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Category Archives: Religion

Election 2016: The War In Heaven

Every culture has its leaders and heroes that establish the legitimacy of the social order.  In a society of millions, those at the top of the prestige pyramids are effectively Olympian or Norse Gods of myth.  The human mind is only well designed to handle about 150 relationships at a time, the Dunbar limit.  To conceptualize someone at the top of a pyramid of millions, we need to conceive of a god-like figure with super-human qualities who is the very essence of what they symbolize.  The best person of a thousand is a very unusual person.  Even the lifestyle of the richest person out of every hundred strains our imaginations to the limit.  The highest ranked among millions is as distant from us as a star is from the Earth.  Sure enough, these deities are known as “stars.”

I have pointed out that Hillary Clinton is a high Goddess in the pantheon symbolizing the values of the 60s Cultural Revolution, 3rd wave feminism, civil rights, globalism, equalism, that whole generation of royalty—the boomers.  These values are at the core of everything we are taught to believe in polite homes, at school, in college, and wherever people are paid by salary in the workplace, aka. “real jobs”.  That makes Hillary goddess of our social reality, of the water in which we swim, of the air which we breathe.  Every corporate pamphlet, ad, and webpage with the clean white background, a smug, beaming, plain white woman in her early 30s surrounded by portly brown women in the front row, the non-threatening simpering Asian man to one side.  The middle aged friendly black man with the modest paunch on the other side.  And as always, back in the back row, overlapped by everyone else is one sad looking white man with a weak chin and a watery smile—every one of these images a shrine to the Goddess.  The brochure might as well be one of those portable pocket triptychs from medieval days.

Hillary in her time of need has summoned the lesser Gods to her aid.  Athletes, TV Actors, Movie Actors, Comedians, former officials, ex-presidents, newspapers, TV channels, every person of note in our culture.  They join her in the fight as we’d expect Ares to help out Zeus against the Titans or Thor to battle alongside Odin against the trolls.  Because they are from the same pantheon, they band up without hesitation against forces that challenge the social reality from which they derive their divinity.  We can imagine that even arch-enemies Horus and Set would ally against the Greek or Norse Gods.  Their existence, world view, and vision is intertwined and if they were to be defeated they would together see their power extinguished forever.   What we are witnessing in 2016 is a great war in heaven.  God and all his angels against the usurpers and their teeming legions of demons from the rift.
Against every expectation the fight has reached the gates of the Holy Kingdom itself and laid siege to the battlements of purity.  The chanting demonic legions hold aloft torches smoldering with unholy incense as a burning battering ram, a great steel wolf’s head with flaming nostrils, crashes against the gates.  As every angel, archangel, and saint has thrown themselves into the fray, so every one of them may perish and fade from the starry heavens if they fall.  It is all at stake, tonight and tomorrow.

Some of us speak of policies, the candidates themselves, the political parties, but all of that is secondary to the war that now rages like a Boschian nightmare across the jagged dream terrain of the collective subconscious.
No matter who wins, the damage is done, they will never again rule the heavens unopposed. There has been a great schism across the entire length of the culture.
The NFL, LeBron James, Beyonce, Katy Perry, Jennifer Lopez, West Wing, the Avengers, Saturday Night Live, The Colbert Report, Jay Z, all Hollywood, the pollsters, the authors, the magazines, the newspapers…everything.  For many millions already, these cultural icons are fallen from grace, now merely the chieftains of hostile tribes screaming for war, for eradication of the Other that is us.

See Also:  The Ritual of Unity

Pic Related:

grond_breaks_through_minas_tirith

A Modern Religion Must Be Based In Reality

Theological arguments can somewhat convincingly reason there could be a higher intent in the universe but it’s still easier to attribute everything around us to unguided natural forces.
I think guys like Spinoza approached this the best way:  The universe is sacred because if there is a creative intent, everything that exists is a direct manifestation of God.  This way, we can treat the universe and the natural forces that animate it as God itself.  Laws of physics are the laws of God.
Christian learning inspired by the Ancient Greek philosophy led to science by espousing some attitudes very like this but remained bound to trying to reconcile this mode of reasoning with the teachings of Christ and the traditions of the church.
Since around the time of St. Paul, Christianity incorporated the pagan Greek idea of ideal forms to describe the perfection of heaven.  This meant that everything we see on earth is a pale shadow of a higher reality.  This concept was combined with the Zoroastrian cosmology of earth as a battleground between dualistic forces of good and evil.  The material universe became an illusory and temporary testing ground for our souls.  What started as a Greek-influenced offshoot of a Semitic world view evolved into an ethereal doctrine that possibly shared more in common with Buddhism than a Judaism or Islam that treated God as an unknowable abstraction while dealing with earthly life in legalistic detail.  This made Christianity incompatible with a materialistic world view.
The result was that science coupled with revolutionary Enlightenment values ended up becoming its own nascent religion rather than developing as a school of theology within the church.
Western thought has been bizarrely split ever since, looking for the sacred in a heaven that cannot co-exist with a “dead” physical plane.
The way out of this trap of course is to simply see there is no conflict between the sacred and the material, natural world.
This is perhaps why science has not been as direct a challenge to Islam and Judaism that spend most of their energy dealing with life on earth.  Even the Indian world views of Hinduism and Buddhism seem not to wilt so badly under the scrutiny of science because they do not require the natural world to be governed by supernatural forces.  A Buddhist may see reality as an illusion, but is not beholden to an elaborate theoretical true reality as a matter of faith.  The need for a legalistically defined ethereal realm creates a unique chemistry in Christianity.
Ironically, having reasons to apply legalistic reasoning outside of human social life may have led Christians to discover the laws of reality itself.  The tragedy is they could not embrace the system of natural laws they discovered as the divine expression of God they were looking for all along.  Christians could have developed science into a Sharia law of nature and avoided the great schism between flesh and spirit.

Environmentalism is a school of the Enlightenment science religion that attempts to treat the natural world as holy.  It’s an attempt to move in the right direction, to assign sacred values to the natural world, but it proves inconsistent when one minute we’re told it’s a tragedy if the whales go extinct and the next that our world is an insignificant speck of dust in an enormous universe.  Secular preachers like Carl Sagan could never resist showing off pictures of earth as a blue dot from afar to hammer in their point even as they simultaneously say how wonderful it all is.  Try as they might secular doctrine just can’t quite move past “dead matter” Christian attitude towards the natural world.
The really fatal flaw though is the split between religion and science renders environmentalists unable to deal with human affairs.  So environmentalism begins as a genuine attempt to capture the sacredness and wonder of nature, but ends up by portraying humans as the anti-natural force that must be countered.  The hypocrisy of environmentalism is that it is anti-human because in the secular religion, humans are oddly considered apart from the natural world in stark defiance of their own scientific knowledge.
Even were environmentalism able to incorporate humans as a natural element, it would still mean embracing worship of nature for its own sake seeing meaning in everything.  This would mean a throwback to animistic forms of spirituality typical of the stone age.  As the shallow fads of “New Age” have revealed, this means wandering into yet another trap.

The key for a successful post-Secular religion is to adopt an attitude of a holy universe in the Spinozan sense but to do so with a purpose and a mission.  The trouble with environmentalism is it proposes we should save the whales but offers no reason why it matters.
If we include humans with all the rest of nature we first have to ask, “What makes humans so special?  Why is a human any different than a pebble on Mars or a floating micro-organism?”  The answer is our conscious awareness.  That’s why we’d rank a lizard over a mushroom and a dog over a lizard.  Awareness is existence, without which the universe is empty.  There may be whole planets of fantastic landscapes covered in gardens of iridescent lichen but nothing to “witness” them.
Environmentalists insist on the intrinsic beauty of nature but miss out on the need for beauty to be perceived, or else it is wasted.
Because we see the intrinsic value of conscious awareness itself, it makes a pretty good foundation.  Furthermore it sets humans apart from inanimate matter or lesser living things without having to lie to ourselves that humans and human affairs are separate from the rest of nature.  By the same principle we also reason smarter humans of higher consciousness are more valuable than simpletons.  This paves the way for both eugenics and a meritocracy of intellect promoted by the state religion itself.  We have a reason to try to preserve and spread the human species.  It has potential to inspire us to be our best and then become better than we are.
Such doctrines would lead eventually to trans-humanism and practical immortality—to the rise of awareness that transcends humans as we transcend pets and livestock.
In a poetic way of thinking, those of awareness form the organ by which the universe knows itself, in other words—to become the mind God.

