Thursday, November 26, 2009

President Calls for Fascist Theocracy

Charles the Queeg Johnson is right! This president doesn't even pretend to respect the Wall of Separation established for us by the modern Supreme Court:

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln


And I'm especially grateful for medical science, without which neither he nor I would be here. So let's pray for the failure of our current President's profoundly irrational and destructive determination to socialize and thereby ruin the best health care in the world:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

If Wishes Were Hearses, Atheists Would Ride in Back

I'm glad everyone is enjoying this little series of posts, because I don't think Oldbob is. The one thing that leftists, atheists, global warmists, and Obamists cannot tolerate is ridicule. After all, they are the ridiculers. It's what they do. It's their main mode of argument. Not for nothing are all of the deepest thinkers of the left comedians -- Bill Maher, Al Franken, Janeane Garofalo, Jon Stewart, Will Ferrell, Rosie O'Donnell, David Letterman, Roseanne, Joe Biden, et al. And no one ridicules the ridiculers!

By the way, isn't it fitting that "Mister Rational," Bill Maher, is being eviscerated and shown for the buffoon he is, with his anti-vaccination lunacy? And now climategate. It's not easy being so brilliant. (More on the liberal war on science and reason here.)

Well, things are also about to get tougher for Oldbob. Next up is argument #5, which I will quote verbatim, even though it makes me cringe by proxy. It sounds exactly like some of our trolls. To think that I was once one of them!

"No tenable argument for the existence of God has ever been promulgated. For one thing, the word 'God' has no definition, and one can never assert that something exists without saying what the existent precisely is. Who would dispute for long about 'blue meanies' without indicating in a rough way what these are?"

Really, this is too stupid and incoherent to even take seriously. Let's start with the first statement, "No tenable argument for the existence of God has ever been promulgated."

In fact, plenty of tenable arguments for the existence of God have been promulgated (and BTW Oldob, who are you trying to impress? I know you just learned that big word last week!). But even then, rational arguments about the existence of God only take one so far, which is to say, not very. However, I maintain that in our hyper-materialist age, these arguments are actually more important than ever, because they help the mind transcend its own limitations, and give one "permission to believe," so to speak.

For better or worse, modern man's intelligence must be convicted. And there is a huge upside to this, as I am not one of those people who shun the countless technological blessings of modernity brought to us by scientific rationalism. It's just that one must not confuse method with ontology, the map with the territory. Science is a way to look, not the thing seen.

In his Logic and Transcendence, Schuon has a couple of chapters devoted to this topic, Concerning Proofs of God and The Argument from Substance. To even mention "Schuon" and "Oldbob" in the same breath should be a source of deep embarrassment to the latter. But how is he to know that there are intellects that tower over his? A fluorescent bulb in a dark room can appear brighter than the sun. And Oldbob was futilely attempting to develop pnuemagraphs in his windowless little darkroom.

Likewise, how is Richard Dawkins to know that he and Thomas Aquinas are not meeting on the same ontological playing field, let alone Bill Maher and Hans von Balthasar? Children have no way of knowing what is far above and beyond them.

Just yesterday, my son, good boy that he is, took his dinner plate over to the countertop when he was finished eating. He thought he was placing it on a surface, because he had no way of knowing that he was dropping it into a concavity known as the "sink," so the plate broke. How many of us get into trouble in life because we have no idea of the outlines, contours, attractors, and forces that lie above -- to say nothing of the powers and principalities below?

Just recently, Mrs. G. and I have begun the practice of reading my long series of meditations on Meditations on the Tarot, which I did last year. I explained to her that one of the main purposes of these verticalisthenics is to be able to "see," "hear," and "touch" the spaces they illuminate. Yes, a regular exoteric practice helps one intuit these realities, and for many people, that's enough.

But these exercises - and I hope my blog in general -- help one to really see what's going on. I don't think it's any different than the manner in which science helps to illuminate material reality. It's just that we are attempting to illuminate immaterial reality. It's just as lawful, except that the laws are not necessarily embedded in matter, so they're not as obvious to the senses.

Again, there's nothing wrong with intuition. As Schuon writes, "if authentic, it necessarily contains in an infused manner the certainty transmitted by the proofs of God or the supernatural." Many people are convicted in this way -- just as the materialist is ultimately convicted by his own defective sense that there is no reality above matter. It's just a feeling he has, not a proper thought, let alone intellection. In the end, atheists are rank sentimentalists.

