Wednesday 31 July 2013

How to approach the topic of differences between Mormonism and Mainstream Christianity


As I have already stated, the most important aspect is prejudice: whether the Mainstream Christian approaches Mormonism with a positive prejudice, on the assumption or in the hope of finding an underlying unity; or (as is usual) with a negative prejudice, that assumes Mormonism is not Christian, and which puts Mormonism on trial - confronting Mormonism with a set of accusations all of which it must refute on a point by point basis.

In other words, the nature of the prejudice (or prior assumption) will have a vast and decisive effect on the procedure of evaluation and therefore the outcome of evaluation.


Because Mormonism is approached by most Mainstream Christians with a negative prejudice, the differences between Mormonism and Mainstream Christianity get presented as a shopping list of point-and-sputter factoids: "Mormons believe God (the Father) had a body", "Mormons believe the risen Jesus visited America" etc etc.

Now many of these shock tactics are misrepresentations and de-contextualized distortions - but of course Mormonism does have many and important differences from mainstream Christianity.

Now, if these are examined one at a time, and especially with a negative prejudice, then this list of differences will seem either wickedly defiant; or simply absurd and arbitrary.


But in fact (and I mean in fact) most of these differences (and all of the really significant ones) emerge from an underlying metaphysical difference - philosophical pluralism - and from a different way of reading the Bible (taking it at face value, minus Classical philosophical preconceptions).

I assume that this different perspective came from Joseph Smith and predated the writing of the Book of Mormon, which was then written in accordance with this mode of understanding so different from the theology of the post-Apostolic era (but comfortably consistent with the Bible as understood by a plain man's reading).


In sum, Mormonism is Christianity; and differs from other denominations primarily in its metaphysical assumptions (i.e. its philosophical assumptions concerning the basic nature or structure of reality) which are pluralist rather than monist.

These metaphysical assumptions are not a part of Christian revelation, rather they are second order (and historically later) attempts to systematize revelations, and bring them into line with other forms of understanding.

For example, much of the intellectual theological work of the first few hundred years of Christianity seems to have focused on bringing Christian understanding into the framework of Classical Philosophy, in its various manifestations.


The vicious Christological disputes (disputes concerning the nature of Christ) of these early centuries seem to have been (at least to some significant extent) a consequence of this philosophical work - when it was found that perfectly clear and comprehensible Biblical revelations were difficult - in fact impossible - to fit into a self-consistent philosophical framework which also fitted with revelatory/ traditional understandings of the nature of Christ.

It was probably the insistence (despite the difficulties) on adopting a Classical philosophical understanding, and giving this philosophical understanding primacy over revelation, which probably led some into heresies - as they followed their philosophy wherever it led, rather than giving primacy to the revelations.


So, Christianity has various metaphysical systems backing-up revelation: most famously Platonism (associated with St Augustine) and Aristotelianism (associated with St Thomas Aquinas).

Since around 1830, to this can be added pluralism/ pragmatism - with Mormonism broadly summarizable as Christianity backed-up with a kind of precognitive version of the distinctively 'American' philosophical perspective described by William James and his colleagues.


But what is true?

The answer will have to take into account that more than 2000 years has failed to answer objectively whether Plato or Aristotle was true, or even which system was true-er.

Because the truth of metaphysical systems is not an empirical matter, because the metaphysical system includes and defines empirical evaluations.

How, then, to choose which metaphysical system to adopt?

In the first place, the system should be self-consistent.

Having passed this test, and beyond this, the choice of metaphysical systems would take account of factors such as expediency (personal, and social, fruits of the belief), and also comprehensibility, and intuition/ personal revelation.


Different metaphysical systems work for different people for different purposes and at different times - each has advantages and disadvantages.

All I would point out is that the Mormon metaphysical system very obviously has many and important advantages (in terms of fruits, of comprehensibility, and as validated by personal revelation) for some people at this point in history.


Tuesday 30 July 2013

Politically correct witch hunts: getting worse; reframing evil: getting worse


In this world without God, this world of Leftist pseudo-utilitarianism and the mass media treated as moral arbiters, things continue to get worse: oh yes they do, and don't be persuaded otherwise.

Yet another friend of mine - the evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller - has become a victim of a witch hunt driven by the Politically Correct thought police; but this time for a non-offence, an utterly insignificant quip on Twitter which has been amped-up into an international fake moral crisis, a saturation bombing of bogus and spiteful punditry, and an excuse for unrestrained hatred and victimization.

It is an issue of such triviality that I am not going to discuss it: I refuse to discuss it because to discuss such triviality is to be drawn into the media agenda and to defer to the authority of sheer evil.

But the personal consequences of being a victim of this kind of thing are extremely severe - it feels like having a target painted on your chest, because it is treated as such.


On the other side of the coin is the way in which gross acts of violent riot and terrorism are incrementally and purposively re-framed by the media when the perpetrators are members of Leftist-approved groups.

Atrocities may have been witnessed, even recorded, by tens, hundreds, even thousands of witnesses - and the identity of the aggressors and killers is beyond question; yet - in a travesty and misunderstanding of justice - the perpetrators identities and identifying features are shielded, narratives are carefully re-framed, reports are of those vaguely 'arrested for', 'charged with', 'alleged' and 'accused' (as if there was any reasonable doubt!) - and stories emerge of the perpetrators real or alleged hardships, their supposed difficulties, their asserted kindnesses, their idealism, the fact that their guilt is denied by their families... and so on.


(The fact is that these are robbers, arsonists, muggers, killers - that is known; the only uncertainties related to whether the legal system will find them guilty. e.g. They are not alleged to be killers - they did kill, and they are the people who killed - whatever conclusion the legal system may reach about what legal category they fall into.)


Within an extraordinarily brief period, the Left-favoured perpetrators become de facto victims - and invariably victims (to put the matter shortly) of the attitudes, motivations and behaviour of Right Wingers.

No atrocity is so extreme that a couple of weeks of mass media re-framing cannot reverse the public perception of any issue and make anyone into an object of sympathy - literally any issue and any-one.


THIS is what it is to live in a world without God, a world of moral relativism and without a conception of objective truth.

On the one hand the most microscopic, atomic human behaviour - a single sentence perhaps, even a single word or facial expression or gesture; even just a report or unsubstantiated allegation of a sentence or a word - can be exploded into an international scandal which lasts for weeks, months or even years.

Literally nothing is too trivial to become the most important thing in the world - discussed by government officials, highbrow journalists, senior academics and in a million social interactions worldwide.

Literally nothing is too trivial to lead to court cases, fines, deliberate financial ruin, sacking, prison.


While on the other hand, people who certainly have done and are known for sure to have done horrific acts of brutal violence - rape, torture, maiming, murder - can be and are made into oppressed victims; deserving of sympathy; or heroes, fighting for justice; or ordinary decent folk who are being harshly judged for some momentary aberration under stress... or in fact anything the media wants.


The situation as it is NOW is impossible to exaggerate, impossible to parody, beyond Orwell, beyond Kafka.

As a society we have handed over our very souls - the highest evaluations of truth, beauty and moral virtue - to the mass media.

As a society we believe what the media tell us: Oh Yes We Do. Ask the real victims, the victims of PC witch hunts and they will tell you. People believe the media, and they act on those beliefs.


And it is getting worse, and it will keep getting worse, and nothing at all can be done about it - unless or until we repent our social apostasy from transcendental truth, from the reality of the real, from God.

Without that basis, we will get more, and more, and more of the same.


Advance note to prospective commenters - Read My Lips: This is an issue of such triviality that I am not going to discuss it: I refuse to discuss it. Nor will I publish comments discussing it.

The intrinsic annoyingness of creative people


Pre-mortal existence and volunteering for mortal life


One aspect of Mormon theology which I have found extremely helpful in understanding the human condition is that humans had pre-mortal existence.


It took me a while to understand why this was such a significant part of the account of the 'plan of salvation' - but I now perceive it has a vital role; because it enables the explanation that each person chose mortal life on earth - just as Jesus Christ chose to become incarnate as a Man.

By this account, we were not created (indifferent to our wishes) in this vale of tears; we are not thrown into life whether we want it or not, whether we like it or not - but our pre-mortal spirits chose to live on earth in physical bodies, and to undergo death - before returning to the presence of God.


