Saturday, July 25, 2015

Hate Mail

I take back what I said about Eschaton being like jr. high, it's more like the third grade playground.  I have weeds in my garden that are more creative.   And more interesting. 

Mercedes Sosa - Sólo le pido a Dios (Con León Gieco) Spiritual At Noon

Sólo le pido a Dios
Que el dolor no me sea indiferente
Que la reseca muerte no me encuentre
Vacía y sola sin haber hecho lo suficiente

Sólo le pido a Dios
Que lo injusto no me sea indiferente
Que no me abofeteen la otra mejilla
Después que una garra me arañó esta suerte

Sólo le pido a Dios
Que la guerra no me sea indiferente
Es un monstruo grande y pisa fuerte
Toda la pobre inocencia de la gente
Es un monstruo grande y pisa fuerte
Toda la pobre inocencia de la gente

Sólo le pido a Dios
Que el engaño no me sea indiferente
Si un traidor puede más que unos cuantos
Que esos cuantos no lo olviden fácilmente

Sólo le pido a Dios
Que el futuro no me sea indiferente
Desahuciado está el que tiene que marchar
A vivir una cultura diferente

Sólo le pido a Dios
Que la guerra no me sea indiferente
Es un monstruo grande y pisa fuerte
Toda la pobre inocencia de la gente
Es un monstruo grande y pisa fuerte
Toda la pobre inocencia de la gente

On The Arc of History Bending Towards Chaos As Opposed To Justice

The recent appearance by Ta-Hehisi Coates with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show produced the sound-bite to the effect that he rejects the idea of The Reverend Martin Luther King jr. that the arc of the universe bends toward justice, replacing justice in that formulation with chaos.   The extended interview, which I hadn't heard before this morning isn't so bleak and, apparently wasn't as quote worthy as that first part.  The soundbite wasn't all there was that Coates had to say about it and the rest of it was, with all due respect, a contradiction of it.   I had been pretty disturbed when I heard the sound bite because I think that quoted sentiment is fatal to political liberalism and, most certainly, the political success of liberalism - taking office, taking power, changing laws and policies for the better.

Chaos as the ultimate and inevitable result of anything we do produces a sour, depressed sense of futility which disables any effort to do anything.   It is the dead end of despair that Eugene O'Neill ended up with after he gave up (way to easily) on his previous leftism.  Though his choice of leftism was a dead-end to start with. I think it is an inevitable conclusion of materialism in which nothing, ultimately matters, including what happens to other people, it produces a disinclination to care about anything except what touches us, directly.   If someone with the privilege and success, even monetary success of an O'Neill gives up, it's probably even more dangerous course for those who are guaranteed to not have the privilege that he enjoyed.

I agree with RMJ that the difference between The Reverend King's take on the ultimate tendency of history as compared to Ta-Hehisi Coates' formulation is the difference between atheism and Christianity, or, for that matter, Judaism or Islam or even Buddhism in which, eventually, there will be a liberation from that painful and primordial chaos, against which God created the universe and life in the Genesis narrative.  The chaos isn't found good in that great alegory, it was organized matter and, even more so. living beings that are found good, or just, if you will..  The most powerful and sophisticated exposition of that alternative I have heard is the great theologian James Cone's The Cross and the Lynching Tree, in which he notes that it was the power of the belief that death was not the end of the arc, but that contrary to  Coates' dead end for the victims of the ultimate injustice at Auschwitz or by the bullet of a racist cop, there is hope for justice hidden within that merely apparent dead end.   Hope for the victim and hope for their families and loved ones who survive.   I think it was that hope that provided the essential fuel that powered all of the great movements for justice, it is the reason that any kind of progress was ever made, that means that it is not an inevitable consequence of racism that it can't be either weakened or defeated.  It is a force which will never be replaced by any other thing and produce reliable results.

I don't think as good a writer and thinker as Coates will stick with his current thinking,  I think he will come to reject it.  I think that because that was my experience and I'm no Ta-Nehisi Coates.  I was led to think in those terms by the ideology promoted in academia, materialist determinism being the default assumption of it, and which came to dominate the nominal left in the post-King period, what I have come to see is the cause of the impotence of that left as opposed to the earlier left which believed that justice was possible and the right goal of history, of our action as characters in that narrative.   I can't find the poem by Archibald Macleish in which he criticizes the existentialists for their wallowing in despair, as I recall he notes that they pretty much throw in the towel because we die.   I remember getting a kind of grim thrill from reading "No Exit" when I was a teenager, watching the video of it with Harold Pinter recently I couldn't but feel it was a total waste of time and a cheap imitation of philosophy in a nose dive of decadence, something which is also inevitable under a materialist intellectual regime.  It reminded me of a statement Rupert Sheldrake made a while back that he found current theology more interesting and useful than recent philosophy which was obsessed with such things as attacking the status of consciousness in service to atheism.

But I am a political blogger, the ultimate value of any intellectual pursuit in real life is in the extent to which it promotes the continuation of life, the improvement of life, the progress towards equal justice, economic justice and the political means through which those things that do that can be put into effect and those forces and ideologies that hamper and defeat that, producing inequality and denying justice can be thwarted and defeated.   I would rather go down trying to do that than giving into despair.

Giving up on the excuse of science and material causation is both lazy and it is unrealistic.  History doesn't just happen, it isn't an inevitable result of the workings out of non-conscious atavaistic forces or some brainlessly swinging dialectic. we are the agents of human history in so far as we live it.  If we give up, what results will be the result of our choices.  Unless we choose to believe that we can bend the arc of history toward justice, even in opposition to any alleged biological force of natural selection or material causation, the failure of justice is guaranteed by our choice.

Liberalism is harder than its alternative because it requires more effort to care about other people, it takes more effort in every way, it takes having the energy and the commitment to do that day after day, year after year, for an entire lifetime.  The best that materialists have presented to do that is the failure of Marxism which empties Bertolt Brecht's formulation of the same observation* seem as empty as Sartre's view of existence.  Even Silvio Rodriguez brilliant song which is introduced by Brecht's quote,  a beautiful  Marxist and, despite that, wise and necessary warning against American imperialism doesn't hold it up, considering his alternative in Castro's regime instead of a true egalitarian democracy governing with the consent of The People,  and Castro's Cuba has been the least bad of any of the attempts made under Marxism, in the past century  which is more evidence that materialism is a dead end.

With that failure of Marxism to even get off the ground, with the spectacle of inequality and INJUSTICE that Marxism as a real phenomenon in history is,  and the current materialist pseudo-leftism of neo-atheism which replaces a futile, neo-liberal,  liberalish libertarianism for any real hope for progress doesn't even hold the hope of any kind of effective struggle.  In the TV and media trained, post-literate neo-atheists we see the refusal of the only alternative of The Reverend King, the Liberation Theologians, the examples of the Christian base communities which were so subversive that the United States under the degenerate leadership of Reagan and Bush conducted a terror war against them, the dead end that materialism is,   Materialism begins as it ends in a declaration of futility and defeat of the goals of liberalism by an inevitable chaotic miasma.  As a proposal as a liberal alternative it deserves to be rejected because it must be for there to be any such thing as liberalism.

*  There are men who struggle for a day and they are good.
There are men who struggle for a year and they are better.
There are men who struggle many years, and they are better still.
But there are those who struggle all their lives:
These are the indispensable ones.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Did A Cardinal Knee Cap A Pope To Promote A Terrible War?

