher technique in the Talmud. Many of the words used in scriptures and in ancient times have multiple — even obscure and even opaque — meanings, sporting etymologies that are open to contest. A word that once meant one thing comes to mean something else, and when these usages change mark important points in history. Accepting some ready-at-hand or traditional meaning may be accepting a long-embedded error, or even a lie.

The Hebrew Bible depicts the Jews’ history as developing in the context of two great civilizations, Egyptian and Mesopotamian. But one of the peculiarities of Judeo-Christian history is that most of its major figures, though dominant in their scriptures, are not recorded outside those scriptural documents. Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Jesus — these people do not appear in Egyptian and Mesopotamian records, or in surviving monuments or actual archeological sites. Not a few scholars regard all pre-Babylonian stories as all or mostly myth, and authors like Richard Carrier speculate that there never was a historical Jesus — he was made up; a religious fiction. Ellis, in his books, looks at these issues anew, consulting Manetho and Josephus and the Talmud and to-us-obscure Syrian historians, expecting to find historical figures, if dislocated in place and time. And boy, does he find them!

In previous books he identified the Hebrew patriarchs with the Hyksos “Shepherd Kings” — as frankly stated by Manetho and Josephus; he found David and Solomon among the later, post-Ramesside pharaohs of the Nile Delta; and he discovered an ancestry for Jesus in, of all people, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and Parthian royalty!

More astonishingly, Ellis daringly became the first to lay claim to unearthing an ancient conspiracy of the Flavian emperors, in which historian Josephus serves as a master propagandist, appearing as both the Apostle Paul, the founder of what Ellis calls “Simple Judaism” (or Christianity) and as Rabbi ben Zakkai, the inventor of post-conquest rabbinical Judaism. This grew from Ellis’s attempts to make sense of what Josephus was up to — a very complicated man, and even on the face of it not dissimilar to Saint “All Things to All People” Paul. Noting the Josephan histories’ many evasions, animadversions, odd nomenclatures, inconsistencies, and weird parallels with the gospels and the Book of Acts, Ellis identified the historical Jesus, too . . . as “Jesus of Gamala.”

In this book, Jesus, King of Edessa, he goes further, investigating the kingdom of Edessa and its monarchs, drilling down behind Josephus’s slippery characters Jesus of Gamala and “bar Kamza” et al., finding a man with a place in history and even surviving pictorial images: King Manu VI, a cousin or some other relative of Josephus, all bound up with the Jewish revolt put down by Vespasian and Titus, whom Josephus wound up serving.

Whereas the big evasion and lie at the heart of the “Old Testament” is the hiding of the truth about the Egyptian origin of Judaism, the whopper in the “New Testament” account is the moving the story of Jesus back in time from the Jewish Wars to the comparatively peaceful period of Pontius Pilate. The dislocation is chiefly in time, though the dislocation in geography is the existence of a Syrian kingdom “beyond the Euphrates” in Harran and Palmyra, and its dominance by an Egypto-Jewish dynasty that started out as a tax-free buffer state between Rome and Parthia and, under the direction of Jesus (Izas/Izates/King Manu) instigated a revolt against Rome. And was put down.

The story is complex. As is the book itself. The unraveling of the layers of myth-making, evasions and even outright lies was an astounding labor. Ellis is quite convincing, though I can imagine many reasons why a person might start out incredulous and remain, even after reading, more than a tad dubious. As for my part? I am more than half-convinced. But the work of untangling the thorns from these old stories is far from over.

For the record, I suspect Ellis misses a major wrinkle in the story he tells by not confronting Josephus’s discussion of Pontius Pilate’s career-ending routing of a religious pilgrimage in Samaria, a region close to Jerusalem he never mentions. I hazard it could be key to unraveling the full story of the stones from the Ark of the Covenant that became so important to Edessan religious tradition. And which Heliogabalus later brought to Rome when he became emperor, a short “meteoric” rise that seems to have weirdly accomplished what Jesus “of Gamala” aimed at.