The idea that we are all, without exception, volunteers in this life has the effect of transforming the perspective on the nature of the human condition; and dissolving many of the apparently intractable questions related to human suffering.

Because to inflict suffering upon a person who has been thrown into the world, willy-nilly, like it or not, is morally a very different matter from the sufferings undergone by a volunteer.

Supposing that the extreme physical and mental trials and training voluntarily undergone by special military forces, such as the Navy SEALs, were inflicted on all young men, and against their will... this  would be torturing them, pure and simple. The fact of volunteering transforms the moral situation.

And, like special military forces; our voluntary consent to mortal human life was to the general process of life (including death), and to the objectives of that process of life, and not each specific one of life's trials - which were neither known, nor determined, in advance.


As Terryl Givens makes clear in his scholarly and thorough 2010 monograph When Souls Had Wings: Pre-Mortal Existence in Western Thought; the idea that humans had a pre-mortal existence is one that can be traced back to ancient times, perhaps through some specific Biblical texts, through some of the early Fathers of the church (probably including Origen and St Augustine) and right up to this day.

The idea of pre-mortal existence has been persistent and recurrent because of its great explanatory value - and from the fact that without pre-existence and the idea that we volunteered for incarnate morality, the Goodness of God becomes... well, if not impossible to explain, then at least a difficult, complex and often incomprehensible thing to explain.


Note added: I would add that mortal life is an experience, more than a test; and no matter how brief it may be - even if it ends in the womb - all mortal life includes the experience of death (death of the mortal body). Therefore, it seems that the experience of death is the minimum/basic reason for mortal, incarnate life. 

Monday 29 July 2013

Unacknowledged creativity


Suicide and sin - and what attempted suicide sometimes tells us about belief in the afterlife


Is suicide sin? I believe that the correct answer is that it may be.

(Wrong answers are that suicide is always a sin or never a sin.)


Patients suffering from the rare condition of severe endogenous depression, including psychotic depression, are experiencing what is perhaps the worst of all forms of human suffering - and have the highest suicide rate of any groups.

Endogenous depression comes upon people - often out of the blue and without any sufficient precipitant - like being struck-down with an illness: indeed endogenous depression bears all the hallmarks of an illness come upon a person, and will spontaneously resolve after about a year (assuming the sufferer is still alive, has been kept alive).

It is among these people where you sometimes see mercy-killing-suicides - as when a loving mother smothers her sleeping children then kills herself because she perceives the world as so utterly horrible a place that she wishes for nothing more than to protect her children from it.

Now, I would have thought that this (extremely rare) kind of suicide cannot possibly be regarded as a sin from a Christian perspective - it is an absolute tragedy, but (so far as we can tell) there is in it no trace of pride or defiance.


On the other hand, the 'attempted suicides' (or parasuicides) which are so frequent an occurrence (I used to see several 'overdoses' every night when I was 'on call' as a junior doctor - only a small proportion of whom died) are typically and very obviously sinful since they were often motivated by hatred and the desire for revenge.

(e.g. A person who said they were thinking 'this will show him' as she took the tablets. Or another who slashed his wrists reportedly thinking, 'she'll be sorry now!')


Suicide can be an existential act of defiance against God - it can be an ultimate destruction of Good in which a person takes a step further from polluting and defacing their God-given body, to actually destroying it. Suicide can be a prideful assertion that this life, this body is mine - to do with as I wish up to and including annihilation.


But is it annihilation that is being sought by the suicides among endogenous and psychotic depressives? Sometimes, probably, but is hard to say as a rule - clearly it is escape from this world which is being sought, an end to suffering without hope; but from this into what?

Extinction or perpetual sleep, perhaps; or escape to a better place?


But what is fascinating is the implicit, sometimes explicit, sense that parasuicides (attempted suicides) often report that after they have killed themselves, when they are dead, they will still in some sense be around to observe the consequences (e.g. gloating over the misery and guilt of those who have been hurt by their suicide).

Clearly, there are some people - people who are apparently non-religious and anti-Christian and indeed acting under wicked motivations - who have a deep underlying assumption that when they kill themselves it will not be the end: that death is not extinction.

They 'believe' this assumption of an afterlife, in the sense of belief meaning 'live by' - thus they live-by this assumption of the reality of a life after death, even to the point of killing themselves (or trying to) on the basis of this assumption.


This is one line of evidence that belief in 'life after death' (that death is not the end of experience) is pretty much built-into humans (or most humans) and that the modern profession of disbelief, or profession of belief that death is extinction, may be a shallow, artificial and weak cultural construct.


Sunday 28 July 2013

The pearl of great *value* - what I hate about modern Biblical translations in a single word


Matthew 13:45-46  Authorized (King James) Version

45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.


In many of the most commonly used recent translations The Pearl of Great Price - a phrase that had entered the English language in a proverbial way - is rendered the pearl of great value

Now, that kind of thing I regard as sheer demonic vandalism - destruction for its own sake - a gratuitous, worthless, tin-eared, anti-poetic, anti-English, anti-Good microcosm of much that is worst about modernity and which wants to and will bring everything down around our ears.

Great value is not trivial - not at all; but symptomatic of an evil soul. 


Offshoring politics, ideology, Christianity? The example of GAFCON


So far as I can tell, the only solid hope for the the future of real Christians in the Church of England and for the Anglican communion generally, is the organization GAFCON - Global Anglican Future Conference

Which is led from Africa by the Bishop of Kenya.

Is this an example of what real Christians may have to do, and perhaps reactionaries more generally - accept leadership from outside not just their own nations, but their own cultures - to offshore 'ideology' including spiritual leadership?


It would not be the first time - because for much of the twentieth century Leftists subordinated themselves ideologically to the Soviet Union: swapped their own national identities of Socialist Internationalism (hence the ritual singing of The Red Flag all over the world, including the Labour Party and Trades Unions in the UK).

George Orwell wrote a lot about this - how British Leftists were a subversive fifth column for Soviet interests, whether officially (via Communist Party membership) or unofficially due to their personal convictions.

(This view of Orwell's was treated as paranoia by Leftists for many years, but it turned out to be the literal truth - many British politicians, intellectuals, unionists really were taking orders from Moscow: there really were Reds under the Bed!)

So that is one precedent, and an effective one - albeit a badly misdirected one! 


Another more relevant example is Roman Catholics who - wherever they may dwell - obviously take their leadership from Rome. The problem is that 'Rome' (i.e. the senior Catholic hierarchy) is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

What is needed is to seek leadership wherever it is best, which is going to be outwith the scope of Leftist Internationalism - or, at least, where that ideology is weakest.


GAFCON may emerge in the next few months or years as the basis for a new Anglicanism which is a real Christian faith in contrast to the subversive Leftist anti-Christianity of the mainstream Church of England leadership and pastorate.

(And if it does not, then I don't see much hope of the survival of Christianity in the Anglican communion.)

Maybe GAFCON provides a lead for other Western social systems which have - like the Church of England - been subverted, hollowed-out and inverted by decades of Leftism?


If genius is group selected - then...


Suppose that genius benefits group fitness rather than individual fitness, as seems likely to be the case - then this is a precarious situation.

If genius led to higher fitness, then the proportion of geniuses in a population would increase with each generation. But if genius is group selected then the genetic consequence of a genius is to expand the group - and this rising tide of group fitness will raise the boat of genius.


A group-selection account of genius therefore (I think) suggests that genius grows in an expanding group, an expanding population - the outcome of genius being the expansion of that population - and the situation can only be sustained if the consequences of that expanding population include maintaining and promoting the causal requisites of more geniuses.

I think it is probably correct that each genius is a one-off - sui generis - not as a matter of necessity, but mostly because of the extreme unlikelihood of the occurrence same combination of abilities and personality factors.

This means that there is NOT a specific and definable 'genius-type' - which further means there cannot be a system for recognizing and promoting geniuses.


Which means that genius-type creativity cannot be taught, and can indeed only be described in a broad brush terms.


Add to the mix that geniuses are nearly always (not always) troublesome in one way or another - this goes with the territory because even if you cannot say with precision what the genius does do, what he does NOT doe is think like other people - and what kind of personality he does NOT have is one that goes with the flow of social consensus.