Towards A Post-Secular Religion

Religion remains widespread but we can’t pretend it exerts the same power over human imagination and behavior as it used to.   No one takes it quite seriously.  There are many who still go to church but with the notable exception of Muslims it would be difficult to find more than a handful of zealots who would kill or die for their religion.  And this is probably because Islam is not just made of airy ideas of God and heaven but is at least as heavily concerned with governing earthly culture, law, and politics.  By this comparison we can readily see that separation of church and state is a death blow for traditional religions.  A serious religion cannot be excluded from the state any more than gravity or magnetism could be excluded from the purview of science.  So a modern religion must encompass the entire spectrum of humanity and human endeavor and not linger as a weak, de-fanged figurehead.

We have discovered through hard trial and error that a society without a sense of larger purpose drifts into nihilism and despair.  Ever since the Enlightenment gave rise to the “separation of church and state” leaders have looked for a convincing tofu substitute for meat.  From Lenin and Hitler to Lincoln, leaders all over the world have tried to create the sacred from the secular.  Of all the secular ideologies, Nazi-ism may have come closest to generating real religious zeal but it burnt out in a few short years.  The American faith of individual and national Exceptionalism also has shown potential to inspire, but only when the going was good.  It’s easy to cheer for a home team that’s winning, so it doesn’t really count.  It’s a weak religion that can be killed by a slow economy when Judaism survived repeated conquest and exile.  All attempts at Enlightenment secular faith have ultimately failed at the thankless task of cultivating vigor and cohesion from barren soil.  No matter how it gets re-packaged, a society that is for everyone is for no-one.

The first step is to have some sort of core identity.  Islam requires enough hard-to-fake signalling that it actually means something to be part of the in-group.  Meanwhile, most Christian denominations welcome any warm body that shows up and aren’t too much more than a weekend social club for adults.  Some kind of ethnic and cultural identification helps form the core, even if it just applies to the founders.

Next, a core group has to have a grand mission to fulfill, usually to help the in-group against the out-group.  For Judaism it was the imperative to preserve and pursue the interests of the chosen people against every conceivable obstacle.
A successful mission has the ability to inspire from the top to the bottom.  A religion requires a mainstream version that addresses the needs of most people but it also needs loftier schools of philosophy, scholasticism, and mysticism to satisfy the intellects of smart and educated people.  One thing I admire about Catholicism is its scholarly tradition.  It has lasted as long as it has because it had roles for outliers.
This is a major failing of Protestant Christianity.  Because it was a reaction against Catholicism all emphasis was on the needs of the common man while neglecting the intellectual traditions.  Like most reactions, including the Enlightenment, it overcompensated in the opposite direction rather than finding a golden mean.  I was stunned when I opened a catholic bible for the first time as a teenager and saw archaeological explanations of the origins of each book with an analysis of the time and place.  To this day, many Protestant strains offer up a bible of texts from thousands of years ago without any interpretation.  It’s a mind-numbingly stupid approach for anyone who likes to think.  Protestantism as a newer experiment in religion hasn’t yet developed the traditions of exegesis that provide endless hours of entertainment for nerds and shore up the philosophical foundations of the faith.
Meanwhile, more estoteric schools of Buddhism like Zen might be examples of ideologies that favor the intellectual side with little to offer to ordinary people, but there’s mass market versions of Buddhism out there too.
The modern religion of secularism backed by holy science fails completely, though, because it offers no mission to anyone, really.  We’re just here on this rock in space, everyone’s interchangeable, and there’s a faith-based doctrine of eternal progress that inevitably gets discredited with time.  A real religion has to have answers during down times if it wants to last, not just when things are going forward as planned.  People have to have a reason to keep going even when the home team loses.  The insipid gruel of modernity has never yet succeeded in sustaining a people.  We need something better.

The chaos of impending neo-tribalism will give us plenty of new groups all looking for their own answers to the big questions within the secular vacuum.  Those that come up with the best formulas will become the ruling tribes and the lesser tribes will be placed in castes beneath until a new order eventually emerges from our modern dark ages.

The Myth of A Europe United Against the Turks

Many modern day nationalists look back fondly on a fabled age where the Turks were twice driven back from the very gates of Vienna.

What they never seem to mention is that plenty of European powers would have liked to see the fall of Vienna and with it the threat of Habsburg power.

The Habsburgs were the European superpower of the time, with the crowns of the Spanish and Austrian empires united under one family, which included enormous bullion rich territories in the New World.

European powers such as France were more than willing to make deals or even alliances with the Ottomans if it meant taking some pressure off of them by diverting the overwhelming military power and wealth of the Habsburgs.

I’ve met far too many people who like to interpret Euro history first as a conflict between Christianity and Islam when the truth is far more complex.

