December 29th, 2005

What hath monotheism wrought?

This will be a short riff–a mere sketch, really–sparked by a comment that was part of an interview in the NY Times Magazine, drawn to my attention by this post of Gerard Van der Leun’s at American Digest.

A historian named Peter Watson, author of the recent Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention, From Fire to Freud, is being interviewed by the Times:

Q: What do you think is the single worst idea in history?

WATSON: Without question, ethical monotheism. The idea of one true god. The idea that our life and ethical conduct on earth determines how we will go in the next world. This has been responsible for most of the wars and bigotry in history.

Q: But religion has also been responsible for investing countless lives with meaning and inner richness.

WATSON: I lead a perfectly healthy, satisfactory life without being religious. And I think more people should try it.

I suggest you read Van der Leun’s post, which skewers Watson so effectively and thoroughly that there’s no need for me to even attempt to add anything to that endeavor (although Watson proves himself to be an enticing target by managing to be exceptionally condescending to both taxi drivers and the institution of the novel, which he says offers truths that “don’t stay with you very long or help you do much”–speak for yourself, Watson!)

Although Watson is billed as a historian, his background is not as a historian per se, it’s as a journalist and, of all things, a psychiatrist (he left the field way back in the 60s).

As Van der Leun points out, Watson is somehow ignoring the vast good that ethical monotheism has done in setting up our entire “inner-directed system of morals.” It is indeed extraordinary that Watson can call it “the single worst idea in history,” whatever suffering has been inflicted, at times, in its name.

What is going on here, besides the fact that Watson considers himself to be both an atheist and a fine fellow, and conveniently ignores the underpinnings of the society of which he is a member, and the fruits of which he enjoys? Well, although Watson shows himself in the short but decidedly unsweet Times interview to be both elitist and arrogant, my guess is that he’s not quite as dumb as he sounds.

What I believe is actually lurking somewhere in the background of Watson’s murky thoughts is a different but tangentially related idea, once that is worth discussing. That thought is the following: religions which teach that (1) they are not just the answer, but the only answer, and (2) this answer is the only one for everyone on earth, and (3) this answer must be spread not just by proselytizing but also by violence, if necessary, and (4) great rewards in the afterlife will be bestowed on those who spread that religion through violence–such religions are indeed responsible for a great deal of suffering on earth, past and present.

Right now, however, the list of religions that fit that description is rather short. In fact, the only one I know of happens to be Islam–in fact, only certain subgroups of Islam. But ’tis enough, ’twill serve.

41 Responses to “What hath monotheism wrought?”

  1. Ymarsakar Says:

    Beware, for the Apocalypse Troll. Don’t believe me? Google it and see for yourself, on the red button.

  2. zipper Says:

    Also, see Hugh hewitt. Post of January sixth. The Pope on Islam an the West.

  3. zipper Says:

    Also, see Hugh hewitt. Post of January sixth. The Pope on Islam an the West.

  4. zipper Says:

    jihadwatch.org

  5. aqualung Says:

    Yeah, well Anonymous, your quick wit has me speechless again…

    Hey you guys, there are some ousted school board members in PA you might want to hook up with.

    I know this is off topic, but isn’t it amazing how a blog like this, wanting to keep current and all, is assiduously avoiding any discussion of the Abramoff scandal. I would think the author would at least make some attempt to spin it; but avoiding mention of it altogether? It’s front page news everywhere, along with DeLay, Cunningham, Tobin, etc. I mean, there are a lot of conservatives in Washington and elsewhere who will be leaving office soon in order to spend more time in prison. They are going to need something to read, no?

  6. zipper Says:

    sufi pufi.

    The teaching is in the Koran.

    See Robert Spencer at jihad.org

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Aqualung,
    Several have refuted it, you just can’t read.

  8. aqualung Says:

    Reason is enough for me. I see no need for extra-rational thoughts or beliefs. I am amazed at the number of seemingly thoughtful and intelligent people who live otherwise rational lives, who become completely irrational when it comes to a belief in a god and an afterlife in the absence of any proof of either. They cling to superstition, myth and the supernatural as if to a life preserver! Relgious fervor, afterall, is viewed as a manifestation of a formal thought disorder if one is a member of a cult, but is considered “spirituality” if professed by an adherant of a mainstream religion! And the idea that only Islam teaches intolerance for other beliefs? What a load of self-delusional crap that is! And not a single poster here has refuted in any way the fact that religion has caused more war and death than any other single idea in history.