There are many consequences of this way of understanding genius - and one is that genius is tolerated rather than encouraged - and this especially applies at the local level of the people living around and with the genius - these will experience the problems of genius, but will not benefit from the genius any more than the rest of society.

Since the benefits of genius are general, there is an incentive, therefore, to shift the costs - let someone else, some other group, employ the genius and let them put up with him!


Further more, due to the activities of genius, a society, more exactly a human group - that group within which the genius functions - may abruptly switch from being one which tolerates genius for the sake of what he offers, to one which has... well some other attitude that could be actively anti-genius, or merely conformist, or short-termist, or non-functional...

(Non-functional in the sense that what genius offers is ultimately greater functionality, greater efficiency and/or effectiveness at some function - and if a group stops being concerned about functions, then there is no reason to  tolerate genius.)


My reason for exploring this point is that at some point in the past few decades, British society went from being one which in practice tolerated genius, to one which is hostile to genius - and this can be seen at almost every level.

To read of such difficult, annoying, disruptive geniuses as Dirac or Wittgenstein, and then to realize that that were Professors at Cambridge - is to recognize that such characters would nowadays get nowhere near a Cambridge chair - not least because actual functional ability is not regarded as of primary importance in modern Britain.

I personally know of examples of supremely able and creative and productive people (as close to genius as we now get) who have been in practice (and for many and various 'excuses') excluded from positions in UK universities - not just once but repeatedly.

Mediocrity is zealously enforced by Head Girl types (of both sexes) whose sole concern is their own social micro-environment.


Modern Britain values Leftist ideals far, far more highly than the ability to do your 'job' - and I mean job in the ideal sense of performing a distinctive function.

What happens now is that instead of selecting people on the basis of how they do the job, the job is redefined to include the kind of people you want to select. 

(This is, of course, the bureaucratic way of doing things - in which the bottom line is satisfying other bureaucrats whose bottom line is satisfying other bureaucrats - with bureaucratic 'turtles all the way down' and no bottom line of reality.)

So, in such a world as modern Britain, why tolerate difficult characters whose 'only' recommendation is that they are supremely good at the real job? 


Thus a society with a high concentration of effective geniuses flipped quite suddenly into a society which is in practice and almost universally (at the relevant level of effect) actively anti-genius, selecting against genius, excluding of genius.

And the whole thing is denied by the simple expedient of re-labelling: in which some creative nonentity (which high status or a nutter) is simply stated to be a genius, talked about as a genius - probably given awards and medals for being a genius - and the concept of genius is thereby relativized and even further discredited!


Saturday 27 July 2013

Some political systems in relation to Christianity


I've written about this before, many times, but it is possible to analyze the subject from the opposite assumption that the political system is a given and Christianity must fit to it - following which the situation will, of course, change again.

But perhaps the political situation can be put first.

So, when the Roman Empire Christianized, there was already an Emperor; it is made sense that the Emperor included Christianity seamlessly into the imperial administrative system: the  'Byzantine' polity, associated with Eastern Orthodoxy and later transplanted to Russia.

This is not a pure theocracy, since the Emperor/ Tsar is not the chief priest/ head of church (indeed, nor a Priest of any kind) - but seen as an Apostle and Christ's representative (Vicegerent) on Earth: the spiritual and temporal leadership roles are split between persons, even though the social system is undivided.

But this fully integrated system has seldom been possible elsewhere, because of weak monarchies dependent on the church, and hostility between a church administered from Rome, and a local monarch - so we get the familiar dual system of semi-separate domains of temporal and spiritual power, in various and changing mixtures of cooperative and competitive, found in Western Europe.

Interestingly, the Byzantine system was almost reintroduced in England with Henry the Eighth and the Church of England - but this became enmeshed in the Reformation and the reorganized CoE became significantly less Catholic.


By and large, Reformed churches have been associated with less powerful monarchies, or republics - situations where the hierarchy of power and spiritual authority are altogether less clear (and indeed hierarchies themselves are continually under critique and challenge).

The political leader was, in devout societies dominated by a Protestant denomination, certainly expected to be a Christian and behave as such - but in general had no power or authority in the church/s.

More recently, albeit only for about one generation, there was the 'pure' theocracy of Brigham Young in Utah/ Deseret - in which the equivalent of chief priest/ head of church was also the supreme political leader: the roles united in one person. This apparently worked very well in its context, but was crushed by the US federal government before it could be seen whether it was a long term viable mode of government.


In all of these systems there are various ways of selecting leaders - spiritual or temporal leaders - and these are conceptualized very differently.

In all, there is an element of God's will being expressed in who becomes a leader - but this can be more or less explicit, and the principle gets interpreted very differently.

In particular, it is an error to suppose that monarchies need to be, or usually are, hereditary; and even when the are hereditary the principle is variously applied with various levels of strictness with respect to succession. Byzantine monarchies, for instance, has no system for succession - the next Emperor was assumed to emerge when needed, and according to the needs and just deserts of the people.


My point is that it seems less and less likely that we can use any of these systems as a blueprint, to be applied generally - since ideas of the ideal political system differ so widely between denominations, and however the ideal is defined, it is but seldom/ never realized.

Actually existing Christianity is always in a severely sub-optimal political situation.

Probably the best rule is for Christianity - as best it may, and constrained by the degree of faith - simply to do what it must do, insofar as it can; and do keep on doing so stubbornly and without accepting dilution or meeting the political world in a compromise.

(Except when something of the sort is literally forced forced upon Christians, when they will drag their feet, and never assent to or agree with the imposed policy.)

In sum, to leave the political system to organize itself around unyielding, devout Christian practice - and see what happens...


On being irritable


I am an irritable person, easily irritated, prone to flashes of anger - as commenters to this blog have good cause to know, as well as my family and colleagues, I'm afraid!

This seems to be the way that I am set-up, my nature or character - and it is a double-edged defect, in the sense that I would not be blogging, and would not have written what I have (including some of the best things), nor would I have steered clear of some of the bad things I have steered clear of, unless I were irritable.

At one time, I was one of the columnist/ pundits (of whom there are many - in the Mencken tradition) whose stock-in-trade is irritability - whose writing is an extended rant about things which irritate them.

I realized that this was not a good thing to have as a life project, and that irritability needed to be absorbed into the context of a positive and constructive goal if it were not to eat-up the soul. And, fortunately, this has happened - being irritated is no longer my prime motivation for writing, merely a significant motivation and one that is embedded in a larger context - progress of sorts, I suppose...

Yet of course, irritability is a sin, and although it cannot wholly be avoided without leading worse consequences - a kind of inert zombification - it does lead to significant harm to other people as well as to myself.

As an example, an explosion of irritability in an interview led to my not being offered a job for which I wanted and needed, where I was a shoe-in - the best qualified candidate by far, and for which the interview was intended as merely a formality. But, for all my disappointment, I could not complain that the interview misrepresented my true nature - it was very much the kind of way that I do in fact behave!

As irritability is a sin, and as it cannot be avoided without worse sin of other types, the only answer is repentance (as usual...) - and to ensure that momentary explosions of insufficiently-justified anger are not allowed to fester and become permanent resentments. Not to allow irritability to tip-over into grudge.

And luckily, I am not set-up to be a person who holds grudges - indeed, I have a tendency to forget resentments (whether or not I truly forgive the person - forgetting is not itself a virtue, in the way that forgiving is a virtue/ necessity).

Anyway, this posting is intended as an apology for those commenters who have been at the sharp end of my irritability; an explanation for why this unfortunate trait is - if I am honest - not likely to change; and reassurance that it is quite likely I have forgotten all about whatever it was which irritated me.


Friday 26 July 2013

Detecting and sustaining (minor) genius


Latter-day Leftism - a rabble of squabbling orcs


The success of the (post-sixties) New Left is a relabelling of the failure of the Old Left.

This is the Leftism of the End Times - on the side of Satan in making the best of (i.e. getting the most out-of) the collapse of society which Leftist strategic policies and Leftist tactical looting are hastening.


The major triumph of the modern Left, in these Latter-Days, has not been to implement a particular program of economic, political and social goals; but instead (merely) to subvert the goals and Goods of existing society, and relabel the consequences as 'what we meant all along'.

Thus New Left multiculturalism has replaced the Old Left intention and plan to implement a socialist culture.