Schuon begins with the idea -- and when you think about it, all philosophies must begin here, on pain of undercutting their own foundation and rooting themselves in accident and contingency -- that "human intelligence coincides in its essence with certainty of the Absolute." This is really just another way of affirming the Truth that truth exists and man may know it. If he cannot know truth, then we have no argument, for what are we arguing over? The more attractive lie?

Indeed, we might say to Oldbob: "You say that no tenable argument for the existence of God has ever been promulgated. Is that true? Really? Are you sure? Then there is your tenable argument for the existence of God: truth surely exists, and man may know it."

As Schuon points out, the traditional proofs of God are not intended to be the end, merely the beginning; they "can serve as keys for restoring to intelligence its characteristic and integral nature." Truly, they are more like enzymes, or fertilizer, that helps restore the balance of your barren psyche.

But even then, the fertilizer does nothing if the seeds aren't there: "In the spiritual order, a proof is of assistance only to the man who wishes to understand and who, because of this wish, has in some measure understood it already; it is of no practical use to one who, deep in his heart, does not want to change his position and whose philosophy merely expresses this desire."

So I say to Oldbob: yours is a philosophy of your own desire that it be true. If it is, then it isn't. But at least you still have your desire to guide you through life. Enjoy the ride!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How to Argue With Yourself, If You Must

Moving on to #2 on Oldbob's dogmatic list of barking points against Christianity. In addition to making me cringe, this one reminds me of Bacon's wise crack that "a little philosophy inclineth man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion."

It also reminds me of one of Schopenhauer's central insights, that most men simply stop asking "why" at an arbitrary point, and then call it their "philosophy." My four year-old knows better than that, as he never stops asking why. Yesterday he asked me why we couldn't just paint the grass green instead of getting new sod.

But for tenured children, their philosophistry tends to breed a kind of aggressive defensiveness, because deep (really, it's not so deep, but we'll let it pass) down they know that their ideology is inadequate, since it isn't truly grounded in Reason. In my opinion, this is what makes leftists, Darwinists, global warmists, etc., so contemptuously hyper-aggressive and intolerant of dissent. You know, "if you disagree with Al Gore, you, sir, are worse than Hitler," or "if you see some problems with Darwinism, you secretly wish to impose a fascist theology."

I've noticed that this is the primary mode of argument of all the regular idiotiorialists of the New York Times -- FriedmanDowdKrugmanRich, et al -- who would never lower themselves to the level of actually engaging a conservative argument instead of simply hurling abuse.

Look at how Deepak Chopra characterizes Sarah Palin. Note that he cites no evidence for his kooky beliefs. Rather, since conservatives are self-evidently evil in the religion of leftism, evidence is beside the point. Thus, "Behind [Palin's] beauty-pageant smile lurk[s] the shadow, the dark side of human nature." Really? That's a pretty bold statement. Exactly what is that supposed to mean? Could you define your terms and cite an example?

"Her tactic of appealing to the worst impulses of the electorate had a long history in the Republican Party. Indeed, Palin inherited the selfish, mean-spirited values of another politician with a gleaming smile, Ronald Reagan."

This qualifies as pure hate speech -- a term I hate, but it is what it is. It is certainly not based on anything resembling fact, logic, evidence, or even reality. For example, just ask the millions of people in Eastern Europe if they think Ronald Reagan was a selfish and mean-spirited embodiment of the dark side of human nature. "Oh, sure. Worse than Stalin. And he was so mean to our kind overlord, the USSR, calling them evil and all that."

The term projection -- i.e., the defense mechanism of seeing one's own traits in others -- tends to be thrown out too casually, but what can you say about this gem from Deepak: "I hope the left will take a deep breath and stop treating Palin like a diabolical force."

Er, okay. You mean like seeing her has the embodiment of human evil?

Was Oldbob ever as dark and demented as Deepak Chopra? No. He never took himself that seriously. Truly, his number one priority was having fun. He was a frivolous popinjay, more to be pitied than censured.

I'm not sure where he came up with the next argument. Possibly from Bertrand Russell, who provides one of the finest examples of how genius and wisdom have no necessary relationship whatsoever. More often than not, genius is hijacked by narcissistic mind parasites; like politics, academia tends to be "show business for the unattractive."