In light of the widespread myth that the Pope is an absolute dictator and that the bishops and Cardinals are his vassals and henchmen - part and parcel of that Brit-atheist tradition that is mentioned in my earlier post, here is a fascinating article by Mike Griffin from the Catholic Peace Fellowship about the possibility that the most prominent Cardinal in America, James Gibbons, intentionally and against the request of Pope Benedict XV failed to lobby for the peace plan that the Pope hoped would end the horrible bloodshed of the First World War.   It is a fascinating look at how complex the issues that Benedict XV faced and, though it doesn't to into it deeply, the complex history the papacy and the widespread suspicions about the intentions of that pope were colored by that history and how those were used by various players in thwarting one of the most tragic failures in the history of that time.  Though the case that Cardinal James Gibbons knee capped the pope in order to promote his own, domestic agenda of swelling the influence of the Catholic church isn't a solid one, it certainly is important because he was hardly the last such Cardinal to act in ways that favored American military policy over the Pope's attempts to bring about peace.  Cardinal Spelman leaps to mind.

The short and fleeting reference to Benedict XV's rejection of "just war theory" is something I hope to read more about because that was certainly one of the worst accomodations that Christians ever made to temporal powers and one of the most blatant violations of the words of Jesus, one which led to centuries of scandal which are used by atheists and others today to attack Christianity and which, itself, has undone so much of the effort to promote justice and the only valid goals of having a church.

It can only be imagined what might have happened if Benedict XV's plan happened, though, if it had succeeded, it may well have prevented the rise of Nazism, itself a response to the defeat of the Germans, and their success as the Allies' terms in the treaty brought about the economic disaster that followed which fed the Nazi movement.   You can't rewind history and predict what would have been if but we can look back and be fairly confident of what did happen because.   No one had clean hands to begin with but no one did afterwards, either.  Wilson, the peace president who, I believe reluctantly, brought us into the war tried to clean his at the peace conference and in his promotion of the League of Nations, only to fail.   The part the American financial establishment and the free media had in all of that is certainly more worthy of condemnation than what Benedict XV did.  They definitely knee capped him when he worked to prevent and end the war.

About Womens' Ordination And Other Issues Fr. McBrien on Friday

I was puzzled last week to read an article by an atheist who is hostile to the Catholic church and, perhaps, Catholics in general, one of those writers who can be counted on to parrot all kinds of the typical Brit-atheist anti-Catholic bromides founded in either a grotesquely uninformed and exaggerated view of actual historical events or in nothing but the imagination of ancient Anglican propagandists.  What puzzled me is that the article slammed Pope Francis for refusing to revisit the issue of the ordination of women.  If there is one thing that would happen with the approval of the ordination of women as Roman Catholic priests it would be a drastic reduction in the number of parishes without priests - there is no doubt that the move would also be accompanied by allowing married men (and, no doubt, women) to be ordained and inviting back priests who had been laicized at their request in order for them to follow a call to be married.  You would think that among the last things an atheist who is hostile to the Catholic religion would want to see would be a revival and swelling of the numbers of Catholic priests in the world.  But people often aren't careful about what they wish for.  If Pope Francis, acting on revelation, changed policy on that this afternoon, I don't think atheists would like the result.

Over time, perhaps a very short time, that would lead to a re-invigoration of  Catholicism, not only because it would restart many parishes which have been dying under the celibate-male-only* rule it would also probably provide a pool of more competent leaders for parishes and the Church in general, one which would probably be far more in touch with the lives of more Catholics and other people.   I can imagine a lot of the foolish things that bishops and cardinals have done over the past forty years might have been avoided by having had a deeper pool from which to appoint those from.  I can imagine a married clergy would also promote a more democratic church, one that consults the thinking and judgement of The People, something which wasn't novel in the first millennium of Catholicism when The People were far less likely to be literate and educated and informed than those who are entirely ignored today.   While that can be bad on occasion, so can the centralized authoritarian system the last two papacies have govern the church and the world.  This column about the beatification of the first of those popes by the second of them is relevant to that.

The late Pope John Paul II was beatified on May 1st and is now well on the way to canonization. Some people have complained about the speed of the process, but as the pope’s biographer George Weigel has correctly pointed out, there were no complaints about the speed with which Mother Teresa’s cause was advanced.

The speed of the process, however, is not the issue, nor is there any doubt in the minds of most critics that John Paul II is in heaven. 

What is at issue is the record of his long pontificate. Canonization is a public declaration not only that the new saint is in heaven, but that his life or hers is worthy of emulation (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, n. 50).

While it is certainly the case that John Paul II’s pontificate included many achievements (his three social encyclicals, the renegotiation of the Lateran Pacts, his outreach to Jews, his interfaith gathering and prayer for peace at Assisi), its two major deficiencies were his grave mishandling of the sexual-abuse crisis in the priesthood and his appointment and promotion of exceedingly conservative bishops to, and within, the hierarchy.

Both deficiencies continue to define the Catholic Church in our time, and account for the severe demoralization that afflicts so many in the Church today. 

They also explain why so many thousands of Catholics have left the Church in recent years, so many in fact that in the United States ex-Catholics would constitute the country’s second largest denomination if they constituted a church unto themselves.

Therefore, it is the case that, on Blessed John Paul II’s watch, the greatest crisis to hit the Catholic Church since the Reformation was allowed to grow and to fester, and the bishops appointed during his long reign were unable to offer the kind of pastorally effective leadership that the crisis required. 

Indeed, these bishops were not selected in the first place for their pastoral qualities, but for their unquestioning loyalty to the Holy See on such issues as contraception, abortion, priestly celibacy, and the ordination of women. 

Bishop William Morris was recently sacked from his diocese of Toowoomba, Queensland, in Australia because he had urged in a pastoral letter that the ordination of women to the priesthood and the end of obligatory celibacy for priests at least be considered by the Vatican.

Pope Benedict XVI gave as his principal reason for dismissing Bishop Morris from his diocese that the bishop had effectively denied that the matter of women’s ordination had already been permanently settled by an infallible teaching of Pope John Paul II.

Many Catholics are demoralized today because of the continued stench from the sexual-abuse scandal in the priesthood and because of the repressive, pastorally insensitive behavior of some of the bishops appointed by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

They may have an additional reason for demoralization on the First Sunday of Advent later this year when the “reform of the reform” goes into effect. Some will resent the millions of dollars spent on new missals and song books, and will be confused and disoriented by the loss of familiar wordings.

Those who are more ecumenically-minded will lament the fact that, for the first time since Vatican II’s reform of the liturgy, the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian denominations will not be celebrating the Eucharist with the same words.

Close observers of this column and of my many contemporary lectures, writings, and television appearances know that, at the beginning of the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, I expressed not only the hope but also the expectation that both pontificates would be highly successful, notwithstanding the doubts that many other commentators were expressing. 

In the former case, I welcomed the election of the first non-Italian pope in over 400 years. In the latter case, I was encouraged by the new pope’s selection of the name Benedict. Benedict XV (1914-1922), as I had pointed out in my Lives of the Popes, “may well have been one of the finest popes in history, but surely one of the least appreciated” (p. 355).

I judged Benedict XV to be one of the twelve “good” popes in papal history, calling him “Perhaps the most underrated of the modern popes” (p. 436). 