The success of the New Left is therefore not been in effecting its desires (because what the New Left supposedly 'wants' changes from year to year, flips over and back again) but in persuading the masses that they always wanted whatever chaos ensues from Leftist destruction.


The New Left has reduced the population of the West to a rabble of squabbling orcs.

And, of course, nothing difficult can ever be achieved when implemented by a rabble of squabbling orcs.

Hence the Left have completely given-up on trying to achieve anything; and instead simply wreck stuff in the name of liberation - and leave the orcs to fight over the spoils.


The Head Girl Syndrome versus creative genius


If Mormons are Christians, why do they try to convert other Christians?


Mormons try to convert other Christians, as do evangelical Protestants (very successfully) and Roman Catholics (not so successfully) - because in the West most people are weak or lapsed Christians, and form the main missionary field.

So converting other Christians is something which all evangelizing denominations do.

And for very good reasons.


What tends to happen is that a lapsed, feeble or 'in name only' member of a Christian denomination converts to another Christian denomination with an increase in faith, zeal etc - as when an ex-Roman Catholic is 'born again' - and I would regard this as usually a positive matter

In sum: surely, to take a feeble Christian and convert them to a stronger Christian is - usually - a Good Thing.

This process may, often does, include a change of denomination, which will have disadvantages - but may in practice be necessary.


But there is a difference - because quite often evangelical Protestants or Catholics covert other denominations for the sake of their salvation - they believe that their denomination is necessary for salvation. They may - in all sincerity - warn the potential convert that if they do not convert they will be damned. This may indeed be the major pressure for conversion to mainstream Christin denominations - powerful negative sanctions against those who fail to convert.


But Mormons do not believe that.

Mormons believe that devout members of other denominations are already saved, but that becoming an faithful and active Mormon may enable them to attain a higher level of exaltation - i.e. salvation to a higher degree of Heaven - or at least start them along that path in a process which may continue after death.


So Mormon missionaries, unlike most other Christian missionaries through history, are not threatening with Hellfire or else; but are instead are offering an add-on (as it were) to other forms of Christianity.

But Mormons do not regard Christians of other denominations as damned - merely limited to a lower, but still wonderful, level of Heaven.


(Indeed, the sanctions against not being a Mormon are even 'weaker' - or kinder - than the above simplified account - because Mormons believe that spiritual progression may continue after death - so that after death a person may attain the higher levels of exaltation, even if they do not become a Mormon in this earthly life. The exaltation benefits of being baptized a Mormon accrue almost entirely to the most devout Mormons, whose marriages are sealed for time and eternity in a Temple, and who live according to the commandments and by the rules of the LDS church. Devout Mormons who do not attain this high level of active practice are in much the same salvific situation as devout non-Mormons - will go to the same high but sub-optimal level of Heaven.)


So Mormons are pretty much offering only positive incentives to the potential convert.



The argument: some bits of science don't make sense, so why should theology make sense?


The argument is that we should not expect theology to make sense because some buts of science don't make sense: e.g some aspects of advanced physics are strictly incomprehensible - don't add up - are incoherent. Yet they seem to be true...

So why can't Christian theology be just as nonsensical as science - like many statements of the nature of the Holy Trinity - and just as true as science?


My answer is that the paradoxical theoretical physics is not so much true as useful - scientists seem to be able to make use of them in prediction and manipulation. But theoretical physics for the past many decades has been trying to make sense of, and get rid of, these paradoxes and incompatibilities (e.g. the incommensurability of general relativity and quantum theory) - so clearly they are not regarded as true in the sense of representing ultimate reality.


But with theology we seek truth in the sense of ultimate reality.

More importantly, Christianity is about a loving personal relationship with God - a Father and Son relationship, a fraternal relationship.

Thus the analogy with science breaks down. In science things may be useable even when they do not make sense: but they are not about entering into a personal relationship with the constituent parts (photons and quarks...).


How can we have a personal and loving relationship with God (which a Christian must do - it is the primary commandment) when God is neither one nor three persons, yet is also both one and three persons?

This is either a God of incomprehensible abstraction, or else an impossibility altogether. 


This kind of paradoxical Trinitarianism can be a major stumbling block - indeed a roadblock - to faith for anyone who takes it too seriously.

And it is missing the point spectacularly. The Trinity are personages, that is what is most important. They always love each other wholly and always work in complete harmony.

That suffices - why sabotage the personal relationship with God and Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost with paradoxical philosophy?

And having done so, for reasons which may have been compelling in the fifth century AD - why elevate this paradoxical philosophy to become a dogma and definition of Christianity?


Thursday 25 July 2013

Rosalind Franklin was a top-notch technician - but not a real scientist


I've read reams about the discovery of DNA, and that was my conclusion.

Franklin was told what to do (take X-ray diffraction photos of DNA), she did it extremely competently (although she concentrated on the biologically uninteresting form of the molecule, presumably since she did not really appreciate why she was doing what she had been asked to do) - and having done the job, she did not understand what she had measured: could not interpret it.

In other words she was a top-notch technician, who needed to work under the supervision of a real scientist, like Maurice Wilkins.

However, Franklin, for personal reasons, refused to share and discuss her results with Wilkins, which was a pretty serious scientific sin. So her memory is tainted by that.


Note: Continuing on this curmudgeonly theme; I would also consider another feminist supposed hero of science - Dorothy Hodgkin - also not to be a real scientist but instead a top-notch technician. 

From her biography, she seems to have been working implicitly under the supervision of her extra-marital lover JD Bernal.

Bernal is universally acknowledged to be a multivalent genius (although a thoroughly reprehensible man with wickedness ranging from unrepentant pro-Stalinism to serial seductions). 

Bernal did not, however, get a Nobel Prize: while his technician-mistress did. 

How to make a Patagonian Shakespeare the name of a new blog I am intending to work on - with a view to writing a book of that name.

Can anyone guess what it will be about?


The typical genius has lop-sided intelligence



Resentment-Entitlement as the distinctive modern affect


(Note: Affect is a psychiatric term for prevailing mood.)


In the past decades I sense a change of attitude in the public space - and nowadays the prevailing tone is one of resentment-entitlement.

Thirty-plus years ago, resentment-entitlement was a relatively unusual affect, confined to specific individuals and groups of adolescents, psychopathic men and hysterical women.

In other words, attention-seekers - those who sought to impose themselves on the public space with 'look at me, and defer to me' or 'look at me, and desire me'.

Now it seems to be almost-universal - the norm - or at least so common as to set the tone.

The public space has become a marketplace of persons fighting for attention, desperate to make an impression - individuals who seem to suck their vital sustenance from this: like vampires of egotism.

They resent attention going to anyone else, they feel entitled to that attention for themselves. Yet, given that attention is finite, attention-seeking in the public arena is a zero-sum game because there is never enough attention to go around (an equal share of attention being far too little to satisfy the cravings of the vampires for that vital fluid - each wants more than an equal share).

These are the signals I read from the hard eyes and the pseudo-seductive eyes, the fake signals of sexual availability, the aggressive posturings of tattoos and piercing and body-built steroid-pumped physiques.

Simultaneously: 'Are you looking at me?' and 'Why aren't you looking at me?' and 'Please look at me...'.


The asymmetry of monism and pluralism - and the paradoxical nature of the Holy Trinity


It ought not to matter whether a Christian is a philosophical pluralist or (as the vast majority of intellectual Christians in post-Apostolic times have been) a monist.

(A monist regards ultimate reality as a unity, a pluralist as more-than-one.)

Christianity is not constrained by philosophy - whether Christian doctrine fits, or does not fit, into specific philosophical categories should be a matter of supreme indifference.

But in practice it does matter, and historically it has mattered a great deal - indeed philosophical disputes within Christianity have led to vicious, tragic, stupid, futile and irreversible schisms - such as the Monophysite controversy in the fifth century of the Eastern Roman Empire.

Philosophical disputes have been the bane of Christianity.


But the fact is that my opening statement is itself a pluralist statement, and a monist cannot (qua monism) regard pluralism as a matter of secondary importance.

To a monist, pluralism is an error; and any other monism than his own monism is also an error - and he cannot have a sense of proportion or perspective about the consequences of such a perceived-error: if you regard reality as specific unity and other people say it is a different unity, or else not a unity at all, then the consequences of such disagreement seem to be almost infinite in their scope.