At any rate, Oldbob claims that the apostles believed that the Second Coming would occur in their lifetimes, and since it didn't, the whole theological house of cards falls. But the apostles no doubt believed a lot of erroneous things, as they were only gradually instructed and transformed in the Holy Spirit.

Indeed, you might even say that human error is the default setting for the closed system of our animal nature. Only when something breaks in from the outside can we begin to see things as they are. So I don't assign any weight at all to this meager argument. After all, the truth doesn't become false just because you once misunderstood it.

Oldbob then brings up the question of everlasting punishment, which he calls a "doctrine of cruelty" full of "vindictive fury," which "outrages the most ordinary notions of justice and mercy."

Well, that's certainly one way of looking at it. But you will notice that atheists generally pick from the most literal of a variety of interpretations in order to vent their own abuse. I personally don't give any thought to medieval notions of hell. Undoubtedly they were valid in their day, as they addressed themselves to the mentality of the time.

In fact, I don't even give much thought to the afterlife, since it's inconceivable anyway. I see Christianity as a doctrine that teaches us how best to live in this world, not some other world. And since there can be no good in the absence of the Sovereign Good, simple logic dictates that a good Creator cannot be unjust. Thus, I have a kind of faith that we will all get what we deserve in the court of cosmic justice, but I don't bother thinking about it beyond that. Virtue is its own reward anyway. I don't need threats or rewards to obey the Law, any more than I need threats to adore truth or love beauty. It comes to me supernaturally.

Next, one of the oldest untruisms in the atheist ploybook, "either God cannot abolish evil, or he will not; if he cannot, then he is not all-powerful; if he will not, then he is not all good."

There are so many ways to approach this question. First of all, in a nihilistic universe of random Darwinian change, what cries out for explanation is not evil, ugliness, hatred and deception, but decency, truth, beauty, and love. Either the latter are ontological realities, or they are nothing. There's no in between, no matter how atheists try to spin it. And even the ability to distinguish between good and evil implies freedom and transcendence.

But more generally, religious metaphysics -- at least Judeo-Christian metaphysics -- begins (literally, for it is the first sentence in Bible) with the idea that there is a Creator and a created, and that these two are very different realities. It would be easy enough for God to abolish evil, if reality were "only God" -- i.e., if there were no creation.

But the world is not God, and we are not in heaven. Or, to be precise, the world is God, but God is not the world. As a result, there are ontological "degrees of distance" from God, and this is sufficient to account for evil. Again, free will is exercised in that vertical space between good and evil. To eliminate evil, one would obviously have to eliminate free will with it.

Which, of course, the left routinely does as part of its project to destroy the foundation Western civilization. Most recently we all saw how the Islamic terrorist at Fort Hood was instantly transformed into a victim of our own so-called aggression against Muslims. For the leftist, only white heterosexual males have free will, not blacks, Muslims, feminists, Palestinians, etc., or any other victim of those of us who do possess free will.

to be continued.....

Monday, November 23, 2009

Oldbob vs. Newbob: Let's Rumble!

Okay, on to this debate with a ghost from my past. Perhaps I should begin with a little context. This piece I wrote about how to argue with door-to-door Christians was only intended to be half-serious. At the time, I was mainly just trying to be both clever and amusing. Therefore, much of the language is a tad over-the-top. I never actually said most of these things to anyone, nor would I have.

And again, I obviously know things about this Oldbob that he doesn't know about me, so I have an overwhelming advantage in this debate. After all, in response to each of the arguments, I might simply hold up my hand and calmly say, "just wait. You'll eventually get it if you really want to know. But at this point in your life, for whatever reason, you really don't want to know. Which is fine with me. Just like Muslims, I would never force my views on anyone."

I'm just free associating here, but another point occurs to me, which is that Oldbob obviously represents a bobstacle I had to overcome in order to make my way back to Newbob; as the poet said, I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now. So in that sense, Oldbob might have a valuable lesson to teach, as we all tend to overvalue or generalize what works for us. In other words, since Oldbob is the threshold guardian I had to get past -- the existential knot I had to undo -- perhaps much of my writing is already addressed to him. Do you see what I mean? Maybe he is the internal doubter, the eternal cynic, who insists that my writing satisfy the intellect, not just the emotions, as so much theology tends to do.