  9. tequilamockingbird Says:

    All religious scholars, it seems, can quote chapter and verse to support their bigoted ideas.

    Monotheism, multitheism: I think organized — and I’ll underline “organized” –religion is the marketplace of charlatans and the refuge of fools.

    I’m agnostic. The world is wonderful and its origin is mysterious. I don’t know how life on earth began or evolved, and neither do you, gentle reader. Nor do any of those TV evangelists who I sincerely hope will be condemned to an everlasting hell.

    Every society has had its creation myths, and we’ve got ours. I don’t think they’re any more valid than those of the Romans or the Greeks. The idea that my Christianity is superior to your Islamism, or vice versa, is flat out nonsense.

    tequilamockingbird

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Kip before you start in with skewered delicious irony and all that baloney, you need to do your homework.

    Islam clearly states that Jesus of Nazareth was a mere prophet. If that is indeed the case then Christianity is shattered on the rocks and cannot be fixed. All aspects of Islam’s “noble cousin” are rendered NULL AND VOID.

    The two are not cousins. They are in fact mortal enemies. And only a fool is confused in the presence of a mortal enemy.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    Brad’s so-called “great arc of civilization from Plato to Luther (described by Hegel)” actually describes a wild deviation from correct Christian thought that ultimately evolved into the fundamentalist-islamo-facist violence freedom-loving societies struggle against at present.

    The wide acceptance by the cultural and religeous elites of Luther’s rabid and doctrinally unfounded anti-semetism and the later acceptance of Hegel’s position that citizens exist only for service to the state combined to give a racist and opportunist Hitler all the tools he needed to ultimately gain political control of Germany and create the Nazi-German state.

    Facism then easily combined with Islam to become the pre-aborted brother of Nazi facism with the additional tumor of Islamic fundamentalism growing within it. Study the history of the Baath party for details.

    Why the foregoing comment?

    Is seems that many commenters here wish to cast correctly applied Christian philosphy, incorrectly applied Christian philosphy, and Islamic philosphy into the same mono-theistic spectrum analyzer. This is an aggregious logical error.

    Unless one is actually attempting to debate the entire raw concept of monotheism (a dubious proposition, at best), the answer to the question “What hath monotheism wrought?” can only be answered in the context of which monotheistic belief system one is attempting to analyze. So then the actual process of answering the question can only be a critical assessment of the relative benefits each system has provided mankind.

    To put it another way, I can assure you that in a vacuum of the love and tolerance for mankind that Christians are truly called to display, the entirety of Islam would be quite radioactive by now.

    Likewise, outside the vacuum of scientific understanding and technological capability that Islamic facists are terminally blessed with, the entirety of Christendom would likewise be quite radioactive as well.

    To analyze all monotheistic belief systems in one generalized attempt is just poor process, as attractive as that may be for biased observers from the camps of various other worldviews.

  12. Kip Says:

    Well, that’s deliciously ironic.

    You attempt to skewer the prat (I have no argument with that, the prat deserved be skewered), but instead you almost prove his point!

    You vaguely identify yourself as a supporter of Christianity, and then you make an intellectually lame and unreasoned attack on one of the world’s great religions – Islam, noble cousin of Christianity – in lockstep with the other fools of the anti-Muslim mob.

    Thus you give ammunition to the God-hating atheists, and reinforce their argument that Christianity is a cause of human conflict. The argument is untrue, human stupidity and wickedness are the causes of conflict, which Christianity (and Islam) have only imperfectly ameliorated. Unfortunately – and much to our political harm – such stupidity and wickedness is well on display on the Right in recent years. Where Christ calls for peace, you all howl for blood.

    And I say this as a Christian conservative myself, but one with the wit to distinguish a religious man from a Fascist.