So although the pluralist may see himself as a healer and conciliator of philosophical disputes, he will probably find himself under concerted attack from all monists of every stripe who - even if they agree on nothing else - agree on the falsity of pluralism!

And that, indeed, is precisely how I conceptualize my own situation as a Christian pluralist!


From my perspective, I regard Christian monists as occupying a variety of real Christian positions; but from the perspective of the various monists, they regard me as not being a Christian at all.

I think such anti-pluralist monists are wrong, objectively wrong, in rejecting pluralism as a Christian possibility - because they are in fact (despite whatever they may suppose they are doing) asserting that the philosophical principle of unity should structure Christianity.

Christianity should rule philosophy, rather than vice versa - and (given human limitations and the incompleteness of all rational systems) this will very likely mean that to get the Christianity right entails messing-up the philosophy: so be it.


But this is an analytic point which many Christian monists apparently cannot accept, nor even comprehend - since they are rooted in their monism.

To the primary monist, pluralism is necessarily incomplete or incompetent; or most worryingly dishonest - on the basis that pluralists 'must be' some kind of covert monist who is concealing his monism for strategic reasons.


Also, to the Christian who is a primary monist the paradoxical doctrine of the Holy Trinity being both three and one is the core of Christianity - something upon which all else depends.

Because for Christianity to be acceptable to the monist, entails the absolute unity of God -  while to be a Christian entails the divinity of Christ.

(And the Holy Ghost as well - but historically the difficulty has been Christ - because Old Testament Hebrew monists had no problem about conceptualizing the Holy Ghost as an aspect of one God.)

Hence the paradoxical/ incoherent definition of the Holy Trinity as absolutely one AND absolutely more-than-one is a principle that must be asserted as a definitional dogma requiring public assent: an incomprehensible 'truth' to which all monists who are Christians must submit. 


Perhaps the definition or comprehension of the Holy Trinity marks a cleavage point among monists:

between on the one hand monists who are Christians (monism comes first) - and who insist on the paradoxical definition of the Trinity, and place it at the centre or forefront of Christianity - and who will in practice make paradoxical Trinitarianism definitional of Christianity...

and Christians who are monists, who put Christianity first and are able to tolerate imperfect monism - who are prepared to accept that there is an intractable problem with applying monism to the Trinity; and who will therefore tend to down-play and work-around the paradoxical definition of the Trinity - will tend to regard it as a mystery rather than a higher-logic; and will not exclude from definitions of Christianity those persons or denominations who cannot or will not make public assent to paradoxical Trinitarianism.


So, in theory, by putting Christianity first and accepting imperfect philosophy, Christians who are monists can regard philosophical pluralists as being also Christians; while monists who are Christians will exclude philosophical pluralists from their definition of Christianity.

In other words, the cleavage shows-up in the way that Christianity is recognized, defined and demarcated: monists who are Christians will define Christianity in terms of philosophical concepts - and that is one way of identifying them.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

The impossibility of being a modern Nietzschian - the example of Peter Sloterdijk


The impossibility of being a modern Nietzschian ought to be obvious, but has been spelled out lucidly and irrefutably by Alasdair McIntyre (especially in his Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry, 1992) - but most clearly in the phony lives of the most famous/ notorious would-be Nietzschians such as Heidegger and Foucault.


Another expose of the impossibility of modelling oneself on a nihilist is the leading modern German philosopher - Peter Sloterdijk. It was, indeed, the message of Sloterdijk's first book - Critique of Cynical Reason - which I read first in 1988 - that the only consistent way of taking on board the Nietzschian perspective was to become something like the Kynic Diogenes - in the aspect of supposedly living naked in a barrel, and indulging whatever urge comes into ones head: becoming, in effect, a non-conscious animal.

The idea of this same Diogenes as a kind of Holy Fool, who taught the citizens by stunts designed to expose their absurd pretensions, cannot be included in the Nietzschian ideal, since this is not nihilistic - it is merely a different means to the 'establishment' end of teaching Virtue.


Thus, for a serious Nietzschian, there is no way of being both sincere and a Professor - and the twentieth century lineage of counter-cultural Professors (including Heidegger and Foucault and their countless tenured radical clones) is abundant evidence of this impossibility.

A person cannot regard Nietzsche as an authority, and believe his ideas; cannot unmask the pretensions of scholarship and write scholarly books on Nietzsche; that same person cannot set himself up as an authority in anti-authoritarian ideas (which must be correctly learned). All this is self-refuting, paradoxical nonsense of the most obvious in-your-face kind.

Such activities reduce to mere careerism, and nothing else whatsoever.


Peter Sloterdijk has gone down this path himself, presumably with his eyes wide open - and has a successful career as a Professorial Nietzschian and a second string as a Germanic version of the ultra-highbrow TV pundit and culture critic.

All this he richly deserves since the man is vastly erudite, witty and highly creative - a firework box of flashing micro-insights.

Nonetheless, I suppose nobody is more aware than himself of the phony nature of his position and the fakery of his basic existential stance.


In the end, Sloterdijk is an entertainer - and as such he provides what is good about entertainment, and also what is bad about entertainment - in the sense that his ideas are a vastly interconnected distraction from that fact that they do not and intrinsically cannot add up to anything substantive (which is, in fact, his main substantive thesis).

If someone is looking for meaning, purpose and personal engagement in life; they will not find it from Sloterdijk; they will instead, perhaps, be drawn into an endless conversation which they may enjoy enough to keep them there for a long time - perhaps until it is too late.


Comment on anti-Mormonism reposted from The Orthosphere


Addressed to 'Bonald' - author of the main posting.

You are experiencing what I have found many times when writing about Mormons: that there is a negative prejudice against Mormonism among serious mainstream Christians.

Neutrality is not possible – of course – therefore when approaching the subject of Mormonism there will inevitably be prejudice: either positive or negative. What we observe here is that the prejudice is negative.

Given this negative prejudice, and in relation to religious evaluations, it is likely that whatever evidence is examined, that prejudice will be confirmed. Mormons are assumed guilty until proven innocent, and – as usual in such situations – cannot prove themselves innocent. The prejudice frames the discourse, as prejudice does.


Now, what is interesting is why mainstream Christians should bring this prejudice to the table – why do Mormons attract this? Is there any sound reason? Any *good* reason? And I don’t mean the reasons for anti-Mormon prejudice which people use in public discourse and to excuse themselves – I mean the *real* reason.

(There are some groups where there are sound and good reasons why – from common sense and common experience – in approaching them a negative (suspicious, judgmental) prejudice is appropriate – but not Mormons, surely? And if Mormons – by such criteria, who will be exempt from negative prejudice?)


Surely, on the surface and with common sense criteria and from hard facts widely known, Mormonism should be approached with a *positive* prejudice – on the assumption that it is likely to be good, to be wholesome, to be Christian – and that mainstream Christians (if they want to engage with Mormonism) should not be putting it on trial – but rather engaging in a conversation where the reasonable hope is to discover a friend and ally.

This is what I did – since before I was a Christian convert I have regarded Mormonism as Christian, indeed one of the very best of Christian denominations, and I still do – although now I know a great deal about Mormonism from five years of reading, research and devotional study – but done with a positive prejudice, on the assumption that I was dealing with a friend and ally, until shown otherwise.

Yet such is the anti-Mormon prejudice, that Mormons are regarded by many – probably most – serious mainstream Christians as covert demons or brainwashed dupes – as we see in many of these comments.


I personally find this very distressing and painful.

Why? Most obviously it is distressing to see people I regard as exemplary Christians (in the primary sense of Christian, which is faith in Christ as Lord and Saviour, people who are exceptionally devout, and who display the Christian virtues to an admirable degree) continually (and indeed gleefully, aggressively) pilloried by other Christians.

This is a horrible thing to behold, provoking pity, sadness, and horror.

But secondly I fear that it imperils the souls of Christians who engage in it, and the denominations who encourage it. Not merely from the encouragement of resentment, pride, hatred etc – but even more from the distortions it introduces to mainstream Christianity, and the failure to learn theological, devotional and moral lessons that ONLY Mormonism can teach to the rest of Christendom.