Ellis sure has written some long books. He pores over seeming minutia. Not every single one of his conclusions can possibly have the same value. And, perhaps, it would have been helpful had he taken the rhetoric of inquiry a tad more seriously and in a more overtly Popperian manner, offering his arguments even more rigorously as conjectural rather than, as he occasionally writes, “proofs.”

There are a few stylistic oddities in the book. Example? Ellis spells verb and noun forms of “prophesy” the same, while I try always to remember to make my noun form with a “c,” “prophecy.” I cannot tell you how much this bugged me! (Is this an English thing? I will look it up later.)

Ralph Ellis ends Jesus, King of Edessa with a discussion of the fate of Edessa at the hands of Islamic civilization. This will be off-putting to those who believe Islam “is a religion of peace.” Since I regard this statement, repeatedly made by American drone bombing gamesmen Bush and Obama, as a ‘noble lie’ at best, I was not at all disturbed by Ellis’s concluding thoughts on the possible destruction of western civilization by Islamic memes and corrupt, craven politicians of a decadent post-liberal culture. I say, instead, Bravo!

I live-blogged my reading of this book on Gab.com (@wirkman), where Ralph Ellis also micro-blogs. I have interviewed Mr. Ellis twice for my podcast, locofoco.net: they were long and profitable conversations, I think.

twv

One of the great things about the current pandemic is that it has revealed the astoundingly anti-religious nature of many of our states’ governors — especially Democratic governors, but some Republican politicians, and Democrats in general, as well.

It is rather bracing for a secular person like me to witness the brazenness of their anti-clerical agenda, as shown in their “lockdowns.” I mean, I have always known that the political left has always leaned towards anti-social revolutionary doctrine, and that many seculars (including many of my friends) really, really hate religion in a chthonic manner, full of bile and blood and steaming excretory fluids. But this has never been my bent.

It sure seems the bent of politicians like Cuomo, Pelosi, and Newsom, though.

These pols often pretend to be Christian, but I don’t believe them. I also do not believe the Clintons and the Obamas. By their fruits we shall know them, and if it came out in Wikileaks that Pizzagate were not only true, but also that these folks practiced full-on devil worship, the only shock would be that they believe anything transcendent to their power. For the nature of the lockdown priorities and protocols tip the hand.

Here is Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch showing the angle of the hand gesture, as evident in Governor Cuomo’s lockdown orders:

At the same time, the Governor has chosen to impose no capacity restrictions on certain businesses he considers “essential.” And it turns out the businesses the Governor considers essential include hardware stores, acupuncturists, and liquor stores. Bicycle repair shops, certain signage companies, accountants, lawyers, and insurance agents are all essential too. So, at least according to the Governor, it may be unsafe to go to church, but it is always fine to pick up another bottle of wine, shop for a new bike, or spend the afternoon exploring your distal points and meridians. Who knew public health would so perfectly align with secular convenience? As almost everyone on the Court today recognizes, squaring the Governor’s edicts with our traditional First Amendment rules is no easy task. People may gather inside for extended periods in bus stations and airports, in laundromats and banks, in hardware stores and liquor shops. No apparent reason exists why people may not gather, subject to identical restrictions, in churches or synagogues, especially when religious institutions have made plain that they stand ready, able, and willing to follow all the safety precautions required of “essential” businesses and perhaps more besides. The only explanation for treating religious places differently seems to be a judgment that what happens there just isn’t as “essential” as what happens in secular spaces. Indeed, the Governor is remarkably frank about this: In his judgment laundry and liquor, travel and tools, are all “essential” while traditional religious exercises are not. That is exactly the kind of discrimination the First Amendment forbids.

This signals an important element of today’s leftism that anti-leftists such as myself tend to forget: today’s lefty statists do not hate trade, do not hate business; they understand that they can bully business and leech off big business, at the very least. What they hate is religion, first, and strong families, second — for these inspire loyalty that might resist their statist designs.

twv

N.B. Illustration at top is by James Littleton Gill. This post was written
in late November, but for some reason not published at that time.

“In the United States, there is no religious animosity,” wrote Alexis de Tocqueville, “because all religion is respected, and no sect is predominant.”