LINK

France and Ottoman

Francis I of France and his ally, Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire

Averroes: An Islamic Philosopher Who Influenced Christian Theology

“Averroes is generally regarded as the greatest of the Islamic philosophers of the Medieval period and indeed one of the greatest Medieval philosophers. Nicknamed ‘The Commentator’ (because of his incisive commentaries on Aristotle), Averroes’ thought has two main strands…
Christian Averroists represented the most radical assimilation of Muslim Aristotelianism, adhering to Averroes’ supremacy of reason over revelation and the theory of the eternity of the world. Such heterodox views brought Siger and the Averroists into conflict with the Established Church and many of their propositions were rejected in the Condemnation of 1277…
The influence of Averroes (and also of Avicenna) on the development of Later Medieval Christian thought is therefore unequivocal. But this intellectual debt to Islam is very rarely mentioned in our times. When one considers the further development of the modern West, based on a paradigm of rational enquiry, it is Averroes who seems to best anticipate this model within the medieval epoch.”

LINK

Averroes

Averroes

Islamic Extremists in London

Nestorian Christianity in the Mongol Hordes

Nestorian missionaries made it all the way into the steps of Central Asia where they found willing converts.

No one ever seems to mention that even some of the leaders of the Mongol hordes were in fact, Christians.

To be more precise, Christianity existed more or less harmoniously with animistic beliefs in the “Eternal Blue Sky” or ‘Khukh Tengri.’

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_among_the_Mongols

Mongke Khan

Mongke Khan

The Problem With The Israeli Economy

Officially, Israel’s unemployment rate is about 8%. But that doesn’t include Israeli citizens who are not trying to find work, either because they feel disenfranchised, such as many Arab Israelis, or because they’ve chosen a life of state-subsidized religious study, such as many ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Nearly 27% of Arab men and 65% of ultra-Orthodox Jews don’t work, government figures show. The non-employment rate for ultra-Orthodox men has tripled since 1970, Ben-David said. Link

Since it also has been traditional for most Haredi men not to work at making a living, but to devote themselves to religious studies, the political parties, often holding the balance of power in coalition governments, also became useful for extracting financial concessions from governments wanting to stay in power.

With a birthrate several times that of other Jewish Israelis, the Haredim have an average of 8.9 children per family and constitute more than 10 per cent of the population of seven million. Link

Youth gangs from the community of Sudanese and Eritrean refugees have in recent weeks been swamping Tel Aviv beaches and stealing bathers’ belongings, according to police. Most of the thefts have occurred on Tel Aviv’s major beaches. Authorities attribute the thefts to the increase in the number of refugees who have come to the city this year, and the lack of employment opportunities for them. Police say the stolen goods and money are sufficient for a day’s existence; they expect more such incidents to occur.

Eritrean and Sudanese refugees start arriving at the beach at noon, say police, especially to the strip between Jerusalem Beach and Mezizim/Peepers’ Beach. Some try to find day-labor jobs in the morning, but some who fail allegedly try to earn their daily keep by preying on beach-goers instead. Link h/t Aurini

Most ultra-Orthodox Jews lack the skills to work in a modern economy, having studied little or no math and science beyond primary school (their curriculum focuses almost entirely on religious texts such as the Torah and Talmud). As a result, more than 60 percent live below the poverty line, compared with 12 percent among non-Haredi Jews. Most also opt out of military service, which is compulsory for other Israelis. The net effect: as the Haredi community expands, the burden of both taxation and conscription falls on fewer and fewer Israelis.

According to pollsters, Haredim are consistently hawkish on the question of territorial compromise with the Palestinians, citing God’s covenant with Abraham granting Jews the land of Israel. Already the parties that represent them wield significant political power in Israel’s coalition-based system.

Link

Has the Way Humans Experience Consciousness Changed Over Time?

Jaynes’s theory can be broken down into four independent hypotheses:

1. Consciousness — as he carefully defines it — is a learned process based on metaphorical language.

2. That preceding the development of consciousness there was a different mentality based on verbal hallucinations called the bicameral (‘two-chambered’) mind.

3. Dating the development of consciousness to around the end of the second millennium B.C. in Greece and Mesopotamia. The transition occurred at different times in other parts of the world.

4. The neurological model for the bicameral mind.

LINK

“Why do doctors and priests recommend orgasm?”

The Influence of Zoroastrianism On Abrahamic Faiths

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