Failure to learn these lessons from Mormonism may be the death of Christianity in the West – since Mormonism is doing fine, doing more than fine – while the rest of Christendom is in serious travail.

Maybe that is a root of the problem? Mormonism is doing too well – leading to resentment fuelled by envy? Whatever the reason for such widespread and entrenched anti-Mormon prejudice, I feel sure the *real* reason is a bad one, since it encourages, brings out and reinforces such bad qualities in those who display it.


In sum, I am seriously distressed by the prevailing anti-Mormon prejudice among serious mainstream Christians, and would love to see it replaced by pro-Mormon prejudice and an attitude of wanting to know more about what enables Mormonism to resist secular modernity so happily, and so effectively – especially in relation to those crucial domains of marriage and the family.

Mormonism is, for me, a litmus test issue in terms of seriousness about the future of Christianity: but the test is for mainstream Christians. If anybody is on trial here, it is not Mormonism but mainstream Christianity in the West.

Sadly, perhaps tragically, Mormonism is a test which most serious mainstream Christians fail spectacularly.


Tuesday 23 July 2013

When, in history, would you most like to have lived?


This came up in a dinner table conversation the other day - and I found it hard to answer. Most of my thoughts turn to fantasy - some rural idyll like Tolkien's Shire, Wootton Major, or Little Kingdom; or Lloyd Alexander's Prydain; or Carol Kendall's Land Between the Mountains - rather than actual history.

But then I tried to think of a time when I sensed that the people - by which I mean writers - were most like myself, when I might have fitted-in - and I came up with the middle seventeenth century in England with characters like Robert Burton, John Aubrey, Izaak Walton, Thomas Browne, George Herbert...

These may not be my absolute favourite authors, but they are perhaps the most congenial to my spirit.


Are Christians monotheists?


No, they are not - certainly they are not; at least, Christians are not monotheists in any way which could be explained to an unsympathetic/ hostile non-Christian, e.g. someone who was a straightforward (non-Trinitarian) monotheist.


(Because, if you suppose that hostile critics would be convinced by the one-in-three, three-in-one Athanasian Creed type explanations of why Father Son +/- Holy Ghost are not two or three Gods... then you are mistaken.)

(Since such explanations do not make rational sense, then how and why should anybody who is not already a Christian (of a particularly philosophical mind-set) be convinced by them?)


But then there is no scriptural reason why Christians should be monotheists, since the Bible is full of gods, and silent on the subject of monotheism.

Why then the zealous and punitive obsession with proving (by demanding public assent to statements that - even if they were true - are logically self-contradicting and/ or incomprehensible) that Christians are monotheists?


The reasons for aggressively asserting the monotheism of Christianity are not scriptural, but (presumably) philosophical - and derive from reading scripture through the lens of fixed prior philosophical assumptions: by insisting that God be fitted-into a preshaped monotheistic mould derived from philosophy, rather than by fitting philosophy around what revelation as transmitted by scripture teaches us concerning the nature of God.


Note: I say two or three gods, because I have a hunch that most Trinitarian mainstream Christians do not, in practice, regard the Holy Ghost as a full aspect of the Trinity, that is a personage on a par with God the Father and God the Son - but instead regard Him as the means or mechanism by which the Father and/or Son effect changes among men and on Earth: i.e. more like a physical force than a person. This is promoted by the fact that we do not pray to or on behalf of the Holy Ghost, but ask that the Holy Ghost be sent for our aid and comfort.


Further note added 24 July 2013: The point I wish to emphasize is that the way to deal with the question about whether Christians are monotheists is that it does not matter - not in any fundamental sense.

(Or rather it should not matter and if it does, we are in serious trouble).

Christians are what they are - and what they are should be derived from the proper sources: who cares whether what Christians are does, or does not, fit into some definition or other of monotheist?

Christianity fits some definitions of monotheism, it does not fit other definitions - so what? It is not the job of Christianity to fit definitions of monotheism, or any other philosophical category - this debate is not just irrelevant, but actively harmful to the proper understanding of Christian doctrine.

The primary reality of Christianity is personal and narrative - not conceptual. 

Population is currently being limited by self-suppressed fertility, consequent upon a program of mass demoralization


We must acknowledge the price to pay for letting families decide their fertility is that children will die. Because not all families can be, or will be, prudent.

The consequences can be delayed, but only at the cost of exacerbating the problem - saving children now is sacrificing manyfold more children later (and the later, the more).


The modern population problem is that Westernization reaches everywhere, and its first effect (as it was in the West itself) is to reduce child mortality, and destabilize the balance of population and production.

(To simplify) Africa used to be a place of low population density and plenty to eat (African almost certainly had more to eat per capita than Europeans through the past hundred of years) and it was not until the 1960s (the Biafran war) that African became known as a place of endemic starvation. Until then it had been a place of high death rates from disease, and plenty to eat for those who did not die.

The population growth in the third world is therefore a consequence of interaction with the West - especially Western medicine, public health and aid. For a while the problem can be and was covered up by massive transfers of wealth from the West - but these exacerbate the underlying imbalance ^.


The situation resulting is taken as a justification for totalitarianism and a program of semi-deliberate mass demoralization by the government.

Since self-suppression of fertility is a 'natural' consequence of gross psychopathology among many mammals, governments (ruling elites) gravitate towards inducing and maintaining gross psychopathology in their populations.


Governments, the mass media, education systems, law... all have combined to live-out the role of cruel farmers who deliberately manage their animals to create a state of extreme chronic stress, such that the creatures will biologically shut-down their vital instincts.

So people will 'voluntarily' stop having babies - 'voluntarily' in a similar sense that people with chronic schizophrenia 'voluntarily' eschew fertility.


Fertility reduces and reduces, because people are made so confused and miserable because stressed so powerfully and unrelentingly that they self-suppress the very basic and immensely powerful need for family.


The primary underlying method for inducing such a state is atheism in public discourse;

and the proximate strategy for inducing sexual suppression is the sexual revolution (this is made possible by atheism in public discourse - elite de facto atheism must precede the sexual revolution).

In the modern sexual arena, over the long run, anything is permissible, indeed encouraged - so long as it leads to voluntary sterility.


The resulting state of bewildered chaos inside the heads of modern Man in relation to sex is the main strategic mechanism of population control.


Yet, because this process is covert and dishonest and denied (and because people are not utterly corrupted, and probably never could be) there is the residual compassion for actually-existing children - which is indulged monomaniacally and without moral prudence, and channeled in such a way that inevitable outcomes are amplified because they are delayed; and problems because numbingly large, and a kind of dazed, transfixed catatonia is the outcome - that characteristic state of mind of the compassionate modern ruling elite.


^Note: Twenty years ago I spoke with a publichealth worker about the usual fate of African aid for famine - he said that the limited food aid was used to feed children, consequently the adults died, and then the children died because they had nobody to care for them or raise food. If the famine lifted before all the children died, the survivors were dependent on aid for many years.  

Monday 22 July 2013

Revisiting Pascal's argument for the Hidden God in light of radical free agency


In his Pensees, Pascal outlines an argument that this world has enough evidence of the truth of Christianity to support faith, but not so much as to compel faith.

That God is hidden, always findable to one who seeks Him - but hidden so that one who does not seek, will not find Him.


While I was convinced by this argument, I am now re-evaluating the point of whether God could really, even in principle, provide so much evidence that it would compel belief.


I don't think belief can be compelled because Man's free agency really is free - free will cannot be compelled, not even by God - so there never could be such a weight of evidence that would compel belief in God without need for faith.


I think this is shown throughout the Bible - where there is always the possibility and often the actuality, of refusing faith; but perhaps especially in the New Testament, when even the actual presence of Christ - his teaching, his works - is not sufficient to compel faith; nor to prevent the apostasy of Judas, the denials of Peter, and the backsliding of most of the Apostles at and immediately after the crucifixion.


So I don't find the argument as compelling as I did - but then, neither (from a perspective of Mormon theology and the plan of salvation) do I perceive a need for this argument - the need is probably a by-product of Classical Theology based on Greek philosophy which denies the radical freedom of Man's will in a world where creation-from-nothing implies that God's knowledge and power are absolute, unbounded and comprehensive - with no exclusions.