For those who wonder why the Catholic Church seems to be passing through one of the worst patches in its history, more benign explanations are, first, the premature death of Pope John Paul I after only 33 days in the papacy and, second, the refusal of Cardinal Carlo Colombo of Milan to accept election to the papacy in the second conclave of 1978.

The decline in the number of active Catholics in that period would be seen by a hierarchy in touch with The People as a severe crisis that should be addressed as soon as possible.   That it was unaddressed by John Paul II and Benedict XVI is a good indication of what happens when leadership isn't particularly concerned with The People as opposed to authority.   I would guess that people will respond to a pope and bishops who see them as important.   I can't respect John Paul II for his handling of the terror campaign the Reagan administration funded against The People of central America and elsewhere.  I can respect some of what he said about economic justice, I can't respect what he often did and the bishops he appointed here who were openly supportive of some of the most criminal and immoral politicians we've had as leaders.   I am certain that some of the remnants of those appointed by John Paul II and Benedict XVI will support some of the worst Republicans in the coming election, whose policies are a total violation of the entire Catholic tradition on economic and social justice and, certainly, peace.  They are also in fundamental violation of the teachings of conservatives about the value of life, most notably on the imposition of death but, also, in everything except opposition to legal abortion.

I would be counted among those "ex-Catholics" though, so far as the Catholic church is concerned, I'm still a Catholic.  I can receive communion without violating any of the rules and, in fact, did the last time I attended a mass.  More generally, I'd like to see a revival of liberal Catholicism because it has been and is a positive good in the world.   So, I've got both standing to have an opinion in the matter and an interest in it.

It is quite fair that I mention another group of Catholics at odds with the Vatican, the Roman Catholic Women Priests, who, though formally excommunicated, consider themselves to remain as Catholics and Catholic priests and bishops.   If time will lead to them being recognized as validly ordained priests under apostolic succession, who knows?   I don't have any quarrel with them, they seem like the real thing to me.  They say "all are welcome", hospitality being about the most ancient of all obligations in the tradition Catholicism is a part of.

*  John Paul II certainly opened the door for relaxing the rule against non-married priests by allowing married ex-Anglican and Episcopalian priests who left over the ordination of women to be "reordained" as Catholic priests and to serve as parish priests.  I will probably post another of his columns on that issue soon.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Hate Mail - Written in Pablum

If I were to limit my vocabulary to what he can handle I'd die of boredom.  The mileage he's gotten on that incompetently framed pun only proves my point about Eschaton shedding adult commentators like .... no, on second thought it might offend someone if I used the term and he'd just try to come up with another stupid pun on it.  

Beethoven - Sonata Op. 53 "Waldstein" - Rudolph Serkin

This is the greatest performance of this sonata I've ever heard, in person or in recording.  The tempos and rubato passages are exactly right, especially the one he chose for the second movement.  The perfection of detail, the clarity of presenting the lines, the rhythm, the contrasts, the formal structure of the piece and, most of all, the music are just perfect.   The Youtube doesn't do it justice, this is one you'll want on CD or LP.

Humanists Are Reaping What They Sowed A Half A Century Ago

Yesterday I cited R. Joseph Hoffmann's critique of Richard Carrier to provide support for my rejection of Carrier as a scholar who anyone has to trust or take seriously.   He made some good points in his critique so last night I spent some time at his blog and read more of what he had to say.   Hoffmann makes some very good points about the neo-atheists and is obviously spot on in much of what he says about that and many other things.  I do respect him, even as I don't agree with much of what he concludes.

As someone who has been critical of the "Humanists" I was especially interested in his critique of that club.  As it is I read his two  posts on that in opposite order, the second one an answer to John Shook's comment on the first contained one of the best, short descriptions of the atheist religion, what most people online know as "Humanism"

The “humanism” that movement humanism hawks is a duck blind for the so-called new atheism.    It isn’t (as a CFI operative recently alleged) that religion is the opposite of humanism, any more than your grandpa is the opposite of you.  But in its premises, approach, and substance, secular humanism is now the opposite of humanism.

Having called "Humanism" a smoke screen for the promotion of atheism and a Trojan Horse for neo-atheism, I think I like "duck blind" better, it encapsulates the real intention of its founders, or, at least, those who controlled it after Corliss Lamont bought it out when it fell on hard times.

Since Hoffmann was one of the central figures in the Paul Kurtz circle, it was especially gratifying to read his criticism of the movement he relatively recently was at the center of.  Here is how the first post which Shook was responding to begins:

As a humanist I have often done what humanists do: hide behind the great thoughts of significant men and women to give my own ideas heft and importance.

The possibility of doing that came to an end in 2009, when America’s oldest humanist society, the AHA, bestowed its “Humanist of the Year” award on a man named P Z Myers, someone whose simplistic views, bare-knuckle style towards his critics, and lack of literary depth embody everything I abhor about contemporary humanism and new atheism.

But I have written plenty about what I abhor.  And I have written a fair bit about why organized humanism, infused and high-jacked by the “new” atheism, has been turned into a parody of serious humanist principles and ideals.  Myers, blogger Jerry Coyne, and a few other swains who hang out at the Free Thought Ghetto, wasted no time trying to frame me as a pompous, old school, elitist, humanities-loving humanist, the sort who is soft on religion because (of course) he is (a) secretly religious himself (b) too dim to be Bright and (c) naïve enough to think that ‘humanism’ can still be separated from the religion-hating spew and tactics of Richard Dawkins and his cult.  While not every voice was as repetitive and coarse as Myers’, 2009-2012 were rough years for people accused by the court of atheist opinion of being “accommodationists.”  Perhaps the most astonishing thing about the new atheist/humanist defense of its position, given the role of Richard Dawkins in the movement, was its incipient anti-intellectualism, its impatience for words in preference for what it construed as “argument,” and its contempt for even mild dissent and criticism–characteristics we normally associate with religious apologetic.

Perhaps more tellingly, here is his description of what led up to that event.

It was only slightly amusing to watch these religion haters develop all of the essential symptoms and pathologies of a cult, traits which were less obvious to them because they had never studied religious behavior and the psychopathology of cults.

But all the markers were there: a book, or canon of four books; a savior and a few lesser avatars; the promise of intellectual salvation using a formula for separateness and difference; most of all, the certainty that they are on the straight path, the right road, that others are wrong, and its behavioral corollary: intolerance of contradiction and correction.

With a few of my friends, notably the persistently hopeful Nathan Bupp I have pleaded for the return of the remains of serious humanism from the exile into which its captors flung it in 2008– the year Paul Kurtz was dethroned from the chairmanship of CFI, and the year I stepped aside as its Vice President—to mainstream intellectual and social life.  But the infiltration of the key outposts of humanism by religion-haters makes the job of reclaiming or “restoration” one for Atlas.  Outside the halls of academe, the word humanism is today almost synonymous with the word atheism, and atheism synonymous with the lowbrow definitions of its loudest, pop science-worshiping groupies.

I could have written most of that myself, if I could write that well, except, of course, that I'm not an atheist or a humanist and that I know the Paul Kurtz who he lauds wasn't opposed to the tactics and anti-intellectualism Hoffmann decries, he was one of its pioneers.   How Hoffmann could overlook the content and tenor of the many activities that Paul Kurtz initiated and was at the head of, certainly beginning with his editorship of The Humanist, the house organ of American Humanism,  his early years as the dictator of CSICOP* and the real force behind its house organ, Skeptical Inquirer, the founder and head of  Prometheus Books (the atheist equivalent of Regnery) and his association with some of the sleaziest figures in organized skepticism, such as James Randi, and including  a number of those who Hoffmann criticizes, such as Richard Dawkins, I can't imagine.

