Archives for category: religion

“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

When you are in a cult, its dogmas seem like Truth and its rites seem Profound.

Outside it? They seem stupid: full of falsity and triviality and gaucherie.

Human beings aren’t handling modernist secularism very well. So the postmodern response has been to replace religion (which educated folks generally think quite stupid) with politics.

But not just any politics — a cultish, ludicrous statism, swapping nearly every feature of the west’s dominant religion, Christianity, with some brummagem analog. But it has obvious spiritual consequences, as it must, it exhibiting itself in the acolyte as a personal and quite strident commitment to an ideology with enough internal contradictions to make the doctrine of the Trinity the very acme of Aristotelian clarity,

Libertarians have been talking about this for years. Calling statism a religion and progressivism a cult is something my friends and I have been doing since . . . well, how long, exactly? Decades, for me, since I first walked into a rented house in north Portland, Oregon, and was greeted by Tonie Nathan, the first woman to receive an Electoral College vote, rogue as it was, and introduced me around to the very smart people milling about talking about the complexities of the simple system of natural liberty.

Regardless of who makes the case, Michael Tracey or a myriad libertarians, the charge sticks.

But this is not exactly a happy judgment. Replacing God with the State and Sin with Racism has sad aspects. The saddest may be that self-righteousness has not been replaced, but doubled down upon.

Or, worse yet, group-righteousness. You can see it in the glare of the eyes as refracted in the spittle on the lips of people who, just a week before, screamed at us heathens for not wearing masks.

twv

There is a reason for the ideological divide regarding pandemic “mitigation,” why progressives generally love the lockdown pseudo-quarantines: it feeds their prime conceit, the notion that the freedom of all must be sacrificed for the good of the most vulnerable.

In this case, the most vulnerable just happen to be aging Boomers and senescent Silents. And the corpulent. And other immune-compromised medical cases.

Having once been corpulent, and still being overweight, and having just entered my seventh decade of life, I knew early on that I was in a compromised position. But shutting down commerce to protect me is something that would never have crossed my mind.

The idea of demanding extreme mitigation strikes me as effrontery bordering on tyranny.

But progressives have no such compunctions. They hold to the principle of sacrificing the freedom of all for the lives of a few. That is their chief fixation. Because some people are vulnerable to misfortune, no one must be free to make their fortunes.

Traditionally, Americans see the political ideal as “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Progressives see this series in a different order: “Life, a stab at happiness, and liberty.” In cases where there is any conflict of the goals in this series, you sacrifice them by order.

That is, you first achieve life — and that’s life for everyone. Then you guarantee a chance at happiness for everyone, equally. Then, if the situation allows, you obtain what liberty you can for as many people as you can.

This revision of the order of ends, conceived ordinally rather than as many classical liberals and libertarians do, as a rhetorical pleonasm — three different views of the same thing, as Hokusai viewed Mount Fuji — is a key to understanding the progressive mind.

But we must add to this the messianic mindset: for progressives, as for most socialists, the “vulnerable” are seen as outsiders, as members of some out-group, and successful insiders are by definition or imaginative fiat their oppressors. That is, successful insiders, merely for not ensuring the success of those on the outs therefore must count as “oppressors.”

So the “privilege” of being an insider must be destroyed . . . or at least minimized — to rescue the un-privileged outsiders.

In America, the “privilege” of Americans is liberty, security, wealth, even health.

Progressives cannot help themselves: they must do their rescue. They must play messiahs. Their soteriology is always in play, and they are willing to conjure up revolutionary eschatologies to ensure the ritual acts of sacrifice. Well, strike “ritual.” VERY REAL acts of sacrifice: take from some to give to others.

Now, for individualists, sacrificing some for others is a perversion, the most horrifying social act imaginable — we would call it the ultimate anti-social act. But progressives see sacrifice as the whole point. These people are post-Christians. No act of salvation is worth it without sacrifice. Not sacrifice of opportunities forgone to invest in improvements. Not that kind of sacrifice. They need to sacrifice some powerful and privileged (as imaginary as that power and privilege often is) people to make the whole thing feel right.