  13. Ymarsakar Says:

    Brad, a very well said post. And I do believe zenophobia is derived from Zionism, as in Zionnophobia.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    I believe that there is no God. I’m beyond atheism. Atheism is not believing in God. Not believing in God is easy — you can’t prove a negative, so there’s no work to do. You can’t prove that there isn’t an elephant inside the trunk of my car. You sure? How about now? Maybe he was just hiding before. Check again. Did I mention that my personal heartfelt definition of the word “elephant” includes mystery, order, goodness, love and a spare tire?

    You’re mixing up your terms. “Not believing in God” is called agnosticism. “Believing there is no god” is atheism.

    If atheism is a religion, then bald is a hair style.

    - Anonymous USENET poster gets it more right than he wanted to

  15. rickl Says:

    Did I just post that to the wrong thread? Yes, it appears to be so.

    Sorry, never mind. Just carry on with your discussion.

    Like I said, no social skills…

  16. rickl Says:

    How did I react to my change? With silence. You see, having lived a lifetime on the Left myself, I instantly realized that my new outlook would not be greeted as an intellectual curiosity, to be questioned politely and challenged through reasoned argument.

    Instead, I would be deemed to have gone to the dark side. After all, if Bush is evil, his followers must be evil too…

    Since I don’t have much tact or social skills, I just let fly. Damn the torpedos!

    On the other hand, I don’t have many friends left… :)

  17. Justin Olbrantz (Quantam) Says:

    So, anyone with a love for truth outside of herself has to start with no belief in God and then look for evidence of God. She needs to search for some objective evidence of a supernatural power. All the people I write e-mails to often are still stuck at this searching stage. The atheism part is easy.

    But, this “This I Believe” thing seems to demand something more personal, some leap of faith that helps one see life’s big picture, some rules to live by. So, I’m saying, “This I believe: I believe there is no God.”
    No, actually there is no logical difference between theism and atheism, in a vacuum of data. Both are taking by faith what cannot be proved empirically. Did the police officer pull the kid over because he was speeding, or because he was black? Your response, in the absence of knowing the details, depends on who you give the benefit of the doubt to.
    Believing there’s no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I’m wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don’t travel in circles where people say, “I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith.” That’s just a long-winded religious way to say, “shut up,” or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, “How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do.” So, believing there is no God lets me be proven wrong and that’s always fun. It means I’m learning something.
    In theory yes, you may be more open to evidence than someone who bases their beliefs on a religious text. In practice, however, only a few things are taken as absolute truths by those who are religious, and so the loss isn’t significant (as most of the stuff is unprovable anyway).
    Believing there’s no God means I can’t really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That’s good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.
    That’s arguably true (it could also be argued that many people would not forgive you at all, regardless of your kindness, or that it would be difficult to atone for some large sins), but that’s only one side of the coin. Believing there is no god means no accountability, and thus no absolute responsibility to do right. I don’t know of that many religions that offer forgiveness freely; Islam, for one, believes that your salvation rests on your good works outnumbering your evil works.
    Believing there is no God means the suffering I’ve seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn’t caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn’t bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future.
    I’d say that side of the coin is dwarfed by the reverse: that there is no divine help in times of troubles. Man has power through technology, but not half so much as nature. Man will always be a victim of nature, although technology can somewhat attenuate that. Having an omnipotent being leaves the possibility of salvation from that which man cannot control.

  18. Anonymous Says:

    I believe that there is no God. I’m beyond atheism. Atheism is not believing in God. Not believing in God is easy — you can’t prove a negative, so there’s no work to do. You can’t prove that there isn’t an elephant inside the trunk of my car. You sure? How about now? Maybe he was just hiding before. Check again. Did I mention that my personal heartfelt definition of the word “elephant” includes mystery, order, goodness, love and a spare tire?

    So, anyone with a love for truth outside of herself has to start with no belief in God and then look for evidence of God. She needs to search for some objective evidence of a supernatural power. All the people I write e-mails to often are still stuck at this searching stage. The atheism part is easy.

    But, this “This I Believe” thing seems to demand something more personal, some leap of faith that helps one see life’s big picture, some rules to live by. So, I’m saying, “This I believe: I believe there is no God.”

    Having taken that step, it informs every moment of my life. I’m not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough. It has to be enough, but it’s everything in the world and everything in the world is plenty for me. It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more. Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I’m raising now is enough that I don’t need heaven. I won the huge genetic lottery and I get joy every day.