The Paul Kurtz I looked into and studied broke and planted the ground that the new atheists sowed in the past dozen years. That they eventually pushed the old man aside as he thought they were bringing the movement farther down market than he liked was predictable but he'd brought it quite far down market, himself. His part in ousting Marcello Truzzi, another co-founder of CSICOP and the first editor of its journal, which became Skeptical Inquirer after his ousting, made what the youngsters did to Kurtz seem rather karmic, if I believed in karma, which I don't, exactly.  I do believe that you are likely to reap what you've sown, though.

Still, with that in mind what Hoffmann says about Humanism is entirely worth reading for the information it contains and as an all too rare internal critique of atheism.   Here is another passage to encourage you to read the rest:

In fact many atheists have tried to persuade their commando friends that the new atheist critique of God and religion is amateurish, indeed embarrassing: intellectuals and academics with no religious sentiment at all have been stunned by its lack of sophistication and ignorance of the voluminous literature—both academic and popular,   historical  and philosophical  on the God problem. The reason critics like Richard Dawkins have done comparatively well selling books on subjects they know nothing about is the transferability thesis: the idea that the prestige you earn writing books on genes and grasshoppers can easily be transferred to topics as hazy as “religion,” at least if you accept (as Dawkins does) that the study of  religion and theology is nothing at all.

Add celebrity atheism to secular humanism and you get the word cash, which is what these organizations need to stay afloat. And as churches have known forever, to get cash you need converts.  To get converts, at least in the USA, you need big names. Big names lend luster, star power, even credibility to any campaign, and movement humanism is just that: the campaign for disbelief.

But “celebrity atheism” like celebrity anything else, actually cheapens the serious study of religion, which has dealt with the problem of God for a few hundred years, and longer if we include the history of theology stretching back to Anselm and the pre-Christian classical writers, perhaps especially Epicurus and Lucretius.  In fact, I would argue that celebrity atheism weakens the atheist position in the same way that Hollywood manages to ruin every good book, glitz without guts.

How does it cheapen it?  By associating ideas that should be arrived at by careful thought with other (even if famous) people’s conclusions:  Bill Maher is an atheist; so is Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Sarah Silverman, Bill Nye. Are you smarter than they are? Case closed.   Fallacy-wise it’s called argumentum ad auctoritatem.  But we can forgive this trespass, because religious people do it every time they appeal to the Bible. At any rate, the “25,000,000 smart people can’t be wrong” approach to intellectual (or political) rectitude doesn’t always get you where you want to go, and American atheists and humanists can only dream about a number like that.  What once was proudly called free-thought is fast becoming the slavish repetition of slogans and one-liners. Did you hear the one about the talking snake?  If God is so smart, why did he put the prostate next to a man’s urinary tract?

I like that so much that I will repeat that I can't understand how Hoffmann missed that it is merely an extension of what his friend Paul Kurtz did in the past half-century.  His critique of the neo-atheists and his decrying what they did to humanism is all there from  sTARBABY,  the critique of Kurtz and CSICOP written by Dennis Rawlins and which was confirmed by another former (and far more measured) member of CSICOP. Richard Kammann.   The most telling part of that is that Dennis Rawlins is a loud-mouthed neo-atheist of the kind who Hoffmann abhors but who, as a scientist, couldn't abide the scientific incompetence and dishonesty of Kurtz and CSICOP in its one and only scientific investigation.   Taken together with Hoffmann's critique of "Humanism" from the point of view of a person in the humanities, there really isn't much left in it but the spectacle of ignorant armies trashing the entire range of the intellectual tradition.

I also can't understand how he couldn't have seen through John Shook earlier than that.  I had a few exchanges with Shook at his Center for Inquriy blog a few years back.  Shook has to be one of the most vacuous owners of a PhD in philosophy I've ever read or, even more tellingly, heard. Listen to this exchange, the analogy he constructs and even more so what he says about there being "more nature beyond nature" , remembering he's a PhD in philosophy, it's amazing how inept it is.   And he  is typical of the best and the, um....., "Brightest" of those living off of the legacy of Paul Kurtz.

Update:  Dennis Rawlins from "sTARBABY "

Once CSICOP was under way, I found myself not only on the ruling Council but also on the editorial board. Although most of the Fellows sought, like me, to battle pseudoscientific bunk, they disagreed about the means. Except for the agreement to start a magazine (Zetetic, later Skeptical Inquirer) there was little cohesion on public policy, a vacuum that was filled (if not in fact caused) by tacit cohesion on Private Priority Number One for active CSICOP Fellows: maximum personal press coverage.

... Kurtz tried another let's-make-a-deal ploy, bursting out. "But I agree with you" He went on to blame the whole sTARBABY mess on Zelen and Abell! They had led him into the pit! But he would do nothing beyond private assent 
    After we had finished! I phoned Randi to report Kurtz was trying to buy silence on the Gauquelin mess. By the next day (November 20) a Council deal had been concocted (and offered) that would have me chair the astrology section of the press conference. Of course this would entail my introducing Abell. My reply was the old adage that a man who can't be bribed can't be trusted 
    At this Kurtz exploded in raging fear that his holy press conference would be ruined. He immediately phoned the Councilors and expressed concern that I might attack the Gauquelin project from the floor during the conference; some way had to be found to get me kicked off the Council. (This sudden search for a pretext to eject me -- the first suggestion of the need for my demise -- should be kept in mind because Council is now at great pains to dredge up any other sort of "offense" on my part as the good reason for booting me To borrow from the business world, let us recall the immortal words of J. P. Morgan: "For every action there are two reasons: a good reason and the real reason.")

Really, you have to read the whole thing and Richard Kammann's confirmation of it to believe how sleazy and dishonest the whole thing was and how many eminent and famous people were either involved or complicit in its cover up.  The prominent part played by James [The Amazing (and entirely incompetent)] Randi in it was a dead giveaway of its anti-intellectual, pro-publicity nature.

*  The critique of one of the other founders of CSICOP, Dennis Rawlins, correctly described the absolute control over CSICOP that Kurtz exercised, he had called Kurtz its "President for Life".

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Maybe They Should Start Calling Advanced Degrees A PrD Instead Of Pretending It Has Much To Do With Mastery of The Standards of Philosophy These Days

I had someone bring up the PhD holding, neo-atheist Jesus mythicist, blogger, Richard Carrier to me in the ongoing brawls at Religion Dispatches,

Jim Reed  Camera Obscura • 15 hours ago
"The epistles of James and I Peter are also oddly silent about a historical Jesus"
Richard Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus

There was other Christianities distinct from Paul, but the important thing is the gospel stories that were written later were not known in the time of Paul. Christianity was initially a religion based on a Christ found in the old testament, and not based on Jesus of Nazareth, or any historical person. That Jesus was written up and believed in later.

Camera Obscura  Jim Reed • 15 hours ago
The Epistle of James was written to people who would already be familiar with Jesus, as were those of Paul which were written to Christian communities. There is nothing odd about them not going over things such people would already have known and could be assumed to know. So, sorry, your point is pointless.

Oh, and Richard Carrier is an atheist hack who has produced multiple debunked debunkings. He is about as reliable as any for-pay ideological hack with a PhD.