But whereas Christians believe that the only sacrifice worth fretting much about be Christ’s sacrifice for their sins, working out their own sacrifices with fear and trembling away from the madding crowd, progressives must do their sacrificing in public.

Progressivism is inherently Pharisaic.

Which is why they tend to be such “Karens” regarding mitigation and quarantine. The joy is in seeing themselves as righteous in public, and for that there must be an identifiable group to be saved, and an identifiable group to sacrifice.

But we can take this post-Christian interpretation too far. There is something quite chthonian in progressive soteriology. We may have to look back to Ba’al and Beelzebub to understand the kind of sacrifice they demand.

How far back? Let me consider that in some future essay.

“The proper relationship between any researcher and his or her audience is one of equality.” — Richard Dolan

The cottage industry that is UFO cultism — as described by a leading UFO researcher:

The issue, at base, is that the biggest, perhaps fastest-growing religion in our time is whorled around UFOs.

Richard Dolan is a researcher, one of the most respected researchers in the field, and one way to critique his stance (which I generally support) is to note that he is attacking his competitors in occult knowledge. That would be a sneaky and invidious interpretation, but it is worth laying on the table. Against that I take sides with Dolan, and readily admit that I see no reason to abandon good investigation techniques, accumulation of data, and the falsifiability criterion (where it can be applied). UFOs may be weird, but they are no reason to abandon reason.

I insist, however, in the spirit of Jacques Vallee, that we take this approach and apply it also to the investigation of the religious foment that is associated with the UFO/ancient alien biz.

Indeed, I am most interested in this subject as a religion — in part because I think religions should be studied on a scientific basis as well as from a more generally philosophical standpoint. In some of his later books, such as Messengers of Deception and Revelation, Vallee goes part way to that very study.

And the various UFO cults out there, with their usual list of prophets, priests, maximum leaders, secret gnosis, esoteric/exoteric teachings, political agendas, and the like, are indeed fascinating. We must go beyond Vallee’s and Dolan’s cult-bashing, though. The full panoply of sociology, economics, social psychology, and related disciplines must be marshaled to try to comprehend the social flux of our time. And in all of this, Dolan’s strictures must apply: evidence and source sharing — and general data transparency — between the field’s consumers and the purveyors of purported information. Secret knowledge if for conspiracies and cults.

It is worth mentioning that Gaia.com began as a yoga and meditation channel, and has slowly morphed into a ufology speculation channel hosting extensive discussions of myth and history. While scientific rigor is uncommon there, it is not without a voice; still, much more prominent is “spirituality.” While I do not dismiss any of these data and theories out of hand, most must be filed under Epoché — at best.

But we should ask ourselves:

Why is it growing out of hand?

Well, the evidence I know most about does not directly pertain to UFOs, but to government involvement in spreading confusion about UFOs, as testified since the beginning of the public UFO craze in 1947, by figures as diverse Major Donald Keyhoe and Carl Gustav Jung. Government incoherence — or seeming incoherence — on the issue is spreading irrationality. And thus a religious attitude of dogma and lack of interest in hard evidence.
Now, I have to state: this might ALL be a psy-op; SOME of it undoubtedly is. The CIA has been involved in the UFO issue since its inception. Indeed, the CIA was legislatively created one month after the Mt. Rainier “flying saucer” sighting by Kenneth Arnold.

To what extent some people within the Deep State know a whole lot more about the subject than anyone on the outside, and to what extent a subset of those people are actively spreading disinformation about UFOs, including faked encounters, I do not know. But I think the evidence shows that these are factors.

And that gives us this to ponder: no matter what the UFO issue is really about, whether multiform or singular in explanation, our government is involved to an astounding degree, and it is behaving in ways that are inimical to the principles that we associate with republican governance, specifically the sub-ordinance of military to civil government, and civil government to citizen control.

