“Don’t pray in my school and I won’t think in your church.”
The misleading simplicity of this bumper-sticker size witticism aside, I think it contains a pretty accurate summation of my views on the intellectual laziness of the religious. Indeed it turns out that there is statistical evidence to flesh out the proposition that the more educated or intelligent one is, the less religious one is.
Apparently there is also evidence that shows as few as 1 in 12 children escape the religious views of their parents in the cases of children with a secure emotional attachment to their parents.
In this day and age there is no excuse for such laziness. For the greatest minds of the Christian age, Augustine, Aquinas, Erasmus and so on, there was an excuse; besides the danger of being denied access to learning or even being executed, the power of the Church permeated all aspects of life. Scientific methods of analysis didn’t exist. That is not the case today.
To believe in God is not an indefensible proposition; to believe in a specific religious doctrine is indefensible. Because Christianity is the most ubiquitous religion in Western Europe, it is the one I know most about but it is by no means the only religion open to serious charge of intellectual laziness. No less so the superstitions which currently pervade our society, despite arguments to the contrary.
The casual acceptance of this laziness, or the denial that laziness exists in the first place, irritates me, as it did in some of these comments on Fruits of Our Labour.
A burden of proof now lies on me to demonstrate that belief in Christianity is intellectual laziness, as that is the proposition which underlines this article. I do not view that as a difficult task. I need only mention a few things to begin with; the massive discrepancies between the Gospels, the patently made up facts surrounding Jesus’ genealogy and the strong current of censorship that accompanies all the writings of the Early Christian fathers.
Most Christians haven’t considered these things. Those that have do not have an answer, though if you wish to see truculence in the face of overwhelming evidence, I suggest looking up virtually any subject on the Catholic Encyclopaedia. These things certainly aren’t mentioned in religious class in school – even in non-faith schools. In faith schools can you imagine how much worse it is?
Even those schools which don’t directly indoctrinate children into a specific religion, the non-specific ethic that pervades things like morning Assembly is generally religious. In many schools it is an attempt to generalise so that all religions feel included – but it still harks back to religious, spiritual reasons for why certain things should be true.
In wider society we can see the effects this has. In the US, millions of Americans are hoodwinked by religious conmen who make hundreds of millions of dollars from people who don’t understand evolution and react against it out of some ‘common sense’ notions which could and should be challenged by the rest of us.
In Britain, we’re conned into respecting the fact that parents, some consciously, some out of the belief that faith schools get better results, seek to indoctrinate their children into their own way of life by ensuring that this is all the children are exposed to. In the US, this is a condition which the Supreme Court has upheld as justified under the Constitution (Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 1972).
The ultimate effect is to encourage, to propagate a matching intellectual laziness. Faith, as a rule, is one of those matters which goes largely unquestioned except by an extreme minority. Even the majority of atheists and agnostics who, according to studies on the decline of religion in the UK, make up a sizable chunk of society, let it pass unchallenged.
Faith is widely seen as something to be respected than something which should be ridiculed – as intellectual laziness and an obstinate unwillingness to scientifically engage with evidence. Plenty of ‘the faithful’ attempt to equate atheism with another religion at this point, and suggest that teaching secularism would in effect be no different to what we attack organised religion for.
I have answered this comprehensively elsewhere.
Ultimately what this line of reasoning fails to acknowledge is that most secularists don’t care what opinions people hold and don’t resent difference and discussion. What secularists do care about is denying an institutional stranglehold upon learning, and upon teaching the methods of critical and independent thought – each of which challenge faith.
In conclusion, though one person who jumped into this argument might casually attempt to put rational thought on a par with emotion, I disagree. Religion and emotional attachments to certain views are indefensible in the face of rational, scientific analysis. The two can be in accord, but where they are not, one must triumph.
If we choose religion and emotion, then we become the subjectivists and surrender ourselves to Nietzsche’s concept of the superman who can free himself from objective conditions. We become our darker selves.