I was marginally aware of Richard Carrier a few years back, the great white hope of the "Free Thought" blogs set, someone allegedly with the credentials to put the nail in the coffin of Jesus, even as such people asserted he never lived.   I didn't think anyone took him especially seriously, not after his attacks on the previous atheist favorite, Bart Ehrman who committed the unforgivable sin of saying by any standard for believing in historical personages of the ancient past, the case for Jesus having actually lived is extremely strong, surpassing the evidence that many others lived who are not only not in dispute but, also, are used by neo-atheists and other ideologues without any problem.  He is also an intellectual hack who makes some incredibly absurd statements which his fans accept on the basis of his academic credentials, though he is a rather weird kind of post-literate scholar who has, as far as I'm able to determine, never subjected his contentions to peer review by competent scholars.  A good evaluation of him by an atheist, even humanist, scholar is this one by R. Joseph Hoffmann.  You can read Bart Ehrman's response to some of the points Carrier attacked him on here.

There are so many atheist hacks out there that it's impossible to keep up with them all, especially those who construct the most fantastic and tendentious arguments on the thinnest of material and where no real scholar of the material has ever found them.  I had taken so little interest in him that I'd never listened to his biggest star turn, his debate with William Lane Craig, in which Carrier did so badly that even he admitted he hadn't done well, even as he claimed that he had an impossible task in debating the Resurrection of Jesus.  Oddly, for someone who claims he predicted he had agreed to a next to impossible task in arguing that one aspect of the Gospels, he chose to debate it by trying to debate the far more complex task of totally debunking the reliability of the Gospels in their entirety.  Such is the intellectual coherence of neo-atheism that Carrier is held to have gained credibility from his loss to Craig.

But the conduct of Richard Carrier, as Ehrman and Hoffman respond to it, two non-believers, shows something a lot more interesting than just the loss arguments by amateurs as opposed to either real scholars or a brilliant and prepared debater such as Craig, it shows how the internet has elevated hacks who are held as credible by others who have been to college and who have even earned doctorates but who are entirely unaware and unappreciative of the entire range of intellectual methods and tactics that historians (Carrier has a degree in history) and other scholars have developed to deal with the documentary and archeological record which comprises the primary source material that any honest study of the past must rest on and which it always has to take into account.  The claims that Carrier uses to debunk the historicity of Jesus are so far removed from those materials that they start out being extremely weak and end up being totally fanciful (you have to hear him say some of that stuff to really believe someone who presents himself as a scholar would say it).  Yet for the audience he is appealing to, committed atheists who are hostile to Christianity, uninformed non-atheists who he hopes to convert,  he is claimed to be a real scholar of that area of scholarship who must be taken seriously.

I will say that I don't agree with many of the conclusions of either those two scholars or with many of the conclusions of William Lane Craig but I am bound by the reasonableness of their methods to take them seriously, even when I don't like what they conclude and as I disagree with it.  If I'm going to argue with what they say I would have to argue on the same bases of scholarly and intellectual engagement that they've fulfilled.   That we have hundreds of thousands, millions of people who hold university degrees who don't understand that is a massive scandal, one which is promoted by PhDs with blogs, with publishing contracts and who get on the chat shows on those bases.   There is an incredible irony in our time that the standards and practices of scholarship are as high as they have been in any period even as the entire intellectual enterprise is swamped by and defeated in society and a political context by the most vulgar of PR techniques and appeal to prejudice.   This is as serious a problem as the similar problem which scientists complain about when Biblical fundamentalists deny the fact of evolution or when those who have been duped by FOX and other networks who make profits out of the oil and other extraction industries in the fact of human-caused climate change.   I say it's all the same politicizing of the mechanisms of informing people and the degradation of truth by the techniques of mass media and an appeal to the least common and most heated denominator.

Once before when I talked about the fact that William Lane Craig has repeatedly mopped the floor with even real scholars and scientists who have debated him I got comments angry with me for saying something nice about an evangelical Christian who is a political conservative and who I couldn't agree with on may issues.   All of those are true but you don't have to agree with someone to not hold that they are totally depraved, evil and to be rejected on those bases.   Adults can agree to disagree about things, though if you're going to enter into debate with someone as accomplished as Craig in public, you'd better come prepared for the barrage of preparation he will have.   The same is true when it comes to atheists I have praised, and there have been more of those here than there have been evangelical Christians I have praised and cited positively here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Dave Holland Quintet - Metamorphos

Chris Potter - Tenor & Soprano Saxophone
Robin Eubanks - Trombone & Percussion
Steve Nelson - Vibes
Dave Holland - Bass
Billy Kilson - Drums

Shaker Easter

A documentary about life in the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community

An Exchange From Religion Dispatches

This is a discussion I've been having at Religion Dispatches, beginning with the article, WHO’S SCARED OF POLYGAMY? A RESTRAINED CASE FOR THE “SLIPPERY SLOPE” ARGUMENT.  I will remind you that I've been using the name "Camera Obscura" in disqus to avoid the idiot who trolls me all over the internet.  I will be choosing another pseudonym for that reason in the future.

Camera Obscura • 3 days ago
1. Polygamy has always been a heterosexual phenomenon, if anything were going to lead to polygamy, it would be straight marriage, not same-sex marriage. 2. The best reason to ban polygamy is that no one person should be given extra opportunities to screw up a marriage or to make more than one person miserable. 3. Elizabeth Cady Stanton had another good reason that it would be a good idea when she told the sexist hog who bragged about his seven sons that no man should be reproduced seven times, polygamy gives such men too much of a chance to reproduce themselves and their view of women, making even more people miserable.

Keep the polygamy talk about yourselves, straight folk, leave me out of it.

Sven  Camera Obscura • a day ago
1) The homosexuals who have multiple partners would disagree with what you have to say.
2) Who are you to get involved the the bedroom of consensual adults?
3) What? So your argument is that some men sleep with multiple women outside of marriage so clearly they shouldn't marry multiple women? I'm confused.

Summation, I think its hilarious that now that you have "rights", you so willingly and eagerly shut out others who seek similar rights.

Camera Obscura  Sven • a day ago
1. The number of GAY men and lesbians who have multiple sex partners, not SPOUSES, are a tiny fraction of the heterosexuals who have both multiple sex partners and who have had polygamy to themselves all theses millenia.

2. I'm me. I can have an opinion about the screwy situation where one man marries a whole hell of a lot of women at once and breeds like a hog. No man should have as many children as polygamy produces.

3. You don't think very clearly so I'm hoping you are going for the nulygamy option.

Just as I am a one-person, one vote person, I'm a one person, one spouse person. Generally, except in the most unusual of circumstances, a person can't screw up too much if they cast a bad vote, they can do a lot more damage if they have a bad marriage so why multiply the chances of that happening?

I have no problem with society limiting the number of spouses to one at a time. Gay folk would be better if they had practiced that as well. To begin by saying that monogamy is not a reasonable expectation is for Gay men (of whom I am one) and lesbians is to define our marriages as inferior, doing to ourselves what the gay bashers would do to us.

OK, I just looked into your comment archive, I want to reiterate #3.

Sven  Camera Obscura • 21 hours ago
Well perhaps you should stop being so bigoted and accept people for who they are. Ever think of that?