Religion in American life has changed since the 1830s, when the French nobleman and sociologist wrote Democracy in America. He was wrong, of course: there was indeed religious animosity in America. He didn’t see it. But it wasn’t as big an issue as a rational person might expect. Hence his statement.

Nowadays, religious animosity has come back big time, fed into a conflagration by the new social classes aligning themselves in partisan politics. 

So we should expect to see many attempts to make sense of the growing rift.

But you might not want to bother with Greg M. Epstein’s piece in the Boston Globe this weekend. For he might as well be from Mars, not France, he is so wide of the mark. 

A truly inclusive vision of America recognizes the nonreligious, too,” Epstein writes. The article’s blurb encapsulates where Epstein goes wrong: “Amid rising Christian nationalism, President Biden should reach out directly to the ‘nones.’”

“Nones” is the silly term of current jargon to describe people with scant religious beliefs and no religious affiliations. The problem in the blurb can be detected in the article: the reason we see rising “Christian nationalism” (which really freaks out Democrats) stems from the fact that Democrats are increasingly seen — quite accurately, I think — as anti-Christian globalists. 

Christian nationalism is a reaction. But it is not the only reaction against the godless globalists.

The anti-Christianity is quite evident in the united government under the Democrats. Indeed, it was formalized in the 116th Congress’s invocation “to the monotheistic god, Brahma,” a prayer that ended with “Amen and Awomen,” an old joke the supplicant apparently took seriously, signaling to those feminists who are also so deeply against men that they cannot abide having the phoneme “men” appear in an ancient word, “Amen” that has nothing to do with either men or women. This is rightly perceived as anti-Christian, even if the performer of the prayer calls himself a Methodist. 

Epstein only sees the pandering to religion, of course. “The Biden presidency has already involved several prayerful events,” he writes. “Some of the most prominent such occasions have essentially ignored our existence,” he laments, thus providing his nones-such bona fides — he is a “humanist chaplain at Harvard.” 

But this concern basically boils down to a Do the Right Thing-style complaint about the lack of “brothers on the wall.” 

“Calls for ‘unity’ framed largely around religion not only erase nearly one-third of the country but ultimately denigrate us by suggesting traditional faith is necessary to cope with the nation’s problems.” He does not consider a more likely rationale: that what Biden & Co. are doing is over-compensating.

Instead of seeing religion as a way to sucker in inattentive marginal voters who may be marginally religious, and get them to pass over all the anti-Christianity and blasphemy of the current tribe of Democrats, Epstein pushes forward his ridiculous, low-level partisanship. “This is a loss for all of us, because in the wake of the Trump presidency, the notion of true inclusiveness — and President Biden’s obvious passion for it, albeit imperfectly executed at times — are among the most compelling aspects of this new administration.”

But what Epstein cannot see is that Biden is trying to include people who find Epstein’s crowd repellent

Perhaps it helps being a libertarian while also being a philosophically inclined “none” — for we who are both have seen the tensions between religious and anti-religious zealots and thus can appraise the rift with some objectivity. The relentless obnoxiousness of many libertarian atheists and pagans has led many religious libertarians to linger in the inhospitable waters of the Republican Party for longer than they otherwise would. Indeed, the “relentless obnoxiousness” led to the once-upon-a-time “paleolibertarian” turn of the late 1980s and early 1990s, not a small thing in the libertarian movement. One point that Murray Rothbard and Lew Rockwell were making in their paleo turn was, in essence, “can’t you non-believers be less offensive and not scare off traditionalist recruits?” Not a wholly misguided gripe. For many nones are indeed quite indecorous, often blasphemous.

Epstein downplays the action/reaction nature of the current, major-party version of this divide, merely feeding the “action” part. “My two decades of work representing the nonreligious in interfaith work have convinced me that we so-called ‘nonbelievers’ share core common values with progressive and moderate people of faith.” Well, yeah. But he does not acknowledge that there are “nones” who reject his brand of globalism, and would rather ally ourselves with anti-socialists and limited government people. Yes, we exist, too. 