 P. Bell, “Would you believe it?” Mensa Magazine, Feb 2002, p12ff. Of 43 studies since 1927 all but four have demonstrated clear correlation between level of education / IQ and negative belief in the almighty. Thank you Richard Dawkins for this.
 I have yet to find any scientific study disputing the correlation of parental religiosity and the religion of their offspring throughout their life. For those examining this, see Kirkpatrick and Shaver (1990) and Kirkpatrick (2005) among plenty of others.
 “And believe it or not, the brain controls both emotions and rational thought.”
A bundle of articles and the correspondences inspired by these articles in the IHT captured my attention over the last few weeks, supplemented again today. These articles and letters largely concern the characterisation of Islamic terrorism as ‘Islamofascism’ and the rights and wrongs thereof.
What concerns me most about this debate, sterile as it may seem to some, is that it dilutes the appreciation of what fascism actually was. Many authors seem to place all too much faith in the similar characteristics of fascism and ‘Islamofascism’ (both in control of a state as in Iran or not as with Al-Quaeda) to establish the link they seek.
That some do so out of the same nigh hysterical impulse from which war propaganda usually arises is, I feel, a safe assertion. Yet even for those attempting a serious definition, it is my view that the genesis of each movement needs to be considered in much more detail; it is from that which we can establish a much sounder definition.
I think this because the Spanish, German and Italian fascist regimes had many different characteristics – particularly since Mussolini’s dictatorship was not racialist until the weight of the Nazi victory in Germany began to make itself felt. Cherry picking those characteristics which were the same and calling them fascism seems unscientific.
Fascism, in Italy, Spain and Germany, arose as a movement of the petty bourgeoisie in the face of economic chaos. It gained ground and succeeded because social democratic leaders lacked confidence in the abilities of the proletariat, and indeed some feared a proletarian revolution as much as the totalitarianism which fascism brought. These are features common to all three of the above listed states.
Whilst I am no expert on Iran, I think it is the case that these features are absent from Iran. Iran may share features with the fascist regimes – for example the totalitarian state – but then so did the Soviet Union and no one but the politically illiterate would contend that the Soviets and the fascists arrived in power by the same social route.
In Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini was put into power on the back of a powerful working class movement, which commanded strikes all over the country and which supplied the necessary organisation to beat the Iranian army on the streets of Tehran and elsewhere. The petty bourgeoisie of Iran were not in the dire straits of, say, the average German shop owner or middle class professional in 1930.
Finally, the Iranian Revolution of 1979 did not place the same group of people into power that the fascist governments of Italy, Germany and Spain allied with. Finance capital was not left unmolested to form a corporatist shadow government, as in Italy. The largest enterprises either remained nationalised or were forcibly nationalised.
In Germany, employers had massive powers and the forcible abolition of the trade unions resulted in a 25% decline in real wages for workers between 1933 – 1938. One couldn’t get a new job without the consent of one’s previous employer. The differences between Iran and the fascist states is manifest and the difference stems from the different social compositions of the movements which created those states.
Don’t mistake me; the Iranian regime is abhorrent to me and to all socialists. I simply think we should call a spade a spade and not resort to tired clichés which then obscure real fascist danger should it occur. We should remember that German and Italian social democratic movements spent years denying that fascism could ever become a serious threat.
Vigilance – an intelligent vigilance – is important for our movement.
Well done to Councillor Bob Piper who noticed Nick Clegg’s glorious moment of political principle this morning on Andrew Marr’s show.
On a possible coalition with the Conservatives as a result of a hung parliament, Clegg commented “Of course I won’t answer that. The electorate haven’t spoken and it would be arrogant to pre-empt what the electorate might say.”
Roughly translated that means, “There’s no chance in hell you’re catching me out with that one. If I say we will go into coalition with the Tories, all those idiot little Leftie souls who abandoned Labour as a result of Blair won’t vote for us. If I say I won’t, then I can’t get my grubby little paws on a Ministerial portfolio.”