Camera Obscura  Sven • 20 hours ago
I don't see any reason to accept selfish, irresponsible people for who they are now but for who they might become. Like all conservatives, you're comfortable with a status quo that benefits you even as it disadvantages others. I'm not a conservative, I'm a liberal, a real one, not a libertarian posing as one.

Sven  Camera Obscura • 16 hours ago
You need to stop being so bigoted. The things you say are the same thing conservatives said about gays and marriage. You are a bigot, you must accept that, its part of your identity. You should start voting Republican, because you've become one ;-)

Camera Obscura  Sven • a few seconds ago
I am a liberal, there are no liberal Republicans. You see, I have the same view of economic justice that I do of all other aspects of equality, which is incompatible with being a Republican. And Republicans have also become the indigenous American criminal class, producing the most dishonest, anti-democratic politicians and judges in current America, I despise the party which any honest person left long, long ago.

brisonc3  Camera Obscura • a day ago
number 1, how do you know the number of gay men with multiple sex partners is tiny? Many homosexual men have spoken out freely saying the opposite. Mogogamy can only be maintained with extra affairs on the side. According to these homosexuals, monogamy is not compatible with the orientation.
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Camera Obscura  brisonc3 • a day ago
Are you gay? I am, I have been for well over half a century. According to this GAY MAN monogamy is as compatible with being a grown-up, honest, responsible gay man as it is with any other gender identity. That is grown-up, honest and responsible. For other people who refuse to grow up, be honest or responsible, I'm sure they find being responsible in sex is as hard as it is for such folks to be responsible, generally .

I'm always so interested in having straight folk tell me all about being gay.

brisonc3  Camera Obscura • 6 hours ago
It isn't straight men saying that, it's gay men saying that and you may well be in the minority. I would say for example that mature teens refrain from sexual activity until they are ready for a permanent relationship and for children, but many don't.

It is the mature and responsible thing not have sex if you don't want children(since intercourse is what makes children), but left wingers poo poo the idea. "It isn't irresponsible to do what you want to do as long as you believe you are doing it safely". However "safe" is doing what is smart and gives the best result if one doesn't want to be pregnant, yet, the shaking of heads.

Yes, there are the responsible ones, but the gay public is not that responsible as we found out when HIV was first being reported and it was fairly discussed that bath houses and places for casual and even anonymous sex should be shut down for health reasons. Battle cries broke out.

Now where was this "responsible and mature gay majority" during that period? Not very vocal or not very large to the point of making a difference.

But for responsibility, what is irresponsible about more than 2 entering a contract of commitment(marriage) if each is willing to accept all mandates and responsibilities that come with it? That isn't irresponsible. What is irresponsible is to say you will, then don't. Those that want to enter such relationships should be able to do so until it is proven such relationships are dangerous. Until they are allowed to "come out of the shadows" and are given an opportunity to prove they can have successful relationships, don't keep them from the opportunity to try.

However this is exactly what many who now have achieved the cause of "marriage equality" want to do. Rob other models of relationships from having the chance to be and show they can be successful.

No homosexual should be against that since they just finished demanding that chance. "you should be able to marry who you love". For many, "love" is big enough for more than one. They should have that right. It doesn't hurt any 2 member marriage for others to have more than 2.

Camera Obscura  brisonc3 • a few seconds ago
You are lying about the lives of many, many gay men who don't engage in promiscuity, who don't engage in casual sex outside of a mature and mutually supportive and loving relationship. Gay men such as Dan Savage also tell lies like that, gay men who say that monogamy among gay men is impossible or, in the supreme irony of this discussion, "unnatural" are telling the same lies only more stupidly since they are confirming a widespread and false stereotype of gay men in order to promote irresponsible sex among gay men which, during my lifetime, led to the deaths of enormous numbers of gay men. Ironically, Dan Savage and his like share a degraded view of gay men with the very bigots who oppress us. Such sexperts who advocate unfaithful marriages for gay men and lesbians accept an already degraded view of marriage on our behalf. I reject their offer.

So, you are advocating that for straight, married couples who experience a loss of fertility or infertility that they remain entirely chaste, that there be no sex for women and their husbands after menopause or after they have had the number of children they had planned on having. Yeah, let me know how well that goes over. Most people, the vast majority of people, don't take that view of sex. It is a view of sex which is certainly not supported by the Bible. If it were then neither Abraham and Sarah nor Zachary and Anna would have had the children who played such a prominent role in the Biblical narratives they were a part of, Abraham would certainly not have begot the Nation of Israel and, if you take the genealogy of Jesus seriously, his mother would not have been born.

If, as I suspect, you are a Catholic it is especially ironic that you take the view of marriage you do because in Catholicism it is the couple making promises to each other for mutual support and love that makes the marriage, not some outsider approving of it. Marriage is a sacramental act the validity of which hinges on the mature consent to that agreement, it doesn't hinge on the fertility of the couple, entirely infertile couples, couples with no chance of conceiving due to biological impossibility are not barred from marrying or having sex within that marriage. The Catholic Church does not hold that such marriages are null and void, they do marriages in which one of both of the couple didn't make a mature and sincere commitment to the marriage agreement.

Your putting "love" into quotes when it comes to gay men and lesbians betrays your real thinking, which is motivated by hatred and bigotry.

Polygamy is an immature form of marriage which is based on two or more lesser relationships than a marriage involving two people. There is no way in which a polygamous marriage doesn't end up being an unequal relationship in which, in all historical cases, the women suffer in the lesser role of that relationship. I don't see any problem with a society not supporting that situation due to the inherent danger of inequality being a nearly fixed likelihood as being the result anymore than it doesn't support a marriage in which an unequal relations is bound to occur if one of the members of it is too young to make a mature agreement. The age of consent is, in some cases, arbitrary, many people of that age are too unintelligent or immature to give meaningful consent, but the law has to pretend that they can, I would expect that there are people slightly younger than the age of consent who could give the decision the requisite intelligent, mature consideration that it requires. But the law can't be that specific to an individual and uncharacteristic reality, it has deliver equal treatment, based on the most typical of circumstances. I don't have any problem with it taking the more typical outcome of polygamy into account in which one man marries more than one woman and has more children than they can reasonably take care of and support and give enough attention to to raise them to become responsible, mature adults who respect all people equally. While that is possible within a monogamous marriage, it isn't typical of straight monogamous marriage. I also don't think there is anything wrong with society admitting that the likelihood of inequality arising within a polygamous marriage is multiplied. It's bad enough when a father has a favorite among his children, to also give such people who play favorites an ability to have favorites among many wives, no doubt having that contribute to unequal treatment among their children, is nothing that society has any obligation to approve of.

Monogamous marriage among gay men and lesbians is not the same as polygamy for any number of reasons, polygamy is bound to create inequality and unequal treatment, it will, as well result in unequal marriages of the type that gay men and lesbians rejected in the past decade when it was offered. I, actually, favored the state getting out of the marriage business altogether and only granting, everyone, including straight couples a legal recognition of their relationship as a civil union, marriage being a far higher and private aspect of such a relationship, one which the state has no role in consummating, reducing that relationship to a mere contractual and financial arrangement. If you want to see what has damaged straight marriage, it is that reduction of its sacred aspect by straight people, just as the inequality of marriages in earlier times degraded it. Marriage equality elevates the married relationship to what it should be, a human practice of the sacred endowment of equality. God has the capacity to practice such intimate equality to more than one person, people don't share that same capacity.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Hate Mail - I Don't Have The Time To Waste On The Brats Just Now

I don't care what they're saying, no time to waste on their idiocy, now. 