But let us be frank: Epstein does indeed seek to exclude us. Completely. 

“I have been moved as Biden repeatedly stressed that his faith impelled him to build the most unifying presidency in US history,” he writes, “promising to restore the ‘soul of America’ by coalescing diverse faith voters, social justice activists, racial and ethnic groups, and LGBTQ, disabled, and young people. Still, you can’t restore an inclusive spirit, while excluding — or ignoring — large groups under your big tent.” 

It is hard not to roll one’s eyes. Progressives are not “for inclusion” — they are as exclusionary as any other group, if not more so. They seek to exclude, after all, those outside Epstein’s big tent, including many nonbelievers. 

For some of us nonbelievers also disbelieve in the Gospel of Inclusion, in no small part for reasons of logic: you cannot include everybody. It’s the wrong emphasis, because there is no universal principle there. Law and government, upon further reflection, must be about the terms for inclusion/exclusion and definitely not inclusion über alles. 

Since no group can include everyone, there’s no reason why the particular interests of a group of rural Baptists must align and work in lockstep with a coterie of cosmopolitan pagan lesbians. But these poles-apart groups can coexist if the number of public goods they are required to share is made as low as possible. Baptists may take care of Baptists, but still respect pagan lesbians’ rights to independence, while those goddess-worshiping homosexuals can form their communities and mutual aid societies and also allow Baptists to live in peace, respecting only the limited rights to freedom of the Baptists.

But the Democrats’ have embraced a chimera, where all groups must contribute to the well-being, robustly defined, of all other groups, leaving scant room for independent action. Baptists must not only defend pagans’ and LGBTQ nonbelievers’ rights, they must pay for those groups’ abortions and sex changes and, insult to injury, allow the heathens into their communities. That is integral to the Democrats’ “inclusionism”: forced inclusion. 

That coercion is one-sided, though: no gays and pagans are made to follow and accept the rites of Baptists. And this breeds reaction against the Democrats’ “inclusionism.”

Epstein is, apparently, ignorant of all that. Or merely blinded to it. The idea that a free society can incorporate diversity by reducing the purview of government is lost on him.

Understandable, though, since it is usually lost on conservatives too, so reactionary and unimaginative are they. Hence their pet “nationalist” projects, where the idea is to jigger with culture to support a robust nation-state. 

This is why some of us nones prefer liberty to nationalism as well as liberty over socialism, “inclusionism” and “globalism.”

In this article, Epstein is reviewing a book by Ryan Burge, a Baptist preacher and professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University, who, Epstein tells us, “has recently gained a following among atheists like me.” Burge’s book is titled The Nones: Where They Came From, Who They Are, and Where They Are Going, and it may actually be good, for all I know — but going by Epstein’s review, I doubt it.

For Epstein concludes quoting the author: “‘Think about the rise of the nones,’ Burge writes, waxing homiletic, ‘the same way as globalization. In both cases, the same cold, hard fact is true: We cannot stop it.’” But “globalization” is one of those words like “multiculturalism” that does not mean what its users think it means. 

“Globalization” could be a good term for increasing freedom of movement and trade. But in Democrats’ hands (and in the hands of socialists and socialist-adjacents) it’s a synonym for political internationalism, a “globalism” that means subsidization of Third World immigration into First World countries, domination of regional institutions by multinational corporations, and ever-increasing calls for world state governance, starting with forcing separate states to adopt identical laws and regulatory schemes. 

Similarly, many people think “multiculturalism” is merely respect for a diversity of cultures. No. That’s not how Democrats use the term in the context of their policies. Multiculturalism is the attempt to use increasing numbers of cultural interest groups to feed at the trough of the State, effectively ramping up wealth transfer schemes to socialist levels. 

Epstein thinks his Democrats should acknowledge The Nones formally, thereby pushing (though he doesn’t say it, of course) forced inclusion. But in so doing they must exclude those Nones and religious believers who think what they are doing is inherently unstable and deeply immoral. Smarter schemers than he know this, and they are in power, trying to fool Americans into thinking that the current crop of pseudo-inclusionists are more traditionally religious than they are. 