In the world of Classical Theology, free will is a quantitative kind of thing, the kind of thing which can be compelled by a sufficient degree of evidence - therefore not radically autonomous of God's will - indeed, ultimately, on this conception, free will is a delusion and God is doing everything - and Christianity collapses into the bewildered, self-refuting but inescapable fatalism of trying to believe that we are both merely cogs in a gigantic machinery yet also to blame for our motions...


Lucky, then, that most Christians always have rejected Classical Theology in practice - even when they passionately assent to it in theory!


The best possible Tolkien documentary


Sunday 21 July 2013

Should there be 'population control'?


Population control implies planning the size and composition of the human population (as a whole, or in particular areas) - with the stated goal of matching population to resources (potential and or available - over some kind of probabilistic and debatable timescale).


People talk about this, a lot - as if it was a common sense aspiration; but I don't know a situation where it has actually been done honestly.

The reason is obvious enough - population control could only be imposed honestly and justly by an extremely powerful but also honest and just government. However, since such governments are... ahem... very rare, then whatever policies are in practice justified by population control rhetoric are in practice dishonest, unjust, ineffective - in sum, counter-productive.

So population control is not common sense.


What is also not common sense is the idea (or, more likely excuse) that 'responsible' parents will have few children - or no children at all - because they are trying to prevent over-population.

This makes as much sense as starving oneself to death in order to prevent a famine.


But because population planning it treated in public discourse as if it was simple common sense, and because overpopulation is a reality in global and regional terms - and therefore large scale starvation, disease and violence are apparently inevitable - people very frequently argue that it is right and correct and moral for modern Western Man to suppress fertility, to have fewer and fewer children.

As I say, I think this is the mainstream opinion - that population both can and should be planned, that this implies responsible parents should have few to zero children, and that to do this is a sign of superior prudence.


Leaving this aside as a typical example of the kind of psychotic and dishonest refusal to think which is imposed upon people by modernity; the question still remains of if not this, then what?

How should we regard this question of 'population'?

Should we ignore prudence and have as many children as come along and trust to God or luck or government to raise them?

No. That is just another, and exceptionally vicious, modern deformation of thought - that it is just and proper and indeed necessary for the governments of developed nations to feed, shelter, clothe, and educate every child born anywhere in the world by an open-ended process of coercively extracting resources from its population and using these to create endlessly expanding child-raising bureaucracies.

This is a vile parody of charity, totalitarian tyranny masquerading as compassion.


So not that either - then what?

The answer seems to be simple enough - the 'system' is and should be that parents are and ought to be responsible for their own children.

In other words population 'planning' starts and ends at home.

We ought to 'plan' our own families and we ought to be responsible for them.


Now, of course, many many things can and do go wrong with such planning. Parents get sick and die, parents lose jobs and cannot find work, there may be economic collapse and natural disasters, children vary and may be handicapped, sick, unlucky... What then?

What then is essentially that families need and ask for charity, for help from others who ought to help them as and when possible (they have a duty to be charitable), and the givers of charity are given credit for their free gift and the receivers of charity ought to be thankful for such help.

Charity represents the labour - ultimately the time and effort - of other people.

Charity is a duty for Christians - although most of us utterly fail in fulfilling it - but resources coercively extracted by the government do not represent compliance with the duty of charity.


But the bottom line is that when parents have children which (for whatever reason) they cannot raise, and if charity is insufficient - then these children will die.


Population planning and control are therefore, essentially, euphemisms for population limitation

And at the bottom line, there are two options for population limitation: increased mortality or reduced fertility.

Increased mortality was the near universal mechanism is antiquity.

But it seems obvious and sensible and compassionate to modern secular people that reduced fertility is vastly preferable to increased mortality.

Well, how's that working out? Is it viable long term?


The secular developed world has reduced and reduced fertility among its rulers, and its productive population, under a wide range of excuses and false rationalizations...

But this is grossly unnatural and unChristian behaviour - so unnatural and unChristian that it is taboo even to discuss the subject in the public arena - so ashamed and angry and confused are we about this matter.

The dishonest denial of common sense always comes back to bite us; and when it does, matters are made worse by the fact that dishonest people who have inverted common sense cannot recognize what is happening to them.

Thus the punishment is doubled.


The West is deep into mandatory denial and evasion in terms of population as well as many other matters.

The consequences are extreme and deadly - but these consequences are also subject to mandatory denial and evasion.

So we see that sin is compounded by the consequences of sin - madness and ignorance lead to more of the same; unless or until repentance and rebirth.


Saturday 20 July 2013

Is this mortal world a Shadowlands?


From The Last Battle by C.S Lewis

When Aslan said you could never go back to Narnia, he meant the Narnia you were thinking of. But that was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia which has always been here and always will be here: just as our world, England and all, is only a shadow or copy of something in Aslan's real world.

You need not mourn over Narnia, Lucy. All of the old Narnia that mattered, all the dear creatures, have been drawn into the real Narnia through the Door. And of course it is different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream."

His voice stirred everyone like a trumpet as he spoke these words: but when he added under his breath "It's all in Plato, all in Plato: bless me, what do they teach them at these schools!" the older ones laughed...

It is as hard to explain how this sunlit land was different from the old Narnia as it would be to tell you how the fruits of that country taste. Perhaps you will get some idea of it if you think like this. You may have been in a room in which there was a window that looked out on a lovely bay of the sea or a green valley that wound away among mountains. And in the wall of that room opposite to the window there may have been a lookingglass. And as you turned away from the window you suddenly caught sight of that sea or that valley, all over again, in the looking glass. And the sea in the mirror, or the valley in the mirror, were in one sense just the same as the real ones: yet at the same time they were somehow different - deeper, more wonderful, more like places in a story: in a story you have never heard but very much want to know.

The difference between the old Narnia and  the new Narnia was like that. The new one was a deeper country: every rock and flower and blade of grass looked as if it meant more. I can't describe it any better than that: if ever you get there you will know what I mean.

It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed, and then cried:

"I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come further up, come further in!"

From Chapter 15 of The Last Battle by C.S Lewis 


This is wondrous, beautiful, heart-lifting writing - but in the end I cannot make Christian sense of its implications.


If this world is merely a shadow or copy of the real world, then what is the point of it?

Why must we spend our time here when Heaven is better and deeper and more real? If the best that can be said of our experience of mortal life is that it sometimes looks a little like post-mortal life - then why not get-on-with the business of living the post-mortal life?

If mortality is nothing-but a shadow of Heaven, then surely God could have arranged matters better by putting us straight into Heaven instead of having to serve our time (or pass the test) here in the Shadowlands?


Thus, the Shadowlands view of things is consoling for those afflicted by the misery of this life and yearning for an end to suffering, and a start to real happiness - but it does not answer the question of why we are here at all?

If this earth is certainly going-to end - then why not end it already? - indeed, why set it up in the first place?


This is not merely a theoretical consideration for me - it is my visceral response to this Platonic view: the more deeply I believe Platonism, the more that mortal life seems to be rendered needless.

I find that my theology, my understanding of the 'plan of salvation', must (as one of its major elements) explain why this mortal life on this contingent and temporary earth is necessary (and what it is necessary-for).

I need some approximate understanding of what it is this mortal life does do, that a life in Heaven cannot do.

The answer is, I think - minimally - that mortal life provides the actual experience of death (which is close to being a tautology, but was not obvious to me until recently).


Mortal life is not a test but an experience (an experience in which we may be and usually are tested - but the testing is not necessary, since so many do not live long enough to be tested but - for instance - die in the womb or die shortly after birth).

And it seems likely - it makes sense of things, as I perceive them - that it was for this experience of death that God needed to become Man in Christ (and, of course, there was much more to it than that).


So the main thing about this world is not that things are shadows of the next; but that this is the place (THE place) where things are mortal. Death is, indeed, the primary fact or context of human existence; the one fact we all share, and the one experience which all must learn-from: a perspective which, when taken on board, changes everything.


Enlightened false consciousness in political correctness (an edited re-post)

[Note: this was, I think, one of the best things I ever wrote about political correctness; but, for reasons I don't recall, it didn't get into Thought Prison, my book on PC,.]


The politically correct are people who do not believe in absolute truth.

Yet they insist that everyone should believe what they are telling them today.

Or else if you do not believe whatever they tell you today, you are evil.