Also, too.

I'm never really surprised but also decreasingly interested in having straight boys tell me all about how gay men are supposed to think and act.  They figure we're all the same and how they figure we're supposed to be, which might have lessons to teach as to how they view women, also, but I don't have time for that, either.   And, no, I'm not interested in how middle-aged gay boys who won't grow up, won't be honest and won't be responsible for the consequences of their action think I should act anymore than I am in what the straight boys say. 

The Little Lies Freely Spoken Add Up To The Whole World Cataclysm We Have Made

I have never been a hobby gardener, what food I grow during the summer and can and freeze and dry is a major part of my livelihood and always has been.  I would have never been able to pursue music as a career without it and certainly would never have had the time, both to read what I have and, while weeding or doing other things, to think about what I read without that being the case.

Yesterday's hail storm has pretty well wiped out crops I absolutely depend on, which is certainly not something we are used to in our part of New England, it has never happened here within living memory.  We went from a day of  extremely hot, humid weather with oppressive stifling heat to the ground being covered with nickle and quarter size hail and much of the leaf mass of the trees in a quarter of an hour.  This is like having a killing frost at the height of summer.  I have no idea what I'm going to do about it, other than plant more of what can be planted this time of year, something which will take up a lot of my time in the coming weeks.  Which will, beyond doubt, keep me from writing things.  As I mentioned a while back I was already having financial trouble.  This is pretty bad.  I'm hardly the only person this is a personal disaster for.  It gives me a chance to learn more deeply how it is for other people, around the world.

With global warming and other man-made disasters, I expect what I'm getting to experience in a small way is already the common experience of huge numbers of people, man-made food shortage. The response of the capitalist mind will, no doubt, be to produce more of the things that led to the disaster, more petro-chemicals, more GMO products that will require more of those - with the kind of tranquility that the people who are destroying the planet already have quite too much of even without the help of meditation technology.   Of course even our allegedly liberal president will serve the oil and other extraction industries which our failed democratic systems serve, the massive corporations and, ultimately, the tiny class of people those exist to serve.  I think it's appropriate to talk about societies which don't take the religious obligations that democracy rest on seriously as post-democratic societies.   We live in one, now.   If you want to know why Barack Obama has turned out to be a corporate tool, American's are told by their TVs and radios not to vote for anyone who isn't one and, not having any other equivalent force in their experience to tell them otherwise, they do what they're told with all of the manipulative techniques that the advertising and PR industries can devise to convince them to obey.  He is the product of the training grounds of such people, the Ivy League class universities.  Corrupt governments in alleged democracies are the product of media enabled to lie for profit, they are the result of the free-speech, free-press legal industry.  If it were illegal to lie on TV and radio and in the movies, if it were the grounds for loss of permission to make money that way, we would never have seen the implosion of democracy in America, we would have never seen the destruction of liberal reform which was won with so much work and blood.  If you don't know the truth, you cannot be free.  You can't even find out what really is killing you.

In the age of climate change scarcity of food of water, with billions of people, with a class of billionaires who have been given given free reign by our courts, our political systems, by the overlords of the World Bank, The IMF, by other such entities created by mulitlateral trade deals made by corrupt politicians and corporate lawyers which have superseded even national governments and which serve bankers and billionaires instead of The People and the common good we will find that the entire world has been turned from the commons to private concessions in the ultimate program of enclosure.  There is no North America, no Australia to ship the excess population to when the whole world has been made the property of the aristocratic 1%.   And, with the aid of mass media, TV, radio, in that most seductive of forms of control, entertainment, those close to the bottom will be turned on those below them, protecting and enabling those above them.  That is how they conquered the American people, that is why we elect pseudo-liberals who serve the elites who are robbing us, who are destroying the very basis of life.   Ultimately, that is all based on lies, on the abandonment of morality, on the denial of the absolute moral obligation to do justice.

In re-reading the Jewish scriptures I am struck over and over again at how full of resonating, pulsing, flashing warnings they are against what we are seeing all around us today.  Those were people who lived on the thinnest of margins in an arid environment, where the denial of, not only fair treatment but generous hospitality, food, drinkable water, could mean death within hours.  They learned things that we in a life of plenty in a boreal forest environment, in the fields carved out of that, never had the reason to learn.  I am afraid we are going to experience something like what they did.  But their ethical and moral insights weren't the only things such experiences of deprivation and danger can produce.  There were other and entirely worse conclusions drawn from that experience, you can see it in areas where war lords and other such thugs rule, you can read about it in the Book of Judges and others that deal with what happens when there is no effective legal prevention of that.  We are ruled by those thugs in finely tailored suits and judicial robes now.

This is sounding kind of like a Jeremiad,  maybe it is, but I don't know of any other way to express these observations of what I'm seeing, here in my little town and all around the world.  The last thing we need is coping skills to soothe our minds, we need to change things, not cope more effectively with them. I figure telling the truth is the start of that.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Charles Ives -Soliloquy

Well, I just got back from looking at what's left of my garden, by the looks of it, not much.  I've never seen a hail storm like the one we had this afternoon, an old farmer who has lived here for almost a century said he's never seen one like it.   Tomorrow, see what might survive, start new plants.  Guess I'll be eating more kale and cabbage this winter and a lot fewer tomatoes and beans.  Those look like they've been through the hardest frost ever.   That is if we don't get another one of these.  I hate to think what it did to the toads and frogs and birds, even the deer must have suffered terribly.

I'd better get off now, more thunder's coming.  Surprised we didn't lose power or internet.

Damn Henry Ford to hell.

The Dangerous Products of Blissful Detachment In The Absence of Definitive Morality

In light of my post last Wednesday in which I critisized the divorce of Buddhist and other forms of meditation from their religious contexts, their metaphysical and moral content, I feel as if I should mention this week's program of On Being, with the meditation teacher Mirabai Bush, particularly this passage.

MS. BUSH: So we at illuminations, we were trying to create an organization based on principles of what they call in the East, “right livelihood,” where what you're making is wholesome and contributes to — now we would say, you know, sustainability of the planet and the species.


MS. BUSH: And at the same time, the way in which you're doing it is helping everyone who is involved to wake up. Interestingly, we did so many things that when I, many years later, arrived at Google — because they wanted to have a program there where their engineers could learn meditation — so many of the same things that they've recognized about what makes a person more creative, more able to bring their whole self into work and to be able to grow from their work as well. And not think of it as “now I'll do my work and then I'll go home and be a real person.”

MS. TIPPETT: Right, right. But that has — that is a shift that still has a long way to go…

MS. BUSH: Oh for sure.

MS. TIPPETT: … in terms of American corporate culture and ideals and and practicalities.

MS. BUSH: Yeah.

MS. TIPPETT: The story of Search Inside Yourself. First of all, I love the story of how you, that you had to find that language. I mean, isn't it right that when you first just were offering a meditation course or mindfulness course it didn't take?

MS. BUSH: Yeah, actually I was — excuse me — my friend Meng, who's now written the book on Search Inside Yourself, called me up one day, I was at the — still running the Center for a Contemplative Mind and he called up. First of all he said, "when I was younger,” he had been through some difficult times and meditation had really helped him. So he'd been thinking for some time, at Google, that it would be really great to bring into the workplace. He'd been there since almost the beginning. He was engineer number 107. And when Google went public they told their engineers, who no longer needed to work if they didn't want to, that they could stay but they had to do something that would in some way advance Google's mission. But they could decide what it was. So Meng decided it was going to be bringing meditation. And he said, "I posted it and nobody signed up. I don't know what to do, and I heard you could help."