Thoughtful researchers like Richard Dolan are on board with this perspective. Indeed, I know of no non-political interest group with more skepticism about government than the UFO enthusiast and research community. It is a pity that so many of them fall prey to wild flights of fantasy unhinged from evidence, as Richard Dolan decries. But this is in a sense understandable: for on this subject, the proverbial “elephant in the room” is not the UFOs themselves, but the United States’ Deep State.

twv


In his 2009 book, Christian pollster George Barna explores the varieties of religion in America. I’ve mentioned the book before, since I found it extremely interesting. But I just noticed something: he misses the religion that is coming to birth in our time.

There is no mention of UFOs in this book.

This is a big lapse, because, whatever else may be said about the “ancient aliens/flying saucer” aficionados, they are developing their lore at breakneck speed; it is in a foment as wild and diverse as was Christianity during its first 300 years; and there is a prominent and somewhat ominous spiritual component. Further, there are parallels to the bewildering complexion of religion 2000 years ago, with Gnostic, Orthodox, agnostic, philosophical, and misotheist sub-movements.

Of course, it may be that most members of the “seven faith tribes” that Barna explores in his polling data would be (outside his book) very dismissive of the “UFO nuts,” as to be expected.

“Everyone is.”

But that “everyone” is rapidly diminishing — especially now that several branches of the U.S. Government have admitted to the existence of so-far-as-yet-unexplained aerial phenomena that irregularly-but-not-too-infrequently appear in our oceans and skies, and appear to be (in many cases) craft of some kind.

This leaves the emerging religion in a very dangerous position: it could be captured by real beings of unknown variety — or charlatans and fake-outs. (Or both.) The weirdness of it all is quite dangerous.

You may think that Ancient Aliens is just rube entertainment. You would be wrong. I am not saying it is reliable or even mostly non-nut. But I am saying it is reaching increasing numbers of non-dismissive ears and imaginations, and that this is having a spiritual impact and will have an increasing political impact. The last election was truly interesting, since one of the two major candidates explicitly and repeatedly promised this community disclosure on the subject, from the U.S. Government. What this candidate did not appreciate was that she was, from what I can tell, more deeply distrusted in this community than in most. Not a few “UFO nuts” I have encountered believe that Trump was selected by elements within the Deep State to make a big push against her cult, which is regarded as untrustworthy in the extreme. We are talking Q-Anon kinds of conspiracy. PizzaGate and much, much more — but with the arrest and putative death of Jeffrey Epstein, PizzaGate has gained new legs. And even if this particular rumor turns out (as it looks) to be buncombe, the linkages between the trafficking of youngsters for sexual exploitation by the very rich and famous remains a thing.

Precisely what kind of thing, I do not know.

But it is noteworthy that John Podesta and the Clintons, who feature so big in PizzaGate lore, are all proud pushers of UFO disclosure.

With some amusement I also note that I write about UFO stuff more often than any of my friends would like. It creeps them out. As a known sympathizer with Barna’s so-called Captive Christians (odd name!) while having been for years a member in good standing of Barna’s Spiritual Skeptics, my affinity for UFOs may seem a bit out-of-the-blue. So, disclosure: my reasons for often bringing up this matter are not simple, but manifold:

  1. UFOs have influenced our culture greatly, aesthetically and ethically and spiritually;
  2. UFOs appear to have some unsettling truth-value, precisely what I do not know;
  3. Honest people should feel therefore compelled to consider the issue — admittedly bizarre — in non-dismissive ways;
  4. The issue has links to what I regard as most important story of our epoch, the cataclysms at the end of the Ice Age that are pregnant with paradigm-busting potential;
  5. The subject is such an enigma and so fraught with deception and error that it provides a good challenge for nimble minds — as I hope mine can qualify for, for a while at least;
  6. The subject is intimately related to all major traditional religions and esoteric religious traditions as well as to literature (science fiction) and dreams (ask Jung);
  7. The emerging religious movement that is (just barely) contained within the UFO aficionado community almost surely will prove to have a huge impact on our social world, if we manage to survive what’s coming down the pike.