    Believing there’s no God means I can’t really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That’s good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.

    Believing there’s no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I’m wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don’t travel in circles where people say, “I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith.” That’s just a long-winded religious way to say, “shut up,” or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, “How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do.” So, believing there is no God lets me be proven wrong and that’s always fun. It means I’m learning something.

    Believing there is no God means the suffering I’ve seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn’t caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn’t bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future.

    Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-O and all the other things I can prove, and that makes this life the best life I will ever have.

    –Penn Jillette

  19. Brad Says:

    No Troutsky, the New World would have been conquered, and millions killed, without monotheism; Khan would have depopulated countless cities and destroyed entire civilizations without it, and did; the Roman empire would have been built without it, and was; Attila would have ravaged Gaul without it, and did. The Hundred Years War, the Thirty Years War, all of the wars between the English and the French, the internal wars that destroyed the Maya, the pre-colonial tribal conquest of central Africa, etc…. All would have been fought in some form or another without monotheism, and many were. In contrast, the destruction of more than a hundred million lives during the last century, which dwarfs the total for all the conflicts mentioned above, and which was due to “the MOST destructive idea in history,” could have been avoided and had nothing to do with monotheism. That idea came from Rousseau, via Marx, and was implemented by Lenin, with help from Trotsky, Mao, Pol Pot, et al. The idea of Man as God was also part of National Socialism. Neither you nor Ron seem to grasp history; and a quote from Luther (or was it Lex Luthor?) does nothing to change the arc of human progress, and the place that the Reformation had in it, that has brought us the current respect for the individual.

    And Troutsky, your use of the “racist and zenophobic” label (it’s xenophobic BTW) is tiresome and silly.

  20. Anonymous Says:

    The Cold War proved to just about everyone that religion can never be excised from either individuals or societies; eliminate mythological gods, and people will instead worship their leaders with the same mindless and deadly devotion. Atheism is not a step forward, but a step back from monotheism, and even polytheism. It seeks to set individual people up as gods, ignoring the fact that only mythological beings can be trusted to wield such power responsibly.

  21. Paul Says:

    I think that religion has a place in the world just as love and mercy do. However, I shrink from anyone who says that his, or her, way is the ONLY way.

  22. RickInNY Says:

    Religion is not responsible for man’s inhumanity to man. It’s our judgement, our political views, our social differences, and the evil that emanates from those factors that create the horrors of history. Man is responsible, not God.

    We’ve been debating God’s existence for several thousand years now. Either He exists, or he does not. Either Christ is who He said He was, or he was a fraud. Someone will be right about the debate, and someone will be wrong. If you believe, your view of the world is unalterably changed. If you do not believe, man is god, and your view of the world is unalterably changed.

    While I do not subscribe to the philosophy behind Paschal’s Wager, it is instructive. Google it.

    And then go see Narnia.

  23. panther33 Says:

    Watson: “most of the wars…in history”. Notice that he doesn’t even try to support this ridiculous assertion. In the west, at least, one would have to go back hundreds of years to find a major war that was primarily religion-driven. Perhaps this is the leftist academic argument for the origin of human conflict? Leftist historians have traditionally held that capitalism and the drive for profits caused all the wars. Now religion is the bogeyman, but not any particular religion – just “ethical monotheism” in general. Very thoughtful and nuanced. No wonder these guys get paid the big bucks.

  24. Ymarsakar Says:

    Even if its adherents are not any worse than non-believers, it doesn’t seem their religion has made them better despite contrary claims.

    If Christianity has not made people better, or people made Christianity better, then why are Christian charities doing such good works in this world?

    As opposed to say, terroist charities funding racism, terrorism, and socialism.

    Christianity never did claim it was the religion of Peace and Love in the Crusade days. You’re mixing up the timelines here. Since Christianity did not support violence for the last 100 years, certainly the Catholic Church and the Pope decry wars. It wasn’t until the gentler softer version of Christianity came into being, which was post Calvinism and post Brimstone, that the “Jesus Christ loves you and all of humanity” tone started being produced. And as such, most Christians really are like that. If they support a war, they do so based upon Just War Theory.

