Arimathea
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Religion
The human animal is the worshipping animal. Toward the divine, we have a need to pray, to sacrifice, to offer up, and to praise. From the spirit dances of primitive animism to the rational contemplation of philosophical paganism, from the ethical code of the rabbis to the theological vision of the scholastics, from the sprinkled blood (the origin of blessing) of temple cults to helping the poor in simple Christian charity, men need to relate the immanent and the transcendent -- they see their particular lives in time and space transfigured and transfused with meaning unbounded by human things. Religion is this aspect of human life where the everyday and worldly intersects with the ultimate and divine. Is this an accident of human evolution, or is it a racial neurosis brought upon us as conscious beings who live in the shadow of our own death? Is it a reflection of the divine order, where creatures naturally orient themselves toward their source? Has God revealed himself to us, as the Christians claim? In this realm, I shall try to delve into such questions as an Orthodox Christian who ever pesters God with "Why?"
Friday, November 30, A.D. 2012
Religious Left Distilled

Today is the feast of Saint Andrew on the new calendar. May all manly (ανδρέας) new calendarists enjoy their day.

I was perusing the dispiriting but entertaining site Bad Vestments yesterday when I came upon an excellent photographic capture of the religious Left:

One of these people is from South Sudan. The other one isn’t. See if you can guess which of the two is which.

Bad Vestments’ owner Christopher Johnson further writes that the photograph provides the raison d’être of his site. We can see why.

Posted by Joseph on Friday, November 30, Anno Domini 2012
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Tuesday, November 27, A.D. 2012
Romney the Mormon

Lawrence Auster speculated about Romney’s lack of principles yesterday in “Romney is a success after all—he got what he was seeking”:

I have a theory explaining Romney’s bizarre emptiness. It has to do with his Mormonism. Mormonism consists, at its core, of many ridiculous assertions that no rational person could possibly believe. How, then, does Mormonism attract and keep so many adherents? Because the core of the religion is not this folderol about a family of sixth century B.C. Jews sailing from Mesopotamia to North America or Joseph Smith discovering a 2,000 year old platinum scripture written by an angel buried behind his farm in upstate New York, but the patriarchal way of life it teaches. This is deeply appealing to people, and it works for them. That’s why they are Mormons. At the same time, in order to be Mormons, they have to turn off their rational faculty when it comes to questions of truth. They disregard questions of truth, and focus on the pragmatic, ethical aspects of Mormonism.

This describes Romney perfectly. As a Mormon, he has turned off his faculty of the rational search for truth, but at the same time he follows the healthy and solid Mormon maxims on how to live a good life. As a result, he is a man devoid of principles, even while his personal character is exemplary.

I think that Auster’s theory, together with Klein’s depiction of Romney as a fixer/manager extraordinaire, may explain Romney’s unanchored pragmatism. In any case, Auster’s point concurs with my experience of the L.D.S. tribe. I have had the good fortune to know hundreds of Mormons rather well, and I would be happy to have the vast majority of them live as my neighbors. They are kind, industrious, and level headed. They do not express, however, a will toward truth. I have only met one Mormon who was philosophically oriented, and he interpreted his religion the way Athenian philosophers understood the Olympic cult—as metaphysics underlying mythology. Mormonism holds its people not by theoretical truth but by practical truth in a family life well ordered and executed. Though less edifying than Auster’s View from the Right, South Park made essentially the same point, as I wrote four years ago:

For instance, South Park has a cheeky episode on Mormons, “All About the Mormons?,” in which an L.D.S. family moves into South Park. They are typical Mormons—friendly, helpful, cheerful folks . . . with kooky religious ideas. The episode presents the Mormons in an exagerrated but nonetheless realistic way; it matches my own experience with Mormons over the years very well, right down to its “Family Home Evening.” It explores the peculiarities of L.D.S. doctrine, but, moreover, it explains Mormon success. A religion with absurd theological teachings can survive, sustain a society, and even grow in other societies because it prescribes and fosters sensible and good family life practices. Most people do not really care about theological truth, but most everyone is a social creature who values family, friendship, loyalty, and love. The episode is spot on, and you can watch it online (rated R) at South Park Studios.

I would say that any adherence to false idols renders intelligent people stupid. Just ask most New York rabbinical Jews their views on human equality, and you will quickly see genius unintentionally playing the fool. Ask your Protestant evangelical engineer friend about the evolution of life, the age of the universe, or the history of Christian doctrine. Ask the Mohammedan computer programmer down in I.T. why his sacred scriptures differ in their account of biblical events from the previous Jewish and Christian records that were widely dispersed, read, and studied before Mohammed’s time. Commitments to falsehood engender intellectual blindness and consequent stupidity.

Of course, the “free thinkers” argue that the same idiocy holds for Christianity as such with its bizarre views of the trinity, the incarnation, the virgin birth, the ascension, the eucharist, and such. Yet, who but Christians deal so consistently, intensely, and honestly with their “bizarre” views? Christian theological history consists in focusing, not ignoring, these difficult matters. Christians are a people of truth, of reason—of λόγος. Perhaps, the kakangelical* atheists should approach their opponents’ “crazy” ideas as those of a competing philosophical school rather than the idols of a tribe in darkness.

* After making up kakangelical, I searched for the term to see if it had appeared online before. Of course, it had—Solomon was right. There are ten results on Google. Richard Dawkins appears in two of the headers; someone else perceives his kakangelical nature.

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, November 27, Anno Domini 2012
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Tuesday, November 20, A.D. 2012
Iconoclasts in Thawbs

Damian Thompson published a surprising short article in The Telegraph a few weeks ago about real estate developments in Mecca and in Medina: “The Saudis are bulldozing Islam’s heritage. Why the silence from the Muslim world?” According to Thompson, the Wahhabists who control Saudi Arabia are Puritanical iconoclasts busily destroying buildings and sites associated with Mohammed and his associates. The Saudis use their oil money to finance the construction of bleak mosques to replace the beautiful Ottoman ones that they demolish. However, there is no criticism from their fellows in the Ummah. Thompson contrasts the quiet acceptance of the Wahhabists’ destruction of Islamic patrimony with the hyperbolic hysteria over harmless Israeli archeaological activity in Jerusalem.

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, November 20, Anno Domini 2012
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