What annoys me most is the potential for Clegg to go into government with Cameron. The idea that bothers me is not that power will be grasped by one of the most politically opportunistic people of the modern age. It’s that all the irritating little wannabes who I know that have joined the Lib Dems because it’s ‘more left than Labour’ will find some way to justify it to themselves.
It won’t matter that the Tories will never allow themselves to be hamstrung on encroachments in civil liberties, benefits and other such things – which, recently, it has to be said, the Lib Dems have a less than perfect record on anyway. Still the student Lib Dems will croon themselves to sleep with the song, “At least we’re better than Blair.”
When last I checked in, the Scientologist movement was busy attempting to discredit the BBC Panorama documentary about them. Said documentary confused me as to whether I should laugh or seriously worry about the amount of hocus pocus that seems to be overtaking humanity. I seriously recommend watching it.
Seemingly not much has changed in Scientology since last I looked. Scientologists have reacted angrily (and with the legal restraint common to our American cousins) to the posting of a video online of Tom Cruise rambling on about his video. The video is included below. (Edit: I have now messed about trying to post the video up to the point where I think Scientologists have put their voodoo whammy on me. It is now linked here).
The story gets better. In Germany, a historian denounced Cruise’s performance as Goebbels-like, comparing it to the ‘Total War’ speech of the Nazi Minister for Propaganda in the Berlin Sportspalast during World War II. The Scientologists have responded by denouncing the newspaper, Bild am Sonntag, as ‘anti-religionist’ and accusing them of discriminating against religion, race and colour.
Those places where the video has popped up of Mr Cruise on his rant have been served legal notices. This is part of the ‘fair game’ strategy of the Scientologists, also known as ‘attack the attacker,’ as endorsed by L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the cult. This is another video exposé, this time by an American broadcasting group.
I especially like the parts in which the Scientologists try to intimidate the journalists by barracking them. “What are your crimes?” and “What are you afraid of?” is what they ask over and over, openly stating that the only possible reason anyone might have for querying Scientology is that they have a deep, dark sin hidden in their past. I don’t think they were particularly impressed when in answer to their barracking the journo says, “Yeah I killed a guy once. It was a postal worker back in Wisconsin.”The Scientologist who asks, “Are you taking time off from beating your wife to come down here?” really embodies the whole cult so far as I’m concerned.
Against all that, Tom Cruise’s paltry self-righteous declaration that only Scientologists can help if there’s a car accident seems a bit lame. I’m sure paramedics and mechanics will be disappointed to learn that only Scientologists can help. Perhaps the Scientologists will spend their time giving the accident victims a massage. Certainly the story of the Thetan aliens can cure insomnia.
Despite that, I can’t help but see what the German historian was talking about when he likened Cruise’s speech to that of Goebbels. It’s the intense look on his face when Cruise declares, “a Scientologist does” and expects us to accept that as anything less than rubbish. If this bunch had been around during the early part of the 20th Century, the Nazis wouldn’t have needed conspiracy theories about the World Zionist Over-government and such things.
“We are the authorities on getting people off drugs, we are the authorities on the mind, we are the authorities on improving conditions…we can bring peace and unite cultures.” Perhaps things like political organisation, principles and even science itself should just stop and ask Mr Cruise for a helping hand. I think not. After all, for him, it’s a blast.
“Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power.” – Benjamin Franklin, 1738.
The above quote from Benjamin Franklin is the less known brother of Franklin’s other comment upon temporary security and liberty. It comes from his writings in Poor Richard’s Almanack, which he wrote under a pseudonym as Richard Saunders.
I was reminded of it when reading Gordon Brown’s speech on security, as one might suspect. With announced intentions to increase the security budget by a billion pounds between now and 2011, a socialist may be forgiven for despairing of this Labour government.
No less reason for despair is that the usual ‘hawks’ are out and no doubt stumping for votes, to ensure the passage of what promises to be a very stormy session in the House of Commons. Jacqui Smith, fresh from conceding defeat to the Police Federation is perhaps concerned with restoring the damaged prestige of the government by being seen to do something on terrorism.