    It really doesn’t appear accurate that the logical assumption that Christianity says peace but supports violence when you consider the extreme number of factions, diversity, and theological debate that is the result of democratic temporal governance and not religious zealotry.

    Religion, like liberty and prosperity, survives most actively when a people is free and governed by democratic and self-rule.

    As such, there really is no problem with the statement that monotheism has not caused most of the wars in history, as Watson has tried to claim the opposite. It is patently untrue given the real history of humanity.

  25. Megan Says:

    It always bothers me when so called “intellectuals” make statements like this. They make these all encompassing statements like ‘religion is the most horrible idea of all time’…and yet they tend to complain that conservatives make over-generalizations and stereotypes.

    Does this person remember the last 100 years? Communism and Nazism weren’t monotheistic religions. Many people are under the impression that Hitler was a Christian, which is far from the truth. And Stalin created an entire nation without God…just as North Korea has no God other than the Kim with bad hair.

    Great post, as usual, Neo!

  26. Judith Says:

    “Ron seems to understand that it is the “absolute truth claim” made by ALL religions which is necessarily going to cause friction but that the DEGREE of friction may vary (as with the Amish).”

    It only causes friction if it is imposed on others against their will, or if active proselytizing becomes really obnoxious. Evangelicals can be really obnoxious. Harmless, but annoying.

    If people believe they have the absolute truth but don’t try to buttonhole or threaten others, how does that cause friction?

    “The racist and zenophobic belief that this tendency towards violent fundamentalism only springs from Islam and that there is some liberal conspiracy to hide this evil truth clearly identifies its believers as wack.”

    So tell me about all the violent fundamentalism from Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, etc. as normative in their religions. I’m not talking about a few abortion doctor assassinations or a few West Bank settlers shooting Palestinians. These acts are not normative for those religions and are condemned immediately by the mainstream. Aggressive violent intimidation of unbelievers IS normative for Islam, has been for centuries, and is approved of by their mainstream.

    I don’t know about Hindus. There is a tremndous amount of violence between Hindus and Muslims in India. I am willing to believe the Muslims are the instigators, because of Islam’s record.

  27. Sigmund, Carl and Alfred Says:

    I read the interview and I’ve read this post and all comments. I am grateful to have lived in NYC for a while- long enough to undertand the nuanced meaning of the word ‘shmuck’.

    Watson is a shmuck. Nuff said.

  28. Ron Says:

    There is also kind of a reverse problem; A Roman Senator doesn’t claim that Roman culture is the culture of Peace and Love. Rome is for Romans!

    But what am I to think when “peaceful” Christianity (among others) allows, permits, condones, and encourages the most non-peaceful of behaviors? Even if its adherents are not any worse than non-believers, it doesn’t seem their religion has made them better despite contrary claims.

  29. Paul Says:

    Dr. Watson is an example of a little learnin’ is a dangerous thing. In the pre-Columbian Eden of the Americas the locals regularly engaged in ritual human sacrifice, cannibalism, wars of genocidal extermination, torture, slavery, plus lots more I’ve forgotten. If you read E. O. Wilson, he points out the the murder rate in primitive societies is ten times the rate in Western countries even including the deaths in major wars like WWII.

    I’m afraid that the problems Watson describes have nothing to do with religion and everything to do with the nature of the human animal. Like it or not, that’s our basic nature, especially when unconstrained by the strictures of religion and the law.

  30. troutsky Says:

    No Brad,actually one can logically accept” religion is responsible for countless horrors” and that there were horrors prior to religion nor that other factors havent contributed since. They are not mutually exclusive.Similarly, Neo, one can think the belief in”one true God”is the MOST destructive idea in history and still believe ethical monotheism has done a “vast amount of good”.He may simply believe the bad outweighs the good, as do many.To deny that a vast number of Christians believe theirs is the only Way or that they actively proselytize around the globe or that violence is condoned and even rewarded in the afterlife is absurd.

    Ron seems to understand that it is the “absolute truth claim” made by ALL religions which is necessarily going to cause friction but that the DEGREE of friction may vary (as with the Amish).

    The racist and zenophobic belief that this tendency towards violent fundamentalism only springs from Islam and that there is some liberal conspiracy to hide this evil truth clearly identifies its believers as wack.