I suspect this will all end badly. But to understand why, do not consult this particular Harvard “chaplain.” He doesn’t believe in God, but he really, really does “believe” in The State. Perhaps to his credit, he’s not smart enough to be deceitful about it. He thinks that were people honest, we could all get along as “we” ramp up technocracy to the extreme that our elites really, really yearn for. He is wrong. Success for this forced inclusion can only be a form of totalitarianism the likes of which past madmen have only imagined.

In his piece, Epstein paraphrases a Voltaire quip, the one about common sense not being so common. He should have quoted a different Voltaire witticism: “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.” Epstein does not believe in any god. But he feels that itch. So he supports a final revolution to usher in the Super State of his dreams, perhaps not realizing how this Leviathan must wind up serving as a god far more jealous and enraged than YHWH. His politics follow closely from this desire for a deity. It is painful to read such naivety.

Bakunin riffed on Voltaire by saying that “if God did exist, it would be necessary to destroy him.” I’ve always been a bit iffy about that, but if Epstein’s god arises, killing it would be necessary indeed. And we can be assured: Epstein will rise to defend to his death his right to impose It upon us all.

twv

The New Century Dictionary, H.G. Emery and K.G. Brewster, editors, D. Appleton-Century Company (1942).

It’s the cause of much mockery and mirthful meming. The Internet erupted in hilarity. 

And Jesse Lee Peterson sees it as an attack on Christianity.

I am referring, of course, to the opening prayer of the 117th Congress, by Representative Emanuel Cleaver, from Missouri’s Fifth District, Kansas City (where everything’s up-to-date). Here is a segment or two, featuring the bizarre benediction:

Bask in this a moment: a Methodist preacher, when it came time to mumble “the name of the monotheistic god” — yes, he said those words in the prayer itself — uttered as that name not “Jesus” or “Jehovah” or “Adonai” or even “Allah,” he stumbled on “Brahma,” and concluded with not merely an “Amen” but an “and Awomen.”

A boom-chicka-THWACK.

That the ceremony yielded jokes is apt. It is itself a joke. Emanuel Cleaver claims to be a Methodist minister. But the joke is more worthy of Richard Pryor than any professed Christian. It shows an essential impiety — so to this extent maybe Jesse Lee Peterson has a point — but it also shows a piety, too: a tip of the hat or a nod in the direction of the real religion practiced in Cleaver’s party: intersectionalist feminism.

You see, “Amen” sports a distinct etymology from either “man” as in “adult male” or “Man” as in “humanity.” The Hebrew root is explained in the oldest dictionary by my side as “strengthen, confirm.” And means “Truly, verily.” Meanwhile, “man” and “woman” reach back from Germanic roots to Sanskrit’s manu. While I suppose strength is associated with men, “woman” derives from wife+man, so I’m not sure prefixing an “a” to that word assuages feminists from the horrid words “wife” and “man.”

All this is silly. Yes. But it does show how far from traditional values and habits Democrats have wandered. The Culture War continues. They simply do not care about holding to any cultural pieties of the old days. They have written off those for whom anything like a traditional Christianity means anything — those folks “cling to their God and their guns.” Democrats do not!

Verily.

twv

A “Reflection” by me, as appeared in Liberty, June 1993, p. 7.

My interest in UFOs is very recent, and was sparked as much by my disillusionment with dominant intellectual paradigms as it was by compelling accounts of evidence of UFOs. What I had suspected for a long time became painfully obvious a few years ago: cultism is not just deplorable behavior from marginal groups — from the “basket of Deplorables” — for dominant groups can behave just as cultic. The differences are real, but mainly our appraisals of cultic behavior depend upon our group affiliation. We get one of those Russellian conjugations: I am a scientist or philosopher; you are a religious believer; that person over their is a cultic nut.

My UFO interest grew out of my research into the end of the Ice Age, actually. I found out, about five years ago or so, while researching Denisovans and (from another direction) global climate change, that the truths of the Younger Dryas have not been assimilated into academic thought, and that academics have been resisting the cataclysmic nature of the Ice Age’s cessation for over a century, and have often done so in horrifically ideological and cultish ways, treating their findings as dogmas and their dogmas as religion.