In my first paragraph, I deliberately echoed Catholic theologian John S. Dunne’s opening words in The Way of All the Earth (1972): “Is a religion coming to birth in our time? 

It could be. What seems to be occurring is a phenomenon we might call ‘passing over,’ passing over from one culture to another, from one way of life to another, from one religion to another. Passing over is a shifting of standpoint, a going over to the standpoint of another culture, another way of life, another religion. It is followed by an equal and opposite process we might call ‘coming back,’ coming back with new insight to one’s own culture, one’s own way of life, one’s own religion.’

Until the last several years, ufology was as alien to me as the religion of Ba’al or Quetzelcoatl. In investigating this sphere of inquiry, speculation, fabulation, and bold conjecture, as well as its attendant spiritual components, I am in a sense trying to do what Dunne discussed. And what a weird world it is: strangely familiar understandings of consciousness are what stand out, and stories of resurrection in new bodies (“containers”) and recirculation of souls and the like litter the UFO noösphere — including literal beliefs in the evolution of a noösphere. Notions out of Hinduism, shamanism, Christianity, Norse myth — they are quite varied. And then there are the politico-social movements, like Ubuntu, which I find quite congenial, I confess.

But there is something even bigger on the line here. The truth. There is some truth in the UFO reports. Or, truths. The UFOs are not just misidentified insect swarms, ball lightning and skunk-work test runs. But figuring out exactly what it is? Difficult. I have no intention of doing the dogmatic thing — the pretend-skeptic thing — of dismissing the subject altogether, on the basis of focusing on just a few mistakes, frauds, and confabulations of obvious lunatics. 

An old theory of mine, though, does come into recollection: when I was young, and a Christian, I conjectured that God would be so outside of comprehensibility that any intersection between God and humankind would not look normal, have a normal feel to it at all. So it would be prejudicial to expect that intercourse with actual aliens would be any more comforting or comprehensible than intercourse with gods and angels and devils and the like would seem. An encounter with a Zeta Reticulan or Mantid or what-have-you would likely seem quite different from talking to a Tuvan or trading with a Quaker, as admittedly odd as those encounters can be in themselves.

Approaching a new field of inquiry with a dismissive attitude and strong preconceptions of possibilities might be a display of Dunning-Kruger more than anything else. Some humility might be in order.

And holding ideas in Epoché should hardly be difficult for a “skeptic”!

twv

Hunched over for work. And I cannot right now find my computer glasses.

Why is communism associated with atheism and right wing (capitalism) with theism?

…as answered on Quora…

This can seem puzzling, since some of the most socialist-minded people I know claim to be theists, and the modern libertarian movement, which advocates laissez-faire capitalism with the most reason and vigor, is majority atheist — or at least was, when I was involved (three decades ago) in polling its ranks.

But some of this is historical happenstance. Maybe. Communism/socialism/collectivism grew out of the ferment of the French Enlightenment and Revolution, and that was filled with thinkers who were atheists or at least “flirted” with atheism. Defenders and refiners of the emerging capitalist order, on the other hand, tended to arise out of the Scottish Enlightenment. These people included pious Christians and, more famously, cautious skeptics of theism — David Hume being the most famous, and his friend Adam Smith being even more circumspect than he.

Contrast these two versions of the Enlightenment. The French were more in-your-face, often challenging all establishments at once. The Scots and Englanders and Americans, on the other hand, appealed to the Christian majority, trying to get them to move towards liberalism rather than continue to defend the ancien régime. And there existed Christian dissenters, after all, who got along fine with the more secular liberals, perhaps because they were both trying to peel back the authoritarian state. The French, on the other hand, demonstrated less of a gift for compromise. Indeed, when the Revolutionaries gained power, not only did they disestablish the Church, they stole, er, confiscated, its property and set up a land-backed bond paper issuance that became a fiat currency that then hyperinflated which in turn drove the French people crazy, ushering in the Terror. The British liberals — the Whigs, chiefly — were more interested in a rule of law, in peaceful and mutually beneficial relations, and were reform-minded, not revolutionaries by temperament. Even the American Revolution was more a secession movement than civil revolt, one that relied as much on a nuanced interpretation of tradition than a complete overthrowal of established powers. The founding generation of Americans defended an ordered liberty, not a manic passion to remake the world over, anew, through massive State action.