Yet the politically correct do not believe in evil.


What they do believe in is culture - culture is the bottom line 'reality'.

And culture is consensus.

Yet the politically correct believe in the liberation of individual desire: that is, they believe in the overthrow of consensus.

So the bottom line reality for political correctness is... a continually changing, compulsory consensus.


This leads to the 'enlightened false consciousness' of the modern cynic.

Enlightened = realistic; False consciousness = self-serving illusion.

The cynic combination is a clear-eyed awareness that one's own fundamental beliefs are self-manipulating fantasies: yet insistence on absolute belief in these acknowledged fantasies.

To make reality and then to forget one has just made it, and then to remember, critique and re-make reality; and again to forget it - and so on and so forth...


Neither ironical nor detached; enlightened false consciousness is a severe, rational, anger-fuelled stance which aims to impose meaning and purpose onto life via the continual bureaucratic and authoritarian process of creating and moulding culture - undoing and reversing the inequalities and miseries of the past, and chasing always after the flickering fashions in upper class status.

Culture is arbitrary, yet it is reality; culture is managed, yet it is contingent; culture us everything and irresistible, yet it is nothing and as insignificant as the life of a mayfly.


This enlightened false consciousness collapses into careerism, which collapses into parasitism (life as a permanent holiday, travel, good living), which collapses into the secret-guilty cult of the openly instinctual and unashamed psychopath: the invincible gangster, the irresistible and expert sexual predator, the envied permanently-stoned junkie.

This opposite to the disaffected cynic is what Sloterdijk (in his Critique of Cynical Reason) terms the kynic.

The kynic has (merely) discarded consciousness; has solved the problem of being a modern human in a modern society by becoming an animal and preying upon society.

(Trying, always, to obliterate the final, residual human awareness that this is what he is doing - trying to become wholly animal, wholly instinctual.)


The cynic and the kynic exhaustively describes the possibilities for modern secular life - either the cynic bureaucrat who lives inside-of and builds a culture he knows to be meaningless and temporary; or the junkie who lives outside-of and eats that culture.

Most often, the characteristic modern elite are both cynic and kynic: public bureaucrat and private junkie - paid moralist, part-time amateur hedonist.


Friday 19 July 2013

Clever Sillies are (literally) brain-damaged by habitual dishonesty


Is intelligence also personality?


Why Shakespeare is the greatest writer of English - Quotable AND Smooth (Prosy and Poetic)


Most of the most quotable writers of English were prosy writers (even if not actually writing prose) - e.g. Bacon, Sam Johnson, Wilde, Shaw - and most of the most poetic writers are not very quotable - Sidney, Spenser, Tennyson...

I think it is distinctive to Shakespeare - and perhaps that which sets him above all others - that he is both: as smooth and musical as Spenser, as pithy and gnomic as Bacon.

(Other writers who combine poeticism and prosiness in this way stand next in line to Shakespeare - for example Chaucer.)


Thursday 18 July 2013

Thinking aloud about 'personality'...


What may spiritual experiences validate? Deism, Theism, Christianity, Denomination


I find that individual, personal spiritual experiences are and have been of perhaps primary (bottom line) importance in my religious life - and I suspect that this is the case for many other people; and that it is either lack of such experiences, or a trained disposition to explain-them-away which prevents many intellectuals from becoming religious.

One factor in this may be that such experiences are - and are intended to be - personal - to nourish and sustain individual faith; they are not meant to be quasi-scientific and public arena proofs for use in debate and apologetics.

They are meant to be convincing to the person who experiences them, as a bedrock of their faith - and often they are; but this can be easily subverted by argument and analysis, and the selectivity, exaggeration and distortions - and defensiveness - which creep in when expounding such experiences.


But one thing I had not previously noticed, was that the context and nature of religious experiences forms a hierarchy:

1. Deism - a spiritual experience which implies some intelligent order in the universe, such as might occur in contemplation of nature, or from music or mathematics.

 2. Theism - a spiritual experience which implies the reality of a personal God - for example synchronicity (for coincidences to be meaningful to me personally implies that somebody is 'arranging' them).

3. Christian (or other specific religion - mutatis mutandis) - a spiritual experience of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour - perhaps when praying, reading the Bible, hearing a sermon.

4. Denomination - a spiritual experience in the context of distinctive features of a particular denomination - for example in the context of Roman Catholic devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Orthodox veneration of icons, or from reading The Book of Mormon.


It may be that a spiritual experience for an atheist is more likely to be Deistic, or Theistic than it is to be a specifically Christian experience- for example C.S. Lewis moved from Deism (a kind of Hegelian idealism), to theism and then only after about a year to Christianity (I don't think he had a spiritual experience which bound him personally to a particular denomination within Christianity) - and my own trajectory was much the same.


Multiculturalism is pro-slavery


Yesterday I came across at this piece from a couple of years ago, and it seems like one of the more interesting posts I've done for this blog, so I thought I would link it -


Wednesday 17 July 2013

A hundred million dead - for *this*?


General and private, peasant and militiaman, still met as equals; everyone drew the same pay, wore the same clothes, ate the same food, and called everyone else ‘thou’ and ‘comrade’; there was no boss-class, no menial-class, no beggars, no prostitutes, no lawyers, no priests, no boot-licking, no cap-touching. I was breathing the air of equality, and I was simple enough to imagine that it existed all over Spain. I did not realize that more or less by chance I was isolated among the most revolutionary section of the Spanish working class.

Homage to Catalonia - by George Orwell.


I remember reading this passage about the brief days of socialist utopia during the Spanish Civil war, and similar eulogistic passages in Noam Chomsky, and thinking - well, yes, that would no doubt be nice, so far as it goes - but what a paltry thing!

Among the really pure and rigorous Leftists, this is just about the only example of an actually achieved communist utopia.

Of course it did not last, and it seems obvious to me now that it could not last, was a brief transition - but leave that aside: my point is that it is this vision which motivates the Left.

What a paltry thing!

What kind of a person could think this worth a revolution?

I suppose the answer is some kind of person who is eaten-up by an extraordinarily potent mixture of resentment and shame - resentment at those above, shame with respect to those below; such that the only solution is that kind of wallowing in equal comradeship, and to be able to live in this way becomes more important than anything else - more important than life itself, and the hope of getting to this kind of society is what justifies open-ended tyranny, terror, manipulation, propaganda, and destruction, destruction, destruction...


The bass part of music


The bass part seems to be liked - even though it is seldom noticed (some unmusical people seem unable to hear it). When the bass comes in, the music lifts.

The bass part works as a support, sitting underneath the melody and harmony; and to accentuate the rhythm. A band, an orchestra or choir will always sound much better with a good bass - and a poor, weak or absent bass part is a significant flaw.

Interestingly, the bass very seldom works well if it carries the main melody, but the baroque composers (Bach, Handel etc) perfected the use of the bass part as the principal counter-melody, as well as harmonic underpinning. 

But (at least in acoustic instruments) a bass tone implies a large size of instrument - a bass tube must be long, same with a bass string, and a bass drum must be large.

Thus the bass is sometimes neglected on purely practical grounds, since large instruments (double bass, tuba) are relatively bulky and unwieldy, or expensive (bassoon).

The lowest bass pipe on a cathedral organ is sixty four feet long (19.5 metres) - but even the more usual 32 feet is... big.


Tuesday 16 July 2013

Not even trying: the corruption of real science - now available online


My 2012 mini-book Not even trying: the corruption of real science is now available online.


My favourite Shakespearean joke


Glendower: Cousin, of many men 
    I do not bear these crossings. Give me leave
    To tell you once again that at my birth
    The front of heaven was full of fiery shapes,
    The goats ran from the mountains, and the herds
    Were strangely clamorous to the frighted fields.
    These signs have mark'd me extraordinary,
    And all the courses of my life do show
    I am not in the roll of common men.
    Where is he living, clipp'd in with the sea
    That chides the banks of England, Scotland, Wales,
    Which calls me pupil or hath read to me?
    And bring him out that is but woman's son
    Can trace me in the tedious ways of art
    And hold me pace in deep experiments.
Hotspur: I think there's no man speaks better Welsh. I'll to
Mortimer: Peace, cousin Percy; you will make him mad.
Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
    But will they come when you do call for them?

From Henry IV Part i.