  31. Dymphna Says:

    neo–

    I’m glad you picked up on that remark. I can’t remember where i saw him quoted. Haven’t been over to Gvl lately –when he was moving I kept checking back and then forgot. I will be sure to go, though. One of the best writers around.

    As for monotheism…it figures a failed psychiatrist would spout that silliness. Freud can have that effect on the fragile, as did Marx…psychiatry seems to attract some of the most compassionate and lyrical people, and some of the most hateful jerks going…there doesn’t seem to be a middle.

    Some people simply don’t have the God gene. I think of it that way, just as some people have a tin ear and cannot really “hear” music. ‘Tis a biological quirk, like the variety in taste buds, or color blindness.

    Because of the peer pressure of elitism in Europe and in the academe/media/elite structure in this country, spiritual belief is permitted only to be vague and never, ever to have religious rules, strictures or orthodoxies. This from a group of people strangling on their own orthodoxy.

    Lately I’ve been doing this riff –keeps going thru my mind and ending up on my blog or in comments…a kind of undertone to it all:

    Imagine there’s no media
    It’s so easy if you try
    No academic piffle
    No more absurdist lies…

    Imagine all the people
    Left to be themselves…

    BTW, I was given Bostum’s book on Jihad for Christmas. What a densely packed work! Amazing that a nice Jewish doctor could learn Arabic and spend years collecting information…an incredible tome that’s being dissed because he hasn’t the “credentials” to write such a massive work since he’s only a physician.

    Right. So was Luke. And Shakespeare’s “credentials” (since you quoted my favorite line from Mercutio) are still being argued about. Dalrymple had a piece on him in a recent City Journal.

    This poor deluded soul — Watson? — deserves pity more than censure. But I do love such certitude; it can be a warm blanket in the face of despair, no? Heavens, though, imagine the world without Jane Austen. Don’t tell him but Watson may be a twit.

    Thanks for the heads-up on your piece. You’d make a good columnist, you know.

    This may not sound like a compliment but it is: what makes your work so readable and what gives you a loyal following is the calm, quotidian kind of observing you do. It’s like taking a walk with a friend and just chatting. There is a warm serenity about it…

    …that’s what makes people come back. And you have just the right mix of angry trolls to give things a bit of spark. They’re all mad at you because you deserted The Real True Religion.

    I have very few trolls and those are insane. Yours are merely angrily mistaken and obviously bereft.

    Happy New Year, Neo. May it be prosperous, free from calamity, and may you have the wisdom and peace to enjoy it!

    ~!D

    PS I am working on a piece for Neighborhood. When it’s done, I’ll let you know because the subject will interest you.

    With *that* blog, I never know where I’m going to end up. As I told Shrinkwrapped, it’s good to have two blogs to keep up so you can feel guilty about neglecting one…

    BTW, if another opening ever appears in the Council, I ask that you re-consider nominating yourself. Yeah, it’s a bit time-consuming, briefly(on Wed or Thurs), but you’re exposed to stuff you wouldn’t see otherwise. Besides, it would be fun to pack the Council with therapists — Sanity, Shrinkwrapped, and you.

  32. Ron Says:

    Luthor? He had no problems with putting heretics to death, and, I doubt, could hardly be called a ‘rationalist.’ “Rip out the eyes of thy reason and replace it with the wisdom of the Lord,” I believe he said. Aquinas? “Heretics must be put from the world by death.” These quotes are just the tip of the iceberg.

    That modern Christianity is not so bloodthirsty is certainly true, but isn’t that more due to the decline of Church power than any moral insights? “It’s not because they’ve gotten more moral that they’ve stop persecuting us,” as Nietzsche said barely a 100 years ago.

    Watson, doesn’t particularly impress me, but there’s way too much apolgia for ‘ethical monotheistic’ religions as well. Perhaps a more sober, thought out critique is needed…

  33. Brad Says:

    That common phrase – that religion (Christianity) is responsible for countless horrors, etc… – is another logical fallacy. In order to buy it, one must believe or prove two things: 1) That before monotheism, people were pretty nice to one another; and 2) that all of the wars of conquest, inquisitions (actually excuses to rob and expel), and other atrocities committed since, let’s say, the conversion of Rome would not have happened if not for monotheism. In addition, one would have discount the great arc of civilization from Plato to Luther (described by Hegel, I believe) and beyond that has brought us the modern concepts of human rights and human decency.