This divorce in temperament between the two movements has something to do with the split that we see today. Hume was basically an atheist, but carefully hid his beliefs while he lived. Denis Diderot and the Encyclopedists, on the other hand, did not hide their atheism, now, did they?

This carried on into the 19th century. Herbert Spencer, Britain’s most principled liberal and proponent of free markets, was basically an atheist. But he hated the term. He deliberately wrote into his metaphysics a rather mystical component, an appreciation for the Unknowable force that lies underneath all reality, and he insisted that this doctrine disqualified him from the dread label atheist. But, in France, the rising radicalism for “anarchy” and for socialism sported that great misotheist, Pierre Joseph Proudhon. Meanwhile, also in France, the French Liberal School of economists carried on a sort of pious Deism, which can be seen in the works of both Frédéric Bastiat and Gustave de Molinari (who, though Belgian, worked in France, when allowed by its government, and edited Guillaumin’s Journal des Économistes).

By the time you get to Karl Marx, it is apparent that “the revolutionary” just seems to fit better with atheism than theism.

And by this, I mean, memetically, by the mere association of ideas. Not as a matter of truth. (It might be helpful to repeat Scott Adams’s mantra: in some important sense “the facts don’t matter.”)

Whether or not there is a God, or many gods, or none, does not have a logical relationship with the State or any of its policies.

And it gets especially weird when you go back in history and realize that most rulers identified themselves all-too-literally as deities. All this seems ridiculous to us now. But it did not then.

And this is also at play: those who reject any kind of a deity, and, moreover, hate the very idea of a God, tend to compensate with advocacy of some form of statism, seeking to aggrandize the institution of secular power, doubling down on the prestige of government. Politics becomes their religion, the State their Messiah.

I find this absurd. I really feel no commonality with extreme statists — socialists and communists and the like — and would rather that, if people must believe weird things to get by in this weird world, let it be by some fanciful, fantasied deity that allows them to resist the temptation to deify that “coldest of all cold monsters,” the State.

In other words, let us steer clear of the great and manifest evils of communism, state socialism, and all political forms of collectivism. If not “by any means necessary,” then at least by mostly harmless made-up theology.

twv

You see the most obvious typo: “by” when “buy” was meant.

Imagine a religion without beliefs, sans credo, but based upon mere suspicion.

Now consider environmentalism, the ideology in which what should be at best suspicions are held religiously as points of dogma.

Now, briefly to reïterate my long-standing position: anthropogenic global warming sure seems plausible. But that is mere suspicion. Beyond this suspicion, the “science” is all over the map. Sea levels have been rising steadily as measured on east and west coasts of North America since 1850 — long before the great releases of greenhouse gases from modern civilization. And if you look at reliable U.S. temperatures for the last 150 years, it is not at all evident that a general warming has occurred.

So, while there is room for suspicion regarding current and future climatic shifts of possible catastrophic proportions, there is not yet grounds for anything close to certainty.

Yet the dogma on the environmentalist left is clear.

How must we appraise this? Well, as always with religious people, it is by their fruits we shall know them. If they say our coasts are going to be under water in a few years — unless (of course) we act immediately in a massive and transformative way — then you would expect environmentalists to flock to the uplands. It sure is obvious that the “proper” transformative policies they demand are not being adopted.

Because environmentalists are not heading for the hills, I do not believe they really believe in their catastrophe scenarios. They are playing at belief.

Not as suspicion, but as fantasy.

I suspect they do this the better to hate on those who doubt. It is a proven “winning” religious strategy.

twv

A cove in Cape Disappointment.