I’d known for decades that academic disciplines could be dominated by in-group cultism, and that Science The Procedure did not necessarily track Science The Institution. But to learn that it was almost more common than not? Quite a blow.

The classic case of a familiar academic cult is Keynesianism, which is based on a lie by Keynes himself — his politic pretense that British labour union refusal to allow nominal price drops after World War I and the pegging of gold at parity was the cause of the post-war depression there. Every decent economist knew this. But politically the unions were thought to be impregnable, and economists did not have the courage to simply drive the message home to the public. I regard this as an outright lie (following accounts by F.A. Hayek and W.H. Hutt), and the whole edifice of Keynesianism built on that Great Evasion of a Bedrock Truth. What a crock.

Quite a few other disciplines have been infected with the cultic bug, too, and I was aware of some of them. But my discovery that geology was corrupt in a similar manner was sort of the last straw for me. I gave up on my last bit of ridiculing “weird theories.” And then the AATIP revelations came out, and all bets were off. I repented of my former cultism and am now a full-blown “nut” who does not care what snobs think. I know them mainly to be frauds.

How in-group cultism can infect academia is interesting to watch. My latest excursion into this area has been revisionist history of Judaism and Christianity — the history of which I have been reading about, on and off, for three decades. In a few hours I talk to Ralph Ellis, whose books on the Hyksos-as-Hebrew-patriarchs and the historical Jesus are mind-blowing and ultra-plausible — but which no academic will touch with a ten-foot pole. I am merely curious and eager to learn more. If it is a scorned “heresy” matters not one whit to me.

One way to defeat the human propensity to treat intellectual matters in cultic fashion might be simply as Ray Scott Percival, a philosopher in the Popperian tradition, has written about in his recent Medium essays on “Fake News and the Manifest Truth Delusion”: “The biggest gain in the control of error would be through the separation of science and the corrupting influences of politics (e.g. state funding, licensing etc.) and the chilling effect of political correctness on open discussion.”

Which, amusingly enough, anti-Popperian philosopher Feyerabend proposed when we were young.

I am more than willing to revise my beliefs and manage my suspicions about UFOs based on evidence and competent speculation about possibilities. But we are still afflicted with a paucity of data that has not been, in the words of Charles Fort, “damned.”

A very cultic word, that. And apt for how governments and academics have publicly treated the subject.

It is time for academics to forswear their cultism and their willingness to serve as intellectual priest and pope, catechist or Grand Inquisitor.

twv


The latest interesting YouTube video on UFOs.

One of the great mysteries of the progressive-programmed electorate is how it can forget so quickly one rationale for a policy (“flatten the curve” so as not to over-burden hospital infrastructure) and then embrace nebulous, unrealistic rationales (“beat the virus”). Mosts people are just too distracted and foolish to follow this crucial giving away of the moral high ground and intellectual respectability. Instead, they take it on faith.

And it really is faith.

But unlike faith in God, which puts you in an almost-impossible-to-test realm of epistemic extremity, faith in Salvation by Government is easy to show up as idiotic and disproven by facts and the unfolding of events.

Still, the faith is strong. Especially among moderately bright people. And why, you may ask? Well, I have mused upon this quite a lot. And evolutionary anthropologist Edward Dutton has investigated this sort of thing scientifically. But part of what we are dealing with is explained by class incentives: the moderate brights take up positions in the culture that have been heavily co-opted by technocrats using, chiefly, credentialist mechanisms — higher education — and the thing about moderate brights is that they excel at test taking and passing through low-end scholastic hoops. It’s very easy to navigate a world arranged by academics.

But it is not at all efficient, and it subverts the market order, for instead of using profit and loss as a test, other tests of efficacy come to dominate. And the domination of society by this class of people, these moderate brights, in a regulatory context, can be quite domineering.

Of course those domineering moderate brights don’t see it, because they have faith. It is the faith of statism. It is the major feature of intellectual life today.

twv