If that is the case, then you can see how a "defect" can actually be a spur to improve oneself. Only if the mechanism is wrenched from its context and reified does it really become something dysfunctional -- a mind parasite -- so that the door of perception becomes unhinged. Really, this isn't that much different from how the conscience works, is it? The conscience is always there, standing above us, observing and judging everything we do.

In psychoanalysis, there is a concept called the "corrupt superego," which is essentially a dysfunctional conscience -- one that unjustly punishes certain thoughts and behaviors, while being blind to others. Indeed, you might say that it is a literal "blind spot" in the conscience. The point is that we all have a conscience (true sociopaths excepted), except that it often becomes dysfunctional by rewarding the bad and punishing the good.

The Islamists are a good example of this. In reading the indispensable The Looming Tower, bin Laden is credibly depicted as a profoundly spiritual, ascetic, incorruptible, even "saintly," sort of man. The problem is, his version of sanctity involves cruelly murdering anyone and everyone who doesn't share his version of "purity." Unlike the sociopath, who murders because he lacks a conscience, most Islamists murder because of it. And the long and bloody history of Islam -- not to mention numerous passages in the Koran -- fully justifies their moral pathology.

Anyway, back to Oldbob. The title of the piece is Bob's Revised and Updated Tips for the Enhancement of Front Porch Forensics and Shopping Mall Dialectic with Proselytizing Pinheads -- sort of a mirror image of Ann Coulter's How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must). It is trying to be provocative. I don't even know that I was an actual atheist at the time. My recollection is that I just enjoyed making fun of people I considered dorks.

Also -- at risk of getting blogged down in more autobobography than you ever wanted to read -- perhaps it should be noted that this polemic was written when my intellect was first coming "on line." Prior to the age of 25 or so, I was nobody's idea of a thinking -- or even rational! -- animal.

Rather, I was a man of action: drinking beer, partying, drinking beer, listening to music, drinking beer, hanging out with my fellow ne'er do wells, drinking beer, and attending college mainly as an excuse to perpetuate this lifestyle. I hadn't the slightest interest in school, nor in college. I never read a serious book until I was maybe 24 or 25, but even when I did start reading, it was almost all the fashionable nonsense of the tenured. It certainly would never have occurred to me to read anything "conservative." I shared the sneering contempt that elites hold to this day, that conservatism and Christianity are a priori nonsense, unworthy of serious consideration.

Therefore, it cannot be emphasized enough that I was leading with my prejudices -- just as, say, the liberal leads with the prejudice that anyone who doesn't want socialism is motivated by racism. So really, any appearance to the contrary notwithstanding, all of these "arguments" of Oldbob are simply rooted in prejudice; they are conclusions dressed up as arguments for the purpose of amusement and confirming my own intellectual superiority. Again, no different from the way liberals operate today.

The first "argument" asks my interlocutor why he is darkening my door (I'll delete the gratuitous expletives), since we both know that Christ said "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor."

Really, this one is too easy. Christ obviously said many things, sometimes intended as generalities, other times intended primarily for the person or group to whom he is speaking, some things meant literally, others figuratively. But even more generally, revelation can only be understood in its totality. Any moron or trial lawyer can take an isolated fragment of truth in order to prove what he wants. And I suppose in this case, Oldbob wants to "prove" that any Christian who doesn't live like a dirty hobo is a hypocrite.

Let's look at the overall context of that passage. What is it saying? First of all, this wealthy man has come to Jesus, asking for advice about the spiritual life -- about how to attain to eternity. It is here that Jesus famously asks Why do you call Me good?, and says that No one is good but One, that is, God. So straight away, Jesus is emphasizing the intrinsic "impossibility" of the task -- a task man is incapable of without divine assistance. Man alone cannot make himself worthy of eternal life.

The man then mentions that he follows the commandments, but as we all know, this is neither here nor there if it is done mechanically, in the absence of a conversion in the heart. He tells Jesus that it's just not working for him. You know, I'm doing all the right things, but nothing is happening.

It is at this point that Jesus -- having seen into the man's heart -- drops the rhetorical bomb on him. "Okay, let's test your real commitment to God. I think you love your possessions more than you love the Truth. But Buddy, if that's the case, you're not fooling God, only yourself." The real point is not the "giving away," but the re-ordering of one's priorities -- the following, the surrender, the self-sacrifice. It is really about loosening one's grip on the horizontal in order to be reborn in the vertical.