  34. Ymarsakar Says:

    WATSON: Without question, ethical monotheism. The idea of one true god. The idea that our life and ethical conduct on earth determines how we will go in the next world. This has been responsible for most of the wars and bigotry in history.

    Watson needs to channel the Roman Emperors and the Polytheism of both the barbarians and civilization, maybe then he will understand some real history instead of the crap he churns out.

    zipper: I don’t believe Sufis,
    I don’t believe a lot of people know who Sufis are, and I think most Muslims are just fine with that lack of knowledge of their enemies.

    Although Watson is billed as a historian, his background is not as a historian per se, it’s as a journalist and, of all things, a psychiatrist (he left the field way back in the 60s).

    You could tell that by his assumption that his 100 year knowledge of history counts as the complete compendium on human historical developments.

    Right now, however, the list of religions that fit that description is rather short.

    Atheism is one of them. The idea that they don’t believe there is a God, and that nobody else should be allowed by Law to believe in one either.

    One of the reasons the 1st Ammendment is not the foundation of human rights in the US is because the 1st Ammendment can be turned against you and other people’s freedoms. Based upon that, having a foundation that may up and erupt in pieces is not a good idea.

    Get another foundation, a stronger more robust and longer lasting one. Such as the 2nd Ammendment.

  35. Goesh Says:

    I don’t know, them Amish could put a machinegun in the back of a buggy and attack the White House! That is about as absurd as ‘intellectuals’ in denial of there being a real, ongoing threat from fundamentalist islam. You make good points, Judith, and of course Neo is brilliant as usual.

  36. Judith Says:

    I get into arguments about this with people who say “religion is bad” or “fundamentalism is bad” or enough of hypenated Americanism, everyone should assimilate, etc.

    The most recent was a panel discussion on “what to do about militant Islam?” I attended. The participants were urbane intellectuals who did believe there was a problem but made sweeping statements about “fundamentalists” and “assimilation.”

    I said this during the Q&A: No one says this about the Amish, and few say it about ultra-Orthodox Jews. why not? They live in insulated communities, they shun modern culture, often including internet and phones, they wear funny clothes, they speak their own language, they are fundamentalists, their whole community is organized around their religious life, they are fiercely monotheistic.

    They are fundamentalists and they don’t assimilate.

    So that is not the issue. The issue is what are the actual beliefs and teachings of each group? and how do they see themselves fitting under the umbrella of American culture?

    Neither of these groups have plans to take over the country, neither believe in forcing their beliefs on anyone else. Neither try to intimidate or threaten those who want to leave (in fact, Amish encourage their young adults to try the outside world for a year or two and then decide if they want to come back to the Amish community). Neither fly airplanes into buildings.

    So Neo is exactly right is formulating a checklist of criteria for determining which religious groups to fear. And “fundamentalism” and “refusal to assimilate” are not determining criteria.

  37. Goesh Says:

    Where there is smoke there certainly is fire, or so God said…and where there is heavy smoke, there is reluctance on the part of some to draw attention to it. I noted this morning that MSN runs an up-front story of a 2 yr. old that had gotten drunk after the sitter passed out. The culprit is hauled off to jail and the kid put alive into protective custody. For shock and tongue clucking value alone, I wonder why they didn’t headline the man in Pakistan who just slit the throats of his 3 young daughters for the sake of family honor? Tsk tsk! Some folks sure are reluctant to draw any attention to any negative aspects of islam, aren’t they?

  38. neo-neocon Says:

    zipper: I don’t believe Sufis, for example, would agree. And certainly not all Moslems believe all four elements on my list. That’s why I call it a subgroup.

    Glad you like the blog, though.

  39. zipper Says:

    The teaching is in the Koran. That is not a subgroup.

    And I love your blog.

  40. ascoli calcio Says:

    ascoli calcio…

    news…

  41. Animal Sex Europe Says:

    keyword…

    I don’t agree with you in 100%, but you covered some good points regarding this topic…

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About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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