Rachel North, a victim of the 7/7 bombings in London once said, “I wasn’t blown up in an act of war. People didn’t die on my train in an act of war. I’m not going to sink to the level of people who say that everything goes – it doesn’t. There are some things that are more important than being able to have a safe journey in to work.”
I have always thought that a brave sentiment – and one that I share, but which I voice only on occasion. The reason for my restraint is that, though I have no problem putting my own life in jeopardy as an act of defiance against terrorists, deciding to do so is a very personal thing, one which I would not like to decide on behalf of my fellow citizens. Yet it is a sentiment that I hope will be given wings when the Labour backbenches marshal their forces against the vote to extend the detention limit.
It is more evident than ever that British security forces co-operated in the creation of areas like Camp X-ray. Our government has signed away our right to be judged solely by the laws of our own land when it comes to extradition. We have been pushed and pushed about the right to detain people. We have been implicated in the flight of suspect persons via the UK to countries which permit torture. It can go no further.
Rachel continued, “What we can’t take is a gradual erosion of our civil liberties, of everything that makes us worth defending.”
A billion pounds spent on creating defences we will probably never need is a billion pounds diverted from the very necessary flood defences which we definitely will need within the not-so-distant future. It is money taken away from investing in research into drugs, into non-hydrocarbon transport, into renewable energy. It is money taken away from the national health service, from education, from services that could be provided to our pensioners.
None of which spending is a guarantee that we will not suffer another terrorist attack, the equal to or greater than the 7/7 bombings.
Yet we’re still occupying Iraq and we’re still ambiguous in regard to our official positions on certain dictatorial regimes. Our then Prime Minister supported the massively disproportionate strikes on Lebanon by Israel – and then we voiced concerns about how Hezbollah placing their weapons stores in populated areas even though the Israelis do exactly the same where it suits them.
Our best guarantee of safety from terrorism is surely an honourable foreign policy – and that is something the price tag of which amounts to much less than the billion pounds we’re pledging to security. Our best defence is our democracy, spread not by force – something rapidly appearing unrealisable – but by its moral authority in the face of aggression by nations which should know better. None of this is on offer from the Prime Minister’s new foray.
Instead, we’re going to be practising the modern equivalent of duck and cover. We’re going to see the continuation and extension of a programme which sees state funds sent to religious groups, in an effort to strengthen the hand of so-called moderates against the extremists. Someone should ask the Palestinians how that has worked out for them.
The rhetoric of the government on things like investigating financial transactions and freezing assets may be tough when it comes to terrorism, but that didn’t stop it ignoring the rampant corruption inspired by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia due to political concerns. Who can trust the words of such a government?
We should hearken to the words of Mr Franklin. Proceeding down this road we both sell our virtues and sacrifice our liberties.
I always check out those blogs whose writers come over here for a chat. The Newer Labour blog was no exception. While reading down the different articles from the last few weeks and months, I came across one on Palestine. As one might expect, I did indeed groan – and was then aghast at someone left wing describing their opinions as Zionist.
I was less bothered by the blog attacking the positions of the Socialist Workers Party in respect to the Israel-Palestine problems. As I think is now beyond dispute, the SWP have shown how perfidious their politics can be through the morass into which the Respect Coalition has degenerated. Marching beside angry Muslims yelling, “From the river to the sea” is not my idea of a progressive movement, regardless of who the crowd votes for.
Though I generally agreed with those sections which critiqued the SWP, I felt the need to address one or two bits, in order to distinguish nuances of Marxist theory which author had missed. The major part of the criticism revolved around the critical support which the SWP gave to those groups which fought Israel in the name of the oppressed Palestinians. Miller2.0 states:
Actually, such an argument is intellectually dishonest. Did Lenin talk about ‘supporting Martov until after the revolution was complete‘? Hell no.
Marxists of any sort of education would not support a Hamas type movement after it had defeated an ‘imperialist’ invader. But because of the occupation, Socialist Worker support Hamas getting their hands on the most guns and money in order to fight Israel. Fair point from their perspective, but it enrages me that they won’t take responsibility for supporting something which would inevitably get Hamas into power.
