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Substitutes for Religion

from The Wall Street Journal,How to Defeat Religious Violence by Jonathan Sacks:

What the secularists forgot is that Homo sapiens is the meaning-seeking animal. If there is one thing the great institutions of the modern world do not do, it is to provide meaning. Science tells us how but not why. Technology gives us power but cannot guide us as to how to use that power. The market gives us choices but leaves us uninstructed as to how to make those choices. The liberal democratic state gives us freedom to live as we choose but refuses, on principle, to guide us as to how to choose.

Science, technology, the free market and the liberal democratic state have enabled us to reach unprecedented achievements in knowledge, freedom, life expectancy and affluence. They are among the greatest achievements of human civilization and are to be defended and cherished.

But they do not answer the three questions that every reflective individual will ask at some time in his or her life: Who am I? Why am I here? How then shall I live? The result is that the 21st century has left us with a maximum of choice and a minimum of meaning.

Religion has returned because it is hard to live without meaning. That is why no society has survived for long without either a religion or a substitute for religion. The 20th century showed, brutally and definitively, that the great modern substitutes for religion—nation, race, political ideology—are no less likely to offer human sacrifices to their surrogate deities.

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Rhetorical Exibitionism


from George Will at The Washington Post, Francis’ Fact-Free Flamboyance:

Francis deplores “compulsive consumerism,” a sin to which the 1.3 billion persons without even electricity can only aspire. He leaves the Vatican to jet around praising subsistence farming, a romance best enjoyed from 30,000 feet above the realities that such farmers yearn to escape.

Our flourishing requires affordable, abundant energy for the production of everything from food to pharmaceuticals. Poverty has probably decreased more in the past two centuries than in the preceding three millennia because of industrialization powered by fossil fuels. Only economic growth has ever produced broad amelioration of poverty, and since growth began in the late 18th century, it has depended on such fuels.

The capitalist commerce that Francis disdains is the reason the portion of the planet’s population living in “absolute poverty” ($1.25 a day) declined from 53 percent to 17 percent in three decades after 1981. Even in low-income countries, writes economist Indur Goklany, life expectancy increased from between 25 to 30 years in 1900 to 62 years today.

As the world spurns his church’s teachings about abortion, contraception, divorce, same-sex marriage and other matters, Francis jauntily makes his church congruent with the secular religion of “sustainability.” Because this is hostile to growth, it fits Francis’s seeming sympathy for medieval stasis, when his church ruled the roost, economic growth was essentially nonexistent and life expectancy was around 30.

Fortunately, rhetorical exhibitionism increases as its effectiveness diminishes.

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Politics as Religion


from David Daley in Salon, Camille Paglia takes on Jon Stewart, Trump, Sanders: “Liberals think of themselves as very open-minded, but that’s simply not true!”


I’m speaking here as an atheist. I don’t believe there is a God, but I respect every religion deeply. All the great world religions contain a complex system of beliefs regarding the nature of the universe and human life that is far more profound than anything that liberalism has produced. We have a whole generation of young people who are clinging to politics and to politicized visions of sexuality for their belief system.  They see nothing but politics, but politics is tiny.  Politics applies only to society. There is a huge metaphysical realm out there that involves the eternal principles of life and death. The great tragic texts, including the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles, no longer have the central status they once had in education, because we have steadily moved away from the heritage of western civilization.

Exactly what are these people offering in place of religion?

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Someone Else’s Blasphemy


from Sultan Knish, The Importance of Blasphemy:


As a deeply religious person, I have no fondness for blasphemy. My religion and its holy books are sacred to me. And I understand perfectly well why a Muslim would not relish a cartoon of a naked Mohammed.

But the debates over freedom of speech and the sensitivity of religious feelings also miss the point.

 Blasphemy is the price we pay for not having a theocracy. Muslims are not only outraged but baffled by the Mohammed cartoons because they come from a world in which Islamic law dominates their countries and through its special place proclaims the superiority of Islam to all other religions.

In a multi-religious society, in which every religion has its own variant theological streams, the right to blaspheme is also the right to believe. Liberal theology can contrive interchangeable beliefs which do not contradict or claim special knowledge over any other religion. But traditionalist faiths are exclusive.

Everyone’s religion is someone else’s blasphemy. If we forget that, we need only look to Saudi Arabia, where no other religion is allowed, as a reminder.

It was not the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, who specialized in offending all religions, who made their Mohammed cartoons into a symbol. It was their Muslim enemies who did it by killing them. It is intellectually dishonest for Muslims to create martyrs and then complain about their martyrdom.

Blasphemy against Christianity and Judaism fizzles because the lack of a violent response makes those responsible seem like bullies. Instead of revealing flaws in those religions, works like Piss Christ or Monster Mohel reveal the flaws in their makers.Their attempts at blasphemy prove self-destructive.

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The Third Commandment

from There Is a ‘Worst Sin’: Evil in God’s Name by Dennis Prager in The National Review

When an irreligious person commits evil, it doesn’t bring God and religion into disrepute. But when a religious person commits evil in God’s name he destroys the greatest hope for goodness on earth — belief in a God who demands goodness, and who morally judges people.

The Nazis and Communists were horrifically cruel mass murderers. But their evils only sullied their own names, not the name of God. But when religious people commit evil, especially in God’s name, they are not only committing evil, they are doing terrible damage to the name of God.

In our time, there are, unfortunately, many examples of this. The evils committed by Islamists who torture, bomb, cut throats, and mass murder — all in the name of their God — do terrible damage to the name of God.