If He were speaking to Oldbob and his particular issue, he might say, "If you want to get anywhere, Einstein, start by giving all your stupid books to the poor and tenured. For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a genius like you to enter the Kingdom of God."

I probably should have burned most of those books, but I ended up giving them to the local library.

Oops! Out of time. To be continued....

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My Epic Debate with an Immature Atheist Assoul

I don't usually like to engage these people -- for it just encourages them -- but a couple of days ago I received a letter from an unhinged atheist. It contains two pages of single spaced text, with fifteen arguments against God in general and Christianity in particular.

It's actually from someone I used to know. In fact, we were once quite intimate, and shared a lot of good times. However, I hadn't given him much thought in a number of years, and for all I knew, the man was dead.

The letter is from me.

It seems that my brother was clearing out his dusty archives, and found this ancient screed among his treasures. I'm not sure when this demented memento was written, but it's pre-computer, since it was done on a typewriter.

I thought it might be fun to engage in a dialogue with this inappropriately confident metaphysical yahoo, by publishing his rant word for word, and then giving my response. How often does one have the opportunity to do battle with an original sincarnation of onesoaf?

One can only do so if one has actually changed, and changed dramatically ("to improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often"). There has to be a pretty dramatic rupture or maybe even rapture, not just an evolution of one's views. After all, a linear evolution is easy to explain, if only because of the maturity that occurs with time and experience.

But in this case, I'm dealing with a jackass-of-all-tirades who holds views that are not just the polar opposite of mine. For that implies a simplistic linear map of psychic space, like the continuum of left and right. The problem is that the spiritual and worldly are not on a horizontal continuum; rather, as we discussed a number of weeks ago, they are on a vertical continuum.

Furthermore, this spiritual continuum extends above and below the empirical ego, so that few materialists are merely "a-spiritual." Rather, for reasons that we will discuss in more detail below, the a-spiritual tends to (and justifies) the anti-spiritual, just as the amoral soon enough ushers in the immoral, and the a-soul becomes the assoul. If man is not creatively ascending, he is usually frantically descending (cf. the three gunas, specifically, the unchecked tamasic quality of darkness, obscurity, delusion and ignorance).

Man being what he is, the staunchest atheist is nevertheless going to be situated somewhere on the very vertical plane he denies, since it is and must be prior to the horizontal plane to which the materialist has artificially confined himself. Here again, this is one of the intrinsic difficulties in debunking an atheist, for in order to do so, one must descend to their crude level of bunk, since they deny up front what they claim to disprove with their tin-eared reason.

But as we have said many times, reason cannot furnish its own material on which to operate. Rather, that involves a vertical act of judgment. Which is why one must be very cautious with that first philosophical booby step, for if not, one will be stepping into an abyss, or sacred cowpie, that will naturally be conflated with reality. In the absence of light, the darkness looks like a wall, and a tangled web can feel like a footbridge.

We get the occasional atheist troll who complains about my dismissive treatment of them, but I certainly don't treat them any worse than the alterbob who composed this rant, whom I thought I had killed and buried in an appropriately shallow grave. If nothing else, Oldbob shows that Newbob is completely familiar with all of the typtopical atheist sophistries, since he once believed them. Truly, there's nothing new under the sonofabitch. You could even say that Oldbob was just like Hitchens, minus the charm and drunkenness. No, wait. Just not that drunk.

The point is, I am at an advantage over Oldbob, since I know how he turned out. I know that his arguments, once so passionately held, are now as meaningful to him as, say, Teletubbies is to my son, now that he's moved on to Sponge Bob.

That may sound like a stretch, but it really isn't. At each developmental stage, we require external models in order to actualize the latent potential within us. If we do not have access to the appropriate external model, then it is likely that our development will stall at that stage.

Ken Wilber -- I think it was Wilber -- has discussed this idea, that the "interior collective" of culture only allows for a certain level of development, but no higher. Of note, it will tend to punish not only the people who fail to achieve that level, but also those who surpass it. Basically, the elites will attempt to delegitimize anyone who calls their ossified maps and mythic narratives into question (cf. Sarah Palin).

In fact, what did the Master say? A prophet is not without honor save in his own country.

Let's move on to the letter.