So I went out there and we talked and we looked around and what we identified was that people, employees, they are all quite young, very smart, graduated at the top of their class from MIT or Stanford, had been in front of their screens most of their lives. So, after talking for a whole day and figuring out what was going on there, I suggested that we could offer the same practices, but emphasize the practices that more directly cultivate emotional intelligence and that we could frame it in a different way. And so we called it — of course, they came up with this great name since they were the big search engine, Search Inside Yourself, and then the subtitle was, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. And we asked Danny Goleman, who also was in Bodh Gaya with us back all those years ago...

MS. TIPPETT: Right, right.

MS. BUSH: ...asked him to give a talk at Google about the relation between about why emotional intelligence is so important in the workplace and the relationship between meditation and emotional intelligence. He did that, and then we posted the course, and in four hours 140 people signed up and since then over 2,000 Googlers around the world have taken the course. And there's a lot of talk now about bringing mindfulness into the workplace and how superficial it is and how it helps bad people do bad things better and it doesn't help people question anything, it just makes them more satisfied with what they're doing. But this is a serious course and when you sit down and quiet down, become calm, quiet, stable, you have to do that in order for any kind of insight to arise, and it does. You do feel better usually, although sometimes, really disturbing emotions arise. But it needs to be taken to the next kind of level of depth in order for people to begin to question.


MS. BUSH: But this course actually offers enough time, practice, and teaching to help people do that.

MS. TIPPETT: I mean, yeah. I think that's an important and refreshing thing to name that you can be a great meditator and also remain narcissistic. I mean this can be superficial and it can be abused like any spiritual practice, like any political practice. But, Mirabai, something that really so intrigues me in your work is — and in some of your writing — is how you, like the language of emotional intelligence — that you've just been using and that's now so widely familiar, including in workplaces.

That what this tradition is bringing forward and bringing to the surface from modern people has this very noble lineage. You know, it's Buddhism that is the tradition that has focused on this for thousands of years. But you wrote about how in 1890 William James in The Principles of Psychology said that, "The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again is the very root of judgment, character, and will." And, I mean, I don't think he was Buddhist but that is the intention, right? Of...

MS. BUSH: Yeah, that is the intention.

She addressed the questions I have about this attempt to translate, popularize and, most dangerously, secularize religious practices and how those can easily be abused.

And there's a lot of talk now about bringing mindfulness into the workplace and how superficial it is and how it helps bad people do bad things better and it doesn't help people question anything, it just makes them more satisfied with what they're doing. But this is a serious course and when you sit down and quiet down, become calm, quiet, stable, you have to do that in order for any kind of insight to arise, and it does.

If her course is serious, there are plenty which are far less serious.   I wonder if her background as a Catholic doesn't inform her intentions a lot more than she might want to consider.  If someone who doesn't have that background, with its moral requirement to not be self-centered and selfish and to always consider the moral consequences of your actions on other people, giving them these techniques won't reliably produce the same goals and be put to the same uses that Mirabai Bush seems to just assume will just, somehow, happen.  In the stories of the childhood of the Buddha he exhibited a deep faculty of compassion for suffering, living creatures from the time as an infant he watched the farmer plowing the field and he was aware of the suffering of the worms and other creatures who would be injured and killed by the plow.  The world today, especially the world of corporate culture, proves that there are lots and lots of people who seem to be lacking much if any of that same faculty of compassion or even reflection.  Business culture, capitalism, is based on exactly the opposite.  Like natural selection, which is derived from the same root, they are methods of competition, producing a winner who will defeat if not destroy competitors whose feelings, certainly, but in many cases even their very lives are not considered important or worthy of consideration.  I don't think teaching those people methods which can lead to coldness and a more disengaged efficiency is anything like reliably good.   In the context of corporate culture, it's more likely to lead to a more disciplined and effective competitor and predator who will, by the rules of that culture, rise and dominate.   It can be of use to such sociopathic types as are favored by that system,

The line between calm non-judgement and calm self-satisfaction is not an easy one to find, in the absence of continual moral self-doubt and questioning.

I find it extremely troubling that one of the corporations which Mirabai Bush has done work for is Monsanto, [About minute 48 in the unedited interview.]  one of the most predatory of corporations who have produced some of the most destructive pesticides and GMO products,  things that the young Buddha would have seen as being a total violation of the most basic of moral commandments.  Use her other client, Google's search engine to look for " worst corporations Monsanto" and see what comes up.  Amazingly, enough, she talked about how, in the past, she introduced them to the Buddhist meditation on loving kindness, designed to increase compassion for other beings. Monsanto, today, as they are regularly voted one of the worst coporations, dedicated to killing trillions of animals with some of the most destructive artificial pollutants ever devised by chemistry. Her work for Monsanto, among other corporations is discussed more in the uncut interview which I think should have been gone into far more because I think on such cases as that the integrity of her entire work founders.  No matter how much sincerity she may feel, herself, her involvement with Monsanto its subsequent history is what I would call a definitive repudiation of her program as a form of Buddhism or of any kind of promotion of morality.

Given that, I find her subsequent statements about working with those involved with sounding the alarm on climate change rather odd.

It will be the loss of belief in God and the long, long lessons of right and wrong that is the theme of the books collected into The Bible and in other scriptures that end our species, if anything does.   In my study of the Indian religious and philosophical tradition, especially the Buddhist tradition, that was one of the things I came to conclude.  Much as I respect the Buddhist tradition, especially the rejection of the caste system which was developing as a religio-philosophical holding, supporting an economic injustice during the early centuries of Buddhism, it isn't enough.  If the Jewish-Christian-Islamic tradition has much to learn from other traditions, there is a lot those have to learn from the widely despised monotheistic traditions, as well.

Sharon Salzberg, the famous Buddhist meditation teacher, who is mentioned in the interview, has a blog at the On Being website.   In a post earlier this month she made a statement that I found amazing,

In 1999, before the turn of the millennium, the Dalai Lama began talking about the ethical implications of radical income inequality. I’d never heard someone in a spiritual context speak about anything like that.

To which I said,

With all respect to Sharon Salzberg, and I do have a lot of respect for her and for His Holiness, the Jewish Law began to talk about income inequality from the time the Torah was first articulated, through the prophets, including Jesus and a continual line of religious people, through Gregory of Nyssa, St. Francis.... various theologians, religious activists and popes and other writers, certainly, on our time, the great liberation theologians of Latin America, Africa, Asia, North America, Europe, the great Black Liberation theologians.... You get the idea. It is tragic that someone who was so serious about pursuing the religious life, somehow, avoided the ubiquity of that same line of thought in that tradition. I have had someone who professed being a Buddhist, of the North American school, tell me that justice was an illusion, that there was no such thing as justice. I told her that if she were deprived of it she would certainly notice its absence. I am glad that His Holiness is emphasizing that teaching, which I think is implicit in the Buddhist commandments, if you will, from the oldest of scriptures, I just wish more Buddhists, as well as Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc. realized it is at the very heart of real religion instead of self-absorbed pseudo-mindfulness practice.

As much as I like Salzberg, if she was unaware of that tradition she couldn't have looked at it at all.  I found both this program and her post very disillusioning.