I dispute the validity of the analogy without disputing the overall point. Questions are complicated by the presence of unfulfilled national aspirations, and are simplified by the absence of such aspirations. For this reason the class struggle in, say, England, has always been simpler than that in Ireland. Between Martov and Lenin, despite the presence of minority nations in the Russian Empire, there was no national question.
Both were greater Russians, both were fighting for the overthrow of capitalism. Each simply had different views of the natural historical evolution necessary in order to achieve socialism. Each believed themselves to be firmly grounded in Marxist theory. I do not believe that to be the issue at stake with regard to the national questions in Palestine and Israel.
The issue at stake for the SWP is the Leninist ideas on national self-determination. Lenin wrote about how national self-determination is a powerful impulse. Lenin postulated that due to the tie between the nation-state and capitalism, a movement for national self-determination would throw up bourgeois leaders.
Socialism, as an internationalist ideology, would find itself in sympathy with the demands of workers for better wages, political democracy and other demands common to an oppressed people, whilst finding itself opposing and opposed by the leadership of the national movement.
That leadership would be interested in utilising the workers’ demands for the purposes of creating a nation-state in which the bourgeoisie could grow more fully than under the previous imperialist power. In Marxism, this impulse on the part of the bourgeoisie is sometimes called the law of uneven capitalist development.
For the SWP, I suspect, the issue is one of supporting the demands to national self-determination and insofar as that be the case supporting the bourgeois leaders critically. Where the project goes off the rails a little is in the opportunistic nature of the SWP.
As a result of immigration and the growth of a Muslim political movement in Britain, in which the SWP were involved, there would be pressure for the SWP to subsume their criticism of the bourgeois leaders of the ‘national movement’ in Palestine. Material and electoral gains have no doubt ensued for them.
Much of this discussion is based purely on the arguments of the SWP as presented by the Newer Labour blogger Miller2.0 and as such could be a straw man position. I do sincerely doubt whether or not even the SWP could be so callous as to support the channeling of weapons and funds to a group such as Hamas. Certainly other Marxist groups are unrestricted in their criticism of Hamas et al.
My own views are pretty expansively laid out in one of the first blogs on this site. I think that my ultimate response to the muse I have taken has to be this; one can deride political opportunism and yet not go so far as describing oneself as Zionist, whether Meretz-style Zionism or not. Regardless of what the dictionary says about Zionism, it was a movement which attained political maturity with Ben Gurion’s desire to subordinate civil society to the state, and which grew up in direct opposition to the socialist Judaism of the Bund.
Today a Chipmunk received news that it was to be selected to fight the newly created seat of Salford and Eccles. The two seats, previously named Salford and Eccles, originally enough, were combined by the Electoral Commission. These changes are taking effect from the next election. Salford and Eccles are not the only constituency to be affected by these changes.
Well known politician George Gallows-Humour is to change constituency at the next election also. When asked about his thoughts, he shouted “Fuck off!” and muttered something about public school tossers.
The Chipmunk commented, “I’ve paid tribute to the MP for Eccles, Ian Stewart. Clearly the CLP members were impressed by my ministerial portfolio for nuts. Today they made the right choice and together we’ll work better for Salford and Eccles.”
The Chipmunk, a former candidate for deputy leadership of the Labour Party, was unrepentant about her voting record. When queried on the subject, she said, “I voted for the Iraq war, for the anti-terrorism laws, for replacing Trident, for top-up fees, for the introduction of privatisation to the NHS and definitely for the BBC moving to Salford…No I don’t think there’s a conflict of interest in me saying that.”
In defending her stance on introducing Academies, the Chipmunk refuted the idea that Academies were all about the PPP-PFI fetishism of the Blair-Brown regime. “Clearly the £20million is not just a price tag on the schools and their grounds. They come with loads of additional perks for peddlers of irrational ideologies, such as religious groups…I fear I’ve said too much.”